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Revolution #88, May 13, 2007
On May 1st this year, immigrants demonstrated across the country demanding an end to the government raids and deportations, and for the legalization of more than 12 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. In Los Angeles, what started as a day when tens of thousands marched in the streets demanding to be treated like human beings ended with the LAPD viciously attacking the thousands of people who attended an afternoon immigration rally at MacArthur Park. Many families with young children, elderly people, and others were in the park when battalions of armed police charged in and brutalized protesters and journalists. TV news crews and photographers captured images of the police swinging their batons near children as their parents shielded them with their own bodies. People were beat right and left with batons. Police pushed street vendors off the sidewalk. The cops shot over 150 rubber bullets into the crowd, injuring numerous people. Many, including a camera woman who suffered a broken wrist after she was pushed down and hit by the police, were taken to a local hospital for treatment.On Youtube.com you can watch news coverage with unedited video footage of the attacks in the local Fox News LA clip called "5-1-07 LAPD ASSAULTS MAY DAY DEMONSTRATORS" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UFDNKXJMH9A)
In the hours after the police swept through the park, hundreds of people from the surrounding Pico Union neighborhood came out of their homes and apartment buildings. There were bonfires at an intersection before the police finally dispersed the crowds.
The LAPD rampage against May Day immigrant rights protesters has fueled further outrage at the persecution of immigrants by raids, vigilantes, and police. There is widespread indignation and anger at this unprovoked and inexcusable police attack throughout broad sections of people across society—including Black people and many sections of the middle class. People are asking, “Why did this happen?” and “What can we do about this?”
Like the image of Rodney King being brutally beaten by the Los Angeles Police Department—blow, after blow, after blow—the image of battalions of LAPD officers on May 1st, brutalizing and shooting rubber bullets into a massive crowd of protesters and journalists is burned into the memory of many people throughout the country.
The stories are outrageous. Ricardo, a 72 year old man, was hit with a baton on his neck and back because he asked the police why the protesters were being dispersed. Another man was beat down because he was helping a father protect his child in a baby stroller. Luis, a data control manager who attended the protest to support immigrants, was struck across his head, knocked unconscious, and treated at a local hospital. Wounds, bruises, panic, and repression were inflicted on men and women; the elderly and children; protesters; and journalists who were reporting the news on a national day of protest demanding that immigrants be treated like human beings.
Who Ordered the Attack?
In an early press conference, LAPD Chief William Bratton said, "The individuals were there to provoke police… Unfortunately, they got what they came for." But he was quickly forced to reverse course. In a matter of days and following tremendous pressure, he was compelled to take “disciplinary action” against Lt. Chief Lee Carter, Commander Louis Gray. Sixty members the LAPD’s elite Metro Unit were taken off the street pending an investigation.
L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who has routinely supported LAPD in other high profile police brutality cases and been in favor of increasing the numbers of police on the street, was forced to condemn the police attack on May Day. While in El Salvador, Villaraigosa commented, "Yesterday, across the country, we witnessed a day of overwhelmingly peaceful speeches and assemblies in the best American tradition… Any time that our law enforcement officials employ force, the public has an absolute and unqualified right to expect and demand an aggressive review of the facts. This review is already underway." The scandal surrounding the May Day attack forced Villaraigosa to return home from a trip to Mexico and El Salvador.
What happened at MacArthur Park was a major police operation. Many people now want a full accounting of what happened and want to know: Who ordered the attack? What role did LAPD Chief Bratton play in this? What did the Mayor know about it and when?
Anger among the people only increased as news clips of the brutal LAPD conduct appeared repeatedly and for days at the head of evening news programs; on the cover of all major newspapers in L.A., including the editorial pages of La Opinion and the Los Angeles Times (which denounced the attack); in break rooms, classrooms, and school cafeterias; at Cinco de Mayo events; at a police commission hearing attended by over 200 people; and in neighborhoods around MacArthur Park, the Eastside, Southside, and Westside. The increasing anger of growing sections of people forced the Mayor and high-ranking police officials to embark on some major damage control and try to find a way to contain the growing discontent and calm people’s sentiments by promising a full investigation.
“Eating Tacos and Signing Shirts” Won’t Make Us Forget
Despite the efforts of police and their apologists to place the blame on a group of “agitators” for the brutal police response, many people are asking: "If they didn’t intend to repress people, then why were they ready with rubber bullets and tear gas?"
Many among the masses are not buying these attempts to cool their anger. One Latina who lives in the area around MacArthur Park told the LA Times when the Mayor visited the park, "He thinks people seeing him eating tacos here and signing shirts are going to forget about what happened here. It's an insult. It's just damage control… And this is not the first time we've seen police violence."
An elderly man from Mexico said, "They were looking for an excuse, they were ready to hurt just about anyone, and they did. [We] came here to protest for the legalization [of immigrants] and the police took advantage of that to attack even the reporters. There was no reason for them to do what they did. Nobody thought this was right. Even the white reporters didn't like that the police were just attacking anyone… [The authorities] are afraid. They know that we're not afraid to die and that's why they're attacking us. We're united, and there's a lot of us. I'm not afraid of the police anymore."
A peanut vendor at MacArthur Park said: "[The police] think that they own the world, but they don't. We don't want to be beat up and abused." "We're protesting because we want to be treated like human beings."
Other people expressed that while they had been hesitant to attend May 1st, after they saw the gross brutality unleashed on the people, they now think it's necessary for people to take a stand. One person said, "This is not the time to be afraid. See you at MacArthur Park!"
Organizers of the May 1st protests have called for a march and rally on May 17 in Los Angeles because they feel there’s a need for people to go back on the streets and back to MacArthur Park to protest the May Day brutality and continue to raise the demands: legalization for all immigrants and stop the raids, deportations, and militarization of the border.
A History Of Brutality—In New Conditions
On the front lines of the May Day assault were dozens of officers from the elite Metropolitan Division of the LAPD. This unit is made up of highly trained police officers—many with 15 to 25 years experience in the department and extensive experience in “crowd control.”
This elite unit was active during the Los Angeles Rebellion in 1992 and brutalized protestors at the Democratic National Convention in Downtown L.A. in 2000. Both the Mayor and police officials are saying that the problems arose because the police in MacArthur Park did not follow guidelines set after the numerous lawsuits against the LAPD following the attack on protesters at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in 2000. After the DNC, the LAPD was forced to sign a consent decree in which they promised in essence, not to do what they did on May Day, including attacking the press, as well as pay a $4.1 million settlement.
But this is not a problem of breaking the chain of command—what the LAPD did on May 1st is what they are trained to do. Commander Louis Gray was one of the two highest ranking LAPD officers on the scene on May 1st. He was also on the scene at the 2000 DNC—he gave the order for the police attack on demonstrators and the press back then. Columnist Gabriel Lerner wrote in La Opinion, “As part of a process, Tuesday’s actions were not spontaneous or accidental, [or the actions] of a few disobedient officers, nor was it a case of them going beyond their authority. It was actually the opposite. It was an elite unit specially trained to do what they did. They marched in formation and advanced as they were trained to do. They were dressed in official uniforms and helmets and had the latest anti-riot equipment. And who gave the order?”
At the police commission hearing on May 8th, Bratton said that the police intended to review the video tapes of the May 1st protest and charge anyone that assaulted a police officer. If Bratton and Villaraigosa are really condemning the police assault on May Day, then why haven’t they charged those police officer who were documented—and seen all over the world on television—beating protesters, journalists, and people who were just hanging out for an afternoon in the park? Why aren’t those police officers facing imprisonment?
The LAPD has an infamous history of brutality. But the attack on the immigrants takes place in very specific conditions. As Travis Morales put it, “This brutality is a critical part of U.S. imperialism’s program for immigrants: killed at the border; worked to death like slaves; Gestapo style ICE raids with the Migra dragging people out of their homes in the middle of the night; deportations and tearing families apart; terrorizing communities with street sweeps; concentration camps for captured immigrants including children; and armed vigilantes hunting down immigrants like modern day slave catchers.”
Black Voices Raised in Support
Significantly, this brutal assault against the people also holds the potential to break down some of the divisions between Blacks and Latinos. Numerous Black and Latino people drew parallels between the LAPD rampage and the police brutality against pro civil rights protesters in the 1960s. In particular, people pointed to the 1963 police attack with dogs and water hoses against the march to Birmingham, Alabama. The brutality and blatant attack drew condemnation from Black people in Watts and South Central Los Angeles. This outrage has raised big questions and provided a basis for overcoming some of the sharp divisions between Black people and Latino immigrants that the system has fanned. Half a dozen Black people spoke at the police commission hearing to denounce the attack, with some referring to the police chief as “Bull” Bratton. This was a reference to Bull Connor, the former police commissioner of Birmingham who was infamous for ordering brutal police attacks on civil rights protesters, including the march to Birmingham.
One prominent East Coast Black radio talk show host, who last year took a bad position on the immigrant outpouring condemned the attack, making parallels with 1963 Birmingham. He went on to tell a caller that if he thought “they” were going to first come after Mexicans and not then come after “you,” then “you’re crazy.”
The authorities are having a very difficult time containing the widespread anger and outrage at the attack on the May Day protest—which they did in an effort to try and crush this movement. It is not a settled question whether or not they will get away this, or if this attack will instead lead to further outpourings of protest and resistance and win new allies in support of the struggle of immigrants.
In a year marked by massive raids and roundups of immigrants, hundreds of thousands of people marched in the streets of major and small cities across the country on May 1 to give voice to their burning demand to be treated like human beings. The brazenly brutal attack on immigrant protesters in L.A. has exposed the program this system has for immigrants for people all over the world to see. In the face of this attack, a stronger core of people has been forged who have not given up their just demands and new allies have been brought forward. People from different walks of life are demanding answers and are organizing further outpourings to speak out against this program and challenge broader sections of people to ask if this is the kind of society they want to live in—where people are viciously attacked for demanding basic rights.
