voice of the revolutionary communist party,usa
Please note: this page is intended for quick printing of the entire issue. Some of the links may not work when clicked, and some images may be missing. Please go to the article's permalink if you require working links and images.
Revolution #67, October 29, 2006
The following are excerpts from speeches given at, and messages sent to, World Can’t Wait protests in different cities on October 5, 2006. Revolution newspaper gathered these from audio files and transcripts available on the World Can't Wait website. For extensive reports about the Oct. 5 protests and information about the World Can't Wait movement, go to www.worldcantwait.org
* * * * *
Statement from World Can’t Wait—Drive Out the Bush Regime (read at rallies across the country)
This is indeed a defining moment. It is not too late to stop this fascist trajectory. But if it goes unopposed by the people of this country, it could be too late. The darkness of this regime descending on the country and the world will succeed in silencing dissent, critical thought, science, the ideals of equality and even the way people think of basic human decency.
Millions of people deeply disturbed by this have been looking for a vehicle to express their outrage. Today in more than 200 cities—90 of them in 26 states that went for Bush in 2004—people are finding their courage in this vehicle. We are punching a hole in the political atmosphere of silence and fear that has people going along with a fascist program. And we are opening the way for the kind of resistance we need to stop and reverse the direction this government is taking this society and the world.
Acting in this way, we join with and give support and heart to people all over the globe who so urgently need and want this regime to be stopped. We have to look at ourselves through their eyes—how is the rest of the world seeing us. We have to reckon with how the people of the Middle East, whose countries have been turned to rubble, are seeing us. To be silent when your country is waging endless war, legalizing torture, and taking step after step towards consolidating a police state to “make us safe” is just not conscionable. But when we are out here as we are today, we are demonstrating to the world that there is a difference between the people and the government of George Bush.
Having taken this historic step, we must promise to take this forward to make resistance to all this a reality, now. We must go forward—transforming the anguish, outrage and frustration millions of us feel into truly effective, positive and massive political mobilization. We must stay on the offensive with our opposition to the WHOLE direction of things, and to this regime—including through the immediate period before and after the mid-term elections.
We must not stop, we must go forward. No matter who is elected, we ourselves, the people, by our OWN active initiative, have to now set entirely different political terms than the ones presently accepted as “realistic”…
* * * * *
Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney (at NY rally):
What happens to any of us who question the White House and point out their bright shining lies?
First of all, we’re targeted as enemies. Then labeled un-American. Accused of hating our country. And one-by-one we’re isolated…
We are not tricked by George Bush, Dick Cheney, or Condoleezza Rice—today’s false patriots. J’accuse George Bush, Dick Cheney, and Condoleezza Rice! Not only have you strayed away from your own ideals, you no longer represent ours. And finally, Condoleezza Rice betrays all of us when she compares her work to that of the civil rights heroes who moved our country forward.
This is one of America’s most ignominious moments. Only the acts of millions of Americans, committed to peace and justice, can avert the mighty collision rushing toward us.
Our stand today, across our country, is just the beginning; we will wash down the mightiest walls of oppression.
Truth is on the march and nothing can stop it!
* * * * *
Statement from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA (read at rallies across the country):
Today we stand at a crossroads. Last week, Bush got the Congress to legalize torture, to revoke the right of habeas corpus, and to grant him and others immunity for war crimes, overturning almost 900 years of legal precedent. People can now be legally imprisoned indefinitely without a trial at Bush’s discretion. And everything that you saw in the pictures from Abu Ghraib can now be legally ordered by Bush.
And Bush plans to not just “stay the course” on the war, but to intensify and multiply the horror. What would it mean if Bush goes ahead and orders an air war against Iran? Think of the suffering this would cause. And think of the political consequences, in a world where millions believe their only choice lies between Bush’s fascist crusade or Islamic theocracy. People must see another way.
We must be as determined to stop this horror, as Bush and his people are to continue and worsen it.
We here today have a lot of different ideas about this situation. As our Party sees it, Bush represents a system in which the wealth created by the people of the whole world is controlled by a relative handful at the top; in which the fate of the people and the planet itself is subordinated to the relentless drive for profit; and in which the armies and prisons of the state are used to enforce that order. That system is imperialism.
Our Party stands for revolution against all that. Our Party is working for a world where the people themselves bring into being a NEW society and a NEW state which puts the interests of the vast majority of people at the foundation of everything it does. Our Party has the understanding and strategy to do that—and the leadership of our Chairman, Bob Avakian, who’s gone deeply into the experience of previous revolutionary and socialist societies, drawing from the achievements and analyzing the shortcomings, and who’s developed an inspiring vision of a whole new society and how to get there. Our Party invites everyone here to engage with that.
Today, all of us, from our many different viewpoints and organizations, must go quickly forward to rally millions more to act to bring this madness to a HALT. We must stay on the political offensive over the next days and weeks, building rapidly on our successes and calling forward other people into the fray. We cannot get lulled into thinking the Democrats will do it for us; they will not. Nothing good will happen without ferment and upheaval throughout society. Time is growing very short, but if we act we can, as World Can’t Wait has said, “make all the difference in the world, in a very positive sense and for the possibility of a better future for humanity.”
* * * * *
Dr. Kenneth L. Samuel, pastor, Victory for the World Church in Stone Mountain, GA; president, DeKalb County NAACP (at Atlanta rally)
I consider it a privilege to stand in solidarity today with people of moral conscience all across America who are in courageous opposition to the pernicious politics of war, the politics of intolerance, and the politics of compassionless capitalism.
As a minister of the gospel of Christ, I want to say that the religious element which now drives much of conservative politics in America—the Christian Right—is wrong.
The religious Right is wrong because it is founded upon the flawed foundation of religious fundamentalism, and religious fundamentalism—whether it takes the form of the Taliban in Afghanistan or the radical Shiites in Iraq or the Zionists in Israel or the Christian Right in America—religious fundamentalism is wrong because it posits a myopic view of moral absolutes which leaves no room for dialogue, debate, dissent nor diversity…
* * * * *
U.S. Rep. John Conyers (at Detroit rally)
To our friends all over the United States, that are doing exactly what we’re doing here in Detroit, let’s give them a big shout out! Detroit joins you in this great outpouring in which we begin the long and hard fought path to end the George Bush regime in the United States of America. This is the beginning. What we’ve done is demonstrate that people are aware and sensitive to the fact that we got into a war we should never have gotten into. How can you, when you think about it, how could Iraq attack the United States? The whole thing gets almost ludicrous. In all deference to some of my colleagues, whose naivete is beyond belief, I think they knew what I knew, they knew what you knew, we didn’t need a preemptive strike because they had no weapons of mass destruction, they had nothing…
I am working now to prevent any persons from coming into office that would turn us away from the goals of Martin Luther King. It’s ironic that a religious person would give me my political philosophy, but it boiled down to jobs, justice, and peace. And that’s what I’ve been working on for all of these years, and that’s why I’m going to continue to work on. And I want to invite all of you down to my office. What we’re going to do is provide us with coffee, snacks, telephones, let’s work on getting the vote out. That to me is very important. And I can say this is not a political rally, but voting is a Constitutional responsibility, without which we cannot maintain a democracy. So it’s in that spirit that I’m happy to join you. I’ll be working with you. I’ll be coming to your meetings at the café in Ferndale, and I want you to leave me some literature so that we can get new people out…
* * * * *
Paul Haggis, screenwriter, director, and producer (from message to the Oct. 5 protests):
The Democrats will not lead us out of Iraq. As heretical as this may sound, I am more afraid of the wrong Democrat winning the White House than I am the wrong Republican—because then we will feel the need to support “our” president, and his or her “difficult decisions” on how to “do the right thing for Iraq” and “withdraw with honor.” We will divide, and conquer, ourselves.
We know from Vietnam that there is no way to withdraw with honor from a corrupt war. The only thing we can do is get out now, and that can only be accomplished by putting millions of people in the streets…
* * * * *
Missy Comley Beattie, whose nephew was killed in Iraq (at NY rally):
There are too many casualties of the George Bush presidency. Our environment, victims of Katrina, our poor, child care, health care, voter integrity, veterans’ benefits, decency, truth, separation of church and state, habeas corpus, civil liberties, our image, our republic. And nobody knows how many Iraqi injured and death, nobody knows how many Afghan dead and injured, the at least 3,500 coalition troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is a man who travels the globe with threats, you are either with us or against us, who sends his neo-Neanderthals to other countries to say if you do not cooperate we will blow you back to the Stone Age. This is a man who talks about a culture of life but has caused so much death. He’s the decider and our self-righteous Republicans and neutered Democrats have given him the authority to decide if we are enemy combatants. My nephew, Marine Lance Corporal Chase Comley, killed in Iraq fourteen months ago, tomorrow—his death makes my family a casualty of the George Bush presidency. But we are all casualties of this presidency. Even those families who still support George Bush are casualties; they just don’t realize it yet…
* * * * *
Sean Penn (from a message issued shortly before Oct. 5, read by Mark Ruffalo at NY rally):
This is an administration that advocates torture, deceives the public, spends billions of dollars on a failed war. This is an administration where in the year of Katrina, Exxon Mobil claimed the highest profit margin in the history of world business. It is an administration that belittles, demeans, deceives, and indeed kills our brothers, our sisters, our sons, and our daughters.
