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Revolution #74, December 24, 2006
Even as the people’s anger continues to mount after the cold-blooded NYPD execution of Sean Bell on Nov. 25, the cops are still on a rampage of murder and brutality. One of the latest victims: 19-year-old Timur Person, his young life suddenly snuffed out by the police on Dec. 13 in South Bronx.
Timur Person was struck by four police bullets, at least one hitting him in the chest. His “crime”? The police say he was standing with three other youths on Walton Ave. when the cops came upon them. The youths began to run—a completely rational reaction if you’re young and Black, and you know the cops may jack you up at any time without any real cause, other than the fact that you’re young and Black. Two cops cornered Timur in the foyer of an apartment building, and then shot him dead.
And once again, we get the same infuriating rationale, from the same script used by the cops over and over again. The police say they did what they had to do because, they claim, Timur was armed, but witnesses say he had been trying to surrender. As one person who was at the scene said: “He was just standing there… He surrendered and they still shot him.” A crowd of people gathered at the scene of the shooting, yelling at the police and demanding justice.
Timur’s mother, Allene Person, said her youngest child was just two days shy of turning 20. “I can’t cry,” she said, as she banged her hands against the fence outside the hospital where Timur had been taken and pronounced dead. “I can’t get the tears. I’m too angry.”
Just three days after Timur Person was killed—and on the same day that a large march in downtown Manhattan demanded justice for Sean Bell – the NYPD killed again. This time, the victim was a 62-year-old Russian immigrant, Anatoly Dimitriev, who was shot twice in the chest as he tried to run down the fire escape of his Bronx apartment building. The cops claimed this time that Dimitriev had an ax that he refused to drop. Neighbors said Dimitriev had a history of “mental problems,” but they didn’t consider him a danger to anyone.
And in the week before Timur Person was gunned down, the NYPD shot three other Black men on successive days.
On Dec. 6 cops shot Hasani Omari in the groin, claiming hehad pulled out a handgun during a foot chase. In typical fashion, a police spokesman said “preliminary information indicates that the shooting appears to be within police guidelines.”
On Dec. 7, police shot Richard Davenport in the arm, claiming that he had fired a gun at them as they were chasing him.
The next day the cops shot Wayne Bolton, hitting him below both his knees and claiming, once again, that it was a case of someone being armed. This time, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly himself issued an outrageous statement about the police shootings: “They sometimes come in spurts, they sometimes come in groups; that’s the way it is.” Then Kelly turned reality upside down: “I think it underscores the dangers that police officers face.”
Rising Storm of Outrage
This epidemic of police murder has touched off a rising storm of outrage. For the first time since 9/11, opposition to police brutality is being taken up in a big way by masses of people in the streets and by prominent figures, and affecting people of all strata.
On December 16, many thousands jammed the streets of Manhattan in a March for Justice. Speaking at a press conference in front of City Hall the day before the march, Rev. Calvin O. Butts III of Abyssinian Baptist in Harlem, the most prominent Black church in the city, said that some NYPD cops were “ignorant savages who continue to prey upon our people as if we have no respect by virtue of our humanity or citizenship.” And he declared, “For too long we have tried to make changes, only to be disrespected.”
But people’s boiling anger at the brutal police is coming out in other ways as well. Two days after Sean Bell was shot, there was this scene on 125th Street in Harlem, as recounted by someone who witnessed the incident: “I was walking home along 125th and dozens of cops were taking down this older Black man. Very quickly a huge crowd gathered, very angry, yelling stuff at the police who were super obnoxious and banging their sticks on the sidewalk in front of us, down at our feet, like some crazy baton demonstration, and trying to get us to leave. People started yelling ‘50 shots’ at the cops, and then one of them yelled back at us that the guy they were taking down was armed and that people in the neighborhood wanted the cops to come to deal with him. Some of us refused to disperse and there were more exchanges with the police. I’m not sure what happened to the man, who someone in the crowd said was, in his earlier days, a Black Panther.”
Protests continue. The October 22 Coalition to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation has called for a mass protest on Wednesday, Dec. 20 in Jamaica, Queens, near where Sean Bell was murdered and two friends wounded. Referring to the slew of police murders and brutality in New York and across the country, the Oct. 22 Coalition’s call for the protest emphasizes that these “do not represent just ‘a few bad apples’ or some isolated incidents. It’s a nationwide epidemic… THIS MUST STOP. And it’s only the people that can stop it—through massive, determined protest in the streets and other actions.”
And a Day of Outrage aiming to shut down Wall Street has been called for Dec. 21.
“Something Wrong with a System Where This Happens”
People are coming into political motion with different ideas. Some people argue, for example, Sean Bell would be alive today if the police used rubber bullets instead of live ammo, or that what’s needed is better training for the cops or some kind of community control over the cops patrolling the Black neighborhoods.
Nicholas Heyward is an active member of the Oct. 22 Coalition, whose 13-year-old son Nicholas Heyward Jr. was killed by the NYPD in 1994. Nicholas told Revolution last week that many people “don’t really understand what’s happening and need to wake up to it. They need to get clear that what these cops are doing is not what they’re not supposed to do, but is what they are supposed to do. They’re in our communities to ‘serve and protect’ all right, but it’s not to serve and protect us but the people who run this system for profit and power.”
“So if you grasp hold of that,” Nicholas continued, “you understand that things like rubber bullets rather than live ammo, or sitting down with the cops to try to get better relations, are just not going to happen. What does have to happen? It’s like I say in the flyer that Oct. 22 Coalition put out calling for mass protest on Dec. 20 and demanding justice for Sean Bell: ‘I have no faith in a system that has allowed the cops who murdered my son and so many others to escape prosecution.’”
Another anti-police brutality activist, Juanita Young, whose son Malcolm Ferguson was killed by the NYPD in 2001, said: “Just think. 41 shots fired at Amadou Diallo in 1999 and now 50 shots at Sean Bell. Nothing has changed, and since 9/11 it’s gotten worse and the cops have gotten more vicious. There’s been more than 135 police killings in the New York/New Jersey area alone since 9/11, and not a single cop has served any time. There’s something definitely wrong with a system where that’s happening. We’re not dealing with a few bad apples here, and keep in mind we only hear about the major cases. There’s all kinds of cases that go down that we never hear about in the media.”
There’s been an enforced silence about the reality that Juanita Young points to—that police brutality and murder have not only continued but intensified since 9/11. But now, widespread anger and mass protests are beginning to force some of the truth out into the open. Witness how the outrage following the Sean Bell murder has forced this issue onto the Larry King show on CNN, Nightline, and other major national media reaching millions.
The protests and resistance need to continue—so that more truth is forced out even more broadly about the real nature and actions of the police under this system. The protests in the street, as well as prominent people speaking out, give heart to those on the bottom most directly under the gun of the murderous police. They make clear that the people will not suffer in silence as the police brutalize and murder. And this resistance can—and must—affect people of various strata in society, opening their eyes to the reality of police brutality and moving them into political action on this question and other outrages of this system.
As Nicholas Heyward said, “The only way to stop police brutality is to expose the horrors of this system and build resistance against a system that continues to exonerate killer cops, regardless of how clear the evidence against them is.”
Revolution #74, December 24, 2006
Revolution #74, December 24, 2006
Some Further Thinking on: The Socialist State as a New Kind of State
I want to talk a little more about the question of democracy and dictatorship in socialist society and about the socialist state, the dictatorship of the proletariat, as a radically different kind of state. Proletarian democracy—as given expression as democracy for the masses of people in socialist society—should contain some secondary and "external" features, if you will, in common with bourgeois democracy, including Constitutional provisions for the protection of the rights of masses of people, and of individuals; but in essence it is a radically different kind of democracy, fundamentally because it is an expression of a radically different kind of class rule—rule by the proletariat, led by its vanguard, openly exercising dictatorship over the overthrown bourgeoisie and other proven counter-revolutionary elements—and it has radically different objectives, above all the advance to communism, and the "withering away of the state"—and of democracy.
Here the following passages from Engels, once again from The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State, are very relevant: He points out: [In early communal society] "there cannot yet be any talk of ‘right’ in the legal sense....Within the tribe there is as yet no difference between rights and duties."
That's worth pondering and wrangling with deeply: no difference between rights and duties. And we can go on to say that, in a fundamental sense, what was true in early communal society will again be true, but in a very different way—with a different material, and ideological, basis and in a different, worldwide context—in communist society: where there is no class antagonism, there is no separation, in a fundamental sense, between rights and duties. There is no separation between rights and duties characteristic of class society, is another way to say this. All rights and duties will be afforded and carried out consciously and voluntarily—and there will be no need for special institutions to enforce duties and to protect rights—no need for the state, nor for formal structures of democracy. This, of course, does not mean that there will no longer be a need for a government in communist society, for decision making and administration. That need will persist, and understanding this is a crucial part of understanding the difference between a scientific and on the other hand a utopian view of communism—and of the struggle to get to communism (I will have more to say on this, too, as we go along). But the state is not the same thing as, not identical with, government: the state, once again, is an organ, an instrument, of class suppression and dictatorship, and its existence is always and everywhere an expression of the existence of class antagonisms. Now, at the same time, the character of the proletarian state, and the way in which power is exercised under the dictatorship of the proletariat, must—in accordance with, and to advance toward, the fundamental objectives of the communist revolution—also be radically different from any previous kind of state.
In order to get into this, and as a foundation for it, I want to paraphrase and review three sentences on democracy which I have formulated as a concentration of some fundamental points. To paraphrase, the first of these sentences is: In a world marked by profound class divisions and social inequalities, to talk about democracy without talking about the class content of that democracy, and which class it serves, is meaningless or worse. And second: In such a situation, there cannot be any such thing as democracy for all or "pure democracy"—one class or another will rule and will institute the forms of rule and of democracy that serve its interests. And therefore the conclusion of this, if you will, the third sentence, is: The essential question and dividing line is whether this class rule and the corresponding forms of democracy serve to reinforce fundamental class divisions and social inequalities, fundamental relations of exploitation and oppression, or whether they serve the struggle to uproot and finally eliminate these relations of exploitation and oppression.
Now, I said before, in another context, that I could teach a whole college course on this, simply by reciting these three sentences and then saying, "discuss," for the rest of the semester. And I wasn't joking. One could easily do this. But here, let's take off from this to discuss some important related questions, with this as a foundation.
I want to discuss the state—once again, the armed forces and the other organs of dictatorship—in relation to the broader institutions and functions of government in socialist society, including decision-making bodies, a legislature of some kind more or less, as well as centralized institutions that can effect the carrying out of decisions, or an executive of some kind. I also want to deal with the question of a Constitution and of the "rule of law" and of courts.
Recently, I told some people that one of the key things I have been grappling with is how to synthesize what's in the polemic against K. Venu (1) with a principle that is emphasized by John Stuart Mill. A pivotal and essential point in the polemic against K. Venu is that, having overthrown capitalism and abolished the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, the proletariat must establish and maintain its political rule in society, the dictatorship of the proletariat, while continuing the revolution to transform society toward the goal of communism and the abolition of class distinctions and oppressive social relations, and with that the abolition of the state, of any kind of dictatorship; and that, in order to make this possible, the proletariat must have the leadership of its vanguard communist party throughout this transition to communism. In continuing to grapple with these fundamental questions, I have become convinced that this principle articulated by Mill—that people should hear arguments presented not only as they are characterized by those who oppose them, but as they are put forward by ardent advocates of those positions—is something that needs to be incorporated and given expression in the exercise of the dictatorship of the proletariat. This is one element—not the entirety, but one element—of what I have been reaching for and wrangling with in terms of what we have formulated as a new synthesis. And in line with that, while the proletariat has to maintain firm control of the state—and, particularly in the early stages of socialism and for some time, this is expressed in terms of the leadership of the vanguard party of the proletariat—while the proletariat in that way has to maintain firm control of the state; and while the key organs and instruments of the state have to be responsible to the party (and I'll talk more about that and other aspects of this shortly); there is also a question of how can the masses be increasingly drawn, not only into the exercise of state power, but also into other forms, other aspects of the governing and administration of society, and the law-making of society; and how can the political process that goes on in socialist society, on the basis of the firm control by the proletariat over the state as exercised in a concentrated way through the leadership of its party—how on that basis can the political process lead to, or contribute to, the kind of ferment that I've been talking about as an essential element of what needs to go on in socialist society, including the emphasis on the importance of dissent?
