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Revolution #33, February 5, 2006, posted at revcom.us
Speaking at the National Security Agency on Wednesday, January 25, George W. Bush said, "We live in a momentous time… we are living in historic times. . . we have a chance to make decisions today that will help shape the direction of events for years to come."
How Bush intends to do that is dramatically concentrated in the elevation of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court. This two-part series will examine what Alito’s elevation will mean for the position of women in society and for Bush’s program of unrestrained executive power.
Perhaps the most powerful testimony in the hearings leading up to Alito’s confirmation came from Kate Michelman, the former president of NARAL (National Abortion Rights Action League). Michelman described her ordeal at a time when "therapeutic abortions" were available in some states under exceptional circumstances, but abortion was not yet recognized as a basic right, protected by the Constitution. It’s worth quoting at length:
"In 1969, I was a young, stay-at-home mother of three little girls, a practicing Catholic who had accepted the Church’s teachings about birth control and abortion. The notion that abortion might be an issue I would face in my own life never occurred to me until the day my husband suddenly abandoned our family. In time, with nothing to live on, we were forced onto welfare. Soon after he left, I discovered I was pregnant. I knew instinctively that another child would turn a crisis into a catastrophe.
"After a long period of searching--of balancing my moral and religious values about the newly developing life with my responsibilities to my three young daughters--I decided to have an abortion....
"Because this all occurred prior to Roe [the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion] I was legally prevented from acting privately on my decision. I was compelled to submit to two interrogations before an all-male panel of doctors. They probed every aspect of my private life--from what kind of sex life my husband and I had to whether I was capable of dressing my children in the morning. Eventually, they gave their permission. I had been admitted to the hospital and was awaiting the procedure when a nurse arrived to tell me that state law imposed yet another humiliating burden. The government required me to obtain my husband’s consent. I was forced to leave the hospital, find where he was living and ask him to give me his permission....
"...I do not tell this story to ask your sympathy. It was a humiliating experience, but one that also awakened me to a lifetime of activism devoted to ensuring no other woman ever would be required to endure such humiliation. I tell you this story because we stand at the threshold of millions of women--women doing their very best to do what is right for themselves and their families--once more facing the dreadful choice between the degradation of the review board and the danger of the back alley. This is neither hyperbole nor hype. It is the simple, demonstrable reality of the situation."
Think for a minute about what Kate Michelman describes. It is nothing less than males, singly and in groups, exercising what was then their legal right to determine whether a woman will have a child, in forms sanctioned and enforced by the power of the state. Imagine yourself in her shoes. Even though in this case she was literally "given permission" to have an abortion, the men involved and the approval procedure itself made sure that Kate Michelman would be humiliated and forced to feel her own powerlessness in the depth of her spirit. And that was in a supposedly "enlightened" area of the country--in most places even that option was denied. Women were either forced to bear unwanted children or sent to search for illegal and dangerous back-alley abortions.
As a lawyer in the Reagan administration, Alito openly vowed his aim to wipe out the right to abortion. He developed the strategy of first severely limiting and then overturning that right altogether. As a lower court judge, Alito actually argued in favor of a law that would have forced women to again inform their husbands if they wanted an abortion, as Kate Michelman had to; his argument was not upheld then, but now he is slated to sit on the Supreme Court. And from this position of power he will be fighting not only to impose the humiliations described above, but the horrific experience of back-alley abortions involving the dangers of mutilation and death.
Women, of course, are still tremendously oppressed, and even after the right to abortion was won--through very sharp struggle--they have continued to be treated as the property of men in the social relations of this system. But to return to the days described by Kate Michelman would mark a tremendous step backward, greatly intensifying that oppression, and would be reason enough to mount a huge political struggle to drive out this regime and change the direction of society.
But the Bush regime intends to go much further.
Bush makes much of his desire to not only change the law, but institute a so-called "culture of life" founded on Biblical values. To give just one telling example of these values, the creation tale of the Bible blames women for the "original sin" that caused the "fall of man." This is why, we are told, women endure pain during childbirth and this also supposedly justifies the subjugation of women by men and their treatment as objects of slavery and sexual plunder, which goes on with God’s approval and indeed at his behest throughout the Old Testament. This same "original sin" is upheld in the Christian New Testament in 1 Timothy 2:11-15, where Paul reiterates that the subordination of women to men is "God’s will" and says that a woman can redeem herself for Eve’s supposed transgression only "through her child-bearing," and he even says that women should not dare to "teach men" but must "learn in quietness with all subjection." [From the American Standard version of the Bible; for more on this, go to Bobavakian.net and his talks on religion.]
The core social base of the Bush regime insists that these archaic and reactionary views be made the basis of law. And these fanatics not only intend to fully outlaw abortion in every case, but to take revenge on those who may have had or performed an abortion. The president of March for Life, which organized the triumphant January 23 rally celebrating the nomination of Alito to the Court, predicted to the crowd "that the United States would hold the equivalent of Nuremburg trials for ‘feminist abortionists,’" and called "support [!] for a woman’s right to choose ‘crimes against humanity.’" Her words, according this New York Times account, "were met with strong applause."
Please note that the chief defendants at the World War II war crimes trials at Nuremburg were executed. Note as well that the assassination of abortion providers has already been called for by elements of this movement under the rubric of Nuremberg, and that several providers have been outright murdered, others severely wounded and many more living under daily death threats.
This is the future represented by Alito’s elevation. This is the future being pushed by the current regime, with the full power of the state, every day. This is not a future that we can accept; nor is there any "common ground" to be found with those fighting for it. This is a future we must resist. Now.
Next week: The All-powerful President: Torturer-in-Chief
Alito became known during these hearings as a champion of the doctrine called the "unitary executive." This doctrine elevates the executive branch above the other two branches of government and, as interpreted by Alito and those in the Bush Administration, it enables the president to act without any legal restraint.
by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA
Originally published in: Revolution #002, May 15, 2005, posted at revcom.us
The Democratic Party is after all a party of the ruling class, it is a party of the capitalist system. At the same time, the Republican Party, especially now, is the party of openly and aggressively benefiting the rich and further impoverishing people—benefiting the rich and driving down the poor. It is the party, openly and aggressively, of white supremacy. Let’s not forget, these people are opposed to affirmative action, these are the people who brought you The Bell Curve. (This refers to a book published during the 1990s which claimed, based on phony science and faulty methods, to show that there are unchangeable, genetically based differences which account for inequalities, including the supposed mental superiority of people of European descent as compared with people of African descent. The studies, statistics, methods and approaches cited in this book have been soundly refuted, both before and after the publication of this book, but the book was nevertheless promoted and treated as serious scholarship within many mainstream institutions, including media, and in particular it became part of the ideological arsenal of "conservatives" in arguing against things like affirmative action and more generally concessionary social programs whose stated purpose was to help overcome social inequalities.)
It is not a matter of gimmicks when we point to what these people represent—their stands in support of the death penalty, unleashing the police without restraint, and so on. Again, it’s not that the Democratic Party is not for these things—there are real reasons why I (and others) have referred to the Democrats at times as "Republi-crats." But the Republicans are the party of openly and aggressively doing this—imprisoning more people, unleashing the police against more people, impoverishing more people, attacking people’s rights more—all openly and aggressively. That’s why it is correct, and not hype, to refer to them as Republi-fascists.
As I have said a number of times: These reactionaries should not even be allowed to use "conservative" to describe themselves. We should say, "Conservative, my ass, these people are Nazis."
And, again, what they are all about definitely includes open white supremacy. What does it mean when you look at the fact that all the "Dixiecrats" have become Republicans? ("Dixiecrats" refers to the bourgeois politicians in the south who, after Reconstruction was ended in 1877, openly stood for segregation and white supremacy and were part of the Democratic Party, representing its "southern wing." Since the time that the government, particularly through the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, was forced to make concessions to the civil rights struggle and pass certain laws and policies outlawing outright segregation and open discrimination, many of these types of southern politicians have, over the past several decades, moved from the Democratic to the Republican Party.)
But, again, the fact is that the Democrats support most of this program. They do have a different "cohering logic" than the Christian Fascist and overall Nazi-type logic which is increasingly dominant in the Republican Party. And they do have differences over some policies, such as taxes and social security. But, despite very real and sometimes sharp differences, when you get down to it, what the Republicans are doing is, to a large degree, agreed on by the Democrats as well — including such crucial things as the war in Iraq and the broader war for empire carried out under the banner of "war against terrorism." And what the Democrats may not agree with, they overwhelmingly go along with in any case. Witness, for example, the confirmation of Alberto Gonzales as the new Attorney General— after it was well established that he played a key part in formulating the defense of torture by the government and the position that the president can act contrary to international law, and U.S. law for that matter. The Democrats caved in on this, just as they did with the appointment of that other fascist, Ashcroft, as Bush’s first Attorney General. Why? Because the Democrats are the representatives of the same system, and fundamentally for that reason they cannot offer any real alternative. I spoke to this in "The "Pyramid of Power"1 and it is something we need to keep going back to and deepening people’s understanding of, in order to enable people to see the need to break out of this whole framework of mainstream bourgeois politics in order to bring about a real alternative.
