[Marxism] Richard Aoki

John A Imani johnaimani3 at gmail.com
Mon Aug 20 21:47:36 MDT 2012

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: John A Imani <johnaimani3 at gmail.com>
Date: Mon, Aug 20, 2012 at 8:45 PM
Subject: Re: [apoc] anyone know more about this..
To: anarchist-poc at yahoogroups.com
Cc: rac-la at lists.riseup.net, rac-lasupporters at lists.riseup.net,
copwatchla at lists.riseup.net

I've got an FBI file too.  Complete w blacked out name with handwritten-in
designation (b7D) for the confidential informant who was snitchin' on us.

So what?

Aoki, I didn't know him, is anything but the CI type.  Figuring out the
"who" for me was relatively easy and, in retrospect, that type rings true
to form: a slimy, back-stabbing sorry-assed son of a bitch who latched on
to movement in a pathetic quest to be somebody.  Not exactly a bad-ass like

The CI is a  joker who at the first sign of trouble or the first dollar
sign would sell his momma or sell you out.  Not exactly an Aoki-type.

CI's are not warriors like exactly an Aoki-type.  And they are never on the
front line.

You wanna tell the difference: look around you on the front.  And see who
ain't there.


On Mon, Aug 20, 2012 at 7:59 PM, Däv <cybersomatix at gmail.com> wrote:

