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Revolution #039, March 19, 2006, posted at revcom.us
The scene in downtown Chicago on March 10 was remarkable and unprecedented—hundreds of thousands of immigrants marched into the heart of a major U.S. city, stopping all traffic and disrupting business as usual for a whole workday afternoon to demand that their voices be heard. Immigrant protesters left their workplaces, schools, and neighborhoods all over the Chicago region and beyond to converge on the downtown Loop area. And they delivered an unmistakable NO to a draconian new anti-immigrant bill (known as HR4437 or the Sensenbrenner bill) passed by the House of Representatives last December and to other anti-immigrant attacks, like the Minutemen vigilantes who hunt down immigrants at the border.
This historic march sent shockwaves far and wide—throughout this country and worldwide. It is an international call to millions and millions of immigrants everywhere in this globalized world who are dislocated from their homes, kept in the shadows, denied rights, isolated, and superexploited!
The marchers arrived in hundreds of chartered buses and jammed the el trains and the commuter trains from the suburbs. Cars and vans stopped to pick up people on street corners who weren't able to get on the crowded city buses heading toward the march starting point. Aerial news photos showed the streets throughout the Loop packed with protesters. Estimates of the size of the protest reached upwards of 300,000 to half a million. The people who came out were mainly Latino, overwhelmingly Mexican, and there were smaller contingents of Polish, Irish, Asian, and other immigrants. At a time when a reactionary xenophobic frenzy is being whipped up about immigrants "invading our borders" and armed fascists like the Minutemen are being mobilized, the participation of European and Asian immigrants in this march was very important and positive.
In Chicago and surrounding suburbs, many businesses, factories, and schools in Latino and other neighborhoods emptied out. Restaurants posted signs saying they were closed for the march—and calling on others to join. A Mexican market in South Chicago chartered 15 buses, and 300 people came from a grocery store in a western suburb. Two hundred people walked out of sweatshop factories near Elgin, shutting down one of the many small industrial parks in the area that thrive off of low-wage immigrant labor. A welder said that 60% of the 350 workers at his factory came to the demonstration after the plant manager told them they could take off.
One marcher said, "There's a lot of Hispanic people here. Imagine if just for one day all the Hispanic people stopped working—what would happen to the United States?" Oppressed people who are forced to live and work in the shadows emerged into the light of day. And they marched right to the courts at the downtown Federal Plaza where deportation hearings are held, waving banners and signs with statements like "Somos humanos, no animales" (We are human beings, not animals) and "Aquí estamos, no nos vamos" (We're here, and we're not leaving).
One marcher told Revolution: "Bush is acting like Hitler. What was it, 1940s, he killed all those Jews. So he wants to eliminate all the Spanish people in the United States... He's pointing out Mexicans as Jews were pointed out back then, so people started beating up Jews in the street, and that could happen now. Just pointing out people could make other people look at them and forget that they might be human, that they might have families here."
The march was the big front-page news in the Chicago Tribune the next morning—but it was blacked out in the New York Times and other major media. Imagine the kind of major national media coverage that would've happened if as many as half a million anti-abortionists, Promise Keepers, or other such reactionary forces had marched.
Among the speakers at the rally at the start of the march was one of the Anti-Minutemen 5—activists who were arrested at a protest at a Minutemen conference in a Chicago suburb last October and who are now on trial, facing serious jail time. A leaflet from the Anti-Minutemen 5 says: "Right now this country is seeing increasingly vicious attacks on immigrants, justified in the name of the 'War on Terror.' When people step out to oppose these outrages, they must be supported. And when they are attacked, they must be defended... Legal and political precedents are being set that are chillingly similar to the treatment of Jews in Nazi Germany. Since 9/11, the administration has built legal precedent for the concept that immigrants—especially Arab and Muslim—are not entitled to due process, and can be held indefinitely in deplorable conditions. Legislators such as Tom Tancredo and Dennis Hastert are calling immigrants a threat to America, defending harsh profiling, and manipulating fear to justify any anti-immigrant measures in the name of the 'war on terror'... In this atmosphere, groups like the Minutemen serve as semi-official shock troops and enforcers. They patrol the border with guns, hunting the human beings they call a threat to the 'fabric of America.'" (The text of the leaflet is available online at revcom.us. Contact the Anti-Minutemen 5 at Antiminutemen5@yahoo.com. Also available at revcom.us: audio files of the interview last October with Travis Morales from the RCP-SF Bay Area Branch, on Chicago Radio Univision affiliate, talking about the Minutemen.)
The Sensenbrenner bill passed by the House would make it a felony—instead of a civil violation—to be in this country without legal documents. Millions of people would be classified as "felons," making them subject to immediate detention and deportation and permanently ineligible for legal status in the U.S. The bill would also make it a federal crime to help undocumented immigrants—social workers, doctors and nurses, teachers, priests, and others who help undocumented people could face years in prison. Other provisions would intensify the militarization of the border and the overall repressive apparatus against immigrants.
The Sensenbrenner bill is not yet a law. There are a number of different immigration "reform" proposals in the Congress, and George Bush has been promoting his own ideas for increased manhunts, mass deportations, and concentration camps. But various provisions in the Sensenbrenner bill could become part of an actual law—and in any case the bill gives a picture of the chilling and intolerable future for immigrants, if the war on immigrants is not resisted and stopped.
House Republican Tom Tancredo is pushing for even more extreme anti-immigrant measures, such as the revoking of the long-established principle that every child born in this country, regardless of their parents' status, is a citizen. (This is in effect a call to repeal the 14th Amendment, which was passed after the Civil War to give former slaves citizenship.) Tancredo and others are especially and intensely opposed to proposals for a "temporary worker" program (raised by Bush as well as other Republicans and many Democrats) which would give temporary work permits to undocumented immigrants.
These differences around immigration are part of the divisions within the bourgeoisie over how to best pursue the strategic interests of their class, as they move internationally to extend their global empire and at the same time to enforce a whole new social compact within their "homeland." But even as there is struggle at the top over this question, the government and the power structure overall is moving quickly to step up the war on immigrants.
At the March 10 immigrants march in Chicago, a number of major Chicago and Illinois Democratic Party officials spoke at the downtown rally, including Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, Senator Dick Durbin, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, and Representative Luis Gutierrez. The march had been organized by a broad range of community and religious organizations, immigrants rights groups, and others and had been publicized in the Latino community by the popular radio DJs and other Spanish-language media. When it was clear that the march was going to be huge, the Democratic politicians stepped in.
Gutierrez is a major force behind the House version of an "immigration reform" bill spearheaded by Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy and Republican Senator John McCain. The McCain-Kennedy bill contains provisions that are clearly different from the Sensenbrenner bill, including a "temporary worker" program similar to what Bush has proposed. But such "temporary worker" programs are intended in part as a way to give the government more ability to identify and track immigrants—and the McCain-Kennedy bill overall calls for more border militarization and tightening up of the government's control over immigrants.
The contending bills in Congress are all bad. There is debate and division in the ruling class now over the question of how to deal with immigrants—who are seen as both an essential source of profit and super-exploitation, and also a potentially destabilizing factor for a system that is subjecting people very broadly to traumatic changes in their lives. The terms of that debate in the halls of power are over how to intensify the exploitation and persecution of immigrants, and how to cohere repressive, reactionary social stability. Forces in the power structure who lent their machinery to this mobilization were working to channel people's anger into the terms of this debate within the ruling class—which again offer nothing good for the people. We cannot accept discrimination or criminalization of any immigrants! No militarization of the border! And no government-promoted vigilante terror by the Minutemen and others!
Undocumented immigrants live every day under the constant threat that they could fall into the clutches of the authorities, labeled as "illegal," and quickly deported—separated from their source of livelihood, their friends, and their families. But these people, with so much to lose, took to the streets in a defiant, militant, and even festive show of strength in their hundreds of thousands. What the world saw on March 6 is a striking contrast to the all-too-common defensiveness in the face of all the reactionary and fascistic moves of the Bush regime and the U.S. rulers as a whole. And people who want to defend the right to abortion, who oppose the U.S. war in Iraq and threats elsewhere, who are outraged at the government's rampant wiretapping operations—everyone should support, be inspired by, and learn from the fearless spirit and righteous daring of those who stepped forward into the streets of Chicago.
