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A Call and a Challenge
Risking life itself to cross the border.
Hounded by La Migra and treated like criminals.
Crowded into decaying neighborhoods.
Slowly dying in backbreaking fields and suffocating sweatshops.
The few rights you have are under assault.
They want to take away your very humanity.
May First 2006 in the United States of America: An undeniable force of over a million immigrants and their allies said ¡Basta Ya! Enough already!
People filled the streets in big cities, small cities, and rural towns—emptying factories and schools, closing restaurants and shops. More than half a million in Los Angeles. 400,000 in Chicago. Tens of thousands in New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Milwaukee. Many thousands more from coast to coast, including small towns and rural areas in Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Texas. The crowds were overwhelmingly Latino, but there were many different immigrant groups as well—from Africa, the Caribbean, Asia, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and Ireland.
This was a massive outpouring of resistance to government's efforts to intensify the persecution and exploitation of undocumented immigrants in this country.
At great personal risk, many hundreds of thousands of immigrants, overwhelmingly proletarians, came out of the shadows and lifted their heads in defiance. Such an outpouring of resistance is something to uphold and celebrate. Such a heroic spirit is something to support and spread.
An upsurge of protest among immigrants has grown over the last several months. And it is changing the political landscape in this country. It is drawing millions into struggle against the government, against the system. And it is raising big questions about the nature of this system, how to fight, and what it will take to actually put an end to exploitation and oppression.
The actions of a minority are inspiring and opening the minds of many more. And for all those angry about the direction the Bush Regime is taking this country, and the whole planet—there is an important example here.
Various anti-immigrant bills are being proposed in Congress. Fascist politicians like Congressman Tom Tancredo want to deny citizenship to the children born in the U.S. whose parents are undocumented immigrants. And vigilantes like the Minutemen are patrolling the border with guns, hunting immigrants who they call a threat to the “fabric of America.” In such a situation this new movement of immigrants is not being paralyzed by fear and driven deeper into the shadows. People are stepping out and saying: “¡Bush escucha! ¡Estamos en la lucha!” and “¡El pueblo unido jamás será vencido!” (“Bush listen up! We are in struggle!” and “The people united will never be defeated!”).
It is truly exciting and significant when hundreds of thousands of proletarians take to the streets, right here in the United States. And it was very fitting that these protests took place on May First—the revolutionary holiday of the international proletariat. Many of these demonstrations were billed as “A Day Without Immigrants” and the bit of truth this hit on was hard to miss—as factories, restaurants, construction, landscaping, transportation, and many other industries and services ground to a halt.
And significantly, this outpouring of protest found expression in small towns and rural areas where there have been dramatic demographic changes over the last few decades. In many of these places, which have rarely, if ever, seen any kind of political protest, meatpacking plants and other industries have systematically recruited workers from Mexico and Central America. And the Latino population of many of these rural counties has gone from zero in 1970 to 10-45% in 2000. In Dodge City, Kansas 1,500 immigrant proletarians marched down the main street and all five of the major beef packing plants in Kansas (which employ more than 12,000 people) were closed. In Emporia—a Kansas town of 25,000, with 20% Latino, more than 1,500 people protested at the county fairground near the Tyson meatpacking plant where many immigrants work. Immigrants protested in Storm Lake, Iowa, where 20% of the town's 10,000 people are Latino and Tyson Foods, the world’s largest meat producer, was forced to shut down for the day. And in dozens of other small towns, immigrants also took to the street on May First.
To the U.S. ruling class, the millions of immigrants who come across the border are something to fear and attack. But the revolutionary proletariat and its allies, welcomes these immigrant sisters and brothers, who are a strategic strength in the struggle for revolution.
There were lots of American flags at these demonstrations—reflecting widespread illusions about what the United States is all about and what it means for the masses of people here and around the world. In the midst of this, the Red Flag was taken up by thousands—including people who consciously see this as the flag of proletarian revolution. Some people carried the American flag and the red flag—reflecting the fact that this movement has not broken out of the bounds of acceptable bourgeois politics as well as the motion and potential in such a situation—and the need for revolutionary leadership.
Millions of non-immigrant people in this country who oppose the discrimination and mistreatment of immigrants have been inspired by this growing struggle for immigrant rights—and there were important expressions of this on May First. In Chicago, social workers who treat rape victims greeted the march with signs that said “Gracias” and “Thank You.” White church members provided water to protesters under a sign that read: “Yesterday's Immigrants Support Today's Immigrants—Your Journey is Our Journey.” A multi-national contingent of medical students chanted: “Our patients will be treated, papers are not needed.” And there were others who came out to these demonstrations with a similar message: “We are all immigrants” and “No Human Being is Illegal.” Such seeds of unity are significant and, if nurtured, can grow into something necessary, powerful and beautiful in the struggle against the system, in the fight for a better world.
On May 1, 2006—right here in the belly of the beast, it is truly exciting and significant that over a million immigrant proletarians took to the streets, in cities and towns throughout the USA, proclaiming their humanity and determination to fight for their rights. The sentiment that “we workers make society run” reflects a real truth, and at the same time, is not yet and needs to become class conscious—to recognize and act on the fact that as a class, the proletariat is the only class that can and must lead the fight to free all humanity. The outpouring of resistance by immigrants that marked May First this year is truly something that should be celebrated and joined. And it needs to be built off of, in a way that brings forth the class conscious leadership of the proletariat, prevents this movement from being channeled into ineffective bourgeois politics, and contributes in the most powerful way to the revolutionary struggle to free this planet from all oppression and exploitation.
On Bob Avakian’s New Works...
This week we inaugurate a new series from Bob Avakian: The Basis, the Goals, and the Methods of the Communist Revolution. As we do so, let’s step back for a minute and realize what we have here. Something historic is going on, right now, in the development of Marxism. The series of works by Bob Avakian that we have been printing since the first of the year—drawn from a talk given in 2005—take on decisive questions, on a level not seen before, and at a moment when the revolutionary forces confront huge challenges. 1
These works have a definite polemical element, directing intellectual fire against trends that would suffocate the communist movement, and this should not be lost. But in the tradition of the great polemics of the communist movement—like Anti-Duhring, by Engels, or Lenin’s still-classic What Is To Be Done?—Bob Avakian not only defends the foundation of Marxism; he breaks new ground. He addresses fundamental questions of philosophy and world outlook, on the vision of communism, and (especially) on both the continued need for proletarian revolution and proletarian state power and a much more developed—in many respects a qualitatively different—conception of what that power must be, if it is to actually advance humanity to a classless society. In short, the works that have come out of Bob Avakian’s 2005 talk build on and extend his previous work 2 to advance the science of revolution itself in qualitative ways, to a higher synthesis. They possess a sweep that is breathtaking and a newness that is both challenging and mind-opening; taken as a whole, they call to mind nothing so much as the title of the series just finished which, while it mainly relates to the whole rupture inaugurated by Marx, applies as well to the new contributions by Chairman Avakian: “a radically new kind of state, a radically different and far greater vision of freedom.”
This material is science, and much of it is new. You have to struggle with it, you have to grapple with it and you have to think—deeply and from different angles—about it. It takes work to understand—indeed, the hard work required to understand and transform reality is a major theme of Views On Socialism and Communism. One reading is only the beginning. But anyone who wants fundamental change badly enough to be scientific about it will want to return to the talk again and again, and will find it essential to even begin to correctly identify, let alone face and overcome, the true challenges of the moment. Conversely—if you’re not engaging with this, you won’t be able to rise to the demands and responsibilities that we face. There is really nothing else like this.
