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Revolution #92, June 17, 2007
Senate Immigration Bill:
On June 7, the immigration bill that was being considered in the Senate hit a major roadblock—and may have been stopped for good--when the bill's backers failed to close off the debate and move toward a final vote. Democratic majority leader Harry Reid withdrew the bill, and it is unclear at this point what will happen. The bill may or may not be taken up by the Senate again later.
The Senate bill was put together by ruling class "wise men"—a small group of Democrat and Republican senators, working with Bush. In the media, the bill has been portrayed as a “grand compromise” that “balances” the calls for “stricter border enforcement” with a means to provide “a path to citizenship” for undocumented immigrants. But this is a distortion of what this proposed law is actually about.
This is not a clash pitting anti-immigrant, “pro-enforcement” forces against more “moderate,” “pragmatic,” and “pro-immigrant” forces. At the heart of this Senate proposal are: (1) further militarization of the border and expansion of immigrant detention camps; (2) a “guest worker” program that keeps immigrants in slave-like conditions; (3) a “legalization” scheme to force undocumented immigrants to register with the government in exchange for a temporary visa allowing them to work legally and a promise—with many conditions attached—of official permanent residency years down the road; (4) major restrictions in the ability of U.S. citizens and permanent residents to bring family members legally into the U.S., which would result in splitting families apart. Amendments added to the bill before it was withdrawn made the provisions even more repressive—like the one by Texas Republican Senator Cornyn calling for rejected applications for the temporary visas to be turned over to law enforcement agencies, so that immigrants who didn't meet the requirements could be deported right away.
The Senate bill, if it became law, would not represent anything good for immigrants. (For more on the proposal, see "Senate Immigration Bill: A Program for Increased Repression and Legalized Slavery" by Travis Morales, in Revolution #90, online at revcom.us.)
Those behind the bill had apparently hoped to push it through "under the radar" and get quick approval. But the bill touched off major opposition—mainly from forces within Bush's own party (including all the Republican presidential candidates except John McCain) who declared that the bill was not tough enough on "unlawful aliens" and "border security."
The way the bill's high-level backers tried to rush it into law after writing it in secret points to the urgent necessities that are driving the capitalist-imperialist rulers to drastically change the situation around immigration. And the fact that the bill has now stalled—and perhaps died—reveals divisions among different forces in the ruling class as they push for what they believe to be in the best interests of their system. As this article will get into, those ruling class interests are not the interests of the people.
The Capitalists’ "Immigration Problem"
Both the proponents and opponents of the Senate bill in the halls of power agree that their immigration system is "broken." By this, they are NOT talking about the intolerable situation where many people in countries dominated and ruined by the U.S. and other imperialists are forced to migrate across borders in a desperate search for survival. They are NOT talking about the hundreds of immigrants who die each year trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border through remote deserts and mountains, as more and more walls, troops, and military equipment line the border. They are NOT talking about the living hell endured by millions of undocumented people in the U.S.—slaving at low-paid and dangerous jobs while in constant terror of being grabbed in gestapo immigration raids and suddenly separated from their family and friends.
What the ruling class voices mean by a "broken" immigration system is that the current situation threatens the strategic aims of their empire—around the world and here in the "homeland"—and their ability to control and profitably exploit immigrant labor.
It is true that the outlawing and suppression of undocumented immigrants have given the U.S. rulers huge power to super-exploit this section of the proletariat. Immigrant workers have become the backbone of industries like meatpacking and construction and essential to agriculture, various services, and other parts of the economy.
Undocumented immigrants have also been made into scapegoats for the insecurities and problems arising out of the workings of the capitalist system itself that are hitting the majority of people. Through the reactionary media, native-born people—proletarians and those in the middle-class—are bombarded with the message that “illegal” immigrants are to blame for low wages, messed-up schools, cuts in social services, and so on. This is an ugly game, meant to keep people from standing together against their common oppressor—it has to be seen for what it is and opposed.
But there are some acute ways in which the situation where 12 to 20 million people are living "in the shadows" within the U.S. borders has come in conflict with some other strategic interests of the imperialists.
First, it is a big problem from their class standpoint that there are millions within the "homeland" who, by necessity, have become adept at living "outside the law," avoiding the eyes and reach of the authorities. This includes those who come to the aid of immigrants targeted by the state—doctors and nurses who treat immigrants without asking for IDs, churches that give sanctuary to people threatened with deportation, etc. This comes directly into conflict with the whole repressive agenda concentrated in the Patriot Act, widespread wiretapping, and the gutting of basic rights.
Second, the very presence of the large and growing immigrant population brings a diversity of political and cultural experiences into American society. The strategic interests of the proletariat lie in breaking down national divisions among the people, and from that viewpoint this is an overwhelmingly positive development. But the rulers of this country insist that U.S. culture and politics be founded on white American chauvinism—even more so in a time of global war and aggression being carried out by the U.S. In their view, the inflow of immigrants undermines the uniformity and "cohesiveness" of American culture and politics. So they demonize the immigrants, stir people up against them, and demand severe repression against them.
Third, there is the question of Mexico. Just last year Mexico went through a major legitimacy crisis around the presidential elections; Mexican society remains extremely volatile and polarized. The U.S. fears the potential for things to “get out of hand” in Mexico, including the possibility of forces who oppose U.S. imperialism—even perhaps genuinely revolutionary forces—coming to power. They fear the possible social chaos and they also fear the possible political contagion between both sides of the border in the event of a revolutionary situation, and they want to prevent that from happening. This forms part of the reason for the extreme militarization of the border.
At the same time, they need to keep the border clamped down but “moving smoothly”: the military buildup on the border and crackdown on immigrants in the Southwest are threatening to tear apart the economies and people on the two sides of the border that are very intertwined. Capitalists in parts of the economy heavily dependent on immigrant labor are worried that the “guest worker” provisions in the Senate bill are too restrictive and disruptive—especially after an amendment cut the number of workers in the program in half to 200,000.
When all is said and done, the capitalists need the immigrants—both to keep the U.S. economy profitable and because the money they send home helps to maintain stability within Mexico. But they are trying to hammer out a way to maintain the immigrants in this suppressed condition while containing the contradictions it brings. (For a fuller explanation of all this, see “The ‘Border Crisis’ and Revolution: Stepping Back on Some Strategic Dimensions,” Revolution #48, online at revcom.us.)
Their Fascist "Solution"…And the Need to Resist
The government and its armed forces are not moving, at this point, to immediately round up millions of "illegal" immigrants and kick them out. Such a move could cause massive upheaval, even rebellion, within the U.S. as well as in Mexico.
Some key forces in the ruling class are moving to “regulate” immigrants in some different ways—and that is what is represented by the Senate bill. The “legalization” provisions of the bill are, in reality, a scheme to lure millions of undocumented people “out of the shadows” so that the government and law enforcement agencies can more readily identify and track them. Immigrants deemed “undesirable” by the authorities would be quickly deported. The rest would be kept in a highly vulnerable and exploitable position (after they pay thousands of dollars in “fines”). They would basically be placed on parole, instantly saddled with a “criminal” history (for crossing the border “illegally” and using fake documents), and with the threat over their heads of their visas being revoked if they don’t keep to the program—which could mean anything from running afoul of the law in some way to not holding a steady job to not learning English quickly enough. Along with this, the Senate bill’s provisions for a “guest worker” program would create a caste of contract workers who are brought into the U.S. under tight control, exploited for a few years, and then packed off back to their home countries.
All this is in the context of the border being further fortified with more troops and armed agents, walls, and high-tech surveillance equipment, and in the context of other measures like expansion of detention centers to that they can hold 27,500 immigrants each day.
At the same time, they have launched a very fascistic crackdown on immigrant communities—with widespread raids, detentions, and breaking up of families—in order to spread terror among the people. (See, for example, "Chicago: Armed Raids in the Heart of Mexican Community," "San Diego: Fascist Raids and Vigilantes Terrorize Immigrant Communities," "Resistance to ICE Raids in San Rafael, CA," and other recent articles in Revolution, available online at revcom.us.)
But the clampdown on immigrants is stirring up much anger and protest, among immigrants as well as those born here. Last spring, millions of politically awakened people poured into the streets seemingly out of nowhere, in opposition to the fascist Sensenbrenner bill passed by the House which, among other things, called for making all undocumented immigrants into felons. And in the face of the massive raids and roundups of immigrants this Spring, hundreds of thousands marched across the U.S. on May 1 this year—including in L.A., where people went up against a brutal attack by the LAPD.
