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Revolution #133, June 22, 2008
The Barack Obama Campaign
The emergence of Barack Obama as the Democratic Party candidate for President poses important questions. Among them, and central to Obama’s core message, is whether people who have not felt good about this country now have something to feel good about: that an African-American is the nominee of a major party for the first time in this nation’s history, and that he is running with a message of “hope” and “change.”
Should We Feel Good About This Country Now?
People are outraged and horrified about what this country has been doing. Millions of people do not feel good about this country right now. They’re right.
Take one very basic example: The so-called “war on terror.” The “war on terror” was launched in the wake of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001 that resulted in the deaths of nearly 3,000 people. Under the rubric of this “war on terror,” the Bush regime has:
• invaded Afghanistan and continued to wage war on it for over six years with tactics that resulted in massive civilian deaths;
• invaded Iraq—a country that had nothing to do with 9/11—and has occupied it for five years, causing the deaths of perhaps a million Iraqis and the displacement of four million more—all on the basis of conscious, deliberate lies by Bush;
• supported Israel’s ongoing violent suppression of the Palestinian people and the denial of their national rights, and also backed up Israel’s 2006 invasion of Lebanon—including the widespread Israeli use of anti-civilian cluster bombs that were made in the USA;
• threatened, and continues to threaten, Iran with military attack, including the implied threat of nuclear attack by the code-phrase “all options are on the table”;
• opened up a worldwide network of torture sites, where literally thousands of “suspects” are held incommunicado and tortured, with no rights or legal recourse;1
• swept up thousands of immigrants within the U.S., holding them without charges and in many cases torturing them, and also instituted new laws expanding the state’s power to wiretap and otherwise spy on people without legal review.
Who can forget the orange jumpsuit, the man in the hood, and the grinning American soldier giving the thumbs-up while she poses with a corpse?
Yes, people do NOT feel good about this—and should NOT feel good about this—and many are very righteously disgusted and angered and heartsick about it. Yes, they are—and should be—profoundly ashamed of it.
A Whole History. . .
Now it’s important to understand that none of this began with Bush. Long before Bush, the U.S. waged war and sponsored proxy wars in this region that took hundreds of thousands of lives since World War 2.2 The U.S. CIA installed tyrants like the Shah of Iran—and even had a hand in the ascension of Saddam Hussein—through military coups, and worked to violently suppress any viable communist or revolutionary nationalist movements or groups in the region.
Bush institutionalized open, legal use of torture but, before that, the Clinton administration kidnapped and “renditioned” people around the world, and sent them to countries like Egypt with the knowledge and expectation that they would be subjected to gruesome torture.3
And the U.S. government has backed up other repressive regimes like the Saudi royal family, the Sadat and Mubarak regimes in Egypt, etc., with massive military aid. Beyond that, and as a cornerstone to their whole policy, the U.S. has built up Israel as a highly militarized settler-state, supporting it as it subjected the Palestinian people to terror, exile, massacre, and a draconian occupation.
All this has been done to protect U.S. imperial “interests” in the region.
And what are those interests? The domination of the region’s oil both as a source of super-profits and as a strategic weapon against rival powers. Flowing from that, the U.S. imperialists need—from their interests and their point of view—to dominate and determine the politics of the region. All these policies have, for decades, led to rivers of oil flowing out of the Middle East—and rivers of blood flowing through it.
The “war on terror” itself—Bush’s “creative development” of all this—was launched to further protect those interests—and specifically to recast the political and social terrain of the region in order to defeat challenges coming from both Islamic fundamentalist political trends and its imperialist rivals to those interests. These are not the fundamental interests of the majority of American people, let alone the interests of the people of the world—but they ARE the interests of the ruling imperialists who sit atop this system, and they are at the heart of the whole “American way of life.”
And no, if you have any sense of this history at all—the crimes committed and the interests behind those crimes—you should NOT feel good about America and what it has done.
…And a Whole Bigger Picture
The Middle East, of course, is just one part of the world, and what we have just explored is just one brief period, and one dimension, of what the people of this planet confront. But look around the world. Pick a country—Haiti, South Africa, Mexico, Vietnam…. Wherever you look, you will find the same kind of history. And when you look deeper, you will find these same interests, the maximization of profit enforced through U.S. invasions, coups, puppet dictators, and massacres.
And what about the United States itself? The whole development of this country was driven forward by capitalism, and has developed through the most grinding exploitation of millions and millions of people, generation after generation, their lives feeding into the huge power and wealth of a relative handful. This nation, “from sea to shining sea,” was stolen through the near-genocide of the Native Americans. Much of the great wealth of this nation was produced by, and stolen from, African slaves — slaves who were brutally kidnapped from their homes, and often murdered and raped in the process. Their work, under the overseer’s whip, not only built up southern agriculture, but also provided much of the basis for northern transportation, industry, and commerce. Even after the end of formal slavery, Black people remained subjugated in the Jim Crow / KKK South, and then in the northern ghettos and factories—and are now often cast aside and criminalized. And today, from the meatpacking plants of Iowa to the fields of Florida and California, millions of immigrant workers live in the shadows, branded “illegal” and working under the most exploitative conditions.
Think about how many millions died, or had their whole lives plundered and mangled, to serve those interests. No, people should not—and many people do not—“feel good” about this.
The great wealth of the rulers of this country, extracted “at home” and even more viciously around the world, is now the basis for the most overwhelming military machine in world history. And that powerful military, including thousands of nuclear weapons, enforces this whole setup. From military bases in 130 countries around the world, and through proxies and regional enforcers (like Israel), that military has brought death and destruction from Somalia to Nicaragua, from Iraq to Vietnam.
If you cannot feel good about this, if you are outraged, you are right. But then the question must be asked: What would it take to really change it?
Would This Really Change If Obama
Let’s return to the very salient example of the so-called “war on terror,” and look at what Obama himself is saying about what he would do as president, and what he would be compelled to do if he was president.
Yes, Obama opposed the invasion of Iraq, but he is not calling for getting out of Iraq now. His talk of withdrawal and timetables is—as the Los Angeles Times recently wrote, “carefully hedged, leaving the option of taking more time—and leaving more troops—if events require.” He says that when he is president, “We will get out as carefully as we were careless getting in.” Should you feel good about this? That he uses the fact that he initially opposed the war, to now hem and haw about getting out, and to lay the basis to stay in “if events (!) require”?
And if Obama were to launch a war on Iran based on “evidence” of a nuclear weapons program (brought to you by the same liars who fabricated Iraq’s “weapons of mass destruction”), but only after offering to “talk” with the Iranian President Ahmadinejad, should that make you feel good about this country? (Don’t forget that Obama, in a major speech that we covered last week, emphasized that “I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon”—and then departed from his text to repeat the word “everything” three times!)
Should you feel good about this country if, as Obama also pledged, it maintains its unconditional support for Israel’s violent suppression of the Palestinian people and Israel’s military aggression against other countries, as well as its maintenance of an arsenal of up to 150 nuclear weapons, but in addition to that Obama also held some meetings with the Palestinian Authority?
Why should any of this be a reason to feel good about this country? And yet, this is precisely the limit of the change that Obama promises.
Obama, let us be clear, is running for president of the U.S.A. That means president of an empire that sucks the blood of billions of people and uses the most terrible military machine in history to enforce that. When Obama talks about “change,” he is talking about change to serve and maintain all that. Listen carefully to the whole context in which Obama talks about the occupation of Iraq and the whole “war on terror.” When you do, you will hear him talking about how to carry out U.S. political, economic, and military domination of the Middle East. And if he became president, he would be presiding over a global system of capitalism-imperialism, contending with other capitalist countries, and suppressing any opposition, through political and economic structures that enforce that, and ultimately through the threat, or actual delivery, of military violence. That setup defines the terms for anyone running for president of—for chief executive of—that system. Obama cannot rise above that, and does not want to rise above that.
Empire—its consequences all over the planet, and what it takes to maintain it—is nothing to feel good about.
We Need Fundamental, Revolutionary Change
But that is the question people have to answer: do you want to live in an empire where the ruler might be able to make you “feel good” (or at least “okay”) with the crimes that necessarily go with maintaining an empire; or do you want to live in a world without empires?
The Obama campaign is not about—and cannot be about—addressing in any real, fundamental way, the things that make millions of people not feel good about this country. But an important part of what the Obama candidacy is all about, and why it has gotten as far as it has with the blessings of the powers-that-be, is that it is about mis-channeling outrage into making people feel good about this country.
The point here is not that nothing can be done about all the things that the rulers of this country have done, and are doing, here and around the world. It can—but only outside the killing confines of a system that allows nothing more meaningful than participating in a ritual choice of who will preside over the next four years of oppression.
What all this shows even more emphatically is that we need a whole new, radically different system, and a revolution to bring that system into being.
We don’t need change that we are allowed, and told to believe in—change that won’t really change anything fundamental—we need fundamental, revolutionary change.
1. While the world has learned about Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo, much of this torture network remains secret—carried out at secret European prisons, on U.S. naval ships, and contracted out through “rendition” to other regimes. The human rights organization Reprieve recently reported that “By its own admission, the U.S. government is currently detaining at least 26,000 people without trial in secret prisons, and information suggests up to 80,000 have been ‘through the system’ since 2001.”[back]
2. The Iran-Iraq War, which lasted from 1980 to 1988, was initiated by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq with a green light from the Carter administration as a way to weaken the Islamic Republic of Iran. The U.S. fueled the war, providing military assistance at different times to both sides. Death toll estimates from that war range from hundreds of thousands of troops along with widespread civilians deaths. See “The U.S. & Iran: A History of Imperialist Domination, Intrigue and Intervention, Part 6: The 1980s—Double-Dealing, Double-Crossing, and Fueling the Gulf Slaughter,” by Larry Everest at revcom.us/iranhistory[back]
3. See “Outsourcing Torture: The secret history of America’s ‘extraordinary rendition’ program,” by Jane Mayer, The New Yorker, February 14, 2005[back]
Revolution #133, June 22, 2008
A question for Barack Obama—and for those swept up in the whole Obama thing:
Since Obama has now developed such a large and dedicated following, why does Obama not call on all those people—this “movement” as his proponents have often taken to calling it—to massively get behind the demand that Bush and Cheney be impeached and removed from office for what are undeniable crimes against humanity and war crimes, and certainly constitute “high crimes and misdemeanors” that demand impeachment and removal from office?
