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Revolution #93, June 24, 2007
NYC Public Schools and the Criminalization of the Students
“They’re treating us like criminals, like we’re animals.”
-- Student at Curtis High School, Staten Island, New York City
“Sometimes the classroom feels like a jail cell.”
-- Jane Min, Flushing High School, Queens, New York City
Imagine if schools were places where youth were treated like the precious people they are--where their creativity, their curiosity, and their critical thinking were valued and encouraged. Imagine if, in school and out of school, the youth were challenged and unleashed and they were called upon to discuss and debate everything from Shakespeare to religion, from the state of the planet to how society-–including their own schools-–should be run. Imagine if the rebellious spirit and questioning of the youth were not only not squashed and corralled--imagine if it were valued as a crucial part of revolutionizing society.
But in this society, we can only imagine this. And for way too many youth, the experience is exactly the opposite. Schools are ringed with fences and metal detectors. Instead of the sounds of debate and lively discussion over string theory or globalization, the hallways ring with echoes of cops, Glocks at their hips, screaming to the youth to "Get the fuck back in line!"
When youth come to school, instead of knowing they are coming to a safe place where they will learn and be learned from, they live with fear: will they be frisked and humiliated in front of everyone for no real reason? Will they be arrested if they wander out of the metal detector line? Will they make it home at the end of the day, or will they be taken to jail for swearing or getting into a fight?
An important report, “Criminalizing the Classroom: The Over-Policing of New York City Schools,” was released by the New York Civil Liberties Union in March 2007 (available at: http://www.nyclu.org/pdfs/criminalizing_the_classroom_report.pdf). It covers the experience of youth in New York City, but it provides an all-too-rare glimpse at the experience of youth all over this country, particularly Black and Latino youth--the harassment, degradation, brutalization, and criminalization that they are forced to endure when they come to school. The report is drawn from interviews with parents, teachers, school administrators and staff, and, importantly, surveys from 1,000 youth in New York City schools.
In New York City, the public schools have been policed by the NYPD since 1998. In the 2005-2006 school year, there were a total of 4,625 cops (200 of them armed) patrolling the schools as so-called “School Safety Agents (SSAs).” The NYCLU report points out that if the NYPD’s School Safety Division were its own police force, it would be the 10th largest in the country--larger than the entire police force in Washington, D.C., Detroit, or Boston.
Cops Like School Prison Guards
Under the school “safety” program, any junior high and high school in the New York public school system is subject to “roving metal detectors.” What this has meant is cops coming into schools unannounced, setting up a military-style task force. In an approach very similar to what U.S. soldiers do in Iraq, the cops swarm in, take over the school's cafeteria or gym, and turn the school into a police zone, snaked with lines of students waiting to pass through the metal detectors.
Students are forced to wait for hours in line as their bags are searched and their cell phones (prohibited in the school district) or cameras (not prohibited) are confiscated. And 21 percent of the city's junior high and high schools now have metal detectors permanently installed. At Wadleigh Secondary School in Manhattan, one student who found a “roving” metal detector at his school called his mother to come pick up his phone before it was confiscated--and was then arrested when he tried to explain why he wasn't waiting in line.
These cops in the schools act like, and basically function as, prison guards: barking orders, pushing and shoving students, deciding arbitrarily what is and is not allowed on any given day. Students' bags are searched, and everything from house keys to spare change is confiscated. The cops decide what they will and won't let students bring in to schools. For example, some students who had permission to carry cell phones had them taken. Some students had their iPods confiscated and never returned. And at an aviation magnet high school, students had their engineering supplies taken for supposedly being “weapons.”
Cops have confiscated students' food and then eaten it. Students are routinely yelled at and cursed at, and have reported being physically shoved through the metal detectors or shoved against the wall to be frisked regardless of whether they set off the metal detectors. At one school, the cops taunted one student who was wearing a nice coat, accusing him of stealing it. When one cop found a blank CD in a student's backpack he said, “Is that rap? That's probably why you're being searched.” In one eight-month period more than 17,000 items were taken from students in the “roving” metal detector program--70 percent of them were cell phones, and 29 percent were iPods and similar items. Not one gun was found.
The NYCLU report detailed numerous instances where the cops actively
terrorized and brutalized students. At one school, cops chased students
who tried to avoid the checkpoints, screaming, “Round them up!”
At Samuel Tilden High School in Brooklyn, a 17-year-old student named
Biko Edwards was walking toward his chemistry
class when a vice principal stopped him. When Biko protested not being
allowed to go to class, the vice principal called in a cop. The report
describes what happened next:
“Officer Rivera then grabbed Biko and slammed him against a brick door divider, lacerating Biko’s face and causing him to bleed. Officer Rivera then sprayed Mace at Biko’s eyes and face, causing Biko’s eyes to burn. Rather than treat the student, Officer Rivera then called for back-up on his radio, and proceeded to handcuff Biko… [He]was taken to a hospital where he spent approximately two hours being treated for his wounds, and spending most of his time in the hospital handcuffed to a chair… He faces five criminal charges.”
And what happens to young women in these schools--are they places where young women are treated as human beings with value and intelligence, and not as a collection of body parts? Are the schools themselves a place where young women and men are encouraged to debate the oppression of women, and called upon to solve it? No--the schools are places where women are harassed and groped by the armed enforcers of the state themselves. One student reported that “the police like to put their hands on kids without reason.” And 27 percent of students surveyed reported that officers touched or treated them in a way that made them feel uncomfortable. Young women whose underwire bras set off the metal detectors reported they were forced to lift up their shirts, supposedly to prove they weren't carrying any weapons, or to unzip or unbuckle their pants supposedly to prove they weren't concealing cell phones. Young women have been searched by male officers, and the report says, “students and teachers alike complain that male SSAs subject girls to inappropriate behavior, including flirting and sexual attention.” At one high school, cops were heard making remarks about a young woman's body. At another school, a gay student was humiliated every day as male cops would flip coins to see who had to search him.
Teachers Also Targeted
And what about those teachers who really are trying to make a difference? Who care about the students and despite low pay, cutbacks, deteriorating buildings, and increasingly fascistic rules, and who are really trying to connect with students and give them an education? Who do not like the way schools are being turned into prisons?
The ACLU report exposes how teachers who dare to defend their students are attacked and brutalized, sending a crystal clear message to the youth: "No one is going to defend you. Look what happens to anyone that does." Take one story recounted in the report:
“On March 8, 2005, at least seven NYPD officers arrived at the New School for Arts and Sciences after teachers called 911 to ask for medical assistance for a student who had been involved in a fight.
“Several teachers had successfully stopped the fight and controlled the situation before the police responded, and Cara Wolfson-Kronen, a social studies teacher, informed the 911 operator that the fight had been defused. Despite this, one of the officers demanded that the teachers identify the students who had been involved in the fight and said that they would be handcuffed.
“Quinn Kronen, an English teacher, pointed out that those students were now peacefully sitting in the classroom. Officer Bowen responded by yelling: 'You fucking teachers need to get your shit together. These kids are running crazy. You need to get rid of them.' When Mr. Kronen objected to such language, Sergeant Walter told Mr. Kronen that he had 'better shut the fuck up' or she would arrest him. When Ms. Wolfson-Kronen objected, Sergeant Walter said: 'that is it; cuff the bitch.' Officers arrested Ms. Wolfson-Kronen, paraded her out of school in handcuffs and forced her to stand outside in sub-freezing temperature without a jacket. They also arrested Mr. Kronen.
“The teachers were detained at the 41st Precinct for approximately two hours before being released. The charges against them — disorderly conduct — were dismissed at their initial court hearing, because their alleged wrongdoing did not constitute unlawful activity.
“On March 22, 2005, Mr. Kronen and Ms. Wolfson-Kronen received an anonymous letter signed by 'The Brotherhood.' The letter threatened them with physical harm for 'messing up with our fellow officers' continuing: 'If I were you I’d be planning my getting out of New York fast.'”
In October 2006, Adhim Deveaux, a math teacher at the Urban Assembly Academy of History and Citizenship, ran outside after hearing that one of his students was being assaulted by a cop. After seeing the student being slammed onto a car, Deveaux went up to the cop, hoping he could calm the situation down; he said, “He’s my student, I’m his teacher. He’s just a kid.” In response the cop hit and shoved Deveaux and then another cop grabbed Deveaux from behind, slammed him onto the sidewalk and handcuffed him. Deveaux was taken to the precinct and charged with assaulting a police officer, resisting arrest, and obstructing governmental administration.
This teacher was trying to defuse a situation before it got worse: in any society where the police or other kinds of authorities were really about serving the people, they would welcome this and try to work with and rely on the teacher--and they would listen when the teacher pleaded, "He's just a kid." But these cops arrested the teacher, because enforcing repressive prison-like conditions in the schools is what they are about--not trying to solve problems among the students and teachers.
Criminalization of the Youth
The NYCLU report details numerous times where students were attacked and/or arrested for petty and ridiculous offenses like swearing, being late for school or refusing to turn over their cell phones. Their web site mentions a case of a 13-year-old girl who was handcuffed and taken into custody in May for drawing on her desk in school, charged with graffiti. These are youth who are doing nothing wrong--and they are being pulled into the criminal system and treated like criminals themselves.
And this kind of criminalization of the youth is not limited to New York City. Bob Herbert, a writer for the New York Times, has written a number of columns about outrageous instances of police brutality against youth, including a 6-year-old Black girl in Florida who was handcuffed and driven to jail because she threw a tantrum in kindergarten, and a 7-year-old Black boy in Baltimore handcuffed for riding a dirt bike on the sidewalk. Herbert points to the racist discrimination involved in such cases. For instance a 14-year-old Black girl in Texas was sentenced to seven years in prison in 2006 for shoving a hall monitor (she was recently released) while a white girl in the same town convicted of arson was sentenced only to probation.
Commenting on how students are “belittled, shouted at, cursed at, instrusively searched and improperly touched by cops,” Bob Herbert points out: “This poisonous police behavior is an extension into the schools of the humiliating treatment cops have long been doling out to youngsters--especially those who are black or Latino--on the city's streets.” ("Poisonous Police Behavior," June 2, 2007)
What kind of message is this sending to the youth? Schools should be places where the youth are encouraged to test and try out limits, where they are encouraged to make mistakes, where the most important thing is making sure their minds are really challenged and unleashed. But not in this society. When a young woman is handcuffed for drawing on a desk, or a 6-year-old is handcuffed for throwing a tantrum, this is a reflection of how this society views youth. And the message to the youth themselves here is unmistakable: This is not your world. Your lives don't matter. The only future this system has for you is a shit job or prison. And when the cops arrest these youth, these illegitimate and bogus arrests are used to "prove" that the youth really are criminals, and to isolate these youth further from the rest of society.
