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Stokely Charmichael’s Revolutionary Speech at Oakland Auditorium (1968)

STOKELY CARMICHAEL, American Revolutionary

This is a complete transcript of Stokely Carmichael’s
speech at the Oakland Auditorium February 17, 1968. The occasion was a benefit
birthday party for Huey P. Newton, Minister of Defense of the Black Panther
Party for Self-Defense. Newton is awaiting trial on charges of killing a white
Oakland policeman. The speech as it appears in cold print lacks both the
rhetorical devices and the genuine emotion of the speech as delivered-which was
magnificent. This is one of the greatest speeches in American history.

Listen to this speech here: Pacifica Radio Archive BB 1708

Now then, tonight we have to talk about several things. We’re here to celebrate brother Huey P. Newton’s birthday. We’re not here to celebrate it as Huey Newton the individual, but as Huey Newton parcel of black people wherever we are on the world today…today.  And so, in talking about brother Huey Newton tonight, we have to talk about the struggle of black people, not only in the United States, but in the world today, and how he becomes part…how we move on so that our people will survive America. 

Therefore, we are not talking about politics tonight, we’re not talking about economics tonight; we are talking about the survival of a race of people–that is all that is at stake. We are talking about the survival of black people–nothing else…nothing else…nothing else.  And you must understand that. Now why is it necessary for us to talk about the survival of our people? Many of us feel…many of our generation feel that they’re getting ready to commit genocide against us. Now, many people say that’s a horrible thing to say about anybody. But if it is a horrible thing to say, then we should do as brother Malcolm [Malcolm X] says: we should examine history. The birth of this nation was conceived in the genocide of the red man……genocide of the red man…of the red man. In order for this country to come about, the honky had to completely exterminate the red man, and HE DID IT! And he did it! He did it! And he did it where he does not even feel sorry, but he romanticizes it by putting it on television with cowboy and indians…cowboy and indians.

Then the question we must ask ourselves is, if he’s capable of doing it to the red man, can he also do it to us? Let us examine history some more. People says it is a horrible thing to say that white people would really think about committing genocide against black people. Let us check our history out. [tape skip] …that we built this country–nobody else. I’ll explain that to you. When this country started, economically it was an agricultural country. The cash crop on the world market was cotton. WE PICKED THE COTTON!  WE PICKED THE COTTON! We did! So it is we who built this country. It is we who have fought in the wars of this country. This country is becoming more and more technological, so that the need for black people is fastly disappearing. When the need for black people disappears, so will we, and he will consciously wipe up out. He will consciously wipe up out. Let us check World War II. He will not do it unto his own. Notice who he dropped an atomic bomb on: some helpless yellow people in Hiroshima. Some helpless yellow people in Hiroshima……in Hiroshima. If you do not think he’s capable of committing genocide against us, check out what he’s doing to our brothers in Vietnam! Check out what he’s doing in Vietnam!  We have to understand that we’re talking about our survival and nothing else. Whether or not this beautiful race of people is going to survive on the earth, that’s what we’re talking about–nothing else …nothing else. If you do not think he’s capable of wiping us out, check out the white race: wherever they have gone, they have rule, conquered, murdered, and plagued. Whether they are the majority or the minority, they always rule!……they always rule! Always rule! And check out the pattern in which they move. And check out the pattern in which they move. They came to this country. They didn’t know a damn [thing][tape skip]…The Red Man showed them how to adapt to this country: he showed them how to grow corn; he showed them how to hunt, and when the Indians finished showing it, he wiped them out! He wiped them out.  He wiped them out. He was not satisfied. He went to South America. The Aztec Indians said, This is our silver. This is our copper. These are our metals. These are statues. We built them for the beauty of our people. After the Indians showed it to him, he took it and he wiped them out! He wiped them out. He went to Africa. Our ancestors said, Dig, this is our way of life. We beat drums. We enjoy ourselves. We have gold. We make diamonds and stuff for our women. He took the gold, he made us slaves, and today he RUNS Africa! Africa!  He went to Asia. The Chinese showed him everything they had. They showed him gunpowder. They said, We use this for fireworks on our anniversaries, on our days of festivities. He took it, he made it a gun, and he conquered China.

We are talking about a certain type of superiority complex that exists in the White Man wherever he is. And that’s what we have to understand today. So that everything goes out the window, we talk about survival. That’s all. They can cut all that junk about poverty program, education, housing, welfare…we talking about survival, and, brothers and sisters, WE gonna survive America!  WE gonna survive America! WE gonna survive America!

Now then, we have to understand what is going on, not only in this country, but the world, especially in Africa. Because we are an African people, nothing else. We have ALWAYS been an African people. We have ALWAYS maintained our own value system, and I will prove that to you. As much as he has tried, our people have resisted for 413 years in this wilderness, and they resisted for this generation to carry out what must be done. We cannot fail our ancestors …cannot fail our ancestors…cannot fail our ancestors. We resisted in every way you can point to. Take the English language. There are cats who come here from Italy, from Germany, from Poland, from France. In two generations they speak English perfectly. We have NEVER spoken English correctly!  Never have we spoken English correctly. Never! Never! Never! And that is because our people consciously resisted a language that did not belong to us–never did, never will. Anyhow they try to run it down our throats, we ain’t going to have it! We ain’t going to have it! You must understand that as a level of resistance. Anybody can speak that simple honky’s language correctly. Anybody can do it. We have not done it because we have resisted…resisted.

Check out our way of life. No matter how hard he’s tried, we still maintain a communal way of life in our communities. We do not send old people to old peoples’ homes; that’s junk!  That’s junk! That’s junk! That’s junk! We do not call children illegitimate in our community. We take care of any child in our community…  any child in our community. It is a level of resistance that we must begin to look for among our people. Pick up that thread and do what has to be done so that our people will survive. Three things. First and foremost: he has been able to make us hate each other. He has transplanted that hate and the love for each other for a love of his country…his country. We must begin to develop number one–and this is the most important thing we can do as a people–we must first develop and undying love for our people…our people.  …our people…our people. We must develop and undying love as is personified in brother Huey P. Newton. Undying love for our people……undying love. If we do not do that, we will be wiped out. We must develop and undying love for our people. Our slogan will become, First our people, then, and only then me and you as individuals. Our people first…our people first.  Following from that came secondly the slogan, Every Negro is a potential black man; we will not alienate them! ……we will not alienate them! …we will not alienate them!

Understand the concept of Negro and the concept of Black Man. We came to this country as black men and as Africans. It took us 400 years to become Negros. Understand that. That means that the concept of a black man is one who recognizes his cultural, his historical, and the roots of his great ancestors who were the greatest warriors on the face of this earth. Africans!  Africans! Africans! Many of our people’s mind have been white washed. If a Negro comes up to you and you turn your back on him, he’s got to run to the honky. We’re going to take time and patience with our people because they’re OURS!…they’re OURS!  All of the Uncle Toms, we’re going to sit down and we’re going to talk. And when they slap, we’re going to bow. And when they slap we’re going to bow. And we’re going to try to bring them home. And if they don’t come home we’re going to [tape skip] that’s all…that’s all…that’s all. 

We have to recognize who our major enemy is. The major enemy is not your brother, flesh of your flesh and blood of your blood. The major enemy is the honky and his institutions of racism. THAT’s the major enemy!  THAT is the major enemy! And whenever anybody prepares for revolutionary warfare, you concentrate on the major enemy. We’re not strong enough to fight each other and also fight him. We WILL not fight each other today! We WILL not fight each other. There will BE no fights in the black community among black people. There will just be people who will be offed. There will be no fights, there will be no disruptions. We are going to be united! 

Thirdly, and most importantly, we must understand that for black people, the question of community is not a question of geography, it is a question of color. It is a question of color. If you live in Watts, if you live in Harlem, Southside Chicago, Detroit, West Philadelphia, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama. Wherever you go, the first place you go is to your people–not the land, to your people. For us the question of community is a question of color and our people, not geography! Not land! Not land! Not land! Not geography!  That is to say that we break down the concept that black people living inside the United States are black Americans. That’s nonesense! We got brothers in Africa. We got brothers in Cuba. We got brothers in Brazil. We got brothers in Latin America. We got brothers all over the world! All over the world! All over the world! And once we begin to understand that the concept of community is simply one of our people, it don’t make a difference where we are. We are with our people and, therefore, we are home… …therefore, we are home.

Now then, in speaking of survival it is necessary to understand the moves of one[‘s] enemies. The United States works on what call the three M’s: The missionaries, the money, and the Marines. That is precisely the way it has moved all over the world. It is the way it moves against us. They have sent the missionaries in; we sent them out. They have sent the money in with the poverty program. The Vietnamese and the Koreans are pulling the money out. The next thing comes the Marines…comes the marines. And if we’re talking seriously, we get prepared [tape skip][to fight?] …the marines. Now if some black people do not think that the white man is going to wipe us out completely, then it won’t be no harm being prepared just in case he decides to do it..just in case he decides to do it. So there’ll be no harm in us preparing ourselves for the marines. Now there’s a lot of tactics we can learn. The VC [Viet Cong] are showing us the best way to get it done…best way to get it done. And don’t be afraid to say it, tell em’, Yeah, you want the Vietnamese to defeat them, cause they wrong from the jump. Don’t get up there and play games with them. You ever see them on TV?: Well, actually, we were wrong going into Vietnam, but we can’t get out unless we save face. To save [tape skip] honky’s face, millions of Vietnamese got to die. That’s a lot of junk. If you’re wrong, say you’re wrong and GET OUT!  GET OUT! GET OUT! GET OUT!

We have to then go down the programs that they run through our throats and see how they relate to us. The first one is the vote. They got a new thing now: Black Power is the vote. The vote in this country is, has been, and always will be irrelevant to the lives of black people! That is a fact. We survived in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, South Carolinia, North Carolinia, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. without the vote…without the vote.  Last two years ago when Julian Bond was elected by black people in Georgia, they took him out to sea. There was no representation; the black people in Georgia are suviving today. They took Adam Clayton Powell out of office for a year and a half. Black people in Harlem are still surviving. That should teach you, the vote ain’t nothin’ but a honky’s trick……nothin’ but a honky’s trick. If we talk about the vote today, we talk about it as one thing: an organizing tool to bring our people together…nothing else! ……nothing else…nothing else. It becomes a vehicle for organization; it cannot be anything else. To believe the vote is going to save you is to believe the way brother Adam Clayton Powell did. He’s in Bimini now. That’s what we have to understand.

The second thing they ram down our throat is this poverty program. And you have to understand the poverty program. It is designed to, number one, split the black community, and, number two, split the black family. There’s no doubt about it splitting the black community. We know all of the people who started fighting over crumbs, ’cause that’s all the poverty program is, the crumbs. If you leave the crumbs alone and organize, we could take the whole loaf, ’cause it belongs to us…belongs to us . But what happens is that the poverty program sends a couple of hundred thousand dollars into the community, and groups start setting up to fight over that money; so, automatically you’ve got splits in the community. Watts is the best example that we have today. It was the first one to get the poverty program after the rebellion, and today it is the most divided black community in the country… in the country. Second thing we have to recognize is what the poverty program does. In any race of people, the most instinctively revolutionary people is the youth. Because the youth is always willing to fight, in anybody’s race…in anybody’s race. And the poverty program is geared right at our youth. Right at our youth, to stop them from fighting. That’s all the poverty program is: stop the rebellions–not take care of black people–stop the rebellions. How is it that you felt if you were a father and your son who you’re supposed to be providing for comes home with ninety dollars a week, and you still unemployed. What is the poverty program doing to our fathers? What is it doing to our fathers?  If they were concerned about the black community, if they believed the garbage they run down about the black family, they would give the jobs to our fathers, the breadwinners of the family, so we could have some respect for them……we could have some respect for them. But it is precisely because the poverty program is aimed at quelling our youth, that they do that. And all of the people who administer the poverty program won’t even put their childrens in those programs that are supposed to be so good for us.

Let us move on to education. And we must talk very clearly about this concept of education. Franz Fanon says very clearly, Education is nothing but the re-establishment and re-enforcement of values and institutions of a given society. All the brother’s saying is that whatever this society says is right, when you go to school they going to tell you it’s right, and you’ve got to run it on down. If you run it on down, you get an A. If I say to you Columbus discovered American in 1492, if I was your teacher [and] you said, No, Columbus didn’t discover America in 1492, there were Indians here, I tell you you flunked the course. So education doesn’t mean what they say it means. So now we must use education for our people and we must understand our communities. In our communities there are dope addicts; there are pimps; there are prostitutes; there [are] hustlers; there are teachers; there are maids; there are porters; there are preachers; there are gangsters. If I go to high school, I want to learn how to be a good maid, a good porter, a good hustler, a good pimp, a good prostitute, a good preacher, a good teacher, or a good porter.  And education is supposed to prepare you to live in your community. That’s what our community is like. If the educational system cannot do that, it must teach us HOW to change our community…how to change our community.  It must do one or the other. The schools that we send our children to do not do one or the other. They do neither; they do something absolutely opposite. And when our youth, who are more intelligent than all those honkeys on those boards, drop out of that school cause they recognize it’s not going to help them, then we turn around and yell at them, dividing our community again…dividing our community again.  We have to understand that unless WE control the education system, where it begins to teach us how to change our community, where we live like human beings, no need to send anybody to school–that’s just a natural fact. We have no alternative but to fight, whether we like it or not. On every level in this country, black people GOT to fight! Got to fight!  Got to fight!

