Revolution #121 February 24, 2008

Revolution #122 March 9, 2008

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Revolution #122, March 9,2008


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March 8,2008

Celebrate International Women's Day

This year on International Women’s Day, the March 8th Women’s Organization (Iran, Afghanistan) and “The Women’s Campaign for the Abolition of All Misogynist and Gender-Based Legislation and Islamic Punitive Laws in Iran against Women” (Karzar) have called for a bold march through the streets of Brussels. This march is in defiance of the woman-hating regime in Iran and other Islamic fundamentalists—and in defiance of U.S. efforts to use the brutal oppression of women in Iran and Afghanistan to drum up support for its war for empire in the Middle East and its threats to attack Iran.

With this action, women from Iran and Afghanistan are declaring that their fight is against both of these enemies, that they will not choose between two different versions of hell: stonings, forced veil, and brutal anti-woman laws or U.S.-sponsored bombs, occupation and domination. They will take their protest from the U.S. embassy, to European Parliament, to the embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran.Each year since 2006, Iranian women activists in exile in Europe have taken to the streets on March 8th joined by hundreds of Iranian and international revolutionaries and progressives who support their struggle against both enemies.

This year the March 8th Women’s Organization has issued an important call for women and men in the U.S. to support their struggle and to fight against the regime in the U.S. at the same time as they fight against the regime in Iran. A solidarity march will be held on March 8th in the streets of Los Angeles, and solidarity events will also take place in New York and San Francisco. Playwright Eve Ensler, best known for the play, The Vagina Monologues, wrote this statement for the IWD march in Los Angeles: “I stand in solidarity with the women of Iran, that they may be protected from the patriarchs, both within their country and outside, who attempt to censor them, destroy their rights, invade them and occupy them. I stand with you in your struggle for freedom from this tyranny that you may come into your power and voice.”

A great deal is at stake for the future of humanity in whether people in the U.S. step out and take a stand in support of this courageous struggle of women rebelling against both these outmoded forces in the world. Revolution wholeheartedly supports this call and we encourage our readers to build for and attend the solidarity actions.

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Revolution #122, March 9,2008


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Let Us Celebrate Our Fighting Unity on International Women’s Day

Demonstration at the Hague, Netherlands in 2006 called by the March 8th Women’s Organization (Iran, Afghanistan). [Photo: Special to Revolution]

We women from Iran will march on the streets of Europe on March 8 in order to let the world know we, who are facing one of the deadliest woman hating regimes on Earth (the Islamic Republic), will go on rebelling against everything reactionary until we achieve emancipation of women and the whole of humanity.

We will reaffirm that never ever in history have slaves been liberated by the slave owners. Therefore we denounce and reject George Bush’s outrageous declarations about wanting to liberate us.

We call upon women and men in the U.S. to act in solidarity and support us in our difficult fight against our two enemies who are part of the same matrix: the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) and U.S. imperialism.

Oppression of women is the linchpin of Islamic theocracy in Iran. Religious state guarantees total patriarchy. Here, all kinds of state sanctioned brutal rituals are performed over women’s bodies: obligatory head to toe cover Hejab; arresting and torturing those who rebel against Hejab; stoning and hanging “infidel” and  adulterous women. In Iran women have no right to travel, no right to work, no right to education without consent of father or husband. It is total patriarchy. Medieval penal codes ensure medieval moral codes.

In Iran, extreme oppression breaks women and denigrates them but also turns them into formidable rebels. We rebel against our conditions and we struggle to make all oppressed and exploited people in Iran rebel against the slavery of women. Today in Iran, every progressive and revolutionary movement—be it the workers who fight for the right to strike and have unions or the students who are fighting against tyranny and U.S. war threats—calls for abolition of laws demoting women to a slave situation; they call for separation of state and religion, and at the heart of this separation is an end to the slave situation of women.

In the midst of our bloody fight against Islamic Republic of Iran we have to also face another bloody foe: US imperialism.

GW regime claims to be “liberator” of the people in the Middle East: a 100 percent criminal cynical deception. We know what that “liberation” looks like! Misery and oppression of our sisters in Afghanistan and Iraq fills us with deep sorrow and rage. In “liberated” Iraq, with close to one million deaths and total disruption of life for millions of people, many female children who have been spared by U.S. bombs and bestial raids of U.S. army are traded in prostitution free market. After all it has been “liberation” of free market capitalism which trades in human flesh.

We want to make one thing clear: we the women of Iran, who have been in a kind of civil war with Islamic Republic of Iran for the last 29 years, are not fighting to liberate ourselves from the clutches of one outmoded social, ideological, political system like the IRI in order to let another outmoded system like U.S. imperialism replace it. Nothing is more deadly a trap for the oppressed than to prefer one set of oppressors to another set of oppressors.

We don’t need anybody “liberating” us. We have been liberating ourselves for 29 years, and the US has been helping and consolidating the IRI and other “made in USA” Islamic fundamentalists in the Middle East. The US rulers (Republican or Democrats) are experts in putting together all kinds of reactionary mummies, tribal, clerical and warlord patriarchs and “forging a state” out of them. This is the kind of pluralism and democracy US has been dishing out to the people of the Middle East in addition to bombs.

We don’t need “liberation” ala GW. But we do need the support of people in the U.S.!

We need the people in the U.S. to fight against their regime while we are fighting against ours.

GW and Islamic rulers in Iran are warning us that one must choose between them. No! We should not let the people in our countries to be squeezed in this political trap. It is clever on their part to use the fight in between them to also stamp out any possibility of the people taking the helms of society away from them in making revolutions in Iran and U.S. Instead of playing their sinister destructive path we have our own way: to squeeze them in between our internationalist revolutionary struggles.

We believe IRI is just a part and parcel of the world wide system that U.S. and other imperialist powers are controlling and leading: an extremely oppressive anti-people, women-hating system which is prevailing in the world. This system has to be buried in order for us to be liberated. We women of the world must break our chains and unleash women as mighty force for this epochal change. We have one fight to fight for the whole of humanity.

March 8th Women’s Organization
(Iran, Afghanistan)
2008

 

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Revolution #122, March 9,2008


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Donate to the $500,000 Fund Drive
Fund Drive Campaign News and Resources

Celebrate Our Fighting Unity on International Women’s Day

Los Angeles

Celebrate Our Fighting Unity on International Women’s Day

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Join women of Iran and Afghanistan in their struggle against the woman-hating Islamic Republic of Iran and the imperialist U.S. empire. On March 8, women from those and other countries will take to the streets in an international march in Brussels.  We will march in solidarity with them in the streets of L.A.!

Assemble at the Federal Bldg. in Westwood –
Noon (corner of  Wilshire & Veteran Blvd.)
March through Westwood, Rally at Le Conte & Westwood – 2 p.m.

Endorsers:

International Women’s Day Coalition, Los Angeles 2008 (intlwomensdayla@gmail.com, myspace.com/intlwomensdayla); Carol Downer, originator of self-health and board of Feminist Women’s Health Center; Libros Revolución; Puerto Rican Alliance; Dr. Jose Quiroga, Medical Director of Program for Torture Victims and Executive Vice-President of IRCT; Union of Progressive Iranians; Students for Critical Thinking, CSULA; Media sponsor: KPFK


New York

Stand with Iranian Women
Fighting Two Enemies—

Anti-Woman Islamic Theocracy and U.S. Imperialism

Wednesday, March 12, 2008, 7 p.m.

Revolution Books, NYC 9 West 19th Street

Speakers and films will present the reality of women’s lives and women’s resistance in the Middle East and the need to oppose U.S.
war moves on Iran.

Presented by Revolution Books and the IWD 2008 Committee to Stand
With Iranian Women.
For more information: 212-691-3345; revolutionbooksnyc.org


San Francisco Bay Area

Evening of Solidarity with Iranian Women

Friday, March 7, 7 p.m.

Revolution Books, Berkeley, 2425 Channing Way

For more information: 510-848-1196, revolutionbooks.org

 

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Revolution #122, March 9, 2008


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Revolution Books/Libros Revolución presents:

Re-envisioning Revolution and Communism:

WHAT IS BOB AVAKIAN’S NEW SYNTHESIS?

Presentation followed by discussion

(see below for locations and dates)

ON A PLANET WHERE BILLIONS LIVE A DAY AWAY FROM STARVATION...
where the lives of millions of children are cut short by curable diseases...
where brutal wars grind on in Iraq and Afghanistan and hellholes like Guantánamo stay “open for business”...where nooses spring up like weeds, immigrants are hunted and the availability of abortion is rapidly disappearing...
where youth are treated as either criminals or commodities...and where all this
is totally UNNECESSARY—the world badly needs revolution.

Revolutionary state power will set about ending these horrors and meeting the pressing needs of the people. But a truly emancipatory socialism must do more than that. It must lay the basis, and take concrete steps, toward a society where people consciously change the world and themselves, in a society of freely associating human beings and where the need for any kind of state has been surpassed.

In that light, Bob Avakian has done path-breaking work to go beyond even the best of the previous socialist societies and re-envisioned a socialism that is both visionary and viable. His “new synthesis” has tackled a whole realm of questions, including:

Come hear the presentation and wrangle over all this.

Bob Avakian is the leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. And he is more than that: he’s an innovative and critical thinker who has taken Marxism to a new place; he’s a provocative commentator on everything from basketball to religion, doo-wop music to science; and he’s a pit-bull fighter against oppression who’s kept both his solemn sense of purpose and his irrepressible sense of humor.

Bob Avakian will not be in attendance at this event.


New York
Sunday, March 9th • 4 pm

St. Paul & St. Andrew Church
Corner of West 86th St & West End Ave
1 train to 86th Street, walk 1 block west to West End Ave
$10 sliding scale admission
We apologize that translation will not be available for this program. Programs in Spanish will be announced later.

Further info: 212-691-3345 – www.revolutionbooksnyc.org
Download PDF flyer for New York event


Chicago
Saturday, March 22nd • 1 to 5 pm

University Center*
525 S. State Street (State & Congress)
Simultaneous Spanish interpretation will be available
Venue is accessible
Parking/Ride sharing - call for information
Red line to Harrison. Walk 1 block north.
Brown, Pink, Orange lines to Library stop. Walk 1 block east, 1 block south

More information: 773-489-0930 - revbookschi@yahoo.com
Download PDF flyer for Chicago event

*This program is not sponsored by or affiliated with University Center


Los Angeles
Saturday, March 22nd • 1 to 5 pm

The New LATC
514 S. Spring Street
Spanish translation will be available
$10 sliding scale admission
For reservations and further information:
Libros Revolución 312 W. 8th St., Los Angeles, CA
213-488-1303
librosrevolucion.blog.com • librosrevo@yahoo.com
Download PDF flyer for Los Angeles event


SF/Bay Area
Saturday, March 22nd • 2 pm
Berkeley

For location and availability of translation, call 510-848-1196

 

 

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Revolution #122, March 9, 2008


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MATTERS OF PRINCIPLE AND STANDARDS

As a basic principle, things that involve (or are alleged to involve) matters which are internal to a communist organization but which that organization, for whatever reason, has not decided to discuss publicly, are not things which should be discussed publicly by anyone, especially anyone who even claims to be serious about revolution and communism. This is a matter of standards that is elementary and basic for any serious revolutionary and any real revolutionary-communist organization. If anyone wishes to evaluate what such an organization actually stands for and is working to achieve, there is plenty of basis to do so—and in fact the best basis to do so—by reading the official documents and other publications of that organization and by familiarizing oneself with the practical work that this organization carries out.

These are the standards and this is the approach which the RCP adheres to and applies. If and when the RCP itself decides to make public things which have been adopted through the internal processes of the Party—as has been done, for example, with the 1995 Leadership Resolutions—then of course the Party will not only be willing but anxious to engage with as many people as possible in discussion about these things.

Anyone who is not authorized by the RCP to do so but who claims to be revealing “inside information” about the RCP establishes himself or herself, by that very act, as someone who, at a minimum, is acting very irresponsibly. 

Beyond that, spreading gossip, rumors, and distortions about the RCP, and/or others in the communist movement, marks anyone who does so as thoroughly dishonest and highly unprincipled. The more that life unfolds, the more the opportunist character of people who do such things will be revealed.

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Revolution #122, March 9,2008


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This statement was written in response to a call from Iranian women for people in the U.S. to "act in solidarity and support us in our difficult fight against our two enemies who are part of the same matrix: the Islamic Republic of Iran and U.S. Imperialism ... "* It will be sent to Iranian women marching in Europe on March 8, 2008.
Please add your name by emailing StandwithWomen2008@Yahoo.com and forward widely.

International Women's Day 2008

We Stand With Iranian Women

On International Women's Day, March 8, 2008, we women in the U.S. are proud to stand with Iranian women who are fighting on two fronts: against the anti-woman oppression of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the war threats of the U.S. government.

When a woman is lashed, our bodies, too, feel pain. When a woman is stoned, our own blood is spilled. What happens to any of our sisters, whatever patriarchal horror is inflicted in Iran or anywhere, affects all of us. When one woman is degraded, silenced, abused, or murdered, all women are harmed.

At this time when U.S. war and occupation is devastating the Middle East, including destroying the lives of countless women and children, and is threatening Iran, we declare our determination to oppose imperialist war moves, at the same time as we support your resistance to anti-woman laws and practices in the Islamic Republic. History shows that the U.S. is all too ready to accommodate and encourage Islamic fundamentalists when it suits its interests, as the reality in Iraq and Afghanistan today shows, even while it hypocritically professes concern for women as justification for attacking at other times.

