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Revolution #98, August 13, 2007
Hundreds March Against “Legal Lynching”
The “Jena 6” are six Black students who face the possibility of going to prison for many, many years because of a schoolyard fight. This story began on September 1, 2006 in the small town of Jena, Louisiana. A group of Black students sat under a “whites-only” tree in the schoolyard. Racist students responded immediately and the next day nooses were hanging from the tree for all to see.
Tina Jones, the mother of Bryant Purvis who is one of the Jena 6, told Revolution what it was like hearing about the nooses hanging on the tree:
“I was like, what? [My son], myself and a lot of family members were really upset about that because to Black people that is offensive because you know over the years Black people were hung in trees. So I mean we felt like the white people were saying, ‘Well if you sit under this tree, we’re going to hang you.’ That’s how us as Black people felt, even though the white people said it was a prank. How could it be a prank when something like that was done to Black people over the years? And then they walk under this tree and then you hang nooses. And you know what that represents and that means to us -- if you go under this [tree] we’re going to hang you. I mean there’s no other way to look at that, and there’s nothing funny about that.”
Soon after the nooses were hung, most of the 93 Black students (out of a total student enrollment of 546) at Jena High School stood together under the tree, in a courageous act of protest. After this, a school assembly was called where a white district attorney told the Black students to keep their mouths shut about the nooses. He told them if he heard anything else about it, he “can make their lives go away with the stroke of his pen.”
When racist white students jumped a Black student, one white student got probation. But when a fight broke out that sent a white student to the hospital for an hour, the law came down on Mychal Bell, Robert Bailey, Theo Shaw, Carwin Jones, Bryant Purvis, and an unnamed minor--arresting these youth, who are now known as the Jena 6, and initially charging them with attempted murder. (see “Free the Jena Six! Jim Crow Injustice in Jena Louisiana,” Revolution #96).
Mychal Bell has already been convicted of second degree battery and conspiracy to commit second degree battery and could be sentenced to up to 22 years in prison. And the system is trying to make good on the threat to ruin the lives of the other five youth who still face serious charges. Many people still do not know about this tremendous outrage. But a nationwide struggle to free the Jena 6 is beginning to grow--and MUST get much bigger. The next court hearings for Mychal Bell and the rest of the Jena Six are scheduled to begin on September 4. Bell’s sentencing is scheduled for September 20.
“We Want the Entire World to Hear”
On July 31, some 300 people rallied in support of the Jena 6 at the courthouse where Mychal Bell was scheduled to be sentenced. People came from all over the country, including people from New Orleans fighting for justice in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. And a massive stack of petitions, which organizers said contained 43,000 signatures, was delivered to the Assistant District Attorney of Jena. On August 5, Al Sharpton spoke at a church in Jena. And while the story of the Jena 6 has been way downplayed in the mainstream media, these events helped get more national and international coverage.
Mychal Bell has now been sitting in jail since December 4 and was not able to graduate. His trial was a complete outrage, with the court-appointed lawyer not even calling any witnesses! Now, a group of lawyers from Monroe, Louisiana have come forward to take up Bell’s case. Bell’s new legal team says their goal is to overturn Bell’s conviction. Bob Noel, one of the lawyers now on the case, said they got involved not only because Bell came to them, but because it was the right thing to do. "The interest of justice cried out [for us] to get involved," Noel said.
The weekend before the July 31 scheduled sentencing of Mychal Bell, the “whites-only” tree in front of the high school was cut down. NPR reported that “Jena High School had the big shade tree in the courtyard chopped into firewood.” But the tree disappearing hasn’t in any way lessened people’s anger and their determination to spread the word about this case and build the struggle to free the Jena 6.
Talking about the significance of the July 31 rally, Caseptla Bailey, mother of one of the defendants, Robert Bailey, Jr., said, "This is a beautiful thing that I’m seeing here today— all types of browns, seeing all types of blacks, all types of whites. We love that, people coming together." And Khadijah Rashad, representing Lafayette’s Community Defender television show, said, "We must remember that the entire world is watching… When there is going to be sentencing again, we need to flood this area with as much people as we possibly can. We want the entire world to know” (thetowntalk.com).
Bell’s father, Marcus Jones, agreed: “Justice, that’s the main thing we want. He’s still in jail, and we want justice for him and the other boys. And now the whole world sees the wrong done to these boys.”
Bell’s mother, Melissa Bell, told The Town Talk (a paper in Alexandria, Louisiana) that the actions on July 31 should send a message to the community: “We are serious, and everyone is serious about freeing these kids.”
Confronting Reality in Jena and Beyond
School starts on August 17 and the school board is already setting a repressive tone and atmosphere. A “Resource Officer” from the La Salle Parish Sheriff's Department will be at Jena High School this year.
Meanwhile, an editorial in the local Jena Times, attacked the “outside” and “liberal” media for supposedly distorting the situation in Jena, saying, “The ‘racial unrest’ that has continually been reported simply does not exist here.” (“Outside Media has transformed Jena” 8-8-07) Things in Jena are very polarized—right now, there are very few, if any, white people who are even speaking out against the nooses on the trees or the unjust way the Jena 6 are being treated--let alone, taking a clear stand against white supremacy. And this reactionary editorial gave voice to those backward whites in Jena who continue to claim, “We’re good people. This is a good town”--which really amounts to defending the racist status quo.
In contrast to what anyone might declare about how nice a place Jena is, we’ve heard stories which show how the hanging of nooses on the tree at Jena High School and the violent enforcement of white supremacy afterwards is not an exception but is consistent with day-to-day reality in Jena. Black people say they cannot get their hair cut at the barber shop in Jena. Someone showed us photos of nooses that had been put on an offshore oil rig, laying about, and hung up in a bathroom--meant to intimidate Black workers. One parent told us that she overheard white people talking about how the “n*ggers“ who were relocated to Jena from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina “are worse than the n*ggers here in Jena.” This is the ugly history--and present reality--of not just Jena, Louisiana, but the USA.
At the same the whole struggle around the Jena 6 is shaking things up, forcing a lot of white people to think about the reality of relations between Black and white people in not only Jena, but this whole country. We walked in on a discussion going on among four Jena residents who were taking a break at the office where they work. One Black person was openly talking about how what was happening to the Jena 6 was outrageous—and bringing out the history of resistance and rebellion against racism and injustice, like the 1992 L.A. Rebellion. The white people were listening—one somewhat reluctantly, another with some interest nodded his head in agreement. A third said, “I don't think Jena's racist, it's not racist is it, do you think it is?” This shows how people fighting back and sharply polarizing things creates the basis for a realignment in society.
The significance and stakes of this struggle go far beyond Jena. Alan Bean, an attorney who works with the group Friends of Justice, recently wrote: “You probably won’t find 'white trees' and nooses in New York and Los Angeles—that’s a Southern thing. But you will find the same kind of racial profiling regime that insures that young black males are disproportionately watched, hassled and arrested by the police; and you will discover that the over-prosecution of young black males is just as rife in our coastal paradise as it is in our southern purgatory. That’s what Friends of Justice calls ‘the New Jim Crow’; and it ain’t just a Southern thing. Jena is America.”
People need to seriously ask: Why are the school and local authorities, courts, and federal officials all working together to ruin the lives of these six Black youth? Is it because they got into a schoolyard brawl where another kid was (not very seriously) injured? Or is it because these youth and nearly every other Black student at the school went and stood under the “white only” tree in defiance of the openly racist threat of the nooses on the tree? In the eyes of the system of white supremacy, these students crossed the line, they “forgot their place,” and must be punished.
Black students at Jena High have been talking about what to do on August 17, when school begins. One idea they have been thinking about is all wearing “Free the Jena 6” t-shirts on that day. And as people across the country learn about what’s happening in Jena, many are outraged and feel compelled to act, to stand with the Jena 6. In Cambridge, Massachusetts the City Council passed a resolution, going “on record in support of the young men and their families in Jena in their pursuit of justice” and stating that “This frightening example of racism calls to mind an earlier time in the United States in which segregation and the ‘lynching’ of African-Americans was common practice.” Some people in New York City who have heard about the case have put a call out to others to help organize support for the Jena 6. On August 14, Al Sharpton is scheduled to return to Jena, along with Martin Luther King Jr. III, to voice support for the Jena 6 with a service at Antioch Baptist Church and a town hall meeting.
People of conscience who know about the case of the Jena 6 cannot stand on the sidelines, which would amount to a form of complicity in this great injustice.
The struggle to free the Jena 6 must be spread far and wide. And a lot more people need to learn from the Black students at Jena High School who stood stood beneath the “whites only” tree and through their defiant action, said “NO MORE.”
Right away, and especially when Mychal Bell is scheduled to be sentenced on September 20, many, many more people should come to Jena and help build the movement to free the Jena 6. And there should be rallies in many other places as well. In small towns, cities and suburbs, in colleges and high schools, people of ALL nationalities should make it clear that we will NOT tolerate white supremacy in any form and demand that ALL the charges be dropped on the Jena 6.
Everyone must take a stand. Are you for or against everything represented by those nooses hanging on the tree?
Revolution #98, August 13, 2007
From the editors: We have received an exceptionally large number of responses from readers to our coverage of the battle to free the Jena Six. The following selection of comments and letters gives a sense of the breadth of those responses, followed by a few thoughts from us in response.
I am appalled that in this day and age such racism is allowed to exist and grow in my America. I have already signed the Jena Six petition. What more can I do? Where can I contribute to the defense fund? Who can I write to protest this obvious injustice? Shame on the town of Jena for turning a blind eye to this situation. Has this been on national news yet, like MSNBC, Fox or CNN? Maybe some big bad publicity will get the wheels of justice rolling again in the South.
I cannot believe the misjustice being done to these six young men. I was a member of the Black Panther party when I was young and we were seen as violent people that wanted to bring America to its knees. But what I wanted back then and desire today is for people to realize that racism is still alive today just like then. Where are our outspoken black leaders, where is Rev. Jackson? I know we should choose our battles carefully, and this is one everyone, no matter what color they are, should be hollering from the roof top. Of course Bush must believe that racism is gone. Wake up people, it has not gone away and as long as we keep our heads in the sand it never will....