The fascist anti-immigrant offensive is raising the question: what kind of society are we living in, where people are hunted down, separated from their kids, and deported…just because they have no official documents? A movement has arisen among religious people to give sanctuary to immigrants targeted by the government. Some cities and towns have declared themselves immigrant sanctuaries. The city of New Haven, CT, recently announced an “immigrant-friendly” policy of giving municipal ID cards to all who request them, no questions asked. (Two days later, in a clearly retaliatory move, immigration agents raided houses in a Latino community in New Haven and took away 31 people.) All this points to the potential for even greater resistance to grow quickly and spread further—which would have a tremendous impact broadly within the U.S., as well as in Mexico and other countries.
In short, there are huge contradictions facing the imperialists, and various ways that the moves they are making could backfire on them. Yet they are compelled to move to transform the current situation, and this is giving rise to some sharp divisions.
Left to itself, this current trajectory is not going anywhere good, for immigrants and for the masses of people overall. The situation today is already intolerable for millions. The raids at workplaces and in communities across the country have spread a blanket of terror. This intensifying fascist crackdown is part of the rulers’ efforts to “keep it all together” and put a lid on the politically volatile immigration situation, even if Bush and Congress are unable to hammer together a law at this point. Some reactionary forces envision a nightmarish scenario—where such terror tactics combined with a bristling militarized border will eventually lead to the elimination of “illegal” immigrants within the U.S. And any “solution” or “compromise” that the political representatives of this capitalist-imperialist system may bludgeon through can only bring even more horrors.
All this underscores the urgency for immigrants and those who stand with them to resist this fascist offensive. The demonizing of and attacks against immigrants are the kind of reactionary dynamics that have historically led to death camps. But things are not static and one-sided. In a situation, as described above, where the rulers at the top are being driven by pressing necessities to act on a major question but are sharply divided on how to move forward, the divisions and sharp struggle at the top can create fissures where mass protest and resistance can burst through and change the whole political equation.
A glimpse of such potential could be seen in the aftermath of the LAPD assault on the May 1 immigrant rally, which provoked widespread outrage when people saw images of police shooting rubber bullets into the crowd and beating journalists and others. In the face of this brutality, a determined core of people pressed forward with the just demands of the immigrants, forged new allies, and forced city officials onto the defensive politically. Such developments show the possibility of uniting people far beyond the immigrant communities, and relying on people’s own efforts to taken on and defeat the anti-immigrant attacks and the overall fascist offensive.
Revolution #92, June 17, 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 ninth 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.
Democracy—Concentrating Some Essential Understanding
Here I want to return to two brief statements regarding democracy that are run regularly in Revolution newspaper. These statements—one of two sentences, and one of three sentences—are an attempt on my part to capture some essential aspects of reality, and to concentrate much of the complexity bound up with this reality in a scientific way. Especially in light of what is going on in the world today, and the rationalizations that are being propagated to justify what the Bush regime (and U.S. imperialism in general) is doing in the world today, it is worthwhile digging further into these statements.
To take "the two sentences" first, this begins (the first part of the first sentence is): "The essence of what exists in the U.S. is not democracy but capitalism-imperialism…" Now, you could get into a whole bunch of arguments about that statement if you didn't correctly understand it, and particularly if you approached it in a dogmatic way. [In a sarcastic voice:] "Well, I thought you said that democracy in the U.S. does exist but it's bourgeois democracy." Yes, but note that what's being said here refers to the essence of what exists. It is emphasizing that, if you want to understand the essential and driving forces in society, don't look to the superstructure of politics and ideology, and don't look to superficialities—look to the economic base first of all.
This is what is brought out in the first of these sentences, taken as a whole: "The essence of what exists in the U.S. is not democracy but capitalism-imperialism and political structures to enforce that capitalism-imperialism." Those political structures could be democratic (that is, bourgeois-democratic) or they could be fascistic (or they could be one in the name of the other). But what is their essence? And what is fundamental?
And then this statement goes on (the second sentence is): "What the U.S. spreads around the world is not democracy, but imperialism and political structures to enforce that imperialism." This, again, is the essence of what they spread around the world. The structures to enforce that imperialism may be the Saudi Arabian royalty—or it may be sweeping aside the Saudi Arabian royalty and instituting a more bourgeois-democratic form of government there. But what's the essence? What are the driving forces? It is imperialism—the capitalist system in the stage of imperialism—a worldwide system of exploitation under the overall rule of capital and driven by the laws of capitalist accumulation, as conditioned by the dominance of monopolies, international investment/export of capital, the division of the world among the imperialists as well as the great division between a few imperialist countries and a vast number of colonized and oppressed nations.
In the three-sentence statement on democracy, essential points are emphasized which closely interconnect with the two sentences I have just discussed. Now, I have said a number of times that if I were teaching a course on this subject (on the nature of democracy and its relation to the fundamental character of society, rooted in its economic system), I would read these three sentences, and the rest of the semester would consist of: explain. Because there is a tremendous amount concentrated in these sentences that is very important to understand—and is very widely misunderstood. How many people actually have engaged the substance of this? And how many people need to? So let's look at these three sentences.
The first is: "In a world marked by profound class divisions and social inequality, to talk about `democracy'—without talking about the class nature of that democracy and which class it serves—is meaningless, and worse." How much further ahead would we be if there were a large section of people who understood the essence of that! I've often joked that, with the success of the socialist revolution, one of the first acts of the new revolutionary state—the dictatorship of the proletariat—should be to ban the word "democracy" for ten years, because it has been the source of so much misunderstanding and confusion. But that is, after all, a joke—we can't actually do that, and shouldn't try to do that, for a lot of reasons—just to be clear. But there is a tremendous amount of misunderstanding and confusion about this question of democracy, and people just keep falling, over and over again, into the same kinds of illusions about this. If there were a leap to where a significant section of people understood just this one sentence, think how much further ahead we'd be.
And then this statement goes on (the second and third sentences are): "So long as society is divided into classes, there can be no `democracy for all': one class or another will rule, and it will uphold and promote that kind of democracy which serves its interests and goals. The question is: which class will rule and whether its rule, and its system of democracy, will serve the continuation, or the eventual abolition, of class divisions and the corresponding relations of exploitation, oppression and inequality."
Once more, if we could actually get people to begin grappling with and understanding this, we would be so much further ahead. This is not just important as theoretical abstraction—which it is. It is theoretical abstraction, and it is extremely important as theoretical abstraction for people to be wrangling with. But it also has everything to do with what's going on in the world and major struggles that have to be waged in the world today. Whether you understand this—whether you grasp the essence of what is being captured and concentrated here—or whether you are full of the illusions that are promoted in opposition to that, is of tremendous importance and moment, literally in terms of what direction the world will be heading in. Because the fact is that not only do the imperialists not understand their own system. But, without negating positive things they do and contributions they make, the fact is that neither is all this understood by the many reformers, populists, and democrats on the political terrain.
To further illustrate the essential points here, I wanted to bring in another great shopkeeper quote from Marx (and in this case, Engels as well). As you know, Marx made a very profound observation about the relation between the democratic intellectuals and the shopkeepers—how, even though in their everyday approach to life, they may be as far apart as heaven and earth, they share an essential unity in that, in their thinking the democratic intellectuals do not get further than the shopkeepers get in their practical dealings; that the one, in the realm of theory, as much as the other in the exchange of commodities, does not get beyond what Marx termed "the narrow horizon of bourgeois right."1 The other quote I am referring to here is from The German Ideology:
"Every shopkeeper is very well able to distinguish what somebody professes to be, and what he really is, [but] our historians have not yet won even this trivial insight. They take every epoch at its word and believe that everything it imagines about itself is true."2
This really captures something very profound. How many people do you know who take every epoch, and in particular this epoch, at its word, and believe that everything it imagines about itself is actually true? How many people do we encounter in the course of our work who, as I put it in the polemic against K. Venu,3 take bourgeois democracy more seriously than the bourgeoisie does—and keep trying various ways in their minds and in their practice to try to perfect this bourgeois democracy into something other than what it is and what it is capable of being?
This goes back to the two sentences and the three sentences I spoke to above. There are so many people who take this epoch in particular, the bourgeois epoch, at its word, and who don't go beyond the appearance of things to get to the essence—to the underlying relations and dynamics that are driving things and that establish the foundation for, and ultimately determine the nature of, the political system and institutions, as well as the dominant culture and ideology, in any society, in any epoch. How many people ignore, or are simply ignorant of, the fundamental reality that, in any society in any epoch, political structures, institutions, and processes must be understood precisely in relation to the underlying economic base and to dynamics that are rooted in that economic base—in the relations and driving contradictions that characterize that economic base? How many people still need to be won to approach the world in that way?