Why is that not crucial in setting the country on a truly different course? For after all, if the crimes carried out by the Bush White House—both the “standard” (but nonetheless horrific) ways they carried out imperialist interests, common to all administrations, and the new measures that they took (for instance, the direct organizing of a massive machinery of torture and the construction of “legal” justifications for this, as reported by ABC News in April of this year)—are allowed to stand…and if the perpetrators of these crimes are not brought even to the justice that an impeachment would mean…and if these crimes, by virtue of going unpunished, are thereby allowed to assume the force of precedent…what will that mean?
Especially since such a resolution has now been introduced in the House, why is Obama not forcefully calling attention to this and insisting, in his capacity as the presumptive nominee, that this be done?
Is the answer that doing this would “further divide the country” rather than “bringing us together”? And if that is the answer, then what does that say about the nature and content of this “bringing us together” and “overcoming differences”—a “bringing together” and “overcoming differences” that would leave unpunished what are not only clearly impeachable offenses but towering crimes against humanity?
Revolution #133, June 22, 2008
The following is Part 5 of the text of a speech given in various locations around the country this spring. The text has been slightly edited for publication. Revolution is publishing this speech in five installments. The complete speech is available online at revcom.us.
This is an incredibly inspiring vision of a different society—a society that the vast majority of people would truly want to live in.
But how do we get to this new society? That leads me to the final part of this presentation, the question of strategy for revolution—particularly in the imperialist countries. Again, I’ll be able to only touch on a few key concepts here, and this will be even more compressed than the earlier part of the presentation.
First off, revolutions are serious. Revolutions in a country like this can only take place when 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. If you’re a vanguard, everything you do has to be about getting to that situation—everything you do has to be measured in relation to that—everything you do has to be about revolution. Anything short of that won’t cut it—and leads to capitulation.
Objective, Subjective...and Hastening While Awaiting
But again—how do you get there? One important concept here is what is scientifically called the “relation between the objective and subjective factor.” The objective factor includes the material conditions of society and their underlying dynamics; the broader political and ideological currents that are swirling in relation to—and in some ways autonomous of—that; the (contradictory) directions in which all these are moving and changing; the moods, sentiments, and ideas of different sections of the people; and so on. And the subjective factor refers to the people who are trying to change all that—often we mean the Party by that, but sometimes you can use that to refer to the broader movement, depending on the context.
Now this is a dialectical relation: the objective and subjective are different, but they interpenetrate and mutually transform each other. The objective factor is like the field on which the Party is playing, and it overall sets the terms and framework. But that framework is not fixed and determined—the field is constantly changing dimensions—and the objective factor can be influenced by the subjective factor. Sometimes the Party itself is a big part of the objective situation—it can be leading a big struggle, or the focus of an attack, or making a big impact with an ideological initiative. People will be talking about it because of that, so you’ve got the subjective factor as part of the objective factor. And at the same time, the objective factor enters into the subjective—the Party is influenced in different ways by the moods and thinking of the masses and the people who come around and work with and join the Party.
But the conventional wisdom in our movement has been to erect a conceptual brick wall between the two and to adopt a passive attitude toward the objective factor—to reduce communist work to taking up initiatives which basically mirror what the masses are already doing, or are ready to do, and then “organize” that. This kind of view doesn’t challenge people ideologically, other than to “take up the struggle” at hand. Bob Avakian has pointed to the “determinist realism” at the root of this—the idea that the parameters of revolutionary work are very narrowly determined and hemmed in by what already exists and the assumption that 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.
But in actual fact reality teems with contradiction. History, like nature, is full of sudden leaps. Because of that, very bold initiatives undertaken by the subjective factor (so long as they are founded on the real dynamics of material reality) can have a galvanic and electrifying effect; they can be “game-changing,” to use an extremely overworked but still expressive cliche. But the determinist view is not alive to or alert to events that can potentially change the whole equation—depending on what the vanguard does.
Now you can’t just jump off the revolution on the basis of sheer will. That will land you and the masses in a very bad situation. But overwhelmingly, the main trend in imperialist countries has been to give up on revolution in fact if not in word, and to not grasp, or to oppose, the great potential dynamism of the subjective factor, or consciousness.
On the foundation of a correct and deep understanding of this contradiction, Bob Avakian has adapted a concept of Mao’s: hastening the development of the revolution, while awaiting favorable developments in the objective situation—those times in which everything goes up for grabs. But this too is dialectical and not mechanical—you are working on conditions with the expectation and understanding that this becomes part of not just preparing for major changes in the objective situation, but bringing about, and to the greatest extent possible shaping, those changes when they do come. You’re straining against the limits, straining against the framework. And you’re doing it all with an awareness that the sharp contradictions of this system find expression from many different and unexpected directions. To quote again from the recent talk Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity:
[A]lthough changes in what’s objective for us won’t come entirely, or perhaps not even mainly, through our “working on” the objective conditions (in some direct, one-to-one sense), nevertheless our “working on” them can bring about certain changes within a given framework of objective conditions and—in conjunction with and as part of a “mix,” together with many other elements, including other forces acting on the objective situation from their own viewpoints—this can, under certain circumstances, be part of the coming together of factors which does result in a qualitative change. And, again, it is important to emphasize that nobody can know exactly how all that will work out.1
So whether you take up this line and orientation of “hastening while awaiting” isn’t just a moral question—it has everything to do with whether a revolutionary situation will even emerge, and whether, quite frankly, whether you will even be oriented and able to recognize the potential for one.
In light of that—and in light everything we’ve gone over today—the following (also from Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity, Part 1) is one of the most important passages in the overall body of work of Bob Avakian. Now this uses a lot of scientific terms, many of which I’ve introduced earlier; but in order to get into this we should know that philosophically the term “necessity” refers to the objective reality at any given time—the contradictory directions in which things are moving and developing, and both the constraints on that development and the possible pathways of it—and the term “superstructure” refers to the political institutions, culture, ideas and so on in society, as distinct from the production relations.
So, here’s what Avakian writes:
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.2
Enriched What Is To Be Done-ism
This is central to the very important strategic concept of "Enriched What Is To Be Done-ism." And this concept also goes up against a whole tradition in the communist movement of what is called “economism.” Economism originally meant confining the attention of the workers to battles around wages, working conditions, unions, and so on but has come to encompass any sort of strategy that focuses on mobilizing the masses to fight for “palpable results.” No one ever quite “fesses up” to not wanting to bring communism to the masses—they just say that “now is not the time,” and that “the battle around immediate demands is the best way to get in position to do that...later on.”
Lenin took on that very view 100 years ago in his pathbreaking book What Is To Be Done?. Lenin pointed out that communism is a science that arose outside the proletariat and has to be brought to it from without. He said that communists must be tribunes of the people who can seize on every major event to put before all their communist convictions and he counterposed that to the mentality of trade union secretaries, who lead struggles around the immediate needs of their members. And he said that to do this, and to carry forward the many other tasks involved in a revolution, you need a vanguard party, made up of proletarians and people from other strata who take up the communist outlook and dedicate themselves to the communist cause.
Today, all this remains very contested. And today what’s involved in this struggle is the question of whether the masses are going to be led to be the conscious emancipators of humanity—or, instead, will they be treated as foot soldiers who are fed pablum and essentially ruled over by people who have been trained to deal in the realm of ideas. I spoke to this earlier in reference to the dictatorship of the proletariat, but it finds sharp expression right now.
Look: becoming emancipators of humanity is a gigantic rupture and you don’t do it without leadership. Again: people can not take conscious initiative to change the world if they don’t know how the world works; that takes science; and they have to get that science from people who have had an opportunity to get into it. Without that—without a vanguard that is actually worthy of the name—communist revolution’s never gonna happen. And to feed the masses pablum while you yourself have what one comrade has called your “temple of secret knowledge”—and to do that in the name of “the masses”—would be beneath contempt, if it weren’t so destructive and dangerous and pervasive.
“Enriched” What Is To Be Done-ism is called that because, in addition to rescuing and reviving all the crucial principles developed by Lenin, Avakian has emphasized 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—the questions that we’ve been getting into here.
Enriched What Is To Be Done-ism is a whole ensemble, and is not reducible to one single form of activity—and to get a sense of this, I strongly recommend studying part 2 of Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity. In brief, though, while coming from the orientation of hastening while awaiting a revolutionary situation, it encompasses the pivotal role of the revolutionary newspaper; the need to boldly spread communism in everything we do; the importance of promoting the works of Bob Avakian; the need to organize people around the slogan “Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution,” to spread revolution and build resistance to the key ways that the system comes down on the masses; recruiting people into the Party; and undertaking political initiatives around societal “fault lines” that concentrate key social contradictions at any given time—like the struggle to drive out the Bush regime.
Also very important is the strategic orientation of the United Front Under Proletarian Leadership. This is both an orientation and a method—a strategic approach to realigning different class forces in a way that the goal of revolution and the revolutionary communist outlook that we’ve been discussing today are brought to the forefront and established in the leading position. This takes place through a complex process of what we call unity-struggle-unity—that is, forging unity with people of very diverse backgrounds and outlooks around key social questions, both critical “fault lines” of the system and a wider range besides; carrying out struggle within that unity over questions of how to see the world, ideologically and politically; and through that process of serious engagement developing that unity to a higher and more deeply founded level. Through all this, we aim to repolarize the political situation—to overcome divisions and disunity and distrust, and to lead the united front that will be necessary to not only make a revolution but to carry things through all the way to communist society.
