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Revolution #87, May 6, 2007
From the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, On the Occasion of the May 1st Demonstrations for Immigrant Rights
Today, on May 1, all over the world people are celebrating International Workers Day in struggle against the oppression and degradation this capitalist/imperialist system brings down on the people of the world. Here in the U.S., people are stepping out into the streets. They are going up in the face of vicious attacks on immigrants in this country, and refusing to be treated as modern-day slaves.
On this day we raise the call:
We are human beings, we demand a better world, we will not accept slavery in any form.
The world cries out for revolution. From the unjust war launched by the U.S. in Iraq, to the children slaving in sweatshops in Pakistan. From the sex trade in Thailand, to the gunning down of Black youth by the police in the streets of U.S. cities. There is the destruction of the environment and there is the destruction of the human spirit, with poverty and hopelessness and humiliation. They are dragging women back into the dark ages, depriving them of any right to determine if and when to have children…and at the same time they are condemning children to a life where they are doomed before they are even born. Countries and continents are left to rot, whole peoples are oppressed in a very lopsided world, where a very few control and use the wealth and resources of the planet while the vast majority have no control over their very lives or the direction of society.
All these things, and thousands more, are beyond unacceptable. All these things, and thousands more, can be laid at the doorstep of the capitalist system, and the political structures and institutions that exist to enforce that system. And the simple truth is that revolution is needed to end all this--revolutions made by the millions of us all over the world who decide that we have just had enough and are going to change the world. Nothing short of revolution will bring an end to all this. That is the true beating heart of May 1, ever since it began 121 years ago.
The Just Struggle for Immigrants’ Rights
Last year seemingly out of nowhere a movement for immigrants’ rights was born. Millions of immigrants and their allies took to the streets in historic and massive protests. From mid-western meatpacking towns to all the major U.S. cities to southern farming communities, a sea of immigrants who are daily forced to live in the shadows, avoiding any contact with the authorities, boldly marched to demand a better life. They were joined by people that were born here, from different nationalities, that refuse to go along with criminalizing immigrants.
Major cities were shut down in a show of the huge potential power of the people that was felt across the land. This was part of a wave of protests that put a halt to the hated Sensenbrenner bill (HR 4437) in Congress which would have criminalized millions of undocumented people and those who help them in any way. The mushrooming of this movement rattled this whole oppressive system and had reverberations not only throughout this country, but beyond—in Mexico and other countries. May 1st, last year, gave great hope to all those suffering from the weight of exploitation and oppression as well as many who do not directly suffer from this but who hate it nonetheless, that right here in the belly of the most powerful oppressor in the world, modern-day slaves were raising their heads in struggle, and showing that what we do can make a difference.
Today, all the things that brought people into the streets last year have intensified. Day after day, a knock is heard at the door and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) police rush in, terrorizing small children and humiliating adults. Or they sweep the streets, grabbing first this one then that one, handcuffing fathers, mothers, and children, arresting 18,000 over the last year, and tearing families apart. At the border, the U.S. sends more troops, more migra, and more high-tech equipment, driving hungry and desperate people to try and cross through the rivers, mountains, and deserts, as the death toll steadily climbs through the thousands.
On college campuses, students acting like storm troopers in Young Republican clubs launch vicious “games” to “hunt the illegal immigrant.” Meanwhile, armed Minuteman vigilantes hunt immigrants at the border for real. City governments pass laws prohibiting the renting of houses and apartments to “illegal immigrants.” And the “guest worker” programs that are being proposed as the solution by both Bush and the Democrats are nothing more than a new form of slave labor. Plus all these plans include provisions that would fine immigrants thousands and thousands of dollars for coming into the country illegally. None of these plans are any good for the people.
This intolerable situation requires broad and determined opposition and resistance.
What is the Problem? Capitalism
Meanwhile, the politicians and media have dehumanized a whole section of people, branding them as criminals and thieves and “terrorists.” They whip up hysteria about “criminal illegal aliens” sneaking across the border into the country to do harm to “Americans,” stealing jobs from other working people, and supposedly causing government budgets to collapse.
But all that talk is just lies. Let’s look at the real facts.
The 12 to 20 million undocumented workers estimated to be in the U.S. have been driven into this country by the heartless workings of capitalism and imperialism. The economies in countries like Mexico or Pakistan or Nigeria have been twisted and ruined by the dictates of the U.S. capitalist/imperialist system. At the same time, the capitalist economies of countries like the U.S. are driven to force the wages of workers lower and lower—and to find ever more desperate people who are compelled to slave.
To take just one example, U.S. capital transformed Mexican agriculture to serve the needs of the world market—and in so doing it has driven 1 1/2 million farmers off the land since the 1994 NAFTA (so called free trade) agreement went into effect and raised the price of Mexico’s staple food, tortillas. Millions are desperate, and every year hundreds of people die crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, where the wall currently being built by the U.S. now stands as yet another hated symbol of the ugly domination of the U.S. over Mexico. (And remember that this supposedly “sacred” border we hear so much about was created in the first place by an unjust war the U.S. waged against Mexico to extend the slave system and expand U.S. capitalism!) Now those who are in the U.S. form the backbone of the most dangerous and highly exploitative industries, like meatpacking and construction.
You can find a similar story in almost every industry and in almost every country of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Imperialism drives people from their lands, persecutes and even murders them as they cross the border, and then super-exploits and demonizes them once they are in the imperialist countries. Millions of immigrants are driven to the U.S. from their home countries to be horribly exploited in restaurants, sweatshops, landscaping, and construction. They provide what is almost slave labor for the U.S. economy, an economy that has become so dependent on the super-exploitation of immigrants that it cannot function without it. And the ways in which the fears of millions of native-born people are being manipulated; the divisions that are fanned and enforced between nationalities, even among the oppressed nationalities—all of these are products of capitalism.
This is going on all over the world—over 200 million people have been driven out of the countrysides and forced to seek work in places like the U.S., Europe, and Japan. They, along with the 12 to 20 million undocumented workers estimated to be in the U.S., have been driven from their homes by the heartless workings of capitalism and imperialism. Now every capitalist would explain to you that they are not being greedy or malicious, but that they have no choice—and, in a perverted sense, they would be right. Each is driven by the fear of being wiped out by some other capitalist who is working people at still lower wages for still higher profit.
From the point of view of the people on the bottom, there is not an immigration problem, there is a capitalism problem.
But the rulers of this country, aided by reactionary media blasting their message on TV and radio, have worked very hard to create a situation where the ignorance of people about the real deal will get them to side with them against the immigrants. Many people in the middle class feel under attack in their living standards and quality of life, and they are being misled by the mouthpieces for the very people who are responsible for the bad shape things are in. These people, like Lou Dobbs or the fascist congressman Tancredo, use the immigrants as scapegoats for all the insecurities and problems and fears of the future that their system has forced on the majority of people in this country.
One of their most vicious strategies is to set Black people and immigrants against each other. Here are two sections of the people who should be part of the strong core of the revolutionary movement to end this horror. But the Black people are told, “The immigrants are stealing your jobs and taking over your neighborhoods.” And immigrants are told that “Black people are lazy and criminals ready to rob you.” People, often living right next to each other, don’t know the history of how people came to be here and how the system has forced people into the situations they’re in—this is intentionally hidden from people to keep them divided.
But think about it! After all, this is the same system that was born based on a brutal system of slavery. It kidnapped people from Africa, it stole all the land that it now calls its own, and it expanded its global reach through monstrous wars. And this is the system that has been fed ever since by the back-breaking labor of first outright slaves, and then wage slaves—here and all over the world. And now for those people here who cannot be used profitably by the empire, there is a new form of slavery—Black people have been systematically targeted for incarceration, and put again on chain gangs. While those from other countries, whose economies have been dominated and distorted by the same empire, are driven here to work for extremely low wages with no rights whatsoever—again, a new, if different, form of slavery.
Given all this, what sense does it make for people who share a common problem to be fighting each other for crumbs? What sense does it make for immigrants to take pride in being “good slaves” and join their oppressors in criticizing Black people for not wanting to do that? What sense does it make, especially for Black people, to unite with those who have kept them down for so long against people who come here to the land of broken promises to try to live a little better life? What do you want to do—scramble and squabble for favor with your rulers, or be part of fighting to emancipate all of humanity?
