An Interview with Workers World Party VP candidate Lamont Lilly

by Jim Brash, North Star editorial board on June 16, 2016

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TNS: Why and how were you selected to be Monica Moorehead’s running mate? I was selected I was told by my comrades based on my enthusiasm to reach out to the youth fighting police brutality, the workers fighting for $15 an hour and a union and for everyone in this country and around the world who are looking to change the system. I am most interested in reaching out to those who do not know about the kind of revolutionary politics out there that can shed a light in the darkness.

TNS: — How long have you been with WWP?

I’ve been a member of Workers World Party now since 2012. Funny, it’s only been five years, but it seems like a lifetime. I’ve learned so much. And I’ve grown by leaps and bounds in reference to how I think, politically—in reference to how I view myself as a tool of the people—in reference to how I conceptualize the broader movement.

When the Occupy Wall Street Movement mounted in September 2011, I was fortunate enough to be there in Zuccotti Park. Around the same time, about a month after Occupy first erupted, Workers World Party was hosting its national conference in The Bronx. During the conference, Workers World organizers facilitated youth brigades to participate in Occupy, in the process of reimagining a world without capitalism, a world without racism, driven by greed and exploitation. It was almost euphoric. Without a doubt, being there changed my life.

In the party, I saw a wealth of wisdom, passion and experience. There were veteran freedom fighters of past movements. There was Black and Brown leadership. There were youth and women. There were LGBTTNS: comrades. Most importantly, everyone I saw in the party was living in real-life what they were reading and teaching. That was it for me. I knew exactly where I wanted to be.

TNS: — Types of community activism worked on? Results?

Wow, that’s a full TNS question. What struggle haven’t I been involved in? I say that because unfortunately, the material conditions in this country have been shaped in manner that they have only worsened, particularly for African American, Latino and working class communities. Just last year alone, I was in Baltimore organizing around state violence and police terror, in Boston organizing with bus driver union Local 8751, and in Oakland organizing around both police terror and gentrification. I also traveled to Syria and Lebanon last year bridging the gap between oppressed people worldwide, because the same bombs being dropped on Libya and Syria, are the same bombs being dropped on Mike Brown and Sandra Bland. The same imperialist tanks and teargas used on the oppressed people of Palestine have the same effect in Ferguson and Baltimore. I was also in Charleston, SC last year organizing around the Emmanuel 9. When Sister Bree Newsome scaled that flag pole, removing a confederate symbol of hate, it was a victory for us all, especially for Black folk in the U.S. South.

Back home in Durham NC, our work there hasn’t stopped since the vicious police assault of Stephanie Nickerson back in 2012. Though Nickerson was the person who was beaten, battered and brutalized, it was Nickerson who was charged with “resisting arrest.” Not only did we as local organizers get her charges dropped,  we made sure that the assailant officer was removed from local duty. After Nickerson, it was Jesus Huerta, the 17 year old Latino student murdered by the Durham police while handcuffed in the back of a sTNS:uad car. Shortly after, it was Jose Ocampo and Derek Walker, all murdered by Durham police. In the case of Carolos Riley Jr., a young black man charged with shooting officer who in

actuality was defending himself. We organized for five years on that case, winning a battle and losing a battle. At the same time, we’ve also been organizing against gentrification. Durham’s old Black Wall Street is currently being displaced by white privilege and million dollar high rise condos. There’s also the Fight for $15 and the struggle against low wage worker exploitation. Just recently, students at Duke University have mounted a pushback and student occupation of their own against racial discrimination and the vehicular assault of a black woman campus service worker, committed by a high ranking white male campus administrator. TNS:uite frankly, we’ve been “shutting it down” all over North Carolina, whether it’s HB2 or an unwelcomed campaign stop by Donald Trump in Raleigh. In the city of Durham, there is also the struggle to preserve the Black aesthetic, Black art and Black culture.

As you can see, community activism is a way for me. None of these struggles are separate entities. What they reflect is the need for a complete socialist revolution. Social reform will not be enough. The crisis has deepened too vastly.

