Interview with the Young Lords

The Young Lords attempted to set up a free breakfast program for children, daycare, and political education at a local conservative church. The church was left unused during most of the week, and didnt have any kind of social justice programs. Here’s a fantastic interview with the Minister of Information of the Young Lords, explaining why they chose that church and explaining parts of their ideology.

Q: Why was the First Spanish Church chosen to present your demands that they serve the community? Will you make similar demands of other community churches?

A: The First Spanish Church was chosen because it was right smack dead in the center of El barrio. it’s a beautiful locatio right in the middle of the community that has consistently closed itself up to the community. It’s only open for a few hours each week and for the rest of the week it turns into one big brick that sits on 111th St and Lexington. It’s not just the Young Lords or our political beliefs that they responded to – they don’t even deal with the anti-poverty organizations in the community.

Most of the other churches like St. Cecilia’s and Good Neighbor and some of the Catholic churches have some kind of program. TThey could do a little more brushing up, be a little more effective, but at least they try, they have something – they have kids come and play in the gym, they have head start programs or something. This church used to have 40 – 50 young people in the church. Now they’ve lost all their young people – their own sons and daughters. This church has been around for about 10 years. They had a gym and then there was a fire and they rebuilt the church and had a gym in there. They had a basement and a sub-basement and then took it out a few years ago.

The young people started coming back when we started doing our thing in the church and there’s a conflict going on in the church now between the young people and theboard of directors. The young people are also put off by us, but they know there’s nothing wrong with breakfast programs, so they’ve been helping us a lot.

Q: On Sunday you made a statement that you were unarmed and if the police came in they would be killing innocent people – are you always unarmed?

A. We believe that eventually we will have to arm ourselves, and the people will have to arm themselves, when we make our move for liberation. Right now that’s not a probability – that would be suicidal at this point because what we are right now is a propaganda unit. We’re educating the people to what it is to be born in Kenyan, what it is to be Puerto Rican, and also to the contradictions in the society. We don’t need guns to do that. We don’t have any guns in this office – to do so would be to invite the police to come in to have a massacre, to have a riot.

We know they have their agents, their spies. They’ve been checking us out. They know darn well we don’t have any guns, but they’re just trying to be funny. Last Wednesday at 3:00 PM they surrounded the office with 150 police and out here on Madison Ave police cars lined up. They were on the rooftops across the street and they just sat there for 15 minutes, just checking us out. It was to intimidate us, to have us provoke something. The people came out into the street and were behind us. They asked what are they here for and we told them what they were here for. Our explanation made a connection with what happened to the Black Panther party a week before and the people said “Why? You haven’t hurt anybody.”

So it’s obvious that what’s going down is just this mad provocation and that’s the only conspiracy. There’s a tirla in Chicago they call the “Conspiracy 8” but the only conspiracy in this country is that of a small ruling class that just puts down poor people and that’s the conspiray that we just want to move out of the way.

Q: Do you think that the concept of reparations as expressed by James Forman is a valid one for Puerto Rican people?

A. James Forman’s basic concept is that the churches have been a helping hand and a willing partner in the oppression of black people. This also holds true for Puerto Rican people, especially the Catholic church since most Puerto Ricans are Catholic.

The other issue that has been brought us is that organized religion has got to respond to the needs of the people. Now the Board of Directors and members of that church say that we imposed ourselves on them by speaking up and asking for space during their service. We say that they have imposed themselves on the community by putting their church in the middle of the community and then not opening their doors to the people. That’s the true imposition that they fail to see. Some other people and the press just like to play up this thing that we disrupted the service. We were upholding ancient Christian tradition since the time of Paul, that says anybody that comes to a service has the right to speak p. In true Christianity the rights of the minority have always been respected.

There are certain people in organized religion who have become established that feel that theirs is the only way to serve God, tos erve the people. That’s not quite right. The contradictions of an organized religion that can permite someone like Cardinal Spellman to belss the troops before they go out and commit something like the Song My massacre makesit obvious that there is no separation between church and politics.

We know that within the church there’s a small revolution going on – Ivan Illych in Mexico is a beautiful brother who’s taking care of a lot of business and educating the people and exposing the contradictions that exist in capitalism. Camilo Torres died in Latin America for what he believed in, so there are some. The hierarchy of the church has got to come down from up there in the sky and see what’s happening with the people.

Q: Can you tell me what is your relationship with the Black Panthers and the Patriot Party?

