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A Fresh and Powerful Spring Wind
Revolution #042, April 9, 2006, posted at revcom.us
There is a fresh and powerful spring wind blowing across America! Thousands—no, millions!—have hit the streets, defiantly demanding justice for undocumented immigrants. This struggle should not only be supported, but pushed forward. And as we intensify this battle, we should keep in mind some of its key lessons so far.
1) The mass upsurge of the immigrants has changed the political landscape. It has inspired millions and opened the minds of tens of millions more. The politicians in Congress plan to drastically intensify the persecution and exploitation of the 10 to 20 million undocumented immigrants in this country. But instead of just shrugging their shoulders, the people have risen up in resistance, at great personal risk. This heroic spirit can be seen in the article about the student walkouts , and should be cherished and spread.
And there is a great lesson here for the tens of millions in this country who sit there angry but paralyzed as one basic right after another is taken away by the system, in particular by the Bush Regime that is now running things. Don’t wait for elections—break out of the framework NOW. Stand up and fight, no matter what the odds!
2) The bill now being supported by most Democrats and some Republicans, like McCain and Specter, is a trap. It does not satisfy people’s most basic demands, and will actually put the masses of immigrant workers—and immigrants more generally—in a much more vulnerable position than they are now. (See article on the immigration bills.) The great mass upsurge must not be channeled into supporting this deceitful and destructive bill, but must persevere in insisting on full rights for undocumented immigrants, the halt to and reversal of the militarization of the border, and an immediate end to the persecution of immigrants.3) The 10 to 20 million undocumented immigrants have been driven into this country by the heartless workings of capitalism and imperialism. Take Mexico, for example, where U.S. capital has transformed Mexican agriculture and driven 1.5 million farmers off the land since the 1994 NAFTA agreement. This same sort of thing has gone on all over the world, with over 200 million people driven out of the countrysides of the oppressed nations and forced to seek work in the cities of the imperialist countries of the U.S., Europe and Japan. Hundreds of people die crossing just the Mexico-U.S. border every year because of the desperation caused by imperialism. Imperialism drives people from their lands, persecutes and even murders them as they cross the border, and then super-exploits and demonizes them once they are in the imperialist countries. This system must go!
4) There is nothing at all worth respecting about the U.S.-Mexican border! It was created by an unprovoked U.S. war against Mexico in the 1840s, a war that was waged to rob huge amounts of land to extend the slave system (which had been outlawed in Mexico) and, more generally, to expand U.S. capitalism. Any concessions to this idea that â€œthe border must be defendedâ€� denies this reality, and ends up playing by the enemyâ€™s rules.
5) The imperialist rulers are pushing these vicious “reforms” for two main inter-connected reasons. First, they are driven by worldwide dog-eat-dog competition to more systematically exploit and more viciously repress the tens of millions of immigrant workers within this country. Second, they are driven by the big social and economic changes in American society to hammer down a fascist social order. And to do that they aim to reinforce in the minds of tens of millions of middle-class and working-class people the idea that America should be a white, Christian, highly militarized country—and that this will somehow deal with the insecurity, desperation and despair in their lives. And there is a particular effort directed at Black people: to mislead the Black masses into blaming their terrible and oppressive conditions, which have been caused and enforced by imperialism, on people with whom they share a similar situation of being oppressed nationalities within America and of being overwhelmingly proletarian.
But there is every basis to step to tens of millions of people with the “real deal”—to show them where their real interests lie, which is in fighting against the very system that so badly oppresses them and then tries to mislead them as to the source of that oppression. By continuing militant and united action, and by bringing out the real truth in thousands of ways as we do so, we can change the political “polarization” into one much more favorable to the people.
6) This whole situation—the tens of millions of people driven off their lands into a life of desperately seeking work, even at the risk of death; the ways in which the fears of millions of native-born people are being manipulated; the divisions that are fanned and enforced between nationalities, even among oppressed nationalities—all these are products of capitalism. But even more importantly, all this can be overcome by a socialist revolution. Such a revolution must be led by the proletariat—the class of people who own only their ability to work and have nothing to lose but their chains—and must result in a whole new state power that builds on the achievements of past proletarian revolutions, and goes further, unleashing a vibrant and lively socialist society. The undocumented workers who are now being demonized in the media and by the politicians are a potentially important part of the class that can carry out this revolution, institute this new state power, and bring about a far better future.
This state power in turn must and will serve new social and economic relations aimed at getting rid of exploitation and all the oppressive institutions and ideas that fortify exploitation, and eventually getting to communism—a world without classes, without oppression and, yes, without borders. There is a party and a leader that can lead this revolution in this country—the Revolutionary Communist Party and its Chairman, Bob Avakian. The excerpt from the Draft Programme of the RCP, USA shows how the proletariat in power could take immediate steps to change all this. This can really happen, and must be fought for—and the struggles of today must be diverted and directed into preparing for such a struggle.
Views on Socialism and Communism: A Radically New Kind of State, A Radically Different and Far Greater Vision of Freedom
Revolution #42, April 9, 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.
Revolution is publishing this work by Bob Avakian in installments. Published so far are:
Now, on the foundation of what has been said so far, I want to turn to the question of A MATERIALIST UNDERSTANDING OF THE STATE AND ITS RELATION TO THE UNDERLYING ECONOMIC BASE.
First of all, what is the state? In some post-modernist thinking, which finds expression in some leftist trends, you'll hear this formulation: "The state has agency." This is a fancy way of saying that the state is not an instrument of class rule, but is an institution that can be affected and influenced by different groups in society, depending on how much pressure they exert on it. Obviously, this is a reformist, as opposed to a revolutionary, viewpoint, and leads to a reformist as opposed to a revolutionary program. This notion that the state can be influenced and caused to act in different ways—it's not an unchanging thing, it can be influenced to have a different character and play a different role, depending on who's exerting more influence on it—this is just the old revisionist view of the state, finding expression these days in "post-modernist" language.
But an actual materialist analysis of the nature and role of the state is essential in terms of making revolution and actually transforming society, it is essential in understanding what the problem is and what the solution is. So, let's dig into the questions: what is the state, what is its essential character and its essential role?
Engels, also in The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State, made the very concise summation, from a lot of historical materialist analysis, that the state is an instrument of class rule, an instrument for the suppression by one class of the other classes it rules over, and that it arises with, and is a manifestation of, the split-up of society, not only into classes in general, but into antagonistic classes—into exploiters and exploited, for short.
Now, in the "Democracy" book (Democracy: Can't We Do Better Than That?), I quoted a statement by Raymond Lotta, that the state is an expression of a certain division of labor in society. This gives the state its particular class character. In other words, the state in general has the character and role of being an instrument of class suppression—or, another way of putting it, an instrument of dictatorship—but being an expression of a certain division of labor in society gives expression to the particular character of a given state. And in an all-round and fundamental sense, we can say that the state is an expression of the overall production relations in society; it reflects that and in turn serves to reinforce that. With one exception—the proletarian state, which seeks not simply to reflect and reinforce, but actually to be an instrument for the further transformation of the production and social relations in society. That's one of the things that gives the proletarian state a character that is qualitatively different from all previous forms of the state.
The proletarian dictatorship aims at the abolition of classes along with the others of the "4 Alls." It aims to do away—not by physical extermination, which is the caricature charged—but through the transformation of society, it aims to do away with classes and their material basis: it aims to do away with the bourgeoisie; it aims to do away with the petty bourgeoisie; and it aims to do away with the proletariat itself. And, as I put it in another discussion with some comrades, the proletariat is the only one of those three classes that doesn't mind. [laughter] Neither of the other two classes wants to go out of existence—which doesn't mean the dictatorship of the proletariat is also exercised over the petty bourgeoisie, that's a different question. But it does mean you have to transform circumstances and people, such that not only the bourgeoisie, but also the petty bourgeoisie and, indeed even the proletariat, no longer exist. But the proletariat is the only one that wants to go all the way with that, speaking in broad social terms.
Now if we understand the role of the state, and we hark back to what I was saying earlier about why we want state power, we can hopefully understand, much more profoundly, the truth and reality of the statement, that without state power all is, in fact, illusion, in terms of transforming society in any fundamental and qualitative way, in terms of getting rid of the oppression and exploitation in which the overwhelming majority of humanity is enmeshed and the nightmare that this involves. I was recently reading some articles from A World to Win News Service,1 ironically dated July 4 of this year, 7/04/05. There were two articles, in particular—one on globalization, the meeting of the heads of state of the major industrial countries, and the demand for debt elimination or reduction; and the other was an article about Africa, the Congo in particular. Anyone who hasn't read those articles should definitely read them, and they're worth reading over more than once, because they vividly bring alive the horrific conditions of the masses of people under the rule and domination of imperialism, and the local agencies of imperialism in these particular countries. The fact is that in the Congo, in the last decade or so, somewhere between 3 and 5 million people have been killed in warfare going on within the Congo, none of the sides of which represent anything positive, in terms of the liberation of the people there. There are all these military forces, sometimes literally gangs that have been pulled together by different capitalist corporations and consortiums to fight against rivals in plundering and looting the minerals and rich resources of those areas. It reminds me of the old Peter Tosh song "Fight Against Apartheid": "you steal my diamonds and finance your ballistic mis-siles." This is what's going on, in truly horrific terms. This is what went on for 40 years in Zaire, when it was called Zaire, after they got rid of Lumumba and civil war broke out and the imperialists imposed and backed the rule of Mobutu. And it's been going on very acutely, millions of people have been dying, during this decade in just this one part of the world. People dying not just from starvation, like in Niger and other places in Africa. But dying from this warfare, this internecine warfare, this reactionary warfare, organized by imperialists and even by different companies and consortiums that are looting the country.
If you are a Marxist and you look at this, you say: "what a crying need for proletarian state power in these countries." But people are being subjected to these horrors because they haven't made a real revolution and don't have proletarian state power. You can criticize the state as an institution all you want—but goddamn it, let's get a proletarian dictatorship and then we'll let people criticize it! As I have pointed out before—for example in an interview I did with Michael Slate2—people should mainly extol the proletariat state, even while they're raising some criticisms. That's another unity of opposites—uphold and extol the proletarian state, while criticizing its shortcomings. And if you understand this as a Marxist, as a communist, you can see the crying need for people to have state power to be able to put a stop to the horrors they are subjected to. Tribe is being pitted against tribe in this warfare in the Congo, slaughtering each other. Even what went on in Rwanda is linked up with the larger network of imperialist relations and the battle among competing imperialists, much as they cried crocodile tears over it, and used it as a way to build up public opinion for their intervention all over the world. They're even doing that now in relation to Nepal: "Nepal could become another Rwanda, another Cambodia, humanity cannot allow this to happen, cannot allow this society to be plunged into chaos, with the attendant mutual slaughter." Public opinion is being actively created in this way right now in relation to Nepal and the prospect of the Maoist-led revolution winning victory in Nepal. But this is very vivid and real in Africa, the horrendous suffering of the people, because they don't have a proletarian state. Now, the proletarian state, where it comes into being, still has to stand up to the imperialists and other reactionary forces militarily, but you don't even have a chance, you're not even in the contest, if you don't have proletarian state power and therefore can reorganize society accordingly and provide a material foundation underneath that state at the same time as you're transforming the society and supporting revolutionary struggles in other parts of the world, all over the world.
If you look at this as a communist, it just jumps out at you, how much the people are suffering for lack of proletarian state power, and for having every other kind of reactionary state power brought down on them and being hurled against each other in these mutual slaughters for the interests of people wielding other state power and serving imperialism and oppression and exploitation. This is true throughout vast parts of the world, and in the world overall. And you can't do anything about it without proletarian state power. Look, I have enormous respect for the people who go become part of Doctors Without Borders. But there's a tremendous burnout rate among these people, too. The problems are so enormous and grow at such exponential dimensions while they're trying to do something. Because people haven't wrenched themselves free of the imperialist system and established a proletarian state power. And this suffering will go on and on and get worse until that is what happens. When you see this and understand it—not refracted through a bourgeois or revisionist prism, but when you see it from a communist standpoint—it leaps out at you: the crying and urgent need for proletarian revolution and proletarian state power. Yes, this revolution has to go through different phases. But in essence, and in the final analysis and fundamentally, proletarian revolution and proletarian state power is what it must be aiming for, as the first great leap toward the final goal of a communist world. We've had every other kind of state, and the imperialists have used this experience with every other kind of state to reinforce the idea that, after all, their domination and even outright colonialism is the only thing for people in Africa and other parts of the Third World. "Look what they've done since independence," they say—negating the actual fact that the people in these countries have never really had real independence. Mobutu—is that independence?!
