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Revolution #116, January 20, 2008
KKKluckers with NOOSES
marching on MLK Day
in Jena, unopposed?
A white supremacist group that calls itself the “Nationalist Movement” plans to march in Jena on January 21. They’re telling people to bring signs calling for jailing the Jena 6, abolishing the Martin Luther King holiday, and “down with communism.” They’re openly encouraging people to DISPLAY NOOSES!!
Around the country, when people heard about this, a lot of them said, “it’s time to go back to Jena.” And in Jena, many said, “it’s time for people to come back to Jena.”
The January 21st Committee has issued a Call to people of all nationalities to come to Jena on Monday, January 21 to say: Oppose the Lynch Mob Racists! No to Nooses! Free the Jena Six! We Want a Better World! (see Call in article below))
This Call already has a number of prominent and significant signatories including Black and white residents of Jena, some parents of the Jena 6, 60 people from the Cabrini Green housing project in Chicago, Cornel West, Herb Boyd, Cindy Sheehan, and Medea Benjamin. Endorsers are still being gathered. And this is shaping up to be very significant.
We encourage people to spread this Call far and wide, sign it, and get others to sign it. The Call puts out an important challenge to people of all nationalities to organize to be in Jena on January 21 to DROWN OUT these KKKluckers, whose message is about actually carrying out terror and murder against Black people.
What Time Is It in America?
Nooses hung on a “whites-only” tree at Jena High School put a huge spotlight on the unequal oppressive social relations and institutions that exist today and are brutally enforced.
This struck a nerve among Black people all over the country. AND it also struck a nerve among despicable and hateful proponents of white supremacy who are striking back in response to the powerful demonstration in Jena on September 20 in support of the Jena 6.
There is a real battle going on in this country over NOOSES and all that they represent. A real struggle over what kind of world we want.
After the September 20 rally in Jena, in just the next two months, there were as many as 50 to 60 noose incidents around the country. There were more than 22 noose incidents in October 2007 alone, including: October 4, a noose is hung on a construction site in O’Hara Township, PA; October 5, nooses are found hanging from a tree in front of a local high school in Columbia, SC; October 9, a Columbia University professor, a Black woman who teaches about racial justice, finds a noose hanging from her office door; October 22, in Brooklyn, NY, a noose is sent to the Black principal at Carnarsie High School; and October 24, in Shreveport, LA, a noose is found in a doctors’ break room at the LSU Health Science Center.
But the forceful imposition of white supremacy and this explosion of ugly, racist threats against Black people is not simply or even fundamentally a case of “good ole boys” going wild. All this is happening at a time when the U.S. Supreme Court, the highest judicial body in the land, has overturned Brown vs. Board of Education—officially fortifying segregation and savage inequalities in the schools. This is happening only a couple of hundred miles from New Orleans, where the U.S. government carried out the most horrendous crimes against hundreds of thousands of Black people, abandoning them in the floodwaters of Katrina, treating them like animals, heartlessly evacuating them and then making it all but impossible for them to return and rebuild their homes and lives.
White supremacy, lynchings and KKK terror were shaped, encouraged by and served to keep in effect a whole system that could not have existed without first slavery, and then near slavery, and segregation and terror centered in the South.
The economic system of SLAVERY was an integral and foundational part of the whole way capitalism developed and grew in the United States. The end of slavery did not end the systemic oppression and super-exploitation of Black people. Millions of Black people were subjected to new forms of exploitation as sharecroppers. And a whole “Southern culture” came out of this—of KKK cross burnings, lynchings, and Jim Crow laws that required “white only” and “Black only” public schools, drinking fountains, trains, buses, and all kinds of other public places.
These unequal and oppressive relations have been and continue to be brutally enforced. And while Black people no longer mainly face widespread lynching and cross burnings—though the kluckers planning on marching in Jena would like to bring them back—Black people do face the widespread terror of police brutality and murder.
The U.S. system of capitalism has profited off the exploitation and oppression of Black people from Day One. And white supremacy has been and is built into the very foundations of this system—in the economic relations, social relations, and all the thinking and culture that come from and in turn reinforce these relations of inequality. This is why nothing short of getting rid of this system, of making revolution and building a whole new socialist system based on emancipating all humanity, can lead to actually getting rid of the oppression of Black people and other minority nationalities in this country.
Past and Present Reality of Lynch Terror
The kluckers’ plan to march in Jena is happening in a whole climate and atmosphere in this country where white supremacy is being given a green light and is running amok. Look at what has happened just since September 20, when tens of thousands came to Jena to say: ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!
November 14, 2007: In Pasadena, Texas, a white racist named Joe Horn saw two Latino men, who he thought were Black, breaking into his neighbor’s house. Horn called 911 to say he was going to shoot them dead. And then he did—giving them a vigilante death sentence for suspicion of burglary. When a group of about ten Black people marched in the street protesting the killing, hundreds of supporters of Joe Horn surrounded them, carrying American flags, hurling racist slurs, and shouting over and over, “USA!, USA!” Horn faces no charges.
December 23, 2007: A Black man in Long Island, who confronted what he says was a “white lynch mob” at his house is found guilty of second-degree manslaughter and faces 5 to 15 years in prison. John White says he remembers childhood trips to the Deep South and how KKK mobs chased his grandfather out of Alabama in the 1920s. He says this is what came to mind when the white mob confronted him, smacking their fists and hurling racial epithets. The angry mob had followed John White’s son home, alleging he had made sexual remarks about a white female. White said: “In my family history, that’s how the Klan comes. They pull up, they blind you with their lights. They burn your house down. They threaten your family. That’s how they come.”
January 4, 2008: While broadcasting a PGA tour event, Kelly Tilghman, the Golf Channel’s main play-by-play anchor, was talking about Tiger Woods’ dominance on the Professional Golf Tour and laughed as she said that his competitors should “lynch Tiger Woods in a back alley.” As usual, Tilghman issued a formal apology, asking forgiveness from viewers who “may have been offended by my comments”—as if she herself wasn’t offended or didn’t even have a clue as to why such a remark is so racist!
The whole history of nooses, of lynching, runs long and deep in this country. And it is not just a thing of the past. In 1981, Michael Donald was randomly picked out by members of the Alabama Ku Klux Klan who were angry that a Black man on trial had not been found guilty of killing a policeman. They beat him with a tree limb before cutting his throat and hanging him from a tree.
And remember what happened to James Byrd? A Black man in Jasper, Texas. A rope tied around his neck, dragged behind a truck by white racists until his head separated from his body. What year was that? Not 1870 or 1920 or even 1950. It was 1998.
According to the Tuskegee Institute, 3,437 African-Americans were lynched between 1880 and 1951. This means that for many Black people in this country the NOOSE and LYNCHING are not-so-long-ago family history.
Denzel Washington was recently on the Tavis Smiley Show talking about the movie American Gangster and the character he played, drug kingpin Frank Lucas. Washington said that he injected into the story what he thought was one of the most fascinating “turns” in Frank’s life—that when he was six years old he witnessed his cousin being murdered because of “reckless eyeballing.” Denzel said: “They said this 12-year-old, whatever he was, 12, 13-year-old cousin was looking at a white woman. Klan types or whatever, authority figures came to his house, smashed a shotgun in his cousin’s face, and blew his head off in front of him.”
The “whites-only” tree where nooses were hung in Jena symbolized a whole “way of life” in that town—of blatant segregation, discrimination, and inequality for Black people.
It echoed decades of American history when KKK night-riders lynched Black people and town sheriffs put white sheets on after sundown. Of “southern just-us” where any white person could get away with the murder of someone Black. Where 14-year-old Emmett Till was murdered for whistling at a white woman by a gang of racist whites who were quickly acquitted by an all-white jury.
These nooses reflected today’s reality of Black youth shot down by the police or locked away in prison for the rest of their lives. Of 21st-century USA “just-us” where an all white jury can sentence Mychal Bell (one of the Jena 6) to years in prison for standing up against white supremacy—and the U.S. Justice Department then calling this all “regular, not irregular.” Where residents of Jena can recall how a Black man, not that long ago, was stomped to death by a gang of white guys because he bumped into a white woman.
THIS STATUS QUO of white supremacy is what the kluckers want to defend and enforce with their march in Jena.
This year the official parade in Jena is scheduled for Sunday, January 20, the day before the official MLK holiday on Monday. For many people nationwide, MLK Day is associated with the struggle against white supremacy and the oppression of Black people, and it is outrageous that these kkkluckers are marching on this day. (For an evaluation of the actual role of Martin Luther King, Jr. see sidebar: “Martin Luther King... And What We Really Need.)
The Unity We Need
The white supremacists must be politically confronted and opposed and put on the defensive. One resident of Jena said: “If they [the white racists] do this and nobody says anything, they’re going to feel like they can do anything they want.” But the message that emerges on that day must be very different: That it is long past time for this to be tolerated. There must be a powerful political response and a heightened understanding throughout society of the kind of unity we need, of people of all nationalities standing up against white supremacy in any form, wherever it rears its head.
We should remember that it was a very GOOD thing that the hanging of nooses in Jena was NOT ignored, that people didn’t just dismiss it, hoping it would just go away. NO! People all over the country and the world heard about it and in response people felt it had to be widely, boldly, and massively exposed and opposed. People felt compelled to find the ways to make it known that: ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!
It was shameful that hardly any white people—from Jena or anywhere else—were at the “Free the Jena 6” protest on September 20. And now it is especially important that white people be out there among those who respond to the call to protest white supremacy on January 21.
