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Revolution #115, January 13, 2008
In the Wake of the Bhutto Assassination
On December 27, the Pakistani politician Benazir Bhutto was assassinated. In the days immediately following, people rose up in protest across the country. The government, led by Pervez Musharraf, answered the protests with bloody suppression and a state of emergency. It postponed previously scheduled elections. Masses of people in Pakistan are fed up with their situation and extremely concerned about “what comes next.”
Within the U.S., the ruling class has reacted in different ways. Some are clearly putting their chips on the current leader Musharraf; others are looking for a different alternative. All are alarmed at the possibility of the situation spinning even more out of U.S. control. Pakistan is key to American imperial aims to dominate the region of south and central Asia, and to combat the threat posed by Islamic fundamentalism. It stands at a strategic crossroads, it contains 165 million people, and it has nuclear arms. Meanwhile, according to the January 6 New York Times, plans are on the table at the top levels of the Bush regime for further U.S. CIA and military penetration of Pakistan.
The assassination of Benazir Bhutto is being spun by the U.S. as a setback for U.S. attempts to bring enlightened democracy to Pakistan. But an examination of the real political, economic, and military forces that set the stage for her death reveals a far different reality, and a very different picture of the problems the people of Pakistan face and the solution.
Pakistan: A Bloodsoaked Geopolitical Outpost for U.S. Imperialism
“What the U.S. spreads around the world is not democracy, but imperialism and political structures to enforce that imperialism.”—Bob Avakian
Nowhere is this truer than in Pakistan. Pakistan is an oppressed nation. At the most basic and fundamental level, the economic life and development of Pakistan is dominated by capital that is rooted in the imperialist nations of the U.S., Europe, and Japan. There are sweatshops in the cities which produce low-cost goods for the markets dominated by imperialism. There is feudal and semi-feudal agriculture, which has also been integrated into circuits of global capital, where landlords still dominate peasants in ways that are both centuries old and as modern as an AK-47. On cotton plantations, hundreds of thousands of women and young girls pick cotton for less than a dollar a day. Over half of the country’s 165 million people are without access to safe drinking water. The army—which itself has been built up by the U.S.—controls many key industries. (One major grievance of the middle class and bigger bourgeois forces inside Pakistan has been the way in which the army has enriched itself and further dominated the economy during the last ten years.)
There are extreme gulfs between urban centers like Lahore (near the Indian border), with a large, educated middle class, and the countryside where landless peasants live in abject poverty. Pakistan is also split apart by nationality, with oppressor/oppressed relations among them. There are extreme differences between the conditions of Urdu-speaking people driven from India; Pashtuns, who are the same nationality as the dominant nationality in Afghanistan; the Baloch people, who are involved in an armed insurgency for autonomy in their gas-rich region against the central government; and the populous Punjab province. The Bhutto clan is based in the Sindh region where the clan patriarch rules over peasants and servants. There is also a simmering conflict between Sunni and Shi’a Muslims which occasionally comes to a boil.
In short, different sections of the country are not well-integrated into a single, relatively coherent economy, as they are in imperialist powers like the U.S.—and there are very sharp conflicts among these different sectors. At the same time, all these conflicts take place in a context of overall imperialist political-military domination. As a consequence, assassinations, hangings, and coups—as well as the bloody civil war that gave rise to the nation of Bangladesh—have marked the brief history of Pakistan. And none of these have signaled any break whatsoever with the basic imperialist domination of the economic, political, and social life of the country.
The great and overriding importance of Pakistan to the U.S. is not so much economic but as a military outpost and agent in a very critical and volatile region of global contention. Pakistan borders Afghanistan, where the U.S. still has many occupying troops and faces a growing insurgency; Iran, which the U.S. continues to threaten militarily; and India, home to a billion people and one of the most rapidly growing, and important, economies in the world. U.S. military aid accounts for about a quarter of Pakistan’s entire military budget. The Pakistani army is today the seventh largest in the world. The Pakistani military has served as U.S. imperialism’s most reliable agency in Pakistan, sometimes ruling overtly through military dictatorship, sometimes allowing one or another political party to have a turn, but in every case serving as a major conduit and guarantor of U.S. influence and power—even if this has been, and is right now, contradictory at times.
The Rise of Islamic Fundamentalism and the “War on Terror”
This U.S. domination took a leap with the seizure of power by a pro-Soviet government in neighboring Afghanistan in 1977 and the outright Soviet military invasion of Afghanistan two years later. This invasion set in motion what would become pivotal events in the global contention between the two clashing imperialist blocs—U.S. imperialism and Soviet social-imperialism (imperialism in the name of socialism). When pro-Soviet forces seized power in Afghanistan, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (Benazir’s father) made moves towards accommodation with the Soviets. He was overthrown in 1977 by General Mohammad Zia ul-Haq, and later hung.
The U.S. moved in with major support for Zia. This included massive aid to Pakistan and to its army, and included the use of Pakistan’s intelligence agency to finance and train the jihadist, or Islamic fundamentalist, guerrilla forces in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s vast border with Afghanistan served as the rear area for military operations. The U.S./Pakistani-sponsored Islamic fundamentalist forces not only fought the Soviets, they ruthlessly slaughtered progressive and revolutionary Maoist forces fighting the Soviet invasion.
The Zia forces not only saw this as an opportunity to strengthen the army, but also to strengthen Pakistan’s position against India, its rival within the region. (India tilted toward the Soviet camp during this period.) As for the Islamic fundamentalists who were trained and financed by Pakistani intelligence, they saw this as a step toward actually getting some countries under Islamic rule. In the end, the forces built up by the U.S. were able to drive out the Soviets. Two years later, the Soviet Union collapsed and the U.S. became the unchallenged dominant power in the world.
After the defeat of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, the armies of jihadists in Afghanistan and their powerful infrastructure, including Islamic schools along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, were no longer needed or useful to the U.S. The Pakistan government—by then led by none other than the “enlightened” Benazir Bhutto!—still saw these forces as useful in their rivalry with India and for other reasons as well. Bhutto’s government supported the rise of the Taliban, the brutal religious fanatics who swept into Afghanistan in the early 1990s from the Pakistan refugee camps and instituted strict Islamic rule.
With the Soviets out of the way, the U.S. now saw the opportunity to directly project its military force in the Middle East. They invaded Iraq in 1991 for the first time, and then implanted military bases in Saudi Arabia. The non-Afghani jihadist forces built up by Pakistan—now grouped around Osama bin Laden—reacted with outrage. The former allies—the U.S. and the fundamentalists—now came into conflict. Frankenstein’s monster turned on its creator with a vengeance on September 11, 2001.
Pakistan again became a focal point of U.S. imperialist military aims. For a while the Pakistan rulers had tried to ride two horses—keeping alive its support of the Taliban without disrupting its client status with U.S. imperialism. In the wake of September 11, 2001, a U.S. diplomat presented Musharraf with an offer he couldn’t refuse: cut all ties with the Taliban and enlist in the “War on Terror,” or “Be prepared to be bombed. Be prepared to go back to the Stone Age.”
Today, the very Pakistani military the U.S. used to set up the Taliban is being ordered to wipe out the Taliban. These Taliban forces are dug into the Waziristans, a large impoverished Pakistani region of 3 million people bordering Afghanistan. U.S. military operations—both direct attacks on Pakistan and through the Pakistani army—generate support for Islamic fundamentalist forces. Missiles fired from U.S. CIA “predator drone” (pilotless) aircraft on villages in the Waziristans have killed many civilians, and led to massive Islamist-led protests against the U.S. and Musharraf. And meanwhile, many within the army still see the Taliban as important potential allies; many share their ideology; and some might even see letting them stay around as a way to keep the U.S. aid flowing.
In 2004 and 2005, under U.S. pressure, Musharraf sent tens of thousands of Pakistani troops into the Waziristans. That operation was a disaster for Musharraf and the U.S.—hundreds of Pakistani troops surrendered or deserted to the Taliban. The agreements that resulted from this fiasco ended up further institutionalizing Taliban control over these regions.
Musharraf has carried out the campaigns against Muslim fundamentalists, as well as the regionally based opposition movements, through death squads, torture, secret detentions, and massacres. These have flouted any pretense of legal process. This was one of the factors behind the opposition to Musharraf from high court judges, and the rebellion of lawyers—a movement that in turn was hit with widespread and vicious suppression. Turning the fist of the regime against the lawyers further angered the urban middle classes, students, and other sections of society that the U.S. sees as potential allies in the “War on Terror.”
In these conditions, sharp debate emerged in the U.S. ruling class, framed by a consensus that Musharraf lacked sufficient desire and ability to mobilize the army against the Pakistani Taliban while maintaining some semblance of legitimacy for his rule.
(Re)Enter Bhutto: Another Creature and Servant of Imperialism
The U.S. directly brokered and imposed a partnership between Musharraf and Bhutto, and she returned to Pakistan in October 2007. The exact terms of the power-sharing between Musharraf and Bhutto were a matter of conflict. But everyone, especially the U.S. godfather, agreed that Bhutto’s participation in elections would legitimate Musharraf’s continued rule through some form of power-sharing between the two. Musharraf would represent the army and Bhutto would bring in the alienated middle classes and the sections of the national bourgeoisie who felt cut out of the action thereby stabilizing the political situation. The payoff would be that the new alliance would strengthen the moves to go after the Taliban.
Bhutto is far from the “heroic, if flawed, saint” portrayed by the U.S. media. When she was in power as Pakistan’s Prime Minister, she was a brutal servant of imperialism and shamelessly corrupt. During her two terms as Prime Minister, the Pakistani intelligence agency worked closely with Al Qaeda and installed the Taliban in Afghanistan. She worked with and facilitated the growth of Islamic fundamentalist influence within Pakistan, and played a key role in wiping out radical, secular influence in the struggle against Indian rule in Kashmir. Her rule was characterized by death squads, murders in police custody, “disappearances” of dissidents, and torture. When her brother Murtaza Bhutto, a rival in her Pakistan People’s Party, charged her with corruption, he was shot dead in highly suspicious circumstances during a police ambush outside the Bhutto family home.
Bhutto stayed largely silent during the uprising of lawyers against Musharraf and his draconian “state of emergency.” Under pressure from her supporters, she issued late, pro-forma statements opposing emergency rule crackdowns. She was widely condemned by protesters for standing aside from the struggle, and for collusion with Musharraf.
Bhutto’s supporters blame Musharraf for her assassination. He, along with other forces in the volatile mix of contradictions in Pakistan, might have seen benefit in her assassination. But other forces in Pakistan also opposed her insertion into the equation. In the violent and complex swirl of events in Pakistan, it is impossible to know who was actually behind her death.