> **
> IMO, I haven't heard anything which amounts to actionable info in terms of
> things that can inform the present day struggle in any way whatsoever.
> Obviously, there are implications of this which demand intelligent and
> forward seeking discussion about what this means for our communities in our
> current struggle(s). At the moment, I haven't heard anything from this
> white guy's book that amounts to anything that assists in that discussion.
> If and when that sort of thing comes out, we should utilize it in that
> discussion. Until then, this is just interestingly weird and potentially
> depressing trivia.
> On Mon, Aug 20, 2012 at 3:01 PM, Daniel P <dannyp at indypgh.org> wrote:
>> **
>> On Mon, Aug 20, 2012 at 11:06 AM, Harsha W. <harsha at resist.ca> wrote:
>>> **
>>> pretty big news re: aoki
>>> http://www.sfgate.com/crime/article/Activist-Richard-Aoki-named-as-informant-3800133.php
>> More context: http://www.twitlonger.com/show/iuop7v  and pasted below
>> My thoughts: The FBI has proven itself very good at snitchjacketing, and
>> it has motive to tarnish the memories of revolutionaries.  If Aoki truly
>> was collaborating, he can't do any more harm now that he's dead, so I
>> really see no reason to not afford him every benefit of the doubt.  The
>> memory of Aoki belongs to his comrades and the people, not the FBI.
>> I'll reconsider my stance on Aoki when many of his former comrades -
>> people who knew him - do.  If Bobby Seale gets up and says Aoki was a
>> traitor I'll listen.  For now I am simply taking note that many of these
>> news outlets are interviewing FBI men who never met him and have no
>> personal knowledge of what Aoki may or may not have done, and that we're
>> supposed to listen to them as experts instead of listening to our own
>> community and historians.  Fuck that.
>> Daniel
>> ------------------------------------------------
>> From http://www.twitlonger.com/show/iuop7v
>> "My Initial Thoughts on the Richard Aoki Controversy
>> by Scott Kurashige on Monday, August 20, 2012 at 11:33am ·
>> The story of Richard Aoki being an FBI informant is all over the web. The
>> published stories are drawing simple conclusions that need to be questioned
>> and scrutinized. The stories are based on an article for the Center for
>> Investigative Reporting by Seth Rosenfeld, who has just released a 720-page
>> book on FBI efforts to disrupt radical activism.
>> I’m not afraid to learn new things. As a historian, I want to get to the
>> truth, and I won’t evade contradictions. I want to see the records and the
>> draw the best possible conclusions. However, there is clearly more to this
>> story than what’s out there right now.
>> Here’s what we ALREADY knew: 1) In the aftermath of WWII, young Japanese
>> Americans were a bundle of contradictions—still facing intense racism but
>> also being embraced as a model minority. Richard embodied this
>> contradiction—he was a stellar student but also got into fights and trouble
>> with the law. He joined the army in the 1950s ready to be a gung-ho soldier
>> but left soon after and later was a part of many radical groups in the
>> 1960s. 2) The FBI infiltrated and disrupted many civil rights, Black Power
>> and left wing groups in the era of J. Edgar Hoover. One tactic used was to
>> have agent provocateurs spur radical groups to violence to justify the
>> state using repression against it. Although Hoover’s COINTELPRO was ended,
>> the FBI and police are still spying on and trying to undermine activist
>> groups today. 3) Richard Aoki supplied the Panthers with guns. The Panthers
>> advocated armed self-defense in the age of intense police brutality and a
>> time when most in the black community saw the cops as an occupying army.
>> The Panthers inspired wide support from the community for their militant
>> opposition to white supremacy AND their survival programs. The Panthers
>> were heavily infiltrated and got into many violent clashes with the state
>> that devastated their ranks and led to increased internal dissension.
>> So what exactly is NEW about this story: 1) Rosenfeld says he dug up
>> records saying that Aoki—around the time he graduated from high school in
>> the 1950s--was commissioned by an FBI agent named Burney Threadgill to give
>> reports on the Communist Party and the Socialist Workers Party. This was at
>> a time when Aoki does not claim to have any radical political consciousness
>> and had been put in a compromised position by getting into trouble with law
>> enforcement. Let’s accept this for now and accept that this is historically
>> significant. But let’s keep it in context. It’s the height of the Cold War
>> and both the CP and SWP would have been viewed by the public as fringe
>> groups—moreover, they had little mass appeal to young people of color at
>> this time. We know from here that Richard went on to join the army. 2)
>> Rosenfeld has one document from 1967 that identifies Aoki as an FBI
>> informant. It spells his middle name wrong. It does not say whether he is
>> still actively on the FBI payroll. It doesn’t specify that Aoki did
>> anything to aid the FBI’s work against the Panthers. Note that Hoover has
>> yet to declare war on the Panthers at this time and is more concerned about
>> SNCC and MLK. And to keep things in perspective, Geronimo Pratt will be
>> fighting for the US military in Vietnam winning two Purple Hearts until
