January 24, 1969--the Eastown Ballroom - Detroit - young drummer Scott Bailey of the powerful Up ends his set by sending a torrent of little Red Books (Quotations from Chairman Mao Tsetung) into the writhing audience. The assembled sisters and brothers snatch them up and holler and scream for more, to the sound of the crashing drums. . .
Amerika's children are getting hip to all the lies we've been force-fed all this time by teachers, parents, politicians, TV-the list is endless. We've been lied to about the war: but people are learning the truth and want the war to stop. They lied to us about grass; but we know what the real deal is with grass and we want these stupid, repressive laws against marijuana abolished. They lied to us about China, telling us that China was that little island in the Pacific Ocean and the rest of it didn't even exist. The Amerikan government, visible or invisible, has done a good job of preventing any news about the real China from getting to the Amerikan people. Instead they have filled their honkoid newspapers with horror stories and their own fearful fantasies. What we know about China, little as it is, does not frighten us, but makes us just curious about what's really going on there.
While it was in progress, real information about the Cultural Revolution in China and the Red Guards was very sketchy. The image we had was that of thousands and millions of young people leaving their homes and roaming the country, attacking bureaucracy and degrade, wherever they went, trying to get to Peking and maybe getting to see the Chairman in the flesh. Finally Chairman Mao had to issue a statement telling these millions of young people that it was f out of them to come to Peking to see him, but that it would help the revolution more if they returned to their own communities and worked there among their own people, to bring about the Cultural Revolution. The CIA tried to spread all kinds of rumors about the Red Guards going around beating people up and murdering and pillaging, but young people greeted these reports with the same skepticism they would anything coming from the CIA.
In 1967 in Amerika young people were doing the same thing. They weren't consciously setting out saying: Let's have a cultural revolution in Amerika right now! but that 's exactly what went down. They were leaving their homes in the thousands, sick and tired of the empty life-style of their parents, and drove, hitch-hiked, or flew across the country to San Francisco. They gave up school, jobs, private property, security and came to San Francisco to create a new society based on loving and sharing and living communally. The main attraction, like Chairman Mao in Peking, were the Jefferson Airplane, the Greatful Dead, Big Brother and the Holding Co. , Quicksilver Messenger Service, etc. But the Summer of Love couldn't go on forever in just San Francisco. There was nobody there to tell the hippies to go back home and start organizing and bringing about the new society in their own communities. But when the Haight-Ashbury became too degrade, and dangerous to live in, many of them left and went back home to Nebraska, Indiana, or Detroit, Michigan. They kept their hair long, went right on smoking grass, started bands of their own, and created a "hip" scene right in their own home town. The cultural revolution spread rapidly to all parts of the country, helped along by the mass media who called this the "love generation" and featured pages and pages of pictures on the hippies in all their weirdness, which only served to spread the message.
1968: No Summer of Love for Amerika's children: Thousands beaten and tear-gassed in Chicago; thousands put in jail for smoking weed (a quarter of a million are in jail for marijuana right now); thousands kicked out of school for having long hair. In 1967 the mass media looked on the "hippies" as a fad. By 1968 they realized that this was not just another fad, but was a whole new generation of young people that would never follow in their parents foot-steps. Something was happening here, but Mr. Jones, or Mr. Johnson, did not know what it was and began cracking heads and came down hard on this new threat to his empire. The people realized that they couldn't just "turn on, tune in, and drop out" and everything would be alright. They knew that they had to do something to save and protect their emerging life culture and started studying and organizing themselves.
We started checking out the Black Panther Party. Reading Eldridge Cleaver's book Soul on Ice blew us away. Brother Eldridge ran down in there how it was Rock 'n Roll music that first started white people on the road towards rediscovering their own bodies; the beginning of the end of 2000 years of Western civilization with its separation of mind and body.
