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Revolution #100, September 9, 2007
Jose Padilla Convicted—
On August 16, a federal court in Miami convicted Jose Padilla on the charge of “conspiracy to murder, kidnap, and maim persons in a foreign country” and two other charges. Padilla, along with two co-defendants, faces life in jail.
The treatment of Jose Padilla as an “enemy combatant,” along with his just-completed trial, was a process of “first the verdict, then the sentence and then trial.” This whole thing both concentrates and is a spearhead in overturning long-established legal principles in the U.S.—principles which should apply to citizen and non-citizen alike. And further exposure of the outrageous legal precedents will be covered in future issues; in this article, we focus on Padilla himself.
Over five years ago, in May 2002, Jose Padilla was seized by federal agents at Chicago's O'Hare Airport as a "material witness" and held in secret. A month later, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft publicly accused Padilla—a U.S. citizen—of being "an al-Qaeda operative" who "was exploring a plan to build and explode a radiological dispersion device, or 'dirty bomb,' in the United States." George W. Bush declared that Padilla was an "enemy combatant" and stripped him of all rights, saying, "This guy Padilla's a bad guy." The mainstream media repeated all this in screaming headlines.
Padilla was thrown into a naval brig in Charleston, South Carolina, where he was locked up in isolation for the next 3 ½ years—not charged with any crime and not allowed to see any lawyer, family members, or anyone else except his interrogators.
In November 2005, faced with the possibility that Padilla’s challenge of his detention might get to the U.S. Supreme Court, the Bush regime announced that Padilla would be put on trial on criminal charges. Padilla was indicted on conspiracy charges that had nothing to do with the original accusations against Padilla that Bush & Co. used to justify throwing him into isolation in a military prison. They did not charge him with planning to explode a "dirty bomb." They did not charge him with being a member of al-Qaeda.
After the August 16 guilty verdict, a Bush spokesman said, “Jose Padilla received a fair trial and a just verdict.” The New York Times criticized Bush for holding Padilla without charges but then said that the administration “was forced…at the very end, to provide him with the rights guaranteed by the Constitution.”
Look at what these ruling class voices are calling a “fair trial” and “rights guaranteed by the Constitution”: For 48 months, the Bush regime abused and tortured Padilla—and drove him insane. A psychiatrist who examined Padilla last year said, “What happened at the brig was essentially the destruction of a human being’s mind.” (Democracy Now, 8/16/07) Then they put this brain-damaged man on trial. Now, the U.S. government—through the official “justice” system—is about to lock this man up for life.
The torture of Padilla is criminal. And the wider implications are far-reaching and very dangerous for the people. A look into this whole case shows how far the rulers of this country have already moved in expanding their repressive powers against whoever they deem to be a threat—and how quickly they are moving to further gear up their machinery of suppression.
Using Conspiracy Law to Go After “Thought Crimes”
Jose Padilla, now 36 years old, was born in Brooklyn and later moved to Chicago. While serving a prison sentence, he converted to Islam. The government alleges that Padilla and the two co-defendants (Adham Hassoun and Kifah Jayyousi), whom he had met in a mosque in Florida, had conspired to commit murder in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Chechnya.
Andrew Patel, Padilla’s lawyer, said after the guilty verdict, “What happened in this trial, I think you have to put it in the context of federal conspiracy law, where the government doesn’t have to prove that something happened, but just that people agree that something should happen in the future. In this case, it was even more strained. The crime charged in this case was actually an agreement to agree to do something in the future. So when you’re dealing with a charge like that, you’re not going to have—or the government’s not going to be required to produce the kind of evidence that you would expect in a normal criminal case.” (Democracy Now, 8/17/07)
The government prosecutors claimed to have two main pieces of “evidence” against Padilla: wiretapped phone conversations and an “application form” to join al-Qaeda that the government alleges was filled out by Padilla.
The government revealed that it had collected 300,000 wiretapped phone conversations related to this case over 10 years—all with warrants. The “Protect America Act” recently passed by Congress and signed by Bush greatly expanded the government’s warrantless wiretapping program—but the Padilla case points to the fact that the government carries out vast amounts of court-approved eavesdropping on communications in the U.S. (see “In the Name of ‘Protect America’: A Big Step Towards POLICE STATE America,” online at revcom.us).
Of the 300,000 wiretaps, the government declared 14,000 to be “pertinent” to the case. The prosecutors introduced 130 conversations (or parts of conversations) as evidence at the trial. Of these, Padilla’s voice is heard on only seven—and in none of those does Padilla discuss anything to do with what the government charged him with. The prosecutors claimed that the defendants were talking in coded language. Jurors interviewed by the Miami Herald after the trial said that what particularly influenced their decision to convict Padilla of conspiracy was a 1997 phone conversation in which Padilla is heard talking to co-defendant Hassoun about going “over there.” Hassoun asks, “You’re ready, right?” Padilla replies, “God willing, brother. It’s going to happen soon.”
But, in fact, there was nothing that “happened soon.” Over a year after that intercepted phone call, Padilla moved to Egypt where, he says, he continued his Islamic studies. While there he divorced his American wife, married an Egyptian woman, and fathered two children. Padilla later went to Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Pakistan. The third defendant, Jayyousi, a Jordanian-born U.S. citizen, said he never met Padilla, and none of the wiretap tapes introduced by the government have him in a conversation with Padilla. Still, the jurors said the wiretapped 1997 conversation led them to conclude that Padilla was involved in a conspiracy.
The second main piece of “evidence” was a document that the government said was an application to join al-Qaeda filled out by Jose Padilla in 2000, supposedly found at an al-Qaeda safe house in Afghanistan. The government claims that Padilla went to an al-Qaeda camp in Afghanistan during his travels abroad—but, according to the Miami Herald, “prosecutors presented no direct evidence that placed Padilla at the military-style camp in Afghanistan.”
The document does have a birthdate that matches Padilla’s, and it indicates that the applicant is a Spanish speaker (which Padilla is). And Padilla’s fingerprints are allegedly on the form. But Padilla’s name is not on it. And attorney Andrew Patel points out that there are two or three different kinds of ink used on the form, the handwriting is different on the front and back pages, and dates are written in American style on one page and in the European style on another.
But even if the government’s claim that Padilla had filled out this “application form” were true, it’s not evidence for the conspiracy that Padilla was charged with. Robert Chesney, a Wake Forest University law professor, told the NY Times: “It’s a pretty big leap between a mere indication of desire to attend a camp and a crystallized desire to kill, maim and kidnap.”
Various legal scholars point to a chilling implication of Padilla’s conviction under the federal conspiracy law. Scott Horton, an adjunct professor of law at Columbia University, wrote in a Harper’s magazine blog: “As the Bush Administration is conceptualizing and implementing this law, the fact that Padilla thought bad thoughts about the United States and its Government is enough to lock him up for life.” Peter Marguiles, a law professor at Roger Williams University, told the NY Times that the conspiracy charge against Padilla “is highly amorphous, and it basically allows someone to be found guilty for something that is one step away from a thought crime.”
When Jose Padilla was arrested in 2002 at O’Hare, he was held on a material witness warrant. A material witness warrant is supposedly a means to compel someone to testify in a trial or at a grand jury hearing. So this was a fraud to begin with—the government had no intention of having Padilla testify. Since 9/11, the Bush regime has used material witness warrants widely to detain people without charges.
From O’Hare, Padilla was sent to New York and assigned a defense attorney. But two days before Padilla was scheduled to appear before a federal district court judge in June 2002 on a motion to vacate the material witness warrant, Bush issued a presidential order taking Padilla out of custody of the federal marshals and transferring him to military custody.
When Padilla’s lawyer petitioned the court for a writ of habeas corpus, a Bush official named Michael Mobbs—the Special Advisor to the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy—stepped in with a declaration for the court, giving the government’s story that Padilla was planning to set off a radioactive “dirty bomb” at the behest of al-Qaeda and that this justified his detention as an “enemy combatant” and the banning of any further contact with his attorney. The government claimed they got information about Padilla and the “dirty bomb” plot from captives held by the U.S. in other countries—captives, as it has come out, who were tortured. The government said details about this information could not be revealed because they were a “state secret”—everybody had to take Bush’s word for it that Padilla was a “bad guy.” The government was openly declaring that it was carrying out preventive detention—holding Padilla not for something he might have done, but to prevent him from doing something he allegedly might do in the future.
The federal district court in New York City ruled that the president had the authority to detain U.S. citizens as “enemy combatants” and that it would only consider whether the government had “some evidence” to justify this designation in Padilla’s case. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the lower court, ordering that Padilla be released from military custody and tried in civilian courts. But the order was suspended when the Bush administration appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court ruled in June 2004 that Padilla should have filed his appeal in the federal court in Charleston, SC, because he was being held in the military prison there. The Supreme Court ruling moved the case into the 4th Circuit, the most conservative federal court. And in September 2005, a judge in the 4th Circuit ruled that the government can continue to hold Padilla indefinitely in military detention. Padilla’s lawyers appealed the 4th Circuit Court decision. And it was when this appeal appeared headed to the Supreme Court—where the legality of stripping a U.S. citizen of all rights might be challenged—that the Bush regime moved to indict Padilla on criminal charges.
But in bringing the case into the courts, Bush was certainly not renouncing the claim that the president had the power to declare someone an “enemy combatant” and detain that person indefinitely, simply on his say so. In fact, by derailing an appeal of the 4th Circuit Court ruling, Bush was forcefully asserting his presidential power to imprison other people without trial and deny them any rights. And the Bush regime kept the option to reclassify Padilla as an “enemy combatant”—in other words, to strip him of all rights and throw him back into indefinite military detention again—if things did not go their way in court.
Through the Padilla case, the Bush regime blatantly justified its use of torture in the name of “intelligence gathering.”
The torture of Padilla may have included many things—Padilla himself has been too terrified by the experience to say anything. But the practices in the military prison that have been made public centered on extreme isolation and sensory deprivation. (See sidebar, “The Inexcusable Torture of Jose Padilla.”) In a court document submitted in 2003, Vice Admiral Lowell Jacoby, Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, put forward the Bush regime’s rationale for cutting Padilla from all contact with lawyers or anyone else. In the cold-blooded language of a professional torturer, Jacoby discussed what U.S. interrogators needed in order to carry out “robust interrogation efforts”:
“Anything that threatens the perceived dependency and trust between the subject and interrogator directly threatens the value of interrogation as an intelligence-gathering tool. Even seemingly minor interruptions can have profound psychological impacts on the delicate subject-interrogator relationship. Any insertion of counsel into the subject-interrogator relationship, for example—even if only for a limited duration or for a specific purpose—can undo months of work and may permanently shut down the interrogation process. Therefore, it is critical to minimize external influences on the interrogation process… Only after such time as Padilla has perceived that help is not on the way can the United States reasonably expect to obtain all possible intelligence information from Padilla…”
Stuart Grassian, an expert on effects of solitary confinement who examined Padilla for his lawyers, cut through Jacoby’s deeply hypocritical use of the word “trust”: “What the government is attempting to do is to create an atmosphere of dependency and terror.” (Christian Science Monitor, 8/14/2007)
The torture and cruel treatment against Padilla that have been admitted—let alone what else might come to light—are acts that have long been considered war crimes under both U.S. and international laws and treaties. And these are exactly the kind of torture “techniques” that the White House and the Congress legitimized and legalized last year with the Military Commissions Act. (See “The Facts About the Military Commissions Act (Torture Law),” online at revcom.us)
In pre-trial hearings, defense psychiatrists gave damning testimony that Padilla had been severely damaged by the 43 months of solitary confinement. But the government declared that he met the legal requirements of “competency” to stand trial, and the judge ruled that the trial could go ahead.
