voice of the revolutionary communist party,usa
Please note: this page is intended for quick printing of the entire issue. Some of the links may not work when clicked, and some images may be missing. Please go to the article's permalink if you require working links and images.
Revolution #138, August 3, 2008
On July 19, William Burns, a top State Department official, attended a negotiating session between the European Union and the Islamic Republic of Iran over Iran’s nuclear program. This was the first time in some 30 years that a high U.S. official officially met with Iranian representatives. The same week there were also reports that the U.S. may open a consular office in Tehran.
Previously, the Bush administration refused to meet with Iran until it halted its uranium enrichment program (it hasn’t). The involvement of the U.S. in these negotiations fueled media speculation that the meeting reflected a more fundamental shift in Bush strategy toward Iran—away from “regime change” and possible war. Some concluded that more pragmatic “realists” in the Bush administration are increasingly taking charge from neocons like Vice President Dick Cheney who have reportedly been pressing for war. The implication was that war is less likely, perhaps totally “off the table,” and that the U.S. would now be pursuing a better, less imperialistic policy.
Not so fast.
This isn’t the framework for understanding the complex twists and turns now unfolding.
There’s nothing good or positive about U.S. moves on the diplomatic front. They’re imperialist efforts to pressure Iran to cave into great power demands and to build support for further sanctions should Iran refuse.
They’re also hypocritical and completely in service of U.S. imperialist domination—not a nuclear free world. The U.S., Israel and other powers claim that Iran’s enrichment program is a cover for getting nuclear weapons, but they’ve produced no serious proof that this is so, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has consistently reported that it has found no conclusive evidence that Iran has had a nuclear weapons program or that it has diverted uranium to weapons production—even as it refuses to close the book on Iran’s nuclear program by demanding that Iran further explain various claims and purported “evidence” supplied by the U.S. and European imperialists, who overall set the IAEA agenda (Iran has the right to enrich uranium under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and says its program is for power generation only).
The U.S. maintains by far the world’s largest and most advanced arsenal of nuclear death and destruction, and in the Middle East, only the U.S.’s key ally—Israel—has 150 or so nuclear weapons. The U.S. is seeking to maintain this U.S.-Israeli nuclear monopoly in the region and military freedom of action, and they fear that even the possibility Iran could develop nuclear weapons could undercut U.S. regional hegemony and provide openings for rivals.
Negotiations can also be critical in preparing for war by creating the illusion that the U.S. has “gone the last mile” for peace, while also attempting to impose U.S. terms on other powers. Barack Obama spelled this out during his trip last week to Israel. According to Haaretz (July 25), “Obama reportedly told Israeli Prime Minister Olmert that he is interested in meeting the Iranians in order to issue clear ultimatums.” Obama is quoted as saying, “If after that, they still show no willingness to change their nuclear policy, then any action against them would be legitimate.” Obama’s words were barely different than those used by Bush’s Secretary of State Condolleeza Rice—showing that negotiations are one tool in a thoroughly reactionary arsenal and that they can go hand-in-hand with war. Speaking in Europe, Obama warned Iran to accept the U.S.-European offer, and not to “wait for the next president.”
The U.S. is pushing for more sanctions on Iran, which reportedly include “targeting everything from gasoline imports to the insurance sector,” and “could include measures to impede Iran’s shipping operations in the Persian Gulf and its banking activities in Asia and the Middle East.” (Wall Street Journal, July 21)
Resolution 362, now before the U.S. House of Representatives, “demands” that the U.S. impose a halt on all Iranian imports of refined petroleum products and impose “stringent inspection requirements on all persons, vehicles, ships, planes, trains, and cargo entering or departing Iran.” This is a call for a naval blockade that would be tantamount to a declaration of war against Iran.
Rice spelled out the Bush regime’s logic in entering into negotiations, telling the Israeli press we’re “exposing Iran’s weak spots,” and “we are in the strongest possible position to demonstrate that if Iran doesn’t act, then it’s time to get back to that track [of more punitive sanctions].”
Iran is a Third World or oppressed country whose development has been skewed and twisted by imperialism. The U.S. economy is nearly 50 times larger than Iran’s, and it spends nearly 100 times more on its military every year than Iran does. Iran’s people earn, on average, one-fourth as much as people in the U.S. Iran is dependent on imports for many of its basic needs, including 40 percent of its gasoline because it doesn’t have the refining capacity that the imperialist countries do. Any blockade would have severe repercussions on the lives of the Iranian people.
So what’s good or just about the U.S. taking advantage of this legacy of imperialist dominance to once again impose its interests on Iran and the region? We’ve seen that movie for over 60 years, and it’s nothing but a horror show.
And, the drums of war are still beating. Benny Morris’ blood-curdling oped (see box) was one indication of that. If Iran’s initial rejection of the U.S.-European demand that it halt its enrichment program holds, such calls could intensify. (The U.S. and its allies gave Iran a two-week deadline to respond.)
The Russian press reports that both the U.S. and Iran will be conducting large military exercises in the near future. On July 13, the Times of London reported that Bush had given the Israelis an “amber light” for an attack on Iran. One official explained, “Amber means get on with your preparations, stand by for immediate attack and tell us when you’re ready.”
As top Israeli officials were threatening war, both British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French Premier Nicholas Sarkozy traveled to Israel to declare their support for the Zionist state and to condemn Iran (even while calling for diplomacy). Brown’s was the first ever address by a British premier to the Israeli parliament.
Israel’s Institute of Strategic Studies concludes that official statements “indicate that a conviction is crystallizing in Israel that an attack on Iran is inevitable, the only dispute being about the timing—whether to wait until Iran crosses some red line, or to hurry and attack while President Bush is still in office.”
All these new developments have to be understood in light of the many complex developments unfolding today in the Middle East, the world, and the U.S. itself—including changes in the regional and global political and economic terrain. What is going on includes political, economic, and military maneuvering and signaling by the U.S. and Israel; by rival powers; and by Iran’s rulers pursuing their own reactionary interests. And current developments reflect debates within the U.S. ruling class itself. As the Wall Street Journal (July 21) put it, “The talks are part of a complex diplomatic game being played out in the region, the outcome of which is impossible to predict.”
Everything the U.S. rulers are doing are about preserving their control of the Middle East, which has been a pillar of their global superpower status for over six decades and is more pivotal today than ever, including in contending with rival powers who rely on Mideast oil. All the main “players” charged with running the empire—and both Presidential candidates—are coming from this perspective, whatever their particular tactical or even strategic differences. They all agree that Iran is biggest threat to U.S. unchallenged hegemony in the Middle East, and one of its biggest challenges globally.
Iran is seen as a threat, but not because it has nuclear weapons, is bent on Israel’s destruction, is directly attacking U.S. soldiers in Iraq, or is even unwilling to deal with the U.S. In 2003 it offered to come to terms with the U.S. on all these issues—an offer the U.S. refused to even discuss.
It’s seen as a threat because it’s a theocratic state which champions Islamic fundamentalism, and as such, plays a certain “wild card” role, and poses a challenge, to the U.S. agenda in the region of imposing regimes that are more directly controlled by the U.S. And this is happening in a world where the U.S. is increasingly contending with other powers—a situation that Iran’s rulers perceive as an opening to seek maneuvering room to advance their own interests. Iran sits on the world’s second largest reserves of natural gas and third largest oil reserves at a time of growing competition for energy resources. It’s located at the crossroads of two key energy routes—the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea—and two key regions—Central Asia and the Middle East. And in the aftermath of the U.S.’s 2003 invasion of Iraq, Iran has been gaining strength—economically, politically across the region, including in Gaza, Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan, and by making connections with other powers globally.
So all this is a problem for the U.S. imperialists—not because they’re trying to liberate the Iranian people—but because they’re seeking to deepen their control by defeating Islamic fundamentalism, strengthening their control of this strategic region vis-à-vis rivals, and transforming the whole region politically, economically and militarily.
This is why the U.S. has been engaging in an intensifying, full-court press against Iran—on the diplomatic, economic, political and military fronts and why overall there’s been an escalating trajectory toward confrontation and possible war with Iran—including in the wake of the U.S.’s May 2006 agreement to negotiate with Iran if the Iranians suspended enrichment, a development that was also hailed as a step away from war at the time. Instead, since then, U.S. hostility toward and focus on Iran has increased—as has the danger of war.
So there is nothing just about any U.S. attempts to bully, weaken, or attack Iran. All are in service of maintaining imperialism’s ability to exploit and control this region of hundreds of millions of people. And Iran’s reactionary Islamic theocrats are no answer for the people either. A different—revolutionary, liberatory, communist—way is called for. We have an enormous responsibility to help bring that alternative forward while joining with many others to resist any and all U.S., European or Israeli aggression against Iran, whatever form it comes in.
Revolution #138, August 3, 2008
Op-Ed in New York Times
Under the headline: “Using Bombs to Stave Off War,” the New York Times ran an opinion piece on July 18 by Benny Morris, an influential Israeli author and professor. Morris predicted, “Israel will almost surely attack Iran’s nuclear sites in the next four to seven months.” And, he argues that they should.
The fact that the editors of the Times didn’t blink at the “war is peace” logic of the headline illustrates how embedded the assumption is in ruling class thought that anything Israel does to forces that are impediments to the interests of U.S. empire in the Middle East is good. And anything that forces who are impediments to the interests of U.S. empire do, is against “peace.”
The Morris op-ed piece argues that leaders not only in Washington, but “even Tehran should hope that the attack will be successful,” even though, according to him, “this would mean thousands of Iranian casualties and international humiliation[!]” And why should Iran’s leaders hope for such an attack, with thousands of causalities? Because, Morris writes, articulating the gangster logic of the U.S. and its regional enforcer, “The alternative is letting Tehran have its bomb. In either case, a Middle Eastern nuclear holocaust would be in the cards.”
Unasked question: Who decided that Israel has the right to launch a preemptive strike (supposedly outlawed by the Geneva Convention) on any country it sees fit? Put the shoe on the other foot—what if an Iranian professor wrote an article saying Iran was going to launch a preemptive strike on Israel, with a title like this piece (“Using Bombs to Stave Off War”)? One cannot imagine such an article being printed, and if it was, one can hardly imagine the outraged outcry. But a preemptive attack on Iran by Israel is fine because… Israel is working for “the good guys,” the interests of U.S. empire in the region.
And who decided that Israel—a country that has bombed, threatened, and invaded its neighbors repeatedly (most recently invading Lebanon in 2006) has the sole right to do all that, and to hold the rest of the region hostage to its arsenal of 150 or so nuclear weapons?
But Morris’ argument goes even beyond arguing for and justifying a conventional Israeli air strike on Iran. He ends his piece by justifying an all-out Israeli nuclear attack on Iran, saying that if Iran responded to a conventional Israeli air strike by—among other things—prodding “Hezbollah and Hamas, to unleash their own armories against Israel,” then Israel would have the option of using such “Iranian counterstrikes as an excuse to escalate and use the only means available that will actually destroy the Iranian nuclear project: Israel’s own nuclear arsenal.”
This is the logic being imposed on the people of the world through threat of nuclear war: Israel has a right to do anything, to anyone that threatens its monopoly of nuclear terror in the region, up to, and including, using its nuclear arsenal against Iran.
And where does Barack Obama stand in all this? In a major speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Obama declared that, “I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” and departed from the official text to repeat the word “everything” three times—essentially underlining that a nuclear attack on Iran is not “off the table.”
Revolution #138, August 3, 2008
Call from World Can’t Wait
Be there to make your sentiments loud and visible:
If you think no government should be allowed to do what the Bush regime has done the past 7 years, come to Denver and join others building a movement to that end.
If you are sickened by your government waging an endless, illegitimate, immoral war and occupation in Iraq, with ominous and immediate threats on Iran, and you demand U.S. aggression in the Middle East stop now, come to Denver and say it loudly!
If you are outraged that the war crime of torture is being committed by your government in your name with the Democratic leadership’s involvement, come to Denver to say “We Won’t Live in a Torture State!”
If you don’t buy the justification of your government spying on private calls and mail, no matter which party makes it, come to Denver to repudiate the new FISA law.
