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Revolution #023, November 20, 2005, posted at revcom.us
Last July a bold call went up – to drive out the Bush regime. It put the stakes sharply: "People look at [what the government is doing] and think of Hitler–and they are right to do so. The Bush regime is setting out to radically remake society very quickly, in a fascist way, and for generations to come. We must act now; the future is in the balance."
It put forth a clear goal: "We must, and can, aim to create a political situation where the Bush regime’s program is repudiated, where Bush himself is driven from office, and where the whole direction he has been taking society is reversed."
And it set a first major step for November 2, the first anniversary of Bush’s "re-election," with a call for people to leave work and school and demonstrate, calling on others to join in, and raising the slogan "The World Can’t Wait! Drive Out The Bush Regime!"
On November 2, the first step was indeed taken. People demonstrated in over 60 cities. Literally thousands of youth, mainly from the high schools, left school in protest and hit the streets. More often than not, these youth had to defy very serious repression to get out and make their political views felt. They came out from both proletarian and middle class schools, and acted with a real sense of the stakes facing their generation. One youth from South Central Los Angeles said, "Maybe you just get one chance to be in on making history. I was thinking that maybe this was my chance and it would be fucked up to miss it." They set the tone with their enthusiastic spirit and thoughtful courage.
Of course, it was more than that. Prominent public intellectuals and artists – people like Howard Zinn, Nobel Prize winner Harold Pinter, Gore Vidal, Michael Eric Dyson, Studs Terkel, Eve Ensler, Boots Riley of the Coup and others – not only supported, but actively built for, this action. Parents like Cindy Sheehan – some who had lost children fighting in the war against Iraq, others who had children who were still there – spoke out. Vets came out, from all wars, bearing witness. A number of activist groups and church committees turned out. Some elected officials took real risks to expose what was going on in the system; courageous clergy put out the truth about how this regime was moving toward theocracy; and lawyers battling against a qualitatively more repressive legal order indicted the regime. In addition, many unaffiliated people came out to the rallies and marches, some with friends and some alone, with more than a few leaving work to be there. From the small towns to the biggest cities, the marches rang with spirit and determination, and people remarked on how new it all felt. Most important was the unity around the political analysis and direction and basic slogan set forth in the Call: THE WORLD CAN’T WAIT! DRIVE OUT THE BUSH REGIME! This message got out and came through to thousands who were touched by the rallies and to millions who read or heard about them.
Many people at the rallies said that they felt exhilarated by all this, but also somewhat frustrated that more had not turned out. We agree with both of those thoughts. The marches did mark a real beginning, whose significance must not be underestimated; but there did – and there do – need to be more people. Those of us who came out represent a beginning, and we have to see ourselves this way. November 2 cannot become a mere footnote to history; it must and it can go down as the day the tide began to turn. Which one comes true depends on all of us, and what we do now.
Because the truth is this: the people that can make this into a movement of millions are out there. We have to get them. We have to let them know about this movement, we have to invite them into it, and sometimes – often – we have to challenge them and struggle with them to get with it and stay with it. We have to bring them forward if we are to actually achieve this urgent and realizable goal of driving out this regime, now. There is too much at stake to aim for anything less.
* * *
With all this in mind, we in the RCP wholeheartedly support what World Can't Wait put out as the next step on November 2: the demand for Bush to step down and the call to politically drown out the State of the Union address with powerful demonstrations around this demand on that occasion. There is much to build on off November 2, much basis to realize a new leap in the movement in January.
The State of the Union is traditionally a time when the political agenda for the whole year is set. Bush used the 2003 State of the Union speech, if you remember, to put out the lie that Iraq had been seeking material for nuclear weapons in Africa – a lie that helped justify the war and that is at the center of the recent indictment of top Bush regime official Lewis Libby. A powerful action, or actions, contending with that speech really could politically drown it out and set a different agenda – one focused on driving out this criminal regime as soon as possible. It could open up a whole different political vista for this society and the whole world.
To do that, the movement must advance in leaps over these next two months or so. It needs to wield the great strengths that were brought forward on November 2 to overcome the weaknesses. The organizational strength of World Can’t Wait must grow by leaps and bounds; it can't just high-jump to a different level, it has to pole-vault. It must reach out to and enlist new organizations from all parts of society. The Call that launched this movement, and remains its foundation, should get out to many more millions and tens of millions. The youth who came forward and now face repression must be strongly defended, bringing forward even more people. The whole movement must understand more deeply, and learn to speak more powerfully to, the questions that still haunt people and hold them back from joining this urgently needed struggle. We must all learn better how to seize every opening and maximize every advance, great or small, that can contribute to this effort. And these, of course, are only a few key elements of what must happen.
The urgency before us has not lessened. If anything, it has increased. There is still much to be lost, and very little time. But keep in mind: people are now looking toward World Can’t Wait, wondering what will come next and turning over in their minds whether to throw in. With the real beginning made on November 2, the potential stands out even more clearly to not only stop this regime . . . to not only drive it from power – which itself would be a monumental achievement for people all over the world . . . but to reverse the whole direction of society and bring something far better into being.
The challenge – and the thrilling opportunity – to do that lie starkly before us.
Excerpted from From Ike to Mao and Beyond: My Journey from Mainstream America to Revolutionary Communist
Revolution #023, November 20, 2005, posted at revcom.us
Shortly after this, in February of 1965, Malcolm X was assassinated. This hit me as a devastating loss for Black people, and also for people generally fighting against injustice, not just in the U.S., but throughout the world. I knew Malcolm X was seeking to link up with people in other parts of the world who were fighting against injustices and oppression. And I never believed that it was just Elijah Muhammed and the Nation of Islam who were involved in Malcolm’s assassination. Whether or not they were involved in some way, I knew that the U.S. government was somehow behind this. I knew enough to know that.
So this was another thing further radicalizing me. First, I saw Kennedy blatantly lying, before the whole world with the fate of the world literally hanging in the balance around the Cuban Missile Crisis, then you see something like this, the assassination of Malcolm X, and you know that somehow the U.S. government was involved in this. I hadn’t studied the issue, and a lot of the exposure of how they were involved hadn’t come out yet, obviously. But I just sensed this--I knew they hated Malcolm X and saw him as very dangerous to them--and it made me really sad but very angry too.
I had been aware of the transformations Malcolm was going through. A lot of my friends and I were following this very closely. People were debating about the split between Elijah Muhammed and Malcolm X, and most everybody I knew sided with Malcolm X. We saw him as more radical, more willing to take on the powers that be, more willing to stand up in the face of any threat against Black people and against their oppression. So I was following that very closely, and all that was an important part of what was causing me to undergo a lot of changes in how I was seeing things and what I felt needed to be done.
I don’t remember exactly where I was when I heard the news about Malcolm’s assassination, but I do know how I felt immediately upon hearing this. My friends and I were just devastated by it. There’s that Phil Ochs song that I mentioned before, "Love Me, I’m a Liberal." It is done in the persona of a liberal -- it is a biting exposure of the contradictoriness and hypocrisy in liberals -- it starts out with how sad this liberal was when Kennedy got killed, and even what a tragedy it was when the civil rights leader Medgar Evers was murdered, but then this liberal says that Malcolm X got what he had coming. That was a fairly widespread view among a lot of liberals, and Phil Ochs captured that with rather brilliant and biting irony. So there were a lot of very sharp arguments with some people that I knew, because I vehemently disagreed with that view.
All these things were influencing me in making up my mind about Vietnam. Obviously Malcolm X was not only against what the U.S. was doing in Vietnam, but was giving these speeches like "The Ballot or the Bullet," where he sided with the Vietnamese people and talked about how great it was that these poor people who didn’t have a lot of technology were standing up and giving battle and delivering blows to this mighty, powerful, white power in the world, as he saw it -- "the great hypocrite America." So this was having a big influence on me.
Then there were a lot of debates that were sharpening up on the campus and in activist circles. One thing I remember in particular was a lot of argument about who was responsible for violating the Geneva Agreements that had been made in 1954 about Vietnam, which were to provide for the reunification of Vietnam and elections in 1956.1 France was getting out of Vietnam -- they’d been forced out by the struggle of the Vietnamese people, having suffered this devastating defeat at Dien Bien Phu. In fact, Malcolm X talked about that -- about how the Vietnamese sent the French running. As I looked into these arguments, and when I went to the university library and read the initial Agreement and most of the reports of the commission it set up, I found that their reports overwhelmingly demonstrated that the U.S. was systematically sabotaging this Agreement. I learned that Eisenhower, who was then President of the U.S., recognized that Ho Chi Minh would have been overwhelmingly elected to head any government of a reunified Vietnam. So the U.S. set up a puppet government in the southern part of Vietnam, the Republic of South Vietnam, as a separate state and refused to allow the elections for reunification in 1956. I was reading all the pamphlets and articles about this and listening to the debates, trying to figure out the real truth in all this, just like I’d done at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis. And I discovered that it was unmistakably true that the U.S. had sabotaged this Geneva Agreement and prevented the reunification of Vietnam, because they knew that things wouldn’t go their way if this Agreement were implemented.
All this was percolating within me, and I still remember very clearly when I got up one morning in early 1965 and got the newspaper, and there were big banner headlines about the brutal attack in Selma, Alabama on civil rights marchers. I said to myself: "How in the world could the U.S. government be over there in Vietnam fighting for the freedom of the Vietnamese people, as they claim to be, when this is happening to Black people right here in the U.S. and the U.S. government is doing nothing about the freedom of Black people right in this country, and in fact it is allowing freedom fighters here in this country to be savagely attacked by these KKK and the racist sheriffs and the authorities in the south?" So that was the final straw for me. I knew they could not be fighting for freedom in Vietnam. That was the thing that led me to be firmly convinced that I had to become actively involved in opposing the Vietnam War too.
There was still a lot of division, even in the city of Berkeley itself, on these issues, however. As I’ve described several times, I grew up in a pretty well-off middle class family. And among people coming from that part of society, there were very strong generational divisions developing. And there were also political divisions in line with larger economic and social divisions in society as a whole. Many Black people I knew in Berkeley and Oakland were much more inclined to oppose the Vietnam War because of the basic understanding that I’d come to by reading about Selma -- they kind of knew, "Look these people are not up to any good, I don’t care what they say, whether it’s Vietnam or here." I don’t mean to say that they necessarily had a developed understanding of all the "ins and outs" of the issue, or had read all the Geneva Convention reports, and things like that, but they had a basic understanding of the truth: "these people are up to no good in Vietnam." They had a lot of experience to draw on that told them that. So there were those kinds of divisions as well.
The ’60s were a time when the universities were opened up to broader sections of society. Previously, they were much more restricted to the elite strata. But it was still largely the middle class whose kids went to college, and largely white students who came to a university like Cal at that time. Among the students, there was tremendous conflict developing with their parents over a whole host of issues, including Vietnam. That was a big phenomenon of the time. For example, my parents were troubled by the Vietnam War, but they were still supporting it.
I used to argue all the time with my parents about this, and one time in particular I had this pamphlet written by Bob Scheer, who now works for the L.A. Times and is more or less a liberal, but at that time was more radical. He’d written this pamphlet making very strong and cogent, very well-documented arguments about the Vietnam War and what the U.S. had done and why it was wrong, and I was using this pamphlet to argue with my parents. And my dad started making what I regarded as nitpicking arguments. Some people might refer to this kind of nitpicking as being "lawyerly," but I had a lot of respect for the way my dad used logic in his legal arguments -- and I’d learned a lot from the dinner table training that he’d given our whole family when he’d sit down and say, "Okay gang, here’s a case, here’s what happened, what do you think?" I respected that and enjoyed it. But I didn’t appreciate this sort of nitpicking way in which he was approaching the question of Vietnam -- a way in which things would be argued to actually get away from the truth. I got very frustrated with this, and I took this Bob Scheer pamphlet and threw it across the hall and stomped out of my parents’ house.
There was that kind of very sharp conflict, and I remember at one point my parents said, "Okay, look, if you feel this strongly, write our congressman" -- our congressman was Jeffrey Cohalen, my parents were friends of his and worked on his campaigns -- "and give him your arguments." So I wrote a several-page letter laying out my arguments about what the U.S. was doing in Vietnam and why it was wrong. He sent me back what was pretty much a form letter -- and I probably only got that because he knew my parents and didn’t want to insult them. He just ran out the standard government propaganda about what the U.S. is doing and why it’s good for the Vietnamese people, and he quoted something from this professor, Robert Scalapino, at Berkeley, whom I, and many others, simply regarded as a State Department professor. That just infuriated me more and convinced me even more deeply that (a) what the U.S. government was doing in Vietnam was wrong; and (b) they weren’t going to listen to people who had real arguments about why it was wrong.
At the time there were students who were aggressively supporting the war, like the Young Republicans. But other students, even kind of liberal students, were still not really sure or maybe wanted to cling to the belief that the U.S. was doing something good in Vietnam, perhaps because it was Democratic administrations -- first under Kennedy and then Lyndon Johnson -- which were carrying out the war at that time. So there would be debates with these liberal students as well. And then there were people who would come from off campus and seek us out to debate. The anti-war organization on the Berkeley campus was called the Vietnam Day Committee, because they’d organized a big teach-in called "Vietnam Day" in the spring of 1965. People from off-campus would seek out the Vietnam Day Committee table -- and this included many soldiers who would do a one-year tour of duty in Vietnam and, if they didn’t volunteer to be sent back again, would then come back and do the rest of their time in the military somewhere in the U.S. Or they’d come on leave, on their way back from Vietnam before going to somewhere like Germany. They would often seek us out to argue -- sometimes they’d be in their uniforms, sometimes in "civilian clothes," but they would identify themselves as soldiers and talk about how they’d been in Vietnam and how we didn’t know what we were talking about.