At the U.S./Mexico border, we panic at the notion of illegal entry, without blinking an eye as our elderly line up every Saturday morning with wheelchairs, walkers, canes and joint pain, queued up in the desert heat to enter Mexico where they can purchase affordable medication. In the human family, this President is indeed pushing his wheelchair-bound grandmother down the stairs with a smile on his face. Everyone knows that these are true statements. Everyone. Some are ashamed of where they’ve put their support in the past, their passivity in the present, with the courage of their minds and hearts at bay. What an exciting thing to reverse this as one America and show the world who wears the pants in this house.
Stand up as an American and join World Can’t Wait and those demonstrating this Thursday, October 5th.
* * * * *
Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of TIKKUN (from message that went out to his email list of over 50,000 people)
So why do I think we should participate [in Oct. 5] and help mobilize others to participate?
Because, frankly, the danger from the Bush administration, its possible extension of the war to Iran, its active dismantling of the human rights we’ve held sacred for centuries, its destructiveness toward the planet itself, its continuing war in Iraq, its refusal to push for Middle East peace, its total insensitivity to the needs of the poor, and its destruction of human rights and civil liberties constitute a clear and present danger to the survival of our beloved country and to the survival of the human race…
* * * * *
Ted Glick, of the Climate Crisis Coalition (at NY rally):
We are not going to be able to heal this earth or each other under the Bush administration. And we are not going to be able to heal the earth or heal each other when we have a Congress that votes to allow George Bush to decide what his interrogators can do to people who they arrest, when the Congress votes to disappear people into prisons. We need a change. We need a fundamental change. And one of the issues that has to be central to this movement that we’re building is the climate crisis. The earth is not just warming, it’s not just global warming, it’s global overheating—wild fires, droughts, Hurricane Katrina, stronger hurricanes, the melting of the arctic, the melting of Greenland, the huge ice sheet on Greenland, we’re talking about sea level rise of potentially 20 feet, this century, maybe to the middle of this century if we do not turn this around. The George Bush administration is doing worse than nothing on this issue. The Bush administration is disrupting and obstructing the efforts of the world to deal with this…
Revolution #67, October 29, 2006
Correspondence from Chicago and Oakland on Oct. 5, World Can't Wait
We received the following two correspondences about the October 5, Drive Out the Bush Regime protests:
* * * * *
Photo: Li Onesto
Oct 5th—the day of nationwide demonstrations to Drive Out the Bush Regime—was not your typical morning here in the Cabrini Green projects. Several drummers gathered on the blacktop of the parking lot and within minutes they electrified the atmosphere with a toe tapping, foot stomping rhythm. Several people got on the bullhorn to call people out from the building. One of the last people who came down, who got on the bus to go to the demonstration, told us that she was really struggling with herself over whether or not she was going to come and in the end felt she just had to. This woman got on the bullhorn and challenged people to get on the bus. She told them if they didn’t come today that they were saying it’s okay for Bush to legalize torture, that the unjust war in Iraq is OK with them. She asked, “What kind of future will the youth have if we don’t drive Bush out?”
The bus arrived at 10:30 a.m. and we were going to leave by 11:00 a.m. but the struggle to bring more people out lasted a little past noon. The bus driver had to be at his next pickup by 1 p.m. and couldn’t wait any longer. People went from building to building calling on people to get on the bus. In the process we gained a couple of people and lost a couple of the drummers. Several people said they were coming after being struggle with. One young woman went to see if she could find a baby sitter so she could go but couldn’t find anyone. That evening she told one of the people who had gone that she hated that she couldn’t come.
On the bus people were pumped. There was a lot of anticipation of what the day would be like. Some people wanted to know if we’d be going to jail and how that would be handled. When we got to the site of the demonstration people were impressed by the number of people who had already gathered. And that fueled the energy people had built up from the morning.
People immediately got a sense of what it meant to others that this crew from the housing projects was there. This became apparent by the number of people taking photographs of people from our group and the banner we had brought. Many people came up to say how happy they were to have people from Cabrini there at the demonstration. I think people who came from the projects really got a sense of what a powerful affect it has on people from other walks of life when those on the bottom step out and refuse to be silent. And this dynamic really carried through the day. Everybody from the projects commented on how much they enjoyed interacting with the diverse types of people at the protest. One guy commented that he particularly identified with “the rockers – or whatever you call them. You know, the kids with the blue hair and like that.”
As we marched from the park to the rallying site one of the marshals was so moved by the enthusiasm of one of the young women from the projects that she gave her the bullhorn to lead the chants.
Later that afternoon, when there was a lull in the action, we went to grab a bite to eat. As we walked to a nearby McDonald’s people drummed, leafleted and chanted a little—a mini march down the sidewalk. They continued leafleting inside the McDonald’s. A young Latina got a leaflet in the McDonald’s and talked to one of the women from the projects. She hadn’t known about the protest. Later we saw her at the rally with a World Can’t Wait sign and a copy of Revolution newspaper.
The MC at the rally called on the drummers from the projects to come up and give the crowd a boost. The drummers took the stage with the banner from the projects, and the beat from the drums sent the joy of resistance that they were feeling back into the crowd.
When we got back to the projects people talked about their experience that day. Some of the group had left early. Those who stayed told the others about their performance on stage, beaming with pride. And they told the others that they should have stayed, too. The group that had left earlier had their own story to tell. The told about drumming all the way to the train (and on the train), passing out leaflets and talking to people about where they had been. “We demonstrated all the way home” they said.
One of the guys came in and picked up a copy of Revolution newspaper. It was turned to the “Meet Bob Avakian” section and he saw the ad for the memoir. He commented that he was reading the memoir because, “I want to know more about this guy.” We told him that the CDs we have gotten him of the New Presentations (7 Talks) were by this same person and we need to have organized discussions of them. He thought that was great and told us he had already heard we were having one on Saturday.
That night I went to bed with the beat of the drumming still in my head.
* * * * *
I’m a youth organizer with World Can’t Wait trying to activate all these brilliant high school kids in the Bay Area. I gain much hope from talking to these youth who have a handle on what the Bush Regime is doing to people all over the world and a deep concern for struggle of people in their lives and others they don’t even know. The kids I talk to have a determined belief that they do not have to accept the world as it is, that they have the power to change it. Another reality that has become clear while organizing for the school walkouts on October 5th is the stifling oppression that these kids face every day on so many levels. From blaming them for the school’s lack of funds, to teachers who tell them that they could not understand the political situation in this country, let alone change it, to straight up locking them in their schools, which, especially in Black and Hispanic neighborhoods, are becoming more and more like prisons. I recently talked to two girls from Emiliano Zapata Street Academy in Oakland. Under threat of suspension they organized 50 people to walkout of a school of 90. They went into classrooms calling on students to walk out. They helped students who didn’t have money to take the bus to San Francisco get on the bus. When they told the bus driver that they had walked out of school and were going to the demonstration in San Francisco he let them on for half-fare. They were suspended for one day and received detention hours. The day of the suspension they attempted to go to school in protest of the punishment, but were locked out. So many people called the school in protest of the suspension that the school secretary complained to the students—who said that it wasn’t their fault that people were calling, that they had taken the consequences for their actions and now the school administration needed to take the consequences for its action.
The following excerpt is from an interview with two high school students who demonstrated on October 5 to Drive Out the Bush Regime:
Student #1: I first heard about October 5 from one of the history teachers. He invited me to a speak-out they were having at the Grand Lake Theater [the Evening of Conscience on October 2]. I went there and heard about everything. A couple of dudes in the front hooked me up with a bunch of stickers and a bunch of fliers and everything. I took the fliers and everything to school and I started handing them out.
Student #2: I took a stack of stickers. I started sticking them on people and saying, “go.” One guy asked if I was going to walk out and I said “Yeah.” The principal said that we would get suspended and I’m like, I don’t know if I want to get suspended. But this other student said she was going to walk out. So I said, I’m not going to let you get suspended by yourself. She wasn’t about to let that stop her so I said I’m not either. It started with the two of us and another girl, and 50 students ended up walking out and 43 ended up going to the protest.