But it doesn’t have to—and we can’t let it—go down like that. When people understand what the actual conditions are that drive people to come here and understand the real history of oppression of the U.S.…then they can also see the need to struggle against that whole system.
And important positive things are going on. Unity is beginning to be built. When ICE agents converged on immigrant workers’ homes in Stillmore, Georgia, with guns and bulletproof vests, arresting 120 Mexican immigrants in raids, the Stillmore mayor spoke out to say, “This reminds me of what I read about Nazi Germany, the Gestapo coming in and yanking people up.” On college campuses, students have confronted and protested the Minutemen when they came to spread their anti-immigrant poison, and they have gone up against the College Republicans when they organized their reactionary “Find the Illegal Immigrant” game. In cities in California people have protested raids and several city governments have declared that they will in no way cooperate with these ICE raids in their communities. People have begun to speak out on the spot when these raids are taking place. And in quieter, but very important, ways people from different nationalities are coming together to do things like viewing Bob Avakian’s Revolution video, and to talk about what has caused all this and how to forge the unity we need to fight it.
This kind of thing, and much more of it, is exactly what is needed to change the polarization into one where the initiative is on the side of the people who stand with the immigrants. If we combine all the strengths of those on the bottom—all the understanding of how this system oppresses the people and the creative energies people have in finding ways to resist that oppression, there is great potential to turn this whole thing around.
The people have the potential to come together from all different nationalities and not only beat back all the ways they horribly exploit and oppress immigrants but come together as part of a revolutionary struggle for a better world. Yes, the enemy is very powerful. And one lesson we should learn from last year is that there is no good resolution, in the interests of the people, that is going to come from the system’s politicians. But last year also saw the power of the people. And people learned some things. Everyone can learn from the spirit from those protests, the display of defiance and resistance, and join and bring their strengths to bear in a united struggle against a system that is the source of our common misery and suffering.
The imperialist rulers of the U.S. are rampaging through the world, invading and occupying whole countries in the pursuit of empire, torturing and detaining people in secret prisons, and jailing people indefinitely without charges. Within the U.S. itself they are backing a movement that aims to impose a fanatical Christian fascist government in the U.S., they are eliminating a woman’s right to choose, they are stepping up the oppression and discrimination against minorities, and all the rest. There is absolutely no prospect for a better world for immigrants or anyone else in the world as long as this system stays in power. Think about it. It is just not going to happen. Their attacks on immigrants are part of a whole program, a whole package, that has to be resisted and defeated.
But even more importantly, things don’t have to be this way. The world can be changed and all this can be overcome by revolution—a socialist revolution.
Such a revolution must be led by the proletariat—the class of people who own only their ability to work and have nothing to lose but their chains—and it must unite millions and millions more who are not from the proletariat, but yearn for a better, more just world. Such a revolution must be the conscious act of millions. It must result in a whole new state power that builds on the achievements of past proletarian revolutions, and goes further in unleashing a vibrant and lively socialist society. This state power in turn must and will serve new social and economic relations aimed at getting rid of exploitation and all the oppressive institutions and ideas that exist now, between people and between countries. It must be very firm in dealing with those who would destroy it, both from without and the overthrown and new exploiters from within…while “going to the brink of being drawn and quartered” in order to ensure the fullest possible flourishing of critical thinking and democracy among the people. A whole different—and far, far better—world is possible. And not only is a better world possible but we have a leader, Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, who has developed a revolutionary plan and vision for getting to that better world, one that builds on the achievements of the past while critically summing up the shortcomings, and on that basis envisioning a new “model” of socialist society and the transition to a truly communist world.
Which brings us back to where we started—the world cries out for revolution. We have great tasks and great struggles before us. At this very moment, one of the most important tasks is to bring all kinds of people together in revolutionary unity and mount a huge struggle to beat back all of these attempts to criminalize, demonize, and dehumanize immigrants. Think of what possibilities would open up—how we could hasten the day when we can make revolution—if people of all different nationalities were out in the streets together, if the attempts of the rulers to create modern-day slaves were rejected, if the immigrant catchers were driven back, if millions found common revolutionary cause against a common enemy and were to declare, in one voice, diverse in language and accent, but fully united in its sentiment:
“We are human beings, we demand a better world, we will not accept slavery in any form.”
Revolution Online, April 29, 2007
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Revolution #87, May 6, 2007
ATTENTION: Anyone who downloaded the PDF file of the RCP May 1st statement in Spanish before 7:00 a.m. Monday, April 30 (Central time)!!
Due to technical problems, there were significant errors in the version that was posted on this website of this statement IN SPANISH, which were corrected after 7:00 a.m. Central time on Monday morning. If you downloaded the file before that time, please do NOT use it. Please copy the new version now posted.
Revolution #87, May 6, 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 fourth 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.
Here I want to bring up a formulation that I love, because it captures so much that is essential. Soon after September 11 someone said, or wrote somewhere, that living in the U.S. is a little bit like living in the house of Tony Soprano. You know, or you have a sense, that all the goodies that you've gotten have something to do with what the master of the house is doing out there in the world. Yet you don't want to look too deeply or too far at what that might be, because it might upset everything—not only what you have, all your possessions, but all the assumptions on which you base your life.
This is really capturing something very powerful, not only in a general sense but also more specifically in terms of what is pulling on a lot of people who should be in motion very vigorously and with real determination against the outrages that are being perpetrated in their name and by their government—by this ruling class, and by the core that's at the center of power now in the U.S.
When this analogy, or metaphor, of "living in the house of Tony Soprano" was first brought forward (or when I first heard of it, at least), in the immediate aftermath of September 11, 2001, it was very timely and relevant. But September 11th was a rude announcement that there's a price to be paid for living in Tony Soprano's house, for continuing to go along with these profoundly unequal relations in the world and the way that your government, and this system fundamentally, bludgeons people in the world into conditions of almost unspeakable suffering in order to keep this whole thing going and in order, yes, for some "goodies" to be handed out to sections of the population in the "house"—not only "goodies" in an economic sense but also in the form of a certain amount of stability, and a certain functioning of democracy (bourgeois democracy) within the U.S. itself. All that is being shaken up now. Now, you don't just get the goodies for "living in Tony Soprano's house"—you get the "strangers" out in the backyard at night. "They're out there somewhere." It's a different world. It isn't the same equation as it was, even a decade or so ago—it's not the same now "living in Tony Soprano's house."
It is not that everything was all smooth and nice for everybody in this house—for many people in the U.S. that has been far from the case—and it is not that nobody was aware of things going on in the world, of what "Tony Soprano" was doing to people out there all over the world. In fact, one of the ironies is that a lot of people have been somewhat aware of this, but when the terms get sharpened up, some people want to pull back from what they themselves know. And so we have to get into real and sometimes sharp struggle with people.
This is a point I believe I made in one of those recent 7 Talks1—and, in any case, it is a very important point to emphasize: There is a place where epistemology and morality meet.
There is a place where you have to stand and say: It is not acceptable to refuse to look at something—or to refuse to believe something—because it makes you uncomfortable.
And: It is not acceptable to believe something just because it makes you feel comfortable.
Ultimately, especially in today's world, to do that is a form of complicity, and we should struggle with people about that.
And it also won't work to apply that kind of approach. You'll just end up in a very bad place, reinforcing both of the "historically outmodeds" and being on the wrong side of what needs to happen in the world, if you follow that approach out to its logical conclusion.
We need a different world than one where there are a few houses of Tony Soprano, surrounded by a seemingly endless sea of suffering and oppressed humanity, living in terrible squalor and under undisguised tyranny; where the power, wealth and privilege of the relative few depends on, and is grounded in, the exploitation and misery of the many (and where, even within "Tony Soprano's house" itself, there are many who are treated as little better than second-class members of the family, or as despised servants). This is a world that cannot, and should not, go on as it is.
Even before people are won to the communist standpoint and program, to fully deal with this, there is a struggle to be waged and they can be won to the broad position that we need a different world. We can struggle about what that world should be, and how it should be brought into being; but this dynamic we're on is going to lead to a disaster for humanity, including all of those who are trying to hide from it, in one form or another, or are thinking that if they remain passive, somehow it will pass them by.