Now then let us move down and talk…[tape skip] concept. We have in our community black people, the masses and the bourgeoisie. That’s about the level of breakdown. The bourgeoisie is very very minute inside our community. We have to bring them home. We have to bring them home for many reasons. We have to bring them home because they have technical skills which must be put for the benefit of their people, not for the benefit of this country, which is against their people. We’ve GOT to bring them home! We’ve got to bring them home.  One of the ways of bringing our people home is by using patience, love, brotherhood, and unity, not force…not force. Love, patience, brotherhood, and unity. We try and we try and we try. If they become a treat, we off them.  But we must begin to understand that in a concept of forming inside our community, a united front…a black united front, which engulfs every sector, every facet and every person inside our community working for the benefit of black people……working for the benefit of black people. And that is for each other’s survival.

A lot of people in the bourgeoisie tell me they don’t like Rap Brown when he says, I’m going to burn the country down. But every time Rap Brown says, I’m going to burn the country down, They get a poverty program……they get a poverty program. A lot of people say to me, We don’t like the Black Panthers for Self Defense walking around with guns. I tell you now, if the honkys in San Francisco take off the fighters who happen to represent the Black Panthers for Self Defense–ain’t no body in this community prepared to fight right now–everybody gets offed, everybody gets offed

We need each other, we have to have each other for our
survival. We got to have each other, from the revolutionaries to the conservatives
– a black united front is what we’re about, a black united front is what we’re
about. Now there’s some people may not understand Brother Rap when he talks
about whom we ally with. He says we have to ally with Mexican-Americans, Puerto
Ricans, and the dispossessed people of the earth. He did not mention poor
whites. We must understand that. I will not deny that poor whites in this
country are oppressed. But there are two types of oppression. One is
exploitation, the other is colonization. And we have to understand the
difference between both of them. Exploitation is when you exploit somebody of
your own race. Colonization is when you exploit somebody of a different race.
We are colonized, they are exploited. They are exploited.

Now let us explain how the process of exploitation and
colonization works. If I am black and I am exploiting you who are also black,
we have the same values, the same culture, the same language, the same society,
the same institutions, so I do not have to destroy those institutions for you.
But if you are of another race, if you have a different culture, different
language, different values, I have to destroy all of those who make you bow to
me. And that is the difference between poor black and poor white. Poor whites
have their culture, have their values, have their institutions, ours have been
completely destroyed, completely destroyed, completely destroyed.

So when you talk about alliances you recognize you form
alliances with people who are trying to rebuild their culture, trying to
rebuild their history, trying to rebuild their dignity, people who are fighting
for their humanity. Poor white people are not fighting for their humanity,
they’re fighting for more money. There are a lot of poor white people in this
country, you ain’t seen none of them rebel yet, have you? Why is it that black
people are rebelling? Do you think it’s because it’s just poor jobs? Don’t
believe that junk the honky is running down. It’s not poor jobs – it’s a
question of a people finding their culture, their nature and fighting for their
humanity, for their humanity, for their humanity, for their humanity.

We have been so colonized that we are ashamed to say we
hate, and that is the best example of a person who’s colonized. You sit in your
house, a honky walks in your house, beats you up, rapes your wife, beats up
your child, and you don’t have the humanity to say, I hate you. You
don’t have it. That is how dehumanized we are. We are so dehumanized we cannot
say Yes, we hate you for what you have done to us. Can’t say it,
can’t say it. And we are afraid to think beyond that point. Who do you think
has more hatred pent up in them, white people for black people or black people
for white people? White people for black people, obviously the hatred has been
more. What have we done to them for them to build up this hatred? Absolutely
nothing. Yet we don’t even want to have the chance to hate them for what
they’ve done to us. And if hate should be justified, we have the best
justification of all for hating the honkies. We have it for hating the honkies,
we have it, we have it. But we have been so dehumanized, we’re like a dog which
the master can throw out the house, which the master can spit on, and whenever
he calls, the dog comes running back. We are human beings and we have emotions.
We’re fighting for our humanity, we’re fighting for our humanity, and in
regaining our humanity we recognize all the emotions that are in us. If you
have love, you’ve got to have hate. You don’t have one-sided emotions, that’s a
lot of junk. You always have two sides – hot, cold, white, black – everything
goes – love, hate. ‘Cause if you don’t have hate, you cannot differentiate
love, you cannot do it, you cannot do it.

Now then that brings us to the point of this thing about
communism and socialism. Let’s get to that, once and for all. Communism is not
an ideology suited for black people, period. Period. Socialism is not an
ideology fitted for black people, period. Period. And I will tell you why. And
it must become crystal clear in our minds. Now we don’t say that because the
honkies call us communist, we don’t care what they call us, it don’t make a
difference, don’t make a difference. The ideologies of communism and socialism
speak to class structure. They speak to people who oppress people from the top
down to the bottom. We are not just facing exploitation. We are facing
something much more important, because we are the victims of racism. Communism
nor socialism does not speak to the problem of racism. And racism, for black
people in this country, is far more important than exploitation. ‘Cause no
matter how much money you make in the black community, when you go into the
white world you are still a nigger, you are still a nigger, you are still a

So that for us, the question of racism becomes uppermost in
our minds. It becomes uppermost in our minds. How do we destroy those
institutions that seek to keep us dehumanized? That is all we’re talking about.
On the question of exploitation, it comes second.

Now for white people who are communists, the question of
communism comes first, because they’re exploited by their other people. If you
were exploited by other black people, then it would be a question of how we
divide the profits. It is not that for us, it is not that for us. It is a
question of how we regain our humanity and begin to live as a people – and we
do not do that, because of the effects of racism in this country. We must
therefore consciously strive for an ideology which deals with racism first, and
if we do that we recognize the necessity of hooking up with the nine hundred
million black people in the world today. That’s what we recognize.

And if we recognize that, then it means that our political
situation must become international. It cannot be national, it cannot be
national, it must be international, must be international. It must be
international because if we knew anything, we would recognize that the honkies
don’t just exploit us, they exploit the whole Third World – Asia, Africa, Latin
America. They take advantage of Europe, but they don’t colonize Europe, they
colonize Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Understand that.

If we begin to understand that, then the problems America is
heading for become uppermost in our minds. The first one they’re heading for is
the conflict in the Middle East. We must declare on whose side we stand. We can
be for no one but the Arabs. There can be no doubt in our minds, no doubt in
our minds, no doubt in our minds. We can be for no one but the Arabs because
Israel belonged to the Arabs in 1917. The British gave it to a group of
Zionists who went to Israel, ran the Palestinian Arabs out with terrorist
groups, organized the state and did not get anywhere until Hitler came along
and they swelled the state in 1948. That country belonged to the Palestinians.
Not only that, they’re moving to take over Egypt. Egypt is our motherland –
it’s in Africa.

We do not understand the concept of love. Here are a group
of Zionists who come anywhere they want to and organize love and feeling for a
place called Israel, which was created in 1948, where their youth are willing
to go and fight for Israel. Egypt belongs to us four thousand years ago and we
sit here supporting the Zionists. We got to be for the Arabs, period. Period.

That means that we also move with the rest of the Third
World and understand exactly what is going on. It is no coincidence that the
honky who stole a heart out of our brother and put it into another devil, was
brought here on nationwide TV. Now for those of the older generation who say I
may be harsh because I said the devil, let me give you a biblical quotation. It
says, Beware that the devil will come telling you that he can give you
back life after death. If that’s not what they doin’, I don’t know what

We have to understand that just today the United States
voted for South Africa to come into the Olympics, and black people here are
debating whether black athletes should be part of the Olympics. That is not a
debate. The question is final. There can be no black athletes with any dignity
participating in that white nonsense, that white nonsense, can’t be no dignity,
can’t be no soul.

Now then we have to understand more and more as our people
talk about survival. It means that when we talk about survival we organize
politically, we organize consciously – that’s what they call education, we call
it black consciousness, ’cause that speaks to us, education speaks to them – we
organize economically, and we organize militarily. Because if we don’t do that,
if you don’t have a gun in your hand they can snatch the ballot from you. But
if you got a gun, it’s either them or us.

And the preparation of that fight on all struggles must
become conscious among our people. We are ahead of the Jews, we know what they
getting ready to do. They tell us every day in their Esquire magazines, they
tell us on their televisions, they tell us with their 15,000 soldiers they’re
putting in the cities, they tell us with their tanks, they tell us with their
Stoner guns, they tell us. We got to wake up and tell them we are going to get
you back. Wipe out of your mind the questions of minority, wipe out of your
mind the questions of technology, technology never decides a war. It is the
will of a people that decides a war. It is the will of a people, the will of a

Wipe out of your mind the fact that we do not have guns. The
Vietnamese didn’t have it when they started, now they got American guns,
American tanks, American everything, everything, everything, everything. If they
come to get us they got to bring some to get some. We gonna take it – and the
gun, and the gun, and the gun. And unless we raise our minds to the level of
consciousness where we have an undying love for our people, where we’re willing
to shed our blood like Huey Newton did for our people, we will not survive, we
will not survive.

Now there are many people who know that. All of the brothers
sitting on the stage, all of the brothers around here, we all know that when
something goes down, we are the first ones offed. There’s no question in any of
our minds. Only thing gonna stop us today is a bullet, and we spittin’ ’em
back, and we spittin’ ’em back. But the question is not whether or not we can
move, but how this entire black community moves for survival in a world that’s
clearly heading for a color clash. That is what we must ask ourselves, that is
the only question. We can only do that by organizing our people and orienting
them towards an African ideology which speaks to our blackness – nothing else.

It’s not a question of right or left, it’s a question of
black. You dig where we coming from? We coming from a black thing, from a black
thing, that’s where we coming from. Because we can begin to pick up the threads
of resistance that our ancestors laid down for us. And unless we begin to
understand our people as a people, we will not do that, because they will split
us and divide us. That means consciously we have to begin to organize our
people! Organize our people! Organize our people! Organize our people! Organize
our people! Nothing else! Organize our people, our people! We have no time for
them; all our sweat, all our blood, even our life must go to our people,
nothing else.

We have to understand this consciously. Our youth must be
organized with a revolutionary perspectus. A revolutionary perspectus says that
we’re fighting a war of liberation. In order to fight a war of liberation, you
need an ideology of nationalism. We do not have this country. The nationalism
can be nothing but black nationalism. It is insane to think of anything else.
Black nationalism has to begin to be our ideology. While blackness is necessary
it is not sufficient, so we must move on, we move on then to consciously
organize in our communities. And we recognize today while we’re organizing: we
do not have the money to feed our people, so there’s no use to say
organize, we can get you a job. We can’t get ’em, they control em,
that is a fact. That isn’t a reason for you to. sit down, it is only more the
reason for you to fight, to think that you can’t give your people a job. That’s
more of an inspiration to fight so you can give them a job rather than to sit
down and say the honkies got us on every end. They are not God, they are not
God. We are a beautiful race of people, we can do anything we want to do, all
we got to do is get lip, get up, get up and do it, get up and do it, get up and
do it, get up and do it.

Now then we have to discuss very cold the question of
rebellions, It is a fact that they’re prepared to meet rebellions anywhere in
the cities. Now what’s gonna happen if one of our brothers get offed? What
happens if they go ahead and off Huey Newton? We must develop tactics where we
do the maximum damage to them with minor damage to us. And when we move into
that arena, that means that this black community must be organized. So if Huey
Newton goes, and ten honky cops goes, won’t a black man in this community get
up and open his mouth, ’cause if he does, he goes too, he goes too, he goes
too, he goes too. That means that in organizing for the maximum damage against
them and minor damage against us, we must be consciously aware of the fact that
there will be people in our community who are going around doing just that. In
our community we seen nothing, we hear nothing, we know nothing. We see
nothing, we hear nothing, we, knew nothing.

Now the question of agents is becoming a question where it’s
making us paranoid. we cannot become paranoid because what they can do is make
you so afraid you won’t move. So we’re not gonna do that. We’re gonna plan what
we’re gonna do. Little groups are gonna plan theirs, big groups are gonna plan
theirs. If an agent is found, there is no question, he is gonna be offed in
such a manner that any other black man who dares talk to the honky will have
three thoughts before he even talks to a white man about reporting in our

Our people have demonstrated a willingness to fight. Our
people have demonstrated the courage of our ancestors – to face tanks, guns,
police dogs with bricks and bottles, that is a courageous act! We must
understand that. And since our people have demonstrated a willingness to fight,
the question is how can we organize that fight so we become the winners. So we
become the winners. If a major rebellion were to break out, our people mayor
may not become the losers, but if a small group was doing maximum damage, we
remain on top. We remain on top. That is what we must understand, consciously
understand it. It is not a question of what they might do, it is a question of
how and when they’re going to do it, that is all that’s in their minds, That is
all. For us the question is not going to Vietnam anymore, the question is how
we can protect our brothers who do not go to Vietnam from going to jail. That’s
the only question we have to face in our community today. So that when one
brother says Hell, no, there’s enough people in that community
around him that if they dare come in, they gonna face maximum damage in their

We are talking about survival. We are talking about a people
whose entire culture .. whose entire history, whose entire way of life have
been destroyed. We’re talking about a people who have produced in this year a
generation of warriors who are going to restore to our people the humanity and the
love that we have for each other. That’s what we’re talking about today, that’s
what we’re talking about today. We are talking about becoming the executioners
of our executioners. For example, you should give a lot of money to that
defense fund, because while some of that money gonna go for that court thing,
the rest of the money’s gonna go for the executioners. So that if they execute
Huey, the final execution rests in our hands, our hands, in our hands.

It is simply a question of a people. They control
everything. They make us fight, they make us steal; they judge us, they put us
in prison, they parole us, they send us out, they pick us up again – where in
God’s name do we exercise any sense of dignity in this country? Where? Where?
Where? Where? What in God’s name do we control, except the church, whose
ideology is based to be compatible with the system which is against us? Where
in God’s name do we exercise any control as a people whose ancestors were the
proudest people that walked the face of this earth? Where? Where?