As we pointed out in our May Day coverage: “The movement needs to build on this, reach out far beyond the immigrant communities, and persevere in relying on the people’s own efforts to defeat all of the anti-immigrant attacks. Revolutionaries must work within that movement, strengthening this resistance and constantly bringing forward the fundamental interests of the masses and how the can only be satisfied through revolution.”
Revolution #89, May 20, 2007
At a moment when much of humanity finds itself in a living hell, when the horror of the U.S. occupation of Iraq threatens to escalate into a war against Iran, and when the future of the planet itself is threatened, Revolution newspaper must be out there much more boldly and much more broadly—exposing what is going on, revealing why, and pointing to a revolutionary solution in the interests of the vast majority of humanity.
Millions are outraged about starvation in Africa, but how many understand how the workings of the vaunted market economy create acute, widespread global hunger? In a world where science itself is under attack, why is the president of the United States an “evolution denier,” and what does that have to do with fundamental changes in global economics and politics? Why, when the immoral and unjust Iraq war is opposed by a majority of people, are all the major presidential candidates in agreement that “all options are on the table” for a U.S. war on Iran, including nuclear attacks? Why are the rights of women to abortion and even birth control coming under relentless attack—with no established voice raising serious opposition? Why are Black people still facing the betrayal symbolized by Katrina—140 years after the Civil War and 35 years after the high tide of the Black Liberation struggle? What were the great accomplishments of previous socialist societies in Russia and China, how were they defeated, and how can people do better in the next wave of revolution?
In the pages of Revolution newspaper, readers find answers to these and other burning questions of the times, answers that proceed from a ruthless search for truth, and from a commitment to bringing a much better world into being. Revolution brings you the voices of the modern-day proletariat, those on the bottom of society with nothing to lose but their chains. You hear from the workers in the factories and fields, the prisoners, the immigrants, the youth, the parents of people shot down by police and more. Revolution also brings you interviews with and opinions from people in the spheres of the arts, sciences and social and political movements. Revolution is a great newspaper, and getting better. Week in, week out, Revolution challenges readers with passionate, searing exposés, and revolutionary insights into burning issues of philosophy, politics, science, art, sports, and more—what the Utne Reader calls “a rousing read.”
Even beyond this, Revolution aims to enable its readers to make a scientific assessment and analysis of all events in society and the world—to strip away “official story” and reveal the underlying reality. To put events in context, and to show how major events are fundamentally driven, in complex ways, by this system. Revolution shows readers how different strata in society respond to the events of the day, and how the proletariat can lead a revolution that embraces all those who protest and rebel. And Revolution is committed to being a living link between the struggle against injustice, and the exposure and analysis we do now, and the goal of a communist world.
Critical to this newspaper's mission are the contributions of Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party. Bob Avakian's revival of, and re-envisioning of communism, as well as his penetrating analyses of U.S. society, his insights into the process of understanding the world, as well as his practical guidance for struggle, are essential reading for everyone serious about understanding the situation we’re in and how to change it. (See "Revolution: Connecting People with Bob Avakian" )
Revolution brings truth, and a revolutionary perspective, to a uniquely diverse audience that includes prisoners, students, professors, youth in the housing projects, artists, immigrant workers, anti-war activists and scientists and others. Yet, there is a potential for far, far more people to read this paper.
This $500,000 will be a first step to realize the potential and rise to the challenge.
This newspaper must be a voice that cannot be ignored on any campus, helping to radically transform the atmosphere in high schools and universities. It must reach into the communities of scientists, artists, musicians, writers, thinkers, and everyone who cares about the fate of humanity.
And imagine the societal impact of a revolutionary movement, with this newspaper at the center, based among those who society has enslaved, cast off, or locked up— the proletariat. Imagine such a paper giving them a sweeping view of all the other forces who protest and rebel against the things this system does, and enabling these modern-day slaves to take up their role as the backbone of a revolutionary movement and become emancipators of humanity. For that to happen, this newspaper must reach deep into the prisons, housing projects, ghettos, barrios, reservations, factories and fields. One excruciating expression of the gap that must be closed: Hundreds of readers in prisons around the U.S. read, share, study, discuss, and correspond with Revolution, but hundreds more prisoners have requested subsidized subscriptions that cannot be filled due to lack of funds!
With an expanded financial base, Revolution can support a sustained campaign to greatly expand its online and print readership. An expanded fund base will enable more street sales. It will allow Revolution to make its web edition—revcom.us—more dynamic, more interactive, and more accessible to people who rely on the web for news, as well as to readers around the world who rely on reading the paper online, sometimes at great risk. And a stronger fund base will allow expansion of the paper's e-subscription list, more commercial distribution, and subsidized subscriptions for prisoners, as well as subsidized print subscriptions for readers around the world.
Additional funds will allow for strengthened editorial content—more ability to send reporters to cover major events around the world at a moment's notice -- to New Orleans after Katrina, to the packing houses being raided by immigration agents, to scientific conferences, concerts, galleries, and to meet and interview major figures in every field. An expanded financial base will allow for a more attractive paper with more color, and better photos.
Essential to the mission of Revolution, additional funds will improve the quality of the weekly Spanish edition that brings Revolution to a bilingual audience in the U.S., and to the Spanish speaking world. And, allow a stronger Spanish language section of revcom.us.
And an expanded fund base will provide money to advertise and promote the print and online versions of Revolution in every region of the country.
A core of dedicated people, including financial sustainers, currently allows Revolution to accomplish important things. But that core must expand, and become the base from which Revolution truly reaches into every corner of society. Your generous contribution to our six month, $500,000 expansion and fundraising drive can make that possible. Much is at stake. If people are going to really understand what is going on, and if something good is to be pulled out of the current storms, a greatly expanded Revolution newspaper must be at the heart of that process.
Read, distribute, and contribute generously to Revolution!
Revolution #89, May 20, 2007
There is no one doing anything like the work that Bob Avakian is doing. From wide-ranging discussion—and re-envisioning—of the communist project to penetrating analyses of the U.S. social structure; from deep discussions of epistemology to very practical guidance at critical junctures in the struggle; from searching critiques of religion and democracy to explorations of the ethical dimension of communism—the work by Bob Avakian, the Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, is a must for anyone who is seriously grappling with the situation we’re in and how to change it. And getting this work circulated through society, week in and week out, is central to our mission at Revolution.
Bob Avakian's recent talk, Bringing Forward Another Way, was edited by the author for serialization in Revolution, and speaks deeply and provocatively to political and moral questions of the day. Excerpts include "Living in the House of Tony Soprano," "American Lives Are Not More Important Than Other People's Lives," and "Rejecting—and Breaking Out of—the Framework of the "War on Terror."
In celebration of Black History Month 2007, Bob Avakian contributed a series of four articles to Revolution: The Oppression of Black People and the Revolutionary Struggle to End All Oppression. These articles spoke to the bitter reality—and the fundamental source—of the oppression of Black people throughout the history of the U.S., from the days of slavery down to the present time, and pointed to the revolutionary road to ending this oppression, and all forms of oppression and exploitation.
At key historic junctures, Bob Avakian has stepped forward to make deep analyses and to provide practical guidance for struggle. In the wake of 9/11 and the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, Revolution ran excerpts from Avakian’s talk “The New Situation and the Great Challenges” that dissected the ambitions, and the necessity, driving U.S. imperialism to war, and posed basic points of orientation for building a powerful antiwar movement. In the wake of Bush’s re-election, Avakian’s series The Coming Civil War and Repolarization for Revolution in the Present Era included a wide-ranging survey of the forces pulling society apart, and the challenge of repolarizing for revolution.
Foremost among Bob Avakian’s contributions to Revolution have been his works going into the philosophical foundations of the communist project, the history of the socialist revolutions thus far, and a boldly re-envisioned communism for the 21st century. These included two series Revolution ran last year: The Basis, the Goals, and the Methods of the Communist Revolution; and Views on Socialism and Communism: a Radically New Kind of State, a Radically Different and Far Greater Vision of Freedom. These two works in particular not only comprehensively examine and defende the foundations of Marxism; they break new ground in pointing the way to “a radically new kind of state, [and] a radically different and far greater vision of freedom.”
In late 2004, Revolution printed Avakian’s pathbreaking talk On Truth…On Knowing, and Changing, the World: A Discussion with Comrades on Epistemology. And in 2005, Bob Avakian responded in the pages of Revolution to a letter from someone who heard part of his talk, God Does Not Exist—We Need Liberation Without Gods on the radio, and claimed that communism (and atheism generally) was just another form of religion. Avakian’s response, "A Leap of Faith" and a Leap to Rational Knowledge: Two Very Different Kinds of Leaps, Two Radically Different Worldviews and Methods, examined the real and crucial differences between religion and “leaps of faith,” on the one hand, and science and the scientific method on the other hand.
Bob Avakian's writing is infused with his close relationship to those at the base of society. This comes through in his memoir, From Ike to Mao…And Beyond, which Revolution serialized; and it came through as well in his moving Statement on the Occasion of the Death of Willie "Mobile" Shaw, which commemorated the life of a revolutionary communist in Watts.
Avakian's writing in Revolution not only includes complex explorations of philosophy, revolutionary strategy, and ethics;.he also contributes hard-hitting and pithy quotes that pop off the pages, including:
“After the Holocaust, the worst thing that has happened to Jewish people is the state of Israel.”
"What we see in contention here with Jihad on the one hand and McWorld/McCrusade on the other hand, are historically outmoded strata among colonized and oppressed humanity up against historically outmoded ruling strata of the imperialist system. These two reactionary poles reinforce each other, even while opposing each other. If you side with either of these ‘outmodeds,’ you end up strengthening both."