>> 1968. 3) That’s it—at least all that’s on the internet right now.
>> Everything else is speculation based on connecting dots that we already
>> knew existed.
>> Again, we can’t draw definitive conclusions, yet. What we can saw is that
>> Rosenfeld has not provided any evidence that Aoki was actively working to
>> undermine the Panthers on behalf of the FBI.
>> What Rosenfeld says is that Aoki supplied the Panthers with guns and that
>> the Panthers were undermined by violent clashes with the state. But these
>> are things we ALREADY knew. All this story is doing is tapping into the
>> simplistic white liberal narrative of the 1960s. The story goes like this:
>> all the activism in the early 1960s was wholesome, nonviolent, and
>> integrated but then the late 1960s was dominated by urban rebellions,
>> violent militants, and black separatists who undermined all the
>> achievements of the early 1960s and provoked a white middle-class backlash
>> that led to Nixon, Reagan, and now the Tea Party. In the minds of white
>> conservatives and liberals, the Panthers have always symbolized the turn
>> toward the so-called bad activism of the late 60s (and of course
>> conservatives never embraced the "good" early 60s and many liberals were
>> slow to embrace them). The only twist to the story is that Rosenfeld wants
>> to use Aoki to say the FBI was the source of the violent turn—and now after
>> years of Aoki being largely unknown, he is almost being portrayed as the
>> single figure who influenced the “extremist” turn in Bay Area activism.
>> (The FBI certainly provoked violence--it's just not clear that it did so
>> through Aoki.)
>> The simple story of the 1960s—already ripped to shreds by many, many
>> historians—takes everything out of context, as if the US liberals didn’t
>> push Vietnam and the Cold War, as if white suburbanites weren’t already
>> against civil rights and integration, as if there wasn’t a Third World
>> movement for liberation that led US communities of color to see themselves
>> as fighting a war against internal colonialism. By the mid-to-late 1960s,
>> MLK had declared the US government to be world’s greatest purveyor of
>> violence and activists from the center-left to the far-left were looking
>> for ways to transform the street force of the rebellions into disciplined,
>> political organization. The Panthers heightened the political
>> contradictions and the physical confrontations with the police and the
>> state to unprecedented levels. Just as Fanon wrote, they tapped into a
>> sense among the people that white supremacy and imperialism were breeding
>> militant opposition. Aoki provided Huey and Bobby with some of the
>> theoretical readings that guided them when they were Merritt College
>> students and then helped them get guns. But what the white liberals refuse
>> to accept is that young African Americans—sent to die in Vietnam, abused by
>> the occupying force of the police, denied jobs from the shrinking
>> industrial economy, watching nonviolent protestors repeatedly lynched,
>> beaten, and jailed, and portrayed as the enemy by whites guarding their
>> segregated suburbs—did not need any outside force to convince them that
>> America was so rotten at its core that it was time to either burn the whole
>> thing down or organize to overthrow the ruling class. All the liberals
>> could do at this point in history was try to co-opt the insurgent movements
>> in order to preserve their hold on power. Meanwhile the right wing went
>> after the movements with savage ferocity.
>> Where does Richard Aoki fit into this? My best guess based on the
>> available evidence is that Aoki—like millions of other young people of all
>> races and especially people of color—developed a new identity during the
>> mid-to-late 1960s, renouncing earlier attempts to fit into America and
>> moving instead to be a Third World revolutionary. Had he previously worked
>> for the FBI, he would of course have been tormented by this for the rest of
>> his life. And it’s possible if this ever came out that he would have been
>> discredited (fairly or unfairly) by his movement peers—if it came out
>> during the FBI-heightened internal Panther wars of the late 1960s he might
>> have been killed. Remember that one outrageous tactic COINTELPRO used to
>> discredit Panther members and spur infighting was to send bogus mailings to
>> other Panthers “outing” FBI informants within the BPP!
>> The idea that Aoki gave Huey and Bobby guns at the direction of the FBI
>> does not make sense—at least not based on the evidence provided at this
>> point. Aoki met Huey and Bobby when they were community college students
>> and before the Panthers were a significant force—there was nothing for the
>> FBI to disrupt at that point. Aoki also helped them do serious reading and
>> study—something FBI informants would not have bothered with. We know that
>> the FBI knew who Aoki was in 1967 but have no evidence that Aoki was doing
>> anything for the FBI. Look at the Timeline provided with the Center for
>> Investigative Reporting story—there’s no there there.
>> What other evidence does Rosenfeld provide? a) Aoki gave the Panthers
>> guns--we already knew this; b) Former FBI agent Wesley Swearingen says he
>> reviewed Rosenfeld’s records and concluded Aoki was probably an FBI