Where, do I ask you, where? Everywhere he’s gone he controls
our people; in South Africa he steals the gold from our people, in the West
Indies he steals the materials from our people, in South America where he’s
scattered our people, he’s raping us blind, in America he rapes us, in Nova
Scotia [sic] he rapes us. Where in God’s name are we gonna find a piece of
earth that belongs to us so we can restore our humanity? Where are we gonna
find it unless this generation begins to organize to fight for it? To fight for
it, to fight for it. Where?

And if this generation begins to fight, there can be no
disruptive elements in our community. There can be none – we will tolerate
none. There will be no disruptions . Anyone who fights for their people, we put
our life on the line for them. Huey Newton fought for our people. Whether or
not Huey Newton becomes free depends upon black people, nobody else, nobody
else. Other people may help, but the final decision of brother Huey depends
upon us. He didn’t lay down his life for other people, he laid it down for us.
For us. And if he did that, we must be willing to do the same, not only for him
but for the generation that’s going to follow us.

Consciously we must understand we’re about organizing every
element in our community. That work must begin. People must be willing to give
money to an organizer who is willing to spend 24 hours a day organizing. He
cannot organize from the poverty program because they tell him what to do. But
if black people are giving him the money, he can do anything for the benefit of
black their people. We have to run all the exploiters people, of black people.
That means that people have to consciously give money for out of our community,
by any means necessary, by any means necessary.

You ask yourself, if you were white, why would you want to
be a cop in a black ghetto today when you know they looking for you? Why, if
you weren’t sick in the mind and felt you were so superior that you had the
right to rule, why would you want a lousy five thousand dollar a year job when
you white and you can make it in this society, why would you want the job as a
cop if you weren’t sick, tell me? Would you want to be in their community if
they were ready to off you, for four thousand, five thousand, six thousand
dollars a year? We have to understand the politics of those honkies in our
community. They are there to patrol and to control. That is all. We are going
to do the patrolling, we are going to do the controlling. We are building a concept
of peoplehood. We do not care about honkies; but if hi. building that concept
of peoplehood, the honkies get in our wav, they got to go. There is no question
about it, there is no question about it. We are not concerned with their way of
life, we are concerned with our people. We want to give our people the dignity
and the humanity that we know as our people, and if they get in our way, they
gonna be offed. They gonna be offed. We’re not concerned with their system. Let
them have it. We want our wav of life, and we’re gonna get it. We’re gonna get
it or nobody’s gonna have any peace on this earth. No peace on this earth.

Now then finally before I sit down, let me say two things. I
want to read a statement that brother Huey P. Newton wrote yesterday when I saw
him in jail. You have to understand the statement. He says: As the racist
police escalate the war in our communities against black people, we reserve the
right to self-defense and maximum retaliation.

All of the things we spoke about tonight centered around
brother Huey P. Newton because all of the things we spoke about tonight
exemplify what he was trying to do. Now we have to understand something. There
is no need for us to go to jail today for what we say. They did that to brother
Malcolm X, they just offed him for what he was saying. We have to progress as a
race. Brother Huey mayor may not have wiped out that honky, but at least it
shows a progression, at least we’re not getting offed for what we say, we’re
trying to get offed for what we do. Understand this concept: when they offed
brother Malcolm, we did nothing; if they off brother Huey, we got to retaliate,
we got to retaliate, we got to retaliate, we got to retaliate l Do you think
that any other race of people will let them off somebody, and the rest of them
sit there? Where in God’s name would you find a race of people like that?

We have lost in the last five years some of our best leaders
– Lumumba, Malcolm X, they offed brother Kwame Nkrumah, and we do nothing, we
do nothing, we do nothing. While they offing our leaders, they take our youth
and send them to Vietnam, send them to Korea. We are slowly getting wiped out.
We must retaliate, we must fight for our humanity. It is our humanity that is
at stake. It is not a question of dollars and cents. We gonna survive, because
we have survived what they couldn’t survive – that’s natural-born fact. We have
survived. We survived through slavery, we survived through their jive
reconstruction, we survived through World War I, we survived through the
Depression, we survived through World War II, we survived after World War II
when they threw us out of the jobs in the North, we survived their Korean War,
we gonna survive, we gonna survive, ain’t no doubt about that in my mind, no
doubt at all.

Our problem is to develop an undying love for our people, an
undying love for our people. We must be willing to give our talents, our sweat,
our blood, even our life for our people. Nothing else! Not this country – our

We must develop the concept that every Negro is a potential
black man. You do not alienate your potential allies. Let’s bring our people
home. Let’s bring our people home.

We must understand the concept that for us the question of
community is not geography, it is , question of us – black people – wherever
we are, SO we have to consciously become a part of the nine hundred million
black people that are separated over this world. We were separated by them. We
are blood of the same blood and flesh of the same flesh. We do not know who is
our sister, who is our brother, or where we came from. They took us from Africa
and they put thousands of miles of water between us, but they forgot – blood is
thicker than water. We coming together, we coming together. Blood is thicker
than water, blood is thicker than water.

We are an African people with an African ideology, we are
wandering in the United States, we are going to build a concept of peoplehood
in this country or there will be no country. Or there will be no country.

As I end, brothers and sister, brother Huey Newton belongs
to us. He is flesh of our flesh, he is blood of our blood. He may be Mrs.
Newton’s baby, he’s our brother. He’s our brother. We do not have to talk about
what we’re going to do if we’re consciously preparing and consciously willing
to back those who prepare. All we say: brother Huey will be set free – or else.

Posted by: skip
Views: 12060

Free John Sinclair! (1970)

Free John Sinclair
A letter from prison by John Sinclair

OK, onward: FREE SINCLAIR is a good idea, yes, I can really relate to that one. But the wider issue of marijuana laws as political tools is the real thing to work on, along with the so-called obscenity busts and all other busts that are related to our culture/life style. According to the honk culture, everything we do is illegal because THEY MAKE THE LAWS. The whole business of DEFINITION is really crucial and it’s crucial to make people see how it works, e.g. what is a law but some words oinked out by some honks meeting in a building somewhere and conspiring to douche some cultural group that lives differently than the lawmakers? It’s all the same old problem of image vs. reality. They sit up there and make the laws and then put them out into the national consciousness as if these new laws were handed down from God like the Ten Commandments or something. That’s why we were having our people go to those awful city council meetings in Ann Arbor so they could see exactly what the laws were and how they were passed.

Since we started doing that we’ve stopped them from outlawing a lot of our people’s activities, but that has to be done on a national basis so all the kids can see what’s going on. Who is John Mitchell, anyway? A finance Wall Street lawyer who managed Nixon’s campaign-I programmed the candidate, he said during the campaign-and was given the Department of Justice as his reward and because it’s the most important agency in gov’t now and in the months ahead. Who is Warren Hamburger but an old ponk who teamed with Nix and McCarthy (Joe) in the ’50s to get rid of the Commies and now gets his Supreme reward when his boy takes office. Who is Clement Haynsworth but some crook from S.C. who Nixon owed Strom Thurmond for whitewashing the southern delegates at the 1968 convention, and Strom threw his boy in the court as his reward and so the niggers won’t get any farther out of line. I mean, we know all this but the kids still look at it like it’s something weird or holy or some thing, or don’t pay any attention to it and just keep on doing their thing. This ponk in EVO talked about Woodstock being like a hip concentration camp, or said something about he could dig it if there was a groovy camp like that where they could all do their own thing and not have to bother with the awful nasty stuff in the world, No wonder the blacks have no respect for those creeps. But it is our job to educate the people, and it has to be done or we might as well forget the whole thing as far as I’m concerned. Because I don’t want any part of a Nation of imbeciles who sit around and shoot speed and listen to bogus records, and all.

I’ve had enough of that forever. And the other ones, the politicals, are just as bad too, and their culture is bogus as well. The records they listen to are even worse…. Anyway, there is still too much antagonism being directed at the bourgeoisie as in Ann Arbor, and not enough effort being made to educate the bourgeoisie as to who is in fact their enemy, i.e. the capitalists and the police lackeys and demagogic politicians…. Our rhetoric has been too irresponsible and too crazy in the past, mostly thru my own shortcomings, but also mostly because the times and conditions were very different. We have to be ever mindful that things are changing very very rapidly now, and that there are masses of people who are anxious to hear what we have to say….

One of the most important changes lately is that we are getting an increasingly greater opportunity to reach the masses of the people, as in these courts and in cases like mine and the Chicago conspiracy. People are beginning to wonder what we’re talking about, and it’s not enough just to say rock and roll, dope, and fucking in the streets. It’s time to push the 10- Point program and its significance for the masses, and how the present ruling structure is keeping the people from their rightful lives. I’ll try to finish that pamphlet up in the next couple of days, but I’ll have to study and think a long time before I start any important project to make sure I come up with the right thing. So please don’t get impatient, I’m doing all I can. But it has to be done, and unfortunately I can’t take any part in spreading it- that’s all up to you all, especially to you, Skip, because you’re the most eloquent. But we have to keep in mind the necessity of not alienating any more straight people than necessary-the SDS adventurists are really blowing it in that respect.

Now is the time, when the masses are starting to come around and listen to what we have been saying for years, to consolidate these gains and make them see that our struggle is their struggle. The Moratorium today is the biggest thing in history-two years ago this kind of protest was vilified and bad-mouthed throughout the honk culture. Now they’re running to endorse the end of the war and, by corollary, the end of imperialism. They don’t know how these things are connected, and it’s up to us to educate them and let them know what’s going on.


(Reprinted and excerpted from The Seed.)

Ed. Note: John Sinclair is a poet. He was a founder of The White Panthers and The MC5, a political rock group. He is serving 10 years in Marquette State Prison for giving two joints to a police agent.

Source: Leviathan Feb 1970

Update: John Sinclair has been free for a long time now, and resides in Amsterdam.

P.S. The Free John Sinclair campaign was given a huge boost when John Lennon wrote a song about it.

Posted by: skip
Views: 11957

The Weathermen (1969)

I prefer the philanthropy of Captain John Brown to that philanthropy which neither shoots me nor liberates me….I do not wish to kill nor to be killed, but I can foresee circumstances in which both these things would be by me unavoidable. We preserve the so-called peace of our community by deeds of petty violence every day. Look at the policeman’s billy and handcuffs! Look at the jail!… We are hoping only to live safely on the outskirts of this provisional army. So we defend ourselves and our hen-roosts, and maintain slavery. I know that the mass of my countrymen think that the only righteous use that can be made of Sharpe’s rifles and revolvers is to fight duels with them when we are insulted by other nations, or to hunt Indians, or shoot fugitive slaves with them, or the like. I think that for once the Sharpe’s rifles and the revolvers were employed in a righteous cause. The tools were in the hands of one who could use them…. The same indignation that is said to have cleared the temple once will clear it again. The question is not about the weapon, but the spirit in which you use it.
– Henry David Thoreau 1859

There were twelve people in our two-man cell at the Chicago Police Headquarters last Saturday after the SDS Weatherman march through the Loop. Our charges ran from disorderly conduct (my own) through possession of explosives to attempted murder. The styles and situations of the dozen were as widely disparate as the charges: A black student (explosives) in boutique bell-bottoms stretched out coolly on one of the two wooden benches, surveying the rest of us with amusement as well as attachment. A long-haired New York weatherman, who said he had written and produced a musical version of the Columbia University insurrection, skillfully sang both the instrumental and vocal parts of the Cream’s I Feel Free. A very young, very rich kid (mob action) spouted heroic slogans intermittently during a compulsive, anxious monologue about himself. An uncommonly tender gang type from a Michigan Weatherman collective washed a cell-mate’s wounds with wet toilet paper and went to sleep on the crowded cement floor. Brian Flanagan, a bright and sensitive upper-middle moderate who found his way inside a Columbia building last year, and had now come to be charged with attempted murder (of Chicago’s toughest judicial figure), rested Jin another corner, dealing quietly with his own fear and a large still-bleeding gash in his head.

The events of the afternoon were common to us all, whether we had been busted in the La Salle Street melee, or a mile away (as I and two friends were). Solidarity and spirit grew easily from the experience of fear and force; it was expressed through the long first night in jail with songs and chants and good talking. But beyond the fellow-feeling and gallows humor, much more drastic changes were running down within us, and they could not be expressed at all, at least not then and there. That protean rebellion which was born ten years ago in the South: that found forms to fit the Mississippi Delta, the Cleveland slums, the Berkeley campus, the hundred colleges and parks and Army posts: that appeared bloody last summer in Grant Park and stoned this summer at Woodstock: It ran that day in the Loop. Almost everyone else now thinks that that spirit of the Sixties has found its end. But at night in the cell-block, we believed that it had found a new beginning.

Weather Underground Documentary – Part I

Weatherman demands the willing suspension of disbelief. As an ideology of communism and a strategy of revolution, it shatters the reliable categories of thought and modes of action which white radicals have developed in the last ten years. It challenges the validity of an intellectual Left, which functions as a comfortable culture of opposition; instead, it asks that radicals become revolutionaries, completely collectivize their lives, and struggle to death if necessary. Nothing could be more threatening to the investments of thought and action which Movement people have made. Weatherman asks them to leap-in life-expectations as well as political ideas-over a distance fully as wide as that which they crossed from liberalism (or whatever) into the Movement.

Since the civil rights movement moved North in 1964, white radicals have been working within a politics that was defined in the SDS ERAP community organizing projects in Newark, Cleveland, Uptown Chicago, and a half-dozen other urban centers. Although the organizers used some revolutionary rhetoric, they were never able to find a strategy for mobilizing masses of people to restructure the institutions which control their lives. Marches, sit-ins, tenant strikes and election campaigns inconvenienced but did not seriously threaten the welfare departments, housing agencies and city administrations against which they were directed. At length, the project workers-mostly white college kids-realized that those institutions could not be overhauled without wholesale shifts in power inside the system itself.

