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Revolution #128, May 1, 2008
Announcing the Publication Of:
Revolution newspaper is excited to announce the publication of a pamphlet entitled Revolution and Communism: A Foundation and Strategic Orientation on May 1, 2008. This pamphlet contains Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity, by Bob Avakian, along with On the Possibility of Revolution. “Some Crucial Points of Revolutionary Orientation—in Opposition to Infantile Posturing and Distortions of Revolution” is also included in this pamphlet.
This pamphlet emphatically challenges and refutes the message that revolution is impossible and communism unworkable and not desirable. In fact, revolution and communism are exactly what humanity needs! This pamphlet speaks to why communist revolution is not only necessary, but possible—and how it could be made. It concentrates the strategic foundation and scaffolding for advancing on the road of revolution and communism, and winning growing numbers of the masses to that cause, through hard struggle (both against the enemy, but also including sharp ideological struggle with the masses) and with all the twists and turns that will inevitably be encountered.
In Part 1 of Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity, “Beyond the Narrow Horizon of Bourgeois Right,” Bob Avakian sets out the basic foundation, the overarching goal of our struggle, and the pathways for uprooting and overcoming all the traditional property relations and ideas that stand as barriers to liberation. He steps off addressing the question: can humanity break with and get beyond the narrow horizons of the society we live in and envision a radically different and far better world?
Avakian shows how the sights and aspirations of people today, the world over, are funneled and hemmed into looking at things in terms which do not go beyond the outlook and values which capitalism engenders and thrives upon, and the social relations in which those ideas are rooted. Today these are deemed to be the result of “human nature.” But another, radically different world is possible, with a different and far more liberating conception of rights and freedom. Avakian paints a compelling picture of a world where people would have the right not to confront each other in antagonistic relations...where there would be the right to eat for every human being—and no one would be worked to death for the profit of others, but people would work cooperatively to meet the needs of all...where all of humanity would have the right to engage in the arts, or in science and in other intellectual thought, and where the research and discovery in medicine and science that today is subordinated to the economic, political, and ideological demands of capital would be emancipated from that. A communist world where people are no longer constrained by the narrow horizons which are the product of and demanded by capitalism.
Avakian goes deeply into how societies have been structured and how they have changed. He shows the dynamics and wellsprings that drive forward change. Doing so, he lays bare the actual material basis for a communist world. Today, the possibility exists to move beyond all exploitative and oppressive relations. The proletariat, a class which has the basis, and potential, to emancipate all of humanity, has been brought into being with the emergence of capitalism. In its very organization and position in society, of collectively creating the vast majority of the wealth of the world...even though that vast wealth is privately appropriated by their exploiters and oppressors, the capitalists…this international class has both the interests and potential to lead in advancing society beyond the narrow horizons of capitalist society, of “bourgeois right.” (“Bourgeois right” has come to refer to production and social relations, as well as ideas, that are characteristic of capitalism but persist into the period of socialism, which is a revolutionary transition between capitalism and communism; as Marx put it, only once humanity has crossed the “narrow horizon of bourgeois right” can a truly communist society be brought into being.)
The seizure of power by the proletariat is the first gigantic leap in this process. Immediately, the new power will move to provide a better life for people, to wipe out injustice and radically transform the inequalities left over from the old system. People will be brought into the exercising of power and the conscious transformation of society. But these are only the first steps; they do not exhaust the tasks of the revolution. Socialism will “inherit” the productive forces and the people who have been living under capitalism (with all their inclinations and ideas—and the class and social relations embedded over centuries). Moving beyond that narrow horizon to a communist future is a protracted process and full of contradiction. It involves the dialectical, back-and-forth process between changing circumstances and changing people to emancipate all of humanity, to make the radical rupture with all traditional property relations and all traditional ideas.
A Scientific Approach and Method
It takes science and a thoroughly scientific method to transform society, and to make the radical rupture with all traditional property relations and all the traditional ideas. And it will take carrying out the hard work to develop both our scientific understanding of society and nature, and our ability to wrench freedom out of the challenges we face. Contained in this pamphlet is a major contribution on this front in particular.
In the history of our international communist movement, there have been great leaders and scientists...Marx, Lenin, Mao. And the core elements and principles of the communist science they brought forward have repeatedly been confirmed by the test of reality. But science must develop as the world changes, new discoveries are made, and people look at things anew. To embark on a new stage of revolution in the world, to actually correctly sum up what has come before and chart the path forward at this juncture of history, has required pathbreaking developments in the scientific method of Marxism. This Avakian has done, and his path-breaking method and approach is concentrated in Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity. It runs throughout—in his explanation and demolition of determinist and linear approaches, and in particular in a substantial polemic against Karl Popper, perhaps the most influential of the critics of Marxism.
The End of a Stage…and The New Synthesis
The communists of the Soviet Union and China led the masses to make revolution, seize power and to use that new revolutionary power, the dictatorship of the proletariat, to make amazing and unprecedented transformations. For the first time in history, the foundation and structure of society was oriented to meeting the needs of people and uprooting and doing away with all the oppressive relations in society. These revolutions inspired and gave hope to people worldwide. But both these revolutions were defeated—the Soviet Union in the mid-1950s, China in 1976—and a new capitalist class seized power.
These defeats weigh heavily on people’s aspirations for a different world. The task before communists has been to deeply sum up this first wave of revolution and to embark on a new stage of revolution. These were great accomplishments, but they ran up against their limits—and clinging to the past as if it is a recipe will not lead to emancipation. (Just as passing facile verdicts on this experience—or religiously relying on notions of the inevitability of communism, if we just keep plugging along—will only serve to keep people enslaved.)
Bob Avakian has led in defending, upholding, and building on the monumental achievements of those revolutions and the insights of its greatest thinkers and leaders. But he has also deeply analyzed the mistakes, and the shortcomings in conception and scientific method that led to those mistakes.
Bob Avakian has forged a coherent, comprehensive, and overarching theoretical framework—that is, a synthesis. While this definitely comes out of and builds on what has gone before, it is not a matter of cutting and pasting, of the arithmetic addition of the strengths of what has come before and the subtraction and correction of the errors and shortcomings. It involves real ruptures with the past understanding and experience as a crucial element, which is why we call it the new synthesis.
There have been many works over the course of 30 years that have excavated this new synthesis; at the same time, there is a certain level of concentration in Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity. The following sentence, discussing the new synthesis in an overall sense, gives an important grounding in this:
“This new synthesis involves a recasting and recombining of the positive aspects of the experience so far of the communist movement and of socialist society, while learning from the negative aspects of this experience, in the philosophical and ideological as well as the political dimensions, so as to have a more deeply and firmly rooted scientific orientation, method and approach with regard not only to making revolution and seizing power but then, yes, to meeting the material requirements of society and the needs of the masses of people, in an increasingly expanding way, in socialist society—overcoming the deep scars of the past and continuing the revolutionary transformation of society, while at the same time actively supporting the world revolutionary struggle and acting on the recognition that the world arena and the world struggle are most fundamental and important, in an overall sense—together with opening up qualitatively more space to give expression to the intellectual and cultural needs of the people, broadly understood, and enabling a more diverse and rich process of exploration and experimentation in the realms of science, art and culture, and intellectual life overall, with increasing scope for the contention of different ideas and schools of thought and for individual initiative and creativity and protection of individual rights, including space for individuals to interact in ‘civil society’ independently of the state—all within an overall cooperative and collective framework and at the same time as state power is maintained and further developed as a revolutionary state power serving the interests of the proletarian revolution, in the particular country and worldwide, with this state being the leading and central element in the economy and in the overall direction of society, while the state itself is being continually transformed into something radically different from all previous states, as a crucial part of the advance toward the eventual abolition of the state with the achievement of communism on a world scale.”
Part 1 ends with this point: “...in the world as a whole, to a very large degree, revolution aiming for communism and the vision of a communist world—this has been ‘ideologized’ off the scene—and with it the only road that actually represents the possibility of a radically different and far better world, in the real world, one that people really would want to live in and would really thrive in. The new synthesis has objectively ‘ideologized’ this back on the scene once more, on a higher level and in a potentially very powerful way.
“But what will be done with this? Will it become a powerful political as well as ideological force? It is up to us to take this out everywhere—very, very boldly and with substance, linking it with the widespread, if still largely latent, desire for another way, for another world—and engage ever growing numbers of people with this new synthesis in a good, lively, and living way.”
“Everything We’re Doing Is About Revolution”
A different and far better world is possible...but how to prepare for—and to work for—the revolution required to get to that world?
To begin, revolutions in a country like this can only take place once there is a major, qualitative change in the nature of the objective situation, such that society as a whole is in the grip of a profound crisis, owing fundamentally to the nature and workings of the system itself, and along with that there is the emergence of a revolutionary people, numbering in the millions and millions, conscious of the need for revolutionary change and determined to fight for it. Everything a vanguard does has to be about getting to that revolutionary situation and measured in relation to that. Everything it does has to be about revolution. Anything short of that leads to throwing away the opportunity for revolution when it does arise (if it is even recognized).
In Part 2 of Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity, “Everything We’re Doing Is About Revolution,” Bob Avakian sets out a basic scaffolding for building a revolutionary movement in this country. This work applies—and exemplifies—a method to be learned from and utilized: it gives a living sense of the multi-layered and multi-leveled, dynamically changing character of reality and a way to comprehend reality in its motion and development and to transform it.
Both common wisdom in imperialist countries and the program of organized “economist” trends within the movement have been to look at the strength of the imperialists and the ebbs and flows in the spontaneous mass struggle—and, on this superficial basis, to fail to see not only the urgent necessity, but the basis and potential for the masses to rise up in revolution. All that’s possible now, these “economists” say, is to narrowly focus the attention of the masses on their immediate demands and the fight to win those demands, and get a mass following on that basis. This kind of view doesn’t challenge people ideologically, other than to “take up the struggle” at hand. No one ever quite cops to not wanting to bring communism to the masses; they just say now is not the time, and that the battle around immediate demands is the best way to get in position to do that. The economist approach leads to the severing of revolution and the communist future from today’s realities and struggles. The criterion is narrowed to whether one is “getting somewhere,” without regard to whether it is actually contributing toward the strategic goals of revolution and communism. Underneath this is, as Avakian analyzes, a mechanical and determinist view that sees only what exists and assumes it will indefinitely continue in the same direction, without radical breaks or sudden changes, without anything impinging on that direction, and without the possibility of new things emerging in unexpected ways out of existing contradictions.
In actual fact all societies—and the world—are constantly changing and teem with contradiction and unexpected developments. And history, like nature, is full of sudden leaps. A revolutionary situation does not arise as the conclusion of a linear, step-by-step process which gradually builds up to a truly mass movement. Society “leaps” into a revolutionary crisis as the result of sharp contradictions in the objective situation coming to a head, giving rise to a crisis in society and in government, in conjunction with the political, ideological, theoretical, and organizational work of revolutionaries in the whole period leading up to that crisis. Tens of millions of people flood into political life as the result of and through the mix of—and back and forth between—many contradictions in the world as a whole, and in a particular country, in many arenas of society, the struggles within and between the many classes and strata in society—economically and politically, over the oppression of nationalities and women, in the spheres of art and culture, of big ideological battles in society, and so forth—and again, within this mix, the work of revolutionaries.
By working within and “working on” the sharp and varied contradictions in society, our work should and will be a critical and necessary element pushing at and influencing the direction society takes. The revolutionary movement works to hasten the development of the revolution, while awaiting (and working to shape) favorable developments—those times in which everything goes up for grabs and a revolutionary people has come onto the stage of history. The revolutionary movement must strain against the political framework that works to contain the masses. There is no guarantee that a revolutionary crisis will emerge, but what is clear is: 1) There is an absolute need for revolution and it is the only solution—and the contradictions which make revolution necessary will continually pose and repose themselves for resolution. 2) Only this kind of work—work that is proceeding from and aimed at the goal of revolution—will accelerate the development of and prepare for such a situation (in contrast to economist work of step by step building up the strength of the mass movement, which will some day “go over” to revolution).