1. Bob Avakian, "The Pyramid of Power and the Struggle to Turn This Whole Thing Upside Down," RW/OR #1269. Also available online at revcom.us.
Revolution #33, February 5, 2006, posted at revcom.us
Tens of thousands of people of Rolpa in Nepal are building a 57-mile road to be known as Sahid Marg (Martyrs Highway). Rolpa is at the center of the People's War led by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). Recently an international group of volunteers traveled to this liberated area to help work on the road. These excerpts are from their "Provisional Report of the First International Road Building Brigade to the Magarat Autonomous Republic of Nepal" (sent out by A World to Win News Service). This is the first of two parts.
In November 2005, the first international road-building brigade, consisting of seven volunteers from Australia, Britain, Canada, Colombia, Germany, and Norway arrived in the liberated Rolpa district in mid-western Nepal. We had travelled many thousands of miles to work side by side with the people there to build a road as part of the efforts of the new revolutionary power there to forge a self-reliant economy, free of the chains of imperialist domination.
The brigade members were well aware that the regime of King Gyanendra, who dissolved parliament last year and centralized power in the hands of the feudal monarchy, was waging a vicious counter-insurgency war and that we would have to cross army checkpoints to reach our destination. The regime has "distinguished" itself by compiling one of the worst records in the world for disappearances, extra-judicial executions, and other types of bloody repression. We also had some idea of the fierce determination of the Nepalese people to forge a new future, and were eager to see what they had achieved, and to work alongside them on this crucial project for the all-sided development of the autonomous region.
So we set off for the liberated area with a mixture of nervousness and excitement...
While the Himalayas are never all that far away in Nepal, this is not a journey made by many tourists. Anyone travelling into the liberated areas needs to cross a series of roving military checkpoints, where almost anything can happen. Buses into the area are stopped, young soldiers carrying machine guns come inside, and the passengers are forced out where their baggage is searched. Any Nepalese identified by the soldiers as Maoist--or a "suspected Maoist"--are taken away to prison or sometimes just marched off into the countryside and executed on the spot. The soldiers stationed on the approaches to the liberated areas are the elite of the RNA, battle-hardened, crack troops equipped with the armys best weaponry. You can tell their elite character just from the way they look: not only meaner and more arrogant, but bigger and better fed than the average soldiers. They also bear more than their share of responsibility for the horrors for which the regime has been repeatedly denounced by human rights groups around the world.
Despite the ever-present atmosphere of war throughout this area, there is at the same time an almost surreal normalcy to the to-and-fro between the areas under the control of the rising new [revolutionary] regime and those under the control of the dying old monarchy. More or less regular trade is conducted, as peasants from the higher villages go down into the richer Dang valley and sell bags of ghee, honey, goat meat, and medicinal plants, and return with salt, batteries, oil and other items they cannot produce themselves. After the traffic passes the last army checkpoints, it even runs for a time along the new road still under construction by the Magarat AR (Autonomous Region), the road we had come to work on.
We felt a feeling of tremendous release when we finally came into sight of the wooden gateway framing the road as we arrived in the first town in the liberated area, Tilla Bazaar. A red flag on one side and the flag of the Magarat AR on the other told us everything we needed to know: we had made it! But our elation soon subsided a bit--this was a poor village, almost no one spoke English, and it was difficult at first to make ourselves understood. The townspeople had grown a bit circumspect about foreigners showing up, since many turned out to be Western journalists, some of them searching hard for any angle that might show the peoples struggle in an unflattering light.
Once it became clear that we were a very different type of foreigner--young people whod come to work side by side with the peasants themselves, to share weal and woe--one of the team members described it as being like a fountain of joy just got turned on. Complete strangers walked over with grins spread across their faces and gave us big hugs. A reception sprang into place. Six or seven English-language banners were put up, and a young English interpreter was produced, who proved to be an energetic and enthusiastic aide throughout our stay. 150 people gathered to hear more about the brigade members, and to express their enthusiasm for our arrival, and the brigaders told the attentive crowd what had motivated us to come so far. As we bedded down for our first night, we all shared a feeling that we were in for an experience unlike any wed ever known before.
The area the brigade visited is part of the Magarat Autonomous Republic, which was declared in 2003 after the Royal Nepalese Army was driven out by the forces of the Peoples Liberation Army, led by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). The Magars are one of a number of oppressed national minorities in Nepal. The founding of their new regional republic in one of the most advanced revolutionary base areas in Nepal is widely viewed in the country as a momentous event marking the end of centuries-long injustice suffered by the people there, and we saw many expressions of pride in this achievement.
We were awoken with the sun. Life begins early in the liberated areas. The PLA members got up every morning at 4 a.m. to begin their day, which really impressed especially the younger members of the brigade. PLA members, almost half of whom are women, would patrol the perimeter (2 km or so), then exercise and eat a breakfast consisting mainly of "chai," Nepalese tea. They also put on occasional theater in the evening.
A work schedule was drawn up with the road organizers. It basically set out which sections of the road we were to work on and when, and with which group of people--families of people whod fallen in the revolutionary war, local peasants, PLA members, etc. Time was also set aside for some discussion with the different groups. It was explained to the brigade members that the road building was not going on at full speed at that very moment, because it was harvest time. Completing the harvest successfully was crucial to peoples livelihoods, especially over the coming winter months, so this had to be taken into account when mobilizing volunteers. This was also why the revolutionary government requested each family to try to provide only one volunteer, so as to ensure the livelihood of the family as a whole.
We were happy that even though building wasnt going on at the usual rate, we would still get to take part in the work. But setting down to work proved to be a little different than wed anticipated. For one thing, it was sometimes more than an hours walk each way, with a lot of up and down through steep hills, just to get to the part of the road where we were to work. So muscles had been put through some effort even before we lifted a tool. The techniques used were like nothing we had ever seen. Upon reaching the road, some hundred people were hard at work. We first noticed gangs of young men hugging the hillsides with long steel crowbars laboring to remove large rocks to clear a passageway for the road. At first we were a bit skeptical: the rocks appeared much too large to yield to the youths exertions. But the young men had had a lot of practice, and soon cries of joy rang out as a giant rock was tumbled out of its ages-old resting place.
Similar techniques were used to deal with big trees: large teams were assembled to literally dig them up. When the tree finally came down and the team could throw it over the cliff, a huge cry of joy invariably went up.
Some work techniques were particularly difficult. For example, one person didnt work a shovel, but two. A rope was tied just above the blade of the shovel, and just as the first person shoved the shovel deeply into the ground, the other person would lift on the rope to get the maximum amount of dirt out. It was very hard to get the timing right--if the person holding the rope jerked too soon, the person with the shovel got a little dirt hurled into their face (which brought more giggles), and if they didnt jerk soon enough the shovel wouldnt come out. At the end of our trip, we were asked to show our hands--some of the team members were a bit embarrassed, because they thought their calluses and blisters were not all that impressive, but the hosts beamed with pride at what had been accomplished.
Next week: Part 2
Revolution #033, February 5, 2006, posted at revcom.us
From peasant uprisings to urban demonstrations, a storm of protests is brewing in Latin America. People are resisting the U.S. imposed neoliberal policies that have wreaked havoc in these countries and sunk them into even deeper poverty. They are seeking a way out.
The discontent and fury was evident in the November 2005 protests in Mar del Plata, Argentina, against the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA), and in several other countries at the same time. It was also evident in the mass movements that have ousted governments in Bolivia and Ecuador, and elected candidates that speak out against some of these imperialist measures.
The mass upheaval is in response to the failure of the neoliberal imperialist policies advocated by the United States, as well as Washington-dominated institutions such as the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and the World Bank which have led to the worst long-term economic failure in modern Latin American history.
"Free trade agreements" like NAFTA, and the privatization of basic necessities like water, have led to even more poverty and a lower standard of living in the region as a whole. For example, since 1980 Brazil's income per person has grown by less than one-half percent annually. The story is similar for Mexico, which doubled its income per person from 1960-1980 but has seen slow growth since then. Or take Bolivia, which has also been subject to IMF agreements and has done what Washington has ordered, including privatizing nearly everything that could be sold, even water. The country's per capita income today is actually lower than it was 25 years ago, 63 percent of Bolivians live below the poverty line, and the proportion is even higher in the countryside.