People face many pressing tasks in waging the class struggle. That is as it should be. There is real revolutionary potential to be wrenched out of the upheaval and swirling turbulence of these times—and there is a real danger of squandering very rare opportunities. But that struggle and work will ultimately amount to very little if it is not guided by the most advanced theory of our time. There is nothing more pressing—and nothing more exhilarating!—than getting into this new material being brought forward by Bob Avakian. No revolutionary worthy of the name can fail to engage this; anyone who is truly radical will want and demand to do so. Study it, think about it, talk to your comrades and friends and people you know about it, live with it, apply it to the world we face, write us with both your initial comments and your well thought out responses... and take it out to transform reality, toward human emancipation.
1. The excerpts from the 2005 talk have included the series Views on Socialism and Communism: A Radically New Kind of State, A Radically Different and Far Greater Vision of Freedom (Revolution #37, #39, #40, #41, #42, and #43); the individual excerpts “More on 'The Coming Civil War'” (#29), “Polarization...Repolarization...and Revolution” (#30), “The Christian Fascists and the U.S. Military” (#31), and “Reform or Revolution: Questions of Orientation, Questions of Morality” (#32); and now the new series starting this issue, The Basis, the Goals, and the Methods of Communist Revolution. Find these online here.Back to article
2. See, for example, Bob Avakian: Observations on Art and Culture, Science and Philosophy (Chicago: Insight Press, 2005)Back to article
MY JOURNEY FROM MAINSTRAM AMERICA TO REVOLUTIONARY COMMUNIST
A MEMOIR BY BOB AVAKIAN
In conjunction with the online posting of an audio recording of Bob Avakian reading his memoir—From Ike to Mao and Beyond—Revolution is publishing a series of excerpts from the book. The audio recording can be found on our website, revcom.us, and is also available on bobavakian.net. In issue #44, we featured sections of Chapter One, “Mom and Dad,” and Chapter Two, “One Nation Under God—a ’50s Boyhood.” In issue #45, we featured excerpts from Chapter Three, “The World Begins to Open,” and Chapter Four, “High School.” This week we feature excerpts from Chapter Five. The audio of the author reading Chapters One through Four is online and Chapter Five will be available on Monday, May 8.
I enrolled at Cal the week before classes formally started, and we began football practice for the freshman team at that time. Even though I was really looking forward to it and excited about it, they had already given us big play books and I could tell the whole thing was going to be more like a job and a business. In high school you had to learn plays and you had to practice, but it wasn’t all so serious. There was a camaraderie about it and there was a particular social experience that went along with it in a school like Berkeley High at that time. It was also just fun. But I could already tell this was going to be a much different atmosphere. Nevertheless, both because I loved football and because it was sort of a thing I’d always dreamed of doing, I still wanted to play football for Cal.
But during that week I started feeling sick. I would be throwing up a lot. I noticed that while I hadn’t changed my diet or anything, I was gaining weight really quickly. Even though a lot of different things indicated that something was wrong, I thought that maybe I just had a little bit of the flu. But this persisted for that whole week, and I kept vomiting all the time. It’s one thing if you do that a couple of times in one day, or for a couple of days. But this went on all week. Every time I would do anything and exert myself, I’d feel alright for a little while, and then I’d feel terrible. Or I’d be hungry and eat food, but as soon as I ate I felt terrible. I was staying that semester with my parents, and finally I talked to them and said, “I really think I better go to the student clinic and see what’s wrong, whether I have a bad case of the flu or whatever.” So my dad drove me down to the student clinic, and I still remember the last words he said as I got out of the car and headed for the clinic: “Well, don’t let them keep you.”
So I went into the clinic, and I described my symptoms, and they gave me a urine test and some blood tests. Pretty soon they came back and said, “We have to admit you to the hospital. You’ve got kidney casts in your urine and you’ve got albumen, protein in your urine, and that means there’s something wrong with your kidney function.” So I was put in a room, and as I mentioned I had been inexplicably gaining weight, so they said, “Don’t give him anything to eat, but let him drink as much water as he wants.” They wanted to see what would happen—and between that afternoon and evening I gained five pounds, because my kidneys were basically shutting down and I was retaining all the water that I was drinking.
At this point my parents called a friend of theirs who was a doctor and asked him to go check and see what was happening. When they told him what the urine tests had showed, he said, “Uh oh, that’s not good,” and explained to them that it could mean there was a serious problem with my kidneys. I was in this room with three other people, and all of them were having visitors; they were all laughing and joking, and this doctor friend of my parents came in—and he didn’t have the best style—he just yelled at everybody in the room: “Be quiet, settle down, don’t you realize that this patient here,” pointing at me, “is very sick?” And that was the first time that I knew that I was very sick. I knew from what they said about the tests that something wasn’t right, and the fact that I was gaining this weight meant something. But this was news to me in a very bad way: “this patient is very sick.” Right after that, they moved me into a room by myself.
This all happened very quickly. The next day, the head of the medical staff at the student health clinic, who became my doctor—his name was Mort Meyer and he was a really great guy—came in and took over my case, because he recognized it was very serious and he told me, frankly, that I was very sick. And for a couple of months I was in the hospital, in a bad way, because my kidneys just completely shut down.
But it’s kind of funny. They were telling me I was very sick and, obviously, the way they were saying it meant they were serious. You could follow that logically and know that you might die. But, for whatever reason, I didn’t really think about dying. I just knew I was very sick and the question was how to get well, that was what was in my mind. My parents, I know, got the point that I was very sick, and the implications of that. After all, there were no transplants at that time. They could put you on dialysis—where they basically take your blood out and filter it and put it back into your body, because your kidneys are supposed to do that but they’re not functioning—and they almost did that with me. But you couldn’t stay on dialysis indefinitely, and dialysis then wasn’t even as good as it is now. I know that my parents understood right away the seriousness of the situation. Although my father was very affectionate and wasn’t one of these fathers who wouldn’t show emotions, he didn’t cry a lot in front of other people. And I was told by my mother and my younger sister, later on, that he went into a closet and just wept, because he understood what this meant.
To save my life, I became kind of like a test tube. They would come in every morning and take a bunch of blood tests to see what the chemicals in my blood were. Since my kidneys weren’t functioning, I wasn’t allowed to eat anything for about a month. I could drink around five hundred milliliters of water and an additional amount of water equal to whatever I was able to urinate for the day—which was often very, very little, because it’s your kidneys that release the urine. So all this uremic poisoning was backing up in my body, because I couldn’t urinate—the doctor used to come in, look at my eyes and see that I had uremic poisoning in my eyes.
They would come in the morning and take these tests, and if my potassium were too low they would give me potassium during the day, in pills; and if my potassium were too high, they would give me something to counter-balance that. So I felt as if I were a test tube and they were chemically adjusting what was going on in my body to keep me alive, especially during the acute phase, which lasted more than a month. That’s why I couldn’t eat anything, because they didn’t want anything to complicate things further—every time you eat, it affects the chemical balance of everything in your body.
