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Revolution #139, August 10, 2008
The 2008 Summer Olympics are about to begin in Beijing, China, running from August 8 to August 24. The Olympics are full of great athletic performances, but they are also highly politicized events. While people are going to be inspired by exciting contests and tremendous achievements, there will be a dose of politics and ideology that is delivered with it all, sometimes subtle and sometimes overt.
At different times, and in different ways, the relationship and rivalry between world powers gets expressed through the Olympic games. And in the Beijing Olympics, the complex relationship between rising China and the United States as the world’s sole superpower is setting the stage for how this is playing out, on the field and off.
Rising China is not a socialist country. It was a socialist country from 1949 to 1976, and during that period it was not part of the global circuits of capitalist exploitation. But today it is a capitalist country, profoundly enmeshed in and in some ways pivotal to global capitalism. And the Beijing Olympics coincide with, and mark a significant dimension to, China’s entree into the ranks of world powers.
Even the fact that China is hosting the Olympics reflects global geopolitics. It reinforces China’s rising status in the world. It is hard to imagine that the International Olympic Committee would have approved holding the Olympics in Beijing without the approval of the rulers of the United States. And China’s rulers have their own strategic objectives for what they intend to get out of hosting the Olympics—which we will address in the next issue of Revolution.
It is this complex dynamic that provides the context for, and the basis to decipher, U.S. media propaganda/commentary on the Olympics. That propaganda is focused on themes that represent U.S. interests vis-à-vis China, and are being promoted to train people in the U.S. to look at the U.S.-China relationship from the perspective of the U.S. rulers. These themes are:
Let’s examine the reality, and the interests behind these themes.
A recent background piece on the Olympics in the San Francisco Chronicle began: “As the People’s Republic of China prepares to host the 2008 Olympic Games, its 1.3 billion people can take pride in what they have accomplished in the three decades since they jettisoned Maoist ideology and embraced market forces to develop their economy.” (“Chinese Making a Great Leap Forward,” by Sam Zuckerman, 8/3/08).
China has achieved extremely high economic growth rates. It is a rising world economic and political power. But that growth has been achieved on the backs of hundreds of millions of wage slaves in the cities and towns, and at the cost of the devastation of the countryside. And it has been achieved within a framework of global imperialism that has warped and contorted China’s economic development. While China is a rising economic power, its economic heart still beats to the rhythm of the U.S. imperialist-dominated world order. Imperialist investment flows in, and profits extracted from workers entombed in coal mines and assembling toys and iPods for people in the imperialist countries flow out.
There is a growing middle class in China’s cities that is prospering. But in the factories, 16-hour days are common, wages barely cover food and rent, child labor is endemic, workplace safety is shocking, and strikes and protests are brutally suppressed. Over 700 million people live in China’s impoverished countryside, many on less than $2 a day. The country is characterized by vast and growing gulfs between rich and poor, between city and countryside, and increasing subjugation of women and minorities.
The nature of Chinese society is reflected in the enormous human cost for the Beijing Olympics: 1.5 million people lost their homes—they were destroyed to make way for the construction of Olympic venues and related structures. Construction workers were paid $50 a week for working 9 hours a day, 7 days a week, to build the landmark National Stadium, called the “Bird’s Nest” (because of the unique interwoven cement pillars and metal scaffolding). Millions of migrant workers from the countryside were forced out of Beijing before the Olympics open so as to present China’s best face to the world. And the Olympics have been accompanied by a crackdown on protest.
And for U.S. imperialism, the Olympics are an opportunity to intensify their economic and political interests in China—even as the Chinese rulers maneuver within that for a bigger piece of the action. General Electric, the parent company to NBC (the network that has exclusive U.S. broadcasting rights for the Olympics), is aggressively expanding investments in China—to a projected $10 billion in 2010. GE is involved in more than 300 projects related to the Olympics, including technology for the new National Stadium. General Electric’s CEO is counting on the Olympics creating “decades of good will in China” (see “Networks Fight Shorter Olympic Leash,” New York Times, 7/21/08).
It wasn’t always like this. From 1949 to 1976, China was a socialist society, a society that overthrew, and was uprooting, exploitation and all the ideas that go with it. That period, the Mao era as it is referred to, is ferociously vilified, and in light of the Beijing Olympics, these attacks are being repeated, and spread widely in society. In this and next week’s issues of Revolution, we will be providing background on the actual experience of this momentous period in human history—the communist revolution in China, where the oppressed held power from 1949 until 1976. But here, briefly, is the basic story that you will not hear on TV.
On the eve of the Chinese communist revolution, led by Mao Tsetung, a person in China could, on the average, expect to die at age 32. Fewer than one person in six could read and write. Periodic famines led to mass starvation. The Chinese people were buried under what Mao called the three mountains—imperialism, feudalism, and bureaucrat capitalism (Chinese capitalism that served foreign imperialism). And China’s economic subjugation was enforced through military aggression and the political and cultural suppression of the Chinese people by imperialism.
China’s socialist revolution liberated the country from the chains of world imperialism, and resulted in a tremendous improvement in life for the Chinese people. Between 1949 and 1975, life expectancy in socialist China more than doubled—to about 65 years. By the early 1970s, infant mortality rates in Shanghai were lower than those in New York City at the time. By the mid 1970s, some 80 to 90 percent of the Chinese people were literate. Culture, politics, free or low-cost healthcare, and education came to the long-neglected countryside. And women made great strides in achieving equality. (For a more expanded survey of this, see “Setting the Record Straight: Social and Economic Achievements Under Mao,” available at revcom.us).
The pinnacle of this process was the much vilified Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, when the masses of people in China stepped onto the political stage, engaged in great debates, protests, and political struggle on a level no society has come close to—before or since. Through this, and with revolutionary leadership, people struggled to identify and uproot remaining and re-emerging elements of exploitive society in the economy, in politics, and in people’s thinking. (For a response to frequently asked questions about the Cultural Revolution, see “The Truth About the Cultural Revolution,” in this issue.)
Mao was a communist, and he saw the Chinese revolution and socialism as part of the process of getting to communism.
What is communist revolution really about? It starts with revolutionary state power, to strip the old capitalist-imperialist ruling class of its property and control over society. It moves right away to meet the most pressing needs of the people, and solve problems that seem hopelessly unsolvable under capitalism. And it does this in the service of, and as part of, the world revolution, with the aim of emancipating all of humanity. Socialist states are rooted in the conscious activism of the masses of people, and take up a series of struggles to uproot exploitation and oppression throughout society, from production, to institutions, to the ways in which people think. And this all takes place through a process of tremendous challenges, vibrant societal wrangling, and diversity.
This is a process through which people transform the world, and as they do that, they transform themselves—and very importantly this is all a component part of the world revolution. The goal of revolutionary state power is and needs to be nothing short of a society where people are really free—a communist society that has moved beyond the division of people into classes and all the oppressive relations between people and ideas that serve class divisions.
There is class struggle throughout the entire socialist transition—between continuing the revolutionary advance toward a communist world, or reversing the revolution and restoring capitalism.
Shortly after the death of Mao in 1976, forces within the Communist Party staged a reactionary coup, and overthrew socialism. They jailed tens of thousands of revolutionaries including Mao’s closest followers, and re-linked China into the chains of global imperialism as an oppressed nation. China has been a capitalist society ever since.
The Chinese revolution was complex, and—as all great new things are—contradictory. But overwhelmingly, in reality, it was an inspiring advance to be studied, learned from, summed up, and on the basis of which to chart the next stage of the world communist revolution. This is the work that has been done by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party (for a concentrated introduction to Avakian’s work, see “MAKING REVOLUTION AND EMANCIPATING HUMANITY” Part 1 and Part 2, available at revcom.us. Audio downloads of Avakian’s speeches and interviews are available at bobavakian.net).
On the other hand … for global imperialism and its lackeys, the communist revolution in China was the worst thing ever. It ripped a quarter of humanity out of the synapses of global exploitation and oppression, and it served as a powerful counter-weight to the economic, political, and military power of imperialism. They rejoiced when socialism was overthrown, and lost no time in flooding China with investments.
The U.S. imperialists are skinning the ox twice: They have their fangs deep into China, pouring massive investment in, and pulling massive profit out on the backs of China’s people; and they then turn around and point to conditions in China today—conditions that reflect and serve capitalism—and proclaim them to be an indictment of socialism and communism. Often this is in the form of identifying some of these things as supposedly remnants of the Mao era.
The Beijing Olympics symbolizes China’s admittance into the circle of economic and political world powers, but in a world where U.S. imperialism is the sole superpower. Raymond Lotta wrote in Part 2 of his essay, “Shifts and Faultlines in the World Economy and Great Power Rivalry: What is Happening and What It Might Mean”:
“The dynamics of China’s rise are complex. There is, however, a shaping contradiction: dependency and growing economic strength. China is dependent on foreign capital and foreign markets. But China has also emerged as a world economic power, a center of world manufacturing. It has accumulated vast foreign exchange reserves, and gained considerable financial leverage—increasingly over the dollar. And China is more aggressively seeking markets in the Third World and exporting capital beyond its borders.”
