A Letter from Our National Organizer

Cazembepic

Hi family and new friends,
My name is Cazembe Murphy Jackson. I am a commitment to loving myself so deeply that others are inspired to love themselves just as deep. I am a commitment to authentic and compassionate leadership that meets people where they are and helps them find their own interest in liberation. I am a Black, southern, queer, non-binary, socialist, trans man. Austin, TX made me. Chattanooga, TN re-birthed me. And Atlanta, GA is where I found home. I went to a rally in Chattanooga, TN after Trayvon Martin had been killed by George Zimmerman. There were about 700 hundred people who came to rally and march. One of the organizers of that march, who was also a FRSO membr,  told us that Tennessee also had a “Stand Your Ground Law”. She said that if we wanted to do more than march, if we believed in having a plurality of tactics, to stick around after the march. I stayed after and my whole life changed for the better. I almost immediately agreed to help reactivate Concerned Citizens for Justice, Chattanooga’s oldest Black led organization addressing police violence. With CCJ I helped to mobilize communities across race, class, religion, gender, ability, immigration status and sexual orientation. I grew up missionary Baptist. I read about all kinds of revolutionaries who loved God and who explained Jesus as a revolutionary who was executed by the state. Through my work with CCJ I discovered Freedom Road Socialist Organization and started doing political education with some local members. Since becoming a member I have participated in building and implementing curriculum for political education for all types of learners, writing organization documents, and serving on our National Executive Committee. Strategy and tactics are the most alluring parts of organizing to me. They are the two components that made me want to join a revolutionary organization. While I have seen and felt the power of prayer many times in my life, I do not think that prayer alone will cure oppression. These systems of oppression like white supremacy, heteropatriarchy, ableism, capitalism, have been expertly designed to kill us. I believe in FRSO’s strategy to defeat who we have identified as the main political enemy to marginalized people in this country.
As the new National Organizer for Freedom Road Socialist Organization I will be responsible for the administrative duties of the organization. I will be building stronger relationships with districts and commissions nationally to help implement a national project. I am overjoyed to be chosen to do this job. I am committed to this organization and I really do believe that when we win, all of my people will win. In “Uses of the Erotic” Audre Lorde asks the question “How often do we truly love our work even at its most difficult?” She suggests that the way to truly loving your work is questioning how acutely and fully we can feel while doing it. When I am having organizing conversations, canvassing, phone banking, performing revolutionary spoken word, singing freedom songs, even just hanging out having conversations about how we can change the world, it is when my body feels the most alive. I was born to do this work. Every experience that I have survived or celebrated has played a role in making me the leader and organizer I am today. I am commitment to disciplined study, integrated action, consistent communication, giving and receiving constructive assessments (both to celebrate something I have done well, as well as challenges to do better), and to loving myself as unconditionally as I love Black people.

In Solidarity and Love,
Cazembe M. Jackson
Cazembe@freedomroad.org

 

 

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BLACK POWER IS THE SOLUTION FRSO/OSCL Statement on Black Movement, Police Violence, and the Dallas Shootings