Even when I wasn’t eating, I used to vomit three or four times a day. Vomiting became a function like blowing your nose. It was unpleasant, but I got so used to it that when people would visit me and I got nauseous, I’d say, “Could you excuse me for a second? I have to vomit.” Despite that, one thing that was hard was that I’d get very hungry every day. There was a guy across the hall from me who had hepatitis. And, because that weakens the body, they had him on a 5,000-calorie-a-day diet. He would describe to me how he had two or three milkshakes a day, and I would get really jealous. You know, in the hospital, one of the things people look forward to, if they’re not too sick, is meal time—it breaks up the monotony and you get something to eat. I used to lie there and listen to the dishes clinking on the trays, but I could never eat. I was hungry, but if I had eaten I would have felt even worse. I can still remember when, finally, they let me have something to eat—it was a peach. I remember how grateful I was, and how I profusely thanked the orderly in the hospital who went out and got that peach and gave it to me with some fanfare.
Of course, there were a lot of ways in which this whole thing was very difficult. The treatment wasn’t as bad as the sickness, but sometimes you kind of wondered, because they’d have to get potassium in me by one means or another. So one time they gave me these great big horse capsules that were full of potassium, and I’d have to take something like fifteen of them at a time. I’d take so many and then I’d throw them up, so then I’d have to take them again. Or they’d give me this potassium in liquid form. One day after I’d passed the most acute stage of this, they brought in this glass of orange juice, and they said here’s some orange juice with just a little bit of medicine in it. I said okay and I started drinking. I took one swig, and I can’t even describe the taste, it just made my body shiver, it was such an awful taste. I went, “Yucch, what is that?” “That’s potassium, but there’s only a teaspoon in there.” I said, “I don’t care—please, the next time you bring me potassium, bring me the potassium separately, and then give me the orange juice on the side—I’ll take the potassium down and then I’ll have the orange juice to wash away the taste.” Since then I’ve used this as a metaphor sometimes—the one teaspoon of potassium that ruins a whole glass of orange juice.
But that was not as bad as what I had to go through earlier, when I couldn’t orally take in the potassium because I’d throw it up. Then they decided that the only way they could keep it in me was to give it to me by enema. So I’d have to have an eight-hour drip of potassium coming in by that means. It didn’t hurt, but there was a pressure build-up, the way it is with IV drips. If a nurse doesn’t come around to check it every so often, then the drip will start going a little faster. The nurses can get very busy and preoccupied with something else, and it starts going faster and faster—and the more it goes, the more the pressure builds up. One time I was something like seven hours and forty-five minutes into the eight-hour potassium enema: the pressure is building more and more, and I’m furiously pushing on the buzzer to get the nurses to come and turn it down, but before they could get there everything just came back out! And I had to start it all over again. These are the kinds of things you had to put up with in order to overcome this disease, especially in its acute phase.
All this was very difficult psychologically as well as physically. For example, one of the ways that my parents knew I was really sick, and even I recognized it, was one Saturday they were visiting me and there was a Cal football game on the radio, and my dad said to me, “Do you want me to put the football game on?” I was lying in bed and I could barely work up the energy to answer, “No, I’m too tired, I don’t feel up to listening to it.” And they knew that if I were too sick to even feel up to listening to a football game, then it was very serious.
There was also a time when a doctor other than Dr. Meyer was on rounds at the hospital, and he came in to check on me. He asked, “How are you feeling?” I said, “Not very good.” So we started talking, and then I told him: “Here’s what bothers me. Sometimes when I stand up, like to go to the bathroom or something, if I feel up to that, pretty soon I feel weak and bad, but then if that’s the case I can sit down; and then when I’m sitting down and I feel really bad and really weak, I can lie down; but what about the times when I’m lying down and I feel really weak and really bad—what do I do then?” And the doctor looked at me and said, “Just try to rest.” It only dawned on me later that clearly I was very close to dying—that was really what my question reflected—and the doctor, of course, knew it, but what could he say?
I never had the attitude that “I’m dying, I’m just gonna let go.” I had the attitude: “I’m sick, I’m gonna get over this.” I would always ask the doctor, “When am I gonna be well, when am I gonna be over this?” Because I was young, and even though this hit me completely out of the blue and really knocked me down, I felt like “I’m going to overcome this, I’m going to conquer this, I’m going to get back on my feet, I’m going to do what I did before.” But, of course, it is very difficult when you feel the way a lot of youth do—invulnerable and optimistic and enthusiastic and very confident about life—and all of a sudden everything’s knocked out from underneath you, you’re just barely hanging on to life, and you feel completely vulnerable in a way you never did before.
During the acute period of the Cuban Missile Crisis, in 1962, those events, and their implications, loomed much larger, even in my own mind, than my own situation of being sick. Everybody sensed to one degree or another—certainly anybody who was paying any attention, and most people were, they couldn’t help it—that the world could literally end at any time. I still remember feeling very, very deeply, right down into my bones, that the whole world could come to an end. At that time, I was back on a restricted schedule in school, but I followed this whole thing very intensely.
Of course, they always give you only the U.S. imperialist side of the picture, and that’s what people get drummed into them. I remember this dramatic incident that they still like to replay from time to time, when Adlai Stevenson, who was the U.S. representative to the United Nations, gave this speech where he showed these photos of the Soviet missiles that had been brought into Cuba. And then he turned to the Soviet ambassador and said, “Are those or are those not Soviet missiles in Cuba? I can wait here till hell freezes over, Mr. Ambassador.” The Soviet ambassador wouldn’t answer, and Stevenson just kept saying, “Are they or aren’t they, Mr. Ambassador”—on and on like that, putting him on the spot. But they never show how a year before that, at the beginning of the Kennedy administration, Adlai Stevenson got up and vehemently denied in the United Nations that the U.S. had anything to do with the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba—which, of course, was a blatant lie. So they like to show the one thing on TV as a highlight from history, but not the other thing where Stevenson was overtly lying in front of the whole world.
At the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy put a naval blockade around Cuba, and said that if any Soviet ship tried to break that blockade that would be an act of war, and the U.S. would respond. Kennedy tried to justify this—and I remember this very clearly—by claiming that the Soviet Union had violated the UN Charter by putting missiles in Cuba. Now even though I had a lot of suspicions about the government already at that time, and even though I was very angry about a lot of injustices in American society, and especially the oppression of Black people, I still wanted to believe in my government. I still wanted to believe the government could at least be brought around to doing the right thing. And I didn’t want to believe that on something where literally the fate of the world was involved, they would just openly lie to everybody. But I felt strongly, with the fate of the world up for grabs and hanging by a thread, that “I have to know the truth here.”
So I went to the university library and I dug out the UN Charter, remembering that Kennedy said it was a violation of the UN Charter for the Soviet Union to have missiles in Cuba. I read the whole charter through, and I naively expected I would find a statement in the Charter that would say, “It is a violation of this Charter for the Soviet Union to have missiles in Cuba.” Of course, I didn’t find anything of the kind. So then I started looking into it further: “Well, does it say it’s a violation for one country to put missiles into another country?” Of course, there wasn’t anything like that in the Charter either and, as I later found out, the U.S. had missiles all over the place, including in Turkey, and even though the ones in Turkey were older generation missiles, they were still missiles that could set off nuclear devices. These missiles in Turkey were closer to the Soviet border than Cuba was to the U.S. border, but they weren’t talking about that either in the U.S. media. I kept looking for anything in this UN Charter that would justify what Kennedy was saying about how this was a violation of the Charter. I read that Charter over and over, and I couldn’t find anything.
