voice of the revolutionary communist party,usa
Please note: this page is intended for quick printing of the entire issue. Some of the links may not work when clicked, and some images may be missing. Please go to the article's permalink if you require working links and images.
Nationwide Upsurge of Resistance
Revolution #040, March 26, 2006, posted at revcom.us
In the last few weeks, immigrants and their supporters have launched a nationwide wave of resistance against the repressive attacks on them. Last issue we covered both the massive march in Chicago on March 10 and militant streetcorner, grassroots resistance in L.A. In this issue we bring you news of a demonstration of 30,000 to 40,000 in DC and an anti-war march that went from Tijuana to L.A., crossing more borders than just the physical one in doing so. On this page we bring you excerpts from a statement by the Chicago branch of the RCP which puts the struggle in the larger context of revolution, communism, as well as a basic and brief analysis of what is up with the anti-immigrant bills.
The following are excerpts from a statement released by the Chicago branch of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA.
On Friday, March 10 in mid-day, the streets of the Chicago downtown loop swelled with a tremendous outpouring for immigrant rights, dignity, and opposition to the anti-immigrant bill HR4437 currently pending in Congress. Reliable estimates said the march called by a large coalition easily topped 300,000. Overwhelmingly Latino, it was joined by small yet significant groupings of other immigrants, as well as backed by humanitarian forces: immigrant rights groups, priests, union members, and others. The Chicago Sun Times described it as the largest demonstration in defense of immigrant rights in U.S. history.
In the wake of such a massive outpouring, it was an outrage that this protest was mainly NOT covered in the national or major English language media outside of Chicago.
It was a joyful sight, wave upon wave of determined people who through their sheer numbers brought the downtown of the 3rd largest city in the U.S. to a standstill. People who daily live with the constant terror of deportation proudly stepped out of the shadows. The RCP salutes all those who demonstrated. The city looked on in amazement. Protestors emptied many factories, restaurants, stores, shops across the region and in so doing demonstrated the extent to which U.S. society depends on their labor.
This kind of massive refusal to go along that was seen in the streets in Chicago on that day is exactly the kind of response that is needed not only to this bill but also to all the other monstrous crimes being carried out by the U.S. government. The current treatment of immigrants is already a nightmare. These draconian new laws, or any variation of them, must be stopped by people of all nationalities together with immigrants.
For those who don’t know, HR4437, if passed, would make all undocumented immigrants felons, subject to immediate arrest and deportation. People who provide any help or services—such as priests, doctors, landlords, family members who are citizens—could also be charged with felony crimes. Families could be split up and parents of children who are citizens could be deported. The bill also calls for building additional border fences and paying bounties to local police who hunt undocumented immigrants and turn them over to the INS.
The everyday normal workings of imperialism (the effect of imperialist globalization) force people to migrate. Every year, worsening economic conditions compel millions to migrate in search of jobs. Today more than 200 million people are crossing national borders as migrant workers. The U.S. has perpetrated economic destruction on Mexico through free trade agreements. In the last 10 years, this has caused almost two million Mexican farmers to lose their jobs and forced ten times that many deeper into poverty. Major imperialist countries like the U.S. grow wealthy and powerful on the backs of oppressed nations.
Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP), captured the reality of the American nightmare for immigrants who are forced to come to the U.S. in the following from an article run in Revolution newspaper: “Immigrants will come to this country, looking for work. And if they make it here past the border patrol and all that—and if they aren’t thrown in jail and aren’t killed by the state or by vigilantes, and don’t die from starvation or exposure to the heat in the desert or the cold in the mountains—they’ll be forced to live together in sub-standard housing. They’ll be told that it’s their own fault, that they’re law breakers, that they’re parasites—get that!—that they are parasites on society while the society, and particularly the bourgeoisie, is parasitically living off of them. And throughout the country, in the farm fields, in the inner cities, even in suburbs and small towns, immigrants are picking crops, making beds, cleaning up after other people, doing janitorial work and being viciously exploited and disrespected.”
The world does not have to be this way. No one should have to live like this. Today, people could produce enough food, housing and clothing to provide a decent life for everyone on the planet. But the means to do this are owned and controlled by a handful of global capitalist-imperialists who are driven to get ever greater profit, or else go under. And so half the people on the planet live on less than $2 a day. Billions go hungry.
But imagine a different future. A future where people consciously learn about and transform the world, and are not imprisoned by the chains of tradition or ignorance. A world without racism and without borders. A vibrant place where people together debate and decide how to develop society. A world where people no longer wonder where their next meal will come from, or if they will be homeless, or abandoned or sick in their old age—a world of abundance, where people together hold all of society’s resources in common. A world where people not only work to produce the necessities of life but get into art and culture and science—and have fun doing it! A world without the domination of women by men, where people interact with each other based on mutual respect, concern and love for humanity. A world that looks out for and takes care of the environment. That world is communism. And we can get to that world.
...The government is waging an illegal and unjust war in Iraq; spying; torturing people and justifying it; leaving people to die and an entire city to rot after Katrina; and from the highest government offices there are attacks on science, and the right to abortion is close to being outlawed. There is a looming theocracy [religious dictatorship]. The anti-immigration bill is part of this draconian shape of the future with much worse to come for the world and in the U.S. itself.
All of this is causing deep agonizing among people in the U.S. itself about the direction of society. The very extremes that the imperialists are taking things is what is giving rise in the U.S. to a real possibility that there could shape up an opening and a chance to wrench a far better future out of the jaws of the darkness and suffocation that the imperialists have in store. It is not here yet, but we need to race to do everything we can to prepare for and seize such an opening.
When you look at what is going on in the whole world, on every continent, this is what is needed most of all—an emancipating revolution, including right in the belly of the beast. Think about how the world would look without U.S. imperialism! A revolution in which the class that owns nothing but its ability to work and yet works together to make the world run takes the stage of history, fitting itself to lead such a revolution. When a section of that class (of all nationalities, including oppressed nationalities like Black people and Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans, and others) steps forward, together with others, to join with its party, the RCP, and become the emancipators of humanity, leading millions to bring about a revolutionary transformation of U.S. society, embarking on the road to communism together with people all over the world.
THERE IS A LEADER TO GET TO A REVOLUTIONARY SOCIETY—THAT LEADER IS BOB AVAKIAN, THE CHAIRMAN OF THE RCP. He knows revolution. He has studied deeply the experiences of the socialist revolutions in the Soviet Union and China under Mao Tsetung, upholding their great accomplishments and learning from their shortcomings. He’s a leader with tremendous love for and confidence in the people and he gives you great hope that we can actually do what the times demand of all of us. He knows it takes the great involvement of the people to make revolution and he invites—and challenges—everyone into the process of struggle to know and change the world.
You need to seek this out—get to know this leader—seek out this party and bring your ideas and your creativity. Engage with the Revolutionary Communist Party and its leader Bob Avakian and together let’s figure out how we can wrench something good for humanity out of all this.
There is an amazing DVD—Chairman Avakian’s historic talk, which is in Spanish and English. The DVD title says it all: REVOLUTION: WHY IT’S NECESSARY; WHY IT’S POSSIBLE; AND WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT. Watch it and make it available everywhere for others who are also agonizing about the world. This DVD talk will engage you with the big questions confronting all those who dream of really making a difference for mankind.
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.
The imperialists are moving to extend their global empire and at the same time to enforce a new, much more repressive social compact within their “homeland.” These attacks on immigrants fit into that picture. On the one hand, the imperialists cannot do without immigrant labor. But the presence of millions of immigrants demanding equality and basic decency creates tremendous challenges for their system—both economically and socially. So they want to keep the masses of immigrants in the shadows and in a super-exploited condition. They want to use other sections of the masses against the immigrants, dividing and conquering the people, and preventing people from developing united movements of resistance and even revolution. The imperialists want to enforce their structures and ideas of white supremacy and “nativism” to keep this whole society together, on a very reactionary and even fascist basis, at a time when there are huge changes afoot in every sphere and when they face huge problems maintaining and expanding empire.
This is tied up with the U.S. imperialists’ international relations—including especially with Mexico, as well as the oppressed nations of Central America and the Caribbean. These countries are dominated and viciously exploited by the U.S., and the U.S. is very fearful both of challenges from their rivals in what they so arrogantly call their “backyard,” as well as revolutionary ferment and struggle coming from the masses. The governments of these countries depend a great deal on the money sent home by immigrant workers for their stability and the imperialists do not want to upset that. In response to these difficulties—and to all the other problems they face internationally and within the U.S.—the imperialists’ dominant method of the day is the iron fist of one or another brand of fascism. (This can also be seen very sharply in the severe repression and massive deportations that they have unleashed against immigrants from the Middle East, South Asia, and North Africa—which must also be opposed!)
While the McCain-Kennedy bill contains provisions that are different from Sensenbrenner, and while Bush himself has advanced some proposals that are somewhat similar to McCain-Kennedy as well as Sensenbrenner, all of these bills would significantly step up the repression against immigrants in many ways. And all of them would be designed to intensify the exploitation of the immigrants and more deeply hammer in their oppression.
The people must resist and defeat these bills, and the massive demonstrations against the Sensenbrenner bill are tremendously important. At the same time, we cannot allow ourselves to let this movement come under the sway of one or another imperialist political force—including those wolves in sheep’s clothing of the Democratic Party. Instead, we must spread this movement to all kinds of people and link this movement up to other struggles that are going on against this system, including against the overall fascist program and imperialist aggression now concentrated in the Bush regime. And we must build a movement that opposes ALL discrimination against and criminalization of ALL immigrants, that opposes the militarization of the border, and that firmly resists the government-sponsored vigilante terror perpetrated by the so-called minutemen and others.
Views on Socialism and Communism: A RADICALLY NEW KIND OF STATE, A RADICALLY DIFFERENT AND FAR GREATER VISION OF FREEDOM
Revolution #40, March 26, 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 in 6 installments. The first installment appeared in issue #37 (March 5, 2006). The second installment appeared in last week's issue, #39. In this issue, we continue the section of the talk that began in issue #39. The complete work, “Views on Socialism and Communism: A Radically New Kind of State, A Radically Different and Far Greater Vision of Freedom,” can be read and downloaded online at revcom.us.
It is the essence of an idealist and utopian view of what we're all about, and of communism, that somehow communism will mean that there will no longer be necessity. It is true that, in communist society, in a communist world, the character of necessity and the interrelation between necessity and how people deal with necessity will be radically different than it is now, but there will still be necessity and the need to transform it. There will still be the character of the productive forces and the production relations that generally correspond to that. There will still be an economic base, there will still be relations of production, and—again, not being mechanical, but understanding this in a dialectical sense, understanding that, yes, there is relative autonomy and initiative in the superstructure—there will be, at any given time, a superstructure that more or less corresponds to the relations of production. And there will still be all the dynamism involved in all this. Productive forces will continue to develop, and this will continue to transform the production relations from relatively appropriate forms for the development of the productive forces into fetters on the productive forces—to more having the character and the effect of being fetters than of being the appropriate forms for the development of those productive forces. That's how it works.
And once again the superstructure will come into conflict with the new production relations that are being developed, and there will be struggle to transform the superstructure further, in line with the changes in the production relations—changes which, in turn, are being called forth by the development of the productive forces. Even in communist society, this will be true. As Mao said, even 10,000 years from now—assuming that humanity makes it that far, and we have something to say about that, in case we've forgotten—but assuming humanity makes it that far, 10,000 years from now these will still be the underlying and driving contradictions of society (between the forces and relations of production and between the economic base and the political and ideological superstructure), even with all the complexity this gives rise to and even with all the ways in which the various things it gives rise to react back upon these underlying and driving contradictions.
This has to do, once again, with a materialist understanding of necessity, and of the dialectical relation between necessity and freedom—that freedom doesn't lie in seeking to evade, seeking to wish away, seeking to do "an end run around," or simply seeking to vault in one bound over, necessity, but lies in confronting and transforming necessity on the basis of the actual contradictions that reside within that necessity, because all of reality consists of matter in motion and consists of contradiction. This is a fundamental dividing line between idealism and metaphysics, on the one hand, and Marxist materialism and dialectics on the other hand—whether you understand the relationship between freedom and necessity and where freedom is situated in relation to necessity, and how freedom is wrenched out of necessity.
Of course, all this has to be understood in all its complexity, and not in a crude and linear way. But keeping that in mind, it is crucial to understand that this is what the advance of society will continually be constituted of: confronting and transforming necessity, above all on the societal level and with the roles of individuals finding their place within that, and not in some framework divorced from that, or standing outside of it, or somehow flying above it like a heavenly horse flying free (as they used to say in China), somehow seeking to, in some individual sphere, transcend necessity: "That stuff doesn't affect me, I don't care what they do over there in Iraq, that's got nothing to do with me." Yes, it does, and if you don't recognize it now, you'll be forced to recognize it sooner or later, because this is all interwoven and interknit. And if you think you can just get around that, reality will assert itself anyway and demonstrate, sometimes quite dramatically, that you cannot just do that.
To take an example I have cited a number of times, you cannot just define words any way you want to, because they have a social context, and a social meaning, an historically evolved meaning at a given time. This goes back to epistemological questions (questions of the theory of knowledge, of what is truth and how human beings can come to know what is true). I've pointed this out before, for example in discussing how Huey Newton's definition of power is an instrumentalist definition of power: "power is the ability to define phenomena and cause them to act in the desired manner." No. Defining a phenomenon any way you want does not give you the ability to cause it to act in a desired manner. Somebody pulls out a gun and shoots it at you—and if, somehow in the time before it hit you, you were able to say, "This is not really a bullet coming at me, it's a pillow, I choose to define it as a pillow"—that won't work. [laughter] It's still a bullet. [laughter] Necessity is still confronting you, and you have to deal with that necessity (if you have time). You better get behind something, if you can. [laughter] You better have some kind of armor, if you can. You're not going to deal with that bullet by defining it as a pillow or a marshmallow. [laughter] So this is fundamentally wrong.
