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People’s Thanksgiving 2017 - FRSO speech by Frank Chapman

By staff |
December 8, 2017
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Frank Chapman
Frank Chapman (Fight Back! News/staff)

We are circulating the text of Frank Chapman’s Dec. 3 speech at Chicago’s 26th annual People’s Thanksgiving event. Frank Chapman is a veteran of the Black Liberation Movement and a leading member of Freedom Road Socialist Organization.

Good evening comrades and friends,

Here we are coming together again to pay tribute to those who are fighting on the front lines for democracy, peace and socialism. Let us take a moment to clarify what we mean by the struggle for democracy, peace and socialism.

In the United States of North America is still believed by many to be the cradle of democracy for the modern world. Why? Because over 200 years ago a group of slave holders, landlords and capitalist merchants wrote a Declaration of Independence declaring that “All men are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Women were obviously excluded, for they did say and mean men. But they did not mean all men - they meant white men with property. They didn’t mean white indentured servants or property-less white people whose sole existence depended on the demand for labor, on the changing state of business and vicissitudes of the market place. They did not mean Black people who were chattel bought and sold in the market place like any other commodity and counted among the livestock and beast of burden on the plantation. And after they successfully carried out a revolutionary war against King George of England they established a limited democracy, a federation of slave holding and non-slave holding states that rested on land stolen from indigenous people.

It took another revolution, the Civil War, to settle once and for all the question of chattel slavery, the institutionalized practice of buying and selling human beings as property. The immediate fruits of this revolution were to usher in the most radical, democratic decade in the history of the U.S., wherein Black people were empowered politically, backed up by an armed Black militia, to claim their freedom and settle accounts with their former masters. Many of the gains of Reconstruction, like public education and elimination of property qualifications in voting, are still with us. But for the most part counter-revolution was triumphant in 1877 and out of the ashes of this short-lived democratic revolution arose the present-day system of institutionalized racism and national oppression that holds Black people in bondage.

This successful counter revolution justified by white supremacy and carried out by state-sanctioned terrorism historically set the tone for the struggle for democracy in the U.S. And it was able to do so because this republic was born out of land theft from the indigenous people and the congenital blood stain from the enslave of the African people.

Today the struggle for democracy is not only about overcoming the vestiges of slavery and the unbridled competition that keeps workers bond in wage-slavery. Today the struggle is about defending the democratic rights of the people to organize and struggle for democracy, peace and socialism.

What constitutes the driving force in the struggle for democracy? Is it freedom of the press, conscience, speech, assembly, the right to vote and due process? As important as these liberties are there is no mass struggles focused on them.

What then constitutes the heartbeat of the struggle for democracy is the fight for community control of the police, for an all elected Civilian Police Accountability Council. Until we have community control of the police we have no power to stop, on a daily basis, murder, torture and mass incarceration. The police, the jails and the prisons are the principal agents of racist and political repression in this moment of history and are therefore, the greatest violators of the democratic rights of the people to organize and protest against status quo. The only way to turn this around is that we the people hold the police accountable. And the democratic vehicle for this is an all elected Civilian Police Accountable Council.

This struggle is key to the survival of our movements. My comrades in the Freedom Road Socialist Organization are a living testament to this fact. For their participation in peace and solidarity movements they were targeted as terrorists by the FBI and threatened with indictments and imprisonment. Of course, the FBI was lying and falsely accusing us but nonetheless they are still holding this threat over our heads.

In the Rasmea Odeh case we have another living testament. Rasmea was targeted by Homeland Security because of her courageous and outstanding work supporting Palestinian women victimized by Israeli military aggression and deprived of their homeland rights. For standing with her people she was prosecuted and deported. The Rasmea Odeh case is clearly the government’s declaration of war against peace movements in solidarity with national liberation struggles against imperialism. We were attacked but FRSO, in unity with the Chicago Alliance, the USPCN and others, stood up and fought back. We kept Rasmea out of prison by putting the U.S, government on trial and building a mass movement in her defense.

As we continue to build a mass movement in defense of our democratic rights, as we continue to heighten and deepen our struggle for community control of the police we see the attacks against the immigrant community with the federal and local police being the cutting edge of mass deportations. So, we must raise the question what does it mean to have a sanctuary city, with rogue, racist cops who kill and trample on the rights of the people with impunity? It means you have what Rahm Emanuel is proposing, namely, a sanctuary city in form but still a city of police tyranny in content. The immigrant community must become united with the Black community in their demand for community control of the police. Together we can stop the ICE raids and the police tyranny in our communities.

