Revolution #025, December 4, 2005

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Step Down, Step Down, Bush Must Go! Drive Out the Bush Regime!

World Can’t Wait National Conference Sets Plan for State of the Union Protests

Revolution #025, December 4, 2005, posted at revcom.us

On November 2, as a historic movement to drive the Bush regime from power was launched, World Can’t Wait announced the next big step: the demand for Bush to step down and the call to politically drown out Bush’s State of the Union speech with powerful demonstrations around this demand.

On the weekend of November 19-20 in New York City, the World Can’t Wait movement held a successful national organizers conference, bringing together over 180 people from all over the country. The organizers grappled with the questions and challenges of leaping forward off of Nov. 2, mobilizing masses in an even bigger way in independent political actions that drown out Bush's State of the Union, and transforming the whole political dynamics that exists.

In the opening speech, Debra Sweet, national coordinator of World Can’t Wait, summed up what was accomplished on Nov. 2--and what still urgently needs to be done. And she laid out an "ambitious and audacious" plan proposed by the World Can't Wait steering committee for two-phase protests around the State of the Union, which will likely be in late January (see accompanying box for more on the plan):

1. On the night that Bush gives the State of the Union, people will mobilize around the country in diverse actions to politically drown out Bush’s words in a "cacophony of sound."

2. On the Saturday following the speech, people are called on to converge on Washington, DC to deliver the "people’s verdict" on the State of the Union with the demand: STEP DOWN, STEP DOWN, BUSH MUST GO! DRIVE OUT THE BUSH REGIME!

Debra Sweet said in her opening speech about this plan:

"That is a tall order but this is what we need. To say we made a beginning on November 2 cannot mean that now we settle into gradual and incremental tactics to slowly grow this movement. This is not the same old same old. This is not a pet project or a way to build a movement. It is a serious challenge to unseat and drive out of power a sitting regime and not just any old regime--but one that has to be driven out--because what will happen if we don’t?"

The State of the Union is traditionally a time when the administration in power outlines its political agenda for the coming year. In his 2003 State of the Union, Bush put out a deliberate lie--that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction posed an immediate danger. This lie was a major part of justifying the war that the Bush regime launched a few weeks later.

As this newspaper wrote after Nov. 2, "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."

(From "November 2: The Real Beginning and the Challenge We Face," at revcom.us.)

An important part of the World Can't Wait national conference was a panel discussion where participants in the movement from divergent perspectives spoke to the following questions:

"1) From your perspective, why is it essential and urgent to drive out the Bush regime? What led to your decision to help lead this effort? What do you say in arguing to others that they should join us? 2) Drawing from historical or international examples, what lessons do you think we need to bring to bear in our effort to drive out this regime? What is your vision of what it will take, how it will look, when the Bush regime is forced out? 3) What is your vision of what the Bush regime will be replaced with?"

There were speeches at the panel discussion from Jim Oberg, of World Can't Wait, Portland, OR; Karen Bradley, Democracy Cell Project; Sunsara Taylor, Revolution newspaper; Pat, World Can't Wait student organizer from Connecticut. These speeches and other information from the conference are on the worldcantwait.org website, which continues to be a key organizing center for this movement, with constantly updated news, reports, statements, analysis, and organizing material.

The first step taken on Nov. 2 showed the real potential for this movement to realize a new leap in January. The Call to Drive Out the Bush Regime, which launched this movement and remains its foundation, gave a vision of what is urgently needed in these times:

"We are talking about something on a scale that can really make a huge change in this country and in the world. We need more than fighting Bush's outrages one at a time, constantly losing ground to the whole onslaught. 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. We, in our millions, must and can take responsibility to change the course of history."

The World Can't Wait Plan for Protests vs Bush's State of the Union

In the opening speech to the national organizers conference of World Can't Wait, national coordinator Debra Sweet presented a two-phase plan for political actions around Bush's January State of the Union speech:

1. On the night of the State of the Union message, in real time across the country, everyone mobilizes in their own area to Drown Our Bush’s Lies. At rallies called one hour before the speech (starting at 8 pm EST, 5 pm PST, and so on) we will proclaim our determination to Drive out the Bush Regime. The whole diversity of our movement, from high school students who have spent the day mobilizing, to local government officials who bring resolutions calling for Bush to Step Down, to prominent artists and activists, unions, professional associations, student governments will represent. As Bush begins to speak, literally, we will BRING THE NOISE in a cacophony of sound that drowns out his speech. From drum circles to violins, cat-calls to air horns to banging pots and pans-the whole variety of musical expression from hip hop to classical will make a noise. Big media outlets like Fox News might make good gathering spots for public DROWN OUTS. People in nursing homes and hospitals, or at work on late shifts, could participate where they are. The students, especially the high schools, can help by not even going to school that day, but by criss crossing the cities and towns in car caravans and flat bed trucks, and marches.

This part of the plan utilizes the strength we have in the youth and the fact that people want to demonstrate wherever they are that they demand BUSH STEP DOWN, and Take your whole program with you!

2.Then, the very next Saturday, we will get everyone possible to Washington DC by bus, car, train or plane to protest at the seat of government. There will be prominent voices of conscience to help deliver the peoples’ verdict on the State of the Union. And that verdict will ring through the streets of DC, and echo through the world: STEP DOWN STEP DOWN, BUSH MUST GO! DRIVE OUT THE BUSH REGIME!

State of the Union Emergency

Bring the Noise--Drown Out Bush’s Lies--Drive Out the Bush Regime

Opening Speech at World Can't Wait National Conference

What We've Accomplished...And What We Must Do to Drive Out the Bush Regime

Debra Sweet, National Coordinator, World Can't Wait

Revolution #025, December 4, 2005, posted at revcom.us

Debra Sweet, National Co-ordinator of The World Can't Wait, gave the opening speech at the national conference in New York City on November 19. Revolution is running this important presentation in two parts. The text of the entire speech can be found online at worldcantwait.org.

Somewhere this morning, perhaps in a secret "detention camp" in Eastern Europe, a man kidnapped by U.S. military forces is likely being tortured. No one knows where he’s disappeared to. Somewhere in the Mississippi Delta, a 16-year-old girl is six months pregnant; she’s had no medical care at all, and never had any "choice" because the federal government has cut back on prenatal care, and the last abortion clinic left in Mississippi is four hours away. Somewhere in Kansas a biology teacher is trying to prepare a lesson plan for her students that interests them in science, but can NEVER teach the concept of evolution! As Sunsara Taylor said at our rally on the 2nd, this isn’t so complicated. Are you for that biblical literalism being what the law is, or are you against it?

Ten weeks ago some of us here now met in NY, brought together by the compelling Call to Drive Out the Bush Regime. We struggled hard over a weekend, and we decided, this Regime does NOT REPRESENT US and WE WILL DRIVE IT OUT. Over the next eight weeks we fought to launch a historic movement that seeks to do something entirely unprecedented in this country: drive a sitting President from power, and stop the whole direction his Regime is taking society.

Our launch on November 2 brought thousands into the streets as they left work and school and signaled the powerful potential our movement has. It was a real beginning, and a new thing. But we have to ask: will that good beginning be an interesting footnote in the history books one day? Or will November 2 go down really as the day "history started to change"? We here have a lot to say about how that question is settled.

Our mission this weekend is to decide and make real plans for politically drowning out Bush’s State of the Union message across the country, and the following Saturday, gather people from all over for a massive demonstration in Washington, D.C., raising our demand full of determination: BUSH MUST GO! BUSH MUST GO! STEP DOWN STEP DOWN, BUSH MUST GO! STEP DOWN STEP DOWN, BUSH MUST GO!

But we have work to do to make that real. We--friends, in this room--must decide and figure out this weekend how to build the poles we need to vault this movement to where it must be in another eight weeks to politically drown out Bush’s State of the Union message and make real the demand BUSH STEP DOWN and TAKE YOUR WHOLE PROGRAM WITH YOU!

****

I want to talk a little a bit about the foundation of this movement, the Call that we put out last July 1. Why is our Call so important? It provides the basis for uniting and guiding a movement to drive the Bush regime from power--and to take its program with it.

The first and most important thing is this: the Call tells the truth about the situation. Listen:

Your government, on the basis of outrageous lies, is waging a murderous and utterly illegitimate war in Iraq, with other countries in their sights.

Your government is openly torturing people, and justifying it.

Your government puts people in jail on the merest suspicion, refusing them lawyers, and either holding them indefinitely or deporting them in the dead of night.

Your government is moving each day closer to a theocracy, where a narrow and hateful brand of Christian fundamentalism will rule.

Your government suppresses the science that doesn't fit its religious, political and economic agenda, forcing present and future generations to pay a terrible price.

Your government is moving to deny women here, and all over the world, the right to birth control and abortion.

Your government enforces a culture of greed, bigotry, intolerance and ignorance.

In light of this, let’s ask: Is it too "extreme,"as some would say, to launch a massive and determined political movement to drive such a regime from power? Or is the situation extreme, and we are responding to that --and rightly so? We must drive this regime from power--the only way it can be done, by mass political action.

We cannot rest for one second to really get this movement moving. This is a serious situation, and we must be--we are!--serious about driving this regime from power--the world can’t wait. Bush hasn’t stopped since November 2.

This Bush crew is relentless. Give them falling public support for the war, and what? Bush makes three speeches on military bases arguing for endless war. He calls anyone who opposes him--even the few Democrats in Congress who have raised questions--traitors, and commits more troops. Meanwhile, the horror and the carnage goes on, every day. Do you realize just how extreme that is?

Give them opposition to secret US detention centers in European countries, and what? Dick Cheney, the poster boy for torture, makes clear again and again that this regime openly opposes ANY bill that would tie the US hands in openly proclaiming its right to torture. Last week the Senate voted to overrule a federal court decision, and reinstated Bush’s self-declared mandate to declare anyone an enemy combatant and deny anyone the right to habeas corpus--that is, the right to not be secretly held in prison without the benefit of a lawyer, a fair trial and what used to be called due process. Do you realize that this overrules 900 years of habeas corpus? Do you realize just how extreme that is?

Give them public outrage at the treatment of people who somehow survived Katrina and the government’s draconian response that let them die, and what? FEMA announces suddenly this week that they’re throwing 53,000 families out of subsidized hotel rooms. 53,000 families! Do you realize just how extreme that is?

