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If You Want To See A Better World. . .
Revolution #044, April 23, 2006, posted at revcom.us
We are proud and happy to announce to our readers that this Monday, April 17, we will begin posting an audio recording of Bob Avakian reading his memoir— From Ike to Mao… and Beyond —on our website, REVCOM.US. This recording will also be available on BOBAVAKIAN.NET. This week we will be posting Chapters 1 and 2, and we will post a new chapter every Monday, for the next four weeks after this.
There is a feel for the book, and the author, that comes through in a special way in these recordings. You get the funny stories and the poignant ones… the moments both life-defining and quirky… the passages that reflect (and reflect on) history and the deeply personal ones and the ones that combine the two, all in Bob Avakian’s own voice. There’s a whole universe of people today who are restlessly questioning the present and agonizing over the future, grappling with what kind of life they should live in these times; this voice, this way of looking at things, and this story—this unique and irreplaceable leader—need to be circulating all through that universe and connecting to a huge range of people in a whole host of ways. The new audio recording is a big new doorway into the book for many of the people in that universe, and a whole different dimension for people who’ve already gotten into it.
These recordings can and should be aired on radio shows, linked to other sites on the internet, e-mailed to friends far and wide, played in classrooms, used as parts of programs in bookstores, played on boom boxes in parks and barber shops and projects, made a part of literacy and ESL classes, and so on. They should be downloaded onto CDs and passed along. There should be a flowering of this in these next weeks that goes along with a concerted effort to get this extraordinary—and extraordinarily important—book way way out there.
Who is this for? To paraphrase the jacket of the memoir, it’s for people who think about the past or urgently care about the future… who want to hear a unique voice of utter realism and deep humanity… and who dare to have their assumptions challenged and their stereotypes overturned. And different people have responded in different ways to this book—from responding to it as a gripping story of personal transformation in a time of political upheaval, to finding it a spur (in one reviewer’s words) to “rethink the unthinkable”—to look at communism in a new light, off of Bob Avakian’s re-envisioning of it.
We’ll be printing excerpts of the chapters as they go up on the web in each of our next four issues. This issue features sections of Chapter One and Two, “Mom and Dad” and “One Nation Under God—a ’50s Boyhood.” Our special May 1 issue will feature a selection from “The World Begins to Open.” The May 14, May 21, and May 28 issues will carry excerpts respectively from “High School,” “Life Interrupted,” and “‘Your Sons and Your Daughters’”—which takes the reader up through 1965.
Revolution #044, April 23, 2006, posted at revcom.us
Revolution is publishing a series of excerpts from Bob Avakian's memoir — as audio recordings of Bob Avakian reading from the book are made available online. (See announcement) This week we feature sections from Chapter One and Chaper Two.
Now, my parents weren’t just together for over sixty years, they were extremely fond of each other the whole time. This was something that I always recognized and appreciated, and in particular with my mom I always recognized and appreciated her compassion and generosity and self-sacrificing qualities. But growing up as a boy in the ’40s and ’50s, in the more middle class stratum that I was from, in a lot of ways I kind of took my mother for granted. You know, she was always there, she was always supportive, she was always helpful, she was always so compassionate and sympathetic, and she was always sacrificing for other people in the family or for other people beyond the family. But as an adult I actually learned a lot of things about my mother, and learned to appreciate her much more fully, than I did as a kid. For instance, when she was still pretty young, back in the 1930s, she drove her family across the country at one point, which was not that common for a woman to do then. Another time, when she was teaching high school, there was one student there who needed to get certain credits for college—in particular she needed to take Latin, but there was no Latin class there. So, just for this girl’s benefit, my mom arranged to teach Latin. But even more than those incidents, I’ve come to see how I’ve taken many of her values and made them my own.
Also, my mother had a great love of the outdoors that she’d gotten from her family, in particular her father. She liked taking us to the mountains and out into nature, to all these beautiful places that I learned to love. One time, my younger sister Mary-Lou and myself and my parents had gone up into the mountains and on our way back home, we had to go through the little, dreary town of Merced, just a little ways from Fresno. It was getting to be about lunchtime, and Merced was about an hour away, and my mother was very determined that we were going to eat in the beautiful setting of the mountains. But the rest of us wanted to have ice cream or something, down in Merced. Finally after a long discussion we decided to have a vote, and my father ended up voting with us two kids to eat in Merced. This infuriated my mom and, looking back on it, with good reason. Of course, she had the right stand, yet she -didn’t win out. But in order to try to win, at one point, when we said we were ready to vote on it, she said: “Okay, let’s have a vote now—who wants to eat lunch up in the mountains by a beautiful rippling stream”—she said this in a very lilting and appealing voice—“and,” she continued, “who wants to eat in hot old Merced!” She said the latter with such disdain that you would’ve thought we were going to be eating in a garbage dump.
Unfortunately, even her way of stacking the argument didn’t lead to her winning out in that case—although it did become a sort of family metaphor for indicating a strong preference while posing as neutral. She was completely right, of course, and now I would have no hesitation to side with her if she were here. But, that was my mom. It shows both her determination and her love for nature.
I took that in from her and it’s been with me ever since. My dad grew up on a farm, and later on he very much loved a home that my parents had in the Santa Cruz mountains, but as far as roughing it, that wasn’t really his thing so much. As I said, my dad grew up in very modest circumstances, so it wasn’t that he was spoiled. But “roughing it in nature” wasn’t his idea of an ideal vacation the way it was for my mom. She often prevailed in that, for which I was very glad.
My parents met in Berkeley. My mom was a student at Cal, which was also somewhat unusual for a woman at that time, and then because of the Depression and because my dad was still in law school, they couldn’t afford to get married. So they were engaged for three years before they got married. And during that time, after she graduated from Cal and after a year of looking for work, my mom got a job teaching school in a small town a couple of hours from Berkeley—she taught high school there for two years. She could not say that she was engaged while she was teaching, because then they would think she would leave once she was married and would fire her. So she had to hide the fact that she was engaged, and a number of the guys who were teaching at the school were trying to ask her out. It was a very awkward thing. But after a couple of years, when my dad finished law school, my mom and dad got married.
While my parents were from different backgrounds, neither of their families resisted their marriage. Despite a lot of insularity among the Armenian relatives, my father’s parents felt the important thing was what kind of person you marry, not whether they were an Armenian. My mother was pretty readily accepted both because of the attitude of my father’s parents, but also because she was a very likeable person. And my mother learned how to cook some of the Armenian foods, and picked up some of the other cultural things. Beyond that, my father would not have put up with any crap! So the combination of all that meant that she got accepted pretty quickly. I’m not aware of friction from my mother’s parents toward my dad. They were nice people generally, although they too were pretty conservative in a lot of ways, and also, to be honest, my father, having graduated from law school, was someone who had a certain amount of stature when my parents got married.
Despite the fairly conservative atmosphere in which she was raised, my mother was very far from being narrow and exclusive in how she related to people. If she came in contact with you, unless you did something to really turn her off or make her think that you were a bad person, she would welcome and embrace you. And that would last through a lifetime. Besides things like the Sunday “sacrifice night” meal, my parents, mostly on my mother’s initiative, would do other “Christian charity” things, like in that Jack Nicholson movie, About Schmidt, where he “adopts” a kid from Africa and sends money. But they not only paid a certain amount of money, they took an active interest—they corresponded, they actually tried to go and visit some of the kids or even the people as grown-ups with whom they had had this kind of relationship. My mother had a very big heart and very big arms, if you want to put it that way. She embraced a lot of people in her lifetime. You really had to do something to get her not to like you. She was not the kind of person who would reject people out of hand or for superficial reasons.
I remember when I was about four or five years old and somehow from the kids that I was playing with, I’d picked up this racist variation on a nursery rhyme, so I was saying, “eeny, meeny, miny moe, catch a nigger by the toe.” I didn’t even know what “nigger” meant, I’d just heard other kids saying this. And she stopped me and said, “You know, that’s not very nice, that’s not a nice word.” And she explained to me further, the way you could to a four- or five-year-old, why that wasn’t a good thing to say. That’s one of those things that stayed with me. I’m not sure exactly what the influences on my mom were in that way. But I do remember that very dramatically. It’s one of those things that even as a kid makes you stop in your tracks. She didn’t come down on me in a heavy way, she just calmly explained to me that this was not a nice thing to say, and why it wasn’t a good thing to say. That was very typical of my mother and it obviously made a lasting impression on me.
One thing I learned from my mother is to look at people all-sidedly, to see their different qualities and not just dismiss them because of certain negative or superficial qualities. And I also learned from my -mother what kind of person to be yourself—to try to be giving and outgoing and compassionate and generous, and not narrow and petty. I think that’s one of the main influences my mother had on me.
I had a sort of typical American boyhood for the 1950s—a lot of sports, a lot of good times (and bad) with my sisters, and a lot of cutting up in school. But that doesn’t mean it was idyllic or somehow cut off from the world: there was the pervasive gender conditioning and there were ways in which the big issues of the “grownup world”—segregation, McCarthyism and conformism—were expressing themselves even in my boyhood.
We moved to Berkeley when I was three, and I have a few very sharp memories and some impressions from those days. I remember when I was told there was no Santa Claus, when I was five years old. We used to have Christmas presents on Christmas eve, and my father or one of my uncles would dress up as Santa Claus. After you get to be a little bit more of a thinking person, you realize that there’s always someone missing every Christmas eve when you’re passing out presents. So this Christmas eve, after “Santa” came and we passed around and opened up our presents, as I was going to bed my parents came into my room and told me, “I guess you’ve already figured this out, but you know there isn’t really a Santa Claus.” And I said, “yeah, I kind of figured that out.” I remember that this led to some tension with some of the other kids in kindergarten because, of course, when you’re a kid that age, you may not have that much awareness of or respect for how other kids’ families are handling this. So you just start saying, “oh there’s no Santa Claus,” but some of the kids still believed there was.
To give you a sense of the kind of little kid I was, one time I got the idea that instead of going to school it would be fun to go off and do something else, and another kid and I just completely disappeared and never showed up for school. My parents were panicking, and in particular my mom was trying to find me, and eventually they found us somewhere—we just thought it would be fun to go off and do something else that day. Another time, some teenager in the area was trying to get me to jump out of a second-story window, promising to catch me. I was just about ready to do it, but my mother came along and just caught it in the nick of time—she stopped me just as I was swinging my legs over the window sill. She was furious. I remember little things like that, crazy things that happen but you somehow survive—or usually people survive them.
Sports has been a big part of my life since I was very, very young. I think I started playing football and basketball and baseball when I was about five. True to his word when he had polio, my dad took me out and taught me how to play all these things. It was a very important part of his life: he loved sports, and he wanted me in particular to take this up—there was a whole thing about being the boy in the family at that time, frankly. It’s not like my sisters were explicitly excluded from this, but this was more of a thing with me, being the boy.
My dad started taking me to Cal football games and basketball games from the time I was about four or five years old. I remember every year there’d be a parade through downtown Berkeley before the start of the football season, and this was one of the highlights of my year. The parade made it almost tolerable to have to go back to school. Our elementary school was small, but we did have organized teams in baseball, basketball and football. We played other schools and had city champion-ships; we even had a young kids’ team for first and second graders, and I played on that when I was six and seven.
Whenever he could take off from work, my dad would always come to my games from the time I was really little. You’d always see him with his little eight-millimeter camera taking pictures on the sidelines. When I got a little older and I’d throw a pass that was a pretty long pass for a fifth or sixth grader, you’d see my dad pacing down the sidelines trying to measure how many yards long the pass was. He’d say, “33 yards, that was a 33 yard pass for a touchdown.” So he gave me a lot of encouragement. My dad had this friend—I think he was a lawyer who worked with him as a government lawyer when we were back in D.C.—and my dad used to write to him all the time in these deliberately exaggerated terms, bragging about my sports exploits. He’d write about it as though it were professional teams playing, sort of in a self-consciously exaggerated way, and then his friend would write back.
In her own way, my mom also shared in my enthusiasm for sports, but my dad in particular was just full of passion for it, and he had a lot of pride in whatever I was doing. But it wasn’t that sort of disgusting thing where you put pressure on your kid and you have no appreciation for other kids. He wouldn’t yell at me when things didn’t go well, and when we lost the city elementary school championship game in football, my parents consoled me, they didn’t act like I’d let them down. It was never that kind of thing.