It is not simply that these cops are racist, brute thugs who hate and fear the youth they are charged with controlling--although that is unmistakable after reading things like this report. The outrageous and brutal use of the police in the schools and more generally against the youth reflects the role of the police in enforcing exploitative and oppressive relations in society, including national oppression. These police are not in the schools (or anywhere else) to “serve and protect” the people. They are there to serve and protect the conditions of poverty, misery and degradation that many of these youth face with the highest unemployment and worst housing, education, and health care.
The report states that “during the 2004-2005 school year, 82 percent of children attending high schools with permanent metal detectors were Black and Latino, a minority enrollment rate eleven percentage points higher than in schools citywide. At DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx, the largest high school with permanent metal detectors in the city, there are 4,511 students and not one school librarian.”
What kind of system is it, where youth are forced to go to overcrowded, under-funded schools that look more like prisons than places of learning and growth? What kind of system treats the energy, the creativity, the rebelliousness of youth, as something to be snuffed out, rather than cherished and unleashed? What kind of system has enforcers who harass youth for not going to school--and then harass and even arrest them, for petty bullshit, when they do?
Those who peddle the lie about America being the "land of opportunity where any kid can become president,” who prattle on about the "value of education" and “no child left behind”--while saying and doing nothing about the prison-like conditions in schools--have no right to speak about “individual responsibility” and how the youth need to take make “better choices.”
To quote Pink's song "Dear Mr. President": " How can you say/No child is left behind?/We're not dumb, and we're not blind/They're all sitting in your cells/While you pave the road to hell…"
This wasting and squandering of human potential, this dehumanizing of the youth, is unacceptable and intolerable. We could have an entirely different society--a society where there is no need at all for schools with state-sanctioned armed thugs, jacking up and locking down students. A society where the youth have an important role and future in building a whole new world. A society where there is no longer one group that is held down and locked out of the realm of ideas--and locked into prison-like schools--while others are trained to use ideas to either “get ahead” or to dominate others. A socialist society--where the state power is in the hands of the masses and where they wield it to wipe out exploitation and to dig up the roots of all the social relations, institutions, and ideas that go with that exploitation--and get to a communist world, where this kind of domination and abuse is really NO MORE.
Revolution #93, June 24, 2007
Bob Herbert recently wrote a column in the New York Times titled, “Arrested While Grieving.” He tells of how, on May 21, about three dozen youths in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn were walking in a group, traveling to a wake for a teenage friend who had been murdered. But they never made it; instead, the cops swooped in and arrested 36 people, charging them with “unlawful assembly.”
Leana Matia, an 18-year-old student at John Jay College, told Bob Herbert: “We were walking toward the train station to take the L train when all these cops just swooped in on us… They cursed us out and pushed the guys. And then they handcuffed us. We kept asking, ‘What are you doing?’ ” A parent who tried to explain that there was no disturbance was told to be quiet or she too would be arrested.
The police told a story that the youths were blocking traffic and causing a scene. But Bob Herbert interviewed youths and a parent who was with them: “Every account that I was able to find described a large group of youngsters, very sad and downcast about the loss of their friend, walking peacefully toward the station.” The fact that some of the youths were wearing t-shirts with the picture of their friend and the words “RIP Fresh” on them, was used by the cops as supposed evidence of gang membership, and used to justify the humiliation they visited upon these youth.
Think about what was done to these youth, some of whom are as young as 13, being searched, humiliated, and arrested, for doing nothing at all, who were robbed of the chance to gather together to mourn the loss of a young friend.
The principal of Bushwick Community High, Tira Randall, told Bob Herbert, “My kids come in here on a daily basis with stories about harassment by the police. They’re not making these stories up.”
Revolution #93, June 24, 2007
by Larry Everest
“I think we've got to be prepared to take aggressive military action against the Iranians to stop them from killing Americans in Iraq. And to me, that would include a strike over the border into Iran…”
-Senator Joseph Lieberman, interviewed on CBS News Face the Nation, June 10
This statement by Lieberman is the latest in a string of charges, warnings, and military threats against Iran by the Bush administration, others in the U.S. ruling class, and international allies of the United States. They reflect the rapid and profound intensification of contradictions across the Middle East, rising tensions between the Bush regime and the Islamic Republic of Iran, and the grave danger of a U.S. military attack on Iran. Most people, including many deeply opposed to the Iraq war, are either unaware of or greatly underestimate this danger. This situation must change—now. Any U.S. attacks would be unjust and criminal no matter the pretext. It would represent a major escalation—with unpredictable consequences—of naked imperialist aggression by the U.S. in the Middle East.
Consider what has taken place in just the last two months. In mid-May, Vice President Dick Cheney stood in the hangar bay of the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Stennis, 150 miles off the Iranian coast, and declared he wanted to “send a clear message to our friends and adversaries alike” that the U.S. would “prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons and dominating this region.”
Two weeks later, on May 23, a heavily armed U.S. naval armada sailed through the Straits of Hormuz into the Persian Gulf to stage two weeks of maneuvers directly off Iran’s coast. The three strike groups had a total of nine warships, 2,100 Marines, 17,000 sailors and 70 attack planes.
That same day the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the organization which monitors nuclear programs around the world, reported that Iran had not suspended its uranium enrichment program (through which uranium is processed for either nuclear power or weapons) as demanded by the UN Security Council, but had instead significantly accelerated its capabilities, going from operating a few dozen enrichment centrifuges to over 1,300. The IAEA also stated it could not “provide assurances about ... the exclusively peaceful nature” of Iran's nuclear program. Bush’s Undersecretary of State, Nicholas Burns, warned, “Iran is thumbing its nose at the international community. We are not going to agree to accept limited enrichment...”
The atmosphere was so heated that IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei warned of a “brewing confrontation” between Washington and Tehran and called for “defusing” the crisis.
Meanwhile, the Bush regime has orchestrated an ongoing propaganda campaign—featuring regular statements from top officials and “briefings” by the U.S. military—claiming that Iran is arming and training anti-U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, and is directly responsible for killing U.S. soldiers. Philip Giraldi, a former officer of the CIA, wrote: “One thing that all the stories about Iranian involvement have in common is their lack of substantiating detail. There are no names, dates, places, or corroborating information, and most rely on anonymous government sources or bald assertions that are presented as fact. Photos of alleged captured ordnance have been unconvincing. Further, the presence of the weapons, even if true, cannot be traced back to any official Iranian government body or policy through documentary or other evidence.” (http://antiwar.com/orig/giraldi.php)
But neither lack of hard facts, nor the first direct talks between top U.S. and Iranian officials in late May over the situation in Iraq have halted the continuing calls from the right wing for decisive military action. Norman Podhoretz, a leading neo-conservative propagandist, wrote a major article in the June issue of Commentary magazine titled "The Case for Bombing Iran”--“I hope and pray that President Bush will do it." At the Republican Party debates, presidential candidates have competed over who is the most war-like towards Iran and tactical nuclear strikes have been explicitly not ruled off the table.
Meanwhile, (and after voting Bush billions of dollars to continue the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan), the supposedly “anti-war” Democratic Party has refused to stop—or even condemn--the Bush administration’s threats against Iran. In fact, all the leading Democratic presidential candidates—Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards—have joined in the confront-Iran chorus, declaring that all options should remain on the table. Former Senator Mike Gravel pointed out at the Democratic candidates April 26 debate, “that’s code for using nukes...”
These threats and counter-threats are taking place in the context of intensifying contention in the region between reactionary imperialism on the one side versus reactionary Islamic theocratic fundamentalism on the other. And there has been a growing and broad, multi-faceted U.S. full-court press against Iran including military encirclement, covert operations to provoke internal instability, and diplomatic pressure and sanctions aimed at crippling Iran economically.
All of the charges by the U.S. are both potential pretexts to justify attacking Iran, and the United States and its allies in the region are also involved in all kinds of potentially provocative actions, which could serve as a tripwire for an attack.
Real Imperialist Necessity
In any discussion of the U.S. threats against Iran, people should remember just who we are dealing with here. Who is the aggressor here? Who are the invaders and occupiers? It is U.S. imperialism--the same Bush Regime that brought us the lies about “Weapons of Mass Destruction” to justify the invasion and occupation of Iraq. And the charges being made against Iran by the U.S. are mainly a combination of speculations, distortions, half-truths, and outright lies.
It is certainly not inconceivable, given the reactionary nature of the Iranian government and its interests and ambitions in the region, that the Ahmadinejad regime would have connections with and be giving support to different Islamic fundamentalist forces in the region.
But even if some of what the U.S. is saying about Iran is true, this would still IN NO WAY justify any kind of aggressive action by the U.S. against Iran, especially a military nuclear strike which the U.S. has NOT ruled out as an option on the table.
The Islamic Republic of Iran does pose a major obstacle to U.S. interests in the region. Those imperialist interests focus today on crushing anti-American Islamic fundamentalism, restructuring the Middle East, and strengthening the U.S. grip on the region. In this context, Iran is a big problem because of its size (three times the size of Iraq) and vast oil reserves, as well as because it’s a center of the Islamic fundamentalist trend with ties to forces in the region such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, which have often found themselves in armed conflict with the key U.S. ally Israel, and which the U.S. has labeled as terrorist.
Making matters worse for the U.S., its 2003 invasion of Iraq was designed to strike a blow at the Islamist trend and weaken Iran. Instead, the U.S. quagmire in Iraq (and the ongoing war in Afghanistan) have deepened anti-U.S. rage in the region, fueled the spread of Islamic fundamentalism, and strengthened Iran. One reason is that the U.S. invasions knocked down the two main regional powers containing Iran—Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan—while strengthening forces in those countries with deep ties to Iran.
In response to U.S. bullying (including the ongoing threat of regime change) and to advance their own reactionary interests, Iran’s theocrats have worked to preserve their hold on power in Iran and to extend their influence in the region. And it is entirely possible that Iran is taking steps—including developing ties with a variety of anti-U.S. forces in the region—to be able to respond to any U.S. attack.