I am ashamed to be from Louisiana. I'm an African-American female and I'm sick to my stomach. I just heard about this case this morning on the radio and I cried in disbelief. I wish I had money to get these kids an attorney. I will keep all of them in my prayers.
Sounds like the brothas down there can use some help from their brothers who don't play that shit. A message to the inbred red neck. I'd like to extend an invitation to Oakland CA. I dare you try that shit out west buddy!
Until we can unteach the hate and misunderstanding that one race of people have for another certain race of people that has been taught to these children for generations this will continue. It starts with understanding and accepting the differences in cultures. We are ALL from the human race and until we accept the diversities from culture to culture, ignorance will prevail. These people claim to be the moral majority and God-fearing Christians but they don’t understand the true meaning of being Christ like.
I am just now hearing about this story. WHY? What are our BLACK LEADERS doing about this situation? I know that racism is alive and well, but to be this blatant is overwhelming for me. I am not sure how the Governor of Louisiana can sit back and think that this is okay or even how these people sleep well at night. Everyone has their day in front of the Lord. I just hope that he has mercy on the (publicly elected) officials of Louisiana and overlooks the fact that they are not following his word. I will uplift these families in my prayers.
Not only should the town be exposed, but hordes of people just need to swarm there and become extremely nosy, bringing to light everything that is going on. As long as people turn a blind eye, pretend that it is not going on and simply ignore this kind of behavior it will continue. Yes, sir expose them for the racist town they are. Let the world know that racism exists here, strongly. Make an example of them. Let people point their fingers and condemn them for their acts. Yep... let the world know that Jena is a disgrace and a pity and shame. This kind of thing should not be tolerated any longer...any longer.
I am a white male 21 years of age in Indiana. Now in the Midwest we have our own small issues with racism here and there and our fair share of red necks and hicks as well as black citizens. So I'm not from a high class family in some white dominated liberalist area who speaks out for every and any cause. But I find this story appalling in every sense of the word…
This case makes me almost upset enough to get into fights with the white people there. I honestly don't know why we even call people white or black anymore. A "United" country we are not in any form. But I do believe that black people sometimes encourage stereotypes and exasperate racism by their own behavior. You mentioned the Imus incident. I think he was too severely punished and I think the black community is to blame for his behavior. I don't excuse it, but there are black people who use much more derogatory terms much more often than he does and no one bats an eye. The rap industry is also a huge proponent in what created that situation. But that’s all small stuff compared to this Jena case. Imus didn't die or get sent to jail for 20 years. These boys in Jena are being so abused and mistreated, it’s just beyond words. Anyways, I could ramble and fume in either direction for many more pages but I just wanted to write to let you know that I support anything in favor of the Jena boys.... But I did interject the points about Imus because I want you to know I'm balanced in my opinions. I don't blindly support whites or blacks in any case, and I think both can be responsible depending on the situation. Take my comments for what they're worth, and let me know if there’s anything petition I can sign, or somewhere I can support this atrocity.
I am disgusted in the treatment of these black students!! How can I help to raise media awareness of this injustice ? I live in UK and we seem to know more about it than the USA. How can I help?
I will never support america in anything. Everything is still being controlled by white racists. This country is full of innocent blood. I often wonder why are so many white people racist. What are they scared of. I have a lot of white friends and family but they are different. Full of hate and ignorance are the ones running this country. You wouldn’t want your children or people to be targets of racism but people are often made target by you racists. You are truly full of hate ignorance and fear.
…I am the first to admit that poverty, racism, & ignorance still exist in Jena, as it does in most areas of the world.
However, as much as the news media, among others, have tried to make this case as simple as "black and white", it is much more complicated than this, as most situations are. …
The truth is that education, enlightenment, tolerance & courage are the only solutions for ignorance, poverty, hatred & racism. I have seen none of these characteristics exhibited by any of the media, including yourself. …
In the words of the most honorable Elijah Muhammad, "separation, (not integration) is the only solution to the black mans (womans) 452 year old problem"; with the former slave master and his children!!
This case, is a real and true picture of the hearts of that grafted being. (shaitan).
My heart goes out to the brothers accused in this matter. I pray, the creator will guide each and every one of them and give them strength, to persevere!!
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. Thanks.
This is the first I have heard of this. Are any of the Human Rights groups involved? Anyone been in contact with 20/20, Dateline, Oprah for mass media alert? How about Amnesty or the ACLU? I have sent this out to all my contacts and hope many will involve themselves. My big question is where was the NAACP during all of this, they could have gotten this kid a decent attorney. I have asked the Jericho Movement to place this article on their website. If I can help please contact me.
Revolution #98, August 13, 2007
Jena is a small town where racism and segregation is the status quo—enforced in official and unofficial ways as well. A young Black man told Revolution newspaper, “Well you walk a sharp line and you cross the line and you face the consequences.”
But the forceful imposition of white supremacy is not simply or even fundamentally a case of “good ole boys” going wild. The case of the Jena 6 is happening at a time when the U.S. Supreme Court, the highest judicial body in the land, has overturned Brown vs. Board of Education— officially fortifying segregation and savage inequalities in the schools. And from the school officials to the police to the courts— authorities and government officials have been and are a part of the completely unjust and racist treatment of the Jena 6.
For anyone who doubts this, officials from the highest levels of the U.S. government recently descended on Jena to make this crystal clear.
On July 26, more than 165 people packed into the Good Pine Middle School auditorium. The crowd was almost all Black. The event was billed as a “community forum” to discuss issues arising out of the Jena 6 case. But this was definitely a case of the fox guarding the chicken coop.
The four-hour forum hosted by the U.S. Department of Justice featured Lewis Chapman, assistant special agent in charge of the New Orleans FBI office; U.S. Attorney Donald Washington from the Justice Department; and Carmelita Freeman, regional director of the Department of Justice’s Community Relations Service.
The struggle to free the Jena 6 is about justice and stopping and reversing a terrible outrage that is now going on. So what kind of “justice” was Washington (who is Black) talking about when he told the crowd that he empathized “very publicly with all the families involved in this dispute…white, black, purple and green.” What does it mean when someone from the U.S. Justice Department says he supports all sides in this conflict? The lynching nooses, as well as the Black students who sat under a “whites-only” tree? You can’t support all sides. The question is—which side are you on?
What Washington said means support for the status quo of racism and segregation and all the rights this gives to racist whites. What Washington said means supporting the racist white students who hung nooses and attacked Black students. What Washington said means NOT taking a stand against the injustice of what is being done to the Jena 6.
During the Q&A period at the end, someone in the audience asked whether the hanging of the nooses on the tree was a “hate crime.” Chapman, from the FBI, responded, first of all, by revealing that the FBI had agents in Jena a week or so after the incident. Then Washington claimed that there were all the elements of a “hate crime”—except for the threat of use of force. In fact, force was used— by the government — to back up those nooses. The arrest of the Jena 6, who are facing decades in jail, is all about enforcing those nooses with the force of the state.
The U.S. Department of Justice serves as an enforcer for a system that has enslaved, worked to death on plantations, lynched, enforced Jim Crow against, segregated against, and turned fire hoses and KKKers (often organized by the FBI) on Black people and those who joined in the struggle for equality. This is part of the same “justice” system that sent a DA to the school assembly to threaten Black students who protested the nooses. Washington and the FBI are no friends of the people.
History tells us, no question about it— when white people hang nooses on trees, this is nothing but a murderous, racist threat against Black people. And Washington and Chapman, as representatives of the FBI and U.S. Justice Department, have only underscored how this kind of lynch mob “justice” is bolstered and supported by the government institutions of this system.
The most revealing moment in the so-called “community forum” was when Washington (discussing the high school’s handling of the noose incident and the fight for which the Jena 6 are on trial) said: “We have examined all of their actions and I'm not saying I agree with what they've done but I can say that we could find no violation in the way they handled each event. All of their procedures were ‘regular’ and not ‘irregular.’” (quoted in The Jena Times )
“All their procedures were regular and not irregular.”
Well, this was the one statement in the meeting by Washington we have to agree with.
No punishment for white students who hang lynch nooses on a schoolyard tree: REGULAR. Threatening Black students who protest this racist threat: REGULAR. Giving a slap on the hand to white students who attack Black students: REGULAR. Black students facing decades of prison time for fighting with white students: REGULAR.
On this, Washington is right: This is the “regular” workings of a white supremacist system.
And we would add another “regular.” Officials from the highest offices of the system, holding a “community meeting,” wolves in sheep’s clothing— to try and cool things out and at the same time justify and bolster the enforcement of segregation and white supremacy: REGULAR.
Revolution #98, August 13, 2007
Jena, Louisiana: While white students hang nooses on trees and 6 Black students face years of prison for a schoolyard fight (see “Hundreds March Against “Legal Lynching”: Free the Jena 6!”), another outrage is in the works: A new prison is scheduled to open, run by U.S. immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), to incarcerate up to 1,160 immigrants.
Because of the very workings of this capitalist system, thousands of immigrants have no way to live in their own countries and risk their lives, and often leave their families to come to the U.S. to try and find a way to survive. They are hunted down, rounded up, brutalized, and deported—many times cruelly separated from their children. Now, many of them will be locked up in Jena, Louisiana.
Louisiana has the highest rate of incarceration in the country--816 sentenced prisoners per 100,000 state residents. Although Black people make up 32 percent of Louisiana's population, they constitute 72 percent of the state's prison population.
The new ICE prison will be housed in what used to be the Jena Juvenile Correctional Center that was opened in the mid 90s and owned by Wackenhut Corrections Corporation. This prison, and others owned by Wackenhut, was investigated and found guilty of widespread abuses, including the rape of young women prisoners, widespread sexual abuse, and excessive use of force. When CBS 60 Minutes did a program in May 2000, exposing abuses in prisons nationwide, they focused on the one in Jena.
After a lawsuit was filed by the Juvenile Justice Project for Louisiana, the U.S. Justice Department was forced to investigate the Jena Juvenile Correctional Center and concluded, "Jena's environment is unsafe, violent and inhumane for the juveniles incarcerated there.” Louisiana's Department of Corrections took control of the prison and in 2005, after Hurricane Katrina, the prison was used to house prisoners evacuated from New Orleans. This was after these prisoners had been left, locked up in their cells as floodwaters rose inside the prison (see “Doing ‘Katrina Time’—Torture in New Orleans Prisons” by Li Onesto, Revolution #64 (Part 1) and #66 (Part 3), December 8 and 22, 2006 and “They Left Us There To Die,” Revolution #16, October 2, 2005).