Since ERAP began to dissolve in 1966 and 1967, radical organizers have used basically the same strategy in other areas: campus strikes, draft resistance, Army base movements. The common principle was the organization of people in one locale (or in various branches of the same essential locale) to change the immediate institution which most oppressed them. For example, students were organized to change the university; young men were organized to stop the draft; basic trainees were organized to fuck the Army. It was hoped that such action might lead, in an always undefined way, to a chain reaction of structural changes throughout the whole system. But of course nothing like that ever happened.

Taken together, at least, that effort can hardly be counted a political failure, even if it did not accomplish its rhetorical objectives. What did happen was the creation of a race of radical organizers who are extraordinarily competent to do the work which their strategy defines. But there are obvious limits to the strategy, and after years of operational failures, a feeling of frustration and even desperation has set in. Many of the early organizers went off to the peripheries of politics: journalism, the academy, legal aid, teaching or even liberal government welfare jobs. And others went completely into personal life-style retreats in one or another wooded groves in New England, California or the Southwest.

As the repository of the political forms in the Movement, SDS _has been struggling to break out of the frustration of repeated failure or at least dispiriting un-success. The factionalism which has now become rampant is a direct result of that situation; politics without promise rapidly loses its coherence. The various factions within and around SDS accurately represent the political alternatives that now seem available. Progressive Labor, the Maoist party that was expelled from SDS last June but still holds on in an ambiguous role, expresses the conviction that revolutionary conditions already exist in the US, and it requires only the organization of the industrial proletariat to set the revolution in motion. Revolutionary Youth Movement II (RYM II) agrees in part with Progressive Labor, that workers organized at the point of production can become a revolutionary force in America, but it goes on to emphasize the paramountcy of subordinating white efforts to the vanguard of blacks and Latin movements. Despite their expansive theoretical flights, both PL and RYM II work inside the framework of the community-organizing strategy. They try to get factory workers to demand power within their factories, or hospital workers-and users-within the hospitals, or soldiers within their bases.

Weatherman is something else. It is, in theory and practice, a revolutionary army, and it flaunts that notion: Come to Chicago. Join the Red Army, the leaflets called out. At this point-only a few months after it was born-Weatherman presents this schema: The fight against the American empire, at home in the black colony and abroad in the Third World, is the center-ring of world politics today, within which the American system will eventually come to grief. The colonized peoples-black Americans and Third World guerrillas-can do it alone; but white Americans can both deepen and extend the fight if they disregard the position of privilege their white skins automatically provide, and learn to live and die like un-privileged guerrillas. In Weatherman’s book, it is racist to accept white privilege in any way.

From that ideology flow a set of shattering implications. First of all, Weatherman action has to be directed at material aid (not just rhetorical support) to the anti-imperialist fights. It isn’t enough to march or leaflet in support of the Vietnamese or the Black Panthers; there has to be an active effort to pull the machinery of empire off their backs.

Next, weathermen have to understand the necessity of risking death, in terms of the historical necessity of revolution. It is the custom of intellectual Lefts around the world to sit sipping coffee (or its current moral equivalent, smoking dope), grooving on other people’s revolutions, staring at posters of other revolutionaries, and waiting for one’s own revolution to start tomorrow. Weatherman says that tomorrow is forever, and the time is always now. To the widespread charge of adventurism on that account, Weatherman insists that nothing that hinders the empire from carrying out its business as usual against the colonies can be a worthless adventure although of course some actions are of more strategic value than others, and that there is a time for up-front fighting and a time for background organizing.

The life-arrangements which have been built to deal with both the personal and political consequences of Weatherman are collectives-numbering now about a dozen in Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, New York, Maryland, Washington State, and Colorado. The intensity with which they work is almost indescribable; they are crucibles of theory and practice, action and self-criticism, loving and working. They are widely experimental: some now are considering rules against men and women living as couples-a form of privatism which inhibits total collectivization. In a few, women talk of intensifying their personal relationships with other women as a way of getting over the problem of women-hating women, which derives from female self-hate-akin to the self-hatred people in oppressed groups, such as Negroes and Jews, seem to contain. Often, members of collectives are revving at such high speed and intensity that they sleep only every other night; the rest of the time they are working-reading, criticizing, writing, traveling, pushing out the problems of the collective and out talking to other people.

The Weatherman perspective treats collectives as pre-party organizations, building eventually to a fighting communist party. A structure of leadership is developing with the Weather Bureau at the top, regional staffs under that, and the collectives providing local cadre. The principle of authority is a form of democratic centralism, with as much self-criticism thrown in as anyone can bear-probably more than anyone can bear.

But despite that formal plan, Weatherman is still primarily an organizing strategy, not a fighting force. Heavy actions in the streets and schools are undertaken more for their exemplary effect on potential weatherpeople than for their material aid to the Viet Congo Weatherman wants to get at high school and community-college dropouts-not middle-class university kids-and it believes that the way to do it is to convince them that they can fight the authorities who daily oppress them: cops, principals, bosses.

Weatherman as a strategy was born last April at Kent State University in Ohio, when a small group of SDS activists broke first through a line of jocks and then a phalanx of police to occupy a building where a hearing was being conducted on disciplinary and student-power issues. The attack so galvanized the campus that 5,000 students came out the next day in support of the SDS fighters.

There’s no denying the antagonism to Weatherman within the radical Left-not to mention the sheer horror with which liberals and conservatives view it. In some places-Detroit, for instance-unweatherized radicals have tried to form coalitions specifically aimed at destroying Weatherman. Some of the best New Left radicals believe that Weatherman is destroying (or has destroyed) the Movement. Movement spokesmen, such as the Guardian and Liberation News Service, are almost viciously anti-Weatherman; the underground press, for the most part, thinks Weatherman is positively insane. Such hostility is more than mere factionalism. It represents total rejection of Weatherman’s revolutionary form.

Weatherman itself doesn’t help matters. Perhaps because of the intensity of their own lives, the members cannot accept the relative lethargy of other radicals. More than that, weathermen have built such elaborate political and emotional defenses against their fears of death and imprisonment that any challenge to the meaning of their work directly threatens their identities. It is obvious that Weatherman is quasi-religious and fanatic in a way; they see those who stand apart as the early Christians must have seen the pagans. It is difficult to die for a cause that their peers reject.

The Movement’s antagonism is particularly wounding because Weatherman has so far failed to attract the large numbers of people it hoped would follow up-front fighting. All summer and in the early fall, Weatherman tried to organize its dropout constituency by running through schoolrooms yelling, Jail break!, fighting with hostile kids, and carrying NLF flags down beaches literally looking for trouble. When trouble came, the weathermen fought, and in many instances won; but the actions did not mobilize the hordes of kids the organizers had expected. There were famous Weatherman horror shows: in Pittsburgh, where members ran through a school and were arrested with no organizing effect; and in Detroit, where a group of weatherwomen (now called the Motor City 9) entered an examination room in a community college, locked the doors, subdued the teacher, and then took two hostile male students out of action with karate blows.

It’s hard, too, for many outsiders to grasp the dramatic-often comic-aspects of Weatherman’s political style. I first saw Weatherman as the Action Faction of SDS at the National Convention in Chicago last June (see Hard Times, No. 38). It surfaced the first afternoon; during a particularly dreary maneuver by PL, the Action Faction people leaped up on their chairs waving Red Books and chanting, Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh…. They succeeded in breaking up PL’s silly obstructions by an essentially dramatic move, which had elements of both parody and instruction.

That element has carried through into all aspects of weathering, so that at times it is difficult to tell whether the entire phenomenon may not be a gigantic psychodrama. Most weathermen, in their own self-criticism sessions, are aware of the dangers of the emotional trip that revolutionism entails. At a meeting one night during the Chicago weekend, speaker after speaker warned against the death trip’ or the machismo trip or the violence trip. We act not out of our private emotions, but in accordance with our political understanding, one weatherman said.

Because Weatherman is still so young, it would be fatuous to condemn it as worthless or elevate it to heroic proportions. Its contradictions are apparent, even to most weathermen, who are defensive outside their collectives but truly self-exploring within. What seems most troublesome right now is Weatherman’s simplemindedness about the varieties of political experience in America; as revolutionaries usually discover, violent struggle and less intense organizing are not mutually exclusive. RYM II and independent radicals are still producing organizers who can serve a variety of functions; to put all radical eggs in a weatherbasket would be unutterably foolish.

Nor is there much evidence that violence can mobilize thousands of kids, even in Weatherman’s chosen dropout pool. Real revolutionaries have a contempt for violence, not an adoration of it; it is used only as a last resort, as a response to specific oppression.
As yet, most people do not comprehend the relationship of the police in America to the B-52s in Vietnam. A revolutionary party finds its moral authority in leading an oppressed people in retaliation against their intolerable oppressors: That’s how the Viet Cong did it in Vietnam and how People’s Democracy is doing it in Northern Ireland. To most people outside, Weatherman is a vanguard floating free of a mass base.

But there’s more to it than that. What appeal Weatherman has comes in part from its integration of the two basic streams of the movements of the Sixties-political mobilization and personal liberation. Since the break-up of the ERAP projects, few radical organizations have been able to contain and combine both streams. Those in the liberation stream have gone off on private trips; those in the political stream have been reduced to Old Left sloganeering and dreary demonstrations. Weatherman does break through, with its liberating collective sensibility and its active mobilization. However disastrous or brilliant its strategy may turn out to be, its spirit, purposefulness and integrity ought to command respect.

Source: Hard Times, Oct. 1969

Posted by: skip
Views: 15556

Marxism and Nonviolence (1966)

In May, 1966, for the second year in a row, Isaac Deutscher spoke at Berkeley’s Vietnam Day. In 1965, Vietnam Day had made a major impact on the campus and the country, with more than 10,000 students participating and a broad range of viewpoints represented on the sponsoring committee and on the speakers’ platform. The 1966 event was a pale shadow, with the sponsoring committee clearly in the hands of the Young Socialist Alliance (a Trotskyist organization) and only a handful of students attending. The next day Deutscher and I traveled to Los Angeles together and from there the following day to New York. At Los Angeles a mass meeting of the anti-war movement also turned out to be Trotskyist dominated and sparsely attended. Deutscher was furious, feeling that he had been brought to the events under false pretenses. Either that fact or the experience of traveling together and listening to each others’ speeches three days in a row led to an unusually frank and probing discussion of Trotskyism, Marxism, pacifism and the anti-war movement.

I became aware that Deutscher was struggling more deeply than could be seen in his writings with an acute consciousness of the decline in revolutionary morality on the left, as seen not just in the crudities of violence and political repression but also in the substitution of dogma and doctrinal rigidity for revolutionary solidarity. A lifetime of thought and analysis predisposed him against nonviolence as a moralistic evasion of the hard realities of revolutionary struggle, but particularly in the protected isolation of our plane trip to New York, he questioned and probed, weighed and analyzed the idea that nonviolence might be a potentially revolutionary method of struggle~ one that had never been developed into a satisfactory form but conceivably could be. It was almost as if troubled by the political weakness of the left in a period of growing popular alienation from capitalism, Deutscher yearned for the movement to reestablish an identity between revolutionary goals and methods.

Excited by the earnestness and brilliance of Deutscher’s reflections, I suggested with some hesitation that he sit down with A.J. Muste and Staughton Lynd to continue the discussion, hoping that the interaction of the three would be helpful to all. His first reaction to the mention of Muste was negative-based on contacts of many years before, but it was perhaps indicative of the extent of his curiosity about revolutionary nonviolence that on second thought he expressed himself as eager to have the meeting. We agreed to tape the discussion for possible use in Liberation Staughton was unable to be present, but Hans Konigsberger, who had just returned from China, took his place.

The rest is anti-climactic. Because of mechanical problems with the taping, only a portion was audible. A cutely aware of what had been lost and of the fragmentary nature of what remained, Liberation laid the whole matter aside. Recently, I tried the tape again on a new machine without significantly better results but was struck by the fact that the section which was audible was eminently worth publishing, to make public at least a little of what Isaac Deutscher was thinking on the subject of revolutionary violence and nonviolence. Deutscher’s death last year has unfortunately made impossible any revisions in the transcript that he might have wished.

Dave Dellinger


We would like to bring the challenge of a revolutionary nonviolence to an accomplished revolutionary theoretician like Isaac Deutscher. I operate on the theory that nonviolence is not sufficiently developed yet, that it can’t be fully appraised or understood in its present form as revealing of the true potential of nonviolence. I think the same thing can be said of socialism at a certain stage; there was the pre-Marxian stage of Christian Socialism and various forms of what is called romantic socialism. Socialism has been going through a gradual sophistication and process of maturation. I think the same thing has to happen in relation to nonviolence, but that unfortunately revolutionary Marxists have had a tendency to discard nonviolence as a revolutionary weapon based on its earliest and most primitive formulations.

There has been a transition from nonviolence as either a symbolic witness or as the special vocation of a small group of people somewhat set apart from the rest of society by their religious training, to the kind of nonviolence which has the determination to change history, to actually change events, a determination which is as strong and as dominating as the revolutionary impulses of non-pacifist revolutionaries of the past. During the Korean War in one of the pacifist organizations that I belonged to I submitted a statement attacking the American position and was horrified to find that within the organization even some of the leadership really supported the American cause, but felt that the American aims should be accomplished by nonviolent instead of violent means. This approach to nonviolence is receding, with the Vietnam War as perhaps a watershed, now the emphasis is on the determination to change historical events.