Many of these soldiers would try to hold sway by acting as if they knew all about Vietnam, because they’d gone there to conquer it and occupy the country and oppress the people. They would give us the standard military line. This was before massive rebellion hit in the military. A few years later, there would be many, many soldiers and veterans of the Vietnam War with a very different viewpoint, but this was earlier, in 1965 and ’66, and the soldiers were still mainly defending what they were doing. A lot of times it would go from the level of all this bullshit about fighting for freedom to talking about their buddies. That was the last line with which the government and the military brass could keep the grunts fighting: "Look what happened to your buddy, your buddy got killed by these ‘gooks’" -- as they would call them, along with other racist terms -- "so therefore, you have to hate them and fight against them all the harder." A lot of times the arguments would break down pretty quickly to that -- what happened to "my buddies." But first they would try to give us more lofty-sounding arguments about freedom, in terms of what was happening in Vietnam -- the same kind of bullshit the U.S. uses about Iraq now. At that time, it was "we’re there to liberate the people from the communist tyrants."
And so we’d get in these big arguments and, after a while, when people would challenge them and show that what they were saying about the history of things and so on wasn’t true, they’d fall back on, "Well, I was there and I know." They’d demand: "Have you ever been to Vietnam?" I’d say, "No," and they thought that was the end of the argument. But then I would ask them, "Well, look, you’ve been saying all this stuff about communism and the Soviet Union and China and all that, have you ever been to the Soviet Union or China?" "Well, no." "Then what do you have to say about all that,if you’re gonna put the argument on that level? According to your logic, you can’t say anything about the Soviet Union, or China, or communism, because you’ve never been to those places, you’ve never been to a ‘communist country.’" Then they’d sort of hem and haw and we’d get back to the substance of the issues, once we got rid of that ridiculous line of argument. Besides being actively involved in demonstrations, what I loved most was being in all these vibrant discussions and arguments. Knots of people would form around the table and then they’d break up and another knot would form, and more people would come to the table and new discussions and debates would break out, over these tremendously important issues.
Sometimes the arguments got pretty heated, even with people that you would expect would be on your side. The hippie thing was generally cool, as far as I was concerned, even though that wasn’t really what I was "into," as we used to say. But I didn’t have any patience for some of the "hippie/dippy" stuff about "everybody do your own thing," without regard to what "your thing" was. One time I was at the office of the Berkeley Barb newspaper, which was kind of an alternative newspaper that was pretty radical at the time. And there was this kind of hippie-biker type in there. I was talking to some other people in the Barb office about the Vietnam War, denouncing it and exposing different things that were going on. And I was really ripping into Lyndon Johnson, what a mass murderer he was -- everybody hated Lyndon Johnson, because he was both the symbol of continuing and escalating the war and the president who was actually doing it. This hippie-biker type was listening for a while, and finally he pipes up and says, "Hey man, you know, like, maybe the Vietnam War is just like Johnson’s thing, maybe he’s just doing his thing." I got really angry and turned to him and said: "Well, what if my thing is just punching you in the mouth right now?" And he went, "Oh, okay, man, okay -- I get it man."
During this period, Liz and I had continued to become closer, and then to become lovers. In 1965 we got married. For some reason I had decided that I wanted to become a doctor. I’d switched my major from English to pre-med. I was an activist and wanted to remain an activist, but I was thinking about what I wanted to do as my life’s work, so to speak. I didn’t want to become a doctor so I could go to the golf course. I wanted to become a doctor so I could give people medical care who didn’t have medical care. But my pre-med studies lasted less than a semester. I remember having to go to chemistry lab several afternoons a week, and every time about two o’clock or so I’d think: why am I not at the Vietnam Day Committee table, or why am I not helping to organize a demonstration? So that didn’t last very long. I went to the university administration and asked if I could withdraw from school that semester. Because I had a good standing as a student, they allowed me to withdraw that semester "without prejudice," and I became much more of a full-time activist.
Liz’s parents had an interesting reaction to that. Remember, they had a whole history of being political activists and communists perhaps, or at least radical people who were communist sympathizers. They weren’t so upset when we became active in the Free Speech Movement or even opposing the Vietnam War. But when I took this step of withdrawing from school to become involved full-time in anti-war activity, as well as civil rights and things like that, they got very upset. They lived back in New York, and I remember one time her father was talking to me on the phone, and he said, "Look, this is very serious what you’re doing. I know what you’re doing -- you’re becoming a full-time revolutionist, and pretty soon you’ll be meeting together with other people who are revolutionists and making plans for a revolution." I argued vigorously with him that this wasn’t true, because at the time I didn’t think that was where I was headed. But ironically he, who had had some experience with things like this, could see it more clearly than I could -- and of course, in retrospect, he was right. I mean, it wasn’t bound to turn out that way, but he recognized the trajectory that I was heading off on.
1. The 1954 Geneva Agreements came out of a conference that included China and the Soviet Union, which were then both socialist, as well as the U.S., France, Britain and other lesser powers. This conference occurred in a situation where liberation forces in Vietnam, headed by Ho Chi Minh, had delivered a devastating defeat at Dien Bien Phu to the French colonialists who were attempting to maintain their domination of Vietnam -- and in doing so were receiving major backing and aid from the U.S. The Agreements set up a commission to oversee the reunification of Vietnam, which was temporarily divided into north and south along the 17th parallel; the Agreements called for elections in 1956 throughout Vietnam to establish a single government for the country as a whole.
Nov. 2, 2005 – The Beginning of the End of the Bush Regime
Revolution #023, November 20, 2005, posted at revcom.us
Sunsara Taylor, Revolution newspaper, at NY rally: We have to get out of these killing confines. We have to change the whole political dynamic. And I'm not a believer in this idea that we can not polarize things, that we can not say what we really think, that we have to go for compromise. The truth is it's only when we make people choose sides that we stand a chance. It's basically simple. Are you for torture, or are you against it? Are you for forcing women to have a baby she doesn't want, or are you against that shit? Are you for them wrapping an entire village in Iraq in barbed wire and reducing others to rubble, or are you against that shit? Are you for a regime that allows 100,000 Black people to fend for themselves for five days without food or water and then takes troops off of rescue missions and sends them back in with orders to shoot and kill, or are you against that shit? Do you think that gay people are evil, that they're sick and they need God, or are you against that shit? The polar ice caps are melting right now. Storms like Katrina and the Asian tsunami are getting stronger. Global warming is real, and this regime is suppressing the science that people need to know, disarming a whole generation from understanding the way the world works. Are you for that shit or against it. It's when you draw lines like this, when you tell the truth--not when you compromise, not when you pander to these lunatics on the far Right, the fascists--it's when you draw clear lines and you come out fighting for what is right and what you believe in, which is what we are doing today and what we are setting into motion, that's when you stand a chance of winning.
Wayne Kotting, Fairfax County (VA) Republican Party Treasurer, in front of the White House: Mr. President, listen. America is speaking to you. Many of us would like to feel that you did not lie, that you were misinformed or misled. When the efforts of FEMA were a disaster of its own, you turned to your director and said, "Brownie, you're doing a great job." I hope you were misinformed. When the FDA neglected the health of women and refused to follow its own medical board's recommendation, based on science, for emergency contraception, they refused; I trust you told the FDA, they're "doing a great job." With the abuse of prisoners of war that took place in Iraq, encouraged by the White House memorandum on how to deal with detainees, I trust you were misinformed--or did you tell the Attorney General, "you're doing a great job"? When wounded veterans are sued for reimbursement of combat pay, did you know that, or did you tell Secretary Rumsfeld that "you're doing a great job"? When you mandated No Child Left Behind, and the Congress of the United States controlled by the Republican party refused to fully fund it, did you tell Mr. Frist and Mr. Hastert that "you're doing a great job"? When the religious Right forced you to withdraw your Supreme Court nominee, did you think she was not "man enough" for the job? I trust you told Pat Robertson that "you're doing a great job." So Mr. President, to use your own words, we forcefully say to you, "Bushie, you're doing a great job."
San Francisco Supervisor Chris Daly: There are some who criticize The World Can't Wait--Drive Out the Bush Regime effort by saying this is just another gathering of leftists. Well, most of us here may be leftists, but what they didn't tell you is that a majority of San Franciscans, and increasingly a majority of people across the country have been adopting the position espoused by leftists for some time now.
An Oakland High student showed her hands which were cut from climbing over the barbed wire that the school had put atop fences to keep students from "escaping" on November 2. "Look at my hands," she said. "That's how much I hate George Bush."
San Antonio, Texas: 200 people marched through downtown. The local weekly San Antonio Current ran an article titled "Adios, Bush" covering the protest. The article noted, "It was not a rally to merely end the Bush War in Iraq. The protestors had assembled to demand that Bush and his White House cronies should take a hike -- and pack up their warmongering policies with them." The article quoted a WCW organizer saying, "We're serving notice, G.W. Bush must step down, get out and take his program with him. This movement is spreading. For the next two months we will demand that George Bush step down."
At PNA, a school of about 300 students (mostly Latino and Black) in the Bronx, students organized bake sales to raise enough money for subway fare for all the students who wanted to get to Union Square for the Nov. 2 rally. For at least one of the students, this was the first time they had ever been to Union Square, illuminating the divisions/segregation Jonathan Kozol details in his new book. Students ran for student government with Nov. 2 as part of their platform, and won. Stickers and posters were all over the school, to the point where the Dept of Education's "Impact Team" went to the school and demanded they remove them all or the supportive teachers would be fired. And only two teachers were permitted to attend the rally with the students (more than 70 students walked out).
At Ohio Univerisity in Athens, 50 students walked out of classes to join 150 others and to march to the Army recruting station where they disrupted business for several hours. One of the organizers told Revolution, "We went into the classrooms that day, we said this president is criminal and it is time to do something. We asked people, 'How many more people need to die before you decide to do something?'"
In San Diego, where 400 to 500 took part in the day, speakers included Milton Saier, molecular biologist and UCSD professor; Rev. Madison Shockley from Pilgrim United Church of Christ; a representative from Planned Parenthood; Holly Heaslet, a biochemist; Enrique Morones, a human rights activist and local talk show host.
Le Sueur H.S., Minnesota: We heard about the protest two days before it was supposed to take place... We asked our principal if our absences could be excused with parental permission, and he said that it would be fine, but he was going to call the superintendent to make sure. Later that day, we were stopped in the hall by our principal. He said that we had a meeting with the superintendent the next day, because he didn't like the idea of a walkout. Then, the principal told us that the superintendent had gotten a call from the governor (or his office) about this, that the state had heard about the World Can't Wait protest and decided to call all of the school districts in Minnesota to warn them... I think we really made an impact here. (WCW)
From Cincinnati Enquirer article about 100 students walking out of Walnut Hills H.S.: Students at the school lined up 2,000 toy soldiers on the sidewalk to represent the war dead... Seventh-grader Cayla Burton, 12, said she decided to join the protest because she had an uncle in the war and she's concerned about him. "He could get kidnapped or he could get shot," she said. "They are spending money to kill people, not to help people."
Honolulu, Hawai'i: By 8 a.m. an Action Center covered with banners was set up in a city park... Within 15 minutes of setting up an elderly veteran of three wars drove his wheelchair to the tents and quietly passed a $50 bill to an organizer saying: "I fought three wars; this one is completely illegal. Here's a donation to help build the movement."
Student from Notre Dame H.S., NYC: During my first World Can't Wait meeting, the youth organizers spoke of people nationwide who watch the news, aware of what's happening, who cry at night, and have trouble sleeping, yet do nothing. For too long I was one of those people... Through The World Can't Wait, Drive Out the Bush Regime, I found an outlet which allows me to make a difference, regardless of my age. Through World Can't Wait, I found that I wasn't alone, and that only by boldly stepping forward did I find myself amongst thousands of others, in this city alone, who feel the same way, and who are determined to act on these feelings.
Correction: In the article "Nov. 2--The Beginning of the End of the Bush Regime" in last week's Revolution, there was an error in the account from Atlanta (p. 13). The third sentence should correctly read: "The rally, emceed by students from Georgia State University, an urban state-run university, and Spelman College, a historically Black college, featured..."
"You Must Join This Movement"
Revolution #023, November 20, 2005, posted at revcom.us
On November 2 high school students from over 30 schools in Los Angeles walked out of school and hit the streets, joining with others in L.A. and around the country to take the first important step in the movement to drive out the Bush regime.
High school students in L.A. were part of the marches in the 1990s against the anti-immigrant Proposition 187 and the East L.A. protests against the Vietnam War in the '60s. But Nov. 2 was on a whole different level. In response to the call from The World Can't Wait, thousands of youth--many from proletarian neighborhoods--left school to take political action and make their voices heard. At Los Angeles High School alone, more than 1,000 students--the majority of the school -- walked out, and more than 500 marched to Wilshire Blvd.
A student organizer for The World Can't Wait reported that relatives in Mexico had called her after seeing headline news about the November 2 protests on Mexican television.
The students often acted in direct defiance of serious repression and threats of punishment--including one student organizer who was put under house arrest and hit with criminal charges. Many jumped over fences and ran past police cars to get to the convergences. Hundreds more--no one knows the exact number--attempted to walk out but were locked inside the schools. Throughout the L.A. school district, numerous principals ordered schools to be locked down. Gates were chained and padlocked, police were stationed at exits, and teachers were ordered to close their doors and keep students in their classrooms.
All this was in direct violation of official L.A. Unified School District policy. An Oct. 26 memo from the school district notified all principals of The World Cant Waits call for school walkouts. The memo clearly stated, "Do not attempt to prevent students from leaving the campus."