A press release written by Human Rights Watch stated: “Inmates at Jena claim that correctional officers have beaten, kicked and hit them while they were shackled. In addition, they claim that officers have forced inmates to stay kneeling for several hours at a stretch, and then hit them if they fell. They also say that officers sprayed the walls with chemical spray that inmates believed was mace and forced inmates to hold their faces against the sprayed walls. When some inmates became ill and vomited, officers wiped their faces and hair in the vomit, they said.”
The prison was closed down again. But now it’s reopening again. And the ugly history of this place will continue—this time, with immigrants brutalized behind prison walls. Posters have gone up around town for a prison job fair, and the Jena Times ran a full-page ad for jobs at the new prison. This is yet another intolerable outrage: That they are counting on people in Jena, including Black youth who face a future of nothing but unemployment, being cannon fodder in the military or prison, to be part of the persecution and unjust imprisonment of immigrants.
Revolution #98, August 13, 2007
Revolution received this correspondence:
In light of the Jena Six, the group of black Louisiana students charged with second-degree murder after beating up a fellow white student, please allow me to share with your many readers another American story of injustice. It is a little known story about the Martinsville Seven, the largest mass execution for rape in U.S. history.
In 1949, in Martinsville, VA, seven black men were arrested for the rape of Ruby Stroud Floyd, a 32-year-old married white woman. Within 30 hours of this crime, all seven men had signed written confessions. Within 7 days, all seven were tried, convicted and sentenced to death by all-white, all-male juries. (Two were tried at the same time.) At the time of his arrest, the youngest was only 17 years old and the oldest, a 37-year-old WWII vet with a wife and five beautiful, young children, could have passed for white.
During appeals, Thurgood Marshall, later to become the first black Supreme Court judge and then head of the NAACP's Legal Defense Fund, helped represent them. (Three times the Supreme Court refused to hear their case.) Ossie Davis and Paul Robeson rallied Hollywood in their defense but to no avail. Communist Russia and China sent telegrams to the White House asking the U.S. to spare their lives but then President Truman, an alleged Klansman, refused to grant clemency. Around the world, they became known as the Martinsville Seven.
Just two years later in Richmond, VA, eight black men were executed, seven for the rape of one white woman. On Friday, February 2, 1951, at about 10:00 a.m., one man was taken to the electric chair. Ten minutes later, another died. 10 minutes after that, another died. It's been said that the chair was too hot to touch.
The following Monday, the remaining four black men were executed, or should I say boys because five of them were teenagers. Right before the youngest was executed, he said: "God knows I didn't touch that woman, and I'll see ya'll on the other side."
In the entire history of the United States, no white man has ever been executed for the rape of a black woman. During this time, no white man in Virginia had ever been executed for any rape of any woman. In 1977, over 25 years later, the Supreme Court ruled that rape could not be punishable by death. The Martinsville Seven case was instrumental in helping change the rape laws of this great nation. (The Seven case was the first time ever in a court of law where lawyers used statistics showing that black men were executed more than white men for similar crimes, especially rape.)
Every black person I have ever interviewed in Martinsville, young and old alike, said that the victim was having an affair with one of the Seven, the WWII vet, who could have passed for white. Elderly people who knew Rudy said she was a flirtatious lady, always "on the colored side of town," always "up in colored men's faces." Others said she was a devout Jehovah Witness, relentlessly passing out her religious pamphlets in Cherrytown, the colored side of town.
The true story of the Seven has never been told. There is one book published about the Seven and the author once told me that when he was researching his book, not one black person in Martinsville would be interviewed. For the record, I was born and raised in Martinsville, and three of the Seven executed were Hairstons.
If this is news to you, please share this American history with your readers and if not your readers, your friends and colleagues. Thanks for listening and KEEP HOPE ALIVE!
Pamela A. Hairston
Information Research Specialist and freelance writer
Revolution #98, August 13, 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 15th 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.
Never Underestimate the Great Importance of Ideology
In the context of what I have been discussing here, and as a point of basic and overarching importance, I want to emphasize something we could capture with the phrase: "Never underestimate the great importance of ideology."
We have a very negative example of this with the Islamic fundamentalists. The way in which they are proceeding to do what they're doing has a very powerful ideological component to it.
How do people respond to the conditions that they find themselves in? What course or road do they take, and what do they respond to, in the face of those conditions? This is not predetermined. There is not just one way that people respond, automatically and regardless of influences on them. And even the level on which people sacrifice depends on their ideological orientation to a very significant degree.
Lenin pointed out, for example, in What Is To Be Done?, that, in the course of the Russian revolutionary movement, Iskra, the newspaper of the Bolsheviks, trained a whole generation in how to live and how to die. And that's what these Islamic fundamentalists are doing, from a very different and fundamentally reactionary standpoint. We can see the very negative effects of this. And, yes, in the short run they have certain things going for them because they can promote metaphysics and idealism, with the notion of another world and how you'll get your reward there. And, of course, it's too late, once you're dead, to find out there's nothing there—including you! But are there things worth living and dying for? This is a profound ideological question. Besides things like these Islamic fundamentalist movements, look at what many people are living and dying for these days, especially the youth, being drawn to crime and gangs, and so on. Where is that going to lead? And what is that going to contribute to and reinforce? But, with all this, it would be a very serious error to underestimate the great importance of ideology, of one kind or another, and how it leads people to act, and be willing to sacrifice—how it trains them, in short, to know how to live and how to die.
And from another angle—talking about the other "historically outmoded"1 —we shouldn't underestimate the degree to which Bush and company are also attaching great importance to ideology. Bush, in his recent speeches, and others, like Rumsfeld, have continually emphasized that the battle against what they call "Islamic extremist totalitarianism" is not only a major military battle but also the great ideological battle of our time. This is how they're presenting it. And, yes, we can make our jokes about "W," who doesn't know how to pronounce "nuke-u-lar," and so on and so forth, but there are people surrounding him and there is a core there that thinks, that is very deeply ideologically committed and understands the importance of the battle in the ideological realm. That's why they're bringing forward all these World War 2 analogies and all their talk about totalitarianism and extremism, and so on. In other words, they are bringing forward their solid core—with very little elasticity and a lot of absolutism, these days especially. And what can stand up to and really oppose that? In the final analysis, and in fundamental terms, only our solid core— with a lot of elasticity, on the correct basis of the necessary solid core.
The relativism and ideological flabbiness so common among the liberals—both those within the ruling class, but also more broadly in society, including the liberals and progressives among the middle strata—this is not capable of and is not going to stand up to the reactionary solid core in the ruling class—nor, for that matter, to the reactionary solid core of the Islamic fundamentalist phenomenon.
And here I want to return to Michelle Goldberg. Despite, or in some ways actually because of, her own worldview, including the influence of Hannah Arendt's notions of totalitarianism, the following from "our old friend" Michelle Goldberg provides a valuable window into the thinking of many liberals and progressives these days. She says: "Ideologies that answer deep existential needs are hugely powerful." That's a profoundly important point.2 Then, after making this very crucial basic point—"Ideologies that answer deep existential needs are hugely powerful"—Goldberg goes on:
"The Christian nationalists [or what we would call Christian fascists—BA] have one. And their opponents largely do not. Today's liberalism has many ideas and policy prescriptions, but given the carnage born of utopian dreams in the 20th century, it is understandably distrustful of radical, all-encompassing political theories. It is cautious and skeptical. Liberals don't want to remake the world; they just want to make it a little better." (Michelle Goldberg, Kingdom Coming, pp. 191-92)
Well, there's a lot packed into that statement. This is why it's worth reading people like this, even after they've slandered us (which Goldberg did a few years ago, in connection with the original "Not In Our Name" statement and the political movement which that statement helped to inspire). Here is a classic example of someone who is highly disturbed by developments in U.S. society, in particular the growing influence of Christian fascism. From reading this book it is clear that she would like to keep things, including opposition to this fascist trend, within certain bounds, but she has a sense that this may not be possible. This is very profound in its implications, in a number of ways. So, in a certain sense, "there you have it" in those few sentences—a lot is actually captured there—including a window into the highly distorted way that people like Goldberg are viewing the experience of communist-led revolution and socialist society in the 20th century (a major part, if not the heart, of what she is referring to with the phrase: "the carnage born of utopian dreams in the 20th century"). And this is why, in a general and overall sense, it is worth it and necessary to investigate what people from all different strata are thinking, both when they systematize it like this and through broader investigation to find out about, and make a synthesis from, more scattered and unsystematic ideas and sentiments among people in different parts of society.
But, with all this, it is extremely important to keep in mind a profound point from Marx. To paraphrase (and somewhat expand upon) what he says: what matters fundamentally is not what anyone or any group of people might want subjectively, or might be thinking at any given point, but what the underlying and driving contradictions and dynamics will confront people with. Among other things, this underscores the great importance of our solid core, ideologically as well as politically—a solid core which is dialectically related to, and in an essential way encompasses, elasticity and which can lead the way to in fact radically remaking the world to bring into being something far better.
