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Revolution #117, January 27, 2008
With Bush so widely despised, and with the Republicans in seeming disarray, day in day out you hear the authoritative voices of the talking heads of TV saying, “Calm down and don’t worry, Bush is over and done with.” And a lot of people do assume there is no way the present course can continue, and attach a lot of hope and expectations to the promises of change coming from the Democratic candidates.
Never mind that, hidden in the fog of wall-to-wall election coverage, Bush again tried to provoke an incident with Iran and fabricated evidence that could justify a war. Never mind that the regime still has a full year to push through more repressive legislation—like the new cyber initiative being called for by the director of National Intelligence that will allow the government to examine the content of any e-mail, file transfer or Web search. Never mind that the laws legalizing torture and overturning habeas corpus sit there on the books, unchallenged. Never mind the Klan in Jena, the Minutemen on the border, the torturers in Guantánamo, and the anti-choice majority on the Supreme Court. It’s all gonna go away soon.
But passively counting down the days ’til Bush’s term ends is not going to bring change that’s any good, folks—and it’s not going to bring an end to all the things people find so intolerable about the Bush regime. Bush and Cheney still have their ruthless hands on the levers of power, and are working those levers. They are nailing what they already did into place, and planning yet more. And the direction they have set things in with seven years of Democratic Party complicity is not easily reversed.
And a lot of people on some level know that. This winter’s movies and songs leave a record of the bitterness that is palpable after seven years of the Bush regime. The recent revelation that the CIA destroyed evidence of torture—and the indications that this was ordered by the highest offices in the land—won’t go away, even as it rumbles around in the bowels of Congressional proceedings, “investigated” by some of the very people, including top Democrats, who okayed it. This explosive revelation, like others, has the potential to bring down the Bush/Cheney presidency for the commission of high crimes; but whether or not that happens depends in large part on whether public repudiation succeeds in rising to the level where torture can no longer go on being committed in our name.
World Can’t Wait’s call for a day of No Business as Usual on January 31 takes place in this context. It can and must give expression to the urgent need for mass protest and resistance and do this up against the only story now being allowed in the media—the election frenzy that will supposedly change everything. The 31st stands out on this stupefying terrain as a pole of clarification—building on World Can’t Wait’s call to drive out the Bush regime, it puts forward again the horrors and atrocities still being committed by “your government” and states clearly the people’s huge responsibility in this light. And it stands out as a pole of attraction—a way to draw forward and galvanize all those agonizing and who sense the future cannot be left to politics as usual. The articles in this issue and last on the January 11 actions to close Guantánamo, which included mass wearing of orange as well as other actions against the regime, show the potential especially coming from the youth to bust out of the framework of paralysis and acceptance.
But What About the Elections?
In this election season—the earliest ever—lies an acute awareness on the part of the people who rule this country that there is a reservoir of restlessness and deep discontent among the people. The early and endless elections are attempts to sidetrack and politically contain that discontent lest it well up and become galvanized into the kind of political outpouring that threatens their ability to carry on with the brutal business of empire.
No Democratic candidate deemed viable by the media opposes the fundamental assumptions of Bush’s “war on terror.” Saddled with a war that has become one of the worst debacles in U.S. history—there is no easy resolution if you are an imperialist who one way or another has to maintain supremacy in the Middle East as foundational to maintaining an unchallenged empire. Even if they are “on record” as having opposed it before it happened, none of these candidates are for ending the war and occupation now. None of the Democratic frontrunners responded to the National Intelligence Estimate report that stated Iran was not making nuclear weapons by taking the option of bombing Iran “off the table.” None of them responded to the most recent CIA torture revelations by demanding an immediate repeal of the Military Commissions Act, which legitimized and legalized torture and set up a system of kangaroo courts for detainees.
Edwards may promise to pull all the troops out of combat and leave no permanent bases in Iraq—but his plan sits on the premise of pulling back in Iraq, but not pulling out of the region. He proposes basing troops that can be deployed as a quick-strike force in Kuwait and attempting to get NATO to play a bigger role in the rest of the war and occupation. Obama, for his part, has already made quite clear he would be willing to invade Pakistan and is urging stepping up the war in Afghanistan. And insofar as the “war on terror” goes, Hillary Clinton is just Cheney in a pantsuit.
The comprehensive nature of what has been concentrated in the Bush agenda—and the lasting implications of it—is still very little understood. The Call of World Can’t Wait—Drive Out the Bush Regime describes this as a fascist direction: it is an agenda that is bound up with endless war and torture; with the gutting of habeas corpus and the right to trial; with attacks on dissent and critical thinking and a many-sided assault on science and evolution; with the assertion of religion into public policy and patriarchal control over women’s reproductive lives. All that is not easily reversed—and the political terms of the ’08 elections are manufacturing consensus and consent for a continuation of this, and NOT putting a stop to and reversing all of that. And it is no mystery why this is happening—it is because these politicians work within a system that rests on the exploitation of literally billions of people around the world and within the U.S. If they were to take up policies that posed an obstacle to that system they would either be blackballed or else made into “object lessons”—set up to lose in order to show people why they must accept the terms, and the premises, put forth from on high. By the time someone rises to the top of such a system, they almost instinctively see their interests in terms of what serves the defense and extension of the imperialist system. If they have youthful histories of activism of one sort or another—as Clinton and Obama claim—these just become “back stories” that let them show how realistic they’ve “grown” and that can also allow people who still hope for real change to deceive themselves as to what these candidates will actually do.
In short, these candidates do not have the same interests or want the same things that the vast majority of people who will vote for them want. And if they did, they either would not be allowed to run or would be given the “Simon Cowell” American Idol treatment—as the media did to Mike Gravel, who mainly seemed to campaign to expose the warmongering character of his own Democratic comrades, and soon got denied a platform.
It’s time to wake people up to grab hold of and remember what it is that they’ve been agonizing over and have found so intolerable these last seven years. It’s time to confront that the seemingly easier road of hoping that some politician will take care of the state of things for you is a dead end—that they will not do so in any way you want them to. It’s time for millions to act on what they almost certainly, on one level, know already—that what is seemingly safer is ineffective in making anything about the world safe from the kind of criminal mayhem now being committed in our name. There will be no change—at least change that is meaningful and positive for humanity—without taking courageous stands and engaging in mass political resistance. Real change comes from the mass initiative of ordinary people who accept the responsibility for taking the direction of history into their own hands.
Right now people in Iraq, in Iran, in Pakistan and all around the world are looking to the people of this country to see if the separation that people the world over have made since the 1960s—between the people and the U.S. government—is still valid. On January 11 people all over the world demanded that the U.S. shut down its torture center in Guantánamo. In the U.S. scores of people got arrested in protest, and high school students in several cities took initiative to politicize their fellow students. Teenagers and young revolutionaries embraced the polarization that resulted when other students tried to shout them down with chants of “USA! USA!” and openly supported torture. The vast majority of students did not know what waterboarding is or that it’s still being committed in secret prisons around the world; and when they found out, most were appalled. Hundreds of youth wore orange—and the actions of students who care about the world and its affairs lifted the lid off and opened up needed space for all those who care and want to be empowered to make history—to have a say in the kind of future they will have to live. And while the media in this country mainly censored news of the January 11 protests, people around the world heard about it.
This was a beginning. It must be taken further.
World Can’t Wait activists sometimes say, “It’s either up to those who rule or up to you—it’s time to choose!” This is true. And there are, to say it once again, high stakes. Continued paralysis and/or reliance on the Democrats will do nothing to halt the fascist direction of things, and the real and truly horrific crimes being committed—and justified, and established as the new normalcy—on the daily.
