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Revolution #118, February 3, 2008
In an article in the December issue of The Atlantic, commentator Andrew Sullivan argues that Barack Obama should be the next president of the United States. (“Goodbye to All That: Why Obama Matters,” December 2007). Sullivan writes that a (ruling class) “consensus” agenda for endless war and increased repression will be in effect regardless of who is president. He challenges the reader to pick who could best implement all this in the face of global isolation and profound domestic alienation. And, in the process, he sheds light on the real role of elections in this society.
Those who are willing to listen in on a ruling class insider’s case for Obama, read on.
Civics 101: Your Vote for President “Has Little to Do With” Basic Policy Decisions
First, a note on Andrew Sullivan’s credentials: Sullivan writes columns for the New York Times, Time magazine, and is a regular on the political talk shows. He is a senior editor at The Atlantic magazine. Sullivan’s defining political legacy was his tenure as editor of The New Republic, where he counted among his big achievements the promotion of the book The Bell Curve, a completely ridiculous but highly influential pseudoscientific book that claimed that Black people are genetically inferior to whites. The New Republic under his editorship played a key role in—in his words—“helping to torpedo the Clinton administration’s plans for universal health coverage.” A conservative who has differences with Christian fundamentalism (Sullivan is openly gay), he invokes Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher as models.
And yes, he is supporting Barack Obama for president.
Very early in Sullivan’s article, he invokes and reveals a little ruling class secret: Your vote “has little to do with” basic policy decisions.
Listen to Sullivan: “The logic behind the candidacy of Barack Obama,” he writes, “has little to do with his policy proposals, which are very close to his Democratic rivals’ and which, with a few exceptions, exist firmly within the conventions of our politics.”
Sullivan lists, rather extensively, how such “conventions of our politics” are set for the next president, regardless of who he is. The war in Iraq? It “has a momentum that will propel the occupation into the next decade.” “Every potential president,” writes Sullivan, “is committed to an open-ended deployment in Afghanistan and an unbending alliance with Israel.” And Sullivan doesn’t even pose as “issues” many of the most egregious outrages that people are angry about—from the abandonment of the poor and Black people of New Orleans, to the generated xenophobia and reign of terror against immigrants. The word “torture” never appears in his article.
While Sullivan’s actual projection of the ruling class “evolving consensus” is bad enough, it also includes what is likely wishful thinking on his part. For example, he postulates that this “consensus” includes permitting abortion in the first trimester—something that the leading Republican candidates have vowed to end. But the more fundamental revelation pointed to here is not that Obama’s policies are the same as those of every other “credible” candidate (which they are), but that it doesn’t really matter what his policies are.
Underlying Sullivan’s assertion that Obama’s candidacy (or anyone else’s) has “little to do with his policy proposals” is a deeper truth which is not acknowledged by Sullivan, although it drives the whole framework that he does acknowledge. The foundational thing here is that whoever is elected president of the United States presides over a system of capitalism-imperialism that has its own logic, and any president who tried to go against that would be “overruled” in one form or another quickly by the system. To take just one example: If someone got elected president and tried to withdraw U.S. military forces from all of the 130 countries with U.S. bases, this plan would be “overruled” in one form or another by the apparatus of the capitalist state (through “advice” from ruling class advisers, impeachment, “scandal,” or other forms). Why? Because the global domination of U.S. capital is projected and enforced by these military bases. That imperialist domination of the world, in turn, is key to the relative high standard of living and social stability within the U.S. If a president tried to shut down all the U.S. military bases around the world, that would be incompatible with, and cause severe disruption in the U.S. imperialist economy and in society.
Having clarified that this election “has little to do with [Obama’s] policy proposals,” and “even less to do with his ideological pedigree,” Sullivan gets to the argument for Obama, and in the course of doing so, entreats the reader into complicity with terrible crimes.
“The Most Effective Re-Branding of the United States Since Reagan”
Obama, argues Sullivan, is “the most effective potential re-branding of the United States since Reagan. Such a re-branding is not trivial—it’s central to an effective war strategy. The war on Islamist terror, after all, is two-pronged: a function of both hard power and soft power.” (By “hard power,” Sullivan means military force; by “soft power,” he means non-military dimensions of “winning hearts and minds”—in conjunction with the use of, or threat of, military power.)
Choosing whether Obama, Clinton, Edwards, McCain or anyone else would actually be the most effective “soft power” weapon in the “war on terror,” is choosing who will put the best face on the actual source of the worst global terror—U.S. imperialism. Let’s check back into reality for a moment and reflect on the horrors the “war on terror” has brought: Up to a million or more dead Iraqis. Five million Iraqis dislocated from their homes or country. Afghanistan, in ruins, controlled by either the Taliban or drug-growing Islamic fundamentalist warlords aligned with the U.S. Torture chambers from Bagram in Afghanistan to secret cells in Europe. Rendition to Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia for more U.S.-sponsored torture. Detention without trial. Guantánamo. And a world trapped in a horrific polarization between U.S. imperialist aggression, plunder, and terror, and reactionary Islamic fundamentalism that is both the target of and, in many ways, a product of the “war on terror.”
Obama’s invocation of Ronald Reagan is worth another look in the context of Sullivan’s article. Sullivan specifically argues that Obama could be the most effective president at projecting U.S. power around the world since Reagan.
Reagan’s 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,” concentrated his role in history. While he rattled horrific nuclear weapons, he armed thugs to carry out terror from Nicaragua to Afghanistan, from El Salvador and Guatemala to Angola and Mozambique. Reagan fostered a war between Iraq and Iran that took the lives of a million people and backed the apartheid government of South Africa and the racist state of Israel—when both were brutally suppressing internal rebellions of the oppressed peoples within their borders.
Since controversy broke out over his pro-Reagan statements to a Nevada newspaper, Obama has sought to “clarify” what he meant. Let’s re-examine his statements.
In the interview with the Reno Gazette-Journal, Obama said: “Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not. He put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it. I think they felt like with all the excesses of the ’60s and ’70s, and government had grown and grown, but there wasn’t much sense of accountability in terms of how it was operating. I think he tapped into what people were already feeling. Which is, ‘We want clarity, we want optimism, we want a return to that sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing.’”
Later Obama “clarified” his remarks to say that he “spent a lifetime fighting against Ronald Reagan’s policies,” while not recanting his previous comments. But, as we have seen, “policies” are not really what elections are all about. What Obama calls the “excesses” of the ’60s were really great struggles that did not go far enough. And the point remains that both Sullivan, and Obama himself, are invoking the Reagan legacy in terms promoting feel-good “clarity” and “optimism” about the crimes of U.S. imperialism.
Nobody who opposes the terrible course this country is on should want to be part of a campaign to do that.
In promoting Obama for president, Sullivan poses a couple of very heavy scenarios. Sullivan writes: “Consider this hypothetical. It’s November 2008. A young Pakistani Muslim is watching television and sees that this man Barack Hussein Obama is the new face of America. In one simple image, America’s soft power has been ratcheted up not a notch, but a logarithm... If you wanted the crudest but most effective weapon against the demonization of America that fuels Islamist ideology, Obama’s face gets close. It proves them wrong about what America is in ways no words can.”
This is an argument for who would be the best face on endless imperialist war, mass murder, and torture. Why the hell would you want to be part of choosing who could best put that over on people?
And Sullivan argues that Obama is not only a better face for the “war on terror” around the world, but also a uniquely credible face for domestic repression. What would happen, Sullivan asks, if there were “another 9/11–style attack.” He poses that “It is hard to imagine a reprise of the sudden unity and solidarity in the days after 9/11, or an outpouring of support from allies and neighbors. It is far easier to imagine an even more bitter fight over who was responsible (apart from the perpetrators) and a profound suspicion of a government forced to impose more restrictions on travel, communications, and civil liberties. The current president would be unable to command the trust, let alone the support, of half the country in such a time. He could even be blamed for provoking any attack that came.”
The context here is an argument over who would be best, in the event of “another 9/11-style attack” (or, one could add, a claim by the government that one was “planned”), to implement what Sullivan euphemistically calls “more restrictions on travel, communications, civil liberties.”
Right now, uncounted people are on secret “watch lists,” prohibited from traveling on airplanes. The most massively intrusive surveillance in human history monitors your phone calls and your Internet browsing, and makes it illegal for a librarian to tell you the government is looking at what books you check out. The president can lock up anyone, for any reason, on his say-so, without recourse to anything resembling a credible trial. And Sullivan is arguing that Obama would be best for implementing even more fascistic repression.
Once more: Why the hell would you want to be part of choosing who could best put that over on people?
The Intensifying Domestic “Civil War”
Sullivan frames his argument for Obama in the context of what he calls an “intensifying, a nonviolent civil war.” A conflict “about culture and about religion and about race.”
There is profound conflict in the U.S. over culture, religion, and race. It is characterized not by nonviolence, but by one-sided violence. White supremacy that in an earlier era was enforced through lynch mobs and nooses (and note the comeback of the noose) is today enforced in the inner cities by the policeman’s gun. The religious culture war is waged by violent attacks on not only abortion clinics, but also those who work for them. And society is so permeated with violence against women in the form of rape and domestic violence against women that it is an invisible part of the “culture.”
There is also a polarization at the top of society, among the ruling class. On one side, the core around Bush (and, generally speaking, ruling class forces whose agenda is expressed by or represented by the Republican Party) is on a mission—in the literal, religious sense in many ways—to radically remake the post-“Cold War” world and to tear up the “social contract” that has more or less held U.S. society together for generations. On the other side are forces in the ruling class who are operating in the same framework, but fear doing all this too fast, too overtly, and in a way that will tear society apart (generally characterized by the leaders of the Democratic Party).
A substantial thread in Sullivan’s article includes his advice on how to manage the conflict at the top of the ruling class, including his dissatisfaction with Bush’s style and approach (among Sullivan’s complaints: Bush is “unable to do nuance”). But here, we’ll focus on Sullivan’s argument that Obama is the best face not only for U.S. imperialist war, but also for resolving the domestic “civil war.”
Obama, Sullivan writes, can take “America—finally—past the debilitating, self-perpetuating family quarrel of the Baby Boom generation that has long engulfed all of us.” And Obama can end “the war within America that has prevailed since Vietnam and that shows dangerous signs of intensifying.”