"The U.S. imperialists like to pride themselves on how they have used and absorbed millions and millions of immigrants—we have all been told about the ‘great melting pot.’ But in the U.S. today there are millions of immigrants whom the imperialist rulers regard as troublesome and dangerous. These are immigrants from the Third World, particularly those from nations oppressed by U.S. imperialism. They have a lifetime of experience with the raw, brutal reality of Yankee rule, among them is a deep hatred for it and no small amount of experience in fighting against it. Further, there are many things in common between these immigrants and the Black, Mexican-American, Native American, and other oppressed peoples within the borders of what is now the USA. The imperialists see in such immigrants a source of instability and upheaval, a force weakening the internal cohesion of the home base and potentially undermining the power of the U.S. as an international overlord.... The imperialists react by asserting more aggressively the white, European, English-speaking identity of the American Nation.
"For the revolutionary proletariat it is just the opposite. We renounce that nation, we denounce any such identity—we are proletarians, not Americans, and our identity is that of the international proletariat. We insist on the equality of nations, including equality in culture and language. And more, we recognize in such immigrants a source of great strength—a vitally important force for the revolutionary struggle to overthrow U.S. imperialism and to create over its grave a powerful, living expression of proletarian internationalism and a powerful base area for the world proletarian revolution."
From BULLETS…From the Writings, Speeches and Interviews of Bob Avakian, Chairman of the RCP, pp. 164-5
Revolution #039, March 19, 2006, posted at revcom.us
There is no "war on terror." The invasion and occupation of Iraq are not part of a "war on terror." Neither are the current threats and war preparations against Iran. The "war on terror" doesn't exist—no matter how many times the Bush administration cites it to justify its aggressions, no matter how often Republicans and Democrats debate how to best carry it out, and no matter how frequently it's referenced in the U.S. bourgeois media.
What does exist is a horrific and criminal U.S. war OF terror against the people of the world for greater empire. The attacks of Sept. 11 gave the U.S. rulers an opening to launch this war, but it has nothing to do with halting unjust violence or "terror," nor is it fundamentally aimed at stopping future Sept. 11's (and the full truth about the U.S. government's role that day is still not known—see "9/11: New Doubts on the 'Official Story'" in Revolution #13, or at revcom.us) or "protecting" those living in the U.S. or anywhere else. Instead, it has everything to do with waging unbounded war to solidify and extend the U.S. imperialist system's killing grip on the planet and its people.
The evidence is abundant and clear. For instance, this plan for "reshuffling the whole deck and reordering the whole situation," as Bob Avakian puts it, was openly discussed by imperial strategists for over a decade before Sept. 11, including most blatantly by the Project for a New American Century, and openly articulated at the highest levels afterward, particularly in the 2002 U.S. National Security Strategy. [See "The New Situation and the Great Challenges," by Bob Avakian (Revolution #36, Feb. 26, 2006, at revcom.us).]
Second, neither Iraq nor Iran had anything to do with Sept. 11 (and the U.S. rulers have known this all along). So why have they become focal points in a war supposedly springing from Sept. 11? This doesn't prove Iraq is a "diversion" from a "war on terror," it proves that the "war on terror" is a fraud. In fact, Iraq shows what this war is really all about. The Bush regime saw conquering this ancient land as a key step in unfolding its broader global agenda: "shocking and awing" the world, strengthening the U.S. grip on the Middle East, turning Iraq into a military and political platform for further aggression, gaining tighter control of international energy supplies, controlling and reshaping the entire arc from North Africa to Central Asia, and strengthening the U.S. hand against rivals—current and future.
Third, Bush and his criminal cohorts refuse to define"terrorism" so they can label any who stands in their path "terrorists"—whether Palestinians fighting Israeli ethnic cleansing, radical nationalists, Maoist guerrillas, reactionary Islamist forces with their own conflicts with U.S. imperialism, states standing in the way of U.S. designs, or even Iraqis resisting the invasion and occupation of their own country.
They also avoid defining "terror" to obscure their own war crimes and crimes against humanity. When former Attorney General John Ashcroft appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee in December 2001, he said, "Since 1983 the United States government has defined terrorists as those who perpetuate premeditated, politically motivated violence against noncombatant targets." Applying this definition, and taking into account both the motives and the toll of all its wars and interventions over the past 50 plus years including Iraq, the United States government emerges as the largest and most violent terrorist organization on earth.
You can't seriously oppose, much less stop, Bush wars of aggression by accepting the need for, or legitimacy of, the "war on terror," or debating the pros and cons of U.S. actions within that framework—as the Democratic Party insists on. Its criticisms of Bush are not based on telling the truth about the nature, aims, and objectives of Iraq and other U.S. aggressions; instead they accept, agree with, and promote the whole "war on terror" rationale (and they DO know what it’s all about). Their "criticisms" are over how to best carry it out.
This isn't being spineless or confused; it's being an imperialist party that agrees with the goal of deepening and extending U.S. global power but has differences over strategy and tactics—and is energetically working to keep the anti-war movement within these killing confines. This is why they talk of Bush lies, but not of Bush war crimes and crimes against humanity—including the Iraq war and occupation. This concern for U.S. global dominance, including dominance in the Middle East, is why they insist that now the U.S. is in Iraq, it can't "precipitously" withdraw, and it’s why they're raising the specter of civil war should U.S. forces withdraw.
In fact it's the U.S. invasion and occupation that have unleashed and fueled a possible civil war. And even if civil war were to intensify with the end of U.S. occupation, which could be a nightmare for Iraqis, continuing that occupation and allowing the U.S. to complete its "mission" in Iraq would be even worse; it would not only guarantee ongoing bloodshed and torture by the U.S. and its Iraqi puppets, but also strengthen the oppression of the Iraqi people in many ways, for decades to come. And even beyond that, the consolidation of the US occupation of Iraq serves a strategic plan to make that country a "model" of US domination in the region, a reliable staging area for more aggression, more plunder and more oppression in a part of the world that has been subject to a dreadful legacy of a hundred years of savage colonial and imperialist domination. (For a history of imperialism in Iraq, see Oil, Power, & Empire: Iraq and the U.S. Global Agenda by Larry Everest [Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press, 2003].)
On the other hand, forcing the U.S. out of Iraq would remove the primary obstacle to genuine liberation for the Iraqi people. It could help change the present horrendous dynamic in Iraq and strengthen secular progressive and revolutionary forces there. Beyond Iraq, a U.S. defeat in Iraq would be a serious blow to the U.S. war on the world and could make further U.S. aggression more difficult.
The most important way people in the U.S. can come to the aid of the oppressed people of Iraq is to build a powerful movement demanding the U.S. get out—NOW!
You can't seriously oppose U.S. wars of aggression by framing things in terms of "national security" either. However any individual may wish to define this, the reality is that this term has already been defined by the U.S. ruling class—and is understood broadly in society—as its predatory interests and power.
Nor can "protecting Americans" be our starting point. The Bush regime's actions have increased hatred for the United States and in various ways put people from this country in harm’s way. But why should American lives be worth any more than others? Start from this and you're on a very slippery slope to justifying the murder and torture of others. The U.S. rulers want people to accept a foul, Faustian, and ultimately phony bargain: it will supposedly protect us in exchange for our acquiescence in whatever killings, interventions, or wars it decides to wage, wherever and whenever.
The U.S. rulers have used the fact that currently their main targets are Islamic theocrats, who often have sharp contradictions with the U.S., and whose politics offers no future to the people, to justify aggression in the name of democracy and progress. First, it must be said that the U.S. is increasingly dominated by its own backward-looking ayatollahs. And, the imperialists often build up Islamic reactionary forces in opposition to secular movements in the Mideast, even though that in turn creates unintended problems for them when these forces come into conflict with the U.S. And what the U.S. is bringing to the Middle East is no better. The answer to Islamic reaction is not U.S. imperialist domination.
What is called for is the moral clarity articulated by former UK Ambassador Craig Murray before the International Commission of Inquiry on Crimes Against Humanity by the Bush Administration: "Evil begets more evil. If we're supporting a regime—and you must remember most of the people being tortured were Muslims, and most of them were being tortured because they were religious Muslims. If we're supporting a regime like that, is it any wonder some Muslims come to hate us? No, it's no wonder at all. And my charge before this commission is, not only that the CIA knowingly and openly uses information got from torture, that this administration has introduced a dehumanization of our Muslim brothers and sisters which means that anything done to them doesn't count. And that is a step along the road to the ultimate evil. and that, ladies and gentleman, is I believe where we are…Which is just to say I don't believe it works, but even if it did work, I would personally rather die than have anyone tortured to save my life."
Reflecting deep reservations in the ruling class over the Bush administration's foreign policy moves, Democrats and many Republicans in Congress congealed to squash Bush's plan to turn over administration of some US ports to a company based in the Emirate of Dubai.