1 The point from Marx, summarized here, about shopkeepers and democratic intellectuals is found in Marx's essay The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte. The fuller statement by Marx is:
“…one must not form the narrow-minded notion that the petite bourgeoisie, on principle, wishes to enforce an egoistic class interest. Rather, it believes that the special conditions of its emancipation are the general conditions within the frame of which alone modern society can be saved and the class struggle avoided. Just as little must one imagine that the democratic representatives are indeed all shopkeepers or enthusiastic champions of shopkeepers. According to their education and their individual position they may be as far apart as heaven from earth. What makes them representatives of the petite bourgeoisie is the fact that in their minds they do not get beyond the limits which the latter do not get beyond in life, that they are consequently driven, theoretically, to the same problems and solutions to which material interest and social position drive the latter practically. This is, in general, the relationship between the political and literary representatives of a class and the class they represent…." (Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, Moscow: Progress Publishers, pp. 40-41, emphasis in original) [back]
2 This passage from The German Ideology was cited in the article "On Empire —Revolutionary Communism or 'Communism' Without Revolution?" in A World to Win magazine, issue #32, 2006. This article provides important analysis of and polemics against the basic worldview and political positions found in the books Empire (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 2000) and Multitude (New York: Penguin Press, 2004) byMichael Hardt and Antonio Negri. [back]
3 K. Venu was an erstwhile "Maoist" in India who, at a certain point, with changes in the Soviet Union beginning with Gorbachev and with the Tiananmen Square events in China in the late 1980s, began to view as essentially negative the historical experience of socialism in the 20th century, not only in the Soviet Union but in China as well. Venu retreated into a position which, in the final analysis, amounted to upholding bourgeois democracy as the highest objective to be striven for—obscuring the fact that this bourgeois democracy is in fact a form of bourgeois dictatorship and that the socialist state, the dictatorship of the proletariat, makes it possible not only a much broader and deeper democracy for the masses of people, but even more fundamentally that this state is essential for, and provides the vehicles for, the advance of communism, worldwide, with the abolition of the division of society into classes, and thereby the elimination of the need for a state of any kind.
The polemic against K. Venu, titled "Democracy: More Than Ever We Can and Must Do Better Than That," is included in Bob Avakian's book Phony Communism Is Dead…Long Live Real Communism! (Chicago: RCP Publications, 2004) and originally appeared in A World to Win magazine #17, 1992. The polemic is available online at revcom.us/bob_avakian/democracy/.[back]
Revolution #92, June 17, 2007
On June 27-July 1 the U.S. Social Forum (USSF) will be holding a national conference in Atlanta, Georgia. Revolution newspaper is encouraging people to volunteer to join us in connecting Revolution newspaper and the DVD Revolution: Why It’s Necessary, Why It’s Possible, What It’s All About, a Film of a Talk by Bob Avakian with these thousands of people striving and struggling for change.
The call for the conference states--“The USSF will provide space to build relationships, learn from each other's experiences, share our analysis of the problems our communities face, and bring renewed insight and inspiration. It will help develop leadership and develop consciousness, vision, and strategy needed to realize another world.
“The USSF sends a message to other people’s movements around the world that there is an active movement in the US opposing US Policies at home and abroad.
“We must declare what we want our world to look like and begin planning the path to get there. A global movement is rising. The USSF is our opportunity to demonstrate to the world Another World is Possible!”
This conference provides a tremendous opportunity to link up with many like-minded people--introduce them to Revolution newspaper and Bob Avakian and to engage in discussion and debate over the issues facing humanity today and the leadership we need.
To volunteer to help bring REVOLUTION—the newspaper and the DVD—to the USSF, contact us at email@example.com call us at 773-227-4066 or write us at Box 3486, Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654-0486, “attn: Volunteer.”
Revolution #92, June 17, 2007
Since its publication last fall, The Science of Evolution and the Myth of Creationism: Knowing What’s Real and Why It Matters by Ardea Skybreak has received increasing recognition from renowned scientists and educators… as well as from many people who are ordinarily denied access to science. Word of the book is spreading, particularly through numerous reviews on the Internet. It has received especially warm welcome on a number of science blogs and web sites, and from among prisoners. The book has gotten exposure at conferences, at Darwin Day celebrations, and book fairs. It is available in many bookstores and in some museum stores. (And it should be in many more.)
This book is truly unique in the way it popularizes the science of evolution and the scientific method. It combines uncompromising scientific rigor with an accessible style which gives it the ability to connect with a broad and diverse audience. And it’s already begun to show the potential to reach into every corner of society—from college professors and librarians to prisoners and residents of housing projects—and profoundly influence the way that people see the world and how they think.
Recently, the book was named as one of three finalists for the 2007 Benjamin Franklin award in the category of Science/Environment. Sponsored by the independent publishers association PMA (Publishers Marketing Association), this award recognizes excellence in independent publishing. According to PMA, “All books are judged on editorial and design merit by top practitioners in each field.” This year’s winners were announced on May 31, at an awards ceremony held just before the opening of Book Expo America in New York City. This year’s Ben Franklin Award for Science / Environment went to another finalist, Fossil Treasures of the Anza-Borrego Desert edited by George T. Jefferson and Lowell Lindsay, a collection of essays examining the history of the Anza-Borrego desert in California, which explores themes of adaptation, evolution, extinction, and the influence of changing environments on animals and landscapes. The other nominated book, Field Guide to Snowflakes, is about the beauty and science of snowflakes. While The Science of Evolution... did not take the top prize, recognition as a finalist for this award is an important honor and opens greater potential for the book to reach many more people.
Over the past several months, in addition to praise from renowned scientists Richard Leakey, Kevin Padian, and David Seaborg that is included in the book itself, The Science of Evolution... has been welcomed and promoted especially on a number of science blogs and web sites that are engaged in defense of evolution, and of science itself, in face of attempts to bring religion, often in the form of “intelligent design creationism,” into science education the public schools.
A Developing Buzz Online
PZ Myers is an associate professor of biology at the University of Minnesota, Morris. He has been called one of the fiercest, most public critics of the intelligent design movement. According to the Minneapolis newspaper City Pages, his popular science blog, Pharyngula (Scienceblogs.com/Pharyngula) receives between 13,000 and 25,000 visitors a day.
In a review last December, Myers writes, “Most books that teach the basics of evolutionary biology are fairly genteel in their treatment of creationism—they don’t endorse it, of course, but they either ignore it, or more frequently now, they segregate off a chapter to deal with the major claims. There are also whole books dedicated to combating creationist myths, of course, but they’re not usually the kind of book you pick up to get a tutorial in basic biology. In my hands I have an example of a book that does both, using errors of creationism heavily to help explain and contrast the principles of evolutionary biology—it’s fascinating."
PZ Myers goes on to add that, “If your interest in evolution isn’t simply academic, this is an excellent book to simultaneously inform and instruct, and supply the reasoning to deal with creationist foolishness. It’s also refreshing to see a book that isn’t timid about pointing out that fundamentalist religion is the source of the problem, and that isn’t afraid of offending creationists. It makes for an invigorating read, and I recommend it highly… It’s perfect for that person who wants to learn some solid biology, but also wants to be an activist for good science.”
On June 5, 2007, the book was named “Book of the Week” at the “agnosticism and atheism” section of the popular web site About.com. Austin Cline wrote, “Is there a role for creationism or Intelligent Design in modern science classrooms? Absolutely not, because there is no room for them in modern science—they are remnants of ancient religious traditions whose time has long passed. It’s not simply a matter of contrasting skeptical science with simplistic superstition, through. Critics may be tempted to regard creationism as little more than superstition, but it is much more than that—and the threat it poses is far more serious.”
“Locked Out” but Engaging with Evolution
Many people who are ordinarily “locked out” of getting into scientific ideas have also taken up this book—including more than a few prisoners. Those promoting the book at the recent publishing conference, Book Expo America, report that the unusual mix of people who have been reading and talking about The Science of Evolution and the Myth of Creationism: Knowing What’s Real and Why It Matters is exciting and heartening, and has, itself, piqued further interest among a number of academics, scientists, and others in the book world.