Student #1: We started handing the fliers out on Tuesday. Two teachers were really behind us. They were talking about getting a group together after school. One of them said that I should announce it over the loudspeaker. But that was my big mistake. I didn’t get to do it because when I went downstairs the principal was right there sitting next to the loudspeaker and she didn’t know about it. I showed her a flier and she said, no you can’t do that and you tell everybody that anyone who walks out will be suspended. I talked to my teachers and they told me don’t trip about what she said because you got to do what you got to do for what you believe in. And I was like thank you. So they were behind me. One of the teachers started crying over it. She was going to quit her job over it and we had to tell her don’t quit because she is one of the best teachers at our school…
I had to go to the protest because of everything I heard that night [at the Evening of Conscience in Oakland] and everything that was on the flier for October 5—support the Katrina victims, get Bush out of office, stop the war in Iraq, stop the immigration law and that wall they’re trying to put up on the border…
Student #2: When we were on our way to the protest everybody was texting me saying that they were suspending us and giving us 40 hours [of detention], so by the time we got to that protest you don’t know what was running through our mind.
Student #1: We were really mad…
Student #2: I got up on the stage representing our school and said my little piece about how we were from Emiliano Zapata and we had been suspended and I said “revolution” and everyone went crazy. A lot of the teachers were calling me and saying that they were proud of what we did. They said, “You guys are so awesome.” A lot of the teachers and aides had been saying that they should walk out with us, but the principal said, “No, and if you guys go you’re all going to be fired.” They said, “Then you aren’t going to have any teachers.”
We made history, at least for Street Academy. Next year after I’ve graduated, people are going to talk about how last year 50 students walked out. We made history that day.
Revolution #66, October 22, 2006
This call was issued by The World Can’t Wait—Drive Out the Bush Regime and the Bush Crimes Commission.
The world faces a grave emergency. The very nature of U.S. society and its relationship to other countries are being reshaped in a horrific ways before our eyes. Yet the full implications of these sweeping changes are not widely understood, even among those who oppose the Bush administration. This must change!
Consider—the U.S. government has now legalized torture and shredded constitutional promises of the basic and foundational rights of due process. This unprecedented action is not an isolated incident; it is part of a larger Bush administration package that includes:
Each of these actions exacts an enormous human toll, and taken together the whole package is far worse. It is unrelenting and extremely dangerous. As the call for The World Can’t Wait–Drive Out the Bush Regime states: “The Bush regime is setting out to radically remake society very quickly, in a fascist way, and for generations to come. We must act now; the future is in the balance.”
Neither the full magnitude nor the staggering implications of the Bush program are well understood. The administration systematically lies about its actions and agenda, while the major media and Democrats allow it to frame the overall discussion. As a result, the most crucial issues are not discussed truthfully either in the public arena or in election campaigns. This is a major reason why public resistance to Bush’s outrages is nowhere near what it urgently needed.
This is why “The World Can’t Wait – Drive Out the Bush Regime” organization, in conjunction with the Bush Crimes Commission and others, are calling for emergency teach-ins—in communities, on campuses, and in homes—to explore the actual content of the Bush program and where it is taking the people of the world.
* * * * *
To contact the national teach-in organizers, please write email@example.com.
Please take steps immediately to organize an event on your campus or in your community, or hold a house party to watch one of the Bush Crimes Commission videos and discuss these issues.
We’re aiming for a nationwide impact building off October 5. Having hundreds of teach-ins on campuses and in communities across the country on the same day (or days) will make a statement that many, many people want to learn and discuss the truth about the Bush regime, not media spin and election-driven propaganda. This is a concerted push to raise and discuss the crucial issues of the day which can reframe discussion and break through the suffocating and false terms that characterizes what passes for debate in this country.
More info at Bush Crimes Commission: http://www.bushcommission.org
Revolution #67, October 29, 2006
The teach-in will be webcast life (go to worldcantwait.org for details)
7 p.m., Monday, October 30
Synod Hall, St. John the Divine Cathedral
111th St. and Amsterdam Ave.
Revolution #67, October 29, 2006
Editors’ Note: The following is taken from a Question and Answer session, in connection with 7 Talks given earlier this year by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party. The titles of these 7 Talks and information on how to access them, along with the Q&A (and Closing Remarks), are found on the "Bob Avakian: Downloadable Audio" page on this website. What is reprinted here is the transcription of one of the questions, followed by Chairman Avakian’s answer. Only minor editing has been done. In a few places explanatory comments have been inserted, within brackets, in the body of the text, and footnotes have been added at the bottom of the page.
For a printable PDF version of this 4-page Revolution pullout.
Arundhati Roy is the author of the prize-winning novel The God of Small Things, as well as other fiction and non-fiction works. She is a social critic and social activist both in India and on the world stage, including in her opposition to the war in Iraq and other crimes of the imperialist system.
Question: My question deals with some of the material from the two series “Views On Socialism and Communism” and “The Basis, the Goals and the Methods of the Communist Revolution.” [These are two previous talks by Bob Avakian, in 2005.] I’ve been thinking about two things: one is a statement by Arundhati Roy in an interview where she basically said—this is a paraphrase—”I support the Maoists in India, even though I would probably be the first person they would kill.”
Second, I’ve been thinking about this in relation to the need to make a distinction, as you emphasized, between those who are actively plotting to overthrow the socialist state and those who are just dissenting, or even vehemently opposed to it, but not actively plotting to overthrow it. My question is, taking into account the socialist experience and the very secondary aspects where Arundhati Roy might have a point based on what happened in China, and also taking into account the particularity of India and the particularities of this country, what should communists say to the Arundhati Roys of the world in relation to this contradiction, and why should they believe us?
Bob Avakian: Well, let me start out by saying—I can’t speak for these Indian Maoists that she’s talking about, but let me start out by answering it this way: To the degree that there is truth, any truth, to what she’s saying, to the degree that there would be any truth to that, there should not be. The revolution that we are about should certainly be able to encompass the Arundhati Roys—in fact, not only encompass but welcome them in their role—as maddening as it might be at times! Because she’s going to be proceeding from a different world outlook, but we have to understand that that’s part of what we not only have to recognize is objectively going to be there for a whole period of transition, but also, especially the more that we relate to it correctly, it can contribute to where we’re seeking to go. That’s the whole point about not only allowing but welcoming and fostering dissent. That’s the whole point epistemologically about how all truths are good for the proletariat—everything that’s actually true can help us get to communism.
The role of people like that is one that should be embraced within the kind of socialist state, the kind of dictatorship of the proletariat, that we should be striving to establish and to carry forward. So it should not be true [that people like Arundhati Roy would be regarded and treated as enemies of the revolution].
One of the things we should say to them—we should struggle with people like her over her world outlook and her political outlook, and struggle with her that she ought to be a communist herself! But, given that we may not win that struggle, at least not for a while, we have to correctly understand what’s correct about what people like that raise in the particulars that they raise, and what’s incorrect about it. But more than that, what role this plays in contributing to the kind of process—intellectual ferment, political ferment, the whole elasticity that we want in socialist society. And we have to, first of all, ideologically, orient ourselves the right way toward this.
This has to do with fundamental questions of epistemology, has to do with “embraces but does not replace.” [This refers to a statement by Mao Tsetung that Marxism embraces but does not replace the various spheres of human endeavor and knowledge.*] This has to do with the fact that, at any given time, while in an overall and ultimate sense consistently and systematically applying the communist world outlook and method, in the best possible way, enables you, ultimately and in a fundamental and all-around sense, to get more deeply to the truth than any other world outlook and methodology—qualitatively so—this doesn’t mean that at any given time you necessarily have the truth about something. That’s a contradiction we have to learn to handle much more correctly than it has been handled in the past of our movement, and in the history of the socialist countries.
So, people like Arundhati Roy or others may be raising criticisms coming from a different perspective—a different ideological perspective, and a different political perspective—than the leading forces inside socialist society; but they may still bring forward important truths. And even if they don’t, in any particular instance, it’s important that there be the kind of atmosphere where they are encouraged to bring forward their ideas, and to be part of, and to create, and to help stimulate the intellectual and the political ferment that we need—which we, with our methodology, have to be continually sifting through, embracing, integrating, and more deeply synthesizing in the correct way.
I’ve said this before: If you really get this epistemology, you want people to challenge you. Do you want to know the truth, or do you just want to impose your will? Do you really want to act in the interests of the masses of people in abolishing the “four alls” and moving humanity to a whole new stage? [The “four alls” refers to a formulation by Marx in which he gives a basic summation of the aims of the communist revolution.**] Or do you just want to get into a position where you can do what you think is right [without having a solid, scientific basis for knowing whether it is really right or not]? There is a fundamental difference, ideologically and epistemologically, between those two worldviews. And if you really get this communist epistemology, as I understand it, you do understand why everything that is actually true will help you get to communism. This doesn’t mean everything that is actually true makes it easier in the short run. People point out your mistakes, and it may make difficulties, and their pointing them out may make difficulties. Not just because they’re voicing them but because it will resonate with other people who have grievances and even other forces in society who will misuse the legitimate grievances of others. But if you’re afraid of that, then you can’t get to where we need to go.
The reason that people should believe us is, first of all, because we should believe it ourselves. As I’ve said before, this is not a gimmick. This is not a way of tricking people who are afraid we’re going to impose our will on them into thinking, “Oh no, we’re a nice bunch of liberals. Don’t worry.”