Hastening while awaiting is a multi-leveled and multi-dimensional process. The need for fundamental, radical change jumps out from the exploitation, oppression and suffering of people the world over. It can be seen in the horrific and ongoing wars imperialism wages—and the repressive moves of the state and a thousand other crimes imperialism commits every day. Communists must be working on these things, bringing forward the ways in which the proletariat, when it seizes power, can move immediately to put an end to these crimes—and they must be building massive political resistance to these outrages. This is a very important and essential part of hastening while awaiting.
But revolution will not be made by simply building ever greater struggles around these outrages and then linearly going forward. The need for communism springs from every pore of society. Communist ideology and exposure—and the necessity and possibility of moving to a communist future—need to be a part of the debate and ferment in all arenas, from the arts and sciences to controversies over morality. This work also is an integral and important element of hastening while awaiting; it impacts on how people see things and understand the world, what they are willing to put up with and what they are willing and determined to fight for, and more broadly, how social forces in society look at the communists and revolutionaries —and their goals.
A very critical passage from this pamphlet—indeed, one of the most important passages in the work of Bob Avakian—gives a sense of the method and approach to all this: “But fundamentally (and, so to speak, underneath all this) freedom does lie in the recognition and transformation of necessity. The point is that this recognition and the ability to carry out that transformation goes through a lot of different ‘channels,’ and is not tied in a positivist or reductionist or linear way to however the main social contradictions are posing themselves at a given time. If that were the case—or if we approached it that way—we would liquidate the role of art and much of the superstructure in general. Why do we battle in the realm of morals? It is because there is relative initiative and autonomy in the superstructure. And the more correctly that’s given expression, the better it will be, in terms of the kind of society we have at a given time and in terms of our ability to recognize necessity and carry out the struggle to transform necessity.”
Enriched What Is To Be Done-ism: The Two Mainstays
Grasping this is central to the very important strategic concept of “Enriched What Is To Be Done-ism.” This concept builds on Lenin’s famous and essential work, What Is To Be Done?. It comprehends a living ensemble of different kinds of revolutionary work. Over the course of decades, Bob Avakian has not only upheld but fought for the crucial principles developed by Lenin concerning the importance of bringing communist consciousness to the masses and training them to respond to all developments in society and the world from a communist point of view—and no other. And he has enriched these principles with a further and qualitatively deeper grasp of the ways in which matter and consciousness mutually interpenetrate and transform each other. He emphasizes the importance of enabling the masses to engage with all spheres of society from the angle of knowing and transforming the whole world, as well as the need to “break down,” to the extent possible, the barriers to that engagement; and, very critically, he’s emphasized the importance of boldly promoting communism itself and of putting before the masses the biggest questions of the revolution.
In this work the elements are brought together, laid out, and discussed in their interrelations. There is not a predetermined way all this will unfold, but this does provide the strategy and scaffolding that indicates broadly how these elements work together to develop a revolutionary movement and bring forward a revolutionary people. Within all this, and as a crucial part of repolarizing society for revolution, communists must be working to bring forward a core of emancipators of humanity—and to build the vanguard party. What if there was such a core numbering in the thousands now—and bringing forward tens of thousands more throughout society? What if there were emancipators of humanity going into the debate and ferment in different spheres to expose the workings of the system—and to bring to others a scientific understanding, and their communist convictions? And what if there was such a core out in the neighborhoods and factories, and going into the outbreaks of protest and rebellion, boldly spreading revolution and communism and on that basis building “massive political resistance to the main ways in which, at any given time, the exploitative and oppressive nature of this system is concentrated in the policies and actions of the ruling class and its institutions and agencies”? What difference would this make to hastening the development of a revolutionary situation and the emergence of a revolutionary people?
Answer: a great deal of difference! And it is something to urgently work toward.
In bringing forward such a core, and in broadly reaching into and influencing every corner of society, the role of Revolution newspaper is pivotal. It exposes the truth about this system and how it works, revealing the roots of all the outrages and injustices this system perpetrates on people here and around the world. It brings to light the impact these things have on different classes and strata—and how these strata (with different interests and programs) are responding. It fans the flames of resistance and embraces all those who protest and rebel—while diverting those streams away from their “spontaneous striving to come under the wing of the bourgeoisie.” And through all this, the communist press points to the need for the proletariat to lead a revolution, establish socialism, and move forward to emancipate all of humanity worldwide. It sets before all our communist convictions, and plays a key role in forging the link between all that and the communist future.
Together with the newspaper, an essential component of meaningful revolutionary work in this period is building a culture of appreciation, promotion, and popularization around the leadership, the body of work, and the method and approach of Bob Avakian. His work is a concentration of the most advanced expression of where humanity and society need to go, and can go, and opens up the pathways for achieving this. People in their masses must and can face the world as it is, scientifically understand it, and consciously transform it. But that cannot happen spontaneously and without leadership. In that light, Bob Avakian is an extraordinary leader, a leader who has consistently confronted and worked to find the solutions to the burning and most difficult questions facing humanity and the revolution—and has consistently put these questions before and in the hands of the masses. This should be cause for celebration—but it must also be recognized that the forces of reaction take this very seriously, and it should move all of those who want an end to this madness not only to engage with his work, but also to defend his ability to continue this work and leadership. This means forging a core of people (of all strata) who are deeply studying, and applying, the work of Bob Avakian—and fighting to connect this leader and his work with people broadly in society. And it means this work must be engaged by and become a point of reference for many, many people all throughout society. This too is an integral part of all we are doing contributing to revolution. The newspaper and the efforts to promote this leader and his work: these are the two mainstays of revolutionary work.
“Fight the Power, and Transform the People, For Revolution”
Together with these two mainstays of revolutionary communist work, there are other, critical elements in this ensemble we call enriched What Is To Be Done-ism: There is the need to mobilize people around the slogan “Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution.” Under this slogan, people are organized to spread communism and revolution, and build resistance against the outrages and injustices the system brings down on the people, as a part of contributing to revolution. This is meaningful revolutionary work—and work that should feel like meaningful revolutionary work—work that is about and actually contributing today to making revolution.
Also important: very bold initiatives of different kinds (and including ideological battles) can have a galvanic and electrifying effect. But revolutionaries must also be acutely attuned to sudden changes, and be ready to respond instantaneously …and audaciously. For example, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, with the deaths of thousands—and the incredible suffering of tens of thousands more—the nature and the bankruptcy of this system, and the ability and right of the capitalists to rule, was called into question in significant ways for millions. And as the masses in New Orleans, joined by others from all strata of society, worked together to care for people who had been abandoned and left to die, this also revealed the potential for the masses to break with and get beyond the dog-eat-dog life that capitalism pushes people into—and to be mobilized to bring into being a society with radically different relations among people. A bold initiative to raise the banner of revolution and lead the masses in powerful resistance to the criminal way people were abandoned by the government with not even the basic necessities, an initiative to break through to the people left to die and against the killing repression, could have potentially changed what happened around Katrina but also would have held the potential to dramatically impact the trajectory of things broadly in society and contribute to bringing forward a revolutionary people. Avakian focuses on this example in some depth and challenges party comrades and other revolutionaries to dig into it.
Another component in the ensemble: Undertaking political initiatives around societal questions which concentrate key social contradictions at any given time (and which can, through the work of revolutionaries, call into question the legitimacy of the authorities’ “right to rule”), like the work to build World Can’t Wait and organize and unleash massive protest and struggle aimed at driving out the Bush regime. The importance of this work in particular—both its very significant contributions and some of the reasons for its shortcomings—is gone into in the pamphlet in some depth.
Through all this work to hasten while awaiting, we must be forging the United Front under the Leadership of the Proletariat. To make revolution and advance to communism, the proletariat must unite with and lead broad and diverse forces—with different outlooks and programs. Forging that unity involves overcoming the divisions and distrust between different classes and strata and realigning different class forces in a way that the goal of revolution and the revolutionary communist outlook are brought to the forefront and established in the leading position. This will be accomplished only through a complex struggle to unite, but also to struggle with different forces ideologically and politically, while working with them on various fronts and to join the struggle around critical faultlines in society.
For all these reasons, the publication of both parts of the talk Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity as part of this pamphlet is a significant and very welcome event.
* * *
Also contained in this pamphlet is the article On the Possibility of Revolution, which consists of a letter from a reader to Revolution newspaper, together with the response to that letter. The letter to Revolution poses the question: “...even in the best of circumstances, in a powerful imperialist country like the U.S., would revolution really be possible—and if so, how?” And the response speaks powerfully to this question in the realm of theory.
In regard to this whole question, in Bringing Forward Another Way (online at revcom.us), Bob Avakian emphasizes the following important orientation and approach:
“We have to take up the question and approach the question of winning in a very serious and not in an infantile way, and not in a way which makes it even easier for this kind of concentrated power of reaction [embodied in the imperialist ruling class] to crush any attempt to bring a new world into being.”
And from the beginning of “Some Crucial Points of Revolutionary Orientation—in Opposition to Infantile Posturing and Distortions of Revolution” (reprinted in this pamphlet as an appendix):
“Revolution is a very serious matter and must be approached in a serious and scientific way, and not through subjective and individualistic expressions of frustration, posturing and acts which run counter to the development of a mass revolutionary movement which is aimed at—and which must be characterized by means that are fundamentally consistent with and serve to bring into being—a radically different and far better world. Revolution, and in particular communist revolution, is and can only be the act of masses of people, organized and led to carry out increasingly conscious struggle to abolish, and advance humanity beyond, all systems and relations of exploitation and oppression.”
In line with this orientation, in Bringing Forward Another Way, proceeding on the basis of what is said in “Some Crucial Points,” Avakian calls for study, and wrangling in the realm of theory and conception, in regard to the problem of winning when the time comes. As he puts it:
“Now, in previous talks I’ve spoken about two tracks in relation to winning, in relation to the seizure of power when there is the emergence of a revolutionary situation and a revolutionary people of millions. In light of what I’ve just read (which was the whole of ‘Some Crucial Points of Revolutionary Orientation—in Opposition to Infantile Posturing and Distortions of Revolution’), and with that as a template, if you will, or a foundation—and from a strategic, not immediate, standpoint—we should understand the role and the dialectical relation of these two tracks. These are separate tracks, and only with a qualitative change in the situation (as spoken to in what I just read from ‘Some Crucial Points’) can there be a merging of the two tracks. Until that point, they can only correctly be developed, and have to be developed, separately.
“The first track, which is the main focus and content of things now, is political, ideological, and organizational work, guided by the strategic orientation of united front under the leadership of the proletariat, having in view and politically preparing for the emergence of a revolutionary situation and a revolutionary people on a mass scale. This is what it means to ‘hasten while awaiting’ the development of a revolutionary situation.
“The second track refers to and is in essence developing the theory and strategic orientation to be able to deal with the situation and be able to win when the two tracks can and should be merged—with a qualitative change in the objective political terrain, with the emergence of a revolutionary situation and a revolutionary people (as I have spoken to that here and as is set forth in a concentrated way in ‘Some Crucial Points’). What is appropriate now in this regard is attention to the realm of theory and strategic thinking and understanding, learning in a deep and all-sided way from experience of different kinds. There is a need to study all these different kinds of experience and for it to be synthesized from a correct strategic perspective—all in order to accumulate knowledge to deepen theoretical understanding and strategic conception.”
And, elaborating on a point made by Mao Tsetung, Avakian has emphasized the fundamental orientation that it is extremely important not to be bound by superstition and convention—and by what has, up to this point, been held to be true—but instead to approach all problems with critical and creative thinking, grounded in scientific principles and methods.
With all that in mind, and in response to the question raised by that reader of Revolution, this article merits serious study and sober reflection.
* * *
We urge all those who are wrangling with the questions of why revolution is necessary in this country, why is it possible, and what are the goals of that revolution to get their hands on and read Revolution and Communism: A Foundation and Strategic Orientation.
What better way to mark the revolutionary new beginning symbolized by May 1st?