Freedom Road Socialist Organization/Organización Socialista del Camino para la Libertad (FRSO/OSCL) stands in solidarity with Black activists, protesters, organizers, and communities in the fight for Black Lives. These days, horrifying videos of police violence against Black people come fast and furious. Even before we’ve finished mourning one attack, even before we’ve completed one protest, the news of another assault, another shooting, another murder is exposed for the whole world to see. The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement has uncovered that a Black person is killed every 28 hours by police or other actors protected by the government of this country. Meanwhile, Black people endure other forms of violence, perhaps less visible but no less real in their power to deprive Black people of the full potential of their lives: divestment from public schools, lack of access to healthcare, the colonization of Black neighborhoods (aka gentrification), super exploitation at poverty-wage jobs….The list goes on and on.
We therefore support Black struggle and Black anger as affirmations of life–affirmations of Black Life–in the face of each and every attempt to dehumanize Black people. We reject all attempts to use the killing of police officers in Dallas to discredit the movement for Black lives or to characterize Black protest as the source of violence. As the Black Lives Matter network has stated, “There are some who would use these events to stifle a movement for change and quicken the demise of a vibrant discourse on the human rights of Black Americans. We should reject all of this. Black activists have raised the call for an end to violence, not an escalation of it. [The Dallas] attack was the result of the actions of a lone gunman. To assign the actions of one person to an entire movement is dangerous and irresponsible.”
In the face of the ongoing brutality against Black people by the police and with deep feelings of grief, rage, and determination, FRSO/OSCL re-affirms our commitment to the building of Black Power as the only real solution to the policies and pattern of Black death that saturates this country. We believe that the ultimate solution to the oppression of Black people and to the inequity and injustice of this society must be the building of Black Power: the power of Black people to determine their own lives and futures, the power of Black people to govern. The ongoing violence against Black people is a brutal reminder of the vicious and cold-blooded power that we are up against. If we want Black liberation–indeed, if we want liberation for any of us–we must get ferocious about building the power to dismantle anti-Black racism and the system of racial and class exploitation that it flows from. The success of Black movements in this country has always played the leading role both in abolishing institutions of anti-Black racism and in opening the way for the radical reconstruction of the country as a whole. This was true for the abolition of slavery and Jim Crow and will be true today.
At its heart, building Black Power requires the organization and mobilization of massive numbers of everyday Black people. Over the past two years, we have celebrated and supported the uprising of thousands of Black people in the movement for Black lives. This uprising has commanded the attention of the entire country. Today, FRSO/OSCL re-commits to building and supporting an even greater movement and organization of Black people. We re-commit to the unleashing of Black rage and Black hope, the forging of Black organizations and the nourishing of Black leadership. Historically, the Black women, Black trans people, Black immigrants, Black disabled people, Black queer people, and Black men who make up the Black working class have been the greatest mass force for freedom, dignity, and authentic democracy that this country has ever known. Today, as revolutionaries and as socialists, we re-commit, above all else, to engaging the Black working class in the powerful, life-saving, and liberating work of mass organizing and collective action.

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FRSO / OSCL Statement on the Orlando Massacre

Freedom Road Socialist Organization/Organización Socialista del Camino para la Libertad (FRSO/OSCL) wants to express our sadness and anger at the Orlando massacre and to affirm our ongoing commitment to gender liberation as central to all struggles for human emancipation. We lift up the contributions of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Gender non-conforming leaders and members in our organization and in every movement for justice.

13423808_10154475810437345_5171149569077040141_nWe deplore the Orlando massacre as a hate crime against LGBTQ+, Brown and Black people and communities. This targeting of LGBTQ+ & Latinx communities is a tragic example of the ongoing attacks those communities experience every day in the US. More than 1300 hate crimes against LGBTQ+ individuals were reported last year, which we know is only a fraction of the total. Trans women and LGBTQ+ people of color are intensively under attack: of 20 LGBTQ+ murders last year, 80% were people of color and more than half were transgender women of color. And 400 years of massacres on this territory (including Wounded Knees, Sand Creek, Thibodaux, Rosewood, Greenwood, Rock Springs) have nearly always included genocide, targeted native Americans, African-American, Chicanos, Chinese Americans and/or organized workers (Ludlow, Matewan, Centralia, Haymarket).

The Orlando massacre highlights the role of LGBTQ+ individuals and communities as freedom fighters who, because they reject society’s gender norms, are viewed as a special threat by those who rely on hate, repression and division to rule us. While one man pulled the trigger, the massacre was fueled by right-wing Republicans who have led the backlash against LGBTQ+ civil rights victories. We call them the “New Confederacy” because, like the “Old” Confederacy, their aim is maintain minority rule by consolidating a militant conservative and racist white base, an increasingly repressive state, and a restricted voting franchise. New Confederates aggressively defend their twisted ideals of all-powerful, dominating masculinity. They work hard to legalize hate and discrimination: just this year, New Confederates have introduced more than 100 anti-gay and trans bills in the 23 Southern and Midwestern states where they control both the state legislature and governor’s office. In the past few months the New Confederacy has rallied the forces of hate to ban North Carolina cities from passing LGBTQ+ anti-discrimination ordinances; to bar transgender people from using bathrooms that match their gender identity; and to allow mental health professionals in Tennessee to refuse to treat LGBTQ+ patients.