In reference to results, the results have yet to be told. We’re actually smack in the middle of a brand new movement, a wave of consciousness, for a new generation. I think the best result as of now, is that the mass are finally waking up again. After 40 years of COINTELPRO and state repression, it’s about time. I’m just glad to be a part of it.

TNS: What are your thoughts on the Bernie Sanders campaign? I am very supportive of the youth and others in the campaign who want real change and our fed up with the way things are in the Democratic Party.  And while the Democratic Party may undergo some change as a result of this groundswell, it is still fundamentally a party of the capitalist class.  The question is where will Sanders take his supporters?  To make the DP have a more left program?  That’s not enough. We have to break with the system altogether and build peoples power.

TNS: Why do you think the Democratic Party has been able to co-opt every movement of the past 50 years? It has been able to keep as its base the unions, people of color and other sectors convincing them the lesser of two evils is all the workers can obtain.  The masses and their consciousness is not mature enough to break from this thinking but that is changing all the time.  A black president for example did not stop police terror or the massive deportations, this is an important lesson.

TNS: — Thoughts on the Black Lives Matter Movement

For me, I see the Black Lives Matter Movement as a continuation of the Black Liberation Movement, as an extension of the Black Power Movement, the Black Arts Movement, the Civil Rights Movement, the Harlem Renaissance and the Abolitionist Movement. As African descendants held as colonial captives by capitalistic white supremacists, African Americans have NEVER ceased resisting. From Nat Turner to Harriet Tubman, from Malcolm X to Ida B. Wells, from the Black Panther Party to the African Blood Brotherhood, we’ve always fought for the right to self-determination—for the right of eTNS:uality and the ability to determine our own destiny—for the human right to peace, land, bread, justice and housing. Though the slogan “Black Lives Matter” may be new, the actual fight to enforce such slogan has been a 400 year struggle, manifesting through an array of formations.

Interestingly, who had really ever heard of Ferguson, Missouri before the historic Ferguson Rebellion? I sure didn’t! But I sure as hell heard the wake-up call. And for those who snoozed through Ferguson, Baltimore refused to let us sleep.

If you think about it, most of the activists and organizers of Black Lives Matter are what we call, 80’s and 90’s babies. We were the “Crack Babies,” the children of Ronald Reagan—the descendants of mass incarceration and the prison industrial complex. Growing up in the 1980’s and 90’s, we witnessed first-hand how greed drives poverty, and in turn, how poverty destroys communities, especially Black communities that were already marginalized. Whether Trayvon Martin or Troy Davis, we realized that we live in a justice system that bears no resemblance of justice. In response to our decision to exercise our right to assemble and “peacefully protest,” we were tear-gassed.  The same tanks from the West Bank were rolled out on U.S. citizens, Black U.S. citizens.

And I think despite the many criticisms it has already absorbed in just a few brief years, this new millennial movement deserves a serious salute. When you think about it, it’s really still developing. It’s really just getting off the ground as of 2013. Troy Davis was the start. Trayvon Martin was the spark. Ever since then you had young people and their hashtags becoming their own media. A new generation of working class and student youth getting involved, shutting shit down, interupting the ruling class status TNS:uo. Most of us realize there’s still lots to learn, politically, theoretically,

internationally. There’s still lots of history to learn, too. When Black children attend school systems that teach them they’re inferior, you have to unlearn that bullshit narrative, and relearn all over again. What people fail to realize about this movement is that it’s fighting for itself and learning about itself, for the first, at the same time.

We didn’t grow up with caring elders in the community. By the time 80’s came around, Malcolm X and Dr. King were already dead, and so were the Black Panthers. By the 80’s and 90’s, the block and Hip Hop was we had.