Much is at stake for women - and men - today in the world, and we have much to learn from the Iranian women rallying in Europe on International Women's Day who are refusing to choose between oppressors and are determined to liberate themselves to bring another future into being.

As Iranian women gather in Europe and in Iran this International Women's Day 2008, we in the U.S. salute and stand with you!

(please add your name, a brief identifier, and email to StandWithWomen2008@yahoo.com)

*See www.8mars.com for call from Iranian women, "Let us Celebrate Our Fighting Unity on International Women's Day." Also see http://www.karzar-zanan.com/english.html[back]

Send us your comments.

Revolution #122, March 9,2008


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The Hypocrisy of “Newly Minted Feminists”… And David Horowitz’ Dangerous Agenda

by T. Redtree

Editors’ note: The following article originally appeared in Revolution #105 (10/21/07). That article was written specifically in response to so-called “Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week” [for background on this, see “Resist ‘Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week’: Confront the Horowitz Fascists with Real Facts and Truth” in Revolution #102, available at revcom.us]. We are reprinting this article now because exposing the hypocrisy of the rulers of the U.S. posing as champions of women oppressed by Islamic fundamentalism is critical for people who want to oppose the oppression of women everywhere

The people putting on “Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week”—the October 22–26 series of events at universities and colleges purporting to oppose “Islamo-Fascism” and to develop support for the “war on terror”—pose as champions of the rights of women. And so, at a time when the Supreme Court has thrown the right to abortion into question, when the operatives of the Bush regime have brought birth control increasingly under fire, when violence against women in this country continues and intensifies with vengeance, and when the culture is saturated with ritual shamings of women who “go bad”…Horowitz and his allies have proclaimed their intent to hold sit-ins at Women’s Studies Departments, “designed to protest the absence of courses that focus on Islamic gynophobia,” in order to coerce them into signing the statement “Calling on Feminists to End Their Silence on the Oppression of Women in Islam”!

The hypocrisy of these newly minted feminists is stunning. But behind the hypocrisy lies an ugly and dangerous agenda. Horowitz is seizing on the truth of the real oppression of women in countries ruled by Islamic fundamentalists in the service of a very big lie. There is a way to oppose this oppression—but it is not by enlisting in Horowitz’s crusade. Indeed, if you really do oppose the oppression of women—in Islamic fundamentalist countries and movements and on the rest of the planet as well—opposing Horowitz’s “week” is the most important thing you can do right now.

“Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week”

Horowitz has manipulated and thieved language and tactics from the 1960s to make it look like campus brownshirts are the new wave of student activism—using tactics like sit-ins and protests at Women’s Studies Departments “with the goal of encouraging them to provide course offerings on the abuse of women in Islam.” The scholarship and teaching currently going on in Women’s Studies is dismissed as “trivial” or “imagined” and criticized for the “numerous hours… spent…dissecting the reasons for the ‘wage gap’ in America, violence against women and the ‘privileges’ accorded Caucasian males. But courses on the plight of women in Islamic regimes are strangely absent.” (Sara Dogan—Frontpage, 10/9/07)

Phyllis Chesler and Robert Spensor have written a pamphlet for the week titled The Violent Oppression of Women in Islam, which marshals partial truths about the oppression of women in the service of a gigantic lie—one that has been told by colonial powers since the 19th century—and was trotted out most recently in service of launching the opening act in the war on terror in Afghanistan. “We’re here to save the women! We’re ready to fight the ‘war on terror’ not to extend the violence of empire but to protect the weaker sex!” And now the same war propaganda is being drummed up all over again, to reinforce this “war on terror” and to mount support and consent for attacking Iran.

Chesler and Spensor also exhibit a xenophobic worldview that includes passages that warn of the danger of allowing Islamic people to immigrate—spreading the contagion of Islamic backwardness and terrorism into European and American society. Their treatment of the whole subject conjures up the kind of fear and prejudice that creates an atmosphere where rendition, detention, and torture for “your safety” are tolerated. And their rhetoric is an echo of the war propaganda from World War 2—where stereotypes of “inscrutable” Japanese whose “minds were 2000 years behind” were created to train the public to go along with putting people into internment camps.

A Cautionary Tale—Afghanistan and Iraq

In this land of short attention spans, let’s recall the justifications for war against Afghanistan. Before that war, TV specials about the plight of women forced under the burkah were brought into millions of living rooms—people sympathized and hearts went out to the women living under the Taliban. Young men and women signed up with the U.S. military to fight. The women’s movement was actively courted and put on display to prove the political will and broad sentiment in favor of bombing and invasion.

Susan Faludi’s new book, The Terror Dream—Fear and Fantasy in Post-9/11 America, documents the whole thing in detail. “After months of being snubbed, the Feminist Majority, which had been trying to call attention to the Taliban’s abuse of women since 1996, found itself in the astonishing position of playing belle at the capitol ball.... The White House (which had just abolished the office of women’s ‘initiatives’) began contacting women’s rights organizations and asking them to seek ‘common ground’ with the administration that had iced them since its inception.”

Faludi documents how feminist leaders were invited to brief Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, and others. Congress held hearings on the status of women in Afghanistan. Bush himself pronounced to an audience of women’s rights activists that “the central goal of the terrorists is the brutal oppression of women,” and Colin Powell solemnly stated that the “rights of women will not be negotiable” as the State Department issued a “Report on the Taliban’s War against Women.” And then it stopped. Barely two weeks after the invasion, when questioned about the status of women’s rights, the State Department said it “had other priorities.”

Today Afghanistan has a parliament full of Islamic fundamentalists and warlords and the situation for women in Afghanistan has barely changed. Wearing the burkah is no longer law—but women are in danger of being beaten if they dare to appear in public without it. In September, the same journalist who made the CNN documentary “Behind the Veil” before the invasion returned to Afghanistan to report on the grim situation for women now. The new documentary interview shines a light on an epidemic of young women with serious burns—from setting themselves afire with household kerosene in acts of defiance and despair at arranged marriages.

The same lies and hypocrisy are evident in the Iraq war as well. In summer 2003, L. Paul Bremer, the top administrator of the U.S. occupation, assembled the Iraqi Governing Council (IGC). Among those appointed by Bremer were Islamists who openly declared their intent to restrict women’s rights. Then, on December 29, 2003, the IGC held a quasi‑secret vote to replace Iraq’s 1959 family law which was among the most progressive in the Middle East. The family law had been enacted in 1959 by the secular nationalist government of Abd Al Karim Qasim, who was later overthrown by the Ba’athists (with support from the United States). These laws came into being on the heels of mass mobilization of the Iraqi women’s movement at the end of the British colonial era. Aspects of the progressive family law persisted until the eve of the U.S. invasion. Divorce cases were to be heard only in civil courts, and women divorcees had an equal right to custody over their children. Women’s income was recognized as independent from their husbands. The law also restricted child marriage and granted women and men equal shares of inheritance.

The occupation authorities consistently undermined Iraqi women’s efforts to secure their legal rights. The U.S. threw its weight behind Iraq’s Shiite Islamists, calculating that these forces, long suppressed by Saddam Hussein, would cooperate with the occupation and deliver the stability needed for the U.S. The first battle in the drafting of Iraq’s constitution was over the family laws. The U.S.-backed forces reviled the 1959 law for being “secular” and spawning “deviant decisions that tore families apart.” They also demanded that interpretation of family law be removed from civil authority and handed back to the clerics.

Further, the new Iraqi Constitution that Bush and the media glorify as bringing democracy to Iraq, in reality finalized the establishment of an Islamic Republic. Article 2 of the final version of the constitution makes Islam the official religion of Iraq and its state and makes it clear that no law can be passed to contradict it. Article 14 of the final constitution guarantees equal rights for women—only so long as those rights do not “violate Sharia” (Islamic law). So Sharia comes first. According to Sharia, only fathers can have custody of children in case of divorce. Women are officially valued at only half the worth of men in matters such as inheritance and bearing witness in court.

Meanwhile, Shiite militias patrol the streets of Iraq’s major cities, attacking women who don’t dress or behave to their liking. In many places, they kill women who wear pants or appear in public without a headscarf. In much of Iraq, women are virtually confined to their homes because of the likelihood of being beaten, raped, or abducted in the streets. The Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Sistani—a U.S. ally—ordered all Iraqi women to wear headscarves, and his edicts were enforced by beheadings and acid attacks. In 2006, Sistani also issued an order for the killing of gays and lesbians, which was publicized for several months on his website. And a recent UN report states that 250 women were killed in honor killings in Iraqi Kurdistan alone thus far this year—most of them burned alive.

If David Horowitz really gave a damn about the status of women under Islam, he would be denouncing and protesting at the White House.

Honor Killings

Horowitz and Chesler make use of a surge in honor killings in Iraq and the region more generally to also make their case that there is something unique and intrinsically worse about Islam than any other ideology or religion. To be clear: honor killings are barbaric. They are a horrific manifestation of property relations and of the fact that societies have treated women first and foremost as the property of males. They are one more reason that this whole world needs to be turned right side up through communist revolution and a radical rupture with all traditional property relations and all traditional ideas.

But Horowitz, Chesler & Co. once again take some truths about honor killings to buttress a big lie. First off, incidents of honor killings in Iraq have increased as Iraqi civil society has collapsed under the occupation—strengthening tribal bonds and religious authority. Second, unfortunately the practice of honor killings is far from confined to Islamic culture. It predates Islam and today spans religions, cultures, and countries, including Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, Ecuador, Egypt, Guatemala, India, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Pakistan, Palestine, Peru, Syria, Turkey, and Venezuela.

Moreover, the vestiges of these customs and the same property relations that still dominate the planet can also be found in the U.S.—they are called “crimes of passion” in U.S. legal code where sentencing is not based on the crime but the feelings of the perpetrator. And they have always worked to the advantage of men. For example, in 1999, a Texas judge sentenced a man to four months in prison for murdering his wife and wounding her lover in front of their 10-year-old child. As in an “honor killing,” adultery was viewed as a mitigating factor in the case. Both the “crime of passion” and the term “honor killing” communicate the perspective of the overwhelmingly male perpetrators, and thereby carry an implicit justification. Marital rape laws were non-existent in many states in the U.S. until the 1990s. And many of Horowitz’s strongest allies are the same people who pass laws to strengthen the “sanctity of marriage” and promote the cult of virginity—both of which provide the underpinnings of the honor killings that Horowitz so hypocritically pretends to oppose now, when it suits his purposes.

So when they hold “Islamo Fascism Awareness Week” and they tell you we need a “war on terror” to free the women of Islam, the old saying “fool me once, shame on you—fool me twice, shame on me” applies.

[sources for the section on Iraq and Honor Killings—1) A World to Win News Service and 2) Promising Democracy—Imposing Theocracy—gender- based violence in the US war on Iraq” by Yifat Susskind, www.MADRE.org]

The Bizarre Political Marriage of Phyllis Chesler and Rick Santorum

Phyllis Chesler is a long-time feminist and one-time progressive who now finds herself politically and ideologically allied with the very people who not too long ago desired nothing less than having her head on a pike. Exhibit A in this is her fellow “Islamo-Fascism Awareness” comrade Rick Santorum. Apparently Chesler wants to support Christian fascism to oppose so-called “Islamo-fascism.”

Santorum, formerly the third highest ranking member of the Senate who lost his seat last November, is a featured speaker for Horowitz’s “Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week.” Santorum came up with the novel thesis that the liberal climate in Boston gave rise to the rash of pedophile priests in the Catholic Church. He is an opponent of abortion who argues that the right to privacy does not exist in the Constitution and therefore that the Supreme Court decision that legalized contraception is not valid.

In a 2003 interview, Santorum justified his opposition to gay marriage by lumping homosexual relations in with bestiality. He tried to pass legislation to bring “intelligent design” into school science curriculum and does not believe in the separation between church and state. This is a total package—a repressive outmoded and reactionary scriptural view of women and the family that demands women’s obedience and submission.

How in the world can anyone who opposes the oppression of women enlist in a crusade with the likes of Rick Santorum? Chesler wants to condemn the horror of female mutilation in Africa (which is not just Islamic)—but now aligns herself with forces who want to block the human papilloma virus vaccinations that would save millions of women from cervical cancer. The Islamic fundamentalists and the Christian fascists use the same rationalization: both are done in the name of keeping women from engaging in pre-marital and extra-marital sex; both reflect an ugly mentality that this violence towards women is necessary to keep them from “being loose women.” The world that either would have you live in is one where women are the possessions of their husbands and where the sexual lives of all women are controlled by men.

Santorum represents a very powerful section of the U.S. ruling class aiming at bringing just such a world into being. Horowitz himself is a conscious and high-level operative of those same rulers. Anyone who comes in under that banner, no matter what caveats they may issue, will end up as vehicles for those forces and that agenda.

****

A worldwide snapshot of the standing of women at the dawn of the 21st century is looking dreadfully dim. You can look out over the vast technological and productive capacity achieved, the unprecedented availability of information, and the percentage of women who have now entered the global labor force and ask WHY? Why, with all this, does the status of women look socially, practically and existentially more like the Dark Ages than what many people assumed would be the step-by-step progression and advancement of more enlightened attitudes toward women? Suddenly it seems that that fragile progress is being hurtled backwards with hurricane force—threatening to drown the hopes of those who have dreamed of throwing off centuries of oppression and traditions that have squelched the life and potential of half the human race.