Revolution #87, May 6, 2007
Letter from a Chicano Youth
Revolution received the following correspondence:
I am 14 years old and am a freshman in high school. I was raised in a proletariat neighborhood to immigrant parents. I am a first generation Chicano. My whole life now revolves around social justice. I do various political organizing including distributing Revolution. Although now I see the necessity for change and justice, I wasn’t always like this. Even though I grew up in a struggling household, I, for some odd reason, was pulled into the realm of the mass media (Fox News and the History Channel mainly). It taught me that wars waged by the U.S. were “necessary for freedom” and were inevitable, that the Americans were the “good guys.” I started believing that we were the greatest country in the world and that there could be nothing better at a very early age (around eight or so). So when 9/11 came, you could imagine my response: “my” country had been “attacked” and now we have to get the “bad guys.”
I went along with the whole bandwagon of getting those responsible. I was glued to Fox News! When the Bush regime came out with the so-called “evidence” of Saddam Hussein and Iraq being responsible for 9/11, I wanted retribution for those deaths. I wanted Saddam’s head in front of me. As the months went by and the casualties started racking up, I was still paying attention. I started seeing the casualties shoot up -- 400, 600, 850, 1,000. I started researching the war. I found out how much money we were wasting every day. I found out that we were using unguided cluster bombs, napalm and uranium-enriched weaponry. I found the true Iraqi death count. But what really got me were the pictures from Abu Ghraib. I remember seeing them and crying. Bush said that Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11. I drew the line: the country that I had so loved and appreciated, the country that my parents had suffered so much to come to, had lied to me. But not only that, they lied and admitted it. They boasted about it.
I opposed the war by then. And I opposed Bush. But I still didn’t see the complete picture. I knew that there was something much more difficult and complicated. I started asking myself: Whose laws allow this to happen? America’s. Whose president is doing this? America’s. I then realized that this isn’t a single war that happened to have turned out wrong, it is a result and representation of this system, capitalism. It is a system that was built and is sustained by the exploitation of people. The war in Iraq is just this system implementing its plans. I then discovered the Project for the New American Century and how the Bush Administration, even before being in office, had planned it all. It had planned Afghanistan and it had planned Iraq. It also indicated that they might have even planned 9/11! I had to do something now.
I found out about World Can’t Wait just three days before October 5, 2006. I went to the October 5th [demonstration] in SF and, as I clearly remember, got there early. I remember seeing people getting equipment ready and figured I should just help out, since I had nothing else to do. They immediately let me know what I could do. They made me part of something that I didn’t know much about, other than we were helping end the war by setting up tables and picket signs. Then when the march came near, they let me be a monitor. I was helping organize a protest for the first time (and I didn’t know it then, but it would be far from my last). The feeling was incredible. I was part of something HUGE!
After being with WCW for a month or two, I was introduced to Bob Avakian and the Party and its revolutionary thinking. The first issue of Revolution that I read and discussed with people was the “Bringing Forward Another Way” piece by Avakian. I had then found something that completely fit my needs. I knew what was wrong at that time. I knew what was needed. But then I didn’t know exactly how to get it. Avakian introduced me to the thought of a Revolutionary Communist revolution in the “belly of the beast.” He gave me a platform -- structure and theory -- behind what I knew the world needed. He formulated a response from me to the system. He opened my eyes to the idea of how we could accomplish change. I had never seen anything like it! I started looking into the complete ideas of the Party -- Marxism-Leninism-Maoism -- and really saw the solution to end the oppression. I found something that wasn’t only the liberation of a few, but the emancipation of all of humanity.
A lot of organizations, TV shows or documentaries do a really good job at reporting the truth. They really point out the flaws and show you the suffering. Some of them even give you a reason: capitalism. But which TV documentary have you seen that leaves you with a solution? I’ll wait… NONE! Avakian has shown to me that solution. If everyone could get an issue of Revolution and could dive into the politics of revolution, we could accomplish so much.
I started to get involved in distributing the paper. I found it a good experience to get to know the people behind revolution and to get a deeper understanding of what has been brought forward. I had never seen communism in practice. After learning about it and seeing, I started to see the possibility. I started to connect things with my everyday life to Avakian and to the RCP’s platform. What can we do to help the homeless? Nothing through this system: revolution! What can we do about police brutality? Nothing through this system: revolution! I began to understand the meaning of revolution: it’s not some bloody conquest to form another everlasting dictatorship, it’s an attempt for change. It’s not only an attempt, though, it is success.
I have really gained a lot so far from the overall experience of taking the paper out. Before, I had been discussing the paper with people but had not really taken it out and talked to others about it. So it really helped me set in stone what I believe because when you prove it to somebody else, that really assures you that this is what you believe because you are telling other people about it--letting other people know that there could be a change. And really the main thing that got to me was taking it out to the proletarian neighborhoods that I grew up in since I was a little baby. When you go to the people who are directly affected by capitalism it is a really touching experience because these are the people we are working for –these are the people that are going to be saved and, not only that, are going to be part of the revolution and part of making that change for themselves, and for everyone else too. And every single person that we came up to--I don’t recall one person in the day laborers that said that we were wrong. Every single one of them said we need change right now! We need revolution. We can discuss everything about the change later on but right now we need a revolution. We just need to be talking about a change and bringing up the ideas. That is the main thing that I got just talking to people about the ideas. They don’t have to completely agree with the ideas, or agree with Bob Avakian or what the Party brings up but just as long as they talk about the need for revolution. If you agree that there needs to be change and needs to be revolution that is really the only thing you need to get along with me and we can work from there.
Revolution #87, May 6, 2007
The distribution of the Revolution special issue on Bob Avakian—“The Crossroads We Face, The Leadership We Need”—hit over 472,000 as of April 22! With major efforts being mounted in Los Angeles as we go to press, over half a million people will have been introduced to this leader and what he’s all about by the time you read this. In addition, ads were run in a number of papers and many stores, libraries, and other outlets made the paper available. In all, at least 2,500 people were involved in getting this issue out in many different ways.
In future issues, Revolution will cover what was accomplished and learned through this effort. To help deepen that process, we encourage people to write to us and tell us your experiences reading, distributing, and raising money for this special issue of Revolution newspaper: Email us at email@example.com or send us your comments directly through our web site, revcom.us. Or write us at Revolution, Box 3486 Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654. Or call us at 773-227-4066.
Revolution #87, May 6, 2007
We received the following correspondence from Chicago:
Tuesday, April 24. Little Village, on 26th Street, in the heart of the large Mexican community in Chicago. A local tattoo artist who works in the mall told Revolution what happened:
“They came in with major shit, shot guns and automatic weapons, 15 cops in riot gear, came in with all this shit. They shut the entire mall down, closed the exits, but what they did before that is they were filming for a period of time, everyone shopping. And then they locked it down while everyone was still in there shopping. Then there was a panic that set in among people. They had these pictures and they were profiling every single person who was in the mall looking for people who made IDs or who bought IDs. And they had photographs. They were going into all the crevices of the stores in the mall trying to fish for people.”
The is a scene that is becoming much too commonplace: people are shopping, eating, and hanging out on a main strip in the heart of a Latino community in the United States--and suddenly, swarms of federal law enforcement agents move in, hold people at gunpoint, and take people away. Their families may not see them again. Children separated from their parents.
Another witness described what happened in a health clinic during the raid in Little Village. They said that women were sitting in the waiting room, with their children climbing around. Then all of a sudden, armed federal agents came in, yelling at people, terrifying everyone. Then people from all over the shopping center who were not carrying ID's were detained outside and questioned. News reports said that federal warrants were issued against 22 people, 12 of whom have been arrested so far.These kind of raids have been happening all over the country. And it is very significant that a raid like this has happened in Chicago, which was a major epicenter of the massive upsurge of marches for immigrants rights last year.
As the raid in Little Village continued with people being locked in the mall, frustration and fear, for many, gave way to anger. The tattoo artist described how he had never seen the look in people’s eyes that he did that day. He recounted how one older immigrant woman was yelling at the FBI about how unjust this was and that they were going to deport everyone. An FBI agent threatened to arrest her too if she didn't shut up.
People were calling their families and friends, who raced to the scene from all over the city. At a certain point, people started pouring out of the mall and on to 26th Street in a very defiant march of protest and resistance. There were 300 or more people in the streets and the authorities
were forced to shut down traffic. Activists, clergy and organizers of the immigrants rights May 1st demonstration also joined the protest, calling for an end to the raids and round-ups, and the terrorization of whole communities.
