Revolution #62, September 24 2006
On the Importance of World Can’t Wait and the October 5 Day of Mass Resistance
[Editors’ Note: The following are excerpts from comments by Bob Avakian, in a relatively recent discussion with a group of comrades. What follows here is based on notes that were taken of those comments. It has been edited for publication here and some explanatory points have been added, within brackets, at various places in the text.]
October 5 is what is actually required—what measures up to what is actually going on and the course things are on. Step back on this. You have [Secretary of State Condoleezza] Rice talking about the “birth pangs of the new Middle East,” as Lebanon is being pummeled and pulverized by Israel, and there are Seymour Hersh’s points on Iran [articles by Seymour Hersh in which he speaks to how the Bush regime already has practical, operational plans for attacking Iran, including the possibility of using nuclear weapons in such an attack on Iran, and how some key figures in the Bush regime viewed the recent assault by Israel on Lebanon as a kind of dress rehearsal for a U.S. attack on Iran].
Some people say World Can’t Wait is too strident. Too strident? What will the world be like if the U.S. attacks Iran? Look at [Republican Senator and possible 2008 Presidential candidate, John] McCain’s argument that it would be worse if we don’t attack Iran. And no one other than some generals raising opposition to that—no opposition from any prominent Democrats. Those in the Bush regime themselves constantly remind us that this is an open-ended war with no end in sight. Today’s outrage—coupled with muffled pious doubts and petty amendments from certain politicians—becomes tomorrow’s institutionalized measure.
Do you have any idea what the Israeli invasion of Lebanon is doing right now? What does it mean when secular people in Lebanon begin supporting Hezbollah, fervently? And you want to talk about “too strident”?!
Think about where this is going, if an alternative is not provided to these two historically outmodeds. [This refers to the following observation by Bob Avakian: “What we see in contention here with Jihad on the one hand and McWorld/McCrusade on the other hand, are historically outmoded strata among colonized and oppressed humanity up against historically outmoded ruling strata of the imperialist system. These two reactionary poles reinforce each other, even while opposing each other.”] Who is going to provide this alternative? You can assist World Can’t Wait or be part of suppressing it. World Can’t Wait represents the people out there who see the need for what corresponds to what is actually going on and are trying to do something about it.
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We want to speak to those youth, and others, in Lebanon whose relatives have been buried under the rubble by U.S.-made bombs. We want to say to them: There’s another way beside that of religious fundamentalists. If you don’t bring something real into the light of day, you can’t speak to those people. You may have bumper stickers on your car expressing good sentiments, but they don’t see your bumper stickers. But if you mobilize in your masses against this regime, that could speak to them.
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Another couple of steps and the world will be set on a certain course which will be very hard to change. It’s very bad that Hezbollah is becoming the rallying center [of opposition to Israeli aggression]. They are Khomeini-ites [referring to Ayatollah Khomeini, who was the leading figure in the establishment of the theocratic Islamic fundamentalist state in Iran], and now Hezbollah is gaining credence and support in Lebanon, one of the more “westernized” countries in the whole Middle East. And not just in Lebanon, but all over the Middle East. New supporters of what Hezbollah represents are being created by the tens of thousands. Do you think the Democratic Party will change that?
On the other hand, World Can’t Wait is what people are doing to change this. Let’s talk about this road in comparison to any other.
It is important to engage in lofty but at the same time “down on the ground” struggle with people as to what’s going on in the world and where the Democrats are lining up in relation to that. Some may criticize Bush for no “exit strategy” [in Iraq], but where do they line up in relation to this whole dynamic?
And then you’ve got to get into the question: where have actual positive changes come from historically? Has this come from relying on the Democratic Party, or from mass action independent of that?
As I see it, in order to realize the objectives of World Can’t Wait, this whole process needs to have not only the powerful vision it has, and the actual plans it is developing, but it needs the “lubricant” of continual ideological struggle—from a high plane, in a principled way, but sharply focused.
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You have to do what measures up to what’s going on. You can’t just nibble around the edges of this whole horrific process—and if you are a thinking person and you don’t recognize how horrific this process is and where it’s going and the consequences, then I’m sorry for you, because you’re just engaging in denial. The Iraq war, Patriot Act, spying, torture—and with the latest airline thing, once again we hear arguments in favor of torture. [This refers to the announcement by the British and U.S. governments that they had recently prevented a plot to blow up airplanes in flight from England to the U.S.] Every time these people [like Tony Blair, head of the British government, and Bush and his regime] say anything of substance—and especially when they claim to have discovered a terrorist plot, or to have evidence of some other state, like Iran, developing nuclear weapons—we should remind people constantly: THE PEOPLE TELLING YOU THIS ARE PROVEN LIARS—AND NOT JUST ON “LITTLE THINGS” BUT ON THE BIGGEST THINGS THERE ARE.
