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Revolution #142, September 7, 2008
The following is an excerpt from a talk by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the RCP, to a group of Party members, earlier this year. It has been edited, and footnotes have been added, for publication here.
I want to say a few things about the current conjuncture, and examine, or at least identify, some serious problems confronting the ruling imperialists as well as maneuvers by and struggles among the different sections of these imperialists, and the challenges and openings this poses for our side.
To begin, there is the question of the Bush regime—its orientation and options. This is something we need to study more, but it is clear that Bush & Co. have not given up on their basic program, and we are bound to hear more from these people in the coming months, including very likely on the tactical level of trying to influence the outcome of the upcoming election. In fact, even suspending the election is not out of the realm of possibility—I’m not saying that is going to happen, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility. We should understand that there is a certain core in and around the Bush regime that feels that they’re actually doing well with their program—now that their “surge” in Iraq is bringing results, from their point of view—that they’re doing well overall, even while they are having problems in Afghanistan and Pakistan and Lebanon, and so on. So the idea that these forces are going to be fading away, or that various forces associated with them, including the Christian Fascists, are just going to be fading into the woodwork, is an illusion that is very much an expression of kind of the outlook embodied in the line from the original movie “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”: “Oh, that’s so totally five minutes ago.” In other words, it is expressive of the very American tendency to look, in a very empiricist way, only at what is happening right now, with no regard to history or to larger trends and patterns. So we should not fall into that—we should combat tendencies of that kind, among our own ranks and more broadly.
There is more to be said about the Bush regime, but it definitely remains one important element of the situation. Those people are going to persevere in their program, and we should be prepared for developments in relation to that, including ones that aren’t immediately obvious right now. And there is the basic question of whether Bush and Cheney (and what they represent in terms of ruling class forces) are just going to simply allow another program to come in, even if it represents a minor adjustment in what they’re doing—whether they are going to entrust what they’ve set in motion to other forces in the ruling class, especially those they regard as being, at best, totally incapable of pursuing what needs to be pursued (and, in their reckoning, what is represented by Obama almost certainly falls into that category).
Along with that, there is momentum and necessity, in a significant dimension, that has been created for the ruling class by the Bush regime and its program and what it’s done and set in motion. This is a point I will further touch on briefly as we go along here.
But, before that, I want to take an important detour, so to speak, to sketch the outlines of a summation, to be built on more fully at another time, with regard to the experience up to this point of World Can’t Wait—to indicate some of the basic “contours” of that fuller summation, which needs to be made over the next period, drawing on our own comrades, as well as others, who have been actively involved in World Can’t Wait, carrying out this summation in the correct relationship with continuing to build resistance against the crimes of the Bush regime and of this system overall. This is important principally because, on the basis of the very extensive and rich experience of WCW, even with its very real shortcomings, there is a real need, for our own comrades (and not just those whose area of responsibility has been WCW) as well as for the many others who have been involved in WCW, and for people more broadly, to have made available to them further summation of this by our Party—in terms of our Party’s approach to this and its assessment of what has and what has not been achieved, what lessons should be drawn from this, and what, looking ahead, are the challenges to be met in this regard. And secondarily it is important because certain opportunists have set out to play on and to further create confusion and distortion around this.
As a general overview, in terms of how our Party approached this, our orientation in working, and seeking to unite with others, to initiate World Can’t Wait, was based on a number of factors which held out the possibility—not the certainty but the possibility—of meeting the great need of bringing forward a massive outpouring of political resistance to the Bush regime and its criminal program; and from the standpoint of our Party and our fundamental objectives, we viewed and approached this as part of a larger strategic orientation of working to bring about a repolarization in society that would be more favorable for revolution. The factors pointing to the possibility of achieving this included:
The way in which the 2000 presidential election was resolved—through a Supreme Court decision installing Bush in power—resulted in a very widespread sentiment that what was coming to power was an illegitimate regime (headed, nominally at least, by Bush).
Bush, et al., brazenly lied and steamrollered opposition in going to war with Iraq; and even though the way in which this regime went ahead with this war, in the face of powerfully manifested mass opposition, demoralized broad numbers of those who opposed all this, it also deepened the already profound alienation and revulsion that large sections of society felt toward the Bush regime.
While the “re-election” of Bush in 2004 was another demoralizing factor to large numbers of people who opposed the Iraq war and the whole direction in which the Bush regime was driving things, the fact that Bush was aggressively pushing forward with the Iraq war, and his program overall, while the Democrats, as concentrated in their 2004 candidate Kerry, put up no real opposition to the Iraq war and put much greater emphasis on how they could better prosecute the “war on terror” and that Kerry would make a better commander-in-chief than Bush—this both added to the outrage that huge numbers of people felt toward Bush and added to the alienation they also felt from the Democratic Party.
On the basis of these and other factors—including the experience with Not in Our Name (NION) and the role it played in galvanizing and inspiring opposition to the Iraq war and the program of the Bush regime overall, particularly in the period (roughly from the summer of 2002 to the spring of 2003) which was, on the part of the Bush regime, the build-up to and preparation for the Iraq war—the assessment was made by our Party, in the aftermath of the 2004 election, that there was both a great need and a real possibility to transform the broad and deep “reservoir” of revulsion and outrage at the Bush regime into massive political opposition and resistance, and that, in these new conditions, after the launching of the Iraq war by the Bush regime and the results of the 2004 election, a new statement to rally people and a new means of giving organized expression to this mass political opposition and resistance was required—and this took expression as the World Can’t Wait organization and its “Call.”1
Particularly from the standpoint of our Party, this represented a recognition of the situation where the Bush regime was determined to forge ahead with its juggernaut of war and repression, while the Democrats partly supported this and partly were paralyzed in terms of mounting any real opposition to things that they did not actually agree with, leaving tens of millions of people in a situation where, if they were going to give expression to their deeply-felt opposition to all this, they were going to have to do so by themselves taking independent historical political action (and, again, from the point of view of our Party, this was part of a larger strategic orientation of working to repolarize things in a more favorable direction for revolution—and as part of that, in this specific situation, making use of contradictions within the ruling class, as well as between different sections of the ruling class and masses of people, in the service of our fundamental revolutionary objectives).
But let’s look more closely at some of the particular ways the contradictions bound up with this took expression, and the twists and turns and ups and downs in relation to the efforts of World Can’t Wait. In all this, of course, it is essential to give due weight to 9/11 and its aftermath—what occurred then, what the mood was like then, what the impact of this was in this country and the world, and the ways the Bush regime in particular seized on this in carrying out its program—and, in the face of that, the importance of the analysis that was made in “New Situation and Great Challenges”2 and what was called for there, in terms of the challenge of building an anti-war movement and a movement of opposition generally. Again, it is crucial not to ignore, or to underestimate the significance of, what was achieved in terms of materializing that into the whole effort around Not In Our Name.
If you think back to 2002, there was a call, by NION, for a massive outpouring of opposition, particularly in Central Park in New York, in October of that year. This was built for, in part, through significant efforts, and real gains, in popularizing a Pledge of Resistance and in holding meetings and other organized events based on that. I believe I’ve told this story before, but I remember watching CNN on October 6, 2002, knowing that the goal was to mobilize 10,000 in Central Park that day, and then a scroll came across the bottom of the screen saying, “10,000 people rallied in Central Park, NY today against the Iraq war,” and I was jumping, as high as I could jump, with joy. Well, to go back to the preparation for this, there was a phrase we had—some of you may be familiar with this—“filling the pool.” This was a metaphor for mobilizing masses to fulfill what was called for with this demonstration in October 2002. This was a way of saying: There is definitely an objective need for this, and there is an objective basis for it, but if we don’t do the work, it is going to flop—it’s going to be like diving off a high dive into an empty pool—so we have to do the work to fill the pool, we have to get the masses to come out around this.
That was our orientation. It is important to stress that it was by no means a given that this was going to happen just because there was an objective need and an objective basis for it. In that case, there was success in “filling the pool.” In fact, the turnout in Central Park that day not only fulfilled but even greatly exceeded what was being aimed for—and what was judged to be the necessary outpouring to have a very significant political impact: 10,000 people. In the event, something like 25,000 rallied in Central Park that day. The significance of this was, among other things, expressed by a prominent person who had signed the NION Statement, when he said, shortly before this Central Park demonstration: “Well, there is a need for resistance, and NION is taking the lead in that now.” The success of that Central Park demonstration, and the swelling momentum leading up to it, embodied a real feeling that this had broken through in terms of the general fear that you couldn’t stand up against this now, after this “new Pearl Harbor” (September 11, 2001). We should not forget that and in so doing fall into the empiricism and pragmatism of others in evaluating things.
Following this, there were other and even more massive outpourings of opposition, especially in the last few months before the initiation, by the Bush regime, of the Iraq war. To far too great an extent, people have such short memories in this country. Many people—including many who took part in this massive manifestation of opposition—forget that there was a New York Times article around the time that the Iraq war started, which talked about there being “two superpowers” in the world now—the U.S., and mass public opinion against what the Bush regime was doing, in particular the Iraq war. Now, only a few short years later, it is common for people to say: “We tried demonstrating, and that didn’t work.” Well, how about having a little larger perspective?! To get the New York Times to say that these demonstrations represented “another superpower” is working on some fucking level! I mean, come on! But just because the war went ahead then—because Bush and his regime were determined to launch this war (remember Bush’s statement at the time: “I don’t go by focus groups”—in other words, “Fuck you, I’m going ahead with this!”), and because the other sections of the ruling class were at least acquiescing in this—that had an effect on people along the lines of what I was just referring to, with some sarcasm (“we tried that, and it didn’t work”). Still, even with that, in the time since the beginning of the Iraq war, there have been other major demonstrations against that war and other outrages. But the fact is that this—the way in which Bush went ahead with launching the Iraq war, in the face of openly manifested mass opposition—had an effect in chilling and in killing off some of the mood of rebelliousness and resistance among broad numbers of people, because they ran up against the fact that all this is bigger than they had thought it was. To a significant degree, illusions of theirs were shattered through that experience, and that has had—in the main and with some contradiction—a demoralizing and demobilizing effect, in the shorter term.
And then you had other major phenomena that figured into all this. There was, in the context of the 2004 election, another massive outpouring, focused around opposition to the Iraq war and the Bush regime, at the site of the 2004 Republican Convention in New York City: A lot of different forces worked to build this, and hundreds of thousands of people, perhaps a half a million, took part in this mobilization. It is true that we were hoping for—and working toward the goal of—a million people in the streets on that occasion, but half a million is hardly insignificant. Still, the effect when Bush was “re-elected” was further disorienting, and in significant ways demoralizing, for people—in large part precisely because they were still seeing things and operating within the established framework of bourgeois-dominated politics, even while they were opposing the direction in which those politics were driving things under the Bush regime.
For us, all this is part of the objective terrain. In this context, I want to recount a story I heard about some guy who was with “Move On” (movenowhere.ugh!) who was attempting to influence supporters of Bush in the “heartland.” I’ll get to the specifics of that story shortly; but first, let’s examine very briefly the role of “Move On.” Their role was precisely to corral the massive discontent and opposition and secure it back within the established framework. Remember, a significant element of the situation was that the Democratic Party had been politically paralyzed in the period leading into the start of the war, and particularly as this was expressed in relation to the 2002 Congressional elections. The role of “Move On”—you don’t have to be a believer in arcane “conspiracy theories” to see this—their role was very consciously to corral this and bring it back into the fold of the Democratic Party and to rob it of any real political force in so doing. It is with this in mind that we can get the full meaning of the story about this guy working with “Move On”—which, at the time of the Republican Convention was having its adherents call up people in the “heartland” to try to persuade them to oppose Bush by voting for Kerry. And many of these “Move On” people were from the coastal areas (the “blue states,” in the bourgeois-electoral parlance of our times). This particular guy I’m referring to was from New York, and he recounted how, in talking to a woman in the Midwest who was a Bush supporter, he pointedly said to her: “How is it that we people in New York, where 9/11 took place, are opposed to all this stuff Bush is doing? If anybody should be for revenge, and so on, it should be us, but we’re opposed to all this. How do you explain that?” And the woman replied: “Because you’re totally out of touch with things.” And it seems that this completely disoriented and demoralized this guy—he apparently accepted that, after all, people like him were out of touch with reality, or at least out of touch with the “mainstream” of America.
This is in essence the same kind of thinking as that which argues that the real effect of the 1960s was to get Nixon elected and generally to “strengthen the right wing” in America. When you look at things within this kind of narrow framework, and on these bourgeois terms, you come to exactly the wrong conclusions.
But, because so many “progressive” people still have been looking at things from within that perspective, the 2004 election did, in one significant aspect, have a negative effect in disorienting and demoralizing them, even while it also further alienated them and angered them with regard to what they saw as the “lack of backbone” on the part of the Democrats in standing up to Bush and the Republicans. And this also largely explains the effect on such people when the Democrats won a majority in both houses of Congress in the 2006 election. I remember watching on TV, when Nancy Pelosi went before the cameras on the night of that election and, right before your eyes, she “reinterpreted” what people were doing—why they had voted for the Democrats. She told them what it was they had voted for, when how she characterized this was, in very significant ways, at odds with what their sentiments and objectives actually were. In effect, she was saying: Regardless of what you thought (or hoped) you were voting for, this is what you’re going to get.
Now, if you think back to November 2 in 2005, the date of the first mass mobilization called for by World Can’t Wait, there was in fact a significant outpouring, including very significant walk-outs by high school youth on that occasion, even while overall things fell far short of what was needed and called for by WCW. But there was, during this same time period—and pulling in the opposite direction to what was embodied in WCW and the mobilization it did achieve in November 2005—a very definite striving, on the part of large numbers of “progressive” people, to come under the wing of the bourgeoisie. When October 5, 2006 was called for, one of the explicit bases and purposes of this was to go up against this spontaneous striving, to try to divert that striving into actually meaningful political activity in opposition to the program of the Bush regime.
This was another situation where there was a need to “fill the pool” again. Now, in the event, it wasn’t exactly the case that the pool was completely empty on October 5, but (to continue the metaphor) there wasn’t enough water in the pool when the plunge was taken this time off the diving board. But, if we are materialists, and if we’re dialectical, we know that this is part of the process. My point is not to say that “everything is everything” and “it’s all good” and we don’t need to examine shortcomings, whether of a minor or more major kind. But falling short in this way is going to happen sometimes, even when what you are doing is necessary and correct—when there is not only the need but also the basis for what you are aiming to do. In fact, it could have happened that, in the fall of 2002, with the rally called for in Central Park, the “pool” also did not get sufficiently filled—the turnout then could also have ended up being significantly short of what was needed and called for. Now, there were reasons why the outcome was different on October 6, 2002 than on October 5, 2006, but there was no locked-in, set-in-stone guarantee that things were going to be successful, and even exceed expectations, in 2002—nor, on the other hand and negatively, was it pre-determined or a virtual certainty that things were not going to come anywhere near what was called for in 2006 on October 5. In each case, there was an objective need, and there was an objective basis; but, if you want to put it simply, in one case we won and in one case we lost—speaking broadly of the “we,” and not just our Party itself. And if anyone thinks that coming up short and even suffering serious setbacks isn’t going to be part of the process of going up against what you’re going up against—even in terms of building resistance, as well as in the overall process of making revolution—then this is reflective of approaching things in an extremely pragmatic and empiricist and obviously unscientific way.
Of necessity, my summation here is elliptical and abbreviated—and again it needs to be further fleshed out—but if we compare NION in 2002 and World Can’t Wait in 2005, but especially in 2006, we can say on a scientific basis that in the case of each, there was the same basic orientation and approach, while taking into account and working to deal with certain different particularities. There was the same fundamental assessment of a need and of an objective basis, but the results were different in significant ways. And, yes, we do have to sum that up more deeply, but we’ll never get anywhere toward where we need to go, and we’ll never have a correct summation, if we do it on the basis of empiricism and pragmatism, and specifically on the basis of thinking that just because what you are calling for does have a real foundation—does have a material basis in the real world—it is bound to succeed in any particular circumstance (and, conversely, by the same pragmatic and empiricist logic, if it does not succeed then there must not have been a basis, and it must have been wrong to call and to work for this particular thing).
Here something that has always stood out to me as not quite correct has relevance to summing up the experience of World Can’t Wait so far. I am referring to the experience—and the summation made by the Chinese Communist Party with regard to the experience—of the first base areas, in the late 1920s and early 1930s, during the people’s war in China. Over a period of a few years, in the late ’20s and early ’30s, there were five so-called “encirclement and suppression campaigns” carried out by Chiang Kai-shek to try to wipe out these early base areas and the communist forces that had liberated them and were defending them. The first four of these campaigns failed. With the fifth one, Chiang Kai-shek was assisted by German military advisers: they used a different strategy—they proceeded very methodically—they would take over territory, build a block house and a whole compound, and then proceed from that, again, to seize more territory, setting up more block houses and military compounds, and so on, systematically step-by-step. They succeeded in driving the communists out of the base areas with this fifth campaign—and hence the Long March that we all have heard about, which was not a great thing when it began—a brilliant military maneuver taken on the initiative of the communists (“Oh, let’s have a Long March, that sounds like a great way to advance the people’s war”). No, this was a desperate escape.
It always troubled me, when I visited China and heard presentations about this (and in reading about it), that there would be the tendency to sum this up along these lines: “In countering the first four of these ‘encirclement and suppression’ campaigns, we carried out Chairman Mao’s line correctly—we lured the enemy deeply into the base areas, then we encircled them and cut them up piece by piece and defeated them—but in the face of the fifth ‘encirclement and suppression’ campaign, we tried to stand and ‘fight the enemy at the gates’ and ‘defend every pot and pan,’ and we got smashed and had to flee and take off on the Long March.”
To me, that was always too “linear” and simplistic. And I always said to myself (if not to the Chinese comrades who were making this summation): “OK, but I bet you would have gotten your ass kicked anyway, even if you’d done absolutely the right thing!” It was just too pat, just too neat. After all, the other side has something to say about what happens, in war and in general. And the enemy learns from its experiences, too. Just carrying out the correct line does not necessarily mean that you’re going to succeed in any particular situation or set of circumstances. In fact, Mao did speak to that in the philosophical essay “Where Do Correct Ideas Come From?” He said, sometimes the forces of progress are defeated, not because their ideas are incorrect, but because for the time being the balance of forces is against them. This is a more materialist and dialectical understanding.
Keeping in mind these basic points of method, and returning to WCW, in its inception it was to a significant degree building on what was accomplished with NION, but again there were also some significantly different features of the political “terrain” (or landscape) at the time and some new obstacles that had to be overcome, as things divided into two on the basis of the previous experience with NION and other outpourings of resistance, and the response of different classes—including in particular the ruling class—to that. Contradictory trends had emerged—or become more pronounced—since the time when NION, and more generally opposition to the impending Iraq war and the direction of the Bush regime, was at a high point.