For the region as a whole, growth in GDP (or income) per person--one conventional measure of economic performance --was about 80 percent from 1960-1979, before the neoliberal plans. But growth was only 11 percent for 1980-1999 and a mere 3 percent for 2000-2004, after "free trade agreements" like NAFTA and IMF-imposed austerity measures.
The rise of U.S. imperialism was very much tied to the subjugation of Latin America. For more than 100 years the US has ruled the economic, political, and cultural life of many of these countries, whether though democratic governments or military juntas. And whenever there have been serious challenges to its domination, the U.S. has not hesitated to resort to the most brutal methods of repression: invasions, military coups, mass killings, disappearances, and assassinations.
The upheaval now in Latin America is threatening to U.S. imperialism, which cannot tolerate any challenge to its drive for world domination, and cannot allow nations any kind of real self- determination. This is what was behind the not so subtle threat by US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who on a visit to Paraguay in August 2005, told reporters, just four months before elections in Bolivia, that "There certainly is evidence that both Cuba and Venezuela have been involved in the situation in Bolivia in unhelpful ways." Not long after, on November 8, the Christian fascist Pat Robertson, who is close to the White House, said, "You know, I don't know about the doctrine of assassination, but if he [Chavez] thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it. It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war. And I don't think any oil shipments will stop." Any threats, political intervention, or military actions by the U.S. against governments in Latin America must be opposed.
U.S. military aggression in Latin America has a long history, and today, when the U.S. is waging an "endless war" for uncontested empire, it needs to tighten its economic hold on Latin America to better compete with its imperialist rivals who are making forays into what the U.S. considers its "backyard." Following his election to the presidency, Evo Morales traveled to Europe and Asia to talk trade with international energy companies in France and Spain and to work out trade agreements with China. Last year the U.S. government tried to stop the sale of Spanish military planes to Venezuela. The U.S. Ambassador to Spain, Eduardo Aguirre, told the Spanish government they could not sell the planes because they used some U.S. technology, but the sale was made anyway. The U.S. has also protested Russia's sale of thousands of AK-47s that the Venezuelan government bought to arm two million militias as part of its readiness plan in the event of a U.S. invasion. And Brazil has initiated trade agreements with South Africa, India, and China.
Faced with the desperate situation created by the imperialists, the people are seeking a way out of the poverty and exploitation that is crushing them. These are conditions that led to the uprising of the peasants in Chiapas on the eve of the signing of the NAFTA treaty in 1994. This is also why there are large movements of landless peasants in Brazil, as well as in Ecuador and Bolivia, and why in several countries workers are taking over abandoned factories.
The rise to power of class forces that objectively are coming into conflict with the U.S. has been boosted by the rising of the mass struggle of people, the widespread sentiment against imperialist domination, and the just demand for national sovereignty and self-determination. (In the future articles, Revolution will have further analysis of the rise to power of these class forces - an analysis of their different programs and what kind of revolutionary communist program is required to really break free of imperialist domination.)
Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, Evo Morales in Bolivia, Lula in Brazil, and others advocate regional economic integration and forming trade blocs in order to strengthen their hand in the global market and in dealing with the IMF or the World Bank. On January 21, Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez, Argentina’s President Nestor Kirchner, and Brazil’s President Lula da Silva announced plans to build a gas pipeline, which would run nearly the entire length of the South American continent. It will be one of the largest infrastructure projects in Latin American history. According to Chavez, the cost of building the pipeline would be carried largely by outside investors, such as firms from Asia.
Latin America as a whole is increasing trade and other relations with the European Union and China. This is especially the case for raw materials exporters like Brazil and Chile. Venezuela has forged probably the closest relations with China of any Latin American country, and is planning to sell increasing amounts of oil to China as part of its effort to reduce dependence on the U.S. government. Bolivia's President Evo Morales has said he would carry out a "reasonable" nationalization of key industries, while saying he would like international corporations to stay, but on better terms.
However, none of this will or can decisively break with the structural dependency that characterizes the relationship of oppressed countries in the world imperialist economy. The subordination of oppressed nations is a structural feature of the world imperialist system. This encompasses economic mechanisms leading to and reinforcing such dependency, as well as unequal relations of power and imperial structures of political control.
The better terms on imperialist investments that Evo Morales received from France and Spain, or the investment that Venezuela, Brazil and Argentina will get from outside investors for the pipeline, will still be a chain around the neck of the oppressed--because the same lopsidedness of global capitalism, with its laws, structures, governments and ideas that regulate commerce and all other aspect of life are still in place. So even though Brazil and Argentina have paid their debt to the IMF, they are still entangled and subjected in a million other ways to international finance capital and the institutions and mechanisms of imperialism.
When Lula campaigned for President, he proclaimed he would stand up to IMF demands and put the people’s interests first. But his government’s budgetary and monetary policies have basically stayed within the bounds prescribed by the IMF. And the incredible inequality that characterizes Brazilian society, especially the obscene concentration of land ownership in the countryside, has hardly been touched. Lula has promoted the interests of large Brazilian agro-business and much of the landless peasant movement has sharply criticized him.
This is not fundamentally a question of Lula’s intentions or honesty. There are more determining forces: the larger world-economic and imperial geopolitical framework within which these regimes must operate, the ways in which imperialist domination is deeply embedded in these societies and economies, and the particular class interests represented and served by such reformist and populist politicians. Brazil is highly dependent on the imperialists for advanced technology, and its military has historically been shaped by U.S. weapons sales and training programs.
One outrageous example of U.S. imperial domination and arrogance is the account of how U.S. trade representative Robert Zellick told president-elect Lula that if Brazil strayed too far from U.S. plans for free markets in the Americas, he would find himself having "to export to Antarctica."
Recent political developments in Latin America reveal the deep faultlines of poverty and inequality. They reveal the dismal failure of U.S.-backed adjustment programs. And they reveal the tremendous discontent of the great majority of the population. The question is: will, and how can, this discontent be channeled into a struggle of the masses to really break free of imperialist domination?
Revolution #33, February 5, 2006, posted at revcom.us
A landmark summit of Black clergy took place in Atlanta on January 20-21 to strategize about fighting against anti-gay discrimination in African American churches. More than 200 ministers and gay rights activists took part in this first Black Church Summit, which was called by the National Black Justice Coalition. The summit was held at the First Iconium Baptist Church in Atlanta, and keynote speeches were given by Rev. Al Sharpton and Bishop Yvette Flunder of the City of Refugees Church in San Francisco.
There is a deep rift within the Black churches and clergy over the questions of homosexuality and gay marriage, part of the sharp polarization within American society overall. And this was reflected in the experiences and backgrounds of many participants in the summit who are taking a principled and very positive stand in the face of intense opposition. Rev. Timothy McDonald, who heads First Iconium and hosted the summit, said that he received hateful phone calls and heard cries of opposition at Sunday services when the summit was announced and that many ministers who were invited refused to attend. McDonald himself used to denounce gays until a member of his congregation died of AIDS. Recalling the effect of that death, McDonald said, "This thing has changed my values. As a pastor, you don't choose your congregation. You have to be a pastor for everyone."
Another example of changing attitudes and principled stands among the participating clergy was Rev. Ken Samuel, pastor at the Victory for the World church in Stone Mountain, Georgia. Samuel also used to condemn homosexuality from the pulpit, but he says that he changed his views as he recalled a childhood friend who committed suicide because he felt ostracized by his church for his homosexuality. When Samuel began to preach against anti-gay discrimination, he lost about half of the 5,000 members of his mega-church, but he stood his ground.
Samuel described his move away from a literal interpretation of the Bible: "There is a disconnect between religion and reality, and it contributed to the death of a young man. That set me on this path to try and figure it out. We have to find ways to incorporate it with the Bible, the same as was done with slavery. The Bible condones slavery. We have to interpret rather than exclude."
Rev. Al Sharpton made a very crucial point during the summit. Referring to the alliance between a section of the Black clergy and George W. Bush, he said, "They couldn't come to the black church and talk about war; they couldn't talk about health care, they couldn't come to the black church and talk about education. They started with gays, but they will end up with everybody else."
Progressive religious people have been struggling for years to change attitudes within the Black churches, but the stand taken at the summit by those who might be considered more "mainstream" is significant and positive. Rev. Deborah Elandus Lake, co-founder of the Chicago chapter of the Interfaith Alliance and executive director of Sankofa Way Spiritual Services, told Revolution: "While I was a seminary student at Union Theological Seminary in New York, I had the honor of organizing a major community-wide discussion about homosexuality and Black churches. Even then, when we were relatively new at having this kind of dialogue, it became obvious that beliefs about sexuality, race, and gender served to complicate any movement toward progress."