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Some people have objected to the Hitler reference in the World Can’t Wait “Call” because in a way that’s the nub of it all. There is a refusal to believe that something like that could actually come to be in the position of power in this country, and that this country therefore could be characterized by that. This concentrates so much about what people don’t want to let go of. What is the reality? We have to struggle with people. What are these people around “W” doing and where will it lead? If you actually debate using nuclear weapons on Iran—where are you taking the world? And what do you think is going to be the response? Well, if things keep going the way they are—if this dynamic is not radically changed onto a whole different course—then sooner or later the Islamic fanatics are going to get a hold of this shit [nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction]. Then what? And this is being produced by what is being done by your government right now. You think the Democrats are going to change that? What is going to change that?
The kind of thing [the massive political resistance] envisioned in the WCW “Call” hasn’t been done yet, but is this being called for just to do it, or because the situation demands it? This is not being called for because it would be good to do in the abstract—but because of what the situation demands. If you’re proceeding from that, how do you look at what we have to do?
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While growing numbers of people are rallying to World Can’t Wait, some so-called “progressive” groups have so far refused to really unite with and really put effort into building what WCW is calling for. These groups put up a front of criticizing WCW from the “left.” The problem is bigger than Bush, they say—but meanwhile many of them are supporting the Democrats! The problem is bigger than Bush, so that’s why we have to support the Democrats. The problem is bigger than Bush, so we have to support part of the problem! That is their “logic.” But in fact what WCW is calling for is a concentrated way of politically opposing what millions of people are profoundly opposed to—not just this or that aspect of it but the whole direction. This is the necessary way of politically opposing and moving to halt what we all agree (or say that we agree) is horrific about what’s happening and the whole direction it’s going in.
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“The World Can’t Wait—Drive Out the Bush Regime!” and “Bring This to a Halt!”—these are not just slogans to express disgust and outrage; they express a determination, a recognition of the disastrous character of where this regime is taking things—and that we must be determined not to allow that to happen. That’s what people have to be inspired with.
Then there’s the question: Is it worth it walking off your job, and so on, for this? WCW is not just calling for “another demo” but a groundswell of people who say, “NO, we will not accept that this course is going to go on. And we’re not going to play by the rules of mainstream ‘official politics’ because that has gotten us where we’re going and is keeping us going this way.” So it is mass political opposition and political resistance that is called for—to put the stamp of this position, of opposing this whole direction—to put that political stamp on society. “We say this course is not acceptable. What do you say?” That, I believe, has to be the spirit that infuses this. “We are going out to bring this to a halt, not just to ‘protest.’ We are working to bring forward a groundswell to bring this to a halt and force this regime out for its terrible crimes—and even worse crimes that are on its agenda.” Let that be the political question in society.
What World Can’t Wait is calling for is “extraordinary” politically. Because the danger posed is extraordinary. That’s why it’s correct to focus on this regime, because while it’s not the whole of everything that’s wrong and needs to be changed, it is the concentration of a lot of the way in which this is being carried out now, and what it’s doing to humanity.
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What happened to Dennis Kucinich, and Al Sharpton [in the 2004 elections]? Why were they declared not to be “viable” candidates? Who decided and declared that? And what difference is putting efforts into campaigns like that going to make? They’ll be swallowed up by the whole process. Let’s be real. Compare getting a few more people like Kucinich and Sharpton into the Congress, versus having a million people in the streets around the Call of World Can’t Wait. Which one would have more impact?
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What is needed is the spirit of “your sons and your daughters are beyond your command” [referring to lines from the Bob Dylan song in the 1960s: “The Times They Are A-Changin’”]. We’re not taking orders from the Democratic Party anymore!” I’m not proposing this as a slogan, but as a matter of orientation. Once you see that something is really horrific, you have to pursue putting an end to it. There does have to be a defiance around this. People’s priority should not be how many Democrats get elected, but whether this course gets halted. “How do you, Democratic politicians, line up in relation to that? This whole course is disastrous. Our orientation is to bring this to a halt.”
It’s not merely a matter of letting the people in power know that we don’t like what they’re doing. It is saying that this course they’re on is one that will bring disaster to people all over the world, and we not only don’t support this but are going to act—to build massive political mobilization—to stop it. In this people can draw lessons, and draw inspiration, from those parents of U.S. soldiers who have died in Iraq, and who have come out in opposition to that war—and some of whom have come out in opposition to the whole disastrous direction of things, joining in with World Can’t Wait. These people have changed their whole lives. They’re not just saying, “I’ll put a bumper sticker on my car to show I’m opposed.” Bumper stickers with progressive sentiments, statements in opposition to the war and other crimes of this regime—that is good—but these “bumper sticker people” should be challenged: what are you gonna do about it. They need to be challenged to make a further leap, to act on a bigger scale around those sentiments, joining with WCW and mobilizing for October 5.