A: You see, if we’re attacked we’re going to defend ourselves. Huey Newton brought that principle up and it’s true. Anybody in the street knows that for a long time our people have been beat, we’ve been brutalized, killed, raped and the only way we’re going to stop that is by defending ourselves. Now the police came into Fred’s home and murdered him in his bed in Los Angeles – they claim the Panthers came out and started shooting. There’s 300 police surrounding the office and right away the Panthers are going to start shooting at the 300 policemen. Why? Because they’re crazy. That doesn’t make any sense.

The police obviously provoked the whole thing and started it. If you just sit there you’re going to get wiped out, and if you’re going to go down you might as well take somebody with you – you’ve got to defend yourself. That’s human instinct, survival instinct.

The Rainbow Coalition consists of the Patriot Party, Young Lords Organization and the Black Panther Party. If you’re not familiar with the Patriots, that’s a revolutionary white organization. We call it the Rainbow Coalition because it’s a rainbow of culture and colors. We also say there’s a rainbow existing in the Puerto Rican community because Puerto Ricans can be as dark as I am or have blonde hair and blue eyes – Puerto Ricans come out all different ways. But this was done mainly to educate the people. It is a revolutionary force in America today.

The Young Lords Organization is a revolutionary force moving the Latin community, the Black Panther party is moving the black community and the Patriots are beginning to move the poor white community. By us getting together and working together in this Rainbow Coalition, the people that see that, that blows a lot of their racism that’s been instituted by teh man. The lying politicians can’t use arguments that we’re really racist because if we’re all working together it’s got to be something more.

What we relate to is class struggle. We’re not interested in struggle between races or between ethnic groups. So that’s the main purpose of the Rainbow Coalition – it’s for the purposes of education. It’s also a defense and information coalition. If anything comes up with the Panthers, the Lords and the Patriots are going to go down also, and the same way for all three groups.

When we were involved in the church offensive or some of the other things that we’ve been involved in, we’ve received help and support from the Panthers and the Patriots. The Panther 21 trial is coming up December 18th and a demonstration is taking place. We’ll be down there at the rally along with the Patriots.

Q: Do you study revolutionary thinkers such as the Panthers do Mao’s Little Red Book?

A: A revolution has to take a sense of what was done before and then improvise on what’s happening in his own situation. Obviously the Chinese revolution is not going to take place in the US. The US is not an agricultural society, but it’s a highly advanced technological society. Something new under the sun is going to be done for the Second American Revolution. However there’s a lot of similarity in what’s gone down in other revolutionary situations. Lenin read Marx and Mao read Lenin and Marx, and Castro did the same thing that he was saying – then he decided to check them out. And that’s what’s happened with us. We read everybody – we read Nat Turner, Frederick Douglas, Betances and Campos – Puerto Rican revolutionaries. Puerto Ricans have a had a long history of revolution. They fought against Spain and now they’re fighting against the US. I hate somebody that makes the same mistake twice, especially when there’s no reason for it, because people wrote the earlier ones down. Yet, if you don’t take any short cuts, with things so rough already, you’re in bad shape. So we read some Mao, Marx, Lenin. We don’t let that govern us, we don’t put them up as gods. They’re revolutionaries just as we are and I respect them for that. We’re going to have to do something a little different, that’s why they in turn respect us.

Q: Do you also consider Christ as a revolutionary?

A: David Kirk from Emmanus House sent us a telegram when the police rioted a week ago Sunday in the church . It read that if Christ was alive today, we would have been a Young Lord. That’s true. We believe that. We also believe that if Christ came back today, they’d crucify him again.

Christ was saying a whole lot. The Bible is used as an instrument of oppression in the hands of the imperialists. They teach only the parts of the Bible that will mollify the people, keep them down, you know, turn the other cheek, be cool, be humble, slow up, wait. They don’t show you the parts llike when things were going bad in the temple, Christ went in and threw them out and he wasn’t non-violent – he was a pretty violent cat when he had to be.

You don’t go back into the old days of the Old Testament when everybody was doing in everybody else – jacking everybody else up. They were fighting in the name of the Lord – a Holy War which they fought with righteous feeling. And that’s why we’ve got Christ right up there next to Mao – he was a heavy cat.

Q: Do you include an education such as Puerto Rican history in your program?

A: We’re primarily a propaganda unit, a teaching agency. At this stage of the revolutionary struggle we’re educators with the true history of Puerto Rico and what it means to be Puerto Rican as our curriculum. We also expose the contradictions that exist in America and why, contrary to opinion, they’re never going to make it in the system.

We have political education classes, in the community. We send our organizers out to knock on doors and with people on the street. The people on the Board of the First Spanish Methodist Church told us that we were Satan, and that if poor people wanted they could educate themselves, and they don’t have to play numbers or drink beer. Their idea is that Puerto Rican people dig being poor, and that they made it so why can’t everybody else make it. They think that Puerto Rican women on welfare spend their money on beer, they play the numbers and that they really dig the gutter. It tok a whole lot to hold our tempers, but their sons and daughters (who were at the meeting between the Board of Trustees and the Young Lord) let them know how we felt.