On the other side of the divide are reactionary sections of the Black clergy that have close connections with and backing from powerful Christian fascist forces--and these forces have their man in the White House. In the midst of his 2004 re-election campaign, Bush called for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, claiming that such an amendment was needed to "protect marriage." This was not simply some mindless Bushism (as if same-sex marriage somehow threatened heterosexual marriage) but a calculated move to pander to and mobilize an audience--including among Black people--that views the world through the prism of Biblical literalism and sees gay marriage and homosexuality in general as an attack on their core values and institutions, with the traditional family at the center.
And there were significant forces within the Black clergy that did get mobilized by Bush's move to use the issue of gay marriage. As the SF Chronicle noted, "In San Francisco, a city known for its acceptance of gay and lesbian people, a coalition of African American pastors condemned same-sex marriage during the 2004 presidential election." In Atlanta, the pastor of a suburban mega-church led a march of 10,000 in support of Bush's proposed anti-gay marriage amendment; among the marchers was Rev. Bernice King, the youngest child of Martin Luther King Jr. (Meanwhile King's widow, Coretta Scott King, has taken a stand in support of the right to same-sex marriage.)
These developments have given rise to a sense of urgency among people like those at the Black Church Summit. The National Black Justice Coalition said that "The summit is a direct response to anti-marriage proponents pandering to the black church for their own agenda."
The sharp divides around gay marriage and homosexuality point to something very serious. Anti-gay prejudice is not in the interests of the masses of Black people. This can be seen concretely, for example, around the question of HIV/AIDS. As Sylvia Rhue of the National Black Justice Coalition points out, "HIV and AIDS is a major concern in the Black community, and churches can't deal with it if they can't deal with human sexuality."
Furthermore, the reactionary mobilization around the question of homosexuality and gay marriage (along with abortion) is a wedge used by the Bush regime to build up a fascist social movement and political machine within the Black community, and to organize people to act against their own fundamental interests. This is a Christian fascist movement whose agenda has real elements of genocide against Black and other oppressed people.
Along with the use of gay marriage as a wedge issue, Bush has been building up a base and political machinery of Black preachers through his "faith-based" government programs and the networks of the Republican Party. Overall, these "faith-based" initiatives and programs are increasingly the way that social services are supposedly being addressed. So money for government programs dealing with basic needs of the people--like education, health, job training, and so forth--are being slashed, while funds are being directed to churches. And through this the right-wing preachers get big financial grants-- and their main role is not to "provide services" but to spread ignorance and bigotry and help suppress resistance to the political power structure.
This reactionary machinery could be seen in operation in the marches in support of Bush's anti-gay marriage amendment. It was also in action around Hurricane Katrina, when Bush drew on some Black preachers to meet with him and even travel with him as "political bodyguards" at a time when he and his administration was was being exposed for their criminal neglect of the hurricane victims. These preachers also served Bush and his agenda by blaming the masses themselves for the hurricane.
These were truly acts of betrayal. As this paper has noted, these pro-Bush preachers are reminiscent of the Judenrat under the Nazis--Jews who were given special privileges and power under the Nazis and who convinced themselves that things would go better for everyone if they rounded up their fellow Jews instead of forcing the Nazis to do it. The Judenrat told people not to resist and snitched on those who did. (See article in Revolution #18, "'President Bush Doesn't Care About Black People...'--Damn Right! And That's Not the Half of It," online at revcom.us.)
Those at the Black Church Summit have stepped forward to take an important stand against anti-gay bigotry. The advance of the Christian fascist theocrats among the Black clergy and churches is extremely dangerous development--and more initiatives like the Black Church Summit are urgently needed and should be supported by all who want to see a decisive change in the course that this country is headed now.
Revolution #33, February 5, 2006, posted at revcom.us
Hundreds of people came together in New York City on the weekend of January 20-22 for a historic tribunal indicting the Bush administration for crimes against humanity. This event opened Friday evening at the Riverside Church, where Harry Belafonte gave a riveting speech that brought the audience to their feet.
Among the witnesses, experts, and judges giving and listening to testimony about Bush's crimes were Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, former head of the Abu Ghraib prison; Craig Murray, former British ambassador to Uzbekistan; Scott Ritter, former UN weapons inspector, and Ann Wright, former U.S. diplomat and retired U.S. Army Reserve Colonel
The International Commission has brought five indictments against the Bush regime:
The first session of the Tribunal, in October 2005, heard searing testimony on each of these indictments--and the second and concluding session on Jan. 20-22 continued this crucial work. According to a Commission Press release: "The panel of jurists is currently deliberating and receiving further evidence. Preliminary findings will be made public at a news conference scheduled for February 2nd at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, 9:30am."
As this session of the Tribunal began, Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights sharply laid out the aims of the Tribunal, and the urgency of the times: "We are putting the Bush administration on trial. We investigate in order to expose. We document in order to indict. We arouse consciousness in order to create mass resistance. We want this trial to be a step in the building of mass resistance to war, to torture, to the destruction of our earth and its people. It's a serious moment. Our country and our world are tipping--tipping toward permanent war, the end of human rights, and the impoverishment and death of millions. We still have a chance, an opportunity to stop this slide into chaos. But it is up to us. We must not sit with our arms folded. We must be as radical as the reality we are facing. The witnesses you will hear over the next few days are the truth-tellers--the witnesses to the carnage this country and this administration has wrought. This truth challenges us all to act."
In this issue, Revolution newspaper is presenting excerpts from two Tribunal witnesses. We will have further reportage and interviews from the Tribunal in future issues. (See revcom.us for testimony excerpts in Revolution #32)
For complete information on the sessions of the Tribunal and the judges and participants, as well as updates on the work of the Bush Crimes Commission, go online to bushcommission.org.
There are people [in Guantánamo Prison] that have been determined to be innocent by the Department of Defense. Recently this was recognized by a federal court in Washington DC and the court actually issued a decision in which it said yes, I find these people to be innocent, I find no basis for their detention by the United States, I find that they should not be imprisoned. And then the judge concluded by saying, "However I do not think I have the authority to order their release." And so they remain in Guantánamo. There are many other people in that category. I don't think the world widely knows that, but they are still all housed at Guantánamo.
There is a hunger strike that has been going on for some time and that hunger strike, despite the press releases from the Department of Defense, has entered a new and very dangerous phase. The military's response from the hunger strike has evolved from what was sort of a sensible effort to negotiate with the prisoners to punishing prisoners who assert their right to participate in this nonviolent protest. The prisoners, as a result of the changing Department of Defense responses, have been forced to change their demands. In July of 2005, of couse, their initial demand was asking for fair trials, the right that they won in the Russell Case in the U.S. Supreme Court--just give us the trial that we're due, that's all. Then they wanted to change some of the conditions in the camp. They wanted those who were found innocent to be released. And they didn't want juvenile prisoners to be in isolation. And third, they wanted to change some of the other conditions in the camp like inadequate medical care.
Because the military has refused to negotiate with them or discuss any changes whatsoever, everyone that is participating is now in agreement that they would like to have a trial that they are guaranteed by the U.S. Supreme Court decision. And if they they do not get that basic justice, they are committed to dying. Our estimation is that there are 250 people participating. The Department of Defense changes the numbers every day by changing the definition of who participates in the hunger strike. We know from going down to the base and from all the attorneys that go to visit their clients that there are a great many people participating.
The Department of Defense has taken it upon themselves to initiate forced feeding of people on the base. This means the forcible insertion of nasal-gastic tubes without anesthesia in unsanitary environments. In fact, the military intelligence and military police in Guantánamo have created a specific isolation camp where each person is separated from the other, no one may be spoken to, and they are all being force fed. No attorneys, no senators, no press. No one is entitled to access to those individuals.
What happens is an immediate penalty after an individual decides to join the hunger strike. And joining the hunger strike means three individual meals are refused. When the meals are refused people are punished by having all of their comfort items taken away except for the shirt on their backs. They are put in isolation. They are deprived of all contact. Some of them are beaten. We've seen this. And yet they continue to participate.
We know that more than 30 have been force fed for a very long time. They started their hunger strike in August of 2005 and a number of them are very close to death.
My name is Larry McBride and I was in prison [Templeton II] at the time the storm came. They told us like this, that some of us would be released and some won't, or some of us would be moved to higher ground. But none of this happened. So what we did as prisoners, we wasn't trying to escape, we was trying to save our own lives so we won't drown. Because they had water shooting up out the toilets that high, up to your knees--piss, shit and water, coming up. Once it got to where it was reaching to my waist, a couple of us broke the racks off the bed and broke the windows so we could get out and go up to higher ground.