No. We’re not liberals. But we’re not going to impose our will, or seek to, in that kind of way, for much more fundamental reasons. So we should believe this ourselves, first of all. It doesn’t mean we don’t struggle for what we think is correct at a given time. If you don’t do that you’re not worth anything to anyone worth anything. But even while you’re struggling vigorously for what you understand to be true, you have to maintain your critical faculties, your critical thinking, your openness to others [who are] contesting your ideas, no matter what viewpoint they’re coming from, to see if there’s truth in what they’re raising in opposition to you.
It gets very complicated. One of her big things, Arundhati Roy, is opposing a lot of these dams in India. Well, the way they do build these dams in these societies run by exploiting classes, and under the overall domination of imperialism, has horrendous effects on people. But, you know, when you get to socialism, you’ve got to develop the economy. And you don’t do this without a lot of contradictions, some of them becoming quite acute! Might it be necessary to dislocate some people in the course of developing the socialist economy and move them to another place? Yes. But you have to do that in a whole different way than it’s done under these exploiting systems. And you have to do it in a way that ultimately rests on the voluntary action of masses of people, based on their understanding and being won to the greater good.
There was a struggle like that—I talked about this in the Memoir, about when I was in China the first time and visiting the area where they built the Red Flag Canal. [This refers to From Ike to Mao and Beyond: My Journey From Mainstream America to Revolutionary Communist, a Memoir by Bob Avakian (Insight Press, 2005).] They diverted a river through a mountain. And the effect of that on the villagers who lived alongside where the river had gone was negative [in a narrow, short term sense]! They didn’t flood their village out, but it did mean that they weren’t getting the same irrigation they’d gotten before. It didn’t mean they didn’t get any, but this was done for the larger good of being able to provide irrigation for agriculture to a much larger area and much greater numbers of people.
And they had to win people to that voluntarily. They had to struggle through the ideological and political questions and struggle against the “small owner mentality” that the peasants were still caught up in to a large degree, because in the old society that’s where they were—they were exploited largely under the feudal system but as small landowners, and if they didn’t have land they were trying to get it, because that’s the way they could live. And there’s a certain ideology that goes along with that, generally a sort of petty bourgeois ideology. They had to struggle through those questions ideologically.
Well [referring to socialist society], you get an Arundhati Roy coming in and raising things that may divide sharply into two. Some of them may be legitimate criticisms of the way you’re going about it, and some of them may be wrong, because she’s not seeing the larger picture. So, you’re going to have to struggle through and sift out those things. But to the degree that someone like that is wrong, what is your orientation toward that? That’s the fundamental question of outlook and philosophy and epistemology. Is that going to contribute—directly or indirectly, positively and negatively—to our getting to a deeper understanding of reality, and a deeper understanding of how to transform reality in the interests of achieving the “four alls” and emancipating humanity? Or is it not? If you understand that it is, then you have a certain orientation toward it, which is the one we should have. If you don’t understand that it is, then you just think “these goddamn people are always making trouble, every time we try to do something they come around and stand in the way of what we’re trying to do, literally or figuratively.” And there’ll be some truth to that. But these contradictions have to be handled non-antagonistically. Unless someone comes around, when you’re trying to carry out an economic project, and they actually start blowing up the machinery—then they’ve carried it over to another realm. Then they’re not merely arguing with you about it, or waging protests, then they’re going into another realm. And then you have to act accordingly. But even while doing that, there’s still a difference between having to act accordingly in those circumstances and what your attitude should be in an overall sense toward this phenomenon in general—of people raising disagreements, criticizing what you’re doing, pointing out shortcomings.
Look, you know Mao said we have to toughen our skin. You do have to toughen your skin if you’re going to do this the right way. People disagree with you, they criticize you—they’re not always so polite, sometimes they’re downright fucking nasty. But you still have to have an orientation of sifting through to see what’s true, and you have to have an orientation of creating an atmosphere in society which is favorable to this happening—or we’re not going to get where we need to go.
The reason Arundhati Roy should believe us is that a) we should believe it; and b) our practice, our methodology, the way we carry out things, should flow from and be consistent with that—and it should be borne out! Everybody, when they hear somebody say something that’s controversial, or something that they’re not inclined to believe, or is not sure is true, tests people out in various ways. That’s part of the process too. You engage in discussion and struggle, but you also observe and interact with people. This is what happens, not just with this or that prominent individual, but with people generally, the masses of people. The masses of people have the same questions: “Why should we believe you?” “That sounds good, but how do we know it isn’t going to go over here where we’ve been told this always goes?” Or “I heard your people over there in China did X, Y and Z.” The first time I talked with Mobile Shaw he told me, “Well, one of the brothers from the neighborhood told me ‘I heard your people in China did all this kind of stuff to people.’” [Willie “Mobile” Shaw was a member of the RCP who died last year. He grew up in and lived his whole life in the Nickerson Gardens Housing Projects in Watts, Los Angeles; after working with the revolutionaries there for a period of time, he joined the Party. The hardship of his life conditions led to his having a serious illness, and he died on November 24, 2005, due to complications following surgery. See the pamphlet Statement by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, on the Occasion of the Death of Willie “Mobile” Shaw.]
Masses out there are hearing this stuff. It’s not just a few people who read about it more extensively. So there’s a question of do you really deeply—not just believe in some quasi-religious sense, do you grasp deeply the truth—that by toughening our skin, and not only in sort of a “grit your teeth” way, but actually encouraging and fostering the atmosphere where there will be intellectual and political ferment, that we can sift through and get further along and actually get where we need to go ultimately? And if we don’t do that, we won’t get there. This is the fundamental question.
Now we do have to have a solid core—this goes to the other part of what you raised. If people want to get up and give speeches about how we ought to go back to capitalism, and they attack the leadership and so on of the new society, and we don’t allow that, then we’re going against the atmosphere we need to create. It’s very tricky because, for example, in Cuba—which is not a socialist country, it’s a revisionist country, sort of social-democratic social-welfare for some of the people, enforced with ultimately a bourgeois dictatorship—one of the ways they exercise coercion, which is effectively state coercion, is when they get dissidents and so on they mobilize these neighborhood committees and masses of people to surround these people raising criticism and basically try to effectively—or figuratively if not literally—shout them down. Well, I’m not saying that there’s never a role for mobilizing the people who are the firmest supporters of revolution under socialism: are you just going to let the reactionaries run wild, or the people who are dissenting get out there and you never mobilize people on your side of the dispute? But even that has to be approached very carefully and from the correct orientation, because even that can provide an atmosphere that becomes tantamount to, and effectively the same as, imposing the state to suppress dissent. If you create an atmosphere which chills dissent even in that form, you are effectively doing the same thing as if you brought the state down against it.
But that is different than people who actually [carry out physical sabotage and similar acts]. I’m sorry, but we’re living in class-divided society in socialism. We might wish that weren’t true, but there are a lot of things we wish weren’t true. That’s the story with Progressive Labor Party. They used to have—back in their not so terrible days, just bad days, they used to have a slogan “Fight for Socialism.” I knew some people from PL who were called to the HUAC hearings (or the equivalent hearings of congressional committees to “investigate subversives”) and I have to give them [PL] credit—they went back and raised a ruckus and challenged all these southern cracker congressmen and senators who were heading all these committees investigating communism, they [PL] pointed out what was going on in the states of these congressmen and senators in terms of the oppression of Black people and other things. And I remember one of them telling me a story: Because you’re being called by the committee, you get flown in at the expense of the government and put up in a hotel. So they were in a hotel and going up an elevator one night during the course of the hearings; they had on their “Fight for Socialism” buttons, and this drunken congressman got on the elevator with them, with each arm around a prostitute, and looked at their buttons and said “Oh,’fight for socialism!’ I used to be for socialism. Is that like Norman Thomas and the Socialist Party?” And they said, “No, this is like Mao Tsetung.” See, this was in their not so terrible days. So they used to have that slogan, “Fight for Socialism.” Then they decided that socialism’s a big mess, so now let’s just go directly to communism—let’s not bother about socialism. They might as well say: “Why don’t we all just go to heaven? Why bother with earth, it’s full of a lot of mess?” It’s just rampant idealism!***
So we’re going to have these class conflicts [in socialist society], and these reactionary forces who are going to meet, and not just grumble but plot. And they’re actually going to implement things. It’s like I said—the bourgeoisie and counter-revolutionaries are not going to just sit back and say: “Let’s see what happens. They say this is a better society in every sphere, not just economically but politically, culturally, socially, philosophically, morally. Let’s see if they can make that be true.” They’re going to actively plot, because they don’t want it to be true, and they don’t want it to be fulfilled. And when they actively plot and go from plotting to actually carrying it out—you see, this actually happened in the Soviet Union. People blew up plants. Blew up factories. Because that sabotage would undermine the economy and would drive the masses away from supporting and being enthusiastic about the new system—not only the new economic system but the new political system. Well, if you allow that to go on, then you might as well just hand power back to these people and save yourself the trouble and save the masses of people the trouble and just say, “Go ahead and do your worst to the masses of people.”
