The Summons of History
Revolution #032, January 29, 2006, posted at revcom.us
Something new is struggling to be born: a movement, encompassing more people every hour, with the potential to drive out this regime and turn the tide of history. It is still way too scattered right now; it must be transformed, very quickly, into an active and dynamic and much more organized force that can actually challenge the Bush regime’s right to rule and can politically force Bush to step down. But this can be done. The basis to do so exists and grows stronger each day. And it must be done. The consequences of failure are too dire.
It is up to us--including you, reading this paper--to make it happen.
You could see both the basis and the dire need for this last weekend, as the international commission convened in New York to judge whether the Bush administration is guilty of crimes against humanity. While the verdicts will not come in until February 2, the coverage in this issue of our paper makes a horrific and compelling case. The media coverage leading up to the Tribunal and the attendance at it--along with the publication that same week of the Human Rights Watch report condemning torture by the U.S. as "a deliberate policy choice"--showed a growing willingness among people to hear and speak the truth about the crimes being committed in their names.
And you could see the basis--and, yes, the urgent need--for this in the increasing outcry last week against the Bush regime’s domestic fascism. It is not all the time that a former vice-president comes out and accuses the sitting president of serious and persistent law-breaking, of putting the Constitution itself in danger, as Al Gore did in his speech on Martin Luther King day. The next day the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) sued the administration for its widespread illegal wiretapping--with the ACLU suit including former allies and advisers of Bush on Iraq. These cracks at the top create a potential fissure through which the discontent that is seething among ordinary people can crack and find expression. And that has begun to happen, in exciting ways--ways we will speak to shortly. While the liberal establishment overall has tried to pooh-pooh and contain these developments, even with the Gore speech, there is increasing fury from those they purport to lead over their capitulation.
The regime responded with a typically gangster-like counter-offensive. Bush spokesman Scott McLellan went after first Gore and then Human Rights Watch. Thursday saw the Bush Justice Department simultaneously justify the illegal spy program and sue Google for millions of its users’ search queries. On Friday, Bush’s top political advisor Karl Rove re-emerged from his hole to viciously attack those who’ve opposed the war, the wiretapping, or the reactionary restructuring of the courts. And throughout, in the background, beat the ever-louder and ever-more-ominous "discussion" of military action against Iran.
In other words, the Bush regime is not at all backing down; they are going on the counter-offensive. They plan to use the State of the Union address to definitively re-seize the political initiative. They aim to further silence the opposition from the top Democrats and to demoralize the millions that hate them. Given that their flagrantly illegal doings have been exposed, they aim to essentially ratify their fascist program through a big fanfare for the State of the Union and a declaration that the American people approve. If they succeed, it would be very, very bad. And they will get away with this, unless the anger and discontent in society is mobilized against it. Only such a mobilization--powerful outpourings on the night of Bush’s State of the Union in cities all over the country, followed by a massive demonstration in D.C. on February 4 demanding that Bush step down--could change the ominous direction of events. Failing that, who will challenge Bush and his crew?
Do You Dare To Change History?
That leads to those of you now reading this. Some of you will be clicking on this on the evening of the Monday the 24th. Others will pick up this paper during the week preceding the State of the Union, or will bring it home with you from the demonstrations on the evening of the 31st itself. But for all of us, this question is posed: do we dare to change history??
And we CAN do it. If the past two months have made increasingly clear that we are up against a fascist sea-change with this administration, the past two weeks in particular have shown in practice that we are not doomed to choose between the Bush regime and an opposition with little appetite for the kind of fight that’s needed right now. The turnout for and participation in the Tribunal sessions were one big indication. The ways that people respond now to the World Can’t Wait Call is another: the people who read it carefully, read it twice, and then sign, along with those who read it once and jump to sign it. The big response to the new "Bush Step Down" ads in the New York Times and on Air America is yet another. The sprouting of chapters in different parts of the country is a fourth; the turnout and character of World Can’t Wait programs at Grand Lake Theater in Oakland and Steppenwolf in Chicago a fifth; the reaction to World Can’t Wait speakers a sixth; and on it goes. Even the polls on cable television, one of them in response to the World Can’t Wait ad in the Times, reflect this.
But again--all this both has to spiral to another level and has to take much more organized form very quickly. The millions who are seething must not only be reached--and they must be--but they must also be given the framework through which they can put their energies and creativity to work.
That takes imagination and it takes work and it takes struggling with people. As Bob Avakian put it in these pages two weeks ago, "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 take independent historical political action on a massive scale."
This is a time when people must surge forward to make things happen, and we have to struggle with people and with ourselves to rise to the challenge being posed by history. To those who are already active, you must raise your level of activity; you especially must figure out the ways to reach out to, make room for, mobilize, and unleash those who are agonizing about the situation. To those not yet active, you must become so: your anger and passion, your ideas and creativity, your ties and skills must become part of a rolling social movement that makes January 31 a huge "drown out" of the Bush State of the Union and then brings forth an even more powerful and more massive repudiation of that regime on February 4 in Washington.
There will not necessarily be more favorable odds later; there may well not be another chance. Right now there is a certain crossroads. Things can go one way or another. If there is not a massive repudiation of what has already come out--and doubtless, this is just the tip of the iceberg--then this will become the "de facto" new norm. Silence and passivity will become, despite anyone’s intentions and private opinions, approval. And Bush will have succeeded in making his crimes and his power grabs accepted as somehow "legitimate." History has seen this movie before, and it is not one you want to watch again.