The rise of China is taking place in a world where, as Lotta writes:
“The U.S. still occupies the primary position in the imperialist world economy. It is the largest economy; the financial glue of the whole world system; and the political-military ‘guarantor’ of a global order that benefits, at least for now, all the big powers.
“The U.S.’s economic position in the world has been declining. But U.S. imperialism possesses unparalleled military strength relative to rivals and would-be rivals. And since 2001, it has been pressing this advantage—mounting a global military offensive, focused in Iraq and Afghanistan, to secure unchallengeable dominance for decades to come.” (See “China’s Capitalist Development and China’s Rise in the World Imperialist System: Its Nature and Implications,” in Revolution # 137, available at revcom.us.)
The relationship between the U.S. and China is expressed, and being contended, in the background sounds behind the Beijing Olympics. It explains why the U.S. (through diplomatic moves and media propaganda) alternately turns the volume up and down on accusations about China’s role in supporting the Sudanese government and massacres in Darfur, or its relationship to the Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe.
And the nature of the relationship, and contention, between the U.S. and China informs the type and tenor of exposés in the U.S. media about actual horrors in China, including exposés of the draconian wages and working conditions in China’s factories, the extreme poverty in the countryside, and suppression of debate and dissent.
These exposures are a message that China is undeserving and untrustworthy to be co-equal to the “great powers” and has to change, i.e., accept the terms being set by the U.S. This is all within an imperialist framework, and how China’s role is being contended in that. And these conditions in China are portrayed as products of a culture of cronyism, corruption unchecked because of the monopolization of political power by the (so-called) Communist Party. These terms tend to reinforce China’s position in a U.S.-dominated world order, and they obscure the actual source of the tremendous poverty and repression in China. In reality, these are products of capitalism, and China’s position as an oppressed nation.
And here again, it must be said, U.S. exposures and condemnations of China for exploiting workers, starving peasants, and suppressing dissent are obscenely hypocritical. The U.S. cries shame over China’s treatment of the Tibetans while somehow missing the story of the situation for Black people in the USA—where one in nine Black youth is in jail. The U.S. expresses outrage at the conditions of immigrants from the Chinese countryside (who are technically illegal residents in China’s cities) while in the United States over ten million undocumented immigrants are ruthlessly exploited and terrorized by ICE raids. The U.S. government illegally monitored the calling patterns of millions of Americans, but has the gall to decry the monitoring and control of the Internet by the “authoritarian” government in China.
* * *
Four billion people will watch the ’08 Olympics. In the world as it exists today, the Olympics present a painful dichotomy between awe-inspiring athletic feats that leave you breathless, and the fact that all this is taking place against a canvass of jockeying for advantage between competing powers, as well as a heavy dose of poisonous ideology. Within that, in this Olympics, the rivalry between the U.S. and China is being played out on and off the field.
Revolution #139, August 10, 2008
From a reader
I was thinking about the upcoming Olympics and how it would be a real advance for people in the U.S. not to be rooting for every single American and American team, particularly the basketball dream team. In thinking about this I listened to Bob Avakian’s talk, “The NBA: Marketing the Minstrel Show and Serving the Big Gangsters,” where he gets into how people are trained through sports to not think critically, and not to see the world as it really is, and how this is done by training people to “root for the home team.” All of this ends up being in the service of U.S. imperialism.
Avakian uses the NBA as an example of how this training works. He points out that when there is a foul called on one team and the replay shows that there really was no foul, the announcers will say, “Well, if you’re a fan of the team that is fouled, that’s a great call, but if you’re a fan of the team that made the foul, that’s a horrible call.” Since it was actually not a foul, this method—which reflects a philosophical approach called “relativism”—is used to block people from being able to really understand the real world. In reality, a bad call is a bad call, no matter what team you want to win. But the way they announce sports, they want you to think that a bad call is really a good call if it favors the team you’re rooting for.
And this “root for the home team” stuff is in service of a political agenda. First you are trained to root for the home sports team, and the next step will be the Olympics and rooting for the Americans. And then, outside sports, you are supposed to root for the soldiers in Iraq or somewhere else; root for U.S. imperialism—the “home team.”
And a lot of this is done in ways that people don’t even recognize it. When this “good call/bad call” thing comes up, you’re not even conscious that you are being indoctrinated to see things in a way that really distorts reality, and in a way that makes it easier for the ruling class to come along and get you to respond the way they want you to.
This is already going on big time around the Olympics, and the games haven’t even started. Take the attacks being made on Becky Hammon and Chris Kaman, both professional American basketball players, who will be playing for other countries—Kaman for Germany and Hammon for Russia. They’ve been called everything from traitors to mercenaries to opportunists. On the other hand, these backward folks and sports announcers, who are attacking Kaman and Hammon, will be jumping out of their seats rooting for Bernard Legat, a Kenyan running on the U.S. Olympic team in the 1,500 and 5,000 meter races. He won’t be called a traitor or a mercenary.
Ugly Americanism, “my country is the greatest no matter what it does,” is going to run rampant at the Olympics. We are going to be inundated by the U.S. media with how “the American way is better than the Chinese way.” And the American media will be rooting for the U.S. Olympians. Just wait and see. Listen closely to the tenor and inflection in their voices when an American wins as opposed to when someone from another country wins. They will be a hell of a lot more excited for the American winners than for winners from other countries. Or when the Americans lose, they’ll talk about how sad it is that the Americans are out. And there is going to be this whole emphasis on who has the most gold medals and total medals—the U.S. or China—just in order to get you to focus on “your” nation versus “their” nation.
We’re also going to be exposed to some very ugly “USA is #1” crap at these Olympics, and at every opportunity, they will be showing U.S. medal winners saying how great the U.S. is and thanking God (who doesn’t exist) for their achievements. Here’s what I’ve got to say about “USA is #1.” They are number one at making wars on the people of the world and killing hundreds of thousands of people in these wars. They are number one at using nuclear weapons on civilians. They are number one at torturing people. They are number one at spying and incarcerating their own people. They are number one at creating a planet of slums. They are number one in destruction of the earth’s environment. And they are the number one hated country by the masses of people in the world. So just remember when you hear that chant of “USA, USA” what it really means.
In his talk on the NBA, Avakian uses the example of Wimbledon (the All-England Tennis Championships) to show another way national chauvinism comes out in sports. When the men American players get knocked out of Wimbledon, these announcers are always bemoaning that fact. “Oh how horrible, there are no Americans left at Wimbledon.” Well, who gives a damn about the American players? We should just want to see good tennis. In the Olympics, we may have another chance to see some great tennis but it will not be any Americans. I will be hoping for Rafael Nadal from Spain and Roger Federer from Switzerland, who played at Wimbledon, to make the Olympic finals because that will be high quality tennis with inspirational performances.
In the 1972 Montreal Olympics, I remember when Mac Wilkins, U.S. discus thrower and winner of the event, gave Wolfgang Schmidt of East Germany a big bear hug when Schmidt passed John Powell of the U.S. for second place on his final throw. Wilkins had met Schmidt earlier in the year at another track meet and they had a friendly discussion about such things as Vietnam and the Berlin Wall.
“It was one of those rare times when the Olympics did what they’re advertised to do,” says former U.S. women’s shot put record holder Maren Seidler, who witnessed it. “A guy’s respect for another guy’s come-through effort transcended nationality and ideology. And what happened? People were offended by it. Offended.” (“The Old Men and the Discus,” S.I. Vault, July 25, 1988.) Wilkins was blasted in the U.S. press for congratulating an East German who beat his own countryman, and he lost all potential endorsements for his friendly gesture. For me, when I saw it, it was even sweeter because I knew John Powell was a San Jose cop, and I hate cops! It was a wonderful showing of internationalism and friendship between two athletes.
Those of us who are proletarian internationalists, who have a burning desire to emancipate all the oppressed in the world and ultimately humanity as a whole, and those of us who are opposed to any kind of national chauvinism, want to see great, high quality athletic performances that are inspiring in the Olympics, not get subjected to a whole lot of “USA, USA” jingoism. In fact, I will have the sound turned off on my television, so the announcers will not have an opportunity to ruin my enjoyment any more than it is already ruined with all these U.S. athletes running all over the place with little American flags in their hands.
While watching and paying attention to the Olympics, will you be blindly rooting for the home team? Or will you see how they are trying to play you, and think critically about what the U.S. announcers are saying, and try to enjoy the Olympics for the beauty and awe that sports can bring?
Revolution #139, August 10, 2008
On The Nation’s Open Letter to Obama:
The August 18 issue of The Nation magazine published “Change We Can Believe In. An Open Letter to Barack Obama,” online at thenation.com.