So when the masses of black youth activists convened in Cleveland for the Black Lives Convening last year, for many of us, it was our first time sitting at the feet of old Black Panthers, SNCC members and others such as Pam Africa and Ramona Africa—Black Liberation legends like Eddie Conway who spent 44 years as a political prisoner. We never learned their struggles in school. And we didn’t learn about them from our parents either. So we’re still learning, still growing, and we’re strong, and creative, and beautiful, and proud, and Black. And we’re unapologetic about that, too. And before I forget, I have to say, I’m glad the sisters are front and center this time around. In the past, they’ve been left out, cast aside as background vocalists, as cooks, secretaries and child care attendants. When in actuality, Black women have always been the backbone of Black Liberation. And the same goes for our LGBTTNS: sisters and brothers, too. Hell, we need every boot on the ground we can get. And we’re doing that, still pushing, pushing hard the best way we know for right now. And yes, we do believe that we can win.

TNS: What are your thoughts on the prison reform movement? It is growing stronger but is far from what need although there is much more consciousness.  No rich person has ever been sent to death row, so it is clear that prisons are concentration camps for the poor. We should support every effort to win adequate food, abolish solitary confinement, end abuse and all the horrors of todays capitalists prisons.

TNS: — Is Mass Incarceration the New Jim Crow? How do we change this?

You damn right mass incarceration is the new Jim Crow! Every prison, every jail, every youth detention center, every cell, every bar, every bunk bed is nothing but an extension of a Mississippi plantation. There’s a direct parallel here! Even Stevie Wonder can see that. We’re talking about Black bodies specifically target to fill for-profit prison, for-profit prisons that exploit human labor, for-profit prisons funded by major corporations. That sounds like U.S. Steel and Convict Lease System to me. Sounds to me like the ruling elite created and then legalized a new form of the old auction blocks. We know the goddamn statistics about disproportionate Black confinement. We don’t need to see the numbers, we’re living them! Our babies are living those numbers—our fathers, sons, aunts and uncles are living those numbers. What we have to do now is teach, raise consciousness and organize so we can tear the fucking walls down. Simple as that! There’s nothing to even debate about here. Families can’t be whole if we’re in prison. Children can’t be raised if the adults are trapped in cages. Mass incarceration is doing the same thing the plantation did—breaking up families, communities, and replacing love and strength with trauma. We know exactly what’s going on. Fuck reform! We going to have to tear the walls down. Point blank. Period.

TNS: What are your thoughts on Trump? All the protests against Donald Trump should be saluted and defended. We believe that there should be no free speech for racists and neo-fascists and the people protesting are justified. Donald Trumps campaign is racist and dangerous.

TNS: What are the prospects for building a broad or mass left party in the USA? TNS: Is there room for more than one mass left party? TNS: Is a coalition of left parties practical or possible in today’s political climate? TNS: How do we overcome the sectarianism and infighting that has plagued the American Left for decades?

I will defer answers to these questions to those answered by our Presidential candidate, Monica Moorehead.

TNS: — Three issues as VP Candidate?

Stop killing Black people. Stop killing workers. And stop killing the earth—our natural resources, the food, the water, the air. If we can kill capitalism, then all of those things can live, indeed, in a very fruitful liberated fashion.  For me, it’s about the basics, the very foundation of life itself. I can’t vote, if I can’t breathe. And there’s no need for a good education

if I can’t breathe. Seven year old, Aiyana Stanley-Jones didn’t even get a chance to use “a good education.” She was murdered while sleeping in her own home by the Detroit police. She was murdered on live video while the Detroit police were taping a damn reality show. And I’m not kidding, that really happened—a complete disregard of human life, a seven year old.

When you think about the earth, what are we going to eat when the corporations kill the soil and kill the sea? Multi-National corporations like Monsanto are noting but an enemy of the people. And look what happened in Flint, Michigan with the water supply. Yes, water! A substance the human body cannot do without. That’s what capitalism does. It kills, steals and destroys everything in its path. Some of us get so political and abstract, we forget about the basics. My grandparents on my dad side grew everything they ate, aside from maybe seasonings and condiments. They were directly connected to the soil and water, to the sun and land, to their neighbors and their family. They were connected to life, love and mutual respect. But that’s what capitalism is, a big matrix that keeps you working, disconnected from life itself, while you run around like a chicken with your head cut off chasing “Americans” dreams that don’t even exist. Here we are working 40-60 hours a week for home we don’t even own because the bank owns it. Here we are choosing our jobs over raising our children. That’s the true crime of capitalism, the robbery of life itself. But what do I know? I’m just a country boy from North Carolina.

