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Revolution #86, April 29, 2007
Christian Fascists Gain Ground
Last week the Supreme Court decided by a 5-4 margin to uphold the federal “Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act.” This is an extremely oppressive and unjust decision, which will certainly—and needlessly—cause the deaths of some women and the imprisonment of doctors who attempt to aid them. Moreover, the legal arguments used to justify the decision mark a huge escalation in the war against women and toward turning the United States into a theocracy, ruled by Christian Fascists.
The decision upholds a federal ban on an abortion procedure known as “intact dilation and extraction.” As explained in the accompanying box “The Facts of the Matter,” this rare procedure is generally done when something goes very wrong with the pregnancy, or when a doctor decides this is the safest method of abortion for a woman with health risks. For the 2,200 women a year who need it, the availability of this procedure could be literally a life-saver.
Taking this crucial option away is very bad in its own right. But the Supreme Court decision went further and, in deciding the case, changed how the law is understood in an ominous way.
The Deadly—and Patriarchal—Logic of the Court’s Decision
Previous Court decisions have emphasized the woman’s right to make decisions concerning her own life and health. Now the Court has put much more emphasis on protecting the life of the fetus. It took out provisions for the woman’s health and provided exceptions only in very extreme cases, to save the pregnant woman’s life. (And decisions about this will, of course, be contested by anti-abortionist district attorneys.)
But while the Court seriously eroded the protection of a woman’s health, the very same ruling implied that abortion causes women emotional harm. While conceding that there is no “reliable data” on this, Justice Kennedy, in writing for the majority, immediately went on to say that it was nonetheless “self-evident” and “unexceptional to conclude” that “some women” who choose to terminate a pregnancy suffer “regret, severe depression and loss of self-esteem.” Consequently, he said, the government has a legitimate interest in banning this procedure to prevent women from casually or ill-advisedly making “ so grave a choice.” In other words, the state now has the right to prevent women doing what the state thinks might be emotionally harmful to them! Going further, Justice Kennedy wrote that if the regulation “encourages some women to carry the infant to full term,” this will advance “the state’s interest in respect for life.”
First off, this law will not “encourage” women to do anything—it will force them, under penalty of law, to bear children that they do not want. Second, Kennedy blatantly puts aside real evidence proving that this is a vital procedure to protect a women’s health for the fictitious and cruel pseudo-science that claims a woman who has an abortion might—and, in Kennedy’s thinking, should—“come to regret their choice to abort the infant life they once created and sustained.”
And where did the majority of the highest court in the land get this “evidence"? From a relative handful of affidavits filed by the Justice Foundation—a right-wing Christian group. This group runs a 24 hour “help” line to counsel women that any emotional problems they have come from suppressed feelings from having committed the “sin of abortion” earlier in their lives. This outfit is backed and funded by several Christian Fascist organizations, including Focus on the Family, which openly trumpet the subordination of women to men, and which bombard women with guilt and shame for the “sin” of wanting to control their own destiny.
The radical leap involved in this decision and, even more so, in the logic used to justify it, was reflected in the sharpness of dissent on the Court itself. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg described the hostility to women’s right to abortion on the Court as “not concealed” and “alarming.” She pointed out that in the logic of this decision, Congress could pass a law equating abortions with “infanticide” (the killing of a child) and the Court could rule in its favor.
The patriarchal underpinnings of the decision’s logic are further revealed when Kennedy, writing for the majority, states that, “Respect for human life finds an ultimate expression in the bond the mother has for her child.” [our emphasis] Leaving aside for here the fact that a fetus is NOT a child, we must understand how radical and open a departure this is. Again, even the dissenting opinion by Ginsburg argues that before now the Court “recognized the right of the woman to choose to have an abortion before viability and to obtain it without undue interference from the State. The…Court described the centrality of the decision whether to bear a child to a woman’s dignity and autonomy, her personhood and destiny, her conception of her place in society.” Now, Ginsburg writes, the Court adopts a “way of thinking [that] reflects ancient notions of women’s place in the family and under the Constitution - ideas that have long since been discredited.”
In fact, the previous decisions of the Court, including ones that Ginsburg bases herself on, did NOT—and could not—fully uphold the centrality of a “woman’s dignity and autonomy.” But this new decision marks a leap to something much worse, a decision to deal with the contradictions posed by the oppressed position of women under capitalism in a qualitatively more repressive way.
The Centrality of Abortion Rights to Women’s Emancipation
Generations of women rejected the “ancient and discredited views" now being consecrated into law by the Supreme Court majority as they moved into the workforce and became educated. With the advent of safe and available birth control, and then with the legalization of abortion, there was a further huge transformation in women’s ability to participate in all spheres of society. The movements for women’s emancipation both reflected and pushed further this whole phenomenon.
As a result, millions and millions of people embrace and hold near to their hearts a view that women are fully capable of making their own decisions, independent of the authority of father or husband or church. And that includes the right of every woman to control her own reproduction! This right is essential to any woman being able to plan her own future and to take charge of her life. A woman who can not control this is little better than a domestic slave.
No woman should ever have to feel the sting of guilt or shame for deciding when and if she will have a child. The ability to decide this is crucial to being able to be in the world as a person of stature and abilities that are equal to men—capable of contributing to any and every aspect of society. Traditions and values that thwart the ability of women to dream and strive for that kind of equality so that they can make the fullest contribution to the advancement of human kind are just plain criminal. There is absolutely no reason why women or men should have to live in the 21st century with 13th-century traditional morality.
But this new decision—Gonzales vs Carhart—enables the state to step in and dictate to a woman how she should address the very personal decisions over, for instance, whether to abort a severely deformed fetus. The decision’s logic says, in effect, that the state knows better than you do about your own mental health. And it essentially adopts the outlook that a woman SHOULD feel guilt and anguish for choosing to terminate a pregnancy in the last two trimesters and SHOULD, in fact, see motherhood as her “true place” and “ultimate expression.”
A Leap Toward Christian Fascist Theocracy
None of this, of course, was lost on the Christian Fascist movement. They were jubilant—and determined to push still further. Christian Coalition president Roberta Combs called it "just a matter of time" before the Supreme Court also strikes down Roe v. Wade. The president of Operation Rescue—a group of fanatics who verbally and sometimes physically intimidate and assault women going into clinics—said that "If partial-birth abortions are unconstitutional, then all abortion should be as well. There is little difference between a second-trimester partial-birth abortion [sic] and a 12-week suction abortion."
These people and forces are not about compromise, common ground or being reasonable. They are about going all the way—to a world without legal abortion and even without birth control, a world where women are once again totally under the dominion of men.
* * * *
"The sacrifices which the man makes in the struggle of this nation, the woman makes in the preservation of that nation in individual cases. What the man gives in courage on the battlefield, the woman gives in eternal self-sacrifice, in eternal pain and suffering. Every child that a woman brings into the world is a battle, a battle waged for the existence of her people…our…movement has in reality but one single point, and that point is the child, that tiny creature which must be born and grow strong and which alone gives meaning to the whole life-struggle.”
To anyone who’s looked at all into the “Christian Right,” that rhetoric sounds very familiar.
It was said, in fact, by Adolf Hitler.
The rise of fascism and reactionary reversals in history have often first been marked by campaigns to drive women back into domestic servitude. Germany under the Weimar Republic legalized abortion by 1927, but among the first acts of the Nazi Regime was to make abortion illegal. By 1943 abortion in the Third Reich was punishable by death.
This is not a future to wish on anyone and it is up to us to change this ugly course.
For all those who thought “they would never outlaw abortion,” let this be the final, sobering wake-up call. Let it be said that this Supreme Court decision was the last straw, the one that gave rise to a powerful resistance.
And for all those who dream of a better world, let the moment go even deeper. As Bob Avakian has written, “The oppression of women is completely bound up with the division of society into masters and slaves, exploiters and exploited, and the ending of all such conditions is impossible without the complete liberation of women. All this is why women have a tremendous role to play not only in making revolution but in making sure there is all‑the‑way revolution.” Let’s train our sights on what it will take to get full liberation for women and get beyond a society where such backwardness not only thrives but is enshrined in law. Break the chains! Unleash the fury of women as a mighty force for revolution!
Revolution #86, April 29, 2007
The fact that the procedure being outlawed is rare must not blind people to the fact that new legal reasoning and principles have been put in place to justify this criminalization. “The law of the land” has just become qualitatively more repressive.
Revolution #86, April 29, 2007
Before abortion was legalized in 1973 by the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, thousands of women were seriously injured or died each year from unsafe, illegal abortions. Hundreds of thousands of others were forced to bear children that they did not want. The legalization of abortion meant that, for the first time, women could decide whether and when they wanted to bear children. It was, and is, central to the emancipation of women.