The letter begins by congratulating Obama and extolling how, through his candidacy, “Hundreds of thousands of young people have entered the political process for the first time, African-American voters have rallied behind [Obama], and many of those alienated from politics-as-usual have been re-engaged.”
But they express concern that, “Since your historic victory in the primary, there have been troubling signs that you are moving away from the core commitments shared by many who have supported your campaign, toward a more cautious and centrist stance—including, most notably, your vote for the FISA legislation…”
While making clear that they “recognize that compromise is necessary in any democracy,” and “understand that the pressures brought to bear on those seeking the highest office are intense,” they advise Obama, “Retreating from the stands that have been the signature of your campaign will weaken the movement whose vigorous backing you need in order to win and then deliver the change you have promised.”
“People always were and always will be the foolish victims of deceit and self-deceit in politics until they learn to discover the interests of some class or other behind all moral, religious, political and social phrases, declarations and promises. The supporters of reforms and improvements will always be fooled by the defenders of the old order until they realize that every old institution, however barbarous and rotten it may appear to be, is maintained by the forces of some ruling classes.”
After listing some of Obama’s positions that they like and some that they don’t, they pledge: “If you win in November, we will work to support your stands when we agree with you and to challenge them when we don’t. We look forward to an ongoing and constructive dialogue with you when you are elected President.”
The signatories to this letter are an impressive list of writers and intellectuals, a number of whom are respected tremendously as voices of conscience. But, this letter, and its whole logic and method, is very bad. Whatever their intent, those who put their names on it are wielding their influence to get people to join them in a deadly exercise in self-delusion.
On one level, the best response to this letter are the words of Obama himself. Answering accusations that he had “moved to the right” since securing the Democratic nomination, he said, “The people who say this haven’t apparently been listening to me.”
But since those who signed The Nation’s letter are serious people making a serious argument, and since this letter reinforces themes that are constantly hammered at people, it is important to say more.
One of the most insidious dangers of this letter is how it “softens” Obama’s politics, distorts the meaning of his campaign, and proceeds from what the writers wish were true rather than what actually is.
Take, for instance, the letter’s claim that Obama has “sketched out a vision of a better future, in which the United States sheds its warlike stance around the globe.”
In reality, what he has “sketched out” is a vision of massive escalation—to the tune of 10,000 more troops!—of the war in Afghanistan, a willingness to unilaterally use military force in Pakistan, and a refusal to rule out using nuclear weapons against Iran! Besides voting repeatedly to continue funding the war in Iraq, Obama has made clear that his criticisms of that war are out of a desire to strengthen the influence and domination of the U.S. in the world. Really, all this is much more than a “sketch”; Obama has put forward a very concrete program of imperialist domination for all to see and hear. . . and it doesn’t entail “shedding a warlike stance” any time soon.
Or take this letter’s description of Obama’s positions as “cautious and centrist.”
What exactly is “cautious and centrist” about voting for Bush’s FISA law sanctioning massive domestic wire-tapping and retroactively protecting those who violated the rights of millions to privacy? What is “cautious and centrist” about giving a bloodthirsty speech to AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) that essentially writes Israel a blank check and threatens Iran with war? What is “cautious and centrist” about blaming Black fathers, in his infamous Father’s Day speech, for the way this system has written off a whole generation of youth, unable and unwilling to provide jobs or decent education or any kind of future at all, and instead funneling 1 in 9 Black men into jail?! What is “cautious and centrist” about getting to the right of George Bush’s Supreme Court and arguing for even wider use of the death penalty? What is “cautious and centrist” about promising to expand Bush’s Faith-Based Initiative?!
If all this is “cautious and centrist,” I’d really hate to see “cynical and fascist”!
More to the point, sanitizing Obama’s positions in this way is dangerously similar to how the Pentagon refers to civilians murdered in unjust wars as “collateral damage”; it has the effect of numbing people to reality and making it easier for them to acquiesce to war crimes. What is particularly painful is that many of the letter signers have a commendable history of speaking plainly and insisting people confront the full horrors of the crimes of the government, but the logic of trying to make Obama into something he is not has led them away from this principle they have stood for.
It is essential to speak honestly and accurately about all this. Only by confronting reality as it actually is, can we determine how it can be transformed in ways that are both possible and desirable. Conversely, if we insist on deceiving ourselves—and worse yet, deceiving others—then we will continue to find ourselves standing by in impotent frustration as this country continues on its bloody, criminal course.
The reality is the situation is extremely dire. Millions on this planet, and many future generations, are imperiled because of what the U.S. government is doing in our names: the torture, the massive spying, the refusal to acknowledge or take meaningful action to stem global warming, the Gestapo-style round-ups of immigrants, the assaults on women’s most fundamental rights, the vicious resurgence of racism, and especially the wars.
Further, the reality is that all this was sanctioned and codified, not stopped or even slowed, through people’s participation in “politics-as-usual.”
To name just one example, in 2006 millions gave money, volunteered time, and voted for the Democrats out of a desire to see an end to the whole Bush trajectory. What did this “victory” lead to? A Congress that has voted six times to approve war funding, actively participated in covering up torture and protecting war criminals, and secretly funding covert military operations already afoot within Iran’s “sovereign” borders.
Is it any wonder that so many have become profoundly alienated from this shit?
And is that a good thing or a bad thing?
Potentially, it is a profoundly good thing; but this alienation is far from enough, and left to itself will turn to cynicism, despair, and passivity. What is needed is for this to go further, and for these people to come forward in political resistance that is broad, deep, and determined enough to stop this whole direction.
In the face of this urgent need, why should anyone celebrate if Obama, holding the positions that he actually holds, “re-engages” these people back into the killing confines of his “politics-as-usual”? This is like congratulating the Pied Piper for how his beautiful flute-playing attracts the town’s children, disregarding that this is leading them to the bottom of a river.
But what of the letter’s argument that Obama has to listen to them because he cannot afford to “weaken the movement whose vigorous backing [he] needs in order to win...”?
Once again, perhaps the best answer to this comes from the candidate himself.
Responding to angry supporters who complained about his FISA vote, he wrote, “[S]ome of you may decide that my FISA position is a deal breaker. That’s ok. But I think it is worth pointing out that our agreement on the vast majority of issues that matter outweighs the differences we may have.… Make no mistake: if John McCain is elected, the fundamental direction of this country that we love will not change.”
In other words, he knows full well that as long as people’s eyes are focused on Who’s Going To Be President progressive people have “no alternative” but to vote for him.
And, while the letter writers pledge to challenge Obama, if elected, on the positions they don’t agree with, the actual effect of their letter and their logic is to promise not to challenge Obama too much now. This is a logic echoed by all too many; as one prominent anti-war activist recently told me, explaining why her group wasn’t putting more effort into protests at the Democratic National Convention, “We’re going to shut the fuck up until he gets elected.” This is certainly NOT what the anti-war movement should be doing at a time when the rulers of the country are actively preparing a new war—a war against Iran that Obama has made clear he’d support.
You see, even as they criticize Obama for his FISA vote, already by the next paragraph the letter writers are smoothing this over by acknowledging that “compromise is necessary in any democracy… the pressures brought to bear on those seeking the highest office are intense.”
Well, that logic never ends.
Today, a FISA vote is excused “in order to get elected.” Next, a delay in troop withdrawal because “the Generals insist...” Soon people swallow more religiously-driven legislation and homilies to Jesus Christ because “he can’t get anything done” unless he “brings the country together.” Then, before you know it, further “compromises” so the Democrats hold their majority in the mid-term elections. Then, like a tape on loop, those same “pressures” will have to be accommodated to get him reelected.
Most fundamentally, those pressures must be understood for what they are: the operation and logic of the system Obama is competing to be commander-in-chief of. And if he wants to be selected president he has to prove himself capable of running this country in the interests of the class of capitalist/imperialists who rule.
That is why he is championing the so-called “war on terror” which, in its essence, is a war for imperialist domination. That is why he is photo-op-ing with Generals and singing the praises of troops who are neck-deep in war crimes. That is why he is meeting with, and by all accounts trying to win the approval of, people like Franklin Graham who once compared the Iraqi people to the ancient Babylonians of the Old Testament. That is why he directs his aim not at white supremacy but at Black men and admits he’s “not entirely immune to nativist sentiments” against immigrants.
Let’s be real. In bourgeois elections what the masses of people think has precious little to do with how the candidates choose their positions or which candidate wins. By the time the people get to pull the lever on election day, the terms have been set—which candidates and issues and stands are viable contenders has been determined—according to ruling class interests. And when they do vote, all they are doing is stamping those ruling interests—as embodied in one candidate or another—with the mantle of legitimacy and a “popular mandate.”
If the people who wrote this open letter don’t know that, they should. But what is really unconscionable is that this “Open Letter to Barack Obama” is not going to be heard and considered by Obama—he is more likely to blow his nose with it than to take such a thing seriously. But it will be heard and considered by those who are extremely alienated and angry with the government, who seized on the Obama candidacy as a source of hope, and who are now disillusioned as Obama articulates an increasingly unapologetic imperialist agenda.