So there is a distinction there. These boundaries, once again, are conditional and relative, but they’re real. There is a difference between raising a lot of criticisms and arguing that this system is no good, and so on and so on—and actually actively plotting and then carrying out plots to sabotage it. And [in socialist society] in law, and in the Constitution and in the way it’s carried out, that distinction has to be made, and the masses and the vanguard have to understand the importance of that distinction. Those are two different types of contradictions. One of them should be handled non-antagonistically, and the other is antagonistic and has to be dealt with by the force of the state, or you might as well just give it up.
So if we can actually grasp this deeply, and lead growing sections of the masses to grasp this deeply, then there should definitely be a place and a welcoming atmosphere for all the Arundhati Roys, even with all their cantankerousness—which will get raised a lot against us instead of against the people it’s rightly raised against now. But even all that cantankerousness should be strategically and fundamentally welcomed and embraced as part of what we’re seeking to do, because it’s the world we want to get to and because it’s the way to get to that world. So there should be not only room, in some negative sense, but there should be an atmosphere where these people feel welcome even while they often express very sharp differences over particularities. And we should be striving to win them over at the same time, to raise their sights. To say to them: “Instead of simply standing outside being a critic, get inside and raise your criticism, but also contribute more fully to making this be what it should be, and can be.” And while they’re still on the outside, then we have to approach them in the ways I’m talking about, and not in the ways she fears she would be approached.
* Bob Avakian has emphasized the importance of this principle—”embraces but does not replace”—and has developed and applied it in a sweeping way as an important aspect of communist theory of knowledge (epistemology) and methodology generally. This is discussed, for example, in the book by Bob Avakian Observations on Art and Culture, Science and Philosophy (Insight Press, 2005). [back]
** In The Class Struggles in France, 1848-1850, Marx wrote that the socialist state, or the dictatorship of the proletariat, is the necessary transit to the abolition of all class distinctions (or class distinctions generally); the abolition of all the production relations on which those class distinctions rest; the abolition of all the social relations that correspond to those production relations; and the revolutionizing of all the ideas that correspond to those relations. [back]
*** As discussed by Bob Avakian in his Memoir, From Ike to Mao, and Beyond: My Journey From Mainstream America to Revolutionary Communist, there was a certain period, in the 1960s, when Progressive Labor Party was generally associated—and at times associated itself in a general way—with China, but PL never had a deep grasp of, nor consistently put forward, what was pathbreaking about China as a revolutionary socialist society and Mao Tsetung as its leader, nor did PL provide consistent and vigorous—and scientifically based—answers to the distortions and slanders with which China and Mao were attacked at that time. By the early 1970s, PL had completely turned against China as a socialist country and then, as spoken to here by Bob Avakian, PL gave up on the idea of socialism altogether. [back]
Revolution #67, October 29, 2006
We received the following letter from a reader who works with the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade in Los Angeles. It is in response to the call by Revolution to send in reports on taking out the recent New Presentations by Bob Avakian to campuses.
On a Wednesday morning a couple weeks ago, I spent two hours in a class on student leadership having a discussion about Bob Avakian—about what kind of leader he is, what kind of society he’s envisioning, and how he’s leading people to bring that kind of society into being. By the end of the two hours (after the official class time had long been over), I was invited by the students and the professor to come back the following week so we could continue the discussion. The first week we listened to the first 6 and a half minutes of the closing remarks to the 7 Talks, where Bob Avakian talks about the role of communist leaders and his own role in particular. The next week we listened to #9 of the Q&A’s, which exposes the bitter oppression of the Black masses and their revolutionary potential as part of a revolution to end all oppression.
It’s a small class—there were no more than ten students each time. Two people in the class already had some familiarity with Bob Avakian. In fact, the reason I had been invited to come to the class is because when the students were talking about the leaders they look up to—as part of an assignment to write about the qualities of leadership—Bob Avakian was mentioned by one of the students who has been listening to another talk by Chairman Avakian, “Christianity and Society—The Old Testament and the New Testament, Resistance and Revolution” (available at bobavakian.net). The other student who was already familiar with Bob Avakian has read and heard pieces of different works by him and has joined a lot of discussion and struggle over whether or not Bob Avakian is actually providing the leadership the masses need to be able to make fundamental change, and whether it is right to promote and popularize such a leader.
The teacher didn’t seem to be that aware of the existence of Bob Avakian at the beginning of the class, but had a lot of knowledge—coming from a perspective rooted in Black nationalism—about Marxism, the history of the Soviet Union and China, and the radical movements of the 1960s. The other students in the class were a mix of some students who are involved in student government on campus and other students who see themselves taking up a leadership role in some form or another.
Both discussions were fascinating and fun and gave me a lot to think about afterwards. The first one was more like a question and answer session, but the questions were very deep and important and reflected a lot of thought given to how a socialist society would be run according to what Bob Avakian is putting forward. Some of what the students were grappling with—as it was put on the table by me and the professor off of listening to the closing remarks of the talks—was what it means to lead with a scientific method and approach, what it means to run society with the application of that method and approach with a “solid core with a lot of elasticity,” and how in doing that can you transform all of society and move it in the direction of communism, principally defined by the “4 alls.” (The professor at some point had me get up and write out the “4 alls” on the blackboard: the abolition of class distinctions; of all the production relations on which those class distinctions rest; of all the social relations corresponding to those production relations; and the revolutionization of all the ideas corresponding to those social relations.)
One student asked about what it would mean to have the kind of socialist society Bob Avakian envisions where there is a scientific outlook on how to govern. He said, “But for people in that society who don’t see the world that way, for example people who are religious and believe in a higher source of power, I could see serious conflict arising, for example with the church.” He wanted to know whether leading with a scientific outlook would mean suppressing religion and people who believe in God. Another student asked, “I hear you talking about ideas like some ideas are good and others are bad. Who decides what are good ideas and bad ideas, and doesn’t this mean imposing ideas on people?”
The professor asked a lot of questions and put forward his own point of view on communism, the socialist experience, the dictatorship of the proletariat, and how he thinks that socialism is not able to bring about equality, particularly for oppressed nationalities. In terms of Bob Avakian’s new synthesis off of the achievements and mistakes of the socialist experience thus far, the professor seemed intrigued by this. Towards the end of the discussion he was saying that socialism is a society where “the ruling class thinks its ideas are sacrosanct” and “socialists have always put forward the need for a strict government in order to divest people of capitalist ideas.” He asked: If we’re talking about a society with much more elasticity in terms of people putting forward ideas that dissent from and criticize the government—1) are we going to listen to those ideas, and 2) how are we going to protect this society?
The professor had argued that the socialist revolution is not in the interests of oppressed nationalities and Black people in particular. So I thought it would be important to address head on why, in fact, socialism is in the interests of oppressed nationalities. I opened our discussion the next week with Q&A #9 (about the oppression of Black people in the United States). I don’t know about the make-up of the school as a whole, but in this class the majority of the students are Black. Listening to this part of the talks led to the breaking open of a freewheeling discussion among the students that I thought was very exciting.
It started off slow at first. I asked for responses to what the students had heard. They didn’t know what to say at first. I said I wanted their reactions because I’m sure they’d never heard anything like this before. One woman said, “I’ve heard stuff like this before.” Somebody else asked a question about what kind of society Bob Avakian is envisioning, and I said you are able to see a lot about what kind of society he is talking about by how he’s addressing this question. I told them about how when I listened to this for the first time I’d been very moved by the part where he says there never could be and never should be a revolution that doesn’t unleash the burning desire of the Black masses to get rid of their oppression, as part of doing away with all oppression. Another student commented matter-of-factly, “You can’t get rid of it.” The first woman who’d spoken said at first, “There’s been progress.” And then another student asked, “How is he trying to lead to change?”
And then we were off and running. The professor explained, “If you find out you have cancer, you can let it go or you can seek medical remedies. This society is like a cancer, nothing will change if nothing is done. The RCP, Bob Avakian has a remedy for cancer. Other people have other remedies.” As I talked about revolution and remaking society, the students wanted to know more about Bob Avakian and as they asked questions, the other students who already know some about him jumped in to be part of answering them. The woman who initially said Bob Avakian wasn’t saying anything new, now wanted to know, “I’ve never heard of him before and I pay attention. I watch the news. I watch CNN. How come I’ve never heard of him if he’s trying to make these changes?” I jumped in to point out that in fact we’re trying to break through in the media and get Bob Avakian’s name everywhere and get his works and his ideas spreading. I told them about the Get the Word Out committees, and I encouraged students to buy Bob Avakian’s memoir (From Ike to Mao and Beyond: My Journey From Mainstream America to Revolutionary Communist) to learn more about who he is, how he came to be the leader he is, and what kind of person he is.