Power actually resides in the ability to correctly understand objective phenomena and necessity and to transform them, transform this in the way it can actually be transformed—which is full of contradiction, so there's not one way, always, or even most of the time, or in general. Things can be transformed in different ways according to the contradictions that are driving them, but they can't be transformed in some way that bears no relationship to the defining and driving contradictions. That's why I say, you cannot turn a bullet into a marshmallow or a pillow simply by defining it as such.
Or take another example that is a big phenomenon, and big point of contention, in the culture and more generally these days. Some people, and in particular some Black people, say "I will define the word ‘nigger’ so that now it means ‘my friend, my partner.’" No. It means something else. You don't have the ability to define it that way because, just like a bullet, this has been historically and socially defined in a certain way and you can't change that meaning by a mere act of your will or desire to have it mean something else. Many years from now, when humanity has long since moved beyond the kind of society where oppression of whole peoples exists, along with other forms of oppression and exploitation, maybe then that word ("nigger") will have absolutely no meaning, or might mean something entirely different. But right now, at this stage of history we're in, with the world the way it is, its meaning has been and is still defined by the historically established oppressive social relations of which the word "nigger" is an expression. And if you're going to deal with what it means and everything that's behind that word, you have to confront it as it actually is, according to that historically and socially established meaning—until we have radically transformed those social relations of which it is an expression.
Now here also enters in the relation between necessity and accident, or between causality and contingency. There have been, and there are, no predetermined pathways in the historical development of human beings and of human society (in its interaction with the rest of nature). But once again, through this process, this continual interaction, of necessity and freedom—and, yes, causality and contingency (or necessity and accident) and their dialectical inter-relation—there has developed a certain "coherence" to history. And it has brought us to the threshold where it is possible—not inevitable but possible—to make the leap to communism.
One of the points I have made before is that, as with all things, causality and contingency, or necessity and accident, are a unity of opposites. And as Mao said about the universal and particular, what is causality in one context is accident in another, or contingency in another (and vice versa). I've used this example before: Why did Columbus end up in the Americas, thinking he was going somewhere else? In one context—in the framework, for example, of the peoples who were unfortunate enough to have Columbus land among them, with the subsequent unfolding of events after that—this was an accident, because he intended to go somewhere else, and his arrival in the Americas did not come from within the internal dynamics of the societies in the Americas at that time. So, to the peoples there it came as an accident. And on another level it was an accident because Columbus was trying to get somewhere else. But was it entirely an accident? No. There were obviously causes and reasons why he ended up where he did—for example, things having to do with the winds, having to do with lack of knowledge of certain things on his part, and so on and so forth. And you can divide each of those things, in turn, into necessity on the one hand, and accident on the other (or causality and contingency). Each thing can be divided into its contradictory aspects in that sense as well.
But, at any given time, there is a principal aspect to things, and that principal aspect gives relative identity to that thing, even while it is moving and changing. So that capitalist society, for example, holds within it the future of socialist society—particularly as represented politically, and in terms of the class struggle, by the proletariat, and in terms of production by the socialization of production. But capitalist society is still defined by the fact that the production relations and the superstructure on top of that are capitalist. So it's contradictory, but the principal aspect gives it its defining quality and essence, relatively—relatively in the sense that it exists in a larger framework of other contradictions in the world, and relatively in the sense that it is full of contradiction and motion and development itself, and those aspects of the future are also asserting themselves within all that, in contradiction to the essential capitalist character.
So we have to understand things in terms of the motion and development of contradictions, and not in static terms. We have to get away from metaphysical and ultimately religious or virtually religious views of phenomena in the world, including human society and its historical development. There have been, as I said, no predetermined pathways in the historical development of human beings and human society. There could have been things which in one aspect were accidents that could have wiped out human beings before they really got a foothold, or even after they did—and there still could be. However, that has not happened up to this point. In the same way, human society was not predestined to head toward communism, but it has, through all of its contradictory and complex development, gotten to the threshold of that, where the contradiction between socialized production and private appropriation—this contradiction characteristic of, and fundamentally defining of, capitalism—is more and more acutely asserting itself.
There is, then, as Marx pointed out, a certain coherence in human history. Each generation does inherit the material conditions and corresponding social relations and ideological and political superstructure from previous generations—from the previous development of society—both that brought about through the accumulation of partial changes and that brought about through revolutionary leaps, leading to radical changes. It is not just a matter of changes through gradual accumulation, but also change brought about through revolutionary leaps leading to radical changes. It is, at any given time, on the foundation of the existing material conditions, and in particular the existing productive forces, that further changes, both quantitative and qualitative, both partial and revolutionary, are brought about; but even revolutionary changes, and what they bring forth, are conditioned by what they arise out of. This is also a very important point.
This has been spoken to in an important paper written by a leading comrade in our Party, where it talks about the relation between constraint and transformation: that in the natural history of evolution over billions of years—and in social evolution and the historical evolution of human society—things arise out of the constraints, and the transformation of the constraints, which exist at a given time. This is bound up with the point that, in human society, at every point each generation confronts the character of the society—grounded in the productive forces and the production relations that more or less correspond to those productive forces—confronts this as something external to it, as necessity. And there is the related question of where that necessity, those existing material conditions, came from—how they have developed (and in fact are continuing to develop) through a very complex and contradictory process, and not some straight-line march which is predetermined and predestined. This is the way it works.
This is why Marx spoke about the "birthmarks of capitalism" that exist in the early stages of the advance toward communism—in other words, in socialist society under the dictatorship of the proletariat. These "birthmarks of capitalism" exist in socialist society because (continuing the metaphor) it emerges, and in fact can only emerge, out of the womb of capitalism. In contrast to what the anarchists and utopians might think, or wish, in reality you don't get to say, "Let's draw up the ideal society and work back from that. Why do you want to have leaders? Why do you want to have a state? That's just creating the problems we're trying to get rid of. Why don't we just envision a society that doesn't have that?" Well, anybody can envision it. That's easy. Smoke a little ganja, or whatever, [laughter] and you can envision all kinds of shit [laughter], even good shit. But that doesn't get you where you need to go. You have to proceed from where you are toward what's actually possible on the basis of transforming the necessity you continually face and the new necessity that gets brought into being, the new constraints that get formed, by transforming the old necessity, the old constraints. You don't get to go a priori (in advance of, and in actuality divorced from, engaging reality) and think about what you'd like society to be, then superimpose that over reality, and try to bring the ideal into being in that way. That's complete idealism, philosophically (again: thinking that ideas are the determining thing in relation to material reality, that material reality is merely an extension of ideas, or in any case that ideas can in and of themselves create or change reality, as in the expression "thinking makes it so"). That has nothing to do with actually changing reality, and in particular transforming society and advancing toward where society, yes, can go—not is bound to go, but can go—to communism.
So you have these "birthmarks" of capitalism when socialist society is brought into being through revolution. Lenin said: we don't get to make revolution with people as we would like them to be; we make revolution with people as they are. Now, yes, in making revolution even, in the first leap, getting over the first hump, waging the struggle for the seizure of power and seizing power, people do undergo radical change. But they're still not "ideal" people. And, as I will talk about later in discussing the "parachute" point,1 people don't undergo change once and for all and "irrevocably," so that they can't possibly go back—things can't ever go back, people can't ever go back to the way they were before the revolution—well, we've learned from bitter lessons of history, if we didn't know it before, that this is just not true. You make revolution with people as they are in a given time—and there, too, you transform necessity into freedom.
So there is no "stately and ordered process" that has led from one stage of society to another (from early communal to slave, to feudal, to capitalist and then socialist society—and then on to communism). There is no "grand waltz of history" (one, two, three; one, two, three) or no "feudal minuet," nice and dainty and orderly, which has unfolded as society has gone forward somehow inevitably toward communism. There is no "grand process" leading inevitably to communism. We must combat tendencies to that kind of thinking (this was marked in Stalin, for example) which borders on a religious viewpoint (if, in fact, it does not "violate the law" and "cross over that border"!). But human historical development, with all its complexity and diversity, throughout the world and through thousands of years, has in fact—though not "by design"—laid the foundation for and made possible—not inevitable but possible—the world-historic leap to communism. It has brought the world to a situation where it is bound together more tightly than ever, and where capitalism and its fundamental contradiction is the defining and determining aspect of human society, in the world in its entirety, and in all parts of the world—and where this contradiction is finding ever more pronounced and extreme expression; where the conflict between the forces and relations of production, and between the base and superstructure, characteristic of capitalism is becoming ever more intensified; where the need for the resolution of this fundamental contradiction, through the proletarian revolution, in particular countries and ultimately on a world scale, is asserting itself ever more powerfully. But then, once again, to achieve that revolutionary transformation requires the subjective factor, the conscious revolutionary forces, to lead masses of people to bring reality in line with that need, through wrenching and resolute struggle.
What then is the fundamental contradiction of capitalism, what is the particular way in which, in the era of capitalism, the basic contradictions of all human society—between the forces and relations of production, and between the economic base and the political and ideological superstructure—find expression? It is the contradiction between socialized production and private appropriation. This is the fundamental, defining, and driving contradiction of capitalism and of the era in which capitalism is still dominating in the world. And if you want to look at an extreme and grotesque phenomenon—at the way in which the fundamental contradiction of capitalism, between socialized production and private appropriation, is assuming an extreme, perverse, and grotesque form today—you can look at who is the president of the United States right now [laughter]. Someone who insists on pronouncing the word "nuclear" as "nuke-u-lur" (even though he himself went to prestigious prep schools and universities and could very well pronounce the word correctly). Now, why do I say this is an extreme and grotesque expression of the fundamental contradiction of capitalism? Because this is the man who has his finger on the "nuke-u-lur" trigger. And what is this but an expression in the superstructure of the contradiction between (to use more everyday terms) the vast technology that has been produced, collectively, by millions and millions of people, and the fact that, at the same time, this is all under the domination and control of, and in fact is suffocated in significant ways by, a tiny handful of people in a small number of countries, ruled over by a political power structure which has brought forward this monstrosity as its chief executive. You couldn't ask for a more grotesque expression in today's world of the contradiction fundamental to capitalism, between socialized production and private appropriation.
Now, if you go to the masses of people and say, "The fundamental contradiction we're dealing with today is socialized production versus private appropriation" they will likely, and very understandably, respond: "What the fuck are you talking about?!" Well, you can simply say: "‘W’—that's what the fuck I'm talking about." [laughter] Then, of course, you have to explain the larger meaning of all this. Again, this takes work. But this is reality—although, again, you don't see it that way spontaneously—even we communists don't all spontaneously see it that way. Yet, in reality, this is nothing other than an extreme, perverse, and grotesque expression—just one, but an extremely grotesque, perverse expression of the fundamental contradiction of capitalism—that in the superstructure, on the basis of this private appropriation of socialized production, this is what gets brought forward as the political leader of the "free world."
And, again, if you want a more generalized way to look at it—one that's maddening in an even more general sense, that is a howling and maddening contradiction—look at the fact that this guy "W" is the one who has his finger on the "nuke-u-lur" button, and more generally the fact that this ruling class in the United States, more than any other ruling class, has amassed tremendous military power to reinforce its system. This is nothing other than an expression of the fundamental contradiction of capitalism and of the motion and development in today's world of the contradiction between the forces and relations of production and between the base and the superstructure. To break this down, we need to focus on the question: how do they do this, where does this military power come from? Through the historical development of capitalism in the U.S. And we know what that's been all about: wars were waged, people were exterminated, slaves were kidnaped and employed—again, back and forth between the superstructure and the base—they conquered a territory in North America, amassed tremendous wealth, and spread their tentacles throughout the world, in waves and ever more deeply. And on the basis of, quite literally, sucking the life-blood out of people all over the world, they have amassed tremendous wealth and are able to assign a significant portion of that wealth to employ scientists and others to develop weapons, to devote production, in turn, to produce weapons, and to train and develop an army to deploy those weapons. It is nothing other than a grotesque and maddening and howling expression of the fundamental contradiction of capitalism, that they are able to do that and on that basis they are able to reinforce their rule over the very people whose life-blood has provided the material foundation out of which they have built this in the first place. It is an extreme, howling, and maddening expression of the fundamental contradiction of capitalism—and, more generally, of the contradiction between the forces and relations of production and between the economic base and the superstructure.
Now, of course, people don't see it this way spontaneously [laughs]. And, as I said, we, who have a basic understanding of the nature of capitalism and what it really does and what it really means for people throughout the world, also don't fully understand spontaneously how all this is rooted in the fundamental contradiction of capitalism—it takes work. And in order to translate it to the masses so they can understand it, you can't put it in the terms I just did. But there are ways to translate this into popular terms so that people can learn about the world and how it actually is, and how it actually moves and changes—and what their role is in relation to that. And through our newspaper, Revolution, as well more generally, that's what we have to do. That's one of the most essential things we have to do: bring this to the masses of people so that when they struggle, and as they struggle, and even as we organize them to struggle, they are more and more consciously understanding where this struggle needs to go, what the problem is and what the solution is, what it's rooted in and where it's tending, and why we have to struggle in a certain way to take it where it needs to go, in order to move beyond all this.