So here "the John Stuart Mill principle" comes in, in a certain way—within the framework of proletarian rule and not raised as some kind of absolute, outside of and above the relation of classes and the class character of the state. I don't have time to go into a whole discussion of Mill, but in the "Democracy" book (Democracy: Can't We Do Better Than That?) I made the point that in fact Mill did not insist on and apply a principle of unrestricted liberty in some universal and absolute sense—he didn't think it applied to workers on strike; he didn't think it applied to people in "backward countries" who, as he saw it, were not yet ready to govern themselves, and he implemented that by being an official in the East India Company, a major instrumentality of colonial depredation and ravaging in Asia and other places. But nonetheless, leaving those contradictions aside here, there is a point that Mill is raising, about how people should be able to hear arguments from their ardent advocates. And I think one of the ways in which this should find expression in the governing of socialist society is that—within the framework where, first of all, the state is firmly controlled by the proletariat, and second, there is consultation between the party and the masses and the implementation of forms, such as those that were developed through the Cultural Revolution in China, forms that combine basic masses with people from administrative posts or technical or educational professionals, or people in the arts who are professionals, etc., in decision-making and administrative tasks on all the different levels and in all the different spheres of society—while that should go on as a foundation, there should be a certain element of contested elections within the framework of whatever the Constitution of the socialist society is at the time. And one of the reasons why this should happen is that it will contribute to implementing what is positive about this John Stuart Mill point—that people need to hear positions not just as they are characterized by those who oppose them but as they are put forward by ardent advocates of those positions—what is positive about this in relation to our strategic objectives, of continuing the socialist revolution toward the goal of communism, the ways in which the implementation of this principle will contribute to political and overall intellectual ferment in socialist society and to the flowering of critical and creative thinking and, yes, of dissent, within socialist society—which will make that society more vibrant and will overall strengthen not only the willingness but the conscious determination of the masses of the people, including among the intellectuals, to not only preserve and defend that society but to continue revolutionizing society toward the goal of communism, together with the revolutionary struggle throughout the world.
One of the things that should be really understood about what we have characterized as the new synthesis, is that it envisions a much more wild society than has heretofore existed, politically speaking. I mean, things got very wild in the Cultural Revolution in China. But I am envisioning this in a different sense, on a more ongoing basis—one in which there is a solid core, and elasticity is giving rise to all kinds of contention on the basis of the solid core and within the framework in which the proletariat is (a) firmly in control of the state, and (b) is leading, and in that sense, in control of the overall political apparatus, even those parts that are not strictly speaking the state in the literal sense of being organs of political dictatorship and suppression, such as the armed forces, where the leadership of the party, and with that the rule of the proletariat, has to be very clear and firm.
The reason that I'm wrangling with this idea of having contested elections to, in part, select people to legislatures—in other words to have part of the selection, not the whole, but part of the selection of people to legislative bodies on local areas, and even on the national level, open to contestation—has to do with the Mill principle. It has to do with the principle (which I've articulated before) about how even reactionaries should be able to publish some books in socialist society—all of which, of course, is highly unorthodox [laughs] and, to say the least, controversial, especially in the international communist movement. But I do believe that the masses themselves—if they're actually going to rule and transform society and understand to an increasingly deepening level what is involved in transforming the world—will be better served by some contention in this kind of way, and that it has to find some expression other than just people being able to be guaranteed certain "first amendment" rights (freedom of speech and of assembly, of the right to dissent and protest, and so on), which they should have, within the framework of the proletarian dictatorship. So that's one element that I'm wrestling with.
Along with that, as there has been in previous socialist societies, there needs to be a Constitution. A Constitution, however, should always be understood, as should the law, as a moving, dynamic thing. At any given time it has relative identity. You can't say it's completely relative, or that it's essentially relative at any given time, or it would have no meaning then—it would be whatever anybody wanted it to be, and that's not a Constitution. A Constitution is something that sets down what are the rules of the game so that everybody can, on the one hand, in one important aspect, feel at ease, and, at the same time, can contribute fully to the struggle to transform society, while knowing, in effect, what the rules are. But it's a moving thing in the sense that a Constitution will change as the advance is carried forward toward communism. A Constitution is a reflection in the superstructure of where you are in the overall transformation of society, including in the economic base—just as the law, as Marx pointed out, is essentially a reflection of the property relations of society (and the production relations at the foundation of those property relations) at any given time. And there will be a need, as there was in China, for example, for different Constitutions at different stages in that process. You will need to, in effect, tear up the old Constitution and rewrite it, as you advance, particularly by leaps, from one stage to another. But, at any given time, a Constitution plays an important role, I believe—or should play an important role—in socialist society. For example, I firmly believe that the army, and also in a fundamental sense the courts, especially courts that have a more societal-wide impact, and the essential administrative bodies, should be particularly responsible to the vanguard party in socialist society. But, here's where the contradiction comes in. I also believe they should be responsible to the Constitution. That is, to get right down on the ground, the army should not be able to be mobilized to go against the Constitution, even while it's being led by the party. And here you can see a potentially roaring tension. But if the party can lead the armed forces to go outside of and above and beyond the Constitution, then the Constitution is meaningless. And then, in effect, you do have an arbitrary rule whereby it's merely the party and whatever the party is deciding at a given time—those are the rules, and that's how they'll be enforced.
Now, this gets really tricky if you think about Cultural Revolutions in socialist society. What happens then? Well [laughs] revolutions are revolutions—a lot of things get suspended, but they have to be reconstituted. And there has to be some sort of leading core and rules even within that. That was the point of the Circulars that were put out by the party leadership in the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China, for example. But on a more ongoing basis, you can't simply run society in such a way that whoever gets control of the party at a given time sets and enforces the rules according to whatever they think the rules should be at a given time. Or else the masses will not feel at ease and, in fact, you will open the gates much more widely to the restoration of capitalism and a bourgeois dictatorship, a dictatorship of exploiters and oppressors of the masses. So there's real tension, and you can concentrate it in that formulation—that the army, for example, should be responsible to the party and led by the party, but it should also be responsible and accountable to the Constitution, and if people rally against the party, for example, in mass dissent, it should not be that the party can mobilize the army to carry out bloody suppression of those masses, or to suppress their right to raise that dissent against the party. So this has a lot of acute tension, or potentially acute tension, built into it. But again I am firmly convinced that, in order for the masses to really increasingly become masters of society, these kind of principles, and the institutionalization of these principles, are necessary in socialist society.
This, then, raises the question that I call the "Islamic Republic of Iran question." People will say: "Well, okay, that sounds good—Constitutional rights, even the army can't violate the Constitution, yes, have some contested elections—but how are you going to be different than Iran where they have the Supreme Islamic Council and it has final veto power over what happens. You're not really going to be different than that, are you?" Well, we aren't and we are. We aren't in the sense that we don't intend to have the fundamental question of state power put up for whoever can grab it. In fact, a Constitution has to embody what the character of the state power is—not only what the role of the army is in relation to the party, for example, but what is the character of the production relations, in addition to having a whole dimension of the rights of the people and, yes, of individuals.
Why do you need a Constitution? Because as Mao pointed out—this was an important thing that he brought forward—in socialist society there remains a contradiction between the people and the government, or the people and the state. This was not well understood before Mao. He pointed this out, if I remember correctly, in "On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People." And the need for a Constitution and for constitutional provisions, protections and rights is an expression of the recognition of that reality—that even where the state is in the hands of the proletariat, and is a positive state, is a good state, is a state that's maintaining the rule of the proletariat and putting its weight behind the further revolutionization of society and support of the world revolution—even there, there has to be protection against simply trampling on individuals or sections of society in the name of, or even in the legitimate pursuit of, the larger social and worldwide good.
So this is an important contradiction, and this is why you need a Constitution. And in my opinion, it is why you also do need a "rule of law." This has to do with the criticism that I raised in "Two Great Humps" (a talk I gave in the latter half of the 1990s) (2) of Lenin's formulation that dictatorship is rule, unrestricted rule, and specifically rule unrestricted by law. Now, to be fair to Lenin, he was saying this in the very, very early stages of the new Soviet republic, when not that much experience had been accumulated about the nature of the dictatorship of the proletariat, and under very urgent and desperate circumstances. And he was not putting this forward as a general conclusion about what the character of the governance should be throughout the transition to communism. He didn't even fully understand what that transition would look like yet. But, reflecting on it with historical perspective, that is not a correct statement of what a dictatorship is or should be. There do need to be laws. And there does need to be a "rule of law," or else there are no laws. I mean this in the sense that the law does have to be applied according to the actual character of the society and what is provided for in the Constitution and the laws themselves—it has to be applied in the same way to everybody and everything. Now, part of the law, an essential part of the law, must be and will be an expression of dictatorship over the bourgeoisie, and suppression of counter-revolutionaries. But then you do not simply declare somebody a counter-revolutionary and deprive them of rights without any process of law, or else you're again opening the gates to arbitrary rule and the restoration of bourgeois dictatorship. So that's another intense contradiction.
What about independent judiciary? In my opinion, the judiciary, as to whether it should be independent—it should and it shouldn't. In one real sense, it should be independent—in the sense that it shouldn't be, in any proximate, immediate sense simply following the dictates of the party. There should be law, and things should operate according to the law. On the other hand, and in an overall sense, and especially the more we are talking about a court whose decisions influence things on a large scale, and especially courts whose decisions affect all of society, this, too, has to be under the leadership of the party at the same time as it is beholden not only to the party but to the Constitution. Once again, intense contradiction.
So these are some things I'm wrestling with, and here the "Islamic Republic of Iran question" does arise, once again. Now there are some fundamental differences between us and what I'm envisioning in speaking of the Islamic Republic of Iran (as the embodiment of a certain kind of rule). First of all, we're not theocratic fundamentalists! That is not merely a statement without content, but makes a profound difference—our world outlook, our political objectives, are profoundly different. But as true and as important as that is, that's still not enough, there is still more to be wrestled with in the sense of: the party cannot, simply and arbitrarily and by going "outside of the rules," overturn what may be happening in society, according to the "rules" of society at any given time—mobilizing the army, once again, or other organs of the state, to do that. If revolutionaries in the party, or the party collectively, feel that the society is going in the direction back to capitalism, and there's no way to prevent this other than through the kind of thing that Mao unleashed in the Cultural Revolution, then that's what the Party will have to unleash—and then everything is up for grabs, "all bets are off," so to speak. But, in my opinion, if you allow the party to simply and arbitrarily decide what the rules are, what the law is, how the judiciary should operate, whether or not constitutional provisions should be extended or whether rights should be taken away, without any due process of law; if you allow that, you are increasing the potential and strengthening the basis for the rise of a bourgeois clique to power and for the restoration of capitalism.
So these are all things that need to be further wrangled with. But the contradictions that are being touched on here have to do with the character of socialism as a transition to communism, and not yet communist society itself, and with the need to draw the masses into—first of all, the need to draw the masses more fully into the running of and the transforming of society; and second of all, it has to do with the whole new synthesis and, in particular, the epistemological dimension of that and how that interpenetrates with the political dimension. In other words, to put it in concentrated terms, how are the masses going to come to know the world as fully as possible, in order to actually transform it; how are they going to more fully understand the complexity of things and what is right and wrong, what is true and not true, in order to be able to become more fully the masters of society and to transform it toward the goal of communism? The things that I'm wrestling with have to do with and are being taken up in that kind of framework. But we can't get away from the fact that there is one thing that CANNOT be done, and that is: the proletariat cannot, in a fundamental sense, share power with other classes—that is, the state in socialist society cannot be a state that serves different class interests—because, even while the proletariat must maintain and apply the strategic orientation of building a united front under its leadership, all the way to the achievement of communism, it remains a profound truth that only the proletariat, as a class, has a fundamental interest in abolishing all class distinctions and everything bound up with class divisions, in both the economic base and the political and ideological superstructure of society. What exists and is concretized in law, in a Constitution, in the nature of the state, has to reflect not only the rule of the proletariat but also the objectives of the proletariat in advancing toward the abolition of class distinctions and the "4 Alls" and thereby the need for the state. And this has to take concrete forms, which will get embodied in successive Constitutions. But, as important as that is, on another level that is only the outward, superstructural expression of what needs to be going on in terms of transforming those "4 Alls"—continuing to transform the economic base, to revolutionize the world outlook of the people, within the party as well as in society overall, and to transform the political institutions to draw more and more masses into them, and to move to continually narrow and eventually eliminate the difference between the party and the broader masses in the running of the state and in the determination of the direction of society.