But doesn’t abortion destroy another living being? An important article in our paper (“What Is an Abortion and Why Women Must Have the Right to Choose,” by A.S.K., Revolutionary Worker #1265, January 23, 2005) answered that question this way:
"Is it true that a fetus is a form of life? Of course it is. It is made up of live cells, it is growing and processing energy, it has the capacity to mature and reproduce, it has a genetic system and so on.
"Will an abortion destroy this form of life? Yes, absolutely.
"Well then, isn’t an abortion killing another human being? No absolutely not.
"A fetus is not yet a human being. It is more like a seed or sprout of a human being. It is ‘alive,’ but that is also true of all the other cells in a woman’s body. It has no life of its own yet. It is not yet a separate life from the life of the woman in whose uterus it is."
The new Supreme Court ruling is filled with lies and distortions about abortion, fetuses and women – including the name of the law itself: the "Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003." Medically, there is no such thing as a "partial-birth abortion." Abortion of a fetus has nothing to do with the birth of a baby. The term "partial-birth abortion" was invented by the Christian fascists to suggest that "babies" are killed in the middle of being born, just "inches from birth."
The huge majority of abortions, 99 percent, occur long before a fetus is anywhere near being able to function separately from the woman and ready to be born. And 90 percent of these are done in the first three months of pregnancy, the first trimester (1 through 13 weeks since the last menstrual period), when the fetus is just beginning to develop. At the end of this time, the fetus is still only a little over an inch long. This is by far the best time to have an abortion - it is easiest, safest, and cheapest.
But sometimes women aren’t able to get abortions then. Over 87 percent of counties in the U.S. don’t have abortion providers, so women have to figure out how to take off work or school and travel long distances to find one. Most states have punishing restrictions that require waiting periods or parental notification or consent for minors. Many women, especially young women, don’t have the money—thanks to a vicious ban on federal Medicaid funding for abortions.
In addition, sometimes errors are made with pregnancy tests or birth control fails, and a woman doesn’t realize she’s pregnant until months have gone by. (A missed period can be caused by stress or a number of other things.) And especially in today’s anti-science, anti-sex ed, pro- abstinence climate, too many young women and girls don’t understand how their reproductive systems function. Some pharmacies today don’t even carry birth control.
Once a woman is into her second trimester of pregnancy, she is no longer able to have a simple vacuum-aspiration abortion. While abortion is still a very safe procedure, it is more complicated, and fewer clinics and doctors do them. The fetus, although still far from being able to survive separately from the woman (even at the end of the second trimester), is larger, and must be taken out of the woman’s uterus in pieces. This procedure is called a D&E, dilation and evacuation.
Only about one percent of abortions take place after the second trimester, or "viability," the point at which a fetus could potentially survive on its own. Abortions at this stage are done because medical tests have detected grave abnormalities in the fetus (such as hydrocephaly, an extreme skull and brain deformity) or serious risks to the woman’s health. And it is in these conditions, as well as in some second trimester situations, where some doctors use another procedure.
While there is no such thing as "partial-birth abortion," the federal ban is supposedly aimed at a medical procedure called intact dilation and extraction (D&X) that involves removing (extracting) the fetus intact. It requires collapsing the skull to enable the fetus to pass through the birth canal. And no matter what the patriarchs of the Supreme Court claim, it is an abortion, not a "partial birth."
Some doctors consider D&X the safest procedure for some women. But now they will not have this option, even if they determine that a woman’s health could be seriously compromised. The 1973 Roe decision said that abortions could be restricted in the third trimester after fetal viability but expressly stated that there must be exceptions for preserving a woman’s health. The new abortion ban has wiped out this critical, essential part of the legal right to abortion.
In addition, the federal ban is so worded that it could be interpreted—as its framers have admitted and lower courts acknowledged—to apply to all D&E procedures, that is, the most common and safest method used in 90 percent of second trimester abortions.
Revolution #86, April 29, 2007
From Iraq to the Supreme Court
"The Supreme Court's decision is an affirmation of the progress we have made over the past six years in protecting human dignity."
-- George W. Bush, praising the Supreme Court decision to uphold the ban on dilation and extraction abortions, August 18, 2007
"What does that mean, 'outrages upon human dignity'?"
-- George W. Bush, lashing out against the Geneva Conventions and demanding that Congress remove legal obstacles to torture, September 6, 2006
In an act of perverse dishonesty, Bush claimed the war on Iraq would liberate women. In reality, it has visited the stench of death upon the birth wards, the bedrooms of children, and the daily routines of women as well as men throughout Iraq. In the post-Saddam central power vacuum, Sharia law is flourishing, forcing women under the hijab, fostering "honor killings" and filling the morgues with growing numbers of women's bodies bearing signs of rape, sexual mutilation and torture. A dark curtain is being pulled over the schools that once served girls, and dreams of equality are being snuffed out.
Here at home, George Bush's claim to support the liberation of women is more shameless hypocrisy. Speaking sanctimoniously about the "value" of fetal tissue, Bush has overseen the most aggressive and cruel assault on women's fundamental rights and the fostering of an openly patriarchal culture.
Yesterday's Supreme Court decision, which Bush heralded, criminalized the abortion procedure scientifically known as dilation and extraction (and manipulatively labeled "partial birth abortion" by anti-choice fanatics) and was written so vaguely that it could be used to ban the most common abortion procedure used by women after the first trimester. It is a law that lays the basis to begin sending the courageous doctors who provide women abortion procedures--often at the risk of death--to prison. And, in a situation where lack of abortion access is beginning to drive women to seek illegal abortions, this new law is a five ton weight pressed down on women's lives already stalked by brutality, degradation, and endless insults large and small. It is not only a new legal precedent along the way towards outlawing abortion, it is also red meat thrown to a hungry movement of Christian fascists determined to end not only abortion, but also birth control and any kind of independence of women.
If women are not free to decide for themselves without shame and without apology when and whether they will become mothers, they cannot be free. If women are not free, then no one can be free.
Although the forms of the oppression of women in this country are today different, this Christian fascist movement in the U.S. is the near twin of the movements imposing Sharia law in Iraq, only it is far more powerful given that it is embedded within the ruling elites of the world's only superpower. It is rooted in a literal interpretation of a scripture every bit as brutal as the Qur'an--biblical scripture that casts child-bearing as the only way women can be redeemed for their alleged "original sin": "For Adam was first formed, then Eve; and Adam was not beguiled, but the woman being beguiled hath fallen into transgression: but she shall be saved through her child-bearing." (1 Timothy 2:13-15) This movement has initiative in the ruling class today.
On a world scale the future for women--HALF OF HUMANITY--is in grave danger.
This is not the time for putting one's hopes into a political process that has done nothing but facilitate and legitimate the invasion, occupation, continued occupation and now possible widening of the war on Iraq in the face of massive public opposition. Now is not the time for resting the future of women's control of their own destiny in the same political process that has facilitated and legitimated the chipping away of abortion, clinic closing by clinic closing, law by law, and judicial nominee by judicial nominee.
This is not a time for turning one's energies towards '08 and the slate of Democratic Party hopefuls which have ceded the moral high ground on abortion to religious fanatics and refused to demand an end to colonial occupation of Iraq. This is not a time for remaining polite, being patient, or seeking "common ground."
The Bush administration--and the imperialist system it is a product of--have no claim to any moral high ground in regard to women's lives or in regard to human dignity. With their wars of aggression, their torture, and their frontal assault on the lives of women, this is a time when the direction they are dragging the world in must be resisted. Fiercely. And urgently.
This is a time when Bush must be impeached and his whole direction must be reversed.
And this is a time when everyone seriously concerned about women, here and around the world, must look deeper to see how the oppressive, exploitative, and brutal conditions for women are deeply rooted not only in thousands of years of tradition's chains but also in the basic relations, structures, and institutions of "modern" capitalist society. As Bob Avakian has written, "The oppression of women is completely bound up with the division of society into masters and slaves, exploiters and exploited, and the ending of all such conditions is impossible without the complete liberation of women. All this is why women have a tremendous role to play not only in making revolution but in making sure there is all-the-way revolution."
For all those who thought "they would never outlaw abortion" let this be our final, sobering wake-up call. Let it be said that this Supreme Court decision was the final straw after which a powerful resistance rose.
For all those heartsick after four years of unjust war, let us shake off passivity and complicity and prepare for struggle.
For all those who dream of a better world, break the chains! Unleash the fury of women as a mighty force for revolution!