Now if we go further in examining the fundamental contradiction of capitalism, between socialized production and private appropriation, then we come to the question of the two forms of motion of this contradiction, or the two expressions of this contradiction. Twenty-five years ago, when we made the analysis that the principal contradiction in the world was between the two imperialist camps (one headed by the U.S. and one headed by the Soviet Union, which was then still masquerading as a "socialist" country but was in reality a state-capitalist-imperialist power), this was a very contentious thing within the international communist movement; and for that reason, but for the more fundamental reason that we need to really understand the world in its actual dynamics and motion and development, we dug into this question of not just what is the fundamental contradiction of this era and what was the principal contradiction in that period, but how do you understand that whole question and how do you arrive at the correct determination of what is the fundamental and what is the principal contradiction in the world. And this was, as I say, controversial in the international communist movement, because a lot of people were stuck in a formulation that came out in the mid-1960s from China, that the principal contradiction in the world was essentially between the Third World and imperialism (or between the oppressed nations and imperialism). This is another one of those things where people didn't think there was anything to discuss or wrangle with: "What's the question? The principal contradiction in the world is oppressed nations versus imperialism—that's it, let's move on to the next question."
But the world doesn't stand still, the world moves and changes. Even when we don't consciously act on it, it still moves and changes—in fact, more maddeningly when we don't act on it and consciously seek to change it. So, in taking up the question of what actually was the principal contradiction in the world at that time (the beginning of the 1980s), we had to dig into this: how do you get down to the material foundation of this, how do you understand this in a materialist way and not in a metaphysical way, as if "it is this way, that's always the way it was and forever shall be, amen" (like the Christian "doxology" or some other religious incantation). Or, in more "communist" terms: "this is the way it was when I became a revolutionary, that's the way it is, so what's the discussion?" No. The world is moving and changing.
So we had to dig down deeply, and we discovered this analysis by Engels discussing essentially the fundamental contradiction of capitalism and its development; and Engels identified these two expressions, or two forms of motion, of this fundamental contradiction: One, the contradiction, in terms of the class struggle, between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie; but the other is the contradiction between (as we can say it for shorthand) organization and anarchy—organization and planning in a particular enterprise, or a particular branch of the economy, versus the overall anarchy that flows out of the basic nature of commodity production and exchange, which is generalized under capitalist society, even to include labor power as a commodity (selling your work for wages, for shorthand, but more essentially selling your ability to work for wages).
So we saw how Engels identified these two forms of motion. And then, proceeding from that basic analysis, we came out with something that really became controversial. We said, overall at this stage of history, out of these two forms of motion or two expressions of the fundamental contradiction of capitalism, the anarchy/organization aspect (or form of motion or expression of the fundamental contradiction of capitalism) is the principal one. Wham!!! Then many people in the international communist movement said: "How could that be? If you say that, you are taking all the initiative out of the hands of the people. What could the people do about the anarchy/organization contradiction? The people could wage the class struggle, but how could they wage the anarchy/organization contradiction?"
Again, this gets back to the point I've been hammering at up until now. What does it mean to wage struggle? It means to transform necessity. The class struggle consists of transforming necessity. The struggle for production consists of transforming material reality or necessity. Gaining knowledge means transforming necessity into freedom or into knowledge. Everything consists of transforming necessity into freedom, and then confronting (and needing to transform) new necessity in so doing. So, in order to wage the class struggle in the deepest, most all-around and most powerful way, you have to understand what the necessity is that you are up against. What is the material reality that is confronting you, and where is that material reality coming from?—to put it simply.
And we could determine that, given the character of capitalism, as a generalized system of commodity production, the anarchy/organization contradiction is the principal form of motion, or principal expression, of the fundamental contradiction of capitalism, between socialized production and private appropriation. Yes, we are dealing with capitalism in its imperialist stage when there is more monopolization, and there's more planning on a larger scale; but, as Lenin pointed out, this only takes the contradiction between the forces and relations of production, between socialized production and private appropriation, and specifically between planning and anarchy (or organization/anarchy), and raises it to an even higher and more acute expression, and spreads it throughout the world in a fuller way. So it is, as we have put it, the driving force of anarchy—a driving force inherent in the very motion of commodity production and exchange—which plays the main role in terms of how the fundamental contradiction of capitalism plays itself out in the world. Now, as we have stressed, this is a very dialectical thing, something in motion and in interconnection and interpenetration with other things in the world, and more specifically with the other form of expression (or form of motion) of the fundamental contradiction of capitalism, that is, the class struggle. The class struggle, most essentially between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, obviously is very important and reacts back on the motion of the anarchy/organization contradiction. In the Set the Record Straight presentation by Raymond Lotta, it is pointed out that when one-sixth of the territory of the globe was wrenched out of the hands of the imperialists through the Russian Revolution, this brought new necessity to the imperialists. And this affected the overall motion of the anarchy/organization contradiction and of the working out of the whole fundamental contradiction in the world in a very significant way. So, obviously, with that major change in the world, things in the superstructure, and in particular the class struggle for the seizure of political power in the realm of the superstructure, in turn reacted in a profound way back on the contradictions, the underlying contradictions of capitalism, including the driving force of anarchy, or the anarchy/organization contradiction and how it played itself out. And in general there is a dialectical back and forth—mutual interaction and mutual influence—between the development of the class struggle (as one form of motion of the fundamental contradiction of capitalism and of the era in which capitalism is still dominant in the world) and the motion of the anarchy/organization contradiction (the other form of motion of that fundamental contradiction of capitalism).
But our analysis was, and is, and correctly and very importantly so, that out of all this complexity, the main driving force in the working out of this fundamental contradiction is the compelling and driving force of anarchy. Now if, for example, three-quarters of the world were socialist, this would probably change at that point (the point is not to set a particular "quantitative marker," a certain specific point at which the balance of things would change, but to indicate once again that this is not static but changes, and will change, with major changes in the world, and in particular those brought about through the revolutionary struggle—or, understanding this in broad and not narrow terms, the class struggle). But, assuming things do go forward to communism, at some point the conscious planning and approach to the economy that will increasingly characterize human social organization, will on a world scale have a much more profound effect than the remaining anarchy of capitalist production—even though socialism, by the way, folks, won't totally eliminate anarchy in another sense. There will still be, even in socialist (and, for that matter, even in communist) society, some forms of what we could call anarchy. Not the anarchy that comes from commodity production and exchange, but the "anarchy" of, once again, necessity asserting itself. Of course, this will be in a qualitatively different framework and have a qualitatively different meaning and content. But today in the world it is the compelling force of anarchy that is mainly setting the stage, the objective conditions for things, including for the revolutionary struggle in various forms.
Look at what globalization has done, and is doing. Now, yes, globalization has been able to go forward because of political events, too: the class struggle in China going in a negative way, leading to the restoration of capitalism there; the political changes—not a change in the nature of the class rule in the Soviet Union, but the change in the nature of the form of the class rule, bourgeois class rule, in what was the Soviet Union and its empire—which has, in turn, reacted back upon globalization. But in this overall back and forth, it is globalization, and everything that this expresses and is bound up with, that is more shaping and determining what happens in the world. Why are so may peasants being driven from the countryside to the city? Why have millions of peasants in Brazil and Mexico, and generally throughout the Third World, been driven off their land in the past few decades? Not principally because of the class struggle—although, where there have been revolutionary wars, this may have intensified that—but essentially because of the workings of capitalism, because of the driving and compelling force of anarchy. Why are so many people leaving one part of the world and going as immigrants to whole other parts of the world? Why are people from the Philippines working in Saudi Arabia or in Kuwait? Why are people from El Salvador working in the United States? Why are people from South Asia finding themselves in Canada? It is principally the driving and compelling force of anarchy which is picking up and hurling people all these different places and driving tens of millions of people, indeed hundreds of millions, from the countryside to the cities.
So because of its basic contradictions and "inherent nature," the motion of capital, in the ways I've discussed it, gives rise, at one and the same time, to tendencies for capital to be concentrated and centralized—the tendencies for capital to be drawn together in ever larger combinations and aggregations of capital, to be more and more monopolized, if you will—and, on the other hand, the tendency for capital to break apart and to take shape (to "re-form") as different aggregations of capital. Constantly this contradiction is asserting itself: the tendency for capital to more and more combine and centralize and, on the other hand, the tendency for capital to break apart and re-form, often in larger aggregations of capital. And if we look at this monopolization and centralization phenomenon vs. its opposite—vs. this breaking apart and re-forming—another way to put this is that there is a contradiction between centralization and monopolization within capital vs. the fact that capital always exists as many capitals. And it's worth it to get into this a bit.
We have seen in recent decades, for example, that major airlines have gone out of business—international airlines and major airlines in the U.S. And other airlines have been reorganized. "External" capital has come in and taken over and reorganized these airlines, for example. And some of the capital that was invested in these airlines was taken out of them and invested in far-flung ways, not only in other parts of the U.S. economy, but all over the world. So if you could actually put little "post-it" things on this capital, you'd see that this capital would be all over different places, all over the world. If you wrote "airline" on it and then followed it, you'd see that capital which used to be invested in an airline is now all over the place in the U.S. economy and the world economy. So the capital that was aggregated together in that form broke apart and then reassembled, so to speak, with other capital into new formations, because it was more profitable to do that. Here again, what this is an expression of is the compelling and driving force of anarchy: essentially because of this compelling and driving force of anarchy, the capital that was invested in airlines goes other places.
Or you can look at another everyday thing: TV and cable TV. You had the networks, the three big networks, owned by big aggregations of capital—GE and others. And then all of a sudden this guy over here, Murdoch, is building up all this capital and this empire, a media empire, he has based in Australia—and boom, he comes into the U.S. media, and here comes Fox: Fox Network News challenging CNN, the Fox Network challenging the major three networks for prime time shows. And then, besides that, you've got cable TV: HBO brings us The Sopranos and Deadwood and all these other things, and they have a certain selling point: you can say "fuck" on those cable networks. [laughter] Look at Deadwood—you couldn't have Deadwood on prime time networks. [laughter] Right? I mean, every other word, it's "cocksucker" and whatever. But capitalists are coming in there, in the sphere of cable, to "fill a certain void," if you will. And part of this is an expression of how new technology is developed which makes possible and facilitates the reconfiguration of capital. Now cable TV is challenging network TV in every sphere.
And you have companies in the U.S. that used to be major companies that are out of business, or have shut down a whole line of production. When I was a kid, Kaiser, for example, not only had its health care systems, so called, but they had an automobile, the Kaiser. (I'm not talking about the German ruler, from an earlier period, when I refer to the Kaiser—I'm talking about an American automobile.) But it went out of business and that capital went somewhere else. And the auto companies narrowed down to an even smaller number. There used to be American Motors, which was in Milwaukee and some other places—it made the Nash Rambler at one point. That's nowhere to be found. The automobile companies in the U.S. got narrowed down and the capital in auto got consolidated. But then other international amalgamations of capital joined in—for example, with Chrysler now. And in Italy and Japan and other places you have these massive aggregations of capital in automobile production that are competing with the U.S. auto corporations. The international dimension, and the international competition, in all this has been heightened, at the same time as much of the capital based in different countries is increasingly interconnected and interwoven. And some of these corporations that have gone out of business had millions and millions (or billions) of dollars of capital. It didn't all disappear—it went to other places. Some of it went bankrupt, but some of it was withdrawn and went to other places.
Meanwhile, think of one of the symbols or paradigms or emblems of powerful capital these days: Microsoft. It didn't exist a few decades ago. But capital went into that area when new technology made it possible, and now you have this massive aggregation of capital in Microsoft.
As we have pointed out—and this is important to recognize and to emphasize—capitalism is a dynamic system. Capitalism is always tending to aggregate together, concentrate and centralize, more and more monopolize, as well as breaking apart and re-forming, often in even larger aggregations of capital. And it is the dynamic of the compelling force of anarchy that, essentially, is driving this.
We even saw this when we went to analyze the Soviet Union. Before they did us a favor and came out openly and proclaimed that they were bourgeois—before they got "Gorbachev-ed"—there was a big debate about what was the character of the Soviet Union, and was it socialist? We took part in a major debate, in the early '80s, focused on the question: The Soviet Union, socialist or social imperialist? And in the history of our Party (and the forerunner of our Party, the Revolutionary Union [RU]), we had generally taken up the position of the Chinese Communist Party in identifying the Soviet Union as social imperialist (socialist in words but imperialist in deeds and in essence). But then we did what, frankly, all too many people don't do, these days especially—we said, "Well, since we're putting this forward, we better actually analyze it more deeply and see if it's true." [laughs] So we set about to analyze it: The RU came out with Red Papers 7, which made a beginning analysis; and the Party, after it was formed in 1975, went on from there and further developed that analysis in the context of that debate around socialism or social imperialism. And there was this grouping, the Communist Labor Party, and one of their people, Jonathan Arthur, wrote an article back in the '70s which argued: There cannot be a reversal from socialism back to capitalism—you cannot stuff the baby back into the womb after it's born. [laughter] Which proves, again (harking back to the disagreement with Huey Newton's formulation) that you can define phenomena in a certain way but that does not necessarily cause them to act in the desired manner if it doesn't correspond to what they really are. The Soviet Union really was social imperialism, and that asserted itself. So, inept and inaccurate analogies notwithstanding, a country that had been socialist actually did go back to capitalism.
But in analyzing this at the time, before this became openly and irrefutably the case (before Gorbachev and what Gorbachev set in motion), we had to dig down and we had to analyze: what is the nature of Soviet society, is it really a capitalist society, and if so, how does it work? And what we discovered was the phenomenon where in fact you had state capitalism, with a very high degree of monopolization of capital, yet it was continually breaking down into many capitals. Different aggregations of political associations, in ministries and leadership bodies and regional councils, and so on, were turning themselves into capitalists and turning the finances and resources they were responsible for into capital, competing with other centers of capital that were forming in different ministries, in different regions, in different divisions of the economy. So, proceeding from a materialist (and dialectical) analysis of reality, and specifically of what had happened in the Soviet Union, we came to grasp more deeply how, once the law of value and "profit in command" were made the driving and organizing principles of the economy in that society, with the first crucial leap, backward, in the mid-1950s (with the rise to power of Khrushchev) and further leaps taken in the mid-1960s (under Kosygin and Brezhnev), then, even in the form of state capitalism, the compelling force of anarchy asserted itself once again as the essential driving and determining force in the economy and in the society overall and its role in the world.