We are in a race against time, literally for people's lives. Our call rightly says "The Bush regime is setting out to radically remake society very quickly, in a fascist way, and for generations to come." I don’t think it’s a coincidence that most of the elected officials who have come first to endorse our Call and who spoke at our November 2nd rallies are lesbian or gay. Why have they this taken this risk? What do they see that others don’t? Bush staked his election chances on pulling out thousands of churches against gay marriage last year. These theocrats--and I advocate calling them Christian fascists because that’s just what they are--Christian fascists. Anyway, these theocrats that Bush is so indebted to have a program based on the book of Leviticus in the Bible that advocates killing people who are gay. This is no secret; and these politicians are not crazy to fear annihilation.

Some people are clear on what our Call is warning against when it speaks of what this government is doing in Iraq, or in openly carrying out torture, but they are less clear when it warns of "theocracy, where a narrow and hateful brand of Christian fundamentalism will rule." But this is a very timely warning about a real and dangerous attempt to make law out of a literal belief in the Bible. An attempt, which is well underway, by powerful forces with real power and initiative in this society--and the Republican Party and the Bush regime in particular. Is this threat real? Well, just look at how Bush dropped the nomination of Harriet Miers, when powerful forces in the Republican Party, motivated by this Christian fascist agenda, demanded not just a "stealth" reactionary zealot, but an open ideological representative on the Supreme Court. Someone, they say, like Scalia, who has argued, among other things, that governmental authority and law derive from God.

And what is the result when these theocratic forces grab even a little bit of power? Well, what has happened just this month in Kansas, where not only has a religious creationist belief been brought into science classrooms, but the very definition of science itself has now been changed, as a matter of state policy. And what about "abstinence only" as state policy in reproductive health? Let’s call it for what it is--genocide. Now effective means of AIDS protection are BANNED from any government-funded health programs in Africa, as literally MILLIONS of Africans--men, women and children--die.

Or take what is happening with women’s right to abortion, and even birth control. Are these forces actually trying to outlaw birth control, as well as abortion? Yes, they are! The columnist Ellen Goodman recently wrote about how these Christian fascist forces are mobilizing against a new medical breakthrough in the treatment of cervical cancer, because it undermines "abstinence only." She quotes Senator Coburn, one of these dangerous lunatics with real power, saying he would forbid his daughter this treatment for cervical cancer because it would serve promiscuity.

Opposing theocracy, Christian fascism, is not about opposing religion. But we MUST oppose the imposition of this literal interpretation of the Bible as law. Let me emphasize, because this is very important. Some of us in this movement believe in God...and some of us do not. But all of us are united in opposing the imposition of a "hateful brand of Christian fundamentalism" as law. This is the meaning, and the importance, of the Call which unites us. Lives are at stake--and most definitely the rights and very lives of women.

And let’s be clear. These people are not just a handful of people on school boards. They are in the courts. They are all up into the armed forces. And they are at the very highest reaches of government.

And what lesson did he draw? Did he say that it was really good that we didn’t all get together to fight the whole regime, but just looked after "our own struggle"? Did he say that the problem was that we were too extreme in our opposition? Well, listen to what he said:

"First they came for the communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a communist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant.

Then they came for me. . . and by that time no one was left to speak up."

Today, we live in Neimoeller times. This regime is on a course to radically remake society and the world, and our Call put it straight: "That which you will not resist and mobilize to stop, you will learn --or be forced -- to accept."

And our Call also says this:

"History is full of examples where people who had right on their side fought against tremendous odds and were victorious. And it is also full of examples of people passively hoping to wait it out, only to get swallowed up by a horror beyond what they ever imagined. The future is unwritten. WHICH ONE WE GET IS UP TO US."

On November 2, we led thousands to become the first kind of people, and we took a first step into writing a different kind of future.

****

I want to talk some about what we accomplished. And what we still need to do.

You’ve probably read all the reports on worldcantwait.org. There were good reports on truthout.org and Michael Moore featured it for two days on his site. Local news coverage across the country was overall very positive and widespread. Our launch brought joy and hope over the outpouring of youth and determined energy.

Across the country, this outpouring had many different faces, reflecting the variety of people who have cast aside politics-as-usual and are daring to do something unprecedented. People who had been in prison, and had reason to fear getting arrested, still came out to march with us. In the last week before the 2nd, hundreds of people who are the voices of conscience in this society, including a few household names like Jane Fonda, endorsed our Call, and it began to take on more influence. Boots Riley of the Coup stuck his neck way out to speak for the World Can’t Wait on national radio spots. On the very morning of the 2nd, the famous writer Gore Vidal went on the local New York City NPR station and called to hundreds of thousands of listeners to come out to Union Square. Howard Zinn made his beautiful challenge to students. And the playwright Harold Pinter--an artist who has, among other things, shown how language can be perverted into oppression and who won this year’s Nobel Prize for literature--wrote from England:

"The Bush Administration is the most dangerous force that has ever existed. It is more dangerous than Nazi Germany because of the range and depth of its activities and intentions worldwide. I give my full support to the Call to Drive out the Bush Regime."

Nationwide, thousands of high school students flooded to the forefront. They walked out of school in the face of massive repression, suspension, truancy officers and military recruiters. Students climbed out bathroom windows after their school doors were locked shut, or were locked in the boiler room but made it to the rally anyway. Some kids like students in Batavia, IL had no rally at all to go to so they marched to the Republican Congressman Hastert’s office and screamed. We just heard--and only by accident--that in Dover, PA, the very place where evolution has been on trial by a school board that wanted to replace it with so-called "intelligent design," that 60 kids walked out of Dover High School on the 2nd. Overall, it was probably the most significant high school walkout since the '60s--over 200 schools taking part. And in many places, parents and teachers defended them, and so did our movement, which is exactly what we should be doing!

The demand BUSH STEP DOWN has come to the notice of some millions of people. This IS the news that we made.

November 2 was a public proclamation that we refuse to be ruled this way, and it called out to millions who heard about it. But it was not massive. We had thousands of people out in 200 some locations, and the low thousands in several large cities. This IS a beginning step, but it is not yet nearly what we need to drive out the regime, where millions are in the streets taking responsibility, led by tens of thousands of organizers. We raised tens of thousands of dollars from thousands of people. We need millions of dollars from hundreds of thousands of donors.

The participation of high school youth was our main strength surpassing any predictions, and you can never have a social movement without youth. But we can’t leave them to take on the whole thing. They have to be joined by tens of thousands and then millions of people from the rest of society. We needed a student movement on 100 campuses, including the elite universities, and while the were great mobilizations at a few schools like Columbia and Pitzer Colleges, these are shoots of what we must do now more broadly.

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, we need to have the institutions people look to--the schools, professional organizations, local governments, unions and religious institutions--in turmoil over whether they are with Bush, or see his Regime as illegitimate and intolerable. As much as the left political movements have not joined in this effort, they should. But we are really going for something much bigger, involving millions of people who have never been activists rather suddenly deciding to take to the streets, to debate with people at work, canvass their neighborhoods, ask their friends for money, call radio talk shows to challenge anyone who defends the Bush Regime.

We have decided to lead people in taking independent historical action, with what aim? To drive out this regime, and nothing less. I’ll say it again: TO DRIVE OUT THIS REGIME, AND NOTHING LESS. We are not about passively waiting out the storm. We got something different we are doing. We are giving a voice and vehicle to people who are locked out of the process, and are seeking to change the terms we’re told by which political change can even happen.

We meant what we said and we said what we meant. And that means we have to be very serious to accomplish that aim. We have to be serious--and we also have to be mad creative, refusing to accept the conventional wisdom of what we can’t do. We have to learn from the resisters of an earlier generation who said "BE REALISTIC; DEMAND THE IMPOSSIBLE." We learned much more deeply on November 2 how it IS realistic to move thousands and thousands of people around this demand, and on the foundation of our Call. Now we have to take what we learned, and what we accomplished, and get this thing into a whole other place.

Next week: How can the Bush regime be driven out? The question of elections. An audacious plan for protests around Bush's State of the Union.

Defend the Hampton University Students!

7 Student Activists Threatened with Expulsion

Sunsara Taylor and Allen Lang

Revolution #025, December 4, 2005, posted at revcom.us

"Students who act as part of the national movement to Drive Out the Bush Regime because The World Can’t Wait, especially when they remain firm in the face of police harassment and administrative threats, are heroic, must be defended, and their example must be followed by many others."

From a statement issued by The World Can’t Wait--Drive Out the Bush Regime and signed by Sunsara Taylor, Allen Lang, and Howard Zinn

When students at Hampton--an elite, historically Black college in Virginia--decided to take up the November 2 launch of the movement to Drive Out the Bush Regime, they were met with an unrelenting force of repression every step of the way.

When students posted flyers, the administration sent out squads to tear them down. When students stepped up into leading positions as organizers, they were followed by undercover cops and brought in for questioning. When people gathered at the Student Center on November 2 itself, they were videotaped, their IDs were taken, and their literature was confiscated from them as "contraband."

Then, the day before the Hampton students were scheduled to travel to New York for the Nov. 19-20 National Organizers Conference of The World Can’t Wait--Drive Out the Bush Regime, three students were issued summonses for a hearing on the next working day over possible expulsion--leaving them little time to contact lawyers and preventing several from attending the conference. How did the administration react when the Dean’s office was flooded with calls on behalf of the students? They issued four more summonses, raising the total number of students facing possible expulsion to seven.

In the face of all this, the students have continued to tell the truth and stand up against this injustice. When student organizers told their story to the media, campus police shut down an interview being filmed by the local news and kicked the media off the campus. Then, during Thanksgiving break, the administration put a statement under every student's dorm room door, with the patently absurd claim that they were not politically targeting these students but simply enforcing the rules in the school handbook!

As the students have rightly pointed out, unauthorized literature is distributed all the time on campus without penalty, including flyers with pictures of near-naked women advertising parties. And the literature these student organizers were distributing wouldn’t have been "unauthorized" had the campus administration not "lost" the paperwork these students had filed three years in a row to become an officially recognized chapter of Amnesty International.

