People’s Thanksgiving 2016 – FRSO speech by Frank Chapman
“Trump is the way backward. We are the way forward”
We are circulating the text of Frank Chapman’s Nov. 19 speech at Chicago’s 25th annual People’s Thanksgiving event, hosted Freedom Road Socialist Organization. Frank Chapman is a veteran of the Black Liberation Movement. He was a victim of wrongful imprisonment as a young man, and then, like Malcolm X, George Jackson and others, became politicized in prison. His release was won through a political struggle led Angela Davis. From 1981 through 1989, Frank was the executive director of the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression. In the past five years, he’s returned to that work, leading the campaign of the Chicago Alliance to win an elected, civilian police accountability council.
This past Thursday U.S. Senator Corey Booker, a Black American Democrat from New Jersey wrote: “This is not a time to curl up, give up or shut up. It is a time to get up; to stand up, to speak words that heal, help and recommit to the cause of our country…the searing heart reveals what we are made of.”
We can see that the people are taking to the streets and they are saying “not our president,” which is an expression of defiance, an uprising happening before our very eyes. Senator Corey may not see this uprising but we see it because we are a part of it.
The election of Donald Trump raises far more questions than it answers and given the subjective nature of politics too many people have too many answers based on the proposition that white people, and not just white workers, bought into Trump’s racist, scapegoating rhetoric. What was the message that Trump kept hammering home? It was that he would make America great again by ending all those policies of government that favor Black people, Latinos, Indigenous people, Arab and Muslim Americans, women, and the LGBTQ community. He promised that there would be mass deportations, especially of the immigrant Mexican people, and a ban on Muslim immigration. He also promised he would bring back jobs by making deals with international capital and focusing on rebuilding our country’s infrastructure.
Of course these are all lies perpetrated by Republican right-wing extremists for more than three decades now. But they are lies that speak to the fact that capitalism/imperialism in its present advanced state of decay is incapable of providing long term political policies addressing persistent economic decline for all working people, the nationally oppressed and the still colonized people of the world. Trump’s so-called populist politics is rooted in deceiving the white working class majority, and everyone else hard hit by the present economic crisis into thinking that the enemy is the poor welfare recipients, the Black and brown urban proletarians, the indigenous people, women, the LGBTQ community and the physically and mentally challenged.
Therefore, what can we expect from a Donald Trump in the White House? Well the first thing he said he will do is mass deportations, and there is no doubt in the immigrant communities that he is hell-bent on doing just that. Trump wasted no time in sending a clear message to Black people in that he has already appointed Jeff Sessions, a reputed racist and enemy of civil rights to be the next Attorney General of the United States.
We can expect more vicious attacks on the working class by attempting to pass national right to work legislation, oppose all efforts to get a minimum wage laws passed, get rid of the consumer protection act, further deregulate Wall Street, repeal Obamacare and lift the restrictions on medical prescriptions, cut taxes for the rich, etc. Under Trump’s rule, i.e. the rule of a rogue Wall Street baron, we can expect the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer. And all this could be enforced by a kind of political thuggery that was only glimpsed during Trump’s campaign for president.
We can expect Trump to escalate racist and political repression to unprecedented levels. The overriding character of all his policies is complete, utter contempt for civil liberties and civil rights. He is 100% in backing police tyranny in our communities. Whereas now we see mainly the killing, beating, arresting and torture of Black and Latino people, Trump will probably apply all these same brutal practices to his political enemies. In fact during his campaign Trump encouraged beating and arresting protesters at his rallies.
We could go on with these dismal expectations but we will not. We are not waiting on Trump. We have been fighting back and we will continue to fight back but even more so. Now more than ever we must wage a relentless struggle for the freedom of Rasmea Odeh and continue our unconditional support for the liberation of Palestine; now more than ever we must build our solidarity with the Filipino people in their struggle against U.S. imperialism. We must make new strides in building our solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux and other indigenous Americans in their courageous struggles against the oil companies. Now more than ever we must continue to fight for trade union democracy – as we have seen recently with the Teamsters, and greater class consciousness in the trade union movement.
The peoples’ movement is growing and has been growing for years and will grow even more. But in this period the social movements driven by class struggle, the fight against racism and national oppression and the world-wide struggles against imperialism are about to explode. The period of gradual development characterized by piecemeal reforms and endless concessions to the capitalist bosses and their lackeys is over and will be quickly followed by a more radical movement demanding systemic changes that will empower the people. We see manifestations of this qualitatively new revolt in all the various strands of the peoples’ movements. We see it in Standing Rock with the indigenous people, in Chicago with the Chicago Teachers Union, we see it in the Airport workers of O’Hare getting ready to strike, and we see it most of all in the new upsurge in the Black liberation movement which is rising up and demanding power so that we ourselves can put an end to our oppression.
It is in this spirit of rebellion that we will be marching on the Magnificent Mile to Boycott Black Friday. We have been engaged in this city for decades fighting for community control of the police. For Black and Brown people the police are the cutting edge of mass incarceration. We have lived under police-state-like conditions for decades being killed, tortured and wrongfully convicted with impunity. Even before Trump got elected we drew this line in the sand, making it absolutely clear that we will fight until we are free.
Trump hopes to reduce us to a level where we just fight to exist.
Accommodation means fighting to merely exist under the regime of oppression. Taking the path of rebellion and revolution means fighting to exist in order to resist and overthrow your oppressors. The first is the lowest level of political consciousness and the latter is the highest level of political consciousness.
As revolutionaries and organizers we believe in the power of the people and the working class in particular to bring about radical change. We believe in the power of the people to not only overturn the existing order of things, but to create a new order without class exploitation, sexual oppression and racial and national oppression.
We face this current attempt by the enemies of the people to destroy our movement not with fear and trepidation but with iron clad determination to agitate, educate, organize and fight back!