This is the way in which the proletarian state has to be firmly in the hands of the proletariat; but, at the same time, in accordance with the interests of the proletariat, it has to be different than every other kind of state: it has to be not only reinforcing the existing economic base and superstructure, but actually transforming the economic base and the superstructure, together with the advance of the world revolution, toward the goal of communism. This has to be reflected in all these institutions I'm talking about—of the state and of government, of law and Constitution. And all this, once again, involves very acute contradictions. As I have pointed out many times, it is very easy to promulgate, to theoretically conceive of and popularize, the idea of all elasticity—which is another way of saying bourgeois democracy, because that is what it will devolve into, that is what it will become. And we've also learned from experience that it is easy to veer in the direction of all solid core and a linear view of how you advance toward communism, how you carry forward the socialist transition: linear in the sense that everything is extended out as a line from the party—it's the party leading the masses to do this, the party leading the masses to do that. Yes, in an overall sense, it is necessary for the party to lead the masses, as long as there is a need for a vanguard party; but it is a very complex and contradictory process that I think we have to envision and that is envisioned in this new synthesis, which has to do with unleashing a lot of mass upheaval, turmoil, tumult, debate, dissent, and thrashing it through among and together with the masses, in order for the masses, in growing numbers, to synthesize what's true and correct and revolutionary out of all that. And, yes, on that basis, to suppress what actually needs to be suppressed, but also to carry forward what needs to be carried forward, and to deal correctly, at any point, with the two different types of contradictions (contradictions among the people and contradictions between the people and the enemy). This is a different way, a not so linear way. It's not like you're fly-fishing [laughing] and throwing a line out—it's much more "throwing out" a process that goes in many different directions and then working through, together with the masses, to synthesize it, without letting go of the core of everything. And that's the very difficult part, to do that without letting go of the core of everything.
So there is the challenge of continuing the revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat, to dig up the soil—materially and ideologically, in the economic base and the superstructure—that must be uprooted and abolished, in order to get to communism, to the realization of the "4 Alls," in relation—and yes this definitely involves contradiction—to continually giving fuller expression to the ways in which the socialist state actually is radically different from all previous kinds of states and actually is moving toward its own eventual abolition, even while—and here's another contradiction—even while that abolition will require a whole process, constituting a whole world-historical epoch, through which the necessary material and ideological conditions for communism are created, not just in a particular country but on a world scale.
I think we have come to see, from the experience of the dictatorship of the proletariat so far—in sifting through and summing up this first stage of proletarian revolutions and socialist society and projecting to the future, we've come to understand more fully, and have much more a sense of the complexity, of the fact that this is a long-term process, involving a whole historical epoch, as contrasted even with what Lenin understood at the time he died in 1924, and certainly in contrast with what we would have to say, with historical perspective, were the more naive views of Marx and Engels concerning the abolition or the "withering away" of the state. Marx and Engels more or less thought that once you socialize things—they were looking at this happening first in a more capitalistically developed society—that once you socialize ownership of the means of production under the rule of the proletariat, it would be not that long of a period, and not that profound and complex a struggle, to get to where more and more of the people would be drawn into the administration of society, and the state could accordingly wither away. And we've learned that this is rather naive, not surprisingly. [Using a deliberately sarcastic sounding voice:] "He said Marx and Engels were naive." [laughter] Yes, he did. Because we're historical materialists and not religious and idealist people; and in this aspect, the understanding of Marx and Engels was very undeveloped, not surprisingly. But we've learned much more through, first (after the very short-lived and limited experience of the Paris Commune), the Soviet Revolution and then the Chinese Revolution and the Cultural Revolution in China—and looking at the international dimension of this much more fully in dialectical relation with the advance in any particular socialist country—how complex this will be, and how repeatedly the contradictions that are driving this will assume acute expression and there will have to be another leap forward, in order, first of all, to preserve proletarian rule, but much more fully in order to advance it further, to carry out further transformations in the base and the superstructure, together with supporting and advancing revolutionary struggles throughout the world.
So, in this context I want to come back and speak more directly to the solid core with a lot of elasticity—and elasticity on the basis of the necessary solid core. Now in talks I've given on "Elections, Democracy and Dictatorship, Resistance and Revolution," (3) I spoke about four objectives in relation to the solid core with state power. Now, the whole thing can be characterized, and I have characterized it, in the formulation that the point is "to hold on to state power while making sure that this state power is worth holding on to." And of course that's a boiled down, or basic and simple, concentration of a much more complex phenomenon and process. But the four objectives that relate to that are: 1) holding on to power; 2) making sure that the solid core is expanded to the greatest degree possible, and is not a static thing, but is continually expanding to the greatest degree possible at every point; 3) working consistently toward the point where that solid core will no longer be necessary, and there will no longer be a distinction between that and the rest of society; and 4) giving expression to the greatest amount of elasticity at any given time on the basis of that solid core.
The dialectical interplay of these things is another way of expressing what's involved in what I've described as a nonlinear process of, on the one hand, continuing to exercise the dictatorship of proletariat, and on the other hand—through this whole tumultuous and wrenching process, and through a succession of leaps—not only holding on to power, but transforming the character of that power, as the economic base and the superstructure as a whole are transformed, in dialectical relation with each other and in dialectical relation with the advance of the overall world revolution toward the goal of communism on a world scale.
1. This polemic, titled "Democracy: More Than Ever We Can and Must Do Better Than That," appears as an Appendix to the book Phony Communism Is Dead...Long Live Real Communism!, 2nd edition, by Bob Avakian (Chicago: RCP Publications, 2004). The polemic originally appeared in the 1992/17 issue of the magazine A World to Win. Available at revcom.us. [back]
2. The full title of the talk is Getting Over the Two Great Humps: Further Thoughts on Conquering the World. Excerpts from this talk appeared in the Revolutionary Worker newspaper (now Revolution) and are available online at revcom.us. The series "On Proletarian Democracy and Proletarian Dictatorship—A Radically Different View of Leading Society" appeared in RW #1214 through 1226 (Oct. 5, 2003-Jan. 25, 2004). The series " Getting Over the Hump" appeared in RW #927, 930, 932, and 936-940 (Oct. 12, Nov. 2, Nov. 16, and Dec. 14, 1997 through Jan. 18, 1998). Two additional excerpts from this talk are "Materialism and Romanticism: Can We Do Without Myth?" in RW #1211 (Aug. 24, 2003) and "Re-reading George Jackson" in RW #968 (Aug. 9, 1998). All of these articles can be found online at revcom.us.] [back]
Revolution #74, December 24, 2006
“The day Congress opens, World Can’t Wait will lead a major challenge
to the political direction in this country since the election. A regime
as criminal as the Bush regime still allowed to even remain in office?
No! An unjust war started on lies, allowed to continue for four years
despite an election where people meant to express how strongly they want
it stopped? No! The Democrats, now the majority, allowing debate only
on how to run the war more effectively, and saying that impeachment can’t
even be considered? No!
“BUSH MUST GO! IF WAR CRIMES, TORTURE, AND CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY ARE NOT REASON TO IMPEACH, WHAT IS?
“This is no time to ‘wait and see.’ This is a critical time to take action and demand action. Open the investigations and start impeachment, now!”
national director for World Can’t Wait—
Drive Out the Bush Regime
Today, all eyes are on Iraq. The situation there deteriorates every day, sliding toward a state of chaos. The contradictions in the unstable Iraqi government, the explosive conflicts in the region, and the rifts within the U.S. ruling class are all heightening.
But what sometimes gets lost in this is the dire situation of the Iraqi people. Dahr Jamail’s recent article, “ ‘Today Is Better than Tomorrow’: Iraq as a Living Hell” collects e-mails from people still living there to describe the largely unreported agony caused by the U.S. occupation. One correspondent writes, “I hope I can show you how the dogs have started eating the dead bodies which lie in the streets of Baghdad now… The U.S. troops and Iraqi police leave the dead bodies in the streets for one or two days… I think they intend to do this because they want everyone, including the children, to see this.”
Millions of people in this country voted in November in the hope of stopping this. Now those hopes are running right up against what Bush, the proponents of the Iraq Study Group and the Democrats in Congress are actually doing. For all the very real conflicts among them, none of them are aiming for an immediate end to this unjust and immoral war of occupation, or even raising any real challenge to it. All of them aim to maintain U.S. domination in the region despite the current disastrous state of the war—an illustration once again that the Democratic Party operates from an imperialist strategic calculus and that it is in fact an imperialist party.
These same Democrats now tell people to wait—that there is little they can do to end the war, and the thing now is to look to the presidential election of 2008. The dynamic where the outrage of the people is suppressed and diverted into channels like the NEXT election—that ends up shoring up the system and even the Bush Regime itself—has to be challenged and ruptured with. The contradiction between the opposition that millions are trying to register and the wall of imperialist interests they are running up against, and being thwarted by, can slide back into passivity and despair. Instead, it must, through action, be transformed into more resolute opposition to endless war and the whole Bush Agenda.
As part of doing that, we call on people to wholeheartedly support the challenge issued by World Can’t Wait and others to demonstrate on January 4 in DC, at the opening of Congress.
War Crimes Must Not Be Tolerated
The Bush Regime has flouted international law and conventions as well as domestic constitutional law. It has arrogated to itself the right to suspend habeas corpus, it has engaged in mass searches and spying without warrants, and it has defined the powers of the “Commander in Chief” to be above the law. By all legal and moral standards, there is no way it should be allowed to remain in office. This case has been powerfully made by the Bush Crimes Commission (bushcommission.org), and we urge everyone to get the Bush Crimes Commission DVD, watch it, and then help get it out.
Even as we go to press, the Hamdan decision—in which the Supreme Court upheld the right to habeas corpus for prisoners in Guantanamo—has now been reversed on the basis of the Military Commissions Act—which passed with bipartisan support in September. We learn, in a December 15 New York Times article, that the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo has become even harsher and more inhumane in the months since that law was passed.
The indictments of the World Can’t Wait Call all remain true:
“YOUR GOVERNMENT, on the basis of outrageous lies, is waging a murderous and utterly illegitimate war in Iraq, with other countries in their sights.
“YOUR GOVERNMENT is openly torturing people, and justifying it.
“YOUR GOVERNMENT puts people in jail on the merest suspicion, refusing them lawyers, and either holding them indefinitely or deporting them in the dead of night.
“YOUR GOVERNMENT is moving each day closer to a theocracy, where a narrow and hateful brand of Christian fundamentalism will rule.
“YOUR GOVERNMENT suppresses the science that doesn’t fit its religious, political and economic agenda, forcing present and future generations to pay a terrible price.
“YOUR GOVERNMENT is moving to deny women here, and all over the world, the right to birth control and abortion.
“YOUR GOVERNMENT enforces a culture of greed, bigotry, intolerance and ignorance.”
And NONE of these indictments are being seriously challenged by the “newly victorious” Democrats.
Complicity Must Be Called Out, Challenged…and Rejected
The torture and pre-emptive war spearheaded by the Bush Regime—and which is being accommodated, condoned and legitimized by Congress—has to be categorically repudiated. People have a responsibility to seriously and massively mobilize to STOP this. To fail to do so—when you have the knowledge these crimes are being committed in your name—is to be complicit. And both the world today and people of the future will judge harshly not just the perpetrators of these crimes but also the people who stood by and allowed it to go on.
