The Philadelphia Reds
Letter from an RCYB Comrade
Revolutionary Worker #1070, September 17, 2000
We received the following correspondence from a member of the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade who participated in Philly Freedom Summer 2000.
Every Philly Freedom Summer, youth volunteers come to Philly and work among the predominantly Black proletariat of Germantown. The first week we were there, the RCYB went to the funeral for Robert Brown, a homeless man that was gunned down by police just days before. We sat and talked on the porch steps and in living rooms with a mother who lost her son to death on the streets, a mother who had her doorbell rung at 4 a.m. by cops looking to take in her 11-year-old son. The YB hung with young men who smiled when they said they had our backs and who didn’t want to talk about the RNC or the bourgeois elections until we mentioned revolution. When the RCYB goes out to the masses—the people whose lives are dictated and run down by this system—we’re going home. We’re taking Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, the science of revolution, home to the proletariat. This is a science of the masses—this became ever clearer to me. It’s from them that we learn, and it’s with MLM that we struggle to understand the world in order to change it. The people, because of their experiences, often see the need for revolution—and I saw how this science is necessary to bring people to see the true roots of the racism, police brutality, poverty and other shit they face. Yes, we need revolution to bring about fundamental change, but what kind of revolution?
Mao has said, "We communists are like the seeds and the people are like soil. Wherever we go, we must unite with the people, take root and blossom among them." And we blossomed. We learned only a fraction of what the people have to offer the world, but we also brought them what they need—the science of revolution that can bring a whole new world into being. Many people didn’t take us seriously until after we told them we’re revolutionaries. They saw we weren’t offering them Band-Aid solutions; we weren’t promoting some candidate that just supports the system that presses them down.
It’s like the line in the Coup’s song, "Underdogs," where they lay out the life of Black people under capitalism and say, "I’ll tear this muthafucka up since I really love you and so would you." The people know the true nature of this system and one thing you learn from the people is you can’t lie to them about that.
The funeral for Robert Brown — who had been murdered by the police — stayed on my mind throughout Freedom Summer. I was still feeling raw after the murder of Malcolm Ferguson in the Bronx after the Diallo verdict came down. The RCYB decided to have a discussion to talk about the Party’s new programme and the YB for people in PFS so that it would be clear why we’re a part of this every summer. At the heart of this was a speak bitterness. We really wanted to hear these youth speak out about the shit this system brings down on people, and to put it all on the enemy’s doorstep —where it belongs.
We wanted to get into the problems we face, but also the only solution to it all— proletarian revolution. This system manipulates us. It lies to us and tries to smash our dreams in ways that force the people to blame themselves, distrust each other, and not see the capitalist system at the root of it all. We’re told our voices don’t mean shit except for once every four years when we get to choose our next oppressor. And young people can’t even do that!
At first, people were slow to speak. Where else in society are people brought together to speak out about the shit they live through? Where else are we allowed to see how we actually have a lot in common and share a lot of the same shit — precisely because there’s a system to blame, a common enemy to point the finger at? Where else can sisters be invited (and feel comfortable in a room of brothers) to speak bluntly about rape and the oppression of women? And where else can we get together and be encouraged to solve these problems collectively?
This isn’t something that comes easily to us. To share things that we’re taught all our lives to not share, to keep it down inside until it eats us whole. We’re especially taught to not rely on others to solve this. We’re taught we’re stronger if we turn on and blame ourselves rather than pointing the finger at the true culprit— the system.
As our Party’s Chairman, Bob Avakian, says, "You could be somebody Black in a housing project in Los Angeles, living right next door to a Mexican immigrant in the same housing project and having so many things in common in terms of what the system has done to you and the ways you’ve resisted it and so on, and yet have no inkling of that and only be caught up in the daily antagonisms and hassles — what the spontaneous working of the system and the conscious policy of the ruling class is fostering. So it’s very important for us to bring out not only the common interests but also, concretely, common experiences and common struggle, by applying historical materialism, enabling people to see this." And the speak bitterness showed me how it’s this Party that can bring people together to see that commonality and set our sights higher.
I can’t describe all the pain and anger that erupted in that room that night. But I can say that I felt more deeply about the fact that this system is not in the interest of the majority of the people in this country. We shared things that we hadn’t told our best friends, things we weren’t sure how to talk about. We yelled, cried, and struggled not to hold ourselves back. It was emotional even for the people who didn’t speak. All the shit that this system brings down on people—rape, substance abuse, police harassment, brutality, and murder, all the boozhwa voices trying to make us forget another world is possible and that there is no greater thing to live for than the people—is creating its own gravediggers. It’s raising this generation that can’t wait to see America as nothing more than burning ashes that we’ll build on.
I couldn’t wait to share and connect that anger with the people, who were raw with anger, too. On Saturday, a few days later, PFS held a really successful community speak-out and march, where people told about some of their own experiences with the brutal boys in blue. There was a feeling that any one of them could’ve been Robert Brown, or Thomas Jones. That evening, the RCYB got together to practice our marching for the upcoming protests. As we talked, cop cars and vans passed us every 30 seconds, very slowly. As one van turned up a street we’d hung out on and just marched through, people came running out of their homes yelling, "Fuck the police!" and "Free Mumia!" after the cops, and rocks flew at the van. That night, we got a glimmer of the mighty sleeping giant that is the proletariat. That one instance captured a deeper understanding of the immense potential for revolution that I gained through my experiences at PFS this year. We were hungry to bring the people’s voices and that spirit they shared with us to the RNC protests.
The next day, at Unity 2000, the RCYB—decked out in our uniform, standing in formation with a BIG RED FLAG leading us, holding up Mao’s little Red Book of quotations—we marched in step proudly representing our class and our science. Photographers and print and television reporters immediately surrounded us. Everywhere we went, this happened. Who are you? Where do you come from? Journalists who thought we didn’t know what we were talking about or who wanted to put us on the defensive, asked, "Didn’t Mao kill millions?" To which they got, "Long live Chairman Mao!" and a well-informed exposition about the massive accomplishments of Mao that they would never quote in their papers. The media folks were clearly shaken — when was the last time they saw organized, militant youth marching with Red Books and talking about revolution?
Later, as we got to the rally, someone from the stage began to sing the American national anthem, and Brigaders decided to show some due respect to this country and its symbols of national pride (or, rather, oppression!) and set the stars and stripes ablaze! We stomped on it, spit on it, and chanted this decrepit system’s doom!
Each day, the PFS youth returned to where we were all staying and were stopped by the masses on the streets, yelling, "Are y’all the rebels?" "Were you out there in the streets?" "I saw you on TV!" They expressed wanting to be on the streets with us and said they loved opening the paper to pictures of youth charging, fists in the air. There’s an unspeakable value in the act of doing, of bringing what you say and what you believe to the streets. The people connected with us after August 1st in ways I haven’t ever seen before. This strengthened them too!
I saw how this fight has become more firmly planted in the hearts of the people in this neighborhood as well as in the hearts of the Brigade. There’s a unity we share — a common recognition that this system is rotten to the core and unreformable. But we also shared a common, urgent desire to fight against this shit and take this system down. After coming back to this same neighborhood for six years, as part of Freedom Summer, this unity has grown and taken deeper roots. The people know us and expect us. And when a revolutionary situation develops, when the time comes for us to bury this pig system once and for all, nothing the enforcers do can fully prepare them for the power the people will unleash.
From an RCYB Member
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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