These people don’t need to be funneled back into the dead-end of politics-as-usual, they need to be told the truth:
The real choice is not a choice between Obama and McCain. The real 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 the world is being dragged in. It is the difference between fighting for the change you ARE ALLOWED to believe in and the change that you understand is really needed.
Yes, political resistance of a scale and scope that could bring all this to a halt is more daunting and requires more sacrifice. But, if you want genuine change then nothing is more unrealistic than confining yourself to pulling the lever.
It is long past time people put their hope in something that can bring about change worth believing in: the power of the people acting in the interests of humanity. The people do have the power to effect change when they refuse to hold their tongues out of electoral calculations and get off their butts and go into the streets.
It is a very good thing—not a bad thing, as The Nation implies—that millions are deeply angry and profoundly alienated not just by the Bush regime but also increasingly by Obama. Many of them are casting about, wondering if there is another way. Many of them will join in resistance if they see it as an option.
All of their eyes—and millions more around the world—will be at the Democratic National Convention.
Instead of trying to convince them that what is going on inside should be accepted, shouldn’t we tell them the truth about what this represents? Shouldn’t we bend every effort to ensure they see thousands of protesters OUTSIDE making clear their refusal to swallow war-mongering and repression regardless of which candidate or party is pushing it?
And, to those who are ready to give up on banging your hearts and your heads up against the “best” that capitalism can offer; shouldn’t we go further still? Shouldn’t we get into the questions of our times that really demand answers, like what kind of society you are willing to live in and what kind of change is really required. Is it simply a matter of making adjustments to the blood-soaked arrangements of empire or do we urgently need fundamental and radical change?
To those who wonder if a better world—a future really worthy of human beings—is possible; I dare you to dream of revolution. And I invite you to explore—through the pages of this newspaper and the works of Bob Avakian—a viable vision of what that is, and to engage the leadership that can point the way.
Revolution #139, August 10, 2008
On April 25, 2008, a New York judge acquitted the New York City police who fired 50 shots at Sean Bell. They murdered him—just hours before his scheduled wedding. They severely wounded two of his friends. When asked about this verdict, Barack Obama replied: “The judge has made his ruling, and we are a nation of laws, so we respect the verdict that came down.”
With Barack Obama,
“We Shall Overcome”
“We Shall Overlook.”
Revolution #139, August 10, 2008
I was walking by an Obama storefront and decided to go in and ask what they are saying to people concerned and outraged by his rapid moves to openly endorse a number of positions that a good portion of his supporters abhor.
I ended up having a conversation with two younger people, with an older Black woman listening on. The young man had graduated from SF State, and was quite entrenched in the terms being set by the Democrats and the electoral process. He argued that Obama was doing this to get the votes of various sections of the electorate—and when I pressed him, he quickly resorted to ‘Well, are you saying people should vote for McCain?”
The young woman on the other hand, who majored in Global Studies, said she fully agreed with what I was saying. She too was very disturbed by what he was doing, said the best she could hope for was to hold him to his “promises.” I raised the problem of trying to make any serious change through the electoral process, and she said she understood and basically agreed. She said that in fact she was a revolutionary, and this wasn’t the only thing she was trying to do to bring about change. That led to an interesting discussion about the impact of globalization; the lopsidedness in the world; and the need for fundamental, revolutionary change. She didn’t know about the newspaper, Bob Avakian, or the bookstore, but she seemed interested. I invited her to the discussion on Ray Lotta’s first article later in the week, and the other events out of the store. And we exchanged e-mails.
It strikes me that if this young woman is typical of a segment of Obama’s supporters, it may say something about a section of people who have been actively organizing for him, but are nevertheless in significant turmoil about these developments and in search of, or open to, a serious analysis of the actual character and role of bourgeois elections and bourgeois democracy, and this election in particular.
So…why not engage these people?
Revolution #139, August 10, 2008
The media, politicians, and standard history books routinely bombard us with the message that “communism is dead” and gross misrepresentations about socialism and communism. China was a genuine socialist country from 1949 to 1976. And as the Beijing Olympics approach and unfold, there will be all kinds of attacks on Mao Tsetung, socialism, and the Cultural Revolution.
The current rulers in China have a “communist label” but after Mao died in 1976, socialism in China was overturned and capitalism was brought back. And what we see in China today is NOT socialism, but a capitalist society, marked by sweatshop exploitation, environmental destruction, and vast social inequalities.
For the last four years, the Set the Record Straight project has been answering the lies and distortions about socialist revolution in the 20th century. Part of its work has been to produce fact sheets that can be used in classrooms, posted on the Internet, and circulated at various public events and forums.
Below we are reprinting a fact sheet from Set the Record Straight on the Cultural Revolution. Set the Record Straight can be reached at SettheRecordStraight@hotmail.com, www.thisiscommunism.org.
China’s Cultural Revolution is so controversial. Many accounts describe it as a power-mad purge of opponents by Mao Tsetung that plunged China into great chaos. What was it really about?
The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution of 1966-1976 was a mass revolutionary upsurge involving hundreds of millions of people. It was a kind of “revolution within the revolution.”
In 1949, China’s worker-peasant revolution overthrew the old order. The revolution established a socialist political and economic system that empowered the masses and brought great benefits to people (see “Setting the Record Straight: Economic and Social Achievements Under Mao,” RW No. 1248). But significant economic differences and social inequalities still existed in the new socialist society. Most dangerously, a new privileged elite had emerged. Its political-organizational center was right within the Chinese Communist Party, and its political and ideological influence was growing.
By the mid-1960s, the top capitalist-roaders (so called because they were high-ranking Party leaders who used a watered-down Marxism to justify taking China down a political-economic road that would lead to the restoration of capitalism) were maneuvering to seize power. Their goal was to re-institute systems of exploitation and to open China back up to foreign domination—in short, to turn China into the “sweatshop paradise” that it is today!
Far from being a “palace power struggle,” the Cultural Revolution was a profound and intense struggle over the direction of society and over who would rule society: the working people or a new bourgeois class.
Mao and the revolutionary forces in the Communist Party mobilized people to rise up to prevent capitalist takeover and to shake up the higher levels of the Party that had become increasingly cast in a bourgeois-bureaucratic mold. But the Cultural Revolution was much more than that. The masses were carrying forward the revolutionary transformation of the economy, social institutions, culture, and values and were revolutionizing the Communist Party itself. This is what Mao called continuing the revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat.1
But was this really a popular upheaval? Mostly what you hear was that it was a terrifying “cleansing” of society.
The Cultural Revolution was not about “round-ups,” people being sent to “forced-labor camps,” or “totalitarian group-think.” The methods of the Cultural Revolution were quite different. Workers, peasants, and people from all walks of life engaged in mass criticism of corrupt officialdom. They engaged in great debates about economic policy, the educational system, culture, and the relation between the Communist Party and the masses of people. Mao wasn’t interested in “purges.” He was calling for mass action from below to defeat the enemies of the revolution. Here are some examples of how the Cultural Revolution was waged.
Wasn’t great violence perpetrated during the Cultural Revolution, with many innocent people suffering?
Standard Western accounts suggest that violent attacks on people and physical elimination of opponents had the official blessings of Mao—and that, policy or not, thuggish violence was widespread. Both of these claims are utterly false.
Mao’s orientation for the Cultural Revolution was clearly spelled out in official and widely publicized documents. In the Sixteen Point Decision, it was stated: “Where there is debate, it should be conducted by reasoning and not by force.”3 Other Maoist policy statements gave further direction. For instance, Red Guards were not allowed to carry weapons or to arrest or try anyone.
Mao called on the masses to “bombard the headquarters” and overthrow the handful of capitalist-roaders who were trying to lead society back into the clutches of capitalism. These were overwhelmingly political uprisings. Mass debate, mass criticism, and mass political mobilization—these were the main forms of class struggle during the Cultural Revolution. Party and administrative officials at all levels were given the opportunity to reform and participate in the struggle (and no more than 3% of cadre were even expelled from the Party—not exactly a draconian purge).
Was there violence? Yes, there was. This was intense and turbulent class struggle. In an unprecedented mass movement of this scale (we’re talking about 30 million young activists alone), in a country of this size (800 million at the time), it would be hard to imagine otherwise. And it is inevitable that any great social movement that rights injustices is going to lead to some excesses. But three points must be stressed.
First, the violence that did occur was limited and sporadic—it involved only a minority of the movement.
Second, where harmful trends persisted on the people’s side—for instance, Red Guard students physically attacking people or humiliating officials, or people using the movement to settle personal scores and grievances—these things were criticized, condemned, and struggled against by the Maoist leadership. Take one crucial episode of the Cultural Revolution that you seldom hear about. In Beijing, workers following Mao’s line went into the universities to put a stop to factional fighting among students and to help them sort out differences.4
Third, much of the violence that occurred was in fact fanned by high-ranking capitalist-roaders seeking to defend their entrenched positions. When they came under sharp criticism, one of their tactics was to mobilize groupings of workers and peasants to attack sections of people in the name of the Cultural Revolution. They even created their own conservative Red Guard formations that went on rampages! This was part of their effort to deflect the struggle away from themselves and to discredit the Cultural Revolution.