If you’re tired of politics as usual selling “change” while Obama refines the Bush program from “faith-based” initiatives to 80,000 troops “stabilizing” Iraq, and refuse to settle for less and less, come to Denver make a moral and political declaration.
If you know that only you—not your government—can bring this whole fascist direction to a halt, join with all of us in Denver to fight for a different future.
World Can’t Wait, other organizations, and thousands of Denver activists will march against the war & torture, attacks on immigrants & women’s rights; gather in parks with permits, drop banners, and meet the world press with the our demand to bring the Bush program to a halt, no matter who is president!
Sign up at 866-973-4463 or at worldcantwait.org
Revolution #138, August 3, 2008
16 July 2008
In six weeks, the Democrats meet in Denver.
As recent news makes clear, an attack on Iran could happen before the election, driving the Bush Agenda into the next administration, whoever the president is.
Who will stop an attack on Iran?
Not the Democrats who secretly authorized military operations George Bush already has underway inside Iran. Not the Democratic leaders—including Senator Obama—who insist, again and again, that “all options” remain on the table for military action against Iran, including the use of nuclear weapons!
Not the Democrats who, in their majority, including Obama, not only sanctioned retroactive immunity for the large telecom companies who went along with Bush and spied on people, but have given them prospective immunity in expanded government spying.
This war now belongs to the Democrats no less than the Republicans. If it is left to McCain and Obama, the occupation will continue for years. It was wrong to go into Iraq, it’s wrong to stay in Iraq, it’s wrong not to get out now!
If there is not a strong showing from the anti-war movement against this whole direction outside the convention, it will signal those who make war and the victims of these wars around the world that the people of this country will go along with continued occupation, with McCain or Obama sending many more troops to Afghanistan, and with threats to Iran. The Bush regime promised a war to last generations. Are we against this, or not?
The anti-war movement must set a standard of resistance, not accommodate what is intolerable. Only the people—not the politicians—can force open debate over why the U.S. occupation must end now. Only we can act on our convictions, letting others know that an end to the illegal, unjust and immoral wars and occupations will not happen without massive mobilization of the people, and that putting all your hopes and energies into the elections will not bring the change millions desire.
Some people say protest does not work. They are WRONG! What does not work is passivity in the face of a government being more widely exposed as committing war crimes and a public increasingly sickened by what is being done in their name. If the anti-war movement was so ineffectual why did the New York Times have to call it the “other superpower”?
Whether one plans on voting for Obama or not, we all must be in the streets making our clear opposition to torture, bloody occupations and any new war against Iran vividly clear. People are traveling the country to campaign for Obama. With a strong call from the anti-war movement, some will be willing to bring an anti-war message to Denver.
Local Denver activists have gone to court for permits for political protest outside the convention, and have permits for nearby parks. Recreate68 plans a march against the war on Sunday August 24, the day before the convention starts. The Alliance for Real Democracy, another coalition, is currently not planning to join this march.
Whatever differences exist, they pale in comparison to the responsibility those of us who are not at peace with being at war have to stop the U.S. occupation of the Middle East. The world needs to see us in the streets in Denver, marching together on the eve of the convention opening.
If you’re concerned this protest will be too small, you’re not alone. The people in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan & Pakistan whose lives may be lost to further US aggression share that concern. It is the responsibility of those of us who know the devastation and misery the continued occupation of Iraq and an attack on Iran would bring to the world, to struggle to bring many more forward to participate in this.
This is a call to MARCH together with the demand Stop the War in Iraq/Afghanistan, and Stop an Attack on Iran! You could have separate rallies and speakers at different sites in the park, but call out the many thousands of people to march together.
We will join with others in mobilizing everyone who has ever been against this war, and all those who know in their hearts this is wrong, to be in the streets of Denver, standing with the people of the world and refusing to be party to these wars.
We the undersigned will do all we can to get people to Denver to participate.
Revolution #138, August 3, 2008
Millions believe Barack Obama is the anti-war/anti-Bush candidate. In reality, Obama is proving to be the candidate most effective at getting all-too-many “leaders” of the anti-war movement to shut up and even urge others to go along with wars for empire.
In the name of getting Obama elected, the anti-war movement is being demobilized, and firm opposition to the so-called “war on terror” is being silenced.
In May, Chicago anti-war activists brought Scott Ritter, John Mearsheimer, Stephen Kinzer, and Doug Cassel to speak at a town hall style City Council meeting and everyone expected the City Council to pass a resolution against an attack on Iran the next day. But before this could happen, Mayor Daley objected, saying, “Passing a resolution like that puts a lot of burden upon [Obama’s] candidacy and injects something that should not be injected” into the presidential campaign. Since then, the resolution has been sidelined by City Council aldermen and some of the activists who claim to personally support the bill but have accepted Daley’s logic.
And now, as the Democratic National Convention approaches at the end of August in Denver, people like Leslie Cagan of United for Peace and Justice are working to pour cold water on attempts to bring forward meaningful political protest. Recently she suggested that the anti-war movement just “drop the idea of a big march on Sunday, August 24th” and has insisted that “while there is plenty to be critical about in terms of the Democratic Party leadership we would NOT want [people] to see this as an anti-Democratic Party protest.”
But is it true that toning down anti-war criticism and protest in order to elect Democrats can lead to good results?
It is worth it to recall how a similar logic played out in 2006.
In October of 2006, just weeks before the mid-term election, the Democrats joined Republicans in Congress to pass Bush’s Military Commissions Act. Even though this bill shredded habeas corpus and legalized torture, many “progressives” excused the Democrats, arguing they had to go along in order not to appear “weak on terror” and thereby lose the elections. At the same time, there was a growing movement for impeachment based on iron-clad evidence of the Bush regime’s illegal wire-tapping and the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Iraq. Still, when Nancy Pelosi—and not long after, John Conyers—insisted that impeachment was “off the table” many anti-war leaders curbed their criticisms. Again, the argument was made that such “compromises” were necessary in order to get the Democrats elected.
Remember how jubilant people across the country felt when the Democrats did win? Then, remember how, once they had more “reasonable” people in Congress these “anti-war leaders” pulled out all the stops—calling nation-wide walk-outs, street protests, and major town hall meetings—to apply their much-touted “pressure”? And how after that, how the Democrats immediately cut the funding for the occupation of Iraq and started shipping the troops home, while at the same time they opened investigations and tried for war crimes the high-ranking officials who had LIED to launch that war?
Oh wait. That’s not how it went down. As soon as the election results were in, Nancy Pelosi began reinterpreting what people had voted for. Over and over she repeated the lie that, “The American people voted to restore integrity and honesty in Washington D.C.”
And then the new Democratically-controlled Congress, including Obama, approved every single Iraq war spending bill. This “more willing to listen” Democratically-controlled Congress, including Obama, legalized Bush’s warrantless wire-tapping. This Democratically-controlled Congress secretly granted Bush approval to conduct Special Operations—including the use of deadly force—within Iran’s sovereign borders.
All along the way, these “anti-war leaders” weren’t calling people into the streets to apply their oh-so-promised “pressure.” Instead, they’ve been busy doing their part to keep people’s energies focused on the longest-ever presidential race. Outrage after outrage, they push building real opposition into the never-never future, rendering people passive and accepting as torture and war crimes are furthered.
Instead of “moving the Democrats to the left” this strategy resulted in moving the anti-war movement to increasingly accept the monstrous “politics of the possible” and—despite a growing anti-war sentiment in the country—become less and less visible and less and less effective. You couldn’t get a more vivid demonstration of what Bob Avakian was cautioning against when he wrote, “If you fall into the orientation of trying to make the Democrats be what they are not, and never will be, you will end up becoming more like what the Democrats actually are.”
Why is this so? Most fundamentally it is because the essence of this country is not democracy, but capitalist dictatorship. Political power is monopolized by a ruling class of capitalists that sits at the top of a whole global network of exploitation and plunder. It is this class that controls the armies and sends them to carry out wars for resources and geo-strategic advantage against rivals. It is this class that controls the elections and it is this class that the major political parties—both the Democrats and the Republicans—are representatives of. When those parties differ, sometimes quite sharply, it is over how to pursue the interests of their system in a high stakes and increasingly volatile world.
This is the case with Obama’s criticisms of the Iraq war, of the Bush presidency, and of his opponent, John McCain. From his very first “anti-war” speech until today, Obama has made clear that his objections to the Iraq war flow from his belief that it has weakened the military, economic, and political strength of the U.S. And he wants to withdraw some troops from Iraq in order to escalate the war on Afghanistan. Meanwhile, he promises his willingness to act forcefully—including potentially using nuclear weapons—against Iran and that he is willing to launch military operations inside Pakistan. None of these positions are crafted in order to reflect the interests of the majority. They are part of his attempt to convince the ruling class that he would be the bestcommander-in-chief for American imperialist interests.
The ruling class uses elections not as a means through which basic decisions are made, but primarily for the purpose of legitimizing their system and their politics and their decisions. Then, the elections allow whoever wins to claim a “popular mandate.” But remember 2006, and note this lesson well: they will tell you what your vote, and their supposed mandate, means. And just as we saw in ’06, and as we are seeing repeated now with Obama, elections are a way this system and its representatives channel and confine the political activity of the people into a meaningless dead-end.
To bring about the kind of change humanity needs, people have to step outside of—and in opposition to—the whole framework of official politics in this country. Most fundamentally this means making revolution—getting beyond a system that is rooted in the most brutal and degrading forms of oppression, reactionary violence, and exploitation here and all over the world and throughout its history, and completely breaking free of the terms and elections that this system uses as part of how it governs.
Movement “leaders” not only fall into this election trap—cycle after cycle—they lead others into it, and they try to silence those who do try to mount actual protest. Whatever they may personally believe or understand, these forces portray the Bush crimes as a betrayal of American ideals rather than an extension—albeit an extreme, and in many ways unprecedented, extension—of what this country has always been about, founded as it was in slavery and genocide, and soaked in the blood of people from Latin America to South Africa butchered by repressive regimes backed by the U.S. Flowing from their desire to “perfect”—not overthrow or even disrupt—the system of American democracy, they repeatedly act to cool out anything that would step outside official channels.
But there are also others—who do see something rotten at the core of the United States system, and yet still insist that even revolutionaries must support Obama. In a recent email exchange one such friend of mine insisted that he “agreed [that] Obama is part of the system. And, I agree, we need revolution. But unless that is around the corner—we have to be realistic and support Obama.”
This is also wrong.
No one can promise that a revolutionary situation is around the corner. But what can be said with certainty is that very often in history revolutionary openings have emerged all of sudden and seemingly out of nowhere. Such openings mainly come about owing fundamentally to the nature and working of the system itself—to the ways in which the underlying social and political “faultlines” can suddenly split open. But what revolutionaries do in the whole period leading up to that has a lot to do how the situation does present itself. And if revolutionaries are not working every day towards—and measuring everything they do up against—hastening the emergence of a revolutionary situation and bringing about a revolutionary people . . . if they are not “preparing minds and organizing forces” for just such a rare opening. . . then they won’t even be able to recognize, let alone seize on, a revolutionary situation when it does arise.
Revolution is not just an idea to “believe in” in the abstract and then put aside as we putter around in the world as it is. It must be actively striven for through a whole ensemble of revolutionary activity—fighting the power, and transforming the people, for revolution. A key aspect of this is confronting—and telling others the truth about, not covering over—the true nature of bourgeois elections as a vehicle for exercising and obscuring bourgeois dictatorship and that what humanity really needs is communist revolution and a whole different system. And this also means building massive political resistance to the main ways in which, at any given time, the exploitative and oppressive nature of this system gets focused up in policies and actions of the ruling class and its agencies. Right now this includes coming out at the Democratic National Convention and demonstrating against the wars, the repression, and the other key elements of the agenda that need to be opposed, and defeated.
You see, it is NOT the case that short of revolution—or that for those who don’t agree with the need for or desirability of revolution—there is nothing we can do but accept the “lesser of two evils.” The choice we face is not really between Obama and McCain. Our choice is between accepting the ruling class spectrum of Obama to McCain as the limits of what is possible—or—rejecting this whole framework and instead waging meaningful mass political resistance to the whole fascist direction they are dragging things in.