Revolution #128, May 1, 2008
Revolution is a very serious matter and must be approached in a serious and scientific way, and not through subjective and individualistic expressions of frustration, posturing and acts which run counter to the development of a mass revolutionary movement which is aimed at—and which must be characterized by means that are fundamentally consistent with and serve to bring into being—a radically different and far better world. Revolution, and in particular communist revolution, is and can only be the act of masses of people, organized and led to carry out increasingly conscious struggle to abolish, and advance humanity beyond, all systems and relations of exploitation and oppression.
A bedrock, scientific understanding which must underlie the development of such a revolutionary movement is that:
The whole system we now live under is based on exploitation—here and all over the world. It is completely worthless and no basic change for the better can come about until this system is overthrown.
In a country like the U.S., the revolutionary overthrow of this system can only be achieved once there is a major, qualitative change in the nature of the objective situation, such that society as a whole is in the grip of a profound crisis, owing fundamentally to the nature and workings of the system itself, and along with that there is the emergence of a revolutionary people, numbering in the millions and millions, conscious of the need for revolutionary change and determined to fight for it. In this struggle for revolutionary change, the revolutionary people and those who lead them will be confronted by the violent repressive force of the machinery of the state which embodies and enforces the existing system of exploitation and oppression; and in order for the revolutionary struggle to succeed, it will need to meet and defeat that violent repressive force of the old, exploitative and oppressive order.
Before the development of a revolutionary situation—and as the key to working toward the development of a revolutionary people, in a country like the U.S.—those who see the need for and wish to contribute to a revolution must focus their efforts on raising the political and ideological consciousness of masses of people and building massive political resistance to the main ways in which, at any given time, the exploitative and oppressive nature of this system is concentrated in the policies and actions of the ruling class and its institutions and agencies—striving through all this to enable growing numbers of people to grasp both the need and the possibility for revolution when the necessary conditions have been brought into being, as a result of the unfolding of the contradictions of the system itself as well as the political, and ideological, work of revolutionaries.
In the absence of a revolutionary situation—and in opposition to the revolutionary orientation and revolutionary political and ideological work that is actually needed—the initiation of, or the advocacy of, isolated acts of violence, by individuals or small groups, divorced from masses of people and attempting to substitute for a revolutionary movement of masses of people, is very wrong and extremely harmful. Even—or especially—if this is done in the name of “revolution,” it will work against, and in fact do serious damage to, the development of an actual revolutionary movement of masses of people, as well as to the building of political resistance against the outrages and injustices of this system even before there is a revolutionary situation. It will aid the extremely repressive forces of the existing system in their moves to isolate, attack and crush those, both revolutionary forces and broader forces of political opposition, who are working to build mass political resistance and to achieve significant, and even profound, social change through the politically-conscious activity and initiative of masses of people.
Revolution #128, May 1, 2008
Revolution #128, May 1, 2008
Exciting Exchanges in New York and Los Angeles…
Atheism, God and Morality in a Time
of Imperialism and Rising Fundamentalism
“Atheism, God and Morality in a Time of Imperialism and Rising Fundamentalism” was the title of the conversation sponsored by Revolution Books between Chris Hedges and Sunsara Taylor on the evening of April 23. Over 200 people filled the Wollman auditorium at New York’s Cooper Union and spilled into the hallways to hear and get into the discussion between Hedges, speaking about his new book, I Don’t Believe in Atheists, and Taylor, speaking on behalf of Bob Avakian’s new book Away With All Gods! Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World. An unseasonably warm spring day meant the room was hot—but most people stayed for over three hours and when the program had to end there were still 30 hands waving in the air.
Both Hedges and Taylor painted vivid and chilling pictures of the real-world suffering caused by religious fundamentalism, and both exposed atheists like Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris who justify U.S. imperialist crimes by claiming that Islamic fundamentalism is the worse danger in the world. Both discussed various dimensions of the “crisis of meaning” in today’s world and the desperation and despair driving people to fundamentalist religion. Yet Hedges’ and Taylor’s approaches and analyses of the role of religion itself and the religious impulse, and the direction of their proposed solutions, are very different, and the audience was thirsty to hear and dig into the exchange and contestation between them.
There was an urgency to the evening, a driven spirit to find solutions to some of the most difficult problems confronting people all over the world. Hedges and Taylor challenged each other, and then were challenged by the thought-provoking and serious questions from the audience. As the evening closed, conversation and debate was still raging.
On Saturday, April 26, over 200 people attended a panel discussion of “Religion, Atheism and Black People” at the James Bridges Theater at UCLA. The diverse audience included a mix of nationalities, people of all ages, atheists, religious believers, and people searching for answers, activists, UCLA students, and people who heard about the event while attending the L.A. Times Festival of Books which was taking place just outside the event at UCLA. The invitation to the discussion posed: “Is religion an enslaving or a liberating ideology for Black people? What is the role of religion and the Black church in the history and present day reality of Black people in America—from slavery to Katrina—as many seek an end to oppression and a better world?”
The panelists were: Dr. Obery Hendricks, a Professor of Biblical Interpretation at New York Theological Seminary and author of The Politics of Jesus: Rediscovering the True Revolutionary Nature of Jesus’ Teachings and How They Have Been Corrupted. (Three Leaves, 2007); Clyde Young discussing Bob Avakian’s new title, Away With All Gods! Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World (Insight Press, 2008); and Erin Aubry Kaplan, contributing editor to the op-ed section of the Los Angeles Times, who has written extensively on the Black community and believes that religion is “an opiate for the masses of Black people.” The audience closely followed presentations and exchanges among the panelists, and then engaged the panelists in an hour and a half of intense questions and answers.
Revolution #128, May 1, 2008
In Haiti, the majority of people live on less than $2 a day and over the last year food prices have risen by over 40 percent. Sixteen-year-old Charlene, who has a one-month-old son, relies on a traditional Haitian remedy for hunger pangs: cookies made of dried yellow dirt mixed with salt and vegetable shortening. This mud cookie sells for five cents on the street and some people can’t even afford this non-food meal which causes severe malnutrition, intestinal distress and contains potentially deadly toxins and parasites.1
In India last February, Narendra Totaram Chauhan quietly slipped into his cotton fields, opened a bottle of pesticide and drank it. The poison quickly ended his life. In the next few days, 60 farmers killed themselves. Over the last ten years, 150,000 Indian farmers have committed suicide, driven to despair because they can’t repay crop loans.2
Filling the gas tank of an SUV with pure ethanol requires more than 450 pounds of corn. This is enough calories to feed one person for a year.3
As Josette Sheeran of the UN World Food Program put it last month, “We are seeing food on the shelves but people being unable to afford it.” That’s a situation in which people start to question the very property relations that stand between them and those sacks of rice and bags of beans piled up behind that storefront grill and the riot policemen in front of it.4
—Tony Karon, writer for Time.com, April 9, 2008
The beginning of April 2008 witnessed an explosion of “food riots” around the world.
In Haiti, thousands protested for days throughout the country. In the capital city of Port-au-Prince, people carried empty plates to signify their hunger and smashed windows, set buildings and cars on fire, looted shops looking for food, and tried to storm the presidential palace. UN Blue Helmets (MINUSTAH) shot and killed at least five Haitians and wounded many others. In Bangladesh, many workers earn only $25 a month and the price of rice has doubled over the past year. 20,000 textile workers took to the streets to demand higher wages and to protest rising food prices. Scores were injured when police used gunfire to disperse the crowds.
In Egypt, when workers protested food prices in the textile center of Mahalla al-Kobra, north of Cairo, security forces shot dead two people and hundreds were arrested. In Burkina Faso in West Africa, unions and shopkeepers went on strike for two days to demand a cut in the price of rice and other staples. In Phnom Penh, Cambodia—where the average income is 50 cents a day and the cost of a kilogram of rice has risen to $1—demonstrators marched on parliament to protest food price hikes. In the Ivory Coast, where food prices have soared by between 30 percent and 60 percent from one week to the next, thousands marched on the home of President Laurent Gbagbo, chanting “We are hungry” and “Life is too expensive, you are going to kill us.” Over a dozen protestors were injured when police attacked the crowd with tear gas and batons.
Demonstrations demanding food took place in many other places around the world, including Bolivia, Peru, Mexico, Indonesia, the Philippines, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Thailand, Yemen, Ethiopia, and throughout most of sub-Saharan Africa.
We live in a capitalist system. That means that the production of the basic necessities—like food—is driven and shaped by one thing only: the maximizing of profit.
We live in an imperialist system. That means that a small handful of rich, imperialist countries dominate the rest of the planet, with the United States at the top of this global system. These imperialist powers dictate to the vast majority of oppressed nations what will be produced—and here too, the fundamental question that is considered is what will turn the maximum profit.
The specific causes of the current global food crisis are rooted inthe further development of a “capitalist world agriculture” and the deepening integration of oppressed countries into the workings of this imperialist-dominated global food system.
Four main factors—all flowing from this system—are behind the current food crisis. They are: the further industrialization of agriculture; the restructuring of agriculture in the oppressed nations to better serve the imperialists; the use of corn and other agricultural crops to make fuel instead of food; and financial speculation.
1. Industrialization of agriculture. On a world scale, agriculture has become more large-scale. It has become more reliant on modern technology. And from the engineering of seed to the super-marketing of food, it is driven by profit.
Industrialized world agriculture relies more on energy resources, especially oil. It is geared toward serving the world market and the export of food. It also involves “out-sourcing” of food production to Third World countries, taking advantage of cheap land and cheap labor.
And at the center of this transformation is the integration of crop and livestock production into large-scale (and often transnational) agrofood complexes. It involves the promotion of commercial agricultural exports—or “cash crops.” And it relies on a global system of transporting food—with many Third World countries importing and exporting huge quantities of food to and from distant parts of the planet.
In a different system—in a socialist society—making sure that people had enough food would be the first priority in agricultural production. Instead, today the agricultures of oppressed nations are geared to producing food for export. And these countries, in turn, rely increasingly on the world market for basic food supplies.
This industrialization of agriculture has been taking place under the baton of large agribusiness corporations based in the imperialist countries. This has meant that, increasingly, subsistence farming (farming based on producing staples like corn, beans, etc.) has been overrun and swallowed up by imperialist-controlled agribusiness. And this has also meant that some traditional small-scale peasant production has been transformed and integrated as contract farming to serve big agribusiness.
The further industrialization of agriculture profoundly affects what food is grown, where it is grown, where it ends up, and at what price it is sold. And it means that the production of food in the Third World is highly vulnerable to sudden and dramatic changes in the world market. For example, many Third World countries in the 1980s and 1990s shifted into coffee production to take advantage of high world coffee prices. But they wound up competing with each other and some, when coffee prices plummeted, suffered dire economic consequences.
To a large extent, people in poor Third World countries are not eating food grown locally. But instead you have this totally irrational situation where basic food staples that hundreds of millions of people in poor countries need to survive are transported and imported from thousands of miles away. And here the fact that world agriculture now requires great amounts of energy resources comes into play.
For example, a major factor in the current food crisis is the continuing rise in the cost of oil. This means that transportation costs—for example the cost of getting rice grown in Thailand to Mexico—have gone way up. And this has contributed to the rise in the price of rice. The rising price of oil also affects the cost of other things used to produce food, like fertilizers and pesticides, which contain oil products. So the rising cost of oil has contributed to skyrocketing prices of food imported into poor countries. And this means that many more poor people cannot afford the food they need.
2. Restructuring of agriculture in the Third World. Over the last 20 years or so, poor countries around the world, in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, have been subjected to Structural Adjustment Programs imposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. These programs require that Third World governments must meet strict conditions to get new loans or to obtain lower interest rates on existing loans. Both the IMF and World Bank are controlled by the imperialist powers, especially the United States. And this restructuring creates more favorable conditions for imperialist trade and investment.
