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Revolution #73, December 17, 2006
The Baker Report on Iraq:
“The situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating…. Despite a massive effort, stability in Iraq remains elusive …..No one can guarantee that any course of action in Iraq at this point will stop sectarian warfare, growing violence or a slide toward chaos. If current trends continue, the potential consequences are severe…. A slide toward chaos could trigger the collapse of Iraq's government and a humanitarian catastrophe. Neighboring countries could intervene. Sunni-Shiite clashes could spread. Al Qaeda could win a propaganda victory and expand its base of operations. The global standing of the United States could be diminished. Americans could become more polarized…. The ability of the United States to shape outcomes is diminishing. Time is running out….”
These are the conclusions of the Report by the Iraq Study Group (ISG). The ISG is composed of 10 veteran ruling class politicians, 5 Democrats and 5 Republicans headed by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Democratic Congressman Lee Hamilton. It was formed by Congress to assess the state of the Iraq war.
On one level, the ISG or Baker report represents a shot across the Bush regime’s bow to puncture its talk of “progress” in Iraq, to force it to face the depths of what the liberal, pro-imperialist New York Times calls “a foreign policy disaster of epic proportions,” and to shift course.
On a deeper level, the report and the ensuing debate reveal the huge contradictions the U.S. rulers are up against--including those they have heightened by invading Iraq. The central problem the U.S. faces in Iraq is that the war and occupation have not succeeded and, indeed, have largely backfired. The war has fueled and strengthened anti-U.S. Islamic fundamentalism--in the form of both the Sunni-based anti-occupation insurgency and the Shia factions who have come to dominate Iraq’s government, and now in the current civil war raging between the two. It has given momentum to Islamist forces across the region, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and the resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan. This is exactly the opposite of what the Bush team intended. This is reflected in escalating attacks--both against U.S. forces and inter-communal sectarian killings--and the fractures within the current Iraqi government. The Iraq quagmire has also drastically constrained the U.S. ability to project power globally and has provided openings and “room to maneuver” both for its imperialist rivals and for other forces that it views as inimical or potentially inimical to its interests, such as China and Venezuela.
The report and debate show the glaring contrast between the U.S.’s shrinking options--any course of action could spell disaster--and the enormous and growing stakes involved, as well as the impossibility of just walking away. The report’s release and the Bush administration’s response also highlight both the sharp differences within imperialist ranks over how to deal with the escalating Iraq crisis, and, at the same time, their urgent need to forge a “bipartisan” consensus to avoid strategic disaster.
There is great peril for the imperialists and their system in all this, but there is also great peril--as well as potential openings--for the people. The Baker report is not an anti-war declaration; it doesn’t expose or criticize the nature of this illegal, immoral and unjust war for empire. Rather, it’s an assessment of how to best maintain U.S. imperialism’s dominance in the Middle East in the face of mounting dangers. Neither is it a repudiation of the “war on terror” or the overall program of the Bush regime, even while there are sharp criticisms of some ways in which that program has been carried out in Iraq and the region.
Instead, it’s an attempt to find some “common ground” from which the ruling class can maneuver to avoid what they would consider a “strategic disaster” to their interests. (The fact that the war has already been a terrible disaster for the people of Iraq does not enter into their calculations.) And it is also an attempt to prevent discontent and anger from erupting from the millions in the U.S. who hate the war, and thought they were voting against it in the last election.
Re-Deploying Troops, Pressuring Iraq's Government, Taking the Diplomatic Offensive
There are three key elements in the Baker report’s 79 recommendations. First, changing the focus of U.S. military efforts from combating the insurgency to training the Iraqi military, and gradually withdrawing most U.S. combat troops by 2008, conditions permitting, in hopes of dampening the flames of the insurgency and civil war, and undercutting the appeal of anti-U.S. Islamist forces (both Sunni and Shia) who’ve been gaining strength as a result of the invasion and occupation.
Second, these steps are coupled with U.S.-imposed “milestones”--that is, deadlines after which there would be cuts in aid. These milestones would supposedly force the various factions within the Iraqi government to come to an accommodation and take steps toward “national reconciliation, security, and governance” as the Baker report puts it, in order to gain legitimacy, stabilize the country, and halt the slide toward sectarian civil war. Such a war would threaten the very existence of Iraq as a nation, as well as raise the possibility of a wider regional war.
Third, the report calls for a diplomatic offensive which would both enlist the region’s countries--including Syria and Iran--in helping to stabilize the situation in Iraq (currently, different countries are adding fuel to the fire by supporting and arming rival militias) and also to attempt to douse the flames of anti-American, Islamic radicalism by trying to restart negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians over the formation of a Palestinian state.
In many ways, the report’s recommendations aren’t a dramatic departure from what the Bush regime has been calling for. There is no firm timetable for U.S. troops to leave, let alone any call for immediate withdrawal. In fact the report envisions thousands of U.S. troops staying in Iraq (somewhat in the background) indefinitely. The report even leaves the door open to a temporary troop increase if military commanders deem it necessary. All in all, there is a strong element here of “reaching out” to Bush. This means trying to get him to be more flexible and more accommodating to other forces in the ruling class, pressing him to admit that there is a very serious problem here and that some of his aims may have to be scaled down in that light, trying to work some adjustments in military and diplomatic posture in the hope of buying time--but taking great care not to directly challenge him and instead to present him with a wide range of measures that he can adopt and claim as consistent with his basic goals.
Bush & Neocons Respond With Their Own “Realism”
Yet despite this effort to reach out to Bush, the President has so far rejected the main thrust of the report: pulling back combat troops and talking to Iran and Syria. “I also believe we’re going to succeed. I believe we’ll prevail,” Bush declared at his press conference with British Prime Minister Tony Blair. “If we were to fail, that failed policy will come to hurt generations of Americans in the future…We agree that victory in Iraq is important.”
Meanwhile, Bush’s neocon allies have savaged the report as unrealistic if not delusional at best and surrender at worst. This debate illustrates the minefield the U.S. is in. The Baker-Hamilton group can rightly declare that the Bush policy has so far been a disaster. Yet the neocons can also rightly retort that the Baker-Hamilton report could make things much worse.
Pull back U.S. combat troops and let Iraqis fight in their stead? But that’s what the U.S. has been trying to do--without success--for three years. “The report basically punts on the most important issue of the day--establishing security in Iraq,” a columnist in the far right-wing Weekly Standard argues. “All of the pious exhortations to get Iraqis to sit down with one another, to engage Iran and Syria and to find political compromises are meaningless if we are unable to stem the tide of bloodshed that now engulfs much of Baghdad and Anbar province.”
Pressure the Iraqi government to abandon sectarian issues and come together? “The Iraq Study Group's prescriptions hinge on a fragile Iraqi government's ability to achieve national reconciliation and security at a time when the country is fractured along sectarian lines, its security forces are ineffective and competing visions threaten to collapse the state,” the liberal, pro-imperialist Washington Post reports. “The study group is threatening to weaken a weak government,” said bourgeois military analyst Anthony H. Cordesman.
Talk to Iran and Syria? This is problematic for the Bush regime for several reasons. First, it would probably undercut a central Bush goal of weakening both governments and perhaps overthrowing them, and in the case of Iran, removing a key source of state support for anti-U.S. Islamist movements. Moreover, it is not clear what Iran would do for the U.S. or why it would do it. Baker himself has said as much, but claims it would be good because at least Iran would be seen as unreasonable. But to the Bush/neocon group, such an offer would lend too much legitimacy to Iran. Finally, while especially Iran and to some degree Syria have influence in Iraq, neither entirely control the forces unleashed by the U.S. invasion.
More fundamentally, the Bush regime and its supporters argue that there is no going back to the status quo ante before the Iraq invasion, much less to the policies of preserving the Middle East status quo (and moving away from the Bush goal of regional transformation) that has mainly guided U.S. strategy in the post-World War 2 period. And the Islamic fundamentalist forces which have been the main target of this strategy, the neocons argue, would only be further emboldened if the U.S. retreats from Iraq. As for the recommendation to restart the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, this runs smack into the Bush Regime's goal of defeating fundamentalist forces such as Hamas and strengthening Israel as a regional assault weapon for the U.S.
Baker-Hamilton: Dealing With Political Fragility and Turmoil on the Home Front
The Baker-Hamilton report also called attention to the growing political divisions and polarization within the U.S.--both between different elements in the ruling class and between broad sections of the population and the Bush regime, as well as the political establishment generally. One Wall Street Journal columnist concluded (“Wonderland," 12/8):
“Notwithstanding its 79 recommendations for "the way forward," the Iraq Study Group's primary purpose wasn't saving Iraq from catastrophe but saving the political system of the United States from catastrophe….The commission's two chairs, Jim Baker and Lee Hamilton, make this explicit in the report's first pages. ‘U.S. foreign policy is doomed to failure…if it is not supported by a broad, sustained consensus.’ Leon Panetta, a Democrat in the House from 1977 to 1993, said at their news conference, ‘This country cannot be at war and be as divided as it is today.’”
These two kinds of divisions are in constant, dynamic interplay. Splits on the top can create room for expressions of discontent from below, while resistance from below can create problems as well as widen divisions at the top over how to proceed. The Baker-Hamilton group is trying to deal with both by forging a consensus over how to go forward in Iraq and avoid strategic catastrophe, and by undercutting opponents of the war within the Democratic party and antiwar forces more broadly. “If the report helps to politically isolate John Murtha and the get-out-now left,” the Wall Street Journal editoralized (12/7), “its authors will have done some good.”