So when we did run into some of the National Guards that came and took over the prison after the guards (who was there, who was supposed to be in charge with their families that they had boarded there) had left because the water started coming into the prison.They left us to die in there. They took their family out of the prison. And they know that the prison was flooding up with water. When we ran into them guards they went to beating us, saying we was trying to escape. We started telling them we are not trying to escape, we are trying to get to higher ground. So when we got up to the third level, up in the cell, it got stuffy up in there. We couldn't breathe there. They cut the air conditioning off, they cut the TV off, they cut the phones off from us. We can't reach nobody on the outside to find out what's going on in there. So they left us there.
So when they [National Guard] went to beating us and stuff--yeah, we going to protecting ourself and try to save ourself, saving as we was doing. They said we was trying to escape. And lord as my witness, I wasn't trying to escape and didn't run and I told them I wasn't running. So they put us, left us there for three or four days. We didn't have nothing to eat, no water, no nothing. When we did get to the top of the bridge [prisoners were left on a bridge during the aftermath of the storm], after we got out of the jail, we asked them, "Look man, give us some water, give us something to eat." No! That was they words. They hadn't said we gonna try to get ya'll something, they said NO! Then they took all they families--and the National Guards out there on the bridge, they already got guns on us on the bridge--they families got water, they family had food. But they never did feed us.
Everybody talking about Katrina. Katrina didn't hurt New Orleans... I can speak like I want? It was the mutha fuckers who blew the fucking levee up what hurt New Orleans. That's what hurt New Orleans. That's what killed my nephew from not being able to get his insulin. Eight days without him taking his fucking medicine. Yeah, he died. Then my uncle, he drowned trying to save his family. His wife said he went under the first time. Then when he went back under the second time, she said she didn't see him no more.
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Revolution #33, February 5, 2006, posted at revcom.us
Revolution newspaper is launching an exciting, ambitious fund drive to raise $50,000 in sustainer pledges over the next five weeks! Those sustainers--including you!--will be the base from which our newspaper continues to make leaps in our bilingual content, look, accessibility, and distribution.
Readers from coast to coast, border to border, and around the world look to Revolution for a perspective they can only find in a newspaper that represents the outlook of the class of people on this planet with nothing to lose, no stake in the present order, and no need or desire to pull punches or cover up the abuses of the system.
From that perspective, Revolution readers also get exposed to a unique panorama of protest and rebellion from all kinds of people--from progressive clergy to rebellious artists, from the people on the bottom of society to defectors from the power structure.
And this newspaper reveals not just the atrocities and outrages that are covered up by the establishment media, and not just the scope and range of dissatisfaction and resistance in society, but also why things are the way they are, and how revolutionary change is possible. In that light, this paper connects hundreds of thousands of people, now, with the Revolutionary Communist Party and its leader, Bob Avakian.
Last year, the San Francisco Chronicle wrote that Bob Avakian is "best known as a prolific, uncompromising contributor to The Revolutionary Worker newspaper [the name by which Revolution was known until May of 2005]." Just in the past few weeks, Revolution featured articles by Bob Avakian including: "'A Leap of Faith' and a Leap to Rational Knowledge: Two Very Different Kinds of Leaps, Two Radically Different Worldviews and Methods," "Reform or Revolution, Questions of Orientation, Questions of Morality," and "Polarization... Repolarization...and Revolution."
A solid base of financial sustainers is especially important now, when so much is at stake, and when Bush--as a concentration of the horrors of this system--is steering a course with such dangers for the people but also with the potential to create openings for revolutionary struggle. With a sustainer base, we can expand and improve our coverage, dramatically increase our distribution, improve the look and accessibility of our print and web editions, fulfill the requests of prisoners for subsidized subscriptions, and radically increase our impact on society.
In the wake of the government's cruel neglect of victims of Hurricane Katrina, 200,000 copies of a special issue of Revolution were distributed, tens of thousands in Texas and Louisiana. We received moving correspondence from readers and distributors describing tears of anger when people read this newspaper inside the stadiums where they were being warehoused.
You rely on us, and we take that seriously. But we also rely on you.
We are asking every reader of Revolution, online and in our print edition, to sustain this paper on a regular basis in one of two ways: By going to revcom.us, clicking on the Sustain link, and then using your credit card to commit to $5, $10, $20, $40 a month or more. Or, for those who cannot contribute by credit card, send check or money order to:
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Revolution #33, February 5, 2006, posted at revcom.us
The following correspondence is from an organizer with the Revolutionary Communist Tour in D.C. The correspondent writes of people's response to Bob Avakian's statement on the death of comrade Willie "Mobile" Shaw, who was known all over the projects in Watts as a revolutionary communist. Mobile died last November due to complications following surgery. See Revolution #27, or online at revcom.us, for "Statement by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, on the Occasion of the Death of Willie 'Mobile' Shaw," and a statement by Joe Veale, spokesperson for L.A. Branch of the RCP.
Many of the people we've talked to about Mobile and/or read the statements have been moved.
James, a 50-year-old retired vet, was reading the centerfold after I had posted it on a building. I walked back to where he was and offered him a centerfold and told him about Mobile. James told me about himself and how the VA is screwing him over--how he is a very short distance from homelessness--how he sees that Black people are being pushed out to the edges literally and figuratively. When I described the kind of world Mobile was fighting for he said, "That's what I'd like to see but it can't happen."
I asked him to allow me to read the Chairman's statement. I've probably overused the phrase "listened intently" over the last few weeks, but it describes how people have paid close attention to what we have been saying. James listened intently, occasionally shaking his head in recognition or agreement. "Willie wanted his life to be about something--something beyond the dog-eat-dog and the murderous madness this system brings down on people, and catches them up in, in a thousand ways every day." That sentence captures people from the outset. They know very well what is being spoken about here and heads nod.
When I finished the statement, James said, "You cant have nothing but respect for somebody like that." He went on to say, "So you're telling us that he is a hero--a role model."
"That is exactly what we were saying and we need many more like him," I tell James. "So brother, are you a hero too?" I asked.
James laughed and didn't answer. He said we'd see him around that area. He gave me his phone number.
One of the comrades made what I thought was an important point. He said that many people responded to the statement on Mobile's death with a kind of reverence. There's the guy who asked about quitting his job to join us. There was the woman whose husband is on dialysis and wasting away and she wanted her husband to hear about Mobile. There is a worker at the elementary school who said the tributes to Mobile were beautiful. She said she couldn't be like him because she believes in God but she wished she could have known him and she will do what she can to help.
There's Tina, who has made steps toward us. When I compared her to Mobile she took it as a great compliment and thanked me.
Then there was Jerome, who talked about how fucked up his life is and how hearing our message, which included telling him about Mobile, made him feel good. "You don't know how much this means to me," he said. "Maybe this is my calling -- why God put me here."
I told him part of what stood out about Mobile is that he believed in facing reality as it really is-- no God--no hocus-pocus can free humanity. "He knew that there is no God and it is up to us."
Jerome was a little apologetic and adjusted what he was saying. "Maybe I'm meant to do this."
He gave me his name. "Call me man--call me. God bless you," he yelled as he climbed onto the bus.
A lot of the flavor of the exchanges is lost in this telling. Some were so heartfelt and earnest that its hard to do it justice.
One of the reasons the statements have such an impact on folks is because he distills so much about who these people are. Mobile was one of the millions who aren't supposed to count--one of the nameless, faceless millions. People know him because that is who they are. I think the statements, most especially the Chairman's, but both of them, together with the heartfelt way comrades took this out, said something to the masses about who we are as an organization--what kind of people we are trying to be, what kind of leadership we have, and what kind of world we are fighting to create. All this was at work, and it had a lot to do with why masses were themselves so earnest and honest, and yeah--even reverent.
Somebody, I think it was Tina, said, "You can see why he (Bob Avakian) respected him so much." When she said this I wanted to make sure she understood why Mobile respected the Chairman so much. But I was missing something very important. She was recognizing something about the Chairman--about who he is, about how he views the masses, about his dreams--and mission--his kind of leadership.
All these responses remind me of a friend I grew up with who lived in DC during the period we were here in '79 and '80. He was not a political person--never had been. He was just one of the millions. I got him a copy of the Chairman's "The System is Doomed" on cassette. A few months passed before I was back in touch. He told me that when he was feeling bad or depressed, he'd put the tape on--turn off all the lights and lay on the floor listening to the Chairman. Without stretching it too much, I think there is in part that kind of raw connection between the statements about Mobile and the call to step into his shoes for millions of those this system does not count. Mobile is a concentrated expression of their life experience and highest dreams--and to varying degrees they feel it.