In light of all this, I want to call attention to the book Away With All Gods! Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World, that is officially coming out next month but is available at the table, and which very powerfully challenges religion and the ways in which religious beliefs are a fetter on people. Getting this out there very boldly is exactly the kind of thing involved in challenging people to break with mental enslavement and step up to be emancipators of humanity.
“On the Possibility of Revolution”
Finally, it is important here to touch on a very big question: is it possible to win, in a country like this? In regard to this, I want to briefly read from the very important article that appeared in our paper, “On the Possibility of Revolution.” The article states:
In a talk last year, “Bringing Forward Another Way” (which has just been run as a series in Revolution and is posted, in its entirety, online at revcom.us), Bob Avakian calls attention to the fact that there are “‘two things we don't know how to do’—namely, meeting repression and actually winning when the time comes. Now the point of saying these are two things we don't know how to do...is to call attention to the fact that we'd better work on these things—in the appropriate way and not in inappropriate ways.”
He goes on to say, with regard to the question of winning when the time comes:
“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.”
To give further emphasis to this orientation, Avakian then includes in “Bringing Forward Another Way” a statement which was published in Revolution, “Some Crucial Points of Revolutionary Orientation—in Opposition to Infantile Posturing and Distortions of Revolution.” This statement begins:
“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.” (“Some Crucial Points” originally appeared in Revolution issue 55, July 30, 2007, and is reprinted as an appendix to the pamphlet Revolution and Communism: A Foundation and Strategic Orientation, page 91.)
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.”3
So, on that big question, of winning when the time comes, I want to strongly recommend that either people pick up the pamphlet Revolution and Communism: A Foundation and Strategic Orientation, which contains that article, or go online to revcom.us, and read that article, which was guided by the method of Bob Avakian.
This then is the outline of the new synthesis—a re-envisioning of revolution and communism, aiming for a radically different society, and ultimately a communist world, without exploitation and without oppressive relations among people. This new synthesis has “ideologized” revolution back onto the scene and objectively represents, as Avakian says, “a source of hope and of daring on a solid scientific foundation."4
We here need to seriously take this up, get into it and make it a powerful ideological and political force for transforming the world, while at the same time engaging more fully, in an ongoing way, with the extensive, rich, and continually developing body of work, as well as the method and approach, that is being brought forward by Bob Avakian.
I want to close, then, by reading a passage from the end of Democracy: Can’t We Do Better Than That?, that envisions the communist future we’re fighting for:
It is only possible today to conjecture, and to dream, about what expressions social contradictions will assume in the future communist society and how they will be resolved. How will the problem be approached of combining advanced productive forces, which require a significant degree of centralization, with decentralization and local initiative (whatever “local” means then)? How will the rearing of new generations of people—now carried out in atomized form, and through oppressive relations, in the family—be approached in communist society? How will attention be paid to developing specific areas of knowledge, or to concentrating on particular projects, without making these the “special preserve” of certain people? How will the contradiction be handled of enabling people to acquire all-around skills and knowledge and at the same time meeting the need for some specialization? What about the relation between people’s individual initiatives and personal pursuits on the one hand, and their social responsibilities and contributions on the other? It seems that it will always be the case that, around any particular question, or controversy, there will be a group—and as a general rule a minority at first—that will have a more correct, advanced understanding, but how will this be utilized for the overall benefit while at the same time preventing groups from solidifying into “interest groups”? What will be the relations between different areas and regions—since there will no longer be different countries—and how will the contradictions between what might be called “local communities” and the higher associations, all the way up to the world level, be handled? What will it mean concretely that people are truly citizens of the world, particularly in terms of where they live, work, and so on—will they “rotate” from one area of the world to another? How will the question of linguistic and cultural diversity versus a world union of humanity be handled? And will people then, even with all their understanding of history, really be able to believe that a society such as we are imprisoned in now actually existed—let alone that it was declared to be eternal and the highest pinnacle humanity was capable of reaching? Again, these questions, and many, many more, can only be the object of speculation, and of dreaming, today; but even to pose such questions, and to attempt to visualize how they might be addressed—in a society where class divisions, social antagonism, and political domination no longer exist—is itself tremendously liberating for anyone without a vested interest in the present order.5
Is this not a future worth devoting your life to?
Get with the new synthesis! Be part of emancipating humanity.
1. Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity in the Revolution pamphlet Revolution and Communism: A Foundation and Strategic Orientation (May 1, 2008), p. 40. Available online at revcom.us/avakian/makingrevolution2 [back]
2. Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity in the Revolution pamphlet Revolution and Communism: A Foundation and Strategic Orientation (May 1, 2008), p. 11. Available online at revcom.us/avakian/makingrevolution [back]
4. Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity in the Revolution pamphlet Revolution and Communism: A Foundation and Strategic Orientation (May 1, 2008), p. 37. Available online at revcom.us/avakian/makingrevolution [back]
5. Democracy, Can’t We Do Better Than That (Chicago: Banner Press, 1986), p. 266 [back]
Revolution #133, June 22, 2008
Locke High School, deep in the southwest corner of Watts in Los Angeles, looks more like a prison than a school. It’s surrounded by 15-foot prison-style fences. Cage enclosures cover the entrance, allowing entry only through a guarded double door. Inside the school the feeling of a prison really comes to life. It’s a collection of separate buildings dispersed across a huge campus, and cell bar fences are a defining feature. Campus security patrols the grounds while the Los Angeles School Police maintain an on-site station, complete with an open-air holding pen for the students rounded up in daily truancy sweeps. Security guards patrol the halls with a vengeance, with drug sniffing dogs coming into classrooms at random to search students’ bags and belongings. In 2005 Locke graduated 240 of the 1000 students who started out in the 9th grade in 2001.
On June 10 something very special and very significant happened at Locke. In a powerful way, Black and Latino students came together in a strong show of unity—going right up against and defying the “divide and conquer” message and efforts of the media, the cops, and officials.
700 to 800 Black and Latino students, freshmen to seniors, brought something new, important, and liberating to the scene as they made their way to a Unity Assembly sponsored by both the Black Student Union and MEChA. More than a dozen teachers helped make the assembly a success. Some were involved in getting the space, helping the students to organize it, and inviting other teachers to bring their classes to it; quite a few teachers brought their classes to the assembly.
As students entered the gym, there were several Latina students handing them black and brown ribbons and many people rushed for them, helping each other pin them on right away—on their backpacks, on their pants, on their shirts, and in their hair. The message behind the ribbons was one that many students felt deeply, and some asked for a handful of extra ribbons to give to their friends who weren’t at the assembly.
As the assembly opened up, the sister from the BSU explained the importance of the ribbons and told everyone how to pin them on. Then the sister from MEChA called on all the students to wear the ribbons every day until the end of the school year. The Assembly featured three speakers: Christopher D. Jimenez y West, the History Curator of the California African-American Museum; Dr. Irene E. Vasquez, the Director of World Cultural Studies and the chair of the Chicana/ Chicano Studies Department at Cal State Dominguez Hills; and Michael Slate, Revolution newspaper correspondent and L.A. radio host. A young woman student was presented with a Courageous Resister Award by faculty members and fellow students both for courageously standing up to police brutality during the May 9 fight and for her work to bring Black and Latino students together to fight the system and not each other. Chicano artist Richard Duardo donated a print of his Frida Kahlo piece that was presented to this student.
The Fight and the Aftermath
The assembly was something students had been talking about for weeks. It came in the wake of a huge fight between Black and Latino students on May 9. 600 students fought with each other for half an hour and then 100 riot geared cops invaded the campus, clubbing everyone they saw, spraying clouds of pepper spray across campus, and arresting at least four students. Many others were detained at the school and released.
The media jumped like predators on the story. Scores of reporters poured into the campus and all emerged to deliver the same message: Black and Latino people (students and others) just can’t get along, they just seem to be compelled to be at each others’ throats and only the intervention of the police, with their clubs and gas, and other authorities can control this scene. This became a national story with articles in the New York Times and Time along with reports on National Public Radio. A very bad situation was being whipped up and rubbed raw.
Shortly after the fight, a statement from the Revolutionary Communist Party was distributed at the school titled, “Break Out of Fighting Each Other—Get With the Revolution! Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution.” [See Revolution #132, June 15, 2008.] The flyer resonated with a lot of students—especially the part about how the media seized on the brawl to sharpen up the contradictions between Black and Latino people—and meanwhile has had no interest whatsoever in covering stories of how Locke students, Black and brown, have come together against some of the outrageous attacks coming down on both Latino and Black people. Students were quick to talk about a walkout in support of immigrant rights on May Day 2006 and another walkout on September 20, 2007 in support of the Jena 6.
The Truth of the Situation
In the weeks after the fight, many Locke students continue to wrestle with what happened. Many of the students, and teachers, really want there to be unity between the Black and Latino/immigrant students—so much so that they try to deny that the fight was between the two nationalities, or that there is even a contradiction between the two. They talk instead about how everyone has friends of both nationalities or how people generally just co-exist, separate but peacefully.
But it doesn’t take long to get to the truth of the situation. Students explain that Black and Latino students generally hang out in separate areas of the school. They talk about how the Black members of the football team were really angry over the killing of a Black football player in another school—allegedly by a gangbanger who is an undocumented Latino immigrant. They tell of the tension in the neighborhoods and gangs divided up by nationality fighting over turf. A Black member of the drill team explains how things “get put in your ear” from family, friends, and the media, things like “Mexicans take all the jobs” or “Black people don’t want to work and will rob you.” A Latino teacher, widely respected among both the Black and Latino students, tells how Black students are systematically demonized and criminalized at the school with many of them starting out in the 9th grade with a clean record but ending up on probation a few years later. When he looked into why this happens, he discovered that one of the roads to probation and being put “in the system” are students being hit with excessive “tardy tickets.”