"So Elvis Presley came, strumming his weird guitar and wagging his tail across the continent. . . sowing seeds of a new rhythm and style in the white souls of the white youth of Amerika, whose inner hunger and need was no longer satisfied with the antiseptic white shoes and whiter songs of Pat Boone...Bing Crosbyism, Perry Comoism, and Dinah Shoreism had led to cancer, and the vanguard of the white youth knew it. " (p. 195). . . They came from every level of society, from top to bottom. . . feeling exhilaration and soothing new sensations, release from some unknown prison in which their bodies had been encased, a sense of freedom they had never known before, a feeling of communion with some mystical root-source of life and vigor, from which sprang an awareness and enjoyment of the flesh, a new appreciation of the possibilities of their Bodies. "
That was us Brother Eldridge was talking about. We had acid running through our brains and we knew he was right.
We started checking out the teachings of Huey P. Newton, In an interview with the Movement newspaper Huey ran down how it was time for white people in the movement to stop trying to organize in the black community. Black people weren't the problem. And the only people who could organize white people were other white people.
We took that advice literally. We had already been trying to organize hippies with everything we were doing, but without any organization and any plan. So in the fall of 1968 the White Panther Party formed. The party at first had little resemblance to any other political organization in this country or on the face of this planet for that matter. In the first statement issued by the party John Sinclair said, "We are LSD-driven total maniacs of the universe. We will do anything we can to drive people crazy out of their heads and into their bodies."
Some brothers from the BPP came down hard on us for our lack of knowledge of revolutionary theory and history. They told us that if we wanted to call ourselves revolutionaries and call ourselves the WPP we would have to study and learn the language of revolution. That made sense to us and we finally started opening up our little Red Books (which up until that time we had just carried around with us as a fad) and started relating to its content. When we were all hippies in 1967 many of us had the I Ching, the book of Eastern Wisdom, to guide our lives from day to day. Now, sitting around stoned on grass or acid, reading the Red Book together, it seemed to us that the teachings of Mao Tse-tung were nothing but the wisdom of the I Ching put in a political context and made more usable. It blew our minds and made us check it out closer and closer.
The language of the Red Book as well as other theoretical texts might be a stumbling block for people like us who are trying to become more illiterate and non linear. But terms like "communism" do not turn us off like they do honkies. It's only "common" sense to live "communally" in our "communities" and old dogmatic creeps in business suits who call themselves members the "Communist Party" have nothing to do with it except to give real communism a bad name. For a while we were thinking of asking Brother Ed Sanders of the famous Fugs to translate the Red Book into peoples language so that any kid could understand and dig on it. But that might not be necessary anymore. Just dig this selection from the Quotations from Chairman Mao:
There is an ancient Chinese
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fable called "The Foolish Old Man Who Removed the Mountains". It tells of an old man who lived in northern China long, long ago and was known as The Foolish Old Man of North Mountain. His house faced south and beyond his doorway stood the two great peaks. Taihang and Wangwu, obstructing the way. With great determination, he led his sons in digging up these mountains hoe in hand. Another grey-beard, known as the Wise Old Man, saw them and said derisively, "How silly of you to do this ! It is quite impossible for you few to dig up these two huge mountains. " The Foolish Old Man replied, "When I die, my sons will carry on; when they die, there will be my grandsons, and then their sons and grandsons, and so on to infinity. High as they are, the mountains cannot grow any higher and with every bit we dig, they will be that much lower. Why can't we clear them away?" Having refuted the Wise Old Man's wrong view, he went on digging every day. unshaken in his conviction. God was moved by this, and he sent down two angels, who carried the mountains away on their backs. Today, two big mountains lie like a dead weight on the Chinese people. One is imperialism, the other is feudalism. The Chinese Communist Party has long made up its mind to dig them up. We must persevere and work unceasingly, and we, too, will touch God's heart. Our God is none other than the masses of the Chinese people. If they stand up and dig together with us, why can't these two mountains be cleared away ? (page 201)
That's so far out! I don't see how we could improve on it.
There are a lot of paper revolutionaries running around who have read all the "right" books and can talk and argue about theory from morning to midnight. But when it comes down to putting this theory into practice, they don 't know how to go about it. They might quote Mao saying "the people are the real heroes," but when it comes down to it, they show nothing but contempt for the masses or sometimes they don't even know who the "masses" really are. All the theory in the world is wasted if it is not applied in practice. But the practice has to come first. Theories can only be formed out of practical experience. These theories then have to be applied and tested. If they work, the theories must be correct. That is the only way of testing them. This we learn from Mao.