When people did break loose in massive political protest in 2002 and 2003 in the run up to the Iraq war, it mattered. It gave the whole world hope in the knowledge that the people of this country opposed what their government was doing and were acting to stop it. These protests, which were then joined by millions of people across the globe, stripped Bush of legitimacy as he launched that war anyway. Then, as the war began to go badly, the challenge that had been put before people by those protests continued to influence the thinking of people broadly as more and more turned against the war and the President.
Who would even know, to the extent that people do, about the war crimes and torture carried out in this war, if it weren’t for acts of courage and defiance of the people? It was not the Democrats, but the anti-war soldiers and veterans who stepped forward to expose the war crimes in Iraq. It was not the elected officials making compromises in order to get elected, but the officials who answered their consciences and forfeited careers who blew the whistle on torture. It was not by campaigning, but by sitting down and refusing to be moved, that the parents who lost children in this illegal war captured the hearts of and moved millions.
Since the time of those world record size protests, the outrage and disgust at the Bush program and its wars has only grown deeper and more widespread. But now, what will become of this outrage? Allowing it, or helping it, to be channeled into supporting Obama when he is busy telling you he wants to better prosecute America’s wars is the most unrealistic idea there is!
Yes, millions will vote for Obama believing, or at least telling themselves, that he will bring the change they want to see. But as the policies of a murderous empire advance, in one form or another under the next administration (assuming the Bush cabal allows the elections to go forward), will these people be demoralized and demobilized, or will they become radicalized and energized?
The answer to that question has a LOT to do with what the anti-war movement does now. Whether we tone the message down so, as Leslie Cagan put it, it’s not seen “as an anti-Democratic Party protest,” and we don’t offend the delegates—or plant a pole of real opposition right up against the misplaced hopes that will be projected onto the Democratic National Convention?
At a time when the tens of millions of people who have the potential strength to stop this war are being pacified and corralled into a dead-end, what meaning does it have to call oneself “anti-war” if you are not protesting outside the convention? Anyone serious about stopping this whole direction of unjust war, torture and fascist repression should be in the streets.
Revolution #138, August 3, 2008
"There Ain’t No Calming Down!"
By Annie Day
On July 25, protest erupted on Chicago’s South Side against a wave of police brutality, and shootings and killings by the police. People went up in the face of what Chicago city authorities are calling a police “surge.” By calling their wave of police terror a “surge,” the authorities are purposely evoking the brutal U.S. occupation of Iraq—but on the South and West Sides of Chicago. Just between June 11 and July 5, Chicago police shot 12 people (all Black and Latino) and killed six of them.
Among the victims of the Chicago police shooting spree was Jonathan Pinkerton. He was planning to go to college. But that didn’t stop the police from shooting and beating him. Jonathan turned 17 in the hospital. (For the story of the police rampage, see “Trigger Happy Police … and a Criminal System,” and other coverage of these shootings in Revolution #137, available at revcom.us).
The Chicago police “surge” comes amidst official hysteria over “crime,” and there has been confusion among the people as to who is to blame for youth violence directed at other youth. The reality is that both the wave of police shootings, and the conditions that have driven youth into desperate means of trying to survive, come from the system.
As we wrote in Revolution last week: “Yes, it is terrible—and it is a CRIME OF THIS SYSTEM—that the youth are driven to shoot at and kill each other. It is terrible—and a CRIME OF THIS SYSTEM—that they internalize the message they get every day through the worthless schools and degrading conditions and sneering brutalizing cops—the message that this system has no future for them, and that they don’t even deserve a future—and then act it out, against each other.” (See “MAYOR DALEY SHOULD TAKE HIS TALK OF ‘RESPONSIBILITY’ AND STICK IT UP HIS ASS!” at revcom.us).
How did the system put people in this situation? When Fred Hampton and the Black Panther Party were getting youth out of the bad shit they were into, and into the revolution—the system lashed out by murdering Fred Hampton as part of a play to crush the revolutionary movement. It was the system that moved nearly all the jobs out of the inner cities and flooded the ghettos with drugs. It is the system that enforces deeper segregation for a whole section of the Black masses. And it is the system that created a void that the gangs were allowed (and to a large extent encouraged by the powers) to fill. More police flooding the communities, jacking up youth, and shooting people cannot in any way be part of a solution to the desperate situation youth face!
In the midst of this police siege on the people, a statement from a forming Chicago Revolution Club called on people to get in the streets and fight the power through mass political resistance, with these demands:
STOP THE MURDEROUS RAMPAGE BY THE CHICAGO POLICE!
STOP THE “SURGE” IN POLICE TERROR!
INDICT, CONVICT AND JAIL THE KILLER COPS!
THIS SYSTEM IS GUILTY AS HELL!
On Friday, July 25, there was a very important beginning rumbling of resistance. People in Chicago’s South Side took a courageous stand, sending a message that this is not going to go down like this. They were brutally attacked by the Chicago PD, and they refused to back down. In the aftermath of the protest, the struggle continues.
The story below, of what happened, was submitted by a correspondent in Chicago.
Friday, late afternoon—A warm summer day on the South Side of Chicago. In the midst of Chicago’s self-proclaimed “police surge,” and in the aftermath of 12 shootings by Chicago police in a one-month span, the people had had enough. On a large intersection in Englewood, a couple hundred people stood up to police intimidation, humiliation and terrorizing, called the police out as murderers, and by the end of the night an estimated ten people had been arrested and brutalized.
People were coming home from the funeral services of 19-year-old Bennie Ross, who was reportedly killed during a game of dice. There was a gathering for a repast for Bennie on the neighborhood basketball court—people were in mourning and some of Bennie’s friends and other youth were trying to start up a game of basketball. This basketball court is well known as gang truce territory where everyone can play. All of a sudden, police showed up and were blaring their sirens. They tore up pictures of Bennie and other parts of his memorial, calling him a “little fucker” and told people they had to get off the court, claiming there had been a threat of a drive-by. They called the youth “nigger bitches” and said, “Fucking monkeys, if you want to play, go play in the trees.” They took away the basketball and pushed most of the people off the court. Outraged, some of the youth and others in the neighborhood gathered up and marched back onto the court. In protest, a couple of kids started playing ball anyway. And then the cops started grabbing people up and arresting them.
One woman told Revolution, “The police officers started this whole incident, everybody else was just standing around. They started at the school. They started blocking the kids off just for playing basketball. The kids was playing basketball and they just, you know, blocked that. But the kids still wasn’t doing anything to ’em, you know. They was just walking and still talking, you know, that was it. But the police officers started the whole incident with the fighting, you know, and the whatever. You know, they started it. And it’s a shame.”
This was just too much disrespect. People began calling out the police, gathering on the sidewalks and into the street, holding up the cover of the Revolution newspaper #137, and pointing to the picture of Jonathan Pinkerton, paralyzed by the Chicago police. Copies of Revolution were everywhere and the youth, from young shorties up through older teenagers and both young men and young women, were holding them up in the face of the cops and saying, “this is what you do”, “we know this is you” and “murderers!” Others grabbed up posters with the names and pictures of recent victims of police shootings, including 25-year-old Devon Young, who was killed by the police just a few miles east of this incident.
One woman said, “So it was peaceful, you know? They should have just let it be peaceful, you know?”
But this is not what happened. Instead, police swarmed into the protest and began grabbing and beating people who were calling out this injustice around the basketball court and doing exposure about the murderous rampage of the Chicago police, including Hank Brown, correspondent for Revolution newspaper, a couple other supporters of the Revolutionary Communist Party, as well as Prisoners of Conscience Committee Chairman Fred Hampton, Jr. (son of the Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton who was murdered by Chicago police in 1969). Many of the protestors were beaten, and one ended up in the hospital. It meant something to the youth that revolutionaries of different nationalities and different ages were out there standing together with the Black youth, outraged about the unjust and unprovoked arrests; the youth chanted together, “Let them go, let them go!”
After some of the arrests, and completely without warning, the police brutally pushed out, threatening people with tasers, chasing people, arresting and beating up any young Black men they could catch.
Funds are needed urgently to mount a legal defense for the protestors:
Checks or money orders can be sent to:
Please make the checks out to David Thomas, Attorney and write “Englewood Protestors” in the memo line.
Two blocks from the protest scene, cops smacked down and arrested a 20-year-old as well as a 14-year-old who had just left his house to see what was going on as protesters ran from the police through his yard. A relative told Revolution “My cousin, all we see is everyone’s running this way or whatever, and so he’s just walking from the house or whatever and he gets right there to that alley right there. One of the police officers just pushed him down, pinned him and shit with a billy club or whatever. The other police [making fun of] him like he ain’t shit, you know what I’m saying? He wasn’t over there. He just left. He just left.” Another person told Revolution he had been trying to help the police chill things out and the police beat him with their sticks anyway.
But despite the brutality, the mood was defiant and joyful—people had stood up. When the police helicopters flew over the crowd, everyone laughed and gave them the middle finger.
A group of young women trying to figure out what had happened to their male relatives continued to demand of the cops, “Where he at?!” The police sergeant, who had witnessed and overseen all the beatings and brutality told the people, “Y’all just need to calm down.” And the people responded, “There ain’t no calming down, y’all just jumping on people! Ain’t no calming down!”
As we go to press:
The day after this night of powerful resistance, there have been rumors of police retribution, including beating up Black youth who rightly stood up. Revolutionaries and protestors have been slandered in the Chicago Tribune, after being beaten and arrested. A group of people now face numerous charges.
But the initial resistance must now be built on—and spread much further—setting forward a different dynamic in the city. These outrages and abuses from the police must not be tolerated or accepted, and we have to set a different tone especially in the oppressed communities where the police have to think twice before shooting down our youth in cold blood or beating people. People from all walks of life—from different strata and neighborhoods need to come together now to take up the political battle to spread this struggle and defend those who’ve been attacked for standing up, and spread the truth about all this far and wide.
Revolution #138, August 3, 2008
Letter to Revolution from Hank Brown
Out on the street this week, I was talking with a Black man about my age about the Chicago Police’s murderous rampage. He was angry about what the system does to the youth, but he was also critical of the youth themselves, not understanding that it’s the system that created the whole damn situation in the first place.
I talked with him about how the anger that the youth have at their situation is a good thing, it’s righteous, but it’s being expressed in very negative ways right now. I wanted to share with Revolution readers some of my own experience coming up in Birmingham in the early ’60s and what difference it made to have a revolutionary movement I could be part of, to direct my anger at the system and, eventually to get down with revolution and communism and be part of fighting to emancipate all of humanity.
Coming up, I was rebellious against old folks—as I saw it, that generation put up with this segregation and Jim Crow, and accepted it like it was, and told me I had to do the same shit. Fuck that, I wasn’t going to “yessir and nossir.” As much as I loved my parents, they were crazy if they thought I was going to do that. A whole different thing was in the air about what was possible. You didn’t like to see old folks like this, but I wasn’t going to bow down. People were talking about the need to have respect but some things you just don’t respect and, as a youth, you feel you can’t swallow. That respect shit is big in society right now, all of it, and this is what they’re trying to instill in you—and you choke on that respectability.
For me, it was this movement brewing all around me. Hell, people were out in the streets every day, going up against the cops as part of a whole atmosphere out there. I had a little crew that would get together and stage our own sit-ins. This wasn’t part of the official shit because sometimes those other demonstrations were too timid for us. We wanted to take on the system. That comes from what’s happening to you. It wasn’t just the four little girls that were killed in an explosion of the 16th Street Baptist Church by white supremacists—that was bad enough—but Black people were constantly being beaten and there were other people’s homes being bombed. I was a kid trying to register voters and old folks would answer the door and say “get the fuck away from my door, I don’t want my house blown up.” Back then, it bothered me that people had to live that way, that my parents weren’t more out in the streets. And then they wanted to reel me in. I wasn’t going to go with that even though I knew these motherfuckers—the sheriff’s and them—would kill you. But at that time, we didn’t give a fuck. So I can understand about the youth today, they don’t give about fuck whether they live or die, they just don’t want to live this way.
There are similarities—–what future was there for people growing up in the Jim Crow shit back then and what future do they have today? Back then, they called us niggers and boys. Today, we’re hoodrats and thugs.