If you want to understand why "without state power all is illusion," once again I say: just think about all the things that do—that should —drive you crazy, that will, if you're a communist, drive you crazy, that drove you to become a communist in the first place, because you realize the enormity of this and the fact that there isn't any way to deal with this within the confines of this system. All those outrages that keep growing to larger and larger dimensions, that you can't do anything about, in any fundamental terms, because there is not yet proletarian state power, because the idea of doing anything about these things without that state power is, in reality, nothing but illusion.
Jim Wallis, in the aftermath of the 2004 election and the prominent role of Christian fundamentalist fascists in the so-called "re-election" of Bush, is now trying to promote the idea—and getting some backing from sections of the ruling class in promoting the idea—that the only really good opposition to this Christian Fascism is an opposition that shares a great deal with it, shares many of the same fundamental religious underpinnings, even if this opposition wants to give this a somewhat different expression. And, as I pointed out in Preaching From a Pulpit of Bones,3 a number of years ago now, even while recognizing and condemning, or at least lamenting, ways in which masses of people are suffering throughout the world, Wallis's whole attempt has been to preach reconciliation between oppressors and oppressed and to promote reform within the existing system and relations of oppression and exploitation, within the U.S. and on a world scale. He insists that reform, and not revolution, is the only way to bring about positive change—and he openly polemicizes against communism, accepting and repeating many of the more crude distortions and slanders against the historical experience of socialist society and the communist movement. In his book The Soul of Politics, written during the 1990s (he now has a new book out, God's Politics), Wallis attempted to cite examples of how reform, reconciliation and peaceful change within the system hold out the hope—as he would have it, the only hope—for improvement in the situation of the masses of suffering people. One example he gave involved Brazil—the following story, whether true or apocryphal I don't know, but let's take it as true, and look at the content of it: Peasants were being driven off their land in one little part of Brazil, so the peasants called up the wives of the Senators in Brazil—look at the social relations that are being reflected here, by the way—they called up the wives of the Senators and in some sort of re-enactment of (or a variation on) Lysistrata,4 I suppose, the wives put pressure on their husbands, the Senators, to intervene and keep the peasants from being driven off their land. Wallis makes a big deal about how this is the paradigm, this is the model for how we can bring about change. And I went and I did some research—see you have to do work—I did some research [laughs] into what was going on in Brazil at this time. And during a period of about 10 to 15 years, which covered the time he was talking about, 15 million peasants were driven off their land in Brazil. Now, even if you allow that the story Wallis tells is true, and these particular peasants in this one little part of Brazil were not thrown off their land right then, let's look at the larger picture. First of all, these peasants, or most of them, are very likely gone from their land now. And even if somehow they remained as a little pocket for a while, during the same period 15 million peasants in Brazil were driven off the land into the slums and shantytowns. Many of you no doubt saw the movie City of God; and in general you know what this leads to among the people who are driven into the cities. Brazil has its glittering facades and enclaves—and then, both in the countryside and in the slums, tremendous poverty and people being driven into conflict with each other, and setting up gangs and slaughtering each other over unofficial capitalism. This is the reality of what happens without proletarian state power. This is the reality of what's gone on because, for decades, there hasn't been proletarian state power in these places.
And the same thing is true of the U.S. Look what's gone on because we haven't had proletarian state power. The growth of even more horrific economic and social conditions. The spread of religious fundamentalism, including among the basic masses. The weighing down of the masses with oppression and deliberately spread and inculcated ignorance. Because we weren't able to make revolution, particularly during the great upsurge of the 1960s, with its widespread revolutionary ferment and sentiments. I'm not putting the blame primarily and essentially on those of us who became revolutionaries in that time, but the fact is that because, for a combination of reasons, revolution didn't break through, and because proletarian power wasn't seized and held onto, look what's come about in the world and in the U.S. over decades. And the idea that somehow you could change all this without proletarian state power, and that some other way could be found even to alleviate the suffering of the masses, let alone eliminate it, is the most outrageous and harmful of illusions.
Now, along with talking about what state power is good for, I want to talk specifically about the element of coercion and what coercion is good for. This is related to the "constraints" point that a comrade has raised, to which I referred earlier—all constraint is not bad. Let's dig into this. I've used this example before, that another comrade raised, from the movie Remember the Titans. It's not about the dictatorship of the proletariat, but it is about a significant social change that was brought about, and in which state power exercised a certain role on the part of liberal reforms at the time. Remember, or for those of you who have forgotten or never saw the movie, it's about this city in Virginia in the early '70s where the high school became integrated, the football team became integrated, and the white football coach, who was an award-winning coach, was replaced by a Black football coach, transferred from a Black high school. Now, the point has been made about what would have happened if they had gone to the white people in the town, and specifically those white people whose kids went to high school, and said, "Let's have a fair democratic vote: how many of you want to integrate the high school; how many of you want to integrate the football team; how many of you want to have a Black football coach?" Are you fucking crazy? [laughter] But because this was a necessity that people were confronted with, because that coercion was exercised, then it provided a different foundation on which people's thinking could be changed—and, importantly, as other people have also pointed out, it provided a more favorable ground on which the advanced elements could be brought forward rather than being suffocated. The people within the football team, first of all, and then more broadly in the community who did, actually, either initially favor this but were afraid to speak up, or who got won over to it, gained more initiative because these were the terms that were set.
So you can see here the value of coercion. All coercion is not bad. Just as there will never be a society or a world without necessity, in the same way there will never be a society without coercion, even when there's no more state power and there's not political coercion, in that sense, and dictatorship is no longer being exercised by one part of society over others. Still, you'll never get rid of necessity. And, related to that, you'll never entirely get rid of coercion. Not everybody in society, including in communist society, gets to do exactly what they want all the time. The difference is that, in communist society, people will voluntarily submit themselves to that situation because of the greater good that they consciously grasp—understanding that "I may not get `my' way this time, but in the context of everything overall, this is much better for everybody, and therefore, much better for me."
Let's take another example. There's a big controversy being kicked up now around evolution. The only reason there is a controversy about evolution is because a section of the ruling class in this country, a powerful section, has decided that it is in its interests to undermine the acceptance of evolution as a scientific fact, at least among the general populace. Oh yeah, they'll let some scientists do some science based on the fact of evolution. Remember the book, The Handmaid's Tale, and the movie? They had a very straitlaced morality that was imposed on people in society as a whole, but then the members of the ruling elite got to go whore around and stuff on the side. Well, perhaps it's something of an odious analogy, but if they end up insisting that science classes teach that evolution is not a proven fact, they will still have scientists who will be allowed to do the work that the bourgeoisie thinks is necessary, and among themselves they'll say, "Of course, we know evolution's a fact, we couldn't do anything if it weren't." But with regard to the general populace, they want to spread this other ideology—not only trying to redefine the question of evolution and whether it's true or not, they're trying to redefine science to bring supernatural and theistic elements into it—which, guess what, means there's no science. [In a satirical sounding voice:] "Well, you may stay on the earth because of the force of gravity—or it may be because God wants you to. We don't know. Shouldn't both explanations be discussed in the schools? Are you trying to suppress ideas and keep people from having a chance to decide for themselves?" [laughter]
I was talking to another comrade about evolution and they said, "You know, if you were to demand of me right now that I provide you, right at this instant, a proof of the fact that the earth revolves around the sun, I could not do it. I could go study up on it and come back and tell you, but I accept this because the whole scientific community for centuries has determined this to be true and it's been verified to the satisfaction of people over and over again, and it conforms to what I do know about reality. Could it be wrong, theoretically? Yes, but it doesn't seem so." There is no controversy among scientists and, at this point at least, there is no controversy in society about that point—whether the earth is the center of everything and everything, including the sun, goes around it, or whether, instead, the earth is part of a solar system and revolves around the sun. Still, this comrade went on to say, "But, you know, if it were in the interests of a section of the ruling class, they could make this question (of whether the earth goes around the sun) controversial as well, in the same way as they are doing about evolution. And even though there would be no controversy among scientists, they could create a controversy politically and societally, if a section of the ruling class saw that as being in their interests."
There is a political struggle, a class struggle ultimately, which is taking place essentially in the realm of epistemology, but it is a political struggle over contending epistemologies. It's a complex struggle, and the terms are not communism versus other ideologies. It's basically science and the Enlightenment versus things opposed to that. This is another reflection of the complexity of what we have to deal with.
So the only reason this question of evolution is controversial, has become controversial in U.S. society, is because a powerful section of the ruling class wants to promote a different epistemology, in the service of a certain political, social and economic program, an all-around and openly reactionary program. There is no controversy among scientists about evolution—the overwhelming, overwhelming majority of scientists, and particularly those in the field of biology, recognize that evolution is not only a fact but one of the most fundamental truths in all of science. Essentially, there hasn't been a controversy about this among scientists for over a hundred years, and increasingly actual science continues to verify the truth of evolution. But a controversy about this is being manufactured on a political basis. Well, here's another thing state power is good for and coercion is good for: The proletariat comes to power, and evolution is taught in the schools. [laughter] End of discussion. [laughter] No "flowering of ideas" about whether evolution is true or whether we are all the product of some grand designer. That's it, it's set. Now, you deal with that. In other words, that's part of the core curriculum that we're going to have in socialist society: Evolution is a scientifically established fact that's going to be taught, and that's it.
That, again, is an expression of why it is important to have state power, and in fact it is an expression of the positive aspect of coercion—in that case, using state power to set terms that correspond to reality, and to the interests of the masses of people and ultimately to humanity as a whole. Some things have to be settled, or nothing can get done and you can't go forward. Does that mean we don't want intellectual ferment over all kinds of things? Of course not. And if somebody could bring forward proof—actual scientific proof, arrived at through the application of the actual scientific method—that evolution is not a fact, then it would be necessary to recognize that. But everything cannot be "up for debate" all the time, or nothing could get done and society could not function. This is certainly the case in a socialist society, whose fundamental and guiding principle is to enable the masses of people to more and more consciously know and change the world in their interests and advance to the point where class divisions and instruments of class suppression do not obstruct and distort the process of humanity's knowing and changing the world in its interests. There has to be some solid core as well as a lot of elasticity and, if we throw everything up for grabs in socialist society, the bourgeoisie will be back in power very quickly.
Why don't we, in the schools, teach "two alternative theories" of epilepsy: one based on what medical science has learned about the actual, material causes of epilepsy, and one that says epilepsy is caused, after all, by demon possession? [laughter] Now, one thing to be aware of in this regard, while we are laughing at this notion, is that today's satire is tomorrow's horrific reality. In talks I have given about religion, I have used this example of epilepsy, and how Jesus didn't get it right about epilepsy—how, in the Bible, it says that Jesus cured epilepsy by casting out a demon. Well, if it becomes politically expedient on the part of a powerful section of the ruling class, we may have a debate opened up, [voice marked by sarcasm:] "Well, there are alternative explanations for epilepsy. Some people believe that it's caused by what goes on electrically and chemically in the brain, but there are a lot of holes in that theory. [laughter] Other people are coming to see that perhaps, after all, it is a matter of demon possession." [laughter] Why don't we teach that in the schools? No, we should not do that, because it is not true—it has been scientifically established that this is not true. And it is just as much the case that it has been scientifically established that evolution is true and that intelligent design is not a truthful explanation of the emergence and development of life, including human life.
So, there is a value to coercion, and we should understand the value and the role of coercion, while at the same time grasping this in dialectical relation to the fundamental reality and what must be the fundamental orientation that revolution and the advance to communism, both now and in socialist society all the more, must be the self-conscious liberating act of the masses themselves. Grasping that contradiction correctly is once again a matter of materialism and dialectics, as opposed to idealism and metaphysics, with regard to what communism is and how we're going to get there.
From all this, the point should clearly emerge that the proletariat, as expressed in a concentrated way through the role of its vanguard party, must seize power and must be the decisive and determining element in the state, and does not, and cannot in any essential way, share state power with any other class, even while it applies the strategic orientation of building the broadest united front, under its leadership, in continuing the advance toward communism. At a later point in this talk, I will discuss more fully the application of the United Front under the Leadership of the Proletariat all the way through the transition to communism, because that's another very important contradiction. But here I want to emphasize that the proletariat, as expressed in a concentrated way through the role of its vanguard party, must lead in the state and in the exercise of state power. And that's also something in motion, that's also "a moving target," because, as we advance toward communism as part of the overall worldwide revolution, the role of the party should be increasingly replaced by other instrumentalities that represent the masses themselves exercising state power. But the role of the party—and the need for the party—will not be eliminated completely until we actually get to communism and there's no more need for a state, either. So that's another contradiction we're going to have to handle correctly and, yes, even better than before, even with all the great achievements, particularly through the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China under Mao's leadership.
