[Ppnews] PP Russell "Maroon" Shoats on Democracy, Matriarchy, OWS + Food Security

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed Jan 18 20:08:20 EST 2012


via Nattyreb

An interview with Russell Maroon Shoats on 
Democracy, Matriarchy, Occupy Wall Street, and Food Security

Posted on January 18, 2012
Interviewer: How would you define democracy?

Maroon: In it’s broadest sense – to me – 
democracy is the ability of the individual to 
exercise self-determination in the core areas of 
economics, education, entertainment, labor, law, 
politics, religion, sex, war and peace; taking 
under consideration the need to both support and 
guide children until they can responsibly exercise those things on their own.

If one falls victim to believing what Marimba Ani 
calls “rhetorical ethics,” (the practice that has 
held sway surrounding the word democracy) then 
you would dismiss my definition as superfluous. 
Nowadays, however, more of the masses, globally, 
are accepting the fact that except for a small 
minority, democracy is something they do not 
exercise in any of those core areas.

So the question we must ask ourselves is “How do 
we construct societies where the individual is 
able to broadly exercise self-determination?

Interviewer: Do you find the concept of democracy 
to be useful to popular movements?

Maroon: For the already mentioned reasons, the 
exercise of democracy/self-determination is 
paramount at every stage of a popular movement, 
and for such an effort to remain true to the word 
“popular.” After all, individuals usually feel a 
need to look out for their own interest, and to 
promote and support democracy/self-determination 
goes hand in hand with that need. If a popular 
movement deviates from that, then it too will 
fall into the practice of utilizing rhetorical 
ethics if it continues to call itself popular.

Interviewer: What was the relationship between 
democracy and the Black Panther Party?

Maroon: Here I’ll have to step on a lot of toes.

The Black Panther Party (BPP) – of which the 
Philadelphia Black Unity Council (my parent 
group) merged with in 1969 – was never a 
democratically run organization. It too used 
rhetorical ethics to justify its methods, both 
internally and to the public at large. It 
championed the Leninist vanguard party concept 
that had been used during the Russian struggle 
against the czar. Subsequent to that, close 
copies of those practices have spread throughout 
the world before the BPP adopted it. And I’ve 
been researching and studying those instances for 
about 40 years, and have yet to find a single 
vanguard party that really exercised what I have 
defined as democracy/self-determination.

Such groups have and continue to champion the 
establishing of popular movements – as I’ve 
defined them – but their motives are to try to 
control such movements and use them as a 
battering ram to weaken or defeat the state in 
order to give the vanguard party a chance to try 
to “seize state power,” and then set themselves 
up as a new ruling elite. The histories of 
vanguard parties leaves no doubt about that.

The BPP, however, was a youthful formation that 
served a historical service of giving youth of 
color – and later youth in general – an 
introduction to a form of radical politics that 
was little known to them. Little did they know 
that the methods they chose to use were 
contradictory to the ends they sought. Thus early 
on they began to experience the friction 
developed from members believing the rhetorical 
ethics the leadership relied on, and the 
leadership’s failure to act towards the 
rank-and-file democratically, within the 
traditional vanguard party “democratic centralist” organizational rules.

That force the BPP leaders to resort to using 
naked terror and violence – both internally and 
within the communities (see what the womyn BPP 
head wrote in her book: “A Taste of Power,” by 
Elaine Brown). Eventually that and the struggle 
to keep the state from destroying them (see the 
FBI’s COINTELPRO program of unlawful actions 
against the BPP), along with their youthful 
inexperience caused the original BPP to 
disintegrate, leaving members in prison, exiled, 
disillusioned and with shattered lives. Only a 
fraction of those former BPP members remain 
active in ways that justify their earlier sacrifices and efforts.

Unfortunately, newer BPP formations have not been 
provided with enough insight into this subject to 
help them fully weigh both the strengths and 
weaknesses of the original BPP. Indeed, some of 
the newer formations are hostile to any real 
critiques of the original BPP, a practice held in 
common with most Leninist vanguard parties historically.

To the rescue has come the multiple popular 
movements that the Arab Spring has thrown up: the 
Wisconsin state workers, Georgia and California 
prisoners’ actions, and Occupy Wall Street. Here 
we’re witnessing a promising trend that contains 
the seeds that can develop into a much-needed 
popular movement, that can be democratic and 
self-determining, and capable of challenging the 
minority for control in the already mentioned core areas.

Interviewer: Would you say you are a latecomer to the feminist movement?