The pre-Vietnamese War peace movement consisted of at least two main orientations. Some people wanted to achieve the American aim of containing communism and protecting the American system by nonviolent means instead of by violent means. Many of these people have not spoken out against the war very sharply and this has speeded up the historical process of discrediting this kind of nonviolence. I’m not suggesting that pacifists ever wanted war or didn’t want a warless world, but I think there has been a reluctance in the past to get into the muck of politics and social conflict for fear that in the process one would lose his pacifist purity. I think that the absolute need now, and the trend of historical development, is in the other direction, that is of nonviolence trying to present an alternative method of liberation for all oppressed and exploited people. To use one other example: there’s been a tragic tendency in the pacifist movement to concern itself disproportionately with overt violence, the violence of the method, and not to concern itself adequately with the violence of the status-quo or institutional violence. Today there is a recognition that people are just as dead if they are killed by preventable disease attributable to poverty as if they were shot with a bullet, or that they’re just as wounded by living in a ghetto or, for that matter, living as a member of the parasitical rich, as if they’d been wounded by a bullet. This development leads to the whole approach to non-violence as a serious method of liberation, a serious alternative to the present wars of liberation.

In this respect I like to think in terms of the dialectic, at least in my limited understanding of it. The old-fashioned nonviolence of non-resistance, perhaps inadequate preoccupation with institutional violence, I think of that as the thesis. The anti-Nazi resistance movement during World War n, the guerilla movement in Cuba of the Fidelistas, the heroic resistance in Vietnam today, I think of mat as the antithesis. What I would like to have us consider is the possibility that there is a synthesis, that will be something new that we’ve had hints of but has. really not been developed. Guerilla warfare rests on an identification with the population of the country that is conducting the resistance, and that identification is not a facile or a facetious thing; it’s something that stems from an identification with the aspirations for liberation, dignity, justice of the country.
This is an example of one of the things to come out of this synthesis. On the other hand, nonviolence has a deep and universal humanism which is also characteristic of historical, not non-violent revolution at its best, but tends to be betrayed and squeezed out in the course of the actual conflict. I think we’ve learned that anything that looks on the class enemy or the institutional enemy as also the human enemy tends to lead to internal corruption and a cumulative deterioration within the movement of its original idealism and its original methodology.

I have one other example. Isaac Deutscher, when he spoke at Berkeley recently of the negative effects of the present conflict in Vietnam within the Communist world, indicated that although the de-Stalinization process has not been totally lost, it has nonetheless been halted or possibly even set in reverse a little bit. He spoke of the fact that in fighting supposedly for freedom in Vietnam, one of the indirect effects has been to encourage the throttling of freedom within the communist world. I think this stems from the fear and from the reaction of like producing like, violence and hatred and distrust producing violence and hatred and distrust, and I wonder why it isn’t equally true that even the most idealistic revolutionary movements who rely on hatred and violence provoke a similar misunderstanding, a similar fear, a similar hysteria in the opposition so that there is again this cumulative effect and we actually antagonize the people it is our job to win over. (In Trotsky’s history of the Russian revolution, which is certainly not a book advocating nonviolence, I was struck by the extent to which the Russian revolutionists won over the troops which were ordered to disperse them or shoot them down. There seemed to be a very dynamic and creative process at work which, lacking the nonviolent emphasis, most revolutionary movements tend to cut short at a very crucial moment.) I think that we have to get over the idea that nonviolence can win a bloodless war (I think there have to be victims, there have to be deaths) but we’re not justified, even if there is a major massacre on our side, which says, see it won’t work, now we have to go into war, because in the process obviously we also guarantee that there will be more massacres, more deaths.

I must admit that talk about the challenge of nonviolence tends at the beginning to stare at all my deep seated Marxist bias against this kind of argument. I am at once aroused to suspect some wishy-washy idealistic generalizations that lead us politically, analytically and morally nowhere. But as I listen to your argument I become increasingly aware that my bias is directed against an opponent who doesn’t stand in front of me at all; my bias is directed against the escapism of absolute pacifism. Even against the high principles of absolute pacifism it is difficult to argue without feeling a certain moral embarrassment, because one would like the absolute pacifist who denies absolutely any positive role of violence in history to be right. And yet one knows that he isn’t right and that this is a very dangerous escapism. Therefore, one tends to react, if one is a Marxist, with a certain venom. But you are not romantic creatures of nonviolence. To my mind, and I hesitate to use strong words, you have taken a heroic stand over the war in Vietnam. When you started your protest you could not have foreseen that you would be backed by such wide popular response: you have taken great risks in order to express not only your opposition to the violence used by American power, by American imperialism, but also to defend to some extent, morally, the violence to which the Vietnamese have to resort in order to save their own dignity, their own interests, their own present and their own future.

One might say that there is an inconsistency in your attitude, a contradiction in your preaching nonviolence and yet accepting morally to some extent the violence applied by the Vietcong in Vietnam and probably by the FLN in Algeria. But I think that this is a creative inconsistency, a creative contradiction in your attitude. Although you start from an idealistic and to my mind a somewhat metaphysical principle, nevertheless your inconsistency opens for you an important horizon into the realities of our age. I think that you are carrying out something like truthful self-criticism. It is the self-criticism of a variety of pacifism which is not afraid of bringing its own apparent formal inconsistency into the open in order to achieve a greater moral and political consistency in action. And may I say that arguing philosophically from places partly opposed, I admit a similar, but a much larger, perhaps a more tragic inconsistency in the history of revolution, in the history of Communism and Marxism.

The fact is that there is a whole dialectic of violence and nonviolence implied in the Marxist doctrine from its beginnings and throughout all its historic metamorphosis from 1848-1966. As Marxists we have always preached proletarian dictatorship, and the need to overthrow capitalism by force. We have always tried to impress on the working classes of all countries that they would have to be prepared to struggle, even in civil wars, against their oppressing and ruling classes. We were quite devastating in our rejoinders to all those who doubted the right or questioned the need for all those preachings. But here is the dialectical contradiction; after all what has been the idea of Marxism? That of the classless society in which man is no longer exploited and dominated by man, a stateless society. So many people of the left consider this the Utopian element in Marxism, the aspiration to transform societies in such a way that violence should cease forever as the necessary and permanent element in the regulation of the relationship between society and individuals, between individuals and individuals.

In embracing the vision of a nonviolent society, Marxism, I maintain, has gone further and deeper than any pacifist preachers of nonviolence have ever done. Why? Because Marxism laid bare the roots of violence in our society,., which the others have not done. Marxism has set out to attack those roots; to uproot violence not just from human thoughts, not just from human emotions, but to uproot them from the very bases of the material existence of society. Marxism has seen violence fed by class antagonism in society-and here Marxism should be assessed against the two-thousand-year record of futile Christian preaching of nonviolence. I say futile in the sense that it has led to no real consequences, to no real diminution of violence. After two millenia of love thy brother we are in this situation; that those who go to church throw the napalm bombs and the others who were also brought up in a Christian tradition, the Nazis, have sent the six million descendents of Christ’s countrymen to the gas chambers. After two millenia the preaching of nonviolence has led to this! One of the reasons for this is that the roots of violence have never been attacked, never been dug up. Class society has persisted and therefore these preachings, even when most sincere, even when the Christian teacher put both his heart and soul in them, were bound to be futile, because they attacked only the surface of the nonviolence. But then the dialectic of Marxism has also been at fault; Marxism itself, throughout its history of deep and tragic contradictions.

How strong the dream of nonviolence lay at the root of the Russian Revolution one can find out if one studies Lenin’s statement on Revolution which is written in outwardly a very dogmatic form, almost like an ecclesiastical text interpreting Biblical verses. Behind these somewhat ecclesiastical formulas there is the deep well of the dream of the stateless society constantly welling up. The October insurrection was carried out in such a way that, according to all the hostile eyewitnesses such as the Western ambassadors who were then in Petrograd, the total number of victims on all sides was ten. That is the total number of victims of that great revolutionary October insurrection. The men who directed this insurrection: Lenin, Trotsky, the members of the military revolutionary committee, gave some thought to the question of violence and nonviolence and organized this tremendous upheaval, with a very profound although unspoken concern for human lives, for the lives of their enemies as well as for their own people. The Russian Revolution, in the name of which so much violence has been committed, was the most nonviolent act of this scale in the whole history of the human race!

The revolution was won not with guns, but with words, with argument, persuasion. The words were very violent, the words were terribly forceful, but this is the violence of emotion in the revolt against the actuality of violence, of a world war which cost millions of human beings. All those people nowadays who take it upon themselves to preach morality to the makers of the Russian Revolution assume, of course, that there was a kind of good and angelic status quo, an angelic nonviolence which was upset by those Dostoyevskian possessed fiends, the revolutionaries who appropriated to themselves the right to dispose of human lives. Nearly ten million people had perished in the trenches of the First World War when the Bolsheviks carried out that great revolution which cost ten victims.

The deep universal humanism inherent in what you call the challenge of nonviolence has been there in Marxism as its most essential element. We were a little more shy about talking about humanism-we are more shy about this because what scoundrel in world history hasn’t spoken about humanism-hasn’t Stalin, hasn’t Hitler, hasn’t Goebbels? I always get more than a little shocked when I hear leftwingers and ex-Marxists suggest that Marxism needs to be supplemented by Humanism. Marxism only needs to be true to itself.

But what happened really after this very promising beginning of the Russian Revolution, after Lenin had written The State and Revolution, which is the great revolutionary dream about nonviolence expressed in Marxist terms, what happened? The others who preached nonviolence, for instance Kerensky, preached nonviolence to the oppressed by reintroducing the death penalty for soldiers who were refusing to fight on the front. Perhaps in the nature of people who really detest violence there is a greater shyness about speaking about nonviolence. I distrust those who have so many noble words on their lips. I very often trust more those who speak frankly and even brutally about the necessities of the political struggle as long as they don’t get carried away by their own righteousness.

Then came the intervention, the Civil war. Violence had to be used on an increasing scale, just as the Vietcong today has to use violence on an increasing scale. They can’t help it; they’re either to go under or they use the violence. But even in the civil war what did the Bolsheviks do? Again they tried to keep a balance between argument, persuasion and violence; a balance in they still attached far greater importance to persuasion and argument than to the gun. In sheer arms they were infinitely inferior to the British, the French, and the Americans (who sent both troops and munitions for the White armies in Russia). The Red army led by Trotsky at that time was far inferior. What happened? They agitated, they appealed to the consciousness of the soldiers, of the workers in uniform in those interventionist armies. The French Navy, sent to suppress the revolution, rose in mutiny in Odessa and refused to fight against the Bolsheviks; another triumph of nonviolence in the civil war. This revolt of the sailors was the result of what was called Bolshevik propaganda, but this subversion prevented violence. (In Britain in 1920 during the intervention, during the Russo-Polish war [when Poland was White Poland] the dockers of London struck and refused to send arms against Russia and the docks of London were immobilized-this was nonviolence.)

Then comes the great tragedy of the isolation of the Russian Revolution; of its succumbing to incredible, unimaginable destruction, poverty, hunger, and disease as a result of the wars of intervention, the civil wars, and of course the long and exhausting world war which was not of Bolshevik making. As a result of all this, terror was let loose on Russia. Men lost their balance. They lost, even the leaders, the clarity of their thinking and of their minds. They acted under overwhelming and inhuman pressures. I don’t undertake to judge them, to blame them or to justify them. . I can only see the deep tragedy of this historic process the result of which was the glorification of violence.

But what was to have been but a glassful of violence became buckets and buckets full, and then rivers of violence. That is the tragedy of the Russian Revolution. The dialectics of violence and nonviolence in Marxism were so upset that in the end the nonviolent meaning of Marxism was suppressed under the massive, crushing weight of Stalinism. It wasn’t a matter of chance that Stalin implicitly denounced the Leninist and Marxist idea of the withering away of the state. It was on that idea that the whole Marxist nonviolence was epitomized. The Stalinist regime couldn’t tolerate, couldn’t bear the survival of that dream. It had to crush it out of human minds in order to justify its own violence. I’m not saying this to blame the whole thing on single individuals. It was more than that. It was the tragedy of an isolated and poverty-ridden revolution incapable of fulfilling its promise in isolation and poverty: a revolution caught in this tragic situation-of the irreconcilable contradiction between promise and fulfillment, between dream and reality, sunk into irrationality.

To what extent is Marxism, as such, responsible for this? It would be wrong to identify Stalinism with Marxism, and to blame Marxism for the things that have been done under Stalinism. On the other hand, it would show a lack of moral courage in Marxism to draw the formal line of dissociation and say that we are not responsible for Stalinism, that that wasn’t what we aimed at. You see, in a way Marxism is as responsible for Stalin as Christianity was responsible for the Borgias. The Borgias are not Christianity, but Christianity cannot bleach the Borgias from its records. We cannot delete Stalinism from our records although we are not responsible for Stalinist crimes. Te some extent we (and when I say we I mean that generation of Marxists with which I as an individual identify morally, I mean Lenin, Trotsky, Bukharin, Zinoviev, the early Communist leaders in Europe) participated in this glorification of violence as a self-defense mechanism. Rosa Luxemburg understood this when she criticized the first faint signs of this attitude.

But the issue is larger and deeper than just human intentions. The violence isn’t rooted in human intentions. The human intentions are, shall we say, the mechanism, the psychological, the ideal mechanism through which material factors and material necessities transmit their pressures. Marxism had not made any allowance for the possibility of such tremendous outgrowth of violence, of such tremendous abuse of violence that would be done in the name of Marxism, for a simple reason. Marxism assumed that revolution would always be an act of change in society carried out violently, but with the support of immense popular majorities. It assumed revolution in an industrialized West carried out by working classes committed to socialism, supporting the revolution with all their heart and confronting as their enemies a really small minority consisting of the exploiters. In such a confrontation of revolutionary majorities with counter-revolutionary minorities, the need to use violence would indeed have been very limited and the dream of nonviolence would have had all this hope for fulfillment.

