Confronting the Matrix and Destroying the Knot of Oppression: “Black Lives Matter” and Building a Counter-hegemonic Movement

Current events bring to mind two stories which might be overlapping allegories about what this country is faced with in regard to the various movements against oppression and exploitation today. Almost six or seven years ago the movement that was flowing and cresting was the movement for immigrant rights, and at a time the movement of queer and trans folks.

At this moment the movement to dismantle white supremacy embodied in the Black Lives Matters has brought to the fore again the continued struggle of African Americans for survival, power and the acknowledgment of their human dignity. In the face of daily aggression and trauma leading up and including the violent loss of life. No need here to go over the trail of blood that has inflamed the Black Lives Matter movement. The allegories that come to mind are these. The story of the Gordian Knot and the story of the Matrix.

Continue reading

Download this piece as a PDF
Posted in Intersecting Oppressions

A Tragic Death Becomes a Xenophobic Assault on Immigrant Rights

On Friday, July 1, 2015 Kate Steinle was taking a casual stroll on Pier on San Francisco’s Pier 14 with her father, when the unthinkable happened, she was struck by a bullet randomly shot by a stranger. She died from the gunshot wound. This horrifying incident and her sudden death left her grieving family devastated with heartfelt pain, caused people to ponder the senselessness of her death, and has triggered political outrage about the circumstances of her death.

Shortly after the shooting a suspect was caught by police: Francisco López-Sánchez, a Mexican undocumented immigrant, whom the media reported as “five time deportee.” Donald Trump immediately chimed in, receiving national media attention, as he argued that this is proof of his point that Mexico allows its worst people to cross the border into the U.S. including “criminals and rapists.” A debate ensued, becoming less about the actual death of Kate Steinle, who was white, and focused on the fact that López-Sánchez is undocumented. This tragedy has become a soap box for Trump and his supporters to promote an anti-immigrant agenda, lumping all immigrants as criminals; and, attacking sanctuary city policies like San Francisco’s, which prevents local police from automatically detaining people on the basis of being undocumented. There are provisions, however that allow local police to surrender people who have criminal warrants.

Continue reading

Download this piece as a PDF
Posted in Immigration, Oppressed Nationalities

Interview: Ajamu Dillahunt, Long-Time Civil Rights Organizer

This interview originally appeared in Scalawag magazine.

Ajamu Dillahunt. Photo by Jonathan Michels.

Ajamu Dillahunt. Photo by Jonathan Michels.

Jonathan Michels: You are a part of the New Great Migration of African Americans from the North who moved back down to the South following the Civil Rights Movement. Why did you decide to move to North Carolina?

Ajamu Dillahunt: We moved to North Carolina in 1978. By some people’s standards, we still ain’t from here, as they say. I don’t know when you get to be from here, but we certainly feel like it.

We moved from New York. We decided to move south for both political and personal reasons. We wanted to be a little closer to our families. That was on the personal side. On the political side, North Carolina had that history of… the founding of SNCC, the sit-ins, Robert Williams in Monroe,[1] and, in the more recent period, through the 1970s, the Wilmington Ten case. The resistance to that was important. And then the community work that we knew that was going on. We were like, “Yeah, this is probably a good place to be.”

JM: What were your perceptions of North Carolina and the South as a child growing up in New York?

AD: I had visited in 1954, had come back to North Carolina with my grandmother. We went to New Bern, her home, and also Wilmington where we had cousins. We rode the bus. We get south of the Mason-Dixon line, and you’ve got to get in the back. Separate waiting rooms and all that stuff. I experienced that as a really young person. That’s in your mind as well. Those years in between, I’m reading and watching, so the South is a dangerous place, it’s a bad place. A place where we need to make some changes, a site of some important struggles.

There’s the Emmett Till murder in Mississippi. Mississippi has always had this place in Black discourse as being the worst place you could ever be for Black folks. Medgar Evers is murdered there. There’s Goodman, Chaney and Schwerner that are killed there.[2] The list of atrocities just goes on and on.

Continue reading

Download this piece as a PDF
Posted in Movement History, Oppressed Nationalities

Black Lives Matter from the Miserable City of Toledo


While national attention has focused on Black Lives Matter movement hot spots like Ferguson, New York City and Baltimore, all over the country people have seized this historic moment to develop organizations of struggle and resistance. This story by Mike Leonardi gives an in-depth view of one such initiative in the Rust Belt city of Toledo, Ohio.

January 15 this year saw the most powerful and effective demonstration that I have ever been a part of in Toledo. The Community Solidarity Response Network, an organization formed only months before in the aftermath of Ferguson, moved to disrupt the city’s official Martin Luther King unity celebration at the University of Toledo’s basketball arena. King Day has turned into little more than a watered down, star spangled, militarized insult to Dr. King’s legacy.