The discussion kept going as the students went back and forth between each other trying to get a handle on what this revolution is. I talked about needing a revolutionary people in their millions and a political situation where people have lost their allegiance to this system and see how to fight for a different kind of society. An earnest question came, “How do you get to that?” I spoke about hastening while awaiting, drawing from Chairman Avakian’s talk, “Why We’re in the Situation We’re in Today...And What to Do About It: A Thoroughly Rotten System and the Need for Revolution.”
I also talked about how the Party is part of the struggle to drive out the Bush regime and the urgent necessity to do this, to put a halt to the horrors this regime is unleashing on the world and where it is taking society. I made the point that this movement involves all kinds of people with all different ideas about where this ultimately needs to go. I also explained how the Party sees what the possibilities could be out of a radically changed political situation where millions of people are acting in a conscious way to change society—how with the work of the Party within that it could be possible (and as the Chairman says, not guaranteed and maybe not probable, but possible) to move things in the direction of a revolutionary situation.
One student said, “I see the need to drive out Bush,” while another asked, “Can’t we just wait two years?” and still another answered him, “The Bush regime is making changes that can’t be reversed—like the Patriot Act.” And in response to my comments about how to change the political situation, one woman said, “I can see how this could really change things.”
By the time the class was over, there were many more questions still coming up and I was wishing I could come back again the next week too! I got the e-mail addresses of several people so we can keep the discussion going.
Revolution #67, October 29, 2006
On October 9, North Korea exploded what they claimed was a nuclear weapons device. If this claim is true, North Korea may have the capacity to produce a very small number of nuclear weapons at some point in the future.
If you’re worried about a huge arsenal of powerfully destructive nuclear weapons, in the hands of a ruler who is hell-bent on dominating the world, and who might well use his nuclear weapons in the near future, look closer to home. Newsweek magazine reported in 2001 that “The U.S. nuclear arsenal today includes 5,400 warheads loaded on intercontinental ballistic missiles at land and sea; an additional 1,750 nuclear bombs and cruise missiles ready to be launched from B-2 and B-52 bombers; a further 1,670 nuclear weapons classified as ‘tactical.’ And just in case, an additional 10,000 or so nuclear warheads held in bunkers around the United States as a ‘hedge’ against future surprises.”
The U.S. is the only country in the world that has actually used atomic bombs—carrying out the horrific bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan at the end of World War 2. Hundreds of thousands of people were killed as a result of those attacks, overwhelmingly civilians.
And it is the U.S., right now, who according to information revealed in articles by Seymour Hersh, has developed plans for an attack on Iran that include options for using nuclear weapons.
The U.S. Condemns Nuclear Weapons—But Not Their Own
The picture being painted in the U.S. media is that rogue North Korea and its ruler Kim Jong Il have defied the “international community” in going ahead with this reported nuclear test. A quick look at the background of these events reveals the hypocrisy of this.
During the Korean war (see sidebar, “What Is North Korea”) the top U.S. general Douglas MacArthur proposed dropping dozens of atomic bombs on revolutionary China and creating “a belt of radioactive cobalt” across the whole northern border of Korea. (“Korea: forgotten nuclear threats,” Bruce Cummings, Le Monde Diplomatique)
After the Korean war, the U.S. packed South Korea with troops, bases and nuclear weapons. At least 150 nuclear weapons were deployed by the U.S. in South Korea in 1985. (“U.S. nuclear weapon locations, 1995,” Robert S. Norris and William M. Arkin, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Nov/Dec. 1995)
The U.S. government claimed that by 1991 it had removed all of its tactical nuclear weapons from Korean soil. This has not been independently confirmed, since the U.S. does not allow the kinds of “international inspections” that they demand other countries submit to. And the U.S. still maintained the capability of hitting North Korea with long-range weapons based outside of Korea. The Pentagon’s 2002 “Nuclear Policy Review” described how the U.S. was pretargeting nuclear weapons for “preemptive” strikes on specific countries, including North Korea. (Washington Post, March 23, 2002)
But there is more. In 1994, the U.S. made an agreement with North Korea where the North Koreans would discontinue use of nuclear power plants that had the capacity to produce weapons-grade plutonium. North Korea relied on these plants for electricity for the country, which has limited power sources. In exchange the U.S. agreed to a number of things, including ending sanctions on North Korea and providing assistance in constructing two light-water reactor plants to replace North Korea’s existing nuclear power plants. They also promised to provide oil for energy. In return North Korea agreed to allow International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections and to supervised disposal of their spent nuclear fuel stocks.
Professor of U.S. and Korea Relations Bruce Cummings explained on Democracy Now that North Korea “froze their entire plutonium facility at Yongbyon” to comply with the agreement, and that there were sealed doors and UN inspectors on the premises at all times. But Cummings explained that “The U.S. didn’t hold up its side of the bargain to go ahead and normalize relations with North Korea, to provide light-water reactors as a substitute for the plutonium reactors, and eventually the North Koreans decided that we weren’t upholding the agreement, and they started their second enriched uranium program.”
In 2002, the Bush administration announced that this uranium program violated the agreement and suspended oil shipments. Backed into a corner, North Korea expelled international inspectors and restarted their nuclear reactors.
The U.S. is also accusing North Korea of “violating international treaties” because it withdrew from the Non-Proliferation Treaty. The Non-Proliferation Treaty is set up with different rules and guidelines for countries that have nuclear weapons (Nuclear Weapons States, or NWS), and other rules for countries who do not have them (Non-Nuclear Weapons States, or NNWS). NNWS have agreed not to produce or seek to acquire nuclear weapons. The NWS did not officially acknowledge that they would not attack NNWS until a 1995 resolution, but this is not legally binding. So countries that already have nuclear weapons have the right to use and produce them, and countries without nuclear weapons are forbidden to acquire them, supposedly in exchange for assurances that they won’t be attacked. North Korea signed this agreement, which they remained part of until 2003. Shortly after Bush included North Korea in the “Axis of Evil” and declared a policy of pre-emptive war, North Korea withdrew from the NPT in 2003. Withdrawal from the treaty is specifically allowed under such circumstances.
In short, the U.S. has maintained a nuclear threat against North Korea (and the rest of the planet, but with particular focus on North Korea) for decades. They made, and then tore up, an agreement to provide North Korea with oil in exchange for North Korea abandoning its nuclear capacity. And now they point the finger at North Korea and yell “nuclear threat!”
U.S. accusations and threats are laying the groundwork to justify U.S. military action in Korea, and in the region around it. On October 17, Bush announced that “If we get intelligence that they [North Korea] are about to transfer a nuclear weapon, we would stop the transfer, and we would deal with the ships that were taking the—or the airplane that was dealing with taking the material to somebody.” Bush added that the North Korean leadership would be “held accountable” and they would face “grave consequences”—which is a threat of war.
There are echoes of the “WMD” hoax here. Bush is (once again!) giving himself the right to launch a new “preemptive” war—on the basis of claims to have “intelligence” about the transfer of nuclear materials. Those claims would be coming from a proven liar.
Revolution #67, October 29, 2006
Go to revcom.us…
Just because abortion is legal in California doesn’t mean you can actually get one. A recent article in the San Francisco Bay Guardian, “The Other Abortion Battle” by Tali Woodward, reveals the difficulty that women have in California in getting an abortion.
One woman the Bay Guardian talked to was Iris Flores, a 24-year-old human resources manager who lives in California’s Central Valley. When Iris found out she was pregnant in January, she looked forward to giving birth. However two months into the pregnancy her doctor discovered a problem with her amniotic sac which meant she could miscarry at any time. She had to visit her doctor weekly for a battery of tests. Flores was told she would have to stay in bed to prevent a miscarriage, but that the fetus still might not survive or might have serious problems.
Iris decided to have an abortion, but soon ran up against major difficulties. First, her health insurance didn’t cover abortion unless her life was in danger, which it wasn’t. Then she began contacting abortion providers near her home in Fresno, but couldn’t find a single clinic that was willing to see her, because she had had a cesarean in a previous pregnancy, and because her pregnancy was entering the second trimester. According to the Bay Guardian, 12 weeks (the beginning of the second trimester) has become the de facto cut-off point for many providers, even though Roe v. Wade allows abortion through 24 weeks, after which it allows states to impose restrictions. (California law prohibits abortions after the fetus has become "viable"—capable of surviving outside the womb with medical intervention—but it does not mandate a specific cutoff date).
The difficulties might have been insurmountable had Iris not found the volunteer-based non-profit group ACCESS, which helps women in California access abortion services. ACCESS found a clinic in San Francisco, a four-hour drive from Iris’s home, and Iris was able to scrape together the $1000 to pay for the abortion. But Iris told the Bay Guardian that she finds herself wondering about other women who didn’t have the advantages she had—a supportive partner, a steady income, education, and help from ACCESS.
And all this is happening in California, which was recently ranked the best state in the country for reproductive rights by the National Abortion Rights Action League. California received an A+ rating, while the nation as a whole got a D–.