“The essence of what exists in the U.S. is not democracy but capitalism-imperialism and political structures to enforce that capitalism-imperialism. What the U.S. spreads around the world is not democracy, but imperialism and political structures to enforce that imperialism.”
Through the pages of Revolution, people from every walk of life and all over the world get a chance to connect with Bob Avakian. And in doing so, they engage with someone who has stepped forward to proclaim a different--and liberating--way and to point to the path forward.
Revolution #89, May 20, 2007
Week in and week out Revolution takes you beneath the surface and behind the headlines. From the U.S. plans for war against Iran to the latest Supreme Court assault on women; from the police murder of Black youth to the strategic dimensions of the battle around immigration and the U.S.-Mexican border—on all these fronts and more Revolution gets to the truth behind the biggest stories of the day.
Revolution takes you to the scene of the struggle. Readers of Revolution traveled to Atenco and Oaxaca in Mexico through the eyes and ears of young reporters who lived with, learned from, and wrote about seismic struggles in Mexico in articles like The Changing Landscape of the Mixteca, and Reporter's Notebook from Atenco, Mexico: Real Women Have Machetes. Readers of this paper traveled to New Orleans through correspondence from young reporters who joined efforts to fix up homes and schools. Revolution correspondent Sunsara Taylor plunged you firsthand into the rallies of the Christian Fascist youth movement Battle Cry, and correspondent Mary Lou Greenberg reported from last year’s European March Against the Oppression of Women in Iran. From the May 1 police assault in LA this year to the front lines of the battles to drive out the Bush regime, Revolution takes you there.
Correspondent Michael Slate took readers of this paper to the townships of South Africa during the 1980s; to South Central, Los Angeles following the 1992 L.A. Rebellion; to the mountains of Chiapas, Mexico; and in 2005, to the tsunami-struck coast of Sri Lanka. Li Onesto was the first foreign journalist to travel to Nepal and tell the story behind the launching of the people's war there. Larry Everest, author of the book Oil, Power, and Empire, contributes exposure and analysis regularly in Revolution on Iraq, Iran, and the Middle East. And in all this, what stands out about Revolution is not only the hidden stories and unique analyses, but the way you hear the voices of the people on the bottom who have taken up the struggle.
But Revolution is about more than that…
It was in the pages of Revolution that readers first read the series that became Ardea Skybreak's acclaimed book The Science of Evolution and the Myth of Creationism/Knowing What’s Real—and Why it Matters (Insight Press, 2006). And Revolution regularly covers other issues in the realm of science and epistemology.
Revolution consistently challenges religion, especially the "Dark Ages" fundamentalism
that permeates society today, in graphics, articles and the major series like God, The Original Fascist.
It was in the pages of Revolution that readers could find Raymond Lotta's series Socialism is Much Better Than Capitalism and Communism Will Be a Far Better World. This series surveyed the much-distorted, but actually breathtaking, accomplishments of the socialist revolutions in Russia and then China, and has enabled readers of Revolution to deconstruct and get to the bottom of the apologies for capitalism.
When great events shake the world, or when life-changing questions are posed broadly in society, Revolution responds with special issues and supplements: The Nazification of the American University helped students and faculty begin to connect the dots and confront ominous attacks on critical thinking and free speech. Hundreds of thousands of copies of a special issue of Revolution, speaking to the abandonment of the people of New Orleans, were distributed all over the country in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. On May First of this year, tens of thousands of copies of a special issue, We Are Human Beings, We Demand a Better World, We Will Not Accept Slavery in Any Form, were distributed at immigrant rights marches around the U.S. And, at a moment when people are looking for and need genuinely revolutionary leadership to change the world, over 3,000 people distributed over 500,000 copies of The Crossroads We Face, The Leadership We Need, a Special Issue on Bob Avakian.
Revolution is also about debate and polemics. From critiques of Thomas Friedman’s The World Is Flat to the debate over the real parallels between the Bush Regime and the Nazis; from what stand to take toward Islamic fundamentalism to how to view the Democrats—Revolution crackles with argument and challenges your assumptions.
Revolution's reviews, interviews, and commentary on the arts expose readers to a wide range of cultural events, from a non-dogmatic but thoroughly revolutionary communist perspective: In the midst of societal debate, Revolution wrote Why Imus Had to Go… & What It Says About This Racist, Sexist System. Revolution reviewed Wynton Marsalis' album From the Plantation to the Penitentiary, the Dixie Chicks documentary Shut Up & Sing; the movie Jesus Camp; and Spike Lee's When the Levees Broke. And Revolution challenged the theater community with The Battle over My Name Is Rachel Corrie, and gave readers insights into Philip Roth's The Plot Against America.
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In this brief survey of highlights from the pages of Revolution, you get a glimpse of what readers get from this paper weekly. And now, when people so badly need to understand the world to change it, Revolution must have a solid financial base to make a quantum leap in its circulation!
Revolution #89, May 20, 2007
Though it may be difficult—even for the most left-leaning liberal—to agree with the paper's staunch positions, it is a rousing read. Highlights of the March 18  issue include an article explaining the U.S. imperialist strategy for mounting a war against Iran.--Utne Reader
I studied the Revolution article, “What We Are About Should Not Only Encompass but Welcome the Anrundhati Roys of the World.” I found that to be totally true, everyone is not going to agree with one’s views, positions at all times and Bob Avakian was right to point to that. In my view, it's about the method one utilizes to debate the contradictions we will encounter in the course of struggle. I myself believe in the democratic centralism method where everyone is encouraged to use their voice but in a respectful manner. As was said in the material there is nothing wrong with disagreement much can be learned from disagreement as along as we keep an open mind… --Prisoner, Pelican Bay Prison, California
Revolution is a important independent media news source for us at Project Censored. I find the stories generally truthful, well-documented, fully sourced. Revolution makes a significant contribution to covering news stories the corporate media in the U.S. fails to report. --Peter Phillips, Professor of Sociology, Sonoma State University and Director, Project Censored
Think there is no way out of this mess? Think again. Revolution is dedicated to raising the consciousness of the world’s working majority; those who possess little or no property but without whom the wealth-creating engine of the earth would grind to a halt, those who have the unique power to turn back the tide of endless war, starvation, disease and environmental degradation. Revolution is a determined foe of racism, sexism and xenophobia. Revolution is an unparalleled source for news and analysis of both domestic and world events. Read Revolution. Experience Revolution! --Al Ronzoni, Jr., Progressive Democrats of America
[Translated from Spanish:] I love movies and documentaries. I think it is very important that you keep writing (and translating) Revolution because it has a focus which we don't often see, or consider, or we forget. The movies that you select to review are very good, as is the extra information you write about them. It would be great if you could publicize your newspaper in the universities and other schools. --An 18-year-old communications student at Ciudad Universitaria [the main campus of the National Autonomous University of Mexico] in Mexico City
I've read Revolution and its predecessor since its inception. Not only do I get an anti-imperialist perspective on the news of the world, Revolution reports news most other papers won't touch. --Ron Jacobs, author The Way the Wind Blew
The full page layouts on the back of the paper have sparked lively debate, i.e. what's the difference between English only and Whites only. Also the Wanted poster of the Bush regime. It's amazing how when I extend the paper how many people are taken back by the depth of the articles. The fact that it’s told like it is resonates with those who read it… Please keep the RCP papers coming. --A prisoner, Delano, CA
We understand that the subscription rate is a subsidized amount and the cost of postage may be quite high. We also know the financial constraints a revolutionary paper has to face in a capitalist society, but still we request you to continue the present arrangement of sending a complimentary copy of Revolution as the financial situation is even tighter for a small third world revolutionary group like ours.... We want you to know how much useful the paper has been for us. Apart from exposing the underbelly of the capitalist beast, it has been providing us very useful insights about the fights and struggles of all American peoples. We have used material from it to regularly write about the brutal police repression in the U.S., about Peru, about struggles in Latin America, and other struggles around the world. --Readers in India
In the series, "The Oppression of Black People and the Revolutionary Struggle to End All Oppression," Bob Avakian is talking about slavery from a point of view that history will show that slavery was unique in a sense that it has never been made clear its real purpose. We need a brand new consideration of slavery. Black people have been cheated out of the history of what really happened. It was fantastic that he was willing to write that history. I want to thank him. Being a historian myself, I am concerned that the true history has never been told, it's been hidden. Revolution has the most intelligent and factual information that people should be aware of in the present time. --Hal Perry, member of USF Dons 1955-56 NCAA basketball championship teams, captain on the 1956 team
Revolution, for me, is important in myriad ways. Perhaps the most important is the manner in which current events are related so that the proletariat (me) can see not only how current affairs affect us at the bottom of an imperialist, capitalist society, but that there is something we as the working class can do to effect change. Moreover, Revolution, along with the Party in general, has shown me that I am not alone, and that the movement is still very much alive. --Daniel, Revolution distributor, Ogden, Utah
The first article I ever read from Revolution was reporting on President Bush's new nuclear policy—his development of "mini-nukes" and bunker busters, and his statement that he felt he had the right to strike first, even with nuclear weapons. I hadn't read this anywhere else and thought it could not possibly be true. I decided to fact-check the article using White House sources. It was all easily verifiable. Why doesn't the mainstream press report on stuff like this? --A professional fact-checker
While being shuffled around in this prison unit I so happened into a cell that had a copy of Revolution (April 2nd) lying on the floor. Being an avid reader, and curious by nature, I proceeded to read the paper keeping in mind that my culture has painted communism as the ideology of the atheistic devil-worshipers whose only goal is to oppress the common man into total submission to the state. Since I have “Enemy of the State” boldly tattooed across my breastbone, I’m obviously against any ideology that promotes further oppression. However from what I was able to read from Revolution, after several readings, it seemed that I had been mislead and communism has possibly been misrepresented to me. I would be very interested in learning more about Mr. Bob Avakian and the Revolutionary Communist Party, unfortunately I’m indigent and, as such, only able to rely on the charity and good intentions of person outside willing to donate to my education. I would very much like to subscribe to Revolution, but of course I lack the funds… --A prisoner in Texas
Revolution #89, May 20, 2007
The Revolution Interview is a special feature to acquaint readers of Revolution with the views of significant figures in art, theater, music, literature, science, sports and politics. Following are a few highlights from The Revolution Interview:
Colombian artist Fernando Botero discussing his series of paintings about Abu Ghraib: “The whole world was shocked with the revelations in the American press of the American torture of the Iraqis in Abu Ghraib prison. I read this in the New Yorker in a famous article by Seymour Hersh. I was surprised, hurt, and angry, like everybody. The more I read, the more I was motivated and angry, upset. A few months later I was in a plane going back to Paris and reading again of this tragedy. I took paper and pencil and started doing some drawings. Then, when I got to my studio in Paris, I kept drawing and painting. It became like an obsession for 14 months.”