This point must be made to people, sharply. There IS a way to not just stand against this—which itself is crucially important—but to mobilize others to do so. And January 4 poses the next opportunity—and the next challenge—in doing that.
The opening of Congress must be met with people who refuse to accept the inane and intentionally numbing prattle that this session will open with. Instead, the question must be the war crimes now going on and being planned, and the urgent need to halt them. And the fact is that mass action on the steps of Congress that day—in the context of massive distribution of the World Can’t Wait Call—can politically burst through the fog to assert those terms. War crimes must be halted and Congress itself must be forced to impeach Bush to that end. There must be hearings to force the extreme criminality of the regime into the light of day and an actual move to politically drive Bush from office…and this truly can’t wait.
At the foundation of this effort must be the World Can’t Wait Call to drive out the Bush regime (online at worldcantwait.org). This Call gives people a real sense of the Bush regime’s intolerable crimes and fascist trajectory, and the urgent need to STOP it. The powerful and positive morality of the Call inspires people to throw off silence and paralysis, to have confidence in the fact that we speak for the majority, here and around the world, to speak with conviction to those still fooled, and to dare to take up the example of those who have stood with right on their side and prevailed against tremendous odds.
Taking up this initiative means uniting with others who are calling for impeachment. Some of those people and groups may also tend to follow or get drawn into politics that attempt to contain impeachment within the framework of what is acceptable to the Democratic Party. To those who would counsel toning down your message to what Congress would be willing to adopt…or who want to drag the politics of impeachment down to the level of technical intricacies of congressional process…or who do not want to create mass consciousness about WHY Bush should be driven from office and his program repudiated…or who shy away from challenging people’s prejudices, we have to be consistent and clear. Such a course leads, whatever one’s intentions, to a cynical political pragmatism that ends up accommodating to the status quo and vitiating any real chance to change the political direction of this society.
We have to struggle to get people to step into a different framework and to see that this can only change—and that impeachment, as one way to change it, will only be put back “on the table”—through political mobilization of people who make a demand for it that can not be ignored or marginalized. The Call itself should be used very consistently and broadly among all those working for impeachment; the political and moral terms it sets, its sense of history and of the future, are great “clarifiers.”
Our work is not to write a “brief” acceptable to Congress, or to rely on lobbying the Democrats to “do their duty.” It is to create the kind of political situation and conditions in society where the people are setting the political terms and pushing the reality that YOUR GOVERNMENT is committing War Crimes onto the national political stage—and where those in Government have to respond to that or lose legitimacy in the eyes of the people.
Nothing positive or lasting can be accomplished without a radically different dynamic being created in society by people themselves taking the fate of history into their own hands. Change—positive change, that is—has only ever been made in this country by people in their masses taking courageous and determined political action in the streets; it has never come about without society-wide upheaval that radically challenged the status quo.
This can happen here and it can happen now if we reach out to people with the vehicle they need to express this. Impeachment demanded now in the wake of the election—and in the context of truly massive distribution of the World Can’t Wait Call—can accelerate the kind of mobilization needed from the people to Drive Out the Bush Regime.
And what impact would it have if the Bush Regime was not able to bludgeon and bomb its “way forward”? What might the world look like if instead of the U.S. ruling class managing to reach consensus on how to manage Iraq and secure the Middle East, the Bush Regime were forced from office by massive political opposition from below and the U.S. were forced to withdraw from Iraq? What impact would this have on the rest of the world—including on the millions who now see their only alternatives as either Islamic fundamentalism, or going along with uncontested U.S. domination?
There is time but not a lot of time to reverse the direction here, before the Regime is able to maintain its initiative and close down the remaining space in society for opposition; before the torture cells they are continuing to construct in Guantanamo become a larger living metaphor for society that is locked down, blinded, and stupefied. The Bush regime must not be allowed to brutally bludgeon its way through this crisis. For communists and revolutionary-minded people in particular, there is an urgent need to mobilize to stop this whole direction and, in so doing, to boldly bring forward the larger revolutionary solution to a system that has given rise to a monstrosity like the Bush regime.
World Can’t Wait is made up of people from many different political perspectives - but all of them would benefit from creating the kind of political situation where Bush is driven from office — where the rebellion and upheaval coming from the people opens up positive potential for the future of humanity and banishes the dark ages that Bush and the religious fanatics of this world are calling up from the depths. Let January 4 be a powerful signal to both the rulers and to the millions growing ever more disturbed and angry over the way things continue on the same disastrous course that there is another way.
Revolution #74, December 24, 2006
The World Can’t Wait organization along with others are calling for a demonstration in Washington, D.C. on January 4, when the U.S. Congress opens. The protest will be held at Upper Senate Park (Delaware & Constitution, just north of the Capitol) starting at 12 noon on Thursday, Jan. 4.
The call for this action — “Bush Must Go! If War Crimes, Torture, and Crimes Against Humanity Are Not Reasons to Impeach, What Is?” — is available online at worldcantwait.org. This call says in part:
“The whole program of the Bush administration must be stopped. If George Bush is allowed to finish out his term, all the destruction and the whole direction he has taken society will be condoned, legitimated and made permanent. We demand Congress investigate and hold accountable the Bush Administration for criminal liability and bring articles of impeachment against the President.”
The endorsers of the call for the Jan. 4 demonstration include:
Cindy Sheehan, Gold Star Families for Peace
Bill Goodman, Center for Constitutional Rights
Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Hip Hop Caucus
The World Can’t Wait - Drive Out the Bush Regime
Revolution #74, December 24, 2006
The following is an excerpt from a speech given by Sunsara Taylor at a rally on December 10 in New York at a meeting to demand impeachment.
We need to bring [people] into the streets on January 4th, the first day of the new Congress to demand: Impeach the war criminals! The Bush Regime must go!
Some people say we should stay away from impeachment, that it’s better to just let the Republicans twist in the wind and take a loss in ‘08. How removed from reality, how enveloped in political meaninglessness do you have to be, not to see or not to care that it is the torture victims, the Iraqi families, the people of Iran, the women and gays, the immigrants and Black people you would be leaving to twist in the wind as this regime barrels forward?
Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the Democrats say that “impeachment is off the table.” But if George Bush is not impeached over these crimes, then everything he has done—the doctrine of preemptive war, the torture, the assault on the separation of church and state, the undermining of the rule of law—all of this is legitimized and will continue, no matter who becomes the next president. And it means we are complicit in all of this.
Some say—oh no, this will divide the country. Today the major media won’t mention impeachment except to say that the Republicans would love it. And many are afraid of saying things because it might incite the Republicans. Hello! Bowing down and giving them the horrific future they want without a fight, is even worse.
When you had racist vigilantes hunting down and terrorizing Black people and you had laws and good ol’ boy networks backing it all up—you had to confront it!
When you had an unjust war sending tens of thousands of young men to their deaths and destroying the Vietnamese countryside and slaughtering millions of Vietnamese—you had to confront it.
Without a confrontation, these crimes weren’t going to go away.
We are not talking about spoiled children making mischief that you can ignore long enough that they’ll eventually get bored and move on. This is a regime with a strategic plan for remaking the whole world. They have their hands on the levers of state power and they have an unthinking fanatical social base they have built up and are increasingly unleashing to intimidate and terrorize people who don’t agree with them. This reality needs to be confronted and transformed. Avoiding that political confrontation, avoiding the necessary polarization and upheaval means being complicit as all of this gets worse.
Besides, what is so wrong with polarizing people when they are wrong—and going along with great crimes?
The biggest problem right now is not that people don’t want what we are for. It is that too many people are inactive, tuned out, they don’t know how bad it is and they don’t know how they can affect things. The only way this will change is if we go out and challenge and polarize people around what is being done in our names.
Revolution #74, December 24, 2006
What’s it going to take to stop the brutality and even murder the cops inflict on the people again and again? This question is up big-time in the streets of NY as people express their rage at the police murder of Sean Bell and several other recent police shootings. Too many people answer this by saying god will make things right for the people. This makes no sense.
So when is god going to make this right? Why hasn’t god done something already about all the injustice and misery people have been forced to endure for so long? Was he asleep at the switch while this country was being conceived in the genocide against the native inhabitants and dragging people here from Africa in slavery’s chains? Was he busy with something else during centuries of slavery followed by another century of lynchings, Jim Crow segregation and KKK terror? Has he been on vacation as the oppression of Black people continued, and even intensified, down to today? With a track record like that, why would anybody leave dealing with police murder to god?
Praying or waiting for god to take care of things has never gotten people free or ended injustice, and it won’t do that today either. The main reason is that there IS NO GOD! And praying to and relying on something that doesn't even exist will either lead people to think they don’t need to do anything about it but wait for god to bring justice—or it will lead them to do things that won’t challenge this shit while the system literally gets away with murder. Religion is a shackle and it’s been a shackle on Black people in particular since way back. And it’s even worse today. It was used by the powers back then to justify slavery, and it’s being pushed, like a drug, by the powers today to justify slavishness.
Police brutality and police murder can’t be stopped by people “getting right with god.” The police are enforcers for this rotten system. They’re out there keeping the unequal and degrading relations of American capitalism and white supremacy in effect. To get rid of this, and everything else foul people have to deal with today means you have to get rid of the capitalist system.
It’ll take revolution—communist revolution—to do that once and for all. Communist revolution would sweep away everything reactionary. It would shatter the power of the imperialist rulers and big-time exploiters, and as a first step bring into being a new state power—a socialist system in which the needs of the masses of people, not the profits of a handful of super-rich capitalists, would dictate what gets done. A system which would back up the masses in ruthlessly uprooting all the institutions and ideas that reinforce white supremacy. Where those entrusted with enforcing the laws of society would sooner risk their own lives than take the life of an innocent person. Where people could still practice religion if they wanted, but where it wouldn’t be pushed on people like it is today—and where the educational system and media would promote a scientific view of the world. Where dissent, diversity, and wrangling among the people would feed into a whole process of eventually getting to a world without class divisions, without racial and gender domination, and where people would freely decide on the future and settle contradictions among themselves, without a state standing over them and wielding coercion.
Bringing this kind of revolution about won’t be easy. But it is possible and it’s what the world is desperately crying out for. And there is leadership that is determined to lead the masses in doing what’s necessary when the time is ripe for revolution. People who are outraged by the continuing horror of police brutalizing and even murdering people, who are concerned about the state of the country and the world, have to get with the Revolutionary Communist Party and its leader, Bob Avakian. They need to check out Chairman Avakian’s writings and especially his DVD speech on Revolution, and spread them to others. And they need to be joining with people in building resistance to the attacks that the system is bringing down as part of politically preparing for revolution.
Revolution #72, December 10, 2006
Interview with Navy Seaman Jonathan Hutto and Sgt. Liam Madden-USMC
Among the deep problems for the U.S. imperialists in Iraq is the broad and growing dissension and even outright opposition to the war and occupation within the U.S. armed forces. The Pentagon itself estimates that 8,000 soldiers have gone AWOL since the 2004 invasion of Iraq. There have been some high-profile cases of GI resistance to the war. The Army recently announced it was court-martialing Lt. Ehren Watada, the first commissioned officer to refuse deployment to Iraq.
And a group of active-duty GIs have launched a public campaign -- Appeal for Redress -- calling for U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq and an end to U.S. occupation. The Appeal states:
“As a patriotic American proud to serve the nation in uniform, I respectfully urge my political leaders in Congress to support the prompt withdrawal of all American military forces and bases from Iraq . Staying in Iraq will not work and is not worth the price. It is time for U.S. troops to come home.”
Articles on the Appeal have been printed in the Navy, Army and Marine Times and it has been circulated on the internet. As of Nov. 20, organizers have been able to verify 700 signers of the appeal who are military members.
Revolution recently interviewed co-founders and organizers of the Appeal effort. Jonathan Hutto is a Seaman in the United States Navy, stationed at Norfolk, VA. Liam Madden is a Sgt in the United States Marine Corps stationed at Quantico, VA. He is an Iraq war veteran who was deployed in Haditha, Iraq.
In Revolution newspaper, this interview is being published in two parts. Part 1 appears in issue #74. The entire interview is here online.