The Lebanese Army’s siege of the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr el-Bared (supposedly to root out a fundamentalist Islamic militia) which forced tens of thousands of Palestinian refugees to flee, a spate of car bombings in Beirut, the all-out war between Hamas and Fatah in Palestine, ongoing violence in Iraq in the face of the U.S. “surge,” including the recent bombing (for the second time) of the Shia Askariya mosque in Samarra—all illustrate the contradictions raging across the region, threatening a regional conflagration, and further heightening the U.S. rulers’ necessity to try and crush those aligned against them and get a grip on the situation.
Top of the Ruling Class: No Good Options, Sharp Divisions
The U.S. rulers face deep and complex difficulties in the Middle East—in no small measure due to their own actions—and no good options. They face major, intersecting problems in the region, and they also know that acting on them could make these problems worse—or create new, or even greater, difficulties. This conundrum has reportedly sparked sharp differences at the very top of the Bush regime over how to proceed—against Iran in particular.
It is impossible to know precisely what arguments are taking place at the highest levels of the Bush administration—including because various “positions” may be being leaked in order to intensify the pressure on Iran and the “diplomatic track” being advocated certainly has a propaganda element to it of wanting to make it appear like the United States is being reasonable. But there has been much speculation that one set of officials grouped around Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice favors stepping up diplomatic, economic, political, and military pressure against Iran in concert with other world powers, while holding back from a military assault, at least for the time being. This position, if true, may reflect that while these officials understand the need to confront Iran, they fear that military action could backfire and create an even worse situation for the United States.
Meanwhile, those grouped around Vice President Cheney reportedly argue that negotiations with Iran’s leadership are bound to fail and that the U.S. will ultimately have to use military force to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, and more fundamentally to crush the Islamic Republic’s influence and ambitions in the region and protect U.S. hegemony.
These reported differences in the ruling class are not, as sometimes reported, between “pro-war hawks” and “anti-war doves.” All of the sides in this debate in the ruling class are approaching it from the standpoint of protecting U.S. imperialist interests in the region. All understand that U.S. domination of the region is not “optional” or capricious, but foundational to their global power and sole superpower status, and to the very functioning of their system—at home and abroad. And none in these debates among the rulers approach these question from what is in the interests of the people—in the Middle East or in the U.S.—or how to liberate the Iranian people, end the crushing oppression weighing on the region, or prevent the use of nuclear weapons.
This is why no top Democrat—whose party also represents imperialist interests—has publicly opposed war with Iran, and why language forbidding such a war without Congressional consent was removed from the recent war appropriations bill.
Nor are sanctions and diplomacy necessarily incompatible with war. Such initiatives can be closely linked with assembling a war coalition for convincing people that one has gone “the last mile” for peace. (And “hawkish” public threats can also be useful in creating public opinion for war, or for attempting to intimidate an adversary.) Shaul Mofaz, Israel’s current trade and former defense minister, recently held discussions with Bush officials in Washington, DC regarding Iran's nuclear program. According to press reports, Mofaz urged the United States to try diplomacy with Iran until the end of the year, and then turn to the military option. Israel’s Channel 2 News reported that Mofaz told Rice “that Israel would bomb Iran's nuclear facilities by year’s end if diplomacy and sanctions fail to persuade Tehran to suspend its enrichment activities.” (New York Times, 6/16)
And divisions within the ruling class don’t mean that those in charge will not go forward regardless—including to cut through or pre-empt paralysis, or prevent loss of political initiative. Steve Clemmons' internet blog ("The Washington Note") of May 24 warned that Cheney’s office may be planning an end-run around opponents of military actions against Iran in the Bush administration by utilizing Israel:
“The thinking on Cheney's team is to collude with Israel, nudging Israel at some key moment in the ongoing standoff between Iran’s nuclear activities and international frustration over this to mount a small-scale conventional strike against Natanz [a major Iranian nuclear facility] using cruise missiles (i.e., not ballistic missiles).
“This strategy would sidestep controversies over bomber aircraft and overflight rights over other Middle East nations and could be expected to trigger a sufficient Iranian counter-strike against U.S. forces in the Gulf—which just became significantly larger—as to compel Bush to forgo the diplomatic track that the administration realists are advocating and engage in another war.” (http://www.thewashingtonnote.com/archives/002145.php)
The People Must Prevent Another U.S. War
The sharpening of contradictions has created a situation in which the U.S. imperialists are forced to pursue their objectives in the Middle East—through ongoing, perhaps escalating war if need be—no matter what most of the people they supposedly “represent” want. This has sharply revealed the enormous gulf between the needs and interests of the imperialists on top of the political system—and the interests and desires of the people of many different strata below.
It is impossible to predict with certainty if the U.S. will attack Iran or when such an attack could come. But it is clear that the situation in the region is developing rapidly and tensions between the U.S. and Iran continue to rise. In this situation, and given the level of U.S. war preparations, such an attack could come quickly. If the Bush regime does attack Iran, it will no doubt claim to be doing so after exhausting all roads to a peaceful solution, and only after having been “provoked” by Iran. But again, no matter the pretext or claimed provocation, any U.S. attack on Iran would be an unjust and criminal act of imperialist aggression. It would be totally against the interests of the people—in Iran, the Middle East, and in the U.S. itself.
We in the U.S.—the country that has launched an unbounded war of conquest in the Middle East—have a special responsibility to act with boldness and determination to prevent a war on Iran. It is urgent that disaffection, loss of allegiance, and anger be translated into action and resistance—not passivity and despair. This will take tenacious struggle—including among the people themselves—but such action could spread and greatly impact the rulers' freedom to carry out their savage and reactionary plans.
As Revolution pointed out in its editorial last week:
“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 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 #93, June 24, 2007
The following was obtained from the World Cant Wait website.
The impeachment movement, called by the Impeach07 campaign, is holding "people's impeachment hearings" around the country. World Can't Wait's platform for these events will be our Call, bringing in a compelling picture of the full scope and trajectory the regime represents, and why Bush must and can be driven from office before 2008. Speakers will include prominent performers and writers who have signed our Call, and leaders in the movement for impeachment. World Can't Wait plans for mass mobilization, based on our understanding that the world can't wait until 2008, will be announced.
Scheduled town meetings include (go to worldcantwait.org for updated info):
June 21 6-9pm
Location: DePaul University College of Law, 25 E. Jackson Blvd., Room 803
New York City
June 25 6:30-9 pm
New York Society for Ethical Culture, Central Park West at W. 64th St.
July 5 6:30 pm-9 pm
Unitarian Church; 2125 Chestnut Street
July 12 7 pm
Immanuel Presbyterian Church, 3300 Wilshire Blvd. at Berendo, west of Vermont Ave.
July 15 2:30-4:30 pm
San Francisco Main Library, 100 Larkin St. (enter on Grove St. side)
Watch for the full-page New York Times ad from World Can’t Wait in the week of June 18, featuring the Call to Drive Out the Bush Regime and information on the Impeachment Town Meetings.
Revolution #93, June 24, 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 tenth 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.
Understanding the World In Order to Change It
All this stresses the profound importance of communism as a scientific worldview and approach to reality, of materialism and dialectics. It stresses the importance of theory and methodology. We're not going to get where we need to go—and certainly the complexity of what we're up against now should drive this lesson home to us—if we don't grapple in the realm of theory and methodology and then apply that to changing the world. Marx was right, profoundly so, when he said in the "Theses on Feuerbach" that the philosophers have only tried to understand the world, the point however is to change it. But we should not and must not do a "two into one" on that—wrongly combining, conflating, and "mashing together" theory and practice. That, frankly, is what has characterized a lot of movements, including revolutionary and communist movements. There has been a lot of positivism. A lot of thinking that theory comes immediately out of (or is essentially reducible to) immediate practical experience. This goes along with the tendency to negate the need for a leap from practice to a higher, more abstract, conceptual level of knowledge, and with the notion that theory is related one to one with a particular kind of practice and that theory can only advance in more or less direct relation to such practice, negating the fact that, while in the final analysis all theory has its origin and point of verification in practical experience, this must be seen in broad and not narrow terms and theory can, in important aspects, run ahead of and anticipate practice.
Theory and (political and ideological) line are abstractions from reality which, the more correct they are, the more they can guide us in changing the world in accordance with its actual nature and its actual motion. If you are going to wield theory and line as an instrument to change the world, you have to take it up and wrangle with it in its own right—abstracted from the reality out of which it comes, of which it is a concentration—and to which, yes, as Marx emphasized and we must emphasize, it must be returned in order to change the world. But if you leave out the step of grappling, on the level of abstraction, with theory, you are bound to go astray and land in a pit.
And everybody can deal in abstractions, by the way. It's not only a handful of people who can do this. Revolutionary theory, communist theory, has to be made accessible to masses of people, but they actually engage in abstraction all the time, with different world outlooks. I've never met any basic person, or any person from any stratum, who doesn't have all kinds of theories about all kinds of things—most of them drawn from the bourgeoisie and ultimately reflecting its outlook—although some of them do this only indirectly and appear to be, and to some degree are, ideas and theories that people have "cooked up" on their own, more or less unconsciously reflecting the dominant bourgeois outlook in society. Of course, to make theoretical abstractions that most correctly, deeply and fully reflect reality, in its motion and development, requires taking up the communist world outlook and methodology and increasingly learning to apply this consistently and systematically. And, as Lenin emphasized (in What Is To Be Done? and elsewhere), this communist outlook and methodology will not just "come to" the masses of people on their own and spontaneously, but must be brought to them from outside the realm of their direct and immediate experience. But the fact remains that everyone engages in theoretical abstraction of one kind or another—everybody is capable of this—and, fundamentally, it is a question of how are you doing this, with what world outlook and methodology?
This is an analogy that I have found helpful: Reality is like a fire, like a burning object, and if you want to pick up that burning object and move it, you have to have an instrument with which to do it. If you try to do it bare-handed, the result is not going to be good. That's another way of getting at the role of theory in relation to the larger world that needs to be transformed, in relation to practice, and in particular revolutionary practice, to change the world.
The point is not to remain at the level of abstraction. There are two leaps that must be made. One is to the level of abstraction. The other is back to practice to change the world—in a broad sense, and not a narrow, positivist, pragmatist way, which can only serve reformism and perhaps "revengism" but not radical and revolutionary objectives, not the transformation of the world to bring about the emancipation of all humanity.