The New Confederacy put the high-capacity weapon in the hands of the PULSE killer with its embrace of gun rights and “Stand Your Ground” laws. Their toxic white supremacism targets Black and Brown communities with voter suppression, inequitable sentencing laws and private prisons as well as privatized public schools and public services. They also block immigration reform, support new border security laws and oppose debt relief for Puerto Rico, the US territory/colony that was home to almost half of the PULSE murder victims and many other economic refugees.

Now the New Confederates dare to hijack the massacre that is itself the product of their own fear and hate to justify their increasingly dangerous agenda. They are stoking a cynical hatred and suspicion of Muslims; restricting immigration and targeting immigrant communities. They are using the massacre to justify increasing surveillance, even greater militarization and global intervention. We say NO!

We will continue to fight the New Confederacy and to unite with the forces of love and liberation. We are building a revolutionary movement that can reach the gay club standard that comrade Cazembe described in his article, Pulse: Lessons from the Gay Club toward Collective Liberation: “We saw each other for who we really were, we loved each other and validated each other.” And we are turning that love into collective action, as revolutionaries always have.

 

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May Day in a Time of Increasing Political Polarization: Some Thoughts on This Moment & the Road Ahead

mao-banner-betterTen years after May Day demonstrations in 2006 brought millions of immigrants and their allies into the streets of nearly every U.S. city to demand an end to deportation, undocumented people  have seen no relief. In the ten years since Latina/o immigrants led a May Day boycott that drove home the message that the struggles for immigrant rights and workers’ rights must be joined, three million more people have been deported. And the backlash intensifies, as Donald Trump’s promise to further criminalize undocumented immigrants and to build a border wall is attracting significant numbers of white workers to a self-defeating racist populism.   

At the same time, we see young African-American, Latino, Asian and white workers joining together in other struggles: Fighting for $15/hour; demanding that killer cops be brought to justice; marching for climate justice; and defending public schools. And our understanding of the present moment both gives us hope and demands that we sharpen our strategy, if we are to succeed in develop their efforts as a militant, class and race conscious force.  

On this May Day, we offer a few ideas that have shaped our thinking about this moment and how to move forward. In short, we see new possibilities for building a ‘strategic alliance’ that unites the working class, immigrant, and Black liberation movements in fighting back against our immediate common enemy, the New Confederacy, as a next step in building the longer-term fight against capitalism and for socialism.   Continue reading

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Statement of Freedom Road’s National Executive Committee on the Death of Tim Thomas

Please join us in mourning the passing and celebrating the life of our comrade (James) Tim Thomas in Oakland, CA at the age of 71.  Tim was a revolutionary organizer, writer and educator who was beloved for his discipline and intellect.  Tim was born in August, Georgia on May 20, 1944, and grew up there and in Delaware.  He entered the military in 1963, which he described as having “spurred his national consciousness.” At George Washington University, Tim  became active in the Black Liberation and Marxist movement that remained his lifelong passion.  A self-described OG, Tim was a leader of SOBU (Student Organization for Black Unity) and later YOBU (Youth Organization for Black Unity).  He was also very active in the African Liberation Support Committee.

Tim Thomas (right) with family of Alan Blueford and community supporters on the one year anniversary of Blueford’s murder at the hands of OPD officer Miguel Masso.

Tim joined the Revolutionary Workers League in 1972 and later the League of Revolutionary Struggle (LRS), a New Communist Movement group that brought together in one organization Asian-American, Chicano, Puerto Rican, African American, and white communists who shared a vision of national liberation as a critical element of communist revolution. After that group dissolved in 1990, Tim and a number of former LRS comrades came into the Freedom Road Socialist Organization, where they continue to advance the theory and practice of self-determination socialism.