* * * * *
Sgt. Liam Madden
Revolution: Can you first of all describe the purpose of the Appeal for Redress and what you hope to accomplish with it?
Jonathan Hutto: The purpose of the Appeal for Redress is to give active duty, reserve, and guard personnel the opportunity to voice any reservations or misgivings about the current Iraq occupation. What the Appeal asserts is that the current status quo policy in Iraq is not going to work. And that ultimately we have to win our political leadership to the principle of withdrawal. That’s what the Appeal for Redress seeks to do. So for those service members who agree with us, they can send in an appeal through this process. What we hope to achieve in the short term is to add our weight to the dialogue, debate, and discussion, in the hopes that it can affect the outcome of policy decisions. That’s in the short term. In the long term, we hope to build an actual active duty service member organization that can potentially serve as an advocacy arm on behalf of active duty members of the military, especially the enlisted.
Liam Madden: The ultimate goal is to end the occupation of Iraq. That seems lofty, but shoot for the stars and you won’t end up with a handful of mud, right? Short term goal is to get several thousand appeals sent to Congress to kind of set the tone for the next Congress. Hopefully prioritize the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq as one of their biggest missions.
Revolution: Can you talk a little about some of your own experiences, in terms of why you joined the military and what has been the process that you’ve gone through to come to the position you’re taking now?
Madden: A lot of people ask me that, and they’re kind of looking for the answer that there’s something specifically traumatic that happened to me in Iraq and it’s not true. I went to Iraq opposing the war and I left Iraq opposing the war. I always opposed the war so there was really no development in that or any specific development only I could have gotten from my vantage. It was really something that any American could get, just by staying abreast of the situation, like, ‘where are these WMDs, what threat did Iraq pose,’ just critically looking at the situation. Numerous other things: Why are we ignoring the will of the Iraqi people? Why are we insisting on staying in a situation that aggravates the violence? Things that any American could see. It’s really just a coincidence that I’m a Marine and it’s a great opportunity to have a platform.
I see American history, what you get fed growing up, in American schools and the standard curriculum and furthermore what the news tells you is news, it basically paints America as the knight in shining armor, maybe occasionally misguided, but basically the good guy. A big influence on me was reading Howard Zinn. I’m basically an independent enough minded person to acknowledge that that’s just not so, we’re not always the knight in shining armor and lots of times there’s an agenda to our foreign policy that’s not on the surface. It’s just obvious to me that WMDs, it’s obvious to everyone, that WMDs—although they were on the surface, there was an agenda beneath that. Then they made the surface the terrorist link, but there was something beneath that. And now they’re kind of relying on, ‘it’s democracy, we need to spread it.’ That’s a very valid thing to say we want there to be. Saddam Hussein was an evil tyrant and it’s good that he’s gone. But there’s another agenda, other than these righteous-sounding things and that’s one of the big reasons I oppose the war.
Hutto: In terms of my personal experiences. It’s interesting because oftentimes I get questions from reporters asking me if I had some sort of personal revelation, was there some kind of event that took place. That’s not the question you’re asking, but it’s kind of a naïve question, in the sense that it seems to propose that people who join the military are staunch defenders of the status quo. That’s not true. The majority of the people who join the military primarily join for economic reasons. Those reservations and misgivings I have about the Iraq war are those that I had when I joined, and that many of us have when we joined. Many of us joined for all sorts of reasons, to straighten out their personal lives, pay off some debts, get some degree or educational opportunity or what have you.
In terms of my own personal beliefs, my personal political background starts in Atlanta, Georgia post civil-rights era, being raised in a family and in a community, by institutions in my community—whether it was my school, whether it was my church, whether it was the YMCA in downtown Atlanta right there where the King center is…where the history and the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King is. Growing up in that city we were reinforced with the principle of peace and justice and ensuring equality and fairness in society. This is something that’s just part of me as a person, whether or not I’m in the military or teaching school or working in corporate America I would totally have it in mind, peace and justice in society.
I definitely had experiences since I’ve been in. I’ve been the recipient of racial harassment, xenophobia on behalf of shipmates and dealing with those within the chain of command who pretty much were intolerant to the type of person that I am. But we definitely handled those situations appropriately. When I was off the coast of Iraq, we had one shipmate pull out a hangman’s noose in front of me and in fact make a mockery of lynching, a very brutal history, a very brutal time in history of this country…. But the petty officer is no longer a petty officer. He had his rank taken from him and also he was restricted to boat for 30 days. This type of stuff is the culture of what goes on in the military. Unfortunately it’s an institution that is laced with a lot of racists, a lot of sexists, a lot of xenophobic behavior.
So just in my own personal life in the military, it’s coming up on three years now, but because of my own background, having been born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, having gone to the historic black college Howard University where I was very politically active, having also worked with two nonprofit organizations—the ACLU and Amnesty International, I knew how to fight, I knew how to get my issues across if I needed to. I’m not someone who was trained to be obedient or subservient in the face of so-called authority. We come out of a tradition where Dr. King taught us there is such a thing as moral law and immoral law and you have an obligation to break immoral law. If order seems to affirm somebody putting a hangman’s noose in your face then you have to break that law, so that’s the tradition that I come out of.
Revolution: How did you get to the position where you felt you should organize this Appeal?
Madden: I don’t know if you know how Jonathan and I met, but we met…I was talking at an event down in Norfolk, VA and Jonathan got my e-mail address. And he e-mailed me maybe a month after that and said “do you want to get more involved in creating a movement, letting our voice be heard regarding military personnel who disagree with this war?” And there was no question in my mind that I wanted to. I already opposed the war. I was already the type of person that believed that you can’t just feel something and not act upon it. It’s kind of your civic obligation to act and move and do these things. So we started brainstorming, and Jonathan did a lot of the leaps and bounds in the research part, and legally, and it kind of just grew from there.
Hutto: When I was overseas, an old friend of mine sent me a book. The book is called Soldiers in Revolt, written by David Cortwright. David Cortwright at the time was enlisted in the United States Army, from 1968 to 1971. In 1975 he wrote this book, which is the definitive chronicle of that history, the history of the GI movement. The history of active duty soldiers, sailors and marines during the Vietnam era who were active within the armed forces back then, raising these issues.
Reading this history I thought to myself, “How could active duty soldiers, sailors, and marines get active in today’s context? How could they legally, in a constructive way do so?” We began doing our research. We began pulling up the documentation and doing research and we found the Military Whistleblower Protection Act, which said any and all military members without prior command approval, can communicate with a member of Congress, and cannot have any reprisal against themselves for having done so.
So that’s what they say the law is, then we want to test the law and see if the law works. Now unfortunately, some believe military members should be separate from the political process, which to us would actually be military members existing within a fascist order. They say this is a democracy, so they call it, so let’s participate. That’s what a democracy is. It’s a government of, for, and by the people, and the military members are people and citizens of the government. So let’s find out if it works
Revolution: You mentioned, Jonathan, and I noticed an article where you were quoted talking about a similar appeal during the Vietnam War and that there was this widespread opposition within the military then—some of it is documented in the movie Sir No Sir…
Hutto: I have seen that.
Revolution: But given that experience, how do you look at the opposition within the military right now and also looking at that, how do you see the role of GIs today in ending the Iraq war, etc.
Hutto: There is no comparison. At that time, you had essentially what became a mass movement, a movement that was spontaneous in nature, but a movement that was mass. Because at that time it got to that point, particularly in the late 1960s, where dissent and resistance became a culture within the United States. You couldn’t go anywhere in the U.S. and not be touched by this culture of dissent, whether you were going into the military, whether you were going into college, or just going into the workforce. You were going to be touched by the movement. The hot summer of ‘67, right? You got urban cities burning all over America. You got the summer of ‘68, you got the Democratic convention. The spring of ‘68 you got the assassination of Dr. King and America in flames. Robert Kennedy, whether you love or dislike Robert Kennedy, his assassination also sparked much upheaval. So you couldn’t go anywhere, 1969 you got Woodstock, you couldn’t go anywhere and not be touched by it.
I think today, even though there’s been a lot of mass protest, I mean the ANSWER coalition and others have been very active. But we haven’t been able to create that culture of dissent within the country. On top of that, one of the things that was different was that back in the ‘60s you had a draft that touched every element of society. You had people like the current president—I can’t say anything slanderous about him, DOD regulation—but the point is you had people like our current president who went into the Texas national guard. I mean the draft was touching every element. Today you don’t have a draft, you have a volunteer army. A volunteer army of men and women who primarily come from the margins of society. They come from that part of the society that people don’t care about. And it’s by design. Because people don’t value that which they feel has no value. So that’s the difference, that’s the basic difference.
I think, what would it take for there to begin to be a mass movement? I think the longer and longer we stay in Iraq, people on their third and fourth tours, the more frustrated people get, the more people see their lives are not being improved and the more people see their loved ones taken away. Between what’s happening in Iraq and the degradation of their communities at home, the frustration level rises, the misery rises, and people will begin to take action.
What we’re doing is a legal and constructive way to get active. But I’m reminded that when legal, constructive means do not bring about what the masses of people are looking for, people do look to other alternatives. But this here is a legal, constructive way for people to get involved.
Revolution: Where do you think soldiers and others are at in terms of developing that kind of a movement or that kind of a mood?
Hutto: I think the mood is there actually. I haven’t talked to too many people that I work with who are overwhelmingly supporters of the Iraq war. The question is not so much the mood, the question is having the spark and the catalyst that can set the mood in motion. Sometimes that takes a particular case, takes a particular issue. But I think that powderkeg is already there. It’s going to take something to really, really set it in motion. I think the election two weeks ago is a case in point about what I mean about the mood being there. But the mood being there and who captures the mood are two different things. You got a mood throughout the country that what’s taking place in Iraq is not good and it’s not in the best benefit of the citizenry. But who captures the mood, is it the people or the Democratic Party, that’s the question.
Revolution: It seems like people are voting to both end the war and stop the whole direction of things in many ways, at least that’s what they hope happens, there’s a big sentiment for that, but that’s not what the Democrats are planning to do.
Hutto: I think people should get that. I mean, our initiative is not partisan, it’s not partisan for a reason. We know the occupation of Iraq was not a Republican occupation. This is an occupation that was agreed upon, it was a bipartisan agreement. And we’re not going to allow those who voted for the Iraq war to now position themselves as all of a sudden being anti-occupation. These are people who affirmed it. Even John Murtha, who has come out as the anti-war hero in the House of Representatives, he supported the initial invasion of Iraq. We have to keep that in mind.
Revolution: Can you talk about the extent and the character of the opposition to the Iraq war among active duty GIs?
Madden: I think within the Marine Corps, which is definitely one of the more conservative branches, it would be a pretty fair estimate to say one-third oppose the war and want us to leave, one-third support the war and want us to stay, and another third are in the middle and they have feelings like, well I don’t want to be there but if we left things would go to hell. Or they don’t really have an opinion either way, they just see it as a job. There’s a third in the middle that could really go either way.
Hutto: I think it’s pretty broad actually. There’s not mass support for what’s taking place in Iraq. People are not going to Iraq because they are really gung-ho and ready to go over there and kick some butt. People are going to Iraq because they have to go, because they are legally obliged to go. They have families, wives and children, bills to pay. So this is their way of life. They’re protecting what they perceive to be their way of life and their way of living. And if getting back to their families means staying out of trouble and fulfilling their obligation, they’re going to fulfill that obligation. I think it’s more of an obligation and an economic basis than it has to do with any sort of ideology.
Revolution: There is opposition within the military, like the Lt. Watada case and many thousands who have gone AWOL.
Hutto: I think right now, like I said earlier, the mood is there. People have to see some way in which they can voice their concern. First they have to be won to see their concern even matters. They definitely have concerns, they definitely have views, they have reservations, they have misgivings, as shown by our initiative and things you mention in terms of AWOL and desertion, even though we’re not advocating people do that. But I think people have to know they have a way in which they can channel that energy and we have a responsibility to organize that energy. But in terms of the sentiment and the level of sentiment, I think it’s already there. I just think it has to be organized. People have to be shown they can participate and have their voices heard and that their political leadership will take them seriously.