One of the phenomena that had to be dealt with was the attitude of many who had previously united in the NION effort—their insistence that it was wrong to try to take on the Bush regime directly, and specifically to try to rally people around the objective of driving out the Bush regime, through massive political opposition and resistance. And, as we know, certain opportunists have seized on the fact that World Can’t Wait’s efforts have, so far at least, fallen short of its objective of mobilizing massive political resistance to the program and the crimes of the Bush regime, in order to attack this whole effort and more specifically our Party’s work in relation to this. Among other things, these opportunists have declared that you cannot do something like what WCW has set out to do without building alliances and organizing bases. But have these “critics” actually carried out any scientific investigation or made any scientific summation of what has been done by World Can’t Wait in this regard? Of course not. This brings us back to that very insightful and still very relevant statement by Mark Twain more than a century ago—that what you need to get along in America is the perfect combination of ignorance and arrogance. The fact is that when WCW started with its core, consisting of our Party along with some others, there was a systematic approach of going out to all different kinds of forces, including many who had been involved in NION, with the recognition that opposing the Bush regime, and seeking to drive it out, was a further leap beyond what had been done in just opposing the Iraq war. But what this initial core of WCW was putting forward was resisted and opposed by many “progressive” people and groups, most of whom had at least one foot solidly planted in the orbit of the Democratic Party. One such person put it in a very concentrated and succinct way, articulating a sentiment that was run into more generally among a lot of these forces, particularly those with a more conscious and confirmed reformist approach and ties to the Democratic Party: When this particular person was approached about the objectives that were crystallized in World Can’t Wait and urged to join in with this, he said simply: “Please, don’t do this.” This was a recognition that the stakes were being raised. But were they being raised arbitrarily and as an act of idealism and voluntarism, or because of necessity and, yes, because there was a basis as well as a great need for this?
The question posed itself then and needs to be looked at again with a clear understanding: Should forces which are largely within—or at least have one heavy foot in—Democratic Party circles, with connections and allegiances in those circles, have been allowed to set the terms of what could, and could not, be done in the face of what was going on (and is still going on) in terms of what the Bush regime has been doing? Should such forces have, in effect, been granted “veto power” in regard to mass political resistance against this? Of course, if there were no material basis for this, that would be one thing. But, again, there was a scientific analysis—and I am firmly convinced that a correct summation will uphold this analysis—that there was not only a heightened need but, yes, a material basis for what was set forth in the “Call” of WCW, even though what was aimed for there has not been achieved.
With regard to what WCW put forth in its “Call” and set out to do, objectively the principal aspect has been that this has fallen far short of what was needed, and what has been called for. But even if definitely secondary—and we should not “cheat” on this and do a two-into-one and become eclectic ourselves—even if definitely secondary, important things have been achieved by WCW: thousands were mobilized on November 2, 2005, including those significant “bust outs” by high school students; going into and then going forward from November 2, with contradictory motion—some people and forces falling back while some others came forward—organization was, yes, actually built, on a significant basis by WCW, nationally and in local areas. Were there shortcomings and errors—were there mistakes in method, as well as in tactics, and so on, in doing this? Yes. But organization was built, including chapters in many cities with people actively involved, in various ways and on various levels, in the dozens, or scores—or even on a certain level in some cases, in the hundreds—with a definite political (and cultural) dimension reaching and impacting people much more widely; a broad united front was built, drawing in not only people from different strata, including prominent people in various fields, let’s not forget, but even some “defectors” from various government spheres—which is hardly insignificant.
And, on the “eve” of October 5, there were definite signs that it might “break over the top,” as happened with the Central Park mobilization in 2002. But, as it turned out, most of the very large number of people who, from many indications, were seriously weighing whether to break out of the killing confines of the dominant political framework and take independent political action on October 5, ended up not doing so, and the turnout ended up falling way short of what was needed. Thousands were in fact mobilized on that day, but in the event the leap was not made from the very real “building blocks” that were being constructed in preparation for October 5—that was not translated into a truly massive political outpouring, so powerful that it could not be whited-out or covered up, or its political impact ignored. It is true that since October 5, 2006—and let us not forget what I mentioned earlier: the results of the Congressional elections the month after that, with the Democrats winning a majority of both houses of Congress—and then very soon after that, with the launching of the longest presidential campaign in history, there has been a certain chilling effect, and a suctioning and siphoning effect, in terms of bringing people under the wing of the bourgeoisie in the short term.
As a result of all this, the size and political impact of WCW has objectively declined in the period since October 5, 2006. And this is particularly so as the current presidential campaign, and in particular the Obama phenomenon, has swung into high gear and has offered a “wing” under which many who are deeply alienated from and angered and disturbed by the Bush regime and its program have been drawn. But, again, even with its very real shortcomings, it would be very wrong to negate the significant political impact WCW has had, on the basis of acting on its “Call” in various ways, even while, once again, this has fallen significantly short of what that “Call” set forth, and what is needed. And in the period ahead, depending on various factors—both those objective to WCW and in terms of what WCW itself does—there could still be a heightened role for WCW, and certainly for forces it has influenced and, at least for a certain time and to a certain level, organized in political resistance.
Let us keep in mind as well the very important point that what WCW has accomplished since its inception, even while falling significantly short of what it set out to accomplish (as expressed, once again, in its “Call”), has been done with our Party openly playing a significant role in WCW, uniting broadly with others, both within the more deeply committed core of WCW and in the broader ranks attracted to it—and with our Party, in its work with WCW, notwithstanding certain very definite shortcomings in this, openly putting forward and propagating what we stand for, in fundamental and strategic terms, and how we approach WCW in relation to our strategic objectives, while drawing the clear distinction between that and the basis of unity and integrity of WCW itself, uniting people and forces with a diversity of larger views and perspectives from which they have approached working in and with WCW. Again, notwithstanding what have been very definite and significant shortcomings on our part, our involvement in WCW—both our work to build it, in accordance with its basis of unity and integrity, and our putting forward our full revolutionary and communist viewpoint and objectives—has been a noteworthy positive factor. And it is also noteworthy that many people—and conventional wisdom—would insist that you could not do anything like what has been done by WCW, even with its definite shortcomings, so long as communists were involved and moreover were playing a prominent role and openly propagating their full communist viewpoint and program (while clearly distinguishing that from the basis of unity and integrity of World Can’t Wait).
Once again, there can be—and should be—no avoiding of the fact that WCW, and those working in and with it, have not succeeded in bringing forth the level and kind of mass political resistance that was, correctly, set out as a goal, and a necessity, in the WCW “Call”; and the fact that, so far at least, this has not happened, on the level that is needed, has represented a significant negative factor on the political landscape. Nevertheless, the role that WCW has played, and what it has accomplished, can have a lasting positive political (and ideological) impact—if it is not squandered, politically and ideologically, but instead is built on.
Think of the degree to which torture has become much more of a question in society—even while it is an outrage that torture is not much more of an outrage throughout society. Would awareness of—and resistance to—this have occurred on the level that it has without the role of WCW? Think of the important political attention that’s been focused on the overall program of the Bush regime, rather than simply this or that aspect of it, in isolation from other aspects. Would that have happened on the level it has without what WCW has done?
The questions WCW has raised, or has played a crucial role in raising and sharpening—its indictments of the crimes of the Bush regime and its exposure of the comprehensive nature of the program of that regime and the great harm already done through the regime’s carrying out this program, including the precedents and “norms” this has created and its impact on the political terrain and the thinking of the people—this continues to be extremely relevant and points to the continuing need to mobilize massive political resistance to the basic political direction in which this regime has driven things. And this must be taken up, from the standpoint of our Party and in terms of our work, as part of the more fundamental objective of building a movement aimed at revolution, and the final goal of communism. Even given that things have fallen far short of what is needed, it can be said with, yes, a great deal of certainty, that it is much better that people have united around and mobilized to work for the objectives of WCW, even in the numbers that they have—much better that this has been persevered in—much better than if this had not been done. And now there is the challenge of how to continue, in new circumstances, the much needed work to build mass opposition and political resistance to the whole direction driven by the Bush regime, and the “new norms” it has set, and the trajectory it has established, within the U.S. and in the world at large—in the only way this massive political resistance can really be built—breaking out of the confines of the established and dominant political framework.
This must be done in the context where the current bourgeois electoral process is serving both as a certain arena of struggle among the powers-that-be themselves, over how to pursue their interests not only in a general sense but more specifically in the context of what has been set in motion by the Bush regime—and over whether, and if so how and to what degree, to make adjustments, or to continue firmly and without significant alteration on the current course—and where this whole electoral process is serving to further confine, influence and shape the profound mass discontent that exists, channeling this into forms and paths that not only do not threaten the interests of the powers-that-be but actually further those interests. Yet, this, too, is full of—and could contribute to deepening—contradictions and factors that could further sharpen the alienation that exists among broad numbers of people. Combating this political suffocation, and bringing forward meaningful political opposition and mass resistance, is a challenge that WCW itself is continuing to confront, and a challenge which must be confronted in an all-around way—and once again must be taken up, by our Party, in accordance with and proceeding from our strategic, revolutionary standpoint and objectives, while uniting with many others, coming at this from many different viewpoints.
In fact, in terms of setbacks with regard to efforts around WCW, the most harmful effect would occur to the degree that people, including some who have been involved in WCW, sum it up on an incorrect basis and according to linear thinking—on the basis of empiricism and pragmatism—and accordingly become disoriented and demoralized, not only about what WCW has and has not been able to achieve, but more generally about the prospect for bringing about significant, or even fundamental, change. This is somewhat understandable as a spontaneous tendency among people who are relatively new to this kind of political struggle and to taking on the challenge of building this kind of movement of mass political resistance, but it is inexcusable for people who are, or who claim to be, communists but who have fallen into empiricism even in relation to the period from 9/11 to the present—and have forgotten all the ups and downs just in that period, which I have been reviewing here briefly—to say nothing of how to evaluate things in relation to the strategic goal of revolution, aiming toward the final goal of communism. This underscores, all the more, the importance of persevering with the fundamental objective of opposing the whole direction in which the Bush regime has driven things and the efforts to direct outrage at this back into dead ends that only serve to derail and demobilize opposition to the crimes of this regime and this system as a whole—and, again from our Party’s standpoint, it points to the importance of proceeding in this in accordance with our fundamental revolutionary viewpoint and objectives and, as a decisive part of this now, making a scientific (as opposed to a pragmatic and empiricist) summation of this effort, so far, and carrying out vigorous struggle against unscientific summations and in particular distorting and opportunist “verdicts” on this effort that aim people away from drawing the real and crucial lessons and carrying forward the struggle on that basis.
As I have touched on a couple of times already, a significant factor in the objective situation now is this year’s presidential election, and more specifically the particularity of the Obama phenomenon. Here, I can only briefly comment on (but will refer people to) the article that appeared some months ago by Andrew Sullivan (see TheAtlantic.com, “Goodbye to All That: Why Obama Matters,” December 2007) and an interview that was done more recently with George Soros—both of whom spoke in ways that, while coming from their own points of view, are insightful and important in relation to what is going on with this Obama phenomenon. Sullivan made the point that basically the policy options of whoever becomes president will be very restricted; in that sense there won’t be much difference. And that has to do with the trajectory of things and the necessity that’s been created by what the Bush regime has done, as well as other factors in the world in a larger sense. But, Sullivan said: while the range of those policy options will be narrow, in terms of style and perception the difference will be profound. And, once again, we should not be narrow and economist in our understanding of this—nor should we be “tailers after bourgeois democracy,” obviously (I hope that’s obvious). We should understand the complexity and once again the multi-layered, multi-colored nature of the “map” of this phenomenon.3 In terms of the “war on terror,” which Sullivan is very much for—he insists that it is necessary to carry forward and win this war, as does Obama, of course—Sullivan argues that, overnight, it will make a profound difference in the Muslim world if the president of the United States is Obama. And Obama, in effect, when he spoke before AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee), made the same point, if you listen carefully with anything of a discerning ear.
In certain important aspects, and keeping in mind the differences as well as similarities between the 1960s and today’s situation, one can’t help but sense that there is a way in which Obama represents a kind of combination of Jack Kennedy and what things would have been like if Bobby Kennedy had not been assassinated and had instead become the Democratic Party nominee in 1968, with the key additional element of Obama’s being Black—but, as Andrew Sullivan emphasizes, a Black man who is not threatening to people like Sullivan—Black but with “no sudden moves.” In this context, it is worth recalling a significant fact and pondering the significance of this in relation to the Obama phenomenon: In the 1980s and early ’90s, during the time when there was a huge mass upsurge against apartheid in South Africa, and vicious suppression was being carried out in the attempt to drown that mass upsurge in blood, the most popular TV program at that time among whites in South Africa was...“The Cosby Show.” Again, “no sudden moves.”
Keeping in mind Sullivan’s observations, we can also see that there is, in this Obama phenomenon, an aspect of analogy to the way in which Booker T. Washington became a popular speaker at white supremacist rallies in the southern U.S. during the period of Jim Crow segregation and KKK terror. Washington was a “prominent Negro leader”—or someone who was promoted by the powers-that-be, including white supremacist forces in the southern U.S.—precisely because Washington advocated that, instead of waging struggle against segregation and KKK terror, Black people should work hard to better themselves within that horrendously oppressive framework. I’m not saying Obama is exactly the same as Booker T. Washington—nor, of course, is the political stage on which he is operating, and the political role he is playing on that stage, the same as with Washington—but there are some definite similarities, as this finds expression in today’s world (with everything that’s gone on since the time of Booker T. Washington), in terms of what Obama fundamentally represents—and in particular the phenomenon of, once again, “no sudden moves.”
We should not ignore, or be oblivious of, the difficulties posed by the unfolding of the objective situation right now, and in particular the election campaign and the Obama phenomenon more specifically—the ways in which this poses real obstacles to building mass political resistance and, on our own part, building a revolutionary movement. We should recognize the difficulties this poses in the short-term but also the potential “unravelling” that there could be for the ruling class—especially if we do our work correctly, proceeding from our strategic revolutionary perspective and orientation and dealing on that basis with the unfolding of these contradictions—again, not in a narrow, mechanical materialist and economist, kind of way—[sarcastic voice] “they’re all part of the same ruling class; Obama’s just a sellout; blah, blah, blah”—but understanding the complexity and again the multi-layered and multi-textured nature of this.
In this connection, some of us have been thinking about whether we should put out a statement, as the election eve approaches, to all those who have been pulled to the Obama phenomenon—all those people who have a genuine desire to see things take a very different course, within the U.S. and in terms of its role in the world, and who are objectively being set up for a great disappointment and grand disillusionment with the Obama phenomenon. This would be a statement in our paper that includes: “To all such people, we will be here when the debauchery turns into the blues!”
Now, whether or not we do that, there is a point to that orientation. At the same time, that’s not enough, obviously. It is crucial to be influencing and shaping, to the greatest degree we can, how people see and approach things, even those who are going to be, despite our best efforts, drawn into this Obama phenomenon on one level or another, so that, when “the blues” does hit, after the “debauchery” of indulging in illusions about Obama, it does not simply remain as “the blues” and lead to still further turning away from truly meaningful political activity—to demobilization, as well as demoralization, in relation to what is profoundly needed: massive political resistance. In opposition to that, we need to be influencing and shaping things so that, as this grand disillusionment takes hold, and as we are further exposing what all this is really about, then there will be at least a contradictory effect and strategically more of a basis for winning people to massive political resistance and ultimately to revolution (and winning some more immediately to a revolutionary position).
On the surface, in this immediate period, at least in the U.S. itself (and somewhat in dialectical relation with recent developments in Iraq, and the way the ruling class has to a significant degree downplayed the Iraq war in the public consciousness and replaced it with “Issue Number One: The Economy”), it may seem that the “storm” has quieted down; but this is much more likely to prove to be the “eye” of the storm rather than any kind of long-lasting “lull” in the storm. While there is, among the people in the U.S., a certain “trough” in terms of mass resistance—a definite “trough” as compared to a few years ago—and there is a struggle among the ranks of the ruling class about whether and if so how to make some adjustments, or “course correction,” the underlying contradictions—and here I am referring not just to the fundamental contradiction of capitalism and the bourgeois epoch in a general sense (between socialized production and private appropriation) but to the particular expressions of that in today’s world, including in the U.S.—have not really been mitigated, and will be very difficult to mitigate in a way favorable to U.S. imperialism. In fact, it is quite possible that, before very long, we will see a passing of things beyond the “eye of the storm” and the intensification of contradictions, with perhaps even some major eruptions, or escalations of tensions and conflicts, within the U.S. itself as well as in the world in the larger sense.
We should not underestimate the way that the notion that, after all, there will be a “pendulum swing” is exerting influence and having an effect (even if in some cases this is more in the category of a vague feeling). The appearance of the possibility of a major course correction and the seeming operation of the supposed “self-correcting mechanism of U.S. democracy”: we should not underestimate the influence of such ideas. Secondarily, there may actually be some aspect of “course correction,” and there are significant forces in the ruling class who really do want to see some kind of adjustment—precisely in order to better pursue, in the current situation, the interests of U.S. imperialism, as they perceive that. But overall the ruling class faces a lot of necessity, and there remain significant underlying factors and driving dynamics that militate against a major shift of direction on the part of the ruling class as a whole, internationally or within the U.S. This, again, is part of Andrew Sullivan’s point on why Obama is the man for the times. And, as has been pointed out by “neo-cons” and other more mainstream bourgeois commentators, Obama is already starting to adjust his stance on Iraq: “We have to be just as careful getting out as we were careless getting in” is his current refrain. And if he becomes president and “the generals on the ground” tell him that, with regard to Iraq, he can’t do what he said he’d do while he was campaigning—well, who is he to not listen to the generals? In any case, in calling for “carefully,” and gradually, pulling forces out of Iraq—while leaving open the prospect of retaining a “residual force” there—Obama consistently puts this in the context of, and emphasizes that it is to facilitate, sending more forces to Afghanistan (and he has spoken of the possibility of launching attacks inside Pakistan) and pursuing the “war on terror” overall more vigorously. Some “anti-war” candidate!
This is not to say that there won’t be any significant policy adjustments—we should not be simple-minded about this—but the point is rather that there are definite constraints and necessity that the ruling class will face, whoever is president. And we are actually being given the picture of this very clearly—as can be seen, for example, in Obama’s AIPAC speech and in general his talk about Israel and Iran. Anybody who is into the “Peace Now” and “War Is Not the Answer” thing and watched that AIPAC speech—and especially anyone who not only read the content but listened to the bloodthirsty tone of that speech—has to have been struck by that bloodthirstiness on some level (I don’t care how much they’re trying to turn off their minds, they have to have been struck by that on some level, even if not fully consciously). That was a bloodthirsty speech, and it indicated clearly what some of the necessity is that Obama recognizes—and recognizes he must take a clear stand on.
