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Revolution #97, July 29, 2007
The Democrats’ July 17-18, all-night Senate debate on the Iraq war ended where it began—with no agreement in Congress on what to do and with Bush still running the show and vowing to continue the war.
The Democrats wanted a vote on their resolution to begin pulling U.S. combat troops out of Iraq within four months and to end U.S. combat operations by April 2008. Since everyone knew ahead of time that the Democrats didn't have the 60 votes to either prevent a Republican filibuster or override a Bush veto, it was at least in part a carefully choreographed exercise in imperialist political theater aimed at mollifying their increasingly anti-war base. (Recent polls show that 68 percent of the people disapprove of Bush’s handling of Iraq, 53 percent think the war was a mistake, nearly 44 percent want U.S. forces out by next spring, and 45 percent want Bush impeached.) Yet this political theater was also driven by very deep divisions within the U.S. ruling class, very real necessities confronting them in Iraq and the Middle East, and very high stakes for the U.S. empire.
“Withdrawal From Iraq is the Worst Possible Option, Except for all the Others”
The U.S. invasion and occupation have been a nightmare of death and suffering for the Iraqi people. A study by Johns Hopkins University published in the British medical journal Lancet last year found that an estimated 655,000 Iraqis had been killed as a result of the war. Over three million—one in seven Iraqis—have been driven from their homes. Many have been killed or maimed by the U.S. military, which has committed widespread atrocities—on the ground and from the air—during the occupation. The health care system has largely collapsed. U.S.-led “reconstruction” is a sick joke. Millions don’t even have basic services—over four years after the U.S. stormed into the country, promising “liberation.”
But this is not what’s worrying the U.S. imperialists, who consider this death and destruction as necessary “collateral damage” in their war for empire. Both the Bush administration and the Democrats refuse to expose the war’s staggering toll on Iraqis, and the bourgeois media censors it. None have demanded the U.S. take moral, political and financial responsibility for the carnage brought by the U.S. occupation and the sectarian violence it’s unleashed. None have condemned the war crimes and crimes against humanity still being committed by U.S. forces. And none are speaking out against how the “surge” has meant increased U.S. violence.
What is a big concern for the imperialists (both Republican and Democrat alike) is that the situation for the U.S. in Iraq is increasingly untenable and could seriously undermine the grip of U.S. imperialism in the entire Middle East. And there’s no debate in their ranks over the need to maintain U.S. dominance of this region, which has 80% of the world's energy resources. (See Larry Everest, “The Imperialist Debate Over Iraq: How to Best Maintain a Ruthless, Unjust Empire,” Revolution #96, July 22, 2007.)
The Bush regime invaded Iraq as part of a broad agenda which aimed to beat back anti-U.S. Islamic fundamentalism which was increasingly threatening U.S. domination in the entire region. Yet after years of occupation and military escalation, the Iraqi puppet government, put together by the U.S., remains fractured and weak, unable to govern the country. Attacks on U.S. forces continue unabated, with 5,335 in the month of June alone, the highest daily average since May 2003. Sectarian fighting continues and an all-out civil war and/or fragmentation of the country is a real possibility.
Meanwhile, a new National Intelligence Estimate assesses that al-Qaeda and anti-U.S. Islamic fundamentalist trends have gained strength in the past several years throughout the region, fueled in large part by the U.S. war in Iraq. And potential crises and military confrontations are springing up across the region, between Turkey and Iraq’s Kurds, between Israel and Palestine, between Lebanon and Syria, and within Pakistan.
Confronted with all this, Bush and Cheney argue the U.S. must stay on the offense, continue its overall “war on terror,” and confront and destroy its adversaries. Bush demands the surge continue and that “victory” is possible. And he argues that “a free and stable Iraq is still in reach” and that to scale back in Iraq at this point, “would send an unmistakable signal to America’s enemies that our country can be bullied into retreat.”
Democratic opponents of Bush counter that a “free and stable Iraq,” is a pipe dream, that Bush’s invasion of Iraq has fueled Islamic fundamentalism and made matters worse across the region. The U.S. must regroup, they insist, cut its losses, and change course or face even more disastrous defeats for U.S. imperialism. Former State Department official Wayne White has said that, “withdrawal from Iraq is the worst possible option, except for all the others.” And Zbigniew Brzezinski, former U.S. Security Adviser, recently put it this way: “The challenge that we face is rooted much more in the immediate problem which we have partially created. Namely, we are the number one superpower today in the world, we are the only super power. But our leadership has been tested in the Middle East. And some may think that what we have done in the Middle East are contributing to a potential explosion region wide. And if that explosion gets out of hand, we may end up getting bogged down for many years to come in a conflict that will be profoundly damaging to our capacity to exercise our power.” (Charlie Rose, June 15, 2007)
But the Democrats’ plan would not end the Iraq war—it would leave tens of thousands of troops there indefinitely, supposedly to conduct “anti-terrorism” operations, train pro-U.S. Iraqi forces, and protect U.S. assets (oil companies? military bases?) The Democrats could end the war by refusing to pass the bill appropriating money for the military. But they refuse to do that, and are instead going to vote to spend $649 billion for the U.S.’s global military machine.
Real and Growing Threat of a Military Attack on Iran
As the debate in the U.S. government over Iraq has intensified, there have been new steps toward a possible military action against Iran.
On July 16, the Guardian (UK) reported that nearly half the U.S.'s 277 warships are stationed close to Iran, including two aircraft carrier groups, with another carrier on the way.
The Guardian reports: “The balance in the internal White House debate over Iran has shifted back in favor of military action before President George Bush leaves office in 18 months, the Guardian has learned. The shift follows an internal review involving the White House, the Pentagon and the State Department over the last month. Although the Bush administration is in deep trouble over Iraq, it remains focused on Iran. A well-placed source in Washington said: ‘Bush is not going to leave office with Iran still in limbo.’” (http://www.guardian.co.uk/usa/story/0,,2127115,00.html)
This shift was reportedly a product of Bush and Cheney’s “frustration” that diplomacy hadn’t forced the Iranians to capitulate to U.S. demands, and their fear that the next administration—whether Republican or Democrat—wouldn’t “deal with Iran decisively.” The Bush regime was also concerned about the fallout of Israel carrying out strikes on Iran by itself.
This report comes amid what the Washington, DC website www.Swoop.net calls “continuing emphasis by US commanders in Iraq on the Iranian connection to the killing of US soldiers there,” which US officials tell Swoop “reflects instructions from the Administration intended to build wide public opposition to Iran.” Swoop adds, “We believe that this strategy is succeeding.” (“Iran: Where Will We Be in 2009? July 8th 2007).
On July 1 in Baghdad, for instance, a top U.S. general claimed that Iranians were behind the January raid in Karbala that led to deaths of five U.S. soldiers. The New York Times noted that this “marks the first time that the United States has charged that Iranian officials have helped plan operations against American troops in Iraq and have had advance knowledge of specific attacks that have led to the death of American soldiers.”
The Senate—both Democrats and Republicans—have joined the war chorus, passing a resolution 97-0 on July 11 threatening Iran that “the murder of members of the United States Armed Forces by a foreign government or its agents is an intolerable act of hostility against the United States.”
These bellicose charges are part outright lies, part distortion, aimed at creating public opinion and pretexts and tripwires for attacking Iran. As I have pointed out before, 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.
Debate on Iraq, Agreement on Iran
The fact that the Democrats oppose Bush on what to do about the war in Iraq, but are in agreement with the Republicans when it comes to aggressively countering Iran, is not a case of hypocrisy or paradoxical, but in fact, reveals the nature of the Democrats' “opposition” to the Bush administration, which flows from the same concern and goal: how to preserve America’s imperial position in the Middle East.
Both Democrats and Republicans are united in thinking that Iran is becoming a bigger and bigger problem in the region—in large part because of the impact of the war in Iraq. So they agree on the need to weaken, perhaps overthrow, Iran’s Islamic Republic. They want to prevent Iran from exerting more influence in Iraq and the region. They are also determined to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons—not because they fear an Iranian strike on the U.S. or Israel—but because Iran’s possession of even one or two nukes would significantly alter the regional military and political balance and impede U.S. and Israeli freedom of action.
“The leading Democratic presidential candidates all favor a tough approach to Iran,” Swoop.net reports. “A senior Democratic foreign policy adviser commented privately to us: ‘Iran will be a central issue for any Democratic president. On the Iranian nuclear issue, there is no difference between Bush and us.’”
The Republicans derided the Democrat’s all-night Senate session as a “slumber party.” There was truth there, but not the way the Republicans meant it. The danger isn’t the Democrats going to sleep on the job. The danger is that their anti-war posturing will induce a “slumber” of passivity among those who want to end the war. The real danger lies in relying on and waiting until the 2008 election -- at a time when it is more urgent than ever for millions to take mass, independent action to drive the Bush regime from power and repudiate its entire agenda of war endless war for empire.