Another thing that we always should be clear on is that there is a need for a continuous resolute struggle against the pull of spontaneity. One of the things that I've continued to learn more about and to understand more fully and deeply is Lenin's formulation, in talking about the struggles of the masses, where he refers to their "spontaneous striving to come under the wing of the bourgeoisie." This is actually a very important formulation. He doesn't just say, "Well, these struggles tend spontaneously to go in a direction where the bourgeoisie can come to dominate them." He says, "There is a spontaneous striving to come under the wing of the bourgeoisie." This is, in fact, what gets expressed, repeatedly, in the struggle to rupture people out of the whole killing confines of the dominant political framework in the U.S., in relation to World Can't Wait. We see this spontaneous striving of people repeatedly and continually to come under the wing of the bourgeoisie, or a section of the bourgeoisie (as represented generally by the heads of the Democratic Party). And this spontaneity, and even this spontaneous striving to come back—if not directly and organizationally, then politically—under the wing of the bourgeoisie will also exist under socialism. This striving to keep things within, or to bring them back within, the confines of bourgeois relations and their reflection in the superstructure—the confines of bourgeois right, for short—will, even in socialist society, continually reassert itself, for real material as well as ideological reasons, and the constant interpenetration between material and ideological factors. This has to do with the continuing existence of classes and social inequalities in socialist society, and with real material conditions and pulls on people, as well as the fact that socialist states will almost certainly exist, for a long period of time, in the midst of and surrounded by imperialist and reactionary states.
So there's a need for a consistent, and in a real sense relentless, struggle against spontaneity and to divert spontaneity onto a revolutionary path. This will be true not only in capitalist society and in building toward the seizure of power and the establishment of a new, socialist state, but also in socialist society itself and in order to continue advancing toward communism.
I want to talk a little more about the question of democracy and dictatorship in socialist society and about the socialist state, the dictatorship of the proletariat, as a radically different kind of state. Proletarian democracy—as given expression as democracy for the masses of people in socialist society—should contain some secondary and "external" features, if you will, in common with bourgeois democracy, including Constitutional provisions for the protection of the rights of masses of people, and of individuals; but in essence it is a radically different kind of democracy, fundamentally because it is an expression of a radically different kind of class rule—rule by the proletariat, led by its vanguard, openly exercising dictatorship over the overthrown bourgeoisie and other proven counter-revolutionary elements—and it has radically different objectives, above all the advance to communism, and the "withering away of the state"—and of democracy.
Here the following passages from Engels, once again from The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State, are very relevant: He points out: [In early communal society] "there cannot yet be any talk of ‘right’ in the legal sense....Within the tribe there is as yet no difference between rights and duties."
That's worth pondering and wrangling with deeply: no difference between rights and duties. And we can go on to say that, in a fundamental sense, what was true in early communal society will again be true, but in a very different way—with a different material, and ideological, basis and in a different, worldwide context—in communist society: where there is no class antagonism, there is no separation, in a fundamental sense, between rights and duties. There is no separation between rights and duties characteristic of class society, is another way to say this. All rights and duties will be afforded and carried out consciously and voluntarily—and there will be no need for special institutions to enforce duties and to protect rights—no need for the state, nor for formal structures of democracy. This, of course, does not mean that there will no longer be a need for a government in communist society, for decision making and administration. That need will persist, and understanding this is a crucial part of understanding the difference between a scientific and on the other hand a utopian view of communism—and of the struggle to get to communism (I will have more to say on this, too, as we go along). But the state is not the same thing as, not identical with, government: the state, once again, is an organ, an instrument, of class suppression and dictatorship, and its existence is always and everywhere an expression of the existence of class antagonisms. Now, at the same time, the character of the proletarian state, and the way in which power is exercised under the dictatorship of the proletariat, must—in accordance with, and to advance toward, the fundamental objectives of the communist revolution—also be radically different from any previous kind of state.
In order to get into this, and as a foundation for it, I want to paraphrase and review three sentences on democracy which I have formulated as a concentration of some fundamental points. To paraphrase, the first of these sentences is: In a world marked by profound class divisions and social inequalities, to talk about democracy without talking about the class content of that democracy, and which class it serves, is meaningless or worse. And second: In such a situation, there cannot be any such thing as democracy for all or "pure democracy"—one class or another will rule and will institute the forms of rule and of democracy that serve its interests. And therefore the conclusion of this, if you will, the third sentence, is: The essential question and dividing line is whether this class rule and the corresponding forms of democracy serve to reinforce fundamental class divisions and social inequalities, fundamental relations of exploitation and oppression, or whether they serve the struggle to uproot and finally eliminate these relations of exploitation and oppression.
Now, I said before, in another context, that I could teach a whole college course on this, simply by reciting these three sentences and then saying, "discuss," for the rest of the semester. And I wasn't joking. One could easily do this. But here, let's take off from this to discuss some important related questions, with this as a foundation.
I want to discuss the state—once again, the armed forces and the other organs of dictatorship—in relation to the broader institutions and functions of government in socialist society, including decision-making bodies, a legislature of some kind more or less, as well as centralized institutions that can effect the carrying out of decisions, or an executive of some kind. I also want to deal with the question of a Constitution and of the "rule of law" and of courts.
Recently, I told some people that one of the key things I have been grappling with is how to synthesize what's in the polemic against K. Venu5 with a principle that is emphasized by John Stuart Mill. A pivotal and essential point in the polemic against K. Venu is that, having overthrown capitalism and abolished the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, the proletariat must establish and maintain its political rule in society, the dictatorship of the proletariat, while continuing the revolution to transform society toward the goal of communism and the abolition of class distinctions and oppressive social relations, and with that the abolition of the state, of any kind of dictatorship; and that, in order to make this possible, the proletariat must have the leadership of its vanguard communist party throughout this transition to communism. In continuing to grapple with these fundamental questions, I have become convinced that this principle articulated by Mill—that people should hear arguments presented not only as they are characterized by those who oppose them, but as they are put forward by ardent advocates of those positions—is something that needs to be incorporated and given expression in the exercise of the dictatorship of the proletariat. This is one element—not the entirety, but one element—of what I have been reaching for and wrangling with in terms of what we have formulated as a new synthesis. And in line with that, while the proletariat has to maintain firm control of the state—and, particularly in the early stages of socialism and for some time, this is expressed in terms of the leadership of the vanguard party of the proletariat—while the proletariat in that way has to maintain firm control of the state; and while the key organs and instruments of the state have to be responsible to the party (and I'll talk more about that and other aspects of this shortly); there is also a question of how can the masses be increasingly drawn, not only into the exercise of state power, but also into other forms, other aspects of the governing and administration of society, and the law-making of society; and how can the political process that goes on in socialist society, on the basis of the firm control by the proletariat over the state as exercised in a concentrated way through the leadership of its party—how on that basis can the political process lead to, or contribute to, the kind of ferment that I've been talking about as an essential element of what needs to go on in socialist society, including the emphasis on the importance of dissent?
So here "the John Stuart Mill principle" comes in, in a certain way—within the framework of proletarian rule and not raised as some kind of absolute, outside of and above the relation of classes and the class character of the state. I don't have time to go into a whole discussion of Mill, but in the "Democracy" book (Democracy: Can't We Do Better Than That?) I made the point that in fact Mill did not insist on and apply a principle of unrestricted liberty in some universal and absolute sense—he didn't think it applied to workers on strike; he didn't think it applied to people in "backward countries" who, as he saw it, were not yet ready to govern themselves, and he implemented that by being an official in the East India Company, a major instrumentality of colonial depredation and ravaging in Asia and other places. But nonetheless, leaving those contradictions aside here, there is a point that Mill is raising, about how people should be able to hear arguments from their ardent advocates. And I think one of the ways in which this should find expression in the governing of socialist society is that—within the framework where, first of all, the state is firmly controlled by the proletariat, and second, there is consultation between the party and the masses and the implementation of forms, such as those that were developed through the Cultural Revolution in China, forms that combine basic masses with people from administrative posts or technical or educational professionals, or people in the arts who are professionals, etc., in decision-making and administrative tasks on all the different levels and in all the different spheres of society—while that should go on as a foundation, there should be a certain element of contested elections within the framework of whatever the Constitution of the socialist society is at the time. And one of the reasons why this should happen is that it will contribute to implementing what is positive about this John Stuart Mill point—that people need to hear positions not just as they are characterized by those who oppose them but as they are put forward by ardent advocates of those positions—what is positive about this in relation to our strategic objectives, of continuing the socialist revolution toward the goal of communism, the ways in which the implementation of this principle will contribute to political and overall intellectual ferment in socialist society and to the flowering of critical and creative thinking and, yes, of dissent, within socialist society—which will make that society more vibrant and will overall strengthen not only the willingness but the conscious determination of the masses of the people, including among the intellectuals, to not only preserve and defend that society but to continue revolutionizing society toward the goal of communism, together with the revolutionary struggle throughout the world.
One of the things that should be really understood about what we have characterized as the new synthesis, is that it envisions a much more wild society than has heretofore existed, politically speaking. I mean, things got very wild in the Cultural Revolution in China. But I am envisioning this in a different sense, on a more ongoing basis—one in which there is a solid core, and elasticity is giving rise to all kinds of contention on the basis of the solid core and within the framework in which the proletariat is (a) firmly in control of the state, and (b) is leading, and in that sense, in control of the overall political apparatus, even those parts that are not strictly speaking the state in the literal sense of being organs of political dictatorship and suppression, such as the armed forces, where the leadership of the party, and with that the rule of the proletariat, has to be very clear and firm.
The reason that I'm wrangling with this idea of having contested elections to, in part, select people to legislatures—in other words to have part of the selection, not the whole, but part of the selection of people to legislative bodies on local areas, and even on the national level, open to contestation—has to do with the Mill principle. It has to do with the principle (which I've articulated before) about how even reactionaries should be able to publish some books in socialist society—all of which, of course, is highly unorthodox [laughs] and, to say the least, controversial, especially in the international communist movement. But I do believe that the masses themselves—if they're actually going to rule and transform society and understand to an increasingly deepening level what is involved in transforming the world—will be better served by some contention in this kind of way, and that it has to find some expression other than just people being able to be guaranteed certain "first amendment" rights (freedom of speech and of assembly, of the right to dissent and protest, and so on), which they should have, within the framework of the proletarian dictatorship. So that's one element that I'm wrestling with.
Along with that, as there has been in previous socialist societies, there needs to be a Constitution. A Constitution, however, should always be understood, as should the law, as a moving, dynamic thing. At any given time it has relative identity. You can't say it's completely relative, or that it's essentially relative at any given time, or it would have no meaning then—it would be whatever anybody wanted it to be, and that's not a Constitution. A Constitution is something that sets down what are the rules of the game so that everybody can, on the one hand, in one important aspect, feel at ease, and, at the same time, can contribute fully to the struggle to transform society, while knowing, in effect, what the rules are. But it's a moving thing in the sense that a Constitution will change as the advance is carried forward toward communism. A Constitution is a reflection in the superstructure of where you are in the overall transformation of society, including in the economic base—just as the law, as Marx pointed out, is essentially a reflection of the property relations of society (and the production relations at the foundation of those property relations) at any given time. And there will be a need, as there was in China, for example, for different Constitutions at different stages in that process. You will need to, in effect, tear up the old Constitution and rewrite it, as you advance, particularly by leaps, from one stage to another. But, at any given time, a Constitution plays an important role, I believe—or should play an important role—in socialist society. For example, I firmly believe that the army, and also in a fundamental sense the courts, especially courts that have a more societal-wide impact, and the essential administrative bodies, should be particularly responsible to the vanguard party in socialist society. But, here's where the contradiction comes in. I also believe they should be responsible to the Constitution. That is, to get right down on the ground, the army should not be able to be mobilized to go against the Constitution, even while it's being led by the party. And here you can see a potentially roaring tension. But if the party can lead the armed forces to go outside of and above and beyond the Constitution, then the Constitution is meaningless. And then, in effect, you do have an arbitrary rule whereby it's merely the party and whatever the party is deciding at a given time—those are the rules, and that's how they'll be enforced.