When I opened the New Year issue of Revolution and saw that Mobile's picture was there along side others who died in the past year, including Richard Pryor's, August Wilson's, and Ossie Davis'--I had to struggle to contain my emotions. It is truly the case that Mobile's contributions, memory, and legacy belongs to the international proletariat now. We need one or two thousand like him--female and male ones--young and old ones--straight and gay ones--native and foreign-born ones--sick and well ones.... We need more heroes--now!
Revolution #33, February 5, 2006, posted at revcom.us
Are you one of millions of people in this country and around the world who are alarmed about the rise of extreme reactionary religious fundamentalism in America? Angry at the growing attacks on the separation of church and state? Or weirded out when you see one of your relatives reading yet another one of the "Left Behind" novels, which have sold 60 million copies? You may get chills when you hear Bush's supporters say he was "sent by God." You hear some right-wing pastors talking about "reclaiming America for Jesus Christ" or bringing "the rule and reign of the cross to America," and it makes your skin crawl1. You have a creeping sense that the society these reactionary leaders would bring about would be horrible. But what you probably don't know is just how bad it would be - and what this has to do with Dominionism.
Don't know what Dominionism is? You're not alone. Very few people have heard of this brand of theology - let alone know what its program would represent if carried out, or how influential its doctrines and mandates are within the Bush administration and the Republican Party.
Dominionism2 is a doctrine which demands the total remaking of society to conform with the laws of the Old Testament of the Bible, and it states that the second coming of Jesus Christ will never occur until "God’s kingdom" is established on earth and reigns for either a thousand years or an unknown time period. They contend that all of the laws of the Old Testament, unless specifically revoked later in the Bible, are still valid and they want to literally replace the U.S. Constitution and legal system with the Ten Commandments and the Mosaic laws of the Bible. If you have read Bob Avakian’s writings on religion, or the Revolution series "God the Original Fascist," you know what this would mean:
If you don't follow the Christian faith, or if you ever leave it (we're talking millions of people in the U.S. alone) you'd be punished by death. Same thing for anyone who commits theft, who blasphemes (says "goddamn it"), or who commits heresy (says god does not exist). Frederick Clarkson, who wrote the book Eternal Hostilities: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy, points out that "anyone responsible for abortion" (meaning women and abortion providers) would be given the death penalty as well.
For those who think this sounds too alarmist, consider anti-abortion activist Nellie Gray at the recent anti-abortion March for Life in Washington (which received a telephone message of support from Bush). She was quoted in the New York Times calling for Nurembrg-style trials of "feminist abortionists" -- doctors who provide abortions. And note that the actual Nurembrg trials, of former Nazi war criminals and mass murderers, resulted in executions.
Here's another Mosaic law: Leviticus 20:13.... "If a man lie with a man, as he would with a woman, they both commit abomination: they shall be put to death." Dominionist Gary DeMar told John Sugg of Mother Jones magazine that he was considered "liberal" among his cohorts because he only supported the death penalty for those who were actually caught engaging in "homosexual acts." And if the Dominionists made the laws, anyone who practices witchcraft or astrology, children who disobey their parents, women who commit adultery, and rape victims who don't resist sufficiently would all be executed.
Dominionists would nearly dismantle government, and establish the family as the basic governing unit of society - a family that would be mandated by god to unchallenged rule by the father. The role of the government would be limited to building roads and raising funds for armies carrying out sanctified battles.
You may be thinking, "Okay, so these guys are seriously lunatics, but there's no way they could gain enough influence or power to actually carry this out." But consider how many of its leaders or open proponents are well-connected to the Bush administration. Leaders who espouse Dominionist doctrines include former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice and a likely candidate for governor, Roy Moore, who installed a 5,200-pound engraved granite monument of the Ten Commandments in the judicial building of the state capital. There is the "Left Behind" author Tim LaHaye, whose wife heads up the Christian Fascist group Concerned Women for America. Pat Robertson, a powerful televangelist with a strong influence in the Republican Party, who is frequently asked to serve as a "religious commentator" by mainstream channels like CNN. D. James Kennedy, who hosts a yearly "Reclaiming America for Christ" conference that brings together nearly every major Christian fascist leader and many powerful Republican Party leaders (this year's conference will feature Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee). Dominionist Jack Hayford gave the benediction at George W. Bush's first presidential inauguration.
This Dominionist trend has been promoted and built up with major assistance from powerful ruling class forces. For example, two major contributors to the [Dominionist think tank] Chalcedon Foundation are Howard Ahmanson and Nelson Bunker Hunt - who are big monopoly capitalists and whose families played key roles in financing electronic voting machine manufacturer Election Systems & Software.
Dominionists call for reinstating slavery, which is upheld throughout the Old Testament, most notably in the Ten Commandments. Slavery is openly defended by Dominionist writers such as David Chilton: "Heathen slaves ... were actually favored by [slavery], since it placed them in contact with believers. They received the relatively lenient treatment of the biblical slavery regulations, and they were also able to hear the liberating message of the gospel."3
Dominionism, like many fundamentalist denominations of Christianity, holds that every word in the Bible is the literal, unerring word of god. But unlike more "typical" Christian fundamentalism, it opposes the idea that Christians should stay out of politics, and explicitly mandates that they work to bring about a theocracy. Dominionism calls for Christians to take literally Genesis 1:26: "... let man have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth." D. James Kennedy sums up their calling:
"As the vice-regents of God, we are to bring His truth and His will to bear on every sphere of our world and our society. We are to exercise godly dominion and influence over our neighborhoods, our schools, our government ... our entertainment media, our news media, our scientific endeavors -- in short, over every aspect and institution of human society." (quoted in the Christian Science Monitor, March 16, 2005)
These are the people giving benedictions at presidential functions and breaking bread with U.S. Senators. They must be stopped - and they can be.
Will you join in the fight to stop them?
1. These quotes are from, in order, U.S. Army General William Boykin, megachurch pastor D. James Kennedy, and Bishop Harry Jackson. Kennedy is not a marginal political player; his Center for Christian Statesmanship hosts prayer sessions with Congress members and boasts that it has "41 members in the House and nine in the Senate".
2."Dominionism" is not a universally accepted term; most of its followers avoid the term. Some prefer the term "Christian Reconstructionism." Some writers on the subject classify Dominionism as a particularly influential branch of Christian Reconstructionism.
3. Dominionists use Black pastors, such as Harry Jackson, quoted above, to pull in Black people to what is a pro-slavery, white supremacist movement. Key Dominionist writers, such as RJ Rushdoony and Gary North, openly proclaim white supremacy, and Dominionists such as Tony Perkins and Roy Moore have ties to white supremacist groups and leaders in Louisiana and Alabama, respectively
Revolution #33, February 5, 2006, posted at revcom.us
As this year opened, a new fight over critical thinking on university campuses flared up at UCLA. A website by an outfit calling itself the "Bruin Alumni Association" (uclaprofs.com) began offering students up to $100 to spy on and tape lectures of progressive professors.
The offer read: "UCLA STUDENTS: Do you have a professor who just can't stop talking about President Bush, about the war in Iraq, about the Republican Party, or any other ideological issue that has nothing to do with the class subject matter? It doesn't matter whether this is a past class, or your class from this coming winter quarter. If you help expose the professor, we'll pay you for your work." (The website was later forced to remove the money offer after UCLA said it violated school policy.)
"Bruin Alumni Association" may sound like an official organization ("Bruin" is the UCLA mascot). But this group actually has no official affiliation with the university. Its only connection with the school is that its founder and apparently its sole member, Andrew Jones, is a 2003 graduate. Jones was the chairman of the UCLA Young Republicans and brought fascist notables like William Bennett, Ann Coulter, and David Horowitz to speak on campus. The advisory board listed on the website includes Linda Chavez, George W. Bush's first nominee as Labor Secretary.
Jones' website openly targets "UCLAs Radical Professors" and has more than 200 pages of profiles on 30 professors who are branded as the "Dirty Thirty." The profiles mainly list alleged political activity of professors outside the classroom -- petitions they've signed, organizations they've belonged to or spoken at, conferences they've attended, contributions they've made, etc. The real target is critical thinking and dissent on campus. And it is part of a broader right-wing agenda aimed at destroying the richness of academic life, ruining careers, and inciting official and unofficial persecution against the targeted professors.