The Programs of the Black Panther Party and the Young Lords

The 10 point program of the Black Panther Party was influential in the creation of the Young Lords’ 13 point program. However, there were important differences in the intent of the programs and their role in the respective organizations.

The program of the Black Panthers was primarily a “survival program”, as Huey P Newton wrote in “Black Capitalism re-analyzed I”:

All these programs satisfy the deep needs of the community but they are not solutions to our problems. That is why we call them sur­vival programs, meaning survival pending revolution. We say that the survival program of the Black Panther Party is like the survival kit of a sailor stranded on a raft. It helps him to sustain himself until he can get completely out of that situation. So the survival programs are
not answers or solutions, but they will help us to organize the com­munity around a true analysis and understanding of their situation. When consciousness and understanding is raised to a high level then the community will seize the time and deliver themselves from the boot of their oppressors.

Compare this to the program of the Young Lords:

13 Point Program of the Young Lords (1970 revised)

1. We want self-determination for Puerto Ricans–Liberation of the Island and inside the United States.For 500 years, first spain and then united states have colonized our country. Billions of dollars in profits leave our country for the united states every year. In every way we are slaves of the gringo. We want liberation and the Power in the hands of the People, not Puerto Rican exploiters. Que Viva Puerto Rico Libre!

2. We want self-determination for all Latinos. Our Latin Brothers and Sisters, inside and outside the united states, are oppressed by amerikkkan business. The Chicano people built the Southwest, and we support their right to control their lives and their land. The people of Santo Domingo continue to fight against gringo domination and its puppet generals. The armed liberation struggles in Latin America are part of the war of Latinos against imperialism. Que Viva La Raza!

3. We want liberation of all third world people. Just as Latins first slaved under spain and the yanquis, Black people, Indians, and Asians slaved to build the wealth of this country. For 400 years they have fought for freedom and dignity against racist Babylon (decadent empire). Third World people have led the fight for freedom. All the colored and oppressed peoples of the world are one nation under oppression. No Puerto Rican Is Free Until All People Are Free!

4. We are revolutionary nationalists and oppose racism. The Latin, Black, Indian and Asian people inside the u.s. are colonies fighting for liberation. We know that washington, wall street and city hall will try to make our nationalism into racism; but Puerto Ricans are of all colors and we resist racism. Millions of poor white people are rising up to demand freedom and we support them. These are the ones in the u.s. that are stepped on by the rules and the government. We each organize our people, but our fights are against the same oppression and we will defeat it together. Power To All Oppressed People!

5. We want equality for women. Down with machismo and male chauvinism. Under capitalism, women have been oppressed by both society and our men.  The doctrine of machismo has been used by men to take out their frustration on wives, sisters, mothers, and children.  Men must fight along with sisters i the struggle for economic and social equality and must recognize that sisters make up over half of the revolutionary army: sister and brothers are equals fighting for our people.  Forward Sisters in the Struggle!

6. We want community control of our institutions and land. We want control of our communities by our people and programs to guarantee that all institutions serve the needs of our people. People’s control of police, health services, churches, schools, housing, transportation and welfare are needed. We want an end to attacks on our land by urban removal, highway destruction, universities and corporations. Land Belongs To All The People!

7. We want a true education of our Creole culture and Spanish language. We must learn our history of fighting against cultural, as well as economic genocide by the yanqui. Revolutionary culture, culture of our people, is the only true teaching.

8. We oppose capitalists and alliances with traitors. Puerto Rican rulers, or puppets of the oppressor, do not help our people. They are paid by the system to lead our people down blind alleys, just like the thousands of poverty pimps who keep our communities peaceful for business, or the street workers who keep gangs divided and blowing each other away. We want a society where the people socialistically control their labor. Venceremos!

9. We oppose the Amerikkkan military. We demand immediate withdrawal of u.s. military forces and bases from Puerto Rico, Vietnam and all oppressed communities inside and outside the u.s. No Puerto Rican should serve in the u.s. army against his Brothers and Sisters, for the only true army of oppressed people is the people’s army to fight all rulers. U.S. Out Of Vietnam, Free Puerto Rico!

10. We want freedom for all political prisoners. We want all Puerto Ricans freed because they have been tried by the racist courts of the colonizers, and not by their own people and peers. We want all freedom fighters released from jail. Free All Political Prisoners!