The sudden explosion of the globalization of prostitution, for instance, has combined the inequality of nations and the inequality of the sexes into one hideous phenomenon. Today there are 400,000 to 500,000 child prostitutes in India. Some 800,000 children and teenagers in Thailand have been forced into prostitution—an “industry,” by the way, brought into being by the use of Thailand as a “rest and recreation” area for U.S. troops during the Vietnam war. Literally hundreds of thousands of women and children are sold each year by traffickers in a “bull market” of sexual slavery that generates billions of dollars every year. A World to Win News Service points out that, while some refer to the “sex industry” as if it were just another job, “most of the women are youths and children and little more than modern slaves. Workers create commodities, but like old-fashioned slaves these women are commodities to be bought and sold as if they were things, and not human beings. Many hundreds of thousands of women are trafficked every year from the world’s poorest areas to Western Europe, Australia, Israel, Japan, the U.S., the Arab Gulf states and other countries.”

At the same time, mass culture and morality is increasingly imprisoned in a fascination with the virgin and the whore. Someone like Britney Spears is manufactured as a “star”—which includes sexually objectifying her—and then gleefully torn down, with her “fall from grace” put on lurid display and Spears herself put in a 21st-century version of the stocks in the electronic town square. The moral and lesson is driven home to hundreds of millions…and to make sure people “get it,” the same fable will be repeated with another victim next month.

What kind of world is this where the more wealth is created and the more the world is drawn into a single whole, instead of human progress the result is greater tragedy for millions? What kind of a world is it where women are ever more forcefully told that their only choice—if they even have one—is between the feudal nightmare embodied in the traditions of all the major religions, or the commodified “Sex-and-the-City” version of liberation, where you have “autonomy” to market yourself—as a commodity, in a world still premised on the everyday subordination, debasement, and brutalization of half of humanity? The answer is, a world still dominated by capitalism and imperialism.

There was a time when, in truly socialist countries, the first breathtaking steps toward women’s equality were being taken and this is what inspired the world and set the terms for everything. This was especially true in China during the era of Mao (1949-76). Women went from bound feet, domestic slavery, and female infanticide to breaking barriers in every sphere. Socialism—proletarian state power—transformed gender relations in politics, in production, in the arts, within the family and in education (including in the raising of children in a way that really began to overcome gender bias and oppression), and in every other sphere to such an extent that the formerly backward China inspired millions of women—and men—worldwide with a vision of social emancipation for women. But socialist rule in China was overturned—in fact, if not yet in name—and it is no longer a beacon for anything progressive, including for women. Nonetheless, what was accomplished there when the proletariat did hold state power sets a point of departure for a new round of revolutions and for a further, and even more deep-going, effort to break all of tradition’s chains, one that goes even further in mobilizing women, and men, to uproot the oppression of women in every sphere, to fully achieve equality and go beyond it, to a world of freely associating human beings. It is this kind of revolutionary future—and not a return to one or another suffocating and subjugating tradition of the past, or the oppressive emptiness of the imperialist present—that has to be fought for. And it is this kind of future for which the suppressed fury of women must be unleashed, as part of eradicating all oppression

There Is Another Way

As the degradation of and violence towards women are increasingly globalized, the struggle and resistance of women is also taking on an increasingly international dimension. To take one example: on International Women’s Day this year, revolutionary, progressive, and communist women from Iran raised the cry to break “the chain of violence against women [that] goes back thousands of years and is long enough to cross every border and encircle the world.” Their statement read in part:

“We Iranian women will continue on the path…seeking to build ‘another world’ based on the participation and power of the people, who have no interest in maintaining the power structures based on exploitation and injustice. We seek a world where mutilating women is considered a crime, not a tradition. We seek a world where no female child will be forced to submit to ‘matrimonial’ rape, where no woman will face ‘honour killings’, where no woman is forced to commit suicide or to set fire to herself to escape patriarchal violence, a world where no woman is punished or faces death by stoning for loving someone or for sexual relations. We seek a world that does not consider homosexuality a crime, a world where a woman’s identity is not determined by her marriage or motherhood. We are fighting for a world where no one can force women to stay in the kitchen or indoors, where no one can deprive women of the right to participate in social production and in politics. In such a world women will control their own bodies and will make their own decisions about whether they want children, a world in which men and women are truly equal in all aspects of life.”

There IS an alternative to support, if you truly care about uprooting the oppression of women AND opposing this horrific system and its “war on terror.” There ARE people who are fighting, worldwide, to do that. Let’s hear THEIR call and join them!

 

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Revolution #122, March 9,2008


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The Horrors for Women in the “Modern” World of Global Capitalism

PDF of photo spread

This is the situation for women in today’s “modern” world of global capitalism:

The U.S. relies on and supports backward feudal classes to enforce social and political conditions for imperialist domination. And imperialism incorporates the most backward oppressive feudal relations into its structures of domination and exploitation. This is a nightmare for women where you get this perverse phenomenon: peasant women working in high-tech sweatshops; educated women subjected to arranged marriages; glossy billboards promoting high heels, plastic surgery, and makeup while backward feudal traditions require women to cover their bodies from head to toe.

In Iraq, under U.S. occupation, Shiite militias, empowered by the U.S., patrol the streets of Iraq’s major cities, attacking women who don’t dress or behave to their liking. In Basra, Iraq’s second largest city, 133 women, according to official reports, were killed and mutilated last year, their bodies dumped in trash bins with notes warning others against “violating Islamic teachings.” Ambulance drivers hired to drive through city streets early in the morning to collect the bodies say the actual numbers are much higher.5

In 2007, Du’a Khalil Aswad was a 17-year-old woman living in Iraqi Kurdistan. She was beaten and stoned to death by a mob of fanatical men — relatives and neighbors carrying out what is called “an honor killing.” Du’a was killed for falling in love with someone her community did not approve of.6

In Iraq, women who have been raped are considered to have shamed their families. More than half of the 400 rapes reported since the U.S. invasion have resulted in the rape survivor being murdered by their families.7 Such “honor killings” have increased under U.S. occupation. And they are common in Third World countries around the world.

Behind these horrific anti-women practices are similar customs and property relations that exist in modern-day U.S. society. Here they are called “crimes of passion” where sentencing is not based on the crime but the “feelings” (or what can be described as “male honor”) of the perpetrator. In 1999, a Texas judge sentenced a man to four months in prison for murdering his wife and wounding her lover in front of their 10-year-old child.8 What is this but a U.S. version of an “honor killing” that is then approved by the state?

Violence against women, rape, and prostitution are generated and promoted by the relations of male supremacy built into the structure of the U.S. imperialist military. There is the horrifying story of Abeer Hamza, a 14-year-old Iraqi girl who was raped by U.S. troops. Abeer, along with her sister and parents, were killed and their house burned down to cover up the crime.9

Sexual abuse and rape are not only practiced against the people of occupied countries but also inside the U.S. military. More than half of women in the Reserve National Guard experienced rape, sexual assault, or sexual harassment while on active duty.10 Only 2% to 3% of offenders receive disciplinary action as serious as a court martial. Usually, perpetrators receive only a mild slap on the wrist, such as extra duty or a letter of reprimand.11

In the United States, people are constantly bombarded with advertisements, TV, and movies where women are portrayed as little more that objects whose “sex appeal” is used to sell everything from cars to music videos. What does it do to women and men when this stuff is constantly in your face? Is it any wonder that so many women suffer from eating disorders or feel they have to have plastic surgery, or that women’s bodies are treated like private property by the men they love?

What kind of society is it where terms of contempt such as b*tch, c*nt and ho become synonymous with being female? Or when women can’t walk out at night without fear of being raped?

You have Christian fundamentalist anti-woman thinking and practices – officially promoted and enforced from the Supreme Court and White House on down. Christian fascists, a powerful force in the U.S. ruling class, want to impose a literal reading of the Bible, which means women are to be treated as inferior, as servants of men, as private property.

These folks aren’t just crazy. “Family values” are watchwords for both Democrats and Republicans. Why? These various ruling class forces all recognize the danger posed to the capitalist/imperialist system by any weakening of “traditional morality,” including the role this plays in oppressing women.

The right to abortion in the U.S. has been systematically eroded, from the Supreme Court on down—while hip movies like Juno fill young women’s heads with the unscientific lie that “a fetus is a baby” and “abortion is murder.” Every year one clinic in five is the target of extreme anti-abortion violence like bombings, arsons and death threats.12 And every major anti-abortion group in this country also opposes contraception.13 This is about controlling women’s bodies and reproduction.

What kind of world is this where the more wealth is created and the more the world is drawn into a single whole, instead of human progress the result is greater tragedy for millions? What kind of a world is it where women are ever more forcefully told that their only choice—if they even have one—is between the feudal nightmare embodied in the traditions of all the major religions, or the commodified “Sex-in-the-City” version of liberation, where you have “autonomy” to market yourself—as a commodity, in a world still premised on the everyday subordination, debasement, and brutalization of half of humanity? The answer is, a world still dominated by capitalism and imperialism.

The oppression of women developed together with the division of society into classes and the emergence of private property and exploitation. Under these conditions, what had been a more or less spontaneous division of labor between the sexes was transformed into one of oppression and domination. And, while these social relations have undergone changes over the years, the dynamics of the oppression of women is woven deeply into the fabric of class society today, reinforcing and being reinforced by other forms of oppression.

The horrific oppression of women throughout this planet is completely unnecessary—things don’t have to be this way. And the only reason they are this way is because of the economic and social relations constantly generated by class society, by a whole system that can only operate by exploiting and oppressing the vast majority of humanity.

Humanity needs revolution and communism. We need a socialist society where the masses of people are truly mobilized to think and work together, to dig up all the economic and social relations of class society, to transform the world and ourselves and get rid of all forms of oppression, including the oppression of women.

Footnotes:

1. “The Hypocrisy of “Newly Minted Feminists”… And David Horowitz’ Dangerous Agenda,” by T. Redtree. Revolution #105, October 21, 2007. http://www.revcom.us/a/105/feminists-hypocrisy-en.html

2. Ibid.

3. Violence Against Women in the United States. National Organization For Women website. Additional references in the online article. http://www.now.org/issues/violence/stats.html

4. Ibid.

5. “Who is Killing the Women of Basra?” Madre website, January 9, 2008. http://madre.org/articles/me/womenbasra010908.html

6. “The Murder of Du’a Aswad,” Madre website, May 16, 2007. http://www.madre.org/articles/me/duamurder.html

7. Ibid.

8. Murder in the Name of “Honor,” MADRE Speaks, Summer 2006.

9. “Rape and Murder of Abeer Qassim Hamza: Bloody Reality of the U.S. Occupation.” Revolution #53, July 16, 2006. http://revcom.us/a/053/iraqrape-en.html

10. 2003 Veterans Administration report on military sexual trauma cited in “Does a rapist deserve a military burial?” Los Angeles Times Op-Ed by Anne K. Ream, January 23, 2008.

11. The Miles Foundation, a public policy institute specializing in interpersonal violence associated with the armed forces, cited in “Does a rapist deserve a military burial?” Los Angeles Times Op-Ed by Anne K. Ream, January 23, 2008.

12. Restrictions on Roe v. Wade. http://feminist.org/roevwade/restrictions.asp

13. “The Morality of the Right to Abortion...And the Immorality of Those Who Oppose It,” Revolution #38, March 12, 2006. http://revcom.us/a/038/morality-right-to-abortion.htm

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Revolution #122, March 9, 2008


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Away With All Gods!



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Notes from the Trial of Sean Bell:

Persecuting the Victim of Police Murder

From a correspondent

On February 27, the so-called trial for the police who murdered Sean Bell opened in New York City. And as the trial began, Sean Bell—the victim of police murder—was being persecuted even after his death.

* * *

In the early morning hours of November 25, 2006, five New York City undercover cops surrounded and killed 23-year-old Sean Bell in a storm of 50 bullets as he and two friends left his bachelor party. He was to be married just hours later that day. Two of Bell’s friends who were in the car, 31-year-old Joseph Guzman and 23-year-old Trent Benefield, were hospitalized with multiple gunshot wounds.

Only three of the five cops who fired 50 bullets at Sean and his companions were indicted for anything. And that was only because thousands of people took to the streets in righteous anger in the days and weeks after Sean Bell was murdered. It was three months before indictments came down. All three cops have been out of jail the entire time—two on bail and one released without posting bail.

Now, 15 months later, the trial of these three cops has begun. Two, Michael Oliver and Gescard Isnora, are being tried for manslaughter, and the third, Marc Cooper, on only a misdemeanor. The trial may last for several weeks or maybe even months.

The cops’ lawyers tried in late January to have the trial moved to avoid a New York City jury. This is a tried-and-true tactic for getting brutal cops off. The four police who killed 23-year-old Amadou Diallo in the Bronx in 1999 when he reached for his wallet were acquitted by an upstate Albany, New York, jury. The Los Angeles police who were videotaped beating Rodney King were acquitted in their first trial, in 1992, when their trial was moved to suburban Simi Valley, provoking the Los Angeles rebellion.

When the request for a change of venue for the cops who killed Sean Bell was denied, the lawyers for the police petitioned for and were granted a trial by a judge rather than by a jury.

The Police Defense: They Killed a “Negative Element”

What does the “prosecution” case consist of when for once charges are supposedly being pressed against a few of these murdering enforcers? Assistant District Attorney Testagrossa’s perfunctory opening statement on the first day of the trial reduced what happened to a “tragedy” caused by “carelessness verging on incompetence,” and he attributed it to police preparation for a raid that “fell far short.”