These capitalist-roaders eventually succeeded in overthrowing proletarian power in 1976. And speaking of reactionary violence, they were the ones who turned the army loose on protesting students and workers at Tianan–men Square in 1989.
What about the treatment of artists and intellectuals and the policy of sending people to the countryside?
Artists, intellectuals, and professionals were not targeted as a social group or stratum. Artists were encouraged to engage in the revolutionary movement. This included carrying out self-examination of how their works either advanced the revolution or held it back, and viewing their work in the context of the struggle to create a new society. The Cultural Revolution was aiming to foster revolutionary art that would portray the masses and help the masses propel history forward.
One of the objectives of the Cultural Revolution was to break down the cultural lopsidedness that existed in China. It was a social situation in which artists, intellectuals, and professionals were concentrated in the cities, and in which their work was largely divorced from the greater society, especially the 80% that lived in the countryside at the time. The Cultural Revolution spawned society-wide discussion about the need to narrow the inequalities between mental and manual labor, between city and countryside, between industry and agriculture, and between men and women.
Artists, doctors, technical and scientific workers, and all kinds of educated people were called upon to go among the workers and peasants: to apply their skills to the needs of society, to share the lives of the laboring people, to exchange knowledge, and to learn from the basic people. Great numbers of youth and professionals answered Mao’s call to “serve the people” and go to the countryside.
Now for social change to take hold, it was also necessary to institutionalize new social policies. For instance, high school graduates were required to spend at least two years in rural villages or factories before being considered for college. So there was an element of coercion (policies were enforced)—but would you object to school desegregation because it was mandated? And for many intellectuals, abandoning privilege and integrating with the masses in the countryside was a tremendous experience.5
Attacks on the Cultural Revolution for “ruining lives” and “destroying careers” are really taking issue with the Cultural Revolution’s radical, anti-elitist social policies.
It is often alleged that the policy of sending doctors and engineers and intellectuals and other skilled people to the countryside was “punishment.” No, it was not. This policy has to be seen in a larger social-economic context of Maoist China’s quest to achieve balanced and egalitarian development. In the Third World, there is a crisis of chaotic urbanization and distorted development: overgrown and environmentally unsustainable cities with rings of squalid shantytowns; massive inflows of rural migrants who cannot find work; economic policies, educational systems, and health care infrastructure skewed to the well-off in the cities at the expense of the urban poor and the countryside.
Maoist China was consciously seeking to avoid Western-style urban overconcentration, integrate industrial and agricultural development, decentralize productive capabilities, and overcome regional inequalities. It was a strategy of development that paid attention to the welfare of the countryside and gave priority to the needs of the formerly exploited and neglected.
But I’ve read or heard about many first-hand accounts of the Cultural Revolution that describe great personal agony.
Different social classes and their literary representatives have very different conceptions of what’s “right” and what’s “wrong,” of what’s “horrible” and what’s “liberating.” The fact that someone “lived through an event” doesn’t change this in the slightest, or necessarily give him or her special insight.
Many privileged urban-professionals in China felt “wronged” by the Cultural Revolution. They were subjected to criticism; their normal routines of life were disrupted; their privileges were undercut. These were the “wounds” they suffered, and this is the story they tell...with no small amount of distortion. It is hardly surprising that such works are lavishly praised and promoted in the U.S. and in China (where the enemies of the Cultural Revolution came to power in 1976). Positive assessments of the Cultural Revolution and positive “inside accounts” of what it meant for the ordinary laboring people don’t generally get published.
Think about it for a second. What kind of understanding of the French Revolution would you gain from someone who was part of the old aristocracy? What would you learn about the U.S. Civil War from a member of the plantation gentry? Or about the struggle today around affirmative action in education from a white person who describes his “persecution” when he was skipped over for admission to his law school of choice? It stands to reason that such “eyewitness accounts” would be deeply biased against social change.
It’s no different for the Cultural Revolution. More privileged social forces see, and distort, the Cultural Revolution through a particular social lens. This is not to say there’s nothing that can be learned from any of these works, or that no mistakes were made in how some people were treated. But these highly personal narratives greatly misrepresent the actual events, the mass movement, and the main trends of the Cultural Revolution. They obscure the class interests and social programs that were in real opposition and conflict.
Can you point to real accomplishments of the Cultural Revolution?
First and foremost, the Cultural Revolution succeeded in maintaining proletarian rule and preventing capitalist takeover in China for 10 years (1966-76). It also led to profound social and institutional changes and deepened the orientation of organizing society around the principle of “serve the people.” Here are some examples.
The Cultural Revolution was an historic event without precedent. In a situation in which a socialist system had been established, Mao and the revolutionaries in the Chinese Communist Party mobilized the activism and creativity of the masses to prevent the restoration of the old order and to carry forward the socialist revolution towards communism: the elimination of classes and all oppressive relations. History has never seen a mass movement and struggle of such scale and guided by such revolutionary politics and consciousness. History has never seen so radical an attempt to transform economic relations, political and social institutions, and culture, habit, and ideas.
Were there mistakes and shortcomings in the Cultural Revolution? Yes, even some serious ones. But viewed in the context of its enormous achievements, and certainly set against the horrors of capitalist society, these are secondary.
But the communist revolution cannot stand still. It has to critically learn from its experience, not fear to interrogate itself, and advance further and do better. Bob Avakian has been providing the pathbreaking Marxist-Leninist-Maoist understanding to do just that.
Bob Avakian has been bringing forward a vibrant vision of socialism and communism. He has been enlarging the understanding of the tasks and contradictions of revolutionary leadership and how the masses can be unleashed to rule and transform society. He has been speaking to the indispensable role that dissent plays in socialist society, especially in contributing to the critical spirit that must permeate all of society. He has drawn attention to the importance of the intellectual and cultural spheres under socialism and that socialist society needs—and must foster—great intellectual ferment, creativity, and experimentation.10
If you hunger for a different kind of world…you need to explore the truth of the Cultural Revolution…you need to explore the visionary writings of Bob Avakian.
1 See Bob Avakian, Mao Tsetung’s Immortal Contributions (Chicago: RCP Publications, 1979), chapters 6 and 7. [back]
2 Mobo C. F. Gao, “Debating the Cultural Revolution: Do We Only Know What We Believe,” in Critical Asian Studies, Vol. 34, No. 3, (2002), p. 428. [back]
3 “Decision of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party Concerning the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution” (Adopted on August 8, 1966), in Important Documents on the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China (Peking: Foreign Languages Press, 1970). [back]
4 Han Suyin, Wind in the Tower (Boston: Little, Brown, 1976), Part II, chapters 3-5. [back]
5 See, for example, Xueping Zhong, et. al., Some of Us: Chinese Women Growing Up in the Mao Era (New Brunswick: Rutgers Univ. Press, 2001). [back]
6 Dongping Han, The Unknown Cultural Revolution: Educational Reforms and Their Impact on China’s Rural Development (New York: Garland Publishing, 2000), p. 88; Suzanne Pepper, “Education,” in Roderick Mac–Farquhar and John K. Fairbank, eds., The Cambridge History of China, Vol. XV (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1991), p. 416; Ruth Gamberg, Red and Expert: Education in the People’s Republic of China (New York: Schocken, 1977). [back]
7 Gao, “Debating the Cultural Revolution,” pp. 427-430. Gao, who participated in the Cultural Revolution, describes the impact of the new culture in villages like his: “The rural villagers, for the first time, organized theater troupes and put on performances that incorporated the contents and structure of the eight model Peking operas with local language and music. The villagers not only entertained themselves but also learned how to read and write by getting into the texts and plays. And they organized sports meets and held matches with other villages. All these activities gave the villagers an opportunity to meet, communicate, fall in love. These activities gave them a sense of discipline and organization and created a public sphere where meetings and communications went beyond the traditional household and village clans. This had never happened before and it has never happened since” (p. 428). [back]
8 See Stephen Andors, China’s Industrial Revolution (New York: Pantheon, 1977). [back]
9 See Science for the People, China: Science Walks on Two Legs (New York: Avon, 1974). [back]
10 See, for instance, Bob Avakian, “Grasp Revolution, Promote Production—Questions of Outlook and Method”; “Reaching for the Heights and Flying Without a Safety Net”; and “Dictatorship and Democracy, And the Socialist Transition to Communism,” all available online at rwor.org. [back]
Revolution #139, August 10, 2008
On January 17, 2008, Baron Pikes, known to his friends and family as Scooter, was walking down the street in the small town of Winnfield, Louisiana. He had just celebrated his 21st birthday a few days before. A white police officer approached Baron, who is Black, and Baron took off running. He was cornered by another cop outside a grocery store. While on the ground and handcuffed, Baron was brutally tortured with seven 50,000-volt electric shocks from the police taser gun.