Kennedy was just lying. He was really saying, “We can do whatever we want, and nobody can do anything we don’t want ’em to do.” That was the logic he was using then, and that’s the logic that, right up to Bush, they use now. Some of my favorite lines from Bob Dylan are in the song where he talks about trying to get in a nuclear fallout shelter and the owner says, “Get out of here, I’ll tear you limb from limb.” Then the next lines are: “I said, ‘You know, they refused Jesus too.’ He said: ‘You’re not him.’” The way of thinking, or not thinking, that Dylan captured there—the inability or unwillingness to engage in abstract thought, and to abstract from one situation to another, the refusal to be consistent in applying a principle (what applies to you doesn’t apply to me; I can do what I want, and you can’t do it if I don’t want you to)—that same sort of “you’re not him,” or “you’re not me,” logic was being applied by Kennedy. And this was a big shock to me. I knew some things about injustices in American society, but lying on this level, lying before the world with the fate of the world literally at stake, was more than I expected. It may have been unusual to actually go and pore through the UN Charter, but there was so much at stake that I felt like, “I have to know the truth, and just because it’s the leader of my country, I can’t accept what he says when something this big is at stake.”
Of course, this didn’t immediately cause me to become a communist—I was still against communism, as much as I understood it, which was very little. But it shook me up a lot and kept circulating in my mind as other events, like Vietnam a little later, unfolded. The Cuban missile crisis and things like the fair housing struggle contributed to my feeling that there were important things in the world and I should do something about those things, I should do something important with my life when I got my life back. I still had the passion that I had for sports and things like that, but that was something you do for entertainment and fun—I mean your life could be about that, and I always thought that if I hadn’t ended up being a communist, maybe I would have been a high school basketball coach—but I was feeling that my life should be about something more than sports, as much as I still had real passion about that. I felt that there were so many big things going on in the world, I wanted to do something with my life that would mean something or, to use the phrase of the time, be relevant and not just be a personal passion for me.
In my review of David Horowitz’s book “The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America,” (Revolution #42) I sketched a picture of the wide range of basic facts and truths that could not be spoken on campus if Horowitz had his way. Truths ranging from the fact of the genocide carried out against the native peoples of the Americas by European settlers, to Bush lying about weapons of mass destruction, would be suppressed and those who uttered them harassed, threatened, and fired. And in a subsequent article, I began to identify the close connections between Horowitz and the Bush regime—something I will address in future articles.
Here, I want to draw on, invoke, and respond to different correspondence I've gotten about Horowitz. In particular, I want to address some confusion about Horowitz's demagoguery about “sticking to the subject” and “balance” in the classroom.
Horowitz claims that all he is asking for is “balance” on campus. As if the campuses are controlled by a left-wing dictatorship, and that students signing up for physics classes are getting nothing but tirades from professors about Bush being a liar. As if! The impact of this kind of distortion of reality was reflected in a comment one reader wrote in response to my last article:
“While you criticize (at times, rightly) various points in the book, I do not see you admitting that there is a significant leftist bias in American colleges and universities and that there are numerous documented and undocumented cases of liberal professors forcing their beliefs on students. There are countless incidents where conservative students are not allowed to have their own opinions (they face bad grades or worse).”
No, there is not a “leftist bias,” much less the domination of leftist “ideological bullies” on campuses. What exists on some campusesis relatively more openness (at least at this moment—but not for long if Horowitz has his way) and opportunity to explore truths that the system has been able to suppress elsewhere in society. (The strategic role and importance of that kind of atmosphere of wrestling with different ideas is addressed in the article “Welcome Ferment on ‘Elite’ Campuses”.)
You want balance? How about if we have “equal time” for the pledge of allegiance in grade school and high school classrooms, and then, balance that with equal time for criticism of and protest against the pledge, with its ode to blind obedience, patriotism, theocracy, and hypocrisy? How about equal time for both sides of the “Vietnam” war? Or the history of communism?
The real point, though, is whether what is being taught is true. And what kind of atmosphere leads to the truth. A teacher tells you something that doesn't fit into the way you've been programmed by the 700 Club or Fox News? Well then, do some research. Raise a question or disagreement and discuss it in class. The professors who Horowitz attacks are, overall, teachers who encourage that kind of atmosphere in class.
If your professor comes into math class and says Bush lied, then prove him or her wrong. You should get the chance to do that. But if you are too lazy to do the work to get to the bottom of what the truth is, why should you get a medal for that? You're not a martyr, you're mentally lazy. Students should stand up and fight for what they believe in. And, in the course of that, if it turns out you're wrong, then deal with that. If you can't make your case, don't turn in your professor. It means that either (a) you're wrong, or (b) you have to do more work to make your case. Blind obedience won't get you to the truth.
Brownshirt student groups “inspired” by Horowitz are turning in their teachers who address issues other than the topic of a class in the classroom (and outside class as well). And Horowitz's “The Professors...” is full of ridicule and venom directed against teachers who bridge disciplines, explore content from creative angles, or who are “off the subject” in class. That rigidly categorical approach doesn't conform to or help understand the real world. Artificially imposing walls and boundaries in the learning process cuts against actually getting to the truth. How many critical discoveries in science, art, history... you name it, took place as unexpected byproducts of “straying off topic”? And advances in music, technology, science, and art have always interpenetrated and pushed each other forward. To take one example, an important discovery in geometric topology, the “mapping of space,” by Vaughan Frederick Randal Jones, a New Zealand mathematician, was based on what had been generally considered non-intersecting realms of research and study in math and physics. Good thing that Jones didn't have a Horowitz snitch with a recorder in his classroom when he wandered across those boundaries!
Horowitz lashes out at new fields of study, like ethnic studies, women's studies, or peace studies. Guess what, Horowitz—things change. Understanding evolves. New fields of study develop as people learn new things. And these new fields often develop through struggle with entrenched interests that would rule investigation and discovery in the realm of the history of Black people in this country—to take a salient example—off the agenda. Horowitz, for example, attacks Eric Foner and other scholars who have done groundbreaking work on Reconstruction—exposing the truth of what took place during that period in the U.S. South, after the Civil War—in opposition to the often blatantly white supremacist “established wisdom” on this topic that was taught in the academies before the 1960s. And this is in line with Horowitz's unapologetic defense of, yes, slavery—a point which I will return to in future articles.
Besides, the world is more complicated, diverse, and unpredictable than a class syllabus. There does need to be space in society—and this will apply in a revolutionary socialist society that is aiming to get to communism—for highly focused, intense, academic inquiry that is somewhat “isolated” in a sense. But that cannot be made an absolute. There are also times when even highly focused academic inquiry has to be “interrupted” by events in the world, including major events in other fields of inquiry, but also by eruptions of political protest and other challenges to injustice.
There is a political agenda behind Horowitz's attacks. But there is also an epistemological agenda. In a world governed by Horowitz's draconian attacks on academic inquiry and critical thinking, academic inquiry and critical thinking per se are ruled out of order. To put it another way: what's so good about teaching students to be sheep? If you don't learn biology in a biology class, that's one thing. But if you are learning biology and the teacher talks about the Iraq war, what's wrong with that? Why should things be rigidly compartmentalized? Teachers should allow and encourage challenges to what they are saying, of course, but the professors Horowitz is going after make a principle of that, that's part of how they teach.
Upholding the right to dissent is urgently needed now. Beyond that, promoting dissent is a necessary part of the wild-and-woolly atmosphere of challenging authority that a society ruled by the proletariat must foster if it is to fulfill its mission of being a transition to a world free of all exploitation and oppression (see, for example, “Bob Avakian in a Discussion with Comrades on Epistemology—On Knowing and Changing the World,”).
