June 19, 2005
When the Sea Stood Up
by Michael Slate
Revolution #006, June 19, 2005, posted at revcom.us
It was incredibly quiet, serene actually, as we drove along the coast through Matara and headed on around to Hambantota on the southeastern rim of the island just as it begins to turn north. The road stretches alongside some really beautiful beaches. The seas are calm and unimaginably blue. The waves are small and rhythmic, soothing in their repetition as they quietly and softly roll ashore.
Somewhere between the town of Tangalle and Hambantota, the weather zone shifts from wet to dry. Much of the coastline here is shielded from monsoons, and seas are good for fishing almost all year round.
Hambantota is often described as a bustling town with little to offer visitors. It's close to some national parks, but for most tourists its biggest claim to fame is that Leonard Woolf, husband of writer Virginia Woolf, was the British government agent here in 1908 and wrote about the town in his book A Village in the Jungle. Aside from fishing, the other main industry in the town is salt production carried out by the ancient method of evaporating sea water in salt pans.
A week earlier we had lunch with a couple of tsunami volunteers from L.A. Their families are Sri Lankan immigrants now settled in southern California. They had arrived in Sri Lanka in early January and had done volunteer gigs all along the southern coast. They were filled with stories of what they had seen and what they had learned— including many stories about government corruption and dishonesty woven in and out of the relief aid distribution efforts. They described Hambantota as the worst-hit spot they had come across. They would say no more, simply telling us we had to visit the town and see for ourselves.
The people in Hambantota are mostly Muslim. As we sat in the middle of a large expanse of dirt littered with broken rock and coconut shells, the noon prayers chanted over a loudspeaker in a nearby mosque were the only sign that we had arrived in Hambantota. The entire town—except for a few semi-wrecked buildings, a couple of ragged ruins and a few dozen scattered wooden huts and tents made of heavy white canvas—was gone, completely destroyed and washed away in the tsunami.
Most of the ruins left in the wake of the tsunami were bulldozed down and plowed under by the government within a few days of the tsunami. So all that was left was this huge dirt field. A few dozen men sought shade under the coconut trees scattered along the beach.
As we tried to understand what it must have been like in Hambantota when the tsunami hit, a man with an angry gash on his left leg pedaled up on an old bicycle. His name was Jabari, born and raised in Hambantota.
"I am 40 years old and I have been a fisherman for 22 years now. I have a small catamaran and that's how I make my livelihood. On the day of the tsunami I had gone out to sea. I was gone the whole night and had just come back. I was at my mother's and had just taken a wash when the tsunami hit. About 8:30 I was playing with my sister's kids and some of the kids in the neighborhood. Then about 9:15 there was a gush of water coming towards us. I came out and looked and there was a huge sound which I can not describe. With the sound came a whole wave of water that went above us. It drowned us. Then I got washed away. I was carrying a four-year-old child. Then a wall crumbled and buried me and I lost this child. Altogether we lost five children in my extended family. I lost my own four-month- old child. I found my child's body in Colombo at the Borella morgue."
Jabari stopped talking for a moment. The noontime prayers from the mosque were the only sound to be heard. His eyes welled with tears and his voice cracked as he continued.
"Before the tsunami there were very good buildings on both sides of the road there. There were some shops and double-story homes. People had worked very hard all their life to build up their homes. This was a fairly prosperous place. There were maybe about 10 commercial establishments like guest houses and hotels and about 400 homes.
"The government says that about 4,500 people lost their lives here. But that was the village fair day [a farmers' market], and you would have close to 5,000 people here. And then if you take the people in their homes and total it up there would be over 7,000 people killed, not less."
Jabari pointed to what remained of a low stone structure.
"The village fair was conducted along this stretch of coastal land, and all of that was washed away. And 90% of the people who were at the fair were washed away. Many of the 10% who survived were wounded."
Hambantota depended entirely on the sea for its existence. Fishing and salt production —that was what had kept the vast majority of people alive for more than a century. When the sea turned on them, it not only killed thousands of people but destroyed the main source of survival for many thousands more. Pointing to a mid-size boat that sat in the middle of the field like it had been dropped from the sky, Jabari went on.
"That boat there was anchored at sea and the tsunami just picked it up and brought it ashore. There were about 400 fishing boats here and all of them were destroyed. Some were completely taken away, washed away by the tsunami, and others were broken into two or three pieces. I have not been able to get back to the sea or have any kind of livelihood since the tsunami. Several offices have been established here to supposedly help the people. I have gone to them and told them that if they could give me some equipment then I can find a catamaran and I will get my life back and I will look after my mother. But up to today no one has done anything for me to help me resume my livelihood.
"My house was located where inland water came to the sea. There was a sort of big canal there and this is where the water came the most fiercely. My house was razed to the ground—not even a brick remains. Even the foundation is hard to recognize. When the water came it went over our heads and we were all swept away, so we don't really know how high it went. But we know that we were swept away. When my sister's daughter was screaming `Uncle, uncle, please help me,' I couldn't get to her because the water was so violent and swirling. I have never seen anything so forceful or violent in my life.
"When I came here and saw what happened I didn't know what to do. I just sat here and cried. I thought everybody was gone. Then somebody came up and told me that my mother and some of the elder people are there, but the children are all gone. They told me to go and look for the children and that's what I did."
Like most of the survivors in Hambantota, Jabari is still not very clear about what exactly happened, what exactly a tsunami is, why it happened, or why it caused so much destruction, death and pain. But, again like many others in his town, the desperate sadness in Jabari's voice is quickly replaced with anger—especially when he talks about the Sri Lankan government and how it treats the people.
"Look, the tsunami hit Trincomalee [upper northeast part of the island] at about 7:30 in the morning and there are all kinds of equipment there—the Navy, Armed Forces, all kinds of communications, they have it all. It came here about 9:30 and Galle about 10 so they could have easily sent an alarm. But evidently the government officials were not doing their duty. Government bureaucracy as a whole, they only pass laws against the people. But they enjoy all the freedom in the sense of privileges. And they have no sense of working or sense of duty.
"All these acres of land here, it was all houses and all close together with the children's park right there. This has all been destroyed and devastated. And the government came next and flattened all this. They want a harbor here. They say it's safe to have a harbor within 100 meters of here, but it's not safe to have a house here. The government has been trying to acquire this land for about two or three years now, and the people have resisted, saying these are our homes, this is where we were born, and we are not going away. So the government took the opportunity right after the tsunami to just grab it. Less than four days after the tsunami they came and bulldozed everything. Even the walls that remained or whatever, they just bulldozed it and didn't even bother to see if there were corpses."
As I spoke with Jabari, another man approached us and stood waiting for the conversation to end. His name was Saboor, and his shy smile was in stark contrast with his intense and anxious eyes. He took my arm and began to walk me across the field towards a white tent, all the while explaining,
"You can't live here, can't breathe. It is too hot! If we can't stay here then how do you expect infants and children to stay here?
"My hut was here but I was in the town when the tsunami hit. From the town I just saw some little bit of disturbance, some waves coming up. And then suddenly it came into a big wave and went into the town, washed over everything in the town and took it away. And all of our boats were taken away by the sea. Then the sea receded and we went after our boats, to try to recover our boats. And then we could see that the wave was coming back. I came over to where the village fair was because that was the area where we all lived. Everything was washed away by the time I got here, including my house. So this was just a wasteland. I lost 14 people in my family—my wife, my three daughters, my mother, my sister and her children. We looked for their bodies for two days, but we could only find the body of my mother."