11. We are internationalists.  Our people are brainwashed by television, radio, newspapers, schools, and books to oppose people in other countries fighting for their freedom. No longer will our people believe attacks and slanders, because they have learned who the real enemy is and who their real friends are. We will defend our Brothers and Sisters around the world who fight for justice against the rich rulers of this country. Que Viva Che Guevara!

12. We believe armed self-defense and armed struggle are the only means to liberation. We are opposed to violence–the violence of hungry children, illiterate adults, diseased old people, and the violence of poverty and profit. We have asked, petitioned, gone to courts, demonstrated peacefully, and voted for politicians full of empty promises. But we still ain’t free. The time has come to defend the lives of our people against repression and for revolutionary war against the businessman, politician, and police. When a government oppresses our people, we have the right to abolish it and create a new one. Boricua Is Awake! All Pigs Beware!

13. We want a socialist society. We want liberation, clothing, free food, education, health care, transportation, utilities, and employment for all. We want a society where the needs of our people come first, and where we give solidarity and aid to the peoples of the world, not oppression and racism. Hasta La Victoria Siempre!

The Young Lords program introduced more political analysis into what is fundamentally a survival program. It identified important talking points and slogans to use when the Young Lords would talk to people in the community. The program named capitalism as the problem and socialism as the solution. It was influenced by feminism, one of the slogans used by the Young Lords was “machismo is fascism”, directly linking the oppression of women to the oppression of all colonized people inside and outside the United States.

However, there are important differences between the 1969 program and the 1970 program. The 1969 program advocated for a revolutionary machismo to replace a reactionary one. The male chauvinist tendencies in the Young Lords is reflected by the Central Committee being entirely male at the time of its creation, women in the defense ministry being assigned more rigorous tasks to prove their worth, and women being assigned stereotypical assignments like typing.

The strong practice of criticism and self-criticism was absolutely crucial to fighting sexism within the Party, as was the hierarchical military structure of the organization. The issue of women played a prominent role in the Palante newspaper, and as a result of criticism sessions, half of the articles had to be about women.

The experience of the Young Lords in their struggle against internal sexism is important when we look at social movements today and how they address them. Rather than a hierarchical structure inhibiting anti-machismo struggles, it ensured that a correct line could be implemented. More on the struggles of women in the Young Lords can be read here.

Wikipedia: At or in this place: Stop here for a rest. Wikipedia: At or in this place: Stop here for a rest.

Young Lords History 2: “Don’t fuck with us. It’s as simple as that.”

Part 1: TB Truck Liberated


The Young Lords: The Garbage Offensive



East Harlem is known as El Barrio—New York’s worst Puerto Rican slum.

There are others-on the Lower East Side, in Brooklyn, in the South Bronx, but El Barrio is the oldest, biggest, filthiest of them all. There is glass sprinkled everywhere, vacant lots tilled with rubble, burnt out buildings on nearly every block, and people packed together in the polluted summer heat.

There is also the smell of garbage, coming in an incredible variety of flavors and strengths. For weeks the YLO had been asking the Sanitation Dept. for brooms and trash cans so they could clean up the streets and sidewalks of El Barrio. The city ignored the request. Finally, on Sunday, August 17, the community rebelled.

All the rubbish that had accumulated along East 110th St. was dumped into the middle of the street. At 111th and Lexington Ave., the people turned over several abandoned cars and set them afire.

Hundreds of nervous cops arrived on the scene. When they dragged Ildefenso Santiago out of his car and took him to the precinct house, reportedly on suspicion of burglary (they found a screwdriver in his car), the people retaliated by filling the streets with more trash, cars, old refrigerators, and any thing else they could find. It began to look like a repeat of the 1967 summer riot in which at least two people were killed and scores injured in street fighting with cops.

At this point, members of the YLO stepped in to work with the people. They organized a march to the precinct house where Santiago was being held. Chanting “Viva Puerto Rico!”, “Power to the People!”, and “Off the Pig!”, nearly 300 people marched to the 126th St police station to demand Santiago’s release. Within half an hour, he was free and the crowd carried him back to his car on their shoulders.

It was a victory for the people said Felipe, chairman of YLO, at a rally the following day. “They’ve treated us like dogs for too long. When our people came here in the 1940’s, they told us New York was a land of milk and honey. And what happened? Our men can’t find work. Look at them. They sit around and play dominos because they can’t get a decent job. Our women are forced to become prostitutes. Our young people get hooked on drugs. And they won’t even give us brooms to sweep up the rubbish on our streets.”

The YLO has issued a set of demands: regular collection of trash; at least ten brooms and trash barrels per block; the hiring of more Puerto Ricans by the Sanitation Dept; and higher starting pay for sanitation workers.

