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Opening Speech at World Can't Wait National Conference
Revolution #026, December 12, 2005, posted at revcom.us
The national organizers conference of The World Can't Wait--Drive Out the Bush Regime movement took place in New York City on Nov. 19-20. Debra Sweet, national coordinator of World Can't Wait, gave an important opening speech at the conference. In the first half of the speech, which appeared in the previous issue of Revolution, Sweet discussed the foundation of this movement, the Call to drive out the Bush regime (see page 12). And she said of the nationwide protests on Nov. 2: "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 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."
The following is the second part of Debra Sweet's speech. The text of the entire speech is available online at worldcantwait.org.
Now I want to speak directly to a huge question we are asked often. Why would Bush step down? How could the Bush Regime be driven out? There are actually quite a few different possibilities. If we build the movement powerfully and quickly enough, things can start opening up and coming out. The first bit of criminality has been attached to the Bush Regime with the Libby indictment. This could go much deeper. The Downing Street Memo has not been answered; the WMDs never found. The lies the Bush Regime is based on way surpass anything Richard Nixon was forced to resign over. The stolen elections--including the voting machine scandal which has remained suppressed--could open up. Thieves fall out when the going gets tough, and ugly splits in the ranks could develop, even between some very bad people.
Now there is absolutely no juice behind impeachment right now--that would take more than the Democrats in Congress, even if they did want to push that. But that could change with a big movement in the streets. I can never resist the example of Richard Nixon, who won by the biggest landslide ever in the 1972 election; and was gone in disgrace less than two years later. But whether it's by impeachment or resignation--it can only happen with a huge social movement, determined to settle for nothing less than getting this regime OUT OF THERE.
And we are not talking about a President Cheney or Rice, either. We are talking about a REGIME, not just one individual. And we are saying "Take your whole program with you." We are building a movement to drive out this regime, and as we do that we are galvanizing people against the whole logic and direction this crew is taking society.
But we got a problem.
We're up against a way things work politically in this society that people have come to accept. We're up against a framework of "how things work" which is killing us. It's called accommodation. Some people who should know better, like the President of the National Organization for Women, are declaring that "the tide has turned" because a Democrat won election in Virginia over a Republican Bush campaigned for. This guy Kaine is anti-abortion and pro-death penalty and ran on the basis that he's more openly religious than the other guy! This wasn't a victory against the moves to turn this country into a theocracy. This was not a blow against the trend to force intolerant and absolutist religious dogma into every realm of public and private life -- including into the law. No, this was a maneuver -- yet again -- on the part of the Democrats to see if they could become more like the Republicans we all hate and should hate so much. And, they are saying openly, this is a model for them, something to emulate.
I want to quote from an essay that is on our website.
"Of course, there are still people who hate everything the Bush regime represents, and its whole agenda, but who are holding out the hope that the difficulties it is facing will make things more favorable for electing a Democratic Congress in 2006 (and a Democratic president in 2008) and who therefore think that, rather than mobilizing to drive out the Bush regime, we should pin our hopes on, and wait for, those elections. But the questions must be honestly, and urgently, posed:
"Can we afford to wait that long before doing something decisive to defeat this regime and its whole agenda? And by voting for Democrats would people really be doing anything to change the whole course on which this regime has set the country, and indeed the world? The answers are NO and NO.
"If, instead of bringing forth, from here forward, the kind of massive resistance, of millions, that is both urgently needed and is possible, we focus our attention on elections and on electing Democrats, this will only mean that things will be in an even far worse place by a year from now, in terms of what is happening in the world and what it is possible to do to oppose it. And, anyway, what exactly is it we would be "waiting for" in terms of these elections? Can anyone honestly say that in 2006 (or 2008) it will be possible to vote for a Democratic Party that would:
- "Bring an end to U.S. occupation in Iraq and other wars to enforce and extend American imperial domination in the world?
- "Put a stop to the torture being carried out by the U.S. government and others cooperating with it?
- "End the imprisonment of people without rights or legal representation and the heightened repression embodied in the Patriot Act?
- "Actively and uncompromisingly oppose Christian fundamentalist attacks on evolution and on science and the scientific method in general, and on the separation of church and state?
- "Vigorously defend the right to abortion, and to birth control?
- "Consistently and systematically defend the rights of gay people?
- "Seriously address and do something to actually end the continuing discrimination and institutionalized racism, oppression and poverty that were once again and dramatically brought tow light through hurricane Katrina and in the way the government has dealt with that natural disaster and its aftermath?
"The answer to these questions, as well as the actions of Bush himself, in the face of growing difficulties for his regime and its agenda, show once again why the Call, 'The World Can't Wait! Drive Out The Bush Regime!' is speaking to a profound truth and a profound need when it says:
"There is not going to be some magical 'pendulum swing.' People who steal elections and believe they're on a 'mission from God' will not go without a fight."
Quite frankly, it seems to me that the "fix is already in" on the 2006 elections. The Diebold machines are in place, the crooked redistricting has all been done, and the money and high-level support that does go to Democrats are for the ones running on anti- abortion or other "Republican lite" platforms.
One thing we can say with certainty is that the Democratic Party will not do anything in the direction of what the vast majority of its base truly wants and believes in--like the overwhelming public opinion to end the war now, or the over 400 cities that opposed the Patriot Act--until their feet are held to the fire--until they fear that people are getting beyond their control. The blunt truth is that as long as they think people are willing to passively go along with the whole process and are dependent on them, they are never going to bend to the things people really care about.
Even for those of us who strongly believe there is still hope and something to believe in in the electoral process -- or room to be created for those in congress trying to do something -- we are here together because there is recognition that this will not happen short of a massive upsurge from below. When that does happen it changes everything and creates a political situation that everyone has to respond to.
We have to recognize that the only thing that can save us is our own independent political activity.
Now, the political cohesion of our Movement is not voting vs not voting; the Call doesn't tell people not to vote. And it would be very wrong to make that the dividing line. Anybody who says that this movement is against voting perhaps has not read the Call. The point is that we cannot rely on the Democratic Party -- that as our Call says, "This whole idea of putting our hopes and energies into leadership who tell us to seek common ground with fascists and religious fanatics is proving every day to be a disaster, and actually serves to demobilize people."
Let's be real clear. This regime may be wounded, but is as dangerous, and determined, as a wounded beast. And at this State of the Union Bush will attempt a big comeback for his regime and his program. It must be massively answered. And it will not be answered by what is being brought forward following after the leadership of the Democratic Party. In fact, the time of the State of the Union is going to mark the beginning of a whole campaign to draw people's hopes and energies into relying on "leaders" who tell us to seek common ground with fascists and religious fanatics.
Our mass actions around the State of the Union must provide people the way to get on a different road -- the road of taking independent mass political action, driving out this regime. Our plan for the State of the Union must meet that challenge -- nothing less--or we will fail in our responsibility to powerfully provide people with that path, at this crucial time. The future we get really is up to us.
So let's talk about what we ARE going to do. Let's talk about, and let me share, an audacious vision that our steering committee has come up with, beyond what we sent out earlier in the week. Let's talk about a vision commensurate with what we need to really make a leap toward driving out this regime. Let's talk about taking a step that's going to create a whole new dynamic in this society.
Let's talk about the State of the Union speech, when Bush will strut out there, putting on his best face, and put forward his program of more war, more repression, and more horror, with all the major networks covering him and all eyes on him. Let's talk about how just as he starts to run his lies to people all over the country and all over the world, from every corner of the country he is politically drowned out by mass action. Let's talk about how THIS becomes what everyone has to relate to, and how the biggest question in society becomes, to quote the Clash: SHOULD HE STAY OR SHOULD HE GO?
And let's talk about how we answer that question loud and clear to millions and millions of people with further powerful action. That's what we have been wrestling with, and I'm going to present you a new and even more powerful vision, from the Steering Committee, of how to do that in a minute.
But let's be clear first: 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?
We said in our Call that, in the face of what this Regime is doing, silence and paralysis are NOT acceptable! If we are going to politically drown out the State of the Union and get things into a different dynamic, we have to shake people up AND we have to make a compelling case that they join us! There are many people who would respond to our message, but we have not yet even reached them. That's for starters--we REALLY have to get this Call out there much more broadly.
At the same time, we very much need to learn better the things that prevent some people who have heard our message and speak to their questions more powerfully. But we can do that. The very things that compelled thousands to step up and step out in the face of both repression and despair are still here, and getting worse by the day. The very things that made each and every person in this room turn their lives around are still there, and getting worse by the day. And the vision that inspired all of those people that is embodied in our Call is still here, and the potential to make that seemingly impossible dream a reality not only manifested on November 2, but can and must manifest all the more powerfully as we go into the State of the Union. We can break the constraints--political and practical--that held people back. And we will.
This weekend we have to decide this will happen and build our own framework to make it happen. We are responsible to all the people who are not here, who worked behind the scenes to make those events happen, or who couldn't afford to come here today. We're responsible to our growing movement.