I just loved sports, and whenever I got a chance I tried to play—I didn’t care if the other kids playing were a lot older than me. So, from a very early age, around five or so, I started hanging around kids who were older, playing sports—even young teenagers, or ten- or eleven-year-old guys. And, of course, one of the big things when you get into sports, in this kind of society, is that there’s this whole macho element to it, and one part of that is you swear a lot. So, one day, we were just playing catch with the family, and I think I dropped a ball or something, and I said “Oh, shit.” Now my parents came from the kind of a background where you didn’t say things like that, especially in public. They didn’t get too angry, but they told me that what I had said wasn’t a very good thing to say and I shouldn’t do that. So after a little while I looked up at them and said, “Well, okay then, but is it all right to say ‘hubba hubba’?”—which was another thing I’d heard hanging around the older kids playing sports.
So, as a young boy, I was just football, basketball, baseball all year around: from September until the end of November it was football; then from December until the spring it was basketball; then in the spring and through the summer it was baseball. My life was kind of seasonal in that way, and I loved all those sports in their turn, in their season.
When I was six we moved into a new house and it was about equidistant between two schools that were in the Berkeley hills. One of them was called Cragmont and the other one was called Oxford. I remember my parents telling me: “You can go to either school you want. We’ll let you choose.” I said “Okay, but I want to look at them.” So, my dad drove me around and we looked at both schools, and I picked Oxford because, when we drove by it, I could see the basketball courts on the playground.
I was lucky enough to have a good coach when I was coming up. He was a student at Cal and took care of the playground in summer and on the weekends and after school. But he was also the coach of our teams. I remember him fairly fondly—he was a nice guy, not like a military drill sergeant. To give you the contrast between him and some of what you often see, we had an incident when I was in fourth grade where we were behind by a couple of points in a football game, and on the last play of the game, I threw a pass for a touchdown and we won the game. Or so we thought. Nobody had showed up to referee the game, so the coach of the other team was refereeing, and his own team was offsides on this play. He called offside on them, and then he came running up to the kid who was the captain of our team for that day, and said, “They were offside, you wanna take it? you wanna take it?” And the poor kid got confused, not knowing what “it” was. He was thinking this coach/ref was talking about the touchdown, so he said “Okay, we’ll take it,” and then this coach/ref insisted that “it” meant the offside penalty, so we were forced to run the play over again. We ran the play again, I threw the pass again, but this time it was incomplete and we lost the game. That coach/referee should not have put that kind of pressure on an eleven-year-old kid, he should not have tricked him in that way. There should not have been that kind of atmosphere, where winning was that important.
Our coach was not like that—he was actually a fairly decent guy as I remember, and he didn’t make us feel like we’d failed the universe, or him, if we didn’t win a game, or even a championship game.
But from the time I was nine or ten I was pretty regularly playing sports with teenage kids, and they inculcated in me the idea that you had to win, you had to win, you had to win—and that losing was a disgrace. They had had this drummed into them, and it’s not so much that they sat me down and said, “this is the way it is,” but it just kind of rubbed off on me, along with a lot of macho stuff and the bullshit that boys in general absorb in this kind of culture. It was generally very pronounced in the ’50s, but especially boys who were deeply into sports got a heavy dose of this. Those are the kinds of things that more came from hanging around with older kids playing sports—that was kind of the negative side of it. There were a lot of positive things that came out of it because of the particular times and because of the opportunities that it presented to have a lot of experience with kids from completely different backgrounds and situations, particularly Black kids. That was very positive. At the same time, there was the negative side—the sort of macho, militaristic, win-at-any-cost kind of stuff. But I didn’t get that from my own coach in grammar school, and I didn’t get it from my parents.
Overall I got along well with both of my sisters. But, it was kind of a classical situation where my sisters had to do things like iron clothes—they even had to iron my clothes. When I got into high school I had friends who were from poorer backgrounds who ironed their own clothes. But my sisters had to do all the stuff like ironing the clothes, even my clothes—there were all those “domestic” things they had to do, while I didn’t have to do much of that—and generally I didn’t have to do as many “chores” as they did.
I can even remember—at one time I had forgotten this, but my younger sister reminded me of it—that when I got to be driving age and got my license, my parents would let me use one of their two cars, and I would drive all over, but when Mary-Lou came along later and wanted to use the car, my attitude at that time was: “What do you need the car for? You’re a girl, I need the car.” So there was tension that resulted not just from being siblings, but also from the sort of gender socialization and male domination which I just grew up with—even though I loved my sister, I just assumed that driving the car is what a guy does. A girl gets a guy to drive her around in a car, girls don’t drive cars. That’s how I saw it then.
But even earlier, there was tension just because I was always kind of a prankster. For example, my father would quite often at dinnertime say, “okay gang” and then start telling us about the latest case he was involved in as a lawyer. And so we got a lot of that training. All of us got it, but one of the ways in which I used it—because, again, I was always sort of a prankster—was, just for the nasty fun of it, I’d get Mary-Lou, who had her favorite toys, to sign contracts that would turn over these toys and the ownership of these toys to me. Not because I wanted them, but just to trick her. She would naively sign these contracts, trusting me, and then I would say, “okay now, give me this toy or that toy.” She’d say, “no, that’s my toy”; and I’d reply, “yeah, but you just signed it over to me.” Then she’d go running, crying to my dad who would then come down and look at the contract and invalidate it as having been achieved under fraudulent circumstances! Now Mary-Lou and I were very close in a lot of ways, so I don’t want to give a one-sided impression, but these were pranks I liked to play, and then my dad would have to come down and invalidate them. And all my hard-earned trickery would be undone.
We used to play around the house together a lot. From the time I was about nine until into high school, I had this recurring “Sunday-night sickness.” That is, when Sunday nights came around, I would not want to go to school the next day, so I would start calculatingly coughing about eight o’clock at night on Sunday; and after I went to bed, I’d wake myself up and have these “coughing spells” in the middle of the night. Then I’d wake up again at five or six in the morning and really start coughing, and after a little while my mother or my father would come and say, “Oh, you’ve been coughing all night,” and I’d answer, “Yeah, I really don’t feel well, I think I’m sick.” Then there would be this little dialogue: “Well, do you think you’re well enough to go to school?” “All you care about is whether I go to school or not—you don’t care about whether I’m sick.” So then I would get to stay home.
When my younger sister got a little older, I’d try to get her to do the same thing, and sometimes she would, and we had all kinds of games. We had a rollaway bed on wheels, and I used to tie a rope to the rollaway bed and tie the other end to a door handle, and we could pull ourselves around, and get rides on it and things like that. Or we’d make a fort, using blankets, bed covers. I also remember when I was about six, I guess, the big star football player at Cal was a guy named Jackie Jensen, so my dad and I were always playing catch and talking about Jackie Jensen. I remember Mary-Lou, she was just three, picked up a football and ran around the backyard saying “me Jackie Jensen, me Jackie Jensen,” because she was trying to get in on things too, she didn’t want to be left out.
My older sister Marjorie would be in charge of us when my parents would go out sometimes. So then there would be conflict between my older sister and the two others of us, and we’d get into a lot of fracases. But, while I’m talking about a lot of the conflicts we had, we were also really good friends. We would confide in each other a lot, the way kids do, and conspire against our parents, or complain about our parents, about what they wouldn’t let us do, or what they made us do. I remember one time my parents went on a trip for a week and they left us in the charge of this college student who was a friend of the family’s. He, of course, didn’t know anything about how to raise kids anyway, and he particularly didn’t know how to deal with us. And so we had all these grievances that had accumulated against this guy, who we thought was a tyrant. We would get together and conspire against him, and try to give him a hard time because we thought he was just absolutely unbearable. Of course, he was actually in an impossible position. But I remember we’d do a lot of conspiring together like that, or just getting together and talking about things, the way kids do.
So I was actually very close to my sisters. There was the usual tension between siblings, and then there was the tension that came from the larger societal roles that expressed themselves within our family. But within all that, we were still very good friends and very close.
Still, the gender conditioning went on from an early age and was pervasive. I would interact with girls in school—sometimes maybe we’d work on projects together—but as far as things you would do outside of school, at recess, or during your “own time,” the girls pretty much played with the girls and the boys with the boys. There were the usual grammar school flirtations that went on, but friendships were not really developed that much across gender lines.
With my sisters, it was again a contradictory thing—I really loved my sisters a lot, we were very close in a lot of ways, and I did some things with them. In some ways, I was the good big brother, and in some ways I was the jerk big brother—or little brother, depending on which sister it was. But they would go to dance rather than sports, or they were Girl Scouts, or Campfire Girls, when I was in the Cub Scouts (I didn’t go on to join the Boy Scouts—because it took too much time away from sports!). We were in different worlds a lot. When we got older, when we started really getting interested in the opposite sex, we’d talk about that with each other and get advice. So it was kind of contradictory like that. Our worlds overlapped, especially in the family context, but they were also very different.
And, again, this took place in a whole societal context. For instance, there were all kinds of ads on TV at that point and, in retrospect, you see that in addition to the products, they were selling ideology, too. You had Lorraine Day, for instance, who was a spokesperson for Amana, which is a religious group that financed themselves through making household appliances. Lorraine Day was like an institution herself. She’d demonstrate a refrigerator and show you what a great freezer compartment it had, and so on. The Lorraine Day thing was directed toward women as housewives, all the latest appliances that they needed to have.
Although my mother was cast somewhat in the role of the classical wife and mother at that time, there was a lot more to her than that. She went back to teaching when we kids got a little older. She did a lot of substitute teaching, and sometimes her assignments turned into long term substitute teaching. A lot of the dinner table conversation was dominated by my father talking about his legal cases, but she would join in that and she would also talk about other things, and not just “waxy build-up on the floor.”
Revolution #044, April 23, 2006, posted at revcom.us
Over the last five weeks, millions of immigrants and their allies have filled the streets. They are demanding that undocumented immigrants be treated like human beings with the same rights as people who are citizens and that all the repressive measures at the border and within the country be stopped. On April 10, I attended the massive demonstration of up to 500,000 people in Washington, DC. On that day and the preceding two days, millions demonstrated. This really got me to thinking about which way forward for this movement.
Within this historic and truly earthshaking movement, two very different roads are taking shape. One would lead to further unleashing the immigrants, and many others, to fight for their just demands by relying on their own struggle. The other road would demobilize and deflate this growing movement by telling people to rely on the very politicians who are putting forward these horribly repressive bills in Congress. A big part of this dead-end road is telling people to wrap themselves in the U.S. flag and proclaim their love for the U.S., in the name of appealing to “mainstream America” and not offending them. This is having a big and very negative effect.
Let’s get some things straight. There is no “immigration problem” or “border problem.” The real problem is that immigrants are being persecuted by the U.S. government and their storm troopers like the Minutemen just because of where they were born, the language that they speak, and the color of their skin. All of the bills now in Congress are bad, from the Sensenbrenner bill to the McCain-Kennedy bill. (See “Update on the Immigration Bills: They're All No Good” in Revolution #43, online at revcom.us) They all call for even heavier militarization of the border, which has resulted in the deaths of over 4,000 immigrants over the last ten years. Some in the immigrant rights movement back the Specter bill. It, like several others, greatly expands the grounds for mandatory detention and deportation, legalizes indefinite detention for the first time, massively expands detention capacity, and greatly expands the number of people who are barred from ever obtaining legal status.
Others are praising the McCain-Kennedy bill which, like the Specter bill and others, would create an apartheid-like system where millions could obtain temporary work permits, without any guarantee that they can stay here permanently and have the same rights as citizens. All of these bills are worse than doing nothing! They will make life much more horrible for immigrants. With “friends” like these, who needs enemies?
Some sections of the movement are arguing that we should support bills like Specter because they at least have some promise of legalization for undocumented immigrants, or because they are a lesser evil compared to Sensenbrenner. No. What these bills do is sucker people into going along with dividing up immigrants into different categories and with establishing much more repressive laws for immigrants.