So what is at work, what is driving things, is the compelling force of anarchy. This is a basic reason why Kautsky's theory of "ultra-imperialism"2 is wrong—the notion that all the different imperialists can get together and make an agreement to divide the world among themselves peacefully, and just keep it going that way forever. Now, it is true, especially with the destructive forces these imperialists have now—on the basis of the productive forces under their domination (the resources and technology and the masses of people, with their knowledge and abilities)—with the military power they have built up on that basis, and in particular with nuclear weapons (I almost said "nuke-u-lur" but it's nuclear weapons) [laughter]—it's true that, in these circumstances, the rivalry among the imperialists, when it's taken the form of wars, has taken place in the last several decades essentially as proxy wars (with states or other forces that are the "proxies," or essentially the instruments, of various imperialists fighting it out, in place of the rival imperialists themselves). But it nevertheless has repeatedly taken the form of military struggle. And in the superstructure as well as the economic base, it has not been possible to maintain, even to the degree that this was attempted, some sort of order that held together in the same form, or arrangement, because the driving force of anarchy continually asserts itself in unevenness and the opportunity for some to get ahead of and crush others in the realm of capitalist competition and rivalry. This is basically why they can't just "order" the world and divide it peacefully among themselves, even with the constraints they face because of nuclear weapons. And just because nuclear war has been avoided before doesn't mean it will be avoided forever, by the way—we shouldn't fall into that sort of erroneous, metaphysical (almost religious) notion either.
So, again, we discover that, because of the driving, compelling force of anarchy, capitalism continually tends both to monopolize (to aggregate, to concentrate and centralize) more and more, and to break apart and re-form. The compelling force of anarchy is driving both of those tendencies. Capitalism is a living dynamic system that is continually changing things and, if we're going to make revolution in this world, we have to approach it with this understanding and not with a set of sterile formulas that we seek to superimpose on reality and then try to make, or torture, reality to conform to these a priori notions, to wishful thinking about the way the world is, or to dogmatic, rigid, undialectical and unmaterialist imaginings of how the world is.
Understanding all this correctly, in a living way and scientifically, we can see how all of this is an expression of the way in which capital moves—or is driven—by its fundamental contradiction, and in particular the expression this takes in the contradiction between organization and anarchy within the motion of capital.
This fundamental contradiction of capitalism, its two forms of motion, and their inter-penetration—all this, especially in the era of imperialism, plays out on a global scale, as well as within particular countries. And it will continue to do so throughout the present era—the era of the transition from the bourgeois epoch to the epoch of communism, from the epoch in which capitalism is principal and determining in the world, to the epoch when capitalism, its fundamental contradiction and everything this gives rise to, will have been resolved and surpassed through the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism and the revolutionary transformation of the material and the political and ideological conditions, of the economic base and the superstructure, throughout the world.
Another way to get the materialism of this is through another one of these typically "Mao-esque" statements by none other than Mao, in speaking to the fact that when the underlying material conditions "cry out" for it, revolution must then be made in the superstructure: you cannot make fundamental transformations in society, or any qualitative change in the character of society, without first seizing state power and then going to work on the contradictions that remain in the economic base and in the superstructure, and in their constant interplay. This is another reason, a fundamental reason, why we want state power—why it's good to want state power, and why we should crave state power. And Mao, in his typically Mao-esque way of speaking to this, said: "When tools are frustrated, they speak through people." Now, of course, this can be misunderstood or misconstrued—once again, you can turn anything into its opposite, especially if you take it and apply it in a mechanical way—but understood correctly, dialectically, this statement by Mao reflects a profound reality and truth. It speaks to the fact that when the relations of production have become more a fetter on the productive forces than they are an appropriate form for the development of those productive forces, and when the superstructure needs to be transformed in order for those production relations to be transformed, then the possibility of revolution to qualitatively transform those contradictions becomes qualitatively more expressed. The need for that becomes qualitatively more expressed and the possibility of it also becomes qualitatively greater.
So, in that sense—not understanding it in some sort of ahistorical way, or in some sort of mechanical sense—you enter the era of revolution when the possibility of revolution, as well as the need for revolution, becomes qualitatively heightened, because the relations of production have become, not only in essence but in a pronounced way, a fetter on the development of the productive forces, including the masses of people in particular. And revolution takes place, in a concentrated and essential way, in the struggle for state power and the seizure of state power by the rising class, which represents new relations of production which can "unfetter," can liberate, the productive forces.
Once again, this is why we need and want state power, because the ability to transform society in its economic foundation and in its superstructure—in all its production and social relations, in the political character, institutions and structures in society, in the culture and the thinking of the people—all that resides in and gets concentrated in who, or in other words which class, has state power. And that, in turn, gets concentrated in terms of the character of that state power—not only who has it, in some general or abstract sense, but what is the character of that state power and what is that state power serving and furthering.
So "when tools become frustrated, they speak through people" is Mao's way of saying all this, boiling it down in a unique kind of way. To put this in other, more fully elaborated terms (and building on what has been said up to now in this talk), we can say: When the contradictions between the forces and relations of production, and between the base and superstructure, become acutely posed, then people become conscious of this. People come forward who are conscious representatives of the class which represents the ability to unfetter the productive forces further and liberate them, in conflict with the class which is holding onto the old relations of production and the old superstructure, which are now acting as a fetter on the productive forces, since those productive forces have developed in such a way that they are now straining against the outer integument, as Marx once said (the outer shell and constraints), of those old production relations and that old superstructure. This is what makes it possible to make revolution in a fundamental and underlying sense. And those who become conscious of this, particularly in this era, become conscious of leading a revolution to actually rupture with the whole previous character of society—not only capitalism but, beyond that, all previous forms in which society has been divided into classes, and into exploiters and exploited, oppressors and oppressed.
As I have spoken to in a number of talks and writings, this revolution in the superstructure—the seizure of political power—makes possible the transformation of the economic base, and the superstructure, in dialectical relation to each other. And it makes possible the development and strengthening of the socialist country and its state as a base area and source of support as well as inspiration for the advance of the world revolution—in dialectical relation, in turn, with the defense of the socialist state itself and the further revolutionization of the socialist society—all of which involves profound, and at times very acute, contradictions. So if you want to know another reason why we want state power, it has to do with the advance of the world revolution. Imagine, if we had state power in the hands of the proletariat in this country instead of in the hands of the imperialists—even just that equation changing—imagine what that would do, all the good it would do, for the world and the world's people. And, then, on top of that, imagine if we use that state power not only to more and more mobilize the masses to transform this particular society, but to support and advance the world revolution—imagine what that would do in the world, the great good that would do for the world's people!
But, as I said, all this involves profound and at times very acute contradictions. I just spoke to some of that, and that can perhaps sound kind of academic until you actually think about what's captured in those descriptions: The seizure of power makes possible the transformation of the economic base and the superstructure in dialectical relation to each other.
Now, I'm going to come back and talk about this more, but I just want to touch on—let's just think for a minute about—the contradictions involved. It all sounds nice. You know, there it is in one paragraph, you can do the whole thing [the following in a kind of satirical voice]:
"Sounds easy—seize state power and then that makes possible the transformation of the economic base and the superstructure in dialectical relation to each other. [laughter] And it makes possible the development and strengthening of the socialist country and its state as a base area and source of support as well as inspiration for the advance of the world revolution [laughter], in dialectical relation to the defense of the socialist state itself and the further revolutionization of the socialist society. Sounds easy." [laughter]
Now I'm not mocking myself, but this can be turned into that kind of dogmatic drivel, okay? This is very complex. We have seen, from the historical experience of the dictatorship of the proletariat and socialist states, how profoundly complex and contradictory and difficult this is. State power is truly great and opens up all kinds of possibilities, but it also presents you with profound new necessity. Now, fuck it, I'd rather have that necessity any day than what we have now—but you don't get to wipe away all necessity. Transforming the economic base correctly, in dialectical relation with transforming the superstructure—that involves truly profound, and yes, inter-related, contradictions: how to handle development of the ownership system from a lower to a higher form (of social ownership); how to transform the relations among people in work—for example, people in management and people carrying out manual labor, or people in all the various fields of technology in relation to people carrying out manual labor and in relation to people managing. How do you handle the arts and culture, science, and the intellectual and academic spheres, in relation to transforming the economic base? How do you transform those spheres themselves in a way that actually serves the advance toward communism, while doing that correctly in relation to changing the economic base?
These terms concentrate a lot of contradictions. For example, transforming the economic base: how to do that fundamentally on the basis of mobilizing the masses to do this in an ever more conscious way. Yes (and I'll speak about this a little later), there is an element of coercion in this, but the orientation and objective must be to do it fundamentally and increasingly on the basis of the conscious initiative and activism of growing numbers of masses of people. And then there is the question of how to do that to the maximum extent possible at every point, without overstepping things.
Look at the Great Leap Forward in China.3 Look what they were trying to do, and look what they ran into. These are very acute and profound contradictions that are very difficult to handle correctly when you're living in a world where there are counter-revolutionaries, both within your own country and internationally, and at the same time there are others who are fundamentally within the camp of the people but whose privileges are, to one degree or another, being undermined by what you're doing. It becomes very complex to handle that in a non-antagonistic way. I'll talk about that more as we go along.
Or in transforming the superstructure, how do you actually have an opening up of wrangling in the realm of ideas, an intellectual ferment and the kind of role for dissent that I've been giving emphasis to, and yet not give up the whole game? You think that's easy? No, it's not. That's why I keep invoking this metaphor of being drawn and quartered.4 That's why, if we don't get the solid core and elasticity5 right in fundamental terms, we don't have a chance, even if we somehow stumble into state power (if you can imagine that).
Then you put in the whole international dimension. And you can't be idealist—if you don't increase production, then how are you going to support the world revolution very much, and how can you defend the socialist country itself, at the same time as you're trying to carry out transformations in the economic base, in the relations among people in production, as well as in the superstructure, including in the outlook of the masses of people? That requires an underlying material basis. Now, you can fall into the "theory of productive forces"—which says, first we just develop the economy, then it will be easy to transform the relations among people, and the superstructure—and you end up with what they have in the Soviet Union and in China now. But on the other side, if you just say, "well, let's do what they always accuse us of, let's ‘communize poverty’"—then all these exploitative relations will reassert themselves and the old political power, the exploiting classes and the political power that reinforces such exploitation, will seize the state away from you, to say nothing of what the imperialists would do if you mess up in that way.
So these are all very profound contradictions that repeatedly pose themselves in a very acute way. And I don't say this to spread despair and defeatism. I say it to emphasize the importance of a scientific approach to revolution and of bringing forward growing numbers of people—within the party and more broadly in society, first as part of building the revolutionary movement toward the seizure of power, and then on a whole other level after power is seized—to take up these challenges.
1. The discussion by Bob Avakian of the "parachute" point took place in another part of this talk, which is not included in what is now being published in Revolution.
2. Karl Kautsky was a leader of the German Social Democratic Party, which was the largest socialist party in the world in the period leading into World War 1. But, because Kautsky, and the party he led, fell increasingly into a non-revolutionary understanding and outlook and adopted gradualist, reformist positions, in opposition to a genuinely revolutionary and communist viewpoint and program, when World War 1 broke out, Kautsky and the German Social Democratic Party leadership overall (and, in fact, the leadership of the majority of socialist parties in the world at that time) went back on their pledge to oppose their own government in such a war and to work to turn the imperialist war into a revolutionary civil war in their own countries; they capitulated to imperialism (specifically, the imperialism of "their own country") and, in the case of Kautsky and some others, this went along with taking a counter-revolutionary position against the Russian revolution and the new socialist state it brought into being. One of the fundamentally incorrect positions which Kautsky adopted was his theory of "ultra-imperialism," which argued, in essence, that the imperialists could peacefully divide the world among themselves. This theory of Kautsky's, and related errors, were major factors leading to capitulation to imperialism when the outbreak of war among the imperialists, World War 1, shattered the illusions that were spread and reinforced by this notion of "ultra-imperialism."