Now, this gets really tricky if you think about Cultural Revolutions in socialist society. What happens then? Well [laughs] revolutions are revolutions—a lot of things get suspended, but they have to be reconstituted. And there has to be some sort of leading core and rules even within that. That was the point of the Circulars that were put out by the party leadership in the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China, for example. But on a more ongoing basis, you can't simply run society in such a way that whoever gets control of the party at a given time sets and enforces the rules according to whatever they think the rules should be at a given time. Or else the masses will not feel at ease and, in fact, you will open the gates much more widely to the restoration of capitalism and a bourgeois dictatorship, a dictatorship of exploiters and oppressors of the masses. So there's real tension, and you can concentrate it in that formulation—that the army, for example, should be responsible to the party and led by the party, but it should also be responsible and accountable to the Constitution, and if people rally against the party, for example, in mass dissent, it should not be that the party can mobilize the army to carry out bloody suppression of those masses, or to suppress their right to raise that dissent against the party. So this has a lot of acute tension, or potentially acute tension, built into it. But again I am firmly convinced that, in order for the masses to really increasingly become masters of society, these kind of principles, and the institutionalization of these principles, are necessary in socialist society.
This, then, raises the question that I call the "Islamic Republic of Iran question." People will say: "Well, okay, that sounds good—Constitutional rights, even the army can't violate the Constitution, yes, have some contested elections—but how are you going to be different than Iran where they have the Supreme Islamic Council and it has final veto power over what happens. You're not really going to be different than that, are you?" Well, we aren't and we are. We aren't in the sense that we don't intend to have the fundamental question of state power put up for whoever can grab it. In fact, a Constitution has to embody what the character of the state power is—not only what the role of the army is in relation to the party, for example, but what is the character of the production relations, in addition to having a whole dimension of the rights of the people and, yes, of individuals.
Why do you need a Constitution? Because as Mao pointed out—this was an important thing that he brought forward—in socialist society there remains a contradiction between the people and the government, or the people and the state. This was not well understood before Mao. He pointed this out, if I remember correctly, in "On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People." And the need for a Constitution and for constitutional provisions, protections and rights is an expression of the recognition of that reality—that even where the state is in the hands of the proletariat, and is a positive state, is a good state, is a state that's maintaining the rule of the proletariat and putting its weight behind the further revolutionization of society and support of the world revolution—even there, there has to be protection against simply trampling on individuals or sections of society in the name of, or even in the legitimate pursuit of, the larger social and worldwide good.
So this is an important contradiction, and this is why you need a Constitution. And in my opinion, it is why you also do need a "rule of law." This has to do with the criticism that I raised in "Two Great Humps" (a talk I gave in the latter half of the 1990s)6 of Lenin's formulation that dictatorship is rule, unrestricted rule, and specifically rule unrestricted by law. Now, to be fair to Lenin, he was saying this in the very, very early stages of the new Soviet republic, when not that much experience had been accumulated about the nature of the dictatorship of the proletariat, and under very urgent and desperate circumstances. And he was not putting this forward as a general conclusion about what the character of the governance should be throughout the transition to communism. He didn't even fully understand what that transition would look like yet. But, reflecting on it with historical perspective, that is not a correct statement of what a dictatorship is or should be. There do need to be laws. And there does need to be a "rule of law," or else there are no laws. I mean this in the sense that the law does have to be applied according to the actual character of the society and what is provided for in the Constitution and the laws themselves—it has to be applied in the same way to everybody and everything. Now, part of the law, an essential part of the law, must be and will be an expression of dictatorship over the bourgeoisie, and suppression of counter-revolutionaries. But then you do not simply declare somebody a counter-revolutionary and deprive them of rights without any process of law, or else you're again opening the gates to arbitrary rule and the restoration of bourgeois dictatorship. So that's another intense contradiction.
What about independent judiciary? In my opinion, the judiciary, as to whether it should be independent—it should and it shouldn't. In one real sense, it should be independent—in the sense that it shouldn't be, in any proximate, immediate sense simply following the dictates of the party. There should be law, and things should operate according to the law. On the other hand, and in an overall sense, and especially the more we are talking about a court whose decisions influence things on a large scale, and especially courts whose decisions affect all of society, this, too, has to be under the leadership of the party at the same time as it is beholden not only to the party but to the Constitution. Once again, intense contradiction.
So these are some things I'm wrestling with, and here the "Islamic Republic of Iran question" does arise, once again. Now there are some fundamental differences between us and what I'm envisioning in speaking of the Islamic Republic of Iran (as the embodiment of a certain kind of rule). First of all, we're not theocratic fundamentalists! That is not merely a statement without content, but makes a profound difference—our world outlook, our political objectives, are profoundly different. But as true and as important as that is, that's still not enough, there is still more to be wrestled with in the sense of: the party cannot, simply and arbitrarily and by going "outside of the rules," overturn what may be happening in society, according to the "rules" of society at any given time—mobilizing the army, once again, or other organs of the state, to do that. If revolutionaries in the party, or the party collectively, feel that the society is going in the direction back to capitalism, and there's no way to prevent this other than through the kind of thing that Mao unleashed in the Cultural Revolution, then that's what the Party will have to unleash—and then everything is up for grabs, "all bets are off," so to speak. But, in my opinion, if you allow the party to simply and arbitrarily decide what the rules are, what the law is, how the judiciary should operate, whether or not constitutional provisions should be extended or whether rights should be taken away, without any due process of law; if you allow that, you are increasing the potential and strengthening the basis for the rise of a bourgeois clique to power and for the restoration of capitalism.
So these are all things that need to be further wrangled with. But the contradictions that are being touched on here have to do with the character of socialism as a transition to communism, and not yet communist society itself, and with the need to draw the masses into—first of all, the need to draw the masses more fully into the running of and the transforming of society; and second of all, it has to do with the whole new synthesis and, in particular, the epistemological dimension of that and how that interpenetrates with the political dimension. In other words, to put it in concentrated terms, how are the masses going to come to know the world as fully as possible, in order to actually transform it; how are they going to more fully understand the complexity of things and what is right and wrong, what is true and not true, in order to be able to become more fully the masters of society and to transform it toward the goal of communism? The things that I'm wrestling with have to do with and are being taken up in that kind of framework. But we can't get away from the fact that there is one thing that CANNOT be done, and that is: the proletariat cannot, in a fundamental sense, share power with other classes—that is, the state in socialist society cannot be a state that serves different class interests—because, even while the proletariat must maintain and apply the strategic orientation of building a united front under its leadership, all the way to the achievement of communism, it remains a profound truth that only the proletariat, as a class, has a fundamental interest in abolishing all class distinctions and everything bound up with class divisions, in both the economic base and the political and ideological superstructure of society. What exists and is concretized in law, in a Constitution, in the nature of the state, has to reflect not only the rule of the proletariat but also the objectives of the proletariat in advancing toward the abolition of class distinctions and the "4 Alls" and thereby the need for the state. And this has to take concrete forms, which will get embodied in successive Constitutions. But, as important as that is, on another level that is only the outward, superstructural expression of what needs to be going on in terms of transforming those "4 Alls"—continuing to transform the economic base, to revolutionize the world outlook of the people, within the party as well as in society overall, and to transform the political institutions to draw more and more masses into them, and to move to continually narrow and eventually eliminate the difference between the party and the broader masses in the running of the state and in the determination of the direction of society.
This is the way in which the proletarian state has to be firmly in the hands of the proletariat; but, at the same time, in accordance with the interests of the proletariat, it has to be different than every other kind of state: it has to be not only reinforcing the existing economic base and superstructure, but actually transforming the economic base and the superstructure, together with the advance of the world revolution, toward the goal of communism. This has to be reflected in all these institutions I'm talking about—of the state and of government, of law and Constitution. And all this, once again, involves very acute contradictions. As I have pointed out many times, it is very easy to promulgate, to theoretically conceive of and popularize, the idea of all elasticity—which is another way of saying bourgeois democracy, because that is what it will devolve into, that is what it will become. And we've also learned from experience that it is easy to veer in the direction of all solid core and a linear view of how you advance toward communism, how you carry forward the socialist transition: linear in the sense that everything is extended out as a line from the party—it's the party leading the masses to do this, the party leading the masses to do that. Yes, in an overall sense, it is necessary for the party to lead the masses, as long as there is a need for a vanguard party; but it is a very complex and contradictory process that I think we have to envision and that is envisioned in this new synthesis, which has to do with unleashing a lot of mass upheaval, turmoil, tumult, debate, dissent, and thrashing it through among and together with the masses, in order for the masses, in growing numbers, to synthesize what's true and correct and revolutionary out of all that. And, yes, on that basis, to suppress what actually needs to be suppressed, but also to carry forward what needs to be carried forward, and to deal correctly, at any point, with the two different types of contradictions (contradictions among the people and contradictions between the people and the enemy). This is a different way, a not so linear way. It's not like you're fly-fishing [laughing] and throwing a line out—it's much more "throwing out" a process that goes in many different directions and then working through, together with the masses, to synthesize it, without letting go of the core of everything. And that's the very difficult part, to do that without letting go of the core of everything.
So there is the challenge of continuing the revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat, to dig up the soil—materially and ideologically, in the economic base and the superstructure—that must be uprooted and abolished, in order to get to communism, to the realization of the "4 Alls," in relation—and yes this definitely involves contradiction—to continually giving fuller expression to the ways in which the socialist state actually is radically different from all previous kinds of states and actually is moving toward its own eventual abolition, even while—and here's another contradiction—even while that abolition will require a whole process, constituting a whole world-historical epoch, through which the necessary material and ideological conditions for communism are created, not just in a particular country but on a world scale.
I think we have come to see, from the experience of the dictatorship of the proletariat so far—in sifting through and summing up this first stage of proletarian revolutions and socialist society and projecting to the future, we've come to understand more fully, and have much more a sense of the complexity, of the fact that this is a long-term process, involving a whole historical epoch, as contrasted even with what Lenin understood at the time he died in 1924, and certainly in contrast with what we would have to say, with historical perspective, were the more naive views of Marx and Engels concerning the abolition or the "withering away" of the state. Marx and Engels more or less thought that once you socialize things—they were looking at this happening first in a more capitalistically developed society—that once you socialize ownership of the means of production under the rule of the proletariat, it would be not that long of a period, and not that profound and complex a struggle, to get to where more and more of the people would be drawn into the administration of society, and the state could accordingly wither away. And we've learned that this is rather naive, not surprisingly. [Using a deliberately sarcastic sounding voice:] "He said Marx and Engels were naive." [laughter] Yes, he did. Because we're historical materialists and not religious and idealist people; and in this aspect, the understanding of Marx and Engels was very undeveloped, not surprisingly. But we've learned much more through, first (after the very short-lived and limited experience of the Paris Commune), the Soviet Revolution and then the Chinese Revolution and the Cultural Revolution in China—and looking at the international dimension of this much more fully in dialectical relation with the advance in any particular socialist country—how complex this will be, and how repeatedly the contradictions that are driving this will assume acute expression and there will have to be another leap forward, in order, first of all, to preserve proletarian rule, but much more fully in order to advance it further, to carry out further transformations in the base and the superstructure, together with supporting and advancing revolutionary struggles throughout the world.
So, in this context I want to come back and speak more directly to the solid core with a lot of elasticity—and elasticity on the basis of the necessary solid core. Now in talks I've given on "Elections, Democracy and Dictatorship, Resistance and Revolution,"7 I spoke about four objectives in relation to the solid core with state power. Now, the whole thing can be characterized, and I have characterized it, in the formulation that the point is "to hold on to state power while making sure that this state power is worth holding on to." And of course that's a boiled down, or basic and simple, concentration of a much more complex phenomenon and process. But the four objectives that relate to that are: 1) holding on to power; 2) making sure that the solid core is expanded to the greatest degree possible, and is not a static thing, but is continually expanding to the greatest degree possible at every point; 3) working consistently toward the point where that solid core will no longer be necessary, and there will no longer be a distinction between that and the rest of society; and 4) giving expression to the greatest amount of elasticity at any given time on the basis of that solid core.
The dialectical interplay of these things is another way of expressing what's involved in what I've described as a nonlinear process of, on the one hand, continuing to exercise the dictatorship of proletariat, and on the other hand—through this whole tumultuous and wrenching process, and through a succession of leaps—not only holding on to power, but transforming the character of that power, as the economic base and the superstructure as a whole are transformed, in dialectical relation with each other and in dialectical relation with the advance of the overall world revolution toward the goal of communism on a world scale.
1. A World to Win News Service is put out under the leadership of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement. Information on subscribing to the news service is available online at http://uk.groups.yahoo.com/group/AWorldToWinNewsService/
2. Audio files of Bob Avakian's interview with revolutionary journalist Michael Slate are available online at bobavakian.net. The point mentioned here can be found in the part titled "March 29, 2005: Michael Slate interviews Bob Avakian on China, the Cultural Revolution, and Dissent."