Revolution: In terms of the sentiments of people in the military, and your own personal sentiment too about, in particular, the domestic situation, what the Bush regime is doing in this country—there’s been the Military Commissions Act which has basically legalized torture, the stripping of habeas corpus, there’s been this whole NSA wiretapping and spying on people and so forth, there’s a whole direction of things with this administration, so I’m just wondering your sentiments or if you could comment on that and also is this a topic among active duty GIs, in terms of what they’re thinking about.
Hutto: DOD regulations doesn’t allow me to make any slanders about the Commander-in-Chief, but I will say this, that all the issues you mentioned are issues of serious concern to myself. I’m definitely very much concerned about the eroding of civil liberties and civil rights in this country, eroding of the Bill of Rights. I think the Patriot Act should definitely be one of the first major agenda items to be addressed by the Judiciary Committee of the House when they come back to session the first of the year. I think all of the issues you listed are definitely top priority for myself, and I think many military members as well. I can’t say for sure, I haven’t polled on any of those topics. But I will say I think those topics are of prime concern.
Revolution #74, December 24, 2006
We received this letter from two Revolution correspondents:
Repression is hitting hard against a powerful struggle that has rocked Oaxaca for months and inspired many people throughout Mexico and other parts of the world. Now more than ever there is a need to hear from the people who have been fighting with such determination, to bring to light the government-inflicted terror currently unfolding, and to get a deeper understanding of how people are confronting these new challenges and what the implications of all this are for emancipatory struggle on both sides of the U.S./Mexico border. So, we’re heading to Oaxaca!
This December we have the opportunity to travel with a delegation whose mission is to bring international attention to the situation in Oaxaca. We’ll be finding out what’s happening there now, interviewing people who have been part of the struggle, and hearing from human rights groups and others. While we’re there investigating, documenting, and learning, we’ll also be writing—watch revcom.us for our articles and updates. We are encouraging everyone to follow our journey and repost these articles broadly.
What we know going into this is quite sobering. Hundreds have been arrested, unknown numbers disappeared, and there are rampant stories of torture. The U.S.-endorsed Calderón regime that came to power on December 1 is making chilling promises to suppress any movements that break the “social peace.” It is unclear how all of this is going to develop, including how people will respond to this repression in Oaxaca and beyond. In this moment of uncertainty, where far too few people in the U.S. are even aware of this significant and inspiring struggle, we are looking forward to bringing to the world the stories from Oaxaca. Upon our return we’ll be ready speak to classes and other groups and gatherings about what we’ve learned.
To accomplish what we’re setting out to do, we need your support. Primarily and urgently, we need funds to finance all this. We also need you to spread the word—pass on our articles, send them out to your listserves and e-mail lists and arrange speaking engagements in neighborhoods, schools, bookstores, etc.
Send donations to:
attn: Oaxaca reportage
PO Box 3486
Chicago, IL 60654
Luciente Zamora and Nina Armand
* Contributions or gifts to RCP Publications are not deductible as charitable contributions for federal income tax purposes.
Revolution #74, December 24, 2006
Two recent news stories — comedian Michael Richards’ racist rant and the NYPD murder of Sean Bell — bring to mind the Billie Holiday song, “Strange Fruit”:
Southern trees bear strange fruit
Blood on the leaves
Blood at the root
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees
Pastoral scene of the gallant south
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth
The scent of magnolia sweet and fresh
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh
When Michaels Richards, of Kramer/Seinfeld fame, was heckled at a comedy club by some Black people in the audience, his unrehearsed response was to lash out repeatedly with the N word. This tells you something about Richards’ whole mindset. But even more revealing was how Richards started his whole tirade.
“50 years ago you would have been hung upside down with a fork up your ass.”
Think about what he said:
“50 years ago you would have been hung upside down with a fork up your ass.”
You can’t even begin to discuss and understand Richards’ use of the N word here without looking at this blatant celebration of LYNCHING.
When Richards struck out in anger, trying to put some Black hecklers “in their place” – what did he immediately pick up and lash out with? Lynching — the institutionalized terror and murder that was widely used to keep Black people “in their place.” When an outraged person in the audience responds by saying, “That’s un-fucking called for, that ain’t necessary,” Richards shoots back, “Well you interrupted me pal. That’s what happens when you interrupt the white man. Don’t you know?”
Later, Richards made a public apology, saying he was “deeply, deeply sorry” and that he wanted to “get to the forcefield of this hostility, why it’s there, why the rage is in any of us…”
Such a question should be asked – where such a rage comes from. And people need to confront and understand that one place this comes from is the actual privilege and entitlement that comes with being a white man in America. But this goes way beyond, and is not really about Richards. It points to a bigger historical truth about the meaning and use of the word “nigger” and the all-American practice of lynching.
In one of the numerous back-and-forth discussions on the internet about Richards’ racist rant, I found this insightful comment:
“Here’s how I feel about it… it isn’t so much the word ‘nigger’ that bothers me or the black people I know, it is the reference to lynching. I don’t believe anyone here has commented on that. I’m a white woman from Maine who had racist white women in my family years ago. They would spit on black people if upset or openly wipe their hands on their skirts if they shook hands with a black person. I’m married to an African-American today (been married to him since 1986 since we left high school) and that does have its problems in society because we don’t live in a colorblind world. Once, a black woman told me that black males (Emmett Till comes to mind) have been shot for looking at women like me. [In 1955 14-year-old Emmett Till was tortured and murdered by white men in Mississippi who said he whistled at a white woman.] I’ve been called horrible names for being married to a black man, by both blacks and whites. My husband is from the South and that was the haven of lynching back then. The most recent incident of lynching happened in 1981, with 20-year-old Michael Donald walking to the store and being violently beaten, castrated, and having his throat slit by two white racists, then tied up to a tree. Kramer didn’t do anything this extreme and many people have become desensitized to the word ‘nigger’… but it was the comment that referred to lynching that bothers people, both black and white. He specifically said: ‘Fifty years ago we would have had you upside down with a fork up your ass.’ That can be construed as racist because quite simply, it IS. He said it to two black men who might be too young to know much about lynching in terms of experience, but still know the historical connotations behind his words.”
Unlike this writer, I am bothered (and more than bothered) by the N word. But the point being made here about lynching and historical connotation is very true – and this has been far too absent in most of the discussion and controversy surrounding the Michael Richards’ incident. There is an objective and historical reality tied up with the use of the N word and no matter how much people might try to give this word a “new meaning” or some kind of “different context,” this does not and can not change the actual content and meaning of this word. You can’t separate the N word from a whole history of, as well as current reality of, white supremacy in this country. So it isn’t that surprising that someone in an uncontrolled racist tirade can very quickly find themselves connecting the N word with one of the most horrific expressions of white supremacy and murderous terror against Black people.
According to the Tuskegee Institute, from 1865-1965, 3,446 Black people were lynched.
Three thousand four hundred and forty-six.
In Mississippi alone, 539 lynchings were recorded during this period.
Everyone should go to the website withoutsanctuary.org and look at the photographs of lynchings, of burned and mutilated bodies, and happy mobs — whole families of white people, celebrating and enjoying the “sport” of hunting down and publicly torturing and executing Black people. Postcards with these photos were sold as souvenirs. Such is the ugly history of this country that went on for a long time, even after slavery ended.
In the DVD, “Revolution — Why It’s Necessary, Why It’s Possible, What It’s all About,” Bob Avakian talks about the selling of postcards of lynchings and makes the point that such horrors like lynching were shaped and encouraged by, and served to keep in effect a whole system that could not have existed without first slavery, and then near slavery, and segregation and terror entered in the south, while the great majority of Black people lived there, chained in one way or another to the rural south and on white-owned plantations.
If you’ve never seen these photographs, look at them. If you’ve seen them before, look at them again. And think about how this terror against Black people permeates the history of this country. White supremacy is built into the very foundation of the American capitalist system. Segregation and discrimination continue against Black people and other people of color in every part of society. And this continues to be backed up with brutality and violence.
For many decades after slavery ended, up through the 1940s, KKK mobs held mass public rallies, burned crosses, dragged Black families out of their houses, and tortured and murdered people – for no other reason than that they were Black. In such a situation, no Black man in the rural South could escape being traumatized by the fear of being lynched. It was like living under a death sentence – that might or might not get carried out. You could be killed for holding your head too high, for not saying “yes sir” quick enough, for appearing to be a “threat” in any kind of way — or for nothing at all. And this had an effect on Black people as a whole.
And what about more recent history?
In 1981, Michael Donald was randomly picked out by members of the Alabama Ku Klux Klan who were angry that a Black man on trial had not been found guilty of killing a policeman. They beat him with a tree limb before cutting his throat and hanging him from a tree.
In 1998, James Byrd, Jr. was abducted in Jasper, Texas by three white men tied to a white supremacist gang. James Byrd was beaten, chained to the back of a truck, and then dragged for three miles until his head was separated from his body.
Yes, this is still going on. And today, such terror against Black people is most especially carried out by the police. Those who “serve and protect” the system, who are like an occupying army in Black neighborhoods, harassing, jacking up, brutalizing, and murdering especially the youth. If you are a Black man, like Sean Bell, you can be celebrating the day of your wedding and then be cut down in a hail of 50 bullets.
In such a situation, no Black youth living in the ghetto can escape being traumatized by the fear of being killed by the police. It is like living under a death sentence – that might or might not get carried out. You could be killed for holding your head too high, for not saying “yes sir” quick enough, for appearing to be a “threat” in any kind of way — or for nothing at all. This has an effect on Black people as a whole.
What kind of a society gives rise to such a system that requires first lynching and then police terror to maintain itself?
And shouldn’t we all do everything we can to put an end to such a system?
Revolution #74, December 24, 2006
From A World to Win News Service
November 27, 2006. A World to Win News Service. A very wide range of forces in a growing list of countries marked 24 November as International Stop Violence Against Women Day. The Women’s 8 March organization (Iran-Afghanistan) put out the following leaflet on that occasion:
Just as U.S. soldiers gang-raped a 14-year-old Iraqi girl named Abeer and then burned her alive, in Neka, a small village in northern Iran, the heart of Atefeh’s aunt burned too. Atefeh was only 15 when the Islamic murderers hanged her after raping her.
At a time when Islamic warlords in Afghanistan stoned Amina to death, the horror of the rain of stones made Hajieh’s heart tremble in Jolfa prison in Iran. In another Iranian prison, Khyrieh cried, “Don’t stone me, just hang me.”
At the same time as patriarchal young men in a Paris suburb set 18-year-old Sohane on fire, 16-year-old Marjan in Iran burned herself alive to avoid marrying a man as old as her grandfather. A little later Sumara in Pakistan died because she had been burned over most of her body. She died without saying that it was her husband who had done this.
At a time when Kolsum, a 7-year-old girl from Somali was circumcised, her cry was intertwined with the sorrowful cries of 9-year-old Maryam on her wedding night, when her doll was taken away from her and she became a bride.
Marie Trintignant died after being beaten by her boyfriend, a famous French singer. A little later, Nadia, an Afghani poet, was murdered by her husband. Around the same time Lisa and Joyce in the U.S. were raped and then murdered by unknown men.
As Natalie was waiting for a client in an Amsterdam brothel window, a ship carrying a regiment of sex slaves was harbored in Hamburg.
At a time when hundreds of thousands of Iraqi women lost their lives during the years as the U.S. and its allies imposed sanctions, millions of women in Africa lost their lives due to war or the consequences of war, and their sisters were raped in the thousands by soldiers in Bosnia.
The international chain of violence has joined together millions of women. The violence that more than three billion women in all corners of the globe experience daily. In cities, in villages, at home or at work, in the streets… A chain that is welded at one end to the state and at the other to domestic violence.
The chain of violence against women goes back thousands of years and is long enough to cross every border and encircle the world.
If the struggle and resistance of the women all over the world has shaken the shackles of violence, the uncontrolled belligerence of capital and the new world order has increased their reach and intensity. Poverty, death, sickness, hunger, illiteracy, slavery and unemployment in the present world have ever more tightened the shackles of violence around our hands and legs.