Therefore, the Steering Committee proposes a more ambitious and audacious plan for the State of the Union, in two phases:
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 Out 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 people's 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!
Revolution #026, December 12, 2005, posted at revcom.us
The past six weeks have witnessed something new and quite inspiring: the emergence of a student movement against the Bush regime that has shown determination to resist and to reach out in the face of serious repression and is now focused on actions at Bush's State of the Union speech. Coverage of these struggles in this issue of Revolution details both the breadth of the repression visited against this movement and the initial response. The actions in response to Hampton University’s suppression of the November 2 protest on its campus and the attempt to then expel seven student participants is the most notable case in point--both for the hard edge of repression but, even more so, for the ways that students are fighting this. Every student movement that has changed history has faced repression and, at the decisive moment, stood firm and grown through resisting it. This one must do the same.
It wasn’t--and it isn’t--confined to Hampton. The repression has gone beyond what we can cover in this issue. The challenge is clear. We cannot accept the authorities' attempts to suppress and ban students' protest and their demands that Bush must go and take his agenda with him! High school youth and students have the right to speak the truth and fight for their future and the future of humanity. The students who have stood firm against the threats and repression of the school officials and the police are an example for others. And they must be defended. Are we going to wait until we get to the situation depicted in the movie White Rose --where students under Hitler got executed for passing out protest leaflets?
The high schools and campuses are an important battleground in building for mass actions to DROWN OUT BUSH'S State of the Union Message. And the struggle to defend the students who stepped out on Nov. 2 is an important part of getting on the road of taking independent historical action, making further leaps in building a whole movement to Drive Out the Bush Regime and creating a whole new dynamic in society where the people against this regime, by the power of their numbers and determination, compel every other force in soceity to respond to them.
Revolution will continue to spotlight and focus on it. Send us reports on the battle, and watch these pages for news on this fight.
Revolution #026, December 12, 2005, posted at revcom.us
This is a statement issued by The World Can't Wait and initially signed by Sunsara Taylor, Revolution newspaper; Allen Lang, National Student Organizer, World Can't Wait; and Howard Zinn, historian and author.
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.
Students at Hampton University took part in the November 2nd launch of a movement to drive out the Bush regime. In the course of organizing, they were followed by campus police, targeted by video surveillance, and forced to turn over their ID's for the simple act of distributing literature. That these students were targeted for the content of their activities is clearly demonstrated by the fact that other students routinely post unauthorized flyers (often with scantily clad women advertising parties) without any harassment.
On Friday, November 18th, weeks after November 2nd, 3 student organizers were issued summons for a hearing over possible expulsion the following Monday morning, giving them no time during the work week to contact lawyers, parents, or campus administrators. After hundreds of phone-calls from around the country to the Dean's Office, their hearing was postponed. Days later, 4 more students were issued summons and campus police shut down an interview being filmed by the local media, attempting to prevent their story from getting out.
The attacks on the student organizers at Hampton University, a historically black college with a mostly Republican administration, is an ugly harbinger of the "dissent-free" future the Bush regime is trying to lock into place.
These attacks are part of a pattern of repression against high school and college students nation-wide on November 2nd that disproportionately targeted black, Latino and other oppressed students.
A standard cannot be set where the President of the United States can stay on vacation as a major city's poor and Black people are left for five days without food or water, where influential friends of this President are allowed to float out genocidal notions of aborting all Black babies to bring crime rates down, and where the President's policies of "abstinence-only" in the face of an international AIDS pandemic threaten millions of lives, but where students who dare to speak the truth about this and act to end this are silenced and expelled from school.
As it says in the Call for The World Can't Wait--Drive Out the Bush Regime, "This will not be easy. If we speak the truth, they will try to silence us. If we act, they will to try to stop us. But we speak for the majority, here and around the world, and as we get this going we are going to reach out to the people who have been so badly fooled by Bush and we are NOT going to stop."
We, the undersigned, demand that the Hampton University administration to drop all charges against, cease their political harassment of, and to apologize to these students. These students must not be expelled! We also call on students at campuses nation-wide to send statements of support, and to join, strengthen and support the movement to Drive Out the Bush Regime because the World Can't Wait!
This statement has been signed by hundreds of academics and others. (An updated list of signatories is online at worldcantwait.org.) Among the signatories are:
Jill Cutler, assistant dean, Yale College*
Thulani Davis, writer
Michael Eric Dyson, author, Is Bill Cosby Right?
Barbara Ehrenreich, author, Nickled and Dimed
John Gerassi, author and professor of political science, CUNY*
Hettie Jones, writer
Emily Kawano, executive director, Center for Popular Economics*
Robin D. G. Kelley, William B. Ransford Professor of Cultural and Historical Studies, Columbia University*
Robert Meerpol, executive director, Rosenberg Fund for Children*
National Conference of Black Political Scientists
Jill Nelson, journalist/writer, Police Brutality: An Anthology
Efia Nwangaza, executive director, African American Institute for Policy Studies & Planning*
Jeremy Pikser, screenwriter, "Bullworth"
Katha Pollitt, writer, The Nation*
Ruth Rosen, Professor Emerita, U.C. Davis*
Ajamu Sankofa, executive director, Physicians for Social Responsibility, New York*
Donald H. Smith, Ph.D., past president, the National Alliance of Black School Educators*
Gloria Steinem, author, activist
Nancy Talanian, director, Bill of Rights Defense Committee*
Paul C. Taylor, Morehouse, Chair of Philosophy at Temple University*
Sunsara Taylor, writer for Revolution, Co-Initiator of The World Can’t Wait – Drive Out the Bush Regime!
Lawrence Weschler, director, New York Institute for the Humanities at NYU*
Howard Zinn, Historian and Author
*affiliations for identification purposes only
Revolution #026, December 12, 2005, posted at revcom.us
The following statement is from Nikky Finney, poet and professor of creative writing at the University of Kentucky.
Dear Hampton University,
I am a poet. I am a writer. I am a Black woman. I am a Full Professor in the English Department at the University of Kentucky in Lexington. I am a southern girl raised in a traditional Black middle class family. I travel and read my work to students all across the country. I believe fiercely in speaking out and activism. I believe in listening and kindness. My parents were Civil Rights Activists. I learned from them. I refuse to forget those lessons. I flew to Washington DC on September 24, 2005 to protest the war in Iran. I flew to Washington on October 30, 2005 to walk and weep from one end of the Capital Rotunda to the other in honor of the life of Rosa Parks. I was invited to Hampton University to speak and share my work on Thursday, November 18, 2005. I flew to Hampton with great hope and happiness and truth in my heart. Speaking to Black youth is what I live for. It is what feeds me.
I have spoken at universities around this country for the past 20 years. I am never more satisfied, never more full and alive with promise and hope than when I am speaking to young Black people. I had never spoken at Hampton University before, even though I have had family members matriculate and graduate from its hallowed halls for the last 100 hundred years. I had never been invited before. When I arrived my poster was on every wall and door on campus. I was so proud. That night the chapel was filled with hungry curious minds and hearts. I stood in the auditorium and spoke about Rosa Parks and the honor and responsibility of protesting what is not right in the world. I read poetry in an auditorium filled with students sitting on the edge of their seats. It was a powerful almost religious experience for me. Afterwards they asked me brilliant heartfelt questions. My eyes kept filling with water because I felt like I was home. I felt like I had worked so hard and honed my sacred craft to be in that moment with them. I was so glad to be there. We kept each others company for hours. Someone had to ring the bell to get the building emptied out for the night. I answered anything and everything they could ask. I refused to get tired. I took some of the student poetry home with me under my wings. I promised I would go through some of their work and give them some feedback, just like thirty years before, when someone had gone through my work for me to help me up the ladder. I believe life is a relay. I believe you have to give back.
Tonight when I got home from work I found an email about Hampton University that has broken my heart and made me furious. I read it once, I read it twice and read it a third time. I am swimming in disbelief. Hampton University cannot be doing this. Preparing to kick out students over a unauthorized flyer? And all of this was going on while I was standing there reading my truth in the middle of the unknowing air. No one said a word to me about this while I was there on campus for two days. No one. I even agreed to go to an English class that next (Friday) morning where I spoke to freshman about reading and learning and honoring themselves and their thoughts and feelings. I did a student radio interview where I talked about the power of breath and language. Still, no one said a word to me about what was going on. I spoke of standing up for self and speaking out for self and being responsible for reaching out for knowledge and not just waiting for it to be handed to you. What were those students thinking as I spoke? I had no idea that Hampton University had issued archaic Byzantine orders for these brave courageous students. If I had known all of this I would not have accepted the invitation to come. Or, would I have accepted the invitation and brought up my support of the students in the middle of my metaphor and simile hour? I would have said something in support of voice and truth and passion. I would have stood up for those brave Hampton Seven. I am standing up now for them.
