[News] The FBIs War On Democracy - the new film COINTELPRO 101
news at freedomarchives.org
Sun Sep 19 10:51:16 EDT 2010
The FBI's War On Democracy
--Claude Marks discusses the new film COINTELPRO 101
By Angola 3 News
Claude Marks, Director of <http://freedomarchives.org/>The Freedom
Archives, talks to Angola 3 News about the highly anticipated new
documentary film, entitled
<http://freedomarchives.org/Cointelpro.html>COINTELPRO 101, which is
premiering on October 10, at the Mission Cultural Center of Latino
Arts in San Francisco.
According to its website, the Freedom Archives contains over 8000
hours of audio and video tapes. These recordings date from the
late-60s to the mid-90s and chronicle the progressive history of the
Bay Area, the United States, and international solidarity movements.
The collection includes weekly news/ poetry/ music programs broadcast
on several educational radio stations; in-depth interviews and
reports on social and cultural issues; diverse activist voices;
original and recorded music, poetry, original sound collages; and an
extensive La Raza collection.
Freedom Archives has released other audio and video documentaries,
including the recent video about the <http://www.freethesf8.org/>San
Francisco Eight, entitled "Legacy of Torture."
<http://freedomarchives.org/BPP/torture.html>Legacy of Torture can be
viewed online, as well as the previous films
<http://freedomarchives.org/3PP.html>Voices of Three Political
Prisoners (featuring Nuh Washington, Jalil Muntaqim and David
Gilbert), <http://freedomarchives.org/Charisse.html>Charisse Shumate:
Fighting for Our Lives, and
<http://freedomarchives.org/Mabel_Williams.html>Self Respect, Self
Defense & Self Determination (featuring Mabel Williams and Kathleen
Cleaver, introduced by Angela Davis).
Angola 3 News: What can you tell us about your upcoming film
Claude Marks: We've been aware of the need to talk more
about COINTELPRO since we made The Legacy of Torture, the video about
the government torture of the Panthers in New Orleans in 1973 which
later became the unjust basis for the San Francisco 8 Case. In
travelling with that film and organizing for the dropping of charges,
we referred to COINTELPRO but often were talking to younger people in
particular, who had not heard the term and had no historical frame of
reference for that period of intense repression.
So we undertook to make this new film, knowing that no government
agent or agency has ever been held accountable for the assassinations
of leaders, the destruction of organizations, the imprisonment and
political targeting of so many people - people who still remain
prisoners of the wars against movements for liberation and
self-determination within the US borders.
COINTELPRO 101 is not the first or only film on the subject, although
there have not been many, but we hope it can help reinvigorate some
organizing work, and reopen some thinking about the violence directed
against progressive movements, this hidden history, and nature of the
state and its agencies of repression.
A3N: How was the film showing and related workshop at the US Social
Forum received by the audience?
CM: This was a good opportunity to infuse the very broad
conversations at the Social Forum with a self-conscious discussion
about the nature and continuity of government repression. From the
European invasion & Middle Passage forward, we have always seen
genocide. Prisons, COINTELPRO, Abu Ghraib - all represent the
continuity of what any movements to change power relations are and
will be up against.
A3N: Your website states that the film's intended audiences are the
generations that did not experience the social justice movements of
the sixties and seventies. Given that COINTELPRO officially ended in
the early 1970s, why is this story so important for the younger
generation to know about?
CM: Well, the mission of the Freedom Archives is to help educate
people, and especially the rising new generations, as to the true
nature of recent radical history. The high point of struggle
represented by the loosely used term 'the sixties' and the violent
repression against it, contains essential lessons for every young
person seeking a more just society. More generally, people should not
be misled by the myth of democracy, the idea that the system can be
made to work for us or that those in power will somehow reach a moral
epiphany and give up anything of consequence without a fight.
We see this myth exposed today in many ways - mass imprisonment, the
tearing up of families and communities - driven by racism - the
criminalization of dissent so any act of resistance becomes by their
definition an act of "terrorism."