But as this violence is increasingly globalized, the struggle and resistance of women is also taking on an increasingly international dimension. We hear the echoes of the struggle and each other’s resistance from far in the distance, and our hearts beat faster. We draw inspiration from each other’s struggles, and we feel proud and are encouraged by our victories. Any advance women make in any part of the world is our own.
As we women become more conscious, we understand that this violence is a tool in the hands of the patriarchal and class system in order to consolidate and establish our subjugation. We also understand that this violence is not controllable, unless women’s subordinate status is overthrown. Domination over women will not disappear peacefully, because standing guard over it is the power of the patriarchal and class system. The liberation of women depends on overthrowing the dominant reactionary system in the world.
Here we are in our millions, with the strong ties between us, ready to shatter the shackles of our historic oppression and slavery and lay the foundations on which a society without oppression and exploitation can be built. We must quicken our steps forward, because we are late. Time is knocking at our door.
(For more information: www.8mars.com)
Revolution #74, December 24, 2006
Chilean general Augusto Pinochet, one of the most hated figures in the world, died on December 10. Pinochet headed the fascist junta that carried out a bloody coup against the coalition government of Salvador Allende in September 1973. At least 30,000 Chileans were killed during the coup and in the following years under Pinochet’s rule—although no one can be sure of the actual number, since many people were “disappeared” and never heard of again. 400,000 people were tortured according to some estimates, and one million Chileans were forced to flee the country and go into exile.
It is the height of injustice that Pinochet was never tried for these massive horrors. But any discussion of Pinochet’s crimes must start with the mafia godfather behind the Chilean general—the U.S. imperialists. The 1973 coup was the culmination of several years of open sabotage and covert operations directed by the U.S. government. And the U.S. involvement in the planning and execution of the 1973 coup is one of the most well-documented of U.S. imperialism’s countless crimes around the world.
A Coup Made in the USA
The Popular Unity (UP) coalition of leftist parliamentary parties led by Salvador Allende won the 1970 election. The UP government did not represent a revolutionary change in Chile’s economic and political structures, and it did not break Chile from imperialist domination. But the U.S. was determined to kill Salvador Allende from the beginning, for two reasons: first, his government was associated with an upsurge among Chile’s workers, some of its middle classes, and especially peasants who wanted and expected more radical change, and a discrediting of the political forces on whom the U.S. traditionally relied in Chile. In the context of a worldwide wave of struggles against the U.S. and other imperialist domination, the American government found this situation too dangerous. Second, Allende was friendly to Cuba, and the UP coalition included the Communist Party of Chile—a revisionist (phony communist) party with close ties to the Soviet Union, which was on the rise as an imperialist rival to the U.S. Given all this, and coming from their perverted imperialist viewpoint, the U.S. imperialists thought they needed to go after the Allende government—and they illegally and immorally set out to smash it.
According to a 1975 report by a U.S. Congressional committee headed by Frank Church, U.S. President Richard Nixon met with his national security adviser, Henry Kissinger, along with the CIA director and the Attorney General, shortly after Allende was elected president. At that meeting, Nixon issued instructions that Allende be overthrown by a coup. Shortly before Allende actually took office, the CIA engineered a coup attempt that involved kidnapping General Rene Schneider, head of the Chilean military. Schneider was killed, but the coup plot failed.
A cable sent in October 1970 by CIA deputy director of plans, conveying Kissinger’s order to the CIA station chief in Santiago, Chile, reads in part: “It is firm and continuing policy that Allende be overthrown by a coup… It is imperative that these actions be implemented clandestinely and securely so that the USG [U.S. government] and American hand be well hidden.” (Various declassified U.S. documents relating to the Pinochet coup are online at the National Security Archive based at George Washington University, http://www.gwu.edu/%7Ensarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB212/index.htm)
To prepare for the coup, the U.S. “turned off the faucet” (in Kissinger’s words) on the Chilean economy. Handwritten notes taken by CIA Director Richard Helms during a 1970 meeting with Nixon records the president’s orders to make Chile’s economy “scream.” U.S. bank credit and government economic aid to Chile were frozen. The World Bank and other U.S.-controlled international financial institutions shut off loans. A committee of U.S. corporations worked out an anti-Allende strategy in consultation with the Nixon administration. CIA operatives were sent in to organize sabotage of the Chilean economy. One of their operations was a strike by truck owners that paralyzed the country’s transportation system.
While the U.S. strangled the Chilean economy, funds to the Chilean military—packed with anti-Allende forces—continued and even increased. The CIA also funded and directed right-wing parties and their paramilitary groups and poured money into the anti-Allende media.
Support for Allende actually increased in the face of this, especially among the poorest and most oppressed sections of the masses, and also among some parts of the middle classes. But at the same time, the anti-Allende opposition was hardening, and the U.S. campaign of economic and political pressure spread fear and paralysis among the people generally.
As the moves toward a military coup stepped up, many in Chile continued to believe that the Allende government represented the “peaceful road to socialism” through elections, and that the Chilean military, or at least key parts of it, could be won over to the side of the people or at least somehow “neutralized.” Shortly before the coup, Allende appointed General Pinochet as the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, hoping that this would help keep the military loyal to the same Constitution he was upholding. These illusions left people tragically unprepared for the brutal reality of Pinochet’s made-in-the-USA fascist coup.
Once more the people paid a terrible price in blood for the lesson that, as Mao said, the exploiters and oppressors will never "lay down their butcher knives." From Guatemala in the 1950s and Indonesia in the 60s; from Chile in 1973 to Iran in the early 80's—time and again, the old power struck with ruthless violence to defend their system against any real or perceived threat from below, no matter what the electoral results read or the constitution said.
Butcher General Comes to Power
On September 11, 1973, the forces led by Pinochet moved decisively against the Allende government. Troops and tanks surrounded the presidential palace, and warplanes attacked the building. Allende is said to have shot himself rather than surrender. Many people were rounded up into the soccer stadium in Santiago where they were tortured and executed.
A reign of terror followed. And again, the U.S. was directly behind Pinochet’s massive crimes. Countless numbers of people were taken by the U.S.-installed regime to secret torture centers. One such torture chamber was on the Chilean navy ship Esmeralda, where victims were subjected to “the use of electric prods, high-voltage electric charges applied to the testicles, hanging by the feet and dumping in a bucket of water or excrement.” (Santiago Times, Sept. 7, 1999) In many cases, the “disappeared” only came to light because the victim was a foreigner, like a British priest, a UN official, or a U.S. filmmaker named Charles Horman. (Horman’s story was dramatized in the movie Missing by Costa-Gavras, starring Jack Lemmon and Sissy Spacek.)
Once Pinochet was in power, the international financial “faucet” was turned back on, and U.S. and other imperialist capital once again flowed into Chile. The Pinochet regime carried out “privatization” and other policies dictated by his U.S. backers, opening the door wide for exploitation of Chile’s people and plunder of its resources by the imperialists. Chile’s “free market miracle”—praised by the U.S. and bringing wealth to some sections of society—was based on the torture, mass murder, and misery of many, many Chileans. (Milton Friedman, the big celebrator of capitalism, helped “restructure” the Chilean economy. Friedman died just a few weeks before Pinochet did—but this ugly chapter of Friedman’s history somehow got left out of many of his eulogies.)
During the 1970s, the Pinochet regime worked with the security services of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay to target political opponents in a fascist conspiracy known as Operation Condor. According to the magazine CovertAction Quarterly, hundreds—perhaps thousands—of people in Latin America were secretly kidnapped, tortured, and killed through this operation. CovertAction pointed out that “the U.S. provided inspiration, financing, and technical assistance for the repression” carried out under Operation Condor. CIA operatives arranged meetings between the various security agencies and provided torture equipment and training. Chilean and Argentine units of Operation Condor also helped pro-U.S. death squads in Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Honduras.
The Chilean secret police hunted down Chileans who had found asylum in other countries in order to kill or kidnap them. One such murder was that of Orlando Letelier (who was ambassador to the U.S. and a defense minister in the Allende government) and his American assistant, Ronni Moffitt, killed by a car bomb in Washington, D.C. in 1976. According to author John Dinges, documents released in 1999 and 2000 show that “the CIA had inside intelligence about the assassination…at least two months before Letelier was killed but failed to act to stop the plans.”
Kissinger to Pinochet: “You Did a Great Service”
When Kissinger traveled to Santiago in 1976, he met with Pinochet and told him, “In the United States, as you know, we are sympathetic to what you are trying to do here.” At the end of their conversation, Kissinger said, “You did a great service to the West in overthrowing Allende. Otherwise, Chile would have followed Cuba.”
With U.S. backing, Pinochet kept his position as Chile’s head of state until 1990, and as head of the armed forces for eight years after that. Then he received the title “Senator for Life,” making him immune from prosecution and protecting the central role of the Chilean military within the reactionary state. Pinochet was placed under house arrest during a visit to Britain in 1998, based on a warrant issued by a judge in Spain charging him with “crimes of genocide and terrorism that includes murder.” Demonstrators in Chile and around the world demanded that he be tried and punished. But he was freed by the British authorities and returned to Chile, where he received a hero’s welcome organized by the Chilean military.
When Pinochet died, it was the head of the army who notified President Michelle Bachelet and other government officials. The right-wing media demanded that Pinochet be given an official state funeral. Bachelet—who had been tortured by the Pinochet junta, as was her mother and air force general father—refused. But she did agree to a funeral for Pinochet with full honors as former head of the armed forces. And she sent her defense minister to represent the government at the ceremony and endorsed an official period of mourning by the military. Thousands of young military officers and others filed by Pinochet’s coffin to give him a final fascist salute.
But thousands of others, in Santiago and elsewhere in Chile, defied Bachelet’s reconciliatory stance and took to the streets to denounce Pinochet and protest the official honors being given to this monstrous criminal.
Some of the information in this article came from the article "Chile: Pinochet escapes justice" in the A World To Win News Service packet of Dec. 11, 2006.
Revolution #74, December 24, 2006
The following report, on a protest against torture that took place in New York City on Dec. 10, is taken from the website of the organization The World Can’t Wait—Drive Out the Bush Regime. The New York protest was in response to the call from World Can’t Wait for actions on December 10-11: “Take a Stand Against Torture—Pledge to Wear Orange Jumpsuits.” The call said in part, “Spend the whole day wearing what Guantánamo detainees have to wear every day… make the torture that is being carried out by our government in our names a reality that people have to confront in their daily lives.” For reports on other protests on Dec. 10-11, go online to worldcantwait.org.
On the bright Sunday that was International Human Rights Day, December 10, tourists and shoppers line up like any other day. Hundreds at a time stretched down Broadway and around the corner waiting for their chance to “ooooh” and “aaahh” at the famous Macy’s Christmas window displays. Piped in Christmas carols greeted the throngs as they streamed by with children on their shoulders, shopping bags in hand, and money to spend. Necks craned to catch a glimpse of the fancily wrapped gifts and twirling bespeckled tree in the window display.
Inevitably, inadvertently the shoppers’ eyes would drift from the display windows and catch hold of us. Across the sidewalk, a dozen of us crouched beneath black hoods. Bright orange jumpsuits, the trademark uniform of Guantánamo, set us apart from the crowd. Our hands were gripped behind our backs, as if cuffed. Unbeknownst to them, from behind the hoods that concealed our faces, we were watching their expressions change.
A young white woman’s face tightened as she grabbed for her boyfriend’s arm. “Wow,” she murmured, “that’s intense.” A group of immigrant friends slowed their Spanish and then stopped altogether, their conversation losing its relevance. Children cast their gaze upwards to parents for explanation—but how do you explain to a child the living image of endless anguish and torture that is taking place in your name as you shop?
You do it like this: “Never mind them honey. They don’t like our President.”
Or like this: “They’re showing something that shouldn’t be happening. It’s good what they’re doing.”
Or like this, belted out by a young Black woman pushing a stroller for everyone to hear: “That’s right! We need to get Bush’s stinkin’ ass out of there!!”
But no matter how it was explained, the children kept looking—even as their parents tugged them away.
They weren’t the only ones. Many stood and stared back and forth between the two displays—the one in the windows a shimmering alter to consumerism and the holiday spirit, those of us under the hoods a living replica of the human spirits being consumed by American inaction and acquiescence.