These structural adjustment programs have forced Third World governments to open up markets, land, and other resources to imperialist agribusiness, including food exporters. And they have hurt the mass of peasant producers. They force governments to cut subsidies to small farmers and support programs in rural areas, and to emphasize high-value export agriculture (like asparagus or exotic flowers). This, too, draws resources away from traditional and subsistence agriculture. The small peasant farmers who have been steered into export crops become victims to fluctuations in world prices. And these IMF and World Bank programs and policies have pressured these Third World governments to cut food subsidies and social services for people in the cities.
This restructuring of agricultural production in the Third World has been going on over the last few decades. But the continuation of this, and the continuing effects of this, are clearly factors in the current food crisis.
In El Salvador, on farms that once grew large amounts of coffee for export, malnutrition is spreading. These growers have been unable to compete in the world coffee market and have lost income and livelihoods. At the same time, because of the rise in food prices, they now need twice the money to buy the same amount of food they could purchase a year ago. And this means the amount of food they get has been cut in half.5
The World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Agriculture and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) have slashed agricultural tariffs in the Third World, further opening up markets for the global agribusiness industry. At the same time, the U.S. government subsidizes farmers in the U.S.—which makes it possible for U.S. food exports to be more competitive in the world market. As a result of NAFTA, 1.3 million Mexicans were forced off their land because they could no longer survive by farming.6 Many of these dispossessed peasants have been forced to emigrate to the cities and across the border to the U.S. in search of work.
In other words, as a matter of conscious Western imperialist foreign policy, poor countries—some of which had been largely self sufficient in food—have been turned into food importing countries.
This is the hellish dynamic: Third World countries have been forced to shift much of their food production away from subsistence crops to high value exports. They have been pressured to open up their markets to cheap food imports. As a result, local food production for domestic consumption has been undercut. Now these countries are caught in a vise: The price of imported food has gone way up at the same time that the ability to produce food for local consumption has been eroded. And so we have the phenomenon of millions of ruined peasants and farmers, no longer able to live off the land, flooding into the slums and shantytowns of the cities.
3. Production of biofuels. The production of biofuels from sugar-rich crops like corn, wheat, and sugar cane has become a booming and very profitable industry. And this means that land previously used for the production of food for human consumption is now being used for non-food agriculture.
The use of grains and other agricultural products to produce biofuels like ethanol and biodiesel is a major factor triggering food shortages and a major surge in grain prices. And this has hit poor countries with devastating force, since they depend so much on the world market for grains and other food needs.
The IMF has estimated that production of corn for ethanol in the U.S. accounted for at least half the rise in world corn demand in each of the past three years. This led to a rise in corn prices and feed prices. And the price of other crops rose as well—like the price of soy beans, as farmers switched their fields to corn.
A 2007 Foreign Affairs article pointed out:“The enormous volume of corn required by the ethanol industry is sending shock waves through the food system. (The United States accounts for some 40 percent of the world’s total corn production and over half of all corn exports.) In March 2007, corn futures rose to over $4.38 a bushel, the highest level in ten years. Wheat and rice prices have also surged to decade highs, because even as those grains are increasingly being used as substitutes for corn, farmers are planting more acres with corn and fewer acres with other crops.”7
The production of biofuels is extremely destructive to the environment. For example, it is predicted that by 2020 in Indonesia, “palm oil plantations for bio-diesel (will continue to be) the primary cause of forest loss (in a) country with one of the highest deforestation rates in the world.”8
4. Financial speculation in agricultural commodities. Speculators buy, sell, and hoard current supplies of food. And there are also speculators who wheel and deal in future supplies of food—in “commodity futures” markets. This involves buying contracts for the delivery and sale of food that has not yet been produced. Speculators buy at a low price, betting the price will go up—betting that when the agreed upon delivery date arrives, they will make a profit.
It has been estimated that hundreds of billions of dollars have flowed into the futures sector as a whole within the last five years, much of it for agricultural commodities. And speculators, buying futures at unprecedented levels, have contributed to the rise in food prices, particularly rice.
One researcher recently explained how the biofuels boom has exacerbated speculation and high prices: “Seeing the volatility in the market and knowing that grain reserves were depleted, the grain traders started withholding supply in hopes of higher prices, playing off currency differentials, and shifting production and investments in search of greater returns.... Investors started hedging their bets, buying grain futures, and driving up prices even more.”9
As we can see, speculators are doing nothing less than playing a high-stakes game of financial roulette with the daily food supply of the world’s poorest people.
There is no reason that food must be produced and exchanged in this way—other than the fact that the system of capitalism demands this, and enforces it through its armed might and political power.
So here we are in the 21st century facing skyrocketing food prices and food shortages. And now people in poor countries around the world are taking to the streets to demand something as basic as a loaf of bread and a bowl of rice.
Hundreds of millions of poor people around the world who were already malnourished now face the threat of starvation. All this is not only criminal but totally unnecessary. The basis exists, in human knowledge, technology, and resources, to solve the food needs of humanity. But what stands in the way of this is a world economic system of capitalism driven by profit.
Unless and until this system is abolished through revolution, and is replaced by a new socialist system, there will continue to be massive hunger and starvation... and some people will continue to be forced to eat “mud cookies” and drink pesticide out of horrific desperation... in what could—and should—be a world of shared abundance for everybody.
1 Herald Bulletin, April 25, 2008[back]
2 “PC’s farm bonanza fails to save dying farmers,” March 14, 2008, Reuters[back]
3 “How Biofuels Could Starve the Poor,” by C. Ford Runge and Benjamin Senauer, Foreign Affairs, May/June 2007[back]
4 “A ‘Revolutionary’ Moment in Egypt?” by Tony Karon, April 9, 2008 at tonykaron.com[back]
5 LA Times, “A ‘perfect storm’ hitting globe’s hungry,” April 1, 2008[back]
6 Stuffed and Starved, by Raj Patel, Melville House Publishing, 2008[back]
7 “How Biofuels Could Starve the Poor,” by C. Ford Runge and Benjamin Senauer, Foreign Affairs, May/June 2007[back]
8 “Food First Backgrounder: Biofuels—Myths of the Agro-fuels Transition,” posted July 6, 2007 by Eric Holt-Giménez, Ph.D., Executive Director, Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy, foodfirst.org[back]
9 Gretchen Gordon, “The Food Crisis: Global Markets and Deregulation Strike Again,” April 18, 2008[back]
Revolution #128, May 1, 2008
Last December a scandal surfaced momentarily when the New York Times revealed that the CIA destroyed thousands of hours of videotapes of waterboarding and other torture used during interrogation of detainees in 2001. Now we learn that these torture sessions were deliberately and meticulously planned by top White House officials in dozens of meetings. A source told ABC News, which broke the story on April 9, that the tortures “were almost choreographed.”
The torture planning cabal included Vice President Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, CIA head George Tenet, and Attorney General John Ashcroft. Asked about this, George Bush said that he knew about these torture meetings of his top national security team—“And I approved.”
Here it is in plain daylight. In meeting after meeting, those at the top of the American power structure discussed in gruesome detail how to nearly drown and inflict other extreme physical and mental pain on human beings. The President himself—after claiming for years that “we don’t torture”—now openly says he approved. These are war crimes and crimes against humanity. Anyone who argues otherwise is refusing to look at reality and to take a basic stand on what is right versus what is wrong and immoral.
But did the revelation of these White House torture planning meetings become banner-headline news on the front page of every newspaper and dominate the TV news shows? No—it was pretty much treated as minor news if at all, with even ABC News, which broke the scoop, putting it fourth in its list of stories. Were there outraged calls in Congress for Bush and Cheney to be impeached for these war crimes and driven out of office? No such thing happened.
The fact that there has been no society-wide uproar about the Bush team’s torture sessions speaks to how much the open use of torture by the U.S. has become legitimized in official American politics, policy, and discourse—and how far things have gone in the direction of ripping up the old legitimating norms and setting up new, fascistic norms. The ban on “cruel and unusual punishment” was among the “core” rights of the U.S. from its beginnings. These rights have always been applied narrowly by this country’s rulers (and, of course, they did not apply at all to slaves and Native people)—and they have often been violated outright. But it is a new and very dangerous thing when things like torture that were formal violations of law are now openly approved by those at the heights of the government who have declared that the law is whatever they say it is.
During those White House meetings, the only participant to raise any qualms was John Ashcroft—not because he opposed torture, but because (according to ABC News) “he argued that senior White House advisers should not be involved in the grim details of interrogations.” Ashcroft’s worry was that he and others would get directly associated with the torture and other crimes they were mapping out. And it is known that others in the Bush regime, the military, and the CIA were concerned that the open use of torture—in direct violation of domestic and international laws—would harm the overall interests of the U.S. empire.
John Yoo’s Torture Memos
This is where the lawyers for the Bush regime came in. The White House counsel Alberto Gonzales told Bush that the Geneva conventions against torture were “quaint” and did not apply to the U.S.’s so-called “war on terror.” And a team of lawyers in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel produced a series of infamous secret memos designed to give legal cover for the torturing of detainees under American control.
One memo, written by Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo and signed by his boss, Jay Bybee, declared that what CIA interrogators did to prisoners did not meet the legal definition of torture unless it was “equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily functions or even death.” In any case, Yoo claimed, laws against torture and inhumane treatment of prisoners did not matter because the American president has unlimited war-time powers as commander-in-chief.
Another secret memo by Yoo in March 2003 applied these arguments to the interrogation of prisoners by the U.S. military. In the 81-page memo, Yoo coldbloodedly discussed whether the president could allow American interrogators to poke out a prisoner’s eye or throw “scalding water, corrosive acid or caustic substance” on a detainee, which are among the brutal assaults specifically banned in a U.S. statute (law) against “maiming.” Yoo’s answer was that it depends on the circumstances or which “body part the statute specifies.” But again, in Yoo’s perverse argument, none of that matters in any case because the president’s ultimate authority as commander-in-chief trumps any existing laws.
After this second memo finally became public a few weeks ago, the National Lawyers Guild and others began a campaign to get John Yoo dismissed from UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall, the prestigious law school where Yoo has been a professor since he left the Bush administration in 2003. The dean of Boalt Hall and some others are opposing the demand for Yoo’s firing, saying that dismissing him from his tenured position would harm academic freedom.
There is a heavy assault on academic freedom in America today. Professors are being hounded, suppressed, and fired for their critical or unorthodox thinking. But this is a systematic right-wing offensive spearheaded by forces like David Horowitz with connections high in the ruling circles of this country, including the Bush regime that Yoo served. Yoo is not just an academic who has published controversial scholarly works or espouses unpopular views. He was one of the key legal architects for the use and legitimization of torture by the Bush regime. His role can be likened to that of the Nazi lawyers who advised Hitler on how to legally carry out atrocities, like disappearing people in occupied territories into secret detention camps—and who were convicted for war crimes in the Nuremberg trials after World War 2.
Not only should Yoo be dismissed from his position as a “respectable” legal scholar—he, along with the whole Bush regime from Bush on down, are war criminals!
Yoo and others deliberately crafted their legal memos to justify and give cover to the torture that was already going on, under the direction of the top levels of the Bush regime. And these memos cleared the way for even more war crimes and crimes against humanity. Center for Constitutional Rights Executive Director Vincent Warren has written that the Yoo memos “were the keystone of the torture program, and were the necessary precondition for the torture program’s creation and implementation.”
We know about some of the horrors of this torture program: The deaths of at least 108 people under U.S. detention since 9/11, many from torture. The use of attack dogs, sexual assaults, and other terror against prisoners at Abu Ghraib in occupied Iraq. The hundreds of prisoners isolated for years at the Guantánamo torture camp, more than a few driven insane or to suicide. The horror of waterboarding—where the torturer straps down a prisoner, covers the victim’s face with cloth or plastic, and pours water down the nose and throat to “simulate” drowning. Many more bloody horrors still remain hidden behind a veil of secrecy.
The Military Commissions Act: Institutionalizing Torture
Some of the torture memos by Yoo and others were later “rescinded.” But the Military Commissions Act, passed by Congress in 2006 and signed by Bush, institutionalizes the use of torture by the U.S.—and gives retroactive immunity to government and military officials for torture already carried out. In March of this year, Bush vetoed a Congressional bill that would have outlawed the CIA’s use of waterboarding and certain other forms of torture.