Those white people in Jena who say they’re not racists, who are perhaps sorry they didn’t come out on September 20, now have a second chance! The kluckers are declaring that white people in Jena will be marching with them. And the system will come down on anyone, Black or white, who goes up against the racist status quo. As one young white woman in Jena said, “If you’re white and you go to visit your Black friends in their neighborhood, you’re gonna get stopped, because you ‘don’t belong there.’” People who step out to join the struggle against white supremacy, Black or white, should be supported and if they face official or unofficial threats, people should have their backs.
There is no “being neutral” when white supremacists plan on marching on MLK Day with NOOSES! The question is what message will emerge on January 21 from Jena. That Kluckers with nooses marched unopposed? Or that there was a powerful political response that DROWNED OUT their hateful message?
The masses of people of all nationalities have a common interest in opposing white supremacy. But it will take real struggle to forge this unity. And it is important to bring about real concrete and visible manifestations of people’s determination to NOT TOLERATE white supremacy in any form.
Revolution #116, January 20, 2008
For many people in this country (and around the world), Martin Luther King, Jr. is a symbol of the just struggle against racism, discrimination and prejudice. For many people MLK represents the fight against all that is concentrated in the hanging of nooses. So it is not surprising that the kluckers chose to march on MLK Day as a further affront in delivering their racist message/threat—aimed at those defending the Jena 6 and fighting against the oppression of Black people. These racists who carry the American flag and chant, “USA, USA” see Martin Luther King as being against the system in this country.
But in fact, Martin Luther King, Jr. didn’t oppose this system—he was a defender of the capitalist system. King had come into the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott of 1954, which brought a struggle for equal rights that had been simmering for several decades into national prominence. King’s “moderation” in that struggle brought him backing from liberal elements in the U.S. power structure. And as the struggle grew more militant, King came to represent a wing that sought accommodation and compromise in the freedom struggle; and this wing was opposed to the more militant and eventually revolutionary wing associated first with Malcolm X, then with Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture) and H. Rap Brown (Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin) of SNCC [Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee], and finally of the Black Panther Party. King did not see the need for a revolution to get rid of the system—and that this is the only way to get rid of the oppression of Black people. Instead he opposed revolution and promoted trying to reform this system and worked closely with President Lyndon Johnson, sometimes talking on the phone daily to coordinate his actions with Johnson. And while white racists and the police were attacking civil rights protesters, King insisted on nonviolence—but only for the oppressed masses. During the rebellions of Black people in the ’60s, King openly declared: if blood must be spilled, let it be ours. And during the most powerful of these rebellions, Detroit 1967, King joined in the call for the government to send in troops to put down the rebellion—which they did with vicious violence.
But King’s attempt to channel people into less militant forms, as well as his opposition to the Vietnam War, became too much for some sections of the ruling class. They spied on and blackmailed King to keep him in check and, eventually, King was assassinated. This assassination amounted to a brutal message to Black people that not even efforts at reform would be tolerated and that even “moderate” leaders would be killed—and people responded with rebellions in over 100 cities.
Revolution #116, January 20, 2008
White Supremacists plan to march in Jena on Martin Luther King Day in 2008. On Martin Luther King Day of all days, the one day that is supposed to be about the struggle of Black people, they are coming to march with Nooses! This is a call to people everywhere: On Monday January 21st, get to Jena! OPPOSE THE LYNCH MOB RACISTS!
Displaying nooses is a hateful and terrorizing message. These racists want to take us back to the days of lynch mobs murdering Black people in this country. Nooses are INTOLERABLE. Bring a sign, hang a poster, make a banner, get to Jena, SAY NO TO NOOSES!
The Jena High students said no to nooses hung at their school when they protested by standing underneath the “white only tree.” Then on September 20th, 2007 tens of thousands of people stood up, marching in Jena and around the country. People said “Enough is Enough” to the injustice in punishing Black youth who take a stand against racism. The white supremacists call Black youth criminals and thugs, they say, “Jail the Jena Six.” Let’s say it loud again in Jena: FREE THE JENA SIX!
It is in response to September 20th and what that day achieved that white supremacists are lashing out, with a message that takes us back to the horrors of lynch mobs and segregation. When racism rears its ugly head, it is up to people everywhere, white and Black, people of all nationalities, to take a stand. If you are against injustice and inequality, if you want racism to end...it’s up to you to voice it! If we don’t speak up and stand up, this horrific message will go unopposed. If not us who? If not now when?
Protest in Jena on January 21st. Join people everywhere in politically opposing white supremacy and drowning out their message of hate with the message that WE WANT A BETTER WORLD.
January 21st Committee
Contact the committee. Email: email@example.com Phone: 318-787-1190
Spread the word! Get out this call far and wide, support and build for January 21st!
A group of 14 Jena residents Black and white, young and old, including two parents of the Jena Six
Addis Bey Ababa, People’s Hurricane Relief Fund organizer, Atlanta
Animas SDS (the Fort Lewis College [Durango CO] autonomous chapter of Students for a Democratic Society
Medea Benjamin, Cofounder CODEPINK* and Global Exchange*
Black Men 7, Eunice, Louisiana
Herb Boyd, The Black World Today, NY, NY
Reverend Raymond Brown, Community Activist, New Orleans
Marcus Coleman, President-National Action Network, Atlanta chapter* and 37 members and supporters attending the 1st NAN Atlanta meeting of 2008
C3 (Community, Concern, Compassion)/Hands Off Iberville, New Orleans
60 residents of Cabrini Green, Chicago
Carl Dix, Revolutionary Communist Party
Education Not Incarceration (San Francisco Chapter)
Miky Espinal, NY organizer for Health & Hospital Workers Union 1199*
Peggy Hendrix, member of Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty
Idress Stelley Foundation
International Socialist Organization, Madison Campus Branch
Thomas Kleven, Professor of Law, Thurgood Marshall School of Law*
Mayday New Orleans
Michael Novick, Anti-Racist Action, Los Angeles
NU Coalition to Free the Jena 6, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL.
Don Paul, writer, musician, Housing is a Human Right, New Orleans
People Against Racist Terror
Don Rojas, The Black World Today, NY, NY
San Francisco Bayview Free The Jena Six Task Force
San Francisco Village Voice Community Radio, 105.5 FM
San Francisco Bayview Campaign to End the Death Penalty
Sankofa Community Empowerment
Sess 4-5, Nuthin But Fire Records, New Orleans
Adam Shapiro, “Current Events” on WRFG 89.3 FM Atlanta
Cindy Sheehan, Candidate for Congress, California's 8th district, mother of KIA soldier Casey Sheehan
Benetta Standly, Georgia Statewide Organizer, ACLU*
Student Organizers from University of California, PA and Howard University
Debra Sweet, Director, The World Can't Wait – Drive Out the Bush Regime
“Mzee” Leonard Tate, Millions More Movement Atlanta Chapter
Ms. Beauty Turner, National award-winning Journalist/Activist/Groundbreaking researcher, Founder of Poor People Millennium Movement
McNair Wagner, member Georgia Students for Sustainability
William Winters, Baton Rouge Activist
Alice Woodward and Hank Brown, Jena, LA correspondents for Revolution
*For identification purposes only
Join us! This call is still in progress and we invite organizations, student groups, Jena residents and others to endorse.
Revolution #116, January 20, 2008
MAKING REVOLUTION AND EMANCIPATING HUMANITY
PART 2: EVERYTHING WE’RE DOING IS ABOUT REVOLUTION (CONTINUED)
Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution
Editors’ Note: The following is the fourth 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
Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution
In dialectical relation to spreading revolution everywhere—and fundamentally serving the same revolutionary objectives—there is the need to mobilize increasing numbers of the people, from various strata, in “massive political resistance to the main ways in which, at any given time, the exploitative and oppressive nature of this system is concentrated in the policies and actions of the ruling class and its institutions and agencies” (as it is put in “Some Crucial Points of Revolutionary Orientation—in Opposition to Infantile Posturing and Distortions of Revolution”—see Revolution #102, September 23, 2007).
Why, for over a decade now, have masses of people, particularly from within the inner cities (but also people from other parts of society), mobilized every year on October 22, the National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression, and the Criminalization of a Generation? Because this does concentrate major social contradictions—it is one significant concentration of the contradictions of society and the nature of the system and the ruling class, and the way this affects masses of people. The same applies to many other mass organizations and other forms of mass struggle. And it is very important to grasp the dialectical relation—the back-and-forth interplay and mutual influence—between building this kind of resistance and spreading the need for revolution boldly and broadly, in every corner of society.
Why am I stressing this? Because it is important as a basic point of orientation, but also more specifically because, in resisting and opposing tendencies toward the revisionist line of “the movement is everything, the final aim nothing,” it is necessary and crucial not to turn the idea of spreading revolution and communism into just another “academic” exercise—another form of scholasticism, or sterile and uninspiring dogma. Spreading revolution and building resistance are dialectically related and there should be a “positive synergy” between them—all contributing toward our strategic objective of getting to the point where we can go for the all-out seizure of power when the objective conditions—including the mood, the inclinations and sentiments of millions of people—are such that this becomes possible.
We have to continually develop and strengthen our ability to identify and handle the actual living relationships between these two things: spreading revolution and communism everywhere—boldly, with strategic confidence and a conquering spirit, “taking on all comers” who want to offer other alternatives and criticize ours, and advancing through the back and forth between studying and wrangling collectively over how to do this, and actually doing it—and, at the same time, building resistance in an increasingly powerful way, including through identifying the major concentrations of social contradictions at any given point.
Speaking to an important dimension of this, another comrade in the leadership of our Party suggested a formulation which I believe captures some of the essential aspects of building the revolutionary movement: Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution.