What kind of government tortures prisoners and deliberately drives them insane? What kind of society is it where those in power carry out such horrors with impunity? And what responsibility do all people of conscience have to say NO to these horrors and demand that they be brought to a halt?
In formal legal arguments before the Supreme Court, Bush’s Deputy Solicitor General Paul Clement defended the military detention of Padilla by saying, “You have to recognize that in situations where there is a war—where the government is on a war footing—that you have to trust the executive.”
“Trust the executive”?! This is a president that lied about WMDs to justify the invasion of Iraq, lied about the vast program of illegal wiretapping, lied about torture, and on and on. Why should anyone “trust” what this government says about Padilla or anything else? To “trust” this regime means complicity with all their crimes and horrors.
The Bush regime’s actions in disappearing Jose Padilla and locking him in a military brig for years represented major breaks from and blatant violations of long-established legal principles of U.S. law—the right to speak to a lawyer when arrested, no coercive interrogations, no imprisonment without a trial where the accused could hear evidence and question witnesses, no indefinite detention without a trial, and so on. From the beginning, these principles were constrained and truncated by virtue of being part of an exploitative class system, and the history of this country is filled with the trampling of such rights—for example, the blatant discrimination and reactionary violence against Black people and other oppressed nationalities. (To take but one example, there is the case of the torture carried out by the Chicago police under the watch of Lt. Jon Burge, which has again recently been in the news.) But the setting of incarceration by presidential decree as the “new normalcy” has been a major leap in a fascist direction.
Through this trial, the government went to great lengths to convict Jose Padilla and the other two defendants to retroactively justify those gross violations. Now, with the Padilla verdict, various legal experts are sounding the alarm about “thought crimes”—the criminalization of “bad thoughts” against the rulers and their state. And the Padilla case has to be seen in the context of the quickening pace of repressive steps: broadening of warrantless wiretapping, legalization of torture, the official and unofficial fascist offensive against immigrants, the surveillance and detention of protesters (see, for instance, the recent revelations about illegal police spying and arrests surrounding the 2004 Republican National Convention), the firing of professors for holding dissenting and critical views of U.S. policy, etc.
Consider the dangerous changes in legal norms and standards that have already come about. Look at all that this country’s rulers have done to Jose Padilla, those at the U.S. torture camp at Guantánamo, and others at secret CIA prisons around the world. Think about who else they can and will target—if they are not stopped by a massive political resistance, as part of building a revolutionary movement against this monstrous system.
Revolution #100, September 9, 2007
The U.S. government has refused to reveal the conditions that Jose Padilla was held in at the military brig in Charleston, claiming that this is a “state secret.” But some of this has come out through the media and in the defense motions at his trial. A lot of what was done to Padilla involves extreme sensory deprivation. Photos in the press show him being moved from place to place with black goggles over his eyes and sound protectors over his ears. A recent report in the Christian Science Monitor described some of the conditions:
“According to defense motions on file in this case, Padilla’s cell measured nine feet by seven feet. The windows were covered over. There was a toilet and a sink. The steel bunk was missing its mattress.
“He had no pillow. No sheet. No clock. No calendar. No radio. No television. No telephone calls. No visitors. Even Padilla’s lawyer was prevented from seeing him for nearly two years.
“For significant periods of time the Muslim convert was denied any reading material, including the Koran. The mirror on the wall was confiscated. Meals were slid through a slot in the door. The light in his cell was always on.
“Those who haven’t experienced solitary confinement can imagine that life locked in a small space would be inconvenient and boring. But according to a broad range of experts who have studied the issue, isolation can be psychologically devastating. Extreme isolation, in concert with other coercive techniques, can literally drive a person insane, these experts say…”
A legal document filed in 2006 described other methods of torture Padilla was subjected to:
Commenting on what the U.S. government had done to Padilla, Scott Horton, Columbia University adjunct law professor, wrote, “Was it really torture? Yes. At this point there’s very little disagreement on this score among experts who have studied it. On the other side you will find only ‘experts’ in the pay of the U.S. Government whose job is to manufacture excuses for the inexcusable.”
Revolution #100, September 9, 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 17th and concluding excerpt in a series of excerpts we have been running in Revolution. Subheads and footnotes have been added for publication here. The entire talk is available online at revcom.us/avakian/anotherway.
Confronting Daunting Problems
Now, in moving closer to a conclusion (see, I'm dangling that prospect out there!), I want to speak to something I have formulated previously (I believe it was the "Reaching/Flying"1 series that ran in our newspaper a few years ago), where I spoke about "two things we don't know how to do"—namely, meeting repression and actually winning when the time comes. Now the point of saying these are two things we don't know how to do is not to project some phony posture of humility: "We're very modest—there are some things we know how to do, in fact there are really important things we don't know how to do. Isn't that great?" No, it's very bad, it's a very real problem, that we don't know how to do these things. The point is to call attention to the fact that we'd better work on these things—in the appropriate way and not in inappropriate ways.
Dealing with Heightening Repression
So, let's talk briefly about this. Resisting the heightening repression—this is a gigantic challenge. I mean, let's do keep in mind that bourgeois democracy is after all bourgeois dictatorship where democracy is ultimately and fundamentally only for the ruling class and those who serve its interests and dictatorship is exercised over the rest; but it's not good what's happening right now, the way they're moving with that bourgeois dictatorship, the way they are markedly and openly stepping up the repression and undercutting the ground from which to oppose and resist it. It's not good for the people of the world. It's not good for the people in this country, and it's not good for the organized forces of political resistance, and not good for us as the vanguard of the necessary revolutionary movement. It's very bad. The fact that, on the orders of the President and his functionaries, anybody can be yanked out and put in a deep freeze, locked up with no rights, subjected to torture and perhaps never heard from again—that is not a good thing in any sense! This is posing itself very acutely and urgently now, and again you find the problem that foundational things are being undermined so that people are losing their sense of even what to stand on to fight some of these things—which is a significant part of the purpose of undermining these foundational things.
And then there is the dynamic of "that which" (as the Call of World Can't Wait emphasizes: "That which you do not resist and mobilize to stop, you will learn—or be forced—to accept"). If you don't fight something, you don't forge the means for fighting it—for resisting it and building massive political opposition—and you are much further behind in being able to fight not only that outrage but the ones which are coming behind it and for which it is preparing the ground. And a major part of the dynamic these days is this: What was yesterday's outrage becomes today's institutionalized and codified reality. This dynamic is very, very bad and poses very serious problems on many different levels—on the level of the mass movement and mass resistance, and on the level of organized political forces, and yes, definitely, on the level of vanguard leadership. For anybody with progressive sentiments, and certainly anybody with a revolutionary orientation, if this is not giving you nightmares, there is something very wrong.
So we (and by "we" I mean not just our Party but the broader movement and broader forces of opposition) have to come from way behind on this, and very urgently—in a very telescoped way and on different levels and in different dimensions at one and the same time: We have to develop resistance to the repression while learning how to not just survive the repression that will come anyway (and, in some aspects, may even be heightened in response to resistance) but also to forge the means for advancing politically and in an overall sense in the face of this heightening repression and in the face of the shifting ground.
In terms of our Party and in the most fundamental terms, it is going to take the highest level of application of our scientific world outlook and methodology to be able to rise to this challenge. We are way behind on this, and there are no easy answers to it. And the dialectical relations are very difficult to handle correctly, particularly the dialectical relation between taking risks politically and practically in order to get into a position to better deal with the repression, vs. what you lose, or might lose, by taking such risks. This is an extremely intense contradiction—a very acute and very, very daunting challenge. And this has to be fought through on the level of forging policies and approaches for the mass movement and for the vanguard in different dimensions.
When they are gutting habeas corpus and codifying torture, when they actually now have brought legal charges of treason against someone—I am referring to someone who is an Islamic fundamentalist nutcase, but they're charging him with treason for making videotapes in support of Jihad against America—think of the implications of that. And they always do things like this, to the degree they can, with people they think will be—and in some cases may actually be—the least defensible, in order to scare everybody away and to turn everybody off from rising to oppose this. I hope everybody is taking note not just of the ongoing rantings of Ann Coulter and David Horowitz and that ilk about treason, but also of the comment by Gary Bauer who, after seeing the October 4th World Can't Wait ad in the New York Times, said: If that's not treason, I don't know what is.2 Well, if an ad like that, opposing torture and other crimes against humanity of the Bush regime—if that is denounced as treason, think about the implications of that. And Gary Bauer is not a minor figure. He might not be right in the inner core of the ruling class, at this time, but if so he's at most only a couple of rungs away.
We have to take all this very seriously. If we don't yet know how to deal with all this, we'd better make leap after leap in developing the ability to do so, with the necessary sense of urgency and through the dialectical back and forth between practice and theory in this regard. We must not allow a situation to unfold that will just foster further demoralization among the masses, especially basic masses, who are already inclined, in large numbers, to say: "I told you, you can't do anything. Anytime you try to do anything, they'll just come and wipe out the organizations and the leaders." I don't want to see that again. And I don't want to see people have to conclude that you can't build mass resistance, let alone a revolutionary movement, because they'll just come and devastate this with repression. This is not just some subjective thing—"I don't want to see this"—this has to do with what we are all about, with the fundamental needs and highest interests of the masses of people and ultimately of humanity—as communists we cannot allow this to happen. And, to invoke again and give particular emphasis to that Dylan line: "Let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late."
As has been seen in the history of the communist movement on an international level, in the experience of socialist states in relation to the overall worldwide revolutionary struggle, and in the experience in particular countries: repeatedly there have been situations where heightened possibilities and potential openings for advance, perhaps for great qualitative advance, often, or even generally, go hand in hand with greatly heightened dangers and the prospect of profound losses and setbacks. This is what the Soviet Union faced in the context of World War 2 and in relation to the question of advancing, or not, the international communist movement and the international revolutionary struggle. It's what China faced at the juncture where, in the late 1960s and early '70s, the Soviet Union was seriously threatening China with attack, perhaps even with nuclear weapons.
