Words by Sarge
This interview, post-election 2016, occurred on private property, not yet collectivized by the International Revolutionary Movement. Beverages were served alcoholic and non. The interview between Sarge, Demencha reporter and Komrade (Nom de guerre, pictured left) a member of the Progressive Youth Organization (PYO) a Kansas City-based left org, now the largest in town, that mainly reflects the individual teachings of the interviewee. We started with some juvenilia on the part of this writer, such as masking up for actions or protests. Though I have long been a fixture in the KC cultural/political underground, I am concordantly interested in the perspectives of today’s radical youth movement(s). This will be the first in a series to appear.
On Masking: I have been around many younger activists in a variety of actions, such as anti-war protests, who wore bandanas over their faces over the last 20 years. I always rather scoffed at what I considered a political prop of young people with anarcho-tendencies, though I understood it best when it came to active Anonymous hackers. Masking up seems to draw, rather than repel, the interest of the police who are there to “keep the peace” while guarding Neo-Nazis (Kansas City, 2013) or soldiers (Whiteman Airbase Veteran’s Day 2001). In general it seems to be a tactic asking for targeting rather than blending, but this is a new era. When I began organizing in political movements it was still the era of landlines and White Pages. I received my first death treat via the 9th Street Dawgs (street gang) in 1987 after posting my home phone on a flyer regarding fair housing and deseg actions in North-East Kansas City.
Today, according to Komrade, masking is due to the Internet and the tactic of Doxxing. Doxxing is defined as the State, Trad-Right or especially Alt-Right, and involves outing activists private info such as cell number, home and work addresses online. This Doxxing, or the act of being Doxxed, can then lead to the police arresting activists after the fact; in terms of making arrests through vindictive Doxxing from observing such features as hairstyles, tattoos and other identifiers through videotape surveillance. This has in fact occurred against PYO members on at least two occasions. One after a Trans-woman member was arrested under the alleged charge of hitting a police horse during last March’s anti-Trump protest. The days of Big Brother are not just the bailiwick of the State as described in Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984, but come instead through trolls with causes to denounce or persons to scorn. The accused horse attacker (which is entirely oxymoronic considering the imbalance of power) was arrested at work and was paraded through an office building towards the end of a business day – an unsubtle act of intimidation, harassment and humiliation. So in that context, Masking Up in 2016 makes much more sense in the face of wonky Internet trolls whose main concern is to disrupt the process of Free Speech and cause real and substantial harm to dissenters.
The subject of this interview, who seeks not to have his identity exposed, also said he and his organization of working class radical youth (including Muslim, Latina and Latino, Black and Queer youth) are beginning to train in physical self-defense in the face of the rise of Trump and the neo-fascists he has unleashed. According to Komrade, female identified members face the most blatant harassment and will be the first to undergo self-defense training as they are the first and most likely to be targeted. They may also be seen as vulnerable and unwilling to fight back and are often subject to sexual harassment, from public beatings to groping and even rape as a matter of right wing (Alt-Right) revenge.
When the matter of arms training came up I was assured that Komrade considers both training in small and other arms in this open-carry state to go far beyond the nearly symbolic act of mere voting (which can still have utility on a local level, according to Komrade) and acts as a push back not only against a militarized police but especially against organized reactionary contingents. Factually, again according to Komrade, this training in and bearing of arms amounts to a recruitment, propaganda and intimidation tactic that also dispels the myth of the weakness of the left in the face of armed reaction. While he does not believe our society is yet to the point of armed revolution. While they don’t yet wear arms to protests or actions, the only revolutions that have ever succeeded were by those trained in arms.
Concurrently, their sister organizations, called Serve the People (Los Angeles, Austin and Philadelphia) and PYO St. Louis, work on anti-gentrification efforts, set up free stores (carrying many household essentials), food kitchens and other practical efforts to assuage members of historically impoverished and marginalized communities, as well as educational efforts. The defacto geographical and political base of KC’s PYO is the North-East district, an area of old and new ethnicities in marginalization. In this sense the multi-racial, multi-ethnic and Queer PYO hearkens back to the example of the Black Panther Party (by self-ascription). It is the hope of this writer that surveillance and para-military actions will not smash them as it did their heroes and predecessors.
This group, now the largest left org in KC, is somewhat feared and even ostracized by our city’s traditional liberal activist groups. PYO insists that theory and practice are two sides of the same coin and they have mandatory monthly study groups where they discuss and debate ideology. They see less well-educated and less ideological groups as weaker and the shouters of silly and meaningless slogans. They find that the reactionary right holds Gandhianism and pacifism in contempt. Komrade and PYO utilize Marxist-Leninist-Maoist materials to show the weaknesses of the left and the brutal strength of the Capitalist ruling class. To this slightly amazed writer it is fascinating that a group far to the left of, say, the Sanders Revolution is now the largest left group in Kansas City. Perhaps there is hope left in reading and learning. For a generation of millennials mostly known for materialism and selfishness, that this growing cadre of communist youth can become the largest of the left factions shows that organized youth can make an impact against the growing reactionary impulses of authoritarian government, and the gross media and material obsession of pop culture and mass society.