On the other hand, if the seeds of January 11 are nurtured quickly and if other people are reached, if a mass movement could begin to take shape—ranging in commitment from wearing orange every day, or institutions flying orange NO TORTURE banners, to acts daring to politically challenge “business as usual”—this could begin to change the dynamic in important ways. It could create more favorable conditions for further resistance to the crimes of this system. A visible outpouring could echo around the world, giving the lie in practice to the idea that the only choice is between U.S. imperialist rule and Islamic fundamentalism. And, from our communist standpoint, a major upsurge against the regime could create more favorable possibilities to repolarize society for revolution. January 31 can serve, if people throw their intelligence, imagination, and efforts into it, as an important step toward all that.
Revolution #117, January 27, 2008
MAKING REVOLUTION AND EMANCIPATING HUMANITY
PART 2: EVERYTHING WE’RE DOING IS ABOUT REVOLUTION (CONTINUED)
Editors’ Note: The following is the fifth 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.
Overcoming Obstacles and Limitations, “Mobilizing All Positive Factors”
There is something very important that can be learned from experience in relation to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and more particularly what we have summed up about the limitations and shortcomings of our Party in relation to that. I am referring not only to our limitations in terms of our organized strength and numbers, and so on, but also instances where initiative was not taken where it could have been, where people bowed to the difficulties of the situation, including the repressive force of the state, when there was a basis to go up against that, together with masses of people, and transform necessity through struggle. We should go back to our summation of that,1 study that deeply, and draw the lessons very fully, in order to be able to do better in the future, including on the many occasions in the future when major events will suddenly erupt, often seemingly “out of nowhere.”
Who predicted, or could have predicted, everything that happened with Hurricane Katrina? Now, of course, after a certain point, meteorologists predicted that there would be a major hurricane in that area at that time. But, ironically, the hurricane itself came and went—and many believed, for a moment, that the worst was over—and then the levees broke. Who predicted that? Well, once again, there was accident and causality. There were reasons why the levees broke, and it appears that there were some people in positions of authority who had good reasons to believe they might break. But who could have predicted, or did predict, everything that gave rise to? This emphasizes again the importance of not proceeding with a “determinist realism”2 in engaging reality and the possibility of radical change.
What could have been done by an organized communist vanguard in that situation was way more than what was done. Now, the effect of the vanguard acting fully in accordance with its responsibilities as a vanguard, and everything that might have come about as a result of that—what we sometimes refer to as the revolution/counter-revolution/more revolution dynamic—would have been tremendous, in the sense of being very intense. But if we think we’re going to get from here to there (from the present circumstances to one where the whole direction of society is “coming up for grabs”) without that kind of dynamic, repeatedly along the way—and then in a greatly magnified way when, finally, a revolutionary situation and a revolutionary people, in the millions, does emerge—then we are deluding ourselves and we should just forget about the whole thing—which, of course, we are not going to do.
So, again, I seriously suggest that we study this summation regarding the experience relating to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, from the perspective of learning to do better. Many things that are similar to that experience—particularly in the sense that they embody sudden eruptions of dramatic change—are going to present themselves from many different directions. In some cases, we will be able to see, somewhat in advance, at least the outlines of, or the possibility of, what is coming; while in some other situations, even that will not be possible until the tumultuous event is suddenly “right upon us.” This is a matter of fundamental orientation and is crucial in terms of our overall work and objectives, but also more specifically in enabling masses of people—uniting with and leading these masses—to undertake meaningful revolutionary activity even when there is not yet a revolutionary situation, in order to contribute to the revolutionary goal and to bringing about the advance—as far as possible, at any given point, and as fast as possible—toward the situation where there is a revolutionary people in the millions and the objective possibility of revolution poses itself in immediate terms.
Along with this, we need to be focusing on and applying the orientation of, as Mao put it, “mobilizing all positive factors.” All these contradictions among the people, for example, even when they mainly take a negative expression, are not just something negative—they also have a positive side, at least potentially—they have the potential to be transformed into something positive. Now, to be very clear, that doesn’t mean they are positive now and all you have to do is “accentuate the positive.” No, you have to wrench the positive out of what is now, principally and essentially, negative—you have to transform a bad thing into a good thing.
Again, a sharp example of this is the intensifying Black/Latino contradictions today. This is right now, in its principal and overwhelming aspect, a very negative thing, but there is potential for it to be transformed into something positive by our correctly “working through”—or, better said, struggling through—this contradiction, to bring to the fore what is positive within this situation, which is the unity of the fundamental interests of these masses of different nationalities, along with the reality that—even while, in immediate terms, it has a negative expression, in the main—there is a positive aspect, and a positive potential, in the fact that masses of people are being awakened to political life and are grappling with major social issues and events. The challenge is to bring the positive elements, which do reside in this, to the fore and to transform things by stressing, and winning growing numbers of people to see, their fundamental common interests. And this means enabling them to see that the ways in which things are affecting them—including the ways in which, right now, they are being influenced and impelled toward being in conflict with each other—all this is rooted in, and is part of the essential workings of, the capitalist-imperialist system. This is how we have to approach all the contradictions we face. There are potential, if not immediately expressed, positive factors in all these social contradictions we encounter; and we have to be good at identifying the positive factors and bringing them to the fore, so we can “eat up” the negative. At the same time, it is crucial to understand—and to enable growing numbers of the masses to understand—that, while real progress can be made in transforming these contradictions (in turning bad things into good things), in the context of resisting the many outrages and injustices of the system, this cannot be fully realized—the fundamental unity of the masses of people around their highest interests cannot be achieved in a qualitative sense, and in an ongoing and further developing way—until we do make a revolution, overturning the rule of capital and establishing the rule of the proletariat and masses of people. Here again, is another expression of the D-O-P principle.3 But the point—the dialectical materialist understanding of this—is that we can, and we must, bring forward powerful elements of the future—including the unity of masses of people in struggle, increasingly motivated and guided by a scientific, communist understanding of where their common and highest interests lie—as part of building, and in order to build, the revolutionary movement toward the goal of abolishing the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie and establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat.
This year, for example, the National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression, and the Criminalization of a Generation, on October 22nd,4 has importance both because this continues to constitute an important concentration of social contradictions and, as an additional element, because it is one important vehicle for transforming, in a positive direction, the contradictions among the people, including the Black/Latino contradictions, through emphasizing the common oppression they face and the common interests they have.
I have been following accounts, in the mainstream bourgeois media but also in Revolution, about what happened on May 1st in Los Angeles. Now, it is a fact that a lot of the Black masses had a backward attitude toward the immigrant rights demonstration on that day. And a lot of the immigrants were caught up in a very reformist and “assimilationist” orientation. But, in one sense, and even though this was a painful lesson, the bourgeoisie did the masses a favor by showing its true nature, with an unprovoked and brutal attack on this demonstration. These immigrant masses are, in large numbers, at this point, trying to be accepted, and even in many cases bending over backward to prove how respectable and hard-working they are—and the ruling class unleashed the dogs on them. And a lot of the immigrant masses, especially but not only those who were directly attacked in this way, began to understand a little bit more about what it is that they’re up against here, and that the operation of the system and the powers-that-be are not going to just let them become part of this set-up on some basis of dignity and equality. And a lot of the Black masses said, “Oh, I see, they don’t like these people either. That’s the kind of shit they do to us all the time.” Now all this is spontaneous, but it’s the raw material, if you will, from which we have to work, and can work, to recast and transform things in a still more positive way.
And, in an overall way, we also have to be continually grasping and applying an understanding of the dialectical relation—the potential “positive synergy”—between the “two maximizings,” that is, maximizing the development of a politicized atmosphere and a revolutionary movement, with a communist core, among the basic masses, and doing essentially the same thing among the middle strata. It is really only from the communist standpoint that you can see the potential for the positive dialectic here. A lot of different sections of the people, on their own and spontaneously—with their spontaneous viewpoint and the way in which that is largely influenced by the dominant ideas and media and other means of molding public opinion—don’t see how these different things can be, or can be transformed into, positive and favorable factors. They don’t spontaneously understand the significance of different things happening among different strata, how all this fits into an overall picture, and how this can be made to serve something positive, even while much of it is going in different directions.