Revolution #97, July 29, 2007
The August 3rd issue of Revolution will be a special, updated expansion and fundraising broadsheet: Truth…in Preparation for Revolution! With this special issue, we aim to unleash an unprecedented movement throughout society to raise $500,000 by the end of this year, to expand the reach of Revolution, and to put this paper on a whole new playing field.
This special issue will be released at kick-off events the weekend of August 4-5.
Think about the difference it would make—right now, and for the future—if the societal impact of Revolution took a quantum leap.
BOX / CALLOUT FROM THE COMING BROADSHEET: At a moment when much of humanity finds itself in a living hell, when the horror of the U.S. occupation of Iraq threatens to escalate into a war against Iran, and when the future of the planet itself is threatened, Revolution newspaper must be out there much more boldly and much more broadly—exposing what is going on, revealing why, and pointing to a revolutionary solution in the interests of the vast majority of humanity.
Imagine what it would be like if tens of thousands of people were regular readers of Revolution, getting this paper on a weekly basis. Imagine this paper being all over housing projects, coast to coast. Widely circulated in prisons, influential among scientists, students, musicians, anti-war activists, and artists, available along the routes traveled by migrant farm workers, and spread all over the web!
Think, too, about how people’s visions of another possible world would expand if the work of Bob Avakian was connecting with tens of thousands of people weekly through Revolution.
And what if all this takes off on a level where this paper is creating such a buzz that it couldn’t be ignored in the mainstream media?
Actually, we’ve seen beginnings of this already. Three thousand people helped get out 600,000 copies of the special issue of Revolution, “The Crossroads We Face—The Leadership We Need—a Special Issue of Revolution about Bob Avakian.” And tens of thousands of copies of a special issue, “We Are Human Beings, We Demand a Better World, We Will Not Accept Slavery in Any Form” were distributed at immigrants rights protests this year on May First.
The promise revealed in that experience has to be built on, developed, and made into consistent, sustained influence of this paper, in print, online, nationwide,and worldwide. And that takes a lot of money.
We All Can Do This…
We all can do this. It’s going to take $500,000 to take the first important steps in realizing the potential of this paper—to get to a place from which we can really aim for society wide impact. Picture this: Using some of this money to buy ads on busses and billboards in major cities!
…YOU, and people like you can make this happen.
Raising money is an essential part of the revolution. It is an important way that the revolutionary movement connects with all kinds of new people, engages with critical perspectives, and gets invigorated with fresh ideas. And giving money is an important way for people to support the revolution.
The Revolution expansion and fund drive lifts off on the weekend of August 4-5, in cities across the country. On that weekend, the updated, special issue of the Revolution fund drive broadsheet will be unpacked and put into the hands of…YOU! And many more people.
This broadsheet will break down for people what this newspaper is, why they need it, and how they can help it spread its influence throughout society by distributing it, and by raising money. It will feature comments from a unique mix of people coming from widely varying points of view as to why this newspaper is important.
Getting out this special issue of Revolution will lay the basis for reaching way out into society to raise money. In the projects and prisons and sweatshops, on high school and college campuses, at house parties in the suburbs, and from people with substantial resources…all kinds of people can and must be challenged to find their way to support this paper in their own way, from their own perspectives.
Starting right now, YOU can play a critical role in making this all happen. Come to kick-off events over the weekend of August 4-5, where you’ll get hooked up with bundles of this special fundraising issue of Revolution. And at many of these events, you’ll be able to meet and talk to writers from Revolution. Teams will be formed. You’ll hear about ambitious goals. And you’ll contribute to figuring out exciting plans. One important part of all this is for many, many people to pledge to raise $100 or more. There are a thousand ways to raise $100 or more for this fund drive, ways that rely on people and their creativity and desire to see this paper having much more influence. To help, there will be resources, organizing kits, and help and advice for raising money and expanding the reach of this paper at revcom.us/drive/ and at the kick-off.
Another focus will be Labor Day weekend, when we are calling on people to sell thousands of “Wanted” t-shirts (see picture on this page). To have people buying this shirt, and finding out about Revolution at swap meets, from street vendors, in retail stores, from vendors outside concerts, from door-to-door sellers, and beyond.
To find an event in your area, or to get help organizing one, contact RCP Publications (see contact information below), or call the Revolution Books store nearest you (see list on contact page).
Wherever and whoever you are, however you connect with Revolution, whatever it is this paper that you find intriguing, provocative, compelling or addictive about this paper … join in!
Contact vendors and flea market sellers to get advance orders.
T-shirt artwork will be available for download at the Fundraising Resources page at revcom.us.
Contact RCP Publications to download t-shirt files or order t-shirts.
And…you can sign up as a monthly sustainer, and get a print subscription to Revolution.
Note: Contributions or gifts to RCP Publications are not deductible as charitable contributions for federal income tax purposes. At the present time, RCP Publications cannot accept any contributions or gifts from readers who reside outside the borders of the United States.
Revolution #97, July 29, 2007
Dear Revolution Readers,
I plan to travel to Jena, Louisiana to expose the injustice done to the Jena Six. Your generous contribution to the Revolution Newspaper Reporters Fund will make my trip possible.
The recent articles I wrote on the Jena Six brought you the story of six Black youth who live in a segregated town called Jena, Louisiana. Jim Crow injustice could result in their imprisonment for decades for a schoolyard fight that took place after lynching nooses were hung from a tree in the schoolyard (see "Free the Jena Six, Jim Crow Injustice in Jena, Louisiana, by Alice Woodward" from Revolution #96).
This is happening today... not the fifties, or slavery days. Lynching ropes hanging in the schoolyard of a high school! Black students had a shotgun shoved in their faces, and are being charged with a crime for taking the shotgun from the white racist who was threatening them. The white attackers of Robert Bailey are allowed to go free without charges, and six black students face decades in prison for a schoolyard fight. And nobody knows about this! One student, Mychal Bell, was convicted of two felonies already, and faces up to 22 years in jail. The mother of another youth facing felony charges said, “They want to take these kids, my son as well as all these other children, lock them up and throw away the key, that’s a tradition, for Black males, so they want to keep that tradition going because they want to keep institutionalized slavery alive and well.”
Many people who read this story in Revolution were shocked, and outraged, and are spreading the word, calling on others to defend the Jena Six. One reader wrote: “I was deeply touched by this incredible story, I'd like to know if there is any means to protest against this awful decision and give my support.” Another reader wrote, “What can someone do voice outrage?”
How much more is there to learn about the trial, and what’s going on in the town of Jena? What is the underlying reality of what's happening there and why are things like this? I need to travel to Jena to learn the whole story, to expose the injustice, and to defend the Jena Six. Traveling there will allow me to examine this story and more deeply understand where this situation is coming from, and its part in the history of racism and segregation of this country. And bring that all back to the pages of Revolution.
I have been corresponding with family members of the Jena Six, and talking with community members in Jena, as well as those helping to organize people around the country in their defense. I asked Marcus Jones, Mychal Bell's father, to help me explain to readers what it would mean for me to travel there to continue reporting and he said: "It would mean somethin' for the rest of the country and the world to know how racism still exists and how people that’s in politics and certain divisions still use their power to do the less fortunate wrong. It’s a real contribution for ya'll to get the story out and let people who live in other parts of America know what still exists."
Sending Revolution reporters like myself to cover this and other stories is an important part of what we will be able to do through raising $500,000 in Revolution's six-month expansion and fund drive. Your generous contribution will send me to Jena for a firsthand account of the situation there. And your contribution will allow Revolution to continue to report on the stories that you want to see brought to light and exposed, but are left ignored by the mainstream media.
The events in Jena, Louisiana around the trial of the Jena Six are developing almost from day to day. On July 31, Mychal Bell will be sentenced at the LaSalle Parish courthouse. There are plans for people to go there and rally to support him. Parents of the Jena Six suspect the trials of the five others will begin sometime in August or September. The church in the black community that recently hosted a meeting around the Jena Six has been vandalized and attacked.
How much more is there to learn about the trial, and what’s going on in the town of Jena? What is the underlying reality of what's happening there and why?
The Revolution Reporters Fund will make trips like this possible. Your generous contribution will make a huge difference in our ability to bring stories like this to the world.
Revolution #97, July 29, 2007
We received the following from a reader.
I wanted to let you know about a garage sale that a few of us organized to raise funds for the $500,000 Revolution newspaper fund drive. We raised $300 for the newspaper and had a lot of fun in the process.
My roommate went out to people at her work. Some of them had read the newspaper off and on, but mainly they weren’t that familiar with the paper. We used the supplement, “Truth In Preparation for Revolution” in Revolution #89 to explain what the fund drive is all about. What impressed the people at her work was the diversity of the quotes from people who said they read and liked the paper.