Sullivan’s own perspective is that the best course for those with fears and reservations about the direction things are heading is to adopt much of the framework established by Bush, and push for moderation within that. Sullivan sees the Baby Boomers (his repeated term for the legacy of the ’60s) as an obstacle to forging a reasonable course within the “evolving consensus.” In his article, he claims that those who oppose the U.S. “war on terror,” and the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, “judged the 9/11 attacks to be a legitimate response to decades of U.S. foreign policy.”
This distortion is important to excavate. The most powerful opposition voices to the “war on terror” have never argued that 9/11 was a “legitimate response” to U.S. foreign policy. They have argued that the “war on terror” is immoral, illegal, and illegitimate; and that the people themselves must forge a new way forward in opposition to both McWorld and Jihad. For example, the Call from World Can’t Wait, signed by thousands of people including many prominent actors, authors, political activists, and others, begins: “YOUR GOVERNMENT, on the basis of outrageous lies, is waging a murderous and utterly illegitimate war in Iraq, with other countries in their sights. YOUR GOVERNMENT is openly torturing people, and justifying it.” (The Call is available at worldcantwait.org.) Millions in this country have asked, and more should ask, “Why do they hate us so much?”
Distorting such questioning and opposition in the way Sullivan does—claiming that such opposition judges the 9/11 attacks “legitimate”—fits in with the framework established by the Bush mantra of “You’re either with us or you’re with the terrorists.”
Sullivan, and let’s face it, he is accurately projecting what Obama is about, argues that Obama can isolate “the Baby Boomers” and get America past all that ’60s stuff. And here again, the Reagan legacy is invoked, not—actually—by Sullivan, but by Obama himself who recently pointed to Reagan’s ability to “transform how we think about ourselves as a country in fundamental ways…”
As we wrote last week, in the wake of the rebellious culture of the ’60s, “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.” (See “ ‘American Greatness’—And Why Obama and Reagan Really DO Belong Together,” by Toby O’Ryan at revcom.us.) In this context, Obama’s constant invocation that “There is no liberal America, there is no conservative America, there is only the United States of America…” can be understood as a call for patriotic national unity—unity with the most terrible crimes being committed by the world’s sole superpower.
And again, it must be posed: Who the hell would want to “resolve” the culture wars in society this way?
Sullivan does not focus much in this essay on the great societal divide over the oppression of Black people (or other oppressed nationalities). (The relationship between Obama’s campaign and white supremacy is beyond the scope of this article, but here it can be noted that in this essay Sullivan describes “Obama’s campaign for white America: courteous and smiling and with no sudden moves.”) Sullivan does address the question of the rise of theocratic Christian religious fundamentalism. In the method typical of his article, Sullivan defines the societal divide over religion in terms that marginalize secularism, and even separation of church and state, referring to a conflict between “God-fearing Americans and the peacenik atheist hippies.”
Sullivan argues for a bigger role for religion in society and government than has been the norm up to Bush. The choice, Sullivan poses, is between “crude exploitation of sectarian loyalty and religious zeal by Bush and Rove,” and a bigger role for religion that stops short of that. Sullivan writes, “You cannot lead the United States without having a foot in both the religious and secular camps.” Whatever Sullivan’s intentions, the view of ceding a larger role to religion and denigrating secular culture (those “atheist hippies”) cedes the moral high ground to Christian fascists. Both Obama and Hillary Clinton (and before her Bill Clinton) have also promoted the illusion that by conceding ground to the Christian fundamentalists you can moderate or temper them. It is in this context that Obama’s particular brand of professed Christian beliefs fits the bill, according to Sullivan, although he acknowledges that Hillary Clinton as well is taking pains to position herself as accommodating to the rise of Christian fundamentalism.
What We REALLY Need
Underlying Sullivan’s argument that Obama is the best candidate to manage all these conflicts in the direction the ruling class wants to take things is an explicit acknowledgement that there is a sharp polarization in U.S. society that could get out of control—“the war within America that has prevailed since Vietnam and that shows dangerous signs of intensifying.”
This intensifying situation will not just “fall into” anything good for the people. The global anger at the U.S. is far from enough to bring about anything positive. That is the case within the U.S., and it is the case worldwide. Within the U.S., anger at the direction of things can take, and for many is taking, the form of rallying around patriotic Christian fascism and an attraction to the “good old days” of unquestioned white supremacy and “good vs. evil” simplistic support for U.S. wars. Around the world, far too many angry oppressed people look to the reactionary dead end of Islamic fundamentalism as a “response” to imperialism.
But the emergence of a real and visible opposition to the whole direction this country is headed, standing with and starting from the interests of humanity,can forge a new polarization within the U.S. and create a much better climate for the emergence of progressive and revolutionary movements worldwide, and can even create openings for, and forces for, revolutionary change in the U.S.
Working for that is something worth doing. And it is a lot more realistic than putting your faith in a candidacy, and a process that is part of putting “the best face” on a world of horrors!
Revolution #118, February 3, 2008
As the possibility emerged that Barack Obama might have a serious chance of being the Democratic candidate for president, and as the primaries headed toward the Southern states of South Carolina and Florida, Hillary Clinton’s campaign played the white supremacy card.
• After Hillary Clinton’s narrow win in New Hampshire, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, a major Clinton supporter, said that Clinton’s victory was because, “You can’t shuck and jive at a press conference,” evoking an image of Black slaves “shucking and jiving” (from the point of view of the slave master) to evade work on the slave plantations. It was a crude appeal to white racist stereotypes.
• On January 7, in a campaign speech, Hillary Clinton claimed that “Dr. King’s dream began to be realized when President Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.... It took a president to get it done.” The message being that the system, and Lyndon Johnson, was mainly responsible for whatever civil rights advances were supposedly “given” to Black people. That is a racist distortion of what happened. Concessions made to the struggle for equality were fought for by the people at the grassroots, through heroic struggle and sacrifice by African-Americans and others. They faced whips, clubs, fire hoses, and dogs. They gave their lives in the battle for equality. In addition, the rulers of the U.S. felt pressure to remove overt Jim Crow segregation because it was an embarrassment and impediment to the expansion of U.S. imperialism and neocolonialism around the world. The very terms of “Johnson vs. King” are bogus. In the struggle against white supremacy, particularly as it moved to a militant and eventually revolutionary phase, Martin Luther King promoted compromise, and worked to keep the civil rights struggle under the control of the establishment. (see “Martin Luther King, Jr.... And What We Really Need,” Revolution # 116 at revcom.us) That said, the way that Hillary Clinton formulated her statement about King and Johnson was supposed to, and did, trivialize the actual struggle and sacrifice of the masses of people.
• On January 23 in Charleston, South Carolina, Bill Clinton said, “They are getting votes, to be sure, because of their race or gender and that’s why people tell me that Hillary doesn’t have a chance to win here.” David Leege, Notre Dame political scientist analyzed: “There is a substantial residual of race-related fear, and President Clinton’s frequent invocation of race/gender differences is tapping into it.” The Clintons (some have described Bill Clinton’s role as the “bad cop”) are pandering to, and promoting white supremacy in the form of “the Blacks are taking over.”
In his first campaign for the White House in 1992, Bill Clinton, then Governor of Arkansas, took time off during the early primaries to fly back to the state to watch the execution of Ricky Ray Rector, a brain-damaged Black man. Then right in time for the Southern primaries he posed with a Georgia senator in front of a chain gang of Black inmates in white prison suits at Stone Mountain, Georgia, second home of the Ku Klux Klan. That picture appeared in newspapers across the South the day people went to the polls. And a pivotal point in Bill Clinton’s campaign for president in 1992 was when he made a point of publicly slapping down Black rapper Sister Souljah.
As president, Bill Clinton presided over legislation that “end[ed] welfare as we know it.” He oversaw the massive expansion of the prison system. And he signed the so-called “Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996”—that gutted the right to habeas corpus and severely crippled the right to appeal death sentences—even when new evidence emerged after convictions.
In playing the white supremacy card this time around, the Clintons are reminding the ruling class of their ability to come off as “sympathetic” to Black people while enforcing white supremacy “on the ground” and in people’s thinking.
Revolution #118, February 3, 2008
MAKING REVOLUTION AND EMANCIPATING HUMANITY
PART 2: EVERYTHING WE’RE DOING IS ABOUT REVOLUTION (CONTINUED)
Editors’ Note: The following is the sixth 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.
Heightened Parasitism and the “Two Outmodeds”
I want to return briefly to the question of the heightened parasitism of U.S. society, as a result of the position and role of U.S. imperialism in the world, and the dynamic, or dialectic, of the “two historically outmodeds.”1 The more U.S. imperialism pushes ahead with its drive for unchallenged empire, focusing much of its fire on Islamic fundamentalist forces—and the more there is the absence of an outpouring of mass political opposition within the U.S. to this course—the more this, in turn, strengthens the Islamic fundamentalist trend. And, at the same time, the more this whole dynamic—where these “two historically outmodeds” (imperialism and Islamic fundamentalist Jihadism) reinforce each other, even while opposing each other—goes forward and is strengthened, the more it will become increasingly difficult to bring forward another way: to break out of the current deadly dynamic and to galvanize and mobilize people around a positive pole, opposed to both of these “outmodeds”; to rally masses of people on both sides of the “great divide” in the world—between imperialist countries, and above all the U.S., on the one hand, and Third World oppressed countries, with billions of impoverished and desperate masses, on the other hand.
In connection with this, we have to simultaneously struggle against two trends which represent (to borrow Engels’ phrase) “opposite poles of the same stupidity.” On the one hand, there is a line—which has currency among some “left” forces in the U.S. and elsewhere—of supporting Islamic fundamentalists simply because they are in some measure opposing imperialism, and U.S. imperialism in particular, without examining, or really being concerned very much about, the content of that opposition and where the ideology and program of Islamic fundamentalism will lead—the true horrors it really does represent. This speaks to the importance of the polemic by Sunsara Taylor that was in Revolution not long ago2 —a polemic against the ISO (International Socialist Organization) and their opposition to the “two outmodeds” analysis, as well as their whole economist (and ludicrous) line about how working people in the U.S. don’t benefit from imperialism—to which perhaps the most meaningful response is, simply: “What fucking world are you living in?!”