And we should not forget the experience with Jimmy Carter as president. Much as he’s now Mr. Human Rights and Mr. Habitat for Humanity, etc., let us not forget the Jimmy Carter who “came in like a lamb, and went out like a lion.” In the first part of his term, there he was, with the sweater he put on to give his “fireside chat” about pulling together and sacrificing, with the need for controls on oil and gas, and all that kind of stuff. But this avuncular figure turned into a bloody warmonger by the time he left office. This is covered up and forgotten by a lot of people who were around at the time—and of course many people, especially younger people, don’t even know about this. All they know is the image of Jimmy Carter, Mr. Human Rights. That Jimmy Carter is the one who, in the first part of his term, also out of necessity, pardoned a huge number of American soldiers who’d gone AWOL during (or as a result of) the Vietnam War. This was a mass phenomenon—thousands of people living underground or in other countries—and this pardon was all part of “healing the wounds,” in a way similar to some of how Obama talks now. But then reality and necessity for the ruling class asserted itself, and by the time Carter left office he was taking the advice of Brzezinski— he was helping to organize and arm the mujahadeen forces in Afghanistan against the Soviets—and, more ominously, Carter was directly threatening war, with everything that implied, against the Soviet Union over the Persian Gulf, in the context of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and in the wake of the Iranian revolution and the turmoil that was created there.
Carter emphatically stated—and here again the language of these imperialists is revealing—that if any “outside forces” try to intervene in the Persian Gulf, this will be taken by the United States as a cause for war. Well, I’m sorry, but I didn’t know that the Persian Gulf was a lake in the middle of the U.S. Obviously, by “outside forces” Carter was talking not about the U.S. but about the Soviet Union—and he was overtly threatening war against the Soviet Union!
This is important to reflect on—in general and specifically in relation to the Obama phenomenon now. This is not to say that history repeats itself in the same way, nor to ignore very significant differences between then and now. There is no Soviet Union, for one thing. But that experience with Jimmy Carter does hold some important lessons, in terms of the soothing talk of representatives of the imperialist ruling class, and on the other hand the necessity and constraints that this ruling class and its representatives face in pursuing their imperialist interests.
Right now, we have to face the fact that, while there is still a real “reservoir” of outrage directed at the Bush regime and what it has done, on the other hand there is a very definite “trough,” particularly among the progressive-minded middle strata, along with all the problems that the basic masses face in terms of being able to wage political resistance and in terms of building a revolutionary movement. I was struck by this once again in reading reports about our work around the Sean Bell case (the outrageous verdict exonerating the murdering cops): Even when we were successful in bringing out a lot of youth in Queens shortly after the verdict, it was striking, in reading the reports, that it was almost all females who were out in the streets protesting, not because they were necessarily more politically advanced but because all the young guys were on probation or in some other way caught up in the legal system, and that was a heavy weight on them, holding them back.
These problems are real. The “trough” and the “coming under the wing of the bourgeoisie”—not only among the middle strata but even among the basic masses, and certainly among Black people, with the pull of Obama—is very real. But so, too, is the necessity faced by the ruling class.
2. “The New Situation and the Great Challenges,” a talk given by Bob Avakian shortly after September 11, 2001, was first published in Revolutionary Worker (now Revolution) #1143, March 17, 2002, and is available online at revcom.us [back]
3. In “Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity, Part 2” (available online at revcom.us/avakian/makingrevolution2 and as part of the pamphlet Revolution and Communism: A Foundation and Strategic Orientation), Bob Avakian wrote: “You cannot have a reductionist or simplistic approach to reality. Here, to illustrate the point, I want to invoke the analogy of a map with many different layers, with a different coloring for each layer, expressing different phenomena (population centers, parks, bodies of water, and so on). This is a useful metaphor or analogy to help understand the complicated and variegated nature of the reality that we’re dealing with and are working to transform. [back]
Revolution #142, September 7, 2008
On Obama’s Nomination:
You bitterly opposed the Bush wars, and maybe you demonstrated against them, but you got discouraged...and you’ve felt heartsick and impotent as those wars grind on...
You wept or raged over the murder of Sean Bell, or the hanging of lynching ropes, wondering when and how justice for Black people could ever come when American racism is so very deep...
You watched as Bush filled the government with followers of his fanatically ignorant crusading brand of Christianity...you looked on in horror at the stripping away of what you thought were fundamental rights...you witnessed torture being legalized, and heard first one group then another—yesterday gay people, today immigrants—being demonized, and you’ve wondered: "are we heading toward fascism?"...
You want equality for women, and you get furious every time you hear of a new move against abortion and now, yes, even birth control, as traditional values are restored with a vengeance...
Then you heard Obama talk about change. It was a little vague, but you let yourself hope. Now, after the convention, you’re a little euphoric...but at the same time, something gnaws at you, something doesn’t feel quite right.
But you say to yourself something like this: a Black man, after all these years, nominated for president. That’s got to mean change, doesn’t it? And everywhere at the convention, there was Obama’s slogan—"change you can believe in."
Maybe it’s time to pause and ask a little deeper about the content of this promised change. Maybe it’s time to listen to Barack Obama’s acceptance speech in depth, and take a sober look at where he says he’ll lead you.
* * *
"Obama showed his toughness." That was the unanimous verdict from the commentators on Obama’s acceptance speech. Obama said that "as commander-in-chief I will never hesitate to defend this nation," and even more to the point aggressively went after John McCain for not having the "temperament and judgment to be the next commander-in-chief."
Now let’s be clear on John McCain. McCain’s "great accomplishment" was to fly a jet high over the rice fields of Vietnam and drop terribly destructive and horrific bombs on farmers and children, over and over again, with no twinge of conscience. No one knows how many people McCain personally killed in Vietnam, but the death toll of the totally unprovoked American invasion of that country is generally acknowledged to top two million people. Contrary to the endless professions of "respect" for John McCain by Obama and the rest of the Democrats, this guy is nothing more than a contemptible war criminal. Today McCain insists on being even more brutal and aggressive in Iraq.
This is who Obama professes deep respect for—but implies is not "tough enough."
Is that the change you want? To shift troops out of Iraq...and into Afghanistan—as Obama has called for? Afghanistan, where just last week the government charged U.S. troops with having killed 90 civilians, including 60 children, in a raid. Further along in his acceptance speech, Obama issued a call to "protect Israel and deter Iran"—and then taunted McCain for "just...talking tough in Washington" instead, we can only presume, of taking more "action." Obama’s selection of the long-time Israel backer Joe Biden for vice president was also designed, in part, to make clear his credentials on that. Is that the change the world needs—an Israel unleashed by the U.S. to be even more aggressive and bloodthirsty in the Middle East?
As part of this whole theme, Obama hammered again and again on patriotism, on the so-called "American promise," and on how the U.S. is the "last, best hope" for people the world over who want freedom, peace, and a better future. In reality, from Guatemala to Iraq to Angola and beyond, those phrases translate as "watch out, we’re about to get bombed and slaughtered." This "last best hope" exploits the labor and sucks the resources out of the entire planet. This "last best hope" has initiated and presided over military coups, proxy wars, and direct invasions in scores of countries around the globe in just the past 60 years, since World War 2, that have taken a toll well into the millions. This "last best hope" is the ONLY nation ever to use nuclear bombs, and has several times since threatened to plunge the world into nuclear warfare to protect what it deems to be its interests. This "last best hope" is not just a nation with high ideals which somehow has gone astray into an unfortunate imperialist "policy"; it is an imperialist system, driven to expand or die. And the only real "American promise" is that "all options are on the table" when it comes to raining down destruction on anyone who gets in its way.
But don’t take our word for it. Go google Pat Buchanan’s response to Obama’s speech on YouTube. Pat Buchanan, you may remember, wrote speeches for Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. He’s an open white supremacist and a viciously anti-immigrant reactionary who writes books sounding the alarm about how America is not white enough, and not Christian enough, and thus in danger of losing the social cohesion it needs to protect its empire.4 And there on MSNBC was Pat Buchanan himself, gushing about how this is the greatest convention speech he ever heard, how this was "not at all a liberal speech," and pointing in particular to this passage as the capstone:
I love this country, and so do you, and so does John McCain. The men and women who serve in our battlefields may be Democrats and Republicans and independents, but they have fought together and bled together and some died together under the same proud flag. They have not served a red America or a blue America—they have served the United States of America.
Ask yourself why someone like Pat Buchanan is gushing like that. This is the rhetoric that leads people to fight and kill for imperialism. Is this the change that you believe in?
* * *
During the primary campaign, Obama gave a speech about racism in America, and referred to the country’s "shameful past." In fact, Obama soft-pedaled the actual history and current-day oppression of Black people in that speech, covering over the depth of the roots of white supremacy and posing a false and actually deadly solution to it.5 But what was most striking about Obama’s acceptance speech was how little he said about this foundational division in American society...and how vicious was the content of what he did say.
Even the video about Obama’s life that played before the speech seemed to leave out Black people. His speech itself detailed many of the problems facing ordinary people of all nationalities in America—the lack of decent health care, the terrible state of education for most children, the seriously bad problems in housing and jobs, and so on. But Obama did not see fit to mention, even once, the ways in which racial discrimination makes all these problems much worse for Black people. Nor did he mention, even once, the particular forms of oppression "reserved" for Black people, and other minority nationalities. He didn’t mention the ways in which the criminal justice system warehouses young Black men in jail...the ways in which Black, and other oppressed nationality, men—and women—are routinely harassed and often brutalized and yes killed by the police...and the ways in which these same youth are demonized in the culture.
He said, in fact, two things about this most fundamental question of America. The first was this:
Yes, we must provide more ladders to success for young men who fall into lives of crime and despair. But we must also admit that programs alone can’t replace parents; that government can’t turn off the television and make a child do her homework; that fathers must take more responsibility for providing the love and guidance their children need.
Does Obama really think that turning off the television will bring back the steel mills to the inner city, the loss of which he actually mentioned earlier in his speech? Does Obama really believe that parents getting up early to make their kids do their homework will make any difference in a system that is designed to fail—when these schools have been de-funded and left to rot and turned into virtual prisons?6
It is a lie most cruel to blame the people themselves for failing to make it in a system that was designed to keep them down. But Barack Obama, as did his wife Michelle in her speech earlier in the week, did exactly this. Yes, he (and she) talked about extending helping hands. But this was very secondary to their continued hammering on the theme that in America, if you work hard, and if your family maintains traditional roles, "you can make it." The subtext—and sometimes it is made explicit, usually by others—is that "if the Obamas made it, well, so can every other Black person, if they would just work harder. And if they don’t, they have only themselves to blame."
The reality, as Bob Avakian has said, is this:
Determination decides who makes it out of the ghetto—now there is a tired old cliché, at its worst, on every level. This is like looking at millions of people being put through a meatgrinder and instead of focusing on the fact that the great majority are chewed to pieces, concentrating instead on the few who slip through in one piece and then on top of it all, using this to say that "the meatgrinder works"!7
As if to drive this point home, Obama made one more reference to the oppression of Black people toward the end of his speech—this to the march on Washington for civil rights that took place 45 years to the day before his acceptance speech. While it’s now been erased from history, as Malcolm X pointed out, the 1963 march began as a grassroots protest against the howling injustices being perpetrated against Black people, but then got taken over by more respectable forces and turned into something else.8 To show how far this takeover went, every single speech at that march was edited by the White House—and John Lewis, then of SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) and now a prominent Congressman, was forced to change his! But Obama’s point in evoking this event was to point to Martin Luther King’s "I Have a Dream" speech of that day, and to say:
The men and women who gathered [at that march] could’ve heard many things. They could’ve heard words of anger and discord. They could’ve been told to succumb to the fear and frustration of so many dreams deferred.
But what the people heard instead...is that in America, our destiny is inextricably linked. That together, our dreams can be one.
Obama in this case is right; that is what the people were told (again, as approved by the White House). But what people increasingly learned in the years that followed is that the one thing the "destiny" of America was "inextricably linked" to was its roots as a grotesque amalgam of genocide, slavery, and capitalism. That the so-called American dream rested on the dispossession and near-extermination of Native American Indians and the enslavement of Africans, and then the further extension of that system and those values around the continent, and then into the world through imperialist wars. That these roots ran deep into the foundation of this country, and that a few reforms were not going to touch the conditions of the masses of Black people, or the basic overall character of this society. That people would have to break out of the confines of bourgeois politics if they were going to get anywhere. That the ways in which Black people sometimes vented their anger and despair against each other, including the toll that took (and still takes) within the family, had more to do with the grinding stresses of white supremacy combined with relations and values inculcated by this system than with any individual’s failings. That radical fundamental change would be needed to actually achieve real freedom—and that in the course of fighting for that revolutionary change, and only in the course of fighting for that kind of change, people could transform their outlooks and rid themselves of the many different forms of the dog-eat-dog mentality and morality that capitalism generates and reinforces and then feeds on.
The movement that arose at that time accomplished tremendous things, even though it did not succeed in breaking through and making revolution. But that setback does not change the reality that revolutionary change is needed—and it does not change the even deeper reality as to why this change is possible and can be done.
If you’re for Obama, and reading this paper, you very likely agree with at least large parts of what we just said above about this society and the historic oppression of Black people, and their present-day situation in this system. But Obama is saying something diametrically opposed to what you understand and believe, and it was sharply concentrated in his speech. Read it again, with unclouded eyes. He is putting the blame for the ongoing oppression faced by the masses of Black people on the masses themselves. He is telling people who want to end this injustice that the only way forward is to essentially stop fighting this oppression in its own right, and to put their trust in American patriotism. And he is in effect telling those who are indifferent to this oppression, or even feel that they benefit from it and even "partake of it," that they need not bother their conscience with it.
Ask yourself again—is that the change we need? Do you want a society where a Black president is used to tell people who are righteously angry over the outrages which again and again are visited on Black people to put aside the "anger and discord," to turn off the TV, and to work harder?
Is that the change that you believe in? Because that is the change you are in danger of getting.
* * *
The commentators congratulated Barack Obama for saying very little about the so-called "social issues"—the oppression of women, concentrated in the relentless attempts to end abortion and even birth control; the oppression of gay people, including the denial of their right to marry; the demonization and repression of immigrants; and so on.
In this part of the speech, the combative "take-it-to-McCain-with-the-gloves-off" persona suddenly evaporated. He did NOT pledge to defend the right to abortion, but talked instead about reducing unwanted pregnancies. He did NOT talk about the rights of gay people to marry—which Obama opposes anyway—but of their rights to visit partners in hospitals (which McCain also supports). He did NOT talk about why immigrants are driven here to seek work, and why their rights and humanity must be upheld and defended, but only that mothers should not be separated from their children—and that "illegal" workers must not be hired.
This single paragraph in his 40-plus-minute speech directly followed his paean to patriotic sacrifice in war and was framed by the need, in Obama’s words, to restore "our sense of common purpose" in America in the face of the "challenges" and "tough choices" of the present. In other words, Obama argued that these questions—that is to say, the rights of women, gay people and immigrants—must be subordinated to the need for "national unity" at a time when aggression is going to be carried out in Afghanistan and very possibly Iran, and almost certainly other places (note well that Obama also talked of "curb[ing] Russian aggression" in his speech and in earlier debates had advanced the idea of unilaterally taking military action in Pakistan).
This followed Obama’s performance at the evangelical preacher Rick Warren’s theocratic circus a mere week before the convention. Over 5 million people watched on television as Obama joined with McCain in their first appearance on the same stage for a public vetting by the Ayatollah of Orange County. Yes, we know, Rick Warren has a jolly unassuming manner; he hides his fangs much more skillfully than Pat Robertson. But Rick Warren is also a fanatic who says that abortion is murder, that the Biblical myth of creation should be taught instead of science in the schools, and that homosexuality is an "enormous sin"—just plain "sinful" is evidently not enough for him—and that therefore gay marriage should be forbidden.9 For "the candidate of change" to pay homage to Rick Warren—to effectively grant him the moderating rights of the real first presidential debate—is to legitimize this lunacy in a particular way that Bush or McCain could never accomplish.
And this outrageous circus was in turn followed by Michelle Obama’s convention speech which focused on the importance of the traditional patriarchal family with the roles of "working dad and stay-at-home" mom, linking this to patriotism (one commentator noted that Michelle Obama mentioned the word "America" at least 12 times); and then by Hillary Clinton—in what was billed as a "feminist speech"—who also did not even mention the right to abortion.
Listen: the right to abortion effectively does not exist in many places where abortion providers have been driven out by threats and outright murder, and that right is under relentless assault in the courts, including the Supreme Court, and the legislatures. Birth control itself has come into the sights of these theocrats and partriarchs, and these people are also demanding the teaching of religious doctrine in public schools. Public money is being used to fund religious projects—and Obama himself has come forward with his own proposal to increase that funding, while modifying it in some particulars. A new "social contract" is being written and signed right under your nose in which women are again relegated to Biblically-ordained traditional roles, and Biblical morality and epistemology is at minimum given a far larger legitimacy and place in society...and you are being told to go along with all that in the search of some unnamed "common purpose."
Is that the change you believe in?
* * *
Speaking at Mile High Stadium, Obama had two audiences. On the one hand, he was speaking to the masses. As such this was important; politicians do have to politically prepare people, through these campaigns, for how they are going to be ruled. But he was also speaking to different sections of, and players in, the ruling class of this country—the capitalist-imperialists. He was in a sense auditioning for them—would he be able to effectively win people to sacrifice? To drop their disaffection from the way things are and once more take up—and believe in—the tenets of American chauvinism? Would he be able to take the young people, the Black people, those who hate what has been done particularly by the Bush regime and saw in Obama a possible way out...would he be able to take them "one more step" along the path...back into the fold?
We have often cited the article by Andrew Sullivan10 in which he counsels the ruling class to support Obama. The range of options before the U.S. rulers is narrow, Sullivan argued, and Obama would be the best possible "face" on all the things that will have to be done in the service of American empire. This has a definite international dimension—as one commentator put it, referring to the crowd of 200,000 that came out in Germany to cheer Obama, the only way that Bush could get a crowd like that in Berlin would be if they were demanding that he be tried as a war criminal. And this has a "domestic" dimension: Obama, in the view of Sullivan and many others, is the candidate who can get people to put aside the just demands and the ideals that arose with such power in the 1960s and have never really gone away, who can wipe away what people learned at such a high cost, who can prepare a new generation for political life on terms that are at bedrock thoroughly conservative.
Obama would not rule in precisely the same way as McCain. That is not our point. What IS essential is that he would serve the same fundamental interests, and obey the same fundamental imperatives, as McCain. In line with that, Obama is also making the case to these rulers that his particular mix of aggression and negotiations, combined with his ability to "appeal to" people internationally and pacify the political scene at home, would be more effective than that of McCain in serving those interests and imperatives.