It is said that Marxism suits the underdeveloped countries but not the advanced and industrial west. I still maintain that the original dream of Marxism and the real original inspiration and hope of Marxism still suits the industrial west much better than it can suit the underdeveloped countries, even if revolution in certain phases is the job of great majorities as it was in Russia in 1917, as it was in China in 1949, as it is in Vietnam today. In underdeveloped countries there comes a moment after the revolution when again there is this breach between promise and fulfillment, of making the people accomplish what they had set out to accomplish or they can accomplish it only partly, very inadequately. Therefore there come frustrations, explosive dissonances and the desire of the postrevolutionary rulers to secure the revolution as they understand it and are able to secure it. The more underdeveloped the country, the more bound to come, after the revolution, a moment of bitter truth and violence.

However, I think that the violence in China already is much smaller than it was in Russia. The irrationality of the Chinese Revolution, though goodness knows there is a lot of irrationality, so far is much less, I think, than what came to the top in the Russian Revolution. But then the Chinese Revolution wasn’t the. first pioneer, wasn’t the isolated revolution: it was already assisted by Stalinist Russia, and this reduced the amount of irrationality. I think that with the spread of revolution, with the advance of the industrial and technological aspects of revolutionary societies, with the growth of their wealth, with the rising in their standards of living, with a relative contentment in the popular masses, the irrational element will decrease. The final vindication of the dream of nonviolence in Marxism will come with socialism gaining the advanced countries. That is my belief, and it is not a belief of wishful thinking; it is the whole theoretical structure of Marxism that leads me to this conclusion. I think that the de-Stalinization carried out in Russia, partial, self-contradictory, inadequate, hypocritical as it has been, has already somewhat reestablished the balance between the contradictory elements in the Russian Revolution by reducing the violence and giving more scope to the nonviolent element in Marxism.

You have asked me what I meant when I spoke about the negative effect on the Communist World of the war in Vietnam The war in Vietnam mayor may not be a prelude to new confrontations of violence surging back from the Western world and flooding the world again. The fear of the ultimate violence promotes a recrudescence of the authoritarian and violent trend within Russia and in China. I made an analogy between the effects of the Vietnamese War in the Communist part of the world and the repercussions of the Korean War in the last years of Stalin’s era. The fears and panic let loose by the Korean War expressed themselves in Russia in the insanity of Stalin’s rule in the last years, in the repetition of the witches’ sabbath of the thirties. I don’t foresee and I’m not afraid of something as terrible as that in Russia in response to the American aggression in Vietnam, but we have already seen some recrudescence of the authoritarian trend. The Twenty-third congress of the Communist Party testifies to this. The trials of Daniel and Sinyevsky were symptomatic of the partial return of the authoritarian trend.

On the other hand I don’t think that one can say that the Korean War had only one effect, i.e. the encouragement of domestic violence in the Soviet Union and China. It also had a positive effect parallel to the effect that it had in our part of the world. It gave one a sense of human solidarity with a small nation so ruthlessly attacked, so ruthlessly crushed by the most powerful, the greatest, the richest nation in the world. The Korean War disposed of certain illusions which Khruschevism spread, namely the illusion about the possibility of the peaceful transition from capitalism to socialism in such countries as France or Italy. Try to go now to French and Italian workers and tell them that they can accomplish this miracle when in such small nations as Korea and Vietnam it is so resisted by the great capitalist powers.

A.J. Muste:

In the first place with most of your analysis I go along completely, including the concept that we don’t have to introduce nonviolence into Marx as a new revelation at this time. I also agree with the statement that if you are going to talk about violence you have to talk about the violence of the Christian West. I would say one has to be careful about terminology at that point because very early the Christian church turned away from nonviolence. It was a very small sect that believed that Christianity was associated with nonviolence. I agree completely that if you are looking at violence historically and in the present it is to be found in the Christian Church, Christian civilizations, and Christian nations. Therefore basic to my conception of the role of a possibly revolutionary nonviolence is the responsibility to destroy the violence of the western nations-imperialism. So people like Dave and myself accept the criticism of the absolute pacifists who reject the violence of the Vietcong. You have to make a political judgment about these relations, you can’t make an isolated moral judgment. If you make it on absolute dogmatic grounds you remove yourself from the political situation.

A question that gives me problems and which you have left in an overview is the tragedy of the Marxist movement in its orgies of terror and violence in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, under Stalin. It seems to me that the great tragedies of which we must be aware should actually be the Soviet Union and the U.S. But there is something there needs further analysis in order that given the example of the communism in the Soviet Union those of us who are revolutionaries may guard ourselves against going further in that kind of evolution of violence. In the second place we must ask whether in the concept of nonviolence there are other forms of force than military forms. This means guarding against accommodation with a system whose very essence is violence, even in so-called peace time. Now on my part, I am constantly frustrated in trying to know what we should think when we think about nonviolent revolution. What do we do if concretely we are in Vietnam. Are there concrete ways of struggle other than those used by the Vietnamese? I think we have only an elementary concept of nonviolent force as a constant in struggle with the arms of imperialism, which is a very reactionary force. I think there is no room for compromise but I think we do have suggestions on how perhaps to avoid what happened in the Soviet Union in this country. (At this point, Muste’s words became inaudible.)


We have to make known the long, terrible road leading us to that classless society. You speak as if we stood already on the threshold of a classless society. You see it’s so easy to make the slogan of nonviolence an escapism; so easy to overlook the realities of this long road and on this road we shall live with violence, and if we are socialist we shall use violence.

My point is this. As Marxists, whenever we are driven to use violence what we must know and tell those people whom we shall call to act, is that violence is a necessary evil. And the emphasis will be on both the adjective and the noun, on the necessary and on evil. To preach nonviolence to those always the object of violence may even be false. I say the lesson we should learn from Soviet history is that we can’t overemphasize the evil of violence. But if I were a Vietnamese and also in the ranks of the Vietcong I would also use violence. I don’t know if, with my Western way of thinking, if I were a Vietnamese I would try to tell my comrades in arms we should not make a virtue of the bitter and terrible necessity of violence. But we are acting in the West where this argument has much more chance of being understood and accepted.

On the Left in the West we must foster a way of thinking which would not shirk realities. We have in front of us-and this is where Marxism parts from anarchism and pure pacifism-we share with anarchists the dream of a stateless society but we ask how do you arrive at it. You accept the view that the Vietnamese war is not an accident of history;
that it expresses the structure of your society, expresses the imperialist character in your relationship to the outside world. If you accept this you imply that the social order has to be changed. How is it to be changed? How is it going to be changed by nonviolent methods when those who refuse to move an inch in Vietnam to their class enemies-will they yield the territory of the United States to socialism without defending the status quo? Can you imagine this? I can but only under one condition. That is when you have the overwhelming number of Americans ready to use violence in order to bring about socialism, only then may socialism conquer the U.S. without the use of violence. The capital of the revolution was its moral supremacy. You see, if you achieve for socialism a moral supremacy in American society comparable to that of the Russian revolution then you might have to use only an infinitesimal amount of violence. But here again is the dialectic-only if you’re ready to use violence without making a virtue of it.

Source: Liberation Magazine, July, 1969

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Weather Underground Frees Timothy Leary! (1970)

September 15, 1970. This is the fourth communication from the Weatherman Underground.

The Weatherman Underground has had the honor and pleasure of helping Dr. Timothy Leary escape from the POW camp at San Luis Obispo, California.

Dr. Leary was being held against his will and against the will of millions of kids in this country. He was a political prisoner, captured for the work he did in helping all of us begin the task of creating a new culture on the barren wasteland that has been imposed on this country by Democrats, Republicans, Capitalists and creeps.

LSD and grass, like the herbs and cactus and mushrooms of the American Indians and countless civilizations that have existed on this planet, will help us make a future world where it will be possible to live in peace.

Now we are at war.

With the NLF and the North Vietnamese, with the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Al Fatah, with Rap Brown and Angela Davis, with all black and brown revolutionaries, the Soledad brothers and all prisoners of war in Amerikan concentration camps we know that peace is only possible with the destruction of U.S. imperialism.

Our organization commits itself to the task of freeing these prisoners of war.

We are outlaws, we are free ! (

signed) Bernardine Dohrn


Letter From Timothy Leary

The following statement was written in the POW camp and carried over the wall (in full sight of two gun trucks). I offer loving gratitude to my Sisters and Brothers in the Weatherman Underground who designed and executed my liberation. Rosemary and I are now with the Underground and we’ll continue to stay high and wage the revolutionary war.

There is the time for peace and the time for war.

There is the day of laughing Krishna and the day of Grim Shiva.

Brothers and Sisters, at this time let us have no more talk of peace.

The conflict which we have sought to avoid is upon us. A worldwide ecological religious warfare. Life vs. death.

Listen. It is a comfortable, self-indulgent cop-out to look for conventional economic-political solutions.

Brothers and Sisters, this is a war for survival. Ask Huey and Angela. They dig it.

Ask the wild free animals. They know it.

Ask the turned-on ecologists. They sadly admit it.

I declare that World War III is now being waged by short-haired robots whose deliberate aim is to destroy the complete web of free wild life by the imposition of mechanical order.

Listen. There is no choice left but to defend life by all and every means possible against the genocidal machine.

Listen. There are no neutrals in genetic war. There are no non-combatants at Buchenwald, My Lai or Soledad.

You are part of the death apparatus or you belong to the network of free life.

Do not be deceived. It is a classic stratagem of genocide to camouflage their wars as law and order police actions.

Remember the Sioux and the German Jews and the black slaves and the marijuana pogroms and the pious TWA indignation over airline hijackings !

If you fail to see that we are the victims defendants of genocidal war you will not understand the rage of the blacks, the fierceness of the browns, the holy fanaticism of the Palestinians, the righteous mania of the Weathermen, and the pervasive resentment of the young.

Listen Americans. Your government is an instrument of total lethal evil.

Remember the buffalo and the Iroquois !

Remember Kennedy, King, Malcolm, Lenny !

Listen. There is no compromise with a machine. You cannot talk peace and love to a humanoid robot whose every Federal Bureaucratic impulse is soulless, heartless, lifeless, loveless.

In this life struggle we use the ancient holy strategies of organic life:

  1. Resist lovingly in the loyalty of underground sisterhoods and brotherhoods.
  2. Resist passively, break lock-step & drop out.
  3. Resist actively, sabotage, jam the computer & hijack planes & trash every lethal machine in the land.
  4. Resist publicly, announce life & denounce death.
  5. Resist privately, guerrilla invisibility.
  6. Resist beautifully, create organic art, music.
  7. Resist biologically, be healthy & erotic & conspire with seed & breed.
  8. Resist spiritually, stay high & praise god & love life & blow the mechanical mind with Holy Acid & dose them & dose them.
  9. Resist physically, robot agents who threaten life must be disarmed, disabled, disconnected by force & Arm yourself and shoot to live & Life is never violent. To shoot a genocidal robot policeman in the defense of life is a sacred act.

Listen Nixon. We were never that naive. We knew that flowers in your gun-barrels were risky.We too remember Munich and Auschwitz all too well as we chanted love and raised our Woodstock fingers in the gentle sign of peace.

We begged you to live and let live, to love and let love, but you have chosen to kill and get killed. May God have mercy on your soul.

For the last seven months, I, a free, wild man, have been locked in POW camps. No living creature can survive in a cage. In my flight to freedom I leave behind a million brothers and sisters in the POW prisons of Quentin, Soledad, Con Thien…

Listen comrades. The liberation war has just begun. Resist, endure, do not collaborate. Strike. You will be free.

Listen you brothers of the imprisoned. Break them out ! If David Harris has ten friends in the world, I say to you, get off your pious non-violent asses and break him out.

There is no excuse for one brother or sister to remain a prisoner of war.

Right on Leila Khaled !

Listen, the hour is late. Total war is upon us. Fight to live or you’ll die. Freedom is life. Freedom will live.

(signed) Timothy Leary

WARNING : I am armed and should be considered dangerous to anyone who threatens my life or my freedom.

Source: San Francisco Good Times, September 18, 1970.

Posted by: skip
Views: 16933

Weather Underground Fifth Communication (1970)

The following communication was received at the New York YIP (Youth International Party) office Tuesday, October 6, 1970 at 11:00am.

A year ago we blew away the Haymarker pig statue at the start of a youth riot in Chicago. The head of the Police Sergeant’s Association called emotionally for all-out war between the pigs and us. We accepted. Last night we destroyed the pig again. This time it begins a fall offensive of youth resistance that will spread from Santa Barbara to Boston, back to Kent and Kansas. Now we are everywhere and next week families and tribes will attack the enemy around the country. It is our job to blast away the myths of the total superiority of the man.

We did not choose to live in a time of war. We choose only to become guerillas and to urge our people to prepare for war rather than become accomplices in the genocide of our sisters and brothers.

We learned from Amerikan history about policies of exterminating an entire people and their magnificent cultures – the Indians, the blacks, the Vietnamese. We are making plans to resist with all of our creativity.

Students and hippies who now hear peace talk from the white man must remember how talk of peace was used against the Indians and preached to the blacks.

Today many student leaders have cut their hair and called for peace. They say young people shouldn’t provoke the government. And they receive, in return, promises of peaceful change. Promises of peace from a government that bombs Cambodia while talking about an end to war, that killed students at Jackson and Kent while calling for responsibility on campus, that murdered Fred Hampton and hundreds of blacks while calling for racial harmony. Remember that Amerikan pigs have already dropped more bombs on a piece of land about the size of Florida than the entire tonnage dropped during World War II.

Don’t be tricked by talk. Arm yourselves and shoot to live!