As Co-Chair of FRSO’s Oppressed Nationality Commission, Tim helped us live up to our commitment to building the Black Liberation Movement through its downturns and upsurges. He wrote extensively about Bay area peoples’ movements, organizing methodology, and developments in the Black Liberation Movement.  Tim saw to completion an extensive update of our Oppressed Nationality Unity Document, which was  passed just last month at FRSO’s 2016 Congress. Tim also chaired a FRSO working group on immigrant rights. At the time of his death, he was collaborating with comrades on a comprehensive paper about the Black Liberation Movement.

After doing rank-and-file labor and community organizing in DC and Chicago, Tim answered a call to move to Oakland in 1988. He became deeply involved in many Oakland community struggles, drawing on his experience to support new leaders and build united fronts. Tim helped to win environmental protections, good jobs and community oversight in the Port of Oakland redevelopment/base closing. As an organizer with Reclaiming Oakland through Organizing and Solidarity (ROOTS, formerly Occupy the Hood), Tim worked with the Stop Goldman Sachs Coalition and other efforts to developments that are driving out communities of color from Oakland.

Tim helped to build the movements against the police murders of Oscar Grant, Alan Blueford and other Black youth.  He was the former Community Building Manager at Habitat for Humanity East Bay and former Executive Director of the Emergency Services Network, where he did advocacy and service coordination for the homeless.  Tim served on the Boards of Urban Habitat and the Workforce Collaborative and was involved in the Black Left Unity Network.  Tim was also the father of a grown daughter and son, as well as a diehard football fan who was rarely without a team hat or jersey.

¡Tim Thomas, Presente!

National Executive Committee,
Freedom Road Socialist Organization/ Organización Socialista Camino para la Libertad

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You’ve Got To Keep That Anger Inside You Smoldering

myles-horton

Myles Horton

Revolutionaries are moved, as Che Guevara famously pointed out, by great feelings of love for the people. But for many of us, the first impulse toward activism, and then the idea of socialist revolution, was something quite other—anger, even rage, at exploitation, oppression, racism, injustice, plunder, hypocrisy. And life in late capitalist society here in the belly of the beast, as José Martí named it, every single day produces reasons to experience that anger afresh.

But anger can be damaging, to us as individuals, to our loved ones and comrades and to the masses among whom we live and work. How then should we think about it and try to handle it? Here are some useful thoughts from the late and legendary Myles Horton, who in 1932 founded and led the remarkable Highlander Folk School in the mountains of Tennessee. Highlander (and Horton) went on to play a critical role in the early days of the Civil Rights Movement, acting as what Aldon D. Morris calls a “movement halfway house.”

Myles Horton grew up at a time when most people outside of cities heated with wood fires, but his metaphor here is easy to follow. This is excerpted from his 1990 autobiography (co-written with Judith Kohl and Herbert Kohl), The Long Haul. It’s full of history and a lifetime’s accumulation of wisdom hard-earned in the struggle.

I had to turn my anger into a slow burning fire, instead of a consuming fire. You don’t want the fire to go out—you never let it go out—and if it ever gets weak, you stoke it, but you don’t want it to burn you up. It keeps you going, but you subdue it, because you don’t want to be destroyed by it.

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Official Slogans for Comrade Valentine’s Day 2016

valentineslogo

To All Who Love the People, To All Who Fight Their Oppressors and Exploiters:

1. Let us take up the proletarian line of revolutionary romanticism laid down by Comrade Valentine as our bright red battle cry.

2. Let us struggle tirelessly and resolutely to roll back the poisonous tide of anti-woman and anti-LGBTQ reaction worldwide!!

3. Let us extend messages of revolutionary love and class solidarity to people’s fighters imprisoned by the enemy!!!


Folks wishing to honor the third of the 2016 slogans can write to prisoners using contact information on this list provided by the Jericho movement.