3. The Great Leap Forward was a mass movement initiated under the leadership of Mao Tsetung, in the late 1950s, only about a decade after the country was liberated from imperialist and reactionary rule and the socialist stage of the Chinese revolution begun. The Great Leap Forward was centered particularly in the countryside, where the great majority of the people in China live, and where, for centuries before the victory of the revolution, they had been weighed down by feudal oppression, as well as the effects of imperialist domination of the country, leading to tremendous poverty and backwardness in the countryside in particular. The Great Leap Forward involved the mass mobilization of peasants to develop small-scale industry throughout the countryside as well as to carry out many larger-scale public works projects, not only to meet the needs of the people and of industrial development but to serve agriculture. But the Great Leap Forward was not merely aimed at developing the economy in this way. An important aspect of this mass movement was to develop higher levels of collectivity of ownership and of cooperative labor, and correspondingly in the distribution of basic necessities and social services, in the countryside, and in this way to make leaps on the path to overcoming the historically established differences, gaps, and inequalities between the city and the countryside, industry and agriculture, workers and peasants, and between men and women, as an important part of building the new socialist society on the road toward the final goal of communism, worldwide. The Great Leap Forward was met with opposition and sabotage by revisionists (phony communists) within the Chinese Communist Party itself and by the revisionist leadership of the Soviet Union, which pulled out its aid and technical personnel—the Chinese economy had, up until that time, been largely based on the Soviet model and was structured so that aid and technical assistance from the Soviet Union was a key component—and the Great Leap Forward took place at a time when there were successive years of serious and widespread drought in China. For these reasons—along with the fact that a mass campaign on this scale was something completely new in Chinese society (and, in fact, was unprecedented in the relatively brief history of socialism as a whole, including the experience of the Soviet Union), and there were bound to be, and there were, errors as well as some excesses—significant dislocations and shortages and real hardships and suffering, including starvation on a significant scale, occurred during the Great Leap Forward. However, not only were the immediate severe problems addressed and overcome but, within a relatively short period, China basically solved its food problem—for the first time in the history of the country, the basic nutritional requirements of the masses of peasants, and the Chinese people as a whole, were met—and, beyond that, despite errors and serious problems, and as a result of correcting them while building on important new things that had in fact been brought into being through the Great Leap Forward, the economy of China, together with the social relations and the outlook of the people, made important, indeed historic, advances in the next 15 years or so in which China continued on the socialist road, and in particular through the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, in the years 1966-76, until the death of Mao and, shortly after that, the seizure of power by revisionists, led ultimately by Deng Xiaoping, who took China back down the road to capitalism.
4. This metaphor of being drawn and quartered, and related questions having to do with how the proletariat should exercise state power so as to make socialist society a vibrant and lively society and advance toward communism, can be found in "Bob Avakian in a Discussion with Comrades on Epistemology: On Knowing and Changing the World," which is included in the book Bob Avakian: Observations on Art and Culture, Science and Philosophy (Chicago: Insight Press, 2005). This "Discussion with Comrades on Epistemology" is also available online at revcom.us.
5. The concept of "solid core with a lot of elasticity" is discussed by Bob Avakian in a number of talks and articles, including the talk Dictatorship and Democracy, and the Socialist Transition to Communism, which appeared in the Revolutionary Worker newspaper (now Revolution) between August 2004 and January 2005 and is available online at revcom.us. It is also discussed in several essays that are included in the book Bob Avakian: Observations on Art and Culture, Science and Philosophy.
Discuss this new work by Bob Avakian in your newspaper reading circles, book clubs, and prison study groups; at your workplaces, neighborhoods, and schools; with your comrades and friends—anywhere that people are concerned with the state of humanity and grappling with how to radically change the world. Send in thoughts and comments on this work—your own and from your discussions—to Revolution. Online, click on the "Send us your comments" link at the end of the article. Or send correspondence to Revolution, PO Box 3486, Chicago, IL 60654.
Protest in DC
Revolution #040, March 26, 2006, posted at revcom.us
Tuesday, March 14, was a very cold and windy day in DC. But the weather could not stop the determination of hundreds of people who came out to protest, march and rally in support of those who the government abandoned, evacuated, and dispersed across the country, separating people from their families in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The marchers went from the Capitol to the White House demanding that the government immediately stop its evictions of those who have been displaced from their homes in New Orleans.
The marchers demanded: “viable, affordable and immediately accessible housing for all those who were evacuated; protection of the right to vote for those who have been displaced to places like California, NY, Pennsylvania and DC.; Congressional passage of H.R. 4197, The Hurricane Recovery, Reclamation, Restoration, Reconstruction and Reunion Act”.
In a press release Rev. Lennox Yearwood of the Hip Hop Caucus who spearheaded the protest said: “…We have waited too long for FEMA, for the President and for Congress to act. We need to take to the streets, to show with our feet, our bodies and our voices that collectively we demand justice for all Katrina survivors now—not months from now.”
The march was led by drummers, followed by 25 to 30 people from New Orleans. Hundreds of others desired to come but could not get buses to bring them from the different states they have been evacuated to.
There were college students from the University of Maryland. Students from Prince George community college. High school students from Maryland as well as students from Las Vegas. Revolutionary communists. SEIU union workers. Laborers from Virginia. DC activists. Clergy. World Can’t Wait. NOI and other Muslims. National Organization for Women. One group was asking people: “if you ruled the world how would things be different?” The NAACP and ANSWER also participated in the march and rally.
Speakers at the rally were: Rev. Yearwood for the Hip Hop Caucus; Travis Morales of World Can’t Wait—Drive Out The Bush Regime; Congresswoman Maxine Waters; the Nation of Islam; NOW; a representative of United For Peace and Justice; Katrina Survivors and many others. The march and rally lasted from 2 p.m.to midnight with different kinds of activities.
When the march reached the FEMA building, it stopped. Rev. Yearwood told a very moving and heart-wrenching story—of a young teen age mother who had been driven to despair after being basically left to die by the government—she ended up committing suicide to escape this horror. He talked about how the government knew a natural disaster was unfolding and did nothing.
One woman said her relative died of a heart attack because of the conditions in the wake of Katrina. She said she still does not know where four of her family members are—whether they are dead or alive. One young man talked about the mental pain, the anguish of getting up each day and not knowing what was going to happen to him, whether he would have a place to lay his head or whether he would be on the streets with nothing and nowhere to go.
There are many theories out there about who and what is responsible for all the suffering caused by Katrina, and why Bush did what he did (and didn't do what he didn't do). But to get to the bottom of all this, people need to understand some cold but liberating truth: The neglect, abandonment, abuse, and brutality of Black people after Hurricane Katrina was a crime of the capitalist system.
This crime is connected to a whole legacy of slavery and oppression of Black people down to today. It hooks up with the fact that this system has always treated Black people as exploitable, expendable, and undesirable.
The government knew for years what would happen if a huge hurricane hit New Orleans. Hundreds of scientific reports predicted that the Black neighborhood of the 9th Ward, and the mainly working class neighborhood of St. Bernard, would be flushed away and the industrial districts and wealthy neighborhoods would survive. The way the levees were built made this all but inevitable. But Congress slashed funds for the levees and Bush cut those funds more. It was known for days, as Rev. Yearwood says, that Hurricane Katrina was coming, but the authorities failed to evacuate the city. Then after the storm hit on August 29, they abandoned the poorest sections of New Orleans, with the highest population of Black people. They left those most vulnerable to face the storms and flooding with no help of any kind. Bush refused to interrupt his vacation and allowed people to suffer and die for days. Over 1,000 died and hundreds of thousands suffered and are still suffering—unnecessarily.
Whether by negligence or design or a combination of both, this was MASS MURDER carried out by the authorities, beginning with Bush. THE BUSH REGIME MUST BE MADE TO POLITICALLY PAY FOR THIS CRIME!
Bush and the crew are not ordinary Christians. They are Christian fascists and nazis. What they did in the wake of Hurricane Katrina powerfully indicates that genocide is part of the program they have for all (not just Blacks) those whom they consider undesirable, punishment based on a literal interpretation of the Bible “to get America back into the good graces of god.”
The mood of those in the march was one of anger, outrage, and defiance. Many felt that the evictions were adding insult to injury. A Party supporter who attended the march described the conditions that the masses from New Orleans continue to face as a mugging that never stops. Never stops degrading you. Never stops de-humanizing you. An endless horror.
A college student from Morehouse said this is a “crime” that this is still going on. When is it going to stop?
A Black woman who works to build unity between Native Americans and Blacks said: “I never thought I would see ethnic cleansing in America… but here it is in front of our eyes.” In anger, others compared the forceful removal of poor Blacks and others in New Orleans with what is happening in DC, where there is a growing trend of the working poor being forced out of the city because of the high cost of living in DC.
The march received a lot of support from tourists and others along the route, with some of them joining in.
One of the high points of the rally was when Rev. Yearwood, Bilial Moron from New Orleans, and Dr. Rashad Zayban from Iraq were on stage together holding hands. In an interview, Rev. Yearwood told me that Dr. Zayban had sold her practice in Iraq to help people in Iraq who have been evicted by U.S. bombs and military occupation. She came in support of Black people displaced from New Orleans. Rev. Yearwood said that they wanted to draw the parallels between people who have been displaced and evacuated in New Orleans with those who have been displaced and evacuated in Iraq. Because, he said, we are not just victims of Katrina we are also victims of Bush.
Some of our party organizers in attendance were wearing t-shirts which said: WANTED FOR MASS MURDER – THE BUSH REGIME. These t-shirts have the pictures and profiles of Bush, Cheney, Chertoff (the head of Homeland Security) and Condoleezza Rice on them. Many youth told us they loved this t-shirt and wanted to know where they could get them. Revolutionary literature circulated among the crowd: The Revolution newspaper, the Chairman’s pocket-size statement on the death of comrade Mobile and the DVD sampler of the film of his talk: Revolution: Why it’s necessary, Why it’s possible, What it’s all about.
Masses of Blacks and others are still suffering. 10,000 families in Louisiana and Mississippi face evictions from hotels on March 15. Over 15,000 families across the United States have already received eviction notices, subjecting approximately 40,000 individuals to the prospect of homelessness. Currently, more than 300,000 survivors are dispersed in 44 states.
People are living in temporary housing, doubling up with other families, living in garages, out of cars, in tent or trailer “cities.” Tens of thousands of people are on waiting lists for trailers. In New Orleans many areas still don’t have electricity. Even some of the FEMA trailers don’t have power. At the beginning of December, only 10% of public buses were in operation and only ONE out of 116 public schools was open. And now it has come to light that it will be official policy to withhold rebuilding funds from the Black 9th Ward.
THOSE WHO ARE RESISTING MUST BE SUPPORTED. THE GOVERNMENT MUST PROVIDE DECENT HOUSING IN NEW ORLEANS FOR THOSE WHO WANT TO RETURN. JUSTICE MUST BE DONE FOR THOSE MURDERED BY THE AUTHORITIES.
NEVER FORGIVE…and NEVER FORGET!
Joe Veale, DC Correspondent
March from Tijuana to SF Mission District
Revolution #040, March 26, 2006, posted at revcom.us
From March 12-27, throughout neighborhoods across Tijuana, San Diego, Santa Ana, Los Angeles, and San Francisco—covering over 241 miles—the Peregrinación Por La Paz (March for Peace) is protesting the war and bloodshed in Iraq and the escalating attacks on immigrants. Some of their stops include the border region between Tijuana and San Diego, Camp Pendleton, several high schools in East L.A., the March 18 anti-war demonstration in L.A., farmworker communities in Fresno and Watsonville, and the Mission District in San Francisco.
The initiators for this march are Fernando Suarez del Solar, whose son Jesus was the first Latino to die in the current U.S. war in Iraq after stepping on an illegal U.S. cluster bomb; Pablo Paredes, naval officer who refused to board an Iraq-bound naval ship; Camilo Mejia, a National Guard war resister who was jailed for nine months for his opposition to the war; and Aidan Delgado, who is a conscientious objector of the Iraq war who served at Abu Ghraib. March 27 is the third anniversary of Fernando’s son's death. The march was also initiated to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Gandhi’s anti-British Salt March in India.
At the opening press conference in Tijuana, Pablo Paredes said, “We live in a country where 2/3 of the population is against the war, and we want to give people the opportunity to express their opposition. We want to do this not just through polls or on the internet, but we want this to be seen on the streets and have the people’s voices to be heard. This is the call that we are making today and will make these next few days.”
Gaining strength from the recent outpourings of hundreds of thousands of immigrants in Chicago stepping forward against the intensifying anti-immigrant climate in this country and bills like HR 4437 (that could make it a felony to be undocumented and a crime to provide any kind of service to an undocumented person), the March for Peace aims to rouse resistance to put an end to the war and the anti-immigrant attacks.
Fernando Suarez del Solar said, “The ill-named 'war on terrorism' is attacking immigrants with borders and with laws that make everyone a criminal . . . there are young immigrants that have green cards and are serving in the military. Some have parents that are undocumented and their parents can be deported as a result of these new immigration laws. This is all one struggle. We shouldn’t differentiate between the war in Iraq and the war against the people here in the U.S. This is one struggle: against imperialism and against the abuse of immigrants.”.
Pablo Paredes said, “The Bush administration is putting fear into people’s minds by talking about unending war against ‘terrorism’. . . This relates to the situation immigrants face in the United States because they have used it as an excuse to enforce and reinforce the border with more agents….”
The march has been gaining support from people in every area they have walked though. Immigrants, anti-war and peace activists, college and high school students, and people who saw the protesters marching by have joined in along different stretches of the daily 15-mile walk. In East Los Angeles over a hundred people took over a street, including students from Roosevelt High School (which has one of the highest rates of military recruitment in the country), and marched to a military recruiting station in Boyle Heights that targets proletarian Chicano youth and undocumented youth with promises of money for college and an opportunity to be U.S. citizens. At Roosevelt H.S., a school with more than 5,000 students, for every college counselor there are five military recruiters.
Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, California is where Jesús Suarez del Solar was trained and deployed to Iraq from. The troops from this base have the largest casualty rate in the Iraq war. As the marchers rallied outside the base Fernando said, “We have discovered that there are military recruiters who dress up as civilians and go to Tijuana on Saturdays to dance clubs and befriend youth there. They invite them to have a beer and talk to them and investigate what their legal status [in the U.S.] is. They gather all this information and then invite them to join the military . . . This kind of disguise is a strategy [the U.S. military] is using to recruit people within the borders of Mexico.”
Pablo Paredes was lured by military recruiters with the promise of getting money for college. But when it came time to go to Iraq, he confronted what this government actually wanted him to do there. He refused to serve in a war that he saw as illegitimate and immoral. Now he’s taking part in this protest with many others to build a movement of people opposing the crimes of this government, and to expose the lies of military recruiters and the targeting of immigrants and Latinos.