This is an important polemic, but it will continue to be necessary to take on—to dissect and refute—these kinds of arguments (as put forward by the ISO and others). This kind of thinking represents, ultimately, a defeatist orientation toward really being able to take on imperialism through mobilizing masses on a revolutionary basis, and a limiting, or consigning, of the struggle to the contest between these two reactionary and outmoded forces; it amounts to, or leads to, becoming cheerleaders for one side or the other (and in the case of those with “anti-imperialist” pretensions, often doing this on behalf of those, like the Jihadist Islamic fundamentalists, who are to a certain degree opposing U.S. imperialism but, once again, are doing so from a reactionary and “historically outmoded” position, politically as well as ideologically). It is one thing when, in the past, some people’s stance and role amounted, or became reduced to, simply playing the role of cheerleaders for forces struggling against U.S. imperialism, but those forces were at least engaged in what could legitimately be considered revolutionary struggle (as, for example, the Vietnamese people’s war of resistance against the U.S.). But it is quite another thing when you’re becoming cheerleaders for thoroughly reactionary forces, with all the horrors they’ve already brought about and would bring about on a much fuller scale, were they able to do so.
On the other hand, “the opposite pole of the same stupidity” is the line that the U.S. is, after all, better than the Islamic fundamentalists—because, the argument goes, the U.S. is a democracy, even if a flawed one. And, along with this, the point is made that the U.S. is after all a secular country—even if, as many would admit, this is being challenged in a serious way now by Christian fundamentalist forces within the U.S. Revolution recently received a letter from a prisoner very strongly arguing this point: we should at least support democracy, up against feudal or other reactionary forces, including Islamic fundamentalists, which aren’t even democratic; and we should support the spreading of democracy, even if and even where it comes through the brute force of the U.S. military. For example, the letter insisted, we should support the U.S. going into Darfur, because that would be better for the people there. But, in reality, in an ultimate and fundamental sense, a U.S. military incursion—and still more a full-scale invasion and occupation, like what has happened in Iraq, or even on the level of what has gone on in Afghanistan—would make things worse for the masses of people, over any period of time, not just in Darfur but in the world as a whole. It would strengthen U.S. imperialism and its ability to continue imposing very real horrors on literally billions of people throughout the world—through military means but also through the “normal functioning” of imperialist economic exploitation and social oppression, and the political structures that enforce this. But you have to have a scientific outlook and method to see that.
And when you get outside of the so-called “left,” this line of siding with the imperialist “outmoded” has much more currency. This applies among many people who are generally “progressive” but not part of any organized “left” group, as well as in society broadly. And, of course, it is championed by some people who have the posture of being defenders of the enlightenment and of rational thought: sometimes this is done in more crude and very aggressive ways, by the likes of Christopher Hitchens, but it is also argued by people who are perhaps, or in some sense seem to be, more subtle and nuanced in their approach (someone like Sam Harris, for example). Both Harris and Hitchens polemicize against religion in general but bring this around to arguing that Islamic fundamentalism is worse than Christian fundamentalism—in effect ignoring, or even covering over, the very real danger posed by Christian Fascism.3
These are positions we’re also going to have to continually engage and refute, and in doing so it will be very important to bring forward the correct synthesis very sharply, in opposition to both of these “poles of stupidity.” It is crucial to deeply understand the fact that if you support either of these “two historically outmodeds” (historically outmoded strata among colonized and oppressed humanity, and historically outmoded ruling strata of the imperialist system) it is really true that you end up strengthening both—and you strengthen the whole dynamic where they reinforce each other even while opposing each other. It is really important to understand deeply, and to enable growing numbers of people to actually understand, this dynamic—which also enables you to understand why it would not be a good thing for the U.S. to intervene in places like Darfur.
At the same time, it is also very important to be clear—and this is something I also emphasized in Bringing Forward Another Way—that, between these “two historically outmodeds,” it is the historically outmoded ruling strata of the imperialist system, and U.S. imperialism in particular, which by far has done and is doing the greatest harm in the world and represents the greatest obstacle to the advance of humanity to a radically different and much better world. This is not only a general truth, but something that is being acutely posed right now. So here I want to focus on this historically outmoded: the imperialist system, and U.S. imperialism in particular.
Parasitism, infantilism, instant gratification and self-indulgence
As one aspect of this, it’s worth recasting and reconstructing some analysis in the book Consumed by Benjamin R. Barber, who was the original author of the formulation “Jihad vs. McWorld” (the title of an earlier book by Barber). While Barber’s view is confined to terms within the framework of capitalism—and he insists that there is no real (or desirable) alternative to capitalism, in one form or another—there are nonetheless some important and provocative insights in Consumed. As Barber portrays it in Consumed, capitalism in this stage is faced with the contradiction that:
“The global majority still has extensive and real natural needs…. But it is without the means to address them, being cut off by the global market’s inequality (the ‘north/south divide’) from the investment in capital and jobs that would allow them to become consumers. This is true not just for the global Third World but for the growing Third World within the First World, the poor who live among the wealthy, exposed to the seductions of the consumer marketplace but without the means to participate in it….
“In this new epoch in which the needy are without income and the well-heeled are without needs, radical inequality is simply assumed.” (Consumed, pp. 9, 10)
And a little later he says:
“Capitalism is left in crisis on both sides of the North/South frontier. In the North, in a dynamic compellingly described by William Greider, too many unprofitable products chase too few consumers, too many of whom must be prodded, pushed, and cajoled into consumption; while in the South, too many urgent but unprofitable needs chase too little available capital, held by owners who remain disinterested in those without discretionary income—the impoverished, disease-ridden, deeply needy inhabitants of sub-Saharan Africa, for example.” (Consumed, p. 45. The paraphrase by Barber here of William Greider refers to Greider’s book One World, Ready or Not: The Manic Logic of Global Capitalism, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997.)
Capitalism, Barber argues, must now set about creating artificial needs among those with disposable income, utilizing advertising on a massive scale and the very elastic extension of credit.
There is much, including much that is fundamental, that is left out or greatly distorted by Barber in his analysis—including the whole phenomenon, historically, of the “primitive accumulation” of capital, to which Marx spoke, incisively and with searing irony4—as well as the actual nature and workings of capitalism in its imperialist stage now. There is the whole history of the U.S., for example: slavery; the use and extreme exploitation of immigrant labor, wave after wave; and the westward expansion of the U.S. through the armed theft of land from Mexico as well as from Native Americans, with the reduction of Mexico to a semi-colony of the U.S. and the conquest and confinement on reservations of the native peoples themselves through genocidal means. And there has been—this is something very important to understand—the spreading of this on an international scale, and the continuing growth of parasitism in U.S. society, through a series of spirals—through two world wars, and then the resolution of the “Cold War” and the heightened globalization that was further unleashed by that—which is combined today with the existence of significant sections of society, within the U.S. itself, which Barber refers to as “the growing Third World within the First World,” including millions of immigrants, many of them undocumented, at the bottom rungs of the proletariat, and millions more proletarians and semi-proletarians in the inner cities, especially Black people and Latinos with extremely high rates of unemployment, much of it more or less permanent with regard to the formal and official economy.
Just to briefly elaborate on the point about the spreading of this through a series of spirals, including two world wars, if you go back to the beginning of the talk “Why We’re in the Situation We’re in Today…And What to Do About It: A Thoroughly Rotten System and the Need for Revolution,”5 it is pointed out that it wasn’t always the case, in the “configuration” of U.S. society, that you had this “fat middle,” which includes more bourgeoisified sections of the working class as well as new and old strata of the more classical petit bourgeoisie. But through first one and then another world war in the first half of the 20th century, and the advances (in imperialist terms) that the U.S. made through those wars, the configuration within the U.S. changed accordingly, in line with a heightening parasitism. The more classical proletariat shrank in relative terms, and even in absolute terms, speaking of the industrial proletariat, and the more bourgeoisified sections of the working class and the intermediate strata grew through each of the two spirals associated with these two world wars. Exploitation—or even the most extreme sort of “Fordist” exploitation, in other words, labor intensive exploitation—was not eliminated from this system, even within the U.S. itself, but it became much more “internationalized”: looking at things on an international scale, it was spread more broadly and more deeply. And this, again, is both an expression of and has gone in tempo with a heightening parasitism characterizing U.S. society itself (in the case of the imperialist ruling class, reaping huge profits from—and in the case of the population overall, enjoying, although quite unequally, benefits as a result of—the exploitation of billions of people throughout the world, particularly in the Third World). In a sense, this is like the line from the Yeats poem (“The Second Coming”) about the “widening gyre.” This has been a spiraling process where, within the U.S., the working class, in its “classical” form, is being shrunk, and the more “parasitized” sectors of society are growing, while at the same time, on a world scale, the masses of people are ensnared, in one way or another, in ever greater numbers in the web of capitalist exploitation, and the corresponding poverty, misery, and brutalization has grown. So, again, it is not that imperialism has somehow done away with extremely intense, and impoverishing, exploitation; but it has increasingly “spread it out,” made it increasingly an international phenomenon—and this has everything to do with the heightening parasitism and the changes in (social and class) “configuration” within the U.S. itself.
So, now, the extreme parasitism of U.S. society, and its relation to the rest of the world, is something we are faced with—something which, so to speak, we have to “work our way through.” I was trying to think of what would be a really good way to encapsulate this—the way in which large sections of the population in the U.S. are removed from physical labor, and from the actual process of production, while at the same time many are indulging in crass overconsumption, even of food. And then it hit me: what really captures this is hot dog eating contests. [Laughter] You know, these contests where people from the imperialist countries, including Japan—what’s his name, Kobayashi?—the big question becomes: “is he gonna win again this year?” [Laughter] But then, as it turns out, there is a “great” turn of events, and we hear, “his world record is broken by an American—all right!” Sixty-two hot dogs, in however many minutes it is. Think about what a grotesque phenomenon this is. Here you have people, literally stuffing hot dogs down their throats as fast as humanly possible, trying to outdo each other in this perverse competition, while the great majority of humanity struggles just to have enough to eat, and many cannot even do that under the conditions of imperialist domination and the associated relations of exploitation and oppression—and, yes, the extreme parasitism in the imperialist countries, the U.S. above all.