* * *
And that leaves you with a decision to make. If you look honestly at why you got drawn to Obama in the first place...and look just as honestly at the real message and implications of his speech...you will see that your own principles and ideals are being betrayed. This has been done subtly and gradually, but it has reached a certain undeniable stage with Denver. If you pour your energies, talents and hopes into this campaign, you will be effectively working against the best of your own beliefs.
This may be hard to take, but it is not—and cannot be taken as—a cause for despair, or an excuse to become inactive, or worst of all an occasion for a shrug of the shoulders and a giving in to the "realism" of a system in which it is always the values of justice and emancipation that are said to be unrealistic and where you capitulate to the "realism" of monsters. There is a battle to be waged against the very outrages that drew you to Obama in the first place, but which can never be ended by Obama and, indeed, will only be replicated by him.
There is no short-cut, but there is a road forward, however tortuous. There is the real possibility of revolution, which lives in reality and can be traced and connected within the pages of this newspaper every week. There is a revolutionary movement that is real. And there is a larger community of resistance, including those in Denver who went against the tide, spoke the truth, and stood up for what is just. These are the people you’ve been waiting for. Go join them.
4. See Patrick J. Buchanan, The Death of the West: How Dying Populations and Immigrant Invasions Imperil Our Country and Civilization (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2002) and Where the Right Went Wrong: How Neoconservatives Subverted the Reagan Revolution and Hijacked the Bush Presidency (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2005). [back]
5. See Revolution’s three-part series, "Response to Obama’s ‘Speech on Race,’" in issues #125 (April 6, 2008, revcom.us/a/125/obama-en.html), #127 (April 20, 2008, revcom.us/a/127/Obamapt2-en.html), and #130 (May 25, 2008, revcom.us/a/130/Obama-en.html) [back]
6. "NYC Public Schools and the Criminalization of the Students—What Kind of System Does This to Its Youth?," Revolution issue #93 (June 23, 2007, revcom.us/a/093/nypd-schools-en.html), and "U.S. Supreme Court Fortifies The Savage Inequalities," Revolution (June 15, 2007, revcom.us/a/095/supreme-court-en.html) [back]
7. Bob Avakian, "The ‘City Game’—and the City, No Game," Reflections, Sketches & Provocations (Chicago, RCP Publications, 1990). [back]
8. Malcolm X, "Message to the Grassroots," November 10, 1963 (available at xroads.virginia.edu/~Public/civilrights/a0147.html) [back]
10. See Andrew Sullivan, "Goodbye to All That: Why Obama Matters," The Atlantic, December 2007 (theatlantic.com/doc/200712/obama) and "Andrew Sullivan on Obama: The ‘Best Face’ For Imperialism, Revolution #118 (February 3, 2008, revcom.us/a/118/obama-en.html) [back]
"If you try to make the Democrats be what they are not and never will be, you will end up being more like what the Democrats actually are."
Bob Avakian, Chairman of the RCP, USA
Revolution #142, September 7, 2008
As Gustav approaches landfall on the Gulf coast, we call on the people, all those who witnessed and were outraged by the horror of what happened in the wake of Katrina, to remain vigilant and tense, ready to respond with political resistance, to stand up for the people...and to not allow the U.S. government to commit crimes against the people.
August 31, 2008: It’s the third anniversary of Katrina, almost to the day. Hurricane Gustav is heading towards the Louisiana coast. Katrina was a Category 3 storm. Gustav is at least Category 3 and at least 80 people died when it swept through the Caribbean. Some estimates say two million people will be displaced in the U.S. Gulf region.
Throughout the city of New Orleans, people are nailing plywood boards over windows and getting ready to leave. In New Orleans there are already 1,500 police and at least 2,000 national guardsmen on the ground to enforce the evacuation. News reports say some 7,000 national guardsmen are in place in Louisiana to “protect property.” And Governor Jindal has requested 16,000 more.
Once again city streets of New Orleans have taken on the look of an occupied city with Humvees crawling down the streets filled with men wearing camouflage and dark sunglasses.
Just like three years ago, a race to get out of harm’s way reveals the unequal and oppressive relations in society. Poverty, segregation, national oppression are all factors determining how hard it is for people to get safely out of the city.
Those with cars are able to drive away. Those without cars, the poor, mostly Black people, are waiting in long lines for buses, not knowing where they will end up. Some waiting in line now were in the Superdome when Katrina hit. They remember how nearly 100,000 people were left behind, abandoned by the government—then herded into the Superdome, subjected to inhumane conditions, then callously evacuated, sometimes separated from other family members.
This time the evacuation is happening before the storm hits. But will people be treated differently this time? Some things are starting to feel the same. People get on a bus. Then get on a train. Get entered into a computer. Get a bar code bracelet. They’re on the way to a public shelter in Shreveport or Memphis or somewhere else.
There’s a 24 hour curfew. The news reported that Mayor Ray Nagin “directed a special message at would-be looters... ‘You will not get a pass this time.’ And those caught won’t be shipped to a mere parish jail; they’ll be sent to the state’s notorious Angola Prison. ‘I want to make sure every potential looter understands that,’ said Nagin. ‘You will go directly to Angola Prison and God bless you when you get there.’”
Officials have announced that those out during curfew will be arrested. This means anyone who remains in New Orleans is automatically a “criminal” and people who stay will not be able to leave their homes for any reason without facing arrest.
Three years ago, the whole world watched the Bush regime commit horrendous crimes against the people of New Orleans. And people have seen how the government has done little to rebuild the levees to withstand a major storm, to rebuild many neighborhoods, and help people return and get their lives back together. When Katrina hit, there was an outpouring of help from millions, but there was not enough political resistance from around the country and the world; this time, people need to be ready to ACT politically against another outrage.
Three years ago, on August 31, 2005, the RCP issued a statement that began: “There was no way to stop Hurricane Katrina, but the chaos, suffering and death that resulted from this storm WAS preventable. Why didn’t the government organize massive and systematic evacuation? Why weren’t the levees maintained? Why were so many people left to fend for themselves?”
After Katrina, there was a lot of heroism and creativity among the people as they came together to try and survive in the most horrendous conditions. Three years ago, we all saw how the system valued private property over human lives. Now, the U.S. ruling class knows that the whole world is watching to see what it will do as Gustav moves closer to landfall. It will have to show “concern.” But even as they scramble to look like they are doing all they can to “save lives,” the nature of this capitalist system comes through. Once again, they are making it clear that a big focus of concern is preventing so-called “looting” and “protecting” private property, not people.
The United States government has the resources to deal with the impending danger of Hurricane Gustav. This is a system that can quickly spend billions and mobilize hundreds of thousands, to wage war across the ocean in a country thousands of miles away. The people must demand that this system do all that is possible to humanely and safely evacuate people out of the path of Hurricane Gustav.
Keep in touch with our paper. Write us with news. Send us statements and plans. Visit our website at revcom.us.
Revolution #142, September 7, 2008
On August 21, U.S. and allied forces had carried out a massacre of Afghani civilians in the village of Nawabad in the Shendan District. While the U.S. denied, and has continued to deny that the massacre happened, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) reported on August 25 that its human rights team found that about 90 civilians, including 60 children, were killed by U.S. air strikes.
The UN team met with the District Governor and local elders and interviewed people from a number of households in the village. Local residents were able to confirm the number of casualties, including names, age and gender of the victims. The team observed seven or eight houses that were totally destroyed and serious damage to many others.
According to witnesses, villagers had been preparing for a ceremony the next morning in memory of a man who died some time before. Extended families from two tribes were visiting the village, and there were lights of fires as the adults cooked food for the ceremony.
A member of a commission sent by the U.S.-installed Afghan government to investigate the deaths, said that the children killed were between three-months and 16-years old and that all were killed as they slept. "It was a heart breaking scene," he told Carlotta Gall of the International Herald Tribune. The death toll may even rise higher since heavy lifting gear is needed to uncover all the remains.
In Nawabad, U.S. denial and cover-up began quickly, and continues. The U.S. claims that 25 militants, including a Taliban commander, and only five civilians were killed during the raid. White House spokesman Tony Fratto told reporters on August 25th that U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan "take every precaution to try to avoid innocent civilian casualties."
After the massacre, hundreds of civilians demonstrated demanding the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan, shouting anti-US slogans at Afghan soldiers as they arrived in the area to bring aid to the families of the victims. "People didn't accept the aid and started throwing stones at the soldiers, saying the Afghan army is our enemy, we don't want anything from our enemies," a village elder told the Reuters news agency.
Carrying banners reading “Death to America,” villagers torched a police van and overturned a delivery truck in the area. A protester said, "We will continue our demonstration until the international community listen to us and bring those who carried out yesterday's attack to justice."
The atrocities committed by the U.S./NATO forces--and largely covered up and hidden from the public in the U.S. --are not isolated incidents, or the actions of rogue troops. They are the actions of a brutal occupying army that relies on terror in order to defend and expand the interests of U.S. Imperialism.
The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission reports that this is not the only massacre in this very same area in recent days. On July 17, 2008 more than 30 civilians were killed and wounded in a similar incident. The US/NATO and Afghan government forces in the last six months have killed over 255 civilians. Many civilians have also been killed by Taliban forces, whose reactionary aims and outlook also include a disregard for the lives of civilians.
On June 14, according to the BBC Persian service, thousands of residents of the southeastern province of Paktia demonstrated against attacks on civilians by Afghan and foreign forces. Witnesses said that the protests continued for three days. The protests were a response to the killing of at least 18 members of an extended family in an air strike. One protester also said that 11 members of another family were killed during a previous air attack. Although the demonstrations started peacefully, they turned bloody when the police fired on the protesters, killing at least one and wounding 12 more.
One of the worst massacres of civilians came on July 6 in eastern Nangarhar province. The U.S.-led coalition denied initial reports that it had bombed a wedding party and insisted that all of the dead were "militants." BBC reporter Alastair Leithead reached the village a week later. According to his report, filed July 14, villagers from one valley were crossing a mountain pass to reach the adjacent valley for a wedding. In three consecutive bombing runs, an American jet hit first a group of children, then a group of women, and then a group of three girls, including the bride, who had escaped the second bombing. Of the approximately 52 people killed, almost all were women and children who were escorting the bride.
In the July 6 massacre, American authorities tried to defend their action by claiming that the wedding party was actually a Taliban troop movement. In fact, as A World To Win News Service noted, "In fact, American aerial attacks on wedding parties have been a hallmark of the current occupation, just as they were during the Soviet occupation, since the invaders consider any large gathering of Afghans inherently hostile."
Despite the civilian death toll from the bombings the U.S. has expanded them in recent years and Bush’s Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been loudly arguing for even more air strikes in Afghanistan. According to American military figures, civilian deaths in airstrikes increased from 116 in 2006 to 321 in 2007, as the total number of bombs dropped has doubled. Afghan officials claim the number is much higher, saying that in the past two months at least 165 civilians have been killed in four American airstrikes.
As we have written, "The U.S. invasion of Afghanistan was driven by reactionary imperialist interests and ideology from the beginning. This war was never about simply capturing Osama bin Laden in response to the attacks of September 11, 2001. Its focus was replacing the Taliban regime with one more suitable to U.S. interests, which included defeating Islamic fundamentalism and gaining strategic control of this crossroads of Central Asia, where an intense great power rivalry over the control of oil and natural gas resources and pipelines is taking place." [Obama’s Foreign Policy: Steering U.S. Imperialism Through Dangerous Waters, by Larry Everest, Revolution #137, July 27, 2008]
What kind of system is it that occupies a country like Afghanistan, and carries out these kinds of massacres of civilians on their way to weddings, and children in their sleep? And what does it mean when the 2 candidates for president vie for the distinction of being the most aggressive in the U.S. "war on terror" and occupation of Afghanistan.
Revolution #142, September 7, 2008
Part 3: The Truth About How Chinese Communists Treated Korean War POWs
A July 2, 2008 New York Times article, “China Inspired Interrogations at Guantánamo,” reported that in 2002 military trainers at Guantánamo Bay based an interrogation class on a chart about torture techniques including “sleep deprivation,” “prolonged constraint,” and “exposure.” The article says this chart was copied from a 1957 Air Force study of Chinese Communist techniques used during the Korean War to obtain confessions from American prisoners and is “the latest and most vivid evidence of the way Communist interrogation methods that the United States long described as torture became the basis for interrogations both by the military at the base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and by the Central Intelligence Agency.”
The real truth is that historically, the United States has been NUMBER ONE when it comes to developing, refining, and exporting torture techniques—like electroshock and waterboarding that U.S. interrogators have used against suspected “terrorists.” Part 1 of this series (Mad Scientists and Criminal Laboratories) exposed how the CIA and the U.S. military conceived of, funded, and utilized inhumane experiments, using human guinea pigs, to develop torture techniques—such as shock treatment, sensory deprivation, and the use of hallucinogenic drugs. Part 2 (The U.S. Roots of Waterboarding) discussed how, at the turn of the 20th century—before the existence of any communist government—the U.S. routinely carried out what is now called waterboarding, in the Philippines.
Part 3 looks at the actual policies and conduct of Maoist China towards U.S. POWs during the Korean War.
At the end of WW2, the Korean peninsula was divided into north and south by the U.S. and the Soviet Union. The U.S. imperialists saw the southern half of Korea and the puppet regime they installed there as a major element in their plans to contain and perhaps wage war against the Soviet Union. And then after the People’s Republic of China was founded in 1949, the U.S. saw the pro-U.S. government in South Korea as crucial to surrounding, containing, and threatening the spread of communism in Asia. The People’s Republic of China was only a year old when it was directly threatened by the United States with the outbreak of the Korean War.
For over 50 years, the U.S. has repeated the story that during the Korean War, American POWs were tortured by Chinese communists and forced to make “false confessions” about the U.S. using biological warfare. Two basic things need to be said about this:
First, there is a lot of credible evidence that the U.S. did in fact use biological warfare during the Korean War.
And second, the truth about the actual policies and conduct of Maoist China towards U.S. POWs during the Korean War is utterly different than what has been propagated by the U.S. government, the mainstream media and standard histories: the approach of the Chinese communists towards POWs, far from being one of torture, so-called “brainwashing,” and inhumane treatment, was lenient and centered on political education.
During World War 2, after Japan invaded and occupied China, a covert branch of the Japanese Army called “Unit 731,” did experiments on POWs in China to study the potential for large-scale bacteriological warfare. As many as 270,000 civilians may have died due to these experiments.11 So what was the U.S. response to this horrible crime against humanity?
The U.S. granted immunity to members of Unit 731 in exchange for their research data.
Canada had also been developing biological weapons, including anthrax, and the U.S. took over these experiments.12 By the time the Korean War started in 1950, the U.S. had five anti-personnel agents and two anti-crop agents, tested in cluster-bombs. In 1952, the U.S. Air Force requisitioned 23,900 of these cluster-bombs. U.S. scientists were also experimenting with the use of flies, fleas, lice, mosquitoes and ticks, to spread germs. Between 1951 and 1953, during the Korean War, the U.S. spent $345 million on research into biological warfare (about $2.2 billion in current dollars).
Thirty-six American pilots captured in Korea and interrogated by the Chinese army confessed to being involved in U.S. operations using biological weapons. They said they dropped fleas infected with plague and turkey feathers coated with toxins. When these pilots came home after the war they were threatened with court-martial and recanted their confessions.
Many official documents about U.S. biological warfare during the Korean War have been destroyed and others are still classified. But after extensive research, two Canadian historians, Stephen Endicott and Edward Hagerman, concluded that while the U.S. did not wage prolonged biological attacks on North Korea, it carried out limited covert, more experimental attacks using biological warfare.13 In addition, the U.S. dropped phosphorus bombs and, in 1951, used a daily average of 70,000 gallons of napalm.
Chinese investigators issued 600 pages of documentary evidence about U.S. biological warfare in Korea. This included reports of sudden deaths from plague, anthrax and encephalitis (brain inflammation resulting from a viral infection), and eyewitness accounts of US aircraft dropping strange objects, including soybean stalks, feathers and cardboard packages containing live insects, rotten fish, decaying pork, frogs and rodents. Fleas from these airdrops tested positive for plague, which had not been reported in Korea since 1912. And insects, spiders and feathers were found to be carrying anthrax.
The U.S. vigorously denied all this and launched a propaganda campaign that included stories of POWs subjected to mind control drugs and secret interrogation techniques.14
The fact that American POWs had gone on camera and confessed to carrying out biological warfare, and that some had even denounced the United States, was of great concern to the U.S. government. The official explanation for public consumption was that the U.S. was not carrying out biological warfare and so if U.S. soldiers were saying this, they must have been “brainwashed.”
This lie was not only used to cover up and dismiss confessions by captured U.S. military personnel that they were involved in germ warfare, it was also used to justify research into “mind control” by the CIA. In the immediate wake of World War 2, it would have been unacceptable and very Nazi-like for the United States to openly talk about wanting to use torture and interrogation techniques. So the stated goal of this research was to prepare U.S. soldiers for what they might encounter if they were captured.15 But the real practice of this, which has been widely documented, was to refine and further develop interrogation techniques and methods of torture to be used by the United States (see parts 1 and 2 of this series).
But the question remains: Even if the U.S. carried out biological warfare during the Korean War, this still would not justify inhumane treatment of POWs. So what about reports that the Chinese communists tortured American POWs?
According to U.S. officials, 7,245 Americans were captured or interned during the Korean War. Of these, 2,806 died in captivity, 4,418 were released to the U.S., and 21 refused repatriation and chose voluntarily to go live in the People’s Republic of China (more on this later).
After the Korean War extensive hearings were held before the U.S. Congress, headed by the infamous anti-communist liar, Joseph McCarthy. Dozens of American former POWs testified that they had been forced to march long distances, that guards spit in their faces, that they were sometimes beaten and suffered from lack of food and medical care. There were accounts of U.S. soldiers being captured and shot by Korean soldiers.16 Such treatment would constitute a violation of the Geneva Conventions (treaties formulated in Geneva, Switzerland that set the standards for international law for humanitarian concerns). With regard to the specific charge of torture during interrogation, no evidence was offered in these hearings to back the claim that Chinese communists used techniques like electroshock, water torture, or sensory deprivation.
The policies towards American POWs during the Korean War can be divided into three different phases: 1) July 1950 until November 1950, before Chinese Communist forces entered the war; 2) the winter of 1950-1951 when several temporary camps were created; and 3) the end of 1951 to the end of the war in June 1953, when there were eight permanent camps set up by the Chinese in North Korea.