Score one for the Democrats: They grabbed for the title of "leading the 'war on terror,'" and pandered to and whipped up racism and xenophobia (hatred and fear of foreigners). Howard Dean crowed that, "Democratic senators and representatives forced President Bush to give up the idea that six major American ports should be run by a foreign country." New York Senator Charles Schumer was welcomed onto the radio show of fascist Michael Savage—who regularly refers to Muslims and Arabs as "rag-heads" and worse. Democratic Representative Harold Ford of Tennessee produced a television commercial in which he walks through the Port of Baltimore while pictures of black-turbaned Taliban and 9/11 hijackers are shown.
Meanwhile, where is the furor, or even murmur, from the Democrats over Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, and other U.S.-run torture chambers? Opposing the dire threat to the right to abortion? Or stopping Bush's illegal, vast spying network on people in the U.S.? Where is their outrage over the coverup of Bush's responsibility for the death and destruction in New Orleans? Or to saber-rattling and threats to attack or invade Iran? ...
There are real conflicts within the ruling class. But they are all within the framework of how to pursue a war for imperial plunder - the so-called "war on terror." And neither side can be aligned with.
Revolution #039, March 19, 2006, posted at revcom.us
I’d seen the skit performed in four German cities as part of the Great March Against Anti-Women Legislation in Iran:
Women in black chadors kneel, watching a "mullah" lead a chained, burka-clad woman to be stoned. But as the "stones" hit her, the kneeling women rise with angry and determined cries, throw off their veils, rescue the woman and surround and chain the mullah.
This was March 8, 2006 in The Hague, Netherlands--and not just any place in The Hague. After an hour’s march through the city and into the suburbs, we were at the gates of the embassy of The Islamic Republic of Iran. As women and men pressed up against the police barricades, the street theatre took on new power. Burkas and chadors flew into the air with extra determination and intensity. The song in Farsi that accompanied the skit boomed out over the loudspeakers, with dozens of women joining in on the chorus:
No! Now is the time to do battle!
From the sound truck, Azar Derakhshan, spokesperson of March 8 Women’s Organization (Iranian-Afghanistani) and one of the march organizers, served notice on the regime:
"For 27 years we have been talking about the criminal things you’ve done. Today, we have news for you. A united and organized force is being born. When you took power, you celebrated by attacking these people. But these newly birthed forces will put the nails in the coffin of the Islamic Republic of Iran."
I travelled to Germany to join the march when it started in Frankfurt on March 4. Over the next four days we marched in Frankfurt, Mainz, Cologne, and Dusseldorf, Germany, concluding in The Hague on March 8. Approximately 50 women and 20 men were the core of the march, traveling between cities in a bus and several mini-vans. Most were Iranians living in exile in many European countries with several from England, Canada, and the U.S., along with several Afghani and a number of Kurdish women in exile. Radha D’Souza, a democratic rights activist from India, also participated, and I represented the RCP, USA.
We joined local activists in each city for rallies, marches, and indoor evening programs with delicious food, inspiring music and poetry, and joyous dancing. Organizers estimated that the crowds ranged in size from about 100 in Cologne and Dusseldorf to close to 1,000 in The Hague.
The March was organized by the Campaign for Abolition of All Misogynic Gender Based Legislation and Islamic Punitive Laws in Iran (website: www.karzar-zanan.com) and united a number of different organizations and parties to stand against repression of women in the Islamic Republic of Iran as well as imperialist aggression.
The Declaration issued by the Campaign on the first day of the Great March detailed the "unjust laws and Islamic sentences" suffered by women, and stated that "such oppressive regulations have been condoned by imperialist forces and their allies in the local occupation governments of Afghanistan and Iraq…George Bush and his administration want to bring about the kind of misery they have imposed on the peoples of Afghanistan and Iraq to Iran…We are supposed to choose between the dungeons of the Islamic Republic or U.S.-style Abu-Ghraib prisons.
"We Iranian women defy such choices, our fight has nothing to do with Bush and other Western attackers or their current or previous lackeys in the Middle East…
"We have gathered here to demonstrate this fact. In this gathering we express our demands. Our choices are based on ideals of a different world, outside the scope of the current order. We shall bring about such a new world along with all oppressed and freedom-seeking peoples of our planet."
This stand was controversial among some Iranian and European forces. Zaman Masudi, one of the march organizers who works with the LINKS Partie in Germany, told me that several had said that it was wrong to criticize the Islamic Republic at this time when the U.S. is making moves on Iran. "I told them, look, we suffered once when we forgot about women; when the Shah was overthrown we supported Khomeini and forgot about the nature of the Islamic Republic. Now that we are struggling against the Islamic Republic we are not saying ‘yes’ to imperialism. We are saying ‘no’ to both."
Many women on the march spent years in the Islamic Republic’s dungeons for political activity. Husbands and other family members were executed, and they themselves were tortured. The march in a certain sense reflected the story of the ascendancy of the Islamic Republic and its murderous assault on revolutionary forces and progressive people who opposed it. Yet it was not a march about suffering and the horrors of the past. It was about the strength, passion, and determination of women to struggle for emancipation and liberation, knowing in a deeply personal way the costs of that struggle.
On March 6, we rallied in a central part of Cologne, and two women met for the first time. One, in her twenties, had been a child of six when her mother, a fighter against the regime, was executed in one of Khomeini’s prisons. The other, a woman in her late forties, was one of the last to see the young woman’s mother alive. The mother, due to be executed, had been released by mistake into the general prison population. She told her comrades there that the Islamic Republic had offered her a deal, that if she would renounce her beliefs they would let her live. But she told them, "there is a valley of blood between me and you, and it is too deep to cross." And she was executed shortly thereafter.
I reached out and put my hand on the young woman’s shoulder, and she said to me, "don’t be sad, Mary, I had the best mother in the world!"
While most of those travelling from city to city were in their late forties and fifties, there were a few younger women. One of these was 20-year-old Bayan, who led chants and agitated with great vigor over the sound system in both German and Kurdish. She is a Kurd from Iran who has lived in Germany for 15 years. She cannot go back because of the political activity of her parents.
"It is important that Kurdish women be here and say what they want," she told me, recalling that her aunt barely escaped death by stoning because she had been accused of causing the death of her ill husband.
About the support of Iraqi Kurds for the U.S. invasion and occupation there, Bayan said, "most of the Kurds in Iraq say that it is good if we have a little part of Kurdistan for ourselves. But I say no, we have a puppet regime. We had a bad regime in Iraq [with Saddam Hussein], but it would be better if Iraqi and Kurdish people go into the street and make a revolution than have the U.S. go in."
Well-known and beloved Iranian artists in exile were on the march the entire time and contributed tremendously to the sense of mission and joy that permeated it. Singer Gissoo Shakeri and poet Mina Assadi, both of whose works are banned in the Islamic Republic, have worked together for many years and created many of the songs of the march, including the one sung during the street theatre skit.
Filmmaker Jamileh Nedai is making a 60-minute documentary of the march. When she was 17 years old under the Shah’s regime, Jamileh acted in a musical called "City of Stories," a satirical look at social issues that became very popular--and is still popular today through underground tapes. As we were leaving the rally in The Hague, some of the Iranian youth now living in Holland began singing one of the songs from that musical--and were imspired to learn that Jamilah was part of the march.
I was asked to speak at each rally, as was Radha, the activist from India. Our comments were translated into Farsi and also into German while we were in Germany. Radha gave compelling exposure of the effects of imperialist globalization on the Third World and denounced the current visit by George W. Bush to India, where he made a deal to help India develop its nuclear capabilities while at the same time threatening Iran for its attempts to develop its own nuclear technology. When I spoke, I denounced the Bush regime and its crimes, including war moves on Iran, and said that the imperialists have no right telling anyone what they can and cannot do.
We learned that BBC and other media reported on the Frankfurt march and rally. In response, an Iranian TV news broadcast said a march opposing the Islamic Republic had been held by "counter-revolutionaries and prostitutes." News was also broadly spread through photos and daily reports on the March 8 organization website (8mars.com) that were picked up by various Iranian email lists and other websites.
The news that progressive and revolutionary forces, especially women, are fighting for a world outside the reactionary, life-destroying alternatives of U.S. imperialism, on the one hand, and Islamic fundamentalist theocracy, on the other, will surely be greeted by progressive people around the world and have a powerful impact.