Contrast this parasitism, and the phenomena it gives rise to, with what is captured, for example, in the subhead to one chapter of Mike Davis’ book Planet of Slums. The subhead is “Living in Shit”—and this is not a metaphorical but a literal description of the conditions of huge numbers of people in the shantytowns throughout the Third World. Contrast this with the profligate self-indulgence of many (though, of course, far from all) in the imperialist countries.
And, of course, along with this heightened parasitism and, yes, self-indulgence, is the promotion of extreme individualism in the U.S. This has always been a country marked by individualism, but it has now reached new heights—or depths. It’s in the advertising—they’re selling ideology as well as products, even on the simplest levels. Take the advertisement for a certain shampoo: this shampoo will do this and do that—and, then the punchline, “After all, I’m worth it.” The whole outlook that’s promoted, over and over again, through things like this, is one of extreme individualism, self-absorption, and self-indulgence.
And along with that—this is one of the points Barber emphasizes, which has some validity and importance to it—is the promotion of a great deal of “infantilization” of the population. While we don’t want to, and should not, descend into the unscientific (and, as a matter of fact, individualistic) terms of bourgeois psychology, Barber has a point that, after all, one of the key dividing lines between infants and adults is the deferring of immediate gratification; and that, if you want to sell all kinds of stuff to people, one of the best ways to do it is to prevent, or reverse, the leap involved in developing the capacity to defer gratification—to infantilize people to where there’s a constant striving, an endless quest, for greater and greater gratification in immediate terms. Of course, even in a predatory imperialist country like the U.S., this is not realizable without an unprecedented extension of credit; and in this country vast numbers of people are presently stretched way beyond their means.
This often goes to ridiculous lengths. James D. Scurlock points out in his book Maxed Out : the more in debt you are, the more credit you can get—up to a certain point—while they’re charging interest rates that would put a petty loan shark to shame. For example, the credit card companies—the rates they charge are incredible. But, as Barber puts it, at one and the same time they direct adult advertising “pitches” to young children to get them to demand more and more consumer goods (toys of various kinds, and so on), while trying to prolong the infantilization of adults so that they will continue to be addicted to instant gratification. So the “I wanna,” “I gotta have” mentality is constantly asserting itself. And while these are not the fundamental dynamics involved, there is some truth to this and some importance to understanding this in its social and ideological expressions and effects.
All this constitutes another part of the political and ideological terrain, if you will, that we have to deal with—that we have to confront and transform.
One of the key things that goes along with this—another dimension to the whole way in which the imperialists are approaching the world—is not only the establishment but the very stubborn maintenance of an all-volunteer military. While the rest of society is urged to indulge in such things as “patriotic shopping,” there is an institution, drawing its ranks to a significant degree from the bottom layers of society, whose task is to fight the wars on which all this depends ultimately. And there has been a conscious effort to keep the rest of society sheltered and screened from this. Many people have commented on this, and while we shouldn’t overdo this, and approach it one-sidedly, there is some truth to the observation that a number of people have made: if they were to bring back a draft, you’d see a lot of people’s attitudes become very different, very quickly. Think of the many people who at this point are saying, “Well, I don’t like what’s going on, but there really isn’t much you can do about it”; or “I went out and protested at the start of the Iraq war, but it didn’t really do any good, so now I’m just gonna live my life.” This would change, in significant measure—we shouldn’t overstate this, but there is a reality to the fact that this would change in significant measure—if the draft started hanging over the heads of a lot of youth (and their families). And it would be very interesting to see if it hung over the heads of female, as well as male, youth this time. In the past, the draft was an all-male phenomenon, but it would be very interesting to see if they could do that now, and what social contradictions would be intensified and accentuated, however they dealt with it (whether they drafted both males and females, or only males).
So, besides other reasons, this is an additional dimension to why you see that people in the Bush regime in particular, but generally in the ruling class, are sticking stubbornly to having an all-volunteer military. This is a whole strategic approach of having a highly technologically-oriented military, with somewhat more educated people than in the past to wield this technology, and having this heavy technological component of the military make up for (or substitute for) large numbers of troops that might have had to be employed in the past. This is not simply a military approach. It is that, but there is also the political dimension of their very consciously reckoning with and calculating the social effects and implications of moving away from an all-volunteer military and this whole arrangement where, on the one hand, a small section of society is drawn into this institution—which has a whole different ethos and is organized in a whole different way than the rest of society, in order to be the military arm of this system—while the rest of society is awash in extreme individualism and even infantilization.
Not all, but still too many, Americans—especially within the middle strata, although not only there—are in a real sense falling into acting like children, easily distracted with toys. “Here at midnight tonight—the new iPhone!” People will line up, and fight each other to get in line, to get the new iPhone, but they can’t bring themselves to mobilize against the torture and the wars and everything else that is being done by their government, in their name and right before their eyes—this is not even really being hidden.
Now, it is true that, particularly in the period leading into the U.S. invasion of Iraq, very large numbers of people did mobilize in opposition to this, and to the general direction in which the Bush regime was driving things. And there have, of course, been protests, even significant ones, since then. But the truth is that, as the Bush regime has made clear, even with the great difficulties it has encountered in Iraq it is determined to persevere on this course, and is even threatening to escalate things, with an attack on Iran—and as the Democrats and the ruling class overall have made clear that they are going along with all this, or at least will do nothing meaningful to oppose it—while there are many people who know that this is wrong, is having horrible consequences, and holds the potential for much worse, far too many of these people have retreated into passivity—and what amounts to complicity—on the basis that to try to stop this seems too daunting and requires too much sacrifice.
This is the moral equivalent of coming upon a man brutalizing and raping a woman and not doing everything you can to stop it. You call out strongly “Stop!” But then, when he menacingly turns and responds, “No—I really need to do this,” you simply slink away muttering “Oh, I didn’t know he was so determined about this—and I don’t want to get hurt myself.”
And this complicity is taking place while, as the logo of World Can’t Wait so graphically illustrates, the world burns and the prospect of far worse looms ominously before us.
As I pointed out in “Why We’re In the Situation We’re In Today…And What To Do About It: A Thoroughly Rotten System and the Need for Revolution,” this is a whole way of life and fundamentally a whole system that requires and calls forth war, of various kinds. If you think about this deeply, you can see why this cannot be maintained without continual war in one form or another—either directly or by proxy. This is a whole set-up, including extreme parasitism, that couldn’t be maintained other than through those means.
As I have also emphasized (in this talk and elsewhere), this parasitism is accompanied by, and is not really possible without, debt on a massive scale—both personal debt for large sections of the population and huge government debt—with interconnections between these dimensions of debt and ramifications, and potentially much greater ones, on an international level as well as within the U.S. itself. This is something that Kevin Phillips speaks to in American Theocracy; and James Scurlock, in Maxed Out, examines some of this as well, including the ways it affects broad strata of the middle class. And there is a way in which the “infantilization”—“let me be a child playing with the goodies”—turns into its opposite for many, many people. After the bursting of the “dot.com” bubble, the big thing more recently has been the housing market, which was inflated with a lot of these loans that enticed people who really couldn’t afford the houses they were being sold—interest-only loans, adjustable rate mortgages (or “subprime” loans), and so on—and then all of a sudden it comes due. This bubble is now bursting in significant ways, too, and this is affecting people very broadly—from the middle strata down to much more impoverished sections of society—as well as having repercussions within the economy of the U.S., and the world economy, as a whole.
Today the strains in all this are intensifying and hold the potential to become even more greatly magnified. For example, think again of the stress that is being placed on the all-volunteer military as a result of what, for the ruling class, has become the debacle in Iraq. Think of the potential for much greater pressures on this military, in light of the larger imperialist plans this Iraq war is part of. And think of the potential effect of all that on this whole phenomenon of parasitism, if they are not able to hold things together while continuing to maintain an all-volunteer military.
If we look at all this and think about it in relation to this phenomenon of heightened parasitism, and everything that goes along with that, we can grasp, in yet a further dimension, the importance to the ruling class of promoting Christian Fascism and the reasons why there is, on the part of a powerful section of the ruling class, backing for the Christian Fascist forces that are so prominent in U.S. society today. This is very important—as a cohering force overall, and particularly in terms of a hard core of support for the imperialist system and the whole course on which it has been set by the Bush regime in particular.
Something that was pointed out a number of years ago (in “The Truth About Right-Wing Conspiracy…And Why Clinton and the Democrats Are No Answer”), is that a lot of this extreme individualism, heightened parasitism and relentless consumerism, while it causes real problems and embodies real obstacles from the perspective of our revolutionary objectives, also poses significant problems for the ruling class, much as they’re also promoting it. Among broad sections of U.S. society, because of a variety of reasons and motivations but definitely including the extreme manifestations of individualism among many, the idea of self-sacrifice for the imperialist system does not have a lot of currency, if you’ll pardon the expression. So this involves acute contradiction—not only for us, from our perspective, but also for the imperialists, from the perspective of and in relation to their objective of establishing an unchallenged, and unchallengeable, empire. “The Truth About Right-Wing Conspiracy” quotes from the Communist Manifesto, speaking to how capitalism has reduced things to the cold cash nexus and removed all the philistine sentimentality and religious embroidery, etc., from exploitation; but then it points out that there is a section of the U.S. ruling class today that wants to reinvest this cold cash nexus with religious embroidery and sentimentality, because there’s a fear that things can’t hold together otherwise. It is worth quoting “The Truth About Right-Wing Conspiracy” at some length here:
“In some significant ways, what was written 150 years ago in the Communist Manifesto, concerning the consequences of unfettered bourgeois commodity relations, is assuming a pronounced expression among sections of the U.S. population in the context of today’s ‘post-Cold War’ world capitalism. The following phrases from the Manifesto have a particular and powerful resonance: ‘the bourgeoisie, wherever it has gotten the upper hand…has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous ‘cash payment.’ It has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervor, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of Philistine sentimentalism in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value…. In a word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation.’ There is a great irony here: the very ‘triumph’ and ‘triumphalism’ of capitalism in today’s circumstances has produced effects and sentiments which tend to undermine, among significant sections of the U.S. population, the willingness to make personal sacrifices for ‘god and country’—that is, for the interests and requirements of the imperial ruling class, within the U.S. itself and in the world arena. In reaction to this, the ‘conservatives,’ with the Christian Right playing a decisive role, are attempting to revive and impose precisely ‘the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervor, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of Philistine sentimentalism’—to resurrect a situation where worldwide exploitation that is unsurpassed in its brutality is at the same time ‘veiled by religious and political illusions.’ ” (Bob Avakian, “The Truth About Right-Wing Conspiracy…And Why Clinton and the Democrats Are No Answer,” Revolutionary Worker (now Revolution), October 17, 2004—originally published in the Revolutionary Worker in the fall of 1998, and available at revcom.us)
This underscores the importance for the ruling class of a religious fundamentalist—a Christian Fascist—movement, which insists that America should have, and must have, a special relationship to God and must impose its “God-ordained mission” on the world, at the point of a gun (or through high-tech military means). It further explains (and “situates”) the very fervent advocacy on the part of a section of the ruling class on behalf of this Christian Fascist orientation and program as a cohering force, in the context of the juggernaut of war and repression that is being driven forward now by the Bush regime.