This is why I have stressed the point that theory is the dynamic factor in terms of ideology—it's a dynamic factor in changing people's world outlook. It is not that we don't need to struggle with people over things like morality and people's moral responsibilities. In this talk, and in general in my talks and writings, I have emphasized the need to do precisely that because, in fact, this is extremely important. But people's morality, their sense of right and wrong, flows from their understanding of the world. How do you know what is "right" and "wrong"? That flows from a certain understanding of the world—one way or another.
So we need both those leaps. We need to engage on the level of abstraction from reality, concentration of reality, which is what theory and line are. We need to wrangle over things continuously on that level—we need to repeatedly wrangle with what is actually a correct understanding of reality, because reality is not only complex in a general sense but it is constantly moving and changing, and we are always racing to catch up with it. Even though at times you are able to anticipate things—and in that sense be, in your conception of things, "ahead of" the development of reality—most of the time, or in an overall sense, you are racing to catch up with reality. And that's the way it's going to be. If we don't engage in the realm of abstraction, of theory, we're dead. Simple as that. But if we leave it there, and don't return it back to practice, to change reality—not just in a narrow sense but in the broadest, world-historical sense—then what is the point? In either sense—if we fail to make either leap (from reality to theoretical abstraction and conception, and from that back to practice, to change reality)—then what are we doing?
Revolution #93, June 24, 2007
Special Showing of Bob Avakian Film at the Schomburg:
The wail of a muffled trumpet called forth from backstage. A buzz rippled through the Langston Hughes Auditorium of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem. Slowly from the dark of the stage, jazz trumpeter Roy Campbell emerged, playing a riff from his piece, "The Surge," heralding the start of an incredible evening. Next, Herb Boyd, author and member of the Host Committee for the event, came to the podium and welcomed the nearly full house: "The Schomburg. Communism. Revolution. Who could believe it!"
So began the "Special Evening" at the Schomburg—and it lived up to its promise. Dreams deferred were awakened as the possibilities and prospects of revolution—a vision of a liberating socialism and communism that inspires—percolated through the multi-national, multi-generational crowd, aroused by meeting and engaging Bob Avakian through watching excerpts of the film of his 2003 talk, Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About.
Carl Dix of the Revolutionary Communist Party greeted the crowd and introduced the performers and the film. The comedian Aladdin opened by saying that when he first heard about Bob Avakian, he asked, "why would I listen to a white guy talk about revolution?" And he said that question was answered when he first looked at the DVD of the talk and read Avakian's memoir, From Ike to Mao and Beyond: My Journey from Mainstream America to Revolutionary Communist.
Poet Staceyann Chin, featured in Def Poetry Jam on Broadway, began with a refreshingly blunt and damning haiku about George Bush’s reelection, then got everyone laughing as she took irreverent stabs at religious taboos about sex. The heart of her performance was a roller-coaster ride of a rant that spanned the globe, from the children of the “third world” who make our clothes to indignities suffered by gays and immigrants and Black people in this country. The crowd was spellbound and silent as her poem arched, “Gather round, ye children of this necessary revolution. We are not simply at a political crossroads. We are buried knee-deep in the quagmire of a battle for our very humanity…” and concluded with a chilling variation of Pastor Martin Niemöller’s lesson of surviving a Nazi concentration camp, imploring the audience, "the time to act is now" before "you open that door to find they have finally come for you."
An ensemble that spanned the jazz world from the ’60s to today came together just for this evening. The group included world-renowned alto saxophonist and flutist James Spaulding; trumpeter and composer Roy Campbell; and percussionist and composer Michael Wimberly, who scored the evening's arrangements.
Wimberly kicked off a composition that started with a riff from John Coltrane's classic "Impressions," and the musicians were off on a journey to new heights that covered a lot of ground from bebop through free jazz to new sounds, opening minds and causing spirits to soar. The stage then went from white hot light to a deep blue, and the ensemble went into a haunting, abstract version of "Strange Fruit," the classic piece about lynching made famous by Billie Holiday.
When they finished, the stage went black, and the film began with Bob Avakian singing Bob Dylan's "Desolation Row," introducing his "They’re Selling Postcards of a Hanging," a deep, stinging indictment of this country's legacy of lynching and national oppression.
From here the audience took a journey that touched on how capitalism’s blind pursuit of profit and disregard for the environment are threatening the survival of the planet itself and destroying the cultures and ability to exist of whole peoples whose land is being destroyed; that sharply challenged and repudiated the degradation and oppression of women that is woven through every aspect of this system and the relations it fosters; and then lifted the audience up out of this nightmare world to imagine how, with state power, people can set out to transform everything.
After hearing about a vision of a society where not only are people’s most fundamental needs met, but where people are treated with respect and brought into making decisions about their lives and society, the live audience laughed along with the audience in the film when Avakian got around to talking about work under socialism: “First of all, imagine you actually wanted to go to work!”
Another section of the talk that got a big audible response was when Avakian went straight up against the way the masses on the bottom of society get drawn into being played by the system. He approached this with plenty of heart—and plenty of biting humor. To see what people responded to, check out the chapter “How the World Got This Way,” on the DVD.
After the film showing, Rev. Earl Kooperkamp put words to the feelings of many when he said in the evening's concluding remarks: "This man can break it down but also then expand your imagination in ways that are just incredible." He urged everyone to stay and engage in conversation and discussion at the reception to follow. And most did.
The reception area was packed shoulder to shoulder for over an hour as white youth squeezed in next to middle-aged Black professionals in hats and suits and mixed it up with proletarian Black youth, including a group brought by a man who works at a charity organization, and a number of Spanish-speaking and other immigrants. Coming from a wide array of backgrounds and political outlooks, they got into questions that some had never thought about before ("I don't know anything about socialism and communism--but I want to learn"), and some were now taking another look at communist revolution after seeing the film. A white student at CUNY commented, "I'm more of an anarchist and I still have questions about leadership, but this film was beautiful and we essentially all have the same goals."
A number expressed their agreement with the "beautiful vision" of another world that Avakian presented, but they also raised questions like, "Is it possible?" "Who is going to run things?" "Can revolution happen, given how powerful the military is?" "What about 'human nature'?"…and much more. Many commented on Bob Avakian's "depth of humanity" and "great love for the people" that come through in the film.
People also noted the significance of this event being held at the historic Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in the heart of Harlem. Ages of people in the audience ranged from 10 to the mid-‘80s, including high school and college students. People attended from all over New York City and especially Harlem, from upstate New York, Long Island, Connecticut, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.
A real buzz had developed about the event in the days leading up to it. WBAI featured it on several shows, including an interview with Herb Boyd on the Gary Byrd show, and PSAs, including one by Host Committee member Chuck D, that played regularly. People heard about it on the streets from Revolution newspaper sellers, thousands of palm cards were distributed, notices went out widely over the internet, and whole walls were covered by the bold black and red poster. Ads in the Amsterdam News two weeks in a row, along with the publication of the Engage! Statement the week before the event, and two relatively prominent announcements in Time Out New York reached many.
The Host Committee played an important role in helping spread the word and develop the program. In addition to Alladin, Herb Boyd, Carl Dix, Chuck D, and Rev. Earl Kooperkamp, the Host Committee included Rev. Luis Barrios; playwright and poet reg e. gaines; Christopher McElroen, co-founder and executive director of the Classical Theatre of Harlem; Philip Rice, M.D.; attorney Michael Tarif Warren; and filmmaker David Zeiger.
As one person put it, the entire event served to "open the conversation." Another said, " it whet my palate. Now I'm hungry for more."
Two days after the Schomburg event, a successful special screening of the film Revolution was also held at the Magic Johnson Theater in Los Angeles. Along with excerpts from the film, the event featured cultural performances by actor Lucia Marano and poet Jerry Quickley.
Revolution #93, June 24, 2007
Bob Avakian combines an unsparing critique of the history and current direction of American society with a sweeping view of world history and the potential for humanity. He has brought forth a fresh, relevant and compelling approach to Marxism, deeply analyzing the history of the Communist movement and the socialist revolutions and upholds their achievements. At the same time, he honestly confronts and criticizes what he views as their shortcomings, opening up new paths of inquiry in the process and initiating dialogue with people who hold a wide range of views. He’s addressing the burning problems before society from a unique vantage point, and we consider his revolutionary analysis and solutions to be an important and necessary part of the ferment and discourse required in this society and the world in this dark time. While those of us signing this statement do not necessarily agree with all of his views, we have come away from encounters with Avakian provoked and enriched in our own thinking, and we invite others to hear and engage that voice.
Bob Avakian is also the leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA; as such he not only theorizes about the world, but plays a special role in organizing and leading that change. He’s been called a “long-distance runner in the freedom struggle against imperialism, racism and capitalism” and he draws on deep connections and engagement with people from all walks of life and all corners of the earth. All this informs and animates his work.
Unfortunately, such voices in this country are, and have been, all too frequently the objects of suppression and repression. This repressive edge in American society has been particularly brought to bear against those who advocate revolution and especially those who do so effectively. Surveillance, harassment, suppression, political trials, prison terms, exile and even assassination have been the fates of many revolutionaries throughout U.S. history and many of those measures have, in fact, been visited upon Avakian. The current administration has instituted serious repressive measures like the Patriot Act, instituted the use of preventive detention and isolation of those whom the president deems to be “terrorist,” and has created a climate where, for example, radical or even liberal professors find their reputations and even their livelihoods under assault; all this makes the ability of Bob Avakian to freely function even more of a concern. The statement by the German pastor Martin Niemoller – which begins, “First they came for the communists, and I did nothing because I was not a communist” and which goes on to describe how Niemoller did nothing while Hitler peeled away the victims of the Nazi regime one at a time, until there was no one left to defend Niemoller when his time came – sounds with particular resonance today.
Thus, in addition to calling on people to engage with the thoughts of Bob Avakian, and bring them into what needs to be a rich and diverse dialogue, we are also serving notice to this government that we intend to defend his right to freely advocate and organize for his views, and to engage broadly with people about those views.