An old friend who is a chef made some delicious organic rice-crispy chocolate things for us to sell.
A woman that I know helped price all of the items. She donated books, and went out door-to-door in her neighborhood, talking to people about Revolution, using issue #89 and getting them to contribute items for the sale. She reads the paper sometimes, especially when it has articles about the oppression of Black people. She had particularly liked the series of articles by Bob Avakian that were published in Revolution this year for Black History Month (The Oppression of Black People and the Revolutionary Struggle to End All Oppression). She told me that she’s never seen such a deep and realistic analysis of slavery. .
Someone else donated some of his books and asked his relatives to donate items.He had recently bought the Revolution DVD and had been closely following in Revolution the battle over dissent and critical thinking in academia, especially the attacks on Professors Finkelstein and Churchill. We advertised the sale on the online bulletin board Craig’s List and put signs up around the neighborhood. Our advertisements let people know that it was a benefit for Revolution. At the garage sale we had copies of the newspaper and an enlargement of the front page of the supplement announcing the fund and expansion drive.
At the sale, we got to know some of our neighbors better. One guy remembered the paper and Bob Avakian from the 1980s. He asked about Bob Avakian and his memoir, which he had heard about. Another neighbor, who I had previously had disagreements with about the role of a “neighborhood watch” program, checked out the article by Linda Flores about criminalization of youth. We ended up in a discussion of why the schools today are more like prisons, a point she agreed with.
The sale did generate some controversy. When we told one couple that it was a benefit for Revolution newspaper, the man started putting back things that he had picked up, clearly not wanting to contribute. Meanwhile the woman that he was with started picking up even more items.
Looking back, we realize there is a lot more potential for people to contribute and to get involved than we first understood. And for them, in turn, to involve others. This experience, while small, gave us a sense of that there are many, many people who can recognize the unique character of Revolution newspaper and take up supporting it in many ways.
Revolution #97, July 29, 2007
Editors' Note: The following are excerpts from an edited version of a talk by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, to a group of Party supporters, in the fall of last year (2006). This is the 14th 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.
The Only Hope the Masses Have—and the Responsibility We Have
This is the only chance the masses have. They don't have any other chance. Mobile Shaw1 was right: we are collectively the only hope the masses of people have. Of course, there are other communists throughout the world. But collectively we are the only hope the masses of people have and the only hope the world has—hope that all this craziness and destruction and sacrifice that's coming anyway is going to turn toward something much better. We must not shrink from that role. And we must never forget that this is our role, through everything we're doing. Even when we're sitting down and having a cup of coffee with people—and overall in working our way through a lot of things that are short of revolution—we can't ever forget that this is what it's all got to be aimed for. We've got to have those broad arms and that sweeping vision; and, as I've said before, we've got to be willing to go right to the brink of being "drawn and quartered,"2 without allowing that to actually happen, in order to move all this forward.
This is our responsibility. If there's going to be a united front from a strategic standpoint—and if it's going to be a united front under the leadership of the proletariat—in both aspects, and in the essence of this, it requires our leadership. It requires lots of people, from many different strata, taking a lot of initiative and doing a lot of creative things and being unleashed in ways that are unexpected and surprising to us—positively, not only negatively!—but it requires our leadership in overall and fundamental terms.
As I've spoken to a number of times, there are plenty of contradictions, including acute ones, within the proletariat itself, broadly speaking. To point to a very glaring and acutely posed one now, take the contradictions between Black masses, on the one hand, and Latino masses and immigrants, on the other hand. I was talking about this with some comrades not long ago and we were observing (with perhaps slight but unfortunately not great exaggeration) that 90% of the Black masses have a bad line on the immigrants and 90% of the immigrants have a bad line on the Black masses! That's the reality we're dealing with. And how is that going to change? Where are the understanding and the programmatic policies going to come from to lead and mobilize people in a radically different direction and to achieve a synthesis that unites them on the basis of their fundamental interests? Nowhere else than from the standpoint of communism and through our playing our role as a communist vanguard. These are the realities. I don't believe that statement is hyperbole. And if these realities don't show you the need for a communist vanguard, then I don't know what will.
We've got to work and struggle our way through this—through all these contradictions, including those that are fostered between different sections of the basic masses. Where do the fundamental interests of the masses—all these masses—lie? And even the white proletarians—who are not just a few, around and about, but who number in the millions and millions—what are their fundamental interests? And how do those interests get expressed? Or the middle strata in society, including the huge numbers who are straining against the hold of their prejudices and illusions—how are they going to get moved in a way that's going to lead toward a positive resolution out of all the turmoil and upheaval that has been and will increasingly be unleashed in the world—a resolution in the interests of humanity?
We have two things going for us, against all the very big things that we have to confront, the gigantic and momentous things we have to go up against, the very daunting things. One is our dialectical materialist outlook and method, our scientific approach to reality. And the other is reality itself and its motion and development, which that outlook and methodology reflect and encompass. Are the fundamental and essential interests of the masses of people going to be served by Black masses lining up with reactionaries against the immigrants, while the immigrants are mobilized around a line that all Black people are lazy and don't want to work? We know the answer to that—and we should never forget the answer to that. And we should go deeply into this with the masses of people, both in the ideological dimension and practically in terms of what we mobilize them to do and how we mobilize them to take the political stage.
So we have to be, at one and the same time, working among the middle strata and building a metaphorical—or political and ideological—fire under the middle strata, in a good way, by bringing forward increasing numbers of people, particularly from among the basic masses, as revolutionaries, as communists, as emancipators of humanity. And we have to recognize the need to not just engage with, but to struggle—yes, sometimes sharply, but in any case consistently, and at the same time in a principled way and from a lofty plane—to wage struggle with people while having an orientation of striving to win people over and of uniting the greatest number possible at any time, in order for people of all strata to be moved in the way they need to be moved. But we do need to light this political and ideological fire, and we really need to be taking the whole thing, this whole communist thing, very boldly out in every corner of society, particularly among the basic masses, but among every strata. If we don't do that, then the attempts, as important as they are, to work among various strata—and to build united fronts involving people of many different ideological and political viewpoints and perspectives, including major united front efforts like World Can't Wait—will not succeed, will not break through on the level and scale they need to.
1. Willie “Mobile” Shaw was a member of the RCP. He grew up in and lived his whole life in the Nickerson Gardens Housing Projects in Watts, Los Angeles; after working with the revolutionaries there for a period of time, he joined the Party. The hardship of his life conditions led to his having a serious illness, and he died on November 24, 2005, due to complications following surgery. See the pamphlet Statement by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, on the Occasion of the Death of Willie “Mobile” Shaw, available online at revcom.us. [back]
2. In a number of works, including the book Observations on Art and Culture, Science and Philosophy (Insight Press, 2005), Bob Avakian speaks to this concept of being--or going to the brink of being--"drawn and quartered," in developing and leading a revolutionary movement and the new socialist society that will be brought into being through revolution. This is linked to the concept of "solid core, with a lot of elasticity," which Bob Avakian puts forward as a basic guiding principle for the revolutionary struggle and for socialist society, and for those who lead in this process. See, for example, in the Observations book, "Bob Avakian in a Discussion with Comrades on Epistemology: On Knowing and Changing the World," pp. 43-64, especially p. 64; and "Intoxicated with the Truth," pp. 68-73, including footnote 2 on p. 68. [back]
Revolution #97, July 29, 2007
They say in comedy that timing is everything. Certainly this summer’s blockbuster comedy hit, Knocked Up, about the aftermath of a disastrous one-night-stand between Alison (Katherine Heigl) and Ben (Seth Rogen), is uniquely a product of these times. The worst of these times, that is.
While Judd Apatow, the film’s creator, is pro-choice and insists he is not trying to make any kind of statement with the movie, Knocked Up is nothing less than an ideological sledgehammer chock-full of the hard-core anti-abortion, patriarchal, and traditional values that are on the rise today. That it is a skillful work of art told with the smug comedic sensibilities of a raunchy “post-feminist” generation--replete with awkward sex scenes, smart cultural references, disdainful jabs at the stereotypes of married life, and no allusions to religion--only makes its vicious underlying social conservatism more insidious. Even deadly.
Widely dubbed this generation’s signature movie, akin to The Graduate 40 years ago, this film should be taken as an urgent and frightening wake-up call.
This film portrays the decision of a young successful professional to carry to term an unplanned pregnancy and to marry the man involved, no matter how repulsive, as a path to fulfillment she didn’t even know she was missing.
Alison, the film’s obvious projection of its female ideal, combines the boring-as-cardboard stereotypes of knock-out blond beauty and girl-next-door goodness, but beyond that she is empty. She offers no witty banter, doesn’t get the male characters’ funny movie references, and patiently endures one insult after another. Despite being a rising on-camera entertainment interviewer, she utters stunning throw-backs like, “How do I know you can take care of me and my baby?”
