WHAT THE MASSES FACE--ALL OVER THE WORLD--
AND WHAT THE MASSES NEED
By Bob Avakian, Chairman of the RCP,USA
Revolutionary Worker #1081, December 3, 2000, posted at http://rwor.org
Let's talk about what the masses all over the world face, and why nothing short of revolution--and not just any kind of revolution, but PROLETARIAN revolution--can deal with this. At this very moment, as you are reading this, a young girl in Thailand, nine or ten years old, is facing a very horrible situation. Her family has had to give up the land that they tried to farm, even though that was under terms of feudal exploitation; the family has moved into the slums of Bangkok, is not able to make a living, is surrounded by disease and filth and squalor. And they're faced with a choice: shall the whole family go under or shall they take this nine-year-old girl and sell her to pimps for her to become a sex slave, or sell her to factory owners for her to work and literally live and sleep under a machine, producing toys and other consumer goods for people in imperialist countries all over the world? These are the "choices" for her: to become a sex toy of imperialist businessmen and soldiers, and be exploited in cruel and perverse ways in that situation; or to become brutally exploited as a wage slave making toys and other consumer goods for the amusement of people in the U.S., Japan, and other imperialist countries. This is the great "freedom" that the imperialist system offers.
At the same time, a young boy is growing up in Haiti. His family, too, because of the imperialist domination of the economy, has been driven from the countryside. Their life was horrible there, but it's very difficult in the city, living with no electricity, no running water, no hope for the future. If he's "lucky," as a young boy he'll get a job mercilessly exploited in a factory making soccer balls to be exported to America. Or he and his family will get on a ship, desperate to go, ironically, to the very place that produced all this-- America--and probably be drowned on the seas, and if not, be sent back to the brutal oppression of the regime in Haiti.
At the same time, a young boy or a young girl in Iran or in Pakistan, at six years old, will have to go into a factory making clothes for others to wear--or carpets to be sold as luxury consumer items--in the imperialist countries. They will be brutally treated, they'll be forced to sleep under a machine in the factory, they'll never see the sun, they'll have no holidays, they'll have no playtime, they'll have no smiles.
In Mexico, a family will try to eke a living out of the countryside, and especially with the further imperialist penetration through NAFTA and other ways, they'll be unable to do so. And the father will leave, and he'll try to go to El Norte, and he'll be cheated and misused by coyotes, and he'll be hounded by La Migra, and he'll be driven into the desert or the mountains where he may die. And if not, he'll make it to the great "promised land" of America and be ruthlessly exploited. Back in the '60s, Phil Ochs--who was a singer for the movement back in those days--he used to have a song called "Bracero" about the official bracero program that brought farm workers to America to be worked like beasts in the fields. This song had lines with stinging irony, like: "welcome to California, where the friendly farmers will take care of you." This is what will await people as they come--if they make it from Mexico. They'll live 12 in a hut, working in the fields, or working cleaning up other people's messes in offices and restaurants and hotels.
And at the same time, a young woman from that family will find that she can no longer stand life in her village in Mexico and the family will need her to go off to the border, and she'll search for work and she'll find a job in a maquiladora. She'll be worked like a dog there. And she'll be sexually abused and she'll be physically attacked on her way to and from work by people preying on her. And she'll be told when she's 30 that she's no longer useful and it's time to get some younger bodies to exploit.
At the same time, a young woman in Russia or Eastern Europe, with the "great new freedoms" that have come with the so-called "end of Communism," will be told that now she's free to travel and to "seek her fortune," or to seek a good job in other places because there aren't any good jobs where she is. And she'll be lured with advertisements and promises of a better life and a better job, and she'll be told her employer will pay for her travel and take care of her. She'll find instead that she's been ensnared into sexual slavery and she'll be sold as a sex slave and treated in the most inhumane and unbelievable and horrendous ways in Eastern Europe. Or she'll be sold again and she'll be sent to America and she'll be degraded and brutalized as a prostitute there. She'll be one of tens of millions of women who are traded literally as slaves for this sex trade in the world, the great world of imperialism today.
This is the real life beneath the glittering facade of this system. This is what masses of people go through all over the world every day, and it's happening even as you read this. Think about the recent incident in the Philippines, where there was a big storm and a garbage dump collapsed, killing hundreds of people, including children. And of course the imperialists say: "oh, this is a terrible accident." Now it was an accident, in one sense, that the rain came--the storm was an accident. But was it an accident that people were living in garbage dumps and having to pore through the garbage to try to live from day to day? No. They were driven off their land and into these slums once again by the workings of the imperialist system and the way in which it ruined the agriculture of the Philippines. This is no accident. This is the workings of the imperialist system, time and time again, every day.