Initial list of signatories:
Charles Aikens, journalist, Oaktown News,*
Jaafar Aksikas, Prof., Cultural Studies, Columbia College*,
Aladdin, actor, comedian
Bob Anderson, Prof., College of New Mexico*
Rafael C. Angulo, Assoc. Clinical Field Faculty, USC*
Bernardo Attias, Prof., CA State Univ., Northridge*
Fr. Luis Barrios, John Jay College*
David Best, artist
Robert Bloom, attorney
Herb Boyd, author, journalist
Anne Bray, artist
Michael E. Brown, Prof. of Sociology,
Leroy Bryant, Sr., Prof. and Chmn. Emeritus, History, Philosophy, Political Science, African-American Studies, Chicago State Univ.*
Black Vietnam Vet
Rev. Richard Meri Ka Ra Byrd, KRST Ctr. of African Spirituality*
Angelica Carapia, Editor, Laney Tower*
Robert Keith Collins, PhD, Homalusa:
Ctr. for African and Native American Research*
Jeff Cooper, Dir., Freshman & Transfer Summer Progs., UCLA*
Jesse Diaz, Jr., UC Riverside*
Dr. Roger Dittman, Pres., Scientists Without Borders
Lynn Domingo, human rights activist
Derek Dorsey, music publisher, co-owner, The Fire*
Judy Drummond, teacher
Ramona Dvorak, MD, Harvard Medical School*
Quentin Easter, theater producer
Rev. Jon Eckels, poet, human
Dick Eiden, Dir., North County Forum*
Amon Emeka, Assist. Prof. of Sociology, USC*
Sonny Espinoza, Prof., Loyola Marymount Univ.*
Jeffrey Felshman, writer
Leslie Fields-Cruz, media arts administrator
Joe Fortunato, attorney and NJ Green Party*
reg e. gaines, director
Jim Geraghty, Marin
Peace and Justice Coalition*
Joan P. Gibbs, Natl. Conf. of Black Lawyers*, Jericho Movement*
Lois Gish, nurse-midwife
Bill Goodman, civil rights lawyer
Grappo, theater director
Tom Harker, singer, songwriter
Lilith Hazard, student
Bob Helmick, retired contractor
Julia Butterfly Hill, activist, author
Hirschman, SF Poet Laureate
Danny Hoch, actor, playwright
Rachel Holmes, author
Phil Hutchings, civil & human rights activist
John Hutnyk, Academic Dir.,
Ctr. for Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths Univ. of London*
H. Range Hutson, MD, Harvard Medical School*
Dr. Tony Jackson, psychologist, artist
Bill Jennings, It’s
About Time Committee*
Russ Jennings, radio producer
Talbert Jennings, producer, Carl Stokes Forum*, Community TV
Steve Johnson, activist, thinker, writer
Larry S. Jones, retired adjunct instructor, Chaminade Univ.*
Rickie Lee Jones, singer, musician
Pa Joof, Africans On the Move*
Paul Kangas, Vice Pres., Veterans
Erin Aubry Kaplan, journalist, writer
Yuri Kochiyama, civil rights activist
Rev. Earl Kooperkamp, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church*
David Kunzle, Prof.,
Mike Ladd, writer, producer
Ray Laforest, staff organizer, Dist. Council 1707 AFSME*, Mbr. Pacifica Natl. Board*
Michael Lange, actor, playwright
Kenny Leon, theater director
Calvin Levels, actor, playwright
Brian Lloyd, Dept. of History, UC Riverside*
Dennis Loo, Assoc. Prof. of Sociology,
Cal Poly Pomona*
Raymond Lotta, Maoist political economist
Fr. Lawrence Lucas, Our Lady of Lourdes Roman Catholic Church*
Paul Magno, Catholic Worker
devorah major, author
Lucia Marano, actor, writer
Bill Martin, Prof. of Philosophy, DePaul Univ.*
Timothy Patrick McCarthy, Harvard Univ.*
Engage! A Committee to Project and Protect the Voice of Bob Avakian|
To add your name to this statement and to contribute, including for future publication, contact Engage! at
Engage! 1474 University Ave. #141, Berkeley, CA 94702 (Make checks payable to Engage!)
For information: 415.902.7936 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Click here for PDF of Engage Statement
Revolution #93, June 24, 2007
Escalation in the Attacks on Dissent and Critical Thinking:
In the latest outrageous attack on academic freedom, political scientist Norman Finkelstein of DePaul University has been denied tenure. On Friday, June 8, University President Dennis Holtschneider announced that he would uphold the university's tenure and promotion board's ruling against tenure for Finkelstein, even though Finkelstein's department and a college-level personnel committee both voted in favor of tenure.
Finkelstein is an internationally regarded scholar and popular teacher whose criticism of Israel's treatment of the Palestinians, and of its supporters in this country, has made him a constant target of U.S. and Israeli apologists such as Harvard law professor and torture advocate Alan Dershowitz. (See Revolution #85, April 22, 2007 The Clash Over Prof. Finkelstein's Tenure. and the Assault on Critical Thinking on Campuses (http://revcom.us/a/085/finkelstein-en.html)
Adding to the outrage is the denial of tenure to another DePaul instructor, assistant professor of international studies Mehrene Larudee. In her case, she received unanimous support from her department, the college personnel committee and the Dean of her college, who praised her as "outstanding." Larudee was slated to become the director of DePaul's program in international studies when she learned of the decision against her. In an interview with the Chronicle of Higher Education, she said "there is no good explanation for why I was denied tenure. So one has to look elsewhere." According to a statement from student activists, “The decision to deny Professor Mehrene Larudee tenure seems based wholly on her support of Prof. Finkelstein.”
Academic tenure is a formal status that gives professors protection from being fired for their research, writing, and speech--it's designed to ensure that thinkers and researchers on campuses who come under political attack are not threatened with losing their positions. When tenure is denied, in essence the professor is fired, effective one year from the tenure decision. Even worse, it is usually damaging to a scholar's reputation and is difficult to recover from.
The Pretense of "Academic Misconduct"
The denial of tenure for Norman Finkelstein follows the witch-hunt, led by David Horowitz, against University of Colorado Professor of Native American Studies Ward Churchill, a tenured professor now threatened with losing his position. (See "The Case of Ward Churchill: A Witch-Hunt That Must Be Defeated," in the special supplement "WARNING: The Nazification of the American University" in Revolution #81, and “University of Colorado President Calls for Firing of Professor Ward Churchill,” Revolution #92, June 17, 2007).
As in the Ward Churchill case, there have been accusations against Finkelstein of scholarly misconduct. These have been augmented by a constant barrage of slanders that Finkelstein--son of Holocaust survivors--is "anti-semitic" and a "Holocaust denier." However, despite all the accusations (and Dershowitz's 50-page dossier of Finkelstein's supposed "egregious academic sins…outright lies, misquotations, and distortions"), the Personnel Committee concluded that there was no evidence of academic or research misconduct. It could only point to Finkelstein's "inflammatory style and personal attacks in his writing and intellectual debates" and a lack of collegiality as a reason for denying tenure.
Indeed, in his letter to Finkelstein explaining the reasons for denial, DePaul's president described Finkelstein as "a nationally known scholar and public intellectual, considered provocative, challenging, and intellectually interesting." He then quoted the Personnel Committee's report and said there was "no compelling reason" to overturn their decision. It is very rare for someone to be turned down for tenure at a higher level when it has been approved at a lower level. It is even rarer for a scholar to be turned down who has extremely high student evaluations, an international reputation, and published five books since at DePaul (including at major academic presses like UC Press and Verso).
Finkelstein was quoted in The Guardian (UK), "I met the standards of tenure DePaul required, but it wasn't enough to overcome the political opposition to my speaking out on the Israel-Palestine conflict." He said that DePaul's decision was based on "transparently political grounds," an "egregious violation of academic freedom" and the result of a "vicious, sordid campaign to dirty my name so that there's a pretext for getting rid of me" (Chronicle of Higher Education, 6/11/07).
Mounting Outrage and Opposition
The Finkelstein case has attracted considerable national attention and academics and others are discussing it. At one point, the article on CNN's website on the tenure denial was its most emailed. More importantly, there has been a strong and determined response in defense of Finkelstein and academic freedom. Hundreds of people have sent emails of support to Finkelstein (which he has posted on his website (http://www.normanfinkelstein.com). Even a former CIA analyst in Santa Fe called for a street protest, saying he would be out there even if he was the only one. Noted linguist and scholar Noam Chomsky said before the announcement that the dispute over Finkelstein's tenure was "outrageous. [He] is an outstanding scholar. It's amazing that he hasn't had full professorship a long time ago."
Despite being in the midst of exam week, DePaul students and faculty have responded forcefully. On Monday, June 11, students presented the president of DePaul with a petition of over 700 signatures calling for a reversal of the decision. Dozens of students then occupied a meeting room across from the president's office. Though the president told the students that they could stay as long as they wanted, on Wednesday afternoon the students were threatened with arrest and forced from the room (see "Thoughts on a Very Special Professor Under Attack"). As we go to press, students are now occupying the Student Center and are making more plans for supporting professors Finkelstien and Larudee.
Also on Wednesday, there was an emergency meeting of the University's Faculty Council. A 27-3 vote called for an appeal to be made on behalf of both professors, citing "violations of academic freedom" and procedural problems in the tenure process. DePaul University President Fr. Holtschneider has said that Finkelstein has no right of appeal and that the faculty had no "structural authority" to challenge his decision. However, students protesting the decision have noted that the Faculty Handbook of DePaul University states that dismissal, which occurs as a result of tenure denial, may be appealed in case of abuse of academic freedom or when there has been a violation of procedure. The students maintain that both of these requirements for appeal have been met.
Faculty are also considering taking votes of no confidence in the school president and other officials. Last November, the Liberal Arts and Sciences' Faculty Governance Council voted unanimously to send a letter to administrators at both DePaul and Harvard to "express the council's dismay at Professor Dershowitz's interference in Finkelstein's tenure and promotion case."
Academic Freedom is NOT Alive and Well at DePaul
Holtschneider claimed in his statement that "academic freedom is alive and well at DePaul." The truth is the exact opposite--academic freedom has been dealt a serious blow, and not just at DePaul. Holtschneider's decision was greeted with joy by various attack dogs opposed to critical thinking and academic freedom in general, and in relation to Israel in particular. Dershowitz "applaud[ed] the University for its actions." In keeping with his habit of turning reality upside-down, he claimed that DePaul had reached the correct decision despite being inundated by a massive pro-Finkelstein campaign from the "hard-left."
The denial of tenure to Finkelstein gives inspiration to the right-wing program which seeks to turn universities into zones of uncontested indoctrination, free of outspoken dissident professors and with little in the way of a commitment to an atmosphere which fosters critical thinking and open debate. Raul Hilberg, one of the most distinguished historians of the Nazi holocaust who had called Finkelstein's The Holocaust Industry "a breakthrough," was quoted in the Chicago Tribune saying that "I have a sinking feeling about the damage this will do to academic freedom."