In keeping with the recent Supreme Court ruling that elevated the health and “interests” of fetuses in relationship to the woman, the film shows more dynamism and development in its portrayal of its fetus--filling the screen first with cells dividing, then with a pulsing sonogram at 9 weeks, at 16 weeks, at 24 weeks, and at 28 weeks--than it shows in the development of Alison’s character.
Not only this, but abortion is never seriously considered. Those who even hint at it are portrayed as selfish and uncaring: Alison’s icy-cold mother tells her to “take care of it” while Ben’s friend wins laughs when he can’t bring himself to utter the word and instead suggests that “it rhymes with shmashmortion.” As one reviewer--completely content to join the film in its post-abortion nightmare universe--put it, after discovering her pregnancy, “Alison is faced with a daunting choice: going it alone or getting to know the baby’s father.”
So, who is this “father” that Alison “responsibly” gets to know? Ben lives with a tribe of jobless pot-smoking friends who spend their days documenting the exact second when women appear naked in movies. When Alison tells him she is pregnant, he yells at her in public, blaming her sexual over-eagerness for his failure to use a condom (somehow in this movie, as in Apatow’s40-Year-Old Virgin, putting on a condom is prohibitively difficult). He insists that she knew their sex was unprotected and says to her, “Was your vagina drunk, too?”
Coming 10 years after the word vagina was ushered into mainstream culture through generation-wide readings of Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues at high schools and colleges and major stages around the world, this film seems on a mission to restore public contempt for this part of women’s bodies. Through more than half a dozen references, the film insists vaginas are ugly, disgusting, gross, and in need of reconstructive surgery after childbirth. At the height of the movie’s comedic build-up, three screen-wide vagina shots are successfully engineered to elicit “ews” from the audience. And of all the lines in the movie, it is a man being told “Don’t let the door hit you in the vagina on the way out” that gets repeated--and marveled at--by the film’s hero, Ben.
Much more than Alison, it is her sister, Debbie (Leslie Mann), who undergoes transformation. And it is this transformation, together with Ben’s, that concentrates the morality of this movie.
Debbie begins as an embodiment of everything women supposedly become if men “subject” themselves to marriage; she is nagging, cold, annoying, controlling, obsessive, uninteresting, and superficial. She obsesses over her deteriorating attractiveness as a sexual commodity, lashing out at younger women. She even calls her children’s babysitter a “high school c**t.” It is Debbie who drives her husband, who doesn’t even want an affair, to tell her lies just to escape long enough to play fantasy baseball.
The climactic scene of the movie is during childbirth. After disappearing for months Ben reemerges. He’s purchased a house, gotten a job, and finally read the baby books, but these are not the things that prove him ready for fatherhood. He also has not become sensitive to Alison’s needs and to the friendship and support shared between her and her sister, or developed any sort of remorse for his negligence (he admits freely that he never doubted she would take him back).
Instead, he proves himself by asserting absolute ownership over Alison and the soon-to-be child. When Debbie, who went through birth-training with Alison, arrives to help her sister, he takes her into the hall. Out of nowhere he starts yelling, “That’s MY room now! Back the fuck off!” He points to the waiting room and says, “That’s your area. You stay out of MY ROOM and go be in YOUR AREA!”
Debbie, publicly insulted and literally “put in her place,” is speechless for the first time. She slumps into a chair next to her husband in the waiting room and sulks. Then something remarkable happens. She softens. “I like him…He’ll make a good father and he’ll take care of her,” she says. Turns out, she was annoying and cold because there wasn’t a man in her life taking charge. In the absence of male domination, she wasn’t allowed to be feminine and submissive the way she becomes in this final scene. It truly is a Promise Keeper moment.
The underlying conservative currents are not lost on the Christian right. “While the film contains much vulgar and crass content,” writes ChristianAnswers.net, “there are numerous excellent morals.” The reviewer praises the film for shooting down any suggestion of abortion as well as its themes of fatherhood, parental responsibility, and marriage. He continues, “The scriptwriters probably made a mistake in including such vulgar content, as they have isolated a large portion of what would be their target audience. And this is disappointing, as the film has…numerous unusually responsible themes.”
But this movie wasn’t made for a conservative Christian audience. It was made for the 20-somethings who are smart and savvy and having one-night stands and embracing porn culture. It was made for those shaped by Sex and the City -style “feminism” where participating in the commodification of sex and women’s bodies is thought to be a form of “liberation.” It is made for a generation that is technically pro-choice, but increasingly becoming convinced that abortion is “irresponsible,” “tragic,” and even “sinful.”
But this is also a generation that is morally adrift, bumping up against the spiritual morass of a highly me-driven and hedonistic culture--much of it brilliantly caricatured in this movie. In the midst of this, it is no doubt refreshing to watch a story where, for once, the man doesn’t duck out immediately after sleeping with a woman. But this film’s romanticized view of “doing the right thing,” marrying up, and keeping the baby is sheer fiction. Ask anyone who lived through the 1950s or earlier, when women who got pregnant were called “knocked up”--a pejorative that goes right along with enforced “shotgun marriages” and the view that sexually active women deserve to have their lives foreclosed and that women belong in the kitchen “barefoot and pregnant.”
What’s needed is something new--a culture and ethos where women and men both get to be funny and smart and in charge of their life decisions. Where relationships are entered into voluntarily, based on mutual respect and equality. Where children are a joy to individuals or couples who plan to have them--but no one is guilt tripped or coerced into having a child they don’t want. Where certainly no one has a child under the cruelly propagated bullshit notion that only motherhood can bring unparallelled meaning to a woman’s life.
What is needed is many things--in relation to the culture and to women and to children and to humor. But what is certainly NOT needed is a return to the traditional patriarchal family NOR a free-fall into its use-or-be-used, self-indulgent patriarchal reincarnation. In reality, if not yet in the movies, these are not our only choices.
Revolution #97, July 29, 2007
Dr. Dennis Loo is Associate Professor, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, co-editor of Impeach the President: the Case Against Bush and Cheney (Seven Stories Press, 2006), and member of the World Can’t Wait--Drive Out the Bush Regime National Steering Committee. The following has been excerpted from a full version of the article available online at worldcantwait.org.
Bringing Forth a Competing, Legitimate Authority
“It is up to the rest of us to rouse ourselves and rouse others, to bring forth from the grassroots new social movement leaders to constitute an alternative and powerful counter-force that fundamentally alters the overall political atmosphere, providing a competing legitimate authority to the bankrupt and illegitimate authority now leading this country. The existing establishment has left us no other choice.”--Preface, Impeach the President
When I wrote the above I meant it literally. We need to create a counter, legitimate leadership. This is key to getting people to move in more determined and larger ways. And it is key to driving Bush and Cheney from office and creating a very different political atmosphere overall.
There are three main dimensions to this that the Declare It Now! campaign is designed to help us address. All three have to do with pitting our particular strengths against our adversary’s weaknesses. The first has to do with a particular approach to mobilizing the people. The second has to do with morality and ideology. The third has to do with bringing forth models. All three are designed to wrest the people away from the influence of the existing leadership.
As to the first leg: DIN! is based on the fact that a majority of people already want to see Bush and Cheney impeached.* This is a strategic factor very much in our favor. 58% said they wanted to see Bush and Cheney “gone already” in a January 2007 Newsweek poll. In Newsweek ’s October 2006 poll, 51% said they wanted to see Bush and Cheney impeached (Revealingly, this isn’t how Newsweek presented the figures. They couldn’t bring themselves to add the percent who wanted impeachment to be the new Democratic majority’s top priority to the percent of those who wanted it to be a priority but not the top priority). The October and January polls are consistent with what pollsters have recorded since June of 2005.
We have a majority despite the fact that most people don’t know but a fraction of what Bush and Cheney have been doing and despite the determined, implacable, continuous opposition of the political leadership and opinion-makers.
How is that even possible? How can there be such a huge gap between where the public is at and where the political and opinion-leaders are? It’s possible because what Bush and Cheney have been doing is so egregious, so blatant and so drastic that it’s impossible to cover it up entirely.
What Bush and Cheney represent is not an aberration but the cutting edge of a rupture from the historic social compact in the U.S. The dominant forces in the government are building a new compact in a fascist-like state. Fascism, it should be recalled, as Sinclair Lewis put it in 1935, “will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a bible” when it comes to America. The government as a whole is headed in this direction. Things have come an exceedingly long way at a breathtakingly rate. What was unthinkable several months ago is now an accomplished fact.