In Bringing Forward Another Way,5 I talked about how we have to increasingly develop our ability to correctly handle the contradiction between, on the one hand, struggling with people to cast off their bourgeois-democratic illusions and, on the other hand, uniting with them in a lot of struggle in which people are largely proceeding from those bourgeois-democratic illusions. This is, in a sense, parallel to—or involves the same principles as—correctly handling the “two maximizings,” and getting a positive dialectic going in that kind of way, through a lot of struggle.
From our communist viewpoint and with our communist methods, and by applying this science, we can see how a lot of things that fall far short of where we need to go—and which may not seem, spontaneously, to be of any immediate benefit to different sections of the masses or to the overall revolutionary objective—actually can be mobilized and marshaled to be part of this whole process that goes toward where we need to go. And it is up to us to make that—the links between these different things, the ways in which they have important things in common and the roots they have in the same system—come alive for the basic masses but also for other sections of people.
This is another expression of “mobilizing all positive factors” but as it applies particularly to the interrelation between things more directly affecting different strata, how that all can be marshaled toward our strategic revolutionary objectives, and how the necessary positive dialectic (or “synergy”) can be fought for and brought forward in the course of, and as a crucial part of, building toward those objectives.
1. This was a statement by the Revolutionary Communist Party,USA—“On Hurricane Katrina: Three Fundamental Lessons”—which appeared in Revolution #14, September 18, 2005, which is online at revcom.us. Following is the text of that statement:
Three fundamental things to be learned from what has been happening, including the role of the government, in relation to hurricane Katrina:
1. The real nature of those who rule over the people, and real weaknesses of this ruling class, have been further revealed before the world. The “superstitious awe” that people are conditioned to have toward the powers-that-be and their state—their whole machinery of rule, and of repression—has been dramatically shaken through these events and in particular through the actions of the government itself. In the eyes of large numbers of people, the ability to rule as well as the right to rule of this current regime, and indeed of the ruling class as a whole, has been called into question in significant ways. Things which this ruling class attempts to keep hidden, to deny or to distort and misrepresent—including the oppression and the extreme poverty of large numbers of Black people in the U.S. itself—has burst through the “normal” web of deception and the iron hand of suppression. What does and does not matter to the powers-that-be—and in particular their complete lack of concern for the masses of poor and oppressed people, and indeed for the people in society in their great majority—has stood out for all to see, throughout the U.S. and all over the world. At the same time, it has been graphically illustrated that, even though they remain very powerful, the rulers of the U.S., and their armed forces and other machinery of oppression, are not all-powerful.
2. Not only the need but also the possibility of revolution, and of a radically different society, shows through in these events—once they are understood in their true light. Masses of people, in the areas most immediately affected, were being left by the government to suffer, day after day, in conditions not fit for human beings, yet they showed their humanity in many ways and put the lie to the slanders that portrayed them as criminals and animals. Where they took matters into their own hands, the great majority did so with right on their side, in the attempt to meet needs that could be met no other way. Overwhelmingly, the people trapped in these conditions have responded by supporting and helping each other, especially those in most desperate need, while expressing outrage at the indifference and inaction of the government; and in this they have been supported and assisted by people all over the country. In all this can be seen the potential for masses of people to be mobilized to bring into being a society in which relations among people are radically different than the daily dog-eat-dog that this capitalist system pushes people into. Yet what has also stood out very clearly is that the masses of people are not fully aware of and organized on the basis of an understanding of how the whole operation of this system is in direct and deep-going conflict with their real and fundamental interests. When they gain that understanding, and are organized to act on that basis, then a revolutionary struggle of millions and millions of people, combined with the development and sharpening of certain objective conditions, could make it possible to break the hold of the class of cold-blooded capitalist exploiters who rule over this society (and much of the world) and to bring into being a new society and a new state which would put the interests of the great majority of the people at the foundation and at the center of everything it stands for and everything it does. But for this to happen, the masses must have revolutionary leadership. And that points to a third and final crucial point.
3. There is such a revolutionary leadership—the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, and its Chairman Bob Avakian. But to put things squarely and honestly, while the Party has been exerting real efforts to take up its responsibility in relation to the events surrounding hurricane Katrina, the ability of the Party to actually lead in these dire and urgent circumstances has been far short of what it needs to be. If the influence of the Party and its organized ties with masses of people had been much greater, leading into these events surrounding hurricane Katrina, the Party would be able to play a far greater role in raising the understanding of the masses of people as to what was happening and why: why the government and the whole ruling class reacted the way they have—with the loss of thousands of lives, and terrible suffering for hundreds of thousands more, much of which could have been prevented or significantly lessened—and what this says about the nature of their system and why we need a radically different system. The Party could have been playing a far greater role in enabling masses of people, in the areas immediately affected and throughout the country, to be organized to respond to these events and to wage organized political struggle, on a much higher level and in a much more powerful way, to force steps to be taken immediately to save hundreds and probably thousands of lives that have been, and are still being, needlessly lost. And all this could be having the effect of raising the consciousness and the organized strength of masses of people to a far higher level, with the necessary goal of revolution more clearly and sharply in view. These events surrounding hurricane Katrina and all that has been forced into the light of day in connection with this, has shown the great need for the Party to rise to its responsibilities and play its leadership role in this way, on a whole other level, and for masses of people to rally to, to support, to join and build, and to defend—this necessary and crucial revolutionary leadership, as embodied in the Revolutionary Communist Party and its Chairman Bob Avakian.[back]
2. “Determinist realism” is spoken to in the first installment of this series, “Enriched What Is To Be Done-ism,” in Revolution #113, December 23, 2007. It also appears in “Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity, Part 1: Beyond the Narrow Horizon Of Bourgeois Right”—available at revcom.us—and, in the serialization of Part 1, is found in “Marxism as a Science—In Opposition to Mechanical Materialism, Idealism and Religiosity,” in Revolution #109, November 18, 2007.[back]
3. D-O-P refers to an earlier part of this talk where emphasis is given to how the continuous outrages people suffer, and the way social contradictions are repeatedly posed, in the present society point powerfully to the need for revolution and a radically different society and state: the dictatorship of the proletariat.[back]
5. Bringing Forward Another Way is a talk given by Bob Avakian in the fall of 2006. An edited version of this talk is available at revcom.us, and this was serialized in Revolution in #83, March 25; #85, April 22; #86, April 29; #87, May 6; #88, May 13; #89, May 20; #90, May 27; #91, June 10; #92, June 17; #93, June 24; #94, July 1; #95, July 15; #96, July 22; #97, July 29, #98, Aug. 19; #99, Aug. 26; and #100, Sept. 9, 2007.[back]
This series will continue in the next issue of Revolution.
Revolution #117, January 27, 2008
“But I think, when I think about great presidents, I think about those who transform how we think about ourselves as a country in fundamental ways… And, you know, there are circumstances in which, I would argue, Ronald Reagan was a very successful president, even though I did not agree with him on many issues, partly because at the end of his presidency, people, I think, said, ‘You know what? We can regain our greatness. Individual responsibility and personal responsibility are important.’ And they transformed the culture and not simply promoted one or two particular issues.”
“Regain our greatness”? How about we just bring a little bit of the fucking real into the discussion, okay?
Reagan promoted outright racism and “USA Number One” chauvinism. He began his 1980 election campaign with an appearance in Philadelphia, Mississippi where he praised “states’ rights.” And Philadelphia, Mississippi, you see, was where a mob of KKK murdered three civil rights workers—James Chaney, Michael Schwerner, and Andrew Goodman—in 1964. “States’ rights” was the code word used by Klansmen and their more polite supporters to justify the lynchings, the murders, and all the rest of the terror they used against people fighting against segregation. And Reagan matched this with the so-called war on drugs that resulted in massive imprisonment of Black and Latino youth…all while he at minimum turned a blind eye to the dope that was pumped into the ghetto during the 1980s, some by CIA operatives and “assets.”