We arrived at Saboor's tent. He challenged us to come in and see how long we could take the noontime heat. Inside his tent was a sand floor and two mosquito coils. He had nothing else but the clothes on his back. Everything was taken by the tsunami. The heat in the tent was almost visible—the air seemed to have a wavy appearance. I think we lasted about three or four minutes inside the tent—it was impossible to breathe, it felt like your lungs were collapsing. Our clothes were soaked and our eyes were burning from dripping sweat. This was the "relief" offered to Saboor and so many others left homeless after the tsunami all over Sri Lanka.
The outside temperature was in the upper 90s, but when we stepped outside the tent it was like we walked into a refreshing cool breeze. Saboor shook his head and said,
"It is only at night that I come here to this tent. Sometimes our friends come here, but all we can do is sleep here. What else can we do?"
Saboor walked us over to a coconut tree grove where a group of his friends relaxed in the shade. Kannan, a tall, thin man in his early thirties wearing a Chicago White Sox hat, invited us to sit with them. He laughed when Saboor told the group how long we were able to stay inside the tent. Then he said,
"It is very, very sad that we all have to live like this now. We all had a sense of dignity and we all lived well. We were not living off of anybody. We earned our way, we earned our life. We lived in fairly good homes. But suddenly now we are reduced to living in tents. And it is burning inside there, you can't stay inside there for more than five minutes. We get beaten by the sun—and then we get beaten by the rains and all the water comes into the tents.
"We feel that we are being played with because they bring in this 100-meters buffer zone rule [a law the government has been trying to enforce along the coastline in the wake of the tsunami that forbids people to live within 100 meters of the ocean]. And we don't know if we should come back and build new houses. We don't have any other land, this is our title land. We own this land. But then suddenly the Prime Minister comes here and says that this is forbidden territory and says we can't build here because it would be against the law. Well, if it is against the law, then take over the land and build us up alternative homes—but not five kilometers away. They must have a practical plan and a solution."
We left Saboor and his friends and walked across the dirt field to the beach and down towards the ocean. The sea was really beautiful that day—calm, quiet, bright blue and really inviting. There were a few fishing boats bobbing on the horizon. But as inviting as the sea seemed on a day as hot as it was, no one went anywhere near it. There had been rumors that the full moon exactly three months after the tsunami would bring another tsunami, and people were scared.
As one old man explained to me,
"We never even heard this word before. We had no idea what it was or what it could do to us, how much pain and suffering it could bring us. Now we know but what can we do. No one tells us anything. So we hear the water will rise tomorrow night and perhaps it will be a new tsunami. We won't stay here for that."
Walking across the dirt field meant stepping on the shards of people's lives. A child's broken toy, water-stained photo albums, an old school assignment book with barely visible ink writing across the wrinkled sun-dried pages, smashed videocassettes and even old pants and broken dinner plates littered the area. A few bright red or blue staircases swirled up towards the sky but led nowhere. Only the faintest traces of housing foundations were all that remained of most of Hambantota.
As we walked a man approached and showed us pictures on his cell phone. In very broken English he explained,
"This is my family—my father's family, my mother's family—it is 60 people dead. I lost everyone, my father, my mother, four brothers. I was going to the mosque on December... and then going to the salt corporation. I got a message at 9:20 that the tsunami has hit my area. My mother was dead, my house was gone."
In an unbearably sad voice he explained that the photos on his cell phone were all he had left of his family. He kept that phone on a long necklace around his neck and tucked safely into his breast pocket.
As we stood at the edge of the ocean a young Muslim girl talked with us about losing her family and her home. A small group of men stood nearby and watched the conversation. It was clear they were safeguarding her. The girl was 15 and she was irrepressible. After the tsunami she went to live with her cousins and two surviving brothers. She introduced us to her cousin Sadiq, a short, thin 25-year-old man who quickly advised us to move into the shade if we wanted to continue the conversation.
"I am a fisherman. On the...26th, in the morning time I went to sea and came back at 8 o'clock. I went home at 8:45 and stayed there. Then after 9:15 I came out from the house and was standing on the sea- side of the house and casting my net for fish. Then I thought, why is the sea standing? I never thought this could happen. This never happened before. So I ran to my house and told my father that the sea is coming to us and that we cannot stay and we must go. After we went, the sea was very high power and it came to us and it smashed all things, the walls and the trees. All of that was broken. My father and mother all got caught in that water. I escaped from the sea. I ran for one kilometer to escape. Then after the tsunami went down, I came back to see the dead bodies of my parents. I found my home broken and people's bodies around it. I buried in the mosque five bodies.
"After that I had no place to stay so now I am staying in friends' houses. I am trying to find a house some other place. They are trying to put us on the jungle side, but I don't like to go there because I am a fisherman. I accept that I can build a house on the place where I lost my house. If I am there then I can go to sea again. I had a boat and canoes, and I lost everything. My boat had everything in it, and if I get this replaced then I can go back to sea. Now it is three months that I didn't go to sea because I don't have the things I need to go to sea.
"So I am living day by day. I have no alternative. Until I get a solution from the government or from others I have to survive. Until then I can only survive."
Revolution #006, June 19, 2005, posted at revcom.us
The body of Emmett Till was taken from its grave on May 31.
A backhoe dug into a suburban Chicago cemetery on orders from the Department of Justice. As his surviving family watched, Emmett's body was whisked away for an autopsy in the Cook County Medical Examiner's office.
It is fifty years since Emmett's naked and tortured body was pulled from the muddy waters of the Tallahatchie River.
The Department of Justice now claims that a new investigation into this murder has opened, and that new forensic tests may put them back on the trail of his killers.
But, in truth, this system—from the White House to the Mississippi courthouse—has denied and prevented justice in this terrible murder.
And, fifty long years later, the attempts to whitewash that injustice are still going on.
"A 14 year-old Black boy lynched. For what?! For whistling at a white woman."
Bob Avakian, Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About1
It was August 1955, and Emmett Till was only 14 and full of life as he arrived in the small dusty cotton town of Money, Mississippi. His family had migrated from the Mississippi Delta to Chicago—and like many Black youth, Emmett went "down home" during his summer vacation to stay with family. On August 24, after a day spent picking cotton, Emmett and his teenage friends went over to Bryant's Grocery and Meat Market where Roy and Carolyn Bryant mainly sold fatback and snuff to the Black sharecroppers of the town. There Emmett reportedly whistled at 21-year-old Carolyn Bryant.
Four days later, Roy Bryant and his older half brother, Big J.W. Milam, showed up armed in the middle of the night, to take Emmett away. His uncle Moses Wright begged for Emmett's life. Big Milam, a hard-bitten plantation foreman, snapped back, "You n*ggers go back to sleep!"
Describing these events in his 2003 filmed talk, RCP Chairman Bob Avakian said:
"[Emmett's] relatives began looking for his body along riverbanks and under bridges. 'Where Black folks always look when things like this happens,' as his uncle put it. Think about that. Think about what it means: 'Where Black folks always look when this kind of thing happens.' Think about what that tells you about this country!"
When Emmett Till's body was found, he had been beaten beyond recognition. One eye was gouged out. He had been chopped with an ax and shot with a 45 in his ear. A 75-pound cotton gin fan was tied around his neck with barbed wire—to weigh him down in the waters.