It is true that we are not simply seeking to transform the people, abstracted from and in the absence of mobilizing them to resist the outrages and injustices of this system; but, in fact, transforming the people is a big part of what needs to be done—and the masses of people know it. One of the main things that masses of people say when the question of revolution comes up—besides “they’re too powerful and there are too many people against us”—is that “we are too fucked up” (and many will say, “everybody else is too fucked up”). [Laughter] People understand that we have to transform the people. But we also do have to fight the power. We have to do all this, however, for revolution—and not for anything else, anything short of that. We have to correctly handle the dialectical relations involved in this, and bring this whole orientation to life, more and more powerfully, through the “positive synergy” of these two aspects—fighting the power, and transforming the people—for revolution.
We need to make this a mission of the youth—and of the masses of people more generally. The organized forms in which we join together with masses of people need to be an expression of what’s being captured in this slogan. For example, Revolution Clubs should not just be places to watch the DVD (of the talk Revolution: Why It’s Necessary, Why It’s Possible, What It’s All About). Doing that is important—it is one part of what these Revolution Clubs should be doing—but if that’s all they are doing, then they will lose their purpose. These Revolution Clubs should be a place and a vehicle through which masses can come together to spread revolution and to build resistance—to fight the power as well as transforming the people, with the objective of revolution constantly in mind. And, yes, people will be learning more about what this means—what this revolution is all about, why it’s a revolution aiming for communism, what communism means, what the transition to communism involves—they’ll be constantly learning more about all that. But what is captured in the slogan Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution—along with what is the unifying principle of the Revolution Clubs: Humanity Needs Revolution and Communism—this has to be the leading edge and identifying essence of what we’re about, and what mass forms like the Revolution Clubs are about. This relates to the point that was discussed earlier, and the emphasis that was given, to diverting masses and movements of mass opposition from “the striving to come under the wing of the bourgeoisie.”1
Communists, and people being drawn forward to revolution and communism, have to be out there aggressively and boldly bringing forward the need for and the goal of revolution. This flows from the profound reality that humanity really does need revolution and communism. This will require, and should involve, a tremendous amount of struggle with people—waged in a good way, a living and compelling way—to bring alive the reality of revolution and the fact that this is not just some abstract idea unrelated to what is going on in the world now. To be clear, the point is not that revolution is an immediate reality in this country, in the sense that the struggle for the seizure of power is a possibility under present conditions—once again, the possibility of waging this struggle for power can only emerge with a major qualitative change in the objective situation—but I am emphasizing the reality of revolution now in the sense of its being concretely built for, all during the period before there is a revolutionary situation and a revolutionary people numbering in the millions and millions.
What is captured in the slogan Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution is a big part of not only building the revolutionary movement in general, but also diverting masses and movements of mass opposition away from being subordinated to the bourgeoisie and its representatives. A growing revolutionary force, galvanized and mobilized around a revolutionary and communist orientation, has to be increasingly out there as a “magnet,” as a pole of attraction for people who—however latently and however much it involves contradiction—are searching for and desire a different world than this one, who have a sense that this world is very fucked up and want to know if another way really is possible, as well as others who have temporarily given up on the idea that this is possible but need to be jolted awake to the reality that it is possible—that there can be another way—and that this is the way.
Meaningful revolutionary work has to revolve around things that give life and expression to what is captured in Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution. This has to actually be meaningful revolutionary work—and it has to feel like meaningful revolutionary work to people who are coming forward and taking it up. And let us be very clear here: This is not all going to be neat and orderly, it’s not all going to be everybody marching in formation with us tightly controlling everything—which we shouldn’t be trying to do anyway. We shouldn’t be trying to keep everything from getting “unruly” and from involving any risk. You are never going to build a revolutionary movement, you are never going to enable the masses to take up meaningful revolutionary work, if you try to approach it in that way.
And, yes, this means walking another razor’s edge, because there is an enemy out there—there is an oppressive state out there—they will take advantage of every foolish thing that’s done, every amateurish thing that’s done, by people who are newly involved in the struggle and are inexperienced. So, throughout this process, it will be necessary to struggle with people—and struggle sharply some times—about what does, and what does not, serve the revolution that we’re all about and the means to actually bring that revolution about. And, yes, without allowing paranoia to set in—which would in fact seriously undermine the revolutionary movement as well—it will be necessary to be alert to, and not be naive about, people who may be sent into the ranks of the movement in order to try to divert it—not only back under the wing of the bourgeoisie, but into forms that would make it easier for the bourgeoisie to crush it, which it will try to do in any case.
This is another expression of the “drawn and quartered” point,2 applied to this question of meaningful revolutionary work and activity. But if we don’t inspire in masses of people a sense and a spirit of going out and challenging people with revolution, and a sense of taking out to people, “if you want to fight the power, then get with us,” there will be no meaningful revolutionary work, and no revolutionary movement.
There will at times be sharp struggle with masses over these questions: what is and is not the best way to build the revolutionary movement, what will and will not contribute to revolution, what represents really being serious about working for revolution and what is giving in to infantile impulses—and, on the other side of it, what represents just getting off into a reformist dead-end, as opposed to staying on the road of revolution? There will be, and there should be, all kinds of struggle about those questions. But people should have a sense: If you want to know about, and work toward, a different world—and if you want to stand up and fight back against what’s being done to people—this is where you go. You go to this Party, you take up this Party’s newspaper, you get into this Party’s leader and what he’s bringing forward, you come to the Revolution Clubs, you join in with the people carrying out political activity that embodies this—spreading revolution and building resistance, and the “positive synergy” between the two—all aiming for revolution.
Now, of course, we’re going to be engaged in many forms of “united front” mass organizations, if you want to use that phrase—organizations made up of a diversity of people and forces whose objectives and whose basis of unity is not revolution. But, at the same time, and of great importance, there should be some forms of mass organization whose basis of unity and objective is revolution—forms besides just the Party, which masses can join in, such as the Revolution Clubs. And within broader “united front” movements and organizations, there should be that element of the Party, and those partisan to the Party’s viewpoint, bringing forward its outlook and objectives, in the appropriate way—in a way which recognizes and respects the integrity and basis of unity of the broader mass movement/organization and does not confuse or conflate that with what the Party stands for and is working for.
And again, as part of putting forward revolution and communism, in a living and compelling way, we should be “taking on all comers” in healthy debate and ideological struggle. You want to talk about Hannah Arendt? Let’s talk about Hannah Arendt. That is one foolish person, that Hannah Arendt. [Laughter] That is one unscientific person, propagating all kinds of distorted, unscientific notions about communism and “totalitarianism,” and so on. Let’s talk about that Hannah Arendt. We should be anxious to get into these kinds of debates and struggles. And, as Mao said, what we don’t know we can learn. That’s why we have theory, and that’s why we have the collectivity of a Party. That’s why we have a scientific outlook and method to enable us to do these things.
As I have been emphasizing, the Revolution Clubs are one key form and means through which to involve masses, including masses newly awakening to political life and struggle, in the revolutionary movement. And it is very important to correctly handle the contradictions involved in enabling the masses themselves to take increasing initiative in building the revolutionary movement and, at the same time, giving them the leadership they need in order to do this. In the course of working to build the revolutionary movement, new people—as well as people who have been around for a while—will run into all the contradictions out there that you run into as soon as you start carrying this out. How do you spread revolution? What do you say when people come back at you with this and that, when you put forward revolution and communism? How do you build resistance? What is the correct way to take on this or that particular attack or outrage? This requires leadership—leadership which helps provide the answers to these questions and which unleashes more and more initiative among the masses—which doesn’t stifle and suppress that initiative but, increasingly over time, enables masses themselves to take greater initiative to take matters into their own hands, and to lead others. The notion that masses don’t need leadership—and acting in accordance with that notion—will only lead to suffocating the initiative of the masses and to demoralizing them. You don’t take people who have never been swimming and throw them in the deep end of the pool and say, “we don’t want to stifle your initiative.” Thanks a lot! While they’re drowning we can repeat incantations about how the masses can do this themselves, and they don’t need leadership. No. It is up to us to work together with masses, and to lead them, without being overbearing—without suffocating them, without extinguishing their initiative, but giving fuller and fuller expression to it.
Building the Party
In relation to all this, and as a crucial element of building the revolutionary movement overall, we have to give the necessary emphasis to the crucial importance of building the Party itself. We have to grasp firmly the basic point that, from the point of view of the necessity, and the strategic objective, of revolution, the most important form of organization of the masses is the Party itself, as the vanguard of the broader revolutionary masses. Building the Party is crucial and pivotal in terms of being able to hasten while awaiting a revolutionary situation, and being in a position to lead a revolution when the revolutionary conditions and the revolutionary people do come forward. We need to be systematically approaching the building of the Party quantitatively—that means we need to bring in many more new members, we need to recruit boldly and recruit widely among the basic masses and among all strata.
Back in the day, at the time of the RU (the Revolutionary Union—the forerunner of the RCP), some people had a method of recruiting on any old basis, if someone would express any sort of agreement, even in a vague kind of way, with the idea of communism. So we had to struggle against that and insist: no, there has to be some substance to this. Well, one of the people advocating this kind of “loose” recruiting, raised the formulation that we needed to “recruit widely and boldly.” And we answered: yes, but not wildly and badly. That is an important distinction. [Laughter] And this distinction still needs to be applied. We need to continually build the Party quantitatively—we do need to recruit boldly and, yes, widely, among the basic masses and among all strata—but we need to do it correctly, on the basis that we are recruiting into the Party people who have made the leap to being revolutionaries and communists in their basic outlook and orientation, who have grasped and are united with the basic principles and objectives—the basic line—of the Party.