What was different, though, was back then there was a revolutionary movement and this was something I was able to channel my anger into, something important. Even back then, getting into the revolution meant getting out of something else. There were people who quit college careers to be part of the revolutionary movement. For some people it meant getting out of what we used to call the “lumpen” thing. And even back then, some people thought you were crazy to get into this, and it was a struggle to get across to people that you were not who you used to be, that when you came to them you weren’t coming to them as what you used to be—you were coming to them as a revolutionary. So there was a lot of struggle. It wasn’t an easy thing. There were people who were proud of you for standing up, and people who didn’t understand why you were doing this.
And it’s not like I developed into a revolutionary overnight, but I learned to see that all the shit that was happening, all the segregation and racism and shit that I hated, was coming from a system, it wasn’t just racist white folks, though there were definitely a lot of them, but this was coming from a system. I learned this in the process of going out fighting against the injustices and digging more into revolutionary theory and revolutionary science. That’s important for the youth today, they need that, they need this revolutionary movement to be able to have a future. They need to understand there is a way out of this, and people don’t have to live the way they do. They need to understand that there is a whole new world that’s possible. And in the process of fighting against the shit that got them in the situation they’re in, they can begin to transform themselves. That’s what’s captured with “Fight the power, and transform the people, for revolution.” This is not just a slogan, but an actual way for people to go from here to there. For them to get up out of the shit they’re into and become emancipators of humanity. In a lot of ways, my own experience is a testament to that.
Revolution #138, August 3, 2008
Pushing That Personal Responsibility Poison
Imagine you were hit by an avalanche, and buried under tons of snow. Then, imagine that you’d been given a shovel and were being told it was your own personal responsibility to dig yourself out, when all the personal digging in the world isn't going to stop that snow from rolling in on you or get you out from under it.
That’s just what Barack Obama is telling Black people when he says they need to take more “responsibility” for their lives.
Speaking to the NAACP convention on July 14, he said: "...Now I know some say I've been too tough on folks about this responsibility stuff. But I'm not going to stop talking about it. Because I believe that in the end, it doesn't matter how much money we invest in our communities, or how many 10-point plans we propose, or how many government programs we launch—none of it will make any difference if we don't seize more responsibility in our own lives."
And specifically, Obama has been trying to put the situation Black people face onto the breakup of the Black family. When he spoke at a predominantly Black congregation in Chicago on Father's Day, he said, “[I]f we are honest with ourselves, we'll admit that what too many fathers also are is missing—missing from too many lives and too many homes. They have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men. And the foundations of our families are weaker because of it.”
And, according to Obama, that is why Black people face the situation they’re in. In his same Father’s Day speech, Obama: “How many times in the last year has this city lost a child at the hands of another child? How many times have our hearts stopped in the middle of the night with the sound of a gunshot or a siren? How many teenagers have we seen hanging around on street corners when they should be sitting in a classroom? How many are sitting in prison when they should be working, or at least looking for a job? How many in this generation are we willing to lose to poverty or violence or addiction? How many?"
Ever since slave days, the U.S. rulers have put the conditions that Black people face on some supposed character flaw in Black people. Previously they attributed the conditions of existence they enforced on Black people to them being inferior to whites, or that they were lazy and ignorant. Today this ideological offensive is centered on arguing that Black people have to stop making poor choices and take more responsibility in their lives, and a big part of that is blaming the whole situation facing Black people on the breakup of the Black family.
The Origins of the “Blame the Black Family” Myth
In the midst of the rebellions of the ’60s, when rebellions rocked the cities and revolution was in the air, the U.S. government came out with a major report in 1965 called “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action” (also known as “the Moynihan Report” after its author, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who was a major ideologue for white supremacy behind a thin coating of liberalism).
The report acknowledged a growing “gap between the Negro and most other groups in American society.” It also noted with concern dangers in what it called “The Negro Revolution”—including the influence of revolutionary trends (“On the far left, the attraction of Chinese Communism can no longer be ignored”).
In that context, serving a need to obscure and misdirect (even while pretending to care about) the conditions of Black people, the report ignored the already emerging deindustrialization of the cities, and essentially trivialized and dismissed the impact of societal white supremacy. Reversing cause and effect, the report—which continues to be a benchmark of mainstream “analysis” of the problems facing Black people—put out the message that: “The fundamental problem, in which this is most clearly the case, is that of family structure…the Negro family in the urban ghettos is crumbling.”
When most Black people were slaves working on plantations from can't see in the morning till can't see at night, the obstacles to developing stable families were plain as day. Black people did marry and raise children, but if it would benefit the slave master, a husband could be taken from his wife or a parent from their child and sold to another owner.
Then, after the civil war, when most Black people remained enslaved in a new form—as sharecroppers on the land, stable 2 parent families were the rule, not the exception among Black people because large families were needed for the kind of farming that sharecroppers did. But at the same time, the overwhelming majority of Black people were desperately poor, and subjected to lynch mob terror. If it was really the case that today, the number of female-headed families is responsible for poverty, then why didn't having mostly stable, two-parent families lift more Black people out of poverty back then?
After World Wars 1 and 2, Black people were drawn to cities across the country to work in the factories. Two-parent families were still a fit for their roles. It was only when those capitalist owners began to relocate those factories to far out suburbs and even move them halfway around the world, depriving Black people of jobs and the ability to raise families, that the numbers of Black youth being raised in female-headed families began to skyrocket.
It wasn't that Black men were choosing to not marry the mothers of their children or choosing not to be involved in supporting them. It was that the capitalist system was cutting the ability to do that out from under Black people. Let's say you were a young Black man in the 1960s and your girlfriend got pregnant. You could drop out of school and get a job in a factory. It might have been a job on the bottom rung of the workforce that paid less and was harder and dirtier work than what white workers did. But at least it would give you a shot at being able to get married and support a family. A young Black man today in a similar situation would be faced with different choices. The factory jobs were gone, and you could either get a job flipping burgers in a fast food joint, if you could find one to hire you, or get involved in some kind of hustle, legal or illegal, and likely end up in jail or dead. The very operation of the capitalist system would be facing you with a narrow range of choices, and none of them would give you a reliable basis to raise a family.
Add to this continuing discrimination that makes finding work harder for Black people. A study done in Milwaukee found that employers were twice as likely to call back white job applicants with no criminal records as they were Black applicants with no criminal records. And they were MORE likely to call back white applicants who said they had criminal records than they were Black applicants with no criminal records! A similar study found that when written applications were sent to employers using the first names Jamal and Greg for applicants with similar qualifications, Jamal—the name that sounded Black—was 50% less likely to get contacted about coming in for an interview.
Add to this the large numbers of Black men who are in and out of prison: According to a recent study done by the Sentencing Project, 1 in 8 Black men in their twenties are in prison today! Many others are on probation or parole. This is both because the operation of this system has locked many Black youth out of any legitimate way to survive and because of discrimination in the criminal "in-justice" system. A study by the same Sentencing Project in April 2001 found that African-Americans were 13% of the illegal drug users in the U.S. Yet they comprised 35% of those arrested for drug possession, 55% of those convicted for drug possession, and 74% of those sent to jail for that offense.
This is the backdrop against which large numbers of Black men, especially young Black men, find themselves unable to raise a family or support their children. And against which large numbers of Black women are left raising families on their own. And these come down to the way this system operates, not some personal flaws of Black people.
Who or what is responsible for all this? Did Black people decide one day to close down the factories they had been working in? Did they choose to fire themselves and move the factories to Thailand or Mexico to exploit the people there even more viciously than they had been exploited? Did Black people gut the educational system in the inner cities to the point where the schools are increasingly like prisons and serve as little more than way stations to prison for many of the kids who go thru them? Are Black people responsible for the discrimination that makes it much harder for them to find work than it is for whites? Did they choose to have the law enforcement system criminalize a whole generation of Black youth?
The answers to these questions leap out at you. Of course they didn't make these decisions. These conditions that Black people face are the results of the way the capitalist system works. It's the chase after maximum profits for the relative handful of capitalists who own and control the factories, mines, and other major means to create wealth and their overall domination of society that creates and recreates these conditions.
Now some people would say, OK, we know there are larger forces responsible for the situation Black people find themselves in. But even given that, don't Black people need to take personal responsibility for their communities and their lives. Wouldn't that help to deal with the situation that so many Black children are raised by single mothers without their fathers being a meaningful presence in their lives? Or so many of the youth being caught up in gangs, drugs, and crime? Or problems like "Black on Black" violence? If more Black people were listening to and acting on Obama's message of taking responsibility for their lives, wouldn't these problems be at least partly alleviated?
No they wouldn't. I’ve already talked about the fact that if you are covered in tons of snow from an avalanche, all the personal digging in the world won’t get you out from under all that snow. People can’t get out from the conditions they face by taking personal responsibility. I’ve explained why Black youth can’t just go out and get a decent job, and that for the millions of Black people trapped in highly oppressive conditions there is no way for people to work within this situation to make things better in any real way. So all the talk about Black people taking personal responsibility won't do a damn thing to get them, and the whole society, out of the mess we're all in. It won't do that because again this mess is the result of the workings of the system of capitalism and its chase after maximum profit. Lectures from Barack Obama, or before him Bill Cosby and Bill Clinton, about Black people's wrong choices or them having to take personal responsibility only serve to reinforce the situation Black people find themselves in. They do that because they misdirect people's attention, away from the system that's causing these problems and away from the real solution to these problems—forging a revolutionary people that could spearhead an attempt to get rid of this system thru revolution when and if an opportunity to do that arises thru the workings of the system itself.
Hammering away at Black people that it's their own damn fault that they're in the situation they're in can have the effect of sucking the hope out of a section of people who have an important role to play in forging a revolutionary people in this country. The capitalist rulers of this country remember how the powerful uprisings of Black people in the 1960s, together with developments around the world, knocked them and their system back on its heels.
They're feverishly working to ensure that they aren't faced with something like this again. Part of how they're going at this is subjecting the Black masses to vicious repression and criminalizing large sections of Black youth. And at the same time they're working to sap the spirit of resistance of the Black masses. If they can convince people their problems are of their own making, they will be a good ways towards doing that. And convincing people that the conditions Black people face are their own fault and not the fault of the system undercuts a sense among other sections of people that they should stand with Black people in building resistance to their oppression. This message coming from the mouth of Barack Obama gives it special resonance.
In saying this, I am not trying to deny or gloss over the fact that a lot of Black people are into some bad shit. Youth are killing each other, and people desperate to survive are preying on each other. Too many Black men are into the male supremacy that is rife in this society, and too many Black women combine U.S. society's “look out for #1” ethos with accepting its outlook on women's place. Black people do need to get out of all this shit. They need to move from being victimized by this system to fighting to get rid of this system. They, along with basic masses of all nationalities and people from other backgrounds too, need to come forward as emancipators of humanity.
But lectures about personal responsibility won't help make that happen. This will stand in the way of people getting what's the real source of the problems they face, and what's the real way to get out from under them. People don't see any way out and can begin to think it's because they're fucked up. And it is a fact: Black people, as a people, are not going to "make it" under this system. The only real hope for the masses in their millions is carving out a radically different future thru revolution and changing themselves as they fight to bring a whole new world into being.
Revolution #138, August 3, 2008
These next few months will be highly charged. From the Olympics to the elections. . . from the two wars for empire now grinding and boiling on in Iraq and Afghanistan to a possible third one—in Iran—being threatened. . . from food riots in the third world to brutal police murder, savage immigration raids, and the growing specter of increased impoverishment in America itself. . . from the permeation of religion into every sphere of society to the—very related—reassertion of oppressive patriarchal values in U.S. society. . .the turmoil continues.
Big questions are being posed:
What kind of society do we want to—and are we willing to—live in?
What kind of future will we have?
And what kind of change is required?
Is it a matter of making adjustments to what already exists—tinkering, to be blunt, with the blood-soaked arrangements of empire? Or do we urgently need fundamental and radical change? And is a better world—a future really worthy of human beings—possible?
Do we still dare dream of revolution?
And is there a viable vision of what that is, and a leadership to point the way?
This fall, a series of high-profile initiatives, as well as the ongoing work of this newspaper, Revolution, will speak to those questions.