And there are real material conditions that help give rise to these divisions. There has been a dramatic shift in the population of Watts over the last few decades—from vast majority Black and a place recognized as a center of Black life in L.A. to an area where the population is now majority Latino, many of them immigrants. Locke High School has changed from almost all Black to 65% Latino. Many of the old industries where Black people could find some work have disappeared, replaced by sweatshop industries that thrive on super-exploiting immigrant labor. The youth unemployment rate in L.A. was 26.2% in 2004 and even higher in places like Watts. Many of the jobs that Black youth used to be able to get—in fast food joints or movie theaters—are now held by immigrants and older workers. Blacks and Latinos also find themselves increasingly competing for dwindling social services.
And on top of all this, there are conscious policies and actions by the system and its politicians and media—along with more “independent anti-immigrant forces”—that are aimed at both fomenting this contradiction and rubbing it raw. The killing of Jamiel Shaw, the Black high school football player allegedly killed by a Latino immigrant, was seized on to launch a whole campaign to rescind L.A.’s Special Order 40, which bars police from asking people questions about or arresting them for their immigration status. The anti-immigrant fascist Minutemen have held a couple of rallies in the Leimert Park area of L.A., a neighborhood that is a center of Black cultural life and in the middle of the historic Crenshaw district.
Powerful Show of Unity
The fight at Locke took things to another level and, although there have been times when hundreds of both Black and Latino students have come together around things like immigrant rights or support for the Jena 6, this fight brought all kinds of tension and questions out into the open. The statement issued by the Revolutionary Communist Party in the wake of the fight was distributed broadly at the school among teachers and students. It helped generate a lot of discussion and debate around what’s behind this Black and Latino/immigrant contradiction as well as why it will take a revolution to resolve this in any fundamental way. And, while many students and teachers want to unite—and some even have a sense of the strategic importance of uniting Black and Latino/immigrant people—there is still a question of whether this is possible and how to do it.
This is the mix that gave rise to the Unity Day assembly. Many of the students and teachers came to this hoping to be able to change the negative situation off of the fight into a more positive situation for the people. Christopher D. Jimenez y West, who is the first and only Black person to get a Ph.D. from the History Department at USC in 125 years, emphasized the common history and experiences shared by Black and Latino people, powerfully laying out to the students that there was a time when Black people escaped slavery in the U.S. by becoming “illegal” immigrants into Mexico. Dr. Vasquez also spoke to the importance of the unity between Black and Latino peoples, and then spoke to her efforts to help facilitate these students getting into college.
Michael Slate spoke to the horrific oppression both Black and Latino/immigrant people face in this society and how this isn’t accidental but the product of the capitalist system. He posed this terrible situation up against these same people fighting each other instead of the root of the problem. “This is the world you live in. This is what’s happening all around us. And in the middle of all that, you are fighting each other. And over what? My turf, my clique, my gang, my hood, my race, my nationality, and whatever other silly little thing comes up. And when you do that, this system loves to see it. They love to hear you talking their talk, thinking their dog-eat-dog ways. So, blind, you blame each other and let them off the hook—that’s called getting played. And think about this, all this my turf, my hood, my race, and so on, all can also end up in thinking ‘my country’ and joining the military to fight for a country that tortures people and is waging an endless war on the world. That’s getting played. And as long as you stay stuck in this kind of thinking, you will never get up out of this situation.” Slate pointed out that the world doesn’t have to be like this, that a new world is possible, but if anything is ever going to change people are going to have to break into a whole new way of thinking and fighting to change the world.
When the assembly ended, it was clear that things had changed. A new polarization is beginning to develop at the school. Some students stayed behind to talk with the speakers while others rushed off to lunch, classes or a concert. A number of students talked with each other about the “Youth Deserves a Better Future” unity picnic scheduled for the Saturday after the assembly. Most students left with a lot more on their minds and a lot more clarity about it. They left wearing the brown and black ribbons, and behind those ribbons there was a new sense of possibility for change. The air was charged with a sense of commitment and hope.
Revolution #133, June 22, 2008
PDF of Centerfold, go to http://revcom.us/a/133/food_crisis-en.pdf.
Revolution #133, June 22, 2008
The World Science Festival ran for five days in New York City, through 46 fascinating (and at times contentious) events (all of them sold out, many of them in large venues), and with an all-day Science Fair in Washington Square Park (which had an estimated attendance of 100,000 people). The World Science Festival brought science to the public in this country in an unprecedented way. The Festival ranged from events popularizing science for children to events where Nobel prize-winners and other prominent scientists, philosophers, writers, and artists discussed, bounced off of, and generally celebrated science and scientific method, and opened up cutting-edge scientific questions to a broad audience.
Events ranged from a discussion of the “wonderful weirdness” of quantum mechanics to how we might be able to recognize life on other planets; from cultural events like “Dear Albert,” a play written by Alan Alda, drawn from the letters of Albert Einstein, to a new dance by director/choreographer Karole Armitage inspired by string theory presented in physicist Brian Greene’s bestselling book, The Elegant Universe; from The Sixth Extinction, an exploration with Richard Leakey of the rate at which animals and plants are becoming extinct, to a discussion involving philosophers, neuroscientists, and evolutionary biologists on the “Science of Morality.”
And the Festival tapped into a real hunger for science and a broad desire to grapple with what scientists are doing and learning among a broad section of the population. It gave people a chance to be in on discussions among scientists about key questions of the day—in a venue and setting which aimed to bring people into not just the results of scientific investigation (fascinating as that often is), but into the thinking of the scientists, what it is like to do science, what kinds of questions are debated out as scientists go about forging a deeper understanding of the world we live in—in all its complexity and wonder. And even the scientific method itself, including whether science just produces “models” of the world or whether we can and should try to understand what is really there, was “in play.”
From the perspective of emancipating all of humanity, consciously knowing and changing the world, these questions are immensely important. As Ardea Skybreak put it eloquently in The Science of Evolution and The Myth of Creationism—Knowing What’s Real and Why It Matters:
“Everyone needs to understand the basic facts of evolution as well as the essentials of the scientific method….When people are deprived of a scientific approach to reality as a whole, they are robbed of both a full appreciation of the beauty and richness of the natural world and the means to understand the dynamics of change not only in nature but in human society as well.”
The felt need to get into all of this was shown at the festival by the long lines of people trying to get into sold-out events on a broad range of questions. It came out in the electricity in the air after some of the events, when people went off into the night debating neuroscience, global warming, morality, religion. For example, in the aftermath of a panel I attended on “What It Means to Be Human,” people engaged in eager discussion about what religion has to do with being human (and with many critiquing the notion that religion has anything at all to do with what human beings can and should be), how to understand the complex interaction of genes and the world that people grow up in and how all that shapes what people become, and what does rational thought have to do with being human anyway? Revolution Books in New York organized teams of volunteers to engage in the ferment, popularizing the bookstore, as well as Bob Avakian’s new book Away With All Gods! and Ardea Skybreak’s Science of Evolution.
Physicist Brian Greene, who, with his wife Tracy Day, conceived of the Festival and played a key role in initiating and organizing it, when interviewed about the Festival in Scientific American said, “There’s this hunger to understand the universe in a way that doesn’t make you feel inadequate or unable to catch the ideas. The absolute worst thing that you ever can do, in my opinion, in bringing science to the general public, is be condescending or judgmental. It is so opposite to the way science needs to be brought forth.”
This kind of spirit very much infused the Festival. It was clear that the organizers of the Festival were aiming to fulfill what they see as a real and pressing need—to open up science and make it accessible to broad audiences, including in this case many intellectuals who are not generally involved in science.
There is, again, a great deal at stake in this. It is true that in any capitalist society, science and scientific thinking and method are shackled by the fact that the drive for profit and the political and military compulsions of the ruling class shape scientific inquiry and limit what is—and is not—pursued by scientists, and the dominant outlook and ways of thinking that characterize capitalist society influence scientists, even as some strain in different ways to break free of it. “Opening up” science can have a big impact on how people think—introducing critical thinking and investigation broadly among the people. This includes undermining religious mysticism and organized ignorance, which are widely promoted, and pointing to the possibility of breaking down the division of labor in which scientific understanding is kept the province of a few experts.
In talking to people at the Festival about the Defend Science Statement (available online at defendscience.org), what is going on in this country, and in bringing out what kind of society could be possible with revolutionary transformations, one thing that came out in many discussions was a passionate concern and even anguish about how much scientific thinking has to do with critical thinking generally—and the dangerous course that we are on, when science itself is under attack from the government as well as forces like Christian fundamentalism, and where scientific thinking among the people is under intense assault, as, for one key example, in the continuing attempts to prevent teaching evolution in public schools. Evolution is such a concentration of both scientific method—it is foundational to many of the questions that the Festival took up—and at the same time it is a focal point of attack by the forces opposed to science and a scientific outlook today.
You can see from the way that the whole festival was set up that a lot of thought was given to how to stretch the limits of making science accessible, to capture people’s imagination and to stimulate grappling with the scientific method and approach, to develop creative and exciting ways to accomplish this.
To give just a little sense of this, while I didn’t go to most of the events aimed at children and teenagers, when I did, you could see the kinds of connections made—and the questioning and hunger for science—on the part of the children and young teenagers. At one event, “Cool Jobs,” five scientists talked about, you guessed it, their cool jobs, including among others working on the Mars lander that is there now gathering and analyzing the Martian environment for possible signs that there was once life on Mars; a marine biologist who lives for weeks at a time totally under ocean water to study the astonishing variety and diversity—and beauty—of life in coral reefs. While there was some emphasis in the program on scientific careers, after the presentations the event was opened up for questions from the young people in the audience, and none of them asked about careers, but instead about the science—including questions you would not get from adults, like “how do you go to the bathroom while under the sea for weeks?” (The answer is that the scientists are encouraged to just go in the ocean—as human waste is eagerly sought-after food for the marine life—and you have to be careful that in their rush to get at the source of this “food,” the marine animals don’t bite the tender human parts that are the sources of the food.)