William Bell, the father of Sean Bell, killed by NYPD cops in a hail of 50 bullets: “[T]hey can’t keep us in that cage forever. Some time and at some place on this earth, things gotta change. Not only here but all around the world. It’s just getting out of hand, and people all around the world have to stick together. This separation has to stop. I don’t care about this color, this person, this attitude. No. After a while, this stuff going on is going to affect everybody. You think it can’t happen to you? Oh yes it can. Think about it, yes it can. And when it does, you’re going to want people like me to support you, and I’ll be there for you, because I don’t want to see it happen to another kid, no matter who they are.”
Michael Ratner, Center for Constitutional Rights, explaining the significance of attacks on attorneys for detainees at Guantánamo: “[T]he real issue is when are they going to give human beings at Guantánamo and other U.S. detention facilities their legal, constitutional and international law rights and stop treating them in a manner that reminds you of the Middle Ages.”
Lisa Loomer, writer of the script for the film Girl Interrupted and the play Living Out: “There are so many people in this country who feel unseen. The very idea that you are not a citizen, that you are "illegal" or "alien" means that society is refusing to see you as a full and equal human being. Just look at those words!”
Historian Howard Zinn: “I think history can be useful in suggesting that people have often been in very, very terrible periods where nothing seemed to be happening--and then they were surprised. We've always had surprises take place. When these surprises take place, we wonder why. And the reason is that we didn't all look under the surface and we did not have faith in people.”
Correspondent Dahr Jamail, who reported from Iraq in 2003 and 2004, and who was an eyewitness to the U.S. siege of Fallujah: “It's their standard operating procedure now, in combat zones, to target the medical infrastructure. Collective punishment is now standard operating procedure. In Haditha, Fallujah, Al Qaim, Ramadi, Samarra, Saniya, just to name a few off the top of my head, the standard policy is: if the U.S. is getting attacked a lot in the area, cut the water and electricity to the city, prohibit medical supplies from going in or out of the city, and use snipers quite often to deliberately target anything that moves in the city at certain times, impose curfews – this is the standard procedure now.”
Playwright Naomi Wallace: “Sometimes people are beaten down. Sometimes people do not come to a consciousness about their situation. But I don't believe things have always been the same, and that you've just gotta accept that there are a lot of bad endings. People do change and they do reach out to each other and they do resist. Those are the facts, and if I'm a playwright who's writing about the different elements of power and exchange between people, then I have to include those who resist or say I'm taking a different way, or I don't know where I'm going but I'm not going to do what I did before."
Former Army Colonel and U.S. diplomat Ann Wright: “I never dreamed we would have a government that would be so immune, and so dismissive of what the citizens were thinking. And so now I am doing the acts that I encouraged in other countries (laughs), you know? Take to the streets! You don't like what your government is doing to you, take to the streets. You the people have the power. Well, now I am the people, and I want us to regain our power. That's the way I'm working my life now.”
Others interviewed include: Antiwar active-duty GIs Jonathan Hutto and Liam Madden; Father Luis Barrios; educator Bill Ayers; Debra Sweet, Director of World Can’t Wait; Shannon Minter, Legal Director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights; Iranian singer Gissoo Shakeri; Cindy and Craig Corrie, parents of Rachel Corrie; Catholic gay rights advocate Frank O'Gorman; Cindy Sheehan; attorney Lynne Stewart; Esther Kaplan, author of With God On Their Side: How Christian Fundamentalists Trampled Science, Policy, and Democracy in George W. Bush's White House; political prisoner and death row inmate Mumia Abu Jamal; basketball player Toni Smith; Bill Goodman, legal director for the Center for Constitutional Rights; spoken word artist Danny Hoch; rapper Boots from the Coup; embattled abortion doctor James Pendergraft; director David Riker; musican Lester Bowie; activist Yuri Kochiyama; Amnesty International Executive Director Pierre Sané; former political prisoner Luis Talamantez; performer Karen Finley; journalist Gary Webb; imprisoned Native American activist Leonard Peltier; writer and playwright Ntozake Shange; dramatic and comedic performers Culture Clash… and many more.
Revolution #89, May 20, 2007
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Revolution #89, May 20, 2007
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Revolution #89, May 20, 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 sixth 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.
Current Conflicts and Analogies to World War 2
To step back a bit, what is going on in the world as a whole is more complex than Jihad vs. McWorld/McCrusade. There is China, there is India—there is a whole large area of Asia, and other parts of the world, which don't figure neatly into this. And we shouldn't go around trying to cram reality into neat little boxes. It's more complex than that. The world and what is driving things in the world cannot be fully described by this contradiction of Jihad vs. McWorld/McCrusade. But this is a big part of the dynamics driving things right now, even if not the only factor. And we can certainly say that there is no part of the world that is, or will be, unaffected by this conflict–-and most fundamentally and essentially by the actual dynamics and motive forces underlying this conflict and in particular the actual aims, necessities, and actions of the U.S. imperialists. This conflict, understood in this way, will increasingly exert a major influence on events in the world, even while they will not all be reducible to it and we should not try to reduce them all to it.
With this in mind, I want to talk about the analogies to World War 2, and the whole frame of reference of that war, which is frequently invoked in support of the "war on terror" today. Again there are both things that are real and things that are instrumentalist, and outright deceitful, in this analogy to World War 2 and that frame of reference. If you look at recent speeches by representatives of the Bush regime, for example (some of which I've cited earlier in this talk), or if you read the book Fiasco, you will see that for people like Wolfowitz and many others, even though they were very young at the time of World War 2, this is an operative frame of reference for them. Of course, this is seen through a certain lens and through the prism of the interests of U.S. imperialism in the current world situation. And it is both demagoguery and their actual way of thinking when they continually cite these analogies to World War 2, to Hitler, to appeasement of Hitler, and so on and so forth. People like Wolfowitz and others actually do see much of reality through this prism. But, at the same time, they fundamentally distort this reality: They have a fundamentally distorted view of, and perpetuate and propagate a distorted view of, the nature and course of World War 2 itself and of things bound up with it.
The Real Nature of World War 2—and the Role of Different Forces in that War
If you go back and read Revolution magazine1 from the late '70s and early '80s, you'll see that our Party went through a process of reexamining our understanding of World War 2 and forging a more correct understanding of the character and course of that war. At the time of the founding of the Party in 1975 (and in the Revolutionary Union, which was the forerunner of the RCP), we had basically gone along with the "received wisdom" of the international communist movement, which said that, particularly after the Soviet Union was attacked by Nazi Germany in 1941 and entered the war, World War 2 was a different kind of war, and different in particular from the previous world war. Even though we always recognized that a lot of the things that U.S. imperialism was doing in World War 2 were in pursuit of its imperialist interests, we accepted the "received wisdom" which treated that war as principally an "anti-fascist war" with the Soviet Union aligned with other governments that were opposed to the axis of Germany and Japan (and, for a while, Italy). But then, at the end of the 1970s and into the early '80s, we carried out a lot of study and a lot of struggle which led us to a different, more correct analysis of this. We came to the understanding that this war was, from the beginning and in its main and essential aspect, a war fought among imperialists for imperialist aims, even while, much more so than during World War 1, there were just and revolutionary aspects to World War 2, including the Chinese people's war against Japanese occupation and the wars of liberation waged by other peoples in Southeast Asia against Japan, for example. And the role of the Soviet Union, which was then a socialist country, was different than the role of the imperialist states and bourgeois forces with which the Soviet Union was aligned (including the U.S. as well as Britain), even though it was not nearly as different as it should have been. That's a whole discussion I don't want to back into here. The decisive point here is that World War 2 was essentially not a "great anti-fascist war," even though a lot of people in the world were motivated by opposition to fascism and the ravages carried out by the "fascist Axis," and even though there were liberatory aspects of great significance in that war. So it was a more complex war than World War 1, which was basically and almost entirely inter-imperialist. But World War 2 was also, essentially and in its main and defining aspect, a war among imperialists to determine which would be the dominant power(s) controlling the largest part of the world, including in the vast areas of (what is now generally referred to as) the Third World.
It remains very important to have a correct understanding of this war, because it still casts its shadow in significant ways, both materially and ideologically—both the outcome of that war and also the way in which a certain interpretation of that war is used to shape the thinking of people, including the way in which many people are still influenced by this more or less unconsciously. Even people who were not around at the time, and people who know little if anything about the actual causes and the actual course of World War 2, are still influenced by the "long shadow" cast by that war—by the outcome of the war, what it gave rise to, and what has gone on as a result of that, over the whole period up to the present (though this has been a complex and contradictory process, and has not developed in some linear, uniform, and straight-line way). So it was very important for us to come to the understanding that World War 2 was principally a war fought among imperialists for redivision of the world, as World War 1 had been in a much fuller way, even while in World War 2, on the part of the Soviet Union, on the part of the Chinese war of resistance and other wars of resistance and liberation against occupation by Japan and other "fascist axis" countries, there was definitely a positive and progressive aspect, a liberatory aspect, that should have been supported.