One person told Revolution : “It was like Nazi Germany and they just raided the houses down the street and they’re coming for you next. People were responding with that kind of desperation. People were forced to act. They started to march, marching through the streets of the neighborhood chanting.” People stayed in the streets well into the night.
In the days after the raid in Little Village, some people were too terrified to come back to the shopping center or to even leave their homes. People are wondering, are they going to come back today?
The area has been politically very highly charged, both before and after the raid. Many people have been talking about and building for the big May First demonstrations when people all over the country will stand up against the raids and for immigrants' rights. And just in the weeks before the raid, thousands of copies of the special issue of Revolution newspaper about Bob Avakian, “The Crossroads We Face, the Leadership We Need,” were distributed in the shopping center where the raid took place and more broadly in this area.
The courageous response of the people to the raid in Little Village is an important part of new stirrings of resistance and points to the need and potential power of people of all nationalities uniting together, to resist such fascistic attacks and demand a better world.
Revolution #87, May 6, 2007
As the reactionary offensive against immigrants intensifies—carried out by the government as well as by fascist vigilantes and media demagogues like Lou Dobbs—there is talk among ruling class politicians in Washington about major immigration “reform.” But the “solutions” being pushed by both Bush and the Democrats are no good for the people.
George Bush's Plan
Though Bush has not yet released his full immigration program, a preliminary draft was released to the media in March 2007. It heavily pushes the expansion of the “guest worker” programs, which create an underclass of workers who can readily be deported if their employers fire them, who are often cheated out of their wages, and who are forced to live in filthy conditions. Under Bush's plan, “guest worker” visas would last 3 years and could be renewed over and over again, putting these immigrant workers into a permanent caste-like status. To top it off, “guest workers,” who are often thousands of dollars in debt to labor contractors by the time they come to the U.S., and who are often paid far less than the minimum wage, would be charged $3,500 each time they renew the visa. (For more on "guest workers," see “Immigrant Workers: 'Close to Slavery'” in Revolution # 83, online at revcom.us.)
Bush also promotes increased militarization of the border. In an April speech in Yuma, Arizona, he bragged that the Border Patrol had increased from 9,000 to 13,000 agents--and called for 5,000 more agents by the end of next year. He also wants an additional 370 miles of border fences. The increased militarization of the border in recent years has led to more deaths on the border, as immigrants are forced to cross in even more remote and dangerous areas. Since the stepped-up militarization of the border began during the Clinton presidency in the mid-1990s, an estimated 10,000 immigrants have died trying to cross.
Another key element of Bush's program is the building of more and more immigrant detention facilities. In 2006, the Bush regime gave a subsidiary of the war profiteering company Halliburton a $385 million dollar contract to build jails for immigrants in the event of “emergencies.” Bush declared in his Yuma speech that he has increased detention space for immigrants, including children, by 40 percent since 2001 and plans more expansion. A recent ACLU lawsuit discussed the horrendous conditions at one detention center in Texas: "Children are detained in small cells for about 11 or 12 hours each day, and are prohibited from keeping food and toys in these cells, which lack any privacy… many children suffer from chronic ailments that worsen as they are left undiagnosed and untreated… Guards frequently discipline the children by threatening to separate them from their families." (from a March 2007 lawsuit filed by the ACLU against the Department of Homeland Security, posted at http://www.aclu.org/immigrants/detention/hutto.html)
Under Bush's “reforms” all immigrant workers would have to have a “tamper-proof ID card.” But such an ID card could only be useful to the government if all workers, immigrant or not, were required to possess one—in other words, this is a fascistic proposal for a national ID card.
Luis Gutierrez's Bill
The STRIVE Act, a bill introduced by Illinois Democratic Congressman Luis Gutierrez along with Arizona Republican Congressman Jeff Flake, is being promoted by some forces as a more “pro-immigrant” alternative to Bush's plan—but it is actually full of similar attacks on immigrants.
While the bill supposedly gives undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship, the requirements are written in such a way to make it virtually impossible for the majority of immigrants to get citizenship. Most of those applying for citizenship would have to leave the country within 90 days of applying--and register before being allowed to return. People would also have to pay a minimum $2,000 fine and pay "back taxes," even if they have already been paying taxes for years. They would have to show proof that they have consistently been employed since June 1, 2006—which disqualifies anyone who was unemployed for too long. Any immigrant who ever used “fraudulent documents” (about 75 percent of undocumented workers, since they often have to resort to using fake IDs to get work) would not only be ineligible for citizenship--anyone caught using “fraudulent documents” could be imprisoned for up to15 years. And for the few that might manage to satisfy all of these requirements, they would still have to wait an average of 15 years before actually getting citizenship.
Like Bush's proposals, the STRIVE Act heavily promotes “guest worker” programs. Under Gutierrez's plan, workers would get a three-year visa and be able to renew it once. And they would have to pay a fee of $15,000 for the privilege of being exploited as “guest workers.” The Act also calls for a national biometric database to track all immigrants, an "Electronic Employment Verification System" to identify who is documented (and who is not), and 20 new detention centers—more than even what Bush is calling for.
Revolution #87, May 6, 2007
Tuesday, April 24--U.S. Representative Dennis Kucinich entered a resolution into Congress to impeach Vice President Cheney.
Wednesday, April 25--50 prominent voices of conscience stood up in front of the U.S. Capitol to demand the impeachment of President George W. Bush and Cheney.
Thursday, April 26--as the Senate voted on the Iraq war appropriations bill, two 20' x 30' banners dropped from high in the atrium of the Hart Senate office building, one with the impeachment clause of the Constitution, the other saying: "Your Silence, Your Legacy."
Opening the press conference for the impeachment action on April 25, John Nichols of The Nation magazine declared: "We’re here to tell Congress to put impeachment on the table where it belongs, at the forefront of its agenda."
The air in Washington was electric last week as writers, actors, activists, former and current government officials, and others gathered across from the Capitol. This was the moment to break out the movement to impeach Bush and Cheney. The specter of a constitutional showdown between the White House and Congress was percolating over the Democrats' inclusion of a time line for withdrawal from Iraq in the war appropriations bill and Bush's veto threat. Revelations, accusations, and subpoenas against the Bush administration were mounting daily. Bush and Cheney, bellicose as ever, made clear their determination to go ahead with their program of escalating the war in Iraq, threatening Iran, rewriting legal procedures to even further limit Guantánamo detainees' access to lawyers, hailing the theocratic and anti-women Supreme Court decision restricting abortion rights — all while defending their lying legal architect of torture, Attorney General Gonzales.
All this--and as many as 655,000 Iraqis killed (according to a study published in the British medical journal Lancet) and 3,333+ U.S. military deaths--was the stage upon which the demand for impeachment was raised. Complicity and responsibility, the rule of law, and the necessity to act before even more death and damage is done were themes that echoed through the statements at the press conference.
Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author of American Fascists Chris Hedges, captured the gravity of the stakes: "This president is guilty, in short, of what in legal circles is known as the ‘crime of aggression.’ And if we as citizens do not hold him accountable for these crimes, if we do not begin the process of impeachment, we will be complicit in the codification of a new world order, one that will have terrifying consequences."
For several weeks running up to April 25, e-mails were circulating as prominent voices of conscience wrote statements, worked to clear schedules, and made commitments to be in D.C. On April 19, actress Olympia Dukakis announced the upcoming action before a national TV audience of millions on the The View, causing Rosie O'Donnell to leap out of her chair, fists in the air. Endorsements and statements came in from Ed Asner, Russell Banks, Jackson Browne, Ariel Dorfman, Eve Ensler, Graham Nash, Gore Vidal, and Alice Walker, among many others. As April 25 neared, Representative Kucinich scheduled his filing of articles of impeachment against Cheney for the day before.
At Kucinich's announcement of the impeachment on the 24th, the press ridiculed him for standing alone — while studiously avoiding the substance of his charges against Cheney. As the gathering of the prominents began next day, Kucinich strode up the Capitol steps to the microphone and said, looking around at those assembled: "I was asked yesterday, who stands with you? No one stands with me but the people on this. The people will be heard from!"