Finally, for all those who placed their hopes on the elections and the Democrats or who hoped the spiraling difficulties in Iraq would be enough to force the pendulum to swing back and the Bush regime to reverse course, think again. First, Bush isn’t abandoning his agenda, and he is still running the government, as hardcore right-wingers William Kristol and Robert Kagan note gleefully:
“Although neither the American media nor many observers of the American political scene seem to realize it, there is nothing the Baker commission can do to force Bush to take a different course than the one he chooses. Nor is it easy for a Democratic majority in Congress to call the shots in Iraq. In the American system, the president always has enormous authority in foreign policy, if he wants to exercise it. President Bush clearly does.”
Meanwhile, the Democrats have ruled out cutting off funds for the Iraq war, are applauding the imperialist recommendations of the Baker-Hamilton group, voted nearly unanimously to approve Robert Gates, Bush’s choice for Secretary of Defense, and some are even arguing for more troops.
So the people still need to drive the Bush regime from power. World Can’t Wait writes:
“In this situation of intense debate inside the government, real divisions emerging, and no easy solution, what is all the more needed is massive opposition to this unjust war that demands it end now. Opposition so powerful that those currently debating how best to deal with the debacle they face in Iraq face a populace that refuses to let them continue carrying out war crimes in our names. Otherwise, no matter how many problems the Bush administration faces, nothing good for the people of the world will come out of this situation.”
Revolution #73, December 17, 2006
Now, on the foundation of what has been said so far, I want to turn to the question of A MATERIALIST UNDERSTANDING OF THE STATE AND ITS RELATION TO THE UNDERLYING ECONOMIC BASE.
First of all, what is the state? In some post-modernist thinking, which finds expression in some leftist trends, you'll hear this formulation: "The state has agency." This is a fancy way of saying that the state is not an instrument of class rule, but is an institution that can be affected and influenced by different groups in society, depending on how much pressure they exert on it. Obviously, this is a reformist, as opposed to a revolutionary, viewpoint, and leads to a reformist as opposed to a revolutionary program. This notion that the state can be influenced and caused to act in different ways—it's not an unchanging thing, it can be influenced to have a different character and play a different role, depending on who's exerting more influence on it—this is just the old revisionist view of the state, finding expression these days in "post-modernist" language.
But an actual materialist analysis of the nature and role of the state is essential in terms of making revolution and actually transforming society, it is essential in understanding what the problem is and what the solution is. So, let's dig into the questions: what is the state, what is its essential character and its essential role?
Engels, also in The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State, made the very concise summation, from a lot of historical materialist analysis, that the state is an instrument of class rule, an instrument for the suppression by one class of the other classes it rules over, and that it arises with, and is a manifestation of, the split-up of society, not only into classes in general, but into antagonistic classes—into exploiters and exploited, for short.
Now, in the "Democracy" book (Democracy: Can't We Do Better Than That?), I quoted a statement by Raymond Lotta, that the state is an expression of a certain division of labor in society. This gives the state its particular class character. In other words, the state in general has the character and role of being an instrument of class suppression—or, another way of putting it, an instrument of dictatorship—but being an expression of a certain division of labor in society gives expression to the particular character of a given state. And in an all-round and fundamental sense, we can say that the state is an expression of the overall production relations in society; it reflects that and in turn serves to reinforce that. With one exception—the proletarian state, which seeks not simply to reflect and reinforce, but actually to be an instrument for the further transformation of the production and social relations in society. That's one of the things that gives the proletarian state a character that is qualitatively different from all previous forms of the state.
The proletarian dictatorship aims at the abolition of classes along with the others of the "4 Alls." It aims to do away—not by physical extermination, which is the caricature charged—but through the transformation of society, it aims to do away with classes and their material basis: it aims to do away with the bourgeoisie; it aims to do away with the petty bourgeoisie; and it aims to do away with the proletariat itself. And, as I put it in another discussion with some comrades, the proletariat is the only one of those three classes that doesn't mind. [laughter] Neither of the other two classes wants to go out of existence—which doesn't mean the dictatorship of the proletariat is also exercised over the petty bourgeoisie, that's a different question. But it does mean you have to transform circumstances and people, such that not only the bourgeoisie, but also the petty bourgeoisie and, indeed even the proletariat, no longer exist. But the proletariat is the only one that wants to go all the way with that, speaking in broad social terms.
Now if we understand the role of the state, and we hark back to what I was saying earlier about why we want state power, we can hopefully understand, much more profoundly, the truth and reality of the statement, that without state power all is, in fact, illusion, in terms of transforming society in any fundamental and qualitative way, in terms of getting rid of the oppression and exploitation in which the overwhelming majority of humanity is enmeshed and the nightmare that this involves. I was recently reading some articles from A World to Win News Service,1 ironically dated July 4 of this year, 7/04/05. There were two articles, in particular—one on globalization, the meeting of the heads of state of the major industrial countries, and the demand for debt elimination or reduction; and the other was an article about Africa, the Congo in particular. Anyone who hasn't read those articles should definitely read them, and they're worth reading over more than once, because they vividly bring alive the horrific conditions of the masses of people under the rule and domination of imperialism, and the local agencies of imperialism in these particular countries. The fact is that in the Congo, in the last decade or so, somewhere between 3 and 5 million people have been killed in warfare going on within the Congo, none of the sides of which represent anything positive, in terms of the liberation of the people there. There are all these military forces, sometimes literally gangs that have been pulled together by different capitalist corporations and consortiums to fight against rivals in plundering and looting the minerals and rich resources of those areas. It reminds me of the old Peter Tosh song "Fight Against Apartheid": "you steal my diamonds and finance your ballistic mis-siles." This is what's going on, in truly horrific terms. This is what went on for 40 years in Zaire, when it was called Zaire, after they got rid of Lumumba and civil war broke out and the imperialists imposed and backed the rule of Mobutu. And it's been going on very acutely, millions of people have been dying, during this decade in just this one part of the world. People dying not just from starvation, like in Niger and other places in Africa. But dying from this warfare, this internecine warfare, this reactionary warfare, organized by imperialists and even by different companies and consortiums that are looting the country.
If you are a Marxist and you look at this, you say: "what a crying need for proletarian state power in these countries." But people are being subjected to these horrors because they haven't made a real revolution and don't have proletarian state power. You can criticize the state as an institution all you want—but goddamn it, let's get a proletarian dictatorship and then we'll let people criticize it! As I have pointed out before—for example in an interview I did with Michael Slate2—people should mainly extol the proletarian state, even while they're raising some criticisms. That's another unity of opposites—uphold and extol the proletarian state, while criticizing its shortcomings. And if you understand this as a Marxist, as a communist, you can see the crying need for people to have state power to be able to put a stop to the horrors they are subjected to. Tribe is being pitted against tribe in this warfare in the Congo, slaughtering each other. Even what went on in Rwanda is linked up with the larger network of imperialist relations and the battle among competing imperialists, much as they cried crocodile tears over it, and used it as a way to build up public opinion for their intervention all over the world. They're even doing that now in relation to Nepal: "Nepal could become another Rwanda, another Cambodia, humanity cannot allow this to happen, cannot allow this society to be plunged into chaos, with the attendant mutual slaughter." Public opinion is being actively created in this way right now in relation to Nepal and the prospect of the Maoist-led revolution winning victory in Nepal. But this is very vivid and real in Africa, the horrendous suffering of the people, because they don't have a proletarian state. Now, the proletarian state, where it comes into being, still has to stand up to the imperialists and other reactionary forces militarily, but you don't even have a chance, you're not even in the contest, if you don't have proletarian state power and therefore can reorganize society accordingly and provide a material foundation underneath that state at the same time as you're transforming the society and supporting revolutionary struggles in other parts of the world, all over the world.
If you look at this as a communist, it just jumps out at you, how much the people are suffering for lack of proletarian state power, and for having every other kind of reactionary state power brought down on them and being hurled against each other in these mutual slaughters for the interests of people wielding other state power and serving imperialism and oppression and exploitation. This is true throughout vast parts of the world, and in the world overall. And you can't do anything about it without proletarian state power. Look, I have enormous respect for the people who go become part of Doctors Without Borders. But there's a tremendous burnout rate among these people, too. The problems are so enormous and grow at such exponential dimensions while they're trying to do something. Because people haven't wrenched themselves free of the imperialist system and established a proletarian state power. And this suffering will go on and on and get worse until that is what happens. When you see this and understand it—not refracted through a bourgeois or revisionist prism, but when you see it from a communist standpoint—it leaps out at you: the crying and urgent need for proletarian revolution and proletarian state power. Yes, this revolution has to go through different phases. But in essence, and in the final analysis and fundamentally, proletarian revolution and proletarian state power is what it must be aiming for, as the first great leap toward the final goal of a communist world. We've had every other kind of state, and the imperialists have used this experience with every other kind of state to reinforce the idea that, after all, their domination and even outright colonialism is the only thing for people in Africa and other parts of the Third World. "Look what they've done since independence," they say—negating the actual fact that the people in these countries have never really had real independence. Mobutu—is that independence?!
If you want to understand why "without state power all is illusion," once again I say: just think about all the things that do—that should—drive you crazy, that will, if you're a communist, drive you crazy, that drove you to become a communist in the first place, because you realize the enormity of this and the fact that there isn't any way to deal with this within the confines of this system. All those outrages that keep growing to larger and larger dimensions, that you can't do anything about, in any fundamental terms, because there is not yet proletarian state power, because the idea of doing anything about these things without that state power is, in reality, nothing but illusion.
