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Revolution #030, January 15, 2006, posted at revcom.us
Editors Note: The following are excerpts drawn from a talk given by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, to a group of Party members and supporters in 2005. This has been edited for publication here, and subheads and footnotes have been added.
Before moving on, I just want to review and recapitulate (but not capitulate) [laughter] on the Coming Civil War -- and repolarization for revolution. Understanding this in accordance with the way these things are shaping up, we can see that the divide in society -- on all levels of this society, and in the society as a whole -- is not the same as the divide that will be required, and must be brought into being, in order to achieve revolution. It overlaps with that, but it's not the same as that. To use that formulation from the Suskind New York Times article, there is a broad divide in society now between the "faith-based" community and the "reality-based" community. And that is part of the intense contestation and conflict that's going on in society, through whatever forms it assumes at a given time. But it's not the whole of it. Some people who epistemologically fall more to the faith-based side, especially if you're talking about the basic masses, have fundamental interests in line with the proletarian revolution and even have to be driving forces in it. So this is another contradiction we have to understand how to correctly handle.
There is a real -- though of course not yet fully developed -- aspect of civil war between two parts of society, from top to bottom, finding different expression in different sections of society. And there are preponderant factors right now which mean that, if left to its own devices and its own dynamic, this will turn out very negatively -- and may even reach the most negative kind of extreme without a tremendous amount of upheaval in society -- unless we "intervene" in this process, unless we do what we're supposed to do, which will bring to life the possibility of something different being ruptured out of this. And we are going to need to reconfigure, repolarize things on a grand scale -- the present political division provides some of the objective basis for what we have to do in preparing for revolution, but it doesn't provide the necessary alignment that would make the struggle for revolution favorable. Right now the alignment, in general and specifically in terms of the prospects for revolution, is very unfavorable. So we have to handle these different contradictions in their interpenetration: there are the contradictions in terms of how the divisions in society are expressing themselves differently on different levels, and throughout the society; and there's a contradiction taking shape around (or between) what presently exists and what we need to bring into being for revolution. These overlap and interpenetrate but they are different, and we shouldn't confuse them and "mush" them two-into-one, or we will not handle things correctly and we will not repolarize for revolution.
Next I want to talk directly about World Can't Wait and why we are ascribing so much importance to that and are putting so much effort into it. Some people, again by way of criticism, have raised: Why try to do this, why try to do something on such a great scale and something that seems to many so "extreme," in terms of what we're setting out to achieve and in terms of rupturing with the conventional and well-established political framework and terms of things?
This gets back to the point I was making earlier about how we are not setting the agenda,1 and we are not determining the pace of things -- and where things will go if we don't intervene on the level that's necessary. So I want to focus on some of the key questions that get concentrated in this, some fundamental political and ideological (and to some degree organizational) questions bound up with this.
The fundamental and essential questions, with regard to the objective of driving out the Bush regime, are: WHY IS IT THAT THIS MUST BE DONE?, AND HOW IS IT THAT THIS CAN BE DONE?
In very basic terms, the answer to the first -- and ultimately to both -- of these questions lies in the fact that this corresponds to both what is objectively needed and what is objectively possible in the face of the situation we are confronted with -- or, to put it in Marxist philosophical terms, the necessity with which we are confronted. Driving out the Bush regime -- creating the kind of political situation in which, primarily as a result of a massive political opposition "from below," to which all forces in society are compelled to respond, the Bush regime is forced out and its whole program and the direction in which it is dragging society and the world is massively repudiated -- is both a crucial goal and one that it is possible to achieve. Now, it is true and it is important to keep clearly in mind and to clearly put forward that, from the position of our Party, we are very serious about and very dedicated to achieving the objectives of World Can't Wait, at the same time as we see and approach this as part of building toward our goals of revolution, socialism, and ultimately a communist world -- just as many others who are involved, and who will become involved, in World Can't Wait see and approach this from the perspective of their more overall views and objectives. That is the nature of the kind of united front that World Can't Wait embodies -- and it is crucial to continually increase the breadth and diversity and the depth of this united front so as to strengthen the basis for actually achieving what is set forth in the Call of World Can't Wait, which establishes its basis of unity and key objectives.2
To put it in very basic terms: If the objectives of World Can't Wait are actually achieved, this will have a profound positive effect in terms of transforming the objective situation; and, at the same time, it will greatly intensify the contradictions and call forth whole new levels of necessity. And if we fail to achieve those objectives, it will have profound negative consequences all down the line -- in this society and the world as a whole.
Imagine, for a minute, what it will mean if the Call and the main slogans of World Can't Wait are, as we say, transformed into a material force that actually takes expression as a massive political outpouring of people throughout the country, in every corner of the country and among all strata of the people, making the streets and the walls of the buildings reverberate with the slogan: The World Can't Wait -- Drive Out the Bush Regime!3 (That is, by the way, a very powerful slogan, mainly and essentially because it captures the essence of key contradictions -- not the whole of what is going on and the contradictions driving things in society and the world, but some essential aspects of this.) But imagine also the process taking place around what is put forward in the Call as well -- the determination of people that this is the beginning of a continued and determined struggle to actually make that slogan a reality, to actually drive out the Bush regime through massive political mobilization. Imagine if that actually is brought into being, what effect that will have on the political and social relations in this country -- and all over the world, for that matter. It won't make things less intense -- quite the contrary. It will raise the stakes and the magnitude of things exponentially. But that is going to happen anyway -- the magnitude and the stakes of things are continually being raised, and will continue to be raised, by the other side in this political confrontation, in any case. That's the point of where the trajectory and the dynamic is going, left to itself and left to those in power to "muddle through" -- or, very likely, much, much worse.
Let's return again to a very fundamental point here, that we are not "setting the agenda," or the pace of things; the dynamic is not one that we have desired in this form, or that we have set in motion. And it is not one where people who are opposed to it can somehow hope to simply "adjust" or "modify" it. This dynamic, this necessity we confront, is something that must be ruptured into something radically different. As communists, we understand that freedom, in a fundamental sense, lies not in ignoring -- nor certainly in bowing down before -- the situation one is faced with, the necessity one confronts, at any given time, but rather in transforming that situation, that necessity, through struggle; or, as Mao so incisively put it, freedom lies not merely in the recognition of necessity but in the transformation of necessity, through struggle. The necessity we are facing today is determined in large measure, and in immediate terms, by the program that is prevailing and the direction in which things are being taken under the Bush regime; and the transformation of that necessity into something of a qualitatively different and positive nature, must be wrenched out of this necessity. And this requires working and struggling urgently to do this, to accelerate our own pace, to keep up with the pace of objective developments, to strive with everything we have to bring about repolarization in society, in line with the objectives of World Can't Wait -- and, with regard to our Party, the challenge is to do this and to strive at the same time to bring forward our larger revolutionary objectives, not confusing or "mushing" those together with the basis of unity of World Can't Wait but correctly distinguishing, and correctly handling the relation between, these two things.
So, based on that, it is important to turn directly to the question: How can freedom be wrenched out of this necessity to realize what is called for in the Call of World Can't Wait? And, first of all, what is the basis -- that is, the basis that exists particularly in the objective situation, including in the thinking, moods and sentiments of millions and millions of people (contradictory as they are) -- for achieving these objectives?
There is today a profound feeling of distress and outrage: of angst, agonizing and questioning-- not superficially but deeply questioning -- about the whole direction of society and the world, broadly among diverse strata in this society, involving tens of millions of people, in one form or another. And yet there is a tremendous gulf between that and not only what most of these people are presently doing, but what they are presently prepared to do about this situation.
So, although he was a political reactionary, it might be appropriate here to invoke a phrase from the poet T.S. Eliot: "between the idea and the reality falls the shadow." Or, reinterpreting that from a materialist standpoint: between what people are agonizing over and outraged over, on the one hand, and what they are called on objectively to do, in order to really address the causes of their anguish and anger, there looms a large "shadow," there is a tremendous gulf. This is a very acute contradiction. But it is important to recognize both sides of this contradiction. It is not simply that what people are doing, or are as yet prepared to do, still falls far short of what needs to be done; there is also the other side, which we have to grab hold of and build on, that they have very deep questions and are experiencing very profound anguish and agonizing. What is going on is not the ordinary questioning, or merely "philosophical ruminations" among a small stratum of society about what's going on in the world and "what's it all about." There is deep questioning, distress, outrage, and anger among broad sections of society, among every stratum of society, for that matter. What is needed, and urgently required, is to win masses of people to see the necessity and the possibility, and the concrete means, to actually bridge that gulf, to cross over that shadow, so to speak. That is at the heart of the work and struggle that is called for in order to realize the objectives of World Can't Wait.
This is not a matter of throwing out a fishing line in a pool stocked with trout -- all you have to do is put the bait out and everybody comes to it, to use an odious analogy. This is a matter of struggling with people, in a good way, to win them to rupture out of the killing confines of the dominant political framework and dynamics, and to take independent historical political action on a massive scale. This is not the same thing as calling on people to make revolution, now, let's be clear. What we're calling on people to do has a different basis of unity, as embodied in the Call of World Can't Wait. What is involved, what is urgently required now, is a matter of struggling to win people to rupture out of the killing confines of the established political framework by winning them to an understanding of the necessity and the possibility of doing so, and working together with them in a very concentrated and telescoped way to develop the concrete means for doing so. Once more, this will involve a lot of struggle, it will involve continually coming back to some of the bedrock questions that are bound up with all this.
And, yes, it involves a whole dimension of our bringing forward, in the appropriate ways, our full communist understanding of things in general and of how we see the relation of World Can't Wait, and its basis of unity and its objectives, to our full communist understanding and aims. Even while many people will continue to have differences with us over our communist viewpoint and our larger objectives of revolution, socialism, and ultimately a communist world -- and that is as it should be in the context of a broad united front like World Can't Wait -- at the same time the involvement of growing numbers of people, with a diversity of views, in wrangling over the big questions of what, in the largest sense, should be the character and the direction of society is a positive thing in itself that will help raise everyone's sights, and it will enable many more people, coming from many different viewpoints, to see both the need and the possibility of uniting together to take independent historical political action to achieve what is embodied in the Call and the main slogans of World Can't Wait.
So this gets us to the question of what are some of the keys, practically, but above all politically, and ideologically, to enabling the masses to get organized to make this a reality. Now without getting into here all the ins and outs of organizing the masses, and assisting the masses to organize themselves, around the objectives of World Can't Wait, it is important to recognize that the question of whether or not to do this itself involves, and in important ways concentrates, decisive questions of politics and ideology. It is important to identify, once again in a compressed and telescoped way, not only the general questions, politically and ideologically and in some aspects organizationally, that are presently a restraint, a fetter on masses of people, holding them back from coming forward, or coming forward more fully, in regard to World Can't Wait.