Horowitz says if you try to shout down Bush you're violating the 1st Amendment. That you're stepping on someone's freedom of speech.
In a pamphlet Horowitz prepared that was adopted as a manual for the Bush “re-election” campaign in 2004, he makes an extensive argument for consciously distorting and turning upside down concepts and terms that people believe in, twisting them into their opposite. And that is what he has done by calling his movement one for “free speech” and defending the First Amendment. The First Amendment is supposed to be about protecting people from the government, not the government from the people. Of course that is a hollow promise in this capitalist society, where any serious challenge to the established order results most often in suppression, censorship, or worse. But Horowitz cannot run around invoking “free speech” when in fact his mission is operating as an instrument of repressive censorship.
Horowitz and those he is a stalking horse for are not victims of a left-wing dictatorship at the universities. The “bottom line” in Horowitz's argument is “disagree with me (and—fundamentally—the agenda I'm representing) and you're fired.”
Horowitz is a thug and coward. If he wants to argue on the basis of the merit of his arguments, then he should stop demanding all that all his opponents get fired! He should stop trying to legislate his arguments. And stop sending his brownshirts into classrooms to snitch on his opponents. And, stop relying on Pat Robertson's inflammatory rants to create a pogromist atmosphere around professors you don't agree with.
In future articles on Horowitz, I will pursue his connections to, and role as a self-described “battering ram” for the agenda concentrated in Bush. And, I'll address a central political theme of Horowitz's agenda (and that of the forces behind him)—his fascist claims that, rather than being owed reparations for slavery, Black people owe a debt to this society for being enslaved. In the meantime, I encourage readers to continue to send correspondence on the issues I'm addressing.
On May First, over a million immigrants and their allies filled the streets of cities and towns from border to border and coast to coast. They brought a fresh and needed wind of struggle into society. Their outpourings were a challenge and inspiration to everyone. But many carried the flag of U.S. imperialism.
People need to understand what that flag really stands for. And that we have a different flag—the red flag—that represents the historic mission of those with nothing to lose, to lead a revolution and a revolutionary society that will abolish all oppression and exploitation.
The American flag is the flag that brought Black people to this country in chains, buying and selling them as slaves. Many of those 13 stripes on the flag stand for slave states. And where did those stars come from? Many of them represent states stolen from Mexico in an unprovoked, unjust war of conquest to extend the U.S. empire, and within that the slave states in the South.
This is the flag carried into battle by the U.S. Cavalry as it carried out genocide against the Native Americans, murdering, burning and pillaging a bloody trail across the country. This is the flag that invaded and conquered Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines, killing hundreds of thousands in 1898. This is the flag that killed two million in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia with napalm, carpet bombing, death squads and village massacres. This is the flag that twice made war on the people of Iraq, invading and occupying, killing hundreds of thousands. This is the flag that threatens nuclear war against Iran.
The American flag is the flag that proclaims the right to go anywhere in the world and invade any country that it claims is a potential threat to the U.S. This is the flag that economically dominates and devastates vast areas of the globe, ruining the lives of billions. This is the flag that holds thousands of people in Guantánamo and secret prisons throughout the world, proclaiming the right to torture and jail them forever. And this is the flag over prisons that hold two million people, many of them Black and Latino, mostly for the crime of being hungry, poor, and desperate. This is the flag of U.S. imperialism and its global empire. Even the rights and freedoms this system brags about—to the extent they are anything but total lies—are built on the blood and bones of those they murder and work to death here and around the world to create the prosperity you see in la jaula de oro (the cage of gold).
It was heartening to see red flags throughout the crowds in some of the May First protests. The people carrying them represent a whole different future. The red flag is the flag of the proletariat, the working class worldwide. It is the flag of the class that can only free itself by freeing all humanity.
We are calling on readers to correspond on the “flag battle.” To help others understand both why you don't want to carry the American flag, and why you do want to carry the red flag. Post your comments online at revcom.us, or send them to RCP Publications, P.O. Box 3486 Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654.
The imperialist rulers of the U.S., who have invaded and plundered the far corners of the earth, say they don't want people singing their national anthem in Spanish. But the oppressed people worldwide, those with nothing to lose and a world to win, and whose mission is to lead humanity to do away with all oppression, have an anthem. Our anthem is sung in different languages all over the planet. That anthem is The Internationale.
The essence of what exists in the U.S. is not democracy but capitalism-imperialism and political structures to enforce that capitalism-imperialism.
What the U.S. spreads around the world is not democracy, but imperialism and political structures to enforce that imperialism.
From A World to Win News Service
May 1, 2006. A World To Win News Service. The following article, originally entitled “The Islamic Republic is indulging in nuclear posturing and leaving the people defenceless in the face of great dangers,” is abridged from the April issue (no. 27) of Hagighat, publication of the Communist Party of Iran (Marxist-Leninist-Maoist).
With the false swagger of champion puppets, the heads of the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) have announced that they have joined the nuclear powers club. Their posturing is even shallower and more hated than that of the ex-shah who used to inject phony “national pride” into his veins and the veins of the people by parading the F16 fighter planes he acquired from the U.S. and the tanks purchased from the UK.
At the Friday prayers, with lots of noise but without any shame, the ayatollahs proclaimed that Iran’s new status as a “nuclear power” should be celebrated as a patriotic holiday and demanded that the people’s hearts be filled with “national pride.” However, the majority of the people who have suffered under a medieval religious regime for 27 years are not inspired to feel any national pride by this. In fact, now their pride has been trampled upon even more by the reactionary mullahs. This posturing was more comic than that of Pakistan’s generals. The people make fun of the mullahs and Western nuclear analysts ridicule them.
Two days after this announcement, The New York Times wrote that Western nuclear analysts believe that Iran lacks the necessary skills, materials, and tools to come close to achieving their nuclear desires. “Nothing has changed to alter current estimate of when Iran might be able to make a single nuclear weapon, assuming that is its ultimate goal. The United States government has put that at 5 to 10 years and some analysts have said it could come as late as 2020.” (April 13, 2006) This newspaper quoted David Albright, the head of the Institute of Science and International Security in Washington who is following Iran’s nuclear program: “They have a long way to go.”
However, the Bush government seized the opportunity and demanded that the world’s powers punish Iran. The options put on the table by the U.S. range from economic sanctions to bombardment.
The real reason for the Islamic Republic’s rush to proclaim itself a “nuclear power” is that the regime is worried about its own survival. They have adopted a policy of seeking to accelerate a confrontation with the U.S. based on relying on Russia and China. Western journalist Michael Slackman reported in mid-March from Tehran: “When [Iranian Prime Minister] Ahmadinejad took office, he embraced a decision already made by the top leadership to move toward confrontation with the West about the nuclear program… But one political scientist who speaks regularly with members of the Foreign Ministry said that Iran had hinged much of its strategy on winning Russia’s support… The political scientist said some negotiators believed that by being hostile to the West they would be able to entice Moscow into making Tehran its stronghold in the Middle East. ‘They thought the turn east was the way forward,’ the person said. ‘That was a belief and a vision.’”(NYT, 15 March 2006)
The heads of the IRI think that their nuclear policy can serve several goals: to silence the people, cool down the differences within the regime, and find new international friends.