The rationale for martial rule (the “global war on terror”), the requisite laws (the Warner Act, NSPD-51), the propaganda machine (especially Fox News, Limbaugh, etc.) and the “soldiers in their army of God” are all in place. The only element lacking now is a precipitating incident/pretext such as another, more devastating 9/11: a nuclear device being set off in a major American city, an avian flu epidemic, or Iran retaliating after a military attack upon it by Israel or the U.S. All of these scenarios are not only possible: they are likely. Michael Scheuer, former top CIA analyst in charge of hunting down Osama bin Laden and author of Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror, told 60 Minutes in 2004 that another 9/11 attack is virtually a certainty.1
Bush and Cheney’s huge unpopularity now would be rendered moot overnight after another major 9/11-type incident. Moreover, OBL wants the neocons in power, profits from it, and would likely time an attack to have maximum impact on the next presidential election and thereby assist Bush and Cheney and the forces they represent. He has done this before--e.g., his message on the eve of the 2004 election the CIA concluded was designed to help Bush. We have no assurance that an election in 2008 will even be held.
The Voiceless Need to Find Their Voice
The people need to find their voice. The invisible needs to become visible. Too much is at stake not to find a way to resolve this conundrum and barrier. We in this country have a profound responsibility to the country and the world. What we do or fail to do over the next several months and year or so will have enormous repercussions.
We might compare our situation to that of a group of people who are struggling to prevent a levee from collapsing by rising floodwaters and heavy, thunderstorm rains. Our group has set up a line moving sandbags hand-to-hand to the levee, but because the numbers in the rescue group are very small, we are not going to be able to succeed unless a whole lot of other people join our line and participate. Those others need to join the rescue effort and if they do the levees will hold. But the time is growing short and the water is rising rapidly.
The orange everywhere (ribbons, bandanas, T-shirts, etc.) theme of DIN! is designed to make the invisible a visible, material force. If only 2% of the 58%+ who want to see Bush and Cheney gone were to wear orange we would literally have millions demonstrating their opposition to this regime. Tens of millions, at least, would see all around them the color of mass sentiment and then it wouldn’t matter if the media covered us or not! People would be seeing it live and in person.
Demonstrations and rallies, while they are important, are not going to suddenly or incrementally grow to the magnitude that we need. Even if we got say 500,000 to come to DC, and even if we got 1,000 to stay camped out indefinitely--I’m not saying these aren’t worthwhile things to do, but even if we did this, what kind of media coverage could we realistically expect? The same kind of jaundiced media coverage we’ve gotten in the past. Tactics that depend for their success on media attention need to be supplemented by tactics that don’t rely heavily for their success on media attention.
It’s important to recognize the level of unanimity that is at work within the government today and the stakes involved. To illustrate: the New York Times had the same or even more information as did the anti-war movement about how fraudulent the arguments and “facts” were that were being bandied about prior to the Iraq invasion. The Times refused, however, to oppose the war and in fact played an extremely important role in legitimizing that war. Likewise, the Times and other papers had access to the reports that were available about the exit polls and other glaring facts proving that the 2004 election was stolen. Yet they refused to take these data seriously and in fact the Times never once mentioned exit polls in their reports and commentary on the election results. Instead they spread the false notion that the so-called “moral values” voters turned the tide in Bush’s favor.
A dramatic shift has been underway (which is analyzed more in Impeach the President overall but especially in the Preface, the second half of Chapter 2, in Chapter 5, 6 and 14). The neocons represented by Bush and Cheney have the decisive upper hand. The opposition to this (e.g., embodied in Gore’s The Assault on Reason ) is by comparison feeble and, even more importantly, unwilling to unleash the masses because it would possibly spell their own demise as elites and also because they can’t think outside the parameters of imperialism and the U.S. as the “leader” and unrivaled superpower. The only way to really take on the radical right, of course, is to unleash the people.
The government is making an historic and decisive move to restructure the fundamental bases of unity in the U.S. and to rupture with key provisions of the Constitution (due process, habeas corpus, innocent until proven guilty…) and international law and institutions (Geneva Conventions, the UN, et al). This presents us with extraordinary danger as well as an extraordinary opportunity. They are in the midst of what I would describe as analogous to what happens when a crab is shedding its old shell. Its new shell is still soft and the crab is vulnerable to attack. The rupture that they are engaging in is shocking to the conscience of anyone who isn’t completely jaded and who is not blinded by right-wing faith. Our leaders are in deep trouble in Iraq. They are, as a result of doing what they’ve been doing, and the difficulties that they are encountering because of resistance (by Iraqis, for instance), more and more unpopular. They are, after all, taking us in a dramatically different direction.
This is a truly radical move on their part. They haven’t yet consolidated their new terms of rule and we’re in a transition period fraught with danger, for them and for us. (What we are seeing in terms of the weaknesses among the people in terms of their arousal level and willingness to come out into the streets in protest is in part due to the fact that this country’s never really been all that much of a democracy and in part due to the fact that Americans are, compared to the citizens of other countries, politically unsophisticated.)
Because the right still commands the heights of power institutionally and because of the influence and clout of their right-wing media empire, the co-operation, cowardice and narrowness of the mainstream media and the Democratic Party, Bush and Cheney are being shielded from the people’s wrath. How do we overcome this problem?
This is where the Declare It Now! campaign idea comes in. Ordinarily, in political governance (and also in movements) the relationship between leaders and the led is one in which the leaders overall have the initiative and the led cannot move further than where the leaders are able and willing to take them. The “pull” that this country’s current political leadership is moving things in is of course away from impeachment and down the wretched, ugly road of more horrors. What we need to do is curry a “push” from below that helps to give heart to the people who feel so frustrated and disheartened today and that creates the conditions within which a competing leadership can emerge.
The people cannot move absent leadership. This applies as much to political systems as it does to movements. We in the movement have not yet become the kind of competing legitimate authority/leadership that the broad sections of people would look to and follow against the existing leadership. The fact that the government is solidly against impeachment and solidly against (and/or afraid of) real thoroughgoing exposures of the despicable moves underway (torture et al) has created a situation in which the people feel confused, suffocated and unable to act. Obviously some people have broken with this confusion and paralysis--and this is all to the good. But if we expect millions to do so then we have to realize that it is more than our exposures, analyses and exhortations that will be necessary. We aren’t going to get there by calling for that next big demonstration. We just aren’t going to tilt the balance of forces this way--not at this time and under these conditions. It’s a huge leap for people in large numbers--in the millions--to step forward and act as leaders.
We do not have a repeat so far of the crucial elements that were present in the 1960s in which the level of social upheaval we need is occurring and reverberating back and forth: international-domestic, domestic-international. To name just a few of those elements: there aren’t national liberation struggles breaking out all over the world; there isn’t a section of the Democratic Party and media that is being supportive to some degree of the social insurgency (at least to try to conciliate it); and there isn’t a civil rights movement. In order to do what we must do we have to accomplish a kind of raising ourselves up by our own bootstraps. Doing so will not only change conditions within the U.S. It will alter conditions worldwide. Imagine the electric effect this could have internationally when people in other countries see people in this country in the millions standing up against tyranny!
We have to arm people broadly with an understanding of what our strategy is so that they can act within that strategy, contribute to it, and be catalyzed into enthusiastic action because they recognize that our strategy CAN WORK. A major obstacle today is that while many, many people want to see Bush and Cheney gone, they don’t see any way to make headway against a stubbornly resistant Democratic Party and corporate media. DIN! can help us overcome both the problem of the government and opinion-leaders’ suppression of the people and the fact that we have the majority, but that majority is unorganized and disoriented. If this majority sentiment is expressed then we can do an end-run around the media’s hostility and attack our adversary’s soft underbelly. Their horrible acts are extremely vulnerable to being exposed precisely because their acts are so despicable.
DIN! isn’t the same thing as a traditional demonstration/rally. Some people have raised objections to it on that basis. It’s important that we not underestimate what DIN! means in terms of mass participation and independent action. We are asking people to declare themselves, to take a visible, out there, public, in the streets, stand. This IS a mass mobilization we’re talking about. People will be “in the streets” with it, anywhere and everywhere else they go. The fact that it doesn’t require the same level of commitment as attending a demonstration doesn’t make it less significant. If this works, we will have people everywhere showing off their true colors. DIN! has a very potent ideological component to it. This leads to the second leg of DIN!
The Moral High Ground
The second leg of DIN!: One of the ways that small forces and non-elite forces can overcome their disadvantaged position and challenge elites for leadership and influence is by seizing the moral high ground. To the extent that the existing leadership class is exposed as morally bankrupt, we can wrest sections of the populace away from their enthrallment by the existing political elites. In order to accomplish their aims and this historic move, our leaders are making de facto practices into de jure practices: torture, unprovoked aggression on blameless countries, indefinite detentions, warrantless spying, et al. They cannot accomplish their wild ambitions otherwise.