Even so, initial testimony from a woman who had worked as a dancer at the club where Sean Bell was murdered exposed the police story. She testified that a plainclothes cop in  a van “got out and started shooting” without identifying himself. “This is causing me so much pain,” she told reporters, “But I decided to tell the truth and do the right thing.” The woman, who now works as a medical assistant, appeared in court wearing blue scrubs. The Associated Press story on her testimony attacked her with the headline, “Stripper Testifies at NYC Shooting Trial.” The dancer (now a medical assistant) refuted police claims that a tense situation in the club justified the shooting of Sean Bell. She testified that the club was busy that night but nothing seemed amiss, that “everybody was having fun.”

The lawyers defending the police laid out their case in two hours of opening statements on Monday, February 25: They said they will prove that the police did what “any reasonable person” would have done under the circumstances. Here’s what they are claiming was reasonable:Five cops shot 50 bullets at Sean’s car. One of the three cops on trial, Michael Oliver, fired 16 times, reloaded and fired 15 more times. Gescard Isnora, who started the shooting, fired his weapon 11 times. Sean Bell, who was already dead, and his two friends Trent Benefield and Joseph Guzman, who were seriously injured, were then handcuffed on the ground. Benefield and Guzman were kept handcuffed to their hospital beds until outraged visitors intervened.

In their opening arguments, lawyers for the police repeated the theme the system has run since the killing —that Sean Bell and his friends were at fault for being the victims of a fifty-bullet assault by police. The attorney for Isnora, one of the indicted cops, argued to the judge that Sean and his friends were part of the “negative element” at the club where they held the bachelor party. Because they drank there. Because they may have had a beef with someone else at the club. Because the cops claim they “thought” someone in Sean’s party had a gun—the phantom gun that was never found.

When an attorney for these murdering police turns to the judge and reminds him that people like Sean Bell are part of the “negative element,” what does he mean by that?

In the beginning of the United States, this system killed off most of the Native Americans, and kidnapped African people and brought them here as slaves. Those slaves who rebelled, or who escaped, were part of the “negative element” at the time, whipped to near death to set an example to others. After the Civil War, Black people remained in near-slave-like conditions, sharecropping. Those “negative elements” who were accused of looking at a white woman, or who didn’t step off the sidewalk quickly enough when a white person passed, were lynched—over 3,000 lynchings. Today, the dangerous, low-paying factory jobs that Black people were brought to the big cities to work at are gone—capitalism has found fresh blood around the world. A whole generation of Black youth are branded “negative elements” because this exploitive system has no use for them.

This system is useless. It has no future for millions of inner city youth, and brings nothing but oppression and suffering wherever it goes around the world. Nothing fundamentally good can be done about this whole situation until there is a revolution. But the people cannot let this trial of Sean Bell go down the way the system has it going. On the first day of the trial, people demonstrated militantly outside the courthouse. Much more political protest is needed. We need to build resistance to police brutality and murder, and demand justice for Sean Bell, as part of building a revolutionary movement.

As we do that, we have to also break the system’s mental chains that keep people enslaved, including stopping all that down-on-our-knees slave talk about the murder of Sean Bell being “god’s will.” People need to stop hoping and praying for justice from a non-existent god—who never seems to be able to get it right when it comes to stopping police murder. There is no such god, and he isn’t going to bring down some mighty justice here.

As the statement issued by the New York City Branch of the Revolutionary Communist Party shortly after Sean Bell’s killing said: “[S]laves can resist and rebel and rise up. Empires can lose wars and empires can fall. And history has shown that the situation of millions of Black and other oppressed people is like a volcano at the foundation of the U.S. empire. Where will liberation come from? Not from getting on our knees to imaginary gods. We need to start lifting our heads. We need massive political resistance to all the outrages of this system, we need to prepare minds and organize forces politically. This is how the ground would be prepared for a proletarian revolution that would have a serious chance of winning, a revolution with a backbone of millions, of all nationalities, with nothing to lose—a revolution that has an answer to this deeply hated, centuries-old oppression that this system can never have.”


“Oppressed people who are unable or unwilling to confront reality as it actually is, are condemned to remain enslaved and oppressed.”

—Bob Avakian, from his upcoming book
AWAY WITH ALL GODS! Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World
(to be published this spring by Insight Press)

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Revolution #122, March 9,2008


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If You Think Barack Obama Will Challenge White Supremacy...

by Alan Goodman

If you think that Barack Obama will challenge white supremacy because he’s Black, listen carefully to why he says he would have advised the civil rights movement back in the sixties not to focus on laws banning interracial marriages.

Obama spoke about this at a gay issues forum last August in Los Angeles. In response to Obama’s call for “civil unions” instead of legal gay marriage, a gay activist asked him, “Can you see, to our community, where that comes across as sounding like ‘separate but equal’?”

Obama replied, “When my parents got married in 1961, it would have been illegal for them to be married in a number of states in the South.” And then Obama went on to say, “If I were advising the civil rights movement back in 1961 about its approach to civil rights, I would have probably said it’s less important that we focus on an anti-miscegenation law [laws against interracial marriage] than we focus on a voting rights law and a non-discrimination and employment law and all the legal rights that are conferred by the state.”

The era of outlawed interracial marriage was the era of lynching. You couldn’t oppose lynching at that time, without opposing its legal twin—anti-miscegenation laws. Lynching was justified by vicious racist mythology about the need to control the so-called “lust” of Black men for white women (while at the same time widespread rape of Black women by white men was largely unpunished). It was a package—lynching and anti-miscegenation laws—reflected and reinforced in mainstream culture like D.W. Griffith’s influential 1915 movie, Birth of a Nation (which is still called a “classic”). Lothrop Stoddard, a ruling class racist ideologue in the early and mid-1900s wrote that “White race-purity is the corner-stone of our civilization. Its mongrelization with non-white blood, particularly with Negro blood, would spell the downfall of our civilization. This is a matter of both national and racial life and death and no efforts should be spared to guard against the greatest of all perils—the peril of miscegenation.”

The racist so-called “protection of white women” logic got enforced through lynching, like the widely publicized lynching of 14-year-old Emmett Till in Money, Mississippi, in 1955, brutally murdered because he whistled at a white woman.

The oppression and exploitation, the subjugation of Black people as a people is a pillar of this society. And this could not have been accomplished and maintained without carving these divisions and this subjugation into law, without the terror of lynching enforcing it and without the racist ideological onslaught accompanying and justifying all of it.  If people back then had stood aside from taking on the laws against interracial marriage—as Barack Obama would have advised them to do—they would have failed to take on and expose the real problem—the whole setup of racism, segregation, discrimination, and lynching; they would have accommodated themselves to the whole setup.

Yes, “race mixing” was a touchy issue for bigots, crackers, white supremacists —and the system that produced and profited from this oppression.

So? What are you going to do about that? Not touch it?! You could not challenge white supremacy, the laws, the prejudice, and the lynchings then without taking on the anti-miscegenation laws and the whole logic behind them. You could not be for real, back then, if you tried to oppose the lynching and the segregation while trying not to offend the segregationists and their backers who saw “race mixing” as a mortal threat to their whole setup.

And you won’t, and can’t, go up against the white supremacy built into this system and even achieve equality and any kind of justice  (much less liberation and putting an end to the oppression of Black people) with that kind of mentality either. Barack Obama says, “There is no white America, there is no black America...” How full of shit is that!? Yes there is! Black people are oppressed in this country by a white supremacist system that promotes and is bolstered by white racism. Uncomfortable as it makes some people, threatening as it is to this whole exploitive and oppressive setup, white supremacy has to be called out loud and clear if anything is going to change.

Today, new forms of violent terror against Black people go hand-in-hand with new forms of racist mythology and unjust laws. The lynch mob has been replaced by the trigger-happy police, who shoot down young Black people for holding a comb or a cell phone. Today, one out of every nine Black men between 25 and 29 is locked up. Schools and housing are extremely segregated, as the Supremacist Court overturns even the pretense of school integration. And this is all justified by today’s updated version of racist lies—like that the problem is the “pathological criminal mentality of Black people.” This updated racist mythology justifies the way the system has stripped the inner cities of economic and cultural life, shut down educational opportunities, and created conditions where crime and prison are the only options for millions of youth.

You cannot and will not challenge, much less end, the oppression of Black people by pandering to white supremacy. You will not change anything by “finessing” whether or not this is a racist country. You cannot change anything if your bottom line is making sure that nobody feels uncomfortable about being a white racist.

When people do go up against white supremacy, they also challenge a big part of the economic and ideological glue that keeps this world-oppressing system together. And you know that Barack Obama is not going for that. He is campaigning to be the best one to lead the U.S. empire.

Barack Obama can express sympathy and empathy for Black people, and make promises about this or that injustice, but his whole logic of not touching the foundations of white supremacy boils down to justifying and backing up the oppression of Black people.


People always were and always will be the foolish victims of deceit and self-deceit in politics until they learn to discover the interests of some class or other behind all moral, religious, political and social phrases, declarations and promises. The supporters of reforms and improvements will always be fooled by the defenders of the old order until they realize that every old institution, however barbarous and rotten it may appear to be, is maintained by the forces of some ruling classes.

V.I. Lenin

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Revolution #122, March 9, 2008


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Hook up with the revolution

Coming Events at Revolution Books


New York

9 West 19th St. (btwn 5th and 6th Aves)
212-691-3345
revolutionbooksnyc.org

Sunday, March 9th - 4:00 p.m.

Revolution Books presents:
Re-envisioning Revolution and Communism:
WHAT IS BOB AVAKIAN’S NEW SYNTHESIS?
Presentation followed by discussion

St. Paul & St. Andrew Church
Corner of West 86th St & West End Ave
1 train to 86th Street, walk 1 block west to West End Ave
$10 sliding scale admission

Every Tuesday at Revolution Books
Discussions of "Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity"
Join us this for these ongoing, and always lively, discussions.

March 4, Tuesday, 7 pm
Part 2: Everything We're Doing Is About Revolution

March 12, Wednesday, 7 pm
Join Revolution Books in celebrating International Women's Day
You are invited to an event of celebration and solidarity with the courageous Iranian women who refuse to accept the deadly anti-woman “choices” of either the Islamic Republic of Iran or war and domination by U.S. imperialism in the name of “liberation.”

March 20, Thursday, 6:30 pm
Revolution Books Hosts NY National Organization for Women
A forum of women writers/activists
(check back for further details)


Chicago

1103 N. Ashland Avenue
773-489-0930
revbookschi@yahoo.com

March 9, Sunday, 2 pm
Weekly discussion of MAKING REVOLUTION AND EMANCIPATING HUMANITY, PART 1: BEYOND THE NARROW HORIZON OF BOURGEOIS RIGHT, by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA.

March 10, Monday, 7:30 pm
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.

March 12, Wednesday, 7 pm
Set the Record Straight discussion will kick off by showing an excerpt from the model opera “White Haired Girl.” We'll discuss what was women's oppression in China before the revolution, what changes occurred for women during socialism, and compare this to after the defeat of the revolution.

March 13, Thursday, 7 pm
Discussion of Ardea Skybreak's “The Science of Evolution and the Myth of Creationism, Knowing What's Real and Why It Matters.” Topic of this session: Anti-Evolution Creationism: An Assault On All of Science, In the Name of God.

Friday, March 14, 7 PM
Neil Shubin, author of “Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body,” will appear for a book signing and slide show presentation. Neil Shubin, PhD, is the Robert R. Bensley Professor of Organismal Biology and Anatomy at the University of Chicago and Provost at The Field Museum.


Berkeley

2425 Channing Way near Telegraph Ave
510-848-1196
 www.revolutionbooks.org

March 4, Tuesday, 7 pm
Science of Evolution discussion: The evolution of human beings

March 6, Thursday, 7 pm
Revolution Newspaper discussion

March 7, Friday, 7 pm
International Women's Day event: Evening of Solidarity with Iranian Women

March 8, Saturday, 3 pm
Discussion: What’s Up with Juno the Movie? What does Juno have to say about women’s role in the world?

March 9, Sunday, 7 pm
Jeff Paterson & Larry Everest discuss:
"Support the Troops," Military Recruiting, and Ending the War
Jeff Paterson - US Marine Gulf War objector, Courage to Resist* organizer
Larry Everest - Revolution correspondent and author of Oil, Power & Empire: Iraq and the U.S. Global Agenda.
* for identification purposes only

March 11, Tuesday, 7 pm
Science of Evolution discussion: Creationism’s new wrapper won’t fool us: Intelligent design theory is still just religion – it’s not science – and it’s still wrong!

March 12, Wednesday, 7 pm
Author event: Peter Phillips, director of Project Censored, discusses the book Censored 2008: The Top 25 Censored Stories of 2006-2007

March 13, Thursday, 7 pm
Revolution newspaper discussion


Los Angeles

Libros Revolución
312 West 8th Street  213-488-1303  
librosrevolucion.blog.com

March 4, Tuesday, 5 pm
Join us at Libros to listen to KPFK radio host Michael Slate interviewing Sussan Golmohammadi, an Iranian revolutionary who has arrived in Los Angeles from Europe to connect with people in the U.S; and Dr. Shahrzad Mojab, Director, Women and Gender Studies Institute, University of Toronto - on the significance of this year's International Women's Day marches in Brussels and L.A., joining women of Iran and Afghanistan in their struggle against woman-hating Islamic Republic of Iran and the imperialist U.S. empire.  At 7:30 pm at the bookstore, continue the dialogue with Michael and Sussan.