Jim Wallis, in the aftermath of the 2004 election and the prominent role of Christian fundamentalist fascists in the so-called "re-election" of Bush, is now trying to promote the idea—and getting some backing from sections of the ruling class in promoting the idea—that the only really good opposition to this Christian Fascism is an opposition that shares a great deal with it, shares many of the same fundamental religious underpinnings, even if this opposition wants to give this a somewhat different expression. And, as I pointed out in Preaching From a Pulpit of Bones,3 a number of years ago now, even while recognizing and condemning, or at least lamenting, ways in which masses of people are suffering throughout the world, Wallis's whole attempt has been to preach reconciliation between oppressors and oppressed and to promote reform within the existing system and relations of oppression and exploitation, within the U.S. and on a world scale. He insists that reform, and not revolution, is the only way to bring about positive change—and he openly polemicizes against communism, accepting and repeating many of the more crude distortions and slanders against the historical experience of socialist society and the communist movement. In his book The Soul of Politics, written during the 1990s (he now has a new book out, God's Politics), Wallis attempted to cite examples of how reform, reconciliation and peaceful change within the system hold out the hope—as he would have it, the only hope—for improvement in the situation of the masses of suffering people. One example he gave involved Brazil—the following story, whether true or apocryphal I don't know, but let's take it as true, and look at the content of it: Peasants were being driven off their land in one little part of Brazil, so the peasants called up the wives of the Senators in Brazil—look at the social relations that are being reflected here, by the way—they called up the wives of the Senators and in some sort of re-enactment of (or a variation on) Lysistrata,4 I suppose, the wives put pressure on their husbands, the Senators, to intervene and keep the peasants from being driven off their land. Wallis makes a big deal about how this is the paradigm, this is the model for how we can bring about change. And I went and I did some research—see you have to do work—I did some research [laughs] into what was going on in Brazil at this time. And during a period of about 10 to 15 years, which covered the time he was talking about, 15 million peasants were driven off their land in Brazil. Now, even if you allow that the story Wallis tells is true, and these particular peasants in this one little part of Brazil were not thrown off their land right then, let's look at the larger picture. First of all, these peasants, or most of them, are very likely gone from their land now. And even if somehow they remained as a little pocket for a while, during the same period 15 million peasants in Brazil were driven off the land into the slums and shantytowns. Many of you no doubt saw the movie City of God; and in general you know what this leads to among the people who are driven into the cities. Brazil has its glittering facades and enclaves—and then, both in the countryside and in the slums, tremendous poverty and people being driven into conflict with each other, and setting up gangs and slaughtering each other over unofficial capitalism. This is the reality of what happens without proletarian state power. This is the reality of what's gone on because, for decades, there hasn't been proletarian state power in these places.
And the same thing is true of the U.S. Look what's gone on because we haven't had proletarian state power. The growth of even more horrific economic and social conditions. The spread of religious fundamentalism, including among the basic masses. The weighing down of the masses with oppression and deliberately spread and inculcated ignorance. Because we weren't able to make revolution, particularly during the great upsurge of the 1960s, with its widespread revolutionary ferment and sentiments. I'm not putting the blame primarily and essentially on those of us who became revolutionaries in that time, but the fact is that because, for a combination of reasons, revolution didn't break through, and because proletarian power wasn't seized and held onto, look what's come about in the world and in the U.S. over decades. And the idea that somehow you could change all this without proletarian state power, and that some other way could be found even to alleviate the suffering of the masses, let alone eliminate it, is the most outrageous and harmful of illusions.
Now, along with talking about what state power is good for, I want to talk specifically about the element of coercion and what coercion is good for. This is related to the "constraints" point that a comrade has raised, to which I referred earlier—all constraint is not bad. Let's dig into this. I've used this example before, that another comrade raised, from the movie Remember the Titans. It's not about the dictatorship of the proletariat, but it is about a significant social change that was brought about, and in which state power exercised a certain role on the part of liberal reforms at the time. Remember, or for those of you who have forgotten or never saw the movie, it's about this city in Virginia in the early '70s where the high school became integrated, the football team became integrated, and the white football coach, who was an award-winning coach, was replaced by a Black football coach, transferred from a Black high school. Now, the point has been made about what would have happened if they had gone to the white people in the town, and specifically those white people whose kids went to high school, and said, "Let's have a fair democratic vote: how many of you want to integrate the high school; how many of you want to integrate the football team; how many of you want to have a Black football coach?" Are you fucking crazy? [laughter] But because this was a necessity that people were confronted with, because that coercion was exercised, then it provided a different foundation on which people's thinking could be changed—and, importantly, as other people have also pointed out, it provided a more favorable ground on which the advanced elements could be brought forward rather than being suffocated. The people within the football team, first of all, and then more broadly in the community who did, actually, either initially favor this but were afraid to speak up, or who got won over to it, gained more initiative because these were the terms that were set.
So you can see here the value of coercion. All coercion is not bad. Just as there will never be a society or a world without necessity, in the same way there will never be a society without coercion, even when there's no more state power and there's not political coercion, in that sense, and dictatorship is no longer being exercised by one part of society over others. Still, you'll never get rid of necessity. And, related to that, you'll never entirely get rid of coercion. Not everybody in society, including in communist society, gets to do exactly what they want all the time. The difference is that, in communist society, people will voluntarily submit themselves to that situation because of the greater good that they consciously grasp—understanding that "I may not get `my' way this time, but in the context of everything overall, this is much better for everybody, and therefore, much better for me."
Let's take another example. There's a big controversy being kicked up now around evolution. The only reason there is a controversy about evolution is because a section of the ruling class in this country, a powerful section, has decided that it is in its interests to undermine the acceptance of evolution as a scientific fact, at least among the general populace. Oh yeah, they'll let some scientists do some science based on the fact of evolution. Remember the book, The Handmaid's Tale, and the movie? They had a very straitlaced morality that was imposed on people in society as a whole, but then the members of the ruling elite got to go whore around and stuff on the side. Well, perhaps it's something of an odious analogy, but if they end up insisting that science classes teach that evolution is not a proven fact, they will still have scientists who will be allowed to do the work that the bourgeoisie thinks is necessary, and among themselves they'll say, "Of course, we know evolution's a fact, we couldn't do anything if it weren't." But with regard to the general populace, they want to spread this other ideology—not only trying to redefine the question of evolution and whether it's true or not, they're trying to redefine science to bring supernatural and theistic elements into it—which, guess what, means there's no science. [In a satirical sounding voice:] "Well, you may stay on the earth because of the force of gravity—or it may be because God wants you to. We don't know. Shouldn't both explanations be discussed in the schools? Are you trying to suppress ideas and keep people from having a chance to decide for themselves?" [laughter]
I was talking to another comrade about evolution and they said, "You know, if you were to demand of me right now that I provide you, right at this instant, a proof of the fact that the earth revolves around the sun, I could not do it. I could go study up on it and come back and tell you, but I accept this because the whole scientific community for centuries has determined this to be true and it's been verified to the satisfaction of people over and over again, and it conforms to what I do know about reality. Could it be wrong, theoretically? Yes, but it doesn't seem so." There is no controversy among scientists and, at this point at least, there is no controversy in society about that point—whether the earth is the center of everything and everything, including the sun, goes around it, or whether, instead, the earth is part of a solar system and revolves around the sun. Still, this comrade went on to say, "But, you know, if it were in the interests of a section of the ruling class, they could make this question (of whether the earth goes around the sun) controversial as well, in the same way as they are doing about evolution. And even though there would be no controversy among scientists, they could create a controversy politically and societally, if a section of the ruling class saw that as being in their interests."
There is a political struggle, a class struggle ultimately, which is taking place essentially in the realm of epistemology, but it is a political struggle over contending epistemologies. It's a complex struggle, and the terms are not communism versus other ideologies. It's basically science and the Enlightenment versus things opposed to that. This is another reflection of the complexity of what we have to deal with.
So the only reason this question of evolution is controversial, has become controversial in U.S. society, is because a powerful section of the ruling class wants to promote a different epistemology, in the service of a certain political, social and economic program, an all-around and openly reactionary program. There is no controversy among scientists about evolution—the overwhelming, overwhelming majority of scientists, and particularly those in the field of biology, recognize that evolution is not only a fact but one of the most fundamental truths in all of science. Essentially, there hasn't been a controversy about this among scientists for over a hundred years, and increasingly actual science continues to verify the truth of evolution. But a controversy about this is being manufactured on a political basis. Well, here's another thing state power is good for and coercion is good for: The proletariat comes to power, and evolution is taught in the schools. [laughter] End of discussion. [laughter] No "flowering of ideas" about whether evolution is true or whether we are all the product of some grand designer. That's it, it's set. Now, you deal with that. In other words, that's part of the core curriculum that we're going to have in socialist society: Evolution is a scientifically established fact that's going to be taught, and that's it.
That, again, is an expression of why it is important to have state power, and in fact it is an expression of the positive aspect of coercion—in that case, using state power to set terms that correspond to reality, and to the interests of the masses of people and ultimately to humanity as a whole. Some things have to be settled, or nothing can get done and you can't go forward. Does that mean we don't want intellectual ferment over all kinds of things? Of course not. And if somebody could bring forward proof—actual scientific proof, arrived at through the application of the actual scientific method—that evolution is not a fact, then it would be necessary to recognize that. But everything cannot be "up for debate" all the time, or nothing could get done and society could not function. This is certainly the case in a socialist society, whose fundamental and guiding principle is to enable the masses of people to more and more consciously know and change the world in their interests and advance to the point where class divisions and instruments of class suppression do not obstruct and distort the process of humanity's knowing and changing the world in its interests. There has to be some solid core as well as a lot of elasticity and, if we throw everything up for grabs in socialist society, the bourgeoisie will be back in power very quickly.