People are being told that if they wrap themselves in the U.S. flag and proclaim their allegiance to the U.S. (and stop waving the flags of the countries they come from), in order to not offend “mainstream America,” then “mainstream America” will realize that immigrants are not a threat and come to their support. The fatally mistaken assumption is that fundamental social change is achieved by appealing to the “mainstream.” But the struggle for civil rights for Black people and the movement against the Vietnam War advanced because of a massive movement of millions in the street that challenged the prejudices and sensibilities of large sections of people in America—and won them over. Today there are millions of non-immigrant people who hate the mistreatment of immigrants, are inspired by this outpouring, and can be won more actively to the side of the immigrants.
These calls for the movement to wrap itself in the U.S. flag and get behind one bill or another are really a call to channel the struggle into a framework acceptable to sections of the ruling class represented by Kennedy, McCain, Specter, and even Bush. But let's learn from history. In World War 2, 120,000 Japanese Americans and Japanese immigrants were rounded up and put in concentration camps despite widespread proclamations by leaders of these communities that their people were loyal Americans. Or look at recent history. Before 9/11, many Muslim, Arab, and South Asian organizations endorsed Bush for president and proclaimed their patriotism. That did not prevent the government from rounding up and secretly jailing thousands of these immigrants and deporting thousands after 9/11.
The rulers of this country do not want a movement of millions of immigrants in the streets demanding and fighting for equality and dignity. Even though there are some sharp differences among them in how exactly to do this, they all want the cheap labor of immigrants in a way that is much more under their control and a border that is even more militarized and repressive. And we are supposed to put our faith in these people? No!
We need a movement that is determined to fight for what people actually want and need. Then let all these politicians respond to that. Look. The reason that there is a debate across the country on immigration now, and that so far the trajectory of making the Sensenbrenner bill the law of the land has been derailed, is because millions of immigrants and their supporters have been in the streets and hundreds of thousands of students have walked out of school! We need to continue breaking out of the political framework of what is acceptable to official America and go forward with a new framework based on fighting for the just demands of the people.
Brownshirts on Campus with Deep Connections to Bush
Revolution #044, April 23, 2006, posted at revcom.us
I reviewed David Horowitz's “The Professors—The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America” in Revolution #42. In reading that book, it was striking, and ominous, to put together a picture of the kinds of discussion, research, dialog, and debate that would be banned—not just from classrooms, but campuses—should Horowitz's agenda be adopted. Among the kinds of statements that Horowitz attacks in his book as unacceptable are basic truths about the genocidal impact of Columbus and the European settlers on the Americas, and the actual history and impact of the enslavement of Black people (Horowitz claims “Black people owe (a debt) to America” for slavery!). If the criteria in “The Professors...” for defining (and outlawing) “dangerous” thought were applied, any substantial discussion of the causes and effects of the war on Iraq, of the nature and impact of capitalist globalization, or of the rampant use of torture and denial of basic rights by the Bush regime would also be out of order in academia. (See “ ‘The Professors…’ David Horowitz and the New Brownshirts,” Revolution #42, available at revcom.us.)
Revolution received many thoughtful responses to this review, including accounts of being harassed, hounded, and fired. For instance, a comment on the review by a history professor attacked in the book included the following:
“Being named as one of the 101 Most Dangerous Professors came as little surprise. I was suspended for an antiwar email in 2002 due to public pressure to punish me for my pacifist beliefs even though American Association of University Professor guidelines were egregiously violated by an administration pandering to public right-wing opinion. So these are the times where the academy is under assault by several but not all right-wing groups, who wish to impose a nationalistic, prowar ideological monopoly on higher education through the marginalisation of progressive faculty. Academic freedom must be defended by those who are committed to academic excellence and the thunder of the right needs to be challenged on every front. Otherwise, America will have no voices left to challenge its imperialistic, racist and monstrous disregard for international peace and security. Resistance is essential; radicalism is imperative; critical thinking is mandatory if we are going to reverse course and create a nation based upon democracy, human rights and respect for the needs of the international community.”1
Revolution received a number of substantial responses to Alan Goodman's review of “The Professors—The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America” from professors who are attacked in the book, and obtained permission to post several of these responses at our web site. These comments are available at revcom.us.
At the same time, these responses divided sharply, and several quite influential and respected professors who are are attacked in “The Professors...” felt that by taking on Horowitz, we were only giving him publicity—and that the best thing is to ignore him. Or, that Horowitz's book, filled as it is with distortions and lies, should not be dignified with a response.
Ignoring Horowitz won't work, to say the least! The experience of the professor, quoted above, being suspended for an anti-war email is far from an isolated incident. While Horowitz poses as an advocate of “academic freedom” and “free speech,” Horowitz's web site, writings, and student groups threaten and harass professors. In my review, I described a major incident at Santa Rosa Jr. College in California where a Horowitz-“inspired” student group called for prosecution of professors based on a California law against “communist indoctrination.”
These Horowitz-“inspired” campus brownshirts are hounding professors in and out of class. Pending legislation would give his censorship demands the force of law. And lunatic Christian fascist Pat Robertson is inciting his audience with wild lies that the professors attacked in Horowitz's book are “murderers.” Robertson (echoing the book's jacket) called the attacked professors “sexual deviants” who “beat people up.” Imagine the potential impact of such inflammatory rants on an audience being programmed to believe that Robertson is channeling the word of god.
And finally on this thread, history is full of tragic examples of people hoping reactionary bullies would go away if ignored—Joe McCarthy comes to mind as an obvious analogy. When has such an approach ever worked?
Beyond all the empirical evidence that Horowitz presents a real, urgent threat to critical thinking in academia, there is a deeper story. Horowitz has long-time, deep connections with George Bush and Karl Rove, the strategist who connected Bush with the Christian right and forged the electoral strategy that got expressed in the mobilization of voters in “red states” behind rumors that John Kerry would legalize gay marriage and ban the Bible.2
The book Banana Republicans: How the Right Wing is Turning America Into a One-Party State by Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber documents the strategic alliance between Horowitz and Rove in Bush's “re-election” in 2004. They write:
“During the 2000 presidential and congressional elections, every Republican member of the U.S. Congress received a free pamphlet, compliments of Congressman Tom DeLay, the party's majority whip. Written by conservative activist David Horowitz, the pamphlet was called The Art of Political War: How Republicans Can Fight to Win. It came with an endorsement on the cover by Karl Rove, the senior advisor to then-candidate George W. Bush. According to Rove, The Art of Political War was 'a perfect pocket guide to winning on the political battlefield from an experienced warrior.' In addition to DeLay's gift to members of Congress, the Heritage Foundation, one of the leading conservative think tanks in Washington, found Horowitz's advice so impressive that it sent another 2,300 copies to conservative activists around the country.
“True to its title, The Art of Political War argues that 'Politics is war conducted by other means. In political warfare you do not fight just to prevail in an argument, but to destroy the enemy's fighting ability. ... In political wars, the aggressor usually prevails.' Moreover, 'Politics is a war of position. In war there are two sides: friends and enemies. Your task is to define yourself as the friend of as large a constituency as possible compatible with your principles, while defining your opponent as the enemy whenever you can. The act of defining combatants is analogous to the military concept of choosing the terrain of battle. Choose the terrain that makes the fight as easy for you as possible.’ ”
Horowitz's pamphlet, which was adopted by Rove as assigned reading for top levels of Republican operatives, took its name from Sun Tzu's “The Art of War.” The pamphlet argued for adapting the laws of warfare to political discourse and exchange of ideas.3
Many within the Bush camp have identified the campuses as a dangerous remaining outpost of critical thinking. The story Li Onesto recounted in her correspondence in last week's issue of Revolution, about the life- and thinking-changing impact that discourse with a liberal professor had on a First Gulf War vet, is symbolic of a wider phenomenon in society.
Writing in CounterPunch magazine, Jeff Birkenstein—an English professor— noted that one day “After class, a student told me that many of his high school friends had been very conservative. But since coming to the university, he has begun to hold his former beliefs up to scrutiny, re-embracing some while rejecting others. This process is but one of the many purposes of higher education. It is also the exact process of which [Andrew] Jones, Horowitz, and others are so afraid.” (“Black is White; White is Black—Bush and Freedom of Speech”)4
In times of great questioning, and with campuses as a relatively open space for exploring ideas, deploying Horowitz as a battering ram on campuses represents real fear on the part of those in power of the impact of critical thinking. And, for those who see the critical need for such critical thinking, Horowitz represents not just sloppy scholarship, lies, and hypocrisy. He is an instrument of a whole fascist agenda.
Christian fascists are at the core of Bush's inner circle (a recent indicator of their influence in the White House was their role in torpedoing Bush's nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, and their insistence on an appointee who was a known and approved quantity to the leading Biblical-literalist, theocratic forces). But even within the ideological rigidity of Bush's inner circle, there is a version of “unite all who can be united.”
Enter Horowitz—whose message was recognized by “Bush's Brain”—Karl Rove—as an essential criteria in “reaching out” and broadening the base of the Bush regime. If someone like Jerry Falwell, or Pat Roberton, whose Liberty and Regent universities have no pretense of free speech, went onto campuses and campaigned to ban critical thinking, their nakedly fascist agenda would be relatively obvious and overt.5
A review of The Art of Political War in Publisher's Weekly noted that the pamphlet “urges Republicans to go on the offensive, to take back issues that Clinton Democrats have co-opted, to reach out to working people and minorities, and to master images, symbols and sound bites.” (emphasis added)
That is what Horowitz is doing when he sells censorship and repression on campuses as “free speech” and “academic freedom.” His publicized examples of the supposed violation of free speech take examples of conservative or reactionary students who were disturbed by viewpoints, facts, exposure, and discussion in classes that challenged their thinking.
What point or meaning is there to demanding “free speech” that is restricted to parroting the views of the Bush regime, as Horowitz does? In a revolutionary society, there would be tremendous importance to not only tolerating, but promoting, dissent, including on campus, and guaranteeing various forms of free speech for critics of the revolution. But in a society where the president systematically lies about the cause of war and the scope and nature of repression, defining “free speech” as the “right” to believe everything the administration tells you, without having that questioned, is bizarre and obscene.
The point of the First Amendment and freedom of speech is supposed to be protecting people's right to criticize the government. For Horowitz, and the powerful forces behind him in the White House, “free speech” means protecting the government from criticism.
Horowitz's assault on critical thinking is labeled a “free speech” campaign. His censorship laws are called the “Academic Bill of Rights.” All in service of, and tightly connected with, the Bush regime—which itself is an extreme concentration of a system of open-ended violent global plunder and accompanying repression at home.
1. The full text of this comment by Peter N. Kirstein, Professor of History at St Xavier University, Chicago, and other responses to the review are available at revcom.us.
2. The documentary Bush's Brain has interesting exposure of how Rove put Bush together with Christian fascist forces.
3. In exploring the roots of Horowitz's strategic thinking, the authors of Banana Republicans...associate Horowitz's leftist early years with his current agenda, methods, and tactics in a way that involves some fundamental distortions, including their comment that “in a strange way [Horowitz] remains a Leninist.” For an assessment of the tremendous accomplishments of previous socialist revolutions and societies, and how the next wave of communist revolutions must and can do better, including in promoting dissent, see Dictatorship and Democracy, and the Socialist Transition to Communism by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, at revcom.us.
4. Andrew Jones is another Horowitz-“inspired” campus brownshirt, infamous for offering UCLA students $100 to record and turn in teachers who “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.” Most of the attacks on professors at Jones's web site are for their activities outside of class. This week, Jones features an attack on one professor's “personal history and theoretical background”—see www.uclaprofs.com.
5. As an example of the stifling atmosphere at Roberton's Regent University, campus authorities had gay-rights activists arrested when they stepped onto campus—[see report in the Roanoke Times, VA—Mar 15, 2006.] In my review of “The Professors...” I noted the extensive (and inflammatory) promotion of the book by Pat Robertson, and Horowitz's comment that “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.”
Revolution #044, April 23, 2006, posted at revcom.us
Revolution newspaper has received a large number of online comments in response to our coverage of the upsurge of the immigrant rights struggle. In this issue, we are reprinting with permission one of the more substantial comments we received, and our response in the form of an open letter.