As Revolution wrote in "WARNING: The Nazification of the American University:" "If this reactionary program wins out, the university will be turning out students who will have had little, if any, opportunity to think critically, into a society qualitatively more severely repressive than anything seen in this country's history." [For a hilarious, and stingingly accurate, indictment of this program, check out Stephen Colbert's commentary "On Having to Watch An Inconvenient Truth," available at http://www.treehugger.com/files/2007/05/steven_colbert.php]
Finkelstein told The Chronicle of Higher Education that, as a result of the campaign against him, "no administration would have me on its faculty because of the hysteria that would evoke. These people have pretty much stopped me dead in my tracks." Still, Finkelstein told the Chicago Tribune, "As it happens, I was just this past week teaching about Paul Robeson in my political science class. When Robeson was crucified for his beliefs, he said, 'I will not retreat one-thousandth part of one inch.' That's what I say to the thugs and hoodlums who are trying to silence me…. They can deny me tenure, deny me the right to teach. But they will never stop me from saying what I believe."
Revolution #93, June 24, 2007
I’ve been out among the students at DePaul University, including those protesting the denial of tenure for Professor Norman Finkelstein, and the stakes and reality of this battle have really been coming home to me. One thing I was thinking about is that when you talk with Finkelstein's students, you get the real sense that he is one of those too-hard-to-find, really special teachers who really affects students in a unique way.
One said that Finkelstein was much of the reason she came to DePaul. After reading one of his books, she was struck by how fearless and honest, and how committed to the truth, he was. She wanted to be in his class and be part of the University of which he was a part. Another talked about how life-changing taking Finkelstein's class had been for him. A number of students have remarked that one really special thing about Finkelstein is that both conservative and liberal students really love his class because it challenges them to think.
I think it's really telling that students are so drawn to this person. He challenges students to think. You can really start to see--if that was wiped out--even if it was just Finkelstein or Ward Churchill or one professor, that's bad enough because these individuals can really have a major impact on the lives of so many students. And if Finkelstein goes down--look, that has a major impact on that campus, not to mention campuses everywhere. Add to that, the fact that now they're trying to deny Professor Mehrene Larudee's tenure--and there’s a lot of buzz that’s connecting her support of Finkelstein to this--and you can see how chilling this really is.
All eyes should be on this case right now at the campus. This is a major push by Horowitz and the Hitler youth, and the whole reactionary agenda and forces of which that is a concentration and spearhead. To get more specific--if you can't challenge the role of Israel and the U.S. in the Middle East right now, as the U.S. is aiming to remake the Middle East in the interests of its empire, and if students are never exposed to the reality of what historically has gone on, and what is going on today--that's a serious horror story. Talk about training "Good Germans"!
We need to connect the dots here. You go out to the campus and it feels like a normal campus--you can buy overpriced chicken fingers and diet coke, the students are running around in track pants and tee-shirts, with their hair a mess, looking exhausted during finals week. But this whole giant thing is going on, where they're on their way to for-real transforming the campus and the whole society in a fascist direction.
No one wants to be in Finkelstein's shoes (and now think about the implications with Larudee!!!). This is part of what World Can’t Wait talks about when they say “The Bush regime is setting out to radically remake society very quickly, in a fascist way, and for generations to come. We must act now; the future is in the balance.” This is what that looks like, this is what it feels like.
Yes, you can still get (some) videos at Blockbuster and read the New York Times (for now)--but all that same old stuff is increasingly in a new context, a new framework. One student said she went on a trip not too long ago with DePaul University President Holtschneider, and that they had a lot of discussions and he is a really good, progressive guy. But now she's finding herself across the "negotiating table" as part of the sit-in, and she can hardly believe her eyes--he is still the same friendly guy, but she thinks he's basically just capitulating to the extreme pressure that's on him from forces like Alan Dershowitz.
What these students and faculty have been doing, sitting in at the president’s office and going straight up against all of that and demanding that their professor be granted tenure, is extremely important. I know there are things going on where other professors and public intellectuals are taking extremely important stances of support with Churchill and Finkelstein. I think it’s important that the students especially need to be connected more with the national movement to defend critical thinking (the site www.defendcriticalthinking.org is a good resource), so they have more of a sense of their strength and importance. It’s true that the forces they’re up against are very daunting--but the outcome of this battle has major implications for the future of critical thought and dissent in this country, and for the world and humanity as a whole.
Revolution #93, June 24, 2007
From A World to Win News Service
June 11, 2007. A World to Win News Service. The U.S. intends to continue reigning supreme--and the other seven leading imperialist powers are trying to maneuver in service of their own anti-people interests within that framework. That was the basic message from this year’s G8 summit in Heiligendamm, Germany.
The Group of 8 describes itself as an annual get-together where the leaders of “the world’s leading industrial democracies” can talk privately and informally. In reality, it is a conclave of the world’s leading imperialist powers that fatten off the exportation of capital and the division of the world into dominating and dominated countries, as well as the exploitation of people in their homelands. Although it was set up in 1975 to address economic and trade questions, political issues have increasingly figured in its public statements. In recent years, most notably in Genoa, Italy, in 2001, anti-globalization protestors have flocked to these summits because they believe that the G8 as an institution is a main source of much of the world’s suffering and a concentration of what’s wrong with the way the world is organized.
Those who say that the G8 must “Stop talking and start acting” should consider a crucial, if little noticed, step toward action the summit did take: the eight countries agreed to take “further appropriate measures” against Iran if Tehran refuses to stop enriching uranium, giving encouragement to exactly what UN International Atomic Energy Agency head Mohamed El Baradei warned about on the eve of the G8, the “new crazies” (read: the Bush administration) who want to bomb that country. While what was said about this subject behind closed doors remains secret, not one of the heads of state thought fit to publicly echo El Baradei’s concerns. This alone is a sign that should be taken seriously.
The squabbling between the U.S. and Russia on American plans to install an anti-missile system on Russia’s borders was another sign of tumultuous times ahead. Russia feels it has made many concessions to the U.S., including not standing in the way of new U.S. bases in Central Asia. Instead of compromising in return, the U.S. has expanded NATO right up to the Russian border. The American plan to set up anti-missile missiles in Poland and the Czech Republic is an aggressive act aimed not only at Russia, but also Europe, because it amounts to a declaration that the U.S. intends to take the lead there in military matters. While these two planned bases wouldn’t be much of a threat to Russia by themselves, if they become part of a global anti-missile system over the coming years, as the U.S. hopes, this system could become capable of shooting down the remaining Russian missiles after an American nuclear first strike.
This isn’t the Cold War, when the threat of a nuclear conflict was real and palpable, but anyone who can’t understand why Russia is upset about the U.S. stationing a handful of missiles along its borders should remember how the U.S. reacted when the USSR sent a handful of missiles to Cuba in 1963. This move is meant to make sure Russia doesn’t try to go its own way in a U.S.-dominated world. It is also related to Iran, not in the sense of being aimed at as-yet nonexistent Iranian missiles--the U.S. poured cold water on Russian president Vladimir Putin’s offer of a shared base on the Iranian border--but at Russia, which has been the chief foot-dragger on the U.S.-led war chariot.
Then there was global warming, supposedly the central topic at this meeting. When German Chancellor Angela Merkel tried to get agreement on mandatory targets for reducing carbon dioxide emissions, Bush aids shrieked that she was crossing a “red line”--the U.S. would not stand for any international limits on its economy, any more than it would accept UN interference with its “right” to invade whoever it wants. Although Bush recently dropped the argument that global warming, like evolution in his eyes, is unproven, his government’s continuing war against a scientific approach was indicated by an announcement from Washington during the summit that it wants to end its environmental monitoring satellite programme, blinding vital climate change research. The best Bush would agree to at the G8 was that the U.S. would “seriously consider” Merkel’s proposals. This intransigence left the other leaders off the hook.
Some environmental experts such as Greenpeace environmental climate specialist Joerg Feddern do not believe that the goal Merkel announced--halving greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century--is commensurate with the problem. Even at that, there is good reason to doubt whether the European powers are really trying to achieve that goal. The EU as a whole has not lived up to the even lower benchmarks set by the Kyoto Protocol. Germany has managed to keep the requirements comfortable for itself (for instance, by not counting its use of coal in its pollution figures), while doubts have been raised about whether the figures for UK’s apparently positive performance are real or imaginary. The only concrete measure this G8 accepted was to conduct further negotiations in Bali, Indonesia, later this year, in hopes of a new agreement by 2009--a shameful admission that once again, nothing has been accomplished but blowing smoke.
The G8 consensus on Africa was also an exercise in criminally false advertising. The gathered leaders boasted they would allocate $60 billion for measures against AIDS, malaria and TB in that continent. But $50 billion of that is the same money they promised two years ago at the Gleneagles G8 summit, whose proclaimed focus was on Africa. They failed to come up with two-thirds of that so far, and this time, no country made any specific commitments. A spokeswoman for the U.S.-based Physicians for Human Rights said that there has been little or no progress since then in working towards universal AIDS prevention and treatment programmes in Africa, the goal set for 2010 by the Gleneagles summit. The Heiligendamm summit didn’t even bother to repeat that pledge. Further, the G8 leaders agreed to toughen their intellectual property laws, endangering the cheap generic drugs people in poor countries depend on.
“The G8 communiqué is turning into a wish-list, not a document that is going to save lives,” the physicians’ spokeswoman said. Even Bono, who like fellow rock figure Bob Geldof seems to believe that the G8 is not the problem but the solution, called the Africa communiqué “deliberately misleading.” Geldof said, “This wasn’t serious, this was a total farce.” The Netherlands-based World AIDS Campaign labelled the Heiligendamm summit “a huge step backwards”.
Slogans and banners at Heiligendamm proclaimed the G8 “illegitimate.” This was widely understood to mean that it is totally unjust and immoral for a handful of rich countries and their rulers to decide the fate of the planet and its people. As one sign proclaimed, the gathered heads of state were “wolves in wolves’ clothing” who, another said, “eat the world.” The protestors came to the right place at the right time, and while their ideas about a solution were widely varied, their hatred of what they consider unacceptable was mostly united and right on target.