New Dangers & New Openings
The new situation is one of tremendous uncertainty. Every force is scrambling to advance their interests within the “new reality.” In regards to the U.S. rulers, they must now weigh how the actions that they feel compelled to take in both Afghanistan and Iran—including the possible military attack against Iran, which is still “on the table”—would be affected by the current volatile and explosive situation in Pakistan; and how actions in those countries might make Pakistan even more explosive. The U.S. can’t just “walk away” from this situation. Pakistan’s size, strategic location and nuclear weapons—as well as the strength of the Islamic fundamentalist trend in the army—make it an extremely important country from the calculus of U.S. control. If this country, or any part of it, falls under the control of the Islamic fundamentalists, this would mark a huge strategic setback for the U.S.
The Islamic fundamentalists, for their part, would see controlling Pakistan—or parts of it—as a critical base area for further operations and to enforce their own forms of oppression. This would be a big advance for their interests—one which the U.S. could not long tolerate. Again, the conflict between what Bob Avakian has pinpointed as the two main contending forces in the world representing outmoded and reactionary social relations poses explosive and high-stakes challenges, both for the reactionaries…and for the people.
Back in the U.S., presidential candidates debate and posture over how to “defend our interests”—masking how the preservation of “our interests” through successive Pakistani regimes has sentenced 165 million people to lives stunted and cut short by imperialist domination. And while this goes on, the Bush regime (as noted earlier) is reported to be figuring out how to take advantage of the situation to insert an even more aggressive CIA and U.S. military presence in Pakistan, especially the Waziristans.
The current upheaval in Pakistan poses dangers of even more severe repression against the people. Many rightly fear and oppose the ascendancy of reactionary Muslim fundamentalists who could move to “fill the vacuum” if things further disintegrate. And there is a real sense of “no good options” for the future.
But the recent past has seen courageous struggle by the Pakistani people, like the courageous movement of lawyers protesting illegal detentions, disappearances, torture, and murder. It has also seen the uprising and anger—much of it directed against the U.S.—following Bhutto’s assassination. The real interests of the vast majority of the people of Pakistan—from the urban middle strata chafing at the repressive, corrupt regime, to the impoverished peasants and agricultural workers, to the sweatshop workers in the city—lie in breaking free of the so-called “choices” of Islamic fundamentalism or Western imperialist “democracy.” And the real interests of the people in the U.S. lie in opposing this whole horrible imperialist system and its ugly deeds and brutal aims around the world, and in making common cause with those whom it oppresses.
In countries like Pakistan (and most of the rest of the world), the task of national liberation from imperialism is the pressing task. New-democratic revolution—pioneered by Mao Tsetung in China—is the path to that liberation. New-democratic revolution unites and represents the interests of all who can be united to overthrow the bureaucrat-capitalist class and state system dependent on and serving imperialism. But the goal is not to repackage imperialist domination in a democratic form. Instead, new-democratic revolution overthrows imperialism, as the first stage of a socialist revolution aimed ultimately at the worldwide overthrow of capitalism-imperialism.
Today, as in most of the world, the people of Pakistan are urgently up against the need to solve the problems of making this new-democratic revolution, in theory and practice, in the challenging conditions of our times. If forces step forward in this current upheaval with that aim, something good for the people of Pakistan—and for humanity—can come out of all this.
“What we see in contention here with Jihad on the one hand and McWorld/McCrusade on the other hand, are historically outmoded strata among colonized and oppressed humanity up against historically outmoded ruling strata of the imperialist system. These two reactionary poles reinforce each other, even while opposing each other. If you side with either of these ‘outmodeds,’ you end up strengthening both.”
Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA
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”
Revolution #115, January 13, 2008
MAKING REVOLUTION AND EMANCIPATING HUMANITY
PART 2: EVERYTHING WE’RE DOING IS ABOUT REVOLUTION (CONTINUED)
A culture of appreciation, promotion, and popularization
Editors’ Note: The following is the third in Part 2 of a series of excerpts from a talk by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, last year (2007). This has been edited for publication and footnotes have been added. These excerpts are being published in two parts. Part 1 is available in its entirety, as one document, online at revcom.us, and has been serialized in (the print version of) Revolution (see issues #105, Oct. 21; #106, Oct. 28; #107, Nov. 4; #108, Nov. 11; #109, Nov. 18; #110, Nov. 25; #111, Dec. 9; and #112, Dec. 16, 2007). Part 2 is also available, as one document, at revcom.us.
Meaningful Revolutionary Work
A culture of appreciation, promotion, and popularization
One important aspect of boldly spreading revolution and communism everywhere is the work of building what we have characterized as a culture of appreciation, promotion, and popularization around the leadership, the body of work and the method and approach of Bob Avakian. Now, I recognize that some people (especially among the middle strata, frankly) may find it “immodest” (and perhaps, to some, strangely disturbing) for me to speak about this (and, for god’s sake, to refer to myself in the third person!). But, first of all and fundamentally, “modesty” (or “immodesty”) is not the essential issue, not the heart of the matter. This, like everything else, is a matter of a scientific approach—objectively assessing what is represented by a particular person and their role, their body of work and their method and approach—and it should be viewed and evaluated, by myself or anyone else, in this way and according to these criteria (and, let’s be honest, would those who object to my referring to myself in the third person here really be any less “put off” if I were to talk about “a culture of appreciation, promotion, and popularization around the leadership, the body of work and the method and approach of myself”?). No, the essence of the question is: what is objectively represented by this leadership, this body of work and method and approach, and what does this have to do with the larger question of transforming the world?
As Lenin emphasized in What Is To Be Done?, one of the key tasks of communists is to set before all their communist convictions and aims. And this means presenting what is, at any time, the most advanced representation of those convictions and aims. In fundamental terms, the principles involved are the same as in all fields of scientifically based endeavor (physics, biology, medicine, and so on): breakthroughs are very often associated with a particular individual, and to speak about the most advanced understanding at a given time would be impossible without reference to and, yes, a certain focus on, that individual—and attempting to avoid such reference and focus would be extremely artificial and wrong, and not at all helpful. So, once more, while of course there are particularities to the sphere of political (and ideological) leadership, and more specifically to communist leadership,1 with regard to anyone whose role has a significant influence (or is put forward as something which should have a significant influence), the basic question comes down to: what is the content of that role, and in particular the content of the body of work and the method and approach of that person, and what effect would it have, one way or another, if that were to have greater, or lesser, impact and influence?
Why am I—why is my body of work, and method and approach—important? Because this is bringing forward an advanced understanding, a heightened understanding, of what revolution and communism are all about and how to move toward the objective of revolution and communism, as well as a method for engaging and struggling through the contradictions that are inevitably going to be encountered in that process. (Some things are inevitable—and, while the achievement of communism is not inevitable, it is inevitable that in the struggle to achieve communism we are going to encounter many complex and difficult contradictions. We can guarantee that.)
That is what this is all grounded in—what it is all for. When we’re taking this out, and working to build this culture of appreciation, promotion, and popularization, we are not doing so in order to build a cult around a person, in some religious sense. We’re doing so in order to enable people to engage the most advanced understanding we have of where society and humanity needs to go, and can go, what this body of work and method and approach has to do with that and why it’s important in relation to that—why, in reality, it is indispensable for masses of people to engage with this in relation to—to serve, and to advance towards—that, and not anything else. Even the aspect, which is secondary but not unimportant—the aspect of the person Bob Avakian—is important only in the framework of, and on the basis of, being a revolutionary communist leader, the leader of a communist vanguard party which is capable of leading people toward the goal of revolution and ultimately communism—which has to continue developing its ability to do this, but has a basic foundation for actually leading people toward that goal. That is the point of all this.
It is on that foundation, and in that context, that it is important to build a culture of appreciation, promotion, and popularization, and in fact to take energetic and innovative steps to better acquaint the masses of people of different strata with this leadership, this body of work and method and approach. If we are in fact being guided by the scientific understanding that human society needs to, and can, advance to communism, that the struggle to achieve this objective must be the conscious act of masses of people, on the one hand, while at the same time this must have, and has no prospect of being realized without, leadership—leadership that, in relation to this goal, embodies the most advanced understanding and methodology—and that what is concentrated in the person, yes, but most fundamentally in the body of work and method and approach of Bob Avakian represents that leadership; then what flows naturally from that is the recognition that this is something the masses of people must be made aware of and acquainted with, and must take up as their own, with the understanding of how crucial it is, in terms of their own fundamental interests and ultimately the highest interests of humanity as a whole. As a document of our Party on the question of revolutionary leadership emphasizes:
“the fact that certain individual revolutionaries emerge as a concentration of this process, and themselves become a concentrated expression of the best qualities of revolutionary leadership– including a selfless dedication to the revolutionary cause and deep love of the masses, as well as a strong grasp of the scientific methodology needed to unleash the masses and chart the path of revolution in line with their objective interests– then the existence of such an individual leader or leaders is not something to lament but something to welcome and celebrate! It is part of the people’s strength.”2
It is very important to grasp the dialectics, as well as the materialism, involved in this. In this regard, of real significance is the way in which, and the basis on which, a number of Black artists and intellectuals, many of whom have differences with some of what I am putting forward, have in various ways (including by signing the Engage! Statement3) helped to create an atmosphere where what I have to say can be engaged by a broader audience and where efforts to suppress my voice and to carry out repression aimed at me will meet with stronger resistance. What is noticeable is that, even while they have varying degrees of differences with my communist views and convictions, many of these people, including a number who have read my memoir (From Ike To Mao and Beyond: My Journey from Mainstream America to Revolutionary Communist), are interested in or drawn to me more in the personal dimension—or, perhaps better said, my “personal history” and in particular the ways in which it is clear that I have been deeply affected and influenced by personal relationships with Black people as well as by the larger political and revolutionary struggle of Black people. But, at the same time, while we respect where they are coming from and greatly appreciate the support they have given, coming from their own viewpoints and despite certain differences with my political and ideological outlook, what we are seeking to do, in accordance with our own viewpoint, is to strive to have all this contribute, in an overall sense, to our fundamental, strategic objectives of revolution and ultimately achieving a communist world. From our point of view, that, and nothing else, is what everything we are doing is about and is aiming for.
