I began this blog in May 2009 following the death of Marcia Powell at Perryville State Prison in Goodyear, Arizona. It is not intended to prescribe the path that leads to freedom from the prison industrial complex.

Rather, these are just my observations in arguably the most racist, fascist, militaristic state in the nation at a critical time in history for a number of intersecting liberation movements. From Indigenous resistance to genocidal practices, to the fight over laws like SB1070 and the ban on Ethnic Studies, Arizona is at the center of many battles for human rights, and thus the struggle for prison abolition as well - for none are free until all are. I retired the blog in APRIL 2013.

Visit me now at Arizona Prison Watch or Survivors of Prison Violence-AZ

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Revolutionary Communist Party on the 4th of July.

A few weeks ago I attended the anti-4th of July picnic held in Phoenix by the Revolutionary Communist Party. I think I even posted a little promo to it for them, in case anyone else was interested in seeing what they were up to.

I hadn't heard of them before they took such an interest in AZ's immigration law. While socializing before the rally I found that most people there - primarily new recruits attracted by the "revolutionary" language and their defiance of SB 1070 - were talking about their own feelings regarding fascism, racism, social activism, and their decision to get involved in what only the Revolutionary Communist Party now is calling Arizona's "Freedom Summer". I had already been identifying with the concept of Freedom Summer here myself simply because the original one was the season I was born into, in 1964. I didn't know they were the only ones calling it that by then - to everyone else this is the Summer of Human Rights (or anything but what the RCP brands it).

It did become clear to me as soon as I walked onto the scene that if I had done my homework I would have included my own disclaimer with their announcement, if I posted it at all. Everywhere I looked there were posters with the image of their self-appointed leader, Bob Avakian, most of them done in a stenciled style that seemed to visually set him up to someday be placed alongside Marx and Lenin as one of the "great" communists in history. It created an eerie, cult-like aura to the gathering, and I quickly tuned into the fact that my brain was being exposed to a whole lot of washing. Still, I was quite curious, so I hung out for the main show - the recruiting speech.

I had corresponded a couple of times beforehand with Nina, a young organizer who came out here with a small group of them from California, I believe. They seemed a bit fanatical, but well-intended, so I thought I'd check them out in person. It had become clear to me by then that the radical community here wasn't the least bit interested, however. In fact, they've been very vocally perturbed about their presence and efforts to build more of a following, so I wasn't surprised that I didn't see any friendly faces there from the local left.

The Phoenix Class War Council did a pretty thorough critical analysis of the group (worth reading) and their current campaign a few days after their picnic (itself a propaganda-laden recruiting tool for disillusioned young minds as much as it was a rallying cry for those already converted). I'm sure glad they didn't come after me, too, for giving the RCP any of my space here. I give space to a wide variety of left-leaning groups, and while I find the party line and leadership disturbing, I also found the individual people involved to be sincere and earnest about making a positive difference in the world. They just seem to be under some kind of spell.

The only person I really grilled about the RCP's message and leadership was Nina, because she was clearly well-indoctrinated and believed in what she was doing with them with all her heart. In fact, I think she said she writes much of their paper, which makes her responsible for a lot of propaganda. I questioned her about how any organization can be democratic or even communist if it's run by a self-appointed authoritarian. I thought that mimicked the worst mistakes ever made by communist parties - they were essentially under totalitarian rule. There is no democratic process at work - it's all "follow the leader". This Avakian guy struck me as nothing more than an intellectual, self-promoting, grandstanding dictator who gets idealistic and exhuberant youth to raise his money and push his ideology onto other kids.

That troubled me, seeing how many youth had shown up who had probably never been involved in a movement like this before, and were drawn to their talk of "revolution". Many were young people of color - Latino, Native American, Black, Asian American - I was really kind of impressed with the diversity they attracted. I frankly think that revolution requires open minds and a healthy exchange of ideas, though - not a descent into one man's doctrine and ideology that seeks to be the dominant influence. There doesn't seem to be much room for doubting whether or not he's right. That leads to living in chains of a different kind, not to liberation. And how can you help free others if you can't even free your own mind?

I have to say that I don't remember what Nina's responses to my questions and observations were, because she sounded like the propaganda in the literature so often. I left wishing she would walk away with me, but didn't extend that particular invitation to her, thinking it would just be insulting. She's a bright woman, very passionate about social justice I believe, and is doing what she feels is the right thing to do for the resistance here in Arizona. She also keeps hanging in there despite the resistance she gets from both the right and the left - I kind of respect that, though I disagree with what the ideology she defends. I just think Avakian is exploiting the tragedy here to build himself more of a following, and making good kids do all his dirty work for him - his "cause" is definitely not the same as ours. He appears to be his own cause.

If that's not accurate, then he and his people better look again at their messaging, because Avakian, not the people of Arizona, was very much the center of attention at the picnic, even in his absence. All the books are by him, about his own ideas. His face was everywhere. His people were singing his praises, reciting doctrine and dogma. There was something about the event that made me feel like I'd just walked into the Church of Scientology, in fact. How is that revolutionary?

So, for those of you who thought my posting of their picnic news or an article they did on Nina Simone means I think we should all hop on board their train, think again. Anyone who knows me should know that's one train I'd let pass on by - I'm just not here to derail it because there are still other people inside. They're going to have find their own way home from wherever it leads them. I hope when they decide to so, the rest of the radical community will be here for them with open arms...

I'll be here, anyway, my friends - not for the party, just for the people.

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