Once you understand the actual nature of that war, then you understand more about the actual history of U.S. imperialism. If you go back and read America in Decline,2 some of the history recounted and analyzed there, including with regard to World War 2, is very important and highly relevant today. And you see that what the U.S. was fighting for—what the ruling class in the U.S. was quite consciously fighting for—was pursuit of its own imperialist interests. That is why they dropped the atomic bomb on two Japanese cities at the end of that war, but it's also why they fought the war as a whole the way they did—and didn't fight it the way they didn't—that is, why, for several years, they largely held back from getting involved in the major theaters of the war in Europe in particular, and let the Soviet Union do the bulk of the fighting on that front and take the overwhelming brunt of the destruction and casualties.
Stalin, Hitler, and Churchill—Communism, Fascism and Imperialism—and World War 2
And that gets to another very important point: the character of how World War 2 is presented to people in the "West," in the so-called "Free World," is just a fundamental and grotesque distortion. For example, there is this movie out now, Flag of Our Fathers, about Iwo Jima. Now, in that movie, you can see how a lot of people got chewed up in that one battle (for the island of Iwo Jima). A lot more American lives were lost in World War 2 than in wars since then. But that was in the hundreds of thousands. In the Soviet Union, 20 million people's lives were lost in the course of that war—20 million. And that is a reflection of something very basic. Never mind about Iwo Jima, or Operation Overlord and the Normandy Landing, and all that stuff—that is not what defeated the Nazis, that is not what broke the back of the German army. It was the Soviet Union and the tremendous sacrifice of its people that was the main factor in the defeat of Nazi Germany. But I would like to have an essay contest to see how many college graduates in the U.S. would get this history right—a very small percentage, I would bet.
Even if you take someone like Keith Olbermann, who is coming forward on MSNBC as a sort of liberal opponent of what Bush is doing, his frame of reference is seriously flawed. For example, he attacked this speech by Rumsfeld where Rumsfeld basically said that people who were opposing the Iraq War were appeasers—that's just one small step short of calling them traitors (and they do have the shrieking voices out there, explicitly talking treason, calling people traitors—check out Ann Coulter and David Horowitz, for example). But it was very interesting that in Olbermann's response to this, a lot of it was in the terms of who is the real Winston Churchill here—who is the real statesman that we should all respect? Well, what about Winston Churchill—what did he actually represent, what was he really all about? If, for example, you read the book All the Shah's Men,3 about the U.S.-led coup in Iran in 1953, you can see what Churchill was saying and doing in regard to that part of the world, coming out of World War 2—how he was defending and championing, in blunt and grotesque terms, the interests of British imperialism. Or go back and study the actual history of Churchill even before that: He was never anything but a crude grasping imperialist who is responsible for great crimes against people colonized and oppressed by British imperialism. But he is a hero, an icon, "in the West," in the "Free World," not only because of his role in leading Britain in World War 2; and not only because of his general stand as a champion and leader of imperialism; but also, more particularly, because of his hatred for revolutions against imperialism, and especially his hatred for communism, and the way he "stood up to Stalin," denouncing the "Iron Curtain" after World War 2, and so on.
Now I don't have time here to offer any kind of overall and all-sided analysis and evaluation of Stalin and his role in different periods. But I do want to point out that almost universally those who denounce Stalin and dismiss him as a terrible tyrant—who make him the very representation of tyrannical, totalitarian rule—know very little about Stalin and have done very little study of what Stalin actually thought and said, what he actually did and why, and in particular what necessity Stalin was responding to in various circumstances. For these people—from outright reactionaries to many self-described "progressive" people—Stalin has essentially been reduced to a swear word. As far as I know, there are 13 published volumes of Stalin's works. I don't know how many of these people who are always denouncing Stalin have read any of this. At one point, I read all 13 of these volumes, and I have a lot of criticisms of Stalin, including some very serious criticisms, based on seriously studying not only what Stalin himself said and wrote but also many different analyses of "the Stalin period." I'm not saying you have to read all this—or anything like all of it—before you could have any opinions or any right to speak about Stalin; but Stalin is a major historical figure, the period of Stalin's leadership in the Soviet Union (and in the international communist movement) involves major historical events and turning points, and you should at least make a serious attempt to be informed, in a basic way, about something like that before you become part of the chorus denouncing (or praising) it. The reality is, however, that overwhelmingly and with few exceptions, the people who denounce Stalin, often and generally in visceral terms, really know very little, if anything, about Stalin, what he was actually dealing with, and what he did, and why, in those circumstances.
This brings me back to the question of World War 2 and the role that was actually played by different forces in World War 2, including the Soviet Union under Stalin's leadership. Now, it is a fact that, during that war, Churchill even acknowledged that, after Germany invaded the Soviet Union, roughly three-quarters of the German army was occupied fighting the Soviets, fighting on the Eastern Front. And it is a fact that it was the Battle of Stalingrad that broke the back of the German war machine and turned around the whole course of the war, as Mao pointed out at the time. But you can't find—I don't know what this figure would be, maybe something like one in 10,000 Americans, who even knows that (whatever the figure is, it's astronomical).
So the whole character of World War 2 is distorted even from that standpoint. What was represented by and what was the role played by different forces, and who actually did what—even on the basic level of who actually did what in fighting the war—all this is grossly distorted. You would never know from this litany you always get, lumping Stalin with Hitler—"Hitler and Stalin… Hitler and Stalin… Hitler and Stalin" (and often Mao gets thrown in these days, and sometimes Lenin too)—you would never know that Hitler and Stalin, and the countries they headed, were on opposite sides of this gigantic cataclysmic encounter called World War 2.
I remember a comrade telling me a number of years ago that she had an argument with one of her reactionary relatives during the Vietnam War—almost everybody who was around during the Vietnam War had those arguments with some of their relatives—and her relative, who was actually from "the World War 2 generation," was insisting: "We've got to fight the communists—we had to fight them in World War 2, and we have to fight them now." And the comrade answered: "No, no—we were on the same side as the Soviet Union in World War 2!" But her relative insisted again: "No, we weren't!" This is the kind of thinking, and the rewriting of history, that goes on, that is widely fostered and promoted.
And this makes it easier to bring in these grotesquely erroneous theories of people like Hannah Arendt about totalitarianism. As a matter of fact, Arendt's theory of "totalitarianism" never measured up to the real world—it was not an accurate and scientific analysis even as applied to the Nazis and other fascists—it was not an accurate description of what the actual dynamics and what the actual forces at play were. And this is all the more true when it comes to the communists. It is striking in reading Hannah Arendt's Origins of Totalitarianism (which I did in connection with writing the book Democracy: Can't We Do Better Than That?4) that with Arendt there is a lack of any real understanding—and in fact there is a gross distortion—of basic questions, including why it was that the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany ended up on opposite sides in World War 2 and engaged in a several year, all-out confrontation in which the fate of millions of lives and the continued existence, or extinction, of the respective governments was determined. Did all this come about and unfold simply as a result of a fit of "pique" on the part of Stalin or something—or some personality conflicts, or "the clash of totalitarian urges and wills"?
Arendt's analysis is just totally non-materialist and completely off the mark in terms of the real nature and real causes of things, including momentous events in human history. But people are broadly influenced by these ill-founded and erroneous analyses like Arendt's. The fact that Nazism and fascism, on the one hand, and communism on the other hand, are radically and fundamentally different; and the fact that in World War 2 communists and fascists were on opposite sides, bitterly fighting against each other—all this is nowhere in the "popular consciousness." And if you asked people to summarize what are the aims and objectives and outlooks of the fascists, on the one hand, and the communists, on the other, overwhelmingly they couldn't do it. Very, very few people could do it with any accuracy.
And when we hear these analogies invoked about "appeasement" (referring to British policy toward Hitler before the outbreak of World War 2 and comparing it to events today), one of the main things that is generally left out is that the whole point—or certainly one of the main points—of this "appeasement" was to push Hitler and Nazi Germany to the East, to attack the Soviet Union. It wasn't like: "Oh, Hitler's a good guy and we can get him to act reasonably and cease being a threat to us." Glenn Beck is always fond of referring to a senator (from Idaho I believe) who at the time of World War 2 was probably one of those pro-Nazi American politicians. This senator supposedly said something like: "If I could just talk to Hitler, I know we could somehow work this all out." In his role of utilizing right-wing comic book terms and scenarios to whip up support not only for the war in Iraq but the extension of war to Iran, Beck likes to use statements like this to ridicule the idea that "we" can deal reasonably with what he presents as the modern-day equivalents of Hitler—meaning anyone now getting in the way of U.S. objectives of unchallenged domination not just in the Middle East but throughout the world. But, once again, the real deal is that this "appeasement" before World War 2 was largely aimed at pushing Germany to the East.