Why are we working to make it all contribute to communism? Because “that’s our thing”? No. Because that’s where things need to go in order for there to be a radically different and far better world. Key concepts that we talk about—perhaps too often with too much “shorthand”—such as the “new synthesis,”4 along with principles of epistemology and philosophy, as well as of politics, which are concentrated in the body of work and the method and approach that I have been developing—and which, yes, do get concentrated to a certain extent in the person who is bringing forward this body of work and method and approach—all this is about revolution: its basis and purpose is to serve the masses of people in making revolution and advancing toward communism.
What we are about, and what we base ourselves on, is most emphatically not a religion. In its philosophical outlook and its methodology, as well as in its political understanding and objectives, it is grounded in, and guided by, a scientific understanding and approach. The whole discussion, previously in this talk, on Marxism as a science should make that very clear.5
We are not a cult but a group of scientists (a group that aims to be continually expanding), straining to solve vexing problems—making mistakes, yes, and doing our best to learn from our mistakes, doing our best to learn from others, including those who have different outlooks and objectives than we do—approaching all this in a systematically and comprehensively scientific way. We have never argued, nor believed, that the Party collectively or the leader of the Party—or any individual or group of people—is endowed with supernatural qualities or powers, or that the Party or the leader of the Party is “infallible” or should be “worshiped” or followed blindly. All notions of that kind are completely alien and fundamentally opposed to what we do believe and set out to put into practice—namely, that it is possible, and necessary, to apply a critical and revolutionary scientific outlook and method to continue learning more about reality and, in dialectical relation with that, to carry forward the struggle to radically change reality, in the direction toward communism.
We do believe—and are confident that this belief is scientifically grounded—that the Party collectively, and in a concentrated way the leader of our Party, Bob Avakian, has acquired and developed an advanced understanding and method and approach in terms of that scientific process of understanding, and radically transforming, reality: a scientific approach which rejects any notions of “infallibility” or of some kind of final and complete knowledge, but which recognizes and insists that what we are, and must be, engaged in is a process of continually deepening our understanding, and our ability to apply our understanding in revolutionary practice, through the dialectical relation—the back-and-forth interplay—between practice and theory, and between applying to reality our best understanding of what is true at any given time and continuing to learn more about reality—including what is shown not to be true about what we had previously believed—learning (and enabling others to learn) from our mistakes as well as what we accomplish by applying our understanding, learning from many others, in a wide array of fields and with a broad diversity of views, at the same time as we continue learning from our own practical experience and our own efforts and struggle in the realm of theory and “working with ideas.”
The development of what we have referred to as the “new synthesis” is a clear and salient example of this. This new synthesis—regarding the historical experience of the communist movement and of socialist societies led by communists, and regarding the objectives as well as the outlook and method of communists—has been developed (and, in fact, is still being further developed) primarily and essentially by Bob Avakian, as the leader of our Party and in the overall context of the collectivity of our Party (and as part of the broader communist movement internationally) over a period of nearly 30 years, through a process of extensive and intense work and struggle in the theoretical realm, in dialectical relation with developing policies with regard to the practical struggle, guided by the fundamental objective of revolution and the ultimate aim of communism, and summing up the results (positive and negative) of the efforts to implement these policies, during the course of this whole period of nearly 30 years. Not only does all this not rest or rely on religious notions or approaches, but, again, such notions and approaches are complete anathema to and are in fundamental antagonism with what this is all about; and criticism of and struggle against religious tendencies, of any kind—among the ranks of the communists as well as more broadly in society—is precisely one of the main principles of the body of work and method and approach of Bob Avakian.
With regard to the question of individual leaders—as well as leadership collectively—our approach is one of applying the scientific outlook and method of dialectical, and historical, materialism to this as well. We are aiming for the ultimate achievement of communism, throughout the world. And, yes, it is true: when that goal is reached, then there will no longer be a need, or a basis, for vanguards and for leaders in the sense in which we now think of leaders. But at the present time, and for some time to come, there is, and there will be, a great need for and a great importance to leaders. This is an expression and a result of underlying contradictions and profound divisions in society (the division between mental and manual labor in particular, and more fundamentally the contradictions between the forces and relations of production and between the economic base and the superstructure—and the interrelation and interpenetration of these contradictions—as this takes form in this era where the world is still dominated by the capitalist-imperialist system). And, so long as that is true, the essential questions will remain: What is the content and effect of that leadership—where will it lead people, and how? What does it enable people to do, or prevent them from doing? Does it contribute to their capacity to actually comprehend reality, and to act consciously to change it, in accordance with the fundamental interests of humanity—or does it interfere with and undermine that?
This point has been made before but, especially when there is so much confusion and misunderstanding about this—much of it consciously and deliberately spread by the ruling class and its intellectual camp followers, as well as some others—it is necessary to emphasize it again: Given the nature of the society and world in which we live; given that this society and this world are still under the domination of exploiting classes and are fundamentally shaped by the dynamics of a system of exploitation, capitalism-imperialism; and given the profoundly unequal and oppressive social divisions that are bound up with this—given all this, society, and the people who make up society, are going to be disproportionately influenced by one set of ideas—and one group of leaders—or another, whether they acknowledge it or not. And again the essential question is: which ideas and which leadership, in the pursuit of which purposes and aims, toward what ends and by what methods and means?
On the foundation of this understanding, actively, energetically, and creatively building a culture of appreciation, promotion, and popularization around Bob Avakian, among growing numbers of people, and enabling them to grasp the crucial importance of engaging with his body of work and method and approach, while taking up the challenge of protecting and defending the person who is bringing this forward and providing this leadership—this is a key part of boldly taking revolution and communism out everywhere. It is one of the key means, one of the main vehicles, we have for doing that. But that is what we are doing, in building this culture of appreciation, promotion, and popularization. This has its own particularity, but ultimately and fundamentally it is about—it is in the service of—nothing other than spreading revolution and communism and building a revolutionary movement of masses, consciously taking up the orientation of being emancipators of humanity.
1. Footnote by the author: With regard to communist leadership in particular, I have discussed the social contradictions, as well as the historical experience, with which this is bound up, in a number of writings, talks, and interviews. See, for example, “Interview Series with Michael Slate,” and in particular the section “On Leadership,” available online at bobavakian.net.[back]
2. From “Some Points on the Question of Revolutionary Leadership and Individual Leaders,” part 2 of 1995 Leadership Resolutions on Leaders and Leadership, which was released by the Party on the 20th anniversary of its founding. These resolutions were originally published in the Revolutionary Worker (now Revolution), October 1, 1995 and are available at revcom.us. Part 1 is titled: “The Party Exists for No Other Reason than to Serve the Masses, to Make Revolution.” For additional discussion of these questions see also “The Crossroads We Face, The Leadership We Need,” Revolution #84, April 8, 2007, available at revcom.us.[back]
3. The statement “Dangerous times demand courageous voices. Bob Avakian is such a voice” can be found at the website of Engage! A Committee to Project and Protect the Voice of Bob Avakian, at engageavakian.com.[back]
4. A discussion of this “new synthesis” is found in Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity, Part 1: Beyond the Narrow Horizon of Bourgeois Right, and in particular the final segment of part 1, “Historical Experience and the New Synthesis.” Part 1 is available online, as one document, at revcom.us, and has been serialized in Revolution. “Historical Experience and the New Synthesis” is the final installment in that series; it appears in Revolution #113, Dec. 23, 2007.
The following is a pivotal part of that discussion of the new synthesis:
“To try to concentrate—or to present a basic synthesis—of what is represented by this new synthesis, it can be said:
“This new synthesis involves a recasting and recombining of the positive aspects of the experience so far of the communist movement and of socialist society, while learning from the negative aspects of this experience, in the philosophical and ideological as well as the political dimensions, so as to have a more deeply and firmly rooted scientific orientation, method and approach with regard not only to making revolution and seizing power but then, yes, to meeting the material requirements of society and the needs of the masses of people, in an increasingly expanding way, in socialist society—overcoming the deep scars of the past and continuing the revolutionary transformation of society, while at the same time actively supporting the world revolutionary struggle and acting on the recognition that the world arena and the world struggle are most fundamental and important, in an overall sense—together with opening up qualitatively more space to give expression to the intellectual and cultural needs of the people, broadly understood, and enabling a more diverse and rich process of exploration and experimentation in the realms of science, art and culture, and intellectual life overall, with increasing scope for the contention of different ideas and schools of thought and for individual initiative and creativity and protection of individual rights, including space for individuals to interact in ‘civil society’ independently of the state—all within an overall cooperative and collective framework and at the same time as state power is maintained and further developed as a revolutionary state power serving the interests of the proletarian revolution, in the particular country and worldwide, with this state being the leading and central element in the economy and in the overall direction of society, while the state itself is being continually transformed into something radically different from all previous states, as a crucial part of the advance toward the eventual abolition of the state with the achievement of communism on a world scale.
“In a sense, it could be said that the new synthesis is a synthesis of the previous experience of socialist society and of the international communist movement more broadly, on the one hand, and of the criticisms, of various kinds and from various standpoints, of that experience, on the other hand. That does not mean that this new synthesis represents a mere ‘pasting together’ of that experience on the one hand, and the criticisms on the other hand. It is not an eclectic combination of these things, but a sifting through, a recasting and recombining on the basis of a scientific, materialist and dialectical outlook and method, and of the need to continue advancing toward communism, a need and objective which this outlook and method continues to point to—and, the more thoroughly and deeply it is taken up and applied, the more firmly it points to this need and objective.” [back]
5. This discussion of Marxism as a science is found in part 1 (“Beyond the Narrow Horizon of Bourgeois Right”), which is available, as one document, at revcom.us. In the serialization of part 1 in Revolution, this discussion is contained in the installments entitled “Marxism as a Science—In Opposition to Mechanical Materialism, Idealism and Religiosity” and “Marxism as a Science—Refuting Karl Popper,” which appear in Revolution #109, Nov. 18, and #110, Nov. 25, 2007.[back]
This series will continue in the next issue of Revolution.
Revolution #115, January 13, 2008
CIA Torture Tape-gate
The Washington scandal around the CIA torture tapes has continued to unfold. And this is happening at a time when there are crucial calls for protests in the month of January and beyond against torture by the U.S., the U.S. military prison at Guantánamo where hundreds are being held without charges or trial, and the whole fascistic agenda of the rulers spearheaded by the Bush regime.
In 2002, the CIA videotaped hundreds of hours of interrogation/torture of two detainees alleged to be al-Qaeda operatives at secret prisons outside the U.S. The tapes reportedly include the use of waterboarding—where a prisoner is strapped down and water is poured over a piece of cloth or cellophane covering the face, bringing the prisoner to the brink of drowning. Then in late 2005, the CIA destroyed the tapes.