Regarding the people, this policy is an absurd effort to boost “Iranian national pride” in the hope that they would temporarily stop thinking about the regime’s crimes and plunder. Regarding the ranks of the regime, the point is to unite the different factions around a plan for survival. And regarding the U.S. and European imperialists, their aim is to provoke the U.S. to accelerate an attack on Iran. These reactionaries are counting on the religious sentiments of the Muslims of the Middle East and inside Iran. They hope that when the shocked and bombarded people have to collect their loved ones’ bodies, that will give the regime a chance to survive—an opportunity that the people will have to pay for with tens or perhaps hundreds of thousands killed.
Regarding the regime’s policy towards the powers competing with the U.S., the regime’s aim is to separate Russia and China from the U.S. and Europe, following their “East versus West” strategy. So far they have been the lackeys of the Western imperialist capitalists. Now that the West does not want them any more, they have to sell themselves on the world market to another master, and they are hoping for Russian and Chinese buyers.
There is no limit to the regime’s hostility toward the people. Every single individual in it is worried only about their own political and economic class interests and not the interests of the people and the “national interest.” These reactionaries forced the Iranian media to censor the news that the Iran dossier was referred to the UN Security Council. They want to hide the dangerousness of the situation from the people. But even more criminal is the censorship of the news about U.S. military plans to bomb Iran and the possible use of the nuclear weapon in this attack.
The Islamic regime’s media takes every opportunity to expose U.S. crimes in all corners of the world, but when it comes to American preparations to attack Iran, they just shut up! They make a deafening noise about their own war games involving a few boats in the Gulf, but they hide the reports published everywhere else in the world about U.S. military exercises in the Gulf to practice aerial bombing runs on Iran. The question of a nuclear attack on Iran is so serious that it has given rise to intense differences among U.S. military forces and some high-ranking American army officers have threatened to resign. But the IRI has maintained silence on this matter.
In his extensive exposure of U.S. planning and preparations to attack Iran, the well-known U.S. journalist Seymour Hersh quotes a Pentagon military affairs adviser as saying the Bush government’s serious consideration of using nuclear weapons for this purpose is the result of the more general re-emergence of the policy of using tactical nuclear weapons among the American military and U.S. government policy makers. (The New Yorker, April 17, 2006). That means the nuclear option is not limited to Iran but is a much broader matter.
The nuclear powers—the U.S., UK, France, Russia, and China—are threatened by each other, not by Iran. Iran is an excuse for their efforts to recast the world imperialist system through destruction and death. U.S. nuclear weapons are not aimed primarily at Iran but Russia (despite the end of the cold war era) and France. In his State of the Union speech two years ago and again this year, George Bush referred to the policy of the “pre-emptive use of nuclear weapons.” A few months ago, French President Jacques Chirac—in the name of threatening Iran—announced that France is prepared to use its nuclear weapons pre-emptively. The powerful capitalist countries will not hesitate to commit crimes against humanity. They would do anything in the interests of capital. They believe they have more freedom in relation to Iran, since the regime there is extremely reactionary and extremely hated by the Iranian people.
The U.S. government and their military and intelligence experts know perfectly well that the Islamic Republic of Iran does not have a single nuclear bomb and will not for some time to come. Just as they had to justify their attack on Iraq with lies about Saddam Hussein’s supposed WMD, they are doing the same about Iran. But the difference between Iraq and Iran is that the heads of the IRI themselves boast that they will possess nuclear bomb shortly and then they will threaten Israel, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the West. This is a bluff. Bush, who believes that he is on a mission from God, is confronting fellow religious lunatics in Iran. Hersh writes that a high-ranking diplomat in Vienna told him, “All of the inspectors are angry at being misled by the Iranians, and some think the Iranian leadership are nutcases—one hundred per cent totally certified nuts.” He added that “[International Atomic Energy Agency head] ElBaradei’s overriding concern is that the Iranian leaders ‘want confrontation, just like the neocons on the other side’—in Washington.”
Who can protect the people and their interests? Only the people can! We have a regime that cannot protect us against foreign aggression and worse, wants to turn the people into cannon fodder for its own reactionary interests. This regime is a big barrier in the way of the people, hindering their becoming alert to the danger and starting to protect themselves and their children from U.S. military attack. This regime must be overthrown as soon as possible so that the people can unite and prevent this crime.
When we start rising up in Iran, all the military and economic plans that are prepared against the people of Iran will be thrown into disarray. The world’s people will rush to help us, and if the imperialists commit crimes against Iran, the people of those countries will support us and our revolution. We should not fear the possibility that many of the people of the Middle East may be blinded by emotion and sympathize with the Islamic regime. We must make them aware that the interests of the people of the Middle East will not be fulfilled by the phony, self-styled “anti-American” Islamists nor by the so-called civilized imperialists. To be shocked by the enormity of the situation and wish it were not real is not a wise and an intelligent approach. The Islamic regime is the biggest barrier to the unity and sensible preparation of the people of Iran to defend themselves. It must be overthrown.
PART 15: The Cultural Revolution: Health Care and the Economy
Let’s look at health care during the Cultural Revolution. Let me put it in simple terms. Maoist China, which was not a rich country, was able to create what the U.S. hasn't come close to having: a universal health care system. Health services were provided free or at low cost, and the health care system was guided by principles of cooperation and egalitarianism.
The emphasis in Mao's China was on prevention, hygiene, and other mass, public health measures. During the Cultural Revolution, the focus of health care expenditure and allocation of resources shifted to the countryside, even as overall health care improved in the cities. Even in the country’s remote areas, some medical services were made available.
In the countryside, each commune had a health network, which included a large clinic or hospital, health stations, and medical rooms at the village level. The average yearly cost of medical services for peasants was $1 to $2. One of the most exciting developments of the Cultural Revolution was the “barefoot doctor” movement. These were young peasants and urban youth sent to the countryside who were quickly trained in basic health care and medicine geared to meet local needs and who were capable of treating the most common illnesses. Doctors from the cities would go the rural areas—at any given time, a third of the urban doctors were spending time in the countryside.
And health care improved in the cities as well. By the early 1970s, Shanghai had a lower infant mortality rate than New York City at the time. And as I said at the start of this talk: life expectancy under Mao doubled from 32 years in 1949 to 65 years in 1976.
You hear all these charges about how many deaths Mao was responsible for. But the fact is that tens of millions of lives were actually saved by socialist revolution. Let’s add up all the premature and avoidable deaths caused by malnutrition, poverty, lack of basic medical care, lack of preparedness and institutional ability to respond to natural catastrophes. There's no comparison.
Amartya Sen, the Nobel Prize winner, points out that in 1949 China and India had striking similarities in their social and economic development. But, Sen goes on to say, over the next three decades, “there is little doubt that as far as morbidity, mortality, and longevity are concerned, China has a large and decisive lead over India.” As a result, Sen estimates that close to four million fewer people would have died in India in 1986, if India had had Mao’s health care system and food distribution network.1
Noam Chomsky made an interesting calculation using Sen’s data. There is this anticommunist study called The Black Book of Communism. It talks about what it calls the “colossal failure” of communism and accuses communism of having caused the deaths of 100 million people. Now even if that number were true, which it is not—still, as Chomsky puts it, and let me quote: “in India the democratic capitalist ‘experiment’ since 1947 has caused more deaths than in the entire history of the ‘colossal, wholly failed…experiment’ of communism everywhere since 1917: over 100 million deaths by 1979, tens of millions more since, in India alone.”2
In terms of the economy: Maoist China scored impressive successes. It achieved rapid development in agriculture, industry, transport, and construction. Industry grew at an annual average rate of 10 percent during the Cultural Revolution, which is high even by capitalist standards. China built a modern industrial base, combining heavy and light industry, without relying on foreign loans or investment. Agriculture grew by some 3 percent a year, keeping pace with population growth. The gap between town and country was narrowed, and the all-around welfare of peasants improved.