Whether a different road can be opened, whether a clearing can be hacked out, depends on you. Staying on the sidelines is a road to the death camps. As the World Can’t Wait site said last week, changing history is not a spectator sport.
Working Together, Standing Together, and Fighting to Win
The coalition now coming together is varied and diverse, and grows more so every day. In just the past week members of Congress, prominent artists, and other major public figures have signed on to the call. There has been the participation in the Bush Tribunal of a former general, an ex-ambassador and a one-time CIA analyst. These are very important and favorable developments, and another powerful basis to actually make the leap to the needed mobilizations. Any movement with aims as ambitious as this one will necessarily encompass a wide range of people, including people in--or formerly in--the government itself. This movement has to have room for everyone who wants to see Bush step down; it needs an atmosphere where a broad range of people can take initiative and debate a wide range of ideas. And this expansion has to be done in a way that will keep to the grounding vision of the movement’s Call and keep the movement’s eyes firmly fixed on its goal of forcing Bush to step down . . . and to take his program with him.
The road will be rough and bumpy and twisting. The people running this regime are vicious. They will do everything they can to keep a grip on power. They and their camp followers will lie. They will slander. They will attack and divide. And they will do worse; for all the piety they parade, they have the ethics of brownshirts.
But this is the only thing worth doing. And we, all of us in this movement, can deal with what they throw at us. We can keep our compass, we can maintain our unity and purpose. There is a righteousness to what we’re doing. We are taking responsibility to not only stand up against a very vicious form of oppression, but to mobilize others--tens of thousands now, eventually millions--to do so as well. To resist, and to change the direction of society, and to do it in the interests of hundreds of millions in this society, and billions worldwide. The ousting of this regime is a goal worth fighting for with all you’ve got, and a fight we have to win.
Bush must step down. And, to make that happen, you must step forward.
On the Dual Significance of Al Gore’s Speech
Al Gore’s speech on the Martin Luther King holiday was very significant. He condemned some of the Bush regime’s "repeated and persistent law-breaking" and warned that the radical changes being put in place by Bush run the risk of becoming "a permanent part of the system." Referring to Bush’s outrageous claims to legality for all this, Gore raised the big question: "If the President has the inherent authority to eavesdrop, imprison citizens on his own declaration, kidnap and torture, then what can’t he do?" Despite attempts to bury it, the speech objectively forced the issue further into society and made space for others to express and act on their anger, thereby making an overall important contribution.
But Gore put this in a certain framework, conditioned and constrained by what he views as the larger interests of imperialism (see "Al Gore's Warning,", for a fuller analysis of this speech). For instance, he upheld the so-called "war on terror" and left untouched major parts of the Bush agenda.
Ruling class figures like Gore will inevitably be part of the whole swirl and ferment that will go into driving out the Bush regime. At the same time, Gore--or people like him--will attempt to limit the movement to curbing some of the "excesses of the regime" while leaving it in place, and will try simultaneously to both utilize and contain the anger and initiative of the people to that end.
The stakes in this are high. In our view, the movement to drive out this regime must unite very broadly around the basic objective of forcing Bush to step down. In doing so, it will influence and bring into motion all kinds of forces. But if the leadership of the movement were to fall into the hands of people like Al Gore, the movement would tend to capitulate and shrink from the necessary struggles. It would put the preservation of the imperialist status quo over the need to oust this regime. AND if and as Bush steps down--and that will be a tremendous and joyous moment--people like Gore would try to utilize a Bush impeachment or resignation to more effectively pursue imperialist interests--including the domination of other countries and the suppression of dissent and resistance at home--and would attempt to quickly stuff the people back into a box and foreclose further change. And that’s no good.
So there should be and needs to be ongoing debate and struggle over the direction of this movement and beyond. Those who are determined to not only drive out the regime but to end all the abuses indicted in the Call must both unite very broadly around forcing Bush to step down, while winning more and more people to understand the dimensions and deep danger of the overall Bush program so that the movement can continue to go forward as things develop.
Beyond that, those who see the imperialist system itself as the root cause, and the Bush regime as a grotesque and particularly dangerous expression of this--as we do--must creatively connect that understanding with the growing numbers of people coming forward, explaining the underlying dynamics of imperialism that have brought us to this pass, and putting forward the revolutionary solution of socialism that can bring in a whole better society.
The dynamic tension involved in this--the back-and-forth and twists and turns, in a situation involving tens of millions of people newly flooding into political life and activity--is a big part of the process.
Showbiz Tonight Viewers Want Celebrities to Bash Bush
The evening after the World Can’t Wait--Drive Out the Bush Regime appeared in the New York Times, CNN Headline News’ Showbiz Tonight opened with clips of Ed Asner and Harry Belafonte--signers of the World Can’t Wait Call, and an interview Sunsara Taylor, an initiator of the Call (a link to the video is at worldcantwait.org).
Showbiz Tonight then put on three pro-Bush people going on and on about how the involvement of Hollywood stars in World Can’t Wait just shows how out of touch Hollywood is with supposedly "everyday Americans." And Showbiz Tonight invited viewers to go online and vote on the loaded question: "Celebrities bashing President Bush: Are they out of line?"
The result? A solid majority (57%) of viewers said NO!
So, there you have it. The "everyday Americans" have spoken. They want their celebrities bashing Bush!