The Party needs to become rooted, much more broadly and deeply, among the masses of people of different strata, but especially among the proletarians and other basic masses who have the greatest interest in the revolutionary transformation of society and the world. We have to win people to be communists, and then actively take up a concentrated process of recruiting them. We need to recruit communists, people who are prepared and determined to dedicate their lives to revolution and the final aim of a communist world—to being emancipators of humanity—to contributing as much as they can, in an organized and disciplined way, to that cause.
And it is important not to underestimate the potential for significant numbers of people now—and, as things develop, for greater numbers of people—to be won to revolution and to communism. Yes, it is true, we are going up against a lot of spontaneity and the reality that socialism has been reversed, and capitalism restored, first in the Soviet Union, and then in China; there is the influence of these objective developments, along with the ways in which the imperialists and their intellectual camp followers have moved to seize on these historic setbacks. As part of this, there is the irony that in reality socialism was overturned, and capitalism restored, in the Soviet Union 50 years ago now, but for much of that time the rulers of the Soviet Union continued to maintain an increasingly threadbare camouflage of “socialism” and “communism,” until finally, in the early 1990s, they dropped this altogether, and the Soviet Union, and the states which succeeded it when the Soviet Union was finally dissolved, became openly capitalist. This demise of the Soviet Union, and the open embrace of capitalism in the former Soviet bloc, has further unleashed a hungry pack of rabid bourgeois ideologues who are piling on and trying to tear to pieces any remaining respect for socialism and communism in the minds of the masses. So, yes, we are going up against all that—the imperialists and reactionaries (and more “liberal” or “progressive” antagonists of communism) have all that going for them—but what is not in their favor is the reality of what the capitalist-imperialist system (and other outmoded systems and social relations and related ideas) actually do and what they actually mean for the masses of people and, on the other hand, the reality of what communism actually stands for, and what has been the actual—principally very positive—experience of the communist movement and of socialist countries led by communists. There is, in reality—sometimes openly expressing itself, often not too far beneath the surface, or sometimes even further beneath the surface but still alive—great potential to win people to revolution and communism and to recruit people into the Party and continually build the Party quantitatively.
At the same time, there is the need to further build the Party qualitatively, to continue to further transform the Party to strengthen its revolutionary and communist character—ideologically, politically, and organizationally. But it is important to emphasize that this must be done in the context of—and for the fundamental purpose of—transforming the larger objective world. We have to carry forward the struggle to further revolutionize the Party itself in that context, and we have to bring people forward to make the leap to joining the Party in that context and with that fundamental objective.
In all these ways, including systematic attention to building the Party, both quantitatively and qualitatively, our orientation and our aim has to be making revolution and communism—making the orientation and challenge of being emancipators of humanity—an increasingly powerful pole of attraction: for basic masses, for the youth among the basic masses and youth generally, and for others throughout society.
1. The striving of mass movements to “come under the wing of the bourgeoisie”—and the need to combat this “spontaneous striving”—is discussed in the first installment in this series, “Enriched What Is To Be Done-ism,” in Revolution #113, December 23, 2007.[back]
2. The “drawn and quartered point” is discussed earlier in this talk—see Part 1: “Beyond the Narrow Horizon of Bourgeois Right,” which is available at revcom.us, and in particular the last section of Part 1, “Historical Experience and the New Synthesis,” which appears in Revolution #112, Dec. 16, 2007.[back]
This series will continue in the next issue of Revolution.
Revolution #116, January 20, 2008
On Sunday, January 6, the Pentagon contacted the media about a breaking story: Iranian gunboats had supposedly confronted three U.S. warships in the Straits of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, approaching the U.S. ships in a “reckless and dangerous” manner—with “potentially hostile intent,” according to Pentagon spokespeople. The U.S. ships were, they claimed, forced to take “defensive” measures—and were a “heartbeat” from firing on the Iranians. Two days later, the Pentagon produced a video which supposedly proved its case, including an audio track of a heavily accented voice saying, “I am coming to you. You will explode after a few minutes.”
The tone of the coverage, on Fox News in particular, was “they’ve attacked us.” It sounded like Iranians were practically off the coast of New Jersey.
But wait a minute. This whole “incident” took place over 7,000 miles from the New Jersey shore—but less than 20 miles off Iran’s coast. What are U.S. warships doing 20 miles from Iran’s coast? No one in the media bothered to ask that question—it’s taken as a given that the U.S. imperialists have the “right” to control the Middle East by force and guarantee the flow of oil (20 percent of which flows through the Straits of Hormuz) to the global capitalist market which they dominate.
And which country poses a bigger threat to the other? Iran, which has few if any troops outside its borders, or the U.S. which has some 170,000 stationed in Iraq, immediately to Iran’s west, and another 40,000 in Gulf states less than 200 miles from Iran?
Which one is acting “provocatively”? Iran, whose navy is minuscule compared to the U.S. and has no ships far from its shores? Or the U.S., which has a heavily armed armada, including aircraft carrier and battle groups, and which has conducted major “war games” right off Iran’s coast?
And whose ships are more “dangerous”? The three massive U.S. Navy warships involved in this “incident”—the guided-missile destroyer USS Hopper (504 feet in length, weighing 8,373 tons, and carrying an M240 machine gun capable of firing 10 armor-piercing projectiles per second and nuclear missiles); the guided-missile cruiser USS Port Royal (567 feet long, weighing 9,600 tons, and capable of firing Tomahawk cruise missiles); and the guided-missile frigate USS Ingraham (445 feet in length and weighing 4,100 tons)? Or five small Iranian speedboats, perhaps 40 or 50 feet in length, armed at most with machine guns, if at all?
And which country is threatening war and acting aggressively? Iran, which downplayed the incident as a routine encounter in a heavily trafficked shipping lane? Or the U.S., whose President immediately warned: “there will be serious consequences if they attack our ships, pure and simple.” Who repeated U.S. claims that “Iran was a threat, Iran is a threat and Iran will be a threat to world peace....” and declared that “all options are on the table.” And who did so during a tour of the Middle East whose focus was building a military and political alliance against Iran, and which included (according to the London Sunday Times of January 16) a briefing by Israeli officials on military options for bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities.
All this came from the proven liars in the White House and Pentagon who brought us “intelligence” that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and who (newly declassified documents show) concocted the Tonkin Gulf incident to start the Vietnam War.
In fact, within hours, the Pentagon’s story began leaking like a sieve. It turns out that the threatening audiotape had been made separately and spliced onto the video (which was only 4 minutes and 20 seconds out of an encounter of some 20 minutes), and that the Pentagon could not directly connect the voices to the speedboats, and had to admit they may have come from other boats, or from shore (perhaps of a neighboring country). The Iranian government, which claimed the Pentagon had simply recycled file footage and added its own sound-track, released its own video which depicted a routine interchange between the vessels. A top Naval commander later admitted that the ships hadn’t considered the Iranians a threat and had not been about to open fire. According to Gareth Porter, “The only boat that was close enough to be visible to the U.S. ships was unarmed, as an enlarged photo of the boat from the navy video clearly shows.” (“Official Version of Naval Incident Starts to Unravel,” http://www.antiwar.com/porter/?articleid=12191)
What all this DID show was that even after the new National Intelligence Estimate (stating Iran doesn’t have nuclear weapons or a nuclear weapons program), Iran is still in the U.S. crosshairs.
Revolution #116, January 20, 2008
Last week’s article on Pakistan—“Pakistan: A Dangerous Cauldron Heats Up”—examined the erupting situation in that country. That article, while overall correct, contained a significant and important error in its conclusion.
The article correctly, if necessarily briefly, analyzed how Pakistan is dominated by imperialism, and how that domination includes both capitalist super-exploitation and the integration of still significant feudal and semi-feudal production in agriculture into the circuits of capital dominated by imperialism. It described the different ruling fractions within Pakistan, the class and social basis of these forces, and the ways in which imperialist oppression has distorted Pakistan’s development and prevented its coherence as an independent nation. The article went into how this imperialist oppression has expressed itself in both production relations and in the political superstructure—with the U.S. playing a major role in even deciding who rules the country, building up and utilizing its armed forces, etc. And as part of that, it also took up the importance of Islamic fundamentalism, as an ideological and political expression closely related to the continued strength of feudal and semi-feudal relations and class forces in Pakistan. The article also analyzed how those different forces all struggle for advantage and can also come into conflict with—even very sharp conflict with—imperialism, even as the overall framework and terms in which they struggle is dominated by imperialism. The current clash between U.S. imperialism and Islamic fundamentalism on a world scale, and its sharp expression in Pakistan itself, is a salient example of this.
Unfortunately, at the end of the article the formulation of the tasks of the new-democratic revolution in Pakistan negated the important role of feudal relations, class forces, and ideas in Pakistan. The paragraph defined new-democratic revolution in this way:
“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 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 world wide overthrow of capitalism-imperialism.”
This formulation leaves out the task of overthrowing the feudal elements tied in with the ruling structure in the oppressed nations, as well as the uprooting and transformation of those feudal relations and structures once liberation has been achieved. This is wrong and, if taken up as a line, would lead to serious problems. In a country like Pakistan, as in most oppressed nations, those class forces and relations are still extensive and often pervasive. Because of this, the new-democratic revolution must include the peasants directly oppressed by feudal landlords in the countryside, as well as those who have been displaced into the shantytowns and miserable slums of the city. The revolution in the countryside must very often go through a stage of land to the tiller—where there is a division of the land and a period of small-scale or small-owner agriculture following the breakup of feudalism, and which the new power must lead step by step into collectivized and ultimately socialized agriculture. This revolution can also, in general, unite with sections of smaller capitalists who have real conflict with imperialism over the subordination of all national development to imperialism. Enlightened strata more generally—including even non-theocratic religious forces—can also play an important role in this revolution. All this must be led as part of a program that radically breaks with all the structures of dependency on imperialism and with the enslaving relations and ideology of feudalism—as the first stage of a revolutionary program for getting rid of all exploitation and oppression and the social relations to which it gives rise.