3. Preaching from a Pulpit of Bones: We Need Morality But Not Traditional Morality (Chicago: Insight Press, 1999).
4. Lysistrata is an ancient Greek play by Aristophanes in which the women refuse to sleep with their husbands until they put an end to the war that they are engaged in.
5. This polemic, titled "Democracy: More Than Ever We Can and Must Do Better Than That," appears as an Appendix to the book Phony Communism Is Dead...Long Live Real Communism!, 2nd edition, by Bob Avakian (Chicago: RCP Publications, 2004). The polemic originally appeared in the 1992/17 issue of the magazine A World to Win. Available at revcom.us
6. The full title of the talk is Getting Over the Two Great Humps: Further Thoughts on Conquering the World. Excerpts from this talk appeared in the Revolutionary Worker newspaper (now Revolution) and are available online at revcom.us. The series "On Proletarian Democracy and Proletarian Dictatorship—A Radically Different View of Leading Society" appeared in RW #1214 through 1226 (Oct. 5, 2003-Jan. 25, 2004). The series "Getting Over the Hump" appeared in RW #927, 930, 932, and 936-940 (Oct. 12, Nov. 2, Nov. 16, and Dec. 14, 1997 through Jan. 18, 1998). Two additional excerpts from this talk are "Materialism and Romanticism: Can We Do Without Myth?" in RW #1211 (Aug. 24, 2003) and "Re-reading George Jackson" in RW #968 (Aug. 9, 1998). All of these articles can be found online at revcom.us.
7. This was a talk given by Bob Avakian before the elections in 2004. Audio file of this talk is available online for listening and downloading at bobavakian.net.
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 60654-0486.
Revolution #042, April 9, 2006, posted at revcom.us
“The Professors… The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America” by David Horowitz is the ideological foundation for a sweeping assault on critical thinking on college campuses and beyond.
“The Professors…” is no abstract discussion of what should be allowed to be taught, studied, and debated on campuses. It serves and inflames a highly integrated, extensive enforcement apparatus already in motion to ban discussion, debate, and critical thinking—inside or outside of classrooms—on the most important questions of the day.
Horowitz’s agenda has been introduced as law in 16 states (according to his frontpagemag.com web site) and the US House of Representatives. This so-called “Academic Bill of Rights” or “Students Rights” legislation would impose Horowitz’s definition of “dangerous” teaching with the force of law.
On campuses across the country, reactionary students, mobilized by Horowitz’s “Students for Academic Freedom,” are taping classes, turning their teachers into the authorities, and calling for criminal prosecution of teachers for their ideas and teaching.
And powerful forces like Christian fascist Pat Robertson are promoting the book and whipping up their audiences into a dangerous frenzy of outrage, guided by this book.
At Santa Rosa Jr. College in California, campus Republicans organizing for Horowitz’s so-called “Academic Bill of Rights” law posted red stars and copies of a California law against communist “indoctrination” on the doors of ten professors, and said in a press release “[W]e believe certain instructors at SRJC are in violation of California state law.” One targeted professor said he had “never taught Marx, never read Lenin” but that one student in his class was upset by material about the Iraq war. (Santa Rosa Jr. College Oak Leaf newspaper, 3/2/05).
At UCLA, a group founded by a Horowitz’s protege Andrew Jones offered a $100 bounty for taped evidence of professors’ radical politics. After public outrage, Jones withdrew the cash offer, but continued to collect secret classroom recordings for what he calls the “Dirty Thirty” academics. Jones advertised for students to turn in “a professor who just can’t stop talking about President Bush, about the war in Iraq, about the Republican Party, or any other ideological issue that has nothing to do with the class subject matter. It doesn’t matter whether this is a past class, or your class from this coming winter quarter. If you help expose the professor, we’ll pay you for your work.” Horowitz’s “Students for Academic Freedom” disavowed Jones’s campaign, but only because Jones’s pay-to-snitch campaign was “exactly how not to run an academic freedom campaign.” Note the description of this as a (wrongly run) academic freedom campaign. (“Witch-Hunt at UCLA Targets Professors,” Revolution #33 at revcom.us).
After one of Horowitz’s spies taped her class and accused her of “attacking Republicans,” a Navajo professor of political science in Colorado felt compelled to tape her class as self-protection measure. One can easily imagine the chilling impact that had on classroom discussion. Beyond that, the professor was subjected to death threats (“shoot the commie bitch”) after an ex-Marine student posted a slanderous article at Horowitz’s online magazine. Students felt compelled to walk the professor to her car after evening classes. (“A Liberal Professor Fights a Label,” by Jennifer Jacobson, The Chronicle of Higher Education 11/26/04)
And Horowitz-“inspired” spying and witch hunts in high schools led to the suspension of a teacher who reportedly told his students: “Sounds a lot like the things that Adolf Hitler used to say… ‘We’re the only ones who are right, everyone else is backward and our job is to conquer the world.’” The teacher was reported to have told his students that the U.S. is “probably the single most violent nation on Earth.” He told pupils that they were free to disagree with him. In an inspiring example of resistance, 150 students walked out of school to protest the suspension of their teacher. “He’s one of the best teachers we have. He’s honest—that’s what we need,” said one student.
In a fundraising letter to his email list, Horowitz called the teacher’s actions “child abuse” and invoked this as a prime example of why his “Academic Bill of Rights” needed to be made law. Appearing on the 700 Club TV show of Christian fascist Pat Robertson, Horowitz reacted to the return of this courageous teacher to the classroom: “I have an academic bill of rights, and we have legislation moving in a dozen states. I have hearings in Pennsylvania on academic freedom. I just came back from Kansas where they will get them there. The idea is just to shine a light on what is going on. What you are doing on The 700 Club is very important in this process. If we start fighting back, a lot can change fairly quickly because, while it will take a long time to affect the actual faculties, we can at least make them behave. There is no reason why a high school teacher should be allowed to rant in the classroom on political issues. It is unfortunate that the Colorado school system did not respond well. The teacher is back in the classroom, even though he demonstrated he had no sense of the responsibility of what a teacher is.”
And, on a separate broadcast of his 700 Club show, Robertson pitched “The Professors…” Echoing the book jacket, he declared, “They are racists, murders, sexual deviants, and supporters of al-Qaida! They also could be teaching your college kids!” Robertson raged on, “These guys are out and out communists. They are communists. They are—some of them—killers.” And Robertson warned his followers, “You don’t want your child to be brainwashed, not only brainwashed, but beat up! They beat these people up! Cover them into submission! (A video of this episode is available at the People for the American Way site; Horowitz quotes are from CBN.com).
While Horowitz claims his attack is constrained to teachers “us[ing] the authority of the classroom to force students to adopt their positions,” his book makes little if any presence at restricting its attack on activities in the classroom. To take just one example, the section in “The Professors…” on Noam Chomsky notes in a paragraph that Chomsky teaches modern languages and linguistics, but the four-page attack on Chomsky makes no reference to anything he has done in his classes, and is entirely devoted to attacking Chomsky’s activities and writing outside of class. The same is true of many, if not most, of the professors slandered and attacked in the book.
Nor does “The Professors…” make any real pretense of living up to Horowitz’s proclaimed principle that “We do not care whether a professor is a liberal or a conservative. We care that a professor is professional; that he or she does not indoctrinate their students but educates them.” (Letter posted at studentsforacademicfreedom.org—the campus organization headed by Horowitz).
There are no conservative, reactionary, or fascist teachers included in “The Professors…” The 101 academics represent a wide range of perspectives and areas of study. Those being attacked are contributing research, thinking, and ideas that in different ways, from different political views, that, among other things, challenge the “war on terror,” domestic repression, white supremacy, Christian fundamentalism, and the oppression of women and gays. In “The Professors…,” experts who study, teach, and write about the Middle East from different viewpoints are associated with terrorism. The “dangerous” professors also include scholars who criticize capitalism, greed, and globalization and pose the need to explore and investigate alternatives. In short, what is under attack is critical thinking, debate, and serious efforts to discover the truth about the most important questions facing students and society!
Horowitz’s list of “dangerous” professors includes a “who’s who” of prominent African-American academics, representing many outlooks, fields of study and perspectives: Law Professor Derrick Bell, former Clinton cabinet member Mary Frances Berry, Kathleen Cleaver, author Michael Eric Dyson, poet Amiri Baraka, bell hooks, Manning Marable, and many more. Other prominent Black academics, like Cornel West, are attacked in the book as well.
“The Professors…” goes after others who have made critical contributions to the study of slavery, sharecropping, and present-day discrimination against African-Americans. Eric Foner, the premier documenter of the promise and betrayal of Reconstruction, is on the list. A large number of Latino professors are targeted by “The Professors…” as well. Take a quick look at some basic facts that Horowitz associates with “dangerous” professors:
“Columbus’s actions launched an era of modern colonialism, rape, pillage, genocide, cultural destruction, slavery, economic and environmental devastation.” (page 51)
“Slavery is, as an example of what white America has done, a constant reminder of what white America might do.” (p 60)
(Without affirmative action) “We’re going to see a disproportionate amount of Latino students unable to continue on to a higher eduction.” (p. 153)
Imagine, again, a campus atmosphere where such truths are not allowed in or out of the classroom, and you can get an important piece of Horowitz’s agenda. Another piece of that agenda is revealed by Horowitz’s obsession with attacking the demand for reparations to Black people for slavery, and his argument that “Black people owe (a debt) to America” for slavery. Grotesquely reversing the real story of slavery, KKK terror, and brutal segregation, Horowitz demanded in ads run in campus newspapers: “Where is the gratitude of black America and its leaders for those gifts?”
In the friendly environs of the 700 Club, Horowitz spelled out a major theme in his book—any questioning or opposition to the US war on Iraq is pro-terrorist: “I estimate that there are 50,000 to 60,000 radical professors who want the terrorists to win and us to lose the war on terror. They regard the terrorists as freedom fighters and America is an imperialist power that oppresses third-world people, and we are the root cause of the attacks on us.”
And in “The Professors…”, Horowitz attacks statements such as,“What greater abdication of responsibility as both citizen and scholar than to remain silent in the face of Guantánamo, Abu Ghrayb, and Fallujah?” (p. 76). And, “Scratch the surface of U.S. rhetoric about its quest to bring freedom and democracy to the world and one finds the suffering of the people who must live with the reality of U.S. foreign policy.” (p.239)
Another “dangerous” claim: “American motives (in the invasion of Iraq) were not self-defense of but dreams of hegemony: namely the control of oil, a permanent military force that could virtually eliminate any geostrategic competition in the Gulf and an encirclement and ultimate invasion of Iran.” (248-249)
Any campus that banned discussion and debate over the questions posed by these attacked quotes would be a shamefully and deadly repressive environment.
“The Professors…” attacks a wide range of study, insight into, or criticism of capitalism. Among the statements Horowitz attacks professors for making:
“Structural changes because of globalization have led to increasing economic disparities between the wealthy and the poor. As a result, the highest concentration of poverty is found among urban school children and racially oppressed groups.” (p 63)
“We need to clarify the connections between U.S. capitalism, global conquest, and visions of empire…”
Ruling such discussion out-of-order on campus would be to rule out-of-order exploring fundamental questions. In fact, hardly any serious inquiry into the state of the world escapes Horowitz’s fire, including this insight into the state of repression in the U.S. today and the danger of that taking yet another leap: “Given an Attorney General like John Ashcroft, the domestic face of the American global design is revealed as a kind of proto-fascist mentality that is prepared to use extreme methods to reach its goals. Without being paranoid, this is the sort of mentality that is capable of fabricating a Reichstag fire as a pretext, so as to achieve more and more control by the state over supposed islands of resistance.” (p. 161—The Reichstag fire was a pretext Hitler used to smash opposition to his rule.)
The set of perspectives, truths, and questions that Horowitz would suppress from academic discourse reveals a vicious and reactionary agenda. Far from a campaign for “free speech,” “academic freedom,” or a “students bill of rights,” Horowitz’s agenda, with his campus spy network, his proposed laws, and his book, adds up to a serious and dangerous element of a larger agenda of endless war and repression.
The Horowitz attack on critical thought on campuses and beyond comes at a time when large numbers of people are coming up against, and raising profound questions about, the direction of society. And, at a time when the government is vastly expanding illegal, warrantless phone tapping, snooping on people’s library reading, and locking up “bad guys” on the President’s say-so, without any legal rights. In the context of all that, Horowitz is not about ensuring those questions can be raised and debated. Just the opposite—his book, and his so-called “academic bill of rights,” are about crushing critical thinking on campuses and beyond. The very questions “The Professors…” seeks to suppress need to become much more widely discussed, debated, struggled over, and ultimately acted on, on campuses from coast to coast.