When the arena doors opened, around 50 of us walked in dressed entirely in black and took up a large section of the bleachers to the side of the stage. We waited through the pomp and circumstance of the national anthem, the military color guard and early speakers. We decided to make our move between the speeches of Toledo’s mayor and Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur.

We rose to our feet and row by row in a single file line walked onto and across the front of the stage. We held up bright yellow signs that have become a signature of our movement. Made by local activist Dan Rutt, they bore slogans such as Black Lives Matter, Justice for John Crawford, Justice for Michael Brown. We stopped, stood and chanted:

Hands Up; Don’t Shoot!
I Can’t Breathe!
Black Lives Matter!

We then exited stage left and walked out of the building for a brief celebration. The crowd response was ecstatic. When we walked back into the arena during Kaptur’s speech and retook our seats, we got big smiles and acknowledgements from both the event organizers and public. Continue reading

Download this piece as a PDF
Posted in Oppressed Nationalities, Police & Prisons

After Murder and Church Burnings: Organize the South! Black Lives Matter!


Bree Newsome taking down the confederate flag at the South Carolina state capitol.

On June 17th, Dylann Roof, a 21 year old white man, entered Mother Emanuel AME Church, a pivotal institution in the Black liberation struggle in Charleston, South Carolina. He joined the evening’s prayer meeting. An hour later he took out a gun and murdered nine of the parishioners, intentionally sparing woman’s life so she could tell the tale. Radicalized by the Council of Conservative Citizens, an online white nationalist organization, Roof’s online manifesto declares that his intention was to incite a race war.

In the three weeks since, over 20,000 people have marched in South Carolina in solidarity with the victims’ families, demanding the removal of the confederate flag from the state capitol. Eight Black churches were burned down in 10 days. Bree Newsome from Charlotte, NC, where one of those churches burned, made national news – scaling the pole at the SC state capitol and taking the flag down. Dozens of confederate statues across the US have been tagged with the phrase #BlackLivesMatter, the slogan of the dynamic movement that’s exploded across the US in response to the epidemic of racist police murders. Republican lawmakers are battling it out in legislative sessions, culminating in a decision to remove the flag from the South Carolina State House which was carried out on July 10. Nonetheless the Klan has announced a pro-Confederate flag rally in Columbia, SC next Saturday, and a weeklong training institute the following week in Arkansas on how to grow the white nationalist movement.

This tremendous flurry, including a visible resurgence of Klan activity, raises a number of important questions about how we analyze and respond in this moment: Continue reading

Download this piece as a PDF
Posted in NEC Statements, Oppressed Nationalities

Reflections on Podemos and Izquiera Unida in Spain

Photo by Daniel López García: preparation for a trip to Spain, I decided to read up on the left there.

I was most anxious to check out Podemos, since both they and Syriza, have made big splashes on the world scene and would seem to have lessons for us here in the U.S.  One of the most informative articles was on the Verso blog site, “An Izquierda Unida MP: ‘Podemos have literally copied us” by Mike Watson.

It appears that the Spanish Left is as sectarian and divided as the left here and in other countries. The main national players are Podemos and Izquierda Unida (Left Unity) which is a green-Marxist  alliance anchored by the Communist Party of Spain and predates Podemos by decades,  Some analysts also include the PSOE (Socialist Party) as part of the left, but I see them as akin to the Labor party in Britain, PASOK in Greece, and the Democratic Party here in the States.  Not really leftist at all. Left disunity in Spain is amplified by the fact that like many modern European nation-states, Spain is the product of many centuries of monarchical intermarriage, through which various oppressed nationalities and ethnicities were welded into a large nation, today’s Spain.  These forces still seek autonomy and self- determination and have parties pushing for that. If successful, today’s Spain would be a whole bunch of much smaller countries.

There are a lot of things to like about Podemos, but I have been hesitant to go all out in supporting them for several reasons:

Continue reading

Download this piece as a PDF
Posted in International Solidarity

Islands of Poverty in a Sea of Prosperity

persistent-poverty-countiesIt’s now commonly accepted that a person’s zip code is the best predictor of how healthy a person is and will be. And what determines your zip code? Income, wealth – and the racialized public policies and practices over generations that have herded people of color into neighborhoods that are underserved by design, and that encouraged white families to move to suburbs with publicly funded amenities and subsidized mortgages.