March 5, Wednesday, 2 pm and 7 pm
International Women's Day film series -
2:00 pm matinee screening of Yilmaz Güney's award-winning film “Yol.”
7:00 pm screening and discussion of Brian De Palma's powerful film “Redacted” about the rape and murder of 14-year-old Iraqi girl and other family members by U.S. soldiers.

March 6, Thursday, 7 pm
Bilingual discussion from Bob Avakian's soon-to-be published new book "Away With All Gods" excerpts in issue nos. 103 (http://revcom.us/a/103/ba-religion-book-en.html) and 104 (http://revcom.us/a/104/avakian-religion-en.html ) of Revolution/Revolución newspaper; while having a  work night, banner making for IWD march.

March 7, Friday, 9  and 11 am
Meet at bookstore to take out Revolution newspaper and IWD flyers to garment workers; drop in all day for banner making, flyering.

March 7, Friday, 7 pm
“Vera Drake,” acclaimed drama of woman who secretly helps young women induce miscarriages in 1950s England.

March 8, Saturday
Mobilize for International Women’s Day march and rally in Westwood at 12 noon.

March 9, Sunday, 1 p.m.
SPECIAL BRUNCH GATHERING - Come celebrate the conclusion of the Revolution newspaper fund drive, and help plan for an exciting upcoming major public presentation and discussion:  "Re-Envisioning Revolution and Communism - What Is Bob Avakian's New Synthesis?"

March 11, Tuesday, 7 pm
Spanish language showing and discussion of Bob Avakian's DVD “Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About,” focus on sections      "A world of rape and sexual assault",  "'Traditional values'—tradition' s chains" and "Change for women in a new society?" from the Q&A.

March 12, Wednesday, 7:30 pm
Concluding discussion of Ardea Skybreak's “The Science of Evolution and the Myth of Creationism” will include a look at the ideas and methods of creationists.  Reading: Chapter 8.  Available in Spanish at http://rwor.org/a/v24/1181-1190/1182/evol_s.htm.


Honolulu

2626 South King Street
808-944-3106

Every Monday, 6:15 pm
Reading circle/discussion of the current installment of Bob Avakian’s series, “Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity”

March 9, Sunday, 5 pm
International Women’s Day Celebration
Poetry • Testimonials • Potluck supper

Thursday, March 20, 6pm
Book Release Party: Potluck supper * Reading * Booksigning
Guam activist and author Julian Aguon will read from "What We Bury at Night; Disposable Humanity", his recently released book describing present day realities of the U.S.-Micronesia relationship from the eyes of those most affected.

 


Cleveland

2804 Mayfield Rd (at Coventry)
Cleveland Heights  216-932-2543
revbookscle@hotmail.com
Hours: Wednesday-Saturday, 3-8 pm 

 

March 3, Monday, 7 pm
Discussion of  "Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity" (Part I). The Rupture With Outmoded Thinking and Beliefs ( issue #108).

March 9, Sunday, 4 pm
Movie in commemoration of International Women's Day.

March 10, Monday 7 pm
Discussion of  "Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity" (Part I). Historical Experience and The New Synthesis (issue #112).

March 17, Monday 7 pm
Discussion of  "Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity" (Part II). Enriched What is To Be Done-ism (issue #113).

 

 


Seattle

1833 Nagle Place
206-325-7415
seattlerevolutionbooks.blogspot.com

Announcing a New Revolution Books in Seattle!
Join us in making plans for a major revitalization and expansion in our new location. Contact us to get involved.

March 8, Saturday, 7pm
International Women's Day Film Showing: Rabbit-Proof Fence
Three young girls who were torn from their families during Australia's aboriginal integration program of the 1930s resolve to make the 1,500-mile trek home.

March 9, Sunday, 2:30pm
Event to Conclude and Celebrate Revolution Newspaper's Expansion & Fund Drive
Everyone who participated or contributed in any way - as well as people who just discovered Revolution newspaper - are invited!

Dates to be announced
Group outings to Bring Revolution to the Movies! Hook up with people from Revolution Books to see and discuss great and controversial movies and get out Revolution Newspaper, orange ribbons, flyers, etc to other movie-goers. Upcoming movies to see are Chicago 10, Taxi to the Dark Side, and Battle in Seattle.

In April, date to be announced
Author event with Mike Palecek on his new books, Cost of Freedom and Iowa Terror.


Detroit

406 W.Willis
(between Cass &2nd, south of Forest)
313-204-2906

Every Sunday, 4 pm
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

March 2, Sunday, 4 pm
Discussion on “Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity—Part 2: Everything We’re Doing Is About Revolution”  (continued), Meaningful Revolutionary Work: Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution” by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA (Revolution newspaper, issue #116)

Friday, March 7, 6pm: International Womens Day Celebration
Discussion and potluck dinner with showing of "Moolade", Osmane Sembene's powerful film on a rebellion against genital circumcision in an African village.


Boston/Cambridge

1158 Mass Ave, 2nd Floor, Cambridge  
617-492-5443  
revbooks@netzero.net  
revolutionbookscamb.org

March 8, Saturday, 6 pm
Join us in celebrating International Women’s Day

March 9, Sunday, attend major program in New York
Re-envisioning Revolution and Communism: What IS Bob Avakian's New Synthesis? Presentation followed by discussion.

March 17, Monday, 6:30 pm
"Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity" Part 2, on the section:
Building the Party. From the point of view of the necessity, and strategic objective, of revolution, the most important form of organization of the masses is the Party itself as the Vanguard of the broader revolutionary movement.


Atlanta

4 Corners Market of the Earth
Little 5 Points, 1087 Euclid Avenue
404-577-4656 & 770-861-3339
rbo-atlanta.blogspot.com

Open Wednesdays & Fridays 4 pm - 7 pm,
Saturdays 2 pm - 7 pm 

March 9, Sunday, 3:00-6:00 pm

International Women's Day
Our program will feature the film Water, followed by refreshments and discussion.
Location: Sevananda Natural Foods Market
Education Room
467 Moreland Ave NE
Atlanta, GA 30307
(404) 681-2831

March 16, Sunday, 3:30 pm
Our weekly discussions of "Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity" by Bob Avakian will resume. Focus this week: “Marxism as a Science—Refuting Karl Popper,” based on excerpts in Revolution newspaper issues 110 and 111.
Meet at the bookstore inside 4 Corners Market
1087 Euclid Avenue
Atlanta 30307
(770) 861-3339

March 23, Sunday, 3:30 pm
Fourth in a series of discussions of "Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity" by Bob Avakian.

March 30, Sunday, 3:30 pm
Fifth in a series of discussions of "Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity" by Bob Avakian.

 

Send us your comments.

Revolution #122, March 9,2008


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CORRESPONDENCE

The Battle of Berkeley Continues…

From a youth organizer with the Bay Area Revolution Club

On February 12, a major showdown unfolded in the city of Berkeley. Hundreds of Berkeley High School students poured into the streets, along with activists from World Can’t Wait, Code Pink, A.N.S.W.E.R., Vets for Peace, and the Bay Area Revolution Club. They came to demand that the Marine recruiting station in downtown Berkeley be shut down and to support the Berkeley City Council’s statement, which had provoked national controversy, declaring the recruiters “uninvited and unwelcome intruders.” On the other side were hundreds of pro-war people waving flags and baton-swinging riot police. (See “The Battle of Berkeley: This War Must Stop!” in the previous issue of Revolution, issue #121, available online at revcom.us.)

Here’s what’s happened since then.

The next day, February 13, some of us went to Berkeley High. Many students were still wearing their orange bandannas. Everyone was talking about what had happened at the recruiting station. They were struggling to understand the police violence and why Berkeley had become the target of this right-wing assault. What we did out there was beautiful. But to the powers-that-be, we “crossed the line.” We were not waiting for Obama to stop the war. We were not politely asking “our elected representatives” to please, hopefully, one day, strategically redeploy some of the troops at some point. We were saying, “This War Must Stop!” and we will do everything we can to politically oppose the war machine operating right here in Berkeley and spread this spirit of resistance throughout the country. This is what the powers-that-be are trying to squash.

The next two Fridays, February 15 and February 22, World Can’t Wait went back to the recruiting station. Significant numbers of determined orange-clad youth protested both times. And both times the non-violent demonstration was attacked by baton-swinging police who then put out reports to the press justifying their attacks as a response to what they claimed to be WCW’s aggressive and unruly behavior. On the 15th, the police used the pretext of a few picket signs scotch taped to the window of the recruiting center (which was closed) to violently clear the sidewalk of protesters and escort the Marines in to remove the signs. But the protesters would not be intimidated so easily! When the riot police withdrew, the protesters immediately regrouped in front of the recruiting station, more energized than before.

On the 22nd, the police used the pretext of a sound violation for bullhorn use in an area of Berkeley that has traditionally been considered a “free speech zone” and where protests have not been met with this level of repression for years. Two young people were arrested on the 22nd, a WCW youth organizer who had clearly been singled out and targeted, and the other a 21-year-old Army vet and “conscientious objector” wearing an orange Guantánamo jumpsuit. The police hit youth in the face with batons and also assaulted older people, including a WCW organizer who was thrown head first into a brick wall and a Code Pink member who is now on crutches after being thrown to the ground. The protesters again regrouped and ended the day at the Marine recruiters station.

The Right-Wing Assault Continues

The Berkeley City Council had backed down from their original stand, and ended up saying that they now “recognize the recruiters’ right to locate in our city” and “deeply respect and support the men and women in our armed forces.” Despite that, Senator DeMint and other senators sponsoring the “Semper Fi Act” are going forward in their efforts to take funding away from Berkeley public schools and put it into the Marine Corps. A state assemblyman has introduced legislation to cut off millions of dollars in transportation funding to the city. The fascist “pro-troop” organization Move America Forward has launched a nationwide TV ad campaign attacking the city of Berkeley and calling for a full-blown apology “so that no city in America ever again disrespects our troops.”

There has also been an ongoing “story” in the media about the effect of the protesters on the businesses in the area. Apparently some are losing money because of the noise, or because customers are scared to come there! Some of the media stories also add that police overtime due to protesters is costing taxpayers millions of dollars. To all of this we reply: RAISE YOUR SIGHTS! We are speaking for the people of the world: the million Iraqis killed and the over 4 million who’ve been turned into refugees, the torture victims, and countless other victims of the U.S.! Is this recruiting station just another business selling a product? No, they are selling death.

World Can’t Wait Steps It Up for the 5th Anniversary of the War

World Can’t Wait has big plans for March. They have called for a public hearing of the special police review commission, to discuss the police brutality against protesters. The violence of the Berkeley police needs to be documented, and the Berkeley community needs to be mobilized against it. Outrage is mounting because, for the first time in five years, Berkeley police officers have shot and killed someone. A 51-year-old African-American grandmother, Anita Gay, was shot in the back by police in front of her home in South Berkeley on February 16.

March 16, WCW is calling for a community celebration of Berkeley’s resistance to the war, in the park across the street from Berkeley High. And on March 19, the 5th anniversary of the war in Iraq, WCW is calling for a day of resistance at the Berkeley Marine recruiting center and walkouts from high schools.

Learning Lessons and Tackling Big Questions

Throughout this whole struggle, the people, particularly the students, are debating some big questions and learning some very important lessons. What system of war and oppression are these right-wingers upholding? What’s wrong with the slogan “support the troops”? What are the police serving and protecting? What about the school administrators who told the students to get back to class? What about the teachers who encouraged their students to go out and engage in the debate? What about us, the antiwar activists–what future should we represent? And, the Bay Area Revolution Club has been in the thick of it, fighting the power, and transforming the people, for revolution. On February 22, the Revolution Club took its banner into the action: “What future for the youth–Killers for Empire, or Emancipators of Humanity?”  

Send us your comments.

Revolution #122, March 9,2008


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Cheers and Jeers

Orange at the Oscars!

CHEERS! to those at the 80th Annual Academy Awards who wore orange ribbons to protest torture being done by the United States.

Out on the red carpet, Julie Christie was wearing the “jumpsuit orange” ribbon on her ruby red dress. She said she got it from the American Civil Liberties Union, whose ‘‘very, very important’’ campaign seeks to close the Guantánamo prison camp in Cuba where the U.S. is carrying out torture.

Paul Haggis, who received a 2006 Oscar for his film Crash, was also wearing an orange ribbon at the Academy Awards and had gotten an orange wrist band from World Can’t Wait that says “Torture + Silence = Complicity.” World Can’t Wait has been organizing and urging people to wear orange in protest of U.S. torture and as a mass color of resistance to “Drive Out the Bush Regime.”

When Alex Gibney, director of Taxi to the Dark Side, accepted his Oscar for best documentary, he had an orange ribbon on his suit lapel. Taxi to the Dark Side is an in-depth look at the torture practices of the United States in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantánamo Bay, focusing on an innocent taxi driver in Afghanistan who was tortured and killed in 2002.

In his acceptance speech Gibney said: “Wow. Thank you very much, Academy. Here’s to all doc filmmakers. And, truth is, I think my dear wife Anne was kind of hoping I’d make a romantic comedy, but honestly, after Guant´anamo, Abu Ghraib, extraordinary rendition, that simply wasn’t possible. This is dedicated to two people who are no longer with us, Dilawar, the young Afghan taxi driver, and my father, a navy interrogator who urged me to make this film because of his fury about what was being done to the rule of law. Let’s hope we can turn this country around, move away from the dark side and back to the light. Thank you very much.”