Reagan was also famous for threatening nuclear war—including with his infamous joke: “My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.” In actual policy, he not only rattled horrific nuclear weapons. He armed brutes and thugs to carry out terror from Nicaragua to Afghanistan, from El Salvador and Guatemala to Angola and Mozambique, and scores of places beyond. And in most of those places, the death toll ran not into the thousands, not into the tens of thousands, but into the hundreds of thousands of human beings that somehow got in the way of American empire…oops, I mean American greatness. He fostered the war between Iraq and Iran that took the lives of a million people. And, oh yeah, he also backed to the hilt the apartheid government of South Africa and the racist state of Israel—when both were dealing with serious internal rebellions of their oppressed by the most brutal means imaginable.
And these are just a few of his crimes. You could fill a hundred books with what he did to women, to workers, to gay people (including his vicious policies on AIDS)…with the way he brought Christian fascists like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson into prominence…well, the list goes on. And yes, he did promote the idea that not only is there nothing wrong with the merciless dog-eat-dog ethos of America, it’s actually the only way to go—that’s what Obama means by the code words of “individual and social responsibility.”
“How We Think About Ourselves as a Country”
But here’s where Obama lets out a little bit of truth: that Reagan “transformed how we think about ourselves as a country.” You see, up to then you had people a little bit beginning to come to grips with the reality of America and, for once, not the storybook bullshit. So, yeah, Reagan’s great “talent,” as Obama lets on, was that he got people to think about all these crimes in different ways, especially after the ’60s generation had begun to bring out the undeniable truth about so-called “American greatness.” Reagan came out there with this shit-eating grin and salesman’s chuckle, and all the while he mobilized a fascist social base ready to bully anybody, and he narcotized those in the middle, and he effectively silenced and marginalized those who stood for anything decent.
Barack Obama is telling you what he thinks is great. Barack Obama is telling you how he plans to operate—to do a job of convincing people that the ugly shit that America does, all the torture and murder and arrogance that it carries out and that stinks in the nostrils of people all over the world, really smells like roses. Even as people in this country barely begin to come to grips with Abu Ghraib, and Fallujah, and all the rest, he wants to “transform how we think about ourselves as a country in fundamental ways.” And he wants to do it like Reagan did.
Now it’s up to you—do you want to convince yourself that he doesn’t mean it? Do you want to go along with the idea that thinking about something differently changes its character?
Or will you stare the truth in its face, repudiate any desire for any more so-called “American greatness,” and transform how you think and act on that basis?
Revolution #117, January 27, 2008
Mike Huckabee, running for the Republican nomination, is a new kind of “friendly” and likeable Christian fundamentalist—or so goes the storyline in the media. You know, like he plays rock guitar and jokes with Jay Leno.
Last week this friendly fundamentalist said, “I believe it’s a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living God. And that’s what we need to do is amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards rather than trying to change God’s standards so it lines up with some contemporary view of how we treat each other and how we treat the family.” In plain English, make the Constitution conform to Mike Huckabee’s religion.
And then there’s Huckabee in regards to the rights of Black people. With no provocation whatsoever, Huckabee spoke up in favor of those wanting to raise the Confederate flag over the South Carolina statehouse. Yes, the banner of those who fought for the enslavement of Black people. What’s more, he said if someone tries to tell you not to do this, you should tell them to stick the flagpole up their ass.
What does it tell you when an open theocrat uses ugly violent imagery to support racism—and is puffed up in the media as a new-style, likeable religious candidate?
It tells you that Christian fascism is alive and very well.
Revolution #117, January 27, 2008
As we go to press, small but determined groups of people from New Orleans, Houston, Atlanta, Baton Rouge, and as far away as Chicago and Los Angeles are traveling to Jena, Louisiana—heeding the call put out by the January 21st Committee to: Oppose the Lynch Mob Racists! No to Nooses! Free the Jena Six! We Want a Better World!
In response to the powerful September 20 protest last year in Jena, when tens of thousands came to support the Jena 6, a white supremacist organization called the “Nationalist Movement” announced plans to march in Jena on January 21, Martin Luther King Day, in 2008. They told people to bring signs calling for jailing the Jena 6, abolishing the Martin Luther King holiday, and “down with communism.” They openly encouraged people to DISPLAY NOOSES!! On January 16, they announced plans to march armed—and were later forced to back off of this blatant threat to openly terrorize Black people and anyone who opposes white supremacy.
The Call to “Get to Jena” and “politically oppose and drown out” the hateful, racist message of these kkkluckers quickly got nationwide support and a growing list of endorsers that included: 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. (Go to januaryinjena.blogspot.com to read the Call, the full list of signatories, press coverage, leaflets, posters, and more.)
The January 21st Committee reported receiving e-mails every day from people all over the country, some who were making plans to come to Jena and others who called to say they could not come but wanted to know how they could contribute to sending a message out to the world that these kkkluckers will NOT be tolerated.
At one of the press conferences held by January 21st Committee, the Reverend Raymond Brown, with Louisiana’s National Action Network, said “to come here and spread that type of venom is terrible.” An article in The Town Talk reported that Rev. Brown said the numbers aren’t what is important, what is important is that the message is showing support for the Jena 6, and the people of Jena who are sick and tired of racial hatred in this state.
Revolution newspaper will have coverage of what happens in Jena on Martin Luther King Day, and readers can also go to revcom.us for reports from that day.
The January 21st Committee can be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com and by phone:
Revolution #117, January 27, 2008
Over the past 14 years, NAFTA has made Mexico more “free” for U.S. imperialist exploitation of the people and resources of Mexico. On January 1, 2008 the last and most vicious provision of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) took effect. This provision will remove all market protections in Mexico from basic food staples (corn, beans, sugar, and milk). This provision will flood Mexico with cheaply produced and highly subsidized food that will enable giant U.S. agribusiness companies to wipe out or further crush the remaining Mexican small farmers who produce corn, beans, sugar, and powdered milk.
This will result in millions of Mexican farmers losing their livelihoods, and beyond that, the spread of hunger within Mexico. Said a 74-year-old corn farmer upon hearing the news of what was to come: “What will happen to us? They are going to grind us up. We are going to be totally fucked by the gringos.” One thing is certain: even more millions of Mexican farmers will be driven into desperation.
In protest against this law, at midnight on January 1, campesino (small farmer) organizations shut down the port of entry between Juarez, Mexico and El Paso, Texas for thirty-six hours. Oaxacan artists began painting a mural repudiating the NAFTA treaty on the section of the hated metal “wall of death” that separates Tijuana from San Diego County. A U.S. flag with the names of U.S. corporations that control the Mexican economy in place of stars was burned at the U.S. embassy.
The End of the “Cold War” and the Intensification of Plunder
The rise of U.S. imperialism is inseparable from the oppression and exploitation of Mexico. One third of Mexico’s territory was seized by the United States in the annexation of Texas in 1845 and in the Mexican-American War (1846-1848). The stealing of this vast stretch of Mexico expanded and strengthened the slave system and U.S. capitalism overall.
The agriculture and manufacturing that developed in Mexico served U.S. imperialism. Mexico’s oil was sold at discount to imperialist-controlled manufacturers or exported to the U.S. and other countries. Mexico’s network of railroads ran north and south, designed, as one historian wrote, “to take products out of the country…from Mexico to the U.S. and back—rather than serving as a transportation system within Mexico.” This setup was enforced by U.S. military threats and aggression. For example, when the Mexican government increased taxes on exported oil in 1921, the U.S. Navy staged a “show of force” provocation at the Mexican port of Tampico.
