Voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party,USA
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Revolution #172, August 9, 2009
In the Wake of the Arrest of Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
On July 16, Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., one of the most recognized African-American intellectuals and personalities in America, was arrested because he objected angrily to being accused of breaking into his own home. Professor Gates was handcuffed at his home, jailed, and only released after the intervention of his attorney, Harvard Law Professor Charles Ogletree.
Gates’ arrest, and ensuing comments by Barack Obama that racial profiling is “just a fact,” set off a furious barrage of attacks from the powers that be on any attempt to call out the arrest of Henry Louis Gates as exactly what it was: a message to everyone that no matter how far you make it in America, by the system’s standards Black people still are required to “know their place.”
The backlash and the aftershocks continue.
Barack Obama had Gates, and the arresting officer—James Crowley—to the White House for “beers.” It was a move calculated to frame the Gates Affair as if it was a matter of a couple dudes getting into a shoving match on the basketball court. Never-mind that the reality was that the armed might of the system confronted Henry Louis Gates at his own home, in the form of police with guns and handcuffs, and locked him in jail.
And never-mind that this application of the armed might of the system was intended to send a message that is enforced by police and other institutions of power in this country every day—that no matter how much a Black person “succeeds,” even by the system’s terms, he is still subject to racist abuse any time, anywhere.
In light of all the bullshit, it is necessary to once again, sort out truth from lies, reality from bullshit, and right from wrong. Last week in Revolution, we documented in detail how the arrest of Professor Gates was in retaliation for, according to the police report, accusing the arresting officer of racial bias, and doing so loudly and in public. That is of course not illegal, much less wrong (see “The Arrest of Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr.: What do they call a Black man with a PhD? RACIST OUTRAGE in Massachusetts,” by Alan Goodman, Revolution #171, August 2, 2009). This is the basic fact, and reality, of the case.
New evidence—which has been covered up, turned upside down, and obfuscated in the mainstream media—has emerged as to the racist nature of the initial confrontation. The police report from Crowley claimed that the woman who called 911 told him that her “suspicions were aroused” by the activity of “what appeared to be two black males with backpacks on the porch of [Gates’ home].” [emphasis added] In fact, this woman’s 911 call—which has now been released and is available on YouTube—reveals that she identified the people at Gates’ home as one man who “looked kind of Hispanic but I’m not really sure,” and that she “didn’t see what [the second man] looked like at all.”
The 911 call contradicted Crowley’s police report on nearly all the essential facts that supposedly justified the investigation of Gates in the first place. But instead of investigating what that was all about, the mainstream media came up with a bizarre spin on these revelations: the story all over the news became accusations that the 911 caller was vilified unjustly as a racist by Gates’ supporters on blogs, and that this supposedly showed how his supporters were imagining racism in the whole incident, and unfairly branding nice white people as racists.
Meanwhile, the mainstream media somehow, en masse, forgot to ask an obvious question posed by these revelations that goes to the heart of the incident: Why would Crowley claim in his report that the 911 caller reported two suspicious Black men with backpacks, when in fact the caller said that one of the men might have looked Hispanic, that she didn’t see the other one? Why would he claim that the witness said the men had backpacks, when she said they had suitcases? And why did he not acknowledge that she couldn’t tell if the men involved were using a key to enter the house?
The mainstream media, again en masse, also somehow forgot to ask the next obvious question: Did Crowley lie about all the basic facts of the 911 call in order to justify racist police harassment backed up by an arrest? After all, according to the 911 call, there was no basis for Crowley to be looking for Black suspects on the scene in the first place.
There are also new revelations that shed further light on the sequence of events leading to, and reason for the arrest of Professor Gates. As we reported last week, very shortly after arriving on the scene, it was clear to the arresting cop that Professor Gates was in his own home, that he had been falsely accused of breaking into his own home, and that no crime had been committed. But then, instead of an apology, Crowley escalated the situation. The police report states: “Upon learning that Gates was affiliated with Harvard, I radioed and requested the presence of the Harvard University Police.” In other words, after Crowley—by his own account—determined who Gates was, and that no crime was being committed, he called in more police.
Since the release of that police report, new police radio transmissions have been released revealing that Crowley called for more Cambridge cops as well, and why: “I’m up with a gentleman says he resides here, but was uncooperative.” And Crowley adds, “But keep the cars coming.”
As documented in Revolution last week, the Gates arrest was hardly the action of a single cop, but involved calls to the Harvard Police Department, additional police from the Cambridge Police Department, and by the time of the arrest itself, it had to have been clear to the police that they were arresting a renowned and famous African-American professor at his own home.