According to witnesses, Baron said to the cops, “Please, you all got me. Please don’t tase me again.” Baron was driven to the police station, not to a hospital, despite police regulations that require that someone who is tased should receive immediate medical attention. In the police car the cops administered two more electric shocks to Baron, including one where the stun gun was put directly in contact with Baron’s chest. Even though Baron was foaming at the mouth, he was still not given medical attention. By the time paramedics arrived at the police station 39 minutes after his arrest, Baron was dead.
The torture and murder of Baron Pikes took place in the early afternoon outside a local grocery store in full public view. This brutality was clearly meant not just to punish the victim but also to terrorize a whole community.
Winnfield is a small town of 6,000. It is roughly half white and half Black. Sixty-two percent of the Black people in Winnfield live below the poverty line compared to 13 percent of whites.
Kayshon Collins, Baron’s stepmother, told Revolution, “There’s a lot of discrimination here in Winnfield. There’s not many places here for Black kids to go. And everywhere they go it’s always the cops coming and breaking it up. There’s a park here with a big old gazebo. If our kids are ever around there someone comes up and tells them they can’t be around, they have to go home.”
Scott Nugent, son of a former Winnfield police chief, tasered Baron Pikes as two other cops stood by. The police spokesman told the Chicago Tribune that Nugent acted within the scope of his training and Winnfield Police Department policies.
The police claimed immediately after the incident that Baron told them that he was high on PCP and crack cocaine and that he has asthma. Carol Lexing, the attorney for Baron Pikes’s family, told Revolution, “When they said that he had taken crack and PCP and that he had voluntarily made that statement, we knew that that was impossible from the evidence that had been put forth about how he had been tasered. They put that out as a mechanism to cover up what really happened, that he had been tasered to death.” Kayshon Collins told Revolution that Baron did not have asthma, and that the emergency room doctor said no drugs were found in him.
The police also claimed that Baron resisted arrest. But the official police report itself says that Baron did not resist arrest, that he was handcuffed while lying on the ground, and that it was only later, after Baron allegedly refused the police command to stand up, that Nugent applied the first taser shock.
It took six and a half months for the coroner’s report to be released, confirming that the police had lied. According to attorney Lexing, “One of the coroners didn’t even want to touch it. He knew what the truth was but he didn’t want to pronounce it as what it really was.” Dr. Randolph Williams, who has served as Parish coroner for the last 33 years and has a reputation for independence, ended up performing the autopsy.
Williams sought the opinions of two nationally renowned forensic pathologists before releasing his report. Williams’s autopsy determined that there were no drugs in Baron Pikes’s system and that he did not have asthma. Pikes’s death was ruled a homicide. On the death certificate, Williams listed the cause of death as “cardiac arrest following nine 50,000-volt electroshock applications from a conductive electrical weapon.” Williams told the Chicago Tribune, “This case may be the most unnecessary death I have ever had to investigate. [Baron Pikes] put up no fuss, no fighting, no physical aggression.”
Despite the outrageous actions of the police that caused Baron’s death, no charges have been brought against Nugent or the other two cops involved. The City Council voted to fire Nugent in May in an effort to cool down the outrage around the case, but Nugent is appealing the decision. After the case received some national publicity, the district attorney announced that he would bring the case before a grand jury. He refused to say what charges he would seek against the officers.
Baron Pikes’s family and the community have organized several marches to protest the killing. The first took place the Saturday after Baron was murdered.
“It’s not just Black people,” Kayshon Collins told Revolution. “A lot of white people have come to me and said to keep on fighting, don’t let it go because it was wrong the way that things were handled on that day.”
Winnfield is just 40 miles from Jena, where six Black youth, known as the Jena 6, were threatened with decades in prison for protesting racist outrages, including lynching nooses that were hung on the “whites-only” tree at the high school. Baron Pikes was the first cousin of Mychal Bell, one of the Jena 6.
Carol Lexing, who was also one of the attorneys for the Jena 6, said that the struggle to free the Jena youth has had an important impact on what is happening in Winnfield. Last September, tens of thousands from across the country marched in Jena to demand freedom for the Jena 6. “It was a positive encouragement for people not to lay down and let you continue to do things to us anymore,” Lexing told Revolution. “They know the history of their town. People said, we are not going to let them shove this under the rug.… They weren’t just going to take the word of the police. If they had, we would have never heard about it.”
The Winnfield Branch of the NAACP is planning a march on August 18, the day that Nugent will appeal his firing before the civil service board.
Despite Winnfield’s small size there have been 14 incidents of taser use by the police in the year since they first received the weapons. Of those 14 incidents, 12 have involved Nugent, the cop involved in Baron’s death, and ten of the 14 incidents have been against Black people.
Among those tasered by Nugent was a 15-year-old African-American youth who was not charged with any crime. Joe Heard told the Chicago Tribune that his son was tasered twice by Nugent last August, after Heard reported the youth as a runaway and asked the police to help find him. “He snuck out of the house to be with a girl,” Heard said. “I asked the police to bring him home, and they did, but in pieces—he was all scraped up and bruised. They told me the next time he runs, ‘You know we’re going to shoot him.’”
Kayshon Collins told Revolution that what the police did to Baron was a form of torture. Dr. Michael Baden, a nationally prominent forensic pathologist who was consulted by Coroner Williams about the case, said that the police use of the tasers in this case “could be considered to be torture.” The United Nations Committee Against Torture, Amnesty International, and other organizations have said that the police use of tasers in the U.S. is a form of torture. (See “Torture by Police Taser in the USA,” available online at revcom.us, for more on the rising use of tasers by cops in the U.S.)
The police torture and killing of Baron Pikes is not an isolated incident. The police murders and brutality in cities around the U.S., the imprisonment of a large section of African-American youth, the nooses in Jena and other places, and countless other racist outrages all show that the oppression of Black people continues to be enforced with vicious violence and terror.
Revolution #139, August 10, 2008
Guantanamo...Abu Ghraib...Bagram, Afghanistan…the secret CIA prisons. These sites operated by the U.S. have been the scenes of excruciating pain of waterboarding, the brutal humiliation of rape and sexual abuse, mind-destroying isolation, and other horrors perpetrated by the U.S. against thousands of people. All in the name of the “war on terror,” which really should be called the “war for greater American empire.”
Within the U.S. itself, the use by police of tasers—recognized by the United Nations, Amnesty International, and other organizations as a form of torture—is being increasingly adopted as a routine part of how the police operate, especially against Black and Latino people, as well as against people involved in dissent and protest.
In June of this year, the NYPD adopted the recommendations of a RAND corporation report to increase the use of tasers as a “less deadly” alternative to police use of firearms. The report was commissioned by the NYPD in the wake of massive protest against the savage police murder of Sean Bell on his wedding day in November 2006. The NYPD has begun a pilot program in which 520 sergeants will wear the device on their belts while on patrol instead of keeping them in their cars, as they had been doing.
A taser is an electroshock weapon that fires about 50,000 volts along two metal wires with hooks at the end that embed in a victim's flesh or clothing. Or a taser can be applied directly to a person's body, which the police call “stun-driving.” When a victim is assaulted by a taser, his or her muscles twitch uncontrollably. A shock of just a half-second causes intense pain. Two or three seconds can cause a person to become dazed and drop to the ground. Over three seconds will usually completely disorient a person and cause paralysis for at least several seconds.
The United Nations' Committee Against Torture concluded in November 2007 that tasers constitute a form of torture and can cause death. Amnesty International (AI) recorded 291 deaths in the U.S. and Canada, almost all in the U.S., of people struck by police tasers between June 2001 and September 2007. AI said it has documented “disturbing instances where we believe that taser use has amounted to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment which is absolutely prohibited by international law.” AI also reported that “the vast majority of people who have died after being struck by tasers have been unarmed men who did not pose a threat of death or serious injury when they were electroshocked. In many cases they appear not to have posed a significant threat at all.” Of the 291 deaths, AI has identified only 25 individuals who were reportedly armed with any sort of weapon when they were tasered, and none of those weapons were guns.
Many thousands of people in the U.S. have been subjected to extreme pain and injury as a result of being tasered by police. Thousands of videos documenting police tasering people are posted on YouTube.
A Lethal Weapon
Many of those who died from police tasering were subjected to multiple and/or prolonged shocks. The following are some examples:
Tasers in Schools and at Protests
Children are being tasered in their schools by cops for the “crime” of disobedient or rebellious behavior. In 2004 the parents of a six-year-old boy in Miami sued the police department for tasering their child, who was threatening to cut his own leg with a piece of glass. Two weeks later, a 12-year-old girl in Miami-Dade County was tasered for skipping class.