[this error has been corrected in the version of the article currently available online]
Revolution #116, January 20, 2008
Revolution #115, January 13, 2008
January 31 Call to Action:
The following call appears on the website of World Can’t Wait—Drive Out the Bush Regime (worldcantwait.org).
We will make the future.
We pledge to stop endless war for empire.
We refuse consent to a torture state.
We won't swallow a hateful culture of bigotry & intolerance.
We will not go silently into a fascist nightmare.
We will engage in an act of civil resistance to make a better world.
We are what we've been waiting for.
Your government does not want what you want! You want: an end to illegal wars, torture and indefinite detention, raids on immigrants, assaults on women’s rights, the moves towards theocracy, the fostering of a climate of greed and bigotry, and non-action in the face of a global climate crisis.
But leading Republican presidential candidates want more of the Bush program, and no leading Democratic presidential candidate will reverse what’s been set in place by the Bush regime. Leading Democrats knew—and said nothing for years—about the CIA’s torture tapes and waterboarding.
All of us who want the Bush program brought to a halt must, through our actions, create a political situation where the Bush regime is driven from power and its program is so thoroughly repudiated that whoever becomes the next president knows they cannot get away with continuing these crimes.
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: "No business as usual” outside military recruiting centers, FEMA offices, immigrant detention centers, federal buildings and court houses, with creative action that may involve mass non-violent civil disobedience, speaking up for those who are disappeared and violated, tortured and left without hope.
Revolution #116, January 20, 2008
Editors’ Introduction: The East African nation of Kenya has been wracked by turmoil and violence the past two weeks, with as many as 1,000 people killed. The U.S. mainstream media have characterized the cause as “tribal conflict” set in motion by elections on December 27 in which Mwai Kibaki, the incumbent president and a member of the Kikuyu ethnic group, is accused of ballot rigging in order to defeat his rival, Raila Odinga, a member of another ethnic group, the Luo. What the Western media have not brought to light is that the ethnic violence can be traced to the divide-and-rule strategy the British employed for nearly 80 years while Kenya was their colony. Since achieving formal independence in 1963, Kenya has been a neocolony highly dependent on British, U.S. and other foreign capital. While oppressed people are set against each other, competing cliques of corrupt compradors manage the exploitation of the country by foreign imperialism in a framework set by colonialism. Neocolonialism continues to enslave the people of Kenya, despite formal independence. The book Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain’s Gulag in Kenya by Caroline Elkins provides a valuable background to the current situation in Kenya.
Submitted by a correspondent
“From the start of the war in October 1952, tales of Mau Mau savagery spread wildly among the white settlers in the colony and at home in Britain. Mau Mau was portrayed as a barbarous, anti-European, and anti-Christian sect that had reverted to tactics of primitive terror to interrupt the British civilizing mission in Kenya...While the Mau Mau insurgents claimed they were fighting for ithaka na wiyathi, or land and freedom, few people in the Western world took seriously the demands of these so-called savages.”
So begins Caroline Elkins’s Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain’s Gulag in Kenya (New York: Owl Books, 2005), a searing exposure of how the British colonialists brutally suppressed the Mau Mau uprising of Kenya’s Kikuyu people in the 1950s—suppression that involved truly barbarous and savage acts of torture, physical mutilation including castration and painful vaginal injuries, famine and disease, along with psychological torture designed to break the spirit while working on destroying the body.
The Mau Mau uprising was in response to—among other things—the widespread stealing of Kikuyu lands by European farmers. Imperial Reckoning situates this in the context of British contention with other European powers over the plunder of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. The book traces the British drive to develop an extensive settler cash-crop export economy in their Kenyan colony to their need to pay for an extensive railroad built through the country. That railroad served what the British considered to be strategic and military needs of the region, including their ability to contend with their German imperialist rivals. The British brought 30,000 laborers from their colony in India to build the railroad. One third of them died in the course of building what came to be the Uganda Railroad. The massive cost of the railroad was billed to the Kenyans, to be paid through agricultural exports.
The British eight-year campaign against the Kikuyu uprising involved two prongs. One was a military offensive against the rebels, who had taken to the mountain forests and fought a guerrilla war from there. It took over two years and 20,000 British troops, supported by the British air force, to subdue the insurrectionists, who fought largely with only homemade weapons against Britain’s vastly superior firepower. And even then, the insurgents may have held out even longer if not for Kikuyu who assisted the British. For such “meritorious service,” these Kikuyu, who became known as loyalists, were handsomely rewarded materially and in other ways.
The other prong of the campaign, which lasted well after the insurgents had been defeated in the forests, was aimed at the much larger “civilian army,” some 1.5 million Kikuyu who were said to have taken the Mau Mau oath to fight for land and freedom until death. Says Elkins: “The battlefield for this war was not the forests but a vast system of detention camps, where colonial officials reportedly held some eighty thousand Kikuyu insurgents” who had no recourse to trial. However, through her extensive research, which included several years in Kenya itself, poring over files and documents that the British didn’t get around to destroying—they did destroy many other files—and interviewing hundreds of Kikuyu survivors, Elkins determined that the number detained was much greater than what the British claimed, somewhere between 160,000 and 320,000. And beyond that, while almost all of the detainees in the camps were men, women and children were also being detained, in all but name, in 804 enclosed villages “surrounded by spiked trenches, barbed wire, and watchtowers, and were heavily patrolled by armed guards,” including by many loyalists. Once Elkins added in all of the Kikuyu women and children locked down in these villages, she reckoned that the British had actually detained some 1.5 million people, or nearly the entire Kikuyu population.
“I’ve come to believe,” Elkins says, “that during the Mau Mau war British forces wielded their authority with a savagery that portrayed a perverse colonial logic: only by detaining nearly the entire Kikuyu population of 1.5 million people and physically and psychologically atomizing its men, women, and children could colonial authority be restored and the civilizing mission reinstated.”
What the Kikuyu suffered and endured at the hands of the British colonialists and loyalists in the detainee and labor camps and enclosed villages constitutes a significant portion of Elkins’s book. From the beginning there were the “screenings,” the colonialists’ preferred term for ruthless torture, designed to get information from a Mau Mau suspect and persuade him or her to confess Mau Mau affiliation. Methods of “persuasion” involved beatings, electric shock, cigarette burns and fire, and “bottles (often broken), gun barrels, knives, snakes, vermin, and hot eggs...thrust up men’s rectums and women’s vaginas,” Elkins writes.
A detainee had to confess if he or she wanted to be released. “The purpose of detention,” Elkins says, “was not necessarily to keep the Mau Mau suspects alive but to force them to confess through a punishing routine of forced labor and brutality. In terms of productivity this pattern ultimately revealed an inherent contradiction. A tension emerged between the need for ever greater supplies of labor, without which it would be impossible to continue the colony’s infrastructure development, and the competing impulse to punish, debilitate, and even exterminate the Kikuyu population. Exhausting labor routines, beatings, torture, food deprivation, all used to force confession, could and often did render detainees incapable of working.”
But despite this contradiction, the British continued to employ brutality and terror. This was particularly true of people the British considered “hard core” Mau Mau men, against whom there was a great deal of “emasculating” violence involving castration. Men in some of these camps wrote letters, which Elkins found during her research, describing pliers that were used to crush testicles before they were literally ripped off.
In the detention camps for women deemed to be hard core, beatings, whippings, and sexual violations were all common. And women living in the barbed-wire villages were routinely sexually assaulted and raped by British officers and loyalists, sometimes mothers and daughters together in the same hut.
Today the British colonialists no longer rule the country, and Kenya is formally independent, although fundamentally tied by ropes to global imperialist capital. But to this day, as Elkins writes in her epilogue, “there has never been any form of official reconciliation in Kenya. There are no monuments for Mau Mau, children are not taught about this part of their nation’s past in school, few speak about it in the privacy of their own homes, and, with the exception of the relatives of the Hola massacre victims [a massacre that occurred toward the end of the British campaign], there has never been any kind of financial consideration given to those who lost family members in the camps and villages, or property to the local loyalists. Some men and women lost the use of their limbs, others their minds, as a result of the years they spent behind the wire, though neither the former colonial government nor the new independent government did anything to help them piece their lives back together.”
Elkins then ends her riveting book by telling of a conversation she had with a woman survivor and what she thought about the question of “letting bygones be bygones.” “You know,” the woman said, “this will only change when everyone knows what happened to us. Maybe then there will be some peace once our people are able to mourn in public and our children and our grandchildren will know how hard we fought and how much we lost to make Kenya free for them.”
Go get yourself a copy of Imperial Reckoning. It is a powerful and insightful exposure of what the British colonialists did to the Kikuyu people of Kenya, and of imperialism, period.
Editors’ Note: The word “gulag” in the title of Elkins’s book is a Russian acronym for “Main Administration of Corrective Labor Camps and Labor Settlements.” The term became widely known outside Russia with the 1973 publication of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s book Gulag Archipelago, which was highly promoted in the West because of its attacks on the years of actual socialism in the Soviet Union, especially under Stalin. Elkins’s use, in the title of her book, of the word “gulag” (which is not a major theme in the book) is an example of the way knee-jerk anti-communism has become “common sense”—“what everybody knows”—in this society, including among academics who carry out rigorous work. Elkins herself writes that when she first undertook research for this book, she was influenced by the “conventional wisdom” that the British had been relatively humane in the suppression of the Mau Mau uprising. But in the course of looking deeply into this, she unearthed damning evidence about the truth, and changed her views. The point is that “what everybody knows”—in matters of history and where class interests are involved—is often wrong, and getting at the truth requires a determined scientific effort to seek out evidence and consider opposing views. For a discussion of the achievements—as well as significant shortcomings and weaknesses—of socialism in the Soviet Union under Stalin’s leadership, go online to the website of the Set the Record Straight project, at ThisIsCommunism.org.