Not only did many schools prevent students from leaving--but since Nov. 2, administrators have gone after and persecuted students who took part in the walkouts, especially student leaders. There is now an important struggle to defend the students against this punitive retaliation.
Young women at Locke H.S. in South Central were sent to the principal's office for having posters from Revolution that called out William Bennett as a Nazi for his remark that aborting all Black babies would be a good way to reduce crime. The principal confiscated all their posters and threatened them with being kicked out of school.
At Lynwood H.S. on Nov. 2, 40-50 students gathered to walk out. Police were blocking some gates, and other gates were chained and locked. Four students staged a sit-in by the administration office. They were all taken into the office and accused of truancy for trying to walk out. One of the staff in the office commented to the Chicano students, after hearing that some other students had jumped over the fence, "You Mexicans have to stop jumping over the borders." Since that day students have been harassed by school security, and the administration is threatening to suspend those who organized the walkout.
The principal at Van Nuys H.S. issued a memo before November 2, saying that the school would be locked down. When students tried to walk out, some were physically assaulted, including one young woman who was pulled by the hair by one dean. Still two women climbed over the fence and spoke at the rally in Westwood. Twenty students were reportedly given one-day suspensions, and at least two face punitive transfer. Others were ticketed by police with fines that range upward of $250. On some tickets the cops wrote that they were for "truancy and protesting against Bush" and for "distributing leaflets that some people find objectionable."
A student at Granada Hills H.S. was called into the Deans office because he was wearing a World Cant Wait sticker on his t-shirt. The dean told him to remove the sticker because school is not the place for voicing political beliefs (only days before a student Christian group assembled in the quad at lunchtime with an eight-foot cross to conduct a group prayer). A school police officer grabbed his arm and ordered him to take off the sticker. The youth told them, "If you want me to take off the sticker, then I have to take everything off as well," and he took off all his clothes (except his underwear). He told them, "You can take my clothes and my sticker, but you cant take what I believe in my heart." The Dean called him "off balance" and sent him to the nurses office. The nurse told the student that she agrees with what the student is doing.
At Jefferson H.S. students assembled to walk out--and were met with a wall of military recruiters standing at the front of the school.
In a completely outrageous case, Geovany Serrano, a 10th grader at Belmont H.S., is under house arrest for passing out flyers and organizing his school to walk out. He was grabbed by school police, pepper-sprayed, and arrested. After first being taken to the Rampart Division police station (infamous for police corruption and brutality), he was taken to juvenile hall and finger printed. Geovany is now facing heavy criminal charges and is under house arrest. He must wear an ankle bracelet that monitors his movement and his phone is bugged. He was also transferred out of Belmont and into a new school where the principal warned him against passing out flyers there.
The National Steering Committee of World Can't Wait issued a letter in support of the L.A. students, saying in part:
"These students are taking a position now that will be honored in the future. We in our millions that hate the Bush Regime must honor these students NOW. Any administrator that allows or enforces punishment on these young people must be repudiated. As we say in our call, ' If we speak the truth, they will try to silence us. If we act, they will try to stop us. But we speak for the majority, here and around the world, and as we get this going we are going to reach out to the people who have been so badly fooled by Bush and we are not going to stop.'"
While school officials have acted like wardens trying to crush a prison rebellion, the high school students have refused to back down and are resisting the repression, as part of going forward with the movement to drive out Bush.
At Belmont H.S., several dozen students walked out of class demanding "Bush must go! Geovany must stay!" They held a rally and marched to a nearby school that also walked out on the 2nd. After the march, a group of students went to a local restaurant and were swarmed by police cars, given truancy tickets, and taken back to school in the police cars.
At Reseda H.S., hundreds of outraged calls from students, parents, teachers, and others forced the school authorities to back down from transferring Sara Escuerdo, a student leader, to another school. Sara had already been suspended for two days for organizing a walkout and threatened with arrest for having stickers.
The retaliation against the students has been heavy--but the students are driven by an understanding that the future of the planet is at stake and that what they do or dont do matters.
In a letter on worldcantwait.org, Sara Escuerdo from Reseda H.S. and L.J. from Los Angeles H.S. wrote:
"We owe it to the millions of people that are getting tortured, getting murdered, and suffering around the world to do this. Resist or Die--it has come down to that slogan... Right now the future is in everybodys hands. It is up to us. The question is what kind of world do you want to live in? Will you accept everything this regime stands for? If you dont, then you must join this movement..."
"Look at the war in Iraq. There are jails where there are people that the government just wants to disappear. They have them there and are torturing them or putting them on leashes. Theyre bombing the shit out of peoples houses. Theyre trying to have this Christian fascism and make the Bible the law and not letting women do what they want with their bodies. They dont want to allow homosexuals and lesbians to just be. Were headed into a society where if you dont follow a certain way, youre going to be eliminated.
"When I first got into this it hit me so hard. Its hard to go back to living a regular day. Even going to sleep, knowing that there are people that are being killed and victimized by this system is difficult. Is that the world that I want?
"No. I dont want none of that."
Revolution #023, November 20, 2005, posted at revcom.us
Revolution talked with Alice, a youth who organized students at the University of Wisconsin at Madison for World Can't Wait.
Revolution: What was the initial response you got to taking out the Call for World Can't Wait?
Alice: The Call would connect with people because it's so sharply posing the truth right now. There weren't a lot of people saying, "Why?" You know? Like "Why, do you want to drive out Bush, and why are you doing this?" Some people would say, like, "Oh well, I like Bush," or, "We can't pull out of Iraq now, we can't stop the war now." There was some polarization where people disagreed with the Call, or wouldn’t want to take it, but mostly people were saying, "I think this is great that you’re doing this." But then people had questions on the point that we’re in this moment, and we have to build resistance right now. That this is like Nazi Germany in 1939, where things are going in this whole direction and we have to actually stop that. People would have questions with that.
R: You and some students dressed up like the prisoners who were tortured at Abu Ghraib and told students on campus to "take the leash." Talk about the impact of that.
A: The second time we did it, it was this sunny fall Friday afternoon. They were giving campus tours, where all these high school seniors are coming through campus. The tour guides would have them in circles, all over on the lawn around campus. And, so we would walk right up to the middle of the circle, and I would tell the person--the tour guide--to take the leash. People would get really quiet, and they would try to say something like, "Well, this campus has been known for political activism, and there’s a history of that." This one guy especially got very uncomfortable and hostile when I was saying, "Take the leash--your government is doing this," and he tried to take my hood off. I grabbed the hood so he couldn’t take it off and then he pushed me out of the circle. This other guy with me was getting out the call to people who were in the circle. I think we had the right approach, because we’d watched the training video for this street theater on the World Can't Wait web site. You’re not doing it to shock people, you’re not doing it in this gimmicky way, trying to guilt trip people, but it’s actually the right thing to do. To not just go about your daily life, or to just get out fliers, but to actually be challenging people, demanding that we not be complicit. Like "this is going on, what are you going to do about it?"
There were experiences where I would approach students and ask, "How does it make you feel?" ... I stayed in character the whole time, and I said, "Every day when you’re just going to class or going to meetings, or organizing as usual, I’m here and I’m being tortured by your government, and this is happening, and what are you doing to do about it?" One guy was appealing to me, like, "I don’t think this is the right way to do this," and he got frustrated and walked away. But it was actually very positive. I don’t think it was a bad thing that people were reacting, or being uncomfortable. One guy went back to his anti-war group and talked about it, and not very positively, because he didn’t agree with it, but actually, people on campus were talking about it.
R: So this created a stir.
A: Yeah, the next day I was in a cafeteria in the evening where people were studying, and we were reading the Call. We’d get up on a chair and read the Call, and then pass them out and go around and talk to people and get their contact info. I sat down with this one guy and talked to him for about an hour, because he said one of his friends had seen us doing this, and him and his friends had had a whole discussion about it, and they were like, "Well, that’s really kind of different and out there," and they actually decided that it is a good way to snap people out of their paralysis and to to challenge them to take responsibility.
R: Going back to when you first got to Madison, talk a little bit about the process of bringing forward organizers around this.
A: The first couple days I was there, I was going through campus and up State Street, tirelessly taking out the flyer and talking to people. Sometimes I would talk to people and tell them, "You know, I quit my job and moved up here, because I think we need to build this resistance movement on this campus, and we need to shake up this campus, and I’m looking for student organizers, students who are going to step up and lead this."
There's this one woman I met on State Street the second day that I was there, and she got the Call, and then the next day, she made a donation and got us some stickers and stuff, and we had a conversation. I said, look, I'm going to challenge you to get involved, if you see that this needs to happen. After she came to Sunsara Taylor's talk on campus, she did a lot of thinking about this point of comparing Bush to Hitler, and comparing now to Nazi Germany, because she was Jewish, and some of her family was murdered by the Nazis. So she did a lot of thinking about that on a personal way too. So, she was like, really taking out that point of the Call to people.
R: Which point, the point about Hitler?
A: Yeah, and really taking out the point that we have to take on the whole Bush regime, she was going to these different organizations, some of them that she'd worked with, and saying, "Look, this is saying we need to bring people together in these different organizations, together, to unite around driving out Bush right now, that's what we need to actually be doing. And, you know, you can have your organization, and that’s good, and your different things that you do, but we also have to have a movement to drive out the Bush regime, and you need to be part of that." She got her friends discussing the Call and taking the call out to different neighborhoods on the weekend, and even some people who were unsure about the Call to begin with would go to these different neighborhoods and take it out, and they were so surprised that people were really interested and really supportive and they would take a stack of flyers and they would hang one up in their window.
R: Talk a little about your impressions of the day itself at Madison.
A: I think one thing that was really successful and impressive and surprising was the wide spectrum of people. There was really this breadth and diversity, there was a lot of that. People came from all over Wisconsin. There was a family there, there were kids, maybe 10 and 12 years old, little kids, and they had signs that said "Rural kids against Bush." There were also a lot of students who came individually. The student group, Stop the War, brought people. The newspaper said 400 people came, I think it was 500. There were a lot of people that came from the city. And there were a lot of people that came from these surrounding areas. There was one student who had never been to a protest before and he came because he felt like nothing was being done to change things--things were intolerable, things had to be changed, no one was doing anything, and we needed to do something. We got a lot of media coverage. We were in the two main Madison newspapers as well student newspapers, and we were the top story on two of the news stations in Madison.
The former mayor of Madison was there, and he was interviewed in the Madison newspaper. He said that there was a broad section of the mainstream that weren't out yet in large numbers still on the 2nd. I think there's some truth to what he was saying. I don't think he was totally seeing that we had this breadth and diversity and there were a lot of people there who had not been to protests before. But there's also some truth to what he was saying, that there still are the middle class mainstream people who hate what's going on, but they haven't been organized yet and are not in the streets yet. He said that when that happens that's when Bush will really be in trouble.
I've been thinking about how Howard Zinn was saying students can be a spark that can ignite a movement, something to that effect. There were people who came up to us and said, "where are the students?" In terms of the students in the university, they were really hoping for massive numbers of students, and seeing the need for that. There was also this one professor who was really excited, who’s been for years working with the students and who has been in the midst of the paralysis and people not seeing themselves in relation to the world but thinking more about their classes, their tests, their careers and things like that. He was really energized by the turnout of the students and the tone of the day and the students that were there. He made a point to me of saying, what you did on this campus had a huge effect and what we were able to do in this short period of time really did change the dynamic and change things.
But there is still a need to have students in their mass numbers, and to have students having that moral righteousness and saying: I’m going to lead this, and this needs to happen, I don’t care about this test or my class, this is making history. That’s not there yet to the extent that it needs to be and could be. To do that we have to turn a corner where those who got involved on November 2 continue to step up and go forward and, as events unfold quickly, we proceed grounded in the World Can't Wait Call, keeping in mind that famous Mario Savio quote about throwing our bodies, hearts and minds into this. Remembering Rosa Parks. And seeing our own lives in this context because the future depends on it.
Revolution #023, November 20, 2005, posted at revcom.us
Bushs public approval poll numbers are sinking, and pollsters have discovered that most Americans dont think Bush told the truth about Iraq. But a quick review of the headlines from the past week or two reveals very starkly that the Bush regime continues to respond to anger from below and angst from their ruling class peers by upping the ante, mobilizing their base of Christian fascists, going after critics with threats and repression,and exposing the people of the world to more war of aggression, more draconian fascist laws, more torture, more intolerance, and doing all this even more arrogantly.
In late October and early November, U.S. troops in Iraq launched what Reuters news service called "the biggest operation in the mainly Sunni desert province of Anbar since weeks of fighting forced insurgents from the city of Fallujah." The assault included air strikes on these towns. Reuters also reported that "Local people said there were dozens of civilian casualties in Qusayba and nearby Qaim." A resident said, "The Americans destroyed Qaim. Our houses are destroyed, our children are getting killed. What are we supposed to do now?" The Iraqi Red Crescent Society said it was attempting to care for 12,000 people displaced in the attacks.
November 8 marks the one-year anniversary of U.S. destruction of the Iraqi city of Fallujah. A group called Christian Peacemaker Teams visited the city and reported: "The largely Sunni population of 300,000 was expelled, its industrial base and services destroyed, and one-third of its homes were flattened... The city is now surrounded by a tight network of checkpoints controlled by U.S. forces and Shi'a members of the Iraqi Army. No one is allowed in without an identification card issued by the U.S. Marines, or other permission. Even with such permission it took 75 minutes for us to enter. These checkpoints are choking economic life in the city, doubling prices for basic foodstuffs, and cutting off surrounding villages from Fallujah's markets, services, and hospital. The people say that they are living in a prison." Christian Peacemaker Teams reported that a man on the street challenged them: "If I come and smash everything in your house and take all your money, and then I do the same to all your neighbours, what would you do to me?"