Many within the government knew about the tapes—what they showed and how they were shredded to cover up what was going on. Among those “in the know” were members of Congress, including Nancy Pelosi, now the top Democrat in the House. Top White House officials discussed what to do with the tapes. But the existence and the destruction of the CIA tapes only came to broad public attention with a report in the New York Times last December 7. (See Revolution coverage in the past two issues: “Torture…Shredded Tapes…The New Normal? TIME TO ACT!” in #113 and “Needed January 11: A Sea of Orange. Torture Scandal & Fascistic ‘New Norms’” in #114.)
The continuing scandal and the exposure of the fact that the U.S. is officially torturing people—and covering up videotapes and other graphic evidence of such torture—reflect sharp differences at the ruling heights of society. At the same time, some of the truth that is coming out about the U.S. use of torture is deeply disturbing to millions throughout society. This situation holds within it the potential to provoke many people into political struggle. And it can begin to raise profound questions very broadly—including questions like: What kind of society is this where the government not only carries out these inhuman practices but is compelled to legally sanction such sadistic methods? And what kind of people would allow all this to go on without raising their voices in outrage and protest and demanding that it stop immediately?
New Developments in the CIA Tape-gate
In the context of the scandal and the ruling class divisions behind it, some dirt is getting exposed—in particular, the direct involvement of top government officials in ordering the use of torture and then covering up evidence of it. Among the latest key developments is a prominent Op-Ed piece in the January 2 issue of the New York Times by Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, who headed the U.S. government’s 9/11 commission. Kean (a Republican) and Hamilton (a Democrat) are high-level figures within the political establishment. So their article represents the views of some powerful forces at the top.
In their piece, Kean and Hamilton write: “The commission’s mandate was sweeping and it explicitly included the intelligence agencies. But the recent revelations that the CIA destroyed videotaped interrogations of Qaeda operatives leads us to conclude that the agency failed to respond to our lawful requests for information about the 9/11 plot. Those who knew about those videotapes—and did not tell us about them—obstructed our investigation.” In other words, Kean and Hamilton are charging that those who withheld information about the CIA tapes committed a crime under U.S. laws.
Kean and Hamilton place blame not only on the CIA but the White House itself: “There could have been absolutely no doubt in the mind of anyone at the CIA—or the White House—of the commission’s interest in any and all information related to Qaeda detainees involved in the 9/11 plot. Yet no one in the administration ever told the commission of the existence of videotapes of detainee interrogations.” Kean and Hamilton describe a series of requests they made to the CIA for such information, including at a January 2004 meeting with CIA Director George Tenet, White House counsel Alberto Gonzales (who later became Bush’s attorney general), Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and a Justice Department official. At that meeting, Kean and Hamilton write, “Once again, videotapes were not mentioned.”
On the same day that Kean and Hamilton’s article appeared, Bush’s Attorney General Mike Mukasey announced that the Justice Department was beginning a formal criminal investigation into the destruction of the CIA tapes. Mukasey appointed John Durham, the number two official in the U.S. Attorney’s office in Connecticut, to head the inquiry, in conjunction with the FBI. (Mukasey, who recently replaced Alberto Gonzales, infamously refused to call waterboarding torture during his confirmation hearings before Congress—after which the Democrat-controlled Congress proceeded to approve him as the new Attorney General.) It may be that this move is an attempt at a cover-up. But there could also be certain contradictions among the rulers that are involved or could come into play here. There have been reports that the FBI, for their own reasons, were opposed to the CIA torture, and there have been long-standing differences between the FBI and CIA. Some of this is in-fighting over “turf” between different intelligence agencies, but it could also reflect larger divisions at the top which are coming out through the tape scandal.
Aside from this Justice Department inquiry, the House and Senate Intelligence Committees are also conducting investigations into the CIA tape shredding. There are efforts from certain quarters within the power structure to contain the scandal by pointing the finger at CIA officials—in particular Jose Rodriguez, who was the head of CIA’s “clandestine operations” in 2005 and reportedly gave the direct order to shred the torture tapes. It’s possible that Rodriguez and some others may end up as “fall guys” for the scandal. But as Kean and Hamilton’s Op-Ed article indicates, it’s also possible the scandal could reach high up into the Bush White House. A December 23 article in the Sunday Times (London) reported that Rodriguez may seek immunity from prosecution in exchange for testifying before the House Intelligence Committee. The article quotes a former CIA officer, Larry Johnson, saying, “He [Jose Rodriguez] didn’t wake up one day and decide, ‘I’m going to destroy these tapes.’ He checked with a lot of people and eventually he is going to get his say… It looks increasingly as though the decision was made by the White House.”
Bush is claiming that his “first recollection of whether the tapes existed and whether they were destroyed” was when he was told by current CIA head Michael Hayden just before the NY Times story appeared in December.
Former CIA agent John Kiriakou, who appeared on network TV shows in December to talk about the videotaped “interrogation” of Zubaydah that he took part in, also pointed the finger at top levels of the Bush regime. When NBC’s Matt Lauer asked Kiriakou whether the White House was involved in the decision to use torture, Kiriakou answered, “Absolutely.” He went on to say, “This isn’t something done willy nilly. It’s not something that an agency officer just wakes up in the morning and decides he’s going to carry out an enhanced technique [waterboarding] on a prisoner. This was a policy made at the White House, with concurrence from the National Security Council and Justice Department.”
In our earlier coverage, we had described Kiriakou as part of a “spin” machine that went into operation after the scandal broke to justify torture. But that was perhaps underestimating the depth and sharpness of the contradictions at the top that are behind the CIA tape scandal. Whatever was behind Kiriakou’s decision to step out of the shadows to talk publicly, the government quickly moved to try to shut him up and possibly prosecute him. Shortly after his TV appearances, Mukasey’s Justice Department announced that it had opened a criminal investigation into whether Kiriakou had disclosed “classified information.” Kiriakou’s lawyer Mark Zaid told the Washington Post that if the government pursues the investigation, “they will open a Pandora’s box that will put the spotlight on whether the interrogations were lawful, and the extent to which they have been fully revealed by federal officials.” According to Mother Jones magazine, Zaid also said, “Here it was that the Bush administration ordered and approved the techniques but yet it would not come to the public defense of the Agency, not even to Members of Congress, several of whom obviously had been ‘read into’ details of the CIA’s interrogation program. The hypocrisy is breathtaking, and John felt it necessary, appropriate, and lawful to say something.”
Rifts at the Top…and the Need for Mass Resistance from Below
It is not clear where all this is headed. But it seems at this point that the CIA torture tape scandal is continuing to bubble, and more dirt may surface. These leaks and scandals coming out now reflect divisions at the top of the power structure over the ripping up of some long-standing principles that were considered “accepted norms” in this society and the establishment of a fascistic “new normalcy,” concentrated in a certain way with the legitimization of torture. With various legal memos, presidential orders, and laws like the Military Commissions Act, the government has all but abandoned even the pretense that “America doesn’t torture.” The possibility that ripping up these norms could unravel society and affect the interests of the capitalist-imperialist system as a whole in unpredictable ways is fueling differences and disputes among the rulers at the top. And some of this is coming out through this current scandal.
But even if this scandal continues and intensifies, and possibly results in the fall of some top figures in the government, this by itself will not lead to the stopping of the whole fascist trajectory that this country is on. The terms of the current scandal are over “who destroyed the CIA tapes”—not over the need to stop torture immediately because it is wrong. There are no big exposés over the fact that the use of torture has become routine in the whole “war on terror”—at Guantánamo, at the U.S. prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan, at secret CIA prisons around the world, and through “renditions” where “suspects” are kidnapped by the U.S. and imprisoned in other countries where they are tortured under U.S. direction. There are threats to prosecute over “obstructing” the work of government bodies—but no demands to hold all those responsible, especially those at the top levels of government, for ordering, carrying out, justifying, and covering up the horrendous crime of torture itself.
If torture, secret prisons, renditions—and many other crimes and horrors being carried out by the Bush regime and the U.S. rulers—are going to be brought to a halt, it will take mass political resistance from below. There is great and urgent necessity for such resistance, before it becomes too late—before the fascistic legitimating norms become even more firmly locked into place. From that perspective, the torture tape scandal is of great importance. The radically reactionary remaking of “legitimating norms” that is behind the disputes among the rulers is also fueling widespread anger (along with fear and political paralysis) among the people broadly. There is a critical (and finite) moment with the torture tape scandal, where the public eye is focused on this question—and in this situation, determined, independent political action can potentially break through the dam of fear and paralysis and unleash a torrent of upheaval and resistance throughout society.
Revolution #115, January 13, 2008
On New Year's Day, one million people gather along the streets of Pasadena, a city near Los Angeles to watch the Rose Parade, known for its elaborately decorated floats. The night before the parade, families from the suburbs, proletarians from surrounding areas, immigrants, and football fanatics camp out along the route in a yearly tradition. At this year’s parade, TV news crews interviewed protesters from the White Rose Coalition—which includes Code Pink, the National Impeachment Center, World Can’t Wait, Cindy Sheehan, and others. The protesters aimed to deal a dose of reality to parade spectators about the state of the world and to challenge people to resist. Some of the protesters were dressed in orange jumpsuits, like the detainees being held and tortured at Guantánamo. Protesters, including some who had camped out for the night, held signs along the parade route saying “Impeach Bush/Cheney,” “No Torture” and “Iraq: Get Out…Iran: Stay Out…Bush/Cheney: Drive Out.” A couple of hundred protesters marched behind the last float to Pasadena City Hall, including a group of people wearing large papier-mâché bobble-heads of Bush and his gang dressed in prison stripes. After the parade a Chicano teenager said, “It’s 2008 and stopping all this war and torture has to be our #1 resolution. We have to get out this message.”
Revolution #115, January 13, 2008
Lately, if you turn on your TV to watch your favorite shows, all you get is reruns. The creative minds that write these shows and their union, the Writer’s Guild of America (WGA), have been on strike since November 5, 2007.
The WGA went on strike because they felt they were not getting a fair contract from the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which represents the six major studios: Disney, Fox, Paramount, Sony, Universal and Warner Bros. (These studios are owned in turn by even bigger corporations.)
At the heart of what the WGA is fighting for are residuals. These are payments, on top of the salary they receive for their scripts, to writers when the movies or shows they helped create are re-run on TV or are sold to the home video market (VHS tapes or DVDs). Currently, writers get residual payments of about four cents per DVD, which they want doubled to eight cents.
More importantly, the WGA wants residuals for “new media”—payment when shows are streamed over the internet or downloaded onto computers and iPods. Currently, writers receive nothing from this.