What can get posed at such critical junctures is not just greatly heightened dangers in some abstract or general sense, but the risk of losing everything, at least for a certain period of time. Being able to—or developing in the midst of intensifying contradictions the ability to—forge, and to continue forging in new circumstances, the means to handle these contradictions correctly, and well, is of decisive, strategic, and at times even world-historic importance. And, without overstating things, this is one of those times.
Approaching Revolution, and Winning, in a Serious Way
The other thing that I have said we don't know how to do is, when the time comes, be able to win. We don't know how to get over the first hump of seizing power through a mass revolutionary upsurge. To put it bluntly and somewhat crudely, to emphasize the reality people face: Those who rule the U.S.—and much of the world—are some powerful nasty motherfuckers who have an ideological solid core that doesn't give a fuck about killing millions of people, is firmly convinced that it represents everything good in the world and that any opposition to it, especially of any essential or fundamental nature, represents a concentration of evil in the world and needs to be stamped out. We should reflect on that very seriously.
Recently, Rumsfeld and others in and around the Bush regime have been making an analogy which, in immediate terms, they are applying to Islamic fundamentalists. They speak of how, a century ago, at the beginning of the 20th century, this guy Lenin wrote this pamphlet What Is To Be Done? ; and, they say, "If we had known everything this would lead to, through the course of that century, wouldn't we have moved to stamp that out right then and there?" Well, on the surface—and in the main aspect now—they are making an analogy to Islamic fundamentalists today (bin Laden and others), but they are also making a general point. And if we don't listen and take heed of the broader point they are making, well… Bush couldn't get that saying right, but we can render it a little differently: If they tell you once, and if you don't listen, shame on you. And if they tell you a bunch of times and you still don't listen, then you have no right to be calling yourself a vanguard or anything like that. You have no right to step out before people and say, follow us.
We have to take up the question and approach the question of winning in a very serious and not in an infantile way, and not in a way which makes it even easier for this kind of concentrated power of reaction to crush any attempt to bring a new world into being. Not long ago a very important statement was published in Revolution newspaper, "Some Crucial Points of Revolutionary Orientation—in Opposition to Infantile Posturing and Distortions of Revolution." This was both a matter of necessity—it was necessary to clear up some confusion that had been created—and a matter of seizing freedom out of this necessity to put forward before people a serious and scientific presentation of what this revolution is about and how in fundamental terms it has to be gone about.
This statement is worth reading here, in its entirety.
"Revolution is a very serious matter and must be approached in a serious and scientific way, and not through subjective and individualistic expressions of frustration, posturing and acts which run counter to the development of a mass revolutionary movement which is aimed at—and which must be characterized by means that are fundamentally consistent with and serve to bring into being—a radically different and far better world. Revolution, and in particular communist revolution, is and can only be the act of masses of people, organized and led to carry out increasingly conscious struggle to abolish, and advance humanity beyond, all systems and relations of exploitation and oppression.
"A bedrock, scientific understanding which must underlie the development of such a revolutionary movement is that [and here this statement quotes from the first of the Three Main Points that are run regularly in Revolution]:
"The whole system we now live under is based on exploitation—here and all over the world. It is completely worthless and no basic change for the better can come about until this system is overthrown.
"In a country like the U.S., the revolutionary overthrow of this system can only be achieved once there is a major, qualitative change in the nature of the objective situation, such that society as a whole is in the grip of a profound crisis, owing fundamentally to the nature and workings of the system itself, and along with that there is the emergence of a revolutionary people, numbering in the millions and millions, conscious of the need for revolutionary change and determined to fight for it. In this struggle for revolutionary change, the revolutionary people and those who lead them will be confronted by the violent repressive force of the machinery of the state which embodies and enforces the existing system of exploitation and oppression; and in order for the revolutionary struggle to succeed, it will need to meet and defeat that violent repressive force of the old, exploitative and oppressive order."
I am going to continue reading this statement, but people could very well benefit from studying this over many times to see how things are said and how they are not said, and the ways in which attention is paid to how fundamental principles are put forth while at the same time infantile posturing is avoided—and not only infantile posturing, but other ways in which the enemy can actually be aided, by stating things in a way that does not conform to what is actually intended and what will actually advance the struggle.
This statement goes on:
"Before the development of a revolutionary situation—and as the key to working toward the development of a revolutionary people, in a country like the U.S.—those who see the need for and wish to contribute to a revolution must focus their efforts on raising the political and ideological consciousness of masses of people and building massive political resistance to the main ways in which, at any given time, the exploitative and oppressive nature of this system is concentrated in the policies and actions of the ruling class and its institutions and agencies—striving through all this to enable growing numbers of people to grasp both the need and the possibility for revolution when the necessary conditions have been brought into being, as a result of the unfolding of the contradictions of the system itself as well as the political, and ideological, work of revolutionaries.
"In the absence of a revolutionary situation—and in opposition to the revolutionary orientation and revolutionary political and ideological work that is actually needed—the initiation of, or the advocacy of, isolated acts of violence, by individuals or small groups, divorced from masses of people and attempting to substitute for a revolutionary movement of masses of people, is very wrong and extremely harmful. Even—or especially—if this is done in the name of 'revolution,' it will work against, and in fact do serious damage to, the development of an actual revolutionary movement of masses of people, as well as to the building of political resistance against the outrages and injustices of this system even before there is a revolutionary situation. It will aid the extremely repressive forces of the existing system in their moves to isolate, attack and crush those, both revolutionary forces and broader forces of political opposition, who are working to build mass political resistance and to achieve significant, and even profound, social change through the politically-conscious activity and initiative of masses of people."
Again, I would seriously recommend that people study this over and over again to see how the contradictions were handled on all different kinds of levels.
Now, in previous talks I've spoken about two tracks in relation to winning, in relation to the seizure of power when there is the emergence of a revolutionary situation and a revolutionary people of millions. In light of what I've just read (which was the whole of "Some Crucial Points of Revolutionary Orientation—in Opposition to Infantile Posturing and Distortions of Revolution"), and with that as a template, if you will, or a foundation—and from a strategic, not immediate, standpoint—we should understand the role and the dialectical relation of these two tracks. These are separate tracks, and only with a qualitative change in the situation (as spoken to in what I just read from "Some Crucial Points") can there be a merging of the two tracks. Until that point, they can only correctly be developed, and have to be developed, separately.
The first track, which is the main focus and content of things now, is political, ideological, and organizational work, guided by the strategic orientation of united front under the leadership of the proletariat, having in view and politically preparing for the emergence of a revolutionary situation and a revolutionary people on a mass scale. This is what it means to "hasten while awaiting" the development of a revolutionary situation.
The second track refers to and is in essence developing the theory and strategic orientation to be able to deal with the situation and be able to win when the two tracks can and should be merged—with a qualitative change in the objective political terrain, with the emergence of a revolutionary situation and a revolutionary people (as I have spoken to that here and as is set forth in a concentrated way in "Some Crucial Points"). What is appropriate now in this regard is attention to the realm of theory and strategic thinking and understanding, learning in a deep and all-sided way from experience of different kinds. There is a need to study all these different kinds of experience and for it to be synthesized from a correct strategic perspective—all in order to accumulate knowledge to deepen theoretical understanding and strategic conception.
If either one of these tracks is ignored or not correctly dealt with, then the possibility for revolution will be thrown away even if the objective conditions for revolution should come into being. And it will not just be "oops, the chance was missed." It will be a terrible debacle and disaster for not just the organized forces of revolution but for millions of people and a betrayal of what communists are supposed to be about and work toward and contribute to, in terms of the transformation of the whole world.
Nobody can guarantee anybody the emergence of a revolutionary situation, correctly understood, at any given time. We're not fortune tellers, and we're not sellers of some sort of bromide that cures all diseases—we're not religious hucksters, charlatans, and opportunists. And no one can guarantee that, even if you get the most favorable situation possible under a given set of circumstances, you are going to win. But if all this is not approached with all the seriousness that has been emphasized, if it is taken up irresponsibly and without a clear sense of what should and should not be done, and what is correct and appropriate and what is highly incorrect and inappropriate, then the name of communists is not deserved, the name of vanguard is a bitter irony at best.
* * * * *
The essential challenge that we face, not just in a general and historical sense, but very urgently—the question that is posed, not only in an overall strategic sense but also immediately and acutely—is one of being the vanguard of the future, or at best the residue of the past. And the dimensions and the stakes of this are constantly increasing.
This applies to our Party. It involves the question of being, in a sense, real, concentrated expressions of the emancipators of humanity and leaders of the emancipators of humanity. And the same challenge applies on the international level to the communist movement and in terms of the internationalist responsibilities of communists.
Are we going to go down as a residue of the past and another disappointment and in fact another arrow in the back of the masses of people? Or, without any guarantees of victory in any particular set of circumstances but with strategic objectives and a sweeping view in mind, are we going to rise to the challenge of being, together with our comrades throughout the world, the vanguard of the future?
1. Reaching for the Heights and Flying Without a Safety Net is a talk given by Bob Avakian in 2002. Excerpts from the talk appeared in Revolutionary Worker #1195-1210 (April 20-August 17, 2003) and are available online at revcom.us/avakian/avakian-works.html. [back]
2. For more on the treason indictment and Bauer's remark, see "The Federal Treason Indictment: Threatening Extreme Punishment for Public Speeches," Revolution #66 (Oct. 22, 2006), online at revcom.us. [back]
Revolution #100, September 9, 2007
“THIS IS AN OUTRAGE!”
“THIS IS APPALLING IN EVERY SENSE OF THE WORD.”
“THIS SHOULD NOT BE TOLERATED…ANY LONGER!”
“THIS INJUSTICE, INEQUALITY AND RACISM INFURIATES ME.”
“THESE YOUNG MEN GOTTA BE FREED!”
“WHAT CAN I DO?”
This is what people SAY when they hear about the case of the Jena 6.
AND NOW THIS MASS SENTIMENT MUST BECOME A MATERIAL POLITICAL FORCE TO STOP A GREAT INJUSTICE.
The “Jena 6” are six Black students in Jena, Louisiana, who could go to prison for decades because they stood up against deeply entrenched racism.
This all started on September 1, 2006. Black students at Jena High sat under what had been, in 2006(!), a “WHITE ONLY TREE.”
The next day, racist students hung three NOOSES from the tree.
For all to see, a straight-up racist threat: KKK. Lynching. Black bodies at the bottom of the river.
Dozens of Black students stand together under the tree in a courageous, defiant protest. A school assembly is called where a white district attorney tells the Black students to keep their mouths shut about the nooses. Then he threatens them: “I can take away your lives with a stroke of my pen.” When racist white students jump a Black student walking into a party in Jena, one white student gets probation. Later, when a Jena white threatens a Black student with a gun, and the Black student disarms him, it’s the African-American who is arrested. And then when a fight breaks out that sends a white student to the hospital for an hour, the law comes down on six Black students, charging them with attempted murder.
16-year-old Mychal Bell has already been convicted—by an all-white jury, without a single witness being called on his behalf—of second-degree battery and conspiracy to commit second-degree battery. He faces up to 22 years in prison. And the system continues to threaten to ruin the lives of the other five youth who still face serious charges.