But as they do this, they are rather openly doing horrific things before the eyes of the world. They are only getting away with this because they haven’t been properly called on the carpet for it. Our leaders (the whole establishment) are extremely vulnerable to this exposure. We need to draw the lines of morality very sharply and unsparingly. The question needs to be put to people as a stated in WCW’s slogan: Torture + Silence = Complicity. You must choose. Which side are you on? Are you for torture, war crimes, and tyranny? Or are you against it? Are you for the ripping away of a woman’s right to abortion? For a theocracy? And so on. To the extent we win people to speaking out/showing off against our leaders’ immorality, we can overcome to a significant extent the disadvantages we face today. As Henry Kissinger points out in his biography, there was a period in the 1960s when small forces (SDS) exercised very broad influence, way beyond their actual numbers, because very broadly throughout society people came to see that what the government was saying was a lie.
Bringing Forth Models
The third leg: We need to pay special attention to bringing forth models among the unknown (youth who step forward to stir other youth to follow their example) and among the famous--celebrities/leaders in entertainment, sports, arts, literature, academia, armed forces, Nobel Prize winners, etc. These people are leaders and people will follow them. They can play an extremely important role in making this campaign happen and develop legs. These are people who command respect now and whose public stands (being photographed wearing orange and making a statement about why) can help us unhinge the people from the mystique of the existing political leadership. One of the key factors in the righteous action at UC Santa Barbara when 2,000 people walked out and blocked the highway was the fact that numerous professors cancelled classes for that day and called for students to participate. This is the kind of thing we need to broaden.
On Implementing This Campaign
We are only just starting this campaign and undoubtedly there will be much to sum up and adjust as we acquire more experience. What appears to be the experience so far is that some people when told of the campaign react with great enthusiasm. Barbara Olshansky, for example, reacted by saying “What an excellent idea!” and put on a big orange ribbon immediately.2 Activists who’ve been wearing ribbons or bandanas report having strangers and co-workers ask them what the orange is all about. Passing out orange ribbons, if they’re already pre-made, is relatively easy on the streets. It is also apparent, however, that making this campaign a success will require persistence and substantial effort. People out there don’t mostly immediately recognize the potential for this campaign and what difference it will make if they themselves wear orange. DIN! isn’t just some gimmick. We need to bring this campaign to them with verve and conviction, win them to understanding the strategy and press people to do it. It will not happen spontaneously. Youth and famous people will have to be especially focused on as central to turning this campaign viral. We must also do our best to win the rest of the movement organizations to adopting the orange campaign. We have, after all, a responsibility to the whole movement. If we do these things, then our chances of success will be multiplied several fold.
* The campaign was formerly called Declare Yourself! [back]
1. 60 Minutes interview November 14, 2004, available at http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/11/12/60minutes/printable655407.shtml [back]
2. Here is how a political organizer (not of WCW) put it in describing it to his fellow organizers:
“Breakout sessions comments:
“#1 idea presented --As discussed in the Authors' session -- Small Orange ribbons worn on lapel or pocket as direct appeal to resist, and not allow American people to be made prisoners in our own country
“Dr. Dennis Loo, WCW and others propose that we use this method to get people to ‘declare yourself’ and it’s something people can wear all day long, at work, and running errands, etc, where they interact with the largest quantities of people.
“This is one very simple way of taking the control away from politicians and media and putting it back into our hands to show our numbers. No one can stop enough individuals from doing this to slow it down. If enough people do this we can have our own Orange Revolution. When asked what it stands for, I say -- it’s about restoring our constitution, returning our rights -- Habeas Corpus, Free Speech, the end of Torture agenda and Guantanamo. (or the short form--‘This is where Dick Cheney shot me’)
“I raided some of the Michael’s craft stores here for orange ribbon, they have 1/8 in thin orange ribbon for 50 cents a ten yard roll and ½ inch wide in basket outside the store for $1, so with every book sold at 26 June event, we were giving away a roll of orange ribbon and an envelope of about 20 safety pins.” [back]
Revolution #97, July 29, 2007
Imperialism drives people from their lands, persecutes and even murders them as they cross the border, and then super-exploits and demonizes them once they are in the imperialist countries. Millions of immigrants are driven to the U.S. from their home countries to be horribly exploited in restaurants, sweatshops, landscaping, and construction. They provide what is almost slave labor for the U.S. economy, which cannot function without the super-exploitation of immigrants. And the ways in which the fears of millions of native-born people are being manipulated; the divisions that are fanned and enforced between nationalities, even among the oppressed nationalities—all of these are products of capitalism.
Now every capitalist would say that they are not being greedy or malicious, but that they have no choice—and, in a perverted sense, they would be right. Each is driven by the fear of being wiped out by some other capitalist who is working people at still lower wages for still higher profit.
From the point of view of the people on the bottom, there is not an immigration problem, there is a capitalism problem.
There are some acute ways in which the situation where 12 to 20 million people are living "in the shadows" within the U.S. borders has come in conflict with some other strategic interests of the imperialists. It is a big problem from their class standpoint that there are millions within the "homeland" who, by necessity, have become adept at living "outside the law," avoiding the eyes and reach of the authorities. This includes those who come to the aid of immigrants—doctors and nurses who treat immigrants without asking for IDs, churches that give sanctuary to people threatened with deportation, etc.
Then there is the question of Mexico. Just last year Mexico went through a major legitimacy crisis around the presidential elections; Mexican society remains extremely volatile and polarized. The U.S. fears the potential for things to “get out of hand” in Mexico, including the possibility of forces who oppose U.S. imperialism—even perhaps genuinely revolutionary forces—coming to power. They fear the possible social chaos and they also fear the possible political contagion between both sides of the border in the event of a revolutionary situation. This is part of the reason for the extreme militarization of the border being carried out by the U.S. At the same time, they need to keep the Southwest border clamped down but “moving smoothly,” because the economies and people on two sides of the border are so very intertwined.
The very presence of the large and growing immigrant population brings a diversity of political and cultural experiences into American society. This is an overwhelmingly positive development from the viewpoint of the proletariat, whose strategic interests lie in breaking down national divisions among the people. But the rulers of this country insist that U.S. culture and politics be founded on white American chauvinism—even more so in a time of global war and aggression being carried out by the U.S. In their view, the inflow of immigrants undermines the uniformity and "cohesiveness" of American culture and politics.
The capitalists need the immigrants—both to keep the U.S. economy profitable and because the money they send home helps to maintain stability within Mexico. They are trying to hammer out a way to maintain the immigrants in this suppressed condition while containing the contradictions it brings. In this context, there is a fascistic crackdown on immigrants going on: widespread raids by armed government agents, detentions, deportations and breaking up of families, attacks by fascist vigilantes, local laws targeting immigrants. This is aimed at spreading fear and terror in the immigrant communities.
But this fascist clampdown is stirring up much anger and protest, among immigrants as well as those born here. In the face of the massive raids and roundups of immigrants this spring, hundreds of thousands marched across the U.S. on May 1—including in L.A., where people went up against a brutal attack by the LAPD. This intensifying and vicious offensive is part of the rulers’ efforts to “keep it all together” and put a lid on the politically volatile immigration situation, even if Bush and Congress are unable to hammer together a new immigration law at this point. All this underscores the urgency for immigrants and those who stand with them to resist this fascist offensive.
Revolution #97, July 29, 2007
From A World to Win News Service
The following is a slightly edited version of an article sent out by the A World To Win News Service
July 16, 2007. A World to Win News Service. On July 10, after an armed standoff, the Pakistani army assaulted the Red Mosque (Lal Masjid) in the capital city of Islamabad. The room-to-room fighting lasted 36 hours. Although most of the people inside chose to leave (1,000-2,000, according to varying news accounts), about a hundred were reported killed. Their identities and the circumstances of their death have not yet been disclosed.
The government of Pervez Musharraf began putting pressure on the Red Mosque in January when it declared that the mosque’s religious school (madrassa) for women had been constructed illegally. In response, students at the men’s and women’s schools challenged the regime’s Islamic credentials. They tried to forcibly impose what they considered an Islamic way of life in this relatively secular city, and especially the area around the mosque, the heart of the capital and site of many government and military buildings. Squadrons of burqa-clad young women armed with lathis (long sticks) rampaged through stores and stalls selling music and films and made bonfires of “un-Islamic” books. They kidnapped and allegedly tortured Chinese women working in a massage parlour. They also denounced women running in marathons as equivalent to prostitution.
This went on for six months, with no action on Musharraf’s part. Then, suddenly, on July 3, he sent troops to the mosque. Firing from inside the complex killed 16 soldiers, including a senior officer. The mosque leaders announced that if soldiers entered the building, suicide bombers would blow up everyone. The assault came a week later.