But the stakes of this case are greater and go way beyond the policies of the campus itself. These students were speaking and acting for millions when they hooked up with the World Can't Wait movement and called out the Bush Regime's crimes around Katrina, exposed the atrocities of the unjust war in Iraq, took on the deadly and growing persecution of homosexuals in this country, spread the word about the AIDS epidemic, and more. And the outrageously heavy-handed attacks on these students must be seen against the backdrop of rapidly escalating repression against political dissent, the criminalizing of protest, and the expansion of police spying in this country.

This is why those who have heard about this case are angered and deeply concerned that the attacks be defeated. One way or the other, a standard will be set for others.

Will we live in a society that refuses to hold accountable the most powerful and murderous liars in the world--the Bush regime--while student resisters are persecuted and threatened with expulsion for their political activity? Or will more people step up, defeat this attack and spur forward many more to join in the movement to Drive Out the Bush Regime and reverse the whole direction they are taking the world?

In answering this question, it is worth remembering that throughout history positive change has not come about without tremendous struggle and, at times, bitter sacrifice. It is worth reflecting not only on the courageous act of Rosa Parks when she sat down in the front of the bus, but the importance of her refusal to back down, and the active participation of thousands more who flooded in behind her.

The students at Hampton joined with others in the World Can't Wait movement to take history into their hands and take up the responsibility of leading a movement to drive out the criminal regime. And people need to come to their defense. As we said in the statement quoted at the beginning of this article: "We demand that the Hampton University administration drop all charges against, cease their political harassment of, and apologize to these students. These students must not be expelled!"

The full text of the statement signed by Sunsara Taylor, Allen Lang, and Howard Zinn is online at worldcantwait.org. The World Can't Wait is calling on people to send statements of support of the Hampton students and to call Hampton University officials to demand a stop to any disciplinary measures and harassment against the students: Call the Dean of Men at 757-727-5303 and the Dean of Women at 757-727-5486.

Notice to The Nation on the Iraq War

It Is NOT Our "National Security" – And These Are NOT Our Representatives

Revolution #025, December 4, 2005, posted at revcom.us

In recent weeks, debate over the U.S. war against and occupation of Iraq has begun to break out in a new way in American society. It’s a critical moment--what is done now can have a profound effect, and every political force is out there, proposing a program. Particularly at such a time there must be unsparing debate among those who oppose the war over what is happening and why, and what to do about it. With that in mind, we want to focus on a recent editorial in The Nation magazine, "Democrats and the War."

Before getting into that, let’s review the backdrop. The U.S. faces very deep problems in Iraq. The insurgency against the U.S. occupation is real, deeply rooted and getting stronger, and the U.S. has not made much progress in training an effective puppet Iraqi army. Nor has it yet been able to cobble together a viable puppet government with enough legitimacy to contain Iraq’s contending and different political, ethnic, and religious groups.

Second, the U.S. army itself is coming under increasing stress. Last week we quoted Democratic Representative John Murtha’s statement that "many say the army is broken." ("Iraq: Turmoil Among the Warmakers, Challenge For the People") A significant article in the December Atlantic Monthly, which focused on the failure to train a new Iraqi army, quoted a Marine lieutenant colonel: "On the current course we will have two options. We can lose in Iraq and destroy our army, or we can just lose." The officer went on to say that, "In Vietnam we just lost. This would be losing with consequences."

Such "consequences" would include first of all the "destabilization" of the whole repressive network of police states, feudal monarchies, and the settler state of Israel that the U.S. has hammered into place and propped up in the Middle East and Persian Gulf. Control of the Middle East, and the Gulf in particular, with its vast oil resources, is the keystone of American strategic domination of its imperialist rivals in Europe and Asia. These Middle Eastern regimes are extremely vicious; it is not for nothing that the U.S. ships those it wants to torture to Egypt and Jordan, or that it relies on Israel for "advice" in how to crush urban rebellion and insurgency. Nor is it accidental that billions of dollars of U.S. aid, which include incredible amounts of weaponry and military training, flow to these countries every year. The Bush Regime has aimed to restructure and further strengthen this oppressive apparatus; while some in the ruling class have criticized their particular strategy, the ruling class overall has no intention whatsoever of scaling back their domination.

The second "consequence" worrying the U.S. rulers is that any evidence of weakness on its part could diminish the fear of the U.S. military among both its imperialist rivals and the nations and people of the region. These prospects, along with criticism of how well Bush has "sold" the war to the American people, have prompted the recent criticism and questioning of Bush and Cheney.

This questioning, though, takes places within very narrow limits. The leading Republican "mavericks" on the war--John McCain and Nebraska Senator Charles Hagel--actually demand that more troops be sent. They, along with some Democrats, argue that these extra troops are needed to more tightly secure the country and to enable the U.S. to pull together an effective Iraqi army. The former Democratic presidential ticket of Kerry and Edwards argue vaguely for "gradual reductions" in troop levels--which is actually what Bush, Cheney and Rice are promising right now--while the prominent Democratic Senator Biden proposes somewhat fewer U.S. forces, but a different mix, with more focus on training the Iraqi army. Every one of these people agree, however, that the U.S. cannot leave Iraq, let alone the region. Murtha, the only major politician who actually called for withdrawal, also calls for maintaining a sizeable contingent of troops near Iraq "just in case"--and his whole frame of reference is preservation of the U.S. army.

In sum: the debate among these politicians is NOT about the horrors being rained upon the Iraqi people, it is NOT about justice, and it is certainly NOT about what the hell the U.S. government is doing constructing a grotesque military behemoth and sending it all over the world to terrorize and dominate other peoples in the first place. It is not even, at this point, about whether to withdraw from Iraq. It is overwhelmingly about how to re-tool the occupation to buttress the Iraqi puppet forces and protect America’s imperialist interests in Iraq and the region overall, and how to effectively "re-package" the war to the American people as that is done.

The Dynamic of Resistance

This "re-packaging" is necessary because the American people are getting angrier over Iraq and the movement demanding U.S. withdrawal is growing. This was seen in different actions during the late summer and fall, and this anger was a very powerful wellspring of the November 2 World Can't Wait actions demanding that the Bush Regime be driven out.

Along with this, the army itself is under stress. Soldiers are being forced to take three tours of duty, and this is causing anger. Officers are beginning to quit rather than re-enlist, and concern over widespread "battle fatigue" was a big theme in Murtha’s speech calling for withdrawal. Recruitment is already at its lowest level in years, and many of those bearing the brunt of the war are National Guard regiments whose members never expected this when they signed up. These two things affect each other: the more that people within the U.S. question and resist (including, very significantly, the families of soldiers), then the more that decent people in the army will raise questions and the harder it will be for the top officers to carry through with violent, brutal, and often illegal actions against the Iraqi people. During the Vietnam years, while the army never totally disintegrated, it became increasingly riven with disaffection, dissent, and resistance from within. It got much less effective in the field and much less reliable overall. And this was a very good thing from the standpoint of their victims and of the people of the world more generally, and ultimately from the standpoint of the rank and file soldiers themselves.

The main thing is this: the struggle at the top over how to occupy Iraq and the struggle from below against occupying Iraq are two separate things. The struggles certainly affect each other, and part of the struggle at the top is over how to contain the protest. Indeed, part of what is happening right now is that some top Democrats are positioning themselves to mislead this growing antiwar movement into becoming a tail on the Democratic donkey, channeling people's anger over the war itself into one or another program that, no matter how it's presented, is at bottom about fighting that war "more effectively."

Whose National Security?

Into this mix steps The Nation magazine, with its November 28 editorial. The editorial castigates the Bush Administration for its lies, and correctly asserts that: "The war--an unprovoked, unnecessary and unlawful invasion that has turned into a colonial-style occupation--is a moral and political catastrophe. As such it is a growing stain on the honor of every American who acquiesces, actively or passively, in its conduct and continuation."

So far so good. But then The Nation editorialists explain that the "war has also become the single greatest threat to our national security." They cluck about its economic costs and how "it has driven America’s reputation in the world to a historic low point," and they warn that until the war ends, "a constructive national security policy cannot be forged." The moral argument of the first paragraph vanishes, never to return again, while the phrases "national security" or "security" appear four times and, more important, permeate the logic of the editorial.

Please, dear editorialists, do you not know that the whole repressive setup in the Middle East exists only to keep the U.S. firmly on top of the horrific global system that keeps half the world’s population living on two dollars a day or less, while a relative handful gorge themselves? Have you forgotten that "our national security" is nothing more nor less than the military force that is used to fortify and expand this worldwide system of exploitation and oppression? Can you not see that the logic of basing any argument on what is good for the "national security" of an empire implicitly assumes the necessity of further and more effectively subjugating that empire’s victims?

And, please, don’t start up with how you’re going to re-define "true national security" in such a way that the U.S. army will only "make nice" and all that other fantasy stuff. You cannot re-define things to suit yourself and your political aims. The U.S. is an imperialist power; that means that it dominates most of the nations of the world politically and economically, and that it also contends with its rivals (Great Britain, France, Japan, Germany, etc.) with its military strength as the necessary bulwark of that. The preservation and extension of that domination is the meaning of "national security"--and why U.S. troops do what they do today in Abu Ghraib and Fallujah, and why they have done what they’ve done from Wounded Knee to My Lai to the highway of death in the first Iraq War.1

It is true, of course, that most people in the U.S. now questioning the war--and even most now opposing it--do not understand that, or at least do not understand that fully. But how will they get that understanding? Isn’t now, when people are raising their heads, the time to bring to life the real interests and logic that have driven the war forward . . . and lead people to break with and reject those interests and that logic? Bringing that to life is really the only thing that can enable people to resist calls for "going in there and getting the job done right," which has already become a damaging theme in the national debate over the war. On the positive side, it will actually help sustain people for the struggle and upheaval that a real struggle against the war--and against the Bush regime itself--will necessarily entail.

The Nation’s Telling Omissions

The editorialists do call the failure of the Democratic Party leadership to oppose the war "shameful" (but immediately qualify that with distinctions even as they do so). They then pledge to withhold support from any candidate who "does not make a speedy end to the war in Iraq a major issue in his or her campaign." And then: "In the coming weeks and months, The Nation will help identify--and encourage support for--those candidates prepared to bring a speedy end to the war and to begin the hard work of forging a new national security policy that an end to the Iraq war will make possible."