The railroading and persecution of these young Black men doesn’t have anything to do with who did what to whom in a schoolyard fight—they are being punished because they, and the other Black students in Jena, dared to stand up against outrageous discrimination!
Up Against A System
The case of the Jena 6 concentrates the situation that still exists throughout this country—where racism and segregation is the status quo and white supremacy is enforced in unofficial but also OFFICIAL ways this whole system operates. School officials, police, courts, authorities, and government officials have worked together to persecute the Jena 6. And this was approved from the highest authorities in the land when a representative of the US Justice Department came to Jena and said they could find no violation in the way Jena High authorities have handled things and that in fact “all of their procedures were ‘regular’ and not ‘irregular.’”
No real 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.
This is the REGULAR workings of a white supremacist system. A system whose very foundations are deeply entwined with the outright slavery and oppression of Black people.
A system which has no future for the masses of Black youth—for millions and millions of Black youth, what they can expect is a future of low-wage jobs at best, along with incarceration, police murder, demonization, and full-out criminalization. And for those who do “make it out,” there is still the continual battle against discrimination and oppression at every turn.
Time to ACT!
It is not enough for many people to just know about the Jena 6. It is not enough for people to just be outraged about this case. It is not enough for people to read about it, or for a few well-known people to “shine a light” on it. It will take a truly mass struggle by the people to FREE THE JENA 6. A struggle that is broad, diverse, and determined. And every person of conscience must ask: WHAT AM I DOING TO STOP THIS GREAT INJUSTICE?
Across the country people are beginning to organize protests demanding Free the Jena 6. We are calling for people to support these protests, including two NATIONAL DAYS OF ACTION TO FREE THE JENA 6 ON SEPTEMBER 12 AND 20 —DETERMINED, DEFIANT ACTION THAT SAYS:
NO TO WHITE SUPREMACY. WE DEMAND: FREE THE JENA 6. WE WILL KEEP ON FIGHTING UNTIL ALL THE CHARGES ARE DROPPED. THIS SYSTEM OWES THESE YOUTH AN APOLOGY!
FREE THE JENA 6!
DROP ALL THE CHARGES!
Revolution #100, September 9, 2007
Philippine Revolutionary Arrested in The Netherlands
On August 28, Philippine revolutionary Jose Maria Sison was arrested in The Netherlands for supposed “criminal” activities that took place in the Philippines while he was in exile in The Netherlands.
At the same time, Dutch police raided, kicked down doors, searched without warrants, and ransacked houses of other Filipinos living in The Netherlands, as well as the International Information Office of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.
As news of Sison’s arrest spread, protests were called immediately in the Philippines, The Netherlands, Hong Kong, the United States, Australia, Belgium and other countries.
“Criminal” Charges on the Heels of a European Court Ruling Against Branding Sison a “Terrorist”
Jose Maria Sison was the chair at the founding of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). He was imprisoned and tortured under the Marcos regime during the ’70s and ’80s. After being released from prison but then hounded by the government of the Philippines, Sison has lived in the Netherlands for nearly two decades. He is currently the chief political consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
In 1969, a revolutionary people’s war was launched in the Philippines under the leadership of the CPP. This struggle has involved hundreds of thousands of people at different times. The New People’s Army (NPA) is the revolutionary armed force fighting that war. The (NDFP) describes itself as “the revolutionary united front organization of the Philippine people fighting for national independence and for the democratic rights of the people.”
Sison's supporters have called the criminal charges trumped-up. A statement, “Free Jose Maria Sison,” from the International Committee Defend said that “The arrest of Professor Sison came after the Philippine Supreme Court dismissed several politically-motivated cases filed against him and several others. The case filed against him by the Dutch police [is] similarly politically motivated.” The statement added that “The Philippines, Dutch and U.S. are using judicial proceedings to put political pressure on the NDFP to surrender to the Manila government.”
U.S.-puppet regimes in the Philippines have hounded, persecuted, and tortured Jose Maria Sison for decades. As noted, under the fascist dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, the Philippine government subjected Sison to arbitrary detention from 1977 to 1986, and to physical and mental torture including waterboarding, beatings, more than five years of solitary confinement, prolonged deprivation of basic necessities as well as medical and dental care, and repeated death threats.
The arrest of Jose Maria Sison in The Netherlands on supposedly criminal charges follows closely on the heels of a ruling by the European Court of First Instance (ECFI) on July 11 of this year that overturned a decision by the Council of the European Union to maintain Sison’s classification as a “terrorist.” This earlier—and overturned—classification enabled the authorities to constantly harass Sison: to prevent him from working, to deprive him of social benefits to which he is legally entitled, to slander him, and to incite the public against him in a way that puts his physical integrity at great risk.
After the ruling by the ECFI overturning the designation of Sison as a terrorist, Luis Jalandoni of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines cautioned that "The people must continue to be vigilant and militant in defense of the rights of Professor Jose Maria Sison because the U.S., Philippine and European authorities wish to keep him in their respective terrorist lists, despite the fact that he has never committed any act of terrorism in the Philippines or anywhere else in the world."
That turned out to be a prescient warning, as less than two months later the persecution of Sison took the form of criminal charges and his arrest on August 28.
The Hounding of Sison
After the fall of the hated Marcos dictatorship, the regime of Cory Aquino released Jose Maria Sison from military detention on March 5, 1986. Charges of subversion and rebellion against him were nullified through the dissolution of military commissions that served as organs of repression under Marcos. Sison joined the Asian Studies Center of the University of the Philippines in April 1986 as a professor and, in September 1986, he began a series of university lectures and solidarity speeches in Oceania, Asia, and Europe on the situation and prospects of the Philippines.
Philippine military authorities publicly attacked Professor Sison’s lectures and pressured the Aquino regime to cancel his Philippine passport. In September of 1988, Sison’s Philippine passport was canceled. He applied for political asylum in The Netherlands in October 1988. While Sison was in The Netherlands, the Dutch Ministry of Justice used false claims against him by the Philippine government as the basis for issuing a negative decision on his asylum application in July 1990.
In 1992, the highest Dutch administrative court annulled that decision. The court recognized Professor Sison as a political refugee and criticized the Ministry for using secret intelligence dossiers against him in contravention of the principle of fair administration and for delaying for more than four years the approval of his asylum application. (For a history of the persecution of Sison, see “Chronology of the Persecution of Prof. Jose Maria Sison by the Philippine, U.S. and Dutch Governments,” by the International DEFEND Committee, August 18, 2007, available online.)
Despite the ruling by the Dutch administrative court, authorities in The Netherlands have continued to harass Sison, refusing to allow him to work, and continuing to make his political activity, and his very survival, difficult. And now this has all gone to a new level, with these outrageous charges filed and the wholesale raids that went with them.
Revolution in the Philippines Is a Just Cause
The Philippines is a nation ravaged by imperialism. One form this takes is inhuman exploitation of millions of Philippine children. A study conducted in the late 1990s identified that more than one child in six, almost four million of twenty-two million children in the Philippines, toiled as child laborers. More than two million of these children worked in especially hazardous environments, including digging underground and hauling ore in the strategic and profitable copper, gold, chromite and nickel mining industries. (“Children in Small-scale Mining: Sibutad, Zamboanga del Norte, Philippines,” by Dulce P. Estrella-Gust, included in the anthology Child labour in small-scale mining: Examples from Niger, Peru & Philippines, edited by Norman S. Jennings) Millions of other children in the Philippines work on pineapple, banana, rubber, and sugar plantations, as domestic servants, in manufacturing sweatshops, in the fishing industry, diving for pearls, and as laborers on the docks. 1.5 million children in the Philippines are homeless.
A succession of pro-U.S. puppet regimes has acted as comprador administrators for this kind of imperialist super-exploitation of the Philippines’ people and resources. Under the direction of the U.S. government, they have brutally and violently suppressed every protest and rebellion against these conditions. It is in this tradition that Kristie Kenney, the United States ambassador to the Philippines, invoked the so-called “war on terror” and the supposed safety of Americans in applauding the arrest of Sison. Even though the European Court had overturned the designation of Sison as a terrorist, Kenney told a Philippine newspaper, “As you know the United Nations, the European Union and the Philippines have all labeled the NPA a terrorist group…we work very hard to prevent terrorist groups from getting financing and all our citizens safe.” (Quoted in “Dutch envoy: There’s basis for Sison’s arrest,” by Alcuin Papa, Juliet Labog-Javellana, Cynthia Balana, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 8/30/07).
The decades-long persecution of Jose Maria Sison, and his recent arrest in The Netherlands, are crimes orchestrated by U.S. imperialism and their Philippine puppets in the service of violently maintaining an oppressive and exploitive world-wide system of imperialism. It is aimed at the people’s right to resist this domination and, ltimately, to make revolution against an unbearably unjust and tyrannical system. Jose Maria Sison must be set free, and the U.S., Philippine, and Dutch governments must stop subjecting him to fascist attacks.
Revolution #100, September 9, 2007
There has been a marked increase in the volume and intensity of letters we are getting from people expressing deep outrage about the government's attempts to jail the Jena 6. And many people continue to ask,“what can I do” to stop this great injustice. We encourage people to widely distribute and take up the editorial All Out! Support National Days of Protest To Free the Jena 6 wherever they are—to organize mass expressions of support for the Jena 6 on September 12 and mobilize people to come to Jena on September 20 when Mychal Bell (one of the Jena 6) is scheduled to be sentenced. The following are excerpts from these letters. (Earlier comments on the Jena 6 can be found in Revolution #98, August 19, 2007, as well as our response, available at revcom.us.)
What are the details of the September 20 protest in Jena, LA? We want to be there. Can we just drive down and setup a tent?
Where can the "Free the Jena 6" t-shirts be purchased? These should be available with the proceeds going to the donation/fundraising effort.
I guess that it is about time that Amerikkka stops and once again look at the issues that face Black people in this country. The use of the courts and imprisonment are nothing new in regards to subduing the Black masses. The U.S. is warehousing hundreds of young Black men and women and we have too long stood silently by while it happens; all in the name of "get tough on crime." They are using the same tactics used in Nazi Germany where the people sat quietly by while the genocide took place. This is no different. Stop the genocide of our children!
I think that this whole situation stinks!!! I am African American and proud of it. I really never thought about race until I encountered it in my home town where a privately owned grocery store owner made a racist statement about my students when I was asking local merchants for donations for my math team to compete statewide. There had never been a problem until this moment after racial tension between blacks and whites became obvious after some black politicians rallied to keep the local high school open and close the military institute also located in my home town. The military institute is operated by whites and the schools are now operated by blacks. I now work for a mostly white school system after relocating. I have found that things have not changed.
I just can't believe that this still is going on in america. I want to help stop this madness. Everyone is the same. I'm a 22-year-old woman and I just can't read this any longer.