I am stunned and spinning in the middle of my house as I write this. Where would we be without protest and Rosa Parks and WEB DuBois and all the writers and artists and college students who have been on the front lines since the beginning of time? What is Hampton University afraid of? Truth? Vision? Intellectual Independence? Imagination? Control of ideas?
Why not ban me from returning to the campus with my truth and aerospace verbs lifting into the air but don't you dare ban these students who were doing what they felt in their hearts and minds was right. Don't set up this Gestapo like standard right in the middle of the trailblazing art of Elizabeth Catlett and John Biggers and Hampton University history.
All students of all color and culture must have campuses where they can discuss and disseminate, disagree and study, information without the "Father's Seal of Approval." This is about Freedom. Freedom is something Black folks know something about. This is also about Fear. Fear is something Black people know something about. Shame on you Hampton University. You have given into your fear. University life and College life and the hemisphere of the Academy is about the life of the mind not the mind of the master. You are making a grave mistake by using the Master's tools to rebuild the Freedman's House. This is not the past. This is the future. Here, now.
(Please, somebody within the sound of my voice pass this missive along to somebody else. Please. Let those seven brave souls hear from me--and you.)
Revolution #026, December 12, 2005, posted at revcom.us
On Nov. 2 student activists at Hampton University--an historically Black school in Virginia-- were part of the nationwide launch of the World Can't Wait movement to drive out the Bush regime. The students were met with heavy repression: School authorities sent campus police against them--they were videotaped, their ID's were taken, and their literature was confiscated.
In the weeks before Nov. 2 when the Hampton students stepped out as organizers for World Can't Wait, the administration sent out squads to tear down flyers posted by students and had undercover cops follow the students and bring them in for questioning.
The Hampton University administration threatened the student organizers with serious punishment. In official letters, they accused the student activists of "cajoling" and "proselytizing" other students and distributing "unauthorized materials"--flyers they passed out on campus. The letters also warned that the students could face the "maximum penalty…expulsion."
Then, when the students continued to speak out, the campus authorities escalated their threats. During an interview with local media, the campus police came and stood between the camera and the students and shut down the interview, expelling the reporters from the campus. After support began flooding in on behalf of the students and an article appeared in the local newspaper exposing this attack, Bennie McMorris, Hampton's chief student affairs officer, claimed that "some outside groups have issued threats to university personnel regarding this matter" and said that "all threats have been turned over to the proper police authorities."
The day before the Hampton students were to attend the national organizers conference for World Can't Wait in New York, the school administration issued summonses for a hearing on the next working day over the possible expulsion--leaving the students little time to contact lawyers and prepare. When the Dean's office was flooded with phone calls of protest, the school issued more summonses to students.
The Hampton administration is predominantly Republican, and its president, Dr. William R. Harvey, is a Bush appointee to the Federal National Mortgage Association.
Bennie McMorris put out a statement saying, "The issue is not about the ‘Bush Administration, genocide in the Sudan, AIDS awareness and homophobia.' The issue is compliance with university policies and procedures."
But, in a Dec. 2 radio interview on Democracy Now, Hampton student Bryan Ogilvie said:
"Well, actually, as you know, November 2 was the nationwide student walkout and protest of the Bush regime under the World Can't Wait organization. So a few of our students got in contact with some of the World Can't Wait people in New York, and we decided to bring that event out here on campus, because the student body here could really use some social awareness, we felt. Basically, what we wanted to do was structure this event where we can address a multitude of issues around this entire Bush regime awareness. We addressed issues such as the cost of the war in Iraq, AIDS, homophobia, the prison-industrial complex, and a multitude of other things." (democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=05/12/02/1451228)
On Dec. 2 the accused students were brought in one-by-one for a hearing conducted by school officials behind closed doors. Outside the hearing, 50 Hampton students defiantly demonstrated support for the targeted students. Other supporters prohibited from entering campus property--students from Howard University, Old Dominion University, and others from the surrounding area--protested at a busy intersection nearby.
Exactly one month after thousands of people in more than 70 cities nationwide held protests to launch a movement to Drive Out the Bush Regime, five Hampton students were penalized with 20 hours of community service for their participation in this effort.
It's unjust and outrageous that the Hampton students received any punishment for their political expression and activity. But this is an important and significant victory that the Hampton administration was forced into a major concession--that they had to back off their threats of explusion because of the firm stand of the students and the growing and widesapread support for them.
Broadly throughout academia and more widely in society, the Hampton students have been winning increasing support--including important and significant African-American voices. A statement of support for the Hampton students, issued on behalf of The World Can’t Wait--Drive Out the Bush Regime, has garnered more than a thousand signatures, including prominent academics and writers and many Hampton University alumni. (See the statement)
After receiving this statement, Judy Richardson, series associate producer for Eyes on the Prize and several recent documentaries on slavery, wrote to the Hampton administration,
"I have been reading about the possible expulsion of 7 Hampton University students on a number of listserves (including one for African American Studies and the Movement listserve serving former staffers of the Civil Rights Movement’s Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee/SNCC). As a 50-something African American woman, I am compelled to write this email in strong support of the students."
After the Dec. 2 hearing, John Robinson, one of the targeted Hampton students, said,
"I just want people to know that this is not solely about us being exonerated. Even if they let us off the hook, conditions on campus will be even worse if all our political activity is still ‘unauthorized'… There is a lot of connection here--it is more severe and ridiculous at our campus, but repression is going on across the U.S."
There are lessons to be learned and emulated from the Hampton struggle by all those who hate the shape this country and the world is being bludgeoned into. This is a time that is crackling with both dangers and possibilities. Stepping out with courage, telling the truth, and refusing to compromise or be intimidated for doing so can strike a deep chord among millions who are agonizing over the direction that this country and the planet are heading.
There is an important lesson to grasp deeply and build off of in the battle to defend the Hampton students. Back in the sixties, the Free Speech Movement and the whole student movement got launched into a whole new arena when the authorities cracked down on the movement, and then when far, far greater numbers of people were brought into the struggle as they checked out why the authorities were trying to shut down the student protesters (see excerpt from Bob Avakian's memoir on the Free Speech Movement).
It is worth noting that a great many who came to the support of the Hampton students not only protested against the threatened punishment, but said that these students should be congratulated.
While the threat of serious punishment against the Hampton students has been fought back, there is a larger struggle that rages on. The concluding sentence of the World Can't Wait statement defending the Hampton students must be taken to heart by many thousands: "We also call on students at campuses nationwide to send statements of support, and to join, strengthen and support the movement to Drive Out the Bush Regime because the World Can’t Wait!"
Speeches at National Organizers Conference:
Revolution #026, December 12, 2005, posted at revcom.us
At the Nov. 19-20 national organizers conference of The World Can't Wait in New York City, participants in a panel discussion spoke to these questions:
The following are excerpts from three of the speeches at the panel discussion. The text of the fourth speech, by Karen Bradley of Democracy Cell Project, was not available as we went to press. (Full texts are online at worldcantwait.org)
Jim Oberg, retired 65-year-old engineer, World Can't Wait, Portland, Oregon
I like the statement by Thomas Jefferson that we likely would need a revolution in America every generation or so to renew our experiment of a government constituted by the people and implemented by citizen representatives for our common benefit. And we can look back in our history and see some of those previous revolutions, when we abolished slavery and fought for civil rights and women’s rights. There comes a time where only people power can bring about the changes needed, or can even topple a despotic unaccountable regime, and it is clear to me that we are there now in America.I was living in Asia when people power toppled the Marcos regime, and I saw that possibility actually happen.It is possible!I know it is.
It will take a huge breakthrough in our imagination in America to make this happen here, as most of us are still in denial about how serious the threat is to our entire future. We must literally decolonize our revolutionary imagination, as I read in a recent essay on the challenge we face ahead in getting past our reluctance to face reality now. We who seek to extend this movement will have to use all our powers of persuasion to get our friends and neighbors to join us, to recognize the potential we represent with this movement for a chance at a survivable future. We will literally have to get millions onto the street soon to add to the growing pressure on this criminal regime from the many directions gathering strength, and we must do it before they take some extreme action that would lead to their suppression of all dissent in America.
As to what comes next, if our movement is recognized as having played an important part in their demise, then we also must be prepared to play an important part in determining the priorities of whatever succeeds this regime. Likely that would initially be some transitional succession, but whoever they are, they would then be clear that the priorities must radically change for how our government serves us. We must be ready to say clearly what we see the really important issues to be, and willing to assert our then powerful influence to assure this be heard.
Sunsara Taylor, Revolution newspaper
The WCW Call says "that there is not going to be some magical ‘pendulum swing.’ " Bob Avakian recently wrote: "Part of the dynamic at play . . . is the fact that the center and the ‘arc’ of the pendulum continues to be moved further and further to the right." Witness: Senator Chuck Schumer on why the Democrats are running a right to life candidate for Senator in Pennsylvania: "We can’t afford to play games anymore . . . the day is over when a candidate has to check 27 boxes before we support him." And, John Kerry said: "pro-life Democrats should be embraced." And, Hillary: "abortion represents a sad, even tragic choice for women."