Revolution #86, April 29, 2007
Revolution #86, April 29, 2007
Editors' Note: The following are excerpts from an edited version of a talk by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, to a group of Party supporters, in the fall of last year (2006). This is the third in a series of excerpts we will be running in Revolution. Subheads and footnotes have been added for publication here. The entire talk is available online at revcom.us/avakian/anotherway.
More on the "Two Historically Outmodeds"
This leads me to the question of World War 3. A number of pundits and "analysts"—including once again right-wing squawking heads like Glenn Beck—have continued to insist: "This is World War 3, we are already in World War 3." This specter of World War 3 involves, in a real sense, both considerable distortion of reality and actual reality. And this does get to the "two historically outmodeds" and how in fact they do reinforce each other even while opposing each other. As I have formulated this:
"What we see in contention here with Jihad on the one hand and McWorld/McCrusade on the other hand, are historically outmoded strata among colonized and oppressed humanity up against historically outmoded ruling strata of the imperialist system. These two reactionary poles reinforce each other, even while opposing each other. If you side with either of these 'outmodeds,' you end up strengthening both."
While this is a very important formulation and is crucial to understanding much of the dynamics driving things in the world in this period, at the same time we do have to be clear about which of these "historically outmodeds" has done the greater damage and poses the greater threat to humanity: It is the "historically outmoded ruling strata of the imperialist system," and in particular the U.S. imperialists.
Now, it's not that these other forces—the "historically outmoded strata among colonized and oppressed humanity," and more specifically the Jihadist forces of Islamic fundamentalism—it is not as if they don't pose threats to the ordinary people in many countries, and it's not as if they don't do real harm to the interests of the masses of people throughout the world. Even such things as that New York Times Sunday Magazine article I referred to, and more generally the arguments of these ruling class representatives about Iran and nuclear weapons—it's not as if there is no aspect of reality that they are speaking to, even while they are grossly distorting much of reality. It is a fact that at least many of these Islamic fundamentalists have hit upon a certain strategy which is really reactionary and extremely wrong, and does involve completely unjustified actions against civilians—this is their answer to what are greatly unequal (or, as the imperialists say, "asymmetrical") power relations, particularly as this is concentrated in the military sphere: the overwhelming superiority of the imperialists, in conventional military terms, in relation to the nations and people they dominate, oppress, and exploit. And the idea that Iran or even North Korea could get a nuclear weapon and slip it to some other people—and that it wouldn't be traceable to the state that produced the weapon—this is not simply and entirely imperialist propaganda. It's not completely far-fetched.
Recently Ted Koppel wrote a whole article about this, explicitly invoking the "Godfather"—the movie Godfather I. You see, some of these artistic works have a certain universality, although different classes view them differently. And, speaking from the standpoint of the U.S. imperialist ruling class, Koppel invoked the scene in Godfather I after Mafia Godfather Don Vito Corleone's oldest son, Sonny, has been killed, in the context of war between different Mafia families. Finally, after this has gone on for awhile, these Mafia families have a "sit-down," to try to negotiate an end to this warfare. And Don Vito Corleone (played by Marlon Brando) has real largeness of mind, in terms of the relations and interests among these Mafia families. He says:
"For the sake of our larger interests and peace among us, I will forgive the death of my older son. But what I will not forgive is if anything happens to my son Michael. If a car accident should happen to him… "—he goes on to list a bunch of different things that are apparent accidents, and he says: "If any of those things happen to my son Michael, I'm going to blame some people in this room, and that I will not forgive."
Invoking this scene, Ted Koppel says we should learn from this and apply it in our dealings with Iran—we should say to Iran:
"Okay, go ahead and have your bomb, but if any such bomb ever goes off anywhere around our interests, you're on the hit list right away. We won't even argue about it, we won't even investigate, we won't even think about who did it—we'll just blame you and act accordingly. Now, if you want to get a bomb, go ahead."
Koppel's argument here is not just large-scale gangster logic on behalf of U.S. imperialism—it is that, but it is not just that. It is not just a matter of imperialist manipulation and demagoguery. There is a reality that Koppel is speaking to—from the point of view of U.S. imperialism. We should understand the complexities in all this. I have pointed out before that, sooner or later if things keep going the way they are—and in particular if these "two historically outmodeds" continue to drive much of the dynamics of things and reinforce each other even while opposing each other—then things could get to the point where some of these Islamic fundamentalist forces will get some real weapons of mass destruction, maybe even nuclear ones, and then the shit's going to really fly on a whole other level. And, to refer back to the point I made earlier in discussing Vietnam and the "domino theory," these Islamic fundamentalists are not guided by the same kind of thinking and approach that the Vietnamese were, even with their shortcomings from a communist standpoint. These Islamic fundamentalists are not communists! They are not revolutionary or progressive forces. They do not look at the world the same way. They are reactionary, they are historically outmoded. They look at the world from that standpoint—from the standpoint of their reactionary philosophical, or theological, worldview—and what they do flows from this.
In this, they are not unique. This is, in an essential sense, common to all religious fundamentalists, including those who have positions of significant power and influence within the ruling class of the U.S. at this time (and this is why I have referred to Jihad on the one hand and "McWorld/ McCrusade " on the other hand). This same basic worldview can be seen in the comments of one of these colonels or generals in the U.S. military about Pat Tillman's family.1 This U.S. officer said: The reason the Tillman family is making such a big fuss about how Pat Tillman got killed is that they're atheists and they think he's just going to become worm food. He was saying that if the family were Christians and believed that Pat Tillman were going to "a better place," they wouldn't be so upset. Well, that's the mentality of religious fundamentalists.
And that is the mentality, in the general ideological sense, that characterizes Islamic fundamentalists too. They look at the world very differently than people who approach it in a rational and scientific way. They "live in a different world"—a different world than the real one—in terms of how they perceive reality and the driving and defining forces of reality. All this is part of the complexity of things, and we are not going to get anywhere if we don't engage and grapple with this complexity in a very deep and all-sided way, utilizing the best of our materialism and dialectics, and keep on working at it.
Now, having said that, it is important to return to the question of which of these "two historically outmodeds" has done the greater damage and poses the greater threat to humanity. Some people, including some who claim not only to be anti-imperialist but even to be "Marxist," have criticized or denounced this "two historically outmodeds" formulation as being pro-imperialist because, they claim, this statement fails to distinguish between imperialism and the countries and peoples oppressed by imperialism. Well, if you are supposedly a "Marxist," you might be able to look at the wording of this formulation and notice that it says: "historically outmoded strata among oppressed and colonized humanity up against historically outmoded ruling strata of the imperialist system." If you were even close to being a Marxist in reality, you would know that some distinction was in fact being made there, an important distinction, even while what is said about their both being historically outmoded and how they reinforce each other, even while opposing each other, is also real, and "operative." But it is important to be clear about which has done and continues to do the greater damage, which has posed and does pose the greater threat to humanity. Clearly, and by far, it is the "ruling strata of the imperialist system."
It is interesting, I recently heard about a comment that someone made relating to this, which I do think is correct and getting at something important. In relation to these "two historically outmodeds," they made the point: "You could say that the Islamic fundamentalist forces in the world would be largely dormant if it weren't for what the U.S. and its allies have done and are doing in the world—but you cannot say the opposite." There is profound truth captured in that statement.
As a matter of general principle, and specifically sitting in this imperialist country, we have a particular responsibility to oppose U.S. imperialism, our "own" ruling class, and what it is doing in the world. But, at the same time, that doesn't make these Islamic fundamentalist forces not historically outmoded and not reactionary. It doesn't change the character of their opposition to imperialism and what it leads to and the dynamic that it's part of—the fact that these two "historically outmodeds" do reinforce each other, even while opposing each other. And it is very important to understand, and to struggle for others to understand, that if you end up supporting either one of these two "historically outmodeds," you contribute to strengthening both. It is crucial to break out of that dynamic—to bring forward another way.
Rejecting—and Breaking Out of—the Framework of the "War on Terror"
For people living in the U.S., there is a particularity that needs to be continually gone back to, in relation to the "war on terror." I have made the point that this is not entirely fabrication on the part of the Bush regime (and the imperialist ruling class generally). There are real aspects to this—or, better said, there is a reality to which these imperialists are speaking, even while they fundamentally distort reality. But, in essential terms, this "war on terror" is an imperialist program which, among other things, is aimed at blotting out and turning the attention of people, even people who should know better, away from reckoning with the profound inequalities and oppressive relations that exist within different societies but especially on a world scale, under the domination of the imperialist system and in particular U.S. imperialism, which boasts of being "the world's only superpower" and is determined to maintain all this. If you accept the terms of "war on terror"—and especially if, as part of this, you do not look more deeply at the more fundamental relations in the world, the effects and consequences of that and the ways in which it is at the root of developments in the world now—you will get increasingly caught within the logic that what is most important is that "we" (meaning the people in the U.S.—and "I" above all!) "have to be protected." You get caught up thinking and arguing about what should be "the real war on terror." This has happened even to a lot of progressive people—including those who frame their opposition to the Iraq war in terms of considering it a "diversion from the war on terror"—they become trapped within the wrong logic. If you are carried along by this logic, you can end up in a very bad place.