Why don't we, in the schools, teach "two alternative theories" of epilepsy: one based on what medical science has learned about the actual, material causes of epilepsy, and one that says epilepsy is caused, after all, by demon possession? [laughter] Now, one thing to be aware of in this regard, while we are laughing at this notion, is that today's satire is tomorrow's horrific reality. In talks I have given about religion, I have used this example of epilepsy, and how Jesus didn't get it right about epilepsy—how, in the Bible, it says that Jesus cured epilepsy by casting out a demon. Well, if it becomes politically expedient on the part of a powerful section of the ruling class, we may have a debate opened up, [voice marked by sarcasm:] "Well, there are alternative explanations for epilepsy. Some people believe that it's caused by what goes on electrically and chemically in the brain, but there are a lot of holes in that theory. [laughter] Other people are coming to see that perhaps, after all, it is a matter of demon possession." [laughter] Why don't we teach that in the schools? No, we should not do that, because it is not true—it has been scientifically established that this is not true. And it is just as much the case that it has been scientifically established that evolution is true and that intelligent design is not a truthful explanation of the emergence and development of life, including human life.
So, there is a value to coercion, and we should understand the value and the role of coercion, while at the same time grasping this in dialectical relation to the fundamental reality and what must be the fundamental orientation that revolution and the advance to communism, both now and in socialist society all the more, must be the self-conscious liberating act of the masses themselves. Grasping that contradiction correctly is once again a matter of materialism and dialectics, as opposed to idealism and metaphysics, with regard to what communism is and how we're going to get there.
From all this, the point should clearly emerge that the proletariat, as expressed in a concentrated way through the role of its vanguard party, must seize power and must be the decisive and determining element in the state, and does not, and cannot in any essential way, share state power with any other class, even while it applies the strategic orientation of building the broadest united front, under its leadership, in continuing the advance toward communism. At a later point in this talk, I will discuss more fully the application of the United Front under the Leadership of the Proletariat all the way through the transition to communism, because that's another very important contradiction. But here I want to emphasize that the proletariat, as expressed in a concentrated way through the role of its vanguard party, must lead in the state and in the exercise of state power. And that's also something in motion, that's also "a moving target," because, as we advance toward communism as part of the overall worldwide revolution, the role of the party should be increasingly replaced by other instrumentalities that represent the masses themselves exercising state power. But the role of the party—and the need for the party—will not be eliminated completely until we actually get to communism and there's no more need for a state, either. So that's another contradiction we're going to have to handle correctly and, yes, even better than before, even with all the great achievements, particularly through the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China under Mao's leadership.
Another thing that we always should be clear on is that there is a need for a continuous resolute struggle against the pull of spontaneity. One of the things that I've continued to learn more about and to understand more fully and deeply is Lenin's formulation, in talking about the struggles of the masses, where he refers to their "spontaneous striving to come under the wing of the bourgeoisie." This is actually a very important formulation. He doesn't just say, "Well, these struggles tend spontaneously to go in a direction where the bourgeoisie can come to dominate them." He says, "There is a spontaneous striving to come under the wing of the bourgeoisie." This is, in fact, what gets expressed, repeatedly, in the struggle to rupture people out of the whole killing confines of the dominant political framework in the U.S., in relation to World Can't Wait. We see this spontaneous striving of people repeatedly and continually to come under the wing of the bourgeoisie, or a section of the bourgeoisie (as represented generally by the heads of the Democratic Party). And this spontaneity, and even this spontaneous striving to come back—if not directly and organizationally, then politically—under the wing of the bourgeoisie will also exist under socialism. This striving to keep things within, or to bring them back within, the confines of bourgeois relations and their reflection in the superstructure—the confines of bourgeois right, for short—will, even in socialist society, continually reassert itself, for real material as well as ideological reasons, and the constant interpenetration between material and ideological factors. This has to do with the continuing existence of classes and social inequalities in socialist society, and with real material conditions and pulls on people, as well as the fact that socialist states will almost certainly exist, for a long period of time, in the midst of and surrounded by imperialist and reactionary states.
So there's a need for a consistent, and in a real sense relentless, struggle against spontaneity and to divert spontaneity onto a revolutionary path. This will be true not only in capitalist society and in building toward the seizure of power and the establishment of a new, socialist state, but also in socialist society itself and in order to continue advancing toward communism.
Part 2 next week
1. A World to Win News Service is put out by A World to Win magazine, a political and theoretical review inspired by the foundation of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement. Information on subscribing to the news service is available online at http://uk.groups.yahoo.com/group/AWorldToWinNewsService/
2. Audio files of Bob Avakian's interview with revolutionary journalist Michael Slate are available online at bobavakian.net. The point mentioned here can be found in the part titled "March 29, 2005: Michael Slate interviews Bob Avakian on China, the Cultural Revolution, and Dissent."
3. Preaching from a Pulpit of Bones: We Need Morality But Not Traditional Morality (Chicago: Insight Press, 1999).
4. Lysistrata is an ancient Greek play by Aristophanes in which the women refuse to sleep with their husbands until they put an end to the war that they are engaged in.
Revolution #73, December 17, 2006
Bursting Into the Atmosphere
"This is the first time I have come to a rally. It has hurt me before with Amadou Diallo; so many other brothers that have died. I'm tired. The way you make a change is to stand up for yourself. So I decided to take a stand and come down."
--Woman protester, at a December 6 demonstration against the police murder of Sean Bell
"I'm by the fire hydrant and they just come and ask me what I'm doing. They ask if I'm selling drugs, and they just seen me going in the house five minutes ago. My block is a hot area [for drug dealing], but still it's wrong because they say you're rude and then lock you up."
--One of the students at a Bronx high school attending a mock town hall meeting to air their grievances over the murder of Sean Bell's death and how the police treat young Black men on the street
Hundreds and thousands of angry, grieving people have stepped into the streets in hastily organized outpourings in the last ten days. CUNY students have marched, people have protested in the neighborhood where the murder of Sean Bell took place, and demonstrators took the street in Newark, New Jersey. On December 6, 1,000 people massed at One Police Plaza at a demonstration organized by the December 12 Movement, a radical Black nationalist organization. And as this is written, more demonstrations and other forms of protest are being planned.
For several years, an ugly political atmosphere has ruled out of order any expression of outrage at police gunning people down in the street. Now this has begun to be punctured, and the real stories of victims and their families have grabbed national attention.
23-year-old Sean Bell died in a hail of 50 bullets fired by five NYPD cops in the early morning hours of Saturday, Nov. 25, as he, Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield left Sean's bachelor party. He was killed several hours before his wedding.
Appearing Dec. 4 on the nationwide "Larry King Live" program, Sean's fiancée, Nicole Paultre, explained how Guzman and Benefield told her from their hospital beds that they were convinced they were about to be carjacked. "They were afraid," she said. The two have described to their lawyers the terrifying moment when an undercover cop who never identified himself followed them from the club and stepped in front of their car with his gun drawn. When Sean, trying to drive away, clipped the cop with his car, the undercover backup team on the spot opened fire. One of the cops emptied his gun, reloaded and kept shooting. TV news has shown footage of Trent Benefield, shot three times, screaming in agony as he was handcuffed on the ground.
Blaming the Victims: The Second Assault
Some of the media was quick to publish legal records of the victims, including juvenile records which are supposed to be sealed under the law. But if you think the police and the media can't go any lower in justifying street executions, the President of the Detectives' Endowment Association, Michael Palladino, will prove you wrong. He told the local media: "The magic question on the shooting is, 'What do these three men do? How did Bell plan to pay to get married and raise his children?' "
First of all, the NYPD has a whole history of slandering their victims as criminals. They accused Patrick Dorismond of pushing drugs when they murdered him; only later did it come out that he was approached by undercovers and had refused their offers!! And then they got into a scuffle, and for that they killed him! They invented some whole b.s. story about Abner Louima, until the truth finally came out about how they had tortured him--despite their fascist “blue wall of silence.” They lied about Anthony Rosario and Hilton Vega and Anthony Baez and so many countless others that they’ve murdered. So nobody should believe one word that the NYPD says about anything, including “the” and “and.”
But beyond that, this system has created a situation where they’ve closed off every option and hope for millions of the youth, especially Black people and Latinos. Some of their own conservative theoreticians now admit that “crime is a rational choice” for young Black and Latino people. This system has provided no future for these youth; they have criminalized a whole generation; they have declared open season on them, using their police to hound the youth at every turn. And then they use that as an excuse to open fire on people without the slightest provocation, and then slander them once they’ve murdered them. What kind of a system is that ?
Attorney Michael Hardy, who is representing both Guzman and Benefield, got it right. "This is just another indication," Hardy said, "that the NYPD is not investigating any wrongdoing by the officers at the scene, but are interested in creating a cover and motivation to justify the officers' actions and dirty the name of a dead man."
The cops claim that a supposed "fourth man" left the scene with a gun. This provided them a convenient excuse last week to execute raids and sweeps in the projects and neighborhood where Trent Benefield, one of the victims, lives, near the location of the shooting. People in the community were outraged as friends and relatives of the victims and possible witnesses to the shooting were targeted in what many felt was a straight-up attempt to intimidate anyone who might dare to expose the police murderers. Bishop Erskine Williams, a clergyman who has been speaking out against the murder and whose son was arrested in the cops' latest raid on a $25 outstanding ticket, spoke for many when he said, "That's Gestapo tactics." And don’t let yourselves be fooled, either; they will search until they find someone who is in more trouble than an outstanding ticket, and then they’ll try to pressure them into a deal.