Fifty years later, no one has ever been punished for this crime—even though everyone in Money, Mississippi knew who killed him.
Bryant and Milam did not even hide their faces that night. They were that confident they would be protected. Such things had happened many times before.
But Emmett's mother acted with great courage and insisted on an open casket at his Chicago funeral—so that everyone could see what had been done to her son. Tens of thousands of people filed in to view him, and photographs of his mutilated face were printed in Jet magazine.
Bob Avakian notes:
"The story of what happened to Emmett Till aroused deep anger among Black people all over the country. It shocked many white people in many parts of the country. And it became an international news story and outrage. But back in Mississippi, white people rallied to the defense of the men who had kidnapped and brutally murdered Emmett Till. These men were put on trial only because of the outrage around the country and around the world."
The defense lawyers mocked Emmett's family, claiming that his body could not have been reliably identified, and that he was really alive in Detroit, and that the whole affair was a scheme cooked up by the NAACP. At great risk, Moses Wright stood up in that segregated courtroom, and pointed out the two men who had taken his nephew Emmett that night.
And yet, still, there was no justice.
The all-white jury took only 67 minutes to find Bryant and Milam not guilty of murder. One jury member joked that they took a "soda break" to stretch it over an hour.
There were demands that the Mississippi courts retry Milam and Bryant—this time on kidnapping charges. Witnesses traveled to Greenwood, risking death to give detailed new testimony before a grand jury in November 1955.
And yet, still, there was no justice.
The grand jury simply refused to re-indict the two men.
Then, Milam and Bryant agreed to an interview with Look magazine for $4,000 each. It appeared on January 24, 1956. In it, they coldly described pistol-whipping Emmett and carving up his eye.
"We were never able to scare him," Milam told the reporter from Look."They had just filled him so full of that poison that he was hopeless.. I like n*ggers. In their place. I know how to work 'em. But I just decided it was time a few people were put on notice."
Big Milam described forcing the barely conscious Emmett Till to strip and stand there on the bank of the Tallahatchie—and then Milam, a combat veteran of Patton's World War 2 Division, shot Emmett in the head with his military 45.
"I just made up my mind," Milam said. "Chicago boy, I said, I'm tired of 'em sending your kind down here to stir up trouble. Goddamn you, I'm gonna make an example of you, just so everybody can know how me and my folks stand."
After these two men confessed to the national media, in gruesome and shameless detail, there was a great outcry for federal indictments against them.
And yet, still there was no justice.
Bob Avakian describes what happened:
"Despite a massive campaign calling for the federal government to indict these two men, the government refused. Sound familiar? Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was President of the United States at the time, never even answered a telegram sent to him by Mamie Till. J. Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI, called this brutal lynching of Emmett Till an 'alleged murder,' and he gave much more attention to investigating the involvement of communists in protesting this lynching than he ever did to the lynching itself."
The protection of this Mississippi lynching party was not just some local, backwoods, Southern throw-back. The active deliberate denial of justice came from the highest offices of the land—from the White House itself and the leadership of the FBI.
Emmett Till's lynching revealed, for people all over the U.S. and the world, the raw terror Black people were subjected to. The way his murder was handled, and the way his murderers were freed, revealed to all that the lynch law against Black people had been nurtured as a key pillar of power within the plantation system that exploited Black farmers in the Deep South for a hundred years. Such brutal oppression of Black people has always, in different ways and forms, been woven into the deepest fabric of the American Way of Life—right down until today.
J.W. Milam died in 1980, and Roy Bryant in 1990. Both lived out their lives without ever serving a day in prison.
Mamie Till died at age 81 on January 6, 2003—and never saw any justice.
Emmett's blood is still crying out all over the world."
Simeon Wright, Emmett Till's cousin, who was sleeping in the same bed with him on August 28, 1955
Decades have passed.
Then, suddenly, on May 10, 2004, the United States Department of Justice announced that it was reopening this case.
Because while making his documentary The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till, filmmaker Keith Beauchamp uncovered evidence that as many as 10 people may have been involved in the murder. And after that film aired, the Department of Justice felt exposed and embarrassed. It claimed its FBI agents were, again, hot on the trail of the killers.
Of course, the evidence Beauchamp discussed could have been found any time over the last fifty years.
To whitewash itself, the FBI went through the motions. They said they would use new DNA tests to confirm that this body is, in fact, Emmett Till—something Mamie Till fully confirmed fifty years ago. They plan to examine bullet fragments in his head. They claimed to have hope that DNA evidence might now finger some surviving killer.
But, of course, chances of justice have evaporated with time. And the federal statutes of limitations have expired. Even if they found some of the lynchers still alive, even if they managed to indict them in Mississippi's state court—would these unlikely events bring justice after fifty years of official cover-up and insult?
As Emmett Till's coffin was being dug up on May 31, a Black FBI agent was assigned to say, at the graveside, that this new operation proves how times have changed. The justice system turns slowly, he said, but it still turns.
A lie, that is yet another injustice heaped on Emmett Till.
Why is Emmett Till now being dragged from his grave?
Because, for fifty years since his terrible murder, this vicious system denied justice, over and over and over — and it still wants to hide that truth from the world.
"This experience of lynching and its effect on the masses of Black people can, in a real sense, be taken as representing and concentrating the experience of Black people as a whole, long after literal slavery (with all its horrors) had been ended in the 1860s."
Bob Avakian, Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About
At any moment, in a long century between reconstruction and the 1960s, any Black man could be taken by a mob, beaten, castrated, hung, and burned for nothing more than a rumor. Lynchings have been documented in 46 states, but especially in the Deep South this was an ever-present fact of life, inflicting a constant and unrelieved fear on Black people. And for the oppressors of Black people, it was felt as an awful and awesome power that was always there to be used, whenever they chose.
The numbers of Black people lynched in these ways is simply not known.
From the beginnings of slavery to 1882, no one even bothered to count the numbers of lynchings.
Between 1882 and 1930 the documented lynchings of Black people numbered 3,386 —sometimes reaching over a hundred a year (about the number of counties in the Deep South). And many lynchings, obviously, were just never publicly documented in the press.
Lynching declined as mechanization, migration, and the great struggles for Black liberation undercut the plantation "way of life." But even then individual lynchings have continued right up to the present (including, for example, the horrific 1998 murder of James Byrd in Jasper, Texas).
And, if anything, the threat of murder facing Black people has hardly disappeared, but has shifted with changes in U.S. society—from vigilante mobs of white "citizens" to the constant murder of Black youth by police acting "under the color of law."
by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA
Revolution #006, June 19, 2005, posted at revcom.us
An irony for all these progressives who got into the recent (2004) election and supported Kerry—and Thomas Friedman (a major commentator for the ruling class) had the virtue of saying this explicitly—is that they were basically supporting Bush, the papa, against Bush, junior. That's what they were doing by voting for Kerry. Objectively, it came down to: they were supporting Bush I against Bush II. If you reduce things to the talk about "multilateralism," and so on, if that's what your critique of the Iraq war has been reduced to—criticizing Bush for "not involving more allies," in that war—so much for your "progressivism." Anyway, for people who consider themselves progressives but got into this Kerry thing, they need a good hard look in the mirror. Even Ralph Nader said, "My god, you people all gave in [to Kerry and the Democrats] without demanding anything." That was his answer to the people who attacked him—progressives who attacked Nader for running again—"you people gave in without demanding anything—that's shameful, disgraceful." And he has a point, within the framework of how these people are arguing. Anyway, that's just something to think about.