College campus cops are also armed with tasers. On November 14, 2006, Mostafa Tatabainejad, an Iranian-American UCLA student, was electroshocked multiple times by campus police in a library while handcuffed. His anguished screams of pain, captured in a six-minute video taken by a cell phone camera and available on YouTube, are impossible to forget (www.youtube.com/watch?v=5g7zlJx9u2E). The police said they tasered him because he refused to show his student ID card and didn't leave the library when ordered to. Tatabainejad said he refused to identify himself because he was being racially profiled based on his Middle Eastern appearance. On the YouTube video, he can be heard shouting, “Here's your PATRIOT Act! Here's your fucking abuse of power!”
On Sept. 17, 2007, Senator John Kerry spoke at a Constitution Day forum at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Toward the end of the Q&A period, Andrew Meyer, a 21-year-old undergrad, posed some questions to Kerry, including why he conceded the 2004 presidential election to George W. Bush when he appeared to have won the popular vote. Meyer's mike was turned off, and two campus cops grabbed him and began taking him out of the auditorium. As he was dragged away, Meyer could be heard yelling, “Don't tase me bro, don't tase me!” But Meyer was tasered, and his plea to be spared the torture has become part of today's popular culture, including on T-shirts and in a song by Mick Jones of Carbon/Silicon and former guitarist for The Clash.
In 2003 demonstrators in many cities opposing the Bush regime's preparations for the invasion of Iraq were tasered by cops and attacked with other weapons of repression, including pepper spray and rubber and wood bullets. In the same year, demonstrators protesting a meeting in Miami of member nations of the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas were tasered. In December 2007, people protesting at the New Orleans City Council against the demolition of public housing were tasered and pepper-sprayed.
Tasers are used most extensively in the U.S. against Blacks and Latinos. In Houston, police data show that in almost 1,000 taser incidents over a period of two-and-a-half years, 63 percent of those tasered were Black, although Houston's population is only 25 percent Black. Of those who were tasered in that period, Houston police data indicate that 95 percent of them were not carrying any kind of weapon.
Marquez Claxton, spokesman for the New York City organization 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement, said he is certain there will be more tasering by the cops because of the new NYPD policy, “because now the sergeants have them on their belts. So now if someone is a little bit belligerent they are going to get tasered. If an officer decides that someone is not cooperating enough, they are going to get tasered.”
Think about it. Fifty thousand mostly young Black and Latino people are “stopped-and-frisked” by the police in New York City every month, for any reason but mostly for no reason at all. (See “NYPD Stops-and-Frisks: Criminalizing People in the Ghettos and Barrios,” Revolution #79, online at revcom.us) Fewer than 10% of the stops result in arrest. Young people walk out the door every morning not knowing whether they might be stopped by the NYPD and become another Sean Bell or Amadou Diallo. Now these police are being encouraged to increase the use of a recognized instrument of torture. What kind of sick and vicious system institutionalizes the routine use of electric-shock torture on the people?
On Nov. 17, 2006, three days after Mosstafa Tatabainejad was tasered at UCLA, nearly 400 people—students, faculty and staff, parents, and community members—gathered on campus to protest the brutal incident and proclaim their opposition to the post-9/11 climate of fear, intimidation, torture, and repression. They marched to the UCLA police station and confronted police in riot gear. In Winnfield, Louisiana, people marched in protest shortly after Baron Pikes was tasered to death. This is the kind of determined resistance that is needed in the face of the blatant, hideous brutality and injustices of the rulers and their armed enforcers.
Revolution #139, August 10, 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 #139, August 10, 2008
Letter from a Reader on Supporting the Work of RCP Publications:
It is with great excitement that I have read this latest issue of Revolution with the announcement of the forthcoming publication of the “Constitution of the RCP,USA” as well as the forthcoming publication of “Communism and Jeffersonian Democracy” by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the RCP,USA. My reaction in short, WE NEEDED IT YESTERDAY! I do think that this represents a badly needed ideological antidote to tackle the deadly disease of bourgeois democracy that has so many people in this country in thrall to and paralyzed by “Obama fever.” If you really wanted to look at it with a sharp eye—it is really funny to hear people accuse revolutionary Communists of promoting the “culture of the personality”—(because we want people to know about Bob Avakian being a revolutionary leader and how revolution and communism is necessary and possible), when in fact, on a daily and hourly basis, there is a very strong and real “culture of the personality” around Barack Obama. (Perhaps in two years it will be about someone else.) However, the Obama phenomenon does touch on something that is very real—that people really are distressed by what this system is doing here and around the world and are looking for a way out of this hell. People are really grappling with and yearning for how do we bring forth a different future?
Well, Obama ain’t it. He is capitalism-imperialism personified, only with a gentler, browner face. Only when people understand the world, can they actually really move forward to change it. That is why what Bob Avakian is bringing forward in the New Synthesis is so important. He is trying to ideologicalize back into this society the question of revolution and communism which has been ruled out of order by the ruling class. What is the responsibility of the people of the United States? It is to challenge the direction of this society, rupture with the whole Tony Soprano mentality that is so prevalent here in the belly of the beast. It is the responsibility to prepare the ground for revolution and hasten while awaiting. Imagine what it would be like for billions of people around the world if a movement of resistance to the crimes of this system broke forth. Then again imagine how people around the world would react when they see people of this country working to make revolution and bring forth a new, socialist society on the basis of internationalism and repudiate all oppressive and exploitative relations that this system has carried out for centuries. That a new revolutionary state which would arise out of the ashes of the old imperialist beast would then be a place where the masses of people become masters of their future and liberators of humanity. That this would be a place where all of the people’s creativity would be unleashed to build a different future―where people would be encouraged to engage on different and big questions facing humanity. Where curiosity, imagination is encouraged and unleashed, where everyone and different ideas are questioned and challenged on the basis of getting to know and change reality. That immigrants would be welcomed as our class brothers and sisters and not hunted down like dogs at the border. Where our youth in the inner cities are encouraged to bring forth a new future and not left to die in prisons, or on the streets for bullshit or die in imperialist wars.
So, I am really excited about these new developments and want to issue a pledge and a challenge to others. I am pledging $75 now and $75 a month for the next six months in order to help bring this new revolutionary press into being, and I challenge others to do so as well. So instead of giving all of one’s money to Obama, check out Revolution and try to find where there is one single lie there. (I doubt that you will find it.) It is past time to break out of the chilling and killing comfort zone of the democratic party and do something that will really make a difference—to help make revolution here in the belly of the beast and to help create a world that we all want to live in.
Revolution #139, August 10, 2008
Continuing Resistance Against Chicago Police Terror
In a recent four-week span, the Chicago police shot 12 people and killed 6. On Friday, July 25, people took a courageous stand in Chicago’s South Side, sending a message that this wave of police brutality, shootings, and killings will be met by resistance. At an intersection in Englewood, a couple of hundred people went up against police intimidation and terrorizing, calling out the cops as murderers. By the end of the night, 11 people were arrested, including Hank Brown, correspondent for Revolution, and Fred Hampton Jr., Chairman of the Prisoners of Conscience Committee and son of Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton, who was murdered by the Chicago police in 1969. There have been reports of police retribution and harassment in the neighborhood in the days following the July 25 protest. (See “There Ain’t No Calming Down!”: People Stand Up to Chicago Police ‘Surge’” by Annie Day in Revolution #138, online at revcom.us)
Friday, August 1 was the first court date for some of the arrested—Hank Brown and four young men from the neighborhood. Two of those arrested originally had felony charges against them, but the charges for everyone were changed to “mob action” misdemeanor. People, including from the neighborhood, came to the courtroom to support the defendants and to demand that the charges be dropped.
The four cops listed as arresting officers did not show up in court, and the charges against the five men were “stricken on leave to reinstate” (SOL’d). This means that while the charges are dismissed for now, the authorities have up to 160 days to bring the charges back up if they so decide.
People need to continue to be vigilant about the moves by the authorities to target the resistance against police brutality and murder. Three more cases are pending from the July 25 arrests: those of Fred Hampton Jr. and two supporters of the Revolutionary Communist Party. The court date for these cases is August 22. Three of those arrested are juveniles, and their cases are in the juvenile courts.
And it is not unheard of for charges to be reinstated once they have been SOL’d. This tactic of SOL—instead of dismissing charges outright—is something that the prosecutors and police routinely use. This hangs the threat of re-arrest and prison over the heads of people, and it is a part of how a whole section of the people has been criminalized, especially oppressed youth. And the SOL is particularly outrageous in the cases of those arrested at the July 25 protest. They took a righteous political stand against the abuses and brutality of the police, and it was totally unjust for them to get arrested. The charges against all those arrested should be completely dismissed.