This is just evidence that racial profiling still exists and is not just a Louisiana issue, it's a United States of America issue. Instead of the media wasting air time showing Mr. Vick and some dead dogs, they should have this incident blaring all over the U.S. and Canada too. This should be brought up every time one of our fellow countrymen say that the world has changed for the better. This should be thrown up every time our so-called president speaks publicly about unity. This should make the headlines for the U.S.'s most ignorant and retro state. I am highly pissed off because it's plain to see that justice only works for one race…. whites only!
This country the United States is supposed to be the land of the free and the home of the brave. What is the world doing? Are we shifting backwards instead of forward? And where is the justice? Justice depends on how much money you got, what color you are, and what car you drive. I think that the Jena 6 is the most ridiculous case I have ever heard of. It saddens me to think about that we are still living in the past and we should be thinking about living in the future. I feel like the justice system needs an overhaul or they need to learn what the word justice means. I do not feel that one race is superior over another. We were all put here for a reason and we should learn how to get along with each other. God doesn't have to destroy the human race, we are doing that all by ourselves. So many of my brothers and sisters have died just because the color of their skin and it pains me to see that in this great country that we are still living in the past.
I had to wait about 30 minutes after reading the article, before I sent a response. Contumelious*… this is the only word that was long enough to describe what I read. How in 2006 is this still happening?
[*insolently abusive and humiliating, rudeness or contempt arising from arrogance]
I think this whole situation is absolutely ridiculous. We should all be outraged that this is still going on in America. We must all understand that this type of outrage is not limited to Jena and if we stand by and do nothing it will only proliferate. We must take a stand and let our voice be heard! Every time I think about it I get angrier and angrier. I pray for the young men, their families and their community. I pray for justice.
This is an outrage. How can something like this still be happening this day in time? I am getting sick and tired of discrimination and racism. I do not believe it will ever end. It is just as strong now as it was before the Civil Rights movement. I feel it is more hidden now than back in the day. However, it certainly exists. I don't care who tries to deny it. It never went away!!! Every upright person in the nation should be standing behind these young men. It is obvious that they were discriminated against. The justice system stinks. I certainly smell a rat; a big stinking RAT!
Coming from a white 17-year-old girl, I think this whole thing is a load of bullshit. The white guy once again got away with something that they shouldn’t have. Those boys should not be sitting in jail for defending their rights. The white kids that hung those nooses in that tree should have been expelled, not suspended. A hate crime was committed because of black kids sitting under a "white tree”? Who is anyone to say that a tree belongs to whites or blacks. If those black kids are sitting in jail for beating up a kid, then why isn’t the white kids who beat up the black kid in jail? A simple "I’m sorry" should have been made to the white kids instead of putting them in jail. This is all injustice. Take those kids out of jail. They do not belong there. And they should not have been expelled either. They were defending themselves. The white kids started all of this when they hung the nooses in that tree. They should be the ones sitting in a jail. All these black kids were trying to do was stand up for themselves because they were racially harassed in a school yard. Why are they in jail? Because the white man says so? FREE THE JENA 6!
I'm a 52-year-old white woman living in the South and I think what happened in Jena, LA is outrageous and a travesty of justice. The D.A. needs to be voted out of office, the Public Defender needs to go back to law school and read the part about "everyone is entitled to the best defense"…or maybe in this case, it's the best defense money could buy because maybe the families of these young men aren't well off? Has anyone contacted Southern Poverty Law Center? Where can I buy a tee shirt????
As a black man this upsets me to know that shit like this still goes on. It's not like these young men weren't in school trying to better themselves. It's bad enough those of us Black men who made mistakes are marked and positioned in the system to fail, but don't mess with those of us who are trying to move above the bar. It seems as though slave masters traded in the farms and slaves for government jobs to do more harm. RACISM IS STILL HERE - HOW CAN WE DESTROY IT!!!!!!!!!!
I grew up in Jena, La and I am truthfully heartbroken at what has become of the town I used to love. Jena claims it is a great town to raise a family, and that is true if you want to raise them in a racist town. Jena had covert and not so covert racist issues when I was in school there. I graduated Jena High School in 1989 and the same problems existed then. Nothing has been done in the last 18 years to change anything.
This is some bullshit and y’all know it is. You know damn well that the fuckin “white” kids started it. All you mutha fuckers are racist and y’all know it. If it was the other way around my race would have been died all of them. But nooooooo since it’s the white kids it’s a fucking warnin’, talking about apologize to the Black student. Naw fuck that shit, send they ass to jail right along with the blacks. You send one race, send both make it fair on everybody please cause that’s some bullshit. I thought racism wasn’t here no more but shit y’all whites sho is bringin’ it back into the world. Is that really how you want your kids to grow up and be like? It might be but I don’t want my kids around that shit so you and your buddy’s need to change y’all ugly ways and change that crap now.
I am outraged as an ex white South African at the treatment of the 6 accused. Can this be real in the USA today? These corrupt officials and town folk should be the ones on trial and jailed for their corrupting of justice and bias toward the black community of Jena. Where are the so called leaders of America… where is the big mouth Hillary Clinton….!!!
I am the mother of 2nd Lt. Emily Perez who was killed in Iraq on September 12, 2006. It is this type of injustice, inequality, and racism that infuriates me when I think of so many of our African American military service members giving their lives for the home of the free and brave. To sit idly by and allow this to happen is not only an injustice to the Jena 6 but it is a direct slap in the face of my daughter and all the fallen black soldiers. It is far past the time that we stand together as a people and not only reclaim but save the lives of our children.
I am outraged by the nerves of some people. As a mother of two, and a wife who has a husband who did two tours in Iraq. To save lives no matter what color or sex they are. It is a crying out shame. I will do what ever I need to do, to let everyone I know hear about this. What ever happened to justice for all?
I was devastated by the hyper-segregation and racism I witnessed visiting Louisiana pre-Hurricane Katrina. Clearly, I thought, Louisiana has a big problem. Unfortunately, the problem is a really old one. And you know whatever is old is deep. Whatever is deep is strong. And strength is irrefutable so the problem persists for hundreds of years on every continent. The problem helped build the United States of America. The problem helped shift the global balance of power over to Europe and America. When will the problem be recognized on the television, in the news; when will our presidents' speeches include honest and contrite dissections of the problem? When will the problem be rectified, redressed, or repaired goddamit? I don't have the answer and I'm afraid. I'm mad at the numbers of it. The problem cannot be repainted so it must be destroyed and the truth of it forgotten behind bars. But I don't think the world will keep blithely turning when all black and brown people are in prison, poor or dead.
This is incredible! Please keep me updated on the Jena 6 case and any ways I can get involved to help my peers. Even though I live in California I want to do what I can to get people aware of the re-appearance of Jim Crow. This is so unbelievable because I never thought that slavery other than prison could happen again but we see that history may repeat itself once again.
I'm deeply devastated upon reading of this catastrophe! These young men gotta be freed! The Justice system is way too bias. Free these young black kids!
I am against everything that is represented in those nooses hanging in that tree. This needs to be on the news and people need to get involved. People have gotten too used to dismissing racism as something of the past, but it is clearly going on in many ways today and it needs to stop. I live in Southern California, is there anything that me and my friends could do to make people more aware of what is going on in Jena?
I was having a conversation with a group of blacks and we where talking about the plight of African Americans and blacks throughout the world. Needless to say no one had anything good to say. From the justice system to education to employment. Just to name a few issues facing African Americans today. I questioned why can't we come together like the Mexicans and have a day where we just shut this country down like they did. Not only did they shut it down but they got support from businesses and other people from around the world. It was said that we can't come together, we won't march we don't care. We are a primitive people. I was disgusted to say the least. That is why I am calling for a worldwide boycott of Christmas. I am asking all black people around the world especially African Americans to boycott Christmas. Let's show the world that we are tired of being treated like third class citizens. We are tired of police brutality, we are tired of unequal education we are tired of being locked up at alarming rates. We can come together and we will. I am not asking for any donations. I am asking that this Christmas we simply keep our money in our pockets and show that we have the power to make a statement. To show ourselves that we can unite and come together. Times have never been this bad for us. Let's tell the world, no more. Boycott This Christmas. If you are not African American we ask that you show your support by boycotting Christmas as well.
BLESS Y'ALL for 'taking on' the horrendous untenable issue of “The Jena 6!” One of the things folk can do who still use “snailmail” like I do - put FREE THE JENA 6! on each envelope! Did you HEAR that the idiot school Administration had CUT DOWN THE TREE!!! as though the problem was the TREE and not the inherited untreated racism/colorism extant in them all! SHEESH!
First Black U.S.A. Flight Attendant
This is ridiculous!!! What happen to equality? As African Americans we need to stand up for each other, and realize there are forms of modern day slavery. They will continue to treat us like this unless we do something about it. We will make a difference, every voice counts. Please let’s join together and help these young men live life. No one deserves this treatment. NOBODY! We are all human beings. So whateva anyone can do to help, PLEASE HELP.
Revolution #100, September 9, 2007
On August 24 a bond hearing was held for Mychal Bell, one of the Jena 6, to determine if he would be allowed out on bail. Members of the Black community came prepared to testify on Bell's behalf, saying they would all ensure that he would be in the care of the community until his sentencing on September 20. Relatives and supporters of Bell had made plans for him to be interviewed with two schools, including a private school nearby. His parents were prepared to take care of Mychal and be a part of his life. Bell’s legal team arranged counseling for Bell. All of this was brought to the court, making a good case for Bell to be released. Mychal’s defense team, headed up by attorney Louis Scott, presented family members and community members who testified they would make sure that Mychal Bell attended his upcoming court dates. Clergy and family members went before the judge and gave their word that they would take responsibility for looking after him.
What was the court’s response? Yet another and further step in the legal lynching of Mychal Bell. And a big and insulting slap in people’s faces. The judge summarily dismissed those who had testified on Mychal Bell’s behalf and denied bond saying that Bell is a “danger” to the community.
Reed Walters is the district attorney who openly threatened Black students after they protested nooses being hung on the schoolyard tree—telling them that if they didn’t shut up about it, he would ruin their lives. He is the one who originally charged Bell and five other Black students, the Jena 6, with attempted second degree murder and conspiracy. Now this very SAME district attorney, who has been part of this whole racist persecution from the very beginning, represented the State in Mychal Bell’s bond hearing.
Walters called up a probation officer and court clerk testify about Bell’s so-called “criminal record”—which consists of minor offenses of simple battery and destruction of property.
This is exactly how thousands and thousands of Black youth are vilified, criminalized and sent to prison, sometimes for many decades, sometimes for the rest of their lives. How many thousands and thousands of Black youth have been arrested for petty crimes and then, through the “workings of the legal system,” especially under “three strike” laws, end up behind bars doing hard time with not even a chance of parole?
As Mychal Bell was being denied bond—in how many other courtrooms around the country… by the stroke of a gavel by how many other judges… was the message being forcefully and viciously delivered that THIS SYSTEM HAS NO FUTURE FOR THE BASIC BLACK YOUTH other than being shuffled in and out of low-wage jobs, criminalized, imprisoned or used as cannon fodder?