The main point is this: If you take the statement by Newt Gingrich (a "conservative" Republican and former Speaker of the House of Representatives), comparing the present situation in the U.S. to that in the period before the Civil War in the middle of the 19th century, what I'm arguing is that even if these imperialists don't get overextended internationally, in a really dramatic way and get into a whole disaster, this Christian Fascism thing could- -not automatically will but could—play the role of "stage manager" for revolution, if we do our work correctly, not only in opposition to Christian Fascism but in relation to the situation and its development as a whole. Of course, we did not choose to have—and we would greatly prefer not to have—this whole Christian Fascist phenomenon. But that is not up to us—it is not of our doing, and not of our choosing. That's why (in some other remarks) I made the analogy to Japan invading China and Mao's comment about how, as terrible as that was—and he was very acutely aware of how terrible it was and how it greatly increased the suffering of the masses of Chinese people—this invasion constituted a kind of "pivotal event," or represented a kind of "stage manager role," in relation to the revolution in China and its ultimate success in not only driving out Japanese imperialism but liberating China entirely from imperialist and reactionary rule. With that understanding, and in that spirit, this is an analogy I'm drawing to the role of Christian Fascism in the U.S. today.
Yes, things could intervene to change this—you can't be determinist, and our approach to very serious things shouldn't be gimmicky—but I do think this Christian Fascist phenomenon is changing things and setting in motion a definite dynamic, which is part of a larger dynamic in the world, so it could be subsumed under or altered by or shoved aside temporarily or mitigated by other contradictions and dynamics. But it is introducing a definite dynamic—and the point of the Gingrich statement is that all this doesn't have a resolution short of something very radical.
I don't think everybody is just alarmist who is saying this. Of course, everybody knows we're alarmist [ B.A. laughs ], but there are other people out there saying this. To be serious, there is an alarmism you have to guard against, which is a form of instrumentalism: "If we can just scare people enough, then they will rally to our banner." That's what we're accused of, and we should not fall into that. We should make scientific analyses, not instrumentalist analyses like, "Oh good, now I can see a way we can swing people to our side." We shouldn't get into that kind of approach of: "let's look for something that can scare people enough that they will rally to us." But the point is, this is real what's happening. It's not accidental that some people are saying that this is like the period between the appointment of Hitler as Chancellor and the Reichstag fire (an event in Germany—the burning down of the parliament, or Reichstag, structures—which was used by the Nazis to consolidate power and outlaw and suppress opposition). It may not be exactly analogous, things may not work out exactly that way (leaving aside the limitations with all analogies), but it's not accidental, it's not out of nowhere, it's not because people are crazy or just merely being instrumentalist themselves in trying to get other people to oppose this.
There is something real here, and what I'm arguing is that, yes, the international dimension is ultimately decisive for everything—it is fundamentally and ultimately determining of what takes place in any, and every, country—but we shouldn't be mechanical and reductionist about that either. Things can develop their own dynamics, which doesn't have to be what's happening in the world at large—or, more specifically, what's happening with Bush and the imperialists' overall international crusade. Those things will have a major effect on how the polarization occurs within the U.S., and in how we can and must work to achieve a repolarization, but that's not the only way that things can get posed in very extreme terms. I'm saying something different than "only if they get overextended could we possibly have the emergence of a full legitimacy crisis and even possibly a revolutionary crisis." I'm not selling anybody promises, I'm just trying to analyze the world.
It is part of our "job," part of our responsibility, to try to see where the openings for revolution might come from, without inventing them. We should really guard against instrumentalism and "concocting fashionable means" of struggle and "looking for loopholes" in the wrong sense—where they don't really exist. But, with the correct scientific method, it is our responsibility to look for where openings might come and where they might be emerging. And, from that perspective, I believe there is a certain thing happening here which is very unfavorable right now, but which holds the potential (that's the analogy to the Japanese invasion) for us to transform it into something else, maybe even all the way into a revolution. Now, again, we should learn from past errors in the direction of being mechanical and not engaging reality in a thorough enough way, in all its complexity and contradictoriness, to say nothing of approaching reality with preconceived notions, or formulas, and instrumentalist methods. We should learn from the epistemological ruptures we are making and really make them thoroughly.1 Things may turn out another way, besides a full-blown crisis and possibly even a revolution—it may turn out horribly or it may get mitigated. Let's not go out to people with a simple-minded vulgarization of reality—that doesn't do anybody any good. But, on the other hand, I believe there is a certain development here that is leading toward an extreme resolution, one way or the other. I don't believe these arguments are purely hyperbole, for instrumentalist purposes, by the Gingriches, or whatever.
It is a little bit like the Yao Wen-yuan statement—this was attributed to him after the "gang of four" were defeated, but it sounds real to me—about how, "We've had struggles of all different kinds, we've had the Cultural Revolution, and we've tried to resolve this in other forms, so why can't we cut off some heads?" [Yao Wen-yuan was one of the "gang of four" who were upholding Mao's line after his death in 1976 and were arrested as the first and decisive step in the coup that led to the restoration of capitalism in China under Deng Xiaoping.] This is what Yao Wen-yuan was reputed to have said before his head effectively got cut off politically. And apparently the other side, led by Deng Xiaoping, had the same logic—only they had more going for them. That's somewhat the problem we're facing here and now [ B.A. laughs ]. It's not literally a question of cutting off heads, that's a metaphor—at least I'm using it as a metaphor—what I'm speaking to is the situation where forces in society with very different outlooks and programs are increasingly in antagonistic opposition to each other and this can only be ultimately resolved with one of them winning out and decisively defeating the other. This very much relates to the Gingrich statement about how things are shaping up in this period in the U.S.: things are not going to get resolved other than through one side crushing the other, is essentially what Gingrich is saying.
Right now the sides are not the way we need them to be—but neither were they when Japan invaded China. The point is to recognize what the dynamic is, and what the potential is for resolution, one way or the other.
Yes, if the international situation goes one way it will affect that adversely for us, and if it goes another way it will, at least potentially, make it more favorable for us. We don't see eye to eye with the people who may be progressive in a general sense but, on their own and spontaneously, are fearful of the prospect of revolution. It's not that we like extremes for their own sake, any more than Mao liked the mass slaughters and rapes carried out by the Japanese when they invaded and occupied China. But this is part of reality we have to confront: If things don't go to extremes, they can't get resolved, and the horrors will continue, and get worse. That's the point of A Horrible End, or an End to the Horror 2: This world is horrible for the great majority of humanity, and for large sections of this society, all the time, even if they put up with it much of the time. As Lenin said, people "uncomplainingly" allow themselves to be robbed in "normal times." That doesn't mean they're not being robbed, and it doesn't mean it's not horrible—certainly for the majority of humanity it is horrible. That's why we are willing to see things go to extremes—and, specifically, the "extreme" of revolution. But, in order to make revolution, we also have to understand that there will be forces, particularly among the middle strata, with whom we have to work, and carry out a process of unity-struggle-unity, who are going to try desperately to find every other solution before they will embrace revolution. They will even do things that amount to supporting the essence of Bush I against Bush II, in the embodiment of Kerry—and other things that keep presenting themselves as illusory solutions—before they become convinced, through the development of the objective situation and our work, correctly carried out, that revolution really is both necessary and in fact desirable.