At the start of the war, the North Korean army had no system for dealing with POWs and just had collection points. Then during the summer and fall of 1950, they moved the POWs on foot to temporary camps in the North and much of the testimony at the 1953 U.S. Senate Hearings were about these so-called “death marches.” When the Chinese communist forces entered the war after this, at the end of 1950, several thousand American soldiers and Marines were captured. Initially, the Chinese communists also did not have any system set up to deal with such large numbers of POWs and temporary POW camps were set up in the North. According to a fact sheet put out by the U.S. Department of Defense:
“POWs died in large numbers during the first year of the war. Lack of food, shelter and medicine took its toll. During the first winter, some American POWs reported marching for days, sometimes in circles it seemed. Prisoners, weakened from battle, the cold and lack of food, who could not keep pace with their fellow prisoners were often left to die or executed by their captors. Prisoners carried and dragged one another through these marches. Some American POWs were young teenagers. One soldier captured during the Chosin Reservoir Campaign was 16 years old.
“Through most of 1951, despite established camps, casualties continued to mount. Prisoners were fed what North Korean peasants lived on and medical supplies were unavailable to the doctors.”
The death rate, which approached 40 percent, was a great concern to the Chinese and they quickly moved to change the situation. The U.S. fact sheet says, “Soon food and medical supplies were provided and conditions improved for the rest of the war.”
So even according to official accounts by the U.S. Department of Defense, it appears that most American POW casualties occurred during the relocation marches and in the temporary camps run by the North Korean army and that some of this can be attributed to lack of food and medical care which reflected the overall primitive and poor conditions of a country with little resources. The North Korean army and the Chinese communist forces were initially unprepared for the task of dealing with thousands of POWs. As in any war there were mistakes that were not good and should not have happened. This went against the Chinese army’s official policy with regard to POWs and they moved to correct them.
Many books and articles have been written by and about Korean War American POWs, which attempt to make the case that the POW policy of the Chinese communists was one of brutality and inhumanity. The official policy of the North Korean army towards POWs isn’t clear. But what comes through in even many of these accounts is that the overall approach of the Chinese communists was one of leniency and political education.
For example, in the book In Mortal Combat: Korea 1950-1953, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian John Toland says:
“At the first mass meeting, a Chinese indoctrinator assured the prisoners that he was not angry at them for being in Korea. He realized the Americans and others had been duped by warmongers and Wall Street imperialists. He assured the men that Chairman Mao had given orders they should be treated with fairness. However, he warned, wrongdoers would be publicly criticized and forced to stand at attention for long periods. The barn in which they were indoctrinated was decorated with two Christmas trees, wreaths, candles, red paper bells and a sign: ‘Merry Christmas.’ There was also a large placard: ‘If it were not for the Wall Street Imperialists you would be home with your wives and families on this Christmas night’... The food would be a healthy combination of sorghum seed, bean curd, soya-bean flour, and cracked corn. For a Christmas treat, they were to receive rice, boiled fatty pork, candy and peanuts. Each day, said the indoctrinator, the prisoners would be marched to the barn for a communal lecture or informal political discussions. Squad leaders would be responsible for assigned topics on Marxist dialectical materialism.”17
Later, Toland discusses how the POWs went through the “Chinese indoctrination course, with lectures day after day.” He says: “The virtues of communism were expounded, even in informal conversations. Religion was denounced as a capitalist device for controlling people’s minds, yet prisoners were allowed to keep Bible and religious articles, and were even permitted to hold religious discussions and readings.”
Bourgeois historians like Toland use the terms “Chinese indoctrinator” and “indoctrination” to describe what happened to the American POWs. These types of buzz words go along with all the anti-communist claims that this was “brainwashing” and “mind control.” But in fact, what becomes clear in reading these accounts is that the Chinese communists were giving these POWs a political education that revealed the lies they had been told and brought them the TRUTH of things—that told them what U.S. imperialism was really about and how this war was not in their interests.
In another book, Korea: The War Before Vietnam, Callum A. MacDonald says that the Chinese policy toward POWs, which had been established during the Chinese revolution and the struggle against Japan, quickly and consistently replaced the “brutal and non-political measures” of the North Koreans. MacDonald goes on to say:
“The so-called ‘lenient policy’ treated POWs as victims of the ruling classes, students who were to be given food and medical treatment. They were to be neither robbed nor abused. Instead they were to be led towards an understanding of the true nature of the war and of their own societies. After such re-education, prisoners could either be released at the front to rejoin and demoralize their old units, or held for longer-term indoctrination.”18
This evaluation of the Chinese policy toward POWs corroborates stories told by Chinese military generals who were in charge of Korean War POWs. In the book Mao’s Generals Remember Korea19 , Lieutenant General (Ret.) Du Ping says:
“As early as the Jinggangshan period [the early years of the Chinese revolution], Chairman Mao Zedong had made our army’s policy toward prisoners of war one of lenient treatment. For many years, this policy had always been one of the most important elements in our army’s political work. During the prolonged civil wars and the Anti-Japanese War, our POW policy was well known and appreciated by enemy forces. During our First Campaign in the Korean War, it was said that enemy troops were easily beaten but rarely captured. That meant the American and puppet soldiers apparently did not yet know our policy.
“The new office also dealt with those Volunteers [Chinese who worked in the POW camps] who violated our policy, patiently educating them and persuading them to improve. Some of the violators, especially the severe cases, were punished according to the seriousness of their offenses. Through our propaganda and education, which sought to distinguish right from wrong, advantage and disadvantage, and reward and punishment, the CPVF [Chinese People’s Volunteer Forces] rank and file saw to it that there were no beatings, insults, murders, abuses, or unlawful searches. Our troops abided by their promises in their own words: ‘No envious eyes, nor itching hands, respect the rights of prisoners.”
According to MacDonald, “The object of the whole education programme was to transform the prisoners into a force which would ‘fight for peace’ within their own societies upon release.” And some American POWs were dramatically affected by the political education they got in the camps.
After the war ended in July of 1953, a group of 21 American POWS refused to be repatriated and chose to live in communist China. The story of these men is the subject of an award-winning documentary, They Chose China (recently shown on HBO on demand).20
The film includes footage of a 1957 Mike Wallace interview with one of the 21, David Hawkins, who was a POW for three years and was only 17 years old when he was captured. He tells Wallace, “I underwent the mass indoctrination program that the Chinese instigated in the camp and there was a lot of things that they told me that sounded to me like common sense.” Then given the choice, Hawkins says he went to China “to compare what I had heard with what they actually practiced in China.” When Wallace asks him what he had heard, he says: “How great they were working toward socialism, the great stride that they were taking in bettering the life of the Chinese people who for so many thousands of years had lived a life of oppression under various governments and was backward.”
The Chinese government mobilized hundreds of young volunteers to work in the POW camps in North Korea. One volunteer interviewed in They Chose China said: “During the first few months, two or three POWs died in each unit every day, that’s about a dozen per day in every camp, mortality was very high. Doctors and nurses on the medical team worked very hard to save lives and lower the mortality rate. They didn’t know our policy, didn’t know what we were going to do with them, if we were going to kill them or force them to do hard labor or keep them in China forever and not allow them to return home. So they worried a lot. My supervisor asked me to read the regulations to the POWs. It began with, ‘Dear students.’ I was very surprised and asked why, because to me they were prisoners and we were their captors. My supervisor said, yes, they are students and you are instructors.”
Clarence C. Adams, another POW who chose to live in China, said: “My family and millions of other Negroes plus myself have suffered under the brutal attacks of white supremacy and the cruel slave laws of the southern states... I was born in Memphis, Tennessee. I come from a working class family, my mother worked in laundry, father in furniture factory.... I went in the army in 1947. Captured, Nov 30, 1950.”
Recalling life in a POW camp, Adams says: “There wasn’t too much friction between prisoners and captors who were the Chinese. We understand the American life, what we wanted. I said, well look, I volunteered, I asked for recreation equipment, I asked if we could set up a recreation hall, I asked if some of the guys are religious, if we could let our cooks cook the way we like, so they agreed with everything we said and in about two and a half to three months, they brought in baseballs, we exercised every day and we began to get strong... I remained in camp until the end of war and the Chinese sent me away to study. Then they sent me back to camp to give lectures and I gave lectures on capitalism, imperialism, history of social development. I learned the difference between all of those, right there in a prisoner of war camp, and I told it to the other prisoners.”
Adams also talks about why he became one of the 21: “I chose China for many reasons, with that close contact that we had, I began to wonder about communism, what it was like and the lone fact that every man wants to better his life, he wants to do more in life. I was assured by the camp authorities that well, we don’t discriminate, it’s not the principle, it’s not our principle to discriminate, we believe that all people are equal so that was a great encouragement for me, to help me make my decision. And of course I did ask a question of marriage and could I marry. And they said, we got plenty of women, it depends on whether they like you or not... My first schooling was at the People’s University of China, it’s where we took a two-year preparatory course. First of all we couldn’t speak the language so we basically dealt in the language and the history of Chinese communist party and the history of the Soviet communist party.”
James Veneris, another former POW, lived out the rest of his life in China. He said he was treated well in the Chinese POW camp and spent hours talking to his captors. Over time he came to see the U.S. war in Korea as “barbaric and warmed to his Communist guards' egalitarian philosophy.” He recalled thinking, “There is something terrific going on in China. They were building a new world.” Veneris went to live in the city of Jinan, got married, had children and worked in a paper mill. In 1963, he began attending People's University in Beijing, where he studied Chinese literature, philosophy and the history of the international Communist movement. In 1964, he gave an anti-Vietnam War speech to some 10,000 students. And when the Cultural Revolution started soon after this, he joined in. Veneris recalled distributing thousands of Mao pins on the streets and writing “Big Character Posters” calling for international unity that were hung along a main shopping avenue.21
By 1966, all of the 21, except James Veneris, had left China—most went back to the United States. The U.S. government considered them traitors, they were unwelcome, and found it hard to find work. Two were committed to mental hospitals. When Clarence Adams came back to Memphis with his Chinese wife and daughter he was hounded by government agents. His daughter Della recalled: “Everyday some men came and took my dad... later I found out it was the CIA, or maybe the FBI or something like that.” Adams was subpoenaed, tried for treason, and finally acquitted after testifying before a Senate committee.
So the real truth of how the Chinese communists treated American POWs during the Korean War is completely different than the standard U.S. government and mainstream media stories of “mind control” and “brainwashing.” And it is completely outrageous that this false “history” is now being dredged up as part of the U.S. “war on terror.” A 50-year-old big LIE has been revived to justify U.S. torture with the argument: “we’re only doing what we learned from the communists.”
The whole idea of “brainwashing” is a standard part of U.S. anti-communist propaganda. It serves to demonize communism and scare people, and at the same time justify going to war and using any and all methods of warfare. In other words, if your “enemy” can be portrayed as sub-human, this gives you license to do inhumane things to them.
But there is also another level to this whole brainwashing claim that has to do with the very nature of an imperialist army. To mobilize soldiers to fight horrible, unjust wars the U.S. must promote an unquestioning mindset of, “yours is not to reason why, yours is but to do or die.” Just look at the current U.S. occupation of Iraq where soldiers are indoctrinated with know-nothingism, racism, lies about and demonization of the enemy, etc. And together with this, there is the idea that you’re fighting “for the American way of life,” or even just “to defend your buddy,” or “just trying to do ‘your job’ so you can go home.” This is the kind of mindset U.S. soldiers are trained in and the absurd justifications offered for the war crimes they carry out.
In this context, the very idea that a U.S. soldier captured by the other side would “take up the ideas of the enemy” simply does not compute—such a soldier must be a turncoat who has been “brainwashed.” U.S. POWs who admitted to carrying out biological warfare during the Korean War were known among other POWs as “traitors row.”
U.S. soldiers are not supposed to be thinking human beings—they are fighting machines, driven by irrational patriotism. So there can be no explanation other than “brainwashing” for a U.S. soldier exercising any kind of political consciousness—and even turning against how the U.S. military is raining horror on people.
11. Undue Risk: Secret State Experiments on Humans, by University of Pennsylvania professor Jonathan Moreno, Routledge, 2001. [back]
12. “Did the U.S. start germ warfare?” by Peter Pringle, New Statesman, October 25, 1999. [back]
13. The United States and Biological Warfare: Secrets From the Early Cold War (Indiana University Press, 1998) by Stephen Endicott and Edward Hagerman at York University, Toronto. [back]
14. NYT Limited Hangout on SERE Torture & U.S. Biological Warfare, July 7, 2008, by Michael Otterman, author of the book American Torture. [back]
15. Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein, Metropolitan Books, 2007. [back]
16. Korean War Atrocities—Report of the Committee on Government Operations Made Through its Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations by its Subcommittee on Korean War Atrocities, Pursuant to S. Res. 40, January 11 (legislative day, January 7), 1954 [back]
17. In Mortal Combat: Korea 1950-1953 by John Toland, William Morrow and Company, 1991. Toland was the first Westerner to gain access to Chinese records and combatants and interviewed North and South Korean veterans and over 200 members of the American military. [back]
18. Korea: The War Before Vietnam, by Callum A. MacDonald, London, McMillan and New York Free Press, 1987. [back]
19. Mao’s Generals Remember Korea, Translated and edited by Xiaobing Li, Allan R. Millet and Bin Yu, University Press of Kansas, 2001. [back]
20. They Chose China, documentary film directed by Shuibo Wang, A National Film Board of Canada Production 2006. [back]
21. “Where are they now? New lives, old secrets” by The Associated Press, November 17, 2004. [back]
Revolution #142, September 7, 2008
From A World To Win News Service
The following article is from A World to Win News Service:
August 25, 2008. A World to Win News Service. The new Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal has a new government, led by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). The election of its Chairman Prachanda (also known as Pushpa Kamal Dahal) to the post of Prime Minister punctuated nearly three months of political turmoil since the Constituent Assembly abolished the monarchy at its first sitting.
The Constituent Assembly, meant to decide the country's future political configuration, was a result of a process that began in 2006 when the Maoist party signed a ceasefire agreement with the main parliamentary parties, left out in the cold when King Gyanendra took all power into his own hands the year before. Against all expectations, the CPN(M) won more than a third of the seats at the subsequent elections, held on April 10, 2008. The polls were a big blow to the two parties that had dominated parliament in the constitutional monarchy period, the Nepal Congress and the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist), whose combined total of seats is slightly less than that of the Maoists. Despite its name, the UML was a merciless opponent of the people's war that took place during the monarchy, both when the UML briefly headed the government itself and when it was a junior partner of the NC.
Nevertheless, these two parties have shown that they intend to continue to play a major role in affairs of state.
One of the key electoral slogans of the CPN(M) had been "Prachanda President." But when elections for President were held a few weeks ago, the CPN(M) candidate was denied the necessary majority vote in the Constituent Assembly by an alliance of the NC, UML and the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum. The MJF is a new, explicitly non-revolutionary and pro-India party that says it represents the people of the Terai region, who live along the border with India. The presidency went to Rambaran Yadav, a central NC leader from the Terai. Although the CA created this new position to be mainly ceremonial, as head of state the president is officially commander in chief of the army and is empowered to declare a state of emergency.
Due to bitter negotiations and political maneuvering, 55 days went by between the abolition of the monarchy and the swearing in of the republic's head of state. It took another three weeks before this president, in turn, swore in the new prime minister. Efforts to form a government of national consensus composed of all the main political parties failed, despite a pre-election agreement to that effect. The NC, UML and MJF squabbled over who would get what portfolios in the new government. Yet this was not entirely a matter of narrow party self-interest, since all three converged on the principle that the CPN(M) had to be further fenced in as much as possible without completely discrediting the electoral system that is the source of their legitimacy. Part of this policy was denying the presidency to Prachanda; another was an agreement that even if Prachanda were allowed to become prime minister, his party could not have both the Ministry of Defense and the Home Ministry (police and internal security).
When the NC was denied the Defense ministry, it refused to support Prachanda for prime minister or join a government led by him, but the UML and MJF backed him. They were joined by dozens of smaller parties, and Prachanda won easily. Yet even then more days passed before the new premier could begin to form his cabinet. Among the eight ministers who took office August 22, which amounted to only a third of the expected total, the CPN(M) has four ministers: Finance (Baburam Bhattarai), Defense (Ram Bahadur Thapa), Law and Justice (Dev Gurung) and Information and Communications (Kirshna Bahadur Mahara). The MJF has Foreign Affairs, Works and Transport, Agriculture and Education. The UML had agreed to accept six ministries, including Home. But at the swearing-in ceremony, UML leaders refused to let their designated ministers step forward to take the oath. As of this writing, some UML leaders are saying that the party will not participate in the government unless it is given the position of deputy prime minister, while others are arguing that the party should not support a Maoist-led government under any circumstances. NC leaders say they may try to bring the new government down.
Also still unclear is the Common Minimum Programme which is supposed to serve as the new government's basis of unity. According to nepalnews.com, "the Maoist party has proposed the restructuring of the state in the spirit of federalism, drafting the new constitution within two years, immediate relief package to conflict-affected and poor people, integration of Maoist combatants and management of arms within three months as per the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), restructuring the bureaucracy to make it suitable for the federal system, special development programs for the Karnali region, employment for youth, price controls and normalization of the supply of fuels and other essentials, among others." (August 2) Further details about the CMP were not available as of this writing.
This "integration of Maoist combatants and management of arms" is the most contested issue the new government will face. Under the agreement that brought an end to the people's war, the Maoist-led People's Liberation Army is to cease to exist. In his inaugural speech, Prachanda repeated his party's commitment to that agreement. The NC, in particular, has demanded that the PLA be disbanded immediately, which the Maoists have refused to do, calling this a violation of the spirit of the agreement. Instead, the CPN(M) is continuing to call for the integration of the PLA fighters into the Nepal Army. (Red Star no. 13, August 18-31)
The International Crisis Group, a think tank led by top state officials and major political advisors of the Western imperialist powers, calls the existence of two armies "not a sustainable situation," and advises that this issue be resolved by admitting "a few thousand PLA members" in the Nepal Army "one by one." ("Nepal's new political landscape", July 2, 2008, www.icg.org). Prachanda stated after the elections that, "Only those professionally fit and physically fit will join the army, while the others can be mixed into the police or a separate industrial security force can be created." (CNN IBM, May 19) This added qualification meant that, contrary to what the CPA gave room to think, much less than the entire PLA membership would continue under arms. Yet Chief of Staff of the Nepal Army Rookmanagad Katwal has maintained that as far as he is concerned, any PLA member is by definition disqualified from joining the Nepal Army (NA), according to the ICG report. Katwal publicly repeated that position in June, saying that his army would never accept "politically indoctrinated people" into its ranks. (Nepalnews.com, June 12)
As the ICG report also points out, "the NA remains… a largely autonomous force, and one keen to flex its political muscles… The transfer of supreme command to the NC president meant that… the NA has never been subject to less political control in its entire history, whether under Ranas or Shahs" (the two Nepali ruling dynasties). Lying behind the army's stubbornness, the ICG concludes, is not only that it counts on the explicit support of the NC and other parties, but far more fundamentally, "it has been shielded by powerful allies, in particular India."