Future issues of Revolution will include more stories and interviews with women on the European March Against Anti-Women Legislation in Iran
Views on Socialism and Communism: A Radically New Kind of State, a Radically Different and Far Greater Vision of Freedom
Revolution, #039, March 19, 2006, posted at revcom.us
Editors Note: The following is drawn from a talk given by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, to a group of Party members and supporters in 2005. It has been edited for publication here, and subheads and footnotes have been added. This work by Bob Avakian is being run in Revolution newspaper in 6 parts. The first part appeared in issue #37 (March 5, 2005). The whole work can be read and downloaded online at revcom.us.
To paraphrase Marx: The fundamental question is not what the proletarians, and broadly the masses of people, may be thinking or doing any given time but what they will be compelled to do by the contradictions and dynamics of the system. It is the underlying and driving contradictions in society, and the world, that will continue to confront the masses of people, and those who seek to lead them at any point, with necessity—not static but dynamic and changing objective necessity—that will compel them to respond to it, in one way or another. And how they respond can be greatly influenced by those who more consciously grasp material reality and its actual motion and development. This is true in an overall sense and especially when contradictions are more acutely posed. This underscores why it is so important to have a scientific, materialist and dialectical, as opposed to what amounts to a religious, or some other form of idealist (and metaphysical) outlook, method, and approach.
Why have I, in my writings and talks, repeatedly emphasized that communism represents the most consistently, thoroughly, systematically, and comprehensively scientific outlook and method? Well, to introduce a formulation and refrain that you'll hear repeatedly through this talk, the main reason I do it is because it is true! And it is important. But let's go further: What does this mean—why is it true? It is true because communism, as a world outlook and method, is both thoroughly and consistently materialist and thoroughly and consistently dialectical, and that is true of no other world outlook and method. Communism reflects, in its outlook and method, the fundamental truth that all of reality consists of matter in motion and nothing else: It grasps each of these aspects—that all reality consists of matter and nothing else; and that, as Engels put it, the mode of existence of matter is motion, that all of matter is constantly moving and changing, and that this leads to qualitative leaps and ruptures—and communism grasps the dialectical relation between these things.
A dialectical materialist outlook and method, and its application to human society and its development, historical materialism, reveals that the defining contradictions of any society, and the motive force of change in society, is the contradiction between the forces and relations of production, along with the contradiction between the economic base (or the mode of production) and the superstructure (of politics, ideology, and culture). Engaging with this, in its more sweeping dimension, will establish a stronger foundation for grasping more clearly and deeply the essential reality that, in this era, and in the world right now, it is the fundamental contradiction of capitalism, and other decisive contradictions which this continually gives rise to—it is this, and the motion and development this gives rise to, more than anything else—that is setting the overall framework of things and is compelling and driving change in the world, even as we, the conscious and organized vanguard forces, are striving to transform this motion and development from what it is to a course leading to the realization of communism—a possibility which itself lies within the fundamental and defining contradictions of capitalism and can be achieved through the revolutionary resolution of these contradictions, throughout the world. Let's explore and dig into this more fully and deeply.
In Phony Communism Is Dead, Long Live Real Communism I examine the development of these contradictions between the forces and relations of production and between the economic base and the superstructure. One of the important points I brought out—which is often obscured, overlooked, denied, buried, and so on, and yet might seem almost like a truism, but is a profound truth and is very important to grasp, and to unearth in a certain way—is this: there is no such thing as production or an economy in the abstract. On the one hand, the basic economic activity of producing and distributing the material requirements of life, and reproducing the basis for life, is the most fundamental thing about the life and society of human beings. This is something that Marx very powerfully pointed to and raised to a central role in the understanding of human society and its historical development. But, at the same time, there is no such thing as carrying out production, or no such thing as an economy, which exists in the abstract, or exists without certain very definite production relations—and, in class society, class relations—that people enter into in the process of carrying out this production and distribution of the requirements of life. It's very common to hear, the "such and such economy" ("the French economy," "the U.S. economy," and so on), but very rarely do you hear someone on CNN say: "Today there was a dip in the performance of the U.S. economy, which we should understand is a complex network of production relations, which is also in turn embedded in the deeper international network of production relations." Very rarely do you hear that on CNN, let alone Fox News. [laughter] Because this is covered up all the time. Yet, at the same time, it is fundamental to an understanding of society at any given time and in its motion and development, and in its potential for and the actuality of transformation.
At any particular time, given, relatively speaking, the character and level of the productive forces—the technology, whatever the scientific understanding is, whatever the understanding about nature is, to put it more generally, and the people, with their knowledge about these things and their abilities—whatever the general character and level of that is, we can say, without being vulgar materialists, that generally speaking there will be a corresponding set of social production relations. And I emphasize the word social production relations, because this is a matter of how society is organized. Everyone is not necessarily conscious of this. An artisan in feudal society making household items, for example, is not conscious of the way in which that fits into the overall division of labor of that society (and trade relations and other relations beyond that society as well), but it does nonetheless. This is true in a society characterized by more or less developed commodity production, such as capitalism, and even within feudal society—in fact, in all societies.
So these are social production relations and yet, especially with capitalism, where this is more highly developed, it is at the same time hidden that these are social production relations. You hear this all the time—especially in America, land of Individualism with a capital I—"I" developed this, "I" came up with this idea, this is "my" thing. And I'll be talking more about commodities and commodity fetishism, which this is an expression of. But this is hidden, the fact that this thing of "yours" is actually embedded in—and, in fact, is even the product of—a whole societal and, especially these days, more and more an international, process, which is marked by and defined by definite production relations. And you find a certain place in those production relations. People do not consciously choose, or get to choose, the production relations that they would like. You don't have people coming together and then saying, "Hmm, I wonder if we should all go off and gather food and other necessities for the whole week, and then go hunt for a month," because that's very inefficient—even if you're in an early communal society, it doesn't work. In such a society, if you try to go off and hunt for a whole month, you will come back with very little and the whole society will be falling apart and people will be starving, because you can't get enough meat and protein that way to sustain people.
So, first of all, the relations of production have to correspond to the material conditions at hand that you're confronted with, to the level of productive forces at a given time, which includes "what nature provides"—the raw materials at hand—as well as what tools, instruments, and ways of thinking and ways of utilizing these tools that people have at a given time. So that's one sense in which you don't get to just choose whatever you want for production relations.
The people at the beginning of capitalist society, a couple of centuries ago, didn't get to sit down and say: "let's have a vote, let's have different people come forward with different ideas of what production relations they'd like to have and what corresponding superstructure, and then we'll have elections with competing parties, representing different ideas about this, and we can decide which one we want." No. You don't get to do that because, again without being mechanical and determinist, there is a basic correspondence between these production relations and what the level of productive forces is, in the way I've been speaking of that.
But there is another sense in which you don't get to "make this choice" just any way you might like. These are historically evolved production relations. That goes back to the point about the coherence in history that Marx spoke to, which I have referred to in a number of works, including the book Democracy: Can't We Do Better Than That?1 With all the upheavals and dislocation and destruction—and even sometimes a collapse or in some other way the ending of a whole society—with all that, there's still a certain coherence in human historical development because the productive forces do continue to develop and do tend to be handed down from one generation to another. And yet these productive forces confront each generation as an external force, especially in a society in which people do not have the basis and the understanding to approach them in a conscious and planned way. Even in a situation where they can do that, in a socialist and still more in a communist society, there is always necessity that confronts people—I'll come back to exploring that more fully later. But especially when it's the case that people do not have the basis and understanding to approach the utilization of the productive forces in a conscious and planned way, these productive forces present themselves as an external force to people. You get up in the morning in this society, and if you want to live you don't say, "I wonder, let me see, I think today what I'll do is try to figure out how I can reconfigure the production relations of society." No, you say, "where the fuck can I find a job or some other way to live today." And the way you do that is established by the necessity that exists because of the production relations that are already confronting you, and everyone else in society—even the bourgeoisie, in a real sense—as an external force, as some necessity that has to be dealt with.
So, whenever people enter into any kind of production, they enter into definite production relations which are not determined by their will, but are historically evolved and generally correspond to the character of the productive forces, even though this goes through revolutionary leaps, and has gone through revolutionary leaps throughout history. And just as there is the economic base of society, just as there is the mode of production and the corresponding production relations, again without being determinist and mechanical materialist, there is a superstructure which more or less corresponds to—which arises on the basis of and more or less corresponds to—this economic base, even while this superstructure of politics, ideology, and culture has relative autonomy, and a lot of initiative, and a lot of struggle goes on in the realm of the superstructure.