One prisoner writes, “Most captives grew up in this society poor and oppressed and steeped and indoctrinated in religious fundamentalism, so evolution is pretty uncomfortable to lend credence to, especially in the beginning when it’s hard for us to really 'trade' our relatively comfortable dependence on a Creator for ideas and theories and such a lot of us haven’t been given the opportunity to develop intellects for and use knowledge gained through education to support and sustain. The whole 'scientific method' and process is foreign to so many people who have been figuratively and literally 'locked out' of using it and working within it. So it was real refreshing to read how Ardea Skybreak not only articulated the science of evolution but also explained why evolution and the scientific method generally is so important for all human beings to know and be benefitted by and why so many around the world do not have very much—if any—familiarity with the theory of evolution and how we’ve all been more or less kept from liberating ourselves from enslavement to religious dogma and superstition and mysticism and spirituality and enforced ignorance!”
Another prisoner described the debate going on over evolution inside the walls, and remarked that, “A lot of these bible bangers who have been misled think this debate is about ‘winning or losing.’ I tell them this debate is about struggling for the truth.”
Insight Press is encouraging readers of Revolution, and others, who are able to purchase the special limited-edition hard cover edition of The Science of Evolution and the Myth of Creationism: Knowing What’s Real and Why It Matters, direct from the publisher (www.insight-press.com). Doing so allows the publisher to provide books to prisoners—free when possible to those who cannot afford them—and to sell the papercover edition at a price that can be afforded by many people, including those who normally cannot afford books.
Revolution #92, June 17, 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.)
Previous parts of this series appeared in issues #87 and #89-#91. We continue with another excerpt from the first section of the paper, “The History and Present Conditions of the Chicano People.”
The Farmworkers Struggle
Chicano and Mexicano farmworkers joined with striking Filipino campesinos in the grape fields of Delano, California in September of 1965. This began a new period of struggle in the fields of California and the Southwest. Under the leadership of what became the United Farmworkers Union, this new drive mounted a major challenge to the agri-business barons. Despite the fierce opposition of the growers and the rest of their class, the farmworkers movement scored significant gains and gave inspiration to workers of all nationalities, and to the awakening Chicano movement. The struggle involved thousands of farmworkers, and mobilized countless other workers (and people of other strata) in solidarity, through the boycott of produce picked by strikebreakers--"scabs"--and other support activity.
Workers from New York to Belgium refused to handle scab grapes and forced union bureaucrats and liberal politicians to give support to the struggle. Mass mobilizations brought workers and students from the cities to the fields of Central California in solidarity, returning with an even greater determination to step up the struggle against oppression. Given its impact and the support it attracted, it's not surprising that the bourgeoisie would do all they could to smash the farmworker movement, while trying to keep it within the bounds of trade unionism and on the reformist path. This did have an impact on the direction the movement took, with its leaders wanting to paint it as a moral, pacifist one while covering up and discouraging the very militancy which made it such an inspiration to the world. The leadership fell in with the ruling class line that "illegals" threaten American-born workers' jobs and should be deported--even though many of the most militant fighters among the farmworkers were workers without papers.
For other sections of the Chicano people the farmworkers movement was an inspiration, not only because of their resistance to exploitation, but also because in their fight the farmworkers drew a spotlight on the national oppression all Chicanos face. And they raised demands around many of the issues that Chicanos in the community were fighting for--including for better housing, schooling and medical care, and an end to all forms of discrimination.
National liberation struggles were raging in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, and together with this, the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China was sending revolutionary shock waves across the planet. More and more, revolution was becoming the currency. (It was announced in the late 1960s that the Red Book of "Quotations of Chairman Mao" had outsold the Bible worldwide!) Vietnam, a small Third World country, was militarily defeating the "all-powerful" United States. Soldiers in the U.S. armed forces were killing their own officers, deserting, and refusing to fight. All this was the backdrop to the tremendous upheaval that erupted across this country. Millions of young people from all walks of life and different nationalities battled it out on the streets with the system against the bloody Vietnam war. And over one hundred cities burned in rebellion across the U.S. in the days following the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King.
A new generation of Chicano activists hit the scene with the force of an erupting volcano, inspired by the struggles of the farmworkers and by the militant Black liberation movement, as well as by the growing opposition to the Vietnam war among students and others. The struggle of the Chicano people against national oppression reached new heights during this period. Important battles were fought in New Mexico over land grant rights, and a significant Chicano youth movement developed in Colorado. High school "blowouts" shook East L.A. as thousands of Chicano students hit the streets demanding a decent education. Student struggles and organizations also developed in the high schools and college campuses across the Southwest and beyond, demanding Chicano Studies departments and open admissions. All the areas where Chicanos were concentrated became strong centers of resistance.
The question of revolution was being posed as the solution to the problems in society. Chicanos, like others, were demanding an end to the oppressive conditions they lived in, asking what it was going to take to really change this. There was an increasing need to chart a road forward and Chicanos began organizing themselves into a number of different groups. This growing political awareness and search for a way out from under their oppression brought together over 3,000 Chicano activists to a conference in Denver, Colorado in 1969. At this 1st National Youth Conference in Denver the Plan Espiritual de Aztlán was written. And a short time later, at a conference in Santa Barbara, MEChA ( Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán ) was organized as a unified student organization. The struggle developed to a higher level against the war in Vietnam, against language and cultural repression and discrimination in schools and in society at large, against police brutality in the neighborhoods; and political awareness and debate grew over how to liberate the Chicano people and all people. Chicanos spread their struggle in all arenas, including through a flourishing of culture--poetry, songs, theatrical works, paintings, etc.-- all depicting the life and struggles of the Chicano people. Some forces took up Marxism and looked to the overthrow of U.S. imperialism as the solution.
On August 29, 1970, over 25,000 Chicanos from across the country gathered in Los Angeles to demand an end to the Vietnam War and an end to national oppression. This was the first time in history that there was this type of gathering among Chicanos. On the morning of August 29th people began to assemble at Laguna Park (later renamed Ruben Salazar Park). There were Chicanos from Kansas City, Minnesota, Chicago, the Southwest -- they had all come that day, along with Chicano and Mexicano families from the Los Angeles area, to express their outrage at the fact that thousands of Chicanos who had died in Vietnam and to demand an end to the war. There were thousands of signs and banners with different slogans, including "Raza S�! Guerra No!" and among a revolutionary section--"Raza Is! Guerra Aquí!" People marched down Whittier Blvd. in East Los Angeles receiving applause and support from the Chicano community.
Once the rally began, the police used a minor incident a block away as an excuse to attack the crowd with teargas and clubs. The people fought back with whatever was at hand. The battle soon spread throughout the community, with older people as well as the youth taking part.
A member of the RCP who was at the Chicano Moratorium explained that "the police attacked the demonstration not because of a few unruly demonstrators but because the U.S. ruling class was under siege around the world and inside the U.S. Only 3 months earlier national guardsmen had murdered students at Kent State and at the all-Black Jackson State campus. In this situation they could not allow an aroused Chicano people to take matters into their own hands."
The battle lasted several hours. People who ordinarily might not have gotten involved were compelled to support the demonstrators because they saw that the attack on the Moratorium was unjustified. Many allowed the demonstrators into their houses and then refused to let the Sheriffs search for them.1
Three people were murdered by the Sheriffs that day, including the well-known journalist Ruben Salazar who was shot in the head with a tear gas canister inside a bar. But the ruling class and the cops received a taste of the fury and strength of the Chicano people.
By the early 1970s, for a number of reasons, the great upsurges of the '60s began to wind down.2
Some important struggles involving the masses of Chicanos did take place in the years that followed, like the strike by thousands of predominantly Chicana workers in 1972 against the Farah pants plants of Texas and New Mexico, which rallied support around the country and ended in 1974 with the workers winning most of their demands. And there were important battles against police brutality, like the Moody Park rebellion in Houston's North Side in 1978 that saw thousands of Chicanos rise up in two nights of fighting against the police after police came in to mess with their Cinco de Mayo celebration. The backdrop to this uprising was a year-long battle for justice for José Campos Torres, who was beaten within an inch of his life by police and then thrown into the bayou where he drowned--for which the police involved were given a year's probation and a $1 fine!3
Next: The Conditions of the Chicano People Today
1. As the comrade also recalls: "There was a cop defending this building. He looked up and realized, 'I'm defending this building, but there is nobody defending me.' And by then he was surrounded and the crowd came toward him. So he gets in the cop car and rolls up the window. That didn't do any good. People turned the car upside down, kicked the windows out, dragged him out and really let him have it.
"I'll never forget this young Chicana who pushed her way through the crowd and walked up to him and said: 'Motherfucker, this is for what you have done to me and my people for all my fucking life.' And she let him have it again.