Very significantly, there are two major forces and institutions in the U.S. today which, in opposition to the rampant individualism characterizing the society as a whole, embody an opposite pole. That is, two major forces and institutions which represent the interests of the ruling class and embody an opposite pole to extreme individualism in that way—an opposite pole of reactionary, fascistic-oriented, and extremely hierarchal collectivism. What are these two institutions? The Christian Fascist churches and the military. Here we see another basis for the close intertwining of the two and the great influence of the Christian Fascists within particularly the officer corps of the U.S. military.
All of this is an expression of the various dimensions—and the contradictory aspects—of “living in the house of Tony Soprano”6 (which is another way of speaking to the parasitism and privilege which obtains for significant sections of the population living within the number one imperialist power in the world, the world’s only superpower). And this speaks to the urgent need for rupturing people out of this—for bringing forward another way—and for bringing forward, as the bedrock of that, those who have the least stake in “living in the house of Tony Soprano,” even as political (and ideological) work must be carried out among all different strata of the people, including those more caught up in this parasitic self-indulgence, consumerism, individualism, and, yes, infantilization. We have to look beyond the immediate conditions at any given time, to the more longer-term perspective and to the deeper mainsprings and dynamics of things.
1. Footnote by the author : In relation to this discussion of heightened parasitism and the “two outmodeds,” besides my talk Bringing Forward Another Way, among other works the following are valuable as “background resources”: Planet of Slums, by Mike Davis (Verso Publishers, 2006); AMERICAN THEOCRACY, The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century, by Kevin Phillips (Viking/the Penguin Group, 2006); Consumed, How Markets Corrupt Children, Infantilize Adults, and Swallow Citizens Whole, by Benjamin R. Barber (W.W. Norton & Company, 2007); MAXED OUT, Hard Times, Easy Credit, and The Era of Predatory Lenders, by James D. Scurlock (Scribner, 2007); and TARGET IRAN, The Truth About the White House’s Plans for Regime Change, by Scott Ritter (Nation Books, 2007). Bringing Forward Another Way is available online at revcom.us and has been serialized in Revolution in 2007, in issues #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.[back]
2. “U.S. Imperialism, Islamic Fundamentalism… and the Need for Another Way,” in issue #91, June 10, 2007.[back]
3. For a further discussion by Bob Avakian of this phenomenon—and refutation of the arguments of people like Harris and Hitchens—see “Religious Fundamentalism, Imperialism and ‘The War on Terror’” and “Why Is Religious Fundamentalism Growing in Today’s World—And What Is the Real Alternative?”—excerpts from the forthcoming book (to be published in the spring of 2008 by Insight Press) AWAY WITH ALL GODS! Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World, in Revolution #103, October 7, 2007 and #104, October 14, 2007.[back]
4. For example, the following from Marx:
“The discovery of gold and silver in America, the extirpation, enslavement and entombment in mines of the aboriginal population, the beginning of the conquest and looting of the East Indies, the turning of Africa into a warren for the commercial hunting of black-skins, signalised the rosy dawn of the era of capitalist production. These idyllic proceedings are the chief momenta of primitive accumulation.” (Karl Marx, Capital Vol. 1, p. 751, also cited in The Science of Revolution, an introduction, by Lenny Wolff, RCP Publications, 1983, p. 90)[back]
5. “Why We’re In the Situation We’re in Today…And What To Do About It: A Thoroughly Rotten System and the Need for Revolution,” is part of 7 Talks by Bob Avakian, in 2006, which are available online at revcom.us/avakian and bobavakian.net.[back]
6. “Living in the House of Tony Soprano” is discussed by Bob Avakian in Bringing Forward Another Way. This is available in its entirety, as a pamphlet and online at revcom.us, and it has been published as a series in Revolution. The installment in that series which discusses “Living in the House of Tony Soprano” is found in Revolution #87, May 6, 2007.[back]
This series will continue in the next issue of Revolution.
Revolution #118, February 3, 2008
The following is from a statement by the January 21st Committee:
On January 21st, Martin Luther King’s official birthday celebration, almost 30 lynch mob racists associated with the white supremacist Nationalist Movement came to Jena. They carried lynching nooses and raised slogans like “Jail the Jena 6” and “Down With Martin Luther King.” In a despicable display of government collaboration with these kkkluckers, local law enforcement allowed some of them to carry guns. This display of racist hate was like a lynching without a body.
The January 21st Committee was determined to unite with others to politically oppose these kkkluckers and drown them out. The question was posed of what message would rule the day? That of white supremacists carrying nooses through the streets of Jena? Or a different message that said, ”No to Lynch Mob Racists,” “Free The Jena Six” and “We Want a Better World”?
150 people, from all across the country together with residents from Jena and the surrounding areas, came together in Jena and marched to the LaSalle Courthouse where the kkkluckers were gathered. We drummed, whistled, chanted, and hollered our message in the streets. With determination and straight up noise, we drowned out the white supremacist rally.
On very short notice and in the face of intimidation and a lot of political controversy, people answered 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! The diversity of our demonstration showed people of all nationalities, from all across the country, standing up against racism: A small number of Jena residents, Black and white, were in attendance, as well as a few from the nearby towns of Alexandria and Ferriday. People came from Los Angeles, New York City, Atlanta and New Orleans. From Detroit, Cleveland, Jersey City, NJ, Durham NC, Chicago, Ohio, Texas, and Montana. High school students from St. Louis, students from University of Texas, Columbia College in Chicago and DePaul University were in the house.
Activists from C3/Hands Off Iberville and Common Ground came up to Jena on a bus from New Orleans. The Harlem Revolution Club brought a van down from New York City. There were supporters of the Revolutionary Communist Party in the house. Activists from FIST rolled into Jena from New Jersey. Black Men 7 brought folk from Eunis, Louisiana. We showed the world the determination of people across the country to get to Jena and stand against nooses and white supremacy. We came with the message of Free the Jena Six and declared to the Black community and all those opposed to racism in Jena—“We got your back.”
It cannot stop here. Those in Jena who took a stand have faced repression and come under attack. Five of the Jena 6 still face charges and segregation, racism, and the criminalization of Black youth continues in Jena and all across the US. We will continue to fight to “Free the Jena Six!” and let our efforts in Jena serve notice that wherever white supremacy rears up we will continue to be there to oppose it because we do not accept a world with nooses!!!
For the January 21st Committee Call, press coverage of the protest and other information, go to: http://januaryinjena.blogspot.com.
For a photo slideshow from the day, go to: http://www.thetowntalk.com (go to photo gallery or follow the link at revcom.us).
Revolution #118, February 3, 2008
I am now reading—I am about half way through—THE SHOCK DOCTRINE, The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, by Naomi Klein. Already it is clear that there are some valuable insights and analysis in this book, although its main thesis is ultimately not a fundamentally correct explanation of the reality it is examining, and there is a certain tendency in the book toward instrumentalism with regard to this thesis (that is, there is a tendency to interpret—or reinterpret—events to make them fit this thesis). But what is once again striking, and what I want to comment on here, is that this book contains what are, all too much these days (and from social-democratic types like Klein certainly no less than others), the de rigueur distortions of and attacks on communism; and there are the related problems of methodology that characterize “progressive” anti-communists generally.
As a kind of concentrated and egregious example of this, at the beginning of THE SHOCK DOCTRINE (in the introductory chapter, “Blank is Beautiful”) in attempting to draw a comparison between the people in North America after September 11 and the people of China in the midst of the mass upsurge of collectivization in the countryside in the first decade of socialism in that country, Klein grotesquely distorts what is said by Mao in a short essay in 1958, “Introducing a Co-operative.” More specifically, Klein refers to—takes out of context and completely distorts—the point Mao makes about the positive nature of the fact that the masses of Chinese people were then “poor and blank.” Klein writes that, after September 11, 2001:
“Suddenly we found ourselves living in a kind of Year Zero, in which everything we knew of the world before could now be dismissed as ‘pre-9/11 thinking.’ Never strong in our knowledge of history, North Americans had become a blank slate—‘a clean sheet of paper’ on which ‘the newest and most beautiful words can be written,’ as Mao said of his people.” (THE SHOCK DOCTRINE, p. 16)
Here we see that Klein begins with a valid, and important, insight, and then immediately perverts and vitiates it with her gratuitous, and blind, swipe at Mao (and, by association, communism in general). It is hard to know whether what Klein is doing here is conscious and deliberate, or simply results “spontaneously” from the distorting nature of her social-democratic, bourgeois-democratic outlook and its attendant anti-communist prejudices. And I am not in a position to say whether Klein actually read the essay by Mao in question, but nonetheless chose to use this quote from Mao in a way which is completely out of context and which serves to misrepresent, and indeed invert, its actual meaning; or whether Klein simply came upon this quote from Mao somewhere and, as is very common among those who have swallowed down all the slander about communism, she simply repeated this quote without actually looking at the source from which it is drawn, and the context into which it fits. But, in any case, if one reads this essay by Mao, it is very clear (very clear, that is, if one does not view things through the distorting prism of obsessive anti-communism) that the actual spirit and essential meaning of what Mao is conveying, both in the particular quote in question, and through the entire essay, is the exact opposite of what is implied through the distorted use of this quote by Klein.