Several thousand people from all over the New York area attended Sean's wake and funeral on Dec. 1. Hundreds gathered in knots outside the church, intensely discussing what happened and why the brutal police slayings of young Black men and other people of color continue to happen. "Tell me," one Black youth demanded, "have the pigs ever brought down a white man with 50 shots, or 41 shots like they did Amadou Diallo? I want to know why that is. Can you give me a logical explanation to why that is?" One Black woman at the funeral said to her friends: "I'm a law-abiding person. I love peace, but I'm tired. I'm sick of peace."
A memorial on Liverpool Street for Sean and his two wounded friends has been the site of continued expressions of grief and anger. And there’s been debate, as well. Some there told a Revolution newspaper reporter that they view the police in their community as an "occupation army" and drew an analogy with what U.S. troops are doing in Iraq. Others wondered if the answer is "better training" of these police.
Several of Sean Bell's friends who were at the December 6 rally at One Police Plaza talked about "laws being made that we don't even know about," fearing that one of those laws might say that everything the police do is okay and right. Challenged about a revolutionary solution, they were anguished about whether there is a way out. "We're stuck here," one of Sean's friends said.
The statement of the New York branch of the RCP, "Justice for Sean Bell--50 More Reasons--We Need Revolution" has been widely distributed and discussed in the city as part of this ferment. As this statement says: It is this rotten capitalist/imperialist system that "the police exist to 'serve and protect.' They are nothing but modern-day slave-catchers for a system of profit based on the exploitation of people here and around the world who have nothing to lose and can only live through selling their work--when they can get work. The master's whip has been replaced by the NYPD standard issue semi-automatic and they gun people down again and again, until it seems like we can't have any more tears left. This is why this keeps happening, no matter how many Black and Latino cops get hired and no matter how much 'diversity training' they get and no matter how 'sensitive' the mayor is….” [full statement online at revcom.us]
Carl Dix, spokesperson for the RCP, said:
"Already hundreds of people have taken to the streets in outrage around Sean’s murder in the few days since his death. Calls to remain calm or to wait till all the facts come out must be rejected. Enough facts have already come out. A young man leaving his bachelor party and a few hours away from his wedding is dead. Two of his friends are recovering from gunshot wounds. All were unarmed when the cops fired 50 shots at them. And the police are now carrying out raids in Sean’s neighborhood, arresting family members and friends of the people they shot. That’s enough to conclude that a terrible crime against the people has been committed.
"Mass political action that targets the killer cops and the officials who unleash these brutal, murdering cops and cover up and justify their crimes must continue.
"Without this kind of resistance, the authorities will feel like they can do any damned thing to us, and we’ll suffer it in silence. We have to make clear we will fight to beat back this kind of injustice. And as we do this, we have to be wrangling with and spreading revolutionary ideas and building a movement that’s winning over millions to see that the system is worthless and revolution is what’s needed."
Demonstrations are planned and continue to be planned. Stay tuned to Revolution--and check the website at REVCOM.US for late-breaking developments.
Revolution #73, December 17, 2006
How do we get out of this situation, with the police gunning down Black and Latino and other “minority” oppressed nationality youth? With over 2 million people in prison or jail here, in the so-called “greatest country in the world?”
Through “buying Black” – or going for revolution?
Right now people are fighting mad about the murder of Sean Bell. How many more must die? How many more must be added to the endless list of people – to the millions of human beings – who were slaughtered in the “middle passage of slavery? Who were lynched by the thousands during the days of Jim Crow? And who now are murdered by cops in the big cities, over and over?
When will this chain of enslavement, exploitation, and massive imprisonment be broken? And how could this happen, for real? Right now this is being debated, in a way that it isn’t in “normal times.”
Some people are saying that Black people need to boycott non-Black-owned businesses and spend their money with Black businesses and look that way for for the solution. They want to build up the class of small “entrepeneurs” – that is, capitalists -- among Black people.
But where would this go? This class of small-time capitalists must still exploit other people to survive. And who would those people be? They must still depend on the big banks and financial institutions for loans and other forms of financing. And who would control that dependency and how would that be used? And these small capitalists would still have to compete with each other, with “only the strong surviving” – all of which would compel them to throw whatever power they did accumulate into extending and defending that exploitation, and strengthening their position in the dog-eat-dog competition. And they’d have to do all that as part of a global empire that feeds off the sweat and blood of people the whole world over. Who wants to be part of that? The point is NOT that Black capitalists are somehow the enemy – in fact, they too are held down in this racist system and should be united with in their efforts to resist discrimination and when they step forward against the system. And in fighting against police brutality and the system more generally we should unite with people who put forward and follow this strategy. But the cold truth is this: going down that capitalist road can’t lead to real liberation.
Look at this way. If you’re sick, you need to know what’s making you sick. You can’t treat stomach cancer like it was just a flu bug. You need the right diagnosis, and then you definitely need the right cure for it.
“Buying Black” may seem easy and logical and common sense – but it doesn’t cure the disease. The disease that’s making people sick like this – and that’s been afflicting people for hundreds of years – is capitalism. Capitalism, with its law of profit over everything.
Capitalism fueled slavery in the first place – and in turn gorged itself and grew fat and ugly on the labor of the slaves. Capitalism kept Black people on the plantations during Jim Crow – until it became more profitable to mechanize the farming, throw people off the land, and then exploit them in the cities as low-wage workers, last hired and first fired. Capitalism threw Black people out of the jobs when something else became more profitable, and trapped today’s youth in a world where they are forced to bounce between crime, prison and low-wage work. Capitalism generated and fortified the vicious white supremacist political and social institutions, and the equally vicious racist ideas, that continue to define so-called “American civilization.” Capitalism today has nothing to offer the youth but dead-end drugs and equally dead-end religions. And the capitalists have people running things now who have a definite genocidal logic and element against Black people in their ideas and programs.
You can’t cure the ills and outrages of capitalism with more capitalism.
The people need a whole different thing, something radically and fundamentally different. A radical break – where you uproot the whole economic and political system that produced and keeps producing this oppression, instead of trying to get in on it. Where you bring forward a new state power which is determined to eliminate all oppression and, as a crucial part of that, the oppression of Black people and other oppressed nationalities – and which takes giant leaps in every sphere of society to make that happen ASAP. A society where the leadership welcomes and encourages wrangling and dissent, as a key part of getting at the truth and transforming the world and creating a society where people can breathe and flourish. And where the leadership leads all this in a way that supports and fights for and helps people bring forward new ideas and institutions based on getting at the TRUTH. Ideas and institutions that say no more to haves lording it over the have-nots; to whites oppressing non-whites; to men oppressing women. No more to one group controlling the wealth and power and making the other slave for them to make them richer and more powerful. And no more to the lies that justify it all.
No, you don’t cure capitalism with more capitalism; you cure it by revolution – a communist revolution, one that sweeps away everything reactionary.
Revolution #73, December 17, 2006
A wave of terror and collective punishment has been unleashed by the Mexican state against the rebellious people of Oaxaca. For over five months, starting in June, striking teachers and their supporters had taken over the central town square in Oaxaca City, shut down the highways, blocked government buildings and taken over radio and television stations. This movement, led by Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO), has been demanding a living wage and the ouster of the Oaxaca’s hated governor, Ulises Ruiz Ortiz (URO).
Now, in the name of “ending impunity” and “restoring the rule of law,” the state has moved to try to crush the rebellion. The streets have been taken back from the people, and truckloads of state, municipal, and Federal Preventive Police (PFP) armed with high-powered rifles occupy the streets. Groups of paramilitary thugs, riding in vehicles with no license plates and darkened windows, have been unleashed to shoot at people indiscriminately or jump out and kidnap people. These “civilians” are organized and incited by a pro-URO radio station that calls them out to attack protesters and even to burn down the homes and offices of bourgeois opposition party members.
The murderers of Indymedia journalist Brad Will--who were identified as municipal authorities from Santa Lucia, a town near Oaxaca City--have been freed without charges, even though the photograph of these men in the act of shooting Brad on Oct. 27 was published on the front page of the large daily newspaper Universal for the world to see.
Governor Declares a Bloody and Violent “Normality”
Since the last megamarch in Oaxaca on Nov. 25, there have been at least 200 arrests; 5 people have been killed; many, many have been wounded; and dozens, maybe hundreds, of people have been disappeared. Many of those arrested have been moved to maximum security prisons scattered over three states, and bail for them is being set at outrageous levels--4,000,000 pesos (around $400,000)--making it very difficult to wage a battle to defend the prisoners. On November 26, the day after unarmed protesters were shot in the streets, URO stood in the Zócalo, the central town square, and triumphantly declared that normality had been restored to Oaxaca.
Throughout the six months of this conflict, hundreds of arrest warrants have been issued against teachers and activists--and now the authorities are moving to round them up. Bounty-hunters are traveling into the communities around the state of Oaxaca and using pictures to search for those targeted for arrest or disappearance. The newspaper Noticias de Oaxaca described the detention of teachers at one school: “Frightened and with tears in their eyes, the students of the May 5th Primary School watched as police arrested their teachers.” In response to this witch-hunt, teachers have carried out strikes in schools throughout the state.
