– Ferguson, U.S.: Killer cop whitewashed –
“Amerikkka must come to a halt! There is righteous resistance and you must be part of it!!!”
– New York: “Revolution and religion” – historic dialogue between Cornel West and Bob Avakian
– Film review: The Act of Killing
(AWTWNS 24 November 2014)

This AWTWNS news packet for the week of 24 November 2014 contains three articles. They may be reproduced or used in any way, in whole or in part, as long as they are credited.

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– Ferguson, U.S.: Killer cop whitewashed –
“Amerikkka must come to a halt! There is righteous resistance and you must be part of it!!!”
– New York: “Revolution and religion” – historic dialogue between Cornel West and Bob Avakian
– Film review: The Act of Killing

Ferguson, U.S.: Killer cop whitewashed –
“Amerikkka must come to a halt! There is righteous resistance and you must be part of it!!!”

25 November, 2014. A World to Win News Service. The following statement by Carl Dix, spokesperson for the Revolutionary Communist Party, was released shortly after the authorities announced that killing of unarmed Black youth Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri last August was justified. “Amerikkka” refers to the Ku Klux Klan, an armed organization born to keep down Black people after the end of slavery – the point is that while the KKK is still a powerful reactionary force (it has been raising support for the officer who killed Michael Brown), that function is being handled by the state itself.

The grand jury has refused to indict Darren Wilson, the cop who killed Michael Brown in Ferguson. Once again one of their hired guns has gotten away with murdering a Black youth. This is a shot to the heart. A brutal, horrible injustice in its own right. And a damning indictment of the very essence of this system. It was a statement that ONCE AGAIN, the lives of Black people mean NOTHING to those who sit atop this empire of injustice.

This has to stop. NOW.

Amerikkka has a long history of savage oppression of Black people going all the way back to the dragging of African people to this country in slave chains. This savage oppression continued after slavery was abolished in the form of Jim Crow segregation and lynch mob terror. And it’s still in effect today in mass incarceration and the police given a green light to brutalize and even murder people. Police have killed two Black men in St. Louis since Michael Brown was murdered. A 12-year-old boy was murdered by police in a Cleveland playground just this past weekend.

For weeks the authorities told people to remain calm and let the system work. For days we heard them threaten to unleash militarized police and the National Guard on anyone who would protest. Well, the system has worked – it’s let another murdering cop walk free. This amounts to the system giving a stamp of approval to police murder of Black people.

And that is why it is so right, so just, and so necessary, that people are standing up! Within hours, people from the projects from the campuses and beyond poured into the streets in righteous fury and defiant protest. They stood up to teargas in Ferguson. At 1 a.m., thousands marched through the heart of New York City, from lower Manhattan through Harlem, and have shut down the Triborough Bridge. Protesters blocked key freeways in Los Angeles and Oakland. Hundreds at the White House staged die-ins. There were actions ranging from prayer vigils to street protests, from Boston, Baltimore, Seattle, and beyond.

There is no standing on the sidelines now.

Bringing business as usual to a halt needs to continue and be built on. People need to stay in the streets. Don’t go to work. Walk out of school or make stopping this genocidal program what your schooling is about. People in the neighbourhoods where police routinely brutalize and murder need to make their anger felt through mass political resistance.

And everybody needs to join in saying NO MORE to police murder. Athletes and musicians need to take a stand on this. Everyone has to take a side in this fight: Are you with the police who murder Black youth and the system that gives them a stamp of approval for their murderous actions? Or are you with the people who are standing up and saying NO MORE to this shit? If you fail to act, you’re going along with the stamp of approval this system gives to police murder. But if you do act, you can be part of changing everything!

What is at stake is the very world we will live in. Can you tolerate a world where the lives of Black people mean nothing? It’s that basic. If your answer is no, bring AmeriKKKa to a halt! And don’t stop until there is justice and the murderer of Michael Brown is in jail.