The Nation makes several notable omissions here. First they fail to ask the question that most obviously and essentially demands an answer: why have the Democrats not only failed to oppose the war, but actually supported it, right up to claiming to be better able to successfully carry out this project of extending U.S. domination--a claim which Kerry made the centerpiece of his 2004 campaign, and which other Democrats today continue to make? The Nation cites a poll showing that 73% of the Democratic Party rank and file oppose the war, while their leaders have taken the opposite stand, but they never try to explain this glaring contradiction. To what imperatives are these leaders responding? To what interests are they answering? We indicated our answer to this earlier--and without understanding this, no real strategy to end the war can be seriously undertaken.

Second, The Nation fails to demand an immediate U.S. withdrawal of all troops, substituting for those plain words "a speedy end to the war." That’s a loophole big enough to drive a tank through. Everyone professes to want a speedy end, including Bush, Cheney, and Condoleezza Rice. It’s just a question of when, they all say--and in every case, they are talking about enough time to build up the Iraqi army into an effective arm of U.S. interests in the country and the region.

Finally, The Nation omits any mention of mass independent political action from below. This is not a momentary lapse. The Nation remained silent during the buildup to the November 2 actions to drive out the Bush regime, and it now remains silent in its editorial both about those actions and the projected efforts to politically drown out the State of the Union address. In fact, they don’t even mention the idea of mass action. Now, when the contradictions are sharpening, they direct all attention to the electoral arena and tell us "there is no other way to save America’s security and honor." We’ve discussed the problems with focusing on "America’s security," and as for its "honor," it has none to save –- but if you are talking about ending the war, it is NOT true that there is no other way to do it. The opposite, in fact, is true--putting our energy into and relying on ruling class politicians with ruling class aims and programs will only derail the political resistance to it and prolong the war, while redoubling our efforts and struggle from below can, eventually, be a critical part of inflicting a political defeat on the ruling class and forcing them to pull out.

These omissions are interconnected, and flow from framing their argument in the needs of U.S. national security. The electoral arena is NOT where U.S. policy toward Iraq will be decided. Yes, it is almost certain that candidates claiming to oppose the war will run in some Democratic primaries. Should they be elected, however, they will not decide their actions and votes on the war, or anything else, based on their previous promises; they will decide as they always decide--based on their assessment of the overall interests of the U.S. ruling class.

This is classic Democratic Party politics--to bring any kind of movement that arises among the masses under its wing, politically neuter it, and siphon off untold amounts of energy, resources, and spirit. The Nation, it seems, trots out its stern words at the beginning only to give this tired vehicle a fresh coat of paint.

We Need A Different Dynamic

But let us finally say to those who are still pulled by these Democratic politicians and the idea that it is ultimately through them that the war will be ended--do you think that these politicians will be forced to concede to any demands of the people, unless they fear that you are getting out of their control? Unless and until they fear that you are refusing to confine yourself to the framework of voting? That you are not adopting their calculus of "national security" and an American honor that has never existed, but are instead seeking and telling the truth, and acting on that truth and what you know to be right and just? That you are not pouring your energies and hopes into the arena that they control, but insisting on building up the independent strength and struggle of the people?

As we said last week,

"We need a dynamic where the people who OPPOSE the war, along with people who oppose all the other depradations of the Bush Regime and the whole fascist direction of society, act in their own interests and for their own demands, in a mass political way. We need a dynamic where the people against this regime, by dint of their sheer numbers and determination, will compel every other force in society to respond to them. This in fact is the only ‘realistic and reasonable’ course--that is, if you wish to change the reality of a war without end, borders or limits, and an increasingly fascist social order that corresponds to and reinforces that. . .

"Very immediately, the urgent challenge is to throw in everything to mount massively powerful protests at the time of Bush’s State of the Union address in January, forcefully demanding that Bush himself step down and take his regime and his whole program--including this brutal and reactionary war--with him. Protests massive enough, and determined enough, to make nothing less than this the central political question in the country."

This--and NOT pouring efforts into politicians who answer to different interests and have different aims--is the real only hope.

NOTES:

1. See: Wounded Knee; My Lai; and Iraq Highway to Death

Return to article

Excerpts from "From Ike to Mao and Beyond - My Journey from Mainstream America to Revolutionary Communist"

New People, New Influences

Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA

Revolution #025, December 4, 2005, posted at revcom.us

The following is an excerpt from Chapter Six, "Your Sons and Your Daughters...," in Bob Avakian's memoir, From Ike to Mao and Beyond - My Journey from Mainstream America to Revolutionary Communist. In excerpts of this chapter run in Revolution #20 and # 23, Avakian describes his involvement in the Free Speech Movement and the influence of Mario Savio, along with the impact of the assassination of Malcolm X, the War in Vietnam, and beginning to get deeper into the upsurge of the sixties. In last week's issue of Revolution, we jumped back to the beginning of Chapter 6. In this issue we continue excerpting Chapter 6.

New People, New Influences

I only stayed in the dorms for a short time, and then Tom and I and a couple of other people got an apartment. One of my good friends in the dorm, who later moved into an apartment with me and Tom, was from India. His name was Sidhartha Burman, but it got shortened to Sid, and especially some of my Jewish friends liked to joke with him, "Sid Berman, good Jewish boy from India." But his name was really a classical Indian name, Sidhartha Burman, and he was from a very wealthy bourgeois family. We had a lot of struggle with him. He was a really good-hearted guy, but he used to recount to us, for example, that when he was back in India, he was awakened every morning by being given a massage by servants. Then he would walk from his house to his father’s business in Calcutta, where he lived, and he acknowledged to us that every day he would step over the dead bodies of the poor people who had starved to death on the streets of Calcutta the night before. We struggled with him and struggled with him, and we finally got him for a little while to become kind of a hippie, but that’s as far as we could get with him. On the other hand, he did share with us a lot of experiences and open us up to an understanding, or at least a glimpse, of a whole different part of the world and different cultures and customs.

Politically at that time -- in the period before the Free Speech Movement -- there was mainly civil rights activity among students. In fact, the right to organize for civil rights activities on the campus was the focal point of what became the Free Speech Movement. It may sound unbelievable now, but in those days, the Cal administration had a rule that you could organize things like student clubs, but you could not carry on political activity on campus for "off-campus political causes," such as civil rights. You were not allowed to organize on campus for, say, a civil rights protest or demonstration against a company that wouldn’t hire Black people -- it was against the rules and you could be expelled for it. That gave the spark to the whole Free Speech Movement (FSM). The FSM not only radically changed the Berkeley campus, but was a major impetus for a wave of changes on campuses all across the country. When the FSM was going on, people, young people in particular, came to Berkeley from all parts of the country.

For example, one day I walked on campus and there was this guy from New York who’d come to Berkeley specifically because he recognized the significance of the gathering Free Speech Movement. He told me stories about having visited Italy, where the Communist Party was looked at very differently than in the U.S. -- it was a mainstream political party there. He also told this vivid story about being in a courtroom in New York City when they brought in this prisoner to appear before the judge, and the prisoner had obviously been brutally beaten by the cops. It was so bad that the judge sort of lost control for a moment and blurted out, "god, what happened?!" Then he described how the judge regained his "composure" and went on with the ordinary business of the court as if nothing were wrong. When I put things like that together with things I knew and was learning, from my own personal experience, and especially the experience of many of my friends, it had a kind of cumulative effect.

Malcolm X

As I described earlier, even when I was in high school some of the gathering momentum of the civil rights movement carried over in various ways and found various expressions among the students and within the school, among the Black students in particular. So I knew about Malcolm X by the time I graduated from high school. And I remember a year or so later, when I was in the hospital starting up the cortisone treatments, I saw a Sunday afternoon political discussion/debate program on TV. They had different people talking about Malcolm X and the Black Muslims, with people on different sides of the argument, though they were all white -- arguing about whether the Black Muslims were just as bad as the Ku Klux Klan and the white supremacists. I remember one guy making the argument, "No, they’re not, because the Ku Klux Klan and the white supremacists are defending and upholding oppression, whereas whatever you think about the Black Muslims they’re on the side of opposing that oppression." That immediately struck me as true and important -- I agreed with that right away. It was in line with everything I already felt, but it also put something together for me.

I remember listening to Malcolm X’s speeches and seeing him on tele-vision, and always being riveted and, increasingly, inspired by him. I agreed with Malcolm X when he said "freedom, by any means necessary." I had never agreed with the pacifist view. It’s one thing if you want to say there should be pacifist tactics in a particular situation, like a demonstration, but I never agreed with pacifism as a principle -- that Black people, for example, should always turn the other cheek. When I heard about the Deacons for Defense in the south, who organized and took up arms to defend the Black community from the KKK and all the racist sheriffs, I thought that was right -- it was necessary and important. So when Malcolm X articulated "by any means necessary," I felt that was right, and I didn’t agree with the idea that you should confine the people to turning the other cheek or just to passively accepting, for whatever supposedly loftier purpose, being brutalized.

I loved to listen to Malcolm X speeches. At one point, I got a recording of "The Ballot or the Bullet," and I listened to that over and over. Later, when I started making speeches myself, I drew a lot from Malcolm X, especially the way in which he exposed profound injustices and contradictions of the system so sharply. (I also drew from Richard Pryor, particularly the ways in which he used humor to bring to light things in society that were covered up, or that somehow you weren’t supposed to talk about.)

Straddling Two Worlds

My friend Matthew came back to Cal, and he had a circle of friends who were mainly Black that I also got to know and became friends with. And when I went back to Berkeley High to do tutoring and officiating at track meets and coaching summer league basketball teams and things like that, I maintained contact with my old friends and that milieu, so to speak. While I didn’t think of it that way at the time, looking back on it now, I feel like I was straddling two worlds, but to me they were both part of my life, they were both part of my world. And the same kind of shit that I ran into in high school came up again - -- for example, there were people at Cal who would straight up tell me that they would not be friends with me because I hung out in the Student Union and around campus with Black students. As I said, I was sort of straddling two worlds, but to me this was all part of what I was about. I wasn’t trying to make a "statement" -- these were just my friends, these were the people and things I was interested in and cared about, these were just the different parts that made up the whole of my life. I wasn’t saying to myself, "Oh, I’m straddling two worlds," but objectively I was.