1. This refers to Bob Avakian's concentrated formulation about the “two historically outmodeds,” which is cited earlier in this talk: “What we see in contention here with Jihad on the one hand and McWorld/McCrusade on the other hand, are historically outmoded strata among colonized and oppressed humanity up against historically outmoded ruling strata of the imperialist system. These two reactionary poles reinforce each other, even while opposing each other. If you side with either of these ‘outmodeds,’ you end up strengthening both.” Bob Avakian points out, “As matter of general principle, and specifically sitting in this imperialist country, we have a particular responsibility to oppose U.S. imperialism, our ‘own’ ruling class, and what it is doing in the world. But, at the same time, that doesn't make these Islamic fundamentalist forces not historically outmoded and not reactionary. It doesn’t change the character of their opposition to imperialism and what it leads to and the dynamic that it’s part of—the fact that these two ‘historically outmodeds’ do reinforce each other, even while opposing each other. And it is very important to understand, and to struggle for others to understand, that if you end up supporting either one of these two ‘historically outmodeds,’ you contribute to strengthening both. It is crucial to break out of that dynamic—to bring forward another way.” [back]
2. [FOOTNOTE BY THE AUTHOR] In the context of this statement by Goldberg, as well as for more general and fundamental reasons, it is important to keep in mind that, contrary to the way in which it is often, even generally, presented in this society, ideology does not necessarily mean an instrumentalist approach to "organizing reality" in pursuit of desired ends, which bears little or no relation to how reality actually is. Communist ideology is definitely a worldview and set of principles to live by, on the one hand; and at the same time it is, in fundamental terms, in accordance with reality and its motion and development, and is a means for scientifically engaging reality. This is why we say that communist ideology is both partisan —it stands with and for a definite side among the contending social forces in the world, the side of proletarian revolution and the advance to communism—and it is objective : it seeks an objective, scientific understanding of reality, in order to transform it in accordance with the advance to communism, and since that advance is objectively possible and its possibility is expressed in the way the fundamental contradictions in human society are tending, on a world scale, there is no need for communists to distort reality, or contort it, to make it fit their aims and objectives—and, on the contrary, any such distortion and contortion will actually work against the advance to communism. Of course, it has not always been the case that communists have acted in accordance with this fundamental truth—there have been marked tendencies in the history of the communist movement to fall into adopting various forms of “political truths”—in other words, stating as truths things which are in reality not true but which seem convenient at the time (an approach Lenin identified philosophically and criticized as “Truth as an organizing principle” or “organizing experience”). But the fact remains that, as a matter of basic principle, communism as a worldview and method rejects such instrumentalist approaches and recognizes the fundamental epistemological principle that, as I have put it in another discussion: “Everything that is actually true is good for the proletariat, all truths can help us get to communism.” (See "Bob Avakian in a Discussion with Comrades on Epistemology: On Knowing and Changing the World," in Bob Avakian, Observations on Art and Culture, Science and Philosophy, Insight Press, 2005.) [back]
Revolution #98, August 13, 2007
On July 24th, the Regents of the University of Colorado (CU) fired tenured Ethnic Studies Professor Ward Churchill. The vote came after a vicious campaign spearheaded by David Horowitz, self-described “battering ram” for the assault on critical thinking in academia, along with the right-wing American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA). Horowitz is a highly connected political operative, with close ties to and support from Karl Rove and top national Republican leaders. ACTA is a powerful academic “watch-dog” group founded by Lynne Cheney, the wife of the vice president.
This is much worse than, as the Pink Floyd song goes, just another brick in the wall. And it has nothing to do with the story being told of an "academic fraud" uncovered by a thorough investigation. The investigatory process was a fraud, and the charges brought against Churchill were either false or grotesque exaggerations (for more on this, see Revolution #92, June 17, 2007, “New Assault on Dissent and Critical Thinking: University of Colorado President Calls for Firing of Professor Ward Churchill”). Together with the denial of tenure to Norman Finkelstein by DePaul University (see Revolution #95, July 15, 2007, “Denial of Tenure for Norman Finkelstein: Rising Outrage, and Raising Big Questions”), it represents a major move to recast universities into a more fully controlled machine for indoctrination.
Building a Foundation for Indoctrination
Churchill was actually targeted for firing not because of any supposed academic conduct issues, but because of an essay he wrote that included his sharply worded post-9/11 critique of the U.S. role in the world. In it, he made a very provocative formulation about how not all the people, but those people who worked particularly as functionaries for the large corporations with offices in the World Trade Center were “Little Eichmanns,”—comparing them to the functionaries of the Nazi regime.
When Churchill was invited to speak at a small college in New York, the reactionary “noise machine” cranked up a huge attack on him for this essay. The governors of New York and Colorado called for his firing, and CU Chancellor DiStefano launched an investigation into “everything he had ever written” to see if he could be fired--or jailed - because of the content of his writings. Horowitz publicly advised that it would be better to go after Churchill for “fraud” instead. And in fact, the pretense for firing Churchill was not the essay, but instead a shamefully disingenuous investigation supposedly of Churchill’s academic scholarship. And while reactionaries fanned all kinds of hysteria about Churchill, the response of the Democratic Party establishment was stone silence in the face of this attack.
Reactionary opponents of critical thinking and dissent on campuses have explicitly said that the firing of Churchill should open the gates to wholesale attacks on other professors. A blurb for Horowitz’ book The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America says, "American universities are full of radical academics like Ward Churchill—and worse." ACTA’s report, “How Many Ward Churchills?” also called for expanded witch-hunts, saying, "Is there really only one Ward Churchill? Or are there many Ward Churchills…Ward Churchill is not alone…Ward Churchill is everywhere."
In the wake of the firing, these same forces (along with some new ones) are demanding further attacks. These include targeting not just other dissident scholars, but the tenure system and whole fields of study, such as ethnic studies, women/gender studies, an anti-imperialist current within area studies, and numerous courses in law and other fields where “social justice” is discussed.
Setting an Intolerable Precedent
Churchill was fired even though he had tenure at the University of Colorado--a status that supposedly protects professors from being fired for their political views. The firing makes it very clear to scholars that tenure no longer provides any such protection. Furthermore, most professors are not tenured. They have always had even less security.
Speaking on Michael Slate's radio show, “Beneath the Surface,” DePaul professor Matthew Abraham, commenting on a colleague’s comparison of the Churchill and Finkelstein cases to public executions, said: "You don't need to do ten or twenty of them. You just need to do four or five just to keep people in line and to have them remember what can happen if you get carried away with your speech. Ward and Norman, these are top-flight scholars, and if they can take them out, believe me they wouldn't hesitate to take out people of much lesser stature.”
From the beginning, the attack on Ward Churchill has been approached as a test case, a proving ground for tactics and strategies, and as a foundation for broader attacks on academia. As an example, this past March, the CU Regents voted to tremendously speed up the process of firing tenured professors. Whereas before the process could take years and involve appeals from the professor, it is now designed to take a little over three months. These guidelines, which drastically depart from standard practice at universities, were established by the Regents with the Churchill case in mind, as a fast-track for future punishment and repression. They were also explicitly put forward as a model for other universities to follow.
The Stakes Involved
The firing of Churchill makes clear the dangerous trajectory of U.S. society. The stakes involved need to be grasped, not just by students and academics, but by everyone who hates the current direction of society and who longs for something different, and everyone who thinks that academia should be a place where people are free to pursue the truth.
What makes it so important is the relation between the overall direction those in power are taking the world--going for a qualitative leap in consolidating and expanding their global empire--and their need to chill, suppress, discredit, and drive out dissent and critical thinking in academia, and making “indoctrination,” rather than critical thinking, the watchword. Their agenda requires lies, torture, violations of international and domestic law, and the unleashing of horrors against millions. It cannot stand up to critical thinking, and requires closed, intimidated, and uncritical minds. They need to restrict any public debate to tactical discussions based on shared aims and assumptions. At a time when powerful forces in the U.S. have unleashed a cauldron of contradictions, which they do not control, accomplishing this is essential to ensuring their continued rule.
Radical and critical-minded intellectuals who challenge established truths and create the intellectual space for debate and discussion play a disproportionate and crucial role in society. When they are silenced, it has tremendous ramifications throughout society.
Many people, especially but not only from the middle strata, are first introduced to "inconvenient truths" of U.S. history and imperialism in college. There is still much more space for critical thinking in academia than elsewhere in society. And in the past few decades, people coming out of the 1960s have become professors, received tenure, and gained influence in some academic sectors, and have brought forward new scholarship that sheds light on and refutes the official narratives about America’s history and role in the world. To Horowitz, ACTA, and the system they represent, that is a terrible plague.
The Need to Resist: Rehire Churchill and Finkelstein!
Many scholars and intellectuals have defended Churchill and condemned the witch-hunt against him. They have seen through the lies surrounding this case, understood the tremendous threat to critical thinking hidden behind them and have defended Churchill as an expression of principle.
Unfortunately, many others have stood on the sidelines. Others have joined in on the attacks, or have blamed Churchill for his problems, and for putting others in danger. Some have even advocated throwing Churchill to the dogs in order to protect themselves--which amounts to sawing off the branch you're sitting on.
Scholars and others need to step back and look at the big picture. Any pragmatic or uninformed response to the firing of Ward Churchill will only compound the disaster and speed the already very negative motion and development in the universities. John K. Wilson, author of Patriotic Correctness: Academic Freedom and Its Enemies, noted on his blog:
"Back during the McCarthy Era, colleges thought that they could protect themselves from outside intrusion by sacrificing a few radical professors to the witchhunt. Ultimately, they simply fed the bloodlust. It’s not hard to see a parallel to Churchill’s case, and the glee of conservatives who hope this will be the beginning of mass firings and the abolition of entire departments."
Academics have a special responsibility--to “sound the alarm” as broadly as possible, enlist the broad masses in the defense of dissenting scholars and critical thinking in academia, and contribute to the greatest degree possible to the awakening of society in fundamental opposition to this whole regime.
It would be disastrous to adopt the view that the firing of Churchill (and the denial of tenure to Norman Finkelstein) is unjust but irreversible. Churchill's firing must not be allowed to stand. The demand for the reversal of this decision needs to be massively raised, in academia and in broader society. What is called for now is actually stepping up the full opposition to these attacks on the basis of demanding that the injustices against Churchill and Finkelstein be reversed.
In so doing, our sights should be set on bringing into being their worst nightmare--an aroused and awakened academia, increasingly rejecting the present dynamic in society and the vision of the future it threatens; a situation where prominent intellectuals and scholars are publicly calling into question and challenging the whole direction those in power are rushing to take the world. And more, are engaging and encouraging discussion and debate over the question of the kind of world we would want to live in, and making major contributions to strengthening the theoretical as well as the practical underpinnings of that world, and what it’s going to take to get there.
Revolution #98, August 13, 2007
World Can’t Wait Launches New Campaign
The following was gathered from reports on the World Can’t Wait web site:
Launching a new campaign on Friday, July 27, World Can’t Wait put out a challenge to all those who are against the Bush program: “If you want the war to end, if you want the Bush regime driven out, if you’ve had enough of the torture and police-state laws: Declare It Now: Wear Orange!”