For example, in early communal society, given the level and character of the productive forces and the corresponding way that people organized their way of life, to put it simply, if someone were to jump up and say, "everybody has to be organized into a hunting party to go out and hunt for me"—well, that wouldn't work. People would just say: "Fuck you! You can go off and starve if you want, but we are organized a different way here." So you can't just have any old superstructure, and you couldn't have the laws and customs that would reinforce such an idea. You couldn't have those production relations nor could you have the laws and customs and culture that would correspond to and reinforce that idea of one person making everyone else work (in this case hunt) for the benefit of that one person.
But when things do change and when it does correspond to the character of the productive forces for society to be divided into classes—for there to be a great gap between physical and intellectual labor, and between the masses of people in society and a small part of society that monopolizes not only economic life but cultural and intellectual life—then you do get a superstructure that expresses that, and which reinforces it. With this kind of society we are all too familiar. Slave society, for example in the southern United States before the Civil War, had this kind of superstructure, with the slave-owners sitting on the veranda, drinking mint juleps and all the rest of that shit. And they had a corresponding organization of the society overall. I was watching a program about slave chasers on the History Channel. You know, there are all these white people in the South, backward white people, who say about the Confederate flag, "I don't uphold that because it stands for slavery, it's just a way of life and a culture that I'm upholding." Well, what was the way of life and culture there?! As this program on the History Channel pointed to, it was a way of life and culture founded on slavery and then, after slavery was abolished, that way of life was still grounded in serf-like oppression of millions of sharecroppers; it was a way of life, and of oppression, deeply rooted in and suffused with white supremacy. And this was reflected in the superstructure of politics, ideology, and culture. This program on slave chasers brought out that not only did they have slave overseers during the period of slavery in the South, but they organized the entire white population to reinforce the slave system. People who always say, "well, my family never owned slaves"—yes, but your family went chasing them down! See, that's the thing, they organized people to be slave chasers who didn't own slaves. They organized them into militias, the whole (white) society, even with the class differentiation within it, was organized around the pivotal thing of the whole economy and the whole production relations—which was slavery. The rest of the production relations found their place in relation to that, even though there were contradictions. And the superstructure—of politics, ideology, and culture—did too. This was a very different superstructure than in early communal societies where, before there was a basis, even economically, for slavery to be profitable, you couldn't have had a corresponding superstructure, a politics, and culture and ideology that served, defended, and reinforced slavery. It wouldn't have been able to be sustained.
So this is the way we have to understand and apply a materialist understanding, a dialectical materialist understanding of history that actually corresponds to and embraces all the contradictoriness and complexity of it, and at the same time brings to the fore the essential dynamic forces, or contradictions, that are actually moving and compelling things. This is why Mao said that dogmatists are lazybones. And reformists—or, more specifically, so-called "communists" or "socialists" who degenerate and settle into reformism—are lazybones, too. And often the two are very closely intertwined, reformism and dogmatism. Because you have to do work, you have to keep digging to find out what actually are the underlying contradictions that are driving and shaping the character and the motion and development of things.
Now, Marx did a lot of the work for us, but things keep moving and changing. Marx generally studied and wrote before the period of imperialism—before the capitalist system made a leap to its imperialist stage and became much more fully monopolized and internationalized—although there were some features moving in that way in Marx's time. Marx did a lot of work for us, and that is very important. I remember people in the early period of our Party who were mired in economism—completely caught up in tailing the "practical struggle" of the workers for improvement in their conditions within the capitalist-imperialist system—used to say, "well, you know, Lenin, he couldn't have been all that great because he spent all that time writing What Is To Be Done?,2 instead of organizing the workers." [laughter] If you want to talk about Lenin that way, what about Marx? He spent something like 11 years in the library of the British Museum studying history and economics in order to give us this great gift that he gave us, which is the basic materialist understanding of history as well as of capitalism in particular. So, a lot of the work has been done for us, but the need for continuing this work is ongoing; there is a lot of work for us today to do. We have to keep digging down to see even what Marx taught us—even what Marx gave us as a foundation, you have to keep digging down to grasp that and see how it applies today—to understand what is actually at the base of things in society and its ongoing historical development—you have to keep digging down to see how this is actually working itself out at any given time. What are the actual dynamics of the contradictions we are confronted with and seeking to transform, and how are these different contradictions interrelated? This is why it takes continual work. This is hard, it is hard work. Yet it's about something that's worth it—and more than just "worth it," it's about the emancipation of all humanity from relations of inequality, oppression, and exploitation.
But this won't be done by lazybones, and it won't be done with philosophical idealism—thinking that ideas in people's heads (or in the mind of some non-existent god or other supernatural beings) are what determine the character of reality. It won't be done by revenge, it won't be done by saying "oh, it's easy to tell, some people are rich and some people are poor, what else do you need to know." That leads to disaster, and where it's been applied it has led to disaster—I'm going to talk a little bit later about Cambodia and Pol Pot, for example.3 It leads to disaster—you can't differentiate things that way. You can't correctly understand the motive forces and you can't correctly distinguish friends from enemies on that basis. There's a whole phenomenon of right-wing populism in society today, organized by the most openly reactionary sections of the ruling class, to whip up the lower petty bourgeoisie, and labor aristocratic and other sections of the working class, broadly defined, into resentment against people who are actually taking important progressive stands—so-called "limousine liberals" in Hollywood, New York "snotty intellectuals," and so on. It takes work to dig down and understand what are the actual dynamics and what are the actual forces at play, how are things tending, on the basis of the contradictions driving things, and how can we wage this struggle to get them where they need to go—not in some narrow pragmatic sense, but in a sweeping world-historical sense.
Really grasping the underlying and driving character of these contradictions—between the forces and relations of production, and between the economic base and the superstructure—and how they continually interrelate and interpenetrate, and what actual expressions this takes at a given time in the world: this is fundamental, it's indispensable, for being able to actually lead a revolution in the way it needs to be led. And this is all the more urgently and acutely posed now. We can't do this without science. And you can't do it with just a little bit of science. Yes, we don't have to know everything before we can act. There is a relationship between theory and practice—that's the value also of having all this theory that's been developed over a historical period of more than a hundred years now, beginning with the breakthroughs that Marx brought forward. That's the value of having a collectivity of a party and an international communist movement. Each individual doesn't have to do all the work by himself or herself, starting back at zero every time. But you do have to ground yourself in this science as you are going into practice. And we do have to correctly handle that theory and practice dialectic as we go forward. And not be lazybones, which will land you in disaster, sooner or later—and, these days especially, not that much later.
So these contradictions between the forces and relations of production and between the economic base and the superstructure are the decisive and determining contradictions in all societies—including early and basic communal societies, on through various forms of class society—and they will be decisive and determining in communist society as well, although in a radically different context and radically different way. Mao, as part of his whole "Mao-esque" approach to things, made these comments that are captured in things like Chairman Mao Talks to the People, where at one point he says: You don't believe that in communist society there will still be the contradiction between the forces and relations, and between the economic base and the superstructure? I do. Ten thousand years from now, what's outmoded will still have to give way to what's new. He was talking about these driving forces. There's never a time—there never was a time, there never will be a time—in which people do not have to come together, in one form or another, to reproduce the material requirements of life, however that is done, with whatever the level of technology. And there will never be a time—this is something I'm going to keep coming back to—there will never be a time when people, not only individually, but above all, societally, will not face necessity.
To be continued. The entire work is available online at revcom.us.
1. Bob Avakian, Democracy: Can’t We Do Better Than That? (Chicago: Banner Press, 1986).
2. What Is To Be Done? was a crucial theoretical work, written by V.I. Lenin, leader of the Russian revolution, who emphasized in that work the decisive fact that, because of the influence and the power of the dominant ideas and institutions in capitalist society, the struggle of the exploited workers, or proletarians, and other oppressed people within capitalist society will, left to its own spontaneity, continually come back under the wing of the capitalist class and its political representatives and will be reduced to reformist demands that leave in power the capitalist system, and its whole network of exploitation, oppression, and repression. Lenin showed that to become a revolutionary class, fighting to abolish all oppression, the proletariat must have a vanguard communist party which brings to the masses of proletarians and other oppressed people the communist consciousness that they can never gain simply through carrying out their daily struggle for survival: an understanding of the fundamentally exploitative and the all-around oppressive nature of this system, of its utter unreformability, and of the necessity and possibility of revolution to overthrow the capitalist system, bring into being the political rule of the proletariat, whose mission is to lead the formerly oppressed masses of people, and the broad ranks of people in society, including the intellectuals and others who have occupied a more "middle position," toward the goal of abolishing all oppression and exploitation, and all unequal social relations, including the great gap between intellectual and physical (mental and manual) labor, throughout the world—the goal of communism.