Maroon: Yes! In fact, although I’ve been a 
committed activist since before the assassination 
of Martin Luther King in 1968, it has only been 
in the last 6 years that I’ve been awakened to 
the best of what feminism is, and the history of 
that movement. Moreover, I’m ashamed to admit 
that in that area I too have long practices a 
rhetorical ethic in paying lip service to the 
idea that since before 1968 I was struggling fro 
the uplift and freedom of all, while never fully 
grasping that my entire worldview was steeped in, 
and rested on patriarchal/male supremacist ideas, 
notions and practices, feminism’s opposite and mortal enemy.

My New York based comrade Fred Ho is the first 
person to put it all together for me. In the 
transcript of a speech I read, he had made an 
excellent case of how the ancient practice of 
matriarchy was once a widespread and egalitarian 
phenomenon, and why today we must again study how 
we can utilize some of those principles in order 
to address the ills that humynkind face today.

Nonetheless, I was so stuck-on-stupid until I 
continued in my male supremacist ways, 
incorporating Fred Ho’s ideas in a rhetorical 
ethic to hide my psychological conditioning, which I’ll explain.

It took the writings of Stan Goff, a former 
career military man (Special Forces, Rangers, 
Delta Team; Vietnam, Grenada, Somalia and other 
operations veteran) who had rejected the 
oppressive policies that he had spent his life 
defending, and adopted a form of radical politics 
and activism to get my full attention: such 
machismo is venerated within the patriarchal/male 
supremacist worldview. He was “my kind of guy.”

In Goff’s third book, Sex and War, he really got 
my interest by offering long and insightful 
quotes to bolster the points he was making, 
quotes by radical and feminist writers and 
activists. Passages so full of meaning until they 
stimulated me to begin to research the full works 
of the wimmin mentioned. Powerful feminists like 
Maria Mies, Vandana Shiva and Veronika 
Bennholdt-Thomsen; activists, scholars and 
grassroots organizers, with groundbreaking books 
like Ecofeminism (Mies and Shiva), Patriarchy and 
Accumulation on a World Scale: Women and the 
International Division of Labor (Mies), and The 
Subsistence Perspective: Beyond the Globalised 
Economy (Veronika Bennholdt-Thomsen and Maria 
Mies). Critiques that I’ve learned more from than 
most of what I thought the previous 25 years of 
study and activism had taught me. More 
importantly, those works and further study, 
reflection and discussions caused me to radically 
alter my worldview and political views.

Thus, when comrade Fred Ho and I recently go 
together, I was finally ready to join his 
efforts, which you too can examine by e-mailing 
<mailto:prefiguration at gmail.com>prefiguration at gmail.com.

Interviewer: What were the primary obstacles – 
psychological, social, or otherwise – to your 
being receptive to the feminist movement?

Maroon: Psychologically and socially – like most 
males – from birth I was conditioned and 
socialized to accept and even seek violent 
solutions to most problems: the pirates, cowboys 
and Indians, war movies, James Bond, gangsters, 
boxing, football, martial arts, hunting, and on 
and on. . . . Little boys get toy guns, toy 
soldiers, football gear and then “graduate” to 
get (or want) real guns and to go to war – with “somebody!”

Fred Ho and Maria Mies point out that for 
thousands of years men first bamboozled wimmin 
out of acquiring and maintaining the knowledge 
and tools (weapons) of the martial arts, before 
going on to subsequently use that knowledge and 
those weapons to totally subjugate wimmin and 
nature – the foundations upon which patriarchy rest.

Unknowingly, I became a member of that 
patriarchal cabal almost from birth, and remained 
a loyal member even after I thought I was 
struggling in the Black Panthers and Black 
Liberation Army for egalitarian ends. An effort 
that was destined to leave patriarchy/male 
supremacy in place, even if we were otherwise successful.

It is depressing to know that it took me over 60 
years to stumble upon a feminist who had the kind 
of “credentials” I could trust, in order to pay 
proper attention to: “macho” Stan Goff. 
Therefore, I believe that men – the more 
respected the better – were the best advocates to 
win other men over to feminist ideas and 
practices (Fred Ho and his comrades more 
correctly use the word matriarchy/matriarchal, 
but for this piece I’ll continue using feminist).

Finally, it’s my opinion that the leading 
feminist/matriarchy thinkers and activists are 
heads and shoulders above all others in offering 
up a worldview that we can utilize to help rescue 
ourselves and the environment from this worsening 
crisis we’ve allowed ourselves to be manipulated 
into. You too need to look into their ideas and programs.

Interviewer: What are the strengths and 
weaknesses of the Occupy Wall Street Movement?