RCP Publications announces a major new work by Bob Avakian! Today, the ideals of Jeffersonian democracy are widely hailed—to the point where even many who think of themselves as radical or revolutionary worship at this “chapel of democracy,” and almost every demand for social change seems to come “packaged” in those terms. In fact, this expresses a poverty of analysis that has seriously fettered the vision of the movements of today—a poverty of analysis that demands to be subjected to serious criticism.
In the face of this, Avakian takes on the ideals of Jeffersonianism, and convincingly locates even its “loftiest aspirations” in social relations of exploitation and oppression—the social relations out of which those ideals grew, and which they served and continue to serve. In doing so, he draws on a wide range of scholarly research and polemically takes on major contemporary defenders of Jeffersonian democracy. Avakian demonstrates why and how these ideals of democracy co-existed with—and, indeed, arose on the basis of—the enslavement of Black people and the deep embedding of white supremacy into the body politic and ideological psyche of the U.S.
But he goes further: not only showing why events turned out that way, but why those ideals themselves could only and can only generate and serve relations of exploitation and the division, and polarization, of people into antagonistic classes. . .into oppressor and oppressed. Moreover, he convincingly points the way to a vision and future that is truly emancipatory—to a vision of freedom far more radical and thoroughgoing than anything imaginable within the constricted horizons of Jeffersonianism. In doing this, Avakian includes a devastating critique of the “free marketplace of ideas,” contrasting it to a genuinely unfettered search for the truth—and he shows what kind of economic and political system would be necessary for that to flourish.
During the frenzy of the election campaign and the particular hopes—and damaging delusions—being raised by the Obama candidacy, Communism and Jeffersonian Democracy must circulate widely throughout society.
This August, RCP Publications will publish the new Constitution of the RCP, USA—one that lays out the mission and vision of a new stage of communist revolution, informed by Bob Avakian’s new synthesis of communist theory. The constitution will put forward this vision in a very accessible way, as well as laying out the principles of organization and the theoretical foundation of the Party. This will include an important appendix on communist theory as a scientific and revolutionary theory.
This constitution will serve as a bold declaration that there is indeed a party, in the belly of the imperialist U.S., with the determination and strategic analysis to make a revolution. . . and the vision, method and understanding of society and history to ensure that it is a revolution worth making.
This fall, the RCP,USA will issue a major statement, a manifesto for our times.
The past several decades have witnessed truly unprecedented changes in the world. The reversal of the revolution in China following the death of Mao in 1976. . . the fall of the Soviet Union and rise of the U.S. as the sole superpower in the world. . . the emergence of Islamic fundamentalism as a major contending force in the world, ideologically and politically. . . and the radical reactionary transformations of the U.S. world role, and domestic politics. All these have posed major challenges for the international communist movement, and struggle has arisen in the movement over how to meet them.
Will the movement rise to those challenges? Or will it become a residue of the past, either locked in fading dogma or in thrall to the horizons of bourgeois democracy? This new manifesto will draw out and sharply contrast the contending roads before the revolutionary movement, go deeply into the direction and implications of each, and clearly put forward a line that can lead to a revolutionary future.
If you have any hope, any aspiration, for fundamental and radical social change, you must read this statement and help us get this out to every corner of society.
From the holds of the slave ships to the locked-down penitentiaries and desperate street corners of today, the bitter oppression of Black people, and the struggle against that oppression, has been central to the history and current-day reality of this society. But now some claim that this is all a question of the distant past. Others may acknowledge the desperate straits of the majority of Black people, only to then blame the masses themselves for this situation. Some go so far as to say that the nomination of Barack Obama signals the “transcendence of race” in America. And, meanwhile, the grinding and horrific oppression of the African-American people continues. To take but one outrageous example, one in nine young Black men are locked down in prison—while crises like the collapse of the housing market and the new epidemic of homelessness hit hardest in minority communities.
In the midst of all this, Revolution will publish a special issue on the emancipation of humanity and the struggle for the liberation of Black people. This will go deeply into the history and present-day reality of Black people in America, and will include a major statement by the Party that deals head-on with the main questions facing this struggle today, making the case for the necessity. . . and the possibility. . . of revolution.
As we noted at the outset, this fall will be a highly charged time, ideologically and politically. It will demand the continued weekly publication of Revolution newspaper, and a real expansion of its reach. Funds are urgently needed to carry forward and heighten the work of this newspaper. Funds to send reporters to cover major events in society and the world. Funds to expand the distribution of the paper, including to prisoners. Funds to maintain and expand our ability to print in color and have better photos. And more.
* * * * *
The dangers of the situation today are extreme and stark—but it is far from hopeless. Many people are raising their heads and, in one form or another, engaging political questions. And it is no exaggeration to say that the current volatile situation holds the potential for things to politically burst open.
Of course, all that can go in a very good direction—or a very bad one. The question is whether those thousands and millions who begin to question the way things are, who begin to seek a way to understand the world and to resist the outrages, who are driven to ask why when hopes are shown to be illusions. . . will those millions be able to find these revolutionary ideas and a way to connect with this movement? And will the whole larger discourse of society be changed by a project of liberation that is NOT locked within the complicitous so-called “politics of the possible”?
The answer to that is up to you. All these initiatives require your urgent and immediate support. Many people gave generously to our fund-drive last year; but this major effort to boldly put forward “a different way,” and the particular initiatives within that, require major new funding. Help make sure this happens. Give generously to RCP Publications.
If you want these ideas, this world-view, this Party, this leader, and this paper out there
Donate online with Visa or MasterCard or at revcom.us/fund_en.php. Or, send checks or money orders made out to “RCP Publications” to:
Contributions or gifts to RCP Publications are not deductible as charitable contributions for federal income tax purposes.
Revolution #138, August 3, 2008
What Is Happening and What It Might Mean
PART 3: THE EUROPEAN UNION AS A POTENTIAL RIVAL TO U.S. DOMINANCE
Great shifts are taking place in the balance of economic strength among the major powers. New faultlines can be discerned in the world economy. U.S. imperialism is still the primary economic and military power in the world imperialist system. But its position is eroding. And potential rivals are emerging.
The enlargement and consolidation of the European Union is a defining feature of this changing economic landscape—with the rise of China perhaps the most dynamic of the big tectonic shifts taking place in the world economy (see Part 2 of this series).
The European Union (EU) is a highly developed economic bloc of imperialist and capitalist countries on the European continent. In the last 15 years, the EU has achieved higher levels of economic and financial integration and strengthened its international position. The euro, which is the currency used by 15 EU members, is playing an increasingly important role in world trade and finance. The EU has been more forcefully asserting itself internationally and enhancing military capabilities.
The nature and possible implications of the expansion and strengthening of the European Union in relation to great power rivalry are the topic of Part 3 in this series.
The EU has operated in partnership and alliance with U.S. imperialism in military affairs and in international forums like the World Trade Organization. There are huge inflows of U.S. capital into Western Europe, and huge inflows of West European capital into the U.S. At the same time, the EU represents a major, and growing, competitive challenge to U.S. imperialism within an international framework dominated by the United States.
How the EU challenge further develops will be influenced by the interplay of economic and non-economic factors:
The European Union is not a single state…but neither is it a loose or informal coalition of powers. It is a unique union of imperialist states in Western Europe that has forged political and administrative and legislative structures to regulate its functioning as a bloc. Its leading core is made up of the major West European imperialist powers: Germany, France, and the United Kingdom. Germany and France are the main political-economic drivers of the bloc.
In 1991, the EU had twelve member states. But the collapse of the imperialist Soviet Union and its bloc in 1989-91 opened new possibilities for West European imperialism. West Germany, already the major economic power on the European continent, absorbed East Germany. The EU looked eastward and incorporated countries like Poland and Hungary, as well as countries in the Baltic region.
This was the dialectic in the 1990s: U.S. imperialism brought most of the East European countries of the former Soviet bloc into its military-led alliance, NATO; the West European imperialists brought most of these countries into the EU’s economic orbit.
The EU still consists of distinct economies with distinct class structures and distinct imperialist or capitalist ruling classes. But the EU has become a more cohesive and powerful bloc. It has created diverse institutions to coordinate policy and exercise powers across the countries making up this bloc. Since 1995 it has grown from 15 to 27 countries; emerged as a market rivaling the U.S. market in size, and developed a currency that has the potential to challenge the U.S. dollar internationally.
Taken individually, the Western European states are not able to compete economically with U.S. imperialism in terms of size. But as a single, highly integrated entity, the European Union can compete on a global scale. In short, with the expansion and consolidation of the EU, the U.S. now faces a large and formidable political, financial, and industrial center. 
Culturally, the EU projects itself as an enlightened, civilized, cosmopolitan capitalism. And this is part of the EU’s ideological arsenal as it seeks to strengthen its political-economic position internationally.
Meanwhile, the EU tightens controls on immigrants, parries with U.S. imperialism in Latin America for economic advantage, utilizes its historical colonial ties, and forges new neo-colonial relations of dependency, to serve its international needs—for instance, investments and military operations in Africa to secure energy and raw material supplies. And the EU has also been party to the subcontracting of torture by U.S. imperialism and its “war on terror.” EU member countries have been the sites of secret CIA prisons. 
The EU has moved to extend and further unify a common market, and, in close connection, to raise profitability and increase the competitiveness of EU-based capital in the imperialist world economy.
This has involved a wave of neoliberal “reform.” Neoliberalism refers to policies that further open national economies up to the freer flow of capital, that privatize state-administered industries, that deregulate labor markets and remove restrictions on the terms of exploitation and employment of wage labor, and that cut back social benefits, etc. This has been going on in the United States since the 1980s.
In the Third World, U.S.-dominated international financial institutions, like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, oversaw a sweeping and brutal neoliberal restructuring of economies. This cleared the way for the deeper penetration of imperialist capital, including from Western Europe. It also undermined local agriculture in large regions of the Third World and accelerated an unprecedented process of massive and chaotic urbanization. 
West European capital has been carrying out its own agenda of neoliberal reform since the 1990s: seeking more flexibility in hiring and firing, wider use of temporary labor, and repression of wages.
In France, efforts have been underway to extend the legal workweek beyond 35 hours. In Germany, various forms of “co-participation” by unions in factories—designed to serve the increase in worker productivity—have been scaled back. Germany is the world’s leading exporter. It has maintained this position in part by driving down unit labor costs, and real wages declined for seven straight years (1998-2006).  In France, government support for education and job placement has also been cut, and such policies have been a major trigger of protests. Social welfare benefits, including pensions for the retired, have been rolled back in much of Europe.
The EU’s competitiveness agenda has involved mergers of large enterprises into larger enterprises, as in the steel industry. And it has involved support for strategic industrial sectors and the promotion of leading enterprises. For example, the EU created EADS, the European-wide aerospace company. It manufactures the Airbus and is a global competitor with Boeing.
This “competitiveness” agenda has also entailed efforts to restrict the freedom of movement of U.S. capital in Europe’s more open and integrated market. Microsoft, for instance, has been charged with monopolistic practices. European capital has sought to check U.S. capital internationally. This has taken complex and often disguised forms, such as battles between the U.S. and the EU over environmental standards or controls on imports of bio-engineered agricultural products.
The incorporation of the East European countries into the EU has been a source of competitive advantage of West European capital in the world market. The East European economies are ruled by fully developed capitalist classes—and some of these economies invest capital in the Third World. But they stand in a subordinate relationship to the larger and more powerful ruling classes of the EU. Strategic sectors of these economies, like transport, finance, and telecommunications, are dominated by foreign capital, particularly Western European capital. Low labor costs combined with high-skills levels carried over from the Soviet period are an important magnet for investment.
The EU has restructured and integrated the East European economies into larger region-wide and global production chains. East European workers face poorer working conditions and lower pay scales, along with less generous social programs, than do the populations in much of Western Europe. In Slovakia, wages in the auto industry are one-eighth of those in Germany, while productivity in the auto industry (led by VW and Peugeot) is soon expected to be the highest in the world.  In these ways, the absorption of East Europe into the EU has enhanced the bloc’s competitiveness and profitability.
The EU—more particularly, German imperialism, which has a special interest in East Europe and the Balkans—has invested heavily in rebuilding the transport, energy, and other infrastructure of East Europe. This has been costly and played a significant part in dragging down growth rates in Germany. But this retooling is also a key part of a longer-term strengthening of a more integrated and competitive continental market in which Germany is the economic anchor of an increasingly cohesive EU bloc.