I have always stood behind your motives and beliefs. The idea of your organization promoting undocumented and illegal immigrants from wherever makes me sick. I am now questioning your stance to AMERICA. They (illegals) eat up mine and your tax dollars. It is that simple. My woman is diabetic and works her ass off to supply herself with insulin. She can't get prescription coverage because the system is being milked by millions who use the loopholes, created by our government, I KNOW! Explain to me why you support this! I don't care if they are Dutch, latino, or Arab, they are not citizens, PERIOD. I do not like going to Miami and feeling like an outcast. People look at me funny when I can't speak spanish or haitian. You and I live in America, with the American flag, we speak English here. And once again, you support this?
I have attended your rallies, screaming at the top of my lungs to support legitimate causes, however, this motion does not do it for me. I have no clue where you all have gone blind. Maybe a little too liberal and "awww poor him". Wake up and explain to me how letting millions of illegals remain with a free pass is good for this nation. The lack of work force and the contributions they make does not make a sound rebutal for you. It is overused. You are supporting laws being broke. That simple.
Bush wants what you are supporting. Am I wrong? I am civil, I am not racist, I know right from wrong and this (in all legal sense) is wrong. It is against AMERICAN LAW!
Please write back and explain this position. I understand everyone has their own views. Your organization was going so great with me until this issue. Boggles my mind!
Well, what about the questions this letter raises? First of all, just because something is law does not mean it should be respected or abided by. Have you ever heard of the Dred Scott decision? That was a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1850s upholding the Fugitive Slave Act that gave slave-catchers the right to kidnap Black people who had run away from slavery. The Dred Scott decision said a Black man had no right that a white man was bound to respect.
At one time in the South there were laws that said Black people could not drink out of the same water fountain as white people. Or that a Black person could not look a white person eye to eye when addressing them because it showed disrespect and insolence. It was called “reckless eyeball,” and people were murdered straight out for these kinds of things.
What interest did those laws serve? Who benefited from them? The slave system. And the plantation sharecropping system and Jim Crow segregation that followed that.
At a certain point people said: fuck it! We are gonna defy and break these damn laws whether anybody likes it or not—because this shit is unjust, oppressive, and barbaric.
And when they did, a lot of people of all nationalities came to their side and supported them in that struggle.
Who was right? Those that upheld and enforced those laws and brutally punished people who defied them? Or the people who refused to go along, and others who supported them? Those laws were unjust and wrong, and people had to rise up against them in order to get rid of them.
That’s why you cannot just look at the borders of the U.S. and simply say it is against the law and wrong to cross it. You have to ask how did that border get there? What interest does it serve? Who benefits from it? What program does it serve?
Let’s talk about what is real. Here it is: This country and its border were established on genocide of native people, slavery of Africans, and the theft of half of Mexico in the war of 1846. There were no borders when humans first crossed from Asia to what's now known as the Americas. The Spanish conquerors landed in the 16th century and drew their borders as part of subjugating and murdering the people for the wealth. And the British colonists on the east coast of what's now the U.S. drew their borders as they almost wiped out the people who lived there before the colonists arrived.
In the 1840s the U.S. launched an unprovoked war of aggression against Mexico (which had outlawed slavery, in contrast to the U.S. where the slave system was in full effect in the South). Behind the war was the drive for more territory by both the Southern slave owners and the Northern capitalists. What do you think the Alamo and its “heroes” — Davy Crockett, Samuel Houston, Jim Bowie, and Daniel Boone — were about? Murder and thievery of Mexican land for the purpose of spreading slavery and capitalism to that part of the territory. Later, to consolidate this thievery they created the Texas Rangers. It’s just that simple.
After the war the U.S. forced Mexico to sign the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo. In return for stealing huge amounts of Mexico territory (now the U.S. Southwest), the U.S. government promised land, language, and other rights to Mexicans living in this area now occupied by the U.S. But the U.S. broke the treaty as quickly as they had signed it.
There is not a goddamn thing worth respecting about these U.S.-created borders or the laws that enforced them. That's why we say: Tear down that wall!
Let’s step back and talk about what is going today. How this unjust, unequal, oppressive and exploitative relationship between the U.S. and Mexico plays itself out today.
For an example, look at Alicia and José Jiménez. They are busting their ass — trying to feed themselves and raise their family in one of the rural areas of Mexico. What happens? Their situation, which was already desperate, becomes more desperate. This is because the relationship the U.S. has with Mexico is one of domination and exploitation. It's like having a relationship with the Godfather, Tony Soprano, or the “Goodfellas.” In typical gangster fashion they make Mexico “an offer it can’t refuse.”
They flood Mexico with U.S. goods, and the millions of Alicias and Josés are driven to extreme poverty by this unequal competition. So they are forced to leave the land and go to the city in search of work. What happens here? Right at the border, just a few feet inside Mexico, the U.S. has set up factories called maquiladoras for the millions of Alicias and Josés who work under extremely brutal and dangerous conditions for one-tenth of the pay of workers just across the border.
The workers in those maquiladoras are slaving away in these U.S.-owned high-tech sweatshops making TVs and computer parts that people in the U.S. and other imperialist countries use—and then they have to go home to shantytowns where they have no electricity and their children die of diseases like cholera because there is no sewage system or clean drinking water.
But even this pool of cheap labor doesn't satisfy the appetite of these bloodsuckers, who in recent years have closed down many of the maquiladoras, throwing hundreds of thousands out of work, and have moved a lot of their investment to Asia where they can pay even cheaper wages and exploit workers even more brutally. This is what U.S. imperialism means for people.
What would you do if you were in the situation of people like Alicia and José?
This is the relationship that U.S. imperialism forces on Mexico. This is what this imperialist system does around the world. It’s because of this system of imperialism that in the U.S. there are over one million millionaires, while about half the world population of 6 billion lives on $2 a day.
This is the real reason why immigrants are forced come to this country. Because as RCP Chairman Bob Avakian says, the U.S. has fucked up the rest of the world more than it has fucked up things here. And these ruthless fuckers at the head of this monstrous octopus with its tentacles all over the world sucking the blood of people make gangsters like the Godfather and others look like Bambi in comparison.
What happens when immigrants get here? Those that don’t die in the desert or get shot by vigilantes on the border—must elude and evade la migra (the immigration police). They are forced to work for extra cheap wages that the capitalists reap extra profits from. They are forced to live in the shadows — fearing that they may be rounded up and deported back into even more horrible conditions of existence. They have no rights—and that is why they are forced to endure this shit, stay quiet and out of sight—until now!
It reminds me of how Black people were kind of living in the shadows when it was against the law for them to look a white person in the eye for fear that they might be lynched.
You say undocumented immigrants are taking advantage of loopholes in the system to milk it for health resources that should go to people like your wife. This is simply not true. The health care system, like everything else under capitalism, is about maximizing profit. It is that which stands in the way of your wife’s health care, NOT immigrants — who often don’t even use health care services for fear of being deported. And if the bill passed by the House becomes law, these immigrants would put in jail as felons.
To be frank, by blaming immigrants, you are being played for a sucker and a fool. They got you thinking that those who are victimized by the working of this system are your enemy and those who are doing this victimizing and plundering of the world are your friends.
Let me give another quick example. You talk about whether this is “good for this nation.” A few years ago the right-wing fascist Pat Buchanan wrote a book entitled The Death of the West: How Dying Populations and Immigrant Invasions Imperil Our Country and Civilization. In it he complained about U.S. society losing its national identity, its national cohesion—the thing that has cemented the oppressive “social compact” of this society. Clearly he was talking about the white, Christian, English-speaking identity of the American nation. This is one of his worst nightmares, and he’s not the only one. Others in the top echelons of the U.S. empire, including Bush, also have this nightmare. In the face of this massive upsurge amongst immigrants, they are scrambling and trying to come up with a plan to carry out the re-cohering of a new oppressive “social compact” without their whole system beginning to become unglued. This is especially the role of the chief executive “W” — to keep his fascist core and program together, and lead them to implement their whole program without things flying apart. The logical conclusion of your argument will lead you right into the killing embrace of these fascists and imperialists.
As for the “good of the nation,” that’s the way the system wants you to see it. But nations are divided into classes, with different and fundamentally opposed interests. And this nation in particular is an imperialist, oppressor nation, and we oppose imperialism and don’t give a damn about what is “good” for it. Here’s how we see it: We are not Americans. We are proletarians. We are made up of all races. We are the class of people who can work only if it enriches the capitalist class. Under this system work plays “hide-and-seek” with many of us because the ruling class cannot make profits from our labor. Thus we are left to fend for ourselves, and many are driven into a situation where crime seems like the only option.
Our class is international, comprising billions throughout the world. Undocumented workers are part of our class. They are our brothers and sisters. We speak different languages and have different cultures, but we are all proletarians. Their blood is our blood. Their suffering is our suffering. We welcome them ALL with open arms. Our labor is at the foundation of this modern-day slave system and it creates tremendous wealth, which under this system goes into the hands of the capitalist class. We have a common interest: To rise up as proletarians, under our revolutionary leadership, the Revolutionary Communist Party and its Chairman Bob Avakian, and, when the conditions are right, to overthrow this system.
So let me put the challenge back to you—what if the millions of people like yourself who have gone for the divisive stuff woke up and put it down? What could we—the dispossessed of all nationalities—accomplish then?
It is possible for every man, woman, and child on the planet earth to have the best that technology, science, and the knowledge of human beings have acquired over the centuries. It's possible to use all this to provide a better life for all the people of the world. It is possible for everyone to contribute what they can to better life for the people and in turn receive from society what they need to live as full human beings and contribute even more to society. There is no need for anyone to have to worry about or not to receive the health care they need. We can provide this for people. Cholera is preventable. Treatment for things like diabetes, Hepatitis C, HIV, kidney problems, and other chronic conditions could be free in a socialist system.
Everyone could have jobs, no one would have to live in ghettos or barrios. No one would have to worry about where their next meal is gonna come from, or if they will just be thrown out in their old age. We can create a world where the people hold all society’s resources in common, and work, struggle, and decide how to make things better for the people.
A world without one group dominating another. A world without the brutalizing and murdering police. Or la migra. A world without borders. Without men dominating women. Without whites dominating people of other races. Without those who do intellectual work having domination over those who do manual work.
We can do all these things and have people’s lives enriched through sports and art. We can take care of the environment—be caretakers of the earth and hand it down to future generations in better condition than when we were here.
The only reason all this does not happen is because all the wealth, technology, science, and knowledge is controlled by a tiny handful of capitalist-imperialists, and they use it to make profits—not to serve the people—and they use it to keep us down here in this fucked-up situation.
This is why we need state power. Power in the hands of our class whose collective labor creates all this wealth and who is the only group in history whose most fundamental interest lies in making this kind of revolution—and whose goal is not only putting all of society‘s resources in the hands of the people collectively, but leading them to become the decisionmakers and the emancipators of themselves and all humanity.
This is what we need to have our sights on. Chairman Avakian is the leader who can lead us to reach that goal. He is one of a kind. He deeply and scientifically understands revolution and the whole process. He has learned from the experience when our class held power before in the Soviet Union and China with Mao. He has learned from the great accomplishments of those revolutions but also from the shortcomings and errors that were made. He gives us the revolutionary and scientific approach to revolution so that we too can become leaders with him in this great cause.
You need to get with this leader. He has made great breakthroughs and discoveries in the cause of emancipating humanity, the cause of communist revolution. And like any great scientific discovery at first it illuminates the peaks and mountain tops, and then it illuminates the whole world.
Get with this party. Download the audio track “Why Do People Come Here From All Over the World?” by Bob Avakian (at revcom.us or bobavakian.net). Get your hands on his DVD, REVOLUTION: Why It’s Necessary, Why It’s Possible, What It’s All About. (threeQvideo.com)
So, again, let me pose it back to you—think where we could get if you could put this narrow, me-first capitalist thinking down. And think where we’ll end up if you, and millions like you, don’t break with it.
Joe Veale, for the Revolutionary Communist Tour
Revolution #044, April 23, 2006, posted at revcom.us
We received the following from a Revolution distributor:
March 31--As in cities across the country, students in Tucson walked out of school this week. On Wednesday, March 29, several hundred mostly Chicano and Latino students from four schools marched through downtown. A handful of students from one school started planning it the night before. Plans spread quickly to other schools via cell phones and text messages. The next day more than a thousand walked out -- from at least 18 schools!