Most of those assembled on the 25th have spoken out against the war and Bush before, including advocating for impeachment. But never before had there been a gathering with such a breadth of prominent voices of conscience coming together to say impeachment must begin now. The main speakers included Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson, Kucinich, Chris Hedges, Daniel Ellsberg, Cindy Sheehan, and Eric Oemig, the state legislator who introduced an impeachment resolution in the Washington state legislature. They stood with the first poet laureate of New Jersey, Gerald Stern; Broadway actors Kathleen Chalfant, Eunice Wong, and Frank Wood; poet Anne Marie Macari; former intelligence and military officials David MacMichael and Ann Wright; and a score of other notable resisters, artists, activists, and military families. This was an assembling of people who have been, in different arenas, at the forefront of opposing Bush and the war. Their standing together, demanding the impeachment of Bush and Cheney, began puncturing the "realpolitik" that all that is possible is what is already going on, and the cynical, criminal position of leading Democrats that impeachment will undermine their Presidential campaigns.
Cindy Sheehan, standing with others who had lost family members in Iraq, “The only solution to end this war is to impeach the liars, impeach the murderers, and get our troops home."
Many speakers expressed grave concern that the rule of law has been grievously undermined by Bush. Rocky Anderson said that initially he had thought impeachment was too extreme, but today he thinks that "Perhaps impeachment is most crucial for us as a nation and for those who come along in the future, to say that we will never allow these atrocities, these violations, this disregarding of the rule of law in our name."
Daniel Ellsberg, who risked life in prison when he leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971 as a way to stop the Vietnam War, said, "To fail to impeach these officials, to fail to identify these as impeachable crimes, is to be fully complicit in their assault on the Constitution and democracy. That applies to every citizen, not only to members of Congress."
In discussions after the press conference, participants spoke of this week as a beginning, perhaps a turning point. As there is great turmoil over the future in Washington's halls of power, the action of these well-known voices of conscience was a new step in carving open political ground for a movement gathering from below to demand real change.
Speaking as Director of World Can't Wait—Drive Out the Bush Regime, I issued a challenge in my opening remarks at the April 25 press conference: "To those who say it is premature to raise the demand for impeachment now, we ask: how tolerable is the situation in Iraq to you -- to allow it to continue for 2 more years? How tolerable is the build-up towards war with Iran? How long will you live with Guantanamo and torture carried out in your name? If now is not the time, then when will it be? If we do not demand impeachment and act to bring the Bush program to a halt, who will?"
Revolution #87, May 6, 2007
Thousands of people joined actions in 175 places across the U.S. on April 28 to spell out the demand to impeach George Bush. A small plane dragging an IMPEACH sign flew over the Coachella Valley Music Festival, where the reunited Rage Against the Machine played; 1500 gathered on Ocean Beach in San Francisco; hundreds spelled IMPEACH in New York's Central Park. IMPEACH signs were held by freeway bloggers and projected by gigantic lasers. Much more news online at A28.org.
Revolution #87, May 6, 2007
We received the following correspondence:
On Saturday, April 21, 500 people attended a World Can’t Wait rally in Greensboro, North Carolina to demand: Stop the Wars! – No Attack on Iran! Impeach Bush and Cheney for War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity! Support Military Resisters!
Cindy Sheehan, Carl Dix (a representative of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA) and Terri Johnson, a local young Black woman who refused to finish basic training in the U.S. Army because of her opposition to the war, were some of the main speakers. The event drew a diverse array of participants. Groups speaking and represented at tables included Islamic Center of Triad Youth Group, Green Party, SDS - UNC Chapel Hill, Hip Hop Against the War, Revolution Books, Code Pink, Sammy Rasouli/Muslim Peacemaker Teams, Greensboro Minimum Wage Campaign, Smithfield Workers, Nation of Islam, Campus Anti-War Coalition and WCW from UNCG, Charlotte Action Center for Justice, ISO, NC Labor Against War, Military Counter Recruitment, Grass Roots Impeachment Movement, Food Not Bombs and Cakalak Thunder. Rally goers were continually encouraged to go to meet activists, get literature, sign up for events and get involved. "Nobody leaves here without becoming an activist and organizer yourself!" was a constant refrain from the stage.
Two marches from local colleges North Carolina A&T State University and University of North Carolina-Greensboro converged on downtown Greensboro. The area resembled a military zone with large numbers of police, barricades and a counter demonstration of 150, called by the reactionary group “Gathering of Eagles (GOE).” This group supports the war in Iraq and George Bush and has, in particular, attacked Cindy Sheehan, calling her today’s Jane Fonda because of her opposition to the war.
On Friday, the local newspaper’s banner headline read “Anti-War Protesters Will Face Opposition.” The TV news also played the angle of Saturday’s demonstration as a potential clash between the anti war demonstration and GOE’s “military veterans.” In this city where in 1979, members of the Ku Klux Klan and Nazis massacred anti racist marchers, this had a sub text of potential violence. In this climate the WCW event was even more significant.
At the rally, Cindy Sheehan called for the impeachment of Bush and Cheney, saying: “George Bush with his War on Terror on the world is the biggest terrorist in the world!” She called on people to join Gold Star Families and thousands of others on May 14 in Washington, D.C. for a “Mother’s March.” Sheehan vowed to refuse to leave D.C. on that day and fill the jails with mothers if the war in and occupation of Iraq isn’t ended. A youth group from a local mosque presented Sheehan with an award for her opposition to the war and also celebrated her presence with poetry and Palestinian dancing.
World Can't Wait presented Terri Johnson with a “People’s Commendation Award.” It read, in part, “For courageous resistance…for commitment to world peace while enlisted in the Army against a hostile agenda of the United States of America.” Inscribed on the award was an anti-war poem by Suheir Hammad.
In her acceptance speech, Terri Johnson talked about how there are many people in the military who don’t support the war and want to get out. She said, “People in basic training had believed the recruiters about college. They were told they wouldn’t have to go to Iraq. That turned out to be a lie.” She challenged the crowd: “I think the next protest we have we should be at the recruiting station where they are lying to kids.”
When Carl Dix spoke, he said: “I'm also here to support Terri Johnson who said NO! to the Army like I did during the Vietnam War. The The Carolina Peacemaker, Greensboro's Black weekly newspaper, in its coverage of the rally wrote: “The Baltimore native [Dix] was drafted into the U.S. Army in April 1968. But when he was told that he would go to Vietnam, he refused, resulting in a two-year stint at Fort Leavenworth Military Prison, located in Kansas. Dix said, 'I told the sergeants, I told the captains, I told the whole military hierarchy, 'Hell no, I ain't going.' He told listeners that the Vietnam War and the War on Terror are conflicts that are based on imperialism. 'The U.S. is waging a war in Iraq based on lies,' Dix said.”
During the weekend, WCW held other events, including a fundraising reception for Cindy Sheehan held at a prominent businessman’s house. This was attended by 150 people, including academics, clergy, professionals and a few local politicians and community leaders.
Revolution #87, May 6, 2007
Now 21 years old, Krystal Allen of Hollandale, Mississippi, was 17 when she had her first baby. When the baby was four months old, he developed breathing problems, and Krystal took him to the emergency room. The hospital gave him antibiotics and a vaporizer and sent them home, where they went to sleep. Krystal remembers, “When I woke up I thought he was sleeping, and I was getting ready for church. But he was dead.”
In Detroit, 26-year-old Sparkle Ruffin, a telephone company worker, had regular prenatal care, but her baby was born three and a half months before her due date, weighing only one pound. Sparkle remembers, “She passed when I was holding her.”
Cheryl Fields lives in the Alice Griffith housing projects in San Francisco’s Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood. She suffered from preeclampsia, an illness that affects pregnant women. She was so sick at the end of her sixth month that doctors had to deliver the twins with a C-section, even though they were too small to survive. Cheryl remembers, “My son lived two hours. My daughter lived an hour.”
Each of these women went through their own pain and sorrow as they lost their babies so soon after birth. But these are not isolated stories—they are part of a horrendous pattern of the high number of Black infants that die early compared to the number for white infants.