Strategically, East Europe is also important to EU geopolitical ambitions. It is geographically closer to Russia, which provides much of Western Europe’s energy needs—and so Eastern Europe is also a kind of buffer zone. In addition, West European economic penetration provides a certain counterweight to U.S. military dominance in East Europe. 
With more open economies requiring both high and low skills and increasingly “flexible” workers (shifting in and out of jobs and sectors of the economy with less job security), immigrant labor plays a particular role in restructured labor markets.
An estimated 5 to 6.5 million undocumented workers currently live and work in Europe. They are an “illegalized transnational labor force”—working in such sectors as agriculture, construction, domestic services, etc. Some of these sectors would, as a recent study by three progressive scholars observes, “likely collapse without access to cheap and unregulated migrant labor.”  These undocumented workers are often not able to gain minimum wages or work with labor contracts.
Immigrants are now being threatened with special ID cards and databases with biometric details. France will be using DNA testing on new immigrants coming into the country. Chauvinist hysteria against immigrants in the post-9/11 atmosphere often takes an anti-Arab and anti-Islamic form. And this is part of the official discourse as well—Nicholas Sarkozy, president of France, was elected in part on a “get tough” with immigrants platform in the wake of immigrant youth rebellions against police brutality and social discrimination in 2005. 
EU officials glow with pride about new means to fortify borders against “illegal” immigrants. The results? Spanish authorities alone reported that in 2006, 6000 drowned in the Atlantic, trying to reach the Canary Islands (part of Spain) from West Africa—where European commercial fleets have emptied out fisheries and destroyed livelihoods of local fisher people. Hundreds more immigrants in 2006 suffocated in containers and trucks and cargo boats in ports.
The EU has been expanding—and faces a compulsion to expand its international reach and competitiveness—if it is to thrive as a geoeconomic power in a world economy now still dominated by U.S. imperialism and with other new competitors and challengers arising within the world system. It is also possible that this U.S.-dominated international economic framework could suffer major jolts. Such jolts, in combination with other factors (like military setbacks), might create new openings for rising powers such as China and the EU to vault to significantly stronger positions.
Geopolitically, the EU is playing a more assertive international role. It has been a partner to Middle East talks. The EU oversaw elections in Congo in 2006. It took over the UN mandate of occupation in the western Balkans.
The bulk of the EU’s global, strategic military capability is contained within NATO. But one of the unexpected outcomes of the collapse of the Soviet Union was that “the triumph of the West” led to a Western Europe less militarily dependent on U.S. imperialism—since there was no longer a powerful and militarized Soviet bloc abutting Western Europe in the context of intensifying conflict between the U.S.-led and Soviet-led blocs. As Dominique Moisi, a French geopolitical scholar and policy adviser, described it: “the Cold War configuration of one West and two Europes” is being replaced by “one Europe but two Wests.” 
The EU has established or expanded a number of multinational “intervention forces”—a benchmark goal is to have 60,000 soldiers available for overseas missions of up to a year. The EU has been enlarging its military industry, investing in the Eurofighter combat jet and long-range aircraft. It has developed a European satellite navigation system (Galileo). These are all EU-wide, joint initiatives. And the EU has also been attempting to develop an overall command structure.
None of this can match, it does not even come close to matching, the military weight of U.S. imperialism right now. But this greater assertiveness is occurring at the same time that the U.S. is downsizing forces in Europe—while more ambitious EU plans for military deployments are unfolding, especially on the part of Germany. Moreover, the EU has the “industrial assets” to undergird rapid militarization.
There is yet another element: Russia. The EU would have significantly greater geopolitical strength in alliance with Russia, with its still formidable military power. This is a wild card of sorts, but quite real—all the more so, given Western Europe’s increasing dependence on Russian energy supplies.
Russia already supplies more than a quarter of the natural gas consumed in Western Europe, and this share is growing. On the other hand, Russia is highly dependent on the European market: the EU accounts for about 75 percent of Russia’s export earnings.  German capital is the major supplier of credits to Russian gas and oil giants (and former chancellor of Germany, Gerhard Schroder, is now chairman of the supervisory board of a subsidiary of Russian natural gas giant GAZPROM).  At the same time, European transnational firms have been seeking an independent presence in Central Asia to bypass Russia.
The question is posed: will the energy relationship with Russia—which is rocky—lead to a more general repositioning and collaboration of these two powers on the world stage?
The EU is also taking advantage of its historical ties of domination and exploitation in Africa to meet its energy requirements and to reduce its dependency on Russia. European transnational firms have recently accounted for 60 percent of new investment in West African oil and gas enterprises. Royal Dutch Shell is the leading foreign producer in Nigeria. It has been the object of protests and armed attacks by local residents in response to its drilling activities which bring few benefits to the surrounding communities but enormous environmental destruction. 
The euro has been playing a bigger role as a world currency. EU market enlargement and regional currency integration have provided an advantage in scale and efficiency for globalized West European capital. And since its inception in 1999-2000, the euro has become the biggest and only currency to rival the U.S. dollar as the world currency. The growing importance of the euro stems from the strength of the EU as well as from erosion in the U.S. international financial position. The dollar has been under huge downward pressure as a result of the tremendous deficits incurred by the U.S. and the more recent financial turmoil in the U.S.
The potential world impact of the euro is captured in the introduction to a collection of articles on the euro by mainstream analysts: “As the currency bearing the brunt of the U.S. dollar’s decline from its overvaluation of the late 1990s, the euro’s value and management is critical to the successful adjustment of international imbalances. And as a long-run competitor and collaborator with the dollar, the euro creates the potential for a bipolar international monetary system, offering unprecedented challenges and opportunities to economic policymakers.”  Already, the euro has surpassed the dollar as the world’s chief currency in the international bond market.
This does not rule out the possibility of the dollar being reinvigorated. And it is important to keep in mind that the strength of the dollar and its role as the world’s reserve and transaction currency are not simply a function of U.S. imperialism’s economic strength. “Confidence in the dollar” is also linked to the global military dominance of U.S. imperialism, to military-security linkages between foreign holders of the dollar and U.S. imperialism (as with a country like Saudi Arabia), and to the overall stability of U.S. capitalism and its highly developed financial markets relative to economic and political risk elsewhere.
On the other hand, a more gradual, long-term trend towards a “bipolar monetary system” does not rule out the potential for a massive flight from the dollar and sudden eruption of financial chaos, perhaps of a magnitude not seen since the 1930s. Such an attack on the dollar could be triggered by a combination of economic events and political developments. For example, China could stop financing U.S. Treasury debt on the scale that it has been and diversify its foreign exchange holdings away from the dollar.
Financial institutions and financial markets in Western Europe have been hit by the financial crisis that erupted in the U.S. in early 2008. But this much seems to be clear: the euro is gaining competitive ground on the dollar and being increasingly looked to as an international reserve and transaction currency.
In the aftermath of World War 2, U.S. imperialism shaped state structures in Europe and deeply penetrated the social formations on the continent, including culturally. In the expansion of the post-World War 2 period, U.S. and West European trade and investment links grew deep, and the larger geopolitical framework dominated by the U.S. constrained strategic challenges by West European imperialism. This continued after the collapse of the Soviet Union. In addition, the United Kingdom, which is a member of the EU, has a “special relationship” with the United States. And this influences the jockeying between the EU and the United States.
But the current world economic and political arrangements are not written in stone. They can evolve in new directions and radically change in connection with major geoeconomic and geopolitical shifts. Again, the Russia factor looms large. The EU may find itself torn between those within its imperialist ruling classes calling for a more robust European military capacity and those that still want to rely on the NATO alliance. The pathways towards a greater or lesser EU international geopolitical role would be profoundly influenced by a major move by China to wrench more initiative in the world economy and/or to forge closer alliance with Russia.
In June 2008, the French government announced a reorientation of French security policy towards deeper relations with NATO. But note closely: this was presented as a turn towards NATO and the EU—along with bolstering the EU’s capacity to plan and conduct its own military operations.
Contradictions between France and Germany, core forces of the EU, and the U.S. over the war in Iraq have been very acute. And there have been other contradictions; for instance, a dispute broke out in 2005 when the EU lifted an arms embargo imposed on China after the 1989 Tiananmen uprising of students and workers. And even where there is more (apparent) unity, as in putting pressure on Iran, it is also the case that rivalries are playing out within the NATO alliance.
The EU has necessity and freedom. The overall EU strategy seems to be one of “biding time”: promote further institutional integration within the EU bloc, seek out closer partnerships with other major powers, and take advantage of difficulties and setbacks of U.S. imperialism. But the pace, direction, and assertiveness of the EU will be influenced by underlying global trends and by unforeseen developments—internal and external to this bloc.
1. On the conflict between Western imperialism and Islamic fundamentalism and the ways in which they oppose but also reinforce each other, see Bob Avakian, Bringing Forward Another Way, revcom.us. [back]
2. For more on the development and nature of the EU, see Peter Dicken, Global Shift, 5th Edition (New York: Guilford, 2007), chapter 6; and Jozsef Borocz and Mahua Sarkar, “What is the EU?,” International Sociology, June 2005, Vol. 20 (2), pp. 153-73. [back]
3. See Dick Marty, Secret Detentions and Illegal Transfers of Detainees Involving Council of Europe States: 2nd Report (June 7, 2007), assembly.coe.int. [back]
4. For a Marxist analysis of the origins and logic of neoliberalism, see David Harvey, Neoliberalism (London: Oxford: 2005). [back]
5. Perry Anderson, “Depicting Europe,” London Review of Books, 20 September 2007, lrb.co.uk. [back]
6. Anderson, “Depicting Europe.” [back]
7. On the EU and Eastern Europe, see Dorothee Bohle, “The EU and Eastern Europe: Failing the Test as a Better World Power,” Socialist Register 2005: The Empire Reloaded (London: Merlin, 2004), pp. 300-12; Jozsef Borocz, “How Size Matters: The EU as a Geopolitical Animal,” 2005, web.uvic.ca/europe. [back]
8. Markus Euskirchen, Henrik Lebruhn, and Gene Ray, “The Changing European Border Regime,” Monthly Review, November 2007, pp. 41-42; [back]
9. On biometrics and “immigration control,” see “Special Report on Migration,” The Economist, January 5, 2008, pp. 8-10 [back]
10. Dominiqe Moisi, “Reinventing the West,” Foreign Affairs, November-December 2003, foreignaffairs.org. On growing EU-U.S. rivalry since the Kosovo war of 1999, see Kees Van Der Pijl, Global Rivalries From the Cold War to Iraq (London: Pluto, 2006), pp. 287-90. [back]
12. John Vinocur, “For Schroder and Putin, Linkup No Coincidence,” International Herald Tribune, January 3, 2006. [back]
13. On EU energy investments in Africa, see Michael T. Klare, Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2008), pp. 155-57. [back]
14. See summary, Adam Posen, ed., The Euro at Five: Ready for a Global Role? Special Report 18, Peter G. Peterson Institute for International Economics, 2005, iie.com. [back]
Revolution #138, August 3, 2008
From A World to Win News Service
July 21, 2008. A World to Win News Service. The proposed U.S.-India nuclear treaty represents a significant and dangerous development for the people of the region and the world.
The debate in the Indian parliament, one of the most bitter in recent years, bringing the Congress Party-led government to face a vote of confidence set for July 22, has been thoroughly reactionary on both sides. Sonia Gandhi’s Congress Party is salivating at the prospect of further tying India’s destiny to the U.S. The Hindu fundamentalist (or Hindu fascist, as it’s often called) Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) argues that the treaty might hinder India’s ability to use its nuclear weapons as it sees fit. The formerly pro-Soviet so-called Communist Party of India (Marxist) cloaks its arguments in terms of opposing subservience to the U.S., and might be more open to similar deals with European powers, but it is no less enthusiastic than the BJP in supporting a nuclear-armed Indian expansionism. The U.S. has intervened by baldly proclaiming: this is the best deal you can get, and you’d better take it or you’ll be punished.