The judge shot down the arguments by Mychal Bell’s lawyers in what amounted to a racist attack on the entire Black community. He used a perverse metaphor, saying the preachers and family members were like a “fence erected around the cattle,” to keep them from getting out to pasture, but that there is no guarantee that the gate will stay closed. Extending the vicious metaphor, the judge then blamed the family and supporters of Bell for the situation, chiding them for, in his words, not erecting this fence earlier and not preventing what happened. This is yet another example of how the institutions of the system forcefully and violently enforce white supremacy.
As the system has made it clear that it intends to press forward with the legal lynching of the Jena 6, students at Jena High continue to resist. On August 28, eight or nine students went to school wearing t-shirts that read “Free the Jena 6.” Students told Revolution newspaper that at the end of the day the principal got on the loudspeakers saying that the t-shirts could no longer be worn because they “offend” some people. To this we say: Racist upholders of white supremacy should be “offended.” But all those who stand against white supremacy should also put on “Free the Jena 6” t-shirts and oppose the blatant censorship of Black students at Jena High.
Mychal Bell's next court date is September 4, when the court will hear a number of motions filed by Bell’s lawyers that are aimed at reversing the conviction, getting a new trial, or getting the charges thrown out altogether. Two of the other Jena 6 also have hearings set for that date.
Across the country the struggle to Free the Jena 6 is beginning to catch on and grow—and needs to keep getting broader, bigger and more determined.
Two days of national actions are being organized in support of the Jena 6 (see "All Out! Support National Days of Protest To Free the Jena 6").
Radio talk show host Michael Baisden, whose nationally syndicated show originates in New York City and now airs on over 40 radio stations, announced that he will do his show from Jena on September 20 and has called on others to join him. People have responded by organizing buses across the country, making t-shirts, and creating slogans.
An organizing committee has been formed at Howard University for a protest on September 5 and to organize people to come to Jena on September 20. And the National Black Law Students Association has put out a statement in support of the Jena 6 which calls for the charges to be dropped.
All this must be supported and spread, and people across the country who are opposed to everything represented in those nooses must take a stand and keep on fighting until the Jena 6 are free!
Revolution #100, September 9, 2007
Revolution #100, September 9, 2007
New Orleans Two Years Later:
On the two year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, George Bush stood in the middle of the still devastated Ninth Ward of New Orleans, and crowed, “This town is better today than it was yesterday, and its going to be better tomorrow than it is today.”
This is not because Bush failed to notice the boarded up homes, the overgrown empty lots, or the fact that most of the residents have not and will never return. It is not government neglect or mismanagement of funds. Speaking for a system that was built on slavery and genocide, that has white supremacy built into its structures, laws and culture, George Bush looked at all this and saw progress.
Survivors: “They was trying to wipe us out.”
Beginning the evening of August 29 and continuing for four more days the International Tribunal on Hurricanes Katrina and Rita included sessions on the abuse of prisoners, police brutality, lack of evacuation plans and neglect of the levees, environmental racism, labor and migrant rights, schools, gentrification, and displacement and other outrages.
Nkechi Taifa opened the indictment against the U.S. Government for Crimes Against Humanity by invoking the memory of Mamie Till whose son Emmett was brutally lynched by white men in Mississippi in 1955. Mamie Till courageously insisted that the casket of her 14-year-old son, Emmett, be opened up for the world to see. She displayed his battered and water-soaked body publicly, shocking the conscience of the world.
Two years after Katrina and Rita, Nkechi insisted that the barbarity and criminality of what was—and is continuing to be done—to Black people and others in and around New Orleans still needs to be opened up for the whole world to see.
For two and a half days over Katrina’s anniversary, I visited New Orleans. Through the Tribunal, at protests, in Cooper projects, and in the Lower Ninth Ward, I heard bitter stories…
Of prisoners hurling fists, broom sticks and wheelchairs against the walls of their confinement amidst rising flood waters till they collapse in exhaustion. Guards long since gone. Lights out. Water, thick and putrid with sewage, rising to their necks in the pitch black.
That still haunt…
Children swept out of the arms of parents. Elderly folks stranded in wheelchairs for days as maggots and waterbugs, soaked out of the building foundations, crawl all around and over them.
That flow from—and were enforced by—a system…
“You know what hurt me?” asked an older woman from Cooper Projects, as two years later tears pile out of both eyes, “When we was going through all that water, that filth, that oil, all that to get over to that bridge… I see nothing but FEMA cars… police lights… big Army helicopters… sitting in that spot. Those people sitting there not trying to help us. They was looking at us die. Come on now! That hurts. That hurts… I will die saying they was trying to wipe us out.”
Protest and Anger
On August 29, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of residents and activists from around the country held commemorative events and protests around the city. Robert Green held a public memorial in the Ninth Ward where his home had been swept off the ground in twenty feet of raging floodwater. His mother died there, and his granddaughter had slipped off the roof and disappeared into the water two years before. After being abandoned to die in the storm, the authorities refused to retrieve his mother’s body from the rooftop where she was clearly visible from a distance and weeks later Green had to go in and do it himself.
Later that day, up to a thousand residents, volunteers, and activists gathered at the levee wall where it had broken and marched through the Ninth Ward. Most of its residents have not returned because of obstacles thrown up by city, state and federal government. People marched through pouring rain to Congo Square some five miles into town.
Throughout the afternoon a Day of Presence, organized by Susan Taylor, editor of Essence magazine, brought together Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, poet Jessica Care Moore, and other Black leaders and artists in front of the Convention Center where tens of thousands had been stranded without food or water for days during the storm. This, however, is downtown. Everything is cleaned up here. A “David Duke for Governor” (a notorious Klan white-supremacist) bumper sticker taunted those who gathered.
For five days, the International Tribunal on Hurricanes Katrina and Rita pried open the crimes of the government before, during, and after Katrina with first-hand testimony from prisoners, witnesses of summary executions, victims of severe police brutality, folks still dispersed and living in trailers, people locked out of public housing and activists and experts from the ACLU, National Conference of Black Lawyers, Center for Constitutional Rights, NAACP, National Lawyers Guild, Louisiana Justice Institute, People’s Hurricane Relief Fund and Malcolm X Grassroots Committee.
I spoke with Phyllis Montana LeBlanc, famous for her honest and angry testimony about surviving the storm in Spike Lee’s documentary, When the Levees Broke. She told me that she’s met people who were ready to kill themselves before they heard her testimony in the film. Hearing her speak the truth gave them the strength to keep struggling.
Housing and the Right to Return
One very sharp concentration of the system’s plans to “rebuild” New Orleans is the forced displacement of people, a refusal to rebuild privately owned housing, and the shuttering of public housing. Large housing projects in New Orleans, like St. Bernard, Lafitte, and C.J. Peete are completely shut down while several others, including Iberville and B.W. Cooper are mostly fenced off and unoccupied. These projects could house more than 5,000 families, and they comprise some of the least damaged housing in New Orleans post Katrina. The government used Hurricane Katrina to empty the projects and keep the people who lived there, most of them poor Black people, from returning to the city. One of these projects is going to be replaced by a golf course!
On August 31, residents of public housing, public housing advocates and others protested at the office of the executive director of the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO), demanding an end to the destruction of public housing and the right of all New Orleans residents to return. In response, the HANO office closed for the day, police and National Guardsmen cordoned off the building, entered it and surrounded the Director's office for several hours until protesters marched out of the building.
An encampment of homeless folks has sprung up across the street from Mayer Nagin’s office downtown demanding that housing be opened up to those who need it. Activists there told me that Mayor Nagin at one point offered to open up housing to the protesters, but they refused, choosing to continue sleeping in the park with others until housing is provided for everyone.
Two years after Katrina, the crimes against the people continue.
New Orleans population is less than two-thirds of what was before Katrina, yet estimates say there are now three times as many homeless people. While New Orleans moves to permanently shut down its four largest housing projects, nearby St. Bernard Parish passed a “whites only” law in the form of requiring that anyone who moves there must have a blood relative already living in the Parish, which is 93% white (the law is being challenged in court).
33,000 people are estimated to be still living in FEMA trailers, many of which are infested with dangerous levels of formaldehyde. A man who lives in a FEMA park with about 23 trailers housing 75 people told me that, of the adults, there is one woman who works…26 miles away at a Wendy’s. The only town nearby is almost entirely white and the 1,500 or so people who live there don’t want the evacuees around. “My thirteen-year-old, he finished second in his class. But on awards day, they didn’t give him anything,” the man explains with pain in his voice. “He was very disappointed, you know? I know what it is. A thirteen year old don’t understand that.”
This is Intolerable…the Spirit of the People Must Break Through
One thing that makes every resident of New Orleans I meet smile is the volunteers who have come through to rebuild. Over 14,000 volunteers, including students from over 200 colleges, have been part of rebuilding just with the Common Ground effort. They helped residents clear debris from their homes and yards in the Ninth Ward, they set up volunteer clinics and risked arrest to clean out and reopen schools—including the one Bush had the audacity to pose for a photo-op in. [See sidebar on how the government blocked the reopening of Martin Luther King school.]
Most of the volunteers have come not only from long distances, but also from very different walks of life. The ones I spoke with have been changed by the survivors they’ve met and from their close-up look at how this system treats those at the bottom. One told me, “When I was back in California there were a lot of things I worried about that really now… this experience kind of gives me an appreciation for how little some of that matters.”
But despite the wonderful spirit of these volunteers, and despite the burning, fierce desire of the people of New Orleans to survive and rebuild, the system stands in the way at every turn. The system is shuttering housing when people need housing, moving jobs when people need work, creating a viciously two-tiered educational system when people need schools… Everywhere you turn, the system is the problem not the solution.
There is a great challenge to everyone to step forward in political resistance, and to not let what is happening in New Orleans go down like this.
Revolution #100, September 9, 2007
It was one of those “news moments” that make you just yell out in anger and total disgust: The second anniversary of Katrina, George W. Bush in New Orleans for a photo op. And not just anywhere in New Orleans. He’s in the Lower Ninth Ward, the poor, Black neighborhood hardest hit and most thoroughly abandoned right after Katrina and in the two years since. And not just anywhere in the Ninth Ward. Bush is at Martin Luther King Elementary—a school that authorities did all they could to PREVENT from being rebuilt. Bush has the arrogance and nerve to stand in this school and say, “We’re still paying attention. We understand.”
The mainstream press dutifully helped deliver Bush’s message, failing to even mention the real story behind the re-opening of this school—that the ONLY reason the school was saved was because people fought AGAINST government officials every step of the way.
Six months after Katrina, thousands of student volunteers, organized by Common Ground, came to New Orleans during spring break to clean up. On March 16, 2006, outside MLK School, 300 gathered wearing Tyvek suits and respirators, chanting and holding up signs. 85 volunteers risked arrest for trespassing by going inside the padlocked school. The government had refused to do anything to clean up the school and volunteers and residents basically said: If the government won’t do it, we’re going to take things into our own hands.