According to the most recent national statistics, in 2003 the Black infant mortality was 13.6 per 1,000 births—almost 2.5 times higher than the rate of 5.7 for whites. The overall rate for infants of all nationalities was 6.9. (U.S. government statistics, online at childstats.gov/ americaschildren/hea7.asp)
The “infant mortality rate” is the number of babies who die before their first birthday for every 1,000 live births. So the Black-white disparity in the infant mortality rates in the U.S. means that 13 to 14 Black babies out of every 1,000 do not even make it through their first year, as compared to between 5 and 6 white babies out of every 1,000 that die before age 1.
The Black infant mortality rate is not only outrageously high, comparable to the rates in some poor Third World countries, but that rate is climbing, especially in the South but in other parts of the U.S. as well.
The Rising Infant Death Rate in Mississippi
In Mississippi and nearby states with large Black populations, the rate of infant death has been rising sharply in recent years after a period of improvement. The mortality rate among infants of all nationalities rose from 9.7 in 2004 to 11.4 in 2005. The rise reveals the deadly effects of the cuts in government funds on the lives of the poor.
In 2005 and 2006, for example, the number of non-elderly people covered by Medicaid, and of kids under children’s health insurance programs in Mississippi dropped by 54,000. The southern regional director of the Children’s Defense Fund told the New York Times in a recent article, “When you see drops in the welfare rolls, when you see drops in Medicaid and children’s insurance, you see a recipe for disaster.” (“In Turnabout, Infant Deaths Climb in South,” April 22, 2007)
While the rise in the overall infant mortality rate is alarming, the rise in the death rate among Black babies is truly devastating. Infant deaths among Blacks in Mississippi rose from 14.2 per thousand in 2004—already much higher than the national rate—to 17 per thousand births in 2005.
There were also smaller increases in Black infant mortality rates in Alabama, North Carolina, and Tennessee in 2005, and in Louisiana and South Carolina in 2004.
There are some who try to blame Black women themselves for the rising number of deaths among their infants. The NY Times article mentioned above, for example, quotes an obstetrician at a private clinic in Clarksdale, Mississippi, who says, “I don’t think there’s a lack of providers or facilities. Some women just don’t have the get up and go.” An article in the Detroit News (“Health Gap Threatens Detroit Babies,” 12/19/04) blamed “behaviors” in some women, like “not taking the initiative to get public assistance” or “eating poorly.”
This is the same kind of argument that has been used to put down Black people and justify their enslavement and other forms of oppression throughout their history in America. It’s an attempt to put the blame on Black people themselves for their terrible conditions of life. In reality, what the rise in infant mortality rates shows is that these conditions are not the fault of the people themselves but arise from the way society is organized and run.
In a letter to the editor in the New York Times (April 26), H. Jack Geiger, M.D., a founding member and national coordinator of the Medical Committee for Human Rights, noted that when he and his colleagues started a community health center in the Mississippi Delta in the 1960s, the estimated Black infant mortality rate in the area was close to 60 per 1,000 live births. Dr. Geiger points out, “The causes were abysmal poverty, wide unemployment, crumbling shacks, outright malnutrition, contaminated water and lack of transportation.” When these conditions were addressed, and desperately needed health care was provided, the infant mortality rate dropped sharply.
But, Dr. Geiger notes, “Those causes persist, now worsened by deep cuts in Medicaid and welfare.” And he adds, “The consequences of shredding the social safety net is more dead black (and white) babies. No health services can overcome the effects of social policies that devastate the lives of the poor… We should be enraged, and ashamed, that these preventable excess deaths continue, and increase, among us.”
A Problem Affecting Black People Generally
The outrageously high (and increasing) Black infant mortality rates in Mississippi and neighboring states reveal the ugly legacy of slavery and Jim Crow in the South. But this is also a problem that affects Black people throughout the U.S. Some examples:
• In Detroit, 17 out of every 1,000 Black infants die before they are 1 year old, according to state health statistics for 1998-2002. This is almost 3 times the rate for white infants born in Detroit. The rates are even higher in some other places in Michigan—like in Oakland County, where Black babies are four times more likely to die than whites before reaching their first birthday.
• In Massachusetts, Black babies die at a rate three times higher than white babies, according to a 2005 report from the state Department of Public Health. In 2003, the most recent year covered in the report, the mortality rate for Black infants was 12.7, compared to 4.1 for white infants. The Boston Globe noted in reporting on these statistics, “A tinderbox of poverty, racism, and chronic disease fuels the gap in infant mortality rates, a health measure long regarded as a bellwether of a nation’s commitment to social well-being, maternal health specialists said yesterday.” (“Disparity Persists in Black Infant Mortality,” 4/20/05)
• The Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood in San Francisco was for decades a predominantly Black area, but now there are many Latino and Asian/Pacific Islander people living there also. This is the poorest area in the city—a third of the children younger than 5 here live below the official poverty line. San Francisco overall has one of the best infant mortality rates among large cities in the U.S. But the infant mortality rate in Bayview-Hunters Point, 11.8 per 1,000 births, is 2.5 times higher than for the rest of the city. And of the 66 babies less than a year old that died in this neighborhood between 1992 and 2001, 43—or 65 percent—were African American.
The high rate of infant mortality doesn’t just affect the poorest Black women and families—African American women who have steady jobs or are in the middle class also suffer from this problem. According to various researchers, professional/middle class Black women have two to three times higher risk of having babies with low birth weight—the top cause of early infant deaths—compared to white women. Babies with low birth weight are 17 times more likely to die than babies weighing at least 5.5 pounds at birth. And underweight babies, even if they survive, are more likely to develop heart problems, respiratory disease, and other serious health problems later in life.
What accounts for this disparity? A study published in 2004 in the American Journal of Public Health reported that women—of any class background—who experienced high levels of racial discrimination were almost five times more likely to deliver low birth weight babies than women who have not experienced racial discrimination.
According to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle (“Too Young to Die,” 10/3/04), some medical researchers looking into black-white differences in infant mortality are focusing on “the grinding stress—from factors like segregation and racism—that blacks may face over a lifetime.” The Chronicle noted that in a 2003 study, UCLA professor Michael Lu “suggested that research should look at the stress a mother experiences during her whole ‘life-course,’ beginning with her own development in the womb, or even stretching back to encompass the intergenerational effects of the stress her grandmother may have experienced. He cited studies showing that mothers who were themselves born at low birth weights are much more likely to give birth to low-birth-weight babies.”
All this points to the fact that the problem of the high rate of Black infant mortality is not fundamentally caused by individuals “acting irresponsibly,” but is tied in to the whole historical and present-day oppression weighing down on Black people as a whole.
The “Health Gap” and Systematic National Oppression
The Black-white difference in infant mortality rates is one aspect of the more general “health gap” between African Americans and whites in the U.S. To cite a few examples: Black people have a 25 percent higher cancer death rate than whites. Around 40 percent of African American men and women have some form of heart disease, compared to 30 percent of white men and 24 percent of white women. The rate of diabetes among Black people is twice as high as among white people. More than 54 percent of HIV/AIDS cases diagnosed in 2002 were among African Americans, who are 10 times more likely to die of AIDS than whites. (Health and Human Services statistics from 2005, omhrc.gov)
And this “health gap” in turn is part of the overall, systematic oppression of Black people in this country. The U.S. rulers boast of the “freedom and prosperity” in this country. But this is a system based on their “freedom” to brutally plunder, exploit, and suppress the people of the world—a system which couldn’t exist the way it is today without the barbaric exploitation of Black people under slavery, then after slavery through the plantation sharecropping system, the Jim Crow segregation that followed, down to the continuing oppression of Black people after legal segregation was largely overturned. And that national oppression is in many ways intensifying today—with the increase in Black infant mortality in Mississippi and other areas as one glaring and intolerable example.
Revolution #87, May 6, 2007
Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army
by Jeremy Scahill
Nation Books (452 pages)
“The often overlooked subplot of the wars of the post-9/11 period is their unprecedented scale of outsourcing and privatization,” author Jeremy Scahill writes in The Nation. “From the moment the US troop buildup began in advance of the invasion of Iraq, the Pentagon made private contractors an integral part of the operations. Even as the government gave the public appearance of attempting diplomacy, Halliburton was prepping for a massive operation. When US tanks rolled into Baghdad in March 2003, they brought with them the largest army of private contractors ever deployed in modern war. By the end of Rumsfeld's tenure in late 2006, there were an estimated 100,000 private contractors on the ground in Iraq--an almost one-to-one ratio with active-duty American soldiers.” ("Bush’s Shadow Army," The Nation, 4/2/2007)
In his new book, Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army, Jeremy Scahill traces the explosive growth of Blackwater, USA, a private and secretive mercenary company based in the wilderness of North Carolina. Scahill writes that “in less than a decade [Blackwater] has risen out of the swamp in North Carolina to become something of a Praetorian Guard for the Bush administration's global war on terror.”