And, let’s be honest, 400 cities passed resolutions against the Patriot Act. And, most Democrats just voted with the Republicans to extend it and to make it even worse that it was.
There is not going to be a savior from the Democratic Party.
Look, this regime must go; its program stopped. But, the underlying causes are deep and systemic. I hope that as we work and struggle together, and as we approach a situation where this hated regime is on the run, that people in this movement will not want any government that would do any of the things that are concentrated in the "your governments."
And more, that many will look deep into the heart of this system, come to understand it, and see that we need a revolution to end a setup where the wealth created by the people of the whole world is controlled by a handful of imperialists, where the fate of the people and planet is subordinated to the relentless drive for profit, and where the machinery of the state, its armies, courts and police are used to enforce that order.
What do I want to see come out of this whole process? I would like to see a situation emerge where a revolutionary people can develop, where millions of people see the possibility of a whole new way society could be organized, and are willing to fight for it, and where a situation develops where it is actually possible to launch a revolution that has a shot at succeeding. Will such a situation develop out of this mix? It is a possibility and this would be a future worth struggling for.
Pat, WCW student organizer in Connecticut
The people of America are not lost--but we must present them with the necessary information to make the correct choice. We have been brainwashed into thinking that life cannot get any better than this--that there is no better system of government, and that there is no better way of living. But there is still hope for the people; especially the young people of this nation, to rise above the cesspool of violence, ignorance, lies, and oppression we have been raised in.
People of all ages are looking for a vehicle to express their rage. People are looking for leadership, but it is not leadership we need. What we need is to direct people to the power instilled within their hearts and minds. That we need to create a society where all will partake in the decision making process. Where the voice of every person in this nation can be heard, and that never again will a single voice be drowned out by hatred, bigotry, or violence. We have entrusted our fate in the hands of leaders for far too long--it is time for everyone to become a leader, for every single person to take control over their own lives, and for the individual to become part of the collective. Let the Bush regime know that we will never kneel before their law. That we will never bow down. This is urgent--too many lives have been lost already, and thousands more hang in the balance. Our civil rights hang in the balance… our future hangs in the balance.
This system of American injustice must be stopped! George W. Bush--we are the people of the United States--and we are your worst enemy. We will take back what you stole!
Revolution #026, December 12, 2005, posted at revcom.us
Geovany Serrano is a tenth-grader at Belmont High, in LA, who's learning what American Democracy really means. After he passed out flyers and tried to organize at his school in support of the walk-out, school cops grabbed him, blasted him with pepper spray, and arrested him. He was hauled into the infamous Rampart Division police station, taken to Juvenile Hall, and fingerprinted. This tenth-grader is under house arrest, and is now forced to wear an ankle-bracelet, simply because he tried to organize his fellow students to oppose the Bush Regime.
At this time of the nation's life, what is the lesson that kids should be learning in schools today? If the kids in California are any answer, the lesson is obedience. In the midst of an unpopular war, several years after millions of people marched in anti-war protests in cities on every continent, a clever teacher could have grasped this as a valuable teaching moment, to teach young people what democracy really means. Instead, school administrators, many trying to block such walk-outs, have used cops, threats, suspensions and violence to keep kids penned in school and to shut their mouths and minds to the winds of change swirling in the nation's streets.
Guess what Geovany Serrano learned about constitutional rights of free speech, free association, and the right to protest and assemble?
Despite these events, Geovany has learned some important lessons, one which he could never have gotten inside a classroom. He writes, "Look at the war in Iraq. There are jails where there are people that the government just wants to disappear. They have them there, and they're torturing them or putting them on leashes. They're bombing the S-H out of people's houses. When I first got into this, it hit me so hard. It's hard to go back to living a regular day, knowing that there are people that are being killed and victimized by the system is so difficult. Is that the world I want? No, I don't want none of that."
At Grenada Hills High, a student was called into the Dean's office for wearing a World Can't Wait sticker on his T-shirt. When the Dean told him he had to remove his T-shirt because school wasn't the place for voicing political beliefs, the student replied, "If you want me to take off the sticker, then I have to take everything off, as well." He stripped to his underwear and told the dean, "You can take my clothes, and my sticker, but you can't take what I believe in my heart. The dean promptly sent him to the nurse's office, where she told the youth she agreed with what he was doing.
At Reseda High, also in LA, Sarah Escudero was suspended for two days for organizing a walk-out, and threatened with arrest for having stickers. She was also threatened with transfer until hundreds of outraged parents and teachers deluged the principle's office with calls of protest. Escudero would later write a letter to worldcantwait.org: "We owe it to the millions of people that are getting tortured, getting murdered, and suffering around the world to do this. Resist or Die. It has come down to that slogan. Right now, the future is in everybody's hands. It is up to us. The question is: What kind of world do you want to live in? Will you accept everything this regime stands for? If you don't, then you must join this movement."
How many teachers would give their right arm to have their students act in such committed and principled ways, to care more about what's happening in the world than what they'll wear to the prom. The great behavioral psychologist Carl Rogers once said, "The function of school is to provide learning to be free." These brave and compassionate kids, high-schoolers, many of whom will be called upon quite soon to join the imperial army, to fight for presidents, princes and oil barons, have a serious interest in the stakes at play in this war. Instead of obedience, they're learning lessons that will open and awaken their minds. Resistance. It is a lesson that millions of kids should learn, before it is too late.
From Death Row, this is Mumia Abu-Jamal, author of We Want Freedom: a Life in the Black Panther Party.
Copyright (c) Mumia Abu-Jamal/Prison Radio
Revolution #026, December 12, 2005, posted at revcom.us
The struggle to defend the Hampton Seven spread widely and quickly through the internet, generating support and debate. I want to call attention to, and comment, a particularly important exchange on the site Inside Higher Ed.
First, the exchange:
The White Rose Society
The Hampton University administration should read about the White Rose Society. This small group of students distributed fliers calling for people of Germany to oppose their fascist leaders. They did this during the World War II. They knew the risks and were eventually caught and executed for excercising their God-given right to free speech.The Hampton administration seeks to expell students for similar activity. This is the academic version of execution. Pretty draconian.
Robert Anderson, at 10:28 am EST on December 1, 2005
The White Rose
While I applaud Mr. Anderson's knowledge of the White Rose and while I am sympathetic to the students at Hampton, the comparison to the White Rose is simply not accurate. Hans and Sophie Scholl, two of the founding members of the White Rose, did not live in a free society and did not have a right to free speech. (Whether free speech is God-given is another debate). Violating the laws of a government (or tyrrany) which carry a death sentence in a closed society is different from being expelled from school in a free society. These Hampton students have a recourse and the voices of thousands (mine included) to advocate for them.
Prof. Timothy Scholl, Program Director for General Education at Brooks Institute, at 11:50 am EST on December 2, 2005
This exchange concentrates a broader debate in society, especially among those who oppose the Bush regime. In brief, is it correct to compare the trends and dynamics of today to what went down in Germany between 1933 and 1945? What Professor Scholl misses in his reply is that no one is talking about the early years of Hitler's ascension to power. The White Rose students were executed, as Robert Anderson points out in his letter, during World War II, and pretty far into it at that.
There was a whole dynamic, however, that went down in German society in the years preceding the execution of the White Rose students. Step by step and leap by leap, rights were stripped and new norms were put into effect, in what proved to be an inexorable dynamic. Very few, if any, predicted in February 1933 that things would go as far as they did; and many kept denying the dynamic for a very long time after the danger was apparent. And then it became too late to do anything.
Had someone told you five years ago, Mr. Scholl, that students would be threatened with expulsion for daring to pass out "unauthorized" leaflets; or arrested for doing street theater in campus common area for depicting torture carried out by the U.S. government, as they were at Hunter University; or forced to wear an ankle bracelet connected to the LAPD for simply participating in a protest, as Geovany Serrano has been in Los Angeles; or any other of dozens of similar outrages detailed on the site of the organizers of the November 2 protests (worldcantwait.org)--would you have found it unreasonable to say that the U.S. was heading in a fascist direction? Would you have found it wrong to invoke the comparison to the White Rose in pointing to what was at stake, and to where things were heading, if people did not resist? Yet today, through steps, people have been inured to the extreme character of what Vice-President Cheney has labelled the "new normalcy", and some go to great pains to correct anyone who dares invoke the analogy which irresistibly suggests itself: Nazi Germany.
The danger is real. The need for resistance-- extraordinary resistance--urgent. As the Call for the November 2nd protest--that the Hampton students are facing disciplinary charges for distributing--says: "That which you will not resist and mobilize to stop, you will learn--or be forced--to accept."
Interviews with H.S. Students: L.A. and Oakland
Revolution #026, December 12, 2005, posted at revcom.us
On November 2nd, high school students all over the country busted out of school to declare The World Can't Wait...Drive Out the Bush Regime! Many students were met with heavy repression for speaking out or locked down in schools, in an attempt to prevent them from protesting.