At Orange Friday actions around the country, tens of thousands of orange buttons, ribbons, armbands, bandanas, and shirts went out to people. In Houston and San Francisco banners were hung over freeways; in Bakersfield, San Diego, and Louisville, “honk for impeachment” street corner actions turned orange. At San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf, tourists found “Bush” in a portable jail cell under a sign saying “international war criminal.” A dentist in Florida ordered orange scrubs for himself and his staff for the day.
In New York City, about 1,000 people gathered over several hours at Union Square, and hundreds of orange bandanas were distributed. Speaking at the rally was Cindy Sheehan, who was at the end of her “Journey for Humanity” which started weeks before at Camp Casey in Texas, and included a sit-in at Rep. Conyers’ office demanding impeachment of Bush and Cheney. Chilean activist Victor Toro, wearing bright orange, said, “We are doing this in solidarity with those detained without rights in Guantánamo.” World Can’t Wait had published full-page ads in five weekly newspapers in the city to announce the launch of Orange Fridays.
At the new National Impeachment Center in Los Angeles, a press conference began with a dramatic reading of the Call to Drive Out the Bush Regime by actor René Auberjonois, currently appearing in the network TV show Boston Legal. He was joined by three people who were hooded and wearing orange jumpsuits like the prisoners in the U.S. torture center at Guantánamo. The event was prominently featured in La Opinión, the largest Spanish newspaper in the country. Also speaking were West Hollywood Mayor John Duran, who recently led the City Council’s passing of a resolution calling for impeachment of Bush and Cheney, and attorneys Peter Thottam and Steven Rohde. Wayne Kramer (formerly of the band MC5 and co-founder of the White Panther Party) performed a song.
World Can’t Wait activists are going out widely to reach millions to join the Declare It Now campaign. They are raising funds for internet and print ads and organizing public service announcements by well-known people. Outreach crews are going to conferences of sociologists and psychologists, churches, concerts, and elsewhere to call on people to take responsibility to act and challenge others to act. World Can’t Wait will provide 60 ushers dressed in orange at the Rock the Bells hiphop show in San Francisco.
Dennis Loo, of the World Can’t Wait Steering Committee, wrote after the campaign’s launch: “People taking up orange and wearing it DAILY is designed to be both a statement against all of the horrid things that this regime is responsible for AND a statement to the rest of the people. It’s designed to provide people a vehicle to express their too long suppressed sentiments and to bring to life the people’s political potential. It’s designed to bring home to people the fact that we are the majority and it will be you and I and the rest of us in our millions who will make history, not the criminal president and vice-president, not the culpable and complicit Congress and the Democratic Party leadership, and not the corporate media who are largely merely the scribes to power.
“The choice all of the people now face is whether we are going to go along with torture and war crimes and so on, or are we going to condemn it, speak out against it, and fight it. Taking the moral high ground is itself a form of asserting leadership. To the extent that the people make the conscious choice to declare themselves against the horrid things that this regime is responsible for and represents, they are becoming part of that competing legitimate authority.” (From “Shifting the Center”)
Revolution #98, August 13, 2007
Outrage and Protest in Chicago’s West Side
On the evening of August 6, sometime around 8, the life of 18-year-old Aaron Harrison ended in an alley on Chicago’s west side. Shot by a police officer. Sandra Shannon, Aaron Harrison's aunt, told Revolution, “He was home for five days. He was on two years probation. He was scared. He was running for his life. Kids shouldn't have to fear for their life."
Shocked, stunned, outraged—hundreds of mostly young people from the North Lawndale neighborhood took to the streets. Dozens of squad cars blocked off streets around the area. Chicago authorites say that rocks and bottles were thrown at police. Chanting “no justice, no peace, no racist police,” people marched to the nearby police station. The police arrested five people and used mace. A photographer from the Chicago Tribune had two cameras broken by a cop.
Police officials claim that cops saw Aaron doing something suspicious with his waistband before they chased him. They insisted that Aaron was NOT shot in the back but in the shoulder, and that he was armed and pointing a gun at them. The police insisted on this even after the initial report from the medical examiner said that Aaron was shot in the back. The police claim that they recovered a 9mm weapon near Aaron's body. But "finding" a gun doesn't answer the more important question of its origins. A number of witnesses insist that they saw police officers take a bag from the trunk of a police car and leave a gun by Aaron's body.
The August 11 Chicago Sun-Times reported that Cook County Chief Medical Examiner Nancy Jones "confirmed" that Aaron Harrison was shot in his left shoulder, offering the explanation that their initial story that he was shot in the back actually referred to being shot in the top of the left shoulder, which is considered a part of the back. According to the article, Jones claimed that "the wound is consistent with what the officers are saying about the body being turned to them." Ashunda Harris, an aunt of Aaron Harrison, viewed Aaron's body in the morgue. She told Revolution that she saw the location of the bullet hole. It was in the upper left part of Aaron's back —not his front —and she disputes the medical examiner’s conclusions. And she told Revolution that numerous witnesses close to the shooting saw that Aaron was shot in the back, and they never saw any gun in Aaron's hand.
Chicago's Mayor Daley tried to deflect criticism of the police by saying that "everyone blames the police" and telling people to "withhold" their judgment. In other words, as Sandra Shannon put it, "shut up."
Aaron Harrison’s shooting is the third death linked to the hands of Chicago police in less than a month. On July 22, Lester "Roni" Struill was found dead in a police station lockup. According to witnesses, cops severely beat him before he was brought to the police station. On August 4, Gefery Johnson was pronounced dead at St. Bernard Hospital after police used pepper spray and two shots from a taser (which can deliver 50,000 volts of electric shock) on him. His family had called 911 when Gefery, who had a history of mental and substance abuse problems, had locked himself in a room. "They actually executed my child," said Gefery's mother, Lula Johnson. "They executed him."
In the days following the Aug. 6 shooting, Black community activists, some pastors, family members, neighborhood residents, and a growing number of supporters from around Chicago have protested and denounced the police killing of Aaron Harrison. There have been marches to the police station, rallies, press conferences, and a town hall meeting to defend witnesses.
At a protest on Aug. 7, Ashunda Harris, spoke powerfully about what the youth face, and the need to stop police brutality and murder: “I'm here about killer cops. I'm here because this has gone too far. [Aaron] is dead but it could have been anyone. There is a national epidemic of police brutality and WE have to stop it. It's not about 15 minutes of fighting. This is about the way we live everyday… You can't take people to jail and beat them up. You can't beat a confession out of people today and expect them to respect you tomorrow. What is going on out here is a violation of our youth. An attack, a rape of our young people. What they do EVERY DAY. This is a national epidemic.”
A woman who came to three days of protests of Aaron Harrison’s shooting said, “You can't keep seeing these things day after day. I came all the way from the south side. I don't even live out west, but I see police doing this every day. Throwing them up against the cars. Making them get on the ground. Look at all the love they scattered when they killed that boy. Look at all the people that are hurting because they scattered that love when they killed him.”
The shooting of Aaron Harrison, and the outbreak of protest that erupted in its wake, took place as the Chicago “city fathers” are trying to clean up the image of the Chicago police while contending to host the 2016 Olympics. After the widely publicized brutal beating of a Polish-immigrant bartender by an off-duty Chicago cop, the Chicago Sun-Times warned, “Chicago, be clear. The whole world is watching. From Mexico to Moscow, CNN has shown the international community the shameful videotape of off-duty Chicago Police Officer Anthony Abbate trying to beat the living daylights out of a female bartender less than half his size….” (Mar 28, 2007).
And Chicago’s bid for the Olympics has the specter of Jon Burge hanging over its head. For decades Burge ran a Chicago police torture chamber where electrodes were applied to the testicles of suspects, people were repeatedly suffocated with plastic bags and covers, and subjected to cattle prods. The city officially admitted that "an astounding pattern of torture" existed, and continue to defend Burge. Mayor Daley was the county state's attorney for many of the years when Burge and the Chicago PD were torturing people.
The city of Chicago sits on top of hundreds and hundreds of thousands of desperate people with no prospects for decent jobs, education, health care, or a life – a situation that is enforced daily and hourly by the police. Scandals or not, the Chicago police lashed out in the aftermath of the protests. Since the murder of Aaron Harrison, 13 young men have been arrested. According to Sandra Shannon, some were arrested as people were gathering for one of the protests. "Right now, they're trying to intimidate the community," said Ashunda Harris. She said that police are arresting "young men that can possibly identify or testify on some of the things taking place in the neighborhood. I think they're trying to discredit their character. If they're constantly locking them up, their credibility becomes less."
On Friday, Aug. 10, there was a protest rally and then 100 to 200 people, including some white and Latino youth, marched again to the police station behind a “Stolen Lives” banner listing the names of 400 people killed by police around the country.
Sandra Shannon spoke about the protests against the police killing of Aaron Harrison: "They thought it was just going to be another person gone and ain't nothing going to be done about it… If it don't stop, who's gonna be the next victim?" There is a need for people from all walks of life to join these protests, and demand an end to police brutality, repression, and the criminalization of a generation.
Revolution #98, August 13, 2007
By a former Antioch student who attended the college during the late 1960s and early 1970s
In late June, Antioch College’s Board of Trustees announced their decision to close the college in 2008. Antioch is well known—and, in the halls of power, hated—for a progressive, open-minded approach to education. Its academic program combines classroom learning with work experience and community involvement. Founded by progressive Christians as a secular college in 1852 in Yellow Springs, Ohio, Antioch from the beginning sought to include Black people and women among students and faculty. A saying by founder Horace Mann became the school’s watchword: “Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.”
I was outraged to hear about the attempt to shut down Antioch. The move to close Antioch is part of the assault on the rebellious legacy of the 1960s—and part of attempts to shut down critical thinking and dissent on campuses today.
Antioch’s influence and significance far outweigh its small size. Among its well-known graduates are scientist Stephen Jay Gould and Coretta Scott King. From its radical anti-slavery roots in the 1850s until today, Antioch has been a school where the emphasis is not on individual career advancement in the corporate world but on service to society.