The next day, the New York Post reported the incident, obscured the main point of the protest by saying the people acted as a result of “misunderstanding” about Santiago’s arrest. In fact, the people of El Barrio have said that they will no longer tolerate the city’s neglect of their needs. They are taking matters into their own hands.

The way Felipe put it at the rally was that we’re building our own community. “Don’t fuck with us. It’s as simple as that.”

The Ideology of the Black Panthers

Continuing in my series looking at organizations that believed the lumpenproletariat should be the focus of organizing, here’s portions of a speech given by Huey P Newton. i’m posting excerpts but the entire thing is a fantastic read

In 1917 an event occurred in the Soviet Union that was called a revolution. Two classes had a contradiction and the whole country was transformed. In this country, 1970, the Black Panther Party issued a document. Our Minister of Information, Eldridge Cleaver, who now is in Algeria, wrote a pamphlet called “On the Ideology of the Black Panther Party.” In that work Eldridge Cleaver stated that neither the proletarians nor the industrial workers carry the potentialities for revolution in this country at this time. He claimed that the left wing of the proletarians, the lumpen proletarians, have that revolutionary potential, and in fact, acting as the vanguard, they would carry the people of the world to the final climax of the transformation of society. It has been stated by some people, by some parties, by some organizations, by the Progressive Labor Party, that revolution is impossible. How can the lumpen proletarians carry out a successful socialist transformation when they are only a minority? And in fact how can they do it when history shows that only the proletarians have carried out a successful social revolution? I agree that it is necessary for the people who carry out a social revolution to represent the popular majority’s interests. It is necessary for this group to represent the broad masses of the people. We analyzed what happened in the Soviet Union in 1917. I also agree that the lumpen proletarians are the minority in this country. No disagreement. Have I contradicted myself? It only goes to show that what’s apparent might not actually be a fact. What appears to be a contradiction may be only a paradox. Let’s examine this apparent contradiction.

The Soviet Union, in 1917, was basically an agricultural society with very large peasantry. A set of social conditions existing there at that time was responsible for the development of a small industrial base. The people who worked in this industrial base were called proletarians. Lenin, using Marx’s theory, saw the trends. He was not a historical materialist, but a dialectical materialist, and therefore very interested in the ever-changing status of things. He saw that while the proletarians were a minority in 1917, they had the potential to carry out a revolution because their class was increasing and the peasantry was declining. That was one of the conditions. The proletarians were destined to be a popular force. They also had access to the properties necessary for carrying out a socialist revolution.

In this country the Black Panther Party, taking careful note of the dialectical method, taking careful note of the social trends and the ever-changing nature of things, sees that while the lumpen proletarians are the minority and the proletarians are the majority, technology is developing at such a rapid rate that automation will progress to cybernation, and cybernation probably to technocracy. As I came into town I saw MIT over the way. If the ruling circle remains in power it seems to me that capitalists will continue to develop their technological machinery because they are not interested in the people. Therefore, I expect from them the logic that they have always followed: to make as much money as possible, and pay the people as little as possible – until the people demand more, and finally demand their heads. If revolution does not occur almost immediately, and I say almost immediately because technology is making leaps (it made a leap all the way to the moon), and if the ruling circle remains in power the proletarian working class will definitely be on the decline because they will be unemployables and therefore swell the ranks of the lumpens, who are the present unemployables. Every worker is in jeopardy because of the ruling circle, which is why we say that the lumpen proletarians have the potential for revolution, will probably carry out the revolution, and in the near future will be the popular majority. Of course, I would not like to see more of my people unemployed or become unemployables, but being objective, because we’re dialectical materialists, we must acknowledge the facts.

Today’s capitalist has developed machinery to such a point that he can hire a group of specialized people called technocrats. In the near future he will certainly do more of this, and the technocrat will be too specialized to be identified as a proletarian. In fact that group of technocrats will be so vital we will have to do something to explain the presence of other people; we will have to come up with another definition and reason for existing.

But we must not confine our discussion to theory; we must have practical application of our theory to come up with anything worthwhile. In spite of the criticism that we have received from certain people, the Party has a practical application of its theories. Many of our activities provide the working class and the unemployed with a reason and a means for existing in the future. The people will not disappear-not with our survival programs they will not. They will still be around. The Black Panther Party says it is perfectly correct to organize the proletarians because after they are kicked out of the factory and are called unemployable or lumpen, they still want to live, and in order to live they have to eat. It is in the proletarian’s own best interest to seize the machinery that he has made in order to produce in abundance, so he and his brethren can live. We will not wait until the proletarian becomes the lumpen proletarian to educate him. Today we must lift the consciousness of the people. The wind is rising and the rivers flowing, times are getting hard and we can’t go home again. We can’t go back to our mother’s womb, nor can we go back to 1917.

