Charley Earp Charley63 at mailworks.org
Wed Aug 22 07:56:52 MDT 2012

This was posted to Abdul Alkalimat's African studies list.

>From: bigredmedia at hotmail.com
>21, 2012
>I knew Richard Aoki from the period of the late 1990s to the end of his
>life in 2009.   Prior to the publication of Diane Fujino’s book,
>AMONG PANTHERS (University of Minnesota Press), I probably was the main
>person who had published the most about Aoki (c.f., Legacy to 
>Liberation: Politics and Culture of Revolutionary Asian Pacific
>AK Press).
>In fact, Richard Aoki and I spoke on the telephone a day or two before 
>he killed himself.  During the Spring of 2009 we were in regular
>via telephone (as he was in the Bay Area and I in New York City) as I 
>had undergone another surgery in the cancer war I have been fighting 
>since 2006, and he was facing major illness and deterioration, 
>hospitalized during this time.  Richard regularly contacted me as he
>very concerned about my dying, and I was concerned for him as well.
>We had a very special relationship that allows me to easily,
>and assertively rebut the claims made by the two proponents of the 
>accusation that Richard Aoki was an FBI informant.
>What was our special relationship? In Diane Fujino’s recent biography
>Aoki, she notes that during the last part of Richard’s life that he 
>deliberately had little contact with most people, with the notable 
>exception of myself.   Richard was exasperated at how  creative, 
>revolutionary ideology had seriously waned, both from Panther veterans 
>and from the younger generation stuck in the Non-Profit Industrial 
>Complex mode of organization and their “activistism” (or what I 
>humorously proffer as “activistitis”, the political tendency to be 
>tremendously busy with activism but failing to have a revolutionary 
>vision guide and dominate that activism).  As Fujino remarks, Aoki 
>viewed me as someone with creative revolutionary ideology and he sought
>me out and we shared many discussions and a special closeness. (Note: 
>Aoki did not know the brilliant political prisoner, Russell Maroon 
>Shoatz, someone who now at age 68, could go toe-to-toe ideologically 
>with Richard Aoki!)
>Why would an FBI agent do this, almost 50 years past the hoorah days of
>the Sixties?  It is implied by the calumnious assertions by journalist 
>Seth Rosenfeld (whose book is opportunistically coming out today: 
>Subversives: The FBI’s War on Student Radicalism, and Reagan’s Rise to 
>Power, Farrar, Straus and Giroux) that Aoki was probably still an agent
>even to the time of his death, though, like the rest of the “evidence” 
>or assertions by Rosenfeld, never substantiated or clearly documented.
>That is because Aoki NEVER was an agent, and unlike many of the 
>prominent panthers (notably Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton), remained a
>revolutionary for life and never degenerated into self-obsession and 
>egomania.  To the end of his life, Aoki could go toe-to-toe with any 
>revolutionary intellectual, theorist or organizer on the complexities 
>and challenges of revolutionary theory, including the U.S. “national 
>question,” socialism, etc.
>Here is my rebuttal to Seth Rosenfeld and to former FBI agent West 
>Swearingen, the two main proponents of the Aoki-was-an-FBI-agent claim.
>1.	The written FBI documents are very vague and much is redacted.  The 
>T-2 identification has Richard Aoki’s middle name incorrectly listed. 
>All other identities of other informants are redacted.  Why?  Why was 
>only Aoki “revealed”?  This is the only real factual evidence that 
>Rosenfeld has to offer.  The rest is supposition and surmise.
>2.	Scott Kurashige asserts in his contextualization and weak challenge 
>to Rosenfeld that perhaps Aoki during the 1950s had agreed to be an FBI
>informant during a period in Aoki’s life when he wasn’t interested in 
>politics or “communism.”  But that later, in the ‘60s, when Aoki, as so
>many of that generation got radicalized, that he couldn’t admit to what
>he had done earlier as it would have cast huge aspersion and suspicion 
>around him among the Panthers who were quick to be intolerant and 
>unwilling to accept such past mistakes.  However, Kurashige falls short
>here.  Even if this were the case, that Richard had naively agreed to
>an informant in his youth, prior to being radicalized, and couldn’t 
>admit to it later, what is impossible to reconcile is that the entire
>year arc of Richard’s life and work has helped the Movement far more 
>than hindered or harmed it.
>3.	If Richard was a FBI agent, how did he help the FBI?  By training
>Panthers in Marxist ideology, socialism?  By leading drill classes at 
>7am daily and instilling iron-discipline in their ranks?  By being one 
>of the leaders to bring about Ethnic (Third World) Studies in the U.S.?
>  Other questions that aren’t answered by Rosenfeld: How much was Aoki 
>paid if he was an agent?  What did Aoki get out of it?  How long was he
>an agent for?  There is no evidence that Aoki sabotaged, foment 
>divisions, incited violence, etc.  The over-emphasis upon Aoki
>the Panthers their first firearms is sensationalist fodder.  What is 
>conveniently ignored is what he contributed most to the Panthers and to
>the legacy of the U.S. revolutionary movement: promoting revolutionary 
>study, ideology and disciplined organization.  That’s why he was Field 
>Marshall because the cat could organize and tolerated no indiscipline 
>and seriousness.
>4.	How does a FBI agent acquire the super-Jason Bourne-equivalent 
>ideological skills to influence so many radicals both of the Sixties
>continuously to his death, including myself?  There is no Cliff Notes
>Crash Course FBI Training Academy 101 on Revolutionary Ideology on the 