It is also important to continually, and in a very compressed way, identify the specific ways in which these questions are posing themselves at any given time, and address those questions and struggle with the masses over those questions. In other words, there's the broad general question of rupturing out of these killing confines, and why is it necessary to do that, and can we say it's possible to do that? But there's also the way that this poses itself at different times -- including the fact that, if you make advances in struggling over that, and as the world changes, it reasserts itself in somewhat different forms, which have particular expression, and it is necessary to address the particular expressions as well as the overall question.
This will repeatedly come up in relation to many specific things. It will come up, for example, in relation to the Supreme Court and Bush's recent nominations to that Court. What is the correct way to handle exposure around the Supreme Court nomination in relation to the objectives of the World Can't Wait? This is going to pose itself. So, too, will the question of the relation between building more powerful opposition to the war against Iraq and the movement to drive out the Bush regime. And events will keep posing new questions, and new ways in which the relation between particular events and struggles, on the one hand, and World Can't Wait, on the other hand, has to be approached. It is extremely important to handle these things -- the ways these questions continually get posed -- correctly, or else things will be set back all-around, and specifically with regard to World Can't Wait.
World Can't Wait, and in particular its website, needs to address, is addressing and will no doubt continue to be addressing these questions -- from the point of view of, and proceeding from the basis of unity of, World Can't Wait -- and that is very important. At the same time, there is also a need for our Party, proceeding from our full communist viewpoint and objectives, in particular through Revolution newspaper, to be doing compelling exposure and, yes, polemics around these questions, bringing to life for people why remaining within the confines of the dominant political framework is killing: recognizing the acute contradiction between what many people want the world to be like and, on the other hand, where it is actually heading, which is becoming a more and more acute contradiction for millions and tens of millions of people; bringing to life how that contradiction cannot be worked on in a positive way by staying within the killing confines of the established and dominant political framework. Once again, it will be necessary and important to continue to speak to that, from many different angles and in relation to many different concrete ways in which these contradictions get posed.
And there is an important organizational dimension to this -- actually assisting the masses to get organized and in turn to organize others to build World Can't Wait as an organized movement -- and that has to go on in an accelerated way. This involves both giving people a real sense of what it is possible for them to do, and assisting them in developing a fuller sense of how to go about doing those things and how to organize themselves and in turn organize others...to in turn organize others...to in turn organize others to take all this up.
Here I am speaking not only of high school students and the tremendously important role they can play in relation to the overall objectives of World Can't Wait (as well as, from our Party's perspective, their crucial role in relation to our full revolutionary objectives). But I am also speaking of college students, including those on campuses which have historically had and/or have today significant impact and influence on students and the development of a student movement.
There is a historic reason why people who work in the realm of ideas in a highly concentrated way have played a progressive role in history. Now, this is contradictory, and it differs in different periods, but nonetheless there is a definite and important phenomenon of students, including specifically students on college and university campuses, playing a key role in the development of movements of opposition and resistance -- and, yes, of revolutionary movements. This has been true historically in the U.S. and indeed throughout the world. And it is of great importance to recognize and build on this, while also recognizing the contradictions involved in this, and in particular the ways this finds expression in today's situation.
I remember when we had the Free Speech Movement and the anti-war movement in Berkeley, back in the '60s.4 We used to always be attacked as spoiled rich kids -- you know the whole line, you've heard it all. But what we were doing was extremely important, and it drew people from other parts of society, including basic masses who would come to the campus to see what was going on and often to join in. Now, in a certain sense, there was some reality that was being spoken to -- but, at the same time, being perversely turned into slander of the good things we were doing -- namely, we did have more opportunity than people who are weighed down so heavily by the daily grind of life and trying to survive and deal with all the madness. We did have more freedom relatively to pay attention to political and world affairs and to move politically around them. And we should recognize that as a strategically favorable factor for building a movement of mass resistance and, yes, ultimately for revolution -- and for the kind of revolution we should be striving for -- not a narrow and philistine one, frankly, but a lofty and liberating revolution.
Now, again, just to be clear, I'm certainly not saying we shouldn't go to the community colleges and, yes, on a massive scale, to high schools, and middle schools as well -- but there is also a tremendous potential for college and university students to get unleashed, and to unleash and organize others, and it is very important that this potential get realized, and maximized.
Now, at the same time, not only with strategic revolutionary considerations in mind, but more immediately and particularly with the objectives of World Can't Wait in mind, it's extremely important to bring forward a significant force of basic masses mobilized on a class-conscious revolutionary basis to be a backbone and driving force, even if it's in the thousands at this time, among literally millions who need to be mobilized around World Can't Wait. We have to bring to these basic masses the importance of this -- and we have to heighten their understanding of their own role in relation to the resistance of broader strata. This is important for strategic reasons, but it's also extremely important and takes concentrated expression now around World Can't Wait. Bringing this forward should be a significant element of the Revolutionary Communist Speaking Tour5, to cite one important aspect of things. And it should be a significant element of our all-around work among the basic masses: through Revolution newspaper and in other ways we should be calling on and leading these masses, and helping them to get organized, to take independent historical political action in a class-conscious way, in the context of World Can't Wait and also aiming toward strategic revolutionary objectives -- understanding class-consciousness in a broad and sweeping revolutionary sense, in the sense of being a motive force in revolutionizing the world and emancipating all of humanity, and not in a more narrow and reformist way.
Now, another important dimension of this is the need to pay consistent and systematic attention to what has been called " harvesting " -- reaping advances, not just in terms of broad and general political influence, but in terms of organization among the masses and organized ties with the masses -- harvesting, in that sense, in relation to every significant political movement, and every significant political event or action.
This has different particular application in different situations, and for different types of organizations, with their own particular identity and "integrity" as organizations and their own specific basis of unity. For example, this has particular application for World Can't Wait which is discrete and different from how it applies with regard to our Party. But, while it is very important to keep in mind and to act in accordance with these different particularities, there is also a more general principle that, in any political effort in which people need to not only be mobilized but also concretely organized, it is of great importance to pay consistent and systematic attention to this dimension of actually developing organized forms for people to be mobilized, and to mobilize others, to build an organized expression, at any given time, of the mass political mobilization.
And, once more, a key part of this is to find the ways for people who are coming forward in this movement at any given time to become part of that organization, in one form and on one level or another, in keeping with both the needs of the movement and the abilities and inclinations of different people, in terms of how they can best contribute to things overall. And an important part of that is enabling people to do specific and concrete things as part of the overall "division of labor." I mean this not in some narrow pragmatic sense of "giving people things to do," but in the sense of inspiring them with a sense of the objectives of the movement and what is required to achieve those objectives, and then helping them get organized and to organize others on that basis.
Now I want to come back to the basic question of what is the dialectical relation between World Can't Wait, with its basis of unity (as expressed in the Call), and our Party with our full-out communist viewpoint and objectives. Or, another way to put this is: what is our political objective with this whole World Can't Wait initiative, and how does this relate to our strategic revolutionary objectives?
Now, very much bound up with this is a question that repeatedly comes up, from what I've learned, among many people in relation to World Can't Wait -- this is something that we can expect to be repeatedly posed, something that we should want to be repeatedly posed, directly and explicitly as well as in more indirect ways -- and the question is: If we drive out this regime, what should replace it? What comes next?
Now, a definite tendency that I've observed from reports on our work is for comrades to do a whole "mush" around this, and in its worst expression to give a very dried-up, dogmatic, uninspiring version of what our whole strategic objectives are supposed to be -- of revolution for short -- which goes "left" and right at the same time. It goes "left" in the sense that it would push World Can't Wait, as such, too far in that direction, and then many people would say, "well, if that's what World Can't Wait is really all about, count me out." Let's be very clear: World Can't Wait is not a trick, it is not a means for maneuvering -- and what would amount to manipulating -- the masses into making revolution: you mobilize them behind something that you know can't be obtained, and then they find out it can't be obtained without revolution, so they say, "oh, I guess we need revolution." That is fundamentally wrong and unprincipled. And, besides being manipulative, it will backfire in any case, leaving many people feeling alienated and justifiably angry with so-called revolutionaries who would do that. It is a fundamental principle of revolution that people cannot be "tricked" into it -- or it is no revolution anyway -- but instead they must be won, they must become convinced themselves, on the basis of deeply grappling with reality, that revolution is necessary, is possible and is desirable. World Can't Wait, and our approach to World Can't Wait, is not some kind of trick, it is not a means of manipulating the masses. The objectives of World Can't Wait are real objectives around which masses, literally millions of people, can and must be united, and they have great importance in this sense. Once again, think of what it would mean if this actually did succeed in creating the kind of political situation in which the Bush regime actually were driven out, and its program massively repudiated. Think of what a tremendously positive impact that would have, even short of revolution. Think what the political situation would be like in the country and the world if that actually happened as a result of mass political upheaval and resistance, taking all kinds of political expressions. This is an actual political objective, and it has its own integrity, if you will, as such -- its own basis of unity. That's one thing. And then there's our Party's strategic revolutionary objective and how we, coming from that, see the relation between World Can't Wait, and its objectives, and our larger revolutionary objectives.
In basic terms, the question, "what comes next?" should be answered in this way: First of all, we do, and we must, take very seriously the objective of driving out this regime and massively repudiating its whole program and the whole direction in which it is dragging society and the world. It is not exaggeration or hyperbole to say that there will be no good outcome if a mass movement is not built that aims very seriously for this objective. And, on the positive side of things, we should pose to people: Think of how much more favorable the situation would be if everything this regime is doing and the whole direction in which it's taking things is repudiated in this massive way and it is forced to step down from its positions of power. Think of what a tremendous achievement that would be and what a great encouragement to people here and all over the world. And, as in all things, to invoke that line from Bob Dylan, we should not talk falsely but should talk honestly with people about how we understand things. It must be honestly said that it is not possible to determine now what exactly would come next, if we succeeded in driving out the Bush regime, just as it is not possible to indicate now the precise way, and through which particular combination of factors, the Bush regime could be forced out -- except to say that this can only happen through the mobilization of a truly massive political movement that succeeds in changing the whole terms of things, politically, in society and in compelling every force in society to respond to what it is doing politically and the demands it is raising. Many people involved in this effort will have many different views of the questions: how exactly can the Bush regime be driven out, and what should come next? That is something people involved in this movement are, and should be, engaging in discussion and struggle over, as they unite around the common objective of building massive political mobilization to drive out this regime and repudiate its program. And, as for our Party, we should both encourage others to bring forward their views on "what comes next" at the same time as we put forward our own views on that, while continuing to give emphasis as well to the fact that there are many people with many different views on this within World Can't Wait, but we are all united in understanding what a tremendous advance it would be, and how much more favorable the whole situation would be, if we actually achieved the objectives of World Can't Wait.