Young Lords History 1 – TB Truck Liberated

lately i’ve been interested in the idea that the lumpenproletariat (or the unemployables as huey p newton called them) should be the focus of radical organizing. this week, i’m going to post different actions, programs, and writings of the young lords and other organizations that took this analysis. im probably going to focus more on the young lords, because people are less familiar with them from my experience

I originally read all of these in The Young Lords: A Reader. If you’re unfamiliar with the Young Lords, the introduction is available on google books here:

TB Truck Liberated
(From the newspaper Palante, 3 July 1970, volume 2, number 6)

Everyday, Puerto Rican people are faced with the same deadly health problem tuberculosis – a disease that affects our lives and a disease that can be prevented. The reason that t.b. isn’t being prevented is that preventing diseases like t.b. cuts the profits of the capitalists that run the city hospitals. Therefore, the hospitals don’t work on preventing these diseases.

The YOUNG LORDS PARTY has always said that the time will come when the people take over all the institutions and machinery that control and exploit our lives. On June 17, the YOUNG LORDS PARTY put this idea into practice. On this day, we liberated an x-ray truck from the politicians that had been using the truck only for propaganda purposes that serve their own interests and profiteering businessmen that only think about making money.

The truck was seized only after members of the YLP had gone to the Tuberculosis Society several times asking them for the use of the truck. Each time, the request was refused. By refusing us, they made it clear that they aren’t concerned with the health of our people. These trucks have been seen in our community only on a very limited part-time basis. We realized that the reason our people didn’t use it was because the people running the show prior to the LORDS were outsiders who couldn’t relate to our people, our language, and our customs. They never made any real attempt to get the people to use the x-ray facilities.

In the three days that we have had the truck, we have already tested 770 people. According to the technicians, the usual amount of people taken care of in the same amount of time is about 300. So, as far as the YOUNG LORDS PARTY is concerned, this truck rightfully belongs to the people!

The last point of our 13 Point Program and Platform states that “We want a socialist society.” Under a socialist society, medical services are extended outside of the hospital by setting up clinics in all communities and by visiting people’s homes. This type of medical service is called preventive medicine. Although doctors admit it is needed, preventive medicine will never be done in amerikkka as it is today, because in the capitalist society in which we live, capitalists run health services in order to make more money, not to improve health care. The sicker we are, the more money the capitalist makes. ‘The YOUNG LORDS PARTY believes that health care should be a right for all people not a privilege. That is why we put the x-ray facilities in the hands of the people.

The Ramon Emeterio Betances Free X-Ray Truck now belongs to the people. It will be on the streets 7 days a week, 10 hours a day. This truck is here to service the needs of our people.




Carl Pastor
Ministry of Health


The “1% vs 99%” analysis is not a class analysis

Many first world communist parties have attached themselves to the “1% vs 99%” analysis of capitalist society. However, they have done so uncritically. A 99% v 1% analysis is fundamentally too vague to be useful as an analytical tool when looking at how policy is formulated and carried out in any political system.

This is reflected by occupy’s focus on campaign financing and relatively inconsequential legal fictions like corporate personhood. One example of this is a Democracy Now interview with an occupier:

The focus on corporate personhood and campaign financing is a result of using a pluralist analysis of society. Pluralism says that policy is formulated by a bunch of different groups in society (corporations, unions, women’s advocacy groups, universities, civil rights organizations etc) competing and eventually compromising based on their power and influence within political institutions. The view of pluralists is that the political system can be fixed by increasing the power of the “99%” institutions relative to the “1%” institutions. They see one of the primary problems with the American political system is that the “1%” institutions have more money to spend on influencing lawmakers and buying their elections, and propose that a way of fixing this would be public campaign financing and spending limits on campaigns. The problem is that pluralism is a load of shit.

The pluralist analysis only looks at the overt methods of capitalist domination of society, while a class analysis understands that even with affordable elections and public financing, it doesn’t affect capitalist hegemony. In fact, it adds a legitimizing factor to capitalist domination of society, like in Western Europe. A class analysis recognizes that capitalist control of society is direct and indirect. The main direct methods of capitalist control are the selection of officials and lobbying. The indirect methods of control are far more powerful, because socialists and communists elected to office are still controlled by them. The four main methods of indirect capitalist control are explained in Al Szymanski’s The Capitalist State and the Politics of Class :

1. Capitalist values permeate the society and are propagated through the schools, military, media, and churches. Officials typically accept capitalist ideology as their own and authentically act as if capitalist rationality were the only rationality. Attempts by state officials to enact measures that would violate capitalist ideology would generate considerable opposition, even from the oppressed, as long as they accept capitalist ideas.