Under fire from the public and from ruling class critics over the war in Iraq, Bush lashed back. Speaking at an army depot on Veterans Day, Bush issued a not-too-subtle warning that critics were traitors in the war on terror, charging that they "send the wrong signal to our troops and to an enemy that is questioning America's will. The Bush Veteran's Day war speech laid out a retooled agenda for a much wider, endless, more unrestrained war on the world with truly wild aims, not just in Iraq but for a huge section of the world. (For an analysis of the basic themes of this speech and recent similar speeches, see "Bush Calls for Endless, Borderless War Without Limits" at revcom.us).
Along with escalating the war, Bush cranked up the torture and repression machine, continuing to fight attempts to even formally prohibit the CIA from torturing people, eliminating any rights of victims of U.S. torture to seek redress in the courts, and amping up the USA PATRIOT Act to spy on more and more of what more and more people are doing, thinking, and reading. And, in a serious incident, the IRS is going after a church where a progressive sermon was delivered last year.
As outrage grows over the worldwide network of secret CIA-run torture chambers, Bush sent Vice President Cheney to intensely lobby congress to exempt the CIA from any formal prohibition against torture. Meanwhile, the Center for Constitutional Rights reported:
"The Bush administration, through an amendment introduced by South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, stripped federal courts of jurisdiction to hear applications for habeas corpus brought by those unilaterally declared enemy combatants without any process and held by the U.S. indefinitely throughout the world and even in the United States."
A major expose by By Barton Gellman in the Washington Post (Nov 6) documents that the FBI issued "30,000 national security letters a year, according to government sources, a hundredfold increase over historic norms. The letters--one of which can be used to sweep up the records of many people--are extending the bureau's reach as never before into the telephone calls, correspondence, and financial lives of ordinary Americans." Gellman's article notes that as Congress prepares to extend the USA PATRIOT Act, "House and Senate conferees are poised again to amplify the FBI's power to compel the secret production of private records" (our emphasis).
While right-wing Christian fundamentalists mobilize their troops with threats of damnation against those who don't vote Republican, the IRS is going after the tax-exempt status of the All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, California because a sermon delivered there condemned Bush's lies, opposed the war, and defended the right to abortion. (See special online-only article The Regime vs. All Saints Church at revcom.us.)
In Dover, PA, Christian fundamentalists running the school board got kicked out by parents, students, and teachers demanding the truth be taught about evolution. But creationist lunatics who run the Kansas state school board not only instituted the teaching of intelligent design but redefined science as it is to be taught, removing the criteria that science teaches natural explanations of phenomena and--in effect--embracing the teaching of religion as science. (See special online-only article, Kansas School Board Enshrines Anti-Science at revcom.us).
As the Bush regime intensifies the pace and scope of their war on the world and repression and theocratic mission at home, where are the Democrats? They're finding niches in the "new reality," helping move "the center" to a place that not long ago was correctly considered by most people as extreme. A sharp example of this is the newly elected Democrat governor of Virginia. Tim Kaine is a man whose ads spotlighted his past as a Christian missionary in Honduras and featured him saying, My faith teaches life is sacred. But, don't worry, he then promised, I'll enforce the death penalty. The New York Times quoted a political science expert saying, "This was a good test for Democrats to see if they can run an overtly faith-based candidacy. As we go into '06, I think we'll see more Democrats emulating what Kaine did."
In that context, it's important to confront the significance of this challenging insight from Bob Avakian:
... [W]hat even some progressive people perceive as the place where the pendulum might swing back to is something that a few years ago they would have considered totally unacceptable and outrageous... What this is illustrative of is the principle embodied in that statement of mine that if you try to make the Democrats be what they are not, and never will be, you will end up being more like what the Democrats actually are. And, very importantly, what is also illustrated here is the essential truth of the statement in the "World Cant Wait" Call: That which you do not resist and mobilize to stop, you will learn--or be forced--to accept."
(Read the entire article, The Deadly Illusion of the Swinging Pendulum by Bob Avakian at www.revcom.us)
Henry Carson, Sunsara Taylor, and others contributed to this article.
Revolution #023, November 20, 2005, posted at revcom.us
Last nights PBS special on the last abortion clinic in Mississippi was harrowing. Over and over, abortion rights advocates and providers talked of conditions for women that already are comparable to those before Roe v. Wade was passed: women unable to access abortions, forced to leave the state, uneducated about birth control, unable to afford services, forced to have children they do not want.
About 75% of children born in the Delta region there are to single women. Girls are required to get permission not just from one parent, but from two. The last standing clinic is besieged daily by the throngs of praying/preying zombies.
I am sick of the notion that its not "politically correct" to compare what is happening in this country to what happened in Nazi Germany. I am sorry--when they showed the clip of Bush announcing the ban on "partial birth abortion" all I could think of was Hitler--of his posture of moral superiority at the cost of millions of lives, of the fanfare, of the populace that acquiesced with evil. And, Hitler DID outlaw abortion.
Recently the owner of the womens clinic I used to work at died. He was a wonderful and fiery man--motivated by a very vivid memory of what women went through before they had access to safe abortions. He was a fighter. He hated the war on Iraq. He hated the fanatical Catholics who protested every single day outside his clinic. And he loved the women who would get in their face. He gave me an award the first week I was there because I made off with the pair of baby-shoes that hung on the anti-women protesters gruesome display each day.
As much as he will be missed, he is but one part of a greater hole being left unfilled. There are all too few doctors. There are all too many legal restrictions. There is altogether too much momentum, too much power, too high-level a position of the fanatical fascists who would permanently remove abortion and birth control from this society and around the world and punish those who dared provide these services.
In light of all this, I want to speak to three things I have heard WAY TOO OFTEN from people who should know better:
1. I was told last week, while doing an interview on a feminist radio show, that, "Of course, abortion is not the only issue that affects women."
2. At a party a few days ago a young woman explained to me that "Feminism really did go too far, was too extreme, because I remember when my older sister felt guilty for wanting to stay home with her baby."
3. And, again in the last week, I got emails from the major pro-choice groups promising that if I just emailed "my" senators, we could protect "choice" in the face of the new Supreme Court pick.
So, here goes:
1. Of course, there are many things which affect women. Most things do, we are half of humanity.
But there are some things which are central and defining to the role women will play and mostly they center up around that which makes us distinct from the other half of humanity--our role in reproduction.
Of course war, poverty, discrimination all disproportionately impact women, but while we should definitely concern ourselves with all of these issues and more, they impact women disproportionately because women are oppressed, not because they are central and defining to the role women play in society. For instance, even when countries are not at war women are still oppressed and even in wealthy homes women are beaten.
And, no, the widespread horrors of battery and rape are not lost on me. But ending all this is exactly bound up with the overall struggle to liberate women, including by fighting for our fundamental right to control our own bodies and reproduction.
In reality, saying that abortion is not the only womens issue is making the argument that we shouldnt focus so much attention on this issue. It is based on either the illusion that you can make progress for women without preserving and destigmatizing abortion and birth control or based on willful ignorance. Take your pick--neither is worth doing.
2. Okay, let's start with the basics: NO. Feminism did not go too far.
Sorry, to the woman I met at this party, pull back the lens just a little bit, would ya? I know this society teaches people to think only about themselves, but look around you for a minute.
When were women EVER on a societal level told that they should not make staying home with kids their number one aspiration? When has that model EVER let up? Sure, maybe you lived in a somewhat "enlightened" enclave. Maybe your parents and those immediately around you didnt tell you that your biggest priority should be kids--but this in no way was enforced by the state, legislated, propagated by the major means of communication and culture. And for most women, this message never reached.
I am not infatuated with everything the womens liberation movement ever did, either, not because it went too far, but because in the main it did not go far enough. We still live in a patriarchal society because we still live in a class society--and that wont change short of revolution.
So, yes, women do have undue burdens and double standards put on us--but get over this notion of how you were oppressed by the womens movement because you want the right to stay home and raise kids. That has always remained not only an option for those who can afford it, but it is the main promoted and upheld option for most women in society--which probably has a lot to do with why you and your sister have been conditioned to long for that role.
Kids are great and we need a society that doesnt pit living a full life as part of larger society against the ability to raise critically thinking, happy, healthy kids--but doing so requires going further: ending job discrimination, breaking down gender divisions around housework and child-rearing, achieving affordable and collective child-care, transforming social attitudes. All of this--and much more--has been done in socialist societies and much more waits to be done. You want to get out of a lose-lose situation--then, as the Revolutionary Communist Party says, "Break the Chains! Unleash the Fury of Women as a Mighty Force for Revolution!" Dont piss and whine about the good aspects of what our parents generation struggled so hard for.
3. Okay, sorry NARAL, I am going to call you out by name. Your letter-writing campaign wasnt going to and didnt stop Judge Roberts. It is not going to stop Alito. And living in a society with its laws retooled along those theocratic lines is NOT something I am sitting around sending emails and waiting for.
Recognizing the irony, I wrote an email to NARAL complaining about their insistence that their base be politically passive in the face of the remaking of the Supreme Court by only sending emails instead of pouring into the streets to turn things around. In it I said, "Look, even you arent going to be moved by an email I send, I doubt you'll even respond. So, why should I expect more from someone who doesnt even claim to be a fighter for abortion rights like those you want me to email?" Of course, I heard nothing from them.
SO, WHAT TO DO?
I happen to know that there still are millions and millions of women and men in this society who would be willing to fight to prevent us from going backwards for women--and on all the other fronts society is being dragged backwards on (prayer in school, torture, napalm, anti-gay legislation, attacks on evolution, etc).
At last weeks launch of a movement to Drive Out the Bush Regime I was impressed by how deep a response I got from the young Black and Latina high school students when I spoke about the dangers of losing abortion rights. I told the truth--that the threat to women and abortion rights alone is reason enough to drive out the Bush regime and nothing short of this would do, and they went wild.
Ive heard people say it is unrealistic or unspecific to want to drive out the Bush regime--but it is absurd and unrealistic and willfully ignorant to think that anything short of that, and the major social struggle and upheaval that will require, and the major impact on peoples thinking that that will bring along with it, will even come close to doing what is needed.
As the Call for the World Cant Wait--Drive Out the Bush Regime says, "That which you will not resist and mobilize to stop, you will learn--or be forced--to accept."
This is true. And most people who used to know better are learning to accept a count-down to the end of Roe-v.-Wade.
Drive Out the Bush Regime.
This article was originally posted at the worldcantwait.org web site, and was edited by the author for Revolution.
The Frontline episode "The Last Abortion Clinic" can be viewed online at: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/clinic/
Revolution #023, November 20, 2005, posted at revcom.us
According to health experts, a new influenza-A pandemic is looming, possibly within the next 3 months, with predictions of worldwide deaths ranging from 2-8 million people on the low end to 1.5 billion on the high end. The virus is being portrayed as part of the natural cycle that is inevitable and long overdue. However, the flu virus is opportunistic - it interacts with and takes advantage of human social interaction as well. Like the recent hurricanes, the extent of its impact on the world's population will depend not just on the matter that it manifests itself but on environmental, social, and political-economic factors.
Although different types of the influenza A virus can infect mammals, wild birds are the natural hosts. The current type, designated H5N1 according to the specific combination of two different proteins on the surface of the influenza virus, is causing particularly high rates of mortality, not only among bird populations but among humans and other mammals as well.
Currently, humans seem only to contract it through contact with bird secretions or poultry products. However, as an RNA virus with a gene consisting of 8 segments, an influenza type found in one population can exchange or "reallocate" one or another of its 8 segments with an existing flu virus in a new host population, allowing it to spread into the new population using the genetic material of flu strains endemic to that population. (There is one report of a case of what seems to be human-to-human transfer in Vietnam in September 2004; and the possibility of similar transfer to two people in Hong Kong in 1999.)
That the H5N1 influenza is reported to have already spread to both pigs and felines indicates that it is prone to the reallocation needed to spread to the human population. And because it has never infected humans before, the human immune system is unable to recognize and attack it, making it extremely lethal to the people who contract it.
How many people it will actually kill depends in part on its rate of mortality and in part on how easily it will spread between humans once this reallocation comes about.
The high rates of mortality experienced by people contracting the virus from birds has health experts extremely worried. Its initial mortality rate was 50 percent, but in recent months it seems to have been becoming more lethal with a rate of 70 percent. In comparison, the 1917-1918 influenza pandemic, a bird flu which killed 40 million people worldwide, had a mortality rate of just 5 percent.
Acquisition of the ability to spread between people will depend on the H5N1 virus finding human hosts simultaneously infected with strains of human influenza with which they can exchange genetic material. Health experts say from previous experience this is likely to occur within the next three months. How quickly it subsequently spreads within human populations will depend upon the character of the specific kinds of reallocation that take place.
As mentioned above, viruses are opportunistic and their careers do not depend just on clinical factors. World war, which moved large numbers of soldiers and refugees all across the face of the earth and put millions of men in cold, muddy trenches along the battle fronts of Europe facilitated the swath of death left by the 1917-1918 influenza epidemic. The epidemic of the much less contagious AIDS virus, which probably similarly originated from a virus jumping species, has been facilitated by the international regimes of debt and exploitation, the breakdown of communities and cultures, the dislocation of populations, and the scattering of families throughout the world.
In a manner analogous to soldiers in trenches, the recent Asian Tsunami, the American hurricanes, and the recent earthquakes have uprooted and weakened people across whole regions, making large numbers of people even more vulnerable and giving the virus potential weak points to attack.