At the November 25 megamarch, thousands of people came from all over Oaxaca to march and demand that the governor must step down, the PFP must go, and the political prisoners must be released. The people formed a human chain around the PFP in the main plaza, with the intention of maintaining this peaceful protest for 48 hours to demand that the occupation of Oaxaca by federal troops must end. This was just a few days before the inauguration of Felipe Calderón as the new president of Mexico, and the state had decided to take measures to crush this movement of resistance in Oaxaca. The PFP moved against the people in a big way. They filled the city center with suffocating tear-gas, shot rubber bullets, and moved with tanks against the people. Meanwhile, plainclothes URO supporters opened fire on the unarmed people. The people defended themselves with rocks and homemade weapons. Several government offices and cars were burned in the course of the battle. Noticias de Oaxaca described how the people formed up battle lines and built barricades to go up against the tanks and the police who were armed with high-powered rifles: “Older people passed out cola drinks to lessen the effects of tear gas. The women broke rocks into stones. Others made Molotov cocktails to supply the throwing lines.” Youth carried shields that had been liberated from the PFP and painted with the slogan “And the resistance continues.”
Calderón and His Imperialist Backers
On December 1, in one of the first acts of his new presidency, Calderón included URO among the other governors invited to lunch at Calderón's residence.
Calderón has won the confidence of high-level U.S. imperialist politicians and capitalist investors, and he has vowed to make Mexico safe for foreign investment. An important part of enforcing this message is protecting URO from being forced from office by an upsurge of the people. The Calderón government says, in talking about the repression being carried out in Oaxaca, that the “rule of law” is being restored. Overall, the Calderón program will bring down much more repression against the people of Mexico, as he pushes through to further open up the country to imperialist exploitation--and from this standpoint, Calderón and the Mexican rulers can't allow the rebellion of the Oaxacan people to spread throughout the country.
George Grayson--a reactionary “expert” on Mexico who is an adviser to the U.S. State Department and a frequent guest on major media shows, and whose articles are featured on fascist attack dog David Horowitz’s Front Page magazine--recently made it clear what is expected from Calderón to defend the interests of imperialism. Appearing on CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight on Nov. 9, Grayson talked about meeting Calderón the day before in Washington, D.C.: “We discussed what I call the 'Tlatelolco taboo'--that is, the unwillingness of the Mexican government to use force against lawbreakers…” Grayson said that Calderón had assured him he would not waver in breaking out of this “taboo” that has haunted the Mexican ruling class since 1968, when the government massacre of student protesters just before the Mexico City Olympics became a symbol of the criminal, bloody nature of Mexico's rulers.
Since his inauguration, Calderón has worked to live up to the ghoulish expectations of the U.S. and the international “investment community.” On the day of his inauguration, Calderón claimed that he was willing to dialog with anyone from the opposition. Flavio Sosa, one of the leaders of APPO (and a member of a ruling class opposition party, the PRD), took Calderón at his word. Sosa made an appointment to talk to an official in the Ministry of the Interior and came to Mexico City with that understanding. But instead of dialog, police surrounded the press conference that Sosa held the afternoon before the meeting, arrested him in the street, and carried him off to a maximum security prison.
On Dec. 3, 300 family members of the detained marched through the streets of Oaxaca City and encircled the Zócalo to demand the release of the prisoners. They stood right in front of the PFP troops, challenging the climate of fear they are trying to impose. Some family members painted their faces and wore chains on their hands and blindfolds on their eyes to dramatize the torture of their loved ones. The families spoke of how the PFP acted “in complicity with the state ministerial police, taking persons arrested on Nov. 25 to clandestine dungeons where they tortured them. The women prisoners were sexually assaulted and beaten and then men were beaten for hours. ‘All were inflicted with humiliating attacks on their humanity…’” They spoke of how they spent days searching for their family members until finding that they had been transferred to a prison in the northern state of Nayarit, far from the southern state of Oaxaca.
While the state has moved to crush the people’s struggle, the defiant and heroic people of Oaxaca are determined to bring forth another message. Over and over again in the Mexican press, the point is made that the Oaxacan people have lost their fear of the state. They have declared that the struggle will continue until URO goes--and this is setting an example in a country where millions have participated in anti-government demonstrations over the past months. The Oaxacan artist Francisco Toledo formed a committee of well-known artists, intellectuals, lawyers, and representatives of the Catholic church--called the Nov. 25 Coalition--to demand that the disappeared be returned alive and the prisoners be released. Another megamarch is planned in Oaxaca City for Sunday, Dec. 10.
Revolution #73, December 17, 2006
The following is the text of a speech given by Debra Sweet, national coordinator of World Can't Wait, at a teach-in December 4 at George Washington University. Revolution newspaper obtained this from the WCW website: http://www.worldcantwait.org.
Hello. I’d like to know how many students we have in the audience. (about 25 from George Washington, and several from Howard University raise their hands). Every generation puts its stamp on the world. It contributes or detracts…actively engages or passively lets events take their course…and each influences the way history unfolds.
But not every generation lives through pivotal epoch-shaping events. The generation that rose up and abolished slavery -- the generation that lay down in the face of the Nazis. These are among those that are celebrated or scorned.
All of us living in this country today, have a greater role to play than even these.
The Nobel Prize winning British playwright Harold Pinter said last year, "The Bush Administration is the most dangerous force that has ever existed. It is more dangerous than Nazi Germany because of the range and depth of its activities and intentions worldwide.”
Driving out the Bush Regime before 2008 must be the mission of all of us living in this country today, or else everything that Bush is doing or has done becomes permanent and is not easily reversed.
Will we be remembered as the people who sat back and passively accepted the wholesale murder of Iraqi people even though we knew the whole premise of the war was lies?
Will we be the people who went along with a new doctrine of pre-emptive war that spreads this to other countries that pose no threat?
The people who allowed all forms of torture: sleep deprivation, beatings, water-boarding, dogs, sexual violence to become legal?
Who allowed habeas corpus -- a cornerstone of the rule of law that prevents arbitrary, indefinite detention -- to be revoked?
The people who learned to accept government surveillance of emails, of phone calls, of bank accounts and students’ records…signing statements…No fly lists…jailing of journalists?
Will the future generations be enslaved to their reproduction, not even knowing what it is like to have reproductive rights? Will the movement that has made such strides in restricting abortion get what they’re after next: ending birth control, preaching virginity as a girl’s worth, and child-bearing and submission to their husbands as a form of worship after that?
Will the fact of evolution and a scientific understanding of the world be buried, the next generation disarmed of the ability to think critically, to prevent global warming, and to simply be awed at the wonders of the natural world?
Will history be re-written -- as it already has been in Christian fundamentalist textbooks and as is being attempted in a different way on college campuses by academic hit-men like David Horowitz -- to erase and excuse the horrors of slavery and lynchings, the genocide of the Native Americans, and conquest of foreign lands?
Catherine Crier, a former Republican judge from Texas, writes of a movement that "would like to see the United States under biblical law. Comparable to countries like Sudan, Saudi Arabia, and Iran…a nation governed by Old and New Testament scripture. Born-again Christianity will supplant the Constitution." She ends this passage with this, "For all of those Americans who believe that our democracy is safe, you are wrong. Today, the radical Right is winning, and they know it. Sooner rather than later, we may be living in a very different country, a country that had been ours, a country that will be theirs."
These are the huge changes that we are living through. And they are a lot further along than most people realize.
But, this direction was not derailed or even challenged in the 2006 elections.
Did you see any ads that showed the bodies of Iraqi children in town after town shot down by U.S. troops, where the candidate promised to immediately withdraw troops from Iraq? Did you see any ads that showed the photos of Abu-Ghraib, and implored you to vote out everyone who approved the Military Commissions Act? Did you see any attack ads that railed against candidates who favor criminalizing abortion, who oppose birth control, or who are against allowing gay people to marry?
There weren't any. But there were thousands of mailings from Senator Chuck Schumer criticizing the Republicans for not having a "credible strategy for victory" in Iraq. There were television ads from Democrat Harold Ford in Tennessee just to proclaim his opposition to the “Morning After” pill for teenagers and gay marriage. And there was the promise all the way through -- and since -- from Nancy Pelosi, Howard Dean, and others that impeachment is off the table.
For about a day and a half after the election, Bush somewhat clumsily talked about having heard the American people and even about being open to "fresh" ideas about Iraq. He appointed Eric Keroack, a doctor who doesn’t believe in birth control and runs a string of “crisis pregnancy” clinics, to a position overseeing population issues in Health and Human Services.
Already he's returned to his belligerent promise, "We're going to stay in Iraq to get the job done."
By last Friday, the New York Times declared, "In the cacophony of competing plans about how to deal with Iraq, one reality now appears clear: despite the Democrats' victory this month in an election viewed as a referendum on the war, the idea of a rapid American troop withdrawal is fast receding as a viable option." It goes on a bit later, "Even the Democrats, with an eye toward 2008, have dropped talk of a race for the exits [from Iraq], in favor of a brisk stroll."
So, there it is. Already it’s being forecast that to win in 2008 the Democrats can't push for ending the war any time soon. Despite the fact that the reason why so many people voted for the Democrats was exactly because they want to get the U.S. out of Iraq.
What logic are the Democrats operating on? Throughout this election -- and the last one and the next one -- the Democrats have accepted and promoted the Republican logic of the so-called "War on Terror." But this so-called war on terror was, from its very beginning, the rubric under which the Bush regime unleashed a war for permanent empire. And the War on Terror is the rubric under which they have demanded and gotten unprecedented and sweeping police state powers. This was never just stupidity or incompetence. This was a plan to remake the world and they seized on 9/11 to do it.
It was from within the logic of the War on Terror that the Democrats rubber-stamped George Bush's pre-emptive war on Iraq. Now Iraq's morgues are overflowing, villages have been reduced to rubble, economy and infrastructure is decaying, and returned U.S. troops talk openly about how they were given a free-pass to massacre civilians.