2. If the state attempts to follow policies that business doesn’t like, businesses can move to other countries or they may curtail production, lay off workers, or follow other restrictive policies, thereby promoting an economic crisis for which the state would be blamed. Businesses can refuse to invest unless the state follows probusiness policies. Banks have the special advantage of refusing to make loans to the state unless the state follows policies directed by them. Such actions by business might not be malicious, but might be merely economically rational and dictated by the necessity of maximizing profits.

3. States that attempt anticapitalist policies are subjected to the threat of military intervention, either by foreign states that want to prevent the abolition of capitalism, or by their own military, which may well be closely tied to the capitalist class.

4. Officials who follow anticapitalist policies may be cut off from campaign financing, slandered in the capitalist-class-controlled media, and forced to face well-financed and promoted opponents in their campaigns for reelection as well as being confronted with embarrassing demonstrations, disruptions,  and possible social and political crises.

By looking at policy merely as a result of different groups compromising, it gives a distorted view of the role of the state. It sees the state as a place to mediate the interests of different interest groups in society, and doesn’t have the depth, richness, and explanatory power that a class analysis has. Again, from The Capitalist State and the Politics of Class :

The capitalist state has five basic functions for capitalism: 1) the state operates to preserve the existing class relations in society through guaranteeing private property and law and order; 2) the state makes continual capital accumulation and profitability possible through regulating the labor force, ensuring sufficient buying power in the economy, regulating the economy, and otherwise helping business; 3) the state secures the legitimacy of capitalist society through its control over the schools, its management of the cult of patriotism, and the ideological function of voting to persuade people that the state is being run by and for them, when the reality is quite different; 4) the state operates to “aggregate” the diverse interests and wills of the different segments of the capitalist class – that is, form the capitalist class will – so that the state can implement unified compromise policies tempered by the demands of other classes (this is the function of the Congress and the various regulatory and administrative agencies); 5) the state raises money to fund the bureaucracy and otherwise acts to maintain the apparatus to perform the first four functions.

One of the clearest examples of capitalist class domination was the pressure put on New York city in 1975 when a cabal of bankers, led by Citigroup, refused to roll over the debt of NYC.  Capitalist restructuring and deindustrialization eroded the economic base of the city and suburbanization left it impoverished. What happened was essentially a financial coup, the bail out package mandated that bondholders be paid off first, and essential services would come second. The city’s economy was reconstructed around creating financial and cultural centers geared towards the elites. This management was a pioneering battle in the neoliberal project, and this neoliberal approach to crisis has been repeated numerous times by the IMF and by the European Central Bank’s handling of Greece today.

Lobbying and corporate donations have to be seen as one tool in the vast toolbox of capitalist control of society. While many people use the “99% vs 1%” analysis as a sort of watered down class analysis, the pluralist usage of it is inadequate to deal with the realities of capitalist control of society.

In Defense of Self-Defense

i’m reading the huey p newton reader, and came across this fantastic essay. i’m going to make an attempt to blog more often, but i will probably be posting more essays and articles alongside original content.

In Defense of Self Defense: Part 1 by Huey P Newton

Men were not created in order to obey laws. Laws are created to obey men. They are established by men and should serve men. The laws and rules which officials inflict upon poor people prevent them from functioning harmoniously in society.   There is no disagreement about this function of law in any circle the disagreement arises from the question of which men laws are to serve.  Such lawmakers ignore the fact that it is the duty of the poor and unrepresented to construct rules and laws that serve their interests better. Rewriting unjust laws is a basic human right and fundamental obligation.

  Before 1776 America was a British colony. The British Government had certain laws and rules that the colonized Americans rejected as not being in their best interests. In spite of the British conviction that Americans had no right to establish their own laws to promote the general welfare of the people living here in America, the colonized immigrant felt he had no choice but to raise the gun to defend his welfare. Simultaneously he made certain laws to ensure his protection from external and internal aggressions, from other governments, and his own agencies. One such form of protection was the Declaration of Independence, which states: “. . . whenever any government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new government, laying its foundations on such principles and organizing its powers in such forms as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.”

  Now these same colonized White people, these bondsmen, paupers, and thieves deny the colonized Black man not only the right to abolish this oppressive system, but to even speak of abolishing it. Having carried this madness and cruelty to the four corners of the earth, there is now universal rebellion against their continued rule and power. But as long as the wheels of the imperialistic war machine are turning, there is no country that can defeat this monster of the West. It is our belief that the Black people in America are the only people who can free the world, loosen the yoke of colonialism, and destroy the war machine. Black people who are within the machine can cause it to malfunction.  They can, because of their intimacy with the mechanism, destroy the engine that is enslaving the world. America will not be able to fight every Black country in the world and fight a civil war at the same time. It is militarily impossible to do both of these things at once.