>nuances of debates on “peaceful transition to socialism as
>or “liberal multi-culturalism as the neo-colonialism within U.S. Third 
>World communities,” etc.  You get the picture.  Richard Aoki 
>intellectually had the brilliance that surpassed any professor of 
>radicalism at any university or college.  Could a FBI agent really be 
>this?  We see from the FBI agent who helped in the assassination of
>Clark and Fred Hampton, that he was paid around $200, that he was 
>primarily head of security for the slain Panther leader Fred Hampton, 
>and that he committed suicide ostensibly for the guilt that he had over
>his role in the murder of Hampton and Clark.  There is no evidence of 
>this for Aoki, in fact, Aoki remained a committed revolutionary to the
>5.	The supposed admission that Rosenfeld has on tape, shown on the
>is typical Aoki humor in answering “Oh.”  The subtext, as Aoki knew he 
>was talking to a reporter, is really: “Oh, you motherfucker, so that’s 
>what he said, well, stupid, then it must be true!”  Rosenfeld notes
>Aoki laughs (which is laughing AT Rosenfeld!).  Anyone who really knew 
>Richard Aoki knows that he used humor often to turn someone’s stupid 
>questions back at them, saying to the effect: well if you are stupid to
>think that, then it must be true for you!
>6.	The corroboration offered by former FBI agent, now turned squealer, 
>Wes Swearingen, is not evidence.  Swearingen only thinks that it is 
>likely Aoki was an informer for the FBI because he was Japanese!  How 
>stupid!  Would fierce black nationalists accept someone more easily 
>because he was Japanese?  If that were so, there would have been more 
>Asians in the Panthers!  Yes, Richard personally knew many of the 
>founding Panther members, including Seale and Newton, precisely because
>these hardcore guys truly trusted Richard because Richard could do the 
>do!  Again, the question must be asked, what benefits did the FBI get 
>from having Aoki as an informant to lend credibility to this assertion?
>At best, Swearingen can only offer speculation and surmise, as he can’t
>testify that he actually KNEW Aoki to be an agent or witnessed FBI 
>encounters with Aoki.
>7.	The one FBI agent who might have actually encountered Aoki, an agent
>named Threadgill, is now (conveniently) deceased, who claimed in 
>mid-1965 he was Aoki’s handler.  We have no way of verifying this
>relying upon Rosenfeld’s claims.  When Rosenfeld asked Aoki point blank
>if he knew this guy, Threadgill, Aoki flatly denies knowing such a 
>person and jokes about it (again, in the Aoki style: “Oh, if that’s
>he claims, and you think it so, then it must be so, stupid!”)
>8.	Lastly, what is to be gained by this accusation of Aoki as FBI 
>informant, a day before Rosenfeld’s book hits the bookstores?  To sell 
>books via this hype and sensationalism.  Aoki did more to build the 
>student movement in the Bay Area than many others.  Let’s ask the 
>question, how much was Rosenfeld paid for his book deal?  We should ask
>that same question about the late Manning Marable, whose 
>supposition-filled and sloppy “scholarly” account of Malcolm X is 
>equally reprehensible.  Besides the obvious gain to Rosenfeld directly 
>of hoping to increase book sales and his wallet, we must ask the larger
>political question, how does this accusation against the deceased Aoki 
>affect the larger politics of today?
>Well, here’s how: it fuels doubt on so many levels to building radical 
>politics, sowing dissension between Black nationalists and Asian 
>American radicals, distrust of our revolutionary leaders of past and 
>present, fear for the police-state and its power to extend itself into 
>the core leadership of revolutionary movements, and as witnessed by 
>Scott Kurashige’s capitulation to the reformist politics of 
>non-violence, to elevating Martin Luther King, Jr. above the Black 
>Liberationists (Kurashige calls for a re-look and re-examination of
>implying this is safer and more amenable than the “violence” advocated 
>by Aoki and the Panthers).  And this is simply the tip of an iceberg 
>building to stave off the growth of radicalism generated by the Occupy,
>eco-socialist and anti-globalization movements both in the U.S. and 
>across the planet.
>Here is the initial reaction by most people not cowered or shocked by 
>Rosenfeld’s accusations, who either personally knew Richard Aoki (as I 
>did) or who are accustomed to or familiar with such “dirty tricks” as 
>employed by Rosenfeld: If Aoki was an agent, so what?  He surely was a 
>piss-poor one because what he contributed to the Movement is enormously
>greater than anything he could have detracted or derailed.  If it is 
>implied that Aoki promoted firearms, and violence, to the Panthers, 
>well, here’s some news: the Panthers were well on that direction as
>of the trajectory set by Malcolm X, Robert F. Williams, the Deacons of 
>Defense (who the Panthers modeled themselves upon), Harriet Tubman, 
>Geronimo, Tucemseh, Crazy Horse, and so many others.
>And if you are gullible to believe these “dirty tricks” (which isn’t 
>surprising given how media hype today is so powerful and influential), 
>and rely upon the internet instead of actual experience in struggle and
>revolutionary organizing, then you need to get real, get serious, and 
>deal with counter-hegemonic consciousness-raising for yourself.  But 
>most of us who never were shocked by this accusation towards Richard 
>simply took the attitude, PHUCK THEM (Farrar, Strauss and Giroux; 
>Swearingen, Rosenfeld, and anyone who swallows this crap!)!

Peace, Love, and Transformation!
Check out my blog: radicalprogress.info

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