Recently in the RW there was an article about Colombia and how the U.S. is bringing its wonders of death squad rule into the villages and bringing even more horrendous oppression to the people there, employing the so-called "El Salvador model," where in the '80s in village after village people were bombed, massacred, whole families wiped out, children slaughtered in front of their parents, women raped by the army and the death squads. This is the wonderful "El Salvador model" that is now being brought to Colombia.
In the book Democracy: Can't We Do Better Than That? I said that in the world today the most horrendous crimes are committed in the name of democracy. And I cited the example of Guatemala--particularly, at that time, Guatemala under the rule of the great "born-again Christian" butcher Rios Montt. I remember someone sent me a video--this is a very vivid image I have--a video of Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and a bunch of other Christian Fascists, holding hands like the zombies they are and intoning, like an incantation: "let us pray for Rios Montt." And they went on with this long prayer asking the Lord to strengthen Rios Montt in what he was doing. And what was he doing--what was happening under the regime of Rios Montt? Time and time again, the army would come into a village, they'd line everybody up, they'd kill every man of fighting age, they'd rape all the women repeatedly, and they'd take the little children--and I'm not exaggerating--they would take the little children down to the river, or some nearby place, and bash their heads in with rocks.
This is the "El Salvador model." This is the "Guatemala model." This is imperialism. This is what it means for the masses of people. This is happening all over the world under the rule of these imperialists--this is the reality and essence of their "freedom and democracy!"
And in Africa, particularly the southern part of Africa, there is a real prospect that up to half--half!--of the youth will get AIDS, while health care is cut as governments are forced to divert more and more funds to paying off debt to imperialist institutions and to carry out "austerity" programs cutting social services and "structural adjustment programs," which throughout the Third World are opening countries up to even more ruthless imperialist exploitation and robbery. And AIDS will be spreading throughout this generation and people will die, in great numbers, in southern Africa but also many other places, especially in the Third World-- youth will die, because the medicine is not made available to them. Because, as was pointed out in an article in the RW, there is considerable money to be devoted to research around "doggie Alzheimers" in the U.S., and other things like that, but proportionately very little money devoted to dealing with the monumental problem of AIDS--the tremendous epidemic of AIDS in the world--particularly in Africa today.
What about in the U.S. itself? What is happening to different sections of the people right now? And what is the future that's held out for them? I've been talking about different places in the world--what the masses of people are subjected to-- and, to try to give this a living face, I've been speaking in individual terms: a girl here, a boy there, a man here, a woman there. But this is the life and reality of masses of people. You can multiply those individual stories by millions and tens of millions. This is not the so-called famous "isolated incidents." This is what happens all the time, this is what life is like for the masses of people throughout the world.
And what is it like for people in the U.S.? Immigrants will come to this country, looking for work. And if they make it here past the border patrol and all that-- and if they aren't thrown in jail and aren't killed by the state or by vigilantes, and don't die from starvation or exposure to the heat in the desert or the cold in the mountains--they'll be forced to live and work in the shadows. They'll be forced to live huddled together in sub-standard housing. They'll be told that it's their own fault, that they're law breakers, that they're parasites--get that!--that they are parasites on society while the society, and particularly the bourgeoisie, is parasitically living off of them. And throughout the country, in the farm fields, in the inner cities, even in suburbs and small towns, immigrants are picking crops, making beds, cleaning up after other people, doing janitorial work and being viciously exploited and disrespected.
And at the same time as this is happening, a girl is growing up in the suburbs and she's told that her life is better than other people's. And if she manages to avoid the horrors of being molested as a small child--which happens many, many times--if she manages to grow up with a little bit of joy and something of a sense of dignity about herself and a sense of hope for the future, she'll get to a certain age, usually in her early teens, when on the one hand she'll be told that there are all these things that are "open" to her--women can do anything, look at women in sports, look at women in business and the professions--but on the other hand she'll be told in a thousand ways that her life really doesn't amount to anything and she's really not worth anything unless she looks a certain way, can attract a man, get married and have a family. You can "have it all," but you have to do that.
And as she becomes a teen, she'll be mocked and preached at by magazines of all kinds, and all other kinds of sources telling her that she should look a certain way and act a certain way, that she has to attract boys--and she'll try, many times she'll try to do this. And she'll find that it's a horror, that the relations among people, even among the youth at this stage, are mainly just ones of preying on others--particularly the boys preying on the girls, using them in various ways. And if she's not raped, she'll be misused in many other ways. And she's living in the suburbs being told that she's living the American Dream.