In the U.S. today, in the context of the attack on evolution that is a key part of an overall and concerted fascist agenda, even the very definition and the very character of science is being brought under attack. The notion that science should be "naturalistic and materialist" and deal with the material world and material explanations for the natural world -- this fundamental understanding is being brought under attack as narrow and suppressive of thinking -- and in opposition to this it is asserted that "we have to allow for theistic, religious explanations," in the realm of science.
This goes along with the many-sided attack on science: government reports being censored that say certain things about global warming that go against the agenda of the government; people being refused positions on scientific advisory boards on the basis of being explicitly asked whether they voted for Bush and not answering yes, and so on. Even the Scientific American, which is a very mainstream publication, came out with a major editorial within the last few months -- entitled "Bush League Lysenkoism," interestingly enough -- which talked about how the Bush regime is bending science to its purpose. So it is clear that there is a many- and all-sided attack on science. Now, they are going to let people do NASA and military research and other things that are necessary for the functioning of this system and the assertion of its dominance in the world, and they're not going to let everybody die of epidemic diseases -- although many people, particularly among those who are already poor and exploited, will increasingly be "allowed" to go without decent or even basic medical care -- but whether you can really do science in the way science needs to be done is a real and intensifying battle now. And when you're trying to change the definition of science -- if you smuggle in theistic and religious elements into the definition of science -- then science cannot really be practiced. "Well, maybe this epidemic is caused by a virus -- or maybe it's the devil. Those are two alternative explanations: which one do you want to deal with? We shouldn't suppress ideas, should we?" That's what can happen if you change the definition of science in this way. I'm not exaggerating. To invoke Richard Pryor's phrasing again, what is the logical conclusion of the logic here?
What is involved is a major battle in society over the question of epistemology. It is a political battle over a major ideological and, in particular, epistemological question. Somewhere recently I saw a bumper sticker, a Christian fundamentalist bumper sticker: "The Big Bang: God Said It and Bang, There It Was." This is not just some "crackpot" notion but represents a program, and a worldview, around which people -- people who have been denied an understanding of the principles of science and of the scientific method for investigating reality, and people who are being actively encouraged to grab hold of and cling ferociously to traditionalist absolutes -- are being mobilized to wage a determined political battle. And up to this point, the initiative in this battle has been way too much with the wrong side -- with the religious fundamentalist reactionaries and other fascists who are launching this all-around attack on science, in which evolution is a key battlefront and concentration point. The importance of this is something which people -- not only those involved in or particularly interested in the realm of science but people more broadly as well -- need to understand clearly.
And, yes, this does relate to the overall political battle to drive out the Bush regime. It adds a whole dimension to whether and how people conceive of the necessity of what is called for by World Can't Wait.
Another key arena of struggle in U.S. society now is the battle to defend dissent and critical thinking in academia. This is finding different expressions, but one of the most acute now is taking shape around Ward Churchill, a professor at the University of Colorado. He wrote an essay in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 which basically did say, "chickens come home to roost -- what do you expect, given what you've been doing in the world." And then he went further and, with regard to the people who were the functionaries of the corporations -- not everybody, but the people who were the functionaries of the corporations, the financial institutions in the World Trade Center -- he called them Little Eichmanns (referring to the Nazi Adolf Eichmann). And it is very interesting that nothing happened for a couple of years, and then he was invited to speak at a college in New York state, and all of a sudden there was an uproar; he ended up being "dis-invited," and, as I understand it, the whole department that invited him came under attack at that college. The governor of New York called for Churchill's head, said he should be fired, and the governor of Colorado, where Churchill teaches, called for his firing -- explicitly because of these statements Churchill made in relation to 9/11. But this was a bit complicated and problematical for these reactionaries because at the same time the governor of Colorado has been involved in a campaign, waged under the banner of "academic freedom" and "fairness in academia," to picture right-wing members and would-be members of university faculties as "victims" of some "left-wing dictatorship" in academia. This is a crusade in which David Horowitz is playing a front-line role. (Horowitz is a former self-described "left-wing radical" who has turned into a right-wing attack dog, with ties at the highest levels of the Republican Party and the fascist core within that Party.) Horowitz stepped into the picture and "redirected" the attack on Churchill, arguing that he shouldn't be fired for statements he made in relation to 9/11 -- since that would represent suppression of free speech and academic freedom!! -- but instead Churchill should be "investigated" and then fired for alleged academic fraud and violations of academic standards -- fire him because he has said that the U.S. gave smallpox-infested blankets to Indians and his footnote on that is supposedly not accurate, and he's claimed that he's so many sixteenths Native American, and that's open to question. And, lo and behold, the focus of the attack on Churchill has shifted along these lines. So it's kind of like, "wink-wink, we won't fire him for what he said, we'll fire him on some other fabricated basis -- things that have already been reviewed by academic committees as part of the normal academic process will be reviewed again, in a different way and a different context -- but everybody will know why we're really firing him."
So, this is now the way things are proceeding, with "investigations" of Churchill's academic performance and allegations of fraud and academic misconduct on his part -- and if they get away with this, that will be a major setback for critical thinking and dissent, in academia and in society overall. And it will be a major setback for everything we are about. So this represents a major battle that has to be taken up, it has become a concentrated focus of a larger battle to defend dissent and critical thinking in academia. The question is not simply one of "academic freedom" in some general sense. It involves, or overlaps with, the question of academic freedom, and in this regard it is crucial to uphold the principle of not only allowing but encouraging the pursuit of the truth and the engagement with many different ideas, in academia in particular as well as more generally in society, and to distinguish this from the phony banner of "fairness in academia" -- and the fabricated notion of "persecution of conservatives" in academia -- which is being hoisted by Horowitz and others as a cover for harassing and hounding people in academia who are on "the left" -- or who raise criticisms or even significant questions about the character of American society and America's role in the world. It is crucial to grasp the particularity of what is going on now -- that what is specifically under attack is precisely dissent and critical thinking in academia. What is under attack -- and, again, in waging this attack people like Horowitz have close ties and support right up to the highest levels of the current regime, including people like Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife Lynne, a prominent reactionary in her own right, who has also launched major attacks on progressive professors and others in academia -- what is under attack is the whole idea that the campus can be a place where you can raise fundamental questions, and there can be open discussion and debate, concerning the nature of this society and what this system and its government does in the world.
So we can see the great importance of this battle to defend critical thinking and dissent in academia, both in its own right and in how it relates to the society as a whole and to larger battles taking place in society. Earlier, I was speaking about the importance of colleges and universities in building mass movements of political resistance, including World Can't Wait. Well, imagine what it will mean if they succeed in transforming the sphere of academia into a place where you can't do that, and where there's no political atmosphere to do it, where the faculty are afraid to step out and support any of this and the students are intimidated from becoming involved in these kinds of movements. And, on the other side, think of what it will mean, and the powerful positive impact it will have, if this attack can be turned back, through political resistance in which both faculty and students take part, and in that way a major political defeat is handed to the forces who are seeking to suppress critical thinking and dissent in academia -- and who are doing that as part of a larger and overall move to chill and suppress critical thinking and dissent in society as a whole. Think of how this relates to the battle to defend science, how it connects up with the movement to drive out the Bush regime. And, yes, on another level, think of how all this relates to the strategic objectives of our Party: to abolish this whole system which has given rise to the monstrosity of the Bush regime and which has carried out, and continues to carry out, countless other crimes against humanity -- to abolish this system and replace it with a new system, new relations among people and a new world, in which the great majority of the people, and ultimately all of humanity, can truly flourish.
This brings me to the whole effort to Set the Record Straight with regard to the historical experience of socialist society and the goal of a communist world. I have heard that some people have raised whether our Party sees World Can't Wait as a means through which we can influence people to have a more favorable view of communism and to build up our Party. Well, the short answer to that is no -- that is not the basis and the orientation with which we have been very actively involved in World Can't Wait. I have already spoken to how we see the importance of World Can't Wait and of actually building a very broad and diverse movement of political resistance to achieve the objectives that are set forth in the Call of World Can't Wait. At the same time, we do of course think it is of decisive importance to influence people to have a more favorable view -- that is to say, to have a more correct and truthful understanding -- of what communism is all about and what the historical experience of socialist societies seeking to advance toward the goal of communism has been all about. And we work to do that openly, through our own efforts and through forms that are appropriate for that -- through our newspaper and other media of the Party, through the promotion and popularization of the body of work of our Chairman and the development of a culture of appreciation for his work and his role, and through the development of efforts like Setting the Record Straight.
Right now the focus of Setting the Record Straight is a speaking tour that Raymond Lotta has embarked on, which is focusing at this point on college campuses. The title of his talk -- "Socialism Is Much Better Than Capitalism, and Communism Will Be a Far Better World" -- clearly sets forth the basic theme, and the body of his talk gives substance to this provocative title. And while, again, this is definitely an effort with its own objectives, and is something altogether separate from things like World Can't Wait, it is true that it has an indirect relation, so to speak, to the political movement that is being built to drive out the Bush regime and massively repudiate its whole program. This relationship -- and the way in which this can make a contribution to this movement, even while being separate from it -- relates to the point that is made in the presentation by Raymond Lotta on Setting the Record Straight, where he speaks about how the concerted and all-sided effort to slander and discredit communism has as one of its main purposes, and effects, the placing of a ceiling above people's heads, in terms of their political vision and aspirations and their worldview. And that is not just a ceiling, it is also a weight pushing people down, lowering their sights, even about struggling for things short of revolution, let alone a whole different world. The more that people are conditioned to believe that there is no alternative to the present system -- and that it is a waste of time, or beyond the realm of reason, to even engage as a serious question and seek to scientifically evaluate the experience of the previous attempts at bringing forward a radical alternative, in the socialist societies that have existed so far -- the more they are shackled in their conception of what is possible and in their desire and determination to resist the current disastrous direction of things and to wrestle with the possibility of whether and how things could really be different.
And here a very important point needs to be underlined: Every attack and slander against communism helps to reinforce the notion that this world of capitalism and imperialism is the only possible world, and that the masses of people must learn to accept their lot under this system, and in this world, with all its horrors; or it helps to drive people under the sway of forces and programs that cannot lead to a way out of these horrors and to the emancipation of the oppressed and exploited, throughout the world (and ultimately the emancipation of humanity as a whole). It serves to perpetuate a dialectic (and a vicious cycle) in which dead-end and reactionary opposition to the dominant imperialist system, and that imperialist system itself, reinforce each other, even while opposing each other. This is what we sometimes capture in the slogan (it's the title of a book actually) Jihad vs. McWorld, which doesn't cover all of it but speaks to a significant expression of this phenomenon: masses of people are trapped in this dynamic where these two things reinforce each other, even while opposing each other; and, spontaneously and increasingly under the sway of these things -- and with the notion that the kind of better world that actually needs to be brought into being, a communist world, is impossible and undesirable -- the masses are not able to break out of the vicious cycle and are more and more drawn into it.