A 16 year old student at Granada Hills High School -- a school with a largely middle class student population in a suburb of L.A. -- wore a World Can't Wait sticker on his T-shirt to let people know about the day. The administration and school security grabbed him and took him into the Dean's office and told him to take it off. He told Revolution:
This security guard told me to take off my sticker. I said no, this is what I'm for--I'm for the peace movement. A cop comes over and tells me to take is off and then he grabbed my arm and he took me to the dean. The dean told me to take off the sticker and I took it off and gave it to him and I asked him why he wasn't with the peace movement . . .
I got up and said, 'Well, you guys practically want to take my rights away..." So I took off my shirt and tossed it to him and I took off my shoes and I took off my shorts and belt. Then the dean was saying not to throw my clothes at him. But I told them that they were the ones taking my rights away.
The dean kept my shirt and said that there was something wrong with me. He said I was acting funny and that I was on drugs. He kept asking me what I was on. He sent me to the nurse because he said there was something wrong with me. I was so angry that I started tearing up.
The dean said, 'Now, what's really bothering you? I know it's not just this [the incident with the sticker] stuff.' I told him that it's this society. I'm just so sick of this society. I asked him if he couldn't see all that is wrong. He took me back into the office. I tried to explain to him that I'm with the peace movement--but that's not what he wanted to hear.
So, he sent me to the nurse. He talked to the nurse and told her that he thought I was on something and that I might hurt myself or others . . . When I was in there [the nurses office] I was thinking of what to say . . . I asked her if I was there because they thought I was psychotic or something . . . I told her that there was nothing wrong with me. So I started talking to her about my life. I told her about why I got into the peace movement and I told her about my baseball team and that I'm a poet and I play the guitar.
I told her that the reason why I got into the peace movement is because I was never fooled or brought into a religion or anything I've always had a mind of my own and never stereotyped. I've always questioned things. I told her about my first protest and she said she was also for the peace movement. She protested against Vietnam. She said that what's happening now is totally wrong . . . She told me that if I needed anything to give her a call . . .
On Nov. 2, Jesse, an Oakland High student, told Revolution:
The reason that we are here is that we're tired of the society being structured for us to go to jail or to war. Basically, that's what they're telling us. Our principal told us, "If there's a war go to war." He's telling us to go to war, not college, war. Hello? We're trying to succeed in life. We're trying to be something in life and Bush is passing all these laws, putting people on the Supreme Court to change the laws, making it more conservative so we don't succeed in life. We're tired of this. We're tired of the whole Bush regime.
What he did with Hurricane Katrina, that pissed us off. My grandmother was down there in water up to her neck. She's 57 years old. And there's alligators out there too, she could have gotten eaten. And the water was poisonous too. And he left those people out there for five days. People were dying. And they didn't send trucks. They sent body bags. That's messed up. They weren't even trying to rescue people. They passed up people. My grandmother was up on a roof, waving helicopters down and they passed her up. She's sitting up there waving signs and everything and they passed her up. My grandmother is in Texas now but what she had to endure. She's sick actually from that stuff...
Revolution:What did you have to go through to get here?
They locked us up! They greased the gates. They put barbed wire on the gates. They hired six more security guards. They had police cars outside saying that you were going to get arrested if you protest. They were chasing people. Locking us in is a fire hazard. Back when I was in the ninth grade and we were protesting the Iraq war they locked us in and we told them this was a fire hazard, and they got in trouble for locking us in. And they still locked the gates this time. Teachers threatened to flunk kids and they threatened us with suspensions. They were pushing and shoving us, telling us to go back to class. Only a few people made it and those people had to climb over a barbed wire fence to get out of school. This is wrong.
Revolution #026, December 12, 2005, posted at revcom.us
Public anger over the brutal and bloody U.S. occupation of Iraq continues to grow. Ruling class voices clamor for a plan that will deal with the current quagmire and potential disaster for the U.S. military.
Under fire and lashing back, Bush presented Part I of his "Plan for Victory" at yet another military base on November 30. Part I of Bush's speech addresses his critics with a plan to "Iraqi-ize" the war. This has two key elements:
In his "Victory" speech Part I, Bush admits that "by far the largest group" of those he has deemed "the enemy" are "ordinary Iraqis, mostly Sunni Arabs." Think about the implications of this. By far the largest group of people Bush calls "the enemy" are--according to Bush himself--"ordinary Iraqis."
"As we fight the terrorists" (note how "ordinary Iraqis" have become "the terrorists"), Bush says, "we're working to build capable and effective Iraqi security forces so they can take the lead in the fight--and eventually take responsibility for the safety and security of their citizens without major foreign assistance."
Bush's claims about the effectiveness of these puppet troops are, as his ruling class critics charge, highly exaggerated. But that's not the problem. What Bush is talking about here is U.S.-orchestrated ethnic cleansing, bringing down indiscriminate terror and murder on Sunnis and provoking the very sectarian violence that apologists of all stripes for U.S. occupation claim is a reason why the U.S. cannot leave Iraq.
An American Army officer who took part in the recent assault on Tal Afar--an operation that Bush upholds as a model in his speech--told the New Yorker magazine's Seymour Hersh that Shiite militias were "rounding up any Sunnis on the basis of whatever a Shiite said to them." The officer went on, "They were killing Sunnis on behalf of the Shiites."And Hersh reported this was all with the "active participation of a militia unit led by a retired American Special Forces soldier."
Writing in the New York Times, Dexter Filkins reported from Baghdad (11/29/05) that
"Hundreds of accounts of killings and abductions have emerged in recent weeks, most of them brought forward by Sunni civilians, who claim that their relatives have been taken away by Iraqi men in uniform without warrant or explanation." He adds, "Some Sunni males have been found dead in ditches and fields, with bullet holes in their temples, acid burns on their skin, and holes in their bodies apparently made by electric drills."
For all Bush goes on in his speech about turning Iraq's internal stability over to puppet troops (mainly Shiite militia), nobody really believes these forces will do much fighting without a secret weapon that is not mentioned in Bush's speech.
"Were not planning to diminish the war," a military expert who reflects the views of those around Vice-President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, told Hersh. "We just want to change the mix of the forces doing the fighting--Iraqi infantry with American support and greater use of airpower. "
And Hersh reports:
"The American air war inside Iraq today is perhaps the most significant--and underreported--aspect of the fight against the insurgency. The military authorities in Baghdad and Washington do not provide the press with a daily accounting of missions that Air Force, Navy, and Marine units fly or of the tonnage they drop, as was routinely done during the Vietnam War. One insight into the scope of the bombing in Iraq was supplied by the Marine Corps during the height of the siege of Fallujah in the fall of 2004. 'With a massive Marine air and ground offensive under way,' a Marine press release said, ...'the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing alone had dropped more than five hundred thousand tons of ordnance.'"
That's more than one ton of bombs dropped per person in Falljua. And U.S. bombing is intensifying.
"In recent months, the tempo of American bombing seems to have increased. Most of the targets appear to be in the hostile, predominantly Sunni provinces that surround Baghdad and along the Syrian border."
With appropriate gangster terminology, a U.S. military planner told Hersh, "We are just whacking targets--it's a reversion to the Stone Age."
Whether Bush actually thinks it or not, he has sent out the message repeatedly that he believes he is divinely ordained to carry out his agenda in Iraq (and a larger agenda as well). Lt. Gen. William "Jerry" Boykin tours the country ranting that, in a war against Muslim forces in Somalia "my God was bigger than his." And that in the "war on terror," "The enemy is a guy called Satan." After this, Bush promoted Boykin to deputy undersecretary of defense.
On the one hand, this puts out the message that public opinion or dissent in the halls of power be damned, Bush is determined to push through his agenda. Nonbelievers can go to hell. The other side of this is that Bush has got a lot of people who do believe he's infallible. And again, whether or not Bush actually believes this "ordained by God" stuff, the fact that he is putting this out tells you a lot about what he's planning to do, who he's appealing to, and on what basis. That this is the person who controls the largest, most deadly and horrible cache of weapons (including--as he would put it--"nucular" weapons) ever assembled, and is the President of the world's sole superpower, is a stark and revolting expression of what's wrong with the world.
As Bush unfolds more of his "strategy for victory," Revolution will continue to analyze and expose it. But Part I alone reveals that the U.S. is waging a genocidal war against the Iraqi people. It brings to mind the infamous statement by a U.S. general in the Vietnam war, that U.S. forces had to "destroy a village in order to save it." Such is the nature of the utterly unjust war the U.S. is waging against Iraq. And such is the essence of the U.S. "war on terror." In the face of all this, how is it conscionable for anyone to adapt themselves to the terms of a debate over "the best way to win" a war like this? The issue cannot be how to win a war like this, but how to end it! And to do this in the context of fully confronting and taking responsibility for the need to drive the Bush Regime from office, and to take its program with it. Because, truly, the world can't wait!
