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Interview With Linda On Disbanding The

Interview With Linda On Disbanding The image Interview With Linda On Disbanding The image
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M People who have lived in Ann ArK f borfor some time, or who have folV lowed the progress of this newspaper V since its inception, know tlwt rlie acitvM I itics of the Rainbow 'copie 's Party have concretely affected the local situation in marty respects over the years. The RPP, spearheaded by its founder, John Sinclair, was responsible, working with many others, for the overthrowing of Michigan 's marijuana law three years ago and its replacement with a much more lenient statute. The organization plaved a major mie in the 1972 victories ofHRP's Nancy Wechsler and Jerry DeGrieck, ran the first Michigan a Initiative, began the flrst local food coop, helped secure the free parks program, worked to start Rainbow Multi-Media, which produces the Blues and Jazz Festivals, began the Ann Arbor SUN, and much more. Be f ore that, the RFP fiad several predecessors. Sinclair fint formed the non-proflt Artists' Workshop ■ erative in 1964, which served as a gathering place for Detroit 's first new age poets and jazz musicians. Next carne the more mass-oriented Trans-Love Energies, which ran the Grande Ballroom, managed the MC5, and otherwise helped to fuel the late sixties cultural explosión. Trans-Love then trans formed int o the White Panther Party, a more expressly political organization, which evolved into the Rainbow People 's Party while Sinclair was in prison on a 10-year rap for two joints. But the Rainbow People 's Party has been disbanded now for several months. In the interview which follows, ex-RPP members Sinclair and Linda Ross, who both now work in Rainbow Multi-Media, explain what happened to their organization. SUN: What was the Rainbow People's Party, what did it exist for, and why didn't it work out? John: Well, I think the first thing we should say about it is that it isn't a case of failure or of an irreversible loss, or even - again I'm trying to keep in mind the problem with simply saying it didn't work. We think it didn't work because we didn't do it right. To set the context for talking about the RPP's shortcomings and failures, we would say basically that it was a premature political formation. We still believe the ideas behind it were right, the goals are right, and we see ourselves very clearly as continuing the same work in a different form - trying to find a form that fits the time. SUN: What are these goals and this work that the RPP set out to accomplish? John: Well, iust the traditional goals of cialists, which is to replace the capitalist economie system and the social order that derives from it with a socialist and communalistic - communist, if you will -- economie order, social order and culture. That s basically what our goaJs are and what we're working towards. The questions that are involved really are strategie and tactical in nature. In other words the RPP was following a certain strategy up to a certain point, and had tremendous problems withit . So we had to stop to analyze it, take apart what we were doing and look at it like you'd take apart a car engine to see what was wrong. Linda: See, the type of organization the RPP was trying to be is an extremely advanced form, one certainly beyond our own capabilities at the time. We were trying to have an organization of people who were each as responsible as the other person, ajl supposedly self-motivated with love for other people, selflessness, and working for others. We supposedly shared everything equally, no private property -- all the money that came in did actually go into one central fund, and everybody, -- you know, "from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs." Bu at that point in time, with the people who were involved, it was just not workable. John: You know, you need a stable economie base in order to support people doing political work, which does not bring in any economie return, like organizing various cooperative forms or participating in community service organizations, or working in electoral politics or what have you. Linda: And what happened was that we overstepped ourselves, and had 25 sincere, but unequipped people participating in numerous community organizations, expecting them to act in leadership positions. While sending people out to do all these tasks, we didn't have any economie base of steady income, or any central organization -- John: We didn't have any organizational skills at all, just ideas. That was another big part of it. I'd never even been to a meeting before I went to the penitentiary! I had all this revolutionary theory I'd read in books while in prison, and I was just determined it was gonna be easy. But then you come out and realize that you aren't just dealing with figures on paper, you're dealing with human beings who have been destroyed by imperialism. Who have been brainwashed by the American educa tional system. Linda: What happened was, through the SUN and just talking to people, RPP members would lay on other people the intensity of their own political trip, but wouldn't follow up with the concrete steps that would have shown people