Nick Brown: Anti-Imperialism, Organization and Expansion
An Interview with Monkey Smashes Heaven
[Nick from RAIM-Denver was recently interviewed by the Maoist-Third Worldist online journal, Monkey Smashes Heaven. This is a slightly edited version of the interview.]
Nick Brown Against Empire: Monkey Smashes Heaven interviews Nick Brown from RAIM-Denver (monkeysmashesheaven.wordpress.com)
MSH: I understand that you’re familiar with Monkey Smashes Heaven and the work we’ve done. Thus far, what have you found most interesting about Monkey Smashes Heaven?
NICK BROWN: On a personal level, I have found the analysis of the Cultural Revolution to be quite interesting. I have read about the Cultural Revolution and China before in a general way. MSH is innovative in two regards. First, it is highly sympathetic towards the then-called “ultra-left” as well as overtly anti-amerikan elements. Second, it does this while taking a critical look at the role of Mao himself. Smashing dogma coming from both the ‘left’ and right, MSH is completely unique in its analysis on the Chinese Cultural Revolution. In many ways creating a new paradigm for understanding China in its revolutionary phase, MSH has set a new standard for future work to live up to. An example of this is Lin Biao. RAIM-Denver has long distributed Lin Biao’s Long Live the Victory of Peoples War! as a historical revolutionary anti-imperialist text. However, recent studies produced by MSH have cast new light on Lin Biao’s role in the Cultural Revolution. This has made Lin Biao much more favorable in my eyes.
In terms of RAIM-Denver, what we like the most about MSH is its similar analysis of imperialism. Like RAIM-Denver, Monkey Smashes Heaven is one of the few leftist or revolutionary formations that accurately describes Amerikans as exploiters of the Third World. In this fundamental aspect, RAIM-Denver and Monkey Smashes Heaven has a clear common cause. MSH has explored various approaches to calculating exploitation and parasitism. The works of Prairie Fire, Serve the People, End Imperialism and Shubel Morgan have further illuminated global class analysis. We hope that MSH publishes more political economy in the future.
MSH: Such a view is part of Maoism Third Worldism, an emerging revolutionary trend. Where does RAIM-Denver diverge from Monkey Smashes Heaven and Maoism Third Worldism.
NICK BROWN: RAIM-Denver isn’t a Maoist-Third Worldist organization. Generally we operate around a basic points of unity of 1. seeing Amerikans principally as class enemies of the world’s exploited majority and 2. support for national liberation and resistance to imperialism. Beyond this RAIMers are free to adopt whatever ideological or philosophical line they like. That’s not to say that there aren’t some RAIMers who subscribe to Maoism-Third Worldism. But RAIM-Denver itself has a broader approach and points of unity.
MSH: How successful has RAIM been in the Denver area?
NICK BROWN: That’s a trick question. It depends on what you mean by success. Is there a growing revolutionary anti-imperialist social movement just below the surface in Denver? Absolutely not. But I really think thats a bad way of going about defining success in our context.
On a realistic level, I actually think RAIM-Denver has been quite successful. We are arguably the largest nominally leftist group in Denver area with the possible exception of a couple of non-profits with paid staff. We are probably the most active group in Denver. Also, we are active in more fields than other groups. Basically, no other group in Denver has the capacity to show up to as many protests, write as many articles, put out as many original images, distribute as many fliers, etc etc. All of this is especially astonishing because we are not the typical ‘leftist’ grouping.
MSH: To what do you attribute this success.
NICK BROWN: A few things. First, we’re all very dedicated. RAIM-Denver is not a bunch of coffee shop revolutionaries. Whether its showing up for cold February demonstrations, engaging in self-education or distributing anti-imperialist materials at high schools, RAIM-Denver does shit.
Second, we are really unorthodox in terms of the way we’ve organized ourselves. On one hand, we’re not a loose collection individuals who’ve come together for a special event such as a protest. On the other, we are not a party or even a formal organization. We are more a network organized around an ongoing project and ideology: RAIM-Denver and revolutionary anti-imperialism. This has given us a lot of flexibility in terms of working styles and the activities we engage in. One person may want to do something. Perhaps everyone else in RAIM-D is busy with other specific projects or otherwise too tied up. If the idea doesn’t raise major objections, then the person can do it as RAIM-Denver. This leads to a lot of simultaneous types of work being done, fosters personal initiative and cultivates collective leadership of RAIM-Denver. That’s not to say that this type of organizing doesn’t have its limitations. It does. But overall our non-dogmatic organizing approach has been an asset, made us more fluid and freed us from being bogged down in traditional organizational restraints.
Lastly, believe it or not, our unique worldview has contributed to our success. Most of the ‘left’ sounds the same. It all boils down to some sort of program for higher living standards for Amerikans. This leaves “communists,” “anarchists” and the Democratic Party vying for the same audience while spewing fundamentally the same message. RAIM-Denver on the other hand comes out and says that Amerikans’ living standards are based on exploitation and ecological destruction. We’re not toned down in other areas either. Thus, not only are we easily distinguishable from the ‘left’ milieu but we are the only ones who are intellectually honest.
MSH: What are some of RAIM-Denver’s goals?
NICK BROWN: At this time one of our major goals is to see a larger country-wide anti-imperialist movement. We’d like to see independent, though not necessarily isolated, RAIM-like groups form in other cities and regions. Based on my experience there is limited potential for such growth.
MSH: Limited potential?