Revolution #116, January 20, 2008
The Revolution Interview: Dr. Susan Wicklund
A special feature of Revolution to acquaint our readers with the views of significant figures in art, theater, music and literature, science, sports and politics. The views expressed by those we interview are, of course, their own; and they are not responsible for the views published elsewhere in our paper.
This Common Secret: My Journey as an Abortion Doctor by Dr. Susan Wicklund is available at bookstores, and at amazon.com, where it is currently the #1 selling book on Abortion & Birth Control. The following is an interview with Dr. Susan Wicklund by Debra Sweet for Revolution newspaper. A shortened version appears in the print edition.
Q: How did you come to write this book?
Dr. Susan Wicklund: As most things happen in my life, it was partly by accident, and largely by chance that I’ve had the opportunity to write this book. When I first started providing abortions, I was real quiet, not talking about what I was involved in. Through circumstances, I found that the more I spoke out, the more I felt supported and protected. I had just opened a clinic in Bozeman, Montana, and because I was harassed by protesters, and they broke into my apartment, I ended up renting a room in the home of a writer, Alan Kesselheim.
I’d always kept a journal of patient stories, my emotional response to the work I was doing, the frustrations and the good parts. When I was living with Al and his family, I’d talk about some of the stories. Obviously I was careful about patient confidentiality, but I’d talk about the protesters, and what happened with the patients. He’d see me leave the house in a bulletproof vest, with a security guard. He became adamant that I had to get some of these things written down. I had them in a journal, but not in an organized way. He offered to help and, being a writer, he would write things as I talked. He would work with it, and then I would, and we ended up with a collection of patient stories, with nothing about me personally. We had some very strong interest from publishers. That was the time, however, when some of the more violent protesters started shooting and killing abortion doctors, and I felt very vulnerable and scared. So we put it away, literally, for years, and didn’t talk about it.
And then life went on. I kept working in the clinics and over the years had a number of things happen that made me feel I wanted to pursue the book again. Al was also feeling like the time was right, so we decided to hit it hard and fast. This time I did a lot of the writing, as I needed to reveal more of myself. I needed to talk about my own experiences as a woman, a mother, a daughter, and a doctor. The book weaves my life into the lives of my patients. We still didn’t know if we would be able to sell it, but it was like this train that once I jumped on I couldn’t stop. And I’m really happy with it.
Q: Why was it important for you to write it?
Dr. Susan Wicklund: There is so much silence around this issue. We talk about it in the global and legal sense, and talk about the laws, but we’re not talking about the individual women. That silence has been hurting women and the pro-choice movement in this country. At least 40% of the women in this country have an abortion at some time in their life. It’s not something that’s rare. It’s very, very common, but unfortunately, as the title implies, it’s a common secret. My hope is that this book will open a dialogue between women individually, in neighborhoods, in organizations, where we talk about who we are in having abortions. We should not be ashamed, or be hiding this aspect of our healthcare.
Q: You begin the book with a story of an abortion in your own family, kept secret for many decades. Why don’t women tell their abortion stories?
Dr. Susan Wicklund: In my grandmother’s time, it was illegal. The young girl that was pregnant, and that my grandmother helped, died. It would have been kept secret even if there hadn’t been a death involved. Obviously, when you know someone is pregnant, you know they are having sex. Depending on the woman’s age and marital status, she may be ostracized for that alone. Yet this is such a sexual culture. Every billboard and commercial is sexual. There is a religious right in this country who says you can only have sex to procreate. Whether we buy into that or not, there still seems to be something shameful about that part of our lives. An abortion says that not only was the woman having sex, she was probably having it just for the pleasure, not for procreation.
Q: Abortion was a crime through most of the 20th century. We’ve gone through 35 years now since abortion has been legal in this country, at least in the first three months of pregnancy. When abortion first became legal, there was a great feeling of relief among women that you didn’t have to carry a pregnancy you didn’t want. You didn’t have to risk an illegal, dangerous “back alley” abortion. But, once abortion became legal, it was part of the capitalist health care system, where every social relation between people is a commodity relationship.
Dr. Susan Wicklund: I’ve watched that in the 20 years I’ve been doing abortions. First of all, when Roe v. Wade first came about in 1973, many of the people who immediately started providing abortions were women. You had feminist women’s health clinics. A lot of the people were doing it because they thought women should have safe, legal abortions. The women managing and owning the clinics were not necessarily physicians, but nurses or social workers who had seen the impact of women having abortions when it was still illegal. They knew what it meant to have abortion be legal, and so they opened up clinics across the country that provided services in a non-profit, feminist setting. Now, like most medicine, it’s become a managed-care situation where the people owning and managing the clinics, and sometimes even providing the abortions don’t remember what it was like when abortion wasn’t legal. They are looking at it as a business instead of a service to women. The type of care that women are receiving has changed in many places. I find that very disturbing.
Q: How do the state laws restricting abortion affect women?
Dr. Susan Wicklund: They are intimidating to women, and, in my opinion, cause an undue burden on women. Roe v. Wade said state laws regulating abortion could not cause an undue burden. The Supreme Court looked at these laws and decided they don’t cause an undue burden. But what I see on a daily basis is that these laws do cause a burden.
Imagine being a minor and for some reason you are unable to talk freely with your parents about the situation. In many states, you must appear in court and talk with a judge to get his/her permission to have the abortion. And in many states, a woman is mandated to hear medically inaccurate information before having an abortion. This is information written by non-medical people whose main objective is to stop abortions. How could this not be considered an undue burden?
We’ve gone significantly backwards since I started doing abortions 20 years ago. 89% of counties in the U.S. have no abortion provider, up from 82% several years ago. In a big part of the country where the population is largely rural, abortion providers are very spread out. For the clinics it means providers have to be brought in, since local doctors don’t want to be involved, fearing an effect on their local practices. This is an added cost and difficult in terms of time, etc. In many states, it’s not unusual for patients to have to travel hundreds of miles to obtain an abortion. There’s no clinic in Wyoming, a handful in all of Montana, one in South Dakota, one in North Dakota. It’s difficult to find services or even accurate information and referrals if you live in rural areas. And where will the patient go for follow-up care if there is no physician in her hometown she can trust?
Many hospitals in the U.S. have been bought by religious organizations; in some parts of the country there are no hospitals that will do abortions because of their religious considerations. Less than 10% of all abortions are done in actual hospitals, all the rest are done in physician offices or freestanding clinics.
Q: What happens to a woman because of the 24-hour waiting period?
Dr. Susan Wicklund: There’s no way to get around it; you comply or you don’t get an abortion. The same is true of parental notification or parental consent laws. In small towns, there is no confidentiality about birth control or abortion—everyone knows. Teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are huge because of all these roadblocks, and this is getting worse. State legislators are making it harder and harder all the time. The kids that have pledged “abstinence-only” have a higher rate of STDs than kids who have comprehensive sex education. Now states have laws that pharmacists and medical providers do not have to dispense birth control.
In a state like Mississippi, the woman has to come to the clinic—and I mean “the” clinic because there is only one in the state—24 hours in advance to see a physician and talk about the abortion. And then she can return 24 hours later to have the abortion. You have women traveling two or three hundred miles, which is not unusual in this country. People in all different circumstances in their lives, with different educational levels and access to transportation, have to travel this distance and take the time away from work and childcare, to get to the clinic and have this very biased information given to them, and then wait 24 hours to have the abortion. It means women are delaying or not having an abortion because of this restriction. It’s implied that this is done to protect the woman, which is absolutely not true. It’s purely a way to delay or stop women from having abortions.
Q: What kind of biased information?
Dr. Susan Wicklund: The language used by many of the states, for example, refers to the fetus as an “unborn baby.” This is a medically incorrect term. It’s an embryo, and then it’s a fetus, and yes, at a certain point it’s a baby, but not at the stage these abortions are being done. Some of the states mandate that you tell a woman she may have psychological problems from the abortion or breast cancer, she may not be able to conceive again or give birth. None of those things are substantiated in medical research. None of them are true. Being mandated by the state to give the woman information that is not even true is ludicrous. There’s no other medical procedure in the United States where these kinds of restrictions have been placed.
Q: What do you see in the influence of the religious right on access to abortion?
Dr. Susan Wicklund: It’s frightening that this country would support somebody who wants to restrict or end legal abortion. They don’t understand what that means for women. It used to be that a presidential candidate wouldn’t talk about their religion in a campaign. Now ALL the candidates are talking about prayer, having religious forums, declaring what church they go to; religion is a part of every one of the candidates, Democrats and Republicans. When we have people with such strong religious convictions running the country, it feels like we’re going to a theocracy, not a democracy.
Q: Cristina Page, the author of How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America, suggested we ask all the candidates this question: When Roe v. Wade is overturned, how long will women get? How long will the prison term be for women who have abortions? She said this is where it’s going, not back to 1969, but back centuries.
Women would be investigated for having miscarriages. Women will be targeted. Police could be at your door asking about why you had a miscarriage, asking what did you do to cause it?
On the one hand, abortion is the most common surgical procedure in the U.S., and the pro-choice movement has made a point that it’s just medical care. But it is so much more than just a medical procedure in terms of the importance for women functioning in the world. Think of a society, which has been true through most of human history, where women have no say in any major decisions taken outside their own homes (and mostly not even there).