We grappled with how to fully support and cherish this upsurge, while at the same time providing communist leadership, particularly by getting the students to engage with Avakian's works and the need for communist revolution. While there was so much that was inspiring and exciting in these marches and rallies, almost all of the students kept their vision of what needs to be done within either nationalism or the killing confines of bourgeois democracy.
We missed the first day—the students were spread out in small groups and we couldn't track them down. The next day we heard they were downtown at the Federal building. As I drove by the rally, I realized that the 50 papers I had on me was not going to be enough. Hoping the new shipment was in, I zipped over to pick them up. Jackpot! An extra shipment of 100 Spanish papers—someone was thinking ahead!
I couldn't park near the rally, so I hoofed it several blocks carrying 250 papers. As I got closer, I could hear the chants of "Viva Mexico" and "Aquí estamos, no nos vamos!" Workers in nearby office buildings could be seen waving and cheering. Mexican flags were everywhere.
When I got there, I grabbed the 100 Spanish papers and headed into the crowd. I got out maybe 5 copies when a student glanced at the headline and excitedly asked if she could have a copy. I gave her one and asked her if she could help get them out. Her response cracked me up: "Well, duh!"
I gave her a stack, and immediately, several other girls came up and asked to help. They dove into the crowd, going in all directions. The response was electric: students came up to us, reaching out for papers and grabbing copies to pass on to their friends. Revolution spread out like a wave into the crowd. It was beautiful.
Within a minute, all 100 copies were out. A quote from Mao flashed through my head: "A single spark can start a prairie fire." Most of the students quickly opened them up to read the main article: "¡El porqué de la lucha de los inmigrantes… y por qué tenemos que apoyarla!"
Shortly after, two RCYBers who snuck out of work arrived with 50 more papers from the previous week. These, too, were immediately swallowed up. We then grabbed up the English copies and got most of those out as well.
The YBers had to get back to work after a while, but I spent the rest of the rally talking with the students. Several times students became excited when I told them that I was interviewing them for Revolution (by then, just about everyone had a copy), and they would grab a friend they said had something particularly important to say.
Later that day, I heard that a reporter from NPR had attacked the high school students walking out all over the country, saying "they don't know anything." And others were claiming that they were just ditching school, that there wasn't any political reasoning behind it. It was clear this was a load of crap. I heard students talking about how the U.S. has always violated the treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo (which the U.S. forced Mexico to sign after it had stolen 1/3 of Mexico's territory, including Tucson). I heard them talking about the role immigrants play in supporting the U.S. economy, and the U.S. domination of Mexico. I even heard one student talking about how Chinese immigrants were treated during the building of the railroads in the U.S.
These students know a lot —it's just that what they know is not welcomed by the ruling classes and their intellectual camp followers. Some said they didn't know much about the proposed law when they walked out but learned a lot by talking with people in the marches.
Many spoke passionately of their parents, of how hard and selflessly they have worked and the struggles they've had to wage just to survive. Most of the students I talked to were citizens, but many of those said their parents were not. They spoke of how they were out in the streets for them, for their aunts and uncles, and for anyone else who was vulnerable to the kinds of fascist laws the Bush Regime is fashioning.
Besides the unfairness and discrimination of the HR 4437, a constant theme was the daily harassment and discrimination the students experience. A student named Danielle said, "They think we don't look educated. Every day, they try to make us feel guilty about who we are, to feel bad just because of where we're from, like we're nothing." Her friends nodded enthusiastically. One said, "And they really don't like it when we're out here like this. They want us invisible, picking up their shit. No chance!"
Karen, a community college student, said, "We've got to unite around defeating this law. And that's what we're doing. Look around—it's not just Mexicans out here. It's white kids, Black kids, everyone."
Others spoke of the hypocrisy of people from a nation of immigrants treating immigrants like criminals. There was discussion over whether the law will pass. Some said it would, saying that "the people behind it don't care about us, about how many of us are out here."
One man in his twenties said if it passed, "it'd cause a lot of problems." He said that if it was passed that all Mexicans should go on strike, both here and in Mexico. "Think about it—no food being picked here, no clothing being made in sweatshops, no car parts coming up from Mexico, none of the work done by us. You think the U.S. economy would last a day without the work we do?"
Hector, a senior in high school who helped organize the rally, said the people behind the law "know we don't agree with them. They know we know this law's unfair and that we won't accept it. But we ain't gonna stop."
A brother and sister, half Mexican and half Iranian, talked about how the media presents a distorted vision of both sides of their family. "People need to be educated about who we really are and what we do. Not these lies they tell every day."
One of the few non-students said she brought her stepdaughter because "I wanted her to learn something about actual democracy, not that crap they're teaching her in school." She had recently moved to Tucson from Indiana and related a story that tells a lot about what kind of society the Bush Regime is working to create. She still had Indiana plates on her car and based on nothing more than that, a squad of cops stormed her house one morning, guns drawn and barking orders.
They demanded to know if she was transporting "illegals" to Indiana and questioned her at length. I was impressed by her resolve, as she told the cops, "I'm not saying a damn thing until you put those guns down. I've got children in this house!" More and more cops showed up until there were more than a dozen going through her house, terrifying her children. Eventually they left, without so much as an apology. She said there were cops following her throughout the day. And the next morning when she went out to walk her dog, a cop followed her around.
Later that night, I had a discussion with two youth who have been studying Marxism-Leninism-Maoism and Bob Avakian's contributions. I told them of the rally, particularly the image of hundreds of proletarian youth with copies of Revolution in their hands. They could hardly contain their excitement. One of them, who hadn't yet helped to get the paper out, practically demanded that I call her the next time something like this is going on.
We happened to be studying Bob Avakian's article "The New Situation and the Great Challenges" that night. One spoke of how that piece blew her away, how it lays out the basis for everything that's going on right now, of how what is happening with this upsurge around immigrants is not understandable without grasping what Avakian lays out in that piece.
When I first talked with her a few months ago, she was rather cynical about the possibilities of political action. Now she points to another piece we read, a short excerpt from Bob Avakian speaking about Damián García, and says, "that's what I feel now, that's where I'm headed."
We grappled with how to fully support and cherish this upsurge, while at the same time providing communist leadership, particularly by getting the students to engage with Avakian's works and the need for communist revolution. While there was so much that was inspiring and exciting in these marches and rallies, almost all of the students kept their vision of what needs to be done within either nationalism or the killing confines of bourgeois democracy.
Additionally, the powers that be are not taking this sitting down. Each day, the students were surrounded by scores of cops, supposedly for the students' "safety." On Thursday, one school sent buses to give students a ride back to school, but when they were dropped off, every student was given detention. When this was tried the next day, the students refused to get on the buses.
On Friday, the Tucson Citizen reported that "School officials concede they cannot stop the momentum behind student walkouts to protest legislation on illegal immigration. Instead, they are trying to redirect students' energies to activities in controlled school environments."
The mayor held a meeting to try to do this, and the police and other officials openly talk about the need to control the students. And concern is being expressed over what might happen on April 10th, when a culminating march and rally is planned. The time-tested strategy of suffocating popular upsurges with "practical" and "reasonable" actions (plus a big police presence) is being quickly put in place.
In our discussion, we concluded that the current struggle around the immigration issue was of tremendous, even historical, importance, but that it could easily be subsumed within "politics as usual." There is a crying need for this upsurge to break through such limitations and move towards the kind of struggle that not just immigrants but people around the world desperately need. We weren't entirely sure about how to do this, but we did know that the key was connecting these masses with Bob Avakian and the methodology and inspiring vision of communism he is bringing forth.
The morning of the rally, I was feeling a little overwhelmed by a number of intense contradictions, both personal and political. But the combination of those wonderful students and the wave of Revolution that passed through them, and those youth who are taking serious steps to take the responsibility for changing the world on their shoulders, did a lot to change my perspective of things. And to paraphrase a friend of mine, "We're communists. We eat intense contradictions for breakfast."
Friday, the students were out again, in larger numbers and, if anything, even more militant. We were able to have more conversations, getting into the article in Revolution, and getting a bunch of contacts of people who want to help get out the paper at future events.
This struggle is reverberating all over the city. A member of the RCYB who works at a paralegal office downtown said that all the Chicana secretaries who have to go the Courthouse all the time have been coming back with huge smiles on their faces, talking about the kids demonstrating and how proud they are of them.
There are times when the struggle for a better world makes your heart soar. This is one of those times.
Suppression of Vaccine for Cervical Cancer
Revolution #044, April 23, 2006, posted at revcom.us
Imagine a society that discovered a vaccine for a type of cancer, a vaccine that would save thousands of lives, but powerful forces in the government didn’t want it to be used because it conflicted with their religious beliefs. Well, you don’t have to imagine because this is what’s going on today in George W. Bush’s America.
The human papilloma virus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the U.S. Although most of the strains of the virus are relatively benign, HPV is the cause of most cases of cervical cancer, a disease that kills more than 250,000 women each year worldwide, striking hardest in the poorest countries where basic gynecological health care is rare or nonexistent. Nearly 4,000 women die of cervical cancer each year in the United States, where poor women without access to basic health care are also the hardest hit.
Two large pharmaceutical companies have developed vaccines that would prevent two strains of HPV that are responsible for approximately 70% of all cervical cancer, according to an article in the New Scientist magazine. The vaccines have proved extraordinarily effective. One study followed 12,000 women for two years; half were given the vaccine and half a placebo. Twenty-one of the women who received the placebo developed the cellular abnormalities that are associated with cancer and other diseases. No women in the vaccinated group showed any sign of the virus.
"This is a cancer vaccine, and an immensely effective one," the Nobel laureate David Baltimore, President of the California Institute of Technology, told Michael Specter of New Yorker magazine. "We should be proud and excited. It has the potential to save hundreds of thousands of lives every year."
The HPV vaccines are now under review by the FDA,and approval is expected this year. What happens then will be determined in large part by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), which makes recommendations on how a vaccine should be used. In order for the vaccine to be effective, girls would need to be inoculated with it before they become sexually active, and the vaccine would need to be required, like vaccinations for other contagious diseases, such as measles and mumps, before children enter public school.
It is unlikely that this will be the case with the HPV vaccine because powerful forces in the government argue that eliminating the threat of infection would only encourage teenagers to have sex. "I personally object to vaccinating children when they don't need vaccinations, particularly against a disease that is one hundred percent preventable with proper sexual behavior," said Leslee J. Unruh, the founder and president of the Abstinence Clearinghouse.
"Premarital sex is dangerous, even deadly. Let's not encourage it by vaccinating ten-year-olds so they think they're safe," said Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma.
In 2003, Bush appointed Reginald Finger, a doctor trained in public health who served as a medical analyst for the Christian fascist group Focus on the Family, to the ACIP. Finger said, "Some people have raised the issue of whether this vaccine may be sending an overall message to teenagers that 'We expect you to be sexually active.'”
“I never thought that now, in the twenty-first century, we could have a debate about what to do with a vaccine that prevents cancer,” said David Baltimore. “What moral precepts allow us to think that the risk of death is a price worth paying to encourage abstinence as the only approach to sex?”
The Bush administration’s opposition to any drug, vaccine, or initiative that could be interpreted as lessening the risks associated with premarital sex did not start with the HPV vaccine. It has made every effort to diminish the use of condoms as a method of birth control and AIDS prevention in the United States and throughout the world, a policy that has cost many thousands of lives.
Several years ago, the Centers for Disease Control removed a fact sheet about condoms from its web site. After more than one year the fact sheet reappeared, but instructions on how to use condoms had been replaced by a scientifically inaccurate message saying that condoms were ineffective. The CDC also removed a summary of studies that showed there was no increase in sexual activity among teenagers who had been taught about condoms.
"They were the most horrific examples of manipulating science I have ever seen," a former senior official at the CDC told the New Yorker. "Abstinence is the only thing that matters to this crowd." He asked not to be identified because he is dependent upon receiving government funds in his current job.
Government policy also requires that one-third of HIV-prevention spending—both in the U.S. and worldwide—goes to "abstinence until marriage" programs, which have demonstrated to be ineffective in preventing the spread of HIV. Since Bush became President, the United States has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on abstinence programs, and it has cut almost that much in aid to groups that support abortion and the use of condoms.