To a great degree, the Festival succeeded in reaching and I think inspiring and challenging a very broad audience. And it was very good news indeed that at the end of the Festival, Brian Greene announced that because of the success this year, the decision had been made to have another Festival next year.
Revolution #133, June 22, 2008
From a reader…
Tim Donaghy, the NBA referee who has pled guilty to gambling on basketball games he refereed, alleged, through his attorney this past week, that he was told that referees who officiated the sixth game of a seven-game playoff series in 2002 called made-up fouls on the team leading the series in order to add an extra game to the series. Donaghy also said that the foul calling led to the ejection of two players on the team leading the series.
Even though he did not state what teams were involved, it is not hard to deduce that he is referring to Game 6 of the Los Angeles Lakers-Sacramento Kings playoff series in 2002. The Kings were leading the series 3-2 and would have won the series in Game 6, but the Lakers were awarded an incredible 27 free throw shots in the fourth quarter, and two of Sacramento’s centers were ejected from the game for six fouls, which led to Sacramento’s defeat, forcing a seventh game, which was won by the Lakers. In addition, at the end of the game a foul was called against Mike Bibby of the Kings after he was shoved and elbowed by Kobe Bryant of the Lakers. This foul call took away an opportunity for the Kings to try for a tying basket.
After the game Michael Wilbon wrote in the Washington Post that too many of the calls in the 4th quarter were “stunningly incorrect,” all against Sacramento, and he stated that “I have never seen officiating in a game of this consequence as bad as that in Game 6.”
The horrible officiating of that game prompted Ralph Nader to write a letter to David Stern, Commissioner of the NBA, asking him to use his “absolute power” to issue “an apology to the Sacramento Kings and forthrightly admit decisive incompetence during Game 6, especially in the crucial fourth quarter.”
Donaghy also brought up that the 2005 series between the Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks was influenced by the NBA office. Jeff Van Gundy, who was the coach of the Rockets at the time, said that an NBA official told him that the series would be officiated differently. So many illegal screen foul calls were made against Yao Ming of the Rockets that the momentum of the series shifted away from Houston and towards Dallas. For his comments, Van Gundy was fined $100,000 by Stern. Now, we learn from Donaghy’s claims that Van Gundy’s assertion was basically correct.
While, of course, the NBA (and David Stern specifically) have dismissed these allegations by Donaghy, actually this is only the tip of the iceberg. In fact, the fixing of games by the NBA goes far beyond what Donaghy has claimed. Bob Avakian, in his talk “The NBA: Marketing the Minstrel Show and Serving the Big Gangsters,” talks about how the NBA has been rigged and how David Stern, who he calls “the Mafia Don” of the NBA, has established a certain marketing strategy to promote particular teams and particular players, a marketing strategy which is partially achieved by rigging the league. Avakian chronicles how Stern promoted the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers, during the Larry Bird-Magic Johnson era in the 1980s. Avakian points out that the Celtics were promoted as a stereotypical “white, lunch bucket, blue collar, work ethic team,” and the Lakers were promoted as a “sanitized, watered-down version of playground basketball.” So, as Avakian explains, for a period of time in the NBA Finals you had these two poles of the “working class” team and the sanitized, watered-down “playground team,” which has an element of racism. In this regard, Avakian also brings out the comparison between the NBA and the minstrel shows, where most of the players in the league are African-American, while the games are played in front of white audiences and that the Larry Bird-Magic Johnson/Celtic-Laker rivalry played into this.
Now the Celtics and Lakers are currently in the NBA Finals, which has resulted in enormous TV ratings due to the marketing of this Finals as, yes, once again Larry Bird vs. Magic Johnson, even though it is actually Kobe Bryant of the Lakers vs. Paul Pierce of the Celtics. So how did this come about? Because last year both teams were floundering, with the Celtics having one of the worst records in the league and the Lakers not much further ahead. At the end of last season Kevin McHale, a former Celtic and now General Manager for the Minnesota Timberwolves, traded Kevin Garnett, one of the best power forwards in the NBA, to the Celtics for some less talented players, to be teamed up with Paul Pierce. In the middle of this season Jerry West, a former Laker player and General Manager, and who, at that time, was the General Manager of the Memphis Grizzlies, traded Pau Gasol, one of the best centers in the league, for two less talented players, to the Lakers to be teamed up with Kobe Bryant. Those two trades were instrumental in putting McHale’s and West’s former teams into the NBA Finals.
Some people may think that this is a coincidence, where a former Laker and a former Celtic would make a trade to the betterment of their former teams and to the detriment of their current teams. But if you listen to Bob Avakian’s talk on the NBA, you would come to another conclusion—he explains how rigging things, like building up the Lakers and the Celtics, is part of the NBA’s marketing strategy. What is interesting is that now the Boston Celtics is an all-African American team, but the marketing of this NBA Finals still harkens back to the Bird-Johnson rivalry.
And now Tim Donaghy’s new assertion that the league rigs games also corroborates what Avakian was saying two years ago about the NBA and its “fakeness element.” Basketball fans have been incensed about what Donaghy has alleged. In an article in the Los Angeles Times, Eric Bailey says, “Fans have smothered sports talk radio shows with an avalanche of angry phone calls. They’ve compared NBA officiating to the artifice of big-time wrestling.”
But Avakian’s talk takes this much further. He explains how this “fakeness element” goes hand-in-hand with racism. In the NBA talk he brings out how the racism was promoted by the NBA and the media by using Larry Bird against African-American players like Julius Erving (Dr. J.), who played for the Philadelphia 76ers, and Isiah Thomas, who played for the Detroit Pistons.
That Tim Donaghy’s allegations are being made in the midst of one of the most heavily watched NBA Finals between the Celtics and the Lakers makes Avakian’s talk on the NBA more relevant then ever and will give people a much better and a materialist understanding of why this stuff is going on in the NBA. I urge everyone to listen to this talk.
Note: the title of my letter comes from Bob Avakian’s talk on the NBA where he discusses a “phantom” foul call at the end of the game between the Dallas Mavericks and the Miami Heat in the 2006 NBA Finals that gave Dwayne Wade of the Heat free throws that won the game for the Heat. After the game, Dallas owner Mark Cuban ran out on to the court and was alleged to have said to David Stern, Commissioner of the NBA, “Bleep you and your bleeping league. Your bleeping league is bleeping rigged.” Avakian says he does not know if this was actually said or not, and Cuban denies saying it. However, Avakian goes on to say that the actual truth is that, “That bleeping league IS bleeping rigged.”
Revolution #133, June 22, 2008
Talk by Bob Avakian – available online
Whether or not you’re into basketball, the talk “The NBA: Marketing the Minstrel Show and Serving the Big Gangsters” will open your mind to some revealing truths—through humor, anecdotes, and science. This talk is one of the “7 Talks” by Bob Avakian, pathbreaking explorations in communist theory and its application to a broad range of questions. The “7 Talks” can be found online at bobavakian.net and revcom.us.
Avakian begins the talk with a discussion of minstrel shows in the history of America, in which performers—usually whites in blackface make-up, but sometimes Blacks with blackface—presented a buffoonish caricature of African Americans. Drawing from a book by author Mel Watkins (On the Real Side), Avakian notes how minstrelsy provided overtly racist whites as well as whites more broadly with the opportunity to be “entertained” by degrading depictions of Black people, in a way that was clearly non-threatening, and which allowed whites the “luxury of remaining aloof” while reinforcing their sense of superiority.
As Avakian gets into, these insights about minstrelsy are directly relevant to understanding the nature and role of the NBA and the ways in which it reflects, and in certain ways helps reinforce, white supremacy and overall oppressive relations in U.S. society. Avakian points to a major shift in marketing strategy by the NBA—a multi-billion dollar capitalist enterprise—in the early 1980s. Since that time, the main target “demographic”—in terms of who attends the game as well as who the TV ads are aimed at—has become overwhelmingly white, corporate, suburban, and well-off. But there is a stark contradiction here, given that the league is made up overwhelmingly of Black players.
The NBA’s “resolution” to this contradiction has been to make sure that the young Black men who play in the league are kept under control—so that they remain non-threatening to the main target audience of wealthier whites. This control is exercised through dress codes and other rules as well as a “devil’s bargain” where the players know, or are made to understand, that if they step out of line, no matter how “big” they are, they could quickly find themselves “back where they came from.” And an integral part of this setup is the whole element of “fakeness” and rigging, where the NBA makes sure that the outcome of important games, especially the playoffs, are NOT determined by what the players and coaches are capable of doing in actual competition with each other. Avakian brings out this reality through various lively examples.Download this talk by Bob Avakian from bobavakian.net or revcom.us
Revolution #133, June 22, 2008
Interview with Author Douglas A. Blackmon
A Note on the Interview
We are publishing this interview courtesy of “Beneath the Surface” radio show hosted by Michael Slate on KPFK, Los Angeles. The views expressed by the author in this interview are, of course, his own, and he is not responsible for the views expressed elsewhere in this newspaper.
Douglas A. Blackmon’s new book, Slavery by Another Name – The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II (Doubleday, 2008) has unearthed ugly chapters of U.S. history that have been buried for decades. In graphic and truthful detail, Blackmon’s powerful book reveals the widespread use of bonded labor after the Civil War—and how this amounted to a new form of slavery that incorporated many of the same inhuman conditions of brutal confinement like shackles, whippings, hog-tying. and water torture.