3. The discussion by Bob Avakian of Cambodia and Pol Pot took place in another part of this talk, which is not included in what is now being published in Revolution.
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Extended One More Week…
Revolution #039, March 19, 2006, posted at revcom.us
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Revolution #039, March 19, 2006, posted at revcom.us
How can you support the troops and not support the war? What is it that the troops were doing, except waging that war?! Those soldiers who should be supported are those who are resisting—or seeking the means to resist—the war.
Bob Avakian, Chairman of the RCP, USA, speaking about the 1991 Gulf War, in "The New Situation and the Great Challenges"
An army is a concentration of the society it is fighting for. The whole character of the imperialist army and its soldiers stems from the fact that it is built and designed to carry out wars of plunder and missions of domination against the oppressed nations of the world and wars of rivalry with rival oppressors.
January 16, 1991, the U.S. launched "Operation Desert Storm" against Iraq and its people with a month of massive bombing—followed by a four-day ground war. The U.S. coalition dropped 88,000 tons of bombs. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi people, civilians as well as soldiers, were killed or injured. Bombing destroyed much of Iraq’s infrastructure—including bridges, electrical plants, and water treatment plants. Defeated Iraqi troops fled on the highway from Kuwait City to Basra—together with many civilians. For 48 hours U.S. jets attacked this clogged highway with incendiary bombs—turning it into a firestorm. Over 25,000 civilians and fleeing soldiers were killed on this "Highway of Death."
It is estimated that over 100,000 Iraqis have died since the March 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. The occupation force of U.S. soldiers have been brutal and murderous, as can be seen in the November 2004 U.S. assault on the city of Fallujah. The city was bombarded, including with napalm-like incendiary weapons. Journalist Dahr Jamail interviewed cameraman Burhan Fasa’a, who witnessed the U.S. raid in Fallujah. Jamail wrote: The military called over loudspeakers for families to surrender and come out of their houses, but Burhan said everyone was too afraid to leave their homes, so soldiers began blasting open the gates to houses and conducting searches. ‘Americans did not have interpreters with them, so they entered houses and killed people because they didn’t speak English! They entered the house where I was with 26 people, and shot people because they didn’t obey their orders, even just because the people couldn’t understand a word of English.... Soldiers thought the people were rejecting their orders, so they shot them. But the people just couldn’t understand them!’"
U.S. troops have rounded up Iraqis by the thousands and put them in prison without charges, trial, or sentences. In Abu Ghraib prison, U.S. soldiers have terrorized, raped, and murdered Iraqi prisoners. An Iraqi woman had a harness put on her and was made to crawl on all fours while a U.S. soldier rode her like a donkey. A hooded man was forced to stand balanced on a small box, with wires attached to his fingers—he was forced to stand for hours, and told if he fell from exhaustion, he would be electrocuted. Prisoners were beaten to death. Electric wires were attached to their genitals. Dogs were unleashed on prisoners, and prisoners were put on leashes like dogs. Female prisoners were repeatedly tortured and raped. U.S. soldiers forced prisoners to masturbate and piled them on top of each other handcuffed and naked. Prisoners were kept naked in tiny isolation cells, without ventilation or toilets. Photos from Abu Ghraib show U.S. soldiers grinning, laughing, mocking the prisoners as they tortured them, giving a big thumbs-up.
U.S. and allied troops invaded and occupied Somalia in the early 1990s, bringing a reign of terror. U.S. troops considered Somalis less than human and called them "skinnies" or "sammies." On September 19, 1993, the U.S. Army 10th Mountain Division shot missiles into a crowd from a helicopter, killing 100 unarmed people. U.S. troops flew their powerful Black Hawk helicopters low over markets, streets, and neighborhoods at any hour of the day or night. The intense downdraft from the helicopter blades damaged and destroyed entire neighborhoods, blowing down homes, mosques, market stalls, and walls.
By the time the U.S. War in Vietnam ended in 1975, the U.S. military had dropped more than seven million tons of bombs on a country roughly the size of New Mexico. In all, the U.S. war killed an estimated three million Vietnamese people. U.S. troops carried out rape and mass murder of civilians.
On March 16, 1968, a company of U.S. soldiers went into the village of My Lai. A soldier later testified, "The order we were given was to kill and destroy everything that was in the village. It was clearly explained that there were to be no prisoners." An order was given to push all the Vietnamese who had been forced into the area into a ditch. A soldier later recounted: "I began shooting them all. I guess I shot maybe 25 or 20 people in the ditch...men, women, and children. And babies."
Villagers’ huts and crops were burned, their livestock killed. Some of the dead were mutilated by having "C Company" carved into their chests; some were disemboweled. Women were raped. One GI would later say, "I cut their throats, cut off their hands, cut out their tongues, and scalped them."
Over 400 Vietnamese were killed in the My Lai Massacre.
On December 20, 1989, over 27,000 U.S. troops invaded Panama. U.S. President at the time, George Bush, Sr., said an invasion was needed to "protect American lives," but the main reason for the invasion was to make sure that the Panama Canal remained under U.S. imperialist control. Heavy U.S. firepower was turned on civilian communities. The poor working class neighborhood of El Chorillo was burnt to the ground. Panamanians estimate that between 2,000 and 6,000 people were killed in this invasion. Many of them were dumped into mass graves.
In the first two weeks of the U.S. attack on Afghanistan, in October 2001, two thousand bombs and missiles were dropped by the U.S. and Britain. The U.S. then sent in special operations troops of the U.S. Army Rangers. In the village of Showkar Kariz, in the desert plain near Kandahar in southeastern Afghanistan, people awoke after midnight to a scene of unbelievable horror. Bombs dropped by U.S. warplanes flying high overhead exploded, destroying houses and killing dozens of people. At least 45 villagers died from the air strikes.
Estimates of the number of people killed by U.S. troops run from about 2,000 to 8,000 or more, in the period of the air war from October to February—when 18,000 U.S. bombs, missiles, and other ordnance pounded Afghanistan. Many thousands more were injured.
August 6, 1945, the U.S. dropped an atom bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Three days later Nagasaki was bombed. 140,000 people died in Hiroshima and 70,000 in Nagasaki.
Those who raise the slogan "support our troops, not the war" need to ask themselves, how is that any different from witnessing a rape and saying, "I support the rapist, but not the rape"?
Revolution #039, March 19, 2006, posted at revcom.us
As told to Revolution by Spanish-speaking readers of the paper:
South Central L.A. is a place where the Black people and Latino immigrants live side by side. It is home to a big chunk of police brutality and murder. High unemployment, run-down housing, folks struggling to make the ends meet, often with no success. On Friday, February 24 the LAPD set up a checkpoint to reduce "drunk driving"--but this was a lie. The police pulled over people and asked them to show their driver’s licenses. A lot of undocumented immigrants are not allowed to have a driver license, but they still have to move around, to go to work (if they work at all), take their kids to school or to the hospital if they need to, go shopping for food where the closest supermarket is miles away and the public transportation is atrocious. What started as a "routine" LAPD operation didn’t go exactly as planned.
One of the readers of Revolution newspaper found out about the police checkpoint and called me and my friend. It was around 9:00 p.m. We rushed to the scene. The police had set up their checkpoint on Martin Luther King (MLK) Blvd. and they were pulling people over, impounding their cars and arresting the drivers. There were a few people there who were angry but didn’t know what to do. There were also a few 10 to 13-year-old kids on bikes who were restless and going back and forth and trying to alert the drivers of the approaching cars. We got there and our friend Miguel was deep into discussion with people about the nature of the police operation. Some were taken in by the police lies that this was a sobriety checkpoint to prevent accidents. Miguel was saying, "Why are they impounding all these cars and arresting people without giving them a sobriety test? Are most people drunk? No! They are undocumented immigrants." You could see that people were paying attention to what he was saying and they were getting angry. We started chanting "fuera puercos" (pigs get out) and "la Migra, policía, la misma porquería (Migra, police, the same shit). Some people joined in.
The police told people if they didn’t disperse they would get arrested. A young woman took that threat on and said, "For what?" The police came up with a typical police excuse, "Blocking the sidewalk." She refused to back down: "You have no right to tell us not to be on the sidewalk." In a desperate attempt to intimidate people the police handcuffed her, but later they let her go. We started marching from one intersection to the next and called on people who were inside their houses to come out. Some came out and joined us. Meanwhile we organized the young ones to go to different intersections one block away from the checkpoint and hold the signs we and the masses had made on the spot.
We got the Revolution newspaper out to everyone there and we met some people who wanted to keep in touch. One person who bought the newspaper said, "People need to understand the importance of this paper and read it and get it out to others. If we are going to change this situation, we must read this paper."