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New York: “Revolution and religion” – historic dialogue between Cornel West and Bob Avakian

24 November 2014. A World to Win News Service. The following article is from Revolution, newspaper of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. In addition to those present at the event in New York City, audiences in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area watched a live Web simulcast. Outside the U.S., activists organized gatherings to see this dialogue in real time in at least half a dozen countries in several languages, according to reports that have reached us so far. It was also intensely followed by small groups and individuals in other places in the middle of the night and in some cases under dangerous conditions. The video can now be streamed at revcom.us, where audience questions and reactions are also posted.

On 15 November, 1,900 people packed the Riverside Church in New York City to experience the Dialogue between Cornel West and Bob Avakian, “The fight for emancipation and the role of religion.” There has never been anything like it.

It was an historic event. It was the first public appearance in decades by Bob Avakian, the revolutionary leader and architect of a whole new framework for the emancipation of all of humanity, who spoke directly and in depth to the need and basis for revolution; in dialogue with Cornel West, one of the most important and provocative public intellectuals of our time and who spoke and engaged in dialogue from the perspective of Christian and Black prophetic traditions, and as an uncompromising champion for the oppressed.

Cornel West had promised that the audience was “going to hear agreement & disagreement… transgression & convergence… most importantly, you’re going to hear two brothers who are for real…” That happened, and more. With intensity, sincerity, and love, both speakers pulled the audience out of their collective and individual comfort zones – and challenged them to take responsibility for the state of humanity, in stark contrast to and explicitly in opposition to the prevailing morality of “me first”. Bob Avakian began his speech with a loving tribute to Wayne Webb, also known as Clyde Young, a close friend and comrade, and a member of the Central Committee of the Revolutionary Communist Party who had just passed away, whose life was an inspiring example of how those this system treats as “the worst of the worst” can become the very best that humanity is capable of.

The dialogue was driven by profound and historic challenges to humanity, at a moment when billions of people live lives of unnecessary misery and the very planet itself is in peril. As Host Committee member [Hollywod actor] Ed Asner said before the event, “If hope and clarity can only come from this dialogue to lighten the dark times we live in, then I would wish this same dialogue will be played throughout the land. We need it desperately.”

The Dialogue was made possible by a diverse and determined grassroots movement, and a Host Committee that brought together an unprecedented range of voices, from academia to the parents of African-American youth murdered by the New York police. Tens of thousands of dollars were raised to promote the Dialogue. Fundraising continues to cover the cost of a full-page ad in the 13 November print edition of The New York Times. Radio station WBAI signed on as the media sponsor for the event.

People came on buses from Ferguson, Missouri; from the South Side of Chicago; and from nearby housing projects in Harlem. They came from elite universities and community colleges and from churches, and classes came from high schools. The audience included long-time political activists and youth who had never been to a political event. The vibe and feeling of the audience was intense, enthusiastic, welcoming, vocal, and eager to get into the questions; the place throbbed with the feeling of something new coming into being. The seriousness of the speakers and the love and respect they had for each other set a tone that people very much responded to.

Differences around the key question of the event – the fight for emancipation and the role of religion – were deeply gone into, as were points of unity. As we said, the determination of both speakers to not only bring out how people today all over the world are forced to live and needlessly suffer and who is responsible, but also to sharply challenge the audience to act against that with courage, came through. People intensely listened to the truth-telling for over four hours. Thought-provoking and soul-searching questions were posed from the audience to Cornel West and Bob Avakian including on the state of popular culture; the morality of violence; the nature of the police and how to get justice; the possibility of actually carrying out and winning a successful revolution; and defining personal experiences in the lives of the speakers.

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On the Indonesian documentary The Act of Killing

24 November 2014. A World to Win News Service. By Susannah York.

Cutting off heads is an efficient way of killing people. It’s cleaner. Beating people to death means there is too much blood to clean up and it smells awful. At least that is the expressed opinion of Anwar Congo and his band of ghoulish executioners, who are the stars/actors in the award-winning documentary The Act of Killing directed by Joshua Oppenheimer. In a surreal movie within the documentary, men who killed suspected communists and others by the hundreds of thousands after the CIA-sponsored coup in 1965 reenact the torture and murder with pride and pleasure. They are still considered heroes by the Indonesian power elite and enjoy impunity. The effect created by the disjunct between the awfulness of what they did and their continuing status and vanity makes this film extremely disturbing.