This is a continuum that is unleashed upon the world's peoples as
well as internally. Black, Brown, and Indigenous people are targeted.
Muslims and South Asians are targeted. Women and queer folks are
targeted. Prisoners are subjected to the worst inhumanities, and if
they are ever released, what do they have they to look forward to?
The U.S. has by far the largest incarceration rate in the world - as
they build more prisons, the schools deteriorate and the public
education system lies in racist tatters.
A3N: How do you think the US government's repression of the Left
today differs from the COINTELPRO era?
CM: In the 1970s, the public and some officials, faced with the
exposure of the illegal acts of government and police agencies
against dissent, feigned concerns about the loss of civil liberties,
held hearings, and alleged that reforms would take place. But today,
the acts of the FBI, police, and other agencies, once illegal, are
now legitimate, legal - via the Patriot Act and other
unconstitutional measures, all in the name of homeland security and
defending the nation against "terrorism."
The playing field has changed. The government now openly conducts
assassinations anywhere in the world, can declare people to be "enemy
combatants" and imprison them indefinitely without charges; drone
warfare permits mass civilian murders by so-called military experts
thousands of miles away without risking US military casualties - it's
a 'game' except to the thousands of victims.
Today the government claims the right to breach international human
rights laws and conventions with no accountability. And the corporate
media is so integrated into this strategy, that there is little room
for 'legitimate' opposition to get a hearing. So it becomes incumbent
upon us to organize and message independently and with few resources.
COINTELPRO 101 is made with mainly love and fumes, but we hope that
it will be a useful tool to engage in dialogue and to help organize
movements that challenge the mythology that dissent is a guaranteed
right, that seek the release of political prisoners, that counter the
miseducation of our youth with an understanding of the past so they
can better shape the future.
A3N: Knowing what we do about this repression in the past and
present, how can activists today best defend ourselves? How should
our organizing strategies be modified?
CM: We must organize to show our outrage with more consistency and
despite risks. There is an urgency to demand more of one another as
well. Challenging the state is serious and will not succeed as a
result of stroking egos or the pronouncements of self-declared
leaders. It is hard work and requires a deep commitment and a passion
for serving the people and rebuilding our communities. Our capacity
must grow in realistic ways as there are no shortcuts, and the path
includes defeats and sacrifice. This is one of the things that our
political prisoners and the many martyrs can teach us.
A3N: For our readers not close enough to San Francisco for the
October 10 premiere, how will folks be able to watch the new film?
CM: The film will begin to show in communities and on campuses
this fall and winter. People can reach us to make arrangements. At
some point we will also manufacture DVDs. We hope to have it
available with subtitles in other languages as well. Also check the
website as we have resources about COINTELPRO posted and will also
add a teaching curriculum to accompany the film.
A3N: How can folks best support your efforts?
CM: We are very much a grassroots organization. We have no
corporate or government funding. We are one voice among many, but we
encourage people to support the work of independent media, including
ourselves. We welcome your questions and comments and greatly
appreciate your support.
Also please use the audio and video documentaries that we've produced
as educational materials and organizing tools. The actual Freedom
Archives is searchable on line and is intended to preserve radical
history and culture. So check us out!
A3N: Any closing thoughts?
CM: Years ago, as the movements grew and we worked in various
political and media organizations, we were fond of quoting part of an
1857 speech by Frederick Douglass, often using Ossie Davis's dramatic
rendition of his famous words. They sum up a lesson that is central
to what I am saying, and is at the heart of COINTELPRO 101. Many of
your readers are probably familiar with it, but its essence bears repeating:
"The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all
concessions yet made to her august claims, have been born of earnest
struggle. If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who
profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation - want crops
without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and
lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many
waters. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it
--Angola 3 News is a new project of the International Coalition to
Free the Angola 3. Our website is
<http://www.angola3news.com/>www.angola3news.com where we provide the
latest news about the Angola 3. We are also creating our own media
projects, which spotlight the issues central to the story of the
Angola 3, like racism, repression, prisons, human rights, solitary
confinement as torture, and more.
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