Some 19,000 People's Liberation Army members have been confined to cantonments and their arms have been put under UN supervision, with a view to their eventual "integration" into what was still called the Royal Nepal Army when the peace agreement was signed. Living conditions in these camps have sometimes been bad from the start, and the fact that these PLA soldiers have not received their promised living allowances has brought hunger and disease. On the eve of the new government, the so-called caretaker government released 13 months of back pay to those in the camps, along with providing compensation to family members of those killed during the war. The money and apparently the initiative came from the World Bank, which also said it would sponsor employment programmes to re-integrate former fighters into society. (Deutsche Presse-Agentur, August 6).
On taking office, Prime Minister Prachanda complied with an agreement reached with the parliamentary parties and announced that he and other CPN(M) members sitting in the Constituent Assembly or the new government would give up their PLA positions (he was head of the PLA). At his inauguration, however, PLA soldiers provided his immediate security and controlled physical access, as they have since he came to live openly in Kathmandu. The other parties raised angry protests, demanding that he entrust his life to the Nepal Army alone.
The CPN(M)'s Young Communist League is an object of dispute for similar reasons, since its enemies accuse it of being a revolutionary paramilitary force. According to Kantipur (August 16), following the agreement with the other parties that led to his election as prime minister, Prachanda "also announced that the paramilitary modus operandi of the party's youth wing, the YCL, would be scrapped, and public and private buildings, factories and other properties captured by the party will be returned to the owners concerned. He announced that all the party units established as parallel state units [the various levels of the former revolutionary government established during the people's war] will likewise be scrapped. ‘These agreements will be implemented as early as possible after setting a timeframe,' assured Dahal."
Another central and contentious issue to be faced by the new government is that of agrarian revolution and the elimination of feudal conditions, a core goal of the people's war. "We have not completed the new democratic revolution, you know," Chairman Prachanda told interviewers the day before the convening of the Constituent Assembly. (Mary Des Chene and Stephen Mikesell, May 27, 2008, www.mrzine.monthlyreview.org) The question of what will happen to land confiscated by the revolutionary forces during the war has not been officially resolved, nor has it been announced how the need for continued radical measures in the countryside will be met. Few peasant families – who make up two-thirds of the country's workforce – can feed themselves through tilling their land. Instead, they depend on income from family members who've gone abroad to work in India or elsewhere.
One of the new government's main themes has been that it will defend national interests in the country's relations with its neighbors. Under treaties signed by the monarchy as well as through thickly braided economic, political and military ties, Nepal has been smothered under Indian domination. There have been conflicting views coming out of Indian ruling circles regarding the CPN(M)'s ascension to government. The current Indian government played a major role in facilitating the process that led to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. While the former governing Hindu fundamentalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has expressed outrage at the end of the Hindu monarchy in Nepal, in an early August meeting with NC Prime Minister Koirala, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh urged the formation of a government of national consensus in Nepal, which is exactly what the NC ended up preventing. One of India's leading dailies, The Hindu, hailed Prachanda's election as "the ultimate victory of sobriety, accountability, and morality over the politics of cynicism and distrust" and criticised Koirala and "powerful interests within and without Nepal" for opposing "the people's verdict" in the CA elections.
The International Crisis Group report says, "India's close involvement in every aspect of Nepal's politics shows no sign of diminution; nor does the scope of its influence appear to have been particularly harmed or boosted by the election. For all the outpourings of commentary and analysis, the future of Nepal-India relations looks mainly like more of the same."
In a sharp break with tradition, however, Prime Minister Prachanda's first voyage abroad was not, as is customary, to India, but to China, where he met with the president and head of the Communist Party, Hu Jintao, and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao. Prachanda reiterated "Nepal's stand in favour of China's efforts to maintain national sovereignty and territorial integrity." (Nepalnews.com, August 24)
The new government received messages of congratulations from many of its neighbours and the big powers, including India, Japan, the European Union and the U.S.
(For background and an overview, see "The 12th anniversary of the people's war in Nepal and its unsettled outcome", AWTWNS February 11, 2008.)
A World to Win News Service is put out by A World to Win magazine (aworldtowin.org), a political and theoretical review inspired by the formation of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, the embryonic center of the world’s Marxist-Leninist-Maoist parties and organizations.
Revolution #142, September 7, 2008
From A World to Win News Service
The following article is from the A World to Win News Service:
August 25, 2008. A World to Win News Service. The nine-year rule of Parvez Musharraf, deemed an “important ally” by the U.S. and other Western imperialists in their so-called war on terrorism, has come to an end. He resigned August 18 to avoid the shame of a political outcome he was no longer powerful enough to prevent: the coalition government that took office earlier this year had reached an agreement to impeach the president for alleged violations of the constitution, including the imposition of a state of emergency last November and the sacking of 60 judges. At first Musharraf looked for another way out, but suddenly he found himself abandoned by all his former friends.
Even the U.S. avoided coming to his rescue. It seemed that his use-by date had expired. What the U.S. and UK did do for him, however, was to oblige the current Pakistani government to grant him the kind of possible safe passage out of Pakistan’s muddled and dangerous political world that has rarely been open to other leaders in the last 61 years since the country was founded.
To give a short background summary: In 1958 a military coup ended the rule of Pakistan’s first president, Iskander Mirza, who was forced into exile in London. His successor, General Ayub Khan, who lost credibility after the 1965 war with India, resigned and turned over control to General Yahya Khan, who was removed from office after the 1971 war with India, when a defeated Pakistan lost what became Bangladesh. After that war, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the leader of the Pakistan People’s Party, became Prime Minister, but his term was cut short by a coup led by General Zia ul-haq, who had him hanged in April 1979. General Zia reigned for 11 years and provided the U.S. with important assistance during the Cold War before dying in a mysterious air crash. Of the two 1990s civilian prime ministers, one, Nawaz Sharif, was removed by the then-general Musharraf’s coup. Sharif came close to being executed but finally was sent into exile. The other, Benazir Bhutto, the daughter of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and official opposition leader at the time of the coup, was also sent into exile. She returned in 2007 and was assassinated last January. Musharraf was not able to outlast the life expectancy of his predecessors. If, under U.S. and UK protection, he is able to remain alive, unimprisoned and unexiled, he will have escaped the fate of most of them.
These leaders faced an abrupt exit not only because of their failures and extreme reactionary nature, but also because of their extreme servitude to the imperialist system and the unique situation that system has locked Pakistan into. In part this is due to the historical terms of its creation and its geopolitical position. However, the role Pakistan has played in the service of the Western imperialists has made this situation all the more fragile and volatile.
Pakistan was created in 1947 after the British left India. Before they left, the colonialists deliberately created a situation that would ensure that they could interfere in regional affairs for decades. The ensuing war between Moslems and Hindus, with some of the worst sectarian killings in world history, was not accidental. The result was the splitting apart of India and the establishment of Pakistan based not on any real existence as a distinct nation but mainly on religious grounds. This was a major factor in the political instability that has plagued Pakistan ever since.
Musharraf faced little mass opposition when he seized power in October 1999. The civilian governments of Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif had represented the same reactionary classes as the generals and had proved no less brutal or corrupt. They had followed the same path in grovelling before the interests of the U.S. and other Western imperialists. So most people saw no point in supporting any of these forces. But mass indifference soon turned into massive hatred for Musharraf. And by the time he was forced to resign, the disastrous results of his rule were obvious to everyone.
Pakistan’s economic situation is in one of its worst moments. Even foreign investors are leaving Pakistan in the face of deteriorating security. Inflation is said to be over 20 percent. The Karachi stock market has been going downwards and the rupee lost a quarter of its value over the last year. Sporadic conflict between the army and Islamist fundamentalists based in the North-West Frontier Province along the border with Afghanistan has escalated into a war, one that so far has gone badly for the army. Until recently suicide bombings and other Islamist attacks were not considered an important problem for Pakistan, but the sharp increase of these activities over the last 12-18 months has made it one of the world’s most violent places. A bomb blast on August 21 at a munitions factory near Islamabad killed 63 people and injured many more. It was said to be the worst attack of the kind that Pakistan has ever seen.
Pakistan is accused of helping the Taleban fight the Afghanistan government and the U.S. and other NATO invader forces. After much effort by the U.S. to improve relations between Pakistan and India, once again they have deteriorated. The question of Kashmir is once again becoming a source of confrontation. [for background on Kashmir, see the section “The Dispute in Kashmir” in the article “The Trouble in Kashmir...and U.S. domination in South Asia,” available online at revcom.us/a/v23/1120-29/1127/kashmir.htm] New Delhi and the CIA have accused Pakistan of involvement in the July bombing in front of the Indian embassy in Kabul that killed 40 people. Also, while there may be unity among the dominant political forces on getting rid of Musharraf and opposing India, apart from that they are deeply divided.
Seven years ago, before the U.S. and its allies invaded Afghanistan, Pakistan seemed much more stable than today. But in fact, during the previous decades the U.S. had already impregnated Pakistan with the crisis born today.
During the Cold War, Pakistan was the headquarters of the Islamic jihadis who fought against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, and a center for recruiting young Moslems from all over the world to fight alongside them. CIA intervention and American financial and military aid to the jihadis was funneled through Pakistan. The country’s situation was increasingly bound to the Afghanistan war. If we add the approximately four million Afghans who took refuge in Pakistan over the last three decades and the millions still living there or who have relatives in Pakistan, that linkage is even stronger.
Musharraf was in power during the period after September 11, 2001 and the launching of the U.S.’s so-called war on terror. These events contributed both to his being able to consolidate his rule and to his eventual fall.
After 9/11, Pakistan was forced to play a central role in the invasion of Afghanistan. A fellow general, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, gave him a choice: “You are either with us or against us.” Powell’s deputy told a Musharraf deputy what would happen if he made the wrong choice: Pakistan “should be prepared to be bombed back to the Stone Age.” (From Musharraf’s autobiography, In the Line of Fire)
The answer from Musharraf and the Pakistani ruling classes was not straightforward, however. Participating in the U.S.-led war on Afghanistan and the Taleban would take Pakistan in the opposite direction from where it had been going in the previous two decades. Helping the Islamist jihadis had strengthened Pakistan in its contention with India, including by giving it what the Pakistani military calls “strategic depth” in case of an all-out war with India; Pakistan’s influence over the Taleban regime increased its regional weight. Taking the U.S. side in this new conflict threatened to demolish what Pakistan’s ruling classes felt they had achieved through years of investment. But there was another problem too. They had mobilized the masses around Islam all through the years, and now they were being asked to go against the very “brother Moslems” who had helped add legitimacy to their rule.
Musharraf finally appeared on national T.V. to give a long speech justifying this new approach and trying to convince the powerful fundamentalist forces inside Pakistan. His concluding argument was “Pakistan comes first,” meaning that the country had no choice but to cooperate with the U.S. in its turn against the fundamentalist fighters America had helped finance and organize in the first place. With this, Musharraf made himself the U.S.’s official most important “non-NATO ally.”‘ The reward was $12 billion in U.S. aid, mainly to strengthen the Pakistani army. However, the real result was not to strengthen Pakistan’s ruling classes but to weaken them. For years Pakistan exported Islamist-based war to other neighboring countries; now it began importing it.
During Musharraf’s reign, while he helped the U.S. invade and occupy Afghanistan and arrest hundreds of Al-Qaeda members in Pakistan as well, his role in that war was controversial. While for years American authorities up to President Bush himself insisted that Musharraf was an invaluable ally, there were numerous reports indicating that his government was allowing the Taleban to reorganize inside Pakistan. In fact, some reports said that the Pakistani military was not only turning a blind eye to these activities, but even actively aiding them. Despite the Karzai regime’s protests on this issue, the U.S. appeared to ignore these reports for a long time. At first the American authorities pretended that nothing of the kind was really happening; then they laid the blame on elements of the Pakistani army or the powerful military intelligence agency (ISI) supposedly acting independently. Only after the Taleban gained a considerable ground and became a more dangerous threat to the NATO occupation did they start to raise concerns. (It is beyond the scope of this article to analyze why the U.S. maintained its support for Musharraf and the Pakistani army under these conditions. But it is hard to believe that the U.S. was unaware of the situation.)
In parallel to the resurgence of the Taleban that forced the U.S. to take Pakistani aid to them more seriously, Musharraf was becoming more and more unpopular within the country. One factor was his participation in the “war on terror.” Another was his maneuvering to secure his personal power as the head of the army, state and government, in violation of Pakistan’s constitution that had been written to serve its ruling classes. He had himself re-elected as the country’s president while still head of the army, breaking his promises to give up one or the other position. He was well aware of the country’s chronic political instability that has meant that both jobs so often go together. He went so far as to declare a state of emergency in November of last year and remove 60 judges, including Chief Justice Mohammed Iftikhar Chaudhery, for fear that they might declare his presidency illegal. Musharraf had tried to fire Chaudhery once before, in May 2007, but due to the consistent protests of lawyers who enjoyed wide popular support, he had to retreat. Washington supported all of Musharraf’s despotic acts, insisting that they were purely “internal” matters, while at the same time praising the general as an irreplaceable ally.
Over the last year and a half Pakistan’s economy has turned disastrous and it has staggered through one political crisis after another. Musharraf’s position was weakening, and he was becoming harder and harder to save. Finally the UK and U.S. tried to forge a power-sharing agreement between Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto. When she was assassinated during her bid for a parliamentary majority and a prime ministry under Musharraf’s presidency, the result was more political tumult and greater mass disgust. The ignominious defeat of the pro-Musharraf parties in last February’s elections and the formation of a coalition government between the Pakistan People’s Party (led by Asif Ali Zardari, Bhutto’s husband) and the Moslem League (Nawaz Sharif) made his political isolation undeniable. The new head of the army, Ashfaq Kayani, distanced himself from Musharraf too. The U.S. sent a top general to meet with him and seemed to conclude that the key ally was the Pakistani army, not Musharraf personally.
That was the beginning of the end. U.S. officials started to publicly question Musharraf’s usefulness, and even to ask, in relation to the “war on terror,” if Musharraf was part of the solution or the problem. It seemed that the meeting between White House officials and the new Pakistan’s People’s Party prime minister in late July this year was related to Musharraf’s future, too. When only a few days later U.S. intelligence officials publicly confirmed the Pakistani intelligence service’s involvement in the bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul, this was a signal that his fate was sealed. Not long after that, the two Pakistani governing parties reached the agreement to impeach him.
Yet the U.S. and UK couldn’t just drop him. They had to keep steering matters. It has been revealed that Sir Mark Lyall Grant, a senior British diplomat involved in brokering the deal between Musharraf and Bhutto last year, negotiated another deal between Musharraf and the coalition government in the first half of August. Musharraf was convinced to resign in return for a promise of a safe passage out of office. (The New York Times, August 15, and BBC, August 20)
Musharraf went out in the same way he came in—as an imperialist servant. He had no choice but to take part in the “war on terror,” and when he lost the imperialists’ support he had no choice but to leave. However, through the last nine years, not only have the masses of people found themselves in a much worse and deteriorating situation, but also the position of the country’s imperialist-dependent ruling classes in the country and the region has been considerably weakened. An unstable Pakistan has become much more unstable, and the hostile region even more hostile. While due to the war in Afghanistan, India and Iran have become more powerful and influential there, Pakistan has lost all its influence in Afghanistan and that has increased the crisis of its ruling classes too. So Musharraf’s legacy and the price that Pakistan has to pay for servitude to the U.S. is turmoil today and more to come, in politics and all other aspects of Pakistani society.
Revolution #142, September 7, 2008
The following are three articles from the coverage of the Denver protests available on the website of the World Can’t Wait—Drive Out the Bush Regime. “Rocking the Coliseum” is about the march of 6,000 youth after a concert sponsored by the Iraq Veterans Against the War and Tent State University, headlined by Rage Against the Machine. The second article is about “An Evening of Conscience” sponsored by World Can’t Wait, attended by 300 people. The third article, “Marching Through Denver,” reports on the anti-war march on Sunday, August 24, that kicked off the week of protests. For more first-hand coverage of the protests in Denver, including photos and video clips, go to the World Can’t Wait web site at worldcantwait.org, There is also an extensive gallery of protest photos on the Denver Post website.
Wednesday, 27 August 2008
A crowd of jubilant and angry youth estimated by the police to number 6,000 ripped through the streets of Denver on Wednesday, August 27, in a powerful march demanding an end to the war in Iraq, no attack on Iran, and support for GI resisters. Marching from the Denver Coliseum, where Rage Against the Machine, the Flobots, and the Coup had just finished a mind blowing concert, to the Pepsi Center in downtown Denver, the youth filled the streets of an industrial district, a residential area, and the canyons of downtown Denver with their chants and songs: “They’re our brothers, they’re our sisters; we support the war resisters”; “the people of Iraq are under attack—what do we do, stand up, fight back!”; “Not a new face on a brutal empire, Revolution is what we need, to liberate humanity!”
Iraq Vets Against the War had issued three demands after their march through the central district of Denver on Tuesday:
This march was not politics as usual or protest as usual. Youths had come prepared with their homemade signs, proudly and defiantly holding high their declarations on pieces of cloth or cardboard. A small sample: Funk the War; Bush is to Iraq as Obama wants to be to Iran; Fuck your Crusade; Drop Beats, Not Bombs; Who would Jesus Bomb?; Save the Planet from the War Mongers. They challenged bystanders to join them, and many did, from guys in work clothes who had just finished their shifts, to at least a few delegates to the DNC, to well dressed downtown office workers who stood with fists or peace signs raised as the march went by, before finally taking the plunge to join the march.
A young woman from a small town in Kansas said “we’re just sick of the fucking war, and they aren’t even talking about it. Somebody’s got to do something,” A young man who goes to college in nearby Boulder said “a lot of the people here don’t usually go to protests, because they don’t see what good it does. But this is our voice being heard.”
Large contingents of heavily armed riot cops looking like 21st century ninjas were everywhere. As the march neared the Pepsi Center, police tried to herd the youth into the infamous “freedom cages.” But the vets, and the youth, refused to go. Several vets spoke briefly as the march stopped for a few minutes, hemmed in by police, concrete barricades, and wire fences. One of them was a young soldier who defiantly announced that a few months earlier he had refused to deploy to Iraq. “Our enemies are at home, ladies and gentlemen. We stand here in defense of our Constitution, and against the illegality of this government. I will not take another’s life, who never did anything to this country to begin with. Let us never stand by in apathy, while lives are taken overseas and our rights here are stripped.”
Another soldier, Sholom Keller, said “the police are in full battle rattle. The police appear to be ready for war, but we stand here ready for peace. Police attempts to move us into this thing called a freedom cage are going to fail.”