In a lot of ways, culturally, I was drawn more to things that were from my earlier years, especially my high school years, than I was to the university. But then politically, and in terms of intellectual ferment, there were things about the university that were increasingly drawing me. There was the Dylan music, the poetry, even the Milton seminar. I took courses in Shakespeare and Chaucer, and I’m one of the few people that I know of who has actually read the entire "Faerie Queene" by Edmund Spenser! -- which is a classical epic poem, hundreds and hundreds of pages long, written at more or less the same time as Shakespeare. I read that -- I actually took a course on this poem -- mainly because I knew Spenser was a big influence on Keats and I was really into Keats. All that was one part of my life, too.

I also had a goal of learning five or six languages. I took Italian and I took some Spanish, but I didn’t ever fulfill my goal -- other things intervened which became more important to me. But by taking Italian I got interested in some of the Italian romantic poets from more or less the same period as Keats and the other English romantic poets. My favorite Italian professor was very progressive, and I used to have talks with him about what was going on in the world -- as much as I could, I would talk with him in Italian about all this.

But, once again, I was straddling different worlds. You know, most of the people who were big into athletics -- let’s put it this way, they were not among the vanguard of the progressive and radical forces on the campus. There were some friends of mine, like Kayo and my roommate Tom, who were sports fanatics and who also had strong progressive views and radical tendencies, but that was more the exception than the rule. So, in that way you could say there was a certain conflict in terms of things that I was passionate about. But by this time, around 1964, I was finally getting back on my feet physically and feeling like I dared to do some things. So when the summer gave way to the fall and the Free Speech Movement arose, and in addition with the influence of Liz -- with whom I was starting to fall in love -- I was ready to throw myself into that.

Socialism is Much Better Than Capitalism and Communism Will Be A Far Better World

Part 1: Introduction

Raymond Lotta

Revolution #025, December 4, 2005, posted at revcom.us

Growing numbers of people are concerned about the state of the world and the fate of the planet. Do things have to be this way? No, there is a real world alternative: socialism and communism. But people are constantly bombarded with the message that socialism has failed and that capitalism is the best of all possible worlds. A whole generation of young people has basically heard nothing else about socialism other than it is a nightmare. This "rewriting of history" has also influenced many progressive intellectuals. The Set the Record Straight Project aims to turn the ideological assault against communism into a two-sided debate on college campuses about communism’s past and communism’s future. Maoist political economist Raymond Lotta is now on a national speaking tour as part of the Set the Record Straight project. His daring speech,"Socialism Is Much Better Than Capitalism, and Communism Will Be A Far Better World," confronts the lies about communism, analyzes the real experience and breakthroughs of the Bolshevik revolution of 1917-56, and the Chinese revolution of 1949-76, and brings forth Bob Avakian’s vibrant reenvisioning of the communist project. Beginning with this issue, Revolution is serializing this speech. Information on upcoming speaking dates and related materials are available at www.thisiscommunism.org.

*****

The title of my talk is "Socialism is Much Better Than Capitalism, and Communism Will Be A Far Better World." The theme of my talk is that the way the world is, is not the way it has to be.

There are people in this room hungering for an alternative to this system. Who want to do something meaningful for humanity with their lives. Humanity can move beyond exploitation and social division. It can move towards a classless society and a world of freely associating human beings--communism. This is what proletarian revolution is about. And the first historic steps in building such a society and world were taken by the Russian and Chinese revolutions of the 20th century. These revolutions were defeated. But they are rich in lessons and inspiration. And I want to talk about why communism is more relevant than ever.

Yes, what I am saying is controversial. We live in a time when the permanence of capitalism is trumpeted. We are told that the verdict on the 20th century has been delivered: the socialist experiment has failed and can only fail. We are bombarded with the idea that there is no alternative, that capitalism is the natural order of things. We are told that as much as capitalism has problems, any attempts to get rid of it will make things far worse.

It is as though a warning label were affixed to the discourse on human possibility. Danger --anything that fundamentally challenges capitalism is at best a pipe dream and at worst an unworkable utopia imposed from above that will result in nightmare. Caution --the project of making revolution and building an economy and society that promote and serve the common good violates human nature, economic logic, and the very flow of history. Reminder --we have reached the end of history: Western society represents the high point and the end point of human development.

In a thousand different ways, crude and sophisticated, the message is put out that the history of the 20th century is the history of the disaster and horror of socialist revolution and the triumph of capitalism and bourgeois democracy. It’s in the media. It’s reinforced by widely promoted memoirs. It’s taught in the schools. It’s embedded in intellectual discourse.

There’s just one problem. This "conventional wisdom" about communism is not true. It is built on the wholesale distortion of the actual history of socialist revolution. Lies and slanders are repeated endlessly and become accepted as self-evidently true. I have to say it's amazing what passes as intellectual rigor and--sadly--it's amazing what gets over on people who pride themselves on intellectual rigor and honesty. Crude speculation, statistical approximations and evaluation methods that nobody would take seriously if they had been applied in their own professions, reliance on highly subjective memoirs by people with political agendas--these things are somehow acceptable when the subject is communism.

Take this new biography Mao: The Unknown Story by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday that’s getting a lot of attention. It's stark, raving anticommunist. It makes a statement like this: "there wasn't a school in China where atrocities did not occur." What's the source of this claim? The authors give none. They just assert it. You wouldn't let this pass as scholarship about other subjects. But if it's the Cultural Revolution, critical thinking gets a waiver.

How many times have you heard it said that Mao was anti-education. But the truth is that Maoist China raised literacy from about 15 percent in 1949 to close to 80 percent in 1976. Facts like these are conveniently ignored, or they get buried under the avalanche of these slanders. You know when the Chinese revolution came to power in 1949, life expectancy in China was 32 years! In 1975, life expectancy had increased to 65 years--a two-fold increase.

We need to set the record straight. In this talk, I am going to confront and refute the distortions about the "first wave" of socialist revolutions. When I speak of a "first wave" of socialist revolutions, I am referring to the experience of the masses of people of the Soviet Union when it was a real socialist society--and that was during the years 1917-56. And I am referring to the experience of the people of China when it was actually socialist--and that was during the years 1949-76. These were the first and inspiring efforts in modern history to build societies free of exploitation and oppression.

I will talk about why these revolutions took place. I will talk about what people set out to do and what difficulties they faced. I will talk about the incredible, earth-shaking things they were able to accomplish. And I want to talk about the "learning curve" of communist revolution. How Mao learned from the experience of the Bolshevik Revolution, summed up shortcomings and errors, and opened new paths for going further and doing better in making revolution. We are now at the beginning of a new stage of proletarian revolution. And I will talk about that and about how Bob Avakian is advancing the understanding of the nature of communist revolution in today’s world.

You see, for communists, the truth is not a problem. We can confront and understand reality. And it is on that foundation that a vision of a whole better way for humans to relate to each other on this planet can be developed--based on what is actually possible and necessary at this stage of human history.

There were problems in this "first wave" of socialist revolutions in the 20th century. We are not afraid to look at these problems. But we do have to seek truthful understanding. And even those truths that make us cringe can be a spur to doing better. In contrast, those in whose hands the world is currently entrapped…THEY have every interest in lying: whether about weapons of mass destruction, or about communism.

Why is it important to get at the truth of the Russian and Chinese revolutions? Because at the core of this discussion is the future of humanity.

The question is: Do we have to live this way? Can you really radically change things? We need to get a vigorous debate going about all of this. The stakes are very high.

But it is a problem if people think they have a basis for an opinion about the desirability or viability of communism when they don’t really know much about it at all. If you want to understand and decide whether communism is relevant, or is an idea whose time has passed into oblivion, first you need to know what it is: its aims and its foundations.

Next week: Part 2: Communism and Socialism

International Tribunal: Powerful Testimony Documents Bush Crimes Against Humanity

Revolution #025, December 4, 2005, posted at revcom.us

The International Commission of Inquiry on Crimes Against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration has announced it will hold its second session of hearings on January 20-22, 2006. This session will continue the truly historic work of forging a powerful, comprehensive, and highly public case documenting what the Bush regime is doing to the people of the world.

The Commission’s successful first session was held in New York on October 21-22 before a distinguished panel of jurists. Experts from the fields of law, diplomacy, environment, history, global health and reproductive rights came together with witnesses from flooded New Orleans, the war zones of Iraq and immigration jails of the U.S.

Hundreds of people heard penetrating exposures of the Bush regime’s wars of aggression, global apparatus of torture and indefinite detention, suppression of scientific research and warnings of global warming, and genocidal sabotage of efforts to stem the AIDS pandemic. Passionate and painful eyewitness accounts highlighted the special hearing into the Bush administration’s criminal actions before, during and after the Katrina disaster.

Much of the remarkable testimony from the first session is now available online at www.bushcommission.org. Download the audio and text and share them widely.

In January, after considering the rich evidence presented in both sessions, the panel of jurists will reach its verdicts. Their final findings are expected to be released around the time of the President’s State of the Union Address and the nationwide demonstrations organized by The World Can’t Wait! Drive Out the Bush Regime!

The following is from the testimony by John Clark, Professor of Environmental Studies at Loyola University in New Orleans.

The Triple Crime in the Katrina Disaster

I was listening to local radio, and I heard Mayor Nagin on the radio. And he made the statement, quote, direct quote, "Hurricane Katrina did not discriminate." That's a very interesting statement. I think it shows a great -- we could say it’s just a deception, but if he believes it, it shows a great ignorance of how society works, because we know, as Dr. Bullard and others have pointed out in their many decades of work, racism is built into our social system.

Class oppression is built into our social system. So when a hurricane hits, it does discriminate. It automatically discriminates. It automatically produces very deep and severe problems for some people and perhaps moderate, sometimes severe problems for others, but not equal problems. And we see that in New Orleans... But the blame is not equal. Because some authorities have been entrusted with the responsibility of taking care of the problems of society and taking care of people's needs. And they have failed abysmally in this responsibility and, I would say, criminally.

So I would ask us to look at what I would call the triple crime of Katrina. First, the ongoing criminal negligence in the lack of preparation for such an event. I have a lot of wonderful quotes which I’m going to skip, but environmental writers and other commentators have been telling us for decades that this catastrophe was on the way and that actually we haven't even seen the big catastrophe, what we call the big one. It's still on the way. And we're still not preparing for it.