Antioch’s liberal and critical atmosphere led the House Un-American Activities Committee to scrutinize the school’s faculty during the anti-communist witch-hunt of the early 1950s. In the early- and mid-1960s many Antioch students became involved in the growing civil rights movement. And Antioch students organized campus protests against the Vietnam war. In the late ’60s, radical critiques of capitalist society, including a revolutionary trend, had a big impact among students and teachers at Antioch, and in turn what was going on at Antioch helped spread intellectual and activist ferment in society. In 1970, Antioch students shut down the campus in a strike that was part of a national wave of protest in response to the U.S. invasion of Cambodia and the murder of student protesters at Kent State University in Ohio and Jackson State College in Mississippi.
A campus strike at Antioch in 1973 is often pointed to by critics as “the beginning of the end” of the college. So it is important to set the record straight on what that strike was about. In the spring of 1973, Antioch administrators used government cutbacks in education aid in an attempt to drop the New Directions program that enabled working class and Black students to attend Antioch, along with the grants and loans needed to pay their tuition. Students struck to win back the tuition aid for New Directions students, and they were supported by many faculty and campus workers. The college administration called in state police and sheriff’s deputies to attack the strikers and to forcibly open buildings. Twenty students were expelled and 7 teachers fired. Those students and teachers were eventually reinstated.
Even as the ’60s ebbed, the commitment to social responsibility and critical thinking continued among the faculty, and the school continued to attract students looking for the combination of theory and practical work experience historically associated with Antioch. In 2000 Antioch’s graduating class invited political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal to give the commencement speech (via a pre-recorded tape). This gave rise to a national mobilization of reactionaries who protested at the commencement, calling for Mumia’s execution. In that case, the administration did not back down in the face of reactionary attacks. However, when students chose University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill as the commencement speaker in 2005, then-College president Rick Jurasek intervened to disinvite him. The campaign to go after Churchill had begun earlier that year, led by arch-reactionary David Horowitz. Not only did Jurasek wipe out the Antioch graduates’ choice for speaker, he set a political precedent of “avoiding controversy” and contributed to the witch-hunt against Churchill.
In 1993, the Antioch community adopted a Sexual Offense Prevention Policy. This was a result of campus-wide discussion about “date rape” and how to best handle situations that could lead to date rape. The policy was an attempt by the Antioch community to publicly promote standards that included verbal consent among sexual partners at each stage of intimacy. While date rape is widespread on college campuses, this attempt by students at Antioch to stop it became the subject of ridicule by reactionaries.
Who Is Trying to Close Antioch?
Last year Steve Lawry was appointed as Antioch’s new president. Lawry’s immediate actions were opposed to the historic practice and philosophy of the school. The Yellow Springs News reported last year that Lawry described the student culture on campus as “toxic” (“Lawry challenges campus culture; students troubled,” 9/28/06). He began cracking down on drugs and alcohol, directed the censoring of the student newspaper for the first time in Antioch’s history, and oversaw the suspension of a student for using profanity against an administrator on an Internet forum.
The Board of Trustees couched its closure decision in terms of lack of financial resources and low numbers of student admissions, while Lawry pointed his finger at the students themselves as the cause of the college’s lack of funding. He was quoted in a June 23 New York Times article as saying that the college “became less about intellectual rigor, than a political and social experience… The boot camp of the revolution became the model.”
Recent research into enrollment figures provided to me by an Antioch faculty member shows that Antioch had the highest student enrollment precisely during the most radical years of the late ’60s and early ’70s. And there was a stable and steady enrollment of between 500 and 600 students every year between 1983 and 2003. In 2003 the College announced a “Renewal” plan that imposed changes in the curriculum and work-study programs. And that, in fact, is when the real decline in enrollment began.
The Yellow Springs News reported that in making its decision, the Board of Trustees hired a consulting firm to evaluate the viability of the school. The report by Gateway Consultants Group said the Trustees wanted to suspend school operations in order to give time for a “cleansing of the ghosts that have plagued Antioch’s recruitment efforts since the 1970s.”
Why is it that Antioch cannot be allowed to exist any longer? The spontaneous workings of capitalism do in fact act against institutions like Antioch. The school is not a magnet for programs like the Energy Biosciences Institute at UC Berkeley sponsored by the global oil monopoly BP. That, in itself, is an indictment of this society. And there are now “facts on the ground” that indeed do pose great challenges to keeping Antioch alive. The Trustees say that some $21 million is needed to maintain the existence of the college.
But there are more fundamental reasons why the powers-that-be want Antioch shut down or drastically redirected. The talk about “toxic culture” and “cleansing of the ghosts” shows that this is about a lot more than the financial bottom line. One question that bears further investigation is the connections of some members of the Antioch Board of Trustees to the U.S. military and intelligence agencies (see sidebar, “Antioch Trustees and the Military-Intelligence Connection”).
In an opinion piece in the New York Times, Antioch alumnus Michael Goldfarb took aim at virtually all the supposed excesses and misdeeds of the radical ’60s (“Where the Arts Were Too Liberal,” June 17). Goldfarb attacked (while greatly exaggerating the scope of) affirmative action programs at Antioch that recruited Black and other oppressed nationality students from inner-city schools and ridiculed a roommate who was agonizing over his sexual orientation. He complained that “For the increasingly vocal radical members of the community, change wasn’t going far enough or fast enough.” He went on to blast the 1973 strike by Antioch students and faculty and the anti-date rape policy adopted in the 1990s.
In a commentary widely published on July 16, including in the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal, reactionary columnist George Will zeroed in on the 1973 strike that, he says, ruined the school. And he also attacked the Sexual Offense Prevention Policy.
I was inspired to become one of the “increasingly vocal radical members of the community” at Antioch in the late ’60s and early ’70s because the world needed radical change. A restless spirit of rebellion against all that was outmoded was combining with rich and ongoing debate and contention over what a different society should be like, bubbling into one of the most invigorating and innovative periods in the whole 20th century. That whole orientation of taking on what is reactionary with a method that merges a spirit of irreverent inquiry and concrete action actually was allowed some breathing room at Antioch in the 1960s and early ’70s. Antioch has been vilified and slandered by the powers-that-be because of that history, and because that history is still upheld by many alumni and current students and faculty.
But it is not just the history of Antioch that is being threatened with extinction. The fate and social significance of Antioch College have suddenly become big issues in the current “culture wars.” The ridicule and slander against Antioch and its students are taking place at a time when critical thinking and dissent on campuses are under broad and serious attack from those like David Horowitz, a right-wing ideologue with close ties to ruling class forces around Bush, and the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, co-founded by Lynne Cheney, wife of Dick Cheney. Using the banner of “academic freedom,” Horowitz has initiated witch-hunts against professors like Ward Churchill, who was recently fired by the University of Colorado. Similarly, Prof. Norman Finkelstein was recently denied tenure at DePaul University in Chicago because of his opposition to Israel. In recent years, Horowitz has targeted Antioch on his web site.
These are not disconnected or random events. I urge everyone to read “Warning: The Nazification of the American University” in Revolution #81 (available online at revcom.us), which describes a systematic offensive to cleanse campuses of dissident thinkers, curricula, faculty, and students. The aim is to place severe limits on permissible discourse and to squelch thinking, inquiry, and debate that would challenge and refute the official narratives and explanations of U.S. history and present-day inequality and global lopsidedness. As “Warning…” points out: “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.”
Antioch’s tradition of turning out students with a commitment to the betterment of humanity, as opposed to a “me first and screw everyone else” outlook, has always been viewed as subversive by those with the reins of power in America. And in the post-9/11 “you’re either with us or with the terrorists” climate, the rulers consider the kind of outlook represented by Antioch a threat to their “homeland” and global empire.
The Fight to Save Antioch
There has been a passionate outcry from alumni, students, and faculty against the plans to close Antioch. At an annual reunion at the end of June, some 500 alumni flocked to the campus to begin a challenge to the threatened closure. Board of Trustee members and top administrators were grilled over the plans. Alumni resolved to create a College Revival Fund and to demand that the Board reverse its decision. Almost half a million dollars was raised in pledges and donations on the spot.
Antioch professor and past Antioch president Bob Devine and another faculty member wrote to Lawry last year: “It is incomprehensible to us to think of our students as comprising a ‘toxic culture.’ The students we have taught, advised, and worked with on various committees, are some of the most caring, committed, conscientious, compassionate, and community-oriented individuals we have ever known.” Devine noted that “The most ‘toxic culture’ I have experienced in my recent years at the College has been the administrative culture of the College.” (Lawry announced in late July that he will resign as president at the end of 2007. It is not clear as of this writing what his reasons are.)
The Board of Trustees says it wants to reopen Antioch College in 2012 with a new financial base and curriculum. But there is great disbelief among alumni, students, and faculty that a “new” Antioch would continue its mission. Alumni are forming committees across the country to mobilize public opinion and financial resources to enable Antioch to stay open with its values intact. At the same time, the Board of Trustees has reiterated that its decision to “suspend” Antioch College operations is “irreversible.”
It would be a huge setback for the people if an institution of higher learning like Antioch College were allowed to be shut down. On the other hand, a vigorous counter-offensive by Antioch alumni, faculty, students, staff and supporters could not only stop the closing but draw greater numbers of people into the crucial society-wide battle to defend critical thinking and the very ability to dissent on campuses and beyond.
For more information, go to www.antiochians.org/, the alumni website that is focused on preventing Antioch’s closure.
Revolution #98, August 13, 2007
In an article titled “Did U.S. Intelligence Assets Kill Antioch College?” Bob Fitrakis, publisher and editor of The Free Press, points out that at the time of the closure decision, the Board of Trustees had two members with ties to the U.S. military and security agencies. One is Bruce P. Bedford, who is also on the board of GlobeSecNine, a company described by a representative of investment corporation Bear Sterns as having “a unique set of experiences in special forces, classified operations, transportation security and military operations.” Another member of the Board at the time of the closure decision was Michael Alexander (since resigned), who founded a company called AverStar that later became part of a large military technology company, L3 Communications. The L3 Communications website says that its customers include “the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, selected U.S. Government intelligence agencies and aerospace prime contractors.”