Some WGA writers really make a lot of money. But the majority of them don’t—most are middle class, and it is not uncommon for them to go without work for a year. The WGA says that 46% of writers had no work last year—their entire income for the year came from residuals.
Feature film writer Erich Hoeber (Montana, Whiteout) told Revolution at the picket line outside Fox Studios, “Most of us are essentially freelance [writers] in a very difficult business where we’re always looking for our next job, and it’s these little things like residuals and health care that make it possible to do this as a middle class person.”
According to the WGA, of those who do work, 25% make less than $37,700 a year and 50% make less than $105,000 a year. Over a five-year period of employment and unemployment, a writer’s average income is $62,000 per year.
The “New Media” and the Same Old Scam
The AMPTP argument against paying residuals for new media is that the technology is still too new and changing rapidly and, therefore, it is too early to determine what amount they can share with the writers.
There is uncertainty over how much the Internet will actually replace TV and how this will impact the industry. But heads of some of these studios and CEOs of some corporations that own them have been hinting to investors—in some cases outright bragging—about the large profits they see in the not-so-distant future.
While on the Charlie Rose Show, Rupert Murdoch, Chairman of News Corp., said that the digital revolution meant an era filled “with golden opportunities.” On CNBC, Bob Iger, President and CEO of Disney, said they already make $1.5 billion a year in digital, and Sumer Redstone, CEO of Viacom, has said his company will double its revenues from digital this year.
The AMPTP used this same excuse against paying writers residuals during the ’80s when the VHS tape (or the home video market) was something new.
The WGA went on strike then as well, but writers returned to work after five months, after agreeing to a tiny residual. The home video market then grew tremendously and became the biggest revenue stream in the industry. Last year there were $9.5 billion in theater tickets, but $16.3 billion in DVD sales and $7.4 billion in DVD rental revenue, almost triple the revenue from movie sales. (“Digital media won’t be a sideshow in the future,” Joseph Menn, Los Angeles Times staff writer, November 19, 2007) According to the WGA, the cost to writers since the time of the 1988 agreement is around $2 billion.
Changing Technology and the Anarchy of Production
In a video on YouTube, Phil Robinson of the WGA notes that technological advancement has regularly led to big changes in the entertainment industry. When sound was first developed, movies could no longer be shot based upon a skeletal scenario “written on the back on a napkin.” Developed screenplays written by skilled professionals were now required. Hollywood had to hire writers who were accustomed to being credited and paid for their work. Appalled at how they were treated, writers decided to form a union, which took a nine-year struggle to create.
The next big change brought by technology was television. Now it was easier for something to be shown repeatedly. Initially, there were no residuals at all for repeats of movies and shows. WGA negotiated an agreement in which they gave up being paid residuals for television and movies produced prior to 1960 in order to get a pension plan.
Then there was the development of home video in the late ’80s, and the resulting strike which many in WGA saw as a failure. (In one WGA video, a striking writer notes, “They really raked us over the coals in ’88, and we don’t want that to happen again.”)
This illustrates the point Karl Marx made—how the anarchy of capitalist production (the competition between different concentrations of capital) creates a constant push towards technological advancement. The new technologies can then trigger the need for adjustments and restructuring, and not just in particular companies but in entire industries, which then have ramifications for the productive relations in those industries.
Now, there is the “new media.” Companies see a huge windfall coming of billions of dollars per year—not only increased sales but also through decreased expenses. And they are demanding that none of this be shared with writers—a potentially devastating blow to writers if, as many think, almost all television content will come over the internet within five years or so.
Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, told Revolution, “The fact is, with the internet residual package they are offering us, a lot more people would become not just lower middle class, but actually poor. Writing would become an untenable venture as a career.”
At the same time, one Wall Street analyst stated that even if the WGA got everything it is asking for in a new contract, it would have a “negligible” impact on the bottom line of the companies. The writer’s blog Hollywood United noted that, “The potentially small financial impact suggests that studios (AMPTP) are more concerned about setting a precedent in new-media revenue sharing.”
The movie and television industry faces real uncertainty around how these transformations in technology will affect them, while at the same time they remain driven by the need to constantly expand their profit. They look to the music industry, which is being thoroughly shaken by the sharing of digital media, and want to ensure the same does not happen to them.
Each new development in technology in the movie and television industry brought forward new possibilities for creativity—and at each step of the way, this potential has been lashed to the needs of capital. And if the WGA is defeated in this strike, the chains will just get tighter, and all of society will suffer.
What’s at Stake
The WGA is mainly saying the strike is about “fair pay,” about the writers getting fair compensation for their work. And many of the writers echo this—one Black writer said he was striking for “forty acres and a residual.” Some talk about the need to take action now and be willing to sacrifice so that future writers will have health care, pensions, etc.
At the same time, others talk about how the strike reflects and is connected with bigger questions, about the role of artists in society, and how their work is restricted, manipulated, and conditioned by the needs of profit every step of the way.
Writers often talk about how they chafe under this system. Ben Edlund (creator of The Tick, writer for Firefly) told Revolution, “We don’t really make revolutionary TV where we come from—once in a while we slide something in.” He went on to say that the studios have an “inhuman agenda,” and that “Corporations are not human beings. They are treated like human beings in our country, treated as human citizens. They’re from another planet, some kind of jellyfish-group-creature-who-eat-people planet. It’s really like an alien takeover.”
Joss Whedon put it even more sharply in a blog post where he stated that the strike is an issue which “will affect not just artists but every member of a community that could find itself at the mercy of a machine that absolutely and unhesitatingly would dismantle every union, remove every benefit, turn every worker into a cowed wage-slave in the singular pursuit of profit. (There is a machine. Its program is ‘profit.’ This is not a myth).”
Some writers see the strike as part of the battle against the kind of world the Bush regime wants to bring about. In a column for the L.A. Times, Jay A. Fernandez wrote: “In interviews over the last month or so, producers, writers and managers have been musing that the debilitating battle between the writers and their corporate employers mirrors the liberal citizenry’s frustration with what they perceive as the condescending paternalism of the Bush administration. In this model, what the writers object to is a business and political culture that increasingly seeks to disenfranchise them from having a say in huge decisions about their industry’s future, and thus a measure of control over their own professional identities and livelihoods. ‘Trust us,’ the companies seem to be saying in a dismissive echo of Bush policy, ‘we know what’s best for you.’”
Fernandez cites an unnamed executive quoted in Variety recently: “For them [the writers], this is not a writers strike. It’s about changing society…We are so frustrated. We’re dealing with people who don’t care about this community. They [the writers] care about making social change in America.”
There are many progressive and radically minded people working in Hollywood. Though there are an awful lot of movies and television shows which reproduce the worst of society, or are just lowest common denominator pablum simply created to make money, there are also a lot that challenge dominant ideas and oppressive relations (including ones that are openly critical of the government, like the recent movies challenging the U.S. war in Iraq (In the Valley of Elah, Rendition,and Redacted). And these works have an effect on society and are an important part of creating an atmosphere in which the direction of society and the world can be challenged.
Think of some of the shows and movies you’ve seen. Those which challenged the way you look at yourself and the rest of the world, that provoked you to think in new ways. Think of the ones that spoke in moving ways to your life and experience. Or ones that let you enter a world very different from your own, to meet new people, new places. Think of ones which confused you, challenged long-held assumptions, and got you into wild debates. Think of scenes which made you cry, or which crack you up even now when you remember them. Think of the ones you saw with friends that just provided a shared, pleasant experience. Think of the movies you took your children to which left them excited and talking a mile a minute about what they saw.
Think about all of this and of how it all has so much to do with what it means to be a human being. Then think of how ludicrous and obscene it is that this creativity and imagination is thoroughly chained to capital and the need for profit. In a very real sense, writers have capital and its representatives looking over their shoulder at everything they write. And not just looking over their shoulder at their work, but sitting on it, controlling it, and many times censoring it. (For just one example of this, check out “Redacted...and Banned” Revolution #111, December 9, 2007.)
The Future Society and the Unfettering of Imagination
It doesn't have to be this way. Human creativity and imagination need to be unfettered, and they can be—in a new socialist society under the dictatorship of the proletariat.
Such a future society will to the maximum degree possible open up space for intellectuals and artists to develop and produce their work, while increasingly bringing the masses into the realms of art and culture so that they are contributing to this process and becoming part of it—engaging, learning, criticizing, and creating.
Under capitalism there is a big gap between mental and manual labor, where whole sections of society are locked out of the realm of “working with ideas.” Such divisions provide the material basis for intellectual elitism, privilege, and notions of ideas as private property. And in turn, such thinking reinforces the gap between mental and manual labor. An important goal of socialism is to transform this, to increasingly narrow this gap, for example creating a situation where the masses can work with ideas and participate in and contribute to intellectual, scientific, and artistic endeavors. At the same time, intellectuals and intellectual ferment, including in the realm of arts and culture, can really contribute to the dynamic wrangling that needs to characterize socialist society overall.
Socialist society, including in the realm of arts and culture, must have an atmosphere of dissent, ferment, critical thinking and the wild contestation of ideas. And think about the role of art in society where there is a tendency to look at things in new ways, to question the way things are, to take wild, creative and fresh approaches to problems in society. Under socialism this must be appreciated, given scope and developed as part of debating and thrashing out how to build a new society. Movies and other artistic expressions that criticize, raise questions, critique and oppose the revolution and its leadership should not only be allowed but funded. In arts and culture, as in society overall, there must be an atmosphere in which the masses of people are increasingly and ever more fully participating in the whole process of understanding and transforming the world. This means thrashing out and figuring out the direction of society in every realm of life, including culture. In socialist society, artistic works, like movies and TV shows, should confront and criticize those things in society—including things in the state, the party and the leadership—that stand in the way of advancing society toward the goal of emancipating all of humanity. And there should also be works of art that uphold, extol and popularize those things that do represent the way forward, including important advances and new things in the socialist society.
There will never be a cultural utopia in which every movie and show gets produced. Under socialism and even communism there will be certain necessity constraining which movies and shows are produced. But there is a way to handle this contradiction that is infinitely better than what we have now, that is freed from the suffocating constraints of capital.
Movies and TV shows (and various art forms) play a very important role in society today, so there should be no reason to think they wouldn't play a crucial role in rebuilding a new revolutionary society. Knowing and changing the world, figuring out how to emancipate humanity, includes the need to dream, to imagine, to be awed, amazed, and to be able to see or do things just as recreation.