You cannot get to a correct understanding of things, and you cannot move toward the only possible resolution of all this that is in the interests of humanity, by proceeding from within the terms of the "war on terror." Even while "the war on terror" is not entirely a fabrication, even while there are important aspects of reality that it is reflecting—from the point of view of the imperialists—it is a fabrication in the form in which it is presented to people. That contradiction is important to understand: There are important aspects of reality that this formulation of "war on terror" (or "war against terrorism") is reflecting; but, as it is presented, it is a fabrication. Its essence is not "a war on terror." It is essentially a war for empire. And the confrontation with Islamic fundamentalist, and other, forces (even those which actually do employ tactics and methods which can legitimately be called "terrorist") takes place within, and is essentially framed by, that context and that content of war for empire.
1. Pat Tillman was a professional football player who, after September 11, left the Arizona Cardinals to join the U.S. military. His brother was also in the U.S. military. Pat Tillman was killed in Afghanistan—by "friendly fire" from U.S. forces, as it turned out—yet U.S. military and government officials kept trying to cover this up and deceive people, including Tillman's family, about what actually happened. Tillman was played up as a big national war hero, but as his family continued to dig for the real story of what happened to him, they became more and more alienated and angry because of the lies and deception they kept running into. And they have become increasingly critical not only of how the military dealt with Pat Tillman and his death but of the military and the government more generally, and of the Iraq war specifically. [back]
Revolution #86, April 29, 2007
Over the last year or so, Illinois Senator Barack Obama has skyrocketed from being a relatively unknown, first term senator to being a leading contender to win the Democratic Party’s nomination for president. He’s attracting support from broad segments of society as well as the top movers and shakers of the Democratic Party and the imperialist establishment generally. And he has raised more money than any candidate other than Hillary Clinton. His new book--The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream-- has become a best-seller.
Obama has tapped into a deep reservoir of anger, confusion, and discontent. Millions with widely divergent views want a new kind of leadership--very different than Bush’s. And they want something very different than what they see as “spineless” Democrats who do not really oppose Bush time and again. In particular, millions (perhaps the majority in the U.S.) feel the Iraq war is a disaster and want it ended, and many want a government that isn’t waging wars of aggression around the world. Many think Obama embodies that kind of leadership, and when he speaks, thousands have been turning out. For example in Oakland, California, 10,000-15,000 recently turned out to hear him speak.
CAN OBAMA REVERSE THE BUSH AGENDA? DOES HE WANT TO?
The question is, what does Obama actually stand for? What’s his vision of U.S. foreign policy, in the Middle East in particular? Does he want to--and is he capable of--ending the war in Iraq and preventing war with Iran? Is he for repudiating the Bush global agenda and reversing the direction the Bush administration has been taking this country and the world? More fundamentally, whose interests does he represent?
A close look at Obama’s platform and writings--and decoding the buzzwords and phrases of his mainstream politics--shows that he actually agrees with many of the key tenets of Bush’s worldview, global strategy, and overall objectives--even while having certain differences over how to advance those objectives.
WHAT DOES STRENGTHENING “AMERICA'S POSITION IN THE WORLD” MEAN?
Obama’s foreign policy rests on three premises: First, in his words, that “globalization makes our economy, our health, and our security all captive to events on the other side of the world,” and “any return to isolationism…will not work.” (The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream, pages 305, 303). Second, that the U.S. is a force for good in this globalized world: “no other nation on earth has a greater capacity to shape that global system,” to “expand the zones of freedom, personal safety, and economic well-being” and that a “global system built in America’s image can alleviate misery in poorer countries.” U.S. capitalism, he argues, can move “the international system in the direction of greater equity, justice and prosperity” and this will “serve both our interests and the interests of a struggling world.”
Third, Obama argues his foreign policy would start from the goal of fighting “to strengthen America's position in the world.” (Obama's website).
What does all this mean? First, that Obama consciously argues for and defends the capitalist system, U.S. capitalism in particular, and would adopt policies to ensure its functioning and operation--including by attempting to deal with the very deep contradictions and obstacles it faces today.
These are the same concerns confronting the Bush administration and shaping its actions. So it’s not surprising that Obama’s agenda sounds eerily similar to core elements of the Bush doctrine as articulated in the Bush National Security Strategy (2002) which declares that American-defined “values of freedom are right and true for every person, in every society,” and that an overarching goal of U.S. policy is creating “a balance of power that favors freedom,” and spreading “free markets, and free trade to every corner of the world.” Combined with the NSS’s insistence on U.S. military superiority and its right to wage preemptive war, the document’s economic principles can best be understood as capitalist globalization on U.S. terms, carried out at gunpoint. This is precisely what the U.S. has been trying to carry out in Iraq through privatizing Iraq's economy and opening its vast oil resources up to U.S. capital.
Obama rejects the charge that such U.S.-led capitalist globalization is “American imperialism, designed to exploit the cheap labor and natural resources of other countries,” and claims that critics are wrong “to think that the world’s poor will benefit by rejecting the ideals of free markets and liberal democracy” (Audacity, p. 315). But the world’s profound and growing injustices give lie to this attempt to prettify and cover up the actual workings of global capitalism.
Today half the planet — nearly three billion people — lives on less than two dollars a day. Now, after the operation of capitalism for hundreds of years, the 20 percent living in the developed nations consume 86% of the world’s goods. Today the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of the poorest 48 nations is less than the combined wealth of the world’s three richest individuals. This is the obscene, nightmarish reality of “free markets” and a “global system built in America’s image.” All this has been deepened in recent decades--not alleviated--by the expansion and acceleration of capitalist globalization. (See Raymond Lotta, “A Jagged, Unjust, and Obsolete World: A Critique of Thomas Friedman's The World is Flat ” (http://www.rwor.org/a/060/flatworld-en.html) for a deeper discussion of the dynamics and impact of global capitalism today.)
And what does it mean and where does it lead to “strengthen America's position in the world,” as Obama puts it?
First, it means strengthening America’s military superiority over other countries, especially powers which could challenge U.S. hegemony, and against states or movements which threaten U.S. political-military control of key areas of the world. This too is a core goal of the Bush doctrine. It means strengthening the economic position of the U.S. in relation to its global rivals. It means, throughout the world and especially in poor, third world countries, having greater control of global resources, better access to markets and labor, and ensuring that trade and financial agreements favor the U.S., not others. All in order to strengthen the ability of U.S. imperialism to dominate and exploit hundreds of millions of people throughout the world.
Obama characterizes the U.S. record around the world as “mixed,” and briefly mentions the slaughter of 500,000 Indonesian communists at the behest of the CIA in the 1960s (Obama lived in Indonesia in his youth). However, he ascribes such crimes (which he treats as isolated “mistakes”) not to the deepest dynamics of global imperialism, but to short-sighted, “misguided” policies, “based on false assumptions that ignore the legitimate aspirations of other peoples.” (p. 280) This ignores the actual workings of imperialism as demonstrated by over 100 years of history. The U.S. doesn’t have a “mixed” record in the world, it has a long and consistent track record of murderous interventions and wars: since World War 2, the U.S. has used direct military force against other countries more than 70 times, and there are now over 700 U.S. military bases in 130 foreign countries. So Indonesia--and Iraq today where over 600,000 Iraqis have been killed--are hardly minor aberrations or exceptions to the rule.
Strengthening America’s position in the world means strengthening its status as the world’s only imperialist superpower, as well as the dominant position of a handful of industrialized countries over the billions living in the Third World. How is this just? Why should a country with 4.7 percent of the world’s population control 32.6 percent of the world’s wealth and consume 25 percent of its energy? (And within the U.S., the richest 1 percent held 32 percent of the wealth in 2001.) ( New York Times, 12/6/06). How is the further strengthening of all this any good for the people?
WHERE DOES IT LEAD?
Upholding global capitalism and strengthening the U.S. “position” in the world has led Obama to many of the same policy conclusions as the Bush regime.