We are building a culture and a society that can resist genocide. It is a culture of total resistance to mind-controlling maniacs, a culture of high energy sisters getting it on, of hippie acid-smiles and communes and freedom to be the farthest out people we can be. It’s a culture that can take care of its people, Rosemary and Tim are free and high.

J. Edgar himself admitted that underground radicals were the hardest group to infiltrate. That’s because the culture and ideals we want to live by can only be lived in total resistance to Imperialism.

If Nixon invades Cuba, bombs North Vietnam, intervenes in the Middle East, we must all move fast. Figure out strategic weak points of the enemy. Look to the Arabs. With the underground and mass movement responding together, we could shut down every international airport in Amerika within 24 hours. Every long-hair is a YIPPIE! Every militant woman a Leila Khaled.

Surround every armed attack with rallies, phone calls, posters and celebrations. We are not just attacking targets – we are bringing a pitiful helpless giant to its knees.

We invite Ky and Nixon and Agnew to travel in the country. Come to the high schools and campuses. But guard you planes, guard your colleges, guard your banks, guard your children, GUARD YOUR DOORS.

(Signed) Bernadine Dohrn, Bill Ayers, Jeff Jones

This is the fifth communication from the Weatherman underground.

Posted by: skip
Views: 12937

We’re Losing the Drug War Because Prohibition Never Works

We’re Losing the Drug War Because Prohibition Never Works

By Hodding Carter III.

There is clearly no point in beating a dead horse, whether you are a
politician or a columnist, but sometimes you have to do it just the
same, if only for the record. So, for the record, here’s another
attempt to argue that a majority of the American people and their
elected representatives can be and are wrong about the way they have
chosen to wage the war against drugs. Prohibition can’t
work, won’t work and has never worked, but it can and does have
monumentally costly effects on the criminal justice system and on the
integrity of government at every level.

Experience should be the best teacher, and my experience with prohibition is a
little more recent than most Americans for whom the noble
experiment ended with repeal in 1933. In my home state of
Mississippi, it lasted for an additional 33 years, and for all those
years it was a truism that the drinkers had their liquor, the
preachers had their prohibition and the sheriffs made the money. Al
Capone would have been proud of the latitude that bootleggers were
able to buy with their payoffs of constables, deputies, police chiefs
and sheriffs across the state.

But as a first-rate series in the New York Times made clear early last
year, Mississippi’s prohibition-era corruption (and Chicago’s before
that) was penny ante stuff compared with what is happening in the
U.S. today. From Brooklyn police precincts to Miami’s police stations
to rural Georgia courthouses, big drug money is purchasing major
breakdowns in law enforcement. Sheriffs, other policemen and now
judges are being bought up by the gross. But that money, with the net
profits for the drug traffickers estimated at anywhere from $40
billion to $100 billion a year, is also buying up banks, legitimate
businesses and, to the south of us, entire governments. The latter
becomes an increasingly likely outcome in a number of cities and
states in this country as well. Cicero, Ill., during Prohibition is
an instructive case in point.

The money to be made from an illegal product that has about 23 million
current users in this country also explains why its sale is so
attractive on the mean streets of America’s big cities. A street
salesman can gross about $2,500 a day in Washington, which puts him
in the pay category of a local television anchor, and this in a
neighborhood of dead-end job chances.

Since the courts and jails are already swamped beyond capacity by the
arrests that are routinely made (44,000 drug dealers and users over a
two-year period in Washington alone, for instance) and since those
arrests barely skim the top of the pond, arguing that stricter
enforcement is the answer begs a larger question: Who is going to pay
the billions of dollars required to build the prisons, hire the
judges, train the policemen and employ the prosecutors needed for the
load already on hand, let alone the huge one yet to come if we ever
get serious about arresting dealers and users?

Much is made of the cost of drug addiction, and it should be, but the
current breakdown in the criminal justice system is not one of them.
That breakdown is the result of prohibition, not addiction. Drug
addiction, after all, does not come close to the far vaster problems
of alcohol and tobacco addiction (as former Surgeon General Koop
correctly noted, tobacco is at least as addictive as heroin). Hard
drugs are estimated to kill 4,000 people a year directly and several
tens of thousands a year indirectly. Alcohol kills at least 100,000 a
year, addicts millions more and costs the marketplace billions of
dollars. Tobacco kills over 300,000 a year, addicts tens of millions
and fouls the atmosphere as well. But neither alcohol nor tobacco
threaten to subvert our system of law and order, because they are
treated as personal and societal problems rather than as criminal

Indeed, every argument that is made for prohibiting the use of currently
illegal drugs can be made even more convincingly about tobacco and
alcohol. The effects on the unborn? Staggeringly direct. The effects
on adolescents? Alcoholism is the addiction of choice for young
Americans on a ratio of about 100 to one. Lethal effect? Tobacco’s
murderous results are not a matter of debate anywhere outside the
Tobacco Institute.

Which leaves the lingering and legitimate fear that legalization might
produce a surge in use. It probably would, although not nearly as
dramatic a one as opponents usually estimate. The fact is that
personal use of marijuana, whatever the local laws may say, has been
virtually decriminalized for some time now, but there has been a
stabilization or slight decline in use, rather than an increase, for
several years. Heroin addiction has held steady at about 500,000
people for some time, though the street price of heroin is far lower
now than it used to be. Use of cocaine in its old form also seems to
have stopped climbing and begun to drop off among young and old
alike, though there is an abundantly available supply.

That leaves crack cocaine, stalker of the inner city and terror of the
suburbs. Instant and addictive in effect, easy to use and relatively
cheap to buy, it is a personality-destroying substance that is a
clear menace to its users. But it is hard to imagine it being any
more accessible under legalization than it is in most cities today
under prohibition, while the financial incentives for promoting its
use would virtually disappear with legalization.

Proponents of legalization should not try to fuzz the issue, nonetheless.
Addiction levels might increase, at least temporarily, if legal
sanctions were removed. That happened after the repeal of
Prohibition, or so at least some studies have suggested. But while
that would be a personal disaster for the addicts and their families,
and would involve larger costs to society as a whole, those costs
would be minuscule compared with the costs of continued prohibition.

The young Capones of today own the inner cities and the wholesalers
behind these young retailers are rapidly buying up the larger system
which is supposed to control them. Prohibition gave us the Mafia and
organized crime on a scale that has been with us ever since. The new
prohibition is writing a new chapter on that old text. Hell-bent on
learning nothing from history, we are witnessing its repetition,
predictably enough, as tragedy.

Appeared in the Wall Street Journal Jul 13, 1989. Reprinted
with permission. Copyright Dow Jones & Company Inc.

Posted by: Harrell Graham
Views: 9540

Student Dress Codes? (1969)

Unrest in the Southwest

Source: Plain Brown Watermelon, Bellaire High School Newspaper, Oct. 1969, Vol 1, #1

Things are bubbling out there in the
southwest area high schools. Here’s a brief, and admittedly
incomplete rundown on a few incidents which occurred during he last
two weeks.

At Bellaire a student council sponsored
referendum was presented to the student body on hair and dress
regulations. The question was, who should have the right to make
those decisions: the administration, the student council, or the
individual? The result of the referendum (representing only about
two-thirds of the enrollment since some teachers refused to hand out
the ballots) was as fallows: 1,520 for the individual, 750 for the
student council, 450 for the administration. In response, Bellaire
Principal Harlan Andrews declared the referendum null and void,
,saying that it had not been authorized by him. Only a week before
Andrews had been urging students to channel their grievances through
the student council.

Leafletting has occurred at almost all
southwest high schools. The most frequent point of dissent is the
hair and dress code, but as little ground is gained in this fight the
range of issues invariably broadens. At Spring Woods a test case is
being prepared to challenge the constitutionality of grooming

Though there have been numerous
expulsions and suspensions, the only reported arrest took place
before school in the cafeteria at Madison High School. Madison
students had requested help from Bellaire in preparing and
distributing leaflets, and on Wednesday of last week two Bellaire
students, a boy and a girl were busted for leafletting at Madison.
The girl was later released as a juvenile, but the boy, Harrell
, was charged with trespassing and loitering. His trial is set
for 11a.m. October 16 at Corporation Court, 61 Reisner Street.
Bellaire’s Watermelon Committee is encouraging as many people as
possible to attend the trial in a show of support for Harrell.
Contact Space City News for the room number.

And at Sharpstown “Phlashlyte,” the
independent newspaper that caused all the uproar last year,
reappeared on campus.

All of which proves, friends, that the
times indeed are a’changing.


Posted by: skip
Views: 11667

School is Bad for Children (1969)


Almost every child, on the first day he sets foot in a school building, is smarter, more curious, less afraid of what he doesn’t know, better at finding and figuring things out, more confident, resourceful, persistent and independent than he will ever be again in his schooling-or, unless he is very unusual and very lucky, for the rest of his life. Already, by paying close attention to and interacting with the world and people around him, and without any school-type formal instruction, he has done a task far more difficult, complicated and abstract than anything he will be asked to do in school, or than any of his teachers has done for years. He has solved the mystery of language. He has discovered it–babies don’t even know that language exists-and he has found out how it works and learned to use it. He has done it by exploring, by experimenting, by developing his own model of the grammar of language, by trying it out and seeing whether it works, by gradually changing it and refining it until it does work. And while he has been doing this, he has been learning other things as well, including many of the concepts that the schools think only they can teach him, and many that are more complicated than the ones they do try to teach him.

In he comes, this curious, patient, deter- mined, energetic, skillful learner. We sit him down at a desk, and what do we teach him? Many things. First, that learning is separate from living. You come to school to learn, we tell him, as if the child hadn’t been learning before, as if living were out there and learning were in here, and there were no connection between the two. Secondly, that he cannot be trusted to learn and is no good at it. Everything we teach about reading, a task far simpler than many that the child has already mastered, says to him, If we don’t make you read, you won’t, and if you don’t do it exactly the way we tell you, you can’t. In short, he comes to feel that learning is a passive process, something that someone else does to you, instead of something you do for yourself.
In a great many other ways he learns that he is worthless, untrustworthy, fit only to take other people’s orders, a blank sheet for other people to write on. Oh, we make a lot of nice noises in school about respect for the child and individual differences, and the like. But our acts, as opposed to our talk, say to the child, Your experience, your concerns, your curiosities, your needs, what you know, what you want, what you wonder about, what you hope for, what you fear, what you like and dislike, what you are good at or not so good at-all this is of not the slightest importance, it counts for nothing. What counts here, and the only thing that counts, is what we know, what we think is important, what we want you to do, think and be. The child soon learns not to ask questions-the teacher isn’t there to satisfy his curiosity. Having learned to hide his curiosity, he later learns to be ashamed of it. Given no chance to find out who he is-and to develop that person, whoever it is-he soon comes to accept the adults’ evaluation of him.

He learns many other things. He learns that to be wrong, uncertain, confused, is a crime. Right Answers are what the school wants, and he learns countless strategies for prying these answers out of the teacher, for conning her into thinking he knows what he doesn’t know. He learns to dodge, bluff, fake, cheat. He learns to be lazy. Before he came to school, he would work for hours on end, on his own, with no thought of reward, at the business of making sense of the world and gaining competence in it. In school he learns, like every buck private, how to goldbrick, how not to work when the sergeant isn’t looking, how to know when he is looking, how to make him think you are working even when he is looking. He learns that in real life you don’t do any- thing unless you are bribed, bullied or conned into doing it, that nothing is worth doing for its own sake, or that if it is, you can’t do it in school. He learns to be bored, to work with a small part of his mind, to escape from the reality around him into daydreams and fantasies-but not like the fantasies of his preschool years, in which he played a very active part.
The child comes to school curious about other people, particularly other children, and the school teaches him to be indifferent. The most interesting thing in the classroom-often the only interesting thing in it-is the other children, but he has to act as if these other children, all about him, only a few feet away, are not really there. He cannot interact with them, talk with them, smile at them. In many schools he can’t talk to other children in the halls between classes; in more than a few, and some of these in stylish suburbs, he can’t even talk to them at lunch. Splendid training for a world in which, when you’re not studying the other person to figure out how to do him in, you pay no attention to him.

In fact, he learns how to live without paying attention to anything going on around him. You might say that school is a long lesson in how to turn yourself off, which may be one reason why so many young people, seeking the awareness of the world and responsiveness to it they had when they were little, think they can only find it in drugs. Aside from being boring, the school is almost always ugly, cold, inhuman-even the most stylish, glass-windowed, $20-a-square-foot schools.

And so, in this dull and ugly place, where nobody ever says anything very truthful, where everybody is playing a kind of role, as in a charade, where the teachers are no more free to respond honestly to the students than the students are free to respond to the teachers or each other, where the air practically vibrates with suspicion and anxiety, the child learns to live in a daze, saving his energies for those small parts of his life that are too trivial for the adults to bother with, and thus remain his. It is a rare child who can come through his schooling with much left of his curios- ity, his independence or his sense of his own dignity, competence and worth.
So much for criticism. What do we need to do? Many things. Some are easy-we can do them right away. Some are hard, and may take some time. Take a hard one first. We should abolish compulsory school attendance. At the very least we should modify it, perhaps by giving children every year a large number of authorized absences. Our compulsory school-attendance laws once served a humane and useful purpose. They protected children’s right to some schooling, against those adults who would otherwise have denied it to them in order to exploit their labor, in farm, store, mine or factory. Today the laws help nobody, not the schools, not the teachers, not the children.

To keep kids in school who would rather not be there costs the schools an enormous amount of time and trouble-to say nothing of what it costs to repair the damage that these angry and resentful prisoners do every time they get a chance. Every teacher knows that any kid in class who, for whatever reason, would rather not be there not only doesn’t learn anything himself but makes it a great deal tougher for anyone else. As for protecting the children from exploitation, the chief and indeed only exploiters of children these days are the schools. Kids caught in the college rush more often than not work 70 hours or more a week, most of it on paper busywork. For kids who aren’t going to college, school is just a useless time waster, preventing them from earning some money or doing some useful work, or even doing some true learning.