What Klein is suggesting is that Mao was approaching things as a “totalitarian” tyrant, bent on “socially engineering” hundreds of millions of people in line with his “fundamentalist” and “absolutist” communist views and plans (as Klein presents matters, this is the same sort of thing that is done by George W. Bush and “free market capitalism fundamentalists” generally, but is at the other extreme of the political spectrum, so to speak). In actuality, in reading this short essay by Mao, one finds that he is emphasizing the increasing political and ideological consciousness and the conscious initiative of the masses of Chinese people, and in particular the peasants in the countryside, who made up the vast majority of the population and who had never before been regarded, and treated, as anything but beasts of burden. “The communist spirit is growing apace throughout the country,” Mao notes; and he goes on to emphasize that “Never before have the masses of people been so inspired, so militant and so daring as at present.” It is after emphasizing, and briefly elaborating on this and related points that Mao goes on to say:
“Apart from their other characteristics, the outstanding thing about China’s 600 million people is that they are ‘poor and blank.’ This may seem a bad thing, but in reality it is a good thing. Poverty gives rise to the desire for change, the desire for action and the desire for revolution. On a blank sheet of paper free from any mark, the freshest and most beautiful characters can be written, the freshest and most beautiful pictures can be painted.”
And then Mao goes on to talk about the big-character posters developed and utilized by the masses of people as a means through which they themselves conduct mass debate and ideological struggle, as well as criticizing and exposing the exploiters and oppressors who oppose the revolution. As Mao puts it (with reference to a classical Chinese poem), big-character posters, and in general the political upsurge of the masses of people, have “dispelled the dullness” in the countryside and throughout the country as a whole.
From what has been cited here—and from any honest reading of this entire essay by Mao—it is very clear that the whole spirit and intent of what Mao is saying has to do with extolling, and seeking to build on, the fact that, as he puts it, never before have the masses of people been so inspired, so militant and so daring. More specifically, it is clear that Mao’s essential meaning is that being “poor and blank” results in people not only being desirous of radical change but being capable, much more readily than those with something to lose, of taking initiative to fight for that radical change. And it is clear that Mao’s point is that the “freshest and most beautiful characters” and “freshest and most beautiful pictures” are to be, and will be, written and painted by the masses of people themselves—yes, with the leadership of the Communist Party. As Mao sums up:
“Do the Chinese working people still retain any of their past slavish features? None at all; they have become the masters. The working people on the 9,600,000 square kilometers of the People’s Republic of China have really begun to be the rulers of our land.”
The grotesque distortions involved in Klein’s treatment of this are important to expose not only in themselves but also because they are all too typical, these days especially, all too representative of an orientation and method—not only among overt, aggressive and unapologetic reactionaries but, unfortunately, also among far too many people with progressive pretensions (or even progressive intentions)—an orientation and method which accepts, uncritically, all the distortions and slanders about the historical experience of the communist movement and socialist states led by communists, and that fails to approach this experience in a systematically and consistently scientific way, with the honest and open curiosity and search for the truth, including a healthy skepticism toward “conventional wisdom” (what “everybody knows”) that is, and that must be, a part of critical thinking and a scientific method and approach overall.
In order to contribute to bringing into being another, truly better world, it is necessary to do much better than this kind of orientation and method. And it is certainly possible to do so.
Revolution #118, February 3, 2008
The article “A Co-operative That Transformed Itself in Two Years of Bitter Struggle”1 is worth reading. The communist spirit is growing apace throughout the country. The political consciousness of the broad masses is rising rapidly. The backward sections among them are exerting themselves to catch up with the advanced, which demonstrates that the socialist revolution in our country is forging ahead in the economic field (in those places where the relations of production have not yet been completely transformed) and in the political, ideological, technical and cultural fields. Judging from this, it will probably take less time than previously estimated for our industry and agriculture to catch up with that of the capitalist powers. In addition to the leadership of the Party, a decisive factor is our population of 600 million. More people mean a greater ferment of ideas, more enthusiasm and more energy. Never before have the masses of the people been so inspired, so militant and so daring as at present. The former exploiting classes have been completely swamped in the boundless ocean of the working people and must change, even if unwillingly. Undoubtedly there are people who will never change, who would prefer to keep their thinking ossified down to the Day of Judgment, but that does not matter very much. All decadent ideology and other incongruous parts of the super-structure are crumbling as the days go by. To clear away the rubbish completely will still take some time, but there is no doubt of their inevitable and total collapse. Apart from their other characteristics, the outstanding thing about China’s 600 million people is that they are “poor and blank.” This may seem a bad thing, but in reality it is a good thing. Poverty gives rise to the desire for change, the desire for action and the desire for revolution. On a blank sheet of paper free from any mark, the freshest and most beautiful characters can be written, the freshest and most beautiful pictures can be painted. The big-character poster2 is a very useful new weapon, which can be used in the cities and the rural areas, in factories, co-operatives, shops, government institutions, schools, army units and streets—in short, wherever the masses are to be found. It has already been widely used and should always be used. A poem written by Kung Tzu-chen3 of the Ching Dynasty reads:
Only in wind and thunder can the country show its vitality;
Alas, the ten thousand horses are all muted!
O Heaven! Bestir yourself, I beseech you,
And send down men of all the talents.
Big-character posters have dispelled the dullness in which “ten thousand horses are all muted.” Now I wish to recommend one co-operative to the comrades in the more than 700,000 co-operatives in the countryside and to the comrades in the cities. Situated in Fenghiu County, Honan Province, and called the Yingchu Co-operative, it provides us with much food for deep thought. Do the Chinese working people still retain any of their past slavish features? None at all; they have become the masters. The working people on the 9,600,000 square kilometers of the People’s Republic of China have really begun to be the rulers of our land.
1. This article introduces the Yingchu Agricultural Producers’ Co-operative in Fengchiu County, Honan Province. It is situated on low-lying land where water-logging has often been disastrous, and before liberation the people there lived in poverty and hardship. After liberation their life improved and in 1955 the co-operative was formed. In its first two years, it suffered a succession of serious floods. Relying on their own strength and putting their collective wisdom to work, the cadres and members of the co-operative waged a bitter struggle against natural disasters. In the short space of two years the co-operative basically freed itself from drought and flood and drastically changed its appearance by building extensive water conservancy works, bringing dry land under irrigation and converting alkaline land into paddy fields.[back]
2. The Tatsepao, or big-character poster, is powerful new weapon, a means of criticism and self-criticism which was created by the masses during the rectification movement; at the same time it is used to expose and attack the enemy. It is also a powerful weapon for conducting debate and education in accordance with the broadest mass democracy. People write down their views, suggestions or exposures and criticisms of others in big characters on large sheets of paper and put them up in conspicuous places for people to read.[back]
3. Kung Tzu-chen (1792-1841) of Jenho (now Hangchow), Chekiang Province, was a progressive thinker and writer of the Ching Dynasty. He wrote this poem on worshipping the gods at Chenkiang on his way back to Hangchow from Peking in 1839.[back]
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 #118, February 3, 2008
Donate to Revolution $500,000 Expansion and Fund Drive!
Just checkin’ in, sending my love and wishing you well on the fund drive. The paper is real crucial in my aim and ability to reach out to other captives. So it’s always welcomed and I’m always anticipating its arrival.
I ask myself often how do I best go about applying our communist ideology, methodology and ethics as to win over other men here. Always in anticipation that we will be able to do great things here, that we will be able to build bridges from the hellholes here to actually participating in the struggle as dictated by actual circumstances in society. We have to see past these walls.
Many things have taken place for us all these last few years. We’ve seen so many setbacks and overall, from where I sit, the repression is coming down hard on all dissidents. On all liberties, even some of the token gains that the older heads have fought for, Roe vs. Wade, scientific teachings, etc. etc. ad nauseum. And then too, there’s all our personal battles with life in capitalistic America. And in the urban areas and oppressed communities, and definitely here inside the prison complexes.
If we don’t learn to connect the dots, we’ll fall into bourgeois individualism or equally bad, become apathetic or even scared to rebel at all. So how to uphold the correct orientation in our daily lives is no easy task.
Repression has made the bravest soldier turn around. We’ve seen the Panthers lose sight, lose hope, and ultimately lose life. We’ve seen what the state can do. And here in these death camps, we’ve seen the unchecked barbarity these monsters are capable of.
But, as long as we’re willing to embrace a new day, we must be willing to lay down the bricks along the road toward freedom for us all.…And for that we must do our part. So for me it’s the paper and Party literature that’s been my starting point as well as my gauge.
No reason for writing, just wanted to say “What that communism like!” Send my love and many thanks for everything.In struggle
Revolution #118, February 3, 2008
Donate to Revolution $500,000 Expansion and Fund Drive!
I’m writing to you about your campaign to furnish Revolution newspaper subscriptions to prisoners. I think that is a wonderful idea and I pledge $25.00 per month for the next twelve month to the campaign. I am a woman. About eight years ago I was locked up in two federal institutions in Florida for nearly three years. Part of the misery of incarceration is the complete total control the oppressors have over the type of media and information you are exposed to. Television is allowed but, as we all know, that type of media exposure is not only unenlightening, but promotes the same values and worldview and only leads to fantasy life expectations. In prison people are constantly inundated with the messages they are all messed up, that the decisions they made in their lives led them to these tragic circumstances and that if they had behaved better they wouldn’t be in this situation. Well, I for one realize that a lot of the reasons that many of the people are incarcerated is because they have learned their world outlook from the media, the schools and the society overall, that promotes look out for number one and get money and material possessions however you can and it doesn’t matter who it hurts. Most of the women locked up are there for offenses dealing with drugs or taking money in one way or the other. Unfortunately many of these women are locked up and separated from their children because of their involvement with the men in their lives. Also most of the women were foster children as youth or were molested and/or abused in their developing years.