In addition to this more obvious environmental factor, however, is the havoc wreaked over the last two decades by neo-conservative economic polices promoted by the World Bank and IMF in which communities have been opened up to trade regimes which have led to a well-documented increased inequality and breakup of communities, alongside of the dismantling of national health and other social support systems.
In a sort of positive feedback loop, pandemics, by disabling and killing large numbers of people on top of such economic, environmental and military disabilities can open the way to a systemic collapse, further exacerbating the purely clinical mortality of the disease. A good example of this is what happened to the 100 million original residents of North America when confronted by European diseases on top of the devastation of lifetimes of war and displacement. Within 400 years the original North American population had crashed by 99.7 percent. In the 1917-18 flu epidemic, hospitals were often forced to closed and local governments were overwhelmed and paralyzed. Many people subsequently died for lack of care.
As documented by the anthropologist John Bodley, furthermore, the extreme centralization of state and corporate bureaucracies and of the regimes of distribution and control, and the general environmental degradation of the entire biosphere makes today's global society more vulnerable than ever to systemic collapse, as most communities are no longer able to exist autonomously.
Although no social class will be immune from the upcoming pandemic, the experience of New Orleans taught that disasters, natural or unnatural, don't necessarily effect the rich and the poor equally. Furthermore, as they are unable to defend themselves the poor often are blamed for the problems that ensue. With the current bird flu, small farmers are being accused by large-scale poultry factories for running their poultry freely in farm yards, when it was very likely the large chicken houses squishing hundreds of thousands of chickens together in unnatural conditions which provided the conditions for initial mutation and spread of the current virus.
H5N1 has shown itself responsive to only two of the four available anti-viral drugs. However, the regime of patent laws have restricted production to one company, leading to extreme limitations on quantities and high prices. While many North European countries, anticipating the 35 percent infection rate of the routine yearly flu epidemics, have been building stockpiles for between a quarter and 100% of their citizens, until recently the United States had only stockpiled one of them, Tamiflu, in a quantity sufficient only for its military. Government websites now admitting that they have learned a lesson from New Orleans are saying the U.S. government has now set out to stockpile 20 million dosages of Tamiflu, which will be enough for about 7 percent of the population. Unfortunately, due to widespread use of Tamiflu in Japan for treating common influenza, there are reports that an H5N1 strain has appeared in Korea which is resistant to Tamiflu, leaving only one alternative antiviral Relenza (zanamivir). Public health experts are now calling for revving up its production.
Even if we had enough stockpiles of the right kind of anti-viral drug, the United States’ private-insurer for-profit health system introduces another major weakness. The anti-viral drugs must be used at the onset of the illness to be effective, but the 40 percent uninsured proportion of the U.S. population hesitates to seek medical care until symptoms are well developed, for fear of large hospital bills. The wealthy, on the other hand, can bid for the limited stocks and can get access to the limited number of high-priced hospital beds. From the experience of hurricane, thus, we can imagine who will benefit from the limited supply of viral drugs and who won't. There is already talk of turning stadiums into hospitals.
The world has changed greatly from the time of the 1917-1918 pandemic. Not only like World War I are there the above-mentioned conditions that make the world's population vulnerable to a new pandemic of the same order of magnitude as the 1917-1918 pandemic, there are also new factors in play. The industrialization of agriculture has removed the major portion of the world's population into densely packed urban areas. It also has concentrated large numbers of chickens into giant chicken factories in Southeast Asia on the U.S. factory-farming model which as mentioned above have provided perfect breeding grounds for new forms of avian flu. There is much greater mobility of the population which allows the virus to radiate out into the different populations of the world much quicker. Like the destruction of wetlands that once protected New Orleans, the natural environment worldwide had been greatly impoverished, removing a source of natural elasticity.
Under pressure from the U.S. government and international organizations, the new director of the Bird Influenza Program at the World Health Organization had to hastily retreat from his initial assessment that 150 million will die from the influenza virus and give instead an estimate in the hundreds of thousands. Taking the 1917-1918 influenza as a guide, it could be much more than that, even though it could be much less, depending upon the manner that the H5N1 reassorts itself. However, it is possible that he was forced to back away from his initial statement due to the United States' and other corporate elite's lack of commitment to the world's working classes and poor, like the way that New Orleans' African Americans were abandoned by their local, state and national governments.
Finally, it might be smart for localities to act quickly to protect themselves and the less advantaged among them. In 1917-18 government in the United States, at least, failed people at all levels. Effective attacks on the virus were only mounted when citizens shoved aside government took things into their own hands. Overstretched state, county and city health budgets cannot handle the additional burden that protection would entail, and probably there is not enough time to go through the political process of allocating money, even though ideally we should be trying to make our government at various levels responsive to us.
Local wards or neighborhoods might to set up teams that would train themselves for dealing with all the possible fallout that can come from such an emergency. After all, health care providers being on the front line are expected to suffer disproportionate casualties. In many countries, such as Japan or Cuba, wards are organized with well-supplied teams of people who make sure everyone is cared for in tsunamis, typhoons and other disasters. Considering the failure of our governments at all levels to take care of us in the most recent disasters, and given the corporate carpet baggers who subsequently descended on the communities in their aftermath, it might do us well to prepare our communities to pool resources, talent and training to take care of our own members, the least among them, and make sure nobody is abandoned this time.
Revolution #023, November 20, 2005, posted at revcom.us
To justify the invasion of Iraq, the U.S. government claimed that Iraq had chemical weapons. Now it has come out that the U.S. not only possesses horrific chemical weapons but is using them in the Iraq war, including against civilians.
A powerful documentary, "Fallujah: The Hidden Massacre" broadcast by RAI, the Italian state broadcaster, presents new evidence that the United States dropped massive quantities of white phosphorus on the Iraqi city of Fallujah in November 2004, killing both Iraqi resistance fighters and civilians with the appalling burns that are the signature of this chemical weapon.
An American soldier who fought at Fallujah was interviewed for the documentary.
"I heard the order being issued to be careful because white phosphorus was being used on Fallujah. In military slang this is known as Willy Pete," said former U.S. Army Specialist Jeff Englehart. "Phosphorus burns bodies, melting the flesh right down to the bone. I saw the burned bodies of women and children. The phosphorous explodes and forms a plume. Whoever is within a 150-meter radius has no hope."
The RAI documentary and photos on the station's website show the horrific damage that white phosphorus can do. The high-quality, color close-ups provided by the Studies Center of Human Rights in Fallujah show bodies of Fallujah residents, some still in their beds, whose clothes remain largely intact but whose skin has been dissolved, caramelized or turned the consistency of leather by the shells.
The documentary also reveals that the U.S. has been using a new generation of napalm weapons--called MK77 in Iraq.
Last year, during the attack on Fallujah, Al Jazeera reported many stories of napalm being used against the people of the city. Napalm is a jellified gasoline designed to stick to human skin and other surfaces and cannot be extinguished with water.
The U.S. dismissed these charges as lies. However, in June of 2005 the U.S. admitted that it had used MK77 extensively in Iraq and that it had lied even to its British allies about this. Confirming the use of 510-pound napalm bombs in Iraq, a senior U.S. commander said that "the generals love napalm. It has a big psychological effect."
Maurizio Torrealta, news editor for the Italian station, said that the station began its investigation after seeing strange photographs where bodies were burned but clothes were untouched, showing that a chemical agent that acts aggressively against the skin was being deployed.
The army's use of white phosphorus and napalm in Fallujah is a war crime. The 1980 Convention on Conventional Weapons prohibits the use of white phosphorus against civilian populations or by air attack against military forces that are located within concentrations of civilians, "since its use causes indiscriminate and extreme injuries especially when deployed in an urban area."
But "indiscriminate and extreme injuries" are a vital part of the terror campaign that the U.S. wanted to unleash against Fallujah. Fallujah was once home to 300,000 people. The people of Fallujah defied the U.S. occupation. It became a symbol for the whole of Iraq, and for the whole world. And so, in November 2004, Fallujah became the target of a vengeful and ruthless punishment.
The U.S. claims that white phosphorus was only used in Fallujah to illuminate "enemy forces" and provide cover for its troops. However, an article in the Army's own Field Artillery journal shows that this is a lie. The article describes the use of white phosphorus in Fallujah, saying that it was used "as a potent psychological weapon against the insurgents." The article goes on to describe what the army describes as "shake and bake" missions where white phosphorus shells are used together with conventional high explosives.
The video and photos from Fallujah are hard to look at. But every person in this country needs to see these pictures and confront the fact that this government is committing war crimes in Iraq. And once you know the truth you need to act. To do otherwise is to be complicit in this atrocity.
The video Fallujah: The Hidden Massacre is available on the RAI site and elsewhere on the web: http://www.rainews24.rai.it/ran24/inchiesta/video.asp
Revolution #023, November 20, 2005, posted at revcom.us
On November 7, 150 people marched across the Crescent City Connection bridge, along the footsteps of those who had tried to escape the flooded city of New Orleans two months earlier. A leaflet from march organizers said, "We march with our fellow citizens displaced by Katrina to reclaim our right to cross that bridge to Gretna, and in crossing the bridge in the name of the right to safety and self determination, to racial and economic justice--we march in support of the Peoples continued reconstruction process in the Gulf Coast."
The three-and-a-half-mile-long Crescent City Connection spans the Mississippi River, between central New Orleans and the town of Gretna in Jefferson Parish. For five days in late August and early September, it represented one of the few possible ways out of the devastation and flooding that had turned New Orleans into a living nightmare for tens of thousands of people.
As tens of thousands of people were driven from their homes and neighborhoods throughout New Orleans into the relatively unflooded areas close to the river, many sought shelter in the Superdome and Convention Center. For several agonizing days people went without water, food, medicine, toilet facilities. People struggled to help each other survive through this ordeal.
According to the Times Picayune, city officials announced that "the only way people can leave the city of New Orleans is to get on the Crescent City Connection."
But on September 1, when hundreds of people tried to walk across the bridge in the searing late summer heat, they were met by massed, armed police who fired warning shots over their heads, threatened them with police dogs, and told them they couldnt cross the bridge. Gretna police chief Arthur Lawson's shameful justification for this outrage was that "If we had opened the bridge, our city would have looked like New Orleans does now: looted, burned, and pillaged."
The callousness and cruelty of the Bush regime and all levels of government have continued and even escalated since then. Entire housing projects have been vacated, and entire blocks are covered with debris and garbage as if the hurricane happened yesterday. House after remaining house has an X across the front, indicating that they've been declared no longer habitable. And as is becoming increasingly evident, the authorities have no intention of building housing for the people.
At the November 7 march, people were determined, with or without official permission, to get across the same bridge where people were shot at and turned back two months ago. Malik Rahim, a former Black Panther Party member, said, "The world needs to know what happened." Mama D, a prominent community leader, said, "This disaster that were under now is man made... Mass murder. Thats what happened to the poor people. Mass murder... Were still being terrorized."
The march was initiated by the Hip Hop Caucus and endorsed by the Black Leadership Foundation, Code Pink, the United Houma Nation of Louisiana, World Cant Wait, and many others. Marchers included Black students from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, artists, community activists, ministers, supporters of the RCP, lesbian and gay activists, and professors. Some people who had been involved in the early days of the Civil Rights Movement said the march reminded them of the famous march over the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma, Alabama. A young woman with a beautiful voice sang an updated version of "We Shall Not Be Moved," which took on a powerful meaning in a context where Black people continue to be driven from the city and prevented from moving back in.
Traffic backed up in both directions as the march took over the westbound lanes of the bridge. The marchers stopped to rally about a third of the way over the bridge, at a marker indicating where Jefferson Parish begins. Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr., who had helped organize the march, said,
"This is where the police stood, with shotguns and dogs. The people had been through a nightmare. The people standing before them had lost everything. They said, all we want to do is survive. They were carrying their children. They had seen their grandmothers go without their diabetes medicine. But instead of those police meeting us, and greeting us, and saying come on, they were shot at and turned around."
Revolution #023, November 20, 2005, posted at revcom.us
On November 8, eight Dover Pennslyvania school board members who were up for re-election were thrown out of office in local elections. These city school board members had instituted a policy requiring high school biology teachers to say to their classes that evolution is "not a fact" and to then offer "intelligent design" as an alternative theory for the origin and development of life. They were sued by parents and the ACLU for injecting religion into the classroom and the federal trial on this recently ended. The judge has not yet ruled on the case.
Pat Robertson, high-level Christian Fascist political operative, showed once again why he is widely known as a certifiable lunatic when he denounced the entire city of Dover and threatened the people there with punishment from God: "I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover: if there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God. You just rejected him from your city." He later added: "God is tolerant and loving, but we can't keep sticking our finger in his eye foreverIf they have future problems in Dover, I recommend they call on Charles Darwin. Maybe he can help them."
One wonders just what kind of punishment Robertson foresees for the wayward people of Dover. Perhaps something like that Old Testament favorite, a plague of locusts? In that case, certainly Charles Darwin and the whole of modern biology and science would be exactly who to call.
Revolution #023, November 20, 2005, posted at revcom.us
The Bible presents a story in which the most ruthless and savage consequences await any peoples deemed to be inferior—a category which the Bible in turn would have us believe includes all those who are not followers of the God mentioned in the Bible. In addition, these same sorts of consequences are also said to await all those who do not follow absolutely and rigidly all of God's laws and commandments. And when we consider that God's commandments include things such as the sanctioning of slavery; tremendous and brutal oppression and repression of women; death to homosexuals, adulterers, defiant children, prostitutes, and all those who practice a different religion; we can begin to form a picture of the horrific nightmare that would constitute society if the Bible were taken literally and this were made “the law of the land.”