Under the proposed accord, which the Bush administration has pushed for relentlessly, Washington would give India access to American nuclear power plant technology and fuel. This is supposed to be strictly limited to civilian nuclear projects, but the agreement is being voted at a time when the U.S. is threatening that “all options are on the table” to keep Iran from pursuing its own uranium enrichment program, correctly stating that there is no wall between civilian and military nuclear technology. Further, while Iran has signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty and is therefore subject to international inspections, India has refused to do so. The new agreement would allow for inspection of India’s nuclear power plants but shield its military installations from prying eyes. Experts have pointed out that providing India with nuclear fuel for its power plants would allow it to concentrate its resources on enriching uranium for military use. Most importantly, India has nuclear weapons; Iran does not.
There is big-power bullying in this arrangement, since the U.S. is seeking to impose its terms on India. This is the political importance of the unequal arrangements whereby the U.S. would have the right to inspect and rule on India’s nuclear programs (no one is allowed to inspect the U.S.!), and generally have the last say on the options enjoyed by its very junior partner. India would depend on U.S. fuel and be tied to contracts with American companies. Such business is highly lucrative and the object of high-pressure international competition between the big powers. It would increase India’s structural economic dependence. But the proposed treaty is part of a bigger picture, involving American efforts to draw in India as a major regional military ally, as India’s regional ambitions more fully converge with those of the U.S. empire.
India has long acted as a regional gendarme for the imperialists, for instance, in Sri Lanka and potentially against Nepal. Increasingly, the U.S. has been organizing India as a military ally, not only against the smaller countries of South Asia which India has habitually bullied, but further. India’s long-standing rivalries with Pakistan and China are being given new content, with the U.S. wielding India as a threat to keep the regimes of those countries in line with current American interests. There is not necessarily any conflict of interest between Indian subservience to the U.S. and Indian expansionism. For instance, India’s helping itself to major influence in Afghanistan is both directed at surrounding Pakistan, whose regime has lost its status as a trusted defender of American interests, and a big help to the U.S.-led occupation.
The U.S. has led 13 sets of war games involving India since 1995, when India, formerly allied with the Soviet Union, began to be enlisted in the American empire. The maneuvers in the past two years—each bigger than the last – have been particularly important. 2007 saw the first muscle-flexing of the newly-formed Quadrilateral Initiative, a military alliance bringing together warships from the U.S. (not just any ships, but the carriers Kitty Hawk and Nimitz), India, Japan and Australia. (Singapore also took part.) Although India has also carried out joint exercises with China and Russia in the past, the spearhead of this alliance is specifically and unabashedly aimed at China. A year earlier, American, Indian and Japanese warships carried out joint maneuvers in the South China Sea. U.S. Special Forces troops also conducted joint work for three weeks in India’s northeast, where the Indian army was supposed to give the American soldiers tips on waging counterinsurgency warfare.
This framework makes the proposed U.S.-India nukes pact especially ominous. Why does India have nukes in the first place—and why is the U.S. aggressively seeking an agreement whose real effect would be to ensure that India can have more nuclear weapons? The purpose of this treaty is aggression: American aggression in pursuit of its imperialist interests, and Indian aggression as a U.S. partner—no less nasty and lethal for being a junior partner, and a very big and strategic one.
A World to Win News Service is put out by A World to Win magazine (aworldtowin.org), a political and theoretical review inspired by the formation of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, the embryonic center of the world’s Marxist-Leninist-Maoist parties and organizations.
Revolution #138, August 3, 2008
Part 2: The U.S. Roots of Waterboarding
A July 2 New York Times article titled, “China Inspired Interrogations at Guantánamo,” reported that in December 2002 military trainers at Guantánamo Bay based an entire interrogation class on a chart showing the effects of torture techniques that include “sleep deprivation,” “prolonged constraint,” and “exposure.” The article says this chart was copied from a 1957 Air Force study of Chinese Communist techniques used during the Korean War to obtain confessions from American prisoners. And the New York Times then goes on to claim that this chart is “the latest and most vivid evidence of the way Communist interrogation methods that the United States long described as torture became the basis for interrogations both by the military at the base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and by the Central Intelligence Agency.”
But the real truth is that historically, the United States has been NUMBER ONE when it comes to developing, refining, and exporting torture techniques—like electroshock and waterboarding that have been used by U.S. interrogators against suspected “terrorists.” And with regard to the actual policies and conduct of Maoist China towards U.S. POWs during the Korean War, the facts are utterly different than what has been propagated and repeated by the U.S. government, the mainstream media and standard histories. The approach of the Chinese communists towards POWs, far from being one of torture, so-called “brainwashing,” and inhumane treatment, centered on political education. This will be addressed in the next part of this series.
Part 1 of this series (Mad Scientists and Criminal Laboratories) exposed how the CIA and the U.S. military directly conceived of, funded, and utilized cruel and inhuman experiments, using human guinea pigs, to develop cruel and inhuman torture techniques—such as shock treatment, sensory deprivation, and the use of hallucinogenic drugs. Part 2 discusses how, at the turn of the 20th Century—before the existence of any communist government—the U.S. routinely carried out what is now called waterboarding, in the Philippines.
Panic and suffering is induced by tilting a victim’s head back and pouring water into their mouth and nose. The person is unable to breath or cough out water, the lungs collapse, and the sinuses and trachea are filled with water. In this way, the subject is “drowned from the inside.” The chest and lungs are kept higher than the head so that coughing draws water up and into the lungs while avoiding total suffocation.
This is a description of waterboarding, the torture technique U.S. interrogators have used against suspected “terrorists” in the years after 9/11, at the turn of the 21st Century.
Now read this description:
“A man is thrown down on his back and three or four men sit or stand on his arms and legs and hold him down; and either a gun barrel or a rifle barrel or a carbine barrel or a stick as big as a belaying pin,—that is, with an inch circumference,—is simply thrust into his jaws and his jaws are thrust back, and, if possible, a wooden log or stone is put under his head or neck, so he can be held more firmly. In the case of very old men I have seen their teeth fall out,—I mean when it was done a little roughly. He is simply held down and then water is poured onto his face down his throat and nose from a jar; and that is kept up until the man gives some sign or becomes unconscious. And, when he becomes unconscious, he is simply rolled aside and he is allowed to come to. In almost every case the men have been a little roughly handled. They were rolled aside rudely, so that water was expelled. A man suffers tremendously, there is no doubt about it. His sufferings must be that of a man who is drowning, but cannot drown. ...”
This is a quote from U.S. Lieutenant Grover Flint over 100 years ago—at the turn of the 20th Century. He is describing the “water cure”—a torture technique used by U.S. soldiers in the Philippine-American War that started in 1898.
In 1896, after 300 years of Spanish colonialism, the Philippine Revolution broke out against Spain and when the Spanish-American War began in 1898, armed guerrilla struggle against Spanish colonial rule intensified. Spanish power collapsed throughout most of the archipelago. But meanwhile, U.S. imperialism was maneuvering to become the new colonial masters in the Philippines. Secret diplomatic negotiations were conducted between the U.S. and Spain, and on August 13, 1898, a mock battle was staged in order to justify Spain turning the Philippines over to the United States. After a few token shots were fired, Spain surrendered, and on December 18, 1898, the U.S. “bought” the Philippines from Spain for 20 million dollars.
Less than two months later, U.S. troops made a surprise attack on Filipino revolutionary forces near the capital of Manila and at least 3,000 Filipinos were killed. This was the beginning of the Philippine-American War. The masses of Filipino people waged a determined struggle to resist U.S. imperialism. But the U.S. won this war in 1902, after sending over 126,000 U.S. troops to the Philippines. Filipinos who refused to pledge allegiance to the U.S. flag were persecuted, sometimes imprisoned. Filipino rebels were tortured and organizations of workers and peasants were suppressed. For every U.S. casualty, 50 Filipinos died. It is estimated that anywhere from 250,000 to one million Filipinos were killed in the U.S.-Philippine War.
Some of the U.S. officers who led the U.S. invasion of the Philippines had taken part in the 1891 massacre of 350 Lakota men, women, and children at Wounded Knee. And the conquest and “pacification” of the Filipino people was carried out with the same racist thinking and justification that had been embedded in the genocide of Native Americans. U.S. forces referred to the Filipinos as “niggers,” “barbarians,” and “savages.”
As historian William Lorenz Katz put it: “From the White House and the U.S. high command to field officers and lowly enlistees the message became ‘these people are not civilized’ and the United States had embarked on a glorious overseas adventure against ‘savages.’ Officers and enlisted men—and the media—were encouraged to see the conflict through a ‘white superiority’ lens, much as they viewed their victories over Native Americans and African Americans. The Philippine occupation unfolded at the high tide of American segregation, lynching, and a triumphant white supremacy ideology.”
What did this mean when U.S. soldiers implemented this on the ground?
U.S. General Franklin Bell ordered the destruction of “humans, crops, food stores, domestic animals, houses and boats.” General Jacob Smith, who had fought at Wounded Knee, defined the enemy in the Philippines as anyone “ten years and up,” telling his men: “I want no prisoners. I wish you to kill and burn, the more you kill and burn the better it will please me.”
In a speech in the U.S. aimed at drumming up support for the War, U.S. General Frederick Funston openly bragged about how he had personally hung 35 Filipinos, who were suspected of supporting rebel forces, without trial. U.S. Major Edwin Glenn reported that he had forced a group of 47 Filipino prisoners to kneel down and “repent of their sins” before he bayoneted and clubbed them to death. General William Shafter in California declared that it might be necessary to kill half the Filipino population in order to bring “perfect justice” to the other half.
And as part of all this, U.S. soldiers routinely used what they called the “water cure” on prisoners—which was documented in Congressional testimony, letters from soldiers, court martial hearings, and newspaper accounts.
Letters from U.S. soldiers to their families back home, detailing the horrific details of the water cure, were sometimes published in hometown newspapers. In one letter that became public, a soldier wrote of how he used the water cure on 160 people and only 26 had survived.
Sergeant Charles S. Riley, one of the U.S. soldiers who entered the Philippine town of Igbaras on November 27, 1900, later described what happened. In a letter back home, published in the Northampton Daily Herald, Riley described how Tobeniano Ealdama, the presidente of the town, was tortured using the water cure.
Riley said Ealdama was bound and forced full of water. His throat was “held so he could not prevent swallowing the water, so that he had to allow the water to run into his stomach.” The water was then “forced out of him by pressing a foot on his stomach or else with [a soldier’s] hands.”
A group of five or six U.S. soldiers administered two rounds of this water torture to Ealdama, who then confessed to serving as a captain in the insurgency and helped U.S. soldiers search for rebel forces. The town of Ibgaras, of 400-500 houses, was ordered burned to the ground. Riley explained this was “on account of the condition of affairs exposed by the treatment.”
After public outcry against this war crime, the U.S. military was forced to hold a court-martial trial for Captain Edwin Glenn, the officer who had been in charge of the U.S. soldiers in Ibgaras. During the trial Glenn defended the use of the “water cure” saying it was “a legitimate exercise of force under the laws of war,” being “justified by military necessity.”
Glenn was sentenced to a one-month suspension and a fifty-dollar fine.
This is the real story of how the U.S. developed and adopted the use of water torture. This is the real history of the roots of waterboarding used by U.S. interrogators in the so-called “war on terror.” This is the real origins of this horrific torture technique—that has been given the green light by the U.S. White House, the U.S. Attorney General’s office, the U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. Congress.
Benevolent Assimilation: The American Conquest of the Philippines, by Stuart Creighton Miller, 1982
“U.S. Water Boarding, 1899 Style,” by William Loren Katz, November 6, 2007
Secretary Root’s Record: Marked Severities In Philippine Warfare: An Analysis Of The Law And Facts Bearing On The Actions And Utterances Of President Roosevelt And Secretary Root, by Moorfield Storey and Julian Codman
“The Water Cure. Debating torture and counterinsurgency—a century ago,” by Paul Kramer, The New Yorker, February 25, 2008
Revolution #138, August 3, 2008
At every point in the tortuous case of framed former Black Panther and journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal, he has been denied the most basic legal rights supposedly afforded to all those brought before the courts. This is one reason why his case so highlights the nature of the oppression of Black people and the fundamental nature of the “justice” system under the dictatorship of the capitalist class.