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What would it mean if this regime were forced from office by massive political opposition from below? What effect would that have in the world? On many people’s part, there is still a “poverty of imagination” when it comes to what meaningful political activity really is. That “poverty of imagination” needs to be challenged, and, yes, the radical—but radically positive—alternative represented by WCW needs to be brought forward. Imagine, as the WCW statement says, what it would mean if a real mass outpouring of political resistance were brought forth from the “reservoir” of people who are deeply disturbed and outraged by the whole direction of things [this refers to the statement published by World Can’t Wait: “There is a Way! There is a Day!”]. What would THAT say to people who’ve been bombed to smithereens in Lebanon—if this whole course were brought to a halt and this Bush regime were so incapable of maintaining the allegiance of such a huge part of the population that they were forced out of office?
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In my view, for October 5 to really be the kind of massive political resistance that it needs to be, it is important to paint the picture of the Day, but even more fundamentally to give people a real sense of the political impact. Then people can give expression to the Day themselves in many different creative ways, politically (and culturally). What would the political impact look like—in this country, in the world—what would be the effect on the dynamics, on the “political contours” of the country and even for that matter on the political rivalry at the top? It could change the whole character of what’s going on.
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What happens next [after October 5]? Well, you have a massive outpouring on October 5, and everyone gets together to plan and wrangle over the next step. Not a one-shot deal but everyone mobilizes and wrangles with the next step to make this even more powerful—to politically compel the changes that are being demanded—the repudiation of the current course and those responsible for it. This is the essence of speaking to people about what good it would do. But that flows from painting a picture of the political impact that is necessary, and that is possible. A massive outpouring of people—and then keep going—making it so that this becomes the political question of debate in the country, that this course has to stop and stop now, this is disaster for people in this country and the world, and we will not accept it. And this regime that is doing this has got to go. If you can inspire people with the understanding that this has to become the political discourse and debate throughout society, then you can inspire people with mobilizing for a massive outpouring.
One thing that struck me in reading about the previous mobilizations of World Can’t Wait: even though they fell short of the necessary numbers, many people who did come out commented on the very different character of the WCW days as compared to “protest as usual”—electrifying speeches, enthusiastic crowds, and most fundamentally people who are actually serious about the objectives, about the enormity of what is going on and what must be done to bring it to a halt. I believe that’s what has to continue to inspire people—even while, as WCW has been emphasizing, this has to be manifested on a scale ten times, or even a hundred times, greater.
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I hate to say it, but with some progressive people it’s a little like arguing with Creationists—no matter what gets revealed about the Democratic Party and where it really stands, some of these people just don’t want to confront this reality, and the implications of it. What their argument ultimately comes down to is that the Democrats are still different because no matter what they do—“they’re not Republicans.” So, somehow if you get them in there, they may say and do terrible things, but after all “they’re not Republicans.” They run candidates who are opposed to abortion, they may go along with the wars, the torture, the spying, and all the rest—but “they’re not Republicans.” This is a rationale that will lead you to go along with one crime after another—it is another expression of the crucial point in the WCW Call: “That which you will not resist and mobilize to stop, you will learn—or be forced—to accept.”
To take one example, these Democratic Party “strategists” are running anti-abortion candidates in some places, claiming that this is necessary in order to get a Democratic majority in the Congress. To do what? Even if they got a majority this way, all it would mean is that they got there by taking a terrible position around the abortion question. So then you’ll have these Republicans in Congress and some Democrats who are anti-abortion, and when a question around abortion comes up, the Republicans and those anti-abortion Democrats will be together, and the Republicans will still tell the Democratic Party as a whole that it is not strong enough in opposition to abortion—they’ll keep pushing on that—so then, if they follow the same logic, the Democrats will run still more anti-abortion candidates. So, to say the least, this won’t do anything good around abortion—in terms of upholding and defending the right to abortion and generally the reproductive freedom of women, including birth control, which is also under mounting attack now. And if the Democrats are moving in this reactionary direction around something as fundamental as this, what won’t they be doing it around?
Look at the logic of these Democratic party strategists. They run this anti-abortion candidate, Casey, in Pennsylvania, against Rick Santorum. This Santorum is a sicko reactionary. So the Democrats do what? Do they say, “This guy is reactionary and sick and very vulnerable, and we’ll run a strong candidate for a women’s right to choose and against the war”? NO. But the deeper question—which gets to the essence of what the Democrats do, and do not, really represent—is why didn’t they adopt that strategy—why, instead, did they choose to run this guy Casey who shares essential political positions with Santorum?
The Democrats will always “not be Republicans” because that’s their position and role—to not be Republicans! Casey has positions more reactionary than Nixon. How far does this have to go before they go too far?