Zip codes determine how long you can expect to live. Whites in 1950 could expect to live to 69; it wasn’t until 40 years later that blacks attained that life expectancy. It seems to be common sense that teen-age women who get pregnant will have more sickly babies than those who delay child bearing until their more stable 20’s. That is in fact true for white women. But black women in their 20’s have more babies who die in their first month of life than black teen mothers. What’s up? There is a “weathering” effect of living in zip codes where there is no grocery store with fresh food, which are sited close to toxic dumps or incinerators spewing particulate matter, which have few jobs, where houses contain mold and mice, and whose only abundances are liquor stores, fast food joints, and payday loan shops. The effect is cumulative, the harm residing and growing in the bodies of neighborhood residents.

But it is not just poor living conditions that take their toll. Racism itself is a major factor.

Continue reading

Download this piece as a PDF
Posted in Intersecting Oppressions, Oppressed Nationalities

A Eduardo con cariño


“To publish Eduardo Galeano is to publish the enemy: the enemy of lies, indifference, above all of forgetfulness. His tenderness is devastating, his truthfulness, furious.” – John Berger

The great writer Eduardo Galeano who died on April 14 at 74 wrote ferociously about the ten thousand injustices that capitalism has visited on the oppressed for centuries. He defended revolutions, defended dignity, he made visible the invisible and he did this through his formidable literature. Galeano supported trade unions, student movements, peasant and indigenous struggles, and he exposed and confronted the impunity of oppressive regimes.

In an interview done in Cuba with the Uruguayan human rights activist Macarena Gelman, Eduardo Galeano said: “I do not believe in the invulnerability of hope. Hope is human. Hope springs from us, and it therefore sometimes falls. Hope soars, hope hurts, it can heal and sometimes it does not.”

Activists and revolutionaries of Latin America (indeed from around the world) have been impacted by Galeano’s writings since the 1970s. Of the 2-3 generations of Freedom Road members, many are intimately familiar with his Open Veins of Latin America. Some consider that book as important to their political growth as Rodolfo Acuña’s seminal work Occupied America: A History of Chicanos.

Eduardo Galeano: ¡Presente!

Download this piece as a PDF
Posted in International Solidarity, Presente!

“It Could Have Happened Anywhere”: On the Frontlines in Ferguson with Jamala Rogers


Jamala Rogers

This is the first of three interviews FRSO/OSCL will be posting this month with women who have played an important part in the eruption of struggle initially triggered by the people of Ferguson, Missouri in response to the murder of Michael Brown. These interviews highlight the absolutely crucial contributions of thousands of sisters, from veteran fighters to first-time protestors, in this burgeoning movement. The interviews are being conducted in cooperation with folks from Rødt, the organ of Red, the Norwegian left socialist party.

Jamala Rogers is well known to readers of this site. As a lifelong revolutionary, a leading member of the Organization for Black Struggle and Freedom Road Socialist Organization, and being rooted in the St. Louis community, she has been involved with the movement for justice for Mike Brown since the very first day.

FRSO: What’s going on in Ferguson now?

Jamala Rogers: A number of things are going on, simultaneously. There was a police shooting yesterday. [In February, when this interview was conducted. ] We’re still trying to get the information on that, but apparently this young man had already been shot by police in 2009. The State House is in session and there are hearings. In St. Louis, a Civilian Oversight Board was introduced—this is the second time that we’ve introduced it. Last week, the Public Safety Committee held a public meeting for people to come and testify. The room was filled with police officers. And ultimately there got to be a shouting match with the business manager of the police union, Jeff Roorda, who is an ex-cop and a Missouri State Representative. And all hell broke lose. He ended up grabbing hold of a woman and she’s filing assault charges. So there’s never a dull moment around here. Continue reading

Download this piece as a PDF
Posted in Oppressed Nationalities, Police & Prisons

International Lessons of El Caracazo


The media, left, right and center, is awash in opinion pieces and analyses of the recent Greek negotiations with the Euro zone and IMF about paying down the Greek debt. Did the recent temporary accord represent a total defeat of Syriza, who won the recent elections on an anti-austerity platform? Or was it a partial victory which gave the newly formed government breathing space to renegotiate the draconian debt repayment plan? Does it signal a new opening for leftist governments should they come to power in Europe? Or have the German led bankers squashed whatever hope there was?

At the heart of the original Greek bailout agreement is the rate of surplus the Greeks must meet to pay off their IMF/Euro zone lenders. The original bailout agreement required Greeks to run a surplus, of about 2% which they have met. That rate was set to double in the coming period, effectively ramping up austerity measures. This rate, demands for privatization, and new anti-worker legislation were the heart of the matter.

As everyone weighs in—on the left check out Portside, The Bulletin and Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal—it useful to remember this isn’t the first time leftist governments have won shocking electoral victories based on debt relief and anti-austerity measures.

Continue reading

Download this piece as a PDF
Posted in International Solidarity