But on the positive side, there is a great potential for Setting the Record Straight to provoke and stimulate mass debate and wrangling over the question of whether this is the best of all possible worlds, after all, and is a radical alternative possible; to help raise the sights of growing numbers of people and inspire them with a radically different vision and sense of how another world actually could be possible, and what that world would be like. This is important, obviously, in relation to our Party's strategic revolutionary objectives; but, in the way I have spoken to here, it is also important in relation to taking this ceiling away, lifting this weight off people, so they can see not only the possibility of changing the world in the largest and most strategic sense, but also in terms of important things that are short of revolution -- while, from our point of view, they contribute to it -- in particular the movement to drive out the Bush regime. This is because the more that people have a sense of -- or at least are engaging the question of -- the possibility of change in a most fundamental way, the more they will see the possibility and, yes, the necessity to resist, even in ways short of that -- the more they will be motivated to resist the crimes and outrages of this system and the whole direction in which society and the world is being dragged. And, on the other side of this dialectic, the more they come forward and are mobilized in resistance, the more they will lift their heads and raise their sights and engage and wrangle with the questions: Is another world really possible, what should that world really be like, and how can we get there?
This underscores again the importance of our Party proceeding in accordance with the principle: resistance on the basis of revolution. Now that doesn't mean that we go out to organize and unite with people by saying: "We need revolution, so resist." Many people will come at this from a different perspective, not agreeing with or seeing the need or possibility or desirability of revolution at a given time. And, again, that is inevitably and necessarily a part of any broad united front -- and, in that sense, it is "as it should be." But what I am speaking to here is the question of what is our perspective, and how are we approaching this, from what strategic standpoint. We need to be approaching the movement to drive out the Bush regime -- and, for that matter, everything we do -- with the perspective of working to advance toward our strategic goals of revolution, socialism, and ultimately a communist world; and we should openly and honestly put this forward and talk with people about why we are approaching things from this perspective, and what that means, even as we are not only uniting broadly with many people and forces with many diverse views but are also encouraging them to put forward their viewpoints and engaging in lively and principled discussion and struggle with them over all kinds of questions, including the big question of what kind of world is desirable and possible and what is required to get to such a world.
1. This was discussed in the previous excerpt from this talk, "More on 'The Coming Civil War,'" Revolution 29 (January 8, 2006).
2. This Call can be found online at worldcantwait.net.
3. In the aftermath of the November 2 actions called by World Can't Wait, the focus of this movement has now become Bush's January 31 State of the Union speech and massive mobilization, in cities around the country on that day and in Washington D.C., on February 4, the Saturday after that, around not only the main slogan ("The World Can't Wait -- Drive Out the Bush Regime!") but also the specific demand: "Bush Step Down! And Take Your Program With You!"
4. See Bob Avakian's memoir, From Ike to Mao and Beyond: My Journey from Mainstream America to Revolutionary Communist (Chicago: Insight Press, 2005). Avakian speaks about this experience of the Free Speech Movement and other movements of the '60s in Chapter Six, "Your Sons and Daughters..."
5. The Revolutionary Communist Tour is a nationwide speaking tour of revolutionaries indicting the capitalist system for oppression of Black people and aiming to build a communist movement among the people at the bottom of society.
Revolution #030, January 15, 2006, posted at revcom.us
In late December, talk of impeaching Bush suddenly broke into the mainstream media. From the conservative financial paper Barron’s (which said that "willful disregard of a law is potentially an impeachable offense") to Newsweek and beyond, the question flared. Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer asked constitutional scholars to look into it. John Dean, the former lawyer of Richard Nixon (who was the last president forced out of office), wrote that Bush is "the first president to admit to an impeachable offense"--referring to Bush’s admission that he broke the law in order to spy on U.S. citizens.
The clamor around impeachment opens up an important but complex opportunity for those working to drive out the Bush regime--but only if it is aggressively seized upon. How to do that is a huge and consequential question for the movement.
Despite Bush’s wholesale violations of the Constitution, which are all grounds for impeachment, the Democrats have basically given Bush a free hand to implement the main parts of his program. So why has impeachment suddenly become a "legitimate" topic of discussion?
To begin with, the war in Iraq has continued to go badly from the imperialist standpoint. Other forces in the ruling class are worried that the war could develop into a major strategic disaster for imperialism, and they are not that impressed with either the Iraq elections in December or Bush’s recent public relations offensive to "re-sell" the war. They aim to pressure Bush--not to end the war, but to fight it "more effectively."
On top of that comes the current spying scandal, in which the Bush regime broke the rules of how the ruling class of imperialists--whom the top Republicans and Democrats both fundamentally represent--settle conflicts among themselves. Things like spying are supposed to be closely regulated-- not to protect the rights of the people, but to make sure that one section of imperialists doesn’t turn the powerful weapons of state repression against another.
But Bush violated this, and some Democrats then raised impeachment in part to warn Bush to back off. Bush shot right back, attacking his critics for "aiding the enemy." Howard Fineman, the Newsweek and MSNBC correspondent, warned that, "We are entering a dark time in which the central argument advanced by each party is going to involve accusing the other party of committing what amounts to treason. Democrats will accuse the Bush administration of destroying the Constitution; Republicans will accuse the Dems of destroying our security."
Fineman is saying something fairly extreme here; but whether you see such a time as "dark" depends on where you stand in the system and what you do about it. Such conflict at the top can create further openings for revolutionary and progressive political forces: more exposures of what goes on behind the scenes come to light and more people awaken to political life and, potentially, struggle. At its most extreme, the legitimacy of the system itself may be brought into question. So it may not be bad when thieves fall out, not bad at all . . . if their victims seize on it to do something good.
Which leads to the next point. Besides the conflict at the top, there has also been a movement from below forcing the question of "regime change" into the open. This happened in a significant, if still beginning way, with the demonstrations of thousands on November 2. It took a further step with the publication in the New York Times of the Call to drive out the Bush regime, and specifically to demonstrate on January 31 and February 4, on the occasion of the State of the Union speech, to demand that "Bush Step Down." The organized mass upsurge to drive out the regime, along with the still unorganized but widespread and increasingly intense mass anger against Bush and the yearning to see him go, has been another important factor forcing the hand of Democratic Party leaders.
This upsurge "from below" closely interpenetrates with and influences the struggle "at the top." But the two struggles are NOT one and the same. These are two distinct dynamics. The masses want the Bush regime to go; yesterday is not soon enough for millions of people in this country. The Democratic leaders, on the other hand, want to rein in both Bush . . . and the masses who hate Bush.
In "The Pyramid of Power and the Struggle to Turn This Whole Thing Upside Down," Bob Avakian writes that the social base of the Democratic Party are "the people who stand for progressive kinds of things, all the people who are oppressed in this society. For the Democrats, a big part of their role is to keep all those people confined within the bourgeois, the mainstream, electoral process. . . and to get them back into it when they have drifted away from--or broken out of--that framework . . . The last thing in the world [the Democratic leaders] want to do is to call these masses of people into the streets to protest or to battle against this right-wing force that’s being built up." [Bob Avakian, The Coming Civil War and Repolarization for Revolution in the Present Era (Chicago: RCP Publications, 2005), p. 3.]
Once in the streets, so to speak, people may get a sense of their own potential power and come to think more deeply and critically about things they may have taken for granted about society. They may check out and turn to different kinds of leadership, and broaden their horizons--and demands--still further, and in the process attract still greater forces to their banner. They may, if they fight hard enough and conditions come together in the right way, actually win the battle, and in so doing they may change the direction of society and open up the prospect and opportunity for a whole different future.
That may be a very exciting vision for you and me, but it is anathema to the top Democrats, whose interests lie, above all else, in defending the imperialist status quo. So the feelers around impeachment coming from Democratic leaders represent not only "a shot across the bow" to Bush, but also an attempt to rope in the anti-Bush sentiment coming from below and to control and deflect that sentiment.
But again, this is complex. A senator like Boxer who raises the question of impeachment--even though she intends in large part to draw people back into the narrow and killing confines of politics-as-usual--can, despite herself, end up adding to the "legitimacy" of the demand and encouraging people to step into political life. It’s a double-edged sword, one that can ultimately swing against either the ruling class. . . or the people. The question is who grasps it, and from what end.
One negative tendency in the current mix is an attempt to focus those who want impeachment on "getting out the vote in November" in a way that ignores or downplays the need to act in the streets now. A recent blog entry by a prominent liberal writer surveys the eruption of impeachment controversy into the media, notes the wide range of offenses for which Bush could be impeached, and concludes by . . . calling on people to help "the Democrats regain control of Congress in ’06." Even worse, in an entire essay devoted to the topic of impeachment, the writer does not even mention the November 2 demonstrations; the Times ad and the controversy that resulted from it; other important statements in support of the World Can’t Wait movement from a range of people; or the organizing for the January 31 and February 4 outpourings that is now under way.
Look: there will be no impeachment without mass upsurge. Even if you pin your hopes on the top Democrats for this, you have to recognize that they will not act unless and until they fear that their base is getting beyond their control. By the same token, any strategy that deflects people from taking action NOW in the name of "working (and essentially waiting) for November," will give Bush the time and political space to carry out and consolidate still more outrages, around the world and within the U.S. That would be unconscionable in any circumstance, and all the more so in a time when yesterday’s unprecedented outrages become tomorrow’s new norms.
Part of the danger in this "wait for November" orientation is that the terms on which people have entered the movement will change, imperceptibly but very rapidly: it will go from impeaching Bush, to winning over this or that congressman, to at least electing a Democrat (no matter what their program), and so on. Such an orientation, whatever the intentions of some of those who espouse or take it up, will allow Bush to deflate the opposition to him, both through repression and "spin." On that trajectory, by November Bush would have the apparatus of the right-wing media, the rigged voting districts, his huge Christian fascist "get-out-the-vote" operation, and the whole crooked voting machine thing going for him; people would be playing his game, on his court, with his referees. Far better to be in a position where a mass movement has been raging throughout society demanding that Bush step down, where people from all walks of life are breaking loose in their thinking and actions from the current suffocating atmosphere, or even where the strength of such a movement has already forced Bush out!
And by the way, that can be done--even without a Democratic Congress. After all, who controlled the Congress when the Democrat Lyndon Johnson was forced to essentially step down? The Democrats. And who uttered the famous words "what did the president know and when did he know it"--seen now as the decisive turn in Congress leading to the Republican Richard Nixon’s resignation? A Republican senator, Howard Baker. As these examples illustrate, the imperialists who really rule America do not make critical decisions based on elections, but on whether a particular president has, all in all, become too great a political liability to what they perceive as their overall interests--and that very much includes whether the actions of such a president and their effect on the masses is calling the legitimacy of the whole thing into question.