In a final chapter of “The Professors…,” Horowitz upholds the claim by Lawrence Summers, the now-resigned President of Harvard University, that women aren’t mentally capable of making the same contributions to “high end” science as men. Horowitz claims that “Summers’s remarks reflected the conclusions of a large body of neuro-scientific data and opinion.” He documents his claim with a footnote that looks like it is citing an authoritative study. In fact, the footnote refers to a debate between two Harvard psychologists on Summers’s remarks.
In fact, Summers’s views do not reflect the body of scientific understanding, or even a credible “alternative” understanding of the issues involved. Addressing his charges, the American Sociological Association Council said, “The most compelling patterns shown by research are that people’s abilities, as measured by job outcomes, are shaped by and interact with social influences.” The presidents of Stanford, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Princeton University (two of them women scientists) said Summers’s claim was a “myth.” Many, many heavily researched studies refute Summers’s claim, and those studies reflect the “professionally agreed-on methodologies and standards” that Horowitz’s book claims to insist on. Except when they contradict his reactionary ideology and politics.
And, as we go to press, Horowitz’s student Web site is announcing a debate between University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill and Horowitz at 8 p.m. on Thursday, April 6, at the Jack Morton Auditorium at the George Washington University Campus in Washington, D.C.
Churchill emerged as a flashpoint in the battle over critical thinking on campuses when powerful reactionary forces ranging from the Governor of Colorado to Bill O’Reilly called for his firing from the University of Colorado, in response to comments Churchill made after the September 11 attacks.
Horowitz’s Web site charged that “Churchill is typical of the hate-America academic left—a fifth column every bit as much a threat to our survival as Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda. Sixties rioters are today’s professors. They’ve created universities that mirror their mindset. Women’s Studies, African American Studies, Hispanic Studies, ethnic studies, Gay and Lesbian Studies are excuses for neo-Marxist indoctrination (where race, gender, or sexuality substitute for “class”)….”
Emma Perez, who assumed the position of Chair of the Ethnic Studies Department at Colorado after Churchill was forced out, made these observations about the stakes of the attack on Churchill in an article in Counterpunch: “We have to be as clear as possible about the big picture. This is much, much bigger than an individual attack on Ward. What we’re looking at is a carefully developed, pre-existing national strategy that has been searching for exactly the right breakthrough ‘test case.’ It has found extremely favorable conditions in Ward’s situation and in the post-911 climate. As they’ve been doing already in other areas, they want to dismantle the structural footholds (academic freedom/tenure, ethnic studies) that social movements gained for people of color and liberal and progressive intellectuals inside academe during the ’60s & ’70s. … This is a fight to make history.”
Revolution #042, April 9, 2006, posted at revcom.us
This letter and other information about Bob Avakian's memoir are available online at the Insight Press' web site: insight-press.com
Winter makes us think of summer.
The good news bad times may bring is that if we can imagine a better time, we can row to the opposing side of bad history—a different and better world. Students, more than dreaming, demand a map for the row.
I can point to three examples of maps of interest to students of today to get them to tomorrow. Motorcycle Diaries in words and film recreates the journey of two youth across a continent of bad hurt and seeming helplessness. At the end of their trip, they had a map to change this world. Not that long ago during the wars and turbulences of the sixties, a former prisoner shared his bad times and good hopes with the rest of us, Malcolm X Autobiography. Today students are checking out both the book and the film with hopeful eyes.
In a journey closer in time and nearer in turf to us now, Bob Avakian travels a journey from a certain yesterday to a possible tomorrow in From Ike to Mao and Beyond. This diary of hopes and journal of lessons narrates how some youth went from troubling days to challenging actions to sharing dreams. Bob Avakian imagines and knows he is not the only one and he is ready to share dreams, his and ours. His memories are sharp and clear, and hence the lessons he has learned are that much more compelling as maps for those who demand a better world. His shared experiences, with unflinching candor and generous warmth, are his respects for those of strong heart and clear mind, those ready to do the work of getting to the other side of history.
Thus, my friends, I advise you to prepare yourself in the spring for a plentiful summer, by putting aside this tiresome winter by some good words for bad curses, turning the bad into good by our actions.
Dr. Juan Gomez Quinones
Historian and Writer, UCLA
Revolution #042, April 9, 2006, posted at revcom.us
People widely know about—and hate—the cruel Sensenbrenner bill (HR4437) passed by the House of Representatives in December. Pushed by fascist anti-immigrant Tom Tancredo and others, HR4437 would, among other things, immediately criminalize millions of people by declaring it a felony just to be in this country without “proper papers”—and to provide any help to these people. The House bill also calls for further leaps in border militarization, including a 700-mile-long wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, and it refuses to consider any possibility for undocumented immigrants to get legal status.
As we go to press, the Senate is taking up its version of an immigration bill. The focus is on the bill from Republican Senator Specter, chair of the Judiciary Committee, which incorporates a lot of the earlier Kennedy-McCain bill. The Specter bill has some differences with the HR4437—like a provision for a “guest worker” program and what seems like an opening for some undocumented immigrants to eventually get citizenship. But as we'll explain below, this bill is a dangerous trap.
The Specter bill was immediately denounced by Tancredo and his crew in the House for supposedly opening the door to “amnesty” for undocumented immigrants. But the Republican Speaker of the House said he might consider accepting a “guest worker” program, one of the provisions in the Specter bill that those like Tancredo vehemently oppose (and which Bush supports). And Senate Republican leader Bill Frist is pushing his own proposal, essentially a mirror of the House bill. Whatever legislation the Senate agrees on will then be “reconciled” with the House version. The final Congressional bill would “split the difference,” so to speak, between the Senate and House versions—meaning that it will inevitably contain key elements of the Sensenbrenner bill.
The situation is in flux, and the exact features of a bill that will emerge out of all this are still unclear. There are divisions and infighting over the immigration issue within the elite at the top of the system, the imperialist ruling class. These differences have at times been very sharp—one Republican in the House said about the Specter bill that there was a “foul odor” coming out of the Senate, and refused to comment when asked if that applied to Bush as well. But these divisions in the halls of power are NOT over what is in the best interests of immigrants and other workers and oppressed people—this is struggle among different sections of the imperialists over what is in the best strategic interests of their class.
To get into this, let's take a closer look at the Specter bill, which is being widely described as a “compromise” or even a “pro-immigrant” proposal that gives hope to the undocumented and doesn't contain the most draconian features of HR4437.
The first thing to note about the Specter bill is that it starts off—and goes on for pages and pages—discussing an increased build-up of border “security” and stepped-up repressive measures against immigrants. The National Lawyers' Guild notes that this bill “contains many of the same provisions of the enforcement-tilted bill that passed the House.”
Instead of a 700-mile wall, the Specter bill calls for a “virtual fence” along the entire border—with increased use of high-tech police and military equipment and an enlarged Border Patrol force. And it mandates a study on actually building a “system of physical barriers” on the border. Border militarization has led to the deaths of thousands of immigrants in the past decade, and the plans in the Specter bill would make the situation worse.
The bill authorizes the addition of 20 more immigration prisons with capacity to detain at least 10,000 people—including by converting closed military bases. It allows the Department of Homeland Security to keep on renewing the detention of certain immigrants every six months, without limit—basically permitting indefinite detentions. Like HR4437, the Specter bill would have local police act as immigration agents, turning in those without papers to Homeland Security.
These and other provisions for “enforcement” in the Specter bill — the bill that some are describing as “good” for immigrants – would represent a major ratcheting up of the government's repressive machinery on the border as well as in the cities and other areas throughout the U.S.
The Specter bill does contain provisions for “earned legalization”—undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S. could get a temporary visa if they registered with the government and met strict requirements, like proving that they had no criminal records; passing health exams and English tests; paying fines and taxes. Only those who were in the U.S. by January 2004 would qualify. Then, after six years in temporary status—and if they haven't had any problems with the law or long stretches of unemployment—these immigrants would supposedly be able to apply for a “green card” (permanent residency), and perhaps get citizenship years later.
But as the National Lawyers Guild points out, “These extreme provisions [of the Specter bill] would effectively bar millions of people from even the chance to earn legalization.” Aarti Shahani of Families for Freedom explained on the radio program Democracy Now (March 29) that “the current bill has provisions around fraud, for example, so that if you are an undocumented worker ... that admits to committing certain types of fraud to obtain employment, you can’t actually legalize.” Many undocumented immigrants must do things, like using made-up personal information, that could legally be considered criminal “fraud” in order to get jobs. As Shahani points out, “that type of activity, technically, under the letter of this law...would make it so that you're barred from actually gaining legalization.”
Under the “guest worker” sections in the Specter bill, people from outside the U.S. (including 1.5 million agricultural workers) would receive temporary work visas for three years, which can be renewed once. This will in effect create a caste-like system with a separate section of the workers who are under close government watch, with deportation hanging over their heads if they “step out of line.” The bill requires employers to pay the “prevailing wage” to these temporary workers—but there is no guarantee that the workers' rights would be protected if, for example, they take part in union organizing or protest dangerous working conditions. If temporary workers are fired and can't find another job within 45 days, they are required to leave the U.S.—and if they are arrested, they could be deported and barred from re-entering this country. These are only some of the dangerous elements of the bill.
HR4437 would slam the door on any possibility of legalization for the undocumented, including temporary work visas. The Sensenbrenner bill aims to drive millions of immigrants deeper into the shadows, totally vulnerable and living in fear, or even subject to mass deportations and unpunished vigilante violence. In contrast, Specter and others seem to be arguing (to others in the ruling class) that holding out a faint and ultimately fraudulent hope of legalization is needed. They want to stabilize the situation of this section of the workforce on an oppressed basis so that the capitalists are able to more systematically exploit them—and to better enable the state to keep close tabs on people. (The Specter bill, in fact, would require employers to check with the government to ensure that all job applicants, immigrant and non-immigrant, are legally eligible to work in the U.S.)
On the one hand, totally hunted and criminalized; on the other, locked into place in a subordinate status and closely under the controls of the state, and still vulnerable to deportation at the merest hint of resistance. This is NOT the choice that the millions in the streets want or need!
What is needed is a determined and massive insistence from below for an immediate end to the persecution of immigrants (both by the government and by vigilante groups like the Minutemen), a halt to and reversal of the brutal militarization of the border, and full rights for all immigrants.
The following excerpt from the Draft Programme of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, gives a vision of how the situation of immigrants will be radically transformed under socialism, the rule of the proletariat:
Great numbers of immigrants have come to the U.S. from Mexico, Latin America, Asia/Pacific Islands, the Middle East, the Caribbean, and other parts of the world, including many from countries oppressed and plundered by U.S. imperialism. The bourgeoisie considers many of these immigrants—some of whom have a bitter hatred towards a system that has raped their countries—a potential source of instability and upheaval inside the U.S. The proletariat for its part welcomes these immigrants, who strengthen the internationalist character of the revolution here.
Millions of undocumented immigrants live in the shadows of U.S. society without the most basic rights, constantly facing arrest, deportation, and sudden separation from their families. Each year hundreds perish trying to cross the U.S.-Mexican border. Entire groups of immigrants, such as Arabs, are scapegoated and demonized, and non-European immigrants generally are targets of racism.
The proletariat in power will abolish all forms of discrimination against immigrants in jobs, housing, health care, education, etc. No human being will be treated as “illegal,” ending the labels used by the imperialists to degrade people and keep them in super-exploited conditions. The apparatus that terrorized immigrants—la Migra, the police, military border patrols, and paramilitary vigilantes—will be smashed.
The proletarian state will apply to immigrants its overall orientation and policies for achieving real equality, including equality of languages and cultures, and it will encourage and cherish the full participation of immigrants in all aspects of building the new socialist society.
(The Draft Programme of the RCP,USA can be read and downloaded online at revcom.us/margorp/progtoc-e.htm)
Dana Rohrbacher, a Republican Congressman from California, has his own plan for dealing with any labor shortage caused by driving immigrants out of the United States. According to the March 31 New York Times, Rohrbacher said,
“Let the prisoners pick the fruits. We can do it without bringing in millions of foreigners.”
This “Rohrbacher Plan” has been tried before. After the defeat of Reconstruction after the Civil War, Black people in the South were widely arrested and quickly convicted for things like “vagrancy.” They were then forced to work, often on the very plantations that they had slaved on before the Civil War. Don’t think that with more than two million people in prison—the majority of them Black and other oppressed nationalities—that these bloodsuckers won’t try this again.
They’re even telling us they will.