“I always thought it was a bit much to talk about a 'Taliban wing' of the Republican Party,” columnist Ellen Goodman wrote in the Boston Globe.“After all, the real Taliban stoned women to death if they had sex out of wedlock. What sentence would our Taliban choose? Cancer?”
Revolution #044, April 23, 2006, posted at revcom.us
Seven months after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans is a city of “withouts.” Buildings without roofs, neighborhoods without residents. People without homes, houses without electricity. Kids without schools, teachers without classrooms. Doctors without hospitals, sick people without medicine. A government without solutions, official promises without results.
The devastation in New Orleans is incredibly widespread and deeply heartbreaking. You can drive all over the city—from the poor Black 9th Ward, to middle class areas to white working class neighborhoods—through mile after mile of empty homes. Bodies are still being found. Endless piles of bits and pieces of people’s lives, strewn about the ground. People sleeping in their cars. A tent city in the park where immigrants and workers of all nationalities are living, looking for work. Some have come back and are trying to rebuild. But hurricane season starts in June and the levees are still not fixed.
“I cried—to see young people coming together for one common cause and that is to help humanity as a whole and they’re all over the place… I came over there because I wanted to see where they were sleeping. They have tents set up outside. I saw children washing, hanging things up on the line. I saw them getting their clothes together. And I just sat in the car and stared at them, I was just spellbound just looking at these young people. And then what really impressed me was this guy, he and this other fellow was putting together bikes that were broken and needed to be repaired so that those who wanted a bike could get around. I said, the skills these young people have, and coming together, so that they can get to and fro.”
Resident of the 9th Ward, speaking about volunteers at Common Ground Relief who helped gut out her house
Before the hurricane, African Americans made up about 70% of New Orleans. After Katrina, Bush’s Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Alphonso Jackson said: "New Orleans is not going to be as Black as it was for a long time, if ever again." Louisiana Congressman Richard Baker said: "We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn’t do it, but God did." In the Black neighborhoods of the 9th Ward, hit the hardest by floods, the government has basically done nothing to rebuild. When people tried to move back into the St. Bernard Development, the city’s largest housing project, the city put up a barbed wire fence to keep people out.
The continuing neglect, abandonment, abuse, and brutality of Black people in New Orleans is connected to a whole legacy of slavery and Jim Crow laws—and a continuation of the way this system has always treated Black people as exploitable, expendable, and undesirable.
The situation in New Orleans shows not only the need but also the possibility of revolution, and of a radically different society. The government has left thousands to suffer. But right after the hurricane, and as residents have returned to try and rebuild, people have helped each other and showed their humanity in many ways — putting to lie the slanders that portray them as criminals and animals. And they have been supported and assisted by people all over the country. In all this can be seen the potential for a society where relations among people are radically different than the daily dog-eat-dog this capitalist system pushes people into.
Revolution #044, April 23, 2006, posted at revcom.us
Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets in Nepal. An alliance of seven political parties called for a four-day bandh, a general strike, starting on April 6, aimed against King Gyanendra's autocratic feudal monarchy. And as we go to press on April 17, there have now been daily days of demonstrations in the capital city of Kathmandu and in towns and cities throughout the country.
Leading up to April 6, the government tried to stop the strike by banning rallies and public gatherings and arresting hundreds of people. Dozens of people were arrested at a rally in defiance of the ban on April 5. And the police attacked a rally of journalists and physically disabled people, organized by the Nepal Journalist Association. Security forces also carried out raids on the homes of opposition leaders and arrested many opposition activists.
But despite such repression, thousands took to the street on the first day of the strike, in Kathmandu and in other cities and towns. Normal life was completely paralyzed, with shops, commercial centers, schools, and other businesses closed and very few vehicles in the streets. A thousand people were arrested across the country on this first day of the strike.
Tens of thousands continued to take to the street, even after the end of the four-day strike that had been called for. In the first five days of protests, there were demonstrations in over 70 districts. On April 7, more than 50,000 people took to the streets in Chitwan, in the Terai area near the Indian border. In different areas, roads have been blocked by burning tires and tree logs. Huge numbers of riot police have been deployed against the protests and there have been daily clashes with protesters burning cars and hurling stones and bricks at security forces. The police are using tear gas, rubber bullets and regular bullets, injuring many. At least four people have been killed and dozens have been injured by bullets. Thousands have been arrested, including children.
Fourteen months ago, on February 1, 2005, King Gyanendra declared a state of emergency, dissolved the parliament, sacked the prime minister, and suspended many constitutional rights. This was a desperate move by Gyanendra, who has been unable to crush the People’s War led by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). The CPN(M) began their armed struggle against the government in 1996, now control some 80 percent of the countryside, and have set up base areas ruled by new revolutionary forms of government. (For more on the People's War in Nepal go to revcom.us/s/nepal.htm).
In spite of a brutal counterinsurgency by Gyanendra's Royal Nepalese Army—backed by political, financial, and military support from the United States, India, and the UK—the People's War has continued to grow and expand and this is what has set the stage for the current demonstrations called for by the parliamentary parties.
The Maoists supported the four-day strike and for those days, suspended armed operations in and around Kathmandu. The third day of the strike, the Maoist People's Liberation Army (PLA) assaulted a Royal Nepal Army base in the central Terai region. About a dozen army barracks were destroyed and some two dozen Royal Army personnel were killed and a large quantity of weapons were seized.
The CPN(M) reports that there have been dozens of recent military actions by the PLA, including the seizure of district headquarters, commando attacks, and frontal battles—carried out in the western, central, and eastern regions of the country. On April 6, the PLA took over Malangwa, the district headquarters of Sarlahi in the eastern Terai (plains) region. The action left dozens of security personnel dead, and dozens injured. All of the government offices were destroyed and some of the officers including the security forces were taken into custody. Some 125 prisoners, most of them political prisoners, were released from the prison.
Throughout the world—whether in Iraq or Los Angeles, helicopters are used against the people, and in Nepal, the RNA has been using them to drop bombs and fire on PLA soldiers and ordinary people. On April 6, when an RNA helicopter flew into Malangwa, ground fire from the PLA brought it down in flames, killing 10 Royal Army officers. This is the first time the PLA has taken out an RNA helicopter.
The growing protests throughout the country are a powerful indication of how much King Gyanendra is isolated and widely hated by a wide spectrum of people in Nepal. And it is significant that the government's increasing brutality has only fueled the anger and determination of the people who have continued to defy the ban on protests and the palace's "shoot on sight" warnings.
Students have been a big part of the demonstrations all over the country. Dozens of journalists have been arrested at rallies organized to protest the arrest of journalists. Human rights activists monitoring demonstrations have been arrested. When writers, actors, musicians, comedians, and poets staged a march against the atrocities of the government and performed anti-government skits, they were attacked by the police with bullets, tear gas, and batons.
Farmers and workers are joining the protests, with peasants traveling from their villages to towns and cities to demonstrate. In one town a list of police, soldiers and vigilantes engaged in violent repression has been circulated and residents are urged not to rent to such persons.
Women's groups, professors, and lecturers have organized protests. The Nepal Medical Association mobilized doctors to demonstrate. Engineers, lawyers, and accountants have taken to the streets in the thousands. Government office workers have staged work stoppages and sit-ins.
The police attacked a sit-in of white collar professionals, arresting and beating more than 50 people. When a memorial was held for protesters killed by the government, thousands of security were deployed to arrest and beat people.
Security forces are firing indiscriminately at demonstrators, attacking with teargas, wounding hundreds. In Kathmandu alone, on one day, more than 200 were injured, including people hit by bullets. After security forces entered the dormitories of student doctors at a teaching hospital and beat them, doctors and health workers across the country protested by wearing black armbands.
Students at Kanchanpur’s Siddhanath Science Campus boycotted classes, set up burning tire barricades around the campus and declared they would not take exams until the andolan (movement) succeeds. The students took over the roads into the campus and declared the campus off limits to the police.
Right now in Nepal, there is a very complex situation in which there are various forces—with different interests and agendas—contending and maneuvering. And throughout all this, the United States has continued to act on its staunch position that “the Maoists must not be allowed to win.” The U.S. has officially put the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) on their “terrorist list,” despite the fact that the politics and practice of the CPN(M) clearly has nothing in common with groups like Al Qaida. The United States has backed a brutal counterinsurgency against the People's War, with millions of dollars, thousands of automatic weapons and military training. U.S. Ambassador to Nepal James Moriarty has repeatedly urged the mainstream parliamentary parties to unite with the King to defeat the Maoists. And he has harshly criticized them for working together in any way with the Maoists.
Now, in a situation where Gyanendra may not be able to hold on to power, the U.S. is maneuvering to ensure an outcome that will be in its interests—continuing to agitate that the Maoists are an illegitimate political force. News reports say that Moriarty has been meeting with leaders of the two main parliamentary parties, the Nepali Congress and CPN-UML. And on April 10, the U.S. urged Gyanendra to hold talks with the opposition parties.
On April 7, Richard A. Boucher, Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs, addressed the Confederation of Indian Industries. In a response to a question about the U.S. position on Nepal, Boucher said: “These are nasty people, the Maoists are. And I think we need to work as much as we can to pressure the King to restore democracy, to encourage the parties to stay together and to come up with a workable, functioning democracy. And to be able to expunge the Maoists from Nepali society. I think it's very much the attitude of governments in the region including India, and we've had some very good discussion today about how to advance those goals.” Later Boucher added, “Our diplomats are in touch with everybody in Kathmandu, all the players, the political parties and the King, delivering very strong messages I think every day and coordinating with other countries who are represented there.”
In such a situation, there is the real possibility of even more direct intervention by the United States, in some form—which would be very bad for the masses of people in Nepal.
The involvement and efforts by U.S. in Nepal are not about “restoring democracy.” They are about maintaining a state rule, in whatever form and by whatever political parties, which is subordinate to foreign domination and will enforce the underlying economic and social relations of oppression in Nepalese society that serve the interests of imperialism.
Revolution #044, April 23, 2006, posted at revcom.us
A startling new story by journalist Seymour Hersh reveals that the war criminal Bush administration may be feverishly preparing for new, even greater crimes: a possible attack on Iran, an attack which could involve nuclear weapons.
In the April 17 issue of the New Yorker, Hersh writes: “The Bush Administration, while publicly advocating diplomacy in order to stop Iran from pursuing a nuclear weapon, has increased clandestine activities inside Iran and intensified planning for a possible major air attack. Current and former American military and intelligence officials said that Air Force planning groups are drawing up lists of targets, and teams of American combat troops have been ordered into Iran, under cover, to collect targeting data and to establish contact with anti-government ethnic-minority groups. The officials say that President Bush is determined to deny the Iranian regime the opportunity to begin a pilot program, planned for this spring, to enrich uranium.”
Attack planning is "enormous," "hectic" and "operational,” according to former intelligence officials quoted by Hersh. “There is a growing conviction among members of the United States military, and in the international community, that President Bush’s ultimate goal in the nuclear confrontation with Iran is regime change,” Hersh reports. A European diplomatic advisor told him, “the United States wants regime change.”
Hersh reports that using nuclear weapons is a definite and real possibility: “One of the military’s initial option plans, as presented to the White House by the Pentagon this winter, calls for the use of a bunker-buster tactical nuclear weapon, such as the B61-11, against underground nuclear sites,” Hersh writes. A former intelligence official told him that whenever anybody tries to remove the nuclear option “they’re shouted down” by top Bush officials.
U.S. forces are already practicing nuclear bombing runs: “American Naval tactical aircraft, operating from carriers in the Arabian Sea, have been flying simulated nuclear-weapons delivery missions—rapid ascending maneuvers known as ‘over the shoulder’ bombing—since last summer...within range of Iranian coastal radars,” Hersh writes.
"What you're reading is wild speculation,” Bush told the media. This is yet another big lie. There is abundant evidence that the Bush regime’s planning for a possible attack is real and happening now.
“This is not wild speculation,” Hersh told Amy Goodman on Democracy Now. “It's simply a fact that the planning has gone beyond the contingency stage, and it’s gone into what they call the operational stage, sort of an increment higher. And it's very serious planning, of course. And it's all being directed at the wish of the President of the United States.”