How the Bush regime gets driven out can't be predicted. But the only way that any of it--impeachment, resignation, whatever-- will happen is if everyone who cannot stand both the terrible outrages the regime has committed and the still more deadly future that it is hammering into place joins together in independent mass action NOW. To those who really want to see Bush impeached, to everyone who wants to see him go: your energy and effort right now needs to go into the push for truly massive actions around the State of the Union.
There is no magic pendulum; there is no savior that will come; there is no check or balance that will, at the eleventh hour, assert itself. There is only the people, and their capacity to act in their own interests and build up their own organizations, with the urgency and determination that this crossroads in history requires. That, and that alone, can change the course of history.
Millions of people have wanted the Bush regime to go for some time, and many spontaneously see impeachment as the avenue for that. But the question of impeachment has been stonewalled and suppressed. In an interview with Editor & Publisher, the chief pollster for the Washington Post complained of being constantly bombarded with e-mails and other messages asking why he refused to do a poll on impeachment. The reason, he said, is because no major politician was calling for it. Think about that for a minute: unless a major politician supports some course of action--no matter how great the mass sentiment for it may be--it’s not going to be offered to people broadly as “a serious option or topic of considered discussion,” to quote this pollster.
Revolution #030, January 15, 2006, posted at revcom.us
"With all these roof falls and everything that has happened over the multiple months, not weeks, MONTHS, that this has happened, and they STILL send men in there?"
John Bennett, son of a Sago miner,
confronting West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin
Today show, Jan. 4, 2005
The miners knew the Sago Mine was unsafe. And their families in the surrounding towns knew it too. The slap-on-the-wrist fines of the mine inspectors left an unmistakable paper trail for everyone else--serious violations jumped four times in 2005 over 2004.
I went into the coal mines in the early 1970s--as part of a whole generation of revolutionary youth taking communism to the working class. And over the following years there would be times--when the rock was breaking up, or water was pouring through the mine roof, or when gas built up--and you would lie there just dreading the next day. Not wanting to go in. But not wanting to leave your crew to face it all alone. Or you’d watch as someone you knew was carried out, broken up or dead, and taken to a waiting ambulance. While we wrestled with that, together and alone, there is constantly that hard pull of working class life--the bills that need to be paid, the way danger just becomes part of life, and with that, the fact that working people are treated like this is all our lives are worth.
The miners of the Sago mine knew there was danger--but still went back, day after day, because for most, there was nowhere else to go.
Then disaster struck on January 2.
Sago is a naturally gassy mine. Methane actively bubbles out of the coal itself with a hiss. If the ventilation is not right, the gas builds up in dangerous concentrations. And that's what happened: Methane accumulated in a sealed-off section of the mine until the stagnant air was as explosive as a tanker of gasoline.
As two crews of miners were entering the mine, a spark ignited the methane mixture, and a fireball ripped through the mine, blowing out the walls of cinder block, and sending debris flying. The burning methane and coal dust consumed the oxygen in the air, and the mine filled with heavy smoke, carbon dioxide, and poisonous carbon monoxide.
The miners just entering the mine were able to stumble back outside. But the other crew was already deeper in the mine. The gas swept over one man, Terry Helms, killing him as he was returning from testing the coal faces. The remaining 12 men retreated to one of the mine workings. With coal on three sides, they stretched ventilation canvas over the fourth side, making a small room for themselves. And there, trapped without a source of breathable air, they waited for rescue.
Meanwhile their families outside were gathered in the local Baptist church and used in a media frenzy of born-again religiosity. This disaster was portrayed by both politicians and reporters as an act of divine will. West Virginia’s governor announced that miracles were needed. President Bush offered "God's blessings and America's prayers" for the trapped men (all while addressing an audience of supporters of Patriot Act police spying). When asked what outsiders could do, the company head said "Pray."
When word spread that the 12 men had been found alive, the media portrayed it as the perfect ending to a religious parable. As families celebrated, the governor announced, "Miracles do happen." Television news reported over and over that "God has heard the prayers."
In fact, things had not gone well. Each man carried a self-rescuer on his belt--that chemically changes carbon monoxide into breathable air for about an hour (and longer with shallow breathing). As that ran out, the miners had died, one by one, except for the youngest, Randy McCloy.
While the families celebrated outside, the owners of Sago Mine, the International Coal Group (ICG) quickly learned that most of the miners had, in fact, not been found alive. In an unbelievably cruel move, they kept this a secret from the families for almost three long hours--while they worked out their corporate spin.
When ICG's CEO Ben Hatfield finally arrived at the church to explain the "misinformation," the families erupted in anger. One woman lunged at Hatfield and was dragged away by a swarm of state police. People were bitterly disappointed at the failure of their prayers, and bitterly cursed the ICG coal operators.
The ventilation of mines can be maintained to prevent the buildup of dangerous gases. Coal seams too gassy for that can be abandoned so human lives are not needlessly risked. Miners can have radio homing beacons and tanks of emergency oxygen to survive carbon monoxide. And there can be trained emergency teams close at hand.
The fact that one miner was still clinging to life 42 hours after the explosion, makes me wonder if more wouldn’t have lived if the rescue operations had started more quickly. The nearest federal rescue team was over 70 miles away, and it was 11 long hours before the first rescuers entered the mine--to begin their slow courageous work of searching this smoke-filled mine.
Freeing the people from such dangers and tragedies does not require some divine miracle. In fact promoting faith over reason is useless, and worse, when we all struggle to understand how such things happen.
The life and death of these miners was never in the hands of some non-existent god. This disaster was man-made. It was unnecessary and criminal. And such dangers face working people constantly across the planet--especially in China, where the deaths in coal mines have been especially massive and horrific since the restoration of capitalism after the death of Mao. In this capitalist world, the necessary precautions are simply not considered profitable.
A 1995 federal study documented how the whole rescue system is out of date and under-funded. Nothing was done. In fact, these operations were even further cut back in the climate of "deregulation."
At the Sago Mine, the previous owners had faced bankruptcy and let the mine facilities deteriorate. The mine was bought by ICG--a corporate front for billionaire Wilbur Ross who ruthlessly squeezes new profit out of ruined companies. The exact details of how Sago Mine has been run are not yet known, but everyone understands what someone like Ross does to an operation. His cutthroat tactics are the rule in the coalfields.
Anyone who’s worked in a mine knows how routinely it’s all done. Foremen lie about gas readings. Safety devices are turned off and on, depending on who’s watching. Judges and state police enforce the power of the mine owners. The pressure of mine closures pushes miners to take greater risks. And so on, and so on.
I was in a small explosion once as our ripper heads cut into an old passageway. Not big enough to burn anyone, but enough to send flames flashing back, licking at us and then disappearing--leaving us gray-faced and deafened. By the time we had made it outside, the mine management descended--to hush us up, to keep that part of the mine from shutting down. And those of us who refused, who testified in the hearing, who told what we had seen, were simply targeted--not just targeted for eventual firing, but targetted for the most dangerous assignments in the meanwhile.
Mines that are profitable stay open, mines that prove expensive are simply closed. And a growing number of mines, like Sago, are kept non-union, where miners don't have even the most basic protections from retaliation.
That’s how it works. That’s how the coal gets run and the money gets made.
If the trapped miners now lie dead with a whole community shaken--well, for those who run all this, that is just a cost they are willing to accept. Because that next day, in mines across the coalfields, miners will wake up with no immediate choice but to go back to work. And because Sago will reopen and young faces will show up to take place of the men that died.
Two days ago, with 12 miners dead and one still lost in a coma, I watched ICG's Ben Hatfield coldly cut short a press conference by announcing, "We have to get back to running our business."
Revolution #030, January 15, 2006, posted at revcom.us
The U.S. government knew for years what would happen if a huge hurricane hit New Orleans. Hundreds of scientific reports predicted that the Black neighborhood of the 9th Ward, and the mainly working class neighborhood of St. Bernard, would be flushed away and the industrial districts and wealthy neighborhoods would survive. The way the levees were built made this all but inevitable. But Congress slashed funds for the levees and Bush cut them even more. It was known for days that Hurricane Katrina was coming, but authorities failed to evacuate the city. Then after the storm hit on August 29, they abandoned the poorest sections of New Orleans, with the highest populations of Black people. They left those most vulnerable to face the storms and flooding with no help of any kind. Bush refused to interrupt his vacation and allowed people to suffer and die for days. Over 1,000 died and hundreds of thousands suffered and are still suffering--unneccesarily.
Whether by negligence or design or both, this was MASS MURDER carried out by the authorities, beginning with Bush.
THE AUTHORITIES AIM THEIR GUNS AT THE PEOPLE: The government and its armed forces treated tens of thousands of desperate, hungry, and sick people like an enemy. The media, politicians, and officials created an ugly, racist atmosphere--spreading the lie that there was widespread looting and savage atrocities being carried out by Black people. Brig. Gen. Gary Jones, commander of the Louisiana National Guard’s Joint Task Force, said, "This place is going to look like Little Somalia. This will be a combat operation to get this city under control." Bush said there would be "zero tolerance" for looters and Louisiana's governor said National Guard troops would "shoot and kill" people taking things from stores. Blackwater, the company hired by the U.S. for death-squad activities in Iraq, deployed 200 men to the city, authorized to use lethal force. When hundreds of people tried to escape the floods at the Crescent City Connection Bridge, the police fired warning shots at them and blocked them from crossing. Set loose by the tone set from on high, the New Orleans and other police departments in the area beat and even killed many people, for which there has never been an accounting!
THE PEOPLE TAKE COLLECTIVE ACTION: The disaster showed the people's potential to organize themselves and courageously take matters into their own hands. One 20-year-old man commandeered a school bus to bring people from New Orleans to the Houston Astrodome. A group of mostly teenagers and young adults pooled what money they had for gas and necessities like diapers. Some young men broke into the kitchen of the Marriott Hotel, fixed a batch of scrambled eggs, grits and bacon, and served it to other victims. A retired teacher at the Convention Center praised these youth as "Robin Hoods"--bringing food to the people. Another elderly woman said, "Those ‘looters’ are the only ones keeping us alive." A young man put 18 babies and children from apartments near his in a rowboat and rowed them to safety and continued to care for them. Others went through apartments in the projects or houses in their neighborhoods searching for people they knew wouldn’t be able to move out on their own, and helping get them to safety. People with boats from the surrounding area and bus drivers in Houston, Dallas, and Lafayette, Louisiana, tried to rescue people in New Orleans but were stopped by FEMA. This showed the potential strength that the people "on the bottom" have when they join together--the strength to resist and, ultimately, to make revolution and build a new society.
TURNING DISASTER INTO PROFIT, ETHNIC CLEANSING AND BUILDING UP THE CHRISTIAN FASCISTS: Bush announced plans for "enterprise zones" in New Orleans, where the big capitalists could turn disaster into big profit with billion dollar construction contracts, new zoning laws, no environmental protections, tax breaks, and even lower wages.