According to Scahill, Blackwater has more than 2,300 soldiers deployed in nine countries. It maintains a database of 21,000 special forces troops and retired police that it could deploy at a moment's notice. It has a private fleet of more than 20 aircraft, including helicopter gunships. Its 7000-acre headquarters is the world’s largest private military facility. It trains tens of thousands of law enforcement officials a year from the U.S. and other nations. It is currently constructing new facilities in California, Illinois, and a jungle training facility in the Philippines. Blackwater has over $500 million in government contracts – and that does not include “black budget” operations for U.S. intelligence agencies or contracts with private corporations or foreign governments. One U.S. Congressmember observed that Blackwater could overthrow many of the world’s governments.
“Blackwater is a private army,” Scahill writes, “and it is controlled by one person: Erik Prince, a radical right-wing mega-millionaire who has served as a bankroller not only of President Bush’s campaigns but of the broader Christian right agenda.”
Erik Prince’s father Edgar played a major role in creating and funding many right wing Christian political movements, such as James Dobson’s Family Research Council. Scahill documents that “Erik Prince has been in the thick of the right-wing effort to unite conservative Catholics, evangelicals, and neoconservatives in a common theoconservative holy war—with Blackwater serving as sort of armed wing of the movement. Prince says ‘Everybody carries guns, just like the Prophet Jeremiah rebuilding the temple in Israel—a sword in one hand and a trowel in the other.’”
The book brings out the political climate among what Scahill calls the “theocratic movement” at the time Blackwater was founded in the mid-1990s. Many on the Christian right considered the newly elected Clinton administration illegitimate. First Things, a journal that Scahill calls “the main organ of the theocratic movement,” published a special issue titled “The End of Democracy,” which featured essays that predicted a civil war scenario or Christian insurrection against the government. Erik Prince’s close friend, former Watergate conspirator turned Christian fascist, Charles Colson, wrote in the issue, “A showdown between church and state is inevitable. This is not something for which Christians should hope. But it is something for which they need to prepare.”
Blackwater and Fallujah
Immediately after 9/11 Blackwater landed a $5.4 million contract to provide 20 security guards for the CIA’s Kabul station. But a big break for the company came when it landed a $27 million contract for providing security for Paul Bremmer, who was in charge of running the U.S. occupation of Iraq. The senior U.S. official in Iraq and the public face of the occupation, Bremer would not be protected by U.S. government forces or Iraqi security but by Blackwater. Scahill writes that the Blackwater soldiers sent to guard Bremmer “embodied the ugly American persona to a tee. Its guards were chiseled like bodybuilders and wore tackey wrap-around sunglasses. Many wore goatees and dressed in all-khaki uniforms with ammo vests or Blackwater t-shirts with the trademark bear claw in the crosshairs, sleeves rolled up…Their haircuts were short and they sported security earpieces and lightweight machine guns. They bossed around journalists, ran Iraqi cars off the road or fired rounds at cars if they got in the way of a Blackwater convoy” (p. 71)
The Blackwater company first came to public attention on March 31, 2004 when four of its private soldiers in Iraq were ambushed and killed in Fallujah. People in the city dragged the bodies through the streets, burned them, and strung two of the mercenaries over the bridge over the Euphrates River.
The press portrayed the incident as an Iraqi mob irrationally attacking “contractors”—not armed mercenaries—who were helping to rebuild Iraq. The headline in the Chicago Tribune read, “Iraqi Mob Mutilates Four American Civilians.” Scahill illuminates the situation in Fallujah before the attack on the Blackwater soldiers. During the 1991 Gulf War, Fallujah had been the site of a major massacre when a “precision bomb” hit a densely populated area smashing through a market and apartment complex killing over 130 civilians. After U.S. troops occupied the city in 2003, U.S. troops opened fire on a peaceful demonstration killing 13 and wounding 75.
The attack on the mercenaries was used as a pretext to launch a massive assault on Fallujah delivering a horrific collective punishment to the whole city. Thousands of U.S. troops invaded the city, 1000- and 2000-pound bombs were dropped, hospitals were closed so those injured could not get medical aid. Over 800 people died in the U.S. attack and tens of thousands were forced to flee. A reporter from Al Jazeera wrote, “I went to the hospital. I could not see anything but a sea of corpses of children and women, and mostly children…These were scenes that were unbelievable unimaginable. I was taking photographs and forcing myself to photograph while I was at the same time crying.”
Mercenaries from Titan and CAGI (two other mercenary groups) were involved in the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. According to a lawsuit filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights, Titan and CAGI conspired with U.S. officials to “humiliate, torture and abuse persons” to win more contracts for their “interrogation services.” (p. 157)
Not a single U.S. military contractor has been prosecuted for crimes committed in Iraq. In fact the contractors operate in a legal black hole where they seem to be immune from prosecution. One of Paul Bremmer’s last official acts before leaving Iraq was to sign Order #17, which said that “contractors shall be immune from Iraqi legal processes with respect to acts performed by them pursuant to the terms and conditions of any Contract to sub-contract thereto.” (p. 163).
In addition, until very recently, contractors have been immune from being charged by the U.S. under military law that governs U.S. troops. Blackwater also claims that it is immune to civil suits filed in U.S. courts, because it is part of the U.S.’s “total force” in Iraq. In other words, the mercenaries in Iraq are literally above the law.
In late 2006 Congress added an amendment to a Defense Department spending bill that said that contractors could now be prosecuted by the military in military courts. None have yet been charged. If its mercenaries were brought in front of military tribunals, Blackwater would likely challenge the right of the military to prosecute them.
From Azerbaijan to New Orleans to the Border
Scahill’s book is filled with rich exposure of the role that Blackwater is playing around the world.
Azerbaijan: Blackwater received a government contract in 2004 to train an elite Azeri force modeled after U.S. Navy SEALs. “Torture, police abuse, and excessive use of force by security forces is widespread in Azerbaijan,” according to a Human Rights Watch Report quoted in the book. But, as Scahill brings out, the Bush administration wanted to build an oil pipeline through the country in order to get access to the large Caspian Sea oil reserves without going through Iran or Russia. They also wanted to use the country as a forward base of potential operations against Iran, which borders on Azerbaijan.
Honduras: At an army base used by the CIA during the 1980s to train Nicaraguan Contras and the infamous U.S.-backed death squad Batallion 316, a private U.S. company prepared Honduran soldiers to work as mercenaries in Iraq. Scahill reports that the trainees were told that “where we are going everyone would be our enemy and we’d have to look at them that way, because they would want to kill us and the gringos too. So we’d have to be heartless when it was up to us to kill someone, even if it was a child.”
Chile: Blackwater has relied upon mercenaries that had served under brutal military dictatorships. Nearly 1,000 Chileans, many of whom were part of the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet have been trained by Blackwater and deployed to Iraq. Other recruits have come from members of the military of apartheid South Africa.
New Orleans : One hundred fifty heavily armed Blackwater troops in full battle gear including automatic weapons were deployed to New Orleans by the Department of Homeland Security. Scahill writes, “what was desperately needed [in New Orleans] was food, water and housing. Instead what poured in fastest was guns. Lots of guns.” A Blackwater mercenary is quoted as saying: “The only difference between here [New Orleans] and Iraq is that there are no roadside bombs.”
The Border: Blackwater has mounted a campaign and testified in Congressional hearings arguing that its troops should be deployed on the U.S.-Mexico border.
The rise of Blackwater and the increasing use of mercenaries by the U.S. raises many important questions. In a period of political crises could such a private army be part of a military coup? Is deploying mercenary troops around the world a means by which a U.S. empire could manage a global war for empire and domination without instituting a draft? Would such an army feel even less compulsion to respect international rules against torture and attacking civilians, and would the use of such forces insulate the U.S. government from accusations that it is carrying out war crimes? Readers interested in finding out more should check out this important book.
Revolution #87, May 6, 2007
The Chicano Struggle and Proletarian Revolution in the U.S.