On July 22, ten judges of the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed without comment the request by Mumia Abu-Jamal for a rehearing of his federal appeal before a panel of all the judges of the circuit. Mumia’s appeal had been rejected in May this year in a 2 to 1 vote by a three-judge panel reviewing the case.
This decision continues the 27-year railroad of a Black revolutionary writer and activist, framed by the infamous racist court system of Philadelphia. Mumia Abu-Jamal has been held in isolation on Pennsylvania’s death row since his 1982 trial that was a travesty of justice.
This has occurred in spite of the mountain of new evidence that has been developed since Mumia’s original trial in 1983, where Mumia was denied the right to represent himself and was barred from the courtroom during most of his own trial for protesting this injustice.
For example, recently discovered photographs by a free lance photographer, who stumbled upon the scene just after the shooting of a police officer for which Mumia was convicted, show that police rearranged the evidence at the scene and there are no marks on the sidewalk where Mumia allegedly repeatedly fired down at the fallen officer.
But, as the U.S. Supreme Court has pointed out, the federal courts are not in the business of correcting bogus prosecutions and convictions; they content themselves with protecting federally guaranteed procedural rights. In fact, the Supreme Court has actually stated that it is legal for a state to execute an innocent person as long as correct procedures were followed!
Yet for all their interest “protecting procedural rights,” the recent 3rd Circuit Court decision had to ignore its own precedents where it has repeatedly overturned convictions for exactly the same reasons raised in Mumia’s case.
In a spirited dissent to the earlier May ruling, Judge Thomas L. Ambro reviewed similar cases in which the 3rd Circuit had granted a new trial for reasons of racist jury selection and then remarked that “I see no reason why we should not afford Abu-Jamal the courtesy of our precedents.”
No matter how much new evidence is brought to light, Mumia will not get another chance to present it in federal court unless his current appeal succeeds. Under the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, signed into law by President Bill Clinton, each criminal defendant can apply one time and one time only to the federal courts. Mumia’s attorney announced he will now appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, but the Supreme Court accepts very few such cases.
The 3rd Circuit appeals court did uphold a federal district court ruling which threw out Mumia’s death sentence because of misleading instructions to the jury. But in the event that the U.S. Supreme Court fails to grant Mumia a new trial, the state of Pennsylvania is free to convene a new jury to do the sentencing phase of his original trial all over again. That is, the state will get yet another shot at sentencing Mumia to death.
Revolution #138, August 3, 2008
Check It Out
We received the following “Check It Out” from Michael Slate:
Someone recently called my attention to a poem I watched come to life in a living room in Riverside, California many years ago. It was “Children of Children” by the late poet, lyricist and singer Oscar Brown Jr. Oscar was writing, performing and rewriting this one piece all afternoon. He was on fire. He was working from something he had written before but he told me that it wasn’t quite there yet and he really needed to get it right. He thought this was something that had to be said, something that needed to be done and brought into the world, the quicker the better. Oscar talked about needing to say something about an emergency situation. Oscar loved young Black people; he loved their style, their bold defiance, their insight and daring and he especially loved the way hip hop brought all this together with a love of words and music. But he was worried about what was happening with Black youth in America—he always talked about the horror that life had become for these youth. And he was especially worried- actually angry- about all these people blaming the youth and preaching personal responsibility as the key to changing the situation. Oscar was a firm believer that these youth were trapped in an unjust system they needed to get out of.
So he wrote—like a fiend. He read it again and again. Some of my favorite lines were: “The children of children, while still young and sweet, all damned and programmed for future defeat./ The children of children are trapped by adults who fail them and jail them to hide the results./ The children of children, unable to cope with systems that twist them and rob them of hope.”
And when he was done he laughed and said that if this poem ever got out big there were going to be a whole lot of people mad at him and, maybe, a whole lot more loving what he said. Oscar wanted this poem to be a slap in the head, a wake-up call to get things right. And as the years went on he would often shout it out to the world. Check out his performance of the poem on Def Poetry Jam by searching YouTube for “Children of Children” and “Oscar Brown Jr.” In times like today where it is so broadly pronounced that Black youth are the problem and not the victims of the problem, Oscar’s poem speaks louder than ever before.
Revolution #138, August 3, 2008
"Hook up with the Revolution"
July 30, Wednesday, 7 pm
Salon discussion: OBAMA: The Best Hope OR A Deadly Trap?--Obama’s Foreign Policy.
July 31, Thursday, 7:30 pm
Discussion and Expedition: "FREEGANISM for Beginners". Information session on the rescue of safe, usable food from the refuse of supermarkets. Followed by a trash tour. Refreshments in form of rescued food, come hungry.
August 3, Sunday, 3 pm
Reading and Discussion: Fr. Luis Barrios reading in Spanish from his new book: COQUIANDO: Meditaciones subversivas para un mundo major.
August 4, Monday, 7 pm
Staged reading:of a play by Jeni Mahoney: “The Feast of the Flying Cow… And Other War Stories”
Sunday, July 27, noon,
Secular Sunday conversation: "There is no such thing as Unchanging, and Unchangeable, Human Nature." Is it just "Human Nature" to be selfish or sinful? Inspired by the book Away With All Gods! Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World, by Bob Avakian.
Wednesday, July 30, 7 pm
Re-Envisioning Revolution and Communism: WHAT IS BOB AVAKIAN'S NEW SYNTHESIS?
More on the dictatorship of the proletariat as a liberating transition to communism.
Friday, August 1, 7 pm:
Film Showing - Fists of Freedom: The Story of the '68 Summer Games. The dramatic black-gloved, fist-held high black power salute by American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos on the victory stand at the 1968 Olympic summer games in Mexico City. 1 hour.
312 West 8th Street 213-488-1303
July 30, Wednesday, 7:30 pm
What was Stalin all about? Should revolutionaries uphold or reject Stalin? Join us to listen to a recorded interview with Bob Avakian, the Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, by Revolution correspondent and KPFK host Michael Slate on the question of leadership and Stalin. (This interview originally aired on KPFK on 1/25/05 and can also be accessed under "radio shows" at www.redfuture.com and "Other Audio" atwww.bobavakian.net).
July 31, Thursday, 7:30 pm
Join us for bilingual discussion of the 3rd installment of Raymond Lotta's "Shifts and Faultlines in the World Economy and Great Power Rivalry—What Is Happening and What It Might Mean" currently appearing in Revolution. Part 3: The European Union, Russia, Japan and India.
August 3, Sunday, 3 pm
Discussion of "Making Revolution, Emancipating Humanity" by Bob Avakian, featured in the new Revolution pamphlet: "Revolution and Communism, A Foundation and Strategic Orientation." Call or check our blog for details.
August 6, Wednesday, 7 pm
Hiroshima/Nagasaki 1945 - who would ever do it again? Watch and discuss White Light, Black Rain: The Destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. On August 6th and 9th, 1945, two atomic bombs vaporized 210,000 people. Filmmaker Steven Okazaki revisits the bombings and shares the stories of the only people to have survived a nuclear attack.
August 13, Wednesday, 7:30 pm
Mahmud Ahmad of Al-Awda, the Palestinian Right to Return Coalition (www.al-awda.org) speaking on the right of return, and why it is so important to the Palestinian struggle. Palestinians call what happened to them beginning in 1947 the Nakba - Arabic for catastrophe. Come learn the truth about the right of Palestinians to all of Palestine, including the land currently occupied by Israel.
2425 Channing Way near Telegraph Ave
July 29, Tuesday, 7:00 pm
Discussion of Away With All Gods! Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World by Bob Avakian. Part Two (cont.): "Christianity, Judaism, and Islam — Rooted in the Past, Standing in the Way of the Future." Religious Fundamentalism, Imperialism and the "War on Terror" • Why is religious fundamentalism growing in today’s world? What does this have to do with capitalism’s fundamental contradiction?
July 31, Thursday, 7:00 pm
Discussion series on Barack Obama's Candidacy:“Obama: Anti-War Candidate or…Banboozling You into War and Empire,” with presentation by Larry Everest.
August 5, Tuesday, 7:00 pm
Discussion of Away With All Gods! Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World by Bob Avakian. Part Three: "Religion - a Heavy, Heavy Chain"
August 7, Thursday, 7:00 pm
Discussion series on Barack Obama's Candidacy:“Obama: New Day for Black People…or New Face on Same Setup?” Presentation by Sunsara Taylor
August 10, Sunday, 6:30 pm
In conjunction with the anniversary of the U.S. bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki: FAT MAN, LITTLE BOY, AND THE MUSHROOM CLOUD: Remembrance, Resistance and Revolution (Poets reflect on America's crimes of empire)
August 12, Tuesday, 7:00 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" (pg. 155-199)
August 14, Thursday, 7:00 pm
Discussion series on Barack Obama’s Candidacy: “Our Best Hope, or a Deadly Trap?” Presentation by Sunsara Taylor
August 19, Tuesday, 7:00 pm
Discussion of Away With All Gods! Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World by Bob Avakian. Part Four (cont.): "God Does Not Exist - We Need Liberation Without Gods" (pg. 199-239)
Revolution Club meets Mondays at 6:30 pm
2626 South King Street
August 3, Sunday, 3 pm
Discussion of Part 4 of 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
Wednesday, July 23 at 7pm
Film Showing: Persepolis read about the film at http://rwor.org/a/135/Persepolis_DVD-en.html.
July 30, Wednesday, 7 pm
Discussion of the Special Supplement to Revolution newspaper: “Shifts and Faultlines in the World Economy and Great Power Rivalry, Part 1” by Raymond Lotta. Read the article at http://rwor.org/a/136/lotta_faultlines_pt1-en.html
Sunday, August 3 at 6 pm
Continuing Book discussion of Away With All Gods: Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World, by Bob Avakian. Part 3: Religion–a Heavy, Heavy Chain
Wednesday, August 6 at 7 pm
Concluding discussion of our series on Bob Avakian’s "Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity"
1833 Nagle Place
Thursdays, 7 pm, Starbucks at 1600 E Olive Way
Revolution Newspaper Discussion
Thursday July 31st:
Shifts and Faultlines in the World Economy and Great Power Rivalry What Is Happening and What It Might Mean - Part 2 by Raymond Lotta
Saturdays, 3-6 pm, Hidmo at 2000 S. Jackson
Discussion Series on Re-envisioning Revolution & Communism: What is Bob Avakian's New Synthesis?
August 13, Wednesday, 7 pm, Hidmo at 2000 S. Jackson Street
Film showing: IRAN (is not the problem). IRAN (is not the problem) is a documentary response to the failure of the American mass media to provide the public with relevant and accurate information about the standoff between the US and. Join us to watch and discuss the film and make plans for a larger screening in Seattle.
Revolution Books is mobile!
Revolution Books recently closed its Capitol Hill location due to the Sound Transit light rail project. We’ll be moving into our new, expanded location in January in the Pioneer Square area of downtown Seattle ! This summer, come browse our book table and join discussions and events at Hidmo, a vibrant Eritrean restaurant and community space in the Central Area of Seattle (2000 South Jackson St.). Revolution Books will be there every Saturday in August (3 pm-6 pm). You can pick up Revolution newspaper at Hidmo during the Revolution Books hours or from 5pm-12midnight, 7 days a week.
406 W.Willis (btwn Cass &2nd, south of Forest)
July 31, Thursday, 6: 30 pm
“Shifts and Faultlines in the World Economy and Great Power Rivalry, Part 1,” Revolution newspaper article by Raymond Lotta
August 13, Wednesday, 6:30 pm
“Re-envisioning Revolution and Communism, What Is Bob Avakian's New Synthesis,” A Philosophy to Understand and Change the World, Part II.
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
August 2, Saturday
REVOLUTION BOOKS IS MOVING Into larger, quieter quarters next door. More space, more books, our own reading and meeting room! If you want to donate labor or money, give us a call or email.
August 3, Sunday, 6 pm
Continuing book discussion of Away With All Gods: Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World, by Bob Avakian.
August 6, Wednesday, 7 pm
Concluding discussion of our series on Bob Avakian’s “Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity.”
Saturday, August 30 & Sunday, August 31
Look for Revolution Books at the Decatur Book Festival. We’ll be on vendors’ row on Ponce de Leon Ave. between Clairemont and Church in Decatur Square .