As we go to press, the life of Stanley “Tookie” Williams hangs by a thread. Williams is scheduled to be executed in California on December 13, and California Governor Arnold Schwartzenegger has announced he will rule on a clemency petition after meeting with Williams' lawyers, prosecutors, and others on December 8.
Last year, Schwartzenegger refused to grant clemency to California death row inmate Kevin Cooper. On the eve of his execution, Cooper wrote:
“While I am an innocent man about to be murdered by this state, I realize that innocence makes no difference to the people who control the criminal justice system, including this prison. This is the same system that has historically and systematically executed men, women, and children who look just like me, if only because they can.”
The U.S. just executed the 1,000th person since the Supreme Court re-legalized the death penalty in 1976. A majority of people on Death Row are people of color--including 77% of all federal death row prisoners. The death penalty in this society is a ruthless enforcement of oppression. The fight to save Stanley Williams is a critical flashpoint in the battle against this. The execution of Stanley “Tookie” Wiliams must be stopped!
By his own account, Williams co-founded the Crips street gang in Los Angeles. He was convicted of four murders and sentenced to death in 1981. Whatever Williams may or may not have done in the gang life, he has maintained his innocence in the case that sent him to Death Row--a case based on circumstantial evidence and testimony by witnesses who were facing felony charges including fraud, rape, murder, and mutilation. Even the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals admitted in a September 10, 2002 ruling that the witnesses in Williams' case had incentives to lie in order to obtain leniency from the state in either charging or sentencing.
There is an cruel, sick irony in the fact that Stanley Williams is facing execution. By the system's own standards he has been a model prisoner. He has spoken out against gang violence, and written Tookie Speaks Out Against Gang Violence--a series of eight books that are in schools, libraries, and juvenile correctional facilities throughout the nation and around the world. The television movie starring Jamie Foxx, Redemption, was based on his life. Williams has received numerous awards including five nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Williams played an important role in promoting the gang truce movement, which emerged especially out of the fires of the L.A. rebellion in 1992. When other gang leaders in Watts asked him to voice his support for the gang Peace Treaty in 1993, Williams sent a videotaped message upholding the treaty to a gang summit.
Bianca Jagger, Snoop Dogg, Jamie Foxx, Jesse Jackson, South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the President of the NAACP, Black politicians and other death penalty foes have all spoken out against executing Stanley Williams. Jamie Foxx and Snoop Dogg helped organize a four-city tour in California where they read from Williams’ memoir, Blue Rage, Black Redemption. Tens of thousands have signed petitions demanding that Governor Schwarzenegger stop the execution. Gang members have spoken out in defense of Williams; one leader of the Bloods (another major gang in L.A. and the “sworn enemy” of the Crips) announced that the Bloods would set aside their battles with the Crips in order to fight for Williams’ life.
Nevertheless, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear his final appeal. Two weeks later a Los Angeles Superior Court rushed to set Williams' execution date at one minute past midnight on December 13, pushing Williams’ case ahead of other cases that had final appeals rejected before him. An L.A. judge even refused to delay the murder by a week so Williams’ attorneys would have more time to prepare their clemency brief.
And a fascist frenzy is being whipped up demanding Williams' execution. In Southern California, reactionary AM radio talk show hosts “Ken and John” have turned the drive-time hour of their daily KFI broadcast into the “Stan Must Die/Kill Tookie Hour.” Just about every police organization in California has demanded he be killed. L.A. police chief William Bratton, Sheriff Lee Baca, and District Attorney Steve Cooley wrote a public letter to Schwarzenegger demanding that he uphold Williams’ execution because he hasn’t taken responsibility for his crimes. This from the head of a police department with a history of murder, drug dealing, frame-ups, and corruption.
It is very important that people have stepped out to fight the execution of Stanley Williams. At the same time, this battle raises bigger questions. The government and the talk-show lynch mob are demanding the death of this Black man at a time when a strong stench of genocide is in the air (see "The Logic of the Logic... On Christian Fascist leader Pat Robertson's Demand that Society Impose the Death Penalty in the Way Prescribed in the Bible," by Bob Avakian, on this page).
For those who refuse to live and die on their knees, there is a way out of this madness. Bob Avakian is a revolutionary leader who sees in those who this system has criminalized, vilified, locked up--and who the system is out to kill--the potential to be emancipators of all humanity. And he sees this even when they have been dragged down by the system into things that are not good. He sees that people can transform themselves as they transform the world. Building on the great revolutions of the past, Bob Avakian has a vision and plan for the basic people to be the core of a revolution, and a new revolutionary society that everyone would want to live in.
And Bob Avakian says that “Those who are most in the position of having nothing to lose--but their chains--are in the position to exert the most profound impact on society. This is not only a general law of history, it is a lesson that has been written in fire in recent times in the U.S. as well as throughout the world.” (from Bullets, From the Writings, Speeches and Interviews of Bob Avakian).
Right now, for the people with nothing to lose, do or die has to mean something real. Something revolutionary. And that means getting with Bob Avakian and the Revolutionary Communist Party.
Download audio MP3s of Bob Avakian's talks at bobavakian.net
The Logic of the Logic...
Robertson leaves the opening to include not only those convicted of things like first-degree murder, but many others as well, in a very broad and "elastic" category of people who should be executed because, in the judgment of reactionary theocrats like Robertson, they somehow "defiled the land" through "unseemly acts" that turned god against his favored nation or "destroyed the fabric of society." And it is necessary to place this in the context of American society today, in which, through conscious government policy as well as the "normal operation" of the laws of capitalist accumulation and competition, whole sections of people are being consigned to the ranks of "unemployables," people for whom the only viable alternative within this system may be participation in the underground economy. With this in mind, we cannot avoid recognizing that the logic of Robertson's call for applying "the biblical model" for crime and punishment involves an unmistakable suggestion of a "final solution" against the masses of people in the inner cities as well as preparation for the use of extreme repression, and even execution, to punish a broad array of activities which today are treated as minor offenses or as no crime at all.
Here, too, the question must be posed: however much things might be framed in terms of "crime" and "criminals," given the reality that it is increasingly Black people, along with Latinos, who make up the prison population in the U.S., and given the whole reality of white supremacy and all the atrocities that have accompanied it throughout the history of the U.S., is it possible to believe that policies of mass extermination--through state-sponsored execution and/or in other forms--would be limited to those sections of Black people, and other peoples of color, who have actually committed what today are regarded as serious crimes? It is relevant to reflect on the implications of the statement by a speaker at a "conservative conference" in 1997 who, as Andrew Sullivan reports, not only denounced abortion and birth control but also "bemoaned that nonprocreative trends among white Europeans was leading to `race death.' " This blatant white supremacy--and the view that white women are breeders for the "white race"--is consistent with the logic of race war openly preached by Christian paramilitary forces and Nazi skinheads. And (to borrow Richard Pryor's phrasing) "the logical conclusion of the logic" of race war is genocide. In thinking about all this, it is worth keeping in mind that the "legitimate"--and prominent--fascists in America today include not only theocrats like Pat Robertson but also old-line, unreconstructed and unrepentant southern white supremacists, such as Jesse Helms.
(From “The Truth About Right-Wing Conspiracy... And Why Clinton and the Democrats Are No Answer.” Read the whole article at revcom.us)
Revolution #026, December 12, 2005, posted at revcom.us
"But I do know that it's true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could, if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down."
William Bennett, September 28, 2005
Revolution #026, December 12, 2005, posted at revcom.us
When President Bush spoke at the headquarters of the 12th Air Force, U.S. Southern Command, near Tucson, Arizona, on November 28, he announced a new escalation in an operation of sophisticated, militarized U.S. forces being used against a poor, unarmed civilian population--a cruel, cowardly war that brings suffering, misery, and death to untold numbers of human beings.
But this was not the War in Iraq or Afghanistan he was talking about to an audience of military, Border Patrol, and Homeland Security officials. It was a new offensive against undocumented immigrants.
Bush's speech painted a chilling picture of the future he envisions for immigrants in the U.S.: a walled-off country where those without papers are hunted on back roads and city streets, thrown out of the country with little due process, or held in a growing network of concentration camps along the border.
He announced new measures along the border where highly mobile Border Patrol ( La Migra) agents with the latest high-tech equipment hunt down impoverished peasants trying to walk to a job in El Norte. Bush has increased funding to the Migra by 60%, increasing the number of agents by about a third. This force is now integrated into the Department of Homeland Security. A higher percentage of Migra agents are stationed on the border than before, and additional agents will be concentrated in the Tucson corridor where most border crossings now take place.
Bush is building more walls and physical barriers, including a 14-mile extension of the wall near San Diego. The existing walls will be reinforced with high-tech equipment, including drone airplanes with video cameras. All of these measures will make it more difficult to cross--which means even more desperate immigrants will be driven into ever-harsher desert environments where hundreds perish.