The volunteers raked leaves and debris from the entrance and pounded tools on the pavement. Then as police gathered across the street, they entered the building and began scooping up piles of mud and debris. Outside, 150 Howard University students joined the crowd.
A couple of weeks later I was in New Orleans with another crew of students cleaning up MLK school. Authorities had finally allowed volunteers back into the school. When I first went inside, it was heartbreaking to see the classrooms that had been allowed to sit there for over six months. Everything had been rotting and getting toxic while the government refused to clean it up… and then refused to let volunteers clean it up! Organizers told me that even after volunteers were allowed inside all kinds of obstacles were put in their way. For example, they were made to sift through pile after pile of noxious books and school supplies, literally counting everything, down to every crayon and pencil, for insurance and government bureaucratic purposes.
Upon entering, the first thing I encountered was a large dead fish on the steps which had purposely been left untouched as a stark reminder of the flood and government neglect. I almost fainted because of the poisonous fumes when I lifted my breathing mask up for a few seconds while I shot photographs of the dozens of student volunteers filling wheelbarrows of soggy books, papers, and toys. After two days, the last couple of classrooms had been completely cleared out.
Student volunteers accomplished in a few weeks a major step toward re-opening the school—IN SPITE of the school board, city officials and other authorities who tried to stand in the way or sabotaged this with padlocks, the threat of arrests, bureaucracy, and official predictions that it would take three to five years to repair the damages.
What stands out in all this is the utter worthlessness of the system—AND not only the need but the possibility of revolution, and of a radically different society.
Revolution #100, September 9, 2007
Dozens of people came out to a Harlem street corner for a day of resistance and remembrance last Wednesday, the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. I stayed up with a team of aspiring revolutionaries the night before making signs that said "Free the Jena 6" and "This whole damn system is goddamn rotten." In the early afternoon we set up a table with Revolution newspapers, and “Wanted” posters featuring mug shots of the Bush regime and their crimes against the people of New Orleans.
Buses stopped and traffic slowed to honk at our biggest sign that read "Harlem says We Will Never Forgive or Forget Katrina. Honk For New Orleans.”
All different types of people would walk by with their fists in the air. Many took stacks of “Wanted” posters to put up in their neighborhood while throwing donations in the bucket. We struggled for people to stay with us on the spot because of the urgency and necessity for people to change things right now and because of the possibility of bringing a different world into being. Many people took up this call and stayed for five minutes, a half hour or for the rest of the day and became part of bringing more people forward.
One middle-aged Black woman had heard that we were going to be out there because of a flyer she had seen the day before and came over in the afternoon to be a part of it. She was looking through the signs to see which one she wanted and stopped when she saw "Free The Jena 6" because she didn't know who the Jena 6 were. After she discovered that it was about six Black students who face decades of prison for standing up to racist discrimination involving nooses being strung up, she said that she wanted to hold up that sign. You could hear her as the day went on agitating about Jena, saying, “I didn't know about this 30 minutes ago but now you know too and you should stand over here with me and be apart of this.” Two people did.
A South Asian man who works with a progressive church in Harlem held up a poster and tried to relate the situation in New Orleans to Indonesia and South Asia when a tsunami hit in December of 2004. He said to a Bangladeshi man that was passing by that this is not the problem of some Black people over there, this is a problem for all of us that are affected by this system around the world and you cannot look away.
People stood with their kids, giving them markers to play with so that they could be a part of the day for as long as they could. Our team was inspired by all the people who stepped forward so passionately with such urgency and sharp questions to be a part of the day of resistance.
When anyone came to the busy corner of Frederick Douglass Ave. and Harlem’s famous 125th Street, they saw people spanned across both sides of the street, angry and outraged at the bitter injustice of what happened only two years ago but also joyful at resisting and standing up to the crimes of this system.
Revolution #100, September 9, 2007
Go to www.revcom.us for "What's New", Kick-Off's, Statements, and Fund Drive Materials
Since the call went out for the Revolution Expansion and $500,000 Fund Drive the newspaper has received correspondence from across the country. What has stood out is the tremendous enthusiasm and creativity from long-time readers of Revolution as well as people who have more recently been introduced to the paper. People from all walks of life – a multinational mix of proletarians and attorneys, ministers and artists, youth, immigrants, teachers, professors, doctors and businessmen came to the 14 Kick-Off events across the country – and are joining with others to contribute, raise funds, and draw more people in to reading the paper and raising funds.
Here is a small sampling of what we learned about why and how people are taking up this expansion and fund drive:
A prisoner in Delano, CA wrote:“I read this paper because it’s extremely informative about what’s going on next door & in other countries with our struggles & the injustices that our fellow bruthas and sistas are enduring. When it shouldn’t and certainly doesn’t have to be that way. But what we or no one else is currently experiencing is nothing at all comparable to what we’re going to be experiencing if we don’t remove Bush & his criminal regime from their position of power. And it must happen soon….I’ve written to my family & some of my associates, still with a few more letters to write and request $5 to $10 from everyone that I’ve already wrote & the ones that I still have to write. I hope that we’re successful with raising the much needed funds.”
We received correspondence that told about an ex-Black Panther Party member who is a vendor in Harlem, and came to a kick-off brunch and gave a statement about how he’s been searching some time for people who have some vision and can offer some hope, and now he thinks he’s found that. He decided to join a $100 team — people who are committing to work together to raise at least $100 for the fund drive — after he saw a beginning core of people coming together to take this up, and will raise the money selling bottled water and T-shirts off his vending stand.
The following statement was presented at a kick-off event by someone who donated $6,000 to the expansion and fundraising drive: I am a person that has a professional job and have supported Revolution newspaper and before that the Revolutionary Worker/Obrero Revolucionario. I have made a significant pledge to this fund drive and urge other people, including middle class professional people, to dig deep to support it too.
I was shocked to read that many prisoners who ask for the paper don’t get it because there isn’t money to sustain their subscriptions.
Last year, I was out at the huge immigrant protest where I live and talked to immigrants who had traveled hundreds of miles to the protest who wanted the paper. Many asked where it was available. A few had internet access so they could get the paper online, but most did not. Even in the urban center where I live, the paper is not available in places that are easily accessible by these immigrants.
I have talked to progressive professors and students who are concerned about the lack of protest and debate on the campuses. Some tell me stories about how progressive professors are being intimidated, but many don’t know about the ongoing attacks and are surprised when they read the coverage in Revolution.
There are changes in people’s activities around impeachment, with many people who thought that this was too radical before now supporting impeachment. Many of these people talk to me about their concern about how to have a bigger impact, and see the struggle being whited out and belittled in the media. Revolution newspaper helps people find out about the movements of resistance. At the same time many of these people base their efforts on the constitution and the “rule of law.” The debate around this issue needs to be stimulated and the level raised. Revolution has written important articles on this but it needs to have a bigger influence.
If more people, youth, college kids, working people, prisoners, political activists and many others believed that they could and needed to contribute to the international movement to sum up and further advance the struggle for a completely different and better world, all sorts of movements of resistance would be strengthened. Revolution newspaper has played an indispensable role in this, but much more is possible and necessary. No other publication in an imperialist country, that I am aware of, with the roots of this paper, has attempted to take up this task.
A big leap to deepen the coverage of big and important events, that in many cases aren’t even known about outside of local people is needed.
For these and many other reasons people should contribute to this fund drive.
Go to revcom.us to get more news
Check in frequently at revcom.us for news from the opening Kick-Off events, statements of support, and creative fundraising ideas that all kinds of people are coming up with. And, to keep updated on how it is all going! Send reports, correspondence, and photographs to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com, or mail to RCP Publications.
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DONATE GENEROUSLY to the REVOLUTION NEWSPAPER EXPANSION DRIVE
Revolution #100, September 9, 2007
Watch the 7-minute video at youtube.com.—youtube.com/watch?v=dzvMjyl_ItI—or search for “next stop revolution”
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 talked to the people.”
Revolution #100, September 9, 2007
We received the following statement:
This is a moment of reckoning for students and faculty at DePaul, and for students and faculty around the country. It is a time to act.
Norman Finkelstein, professor of political science at DePaul University, was denied tenure this past June. He was effectively fired. For daring to challenge the core beliefs of Zionism, and the foundational myths and apartheid realities of Israel. For daring to imbue students with a spirit of searching out uncomfortable truths.
Norman Finkelstein has produced a remarkable and recognized body of scholarship ( The New York Times cited one of his recent works as a “notable book of the year”)--yet he has been stripped of his academic position. Norman Finkelstein was recommended for tenure by his faculty peers, and is known for the rapport he establishes with students—yet he has been banished from DePaul University.
And if the president of DePaul University and the powerful rightwing forces he is in bed with have their way, Norman Finkelstein will never teach again.
But Norman Finkelstein has thrown back the gauntlet: “I intend to go to my office on the first day of classes and, if my way is barred, to engage in civil disobedience. If arrested, I’ll go on a hunger strike. If released., I’ll do it all over again. I’ll fast in jail for as long as it takes” ( Chicago Tribune, August 28, 2007). Will we stand with him? We must.
Norman Finkelstein’s case is not an isolated one but a concentration point of something bigger that is happening in the universities and in society. A dangerous and highly coordinated move is afoot to shut down dissent and critical thinking in the universities.
The dismissal of Norman Finkelstein comes on the heels of the firing of Ward Churchill, the tenured professor of Native American and ethnic studies at the University of Colorado. After 9/11, Churchill made provocative statements critical of the U.S. role in the world and came under unrelenting attack and scrutiny. These firings carry with them the implicit warning that certain curricula and discourses and dissent that go against established power and reigning narratives will be off-limits.
All this is part of a larger program to turn the universities into zones of unquestioned indoctrination—into institutions of intellectual servility in the service of expanding empire abroad and intensifying social control at home.
Think about what it says about the times when a university that prides itself on open-mindedness and diversity is now on the front lines of this attack. Norman Finkelstein is not bowing down. He is setting an example for all of us. And as you read this, there are some determined students and faculty at DePaul who are mobilizing to draw the line: we do not and will not accept this firing. Finkelstein’s case and DePaul must become a concentration point of resistance.
To faculty who care about injustice, who want the academy to contribute to the betterment of humanity, and who are concerned for the new generation of students—an enormous injustice is now at your doorstep. The ice-sheet is spreading over academia. It is a time to act.
To students who want their lives to mean something, who think about the way the world is and the way the world might be, who want education to open eyes and who want to open the eyes of others—you have a chance and a responsibility to step forward to turn back a dangerous course of events. It is time to act.
As communists, we stand for a whole new and liberating world; we know that it will take a revolution to get there; and we are building resistance as part of building a revolutionary movement.
Right now, what happens, or doesn’t happen, at DePaul and on other campuses in response to this firing will have tremendous consequences for DePaul, for the intellectual and political life of universities, and for the kind of society we are living in. It’s just that serious.