Douglas A. Blackmon, the Atlanta Bureau chief of the Wall Street Journal, has written about race and especially the interplay of wealth, corporate conduct, and segregation. In 2000, the National Association of Black Journalists recognized Blackmon’s stories revealing the secret role of J.P. Morgan & Co. during the 1960s in funneling funds between a wealthy northern white supremacist and segregationists fighting the Civil Rights Movement in the South.
On May 6, Michael Slate interviewed Blackmon on “Beneath the Surface,” KPFK radio in Los Angeles, 90.7 fm (streaming worldwide on kpfk.org every Tuesday from 5 to 6 pm Pacific time). The following is the transcript of that interview.
* * * * *
Michael Slate: At the end of your book you say you feel that that period of time between the betrayal of reconstruction, the destruction of reconstruction, and World War 2 and maybe even beyond World War 2 and into the 1950s, you talk about how that should not be called the Jim Crow era, but rather that it should be called “the age of neo-slavery.” Can you explain that?
Douglas Blackmon: Sure. There are two points that I'm really making there. One is in some respects the biggest demonstration that I hope the book makes. And that is that this period of time, beginning at the end of the 19th century and continuing up into World War 2, as a country we have shared in a national instinct to have a sort of collective amnesia, or at a minimum, a minimization of the reality of the things that really happened to African Americans all across the South in that period of time. And one aspect of that minimizing the offenses of this period, has been to call it the Jim Crow era. Now I don't think that's what people intended when it began to be known as that, but in hindsight, that's fairly clear to me. Jim Crow was a character that was played, in the beginning, by a particular actor who would perform in blackface and do comedy routines that were meant to denigrate Black Americans. Before the Civil War that became an incredibly popular form of entertainment.
After the Civil War, Jim Crow came to define the entertainment of that era, and the symbolism of Blacks in the South. I liken that to our calling the 1930s in Germany, if we named that period of time after the most popular anti-Semitic comedian of Germany at that time. I think we would all recognize that that was an offensive way to refer to that period in history. The reality, what Slavery by Another Name demonstrates, I think, is that in truth, since the beginning of the 20th century, a new form of forced labor involving hundreds of thousands of people, and terrorizing hundreds of thousands of other people, had emerged in the South, that amounted to what I call “neo-slavery,” and we should call it what it was, the age of neo-slavery.
Slate: I have studied that period to a certain degree and had some sense of what happened after the Civil War, after the Confederacy was defeated. You depict a sense of freedom when you speak about it in your book, but when you're talking about the age of neo-slavery, you're talking about a whole new stage of slavery that came after Reconstruction, right?
Blackmon: Yes. After the Civil War, African Americans in huge numbers, all across the South, experienced an authentic period of emancipation. Now, it was never as it really should have been. It was a tough time, and a world of poverty and deprivation of services, and great difficulty and great animosity between Blacks and whites at that time. So it wasn't a perfect time, but it was an era in which millions and millions, and there were four million Blacks, essentially, at the end of the Civil War in the South, and huge numbers of those people participated in free elections. They were accorded the full rights of being citizens as guaranteed by the Fifteenth Amendment. They had jobs; they had farms; they had employment of various kinds. Like I said, it was a difficult, poverty-stricken time, but there was true emancipation and true freedom.
But what began to happen in the South, particularly after federal troops were removed in 1877, and even more so after another 15 years when it became clear that there was no possibility that white northerners would ever send federal troops back to enforce civil rights, all across the South, the state legislatures of every state passed laws which began to effectively criminalize Black life and to create a situation in which African American men found it almost impossible not to be in violation of some misdemeanor statute at almost all times. And the most broadly applied of those was that it was against the law if you were unable to prove at any given moment that you were employed. So vagrancy statutes were used to arrest thousands of Black men, even though thousands of white men could have been arrested on the same charges but they hardly ever were. And then, once arrested, the judicial system had been re-tooled in such a way as to coerce huge numbers of men into commercial enterprises as forced workers through the judicial system. And then thousands of other people lived in fear of having that happen to them, and that was part of how they were intimidated into going along with other kinds of coercive labor, like sharecropping and farm tenancy and many other things.
Slate: Give people a sense of the scope of this, because in your book you concentrate a lot on Alabama. I really liked the device you used. I really thought that was very powerful, that woven through it is this one character that you're searching for—where was he from and what happened to him and what was his life before that, his ancestors and what's happened since—but you unfold something. It concentrates a lot on Alabama, but the scope of this was huge, both in terms of the numbers of people involved, as well as the spread across the South.
Blackmon: This was a phenomenon that by the beginning of the 20th century, in effect, as of 1901, every southern state had completely disenfranchised virtually all African Americans. There was no Black voting of any meaningful degree still occurring in the South after 1901. And every southern state had some version of this array of laws that could be used to arrest almost any Black man who did not live under the explicit control and protection of a white man. And every southern state in one manner or another had adopted the practice of, rather than imprisoning the people who were convicted of these flimsy or fictitious crimes, actually leasing them out to commercial enterprises for periods of one or two years or sometimes much longer periods of time as forced workers. And Alabama was the place where the system lasted the longest in its most explicit form, and was the most evolved in terms of how every county government [was involved] and the enormity of the numbers of African American men who were leased by the state. And in the case of Alabama, there were at least 100,000 African American men between the 1890s and the 1930s, or about 1930, at least 100,000 African American men were leased or sold by the state of Alabama to coal mines, iron ore mines, sawmills, timber harvesting camps, cotton plantations, turpentine stills, all across the state.
There were at least another 100,000, and I suspect many more—the records are incomplete—but at least another 100,000, just in Alabama, who were similarly leased out of the local courts, just where a county judge, in cooperation with a local sheriff, would parcel out all of the prisoners that were rounded up and brought to the county jail. And so at least 200,000, it's probably more like 250,000 to 300,000 African Americans, just in Alabama, were forced into the system, just in the most informal ways. And there are very well documented records of thousands of Black men who died under these circumstances during that period of time. And I document in the book the stories of men like Jonathan Davis, who in the fall of 1901, left his cotton field to try to reach the home of his wife's parents, where she was being cared for and would soon die of an illness. He was trying to reach her before she died. And on his way to the town 15 or 20 miles away where she was being taken care of, he was accosted on the road by a constable, and essentially is kidnapped from the roadway and sold to a white farmer a few days later for $45. And that is something which happened, in the book I name dozens of people that happened to. It's clear some version of that sort of kidnapping happened to hundreds and hundreds of other African Americans. And again, all of that is just in Alabama, and there were versions of this going on in all of the southern states. So in reality, there's no doubt in my mind that hundreds of thousands of African Americans had these events occur to them, and millions of African Americans lived in a form of terror of this happening either to them or to their family members.
Slate: When you talk about re-enslavement, people might have the reaction, “Wait a minute, re-enslavement, was it really as bad as slavery?” Can you give people a sense of the conditions that you've actually documented? Because they were horrifying.
Blackmon: Well, Green Cottenham, the character you referred to a moment ago, who much of the book is woven around; the wife of Green Cottenham; the family of slaves and former slaves that he descended from. And what happened in the course of slavery's resurrection and how it began to intrude upon the lives of those former slaves and their descendants. And finally Green Cottenham, as he rises into the delta in the beginning of the 20th century, is arrested in Columbiana, Alabama, outside the train depot in a completely spurious situation where initially it's claimed that he broke one minor law, and then later it's claimed that he broke a different minor law, and so finally he was brought before the county judge three days later. The judge, to settle the confusion, simply declares him guilty of yet another offense, of vagrancy. On the basis of that, he's fined, $10 I think was the actual fine, and then on top of that he's charged a whole series of fees associated with his arrest: a fee to the sheriff, a fee to the deputy who actually arrested him, some of the costs of his being jailed for three days, fees for the witnesses who testified against him, even though as far as I could tell there were no witnesses. All of these things added up to effectively about a year's wages for an African American farm laborer at the time, and an amount that obviously somebody like Green Cottenham, an impoverished, largely illiterate African American man in 1908, could not have paid.
So in order to pay those fines off as part of the system, he is leased to U.S. Steel Corporation, a company that still exists today, and forced to go to work in a coal mine on the outskirts of Alabama, with about a thousand other Black forced laborers. And those men lived under almost unspeakable conditions. They worked much of the time deep in the mines in standing water, which was the seepage, which would come out from under the earth. They were forced to stay in that water and consume that water for lack of any other fresh water, even though it was putrid and polluted by their own waste. They had to operate in these unbelievably cramped circumstances. Any man who failed to extract at least eight tons of coal from the mine every day would be whipped at the end of the day, and if he repeatedly failed to get his quota of coal out, he would be whipped at the beginning of the day as well.
The men entered the mine before daylight. They exited the mine after sunset. They lived in an endless period of darkness under these horrifying circumstances. They had little medical care. They were subject to waves of dysentery and tuberculosis and other illnesses, and it was ultimately one of those epidemics of disease, which caused Green Cottenham to die five months after he arrived at the jail, in August of 1908.
And those conditions, and far worse ones even, were incredibly common in the forced labor camps that by then had emerged all across the Deep South.
Slate: One of the terrible ironies you bring up in your book is that in the previous form of slavery, a slave owner was a little more hesitant to actually outright kill a slave because there was a lot more invested in the slave. But in this neo-slavery, that was one of the ways they exercised their terroristic dominance over the mass of forced laborers. A slave's life was inconsequential.
Blackmon: That's right. Before the Civil War, in the antebellum slavery that we all know more about, or at least think we know more about, under that system, as terrible as it was, and nothing that I say is to minimize how terrible antebellum slavery was. But the economic incentives of that system explicitly encouraged the preservation of slaves, because a slave owner had invested large sums of money in the acquisition of a slave. And then they wanted the slave to live as long as possible both so they would have the productivity of them as a worker, but also so that they would procreate, and there would be more slaves, which would add to the value of the assets of the farm. This was the fundamental economic formula of antebellum slavery. There was also a sense in the religious beliefs that were prevalent at the time that god had ordained slavery, but that white men had some obligation nonetheless to care for this lower species, and this is something that whites were routinely taught every Sunday morning.