Now, it is a fact—and this is examined in the book by Crane Brinton, The Anatomy of Revolution —that revolutions don't usually develop with the most resolute and determined revolutionaries coming to the fore right away. In many cases at least, revolutions are made by, or initiated by, people who don't intend to have it go to a revolution. They get "Gorbacheved"—they think they're setting in motion one dynamic, and they end up with another: The dynamic that they're both taking initiative to set in motion and that they are, on another level, an expression of, can't be resolved, or in any case doesn't get resolved—not to be determinist about it, but it doesn't get resolved short of something beyond what they may have wanted. This is what happened with Gorbachev—he didn't set out to dissolve the Soviet Union, but that is what resulted from what he set in motion. And, in certain circumstances, this is what happens to "moderates" who set in motion a process that leads to a revolution they may well not have expected, or even wanted.
This is the way we have to understand things. We do have to break away from "structural determinism"—seeing the basic structure, or underlying foundation, of things as determining events in a mechanical sense, and not understanding the relative independence of the superstructure (ideology and politics, the actions of individuals, and so on). These are erroneous tendencies we have fallen into before, and we should learn from that. Human beings are thinking, conscious beings, who are acting within a certain underlying material framework, but they're not simply slaves to objective conditions. This applies to representatives of the bourgeoisie as well as of the proletariat. People can transform objective conditions, too—they have will and initiative. That's what Engels said in that letter he wrote (to Bloch) near the end of his life: We (Engels and Marx) had to put so much emphasis on the underlying material factors, and we didn't really talk a lot about the superstructural factors. That's what Engels said, in essence: We did not give enough emphasis to those superstructural factors.
We have to start thinking in these kinds of ways, in our methodology generally, but in particular I'm arguing for a certain thing here. Not because I like the polarization that is currently taking shape, but because I do believe it is our responsibility to see where openings for radically transforming things might be coming from. And, in any case, we certainly have to recognize what a very bad polarization can lead to, if we don't act on it.
If Kerry had been elected, there would have been a different dynamic. And I will say that I agonized for quite a while over whether, in this particular situation, it might be better if, in fact, Kerry did win—or, more to the point, if Bush lost the election. I came to the conclusion that this was not the case, but I agonized over this for quite a while, and from many different angles, before coming to that conclusion—and I will say that, if you were not agonizing over that, you weren't doing what a communist is supposed to be doing. But, at the end of all that agonizing, I came to the conclusion that the election of Kerry would not have been better—there would have been a different dynamic, but not one that was better (or worse).
I had some discussion with another comrade and they kept coming back to this point: "Would it be objectively better if Kerry got elected? I know we shouldn't say so, but would it be objectively better if Kerry got elected?" And I answered: "If it would objectively be better, we should say so, and train the masses to think the right way. It's not the case that it might be objectively better but we shouldn't say so. If it would be objectively better, we should have determined that and said so and explained why, and trained the masses in communist tactics flowing from a communist analysis and methodology." That was a very good discussion and struggle we had. That process had a lot to do with how I came to the position: "They [Kerry and Bush] are both worse"— which I think is a correct position. This relates to a point some comrades in our Party's leadership have pointed out: If Kerry had gotten in office it would have been "Clinton times ten" (or "Clinton to the 10th power") in terms of what would have been going on. Not only would Kerry have been, in essence, Bush I, but he would have been Bush I under extreme and intensifying pressure from Bush II (or the forces Bush II represents).
What is represented by the Christian Fascists is not isolated from the larger dynamics—within the ruling class, within U.S. society as a whole, and within the world overall—and we should understand the role of the other sections of the ruling class, both within the alliance that the Christian Fascists are now part of, and more broadly. What is represented by Brzezinski (former Secretary of State under President Jimmy Carter)? What is represented by Kerry? By Scowcroft (a official in the administration of Bush I)? And, for that matter, what is represented by Bush I himself? Kitty Kelley says, in her book ( The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty ), that Papa Bush went into a tirade at one point about what his son "W" is doing, particularly in regard to Iraq. I don't know if that's true or not, but it might be, there is a certain logic there in terms of what is happening in Iraq. But, in any case, Bush senior is there cheering on his son "W"—Bush I is not coming out in the public and saying "vote for Kerry." The same thing with McCain. McCain hates Bush, for good reason and to a great depth, and he has more or less said so. When I saw him interviewed after the election, he more or less said so (or all but said so). But McCain also said, "I think Bush is a better Commander-in-Chief in time of war." These are things we have to understand.
Anyway, I'm offering a certain thesis that relates to the Gingrich statement, the analogy to the Japanese invasion of China, the ladders of the pyramid collapsing3—I don't mean that the whole pyramid is collapsing, but the way it's configured, that's not going to hold. The center not holding in the way it's been holding, the effort to reconstitute a center (of capitalist class rule) on a different basis, and a rationalization and legitimation of that on a different basis—that is the process going on here. This is giving rise to a certain polarization now, which needs to be radically repolarized. And the point is that this might—not will for certain, but might—lead all the way to an opening for revolution, to the resolution of this in, yes, an extreme but at the same time a positive way, a revolutionary way, rather than in some reactionary and even fascist way. And this could happen through a direct clash with the fascists—against the attempt at the fascist resolution of this and the imposition of outright fascist rule. These may be the two poles that come to the fore. One of them, the negative extreme, can easily come to the fore "spontaneously"—through a process that is spontaneous from our standpoint. But the other one, the positive one, certainly won't—it will require tremendous effort on our part, to wrench this positive revolutionary outcome out of this whole situation and its development toward extremes.
Needless to say, if there is a fascist resolution of all this, it will not be "Nach Hitler Uns" (a saying in German—"After Hitler Us"—a very mistaken orientation fallen into by communists in Germany in the 1930s). Instead, it will in essence be: "Mit Hitler... Oh Shit!" ("with Hitler...oh shit!") [ B.A. laughs ]. We'd better understand that, we better not allow that to be the resolution of it. We better change that by the work we do and the struggle we wage, by how we understand and act on reality.
1. See "Bob Avakian in a Discussion with Comrades on Epistemology—On Knowing and Changing the World," Revolutionary Worker #1262 (December 19, 2004).
3. See "The Center: Can It Hold...The Pyramid as Two Ladders," another excerpt in this series, which was published in Revolution #4 (May 29, 2005).
University of Colorado at Boulder
Revolution #006, June 19, 2005, posted at revcom.us
Asked this spring to nominate their favorite professor, students at the University of Colorado at Boulder overwhelmingly picked Ward Churchill. Yes. This is the professor who's been widely attacked and vilified in recent months for an essay he wrote in the wake of 9/11, whose head has been called for by the governors of two states, whose life has been threatened, and who may lose his tenured position at the university as a result of an ongoing investigation on trumped-up charges.
The university alumni association, which sponsors the Teaching Recognition Award, promptly announced that they would withhold the award from Churchill. Given annually for 44 years, this is the first time anyone has heard of the award's being withheld from the person who won it.
Meanwhile...... One reason the university could not summarily fire Churchill from his teaching position was that he had been granted tenure—a formal status designed to protect professors from being fired for their research, writing, and speech. In other words, the purpose of academic tenure is precisely to protect the position of thinkers and researchers who come under political attack, as Churchill has been and continues to be.