This fascistic hatchet job against UCLA professors is in line with the methods and program of David Horowitz—the founder of the online FrontLineMagazine.com and self-styled "battering ram" in the service of extreme right-wing politics with ties to the Bush White House. He is the major architect of the so-called "Academic Bill of Rights," which aims to purge universities of radical and progressive thought in the name of "academic freedom." Versions of this bill have been introduced by Republican politicians in a number of state legislatures. Along with this, Horowitz has promoted a network of Republican youth on some 200 campuses, called Students for Academic Freedom (SAF), who spy on and demand the firing of liberal and leftist professors.
After a week of outraged reaction against uclaprofs.com, Horowitz distanced himself from Jones, who once worked for Horowitz's Center for the Study of Popular Culture. Horowitz and his SAF complain that what Jones is doing is an example of "how not to run an academic freedom campaign," because it "played right into the hands of its detractors." In other words, Horowitz is criticizing Jones for using tactics that are too crude, in contrast to Horowitz's campaign under the banner of "academic freedom."
Whatever Horowitz's reason is for distancing himself from Jones, they are on the same reactionary mission. The Bruin Alumni Association is simply a more blatant version of Horowitz's campus agenda. The Bruin Standard, the newspaper published by the UCLA chapter of the SAF, targets progressive faculty and calls on students to identify others. The SAF Handbook includes a chapter entitled "How to spy on progressive professors and force them to resign."
Saree Makdisi, a professor of English and comparative literature and one of those targeted by the campus brownshirts, wrote in an L.A. Times Op-Ed piece (1/22/06): "Members of the hard right — who currently control all three branches of government and yet seem irrationally convinced of their own disempowerment — are seeking to impose their worldview on our university system through crude intimidation and 'big government' intervention that reactionaries normally grumble about when it's taking care of the poor, the ill or the elderly. Their success would almost certainly guarantee that what gets taught would be determined not according to scholarly criteria but according to political pressure."
As we have pointed out (See "David Horowitz: Battering Ram for Bush Regime," at revcom.us.), "There is far too little critical thinking and dissent in society as a whole. That is the criminal situation. And critical thinking and dissent must not only be defended in the colleges and universities but spread in society. This is what the reactionaries want to prevent. And it is why a major assault on academia is emanating from and connected to the highest office in the land.
"A counterrevolution is gathering speed and momentum. It matters to the whole direction of society and to millions around the world who hate U.S. domination and oppression whether the campaigns of David Horowitz and his backers triumph or are trounced. They will be forced to back off only if powerful opposition is built on campuses and spills out and intersects with the broader battle in society--as two worlds more and more collide."
Revolution #33, February 5, 2006, posted at revcom.us
The following press release was issued by Set the Record Straight on January 27, 2006:
Mao: The Unknown Story by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday is being promoted as the definitive new account of Mao Tsetungs life. The authors wildly claim that Mao was an egomaniacal monster--worse than Hitler.
Now we learn from a story printed in the January 22 edition of the International Herald Tribune and in the January 23 edition of The New York Times that President Bush has embraced the book and regards it as a great source of insight, and that its authors are "thrilled" that Bush is reading their book.
Maoist scholar Raymond Lotta responds:
"Big liars and big anti-communists deserve each other. Mao Tsetung was not the monster that Jung Chang and Jon Halliday allege, but the greatest liberator of the mid-20th century. That George Bush would find inspiration in this book, and that its authors would offer their work as ideological ammunition for the Bush administrations imperial crusade, tells us something about the books real agenda.
"Mao Tsetung had a vision of a society and world without exploitation and oppression, a world in which people consciously seek to understand and change the world and themselves; George Bush has a vision of a world under the uncontested military, political, and economic domination of the United States--a world of unfettered capitalism in which rightwing Christianity serves to bully and blind people into submission.
"Mao: The Unknown Story combines tendentious historical reconstruction with gossip and slander, unsubstantiated factual assertions, statements wrenched out of context, anonymous testimonies of personal cruelty, and complete distortion of the liberating goals and extraordinary achievements of the revolution Mao led. These lies assert Mao was responsible for the death of millions. But the truth is, Mao's social and economic policies improved the lives of countless millions and life expenctancy doubled under Mao.
"For an administration that has cooked data to support claims of 'weapons of mass destruction' and suppressed or altered scientific conclusions of government-commissioned studies about global warming--Chang and Hallidays hatchet-work offers the balm of a big lie that is selling well."
Raymond Lotta is available for commentary and interviews about Mao: The Unknown Story and the controversy it is stirring about Mao, the Chinese revolution, and communism. Lotta will talk about:
CONTACT SET THE RECORD STRAIGHT
Phone: (312) 399-1981
Revolution #33, February 5, 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
Part 6: The Soviet Experiment: World War 2 and Its Aftermath
Part 7: Mao's Breakthrough — The Revolution Comes to Power
Part 8: Mao's Advance — Breaking with the Soviet Model
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.
The Great Leap Forward of 1958-59 was the first bold step by Mao to forge a more liberating road of socialist economic and social development. At the heart of the Great Leap Forward in the countryside was the movement to form communes. They combined economic, social, militia, and administrative activities and became the basic units of proletarian power in Chinas countryside.
The peoples communes came about as a result of a complex and dynamic process of social and economic struggle and transformationand mass upsurge and experimentation.
Early in the history of the revolution, peasants, with the backing of the party, had formed mutual-aid teams to help each other in planting and harvesting. Within a few years of Liberation, they established cooperatives in which they farmed land together and distributed the produce according to how much land, tools, and animals each family had put in, as well as their labor.
By the mid-1950s, peasants had formed higher-level cooperatives. They burnt the deeds to their land because they now worked the land, tools, and animals in common. This was a zigzag process, with different areas moving at a different pace. Some peasants would join and then drop out. But at some stages of this process there were waiting lists of peasants wanting to join up. Many peasants pooled their land and labor, giving up isolated plots and working together to change the physical face of the land. This enabled peasants to use tractors and other machinery in areas that had never before even seen an iron plow.
This was the setting for the Great Leap Forward.
The communes started spontaneously. In Honan province in 1957, peasant cooperatives joined forces with their neighbors to begin a vast project to bring water across a mountain range to irrigate dry plains. The peasants merged their cooperatives and created something new: an economic and political form through which tens of thousands of people built a common life. Mao toured these areas and later gave the name "commune" to describe what was going on.
The Great Leap is often vilified as an irrational utopian experiment. But it made enormous economic and political sensefrom the standpoint of liberating people and productive capabilities.
The communes were able to mobilize and organize Chinas vast reserve of labor power. Irrigation and flood control works, road construction, reforesting, land reclamation, and other projects could now be planned and carried out on a large scale. Fertilizer and cement factories and small hydroelectric power works were built. The communes provided experimental space for teams of experts and peasants to engage in scientific farming and geological prospecting.
The Great Leap Forward brought women out of the household and into the swirl of the battle to create a new society. The communes opened community dining rooms, nurseries, cooperative home repair, and established other forms of social welfare that provided collective solutions for social needs. Women took part in the start-up of new factories and in irrigation projects like the famous Red Flag Canal. "The Iron Women's Brigade" was in the front lines of that project.
Old habits and values were questioned. Ideological struggle was waged against superstition, prejudice, and fatalism, along with feudal customs that still persisted, like arranged marriage. The communes established networks of primary and middle-schools, as well as health facilities.
The Great Leap Forward put the emphasis on the rural areas in order to gradually close the gap between the city and countryside, and between workers and peasants. Small-scale industries took root in the countryside; peasants began to master technology; scientific knowledge was spread. The approach of the Great Leap was a liberating alternative to the process of rural dislocation and massive urban immigration that takes place in the imperialist-dominated Third World.
A self-reliant economy that spread industrial and technical capabilities into the countryside could also stand up better to imperialist attack and invasion and support world revolution.
Jung Chang and Jon Halliday in their book Mao: The Unknown Story charge that the Great Leap and the communes were just a cover for slave labor. They allege that 30 million people died because of Maos policies. Some things need to be said straight up here.
First, as I have explained, the Great Leap Forward was not reckless but guided by coherent policy goals. It tapped the energy and enthusiasm of the peasant masses.
Were there problems? Were there famine deaths? Yes. But the difficulties of those years was a complex phenomenon.
There was a sharp decline in food production in 1959. China had suffered the worst climatic disasters in a century. Floods and drought affected over half of Chinas agricultural land.
The ideological struggle between revolutionary China and the Soviet Union had been intensifying. Mao denounced the Soviet leadership as revisionist--analyzing that it had gone off the socialist road and was selling out the interests of the world revolution to U.S. imperialism. In response, the Soviets sought to punish China by withdrawing advisors, halting aid, walking off with blueprints to unfinished industrial installations, and leaving the country with a debt burden that had to be repaid. This created additional strains on the economy.