Fitrakis writes, “The role of these trustees must be heavily scrutinized. Antioch alumni should be ashamed to allow their college to die until they get to the bottom of this spooky mystery.” (Fritakis’ article is available online at http://freepress.org/columns/display/3/2007/1568)
Another current trustee, Laurence Stone, runs Metron, Inc., whose brochure details its activities: “Objective: Support our DoD [Department of Defense] and Intelligence clients with advanced, mathematics-based products for dynamic target tracking, threat activity and event detection and large-scale warfighting simulation and analysis.” Metron works with the U.S. military and intelligence in the targeting and directing of submarine-launched missiles as well as electronic tracking of human “targets.”
The Dayton Daily News reported on July 26 that Congress recently voted $50 million in funding for high-tech military industries located in the area around Antioch. The Dayton/Yellow Springs region is home to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, which has spawned a large number of companies doing military research and manufacturing.
In addition, it is quite curious that the Antioch Board of Trustees hired the “marketing, branding and public relations” firm of SimpsonScarborough in relation to the decision to close the school. The chief executive officer of SimpsonScarborough, Christopher Simpson, formerly worked as a writer and editor for the Washington Times, a newspaper associated with Rev. Sun Myung Moon, a rabidly right-wing Christian fundamentalist with political connections to U.S. ruling circles. Before working for the Washington Times, Simpson was the press secretary for the notorious racist Senator Strom Thurmond.
SimpsonScarborough specializes in “reorienting” the curricula and funding bases of universities and colleges. In an article about Antioch on the firm’s website, SimpsonScarborough Vice President Tom Hayes wrote, “No college or university can ignore market realities. There is simply too much competition to keep a blind eye to institutional drift…Maybe running a college like a business is too radical of an idea for many in higher education. But, it is an idea you can live with.”
Revolution #98, August 13, 2007
“Just in case you don’t get it yet…”
Just in case you know someone who does not get it yet—someone who might not understand that the all-out and ongoing assault on a woman’s right to abortion is all about enslaving women to a system of patriarchal traditions backed up and enforced by the state—tell them about the new law before the Ohio state legislature.
The first week of August, a group of Ohio state legislators submitted a bill that would ban a woman from obtaining an abortion without the consent of the man who impregnated her. The proposal comes two weeks after Representative Tom Brinkman proposed a law that would ban all abortions in Ohio.
Supporters of the bill tout it as a measure that would give men “a say” in the abortion decision. In fact, it would give them veto power. If the bill is passed, women in violation of the law will be tried criminally for abortion fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor. Medical providers who perform abortions without the father’s consent would be similarly charged.
If that’s not patriarchal enough for you, the proposed law would also require women to provide a list of previous sexual partners in cases where the fetus' paternity was unknown! Abortion providers would then have to perform paternity tests.
This bill is being brought to you by legislators who have championed an extreme version of right-wing Christian ideology fanatically in opposition to the rights of women and gay people. Rep. Brinkman, for instance, started a group “Equal Rights Not Special Rights” that attempted to overturn a Cincinnati City Council vote to protect sexual and gender identity under the city’s human rights ordinance. The petitions were withdrawn after Brinkman admitted to fraudulently changing over 1000 addresses on the petition to make them valid. These Christian fascists who are introducing this kind of legislation in states all over the country have a worldview and practical agenda that wants to go back to the old days of Christian traditional morality—where women, in the words of the 13th-century theologian Thomas Aquinas, were “created to be man’s helpmate, but her unique role is in conception…since for other purposes men would be better assisted by other men.”
It’s not been that long since women were quite literally and legally the property of men. Under Common Law in England and in the Colonies, a man virtually owned his wife and children as he did his material possessions. If a poor man chose to send his children to the poor house, the mother was legally defenseless to protest. If a woman chose to leave her husband—her husband possessed custody of the children. Laws that allowed women to own their own property in their own names, and to divorce and obtain custody of their children, did not become law until the late 1800s. If these reactionary and outmoded political movements that are getting powerful backing in the highest offices of the land have their way, we’ll be “back to a future” that is even worse—where abortion, birth control, and divorce are banned. Where women are forced back from having achieved some hard-fought legal equality to legally enforced patriarchal rule that says a man’s rights over women and his children are what must be protected.
That is what is more than present in the proposed Ohio legislation, and the fact that it can even actually be introduced is a sign of how much fundamentalist lunacy is now considered legitimate political discourse by people who make laws. Just take a look at the twisted sense of morality being introduced in this proposed bill that would force a woman seeking to terminate a pregnancy to turn over a list of all her sexual partners. Is it such a stretch to imagine that such a woman would figuratively if not literally have to bear a scarlet letter and the chains of religious iconography that goes back to the scriptural and puritanical view of Eve as the gate of the devil?
This is the kind of law and morality that serves the needs of an imperialist empire looking to cohere and cobble together social stability at a time where the basic workings of this system are tearing apart people’s lives. The promotion of religion in public life—whether it’s the extreme Christian fascist agenda of theocracy or the seemingly more benign but just as pernicious adoption of religious faith into politics by the leadership of the Democratic Party—has both ruling class parties shamelessly marinating speeches from immigration to the budget in Biblical terms. Nancy Pelosi, in a debate on increasing embryo research funding, said, “Science is a gift from God to all of us, and science has taken us to a place that is biblical in its power to cure.” This is the kind of defense of science and scientific research being made by the “opposition party.”
To those who still don’t get it: this is your future with an imperialist ruling class hooked on God. Compare that with the kind of future revolutionary communists are fighting to bring into being. In a future socialist society, law would be made and morality guided by the objective of bringing about the full emancipation of women and the liberation of science and imagination from the confines of profit and superstition.
Revolution #98, August 13, 2007
From A World to Win News Service
August 6, 2007. A World to Win News Service. “That fateful summer, 8:15. The roar of a B-29 breaks the morning calm. A parachute opens in the blue sky. Then suddenly, a flash, an enormous blast—silence—hell on earth.
“The eyes of young girls watching the parachute melted. Their faces became giant charred blisters. The skin of people seeking help dangled from their fingernails. Their hair stood on end. Their clothes were ripped to shreds. People trapped in houses toppled by the blast were burned alive. Others died when their eyes and internal organs burst from their bodies. Hiroshima was a hell where those who somehow survived envied the dead.” (From the August 6, 2007 memorial statement by Hiroshima mayor Tadatoshi Akiba, in a plea to rid the world of all nuclear weapons)
On August 6, 1945 the U.S. unleashed the atomic bomb on humanity. The world’s first use of nuclear weapons, against the Japanese city of Hiroshima, was followed on August 9 by the bombing of Nagasaki.
As the U.S. threatens war—including the use of nuclear weapons—against Iran, supposedly because the Islamic regime seeks nuclear weapons capability, it is more important than ever to emphasize what country has been the first and only to ever actually use such weapons.
The two atomic bombs dropped at the end of World War 2 were deliberately set to explode high in the air. The point was to maximize the killing, not the destruction of buildings. More than 110,000 people died immediately in the two bombings and the radiation eventually killed hundreds of thousands more. Many years of painful death by cancer and later birth defects lay ahead for the survivors and their descendents.
If terrorism is defined as the killing of innocent civilians for a political purpose, then the world has seldom seen such terrorism. Think of 40 times September 11, 2001 in New York and you will only imagine the first few seconds.
Shortly after, Japan surrendered. But its economy and capital city had been destroyed before the atomic bombs reduced two non-military and relatively unimportant cities to towns of the dead. Many historians believe that country was on the verge of surrender before those terrible days in August 1945. The main reason the U.S. wanted to use atomic weapons was as a demonstration of strength to threaten the USSR. The Soviet Union was then a socialist country. It had been allied with the U.S. against Germany and Japan during the war, but even before that war was over, the U.S. was baring its teeth to the USSR and setting out to dominate the world.
Before World War 2, bombing civilians was considered a barbaric and illegal act. The U.S. was not the only nation to commit that crime in WW2, but along with the British it did so on an enormous scale. Since then the U.S. has threatened to use nuclear weapons on dozens of occasions, not only against the USSR when that country later became an imperialist rival to the U.S., but also Vietnam and China. That the U.S. would make first use of nuclear weapons whenever it felt its interests sufficiently threatened has been official U.S. doctrine and the cornerstone of American military policy from the 1950s through today.
Currently, despite the fact that the U.S.’s rival in Cold War nuclear terrorism, the USSR, has collapsed, the Bush government has launched a plan to redesign and rebuild every weapon in its nuclear arsenal, which still contains, like Russia’s, roughly 5,800 active atomic warheads. This includes both giant city-crushing long-range-missile-borne bombs and smaller “tactical” nuclear weapons to vaporize smaller targets. The Livermore Nuclear Weapons Lab in California, which is carrying out this project, was the target of a planned series of demonstrations to commemorate the bombings of the two Japanese cities and oppose an American attack on Iran. The use of “tactical” nuclear weapons against Iran is a popular topic of discussion in Washington.
It is also criminally ironic that just the week before the Hiroshima anniversary, the U.S. and Indian governments reached agreement on American technical assistance to India’s nuclear program at the same time the U.S. is threatening Iran for undertaking its own program. Unlike Iran, India has refused to sign the nuclear non-proliferation pact, and unlike Iran, India has developed and tested nuclear bombs. Obviously, for the U.S. the question is not preventing nuclear proliferation but supporting or toppling regimes according to its perceived interests.
As the UN International Atomic Energy Agency has said, there is no evidence that Iran’s nuclear program includes weapons at this time. It is true that nukes are nukes and much of the same technology and skills used for nuclear power plants can be used to make nuclear bombs. It also may be that the Iranian Islamic regime seeks nuclear weapons. It would be wrong to deny these facts and prettify an anti-people regime.
But the world has only known one nuclear war criminal, and that criminal must be stopped from doing it again.
Revolution #98, August 13, 2007
From A World to Win News Service
August 6, 2007. A World to Win News Service. The following is excerpted from an eyewitness account by Hiroshima survivor Yuko Nakamura. It was posted on august6.org, the Web site of a coalition of U.S. organizations that held actions to commemorate the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and oppose a U.S. attack on Iran this month.
In August 6th, 1945, I was 13 years old, a sophomore at a girls’ high school in Hiroshima. Starting in July, like the senior students, the second-year students were mobilized to three munitions factories for the country. At the time, I was living in Miyajima-guchi, in west Hiroshima. I was sent to an aircraft factory in the small town of Koi, in northwest Hiroshima. Most of the workers in the factory were mobilized students, and there were very few adult specialists.