It was in the name of the War on Terror that the Democrats collaborated to pass the Military Commissions Act. And now George Bush and any future president have the legal right to disappear anyone, never press charges, never tell the family, and to have them tortured -- everything we saw at Abu-Ghraib and more -- indefinitely with absolutely no legal recourse.
Preemptive war and torture are war crimes. So is collective punishment and targeting civilians, hospitals and ambulances. And yet, again, there was bipartisan support for, to take one example, the decimation of Fallujah, once a city of 350,000. 36,000 of the 50,000 homes in the city were obliterated by the U.S. attack. The whole city was cut off from electricity or water for weeks, was pounded with more than two tons of bombs per person, was declared a "free fire" zone, and yes, there were U.S. snipers targeting hospitals and ambulances.
So, people living in this country have a choice to make: is all this going to continue to be done in our names?
Some hear the idea of driving out the Bush Regime and think, wouldn't it be easier or better to throw our support behind the Democrats to stop this? No. Because they are not going to stop this.
For four and a half years we've gone through this dance where the Bush regime proposes--or gets caught doing something--outrageous. At first the Democrats make some noises of opposition, then they get reasonable, and eventually capitulate, and the world is made worse.
There's been Roberts, Alito, the Patriot Act, the NSA spying, the Military Commissions Act, and we're seeing the same thing happen--again--with the war on Iraq. They promised a “new direction”, but already they are accommodating to Bush, and saying it’s too messy to pull out, and now that doing so will jeopardize their chances of getting elected in 2008.
It is time for people to stop deceiving themselves and deceiving others. The Democrats are not going to stop this direction. But there is another force in society. There are people. Millions and millions of people. People who are sick of this war:
Troops who don't believe in their mission stuck on their third and fourth tour of duty.
Thousands still scattered across the country by Hurricane Katrina and millions more whose smoldering anger at how Black people were treated there has been inflamed again by the NYPD's 50 shots that killed an unarmed Black man last week.
Women and gays whose fundamental rights are being systematically shredded. Rivers of immigrants who not long ago clogged the streets of every city in this country in protest. Intellectuals and artists who are not ready to bow down to a king.
And there are all the people who tried to give expression to their sentiments through this election but whose sentiments will not be felt unless we create a mass movement of millions who are resisting and demonstrating in huge numbers and drive the Bush regime from power.
Now, in this culture of instant gratification, a lot of people say, “We protested the war but it didn't do any good."
Wrong. It did a LOT of good. The government didn't listen -- but the world did and the people in this country did listen.
No one can deny that before the war even began, it was clear to the whole world that there was a very large section of people who knew this war was unjust and illegitimate. People were debating this at work and at school -- it opened up a whole lot more room for people to think, to take a stand, and to learn things about the war they never would've been interested in looking into otherwise. This fueled questions and this planted doubts even among those who still lined up behind the President.
And then, as events unfold, as lies are exposed and as Iraq descends into an un-winnable civil war these questions and doubts that were planted grow and bear fruit.
The new Dixie Chicks movie, Shut Up and Sing, reminds you how dramatically and quickly the President's approval rating plummeted. When Natalie Maines made her now-famous comment that she was embarrassed that Bush was from her home state of Texas, Bush was at 80% popularity. Now, his popularity is down under 30%.
This matters. Not because those in power are looking to represent what the majority want, but because it's harder for them to project an intimidating strength in the Middle East when their people are not behind them. And it is important that people support those in the military who have the courage to resist what they feel is an illegitimate and immoral war.
People don't always get to see their results immediately.
Daniel Ellsberg, who worked in the Pentagon during the Vietnam War, and who later released the Pentagon Papers that helped to end the war, said that even though no one knew it at the time, plans to use nuclear weapons in Vietnam were taken off the table after the Moratorium in October of 1969 that brought 2 million people into the streets. He also said that he personally never would have thought to risk prison and his career to release those secret documents had it not been for the courage and determination of the protesters.
Imagine if after the Moratorium people had summed up that because they didn't stop the war nothing had been accomplished and all gone home. History would have turned out very differently.
So, I want to say again: every generation puts its stamp on the world. If we do not repudiate, resist, and drive the Bush Regime and its program from power then our stamp will be condoning, cementing, and complicit with every thing he has done.
We cannot wait for or constrict ourselves to the terms set by those holding political office. We need to make them respond to our demands that this whole direction be brought to a halt. We need to be out in the street and on the airwaves demanding that Congress bring forward articles of impeachment against a president who is committing war crimes and crimes against humanity.
And let's get over that taboo against polarizing people. The only way you change the tide is by going against it. We need to rock the boat and take risks to get people talking about the true nature, roots, and objectives of this war. One important way to do this is next weekend, on December 10th and 11th when I and others across the country will be putting on the orange jumpsuit that Guantánamo detainees are forced to wear--into shopping malls, to our schools and religious services, to work and on the street.
There's information available about this on worldcantwait.org.
Let’s get people talking about whether there even is, or should be, a "War on Terror" or whether this is really just a cover to get the American people on board with what really is a war for empire that was strategized long before September 11. This is discussed in books like John Dean's Worse Than Watergate, Noam Chomsky's Hegemony or Survival, and Larry Everest's Oil, Power, Empire, but most people don't know anything about this and this holds them back.
People can’t act to change something if they don’t know how deep it goes; they won’t take risks unless they see what difference they can make.
In particular, the campuses have to be buzzing with debate and ferment that spills over into the larger society over where this is all going, and what role we have to play in really making a difference to STOP the horrors the Bush regime will still carry out.
On January 4, World Can’t Wait is initiating a call for people to come to Washington on the day Congress opens. If war crimes, torture, and crimes against humanity aren’t enough to start impeachment, then what is? Start the impeachment and open the investigations. Bush must go!
The final scene of Ground Truth, a new movie out that interviews soldiers back from the Gulf War, Camilo Mejia, the first soldier to openly refuse to fight in Iraq and who served a year in prison for this, is near tears. Earlier in the film he tells about how he participated -- with his whole unit -- in torturing and killing innocent people. He says:
"To the people I just want to say that I'm really sorry. I'm really sorry for all the damage. And I am really sorry for my cowardice. For not opposing the war, for not speaking out sooner, for not disobeying more orders. I'm sorry.
"And to the troops I want to say that there is a way out. And if it means jail or if it means disgrace or shame, then that's what it's going to take, but there is a way out. And I also want to tell people that, after being in jail, that there is no higher freedom that can be achieved than the freedom we achieve when we follow our conscience. And that's something we can live by and never regret."
Let us all heed his words -- and his example. Let's not wait, only to regret tomorrow that we didn't act while there was still time. Let's seize this moment, when people are feeling optimistic and hopeful, when people saw through the election how many people agreed with them. Let's all risk something to wake them up and bring them together to make good on our obligation to the world. It can't wait any longer. We must Drive Out the Bush Regime!
Revolution #73, December 17, 2006
Millions of people feel relieved or even euphoric at the Democrat victory in the mid-term elections and think something good will come of this. But something happened in these elections which has actually strengthened very bad terms around the U.S./Mexico border and immigration. This may pave the way for a rapid move to pass a set of dangerous new laws with far-reaching consequences when Congress reconvenes in January.
Nancy Pelosi, new Democratic Speaker of the House, has announced that immigration is one of the first fronts of bipartisan efforts with the Bush White House. This is a key and immediate issue that will not only set the terms for the border and immigration, but overall for the Bush/Democrat partnership. Bush has made “comprehensive immigration reform” his top priority domestic issue, one where he sees “common ground with the Democrats.” And all top Democrat leaders, from Barack Obama to Hillary Clinton (who chastised Bush for not “exponentially” beefing up the Border Patrol as she had suggested), are lining up firmly behind the Bush program of “comprehensive reform” (which is a codeword for the guest worker program).
There is broad consensus among ruling class circles and their political representatives (both Republicans and Democrats) on “securing” the border with Mexico.” What remains is to hammer out how to forge a temporary work program that satisfies the need for a super-exploitable labor pool (especially in U.S. agriculture, where immigrant labor comprises over 70% of the work force).
The bipartisan consensus may be one reason why Bush rushed to sign the Secure Fence Act in late October. It authorizes the construction of a 700-mile fence, additional checkpoints and advanced technology such as unmanned aerial vehicles to track and hunt immigrants at the border. This new law, which only awaits funding to implement, was originally part of the House Sensenbrenner bill (HR 4437). That bill was rightfully seen by millions as a fascist-like clampdown, with its provisions to make felons of anyone who hired or assisted immigrants, and provoked massive protests last spring.
A so-called “compromise” bill that passed the Senate, while not making felons of everyone, is nearly as repressive and in line with the Bush plan. This bill was supported by a coalition of Bush, the Democrats and some Republicans. It calls for a triple-layer border fence, huge increase of Border Patrol and detention centers, AND makes English the official language. The authorization for the fence passed when the rulers could not achieve the necessary consensus to choose which bill to pass between the Sensenbrenner bill and the Senate immigration bill. But now that the Democrats have won the elections, many think that the Senate “compromise” of last spring will now pass.
Many among all sections of the people, including many pro-immigrant and otherwise progressive forces, see these “compromises” as a positive thing. But this is a very bad program for the people, with strategic implications, not just in terms of ramping up repression against immigrants (which it does), but even more fundamentally with how the U.S. ruling class is going to shape U.S. society, and relations with Mexico, as they pursue their war on the world.