Norman Finkelstein must be restored to his position with full teaching privileges. He must be granted tenure. And DePaul University must issue an apology for its unconscionable actions.
Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, Chicago Branch
Revolution #100, September 9, 2007
David Horowitz, self-described "battering ram" for the assault on critical thinking in academia, has announced that his student brownshirts will be holding "Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week" on over 200 campuses across the country during the week of October 22-26. He says it will be the "biggest conservative campus protest ever" and will tell the truth about "the greatest danger Americans have ever confronted."
Their stated purpose is “to confront the two Big Lies of the political left: that George Bush created the war on terror and that Global Warming is a greater danger to Americans than the terrorist threat.” They are singling out for attack the Muslim Student Associations around the country. In addition, their student guide for hosting the week recommends organizing “sit-ins in Women’s Studies Departments and campus Women’s Centers to protest their silence about the oppression of women in Islam.”
This call for modern-day Nazi Nuremberg rallies is a serious move to intensify an already dangerous polarization, a view of the future as a choice between Islamic fundamentalism on the one hand and capitalist-imperialist domination with the U.S. at the helm on the other. It is an attempt to intimidate, confuse, and put on the defensive the many students and faculty who are opposed to what the Bush regime is doing here and internationally.
Islamic fundamentalism is not a progressive force for the world. It, or any kind of religious literalism, is a program full of outmoded and oppressive content: vicious patriarchy and bigotry, religious warfare, “honor killings,” and the promotion of unscientific, superstitious ignorance.
But the U.S. is a much more powerful and more dangerous reactionary force. Overall, it is the far greater threat to humanity. It is in no way the "answer" to the genuinely oppressive nature of Islamic fundamentalism.
It must also be said that the idea of people who back up Christian fundamentalist religious fascists in THIS country posing as champions of free thinking would be ludicrous if it weren't so outrageous. And the idea of forces who oppose the right of women to abortion posing as defenders of women's emancipation is just as outrageous.
Every progressive-minded student and teacher should begin preparing now to politically—and ideologically—take on these hypocritical fascists.
Both of these "choices" are complete nightmares for the people, and accepting the framework of choosing between the two is a dangerous dead end. As Bob Avakian, Chairman of the RCP, USA, has written:
"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." (From the talk, “Why We’re in the Situation We’re in Today…And What to Do About It: A Thoroughly Rotten System and the Need for Revolution.”)
We will have further analysis on this in coming issues. In the meantime, we encourage readers to check out Bob Avakian's Bringing Forward Another Way, and "Imperialism, Islamic Fundamentalism…and the Need for Another Way," by Sunsara Taylor ( Revolution #91, June 10, 2007: http://revcom.us/a/091/iso-polemic-en.html)
Revolution #100, September 9, 2007
Revolution received this correspondence from a reader:
I’ve been following what is going down with the case of Michael Vick, the star quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons who recently pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to operate a dog-fighting enterprise across state lines. A couple of weeks ago an attorney I know asked me my opinion about the controversy. I only knew what had been pumped out by the media, but because sports is an arena where ideas, values, and relations in society get concentrated, I wanted to understand the situation better.
After looking into it, I realized that going after Vick doesn’t really have to do with him committing a crime, nor was it a case of PETA vs. Michael Vick. There’s more to it. It seems that a decision had been made to take Vick down by those who are “higher than the team and lower than God.” Many describe what’s happening to Vick as a high-tech lynching, and it is being played out before the eyes of the nation.
When Vick was recruited by the Falcons, he signed the richest contract in NFL history. The quarterback is usually considered the leader of the team, and there have been very few Black quarterbacks in the NFL. According to the attorney I know, “There’s no one who can play quarterback like Vick.” Vick was definitely a symbol of pride for Black Atlanta, and Black people more widely.
But now that symbol has been taken down. Nike, Coca-Cola, AirTran, and Kraft dropped him. Reebok stopped selling his No. 7 jersey. Donruss pulled his trading card from its sets. After Vick’s plea deal, the NFL suspended him. The prosecutors will reportedly recommend a sentence of a year to 18 months at the December sentencing (the maximum he could get is 5 years). There is a basic recognition in Black America that his career is over.
Many people, while not condoning the brutal treatment of dogs, feel the punishment of Vick doesn’t fit the crime. Other pro athletes have been accused of worse crimes and faced less severe consequences. There have been ugly attacks in the media against Vic—and openly KKK-type shit on the internet calling for Vick to be lynched, beaten, and “neutered.” Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Tribune wrote, “We are more aghast at Vick’s crimes against animals than athletes’ crimes against women. And that is criminal.” My attorney acquaintance said, “Where was all the outrage over the hundreds of Black people who’ve been lynched? What has been the punishment for those who committed that crime?” Juanita Abernathy, widow of civil rights figure Ralph Abernathy, said, “You would think that Michael Vick is the largest criminal this country has ever encountered, by the media play.”
News clip after news clip show gory details of the killing of dogs by various means, attributing all this to Vick long before he agreed to a guilty plea on a conspiracy charge. I don’t minimize the cruel, repugnant nature of dog fighting. But this mad rush to condemn Vick has been bloodthirsty itself. A YouTube video shows a dog tearing up a toy stuffed person, with the name “Vick” written on it—conjuring up images of dogs in the South tracking down runaway slaves, gleeful white people waiting for the lynching to happen, or vicious police dogs attacking Black civil rights protesters. You hear many Black people say, “Would all this happen if Vick were white?”
This is not the first time Vick has been publicly flogged in the media. In January of this year Vick was detained by Miami International Airport security for carrying a bottle that they claimed contained “a small amount of dark particulate and a pungent aroma closely associated with marijuana.” He was not arrested and not charged with anything. Lab tests found no evidence of drugs. But the Atlanta Journal Constitution wrote, “It shouldn’t matter. Vick hasn’t grown up and there’s no reason to believe he ever will.” Tony McClean, a writer for BlackAthlete Sports Network, brought out, “I know some folks will say, ‘Well, he is a public person and should be used to that kind of scrutiny.’ No disrespect, but scrutiny is one thing and character assassination is just something else.”
My attorney acquaintance said that Vick “played stupid”—that he didn’t watch his P’s and Q’s and play the ideal “role model.” But the high-tech lynching of Michael Vick has to be put in the context of what’s going on overall—things like Michael Richards (of the Seinfeld show fame) doing a whole racist rant onstage at a comedy club, using the “n” word and threatening an audience member with lynching. Or what’s happening with the Jena 6, Black high school students who are facing years in jail for standing up against entrenched racism (while white students who hung lynching nooses on a school tree got slaps on the wrist).
There’s a conversation running throughout the Black community and sports world, from newspapers to the internet, radio talk shows, and barber shops: One of the most talented Black athletes rose to the highest ranks of the sports world, and then was torn all the way down in a second by the media, the police, and the courts. Not only is a clear message being sent that Black people can’t get justice under this system, but a green light is being given to vicious, open racism.
Revolution #100, September 9, 2007
“It means they want to deport the rest of us, whether there is a deportation order on us or not; that they don’t care if we go into a church for sanctuary, sooner or later they will get us; that they don’t care if we have children that were born here because they are following the supposed law.”
—Immigrant woman from Mexico who has been living in the U.S. for 22 years, speaking about what message the government is sending with the arrest and deportation of Elvira Arellano
In an attempt to silence a leading figure in the immigrants rights movement and intimidate the entire immigrant community, U.S. immigration officials arrested Elvira Arellano in Los Angeles on August 19--and deported her to Mexico that night. For many people, Arellano had become a symbol of resistance to unjust U.S. immigration laws.
Arellano was leaving a downtown Los Angeles church when the van she was traveling in was suddenly blocked and surrounded by unmarked vehicles. About 15 federal agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) jumped out, arrested the driver, and screamed at her to exit the vehicle.
After a few minutes of trying to calm her eight-year-old son, Saul, who was terrified and in tears, Arellano surrendered to the agents. They transported her that afternoon to an immigration facility in Santa Ana, 30 miles from Los Angeles, to be processed for deportation. By 10 p.m. she had been taken about 100 miles to the border and turned over to Mexican authorities.
Elvira Arellano caught public attention and won support from immigrant rights activists and the immigrant community last year when she refused to turn herself in for deportation and instead sought sanctuary in a Chicago church to prevent the government from separating her from her son, who was born in the U.S. and is a U.S. citizen.
While it is unknown how many families the U.S. government has already broken up through deportations, the Pew Hispanic Center reported last year that more than 1.3 million children have at least one parent who is undocumented and at risk of being deported at any time.
Like countless millions of others who are forced to leave their homelands in search of survival, Elvira Arellano came to the U.S. from Mexico in 1997. Like millions of others, she had to live in the shadows, using fake documents to obtain employment and evading immigration authorities as she raised a son on her own.
In 2000, after relocating from Oregon to Chicago, Arellano got a job cleaning airplanes at O’Hare International Airport. Two years later, during a federal raid at the airport (which officials called an “anti-terrorist operation”), Arellano was arrested along with other airport workers. She was convicted of using a fake Social Security number, and this resulted in an order of deportation.
Taking refuge at Adalberto United Methodist Church in Chicago in August 2006, Elvira Arellano said to the press, “I think that [deportation] order was selective, vengeful and inhumane.” She also said, “In the three years since I was arrested at my home, in front of my son, I have fought day after day for the 12 million undocumented people in this country…I am not a criminal, nor a terrorist. I am a mother and working woman.”
Arellano became a leader of the group La Familia Latina Unida, which focuses on family unification and mutual support for immigrant families.
During a press conference on August 15, 2007, on the one-year anniversary of her sanctuary at the church, Elvira announced that she and her son would travel to the National Mall in Washington D.C. for a prayer vigil and fast demanding that Congress pass immigration reforms. Four days later she was arrested in Los Angeles.
The day after her deportation, U.S. immigration officials talked about Arellano as if she had been wanted for mass murder, describing her as “a criminal fugitive alien who spent a year seeking to elude federal capture.” In an attempt to intimidate the entire immigrant community, they bragged about having deported 220,000 immigrants between last October and July of this year.
Hours after Arellano was nabbed by the ICE agents, supporters arrived in front of the downtown L.A. federal building to protest her arrest and demand her return to the U.S.
In Mexico, Arellano continued to be unapologetic as she spoke with reporters the day after her deportation: “I had to wake up the people. If my arrest is able to unite the community, religious and community leaders to fight together, then I am satisfied with having paid that price and I am happy that the people are waking up.”
She also said, “I have also been victorious because I decided to fight this from the moment of my arrest in 2002, and I did not keep quiet because this was all a part of the big struggle for legalization.”
On August 29, about 2,000 people marched in Los Angeles in support of Elvira Arellano. A high school youth, who had heard about the march that morning and came with her friend, said, “I don’t see how that’s possible—to separate a mother from her son. It’s not right. That’s what should be illegal.”