This legitimization and rampant use of torture is part of the whole agenda of those in power in the U.S. to go for a qualitative leap in consolidating and expanding their global dominance and to achieve an unchallenged and unchallengeable empire. This agenda means reactionary violence and suffering on a massive scale for people around the world—the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have already killed hundreds of thousands and displaced millions from their homes, and Iran is now in the U.S. target sights. And it means a radically repressive shift in society—fascistic laws like the Patriot Act, government wiretapping and spying on an unprecedented scale, the rise of a theocratic Christian fundamentalist movement reaching high into the government, as well as Gestapo raids to round up and deport thousands of immigrants.
This is the reality that millions throughout society here in the U.S. must fully confront—and mobilize to politically resist in their millions, with moral conviction and fearless determination. “Our” rulers are openly torturing and carrying out other war crimes. Silence in the face of this is unacceptable complicity with these horrendous crimes.
Revolution #128, May 1, 2008
“I thought at least one time in my life, justice would be served for excessive use of force by police officers, but it never happens. The system failed us.”
Barber in Jamaica, Queens, quoted on NY1 News.
As we go to press, angry response to the “not guilty” verdict in the case of the police who killed Sean Bell and wounded his friends, Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield, is unfolding.
Inside the courtroom, the stunned disbelief after the judge declared all three cops in the Sean Bell case “not guilty” was broken by a woman asking, “Did he just say not guilty?” As Sean's family and supporters rushed from the courtroom in tears and rage, a collective wail of grief and shock arose from those who had been waiting outside.
Hundreds spilled into the street outside the courthouse, stopping traffic on the major thoroughfare of Queens Boulevard. Chants of “Murderers, murderers!” and “KKK!” dogged the representatives of the police unions as they gloated to the press. Later Friday hundreds more—students and young people of all nationalities, revolutionary communists, anti-police brutality activists, street youth, local residents and others—gathered outside the Queens District Attorney’s office, growing at times to nearly 1000 as they took to the streets and marched to the site of Sean’s murder, getting loud honks of approval from buses, cars and delivery trucks. Even after the official march ended at the site of Sean’s murder and as dark came on, people continued to stay on and march in the streets in defiance. The march made its way past the main boulevards to the projects, with a bitterly angry speak-out followed by a march and stand-off at the precinct. Throughout the night, Black youth from the neighborhood joined the march in waves. Anger and outrage were palpable in the content and tenor of chants and the defiant resolve to keep the march in the streets in the face of overwhelming police presence. People came out from the stores and on the stoops, some in pajamas and slippers, many joining the chanting and marching. Before it was over for the night, trash cans and newspaper boxes were flipped over all down the avenue.
Judge Cooperman justified his verdict Friday morning by saying that Trent Benefield and Joseph Guzman's testimony was “inconsistent” and their credibility was “eviscerated” because of their demeanor—their refusal to swallow their anger at being treated on the stand as the criminals and not the victims. He said they were not credible because they had been arrested in the past, and he said Trent wasn't believable because he couldn't remember whether he was shot inside the car or as he was trying to run for his life!
“The verdict is not fair and I'm hurting inside and I don't see what the Judge sees in this case,” said Sean Bell’s uncle, Kenneth Shepard, to NY1 News. “These guys are guilty. You just don't go around killing people. When is it going to stop? When is it going to stop?”
Revolution #128, May 1, 2008
WHAT KIND OF SYSTEM shoots down three unarmed men with 50 shots, killing Sean Bell on his wedding morning and leaving his friends Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield seriously wounded?
WHAT KIND OF SYSTEM shoots down our young people -- OVER AND OVER AGAIN? And lets the cops off who do this -- OVER AND OVER AGAIN?
This is a CAPITALIST-IMPERIALIST SYSTEM that controls the wealth created by billions of exploited and oppressed people here and around the world. The power of these capitalist-imperialists is enforced by armies of police in the U.S. and armies of soldiers waging unending war and terror for empire across the globe.
This system is enforced by the NYPD's half million stop-and-frisks a year, over 80% of them Black and Latino. This system is enforced with one in nine Black men in prison in the U.S. right now, and this system is enforced by the U.S. putting far more people in prison than any other country in the world.
And this system is enforced with thousands of mostly Black and Latino young people killed by the police in the U.S. in the 1990s and since. Sean Bell. Amadou Diallo. Malcolm Ferguson. Anthony Baez. Nicholas Heyward, Jr. Eleanor Bumpurs. Michael Stewart. And on and on, thousands lost to police bullets for generations and to night-rider nooses before that.
EVERYONE WANTS TO KNOW: WHEN WILL IT STOP! ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!
PEOPLE: WE NEED A REVOLUTION, a communist revolution, to get rid of this brutal system that is long past its time. A revolution that would put state power in the hands of the people, and that power would be about getting rid of all kinds of oppression and exploitation, like racism and national oppression in all its forms, men dominating women and one country dominating the whole world. Where the people of all nationalities, young and old, men and women, would debate and struggle with each other over how to advance society to get rid of all these outmoded relations and ideas and contribute to emancipating all of humanity. And the people’s security forces would back the people up in doing this, not suppress and murder them the way cops do in the capitalist imperialist system we have now.
This kind of revolution could only occur once this society as a whole is in a profound crisis, and when a revolutionary people, numbering in the millions has emerged, conscious of the need for revolutionary change and determined to fight for it.
PEOPLE: The time is now to get with the revolutionary movement and prepare politically to bring this kind of revolution about. Fight the power, and transform the people, for revolution!
Revolutionary Communist Party USA, New York Branch
Get hold of and spread the Revolutionary Communist Party's newspaper, Revolution/Revolución in hard copy and at revcom.us
Revolution #128, May 1, 2008
Earlier this year Michael Slate interviewed S., an Iranian woman who traveled to Los Angeles to participate in the International Women’s Day action there this past March 8. Her experience as a revolutionary began as a student in Los Angeles during the days when the Shah was in power in Iran; as the Iranian Revolution drove the Shah from power, she joined thousands of Iranian students who returned to Iran to carry forward the aims of the revolution—a revolution which through twists and turns ended up being consolidated as the reactionary Islamic Republic of Iran. Through the years of revolutionary struggle, imprisonment, and finally finding revolutionary communist organization again today, her story is one of courage, vision, and determination to fight for a different world. The interview has been edited for publication and will be published in two parts in the print edition of Revolution. The full interview appears here.
M.S.: Let's start by you telling me a little about your background, where you're from, what your family was, what you did when you were in Iran.
S.: My life story is one of the stories of many women who have lived under the woman-hating Islamic regime. Despite my awareness of the essence of the fundamentalist system, which is united with the imperialist world, I have been under oppression, and gone through what one experiences under such regimes, and I have experienced this oppression along with other women who also have experienced oppression such as this.
About 32 years ago, I—with my family who have been a political family and have fought against the Shah's regime, which was an ally with the U.S.—came to the U.S. and continued my education.
I was a high school student when I came and I started in Santa Monica High School. And after that I went to the major of aerospace, and I applied at college for aerospace. But because of my political activism and the amount of time I was able to put into it, I wasn't able to continue college.
M.S.: How did you become politically active?
S.: In 1976 when I came here, we enrolled in language classes, English language classes. It was called 'ISC,' I believe. And there, a lot of representatives from the student confederation came into these classes and talked about their views, and that's how we were introduced to them and to what they were doing, and that's how we got involved with them.
M.S.: That's very good. That's very cool, actually. So, what happened when you got involved with them? What did you start doing?
S.: The first meeting I attended, the topic was what to think, how to think about Tudeh Party of Iran, and the Fedayi Party of Iran [other left Iranian organizations], and also opinions and views about armed fighting, armed struggle. I was interested in these topics and I attended the meeting and I was very for the views that were represented at this meeting, and that's how I became interested in the whole group.
M.S.: The Iranian Students Association, the Confederation of Iranian Students, was a very powerful group, in terms of what it brought to people, the way it organized Iranians, but also the impact that it had on people in the United States. It helped bring a revolutionary edge to the movement. It really meant something to see students and people from Iran out in the streets demonstrating against the Shah and bringing out what was going on, but also taking up the struggle here. Tell people what it was like to be doing that in the streets here.
S.: The first thing that really got me interested in the group, in the confederation, was the revolutionary ethics, and how they carried themselves as revolutionaries. Also, the first formal course that I attended that was conducted by the confederation, the topic was 'Materialism and Dialectics,' which got me very interested in the whole group and the ideas.
M.S.: So your family was here, and you had this revolutionary activity, and for all intents and purposes you were living in the U.S. Then there was a point when you decided to go back to Iran. Why? What did you expect to find when you went back?
S.: The first thing that got me wanting to go back was that I felt responsible toward this change that was happening in Iran and I felt responsible toward the people who were in Iran and who initiated the whole process of bringing about the change. That's one of the main reasons that I thought I should go back. Another thing is that I believed in the leadership of the proletariat, and I believed that if we do go back we could participate in directing or guiding the masses there, and somehow contribute to the change that was happening.
M.S.: What did you find when you went back? What was it like in Iran in those days? It was right after the Shah was overthrown. When you left Iran, it was SAVAK and the Shah and just horrible. What did you find? What was it like?
S.: When I went back, I faced a very open environment. Politically, it was very progressive. People were having discussions all over the city. There were debates going on. It was a very lively and open atmosphere at the time when I returned.
M.S.: Was that in Tehran or all through the country?
S.: The progress that was going on was very prevalent in Tehran, but there were families all around the country who were involved in political activism, and had debates going on, whether it was in the houses or out on the street. The debates were usually going on between a group of religious people who were against the Shah's regime and who had helped get the revolution going and the leftist people, the communists, who always had arguments with the religious people, to try to persuade them that the way they were going wasn't the right way.
M.S.: And where did you fit in? What did you do when you were there?
S.: From what I had learned here in the fields of philosophy, politics, and economy, when I went back, I tried to relate my knowledge to the people. I tried to get lively discussions, and with those going on in the universities to talk about what I had learned and try to teach others as much as I knew.
M.S.: How long did that go on, and when did it start to change?
S.: Within ten days after the revolution there was an uprising of women against the idea of the hijab. And then afterwards there was the oppression started against the Kurds in Kurdistan, north of Iran. But the whole atmosphere, the more open atmosphere, was prevalent and did go on for almost two years after the revolution. During those years we had a book table in one of the workers' neighborhoods, and I was the person in charge of one of the tables to get people into discussions and debates, and show them the materials that we had, our books and anything we had to show them and to talk about.
We had daily contact with the Hezbollah, the religious people at the time—it's the Hezbollah people in Iran—whether it was physical contact or verbal contact.
They would either beat us or grab our newspapers and materials that we had, our tables, and would get into a fight, a physical fight.
What we saw was that they didn't have any uniforms. They were normal people but it was known to everyone that they were organized groups from the government.
M.S.: How long did that go on, that you had these kinds of confrontations? When did it become clear to you that Khomeini was beginning to consolidate his regime?
S.: First there was a huge protest by everyone who had started to see the things that were going to happen, and mostly the groups that had contributed to the revolution, they had a huge protest that turned into a confrontation. There were even shootings going on by the military, who shot some people from the protest. And it turned into a very gloomy protest. It wasn't a peaceful protest because of the confrontations that happened during the protest. That was in mid-June. And right after that protest there was repression of all the groups that had all the discussions going on, and the debates going on from different neighborhoods. They shut everything down and the atmosphere just got very closed afterwards.
M.S.: So what did you do then?
S.: We tried to organize ourselves as an underground group, an underground organization, and we weren't public anymore. We always had to hide when we had discussions or any kind of activity we had, we couldn't do it out in the public anymore.
The organization divided into two groups. One group was in charge of organizing the struggle that went on in Amol. The group was called Sarbedaran. That's the group that organized that and actually made it happen. I was one of the people sort of helping out with the whole thing, as someone helping out in the background.