First, on global military dominance and reach, he says: “We need to maintain a strategic force posture that allows us to manage threats posed by rogue nations like North Korea and Iran, and to meet the challenges presented by potential rivals like China.” Obama argues the U.S. now needs even more military spending than the record levels spent by the Bush administration so far: “Indeed, given the depletion of our forces after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we will probably need a somewhat higher budget in the immediate future just to restore readiness and replace equipment.” (p. 307)
Obama sees many of the same challenges to U.S. power in the key strategic region of the Middle East/Central Asia (home to 80 percent of the world’s energy reserves) that the Bush regime does. He says: "The growing threat, then, comes primarily from those parts of the world on the margins of the global economy where the international ‘rules of the road’ have not taken hold…" (p. 305) He shares the Bush Regime concern that "violent Islamic extremists" are a vastly different kind of adversary than the Soviet Union in the Cold War and must be dealt with differently, possibly through preemptive war. Obama says: "I think there are certain elements within the Islamic world right now that don't make those same calculations… I think there are elements within Pakistan right now--if Musharraf is overthrown and they took over, I think we would have to consider going in and taking those bombs out, because I don't think we can make the same assumptions about how they calculate risks." ("Obama would consider missile strikes on Iran," Chicago Tribune, September 25, 2004)
These concerns also lead Obama to join the Bush regime (and the whole U.S. establishment) in targeting Iran as a center of Islamic fundamentalism and a rising force in the Middle East/Central Asia. Obama calls Iran “one of the greatest threats to the United States, Israel and world peace.” He argues, “The world must work to stop Iran's uranium enrichment program and prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. It is far too dangerous to have nuclear weapons in the hands of a radical theocracy,” and “we should take no option, including military action, off the table.” (speech to the pro-Israel America Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)).
While Obama may favor placing more emphasis on sanctions and diplomatic pressure at the moment (and the Bush regime itself is currently employing these weapons as well), his logic will drive him to support preemptive strikes, and he says, "[U]s launching some missile strikes into Iran is not the optimal position for us to be in." But he then says: "On the other hand, having a radical Muslim theocracy in possession of nuclear weapons is worse. So I guess my instinct would be to err on not having those weapons in the possession of the ruling clerics of Iran… realistically, as I watch how this thing has evolved, I'd be surprised if Iran blinked at this point." How much different is this than Sen. John McCain recently singing “bomb, bomb, bomb Iran.” to the tune of the Beach Boys Barbara Ann? (“Obama would consider missile strikes on Iran,” Chicago Tribune, September 25, 2004).
Obama also foresees having to send U.S. troops into these areas and argues for a larger military: “Most likely this challenge will involve putting boots on the ground in the ungovernable or hostile regions where terrorists thrive. That requires a smarter balance between what we spend on fancy hardware and what we spend on our men and women in uniform. That should mean growing the size of our armed forces…” (p. 307)
Obama has some differences with the Bush regime over how to advance U.S. imperial interests and maintain hegemony. For example, while he supports the U.S.’s “right” to take unilateral action “to eliminate an imminent threat to our security,” he limits it to when “as an imminent threat is understood to be a nation, group or individual that is actively preparing to strike U.S. targets (or allies with which the United States has mutual defense arrangements), and has or will have the means to do so in the immediate future.” (pp. 308-309) But, he argues, “once we get beyond matters of self-defense…. it will almost always be in our strategic interest to act multilaterally rather than unilaterally when we use force around the world.” This is consistent with a major part of the Democratic Party critique of the Bush doctrine which agrees that the U.S. needs hegemony, but argues that the U.S. needs to work with at least some other world powers to achieve it.
IRAQ--A MISTAKE, NOT A CRIME, AND NO HASTY WITHDRAWAL
Obama’s position on the Iraq war flows from the overall principles outlined above (of upholding the need for strengthening U.S. imperialism around the world) -- which are those of the Democratic Party. Obama says: “The decision to go to war was a mistake,” and “The consequences of this war have been dire, and the sacrifices have been immeasurable.” (website, statement on 4th anniversary of the war) Let's look at some of the assumptions in this position and what it actually means:
* First, this summation covers up the actual nature of, and reasons for, the war. Bush launched this war of aggression, based on lies, to turn Iraq into a pro-U.S. neocolony and solidify U.S. domination of the Middle East, as part of an overall agenda of forging an unchallenged and unchallengeable empire (much of which, as mentioned, Obama agrees with). This makes the war not a “mistake” despite “the best of intentions” as Obama puts it (p. 297-98), but an immoral, unjust, and illegal war of imperialist aggression. Obama’s “America first” chauvinism--the assumption that American life is worth far more than the lives of others--jumps out here. In describing the “dire” consequences of the war, he mentions only the toll on U.S. soldiers and says nothing of the 650,000 Iraqis killed and over 3 million forced to flee the ongoing carnage.
* Obama feels the war was a “mistake” not because its aims are fundamentally unjust or it has led to unimaginable suffering for Iraqis. For Obama the war is a mistake because it threatens to turn into a strategic debacle that threatens to weaken U.S. power and dominance. So his view is that U.S. strategy must now shift and American forces should gradually be redeployed in order to try and protect U.S. interests. He says: “It is time to bring this conflict to a responsible end so we can bring our troops home and refocus on the wider struggle yet to be won.” In March of this year, he told AIPAC: “we will redeploy our troops to other locations in the region, reassuring our allies that we will stay engaged in the Middle East… [A] consequence of the Administration's failed strategy in Iraq has been to strengthen Iran's strategic position; reduce U.S. credibility and influence in the region; and place Israel and other nations friendly to the United States in greater peril.”
The shared goal of maintaining U.S. dominance in the Middle East has led Obama to embrace essentially the same immediate goals as the Bush regime in Iraq: “achieving some semblance of stability in Iraq, ensuring that those in Iraq are not hostile to the United States, and preventing Iraq from becoming a base for terrorist activity.” (p. 302). It has also led him to oppose an immediate withdrawal or a firm timetable for withdrawal. (And all the Republican and Democratic Party plans for “withdrawal” include leaving a sizable U.S. military force in and around Iraq indefinitely.) And speaking before the Council on Foreign Relations in November 2005, he repeatedly emphasized the need to “defeat the insurgency.” He argues “that all Americans--regardless of their views on the original decision to invade--have an interest” in the achievement of such imperialist objectives, which he calls “a decent outcome in Iraq.” (p. 301)
OBAMA: IMPERIALISM AND WAR WITH A NEW FACE
Given that Obama’s worldview and politics starts from the needs and interests of U.S. capitalism and global power, and given the contradictions now facing that system globally, Obama has articulated a foreign policy vision rooted in the same imperialist concerns as the Bush administration’s. Obama opposes ending the Iraq war and occupation now and is committed to having “all options” available to use against any who challenge U.S. power, in that region and beyond.
How is this in the interests of the people? How does it serve humanity? And why should anyone who wants real change and a better world get behind this?
Next: Obama’s domestic agenda: seeking common ground with fascists and religious fundamentalists
Revolution #86, April 29, 2007
A Message to the Youth:
You have come of age on a planet being ravaged by wars of unrivaled brutality--the one raging in Iraq alone having claimed 655,000 lives, destroyed the country’s infrastructure and is driving 100,000 refugees out of the country each month--and now more troops are being poured in with no end in sight.
You’ve been taught “right and wrong” by a society that is growing numb to the images and evidence of torture. You’ve been brought up in a culture where bigotry masquerades as “entertainment.” You’ve been preached to about “morality” by a howling pack of Dark Ages Christian fascists who assail science, curiosity, and critical thought and insist on the submission and virginity of women, blind obedience of all, and intolerance towards gays.
If you are a young woman, there is a 25% chance you’ve been the victim of rape, attempted rape, or sexual molestation*… almost certainly you know someone who has been. And every day you are barraged by images of women’s flesh to be consumed or used to sell consumer products.
If you live in one of this nation’s ghettos or barrios, you’ve been insulted, disrespected, and haunted by the ever-present threat of brutality--even murder--at the hands of the police…you’ve been subject to the worst schools and seen your peers warehoused into prisons. During Hurricane Katrina, you were given a murderous object lesson about how the foundations of this country--in white supremacy and slavery--are not only alive, but back with a vengeance today.
If you were born on the other side of the U.S. blood-soaked borders, you’ve been part of the most massive human migrations in the history of this planet--hundreds of millions of people who’ve been ripped from their homelands, driven across dangerous borders, and forced to live in the shadows due to the rapacious dictates of capitalist globalization.
And if you live in the culturally barren suburbs or exurbs, if you are concerned about the world, you’ve been cut off, isolated, atomized, told your voice doesn’t matter, had your dreams ruled out of order.