Even more ominously, we are beginning to get an actual glimpse of what such a society would look like, thanks to the rhetoric of the ever-growing (in numbers and power) Evangelical Christian movement in this country, but thanks even more to the degree to which this Fascist movement has already achieved significant successes. Indeed, the society that would result from a literal application of the Bible's core principles would be like the infamous Dark Ages of Europe, except potentially even worse; were such a society to take root in the world's only superpower in the present time, its military reach would stretch the entire globe and would be buttressed by incredibly advanced technology.
For century upon century, organized religion has been able not only to survive but to exercise a major role in society, based to a large degree on its ability to hide behind a veil of artificial legitimacy. In other words, it is exactly because these religions hold the mantle of traditions that have been passed down through the generations that they are able to persist. Even those who are inclined to be skeptical of the existence of a supernatural power have either been afraid to challenge these traditions for fear of alienating people, have been unaware of the fundamental essence of these traditions, or have felt that even if the traditions are misguided, they are not really capable of doing any real harm. All of these are dangerously erroneous assumptions.
Indeed, it's time to take the emperor's clothes off and face reality: It's 2005, and the president of the most powerful country in the world is a fascist in every sense of the word. How much sense does it really make to think that we can combat this fascism by turning to the supposed teachings of God, The Original Fascist?
The Bible instructs us to believe that “God created man in his image.” (Genesis 1). Were this true, given everything that has been described in this series about the nature, rhetoric and commandments, and the actions of this God, it would certainly present a very bleak vision of humankind. Certainly, this vision would not encourage anyone to think that humanity could come together to emancipate itself once and for all. Indeed, the Bible itself seems to make this point in describing “How great was man's wickedness on earth, how every plan devised by his mind was nothing but evil all the time.” (Genesis 6)
Fortunately, science and rational thought, if they are applied in a thorough and consistent way, tell us that, as the saying goes, “it's just us chickens”—we human beings and the rest of material reality are all that exists, with no gods of any kind. And, in fact, humanity as a whole is characterized by neither “wickedness” nor goodness, but by the ability to be the one or the other, depending on the kind of society people live in and the kind of values that characterize that society. So, reflecting upon the absence of a higher power should not be depressing to us. In fact, given what we would have to believe if we believed in God, it should be liberating —because it is made quite clear from the Bible that we shouldn't count on God's help to establish the type of society we would want to live in, to say the least! On the other hand, humanity freed from mental enslavement to religious doctrine, and motivated by the understanding that human beings themselves bear the sole responsibility for their own liberation, is capable of tremendous achievement. With this in mind, we can give a new and deeper meaning to the words Bob Marley famously sang: “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery/none but ourselves can free our minds.”
With this—and everything else that has been shown in this series—in mind, perhaps there is one important lesson the Bible can teach us: BE GLAD THAT THERE IS NO GOD!
Why is studying what the Bible actually says crucial in these times?
“When you approach a town to attack it, you shall offer it terms of peace. If it responds peaceably and lets you in, all the people present there shall serve you at forced labor. If it does not surrender to you, but would join battle with you, you shall lay siege to it; and when the Lord your God delivers it into your hand, you shall put all its males to the sword. You may, however, take as your booty the women, the children, the livestock, and everything in the town—all its spoil—and enjoy the use of the spoil of your enemy, which the Lord your God gives you. Thus shall you deal with all towns that lie very far from you, towns that do not belong to nations thereabout. In the towns of the latter people, however, which the Lord your God is giving you as a heritage, you shall not let a soul remain alive.”
“You're either with us or with the terrorists.”
George W. Bush, shortly after September 11, 2001
Revolution #023, November 20, 2005, posted at revcom.us
Edward R. Murrow is sitting at his desk pounding away with driven determination on an old typewriter. The camera pans back on a darkened room--it is really late into the night, or perhaps the wee hours of the morning. As the desk-filled newsroom comes into full view we see Fred Friendly slumped down in a chair, asleep.
This scene from the movie, Good Night, and Good Luck, is the night before Murrow (played by David Strathairn) and Friendly (played by George Clooney) broadcast the famous 1954 See It Now show on Senator Joe McCarthy. McCarthy was conducting congressional witch hunts--where communists and others had their careers ended and their lives ruined. McCarthy targeted a broad spectrum of people, including government employees, professors, authors, and Hollywood figures, and many people were hauled before senators who demanded they profess their loyalty to America and "name names."
Good Night captures the atmosphere of suspicion and hysterical repression in an opening scene at the CBS News studio when we are introduced to Joe and Shirley Wershba (Robert Downey Jr. and Patricia Clarkson), who keep their marriage secret because company policy forbids hiring married couples. Whispering, they discuss the "loyalty oath" they must sign… "are you or have you ever been a member of the communist party?" Joe says, "If I don’t sign it, they’ll fire me."
Cut to the morning’s news meeting where one reporter brings up a case before the Supreme Court involving a section of the Internal Security Act that provides for the deportation of any alien that becomes a communist after entering this country.
A CBS executive criticizes Murrow for not being "neutral" in the case of Milo Radulovich--who was kicked out of the Air Force because his father and sister were suspected of being communist sympathizers. Murrow answers: "I simply cannot accept that there are on every story two equal and logical sides to an argument, call it editorializing if you like."
Great camera shots fill the screen with black and white images that fool you into thinking you're seeing grainy footage from the 1950s. But the questions that begin to emerge through non-stop cigarette smoke, sound and feel all too current and uncomfortably relevant and the movie begins to subtly ask… what would you do?
George Clooney, who co-wrote (with Grant Heslov), produced, directed and acted in Good Night, and Good Luck, talks about a theme in the movie, how fear is used to erode civil liberties. In an NPR interview with Terry Gross (Fresh Air, October 18, 2005), he says that when they started making the movie, "Padilla was the case that sort of threw it in, along with the Patriot Act and Guantánamo Bay." (Padilla is a U.S. citizen accused of being a "terrorist" who has been in prison for 3½ years, stripped of the most basic legal rights.) David Strathairn pointed out, "Maybe it’s no coincidence that the film is being released the same week [the Patriot Act] is being voted on."
I did hear a loud echo in the present when Murrow, describing the Milo Radulovich case, says, "The charges were in a sealed envelope, nobody saw them. He was guilty without a trial and told that if he wanted to keep his job he would have to denounce his father…"
And it seems like Clooney has taken to heart what seems to be a large message of Good Night --that people have to stand up and fight back with determination, against all odds, when they see injustice. Clooney told NPR,
"If you’re going to stick your neck out you're going to have to take some hits. I don't think anybody in their life has ever accomplished anything that they would be proud of later if they didn’t take some criticisms for it… I would be disturbed if I wasn't able 20 years from now able to point back to a point in time and say this is where I stood and this is what I believe in."
Clooney then goes on to describe the McCarthy-type atmosphere today:
"There was a period of time right after 9/11 and the lead-up to the war where it was a very difficult time, there were only a few of us and if you look at it, there wasn't a senator out there who was saying hold on, let's ask some questions. There was a period of time that was tricky, but it was important to be talking about it. I don't think there is ever a bad time to ask constitutional questions."
In another interview, Clooney asks,
"Why aren't people asking who forged the papers that said Saddam Hussein was buying yellowcake uranium? We know it's forged. It sent us to war. Why isn't that a daily question?"
(J. Hoberman, Celebrity Journalist, 11-4-05)
The stakes were high in the fight against McCarthy. Good Night gives a hint at the casualties--of which there were many--when Don Hollenbeck (played by Ray Wise) commits suicide after being targeted as a "pinko." The McCarthy witch hunts cast a heavy pall of oppression over society and the parallels to today are stark.
This struck me in reading attacks on Clooney and Good Night, and Good Luck. Jack Shafer, Slate's editor at large, slams the movie and cites Miami Herald TV critic Glenn Garvin who asks, "Would we be comfortable these days with an Air Force officer with a security clearance whose father belonged to al Qaeda?"
And then there are the Christian fascist views of McCarthy. Extreme right-wing commentator Ann Coulter, whose book Treason upholds McCarthy and calls anti-Bush liberals “traitors,” has attacked Clooney and Good Night (“Danny Ocean Defends the Rather Network,” 11-9-05). She says, “I don't intend to see his movie because—except for the McCarthy parts—it sounds like a snoozefest.” Good Night includes footage of Annie Lee Moss, who worked in the Pentagon, being grilled by McCarthy and accused of being a communist. To this, Coulter says, putting Moss in the Code Room of the Pentagon “was an act of sheer madness, like, say, putting a member of al-Qaida at the Pentagon today or putting Pat Leahy on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Oh wait...”
When one interviewer asked Clooney, “What do you say to people claiming McCarthy was right?” he said, “They're inspiration for making the film. Ann Coulter, for example.”
David Strathairn, who plays Edward R. Murrow brilliantly, found motivation in his research for the role. He says,
"Doing a report on Birkenau [a Nazi concentration camp], after he [Murrow] had gone and seen the concentration camps, I think something cracked inside him. I think he realized the depth that man will go to be inhumane to himself and he came back to the United States carrying something inside that ultimately gave him the confidence, or the energy or the will to go after Joseph R. McCarthy because he wasn't going to let something like that happen again."
(Alex Chadwick, NPR interview with David Strathairn, 10-7-05)
And Strathairn brings this question to the present when he asks,
"How many journalists are there now, who want to say something? I mean, how many journalists are between a rock and a hard place now? Those people who are embedded somewhere and can't get their stuff out... The fear that is in the room today is not as specific as it was then. You could be compromised in so many other ways than losing your job or going to jail. You may not even know you're being compromised. Maybe this film can encourage and give hopes to those people."
(Julian Roman interview with David Strathairn, 10-6-05)
Good Night, and Good Luck accurately portrays how Murrow denied being a communist and how a big part of what drove Murrow was his belief (and illusions about) American ideals and bourgeois democracy. When McCarthy uses his rebuttal time to accuse Murrow of being a communist, offering as one piece of evidence that a British socialist scholar dedicated a book to Murrow, Murrow answers:
"He was a socialist, I am not. He was one of those civilized individuals who did not insist upon agreement with his political principles as a pre-condition for conversation or friendship. I do not agree with his political ideas…"
But this did not deter Murrow from taking a stand and leading others to "do the right thing" even in the face of threats and controversy.
At the end of the movie, Murrow and Friendly have just heard from their boss William Paley (played by Frank Langella) that their program is being downgraded from a weekly program to only five episodes. As they walk out of the CBS lobby, we see then president Ike Eisenhower delivering the ironic message that no American need fear "that he can be suddenly thrown in jail to rot there without charges and with no recourse to justice, we have the habeas corpus act and we respect it."
Then we see Murrow delivering a 1958 speech where he says,
"I began by saying that our history will be what we make it. If we go on as we are then history will take its revenge and retribution will not limp in catching up. Just once in a while let us exalt the importance of ideas and information...To those who say people wouldn’t look, they wouldn’t be interested, they’re too complacent, indifferent and insulated, I can only reply there is in one reporter’s opinion considerable evidence against that contention... This instrument [television] can teach, it can illuminate and yes, it can even inspire but it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it towards those ends, otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box. Good night, and good luck."
Clooney says that when he was a kid, his family would be at a restaurant having dinner and his father would always make a big scene when he overheard people talking about "those people"--referring in a derogative way to Black people (NPR interview). Clooney says at times he and his sister wished their father hadn't made a scene but now, as he thinks back, he can't be more proud. Clooney says his father taught him the lesson that
"Every time you let that go, every time you don't hear that or you purposefully ignore it just to make things easier for yourself, you are doing a disservice and so that's why you have to fight those fights."
Go see Good Night, and Good Luck.
From a reporters notebook:
Revolution #023, November 20, 2005, posted at revcom.us
7 November 2005. A World to Win News Service. In the early evening about a week after the death of Bouna Traore and Zyed Benna here in Clichy-sous-Bois, at the bottom of a hill where the cité ends and a neighbourhood of small one-family houses begins, a bar/tobacco shop with an after-work crowd was the only public place for several kilometres in any direction.
They began by describing the housing. Their cité was privately owned. They felt this explained why it been allowed to deteriorate so badly. It is far from the worst, they said, since most of the buildings are inhabited by only a few hundred people, rather than the many thousands in grotesquely enormous towers of the biggest HLMs (government-owned public housing). But because it is private, the rents are comparatively high, around 600 euros for a family, which doesn’t leave much left over from the thousand or so euros a worker with a full-time job could expect to bring home. "Do you think it’s normal," they demanded, "for a whole town not to have a library or even a cinema?" A major complaint, heard everywhere in the suburbs, is that these housing complexes were deliberately located far from everything, from any place people might want to go, with public transportation only to where they’re supposed to work and practically no good way to get around at night – certainly not to Paris. "Even if you have a car, department 93 plates are like a signal to the police to humiliate you," the youth said. "Why did they build blockhouses to keep us in, instead of normal housing?" one young man insisted. They call the cité a ghetto, not in the American sense of being inhabited almost exclusively by one or two nationalities but in the original sense of a place where certain people are forced to live and barely allowed to leave.
One of these youth talked about the killing of Zyed, his neighbour. They also described the recent police raids on buildings occupied by recent immigrant squatters and Sarkozy’s pledge of mass deportations. These things showed what they are up against, signs that official society sees them all as less than human – in fact, worse than animals because they are considered dangerous. They were all French citizens, but that made little difference. "If they say our communities have to be cleaned out, that means they think we’re filth, that we should be gotten rid of," one of them explained bitterly. Another added, "If you have a certain kind of name, most companies won’t hire you. And if your address is in department 93 and someplace like Clichy, you’ll never even get an interview. The only place most of us can work is in an illegal garment sweatshop in somebody’s apartment, and now there’s even less of that. Besides, we don’t want those jobs." Some of the older among them did have jobs; the younger ones weren’t eager to discuss how they got by.