As Alma Avila Pilchman, ACCESS’s hotline manager for four years, told the Bay Guardian: “What is the ‘right’ if you don’t have the ability to access it?”
The number of abortion providers has been declining nationwide. The Alan Guttmacher Institute, the foremost clearinghouse for abortion information in the country, found that more than half of the U.S. hospitals that provided abortions in 1982 had stopped by 2000. The institute also documented an 11 percent decrease in the number of abortion providers in the United States between 1996 and 2000. In California the decline was even greater: a 19 percent drop during the same period. Today, 41 percent of California counties lack a single abortion provider.
Options are particularly limited for lower-income women. California is one of only 17 states in the country that provides public funding for poor women seeking abortion. Congress outlawed federal funding for abortion in 1977. In theory, any low-income woman who qualifies for state-subsidized health care can get “emergency” Medi-Cal to pay for an abortion in California. But few places perform second trimester abortions and accept all Medi-Cal patients.
Many clinics used to offer that service but have stopped in part because the actual costs of the procedures are much higher than the reimbursement that the state provides. California reimburses community clinics only $188.08 for performing a first-trimester abortion on a Medi-Cal recipient and $265.88 for a second-trimester surgery.
According to Parker Dockray, the Executive Director of ACCESS, in 1996 there were 10 to 12 places in Northern and Central California where low income women could seek an abortion up to 23 weeks. Today there are only two and one of them sees only a negligible portion of Medi-Cal clients. In Southern California, according to the Bay Guardian, only two clinics will accept Medi-Cal for abortions up to 23 weeks.
And abortion rights continue to be under heavy attack in California—anti-abortion forces have put an initiative on the November ballot that would force young women seeking an abortion to get parental approval.
Bush’s Assault on Abortion Rights
The agenda of the anti-abortion forces has nothing to do with “protecting life”—it is about controlling the lives of women and reinforcing patriarchal social relations. And the steady erosion of access to abortion is the result of a deliberate campaign by anti-abortion forces to pave the way for overturning Roe v. Wade and outlawing abortion completely.
This chipping away at Roe v. Wade has greatly accelerated since George W. Bush took office.
Bush’s first presidential act was to institute a global gag rule that withdrew U.S. family planning assistance from any organization worldwide that offers abortion assistance or promotes abortion access, even if it does so with private funds.
Bush appointed anti-abortion activists to key government positions. For example, he appointed abstinence advocate Alma Golden as deputy assistant of population affairs, which oversees the government’s family planning clinics. When a Texas anti-abortion group argued that clinics needed to turn over the names of any sexually active minors to the state as a potential child abuse victim, Golden authorized two full-scale investigations of clinics in a clear attempt to undermine confidential access to family planning services by teens.
Bush has funneled millions of federal dollars into phony “pregnancy counseling centers”—community outposts of the anti-choice movement which lure women in with the promise of health care and then bombard them with unscientific and hysterical lies about how they will be “killing their baby” if they have an abortion. A training manual for the centers refers to pregnant girls as “potential killers,” and describes the centers as engaged in a fight against Satan.
Bush has appointed right wing anti-abortion judges to the Supreme Court and other federal courts, who have upheld more and more abortion restrictions.
In the face of all of this and the fact that an abortion is increasingly difficult to get even in states like California, what has been the response of the Democrats? Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has called defending abortion a “game” the Democrats “can’t afford to play” any longer. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) has called abortion a “tragic choice,” ceding the moral high ground to religious fanatics when, in fact, abortion should require no shame or apologies. As a key part of regaining seats in the Senate, the Democrats are running the vehemently anti-choice Bob Casey Jr. in Pennsylvania.
Such discussion of abortion as a “necessary evil” has meant stigmatizing providers of abortion and the women who get them. And it has meant uniting with the lie that abortion is morally wrong. As the article, “The Morality of the Right to Abortion… And the Immorality of Those Who Oppose It,” (Revolution, March 12, 2006) says:
“There is nothing immoral about terminating an unwanted pregnancy or removing a clump of cells that have not yet developed into a viable human being from a woman’s body. A fetus is not a baby. If a woman doesn’t want to continue a pregnancy all the way (for whatever reason), she should have the freedom to end it, safely and easily. There is nothing tragic about it—indeed, the real tragedy lies in the lives of women that are foreclosed and disfigured and even ended by being compelled to have children that they do not want, a tragedy that happens millions of times a day on this planet, with the connivance and support of the U.S. government.
“The life of a woman who is forced to continue an unwanted pregnancy is endangered. From the dangers of illegal abortions to the disrespect for her own life, she is harmed and demeaned as a human being. Being forced by society to have a baby when a woman either does not want or cannot care for one is one of the age-old tragedies that are no longer necessary for anyone to have to suffer. But if a woman is not allowed to control her own body, her own reproduction, not allowed to decide whether or not or when to become a mother, she has no more freedom than a slave. This is for the greater good for the health and overall well-being of that woman, whose life we should value and cherish more than that of a partially formed fetus. And for the greater good of humanity—for don’t we want a society where all forms of slavery are ended?”
Revolution #67, October 29, 2006
On November 9, the U.S. Supreme Court, which Bush has been stacking with anti-abortion justices, is scheduled to hear a case which involves outlawing the most commonly performed second-trimester abortion procedure used by thousands of women. And on November 8, a referendum will appear on the ballot in South Dakota that could codify a total ban on abortion, even to save the health of the mother; anti-abortion activists hope that this law could end up at the Supreme Court and result in overturning Roe v. Wade. To understand why this battle is so crucial to the lives and basic humanity of women, we encourage people to read the following articles at revcom.us:
From—”The Bible and Baby-Killing: The Right to Abortion and the Whole Direction of Society” by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA:
“We have to wage a counter-offensive here, and get to what the essence of the issue is. In the case of the great majority of abortions, over 90 percent, what is involved, in terms of the fetus, is a very tiny clump of cells—it is that versus a woman’s fate. That’s what we’re talking about here. Physiologically and socially, that’s essentially what we’re talking about here—the fate of women vs. a clump of cells, which at that point (during the first three months in particular) are by no means even completely differentiated (into different organs and parts of the body with different specific functions) and certainly are not anything like a developed human being—and are, in fact, a tiny clump of cells. We have to get things back to the real issue.”
“The morality that should be supported and fought for is one that values the rights of women to lead full social lives. It supports social and intimate relations where people respect each other’s humanity and flourish together—and not where women are supposedly commanded by ‘God’ to ‘submit themselves’ to men. This morality sees children as a joy to society, and as ultimately the responsibility of all society, while not compelling anyone in any way to have children against their will. It does NOT, as these theocrats do, sanctimoniously shout hosannas to a clump of cells that might someday become a child—while feverishly upholding the murder of real live children in the war being waged by the U.S. in Iraq, and self-righteously dooming literally millions of other real live children, right in the U.S., to lives of deprivation and punishment—in the name of those same traditional values.”
“The placenta gets formed from a combination of some of the tissues of the woman’s uterus and of the woman’s embryo. It is a mass of tissue rich in blood vessels, which connects the embryo to the woman’s blood circulation system. During the whole pregnancy the fetus will remain attached to the placenta through the umbilical cord. The placenta helps show how the embryo or fetus is very much part of the woman’s body for the whole pregnancy. The embryo cannot get food on its own, clear out its own wastes, or even breathe on its own. It gets oxygen and dissolved food nutrients (and sometimes toxic substances) from the woman’s blood through the placenta and umbilical cord. It gets rid of its wastes the same way, releasing carbon dioxide and urea into the woman’s bloodstream for disposal. Just as a single live cell cannot survive independently of a body, the embryo cannot survive independently of a woman’s body because it is truly part of her.”
Revolution #66, October 22, 2006
Second in a series
Revolution #67, October 29, 2006
The U.S. government’s vicious persecution and prosecution of radical civil rights attorney Lynne Stewart reached a critical juncture on Monday, October 16. A Federal District Court judge in New York City, John Koeltl, sentenced Stewart to 28 months in jail for allegedly providing material support to terrorists and four other counts. She was then released on bail pending her appeal to overturn her conviction. Stewart’s two co-defendants, Ahmed Abdel Sattar and Mohamed Yousry, were sentenced to 24 years and 20 months, respectively.
The sentencing of Lynne Stewart represents the continuation of the Bush administration’s attack not only on her but also on other defense lawyers, on those who oppose this regime, and on the people generally.
Prosecutors for the U.S. government had been demanding that 67-year-old Stewart be given the maximum allowable sentence of 30 years and are now threatening to appeal. The government did not get everything it wanted at this point. But the fact remains that Stewart has been sentenced to more than two years of jail time based on a clearly politically motivated indictment on serious charges of “conspiracy, providing material support to terrorists and defrauding the U.S. government.” This indictment was personally initiated in April 2002 by then-U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, shortly after 9/11 and passage of the highly repressive USA Patriot Act.
