An Open Letter from Raymond Lotta:
We Cannot Allow Revolutionary Ideas to be Suppressed in the University; We Cannot Allow Revolutionaries to be Criminalized
October 31, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
I write to call on voices of conscience and conviction, intellectuals, artists, and all who value dissent and critical thinking to speak out and take a stand against acts of repression and political suppression on two major U.S. campuses. Acts that have dangerous implications for the university and for society.
This generation of students faces a world of endless wars and environmental devastation, of the dehumanization of women, of mass incarceration and mass migrations of humanity. They are questioning the present, and anguishing over the future.
What they need more than anything else is the most advanced scientific theory to understand what underlies the problems humanity faces—and the revolutionary way out—represented by Bob Avakian’s leadership and the new synthesis of communism.
And, in mid-October, a national “America Was NEVER Great! We Need to Overthrow, Not Vote for, This System” revolutionary organizing tour began taking its message to campuses.
The reaction from authorities was swift and brutal:
*On October 26, University of Chicago and Chicago police violently assaulted and arrested Noche Diaz, a member of the tour, as he was speaking inside a campus cafeteria. Diaz was charged with criminal trespass, which can carry a year in jail; several others were manhandled by the police; and Diaz is now permanently barred from the campus, facing arrest if he returns.
*On October 28, four members of the Revolution Club in NYC were arrested at City College of New York (CCNY), held in police custody overnight, and also charged with criminal trespass.
These arrests, these criminal charges, and these attempts to suppress revolutionary ideas are completely outrageous and unacceptable. On Tuesday, November 1, the Revolution Club and others from the national tour will be going back to the University of Chicago to assert their right to be on campus. On Thursday, November 3, people will be going back to CCNY.
They and I are calling on professors, students, and others to accompany them back on to these campuses. From other parts of the country and world, send messages of support.
The University of Chicago and CCNY administrations are seeking to shut down revolutionary discourse and revolutionary organization in the university. No fundamental and positive change in society has taken place without students playing a catalytic role. Will this generation of young people have the opportunity to connect with revolutionary ideas and with a movement for an actual revolution... in a world that cries out for revolution? The University of Chicago and CCNY administrations have answered with a vicious, preemptive “NO.”
Let’s put these events in historical perspective. This political suppression is an attempt to undo a keystone of the Free Speech Movement and other battles of the 1960s. Students fought to bring, “from the outside,” the civil rights, antiwar, and other just and radical struggles and movements to the campus—and to take part in such movements and influence the larger world.
Let’s note the hypocrisy. David Petraeus had recently been a visiting professor in the City University system; and a school for global leadership at CCNY is named for Colin Powell. There are many, not least at CCNY, who see these men as towering war criminals. Meanwhile, revolutionaries declaring that “America was never great” and condemning America’s imperial wars are ejected from the campus. At U-Chicago, the administration proclaimed that it would not allow students to “shelter” themselves from any idea. Yet, it “shelters” the campus community from revolution!
Let’s be clear about the broader stakes of this political suppression. These are chilling attempts to place severe limits on permissible discourse and critical thinking. This at a time when critical thinking is needed more than ever. As part of their message, the revolutionaries were calling on students to engage the work of Bob Avakian, who has brought forward a new communism which rigorously and unsparingly interrogates the world as it is (including the discourses prevalent in society and on the campuses) and sets forth a scientifically grounded strategy for transformation and a vision of a liberatory society. One need not agree with all of this new communism to be provoked by what Avakian has done and see the value in people engaging this—and still more to see the danger in effectively banning any of it.
And so the challenge is posed. Do you want a future where the university becomes a zone of conformity and obeisance to the status quo—where thinking, scholarship, and activism are allowed as long as they do not call into question and challenge the essential foundations of this system? Or will you stand up for critical thinking and be part of the fight for the right of revolutionary voices to be heard?
I call on you to do the right and urgent thing:
1. Demand that all charges against Noche Diaz be dropped, a stop to arrests and attacks on the Revolution Club, and that all orders barring revolutionaries from these campuses be lifted. Email University of Chicago President Robert J. Zimmer at email@example.com; and CCNY Interim President Vincent Boudreau at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. Make a statement and send a copy to email@example.com and to journals like the Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Education. Sign the petition circulating at CCNY at Support @NYCRevClub.
3. Invite the Revolution Club and the Get Into the Revolution National Organizing Tour to your school, to classes and forums. This needs to be heard by thousands of students!
Raymond Lotta is a political economist, writer for revcom.us, and a spokesperson for The Bob Avakian Institute.
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