Our theory must be based on objective reality. Just studying books about revolutions in other countries and then trying to make that knowledge fit into our own situation doesn't work and will only lead us to the wrong conclusions. When we check out history we find out that the revolution in Russia was made by the industrial proletariat--the factory workers. The predominant theory was that revolutions could only be made by this group. Mao studied the Russian revolution, but objective reality in his own country showed him that the theory did not fit his own situation. There hardly was a proletariat in China at that time. The peasants were the most revolutionary class. So Mao took the principles of the Russian revolution and adapted them to the specific situation in China and led the revolution to victory. Mao didn't even get any support from the Russians. Stalin, for instance, supported reactionary Chiang Kai-shek and not Mao. But Mao knew exactly what he was doing because he lived and worked among the people. His theory grew directly out of his practice.
One of the things that we as westerners have to learn from studying the Red Book is new methods of thinking. For over 2000 years people in the West have thought in abstract terms. Chinese thinking is much closer to reality than ours. Chinese language is still a picture language. The Chinese character for man for instance, is still a picture showing a man. In all Western languages the written word is an abstraction from the sound of the word which is a double abstraction from reality. Ever since "classical" times all knowledge has been categorized and classified and abstracted. Schools today are the perfect example of this kind of mis-education. All knowledge is divided into unrelated subjects which are almost completely divorced from each other. In reality there is no separation possible between the geography of a place from its history, economics or sociology. Schools themselves are separated from the reality of everyday life of the student and separated from the community. When students try to become active in changing reality around them, they first have to educate themselves and get rid of all the useless knowledge that burdens their minds and keeps them from relating to things and people as they are in reality and not in their textbooks.
People in the west are not brought up to think dialectically, e. g. in terms of constant change. We are told that things are the way they are because " they have always been that way." Or things "will never be different." "There will always be wars," etc. etc. Most people believe in change only in quantitive terms. That is that they will think that things can get better or worse, but never completely different. This leads to the belief that revolution in this country is impossible. The invention of LSD in the west changed all that. Acid teaches us that anything is possible. The so-called experts, the ones that have never tried it tell us that acid causes brain damage. Acid has some effect on the brain, that 's for sure, but it isn't damage. It's change. Once you have begun thinking dialectically, once you have broken through to the other side, it's impossible to ever go back to the old way of thinking and looking at reality. Once people have grasped the theory of evolution, they'll never again be able to believe rationally that the earth was created in 7 days by God. Because of centuries of thinking in terms of static, unchanging conditions, it took a long time before the theory of evolution was understood and accepted in the west. As late as 1954 a teacher in Kentucky was arrested for teaching Darwin's theory of evolution in school. My own grandfather, who died in 1944, believed to his death that the earth was flat and that it was the center of the universe.
Studying Mao does not make us Maoists. That is even a contradiction in terms. It does show us that we have to study our own history, our new culture, and base our theories on our own real-life experiences. We have to learn from our spiritual ancestors, the American Indians. We must learn to unify our people around their common needs, because once we unite our own people, we'll be able to unite with revolutionary peoples all over the planet and dissolve all unnatural boundaries.
From Mao we can learn that a revolution is not made in a few days, or even a few years--it took the Chinese Communist Party several decades of careful, painstaking work before they were together enough to turn the government over to the people. Revolution in this country will take a long time-we can't have one until all the people in this country who are scared of the word revolution now lose their fear and come over to our side. Which shows that our most important task right now is to educate the people as to who their real enemy is and to who their real friends are. That's gonna be slow, hard, careful work.
Most importantly, Mao teaches us that revolution is possible. He has proven it in his country of 800 million people-and that feat is a continuing source of inspiration to all people struggling against the old social order on this planet. Not only possible, but inevitable. So, dare to struggle, dare to win, or Kick Out the Jams, motherfucker!
Minister of Education
White Panther Party