The march of youth and veterans was an invigorating and challenging break with the politics of compromise, accommodation, and acceptance. The youth who marched insisted on being heard—and they represent millions of others in this country sick at its direction and what it is inflicting on humanity and the planet. The power and determination expressed during this march, even in a beginning way, must become much more forceful and determined in the weeks and months ahead.
Monday, 25 August 2008
I think that it’s true when people say that all eyes are on Denver. There are celebrities and politicians walking the streets. Radical musicians are performing for the people almost daily. News media from throughout the country and all around the world.
And with all this attention here, there’s an important opportunity to seize: an opportunity to bust through the suffocating Democratic cooperation with the crimes of the Bush Regime; an opportunity and need for people to protest and make their voices heard. To say an emphatic no to the wars and repression, no to the infuriating insult that all we can do is contained within the narrow confines of official electoral politics. Walking down the street I just feel like there is no place I’d rather be than in Denver, Colorado at this very point in history.
In Chicago 1968, Abbie Hoffman and the Yippies wanted to be the “commercial” to the Democratic National Convention. I think that was a noble goal. Provide an alternative distraction to the “Convention of Death,” as they called it back then, and not be constrained by what was considered to be acceptable protest.
Flash forward to Sunday night, August 24, 2008. The Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Theater held an Evening of Conscience. World Can’t Wait sponsored this event full of fantastic speakers, with its focus being No War on Iran. I would say that this particular event was more than a “commercial” that people defaulted to because there was nothing else on. This event captured the spirit of resistance that pulsed through Denver on Sunday, and vitally needs to be expressed by much larger numbers in Denver and throughout society.
The speakers were as varied as they come. There were people running for political office and veterans of both the Iraq and Vietnam War. There were independent journalists, revolutionary journalists and revolutionary communists, and people from Progressive Democrats of America—who all united under the fact that an attack on Iran would be unacceptable and that things in this society needed to change.
What I found refreshing and envigorating was that people were talking about how to get beyond politics as usual. There was no illusion as to whether or not Obama, or McCain for that matter, were going to be the ones to bring about change. Real change is going to come from the people.
Cynthia McKinney, who is running for president under the Green Party, boldly proclaimed her radicalness and called out so called “Hollow Women of the Hegemon”—bourgeois leaders like Condaleeza Rice and Nancy Pelosi, who people think have their interests at heart but are really pushing this country further towards empire. And she contrasted those women with Cindy Sheehan, who also spoke and who is running for Congress against Nancy Pelosi, and reminded us that the problem and the challenge are much bigger than getting women into political office, and that we should start looking at the system.
Sunsara Taylor spoke about the earlier rally and march that took place that day and was brutally honest about the fact that we did not have the numbers we needed. She sent out props and heartfelt love to the courageous people who did defy the fear mongering, threats, and police presence marshaled by the government and the press. She called out the people who tried to suppress protest—supposedly “progressive” activists, and told us that if you are more concerned about getting Democrats elected than you are with the fate of humanity, then you cannot call yourself an anti-war leader. She also exposed the utter and thorough worthlessness of this capitalist system, and how it can never act in the interests of the people, no matter who is elected, and put forward a very enthusiastically received call for revolution.
Jeremy Scahill spoke scathingly about Joe Biden as Obama’s choice for vice-president, and the irony of proclaiming yourself as a candidate for change when your V.P. choice is one of the longest serving senators in Congress who has voted for the invasion and occupation of Iraq, and countless other atrocities perpetrated by the U.S.
I was really inspired by Phil Aliff from Iraq Veterans Against the War who has the courage to speak up and try to stop a war that he was a part of. Then there’s Ron Kovic, author of Born on the Fourth of July, who actually read from the introduction of the 2005 edition of his book. This was a powerful moment. He had such important things to say and one part that struck me was when he was talking about being in the war and gaining something from it, and what he gained was Awareness.
Pam Africa and Ramona Africa also said a few words to the crowd showing us that the revolution continues. And then we closed with the reading of the Not In Our Name Pledge of Resistance, led by the formidable Cleo Parker Robinson and joined in by the evening’s speakers and members of the audience.
I walked away from this event inspired to take on the world. I have sat at plenty of events and heard speakers speak about all sorts of things. This Evening of Conscience was different. Because the people speaking were looking at reality and realizing that real change was needed, there was no confusion about whether or not either candidate was going to bring about the change we need. What we are doing in Denver is correct, and people who are not in Denver should be in Denver. When we take to the streets we are telling the world that we refuse to go along with Bush’s program, no matter which presidential candidate takes it up.
Monday, 25 August 2008
Early on Sunday, August 24, 2008, over 700 people gathered in front of the Capitol Building in Denver to kick off a week of events protesting the Democratic National Convention, as well as the oppression of the militaristic environment those of us who choose to express the freedom of speech the government seeks to deny.
At 9 AM the rally began with a lineup of motivational speakers, high up on the Capitol steps. The rally was called by Recreate 68, mostly comprised of local anti-war groups and residents of Colorado. The protesters heard speeches from Cindy Sheehan, Fred Hampton Jr., Ron Kovic, Vietnam vet and author of “Born on the Fourth of July,” Ward Churchill, Larry Hales, Cynthia McKinney, Larry Holmes, and others, and were roused by a performance by Dead Prez.
The scene in front of the building, although not a replica of Chicago in 1968 where thousands protested and were beat up by the police, was alive and energized with people from all walks of life, from locations all over the Country, and ranged from age 2 to 72. People came from as far away as Florida and Massachusetts.
The march had its own vitality and beat, which set the stage for the day of spirited marches and moments of confrontation. In the face of weeks of threats of repression and the development of a massive deployment of police equipped with everything from the traditional billy clubs and guns to the most modern of high tech weapons of “crowd control”; defying the construction of “Gitmo on the Platte” and wired “freedom cages” where people would be “free” to express their opinions on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the development of a police/spy state, and other measures developed by the Bush Regime with the full cooperation of the Democratic Party; in defiance of the Democrats themselves and many self described “peace activists” who have shamed themselves by refusing to participate in the protest events in Denver and calling on others also to stay away; people set off on a lively and determined march.
At about 11 AM everyone stepped off and got into the streets determined to march directly to the Pepsi Center, about a mile away. The Denver Police would not grant a permit to R68 to get as far as the Pepsi Center, where the convention delegates and press were. Instead, they were determined to force protesters into the “Freedom Cage” constructed for “freedom of speech.” The Cage was far enough away from where the delegates were to keep them from actually seeing or hearing the demands being made by the people to stop the wars, end oppression, end torture, and give us our constitution back!
But the activists involved in the march were not going to accept the herding into the Cage. The numbers swelled to over 1,000 as the march progressed. The street was filled with protesters from curb to curb. The march was led by anti-war Vietnam Veteran Ron Kovic, in his wheelchair and joining the chants calling for shutting down Guantanamo to Troops home now. The crowd was so alive and determined it was something that couldn’t be ignored.
Meanwhile, the Denver police, seen earlier with their new troops transport trucks which allow them to ride on the outside dressed in full battle gear carrying machine guns, and police and bicycles carrying cuffs, batons, mace, and sidearms, all followed and surrounded the march. The police were ignored and the marchers were loud and defiant taking time to chant “5, 4, 3, 2, 1” and some would drop to the streets in a mock-die in, and the chant would resume “Rise UP! Rise UP! For the people of the World are Watching!”
The World Can’t Wait contingent was large and lively, and its politics of defiance and resistance permeated the march. The color orange—the infamous orange the U.S. government has forced on the prisoners at Guantanamo, and which has been taken up by World Can’t Wait as a powerful and colorful symbol of resistance to the torture state and solidarity with those it persecutes—permeated the march. Orange banners, placards, and bandanas were everywhere.
Heading for the Pepsi Center, the police stopped the front line contingent at a spot to direct them into the cage. One of the R68 organizers told the police we were marching directly to the Pepsi Center under our First Amendment Rights. After a conversation, the police broke the line of blue barricade, and let it go. The crowd felt the palpable victory just won, and became more determined to have their voices heard throughout the City.
The media was in abundance, marching and filming the entire time. As you looked up and down the street you could see wall to wall activists, which included some delegates, noticeable by their badges and buttons; anarchists, peace activists, pro-choice activists, former soldiers, mothers, fathers and their kids. It was actually breathtaking, and the press knew it.
Even though it had not been exactly a recreation of the Chicago march, it had a new and lively beat of its own.
Once the march stopped at the gates of the Pepsi Center, where the repressive forces were waiting, machine guns in hand, Ron Kovic told everyone to sit down, and show determined defiance of the police state. Hundreds did, right in front of the gates, and it remained that way for about 15 minutes. He gave a rousing speech, and activists were chanting and yelling. Rising, the protesters remained directly in front of the Center, demanding they be heard. The standoff with 1,000 protesters and the police became a very tense situation, and both sides were ready for whatever would happen next.
After about 30 minutes of intense face to face confrontation and angry shouts, delegates needing to get inside started mixing in with the protesters showing their badges to get inside, which they couldn’t. The sun beat down, and the heat from the street was extreme. They held their ground, and won the struggle by having their presence felt and known to those inside the DNC, who were flooding out to take pictures, and those who were trying to get inside.
The marchers walked off, slowly in the direction that was not permitted, and kept marching all the way back to the Capitol.
Abbie Hoffman, who was a radical activist in 1968, would have been proud! He always said you win if they lose and everyone goes home to fight another day!
Revolution #142, September 7, 2008
From the Campaign Trail:
Barack Obama’s mission of “bringing us all together” included three major events over the past two weeks, heading into his acceptance speech Friday night at Mile High Stadium.
First, on August 16, Obama participated in the first exchange between the two Presidential candidates at Saddleback Church in Orange County. Participating in what was, in essence, the first debate of the ‘08 election at Rick Warren’s megachurch was a major move on Obama’s part to embrace and legitimize the imposition of Christian fundamentalism into all realms of society. Then, on Saturday, August 24, Obama announced that Joe Biden, would be his running mate. A long-time ruling class insider, Biden has not just been complicit with, but a key player in the whole development of the so-called “War on Terror,” a war for empire that has brought a million deaths to Iraq, and bloodshed and suffering across the Middle East. And Michelle Obama’s August 26 speech to the Democratic National Convention was a major statement—an acclamation of oppressive, patriarchal traditional family values.
Each of these events provoked new rounds of outrage from many of Obama’s supporters. But the basic question for those people is: Are they betrayals of Obama’s principles? Or examples of what Obama’s mission is all about?
The first major exchange between the two candidates in Election ’08 did not take place on a mainstream news channel. Nor were the candidates questioned by the traditional panel of mainstream media pundits, faithfully spinning things into terms framed by the needs of the ruling class. No, this kickoff event for the 2008 election was staged and hosted by Christian fundamentalist Rick Warren from his Saddleback megachurch in Orange County. It was streamed live from Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network to the mainstream news channels—who ran it as if it was a normal, legitimate exchange between candidates.
Rick Warren is a Biblical literalist. His views—which he insists should contend in the political realm like any other “worldview”—are those of dark-ages ignorance, intolerance, and draconian oppression. His church declares that, “Abortion is murder,” with all the implications for those who participate that this implies. He insists “Homosexuality is absolutely forbidden, for it is an enormous sin.” No gay people are allowed to join Saddleback church. Warren opposes stem cell research, because “Life begins when God creates, and the Bible tells us that happens in the womb.” He denies the basic fact of evolution, claiming to trump definitive scientific evidence with the “argument” that: “Since God clearly said that it is our sin that brought death into the world, how could there have been death for billions of years before the arrival of the 1st man who sinned on earth?” And, in response to a question about the Bible verse from 1st Corinthians that says “...women are not allowed to talk in church,” the Saddleback Church web site quotes another verse from 1st Corinthians: “[T]he head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.” These positions reflect those of the powerful, highly connected Christian fascist movement that would impose them on society as a whole.
If Obama simply showed up at Saddleback, that alone would have represented an off-the-charts concession to the assault on the supposed wall between church and state, and the war on science. But Obama went even further—bending over backwards to make clear that these Christian fascists would have a LOT of influence in his administration. His told Warren, “I love the ministries that are taking place here at Saddleback.” When Warren asked if there was anything wrong with “me asking you these questions,” clearly referring to those who object to having a Christian fundamentalist run a presidential debate, Obama said: “These are the kinds of forums we need.” When Warren asked Obama what was America’s greatest moral failing in his lifetime, Obama went to the Bible—quoting from Matthew about not thinking about trying to meet the needs of the “least of us.”
The event at Saddleback starkly revealed what Obama’s message of “bringing us together” means in the real world. In this case, conciliation with, legitimizing, and capitulation to the imposition of obscurantist Christian fundamentalism into every realm of society.
Joe Biden is a long-time ruling class foreign affairs specialist—who has lead the Senate Foreign Relations committee through the whole process of sanctioning, funding, and legitimizing the Bush regime’s agenda of endless war for empire, while expressing reservations and kibitzing about how to do it better. Biden’s role was reflected not just in his support for the invasion of Iraq, but in his refusal to let former U.S. weapons inspector Scott Ritter testify before Congress to refute the “weapons of mass destruction” hoax during the buildup to the Iraq invasion. The selection of Biden as Obama’s running mate is about as anti-change a statement one could make.
And as soon as he was handed the baton, the punch line of his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention was essentially an argument that he and Obama, not McCain, could more effectively, and more aggressively defend the global interests of the U.S. empire. After implicitly criticizing Bush for not standing up to Russia in Georgia, Biden listed a whole set of issues on which Obama would do better in promoting global U.S. interests. Biden asked: “Should we trust John McCain’s judgment when he said only three years ago, ‘Afghanistan—we don’t read about it any more in the papers because it’s succeeded’? Or should we trust Barack Obama, who more than a year ago called for sending two additional combat brigades to Afghanistan?”
On the announcement of the selection of Biden as the Vice Presidential nominee, columnist Robert Dreyfuss—writing in The Nation—called Biden “a bloodthirsty Democrat.” Dreyfuss noted that “Biden joined McCain in voting for the war resolution in 2002 that propelled the United States into Iraq.” And Dreyfuss asked: “How, exactly, does Obama enhance his anti-war stand by selecting a pro-war hawk as his running mate?” (“On Iraq, Biden Is Worse than McCain,” August 23, 2008).
The answer to that question is that Obama doesn’t have an anti-war stand. He’s said so explicitly. And he keeps saying it. Adjusting the global war for empire, the so-called “war on terror,” to focus more aggression and death on Afghanistan and Pakistan, and arguing for more flexible tactics in isolating and perhaps laying the ground for an attack on Iran is not “antiwar.” And for those who didn’t want to listen when he said it before, Obama is saying that again with his selection of Biden.
As part of the buildup to Barack Obama’s acceptance speech, Michelle Obama’s moment in the spotlight at the Democratic National Convention was a promotion of patriarchy, and all that goes with that. While Michelle Obama did invoke Barack Obama’s rhetoric of “hope,” and “change,” her whole speech was framed by her devotion to her parents, husband, and children. Her speech began with a story of how her big brother vetted her future husband on the basketball court, and headed towards a conclusion with the declaration that her children are the “center of my world.” Overall it represented and amounted to a declaration of traditional “fathers knows best” values, where a woman is defined by her role as daughter, wife, and mother.
And this came in the context of a convention where the right to abortion was hardly mentioned (and Michelle Obama did not mention it at all). Michelle Obama’s speech was another indication of what the “bring us together” message of the Obama campaign is about. In this case, Michelle Obama’s speech represented “bringing together” those who understand that women are human beings, capable of participating in every realm of society, and determined to oppose against all obstacles to that, including forced child bearing by banning abortion and birth control—on the one hand; with those who insist on a revival of oppressive, traditional morality and a submissive role for women defined by her husband and her children on the other. As with every other element of the Obama package of “bringing together” antagonistic positions, this ends up adopting the terms and framework of the forces of reaction and oppression.
* * *
These three nodal points on the Obama campaign trail cannot be dismissed as disappointing aberrations. In each case, he (and his wife) went way out of their way to make a statement about the nature of the supposed “change” he represents.
Nor can they be considered surprises. They represent positions Obama has been proclaiming since his candidacy became “credible.” And more fundamentally, they conform to the interests of the system of which he is aspiring to lead—a system built on exploitation and oppression, and the violent enforcement of that domestically and around the world.
And, these three events highlight how Obama’s central message of “bringing us all together,” represents, on one issue of fundamental political and moral principle after another, conciliation with, and capitulation to the very forces and outrages that in many cases those who have enlisted in his campaign want to fight against.
Revolution #142, September 7, 2008
From A World to Win News Service
August 18, 2008. A World to Win News Service. The celebrated Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish died August 9 after complications from heart surgery. In life, he was one of the world’s very few people who could fill a football stadium with as many as 25,000 listeners for a poetry reading. He had a special place in the hearts of the masses of Palestinians and other Arab people, and this was matched by the high regard in which many intellectuals of all countries held him. His poetry captured the pulse of Palestinian pain in magical ways, making readers laugh and weep. In death, throngs of Palestinians gave homage to him as the symbol and expression of Palestinian aspirations for the return of their land, their country. Darwish put in words the collective passion felt by the women and men, rich or poor, educated or not who were and still are victims of the Nakba, the ethnic cleansing and occupation of their lands by the Zionist state of Israel 60 years ago. His poems were put to music and became anthems for two generations of Palestinians and others.
He founded one of the Arab world’s top literary magazines, al-Karmel, in 1981. He wrote 20 volumes of poetry and was translated into more than 20 languages. His first collection of poems in the 1960s included “Identity Card,” which became something of a signature poem for him. It is written in the first person. A common practice among many Palestinians in those days was to respond to hostile Israeli authorities and Arab governments by simply giving an identity number. A few of the lines are:
Write it down!
I am an Arab
My number is 50,000
I have a name without a title
Patient in a country
Where people are enraged.
At the time of the Nakba in 1948, he was seven. He fled with his family from Birweh, a village in Galilee. The family came back in 1949, risking death at the hands of Zionist militias that had murdered countless Palestinians who tried to return to their homes. He spent the rest of his youth living as a second-class Israeli citizen. His grandfather chose to live on a hill overlooking his land. Until he died, the grandfather watched Jewish immigrants from Yemen living in his home that he could not even visit. Darwish acquired a reputation as a precocious child poet, at age 12. He was asked to compose a poem for a public reading on Israel’s “Independence Day”. His poem described the feelings of a child who returns to his town to find other people sleeping in his bed and tilling his father’s lands. Summoned by the military governor, Darwish was told that if he continued to write subversive material his father’s work permit would be revoked. This incident marked Darwish for life.