Military analyst William Arkin writes in the Washington Post:
“Less than three weeks after Saddam Hussein's statue was toppled in central Baghdad in April 2003, the U.S. military finished campaign planning to invade Iran. Contrary to all the speculation this week that all U.S. contingency planning for Iran is about quick, surgical action short of war, both the Army and Marine Corps are newly looking at full scale war scenarios.”
“Army organizations, together with CENTCOM headquarters planners, have been examining... scenarios for war with Iran, covering all aspects of a major combat operation from mobilization and deployment of forces through post-war ‘stability’ operations after regime change.” (See William M. Arkin, “Iran: Send in the Marines?” and “Despite Denials, U.S. Plans for Iran War,” Washington Post online.)
William Kristol of the right-wing Weekly Standard compared Iran to Nazi Germany and argued for “serious preparation for possible military action—including real and urgent operational planning for bombing strikes and for the consequences of such strikes.” The Wall Street Journal called upon Bush to give top priority to developing "bunker buster" nuclear bombs. These publications are not marginal. The run-up to the Iraq war proved that they reflect the thinking—and are listened to—at the highest levels of the Bush administration. (See Jim Lobe, “Neocons Turn Up Heat for Iran Attack,” antiwar.com, 4/14/06)
Hersh’s reporting, as well as the stated agenda and whole trajectory of the Bush regime, make it clear that it would be willful disbelief to ignore the growing danger of a U.S. attack on Iran. One reason: its objectives are not limited to disarming Iran—its goal is regime change, as in Iraq.
Hersh reports that one former defense official told him that “military planning was premised on a belief that ‘a sustained bombing campaign in Iran will humiliate the religious leadership and lead the public to rise up and overthrow the government.’” A Pentagon adviser told Hersh, “This White House believes that the only way to solve the problem is to change the power structure in Iran, and that means war.” He said that the U.S. was planning to “strike many hundreds of targets in Iran but that ‘ninety-nine percent of them have nothing to do with proliferation.’”
One military planner told Hersh, “People think Bush has been focused on Saddam Hussein since 9/11,” but, “in my view, if you had to name one nation that was his focus all the way along, it was Iran.” Secretary of State Rice recently told the Senate, "I think there's no doubt that Iran is the single biggest threat from a state that we face.” The new Bush National Security Strategy document called posed a graver challenge to the U.S. than any other country.
The problem for the imperialists is not that the Islamic Republic is a reactionary, obscurantist regime. Nor is it primarily that it may be pursuing nuclear weapons. The U.S. allies with plenty of reactionary, obscurantist regimes—Saudi Arabia being a case in point—as well as regimes with nuclear weapons such as Israel, India, and Pakistan.
The problem for the U.S. rulers is that the Islamic Republic is something of a barrier to its unfettered domination of the Persian Gulf. Iran poses a challenge because it is a large state with enormous oil reserves and a relatively large population, and its rulers are seeking to maintain their rule and extend their influence in ways that conflict with U.S. goals. For instance, the Islamic Republic has ties to other powers like Russia and China, and it supports forces in Lebanon, Palestine, and Iraq that have come into sharp conflict with the U.S. and Israel. Bush officials frequently blame Iran for fomenting unrest, backing anti-U.S. Shi’ite forces, and seeking to extend its influence in Iraq. And it is possible that Tehran’s ruling Ayatollahs are attempting to develop nuclear weapons in order to defend their rule and strengthen their leverage—both against the U.S. and in the region.
“This is much more than a nuclear issue,” one European diplomat told Hersh. “That’s just a rallying point...the Administration believes it cannot be fixed unless they control the hearts and minds of Iran. The real issue is who is going to control the Middle East and its oil in the next ten years.”
(There is, as yet, no clearcut evidence that Iran is firmly committed to building nuclear weapons. According to the Washington Post, the most recent U.S. National Intelligence Estimate predicated that if Iran did try to develop nuclear weapons, it couldn’t do so for at least 10 years. This past week Iran announced it had successfully enriched uranium to a purity necessary to fuel nuclear reactors, but it continues to insist its programs are peaceful. None of this has stopped the Bush regime from hyping the Iranian threat; this past week one State Department official claimed that Iran could make a nuclear weapon in 16 days.)
Regime change and crushing Iran as a regional power involve a murderous logic that could lead to widespread U.S. bombing in Iran, murdering thousands of Iranians, and possibly to using nuclear weapons. Hersh reports that one military analyst argued last month that “at least four hundred targets would have to be hit” to destroy Iran’s nuclear capabilities, and that U.S. objectives went far beyond Iran’s nuclear facilities:
“I don’t think a U.S. military planner would want to stop there. Iran probably has two chemical-production plants. We would hit those. We would want to hit the medium-range ballistic missiles that have just recently been moved closer to Iraq. There are fourteen airfields with sheltered aircraft. . . . We’d want to get rid of that threat. We would want to hit the assets that could be used to threaten Gulf shipping. That means targeting the cruise-missile sites and the Iranian diesel submarines.”
With or without nuclear weapons, a massive bombing campaign could cause widespread death and suffering to Iran. Another former defense official told Hersh that the U.S. could bludgeon Iran into submission: “we can tell them that, if necessary, we’ll keep knocking back their infrastructure.” Destroying a country’s civilian infrastructure is a war crime—and it’s what the U.S. did 13 years ago to Iraq by destroying its power grid and water and sewage systems. Between one and two million Iraqis, mainly children and the elderly, died as a result of this bombing coupled with U.S.-imposed sanctions.
The use of nuclear weapons would add exponentially to the horror, but the U.S. may use tactical nuclear weapons to be certain all Iran’s underground facilities are destroyed. Hersh reports, “The lack of reliable intelligence [concerning Iran’s underground facilities] leaves military planners, given the goal of totally destroying the sites, little choice but to consider the use of tactical nuclear weapons. ‘Every other option, in the view of the nuclear weaponeers, would leave a gap,’ the former senior intelligence official said. “Decisive” is the key word of the Air Force’s planning. It’s a tough decision. But we made it in Japan.’ ”
Hersh writes that one Pentagon adviser told him that “some in the Administration were looking seriously at this [nuclear] option, which he linked to a resurgence of interest in tactical nuclear weapons among Pentagon civilians and in policy circles,” and that “the idea of using tactical nuclear weapons in such situations has gained support from the Defense Science Board, an advisory panel whose members are selected by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.” In 2001, some top Bush officials signed a report calling for “treating tactical nuclear weapons as an essential part of the U.S. arsenal.” The Pentagon adviser called it “a juggernaut that has to be stopped.”
Many people refuse to believe that the Bush regime can get away with war on Iran while it’s bogged down in Iraq. In reality the difficulties the U.S. is confronting in Iraq may be one element impelling them toward attacking Iran. More fundamentally, the Bush agenda was never about conquering this or that country, but about reshaping the entire planet, and they’re willing to wage war for years to come, and bludgeon their way through every obstacle in their way in order to do so. The problem isn’t that they have no sense of the possible pitfalls, or that they’re oblivious to reality. The problem is that they feel the future of the U.S. empire is at stake, and they’re willing to murder millions and commit enormous crimes to maintain it. "[A] great nation has to be serious about its responsibilities," declares Kristol, a leading proponent of the Iraq war, “even if executing other responsibilities has been more difficult than one would have hoped.”
Ominously, one Pentagon consultant told Hersh, Bush believes that he must do “what no Democrat or Republican, if elected in the future, would have the courage to do,” and “that saving Iran is going to be his legacy.” As a congressman put it to Hersh, “The most worrisome thing is that this guy has a messianic vision.”
One congressman told Hersh, "There’s no pressure from Congress" not to take military action, and added, "The only political pressure is from the guys who want to do it." Robert Dreyfuss (“Hawk-Tied Democrats” on www.tompaine.com) that “many (perhaps most) elected Democrats are demanding a confrontation with Iran, too. Some, such as Hillary Clinton, are even trying to out-Bush the president in demanding a showdown with Iran.”
It is clearer than ever that it’s up to the people to do this—and illusory to expect the Democratic Party or Congress to do so.
Any attack on Iran would be criminal aggression which would cause widespread destruction, suffering, and death. People in the U.S. have the responsibility to step out NOW and oppose U.S. war plans against Iran with all their energy.
Revolution #044, April 23, 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
Part 13: The Cultural Revolution—Complex and Liberating Struggle
Lotta is on a national speaking tour as part of the Set the Record Straight project. Information on upcoming speaking dates and related materials are available at www. thisiscommunism.org.
The “master narrative” that guides most contemporary Western studies of the Cultural Revolution, and that is more or less the “official history” put out by the anti-Mao regime in China, is that the Cultural Revolution ushered in a "dark age." The accomplishments of the Cultural Revolution are systematically distorted.
But extraordinary things happened.
We can start with education. It’s a common charge that Mao was anti-learning and anti-education. Jung Chang and Jon Halliday in Mao: The Unknown Story go so far as to say that Mao’s approach to education was to consign the bulk of the population to a fate of “illiterate or semiliterate slave laborers.” Once again, they completely turn reality on its head.
Exhibit 1:Educational resources were vastly expanded in the rural areas.
Between 1965 and 1976, elementary school enrollment increased from 115 million to 150 million, and secondary school enrollment grew from 15 million to 58 million—almost a four-fold increase. Peasants had access to a network of village primary, joint village middle school, and commune high school systems. In mountainous areas, there were traveling classrooms. By 1973, 90 percent of school-age children attended school. Worker and peasant enrollment soared in the universities in the 1970s.
Exhibit 2:Attacking elitism in higher education.
Before the Cultural Revolution, the universities were the province of the sons and daughters of party members and the privileged classes. Children would compete in examinations to enter a hierarchy of increasingly selective college-preparatory schools. China had a long history of a feudal-Confucian educational system that created a small privileged elite, divorced from the common people and productive labor in society.
The Cultural Revolution abolished this system of elite tracking and competitive exams. Upon completing high school, students would live and work in rural areas or take up work in factories. After two or three years, students of any background could then apply to go college. Part of the college admission process involved evaluation and recommendations from young people’s work units.
The old curriculum was overhauled as part of breaking down elitism. Study was combined with productive labor. People took up revolutionary theory and revolutionary politics. The old teaching methods of students being passive receptacles of knowledge, and teachers and instructors being absolute authorities, were criticized.
The Cultural Revolution challenged the bourgeois-elitist idea that education is a ladder for individuals to "get ahead,” or a way to use skills and knowledge to gain advantageous position over others. This was not anti-intellectualism, but rather a question of putting knowledge in the service of the society that was breaking down social inequalities.
Exhibit 3:“Open door” research.
One of the most exciting breakthroughs of the Cultural Revolution was what was called “open door” research. In the countryside, scientific stations were set up close to the fields. Peasants, alongside specialists from the cities, carried out experiments in hybrid grains, conducted studies of insect-life cycles, and other aspects of science in agriculture. This helped the masses come to understand scientific questions and the scientific method; and helped scientists gain a better sense of conditions in society, including in the countryside.
In the cities, leading educational institutions and research institutes developed relationships with factories, neighborhood committees, and other organizations. People came to the laboratories and the laboratories went to the people. And you had innovative arrangements like women from a neighborhood factory producing parts for advanced computers—not as exploited Third World outsourced labor—but in a cooperative relationship with a lab or institute, and learning about the science of it all.
During the Cultural Revolution, artists, doctors, technical and scientific workers, and all kinds of people were called on to go among the workers and peasants: to apply their skills to the needs of society, to share the lives of the laboring people, to exchange knowledge, and to learn from the basic people.
We are told that going to countryside was a form of punishment against professionals. Well, does that apply to the peasants? Who asked the peasants if they wanted to live in the countryside? The fact is: this policy of sending professionals to the countryside was part of a conscious attempt to break down the lopsidedness of society and to reduce the cultural and resource gaps between town and country.
How was this policy carried out? At the point of a gun? No. First of all, there was an appeal to people's higher interests and aspirations of serving society. Second, ideological struggle was waged. It was made a mass question: what’s more important, that a skilled doctor have the “right” to a privileged life in the city, or that health care be made widely available? Third, there were many people who took this up with enthusiasm and commitment and set examples for others. Finally, there was a degree of coercion. The policy of sending people to the countryside was institutionalized. But not all coercion is bad. For instance, is it wrong for a government to mandate school desegregation, even if some object to it?