M.S.: Can you explain the impact of the Amol uprising?
S.: The people in that region where the uprising occurred were influenced a lot by what happened in the way that they saw. They were familiar with the revolutionary ethics and the revolutionary way that they took on. It made people more aware of Maoist theories and the way that they took on this struggle. The North was isolated from other parts and there wasn’t much going on. But when that happened it got people very interested in such political activism. It made them more connected to what was going on in other parts of the country.
M.S.: So the regime defeated the uprising. What did they do afterwards to the revolutionaries and the people?
S.: The organization had failed deeply in their plan and everyone who took part in the uprising was executed. But then the impact that it had on the people was that people always remembered them as heroes. It was something that was one of its kind. They'd never seen such courage, and they just remembered them and the whole uprising always remained in the people's memories. They always remembered the revolutionaries who took part in it as heroes.
M.S.: Did the repression increase? What happened to you?
S.: The repression did increase as you said. People tried to stay underground and tried to do any kind of political activity underground, to hide and not be open to the public. At that time, I had a baby two months old. There wasn't much that I could actually get involved with. All I could do was sit at home and wait for news, wait to know what had happened.
M.S.: Your husband survived the Amol uprising?
M.S.: After the uprising, you were at home. Did you have more than one kid?
S.: Yes, after the Amol uprising, my daughter was one and a half years, and my son was two months old.
M.S.: How did you get arrested? How long after the Amol uprising did you get arrested?
S.: Eight months after. I was at home. They broke into the house and took the kids from me, took them away from me and just yelled at me and told me that I had to go for an investigation.
M.S.: And your husband was arrested too?
S.: He was arrested four months before I was.
M.S.: What did they charge him with?
S.: Because he was a theoretician, and he was very educated in the theories that led to the uprising. And they said that because he had all the theories and he did the educational part of it, he was charged with more, with a bigger of a crime than the people who took part in it were. And his sentence was death.
M.S.: Then four months later they came into your house. Tell me again what happened.
S.: I was taken to the jail where my husband was being kept, and as I was taken there, I just heard the voice of my husband for a minute and at that moment I was just so happy to hear him, to find out that he's alive, and right after that I was taken into a cell and kept there for eight months. It was solitary, the cell.
M.S.: What did they charge you with?
S.: They assumed that, because my husband was one of the leaders of the organization, I must have also had a very high position in the organization, and had contributed in many ways. They told me that because of that, there was going to be a death sentence for me, too. They had charts at the time, to figure out the hierarchy of each organization, who was the leader, and which people were operating under which group, under which leader. And in their charts, because I had been staying at home with my kids for about eight months before I was arrested, they couldn't find any actual documentation as to my status, and that's why I didn't get the death sentence that they told me about.
M.S.: What sentence did you get?
S.: The main sentence that they first gave me, they asked if I had a religion, and I said I had none, and they gave me 10 years imprisonment for that.
M.S.: What was done to you in prison by the regime?
S.: When I was in solitary confinement, there was no sanitation, there was no nutrition that we could actually live off of, and we were constantly hearing the pleas of the people who were being tortured.
Every morning they would take us for interrogation with our eyes closed up and as we went into the offices of interrogation, they would kick us and hit us and beat us to get us to say what they wanted to hear. And as we were there they would make people who had gone through tortures crawl by our feet to make us fear what was going to happen to us.
Because I refused to do the prayers, and I had told them that I didn't have a religion, I was kept in solitary as the others were taken into the public cells. I was kept in solitary, but because I had no new information to give them, I wasn't interrogated anymore. I wasn't tortured, because really they knew I didn't have anything new to tell them. I was just kept in solitary, though. Yet they would constantly put me in a situation where I would hear my dad's pleas as he was getting whipped. My father was kept in the same place. He had contributed to the Amol uprising. He had helped them a lot in many different ways. He was kept there also, and he was being whipped every day. He was going under a lot of torture. And I was constantly put in a situation as to make me hear him. And how they treated my mother, they would shout at her and curse her every day from somewhere nearby where I was kept so that I would hear and be mentally tortured in that way.
M.S.: What happened to your mother and father? Did they survive?
S.: Because all the people with whom my parents had been working and all the leaders with whom they had been cooperating, because none of them had given in to the torture, and had not said anything about anyone who was within those groups, the government did not have anything against them, did not have anything solid in their hands against my parents and so after three years they were both released.
M.S.: You said you heard your husband's voice when you first came in. How long did your husband live in jail, and did you ever see him again?
S.: Eight months after I was taken into jail, they gave us an appointment for me to meet my husband before he was going to be executed. That's the last time I saw him.
M.S.: How long did you spend in jail?
S.: Three years.
M.S.: Eight months, and then your husband was executed, and then they put you in the public cell. Did they keep coming at you to get you to capitulate? Did they keep trying to make you say prayers?
S.: There were many women who refused to do the prayers. When we refused to do the prayers, we were taken into an isolated room. It was room number 6, that was an isolated room from the rest of the whole prison. It was sort of like a quarantine, and we were kept there. We were treated as non-humans. It was like we were some sort of other animal like a dog because even like when we wanted to wash our hands, there is a concept in Islam, that when you are an atheist, when you don't have their religion, you are considered filthy.
M.S.: You were released from jail after 3 years.
Where did you go when you were freed from prison?
S.: My mother- and father-in-law, who were taking care of the kids at that time, they were waiting for me outside the prison. Because of cultural issues and atmosphere that was prevalent at the time, what really happened to me was I was released from the prison of the Islamic regime, to only go to another metaphorical prison of where I was living with my mother- and father-in-law.
M.S.: Explain to people what that was like. How did the country change between the time you were arrested and when you were released? What was that like?
S.: After repressing all revolutionary forces, Khomeini's regime had infused people with such fear, and such contempt against any revolutionary force, that we weren't even welcome in society anymore. We didn't feel welcomed by the people, because there was just so much fear going on that they feared any group that had anything to do with revolutionaries or any revolutionary ideas. People showed much contempt for them.
And as I was faced with so much contempt and this repressed atmosphere, I constantly kept trying to bring about a more lively atmosphere at home for my kids as I continuously tried to sing revolutionary songs to them and just show the joy of such struggle. But unfortunately because of patriarchal culture that people had at the time, I was repressed even at home by my husband's family. And I couldn't do much to bring about another change even in that little society that I was living in.
M.S.: When you talk about it being a patriarchal atmosphere, what did that look like? What did it mean for a woman like you to be living in this patriarchal society?
S.: An example of what I mean was, because I was a widow, I was condemned to wear black for 10 years. I was condemned to not express any opinions of myself, and I was condemned not to have any friends around, anyone to talk to, anyone who would sympathize with me. I was condemned to stay at home, and help out with housework.
I did not even have the right to take care of my children. I could not have any kind of relationship with them that was independent of my husband's family. Within the ten years that I was living there, what I thought I should do was to read books about psychology, to figure out what I could do with myself, my mental situation, my mental state at the time, how I could gain back my autonomy, my self-confidence. I tried to work on these ideas to rebuild my strength, to rebuild my character. After I successfully did that, I left their house, after ten years.
M.S.: Where did you go after you left their house?
S.: My father had a property that wasn't really inhabitable. There was a cellar at the place, and I went to the place and I was living in the cellar, and one of our family friends helped to find me a job, that was a very, very low-paying job, that paid very low at the time.
M.S.: How long did you live like that?
S.: I met a comrade who wasn't politically active any more but he helped me take some psychology classes, and some self-realization groups. I became involved with them and a woman in one of these groups was very sympathetic with me and she helped me get a job that did not require a background check, because if they did there was no way I could get a job. But she helped me get that job, and that's how I could move out of the cellar.
M.S.: How long did you stay in Iran until you left? When you got that better job, did you work at it for a while, or did you leave Iran soon afterward?
S.: For almost a year I worked at that job, because I was not allowed to leave the country for about 10 to 11 years after I was released from prison. I had no passport and I just couldn't leave the country. I kept working there. After a while I applied for a passport and they gave me a one-time passport. I could only use it one time to leave the country, and when I came back I was supposed to turn it in to them. And that's how I actually left after 12 years after I was released.
The only thing that made it possible for me to get a visa to leave the country was that I had a job, I had documentation that I could provide for them, and I had two children that were living in Iran, and that provided for some background based on which I could get the visa. I got the visa for a month only.
When I went to Germany, I still had not found the right organization for me, somewhere that I would fit in with my ideas, my Marxist-Leninist-Maoist ideas. But everywhere I went, I would still have debate and discussions about my own ideas, about what I had learned with the confederation here, or during the revolution in Iran. I would always promote these ideas although I had not found an organization that had such sympathies.
My only belief that always gave me hope was that I always knew, and I always was sure that such ideology was the only way to emancipation. And now it's been five years that I have found the right group again, the Communist Party of Iran [MLM] and have been involved with them, have been politically active again.
M.S.: You left Iran in 1995. Tell me about the situation in Iran today, what's the oppression like?
S.: I think that, in the first place, I have to say that there is a characteristic that all Iranian women share, be it religious women, or political women, and I think it applies to all Iranian women. They have some sort of resentment toward oppression and toward anything that puts them down. They deeply have this resentment, even the women who are religious, who have religious sympathies. The main problems that they're facing is one, that the laws of society are against women, are anti-women laws that are enforced by the government, and second is that a lot of women do not see an alternative to the way they are living now. They don't have an alternative to their current situation.
M.S.: What are the laws you're talking about?
S.: Laws such as women not being allowed the custody of their children. They cannot go on vacation without the permission of their husbands. They cannot leave the country without the permission of their husbands. The whole system is designed in a way to treat women as means to patriarchism.
M.S.: What about things like 'honor killings'? Are they common in Iran?
S.: In the more modern cities it is not seen as much but of course in small villages it is very common, and it's even broadcast on the news. And on the news they either call it honor killings or they say that a woman has committed suicide.
M.S.: Would honor killings include things like punishing women for having affairs, or being in sexual relations when they aren't married? What happens to women in situations like this? Are they killed?
S.: For someone to commit these killings, it suffices for them being a father or a brother to be suspicious of either their sisters or their wives or their mothers. It suffices for them just to be suspicious. And it might be on no grounds, but as long as they are suspicious, they can go ahead and commit the murder, and there is no lawful process that this thing goes through. They just do it themselves and it's done. It doesn’t go through a process.
M.S.: Does the state play a role in any of this?
S.: Indirectly, the state encourages such behavior by promoting concepts from Islam that they preach about, or laws that make it possible for the men to commit such murders.
M.S.: Is this what's meant by Sharia law?
S.: What that amounts to, the Sharia law, is how women should consider the Islamic leadership of Iran, or the laws that they pass, as the holy laws of god, and also the promotion of the idea that, if women are not abiding by the restrictions set for them by their husbands, but most women do fight, even on a personal level, with such restrictions of such laws, from within their families, within the scope of the private life, or in the society in a broader picture. But there's a very, very small group of women who are submissive to such laws, and those are women who share the same fundamentalist ideas that the government promotes. And those women, because they have the full hijab and do abide with such Sharia laws, have no reason to get punished.
M.S.: You describe the regime as a woman-hating regime. What do you mean when you say that?
S.: What I mean is that the laws that they have passed and the ones that they're enforcing in the country right now are those that are to the advantage of men in the society, and the laws make it absolutely the case that women have to abide by all restrictions set for them by men in this society. They have to abide, and be obedient to men at their work or in their private lives, at their home or society in general, wherever they are, whatever they're doing, these laws make it the case that they have to abide by what is told to them by the men in society.
M.S.: Are many women still arrested and thrown in jail?
S.: Yes. it happens daily and for any kind of accusation, they keep them 24 hours, 48 hours, which usually ends up in the women being raped or somehow wounded or whipped, and also some of them are just kept for longer, without their families knowing anything about where they are or how they're doing.
M.S.: You said that women resist, sometimes in small ways at home, sometimes in big. Tell us what the resistance looks like.