In its wake, the army moved a division into an area in the country’s northwest run by local Islamic fundamentalists linked to the Red Mosque. The Pakistani army has half a million men, and a single division is not enough soldiers to conquer the area by force, but it is enough to make a dramatic show of authority and set up serious roadblocks. As soon as military convoys moved in, they came under attack. A suicide bomber drove into an army column in North Waziristan July 14. The next day a convoy in the Swat Valley of North West Frontier Province to the north was ambushed. Armed and unarmed protestors seized the region’s roads, including the Silk Road leading to China.
These events may signal a significant shift in that country’s political landscape. Musharraf, whose close ties with Islamic fundamentalist organizations have been a source of strength second only to his subservience to the U.S., has had to violently confront some of them, after several years of avoiding it. The assault was approved and perhaps ordered by the U.S., but another factor forcing Musharraf’s hand came from Islamists themselves, who seem to have opted for holy war to bring more thoroughly Islamic rule to all of Pakistan and abroad, even at the cost of breaking the alliance with Musharraf that has been a basic part of their ability to grow so powerful.
The Red Mosque, located near the Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) headquarters, was long an icon of the intertwining of the Pakistani state and Islamic fundamentalism. The two brothers who ran it made no secret of their close relations with ISI officers. Their father, its founder in the late 1960s, Maulana Abdullah, was very close to the inner circles of power, especially Zia-ul-Haq, the U.S.-backed Pakistani army general who took over the country in 1979. At a time of sharpening rivalry between the U.S. and USSR, the U.S. used Pakistan’s armed forces to organize, fund, train and arm Islamic fundamentalists to fight the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Later the ISI gave the Taleban the support they needed to seize power. The U.S. initially approved, believing that Pakistani influence over Afghanistan would bring stability and guarantee American interests. The ISI also used fundamentalists to wage a proxy war with India over Indian-occupied Kashmir.
Zia also sought to Islamicize Pakistan itself. Among other things, this meant a radical change in the country’s legal system. The infamous Hodood Ordinances enshrined Islamic law (Sharia), with horrendous consequences for women. The succeeding civilian government of Benazir Bhutto did not overturn these laws.
Musharraf, who seized power in a 1999 army coup, was no less tied to Islamic fundamentalists. Some people consider him less hard-line than Zia, in the sense of tolerating secularism and some room for political and social dissent among the cosmopolitan urban middle and upper classes. But he made his personal role abundantly clear when he publicly condemned a woman who had demanded justice against her rapists. An Islamic court had ruled that it was she who should be punished instead--for committing “adultery” with the gang that raped her. “This has become a money-making concern,” Musharraf told the Washington Post to discredit her. “A lot of people say if you want to go abroad and get a visa for Canada or citizenship and be a millionaire, get yourself raped.” He sent his police to hold her under house arrest to prevent her from communicating with the world.
While the connections between the Pakistani ruling classes and fundamentalism did not basically change, however, something else did: Islamic fundamentalists directly attacked the U.S.. Musharraf followed orders from Bush and made a big show of breaking off the alliance with Kabul after the September 11, 2001 attack on the New York World Trade Center. But his government maintained close relations with what are often called Pakistani Taleban, various groups and political parties in the Pashtun tribal areas along the Afghan border in Waziristan and the North West who are eager to tell anyone who will listen about their sympathy and often fealty to the similarly Pashtun Taleban in Afghanistan, and who proudly seek to impose the same kind of society.
It has been difficult for Musharraf to balance his relations with the Red Mosque movement and the Islamists with his dependence on U.S. support, but he managed it for a long time and the U.S. backed him in this. Prominent commentators have written that Musharraf has been playing a “double game” by taking a billion dollars a year from the U.S., mostly in military aid, while tolerating the presence of the Afghan Taleban leaders and perhaps Al-Qaeda leadership in Pakistan. (Historian and security analyst Garth Porter speaking before the U.S. Congress, Inter Press Service, July 10) The truth is more complicated.
His strategy has been to hold domestic fundamentalists as closely as possible in a powerful embrace, while cooperating as closely as possible with the U.S. military in public and even more in private. For instance, the CIA has been permitted to set up secret bases in Pakistan, kidnap people and even use cruise missiles against suspected Al-Qaeda leaders there, but American troops haven’t been allowed to storm through the country in uniform. That would provoke too much uproar, and the regime might fall apart.
As for the fundamentalists, the military dictatorship needs the legitimacy of Islamic credentials and the social and material support of the Islamic forces to maintain its rule. Further, it is often said that since the British created Pakistan on the arbitrary (and reactionary) basis of religion when they divided India into two at the moment of its independence, the Islamic clergy and the military are the only things holding it together as a country. The political power of each has depended to a large extent on the other. Both are deeply rooted in the country’s more or less feudal rural economy. The military also owns much of the country’s more modern side, its industry and other businesses.
Shortly after supposedly breaking the Afghan Taleban, the Musharraf regime helped the pro-Afghan Taleban Jammat-e-Islami party and other allied Islamic groups win state elections in October 2002 in areas bordering Afghanistan. With the help of Jammat-e-Islami local officials, the Afghan Taleban were said to be regrouping in Pakistan and using bases there to carry out attacks in their home country. This cross-border activity has been concentrated in North and South Waziristan but extends all along the frontier. Musharraf sent troops in to stop this. The Red Mosque leaped to prominence in 2004 when it issued a religious ruling (fatwa) that army soldiers who died in this campaign could not receive Moslem prayers or burial. Some 500 religious scholars signed the fatwa. The army pulled out. In 2006, the regime came to a formal agreement with Waziristan tribal leaders, promising to leave them alone if the foreign fighters among them--meaning Al-Qaeda troops--were forced to either give up their weapons or leave Pakistan. The truce held until July 15 of this year, when an Islamic council meeting (Shura) in North Waziristan called it off, saying that by sending in troops again the government had broken the bargain.
But the larger picture is that Musharraf’s embrace was not achieving its aims in terms of restraining the appetite of the fundamentalists. During these last few years, while the Taleban spread their authority through Waziristan, a Pakistani organization called the TNSM (Movement for the Enforcement of Islamic Law) began exercising political power in the Swat Valley and other areas in North West Frontier Province. According to the journalist Sayeed Saleem Shahzad in the Asia Times Online (www.atimes.com), the Red Mosque’s now deceased deputy prayer leader Abdul Rashid Ghazi, whose followers compare him to the Taleban’s Mullah Omar and Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, delivered lectures to TNSM members every evening by telephone. The mosque both received students from the North West and sent graduates there from other parts of the country to join the many armed men in the area ready for Islamic holy war in Afghanistan or elsewhere--several hundred thousand jihadis, Shahzad wrote. The Red Mosque movement became a symbol of an Islamic ambition to move beyond the limits of the Musharraf regime.
Some journalists made much of the conflict between the Al-Qaeda and Taleban forces in this situation. This bears more investigation. Islamic fundamentalism, even of the armed variety, encompasses many different currents with sometimes sharply clashing views and aims…
At the same time, however, what we’ve seen in Pakistan is the porous quality of these categories and the emergence of a phenomenon whose varied and complex details, as significant as they are, should not blind us to what is going on overall. The events of the past weeks have shown something perhaps not as clear before: no matter the intentions of either side, the deals between Musharraf and some of the Islamic forces collapsed because they became untenable on both sides. Without arguing that any particular outcome was inevitable, there was a certain logic at work.
The U.S., in backing this compromise, was seeking to neutralize pro-Afghan Taleban elements in Pakistan in order to defeat the Taleban in Afghanistan. (Washington’s approval for the deal was made explicit, even if only in retrospect, by American National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, who said, “It has not worked the way [Musharraf] wanted. It has not worked the way we wanted.”--CNN, July 15) A major reason why it didn’t “work” is the unexpected resurgence of the Taleban in Afghanistan. A leading ISI officer once flatly stated, “The Taleban are not a problem for Pakistan”--in other words, the Taleban were no threat to Musharraf. But when the U.S. and its allies found themselves fighting a real and very unwelcome war in Afghanistan, the Taleban’s ability to use bases in Pakistan became more than an annoyance for them.
Another reason is that more has been involved than simply making instrumental use of Islamic fundamentalism. Islamist cadres were encouraged to join the army and ISI as officers. The overlap between the state and religious fundamentalism extends to the ideological as well as political and organizational levels. This means that while the Pakistani army organized the Sunni Islamic fundamentalist movements in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kashmir and India, with U.S. approval, those movements are not necessarily under anyone’s control. Further, there are other factors at work, including the upsurge of Hindu fundamentalism and genocidal attacks on Moslems in India. The establishment of the Khomeini regime in Iran gave a big impetus to Islamic fundamentalism and its bid for political power throughout the broader region, despite the major ideological differences between the Shias in power in Iran and the majority Sunnis in Pakistan and Afghanistan and their antagonistic political relations.