But for those out to get Churchill and anyone else who dares to critique the U.S. role in the world, the tenure process poses an obstacle. The question was repeatedly raised in the media witch-hunt surrounding this case: How did Ward Churchill get tenure? And what about the whole tenure process? So in due course, the university Board of Regents created a special committee to review the entire tenure process at the university. It was reported that the committee's mission was to investigate whether the process is "tough enough."
Now who could be expected to head such a committee? Someone from within the university? Don't be ridiculous! Maybe a businessman? Well, the Denver economic development director is on the committee, but even someone from the dog-eat-dog world of business might still not be "tough enough." Well, then — a military man!
In fact, the choice to head the tenure review committee is Howell M. Estes III, former commander in chief of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and former commander of the Air Force Space Command, both headquartered in Cheyenne Mountain Air Station near Colorado Springs. These are the nerve centers of a worldwide air and space monitoring and warning system, coordinating a global array of satellites, radars and sensors.
At the same time, the Rocky Mountain News, an area paper with a conservative bent, has just published the results of its own "investigation" of charges raised against Churchill. In a major five-part series, the Rocky Mountain News finds him guilty (surprise!) on all counts. Even complaints that the university had said should not be investigated are made part of this inquisition.
Let's look at the picture painted by these developments. How does the university respond to the fact that the position, reputation, and even life of a professor are endangered for something he wrote? It bows to pressure and investigates the professor. The students have named him as their favorite teacher. Then it must be forbidden to give the award to this professor. The professor can't simply be thrown out since he has tenure. Then the whole tenure process must be brought under question.
Still not "tough" enough? Well, then—let's have the tenure-review committee headed by a retired Air Force general, a man whose job was "to enforce control of the skies over the United States and Canada" (as NORAD's web site boasts). Meanwhile, a conservative newspaper blasts out with an "investigation" of its own indicting the professor. Is the whole picture clear enough?
A columnist for the same Rocky Mountain News raised some sharp questions about this extensive campaign against Churchill, which now pretends to be only about his work and credentials as a scholar. The real story, wrote the columnist, is about "academic freedom and the limits of dissent," and about "those who wanted him fired long before anyone looked at his scholarship." Yes—it's about those things, and more.
Churchill is still under sharp attack, and the battle over his position in the university is ongoing. Churchill's case is a concentration point of an aggressive and concerted effort which overall aims to purge higher education of its radical and oppositional thinkers, to create a climate of intimidation and "watch what you say" in colleges and universities, and to create institutions of indoctrination pure and simple, where official pieties and "truths" will be inculcated.
Can this vision of the future be allowed to prevail?
Revolution #006, June 19, 2005, posted at revcom.us
We received the following from comrades who see an urgent need for a major leap in the people's resistance.
Other countries have driven hated regimes from power—why not here? Is there any country whose direction has a more disproportionate impact on the future of the whole planet?
Today, just eight months since the November election and the "revolution" called for by Bush's right- wing Christian supporters, we are witnessing the most radical assault on the separation of church and state that this country has ever experienced. In a word: this country sits on the verge of theocracy. Yesterday's "lunatic fringe" now sits securely in the halls of power. When powerful senators threaten federal judges on the Schiavo case and then to go on to single out a Supreme Court justice for citing international law in a recent decision barring the execution of minors, you get a whiff not just of flagrant hypocrisy but the stench of crimes against humanity and where this agenda is headed.
These are not ordinary Christians or Conservatives but Christian Fascists and they are stalking not just the red states for the control of people's minds. Under the now famous "moral values" exit polls of 2004 lurk traditional values that have uniquely American strains of puritanism, slavery, and genocide. These are theocrats who actually believe that God is speaking through the presidency of George Bush, and Bush has appointed them at every level of his administration. They intend to put their stamp on society and everyone in it—and they have already gone very far. Whether they succeed or fail to get their "nuclear option" today, they are a monster demanding to be fed who will not stop until their agenda of theocracy is fulfilled.
Whether they get their way depends hugely on if people face what is unfolding and snap out of a denial that such a thing could happen here. History is far too haunted with the memories of people from Germany to Rwanda who never thought that neighbors living side by side and intermarried for generations could possibly be on opposite sides or taken off in the night.
Writing in The New York Times , cultural critic Frank Rich aptly put it this way,
"the majority of American colonists didn't believe in witches during the Salem trials either—any more than the Taliban reflected the views of a majority of Afghans. At a certain point, and we seem to be nearing that point, fear takes over, allowing a mob to bully the majority over the short term. (Of course if you think the end is near there is no long term.)"
This country now stands before the world and history with a president who condones torture. No wonder the subjects of the new empire in other countries feel they should have had a vote in this election. This is an utterly intolerable situation and one that growing numbers of people are ready to massively repudiate—including thousands if not millions of people who voted for George Bush and are waking up to the ugly reality of what they bought and what it's wrought.
This regime has to be driven from power and it could happen! It is important to recall the millions who were present in the streets with people across the planet to oppose the Iraq war and that just six months ago millions engaged in a groundswell of hopeful political activity to drive Bush from office through voting. But no vision, no coherent alternative to Bush was ever on the electoral playing field.
The world can't wait until 2008 to put a halt to this.
We don't want to tell future generations "we were waiting for the pendulum to swing." We want to tell them we were the people who said NOT IN OUR NAME! What is needed is to launch the kind of massive resistance that can drive this regime out.
November 2, 2005, the anniversary of Bush and Cheney's re-election. How will the first year of the Christian fundamentalist "revolution" look? Will the country continue to pitch more and more to the right, with opposition so ineffective that there will be no choice but to be swept along? Or will the whole world witness the opening rounds of an upsurge that can conjure up the specter of Spain and the Ukraine, the fall of the Berlin Wall, or Nixon? It can — if people conceive of themselves as politically at war in an all-out battle for the future.
Anything less is not commensurate with the challenge we face.
We in the RCP are approaching this as repolarizing society for revolution, and we are sincere about learning from and uniting with people from many different perspectives who also see the need to rid the world of the Bush regime. We can tell you from our personal experience, talking to people across the country as we passed out millions of the statement "The Battle of the Future Will be Fought from Here Forward," that people are waiting for the next wave of protest to be unleashed...but they want to know that it will really make a difference.
Let's talk about how to make it happen—contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
From A World to Win News Service
Revolution #006, June 19, 2005, posted at revcom.us
We received the following from A World to Win News Service:
June 6, 2005. A World to Win News Service. "I have no money, I have no plan," said Liao Cuiying, a Chinese peasant woman from a village surrounded by Dongting Lake. The lake is infested with a water-borne parasite called schistosomiasis or snail fever. With a swollen stomach and aching joints, Liao's body has steadily been consumed by these parasites over the last eight years.
An article in the February 23, 2005 New York Times described how this plague is sweeping through the villages surrounding the lake. Some 80% of the people living around it are infected. The farmers are faced with a choice of two kinds of slow death: if they so much as touch the water for a few seconds, the authorities now warn them, they will get sick and even die—but for most peasants, telling them not to let the lake's waters touch their skin is like telling them not to breathe the air that sustains them. Nationally, 900,000 people have been infected by this disease and an estimated 30 million are now at risk in China.
Dongting Lake was once considered a fabulous source of life for these villagers. They fished in it, used its water to irrigate their fields, washed their vegetables and clothes in it and obtained their wood by cutting down trees in the damp soil beside the lake. But that was during the years when China was socialist, particularly after the mid-1950s when a successful national campaign swept the lake of snails that served as host bodies for the parasites. People then received free medical care and the snails were largely wiped out. Since the coup that restored capitalism in China after Mao died in 1976, the constant attention needed to control the disease waned. Now snail fever has returned in full force, all of its destructive power restored with the restoration of the capitalist system.