Funds are urgently needed to mount a legal defense for the protesters. Send checks or money orders (made out
to David Thomas, Attorney, with “Englewood Protesters” in the memo line) to:
651 W. Washington Suite 205
Chicago, IL 60661-2122
The following are excerpts from statements at the press conference before the August 1 hearing:
Hank Brown, Revolution correspondent: “The same system that sends the police in to murder and brutalize the people is the same system that creates conditions where these youth respond negatively. One of the things is that, if you look at this, you’ve had 18 school closings. You’ve had whole communities destroyed. Robert Taylor Homes was over here, a block away, torn down. And people are being forced into these wretched conditions, and this creates a lot of violence that [the authorities] are talking about dealing with. It all stems from this system.”
Fred Hampton Jr., Chairman of the Prisoners of Conscience Committee: “What just happened this past July 25th is a blatant reminder of the continuous atmosphere of terror. I say police terror, not police brutality—police terror that the Black community and other oppressed communities continue to live under. It’s a reminder that we are still subjected to that.”
Annie Day, who has been covering the story about the Chicago police “surge” for Revolution: “This kind of brutal oppression of Black people is foundational to this system. What kind of system is it when Driving While Black is a known social phenomenon… This is foundational to this country—from slavery and Jim Crow, where mothers were afraid of the Klan lynching their children, and now mothers are afraid of the police shooting their children. Which is why we say the police are the modern-day Klan. This newspaper, Revolution, which covered this story, says that this whole system needs to be changed, we need a revolution, that’s where people need to head. But people from different perspectives need to stand up and resist this. This is a criminal outrage that must be exposed, that must be opposed. Black people, white people, brown people have to stand up and not allow this to continue any longer.”
Revolution #139, August 10, 2008
Spread the Truth Far and Wide:
There is an official hysteria and media blizzard in Chicago over “crime” and youth in oppressed communities shooting each other. And in the name of responding to this, Police Superintendent Weis is talking about a more “militarized” police. They’re talking about police checkpoints, use of helicopters, and roll calls on street corners where they amass police to sow terror and intimidation. The media is calling this a police “surge”—deliberately evoking the U.S. military occupation in Iraq.
But what the authorities and the media are NOT talking about—and what most people in the city don’t know about—is the wave of brutality, terror, and murder being carried out by the Chicago police. Just between June 11 and July 5, Chicago police shot 12 people (all Black and Latino), killing 6. At least 6 of the victims were shot in the back. Jonathan Pinkerton, 17 years old, lies in a hospital bed, paralyzed by a police bullet in the back—instead of looking for colleges, which was his plan for this summer. 39-year-old sanitation worker Shappell Terrell, shot 14 times in the back, left 7 kids behind. Luis Colon, 17, was armed, but witnesses say he was trying to surrender when the cops shot him 6 times in the back.
This situation has spread a lot of confusion among different sections of the people, as to who is to blame for youth violence directed at other youth. But the truth is that both the police shooting spree and the conditions that have driven youth into desperate means of survival are the results of this system. In the 1960s, when many youth were getting out of the bad shit they were into and into revolution—the police and the FBI lashed out by vicious repression, including outright murder, against revolutionary movements and leaders. It was the system that moved jobs out of the inner cities and flooded the ghettos with drugs. It is the system that has enforced apartheid-like segregation for a whole section of Black masses. It is the system that has forced the youth to internalize the message they receive daily through the crumbling schools, degrading conditions, and brutalizing police—that they have no future except through gangs and fighting against each other. It is the system and its relations of capitalist exploitation that is the source of the dog-eat-dog, look-out-for-number-one morality that the youth are internalizing and are caught up in.
Flooding the oppressed communities with more cops and “militarized” operations—and more police shootings and brutality—cannot in any way be a solution to the intolerable situation the people face!
A statement from the forming Chicago Revolution Club has called on people to 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!
There was a beginning but very important resistance on July 25 when people in Chicago’s South Side stood up righteously and courageously against a police attack, sending a message that the police “surge” is not going to be allowed to go down like this. This initial resistance has to be built on and spread much further—creating a whole different dynamic in the city. Many, many more people need to be made aware of how the Chicago police have shot 12 and killed 6 in just 4 weeks.
What is happening in Chicago concentrates what is happening overall in this country—the intensification of oppression of Black people, through stepped-up police brutality and in other ways, including an ideological offensive blaming the people themselves for the terrible situation they are in. And this is part of the push by the rulers to take society as a whole toward a fascistic police state. People from all walks of life—from various strata and neighborhoods—need to come together to take up this political battle, in the streets and in many different ways, such as emailing and posting Revolution articles on the struggle in Chicago and spreading the truth far and wide. A different tone has to be set where the outrages and abuses by the police, especially in the oppressed communities, are not tolerated or accepted. And those who are attacked by the system for standing up must be defended.
Revolution #139, August 10, 2008
On Sunday July 27, over a thousand people marched through Postville, Iowa, to protest ICE raids on May 12 of this year at the Agriprocessors meatpacking plant. From May 19 to May 22, nearly 300 immigrant workers who had been seized in the raid were convicted of criminal charges in mass “trials” at a National Cattle Congress fairground facility in Waterloo, Iowa, and given five-month jail sentences after which they will be deported. The raid was the largest immigration raid at a single workplace in U.S. history.
Because Agriprocessors is a kosher meatpacking facility, many Jewish people have felt a need to step out, protest the ICE raids and conditions at the plant, and take a public stand with the immigrant workers. The July 27 march was initiated by Jewish groups in Chicago and St. Paul, and Saint Bridget’s Catholic Church in Postville—the church that opened its doors to immigrants seeking sanctuary. Protesters included Guatemalan and Mexican immigrants living in the Postville area, immigration rights and anti-war activists, Midwest farmers, white youth from Postville, Black and white students from a nearby liberal arts college, kids from a Jewish summer camp in Wisconsin, and the mayor of Postville. They marched to the Agriprocessors plant, and faced a reactionary counter protest of about 75 MinuteMen.
The Agriprocessors raid was a leap in fascistic repression against immigrants. Parents and children were ripped apart in a way reminiscent of how the families of Black slaves were torn apart when parents or children were sold to other plantations. Exposure emerging out of Postville is revealing vicious superexploitation in the heartland of the USA. And the whole situation provides a window into the workings of a system that has brought an influx of immigrants from Mexico, Guatemala, Africa, and Eastern Europe to places like Postville, Iowa, desperate to feed their families because of what capitalism-imperialism has done to their countries.
Revolution reporters have been in Postville investigating this story—interviewing immigrant workers, public officials, activists, and attorneys. Stay tuned for in-depth reporting and exposure.
Revolution #139, August 10, 2008
Hook up with the revolution
Check the stores' websites for details and more events.
Every Tuesday, 7 pm
Our regular discussion on Revolution and Communism.
August 4 and every Monday, 6:30-9:00
Come pick up a bundle of Revolution newspapers hot off the press and/or join a discussion of the lead articles while mailing subscriptions to prisoners.
August 6, Wednesday, 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: contrasting two metaphors - casting out a line, as if you're fly-fishing...and the "solid core with a lot of elasticity." Part IV: The New Synthesis: Political Implications - Dictatorship and Democracy.
August 7, Thursday, 7-9 pm
Read and respond to letters from prisoners to Revolution newspaper and requests for the newspaper and other literature from the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund. Every two weeks (alternating Thursdays).
312 West 8th Street 213-488-1303
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 10, Sunday, 3 pm
Discussion of “Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity” by Bob Avakian, featured in the new Revolution pamphlet: “Revolution and Communism, A Foundation and Strategic Orientation.”
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.
Thursday, August 14, 7:30 pm
As the Olympics get into full swing and the anti-communist propaganda starts flying, come to a lively discussion on the true story of Mao and the Cultural Revolution. China today is a capitalist country, but it was a liberating socialist society when Mao led it from 1949-1976. Check out Revolution #139 & #140
2425 Channing Way near Telegraph Ave
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 article in Revolution #139 on China and Mao Tsetung
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 17, Sunday, 6:30 pm
Discussion on the new Constitution of the RCP, USA
August 19, Tuesday, 7:00 pm
Discussion on Revolution article on the Democratic National Convention
August 21, Thursday, 7 pm
Discussion of Away With All Gods! by Bob Avakian. Part Four: “God Does Not Exist - We Need Liberation Without Gods.”
Revolution Club meets Mondays at 6:30 pm
2626 South King Street
Mondays, 6:15 pm
Revolution Newspaper discussion group every Monday evening at 6:15 pm.
2804 Mayfield Rd (at Coventry)
Cleveland Heights 216-932-2543
Hours: Wednesday-Saturday, 3-8 pm
Wednesday, August 6 at 7 pm
Concluding discussion of our series on Bob Avakian’s "Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity"
August 13, Sunday, 6 pm
Film showing: Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan. Features testimony from U.S. veterans about what is really happening day in and day out, on the ground.
1833 Nagle Place
Thursdays, 7 pm, Starbucks at 1600 E Olive Way
Revolution Newspaper Discussion
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)
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
August 11, Monday, 6:30 pm
Discussion of “Shifts and Faultlines in the World Economy and Great Power Rivalry: What Is Happening and What It Might Mean, Part 2”
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
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 .