The end of the “cold war,” and the collapse of the rival Soviet social-imperialist (phony socialist) bloc, enabled the U.S. to focus more on the exploitation of Asia and Latin America in general, and Mexico in particular. NAFTA was imposed on Mexico by U.S. imperialism in 1994 to tear up existing laws and government programs that provided some protection to small-scale Mexican agriculture but had come to pose obstacles to the expansion of U.S. capital into Mexico.
NAFTA’s Disastrous Results
The results of NAFTA have made things even worse for the people of Mexico. From 1994-2004 (according to World Bank figures), 6 million campesinos, or one-quarter of the rural population, was ruined and had to leave the countryside to try to survive. In Mexico, only one third of new job seekers entering the employment market will find a job. Emigration increased exponentially and has reached the level of 600,000 people per year who risk their lives to cross the border into the U.S. Every year more people die. Last year, 562 people died in the desert, or in other ways, crossing the border.
As Mexican President Felipe Calderón dined with foreign dignitaries on traditional Mexican country delicacies like pumpkin-flower soup, he trumpeted the “benefits” of NAFTA. Despite what he called “inconveniences,” the U.S. and Canada now buy five times more from Mexican agribusiness than they bought in 1994.
NAFTA intensified the competitive disadvantages facing Mexican farmers. It mandated that the Mexican government drastically cut farm subsidies to small farmers, while U.S. producers receive the equivalent of $10 billion in subsidies per year. And, on top of all this, the Mexican government pays subsidies to U.S. agribusiness giant Cargill for the transportation and distribution of corn.
In addition to ruining farmers, these changes have imposed more hunger on the Mexican people. Since NAFTA went into effect, Mexico has had to import the majority of its food. Speculation in corn prices has led to a rise in tortilla prices of 730%. In a concentrated expression of the oppressor/oppressed relationship between the U.S. and Mexico, the amount spent on food imports by Mexicans since NAFTA went into effect is about the same amount as what is sent back to Mexico as remittances by former campesinos who have been forced to the U.S. to be superexploited as undocumented immigrants ($100 billion).
While the radical transformations of Mexican agriculture have injected profit into U.S. imperialism and its Mexican junior partners, they have been a disaster for the people. And the new rules that went into effect at the beginning of 2008 will be worse. According to the National Association of Rural Producers (Asociación Nacional de Empresas Comercializadoras del Campo), the imports of corn and beans without any restrictions will cause “an economic and social catastrophe for the majority of producers, insecurity in the food supply, and vulnerability for the security and governability” of the country.
The Way Out
Prior to NAFTA, Mexican peasants were exploited by the Mexican state as well as in more traditional semi-feudal forms. Life was already intolerable. Over the last 14 years, NAFTA has made this worse. People are being driven off the land, and those remaining are suffering more.
In southern Mexico, especially in the states of Chiapas, Oaxaca and Guerrero where many grow corn, 70% of the people live in extreme poverty. If there are schools, they may be free, but people cannot afford the books and uniforms. If there is running water and electricity, it can cost up to half a month's earnings. A young woman in Salto de Agua, Chiapas, near the major city of San Cristóbal, described her life: “Unless I was ill, I would be working. I got up at 3 a.m. to make tortillas and left the house at 6 to work on the plot until 3-4 p.m. When I returned home I washed and continued with my work grinding [corn] and preparing tortillas—there is no rest.”
The way out of this misery in oppressed nations like Mexico lies neither through imperialist globalization nor a return to the past with its other forms of semi-feudal oppression. The way out is New-Democratic Revolution. The New-Democratic Revolution represents the interests of all who can be united to overthrow the bureaucrat-capitalist class and state system dependent on imperialism, as well as overthrowing semi-feudal relations in the countryside.
The New-Democratic Revolution is the hope of Mexico’s hopeless peasants and the vast majority of people in that oppressed nation. And it is the first stage of a socialist revolution aimed ultimately at the worldwide overthrow of capitalism-imperialism.
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 #117, January 27, 2008
From A World to Win News Service
January 14, 2008. A World to Win News Service.
December 6 is Student Day in Iran. This is a day when the students’ struggle often takes on a momentum that can continue up to the end of the academic year and beyond. This academic year in Iran has also been one of high tension between Iranian students and the Islamic regime.
In early December, the regime’s Ministry of Information arrested between 30-50 women and men leftist students who were preparing to commemorate Student Day in Tehran and other cities, including Ahvaz and Mazendaran. While the authorities have released no information concerning the whereabouts of those arrested, it is believed that they are being held in Section 209 of Evin Prison (built for political prisoners during the Shah’s rule and still in use by the Islamic regime). This section is notorious for horrific conditions and torture.
Despite the harsh warning these arrests were intended to deliver, a reign of terror by the security forces and other threats and obstacles from the authorities, thousands of students at Tehran University and others all over Iran (such as Alammeh University in Tehran, Isfahan University, Ahvaz University, BuAli University in Hamadan and many others) held events commemorating Student Day marked by anti-government slogans. At Tehran University, students gathered in front of the Engineering Faculty. A message from “student seekers of equality and freedom lovers” was read. Then speakers discussed the situation of the student movement and the suppression it faces. All demanded the immediate release of the imprisoned students.
During these demonstrations, students expressed their opposition to foreign intervention and war and their support for the workers’ and women’s movements, demanded the release of their arrested comrades from these movements, and called for a boycott of the upcoming parliamentary elections. Many women students covered their faces, not as a sign of piety but as a sarcastic form of protest because it would make them harder to identify. One woman covered herself entirely with a burqa, which is not commonly seen in Iran.
In order to hide what was going on at the university that day, the regime surrounded the campus on all sides with two-story-high buses.
As news of the torture of the arrested students continues to filter out of the prison, students and other revolutionary masses in Iran and outside the country have been intensifying their protests against this criminal act by the Iranian regime.
European Campaign in Support of the Iranian Students
An international day of action in support of the Iran student movement took place on December 22. It was organized by the Collective of Iranian Students and Youth Living in Europe, the Left Socialist Party of Belgium and that party’s youth organization, and supported by other groups and personalities in Belgium, elsewhere in Europe, Canada and the U.S. In addition to the central action in Brussels, demonstrations occurred in Germany, Denmark, the UK and elsewhere, some in coordination with the Brussels event.
In Brussels, about 140 people protested in front of the U.S. embassy, condemning American intentions to attack Iran and its aggression throughout the region. They shouted “U.S. go home” as well as “Down with the Islamic Republic of Iran.” A photo exhibition gave passers-by a glimpse of the Iranian student movement. Then the protesters moved on to the embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran. People of different nationalities, including Nepalese, Chileans and ex-Yugoslavians as well as Iranians and people from Belgium, took part in both demonstrations, adding an international spirit.
A resolution passed by the demonstrators drew a clear demarcation line with the imperialists and against any imperialist intervention in Iran, and demanded the immediate and unconditional release of all the imprisoned students.
The Role of the Student Movement in Iran
The Iranian student movement—both in the country and abroad—has played an important role in the Iranian people’s struggle over the last five or six decades.
On December 6, 1953, a few months after the CIA-sponsored coup that overthrew the nationalist government of Mohammad Mossadeq and brought the Shah (king) to power, Richard Nixon, then the U.S. vice president, was met with vigorous student protests when he came to Iran. Three students were killed in an attack on that demonstration by the Shah’s security forces. Every year during the Shah’s regime, protests marked this date as a symbol of both the student struggle and opposition to foreign intervention.
Many older revolutionaries in Europe, the U.S., Turkey, India and other countries can remember how in the sixties and seventies, Iranian student activists, mainly belonging to the Confederation of Iranian Students, celebrated December 6 by holding demonstrations and other activities, including the occupation of Iranian embassies and other Iranian institutions, often in a battle with police. These activities exposed the crimes of the Shah and his imperialist backers on a world scale. They also built contacts and cooperation with other revolutionary forces in other countries and trained thousands of committed revolutionaries and communists for the revolutionary movement in Iran. Many later became activists and leaders of the communist and leftist organizations and a great number of them gave their lives for the revolutionary movement in Iran and world.