On top of all this--You’ve been LIED to…
about WMD’s that never existed in Iraq…
and LIED to…
told you cannot change the world…
and LIED to some more…
told that revolution, especially communist revolution to change all this, has been and can only lead to a total disaster…
Today, under the regime of George W. Bush, all this is intensifying.
Under the false name of the “War on Terror” the U.S. has launched a juggernaut of war for empire, sending its military around the globe to defeat and humiliate any group or nation that goes against its imperial interests. It is seeking to remake and dominate the whole world starting in the strategic, oil-rich area of the Middle East to lock-down its position as the world’s only superpower permanently. Afghanistan…destroyed. Iraq…destroyed. Iran…on their list to go after next, including possibly with nuclear weapons. And they’ve promised it won’t end there.
Within the U.S., already much of the apparatus of a fascist police state has been passed into law. Emails, phone calls, library records, student files and more are spied on by the government. Immigrants are rounded up, held indefinitely, and hunted by racist vigilantes. George Bush has claimed, and been granted by Congress, the right to declare anyone an “enemy combatant” and have them disappeared, held without charges, and shipped around the world to be tortured--with no chance for a trial. And major mouthpieces in the media and in politics paint anyone who criticizes this as an “American-hater” and potential enemy of the state.
All this is celebrated and glorified by a powerful movement of Christian fascists who have been packed into the courts, the Congress, the White House, and the military who are aggressively clawing at and seeking to reverse the separation of church and state. While they often won’t openly acknowledge it, the Bible that they insist must be followed literally calls for stoning non-virgin brides, burning “heretics” who challenge religious myths like “creationism,” killing men who have sex with other men, massacring people who worship other gods, and putting to death those who put a “stain” on society. Leading fundamentalist Pat Robertson says he wants “the biblical mode” of crime and punishment applied against “hard-core, habitual criminal[s]”--in other words, the use of extreme repression, even the death penalty, for activities that are today considered minor offenses or not crimes at all. Such thinking has potentially genocidal implications, especially for the masses of Black (and Latino) people in the inner cities who have been criminalized by this system and warehoused into prisons at rates higher than that of South Africans under apartheid.
All of this has been facilitated by the agreement or capitulation of the Democratic Party. None of this is going to be stopped by relying on “politics as usual” and none of the main features of this are even being challenged by those seriously contending for president in ’08.
The Mission of This Generation
Every generation puts its mark on the world. But not every generation lives through history-shaping times, epoch-shaping times. The generation that rose up to abolish slavery…the generation that acted like “good Germans” in the face of the Nazis…some generations are remembered, they are celebrated or scorned.
Today, your generation has a greater responsibility than even either of these.
To be young in America today is to be teetering on a precipice. On one side is a steep drop to the depths of a Bushian nightmare. On the other side is a road of tremendous struggle, daring, sacrifice, but also whole new vistas of human potential, new peaks of revolutionary possibilities.
The mission of this generation must be to stop the wars for empire, reverse the whole fascist direction of society, and bring into being a real alternative to the killing choices of either empty consumerism built on the backs of billions of people around the world or fanatical reactionary religious fundamentalism. This means driving out the Bush regime and bringing into being a far better world!
Whether this generation succeeds or fails at this will affect the lives of hundreds of millions in this country and around the world for a very long time to come.
This generation needs new voices, screaming at the tops of their lungs. Demanding change. Making change. Pouring into the streets in protest. Shutting down schools and the machinery of war with your bodies. Challenging those in the military to follow their conscience instead of illegal orders.
This generation also needs intense coffee shop conversations and debates and forums where people can work their way toward a vision of how the world could be different. Where we can forge relationships between people who are coming from different perspectives but fighting for a common goal. Where something really rich and vibrant and new can come out of that.
We need to forge and act on a new morality--one that values truth even when it is unpopular, one that cherishes equality between different nationalities and between men and women, and the lives of people around the world as much as our own. We need to cast off apathy, cynicism and stomp our feet to new rhythms, defiant and hopeful music, and a culture of resistance. We need to dream radical dreams. And we need to make clear that until the whole nightmarish direction that the Bush regime is dragging the world is reversed, and until a whole better world is brought into being, the spirit of political rebellion is going to spread, the resistance is going to grow, and business is going to grind to a halt.
As this generation takes up this struggle, with the winds of war, repression, and theocracy whipping around it at tremendous speed, it will take work to keep one’s footing. This requires looking deeply into the fabric of what makes the world the way it is--studying the roots of the problems, the big forces of capitalist accumulation and the twisted ideologies they give rise to. This generation must search for answers and solutions--including in places you’ve been counseled not to look.
Revolution and communism once inspired a generation around the whole world, because of the promise it held out for fundamental change that would take humanity to a world with: no more men oppressing women; no more white people lording it over people of color; no more handful of capitalists getting rich off the toil and sweat of billions across the globe; no more division between those who are trained to work with their minds and everyone else being locked out of intellectual life and forced to slave with their backs; and no more one country arrogantly and brutally trying to run the whole damn globe.
Instead, we need a society where millions and tens of millions of people rise up to bring in a qualitatively different kind of state, a revolutionary power, and wield it to transform society by uprooting oppression, ignorance, and exploitation. Where millions use this state power to defend against those who would try to drag things back to the nightmares of capitalism and imperialism rather than the state being, as it is today, a vehicle to extend exploitation and repress resistance.
Today, the very positive experience of communist revolution is lied about, distorted, and hidden from those who need it most. At the same time, even the best of what has happened before must, and can, be surpassed.
There is someone who is a living link from the best of the '60s, the most revolutionary edge of those times. When those movements ebbed and when all too many others gave up, were crushed, or sold out, this person forged ahead. Bob Avakian is a unique revolutionary leader who went deeper, and today he is pointing to a wilder and much more vibrant vision of communism, filled with debate, dissent and intellectual ferment while at the same time moving quickly to meet people’s most fundamental needs. He also has pointed to how it would be possible to lead millions in this country to consciously act and make the kind of revolution that is needed, when conditions ripen, as the first step towards achieving a truly liberating socialist society.
More than anyone else, Bob Avakian is a leader you need to get to know.
What Will YOU Do?
As the world bombards you with questions of what you are going to be when you grow up, it is time to answer a different question: What kind of world do you want to live in and what are you willing to do to bring it into being?
To everyone who refuses to look the other way while torture and occupation grind on day by day, waiting for the next election cycle of politicians debating the best way to subjugate people, wage war on the planet, and silence dissent…
To those who care less about accumulating just the right clothes, toys, and stuff than about the people your age across the planet forced to labor 12 and 14 hours to make this stuff for the profit of some capitalist…
To those who burn with impatience to get rid of a system that has heaped nothing but unending brutality and insult upon Black people, Native Americans, Chicanos, Puerto Ricans, and other oppressed peoples, century after century…
To all those who care more about the babies whose daddies are being dragged out of their homes by troops in Iraq, than about who Anna Nicole’s baby-daddy is…
To everyone who senses something is deeply wrong, but haven’t yet found your voice…
The future really is hinging on what you do.
Take this newspaper to your friends. Talk with them about it.
Get dozens of copies of Revolution newspaper every week and spread it to people you don’t know yet. You will find there are many others, just like you, hungering for a different way.
If you are involved in fighting the system, take this paper into that fight. If you are not yet involved, get involved with groups that are, like the World Can’t Wait movement to Drive Out the Bush Regime, and bring this paper into them.
Another world is possible. But not without dislodging the Bush regime and reversing its direction. This is going to take struggle. It is going to take work. It is going to take study and a lot of debate. But there is nothing more meaningful and there is nothing more joyful than standing with the people of the planet, coming together with the dreamers and fighters, to bring into being a whole better world.
The world is waiting for you--asking for you and wondering when you will finally rise to the mission that is on you to stop this--and galvanize the whole of society when you do.
*A study of 6,000 students at 32 colleges in the U.S. found that 1 in 4 women had been victims of rape or attempted rape. (Warshaw 1994) http://www2.ucsc.edu/rape-prevention/statistics.html
Revolution #86, April 29, 2007
This article originally appeared on worldcantwait.org, the website of the organization World Can't Wait—Drive Out the Bush Regime. Revolution is reprinting it here with the author's permission.
I have to admit that I had been late when it comes to wearing the orange jumpsuits. Something always came up, or I just didn’t “feel” like it. But four years after the invasion and occupation of Iraq, I knew that the least I could do was wear the jumpsuit. In Houston, we have this event called Freeway Blogging, where we hold signs on the bridges overlooking freeway traffic. You get a lot of positive honking and quite a bit of middle fingers, but the energy is good nonetheless. On March 20th, we had groups on six bridges and World Can’t Wait shared a bridge with people expressing solidarity with the Palestinian struggle.