Stewart was convicted in February 2005, after a seven-month trial—on counts that were only slight modifications of Ashcroft’s original indictment and still represented very serious felony charges. And she was immediately disbarred, meaning she can no longer practice law. As Lynne Stewart said on Democracy Now, shortly after her disbarment: “That is my greatest sense of loss—that I will be cut off from the profession that I love and that I feel I have served—and I have served people who had no voice.”
The conviction and sentencing of Lynne Stewart constitute a major thrust in the Bush administration’s overall fascist offensive against people’s legal rights. These include the right to an attorney and attorney-client confidentiality. These are long-established rights that are now being extinguished one after another, all justified on the basis of the Bush regime’s “war on terror” and involving massive legalized secret surveillance and the limitless detention and torture of political prisoners.
The conviction and sentencing of Lynne Stewart is also designed to send a chilling message to other defense lawyers who might want to represent people accused by this government of terrorism or other political charges. As criminal defense lawyer Jed Stone said shortly after Stewart’s conviction: “This verdict is a chilling attack on criminal defense lawyers. The government is telling us, ‘Don’t get involved in cases of people alleged to be terrorists. If you do, you will pay a heavy cost.’ Whatever you think of the individual or the allegations, just like everyone, these people need a defense lawyer, perhaps even more so. But the government doesn’t want lawyers to handle those kinds of cases.”
In the 1990s Lynne Stewart worked as a defense attorney for fundamentalist Islamic cleric Omar Abdel Rahman, who was convicted and sentenced to life in 1996 for seditious conspiracy related to alleged plots to attack New York landmarks, including the World Trade Center. The government’s case against Lynne Stewart stemmed from its allegation that she and her two co-defendants, Yousry and Sattar, had helped to communicate a message from Rahman to his organization in Egypt, the Islamic Group, by passing on a press release to a Reuters reporter indicating his opposition to a ceasefire with the Egyptian regime.
The U.S. government claimed that this communication violated the “Special Administrative Measures” (SAMs) that had been put into effect against Rahman. SAMs began during the Clinton era and permit the government to isolate and thereby silence any prisoner considered a threat to national security. In the case of Rahman, this involved virtually complete isolation and solitary confinement. He couldn’t have visitors, make phone calls, or have contact with other inmates. And in order even to talk with him, Stewart as Rahman’s court-appointed attorney had to sign so-called “SAM agreements” that included various restrictions on what kinds of communications she could have with him—agreements which the government claimed Stewart, along with Yousry and Sattar, violated and which therefore contributed to “terrorism” and “terrorist violence.”
But even the New York Times took note of the fact that, during the trial, “the government never showed that any violence resulted from the actions” of Stewart and her two co-defendants. “The Islamic Group never canceled the ceasefire. The defendants were not accused of terrorism in the United States,” the Times correctly pointed out. And the judge himself told the jurors that Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda were not an issue in the trial. That, however, did not deter the prosecution from going all out to paint Stewart with the “terrorist” brush—for example, by showing in the courtroom numerous times videotapes of bin Laden.
Also revealing is that the “evidence” the prosecution presented during the trial consisted largely of extensive secret government surveillance of communications by Sattar, nearly 75,000 in all and including his phone calls, Internet usage and e-mails, and his fax machine. This was then used to extend the secret surveillance to Stewart’s meetings with Rahman, which were recorded and videotaped. These conversations took place in 2000, but it wasn’t until two years later—in the wake of 9/11 and the Patriot Act—that the government indicted Stewart.
U.S. law has long held that communication between an attorney and his or her client should be confidential. But that changed with the passage of the Patriot Act, which grants the government unlimited discretion to spy on attorney-client conversations with no judicial oversight. Shortly after her conviction, Lynne Stewart talked about how the abrogation of attorney-client confidentiality “goes to the core of the way we represent persons accused of crime. And also to the core, if you will, of political persons who are criminalized by the government… I mean we enjoyed for all of the years of the Constitution’s life a privilege which said it was in the best interests of the state and the people to allow lawyers and their clients to discuss cases confidentially… This changes all the rules.” (Interview in Revolutionary Worker [now Revolution], April 24, 2005, available online at revcom.us.)
The government had searched Stewart’s office, and she pointed out how this “raises concerns not just of the person who is listened in on, but raises a bigger question. Can you afford to go to a lawyer such as me…who made a practice of representing the demonized, if the government is likely to vamp on the lawyer, come into their office, spend 12 hours searching, take their hard drive, and thus find out not only about the client that may be the point of information, but also all the other clients you may have? Someone said to me, it’s not just a ‘chilling effect’… this is really sub-Arctic, this is the deep freeze, of constraining lawyers in particular. And of course we all know that this administration specializes in constraining lawyers.”
There has been an outpouring of opposition to the government’s persecution of Lynne Stewart, including more than 1,000 letters sent to the judge by defense attorneys and many others. Outside the courthouse on October 16, hundreds of supporters gathered vigorously chanting, “Lynne Stewart must go free! No police state!” The night before, 700 people rallied in her support at the Riverside Church.
Because of her commitment, over several decades, to the fight against repression and oppression, Lynne Stewart has earned the reputation as one of this country’s outstanding “people’s attorneys,” in the tradition of William Kunstler and Clarence Darrow. That is why the Bush regime is so determined to silence her, and why the struggle must go on and be intensified to prevent her from spending even one minute in prison.
Revolution #67, October 29, 2006
I recently rented the DVD of The Atomic Cafe. This 1982 movie by Kevin Rafferty, Jayne Loader, and Pierce Rafferty shows the U.S. government’s bizarre, almost gleeful, celebration of nuclear war. The movie is entirely documentary footage—news reports and speeches from government officials, U.S. military training and propaganda films, and catchy 1950s music. The footage spans the first atomic bomb tests in 1945 up until just before the Cuban Missile Crisis.
This movie came out during the Cold War era, when my parents were kids. And people who grew up then have described to me having nightmares of a nuclear attack and going through bomb drills at school. I remember being taught in school about the “heroic and necessary U.S. bombing of Japan to end WW2.” We didn’t learn about the real horror of the U.S. nuclear attacks on Japan or what the U.S. was prepared to unleash on the world in the Cold War era.
What my generation has seen is George Bush’s talk of the “War on Terror” and a “battle for civilization,” ranting about the nuclear threat of other countries. But the only country in the history of the world so far that has ever used a nuclear weapon is the United States. Today, the Bush Regime asserts that it will decide what countries in the world can make, test, or use nuclear weapons. The logic here is that whatever the U.S. does, even using nuclear weapons and bombs, is justified, while other countries targeted by the U.S. as part of the “axis of evil” have no right to defend themselves.
This film gives some historical perspective on the United States’s role as the biggest and most dangerous nuclear power in the world. Newsreels, political speeches, and official propaganda show the US glorifying the use of nuclear bombs. We hear military officials and members of the Air Force describing the beauty and thrill of a nuclear explosion. The filmmakers then juxtapose this with images of the utter suffering and destruction caused by the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
There’s many a jaw dropping moment in the film, such as President Harry Truman’s statement about the decision to drop nuclear bombs on Japan: “We thank god that it has come to us instead of to our enemies, and we pray that He may guide us to use it in His way and for His purposes.” Or a news show with U.S. Senator James E. Van Sant calling for nuclear attacks not only in several cities in North Korea, but the Chinese region of Manchuria as well. He says the U.S. could “destroy” and “contaminate” “targets” in North Korea.
We see how the U.S. used the Marshall Islands in the Pacific, in particular Bikini Island, to conduct what amounted to 67 nuclear tests between 1946 and 1958 (American Journal of Health). Islanders who were exposed to exceptionally high doses of radiation and transported and inspected by the U.S. military are shown with skin discoloration and hair loss. We hear a reporter explain there is no further damage, other than diseases which may be contracted in the future. Today, some 50 years later, there are still reports throughout the Marshall Islands of stillbirths and miscarriages, as well as high cancer rates, directly due to radiation. The Atomic Cafe shows 1950s soldiers participating in test explosions in Nevada. A propaganda film assures their safety from radiation. The soldiers wear radiation “badges” that determine whether or not they “received a lethal dose,” as one reporter describes it.
The Atomic Cafe shows U.S. government propaganda films trying to whip up Cold War hysteria by dramatizing a nuclear attack on the U.S., in a blithesome 1950s style. We see classrooms full of children doing “duck and cover” drills, preparing to dive under their desks in the event of a flashing nuclear explosion. Other films urged every family to construct a basement bomb shelter. One report shows a boy pedaling awkwardly on his bike in a full body radiation suit with dark goggles that make him look like a space alien.
Such images are harrowing. And at the same time, what’s revealed is the United States as a bloodthirsty nuclear power, ready to attack anyone that challenges them—something very relevant to understanding the current world situation. Today, the U.S., with the greatest military might, the biggest and the great number of weapons of mass destruction, still threatens the world.
The Atomic Cafe is eye-opening, disturbing, and relevant. Check it out.