Think of all those movies you've seen that explore love or friendship, that make you laugh or cry, those that just trip you out and leave you with a good feeling of confusion when you leave the theater. And then imagine TV and film writers being able to create such works in a whole new situation where “the bottom line” doesn't determine everything—and even more fundamentally where such artistic endeavors are seen as part of a society-wide process where there is a back-and-forth dialectic of people transforming their world outlook as they in turn change the world.
Imagine creators bringing the masses more and more into this realm so that they are engaging, learning, criticizing, and contributing to this process and becoming a part of it. And at the same time, allowing creators with interesting ideas to just go off on their own, or with others, to produce their ideas. The tremendous resource for society of human creativity—which is shackled and smothered under capitalism—would be fully unleashed to play a crucial role in the wild process of getting to communism.
Revolution #115, January 13, 2008
The following is from the website of the organization The World Can’t Wait–Drive Out the Bush Regime (worldcantwait.org):
Seven years into the Bush administration, the conscience of the world is shocked by the crimes and destruction the American people have allowed to be carried out in our names: Iraq in ruins, torture codified, due process shredded, and the science of global warming suppressed as the future of the planet itself hangs in the balance. When, two years ago, we issued a Call to Drive Out the Bush Regime, even we did not anticipate the pace, cruelty and extremeness with which this program would advance and expand.
Today, impervious to the repeated pronouncements that he is a lame duck, George Bush is unrelenting in his determination to drive the savageness of his agenda into the next administration. If the consensus of the National Intelligence Estimate has put an unexpected road bump in Bush’s intent to conduct as many as 1,000 air strikes on Iran, it has also served to warn the public just how close we have come to another war predicated on a lie. Already the regime is redoubling its efforts to come up with new reasons to justify the outbreak of hostilities. This is still a president serene in his belief that he is on “God’s mission.” A war time president making use of unbridled executive power. A tyrant with his hands still on the levers of power.
Under the Military Commissions Act, passed by Congress in 2006, anyone the President decides to declare an enemy combatant can be disappeared into secret prisons without the right to know what crime he has been charged with and without the right to see his lawyer. And in this never-land where George Bush claims “We Do Not Torture” a detainee will be methodically robbed of his senses. He may be subjected to “stress positions” such as tying his arms behind his back and being strung from the top of a cage; he may subjected to electrical shocks, sexually degraded and deprived of sleep to the point where humans lose sanity. He may also be a she—or as young as the 14-year-olds held in Guantánamo. The tapes destroyed by the C.I.A. document the commission of water-boarding and crimes against humanity.
The last seven years have also shown this to be true: There will be no savior from the Democratic Party. No “viable candidate” is calling for the immediate repeal of the Military Commissions Act or the Patriot Act. Clinton and Obama are not planning to dismantle the Department of Homeland Security’s domestic surveillance apparatus or the permanent U.S. military bases newly strung across the Middle East and Africa. The candidates for Commander-in-Chief are campaigning to better prosecute, not end, the so-called war on terror, a war promised to span generations. The election of 2008 will not be remembered for the candidate who campaigned to return the diaspora of black families displaced by natural disaster and criminal neglect back home to New Orleans. It is already remarkable for the regular bashing of immigrants.
There will be no pendulum swing when Democratic contenders join Republicans in lacing their speeches with professions of their faith, when Democrats seek common ground with religious fanatics who do not believe in evolution and want to see the church as state. There will be no pendulum swing when Democrats show tolerance for judicial nominees and “moral” agendas that are targeting the most fundamental rights of women to abortion and birth control for obliteration.
Official politics have proven to be a disaster. Your government does not want what you want and the Democratic nominee of 2008 will not speak for us.
THIS JANUARY join with us in mounting what has been gravely missing from political, ethical and cultural life in this country for the last 4 years—the voice of the people who refuse to be ruled in this way.
World Can’t Wait calls on all those who have shared a sense of collective outrage and shame—who would rise tomorrow if they believed there was a way to really change things—to do the only thing that is actually realistic. We can and must through mass political resistance create a political situation where this criminal regime is driven from office before their term is up—and the whole fascistic direction George Bush has been taking society is reversed. Only people highly mobilized and motivated by values that repudiate unjust war, bigotry and greed can bring the Bush agenda to a halt. Only the people who will not remain silent when their government tortures, terrorizes whole peoples and moves to quash dissent and critical thinking can change the course of history.
It’s up to us. We must show it or it doesn’t count. It begins with you taking personal responsibility to show how you feel and where you stand: wear orange daily, spread orange everywhere, protest and speak out in every way you can. As this orange resistance spreads to millions who represent the majority sentiment, Bush and Cheney’s illegitimacy to rule will stand out vividly before the world.
This January the world needs to see that the people of this country rise to say NO to torture. Torture is a crime against humanity. Torture is an impeachable offense, ordered by the White House and still being sanctioned by Congress.
We Must Act Now—The Future Is In the Balance
The world can’t wait and it’s counting on You!
Drive Out the Bush Regime.
Revolution #115, January 13, 2008
January 11—“Shut Down Guantánamo” Protest
On the day six years ago that the first prisoners began arriving at the U.S. torture camp at Guantánamo, Amnesty International and the National Religious Campaign Against Torture are leading a protest at the White House to demand that Guantánamo be shut down, followed by a Guantánamo Prisoner Procession to the Supreme Court. World Can’t Wait is calling on people to wear and display orange, the color of those tortured and detained, and to distribute orange ribbons, buttons, armbands, etc. and for institutions to display orange “NO TORTURE” banners. The ACLU is distributing orange armbands saying “Close Down Guantánamo.” Protests are planned in cities around the country. For info: worldcantwait.org
January 31—Mass Civil Disobedience
From the January 31 Call to Action at worldcantwait.org:
Challenge the “Politics of the Possible” with Mass Civil Resistance–Drive OUT the Bush Regime!
…In times such as these, people living in this country must speak up and make their sentiments known, acting independently as THE PEOPLE. Let us not go down in history infamously for standing silent in the face of grave crimes the way the “Good Germans” allowed the Nazis to carry out their atrocities. In solidarity with those being tortured in our name and as the color of resistance, wear and display orange everywhere, daily.
On January 31, make a splash: Hang orange signs in store windows; drop orange banners with messages resisting the Bush program from overpasses and on school campuses. Create the atmosphere of resistance by spreading orange far and wide.
On Thursday January 31: Stop “business as usual” with non-violent mass civil disobedience outside military recruiting centers, FEMA offices, immigrant detention centers, federal buildings and court houses, creatively speaking up for those who are disappeared and violated, tortured and left without hope.
Revolution #115, January 13, 2008
On the Road from Jena to New Orleans
Driving through the back country we whip around curves as the roads cut through the pine forest. Two Jena residents give me a tour of the correctional facilities, juvenile and adult prisons they have lived in. Many of them have essentially grown up in these facilities. Some are only 18 and have spent up to three years there and never made it past junior high. Many of the things youth expect to enjoy in this society are like phantom memories—the life they have and floating behind it, the life they ought to have lived. Things like prom and graduation. They are on probation, some until well into their twenties, constantly watched, not allowed to leave the state, hit with fees they cannot pay. They can’t get jobs, and they sometimes don’t even want to anymore. Although they are no longer living in the custody of the state, they are still imprisoned by a system that refuses to provide meaningful education and work. Sometimes they say they wish they were back in jail, that they in certain ways prefer it. They know they won’t be on the streets getting in more trouble, getting harassed by police. In prison, they know how they’re going to eat, they play cards, and get into fights. There’s nothing else to do, and it becomes a pastime. Every morning they wake up at 3 a.m. for breakfast, and someone is getting into it before breakfast is even over, “They haven’t even brushed they teeth yet.” They tell me the stories of hundreds of youth sleeping in one room on cement floors. I’ve heard from others about the disregard for the antagonisms between them and how the authorities seem to foster that, pitting Black youth against racist whites for example.
One of these youth in particular looks at this path as all he can do in life, he feels hopeless, and for many days sharply writes off our discussions about revolution and the system. “Why you always want to talk about revolution? All that revolution talk.” I begin to ask him every time he tells a story of life as a young person in the dungeons of this system for years, of getting pulled over, arrested, harassed again and again, a childhood of abuse, a life where you don’t know how you’re gonna survive. I ask him, “And you don’t want to talk about revolution?” I ask him, “Why do you think the world is this way?” When his friends struggle with him to come talk to us, with bitter hostility he tells them, “I ain’t talkin to those revolutionaries.”
They dream of escape. A different story every day. A job, any job, just to have the feeling of getting a paycheck every week and buying tennis shoes. College, and dreams of life as an agriculturist, zoologist, or veterinarian—putting to use some of the passion and skills that they have developed growing up in the country. Or maybe at least they can work on the oil rigs, off shore, in the brutal cold water, doing backbreaking labor, 7 days on 7 days off, and at least they could get their electricity cut back on, and even someday have a small apartment of their own. They dream of a life where they aren’t dogged by the police and looked down upon, where they can get some room to breathe by defying the conditions they find themselves in. They dream of moving to the middle class white neighborhood, a big house in the suburbs, their own car, a horse, the ability to provide for the children they already have. Or maybe just—get me the fuck out of here, just drop me off in the city, get me to the town where my uncle lives, get me somewhere where I can start again, that’s not here, where the pigs won’t fuck with me, where trouble won’t follow me, where people don’t talk to me with disdain and exasperation. Get me the fuck out of here. They dream and they desire escape.
After hearing about the fight to stop the demolition of public housing in New Orleans, we talked to some youth in Jena about going down there to support the struggle and get out Revolution newspaper. People in New Orleans are fighting to keep the city from demolishing 4,000 homes in the housing projects that are home to mainly poor Black people. And we talked about how this is happening after everything that the people in New Orleans had been through with Hurricane Katrina, after all that had been done to Black people there by this system—leaving them to die, calling them looters, treating them like animals, heartlessly evacuating them and then making it impossible for most people to return. We had just heard about how people protesting the demolition of public housing at a city council meeting were tasered, maced, and arrested.
We went through all of this and then talked about how this, similar to the Jena 6 case, concentrates racism and the oppression of Black people today, and the fact that the people are standing up is very important, just like it meant something that the students at Jena High took a stand, and then tens of thousands of people came to support them, demanding “Free the Jena 6.”
One Black youth, I’ll call him Fred, listened as we told him about the situation and then right away had a question. He was unsure about how the people in New Orleans would respond to someone like him, an outsider, a Black youth, coming to support them. He had a whole negative perception of the inner city youth. Of gangs and violence, of people without hope or any concern for others.