The Islamic regime that replaced the Shah after the revolution was aware of the power and role of the student movement, and did everything it could to suppress it and wipe December 6 from the memories of the students and the people.
But after the brutal suppression of the revolution and the temporary ebb of the student movement, a new generation of youth began to emerge. Leftist ideas also began to regain force among them. December 6 once again took its rightful place within the revolutionary student movement.
The re-emergence of the student movement has horrified the Islamic regime of Iran, which fears a new generation of communists. That is the main reason they are going after this movement. But the student movement has shown its potential to withstand such attacks in the past. Many Iranian masses support and dearly love the student movement for the role it played in the revolutionary movement and because they see the students and their movement as their children and as the future of the country.
Now that foreign intervention and even a U.S.-led war are threatening Iran, the Islamic regime is trying to suppress the people’s struggles in the name of smashing a conspiracy by the country’s enemies. Minister of Information Mohseni Ezheiy officially accused student and women activists of involvement in this conspiracy.
Unfortunately this position has been shared in one way or another by some leftist trends in the West that call on the Iranian masses, including students and women, to put a stop to their struggles against the regime. But the only path to liberation is to continue to fight this reactionary regime while also opposing any foreign intervention or aggression.
A World to Win News Service is put out by A World to Win magazine (awtw.org), a political and theoretical review inspired by the formation of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, the embryonic center of the world’s Marxist-Leninist-Maoist parties and organizations.
Revolution #117, January 27, 2008
European Demo Supports Iranian Student Protesters:
The December 22, 2007 demonstration in Brussels, Belgium to demand the release of the arrested students in Iran was called by an organizing committee that put out a statement titled: “No to Military Intervention of U.S. Imperialism in Iran! No to the Reactionary Islamic Republic of Iran!”
The committee stated, in part (complete statement is available at committe2007.blogfa.com):
“We have a voice!
“We are an echo of struggle of the people of the world against the politics of invasion and military intervention of U.S. imperialism in Iran!
“We are the voice of the Iranian people against the Islamic Republic of Iran!
“We are the voice of workers, women, teachers, students, and oppressed nations against foreign intervention and internal tyranny!
“...At the moment, Bush and his European allies as well as the Islamic Republic of Iran, are trying to convince people that our only choice is between neo-liberal slavery and Islamic fundamentalism. It is up to those who believe in freedom to create and fortify a new path, a new way of thinking. Imperialists and Islamic fundamentalists are two faces of the same system and any support given to one, will in reality and inevitably lead to strengthening the other.”
A message of solidarity to the December 22 protest was sent by Sunsara Taylor, a writer for Revolution newspaper. The message said in part:
“As the U.S. threatens to expand their aggression into Iran—a move that could enflame the whole Middle East and massively escalate the deadly global dynamic of McWorld vs. Jihad—the protests by Iranian students and others on December 22 stand out as all the more critical. With the future at stake, the world is hungry for a new voice and new songs to animate a struggle to bring a whole new, emancipated world into being.
“Having been on dozens of campuses across this country, building resistance to the crimes against humanity of the Bush regime and spreading revolution, I have seen and tasted how deeply a new generation in the U.S. is disgusted, disturbed, and enraged by what is being done in their names. But I also know how deeply this is paralyzed by the way it appears that the only choices out there are McWorld or Jihad. How big a difference it will make for them to see and hear you, as part of a new voice emerging.
“How big a responsibility those of us living in the U.S. have to bring forward resistance to ‘our own’ government—mass political resistance that is so powerful it cannot be hidden from the victims of the U.S.’s wars, who are justifiably seething with hatred for all this brings down on them…”
And Sunsara pointed to the crucial role of youth:
“As the cries of the imperialists and the reactionary fundamentalists escalate towards a confrontation in Iran, do not underestimate how hungry humanity is for another way. Play the role that youth have always played—get way out front, build uncompromising mass political resistance to any moves towards U.S. war on Iran and to the repression carried out by the Islamic Republic of Iran, refuse to be confined by the limitations of what now exists, reject everything that is reactionary, challenge the passivity of others, and dare to struggle and sacrifice in the service of dreams big and liberating enough to offer real hope for humanity. Do it with urgency, do it with determination, and do it with tremendous joy—for there is nothing that could matter more.”
Revolution #117, January 27, 2008
The U.S. is holding 630 prisoners—more than twice the number being held at Guantánamo—at the Bagram Air Force Base, north of Kabul in Afghanistan. The prisoners are crammed into wire cages, forced to sleep on the floor on foam mats and, until about a year ago, to use plastic buckets for latrines. Some have been detained for up to five years. They have never been charged with crimes. They have no access to lawyers. They are barred from even hearing the allegations against them.
The U.S. refuses to make public the names of the prisoners at Bagram. The prison may not be photographed, even from a distance. The little information that has surfaced comes mainly from Bagram prisoners who eventually ended up at Guantánamo and had at least some access to lawyers. A recent New York Times article (“Foiling U.S. Plan, Prison Expands in Afghanistan,” 1/7/2008) revealed that last summer the International Committee of the Red Cross filed a confidential complaint with the U.S. government about Bagram, charging that prisoners were being held incommunicado for weeks or even months in a previously undisclosed area of isolation cells and subjected to cruel treatment in violation of the Geneva Conventions.
“I Could Not Stop Screaming”
The British newspaper Guardian (2/18/2005) reported that one Bagram prisoner, a Palestinian named Mustafa, was blindfolded, handcuffed, gagged, and forced to bend down over a table by three American soldiers. He said, “They forcibly rammed a stick up my rectum… I could not stop screaming when this happened.” In another case reported by the Guardian, a Jordanian prisoner, Wesam Abdulrahman Ahmed Al Deemawi, said that during a 40-day period at Bagram he was threatened with dogs, stripped and photographed “in shameful and obscene positions” and placed in a cage with a hook and a hanging rope. He says he was hung from this hook, blindfolded, for two days.
Both men were freed from U.S. detention last year after being held at Bagram and Guantánamo. Neither has been charged with anything by any government.
Dilawar, a 22-year-old Afghan taxi driver and farmer, was killed by U.S. torturers at Bagram in December 2002. He had been beaten and chained by his wrists for four days. After his last torture session, Dilawar was chained back to the ceiling. Several hours passed before a doctor saw him—by which time he was dead and already beginning to stiffen.
“Are They Going to Vanish Forever?”
“The Americans are detaining people without any legal procedure. Prisoners do not have the opportunity to demonstrate their innocence.”
An official of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission
The U.S. has been working on a plan to transfer prisoners out of Bagram to a new prison run by the Afghan military. According to the New York Times, Bush administration officials wanted the Karzai government in Kabul—a puppet regime created by the U.S. after the 2001 invasion—to agree to hold the prisoners as “enemy combatants” and to adopt “a legal framework like that of Guantánamo.” In other words, the prisoners could be held indefinitely, without charges and any real trials. But apparently, even Karzai did not want to be seen carrying out such blatantly unjust treatment of prisoners that violates international laws, and he reportedly refused to sign a decree, written under U.S. direction, that authorized such treatment.
The number of detainees at Bagram rose from about 100 at the start of 2004 to over 600 in 2007, according to U.S. military figures. As part of their strategy in Afghanistan, the U.S. and allied troops carry out indiscriminate mass round-ups and keep people caught up in such sweeps in captivity for long periods of time. Many Afghans are also rounded up, without further verification or investigation, off of anonymous “tips” provided to U.S. authorities based on personal or tribal grudges.