Dr. Susan Wicklund: That would be like the book The Handmaid’s Tale. Without a woman being able to control her own reproductive destiny, you take away her economic future, her educational choices, and her emotional choices, and then so much of her independence. She can’t decide or choose on her own when or where to have children or how many children to have—then somebody else has control of all the rest of it.
Q: A Planned Parenthood clinic opened in Aurora, Illinois, in the face of huge anti-abortion protests; this was a big success despite protesters 24 hours a day, even before the clinic opened. But now another clinic in Colorado is under construction and the anti-abortion forces—large, vocal, and well-funded—are picketing and boycotting all the sub-contractors and all the people who are affiliated with the construction, so that it may not be able to open.
Dr. Susan Wicklund: It’s outrageous. The anti-abortionists are picketing the homes of the contractors and workers. These are the lengths they will go to stop access. It’s not just that they want to stop abortion. These people are adamant about stopping all forms of birth control for women.
I have a lot of personal experience with that. Protesters literally blockaded my home with cement barrels in the driveway. They went in my daughter’s school and put up wanted posters with my face on, saying, “Sonja’s mother kills babies.” They slashed tires on my car, put sugar in my gas tank, followed me to the airport, and harassed other passengers boarding planes, telling them they should be afraid to travel in a plane with a “baby-killer.” They accosted me in parking lots, kept the doors shut at the clinic by physically blocking them. With some providers, they would picket the hairdresser of a doctor’s wife, or the gym studio where their kids took classes. There’s no end to the things they will do to intimidate providers and their families, branching out to anyone associated with the clinic. And now, even those who construct the clinic building.
Not only do these people want to stop abortion, they want to stop all forms of birth control. They don’t believe women should have any control at all over conception.
Q: In your book you’ve talked about becoming an abortion provider in a hostile atmosphere. You said that a lot of doctors want to keep a low profile, but you decided you would be safest if you were very public and defiant against the threats and being told you couldn’t do this. You were on “60 Minutes” in the 1990s and spoke at large rallies all over the country. Looking back over 20 years, what have you learned from choosing this approach?
Dr. Susan Wicklund: I’m not at all sorry about my choice to speak out. It’s had a real positive effect on some other physicians. Because of hearing what I’ve had to say about it, I know of a number of physicians who are now providing abortions. It’s helped the patients to feel comfortable knowing that I am able and willing to talk about what I do, with no remorse or regret; that I don’t think this is morally wrong. I think it has been a good support for other people as well as for myself. It’s become clear that I’m solid in my convictions.
Q: What do you say when people tell you that “abortion is murder”?
Dr. Susan Wicklund: Well I obviously don’t believe that. I think that it is ending a potential life but it is not a living, breathing, conscious human at this point. To me murder has to be an act against an independent being that can function on its own. If the people who say that would spend time in a clinic and see what actually is the result of an abortion, what comes out of the uterus, I believe they would have to rethink it themselves, and many of them would decide it isn’t murder.
Looking at 12 weeks from last menstrual period, this is the end of the first trimester. There is a recognizable embryo; recognizable as human. It cannot feel pain, or think, or have any sense of being at this point. The woman is not aware of it physically; she cannot feel any movement.
When I talk about embryonic development, I use the analogy of building a house. Early on you walk by a lot and you see they have started bulldozing and maybe built a foundation. You know there’s going to be a building, but you don’t know what it is yet. And a couple of weeks later you see some walls up. It’s definitely going to be a building, maybe a house or garage, but you don’t know what yet. With an embryo at some stage you know it will be a vertebrate. It has gills and a tail, but you don’t know if it will be a fish or a horse or cow or a human. You can’t distinguish with the naked eye at this point.
Eventually the building takes the shape of a house and it has openings for windows and doors; it has that kind of structure. It’s the same with the embryo at some point. You can tell it’s going to be human; but it still can’t function on its own. At some point the windows and doors go in but no electricity or plumbing or the wires and pipes are there but they don’t work yet. You can’t turn on lights or water; you can’t move into the house and be warm and live there. That’s where we’re at with a 12 week embryo. It’s recognizable as human, you’ve got all the body parts, but nothing is hooked up and functioning on its own; nothing can sustain its own life.
It’s been a very effective analogy that I use with patients. It was something I used with my own daughter when she was 12 years old. People were telling her that I killed babies. It helped her understand what I was doing and why.
Q: Looking back on your career to this point, this choice to provide abortions in a public way, going against the tide, what do you think of the choices you made?
Dr. Susan Wicklund: I wish I had been more vocal earlier, getting more dialogue going with people in lots of different circumstances. Within my own family, within other organizations I’m in, not just pro-choice organizations but just groups of women, trying to get people to talk more about reproductive rights in many different situations. We all need to do it more. I would like to see women in general, and especially young women, asking other women—cousins, mothers, friends—about their experiences. Then they’ll come to realize where women’s rights have been and be fearful enough to take active measures to stop the current trend and do something to ensure that reproductive rights are front and center for all of us.
In general, I’m happy with the choices I’ve made; I have no regrets about becoming an abortion provider.
Q: In the movement to drive out the Bush regime and bring its program to a halt, people have said to us that the movement would be more successful if we would leave abortion and gay rights out of the discussion. They say that abortion is just a personal matter, and too controversial, so we should give up on it. How do you answer that?
Dr. Susan Wicklund: How can we ignore an issue that affects 100% of the population? I work so hard to bring the individual woman’s face into the picture, because I don’t want the political discussion to lose sight of the individual. But the bigger picture is that by limiting our reproductive choices, and therefore the economic and educational choices of women, they are affecting 100% of the people.
We CAN’T leave it alone. My big fear is that we will ignore it. It will stay off to the side, and people won’t realize the impact it will have on our society as a whole, and that we will lose abortion. I am very fearful that Roe v. Wade is going to fall and that it will go back to the states to decide, or worse. Right now, if Roe is overturned, some states would outlaw it, and some could keep it legal. There could be a federal law against abortion everywhere. Women will be in shock when they realize what this means, and see the impact on them individually and on society as a whole. And then the whole battle will have to start again. It will take another generation of women to realize what has happened and to start fighting all over again to regain reproductive rights for all women in a more solid manner where we’re not going to lose it again. It’s very distressing for me to see so much complacency around this issue. Part of the complacency is because of the secrets.
Q: You’re painting a picture that is really alarming but consistent with a fascist direction in this society. Contrast this with a society where women make their own decisions on pregnancy without the intervention of the state, religion, their family, husbands and all this nonsense put on women? I think of how much different society would be if an unplanned pregnancy wasn’t hanging there to change a woman’s life. Can you envision that?
Dr. Susan Wicklund: I’d be delighted if there were no more unplanned pregnancies. If we had a better system of birth control we could eliminate a lot of unwanted pregnancies, but there is still no perfect birth control, and there will be situations where abortion is needed. It would be such a different situation if abortion weren’t a “big, bad secret” that women had to keep, if abortion was freely available, without shame or secrecy. It would take a lot of the stress off women. It would free them up to be able to do and think about so many more productive things in their lives! I’m hoping the book will spark dialogue, that long-held secrets will be told, and that there will be a new wave of activism and dedicated people working toward reproductive freedom.
Revolution #116, January 20, 2008
We received the following correspondence:
At a discussion arranged by Libros Revolución in L.A. to organize efforts for the Revolution newspaper expansion and fund drive, someone raised the idea of presenting films to bring people together and raise money. This triggered one woman at the discussion to describe her experience of reading Persepolis, the graphic novel memoir by Marjane Satrapi, and then discovering the review of the new film in Revolution newspaper. Discussion built around this idea and grew into a plan to buy discount tickets from the theater chain showing the upcoming film. The way this works is that you can arrange with a theater to buy blocks of discount tickets, and then resell them as a fundraising project. So that’s what we did.
A few people collaboratively developed an email to describe the event, including links to the movie review at the Revolution website. [Editor’s note: the review is at revcom.us/a/109/awtw-persepolis-en.html] The emails were sent to the bookstore’s e-list, friends of the planners, and an e-list that goes out to the peace and justice community in L.A. We sold 58 tickets in five days during the Christmas holidays, raising $200 for the fund drive. One person, responding to the email from the general listserv, organized ten friends to join her, expressly saying that she felt it was important to support the newspaper. Another organized six of her artist friends and bought her first subscription to the paper at the event. Many people who called were new to the movement and expressed interest in learning more about the paper and bookstore. A large group of Iranian activists and their children attended as well as peace and justice activists, artists, and others interested in the film and the issues it presented.
The film is extremely beautifully presented, in hand-drawn animation that is both evocative and realistic. The modern history of Iran and the way that it impacts one family in particular are played out through the eyes of a curious, intelligent, and outspoken young girl. After the film our guests commented on the quality of the animation and the way it portrayed various elements of the story. The Iranian guests agreed that the film was true to the historical events of their country and their personal experiences as emigrants. The discussion continued at a nearby Thai restaurant where U.S. and Iranian politics were debated and related to issues that have been discussed in the paper. The film posed in a living way the question of solutions to pressing problems in our world. As one guest remarked, we are all caught in a problem where we have two sides that are “mirror images of each other,” speaking about the current ruling classes in Iran and the U.S., and wondering what would really represent another way that would be in the interest of the people. There were questions of whether communism would turn into another “religion,” and there was lively discussion in the many conversations that took place after the event about Bob Avakian’s views on the transition from socialism to communism. People expressed interest in learning more about the paper, and some people talked about continuing the discussion in future gatherings as well as doing a similar fundraising event very soon.
For those of you looking for ways to pull a quick fundraising project together to help push the Revolution newspaper fund drive over the top, contact your local theater and work out something like this right away.