Around the Country
Revolution #042, April 9, 2006, posted at revcom.us
A tide of immigrant resistance has been sweeping across the U.S.—with more than 300,000 bringing downtown Chicago to a standstill, as many as a million marching in Los Angeles, and tens of thousands protesting in cities such as Milwaukee, Phoenix, Atlanta, and others An inspiring part of this struggle has been the walkouts of tens of thousands of high school students - from L.A. and around California, to Arizona, Texas, Nevada, Georgia, New York, and Virginia, where Black and Latino students walked out side by side. In some cases the students have been met with arrests and heavy repression. Below is a report on the walkouts in Los Angeles.
On Monday, March 27, more than 40,000 students walked out in protest of HR4437 from high schools and middle schools throughout the Los Angeles area, including Downtown, South L.A., Watts, West L.A., East L.A., the San Fernando Valley-and also in Orange County, Riverside County, and Ventura County.
Word about the massive student outpouring spread fast, as the students marched through major boulevards and neighborhoods throughout the city. People came out of their homes to offer water and food to the youth. Carloads of people waving flags from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and other Central American countries drove in caravans as people walking by joined in and took the streets for blocks-including Broadway St. in the garment district of Downtown L.A. Two major freeways-Hollywood 101 and Harbor 110-were brought to a halt as hundreds of students blocked three lanes of traffic.
Throughout the day groups of thousands of students streamed into Downtown L.A. to City Hall-inspired by the East L.A. Blowouts in the late 1960s. They chanted “Aquí estamos! Aquí. nos quedamos! No nos vamos!” and “Hell No, We Won’t Go!” when L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa told them to “go back to school,” that their voice had been “registered.” Some students camped out at the lawn in front of City Hall until late in the evening.
Throughout the week many schools were put on lockdown and there has been a higher police presence throughout the whole city-particularly around high schools. Students have been pepper-sprayed, shot with bean bags, hit with batons, handcuffed, and arrested for participating in the walkouts.
A student from Texas who has been joining in the protests said, “I [want to] help my people get out of the trash-filled cities we live in. Look at how poor people are. They have us living in all these projects. With this law they want to criminalize us and they are trying to put us in jail. I was born in Mexico, but I grew up here. If I’m deported back to Mexico then I’m going back to a place that I don’t know and where I’ve never lived. They call us parasites... but we are the ones who make everything. We are human beings.
“I was three months old when my mother crossed the river with me. She carried me across barbed wire at the border, her legs were cut all over... It fills me with joy to see all these people here. I want these people to be inspired. We have to change this world-things can’t continue like this.”
At Monday’s walkout and in walkouts throughout the week a growing number of Black students stepped forward to take a stand against the attacks on immigrants. A Black high school student said, “I’m here to support the people that I’ve lived with. I was practically raised by Latinos. Salvadorians, Mexicans, Guatemalans, Equadorians, Cubans or whatever-they are all my people. I hate that they’re always trying to divide Blacks and Latinos. There should be no divisions...
“I’m here as a Black person to show my support to the Latinos because we are brothers. We live together and we have to fight for the same cause... We need freedom.”
In the face of the police repression and official crackdown, L.A. students continued their defiant walkouts during the week. Sarah, a junior from Montebello High School, told Revolution that “it's scary to think about what they [the fascists] want to do in this country.” But, she said, the student walkouts are “something for the people and by the people. They’re trying to instill fear in us. And imagine if all of us were afraid...this world would be more corrupt, more horrible, and with more hate and greed than there already is. We can’t be afraid of this shit.”
Revolution #042, April 9, 2006, posted at revcom.us
Democratic and Republican politicians alike claim that the borders of this country are “broken” and that this threatens U.S. “national security.” The liberal Democrat Ted Kennedy's immigration bill was officially titled the “Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act.” At the more extreme end of things, fanatic leader of the anti-immigrant movement and Republican Congressman Tom Tancredo tries to fan fear with statements like “[Undocumented immigrants] need to be found before it is too late. They're coming here to kill you, and you, and me, and my grandchildren.” (Quoted in the Boston Globe, 6/12/05)
In post-9/11 America, fascist measures like unrestricted government wiretapping and detention without charges have grown by leaps and bounds, justified in the name of protecting the “our safety” and “our security.” And the same justifications are being used to further intensify the militarization of the border and repressive steps against immigrants. This militarization and repression has real consequences in human lives. As immigrants have been forced to cross through increasingly remote and dangerous areas of the southern border in the past decade, thousands have perished in the deserts, mountains, and rivers.
There are sharp divisions at the top levels of the power structure over how best to protect “national security.” Those who are fucked over by this system—and all those who stand against injustice—can not get pulled into the terms and framework of “protecting national security.” To understand why, you have to first look at what those at the top—from Kennedy to Tancredo—mean when they say “national security.” They don't mean the safety of masses of people in this country. The U.S. imperialist ruling class has a global empire that exploits and oppresses people all over the world, including within the borders of the U.S. And when these oppressors talk of “our national security,” that is nothing more nor less than the military force that is used to fortify and expand this worldwide system of murder and plunder.
These imperialists dominate, exploit, and ruin whole countries—making it impossible for millions of peasant farmers in Mexico and Central America, for example, to live off the land. When these dispossessed make it into the U.S., they are shunted into the most back-breaking and low-paying jobs. The bloodsuckers who profit off of this human misery then turn around and use these very same immigrants as scapegoats, blaming the immigrants for problems created by the capitalist system itself and trying to sow divisions between immigrants and native-born people.
But at the same time, as Bob Avakian points out, “The imperialists see in such immigrants a source of instability and upheaval, a force weakening the internal cohesion of the home base and potentially undermining the power of the U.S. as an international overlord.” In this sense, for the imperialist rulers these immigrants are a potential threat to their “national security”—because they need a stable “homeland” as they defend and expand their global empire. And as part of the overall fascist moves in this country, the rulers are ramping up repressive measures against immigrants—and trying to get native-born people to go along with this by fanning fear about “broken borders” (as well as whipping up racist vigilante movements by openly and aggressively promoting the white, European, English-speaking identity of the American Nation). The masses of people in this country—immigrant and non-immigrant, of all nationalities—have no interest in defending this “national security.”
From the perspective of the proletariat, the immigrants and their inspiring struggle are a great source of strength—and potentially a vital force in the revolutionary struggle to overthrow U.S. imperialism and get this bloody monster off the backs of the people of the world.
Revolution #042, April 9, 2006, posted at revcom.us
The Bush Crimes Commission Campus Tour was launched at University of California, Berkeley on March 23. Three hundred people heard a program titled Speaking the Unspeakable: Is the Bush Administration Guilty of War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity? featuring retired CIA analyst Ray McGovern, internationally-known activist Cindy Sheehan and Revolution correspondent and author Larry Everest.
In October 2005 and January 2006 in New York, the International Commission of Inquiry on Crimes Against Humanity by the Bush Administration presented indictments and heard testimony in five areas—illegal war, torture and detention, destruction of the global environment, assaults on global public health, and the administration’s actions during Hurricane Katrina. Based on rigorous standards and investigation, the Commission found the Bush Administration guilty of crimes against humanity—crimes of such a scale and scope that they shock the conscience.
The tour flows from the Bush Commission's Charter, which calls on it to "frame and fuel a discussion that is urgently needed in the United States: Is the administration of George W. Bush guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity?" Bringing to campuses the Commission's historic verdict and compelling evidence will help in changing the political terrain and the terms of debate. The tour will call on students and faculty to grasp the enormity of the crimes being committed by the Bush administration and to rise to the moral and political challenge this represents.
Taigen Dan Leighton, a faculty member from the Graduate Theological Union who has organized a weekly vigil at UC Berkeley against torture, introduced the program with a quote from former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray. Testifying before the Commission in New York City, Murray said, “I would personally rather die than have anyone tortured to save my life."
The program was MC’d by a UC Berkeley student and activist with World Can’t Wait. Speaking to the crucial importance of addressing the topic, he quoted Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, who said at the Commission hearings, “Our country and our world are tipping—tipping toward permanent war, the end of human rights, and the impoverishment and death of millions. We still have a chance, an opportunity to stop this slide into chaos. But it is up to us. We must not sit with our arms folded. We must be as radical as the reality we are facing. The witnesses you will hear over the next few days are the truth-tellers—the witnesses to the carnage this country and this administration has wrought. This truth challenges us all to act.”
After the program, many people said it was inspiring, and some said it was one of the best programs they had ever been to. The content challenged the participants about what they must do based on the knowledge that their government was committing crimes on this level. Discussion continued after the meeting, as many people stayed around to talk to the panelists and amongst themselves.
This week Revolution is printing excerpts from the Berkeley program.
Larry Everest is a journalist and author of Oil, Power, and Empire: Iraq and the U.S. Global Agenda. He has covered the Middle East and Central Asia for over 20 years for Revolution newspaper and other publications. His talk presented an overview of the five indictments handed down by the Commission.
The title of the event tonight is “Speaking the Unspeakable,” and I think that’s precisely what we have to do: speak the unspeakable—loud, clear, and persistently, because it’s true. This administration is guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity. This was the work we undertook at the International Commission of Inquiry on Crimes Against Humanity by the Bush Administration. We took evidence, heard expert testimony from 44 prominent eyewitnesses, experts, victims—and the evidence was overwhelming.
Our commission was motivated by the moral vision that when such acts—raised to such a level of horror—exist, it is the duty of people, whether in government or out of government, to investigate those acts and determine whether they rise to the level of war crimes and crimes against humanity. This is a duty that people in this country, in particular, have to the people of the world…
And I think it's not an exaggeration to say that the future of global humanity is being held hostage in many ways and on many different fronts. These people have nuclear weapons, they’re tremendously impacting global climate, they’re threatening unending wars, they’re wreaking havoc on populations vulnerable to disease. And they remain hell bent on pushing through with their agenda and continuing on this catastrophic and disastrous path.
This places enormous responsibility on all of us to speak out against it. Questioning, distrust, anger at the Bush administration have certainly grown, but the discussion still remains too muted, too conditional, too soft-spoken, white-washed—that doesn’t capture the real truth of the matter. I really loved Cindy’s last article where she said that we all have to get out of our comfort zone. We have to start speaking the truth.
I’m sure you’ve all followed the discussion in the media on the third anniversary of the U.S.’s invasion of Iraq. It’s struck me how urgent it is to have a conversation not about whether George Bush is incompetent, not about whether he is an idiot, not about whether he is in Halliburton’s back pocket, not about whether he doesn’t have a strategy for victory, but about whether he and his administration have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Did people see the [San Francisco] Chronicle on Sunday? They have this picture of Abu Ghraib and it says, “Judged Only on Ethics Iraq War Gets a C.” I’d agree with that if C was for crimes against humanity. But that’s not what they’re talking about. This is why the debate has to change.
Ray McGovern is a retired CIA analyst. In March 2003, McGovern co-founded Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. On March 3, 2006, he donned a bright Guantanamo-orange jumpsuit and walked through the Rayburn House office building as a "ghost detainee," while 13 anti-torture colleagues did likewise walking slowly through other Senate and House offices. As a symbolic step to dissociate himself from torture, McGovern called on the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and returned the Intelligence Commendation Award medallion awarded him for his 27-year career as a CIA analyst.
We’re talking about torture, people, and this has very little to do with rotten apples on the bottom of the barrel. The rotten apples are at the very top of the barrel. How do we know this? On 9-11 itself, after he made his evening presentation to the American people, the President gathered together with Donald Rumsfeld and with Richard Clarke—we know this from Richard Clarke’s book—and when the subject of international law came up, the President said, “I don’t care what the international lawyers say, we are going to kick some ass.”
Rumsfeld sent Major General Geoffrey Miller down to Guantánamo, and Miller drove home the point that interrogators were being far too lenient with the detainees. They must be treated like dogs, said Miller, and once they realize they are no better than dogs, then you can get information out of them. This, and more specific abuses, Miller explained, were necessary to "prepare the conditions for successful interrogation," a euphemism used over and over again. That's when the abuses went into Guantánamo—the abuses that FBI people reported, that CIA people reported. All sorts of people knew what was going on. And then Geoffrey Miller was sent to Abu Ghraib to “Gitmoize” Abu Ghraib. How do we know that? Because Janis Karpinski [former U.S. commander at Abu Ghraib] testified to that. So this was no accident. The Pentagon-appointed commission headed by Republican loyalist James Schlessinger used another euphemism to describe what happened. The abuses simply "migrated" to Abu Ghraib, you see.
When I saw Porter Goss, the head of the CIA, joining Vice President for Torture Cheney visiting Sen. John McCain to appeal openly that the CIA be exempted from McCain's amendment's prohibition on torture, well, that was too much. Sure, there have been abuses involving torture in the past. But never had I seen a CIA director openly lobby for permission to torture, even if the president signed the McCain amendment into law.