In addition Bush has made and proposed sweeping changes to laws and policies. 85% of the nearly one million immigrants deported every year are from Mexico. Most are sent over the border within 24 hours. But 160,000 of those from countries further away are released and given court dates because there are not enough jail cells to hold them. Most of them don't show up for their court dates. Bush now says that these immigrants will no longer be released. He also wants Congress to change a current law that says people without papers have to be released if their home countries do not take them back.
If all these people are not going to be released, what will happen to them? Concentration camps. Bush is expanding the detention centers along the border, to make them big enough to hold the hundreds of thousands of immigrants that will be detained for months, or indefinitely. At the same time, he wants to make it more difficult for immigrants to challenge immigration decisions in U.S. courts.
For many years, the border has been fortified and refortified with walls, lights, cameras and an army of Migra agents. A second "border" of checkpoints has been set up about a hundred miles into U.S. territory. Even past that line immigrants are not safe. There are immigration agents in police stations and courthouses. In Los Angeles, the LAPD regularly turns over people they've arrested to immigration if they can't charge them with anything. Over the last decade, raids on workplaces have dropped dramatically. But Bush wants to change that. He's increased the budget for such "internal enforcement" by almost 50%.
Earlier this year, the government carried out "Operation Rollback," which Bush called "the largest work site enforcement case in American history." Agents are also targeting immigrant youth from Central America, deporting hundreds to El Salvador alone. Bush held these up as examples of what is to come.
In one part of his speech, he talked about proposals for a "temporary worker" program. But this is actually another element of "internal enforcement." Under the Bush plan, undocumented workers could turn themselves in to the government. As long as they were working in "jobs that Americans will not do"--the poorest paid jobs in the country--they would receive a special national ID card.
Bush said part of the purpose of the program was to "bring workers from out of the shadows"-- in other words, so the government will know where to find them. After six years, they would be required to leave the U.S. This is not a path to a green card or citizenship. An immigration activist called it "Work hard, pay taxes, and then get lost! You are welcome on the lowest rung of our economy but not in our society."
Nowhere in his speech is a single word about the economic destruction that the U.S. has perpetrated on Mexico, especially in the last 10 years under NAFTA. Because of the unrestricted dumping of subsidized U.S. agricultural product in Mexico, 1.7 million Mexican farmers have lost their jobs, while about ten times that many, 15 million, have seen a significant drop in income. Manufacturing for the domestic market has suffered. And the slight job growth in the for-export factories has not come close to making up for the catastrophe in the countryside.
Following Bush’s speech, some right-wing commentators are demanding even more aggressive actions, including a 2000-mile wall the length of the U.S./Mexico border. And the extreme changes for "internal enforcement" envisioned by Bush could have far-reaching and explosive results.
Undocumented workers are part of the fabric of U.S. society--members of immigrant communities that account for one out of seven workers. Whole industries, including construction, agriculture, and food service, are dependent on not just immigrants, but particularly undocumented immigrants. A recent article in the L.A. Times pointed out that undocumented immigrants can get car loans and insurance but no driver licenses. The vast majority are members of families that include U.S. citizens or legal residents.
Bush is now talking about shifting Migra operations from unseen, remote back roads and desert trails to the streets of major cities, raiding businesses and breaking up families, deporting sisters, sons, neighbors and co-workers, and forcing people to choose between living even deeper in the shadows and turning themselves in for a promise of a brief reprieve. And we can expect both the repression and the propaganda to be ratcheted up in the coming months--whipping up anti-immigrant sentiments in the service of an all-round reactionary social compact.
The L.A. Times wrote on 11/27 that "Illegal immigration has emerged as a major issue in political campaigns around the country, adding an element of emotional intensity that Republicans hope will excite their conservative supporters… Some Republican strategists contend that the immigration issue offers an opportunity for the GOP to revive its flagging fortunes at a time when Bush and the party have been hobbled by public discontent over the war in Iraq, the response to Hurricane Katrina and ethics scandals. ‘This is the best issue for them to recover on’ said Bay Buchanan," founder of a group which recruits and raises money for candidates dedicated to stopping illegal immigration, and sister of reactionary Pat Buchanan, who sees the growing immigrant population of this country contributing to "the death of the west."
While Bush is trying to exploit the hot button issue of immigration to his advantage, this isn’t just a cynical political ploy. He is speaking to major strategic concerns within ruling circles over forging and enforcing a whole new social compact in this country while calculating its impact here--economically, politically, and socially--and its impact throughout the hemisphere, and ultimately the world.
The interests of the vast majority of people of all strata in this country are in standing up against these draconian attacks and standing with immigrants whether they have papers or not. We can’t allow this regime to isolate and target the immigrant population of this society. We need to fight against this new offensive as an integral part of advancing the movement to drive out the Bush regime.
Revolution #026, December 12, 2005, posted at revcom.us
"I said, 'Ed, look, we have forty-five seats in the Senate--our backs are against the wall. And if we go down to forty-two seats it's over. The very hard right will run America. We can't afford to play games anymore. This is tough stuff . . . [a]nd the day should be over when a potential candidate has to check twenty-seven boxes before we support him. Maybe if we had sixty-five seats we could afford to do that. But we don't."
Charles Schumer, Democratic senator from New York,
quoted in recent New Yorker article, "The Right to Choose."
Schumer was justifying his decision to recruit and support Robert Casey, Jr., to run for senator in Pennsylvania on the Democratic ticket against a pro-choice woman, Barbara Hafer, who was also vying for the spot. And he wasn't talking about "twenty-seven boxes" -- he was talking about one: the right of women to have abortions. Casey, you see, is hard core anti-abortion.
The article itself, which is directed toward those who traditionally vote Democratic in the belief that the Democrats will at least defend abortion rights, sets up a straw man. The reason we have gotten to the state "where the very hard right will run America," the article implies, is because Democrats have too unambiguously supported abortion rights. Hence the Democrats must now "reach out" by nominating candidates who oppose those rights. But don't worry, by electing such candidates, you'll actually - somehow -- be securing those rights.
So goes the distortion of facts and tortured logic that justifies casting aside principle. First off, the support for abortion rights in the Democratic Party is hardly firm and far from universal. No less a Democrat than Harry Reid, their leader in the Senate, is anti-choice, as are at least 30 Democrats in the House of Representatives. Bill Clinton, as president, capitulated on the moral issue when he said that abortion should be "safe, legal and rare. But why should abortion necessarily be rare? Why shouldn't it be the forcing of women to have babies that they don't want that is "rare" - or better yet, something that never happens at all? Why should women be made to feel defensive about deciding if and when they want to have a child? In the event, the real-world availability of abortions grew increasingly restricted under Clinton, as abortion doctors were killed and otherwise driven out of many areas in the U.S. during his two terms. For Clinton to hand the ideological initiative and the mantle of "morality" to these zealots, woman-haters and fascists was unconscionable.
Today Hillary Clinton goes even further in the same vein. In a recent, highly publicized speech, she said that "We can all recognize that abortion represents a sad, even tragic choice to many, many women," and professed her "respect" for those who want to forbid ALL abortions, no matter what the circumstance. Think about that - respect for the hardest-line Christian Fascist fanatics in a movement that has stopped at nothing, even cold-blooded murder, to take away one of the most central rights of women!
But now it is claimed that even this relative and conditional support is too much. The New Yorker article all but explicitly blames the very real threat that the "very hard right" - that is, the Christian Fascists - "will run America" on the tepid Democratic support for abortion rights. In fact, this threat (and the serious gains that the fascists have made in realizing that goal) arose out of far more complex conditions than that - though the fight of women for emancipation and their changing overall role in society was and is clearly one key part of what is at issue in all this, and the effort to jam women much further down into a subordinate position, and to take away all the rights won in the '60s and '70s (including not just abortion, but birth control as well), makes up a cornerstone of this movement. 1 But this fascist ascendancy has actually been fed and fueled by the defensiveness on this issue promoted by people like the Clintons, while the mainstream movement channeled everyone into backing them and politicians like them as the main thing to do. And now this is culminating in a wholesale capitulation on this issue.
The New Yorker article ends with a number of pro-choice women convincing themselves to not just vote for, but to even give money to and work for Casey - in the name of getting rid of the even harder-line Republican, Santorum. The author quotes an activist associated with Planned Parenthood: "I'm beginning to feel comfortable. I think a lot of us are. . . [Casey] said he's not going to Washington push an anti-abortion agenda. . . Hopefully, there won't be any major vote coming up where he'll have to vote [against abortion rights]." Gee, that's a realistic basis for hope - a politician's promise, and the idea that there will be no votes pertaining to abortion rights coming up in the next six years. Right.
Meanwhile, the Democratic Party carries forward its strategy of conciliation with fascism, in the name of "realism." People opposed to the war were told to give money to and work for the pro-war Kerry. . . to somehow end the war. All too many did. Now those who want to fiercely defend the rights of women to abortion are told to give money to and work for those who oppose abortion rights. . . to somehow protect abortion. This is a strategy of wishful thinking, not realism, and it is the logic of capitulation. It is a logic that must be rejected.