In his book Why Did the Heavens Not Darken?, Arno Mayer makes an analysis, in a serious and basically materialist way, of the real difference between how Hitler viewed and acted toward the East—and in particular the Soviet Union—as opposed to how Hitler dealt with the West. This book by Mayer also sheds important light on the overall actions and motivations of the Nazis in particular, including the mass genocide of Jewish people and how that fit into the larger context of Hitler's views, aims, and objectives. It is for very good reasons that we are constantly bringing forward these days the statement by Pastor Martin Niemöller about his experiences in failing to join with others in resisting the Nazis in Germany—until it became too late to effectively resist. How many people, even among those who are aware of this statement by Niemöller, are familiar with, and understand the meaning of, the first sentence in that statement? Put this on a test: fill in the blank—Pastor Niemöller said, "First they came for the____." How many people could fill it in correctly? How many people would know that it says: "First they came for the communists"? How many people know that Hitler and the Nazis had to break the back of the very large and influential Communist Party of Germany at that time in order to implement the Nazi program? (It is true that the German Communist Party was riddled with many erroneous tendencies—tendencies which ultimately and objectively amounted to a reformist, rather than a revolutionary, stance and program—but that does not change the basic fact that crushing the German Communist Party was essential for Hitler and the Nazis in order to carry out their objectives, in Germany itself as well as on an international scale.) How many people know that? I'm not talking about people who have been prevented from knowing much about the world at all—I'm talking about people who are literate, educated, and think they know a lot about the world, but have been systematically miseducated and misled, and to some degree have fallen into believing these things because, once again, it is (or it seems to be) comfortable to believe them—it conforms to certain prejudices, predilections and predetermined ideas that have to do with the way people's lives are organized under this system, especially living in the "number one imperialist power in the world" ("the world's only superpower").
1. For example, the articles "Outline of Views on the Historical Experience of the International Communist Movement and the Lessons for Today" and "Some Notes on the Military and Diplomatic History of WW2" in Revolution Issue 49, June 1981 (out of print).[back]
2. Raymond Lotta with Frank Shannon, America in Decline (Chicago: Banner Press, 1984).[back]
3. Stephen Kinzer, All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2003).[back]
4. Bob Avakian, Democracy: Can't We Do Better Than That? (Chicago: Banner Press, 1986) [back]
Revolution #89, May 20, 2007
Background to Confrontation:
For over 100 years imperialist domination of Iran has been enforced by the U.S. and other powers through covert intrigues, economic bullying, and outright military assaults, even invasions. This history is crucial to understanding the real motives for U.S. threats today—including the real threat of war, even nuclear war.
This is the focus of this series. Part 1 begins in the mid-19th century, with Iran a prime target of rival powers in imperialism’s “great game” for global dominance and control.
In 1889 Lord Curzon, the British Viceroy of India, wrote that Iran and its neighbors were “the pieces on a chessboard upon which is being played out a game for the domination of the world,” and where “the future of Great Britain…will be decided not in Europe” (Amin Saikal, The Rise and Fall of the Shah, p. 13).
For over 150 years, with the global spread of capitalism and the rise of imperialism, Iran and the Middle East have been the target of a handful of Western powers who have wanted to gain control of the region and its resources, while preventing their rivals from doing likewise.
The forms and battle lines in this struggle for dominance have evolved and changed, but capitalism remains a system driven by the interconnected compulsions of economic competition between rival firms and strategic competition between rival nations; securing ready access to markets, investment opportunities, and natural resources is essential. And this demands control of vast stretches of the globe, particularly in the Third World, or oppressed, countries, where the overwhelming bulk of humanity lives.
In the Middle East, this has meant enslaving whole countries, robbing them of self-determination and wealth, imposing brutal tyrannies, impoverishing whole populations, killing thousands upon thousands, and crippling growth and development in all spheres. In response, there have been waves of resistance, guided by various ideologies and programs, which have in turn sparked further imperial intrigues and aggressions. Deep national, social, and class divisions run through the Middle East, but foreign domination has been—and remains—the main obstacle to a more just social order.
Imperial Battle for Control
At the turn of the 19th century, Iran was a backward, feudal society. Most people lived in the countryside and toiled on the land, and the country included different tribes, loosely held together by a common religion and a weak central monarchy. The monarch’s word was law from which there was no redress.
From the late 1700s on, Iran had suffered a series of military defeats and had to give up territory to European powers, particularly Britain and czarist Russia. Beginning in the second half of the 19th century, Iran became a focal point of a prolonged struggle between Russia and Great Britain over who would acquire territory and gain political and economic control. For the British, Iran was a crucial communications link to the Indian subcontinent—the “crown jewel” of its empire—and a buffer against Russian expansionism. Russia in turn viewed Iran as key to protecting its southern flank and preventing British encroachment.
Both powers sought to exploit Iran’s ethnic, religious and tribal differences and keep the central government weak and dependent. Iran was robbed through economic and political concessions which sold the right to exploit Iran’s wealth and resources for a pittance.
The Rise of Oil
Petroleum’s skyrocketing importance to global capitalism in the early 1900s made imperialist dominance of Iran and the Middle East more strategically significant than ever.
It was long known that oil could be found in the southwest part of Persia (which became Iran in 1935), and in 1901 William D’Arcy, an Englishman, purchased an exclusive 60-year concession covering 500,000 square miles, over five-sixths of the country today. The concession gave him the exclusive right to develop and exploit Iran’s oil. The very cheap price was: 20,000 British pounds in cash, 20,000 pounds in stock and 16% of profits to the Iranian government. In close collaboration with the British state, D’Arcy established the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (which later became Anglo-Iranian Oil Company and finally British Petroleum) to exploit the concession. BP became one of the world’s largest oil companies; it was founded solely on Middle Eastern oil. (Larry Everest, Oil, Power & Empire: Iraq and the U.S. Global Agenda, p. 30)
In 1907 Britain and czarist Russia signed a secret treaty—the “Convention of St. Petersburg”—to partition Iran between them, with Russia taking the northern half, and Britain the southern, which—not coincidentally—included all major oil producing sites. Iran’s government was not even consulted.
Anglo-Persian began pumping oil in 1908, making Iran the first country in the Middle East where oil was commercially exploited on an industrial scale, but it was World War 1 that established oil’s centrality to empire in the modern age. At the time, navies were the prime instruments of global reach and power; oil-fueled ships were faster and ranged farther than the older coal-fired models. In 1912 Britain’s First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill converted the British fleet to oil, making oil vital to British naval supremacy and global hegemony. After the defeat of Germany in World War 1, Britain’s Lord Curzon declared that the Allies had “floated to victory upon a wave of oil.” (Everest, p. 31)
But the importance of petroleum for imperialist powers went far beyond its military significance. It became an essential economic input whose price impacted production costs, profits, and competitive advantage. It became an instrument of rivalry: controlling oil meant exercising leverage over those who depend on it and over the world economy as a whole. And Middle East oil became a source of enormous “super-profits” which were critical to the operation of capitalism in the home countries. Iranian oil played an important role in stimulating Britain’s domestic industrial development. Winston Churchill called Iranian oil "a prize from fairyland beyond our wildest dreams." (Stephen Kinzer, All the Shah's Men, p. 39).
The vast gulf between the imperialists and their victims was epitomized in Abadan--a sprawling city in southwest Iran where Anglo-Persian built its oil refinery operation. Iranian oil official Manucher Farmfarmaian described the two worlds colliding there:
“Wages were fifty cents a day. There was no vacation pay, no sick leave, no disability compensation. The workers lived in a shantytown called Kaghazabad, or Paper City, without running water or electricity, let alone such luxuries as iceboxes or fans. In winter the earth flooded and became a flat, perspiring lake. The mud in town was knee-deep, and canoes ran alongside the roadways for transport… Summer was worse… The dwellings of Kaghazabad, cobbled from rusted oil drums hammered flat, turned into sweltering ovens… In every crevice hung the foul, sulfurous stench of burning oil… In the British section of Abadan there were lawns, rose beds, tennis courts, swimming pools and clubs; in Kaghazabad there was nothing, not a tea shop, not a bath, not a single tree.” [Manucher Farmfarmaian and Roxane Farmfarmaian, Blood and Oil: Inside the Shah’s Iran (New York: Modern Library, 1999), quoted in Kinzer, p. 67]
The brutality and humiliation of colonial domination repeatedly gave rise to mass resistance by the Iranian people. In 1905 a democratic movement rose among the new urban middle class and by summer 1906 nationwide demonstrations demanded a democratically-elected parliament and an end to the absolute rule of the Shah. Iranian teachers, intellectuals, artisans, tradesmen, businessmen, as well as farmers and laborers, and even an influential section of the Islamic clergy, all participated. A constitution was drafted, and by the end of 1906, the Majlis (parliament) opened. This “Constitutional Revolution” was reversed in 1908, when the Shah sent thugs, backed by the Russian-trained Cossack Brigade, to attack the Majlis. In 1911, backed by Britain and Russia, the Shah shut down the parliament and arrested many delegates.
World War 1: Dividing the Region and the Spoils
During World War 1, Iran was again a battleground of rival imperialist powers. It had declared neutrality in the war, but British forces quickly invaded southern Iran to guard Britain’s oil lifeline and there was heavy fighting in Iran.
The Western powers—the British and French in particular—claimed they were fighting World War 1 to free the Middle East from the yoke of feudal, authoritarian Ottoman rule. In fact, they were fighting to determine which European power would control the Middle East—for its strategic location and its vast oil potential.
While promising independence to the region’s peoples, the British, French, and Russians were secretly negotiating to carve up the Middle East between them. The world only knows of this because in 1917 Lenin’s Bolsheviks overthrew Russia’s Czar and, as an act of internationalism, published the Czar’s secret treaties, including the 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement, which the revolutionaries discovered in the Foreign Ministry archives.
Russia’s revolutionary government repudiated Sykes-Picot—which had given Russia Constantinople (now Istanbul); land on either side of the Bosphorus Straits; and large chunks of the Turkish provinces bordering Russia. The new revolutionary government also annulled all Czarist claims on Iran, encouraged Iran to resist British domination, and pledged friendship to Iran and support for its independence and territorial integrity.
The British, however, stepped up their intervention in Iran, resolving “to stop at all costs the spread of communism to Iran, and to use [Iran] as a front-line base in its anti-Bolshevik campaign,” including by aiding Russian counter-revolutionaries in northern Iran. (Saikal, p. 17)
In 1919 Britain imposed the Anglo-Persian Agreement on Iran, giving Britain exclusive control over "Iran's army, treasury, transport system and communications network.” To secure this power, the British “imposed martial law and began ruling by fiat." (Kinzer, p. 39) Beginning in 1921, the British supported a series of military coups by the ruthless Reza Khan, who ultimately declared himself the new Shah in 1926. This began the Pahlavi dynasty where Reza Shah, as a puppet of British imperialism, carried out brutal repression against any rebellion from among the Iranian people.