There were also certain policy mistakes by the Maoists. One problem was that in many rural areas too much peasant labor time was spent on nonagricultural projects. This hurt food production. In the euphoric spirit of the times, output levels and capabilities were often exaggerated by local officials. This made it hard to know how much grain there really was and to plan accurately.
Chang and Halliday charge that Mao didnt care about the hardships and suffering and willfully suppressed knowledge of deaths. In fact, investigations were conducted and adjustments were made. The communes were reduced in size, eventually stabilizing at about 15,000 to 25,000 people. The amount of grain to be delivered to the state was lowered. Certain nonagricultural projects were scaled back, so that people could spend more time on food production. Grain was rationed countrywide and emergency grain supplies were sent to regions in distress.
As for the accusation of 30 million deaths--this is an absurd and sensationalistic estimate. It is based on unreliable statistics. It is based on outrageous calculations that compare projected population size with actual population size. In other words, people who werent even born are added to a total death count.
And the main point is this: By 1970, China was for the first time in its history able to solve its food problem. The new society was able to provide for a minimal diet and food security. This had everything to do with the Great Leap Forward and the formation of communes. It had everything to do with the collective mobilization of people to build irrigation and flood works, to reclaim and improve land, to master new agricultural techniques, and to establish small industries in the countryside. It had everything to do with the spirit of working for the common good promoted by socialist revolution.
NEXT WEEK: The Cultural Revolution
Revolution #33, February 5, 2006, posted at revcom.us
The pace of diplomatic maneuvers, political charges, and military threats by the U.S. against Iran is quickening. This crisis has been building since George W. Bush, in his State of the Union speech four years ago, made Iran a target in the so-called "war on terror" by declaring it part of an "axis of evil" (along with Iraq and North Korea) and accusing the Iranian government of pursuing the development of nuclear weapons. Tensions escalated dramatically several weeks ago when Iran reopened its Natanz nuclear facility, which can produce enriched uranium.
As we go to press, the next juncture in this intensifying situation is shaping up to be the February 2-3 meeting of the 35-country board of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, Austria. The U.S., along with France, Germany and Britain, wants to use the meeting to condemn Iran and declare it in violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. The matter may then be taken to the UN Security Council, where economic sanctions and/or other measures could be taken. Bush recently made clear that sanctions are not the only option the U.S. is considering when he said, "We are going to...make sure that when we get in the Security Council, we will have an effective response."
The Bush regime sees the UN as a means for galvanizing an anti-Iran coalition and legitimizing possible military aggression against Iran (just as the U.S. has used and attempted to use the UN in two previous wars on Iraq). Bush's campaign against Iran has so many striking parallels with the propaganda and diplomatic run-up to the invasion of Iraq that it feels like deja-vu all over again.
On January 27, the Senate unanimously passed a resolution condemning Iran, citing its "many failures ...to comply faithfully with its nuclear non-proliferations obligations." The hypocrisy of the U.S. government's charges against Iran around nuclear weapons is monumental and deadly. The Bush regime has trampled on one international treaty after another, including the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Bush represents an imperialist ruling class that right now possesses some 10,000 nuclear warheads. And Israel, the U.S. enforcer in the Middle East, has an estimated 300 to 400 nuclear weapons.
When Bush warns, "The world cannot be put in a position where we can be blackmailed by a nuclear weapon," what he means is that the U.S. wants to maintains its military and political superiority in every corner of the globe--including by claiming for itself the right to attack anyone, anywhere with its own nuclear arsenal.
This gets to the reality behind the U.S. "war on terror." As we have pointed out previously (see "U.S. War Machine...Heading Toward Iran," Revolution #31, at revcom.us), "The so-called 'war on terror' is in fact a war for unchallenged U.S. domination of the planet, even while it takes the form, now, of targeting Islamic fundamentalist forces, and is focused on the Middle East. A key element of this is to lock down strategic control of the main source of world oil. In addition, Bush and his inner circle have identified the potential and need to radically tear up the status quo in the region to create more stable and reliable conditions for more brutal and efficient exploitation of the people and resources (this being the essence of Bush's calls for bringing U.S.-managed democracy to the Middle East)."
Bush's war on Iraq is part of this global war for unchallenged U.S. domination, and the moves against Iran should also be seen in this light. The U.S. rulers do want to prevent the emergence of a nuclear-armed Iran, which would present a major problem for the U.S. agenda by affecting the balance of power in the region and potentially challenging Israel's regional monopoly on nuclear terror. But the U.S.'s fundamental goal is not disarming Iran--any more than disarmament was its main objective in Iraq. The U.S. goal is "regime change" as part of restructuring the Middle East, thwarting potential rivals, and deepening U.S. global hegemony.
Global dominance is impossible without dominance over the Middle East because of the vast petroleum reserves there, as well as its strategic location at the intersection of Africa, Asia, and Europe. There's general agreement within the U.S. ruling class that tightening control over the Middle East is an especially crucial component of post-Soviet "grand strategy." As two former Clinton officials put it shortly after the invasion of Iraq, "A consensus is emerging in Washington that the greater Middle East constitutes the primary strategic challenge of our time."
In this context Iran--a country with three times the population of Iraq and major oil reserves--is considered a key "prize." And the current Islamic regime is seen as an impediment to the U.S. plans, because of the regime's ties to other powers like Russia and China, and also because Iran's regional and domestic agendas clash in various ways with U.S. goals (e.g., its support of forces in places like Palestine, Lebanon, and Iraq, which have contradictions with the U.S. and Israel). For these reasons, even if Iran were to back down on the nuclear issue, it would remain a target of U.S. imperialist bullying, threats, and military attacks. (Just as in Iraq, which was invaded even after Saddam Hussein had backed down and ended major weapons programs.)
Adding complexity and unpredictability to this whole situation is that the U.S. moves in the region have been challenged not only by Islamic fundamentalist forces but in the form of complex contention with European powers like France and Russia as well as China. These other powers have been maneuvering in this mix by pushing Iran to accept inspections of its nuclear facilities by international agencies, while Bush has been issuing more blatant gangster threats.
But on January 19 the French imperialists stepped up their own nuclear threats when President Jacques Chirac, during a visit to a French nuclear base, warned that if any state launched "terrorist" strikes on France, the French "response could be conventional, it could also be of another nature." Chirac also extended his definition of "vital interests" to be defended by nuclear force to "strategic supplies," referring to the possibility of Iran refusing to sell its oil in the world market and disrupting the oil lifeline.
The contention with other powers is one factor pushing the U.S. towards a clash with Iran. Another is the situation in Iraq. As we have analyzed, "The U.S.'s goal is an Iraq that is thoroughly under U.S. domination but with enough stability and internal cohesion to act as a counterweight to Iran and something of a base area for the U.S. in the region. To say that this is not going well for them is an understatement. The scope and ferocity of resistance has compelled the U.S. to rely on and unleash Shi'a fundamentalist militias. These militias, and the puppet Iraqi army in which they play a major role, have a dual nature. They are working under U.S. sponsorship to carry out attacks on Sunni forces opposed to U.S. occupation. But they also have ties to the Shi'a theocratic regime in Iran.
"Within the bigger context of conflict between the U.S.'s wild ambitions in the Middle East and the rise of Iran, the increasing influence of Iran in Iraq is a factor tending to push Bush to up the ante, roll Iran and Iraq into a big ball, and try to settle the whole situation decisively with an attack on Iran." (From "U.S. War Machine...Heading Toward Iran")
One form that attack might take is for Israel, the U.S.'s regional attack dog, to carry out air strikes against Iran. But even in that form, there are obvious dangers for the U.S. in attacking Iran--a much larger, stronger country with a much more powerful military than Iraq had before the U.S. invasion. And this, along with the rising concerns about the U.S. situation in Iraq (including Congressman Murtha's warning that the U.S. military in Iraq is "broken"), has some forces within the ruling class very nervous about the emerging possibility of military conflict with Iran.
But at the same time, powerful forces within the Bush regime, as well as a powerful underlying logic of world events, are driving things toward a direction where such a conflict is a real danger. Republican Senator John McCain expressed some of this compulsion when he recently said, "There is no good option and it is probably the most difficult challenge we face. There's only one thing worse than the United States exercising a military option, and that is Iran having nuclear weapons."
Such a "military option" by the U.S. would be a major act of criminal aggression, with potential to cause widespread suffering, destruction, and chaos, not only in Iran but throughout the region, in the service of an agenda of strengthening U.S. imperialism’s grip on the Middle East and the whole world. People in the U.S. have a great responsibility to oppose the U.S. moves against Iran.