Well, in the new slavery that emerged after the Civil War—it actually had its beginnings in an experiment with industrial slavery that had begun in the Deep South just before the Civil War, when a handful of industrialists had begun to experiment with using Black slaves in settings like iron foundries and sawmills and coal mines and other of these coarse industrial activities. That was extremely profitable for those slave owners before the Civil War. And they began to realize one of the reasons it was so profitable was that when you removed Black men from family settings and took the view that as long as the enterprise has received a return on its investment within four or five years by working these men at a pace far beyond what any human being could be expected to survive, then you could begin to make a profit off of these men in a relatively short period of time. And if they then died, or were worked to death, that that was a reasonable bargain in the economic equation of industrial slavery.
Well that process was stopped by the Civil War. But after the war, some of the very same men were the leaders of the effort to begin re-engineering this new kind of neo-slavery after the Civil War. And as it metastasized across the South at the end of the 19th century and into the 20th century, this much more brutal, more harsh form of slavery was endemic. There were few women in the picture. It was overwhelmingly focused on young Black men. And they were routinely worked to death or put into positions where their death was likely or probable, and because it cost so little to acquire them through the judicial system, through the fake judicial systems that emerged to feed this traffic in humans, there was little incentive to protect these workers in any way, and they rarely were protected.
Slate: When you're talking about the Civil War, you mention something that it's really important for people to keep in mind, that the Civil War actually was a war between the slave system and capitalism. And there was actually a moral component of it in that people actually were taking a stand that slavery was wrong and shouldn't exist, but then, along with a lot of other things in the superstructure, there was a reassessment of the Civil War that actually went along with the birth and implementation of this neo-slavery. When slavery was defeated as the dominant economic system in the South, there was this need to industrialize the South, to fully bring capitalism into the South. Also you had the growth of the need to expand of capitalism generally in the country, and a lot of this tied into—when you mentioned U.S. Steel it made me think of this—the existence of this neo-slavery in the South.
Blackmon: That's right on several fronts there. One of the interesting things to me as I tried to plumb these phenomena in the course of the seven years of research that I did on this while doing a few other things too, but I spent a lot of time trying to understand why it was that in the aftermath of slavery, of the Civil War, and especially after a period of time in which there actually had been a fair amount of successful Black and white interactions politically in the South, as in fact there was in many places for a period of time after the Civil War, but why was it that, in spite of all of that, and in spite of the fairly obvious moral rectitude of having ended slavery once it had finally come about, why was it that there was so much venom and animosity among white southerners and such an insistence to begin returning to some kind of forced slavery?
One of the things that became clear to me as I studied what was happening on cotton farms and in other settings across the South, was that number one, the southern economy and in some respects the national economy, were addicted to forced slavery. White southerners really had no idea how to grow cotton without the availability of armies of forced Black workers to do that work, both in terms of the need for manual laborers and the intellectual knowledge that was necessary to deploy those laborers in the setting of cotton farms and even in industrial settings. This addiction to forced labor was so great that there was this enormous compulsion to return to it.
But in the end it's perhaps not all that surprising that white southerners conducted themselves in the way that they did in terms of their ability to mete out such violence and depravity, really, against African Americans—maybe that's not such a surprise. But what was shocking to me as I began to understand it better, was the degree to which whites outside the South, whites all over the country, began to reassess the Civil War, began to reassess the mythology of the Civil War that had viewed it as a war of liberation and emancipation, and began to instead be driven by a sense that the integration of slaves and their children and grandchildren into mainstream American society was simply too hard and was not worth the effort. Even Ulysses Grant, the great Union general, during his presidency in the 1880s, confided to a member of his cabinet that he had come to realize that the Fifteenth Amendment, which gave full citizenship to freed slaves, had been a mistake. And by the end of the 19th century, when President McKinley was assassinated in 1901, and McKinley was the last Union officer to hold the presidency, and the generation that had made up the Union army and that army of liberation had become a geriatric generation who were passing from the national stage. When Teddy Roosevelt becomes president as a result of that assassination in 1901, he enters the White House as an idealist very committed to rights for Blacks, but by the end of his presidency, he, along with the vast majority of white Americans in every region of the country, has turned completely against the idea that Blacks should be guaranteed a full place at the table of American life and American citizenship.
For me that was one of the most remarkable aspects of coming to understand the sequence of events. There was this great betrayal of southern Blacks by their former allies outside of the South.
Slate: The other part of that question was about the expansion, the accumulation of capital and the profitability of this neo-slavery for the growth of this system.
Blackmon: Particularly at the end of the 19th century when you had this explosion in parts of the South, like Alabama, northern Georgia, and the coastal areas of the South where there were these huge forests of pine trees, mostly virgin timber, millions of acres of virgin pine forests where there was an enormous industry of harvesting pine rosin from the trees that was then distilled into turpentine. In some respects that was as important a commodity to the U.S. economy in the 1900s as gasoline is today. That's a slight exaggeration, but not much of one. It was an incredibly lucrative business that involved thousands and thousands and thousands of people and millions of dollars. And all of those enterprises, particularly in the South, were incredibly reliant, as was railroad building, another one of the main ones, all of those enterprises and industries were overwhelmingly dependent on the use of forced labor, and also the existence of a forced labor system to depress the wages of free laborers. Those were incredibly important phenomena of the economic revitalization and industrialization of the South. Many of the fortunes that were accumulated at that point in time, particularly in cities like Atlanta, where I live, some of the most prominent families and most prominent publicly traded corporations that exist today, their roots are either explicitly connected to this kind of forced labor, or the wealth that was used to build those companies such as Coca-Cola company and many others, the wealth that flowed to create those corporations stemmed originally from these forced labor practices.
Slate: You talked about the use of the courts in enslaving people. But you had the 13th, 14th, 15th amendments. You had what people would assume would be various federal legal remedies to this. What was actually the story in terms of being able to go to the courts to stop this kind of stuff?
Blackmon: The real story was that while slavery was unconstitutional on the basis of the Thirteenth Amendment, and clearly it was explicitly the case that no state could pass laws to recreate a formal system of slavery, no person could hold a deed showing that they owned a person as a slave and file that deed at the courthouse. That clearly could not happen. That was unconstitutional. But the Congress had never taken the next step, the next logical step, of passing a criminal statute which made it explicitly a crime to enslave another person. There were laws on the books that could have been used to prosecute someone for holding a slave, such as kidnapping and similar laws, but at that time, those were all state offenses and could only have been prosecuted by state officials like a county sheriff or the attorney general of a southern state.
But the reality was, no southern state would ever bring a case or such charges against a white man in the South. And no white jury in the South under almost any circumstances, would convict a white man for that. And so it created this kind of legal limbo in which slavery was unconstitutional, but there was no federal statute which actually made it a crime to hold slaves. So as the years went by, and thousands and thousands of complaints poured into the White House, and into the Department of Justice in Washington describing instances all over the South—there are 30,000 pages of material related to these complaints in the National Archives today—and as these thousands and thousands of complaints poured in as the years went by, the policy of the federal government was that there wasn't a statute on which a U.S. attorney could bring a case against a person for holding slaves, except in very narrow circumstances. So the policy of the federal government was that it would not involve itself in investigations or prosecutions of individuals who were still holding slaves in the South.
That was the policy of the federal government all the way until December 11, 1941.
Slate: Let's end with that, because it is stunning, the bald-faced cynicism that finally brought an end to this semi-officially-sanctioned slavery.
Blackmon: It is cynical. What finally brought things to an end was that on December 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. As the next President Roosevelt is engaging the government to mobilize for a massive war, he gathers his cabinet and asks them all to give a report on the critical issues that face the war mobilization effort. And one topic that comes up is propaganda, and what are the propaganda vulnerabilities of the United States? Someone in the room, there is no record of who, says that the United States is going to have trouble over its treatment of African Americans in the South, and that the Japanese would argue in their propaganda, which was the case eventually, that America was not the country fighting for freedom, and that the proof of that was in its treatment of Blacks in the South. So Roosevelt immediately orders that an anti-lynching law be drafted and introduced in the Congress. It was still many years before such a law actually passed the Congress.
But subsequent to this meeting, the attorney general at this time, Francis Biddle, went back to his own office, asked the same questions of his immediate deputies, and one of his deputies says, yes, lynching is a big issue, but it's also a problem, you're going to find it hard to believe this Mr. Attorney General, but there are places in the South where slaves are still being held, and it has been the policy of our department not to prosecute cases against those people. The attorney general is shocked initially, but then asks for a memo on how to prosecute such cases under laws which did exist. Four days later, on December 11, he distributes a memo to all U.S. attorneys essentially saying that this has come to his attention and instructing them that from that day forward they should prosecute cases and giving them a sort of cheat sheet on how to attempt to do that. And in 1942, just a few months later, a family near Corpus Christi, Texas, a man and his adult daughter, are arrested and charged under the new policy of prosecuting these cases, and they're tried later in 1942, and convicted. In 1943, they're sentenced to prison for having held a man named Alfred Irving as a slave for more than five years. I mark that as the technical end of the age of neo-slavery.
Revolution #133, June 22, 2008
Beginning at 5:01 pm on June 16, same sex couples will have the right to marry in California. A large number of weddings of same sex couples are expected in the days and weeks following. For centuries, gay and lesbian relationships have been driven underground by a vicious stigma—by the threat of cruel rejection, jail, and violence. Now, gay and lesbian couples will have the basic right—at least in California—to pledge their love in public and have the formal legal and economic status that comes with official marriage, including right of inheritance, right to adopt, right to visit in hospital and prison, tax breaks, the right to rent and own homes without discrimination, and access to employer health benefits.