On January 11, the sixth anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo prison, the ACLU placed an ad in Daily Variety that read in part, “Whether you are walking the picket line, the red carpet or standing in the supermarket line, wear the orange ribbon.” The ACLU campaign is aimed at getting people to wear the ribbons “every day until the prison is closed.”

Renee Missel, Julie Christie’s manager, saw the ad and said, “Julie had given me a book—Enemy Combatant, about prisoner treatment at Gitmo. I read it and went berserk.” Christie met with an ACLU staff attorney to talk about the campaign and bunches of orange ribbons were ordered. And according to Allison Walker, the industry liason for the ACLU, Christie, her husband, British journalist Duncan Campbell, and all the Lionsgate people were wearing orange ribbons at the Oscars.

Send us your comments.

Revolution #122, March 9,2008


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CORRESPONDENCE

Thoughts On Seeing columbinus

We received the following letter from a reader:

Valentine’s Day at our house is usually not a big deal—maybe a card, hopefully a box of chocolates. But this year my partner got two tickets to a play at the Raven Theater in Chicago called columbinus by Stephen Karam and PJ Paparelli.

But this Valentine’s Day started not with hearts and flowers, but gunshots and students being killed and wounded at Northern Illinois University. I watched the news reports on TV and my mind flashbacked to Virginia Tech and Columbine High School. It didn’t even dawn on me till later that the play we were going to that night was about Columbine. I wondered what the cast and crew would be thinking as they put on the performance. Would they mention the NIU shootings? How would the audience respond? Would they be talking about it?

columbinus explores life at Columbine HS in Littleton, Colorado—which is not that different than most suburban high schools. There’s the pecking order of those labeled jocks, nerds, popular cheerleaders, and various stripes of misfits and malcontents. Then there’s the parents, teachers, and counselors, looking past all the anguish the kids are going through. And the kids learning how to cover it up and keep their feelings hidden, just trying to make it through another day.

You see pictures and emails of Dylan and Eric (the shooters) projected on the wall during the performance. They look like “normal,” everyday, clean-cut kids. You follow the dynamics and interactions at the school. You see and feel the ugly, mean-spirited social relations in society that are so concentrated in high school; the struggle to try and fit in; the fear of being rejected; the cliques, competition, the put downs, and “the meds.” And part of this toxic mix were elements of a fascist, racist, and white supremacist ideology that Dylan and Eric adopted in trying to make sense out of it all. Sitting in the theater you felt the emptiness, the alienation, the anger building inside these two kids. And you feel them going into the abyss and taking others with them.

The play doesn’t give you answers but it certainly raises profound questions about the nature of the social relations in this capitalist society and how large sections of youth, not just from the inner cities, but from well-off suburbs, are angry and lost.

What is the relationship between social relations in capitalist society and feelings of hopelessness, alienation, and atomization? Is there a relationship between people being pushed to the edge (and over the edge) and how the world is throwing millions of people into dangerous, uncertain and tumultuous situations—globalization, the war, economic crisis, fascistic moves by the government, etc., which is challenging a pre-existing normalcy and economic stability that rests on exploitation and oppression worldwide?

And what about the prevailing capitalist social and economic relationships that promote a “dog-eat-dog look out for number one” mentality at the expense of anyone else? Doesn’t all this affect and influence how people think and act toward one another? What about the fact that we live in a patriarchal society? Some of these type of shootings clearly have an element of men acting out their anger and hatred toward women.

Even though there were numerous prayer vigils held, the students and community never got the opportunity to really address questions around why this shooting happened; what does it have to do with what is going on in the world and the kind of society we live in. And any kind of thinking that attributes this to the will of some non-existent god is very harmful—giving a false understanding and making people feel powerless and passive in seeking to understand the world and how to change it.

I went back and re-read the letter in Revolution, “Reflections on the VA Tech Massacre,” written by a graduate from that college (see Revolution #86, April 29, 2007 at revcom.us) and I found this part very heartfelt and insightful:

“In the last few days, many people have said words to the effect that our response to this massacre should be to expand, and not restrict, our humanity and our compassion. Though perhaps expressed in different terms and from a different perspective than my own, I am in deep unity with such a sentiment. I would add two things. First, if we are to accept this, why not accept it fully? Why not take this as an opportunity to recognize and reject all the forms of chauvinism which construct some as more human than others and which ultimately help create oppression, domination, and, yes, horrors? If we are to take from Monday’s events the recognition of the need to create a better society, why not recognize, and take seriously, really seriously, the need to create a better world and to understand our role in it?”

Send us your comments.

Revolution #122, March 9,2008


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Revolution #56, August 13, 2006

Behind the Giddy Castro Death Watch

U.S. Maneuvering and Anticommunist Lying

by Raymond Lotta

Cuban leader Fidel Castro has undergone emergency intestinal surgery. The U.S. media have been almost giddy in reporting “death watches” about Castro’s possible passing from the scene. The Bush administration is licking its chops about a potential leadership crisis in Cuba. There is cold-hearted calculating going on about openings and pretexts for U.S. interference and intervention to bring about “regime change” in Cuba. Reactionary elements in the Cuban-American community have been given platforms to call for the return of the “Cuba of old.”

President Bush stated that the U.S. would support those working “to build a transitional government in Cuba committed to democracy.” One has to ask, do the Cuban people really want the democracy that the U.S. brings to Iraq and the world?

CASTRO: THORN IN THE SIDE OF U.S. IMPERIALISM

The removal of Fidel Castro from power has been a goal of U.S. foreign policy since the Cuban revolution of 1959. Why? Fidel Castro led a mass anti-imperialist struggle that declared to the U.S.: Cuba does not belong to you! The Castro regime nationalized U.S. enterprises and holdings. It gave hope to the oppressed throughout Latin America that they too could oust the yanqui exploiters. For U.S. imperialism, this was unforgivable. And for decades, the U.S. has worked to destroy this regime: invading and blockading, infiltrating spies and saboteurs, and making direct attempts on Castro’s life.

That Cuba is not genuinely socialist and that Castro is not a genuine communist (see "U.S. Imperialism, the Cuban Revolution, and Fidel Castro") has hardly diminished U.S. imperialism’s hatred for this regime. Castro has refused to give in to U.S. terms and demands to turn Cuba back over to U.S.-sponsored forces and interests. He has remained a vocal critic of U.S. foreign policy. He has given support to various anti-U.S. forces in Latin America. With the U.S. waging its “war on the world” and demanding of all, “you are either with us or against us,” Castro’s obstinacy is even more unacceptable to the U.S. rulers.

THE BUSH TEAM’S RECOLONIZATION PLANS

In 2003, the Bush administration put together a multi-agency Commission for Assistance for a Free Cuba, chaired by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. In 2004, the Commission issued its first report outlining steps the U.S. would take to bring about regime change. These included subversion of Castro’s plans to relinquish duties to his younger brother Raul. A follow-up report last month recommended an $80 million fund to support Cuba’s opposition and the deployment of U.S. aid once a “transitional government” was in place. Last year, Rice announced the creation of a new post to help “accelerate the demise” of the Castro government.

Now that Castro is hospitalized, the Bush team is making louder noises and bolder threats against the Cuban regime. The assumption is that Cuba is a ripe fruit for imperial plucking. A State Department spokesman stated, “the United States would take an active role in shaping events on the island if the Cuban leader dies.” Just before Bush left for vacation in early August, he warned that the U.S. would “take note of those, in the current Cuban regime, who obstruct [Cubans’] desire for a free Cuba.” In other words, the U.S. is declaring the right to insert itself in a “post-Castro Cuba” and even drawing a line in the sand: there will be no place for remnants of the Castro regime. This is a big part of the reason that reactionary Cubans are being revved up in Miami. They are being counted on as loyal servants and enforcers of U.S. plans for “Cuba after Castro.”

There are important geostrategic considerations bound up with U.S. maneuvering for a “post-Castro” Cuba. In waging their “war on the world,” the U.S. imperialists have not paid as much attention to Latin America as they have to the Middle East and Central Asia. The government of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela has been flexing its oil-revenue muscles and allying with Castro. If the U.S. can take down a weakened Cuba and reintegrate it into its imperial network, this will send a message to Chavez and other governments staking out more independent positions from the U.S.

ANTI-COMMUNIST PROPAGANDA

The U.S. is also using the current situation to blast out lies about communism—that communism is “totalitarian control” over people. This caricature has nothing to do with real communism, which is about the proletariat taking hold of and consciously transforming society to abolish all classes and class distinctions and to emancipate all of humanity.

The U.S. media trots out reactionary Cuban exiles to talk about the “horrors” of communism and how they personally suffered. But who are these people and what is their program? Many were part of families who were beneficiaries of the pre-1959 Cuba of U.S. corporate control and privilege. And they want to turn Cuba once again into a U.S. neo-colony—which will mean “horrors” for the masses of Cubans.

Cuba is not socialist (see background article) but has certain formal characteristics that make it appear to be socialist: state-owned enterprises and extensive state-financed social programs. The Bush administration, working from the anticommunist script, rhapsodizes about “privatizing” Cuba’s economy. For whom: the Miami elite seeking their estates and power…for U.S. corporations seeking cheap labor? The New York Times editorializes for an “economically dynamic society” in Cuba. Well, let’s look at the wonders of unfettered capitalism in Latin America. In the 1990s, deregulation and privatization were widely imposed on countries by the U.S. and the International Monetary Fund. The result was a “lost decade” of development and a vast increase in poverty and inequality. And Cuba, while not in fact socialist, has a lower infant mortality rate—and this is a Third World country—than does Washington, D.C.

A DANGEROUS MOMENT

The U.S. has no right to meddle in Cuba’s affairs. It has no right to dictate Cuba’s future. U.S. plans for Cuba must be called out and opposed for what they are: the brutal maneuverings of empire.

Send us your comments.

Revolution #122, March 9,2008


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A World to Win News Service

People’s March Editor Kutty Freed on Bail

February 25, 2008. A World to Win News Service. The editor of the Indian Maoist magazine [People’s March] Govindan Kutty has been released on bail after nearly two months in prison on charges that his publication is subversive. [Revolution editors’ note: Previous articles from A World to Win News Service on the arrest of Kutty appeared in Revolution #116 and #118 and are available online at revcom.us.]

Kutty had been on hunger strike and force-fed since his arrest December 20. People’s March is a legally published and registered publication that has come out for more than seven years. His release in exchange for a 100,000 rupee ($2,500) bond carries continuing restrictions on his freedom (he is not allowed to leave Ernakulam, in the state of Kerala, and must report to the police every two weeks). The charges against him still stand; according to the prosecution, he is still “under investigation.”

The following statement by Kutty was released by the Information Bureau of the International League of People’s Struggle February 25.

Dear friends,
I was released from prison today [February 24] around noon. I thank the print and mass media in extending their support for my struggle in prison. I thank the civil and democratic rights organisations, the Kerala Working Journalists Union, advocates P.A. Paura, Madhusudan in extending legal assistance, Arundhati Roy, Girish Karnad, Maheshwata Devi in exposing my cause.

People’s March publication will be resumed as early as possible.

Normally police seize only the hard disks of any computer. In my case they seized the whole C.P.U., monitor, keyboard, mouse, speakers, everything. I have to buy everything as the seized items will be returned only after the closure of the case by court.

Normally the police seize only the SIM card. In my case police seized the mobile itself. That means I have to spend money for a computer and mobile.

The owners of the printing press which prints People’s March were threatened by police. They refuse to print People’s March. These are the problems before People’s March. Even though People’s March is a Registered Newspaper registered under the Registrar of Newspapers for India…

A World to Win News Service is put out by A World to Win magazine (aworldtowin.org), a political and theoretical review inspired by the formation of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, the embryonic center of the world’s Marxist-Leninist-Maoist parties and organizations

Send us your comments.

Revolution #122, March 9,2008


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From A World to Win News Service

A Look Behind the Violence in Kenya

February 18, 2008. A World to Win News Service. The bitter infighting within the Kenyan ruling classes over who will rule over the people for the next five years in no way represents the interests of poor Kenyans of any of the country’s more than 40 ethnic groups. Yet as has happened in past elections there, the leaders of the different political parties rapidly whipped up sections of the people of different ethnic origins who corresponded in part to their electoral base. This unleashed a spiral of violence and chain of contradictory events that most often set the masses of poor people against each other in devastating scenes of looting, burning and bloodshed and left more than a thousand people dead after one month. Mostly it was poor Kenyans who had nothing in common with the leaders.

Western imperialist commentators expressed great surprise that what they considered their stable and peaceful outpost in East Africa could blow up in the violent way that it has since the presidential and legislative elections at the end of December 2007. But this social explosion hardly came out of nowhere. Not only had the masses of Kenyans been regular targets of state violence, including at least 500 killed in the year preceding the elections, but the rage that erupted after the incumbent Mwai Kibaki government rigged its “victory,” just when so many had pinned their hopes on change, had been building up along numerous political and social fault lines for decades. There is the spark and then there are the underlying causes. This was a powder keg sitting on chronic poverty, joblessness, housing shortages, overcrowded settlements and filthy slums with little infrastructure.