Many of the fundamentalists, for their part, are motivated not just by economic interests and political ambitions but above all a coherent world outlook, an ideology that encompasses all facets of life and death. They are fighting for their vision to be fully realized, and they are not bothered by imperialist-drawn borders.
As the Iranian author Siamac Sotudeh writes in Why Are the Dead Walking? Islamic Movement: Motives & Perspectives, Islamic fundamentalists and U.S. imperialism have their own versions of the strategy of defeating their enemies one by one. Starting out with an analysis of how the U.S. helped bring the Khomeini regime to power as “the least bad alternative” and ending with a description of the regime’s die-hard intentions to impose its brand of Islam on as much of the world as possible, he concludes that such alliances do not mean that either side gives up its strategic objectives.
Musharraf has at least one thing in common with Afghanistan’s Hamid Karzai, the head of another U.S.-dependent regime that could not exist without its base among fundamentalist forces: whatever his religious ideas may be, he subordinates them to his commitment to a Pakistan that is a province in an American global empire. Whatever his differences with the U.S., both he and they recognize this. That is something that some Islamists cannot tolerate, and not only or even mainly because of the suffering of the people and national humiliation under American domination. Imperialist capital cannot just leave them alone, but must continually transform economic and social relations and culture in the countries it dominates, undermining their power and their very existence and fuelling their anger at “the West” and their determination to revive and defend a medieval outlook. More immediately, their ideology demands unrestricted and expansive Islamic rule. They are not nationalists in religious clothing or even “objective” representatives of the people’s desire for national liberation, but representatives of the same feudal and other backward relations that have made it possible for imperialism to subjugate the country economically and politically.
Of course religious fundamentalism is not specific to Islam nor confined to oppressed countries. Its rise is a new and global phenomenon encompassing Protestants, Catholics, Jews and Hindus as well. An equally backward-looking ideology drives Bush and the Christian fundamentalist movement he seeks to represent. At the same time, today all this is taking part in the context of the U.S.’s also unprecedented drive to establish a single world empire. After all, it is the U.S. that invaded and occupied Afghanistan and Iraq and brutally dictates to most of the world’s majority-Moslem countries, and not the other way around. What has brought Islamic fundamentalism and the U.S. into today’s level of conflict is, basically, the U.S.
While the U.S. must and is more than willing to rely on local backward forces and reactionaries to impose its domination, it considers Islamic fundamentalism a long-term obstacle, and, especially, now a serious immediate threat. It is determined to crush these forces and dig up their breeding grounds--even if this means temporary alliances with some of them.
This is where the question of U.S. threats against Iran fit into this picture. American Middle East expert Barnett Rubin argues, “The main centre of global terrorism is in Pakistan.” (Council on Foreign Relations, cfr.com). Yet to hear U.S. government spokesmen and women, you’d think it was in Iran and not Pakistan where the Taleban and perhaps Al-Qaeda leadership are sheltering.
If the Bush regime has deliberately overlooked Musharraf’s “double game”, it’s because they know that Musharraf has had to play this game to stay in power, and they want him in power. They want Pakistan as a subservient ally in their war against Al-Qaeda and the Taleban, even if they have to put up with some strange things to achieve that. And especially right now, they need the Musharraf regime and the Pakistani military to use against Iran, whose Islamic Republic they intend to remove by armed threats or armed action. Covert operations into Iran from Pakistan are said to be already taking place. The rulers of the U.S. are not married to Musharraf for life--he wouldn’t be the first U.S. tool to get an American bullet for his troubles. But right now the higher priorities of their war for empire--and the war with Islamic fundamentalism it frames--make regime change in Iran far more important than leaning more heavily on Musharraf. They may even calculate that Iran offers far more favourable conditions than Pakistan for setting up a non-Islamic regime and rolling back anti-U.S. fundamentalism.
Revolution #97, July 29, 2007
Update on the Struggle in Oaxaca, Mexico:
On Monday, July 16, the state and municipal police forces brutally attacked more than 10,000 people in Oaxaca City, the capital of the southern Mexican state of Oxaca, who had gathered at the Plaza de la Danza to participate in a cultural event called the People’s Guelaguetza. Featuring traditional dances and music from various regions in Oaxaca, the People’s Guelaguetza was so well attended that people marched to hold it at a larger auditorium atop a hill called Cerro del Fortin. The APPO (Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca), members of the teachers’ union, and other local residents organized the cultural celebration as an alternative to the government-sponsored event which attracts tourists from the U.S. and other countries every July and charges an entry fee that most people in Oaxaca can’t afford.
The police forces shot teargas and gas bombs into the crowd. For more than 3 hours people fought back. A line of 6 public buses was burned. Barricades were built with rocks and cars. Supporters brought out buckets of Coca Cola and vinegar for people to use to protect their eyes and skin from the gas fumes. A fearless old woman stood face to face with the riot police, calling them “murders” and demanding they leave. The police beat people and targeted teachers and journalists.
More than 50 people were arrested. Some were blindfolded and their hair was cut off before they were taken to different detention facilities. The prisoners are currently being held for bail of $2 million pesos (about $185,000) each and charged with damages to public and private property.
The scenes of the clash at Cerro del Fortin were reminiscent of the months-long people’s rebellion in Oaxaca to oust the hated Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz (URO) that came to a head in the summer of last year. URO became the target of the rage and discontent of people throughout Oaxaca for brutal repression of mass struggles, including attacks on indigenous peasant movements and on journalists. The world’s attention was drawn to Oaxaca when URO violently repressed a teachers’ movement that started in May 2006 and still continues. This struggle demands education reforms, meal programs for school children, school supplies for students, and salary increases for teachers.
Photographs recently published in the Mexican press graphically show how the police severely beat Emeterio Merino Cruz, a 43-year-old teacher, on July 16. Cruz is now in a coma with serious cranial and brain damage, and doctors say he has a slim chance of surviving. His wife Hilaria Franco Barroso, a preschool teacher, told Noticias de Oaxaca, “I put the blame squarely on the government. To me it’s responsible for all of this because all they had to do was let the people demonstrate and open up (the auditorium) so that the true Guelaguetza could be presented, which is to give and not ask for nor take the people’s money.” She added that she believes that the police targeted him because he is a teacher, and he had his teacher’s credentials on him.
In the days following July 16, the road leading to and from the mountainous Mixteca region in western Oaxaca—which has been a strong center of indigenous peasant support for the struggle in Oaxaca City—was blocked to protest of the repression and to demand the release of all the prisoners.
As we go to press, Oaxaca City is currently being patroled around the clock by police, military soldiers, and governement-hired thugs. Thousands of people have marched through the streets in protest despite this thick air of intimidation. Many in the teachers’ movement and others have called for a boycott of the government-sponsored Guelaguetza and called for large demonstrations on July 21-23 and July 28-30. A spokesperson for the APPO told La Jornada, “The real problem will be resolved with the ouster of Ulises Ruiz Ortiz from the Oaxacan government.”
For background on the struggle in Oaxaca and the overall situation in Mexico, see these articles available online at revcom.us: “Report from Oaxaca” (Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4); “Sharp Contention at the Top and Mass Discontent from Below—Mexico: Massive Protests Against Presidential Inauguration” (issue #71); Special Revolution supplement, “Mexico: The Political Volcano Rumbles” (originally in issue #60).
Revolution #97, July 29, 2007
From the Call for October 22, 2007 :
“ No More Stolen Lives! Fight Back! On October 22nd, Wear Black!
“October 22nd has come to be recognized as a concentrated day of resistance—a national day when people all over the country, in different cities and through different means of expression, come together to STOP police violence, repression, and the criminalization of a generation. The nationwide epidemic of police brutality and repression is hidden from many people who would be outraged if they knew what was happening. We must resist the onslaught of police abuse as we work in many different ways to drag this truth out into the light of day. Our resistance will give others courage.
“We wear black on October 22nd in memory of those whose lives have been stolen from us.
“Nicholas Heyward, Sr. (father of Nicholas Heyward, Jr., killed by NYC housing police in 1994) says:
“‘Police brutality has always existed in poor and oppressed neighborhoods. But since September 11, 2001, it has gotten much worse. In order for any justice to be done, it takes a mass number of people coming together for a common cause. Police brutality affects everyone and has to stop. We need as many people as possible to come out this year on October 22nd to support the families of victims of police brutality.’
“Juanita Young (mother of Malcolm Ferguson, killed by NYPD in 2000) adds that resistance is critical:
“‘You can’t give in. They will try to make an example out of you, try to break your spirit. If you don’t resist and keep on fighting, they will be able to get away with what they’re trying to do to us.’"
The full version of the Call is available online at:
For more information, and to contact the National Office of the October 22nd Coalition:
firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-888-No Brutality
October 22nd Coalition, P.O. Box 2627, New York, N.Y. 10009