To his credit, McCain rebuffed Cheney and Goss. But, folks, it's still smoke and mirrors. The McCain amendment granted no exemptions, but the president added this "signing statement:"
"The executive branch shall construe [the amendment] in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President...as Commander in Chief."
Translation: I will comply with this law when I want to; I can authorize torture, and nothing in this law is going to stop me. Bottom line? As we sit here, torture continues in our name.
Cindy Sheehan is an internationally known activist whose son, Army Specialist Casey Sheehan, was killed in Iraq. She is a founder of Gold Star Families for Peace.
I think that people have problems with me because I point out to them, and keep in their face, the human cost of this war…It’s going to be two years in a couple of weeks. Everybody told me after Casey was killed that time heals everything. That’s bullshit. Only people who haven’t buried their children say that to me. The pain is always there. The pain never goes away. You just learn how to live with it. That’s the unspeakable part.
And then we have these criminals, who are walking free, who sleep well at night. Who enjoy their meals, who get to go on vacations. And they are not being held accountable for what they’ve done. For what they’ve done to me, for what they’ve done to my family, for what they’ve done to the world.
I wrote after I got out of jail the last time in New York City, there are criminals and there are CRIMINALS, in all capital letters…. I was in the cell with 16 other women who were just struggling to survive in Bushworld, while the war profiteers are stealing money from our communities. The people who I was in prison with thought that breaking the law was their last resort. They did petty theft; they did victimless crimes. The people who are running this country are mass murderers! They are serial killers that have been sanctioned, they think, by the state.
When [Undersecretary of State] Karen Hughes was in Indonesia, a college student called George Bush a terrorist. And you know what Karen Hughes said? “He can’t be a terrorist because he was elected.” You know that’s another piece of bullshit. George Bush says that a terrorist is someone who kills innocent men, women and children. Well, by his own definition, he is a terrorist….
I don’t want any other mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, grandparents to go through what my family has gone through for nothing, for lies. That’s why I do what I do. And really the people of America need to know it’s not just me, it’s not just my family, it’s not just the soldiers or their families that are suffering from this war. Every minute that we allow this to continue is a stain on our souls. It is a stain on America. So we have to do everything humanly possible to stop it.
In concluding his talk Ray McGovern said:
I want to read a quote from Craig Murray, the incredibly courageous British Ambassador to Uzbekistan. We gave him the Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence for 2005 and this is what he said in accepting that award:
“I would like to say something about the advance of evil and how easily it advances. I genuinely at no stage felt I was doing anything either heroic or exceptional. When I came across cases of people being boiled alive, cases of daughters being raped in front of their fathers, cases of torture of children, and the fact that we were receiving intelligence from those torture sessions, it seemed to me axiomatic that anyone brought up in the United States or the United Kingdom would believe their overriding and only duty was to stop it. And, perhaps naively, when I started trying to stop it internally, I actually believed that this must be the work of renegade people at lower levels and that once senior politicians in the UK and US knew what was happening, they would stop it. I was quickly disillusioned. I discovered this part of a wider international policy of the use of torture in the pursuit of the war on terror. It was a terrible moment for me. I discovered that the system and the country I'd served my whole life didn't stand for what I believed it did. And I went to meetings with colleagues of mine. People I had known for over 20 years. Ordinary nice people who were setting down on paper strategies by which what we were doing could be said not to circumvent the UN convention against torture. And I was looking at them thinking, “I know you. I know you. We've drunk together. We've played golf together. You are setting up justification for torture. How did this come about?
“This may sound exaggerated. But it isn't. At that moment I understood how some civil servant ended up writing out the orders for cattle trucks to go to Auschwitz, and felt they were only “doing their job.” And ladies and gentlemen, that is what we face now: the flight toward fascism.”
The U.S. war in Iraq is a illegal, unjust, and immoral—a crime against humanity. The Bush regime saw conquering this ancient land as a key step in unfolding its broader global agenda: "shocking and awing" the world, strengthening the U.S. grip on the Middle East, turning Iraq into a military and political platform for further aggression, gaining tighter control of international energy supplies, controlling and reshaping the entire arc from North Africa to Central Asia, and strengthening the U.S. hand against rivals—current and future. Bush justified the war with calculated lies about non-existent weapons of mass destruction and Iraq's ties to 9/11. Now-released memos of pre-war discussions between Bush and British Premier Tony Blair document that the U.S. intended to invade Iraq, whether or not WMD's were found. Since the invasion the war crimes have continued: torture, rape, and murder of Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib and other U.S. prisons around Iraq; use of illegal chemical weapons like white phosphorus which melts human flesh; leveling of whole neighborhoods; and the deaths of more than 100,000 Iraqi people. And the crimes continue.
To help with the campus tour or to bring the tour to your campus, contact the Bush Crimes Commission at 212.941.8086 or by email at email@example.com. Available speakers (schedule permitting) include Janis Karpinski, former brigadier general and commander of Abu Ghraib prison; Craig Murray, former UK Ambassador; Scott Ritter, ex-UN weapons inspector; Ray McGovern, former CIA analyst; Ann Wright, former U.S. ambassador; Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, and many others speaking on all five indictments (war, torture, global warming, global health, Hurricane Katrina) brought before the commission.
Testimony from the International Commission of Inquiry on Crimes Against Humanity by the Bush Administration is available online at bushcommission.org.
Revolution #042, April 9, 2006, posted at revcom.us
Editor's note: Revolution is serializing the speech "Socialism Is Much Better Than Capitalism, and Communism Will Be A Far Better World" by Raymond Lotta.
Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: Communism and Socialism
Part 3: The Bolsheviks Lead a Revolution That Shakes the World
Part 4: The Soviet Experiment: The Social Revolution Ushered in by Proletarian Power
Part 5: The Soviet Experiment: Building the World's First Socialist Economy
Part 6: The Soviet Experiment: World War 2 and Its Aftermath
Part 7: Mao's Breakthrough — The Revolution Comes to Power
Part 8: Mao's Advance — Breaking with the Soviet Model
Part 9: The Great Leap Forward
Part 10: The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China - Not Fanatical Purge, But the Socialist Road vs. the Capitalist Road
Part 11: Mao on the Contradictions of Socialist Society
Part 12: The Cultural Revolution in China, A Seismic Eruption of Liberation
Lotta is on a national speaking tour as part of the Set the Record Straight project. Information on upcoming speaking dates and related materials are available at www. thisiscommunism.org.
One of the major distortions about the Cultural Revolution is that Mao masterminded and manipulated whatever happened. Mao is said to be responsible for every act and struggle that took place. Mao is held responsible for any and all cases of violence. There is a notion that everything issued from a single locus of power and decision-making—from Mao.
Different class and social forces were involved in the Cultural Revolution. There were the genuine Maoists in the party and mass organizations. There were anti-Mao groupings within the party who organized students, workers and peasants. And there were conservative military forces, ultra-left groupings, mass organizations that divided into rebel and conservatives camps, criminal elements, and others. Different social interests and motivations were in play. Some people used the Cultural Revolution to settle personal grievances. Often, the enemies of Mao within the Party who were coming under political attack would resort to the tactic of pretending to uphold Mao and incite factionalism and violence in the name of the Cultural Revolution. They would do this in order to deflect the struggle away from them and to discredit the revolutionary movement. The reality was that the Cultural Revolution was a complicated struggle over which class would rule society: the proletariat, which in alliance with its allies who make up the great majority of society continues the revolution to transform society, or a new bourgeois class.
Yet through the course of this struggle, Mao and the revolutionary leadership were able to lead it in a certain direction: focusing the political struggle against the top capitalist roaders, further revolutionizing society, and empowering the masses.
Think about what was happening. Mao was unleashing hundreds of millions to wrangle and debate over the direction of society, and to take responsibility for the fate of society. Nothing like this has ever happened before in history. In the United States and other bourgeois democracies, political life is defined by voting. Once every four years you participate in a ritual that reinforces the status quo and that leaves you passive. Here in revolutionary China, there was incredible ferment and upheaval--which is a great thing in society. And in this situation things went in all kinds of directions. You had Red Guards that got carried away in their zeal to rid society of bourgeois influences and committed excesses. In this atmosphere, Mao and the revolutionary leaders had to lead the masses to sort things out, to sum up lessons and methods of struggle, and to consolidate gains.
The class struggle in society—whether it would continue on the socialist road, or return to capitalism--was concentrated at the top reaches of the party and the state. In dealing with this, Mao was not trying to grab power for himself, as we are often told. He could have just had all his opponents arrested. But, as I mentioned earlier, he didn’t do that-- because that would not have solved the problem of preventing the revolution from being reversed. Mao was willing to risk everything by relying on and politically mobilizing the masses to take up the big questions confronting society. Mao pointed out that the Cultural Revolution was a struggle to overthrow capitalist roaders. But at a deeper level, the Cultural Revolution involved the question of world outlook, of enabling the masses to consciously understand and change the world and themselves.
The Cultural Revolution saw great debate and questioning. There were political demonstrations, protest rallies, marches, and mass political meetings. Small newspapers were published. In Beijing alone, there were over 900 newspapers. Countless mimeographed broadsheets were handed out. Materials and facilities for these activities were made available free, including paper, ink, brushes, posters, printing presses, halls for meetings, and public address and sound systems.
The Red Guards helped spread the movement to the proletariat. And as the Cultural Revolution took hold among the workers, it took a new turn. In 1967-68, 40 million workers engaged in intense and complicated mass struggles and upheavals to seize power from entrenched municipal party and city administrations that were hotbeds of conservatism. Through experimentation, debate, and summation, and with Maoist leadership, the masses forged new organs of proletarian political power.
In its scope and intensity, the Cultural Revolution has no parallel in human history. The routine of daily life was blown wide open. People from every social milieu engaged in broad debate.
Peasants were discussing the ways ancient and reactionary Confucian values still influenced their lives. Workers in factories in Shanghai were experimenting with new forms of participatory management.
Nothing and nobody was above criticism. Political, administrative and educational authorities who had become divorced from the people were called to account. No longer could officials be tucked away in offices just barking out instructions. They had to go down and be part of the situation of the workers and peasants.
The Cultural Revolution stirred deep ideological self-examination. Mao said there could be no revolution if it doesn't transform customs, habits, and ways of thinking. Revolution has to bring forward a new ethos, a new way in which people relate to each other. "Serve the people" was a slogan popularized during the Cultural Revolution. This wasn't the same as the bourgeois idea of the charitable acts of the well-off toward the poor. It is about serving the needs of the great majority of society and the cause of communism worldwide. It is about challenging the "me-first" mind-set of capitalism.
What Mao was emphasizing is that you can have a socialist economy—but if you are not promoting the spirit of working for the greater social good, then socialist ownership will be a hollow shell.
I can't emphasize enough the impact the Cultural Revolution had on people outside of China. This was a time of radical and revolutionary upsurge throughout the world. It was a time when the Soviet Union had become a force utterly opposed to proletarian revolution. And here Mao was bringing forth a vision of all-the-way communist revolution.
I can speak personally about the effect the Red Guards had on me as a young high school and college rebel. I wanted to be like them. I also remember how tremendously inspiring it was when Mao issued his famous letter in support of the Black masses who rose up in the U.S. in rebellion in April 1968 after Martin Luther King was assassinated. Maoist China was not only supporting revolution throughout the world, but was making revolution again within its own society. For me it was incredible. And it still is…
NEXT: The Cultural Revolution’s Accomplishments in Education and Culture
Revolution #042, April 9, 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.
From a Reader:
In light of the major struggles going on around immigrants, I'd like to recommend two films from a few years ago, now available on DVD, which are very timely and relevant.
The first is Life and Debt by Stephanie Black, which came out in 2001. This documentary movie gives powerful and living examples of the effects of globalization and imperialism on the people of Jamaica. It's told very creatively, juxtaposing images of tourists with the realities of Free Trade Zones and other enforced structural adjustments on the Jamaican people. This film provides a deepened understanding of how an imperialist country like the U.S., with its banks and financial institutions, impoverish and ruin countries like Jamaica.
The second film is Dirty Pretty Things, directed by Stephen Frears, which came out in 2002. This movie takes place in London and tells the story of a number of “illegal” immigrants from around the world whose lives intersect, revealing to what lengths they are pushed for survival. The main characters are Okwe (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a one-time Nigerian doctor who must now drive a cab by day and work at a hotel front desk by night, and Senay (Audrey Tautou), a Turkish immigrant working in a garment sweatshop. The film tells a profoundly moving yet disturbing tale, sharply illustrating the shit that immigrants are forced to deal with.