After malaria, schistosomiasis is the second most prevalent tropical disease in the world. It affects about 250 million people—roughly equal to the combined population of Germany, Italy, France, Spain and the UK. The parasites leave the snail and swim to a human or other animal and penetrate the skin almost immediately. Once inside, they travel to the heart and lungs. But the worst thing is that when they reach the blood veins, they develop into adult worms and lay eggs. This causes chronic inflammation of the liver and intestines, horrible pain and eventually death. The disease can be prevented by interrupting the life cycle in three different ways: 1) Making sure that humans and animals never touch water, so that they are not infected. 2) Keeping human and animal waste (feces) containing live parasite eggs from ever touching water, so that the disease does not spread. 3) Eliminating the snails. Once the parasite eggs hatch in the water, they cannot survive unless they find a snail body to live in. Without snails, eventually snail fever will disappear. All three steps must be vigorously carried out, because there can never be a hundred percent in achieving any one of them, but the last is the key—and the hardest.
The British doctor Joshua Horn lived in socialist China from 1954 to 1969. His classic book Away With All Pests describes how snail fever as well as other physical and social ills were eliminated. Dr. Horn listened to many peasants tell stories of their life before and after the elimination of schistosomiasis. In Ren Tun village he heard the following:
"In this village we have 1,327 mu of cultivated land and 183 families totaling 671 people organized in five production teams. In the old days, in addition to the burdens which weighed us all down, we had the burden of schistosomiasis. It pressed us sorely and all but wiped us out. In the twenty years from 1930 to 1949, 500 died in this village... By the time of Liberation only 461 people were left of whom 449 had schistosomiasis. We didn't know anything about the disease, not even its name. We just called it big belly disease. Some thought it wasn't a disease at all but a punishment for some sin committed by our ancestors.
"I knew a poor peasant called Ren Chang. We used to play together as children. He grew up and married and there were five in his family. Then his father and mother died of big belly disease and he went to work for the landlord. One day he vomited blood and the landlord sent him home without a penny piece for eight months work. He knew there was no hope for him so he strangled himself. Soon after, his wife and children died and the whole family was wiped out.
"Our party secretary had 15 in his family; he is the only survivor. In the second production team there is a family call Lu. Of the 45 in his family, 30 died within a few years...
"The survivors were so weak that they could hardly grow enough grain for their needs No child was born here for seven years before Liberation. We forgot the music of a baby's laughter..."
Snail fever was one of many curses inherited from the old society that ruined people's lives. So many people died of this disease that whole villages all but disappeared completely. In 1955 there were 10 million people who suffered from snail fever in the lower Yangtze River valley. If socialism was really to liberate the people and transform their lives, this disease had to be eliminated. The task was huge. But basic political questions about the direction of society were also involved.
One of the most important was whether or not society's resources were going to continue to be concentrated in China's cities. In capitalist countries, the growth of the cities at the expense of the countryside and its people is considered essential for the fastest economic growth, because of the concentration of resources already existing there. There was serious struggle within the party about whether to go for what seemed the best path to quick economic growth, and therefore to increase the gap between the cities and the countryside, or to put priority on beginning to overcome this inequality, leading to a balanced production that is actually more favorable to economic development in the long run. There was a similar question about how much of these resources should go to the peasants. Even though farm work is less productive, in raw economic terms, than industrial production, the interests of the workers seen in the broadest, most revolutionary terms lay with eliminating all the inequalities between the people so as to move toward doing away with social classes and freeing all of humanity.
Another big question was whether or not it was really possible to get rid of snail fever, and if so, how. It was clearly impossible without the full attention and leadership of the party and the mobilization of enormous numbers of people. The party launched a giant campaign, creatively applying concepts worked out by Mao Tsetung. There was struggle inside the party and throughout society about whether to focus on medical care in the cities or try to bring medicine to the peasants in the countryside who had experienced very little health care in their lives up to this time. Through this a multipronged approach was established.
Nurses and other medical workers with enough experience were trained to perform operations. Medical skills were made the property of many people among the masses. Certain traditional practices that had proven medically useful, like acupuncture, were combined with Western medicine to develop a medical system that was effective, accessible and one that people felt comfortable with. People trained to carry out basic medical tasks were later called "barefoot doctors" because instead of using their new skills to get ahead, they would stay in the villages and neighborhoods.
No effort was spared at treating people who were infected. People who had been sick for years needed surgery. China was turning out an unprecedented number of doctors, but at the same time, it was lessening the gap between doctors and the common people.
As Horn describes, one Maoist concept that was key in this campaign was applying the mass line. This rests on the conviction that ordinary people possess great strength and wisdom and that when their initiative is given full play they can accomplish miracles. The art of leadership is to take the ideas of the masses and concentrate what is correct, to refine and systematize their experience, and on this basis, to decide policies that rely on the people to carry them through. Then they summed up the results to deepen the process.
To mobilize the peasantry against the snails, it was necessary to explain the nature of the illness that had plagued them for so long. This was done through lectures, films, posters and other means of communication. When the peasants came to understand the nature of their enemy, they themselves worked out methods of defeating it. Rivers and ditches were drained and banks tamped down with earth. Mobilizing the masses did not mean issuing them shovels and instructions. It meant explaining things to them, firing them with enthusiasm, unleashing their initiative and tapping their wisdom.
The second concept in the fight against the snails was that of concentrating a superior force to win battles of annihilation. This was the application of Mao's military strategy to this problem. Focal points of attack were chosen. Of the ten infected counties around Shanghai, two were selected as the main targets in the early stages of what was to be a prolonged campaign. Entire counties were mobilized one at a time, with everyone turning out for labor—including soldiers, students, teachers, office workers, administrators and other people from the cities. Medical resources, pumps, river-draining and damming equipment were concentrated in these two counties and, within a short time, the snails there had suffered a mortal blow. Then the forces were regrouped and the attack was directed elsewhere. Gradually, extensive snail-free zones were created.
The third concept was that embodied in Mao's famous "Paper Tiger" theory. Since the snails are harmful to mankind, no matter how numerous, well camouflaged and well protected they are, in the long run they are doomed because man is incomparably more powerful and will eventually solve this problem. On the other hand, snails are a formidable opponent that must be taken seriously. No complacency is permissible. Every battle must be planned down to the last detail, all weapons brought into play. For example, if the sides of the waterways were so covered by reeds or other plants that snails can find refuge among them, flame-throwers were used to burn down the vegetation and scorch the banks. Under bridges, or if a waterway couldn't be completely drained, chemicals were used to destroy the snails. Regular anti-snail patrols cruised along the rivers in canoes, searching for snails.
The feces of a person with snail fever can reinfect the water or soil. Since the peasants had no effective alternative to using human and animal waste for fertilizer to increase crop yields in the fields, a careful method was developed to eliminate the parasites from this "night soil" before it was used.
The above preventive approaches were combined with medical treatment. Testing stations were set up to regularly check the medical situation of the population. While treatment is the weak link and drug therapy does not always solve the problems of the most advanced cases, many people with huge tumors from snail fever received the care needed to enable them to lead normal productive lives. Women were able to have healthy babies, and many formerly dying rural villages came alive with the sounds of children.
