Bad revolutionary journalism: A self-criticism for our reporting on the death of Russell Means

Even in death, Russell Means creates a problem for the Revolution.

As Political Editor of The Burning Spear newspaper and Uhuru News Online, I have the responsibility of ensuring that The Burning Spear newspaper and Uhuru News uphold revolutionary journalism and the principles of African Internationalism.

The decision to post Russell Means' passing as it originally appeared on Uhuru News was my decision. It was a wrong decision.

The article, which has been taken down from Uhuru News, did not reflect the position of the African People's Socialist Party on the life of Russell Means or our standards of journalism.

In fact, it challenged the integrity of The Burning Spear and all we have said against neocolonialism.

I thank comrade Enaemaehkiw for making this worthy criticism in the spirit of forwarding the revolutionary process (See Criticism below).

Although most of what you read in The Burning Spear and Uhuru News is written from an African Internationalist perspective, we also print and post articles from outside news sources and guest columnists who may or may not be an African Internationalist.

However, if the analysis or article is credited to Uhuru News or our Party, then you, the reader, should expect uncompromising African Internationalist journalism, which is revolutionary journalism.

We uphold the Revolution all along the line. The Russell Means article did not do that.

The posting of the Means article was bad and sloppy journalism. It was opportunism.

As a seasoned veteran of the Party, I understand that mistakes like this are not just due to bad judgment or accident or mistake. This mistake was rooted in the very opportunism that the Party consistently fights against, and calls others out on, in our efforts to forward the Revolution.

It was a case of sacrificing the long term interest of the Revolution for the short term gain of posting "something" on the death of Means whose name has been associated with the liberation of the indigenous people for quite some time now.

Would we have run an obituary saying "Long Live Eldridge Cleaver?"

Despite what Eldridge "might" have contributed to the Revolution at the upstart of the Black Panther Party, the truth of the matter is that when he died, he was in bed with our colonialist oppressors. He had turned into a neocolonialist stooge.

Such can be said of Russell Means, especially his antics with the reactionary sector of the Miskito people – that did not represent the Miskito movement or the vast majority of its people – who functioned as armed bandits, armed by the CONTRA dope dealers and mercenaries in their efforts to fight and overturn the victories of the revolutionary Sandinista government in Nicaragua.

The Nicaraguan Revolution was one that the African People's Socialist Party supported to the extent that we put forward every available resource we commanded to the Sandinistas so that the revolution could be made and its gains be consolidated.

Russell Means was in the camp of Oliver North and Ronald Reagan, supporting the anti-Sandinista, CONTRA-backed Miskito faction as they wreaked havoc upon the people in Nicaragua.

This was especially true in Bluefield, a predominantly African and Miskito populated area of Nicaragua on the Atlantic Coast.

In the New York Times November 10, 1985 coverage of a press conference held by Russell Means, Brooklyn Rivera and Glen Morris in San Jose, Costa Rica, Means was quoted as saying "I would go to Nicaragua with a shovel in one hand, a rifle in the other and a pipe of peace in my heart, and it would depend on the Sandinistas what would be used."

He went on to say that now it seems that "the only alternative left to use is a rifle."

Perhaps the most preposterous statement from Means was that the struggle against the Sandinistas was "the foremost struggle for indigenous sovereignty in the world."

So this is the guy that Uhuru News opportunistically held up as a freedom fighter.

That article went up out of opportunist expediency and liberalism. I had believed that the Means story was particularly important for us to raise the questions of Indigenous Self-Determination and neocolonialism.

He had been dead going on three weeks and we had to get the story up.

Once I had the article in my hands and it did not do that, the major contradiction then became the "long live Means" statement and other praises.

Despite the omissions of important Means neocolonialist actions, the article did contain some truths, I reasoned. Then to justify it more, I reasoned "what the hell" we can stand on what Leonard Peltier is saying in his letter on Means' death.

Despite comrade Peltier's heroic stature and his contributions to his people and to the world revolutionary process, nothing he could say deserved printing if it upheld Russell Means, an enemy of the people and of the Revolution.

A meeting was scheduled with the comrade assigned to put this article together to say what we wanted from the article. That meeting never took place. The comrade took the initiative, put it together and I accepted it.

Liberalism leads down treacherous roads. The comrade deserves better leadership than that.

It is my responsibility to make sure we got it right, not just that we got it.

One of the goals of The Burning Spear is to provide a materialist worldview and truth so as to have an educated and informed Party, Movement, African working class and population.

There are no shortcuts to the Revolution. As political editor of The Burning Spear, it is my job to read every single line of print.

This responsibility cannot be delegated, and despite whomever the author might be, it must be read for content and politics.

Timeline unacceptable

To deepen this criticism, it must be asked: Why did cadre of the African People's Socialist Party let the Russell Means article and criticism of the article stay up for a week without making a single comment or challenge to the article or a response to the comrade who put us in check on the article?

In my opinion there are several reasons for this: We are not going to our own web site or liberalism dominates, or we just did not know.