Let me give you a couple of citations on this. It is well known that New Orleans has been on FEMA's top three list of disaster sites, and publications ranging from Scientific American to the local newspaper have run major articles on the coming disaster. In 2004 the Corps of Engineers requested funds for additional levee protection and for flood control. And the Bush administration cut the requested funds by 80% Funding for flood control in the area has been cut by 44.2%. In addition, it's well known that wetlands have offered protection to the city from tropical storms and hurricanes. You've already heard about the loss of wetlands. We're now losing probably about 30 miles--square miles per year of wetlands. We have lost as much as 40 square miles. Nothing has been done. Negligible efforts have been made to deal with this problem. So far, all the efforts have done is to reduce the amount of loss. But there is no restoration of our coastal wetlands. We still have 30 square miles per year of loss. We're becoming more and more vulnerable every year to events such as Katrina.

The Corps of Engineers official, Lieutenant General Strock, stated before Congress, "Levees were never intended to protect against category four hurricanes such as Katrina." So the Corps of Engineers, one of the agencies entrusted with the responsibility of protecting us, says that what has been done has not even been intended to protect us from a catastrophe such as Katrina, much less a more severe category four or a category five hurricane. So I think--there's much more to say on this subject, but I think we have to conclude that the Bush administration is certainly guilty of the crime of failing to protect us from a predicted disaster, and in fact, cutting back on programs that might, in fact, have helped us meet this very disaster that just befell us.

The second area of the crime... I think if we want to look for an example of racism and discrimination in our society, nothing is more moving and profoundly devastating emotionally, I think, than to see the people in the Convention Center and elsewhere in New Orleans; the people on top of roofs with signs saying, "Help me, I haven't had food or water for three days"; people saying, "I’m diabetic. I have a heart condition. I need medicine"; and nothing happening at the same time that hundreds of billions of dollars are being spent to fight an unjust war of aggression in Iraq and a war based on deception. I think increasingly the public will begin to see that these priorities are insane and criminal.

I work with grassroots groups that were delivering food to people during the initial weeks, really the third week after the disaster. And as we went to people's houses, they said, "It's great that you're bringing us food and water. Can we have some ice?" At the same time, truckloads of ice were being driven back and forth across the country, as the daily newspaper pointed out, $385,000 was spent just on mileage to take ice from Alabama to Massachusetts, which is not exactly the way to get to Louisiana. And truck drivers were paid $54 an hour to wait to get instructions.

At the same time, grassroots groups like Mama Dee’s group in the Seventh Ward, the Soul Patrol, Common Ground in the Algiers neighborhood, people working in the Ninth Ward, were working with really nothing. With the vast wealth in this society, enormous amounts were wasted. And the people who are doing the grassroots work were left to pass the hat, ask outside volunteers to help and do whatever they could. And they were very, very effective in helping people in the city at that time.

Just very briefly, to get--since there is a number three, which is very important, crime number three: The absolutely abhorrent process that's taken place during the recovery. First, the exclusion of citizens from the city. Many people wanted to go back to their houses. I had to go illegally back to my house two-and-a-half weeks after the hurricane. And it's only because I was willing to stay and risk going back and forth through checkpoints, coming up with any story I could, that I was able to work there. I went through the second hurricane, Hurricane Rita, with three of the volunteers staying at my house. It's only because we were there that we saved what I have, because of severe roof damage. Thousands of people were in that position in New Orleans. Thousands of people would have liked to go back and take care of their houses that were deteriorating, but they were excluded. This is a very large subject.

This--someone has already mentioned the subject of ethnic cleansing. I think we have to take that very seriously. In fact, there's an interesting quote from the mayor. People have been kept out of the city first by explicit exclusion by the military after the militarization of the city. They have been kept out by not having jobs, by not having resources to rebuild, repair, and salvage what they have. They've been kept out by the fact that the school system has not started--the public school system – operating and has no plans even for the rest of the year to start most of the schools on the East Bank, which is the vast majority of the schools in New Orleans. It goes on and on.

There have been obstacles set up for people to return. At the same time, the government is subsidizing hotels and other means of staying out of the city. If some of the people in New Orleans who would like to get back could get the same resources to rebuild or repair their own houses and to work in their own communities as they are receiving to stay away, these communities would be in much less danger.

I have to convey one message, since the person I have been working with so much who we thought might be here and isn't, Mama Dee, gave me one message to convey to people in New York. She said, "If you want to tell them anything about what we're doing, it’s neighbors helping neighbors." And I’ve seen magnificent things done. It's not only our local neighbors, it's neighbors from out of town. We've had hundreds of young people from all over the country, who have come to the Seventh Ward, the Ninth Ward to work with Common Ground and other projects to rebuild the city, to help the people in the communities have the opportunity to come back to their own communities. The struggle is between the people who are doing this grassroots work and need the support of all of you and everyone everywhere and the powers that be, the powers that created the disaster, since this is not a natural disaster. This is an unnatural disaster.

If the forces of nature could have operated, we would have had wetlands to protect us. If the forces of human community could have operated, we could have saved ourselves. And that's what grassroots organization is about. That's what federal bureaucracies are not about. That's what capitalism is not about. That's what our economic and political system are not about right now.

The Indictment of Jose Padilla and the White House Assault on Legal Rights

Revolution #025, December 4, 2005, posted at revcom.us

Since May 2002, Jose Padilla has been held in prison, denied his most basic legal rights. For 3 ½ years the U.S. kept Padilla locked up--not charged with any crime. Then on November 22, the federal government announced it was indicting Padilla and putting him on trial.

Under the principle of habeas corpus and other long-established legal principles of U.S. law, people are supposed to have certain official rights when arrested: to talk to and be represented by a lawyer, to be protected from indefinite detention without charges, to have a trial where the accused can hear the evidence and question witnesses, and so on. In Padilla's case, every one of these principles has been blatantly violated by the government. Padilla's arrest wasn't even made public until a month later. He was put in solitary and denied a lawyer for two years.

Now, by charging Padilla, the government is not apologizing or backtracking. On the contrary, this move is part of the Bush regime aggressively asserting that they have the power to treat people this way--and that they will.

****

A month after Padilla was arrested, the raving Christian-fascist Attorney General John Ashcroft made inflammatory public accusations against him, claiming he was "an al-Qaeda operative" who "was exploring a plan to build and explode a radiological dispersion device, or 'dirty bomb,' in the United States." Ashcroft said there was "evidence" from "multiple independent and corroborating sources."

Bush declared that Padilla was an "enemy combatant," and justified stripping this U.S. citizen of all rights by saying, "This guy Padilla's a bad guy, and he is where he needs to be--detained." The mainstream media repeated all this in screaming headlines, doing their part to justify Bush's outrageous actions.

But now, after stripping this Padilla of his legal rights simply on Bush's say-so, it comes out that the government has zero evidence to prove their accusation. ZERO! They did not charge him with planning to explode a "dirty bomb." They did not charge him of being a member of Al-Qaida. They did not charge him of planning any attacks inside the U.S. at all.

But the Bush regime still intends to keep Padilla locked up for the rest of his life. Their charges against him--being a low-level courier for Islamic groups in places like Bosnia, Chechnya, and Afghanistan--carry a possible sentence of life in prison.

The U.S. government had claimed they got information about Padilla and the "dirty bomb" plot from captives held by the U.S. in other parts of the world--captives it has come out were tortured. But who can believe anything that the liars of the Bush regime say, including about what they now claim Padilla is guilty of?

Consider what this government has done: The FBI seizes Jose Padilla, a Brooklyn-born Puerto Rican who converted to Islam, as he is walking through Chicago's O'Hare Airport in May 2002, returning from a trip to Pakistan. He is disappeared into a nightmarish world of interrogation and punishment. The President and Attorney General suspend all the existing legal procedures, principles, standards, and rights.

Such rights and principles have been constantly violated in this country. But it is a major historic leap for this government to now announce it can throw habeas corpus and other legal principles right out the window, at will, if they label a prisoner an "enemy combatant."

The Bush White House is not asking for this power. They've declared that they already have it and don’t need approval from Congress or the courts. This legal precedent is already in force, being used, and embedded in how the government now operates. In formal legal arguments made in April 2004, Bush's Deputy Solicitor General Paul Clement argued: "You have to recognize that in situations where there is a war--where the government is on a war footing--that you have to trust the executive."

By charging Padilla now, Bush is forcefully asserting his presidential powers of imprisonment.

Two months ago Judge Luttig of the Fourth Circuit court ruled strongly in favor of allowing Bush unprecedented power to imprison someone like Jose Padilla without trial or charges. That decision was appealed to the Supreme Court. Now, with the indictment of Padilla, the Justice Department is arguing there is no reason to go forward with new hearings in front of the Supreme Court--which would let stand the Luttig verdict in favor of Bush as the current ruling on presidential war powers.

In short, Padilla is now charged and will be put on trial--in order to strengthen Bush's presidential power to imprison other people, without trial, stripping them of their basic legal rights in the future.

Think about the dangerous changes in legal norms and standards that have already come about. Think about all that the White House and its agents have done to Jose Padilla. Think about who else they can and will target, if they are not stopped by a movement of the people who refuse to accept this "new normalcy."

That which you do not resist and mobilize to stop, you will learn--or be forced--to accept.

--World Can't Wait Call

Book Review: Contempt: How the Right is Wronging American Justice

A Warning Flare over the March to Theocracy

by Linda Flores

Revolution #025, December 4, 2005, posted at revcom.us

Catherine Crier is a former Republican judge from Texas and currently hosts a show on Court TV. She introduces her new book, Contempt: How the Right is Wronging American Justice, this way:

"In the wake of the Terri Schiavo debacle, I wanted to write a book in defense of the federal court system and its judges and to explain how, though imperfect, the system has evolved very much as its founders intended.

"But I don't want that anymore. Now I want this book to be a wake-up call, a warning flare, a political stun grenade that provokes the silent majority of this country to stand up and take notice … For all of those Americans who believe that our democracy is safe, you are wrong. Today, the radical Right is winning, and they know it. Sooner rather than later, we may be living in a very different country, a country that had been ours, a country that will be theirs."