Maroon: Occupy Wall Street (OWS) has brilliantly 
changed the narrative and relationships of 
opposing forces – not by the “occupations,” which 
by themselves could be equaled or even eclipsed 
by a number of other street demonstrations from 
the right and left (let’s not forget that Tea 
Party activists “occupied” venues for a while 
too). That’s not to belittle the beautiful and 
inspiring people of the OWS inspired occupations and related on-going actions.

OWS’s strategica strength and paradigm shifting 
breakthrough is encompassed in the awesome “We 
are the 99%” slogan. That alone instantly won to 
our side 99% of the inhabitants of the globe! A 
master stroke that forced the ruling minority 
into a defensive position that it will be 
extremely hard for them to get out of. Indeed, 
the ruling elites only responses have been to use 
police force, which leaves the OWS movement in 
control of the narrative, and those inspired by 
them are themselves thinking of ways that they too make their grievances known.

It’s like the rebellions (so-called “riots”) 
during “The long hot summers” of the 1960s: each 
rebellion fueled later rebellions, because the 
underlying conditions were so widespread until 
there was simply not enough police/national 
guards to fully repress them. The genie was only 
coaxed back into the bottle after billions of 
dollars were spent on social programs, with 
President Johnson’s “Great Society” being the best known.

Today, however, the ruling minority will be both 
unwilling and (finally) unable to fully co-opt 
the 99% financially, unless they commit “class 
suicide”; meaning, they would have to agree to 
reorder the system so radically, and give back so 
much of the wealth they’ve stolen until in the 
end they would have “killed the goose that laid the golden egg.”

The ruling minority won’t even accept the pleas 
of their more farsighted like Warren Buffet and 
Bill Gates, who see the handwriting on the wall, 
and are begging them to at least act like they 
care by paying their taxes . . . which is roundly 
ignored and ridiculed, the U.S.’s ruling elites 
equivalent to when Queen Marie Antoinette was 
told that the Paris masses ad no bread, responded 
“Then let them eat cake.” Or – nowadays – “Go to 
the mall and buy a flat-screen TV.”

Control of the narrative will continue to be the 
main strength of the OWS movement for the 
foreseeable future. But in order to effectively 
be more proactive OWS must address a glaring 
weakness. Namely the present physical disconnect 
between it’s activists and the exploited and 
super-exploited people of color – numbering in 
the tens of millions in the U.S. alone. A segment 
of this country that have always suffered more 
(per capita) than the rest of its 99%. I’ll not 
address how the global 99% breaks down in that 
regard, except to say that the global South has 
historically been at the bottom of the barrel in 
most respects. But I know the U.S. better, so 
I’ll address things here, and leave it to others 
to breakdown the situation elsewhere.

In the U.S. the people of color – except for a 
minority of rich and “middle class” individuals – 
are worse off than the rest of the 99% (per 
capita) in every category: homelessness, jobless, 
home foreclosures, lack of health insurance, 
newly diagnoses with HIV, deportations, 
immigrants homes broken up and separated, 
children in foster care, drug and crime ridden 
communities, imprisonment, probation or parolees, 
loss of voting rights and access to local, state 
and federal social welfare programs, horrible 
schools, forced to live in toxic communities, and the list goes on.

What’s important is OWS’s moral strength really 
rests on its avowed pledge to rescue this 
country’s vast “middle class” from further 
sliding backwards – into the poverty that the 
majority of the people of color find themselves 
in already. Yet, the middle class itself is not 
yet ready to take the steps that are necessary to 
pursue a protracted struggle to reach those ends. 
And the people of color have yet to see that it’s 
in their interests to hit the streets in mass in 
order to alter the class composition and goals of 
this movement. Most people of color view OWS as a 
“white thing,” or so I’ve been told, not 
recognizing that their mass participation is 
needed to help OWS mature into a true mass movement.

To complicate this lack of participation by the 
people of color is the failure of their 
traditional “leaders” to mobilize them behind 
OWS. A failure – I believe – is a product of 
these leaders’ egos: they feel a deep sense of 
jealousy and envy towards this young upstart 
movement, who have accomplished more in weeks 
than they have in the last three decades. And the 
hostility of OWS to the old charismatic 
leadership style – the “leaders” believe – 
threatens to make them useless; an extremely 
shortsighted calculation! In fact, their 
accumulated knowledge and experience could be 
invaluable if they would control their egos and 
begin to see themselves more as organic 
intellectuals than as the old style leaders that 
there was “some” justification for prior to the 
spread of modern communications, that the Arab 
Spring demonstrates makes that style superfluous, 
reactionary, and a drag on forward progress.