Before the hurricane, Black people made up about 70% of the population of New Orleans. After Katrina, Bush’s Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Alphonso Jackson said: "New Orleans is not going to be as Black as it was for a long time, if ever again." Louisiana Congressman Richard Baker said: "We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn’t do it, but God did."
Katrina was a natural disaster, easily explained by science. But reactionary preachers blamed the masses for the hurricane, saying, "God did this to punish the people of New Orleans" for gambling, abortions, drugs, Mardi Gras, gay pride days, or even voodoo. And the disaster was used to support and promote Christian fascist churches and funnel money into their "charities."
CRUEL EVACUATION: The authorities subjected tens of thousands of people to slaveship conditions at the Superdome and Convention Center. There was no food or electricity, and the toilets backed up. People suffered from dehydration and were surrounded by disease-ridden water. Dead bodies were left out in the open. Thousands were herded into shelters and dispersed all over the country. Echoing slavery days, many were separated from their loved ones. People were treated like criminals or potential criminals. Background checks were done when people checked into shelters. Some were jailed on old warrants, some immigrants were deported. People were housed in heavily guarded centers, with metal detectors, surrounded by police cars, armed soldiers, and FEMA agents and federal, state, and local officials.
KATRINA WAS PART OF THE WHOLE CRIMINAL HISTORY OF CAPITALISM: The neglect, abandonment, abuse, and brutality of Black people after Hurricane Katrina is a crime of the capitalist system, connected to a whole legacy of slavery and Jim Crow laws. This system has always treated Black people as exploitable, expendable, and undesirable.
IN 1850 NEW ORLEANS WAS THE SOUTH'S LARGEST SLAVE-TRADING CENTER. There were 25 major slave depots within a half mile from the St. Charles Hotel where African-American slaves were bought and sold. The sight of thousands of Black victims of Katrina packed into sports arenas brought back haunting visions of the holds of the slave ships.
IN THE GREAT MISSISSIPPI FLOOD OF 1927, the authorities rounded up Black people at gunpoint and threw them into concentration camps. They were worked day and night to reinforce and rebuild the levees and were forcibly prevented from leaving the flood area. The wealthy white plantation owners were determined that their labor force would not escape to the north.
PEOPLE ARE STILL SUFFERING: Katrina destroyed or badly damaged 130,000 of the 200,000 homes in New Orleans and at the start of 2006, four months after Katrina, thousands are still without homes. People are living in temporary housing, doubling up with other families, living in garages, out of cars, in tent or trailer "cities." Tens of thousands of people are on waiting lists for trailers. People living in hotels paid for by FEMA--42,000 families living in 4,000 hotels in 47 states--were scheduled to be kicked out on December 15, then given only a three week extension. In New Orleans many areas still don't have electricity. Even some of the FEMA trailers don't have power. At the beginning of December, only 10% of public buses were in operation and ONE out of 116 public schools was open. And now it has come to light that it will be official policy to withhold rebuilding funds from the Black 9th Ward.
Revolution #030, January 15, 2006, posted at revcom.us
As the new year begins, January looms as a crucial month, possibly shaping events for the year and far beyond. In this critical moment, there's an urgent need--and great possibility--for delivering a powerful and compelling indictment of the Bush administration for war crimes and crimes against humanity right here in the U.S. This is the mission of the International Commission of Inquiry on Crimes Against Humanity, whose final session will be held January 20-22 in New York City. The situation, and our responsibility to world humanity, call for nothing less.
Just since our opening session in October, new reports of shocking crimes--in all areas of our indictments--have poured forth. In Iraq, it has been revealed that the U.S. used white phosphorous in Falluja and is escalating its air war, while its Iraqi allies build torture chambers and organize death squads.
Bush, Cheney, and Rice hypocritically claim "we do not torture," while making clear--in actions and words--that they do, and fully intend to continue spying, detaining, torturing, and maintaining secret dungeons. The number of hunger strikers at Guantánamo has nearly doubled because, according to Reuters (12/30/05), "the idea of spending the rest of [their lives] at Guantánamo without any due process is simply unbearable." Recalling the infamous Dr. Mengele, the Nazi doctor who experimented on concentration camp prisoners, their U.S. captors have responded by forcing blood and mucus covered force-feeding tubes down their throats.
With scientists warning of climate shocks, polar ice melts, and global "tipping points," the U.S. walked out of one session of the Montreal Summit on global warming and continues to sabotage efforts to curb global warming, putting millions around the world at greater risk from natural disasters, loss of habitat, water shortages, and famine.
On the eve of World AIDS Day, the Bush administration expanded its global gag on information vital to fighting this pandemic, and codified that two-thirds of all aid funds aimed at preventing HIV infections by sexual transmission must be spent on abstinence-only programs. Both these actions have potentially genocidal implications in AIDS-ravaged countries dependent on U.S. health funds.
In the face of the massive devastation in New Orleans, Bush continues to neglect the vital needs of those most severely impacted. Homes are not being rebuilt, services and schools that would enable the city's displaced residents to return are not being restored. Tens of thousands, overwhelmingly Black, are still destitute or living as refugees, far from their former homes. Many have called this a form of racial cleansing.
It is not an exaggeration to state that the future of global humanity is being held hostage--in many ways and on many fronts--by a criminal cabal in the White House which remains bent on forging ahead with its cruel, dangerous agenda. A recent Washington Post headline stated, "Covert CIA Program Withstands New Furor, Anti-Terror Effort Continues to Grow."
All this places a great responsibility on people of conscience, especially here in the U.S. As the charter of the Commission of Inquiry states, "When the possibility of far-reaching war crimes and crimes against humanity exists, people of conscience have a solemn responsibility to inquire into the nature and scope of these acts and to determine if they do in fact rise to the level of war crimes and crimes against humanity."
In this regard, these words spoken by Harold Pinter in his acceptance speech for the 2005 Nobel Prize for Literature, resonate powerfully: "Despite the enormous odds which exist, unflinching, unswerving, fierce intellectual determination, as citizens, to define the real truth of our lives and our societies is a crucial obligation which devolves upon us all."
And there is a particular urgency to the Commission's work now. Questioning, distrust, and anger over actions by the Bush regime have grown by leaps and bounds. But public comprehension of, and outrage over, the full sweep and scope of the administration's agenda--remains far too narrow and muted; too often things are discussed in terms of "dishonesty," "misconduct," and "law-breaking." All are true, but neither begin to capture the enormity of Bush’s crimes--both those that have occurred and those in the making.
If the current terms of debate are allowed to stand and the Bush administration is not called to account for its towering acts against humanity, it will emerge strengthened. If its actions are not fully repudiated, they become legitimized and a new "normalcy" established--only to be shattered by new horrors, with people less able to respond.
At this critical moment, the Commission of Inquiry can make a decisive difference. Prominent witnesses rigorously presenting compelling evidence before a jury of stature, conscience, and expertise can reveal and galvanize truths that change hearts and minds.
Examining Bush’s actions which rise to the level of crimes against humanity--wars of aggression, torture, global warming, HIV/AIDS policies and Katrina--can deepen each individual indictment. And by taking them together, a whole can emerge greater than the sum of its parts: the conscious, systematic malevolence at the core of the Bush agenda, and how truly unconscionable this regime is on the scales of history.
This Commission of Inquiry is an instrumentality of world humanity and an imperative of conscience. It can become a vehicle for the millions looking for clarity and voice, can change the terms of debate, and can deliver a powerful and urgently needed "j'accuse" ("I accuse") right in Bush's brave new "homeland."
As its Charter states: "The holding of this tribunal will frame and fuel a discussion that is urgently needed in the United States: Is the administration of George W. Bush guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity?"
Your participation is essential to realizing the Commission of Inquiry's historic mission. Contact our office by phone (212-941-8086), e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via our website: www.bushcommission.org.
Revolution #030, January 15, 2006, posted at revcom.us
You are about to enter the United Christian States of America. To ensure that your stay will be a pleasant one, you will obey the following fourteen commandments:
1. Abortions are banned.
2. Woman are free to do whatever their husbands allow.
3. Do not run from our police -- or you will be shot in the back.
4. White male privilege will be protected at all times.
5. You have the right to answer ALL our questions -- no right to remain silent, no right to an attorney.
6. You have the right to an all-white English-speaking jury.
7. Political refugees are welcome to stay in our detention centers before deportation.
8. Students will be indoctrinated with religion, prayer will be enforced.
9. You and your children can and will be strip-searched at any time.
10. White votes count for more.
11. Speak up and speak clearly -- we're always listening.
12. If you have AIDS you have the right to be discriminated against.
13. Prisoners have the right to be beaten.
14. Employers have the right to discriminate without fear of lawsuits.
All of the above "commandments" have been advocated in some manner or form by Judge Samuel J. Alito -- as a Justice Department applicant, government official or sitting judge. While at present, much of what he has advocated has of yet failed in the courts, Alito on the Supreme Court will open the door that his views will become the new standard for law in the United States.
1.Alito explained in a 1985 job application to the Justice Department that he believed "very strongly" that "the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion" and that he was "proud" to help advance that position in the Justice Department. His efforts included a proposed strategy that aimed for the "eventual overturning of Roe v. Wade (1973), and in the meantime, of mitigating its effects."
2.Alito upheld a Pennsylvania law requiring a women in certain circumstance to notify her husband before obtaining an abortion. Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey (1992).
3.In a 1984 memo Alito authored as an assistant Solicitor General in the Justice Department, he maintained that it was constitutional for a Tennessee police officer to shoot in the back and kill an unarmed 15 year old boy suspected of stealing $10 worth of money and jewelry. Alito wrote, "societal order would quickly break down" if suspects could force officers to choose between killing them and letting them go. The Supreme Court unanimously ruled against the Tennessee law authorizing the shooting. ( Tennessee v. Garner 1985)
4. In a brief opposing an affirmative action plan, Alito obscenely equated affirmative action with slavery, claiming it could teach students "that one hundred and twenty years after the end of slavery government may still advance some and suppress others not as individuals but because of the color of their skin." On the bench, in another case, Alito tried to keep a worker's claim of race discrimination from being heard by the jury. ( Bray v. Marriott Hotel 1997)
Most revealing, in what amounts to using the KKK for a job reference, Alito prominently highlighted his membership in "Concerned Alumni of Princeton" in a 1985 application for a Justice Department promotion. The organization was created in 1972 to protect the then white male character of the Princeton student body. An essay entitled "In Defense of Elitism" in the November 1983 issue of the group's publication, Prospect, began "People nowadays just don't seem to know their place. Everywhere one turns blacks and hispanics are demanding jobs simply because they're black and hispanic, the physically handicapped are trying to gain equal representation in professional sports, and homosexuals are demanding that government vouchsafe them the right to bear children." Alito now reportedly fails to remember anything about his membership in CAP.