We also seeing in this moment the FBI and Homeland Security gearing up to attack the Black Lives Matter Movement with their characterization of it being ‘Black Identity Extremist.’ Clearly this is setting the stage to use the police as battering ram against the Black Liberation movement. Again, our response must be to intensify the struggle for CPAC, to build a movement that is so powerful and mass based that victory becomes inevitable.

We can do this, and the proof is the recent exoneration of some 19 victims of police crimes and torture and a dozen who have been recently set free. The States Attorney Kim Foxx is not just another states attorney caught in the noose of corruption and dancing to the tune of the FOP. No, she’s not! She has publicly endorsed CPAC and she has called Chicago the torture capital of the U.S. Our movement must take full responsible for this because we are responsible for it. These are clear indications that we can make victory inevitable by keeping on the path we are on.

We believe the struggle for peace is of paramount importance at a time when the White House is the main perpetrator of wars and the rumor of wars today. Our pathway to the struggle for peace must be clear. We must stand in unconditional solidarity with the oppressed nations and people who are fighting against U.S. imperialism for their liberation. We support all the various anti-imperialist, national liberation movements because it is our duty as Marxist-Leninists, as internationalists, to stand in solidarity with them and to demand that the U.S. accept their demands for peace and freedom. Free Palestine, get out of the Philippines, hands off Libya, Zimbabwe, Southern Africa and all of Africa. Cease and desist in the undermining of democracy in Venezuela and all of Latin America. We are not confused; we stand united with the oppressed people of the world against all forms of imperialist domination and wars of aggression.

We are also not confused about the need to fight for socialism. In the last presidential election candidate Bernie Sanders raised the question of socialism. We got a lot of class analysis during Bernie’s campaign. There was lots of talk about the billionaire class and their crimes against the people, about how in 2007-08 we experienced the greatest transfer of wealth in U.S. history form the working class to the banks, about how we’ve got the best congress and best elections money can buy and so forth and so on.

Class analysis, as profound as it may be, does not lead to socialism. It is class conscious, class struggle that leads to socialism, and the class struggle is heating up as the crisis of capitalism deepens. As the government continues, like with the latest tax law, to play Robin Hood in reverse taking from the poor and giving to the rich.

It is our job as communists to spread the doctrine of the conditions of the liberation of the proletariat which Engels described as “That Class in society which lives entirely from the sale of its labor and does not draw profit from any kind of capital; whose weal and woe, whose life and death, whose sole existence demands on the demand for labor - hence, on the changing state of business...”

Due to the changing state of business our conditions either improves or worsens. And as long as the capitalist bosses own and control the means of production that is how it’s going to be. Class-conscious workers are those workers who are no longer fighting to become better fed and better clothed slaves, they are those workers who are fighting for abolition of wage-slavery so that our economic conditions are no longer determined by the need for profit of the capitalist bosses.

Freedom Road Socialist Organization sees and accepts the centrality of the struggle for Black liberation and the liberation of all the nationally oppressed people under the tutelage and rule of the U.S. Our organization can only develop as a class conscious, revolutionary organization by standing in unconditional solidarity with the Black Liberation movement. The fight against racism, white supremacy is essential to developing a class conscious working-class movement capable of bringing socialism to this country.

In concluding I want to appeal to our friends here in OCAD, CTU and the rest of labor to join in united actions with FRSO and the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression and Black Lives Matter because we are on the cutting edge of the struggle against white supremacy and the war declared against our people by the Trump administration. We invite you to join us at a summit table we are calling for Jan. 24 next year so that we can collectively explore ways in which our various movements can be united so as to increase our strength and capacity to muster and organize our people forces to meet the challenges we presently face so we can pave the road to victory.

I also want to make a special appeal to Black, Latino, Palestinian, Filipino, Asian and any and everyone from an oppressed community or nation to join Freedom Road and become a part of a great revolutionary struggle to rid humankind of the scourge of capitalism which daily increases our misery and threatens the existence of everything living on our planet. Workers and oppressed peoples of the world must unite, for we have nothing to lose but our chains and a world to gain.

All Power to The People!