With this issue, Revolution is beginning a series of excerpts from “The Chicano Struggle and Proletarian Revolution in the U.S.” This position paper, which originally appeared in June 2001, is by a writing group of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. The research and investigation that is reflected in this paper was carried out as part of producing the new Draft Programme of the RCP. (The Draft Programme and the full text of the position paper are available online at revcom.us/s/programme_e.htm.)
There are three sections to the paper: Part I: The History and Present Conditions of the Chicano People; Part II: The Source of—and Solution to—the Oppression of Chicano People; Part III: A Look at Other Viewpoints and Approaches—Where We Have Unity and Where We Have Differences Over What Will Bring True Liberation.
We begin our series of excerpts with a section from Part I.
The day-to-day reality of the Chicano people is marked with the scars of oppression and exploitation: the young, bald and brown Chicano who has had his face pushed up against a wall by the police more times than he can remember; the Chicano families where the parents have slaved a lifetime making capitalists rich while they can barely make ends meet; the Chicano college freshman who has overcome the "savage inequalities" of an inner city education only to hear in not-so-soft whispers that he or she is "only there because of affirmative action"; all the Chicanos slapped on the back of the hand with a ruler for speaking Spanish in school or swept into Special Ed classes because their first language is Spanish; the Chicanos who are constantly fed the "John Wayne" myth that the defenders of the Alamo were "heroes" who died at the hands of those "bad" Mexicans. All this and more is the weight the Chicano people bear.
Historically, the U.S. has benefited from murderous plunder against the Mexicano and Chicano people. And today the system continues to profit from maintaining the majority of Chicano people in the lower rungs of the working class. National oppression enables the ruling class to systematically oppress an entire people on the basis of their Mexican heritage, their skin color and the way they speak--forcing them into menial and often backbreaking work for the lowest wages. Chicanos are overworked and underpaid, or pushed onto the unemployment lines. Chicanos are segregated into poor, run down neighborhoods with the worst schools and medical care, and where police brutality is rampant. It has been over 150 years since the U.S. stole nearly half of Mexico's land, but Chicanos still live with the effects of this history of theft and conquest, and the continued domination of Mexico.
This oppressor/oppressed relationship is embedded in the social fabric of the Southwest and the rest of the country--a whole superstructure of prejudice and discrimination has been built up by the system that demeans, disrespects and criminalizes the culture, language, and even the existence of the Chicano people. Chicanos are constantly told that they are an inferior people, that their Mexican heritage and Spanish language are inferior, and that the reason they are treated like criminals is because they act like them.
While the U.S. has a history of oppression and exploitation against the Chicano people, Chicanos have a rich history of struggle against national oppression and against capitalist exploitation as part of the multinational proletariat. They are a living example of that most basic law of class society--"oppression breeds resistance."
Colonization, Conquest and Capitalist Development
The Chicano, or Mexican-American, people are an oppressed nationality in the U.S. whose roots of oppression trace back to the original colonization of what is now the southwestern portion of the U.S. Their forced subjugation as a people and their long history of struggle against this subjugation is rooted in the conquest of the Southwest by the U.S. ruling class in the U.S.-Mexican War, the continuous domination of Mexico by U.S. imperialism, and the maintenance of large parts of the Southwest as an oppressed region.
The year 1492 marked the beginning of a new stage in human history when Columbus drifted onto the Americas. In Europe it triggered tremendous activity among the rising merchant classes--the budding capitalists straining against the constraints of feudalism--who saw in the Americas a new source of wealth and power. Spain was one of the leading countries scrambling to stake its claim on the Western Hemisphere.
In 1519 Hernán Cortés led a small band of Spanish soldiers into the territory of Mexico, where they encountered a number of different peoples, including the dominant Aztecs, who commanded an advanced civilization and large empire, and others such as the Zapotec, Mixtec, and Mayan peoples. For various reasons, they were able to conquer the Aztecs within a few years and then proceed to take over the areas under their control, and the rest of the surrounding populations. Eventually, this led to the establishment of a new civilization that covered a large part of the continents of North and South America--including what is now Central America, Mexico, and the U.S. Southwest--dominated by the Spanish conquerors and populated by the indigenous peoples. The Spanish faced great resistance on the part of the native peoples as they spread their empire throughout the Americas. Spain conquered Mexico gradually, through warfare and the devastation caused by the diseases they brought with them. But throughout this period, resistance to their rule continued on the part of the Native American and Mexican peoples.
The Spanish conquest of these peoples all but destroyed the previous societies, not just in terms of the institutions and customs, but also large numbers of the existing populations. Few Spanish women traveled to the "New World"--which came to be called New Spain (Nueva España)--so the physical blending between the Spanish and the indigenous people--often the result of plunder and rape--created the mestizo. Out of all this, over several centuries, arose a new culture, the modern culture of Mexico. In New Spain the mestizo was looked down upon and exploited, and the remaining indigenous peoples were kept in extremely oppressive conditions as a result of new social relations imposed and enforced by the Spanish conquerors.
It was the search for mineral wealth that drove early Spanish explorers into what is now the Southwest of the U.S. Later, permanent settlements were encouraged to fortify the frontier against rival European powers. Colonizing these areas was not easy--the fierce resistance of the Utes, Apaches, Comanches and Navajos made it difficult for the settlers to gain control over the area.
These Spanish settlements were able to survive by conquering and enslaving the Pueblo Indians, who had developed agriculture and were a more settled people. In 1680 the Pueblos rose up against a century of abuse, torture and disease in an organized, coordinated revolt that drove all of the Spanish settlements out of the region for the next fifteen years.
But by 1700 the Spanish were finally able to defeat this revolt of the Pueblos. The conquest eventually decimated the Pueblos, so the Spanish looked for new ways to settle and control the area. In the northern part of New Mexico a large population of Indians and Mexican peasants were granted communal land by the Spanish crown to encourage the growth of settlements that would protect their interests in that area against others who wanted to force them out--other Indians and the French. In these areas villagers lived off subsistence crops, raised sheep on communal land, and had communal water rights. Their isolation from Central Mexico and relative stability enabled the people of northern New Mexico to begin developing a society of their own, based on communal land grants and distinct from other parts of Mexico and other Southwestern settlements. These settlements started in the 1700s and still exist today.
The Southern part of New Mexico was settled differently. In this area large tracts of land were granted to a few Spanish elite who forced very poor Indian and Mexican peasants to work their land. In this colony, just like in other parts of Mexico, Spanish nobility ruled, while the Indians and the mestizos were at the bottom of society. But, because of constant Indian raids these settlements grew slowly. At the end of the 18th century there were only 8,000 settlers in all of New Mexico.
In Texas, the Spaniards arrived with a cross in one hand and a sword in the other. In East Texas they tried to establish Catholic missions and armed garrisons, but the Comanches gave them no peace. Settlers were more successful in the south of Texas between the Rio Grande and the Nueces River. Here Spanish ranchers viciously exploited the mestizos brought from Mexico to work their land. However, long distances and hostile Indians prevented contact between this settlement and those in New Mexico and California.
In contrast, in California the mission system was successful. Twenty-one missions, three towns and three garrisons were built between San Diego and San Francisco. The coastal Indians offered little resistance and many were converted to Christianity and forced to "serve God" by becoming slaves. The resistance of the nomadic Indians of central California prevented the development of missions there. California was the farthest from central Mexico and had the smallest population of all the Spanish colonies by the 1820s.
In Arizona there were many attempts to settle. But as a result of the resistance and attacks on settlements by the native people, lack of money, and the Spanish struggle to keep control over Mexico, the Spanish found it difficult to protect their interests in Arizona.
To sum up: The first settlements in what is now the U.S. Southwest and California were sparsely settled between 1600 and 1800 by the Spanish, relying on Mexican and Indian labor. Only Northern New Mexico developed communal land grants. And the mission system based mainly on Indian labor developed only in California. These colonized areas had little or no contact with each other or with central Mexico. The distance between them, difficult terrain, and the constant resistance and attacks from Indigenous tribes, meant that each region had its own unique development and had little in common, other than their general Mexican heritage.
Next: Mexican Independence from Spain; The U.S.-Mexican War
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 #87, May 6, 2007
Also available at revcom.us:
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. Issue #85 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
Revolution #87, May 6, 2007