One would think that it would be voluntary discipline that would make our membership avid readers of The Burning Spear and Uhuru News.

Again, as political editor I should have long ago organized a formula to ensure that our Party not only go to the site, but do political education on the articles and analysis that are on the site.

In the process of building a steeled cadre to carry out the tasks of the Revolution, we will institute programs to ensure that we are abreast of The Burning Spear and Uhuru News' contents and African Internationalist worldview.

There are comrades from the Mexican/Indigenous national movement, inside and outside U.S. borders and comrades all over the world who look for the African Internationalist analysis as put forth in The Burning Spear and Uhuru News to answer the burning questions of today and to lead us forward.

On the death of Russell Means we failed them. We failed revolutionaries and the oppressed all over the world in this instance.

Our responsibility here is to say to you that we recognize this error and its source, and to move forward with the lessons learned so as to better serve the people and the revolution.

That is the job of The Burning Spear and revolutionary journalism.


Omowale Kefing
Political Editor


Criticism posted by Comrade Enaemaehkiw

Uhuru and Posoh

As an American Indian/Native American/First Nations (which colonial label someone applies to me matters little) and a member of the Uhuru Solidarity Movement I have to say that I am somewhat disappointed to see such a glowing obituary of the late Russell Means appear on Uhuru News.

While I have much respect for our brother behind bars, comrade Leonard Peltier, and know that one can never deny the importance, for better or worse, of Russell Means to the indigenous liberation movement in Occupied Turtle Island, the fact is that Russell Means did much during his life to bring shame to our movement, both in the eyes of our own people and in the eyes of our brothers, sisters and comrades of all nations.

The fact is that while he continued up to his last day to represent himself as a voice of the American Indian Movement (AIM) – the same organization of such Native resistance heroes as Peltier, Dennis Banks, John Trudell, Anna Mae Pictou Aquah and others – he resigned his position within AIM no less than six (6!) times, the last time in 1988.

The first time he resigned from the American Indian Movement was in 1974 when he ran for the presidency of the Oglala Nation on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota against his arch foe, Dick Wilson. This action caused a great deal of alienation and confusion within the masses of Lakota people.

He then publicly resigned from AIM again in 1984 while he was seeking the Vice-Presidency of the United States on the ticket with Larry Flint of Hustler Magazine (Means was an avowed libertarian and anti-communist, despite trying to dress it up in indigenous terms).

In 1985, he again resigned from Yellow Thunder Camp in the Black Hills stating, quote, "I'm tired babysitting Yellow Thunder Camp," and that he was going to go on to other interests. Those interests were to align himself with Ward Churchill, Glen Morris, and Brooklyn Rivera to go down to Nicaragua and align themselves with a CIA/CONTRA sponsored faction within Miskito Indian faction, as well as Elliot Abrams and the Reagan Administration in their war against the Nicaraguan people of which the Miskito Indian people, and all Nicaraguans were the principal victims. This was down at a time when AIM, through the International Indian Treaty Council was seeking a peaceful and just resolution between the majority of the Miskito people and the revolutionary Sandanista government. That Means aligned himself with the genocidal CONTRAS and the crack peddling Reagan regime in the name of indigenous liberation is a shame to our movement of the highest order!

During this time Means also undertook a nationwide speaking tour sponsored by the arch-reactionary Unification Church of Reverend SunYung Moon, speaking to right-wing audiences of settlers. The same groups who are totally opposed to Native treaty, political, jurisdiction, water, natural resources, and territorial rights.

Means was also publicly rebuked by AIM in 1998 and 1999 followed a violent assault he committed against his then Navajo wife's elderly father. Means' then father-in-law, a Mr. Leon Grant, was a revered elder of both the Omaha and Dine Nations and was 80 years of age with an artificial arm. Means then challenged the sovereignty of the Dine (Navajo) nation, something that goes against the very spirit of AIM.

Means also eventually became complicit in the on-going colonial witch hunt of AIM leaders such as Dennis Banks by pointing the finger at Banks and other AIM heroes for the murder of Anna Mae Pictou Aquah. Any critical investigation into the circumstances around sister Anna's death will lead one to see the holes in the colonial regime's case that AIM killed her out of fear that she was an agent and/or had direct evidence of the supposed guilt of comrade Peltier. The fact is that the evidence points towards her death coming at the hands of the US colonial state, just like Fred Hampton, Mark Clark and so many other African and Native resistance soldiers and warriors. Yet Means chose to join the colonial witch hunt and point the finger of blame at his former comrades-in-arms.

I could on, but I think the point has been made.

I also want to be clear that I say what I say coming from a position of uncompromising internationalism and solidarity with the work of the Uhuru Movement and the liberation of African people worldwide. So please do not take my words as being uncomradely, but the truth is that since Means' passing there has been a shocking degree of movement amnesia regarding his transgressions and I feel compelled to help keep the record more balanced.

In Solidarity
In the Spirit of Crazy Horse and Nat Turner



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