The Indonesian military overthrew the government headed by the elected President Sukarno, who was allied with the Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI). As part of the documentary, several mass murderers make their own “movie” of execution scenes and discuss their justifications for doing what they did. They take Oppenheimer and the camera to the places where they did this, an urban building they blandly call “the office” and small villages. As they recreate their history, they explain why they felt they had to eradicate communists, calling them “cruel” people who redistributed land to the peasants and therefore deserved to die. An official history that bombards every schoolchild in Indonesia to this day.

Estimates of the number of people killed range from half a million to more than a million during the year following the 1965 coup, including communist leaders and cadre, trade unionists, intellectuals, teachers, land reform advocates, ordinary peasants, ethnic Chinese, women and children. Bodies clogged rivers in many areas of Indonesia. Many hundreds of thousands more were herded into concentration camps and spent years there.

Oppenheimer did not originally intend his documentary to turn out the way it did. Initially he wanted the victims to speak out, as this sordid history is all but forgotten or went unnoticed outside of Indonesia, but the climate of repression and fear they still lived in prevented that. The killers live all around them and the army kept intervening, detaining the crew and confiscating their equipment and tapes. When the issue of whether to continue the documentary was discussed with some human rights advocates, Oppenheimer was persuaded to talk to the villains who openly boasted of their role. It was felt that in this way, he would no longer be harassed by the military, the murderous nature of the whole regime would be revealed to all Indonesians, and some justice could finally be achieved.

Oppenheimer persisted in feeling compelled to expose what he considered mass murder on an unimaginable scale. Being in Indonesia reminded him of Nazi Germany, albeit in Indonesia they were still in power. Many of his family perished in Nazi Germany, and while growing up, the family dinner discussions often evolved around how this kind of genocide should never happen again anywhere in the world.

After eight years of research and interviews with 40 death squad leaders who were recruited by the Indonesian Army to help carry out the hard work of torture and cutting off heads, Oppenheimer met Anwar Congo, a gangster and revered founder of a right-wing military organization. Congo understood what a documentary was. He was influenced by lavish Hollywood musical productions and gangster movies from which he and others learned some of their brutal techniques. He and his cohorts were eager to recreate what they did for Oppenheimer and his film crew. They considered the documentary a historical piece the whole family could watch. Many of the film crew were Indonesians who remain anonymous for fear of retribution for making this documentary.

When Oppenheimer saw some flicker of remorse in Congo’s eyes, he decided that his film would not be about all the executioners as originally intended, that what Congo was doing with this reenactment was struggling with the nightmares that haunted him. The process of making the film confronts Congo, and some realization of the acts he committed begins to take place even while the others are totally immune to such feelings, having been permanently dehumanized by their acts.

Throughout the documentary, different issues are discussed among Congo and his collaborators and different meetings arranged with important politicians in power who support the reenactment of this history and speak proudly of their own historical role. In one situation, we meet a journalist who denies he knew these killings were going on, even though he was working above the “office” at that time.

Congo and friends ridicule him, saying that what they were doing was an open secret and all the neighbours knew, so how could he not know. Elsewhere in discussions, someone raises why don’t the children of those killed take revenge and someone replies to general laughter, because we would kill them all.

In another setting, one of the film crew tells his own story. When he was twelve, his step-father was taken away in the middle of the night and he and his mother found the body days later. No one helped them; they were shunned by their neighbours and could only bury the body in a shallow ditch. While telling this story, he insists repeatedly that this is not a criticism of what Congo and his group have done. Later this person plays the role of the victim for the film within the documentary. The recreation of the scene is so realistic that he breaks done and begs that they give his wife and children a message before he dies, thinking that they were actually going to kill him for telling the story of his step-father.

Oppenheimer asks the executioners if they fear being brought up on charges of war crimes under the Geneva Conventions. One of Congo’s sidekicks in the massacres, Adi Zulkadry, replies negatively, saying, “War crimes are defined by the winners. I’m a winner.” While watching their film re-enactment, Adi is concerned that they are the ones that look cruel, not the communists. Others reply that this is their history, the truth, but Adi responds that too much truth is not always a good thing. He warns that this film is going to make them look bad.