Now, as I said, many professionals and youth responded with great enthusiasm to this call to go to the countryside. I would strongly recommend that people take a look at a recent book, Some of Us (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2001). It has several essays written by Chinese women, now living in the West, who took part in the Cultural Revolution. They talk about how positive and life-changing this experience was of going to the countryside: how they learned from the peasants, did things they never thought they could, and gained a sense of their strength as women, and how the Cultural Revolution promoted a spirit of critical thinking.
Let’s turn to culture. We’re told that the Cultural Revolution led to a cultural wasteland. But the truth is quite different. There was an explosion of artistic activity among workers and peasants—poetry, painting, music, short stories, and even film. Mass art projects and new kinds of popular and collaborative artistic undertakings spread, including to the countryside and remote areas. Large-scale collective sculptural works, like the Rent Collection Courtyard figures, reached a very high level of artistic expression and revolutionary content.
The Cultural Revolution produced what were called “model revolutionary works.” They were pacesetters which the people all over China could use as models in their development of numerous and artistic works. Model operas and ballets put the masses on stage front and center. They conveyed their lives, and their role in society and history. These model works were of extraordinarily high level, combining traditional Chinese forms with western instruments and techniques. Significantly, strong women figured prominently in the revolutionary operas.
Different Peking Opera companies would tour in the countryside, helping local culture groups to develop and learning from local performances. Let me read from an account by someone talking about how the model revolutionary works and the general spread of revolutionary culture affected his village.
He says: "I witnessed an unprecedented surge of cultural and sports activities in my own home village, Gao Village. The rural villages, for the first time, organized theater troupes and put on performances that incorporated the contents and structure of the eight model Peking operas with local language and music. The villagers not only entertained themselves, but also learned how to read and write by getting into the text in plays, and they organized sports meets and held matches with other villages. All these activities gave the villagers an opportunity to meet, communicate, fall in love. These activities gave them a sense of discipline and organization, and created a public sphere where meetings and communications went beyond the traditional household and village clans. This had never happened before and it has never happened since."*
Next Week: The Cultural Revolution: Health Care and the Economy
*Mobo Gao, “Debating the Cultural Revolution,” Critical Asia Studies, 34:3 (2002), pp. 427-28.
Revolution #044, April 23, 2006, posted at revcom.us
If you are going to insist that crossing borders illegally is a crime which cannot be tolerated, and for which people should be punished, how about George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice (and, yes, Colin Powell) and the rest of that gang, with their highly illegal, and violent, "crossing of the border"—into Iraq, among other places?!
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Revolution #044, April 23, 2006, posted at revcom.us
In issue #42, Revolution ran a review of David Horowitz's book "The Professors—The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America" (see "'The Professors . . .' David Horowitz and the New Brownshirts," by Alan Goodman at http://rwor.org/a/042/professors-horowitz-new-brownshirts.htm).
A number of the professors who are attacked in Horowitz's book responded to the review, and some gave permission to share their responses at this online forum. These professors' comments reflect their own views, and not necessarily those of their university, of Revolution newspaper, or any other organization or institution. And the professors whose comments are included here are not responsible for other content at the revcom.us Web site or in the print version of Revolution newspaper.
Partly in response to these comments, Alan Goodman wrote a follow-up piece in Revolution #44, "Brownshirts on Campus with Deep Connections to Bush—David Horowitz and the Halls of Power.".
I debated Mr. Horowitz on March 29, 2006 on the Iraq War and the right of professors to comment and incorporate the war as part of their classroom pedagogy. My comments on the American state-terrorist Iraq War were published by George Mason University's History News Network: http://hnn.us/articles/23421.html
Being named as one of the 101 Most Dangerous Professors came as little surprise. I was suspended for an antiwar email in 2002 due to public pressure to punish me for my pacifist beliefs even though American Association of University Professor guidelines were egregiously violated by an administration pandering to public right-wing opinion. So these are the times where the academy is under assault by several but not all right-wing groups, who wish to impose a nationalistic, prowar ideological monopoly on higher education through the marginalisation of progressive faculty. Academic freedom must be defended by those who are committed to academic excellence and the thunder of the right needs to be challenged on every front. Otherwise, America will have no voices left to challenge its imperialistic, racist and monstrous disregard for international peace and security.
Resistance is essential; radicalism is imperative; critical thinking is mandatory if we are going to reverse course and create a nation based upon democracy, human rights and respect for the needs of the international community.
Kirstein Blog http://english.sxu.edu/sites/kirstein/
Kirstein Website http://people.sxu.edu/~kirstein/
The purpose of this book is to generate controversy and excitement, so that Horowitz can vivify his flagging campaign to raise more millions of dollars in contributions from right wing foundations. He is either running out of money or he needs much more to sustain and perhaps amplify his campaign (which is now waning, at least temporarily). We must make sure not to help him in this endeavor by diverting our own efforts away from important activities; or to refocus our attention to debates with him. This will allow him to call more attention and resources to his campaign, while draining precious energy that is needed for important social activism. We have to fight him when he actually causes trouble, and ignore him the rest of the time. Otherwise, he will interfere with fighting the war and other major causes, while recruiting resources from his right wing backers. If he can't generate controversy, then his funding will die and he will become much less dangerous.
Thanks for providing a summary of the widespread program that Horowitz has mounted that flies in the face of the most basic principles of academic freedom.
Thanks for forwarding this article. While I'm willing to give Horowitz the benefit of the doubt that he doesn't really intend to "legislate" what can be said in the classroom or institutionalize a new censorship (what many of his critics suggest), his crusade does invite others to go down this road. Certainly, his book is shoddily researched and he makes some terribly reckless claims about those profiled in it. He not only attacks, as you point out, critical thought and debate about today's pressing questions, but also many established truths about the "overdetermination" of knowledge, the fluidity of disciplinary boundaries, and the social position of the university in society. Mr. Horowitz himself seems a deeply contradictory critter. As I suggested in a post to dangerousprofessors.net:
"Mr. Horowitz says that he wants professors to be academic and scholarly, yet his book research is superficial and sloppy, and should inspire no confidence that his accounts of rampant student persecution are accurate. He wants professors to stick to their subjects, yet he fails to realize that disciplinary boundaries have become increasingly permeable to the point where everything happening in intellectual and social life is conceivably relevant to the classroom subject at hand. He stands for eliminating political bias from the classroom, yet he ignores a century of scholarship showing that biases of all kinds inevitably shape all forms of academic inquiry, and that they can actually work to education's advantage if teachers and students are aware of them. He thus misses the point that "depoliticizing" classrooms implicitly politicizes them. He claims to be a pro-democracy patriot, but he rejects Jeffersonian ideals of teaching for citizenship in favor of an elitist, "sage on the stage" model of tweedy professors filling up empty-headed students with disinterested knowledge. He wants to promote intellectual curiosity, yet he bailed on his own graduate program because, in his stunningly impoverished view of intellectual life, "everything had been mined. There was nothing to research that was interesting anymore" (Chronicle of Higher Education interview, May 6, 2005).
He supposedly is a student advocate, yet he clearly disrespects the ability of students to think for themselves, and he underestimates the resolve of our very best students to "battle test" their ideas in the classroom. He says he stands for civil discourse, yet his online magazine Frontpagemag.com is an unreadable hate sheet. Clearly, if we want to encourage intellectual curiosity about how the world works and model inquiry in pursuit of truth, this is not a man from whom we should take much advice. Unfortunately, however, what Horowitz says about the academy resonates with large numbers of citizens. The problem is widespread public ignorance of what professors do and what the university is for. I'm afraid that many professors themselves worry too little about accountability to the public, and think too little about the relationship between the university and wider society. And public debates between Horowitz and Ward Churchill do almost nothing to educate the public on this important issue, and will hurt the cause of academic freedom more than help it.
By the way, I'd cut Horowitz some slack with his defense of Larry Summers. I also defended Summers' right to speculate about the causes of the differential participation of women in science, without endorsing any of his conclusions as established fact. As noted above, disciplinary boundaries are becoming increasingly permeable. We need to let "borderland" fields (like evolutionary psychology, which inquires into evolved differences between men and women) develop before we issue proclamations about "the way the world is" (e.g., that of the American Sociological Association). But I'm an anthropologist, and I've got problems with much of what sociologists say!
Thanks for your work, and all best.
I think Horowitz's book is best ignored. But thanks for the article.
Great article. I think you succeed in illuminating the concerns that surface when people like David Horowitz attempt to "regulate" what happens between students and professors in the classroom. Frankly, what does happen in the classroom is so incredibly complex, that we must leave it up to the free market to address any wrongs.
Having said that, Horowitz does raise some provocative questions that those of us in the academy ought to be addressing. For example, how do we know that we're really balancing our perspectives when we teach? How often do we discuss it with peers who think differently than we do? I would like to see us professors discuss these questions more directly . . . and more often.
I very much appreciate your work and the article in question. My response to Horowitz has largely been to make fun of him and his crusade, figuring that ridicule may be the most effective tool in such cases; on the other hand, I'm well aware of the dangers latent in his assaults on academic freedom and efforts to limit and - worse yet - direct, scholarly inquiry.
I know it's a cliché, but keep up the good work!
[In giving permission to use his comments online, Professor Barash added the following note.]
I agree that it's an interesting question whether that particular SOB is best responded to, or simply ignored, or—as I'm inclined—laughed at. In case you haven't seen it, here's a newspaper article about H's attacks on me: http://tinyurl.com/l7dx7
I'm attaching an e-mail I sent to a fellow at the American Federation of Teachers who is collecting responses to H. It consists of the chapter in The Professors that directly concerns me, along with my corrections/comments, plus some general observations at the end. [Professor Barish sent two excerpts from Horowitz's book, followed by Barash's responses. They can be read at http://collegefreedom.org/hbarash.htm.]
Thanks, this is very informative. I especially appreciated the details about attacks on academics at various institutions. You might want to verify Horowitz's claim about the number of states that have adopted his proposed legislation, rather than just citing his website.
[In a follow-up note, Professor Evangelista added the following comment:]
I would also look forward to reading a discussion of the pros and cons of responding to Horowitz. I think his book is probably less important than his campaign to influence state legislation, but presumably the two are related.
Thanks for your article. It's an excellent analysis of Horowitz's reactionary political agenda.
[Here is the beginning of an article that Marable wrote in response to Horowitz's attack that he gave Revolution permission to reprint]:
The Most Dangerous Black Professor in America
Dr. Manning Marable
"Along the Color Line"
Back in 1919, in the chaotic aftermath of World War I and the Russian Revolution, President Woodrow Wilson's administration sought to suppress radical and progressive intellectuals here at home. Government agents harassed W.E.B. Du Bois and the NAACP's journal, The Crisis. Copies of African-American socialist A. Philip Randolph's militant journal, The Messenger, were seized and destroyed. When President Wilson was given a copy of The Messenger, he declared that Randolph must surely be "the most dangerous Negro in America."
Randolph later went on to found the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters in 1925, the first successful African-American labor union. In the 1930's. Randolph conceived of the National Negro Congress, a black united front that challenged the racism of Jim Crow segregation and the inadequate programs of the Roosevelt administration in dealing with black unemployment. In 1941 Randolph pressured Roosevelt with the call for a "Negro March on Washington, D.C.," resulting in the desegregation of defense industry jobs generated by federal contracts. Randolph was indeed "dangerous" to the enemies of black freedom.
Randolph immediately came to mind when I learned recently that I was listed among "The 101 Most Dangerous Professors" in America's colleges and universities. The indicted of these 101 "academic subversives" appears in a new book by right wing gadfly David Horowitz. Horowitz crashed the headlines several years ago when he circulated the provocative advertisement denouncing black American reparations for slavery and Jim Crow segregation as "racist." His latest political maneuver is the demand for an "Academic Bill of Rights," calling for state legislatures to restrict academic freedom on campuses...
Read more at www.manningmarable.net
You can see my own response (and those of others), which were first published in Socialist Worker (http://www.socialistworker.org), at http://www.socialistworker.org/2006-1/577/577_09_Professors.shtml