Revolution #116, January 20, 2008
We received this correspondence:
In the midst of one of the biggest storms to hit Northern California in recent years, over 60 people gathered in Berkeley to support Revolution newspaper’s half million dollar fund drive and the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund (PRLF), and to help humanity to prepare to face the more powerful storms—political storms—to come.
The program took place at the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian-Universalists, home for many anti-war, environmental and social justice groups and events. The program was organized by the Social Justice Committee of the Fellowship along with honorary hosts from labor and local politics together with some Revolution newspaper supporters. Along with the mainly older activists that frequent the worship hall were immigrant workers, other proletarians, Black activists, youth (including a group from the local Revolution Club), and ex-prisoners. The successful fundraiser added over $3,500 to our national goal, and it introduced many new people to the paper and to two of its writers, Luciente Zamora and Larry Everest.
Luciente Zamora spoke to the unbearable hardships the people of Mexico face under the weight of the devastating economic and political consequences of being a neo-colony of the U.S—for example, the wages that immigrants working in the U.S. send back home rank second only to petroleum revenues as the greatest source of Mexico’s national income. Luciente was interrupted by loud applause when she said, “There is not an immigration problem, but there is a capitalism problem!”
Larry Everest challenged people to struggle with others about coming to grips with the reality of the horrors facing humanity and taking responsibility to do everything in the real interests of the people of the world. Revolutionary possibilities, he said, are presented to us by the workings of the system, but only if we understand the world, and on that basis, fight to change it. Larry encouraged people to get to know Bob Avakian through the pages of the paper—especially his envisioning of what a new world could be and how to get there—and pointed to his talk “Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity,” currently being serialized in Revolution.
In welcoming people, one of the hosts, an organizer of the Social Justice Committee, said she hoped that this program would be “the beginning of a very regular series where we can work for revolution and accomplish our goals.” She understood that many would say “in Berkeley, we are speaking to the choir,” but added that from here we “can spread out across the country and the world.” Referring to a large photo of her late husband, a courageous, tireless and well-known activist, she said, “He loved the Revolution newspaper and we used to read it all the time.”
Another of the hosts, a long-time educator and co-founder of the Education Not Incarceration coalition, wrote a check to the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund and encouraged others to dig deep as well. She held up a photo of a group of prisoners with a copy of Revolution and said, “When I looked at it, I saw one newspaper and 17 prisoners. But that symbolizes how many people you can reach. So I am going to urge you to contribute to the PRLF.”
An ex-prisoner and a defendant in the San Francisco 8 trial stood up during the fund pitch to donate. Revolution, he said, is “a beacon of light to those people who are in the darkness. This paper is really important to me and that’s why I support it.”
After the program, there was much discussion among the people around questions like conditions that immigrants face and whether there really is a possibility for revolution. There was also great eagerness to find new ways to raise money and to reach more people in the next three weeks to bring the newspaper expansion/fund drive to a successful conclusion.
Revolution #116, January 20, 2008
Hook Up With the Revolution
9 West 19th St. (btwn 5th and 6th Aves)
Tuesdays, Beginning January 15, 7 pm
Join us for a series of sweeping and incisive discussions based on the new series “MAKING REVOLUTION AND EMANCIPATING HUMANITY” by Revolutionary Communist Party, USA Chairman Bob Avakian. The discussions are open to those who’ve been engaging the works of Bob Avakian and those who are brand new—all are welcome! Together we’ll get into some of the most essential questions confronting people who want to see a different world.
January 15, Tuesday, 7 pm
What is freedom? What is power? And what is the relation between the two?
January 22, Tuesday, 7 pm
What is truth? What is science? Can you scientifically understand society? Does such an understanding mean that there is no role for “free will” and human ideals and actions?
January 29, Tuesday, 7 pm
What is wrong with religion—and how would/should a new society deal with religious belief and religious institutions? Does a god exist? And even if such a god does not exist, don’t people need a god in order to “be good” or to have hope and purpose?
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 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
January 24, Thursday, 7 pm
Revolution newspaper discussion
January 26, Saturday, 11 am
“Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity.” Discussion
January 27, Sunday, 2 pm
Elections: Not How Leaders Are Chosen, Not How Decisions Are Made and Not How You Can Make A Difference (But How You WON’T Make A Difference). Discussion with Larry Everest, Revolution correspondent and author of Oil, Power, & Empire.
1103 N. Ashland Avenue
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
2804 Mayfield Rd (at Coventry)
Cleveland Heights 216-932-2543
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
213 West 8th Street 312-488-1303
Every Sunday, 4:30 pm
Ongoing bilingual discussion series of the latest Revolution newspaper installment of “Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity,” a talk by Bob Avakian
Every Thursday, 7 pm
Bilingual discussion of the current issue of Revolution newspaper
January 18, Friday, 7:30 pm
Film: If These Walls Could Talk
1833 Nagle Place
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
(between Cass &2nd, south of Forest)
Every Sunday, call for dates & times
Ongoing Sunday afternoon discussions of “Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity,” a talk by Bob Avakian.
Every Week, call for dates & times
Discussion of the current issue of Revolution newspaper.
RBO Goes to the Movies each month
Monthly film showings at the bookstore or gatherings to see current films with discussion afterwards.
January 25, Friday, 7 pm
Film: Persepolis, at Detroit Film Theatre, first gathering of “RBO goes to the movies.”
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 #116, January 20, 2008
The Children and Family Justice Center of the Northwestern University School of Law, DePaul Students Against Torture, and Revolution Books present…
Northwestern University School of Law — Levy-Mayer Bldg, Room 117, Lowden Hall 357 E. Chicago Ave., Chicago, IL (downtown campus
Frank Summers, PhD., ABPP—supervising and training analyst at Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis, Associate Professor at Northwestern University Medical School, President of Psychoanalysts for Social Responsibility. “The American Psychology Association, the Military and the Involvement of Psychologists at Guantanamo Bay”
Larry Everest—Revolution correspondent and author of Oil, Power & Empire. “Why Would They Do That? Torture, New Legitimating Norms, and the Need for Another Way”
Patricia A. Bronte—Partner at Jenner & Block LLP in Chicago, has traveled to Guantanamo 10 times to meet with clients who are imprisoned there. “Guantanamo v. the Rule of Law”
Special welcome from Bernadine Dohrn
Revolution #116, January 20, 2008
From A World to Win News Service
January 7, 2008. A World to Win News Service. Following is a December 31, 2007 press release from Rajkishor, General Secretary of the Revolutionary Democratic Front of India. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
On December 19, the Kerala police, under the orders of the Ernakulum Police Commissioner, raided the room of Govindan Kutty, 65, the editor and publisher of People’s March—which is not a banned publication—and confiscated all his literature and computer hard disk. Govindan Kutty was arrested under the charges of spreading sedition and indulging in unlawful activities and was remanded in judicial custody by a lower court at Aluva in Kerala. He was implicated in a fabricated case under a number of clauses like section 134A and 163B of the Indian Penal Code and 13 of (1) b of Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and sent to Aluva prison.
The Left Democratic Front (LDF) government in the state, under the close instructions of UPA Government at the Centre, resorted to this crackdown on the popular revolutionary magazine. [Revolution editors’ note: The Left Democratic Front is the ruling coalition in the state of Kerala, including revisionists (phony “communists”) and others. The UPA is the United Progressive Alliance, the ruling coalition heading the Indian government, dominated by the Indian National Congress party.] Govindan Kutty, according to his lawyers, was harassed and psychologically tortured for a day in the name of interrogation before being sent to judicial custody. Ever since he was arrested he was on hunger strike protesting against the trampling down of his right to freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
He continues his protest within the four walls of the prison, demanding his unconditional release. His lawyer, who met him two days ago, said that his health condition was serious, given his age and chronic ailments he has been suffering. His life is under a serious threat.
The arrest of Govindan Kutty and the police crackdown on the office of the publication was an attack on the freedom of press.
As hundreds of thousands of people from all corners of the world know, the People’s March supports all revolutionary movements, including the Maoist movements in India, Nepal and elsewhere. It is a fully legal publication registered with the registrar of newspapers of the Government of India, with the RNI number KER ENG/2000/2051, and the postal registration number KL/EKM/614/2007-09. The magazine has been coming out for over seven years (since 1998), meeting all the legal requirements. The magazine has been freely available not only in bookstalls all over India, but also in prominent libraries in New Delhi and other major cities in India and abroad.
The People’s March publishes news reports and interviews with Maoists, both from India and abroad, like all other hundreds of magazines and newspapers in India. It is People’s March today which is under attack, tomorrow all other media will face the same threat if we don’t raise our voice against this attack on freedom of the press.
A year ago the website of People’s March was blocked by the Indian government without assigning any reasons. When its editors started publishing the online magazine through a blog on Googlepages, it was also blocked by Google in December 2007, under the pressure of the Indian government. [As of January 7, 2008, www.peoplesmarch.googlepages.com was working again.]
The arrest of the editor and the foisting of fake charges against him are nothing but an attempt of the government of India to further stifle freedom of speech in the country. The so-called largest democracy in the world with a gigantic army, paramilitary and police force feels threatened by a mere monthly magazine with a limited circulation of a few thousands in print. This action displays the fascist character of the Indian state and the cowardly action of the Kerala police.
The Revolutionary Democratic Front appeals to all democratic and revolutionary organizations and individuals to raise their voice against the arrest of the editor of People’s March, a popular independent revolutionary newspaper from India.
We demand the immediate and unconditional release of Govindan Kutty and that the government allow the continued publication of People’s March. We hold the government entirely responsible in the face of any damage to his health or threat to his life due to his hunger strike in jail.