 

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Cotton: The Fabric of Death

This review of Sven Beckert, Empire of Cotton: A Global History was originally published by Monthly Review.

I could not wait to read Empire of Cotton. For four years following the 2008 mortgage crisis, I worked as a cotton merchant for one of the “big four” trading firms—ADM, Bunge, Cargill, and Louis Dreyfus. These shadowy giants, two of them privately held, maintain oligopoly control of agricultural commodity markets. From desks in Memphis, my colleagues and I purchased mountains of cotton in Asia, Africa, and the Americas, warehoused it, speculated on it, and sold it back to mills on those same continents. Our wood-paneled office was hung with quaint paintings of cotton fields and sepia photographs of the Old South. We sat at the pinnacle of a web of political and economic forces that funneled cotton into facilities we owned and cash into our accounts, but nowhere in the office was there a visible sign of the violence that made it all possible.

Too often liberal histories focus on a single period, territory, or class perspective, and end up obscuring the truth, severing the threads that tie a moment to its historical roots. Sven Beckert’s Empire of Cotton is different. Although a liberal historian, Beckert refuses to limit his scope in the traditional way. Instead, he follows the movement of cotton across time, space, and class, bringing forward the threads that bind the objects of an otherwise distorted past. Empire of Cotton is a history of the evolving relationships between city and countryside, toiler and owner, colonizer and colonized—all through the prism of cotton.

With this approach, Beckert joins the ranks of prominent scholars, such as Giovanni Arrighi, writing “global history.” He brings to a broad audience the iconoclastic lessons that have usually been the purview of marginalized academics, typically Marxist and oppressed nationality scholars. Empire of Cotton is a New York Times bestseller, book of the month on Amazon, and winner of the Bancroft prize. For a text that argues “Slavery, colonialism, and forced labor, among other forms of violence, were not aberrations in the history of capitalism, but were at its very core,” this is nothing to scoff at (441). It is a book that reaches beyond the audience of scholars and history buffs, and will no doubt make its way even into the hands of some of my former cotton-trading colleagues.

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Remembering Richard Levins’ Contributions to Forward Motion

The recent death of dedicated activist, environmental scientist and Marxist theoretician Richard Levins brought to mind that he had contributed to FRSO’s print magazine, Forward Motion. For instance, a quick search showed that he was mentioned in the note our editor appended to this letter, which was received at the Forward Motion office, and subsequently printed in issue 61, twenty years ago. The biting humor, shrewd eye for American mass culture and deft parody of Wordsworth makes it almost certain that Dick Levins was behind it.

Save Our Toxic Waste Dumps! “Isadore Nabi” in Forward Motion

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Richard Levins (1930-2016): Farewell to a Mentor

Richard Levins with math equations“Within the left, my task has been to argue that our relations with the rest of nature cannot be separated from a global struggle for human liberation, and within the ecology movement my task has been to challenge the “harmony of nature” idealism of early environmentalism and to insist on identifying the social relations that lead to the present dysfunction.”  (Monthly Review, January 2008)

It shouldn’t have surprised me that I couldn’t summarize the life work of Dick Levins—dialectical ecologist, anti-imperialist, revolutionary fighter—more succinctly than he already had.

It’s like one of the conversations with Dick that I was privileged to participate in, when he gave talks at the NY Marxist School and hung out afterward with its organizers. Dick would speak three or four sentences and it would take you five minutes to digest them. He wasn’t showing off or impatient or arrogant, and he was really interested in what you thought. It’s just that his mind made all these amazing connections and synthesized data, moving from pest population dynamics to public health to electoral politics to disagreements on the left, not one superfluous word, not one tendentious leap, nothing over-simplified.

I would say that I wish we could just replicate his brain if I hadn’t learned from Dick about the common theoretical error of reductionism: reducing a complex phenomenon to its smallest component unit and trying to explain or replicate its functioning in that way (e.g. human behavior is explainable by genes, or brilliant, revolutionary insights by a brain).

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