And, as I said earlier, by 1970 China was able to produce and distribute the food needed to prevent starvation and malnutrition. This was accomplished through a centralized planning system in which industry was oriented towards serving agriculture; a system of collective agriculture that promoted grassroots mobilization; flood control; steady investment in rural infrastructure, and the equitable distribution of food to peasants and rationing of essential foods so that all people were guaranteed their minimal requirements. This was a radical break with China's past.
In a world where close to a billion people suffer from malnutrition and starvation, the lessons are very profound.
Maoist China took a unique road of economic development. A process of industrialization was taking place that was not at one and the same time a process of chaotic and unplanned urbanization. Conscious efforts were made to restrict the growth and size of cities and to develop small and medium-size cities. Industry was decentralized to overcome regional inequalities. Resources were channeled to poorer regions. There was emphasis on tractor and machine technology appropriate to rural conditions. All this holds very important lessons for today's world.
Socialism is criticized for producing hyper-bureaucratized planning systems. And, yes, that was a danger that had to be recognized and restricted. But in Maoist China, a more flexible approach to planning was able to combine centralized coordination with local initiative and control. Industrial and agricultural enterprises cooperated with each other. Health, environment, and worker safety were concerns of local planning. When natural disasters struck, the proletarian state marshaled resources and mobilized people to act together and carry out coherent plans.
Economic development in Maoist China was based first and foremost on the masses, armed with political understanding of the goals and contradictions of socialist revolution and with a sense of their decisive role in remaking society.
This system of centralized planning guided by socialist principles is a world apart from the capitalist economy. Under capitalism what gets done and how it gets done is guided by profit. Private units of capital, each pursuing its own interests, compete on a huge scale with one another. In this anarchic system, there is and can be no rational, society-wide planning for social need.
And look at the world capitalism produces. I am talking about the intensifying gap between rich and poor… I’m talking about the megacities of the Third World with their rings of squalid shantytowns… I’m talking about vast new zones of exploitation created to serve transnational corporations… I’m talking about the relentless commodification of nature—from the corporate patenting of seeds and natural herbicides to the privatization of water in parched African countries. Maoist China was going in an entirely different direction.
Next Week: The Defeat of Socialism in China and Lessons for the Future
1. Jean Dreze and Amartya Sen, Hunger and Public Action (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989), pp. 205, 214. back to article
2. Noam Chomsky, “Millennial Visions and Selective Vision, Part One,” Z Magazine (January 10, 2000). back to article
On May 4, a televised speech at the Southern Center for International Studies in Atlanta by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was disrupted by 4 protesters, including activists from World Can’t Wait—Drive Out the Bush Regime. During the Q&A, Rumsfeld was forced to answer a substantive challenge to his lies about the war from Ray McGovern, a 27-year CIA veteran and a participant in the Bush Crimes Commission (bushcommission.org). TV viewers across the U.S. and other parts of the world saw this exchange:
Ray McGovern: Why did you lie to get us into a war that was not necessary that has caused these kinds of casualties?
Rumsfeld: Well, first of all I haven’t lied...it appears that there were not weapons of mass destruction there.
McGovern: You said you knew where they were.
Rumsfeld: I did not. I said I knew where suspect sites were and—
McGovern: You said you knew where they were. “Near Tikrit, Baghdad, northeast, south, west of there.” Those are your words…
In fact, those WERE Rumsfeld’s exact words. And CNN, MSNBC and other major media outlets went into their vaults and aired footage of Rumsfeld saying those words. After the exchange, MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann commented: “When someone goes out there and blithely denies that they said such and such a thing and this exact thing is on tape…how can that not result in some kind of political fallout or even disaster?” Footage of the news broadcasts of the event, interview with Ray McGovern, and a fuller account of the protest are available online at www.worldcantwait.net.
McGovern was also on PBS NewsHour with Jim Lehrer on April 24, calling out CIA's war crimes and saying that government employees need to do the right thing when they know torture is being committed by the government. Listen to or read a transcript of the PBS segment at www.worldcantwait.net.
On Tuesday, April 25, Michael Slate's "Beneath the Surface" program on KPFk--90.7 FM in Southern California, 98.7 FM in Santa Barbara and streaming live across the globe on www.kpfk.org--featured a half-hour segment on Bob Avakian's memoir From Ike to Mao and Beyond: My Journey from Mainstream America to Revolutionary Communist. This was the first time anywhere that an excerpt from the pre-recorded reading of the memoir by the author has been aired and heard across the country and around the world.
For those who missed the airing, the show is available to download from the KPFK website – www.kpfk.org. In the far left side of the page click on “Programs,” then click on “Beneath the Surface with Michael Slate,” then scroll down the page to “Listen to archives of previous shows” and click on it. Then right click on the show and on "Save Target As" and download it to your computer. Make copies of it and share it with everyone you can.
From programs and debate over the crimes of the Bush regime, to exposing attacks on evolution, to engaging around the actual experience of socialism and the nature of communism, fresh air is circulating in the ivory towers of “elite” U.S. universities. This is a heartening development.
Starting in late March, a national campus speaking tour inspired by the testimony and findings of the Bush Crimes Commission connected in important ways with students at universities such as Harvard, MIT, Berkeley and Stanford. The tour, “Speaking the Unspeakable: Is the Bush Administration Guilty of War Crimes and Other Crimes Against Humanity,” features panels of prominent whistle-blowers, eyewitnesses, victims and experts, most of whom testified and played a key role at the International Commission of Inquiry on Crimes Against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration held October 2005 and January 2006 in New York.
On April 26 at Harvard University, 175 people—mostly Harvard law students—filled Langdell Hall at the Harvard Law School Library to hear panelists expose the truth about U.S.-inflicted and -sponsored torture at Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo Bay, and elsewhere. Endorsed by Harvard Law Students for Peace and the student chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, the program included C. Clark Kissinger, convener of the Bush Crimes Commission; Craig Murray, former British ambassador to Uzbekistan who powerfully exposes the vicious human rights abuses by the U.S.-funded regime in that nation; Janis Karpinski, the former head of the military police brigade in charge of 17 prison facilities in Iraq, including Abu Ghraib; and Harvard Law School student Stephan Sonnenberg, who focused his remarks on the infamous memorandum endorsed by Attorney General Gonzales and passed along to President Bush that justifies the use of torture. Following the panelists' presentations, there was a lively Q&A session, with law students and others asking about such issues as the role of private contractors in Iraq, including in regard to torture, and the stealth CIA installations in Europe and their ghost detainees who don't exist on record. The next day, Harvard students staged an action on campus to challenge students to take a stand against torture on the 2nd anniversary of the Abu Gharib torture scandal.
On April 27, the Bush Crimes tour went to Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where Revolution newspaper correspondent and author Larry Everest joined Murray and Karpinski for a session attended by 225 people. The Bush Crimes Commission speaking tour also held events at the University of California at Berkeley on May 3 and Stanford University on May 4. Future stops include the University of Chicago and Northwestern University on May 9, UCLA on May 18, and the University of Washington on May 19.