NICK BROWN: I don’t think you’re going to have groups comparable to RAIM-Denver sprouting up in many cities overnight. I would be pretty suspicious if it worked out that way. More probable is that two or three, maybe more, comrades hooks up in a city or two and begin working together. That’s how things start. Who knows where it could go from there.
MSH: What has RAIM-Denver been doing to to help facilitate such an expansion?
NICK BROWN: The first thing we did was start RAIM-Denver with this goal on the backburner. We wanted to organize in a way that could be roughly reproducible given similar conditions. Given our success thus far, I think that the founding of RAIM-Denver was an important first step in the creation of a loose, multi-celled revolutionary anti-imperialist network. Currently, we are beginning work on standardized versions of our more popular material. We want to make it as streamlined as possible for people to print out our material, makes copies and and distribute them. Keep your eye out for nicer looking, printer ready PDF versions of RAIM-Denver originals. Also, we are going to be expanding our web presence, adding an archive as a central place of find printer-ready materials and a kind-of general RAIM web portal to highlight the work of various emerging RAIM-like cells and proto-cells. Some of this stuff is still tentative, but keep your eye out for it. The idea behind a lot of this is that RAIM-Denver and its material can be used as a central reference point to build for other RAIM-like groups elsewhere. We get comments and emails from all over the country from people who say that they wish there was something like RAIM in their city. Chances area, if you are reading this and live in a large city then there is someone else in your city who is equally fascinated with revolutionary anti-imperialism. The popularization of the anti-imperialist internet sources and the distribution of their materials around the country can be used as a basis to draw more people into organized revolutionary anti-imperialist efforts. Ultimately though, its up to other people to make it happen. RAIM-Denver only do so much before the responsibility to build such a country-wide movement rests on others. We’ll see what happens.
MSH: For those who have followed your work and want to get involved, what is the first step?
NICK BROWN: Assuming that one has read RAIM-Denver’s work and has a satisfactory understanding, I would tell that person to start doing anonymous agitation work. Writing and distributing articles is an excellent place to start, or one could print up RAIM-Denver materials and start distributing them at schools and universities, coffee shops, activist events, etc. Whatever you do, do something. For myself, revolution is a moral cause worth a lifetime. However, we are asking for you to put forth a minimal level of time and dedication now. RAIM-Denver has in many ways taken the first steps. Now all that is left is for people to pick up the torch to run with it.
MSH: Last question. What happened between you and Alex Jones?
NICK BROWN: It’s a long story, but I’ll try to keep it short. The confrontation stemmed from our work with Recreate ‘68 (R68), the main coalition that organized the anti-DNC protests in Denver. RAIM-Denver was one on the main groups working with Recreate ‘68, though much of our involvement was behind the scenes. Needless to say, RAIM-Denver’s local contributions R68’s efforts were considerable. Early on, Recreate ‘68 came under attacks in incidents ranging from anonymous threats, probable infiltration and not so covert agent provocateurs, as well as a media smear campaign to go along with it. Additionally, the were divisions within Recreate ‘68. A lot of it came down to rhetoric and the right to self defense.
In walks Jonathan Elinoff. Jonathan Elinoff at first glance seems like a hopelessly devoted “Truther.” He pretentiously came to a single R68 meeting, demanded an extravagant amount of publicity during the protests for his viewpoints and was unanimously rejected. During the course of the night he talked to a RAIMer and got ahold of a Troublemaker DVD. From this, he wrote an article claiming that we told him we were stockpiling blood and urine to throw at the pigs. He also claimed that Recreate was a front group for RAIM-Denver. The wild accusations spread from there. Unfortunately, the “stockpiling blood and urine” story stuck and was circulated word to mouth and through the internet. It even spread to mainstream national media. Using the non-violence issue as pretext, groups such as Colorado Communities for Peace and Justice, Tent State, the Colorado Green Party, Code Pink, and the International Socialist Organization split from Recreate ‘68. Unable to unite around the principle of letting the pigs kick your ass, they formed a coalition called The Alliance for Real Democracy, whose main activity was wrecking the real work being done against the DNC. They were de facto Democratic Party operatives. They ended up going to far as to host as Convention watching party and a friendly delegate meet-and-greet, among other things.
But it didn’t stop there. Alex Jones, nationally syndicated crackpot and white supremacist, invited Jonathan Elinoff, whom others in the 9-11 Truth Movement have told us is shady, on his radio show. There Jonathan embellished his claims even further, saying that we were planning violent acts and claiming that he had a tape of us telling him or someone else about it. Of course no such tape exists. Jonathan couldn’t keep his lies straight. Alex Jones however went ahead repeating Elinoff’s fabrications and instructed people to watch out for us and even video tape us. A situation was being put into place were RAIM-Denver could have been taken out before the DNC began. A similar situation was used against Anarchists prior to the RNC. More humorously, the “blood and urine” story made it to the Denver City Council. An ordinance was passed barring the possession of blood and urine with the intent to throw it at a pig. We thought it was funny at least.
During the Freedom March for Political Prisoners during the DNC, someone told me that Alex Jones was at the back of the crowd. He was hard to miss. Even before I got there he was yelling and flailing his arms around. I grabbed a bullhorn and got into a confrontation with him. I exposed his white supremacist and amerika-first world view and how his view implicitly supports the police state. A few reporters were on hand and it was noted in mainstream media outlets. Because of their lies, Jones and Elinoff are, for the most part, both looked at with hostility in the Denver activist scene. They never took responsibility for their pig behavior and they have never since mentioned RAIM-Denver.
MSH: Thank you for your time. Revolutionary salute!