We were all told by George Bush that “they hate us for our freedoms.” We were all told to go shopping, lest the “terrorists win.” It was remembering this while listening to the harrowing story of Khaled El-Masri on Democracy Now! last week that sparked the idea of bringing the faceless hoods of American torture victims into the heart of New York’s holiday shopping, the home of the Miracle on 34th Street.
El-Masri, a German citizen, was rendered and tortured by the U.S. government at a secret CIA prison. He was beaten, kicked and force-fed for months but told of even worse treatment for his fellow detainees: being hung from ceilings for days in extreme cold, simulated drowning, and having one’s limbs and teeth broken. He had received no hearing, no legal recourse, and even since his release the government has provided no reason for his detention or his release.
Judging by the faces which were transforming in front of us from holiday cheer, to double-take-confusion, to stern disturbance, while many have learned to push this out of their minds, it is not yet something they are at ease with.
But, as it says in the Call for the World Can’t Wait, “That which you will not resist and mobilize to stop, you will learn—or be forced—to accept.”
And there are those who have not only learned to accept, but to celebrate the barbarity of torture. These were the ones who yelled out, “If you hate America then you deserve it!” Or, “We’re gonna be there for four more years!!”
It would be nice to be able to dismiss this as the backwards howls of some beyond-the-pale fools, but it is this spirit and level of discourse that occupies much of the airwaves and halls of state power. It was the vice president who called water-boarding a “dip” and a “no brainer.” It was in a public debate that John Yoo, the architect of George Bush’s torture programs, insisted that the President had the right to torture someone, “including by crushing the testicles of the person’s child.” It was the Commander-in-Chief who, when arguing for the passage of the Military Commissions Act that disregards the Geneva Conventions, asked incredulously, “What does that mean, ‘outrages upon human dignity’?”
But the ugly hostility of the men who cursed and condemned us only turned more of the faces our way, stirring others from their preferred indifference. Out came the cell-phone cameras and pocket-size video cams. Mouths formed the words on our signs, “Drive Out the Bush Regime,” and many nodded.
Over to my right, a voice pierced the din of traffic, cell phones, and banter. A young Middle Eastern man flailed his arms and spoke bitterness, “I hate this president! I hate what he is doing! Look at this! Look what he is doing!” His two friends looked on in semi-amazement at the depth of his emotions; one was Latino, the other white. As he gestured, a larger knot of people stopped. Hands grabbed up the flyers we were distributing and hushed conversations broke out among families and friends.
I was not surprised by the depth of his emotions, but impressed by his courage to speak so boldly. There is nothing that could stop the government from grabbing him. Consider Dilawar, only 22 years old and believed innocent by most of the U.S. military personnel who grabbed him as he drove his cab past their base in Bagram, Afghanistan. He weighed just 122 pounds, but was chained to the ceiling. Guards took turns striking his legs more than 100 times with such force that they would no longer bend, joking that each time they did because he would scream, “Allah.” After four days, still chained to the ceiling, he died. His autopsy described his trauma as comparable to being run over by a bus.
As we continued to crouch, our knees and backs began to ache and the people continued to stream by. There was recognition in the crowd and intensity even in the reaction of those who do not stop. We had no doubt that over dinner and coffee, over telephone lines and email messages, a conversation had been provoked that will travel home with the tourists and recur every time they open the newspaper to read another account, see another detainee in shackles, hear another rationalization about the necessities of torture.
Somewhere I heard the name Jose Padilla, the U.S. citizen held for more than three years as an “enemy combatant” without charges. Recent footage of his captivity showed him shackled at the feet and the wrists and forced to wear sensory depriving goggles and earmuffs to prevent him from having any orientation or human interaction before he could be taken to the dentist. The punitive and premeditated nature of his torment precise enough to have impressed Heinrich Himmler. Already, our presence was bringing these horrors more to life for those around us.
As we were getting ready to wind down for the day, a woman dressed in all pink and white makes her way towards me. Her hair is feathered on top and she looks like the middle of America: mega-church, soccer-mom, mall-walker, you-name-it. She took me by the arms and cast her gaze where she suspected my eyes must’ve been and said, “I am from Houston and I am so proud of you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for doing this.”
She, like the Dixie Chicks, was ashamed that the President is from her home state. Her arms were still filled with Macy’s bags, her young ones still expecting gifts under the tree, but her soul was stirred and she listened and nodded as we insisted that there will be no end to the torture and immoral wars unless the regime responsible is driven from office. She gave her email and phone number and, grabbing my arms one more time before moving on, she said, “I don’t want to have to tell my kids I just let all this go on.”
As the torture continues, silence is complicity. It is not just the regime that must be challenged, but the people who dislike what is being done, but who are learning to live with it. There is still time to reach them, but not a lot of time. It is only us—out here, who still have the ability to shop and to talk, to voluntarily hood ourselves or act in other ways—who can challenge others to wake up and act in our millions to bring this to a halt.
As Ariel Dorfman wrote in the Washington Post as the Military Commissions Act was making torture the law of the lands, “Can’t the United States see that when we allow someone to be tortured by our agents, it is not only the victim and the perpetrator who are corrupted, not only the ‘intelligence’ that is contaminated, but also everyone who looked away and said they did not know, everyone who consented tacitly to that outrage so they could sleep a little safer at night, all the citizens who did not march in the streets by the millions to demand the resignation of whoever suggested, even whispered, that torture is inevitable in our day and age, that we must embrace its darkness?”
Revolution #74, December 24, 2006
New Government Subpoenas
The Bush administration has begun issuing subpoenas, in unprecedented ways, in new attempts to intimidate its critics and suppress dissent.
A subpoena is an order to produce documents or appear in court. It is the method by which both prosecutors and defendants can compel the appearance of evidence that helps their case. But the federal government is now moving to turn this process into a weapon of repression and censorship.
On November 17, the American Civil Liberties Union received a call from Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Rogers, who informed the ACLU that they had received a government document by e-mail on October 23. Rogers stated that it was illegal for the ACLU to possess or disclose this document, and she demanded that the ACLU return it and destroy all copies.
Translation: The political police monitoring e-mails saw someone leaking a document to the ACLU that the government doesn’t want the public to see.
The ACLU asked under what authority the government was demanding the return of the document, and Rogers cited the 1917 Espionage Act! When the ACLU declined to return the document, which the ACLU says contains no military secrets, they were served with a subpoena demanding that the ACLU appear before a grand jury with all copies of the three and one-half page document, plus any other documents marked “Secret” from the same source in the last two months.
But the subpoena added: “Personal appearance is not required if the requested documents are produced” before the date when the ACLU was to appear. With this note, the government admits that it is not interested at all in having the ACLU present evidence to a grand jury—it just wants to compel the ACLU to give up any copies of a document which the government already has and knows the contents of. ACLU executive director Anthony Romero said the subpoena is “a patent attempt to intimidate and impede the work of human rights advocates like the ACLU who seek to expose government wrongdoing.”
Pentagon Papers Case
In previous cases of leaked documents, the government has tried to punish the government officials who did the leaking or to force reporters to divulge the names of the leakers. But the government has never previously succeeded in prohibiting the publication of embarrassing political information once it got into public hands.
To see just how unprecedented this new subpoena is, we need only recall the Pentagon Papers case of 1971. Here Daniel Ellsberg and Anthony Russo leaked 47 volumes of classified documents to the New York Times, and the U.S. Supreme Court held that the government could not exercise any prior restraint on their publication unless the information would cause direct irreparable harm to the nation. What the secret papers showed was that the government had consistently lied to the public about many aspects of the Vietnam War. The only harm was to the credibility of the government.
Almost all the recent news disclosures about government lying and spying come from leakers inside the government who cannot stomach what this government is doing. Examples include exposure of the National Security Agency eavesdropping on the phone calls of U.S. citizens and the secret “rendition” of prisoners to foreign countries to be tortured. Unable to stop the leakers, the Bush regime is now using subpoenas to go after those who receive the leaks.
Subpoenas for Watada Case Journalists
Another outrageous abuse of subpoena power is taking place in the Army court-martial of Lt. Ehren Watada, the first commissioned officer to refuse deployment to Iraq. An Army lawyer prosecuting Lt. Watada has issued a subpoena to journalist Sarah Olson to testify in Watada’s trial. He has also threatened to subpoena Truthout executive director Marc Ash, reporter Sari Gelzer, and independent journalist Dahr Jamail. Truthout is a respected Internet site for news and commentary. What these journalists have in common (except for Ash) is that they have conducted interviews with Watada and/or videotaped or reported on public appearances where Watada spoke out about his opposition to the Iraq war.
This subpoena clearly serves no evidentiary purpose. The military prosecutor is not seeking Olson’s notes, unpublished recordings, or confidential sources. Rather, he wants her to “authenticate” material she has already published. The accuracy of the published statements by Lt. Watada is not contested. What the Army is trying to do is force a progressive journalist to function as part of the prosecution team.
“Basically, what the Army is doing is compelling me to build its case and participate in the prosecution of Lieutenant Watada, simply by confirming my reporting,” said Olson. “That’s something I don’t think any journalist can do. They are using me to build their case and to punish military personnel for talking to the press.”
* * * * *
The use of government subpoena power against the press and organizations like ACLU must be vigorously opposed and defeated. It cannot be allowed to become the new accepted practice. They are examples of what the World Can’t Wait statement is referring to when it says: “That which you will not resist and mobilize to stop, you will learn—or be forced—to accept.”
Revolution #74, December 24, 2006
by a reader
Berkeley High School teach-in
Photo: Special to Revolution
On December 11, half of the students of Berkeley High School attended a teach-in to hear Carlos Mauricio, a torture survivor, and Larry Everest, Revolution correspondent and author of Oil, Power, and Empire, deliver urgently needed truth about the war in Iraq and the Military Commissions Act, the new torture bill signed by Bush. The event was part of actions organized around the country by World Can’t Wait (WCW) and other groups for International Human Rights Day.
The teach-in was organized in just one week by the Berkeley High WCW Club, with the help of a youth organizer from the Bay Area WCW chapter. WCW Club members distributed flyers all over the school calling for students to wear orange on the day of the event to represent the torture victims at Guantánamo usually shown in orange jumpsuits. One club member was videotaped by the cable channel Nickelodeon as part of a program on student activism. The youth organizer talked to every teacher he could find in school about bringing their classes to the teach-in. The response was inspiring. The teach-in spanned the first three periods of the school day, and an average of 20 classes assembled for each of the three periods, with roughly 1,500 students attending the event.
Two members of the WCW Club opened each of the three assemblies with a brief statement about the threat posed by the Bush regime, and a challenge: “We are the future and we have the responsibility for what kind of world we live in. So the question is, what kind of world will it be?”
Carlos Mauricio spoke about getting abducted by a U.S.-sponsored death squad in 1983 while teaching high school in El Salvador. Some students gasped as he described the screams of people being raped and electrocuted in the prison where he was held. He drew the links between his experience and the Military Commissions Act, and he pointed out that the new torture law also changes many fundamental rights such as habeas corpus, enabling the government to hold people without trial.
Larry Everest spoke about the crisis students face today with the Bush regime—ranging from global devastation to torture and the war. He exposed how the Iraq war is a key part of U.S. plans for greater empire. He ended by referencing the Lord of the Rings and Gandalf’s challenge to Frodo as great danger loomed: “What are you going to do?”
Time for Q&A was short, but students got in a few questions ranging from the shredding of the Bill of Rights to “what can we do.” A WCW youth organizer ended by calling on students to dare to change the world and join the movement to drive out the Bush regime. 140 students signed up for the WCW Club off of the event. One WCW Club member said, “I’ve never seen people so quiet listening to the speakers…but we have more work to do.”
World Can’t Wait and other groups have called for “100 Teach-ins” on campuses across the country in the beginning of the spring semester. (Go to worldcantwait.org for more info.) The experience of the Berkeley High teach-in highlighted the basis and the urgent need to engage students all over the country about the reality of what the Bush regime is doing as part of building a movement to drive this regime from power.