This newspaper represents the outlook of the oppressed in this country and world. It shows us which side we are on and the only way toward liberation for ourselves and the oppressed around the world. This information is so very needed behind the prison walls. I’m not saying the information is going to be widely embraced by the population, but there are some women there who see that this system we are living under is not working in their interest. In the institutions where I was locked up, 50% of the prisoners were Latina. This is information that not many people know in the World. They were desperately poor in their countries and saw selling and distributing drugs as a way to take care of their families. In many ways that was their only choice because the local economies are driven by the demands of the United States.
I learned of this by reading the revolutionary press. I think the women locked up should be exposed to this information and realize that this system cannot and will not create a good and happy life for them and their children and that the only future they can expect in this present system is some form of misery for themselves and people in their class. It won’t change with the color of the President. We have to change the world. But we must understand it first.Convicted Felon
Revolution #118, February 3, 2008
“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!”
As of January 20th, $301,181 has been raised in donations and pledges for the Revolution expansion and fund drive. This is 60% of our goal. In addition to the donations to Revolution newspaper, this includes contributions to discrete projects that contribute to this newspaper’s reach and content. We have learned from the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund (PRLF) that they have received just over $35,000 in donations to subsidize subscriptions to Revolution for prisoners. In addition, the Global Center/Woodward Jena project reports receiving more than $9,000 in contributions to support the reporting from Jena, Louisiana.
A great deal can be accomplished in the week that remains in Revolution’s Expansion and Fund Drive. Let’s 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.
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.”
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 email@example.com
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.
ä Donate to and learn about the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund at ihcenter.org/groups/prlf.html. Make tax-deductible contributions using PayPal or your credit card. PRLF is a program of the International Humanities Center (IHC), a non-profit organization under section 501c3 of the IRS code.
ä Tax-deductible donations for the Woodward Jena Project to fund the work of Revolution newspaper correspondents in Jena, Louisiana can be made to the Global Center, a 501c3 organization. Make checks (checks only please) to “The Global Center” and designate “Woodward Jena Reporting Project” in the memo line. Mail to RCP Publications, PO Box 3486, Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654.
Revolution #118, February 3, 2008
Cancer Research Suppressed
It’s the kind of article that’s a total outrage—and that makes perfect sense, once you think about it.
“Cancer Data? Sorry, Can’t Have It” read the headline in the New York Times science section on Tuesday, January 22. In the article, Andrew Vickers, a cancer researcher at Memorial Sloan-Kettering in New York, wrote about how he had been denied important evidence gathered by other researchers. Vickers had thought that some of this research data might help him ascertain whether a particular drug could help people with certain types of cancer.
Those researchers who refused him said that they might want to analyze the data themselves in the future; but years have passed, wrote Vickers, and “no such analyses have been forthcoming and few patients are benefiting from what could be a very effective drug.” He went on:
“Given the enormous physical, emotional and financial toll of cancer, one might expect researchers to promote the free and open exchange of information. The patients who volunteer for cancer trials often suffer through painful procedures and harsh experimental treatments in the hope of hastening a cure. The data they provide ought to belong to all of us. Yet cancer researchers typically treat it as their personal property.” Think about that—the patients volunteer for excruciating trials, in the hopes of saving lives; but the researchers treat the results as their “personal property.”
Surely, you think, this must be rare.
Vickers notes that Dr. John Kirwan in England “found that three-quarters of researchers he surveyed, as well as a major industry group, opposed making trial data available. It is worth restating this finding: most scientists doing research on how best to help those in pain or at risk of death, want to keep their data secret.”
Why? In the survey cited, people came up with only trivial reasons; we can only deduce their real motives. One possible explanation is that researchers in this system are often forced to scramble for grants in order to continue working, and want to hoard the research to protect their careers. A recurring theme at Scienceblogs (and in many books, conferences, blogs, etc. that focus on science in academia) is the relentless pressure to produce, produce, produce in the form of bringing in research grants to the university and publishing articles that will bring prestige. There are more people with Ph.D.s in science than there are available jobs, leading people to scramble for the same few jobs and often to remain underpaid. They’ve spent years and incurred massive debt, and likely have families they need to support. The existence of so many unemployed Ph.D.s is yet another example of how capitalism fetters the productive forces of society—the productive force in this case being the actual knowledge and skills that these people have and could contribute, but which remain unused due to the rule of capital.
Vickers also notes that “Scientists don’t want to be scooped by their own data, or have someone else challenge their conclusions with a new analysis.”
But it goes even deeper. Capitalism turns everything into a commodity to be bought and sold—even, and indeed especially, human knowledge. Everyone competes with everyone else. Hence, the economic relations of capitalism enforce an ethos, a mindset and morality, of “look out for number one.” This ethos extends into every pore of society and warps every human activity and relation.
We doubt that most cancer researchers got into it “for the money.” But what they aspire to do can only go on within the framework of this society’s social relations, and that framework on a very basic level ends up standing in the way of and eventually warping their original—which was almost certainly in most cases contributing to the store of human knowledge and helping to eliminate disease.
The apologists for capitalism maintain that the “marketplace of ideas” is the best way to advance human knowledge. In fact, the market itself fetters and suppresses human knowledge. This happens through the actions of the ruling class itself, which suppress and/or marginalize ideas that go against its interests, and that consciously promote ignorance and falsehood. But it also goes on, on a deeper level, through the spontaneous workings of a society where everything is a commodity to be bought and sold, and where that basic social relation trains everyone to look at their ideas as a potential source of capital and self-aggrandizement—keeping them “off the market” when they can’t profit from them, protecting them from exposure if they may be false. And research, study, inquiry, and the search for knowledge is compartmentalized, with all kinds of fields of study rigidly and unnecessarily cut off from each other. Where is the search for truth in all this?
Communism offers something far better. It envisions, and can make real, a society where the pursuit of the truth, both in its own right and for worthy goals like wiping out disease, can finally be unfettered by capitalist relations. Where people can work with each other—bouncing off each other’s insights, criticizing the blind spots and mistakes, and coming up with a deeper, more accurate understanding of what’s true and what’s not. The socialist revolution—as the first great step to communist society—will not only put the pursuit of knowledge in command of scientific research and enable researchers and scientists to make their fullest possible contribution to that; it will “open the doors” of scientific research very broadly, drawing masses of people into the arena in many different ways, as part of moving toward a society where everyone is able to work both with their minds and their hands.
In fighting and working for this vision, let’s also not forget that one-quarter of the researchers in the survey discussed above rose above the dog-eat-dog outlook and actually did NOT go along with the idea of denying to others the research data that they themselves had worked on. And let’s learn as well from the palpable outrage of Andrew Vickers in his article. There are many among the scientists and intellectuals who yearn for something better, who resist the depredations of the market relations and abhor the market mentality, and who would love to contribute to a society which would truly foster the pursuit of knowledge—both in its own right, and to better the lot of humanity.
Revolution #118, February 3, 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.
January 29: 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?
February 5: 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?
February 12: What really happened in socialist societies? What would “doing better” mean and look like—and can you really do better?
312 West 8th Street 213-488-1303
January 29, Tuesday, 7:30 pm
Radio host Michael Slate comes to Libros Revolución to continue the dialogue begun on his show, “Beneath the Surface”: Are elections the way to go if you want to change the world? On the show at 5 p.m., Michael will be discussing the role of elections in society today with guests Norman Solomon, author and media critic; and Sunsara Taylor, writer for Revolution newpaper.
Also at 7:30 pm
Spanish language showing and discussion of sections from RCP, USA Chairman Bob Avakian’s DVD, Revolución: Por qué es necesaria, por qué es posible, qué es.
January 31, Thursday
The bookstore staff encourages everyone to join The World Can’t Wait, Drive Out the Bush Regime’s national “Call to Action” during the daytime in downtown L.A. at the ICE headquarters opposing the attacks on immigrants; and in the evening in Hollywood protesting the war outside the Democratic debate at the Kodak theatre. Then come on down to Libros Revolución in the evening to kick-it at an open house and bilingual discussion of the current issue of Revolution/Revolución.
February 1, Friday, 7 pm
Cinema Revolución presents: Sir! No Sir! – a film about the GI movement against the war in Vietnam by David Zeiger.
February 3, Sunday, 4:30 pm
Ongoing bilingual discussion of Bob Avakian’s recent talk “Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity.” We’ll be delving into “Marxism as a Science – Refuting Karl Popper,” from Issues #111 and 112 of Revolution/Revolución.
February 6, Wednesday, 7 pm
First in a series of discussions of The Science of Evolution, The Myth of Creationism – Knowing What's Real and Why It Matters by Ardea Skybreak. Why is evolution important for everyone to know? What did Darwin figure out?
February 9, Saturday, 2 pm
“Opposing White Supremacy & Getting To a Far Better World”: Presentation and discussion with Clyde Young from the Revolutionary Communist Party.
February 16, Saturday, Call for time
Reception for Hank Brown and Alice Woodward, Revolution newspaper journalists who have been covering events in Jena, Louisiana.
2425 Channing Way near Telegraph Ave
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 TV Show House and the Experience of Socialist Society So Far
January 30, Wednesday, 7pm
Revolution newspaper discussion
February 2, Saturday, 11 a
Discussion of “Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity” by Bob Avakian: Can a newspaper really prepare people for revolution?
February 3, Sunday, 2 pm
"Why is religious fundamentalism growing in today’s world? Discussion of excerpt from the new book by Bob Avakian Away With All Gods
February 4, Monday, 7 pm
Video nite: Eyes on the Prize
Two Societies (1965-1968): From civil rights marches in Chicago to urban uprising in Detroit
February 5, Tuesday, 7 pm
Discussion of “U.S. Constitution: An Exploiter’s Vision of Freedom”
February 6, Wednesday, 7 pm
Dahr Jamail discusses his book Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches From an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq
February 7, Thursday, 7 pm
Revolution newspaper discussion
February 9, Saturday, 11 am
Book discussion: The Science of Evolution and the Myth of Creationism by Ardea Skybreak
Evolution is in action all around us – what we can learn from viruses and fruit flies
February 10, Sunday, 2pm
Evolution Sunday: Join Revolution Books in Secular Sunday by taking the book The Science of Evolution to Bay Area churches (call for details)
February 11, Monday, 7pm
Discussion: The Jena 6, The Nooses, And Why We Need a Revolution
February 12, Tuesday
Darwin Day: Video showing of the NOVA Special: Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial
1103 N. Ashland Avenue
Every Sunday, 5:00 pm
Discussions of Bob Avakian’s "Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity.” Call store for topics.