"When the people have a justifiable hatred and an anger at being treated like this, that's going to find expression . . . You can't sit on people's anger and hatred for the way that they have to live and tell them to accept it. Because then what you are saying is that it's all right for the imperialists to plunder you, to do all this to you, but you have no right to try to do anything about it . . . A righteous anger is a wonderful thing--it can help change the world.
"There were a lot of examples like that. This older man came up_and he brought us empty coke bottles by the case and he said when you guys get done with those, there's more in the back. He was a small merchant, he wasn't a flaming radical. He saw what happened on Whittier Blvd. everyday. He could look through his window and see life as it passed in front of his store. The first chance he got of allying himself with people who were trying to do something about all that, that's what he did." [back]
2. The U.S. was forced to confront defeat in Vietnam and withdraw its forces; certain concessions were forced on the system which pacified some who had been active in the struggle around various reforms; and there was a shift in world contradictions that was bringing the contention between the U.S. and the Soviet Union to the forefront. (The Soviet Union was by then an imperialist power itself, following the restoration of capitalism there in the mid-1950s.) [back]
3. Travis Morales, a supporter of the RCP, and two other revolutionaries went out into the rebellion and then held a press conference upholding the rebellion as a glorious day in the history of the Chicano people. For this they were arrested and charged with felony riot. A battle to uphold the Moody Park rebellion and "Defend the Moody Park 3" was waged. In the end the state was never able to put Travis or the other 2 revolutionaries behind bars. [back]
Revolution #92, June 17, 2007
On May 25 Congress voted to meet Bush’s demand for 100 billion dollars to pay for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan through September. After all the rhetoric about pullouts and timetables, the Democrats settled for the same “benchmarks” proposed by the Bush cabinet --along with a clause allowing Bush to waive Iraqi compliance on those benchmarks! And after the fix was in--after they were sure of the votes to pass this bill--the Democratic leadership allowed certain of their political leaders (like Clinton, Obama, Pelosi, and others) to vote against it, to posture as if they were antiwar. Other, less prominent Democrats--some who do favor pullout and others who feel compelled to look that way to their constituents--also voted against the measure.
The point is this: the Democrats could have stopped funding for the war if they chose to. They chose not to. They say that they did not have the votes to overcome a veto by Bush, and if they did not pass his bill, then there would be no funding for the troops.
Well, so what?!? The constitution requires that Congress approve war spending. If the Democrats had refused to send a bill--or had just let Bush continue to veto their original bill week after week--this would have brought things to a standstill on the war, even without enough votes to overcome a veto.
Again--the Democrats chose not to.
Disgusted and Disillusioned
This choice had a huge effect on millions of people. Cindy Sheehan responded this way, in a letter addressed to the Democratic Congress:
“Ms. Pelosi, Speaker of the House, said after George signed the new weak as a newborn baby funding authorization bill: ‘Now, I think the president's policy will begin to unravel.’ Begin to unravel? How many more of our children will have to be killed and how much more of Iraq will have to be demolished before you all think enough unraveling has occurred? How many more crimes will Bush & Co. be allowed to commit while their poll numbers are crumbling before you all gain the political ‘courage’ to hold them accountable. If Iraq hasn't unraveled in Ms. Pelosi's mind, what will it take? With almost 700,000 Iraqis dead and four million refugees (which the U.S. refuses to admit) how could it get worse? Well, it is getting worse and it can get much worse thanks to your complicity.
“Being cynically pessimistic, it seems to me that this new vote to extend the war until the end of September, (and let's face it, on October 1st, you will give him more money after some more theatrics, which you think are fooling the anti-war faction of your party) will feed right into the presidential primary season and you believe that if you just hang on until then, the Democrats will be able to re-take the White House. Didn't you see how ‘well’ that worked for John Kerry in 2004 when he played the politics of careful fence sitting and pandering?”
Very distant in many ways from Cindy Sheehan is Andrew Bacevich, a former military commander and prominent writer on military affairs. His son died May 13 in a suicide explosion in Salah al-Din province in Iraq. But Bacevich, like Sheehan, took to print in the wake of the Democrats’ vote:
“The November 2006 midterm elections signified an unambiguous repudiation of the policies that landed us in our present predicament. But half a year later, the war continues, with no end in sight...
“To be fair, responsibility for the war’s continuation now rests no less with the Democrats who control Congress than with the president and his party. After my son’s death, my state's senators, Edward M. Kennedy and John F. Kerry, telephoned to express their condolences. Stephen F. Lynch, our congressman, attended my son’s wake. Kerry was present for the funeral Mass. My family and I greatly appreciated such gestures. But when I suggested to each of them the necessity of ending the war, I got the brushoff…
"To whom do Kennedy, Kerry and Lynch listen? We know the answer: to the same people who have the ear of George W. Bush and Karl Rove -- namely, wealthy individuals and institutions.
"Money buys access and influence. Money greases the process that will yield us a new president in 2008. When it comes to Iraq, money ensures that the concerns of big business, big oil, bellicose evangelicals and Middle East allies gain a hearing. By comparison, the lives of U.S. soldiers figure as an afterthought....
"Money maintains the Republican/Democratic duopoly of trivialized politics. It confines the debate over U.S. policy to well-hewn channels...
"This is not some great conspiracy. It's the way our system works."
Both these pieces reflect a deep shift and shock in the sentiments of millions. And the depth of this must not be ignored or underestimated.
Their Interests--and Ours
Last summer, in the Talk “Why We’re In the Situation We’re In Today…And What To Do About It: A Thoroughly Rotten System and the Need for Revolution,” Bob Avakian made the point that even if the Democrats win the November 2006 elections, the people will lose. It is well worth thinking about that point--and digging into the analysis that underlies it--in the wake of the May 25 vote.
The calculations of the top Republicans and Democrats come down to this: what will work best to defend, maintain, and expand the American empire. Those are the fundamental interests that determine everything--their real “benchmarks.” That is what drove the May 25 vote.
But the millions who believed these Democrats, or who suspended disbelief long enough to vote for them, and in many cases to donate to and work for them, do NOT share those interests. Those millions do not make calculations based on what kind of regimes in the Middle East will best enforce continued U.S. control of oil; nor do they “factor in” how to best maintain a U.S. “military presence” (i.e., U.S. military domination) in the Middle East. The perceived concerns of these millions focus over-ridingly on how to stop the slaughter, the torture, the mass humiliation, the whole ugly and horrific dynamic that this war has unleashed and fostered, both internationally and within the U.S. And their fundamental interests do NOT lie in finding their place within an empire that involves untold horror for literally billions--let alone in further fortifying and expanding that empire--but in building a whole different world.
Fundamentally there is no solution to that antagonism other than revolution--a revolution that would and must involve millions acting consciously and able to withstand everything the ruling class would bring down on them. No solution other than a revolution aimed at bringing in a socialist state that would be a transition to a classless communist world. And everyone who lies awake at night, over both this war and the whole direction of society, has to seriously and deeply and urgently consider and check out that solution.
But there are also concrete and urgent objectives that must be achieved now even as millions agonize and talk about and struggle over what kind of change is ultimately needed.
There is a war to stop and a whole direction of society that must be reversed.
There is a regime that must be driven out.
The Urgent Need for Action
The people can not impact the direction of things within the political confines and terms set by the imperialist ruling class; that is one lesson of the May 25 vote.
But this does NOT mean that the people can not have a profound impact on politics. In fact, it is only by acting outside those terms that real change can come about. Mass disaffection transformed into mass political action from below can become contagious. It can go beyond something that the imperialists can easily control or turn to their own narrow electoral advantage--it can, instead, become a social force that they must weigh, that they must take into account and deal with, one way or another. As that social movement gains momentum, the differences and disputes within the ruling class that were more or less easily handled yesterday become yawning fissures today, through which even greater mass discontent can burst tomorrow. This dynamic has driven forward every significant change for the better in this society. Now--when there are in fact real differences among the rulers, when none among them has a viable program to “deal with” Iraq and when indeed still worse is on the horizon, when the people are increasingly disillusioned and angry--now such a dynamic can be brought into being.
There is a moment now when the millions disaffected by this betrayal will either step forward into action that does NOT rely on these Democrats, or will retire to the sidelines. A moment when the demands and program of action being put forward by World Can’t Wait/Drive Out The Bush Regime should be and must be taken up much more broadly. When those efforts must be built in such a way to speak to and draw in the millions who ran so hard up against the reality that brought forth the anguished, awakened words from Cindy Sheehan and Andrew Bacevich.