His militant poems defined Palestinian existence in the face of Golda Meir’s assertion “There are no Palestinians.” He was jailed five times between 1961 and 1976. Eventually Israel stripped Darwish of his “citizenship” and he became part of the Palestinian diaspora. Once a member of the pro-Soviet revisionist Israeli Communist Party, he spent a year studying in the Soviet Union where he became disillusioned. He became one of many stateless persons wandering around first in Egypt, then Jordan, and finally Lebanon. Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982 marked another defining moment in Darwish’s life. In Beirut, he lived under the shelling and siege of the city amidst the world’s deafening silence. In the camps outside the city, the Israeli army stood guard while the Lebanese Christian Falangists conducted the Sabra and Shatila massacre.
In 1973 he joined the Palestine Liberation Organization headed by Yassar Arafat. In 1987 he was appointed to the PLO’s Executive Committee, although he saw his role there as symbolic. In 1993 he broke with Arafat and resigned his position the day after the signing of the Oslo Accords, the U.S.-brokered deal between Israel and the PLO that was to lead to today’s “road map” to nowhere and the PLO’s current role as flunkies under the Israeli occupation. But with the Accords, he was able to return to Palestine in 1996. He lived in the West Bank town of Ramallah, and travelled throughout Palestine when he could, including Gaza.
In the early days of the second Intifada, the world reeled at the infamous photo of Muhammad al-Durrah, a 12-year-old boy crouching in the shelter of his father’s body during an Israeli Defense Force incursion in September 2000. Israeli bullets killed the boy, despite his father’s efforts. Darwish wrote: “We love life—if we can have it.”
In 2002 Ariel Sharon launched Operation Defensive Shield, a barbarous reinvasion of West Bank cities, in particular Ramallah. At that time Darwish invited a number of Nobel Prize-winning authors (José Saramago, Wole Soyinka, Juan Goytisolo, Breyten Breytenbach and Russell Banks) to see the military occupation for themselves. Breytenbach recalled the former apartheid rule of South Africa. Banks compared it with American Indian reservations of the nineteenth century. The invasion inspired Darwish to write “A State of Siege.” Some of the lines address the Israeli soldiers shooting up his neighborhood:
You, standing at the doorsteps, come in
And drink with us our Arabic coffee
For you may feel that you are human like us.
Other lines address the soldier/killer of a fetus:
If you had left the fetus thirty days,
Things would’ve been different
The occupation may end, and the toddler may not remember the time of the siege,
And he would grow up a healthy boy,
And study the Ancient history of Asia,
In the same college as one of your daughters.
And they may fall in love.
And they may have a daughter (who would be Jewish by birth).
What have you done now?
Your daughter is now a widow,
And your granddaughter is now orphaned.
What have you done to your scattered family,
And how could you have slain three pigeons with the one bullet?
Also in 2002, an Israeli reformist Education Minister tried to have five of Darwish’s poems introduced into a “multi-cultural” school curriculum. This aroused a maelstrom of controversy in the Israeli parliament where the proposal was roundly defeated. Darwish commented, “They teach pupils the country was empty. When they teach Palestinian poets, this knowledge is broken. Most of my poetry is about love for my country.” He added, “It is difficult to believe that the most militarily powerful country in the Middle East is threatened by a poem.” The Israeli government considered Mahmoud Darwish a dangerous foe to the end.
His poems expose a wide range of targets: the Israeli government (for instance, its pretending to be the victim [“You stole our tears, wolf”]), the U.S. government (for giving every Palestinian child the “gift” of a cluster bomb to play with) and the Arab governments (who refrain from helping the Palestinians and hide their ineptitude behind anti-Semitic rhetoric).
A secular nationalist, Darwish was depressed and angered by Fatah and Hamas, the two main Palestinian political organizations. He was unsparing in his criticism of their narrow power struggle, calling it “suicide in the streets.”
That makes it all the more significant that his funeral in Ramallah was attended by many thousands of people, making it the biggest mass political event in the West Bank since the burial of Arafat.
A World to Win News Service is put out by A World to Win magazine (aworldtowin.org), a political and theoretical review inspired by the formation of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, the embryonic center of the world’s Marxist-Leninist-Maoist parties and organizations.
Revolution #142, September 7, 2008
by Stan Lawrence
The American Psychological Association held its annual convention August 14th through August 17th in Boston. The association is one of the largest medical associations in the country and close to 20,000 people registered for the conference. A vast exhibition hall was filled with displays and concessions. Many attendees took advantage of the conference to connect with distant colleagues and old classmates and to do some quick sightseeing. But in the aisles of the main hall, in the smaller meetings and workshops and in the streets outside the convention center a far more serious debate took place – will the APA continue to be the only major professional medical association in the United States that condones its members participation in the torture of prisoners being held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and CIA “black sites around the world”?
Since revelation of interrogation tactics at the U.S. Naval Air Station in Cuba and elsewhere, described by the International Red Cross as “tantamount to torture,” both the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association have passed referendums condemning the practices and taken measures to ensure their members do not participate in them. While these referendums don’t allow these organizations to directly restrict a member’s activity, they carry strong weight both within and outside their professions.
In the face of both the mounting evidence of torture and medical professionals’ participation, the American Psychological Association has refused to pass a similar referendum – and the leadership of the APA and powerful forces aligned with the U.S. military inside the APA have forcefully fought against such a referendum. As reported in the August 16 issue of the New York Times, this has led to an intense and often wrenching struggle inside the APA that has everything to do with the ability of the U.S. rulers to line up important sections of the medical community to play the role of “Good Germans” and to put their professional stamp of approval on U.S. war crimes against the people of the world.
This was evident at the protest outside the convention center in Boston where scores of signs reading “Stop the Torture, End the Complicity” and “Do No Harm” lined the street running in front of the center. Protesters clad in orange jumpsuits and black hoods greeted psychologists and others attending.
The protest, called for by Boston Psychologists for an Ethical APA and endorsed by several other organizations including Physicians for Human Rights and the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology, included psychologists who had left the APA in protest over its failure to take a stand in opposition to the torture tactics employed by the U.S. government and others who had remained in the APA to continue the fight inside the organization. One spoke about the revelations (referred to in the Times article) that psychologists, members of the APA have not only been part of interrogation teams at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere but have played an active role in developing, implementing and evaluating the results of these interrogation tactics. “Our Hippocratic Oath says ‘Do No Harm’ not ‘Oversee the harm to keep it in acceptable limits.’” This was a specific response to those in the APA who have argued that the interrogation tactics might well be worse if medical professionals were not on hand to monitor the interrogations.
At the center of this protest and what has become the focal point of the struggle in the APA is a referendum sponsored by Psychologists for an Ethical APA and already endorsed by over 1,000 psychologists that the APA take a stand prohibiting members from working in “settings where persons are held outside of, or in violation of, either International Law (e.g. the UN Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Conventions) or the U.S. Constitution (where appropriate, unless they are working directly for the persons being detained or for an independent third party working to protect human rights.)”
While the referendum wording is relatively mild, the potential consequences could be very dramatic. One speaker outlined how, in addition to the crucial role psychologists play in interrogations, under the current provisions of U.S. law that were developed and put into place under the Bush Regime, U.S. military personal cannot be tried for war crimes if their actions are carried out under the auspices of medical professionals. While the referendum would not allow the APA to directly restrict member’s ability to practice, the threat of professional censure would be a powerful rebuttal of this practice.
The leadership of the APA has made various efforts to quell this protest, first by ignoring it, then by trying to “kill it with a loving embrace” as another speaker put it. Leadership has repeatedly cited the fact that the organization has recently passed several resolutions opposing members’ participation in interrogation tactics involving torture and, as an organization, has lodged its “concerns” with the Bush Administration over the revelations of the specific tactics at Guantanamo Bay.
But speakers at the protest pointed out that previous resolutions are so full of loopholes that none of them prevent members from engaging in the very tactics revealed at Guantanamo Bay and that psychologists in the APA continue to play a central role in the military and CIA interrogation of people categorized as “enemy combatants.” Psychological profiles have been turned over to interrogators to determine the best line of approach. Psychologists have evaluated response to interrogation tactics and suggested “more effective” methods such as confronting detainees with attack dogs, sleep deprivation and threatening to bury people alive.
It was also recently revealed that a majority of the members of a task force appointed by the APA leadership to investigate the ethics of psychologist involvement in interrogation techniques, were from the military establishment with four having served in the chain of command implicated in detainee abuse at Guantanamo Bay.
All of this has further outraged many members of the APA and raised profound ethical questions about complicity in the age of empire that go beyond the current resolution. The prospects of an attack on Iran and the possibilities the U.S. government using nuclear weapons was very much on the minds of many participants, with some had already made plans to join the demonstrations at the Democratic National Convention in Denver.
Beyond that, there is an emerging question with some members about what kind of society they want to be part of and if there is any way to reconcile their deep felt commitment as healers and as human beings with the direction of U.S. society is today headed.
The referendum is being mailed out to all members of the APA to be voted on over the coming weeks. The outcome of the vote should be carefully watched.
Revolution #142, September 7, 2008
We received the following letter from a reader:
Well I am starting to read the party's Constitution, and so far its great! It really gets to the heart of the struggle and helps put the party's goals in a bit more focus. I read a lot, as you know, and Revolution is so inspiring, so powerful in my eyes that I can not deny the struggle that continues today, and of which I wish to be a full member of.
You see, there is a part in the Constitution that catches my attention:
“The ultimate point of this line is to transform the world. There is a back-and-forth interaction between the development of line and the transformation of the world that drives this whole process. This is the theory/practice/theory dynamic, and it is the heart of party life.”
I am eager to further develop my understanding of Communism through a scientific outlook. I want to struggle side by side with the masses while maintaining a certain direction. I have always had a desire to learn and I take every opportunity I can. I wish to help others gain a better understanding of life and reality. There are a few things that contribute to my will to fight the power; I attend college and learn the deeper complexities of human relations and analyze our capacity to change. I am also part of the working class and it helps me learn about the production forces and it gives me a window into the economic side of our reality. I can also relate to the people around my neighborhood and I can feel their frustration, they help me get a peek at the masses and where some minds are headed. In between I do a huge amount of reading of Revolution newspaper. The revolution club is also a great resource and literally an oasis for revolutionaries.
I plan to manifest every thing I have been through, and what lies in the future for me at school, work, and especially in being involved with the party and its leaders as well.
Revolution #142, September 7, 2008
We encourage readers to post articles from Revolution at web sites and submit them to online publications. And we appreciate hearing about your experiences and learning about sites that are reposting content from Revolution. We have three policies that are intended to enable many people to be involved in this, to get articles from Revolution posted all over, and to do this in a way that maintains the integrity of the content of Revolution.
Revolution #142, September 7, 2008
The next few months will be highly charged politically. In the context of the election campaign, 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?
The recent publications, the Constitution of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, along with the soon-to-be-available-online Communism and Jeffersonian Democracy, a major new work by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, are essential to addressing these questions. We strongly encourage all our readers to study, and correspond on, these works, and to find ways to circulate them in all corners of society.
This summer/fall, Revolution is publishing four special two-week issues:
* * * * *
People throughout society, people who hate what the U.S. is doing in the world and dare to dream of a different and far better future, need to get and get out these issues of Revolution. All these issues of Revolution need to reach out far and wide…on a significantly greater scale than usual, corresponding to the extraordinary times...unleashing a movement that is spreading the word, debating the communist analysis and view on these issues, and drawing in and involving many more people. And through this, building a movement that is preparing minds and organizing forces for revolution, with this paper as its hub and pivot—a movement of emancipators of humanity.
There are great stakes in what we do right now:To make and carry out creative and daring plans. To really maximize the potential in these four special issues. And as we get these issues of Revolution out far and wide, we should seize on every opportunity to engage people with the new Constitution of the Revolutionary Communist Party, and the work of Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party.
Check in at your nearest Revolution Books for discussions, bundles of Revolution, and plans to make this happen in your area. Or contact RCP Publications, Box 3486 Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654, or call (773) 227-4066.
Note: In addition to these special print issues of Revolution, stay tuned to revcom.us for additional articles posted online, starting 8/27, and 9/1, 9/8, and 9/15, as well as ongoing new articles in between issues, including ongoing analysis of the election. And throughout the next two months, we encourage and will be posting feedback from readers, posted online at revcom.us, or sent to RCP Publications (see below).
Revolution #142, September 7, 2008
Hook up with the revolution
Check the stores' websites for details and more events.
September 2, Tuesday, 7 pm
Discussion of “Reform or Revolution: Questions of Orientation, Questions of Morality” by Bob Avakian.
September 5, Friday, 7 pm
Screening of new film Iran (is not the Problem)—documentary featuring Antonia Juhasz (The Bu$h Agenda), Larry Everest (Oil, Power, and Empire), other activists and Iranian-Americans.
September 9, Tuesday, 7 pm
Discussion: “The Objective Situation, the Bush Regime, and the Bourgeois Elections” by Bob Avakian.
Every Monday, 6:30-9:00 pm (but on Tuesday, September 2)
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.
September 3, Wednesday, 7 pm
Discussion of “Reform or Revolution: Questions of Orientation, Questions of Morality” by Bob Avakian.
September 5, Friday, 6 pm
Hot Topic Potluck—“Obama: The Change We
Can Are Allowed to Believe in...Or the Change We Need?”
September 10, Wednesday, 7 pm
Discussion of “The Objective Situation, the Bush Regime, and the Bourgeois Elections” by Bob Avakian.
September 17, Wednesday, 7 pm
Discussion of “Revolutionary Communism at a Crossroads: Residue of the Past…or Vanguard of the Future?” a manifesto for our times from the RCP,USA.
Join ongoing deep discussions
of the new Constitution of the RCP,USA and Bob Avakian’s Away with All Gods. Call for time and location.
312 West 8th Street 213-488-1303
September 3, Wednesday, 7:30 pm
Report back from the protests at the Democratic National Convention.
September 4, Thursday, 7:30 pm
Discussion of the 4th installment (“The Resurgence of Russian Imperialism “) of Raymond Lotta’s series in Revolution, “Shifts and Faultlines in the World Economy and Great Power Rivalry—What Is Happening and What It Might Mean.”
September 7, Sunday, 2 pm
Bilingual discussion of Bob Avakian’s “The Objective Situation, the Bush Regime, and the Bourgeois Elections.”
September 11, Thursday, 7:30 pm
In 1994 the indigenous peasants of Chiapas, Mexico, rebelled and inspired many. What was the significance of this rebellion? Join Revolution writer and KPFK radio host Michael Slate, who traveled to Chiapas soon after the rebellion.
2425 Channing Way near Telegraph Ave
September 2, Tuesday, 7 pm
Discussion of the Constitution of the RCP,USA, Part 1. Presentation on the mission and vision of the new stage of communist revolution, what the Party exists for, its principles of organization and theoretical foundation.
September 4, Thursday, 7 pm
Author reading: Raj Patel discusses and signs his new book, Stuffed and Starved - the Hidden Battle for the World Food System.
September 11, Thursday, 7 pm
Discussion of the Appendix of the Constitution of the RCP, USA—Communism as a Science.
September 13, Saturday, 1-5 pm
Bookstore Open House. Check out the store, meet the staff, find out how to volunteer.
2626 South King Street
September 7, Sunday, 3 pm
Release celebration and discussion of the new Constitution of the RCP,USA.
September 8, Monday, 6:15 pm
Discussion of: “The Objective Situation, the Bush Regime, and the Bourgeois Elections” by Bob Avakian.
September 14, Sunday, 3pm
Book launching/Reading of Dementia Blog with author Susan Schultz.
September 22, Monday, 6:15 pm
Discussion of “Revolutionary Communism at a Crossroads: Residue of the Past…or Vanguard of the Future?”—a manifesto for our times from the RCP,USA.
2804 Mayfield Rd (at Coventry)
Cleveland Heights 216-932-2543
Hours: Wednesday-Saturday, 3-8 pm
September 4, Thursday, 7 pm
Discussion of the new Constitution of the RCP,USA. Presentation on the mission and vision of a new stage of the communist revolution.
September 7, Sunday, 7 pm
Revolution newspaper discussion: “The Objective Situation, the Bush Regime, and the Bourgeois Elections” by Bob Avakian.
September 11, Thursday, 7 pm
Discussion of the Constitution of the RCP,USA: part 2. Focusing on the Appendix: “Communism as a Science.”
September 14, Sunday, 6 pm
Join our continuing book discussion of Away With All Gods! Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World, by Bob Avakian—Part 4: “The ‘Left Hand of God’—and the Right Way to Go About Winning Liberation; The Myth of Truthfulness and Positive Role of Religious Myth.
Thursdays, 7 pm, Starbucks at 1600 E Olive Way
Revolution newspaper discussion. Sept 4: “The Objective Situation, the Bush Regime, and the Bourgeois Elections,” by Bob Avakian. Sept 11: Coverage and commentary on the Obama candidacy and protests at the Democratic National Convention.
September 6, Saturday, 4-6 pm, Hidmo at
2000 S. Jackson
Presentation and discussion on the new Constitution of the RCP, USA, Part 2—Focus on communism as a science.
Revolution Books is mobile!
Revolution Books is moving into our new, expanded location in January in downtown Seattle! Check out our blog for the latest calendar of events at a variety of locations.
406 W.Willis (btwn Cass &2nd, south of Forest)
September 2, Tuesday, 6:30 pm
Continuing discussion on “Shifts and Faultlines in the World Economy and Great Power Rivalry—Part 4: The Resurgence of Russian Imperialism” by Raymond Lotta.
September 7, Sunday, 5 pm
Discussion of the new Constitution of the RCP,USA., Part 1
September 9, Tuesday, 6:30 pm
Continuing discussion on “Re-envisioning Revolution and Communism: What IS Bob Avakian’s New Synthesis?
Part IV: The New Synthesis: Political Implications—Dictatorship and Democracy.”
1158 Mass Ave, 2nd Floor, Cambridge
Thursday, Sept 11, 6:30 pm
Daniel Kanstroom, speaking about his book Deportation Nation at The Democracy Center, 45 Mt. Auburn St, Cambridge
4 Corners Market of the Earth
1087 Euclid Avenue in Little 5 Points
404-577-4656 & 770-861-3339
Open Wednesdays & Fridays 4 pm - 7 pm,
Saturdays 2 pm - 7 pm
September 4, Thursday, 7-9 pm
Discussion of Obama and the Democratic National Convention, based on articles in Revolution #141 – “The Change We
Can Are Allowed to Believe in…Or the Change We Need?”
September 7, Sunday, 5-7 pm
Discussion of the Constitution of the RCP,USA, part 1. Focusing on the mission and vision of a new stage of the communist revolution.
September 11, Thursday, 7-9 pm
Discussion of “The Objective Situation, the Bush Regime, and Bourgeois Elections” by Bob Avakian.
September 14, Sunday, 5-7 pm
Discussion of the Constitution of the RCP,USA, part 2. Focusing on communism as a science.
Check the stores’ websites for details and more events.
Unless otherwise noted, the events listed on this page are in English, but in many cases Spanish translation is available. Please call the bookstore in advance to request Spanish translation.