S.: The main group who resist in a more active way are the groups of students who go to the main parts of cities, and organize protests along with the male students at universities. They also plan many peaceful protests, as well as protests that end up in confrontations. And many of those students are arrested and put into jail without any kind of sentence or news for their families about when they're going to get released, or why they're even being kept in jail.
An example of resistance by the students is just about a week ago, before the beginning of the Persian New Year, students were passing out, in the main part of the city, they were passing out—there's a tradition that for the new year, people set up a table filled with different symbols, different plants or seeds that symbolize something about their lives, or life in general. And one of the symbols is fish. They purchase little fish and they put it in a jar and they put it on the table. And one thing the students were doing, they were passing out black fish throughout the city, along with a very revolutionary poem to bypassers. There is a story called “Little Black Fish” by a revolutionary writer in Iran, Samad Bihrangi, which is a story about a little black fish. The fish goes on a journey. He symbolizes a revolutionary young student who never stops and always resists, always keeps on fighting, and although the fish was living in a very little river, he goes on with his journey and he finds the ocean and he joins the other fish and he never gives up in this whole process.
M.S.: You're involved in this campaign around the oppression of women, opposing both the regime in Iran and U.S. imperialism. Can you tell us about this campaign?
S.: Over the years after the revolution, women have come to know that change is not going to happen without them directly intervening and taking initiative to directly cooperate with any kind of change that is promised or that they see coming. And we have come to know that even socialism will not happen without women playing a very important role in the process of bringing about this change. We believe that socialism and the women's movement are complements of each other.
M.S.: People are told there are only two ways to go here—do you want to be part of the Islamic fundamentalist revolution or the U.S. imperialist fight for democracy. What are you saying about this, and what are people in Iran thinking about this? Can you talk about this other way, and how people in Iran are responding?
S.: We try to show the real face of both of these outmoded regimes and we try to convey the picture of a third pole, and alternative that is available to people, and alternative that does not take the side of either of these outmoded regimes and it determines its own—a third pole that is against war, that is anti-war and that no matter how small it is we have to promote it among people and we have to develop it into a bigger alternative that includes more people and we have to show that this is the only way—we have to promote our anti-war belief before a war happens against Iran. We want to show this alternative to the people of Iran and to women in general. But the organizations that get into our way by trying to get people to somehow go for reform of the Islamic regime, it is our responsibility not only to show the real face of these two regimes, but also show these reformist groups, what their ideologies will lead to and to show that, as happened to the revolution in Iran, such ways will go astray also.
I just want to say that in the past month when I have been here, and I have gone to many universities, many high schools, I have really enjoyed what I have witnessed, the passion that young people have shown—how many young people I have met have shown passion for learning about revolution—for bringing about change, how to make a new world—and it has encouraged me so much to continue this way. I have gained so much strength and I have learned so many lessons that I know I will return to Germany much more stronger than when I came, with much hope of a better world.
M.S.: Tell us some stories about your experiences here, going to the high school classes, and what happened.
S.: These are some examples of questions that high school students in Watts had for 'us, about Iran and revolution. About the situation of women and young girls in Iran.
M.S.: [reading] What does the typical family consist of? What are the duties of the house? What level of education are girls allowed to have?
Did people ask you questions about what it's like to be a revolutionary woman in Iran?
S.: There were three students at this high school in Watts whom I have pictures with. They were really interested in the issue of the tree that was cut down. Because of that they were very passionate. They kept asking questions about how one could be a revolutionary, how one could form an organization to get involved with and to do the kinds of things that revolutionaries would do.
M.S.: When you told your story to the students, how did they respond? Because you have a very powerful story, and I'm sure it's something they haven't heard before.
S.: They really sympathized with me and had a belief in what I was telling them, especially the African American students, because of their own struggle and what they have witnessed in their own society and the way they've been treated in their own society. They really sympathized with me, just wanted to know more and showed a lot of interest and sympathy.
M.S.: Give me an example of the experiences you'll remember the most.
S.: The march itself on the 8th of March, was great to see the combination of so many different people, and the diversity of the group that was present there. So many native-born Americans, so many African Americans and just many different people who were present and who showed support and who took the initiative to come to this event, although it wasn't a huge crowd, it was of great quality and I really enjoyed that day. What I concluded from that day, from what I saw, is that we cannot achieve our goal if we do not unite with each other, stand side by side, next to each other.
Revolution #128, May 1, 2008
From A World to Win News Service
April 21, 2008. A World to Win News Service. Mahmood Salehi was freed April 6 after being kept in prison for a year by the Islamic Republic. Released in the city of Sanandaj in Iranian Kurdistan, he was received by hundreds of jubilant friends and colleagues and was driven to his hometown of Saghez. In the days following, his house was repeatedly filled with visitors from different corners of Kurdistan. Close observers say more than a thousand people paid a visit to his home over a couple of days.
However, the struggle for his complete freedom is continuing, because he faces prison terms in three more cases. He was released on a bail of 40 million Toman (about 45,000 U.S. dollars).
Two days after his release he said, “I will continue to stand for the rights of the workers.” (Amir Kabir news online)
Salehi became well known in 2004 when he and other workers dared to openly celebrate May First, International Workers’ Day, in Saghez. He has been in and out of prison ever since. While incarcerated, the regime denied him medical treatment for life-threatening kidney failure. He was due to be released on March 25, but the authorities kept him in prison after he had served his sentence because, they said, he had sent solidarity messages for Student Day and for March 8, International Women’s Day. At a time when the U.S. is threatening to attack Iran and is posing as the “liberator” of the Iranian people, Salehi took a position against both U.S. imperialist war and the IRI and has refused to call for “national reconciliation” with the Islamic regime.
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.
Revolution #128, May 1, 2008
From A World to Win News Service:
We are posting the following articles about the recent elections in Nepal from A World To Win News Service for our readers’ information. As events unfold we will have further analysis of these important developments.
April 14, 2008. A World to Win News Service. On April 10 elections were held in Nepal for the first time in nine years. Final results are not yet available, but initial returns show that the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) is doing very well, with a real possibility of winning a majority in the Constituent Assembly (CA) that is being elected. There is widespread jubilation at the victory of the CPN(M) in many corners of the country among the people who are hoping that this election victory will open the door to a “new Nepal” and a way out of poverty and oppression. The voters clearly rejected the main political parties of the ruling classes in Nepal, especially the Nepal Congress Party, which headed most of the governments that fought viciously against the people’s war in that country, and the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist), a party which, despite its name, long ago gave up on communism and also participated in fighting against the revolution. The few forces openly supporting the continuation of the monarchy also did very poorly.
The role of the Constituent Assembly is to begin a process of drafting a new constitution for a republic, a process which is expected to last one or two years.
This was not an ordinary election. For ten years, beginning in 1996, the CPN(M) waged a people’s war centered in the countryside of Nepal whose goal was to carry out a New Democratic Revolution and free the country from imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism. Two years ago a massive movement swept the urban areas of the country as well, forcing the widely hated King Gyanendra to step back from absolute power and reconvene parliament into which a significant representation of CPN(M) was co-opted.
International observers from many countries, including former U.S. president Jimmy Carter and Ian Martin, head of the UN mission to Nepal, were fulsome in their praise for the electoral process, particularly that it was more “peaceful” than expected. First reactions to the elections from the “international community” hailed them as the definitive end of the people’s war. How they will react to a resounding electoral victory of the CPN(M) is not yet clear.
In fact, there were quite a few killings in the period leading up to the elections and on election day itself. Maoists and their supporters were almost always the victims. The most outrageous incident took place in Dang in western Nepal, where police killed seven unarmed Maoist supporters and wounded more than 25 others. [See accompanying article.]
The question on everyone’s mind now is what will happen next. Pre-election agreements called for a joint government by the three main political parties in the country, the CPN(M), the NCP and the UML. The CPN(M), which has played only a minor role in the present government, is now expected to play the leading role in the new government to be formed following the Constituent Assembly elections.
A new government will be formed, but the underlying question facing the country is not which parties are in government but what the nature of the state power itself will be. As pointed out in an earlier AWTWNS article [Revolution #121, February 24, 2008], the basic question facing the country in the aftermath of ten years of people’s war is what regime will be consolidated on a nationwide level. The old state has been fighting to preserve the interests of the exploiting class and enforce Nepalese subordination to foreign imperialism and India. On whose power will rest the Nepal state that emerges from the Constituent Assembly process? What will be the future of the Nepal Army and the militarized police force that has done nothing but hunt down and murder revolutionaries and rape, terrorize and rob the masses? What will happen to the People’s Liberation Army that earned the love and respect of the poor peasants making up the majority of the country? Will Nepal be a base area for world revolution or will it continue to be locked into the spider-web of imperialist and foreign domination?
The king is almost certain to be sent packing, but will the state that emerges from the Constituent Assembly process be free from the feudalism the king represented? During the people’s war, the caste system with its horrific “untouchability” and other outrages was severely battered in the areas where the PLA had power. The same is true of child marriage, wife beating and other anti-women practices. Will the Constituent Assembly process be able to institutionalize these and many other such advances throughout the country?
In the countryside the revolution had ushered in a new system of “people’s courts” that enforced revolutionary order, and a different type of political power had been established. Will such institutions have a place in the new regime? What will be the role of the court system and government bureaucracy that served the old state?
It is certainly clear that there are powerful forces, and most especially the imperialist powers and the Indian ruling classes, as well as the exploiters in Nepal itself, who will be doing everything they can to make sure that no real revolution takes place in Nepal.
During the ten years of people’s war the CPN(M) called for distributing “land to the tiller” and the thorough destruction of the reactionary system led by the king, which kept the working class and the peasantry exploited and impoverished and enforced all sorts of medieval oppression on women, national minorities and the oppressed castes. The masses in Nepal have been demanding revolutionary transformation, and this is one of the main reasons for the massive electoral victory of the CPN(M). The burning desire for a “new Nepal” is vividly etched in the exuberant faces of the thousands of youth and others who have been taking to the streets across the land in all-day celebration rallies. As many of those who for years were the public face of the old state have resigned in humiliation, expectations of profound change soar to the sky.
The most important question is what type of social system the new republic in Nepal will represent and enforce. In Nepal and around the world, supporters and friends of the revolution will be closely observing the coming weeks and months as the new republic is formed.
Apri 14, 2008. A World to Win News Service. On the evening of April 7, the Nepali press initially reported that Maoist members of the Young Communist league (YCL) ambushed Nepali Congress Party candidate Khum Bahadur Khadka in the city of Dang, surrounding his car and opening fire. Seven YCLers were killed and 25 wounded. According to the Kathmandu Post, Khadka “somehow dodged bullets,” and one media report described a “15 minute long exchange of fire” between the two sides. A “government source” told the Kathmandu Postthat “police fired over 80 rounds as Maoist cadres fired at them indiscriminately.”
Dang is located in the southwest of Nepal, a historic hotspot during the years of the people’s war. It is the city closest to the historic base areas of Rolpa and Rukum. Emotions were running particularly high in the election campaign, as the area was the scene of repeated intense clashes between the Maoist guerrillas and Royal Nepal Army in 2003. The city itself was the last outpost of the old state before reaching the liberated area, and was a concentration point for military special forces, secret police and foreign intelligence.
The news reports of these killings took place in the midst of a storm of denunciations of the Maoists for violence, even though the Maoists were the party that suffered the most deaths by far during the course of the election campaign (seven Maoists and one UML member were killed before the Dang massacre), mainly at the hands of the police. Nepal’s newspapers waged a relentless campaign to associate the Maoists with violence against peaceful democratic candidates, portraying them as little more than thugs and gangsters—creating public opinion to justify police action against them. The Kathmandu Post headlined its front page only four days before the election, “Young Communist League rampage unrelenting” and “Maoists lead in attacks on rival parties.”
The media didn’t talk about the gangsters who were guarding the candidates and protecting the election process throughout the country – the Nepal police forces, who, under the leadership of Congress Party and UML-led governments, had year after year racked up one of the worst human rights records in the world, according to international human rights groups like Amnesty International. More, they had carried out their bloody crimes in defense of a social system that has condemned the great majority of the people of Nepal to a life of endless toil, poverty and hunger.