Clive Stafford Smith, a human rights lawyer, represents 40 detainees at Guantánamo, many of whom were transferred from Bagram. He told Democracy Now!, “The people who have been most mistreated in Guantánamo were mistreated elsewhere, and then the administration took a very small number of them to Guantánamo, but the vast majority of them are either in Bagram or in these secret prisons around the world… What I’m afraid is the truth is that the most shocking abuses have yet to come to light, that these people are in Bagram and have yet to talk to anybody, and what the administration is doing is hiding these ghastly secrets. Now, the question is: What are they going to do about that? What are they going to do when it becomes necessary at some point for these prisoners to be given lawyers? There’s a lot of horror stories, and the administration is just not going to want those horror stories to come out. So where are these prisoners going to be sent? Are they going to vanish forever?”
Revolution #117, January 27, 2008
Anti-Torture Actions at S.F. Leadership High
In preparation for the January 11 demonstration to oppose the Bush regime’s policy of torture and to demand the shutdown of Guantánamo, high school students in the Bay Area organized to wear orange and attend the march in San Francisco.
They brought Larry Everest, author of Oil, Power and Empire and writer for Revolution, to Leadership High School (LHS), a largely proletarian charter school in San Francisco, to speak to the issue of torture, Guantánamo Bay, and the urgent need for political action. We’ve been distributing the paper and having discussions at the school over all kinds of issues from torture and the Jena 6 to the need for revolution and communism, struggling to be fiercely scientific in all we do. Four classes signed on to the event.
For some of the students this was the first time hearing about the Guantánamo Bay prison camp, torture and the war crimes that the Bush administration is guilty of. Larry Everest started out the presentation with a simple question: “Do you think American lives are more valuable than the lives of people around the world?” He called for a few volunteers. One by one the volunteers were “detained” and put in jumpsuits with hoods over their heads. They had to hold their hands and feet together—like they were shackled. Then Larry talked about what it would be like to be held with your feet shackled to the wall so you couldn’t sleep, or with loud music being played, or being beaten and abused by guards. Then Larry had one of the “detainees” lie on a table and describe what it was like to be waterboarded.
The students took off their hoods and described how they felt. One student said she felt like shit. One needed a hug from a friend. The last student said, “I feel sorry for those people. And part of that is because I didn’t know about it… which makes me a little bit guilty because of that. And I wish I could do something about it.” We told them about wearing orange, and the protest on January 11, and how it’s on us to change things—we can’t wait for the government to do it, since they’re the ones who started all this.
Towards the end of the presentation people talked about ideas they had about taking on torture. Almost all the students in the room got orange ribbons and armbands and copies of Revolution.
Following this presentation, debate raged at the school. One teacher asked, “What if there were 100 people in Guantánamo and 98 of them were guilty, would it make it alright to torture the two innocent as well?” A student responded with information from an ACLU fact sheet on Guantánamo, pointing out that out of the over 700 prisoners, none have been put on trial.
On January 11, 50 out of the 200 students attending LHS wore orange—orange sweatshirts, orange shoes, orange ribbons, etc. As more students became involved, the administration became more repressive. Some students were told that they had to remove their orange bandanas or the bandanas would be taken away. They were told that they look like “gangsters.” Students refused to remove their orange, and instead more and more people started wearing orange. The back page poster from Revolution—saying “Stop Torture” and calling on people to wear orange and demonstrate on January 11—was posted on lockers all around the school. After school, a number of students from LHS joined about 200 anti-torture demonstrators marching down Market Street.
The following week, a letter from the principal was sent out to the families of students who attended the presentation, stating: “We know that the information presented was not balanced with alternative view points. Additionally, the speaker used the opportunity to voice extreme personal views on the nation’s political climate and administration…” Students were outraged by the letter, and at the school administration for trying to justify torture.One student responded, “There is no good side to torture. It is wrong no matter how you look at it.”
A letter from a World Can’t Wait organizer to the teachers stated: “Debate and argumentation are good ways of getting at the truth. But ultimately what we are after is not simply ‘balance,’ but truth… Larry described what it would be like to be taken away from your family by people who don’t speak your language, who don’t allow you a lawyer, who don’t tell you what you’re being charged with, who torture you, etc. This is not propaganda. This is reality… George Bush doesn’t even deny that this is happening... what he does is he tries to justify it and legalize it. Before this presentation very few…knew that our government was practicing torture…”
Students are working on a petition that upholds the message of the presentation: that torture is unjust and immoral, that Guantánamo must be shut down and the Bush regime must be driven out because of these crimes. And students are organizing to wear orange and displaying it everywhere.
These students must be supported, and the school cannot be allowed to isolate these youth in an attempt to demoralize them in the context of building for World Can’t Wait’s call for mass resistance on January 31.
Revolution #117, January 27, 2008
We received the following correspondence.
Friday, January 11 marked the sixth anniversary of the opening of the Guantánamo Bay torture center, located on the island of Cuba and operated by the U.S. Through a variety of local actions, people around the U.S. and in many countries around the world demanded: “Stop Torture—Shut Down Guantánamo!” At UCLA, a group of us carried out the first waterboarding simulation ever done on that campus. Three students from Cal Arts with acting abilities volunteered to help play the parts of the interrogators and a detainee. The interrogators snatched the detainee from the crowd, hooded him, and forced him to wear an orange jumpsuit. Then they carried out a controlled version of this brutal torture technique.
Students noticed numerous orange ribbons all over Bruin Walk that morning and caught on that this was the color of resistance to torture and other crimes of the Bush regime. Several orange banners reading “Stop Torture”—with a rendering of the Guantánamo detainee image by the British graffiti artist Banksy—hung from campus buildings.
We sell the Revolution newspaper and orange bandanas regularly on that campus, but never have students stopped and turned their heads to this degree. The demonstration, which was taped by a professional videographer, further revealed the basis to get many more people wearing orange and spreading resistance. (The video is on YouTube.com—search for “UCLA” and “waterboarding.”) A gay ex-Air Force officer who saw the flyers on campus the day before was in tears and full of anger at the horrors he knows the U.S. government is carrying out. He told us, “Guantánamo? It’s a concentration camp.”
Revolution #117, January 27, 2008
Arlington West at California Beaches:
Visitors from around the country, and around the world, who visit Santa Barbara and Santa Monica Beaches in Southern California on weekends are confronted with an expansive anti-war installation put together by Veterans for Peace. “Arlington West” takes its name from the official veterans cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, and features over 3,000 crosses, Jewish stars, and Muslim crescents, which resemble traditional military grave markers.
A Vietnam veteran who helped organize Arlington West told Revolution, “It makes people realize there’s a war going on. In Santa Barbara as with Santa Monica, you’re between shopping and recreation. On a Sunday afternoon, we’re right where people don’t expect us.” He called the installation “An intervention into societal apathy.”
The display includes several of what appear to be coffins draped with American flags, as well as a sign that reads: “If we were to acknowledge the number of Iraqi deaths, the crosses would fill this entire beach.”
The Santa Monica exhibit includes a wall with photos of American soldiers killed, photos of wounded Iraqis, a large list of American casualties from the ongoing other war in Afghanistan, and a wall with newspaper clippings and articles written by war resisters.
On the weekend before the Rose Bowl, busses bringing University of Illinois fans to the beach for some sun deposited them at the entrance to the display. A tourist from Australia told Revolution, “We want to see our troops come home as well.” An Italian tourist said, “On TV it appears that America is always ready to make war all over the place. Instead, you find that the population seems to have a very different opinion.”
Revolution #117, January 27, 2008
Hook up with the revolution
9 West 19th St. (btwn 5th and 6th Aves)
Tuesdays, 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.
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?
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?
What about democracy? What is dictatorship? And what is America—a democracy, a dictatorship, or both? If the “true ideals of the founders” could be realized—what would it look like—and why?
What really happened in socialist societies? What would “doing better” mean and look like—and can you really do better?