It is very important to “walk through” this with people—in particular people with progressive sentiments who have real trouble breaking with the orientation of relying on the Democrats and putting their energies and resources into supporting them. It is important to struggle this through with people, because from another angle this does illustrate all the more why we need to bring this to a halt and drive it out—and refuse to take orders any longer from Democratic Party “strategists” who are working to keep people’s political options limited to choosing between terrible alternatives and defining that—putting your energies and resources into that—as the essence, and the limits, of meaningful political activity.
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One key role of our Party is in helping to bring forward basic masses around WCW and in particular the October 5 Day of Mass Resistance. Obviously, the masses who have recently mobilized in opposition to the attacks on immigrants are very important in this regard. It is important to find the ways to work with advanced forces in that movement and also go to basic masses who were mobilized in those demonstrations. And here too it is very important to engage in a big way in the ideological struggle over summing up those mass outpourings. It is important to help people correctly sum up the experience of those mass mobilizations, and not be left with the conclusion that those mobilizations did not do any good after all. In fact, these mobilizations were mainly very positive, but they also show the need to link up with the whole effort to Drive Out the Bush Regime and bring this whole direction to a halt—the need to break more fully out of the literally killing confines of the dominant political framework and “politics as usual”—in other words, politics as defined by the ruling class.
Then, in general, there’s tremendous potential among the youth and broader sections among basic masses. They can be a very powerful force, in relation to the objectives of World Can’t Wait. And, of course, from the standpoint of our Party, they have a strategically important role in relation to the revolution that is needed to ultimately change the whole society in fundamental terms, as part of changing the whole world.
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Katrina-–one of the great crimes of the Bush regime. Talk about Lebanon, the death toll there is something over 1000, and the number of Katrina victims who died was about as large. This was not a small-scale crime against humanity. And now it is being compounded with what the government is doing, and not doing. From the time that Bush stood in New Orleans in front of a statue of Andrew Jackson, a southern slave-owner and Indian-killer, to now, this has continued to be an ongoing crime of great proportions. This once again opened a great wound—one still festering for all the world to see. That’s one particularity—and of course not the only one—of how Black people in particular have been treated throughout the history of this country. It is very important to profoundly draw people forward around that, for October 5—and again, from our Party’s standpoint, in relation to strategic revolutionary needs and objectives.
Our Party, in its own independent role, needs to talk to the masses about revolution, and their role in coming forward around WCW in particular and how this is a concentrated way to take steps toward getting rid of the whole thing, the whole system of oppression. It is very important not to underestimate the impact of our Party and its revolutionary line among the basic masses especially—and in particular our understanding of the great potential role of these basic masses around WCW, and that in turn in relation to the need and objective of revolution. From the point of view of our Party, this has to be put in the larger revolutionary context—and this, in turn, will make it more possible to mobilize these masses around crucial things like the October 5 Day of Mass Resistance called by WCW. Of course, we understand that World Can’t Wait is made of a great many people, with a wide diversity of views, and this is one of its great strengths. And it is not just our Party that is taking WCW and October 5 to the basic masses—it is also a good thing that others are doing so, coming from their own independent perspectives.
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As I see it, the key thing in relation to World Can’t Wait is whether people are convinced that this is the road to take and what a difference it would make. This is a matter of “drive out the regime” vs. the same old/same old of just building a movement ever so gradually and aimlessly, with no sense of urgency, no sense of the real dynamics and the real stakes. It is very important not to forget that thousands have already acted on the basis of the Call of World Can’t Wait—this happened last November, and again around the State of the Union this year. But when the WCW Call gets taken up by far greater numbers of people, this will become a powerful reality on a whole other level, and the possibility of actually succeeding in realizing WCW’s objectives—of driving out the Bush regime and bringing this whole disastrous course to a halt—will become a central political question throughout society, and will have a positive impact throughout the world.
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Even between now and October 5, there may be changes in the objective situation that can change certain contours and specific characteristics of the terrain, and this will be important specifically in terms of building for October 5, as well as in an ongoing sense. Of course, it is important to keep in mind that there is not going to be any “deus ex machina” [no magical device or turn of events “out of nowhere” that is going to somehow resolve problems and difficulties], but that is not necessary in any case. There already is an objective basis for what World Can’t Wait is calling for—on October 5 and in its general orientation of driving out the Bush regime and bringing this whole course to a halt. That is the point of the WCW statement “There is a Way! There is a Day!” with its reference to a “reservoir” of millions of people who are deeply disturbed and outraged about the whole direction of things. It’s been raining down horrors for a while and that’s what has filled up this reservoir. There is an objective basis already for massive political mobilization on October 5—and for going forward from that—and, as I see it, the challenge now is for all those who agree with the WCW Call to act decisively on the basis of their convictions and turn this potential into reality.
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