To step back, we all read the article in Revolution, “Abandoned and Bulldozed: The System’s Plan for Public Housing in New Orleans.” We asked him what he thought. “It’s sad,” was his reply. He went out onto the porch and stood for what seemed like a long time, watching the sunset. He was quiet for a while, and then he came back in and he started telling the story of being at Jena High School when the nooses were hung, and what it was like to take a stand. He said the teachers got there way before the students and saw the nooses, they could have taken them down but they didn’t. He described what it was like; he was full of exuberance, flailing his arms in the air and almost bouncing out of his seat, telling the story in his unique style.
He didn’t say much more about going to New Orleans and we asked him to call us by the end of the night and let us know if he would like to go. It was 1 a.m. when I got the text message: “What time are you picking us up?”
Fred had gone to talk with his friend Tyrone, to struggle with him to also go to New Orleans. Fred said that at first he did not want to go, but changed his mind after talking with us and reading the article about what was going on. He said that people had come to stand with them in Jena, why shouldn’t they go and support the people in New Orleans, and stand with them in the fight. So the next day we are on the road to N.O.
The car ride is a cacophony of singing, laughter, stories, and debate. Fred and Tyrone have the carefree attitude of so many youth; steeped in music, pop culture, stories of their adventures and antics. They poke fun at one another, give us nicknames, and test our patience a fair amount with running jokes they only occasionally let us in on.
Song after song they spit words full of sexist, degrading, and objectifying shit and we have a big ongoing struggle over using the word “b*tch” and the attitude that women are sex objects—how this is no different than the attitude of a slave master towards a slave. And that if you’re going along with this, you yourself are being fooled into taking up the ideas of the same ruling class that keeps all the people down. At first they say we’re exaggerating this, or they say that women want to be sex objects, and women themselves use the word “b*tch.” These ideas are oftentimes followed by assertions taken from the Bible that women were put here to please men, and that they were created for that purpose. We get into how these ideas come from a society based on property relations, that it wasn’t always this way, and this only came about when class society began years ago, and people started to care about who their sons were so they could pass down what they owned to others, and the structure of the patriarchal family became part of society. They assert again and again that this is not how they mean it, or that this is just the way things are. It’s only much later that Fred begins to change some of his thinking about this. I think some of this struggle had a real effect on him. But what really made him think hard was learning about how young women in Thailand are forced to be sex slaves. He says, “I don’t want to treat women as property. I think about those young girls in Thailand, that’s not right, I don’t want to be part of anything like that. If that was my daughter, I would just be so mad.”
As New Orleans approaches we start to talk about our experiences there. Tyrone worked there after the hurricane rebuilding houses and worked alongside many Mexican immigrants who had come there to work. This experience had given him a sense of unity and comradeship with immigrants. Whenever Fred or any of his other friends say derogatory things about taunting immigrants with the phrase “La migra,” he calls them out. “They’re in the same boat as us, they on our side,” he says, sometimes holding his fist in the air.
When we finally pull into New Orleans, Fred wakes up in the back seat and gets out his camera to photograph the Superdome as we go by. He listens intently as I tell him about coming down to New Orleans six months after the hurricane to do volunteer cleanup. I talk about seeing the water lines on the buildings and overpasses, the mangled cars destroyed by the powerful flood waters, the rotting smells. As we sit in a traffic jam on the highway we think about how the traffic must have been trying to get out of the city when they finally told people to evacuate and left them to fend for themselves. How people were trapped, how they must have agonized, and how some even died. Being back in New Orleans, I was angry, and eager to be part of the resistance that was springing up in the face of further crimes against the people by the system.
That night we found ourselves packed like sardines in a living room with the Houston Revolution Club, who had come to distribute Revolution in the housing projects. Right away Tyrone and one of the youth connected around sports, they both played football in high school. A documentary TV program about life in prison was blaring in the background and Fred watched this with interest as we all talked. Part political discussion and part sleepover party, the conversation was wide-ranging and lasted well into the night. People got into ideas and art, like what is the impact of the N word and racist ideas in comedy even when the artists’ intentions aren't to promote those views. We discussed where racism comes from and whether white youth in Jena are just influenced by their racist granddaddy, or if there is a whole system of oppression at work. Fred struggled to join the conversation and explain to Tyrone what he had been discussing with us. “Racist ideas were promoted as a trend, they told people that Black people were less than whites.” A youth from the Rev club chimed in, “Well, those ideas justified slavery, they justify the exploitation and oppression of Black people that still goes on under the capitalist system today.”
The next day they are out in the projects, still nervous about how people will respond to them. They follow paper sellers hesitantly, surprised to see many people are happy to see youth from Jena, and open to checking out Revolution newspaper. Afterwards Fred comes to tell me about the experience. “One things for sure,” he says, smiling and shaking his head affectionately at the Rev Club youth. “These kids got some heart, man!”
He talked about the Rev club going into the projects full of enthusiasm, marching right up to a group of guys playing dominoes and jumping right in with the paper, talking about revolution and communism. How they weren't afraid of people and they were cool with people, and they wanted to hear what they said and get into discussions.
During the trip from Jena to New Orleans we learned something about the divisions created between people and how we can begin to break those down, through struggle that is fierce and that is lofty. When youth from Jena walk through the rubble of New Orleans and see the lives of people in the projects, and when they consciously make the decision to be part of the fight against oppression, not just where it hits them personally, but wherever it is, and the people in New Orleans see them knocking on their door—this is part of changing things.
I tell Fred about the new outrage in New York where a Black man was convicted by an all white jury for defending his son from a mob of racist white youth. His first question is, “Are we going to New York?”
Revolution #115, January 13, 2008
COMMENTS FROM OUR READERS
The following are comments we received regarding the article “Protesters Pepper Sprayed, Tasered, Arrested—New Orleans: Resisting Demolition” which was written from New Orleans by Carl Dix
I absolutely stand with the people of New Orleans affected by Katrina and their right to return to their homes. Instead of demolishing housing units, the city/state/government should actually be building additional housing units, especially for the less fortunate (which happen to be mostly Black) and ensure the rents are affordable. I absolutely support the waging of resistance to stop the demolition of any existing housing units in New Orleans. While it would seem like common sense to any person, nothing makes any sense for the capitalist unless they can make huge profits from any undertaking. The people are not even a consideration in their calculations. The only thing one can learn from the horrific behavior of the city/state apparatus against the people is, that they showed their true colors. In other words we have to understand that if people have to win their inalienable rights and get true justice, we cannot expect it from this system. Only resistance/struggle to overthrow this system through a revolution and build a new system where the interests of the people are primary, can we really resolve problems and overcome oppression in all its forms.
This message is from four Black youth who live in Bowen Homes, a housing project in Atlanta soon facing demolition:
“The government is doing the same thing to us - they only see green. They’re using crime as an excuse to kick everyone out and turn this project into new suburbs. They don’t care about the people - that’s why we got so many homeless.
“Stay strong. Keep your head up. Fuck the government, Bush is a drunk. Them folks fucked up.
“It’s ugly for them folks in New Orleans. They ain’t got nowhere to go. We wish you a fast recovery and the best of luck.”
I support the people that have been driven from their homes. I support the struggle against tearing down their homes. Do not tear down their homes! This whole system is an outrage!
I was a New Orleans resident from 8-01 to just days before the hurricane made landfall, and during my time in the city, I began to experience the lives of those oppressed Americans. When I would walk through town, I would watch, talk, and listen with those people, who became my people, who are our people. The crimes committed against them may not be illegal, but they are certainly immoral. And it hurts my heart so much to not just know that there are people who are active agents in the destruction of people’s lives, but to see the decisions of those interested parties take a core anti-poverty, anti-Black, anti-immigrant, anti-recovery, anti-human life stance is disgusting. This country is mine, damn it! And I fucking want it back!
Revolution #115, January 13, 2008
Revolution #115, January 13, 2008
Hook Up with the Revolution:
9 West 19th St.
(between 5th and 6th Avenues)
TBA: Call for dates and times
Discussions now being planned and organized for “Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity,” a talk by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA
January 9, Wednesday, 7 pm
Susan Wicklund discussing and signing copies of her book This Common Secret: My Journey as an Abortion Doctor
January 10, Thursday, 7 pm
Joel Kovel discussing and signing copies of his book Overcoming Zionism: Creating a Single Democratic State in Israel/Palestine
January 24, Thursday, 7 pm
Join Director John Kirby for a screening of his film The American Ruling Class
2425 Channing Way near Telegraph Ave
January 9, Wednesday, 7 pm
“Elections, Lies and Torture Tapes”
Presentation & discussion with Larry Everest, author of Oil, Power and Enpire: Iraq and the U.S. Global Agenda and correspondent for Revolution newspaper.
January 10, Thursday, 7 pm
Revolution newspaper discussion
January 12, Saturday, 11 am - 1 pm
“Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity”
Discussion of talk by Bob Avakian
January 13, Sunday, 2 pm
“Abortion Without Apology—Or Women Have No Rights” Discussion
January 14, Monday, 7 pm
Science of Evolution and the Myth of Creationism
January 15, Tuesday, 7 pm
If These Walls Could Talk, a video showing
January 16, Wednesday, 7 pm
“All History Is Nothing But a Continuous Transformation of Human Nature”
Discussion taking off from the talk “Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity”
by Bob Avakian
January 17, Thursday, 7 pm
Revolution newspaper discussion
January 21, Monday, 7 pm
“Opposing White Supremacy &
Getting To a Far Better World”
Presentation and discussion with Clyde Young from the Revolutionary Communist Party.
January 23, Wednesday, 7 pm
“Who’s Putting The Heat on Barry Bonds...
And Why” Discussion
1103 N. Ashland Avenue
January 9, Wednesday, 7 pm
Film: Road to Guantánamo
January 12, Saturday, 4 pm
Revolution newspaper — discuss latest issue
January 13, Sunday, 2 pm
“The Referendum in Venezuela: U.S. Intrigue and the Limitations and Contradictions of Hugo Chavez’s Project.” Discussion with Raymond Lotta, Maoist political economist and author of thought-provoking critiques of the Chavez project for Revolution newspaper.
January 15, Tuesday, 7 pm
Salon discussion of Bob Avakian’s “Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity, Part I: Beyond the Narrow Horizon of Bourgeois Right.” First of six sessions: “’I Want to Get More,’ or We Want Another World?”
January 17, Thursday, 7 pm
Film: Jesus Camp
January 19, Saturday, 4 pm
Revolution newspaper—discuss latest issue
January 20, Sunday, 11 am
The Science of Evolution and the Myth of Creationism, Knowing What’s Real and Why It Matters, by Ardea Skybreak. First in a series of discussions of the book leading into national events on Darwin Day (February 12). Discussion 1: Overview of Concepts.