Two-thirds of Nairobi’s population of three million live in ten foul slums. A million are crowded into the notorious Kibera slum alone, ten minutes from the gleaming downtown financial district. But despite its large educated middle class and urban centers, Kenya is still an agrarian country. Seventy percent of the population is involved in agriculture-related activities, most with tiny plots of land. Large numbers remain landless or labor as under-paid farmworkers on large coffee, tea and other plantations owned by wealthy Kenyans or white settlers producing for export. In Kenya, where life expectancy is at 48 years, over 60 percent of the people live on $1 to $2 a day. Land pressures have intensified because of the scarcity of jobs—unemployment is over 40 percent. Several months beforehand, reports from revolutionary sympathizers in Kenya predicted the elections would trigger this explosion, and others have pointed out that if it hadn’t been the elections, it would have been something else:

“The situation [in June 2007] is getting out of hand. It’s like people are rising up against each other after being misused by our so-called leaders; and it’s getting nastier, because they label us criminals, whereas the system knows it’s a social and economic problem. Besides the gangs, other groups are forming up in the name of protecting their interests, mostly on land issues along tribal lines. Of course it’s all being related to the elections, but only time will tell. I hope there’s a way to get hold of our youths in a structured manner and to convince them that there is another way out.”

In fact it seems that the violence was partly spontaneous and partly organized—by both sides. The Kenyan state has ruled with a particularly brutal hand since independence, despite its recent reputation as a democratic model of sorts in Africa since Kibaki took power in 2002. After the December elections, his government immediately shifted onto a “national security” footing, banning public demonstrations (to thwart the opposition especially), partially muzzling the media, and most of all, giving free rein to the police and special forces to attack the people, including “shoot to kill” orders. Known Kikuyu gangs were spotted wearing police uniforms and carrying police guns. The army was called out. In the western part of the country, troops from pro-Kibaki Uganda disguised as Kenyan police were seen shooting at people considered opposition supporters. In early January, youth living in the ethnically mixed slum of Kibera—for which the other main presidential candidate, Raila Odinga, a Luo, was the MP, and where demonstrations and fighting broke out with a fury—ripped up tracks of the railroad that runs through Kibera to Kampala. They explained that they didn’t want the government bringing soldiers from Uganda to kill them. Kibaki’s police gunned down six of them that day.

While Kibaki’s stealing the election clearly ignited the violence and massive outpouring of protest, it also seems likely from reports from Kenya that the opposition forces grouped primarily around the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) had prepared to some extent for the possibility that Odinga might be defeated. In addition to cores of semi-organized youth, others quickly emerged in this situation in which the indiscriminate lashing out at other people on the basis of ethnicity was at first openly encouraged by the leaders at the top, who themselves were engaging in a vicious rivalry and expected the masses to follow as pawns in a combat by proxy.

The national languages of Kenya are English and Swahili. Of the 40 some different ethnic groups, this conflict mainly opposed Luos and Kalenjins against Kikuyus, and vice versa (13 percent, 12 percent and 22 percent of the population respectively). Kibaki is a Kikuyu. His predecessor, Daniel Arap Moi, is a Kalenjin. His opponent Odinga is a Luo. An important aspect of the corruption and bureaucrat capitalism concentrated in the neo-colonial state is the “tradition” of patronage, of hiring people from one’s ethnic base, handing out favors, grant money and contracts, as well as the key privilege of shadily arranged land acquisition to those with the right means and connections. Stemming from the colonial era and its ravages against the Kikuyu population located in the central provinces, Kikuyus became the backbone of the national independence movement, a section of which developed into the new ruling core of the neo-colonial state, dependent on imperialist capital. Beginning with the sell-out leadership of Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya’s first president, a “Kenyatta elite” based among Kikuyus prospered. They took over the central organs of power and urban centers and were rewarded with large tracts of land. So it was all too easy for the opposition to stoke the non-Kikuyu masses’ resentment that “Kikuyus have too long dominated Kenya and the spoils along with it—now it’s our turn,” just like the equally simplistic communal reaction against it among Kikuyus stirred up by Kibaki and his state guns and Mafia-type gang organizations. The class differences within these ethnic groups, the power relations and the ABCs of who exploits and oppresses the masses of poor people of all ethnic origins—are purposefully distorted and concealed by both sides.

The political crisis quickly became a social one, assuming humanitarian dimensions in both rural and urban areas and intensifying many of the same problems that had people at each other’s throats. Correspondents in Western Kenya wrote: “The town is paralyzed… children aren’t going to school because it’s not safe and even walking is a problem… There is no food, money and it’s very expensive to travel…” The few public vehicles on the road and reduced access to fuel have meant that transport fares have soared. Now basic goods have become scarce and tripled in price. Companies (including the nearly dead tourism industry) have closed, throwing thousands out of work while many thousands of others watched their means of livelihood go up in flames as their small farms and crops were burned, or their trading stalls and wares were looted or destroyed. Luo farmworkers from Western Kenya picking tea on the estates outside Nairobi were chased away and told to go “home.” Many people have never been to their so-called “ancestral home.” Over a quarter of a million people have been uprooted and displaced as the backward ideology takes hold, consolidating ethnic neighborhoods and areas of the countryside which had to some degree become ethnically mixed due to various waves of migration over the century and the workings of capital. The ruling class is not able to stop this reactionary process of rearranging society that it has unleashed and that has spun out of its control. To date it has mainly responded with further repression.

A lot of people hate this powerful dynamic that pits them against people they normally live with, and there have been reports of individuals opposing the wanton ethnic targeting and trying to stop the vicious and stupid acts of violence against their own friends and neighbors of other origins. But there is no evidence of an organized revolutionary force that has been able to set a different example and establish a different pole.

Illusions of Change Through National Presidential Elections

Within minutes of declaring himself the winner, President Kibaki scurried almost coup-like to reinstate himself and to select key cabinet posts for his cronies. The (pro-Kibaki) Kenyan Electoral Commission (KEC)’s surprise announcement that the vote count had radically shifted in favor of Kibaki at the very end (with votes outnumbering registered voters and other irregularities) provoked a cry of “foul play” that the government had stolen the elections, robbing the people of electing an alternative candidate of their choice, in fact one who campaigned on getting rid of corruption and giving a fair shake to everyone. As a Nairobi correspondent wrote, “The Kenyan people felt cheated, their rights denied and democracy thrown out of the window. Kenyans took to the streets en masse…”

This sentiment must be divided into contradictory facts: on the one hand, it is likely ODM supporters were cheated out of a clear Odinga win. And reports indicate there was probably vote rigging in both Kibaki and Odinga’s strong areas of support. While the ruling class refuses to risk a recount or repeat elections, UN intermediaries and most of the Western governments (bar George Bush, who rushed to legitimatize Kibaki) have more or less conceded that Odinga was ahead by as much as 2 percent. In addition his ODM won 99 seats in the legislative elections held at the same time, making it the largest single party, compared to Kibaki’s Party of National Unity winning only 43 seats.

On the other hand, who do these candidates of the ruling class really represent? How different is Kenya from other oppressed countries in which the bureaucrat capitalist politicians running the state and closely tied to imperialist interests always rig their political rule through elections, in the sense that one or another representative from that class is designed to win? Whether they do it fairly or not is quite secondary to which class is in power. While corruption is a symptom of the problem, is it really the heart of the matter? Elections are always contests between different sections of the reactionary classes, not between the powerful and the ruled over. They are the means by which this bureaucrat bourgeoisie and its allies holds onto political power and denies it to the people it governs. Often this takes place in cooperation —but sometimes in contention—with the more traditional and semi-feudal political forces. Kenya has all the democratic trappings of a model neo-colony serving imperialist interests, backed by a strong police force, army and several special paramilitary forces: a constitution, a parliament recently upgraded to multi-party status and a powerful presidency (with no prime minister). Beyond the role of commander in chief, the president can dissolve parliament, essentially controls the courts, and appoints the electoral commission that counts his votes!

Every single one of the institutions reflecting the so-called “rule of law” so highly vaunted in the West that have governed and suppressed the masses through a centralized and repressive state apparatus since independence is under dispute in the current political crisis. Many Kenyan writers objecting to the “foul play” in the elections, even progressive ones acknowledging social classes and dissecting the problems underneath the surface, look to reforming these instruments which they see functioning in a smoother way in the global “North” in order to make them more transparent and democratic in appearance, as though that would guarantee the people had some kind of real political power, or as though that would change the nature of the state and its class rule over and against the poor.

One reason ordinary people and many radical intellectuals alike feel powerless is they don’t see any material basis for breaking away from the current system or that the masses themselves can become a politicized army for revolution rather than reaction. New Democratic Revolution proposed by Mao, as a stage leading to socialism in countries under imperialist domination, puts forward exactly this: building a new type of democracy—and radically different state—based on a completely different kind of political power, led by the working class in alliance with the peasants and others and increasingly drawing in the broader masses into administering and transforming society. Taking over the land and giving it to those who till it and can feed the people and develop the nation on that basis. That becomes the material grounds upon which an independent society—severed from the dripping jaws of imperialism—can be created; but the new democratic revolution and land to the tiller is still rooted in capitalism. To be other than a new exploitative system, it must open the door to socialism and communism, which continues the struggle to empower the disempowered masses and eliminate backward ideas and social relations, especially the dog-eat-dog, “look out for yourself” outlook that capital promotes while extracting the people’s blood to ensure its survival.

The Political Representatives of the Kenyan Ruling Class

Who is this class that keeps re-“electing” itself while constantly promising more democracy? Not coincidentally, the three leading presidential families since independence—those of Jomo Kenyatta, Daniel Arap Moi, and Mwai Kibaki—are by far the biggest owners of Kenya’s arable land. The families are not only prominent members of the ruling oligarchy, but among its wealthiest, having amassed fortunes through their parasitic position in the state, access to outside capital, business investments, and not least, lots of foreign aid money that has continually flowed in to help “keep Kenya stable.” The despised tyrant Moi committed an endless list of crimes during his repressive rule that lasted 24 years thanks to brute force and Western support. Aside from outlandish and open corruption, he is remembered especially for his ruthless treatment of any opposition—whether for human rights, or even for multi-partyism. In the early 1990s, Moi armed warriors from his Kalenjin ethnic group to kill more than 1,500 small farmers—mostly Kikuyus as well as Luos and Luhyas—in the Rift Valley it used to occupy, while 300,000 others were displaced over a three-year period. This state manipulation of ethnic divisions in order to destabilize and hold onto power is classic and puts the larger scale events of January 2008 into perspective.

A political activist in Nairobi wrote that after Kibaki finally wrested power away from Moi in 2002, having campaigned on promises of transparency and more democracy, his government also tried to stop human rights efforts, declaring it a settled question. Rather than fighting corruption, Kibaki also was steeped in a number of scandals involving international deals, as well as reinforcing his own Kikuyu elite.

One writer, P.T. Zeleza, refers to the “promiscuity” of the Kenyan political class: “Most of the major figures in the leading political parties served in both the Moi and Kibaki governments. Their politics do not differ in significant ways.” The two main presidential candidates today, Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga both belong to the class of Kenya’s millionaires, but represent somewhat different sections of the ruling elite. Both Kibaki and Odinga have been accused of questionable land sales. Odinga’s ODM is actually a coalition of three slightly different political strands, but together is composed of some of the wealthiest people in the country. The Odinga family itself owns Spectre International, a molasses manufacturer, in conjunction with a multinational petroleum and diamond mining company. Although a very rich fellow, Odinga, educated in the former East Germany, championed “people power” in his electoral campaign, riding on his credentials as son of the independence movement and pro-Soviet leader Oginga Odinga. Raila Odinga’s speeches spoke to Kenya’s deep poverty and social problems and called for a new start for the nation. Millions of ordinary and middle-class Kenyans had invested much hope that he would clean up corruption as he promised and usher in long-awaited democratic reforms and freedoms. Although Odinga is Luo, he built a coalition against Kibaki’s party based on “change” and across ethnic lines. In other words, many Kikuyus who formed much of Kibaki’s support base in general, voted along with other non-Luos for this “change” and for Odinga. Part of his appeal is that he promises to rescue the people from the system and its current chief servant, Kibaki. But like all demagogues, he does so without arming the people with an understanding of the workings of the system, and rather stirs up people’s anger at exclusion from “the national cake” along ethnic lines. As one pan-Africanist writer put it, “Rather than building people power, he is consolidating neo-liberal democracy, using the people as a battering ram” against his opponent.

The candidates’ platforms are in essence remarkably similar, however, with continued economic dependency on and service to the West in the name of “development” as the cornerstone. Among other things, this means that agricultural production, for example, is geared towards export and the world market rather than the country’s own needs. Two-thirds of Kenya’s flowers and vegetables are sold in Europe and are the second largest source of foreign currency, after the huge safari tourism industry. Kibaki claims a six percent growth rate since he took power. As numerous commentators on Kenya have noted, this growth rate in reality translates into an increasing gap between rich and poor. In addition to the small strata of superrich at the top of the wealth pyramid, some sections of the middle class have benefited from Kenya’s close ties to imperialism and the uneven development it has spawned, while others find themselves increasingly sidelined.

Land, Colonialism, Divide and Rule

The ethnic aspect of this conflict among the masses is inseparable from the longstanding unresolved and very sharp land question in Kenya, which was at the heart of the struggle for national independence against Great Britain.

After the British arrived at the end of the nineteenth century, they moved out the nomadic pastoralists—the Kalenjins and Maasai—from the rich land in Kenya’s central highlands that form part of the long Rift Valley, designating that area as the “White Highlands,” targeting it as prime agricultural land for their colonial farms. The tiny area the Maasai were confined to continues to fuel their resentment against farmers in the Rift and the Kalenjins, who were pushed back to Western Kenya in the vicinity of Lake Victoria, have repeatedly raided the Rift area to drive Kikuyu farmers out. The Kikuyu people were traditionally crop growers and lived in the Mount Kenya and central areas. Thus they came into direct confrontation with the British, who as in some of their other colonies, set up Native Reserves for the Kikuyu peasants, as well as smaller ones for the Luos in Nyanza province in the west, and the Lamu on the eastern coast.