that they knew what they were doing, and that's the criterion. John: After winning people over to the rap, Linda: The type of organization the RPP was trying to be was beyond our own capabilities at the time. We didn't have any .economie base, or any I central organization. and having them say: "Yeah, right, I understand, let's see ya do it," they'd still be standing there rapping, lighting another joint. Linda: So much of it was in the realm of beautiful ideas, but there was no core to it. Like you could read about a Tribal Council but you couldn't particípate in it, because there really was no organization at all. You could get food through the Produce Coop, which we started -- John: But that was basically unorganized as well. We were dealing with highly sophisticated tasks and highly unsophisticated people. On the other hand -- see, I have to keep looking at it from the other side as well - when you're looking at the enormity of what was attempted, it was a heavy trip. I think in some years people will come to appreciate the enormity of the trip that was attempted, and the changes that we went through behind it. Because we worked to put a collection of ideas into actual practice right away - I mean I wrote all this stuff and published it openly in the SUN and elsewhere, and I meant it all, and I still mean it and try to figure out how to implement it. I could keep on blowing it every week in the SUN, but there's lots of people who agree with it now, and they don't need another rap - they need to figure out how to get their food and everything else another way. But to do that you're talking about organized activity carried on by disciplined people who will subordínate their personal desires, that are inflated every moment by the mass media in this country, and instead concéntrate on those things that they see clearly have to be done. Linda: It's a harder task than anyone ever imagined when they got the idea . . . John: And also nowhere near as spectacular. SUN: Well, you lived in a kind of way that very few people live in now being economicaÜy communal, everyone taking care of the kids . . . John: We still live that way. That's what one means by trying to implement one's ideas, That's what the Party was, an attempt to put into practice our ideas on how to help a community organize itself into a comprehensive collection of alternative institutions. The key word in the formula is "organize." Because what we're up against is a highly organized, technologically driven system that extends into every area of ple's lives just like the other system does. In other words, if a certain way of producing and distributing goods is proposed by the established order -- Linda: You have to have an alternative which people can see working with them on their everyday survival problems here in America. Because getting rid of capitalism means you have to be more highly organized, better prepared, and more knowledgeable than the very capitalists themselves in order to defeat them at anything. John: Especially because you're starting out without any capital at all. And you are starting out without the skills, resources, machinery, knowledge or the ence that they have. And you gotta compete with them on their own territory, because all this territory is theirs. It isn't ours. We don't control it. SUN: Yeah, you're lucky you're even on the streets . . . John: I've been locked up, so I appreciate what an achievement it is not to be. It took a lot of work. But that's what you're up against. And the first lesson that you learn is that you have to deal with society the way it is, because . . . Linda: That's the way it ís, so that : is where you start. See, there's really sort of an attitude among people who have decided they want to forget capitalist society, [ and all those values, they want to get away from it and in doing that they reject the whole thing -- schedules, organization - and instead go completely the other way. And they think in their own individual lives if they get as far away from it as possible that's how they're gonna defeat it, but in reality ... John: In reality, nobody's free until everybody's free.There isn't any individual freedom in a society that's enslaved. Linda: And the way to get rid of it is to jump right into it rather than running away from it. John: And struggle with it. Get more disciplined, take control of more territory 1 y than they do, and créate a better systemX i jinking up with those people around the planet who have instituted better systems 1 and are trying to perfect them. And that means entering into and transforming the existing institutions in society because they exist and affect everyone's lives, and it also means creating humanistic alternative institutions which deal with people's needs in a different way from the capitalist way, and as they become successful, attract more people to the ity of doing things in an alternative way. At the time we're referring to, a year and a half ago, we were engaged in an all-out effort to do all this with maybe 25 to 40 people at different times. But we ran into our own internal ions, Continued on page L 22. John: I had all this revolutionary theory and history Vd read while in the penitentiary , and was just determined it was gonna be easy .