I did not know what to expect. I thought that it would be a normal protest and that would be the end of it. I hoped people seeing me would be reminded that while they are driving home from work, people were being tortured in their names. I had wanted a visceral emotional response from the people and had not expected one of my own.
Wearing the jumpsuit with a black hood, immediately I felt cut off from the world. I became self conscious because I knew that I was standing out. People could see me, and any notion of wanting to blend in fell away as I stood as a symbol of the hatred and violence American soldiers commit everyday.
I thought to myself that at the end of the day, I can take the orange jumpsuit off. I can remove the hood, wave it around in the air if I want, but there are people who can’t do that. There are people for whom, they may never take off the jumpsuit if we don’t stop this war now, and if we don’t stop the torture now.
Wearing the jumpsuit and the hood, I did not want to joke with people or even respond when people called my name. The people being held at Guantánamo Bay and Abu Ghraib weren’t laughing and I felt it was disrespectful somehow. That this was some sort of “action” I was doing and nothing more. That this was something I “did,” but was not something I was serious about stopping, which I am.
I started asking myself all sorts of questions. How are we going to stop this war and torture and reverse the whole direction Bush has taken society? What am I going to do to stop this? What will it take? I really wanted answers because the sobering effects of wearing that jumpsuit has stuck with me. This isn’t some joke and driving out the Bush regime isn’t something I’m doing while I’m figuring out what to do with the rest of my life. Torture is happening, probably as I write this, and I can’t go another day without speaking out against it. This war is still going on and I’m so angry and every person who upholds this war must hear from me because this shit has got to stop.
Revolution #86, April 29, 2007
There is a fascist offensive targeting immigrants across the U.S. Workplace and neighborhood raids by federal agents are spreading fear and terror—as immigrants are suddenly snatched away, separated from families and friends, detained and deported. New and stepped-up military measures at the border are forcing more immigrants to cross through the dangerous desert areas, where hundreds lose their lives each year. In the halls of power in Washington, central to the talk of “immigration reform” are plans to force immigrants even further into caste-like status, subject to deeper exploitation. And fascist anti-immigrant vigilantes like the Minutemen are being emboldened even more in this climate.
But these attacks are also sparking much anger and new stirrings of resistance. On April 7, tens of thousands marched in downtown L.A., in the largest immigrant rights protest since the outpourings of millions a year ago. And on May 1, immigrants and others will be marching in the streets in cities across the U.S. to demand a stop to the raids and deportations.
This is a very important and positive development! We call on all our readers to support and join these May 1 demos. To stand with and give heart to the immigrants who are courageously declaring their refusal to be treated as slaves and criminals, and who are going straight up against the whole reactionary ideological and political offensive and repressive assaults against them. To help raise everybody's sights past the divisions and apathy fostered by this system and toward a different, better future for humanity.
Revolution newspaper will be coming out with a major statement for May 1 that should get out everywhere on that day. The statement will speak deeply to the whole fascist assault on the immigrants—what is the source of this, what kind of political struggle must be waged to resist this, and the connection of this to hastening things in a revolutionary direction.
The May 1 statement will be available on our website, revcom.us, toward the end of the week of April 23. The statement will also appear in the next issue of Revolution, #87, which will be available for the May 1 demos in Chicago and L.A. People in other areas should download the statement from the website and make copies for massive distribution. (The statement will fit on a two-sided 11 x 17 sheet, or a double-sided tabloid newspaper page.)
May 1 is the international holiday of the proletariat, the class with nothing to lose but their chains. It is a day when the revolutionary aims of the proletariat—for a world without classes and class divisions and all that goes with that, and for a revolution to get to that world—are renewed and declared.
On May 1 this year, we call on distributors and readers of Revolution to not only march, but to boldly get this newspaper and the May 1 statement into the hands of tens of thousands and more. This effort should include the special Revolution issue (#84) on Bob Avakian, along with other revolutionary materials.
Make plans now for May 1! Contact Revolution to order your papers and other materials. Download the May 1 statement from our website, and check the site regularly for updates and information. And after May 1, send us your reports on what you saw, heard, and did that day.
Revolution #86, April 29, 2007
Revolution #86, April 29, 2007
We received the following from a correspondent in Hawai'i:
On March 2, the Associate Dean for Research of the University of Hawai'i-Manoa, accompanied by a security guard, came to Professor Michael D'Andrea's office with a letter from the Chancellor of the university. The letter immediately banished Prof. D’Andrea from the entire campus, took away his teaching responsibilities, and issued a gag order preventing him from speaking or communicating with any UH faculty, students or staff in person or by any other form of communication. All for allegedly engaging in "intimidating, hostile and bullying behavior" which is "not conducive to a positive and neutral work environment." The letter provides no examples of the alleged behavior but states that the action is being taken to "avoid further disruption of the operations of the University."
Prof. D'Andrea is a tenured professor in the Counselor Education Department in the College of Education. He has been at UH for 18 years and has an outstanding academic record, including 6 published books and more than 200 peer-reviewed publications. He has received numerous awards for his research, much of which focuses on institutionalized racism and the effects of racism on minority students.
What has made D’Andrea a target of the university administration is his outspoken stand on issues on the campus and in the larger world. He has filed grievances against the College of Education and system administrators for discrimination against minorities. He has been a vocal opponent of classified military research on the campus. He has been involved in organizing a "social justice counseling summit" to help students explore ways to pursue social justice in their work. He has tirelessly spoken out against the U.S. war in Iraq, including at Not In Our Name and World Can't Wait rallies on campus.
For this kind of advocacy, the UH administration has accused him of actions that are “not conducive to a positive and neutral work environment.” Several grievances have now been filed against him that are intended to lead to his firing. UH faculty members are union members, and there are procedures in place to process grievances and complaints--all of which the administration has attempted to nullify by labeling Prof. D’Andrea as a “threat to university operations” and preventing him from contacting students and faculty who are potential witnesses in his defense.
On April 11 Prof. D'Andrea filed suit in Federal Court based on violation of his 1st and 14th amendment protections. He is being represented by Attorney Eric Seitz and the ACLU. The first hearing in his case challenged the gag order on D’Andrea, which his attorneys said is “blatantly unconstitutional” by limiting his free speech and association and preventing him from defending himself on grievances against him.
UH attorneys opened their argument with an outrageous attempt to link the killings at Virginia Tech just hours before to the D'Andrea case, implying that lifting the gag order would similarly threaten students and faculty at the University of Hawai'i! When asked by the judge whether they believed D'Andrea posed a similar physical threat, the UH lawyers conceded that complaints against him were limited to alleged verbal intimidation, including shouting, but continued to maintain that such things could lead to physical violence and that "university campuses have become dangerous places."
The first witness for UH could present nothing that any reasonable person would find even vaguely threatening. She had allegedly heard from several other students that they were reluctant to express differing opinions in class (not an uncommon complaint at universities). Central to her complaint was that D’Andrea had sent her a letter asking her to meet with him and a professional facilitator after hearing that she had complained to the Dean. She also testified that D'Andrea had used a UH list-serve to send a "political message."
Before D’Andrea’s attorneys could question the witness about the nature of this “political message,” UH conceded on the gag order and entered into an agreement allowing Dr. D'Andrea to contact students and faculty in order to defend himself against the university's grievances against him. This is just the beginning of what will undoubtedly be a long battle. Arbitration of the complaints against Professor D’Andrea is being scheduled, and his case against UH has just begun.
Attorney Seitz said, “D’Andrea has been a thorn in their [the administration’s] side for quite a while, protesting against a Navy research center on campus and against the war in Iraq.” While the grievances against D’Andrea have not been made public, Seitz says the allegations are “really benign” and added: “They’re not that big a deal. Out of the blue, he’s banned from campus and can’t talk to anyone. It’s like hitting a nail with a sledgehammer.”
UH’s attack against Prof. D’Andrea has become a subject of interest on campus and in the community, but so far there has been little outrage. Few people know about David Horowitz’s reactionary campaign against progressive professors and the broader right-wing agenda of stifling dissent and critical voices on campuses. Yet, within the last several years, two other very popular, untenured professors who were strong voices of dissent at UH (including in the battle against classified military research on campus) were driven out of their positions.
The challenge we’re facing is to connect UH’s attacks against Prof. D’Andrea here with the broader agenda of silencing dissent on campuses across the U.S., and to mobilize people to stand up to this assault before it’s too late. And while the events at Virginia Tech were horrific, there's a need to oppose the efforts by the university to use this as a pretext to further limit dissent (as was exemplified at Prof. D’Andrea’s court hearing) and to implement new security measures and limits to access to campus, as the administration is now raising.