The British created a system of chiefs and headmen, previously not part of the Kikuyu social organization, in order to divide them and build up a section they could rely upon. These loyalist enforcers recruited agricultural labor for the settler plantations and collected the infamous “hut tax” introduced in British colonies to force independent peasants into wage labor or semi-proletarian positions and facilitate appropriating their land as the colonial economy expanded.

By the early 1950s, a movement had grown up among landless peasants and squatters thrown off the European farms, and other strata, based largely but not exclusively among the Kikuyu in Central Kenya. The “Mau Mau” uprising from 1952 to 1960 arose out of the twin demands for land and freedom from British rule. It was brutally repressed, with tens of thousands killed and hundreds of thousands detained and tortured in British “work camps.”

The famous cry from Kenya, Uhuru! (Freedom! in Swahili) rang throughout the European colonies in Africa fighting for national liberation in the 1960s. Soon the refrain became “Not yet Uhuru,” as Kenya’s dreams for political independence became little more than a formal transition to comprador rule. Eventually street names were changed to include some of the best-known nationalist heroes, but the Mau Mau history was distorted and effectively buried. Surviving political prisoners languished in Moi’s jails. Those who became part of Jomo Kenyatta’s betrayal after the colonialists released him in 1959 to assume a willing role as charismatic leader of neo–colonial transition from direct British rule were handsomely rewarded after formal independence in 1963. Some European farms were sold back to the government at market prices (Britain picking up the tab), making it possible to offer the “Kenyatta elite,” as it was called, land for nominal sums, along with numerous other privileges. Some poor Kikuyu peasant farmers and tenants kicked out by the new owners formed cooperative buying societies and purchased smaller tracts of land in the Rift Valley (which the Kalenjins consider to be their land), responding to Kenyatta’s populist call (mainly to Kikuyus) to “go back to the land.” Over time, however, many small farmers of all ethnic groups have been driven off the land and into the peri-urban slums of Nairobi and other cities, or to the large shack settlements in rural towns like Nakura, where some of the recent violent clashes took place.

Only about 17 percent of Kenya’s surface area is suitable for rain-fed agriculture. The other 80 percent is arid or semi-arid. Most people have access to less than a hectare and more than 13 percent are landless. In 2008, the class and ethnic distribution of land ownership has not shifted much since independence 45 years ago. A small class of large landowners control over 65 percent of the arable land in Kenya, according to the Kenya Land Alliance. Most of the tea and coffee estates around Nairobi are owned by the same political class sitting in parliament either today or at some time since independence. In addition, among the 30,000 remaining white settlers (along with 32,000 British expatriates who have returned to Kenya to live), several hundred still hold large tracts of land, or operate farms in conjunction with Kenyan businessmen. The stench of apartheid-like social relations from the colonial era is somewhat masked by the black elite, but is not hard to miss in the luxury world of the white-owned farms and private game reserves: a prominent landowner, the descendent of one of the main British aristocratic families, shot and killed two Kenyans crossing his property in the space of one year. Despite mass outrage, he was twice freed by the courts. There are also a number of absentee Arab landowners and “developers” living in Middle East or elsewhere.

Although the relatively privileged position of Kikuyus, which has its material roots in sections of Kikuyus being connected to the central government and key circuits of the economy, including one of its pillars—land ownership—many of the Rift valley farmers are small producers, some at subsistence level. Many poor Kikuyus also live in the slums, rural settlements and near the flower and other export crop farms as agricultural labor.

There is also a significant degree of separation between the African masses and mainly middle-class Indians, who as merchants have developed control over whole sections of commercial trade, become urban landlords, bankers and hold key positions in the development of tourism on Kenya’s Indian Ocean coast, with a role in the dispossession of the Lamu people there. Some have become millionaire businessmen, like the owner of the huge supermarket chains and also joined ruling party politics.

An Imperialist-Brokered “Peace”?

Kenya is an important military and political regional outpost for the West and for the British and U.S. imperialists in particular. With modern port facilities and airport, it occupies a key geo-strategic position near the Indian Ocean and the Horn. It was a major staging area for U.S. meddling in Soviet-influenced movements in the region during the Cold War. Kenya has increasingly agreed to play an important role in the U.S. “war against terrorism.” At America’s command, Kenyan troops dutifully prevented Somalis from entering the country during the recent conflict there. Kenya is also a haven to countless international NGOs and relief agencies, UN bodies and a host of overseas Christian missions and churches.

Over the past weeks, the European and U.S. imperialists rapidly intervened to set the rules for the struggle for control of the state concentrated in these elections. Although the situations are hardly the same, and their own hands are covered in the masses’ blood in those countries, Western governments through the U.S., UK, EU and UN have already announced they “won’t let Kenya go the way of Rwanda or Somalia,” by which they seem to mean open civil war.

As the imperialists send their negotiators (Rice and Annan, etc) to broker “peace” and “power sharing,” with the appearance of democratizing institutions in order to consolidate a fragmented state and to better silence especially the educated strata among the people, they along with their local comprador counterparts in Kenya should hold up a mirror: the ugliness of the past weeks is only as ugly as the system itself they constantly try to reinforce and make excuses for.

And, as they try to sum up the tremendous burden of betrayal of the independence movement, some young revolutionaries are looking towards how to get rid of this predator system altogether—a system that keeps the people poor and at each other’s throats. What would it take to envision a whole different and revolutionary society, where genuine national liberation is a first real step, instead of the mere formal independence that has been a means of further dividing—and ruling over—the oppressed?

This article benefited greatly from the input of several correspondents in Kenya, as well as that of numerous columnists and particularly the Pan-African news service Pambazuka, the Zeleza Post, and from a number of University of Nairobi academics.

 

A World to Win News Service is put out by A World to Win magazine (aworldtowin.org), a political and theoretical review inspired by the formation of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, the embryonic center of the world’s Marxist-Leninist-Maoist parties and organizations

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Revolution #122, March 9,2008


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From A World to Win News Service

Blood Money for Kenyan Valentine Roses

February 18, 2008. A World to Win News Service. The world’s media, including the  Nairobi Standard in one of its February 14 columns, breathed a sigh of relief supposedly on behalf of the nation that Kenyan roses would make it to European markets and flower shops in time for that crucial holiday invented to turn love into lots of money.

Now imagine you’re an ordinary flower farm worker at one of these lucrative horticultural industries that line the pockets of rich white settler and Kenyan entrepreneurs who have set up shop around Lake Navaisha, situated only two hours from Nairobi in the Rift Valley. You have noticed that somewhere between 60,000 and 100,000 people like you, most of them landless from other rural areas, but a few from the slums and settlements around towns, picked up and moved to the area with the promise of jobs. They are from many different ethnic origins and geographical areas but until last month, this didn’t matter much—you all were poor and exploited by the same owners. Those who actually got hired in one of the several flower farms circling the lake may be housed in shack settlements, or in the rows and rows of concrete slab company housing right outside the workplace. Others wait in a day labor line across from the farms hoping to make some temporary cash. Some set up market stalls or sell small pyramids of tomatoes, onions, potatoes and other local produce along the road by the vast greenhouses. You didn’t know you’d be working with toxic pesticides and fertilizers all day long without protection. But thousands of others are unemployed and have no income at all, waiting to take your place if you leave.

About 60% of Kenya’s flowers come from Lake Navaisha, traditionally a resort area for wealthy white settlers and home to several hotels and restaurants, tucked away from the poor and medium-sized dusty town of Navaisha. Signs bear the names of Dutch, British and Kenyan-owned companies like Sher, Wildlife, Homegrown, and Kingfisher. Lake Navaisha is one of the larger freshwater lakes but is rapidly being turned into a cesspool for the flower industry. The flower farms are draining the lake, pumping freshwater into the greenhouses while returning the chemical-filled wastewater through a ditch. Plant life has all but ceased to exist. Fish and bird species are threatened. The public has no access to the lake and to the water because it is all privately owned. They must line up for the few communal taps in the area, which never are sufficient for the local population’s needs.

But over the past month, since the big demonstrations in Nairobi, the violence spread to Navaisha. You have seen some of your co-workers attacked and chased away by people of ethnic groups different from theirs. You have seen the owners of the farms and white landowners in the area whisked away from the danger and violence in private airplanes and lorries. You couldn’t believe your eyes when you saw people of various origins forced to run into the Navaisha prison to try to escape marauding crowds of local (Kikuyu) gangs, some appearing to be escorted by the police, who shoot at those who venture out of the prison. You have seen people hacked to death with machetes. The bloodshed has torn the workforce apart and some people who haven’t been driven to other areas of Kenya are still staying away out of fear. You yourself are of mixed parents and afraid to speak anything but the main language of that region in public. You don’t know what happened to your Luo neighbors and to the Kalenjin woman married to a Kikuyu who worked next to you clipping roses.

But what do you see in the week leading up to February 14? Your white bosses and Kenyan managers are mobilizing everyone to come back to work on the grounds that “It’s safe.” They need to prepare the shipments of roses for the one holiday that generates nearly half of their profit in a given year, and they want you to work even longer days than you already do. All around you there is fear, trauma and tragedy from the events of the past month. There is no “protection” and the situation is anything but safe for ordinary Kenyans like you. There is no transport available for refugees, to carry home the dead for burial, or to bring in food. Your husband can’t get to the funeral of his uncle, killed in the communal fighting. But there are lots of trucks parked outside today. You discover your bosses have hired the police to protect the lorry convoys full of roses headed to Nairobi airport. You make a point of stabbing your flesh with one of the thorns as the rose is packed for Europe and watch the blood drip down the stem and into the valentine box.

A World to Win News Service is put out by A World to Win magazine (aworldtowin.org), a political and theoretical review inspired by the formation of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, the embryonic center of the world’s Marxist-Leninist-Maoist parties and organizations

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Revolution #122, March 9,2008


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From A World to Win News Service

A Walk Through Kibera, a Year Before It Exploded

February 18, 2008. A World to Win News Service.  Kibera is one of the biggest slums around Nairobi. A local Kibera resident and political activist who was born there gave us an eye-opening tour in February 2007, after the World Social Forum in Nairobi. Kibera stretches some seven kilometers long and houses over a million people, though residents say the government constantly repeats that 500,000 live there in order to minimize the incredible density and intolerable conditions.

At first glance, you could hardly understand why the residents don’t rise up every day, the place is so congested, filthy and lacking in basic sanitation and hygiene. Our friend said it had been a miracle there hadn’t been major outbreaks of cholera. The government was building a few unaffordable cement block two-story apartment buildings up on the hill, in a buffer zone between the slum and the rich suburb (still inhabited by many white settlers) on the other side. Kibera residents pay rent to local slumlords, many of whom were of Nubian origin from the Sudan, brought to Kenya to fight against the Mau Maus. They have to get permission to alter even a wall of corrugated iron or packed mud. Six to eight families live in the structures, often with only one or two rooms for six to ten people. While collective taxis called matatus run routes in every direction, many workers save money and take a shortcut from Kibera by walking on the railroad track to the industrial zone in the south of Nairobi every day.

Small tin boxlike Christian churches dot the slums. Our guide said a new church opened up nearly every week, once a self-appointed preacher figures out he could collect from a congregation. Most seemed to be variants of Pentecostals, dividing and spreading rapidly in that part of the continent. A few more established Catholic churches also existed and ran primary schools. He said the church officials and staff actually lived in the slum too. The local mosque, also a box-like structure, was apparently well financed by the Asian community living in the middle and upper middle class areas north of Nairobi. I asked if they plough money into the slum generally, and was told no. He thought the high profile of the various churches might have something to do with how anger and revolt were controlled and suppressed.

Commercial activity ranged from shoes on a bedspread to undersupplied shelves in small wooden shops, to hair salons, and tiny restaurants, some indoors, some outdoors. Rents doubled or tripled if your home shack was anywhere close to these commercial roads. It seemed most residents had access to electricity, some paying and charging others for “deviations” while others engaged in more “free trade” siphoning. Underfoot were several million plastic carrying bags mixed with the hard mud and rocks that people had to scramble over to climb up to the inner row houses. A “river” used to run through the place. Now it is filled with waste and garbage. It made you furious at the authorities to watch children playing or even trying to wash or drink. Several water taps provide regular Nairobi water, which even many local people throughout the Nairobi area boil before drinking.

A few persistent rows of maize stalks are grown around the edges and the very rare trees are mostly banana trees.

We stumbled on what looked like a vacant lot, very out of place in a dense slum where every centimeter is employed to some end, and people there told the story of a struggle over evicting a family who couldn’t pay their rent. This ended in the local residents burning it down—if the evictees couldn’t live there, then no one would—and turning it into a small dirt “playing field” which is protected as such from any “developers” who would remove this symbol of their struggle. Our guide assured us that despite the appearance of tolerance and calm, a powder keg lay beneath the surface. The problem for Kenya’s rulers is that, although Kibera is the largest slum, over two million of Nairobi’s urban residents are living in 10 very similar slums scattered around the city’s outskirts.

A World to Win News Service is put out by A World to Win magazine (aworldtowin.org), a political and theoretical review inspired by the formation of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, the embryonic center of the world’s Marxist-Leninist-Maoist parties and organizations

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Revolution #122, March 9, 2008


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