Opinion and Analysis from the Grassroots

Opinion and Analysis from the Grassroots
Image by Ron Mader via Flickr Creative Commons

Agent of Change or of the Government??
By Ernesto Saavedra

“Mr. Moderator, Brother Lomax, brothers and sisters, friends and enemies: I just can’t believe everyone in here is a friend, and I don’t want to leave anybody out.”

“The Ballot or the Bullet” by Malcolm X, April 3, 1964, Cleveland, Ohio

Ernesto Saavedra

Do you ever wonder about a new person who joins your group or meeting? Especially if it seems like that person came out of nowhere. Any intelligence on that person is based on very vague memories and comments such as, “I’ve seen her around,” or, “He attended a meeting one time…I think.”

We try to dig deep into our memories and create scenarios to justify the new person’s presence. Still, no one seems to know too much about this person. Furthermore, isn’t it odd that this person is quick to voice thoughts and philosophies, quick to be divisive, contradictory, manipulative and argumentative? Or how about that time when you and your comrades got arrested during an action and that person who was arrested with you suddenly disappeared? Your mind starts running all over the place and you start looking at each other and wondering, “Who’s the rat?”

I began to reflect on these questions after reading the article “How to Spot an Agent?” by author Supreme Understanding. Based on years of research, surveys, and interviews, Supreme lays out 16 qualities exhibited by agents when they are infiltrating active groups. Supreme begins, “…[W]e who are intelligent people should be wise enough to know that COINTELPRO still exists, both online and in real life…. So we know that they’re here, yet we continue to let them do their work? They’re not gathering info. They’re making us fall apart.”

In the late 1950s, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) launched COINTELPRO (short for “counterintelligence program”), a covert and often illegal infiltrating tactic used to tranquilize “subversive” and “Leftist” groups and individuals. COINTELPRO is the reason why the Chicano/a Movement, the Gay Movement, the American Indian Movement and other movements have either completely dissolved or have been co-opted by the Nonprofit Industrial Complex (which is another issue in itself). In 2003, even Peace Fresno fell victim to infiltration, proving that COINTELPRO is alive and well pre- and post-Patriot Act.

All 16 qualities resonated with my personal experiences and made me rethink past situations that I knew were not right but allowed to continue, dismissing my reactions as paranoia. For example, qualities 2 and 3 read, “They keep discussions and productivity at a stalemate. It’s never about the people or the work. It’s always about some ideas, structures, philosophy, or abstract concept.”

Qualities 5 and 16 really struck a nerve: “They don’t have reputable sources or references for where they come from. Nobody knows them where they say they came from, or they can’t even tell you who can vouch for them. They are masters of manipulation, but never teach others how to manipulate the system. But watch how they can twist, spin, and distort everything that comes their way.”

Supreme concludes by proposing five basic practices that all of us active in our communities fighting toward real revolutionary change should consider. Among them are to share knowledge of the 16 qualities, to have a response protocol for people causing repeated disturbances within an organization and, most importantly to communicate across organizations about such individuals.

We should not take infiltration lightly. Infiltration murdered Fred Hampton. Infiltration bombed and severely injured Judi Bari. Infiltration singlehandedly took down the Black Panther Party. Infiltration locked up Leonard Peltier.

We need to maintain a balance between following basic security practices and providing a healthy, welcoming environment. Agents infiltrate to keep us inactive, and our collective inaction supports the oppressive system we are fighting against.

To check out “How to Spot an Agent?” by Supreme Understanding in its entirety, visit www.facebook.com/home.php#!/notes/supreme-understanding-supremedesignonline/how-to-spot-an-agent/464236052290 or http://hiphopandpolitics.wordpress.com/page/2/ and make sure to share the knowledge far and wide.


Ernesto Saavedra is an activist/organizer in his beloved home Fresno CA. He can be reached at yabasta_saavedra@yahoo.com.

Lost Hope
By Ruth Gadebusch

Ruth Gadebusch
Ruth Gadebusch

The New Year is usually celebrated with great fanfare as a time of hope, but this year I find fear crowding out hope. The previous year’s troubles that we attempt to put away just aren’t going away. Worse yet, it appears they will be with us for years to come. The fall’s election left many of us wondering how the voters could have thought returning the folk who created this economic mess will right it using the same old methods that created the trouble.

With the ever-widening gap between the lowest pay and the highest it would seem a no-brainer to increase tax on that upper end in order to meet the nation’s responsibilities. After all, it is clear that their oversized incomes are being banked rather than invested in job creation for economic stimulus. The long lines of those seeking jobs when any hiring is announced leave little doubt that the situation is critical. Instead of government action to repair our infrastructure or help distressed citizens, the financial deficit becomes the concern. A more serious deficit may be in compassion and common sense.

All levels of education are being decimated with nary a nod to the notion of education as the promise of the future. We complain about educating “illegals.” We like the labor and the resulting low prices for goods and services. We don’t like accommodating situations produced over the years by our immigration policies, or lack of such.

Weak as the new healthcare program is, there is a vocal group demanding its disbandment—before most provisions even take effect. One new Congress member wanted his government provided healthcare, the best in the world, to take effect immediately, meaning before being sworn in. Yet, he is opposed to “Obamacare” for the rest of us!

Meanwhile, services for the physically disabled, the drug addicted, the mentally distressed, the hungry, the homeless or generally anyone in need are being slashed to the bone. Nor are the safety services unscathed. Along with our insistence on keeping the death penalty, we continue to lock up a greater percentage of our citizens than any other civilized nation and are surprised when our prisons are overflowing.

We assert that one reason for continuing that war in Afghanistan is to protect the women. Yet, some 30 years after it was created we have not ratified CEDAW, the Convention to Eliminate Discrimination Against Women.

We twist ourselves into knots with security provisions to prevent terrorism. Does Osama bin Laden really appreciate just how much he has accomplished in turning our lives upside down? We even seem willing to breach our constitutional protections in our fear of future attacks.

California’s water wars continue. Agreements fall apart when one group picks up its marbles and goes home. Water rights developed when no one could imagine today’s population and the ensuing need to allow “our” water to be sold by individuals at great profit for themselves.

A short drive around Fresno would convince anyone of the dire situation in our housing. “For sale” and “for rent” signs are on almost every block. Many are obviously empty in various stages of disrepair.

No one ever accused me of being a Pollyanna, nor have I generally been considered a pessimist, but with all these troubles pessimism seems to rule the day. I am not finding much to celebrate in 2011. Let us hope that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s famous words, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself,” are correct. At the very least, today’s circumstances demand effort as never before from us progressives. We must not fail. We cannot fail.


Ruth Gadebusch is a veteran and a community activist, a former member of the Fresno Unified School District Board of Education, the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing and an emeritus member of the Board of Directors of the Center for Civic Education.


  • Community Alliance

    The Community Alliance is a monthly newspaper that has been published in Fresno, California, since 1996. The purpose of the newspaper is to help build a progressive movement for social and economic justice.

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