The U.S. Fights for a Share of the Oil Spoils
Because, up to this point, the United States had not been a major player in the Middle East, many in the region saw the U.S. as a reform-minded nation without an imperialist agenda. This mis-perception was heightened by President Woodrow Wilson’s “14 Points” declaration which followed the war and verbally upheld the right of self-determination for nations.
Meanwhile, behind the scenes a fierce imperialist rivalry for oil and power was brewing. After World War 1, fears rose of a global oil shortage. In 1920 the U.S. vigorously protested the monopolization of Middle East oil by Britain and France, and a huge struggle between rival oil cartels (and their respective states) ensued.
By 1928 the British were forced to give U.S. firms a cut of Iraqi oil, thanks to America’s rising global power and the leverage exerted by U.S. firms: Standard Oil (now Exxon) supplied half of Britain’s oil. Oil historian John Blair described the resulting “Red Line” agreement as “an outstanding example of a restricted combination for the control of a large portion of the world’s supply by a group of companies which together dominate the world market for this commodity.” (Everest, pp. 38-39)
NEXT—1953: The CIA puts the Shah in power.
Revolution #89, May 20, 2007
The “infant mortality rate” is the number of babies who die before their first birthday for every 1,000 live births. In the United States, the infant mortality rate among Black people in 2004 (according to the most recent statistics) was 13.6—almost two and a half times higher than the rate of 5.7 for white people. This Black-white difference in infant mortality rates means that between 13 and 14 Black babies out of every 1,000 that are born do not even make it through their first year, compared to between 5 and 6 white babies out of every 1,000 that die before age 1.
The high rate of Black infant mortality in the U.S. is not only outrageous—that rate is increasing, especially in the Southern states with large Black populations, but other parts of the U.S. as well.
In Mississippi, for example, the death rate among infants of all nationalities rose from 9.7 per 1,000 live births in 2004 to 11.4 in 2005. This rise reveals the deadly effects of the cuts in Medicare, child health insurance, and other government programs on the poorest sections of the people.
While this rise in overall infant mortality rate is alarming, the rise among Black babies in Mississippi is truly devastating. Infant deaths among Black people in Mississippi rose from 14.2 per thousand in 2004—already much higher than the national rate—to 17 per thousand in 2005. There were also increases in Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Louisiana.
The outrageously high (and rising) Black infant mortality rates in Mississippi and neighboring states reveal the ugly legacy of slavery and Jim Crow in the South. But this is a problem that affects Black people throughout the U.S. And the high rate of infant mortality doesn't just hit the poorest Black women and families. Professional and middle class Black women have two to three times higher risk than white women of having babies with low birth weight—the top cause of early infant deaths.
The Black-white difference in infant mortality is a part of the overall “health gap” between African Americans and whites in the U.S. For example, Black people have a 25 percent higher rate of death from cancer than whites.
The problem of Black infant mortality is NOT fundamentally caused by individuals “acting irresponsibly”--it is tied in to the whole historical and present-day oppression weighing down on Black people as a whole. And that national oppression is in many ways intensifying today—with the increase in Black infant mortality rate in Mississippi and other areas as one glaring and intolerable example.Sources: National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control, www.cdc.gov/nchs/; “In Turnabout, Infant Deaths Climb in South,” New York Times, April 22, 2007; "Closing the Health Gap," US Dept. of Health and Human Services, http://www.hhs.gov/news/press/2001pres/20011119a.html; "Special Report: Infant Mortality in Memphis," Memphis Commercial Appeal, March 6, 2005
Revolution #89, May 20, 2007
At the end of April, the U.S. Justice Department asked the U.S. Court of appeals for the DC Circuit to impose tighter restrictions on hundreds of lawyers who represent those detained at Guantánamo—further denying these detainees the right to an attorney.
The government wants to limit the number of visits detainees are allowed by their lawyers to three, after an initial face-to-face meeting. It wants to tighten censorship of mail detainees get from attorneys and permit a team of intelligence officers and military lawyers not involved in a detainee's case to read mail from lawyers. And it wants to give the military more control over what lawyers can discuss with detainees, letting government officials deny lawyers access to secret evidence used by military panels to determine that their clients are “enemy combatants.”
Guantánamos's Draconian Reality
More than 750 people have been held at Camp Delta at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, some for up to five years, and most have had no charges brought against them. The Center for Constitutional Rights, which coordinates the over 500 lawyers representing these detainees, has said, “Numerous reports have found that U.S. government officials at Guantánamo use interrogation tactics that are tantamount to torture. These include methods such as physical beatings; extreme temperature changes; prolonged stress positions; sleep deprivation; withholding medical care; sexual abuse; and religious and cultural abuse.”
Revolution recently talked with Shayana Kadidal, Senior Managing Attorney of the Guantánamo Global Justice Initiative at the Center for Constitutional Rights, about the problems lawyers have had in representing clients at Guantánamo and the significance of this new appeal by the U.S. government. He said:
“The process that we are forced to run through now was created by Congress in 2005. It's simply called the Detainee Treatment Act. The process starts with a little military panel of three military officers—they don't even have to be lawyers – where they decide whether or not you're a so-called 'unlawful enemy combatant.' In this process the military can bring in classified evidence, they can used tortured evidence they've tortured out of other people or out of the detainee. The detainee never gets a lawyer. Beyond that, the detainee doesn't get to bring his own witnesses or his own documents into court. He doesn't have any power to produce evidence. All the facts are produced by the government. The detainee doesn't even get to counter them or catalyze them with skepticism. He can't even see most of them.”
Kadidal also talked about the kind of absurd restrictions placed on lawyers representing Guantánamo detainees:
"Among other things it [the Detainee Treatment Act] said anything a detainee tells you—even the information in your head that you're carrying out of the base after you've met them, is presumptively classified. So when you write out notes from your meeting with the detainee, you have to hand it over to the government and they send it through a security clearance and give it back to you. It's a walled-off Justice Department clearance team—it's basically walled off in terms of they're not supposed to be involved in the litigation. They don't talk to the lawyers who are on the other side from you, but they are reading all the stuff and they have to clear it for you, so that's one thing. You have to get a security clearance to go down there—you have to get it for your translator to go down there."
This means that the government has access to all information exchanged between attorneys and their clients during visits to Guantánamo.
The new restrictions would require detainees to sign a document agreeing to work with a particular attorney. Kadidal explained why this is so devastating to a lawyer's ability to work with and gain the trust of his/her client:
"The first line of the form, I mean you can pull it up online, says 'You have been determined to be an enemy combatant.' So this is the thing that the detainee is supposed to sign. And beyond that, I can tell you that most people down there don't trust anyone as far as they can throw them, and with good reason. Winning trust of detainees is the hardest task that the lawyers have. That's why they have often tried, when they have the money and the time, to go visit an awful lot. And go visit the family members before they visit the detainee so that they'll have some inside information that shows the family trusts them. And that will create a sense with the detainee. These guys have been subjected to visits from interrogators disguised as foreign country officials, disguised as doctors, psychiatrists, human rights lawyers, you name it. And then they've been told things like, all your lawyers are Jews, and stuff like that that the military thinks will convince them that they should sort of mistrust them. Forcing them to sign a piece of paper during the first eight hours and forcing the lawyer to whip out a piece of paper, you know, when all through the interrogations there have always been kind of concessions put in front of these people to sign and they go, 'Look just sign this and you'll go home'—it's obvious to anybody why that's gonna create such huge trust issues."
The U.S. Justice Department claims that attorneys' visits and attorney-client mail have caused "intractable problems and threats to security at Guantánamo," and that the lawyers have "caused unrest on the base," such as hunger strikes and protests. Such claims have been used to justify these new draconian restrictions, in particular the reading of attorney/client mail. Kadidal points out, “What the military is basically saying is things like basic human comfort, things like information about how their wife and kids are doing back home, or something like that—that sort of information, or political developments in the war on terror or the war in Iraq, stuff like that—those aren't relevant to the immediate case that the detainees are bringing so that shouldn't be sent to them."
“The bigger issue there,” Kadidal says, “is really just the government saying that the untrustworthiness of the lawyers in adhering to all these restrictive rules is requiring them to basically open up and read legal mail."
More Restrictions and Outrageous Finger-Pointing
Many of the detainees' lawyers (and others) are outraged at the government's claims that these attorneys are responsible for unrest and security problems at Guantánamo. They point out that it is the abuse and torture of these prisoners and the fact that they have been held for years without even being charged, which has given rise to hunger strikes, protests, and other forms of "disobedience." One lawyer representing a detainee called the Department of Justice's accusation a "McCarthyite-era charge."
The appeal to prevent lawyers from having access to evidence used against detainees by the government also creates a new category of “protected information.” This is aimed at preventing lawyers from having access to information used by the military to define detainees as "enemy combatants." Previously, government officials could not classify information simply because it was embarrassing or exposed misconduct. Under these new restrictions, this could be done by executive order. Kadidal explained: "Presumably, information about all sorts of detainee misconduct and so forth and just things that the government finds embarrassing to get out there publicly—they can put a clamp on, and cut off access of the media to this sort of thing, by designating it in this sort of new category of protected information that they have control over, not the court. "
This is not the first time the U.S. government has moved to further restrict the rights of detainees at Guantanamo and attacked their lawyers. In January, Charles Stimson, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Detainee Affairs, targeted attorneys at many top law firms who are representing the Guantanamo prisoners pro bono (for free). Stimson called on these law firms' corporate clients to ask the firms "to choose between lucrative retainers and representing terrorists" and strongly insinuated that some of the attorneys might be funded by or connected to so-called "terrorist" organizations. These remarks represented a very heavy threat, raising the possibility of a federal investigation of the attorneys and their law firms under the Patriot Act or other repressive laws passed since 9/11. And Stimson's threats were also meant to have a chilling effect on any lawyer who might think about defending an “unpopular” client.