Crier writes that "The extreme Right has conquered the executive and legislative branches of government, but it has not been able to bring the federal courts to heel--yet." She also writes that "[The extreme Right’s] leaders have taken an entity that innately resists politics and turned it into a highly politicized battle zone" (p. 2). Whether or not you fully share this analysis of the courts, her alarm call of the way the the judicial branch is now being stacked with right-wing ideologues and its power being limited in a way she calls dangerous, in order to serve what she identifies as a "very scary" political agenda, is significant, and makes this book an important read.

The Horsemen of the Apocalypse

Crier devotes a chapter to the "Four Horsemen" (the name, taken from a Washington Post article, refers to the Biblical notion of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse--those who will usher in the end of the world and the last coming of Christ). Crier writes, "Taken together, they represent every side of the ultraconservative battle for the federal judiciary" (p. 102). Former Reagan Attorney General Edwin Meese represents the political connections; wealthy businessman C. Boyden Gray brings in the funding and the connection to other wealthy donors. Leonard Leo is the Executive VP of the Federalist Society, a group that provides much of the theoretical concepts (such as the doctrine of "originalism," meaning a supposedly strict interpretation of the Constitution--more will be said on this), and Jay Sekulow, founder of the American Center for Law and Justice--a Christian Fascist version of the ACLU, which has nearly double the ACLU's membership and budget. Every week, this group holds a conference call to check on the progress of their agenda; prominent members of the Bush administration (such as Karl Rove) can often be found on the line.

Roy Moore is an illuminating example of how entrenched Christian Fascism has become. He was the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Alabama when he installed a 5,200 pound engraved granite monument of the Ten Commandments in the judicial building of the state capital (he was later stripped of his judgeship for refusing a court order to remove it; many Christian Fascists cite this as an example of the oppression of their religion). Crier notes that Moore once wrote a paper that called for the death penalty for "practicing homosexuals" and claims that only evangelical Christianity fits the definition of an actual "religion" as far as the Constitutional right to practice religion is concerned. He has planned a run for governor of Alabama, and Crier cites polls indicating that he is likely to win.

Tearing Down Formal Separation between Church and State

To legally declare that there should be no separation of church and state, that such a separation would violate God's mandate, would make this country an open theocracy, in the model of countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia--but it would be the most economically and militarily powerful theocracy in the history of the world. This is exactly what the Christian Fascists want. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said in a 2002 speech that "Government … derives its moral authority from God… The reaction of people of faith to [the] tendency of democracy to obscure the divine authority behind government should [be]… the resolution to combat it as effectively as possible."

One of the many ways that they shore up moral and historical legitimacy for this goal is in the argument that the "Founding Fathers" (people like Madison, Jefferson, and others) actually intended for the United States to be a Christian nation. As evidence, they argue that the Founding Fathers themselves were Christian, and that references to God are all over their original documents and letters. In Chapter 12, Crier argues this claim is based on rewriting history that at times takes absurd turns: Some Christian Fascists have argued that since Thomas Jefferson signed "In the Year of Our Lord" at the end of his presidential letters, that meant he was embracing God from the presidency … and therefore he intended the U.S. to be a Christian nation. Crier points out that what Jefferson was writing was, in Latin, "Anno Domini Nostri Iesu Christo"--otherwise known as "A.D." He was using a formal Latin way of stating the year. Crier argues that the Constitution was written to guard against theocracy and the establishment of an official state religion. Whether or not you agree with her interpretation, you cannot ignore the fact that a society based on the laws of the 18th century would hardly be a society most people today would want to live in. Crier does point out that many things that many people consider basic rights were not contained in the original Constitution--rights for women, Black people, protection against discrimination, etc--and many practices that most people consider illegitimate were legally enshrined in the original Constitution, not the least of which is slavery!

Strategy for a Theocracy

"It's not in the sense that we're getting everything we want, but we have a strategy. … I've got an agenda if you will. I’m utilizing the courts to achieve that goal. You don't go from A to Z. You go from A to C, D to M, and eventually to Z."

Jay Sekulow, quoted in Contempt

"Our job is to reclaim America for Christ, whatever the cost...as the vice regents of God, we are to exercise godly dominion and influence over our neighborhoods, our schools, our government, our literature and arts, our sports arenas, our entertainment media, our news media, our scientific endeavors--in short, over every aspect and institution of human society."

D. James Kennedy, Dominionist and Christian Fascist preacher at Coral Ridge Ministries, whose TV show reaches 3.5 million people weekly

"'Our public schools began as ministries of the Church … Now it is time to return them to the Lord."

Jay Sekulow, quoted in Contempt,p. 269

The Constitution Restoration Act (CRA) was introduced into Congress in March of 2005 by Congressman Richard Shelby, a Republican from Alabama. If passed, it would establish that the Supreme Court is not permitted to issue any rulings that get in the way of a public official's acknowledgement of God "as the sovereign source of law, liberty, and government The acknowledgment of God is not a legitimate subject of review by federal courts" (quoting Roy Moore from a Christian news site--emphasis added). This ruling would open the floodgates for public schools and buildings to be plastered with Christian imagery and propaganda, but it would have far worse implications. This is nothing less than a wedge to force Biblical law into the law of the United States.

One way for the CRA, if passed, to allow the Bible to be woven into U.S. law would be that a judge can decide that their "acknowledgement of God as the sovereign source of law" includes being required to follow God's law--and whatever fascist social programs go along with it. (Roy Moore would certainly agree.) One example of God’s law, from Deuteronomy 22:23-24:

"If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her, then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; [including] the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city."

In Chapter 18, "Public Bible School," Crier writes that "State by state, public campuses have been forced to open their doors to born-again ministries that aggressively covet grade-school souls." One of the main drivers of this are the so-called "Good News clubs," with 4,500 chapters all over the country; as soon as the school bell rings, they take over the buildings for after-school religious clubs. Crier states that when school districts refuse, the Good News clubs invoke a 2001 Supreme Court decision allowing such clubs, and school districts are forced to comply.

The response

Contempt is an important book that has not been read widely enough. Some of the response is illuminating: when CBS News interviewed Crier on The Early Show in September, commentator Harry Smith asked her if she were worried for her career. In other words, today, writing a book that aims to defend bourgeois democracy can make you a target for persecution by those who are pushing things toward a theocracy. This is an indication of how far to the right the terms of things have been set, and how much work is needed to really radically and urgently shift the terms of debate.

Statement by L.A. Teachers Union Official in Support of Student Protesters

Revolution #025, December 4, 2005, posted at revcom.us

The following is from a statement made by Andy Griggs, a teacher and member of the executive board of the United Teachers of Los Angeles at a Nov. 15 press conference in front of the LA Unified School District. Griggs had also issued a "message to educators" before Nov. 2 in support of the right of students, teachers, and others in the school community to take part in The World Can't Wait protests on that day.

First of all I want to say how proud I am of the students. Sara [Escudero, Reseda High School student and World Can't Wait organizer], you are doing great work, keep it up. All the others who made the choice to take the risk and stand up in the face of what’s going on in this country--we have to encourage the students. We teach them everyday. We teach them to think critically. That’s the goal and the idea behind the LAUSD and hopefully every other teaching institution. If we are then going to turn around and punish them for that, then I think that’s a shame...

We also think that the students have a right to express themselves--and without that, what would happen? Look at the Chicano Moratorium. Without that we wouldn’t be where we are today. I want to encourage the students to continue with their work and take the next big step...when there is going to be a "Students and Educators to Stop the War" conference at Manual Arts High School. Then we need to take the next big step which is to drive out Bush.

Interview with Van Nuys High School Students

"We Can Bring Bush Down from Power"

Revolution #025, December 4, 2005, posted at revcom.us

About 100 students at Van Nuys High School were among the thousands of high school students in the Los Angeles area who walked out on November 2 as part of the movement to drive Bush out. Van Nuys High is a very multinational school located in the San Fernando Valley.

Like at many other schools, the Van Nuys High students had to struggle through many obstacles to carry out their political action--including attempts by school officials and police to intimidate and physically stop the youth from walking out. More than 30 students at Van Nuys have been suspended for taking part in Nov. 2, and at least one student is being forcibly transferred. Revolution interviewed three Van Nuys High students who are fighting against this repression and organizing for the next big steps in the World Can't Wait movement.

****

Revolution: Tell us about what happened at Van Nuys on November 2.

Student A: On November 2 Van Nuys High School was put under lockdown... They locked all the doors and locked all the gates, and whoever was wandering around, they just gathered them and suspended them, arrested them, or gave them tickets. We told people to start jumping fences cause we needed to get out of there and we needed support. So people started jumping fences. And the deans and teachers started wrestling down the kids and pulling them down from the fences. The cops came also--the SWAT team came!

Student B: Yeah, they surrounded us and tried to close us in so that they could get us. So people were trying to jump the fence. There were girls that were trying to jump and they were pulling them down. One girl was trying to jump and she needed help, and I was helping her--then the dean pulled me down and I messed up my leg...

A: When they brought me into the office for a suspension, [it was] for passing out literature that advocated students to leave the premises and disrupt school activities. Students can pass out all kinds of flyers that say "Vote for me for Prom Queen." And in class they can tell us one side of the story. But when the other half tries to get out, they try to keep us silent. I asked them, "What about freedom of speech? What about equal rights?" And they just told me that we have no rights in school...

Revolution: The school and police came down on you hard. Why were you all so determined?

A: What motivated me was that there are all these people who are taking all this shit that they shouldn’t be taking. Like the government is supposed to give us rights and give people an equal opportunity to live... This regime is telling us what to do and there are lies. These lies need to stop... If things were different people would work, but there would be progress. There’s no progress. What I see is the poor getting poorer and the rich getting richer. Things shouldn't be that way. Everyone should have equal rights and I see the opposite happening right now.

There are people who say to just let [Bush] sit through his term--but I’m thinking that that’s too long. What are people waiting for? For something really wrong to happen that’s going to slap them in the face and then say "Oh, why didn’t I do something before?" No, I’m not waiting for that. I’m not waiting to say why didn’t I do something before, I’m doing it now.

Student C: Yeah, this is about our future.