On Friday, April 21, George Bush was scheduled to meet with fellows at the Hoover Institution—a high-powered, reactionary think tank at Stanford University. More than 1,000 protesters forced him to change his plans and move his meeting to the outskirts of campus. Outside the Hoover Institution, students chanted, “Hey-Hey-Ho-Ho-Bush is here, he’s got to go” and “1-2-3-4-We don’t want your fuckin’ war, 5-6-7-8-Stop the killing, Stop the hate.” The protest drew a wide range of students, support from parents and visiting prospective students, and even the participation of the Stanford marching band—“infamous” for its antics at football games.
On the front of the societal battle over suppression of science, The World Can’t Wait- Drive Out the Bush Regime! presented An Evening with Niles Eldredge, Curator of the Division of Paleontology and the Darwin exhibition at New York City's American Museum of Natural History on May 2, at Columbia University. Dr. Eldredge discussed the battle over evolution as a microcosm of the state of affairs in society.
Another vital component in all this has been the Setting the Record Straight tour, a talk by Raymond Lotta on “Socialism is Much Better Than Capitalism, and Communism Will Be a Far Better World.” The tour has been to UCLA, UC Berkeley, Columbia, and Harvard. At Harvard, the audience included students from diverse fields, including economics, anthropology, and Romance languages. There were students from Eastern Europe and visiting scholars from other parts of the world. A member of the Harvard Medical School faculty emceed the program. (For a full report, see “Set the Record Straight Tour Comes to Harvard University,” Revolution #41, April 2, 2006. For more information on the Tour, visit www.thisiscommunism.org. See “PART 15: The Cultural Revolution: Health Care and the Economy” for the current installment of the serialization of the talk in Revolution; the entire talk is at revcom.us)
Taken together, something important is happening on the “elite” campuses. There is resistance against the program going down in many different dimensions, and there is also ferment on key questions that have been ruled out of order. This is no small thing and something of potentially great strategic importance.
Schools like Harvard, Stanford and so on play a very important role in the system. Students there are groomed to be overall leaders of society in the different spheres (including the arts and sciences, as well as politics and economics). And to do that, they need to have some ability to deal with challenging ideas, and to think creatively. So there is a degree of autonomy and intellectual ferment at these institutions, within their overall role as servants of the system.
Again, this is kept within certain limits—and today, those limits are being drawn much tighter than usual. This is seen very sharply with the campaign of David Horowitz and the attacks on Ward Churchill, but there are other attempts as well to constrain certain professors and certain ideas, including in the “elite” institutions—for instance, the attempt in recent years to straitjacket teachers of Middle Eastern studies at Columbia with student spies, commissions of inquiry and so on; the attack by former Harvard president Lawrence Summers on Cornel West, which led to his leaving; the “dis-inviting” of a prominent European poet who opposed Israeli policies from a Harvard appearance; and others as well.
All the more reason to welcome and foster what is bubbling up at these schools. For one thing, precisely because these campuses are intellectual “flagships,” when the students there take up “dangerous ideas” it has an impact on the entire “national debate.” The terms of that debate right now badly need to be further opened up and shifted, and these students and professors can play a vital and even indispensable role in that process. For another, and deeper if still connected reason, in order for there to be revolution, you actually need a section of intellectuals to shift their allegiance away from the ruling class. That won’t happen spontaneously—communists need to be in the midst of the ferment, listening to people, engaging with them, and responding on a high plane. And finally, yes—we WANT ferment; we WANT intellectual debate and critical thought; we want the clash of ideas; we want the rigorous, scientific, uncompromising search for the truth; the more the better, for otherwise how can we ever hope to know the world in all its complexity and change it (not to mention what a dreary world it would be without such ferment!).
This call is from The World Can't Wait—Drive Out the Bush Regime:
On Thursday, OCTOBER 5TH 2006: All day and into the night, across the country, we must decidedly break the paralysis that still grips too much of American political life.
Taking off work, taking off school, shutting down campuses and coming together in mass gatherings, we must let the country and the world know that:
—millions of us reject this illegitimate regime that is as criminal as it is dangerous to humanity & the existence of this planet.
—we refuse to grow accustomed to a political climate that is becoming everyday more frightening & reactionary.
We are what we've been waiting for.
Despite Bush's popularity ratings now running lower than Nixon's, majority opposition to the unjust Iraq war and popular support for Bush being censured or impeached, the political will of the people is being betrayed and finds no voice. We are told to put our hopes into what powerful interests dictate as “electable”.
Ask yourself this: Where will this country and the world be, on the day after the elections of 2006? Will we be debating:
What the minimum voltage level for the electrodes attached to prisoners' genitals is, in order to meet the definition of torture?
Whether war on Iran will use nuclear weapons, or just white phosphorous bombs and conventional forces like in Iraq?
Whether birth control should be outlawed in just a few states, or the whole country?
Whether gay parents should have their children taken away immediately, or just be prevented from adopting in the future?
Will hopes and energies have been squandered again, leaving us further locked into politics that is cementing this situation in place for generations?
Or do we need a powerful movement that is not afraid to give voice to the peoples' will, to speak the truth, building toward and bursting out society-wide on October 5th, that won't stop until the Bush regime is driven from power?
On October 5th we will make a breach in the walls being cemented all around us to say Enough! with mass political action that does not compromise with torture & unjust wars, that rejects bowing down to theocrats and the immorality of empire.
On October 5 join us in a day of honest, courageous resistance. What will you do to take responsibility for the future?
Change the course of history. This regime does not represent us and we will drive it out!
Visit www.worldcantwait.org for more information.
A Call to Readers and Distributors:
The surge of immigrant protests is sweeping through all parts of the U.S., including the smaller cities and towns and rural areas (see the May 1 article). We call on our readers and distributors to take this issue of Revolution, along with CDs of the audio track “Why Do People Come Here from All Over the World” (from the DVD of Bob Avakian's talk REVOLUTION: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About), to the immigrants in these small cities and towns. Mexican stores in these towns and cities might be a good place to start.
Talk to the immigrants. Find out about what kind of protests have been happening in these places. Listen to the immigrants' stories about their lives and struggles. And send in reports to Revolution newspaper about what you've found out and what the immigrants said. If you don't speak Spanish, link up with others who do—including college students who may be getting out of school soon.
The Chicago Get the Word Out Committee to Promote and Popularize Bob Avakian is delighted to present:
An afternoon reading of Bob Avakian's memoir, FROM IKE TO MAO AND BEYOND
Saturday, May 20, 1 PM
9525 S. Halsted St.
Chicago, IL 60628
(take Green Line “L” to 95th, and the 95th bus west to Halsted)
Guest readers include:
*for identification purposes only
For more information about this event and how to help get the word out about it, contact the Chicago Get the Word Out Committee at 312-307-3941 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
REVOLUTION: Why It's Necessary * Why It's Possible * What It's All About
A Film of a Talk by Bob Avakian
Saturday, May 20
Reception at 3 PM, film showing at 4 PM
Los Angeles Theatre Center
514 S. Spring Street (between 5th St. and 6th St.)
for information: 213-627-6500
Get the DVD/Video at threeQvideo.com or amazon.com. Or send check or money order for $38.95 to:
Three Q Productions
2038 W Chicago Ave. #126D
Chicago, IL 60622
Specify DVD (English/Spanish), VHS (Eng) or VHS (Spanish)
Also available at Libros Revolucion, 312 W. 8th St, Los Angeles, CA 90014; 213.488.1303