The youth in this bar thought of themselves as Islamic, in the sense of that background being part of their identity and especially the identity by which the world judged them. But their thinking was more secular and their goals in no way religious. Many people all over the region were especially angry about the tear-gassing of the mosque (in this case, a converted warehouse). More than an attack on their religion, they considered it an insult to their humanity. These youth explained it like this: "There are two or three churches around here and a synagogue" – the synagogue is, in fact, practically adjacent to the cité. "No one has ever attacked any of them. That’s because we respect people no matter what their religion. If they attack a mosque, it’s to show us that they have no respect for us at all."
"We’ll make them listen to us!" said Zyed’s neighbour. When you go home, turn on the television – you’ll see all of France is burning."
From A World to Win News Service
Revolution #023, November 20, 2005, posted at revcom.us
November 7, 2005. A World to Win News Service. The rulers of France are facing their worst crisis in decades. Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin has invoked a half-century old law that has not been used since Frances colonial war in Algeria, allowing local authorities to declare a state of emergency and impose a curfew forbidding anyone to be on the streets at certain hours. Although de Villepin ruled out turning to the army at this point, his critics point out that once such measures are imposed, they can be taken as a challenge and, if sufficient force is not used to enforce them, the government could find its situation deteriorating still further. The problem, for them, is a revolt by the people Frances Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy called not human beings at all but racaille, rabble or low-class scum. The once-voiceless youth from the cités (housing estates or projects) have put themselves at the center of events, and forced everyone else to define themselves in relation to them
Shortly after he took his present job, Sarkozy declared "war without mercy" against the "riffraff" in Frances suburbs. He said he would take a Karcher, a high-pressure water hose most famously used to wash dog excrement off sidewalks and streets, to "clean out" the cités, home to much of the immigrant population and the lower section of the working class of all nationalities. This was not just talk. He unleashed his police to harass and humiliate youth even more than usual. It is common for young men walking down the street alone at night to be suddenly jumped by a carload of cops for an "identity check" that often means getting thrown on the ground, handcuffed if they open their mouth to protest, and slapped around. In recent weeks, the police have sharply stepped up this persecution. From time to time youths responded by burning cars at random, something that has become a common act of rebellion in France in recent years.
Their smouldering anger first burst into flames on October 27 in Clichy-sous-Bois, a suburb to the east of Paris formerly considered a quiet town. A group of young teenagers were coming home after an afternoon spent playing football. Later the police claimed that someone had tried to break into a construction site office in a vacant lot that lay in their path, although there are no offices on the lot, or anything of value. A carload of police showed up the BAC, a special brigade whose job is to brutalize cité youth. The kids ran. Three of them tried to escape by climbing over a meter-and-a-half-high wall. Several youth who had been arrested earlier and were being held in other police cars overheard the cops communications. One cop radioed in a report, saying they had seen some teenagers climbing over the wall into an electrical power substation. "Theyre in mortal danger," he said. "Well," came the response, "they wont get far." Almost an hour later, the firemens rescue squad showed up and finally had the current cut off. They found two boys dead and a third severely hurt.
Small groups of youth burned rubbish bins and cars and threw rocks and bottles at police that night. The next afternoon there was a silent march in solidarity with the families of the two dead youth, Bouna Traore and Zyed Benna. The media described them as 15 and 17 years old, although some local people say both were younger than reported. Bouna, whose family came from Mauritania, was known as a good soccer player. Zyed, of Tunisian origin, was considered a nice kid by older neighbors because he offered to run errands for them. The next night saw more local outbreaks on about the same level as the previous one.
In the following days, Sarkozy helicoptered into a nearby town local youth say he didnt dare come to Clichy. Striking his most macho pose, he ranted about "hoodlums" and racaille in what his critics and supporters alike took as a deliberate provocation. On October 31, the police fired a tear gas grenade into a mosque crowded with worshippers celebrating an important night of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month. The effects lingered for the rest of the week. The authorities refused to apologize for anything. The parents of the two dead boys stood firm in the face of government efforts to conciliate them.
Instead of dying out after the weekend, the flames grew higher and spread. Hundreds of cars were burned and scores of people detained every night. A week later, as the fighting died down here, an even bigger clash between youth and police took place in nearby Aulnay-sous-Bois. Small groups of very young teenagers set cars on fire in some 20 towns around Paris, many of them in department 93, east and north of the capital. A police station, an unemployment office, big and little stores, two schools, and a bus depot were burned down. By Friday, November 4, 900 cars had been burned in the Paris region; the next night flames consumed 500 cars in the Paris region and nearly 800 more in half a dozen cities across France from north to south.
With one possible exception, a retired autoworker killed in his parking lot in murky circumstances, there have been very few reports of the youth deliberately attacking ordinary people of any nationality in the cités or anywhere else, although a handful of bystanders have been hurt. In fact, there seems to be much less fighting between youth of different neighborhoods than usual. The targets of the youth are very clear and not at all random in the broad sense: the police, the government and anything seen as its representatives, and the prevailing social order. Burning cars is a form of disorder and challenge to authority that the forces of order, as they call themselves in France, cannot tolerate.
The police answered with water cannons Sarkozys Karcher, and especially rubber bullets, along with tear gas and clubs. Youth say the "flash ball" bullets really hurt, especially in the face or neck. On November 4, for the first time in France, helicopters hovered just over the rooftops of massive public housing complexes in Paris and at least one other city. They shined searchlights onto walkways and into apartment windows, filming everything and coordinating mobile squads of police. But the tactics of the authorities have gone through stages. At first there were not many arrests. The police would sweep up everyone they could catch at a given scene, and later release most of them. The authorities seemed to be hoping the youth would lose heart, and worried about further inflaming them. Almost a week and a half later, with the youth becoming bolder than ever, Sarkozy proclaimed, "Arrests thats the key." After that, hundreds were taken into custody every night. By November 7 about 20 had already been sentenced to prison and 30 more were awaiting trial for what the government threatens will be very serious charges. According to official figures, half of those in jail at that point were under 18, and almost all under 25.
The authorities are howling that the youth are "using real guns," which would be unusual in France. In the only such incident reported, police in Grigny, south of Paris, said they were "ambushed" by groups of young men with baseball bats and guns. It turned out that two officers were slightly wounded by non-lethal birdshot. The police claimed they had found an empty real rifle shell on the ground afterward. This may be a way for the state to justify the use on their part of far more deadly force.
An editorial in the so-called leftist daily Libération claimed that the fighting is being "organized" by "gang kingpins eager to clear out the police so they can deal drugs, and by imams seeking cannon fodder for their jihad." As far as the first charge is concerned, the press itself has quoted cité residents pointing out that serious dealers are not going to organize anything that disturbs business. As a man from Aulnay said, "Its the state thats very happy to see drugs flood into the ghettos." The underground economy in all forms thrives in the cités, but thats not what lies behind this outbreak.
Some politicians claim to see the hand of Al-Qaeda behind it all, which is a coded way of saying that the proper response to these youths' actions is a bloodbath. But even the charge that it is a consciously Islamic upsurge or that imams are leading it is totally wrong. Muslim leaders in the cités have been sending out their followers to try and pour water on the outbreaks since the beginning. Even if they sympathize with the youth against the government, they are against what they consider unruly behavior. The Union of French Islamic Organizations issued a fatwa (religious ruling) forbidding all Muslims to participate in or contribute to "any action that blindly hits private or public property or could constitute an attack on someones life."
The French governments attitude toward Islam is two-faced. It attacks the rights of Muslims under the guise of secularism. It banned women wearing a head covering from entering a school as if depriving observant young Muslim women of an education is anything but racism and more oppression of women. At the same time, Sarkozy has spent great efforts to pull the imams under the governments wing, so that the government presides over their appointment and financing, and in some ways turn them into an organized arm of the state to be used to control immigrant communities. In Aulnay, a woman remarked, "Every time something like this happens they build a new mosque. Thats not what all of us want."
The basic problem with this revolt, as far as the powers that be are concerned, is not who is behind it, but that no one is. No one started it, so there is no one to call it off. The foreign media have exaggerated certain aspects of the fighting. There have been few full-scale pitched battles, and even the hit-and-run actions have left very few police seriously injured. Most youth most of the time seem to be avoiding head-on confrontations they feel they cant win. The reason for the French governments crisis is that whatever Sarkozy thought he was doing, the situation has gotten out of his or anyone elses control.
It has turned out to be not proof of the power of the states steel hand, as Sarkozy may have hoped, but of its limits and of the power of the streets. The state has been unable to stop these disturbances so far. Not only have their efforts failed; they have just fanned the flames, and worse, spread burning oil to every part of the country. Their state itself is not in danger, but the youth are contesting their authority.
The Minister of the Interiors CRS, the national riot police, are said to be stretched thin and tiring. Significantly, an emergency meeting of ministers on November 4 included not only Sarkozy and the various ministers responsible for aspects of life in Frances ghettos, but also the Defense Minister. Calling out the army, however, may not be a solution either, especially in the longer run. In one town in department 93, a shopkeeper who was critical of the youths for destroying property explained why he thought the government was hesitant to bring in the regular armed forces. "If the army comes it, thats it. Im shutting down and so will every other shopkeeper in 93. No one will stand for that." In fact, extreme hostility to such a government action would extend far more broadly than the department and its shopkeepers. It might create a polarization in which many people who do not stand with the youth now would consider the government unacceptable. For historical reasons that have to do with the French states collaboration with the Nazi occupation and with the French colonial war in Algeria and the May 1968 revolt that rocked the country, dislike of the forces of order runs particularly broad and deep in France.
This crisis has had contradictory effects on the ruling classes and what in France is called "the political class," those who take turns running the government. It has set them against one another at some moments, and pulled them apart at others. At first Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin tried to distance himself from his Interior Minister, Sarkozy, a political rival whom he criticized for using intemperate language. For the first few days and to some extent afterward, President Jacques Chirac distanced himself from both of them with his silence. Criticism of Sarkozys language even came from one of Sarkozys fellow cabinet members, the token Arab junior minister for "Equal Opportunities." One of the several police unions called for Sarkozy to shut up because he was endangering cops. But a week or ten days later, very few establishment figures had anything bad to say about Sarkozy in public his big mouth had become the least of their worries.
The youth are demanding Sarkozys resignation. That demand is almost universally repeated by people from immigrant backgrounds and very widely supported by people of all nationalities in the cités and far more broadly, including a large part of the middle class. Sarkozy is the most open face of repression, a man who styles himself as an "American"-style politician in the sense of a boastfully reactionary bully who doesnt try to hide it. That suits his position as Interior Minister, which is probably why his rivals gave him that office. His job is to represent the hard edge of the state against the people, using force against not only immigrants and their children but also strikers, and imposing repression in general. Maybe at first de Villepin and Chirac were hoping that Sarkozys arrogance would be his downfall. But no one in the political class could accept a situation in which the racaille drove the countrys chief cop from office.
The Socialist Party doesnt dare try to take political advantage of the situation to reverse their own decline, at least right now, even though their rank and file would welcome going after Sarkozy. Their leaders argue that "restoring calm" is a precondition for even talking about anything else and explicitly refused to join the call for his resignation.
The revisionist Communist Party is no less unhappy with the situation. They try to heap all the blame on Sarkozy and the right, as if when they were in power the so-called "left" parliamentary parties didnt take the same stance toward the cité youth (a Socialist education minister called them "savages") and more importantly, as if during their many years in office these parties didnt help make French society what it is today. The party does call for Sarkozys resignation, but at the same time it has distanced itself far away from the cité youth. Asked on radio if youth who burn cars are "victims or offenders," party head Marie-Georges Buffet quickly answered, "Offenders." Her partys press called the rebellion "the disastrous result of disastrous policies." They clamor for an "investigation" of the death of the two boys, as if the facts werent clear enough as if this were not clearly a case of right and wrong and the people had not already reached a verdict. While CP elected officials held a "peace" demonstration in front of the Prime Ministers offices, their local forces tried to organize "peace" demonstrations in working class neighborhoods. In the last weeks youth have risen up in towns run by Socialist, Communist and rightwing mayors without distinction because which party is in power makes no difference in their lives.
The truth is that France has seen far too many years of "calm" in the face of oppression and the kind of "peace" that comes from the downtrodden accepting their fate. Whats so good about quietly accepting the kind of life imposed not only on these youth but on the great majority of people in France? Violence within the ranks of the people seems to be at a low point right now and the spirits of the youth are soaring. Their rebellion is not a "disaster." It is very good. It represents fresh air amid political and social suffocation something positive amid a pervasive atmosphere of cynicism and just putting-your-head-down-and-trying-to-get-by that has prevailed for far too long since the defeat of the May 1968 rebellion and the betrayal of peoples hopes represented by the Socialist-led and revisionist-supported Mitterrand government. These youth want to fight, not vote and they are going up against the predominant idea that nothing can be changed in a country where the electorate united against the openly fascist candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen a few years ago, only to elect Chirac and get Sarkozy. Whatever mistakes the youth may be making, this rebellion represents the best hope that France has seen in decades for a different kind of society.
Is important to note that one of the main carrots offered by Prime Minister Villepin, who plays the "good cop" to Sarkozys stick, is a program that would allow youth to leave school at age 14, instead of 16, so that they can start working as "apprentices" in below-minimum wage jobs of the dead-end kind reserved for school dropouts. In other words, the best that is being promised them is more or less what their parents endured, when their parents endured that in the hopes that their children would get something better. What the phony socialists and revisionists refuse to admit is that even if the capitalists and their government wanted to, they couldnt offer these youth decent jobs and still employ them profitably. Thats why the ruling classes consider the unemployed and especially the immigrants and their children "useless" people to be suppressed and gotten rid of to the extent possible. Sarkozys policies are an expression of this underlying economic reality.