  The slavery of Blacks in this country provides the oil for the machinery of war that America uses to enslave the peoples of the world. Without this oil the machinery cannot function. We are the driving shaft; we are in such a strategic position in this machinery that, once we become dislocated, the functioning of the remainder of the machinery breaks down.

  Penned up in the ghettos of America, surrounded by his factories and all the physical components of his economic system, we have been made into “the wretched of the earth,” relegated to the position of spectators while the White racists run their international con game on the suffering peoples.  We have been brainwashed to believe that we are powerless and that there is nothing we can do for ourselves to bring about a speedy liberation for our people. We have been taught that we must please our oppressors, that we are only ten percent of the population, and therefore must confine our tactics to categories calculated not to disturb the
sleep of our tormentors.

  The power structure inflicts pain and brutality upon the peoples and then provides controlled outlets for the pain in ways least likely to upset them, or interfere with the process of exploitation. The people must repudiate the established channels as tricks and deceitful snares of the exploiting oppressors. The people must oppose everything the oppressor supports, and support everything that he opposes. If Black people go about their struggle for liberation in the way that the oppressor dictates and sponsors, then we will have degenerated to the level of groveling flunkies for the oppressor himself. When the oppressor makes a vicious attack against freedom-fighters because of the way that such freedom-fighters choose to go about their liberation, then we know we are moving in the direction of our liberation.  The racist dog oppressors have no rights which oppressed Black people are bound to respect. As long as the racist dogs pollute the earth with the evil of their actions, they do not deserve any respect at all, and the “rules” of their game,
written in the people’s blood, are beneath contempt.

  The oppressor must be harassed until his doom. He must have no peace by day or by night. The slaves have always outnumbered the slavemasters. The power of the oppressor rests upon the submission of the people. When Black people really unite and rise up in all their splendid millions, they will have the strength to smash injustice. We do not understand the power in our numbers. We are millions and millions of Black people scattered across the continent and throughout the Western Hemisphere. There are more Black people in America than the total population of many countries now enjoying full membership in the United Nations. They have power and their power is based primarily on the fact that they are organized and united with each other. They are recognized by the powers of the world.

  We, with all our numbers, are recognized by no one. In fact, we do not even recognize our own selves. We are unaware of the potential power latent in our numbers. In 1967, in the midst of a hostile racist nation whose hidden racism is rising to the surface at a phenomenal speed, we are still so blind to our critical fight for our very survival that we are continuing to function in petty, futile ways.  Divided, confused, fighting among ourselves, we are still in the elementary stage of throwing rocks, sticks, empty wine bottles and beer cans at racist police who lie in wait for a chance to murder unarmed Black people. The racist police have worked out a system for suppressing these spontaneous rebellions that flare up from the anger, frustration, and desperation of the masses of Black people. We can no longer afford the dubious luxury of the terrible casualties wantonly inflicted upon us by the police during these rebellions.

  Black people must now move, from the grass roots up through the perfumed circles of the Black bourgeoisie, to seize by any means necessary a proportionate share of the power vested and collected in the structure of America. We must organize and unite to combat by long resistance the brutal force used against us daily. The power structure depends upon the use of force within retaliation. This is why they have made it a felony to teach guerrilla warfare.  This is why they want the people unarmed.

  The racist dog oppressors fear the armed people; they fear most of all Black people armed with weapons and the ideology of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. An unarmed people are slaves or are subject to slavery at any given moment. If a government is not afraid of the people it will arm the people against foreign aggression. Black people are held captive in the midst of their oppressors. There is a world of difference between thirty million unarmed submissive Black people and thirty million Black people armed with freedom, guns, and the strategic methods of liberation.

  When a mechanic wants to fix a broken-down car engine, he must have the necessary tools to do the job. When the people move for liberation they must have the basic tool of liberation: the gun. Only with the power of the gun can the Black masses halt the terror and brutality directed against them by the armed racist power structure; and in one sense only by the power of the gun can the whole world be transformed into the earthly paradise dreamed of by the people from time immemorial. One successful practitioner of the art and science of national liberation and self-defense, Brother Mao Tse-tung, put it this way: “We are advocates of the abolition of war, we do not want war; but war can only be abolished through war, and in order to get rid of the gun it is necessary to take up the gun.”

  The blood, sweat, tears and suffering of Black people are the foundations of the wealth and power of the United States of America. We were forced to build America, and if forced to, we will tear it down. The immediate result of this destruction will be suffering and bloodshed. But the end result will be the perpetual peace for all mankind.