5.In his 1985 Justice Department application, Alito stated that while in college, "I developed a deep interest in constitutional law, motivated in large part by disagreement with Warren Court decisions, particularly in the areas of criminal procedure, the Establishment Clause, and reapportionment." Two central Warren Court rulings on criminal procure established the "right to remain silent" when questioned by police (Miranda), and the "right to an attorney" even when you can not afford one (Gideon).
6.Alito disagreed when seven judges tossed out a criminal verdict because of racial discrimination during jury selection, by a prosecutor who had struck all potential Black jurors from other death penalty trials occurring in the jurisdiction that year. The majority opinion said Alito's reasons "minimized the history of discrimination against prospective black jurors and black defendants." That came in response to Alito's trivializing discrimination by comparing the statistical evidence concerning Black jurors to the number of left-handed U.S. presidents, a statement that in essence dismissed the " Batson " ruling that made discrimination in jury selection illegal. ( Riley v Taylor 2001)
7.Alito upheld the denial of asylum to a member of a Guinean political opposition group who's father was murdered by the Guinean military, his home burned to ground and wife beaten and raped - saying there wasn't enough evidence to "second guess" the immigration department's ruling. ( Dia v Ashcroft 2003) In another case, an Iranian woman gave a number of examples of the consequences women face for non-compliance with Iranian gender-specific laws -- imprisonment if caught in public without the traditional Islamic veil, the routine penalty of 74 lashes, as well as rape or death. Alito denied the Iranian woman's asylum claim, stating that she failed to show how compliance with Iran's laws and social norms would be "tantamount to persecution" or that she would refuse to conform even if the consequences were severe. ( Fatin v. INS 1993)
8. Alito stated opposition to the Warren Court (see #5) including the ruling that struck down what the court saw as coercive prayer in school (Establishment Clause). On the bench, Judge Alito argued that a public school board could get around an earlier Supreme Court ruling, which barred school-approved, clergy-led prayers at graduation ceremonies, by allowing students to approve student-led prayers at graduation ceremonies, a position later ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. ( ACLU of New Jersey v. Black Horse Pike Regional Board of Education 1996)
In another ruling, Alito held that a school board's anti-harassment policy restricted the free speech rights of Christian students to speak out against homosexuality. ( Saxe v. State College Area School District 1999) Alito also ruled against local school officials, who had refused to permit representatives of Child Evangelism to hand out materials and staff a table at back-to-school nights and other events on school grounds because that would violate the Establishment Clause. The group describes itself as a
"'Bible-centered, worldwide organization composed of born-again believers whose purpose is to evangelize boys and girls with the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and to establish (disciple) them in the Word of God and in a local church for Christian living.'" ( Child Evangelism Fellowship of New Jersey, Inc. v. Stafford Township School District 2004)
9.In a dissenting opinion, Alito upheld the strip search of a mother and her 10 year old daughter. Neither were suspects or named in the search warrant. ( Doe v Groody 2004) Alito also voted, in another case, to prevent a jury from hearing evidence that a police supervisor illegally allowed his officers to handcuff and search a woman and her teenage children at gunpoint. They had simply walked up to her oldest son's home, which was being raided by police. ( Baker v. Monroe Township 1995)
10.Alito's opposition to the Warren Court's "reapportionment" decision puts him in opposition to decisions in 1962 and 1964 that ruled against the practice where Congressional and Senate districts were fixed so that small numbers of mainly conservative, often rural white voters had their own districts, while much larger numbers of people (usually in urban areas) were crammed into other districts - essentially giving people in these conservative, rural districts more votes per person. These rigged, white-get-more-votes congressional districts were part of denying Black people the right to vote. On the bench, Alito has ruled against minority voters who claimed that a Delaware school board voting plan illegally diluted their voting strength. ( Jenkins v. Manning 1994)
11.While at the justice department, Alito agreed that Executive Branch officials should be absolutely immune from claims concerning illegal domestic wiretapping. While in the Solicitor General's office, Alito argued (unsuccessfully at the time) in a Supreme Court brief that Cabinet officials who authorized illegal wiretaps to gather intelligence about "possible terrorist activities" were entitled to absolute immunity from any legal liability. ( Mitchell v Forsyth, 472 U.S 5111985)
12. In 1986, then Deputy Assistant Attorney General Alito helped draft the Office of Legal Counsel's "Cooper Opinion," which concluded that the prohibition against discrimination against persons with disabilities in any federally funded program did NOT apply to people with AIDS. They could be excluded and fired because of an employer's "fear of contagion whether reasonable or not"
13.Alito threw out a verdict and $300,000 judgement against prison guards who viciously beat inmate Raymond Pryer, breaking his leg in two places, breaking both hands, splitting his lips, swelling his eye, leaving welts on his face and bruises over his entire body and causing him to urinate blood. ( Pryer v C.O. 3.Slavic 2001)
14.Alito upheld judgement for the company in an age-discrimination suit brought by a former executive who was first denied a promotion and then later fired by a company president who openly asked the executive "if you are getting too old for the job." ( Keller v. ORIX Credit Alliance 1997)
Revolution #030, January 15, 2006, posted at revcom.us
Lawyers representing fundamentalist Christian schools--which teach that everything in the Bible is literally true--are suing the University of California in federal court to force the University to accept classes being taught at Calvary Chapel Christian School in Murrieta, California for college preparation requirements. The fundamentalist schools claim that their First Amendment rights were violated and that they were victims of "viewpoint discrimination" because the University of California (UC) refused to approve a number of science and humanity courses taught at Calvary in admissions decisions.
What is being taught in the disputed classes has nothing to do with critical thinking and a scientific approach to reality. And consider the very logic of the lawsuit: if UC can be compelled to accept these classes as meeting college requirements, why couldn’t the university also be compelled to teach this? And what kind of impact will it have on other schools if UC is forced to accept these classes? More than that--what is the larger agenda that this is part of? Where is it heading?
Take a look at some of these contested courses. For example, Biology for Christian Schools, a textbook for one of the rejected courses, says, "The people who have prepared this book have tried consistently to put the Word of God first and science second. If at any point God's Word is not put first, the author apologizes." In other words, if the Bible says that the earth is just a few thousand years old (which is what textbooks like this uphold) then it must be so, and never mind a mountain of scientific evidence that says the earth is billions of years old. If the Bible says that all of the animals were created in six days, that's what must have really happened--again never mind the overwhelming evidence for evolution. And if somehow the reader is left with any notion to the contrary, then "the author apologizes"!
Science demands critical thinking based on observation of the real world. If religious or any other kind of unscientific assumptions are made equal with or put above scientific methodology, then science itself is thrown out the window. And this point is made in a backhanded way by a physics textbook rejected by UC, which says, "Trying to believe both secular physics and the Bible leaves you in a state of confusion that will weaken your faith in God's Word."
The same kind of dogmatism is applied to the humanities. The textbook for one of the humanities classes that UC refused to accredit, United States History for Christian Schools, says that Thomas Jefferson was a liar and an antichrist. Because he upheld slavery? Guess again. It’s because, says this textbook, Jefferson thought that Jesus Christ was a good teacher but not the incarnate son of God.
Elements of Literature for Christian Schools attacks Mark Twain, who wrote a number of humorous and popular works that critique religion. According to this textbook, Twain’s "skepticism was clearly not the honest questioning of a seeker of truth but the deliberate defiance of a confessed rebel." Poet Emily Dickinson is also singled out for attack.
What does it mean when figures like Mark Twain and Emily Dickinson are subject to these kinds of attacks in high school textbooks? The forces behind this want a society where the Bible is accepted as THE TRUTH and the one and only yardstick against which to measure everything.
The attempt to force a major public university to accept this kind of nonsense is part of a whole agenda that includes reconfiguring all kinds of cultural, social, and political "norms" in society. This is a movement predicated on the shared conviction that the United States is in need of drastic changes to establish a variant of Christian fundamentalism as the foundation and framework of all its institutions. Today they ask for recognition as a legitimate alternative; but the logic of their program, along with what they have done in other spheres, leads to a tomorrow where theirs is the ONLY legitimate interpretation.
A civics textbook by A. Beka Publishing (which provides books for many of the classes that were rejected by UC) begins, "All governments are ordained by God, but none compare to government by God, theocracy." These forces are Christian fascist--they are quite serious about instituting a theocracy, and their lawsuit against the University of California must be seen in that light--a bid for legitimacy in the present, in the service of achieving an airless, locked-down future. Now is the time to resist.
Revolution #030, January 15, 2006, 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.
Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: Communism and Socialism
Part 3: The Bolsheviks Lead a Revolution That Shakes the World
Part 4: The Soviet Experiment: The Social Revolution Ushered in by Proletarian Power
Part 5: The Soviet Experiment: Building the World's First Socialist Economy
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.
By the mid-1930s, war clouds were gathering. In 1931, Japan had invaded the Chinese region of Manchuria, which bordered the Soviet Far East. By 1934 in Germany, Hitler had tightened his hold on power, crushed the German Communist Party, and had begun to militarize the economy.
The Soviet revolution was coming to a critical juncture. The danger of imperialist war was growing. How would the Soviet Union prepare economically and militarily, and politically and socially?
By 1934, Stalin and several others in leadership felt it was time to consolidate the political and social gains of the revolution. The new proletarian state was facing extreme and difficult objective conditions. War was looming. There was no prior historical experience for dealing with the magnitude of the situation. Adjustments were called for. But mistakes were made in how this dire necessity was dealt with. On the basis of the transformations in ownership that had gone on, there was a push for greater discipline and stepped-up production in the factories. But the development of the productive forces came to be seen as the guarantee of socialism. Leadership relied less on the conscious activism and initiative of the masses. The radical social and cultural experimentation of the 1920s and early 1930s was reined in – and things got consolidated in a way that strengthened more traditional relations. Socialism in the Soviet Union had to be defended. But the Soviet leadership tended to see the defense of the Soviet Union as being one and the same as the interests of the world revolution without any contradiction – and thus increasingly promoted national patriotism instead of proletarian internationalism.
The growing danger of interimperialist war and the likelihood of imperialist assault on the Soviet Union were setting the stage for what Western scholars call the "great purges" in the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Few subjects in modern history are so thoroughly distorted. Once again, there is bourgeois story line. We are told that Stalin was drunk with power and sought absolute power--knocking down any and all who disagreed with him.
But the reality of the situation was that the revolution was confronting new pressures and new challenges. And political struggle intensified within the party and government: over domestic and international policy, including international alliances…over the direction of the revolution…over whether the revolution could even hold out.
We’re told that Stalin was paranoid. But in fact there were real enemies of the revolution. There was real subversion. There were backward social movements in society. There was a real German threat. And in 1934, the second-ranking leader of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, closely associated with Stalin, was assassinated. This was the atmosphere of the times.