Revolution #67, October 29, 2006
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Revolution #93, June 24, 2007
San Francisco Giants player Barry Bonds is approaching the all-time home run record in baseball, under an extraordinary attack from the government and near lynch-mob atmosphere. Bonds has now hit 748 home runs and needs 7 more to reach Henry Aaron’s record of 755. Bonds is getting death threats, and sports writers across the country are whipping up fans to jeer and vilify him when he plays in their cities. And even more, he is facing a multi-pronged attack from the government--he faces possible indictment for allegedly lying under oath about steroid use to a grand jury; Greg Anderson, his friend and former trainer, is sitting in federal prison for refusing to testify against him about using steroids; and he is even being investigated by the IRS for tax evasion.
All this reveals some important things about not just baseball but America.
Many players and even some sportswriters will say that Bonds is, as progressive sportswriter Dave Zirin called him, "the best ballplayer of his generation, and perhaps all time." But the dominant attitude among the mainstream sportswriters is that you can’t talk about Bonds without insisting that he has "cheated" by using steroids or other performance enhancing drugs. Conservative columnist George Will has accused Bonds of being a "stain on the game" and, by implication, the country. (To those who don’t know or haven’t been paying attention to baseball, Bonds is Black, and, in his way, a stubborn and defiant character.)
Zirin points out the viciousness and stark racism of the attack on Bonds: "But despite the fact that Bonds has never failed a drug test, he has also been subjected to seething hatred in the press that is utterly unprecedented. Nothing is off limits. I’ve seen it all: comparing him to O.J. Simpson? Sure. Comparing him to a child molester? Sure. Calls for a lynching? These are the words of John Seibel on ESPN radio: ‘if he did it, hang him. Now I’m not saying hang him. I’m not saying hang him from a tree. I’m not saying strap him to a gurney and inject poison in his veins…’"
The Attack on Big Mac
To get at what is really going on with steroids, the absurd hypocrisy of the steroid hysteria, and to look at the underlying inequalities and real power relations, it is helpful to look at what has happened to Mark "Big Mac" McGwire, who was a big home run hero of baseball in the 1990s. McGwire came into major prominence after a 1994 baseball players’ strike, which led to cancellation of the World Series (which really should be called the American Series, as the rest of the world is not allowed in) and part of the season, and which disillusioned many fans. The owners of baseball, in a very conscious attempt to save the game, made an all-out effort to promote home runs, the most exciting part of baseball. They built new and smaller ball parks so there would be more home runs; they changed the rules and narrowed the strike zone so it would be easier on the hitters; they changed the ball and changed the bats to make for more home runs. And around this same time, baseball players began to do more intensive weight lifting, and got much stronger and able to hit the ball farther. And in this mix, steroids and other performance enhancing drugs were brought into baseball in a big way, with the clear knowledge and approval of the owners and management.
One product of all this was a big home run contest in 1998, when Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa engaged in a home run duel. The record for most home runs in a year was demolished, and Mark McGwire, who ended up winning the duel with 70 home runs, was hailed as a hero who saved baseball and by the end of the 1990s was appearing on many sportswriters’ lists of the greatest baseball players of all time. And, oh, by the way, McGwire openly had in his locker, in the view of all of the baseball writers, his dosage of androstenedione, an over-the-counter muscle enhancement product. Steroids were not illegal and not against the rules of baseball.
Move ahead to 2005. A full-blown inquisition around steroids in baseball was on. Players were dragged before Congress and ordered to testify about what they know of the steroid scandal, what players did what when. McGwire, by that time retired from baseball, was one of them. He took a principled position and refused to be part of the circus. "I will use whatever influence and popularity that I have to discourage young athletes from taking any drug that is not recommended by a doctor," McGwire said in his testimony. "What I will not do, however, is participate in naming names and implicating my friends and teammates." McGwire spoke against the hypocritical moral indignation that is part of the steroid witch-hunt: "I do not sit in judgment of other players--whether it deals with their sexual preference, their marital problems or their personal habits--including whether or not they used chemical substances. That has never been my style, and I do not intend to change just because the cameras are turned on."
For his refusal to be part of the witch-hunt, McGwire was blasted by the press, and this past year, when he became eligible to be voted into baseball’s Hall of Fame, he was decisively turned down by the voters (who are established sportswriters). It was widely acknowledged that the reason was his refusal to go along with the anti-steroid campaign in his testimony in 2005. Today, to be a baseball hero requires more than the ability to hit or pitch--you have to be willing to rat out your fellow players, you have to take your place in the crusade to cleanse the game of its "stain." And no player missed the threat involved in how McGwire was treated--no matter your accomplishments, even if you have retired from the game, they will still go after you and drag you through the mud and worse if you don’t go along.
And it is not enough to just criticize the use of steroids, far from it. Especially for star players, to be in synch with the demands of the crusade, you have to know just exactly who you can and must finger, and who absolutely cannot be fingered. Jason Giambi, a player for the New York Yankees, who has been implicated in the scandal and who had been hauled before the same Congressional committee as McGwire in 2005, told USA Today recently, "I was wrong for doing that stuff." Giambi went on, "What we should have done a long time ago was stand up--players, ownership, everybody--and said: 'We made a mistake.'"
This caused a sports page sensation, and considerable speculation about whether the Yankee ownership would tear up Giambi’s contract (worth over $100 million). Giambi was quickly hauled before the Commissioner of Baseball, Bud Selig (who is selected by and represents the owners of the teams), and told to shut up. Why? Not because you could interpret his quote to mean that he was admitting guilt for steroid use--that might end his multi-million-dollar career these days, but that was not the real problem in the eyes of the commissioner. No, the real problem was that Giambi pointed the finger at the owners as well as the players--he stated in public what in fact everyone who has looked into this knows--that the entire ownership structure of baseball was deeply implicated in the wide distribution of steroids and performance enhancing drugs in the mad home run rush of the 1990s (and much of the sports press was deeply involved in covering this up). The message to Giambi and everyone connected with the sport was crude and blunt--the role of the team owners in the steroid scandal cannot be admitted or talked about by anyone who wants to make a living on the game.
The hypocrisy here is enormous, and many sportswriters remarked on it. There is a demand on the part of the owners--concentrated in the power of the commissioner--that the players, even stars with multi-million-dollar contracts, be good modern-day slaves and say only what is in their master’s interests and nothing more.
But there is more going on here. If it were just the owners going along and doing what is good for their financial interests, they most likely would never have launched a big campaign against performance enhancing drugs in the first place. But baseball, and sports in general, are about more than just profit-generating entertainment. Sports promote one kind of values and ideology or another, and what kind of values and ideology baseball promotes is the concern not just of baseball but of the whole capitalist system. Especially at times like today. And so a higher power stepped in and gave orders to baseball. This was the point made by George Bush, who called for the purification of baseball (and sports generally) in his 2004 State of the Union address.
To help children make right choices, they need good examples. Athletics play such an important role in our society, but, unfortunately, some in professional sports are not setting much of an example. The use of performance-enhancing drugs like steroids in baseball, football, and other sports is dangerous, and it sends the wrong message--that there are shortcuts to accomplishment, and that performance is more important than character.
By raising the anti-steroid campaign in his State of the Union speech in such a prominent way, Bush was declaring that baseball (and other sports as well, but we will stick to baseball here) are an important way that "values" are projected into society, that there is a big problem with baseball, and that the government was entering into baseball in a big way to make it project values and an outlook consistent with Bush’s overall program--predatory war abroad and repression and Christian fundamentalism at home. And this has special meaning for baseball, which was for many decades "the American pastime" and which has been granted a special place by the government, with laws giving it special exemptions from anti-trust legislation and special tax breaks, to build it up as a special sport to represent America and American values.
Barry Bonds stepping up as the all-time home run king of baseball at just this time did not fit the program. Records are really important in baseball, and the home run record is the most important of all. The most hallowed figure in baseball, Babe Ruth, "saved the game" with his home runs in the era when baseball was whites only. When Henry Aaron, a Black hitter, broke Ruth’s lifetime home run record in the 1970s, he faced death threats and all kinds of racist attacks, and the commissioner of baseball, in what was seen as an open gesture in support of white supremacy, refused to attend the game when Aaron broke the record. Now, with Bonds approaching Aaron’s record, Aaron himself has announced that he will not be in the ball park when Bonds breaks the record, and Bud Selig, the commissioner of baseball, will not say where he will be--but it would not be wise to put money on him being in attendance.
Why Do They Hate Barry Bonds?
What is it with Bonds and why is he under such attack? Bonds has long had a reputation in the press as a self-centered character, hostile to the press. But some reporters admit that there are very big white stars in baseball (e.g., the pitcher Roger Clemens) who act very much like Bonds, but who are treated very, very differently by the press. Many reporters furiously deny that the attack on Bonds has anything to do with racism. It is worth noting the comment by Peter Magowan, CEO of Safeway Supermarkets and owner of the San Francisco Giants: "I don’t believe this is a case of racism. In fact, I think this shows how far we’ve come. If the media brought this up 20 years ago, they would have been considered racists." The fact that the media can get away with the kinds of things it has been saying without being broadly considered racist--when those things would have been considered racist 20 years ago--only points to how deeply national oppression is rooted in America, and how this is getting worse not better, in society overall and in baseball as well. (One thing which is not talked about much is that the number of African-American players and stars in baseball has been steadily going down over the years.)
There is also the way that Bonds isn’t the kind of snitch and flunky that Bush and the lords of baseball are demanding of those who represent "values" in baseball today. At times Bonds shows pointed insight into the hypocrisy of the system. When asked in an interview about the claim that steroid use is "cheating," Bonds replied, "You want to define cheating in America? When they make a shirt in Korea for $1.50 and sell it here for 500 bucks." And in 2005, when Congressional hearings were held on steroids in baseball and people like McGwire and Giambi were called to testify, Bonds was not called. When asked why, since even then Bonds was the most important target, the spokesperson for the Congressional committee, David Marin said, "He tends to ramble and get off-point." I.e., he can’t be trusted to stick to the script.
The Babe Ruth Role Model
In an article titled "How We Learned to Start Worrying and Hate the Bomb: Mickey Mantle, Barry Bonds, and the Bad Boys of Summer," writer Robert Lipsyte had this to say about Babe Ruth and the kind of role model and values he concentrated (which the system venerates):
"In the Bambino, America found its prototype male athlete: the arrogant, self-absorbed rowdy whose excesses, commercial greed, and tunnel vision were justified by winning. The cock-jock has since become a business, entertainment, and political role model."
Barry Bonds has a lot of the outlook and persona Lipsyte describes--and even has a little gold cross hanging from his earlobe. But it is a sign of how deeply national oppression is embedded in this country and all its institutions, that the fact that Bonds is Black and can’t be counted on to tow the ridiculous and vicious ideological line demanded of him has made him the focus of such an intense assault as he nears the all-time home run record.