In another scene, Congo acts out the role of the victim who is about to have his head cut off. Clearly unsettled by this experience, he declares he won’t play the victim’s role again. Having experienced the lose of dignity, Congo asks Oppenheimer if the people he killed felt like he did during his reenactment. Oppenheimer replies that they felt far worse because they knew they were going to die.

Congo, who estimates that he personally killed about a thousand people, is only a small perpetrator among many in the massacre that took place in Indonesia in 1965-66. Behind him stood not only the Indonesian army and the gangsters they recruited, but the biggest criminals and murderers of all, the U.S. government. The 1960s was a time of national liberation struggles around the world and Washington considered President Sukarno a problem. The U.S., then ramping up its intervention in Vietnam, was eager to replace him with a puppet. General Suharto’s military coup was hailed in Time magazine as “the best news for the West in Asia in years.”

Giving guidance and coordination to the coup d’etat behind the scenes was the U.S. and a band of CIA advisers to the Indonesian army. The U.S. provided money, weapons (especially small arms for killing at close range), and radio communication equipment so that the army could efficiently proceed with the killings across Indonesia’s 18,000 islands. The CIA provided a “killing list” with 5,000 names of PKI party leaders, prominent opposition figures, leftists, leaders of unions, and intellectuals. As the killings progressed, U.S. advisers assessed the manhunt, checking the names of the dead off the list.

The U.S. claimed to have no knowledge of what was happening during that year. But the supply of radios is perhaps the most telling detail. They served not only as field communications but also became an element of a broad, US intelligence-gathering operation constructed as the manhunt went forward. Perhaps the most irrefutable evidence of the U.S.’s attitude was that they and the UK kept coup leader General Suharto in power for more than three decades.

Although these crimes were somewhat overshadowed by the immensity of the U.S. war against Vietnam, in later decades declassified documents and cables helped reveal the bloody hand of the U.S. in Indonesia. Former senior U.S. diplomats and CIA officers described in lengthy interviews how they aided Suharto in his attack on the PKI. “It really was a big help to the army,” said Robert J. Martens, a former member of the U.S. Embassy’s political section in Indonesia. “They [the Indonesia army] probably killed a lot of people, and I probably have a lot of blood on my hands, but that’s not all bad. There’s a time when you have to strike hard at a decisive moment.” Martens worked under William Colby, then director of the CIA’s Far East division and later head of the CIA.

Although not part of the documentary The Act of Killing, it is worth mentioning that ten years after the coup, the Indonesian armed forces unleashed another bloodbath with the invasion of East Timor, killing about 250,000 people, a third of its population, again with the help of the U.S. government. The more than 20 years of Indonesian military rule in East Timor were some of the bloodiest and most brutal in South East Asian history. (See awtwns060116 for a fuller description of the role of the U.S. support in the invasion of East Timor).

How could the 1965 human slaughter of a million people go on for several months with so little resistance when Indonesia had one of the largest communist organizations in the world, enjoying an immense popularity among the workers and peasants? The Communist Party of Indonesia was a non-revolutionary party, with a strategy of parliamentary politics in coalition with nationalist forces like President Sukarno. The PKI believed that there could be a peaceful transition to socialism and that the state had a “people’s aspect” in Sukarno, seen as a hero who led the Indonesian independence struggle against the Dutch. Sukarno foolishly declared that his power base was the PKI, the army and the Islamist forces, but the U.S. helped organize most of the army and the Islamists to overthrow him and hunt down and kill PKI members and decimate their social base among the people.

The PKI did not understand that local bourgeois forces and the world imperialists would never allow them to come to power and saw them as a threat to their interests and control of an important country geopolitically and also rich in oil and other resources. In the context of the times, the overthrow of Suharto was a declaration of the U.S.’s intentions to dominate the region and the world. With a wrong understanding of the role of the military, to protect the state and crush any attempts at taking it over, the devastating results were that the party and their supporters were left unprepared to resist and the people paid the price.

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