January 24, Thursday, 7 pm
Join Director John Kirby for a screening of his film The American Ruling Class
312 West 8th Street 213-488-1303
Every Sunday, 4:30 pm
Ongoing bilingual discussion series of the latest Revolution newspaper installment of the “Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity,” a talk by Bob Avakian
Every Tuesday, 7 pm
Showing and discussion in Spanish of sections from the DVD Revolución: Por qué es necesaria, por qué es posi-ble, qué es
Every Thursday, 7 pm
Bilingual discussion of the current issue of Revolution newspaper
Every Friday, 7 pm
Cinema Revolución: Screening and discussion of progressive and revolutionary films
January 25: Spike Lee’s 4 Little Girls
January 23, Wednesday, 7 pm
Film screening and discussion of: The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory, by Brian Greene (Part 1). Part 2 will be screened on Wednesday, January 30.
January 27, Sunday, 2 pm
Dr. Susan Wicklund, speaking and signing her book This Common Secret: My Journey as an Abortion Doctor
1103 N. Ashland Avenue
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!
January 26, Saturday, 4 pm
Revolution newspaper—discuss latest issue
January 27, Sunday, 2 pm
Revolution writer on “Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity”
January 29, Tuesday, 7 pm
Salon discussion of Bob Avakian’s “Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity, Part I: Beyond the Narrow Horizon of Bourgeois Right.” Third of six sessions: “Marxism as a Science: Refuting Karl Popper”
January 30, Wednesday, 7 pm
“Set the Record Straight: Mao Then and Now—Revolutionary Ideas and Changing the World”—40-minute video of Set the Record Straight panel at 2007 U.S. Social Forum.
First in bi-weekly series
2804 Mayfield Rd (at Coventry)
Cleveland Heights 216-932-2543
February 7, Thursday, 7 pm
Second in a series of discussions on Part 1 of “Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity” by Bob Avakian: Are All “Ideal Visions of Society” Equally Valid and Good?
February 10, Sunday, 3 pm
Black History Month Film Showing:
The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till
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”
1833 Nagle Place
Every Saturday in January, 7 pm
Ongoing reading and discussion of the series “Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity” by Bob Avakian
1158 Mass Ave, 2nd Floor
Every Monday, 6:30 pm
Discussion of talk by Bob Avakian, “Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity”
2425 Channing Way near Telegraph Ave
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
Discussion of “Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity” by Bob Avakian: Communism Will Not Be a “Utopia”—It Will Be a Radically Different and Far Better World
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
January 28, Monday, 7 pm
Video showing: Life and Debt
January 29, Tuesday, 7 pm
Discussion of “Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity” by Bob Avakian: The New Synthesis
January 30, Wednesday, 7pm
Revolution newspaper discussion
(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
RBOGoes 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”
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
January 27, Sunday, 1:30-3:45 pm
Back from Jena: What Time Is It in America?
Education Room at Sevananda Natural Foods Market
467 Moreland Ave. NE, Atlanta
Revolution #117, January 27, 2008
Donate to Revolution $500,000 Expansion and Fund Drive!
We received this correspondence from the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund.
Greetings! I read & re-read a few times the talk by Bob Avakian “Dictatorship and Democracy, and the Socialist Transition to Communism.” I found it very informative. As I sat here in my concrete cell buried in the belly of the beast known as the “S.H.U.” (segregated housing units), I felt as if I was there in the room hearing this talk of transitioning society from socialism to communism & wrestling with the many ideas that were discussed in this talk. I really agree with the concept of “solid core with a lot of elasticity” and as I re-read this particular paragraph I could see the necessity of allowing the people to have “room” to work out ideas & concepts to advance the particular situation. I really seen where Bob Avakian was coming from and I really enjoyed his talk. I remembered reading part of this talk in the paper but for some reason I seemed to grasp it a whole lot more clearly reading the whole thing.
Being in prison especially in the “SHU” you will either mentally sink or swim and I think Bob Avakian hit on this in this talk when he talked about how most proletariat out in society spend most of their time working & trying to survive & are unable to focus on studying politics but some people get the opportunity to turn their attention to society. Well I think inmates have this opportunity. Especially those in the “holes” & SHUs we can learn what society is about and teach others. As one can imagine reading material with any progressive content is slim to none in these places so the literature I receive from PRLF is crucial to me & the other comrades as well as to other inmates who I share this material with. I try to expose as many inmates I can to communist literature and during my yard time out in the dog run cages I partake in conversations to get people to talk & share their views of this society and how we can change it, the methods used in the past & possibilities for the future…
I try to utilize these concrete cages as classrooms for learning socialism and preparing the minds in here to what a different world may look like & how we can get there. The Revolution paper helps me a lot & is planting the seeds in many inmates who would normally never read of Marx, Lenin, or Mao.
P.S. Can I receive more literature? Thank you.
Prisoner in California (Tehachapi, CA)
Revolution #117, January 27, 2008
Expansion and Fund Drive
“At a moment when much of humanity finds itself in a living hell, when the horror of the U.S. occupation of Iraq threatens to escalate into a war against Iran, and when the future of the planet itself is threatened, Revolution newspaper must be out there much more boldly and much more broadly—exposing what is going on, revealing why, and pointing to a revolutionary solution in the interests of the vast majority of humanity.”
from “Truth...in Preparation for Revolution!”
Much can be accomplished in the 2 weeks that remain in Revolution’s Expansion and Fund Drive. This is a moment to reconnect with everyone who has received the "Truth...In Preparation for Revolution" broadsheet for donations and finish raising $100 pledges. Now is the time to follow through in getting contributions and subscriptions from groups of friends, family, co-workers and other professionals even if it spills over into the next month. Let's deepen people’s commitment to expand the outreach of Revolution.
In addition to donations to Revolution newspaper, contributions can be made to discrete projects that contribute to this newspaper's reach and quality: the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund which subsidizes subscriptions to Revolution for prisoners, and the Global Center/Woodward Jena Project which funds reporting that Revolution correspondents are doing from Jena, Louisiana on the case of the Jena 6.
Raising these funds makes a real difference. “This newspaper must be a voice that cannot be ignored on any campus—it must reach the scientists, artists, musicians, writers, thinkers and everyone who cares about the fate of humanity. Imagine the societal impact of a revolutionary movement, with this newspaper at the center, based among those who society has enslaved, cast off or locked up—the proletariat.” One middle class woman saw a picture of the seventeen prisoners holding one copy of Revolution newspaper and donated to ensure that all of them would receive a subscription.
As “Truth...In Preparation for Revolution” states: “YOU, and people like you, can make all this happen. Raising money is an essential part of the revolution. It’s an important way that the revolutionary movement connects with all kinds of people. And raising and donating money is an important way for people to support the revolution.
“Much is at stake. If people are going to really understand what is going on, and if something good is to be pulled out of the current storms, a greatly expanded Revolution newspaper must be at the heart of that process.”
What You Can Do:
Donate to Revolution Newspaper Fund Drive by Check, Money Order or On-line.
Make checks or money orders payable to “RCP Publications.” Indicate that it is for the Fund Drive. If you want to earmark your gift for a specific project, please note that in the memo line on your check, or in your correspondence. If you want to give in installments, indicate that on your pledge card or correspondence—in what amounts and when you want to give them. If you want to be a sustainer, indicate that. Mail to RCP Publications, PO Box 3486, Merchandise Mart, Chicago IL 60654.
You can donate directly online using your credit card. Go to revcom.us and click on “Donate to the $500,000 Fund Drive.” You will be able to choose the form of your donation (one-time contribution or sustainer). Donations are NOT tax deductible for federal income tax purposes. Also, at this time RCP Publications cannot accept any contributions or gifts from readers who reside outside the borders of the United States. If you have questions, please email to firstname.lastname@example.org
The following projects are not part of Revolution newspaper/RCP Publications, but their missions contribute to expanding the distribution of, and improving the quality of Revolution.