It would be criminal, at a time when the carnage continues and the plans for worse--including attacks on Iran--are in the works, to give up now. And it would be foolish as well, at a time when the rulers have no answer to the anger and disillusion of millions, to fail to seize what could be a moment, an opening, that--in a very real and positive way--could change everything.
Revolution #92, June 17, 2007
Background to Confrontation:
For over 100 years, the domination of Iran has been deeply woven into the fabric of global imperialism, enforced by the U.S. and other powers through covert intrigues, economic bullying, military assaults, and invasions. This history provides the backdrop for U.S. hostility toward Iran today—including the real threat of war, even nuclear war. Part 1 of this series explored the rivalry between European imperialists, up through World War 1, over who would control Iran and its oil. Part 2 exposed how the U.S. overthrew the nationalist secular government of Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953 and restored its brutal, oppressive, and loyal administrator--the Shah--to power. Part 3 and Part 4 examine what 25 years of U.S. domination under the Shah’s reign meant for Iran and its people, and how it paved the way for the 1979 revolution and the founding of the Islamic Republic.
The conventional narrative, repeated at every turn by the government and media, is that what the U.S. does around the world, whether it is economic treaties, political pressure, even war, is aimed at overcoming poverty, tyranny, and oppression, and giving other countries the benefits of democracy, modernization and the “free market.” But what the United States spreads around the world is imperialism and the political structures to enforce that imperialism. And what happened in Iran under the U.S.-installed and backed Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi showed the bitter reality of this truth.
After the 1953 CIA-organized coup, the Shah and the U.S. moved to crush the widespread anti-U.S., anti-Shah opposition, solidify the Shah’s grip on power, and bring Iran firmly under U.S. control--politically, economically, and militarily.
The Shah immediately formed a military government and put Iran under indefinite martial law. The U.S. poured military advisors and aid ($504 million between 1952 and 1961) into Iran, reorganizing, training, and expanding the Monarchy’s police, military and, in 1957, its dreaded secret police--SAVAK.1
Opposition groups which had backed the overthrown Prime Minister Mossadegh, including the broad-based National Front and the pro-Soviet Tudeh Party, were immediately outlawed. All forms of political organization and activity--even literary gatherings--were banned. Massive arrests, unjustified detentions, institutionalized torture, summary tribunals, prison-murders, and executions were the order of the day. Newspapers, magazines, books--even leaflets--were outlawed if they criticized the government or the U.S. Censorship was enforced so strictly that the number of publications soon dropped from 600 under Prime Minister Mossaedegh (1951-53) to around 100.2
Parliament’s limited independence was stripped away, and candidates were now chosen by the regime. A “two-party” system was begun in 1957--with both the “Nationalist Party” and the “People’s Party” initiated and controlled by the Shah. Iran’s educational system was reorganized to institutionalize pro-Shah loyalty and propaganda.
Iran's Oil Economy: “Ownership Without Control”
The U.S. also moved to prop up the Shah by reviving Iran’s economy by integrating it more deeply into the U.S.-dominated world market as a producer of cheap oil, as well as a market for Western goods and investment. Between 1952 and 1961, the U.S. funneled $631 million in economic aid into Iran--the largest amount to any non-NATO country.3 By the 1960s, there were more than 900 U.S. economic and technical experts in Iran. They shaped Iran’s economy, including drafting economic plans and helping create Iran’s leading bank (the Industrial and Mining Development Bank). U.S. direct private investment soared to $200 million, and the U.S. became Iran’s leading trade partner.
Oil revenues still accounted for the bulk of Iran’s exports and state revenues. After the 1953 coup, it would have been politically difficult to go back to the old system of open foreign ownership. Instead, a new agreement was drawn up giving formal ownership of Iran’s oil to the state-owned National Iranian Oil Company (which had been created by Mossadegh) and increasing Iran’s share of the profits to 50 percent. Britain’s monopoly on Iranian oil was broken, and U.S. and other oil giants became part of a new Consortium with exclusive rights to purchase oil from the Shah’s regime.
Behind the scenes, this Consortium was still in charge due to Iran’s dependence on its equipment, technical expertise, and global marketing networks, as well as the Shah’s overall dependence on the U.S. For instance, the eight Consortium members operated under a secret agreement (only revealed in 1974) spelling out the terms on which each would buy Iranian oil and how they would collectively restrict production to avoid a supply glut and decline in profits. Historian Amin Saikal writes, “The international oil companies were placed in such a powerful position that they could run the Iranian oil industry as their interests dictated. They increased and decreased production and prices, and finally controlled supply and demand in markets, to whatever degree and in whatever way suited them best.” Saikal calls this “ownership without control,” which “enabled the consortium to make the real decisions on Iran’s economic growth.”4
Iran lost tens, probably hundreds, of millions as a result. Meanwhile these kinds of arrangements helped Western capital earn an estimated $12.8 billion in profits from Middle Eastern oil between 1948 and 1960.5
The “White Revolution” -- Imperialist Plans, Unintended Consequences
Building Iran’s economy around extracting oil created an island of industrial development linked to global imperialism in a sea of feudalism and small-scale production. In the late 1950s, over 70 percent of the people still lived in rural areas, mostly as tenant farmers or small landholders, mired in poverty. Some 400-450 feudal landlord families (including the Shah’s) owned more than half the land.6 When I visited Iran in 1979 and 1980, Kurdish peasants described being taxed by the village lords for everything from holidays to water, animals, and crops, and being forced to turn over up to 40 percent of their crop. Big landlords had absolute political power in the villages. Peasants had to ask permission to get married or take trips to town. One notorious landlord forced peasants to bring their fiancées to him on the eve of their weddings.
By the early 1960s, the U.S. government was very concerned about the stability of the Shah’s regime (and there was even secret discussion of ousting him). Iran had been hit by runaway prices and food and fuel shortages, and rumblings of discontent were growing louder. Meanwhile, various kinds of nationalist, anti-imperialist revolutions were rippling across the globe--Vietnam, Latin America, Egypt, and Iraq in the 1950s--which were often fueled by peasant struggles for land and liberation from feudalism.
In 1963, the Shah, under the direction of the U.S., embarked on a far-reaching program of economic, political and social reform. Designed by U.S. policymakers and Harvard professors, this so-called White Revolution was a comprehensive imperialist effort to head off upheaval from below, strengthen the Shah’s regime, and turn Iran into a modern, more industrial society with a growing middle class and wider opportunities for foreign capital. Time magazine described this as “a grand design that is intended to wrest Iran from the middle ages into modern industrialized society,” which was realizable thanks to “extensive land reforms and a massive literacy drive,” along with “annual oil royalties worth more than $500 million and an influx of $2 billion in foreign investment capital.”7
In the end, however, the White Revolution helped destabilize Iran and contributed to the situation which led to the Shah being overthrown.
This “revolution” was never intended to mobilize the peasantry or thoroughly uproot feudal relations--economically, politically or socially.8 Large landowners and landlords were ordered to sell land to sharecropping peasants. Coupled with a program of selling state-owned industries to private investors and encouraging capitalist agribusiness and co-operatives, land reform helped “move landlord capital into industry and other urban projects and to lay the basis for a state dominated capitalism in city and countryside,” historian Nikki Keddie writes. It also undercut the political power of feudal landowners, while linking them more closely to a strengthened Monarchy.9
Landlords were entitled to keep at least one-sixth of their land (including their best) and spread their holdings over several villages, so they maintained considerable economic and social power. Only 30 percent of all villages were even covered, and nine years into this “revolution,” only 20 percent of peasant families (700,000 out of 3.5 million) actually received land, often in parcels too small to be viable. Incomes remained abysmally low--80 percent of those in rural areas received a mere $200 or less a year in 1972.
Roughly 40 percent of Iran's villagers were landless laborers who didn’t benefit from the "land reform" at all. Nearly 600,000 families were forced to leave the land and migrate to urban areas, contributing to a huge swell in Iran’s urban population during the 1960s and 1970s.
Areas like Kurdistan, which suffered intense national oppression, were barely touched by the White Revolution. Some 80 percent of the people still lived in villages. In the mid-1960s, more than half of Kurdish families (on average five to six people) lived in a single room. Most of their dwellings had neither electricity nor running water.10 This was still largely the situation when I visited after the 1979 revolution. Many villages had no running water, electricity, schools, or hospitals. One farmer told me, “Many are unemployed, none of us can rely on one piece of land; it’s too small and poor and we have too few animals. One has to try to get two or three jobs to eat and not to die.” Another commented, “We have nothing here, no jobs and no schools, no electricity and no hospitals--no life and no future.”