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
February 3, Sunday, 2 pm
Discussion of Ardea Skybreak's The Science of Evolution and the Myth of Creationism: Knowing What's Real and Why It Matters. This will be the 2nd in a series of discussions of the book leading into national events on Darwin Day (Feb. 12). Our topic will be: basic principles - natural selection, speciation and more.
Monday, February 4, 7:30-9:30 pm
Revolution Books Jam Session - an experiment in directive musical improvisation. An open invitation of participation is extended to ALL musicians to join in. The goal of the evening is to create a series of spontaneous collective compositions facilitated by the house band. EVERYONE is welcome to witness and enjoy this musical event and explore Revolution Books.
February 17, Sunday, 2 pm
Ardea Skybreak's The Science of Evolution and the Myth of Creationism: Knowing What's Real and Why It Matters. Discussion 3: Evolution and Human Beings.
March 2, Sunday, 2 pm
Ardea Skybreak's The Science of Evolution and the Myth of Creationism: Knowing What's Real and Why It Matters. Discussion 4: Anti-Evolution Creationism: An Assault On All of Science, In the Name of God.
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, Cambridge
Every Monday, 6:30 pm
Weekly discussion of the work of Bob Avakian
January 28, Monday, 6:30 pm
Meaningful Revolutionary Work: Boldly Spreading Revolution and Communism The main reading for this discussion is the section of the talk “Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity” that appears in Revolution #114.
February 9, Saturday, 6:30 pm
Dinner and discussion with the staff at Revolution Books about ways the store can make big leaps in the coming year in projecting out as a center of revolutionary ferment and a pole of a revolutionary communist movement. Please contact us in advance if you plan to come.
February 11, Monday, 6:30 pm
Continuing discussion of the talk by Bob Avakian, “Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity,” part 2. This week: Meaningful Revolutionary Work: A culture of appreciation, promotion, and popularization
February 12, Tuesday, 6:30 pm
Celebrate Darwin Day! Film showing: Inherit the Wind
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
(between Cass &2nd, south of Forest)
Every Sunday at 4:00 p.m.
Discussions of "Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity—Part 2: Everything We're Doing Is About Revolution" by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA
Every Thursday at 6:00 p.m.
Discussion on the latest issue of Revolution newspaper, digging into articles and expanding distribution
RBO Goes to the Movies each month
Monthly film showings at the bookstore or gatherings to see current films with discussion afterwards
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
1833 Nagle Place
Every Saturday in February, 7 pm
Ongoing reading and discussion of the series “Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity” by Bob Avakian
Revolution #118, February 3, 2008
CHECK IT OUT
We received this from a reader:
The film Taxi to the Dark Side begins with a car driving down a road in rural Afghanistan, stirring up a cloud of dust. This is the road Dilawar drove one day in December 2002. This 22-year-old taxi driver thought he was just taking passengers to town, but he disappeared that day and never came home to his family.
A few months later he was found dead, chained and hanging by his wrists from the grated ceiling in a small cell in the notorious Bagram Prison, his legs reduced to pulp by being kicked and kneed repeatedly by U.S. military guards and interrogators. He was never charged with any crime, and even some of his interrogators said they believed he had no connection with Al Qaeda or the Taliban.
The term “dark side” is taken from a remark by Dick Cheney during a Meet the Press interview five days after 9/11: “We also have to work through…the dark side…it’s going to be vital for us to use any means at our disposal, basically, to achieve our objective.” Taxi to the Dark Side—written, directed, and produced by Alex Gibney—chronicles in chilling and gut-wrenching detail the U.S.’s torture and debasement of detainees in Bagram, Abu Ghraib, and Guantánamo. The film includes rare and never-before-seen images from inside those hellholes. There are interviews with military guards and interrogators who carried out the torture and a former detainee at Bagram and Guantánamo who was tortured—and comments defending torture from former Justice Department official John Yoo (the
author of the infamous “torture memo”), Donald Rumsfeld, and Alberto Gonzales. Throughout, the film draws links between what happened—and is still happening—on the ground and directives issued from on high. One U.S. soldier says, “We were told they [the detainees] were less than dogs” and that they should be treated accordingly.
In comments before a showing of the film in New York City sponsored by the New York Civil Liberties Union, Executive Producer Robert Johnson said that the filmmakers went to some risk filming in secret at Bagram and in Dilawar’s village. Johnson said that they were committed to telling the truth about what was happening. And, looking directly at the audience, he added, “This film is about you.” Afterwards, Johnson explained that when the filmmakers returned from Afghanistan, they were struck by the lack of protest and outcry in the U.S. over the revelations of torture.
Taxi to the Dark Side has been nominated for an Academy Award for best feature-length documentary. Organize your friends, co-workers, classes and everyone you know to go see it. Then think of Dilawar and the detainees—many whose names are yet not known—still at Bagram, Abu Ghraib, and Guantánamo, and act to stop “the dark side” from taking still more lives and swallowing the humanity of all of us. For more information about the film, including to find a theater that will be showing it, go online to taxitothedarkside.com.
Revolution #118, February 3, 2008
From A World to Win News Service
[Revolution editors’ note: The following is an update on the arrest of P. Govindan Kutty, the editor of People’s March magazine, by police in Kerala state in India. The report from A World to Win News Service on Kutty’s arrest appeared in Revolution #116 and is available online at revcom.us.]
January 21, 2008. A World to Win News Service. P. Govindan Kutty, editor of the Indian Maoist monthly magazine People’s March, was transferred from jail to hospital January 9. He had been on hunger strike since December 20, when he was remanded to prison following his arrest the day before. On January 18, before the Kerala High Court, the state government opposed the third and latest effort to obtain his freedom on bail. Once again adjusting the charges against him, the authorities have now made the political nature of this case perfectly clear. According to The Hindu (January 21), “In a statement filed in response to his bail petition, the police said there was a possibility of the accused indulging in anti-national activities if he was released on bail. The police said he had been propagating the CPI (Maoist) ideologies and program and publishing the CPI (Maoist) mouthpiece People’s March.” [Revolution editors’ note: CPI (Maoist) is the Communist Party of India (Maoist).]
There has been no further news about Kutty’s health and the conditions of his imprisonment. His age is variously given as between 60 and 68.
A group of five Indian human rights activists was able to meet with the journalist in prison January 8. They told a press conference that after his arrest, Kutty had been permitted to talk to a lawyer only with the authorities present. Acting on “orders from higher authorities,” they said, his jailers were force-feeding him glucose after tying his hands and legs. They characterized his treatment as “torture.” The next day, the authorities announced that he has been transferred from Viyyur prison to a hospital following what they called the “deterioration” of his state of health.
People’s March is a licensed, government-registered publication. It has never before been banned or faced legal proceedings, although it seems to have been outlawed since Kutty’s arrest. There is nothing clandestine about it. Kutty has long been publicly identified as its editor, publisher and owner, with his address figuring in the masthead. Calling itself “The Voice of the Indian Revolution,” it has never claimed to be an organ of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist). Some of its articles have been reprinted by the mainstream Indian press.
Apparently the authorities first arrested the editor and then tried to find suitable charges. According to The Hoot, the blog of a Delhi-based media watch group, which has been one of the few sources of information on this case, after Kerala police raided the small office of this journalist, ransacked the premises and confiscated the computer and literature, they initially announced he would be accused of helping two alleged CPI(M) members find shelter. The two, Malla Raya Reddy and Suguna, had been captured in a secret police raid on a group of construction workers from neighboring Andhra Pradesh living alongside a road in Kerala a few days before…
However, no evidence of any connection between Kutty and the two arrested persons was ever presented, and no charges seem to have been brought in this regard. Instead, the main accusation against him was that he had written an article five years ago allegedly praising an attack on the widely hated Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandra Babu Naidu. No legal action had been taken against him or the magazine in this regard before now. The Unlawful Activities Prevention Act under which these accusations have been framed is usually used against common criminals, not in political cases, and never against a media person. Now, at his most recent bail hearing, he has been charged purely and simply with the content and opinions expressed in his magazine.
The blog columnist goes on to say that following the arrest, the police fed the local media stories about Kutty’s personal life “which vilified the man as a demon.” Since then the Malayam language press in Kerala has published little or nothing about his case, and even news in the Kerala and national English-language media is sparse. A media columnist writing in The Hindu (January 6),one of India’s leading national publications, noted that there had been practically no mainstream press coverage of the cases of Kutty and two other figures imprisoned on charges of Maoist associations in 2007, Binakayak Sen, a well-known doctor arrested after he treated an accused Maoist prisoner in jail with the permission of prison authorities in Chhattisgarh, and Prashant Rahi, a well-known journalist in Uttarakhand. Much of the news has been spread by newspaper blogs and others run by political activists, often shut down by the authorities, only to reappear on other sites.
Nevertheless, some local and national media and people of various political persuasions have begun to make Kutty’s case more broadly known. Statements of support have come from the Kerala Human Rights Samithi, student organizations, journalists, writers, scientists and others, as well as the Revolutionary Democratic Front of India (rdfindia@gmail. com).
The treatment of the human rights activists who saw Kutty has also stirred some further protests. The five, including several lawyers and a publisher, came from Delhi and Tamil Nadu as well as other cities in Kerala. They were initially blocked by the prison authorities, who wanted to force them to urge the editor to give up his protest fast. They succeeded in entering the prison the following day, but as they were leaving, the police tried to take them to a police station to “verify their identities” because they were suspected of being “extremists.” The five protested that they had already presented their identification documents to the jail authorities. “Somehow, they managed to escape,” wrote the newspaper Newindpress. They made a public appearance later that day at a conference at the Press Club in Thrissur, where they demanded that the state of Kerala drop the “false case” against Kutty and compensate him for his illegal detention.