To achieve all this on so vast a scale, people needed to see beyond the limits of their own farms or villages. The basis for this began with the formation of the People's Communes in the countryside during the Great Leap Forward. These were economic and political units in which large numbers of villages not only farmed the land together but administered most aspects of local life. This made it possible to carry out huge campaigns like the battle against snail fever and to plan irrigation, flood control, road building and other projects on a big scale, with the knowledge and enthusiasm of the peasants playing the driving role in determining what should be done and how. The defeat of snail fever at this time was an epic yet to be equaled. Even now, imperialist wisdom has it that snail fever is almost impossible to eliminate among the poor. Mao's approach is impossible under the capitalist system.
With the overthrow of socialism in China, all of this came to a crashing halt. The socialist values of selflessness, cooperation and serving the people were quickly replaced with the capitalist slogan of "to get rich quick is glorious." The socialist policy of narrowing the differences between those living in the city and those in the countryside by pulling Chinese peasants out of stagnation and poverty was reversed. Today the dazzling growth in the business districts of a few major cities like Shanghai seems to mock the suffering in the countryside. In fact, one of the factors making China so important to world capitalism is the vast riches to be gotten from exploiting the labor of former peasants forced by the threat of starvation to come to the cities in search of factory work making goods for export.
With the end of the People's Communes, a few people became the owners of vast wealth and most lost everything, especially the collective wealth such as free medical care. Now not only is snail fever considered to be the problem of those unfortunate enough to live in the infested areas, but even among those people, there is a huge divide between those who can afford medicine and those who must sacrifice to be able to purchase it, and often cannot afford it regularly enough and long enough for the drugs to be effective. The policy of making the best possible medical care for everyone one of society's highest priorities has been dropped, and even the health insurance that has replaced it, which is really no replacement at all, is available only to certain employees, not peasants who are now theoretically "self-employed." In this situation, some people who don't happen to share in the glory of being rich just can't afford medicine. Not only does this situation condemn individuals to death for the rapidly spreading crime of poverty, it perpetuates and spreads snail fever even more, creating a snowballing social problem, including further weakening vast areas of the countryside economically and further destroying bodies and minds. In the old days before the 1949 revolution, China was called "the sick man of Asia." Now, despite Shanghai's glittering office towers, that is an ever more appropriate description, literally.
With this system of exploitation now imposed on the masses in China, is it surprising that diseases like snail fever are once again becoming a scourge upon the people? And what about other diseases like AIDS in Asia, Latin America and especially Africa, where the rapidly increasing mortality rate is akin to genocide? Or bird flu, dengue fever and malaria—all diseases to which solutions could be found if—and only if—the social system that enslaves not only poor countries but also the people around the world were overthrown. Then all of humanity's wealth and its collective and individual powers could be mobilized to end the needless suffering experienced by billions of people across the continents.
( Away with All Pest, by Joshua S. Horn, published in 1969 by Monthly Review Press in the U.S. and Hamlyn Press in the UK, is available from many online book dealers, including amazon.com.)
From A World to Win News Service
Revolution #006, June 19, 2005, posted at revcom.us
The following is an edited version of an article from A World to Win News Service.
May 23, 2005. A World to Win News Service. The Maoist-led People's Liberation Army took its offensive to a higher level in eastern Nepal with a simultaneous assault on three military barracks and a police post, inflicting serious defeats.
The news agency Nepalnews.com said on May 10, "According to latest reports, hundreds of armed insurgents opened attacks at joint security bases at Bandipur and Chorhawa and Ilaka Police Post at Mirchaiya in the district from around 10 p.m. Monday [May 9]. All three security posts are located near the East-West highway, also known as the Mahendra highway. The rebels had blocked the highway by felling trees. Security re-enforcements were, however, sent aboard night vision-equipped helicopter, reports said."
Some other Nepalese media managed to cover the news before the Royal Army could clamp down on the information. A daily newspaper reported that thousands of Maoist revolutionaries attacked three military barracks and that the fighting continued up to 6 a.m. the next day.
The Royal Army sent a gunship helicopter to attack the Maoists but the revolutionaries were able to resist its attacks. One newspaper reported there were 500 armed police at the Mirchaiya police post, 250 Royal Army personnel at the Bandipur Unified Command Outpost, 800 RNA soldiers at the Chorhawa barrack and around 1,500 were at the Dharapani military barrack. Later, under Royal Army control, the newspaper put out a different version.
The PLA quickly captured the Mirchaiya police installation and the village's National Development bank, seizing weapons and fought for many hours to capture the Bandipur military camp. Dozens of Royal Army personnel were killed.
Following the assaults, the Royal Army rampaged into villages like vultures whose nest is broken, and different forms of skirmishes broke out. According to a dispatch by the Janadesh correspondent in the Dhanusha district, the Royal Army bombed villages situated near Siwalik hill. More than 50 civilians were injured and dozens more are believed to killed.
In two villages in the Sindhuli and Udayapur districts, the Royal Army tried to encircle and destroy the Maoist forces but fell into a trap and were wiped out in the fighting. In one village, Lek Khani, about 35 RNA were killed on the spot and dozens of others are believed injured. The PLA seized half a dozen rifles and thousands of rounds of ammunition, along with a huge cache of other war materiel. In Jarayotar, the PLA also seized weapons, a dozen RNA soldiers were killed and a similar number were wounded. Three PLA fighters were killed in this battle. After the PLA attacks, the feudal despot Gyanendra Shah deployed thousands of Royal Army forces, including its Ranger Battalion, considered its best unit, to encircle and destroy the Maoist revolutionaries. The week-long series of mobile and positional battles, a higher level of fighting than guerrilla warfare, is said to have left the Royal Army extremely demoralized.
The Kathmandu regime continues its censorship of the media. The state of emergency has supposedly been lifted, but civil liberties are still curtailed.
A member of the leading Political Bureau of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) and the Eastern Division Commander of the People's Liberation Army, Comrade Ananta, told Janadesh newspaper,
"Having launched assaults on four military camps simultaneously the PLA has fought positional warfare. We were completely successful in our plan. The Mirchaiya Unified Command barracks were captured. Bandipur was hit and partly captured. The other two, Chorhawa and Dharapani, were hit hard.
Talking talk about what the PLA achieved in these battles, Ananta went on to say:
"The biggest achievement of this fighting is that it has established the basis for positional warfare in the days to come. The success of the first plan of the strategic offensive on the eastern front has confirmed our party's analysis that the strategic offensive would focus on highways, cities and headquarters. We have learned not only mobile and positional warfare; we have also learned to fight stable positional warfare in the course of fighting.
"If you talk about the eastern command, a great achievement for the PLA is to fight an unprecedented level of positional warfare with simultaneous attacks on four military camps located on what the Royal Army considers its backbone and heart, the East-West highway. After the accomplishments of this battle, the enemy mobilized thousands of Royal Army soldiers, including its Ranger Battalion, its best contingent, to encircle and destroy us. But the PLA not only fought heroically and foiled their attempts but also inflicted serious losses on the enemy and captured heavy weapons and ammunition from them."
Revolution #006, June 19, 2005, posted at revcom.us
Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.
Their children also shall be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses shall be spoiled, and their wives ravished.
Their bows also shall dash the young men to pieces; and they shall have no pity on the fruit of the womb; their eyes shall not spare children.