The remark by Schumer that began this article makes this all too clear. Look at it again. If the Democrats had 65 senators, he says, well, then they could make a show of defending principle on abortion rights. But now the going is tough, and the Democrats can't afford "to play games" - play games!
Question: how can you rely on people who equate the defense of one of the most fundamental rights of women - the defense, quite literally of women's lives - to "playing games"?
Answer: you can't. Any more than you can defeat fascism with fascism-lite.
1. The Truth About Right-Wing Conspiracy...And Why Clinton and the Democrats Are No Answer, by Bob Avakian (Revolutionary Worker #1255, October 17, 2004).
Chicago and New York City: An Evening of Poets, Actors, Artists, Professors and More Reading from:
Revolution #026, December 12, 2005, posted at revcom.us
Tuesday, December 6, 6PM
Barnes & Noble DePaul Center
1 E. Jackson (State/Jackson)
Guest Readers include:
Wednesday, December 7, 7PM
Labryinth Books 536 West 112th St.
(between Broadway and Amsterdam)
Guest Readers include:
And a discussion between Raymond Lotta, Maoist political economist, and Martha Quetzal Ceja, Managing Editor of Insight Press
Message from the Honorary Co-Hosts
We would like to invite you to a special evening of readings of Bob Avakian�s memoir, From Ike to Mao and Beyond: My Journey From Mainstream America to Revolutionary Communist. The memoir was released nationally in Berkeley in May 2005. It was followed up by another event in LA, and a subsequent book reading in San Francisco was filmed and aired on CSPAN's Book TV.
The NYC event will take place on Wednesday, December 7 at 7:00 pm at Labyrinth Bookstore. The evening will be an opportunity to travel with readers through three unique but interwoven stories. The first tells of a white middle-class kid growing up in �50s America who goes to an integrated high school and has his world turned around; the second of a young man who overcomes a near-fatal disease and jumps with both feet into the heady swirl of Berkeley in the �60s; and the third of a radical activist who matures into a tempered revolutionary communist leader.
Coming from diverse outlooks and perspectives, we are proud to serve as honorary hosts for this celebration. At a very dangerous time in this country it is crucial that voices like Avakian's must be heard, his work and on-going story of his life be engaged with.
We invite you to attend December 7, 7 pm. If you�re interested in participating in or supporting the event, including by adding your name as an honorary host, please contact the event organizers through Insight Press, 917.952.6044.
"Rethinking The Unthinkable," The Free Press review: http://www.freepress.org/departments/display/17/2005/302/1/34
Revolution #026, December 12, 2005, posted at revcom.us
Editor's note: Revolution is serializing the speech "Socialism Is Much Better Than Capitalism, and Communism Will Be A Far Better World" by Raymond Lotta. See last week for Part 1, the introduction. Lotta is on a national speaking tour as part of the Set the Record Straight project. Information on upcoming speaking dates and related materials are available at www. thisiscommunism.org.
So I want to define communism. I want to do this first, since this is the goal toward which socialism is directed.
Imagine a society where people consciously learn about and transform the world...where people are no longer imprisoned by the chains of tradition and ignorance...where people not only coooperatively work to produce the necessities of life, but get into art and culture and science--and have fun doing it...where the scientific outlook and the flight of imagination strengthen and inspire each other...where there is unity and diversity, far-ranging debate, and ideological struggle over the direction and development of society--but no longer stamped by social antagonism...where people interact with each other based on mutual respect, concern, and love for humanity. A world that cares about and takes care of the environment. That is communism.
Communism is a worldwide society--and it is yet to be achieved--in which all classes and class distinctions have been overcome; all systems and relations of exploitation abolished; all oppressive social institutions and relations of social inequality, like racial discrimination and the domination of women by men, put an end to; and oppressive and backward ideas and values cast off. Communism is a world of abundance, where people together hold all of society's resources in common.
Communism also refers to communist ideology. Now often people think that "ideology" means some set of politically motivated ideas that bias everything you look at. No, by communist ideology I mean the comprehensive outlook and scientific method of the proletariat for understanding the actual forces operating in nature and in society. Communist ideology points the way to an historic advance in humanity's ability to understand and transform these natural and social forces. And communist ideology provides a morality that corresponds to the great leap that humanity has already begun to make.
Communism is not some sort of wishful and airy dream or utopia. The development of human society has brought humanity to a historic threshold.
The productive forces of society--not just machinery, equipment, and technology but also people and their knowledge--have developed to a level that can allow humanity to overcome scarcity, to provide for people's basic material needs, and beyond that to have a large surplus left over to devote to the all-around and future development of society.
The productive forces of society are highly socialized. They require thousands and ultimately millions working together to mass-produce the things--whether we are talking about clothing or computers--that are used by people throughout society. And these productive forces are highly interconnected on an international level: raw materials and transistors and machine tools produced in one part of the world enter into the production process in other parts of the world. But these socialized productive forces are privately controlled. A capitalist class of owners appropriates the results of production as private, capitalist property.
This is the fundamental problem in the world. And this is what proletarian revolution solves.
The proletariat is the class that emerges in capitalist society on the basis of these socialized productive forces. The proletariat represents the cooperative labor and cooperative efforts that correspond to the socialized nature of the productive forces. The proletariat has the material basis and occupies the material position to bring about a radically different way of organizing production and society as a whole.
Now what is socialism? Socialism is not a big welfare state that looks after people. It is not the old capitalist economy simply taken over by a state. Socialism is a transition from capitalism to communism, to classless society. Socialism is about the proletariat, in alliance with its allies who make up the great majority of society, consciously transforming the economic structures, social relations, and ideas that perpetuate social and class division. It is about unleashing the creativity and initiative of those who had been on the bottom of society.
The socialist revolution establishes a new system of political rule: the dictatorship of the proletariat. The old exploiting classes and those actively seeking to overturn the new system are controlled and held in check. This system of political rule gives the masses the right and the ability to change the world, to participate in society in an all-around way, to become masters of society. In the U.S. and around the world, we presently live under the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie--which in this country comes in the form of democracy. This dictatorship enforces a system that is in the service of capitalists, and rules over the people to allow the flourishing of that system.
The socialist revolution establishes a new economy based on social ownership of the means of production and social planning; on people cooperating to solve problems and to meet social need; and with a whole new set of economic and social priorities.
The dictatorship of the proletariat exercises dictatorship over the capitalists and enforces a system that allows for the freedom from capitalism. The masses and their leadership core have to firmly hold on to that power. But that can't be an end itself. This power has to be used for the good of humanity and to actually create the conditions so that this dictatorship can go out of existence in the future communist society.
These are the basic guiding principles that Lenin took into battle in leading the first proletarian revolution in October 1917.
Next week: Part 3:
Revolution #026, December 12, 2005, posted at revcom.us
A man in a black hood and orange jumpsuit walked straight up to Berkeley Law Professor John Yoo in the middle of his Oct. 25 lecture. Yoo is the author of notorious White House memos legally justifying U.S. torture around the world. Suddenly debate raged in the classroom and hallways as someone, dressed as a hooded victim of torture, called Yoo out for the war criminal he is.
In retaliation, UC authorities threatened students they suspected of being involved and then officially banned two "non-student" protesters from the Berkeley campus for 14 days. They used the notorious Mulford Act that gives campus authorities the power to prosecute "outside agitators." In 1965 when this law was passed, Berkeley students were waging the Free Speech Movement exactly for the right of "off-campus" activists to organize on campus – especially civil rights organizers recruiting for campaigns in the Deep South. FBI head J. Edgar Hoover announced that 43 communists were involved in the Free Speech Movement. And surrounded by hysteria about "outside agitators," the Mulford Act was pushed through the California legislature.
Now, 40 years later, this same law is being used by UC administrators -- in step with nationwide efforts to punish and put down resistance and radical thought on campuses.
We are living in a time when the U.S. government is declaring a war on the world and openly justifying the use of torture. Now political activists are criminalized as "outsiders" for stepping onto Berkeley's campus to challenge a man who openly promotes and has provided the legal basis for the U.S. to carry out widespread torture.
Revolution #026, December 12, 2005, posted at revcom.us
John Yoo, author of the infamous legal memo justifying Presidential powers to torture US captives around the world, couldn't escape torture victims (World Can't Wait activists) when he appeared in Chicago on Dec. 1. in a debate with Doug Cassel, long time human rights legal scholar and professor at Notre Dame.
John Yoo poster
Audio here of the following exchange:
Cassel: If the president deems that he's got to torture somebody, including by crushing the testicles of the person's child, there is no law that can stop him?
Yoo: No treaty
Cassel: Also no law by Congress -- that is what you wrote in the August 2002 memo...
Yoo: I think it depends on why the President thinks he needs to do that.