Land reform, granting women the vote, and opening Iran up to greater foreign influence drove important segments of the Islamic clergy to vocally oppose the White Revolution. Iran’s clerics had long been part of the feudal order and establishment, and had joined popular struggles against foreign imperialism and its client monarchs when they feared that Islam, traditional feudal social relations, and the role of the clergy were being undercut. Some leading clerics were big landowners and the clergy overall drew much of its financial support from religious endowments based on land ownership.
In 1963, riots broke out in Qom and Tehran after Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini had been placed under house arrest for speaking out against the White Revolution. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, were shot by the Shah’s troops. The next year, after Khomeini publicly denounced the granting of legal immunity for all U.S. government personnel in Iran, Khomeini was forced into exile in Najaf, Iraq. But through these events, Khomeini emerged as a leading cleric and opponent of the Shah, who would return 16 years later, after the Shah’s overthrow, to found Iran’s first Islamic Republic.11
Next: Part 4 - Iran in the 1970s: Oil Boom and Seething Discontent
1. Ali Reza Nobari, ed., Iran Erupts, p. 143; Ali M. Ansari, Confronting Iran, p. 41. [back]
2. Nobari, p. 64. [back]
3. Ansari, p. 41. [back]
4. Amin Saikal, The Rise and Fall of the Shah, pp. 50-51. [back]
5. Larry Everest, Oil, Power & Empire--Iraq and the U.S. Global Agenda, pp. 57-58. [back]
6. Fred Halliday, Iran: Dictatorship and Development, pp. 106-07, 110. [back]
7. Time, Feb. 11, 1966. [back]
8. Nikki Keddie, Modern Iran: Roots and Results of Revolution, p. 144; Ansari, p. 46. [back]
9. Keddie, p. 145. [back]
10. Gerard Chaliand, ed., A People Without a Country: The Kurds and Kurdistan, p. 113. [back]
11. Ansari, p. 49; Dilip Hiro, Iran Under the Ayatollahs, p. 47. [back]
Revolution #92, June 17, 2007
Victory in Civil Suit Against NYPD:
"The struggle is far from over"
The following article was written by a member of the October 22 Coalition to Stop Police Brutality in New York:
On Wednesday, June 6, Juanita Young was awarded $10.45 million in a civil suit against the City of New York for the police killing of her son, Malcolm Ferguson, in March 2000. The Bronx jury of six issued a resounding “yes!” to the charges that plainclothes police officer Louis Rivera had used excessive force while stopping Malcolm, that his conduct had been a substantial factor in causing Malcolm’s death, that he had handled his weapon in a negligent manner, and that this mishandling was a substantial factor in causing Malcolm’s death. The six jurors also issued a resounding “no!” to the cop's claim that Malcolm had engaged in conduct that might have contributed to his death.
The award ($7 million for punitive damages; $3 million for the pain and suffering inflicted on Malcolm) is one of the highest dollar amounts ever awarded in NYC against the police. The verdict comes with people's memories still fresh of the death of Sean Bell – murdered by the police in a hail of 50 bullets on his wedding day last November, and the NYPD killing last month of Fermin Arzu. And it reflects the unremitting determination of Juanita Young over seven years to struggle to expose what happened to her son, as well as the support of people who are stepping forward to resist police brutality.
The City is planning on appealing this verdict. And the Bronx district attorney, Robert T. Johnson, still refuses to file any kind of criminal charges against the cop who murdered Malcolm Ferguson. So the struggle to get justice for the police murder of Malcolm Ferguson contines.
The court victory was greeted by people outside the courtroom as their victory also. Numbers of people, when they heard the news, felt they were finally getting some justice, and that not only Louis Rivera but the NYPD overall were paying at least something for what they do to people all the time. The jurors were smiling as their decision--which is almost certain to be appealed by the City of New York--was read. Margarita Rosario, mother of Antonio Rosario killed by the NYPD in 1995, led a chant outside the courthouse after the verdict, “What do we want? Justice. When do we want it? Now. And we got a little bit of it today!” One supporter left the courthouse and rode a bus downtown. He said he just couldn’t help himself as he stood up and said, “This was a great day for the people!” and that people on the bus were smiling and cheering as he explained what had happened. Workers in the shop where a statement by the Oct. 22 Coalition to Stop Police Brutality was being printed for a press conference the next day asked if they could keep copies for themselves.
The Ferguson family said in a statement following the verdict: “As we've said all along, this case is bigger than Malcolm Ferguson, its reach is beyond Louis Rivera and the officers who stormed 1045 Boynton Avenue on March 1, 2000. This case is about every person who has ever been demoralized and brutalized by police, and every police officer who wrongly believes they are not answerable to the people they serve. The law applies to everyone. And today, this jury of six men and women sent a strong message that a badge is not a pass to commit murder. The conscience of the community has spoken, and the answer is a resounding 'no more!'"
Malcolm Ferguson was killed one week after the verdict in the Amadou Diallo case was announced. Amadou Diallo was an unarmed man shot 41 times in his own hallway in the Bronx in 1999. The four cops involved all received a “not guilty” acquittal in March 2000. Malcolm lived in the same neighborhood as Amadou Diallo and was arrested for participating in a demonstration against that verdict. He got into an argument with Rivera on the day that he was arrested, and Juanita believes the cops singled him out because he had participated in the Amadou demo.
The story that Rivera gave at the time that he killed Malcolm was that he was doing a routine drug sweep, saw a group of young Black men hanging out, and ordered them to freeze. Witnesses say he did not identify himself as a police officer. When Malcolm ran into a building, Rivera considered this “suspicious” behavior, followed Malcolm with his gun drawn, got into a struggle with him on the stairwell, and then claimed the gun accidentally went off. Rivera's defense attorney repeated this story in court, saying Rivera was only doing what any police officer would do in that situation. What kind of a system is it where it's considered standard operating procedure for a cop to chase down and kill someone at his own whim? Since the cop murder of Amadou Diallo in 1999, 144 others--overwhelmingly Black and Latino young people--have been killed by the NYPD. The October 22nd Coalition and the Stolen Lives Project continue to document and expose these killings nationwide.
Juanita’s attorney, Seth Harris, punched holes in Rivera's story in court. Tissue samples proved that Rivera's gun had been placed close to Malcolm's temple when it was fired, that the force required to pull the trigger was not consistent with the story of it accidentally going off, and that Rivera's description of where he was during the alleged struggle on the stairwell was not physically possible. Malcolm was unarmed and, according to eyewitneses, there was nothing happening that could be considered suspicious activity.
Since her son's death, Juanita Young has been an outspoken and tireless fighter against police brutality. Many lawyers tell parents of those who have been murdered by police to stop protesting because it might “hurt their case.” But Juanita not only refused to stop protesting – she stepped to the forefront of the struggle. She speaks for the October 22nd Coalition and Stolen Lives Project and has been a victim of police harassment many times herself. She was arrested while participating in the Nov. 2, 2005, World Can’t Wait, Drive out the Bush Regime demonstration, and had to wage a court battle against an illegal eviction attempt by her landlord, an ex-cop. This victory gives Juanita and her supporters increased strength and motivation to continue to fight against police brutality, no matter what that takes. As Juanita said in her statement after the verdict, “The struggle is far from over.”
Revolution #92, June 17, 2007
Tens of thousands of protesters confronted the G8 (Group of 8) summit held June 6-8 in the Baltic seaport town of Heiligendamm, near Rostock, Germany. The G8 is made up of the world’s main imperialist powers, and this year’s summit was attended by all the heads of these countries, including Bush. People came from all over Europe and beyond to protest the crimes, inequalities, and injustices of imperialist globalization.
On June 2,, before the G8 summit began, youth clashed with police in the streets of Rostock after the police attacked a large march and concert. In the following days, protesters blocked roads and rail lines heading into the summit area, in the face of heavy police repression. A June 5 report on the Indymedia.website (http://de.indymedia.org/en/) said: “As hundreds of G8 delegates arrived in the area on Wednesday (June 6), mass blockades interrupted their arrival at the fenced security zone. Thousands of activists blocked most of the routes leading to the G8 meeting venue in Heiligendamm. Over 10,000 people blocked the fence gates and 'breached' the newly declared no-demonstration zone around the fence. In the evening, police violently dispersed one of the blockades, while others were continuing with several thousand people still on the streets. Other activists were protesting in the streets surrounding the Rostock-Laage airport. Late in the evening, more than 1,000 people on three blockades decided to stay overnight.”