Nor was anything said about what the YCL represented: youth who had been active fighters or supporters of the war for liberation that rocked Nepal for ten years, who had been pioneers in fighting for women’s liberation – the ranks of the Maoists were about the only place where young men and women could breathe free of the stultifying atmosphere of arranged marriages and patriarchal authority that smothered them. They were fierce fighters against every type of discrimination. For instance, when YCLers meet for the first time, they ask only each other’s first names. In Nepalese, the last name is often indicative of caste, and they don’t want to be influenced by that.
But the press accounts of the killings in Dang just didn’t fit the facts. If a 15-minute firefight occurred, why were the Maoists the only dead and wounded, and not a single policemen or the Nepali Congress activist? Also conveniently ignored by these accounts was the fact that the police never even claimed to have found any weapons on the dead and wounded Maoists. After the investigation reports came to light, even Jimmy Carter had to label the killings “assassinations” of the Maoist youth.
Investigation results revealed that at about 8 pm on the road near Lamahi, a group of 40 or 50 YCL members intercepted a group of Nepal Congress youth who had come in from the cities of Kathmandu and Pokhara. One account says that they were engaging in one of the long-established practices of the Congress Party (the main ruling party, close to India’s Congress Party), paying people to vote for them – only this time they had tried to pay off some Maoist supporters, who promptly turned them in. A few days earlier a candidate from another right-wing party (RJP) had been similarly apprehended by the YCL while handing out bribes. He had the enormous sum in Nepal of 40,000 rupees ($6,500 U.S. dollars) in cash on him. The night of April 7, the YCL apprehended the 33 Nepali Congress youth and tried to turn them over to the police, as they had done on several other occasions. The Congress Party candidate Khadka seems to have come to their rescue, accompanied by a large contingent of plainclothes police, and the police once again decided to release the Congress youth. This led to protests by the Maoist youth, and the police promptly opened fire on them. Not a single policeman or Congress activist was treated for any injuries. One eyewitness, Keshav Pandey, told the Himalayan newspaper that there was no exchange of fire, and that the police had “opened fire indiscriminately.”
The comrades who sacrificed their lives in this cold-blooded massacre are Min Bahadur Pun, Labaru Chaudhary, Jiulal Chaudary, Purnajung Sen, Chet Bahadur Budhathoki, Sital Chaudary and Prakash GM.
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.
Revolution #128, May 1, 2008
Hook up with the revolution
A new store! A new world! Revolution Books is moving to 146 W. 26th Street
Grand Re-Opening in May—Date to be announced soon. Meanwhile, "Revolution Books Mobile" is going to campuses, neighborhoods, events, conferences. Call to volunteer for booktables, and to help renovate the new store.
May 3, Saturday, 6:30 pm
May First celebration and reception, introducing the new pamphlet, Revolution and Communism: A Foundation and Strategic Orientation. Call for location.
Every Tuesday, 7 pm, call for location
Discussion of “Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity” by Bob Avakian.
Check website for more information and events.
April 30, Wednesday, 7 pm
“Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity” by Bob Avakian. Discussion of the slogan “Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution”
May 1st, Thursday, 8:30 am
Join us in bringing revolution and communism to the immigrants’ rights march on May 1st. This is a big opportunity to connect Revolution/Revolución and the new historic pamphlet, Revolution and Communism: A Foundation and Strategic Orientation, with many thousands who are thirsty for a better world. Meet up at 8:30 am at the northwest corner of Union Park (Lake & Ashland). Look for the red flags!
6 pm. Afterwards, we’ll be celebrating the holiday of the international proletariat with a party at Revolution Books— music, food, a few toasts, and lots of fun!
May 7, Wednesday, 7 pm
“Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity” by Bob Avakian. The vanguard party—why you need it, why it’s the most important form of organization fo the masses, what it can and must do. “We have to grasp firmly why, from the perspective and strategic necessity of revolution, the Party is the most important form of organization of the masses.”
May 14, Wednesday, 7 pm
“Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity” by Bob Avakian. One glance at the terrain and you can see all kinds of negative contradictions including extreme individualism, heightened parasitism and relentless consumerism. But, as Avakian writes, "while it causes real problems and embodies real obstacles from the perspective of our revolutionary objectives, [it] also poses significant problems for the ruling class, much as they're promoting it." How should we understand and act in relation to the complicated political and ideological terrain today? Can all this be re-polarized for revolution?
312 West 8th Street 213-488-1303
May 1st, Thursday, 7-9 pm
After the May 1st events, come down to the store for dinner and sum up of responses to Revolution newspaper and the new pamphlet Revolution and Communism: A Foundation and Strategic Orientation.
May 4, Sunday, 12 noon
Join us to take book tables out to Cinco de Mayo events; come to the store at 5 pm for an open house/rent party with music, food and fundraising for the bookstore!
May 6, Tuesday, 7 pm
Spanish-language discussion of Bob Avakian’s Liberación Sin Dioses.
May 8, Thursday, 7 pm
Bilingual discussion of articles in the current issue of Revolution/Revolución newspaper.
May 11, Secular Sunday, 2 pm
Informal book club discussion of Bob Avakian’s Away with All Gods! Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World. Make plans to take this historic work to people from all walks of life.
May 14, Wednesday, 7 pm
Cinema Revolución - Jesus Camp documents the shocking mobilization of a Christian fascist movement in the U.S. (And read Revolution newspaper review in Issue No. 66, 10/22/06).
2425 Channing Way near Telegraph Ave
Every Sunday at 10 am
Discussion based on Bob Avakian’s book Away With All Gods! Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World
April 29, Tuesday, 7 pm
Away With All Gods! Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World by Bob Avakian. Special presentation by Sunsara Taylor, followed by discussion.
May 1, Thursday, between 9 and 10:30 am
Come in or call to hook up with us in taking revolution and communism to the people! We will be very broadly getting out the May First issue of Revolution newspaper and the new pamphlet, Revolution and Communism: A Foundation and Strategic Orientation to May First events and other places. Exciting May 1st events we’ll be going to include a march in San Francisco in solidarity with West Coast longshore workers who have voted to stop work to protest against the ongoing war and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, and marches in San Francisco and Oakland against the attacks on immigrants.
7 pm May Day celebration featuring international food, music, revolutionary toasts and informal discussion and sharing experience from the day.
2626 South King Street
Every Monday, 6:15 pm
Revolution newspaper reading and discussion group
May 1, Thursday, 6 pm
May 1st Celebration, introducing the new pamphlet Revolution and Communism: A Foundation and Strategic Orientation. Poetry, readings and testimonials. Supper at 6pm ($8 minimum donation). Program from 7-8 pm.
May 4, Sunday, 1 pm
Reading/Book Launching for “Stage Presence: Conversations with Filipino-American Performing Artists” by Theodore Gonzalves. Featuring: Gabe Baltazar Jr., Theo Gonzalves, Ric Trimillos
May 17-18, Saturday & Sunday
Visit the Revolution Books booth at the Hawaii Book and Music Festival, Honolulu Hale, 10am-4pm
2804 Mayfield Rd (at Coventry)
Cleveland Heights 216-932-2543
Hours: Wednesday-Saturday, 3-8 pm
Every Wednesday, 7 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
May 1, Thursday, 5-9 pm
May Day Celebration at Revolution Books—Join us in toasting to a future worth living in! Come when you can! Pick up bundles of the special May 1st issue of Revolution and a new pamphlet: Revolution and Communism: A Foundation and Strategic Orientation. Lend a hand to the final preparations for this Saturday’s event at Cleveland State: “Re-envisioning Revolution and Communism: What Is Bob Avakian’s New Synthesis?” (Pizza, hummus, and soft drinks will be available.)
May 3, Saturday, 1 pm
Wednesday, May 7, 7 pm
Bring your thoughts and questions off Saturday’s program for an evening to dig further into Bob Avakian’s New Synthesis.
Thursday, May 8, 7 pm
Book club discussion on Away with All Gods, Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World, by Bob Avakian. We will be discussing Part 3: Religion—a Heavy, Heavy Chain
Wednesday, May 14, 7 pm
Discussion of “Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity” by Bob Avakian. What’s meant by “going to the brink of being drawn and quartered”? Why, and for whom, is this necessary if we are to get to communism?
1833 Nagle Place
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.
May 3, Saturday, 7 pm
Celebration of May 1st 2008: International Workers Day, introducing the new pamphlet Revolution and Communism: A Foundation and Strategic Orientation.
May 10, Saturday, 3-5 pm
At the Douglass-Truth Branch of the Seattle Public Library, 2300 E Yesler Way
Revolution Books Presents: Away With All Gods! Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World by Bob Avakian. Book Reading and Discussion. Sponsored by Revolution Book Group. The author will not be present.
May 10, Saturday, 7 pm
Revolution Books Book Group discusses Away With All Gods! Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World by Bob Avakian. This week: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam—Rooted in the Past, Standing in the Way of the Future
May 11, Sunday, 2:30 pm
Reading & discussion of this week’s Revolution newspaper
May 17, Saturday, 7 pm
Revolution Books Book Group discusses Away With All Gods! Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World by Bob Avakian. This week: Religion—A Heavy, Heavy Chain
(between Cass &2nd, south of Forest)
May 1, Thursday
Evening May Day celebration at Revolution Books Outlet, following the Immigrants Rights March and Rally in S. W. Detroit
May 6, Tuesday, 6:30 pm
Film showing: Nothing but a Man. A rebellious railroad worker in the ‘60s South comes into conflict with the conciliating role of his father-in-law, a Black preacher.
May 17, Saturday, 7 pm
An evening of readings from Away With All Gods! Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World by Bob Avakian, followed by discussion. 555 Art Gallery, 4884 Grand River Ave.
Bob Avakian will not be present at this event.
1158 Mass Ave, 2nd Floor, Cambridge
Every Monday Night, 6:30 pm
Revolution Books will host 5 weekly focused discussions on the new book Away With All Gods! Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World by Bob Avakian. For those of you who are reading this important new work by Bob Avakian, these discussions will offer a way to engage more deeply into the current discourse about god, atheism and morality, the need to fully rupture with all forms of superstition, and to take up instead a truly scientific approach to understanding and transforming reality. The first session will focus on part 1 of the book.
4 Corners Market of the Earth
Little 5 Points, 1087 Euclid Avenue
404-577-4656 & 770-861-3339
Open Wednesdays & Fridays 4 pm - 7 pm,
Saturdays 2 pm - 7 pm
April 30, Wednesday, 4 to 7 pm
Come to the store to pick up Revolution #128 and an exciting and important pamphlet of Revolution article reprints, titled Revolution and Communism: A Foundation and Strategic Orientation, available just in time for May Day and Cinco de Mayo.
May 4, Sunday
May Day Celebration at Sevananda Meeting Room
Watch the blog and for emails for exact time.
May 11, Sunday, Time & place TBA
Continuing our discussion of “Making Revolution of Emancipating Humanity” by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. Everybody’s welcome!
Revolution #128, May 1, 2008
At a moment when much of humanity finds itself in a living hell, when the horror of the U.S. occupation of Iraq threatens to escalate into a war against Iran, and when the future of the planet itself is threatened, Revolution newspaper must be out there much more boldly and much more broadly—exposing what is going on, revealing why, and pointing to a revolutionary solution in the interests of the vast majority of humanity.
from “Truth…in Preparation for Revolution!” (available at revcom.us)
Important things were accomplished in Revolution newspaper’s expansion and fund drive. People from all walks of life came forward and participated in raising funds for Revolution. Now, we are challenging people to donate “economic stimulus” tax rebate checks to something really worthwhile—the Revolution expansion and fund drive.
Much is at stake. If people are going to really understand what is going on, and if something good is to be pulled out of the current storms, a greatly expanded Revolution newspaper must be at the heart of that process.
Send checks or money orders to: RCP Publications, Box 3486 Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654 or donate online at revcom.us/fund_en.php