 TNS: — How do we develop independent Black political action?

Action comes from thought. In order to develop independent Black political action, we have to create, teach and promote independent Black political thought. And I don’t mean the kind of “Black thought” that makes concessions with white privilege, white supremacy or white fear, either. We need the kind of Black thought that promotes and produces Black Power, the kind of Black thought that promotes solidarity and class consciousness, revolutionary Black political thought. Then, we can talk action. For me, it’s the basics first. You have to think, before you can act. Otherwise, you can be acting in the wrong way, for the wrong cause, with the wrong people. And that’s definitely not what we want.

TNS: What’s the one thing you want folks to learn about the Moorehead/Lilly campaign?  

The first thing is that we love the people. We come directly from the people, from the cotton fields of the U.S. South and everywhere. We serve the people because we walk with the people.

We LOVE the youth in Baltimore. We LOVE Ferguson. We believe in revolution. And we believe in the working class. You see, some people will say these kinds of things with their lips, and they’ll quote these kinds of things from the books they’re reading. But when you ask them to put their theories into a living practice, most of them are nowhere to be found.

How can you love the oppressed when you’re too scared to walk their neighborhoods? How can you love the poor when you refuse to feel their pain, when you won’t even look them in their eyes, when you won’t even shake their hand? The best thing about the two of us is that we actually put our theory into a living practice. Hard work. Humility. Discipline. Principles. We don’t care about being seen. We care about serving the people, not serving our egos. The workers. The incarcerated. The downtrodden. The forgotten. The broken homes and underserved. Those are the same people that we want to serve most. The same people that capitalism and white supremacy has thrown away, those are the same people we’re coming to organize.

TNS: What advice would you give to young people entering the socialist movement?

Read. Study. Learn. Listen. Very lastly, understand that the idea of Socialism is damn near perfect. Unfortunately, the human beings who will have to put it into practice, are not. By the way, socialism is just the vehicle. It’s the people who fuel the movement.

TNS: What is socialism to you?

Socialism is the system of equality, the system of justice and love. Socialism is when the means of production belongs to the working class and not the elite. Socialism is the end of poverty, racism and patriarchy –when there are no unemployed – when there are no private prisons.

Socialism is the understanding that this earth supplies us with everything we need, the understanding that there’s no need for any of us to go without. Socialism is empowering the people, not the corporations. Socialism is people over profit. Socialism is the cure for capitalism – to uproot and replace it, not reform it. And wow, humanity sure could use a cure for capitalism right about now. You something though comrade, in its most simple form, socialism is simply the science of loving the people, and doing right by the people in everything that we do, making sure that none of us are “have-nots.”

TNS: What will the revolution look like in America?

The revolution looks like hard work. The revolution looks like unity and solidarity. The revolution looks like the oppressed rising up and seizing the power to liberate themselves, by any means necessary.

The revolution looks like Assata Shakur coming home again. The revolution looks like Mumia Abu-Jamal being busted out from behind that goddamn cage he’s locked in. The revolution looks like humanity being re-centered again – when there’s no more hunger and unnecessary homelessness, when parents have the adequate time to spend with their children, when the elders and seniors are well taken of and honored, when there’s sufficient care for the sick. The revolution looks like peace and no need for the police. The revolution looks like the marginalized being placed at the forefront.

The revolution looks like a reconnection to the land, earth and soil. The revolution looks like love, giving, service, sacrifice. Revolution is defeating imperialism and corruption. Revolution is self-defense. Revolution is self-determination. Revolution looks like hard work. But damn, the revolution looks beautiful!

 

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Gloria March 18, 2017 at 3:26 pm

Workers world party and 75 fronts over 50 yrs all are fascist with blacks tokens

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