The special supplement in Revolution issue #84, “Warning: The Nazification of the American University,” and the talk by Bob Avakian, “Balance” Is The Wrong Criterion—And a Cover for a Witch-hunt—What We Need Is the Search for the Truth: Education, Real Academic Freedom, Critical Thinking and Dissent” (audio file available on bobavakian.net and revcom.us/avakian) are providing us with an indispensable framework for getting a broader understanding of what’s really going on, to sound the alarm, and to mobilize people politically.
Revolution #86, April 29, 2007
We received this correspondence from a Va Tech graduate. It is the text of a presentation given at a vigil a few days after the massacre.
It was quite a while ago when I graduated from Va Tech, but on the day of the massacre I found I could remember so much about it, and so clearly. My girlfriend lived in West AJ, and I took engineering classes at Norris Hall. As the details started coming out, I found myself picturing the scene, imagining which paths the shooter might have taken, which hallways and stairwells he walked down. I wondered how he was able to get all the way across campus. I wondered if any of my former professors were killed. I wondered how former classmates were dealing with it all.
I'd like to mention some of my memories from Va Tech: Going to the Ton 80 Club to drink and throw darts (not necessarily a good combination). Seeing bands like Birdsongs of the Mesozoic perform at Daddy's Money, or Hüsker Dü at the Student Union ballroom. Rushing to Mish Mish to buy supplies then "pulling an all-nighter" with friends in Cowgill Hall to complete an architecture assignment. Resisting the strong pull to once again ditch my 8 a.m. calculus class when it was 20 degrees and snowing, one of those times when it would snow all day but there would be no accumulation because the wind was so strong. Having innumerable discussions with classmates and friends, in class and out, about literature, music, and philosophy, in which we tested the limits of our knowledge and understanding. And there were a lot of ridiculous things, like gathering in the dorm common room to watch Love Boat, cajoling a film buff friend into seeing a bad movie like American Gigolo, and making stupid jokes – one of my engineering professors was called Dr. Pap, so at exam time we would joke about having to take a "Pap Smear."
I mention them because these are the kinds of memories one should have about college. It's heart-rending to think that for so many students, their college memories will forever be centered around something horrible. Their memories of Norris Hall should be about things like "Pap smears." They should not be about dead classmates.
Anyone who has paid attention in the last few days has seen many instances of people attempting to deal with the massacre from a lofty perspective, in ways which are moving, inspiring, and dignified. At the same time, there have also been moves to use it for narrow political goals. Bigots have argued for blocking all arrivals of new immigrants. Others have spoken of the need for more police, more surveillance, more intrusion--with some talking as if the "solution" is to turn campuses into armed camps. Many have used it to further erase the separation between church and state. Liberals were quick in calling for more restrictive gun laws, while others were just as quick to oppose such moves.
I find all of it unseemly (and some of it disgusting). It strikes me as a kind of instrumentalism, an approach in which truth is tortured or invented, and treated as merely a tool to achieve a goal. How much more instrumentalist can you get, than to quickly leap over the central truth of the massacre, that of deep, and for some, inconsolable grief--that on Monday morning tens of thousands of people had their hearts implode when they first heard the news, and who then waited in horror for news about their children, their sisters, their boyfriends, their classmates, their parents? To treat massacred students as simply a means to make some argument (even if it's an argument with which I personally would agree), seems to me wrong and disrespectful.
I think there's a connection between this and Cho's actions (and perhaps whatever made him so alienated and hateful). To be clear, I'm not suggesting they are in any way morally equivalent. But both involve reducing people to abstractions, emptying them of humanity and making them ciphers to be filled with whatever immediate interests seem to require. Though one is a reflection of political opportunism and the other is horrific hatred, the former is as widespread and commonplace as the latter is isolated and extreme. I suggest that there is something to reflect on here--after all, Cho didn't come from Mars. He came from the same place we do.
There is an aspect of this, too, in some of the quick attempts to "explain" the massacre. Grappling with the massacre in an all-round way in order to achieve some kind of understanding is important, even imperative--and we should definitely reject the fundamentally reactionary idea that it is beyond understanding or attributable to some abstract evil. And certainly, everyone should contribute to an overall understanding and share what they understand from their perspective. It would only compound the tragedy if whatever important lessons which are available are not learned. But any understanding can not be separated from, and in fact, must be centered upon and flow from, the profound human truths of the massacre, and in no way (even unintentionally) restrict the space for grieving, or treat tremendous human pain as incidental.
With that in mind, I'd like to make the following comments. Since the massacre at VA Tech, more than 200 people have been killed in Iraq. As an internationalist and someone who rejects chauvinism of any kind, I grieve as much for their deaths as I do for those killed at my undergraduate college, even though I have never walked on the ground they have, never sat in their classrooms, never shopped in their markets, never watched a concert or a bad movie with them. They, too, were people who loved and were loved. And their deaths, too, will exist as an emanation of pain for far too many, and for far too long. I mention this not to diminish the significance of what happened at VA Tech but in fact to increase it, to highlight it and what it could mean.
In the last few days, many people have said words to the effect that our response to this massacre should be to expand, and not restrict, our humanity and our compassion. Though perhaps expressed in different terms and from a different perspective than my own, I am in deep unity with such a sentiment. I would add two things. First, if we are to accept this, why not accept it fully? Why not take this as an opportunity to recognize and reject all the forms of chauvinism which construct some as more human than others and which ultimately help create oppression, domination, and, yes, horrors? If we are to take from Monday's events the recognition of the need to create a better society, why not recognize, and take seriously, really seriously, the need to create a better world and to understand our role in it?
Second, the history since 9/11 shows that there are those who will do the exact opposite. In that case, some callously used that tragedy to push forward programs which are in opposition to the interests of the vast majority of people, here and around the world. If we are to accept that our response to this massacre should be to expand our humanity and our compassion, we should be aware of, and accept the responsibility to resist, any moves to do the opposite, especially those which would only create more pain, more sorrow, more personal black holes which only serve to suck up that which makes any of us human.
Some years ago, there was an horrific massacre of many hundreds of people in East Timor, a country with which I have a deep emotional connection. It took place over many days and was televised around the world. The experience was for me overwhelming, devastating. A part of me did not want to live in a world in which such things could happen. I do not claim to have learned anything profound from that experience. But I did learn this: we can find everything we need to deal with even the most overwhelming tragedy in each other. And in doing so, we just might find the means by which we can raise our sights, lift ourselves above petty, narrow, or selfish interests, and transform ourselves into the means through which a different world is created, one in which such horrors as the massacre at VA Tech, and the ongoing atrocities in Iraq, are genuinely, and finally, unthinkable.
Revolution #86, April 29, 2007
From Set the Record Straight: Lies the System Tells You
Click here to download PDF quiz
Revolution #86, April 29, 2007
Also available at revcom.us:
News flash: On April 18, Republican senator and presidential candidate John McCain, responding to someone at a Veterans of Foreign Wars hall in South Carolina who asked when the U.S. was going to “send an air mail message to Teheran,” began by singing “Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran” to the tune of the Beach Boys song “Barbara Ann.”
As the U.S. occupation of Iraq produces new horrors every day, the Bush regime is continuing on a trajectory toward more confrontation and possible war with Iran. Not a week goes by without some new report about U.S. preparations for a military strike or yet another outrageous threat against Iran from the mouth of a ruling class representative, Republican and Democrat. A U.S. war on Iran would cause massive death and destruction and further accelerate the very negative dynamic of McWorld/McCrusade vs Jihad--two reactionary and historically outmoded poles which are opposed but also reinforce each other.
Last week's issue of Revolution included two articles that are very relevant to getting a deeper materialist understanding of this whole situation, and we urge everyone to check them out at revcom.us:
* Part 2 of Bob Avakian's talk “Bringing Forward Another Way,” which contains the section “The Danger of War Against Iran.” The entire talk, which is currently running as a series in Revolution, is available at revcom.us/avakian/anotherway.
* “The Britain-Iran 'Hostage' Faceoff & the Trajectory Toward Confrontation and War,” by Larry Everest.
Other recent articles by Larry Everest on Iran and the Middle East include:
* “No Good Choices in the Halls of Power: Democrats Vote $100 Billion to Continue the War,” issue #83 (online version)
* “U.S. Threats Against Iran: War Plans—and Pretexts—in Place,” issue #80
* “Bush Regime Surges—Toward War with Iran,” issue #78