The March for Peace will conclude on March 27 in San Francisco's Mission District. For more information: http://guerreroazteca.org/
Revolution #040, March 26, 2006, posted at revcom.us
On March 7, 30,000 to 40,000 Latino immigrants streamed out of subway trains and dozens and dozens of buses from every corner of Washington, DC, and the surrounding area. Groups from workplaces came in uniform. Day laborers, hotel workers, construction workers, church congregations, high school and college students, and families from Maryland and Virginia were there. They filled the huge area in front of the Capitol Building to demand that the draconian anti-immigration bill HR4437 be struck down. The turnout exceeded organizers’ expectations by at least 10,000 people. News of the turnout undoubtedly contributed to the unprecedented outpouring of up to half a million people in Chicago a few days later.
This rally gave expression to a deep and broad stream of discontent and growing desire to resist that is bursting out into the open in immigrant communities. People want answers— Are immigrants doomed to be forever hounded and exploited or is something far different possible? A group of workers held a large hand-lettered banner: “Why are you attacking the workers who do the work others do not want to do?” One man said, “We are like the Jews in Nazi Germany, or the Black slaves. The government wants us to be slaves with no rights. To do the work that nobody wants to do for pennies and then kick us in the butt and deport us when it’s convenient for them.” Another man commented on the connection between immigration and the imperialist domination of their home countries: “Our countries are exploited by huge millionaire corporations. In El Salvador the government says this is progress, but they are fomenting poverty because poverty is the motor of the huge economies. The money that could feed the poor is being sucked up by the foreign companies. That’s why the poorest people must come here. And here it’s the same, the rich could do nothing without the labor of the poor people.” There was a fervent searching for answers and a tremendous openness to revolutionary solutions and a communist movement. Hundreds of bundles of Revolution went out and dozens and dozens of DVD samplers were bought, often by groups.
At a press conference before the march, religious leaders and social service professionals held up handcuffed wrists in protest of the provision in the bill that would expand the definition of criminal “alien smuggling” to include anybody who helps “illegals.” A few days before the march, church leaders from Catholic, Jewish, Protestant and Evangelical denominations issued a joint statement against HR4437. At the march a Catholic priest spoke from the stage: “The evangelical, protestant and catholic churches will not close the doors on undocumented persons or any human being. If helping is to be an act of disobedience, then we will disobey the laws even though we might have to go to prison.” “ Las iglesias evangelicas, protestantes y catolicas no cerraremos las puertas a ningun indocumentado ni a ningun ser humano. Si ayudar es un acto de desobediencia, entonces desobedeceremos las leyes aunque tengamos que ir a la carcel.” Standing on the stage with him were 40 elementary school children dressed in t-shirts that said “We are not criminals.” These children would be designated as criminals for attending school if HR4437 was to pass.
Some speeches from the stage called for support for the Kennedy-McCain bill as a better alternative because it includes a path to (possible) legalization down the road for those who qualify and pay thousands of dollars in fines. The Kennedy bill sees keeping the hope of legalization and family reunification as necessary to maintain social peace among the strategically necessary immigrant workforce. Together with this, it would implement the same high-tech repression at the border.
Thousands among the crowd knew firsthand what “border security” really means. A small farmer ruined by the dollarization of the economy of El Salvador spoke of being the only survivor of a group who crossed through the desert to enter the US, after a month-long trek through Mexico from Central America. Another person spoke: “No matter what walls or troops they put on the border, the hungry people will keep coming. We don’t want solutions that leave out all those who will come next year.”
Against the intensifying anti-immigrant backdrop nationally which seeks to whip up irrational fear and xenophobia, the authorities are now trying to paint construction workers, maids, and farmhands as terrorists and dangerous criminal gangs. Here in the DC area there is an increasingly anti-immigrant atmosphere. These immigrants came out in the face of and against all of this. As one man from Mexico said, “They want to force us deeper into the shadows but we’ve come out into the sun.”
In Virginia, police are already acting as immigration agents—holding traffic violators for deportation. In Manassas, VA, about 35 miles south of DC, in a move that would have made Hitler proud, and demonstrating the real meaning of “family values,” immigrant homeowners and renters have been threatened with eviction or even arrest for living with large families in their own homes. In December, the Manassas City Council redefined the definition of “family” in order to issue a housing ordinance that said only immediate family can live in a home—not cousins, uncles, aunts or others. This ordinance has emboldened those who feel threatened at immigrant families living in their formerly white enclaves and provided legal ways to harass, evict or even arrest immigrants for the crime of living in the area they work. Even Latinos who owned their own homes were threatened with this law by housing inspectors and police. And while people forced this outrageous law to be overturned, the city still distributes pamphlets to instruct homeowners how to identify “illegal conglomerations of persons” and operates a hotline to housing inspectors so that anonymous tipsters can report any immigrants suspected of gathering with their extended families. The Spanish version of the pamphlet instructed Latino residents to keep the lights on outside their houses at night so that police could identify any suspicious activity like Uncle Juan slipping in the back door. Recently the police were sent to arrest a Chinese family after just such an anonymous tip reported just such a “conglomeration of persons,” AKA, a large immigrant family living in a house.
Northern VA has also seen the most recent foray of the “Civil Defense Patrols of the Minutemen,” the infamous KKK-like anti-immigrant stormtroopers who have been so highly praised for their valor and patriotism in defending the borders by Congress members and governors of both political parties. The Minutemen's activities on the border with Mexico have been portrayed as a “clamor from the grassroots” to justify militarizing the border. Now they are operating in cities and towns far from the border, stalking and photographing day laborers and those who would hire them, attempting to force immigrants more into the shadows.
Northern Virginia's population has traditionally had large numbers of white, affluent, retired and active military families, government workers, and Pentagon and CIA employees. In Herndon, VA the Minutemen were met with protest when they began photographing and harassing Latino day laborers who gathered at a 7-11. But they have continued to expand their operations. Montgomery County, Maryland, which has a large immigrant population and has traditionally provided a lot of social services to immigrants, and where cities such as Takoma Park have passed ordinances protecting immigrants, has seen the Minutemen begin photographing and stalking the day laborers at hiring halls run by CASA Maryland, an immigrant rights organization that operates several such halls and involves the immigrant community in fighting for basic rights and expansion of services. When CASA Maryland righteously called for immigrants and their supporters to photograph Minutemen photographing workers and to protest at places where Minutemen live to let their neighbors and coworkers know about their fascist activities, the Minutemen went squealing to the police and their high-placed backers in the government. They demanded investigations into CASA Maryland’s use of taxpayer funds and actually accused the executive director of the organization of “thuggish behavior” and endangering their children!!! As one of the day laborers stated at the march: “The Minutemen are not just backed by the government, they are doing what the government wants them to do.”
The town of Gaithersburg, Maryland, voted and allocated funds to create a workers' hiring hall for some day laborers who had gathered for years in the parking lot of a local church. The Minutemen began “patrolling” the site. Their activity has helped to mobilize and strengthen a reactionary pole of patriotic racists among the townspeople into a "backlash" which might have remained inactive otherwise. The workers' center is now in danger of being canceled by the city.
In Riverdale, Maryland, very near to Bladensburg where the “DC-2,” Joe Veale and AT were beaten and pepper-sprayed while passing out Bush Step Down flyers to high school students, the day laborers who gather at a 7-11 speak of police who constantly watch them, grab them up by their clothes, beat them, and confiscate their IDs. One worker said: “A veces tenemos temor de qué nos pueda pasar algo mañana, nos han rociado con gas pimineta, nos mueven del parqueo…suben los carros a la banqueta para corrernos.” In the face of this, the workers held a press conference to publically denounce the police abuse and formed a committee to work for a hiring hall.
In this climate of escalating attacks and intimidation, this outpouring of resistance from tens of thousands of proletarians from the bottom of society in this city and hundreds of thousands nationally, is a inspiration and great challenge. What could be clearly seen on here on March 7, and even more powerfully in Chicago on March 10, is the potential to shape a kind of polarization and future that is far, far different from the one the sponsors of HR4437 want.
Revolution #040, March 26, 2006, posted at revcom.us
A reader this week wrote: “I want to better understand the nature of U.S. exploitation of people in Mexico especially, but also Central America, so that I can counter comments like a woman said to me yesterday when I was talking about the Chicago demo: "Well, I'm against letting them in, but if they are here they should be treated humanely." I want to be able to clearly and with specifics explain the dynamics of how imperialism drives them here for family survival. Can you point me to some articles in RW/Rev which can help?”
From the Editors: You will find useful material at revcom.us-- search for “immigrants.” But we strongly want to suggest you study the track “Why Do People Come Here From All Over the World?” on the DVD REVOLUTION - Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What it's All About--a film of a talk by Bob Avakian available from Amazon.com or video and bookstores.
Revolution #040, March 26, 2006, posted at revcom.us
The Revolution Interview is a special feature to acquaint our readers with the views of significant figures in art, theater, music, literature, science, sports and politics. The views expressed by those we interview are, of course, their own, and they are not responsible for the views expressed elsewhere in Revolution and on our website.
From March 4 to March 8, I was part of a march in Europe against the repression of women in the Islamic Republic of Iran as well as imperialist aggression. (See “Report from European March Against Anti-Women Laws in Iran” in last week's Revolution, available online at revcom.us.) Singer Gissoo Shakeri and poet Mina Assadi, both of whose works are banned in the Islamic Republic, participated in the entire march from its beginning in Frankfurt, Germany to its conclusion in The Hague, Netherlands. They have worked together for many years and created what became the signature song of the march. In each of the five cities we rallied and marched in, a skit was performed depicting the treatment of women in Afghanistan and Iran. A man dressed as a mullah leads a burka-clad woman in chains and then stones her. But suddenly, to a burst of music, a group of kneeling women rise up, throw off their burkas and chadors, capture the mullah and release the chained woman. Everyone joins in the chorus:
I asked myself what kind of life is this?
No! Now is the time to do battle!
Gissoo’s soaring voice was unforgettable--whether broadcast during the march from the sound truck, in performance in the evening, or leading us all (including the few non-Farsi speakers) in song during the bus rides between cities. Gissoo was born in 1953 and has lived in Sweden since 1988. I spoke with her over dinner in Dusseldorf about the march, her life and her art.
My translators and I have tried to be faithful to her words and meaning. If there are errors, I apologize in advance.
Revolution: Please tell me a little about your history and why you are on this march.
Gissoo Shakeri: This campaign against the anti-women laws of the Islamic Republic is about everything I believe and have struggled for and will continue struggling for. It is also very important that the campaign includes women from different political tendencies and opinions who are carrying out united action.
Before the Islamic revolution during the reign of the Shah, I could sing, but didn’t. I didn’t want to accept the male chauvinism and censorship of the Shah’s regime. After the Islamic revolution, I couldn’t sing; women’s singing was banned, women’s voices were not to be heard.
After the revolution I left the country and went into exile. For a while, I didn’t sing anything. When I started singing I chose subjects relating to the suffering of my people. My voice is the voice of the women who cannot sing, my words are their words. The bird of freedom captive in your breast sings with my voice.
I can be heard in Europe. In Iran, I am banned, except I can be heard clandestinely on the Internet. I have a website (www.gissoo.com) where people can download my songs for free. Many people contact me by email and tell me how happy they are that a woman artist has dedicated her life to this.
Art is a means through which--through the different forms of art--we can air the sufferings and problems of the people, and an artist’s work should be able to push things in the direction of a just and better society from a sick and suffering society. An artist is like a third eye, the eye of the conscience of society.
Revolution: Is there any message you would like to send to people reading this interview?
Gissoo Shakeri: My message to women is that women have a great power and they should not underestimate that. Every moment they should develop their abilities and unleash themselves. Without the power of women the world is not going to go in a good direction. I’m not talking about the power of Condoleezza Rice because that kind of power is anti-people power and we ourselves are struggling against that power.
The power of women should be used in service of the oppressed people and not putting down people and women.
To artists, I say that everything is political in this world--even one drop of water and all parts of life we pass through are political. So what we can produce must be in the service of equality and the emancipation of the people. This is the main art we must have, in whatever forms, filmmaking, music, poetry, drama.
Revolution: You wear very colorful clothing and jewelry. It seems to have many influences.
Gissoo Shakeri: I am also a clothes designer and design my own costumes. I am influenced by the folkloric clothing of the common people from Latin America, Spain, Iran, other places. I don’t feel I belong to a particular part of the world. I belong to all the world, and this is why I have a piece of cloth from every part of the world in my dress.
A video with the song quoted above can be seen at www.gissoo.com by clicking on “Kaarzar” under Flash Work. A translation of the song follows.
Through the cracks of closed doors
I watched a bird fly.
I lay in a house of despair.
I heard fortune walking out.
I was captive of the dark night.
I saw moons coming and going.
I asked myself, what kind of life is this?
No! Now is the time to do battle.
We saw a woman in love
Condemned to death and stoned.
We saw the laborer on the ground
And capital riding on his back.
We saw the hungry baby crying,
Sad and miserable.
We saw the sapling of dreams
Wilt yellow with no spring.
We asked ourselves, what kind of life is this?
No! Now is the time to do battle.
As long as we are chained
Capital, ignorance and religion will reign.
Did not that young sar-be-dar
Want only freedom?
We asked ourselves, what kind of life is this?
No! Now is the time to do battle.
Words: Mina Assadi
Music: Mohamad Shams
Singer: Gissoo Shakeri
Revolution #040, March 26, 2006, posted at revcom.us
The following is an excerpt from a statement prepared by Mary Lou Greenberg, representing the RCP,USA, for the march in Europe against anti-women repression in Iran.