At the same time, a young guy in the same suburbs will have his head filled full of all this bullshit. He'll be told this is a great life and he'll look at his parents and see emptiness. His father's an alcoholic and his mother's taking tranquilizers or Prozac because she's depressed. And he'll be told that he should like this bland culture that's produced in the suburbs (or for the suburbs). But it won't do anything for him. He'll be attracted to the culture, the "outlaw culture," of the inner city. And he'll go to a Rage Against the Machine concert--and he'll be fucked over by the police. He may not be disrespected and brutalized in the same way as the people in the inner city, but in a thousand ways he'll be told that he's not shit.
And in the inner city a young guy will grow up--his family will have come from the South, his great grandfather and his grandfather will have worked, slaved away in any kind of job they could get. His grandfather will have had a job in the auto plants or the steel mills, or some other thing in Chicago or Los Angeles, whatever. But then those plants will have moved out. He'll be thrown out in the street. He won't be able to afford health care. He'll be told in so many ways that he's a piece of useless garbage, that he's long since outlived any useful role in society and anything he can do that's productive. And his son, the father of this young guy growing up today, will look at all this and say: "What the fuck for? What is the future in this? They've taken away everything anyway." And he'll be drawn to "the life," he'll be drawn to the street, and before he's 23 he'll be in jail with a long bid and he won't even know his children. And he'll be told that it's his fault, he'll be told that he's irresponsible, he'll be told that he's a fuck-up, he'll be told that he's an animal. And his son will look at this and say, "what the fuck for?" And he'll go down the same road, and when he's 12, or 14 (or even 10) he'll be running with a gang because he'll find some love there and some sense of purpose and a sense of respect. And the police will be fucking with him every day, whether he's doing any crime or not. They'll be telling him to "assume the position," they'll be spreading him over the hood over a car or face down on the street, they'll be brutalizing him and degrading him in front of his friends. And before he's 30, if he's "lucky" he'll be in prison--or he'll be dead.
And a mother is growing up in the ghetto or the barrio--a young girl who's become a mother as a teenager. When she was young she skipped rope, she did "double dutch," she had a beautiful smile, she played, she laughed. But when she became a teenager all of a sudden there were no more smiles because she was made to feel in a thousand ways that she was worthless, that she had no dignity, that she had no purpose. So she'll do the one thing that she can feel gives her some kind of purpose--she'll have a baby. She don't care about the father that much, she'll just have a baby. Or maybe she'll try to have some kind of a decent relationship and she'll find that's not very easy. So she'll have a baby, she'll have somebody that she can love and she feels will love her without qualification, without reservation, unconditionally. And then she'll confront what it means to have to try to raise a baby. And she'll do this many times in a search for some kind of life with a purpose. And men will come around when the welfare check comes and bring Pampers and tell her sweet things, because they've been indoctrinated with the idea that the way to be a man, the way to assert your manhood, is to get over on a woman--have sex with her and leave her, don't worry about the rest of it, you know, it's soft to care about a woman, it's soft to care about and have any affection and emotion for people. And she'll be old before she's young. She'll have kids, and at a certain age she'll see her girls starting to head down the same path she did and she'll try to talk to them--but they won't listen. And one day the police will come to her door and knock on it, smirking, and they'll tell her, "well your son got in a shoot-out with police--he pulled a gun...and he's dead." And they'll come by her house and mock her, day after day. And they'll call her up on the phone and say her son's name. And then they'll come around and say that a friend of your other son was dealing drugs in the project so you've got to go--one strike and you're out. And then Clinton and the rest of them muthafuckers will pass a "welfare reform bill," and she's got to scuffle and try to get two, three jobs--no more welfare. But she's on the street homeless now because they kicked her out of the project because somebody said a friend of somebody in her family had drugs--didn't prove shit, probably planted by the police, but it doesn't matter. And nobody's telling her how in the fuck she's going to get from one job to the next to make this money that she's not getting from the welfare, or how her kids are gonna get taken care of while she's doing all this work. And this is her life. And this is the future that the system holds out for her.
And again, you can take each one of these things that I've talked about and multiply them by millions of people, because this is the reality of what people are going through, in the U.S. and all over the world, under this imperialist system.
Now, when you step back and look at all this, how can we think that anything other than revolution is going to deal with this?
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
Write: Box 3486, Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654
Phone: 773-227-4066 Fax: 773-227-4497
(The RW Online does not currently communicate via email.)