Setting Terms of Debate/Shaping Public Opinion
Look at the dynamics of what happened in Arizona. Some candidates who spouted a vicious anti-immigrant line, similar to the Minutemen, were defeated. But some very ugly anti-immigrant laws were passed. These initiatives restrict undocumented immigrants from posting bail, restrict public benefits, deny punitive damages to the undocumented, and establish English as the official language. While the Minutemen-backed candidates didn't win, they were able to set the terms of the debate and make the Bush/Democrat reactionary anti-immigrant program the consensus and the “best you could get”--again, a program that is bound to be very bad for the people. Meanwhile, the whole dynamics in this election gave credibility to the Minutemen vigilantes. They lost--but were able to establish themselves as a “possible alternative” in the discussion over what to do regarding immigration. They were considered a legitimate part of the political debate (like when Ku Klux Klan vigilante leader David Duke ran for office and was treated as a legitimate, serious candidate who should be listened to).
Many among the ruling class political representatives from Colorado’s ultra-reactionary Tom Tancredo to Hillary Clinton, argue for situating immigration and control of the U.S-Mexico border in the context of the U.S.'s so-called “war on terror” as a national security issue. FBI Director Robert Mueller has claimed that “individuals from countries with known al Qaeda connections have attempted to enter the United States illegally using alien smuggling rings and assuming Hispanic appearances.” And the House Committee on Homeland Security recently released a report that claims Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez is supplying fake documents to enable terrorists from all over the world to enter the U.S. All this, coupled with the same kind of hate-and-fear-mongering stuff from TV news anchor Lou Dobbs every night, also became injected into the terms of debate through the election campaigns.
Border Concerns of an Empire
The U.S./Mexico border dates from the U.S. invasion in 1846, which stole half of Mexico’s land in order to expand its slave system in the south. For 160 years, U.S. capital and capitalists have continually crossed this border to dominate and plunder Mexico’s economic and human resources, and wreak havoc on its political, social, and cultural institutions. And the U.S. didn’t hesitate to send its military across the border in 1916 to try and crush the Mexican Revolution.
Since 1994, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has ruined millions of Mexican peasants who couldn’t compete with cheap U.S. agri-products flooding the Mexican economy. Mexico’s many border factories/maquiladoras that make cheap products for U.S. corporations have moved to China, where the term “starvation wages” is even more literal. This global process of exploitation has meant unprecedented human migration and misery within and between many countries, including Mexico.
The border with Mexico is not an incidental question for the imperialists. It is essential for an empire to control its borders, especially during its current rampage to establish itself as an unchallenged and unchallengeable empire. This is not just a question of monitoring who crosses it in some general sense. There is a larger dimension at work in Bush’s proposal to further militarize an already-militarized border. It has to do with the real fear this government has of social and political upheaval, even revolutionary upsurge, that could cross the border.
That is, beyond simply scapegoating immigrants for all of society’s problems, they are trying to deal with real necessity and fears as to the political and social stability domestically and “in their backyard.” The U.S. pays close attention to things like the recent upheaval in Oaxaca. They see the border with Mexico and the millions of immigrants here as part of centrifugal forces which potentially threaten America’s national cohesion--a cohesion founded on white supremacy and imperialist chauvinist domination of countries like Mexico. The U.S. is the only imperialist country that has a country it directly plunders pressed up against the “belly of the beast” and one that has pulled millions they ruthlessly oppress into its very belly to further ruthlessly exploit.
Out of the Shadow and into the Fascist Light
Given this, there is ruling class consensus on forcing millions of undocumented immigrants “out of the shadows.” This is meant to address the system’s economic compulsion for cheap labor while keeping this section of workers in a caste-like status--and as a preemptive measure to monitor and shut down any kind of resistance or upheaval. With an international agenda of endless war, the U.S. ruling class and their political representatives need stability on the homefront--i.e., a compliant populace and work force, including millions of super-exploited and exploitable immigrants. This means millions of people simply cannot be permitted to continue living “outside the law.”
This is especially the case with a section of people at the base of U.S. society who have some experience and knowledge of the ugly role the U.S. plays in Mexico and other countries. Given this U.S. imperialist history and the present reality of the Bush program, what are the implications of tens of thousands of U.S. Border Patrol and, now, National Guard troops constantly stationed right at the U.S./Mexico border as to U.S. intervention in any serious political upheaval in Mexico, Central or Latin America? And what prevents these same troops to be used to crush any upheaval on THIS side of the border?
Resistance and Revolution
What is needed now is for the struggle begun last spring to intensify and broaden. There must be no compromise on the fundamental rights of immigrants and on opposition to the militarization of the border. This means no common ground with the Bush regime’s overall program, including his comprehensive immigrant repression. This means waging ideological struggle among the working class and oppressed, as well as others, to see that the same interests and forces that are behind people being forced to immigrate to the U.S. (and that create the oppressive and exploitative situation in the countries they come from) are the same interests and forces (and system) that are oppressing and exploiting Black people and other masses as a whole in the U.S. It means helping people to see that people have a common oppressor and a common interest in fighting and getting rid of this system.
This kind of potential was expressed in embryo when there were immigration raids in the Bible-belt town of Arkadelphia, Arkansas. Black workers, white middle class people, and even city officials came to the support of immigrant workers (reported in the Boston Globe , July 24, 2006 “Raid on Immigrants Violates Sense of Community”). This was also indicated when the Minutemen, nominally led by a Black homeless man, staged a fanfare in the African American Leimert Park of Los Angeles. A handful of vigilantes were met by many more angry protesters--Black and white. The resistance to the Minuteman speech by students at Columbia University was another instance of this.
Alliances among different sections of the people, including the oppressed and proletarians, urgently need to be forged to beat back the immediate attacks on immigrants, but also with an eye towards greater upheaval to come, including potentially revolutionary upheaval. The intensifying current crisis provides the backdrop for things to go in a multitude of directions. Left on its own, things will develop in ways that are even worse for the masses, on both sides of the border and across the globe.
The complex and underlying dynamics of this system are driving the Bush Regime and the Democrats to unite on controlling the border and repressing immigrant masses. And what is called for is mass resistance, in various ways and dimensions--to change the situation and work towards hastening the possibility of any future openings for revolution and being able to seize on such openings if and when they develop--on either or both sides of the border.
Revolution #73, December 17, 2006
Cheers & Jeers
I want to send a “Cheers” to the television show Studio 60 for the episode that aired on December 5. The premise of this new show is a behind-the-scenes look at the making of a Saturday Night Live type show and I have found it entertaining, funny and interesting. For example there's an on-again-off-again romance between Matt, a liberal writer/producer (played by Matthew Perry) and a Christian fundamentalist (played by Sarah Paulson); a skit called “Crazy Christians” (another bit features “Cheeses of Nazareth”); a writer blacklisted by the 1950s McCarthy hearings shows up one night; and there's a constant battle with the FCC over rules like one that says you can’t take “god’s name in vain.”
In the last show for this year (it won’t air again until January 8), they are getting ready for the pre-Christmas show and the house band is rehearsing. We learn that musicians in the city have been calling in sick and sending others to take their places. The trumpet player sitting in for the regular Studio 60 guy is really good and one of the producers, Danny (played by Bradley Whitfield), takes notice and asks who he is. Danny learns that like others subbing around town, he is an out of work musician from New Orleans who lost his home and is now trying to work in LA. Danny comes up with an idea and tells people to save him time at the end of the show.
We don’t find out what this is until at the end when we see a very moving segment in the show-within-a-show: With a darkened stage D.L. Hughley, one of the cast members, steps into a spotlight and says: “Ladies and Gentlemen, the City of New Orleans.” The stage lights come up, but only to shadowy dims, and we see an ensemble of New Orleans musicians: two trumpeters, a saxophonist, a sousaphonist, and a trombonist. Looking almost silhouette, they begin playing a beautiful, kind of jazzy but somber version of “O Holy Night.” Behind them there's a slide show of black and white images of New Orleans. We see an aerial view of the flooded city, rooftops and treetops, water covering what you can’t see but know is a grid of neighborhood streets; people trying to rebuild amidst wreckage, a sign that says, “All I want for Christmas is my city back”– you can't help thinking about the criminal government neglect that abandoned people after Katrina and persists today with thousands unable to return and rebuild their homes.
Up on the NBC Studio 60 website you learn that the musicians featured in this episode were in fact musicians from New Orleans and there is a link to Tipitina’s Foundation, which was set up after Katrina to help musicians carry on with their lives and work. Today Tipitina uses the legendary music club, Tipitina’s Uptown, to host a new Music Co-op Office, helping musicians with business and legal questions, housing and providing music lessons for students.
Executive producers of Studio 60, Tommy Schlamme and Aaron Sorkin, worked with Tipitina to assemble the musicians for the show: Troy Andrews, Trumpet; Kirk Joseph, Sousaphone; Roderick Paulin, Saxophone; Frederick Shepherd, Saxophone; Stephen Walker, Trombone; Mervin "Kid Merv" Campbell, Trumpet; and Bob French, Drums. And Schlamme and Sorkin personally paid for the cost of gathering the musicians (some who remain displaced in other cities) and their travel expenses to L.A.
This was a moving tribute not only to all the musicians displaced by Katrina but the many thousands of other New Orleans residents who lost their homes in the hurricane and remain abandoned by the government. And this is an example of the widespread and deeply felt sentiment among people all over the country and the world, who are outraged at what happened and whose hearts have gone out to the people of New Orleans.
p.s. You can watch the whole show on the internet (http://www.nbc.com/Studio_60_on_the_Sunset_Strip/) and there will be a special encore presentation of this episode on NBC, December 18, 10/9c.