We do not accept these alternatives—the brutality and horrors of either Western-style democracy OR the Islamic state.
We will NOT compromise or remain silent at these atrocities wherever they occur. Women from many countries, here today on this powerful march, are declaring that we support the resistance of Iranian women and women everywhere to gender- and religion-based legislation and suffocating restrictions, that we stand firmly against U.S. imperialist moves to attack Iran, and that we are determined to fight for our liberation and the liberation of our sisters in every country around the globe...
In today’s world, where the alternatives are posed as either imperialist so-called liberation or suffocating feudal tradition, our choice must be—NEITHER. Neither reactionary alternative has anything in common with the emancipation of women—or anything in common with the interests of the great majority of people of the world, men as well as women.
Revolution #040, March 26, 2006, posted at revcom.us
Photo:La Guerra di Rachel
A couple weeks ago the New York Times reported the disturbing news that the New York Theater Workshop (NYTW) was postponing, for political reasons, a production of the play My Name Is Rachel Corrie. The text of the play is based on some extraordinary letters from a young American woman written to her parents in the days and weeks before she was bulldozed to death by the Israeli Defense Force while trying to prevent the destruction of a Palestinian family’s home. The letters convey in an undiluted and specific and deeply moving way the unspeakable things being done to the Palestinian people by the Israeli government, backed by the U.S.
The battle over the play is causing an uproar in the theater world in both the U.S. and in London where My Name Is RACHEL CORRIE was originally produced to great acclaim by the Royal Court Theater. In the U.S., the controversy takes place in an atmosphere in which any mention of the legitimate demands of the Palestinian people has been ruled out of order in the public discourse. This has been the case for years, but these days it’s commonplace to hear about Arab academics being spied on and harassed, even prevented from entering the country, and Palestinian speakers banned from high school assemblies and college art galleries.
New York Theater Workshop, the theater slated to bring the play to the U.S., is a prominent New York City institution known for daring to present artistically powerful work from playwrights who tell the stories of the banned and oppressed. The decision to produce this play followed in that tradition. But shortly before it was to open (March 22), NYTW artistic director Jim Nicola backed away, saying that after talking to “members of the Jewish community” and finding “there was a strong possibility that a number of factions, on all sides of a political conflict, would use the play as a platform to promote their own agendas,” the theater needed more time to better “contextualize” the play.
To be blunt, here’s the “context”: whatever their intentions, NYTW’S postponement of the play for these political reasons objectively accedes to the very unfavorable terms being relentlessly enforced by the U.S. government today: namely that the only two political choices available to the people of the planet are “McCrusade” or “Jihad.” In that losing and false paradigm, the just demands of the Palestinian people get conflated with the agenda of Islamic fundamentalists. Even worse, the resistance by Palestinians to six decades of ethnic cleansing is assigned the moral equivalence of the towering crimes of an Israeli government acting as outpost and attack dog for the U.S. imperialists’ agenda of world conquest.
The rapid unraveling of the staging of the play occurred in January against a backdrop of the recent election in Palestine of Hamas, a party whose reactionary theocratic program offers a horrible future for the Palestinian people, even as they present themselves as more “militant” opponents of Israel and the U.S. Rachel deals with none of this, but in an implicit way her letters blow a hole in the idea that people must settle for either accommodating U.S. imperialists or blindly taking up Islamic fundamentalism. First, she reveals the truth of what it is like to live in a country that is being turned into an open-air prison for every man, woman and child:
“Nothing could have prepared me for the reality of the situation here. You just can't imagine it unless you see it—and even then you are always well aware that your experience of it is not at all the reality: what with the difficulties the Israeli army would face if they shot an unarmed U.S. citizen, the fact that I have money to buy water when the army destroys wells, and the fact, of course, that I have the option of leaving. I am allowed to see the ocean. If I feel outrage at entering briefly into the world in which these children exist, I wonder how it would be for them to arrive in my world. Once you have seen the ocean and lived in a silent place where water is taken for granted and not stolen in the night by bulldozers, spent an evening when you didn't wonder if the walls of your home might suddenly fall inward, aren't surrounded by towers, tanks, and now a giant metal wall, I wonder if you can forgive the world for all the years spent existing—just existing—in resistance to the constant attempt to erase you from your home. That is something I wonder about these children. I wonder what would happen if they really knew."
- My Name Is Rachel Corrie
Then, her emails introduce us to ordinary people who erase all caricatures:
“Nidal's English gets better every day. He's the one who calls me, ‘My sister.’ He started teaching Grandmother how to say, ‘Hello. How are you?’ In English. You can always hear the tanks and bulldozers passing by, but all of these people are genuinely cheerful with each other, and with me. When I am with Palestinian friends I tend to be somewhat less horrified than when I am trying to act in a role of human rights observer, documenter, or direct-action resister. They are a good example of how to be in it for the long haul. I know that the situation gets to them—and may ultimately get them—on all kinds of levels, but I am nevertheless amazed at their strength in being able to defend such a large degree of their humanity—laughter, generosity, family-time—against the incredible horror occurring in their lives and against the constant presence of death… I am discovering a degree of strength and of basic ability for humans to remain human in the direst of circumstances—which I also haven't seen before. I think the word is dignity. I wish you could meet these people...”
* * *
The effect of the NYTW’s decision has been bad all-around:
This is a terrible dynamic that must be reversed. There are undoubtedly significant pressures on NYTW as there are on anyone in the arts who seeks to speak the truth and go against the tide in these dire times. But there are gigantic stakes for the people embodied in this episode, which is why no one can or should accept apologies about procedural misunderstandings. What is needed is a clear repudiation by the theater of their political stance to “contextualize” the play—which means, let’s be honest, surrounding Rachel’s heroic voice in support of the just struggle of the Palestinians with excuses and a rationale for what Israel is doing.
It would also help if others put the interests of the people of world ahead of more petty concerns. Wouldn’t it be the best thing for everyone if those involved struggled with NYTW to do the right thing, for the right reasons, and the play got mounted very quickly in New York City on their stage—or, failing that, at a theater that does not allow it to be marginalized?
Here’s another lesson we should take to heart: Once you start accommodating the forces of reaction, you will find yourself feeding a monster that cannot be satisfied. In these times, as every sphere of American life and politics is being remade in a fascist direction, it is simply a fact that “that which you will not resist, you will learn—or be forced—to accept.” (from the World Can’t Wait call)
People can also learn to resist, and courageous individuals can affect history. Everyone will be put to the test, under circumstances rarely of one’s own choosing, and sometimes people will be called upon to act heroically when they are not fully prepared. That’s maybe the most important thing to learn from Rachel’s life. She traveled halfway around the world to bear witness to what her government was doing, and ultimately gave her life to stop these crimes against humanity. But she didn’t start out brave and knowing what to do.
After her death, Rachel’s mother recounted, "I remember distinctly her voice when she first called from Gaza. I believe she was in the house that she died in front of. Her voice was trembling, and she was saying, ‘Can you hear that? Can you hear that?’ It was the shelling that was coming from the border. And then I remember talking to her for the last time, about five days before she was killed. Her confidence had grown along with her conviction that she was doing absolutely the right thing. I think about the courage that she drew from just being among the Palestinian people who are living with that situation."
On the third anniversary of Rachel’s death, March 16, there were readings commemorating Rachel Corrie in cities all over the world, including Basra, London, Brussels, Jenin, Jerusalem, New York, San Francisco, Abuja, Paris, Kabul, and Cairo. March 16 was inspired by readings of the play Lysistrata in over a thousand cities in March 2003, an effort described as “an act of theatrical dissent against the impending war.”
A public reading, “RACHEL’S WORDS,” will take place at Riverside Church in New York City on March 22.
Revolution #040, March 26, 2006, posted at revcom.us
From time to time, Revolution will run tips from our correspondents and readers on movies, art exhibits, books, plays, and other cultural events that readers should know about. No endorsement implied, but worth checking out.
A reader writes on: The books of Octavia Butler: "I'm black. I'm solitary. I've always been an outsider." - so wrote Octavia Butler. Sadly, shortly before International Women's Day a 58-year-old pioneering human female breathed her last. Octavia Butler had grown up in Los Angeles where her mother was a maid who collected cast-off books for her book worm child. Poor, bright, and large, hitting a height of 6 feet at age 15 and growing up in 1950s USA: it makes sense in hindsight that Octavia Butler became a science fiction writer. She knew how it felt to be alien-ated. If you want to start near the beginning read Kindred, where a woman in the 1970s is literally pulled into the past, the days of slavery. An introduction to Kindred reads, "Octavia Butler has designed her own underground railroad between past and present whose terminus is the reawakened imagination of the reader." But my current favorite of Ms. Butler's books is Parable of the Talents which won a Nebula award in 2000. It depicts an incredible and horrible possible future where people are forced to react and act when a Christian fundamentalist and fascist politician from Texas is elected president of the U.S. Read the full correspondence online at revcom.us
A reader writes on The Movie V: V takes place in 2020 when London is ruled by a theocrat named Sutler. Sutler rises to power by promising “Strength Through Unity. Unity Through Faith.” The parallels between the Sutler regime and what is happening in the U.S. today are unmistakable. People should check this movie out, and bring along a stack of Revolutions to share with the audience. People will want to talk after seeing this movie.
Correspondence to A World to Win News Service on Rang de Basanti: I am writing to tell you about Rang de Basanti, a new, politically charged Bollywood film with rebel music (by A.R. Rahman) and superb cinematography and action aimed in particular at today’s youth. (read the entire correspondence at revcom.us)
From A World to Win News Service
Revolution #040, March 26, 2006, posted at revcom.us
From time to time, Revolution will run tips from our correspondents and readers on movies, art exhibits, books, plays, and other cultural events that readers should know about. No endorsement implied, but worth checking out.
13 March 2006. A World to Win News Service. Seventy-five years ago this month, on 23 March 1931, the British colonial authorities hung Bhagat Singh and his fellow revolutionaries for taking armed action to win India’s independence. Celebrations are expected to mark the centenary of his birth next year, 28 September 2007.
Millions of Indians raged and wept at the execution of the brave youth who chanted anti-British slogans and “Inquilab Zindabad” (“Long live revolution”) as they climbed to the gallows. The revolutionary aspirations and atheist convictions of these members of the Hindustani Socialist Republican Organization contrasted sharply with the religious mysticism and pacifist path preached by M. K. Gandhi and the Congress Party at that time. Since then, for many decades the Congress Party has run India as a neo-colonial state, politically independent but dependent in every way on imperialist countries—as recently illustrated by the slavish reception that government gave George W. Bush despite huge protests. Meanwhile, Singh and his comrades have become popular revolutionary icons in today’s India. A new Indian film drawing large crowds in many countries focuses on today’s Indian middle class youth, for whom Bhagat Singh is a symbol not of the past but of a possible future. A reader sent us the following unsolicited film review. We encourage others to follow her example.
I am writing to tell you about Rang de Basanti, a new, politically charged Bollywood film with rebel music (by A.R. Rahman) and superb cinematography and action aimed in particular at today’s youth. It is the story of a group of university students who have spent their lives just having a good time—dancing, drinking, listening to music and hanging out with their friends. The arrival of Sue (Alice Patten), a young UK filmmaker, sets in motion a series of events that wind up changing their world-view and their lives—hence the film’s full title of Rang de Basanti — A Generation Awakens. Sue has come to India without the backing of her film company, which had insisted she make a film about Ghandi. Instead, she wants to make one about the revolutionaries led by Bhagat Singh during the 1920s-1930s, the period before India’s independence. Her working title: Young Guns of India.
Sue recruits these fun-loving students (Aamir Khan, Kunal Kapoor, Siddharth and Sharman Joshi) to act in her film, playing the parts of the revolutionaries. Later, they are joined by Laxman (Atul Kulkarni), a strict Hindu and an activist with a mainstream Hindu nationalist BJP-type party. As they act out the roles of the revolutionaries, they learn more and more about the subjects of the film and their understanding begins to change. At just that moment, one of their closest friends, Ajay (Madhavan), a pilot for the Indian air force, is killed when his aeroplane crashes. It turns out that the Indian government has been buying defective spare parts for their planes on the cheap, enabling some compradors (foreign-connected businessmen) and government ministers to get rich. Ajay dies heroically as he refuses to eject from the plane and remains in it to ensure it doesn’t hit the town he is flying over.
The government tries to hide the real reason for the crash and publicly states that the cause is Ajay’s “rashness” and “incompetence.” The infuriated friends, led by DJ, who plays the part of Bhagat Singh, decide to expose these lies by organizing a peaceful protest. The police break it up violently, leaving Ajay’s mother in a coma. The friends now step into the roles of Bhagat Singh and his comrades in real life and decide to attack the Indian government to bring justice for their friend and his mother. There are excellent scenes where photos of the British Raj (colonial government) morph back and forth into scenes of the modern-day Indian government, to illustrate that ultimately there is no real difference between repression under the British Raj and repression under India’s modern-day rulers. The film culminates in a violent confrontation between the brutal Indian security forces and the youth calling on the Indian people to rise up.
This is obviously no typical Bollywood boy-meets-girl love story or mere action film. Rather the violence from the heroes is shown as purposeful and just, and it challenges its audience to think about how to change society. The director of Rang de Basanti, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, says, “There are two primary choices in life—to accept conditions as they exist or accept responsibility for changing them. Rang de Basanti is about changing them.” Rang de Basanti certainly shouts at the top of its voice that people must take action to bring about change. The film throbs with hatred of the corruption rotting the core of official India and contempt for the outlook of “look out for yourself” individualism that justifies and perpetuates this state of affairs. The director is not afraid to call on the youth for fearless self-sacrifice in the higher cause of an end to this putrid corruption.