Bush’s Anti-Steroid Crusade
The anti-steroid crusade championed by George Bush has at bottom nothing to do with making the game more “fair”--what it is really about is enforcing a culture of snitches and some highly paid stars who have to be good “role models” in an increasingly mad and oppressive American culture. The fact that Barry Bonds cannot be tolerated as all-time home run king shows just how serious these people are, and how deadly the changes they are seeking to make in baseball and the culture of the country.
As we go to press, Bonds needs 7 more home runs to tie Hank Aaron’s record. At this point, it is not yet clear whether he will be indicted by the feds for lying to a grand jury before he gets the record, or possibly face some other criminal charge, like tax evasion. But much more important than whether Bonds gets the record is what will come out in opposition to the whole ugly assault represented by the government’s anti-steroid campaign--in baseball and in society overall.
Revolution #67, October 29, 2006
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Revolution #93, June 24, 2007
Liam Madden, and Adam Kokesh, members of the Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), have been waging a political struggle against the U.S. military’s attempts to revoke their “honorable discharge” status because of their public opposition to the war.
Madden and Kokesh have been passionately speaking out against the war, organizing veterans, and joining in protests along with a growing number of Iraq War veterans. They have participated in mock army patrols in several cities organized by IVAW called "Operation First Casualty"--the "first causality" being the truth about the war. On the ABC program Good Morning America, Kokesh explained that these street theater events "bring home a small taste of the reality that Iraqis face every day living in an occupied country."
Liam and Adam are in the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR), a category which means that they are not active duty but could be called back into service in the event of an emergency. The military claims that various restrictions, including on political speech, that apply to active-duty soldiers also apply to those who are in the IRR. A press release from IVAW on the military hearing in Adam’s case states, "The implications of Kokesh's hearing may be far reaching, as the prosecution of a IRR military member under these circumstances is unprecedented."
While still on active duty, Liam Madden co-founded the Appeal For Redress petition to Congress calling for immediate U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, which has been signed by over 2,000 active-duty troops. He is currently on the Advisory Board of World Can’t Wait—Drive Out the Bush Regime. In June Liam received a certified letter from the military saying, "Sgt. Liam Madden is facing administrative action for unauthorized wear of the military uniform and disloyal statement." The military is going after Liam for wearing a part of his military uniform during an anti-war protest and stating during a February 17 speech in New York that "the war in Iraq according to the Nuremberg principles is a war crime and a crime of aggression" and that "the President has betrayed the U.S. service members by committing them to a war crime."
Kokesh received an email from the military that he was being investigated. Aside from being charged with violating regulations for wearing a part of his uniform in “Operation First Casualty,” Adam was accused of making "disrespectful comments to a superior commissioned officer." Speaking about this, Adam said, "I have to ask to those proponents of the current administrations policies, if the cause in Iraq is so just and so righteous, why are you so afraid of the truth? Why is it necessary to silence the voices of Veterans to remove them of their credibility to prevent them from wearing their uniforms while expressing their freedom of speech?"
The military’s attempt to silence Madden and Kokesh has received widespread media coverage. In addition Good Morning America, CNN and the Washington Post have covered the story.
Revoking of honorable discharge status could result in a veteran losing all military benefits including pay, health care, disability benefits, and money for college. At the June 13 hearing for Adam Kokesh, a military panel recommended a "general discharge," which is below honorable discharge and above dishonorable discharge, and which means that military benefits will not be taken away. Adam plans to appeal the recommendation. A hearing for Liam has not been set yet.
The military’s outrageous attempt to silence Kokesh and Madden is part of their efforts to squash the voices of resistance among veterans and active-duty troops. People must oppose this, and support Kokesh, Madden, and others who are stepping out against the U.S. war in Iraq.
Revolution #93, June 24, 2007
The New York Police Department callously transformed the 50th annual Puerto Rican Day Parade from a festive day to express Puerto Rican pride and celebrate Puerto Rican culture into a nightmare scene of brutality and mass arrests. On Sunday, June 10, the NYPD arrested 208 people—mainly young Puerto Ricans—supposedly based on reports that the Latin Kings planned to march in the parade, as they have done in past years.
The NYPD charged 132 of the 208 with unlawful assembly—get this: unlawful assembly at an event sanctioned by the NYPD itself—and said that 145 of those arrested were Latin Kings. How did the cops "know" they were members of the Latin Kings? The cops said their “logic” was that some of the clothes they wore were black and gold—the Latin Kings' colors—or they were seen "making hand signs" identified with the Kings.
Many arrested said they were not members of the Latin Kings. And even if some arrested were Latin Kings, so what? Membership in that group is not illegal. The parade's organizers actually ended up helping the police in this attack by asking the NYPD to arrest Latin Kings who might try to join the parade without the organizers' authorization. That, of course, was the green light the NYPD needed to justify their widespread crackdown. But as the chairwoman of the parade organization said a couple of days later: "Something went dreadfully wrong on Sunday. Dozens of peacefully assembled parade goers were arrested, manhandled, denied their rights and forced to endure a night in jail."
Revolution #93, June 24, 2007
In our last issue, Revolution reported that the immigration bill that was being considered in the Senate hit a major roadblock when its backers failed to close off debate and move to a final vote. It was unclear at the time whether the bill had been stopped for good. (See “Senate Immigration Bill: The Clash in the Halls of Power…and the Real Interests of the People” in issue #92, online at revcom.us.)
Since then, George Bush and the Senate backers of the bill have been pushing hard to “revive” the bill. Immediately after coming back from his European trip (which included attending the G8 summit in Germany of top imperialist powers), Bush met with Republican senators to “lobby” for the bill. Two days later, Senate leaders announced that the bill would come up for consideration again soon.
The Bush White House and the bill’s backers announced a number of changes in the bill that make it even more clear, as we analyzed in our article last issue, that there is nothing good in this bill for the people. A key change is the promise of immediate authorization of $4.4 billion for “border security”—in other words, for increased militarization of the border with more walls, surveillance equipment, armed agents and troops, etc.
Bush said that the $4.4 billion would come out of the fines and back taxes that undocumented immigrants would have to pay in order to apply for a temporary visa that would give them legal permission to work in the U.S. This is yet another outrage among many in this bill: the immigrants themselves would be required to pay for more border militarization, which has already forced more and more immigrants to cross through dangerous desert and mountain areas, leading to the deaths of hundreds each year.
Whatever happens with this particular immigration bill, the rulers’ “immigration reforms” mean a big leap in repression against immigrants and others, and legalization of slave-like conditions for immigrant workers.
Revolution #93, June 24, 2007
In Revolution #83 (3/25/2007), we reported on the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007 that Bush signed into law in October 2006. Quietly slipped into the law at the last minute, at the request of the Bush administration, were sections changing important legal principles, dating back 200 years, which limit the U.S. government’s ability to use the military to intervene in domestic affairs. These changes would allow Bush, whenever he thinks it necessary, to institute martial law—under which the military takes direct control over civilian administration. (See “Bush Paves the Way for Martial Law”, online at revcom.us)
On May 9 Bush took another big step in this direction, without almost any notice in the mainstream press. Bush signed an order designated as National Security Presidential Directive 51 (NSPD 51) and Homeland Security Presidential Directive 20 (HSPD 20). This decree calls for Bush or a subsequent president to assume what is, in essence, dictatorial powers in the event of a “catastrophic emergency.”
The Directive defines “catastrophic emergency” very loosely, saying that it “means any incident, regardless of location, that results in extraordinary levels of mass casualties, damage, or disruption severely affecting the U.S. population, infrastructure, environment, economy, or government functions.” Under this definition, everything from another hurricane like Katrina to a severe economic crisis could be used as a reason for the President to invoke the powers spelled out in the Directive. The “incident” doesn’t even have to take place within the United States.
While the U.S. has historically had various contingency plans in the event of a crisis, this directive breaks in significant ways with what is known about previous directives as well as what historically has been the way the U.S. government has operated. In particular, the Directive gives the President power over the judicial and legislative branches of the U.S. government. The Directive’s definition of “National Essential Functions” includes “ensuring the continued functioning of our form of government,” “defending the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic,” “protecting the nation’s economy and ensuring public confidence in its financial systems.” The Directive says that “the President shall lead the activities of the Federal government for ensuring constitutional government.”
There are some references in the Directive to the separation of powers between the three branches of the U.S. government. And it refers to a “cooperative effort among the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the Federal government.” But the Directive makes it clear that all this is to be “coordinated by the President” and that consultation by the President with other branches “are a matter of comity [courtesy – Revolution].”
Major parts of the Directive, called “continuity Annexes” are classified and have not been made public.
NSPD #51 is just one of a number of measures enacted recently that pave the way for the U.S. President to assume extraordinary new powers. This Directive is also part of an effort by those around Bush to push for a “unitary executive,” where the President has a supreme power over the other branches of government. This constitutional theory has been used, for example, to justify the extensive wiretapping within the U.S., authorized by Bush, which is in clear violation of laws passed by Congress.
The new National Security Directive is part of an extreme agenda of the current core of the U.S. ruling class, which is setting out to create a world empire that is unchallenged and unchallengeable and has embarked on an endless war to bring this about. Along with this, the Bush regime has been greatly intensifying the whole repressive apparatus in the U.S.
Michael Ledeen, a White House advisor during the Reagan administration and a fellow of the right-wing think tank American Enterprise Institute, wrote, “Paradoxically, preserving liberty may require the rule of a single leader—a dictator—willing to use those dreaded 'extraordinary measures,' which few know how, or are willing, to employ." (Machiavelli on Modern Leadership: Why Machiavelli’s Iron Rules Are As Timely and Important Today As Five Centuries Ago, Truman Talley Books, 2007) These words of Ledeen, who has a lot of influence within the Bush regime, bring to mind how the Hitler regime assumed total control in Germany. On February 27, 1933, a fire broke out in the Reichstag (government) building in Germany. The next day Hitler and his Minister of the Interior Hermann Göring drafted the Reichstag Fire Decree, which suspended civil liberties and gave the central government total power. The decree was signed into law within days. After that point, opposition to Hitler became much more difficult.
As we wrote in the article “Bush Paves Way for Martial Law”: “In the U.S. today, extreme measures much like the Reichstag Fire Decree are already being put into place—making it even more urgent that a determined struggle be waged to drive out the Bush regime and reverse this dangerous trajectory.”