In terms of the purges, here I have to state honestly that more research is needed into what exactly was going on in the Soviet Communist Party in the 1930s. But what does seem to be the case is this: as international tensions grew, Stalin and other revolutionary leaders had genuine reason to be concerned about the state of the party and army. There was concern about whether some of the regional party leaders could be depended on to carry out national directives, as society and economy were heading into war.
The revolutionary leadership also had reason to be concerned about the reliability of the high command of the Soviet army. After World War 1, Germany and the Soviet Union had entered into military cooperation agreements. These agreements involved training of officers and transfer of weaponry. There was worry that ties and relationships might have developed between the Soviet military staff and their German counterparts. Could the Soviet generals now be counted on, especially as the Soviet Union was preparing to face off against German imperialism--or would these generals compromise with Germany?
These were some of the circumstances surrounding the purges of top Party and military leaders. Stalin was fighting to defend the revolution. He was not going to allow the Soviet Union to go back to capitalism, or to cave in to imperialism.
But in many ways, Stalin’s understanding of the contradictions and struggles under socialism was flawed. It was marked by mechanical rather than dialectical materialism. And his methods for dealing with the situation had serious problems with adverse consequences.
He relied on purges and police actions to solve problems--rather than mobilizing the masses to take up the burning political and ideological questions on the overall direction of society. Mao was critical of Stalin’s approach and pointed out that Stalin had a tendency to mix up two fundamentally different types of contradictions: the contradiction between the people and the enemy, and contradictions among the people themselves. Repression, which should only have been directed against enemies, was used against people who were not enemies but merely were making mistakes or expressing disagreements with the policy of the government.
In June 1941, the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union. They threw the most modern army in the world and most of their military might against the Soviets. Hitler made it clear to his troops that he expected them to discard every principle of humanity in what was to be a war of extermination.
The Soviets fought with incredible heroism--block to block in Stalingrad, in epic tank battles over frozen wastelands. When the Germans invaded, the fact that the Soviet Union had a planned economy made it possible--and this was just within a few weeks--to dismantle 1,500 big factories and transport them to the eastern regions of the Soviet Union.
Over 20 million Soviets lost their lives in World War 2, basically 1 out of 10 in the population. Despite what we are told about D-Day and the landing of U.S. and British troops at Normandy, the real turning point of World War 2 was the Battle of Stalingrad. The Soviets were the main factor and force in Hitler’s defeat. And this would not have been possible without the great determination and sacrifice of the people of the Soviet Union under the leadership of the Communist Party, led by Stalin. This too is one of the great achievements of the Soviet revolution.
The Soviet Union came out of World War 2 militarily victorious. But the revolution was weakened politically and ideologically. Conservative forces and currents had gained strength in the Party, in the government, and in society. After Stalin’s death in 1953, new bourgeois forces within the Communist Party maneuvered to seize power; and in 1956, Khrushchev took over the reins, consolidated the rule of a new capitalist class, and led in systematically restructuring the Soviet Union into a state-capitalist society. This was the end of the first proletarian state.
How do we put the Soviet revolution in perspective? From the sweep of history, the Soviet revolution stands as an earthshaking breakthrough in freeing oppressed humanity. Against great odds, the masses accomplished amazing things. A new world was in the process of being created. And this revolution inspired the oppressed of world. These were the first steps, apart from the short-lived Paris Commune, along the road of emancipation, towards a world free of oppression and exploitation.
But the project of emancipation develops and evolves. Great revolutionary leaders with vision and scientific understanding are able to sum up lessons, develop new understanding, and forge new solutions to the challenge of creating a classless world. Mao Zedong would take the communist project to a whole new place.
NEXT WEEK: The Chinese Revolution 1949
Revolution #030, January 15, 2006, posted at revcom.us
On December 16 the House of Representatives passed a draconian new bill that, if it becomes law, would further criminalize undocumented immigrants--along with anyone that helps them--and intensify the militarization of the border and the overall repressive offensive against immigrants.
Key features of the House bill include the following:
One measure that did not make it into the final House bill is the idea--pushed by those like fascistic House Republican Tom Tancredo--to overturn the long-established principle that every child born in this country, regardless of their parents' status, is a citizen. This is known as "birthright citizenship." Tancredo said last November, "Citizenship in this country should not be bestowed on people who are children of folks who come into this country illegally." This is, in effect, an argument for repealing the 14th Amendment--passed after the Civil War to give former slaves citizenship--which says, "All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States."
While the denial of birthright citizenship for children of undocumented immigrants was not included in the House bill, the fact that this far-reaching idea was seriously under consideration in the Congress shows that the government's anti-immigrant offensive--which is already bringing intense misery and suffering to millions--is heading in an even more extreme direction. And as Michele Waslin of National Council of La Raza points out about the push to revoke birthright citizenship, "This was always seen in the past as some extreme, wacko proposal that never goes anywhere. But these so-called wacko proposals are becoming more and more mainstream--it's becoming more acceptable to have a discussion about it."
What is the effect when the House passes a bill to classify millions of immigrants as "felons" and when reactionary politicians in the national news call for changing the Constitution to strip citizenship from children of the undocumented? These types of actions further embolden and whip up fascist anti-immigrant movements like the Minutemen, the armed vigilantes who hunt down immigrants on the border. The Minutemen and other extremist forces act as the leading edge of a bigger reactionary offensive that aims to whip up and draw in people broadly, including proletarians and oppressed people of other nationalities, into this whole pogromist anti-immigrant atmosphere that scapegoats immigrants as the cause of unemployment and other problems in this society.
There are some differences within the capitalist power structure, including within the Republican Party, over the question of how to deal with immigrants. This is part of divisions over the strategic interests of their class as they move to enforce a whole new social compact in this country and calculate the impact of that here and across their empire. Those like Tancredo are especially and intensely opposed to proposals for a "temporary worker" program (raised by Bush as well as other Republicans and Democrats) which would give temporary work permits to undocumented immigrants. Even though Bush's "temporary worker" program is intended as a way to give the government more ability to identify and keep track of immigrants, those like Tancredo advocate driving the undocumented even more into the shadows.
But even as there is struggle at the top over this question, clearly the government is overall moving quickly to ramp up the war on immigrants. Bush praised the House bill, saying, "This bill will help us protect our borders and crack down on illegal entry into the United States... Securing our borders is essential to securing the homeland."
Note how Bush puts the question of immigration in the context of "homeland security"--the Bush regime's post-9/11 program of fascistic repression. Under this logic, "illegal immigrants" don't just "take American jobs"--they are part of the "enemy" in the "war on terror." And, as Bush has declared, "You're either with us or you're with the enemy." Tancredo put it even more blatantly when he said last June that undocumented immigrants "need to be found before it is too late. They're coming here to kill you, and you, and me, and my grandchildren."
The House legislation is not yet a law. The Senate is going to come up with its version of a new immigration bill, and George Bush has his own proposals for man-hunts, mass deportation, and concentration camps (see "Bush's Intensified War on Immigrants," Revolution 26, at revcom.us). But various provisions in the House bill could become part of an actual law--and the bill as a whole gives a picture of the chilling and intolerable future for immigrants, if this cruel war on immigrants is not resisted and stopped.
From A World to Win News Service
Revolution #030, January 15, 2006, posted at revcom.us
November 21 and 28 2005. A World to Win News Service. While the U.S. government has insisted that global warming doesn’t exist, most scientists are convinced otherwise. Some researchers say global warming was a major factor in the deadly series of hurricanes (as the violent tropical storms or cyclones that hit the Americas are called) that struck the Caribbean, Central America, and the U.S. recently. At the Montreal international summit on climate change, the first such meeting since the 1997 Kyoto summit, the U.S. continued to refuse to recognize the dangers or even the existence of global warming, which an attending UK scientist declared is as perilous to the future of humanity as weapons of mass destruction. Observers at the opening of the Montreal meeting of 190 countries had little hope that it would make real progress in achieving international agreements to limit greenhouse gas emissions, the main factor in the rapid rise in world temperatures. Even though the targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions agreed to at Kyoto are criminally inadequate (the goal is to reduce emissions to 5 percent below the 1990 level by 2012), so far actual emissions have increased, not decreased, and even the European Union, which supported Kyoto, has failed to meet its target.
What is the link between global warming and tropical storms? What are the causes of global warming? To what extent is global warming caused by human activity, and what can be done about it? How dangerous is global warming? Why do the rulers of the U.S. and other major powers refuse to take serious action even as disaster stares mankind in the face? These questions are addressed in this article, which is being run in five parts. See issue 28 for Part 1: Natural Climate Changes.
"Greenhouse gases" are gases that trap the Sun’s heat in the same way as glass in a greenhouse. They allow solar radiation to enter the Earth’s atmosphere and then absorb the heat reflected back up by the Earth. Some of these gases exist in nature, like water vapor, methane (produced by decomposing plants and animals and animal flatulence) and carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is a byproduct of burning carbon substances – trees and fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and gas. Methane, 20 times more powerful than carbon dioxide in trapping the Sun’s heat, is also produced by agriculture, mining, and industry. The percentage of these gases increased by about 25 percent over the last 150 years. Along with this has come the increasing presence of another kind of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, exclusively man-made gases like those used in aerosol spray cans. At the same time, cutting down forests and other changes in land use has crippled the natural processes whereby trees and other plants remove carbon dioxide from the air.
In addition to studies of the Earth’s atmosphere, other cosmological facts also suggest that atmospheric temperature is directly related to the concentration of carbon dioxide. For example, the planet Mars is very small, and therefore its gravity is too small to retain a dense atmosphere. The Martian atmosphere is about a hundred times thinner than Earth’s. Because what little carbon dioxide exists on Mars is frozen in the ground, Mars’s average surface temperature is about –50 degrees centigrade (-58 Fahrenheit). In contrast, Venus has almost the same mass as the Earth but a much denser atmosphere, which is composed of 96% carbon dioxide. This high percentage of carbon dioxide produces intense global warming and so Venus has a surface temperature of over +460 degrees C (860 F).
The table below extracted from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) data lists four out of seven greenhouse gases that are still in use and most common in climate change. The concentration of these chemicals associated with modern human activities has considerably increased in the atmosphere since pre-industrial times, and very sharply during the last few decades.
The diagram below also shows the increase in the concentration of these gases since the industrial revolution:
Greenhouse gases are not the only factor in global warming. As said before, the Earth went through periods of heating and cooling long before humanity produced enough greenhouse gases to make a big difference, and even in the 150 years there have been cycles of warmer and cooler weather. The relationship between greenhouse gases and other factors is still under study. But research has led most scientists to conclude that the solar energy trapped by greenhouse gases is playing the main role in driving the rapid increase in the Earth’s temperature we are seeing today.
To be continued.
NEXT WEEK - Part 3: How Dangerous is Global Warming?