>> informant. Swearingen is an important witness in general—he has renounced
>> his former work with the FBI and sought to undermine COINTELPRO (giving
>> testimony to help acquit Geronimo). But Swearingen does not say he had any
>> connection to Aoki—the only FBI agent Rosenfeld interviewed with a
>> connection to Aoki says he stopped working with Aoki with 1965 (and is
>> there any report from the FBI agent who supposedly took over the Aoki
>> relationship after 1965?). Swearingen, like Aoki, is rife with
>> contradiction. It’s good for him to generally renounce COINTELPRO but he
>> offers no insight one way or the other in this case. EXCEPT that is, to
>> offer this ludicrous comment:
>> “Someone like Aoki is perfect to be in a Black Panther Party, because I
>> understand he is Japanese,” he said. “Hey, nobody is going to guess – he’s
>> in the Black Panther Party; nobody is going to guess that he might be an
>> informant.”
>> Who in their right mind would think that a Japanese American would be the
>> perfect person to infiltrate the Panthers? You would immediately stick at
>> out and arouse suspicion as to why you were there and where your loyalties
>> really lay. Again, there are better experts than me on this, but my best
>> guess is that given Aoki’s history and identity that he went out of his way
>> to be an extra-loyal and extra-committed member of the Black Panther Party
>> and lots of testimony I’ve read substantiates this.
>> Swearingen, on this specific point, clearly doesn’t know what he’s
>> talking about, has no real knowledge of Aoki, and has never heard of the
>> model minority (as in you mean to tell me that at the same time the media
>> is pushing the image of Japanese Americans as a model minority the Black
>> Panther are going to think they are THE model black militant?). Rosenfeld
>> is playing up his “testimony” in an opportunistic way. Then Rosenfeld and
>> Swearingen say the FBI is withholding further documentation—ok, that’s
>> probably true but that’s also probably because the evidence generally
>> implicates the FBI in nefarious acts against the Panthers rather than
>> offering more specific evidence implicating Aoki.
>> The story goes even further to say that Richard promoted violence in the
>> Third World Liberation Front at Berkeley and even suggests his singular
>> presence shifted the whole Bay Area left toward militancy. No doubt the
>> TWLF was born out of militancy, but Aoki would have hardly been alone
>> here--though perhaps he may have been more into "offing the pigs" if he had
>> previously been under their spell. But all Asian American movement
>> activists were trying to be more militant in order to counter the dominant
>> trend of the model minority rather than impress the FBI. And if Aoki had
>> such a big impact on the whole Bay Area it’s quite strange that San
>> Francisco State’s TWLF strike erupted into much bigger clashes with law
>> enforcement than UC Berkeley did—but again, the story is so much more
>> simpler when we forget about Reagan’s and Hayakawa’s role in deploying
>> excessive policing and state repression to put down an educational social
>> movement.
>> But let’s remember that Rosenfeld is probably some kind of liberal, so
>> let’s conclude by bringing the scrutiny back where it belongs in this case.
>> White liberals don’t want to believe that there was an organic drive toward
>> militancy and armed resistance in the age of Third World liberation: the
>> spirit of the Tet Offensive was in the air and the rebellion was against
>> not only the right-wing ruling class but also against liberalism and the
>> "revisionist" Old Left. Richard Aoki clearly had a soldier's
>> mentality—Geronimo Pratt fought for the US government and switched sides.
>> Aoki seemingly did the same though allegedly under far more controversial
>> circumstances. Perhaps that was the symbol he left when laying his US army
>> uniform alongside his Black Panther Party uniform before he died. If this
>> is the case, then Aoki’s story is part of a long line of people of color
>> drafted to fight American wars (in the Philippines, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq,
>> and yes, US cities) but forced by their own experience to question the
>> whole enterprise of US imperialism.
>> Aoki remains a historically intriguing figure. Personally, I have not
>> studied or written much about Aoki and only knew him in passing—mostly in
>> his later years when he was connected to the RCP and my own radical
>> politics had moved well away from the “agitation and confrontation”
>> approach to movement building. We need a general rethinking of the role of
>> militancy and armed self-defense in movement building, and I always say we
>> need to read more MLK. But the fact that we are even discussing Aoki under
>> these questionable circumstances demonstrates how much more Asian Americans
>> are a subject of US history than we were not long ago, so we might as well
>> use this as a teachable moment. At the same time, it’s probably true that
>> we rush too quickly to create icons rather than embrace internal
>> contradiction as the source of true knowledge and change.
>> These are quick and incomplete reflections. I don’t know where this story
>> will end. What I do know is that people need to take it in a different
>> direction than the one it’s headed on right now."

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