Kadidal points out: “They're basically just saying, look the detainees don't have the right to know what's going on in the outside world. This is just part of the military's whole plan for the place, which is to create an interrogation center—more than a punishment facility for people they think have done something wrong—but an interrogation facility. And part of their interrogation methodology is to isolate the person so that they can become totally dependent on their interrogator for all sort of human contact and contact with the outside world. So people are increasingly being held in solitary confinement facilities down there and they want to cut off their letters from home and contact with lawyers.”
Bush Eases One Rule But Continues to Push New Restrictions
On May 12 the Bush Administration announced it is no longer seeking to restrict the number of meetings between Guantanamo detainees and lawyers. But all the other appeals are still stand . This comes after widespread protest and outrage from civil liberties and legal groups, including the American Bar Association and right before one of the largest Guantanamo cases where eight detainees are challenging their status as “enemy combatants.” Barry M. Kamins, president of the New York City Bar Association, as reported in the New York Times, said, “The easing of this one rule barely begins to address the egregious violations of the attorney-client relationship.”
Taken as a whole, these new restrictions set out to prevent the public from finding out what has gone on in Guantánamo, and at the same time they seek to prevent detainees from taking to court those who have unlawfully detained and tortured them—all the way up to top levels of government.
What's more they are a part of making Guantánamo an even more isolated torture and interrogation center where human rights do not apply—where detainees are denied basic legal rights, tortured, and subjected to inhuman isolation, and where there is increasing secrecy aimed at covering this all up.
Revolution #89, May 20, 2007
The Chicano Struggle and Proletarian Revolution in the U.S.
Revolution is running 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 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: “The History and Present Conditions of the Chicano People”; “The Source of—and Solution to—the Oppression of Chicano People”; and “A Look at Other Viewpoints and Approaches—Where We Have Unity and Where We Have Differences Over What Will Bring True Liberation.”
Part 1 of this series, which appeared in issue 87, traced the historical roots of the oppression of the Chicano people to the original colonization of what is now the southwestern part of the U.S. We continue with another selection from “The History and Present Conditions of the Chicano People.”
Mexican Independence from Spain
Between 1776 and 1836, several colonial independence movements shook the Americas. One of the leaders of the Mexican revolution was Father Miguel Hidalgo, who led a revolt that sparked the outbreak of Mexico's war of independence. On September 16, 1810, Hidalgo shouted the famous "Grito de Dolores"--"Long live our Lady of Guadalupe, down with bad government, down with the Spaniards!" For the next eleven years there were many more uprisings and in 1821 Mexico declared its independence from Spain.
Even though the settlements in the Southwest were considered part of Mexico, they did not participate to a great extent in the independence movement because there was little or no contact between them and Mexico. These borderland settlements were developing more independently from the rest of Mexico. In what is now New Mexico, the suppression of the Apaches led to a revival of immigration from Mexico, resulting in the expansion of ranching and farming.
The Santa Fe Trail was opened in 1822 connecting Santa Fe, New Mexico with U.S. markets. The opening of this trail reduced the isolation of these provinces from the U.S., but increased their separation from the rest of Mexico. Ruling class forces in Mexico did not like the trade between the U.S. and Mexico's provinces and feared they would be lost to the U.S. These Mexican ruling class forces led a revolt in 1835 that brought Lopez de Santa Anna to power. His regime imposed taxes on the people who lived in the northern provinces. Rich and poor despised these taxes--they had already become dependent on the goods the U.S. sold them at a cheaper price. The revolt that followed was suppressed by Mexico and New Mexico's large landowners, who quickly saw they had more to fear from the Indians and peasants who were most active in the revolt than from Mexico's central government.
The U.S.-Mexican War (1846-1848)
In the early 1800s two economic systems were competing in the U.S.: slavery and capitalism. The southern slave system, with its constant need for new land, was the driving force behind the seizure of the territory of northwest Mexico (what is now the U.S. Southwest). But the capitalists in the North also eyed the territory as a source of land, gold and other mineral resources, and as an opening of trade to the West. In 1836, slave owners, who had moved into the eastern part of Texas, stole the land from Mexico and declared it the Independent Republic of Texas. Despite warnings from the Mexican government, the U.S. annexed this so-called republic in 1845, and this led to the U.S.-Mexican War.
Mexican and Indian peasants fought hard against U.S. aggression in the Mexican provinces. A number of Irish immigrants who were U.S. soldiers deserted to the Mexican side, forming the Batallón San Patricio (Saint Patrick's Battalion). While few of the rich landowners of New Mexico resisted the U.S., the masses of peasants and Indians in these regions did resist. There was struggle throughout the Southwest and California, but despite this resistance against the U.S., Mexico was defeated on February 2, 1848. By then U.S. troops had driven deep into Mexican territory, reaching and encircling Mexico City. In this way they were delivering a message that the U.S. was to be the dominant force in this hemisphere.
At the end of the U.S.-Mexican War the U.S. ripped off approximately 50% of Mexico's territory--the land richest in natural resources, suitable for growing fruit, farming, grazing, rich in minerals like copper and silver, and rich in oil reserves. The theft of this land crippled Mexico's future economic development.
Approximately 75,000 Mexicans were living on settlements in the Southwest at the end of the U.S.-Mexican War, 60,000 of them in New Mexico. They were mainly poor farmers, peasants, ranch hands and miners.
Mexico was forced to sign the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, which while stripping it of half its land, promised that Mexicans in the Southwest of what was now U.S. territory were entitled to Constitutional rights and "shall be maintained and protected in the free enjoyment of their liberty and property." This treaty and the protocol that was also signed guaranteed the Mexican people their land grants, language and civil rights. But the treaty was treated as a mere scrap of paper and never respected by the U.S. government.
Only nine days after the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo was signed gold was discovered in California. Thousands of people flooded the area and the small Mexican population of 7,500 was completely overrun. The state's population leaped to 67,000 by the end of 1848 and soared to 250,000 by 1849. Taxes, squatters, and court costs to affirm land titles ruined Mexican ranchers. Some Mexicans worked as ranch hands or were self-employed as artisans and craftsmen. But Mexicans who attempted to mine gold were hit with "foreign" miner taxes that prevented them from mining. The Mexican people resisted this wholesale rip-off. Tiburcio Vasquez and Joaquin Murrieta, dismissed as criminals by prevailing versions of California history, became outlaws rather than accept the injustices coming down on Mexicans, and both of them headed up armed bands that roamed California until they were captured and killed.
In Texas the war was over, but the people's struggle wasn't. Big U.S. cattle barons and plantation owners set out to take over everything and push the Mexicans out of the way. This is where the Texas Rangers got their start--as the strong-armed thugs for the big ranchers, using murder and robbery to terrorize the Mexican people into submission. Poor Mexicans and displaced landowners rose up in resistance. Juan Cortina led an important and heroic resistance movement in Texas, avoiding capture and carrying out armed battles for over a decade.
In Southwest Texas and New Mexico U.S. expansion came slower. At first the Anglo-Americans who migrated there married into prominent Mexican families and became part of the elite. Step by step they bought out or stole outright the land from the small Mexican farmers in violation of the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo. Between 1850 and 1900, two million acres belonging to individuals, 1.7 million acres of communal land and 1.8 million acres of other New Mexican land were seized by the U.S. government. The Anglo settlers in Texas set up new towns alongside and separate from the old ones, while the Mexican people ended up as peons and ranch hands. In this way, the conquest brought with it the beginnings of institutionalized segregation and discrimination of the Mexican population that remained.
A notorious alliance of politicians and twenty rich New Mexican families, known as the Santa Fe Ring, worked together to acquire large tracts of land. Conducting court only in English, imposing high taxes, arbitrary laws, and expensive confirmation of land deeds, and through outright robbery and murder, they seized the communal lands away from the people. Many Mexicans lost their homes, and Mexican peasants moved northward into the southern portion of Colorado where their settlements still exist today.
The victory of capitalism over slavery in 1865 brought bigger changes to the Southwest. This victory accelerated the downfall of the feudal landlord-tenant setup that had existed in parts of the Southwest. The development of the railroads encouraged the expansion of large-scale capitalist agriculture, which ruined the landowners and forced the peasants into the ranks of the working class in the mines, railroads and truck farms, along with Irish and Chinese immigrants. The railroads also encouraged the development of large cattle ranchers who could ship their beef to the east. These powerful interests drove the smaller Mexican sheepherders and small farmers out of business and into the working class as well.
For the vast majority of Mexican people in the Southwest, capitalism advanced by running roughshod over them and subjugating them to its needs. A reign of terror was unleashed on them, and their resistance to its domination was drowned in blood. Through this brutal process the oppressed minority of Mexicans were transformed into a new and distinct oppressed national minority within the U.S.--the Mexican-American or Chicano people.
To sum up: as this history shows, when the U.S. seized what is now the Southwest from Mexico the various Mexican settlements in that region were small and isolated, not only from Mexico, but also from each other. The conquest cut these settlements off from the nation-building process that was taking place in Mexico. The consolidation of U.S. capitalism over the Southwest held back the independent economic, cultural, political and social development of the Mexican people in the area. In so doing it forged them together into a single oppressed nationality--Mexican-Americans or Chicanos--and welded them in their great majority together with workers of other nationalities into the single U.S. working class. All this set the stage for a higher level of struggle against the common enemy in the decades to come.
Next: Mexican Revolution of 1910