California becomes, after Massachusetts, the second state in the U.S. to allow gay people to marry. Unlike Massachusetts, California allows out of state couples to marry, so the weddings performed in California will have a greater impact nationally. New York Governor David Paterson has said that New York will respect same-sex marriages performed in California and other states.
The weddings follow a May 15 decision by the California State Supreme Court, which ruled that laws that have excluded gay and lesbian couples from the right to marry were unconstitutional. In the opinion, Supreme Court Justice Ronald George wrote, “An individual’s sexual orientation—like a person’s race or gender—does not constitute a legitimate basis upon which to deny or withhold legal rights.”
While the court’s decision—and the weddings it will allow—will be joyously celebrated throughout the state, groups opposing gay marriage have been mobilizing to whip up hate and prejudice against gays and lesbians and to turn things back. The clerks of both Merced and Kern Counties said that they will no longer officiate at any weddings, although couples (both same-sex and different sex) will still be allowed to file for marriage licenses. This is reminiscent of the decisions by racist city officials during the civil rights movement who shut down public facilities rather than see them integrated.
And Christian fascist religious forces collected more than 750,000 signatures for an initiative, to appear as a constitutional amendment on California’s November ballot, which will write into the state constitution that marriage can only be between a man and a woman. These forces have announced that they were going to spend tens of millions of dollars and bring in reactionary anti-gay forces from around the country in an attempt to pass this bigoted initiative.
In recent years, the forces opposing gay marriage have pushed out their hateful agenda nationally. They have tried to pass an amendment to the U.S. Constitution banning gay marriage. Twenty-seven states currently have constitutional amendments banning gay marriage. Forty-one states have passed laws that say that marriage can only be between a man and a woman. Supreme Courts in New York, Maryland, and New Jersey have ruled that in their states there is no constitutional right to marriage equality. And let’s not forget that in most parts of this country, including in California, a same-sex couple walking down the street hand-in-hand risks a beating, if not their lives.
At a time when the U.S. ruling class faces the need to rally people to their global crusade for empire, social and economic pressures are tearing and, in certain ways, undermining parts of the social fabric that holds together their exploitative system. In response to such a situation, Christian fascists and other reactionary forces, including at the highest levels of the ruling class, want to impose a Biblical-literalist “glue.” Their calls to “protect” traditional marriage are part of this and mean the strengthening of the oppressive patriarchal (man-dominated) family.
The battle over gay marriage is part of a larger battle over the whole direction of U.S. society. And right now there is a lot at stake in the fight to beat back and defeat the reactionary attacks on the right to gay marriage in California.
Stay tuned for coverage of this ongoing battle and of June 16, the first day of legal gay marriages in California.
Revolution #133, June 22, 2008
Hook Up With the Revolution:
June 17, Tuesday, 7 pm
First Night Opening Celebration & Fundraiser. Performances, food, toasts—with special guests: UNIVERSES (theater ensemble who created “SLANGUAGE” for New York Theater Workshop), Marc Levin (director of the film “SLAM”), Professor John (Tito) Gerassi (Queens College), performer Geeta Citygirl, musicians Mike Wimberly + Laurence Goldman (acoustic bass, djembe, vocals).
June 18, Wednesday, 7 pm
Carl Dix from the Revolutionary Communist Party on “From Lynching Tree to 50 Shots—Enough! Resistance and Revolution”
June 19, Thursday, 7 pm
Julie Salamon, author of HOSPITAL: Man, Woman, Birth, Death, Infinity, Plus Red Tape, Bad Behavior, Money, God and Diversity on Steroids. Julie Salamon writes for the New York Times and other publications. HOSPITAL chronicles life at Maimonides, a Brooklyn hospital where over 67 languages are spoken.
June 23, Monday, 7 pm
A special performance by David Shapiro of THE FEVER, a play by Wallace Shawn. When David Shapiro introduced the play to Chicago in 1995, Wallace Shawn said, “I wish I could have done it this way, but I didn’t know how.” The performance will be a benefit for the new Revolution Books. Tickets are limited. $25.
June 25, Wednesday, 7 pm
Susan Jacoby, author of The Age of American Unreason. “With mordant wit, Susan Jacoby surveys an anti-rationalist landscape [where] reading [is] on the decline and scientific and historical illiteracy on the rise...” Jacoby also wrote Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism.
June 27, Friday, 7 pm
Larry Everest & Gareth Porter speaking on the threat of U.S. Invasion of Iran. Larry Everest is the author of Oil, Power, and Empire: Iraq and the U.S. Global Agenda and a writer for Revolution newspaper. Gareth Porter is the author of Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam and writes frequently on Huffington Post and other websites.
July 2, Wednesday, 7 pm
Jeremy Scahill, author of New York Times bestseller Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army. Jeremy Scahill can be heard on Pacifica‘s Democracy Now (99.5FM) and Real Time with Bill Maher (HBO).
Every Wednesday, 7 pm
“Re-envisioning Revolution and Communism: WHAT IS BOB AVAKIAN’S NEW SYNTHESIS?”
June 19, Thursday, 7 pm
Special performance by David Shapiro of THE FEVER, a play by Wallace Shawn. When actor David Shapiro introduced the play to Chicago in 1995, Wallace Shawn said, “I wish I could have done it this way, but I didn’t know how.” Donation $10, space is limited, reservations recommended.
312 West 8th Street 213-488-1303
June 21, Saturday, 3 pm
Seminar series on Away With All Gods! Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World by Bob Avakian—focus on Part 2: Religious Fundamentalism, Imperialism and the War on Terror—Why is Religious Fundamentalism Growing in the World Today?
June 22, Sunday, 3 pm
Special discussion and work meeting to prepare for the American Library Association (ALA) Annual Convention in Anaheim, taking place on June 28-30. The ALA is a major national event, where 13,000 librarians from around the country convene to network, discuss important issues of our times, and purchase books. Join Libros to table at the conference and feature the new title by Bob Avakian, Away With All Gods! We aim to create a “buzz” that will reverberate nationally.
July 19, Saturday, 2 pm
Libros Revolución Presents: “Religion, Atheism and Black People”—a talk and discussion with Clyde Young, of the Revolutionary Communist Party featuring Bob Avakian’s new book, Away With All Gods!
2425 Channing Way near Telegraph Ave
June 10, Tuesday, 7 pm
Discussion of “Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity” by Bob Avakian—Heightened Parasitism and the “Two Outmodeds.”
June 24, Tuesday, 7 pm (See separate ad)
EMERGENCY FORUM: The Danger of a U.S. Attack on Iran is Real and Growing—We Must Act Now!
Sponsored by Revolution Books & World Can’t Wait; Co-sponsored by BFUU—Social Justice Committee
The Danger of a U.S. Attack on Iran is Real and Growing—
We Must Act Now!
June 24, Tuesday, 7 pm, Berkeley
at Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists Hall, 1606 Bonita Avenue (at Cedar Street)
Larry Everest is a correspondent for Revolution newspaper and author of Oil, Power & Empire: Iraq and the U.S. Global Agenda. He has covered the Middle East for 30 years, reporting from Iran, Iraq, Palestine, and India. His nine-part series, “The U.S. & Iran: A History of Domination, Intrigue and Intervention,” is available at www.revcom.us/iran-history.
Gareth Porter is the author of Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam and an independent investigative journalist and historian. He has written extensively for Inter Press Service, The American Prospect, The Nation and salon.com on Bush administration deceptions and threats against Iran.(other sponsors, speakers TBA)
$5-10 donation, no one turned away for lack of funds.
For info call 510-848-1196.
2626 South King Street
June 19, Thursday, 7 pm
Reading of A Doctor in Galilee: The Life and Struggle of a Palestinian in Israel by Hatim Kanaaneh, author.
Secular Sunday, June 22, 3 pm
The first in a series of five discussions of the book Away With All Gods! Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World by Bob Avakian.
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” by Bob Avakian. We will focus on Part 2: Everything We’re Doing Is About Revolution. June 18 discussion will focus on “Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution.”
June 22, Sunday, 4 pm
First of 5 focused discussions on the new book: Away With All Gods! Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World by Bob Avakian. The first session will focus on Part One of the book. Questions to consider might include: Why this title?; Why the focus on the actual content of what is in the Bible?; Response to the section “Seeing Jesus in a True Light”; Why the insistent linking of the New and Old Testaments?; How do you perceive the relation between religion and the dominant social relations?
1833 Nagle Place
June 21, Saturday, 7 pm
Discussion of “Obama’s Speech on Israel: Auditioning for Commander-in-Chief”
(between Cass &2nd, south of Forest)
Tuesday, June 24, 6:30 pm
Discussion of Away With All Gods! Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World by Bob Avakian. Part Four: God Does Not Exist—We Need Liberation Without Gods. At Taqueria Arandas, 1807 Livernois Avenue (at Vernor), Detroit.
Tuesday, July 8, 6:30 pm
Discussion on “Re-envisioning Revolution and Communism: WHAT IS BOB AVAKIAN’S NEW SYNTHESIS?” Part I: “Humanity Needs Revolution and Communism.”
1158 Mass Ave, 2nd Floor, Cambridge
4 Corners Market of the Earth
1087 Euclid Avenue in Little 5 Points
404-577-4656 & 770-861-3339
Open Wednesdays & Fridays 4 pm - 7 pm,
Saturdays 2 pm - 7 pm
Revolution #133, June 22, 2008
Revolution Newspaper's Expansion and $500,000 Fund Drive
At a moment when much of humanity finds itself in a living hell, when the horror of the U.S. occupation of Iraq threatens to escalate into a war against Iran, and when the future of the planet itself is threatened, Revolution newspaper must be out there much more boldly and much more broadly—exposing what is going on, revealing why, and pointing to a revolutionary solution in the interests of the vast majority of humanity.
from “Truth…in Preparation for Revolution!” (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