[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
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 its 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 Ill 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 Ive
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 Ive
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
leaderships 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
FBIs 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
were 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 Ive been a
committed activist since before the assassination
of Martin Luther King in 1968, it has only been
in the last 6 years that Ive been awakened to
the best of what feminism is, and the history of
that movement. Moreover, Im 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, feminisms 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 Hos ideas in a rhetorical
ethic to hide my psychological conditioning, which Ill 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 Goffs 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 Ive 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 Ill continue using feminist).
Finally, its 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 weve 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 (lets not forget that Tea
Party activists occupied venues for a while
too). Thats not to belittle the beautiful and
inspiring people of the OWS inspired occupations and related on-going actions.
OWSs 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.
Its 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 Johnsons 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 theyve stolen until in the
end they would have killed the goose that laid the golden egg.
The ruling minority wont 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 its 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%. Ill 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
Ill 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.
Whats important is OWSs moral strength really
rests on its avowed pledge to rescue this
countrys 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 its
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 Ive 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, its 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 thats 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 thats 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. Theres no need to detail how fragile
most peoples 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 cant 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 Bartholomews 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.
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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