January 22, Tuesday, 7 pm
Salon discussion of Bob Avakian’s “Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity, Part I: Beyond the Narrow Horizon of Bourgeois Right.”Second of six sessions: “Communism Will Not Be a ‘Utopia’—It Will Be a Radically Different and Far Better World.”
January 24, Thursday, 7 pm
January 25, Friday, 8 pm
ACT YOUR RAGE—invitation to all youth to bring your poetry, your music, your art, for a night of radical and revolutionary culture. Theme: We Won’t Live in a Torture State!
4 Corners Market of the Earth
Little 5 Points
1087 Euclid Avenue
404-577-4656 & 770-861-3339
Open Wednesdays & Fridays 4 pm - 7 pm, Saturdays 2 pm - 7 pm
312 West 8th Street
Every Sunday, 4:30 pm
Ongoing bilingual discussion series of the latest Revolution newspaper installment of the “Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity,” a talk by Bob Avakian
Every Thursday, 7 pm
Bilingual discussion of the current issue of Revolution newspaperatt
1833 Nagle Place
Every Saturday in January, 7 pm
Ongoing reading & discussion of the series “Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity” by Bob Avakian
January 10, Thursday, 6:30 pm
Youth discussion of “Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity Part 2: Everything We’re Doing is About Revolution.” This discussion will focus on the section “Combating ‘the spontaneous striving to come under the wing of the bourgeoisie.’”
2804 Mayfield Rd (at Coventry)
January 16, Wednesday, 7 pm
“I Want to Get More”—or We Want Another World?
Beyond the Narrow Horizon of Bourgeois Right”
Discussion of “Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity,” a talk by Bob Avakian
2626 South King Street
Every Monday, 6:15 pm
Reading circle/discussion of the current installment of Bob Avakian’s series, “Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity”
1158 Mass Ave, 2nd Floor
Every Monday, 6:30 pm
Discussion of talk by Bob Avakian, “Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity.”
Revolution #115, January 13, 2008
Revolution newspaper's Six Month Expansion and $500,000 Fund Drive
A few of us who have been working on Revolution newspaper’s fund drive went out to an elite university in our area. We needed to break out of the narrow circle of people we had contacted so far for the fund drive. We contacted professors who had signed a public statement opposing some of the crimes of the Bush regime. We also visited profs we knew and professors we saw who were simply in their offices.
Our approach, based on the Revolution fundraising broadsheet, was to highlight what time it is right now and what it would mean to make a tremendous leap to get this paper out in society. We used examples to give the professors a sense of why this paper is so important and unique, especially the Jena articles in #111 and #112 and the back page poster, “Attention White People! What is Your Problem?!?”
The fact that the paper was the voice of the RCP opened up the conversation in a very good way around why some, who describe themselves as liberal, would read this paper.
The professors we visited had freshness about them not weighed down by a lot of postmodernist relativism. They may have had a more historical view of things given their age that gave them a sense that what was going on was radically different and that a fascist state was possible.
With one professor who invited us into his office, we gave our short presentation on the fund drive, and asked him how he saw things. He said that he was very concerned about what was happening. He said that he had opposed the Bush regime because the things that they had been doing were horrific—the war, the lies, and torture.
He had a strong sense that this was a historic moment. Things were very bad and he was not optimistic. He did hold out some hope for the Democrats, even while he did think that there was a real chance of an invasion of Iran and that the Democrats were not doing anything. We talked about the attacks on science which he is acutely aware of. He agreed that this was not only affecting the university but that public education in general was at threat. He knew that only about 50% of the people in the country believed in evolution and felt it was outrageous and dangerous. He was also concerned about the religiosity of the Bush administration and the rise of fundamentalism and was interested in our assessment of that. He was interested in the Skybreak book. At the end of the discussion, the professor said he would think about it further. We plan to come back regularly and make sure he gets Revolution.
Another professor we found donated several hundred dollars on the spot. When we introduced ourselves, it turned out that he was familiar with the RCP and paper going back to the ’60s. He was familiar with writings by Bob Avakian and with Larry Everest, whom he said he had seen at the Bush Crimes Commission tour. This professor was very concerned about what the Bush regime was doing and had a tremendous comprehensive knowledge about many different arenas of struggle. He had been following Jena and was impressed by our coverage. We talked about the attacks on academic freedom and on science generally and showed him the pullout from the Katrina issue. He was very aware of this—he knew about IFAW [“Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week”] and mentioned the battle in the APA [American Psychological Association] and in anthropology and talked about how ways that the authorities are trying to intimidate professors.
He was concerned about global warming and the war and had a strong sense that this must be opposed. He had a sense that masses needed to be in motion like in the ’60s. He spoke repeatedly about how he wanted to see the students much more active.
We pointed out how much difference it would make with the paper everywhere with its exposures and helping to organize students to actually confront the outrages, and pointing the way to a radically different world. He really liked that vision. We talked about the various projects which would help make the paper able to have much greater reach—Revolution Reporters Fund and Expanding the Circulation of Revolution. He said that he would be able to give a few hundred dollars on the spot and would like a subscription.
We are taking this approach to a much broader group of professors beginning tomorrow, trying to catch people before they leave for the holidays, and then continuing in January.
Revolution #115, January 13, 2008
Check it Out
We received the following correspondence from a reader:
Earth, directed by Deepa Mehta, is a beautiful and tragic movie. Based on the book Cracking India by Bhapsi Sidhwa, Earth is the third part of a trilogy—the other two films are Fire and Water (see Revolution #49, June 4, 2006 at revcom.us for a review of Water). The story is set in Lahore in 1947 as the British Empire is granting formal independence to India after 250 years of colonial rule. This included an imperialist-brokered partitioning of India, creating the country of Pakistan. These events are seen through the eyes of Lenny or Lenny-Baby, a pampered eight-year-old with a crippled leg whose parents live in a lovely house with a handful of servants.
The film opens with Lenny purposely dropping a china plate on the floor, trying to understand how a country can be broken. The British are drawing a map, carving up India and “partitioning” it into Muslim and Hindu dominated areas: Pakistan and India. Everyone is trying to understand what this will mean. In the beginning of the film, Lenny’s parents hold a dinner party. The atmosphere is festive and even the hosts are having fun at the expense of the British. Suddenly an argument erupts between two guests: an Indian and a British colonialist. The Indian, a Sikh, is clearly sick of the British and wants independence for India: one can almost taste his anticipation of India being free after 250 years of colonialism; he thinks that “finally we will have self-rule.” The British guy lashes back: “Do you think you’re up to it, old boy?” and ominously predicts, “You will fall on each other’s throats.... Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims will jockey for power, just wait and see.”
Lenny-Baby is hiding under the table taking it all in, and as the film continues we see everything she sees. She and her parents are Parsis (a small religious group originally from Persia). The British have kept intact the caste system and have utilized the different religious divides to support their long colonial domination. Now they are consciously exacerbating these differences to form an “independent” Indian subcontinent that they can still have a hand in dominating.
There is a group of young friends who form a social group centered around Lenny-Baby’s young caretaker, Shanta, a Hindu. The young men, who are friends of Shanta, are Sikhs and Muslims and Hindus and they hang out in a park where they eat, play, and discuss politics together, even joking about religion. They warmly include Lenny-Baby in their group. English, Urdu, Hindi languages are spoken, and the colors of Lahore and the surrounding country are saturated oranges and greens. A.R. Rahman’s wonderful score gives a cultural and emotional subtext throughout the film. There is something beautiful and healthy in this diversity of sounds and sights. But as the partitioning ensues, millions of people are forced to migrate from the places they called home to areas where people of their religion are being concentrated by British decree. Violence, revenge, rape, murder, and dismemberment become commonplace. Shanta and her friends perceive the changes and try to keep their group together. But as increasing violence and tragedies affect them, they become drawn into the vortex, becoming victims of the violence, or perpetrators, or both. And they, like India, are brutally divided: their love for each other destroyed as they betray one another and themselves.
One million people were killed during the partitioning. Twelve million more were forcibly displaced. The partitioning of the Indian subcontinent, the unleashing of fundamentalist religion, the continuation of extreme class, caste and women’s oppression continues to shape that area of the world up to today. Earth is a story about the history of imperialism in this part of the world, and its effects on the people in its thrall. What will be the story of this area’s future?
Revolution #115, January 13, 2008
Check it Out
Readers of Revolution who want insight into the relationship between the United States and Pakistan should check out The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid. This short novel is set in an open-market café in Lahore, Pakistan. Here, as evening falls, Changez tells his story to a shadowy American. Once comfortable and successful in the United States, Changez had his world turned upside down in the aftermath of September 11th, eventually returning to his native Pakistan. The Reluctant Fundamentalist is a fast-paced mystery full of metaphor. Who is the ominous American sharing dinner with Changez? How will the evening end for him, and for Changez? As Changez’ tale unfolds, you will meet an angry driver in Manila, workers being outsourced and laid off from a cable company in New Jersey, the manager of an unprofitable publishing imprint in Chile, and an emotionally scarred American woman who Changez tries to love. And you will feel how America feels to a young man in a hot outdoor market in Lahore.
The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid is available in hardcover or paperback at mainstream bookstores and at amazon.com.
Revolution #115, January 13, 2008
Online Reader Comment:
We recently received the following from a reader through the online comments feature on our website, revcom.us. The reader is commenting on the Revolution article “‘My God Was Bigger Than His,’ The New World Order Invasion of Somalia” which originally appeared in issue #20, Oct. 30, 2005.
I was searching the internet for the anniversary date for the Somalia Invasion to publish in one of my articles. I was shocked when I read this article. Reading this article has changed my perspective on Somali people.
In the last few years we have had Somali people move to our area, approximately 3,200 (Lewiston, Maine), their presence has caused much dissension and hatred towards Somali people, mostly because they are receiving government, State and local help. As a Vietnam Era Veteran only aware of the Black Hawk down account, I had a hatred towards Somali people for what they did to our soldiers, dragging them in the streets and disgracing them. This article does not justify those actions but brings into perspective the reasoning behind the event.
My God, forgive us for terrorizing these people.
I have spent the last 35 years of my life defending the underdogs, the hopeless, the unfortunate. I will always support our troops, our young men and women who serve this country.
But the actions of our politicians is another story. If their intent was made clear to the American people, these things would never happen.
I will try to publish this story in our local paper in February in hopes of educating others as Paul Harvey would say, the rest of the story.
May God forgive my prejudices and unjustified hatred.