That said, it’s my belief that OWS and those 
traditional influential personalities within the 
people of color communities still desperately need each other!

In The Wretched of the Earth, Frantz Fanon tells 
us that during the Algerian independence struggle 
the forward elements of that effort initially 
believed they could bypass the traditional 
leaders amongst the oppressed and go directly to 
the masses with their compelling logic and 
arguments against the French colonial system. 
They failed, however, and were isolated, killed, exiled and imprisoned.

After studying things while in prison, they 
decided to seek the help of those leaders as a 
necessary compromise on their release; a position 
that later bore fruit, although both elements – 
the forward thinking fighters and the traditional 
leaders – continued to struggle to control the 
dynamics of the independence movement.

OWS – I believe – must pursue a similar strategy 
in order to acquire help in mobilizing the masses 
amongst the people of color in the United States. 
Simply because an influx (beyond the relatively 
small numbers we see) of people of color into the 
OWS movement will provide a bridge between the 
forward elements in OWS and that vast middle 
class that’s needed to be successful, but who 
have to be given time to realize they too must 
hit the streets. And the people of color will 
benefit by being in a position to educate OWS to 
the necessity of putting their needs and concerns 
“on the front burner” because they are the 
proverbial “canary in the coal mine”; meaning, 
whatever kills the canary will later kill the coal miners – if not attended to.

OWS must seek out not only the known influential 
individuals in the people of color communities, 
but also the smaller groups who are working for 
change. OWS can also launch their own initiatives 
in those communities – wherever that’s deemed possible and useful.

Interviewer: What are economic alternatives to 
the current domination of big banks, war 
profiteers, and the profit-drive system?

Maroon: On November 25,, 2011, on Democracy Now! 
“Occupy Everywhere: Michael Moore, Naomi Klein on 
the Next Steps for the Movement Against Corporate 
Power,” a similar question was raised: “How does 
the OWS movement move from the ‘outrage phase’ to 
‘the hope phase,’ and imagine a new economic 
model?” Both Michael Moore and Naomi Klein 
addressed that, but I just want to comment on a 
few things Naomi Klein said. Namely, that after 
the Seattle protests and the later hysteria, war 
and repression following 9/11, many radical 
activists had to “put their heads down and 
started building the economic alternatives to 
that model we were protesting in Seattle, 
Washington, in Genoa and around the world. . . . 
Now we have 10 years of those experiences.” She 
goes on to tick off many of them that I would 
encourage you to read about at: 

One aspect of the prefigurative work that strikes 
me as the bedrock is working towards food 
security. There’s no need to detail how fragile 
most people’s food acquisition is, as that 
relates to healthy food and terrible eating 
habits and subsequent poor health in this 
country. Suffice it to state that the majority of 
the 99% are on shaky ground there. Primarily 
because we are prisoners of the large 
corporations that dominate everything we eat. And 
they actually mass produce, process and sell 
foods that have been proven – over and over – to 
be like slowly drinking poison – profitable (for them) poison.

Thus, food security is designed to lessen our 
dependency on those corporations, making us 
healthier and saving money and bringing us back 
to a respect for nature in the process. After 
all, we can’t struggle as much as is needed if we 
are as sick as most of us find ourselves to be. 
Such an effort is already being carried out by 
the parent group of the prefigurative initiative 
that Fred Ho is a part of: Scientific Soul 
Sessions (SSS); at 
www.scientificsoulsessions.com. On of their 
guides to food security rests on the practice of 
Mel Bartholomew’s “square foot gardening.” (www.squarefootgardening.com)

SSS writes, “According to Bartholomew, for urban 
settings, four square feet is all that is needed 
to grow vegetable gardens to feed two adults 
year-round. Rooftops, sidewalks, parks, front and 
backyards; common areas of buildings could all 
become food growing sources with minimal 
alteration and costs. Indeed, children and the 
elderly could be organized to tend to such 
gardens, and thus enhance the curriculum of math, 
science and other fields in the tasks of farming.”

It is imperative, however, that one does not 
start to believe that such prefigurative efforts, 
or others not mentioned here, are “the answer” to 
what all will be needed to bring about the deep 
and broad-based changes needed in the 21st 
century. Such mistakes were made after the high 
tide of the 1960s/1970s era. And those who made 
that mistake allowed the exploiting minority a 
chance to study how better to hold on to their 
ill-gotten power and wealth, and now we all face 
a much more ruthless and sophisticated foe.

Thus, prefiguration must work hand-in-hand with 
broad-based movements to bring about the changes 
needed, and OWS is on the cutting edge of that side of the equation.

Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

415 863-9977

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