The action of the people put a hamper on the police operation. Cars were turning around and going away from the checkpoint. It wasn’t just undocumented immigrants who were avoiding the police checkpoint--some Black masses did the same thing, thanking us for notifying them. A pizza delivery man thanked us and gave a couple of boxes of pizza to the people there. A Black man united with us and said the police are like Nazis. He made a sign with a swastika on it and stayed with people even though the language barrier prevented us from understanding each other well--but he knew what was going on and that was enough. There were those who were saying, "We should unite and get organized and not let things like this happen again."
At some point there were no cars at the checkpoint and the police had to end their operation ahead of the scheduled time. We don’t know how many people fell prey to this vicious Gestapo tactic of the LAPD, but we noticed that a nearby school had let the police use their lot for impounded cars. We talked to the people who live in the area and decided that on Monday morning parents should confront the school administration about co-operating with the LAPD. We had a get-together on Saturday night to make a banner for the Monday rally in front of the school. The banner said: "La escuela apoyo a la policía hoy--mañana puede apoyar a la migra" (Today the school supports police--tomorrow will it be the Migra?). On Monday at 6:30 a.m. we showed up in front of the school. We talked to some parents about what happened on Friday night. One teacher allowed his class to investigate what was going on and write an article in the school newspaper.
The school administration got nervous and said that they would meet with the parents to discuss the matter the following weekend. We called the daily Spanish language newspaper Hoy and invited them to come on Monday, and they attended and wrote an article in the Feb. 28 issue with the headline "Activismo: Protestan contra un ‘reten’ cerca de escuela" (Protest against checkpoint near school).
Religious Voice Against Christian Fascism
Revolution #039, March 19, 2006, posted at revcom.us
Rabbi James Rudin is the senior interreligious advisor of the American Jewish Committee and a member of that organization’s board of governors. He’s the past Chairman of the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations. He’s worked on evangelical-Jewish dialogue going back to 1969, and he’s met with religious figures from Pat Robertson to Pope John Paul II (ten times). And Rabbi Rudin has a message for you:
"I am convinced that despite the large U.S. population, the religious diversity, and the Constitutional and judicial guarantees of church-state separation, the campaign to permanently transform America into a faith-based nation where one particular form of Christianity is legally dominant over all other religious communities constitutes a clear and present danger."
Or, as one of his chapter heads in his new book, The Baptizing of America, succinctly puts it: "There’s a war going on, in case you haven’t noticed."
Rudin acknowledges that colleagues and friends call him "alarmist," and he is determined to muster the evidence for his case. Rudin calls those who are mounting this move for theocracy "Christocrats." While the Christocrats draw from evangelical and fundamentalist denominations (as well as other churches), not all evangelicals or fundamentalists are Christocrats.
"A Christocrat distrusts the people and leaders of urban America and is threatened by demographic diversity, opting instead for the perceived spiritual and physical safety and purity of America’s exploding exurban areas and traditional rural space where the residents are mainly white. A Christocrat believes that a commitment to Jesus as one’s personal savior is absolutely necessary, but is not sufficient, in today’s world. National, not merely individual, repentance and acceptance of Jesus as the ultimate ruler of Christian America is imperative if the United States is to survive." [emphasis added]
He paints a picture of "a Christocratic republic" not all that far away from what is happening today: with effective one-party (Republican) rule; constitutional amendments outlawing abortion and same-sex marriage and sanctioning prayer in the schools; and Christocratic domination of the military, mass media, the courts, and every other significant arena. Tax funds would finance social welfare programs "directly administered by religious groups, the bulk of whom would be Christocratic institutions."
Rudin devotes a chapter to Dominionism and Christian Reconstructionism, the ideological glue of the Christocratic movement.1 And he cites Dr. Bruce Prescott, a Presbyterian minister and opponent of Christian Reconstructionism, who "lists the six ‘barest essentials’ of [Christian Reconstructionism]: 1) Make the ten commandments the law of the land, 2) reduce the role of government to the defense of property rights, 3) require ‘tithes’ to ecclesiastical [church] agencies to provide welfare services, 4) close prisons — reinstitute slavery as a form of punishment and require capital punishment for all of ancient Israel’s capital offenses — including apostasy [renunciation of one’s religion], blasphemy, incorrigibility in children, murder, rape, Sabbath breaking, sodomy, and witchcraft ,5) close public schools — make parents totally responsible for the education of their children, and 6) strengthen patriarchically ordered families."
He then quotes Prescott, writing in 2002, saying that aside from closing prisons, significant steps toward every other measure have been made. Again from Prescott:
What they have been able to accomplish has been done by their allying themselves with the Republican Party and the conservative Christians and working through the political process... Reconstructionists realize that sooner or later, there is bound to be a backlash against the kind of society they intend to create... when that happens, I believe that some, if given the opportunity, will be willing to take up arms and wage another civil war... that is [for them] morally and theologically justified...
Rudin brings much of this together in the chapter "There’s a War Going On, In Case You Haven’t Noticed," which provides a historical summary of the rise of the Christocrats, including the role played by George W. Bush in all this. He outlines the splits within the evangelical movement, and in particular in the Southern Baptist Convention, citing Bill Moyers (who is himself a minister in the Southern Baptist Convention).
Moyers wrote in 1999 that "In the past 20 years reactionary Baptists forged an alliance to take over a major political party and promote an agenda of state-sanctioned prayer, public subsidies, and government privileges [for their religion]. Their first, and most successful, strategy was to seize control of the Southern Baptist Convention, whose pews they envisioned as precincts of power."2 Note that the SBC claims over 16 million members in 37,000 churches. They, along with some other, smaller evangelical denominations and reactionary members and officials of Catholic and other historically "mainstream" denominations, make up the foot soldiers and field officers of this movement.
In a series of chapters, Rudin outlines the Christocratic agenda for the bedroom, the schoolroom, the hospital room and medical lab, the courtroom, the newsroom, the library room, the public room and the workroom. In each sphere, Rudin makes the case both for the extreme character of their agenda and the logic that drives them to take each victory as fuel to fight for more. Last week’s article in Revolution, showing how the Christian Fascists see abortion as only the first step to eliminating birth control,3 illustrates the point — and Rudin shows the logic in every sphere.
Rudin insists that this movement will not be appeased or satisfied by one or another reform; they are determined to "take back America." "A Christocrat," according to Rudin, "believes the American republic was once the ‘shining city on the hill’ that has, in recent decades, lost its moral, political, cultural, and religious moorings and foundations. A Christocrat believes that a radical transformation in all areas of American national life is imperative if the United States is to fulfill its Christian ‘manifest destiny’ and if it is to be ‘saved’ from the relentless ‘secularization’ of the general society."
There are other strengths to Rudin’s book, including his discussion of some of the cultural roots of this and his own coming-of-age experience, as well as some weaknesses. Rudin, it should be noted, is not politically radical. He is an anti-Communist, and a liberal supporter of both the state of Israel and the dominant U.S. position in the world more generally. On these points, we have deep and obvious disagreements. But as a long-time religious figure who has worked for interfaith tolerance, as someone with an intimate working knowledge of what he calls the Christocrats, his analysis — along with those of other religious figures which we have printed in Revolution — deserves to be studied and engaged with by anyone doubting the seriousness the threat of theocracy, or anyone concerned with this threat.
1. See article in Revolution #33, "Dominionism: Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid. A Future We Must Stop"--online at revcom.us.
2. This takeover actually took a further leap with the adoption in 2000 of a new "Baptist Faith and Message" by the SBC. The SBC has historically been noted for the independence of its pastors; but the new statement vested so much power and discipline in the SBC hierarchy that no less a Southern Baptist than former U.S. President Jimmy Carter criticized the "strictness of this mandatory compliance" as exceeding that of the Catholic Church. The SBC has in recent years altered or reversed traditional church teachings on the separation of church and state (the SBC used to insist on and favor just such separation) and "just war doctrine" (developing new teachings which closely fit the Bush Administration’s war policies) and has forcefully reasserted the Biblical strictures compelling the subordination of women to men, among other reactionary policies.
3. See "The Morality of the Right to Abortion...And the Immorality of Those Who Oppose It" at revcom.us.
Revolution #039, March 19, 2006, posted at revcom.us
During the 1990s pro-choice advocates began a campaign to get medical insurance companies to cover the cost of contraception. By that time birth control had been around for over 30 years. And even though over 82 percent of all American women born since 1945 had used the pill -- the pill, along with all other contraceptives, was still not covered by most insurance plans. The burden for birth control in this society falls disproportionately on women. And since birth control must be paid for out of pocket, this is an important part of why medical expenses are 68% higher for women than men.