Objections. If kids didn’t have to go to school, they’d all be out in the streets. No. they wouldn’t. In the first place, even if schools stayed just the way they are, children would spend at least some time there because that’s where they’d be likely to find friends; it’s a natural meeting place for children. In the second place, schools wouldn’t stay the way they are, they’d get better, because we would have to start making them what they ought to be right now-places where children would want to be. In the third place, those children who did not want to go to school could find, particularly if we stirred up our brains and gave them a little help, other things to do – the things many children now do during their summers and holidays.

There’s something easier we could do. We need to get kids out of the school buildings, give them a chance to learn about the world at first hand. It is a very recent idea, and a crazy one, that the way to teach our young people about the world they live in is to take them out of it and shut them up in brick boxes. Fortunately, educators are beginning to realize this. In Philadelphia and Portland, Oreg., to pick only two places I happen to have heard about, plans are being drawn up for public schools that won’t have any school buildings at all, that will take the students out into the city and help them to use it and its people as a learning resource. In other words, students, perhaps in groups, perhaps independently, will go to libraries, museums, exhibits, courtrooms, legislatures, radio and TV stations, meetings, businesses and laboratories to learn about their world and society at first hand. A small private school in Washington is already doing this. It makes sense. We need more of it.

As we help children get out into the world, to do their learning there, we can get more of the world into the schools. Aside from their parents, most children never have any close contact with any adults except people whose sole business is children. No wonder they have no idea what adult life or work is like. We need to bring a lot more people who are not full-time teachers into the schools, and into contact with the children. In New York City, under the Teachers and Writers Collaborative, real writers, working writers-novelists, poets, playwrights-come into the schools, read their work, and talk to the children about the problems of their craft. The children eat it up. In another school I know of, a practicing attorney from a nearby city comes in every month or so and talks to several classes about the law. Not the law as it is in books but as he sees it and en, counters it in his cases, his problems, his work. And the children love it. It is real, grown-up, true, not My Weekly Reader, not social studies, not lies and baloney.

Something easier yet. Let children work together, help each other, learn from each other and each other’s mistakes. We now know, from the experience of many schools, both rich- suburban and poor-city, that children are often the best teachers of other children. What is more important, we know that when a fifth- or sixth-grader who has been having trouble with reading starts helping a first-grader, his own reading sharply improves. A number of schools are beginning to use what some call Paired Learning. This means that you let children form partnerships with other children, do their work, even including their tests, together, and share whatever marks or results this work gets-just like grownups in the real world. It seems to work.

Let the children learn to judge their own work. A child learning to talk does not learn by being corrected all the time-if corrected too much, he will stop talking. He compares, a thou- sand times a day, the difference be- tween language as he uses it and as those around him use it. Bit by bit, he makes the necessary changes to make his language like other people’s. In the same way, kids learning to do all the other things they learn without adult teachers-to walk, run, climb, whistle, ride a bike, skate, play games, jump rope–compare their own performance with what more skilled people do, and slowly make the needed changes. But in school we never give a child a chance to detect his mistakes, let alone correct them. We do it all for him. We act as if we thought he would never notice a mistake unless it was pointed out to him. or correct it unless he was made to. Soon he becomes dependent on the expert. We should let him do it himself. Let him figure out, with the help of other children if he wants it, what this word says, what is the answer to that problem, whether this is a good way of saying or doing this or that. It right answers are involved, as in some math or science, give him the answer book, let him correct his own papers. Why should we teachers waste time on such donkey work? Our job should be to help the kid when he tells us that he can’t find a way to get the right answer.

Let’s get rid of all this nonsense of grades, exams, marks. We don’t know now, and we never will know, how to measure what another person knows or understands. We certainly can’t find out by asking him questions, All we find out is what he doesn’t know – which is what most tests are for, anyway. Throw it all out, and let the child learn what every educated person must someday learn, how to measure his own understanding, how to know what he knows or does not know.

We could also abolish the fixed, required curriculum. People remember only what is interesting and useful to them, what helps them make sense of the world, or helps them get along in it. All else they quickly forget, if they ever learn it at all. The idea of a body of knowledge, to be picked up in school and used for the rest of one’s life, is nonsense in a world as complicated and rapidly changing as ours. Anyway, the most important questions and problems of our time are not in the curriculum, not even in the hot- shot universities, let alone the schools.
Children want, more than they want anything else, and even after veers of miseducation, to make sense of the world, themselves, other human beings. Let them get at this job, with our heir if they ask for it, in the way that makes most sense to them.

Source: Saturday Evening Post 2/8/69

Posted by: skip
Views: 15240

Torture at the 17th Precinct (1970)

Torture at the 17th Precinct (1970)
by Jomo Raskin

On December 9th I was arrested at 50th street and 5th Avenue during a demonstration and march to protest the murder of Chairman Fred Hampton. The demonstration started at Park Avenue and 48th Street. Nixon was in the Waldorf receiving an award. At 50th and 5th windows had been broken in Sak’s 5th Avenue. Six windows. Inside people were doing their Christmas shopping. A policeman had been struck in the face. Blood was on his face. He took 17 stitches. I was walking down 50th Street. A plainclothes pig ran toward me, jumped on my back. At first I didn’t know he was a pig. Only when he handcuffed me was I sure. And he never identified himself as a cop. Several other pigs jumped me, 4 or 5. Pigs had been waiting inside St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which is opposite Sak’s. They weren’t praying. A few dozen demonstrators had tried to escape the police by entering the church; had tried to kneel down and pray for revolution, or peace, or safety. But the pigs inside the Church pushed them out and clubbed them on the Church steps. No sanctuary, no place.

Four or five pigs pushed and pulled me to the sidewalk. There was broken glass everywhere. I remember one pig with blue splotched bell bottom trousers and a moustache who kept yelling, He’s mine, he’s mine. Leave him to me. Awfully possessive, these pigs. And he whacked me over the head with his nightstick his identification mark. I put my hands over my head. Blood trickled down my face and my neck. It reminded me of my football days, of a big pile up on the 5 yard line. Then it was still. The noisy street was quiet. I was pulled to my feet and handcuffed to Bob Reilly, an actor, a teacher, the toughest battler I know. Arrested again. We were thrown into the pig car, taken to the 18th Precinct, driven down 5th Avenue, past all the expensive stores, past the stores filled with the loot of the world.

At the 18th the pigs stood us in a corner, banged me in the head a few times. The pig with bell bottoms and a moustache was puffing away on a big cheap cigar. The blood kept flowing. A few minutes after we arrived cops came in with another demonstrator. They threw him to the floor. He had long curly black hair. They yelled at him to get up. Have mercy, he cried. He couldn’t get up. They kicked him in the stomach, the ribs, the back. When I saw him in jail the next day at 100 Center Street, he had a big bandage over his forehead.

Reilly and I walked upstairs, the pigs behind us, prodding us on. The pigs filled out cards, asked us questions. Where do you live? Where do you work? When were you born? They didn’t like the fact that I teach at the State University at Stony Brook. This scum bag is a teacher at Stony Brook, one pig kept repeating. If we didn’t answer, or took our time answering questions, they clubbed us. We were put in a cell. One cop spat at me through the bars. His saliva oozed down the wall. He was safe with me behind bars.

Captain Finnigan showed up. He’s part of New York’s Red Squad. He’s at every demonstration taking photos. In his head, he has the face, the file on hundreds of revolutionaries. The word is that he went round to precincts that night pointing out the political heavies. He gave the O.K. to the cops to beat on us. Finnigan had a polaroid camera. He tried over and over again to take my picture, but the camera wasn’t working. Finally, he stopped trying.
Either he got the photo, or the machine just didn’t function. Finnigan looks like a ’59 graduate of Princeton. Ivy League. Every hair graying, is in place. He’s got on a three piece tweed suit-Brooks Brothers. He looks like a corporate executive; he’s a fascist. Always smiling and giving the orders. A number one enemy of the people.

From the 18th precinct we were taken to Roosevelt Hospital. Reilly got 12 stitches in his head. I got five. We were cleaned up, x-rayed. A pig stood by, all the time, with his gun and night stick. The nurses smiled cheerfully. The interns worked efficiently. Reilly rapped with them about the war, the murder of Fred Hampton. Our friends were waiting outside the Emergency Room Entrance-Barbara, Ann, Annie, Sydney, Mark, Dana, Nancy, Marty. Good to see smiling faces. Exchanged looks-clenched fists. Back to the 18th, a few bangs on the head, bleeding again. A lawyer, Paul Chevigny, shows up, asks how we are, and is quickly hustled out of the precinct. We’re taken to the 17th.

The 17th precinct is a torturer’s heaven. For an hour, Reilly and I were systematically and efficiently beaten by the pigs. We were taken into the squad room on the 1st floor. There were about 20 cops sitting and standing around.
So here are the pig fighters, they said. They put us in a corner. Our hands were handcuffed behind our backs. Our faces were to the wall. There was a metal coat rack and some pieces of wood with nails in them in the corner. We were thrown up against the metal coat rack and the lumber with the nails. Each pig had his special torture. One hit me with his nightstick in the calf. Another used a black jack on my back. A third hit my elbow with a pair of pliers. A fourth took running jumps and kicked me in the back. Another jumped on my toes. Everyone took turns hitting, kicking, spitting, name calling. I was called Fuck face, douche bag, commie, scum bag, an after-birth. At the start of the beating, Bob Reilly had shouted out, Hey, lieutenant, how’s about breaking up this caucus back here? The lieutenant never did and the pigs only beat on him worse for yelling out. The brutality was calculated. They stopped, examined our bodies, figured out the best place to hit us, or poke us. They hated us, but they were in control of their emotions and acts. One pig at a desk in the 17th said he hated me because I was taking air from him, because I was breathing his air. They hated us because we’re opposed to the war, because we support the NLF, because we defend the Panthers, because we’re for armed struggle. They hated us because we’re teachers.
Their big joke was, Raskin teaches Riot I, and Reilly teaches Riot II. They hated us because we’re rioters, because we’re fighters.

The pigs who beat us tried to act tough, but they’re wimps. They’re puny. It doesn’t take any courage for 20 pigs to beat on two guys who are handcuffed behind their backs. On 50th Street and 5th Avenue I saw a pig who was bleeding crying out for an ambulance, whimpering. The TPF (Tactical Police Force) are Hitler youth, New York’s 55, and they’re afraid, chicken.

For about a half hour, we were beaten in the squad room. Another demonstrator witnessed much of the beating. Then we were taken downstairs into the basement. Every time you go up or downstairs the pigs try to trip you. They push you up or down the stairs, stick out their feet and warn you, Watch it, you wouldn’t want to hurt yourself. They play petty games. The pig tells you your name is fuck face…· What’s your name? he asks. When you don’t answer, he beats you. When you say, fuck face, he stops. You play cat and mouse, see how much you can take.

The room in the basement was dark. It had a cold cement floor, and cold cement walls, a sink and a faucet. We were beaten for another half hour. Night sticks were rammed into my stomach. The pigs asked us, Have you had enough? You won’t mess with us anymore now, will you? Going to fight pigs anymore? One pig stuck pins in my back to see if I had any nerve sensations left. When I didn’t feel anything, he stopped beating on me.

People have asked me how I stood the beating and what I was thinking about. I didn’t do much thinking. What I did think about was Bobby Seale and Nguyen Van Troi, the VC fighter who was assassinated for attempting to kill McNamara when he visited Vietnam. I knew that they had taken a lot worse than I was getting. If they could take it, then I could. At one point between the beatings, Bob Reilly turned to me and’ said, with a smile, Chairman Bobby. I was thinking about Bobby Seale too. The pigs could never destroy that world, that connection, that feeling of comradeship in struggle.

Bobby Seale, live like him. Nguyen Van Troi, live like him. Those words hadn’t meant much before I was beaten. I had written them on walls. I had spoken them. But only in the 17th precinct did they come to have meaning. The name Bobby Seale was like armor I put on to shield the pigs blows. Nguyen Van Troi is a light inside the heart. They make you feel that you’re a lot stronger than the pigs, that there are people all over the world fighting with you, that you’re on their side.

I’m sitting writing this in a room. All around the room are OSPAAAL posters from Cuba, posters proclaiming Days of Solidarity with people all over the world struggling for National Liberation. Most of the posters show ancient tools, statues, relics, and modern weapons. Through the gun lies national liberation. That is the message. It’s that feeling of solidarity with people fighting the pigs of the world I have looking at the OSPAAAL posters, posted up in a ring around the room, the same feeling I had thinking of Bobby Seale and Nguyen Van Troi in the 17th precinct.

People come out and visit us. How are the victims, some of them say. But we aren’t victims. We’re the victors.

From the 17th precinct we were taken to the 4th precinct. We spent the night on hard wooden benches. Going down to the 4th in the squad car there were three of us-Reilly, myself and a beautiful hippie. He was bandaged on the head. He had been beaten. Reilly and I were trying to catch our breath, leaning our heads back. This hippie rapped with the pigs and took the pressure off us. He cooled them, controlled them. This kid was up for anything and everything. He had been beat on bad but he was still going strong. He rapped with the cops about Tom Jefferson, communes, Senator Joseph McCarthy, The Rat, about communism. He wasn’t afraid of anything. He would have taken on those pigs then and there if they had unhandcuffed him. My head was aching, my legs and arms were bruised, but inside, in my bones, this kid made me feel that the Revolution was coming. No mistake about it.

Source: Leviathan Feb 1970

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