Revolution #92, June 17, 2007
New Assault on Dissent and Critical Thinking:
In a 10-page letter dated May 25, University of Colorado (CU) President Hank Brown called for the CU Board of Regents to fire tenured Ethnic Studies Professor Ward Churchill. His recommendation goes beyond the one-year suspension and demotion to associate professor recommended by the Privilege and Tenure Committee, the faculty committee that just finished their report of Churchill’s appeal. So Brown's letter will now go back to the P&T Committee for their response. The Board of Regents is expected to announce their decision at a public hearing some time in July.
Hank Brown, a former Republican U.S. senator, only became the president of the University of Colorado in the summer of 2005, months after the orchestrated right-wing witch-hunt against Ward Churchill was launched. He was brought in to replace President Elizabeth Hoffman after she was pressured to resign less than a week after she expressed concerns at a faculty meeting about a new “McCarthyism” in the storm whipped up against Ward Churchill. Brown, it turns out, is a co-founder with Vice President Dick Cheney’s wife Lynne Cheney of the right-wing academic watch-dog group American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA).
ACTA published a report in May 2006 entitled “How Many Ward Churchills?” which treats Professor Churchill as both pariah and “template” for what this reactionary group feels is wrong with, and must be changed about, academia today. The general secretary of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), Roger Bowen, wrote, “ACTA objects to courses that, in one example, stipulate that students ‘respect cultures and traditions that are not their own’; and it excoriates all courses dealing with ‘justice,’ whether environmental, social, or racial.” (“Ward Churchill, ACTA and Public Opinion,” www.insidehighered.com/views/2006/06/09/bowen) The fact that one of ACTA’s co-founders was put in the position to determine the fate of Professor Churchill says a great deal about the dangerous assault on dissent and critical thinking that is in high gear in academia today.
Awareness of and opposition to this threat to critical thinking are growing among educators and others around the country as they come to recognize that CU’s investigation of Churchill’s scholarship was completely illegitimate and is being used to punish and make an example of him for other scholars whose search for the truth challenges the accepted myths about this country and its policies and actions historically and internationally. Petitions have been circulated, websites established, articles written and public statements issued in opposition to this case, and in defense of dissent and critical thinking, by scholars from many different fields of study.
In April an Open Letter Calling on the University of Colorado to Reverse Its Recommendation to Dismiss Professor Ward Churchill—initiated by 11 distinguished scholars, including Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Derrick Bell, Immanuel Wallerstein, and Rashid Khalidi—was published in the New York Review of Books. And later that month, an Emergency National Forum entitled “Why Ward Churchill Must Not Be Fired” was held in Boulder.
Many scholars sent messages of support to that event, including the distinguished public intellectual and Professor Emeritus of Princeton University Richard Falk. Professor Falk wrote: “All of us who value academic freedom should now stand in full solidarity with Ward Churchill. The outcome of his case at the University of Colorado is the best litmus test we have to tell whether the right-wing’s assaults on learning and liberty will stifle campus life in this country. Never in my lifetime have we in America more needed the sort of vigorous debate and creative controversy that Ward Churchill’s distinguished career epitomizes. We all stand to lose if his principled defense fails.”
This sense of urgency has now been underlined by DePaul University’s decision to deny tenure—the right not to be dismissed from the university without cause—to Professor Norman Finkelstein. Finkelstein—son of survivors of Nazi concentration camps—is an internationally regarded scholar and popular teacher whose criticism of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, and of its Zionist supporters in this country, has kept him from being given tenure anywhere and made him a constant target of U.S. and Israeli apologists such as Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, who recently called Finkelstein “worse than Churchill.”
In Colorado ACTA is continuing to consolidate its control over the University of Colorado, with Brown appointing another ACTA member, Michael Poliakoff, as the new Vice President for Academic Affairs and Research. Another ACTA member, Tom Lucero, sits on CU’s Board of Regents. And former Colorado Governor Bill Owens, now on the U. of Denver faculty, is also a member of ACTA. The new Colorado Governor, Democrat Bill Ritter, immediately backed up Brown’s call for Churchill to be fired. "I've thought that for a long, long time, based on all his comments and…problems surrounding his writing…it was black and white for the university."
Churchill originally became the target of a nationwide witch-hunt in January 2005, when his invitation to speak at Hamilton College in upstate New York was cancelled because of an essay he’d written shortly after 9/11 entitled “Chickens Coming Home to Roost.” In that essay he included a very provocative formulation about how not all the people, but those people who worked particularly as functionaries for the large corporations with offices in the World Trade Center, were “Little Eichmanns”—comparing them to the functionaries of the Nazi regime. The governors of New York and Colorado called for his firing, and CU Chancellor DiStefano launched an investigation into “everything he had ever written” to see if he could be fired—or jailed—because of the content of his writings. After receiving some public advice from David Horowitz, self-described “battering ram” for the right wing assault on critical thinking in academia, DiStefano switched the form of attack and called for an investigation of Churchill’s scholarship instead.
A faculty investigative committee was formed—this time to examine charges of alleged research misconduct against Churchill—charges brought by the same Chancellor DiStefano. Their controversial report, issued in May 2006, claimed to have found serious research misconduct by Professor Churchill and called for him to be suspended. DiStefano, now acting as executioner, quickly recommended that Churchill be fired instead. In the past month, two different faculty groups have written to the CU administration calling on them to rescind this investigative committee report. Each has since brought formal research misconduct charges against the committee members who investigated Churchill. In a May 28, 2007 press release, one of the groups—made up of 7 scholars and attorneys from the U.S. and Canada, most of them indigenous—charged the investigative committee with “misrepresenting, fabricating, or suppressing evidence in their report.”
A close study of the P&T Committee’s report reveals some stunning admissions. They conclude, by the “preponderance of the evidence,” that Churchill is right in arguing “that but for his exercise of his First Amendment rights, Professor Churchill would not have been subjected to the Research Misconduct and Enforcement Process.” In other words, the only reason for the investigation of charges of alleged research misconduct was a result of his exercise of his First Amendment rights.
Another “bombshell” hidden in this report is the fact that the person picked to head up the investigation of Churchill’s scholarship—law professor and former prosecutor Marianne Wesson—had already expressed her animosity toward Churchill at the time the attack on him was first launched. In a February 2005 e-mail, she wrote:
“I confess to being somewhat mystified by the variety of people this unpleasant (to say the least) individual has been able to enlist to defend him. I know people say it’s the principle, but we aren’t all out there defending Bob Guccione’s first amendment rights, though God knows he has them. I thought that us middle-aged feminists, at least, had learned not to all fall into that trap… the rallying around Churchill reminds me unhappily of the rallying around OJ Simpson and Bill Clinton and now Michael Jackson and other charismatic male celebrity wrongdoers (well, okay, I don’t really know that Jackson is a wrongdoer)—the tortured defenses (the cops planted the blood, 'it depends on what you mean by sex'), the claim that we have to defend the principle, the idea that if 'they' get him, then 'they' will come to get you next.”
This e-mail was sent to the CHAIR of the Standing Committee on Research Misconduct—who did not question his appointment of Wesson to head the investigation, “forgot” that he had received the e-mail, and failed to notify Churchill of it. Churchill, unaware of the e-mail at the time, objected to her appointment on the grounds that a former prosecutor shouldn’t be put in charge of a neutral fact-finding body, but was denied. Her comments in the e-mail are reduced to “unflattering remarks” that are dismissed because the other members of the committee reported that she didn’t seem to be biased!
Many scholars sent messages of support to that event, including the distinguished public intellectual Richard Falk, who wrote: “All of us who value academic freedom should now stand in full solidarity with Ward Churchill. The outcome of his case at the University of Colorado is the best litmus test we have to tell whether the right-wing’s assaults on learning and liberty will stifle campus life in this country. Never in my lifetime have we in America more needed the sort of vigorous debate and creative controversy that Ward Churchill’s distinguished career epitomizes. We all stand to lose if his principled defense fails.”
In a recent letter to the editor of the Denver Post, Tom Mayer, professor, Department of Sociology, University of Colorado at Boulder, wrote:
“The case against Ward Churchill is without intellectual substance and without ethical merit. The firing of Ward Churchill would be an immense blow to academic freedom and to the educational quality that academic freedom protects. It would also be an immense loss to the intellectual community at the University of Colorado. I will continue to do everything within my power to prevent this from happening.”
We all owe it to the future of critical thinking and dissent in academia to join Professor Mayer in doing nothing less.