A: We’re thinking about the next big step... At our school things were chaos in the beginning and there wasn’t enough organization, but now we’ve getting more organized and getting more support through talking to people and explaining the cause. Now we’re getting deeper into why we need to do this. I say need because it’s not just that we want to do this--we actually need to do this. We’re getting together different youth organizers from different schools because we need to figure out the next big step... We also need to get people together to talk because there are some kids who were uninspired by what happened [the repression] and are wondering if they did this all for nothing. But we want people to know that they didn’t do this for nothing. There will be consequences for the Bush regime if we do this.

B: I’ll be there no matter what, to be with the people and make a difference. That’s what I’m here for.

C: We have a voice. We can bring the guy down from power... If we did that it would create a very different mentality for everybody. It would create a mind-blowing mentality. People would think very differently about this world. It would change a lot.

A: People need to get involved. If it’s not us right now, then we’re next. We’re going to be ruled by the bible.

Cindy Sheehan: “We will not give up?

Anti-War Protesters Arrested Outside Bush's Texas Ranch

Revolution #025, December 4, 2005, posted at revcom.us

When Cindy Sheehan spoke at the Nov. 2 World Can't Wait rally in San Francisco, she said, "Resist, stand up, speak out. We're going to Camp Casey on Thanksgiving. Join us." During the week of Thanksgiving, as Bush vacationed at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, anti-war protesters gathered outside the ranch at the encampment named after Cindy's son, a U.S. soldier who died in Bush's unjust war in Iraq. On Wednesday, November 23, 12 protesters were arrested on the road to the ranch, charged with violating a new ordinance that the county had enacted specifically to target the encampment that began this summer and that has drawn international attention and galvanized anti-war sentiments. Among those arrested was Daniel Ellsberg, the man who broke the Pentagon Papers which exposed the U.S. crimes in the Vietnam War; Ann Wright, a former U.S. diplomat who quit in protest of the Iraq war; and DeDe Miller, Cindy Sheehan's sister. Before his arrest Ellsberg said, "Those of us who finally saw through the Vietnam war saw through this war, and all the actions that were necessary to end the Vietnam war will be necessary here."

Cindy Sheehan arrived at the encampment the next day, risking further arrest--she was last arrested at the White House gates in October during protests on the occasion of the death of a 2,000th U.S. soldier in Iraq. On Thursday the group prepared a traditional Iraqi meal of lentils, salad, and fish, in solidarity with Iraqis killed in the the U.S. war. On Friday Sheehan wrote, "We are again going to be sad to leave on Sunday, but if George is still defiling the White House and if the war is still raging, we will be back for Easter... We will keep pressing; we will not give up; we will stay the course; we will prevail."

Interview with Maoist Student in Nepal: "Many have died in detention"

Revolution #025, December 4, 2005, posted at revcom.us

The US supports the Gyanendra Monarchy in its brutal counter-insurgency against the People's War in Nepal and has provided the Royal Nepalese Army with money, training and weapons.

Krishna Khatri Chhetri, also known as Krishna K.C., is the former vice-president of the Maoist student organzation, the All Nepal National Independent Student Union (Revolutionary). He was arrested without a warrant in Kathmandu, on September 13, 2003 by army personnel in civilian clothes. In early 2004, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) reported that K.C. was being held in the Bairabnath army barracks and was in poor health. But the army repeatedly obstructed attempts to locate Krishna K.C. and denied he was in army detention. On October 19, 2005, Krishna K.C. was released on the orders of the Supreme Court, on the basis that his detention was illegal. But police re-arrested him as he left the court with lawyers, journalists and other human rights defenders present.

The following interview with Krishna KC interview was published by the Nepali-language weekly Prakash on September 26. The English translation was done by Nepali Times.

*****

Maoist student leader Krishna KC has been detained for 25 months in the army barracks. Despite being released by the Supreme Court, police rearrested him and the District Appellate Court of Patan instructed that he be kept in police custody for 20 days. KC was interviewed in detention and had a speech impediment, which he said was caused by torture in detention.

What did they do after they arrested you?

I was blindfolded and kept in a dark room. Then they started asking about the whereabouts of Baburam and Prachanda [top leaders of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist)]. They interrogated me for two hours and tortured me brutally. When I fainted they beat me mercilessly. There were blood clots all over my body. There were hundreds of detainees. In Bhairabnath, I met 225 prisoners on my way to the toilet. I could hear screams of tortured prisoners in every barrack.

How were you tortured?

Its not possible to talk about all the mental and physical torture. Many have died as a result. I was electrocuted and hit on the face until I bled. The worst torture was being blindfolded for two years. For twenty-two months they tied my hands behind my back and kept me blindfolded. I was kept at Bhairabnath, Yudha Bhairab and Ranger Battalion. These are the main barracks where people are tortured and killed.

What role did human rights activists play when you were in the barracks?

Officials from the NHRC, UN High Commission and ICRC visited me. Whenever news about a detainee is published in the press, that person is moved to another detention place where he is tortured severely. When I was taken from Bhairabnath to Yudha Bhairab I was taken to the jungle, put in a sack and beaten. A prisoner named Khadka Buda died asking for water. He was not a Maoist. Padam Nakarmi died the same way. I spent days eating rice grains from the floor.

Did they torture you after news about you became public?

They kicked me while reading the news from Amnesty International and Kantipur. When the papers wrote about Matrika Yadab and Suresh Ale Magar they were also tortured. Matrika Yadab is still very ill. Both are in the Ranger Battalion in Chhauni.

How would you describe the attitude of the security forces?

They have said openly they will not spare anyone. A general by the name of Biplab Gurung told me that I was lucky. When I was arrested I was the Kathmandu Valley bureau chief. When I was taken in, there were hundreds of detainees in the hall but very few were real Maoists. They end up torturing and killing hundreds of innocent civilians.

Why Hunger Haunts Malawi

Revolution #025, December 4, 2005, posted at revcom.us

14 November 20. A World to Win News Service. Almost five million people in Malawi are on the verge of starvation. This country of 12 million is ground zero of a catastrophic hunger crisis in eastern and southern Africa, just as Niger was four months ago. The reason why people here are hungry is because theres too much maize (corn) in the world.

Most of the people of Malawi are farmers, but the government, acting under orders from international capitalist organisations like the IMF, decided that rather than putting resources into developing subsistence agriculture it would be more "efficient" to buy maize on the world market, mainly neighbouring Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Commercial farmers abroad grew maize more cheaply than in Malawi. But cheap imported corn made the government uninterested in encouraging and supporting Malawis small farmers, who lack basic tools and irrigation.

For various reasons, the maize crop failed in the countries bordering Malawi this year, and they turned to South Africa for grain imports. There was no shortage South Africa has a surplus of five million tonnes of corn from this years harvest. But the price doubled, not only because of increased demand in Africa, but even more because for the first time Japanese corporations are importing South African grain. Due to the damage done to American ports by Hurricane Katrina, these companies are not able to get grain shipped from their usual suppliers in the US.

The result is not that there isnt enough corn, but that people in Malawi cant afford to buy what there is.

The United States has even more surplus corn American farmers grew almost 11 billion bushels this year. Rural storage facilities in the American Mid West are so full they have no silos to put it all in, and instead heap it up in piles 18 metres tall the size of a soccer pitch. Because of US policies favouring large agricultural corporations, this huge production doesnt mean the grain becomes cheaper. So Malawians cant afford to buy it. However, US and other "foreign aid" agencies will probably buy some of it, at market prices, thus doing their bit to feed American agribusiness and big banks, and give it to people in Malawi. This may keep many people alive who would otherwise die. But it is another nail in the coffin of Malawis agriculture and thus of its people. They will be further enslaved to the imperialist world market, a market whose workings make the monopoly capitalists in the richest countries richer and drive the people down.

In todays capitalist world, the highly developed capacity to produce global wealth is turned against the people and their interests. Malawis countryside may seem a long way from New York, London and Tokyo, but this is where what is going to happen to its people gets decided. As long as this imperialist system holds Malawi in its grips, the same thing or worse will happen next year in Malawi and other countries.

(For more on capitalism and the hunger crisis, see the articles on Niger in the 25 September issue of Revolution, "Hunger Crisis in Niger: Starvation by the Market", and "Colonialism, Neo-Colonialism, and African Hunger", at www.revcom.us)

From A World To Win News Service

Hell for Women in U.S.-Occupied Afghanistan

Revolution #025, December 4, 2005, posted at revcom.us

From A World to Win News Service article, "Afghanistan: 4 Years After the U.S.-Led Invasion," dated Oct. 10, 2005.

The situation for women has remained unchanged in many aspects or has even become worse under the US occupation of Afghanistan. A few months ago a woman accused of adultery was stoned to death by a local court in Badakhshan, while the man was sentenced to a beating. Women are still persecuted and imprisoned for adultery on the say-so of their husband or other men. There are more and more cases of young women burning themselves alive. In the fourth year of the occupation there has been a fifty percent increase compared to the previous year. Women are at much greater risk of rape and kidnap now than before the invasion. Wearing a burqa is no longer legally compulsory, and women might not get beaten by the Taleban morality police anymore, but instead they might get raped or kidnapped or both. Forced marriage is as standard as ever. Girl children are sold for a couple of hundred of dollars. Since the invasion, prostitution has increased tremendously. Violence against women by family members is still as widespread as before, if not worse. The situation of women in Afghanistan cannot be judged by the few women in certain limited areas of the capital who might now wear a scarf and drive a car. It should be judged by the hell that more that 90 percent of the women are going through.

The imperialists and their flunkies are incapable of liberating women or even radically improving their situation, because they are not going to change the fundamental semi-feudal economic and social relations on which the severe oppression of women in Afghanistan is based. In fact, they have been helping to strengthen these relations for 25 years by allying themselves with the most reactionary economic, social, political and ideological representatives of these relations.

The constitution endorsed by the second Loya Jirga in December 2003 gave equal importance to Sharia law (Islamic law) in conducting the life of the people and established the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Not only will these laws not end the oppression of women, but they will also strengthen the semi-feudal relations that are the basis for it. Bush and Blair can brag that their guns brought elections to Afghanistan, but the electoral democracy imposed by the imperialists is a form of rule by the traditional backward classes propped up by the world’s biggest reactionaries. It is a thin cover for the general oppression of the people in which the domination of women is a keystone.

(The entire article is available online in two parts Part 1, Part 2 at revcom.us)