By contrast, when the FDA approved the erection drug Viagra in 1996, it took less than two months after its release for half of all the Viagra prescriptions to be covered by health insurers.
By 1998 Christian fascists had captured the leadership of the Republican Party, and political operatives from the "pro-life" caucus in Congress were behind the defeat of federal legislation to require health insurance companies to pay for contraceptives. The Republican argument against this is that "fertility is not a disease but a function of a woman’s normal healthy reproductive organs."
This double standard and assertion of male right over women having any say over their own reproduction is not just some loony marginal religious doctrine -- it is part of an ideological outlook and oppressive morality of powerful forces that exercises authority over health policies that affect the whole country.
[Thanks to Cristina Page for her exposure of this and many other features of the Christian fascist war against abortion and birth control in her book How the Pro-choice Movement Saved America — Freedom, Politics, and the War on Sex." New York: Basic Books, 2006.]
Revolution #039, March 19, 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
Part 9: The Great Leap Forward
Part 10: The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China - Not Fanatical Purge, But the Socialist Road vs. the Capitalist Road
Part 11: Mao on the Contradictions of Socialist Society
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.
It’s August 18, 1966. Mao Tsetung is standing on the same terrace overlooking the same square in Beijing from which he spoke in 1949 upon the victory of the revolution. Only now he is reviewing the first public rally of revolutionary youth. They are called the Red Guards. A million have assembled. They are celebrating because just two weeks earlier Mao had written an extraordinary wall poster entitled "Bombard the Headquarters."
This was something no revolutionary leader in power, indeed no leader who has ever been in power, had done before in history. Mao was calling on people to challenge oppressive ruling structures: to rise up and overthrow top party and government officials who were trying to take China down the capitalist road. He was calling on people to seize back from below those portions of political power and those portions of the economy, culture, and education that had come under the control of the capitalist roaders.
Mao was launching a revolution within the revolution.
At the August rally, Mao motions to the crowd and puts on a Red Guard armband. It's a signal of support and encouragement to the revolutionary youth. Mao wants to unleash their questioning and rebellious spirit. And the Red Guards would play a key role in getting the Cultural Revolution going.
You have to understand China at the time. You had this entrenched section of party and administrative leaders who were, as I said earlier, promoting bourgeois policies camouflaged as Marxism. Many peasants and workers assumed that their leaders, if they called themselves communists, must be good. Mao wanted to puncture this willingness to go along with the status quo. He wanted to puncture the arrogance of the capitalist roaders. The fact is that in many factory units and rural areas, people were simply scared to criticize leadership.
Enter the Red Guards.
The Red Guards created a sensation in society. They organized protests and discussions. They criticized officials, high and low. They called out school administrators who acted like big shots. The older generation had gone through revolution in the 1930s and 1940s in the struggle against the Japanese and the U.S.-backed forces of Chiang Kai-shek. Now a new generation was plunging into revolution. The government allowed youth to travel free on the trains. The Red Guards took off to different regions and to the countryside, hiking and clambering aboard army vehicles. They visited villages to meet with peasants--people from whom they had been cut off and taught to look down upon.
The Red Guards were catalysts. They emboldened people to lift their heads, to speak up, and to speak out. Listen to this account from one peasant:
"The Red Guards were very organized. They divided themselves up and visited every household in the village. They read quotations and told us about the Cultural Revolution in Beijing and Shanghai. Never before had we had so many strangers in the village. They asked us about our lives. They wanted to learn from us. They asked us how we are managing things here in the brigade. They entered into discussions with the leading cadres of the brigade and asked about work points [this was the system of payment in the communes]. I got the book of Mao's quotations from them [this was the Red Book]. They distributed it to various households. In the end, we all had it. Those Red Guards meant a lot to us. And we went on reading the quotations after they'd gone. We read and compared those quotations to what was being done here, and came to the conclusion that a lot of things needed changing." (Jan Myrdal and Gun Kessle, China: The Revolution Continued [New York: Vintage, 1972], pp. 106-107)
The bourgeoisie hates the Cultural Revolution that took place in China. They talk about it as "thought control." They paint a picture of crazed Red Guards going on destructive rampages. We are swamped with high-profile studies and memoirs that talk about the Cultural Revolution as violence and retribution. But this was not the fundamental reality of the Cultural Revolution.
First of all, the Cultural Revolution was not a violent free-for-all. The Maoist leadership issued guidance for conducting the Cultural Revolution. One of the main documents, and people should read this, was called the "16- Point Decision." Here are some excerpts from Mao's instructions:
This was the orientation. Was there disorder? Yes. Were there excesses and violence? Of course. This was a revolution. But the Maoist revolutionaries tried to keep this movement going in the right direction through all its turmoil: mass debate, mass criticism, and mass political mobilization.
One famous episode illustrates the point. At Tsinghua University, there was considerable factional fighting among students. Eventually it turned violent. In response, the Maoist leadership dispatched a team of unarmed workers to enter the university to help the students sort out and settle their differences.
NEXT WEEK: The Cultural Revolution--Complex and Liberating Struggle
1. "Decision of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party Concerning the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution" (Adopted on August 8, 1966), in Important Documents on the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China (Peking: Foreign Languages Press, 1970).
Revolution #039, March 19, 2006, posted at revcom.us
To most of the world, the words "World Bank," "G8," and "suffering" are identical, "Bush" is spelled "w-a-r-c-r-i-m-i-n-a-l," and murderers, thugs, and thieves sporting expensive suits, official titles, and high rank are still murderers, thugs, and thieves.
Except, it seems, to Bono, famed lead singer for the rock band U2.
In the name of alleviating hunger and poverty in Africa, Bono has embarked on a mission that showers praise upon exploiters and oppressors. He applauds ("a little piece of history") the "debt relief" plan of the richest nations who run the World Bank and IMF that amounts to writing off pennies owed in order to rake in billions more from the world’s impoverished countries. He gives Bush's AIDS program a glowing endorsement ("I think he's done an incredible job, his administration, on AIDS") even though the millions in U.S. anti-AIDS funds come with a deadly anti-condom/pro-abstinence agenda. Most recently at a February prayer meeting at the White House, Bono combined appeals for more African aid with grotesque praise of President Bush. ("Outstanding human achievements. Counterintuitive. Historic. Be very, very proud.") When a fellow band member complained about Bono being photographed with Bush, Bono remarked, "I'd have lunch with Satan if there was so much at stake."
"Even as my associates and I suck billions out of this planet, after a few pledges to throw some crumbs to Africa, Bono says I’m ‘incredible’!. Thanks Bono for helping my image!"
United States President George Bush - architect of war and occupation that took over 100,000 lives and continues to devastate Iraq
"A big 'danke schön' to you Bono! I simply promised an extra set of lice-ridden blankets for each camp inmate and now I'm the 'best Führer Germany ever had.'"
Adolf Hitler, aka, "der Führer ", German leader who oversaw the extermination of millions in the "Final Solution"
"I just pledged an extra potato each month on the plantations and my pal Bono called me the 'kindest and nicest president' the South ever had!"
Confederate States President Jefferson Davis, fought to maintain the enslavement of millions of Black people in the U.S.
"I just promised to hand out a bag of ice cubes to all new arrivals and Bono called me the 'best lord of the underworld ever!' Now everyone sees me as just a big glowing fiery demonic softy! Thanks Bono!"
Satan, mythical creature who reportedly torments billions of human souls in the the fiery pits of hell.
This parody brought to you by revcom.us
Illustrations by Markus Garvey
Revolution #039, March 19, 2006, posted at revcom.us
There were two significant typographical errors in the article "The Morality of the Right to Abortion...And the Immorality of Those Who Oppose It" which appeared in last week's issue of Revolution (#38).
On page 14, two paragraphs above the subhead "Where This Is Headed—and What We Must Do," the paragraph should correctly read: This is nothing but bowing down before the morality of religious and patriarchal control over women—and over people generally who strive for a world where human beings are equal. THIS is morally unconscionable!
In the next paragraph, the fourth sentence should read: They agree with the Republicans that the widespread questioning of traditional morality, among other things, that so marked the 1960s and early '70s, has to go—that people have to accept "God, country, and family" morality that has arisen on and serves to fortify the whole system of oppression.
We would like to make the following clarification. The article noted that "the South Dakota legislature outlawed abortion even in the case of rape or incest." The South Dakota abortion ban (which has now been signed into law by the governor) also makes no exception for the health of pregnant women.