The often-heard complaint among mainstream and even many "far left" "political people" that these youth are "apolitical" is one-sided and mainly nonsense, although these youth have not gained the conscious understanding that would be necessary for them to go further, even in the limited sense of having a clear understanding of the nature of their enemies and seeking allies against them. It is not "apolitical" to reject the only life the system can offer them it is breaking with the bourgeois definition of what politics are allowed and whether the starting point of politics is, as another article in Libération said, the "recognition" that the present system is the only possible one. In fact, not only have the youth refused to accept the circumstances in which they themselves are imprisoned, they pay more real attention to key world affairs such as in Iraq and Palestine, or at least feel them more deeply, than many of their elders who have let their opposition to imperialist crimes go soft because "their" government tries to appear uninvolved.
These youth are neither "victims" nor "offenders." They have become makers of history, taking action on a scale that no one else has in a country where the majority feel ground down at best. They have stormed onto the stage of political life that has been forbidden to them. There is a consensus among mainstream political parties and the tolerated opposition that this outbreak should be stifled and/or crushed, but above all ended quickly. These youth are struggling to awaken, in a country full of sleepers, and its about time.
Posted on revcom.us, November 12, 2005
"Meanwhile, Kansas turns back education to the year 1005"
"The Kansas school-board decision: the only thing I can think of is unprintable four-letter words"
- prominent biologist
Nov. 9 - The Kansas State School Board announced their decision that in Kansas public schools the new state standards for the teaching of science call for attacking evolution in science classrooms in the state. And, even more ominous, they called for changing the definition of science - they want to put religion into the very heart of science, to radically change what science is. The new science standards were forced by a faction on the school board that champions intelligent design, the latest form of creationism. The intelligent design movement is driven by Christian fundamentalists at its core - the attacks on science in Kansas are one part of the whole Christian fascist agenda which aims to make sweeping reactionary changes in every sphere of life in this country.
The new Kansas science standards raise questions and criticisms about the truth of evolution - which will reach into science classrooms throughout the state. Evolution is one of the most well-established theories in all of science and evolutionary thinking is a foundation not just of biology but of many other branches of science - including geology, astronomy, and much of physics. What is directly at stake in Kansas is whether students will learn about what science has discovered about the world through hundreds of years. And whether students will learn about how all this was learned - whether they will learn how to think scientifically.
Beyond that, the Kansas science standards have been an important focus of the national battle over evolution and science, and involves huge stakes in what goes on around the country. Some of the most important scientific organizations in the country have entered into the fray in Kansas and opposed the changes in the Kansas science standards, as have many, many prominent scientists, including a letter signed by 38 Nobel prize winners. To take just one example, last week, before the Board of Education formally announced the new standards, the National Academy of Sciences and the National Science Teachers Association jointly announced that they were refusing to let the Kansas School Board use materials that they had developed in the new Kansas science standards. They said that they want to clearly "dissociate our publications and our organizations" from the new Kansas standards - and they offered to work with the Board to change the standards.
The Board went ahead and announced the standards with their sweeping attack on evolution and science anyway.
The new science standards are the result of a long fight in Kansas. In 1999, creationist forces who had seized control of the Kansas school board introduced new standards for teaching evolution in the schools in Kansas. They essentially said that evolution could not be taught at all, and they went after not just biology but other fields of science which challenge a literal interpretation of the creation stories told in the Bible. This created a big controversy nationally. The creationist majority on the school board was thrown out in an election in 2000, and the new school board developed a new State Standard for teaching science in education. This was done in consultation with scientists and science educators, and it included evolution as an essential and integral part of teaching science in Kansas. But, in the 2004 elections, along with the election of Bush, a new creationist majority was elected to the State School Board (including some of the same people who had been thrown out in the election of 2000.)
The new creationist majority quickly went on the attack, and, they published criticisms and rewrote sections of the State Standards that uphold evolution, and they also changed the definition of science. They held rigged hearings last spring that were supposedly to help determine what will prevail in Kansas - the State Standards that uphold evolution, or those by the new creationist majority that attack it. Now they have announced the results of those hearings - that they are going ahead with their attacks on science and evolution.
This time around, instead of just banning evolution from the schools, the creationist forces on the school board came up with a different approach, based on so-called "intelligent design". This approach came from approaches developed nationally by intelligent design forces, who apparently did a lot of the writing for the Kansas school board creationists. Intelligent design doesn't attack evolution outright and openly deny that there is a long, long process to the development of life. Instead, it argues that life, and in particular some aspects like the biochemistry of cells, or the human eye, is too complex to have just evolved without a conscious plan, and so there must have been a conscious designer, who directed the whole process. They play a game and try to claim that this is a scientific theory, but the reality is that this is a slightly more sophisticated way of smuggling the same old creationism into the minds of students and society overall. And it is part of the larger agenda of wielding political power to force religion into the center of American life, culture, politics, and thought. (See the article "'Intelligent Design: Stealth War on Science" in Revolution #21.)
One thing that became a big point of debate in all of this is the definition of science. The 2002 Kansas State science standards, developed by scientists, used this definition of science as a framework for the whole approach to teaching science: "Science is the human activity of seeking natural explanations for what we observe in the world around us". The creationists want to put this in in its place: "Science is a systematic method of continuing investigation, that uses observation, hypothesis testing, measurement, experimentation, logical argument and theory building, to lead to more adequate explanations of natural phenomena". What the creationists have cut out out is "natural explanations". They did this because they are on a mission to radically change what science is as a critical part of the much larger battle in society over how to understand and change the world. Science develops its understanding of the motion and development of the world through experiment and repeated testing of the real causes of things; building on everything that has been learned of the natural world through history; and then repeatedly testing the new theories and subjecting them to review and criticism by the scientific community. Instead of this, the creationists on the Kansas school board want to change science to include supernatural explanations.
One biologist, Ken Miller, wrote a criticism of this, as part of the public hearings on the science standards:
"Why one would want to change the description of how science works by deleting the word "natural" from "natural explanations"? The answer is straightforward - even though the minority didn't seem to have the courage to state it plainly. They seek to turn science on its head by telling students that non-natural ( supernatural) explanations are a legitimate part of science. Why does this matter? Imagine an earth science class discussing tsunamis and applying "non-natural" explanations to the tragedy under the new guidelines. Plate tectonics are now just one of the explanations on the blackboard. They are joined by "non-naturalistic" ones like bad global karma, divine punishment for the sins of Indonesia, or evil spirits disturbed by ethnic warfare in Sri Lanka."
Another scientist, E.O. Wiley, wrote on the same point:
"Imagine if I went to my auto mechanic and he said: "Well, it might be the brakes or it might be an evil spirit." Should I give equal weight to the "evil spirit" hypothesis? After all, someone probably believes it, this mechanic for one. Of course not, I would probably just take my car and drive down the street to the next mechanic."
These scientists are getting at something really important. The creationists on the Kansas Board of Education (and their backers in the intelligent design movement nationally) have fought for and now implemented this change in the definition of science in the face of ridicule and sharp criticism by an extremely broad range of scientists and scientific organizations, as well as many others throughout society. Why are they so determined to throw out the few words "natural explanation" from the definition of science? This shows that underlying their attack on evolution is an extremely aggressive and determined attack on scientific thinking and method - they are on the warpath and aiming to overthrow the most basic foundations of science - they want to turn science into something that actively promotes religion. They want to cripple scientific thinking and turn science itself into its opposite - as part of making even more sweeping changes in all of society and culture.
A small but revealing example of the method of understanding the world that is championed by the creationists on the Kansas Board of Education (and the intelligent design movement more broadly) came in the course of the hearings last spring on the science standards. In the course of the rigged hearings, State education board member Kathy Martin admitted that she hadn't even read the 2002 science guidelines that she was attacking, and which the hearings were supposed to be about! Drawing conclusions from evidence and facts? No way. An entirely different method and outlook was at work - the method of: 'the Bible said it, I believe it, that settles it.' Martin said of the hearings: "Of course this is a Christian agenda. We are a Christian nation. Our country is made up of Christian conservatives."
What was revealed by Martin in relation to those hearings in a small way is precisely the approach that these people are taking to science as a whole - they do not want to look at the enormous accumulation of evidence, involving tens of thousands of scientists over many generations, which fully supports evolution. Instead, while they claim to be scientific, they actually want to overturn fundamental points of scientific method. They don't want to look at evidence of the nature of real things in the material world, and they don't want theories drawn from and based on that evidence that give people a deeper understanding of reality. Instead, they want to put supernatural causes into science.
The intelligent design movement tries to keep itself publically distanced from the theocratic politics that Kathy Martin blurted out. But the truth is that their movement is not about opening the door for just any supernatural causes. The intelligent design movement is driven by Christian fundamentalism and it is part of and draws its strength from the powerful forces pushing for a theocracy in this country - including of course George Bush, with his open call in support of discussing intelligent design in the schools. These forces are powerfully backed, and are deadly serious about imposing their Dark Age mentality on all of society.
Posted on revcom.us, November 11, 2005
The U.S. government is making a move to silence a prominent L.A.-area church with a history of supporting progressive causes. This summer All Saints Episcopal Church of Pasadena got a letter from the IRS threatening to take away its tax-exempt status. The letter doesn't even try to hide the political nature of the attack. It points to a sermon by former rector George Regas "given on October 31, 2004 to a congregation of 3500, delivered a searing indictment of the Bush administration's policies in Iraq, criticism of the drive to develop more nuclear weapons, and described tax cuts as inimical [opposed] to the values of Jesus."
Robert Edgar, general secretary of the National Council of Churches, said the IRS move against All Saints looked like "a political witch hunt." He is right.
Rector Edwin Bacon gave the church's response: "We take pride in our long history of active involvement in the community and in our steadfast and theologically-based commitment to alleviate poverty and promote peace, equality and social justice. From this commitment, All Saints Church cannot and will not waiver."
All Saints Church is a highly visible target. During the Vietnam War, they founded the Peace Operations Center. In the 1980s, they were a sanctuary for Central American refugees who were being regularly deported by the U.S. into the hands of death squads in El Salvador and Guatemala.
Rev. George Regas was part of that history. After his retirement as rector in 1995, he set up the Regas Institute. He told Revolution that at the Institute he "studied the religious right and their involvement in political processes." He added that "I've also done a lot of work on interfaith peace work, having conferences with Jews and Muslims and Christians and Buddhists and Hindus on the issue of peace." After 9/11 and the U.S. war on Afghanistan, he founded Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace, declaring, "Religious communities must stop blessing war." In March 2003 he was arrested in a protest against the looming U.S. invasion of Iraq.
Reading his sermon from last October, it's easy to see why the government was so stung by his words. From his own, religious perspective, he spoke in a sweeping way of the rule of profit, the crime of poverty, a woman's right to choose, and the unjust, immoral war on Iraq. One example:
"There is something vicious and violent about coercing a woman to carry to term an unwanted child. To force the unwanted on the unwilling, to use a woman's body against her will and choice, is morally repugnant." (The sermon is available at www.allsaints-pas.org )
Government regulations for churches and other nonprofit groups prohibit campaigning for a specific candidate. When the church got the IRS letter in June, they had their lawyer send a copy of the sermon, which began with the words, "I don't intend to tell you how to vote." They sent them copies of all literature available at the church at the time and copies of church policies. They pointed out that George Regas was no longer the rector and had delivered his sermon as a guest speaker. Did the government want them to screen everything a guest speaker might say?
The IRS replied that they weren't satisfied with the materials provided and were continuing their "examination." Then the IRS made the church an offer, according to the church's lawyer, Marcus Owens. "They said if there was a confession of wrongdoing, they would not proceed to the exam stage." The church refused. On Sunday, November 6, Rev. Bacon informed the congregation, and the world, of the IRS's moves.
The church also released correspondence from the government that shows that this move by the IRS is not some "mistake" that will go away once the facts are examined. And it shows that the people now running this country will not stop in their attempts to radically remake U.S. society. The government told the church that a single sermon from a guest speaker could be the basis for revoking tax-exempt status. They said that when a speaker mention the names "Bush" and "Kerry" and then talk about values, that "implies" an endorsement.
Since the moves of the IRS were publicized on November 6, All Saints has received hundreds of statements of support. Rev. Bacon announced that he will address the government attack in a special sermon on Sunday, November 13. The church has also set up a defense fund.
The government's attempt to silence or intimidate the voices of All Saints Church and of George Regas are part of a growing number of such moves. Marcus Owens noted that six years ago there were maybe 20 such letters sent out. But that number has increased dramatically. In the wake of the 2004 elections, over 100 institutions were targeted, a third of them churches, with 60 still-active investigations like the one against All Saints. Some of the targets are evangelical churches that support Bush.
The NAACP is presently being investigated for a speech by Executive Chairman Julian Bond criticizing Bush's civil rights policies. This shows how far-reaching this tactic is, and how chilling the result could be--a civil rights organization can't criticize the Bush regime around civil rights without being officially investigated.
"I see my mission to stand against that ferocious current that we see in America today," George Regas told Revolution. "I think that is a dangerous current. I don't think it is what a pluralistic, diverse nation can live with. It's not a Christian nation and we shouldn't try to make it that. It's a nation of many, many creeds. I don't think that All Saints Church is going to be silenced by all of this. To acquiesce to all of this, and say we're going to be silent on those hard issues is not going to happen. We would lose our soul if we did that."