In the morning of that fateful day, August 6th, it was very hot with the burning summer sun. That day, we were to visit a beach to go swimming since the factory was to be closed for one day to conserve electricity. But an air attack warning had delayed our departure a while, and I was reading a book I had borrowed from a friend. I felt relieved when the air attack alert was called off, thinking that the American aircraft had flown away as usual without bombing. Then, a friend of mine outside of the factory called, “Look! There’s a plane. It might be a B-29! It’s dropping something that looks like a parachute!” Then, a yellow-orange colored light flashed like a bolt of lightning as if several thousand magnesium bombs had exploded; when I turned my head to look in that direction I felt a massive shock hit my body accompanied by a large boom. The blast, contaminated with glass and dirt, blew through the inside of our factory, and I was knocked down to the floor. I thought that our factory had been directly hit by a bomb. Through cracked pillars and beams that had collapsed, I could see a faint light in the dark cloud of dust. It was the factory door. I crawled through the rubble towards the door.
“Are you hurt?” one friend called to me. I looked at my body. My uniform was red, stained with blood from my nose that was bleeding from the bomb blast. The inside of my left arm had been scraped with a piece of glass and was also bleeding. Many small glass shards were stuck all over my clothes and skin. I pressed my wounds with a cloth borrowed from my friend and ran to a back hill not far from there, hurried by my friend shouting, “Run to a dugout!” On the way, I looked up at the sky. The beautiful blue sky of the morning was starting to change. A black cloud covered the sky as if it were getting ready to attack us. The cloud changed to red, gray, and again to black, and grew even bigger to eventually cover the whole sky. It appeared monstrous. This cloud is called a “mushroom cloud” and it does indeed look like a mushroom. I ran into the dugout on the hillside and received just a treatment of mercurochrome. Meanwhile, when I was washing my face stained from my nosebleed, big drops of rain came down. Somebody screamed, “The Americans are dousing us with gasoline!”, “They are going to burn the hill and we will all be killed!” Everyone ran into the dugouts in fear. The rain was black, sticky and contaminated with sand and soil. It was several months before we realized that the rain was dangerously radioactive.
On that day, the first-year students of my high school had been mobilized to help dismantle buildings in the city center. Those 12-year-old girls, 220 in total, all perished by the end of the day, suffering from burns, without receiving any care or being able to see their families before dying. I wondered and still wonder for what reasons they had to die like this.
Many of the survivors, who had mutually congratulated each other after having survived the effects of the bomb, also died within a few days with acute symptoms of fever, diarrhea, vomiting, violet spots on the skin, hair loss, etc. People who had come to Hiroshima to help also showed the same symptoms and either died or suffered for a long time from radiation sickness. At the time, however, we could not even begin to imagine that these symptoms were being caused by the radioactive effects of an atomic bomb.
The atomic bombs turned both Hiroshima and Nagasaki into towns of the dead. There were red burned and bloated dead bodies piled up high, the corpses with the guts and the eyes popped out, over-capacitated trains burned black and crisp, people buried alive under buildings and dead, lines of ghost-looking people with burned frizzled hair and burned skin hanging, etc… It was not a scene of human life but a miserable hell. I never forget the mortification I had not being able to give water to those crowds of barely living survivors who were not able to save their own children or parents.
The atomic bomb brought 140,000 deaths in Hiroshima and 70,000 deaths in Nagasaki 62 years ago. People around the world need to know how a nuclear bomb can brutally destroy a city and take so many lives away, miserably, in a split second, and also should know that nuclear bombs today can bring even more horrifying destruction upon us.
Revolution #97, July 29, 2007
Revolution #98, August 13, 2007
High-ranking officials in the Bush administration and the U.S. military appeared in a fundraising/promotional video produced by a fundamentalist evangelical group called the Christian Embassy. The video, which was shot in 2004 and was posted on the group’s website and shown in 2005 and 2006, showed fully uniformed generals in their Pentagon offices under official Department of Defense plaques speaking passionately about their support for the group. It showed Bible study groups in the Pentagon complete with camouflage-colored Bibles. The fundamentalist group was given access and allowed to film in the Pentagon over a period of months. A statement by Mikey Weinstein, President of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which filed a complaint against the officers appearing in the video, said that the incident shows the “intentional dismantling of the Constitutionally-mandated wall separating church and state by some of the highest ranking officials in the Bush Administration and the U.S. military.”
On July 20, 2007, the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Defense released a report on its investigation of the video. The report found that many of the officers involved violated regulations by being interviewed in uniform and making comments that “conferred approval of and support” for the Christian Embassy. The report also said that “the remarks of some officers implied that they spoke for a group of senior military leaders rather than just for themselves.”
Appearing in the video are Acting Secretary of the Army Pete Geren, Major General Peter Sutton, Major General John Catton Jr., Brigadier General Vincent Brooks, Brigadier General Robert Caslen, and Pentagon Chaplain Ralph Benson. Also appearing in the video are six congressmen, two ambassadors to the U.S., as well as the Under Secretary of Benefits for Veterans Affairs and the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Christian Embassy aggressively proselytizes in Washington, DC among officials in the Pentagon, Congress, Presidential appointees, and foreign diplomats. The justifications given by some of the generals for participating in the video reveal the extent of the role that Christian Embassy plays inside the Pentagon. Brigadier General Brooks said that because the group was always around the Pentagon he thought that it was “a sanctioned or endorsed activity.”
Major General Catton said that he thought that Christian Embassy was a “quasi-federal entity.” That one of the top military leaders in the U.S. thinks that a fundamentalist evangelical Christian group is a “quasi-federal entity” says something about the degree to which foundational principles of U.S. government, such as the separation of church and state, are being undermined—and the degree to which these Christian fascists have penetrated the military.
The Inspector General’s Report
The Inspector General’s investigation of the participation of military officers in the video was only launched after the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which opposes theocratic influence in the military, filed a complaint. During the investigation it was revealed that Christian Embassy had made at least one previous fundraising video in the Pentagon, also with officers in uniform, but no officers were questioned about it.
The Inspector General’s report clears some of the highest ranking officers appearing in the video. In particular, Pete Geren, the Secretary of the Army, was completely exonerated even though he was filmed giving a statement of support to Christian Embassy inside the Pentagon.
It is doubtful that there will be any disciplinary action against the officers involved. Two incidents in recent years involving the U.S. military and religion show the pattern.
General Jerry Boykin was promoted to Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence after it was revealed that he went around the country speaking in churches in uniform and saying things like, "The battle that we’re in is a spiritual battle. Satan wants to destroy this nation, he wants to destroy us as a nation, and he wants to destroy us as a Christian Army," and “[Bush] is in the White House because God put him there for a time such as this."
When complaints surfaced of blatant intolerance toward non-Christian students at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, the investigation was overseen by Pete Geren (yes, the same guy who appeared in the Christian Embassy video). The official investigation concluded that there was no overt discrimination, despite a Jewish cadet being told the Holocaust was revenge for the death of Jesus and that another Jewish cadet being called a “Christ killer.” A chaplain at the Air Force Academy who opposed the atmosphere of intolerance was placed on administrative leave. .
In an interview with Tikkun magazine Mikey Weinstein of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation describes the outlook of the Christian fundamentalists in the U.S. military: “They often quote Luke 19:27 when I speak to them. That’s the Parable of the Pounds in which Jesus says: ‘go out among the people, and bring back to me those who refuse to accept me as King over them, and slaughter them.’”
As the U.S. imperialists wage an “unending war” for an unchallenged and unchallengeable empire, powerful forces in the ruling class have seized on the Christian fundamentalist worldview of holy war against “unbelievers” and U.S. as god’s “chosen” country. And Christian fascists see in the military a force to counteract what they see as the tide of godlessness and moral relativism that began in the 1960s. This is leading in a very dangerous direction, and the Christian Embassy video reveals the extent to which Christian fascist forces are already in very powerful position in the military.
The 10-minute Christian Embassy video can be viewed at http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/080307A.shtml
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 #98, August 13, 2007
Watch the 7½-minute video at youtube.com.
From the video intro:
“In June 2007, 40 city buses hit the streets of Los Angeles with big banner ads announcing a special screening of Bob Avakian’s REVOLUTION DVD at the Magic Johnson Theatre.
“Thousands were greeted everyday with large burning red letters reading REVOLUTION on the side of the buses in both English and Spanish.
“We took a camera to the streets and interviewed people’s responses to the ads.”
Revolution #98, August 13, 2007
This August 29 marks the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. No one should ever forget the images of people stranded on rooftops…wading through poisoned waters, and sometimes drowning…suffering in stadiums…and then facing police bullets as they tried to escape.
Instead of meeting the needs of the people, this system stranded them and condemned them to die or suffer. Then this same system dispersed and exiled them out of their life-long homes and communities. And the horror and attacks on the people go on, two years later.
The days leading up to this anniversary must be marked by people calling out this crime. The truth about the real conditions of the people from New Orleans, and their real needs and demands, must come out much more clearly into the light of day. People must be talking everywhere about what Katrina shows about this system—its whole history and current day practices and the ugly future it holds in store—and how we can fight this, as part of building a revolutionary movement. And on the 29th itself this should find expression in outpourings of protest and struggle, in New Orleans and all over, marking a determination to resist everything Katrina represents.
To help build and spark such an effort, Revolution is devoting much of its next issue to Katrina. We call on our readers to take many extra copies of the paper and to get them out everywhere you can. Use the paper itself to spark and spread resistance. The paper will be available August 21, and will be out for two full weeks; the next issue will come out September 4.
The issue that is available on August 21 will also contain an important “supplement” aimed at the colleges and universities, dealing with the intense attack on critical thinking now going on on campus (and described in articles on pages 7 and 10 in this issue). This supplement will be available beginning next week and then for the next six weeks after. Get to know which colleges begin registration and orientation next week and make sure to spread the word and to get out this issue.
Katrina—Never Forgive and Never Forget!
Make August 29 a Day of Remembrance…and Political Resistance!
Defend Critical Thinking—and Spread Revolution to the Campuses!