But while the film seethes with anger at the corruption and rot in India’s official heart, and issues a fierce call to fight, it treats the problem as one of “corruption” and “bad people,” and winds up with a dramatic plea from one of the young heroes to enter the government and the establishment in order to “clean it up” from within. It does this even though the plot of the film tends to show that people need to take matters into their own hands, as there is no point in working through the government since the government works in the interests of those who rule society in general.
It is possible that this call for working through the government was intended to some extent to satisfy the Indian censors. The Censor Board, after viewing the film, told the filmmakers to refer the film to the Ministry of Defense for their approval—an outrageous move in itself, giving India’s generals veto over the arts. However, apparently, in the end neither asked for any cuts. Dialogue arguing for change to be made through government channels has been in seen in Bollywood films before, e.g. Swades—We the People. However, a strength of Swades over Rang de Basanti is that Swades is about the people working together to bring about change in their living conditions, whereas Rang de Basanti is very much about a lone group of five friends who take action separate from the masses of people. Scriptwriter Kamlesh Pandey argues, “The undercurrent of Rang de Basanti is what would Bhagat Singh have done if only he were alive today.” But one point that has to be made about Rang de Basanti is that the approach of Bhagat Singh and his comrades in the 1920-30s and those of the young friends in Rang in 2002, however courageous and inspiring, ultimately are not enough to make lasting change if they do not link up with a programme that can actually unleash the masses to make revolution. Indian history shows us that the British Raj did indeed go and the neo-colony of India was born, but the state still oppresses the people.
This film concentrates many of the contradictory trends sweeping India and much of the world today. At a time when everyone is told how India is joining Western consumer society and its youth care only about money and getting ahead, here is a film that passionately depicts the rage burning just below the surface among many middle class youth there. It is a striking portrayal of the difference a handful can make if they take a bold, just stand. Yet the film is also marked by a time when, to much too great an extent, disbelief in the power of the masses to change the world goes hand-in-hand with narrowing the problem down to one or another symptom—like “corruption” or “bad apples”—of what is in fact an entire system that needs to be taken on and overthrown. Nor will the emotional calls to Indian patriotism go down well with the millions of oppressed in neighboring countries who view India as a regional gendarme.
The star of the film is Aamir Khan, who early in his career decided “to do only a limited number of assignments with conviction.” He has certainly been involved in several films that challenge people’s thinking. He is probably most famous in India for his role as the hero in Legaan. His character was described by one film critic as “a simple but defiant villager who takes on the British Raj by accepting a challenge that looks impossible to deliver.” He first came to the attention of mainstream Western audiences for his role in The Rising—Ballad of Mangal Pandey,a film glorifying the first uprising in India against the British Raj, in 1857.
Another face in the film familiar to both South Asian and Western filmgoers is Om Puri, known to British audiences from his portrayal of the father in both East is East and My Son the Fanatic (the latter being a film “ahead of its time,” with its sub-plot that today would be considered to be touching on the roots of “home grown terrorism”). In Rang de Basanti he again plays a father, this time the father of the young Aslam, the Muslim member of the group of friends, whose family tries fiercely to persuade him that Muslims should keep themselves separate from Hindus. One of the film’s strengths is the way that it challenges this, including by exposing the way that racist Hindu parties like BJP prey on the frustration of the nation’s youth and actually cooperate closely with India’s rulers. In fact, as the final confrontation looms, Laxman, the Hindu activist in the group who starts off as anti-Islamic, takes the hand of the Muslim Aslam. They face death together, as brothers. In today’s India, where powerful forces are whipping up tides of religious and racial distrust and hatred, this is a stirring message to the youth.
The film had a record-breaking first week in India. It has been on wide release outside India in New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Fiji, Gulf countries, Canada, the U.S. and UK. During its first week in the UK, it reached the thirteenth spot at the box office, despite having only been shown on 38 screens, less than a tenth the number as the big blockbusters. Many young people have seen the film due to the music by Rahman and the somewhat misleading trailers (which suggested the film would be of regular Bollywood fare—good music, love and fun). But most who see it, regardless of their original motive for going, are moved by the saga of Bhagat Singh and his comrades and the bravery of today’s young friends.
The film shows how events can turn hedonistic youths into bold rebels, but the main question has to be what will the future hold. The film ends with a little boy named Bhagat in a field of what looks like rapeseed asking his father, who is planting a different crop (mangos) in just one small area of the field, what he is doing. The father replies that he is planting a mango tree, and that from one mango tree a hundred will grow. So the film presumably is posing the question as to whether from one revolutionary, Bhagat Singh, and his story being retold today in the 21st century through DJ, will a hundred more revolutionaries step forward? It is a question that is up to us to answer.
Revolution #040, March 26, 2006, posted at revcom.us
From time to time, Revolution will run tips from our correspondents and readers on movies, art exhibits, books, plays, and other cultural events that readers should know about. No endorsement implied, but worth checking out.
"I'm black. I'm solitary. I've always been an outsider." - Octavia Butler
“It's impossible to begin to talk about myself ... without going back to how I wound up writing science fiction and that is by watching a terrible movie. ( Laughter) The movie was called, "Devil Girl from Mars," and I saw it when I was about l2 years old, and it changed my life. ( Laughter) It was one of those old 1950s movies in which the beautiful Martian woman arrives on earth to announce that all the Martian men have died off and there are a bunch of man-hungry women up there. And the earth-men don't want to go. As I was watching this film, I had a series of revelations. The first was that "Geez, I can write a better story than that." And then I thought, "Gee, anybody can write a better story than that." (From a speech in 1998)
Sadly, shortly before International Women's Day, a 58-year-old pioneering human female breathed her last. She had grown up in Los Angeles where her mother was a maid who collected cast-off books for her bookworm child. Poor, bright, and large, hitting a height of 6 feet at age 15 and growing up in 1950s USA: it makes sense in hindsight that Octavia Butler became a science fiction writer. She knew how it felt to be alien-ated.
Butler wrote novels and short stories involving possible pasts and futures, mostly dystopic worlds. She wrote about proletarians and teachers, about Latinos and Blacks and Asians, and often her characters were a complex mix of race and more. In her books you suddenly see the familiar from a tilted angle and it all looks so strange. Societies where creatures treat their own kind as property? Where violence is commonplace? What a forbidden planet and brave new world. Where youth boil their minds on toxic drugs and men dominate and violate women and children? Oh, no, you realize. This is our world, how ridiculous, how unnecessary and wrong. I would rather write an elegy to Octavia, not a book review: largely because I don't want to spoil the joy of finding such a special author. Where to begin? If you want to read her last book, read Fledgling, a vampire story with a truly riveting beginning where a vampire in the shape of a 10-year-old girl awakes to hunger and pain, blind and amnesiac after a brutal assault on her family.
If you want to start nearer the beginning read Kindred, where a woman in the 1970s is literally pulled into the past, the days of slavery. An introduction to Kindred reads, "Octavia Butler has designed her own underground railroad between past and present whose terminus is the reawakened imagination of the reader."
But my current favorite of Ms. Butler's books is Parable of the Talents,which won a Nebula award in 2000. It depicts an incredible and horrible possible future where people are forced to react and act when a Christian fundamentalist and fascist politician from Texas is elected president of the U.S.
I found Butler's books contradictory, she has her limitations and prejudices. Her scenarios were disturbing and pessimistic, and they were hauntingly familiar. And at the same time her characters were inspiring. Emerging defiantly, steely and determined in the face of seemingly hopeless situations, some of Butler's stories featured strong women protagonists, many of them tall and Black like their creator. These people are not perfect, but a glimpse through their eyes sparks hope in the reader, for these women are leaders who gather around them people who want to fight for a way out.
And she challenged the reader: think! Each book demands the reader re-examine conventional wisdom. Butler wrote stories that drew you in, she dared to inspect each long-held belief or cultural conditioning with a fresh, unrelenting eye and challenged you to do so with her. Gender, race, class, oppression, disease, religion, sex, and change: Butler's bold explorations opened my mind, and stimulated the possibilities. I am so sad that she will never write another book, that her exploration has been cut short—at so tumultuous a time.
I couldn't help wondering, though, whether these people, with their crosses, had some connection with my current least favorite presidential candidate, Texas Senator Andrew Steele Jarret. It sounds like the sort of thing his people might do—a revival of something nasty out of the past. Did the Ku Klux Klan wear crosses—as well as burn them? The Nazis wore the swastika, which is a kind of cross, but I don't think they wore it on their chests. There were crosses all over the place during the Inquisition and before that, during the Crusades. So now we have another group that uses crosses and slaughters people. Jarret's people could be behind it. Jarret insists on being a throwback to some earlier, "simpler" time. Now does not suit him. Religious tolerance does not suit him. The current state of the country does not suit him. He wants to take us all back to some magical time when everyone believed in the same God, worshipped him in the same way, and understood that their safety in the universe depended on completing the same religious rituals and stomping anyone who was different. There was never such a time in this country. But these days when more than half the people in the country can't read at all, history is just one more vast unknown to them. Jarret supporters have been known, now and then, to form mobs and burn people at the stake for being witches. Witches! In 2032! A witch, in their view, tends to be a Moslem, a Jew, a Hindu, a Buddhist, or, in some parts of the country, a Mormon, a Jehovah's Witness, or even a Catholic. A witch may also be an atheist, a "cultist," or a well-to-do eccentric. Well-to-do eccentrics often have no protectors or much that's worth stealing. And "cultist" is a great catchall term for anyone who fits into no other large category, and yet doesn't quite match Jarret's version of Christianity. Jarret's people have been known to beat or drive out Unitarians, for goodness' sake. Jarret condemns the burnings, but does so in such mild language that his people are free to hear what they want to hear. As for the beatings, the tarring and feathering, and the destruction of "heathen houses of devil-worship," he has a simple answer: "Join us! Our doors are open to every nationality, every race! Leave your sinful past behind, and become one of us. Help us to make America great again."
Revolution #040, March 26, 2006, posted at revcom.us
We got an unusual amount of passionate complaint letters about our cartoon making fun of Bono. We are posting some of those letters online, and inviting readers to comment at revcom.us.
Bono may be an appeaser of these evil doers but he is not one of them. If he has made some difference to world poverty it is worth it. Do not tell me he has made it worse.
You should not be trying to make people who admire guys like him and Bob Geldof decide between you and them. you will lose. from a previously impressed reader goodby
"Bono: Lunching with Satan". Parody, hey? Humor lesson #1, and please take note: parodies are meant to be funny. That's F-U-N-N-Y, folks. Look it up - you might learn something.
What have you done to change the world besides sit behind the computer and write smartass comments that don't help anyone?
At least he's doing something for the world... WHAT ARE YOU DOING??? taking advantage of his popularity to gain readers to your crappy website?
Revolution #040, March 26, 2006, posted at revcom.us
Readers get from Revolution a perspective they can find only 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.
Revolution 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 readers with Bob Avakian. Bob Avakian is the leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. And he is more than that: he's an innovative and critical thinker who has taken Marxism to a new place; he's a provocative commentator on everything from basketball to religion, doo-wop music to science; and he's a pit-bull fighter against oppression who's kept both his solemn sense of purpose and his irrepressible sense of humor.
Revolution #040, March 26, 2006, posted at revcom.us
In issue #33 - we announced a five week fund drive to bring forward 500 new sustainers, and $50,000 for Revolution. Last week, we announced that we had raised 40% of our goal, and were extending this fund drive another week to push over the top and make our goal. We're still counting (and collecting!) pledges so the final tally is not in. But if you committed to sustain, make sure we know about it. And while this concentrated sustainer drive is over, readers of Revolution can sign up as sustainers any time online, or by sending donations to:
Box 3486 Merchandise Mart
Chicago, IL 60654
Phone:RCP Publications Public Relations Office
voice: (773) 227-4066 fax: (773) 227-4497
Coupon books are available at Revolution Books stores (see list), and from Revolution newspaper distributors. Each week of our fund drive, we've printed inspiring and engaging letters from readers on why they are sustaining Revolution. This week, we're sharing a few more of these letters.
When I discovered the RW back in 1989 it quickly and dramatically changed the way I looked at the world. The analysis helped to sharpen up many thoughts that were floating around in my mind at the time, and the articles taught me so much about the world that we live in. As an artist/musician I found the RW's analysis of people like Miles Davis, Leonard Bernstein, Lester Bowie, Dizzy Gillespie and many others unique and invaluable. Simply put, in this world of intolerable oppression and increasing resistance, Revolution remains more vital and valuable than ever. I'm happy to contribute some of my hard earned money every month to help get this paper into many more hands, and I urge you to do the same.
Ted Sirota/Jazz Musician
I will sustain at $5.00 a month. I want to support Revolution because the paper and Bob Avakian's writings strip away the veil and show people what is needed to move past capitalism.. The ruling class thinks they have the world as their oyster. They don't realize it ain't over 'til the people win.
A reader in New England
Enclosed is a money order for $120 to cover a commitment of ten dollars a month to the Revolution Sustainer Drive. ...Chairman Avakian calls on us to IMAGINE. I pause to imagine what things would be like without the Party and without Revolution and it is not a pleasant contemplation, dear friends. We need to support this newspaper that supports us. A newspaper that doesn't pull punches. Cuz we are in a fight to the finish! We're gonna go all the way. No half steppin', no side steppin'. Revolution is the hope of the hopeless and we stand for Revolution. I'm sixty years old and I know that this Party, this leader and this paper have kept me on track for as long as they've been around. Speaking for myself, I can't slow down, I've gotta catch a ride to the future. Join me, hop aboard, sustain this precious newspaper as we go forth to greet tomorrow.
A reader in Wisconsin