This was not a “misunderstanding” between two men, one doing his job, the other losing his cool. It was a conscious, systematic “message,” backed up by police with guns, handcuffs, and jail cells, that no Black man in America, no matter how successful by the system’s own standards, is immune to the “unwritten code” that Black people have to bow and scrape when confronted unjustly by a police officer.
1) Just how thoroughly is it inculcated into the minds of police officers in the United States that their societal role involves, indeed requires, abusing Black people?
2) Just how emboldened and legitimized do KKK-style racists feel these days?
An email from Boston police officer Justin Barrett sheds light on the answer to those two questions. It reads, in part: “[I]f I was the officer he verbally assaulted like a banana-eating jungle monkey, I would have sprayed him in the face with OC [pepper spray] deserving of his belligerent non-compliance.” The email also used the racist phrase “jungle monkey” two other times.
It would be sufficiently beyond outrageous, and an indictment of the mentality and culture of the armed enforcers of this system, if this active-duty Boston cop (and National Guardsman) had emailed these racist threats and rants to one of his racist police buddies. But just how confident he was that he was thinking and doing what he was supposed to think and do is indicated by the fact that Barrett sent this racist email to a Boston Globe columnist! Yvonne Abraham had criticized the arrest of Gates as “dunderheaded,” and along with Barrett’s bile, received scores of racist emails in response to her column.
The Gates Affair has revealed and ripped open, once again, profound and explosive contradictions at the heart of U.S. society. How those contradictions get settled remains unwritten.
Everyone who opposes racism, and the oppression of Black people, should refuse to tolerate the arrest of Henry Louis Gates. Spread the coverage at revcom.us to bring out the truth behind the arrest and its aftermath, and build resistance and opposition to both the cover-up of what this arrest represents, and the racist backlash.
Revolution #172, August 9, 2009
[Editors’ note: The following is the eighth excerpt from the text of a talk by Bob Avakian, earlier this year, which is being serialized in Revolution, beginning with issue #163. Parts 1-7 appeared in issues #163, #164, #165, #166, #167, #169, and #171. Part 8, along with Parts 6 and 7, are from the section titled “The Social Basis for Revolution.” The text of the talk has been edited and footnotes have been added for publication. The entire talk can be found online at revcom.us/avakian/ruminations/BA-ruminations-en.html]
In light of that, I want to speak once again to the crucial importance of bringing forward and continually strengthening the communist solid core of, in turn, a broader revolutionary movement—a movement aiming for revolution and nothing less. This stresses once again the great importance of struggling to win people to the whole orientation of being emancipators of humanity, in opposition to notions of revenge—"the last shall be first, and the first shall be last"; "this is my chance to have a go at being in the top position," and so on—which is, to a large degree, the spontaneous way in which people see the question of change in society, when and insofar as they think about this. So there has to be a struggle for people to break out of, to rupture with, that outlook, and to become emancipators of humanity—to be striving consciously for the abolition of not just this or that particular oppressive relation, and not just a change of place within the framework of oppression and exploitation, but the abolition of all oppression and exploitation throughout the world.
This underlines why it is so crucial to pay so much attention, now, to questions of the communist outlook, orientation and aims, in contrast to outlooks and programs representing the interests and aspirations of other classes, and particularly in contrast to the outlook and interests of the bourgeoisie and to what is concentrated in the phrase "bourgeois right": the notion of "right" (or rights) within the framework of bourgeois society, a society dominated by an exploiting class, a society founded on, embodying and enforcing relations of exploitation. There is a crucial importance to this if there is ever going to really be a revolution and if that revolution is actually going to lead to a radically new world.
At the same time, while it is important to wage this struggle among basic masses—the exploited proletarians and others held down at the base of society—there is also the crucial importance of winning over a section of intellectuals—and, more broadly speaking, educated youth—to the vision but also the actual goal of communism. Repeatedly, we see that the strivings of youth for a better world, even to the degree that they do get spontaneously expressed, become diverted, and perverted, degraded and vitiated by the ruling class. And, again, Obama's role is a concentrated example of that. We see a lot of youth today, for example, rallying to Obama's broad call to do "service" to the country in one form or another—not simply military service, but even service in other ways—in education or in terms of the infrastructure or other needs of the country, as these are perceived and framed by the ruling class that Obama is a representative of and serves. What Obama is calling for is service to imperialism—to the bloody system which crushes, degrades and brutalizes, and literally slaughters millions of people, year after year, decade after decade, in the service of exploitation, and to reinforce oppressive relations, including those between oppressor and oppressed nations and peoples, and the oppression of women.
There is, with Obama, this whole echo today of John Kennedy's [speaking in New England accent]: "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." Obama is very consciously echoing this with his call to service. And, as an article in issue number 153 of Revolution pointed out, this is being directed, distorted and perverted toward service to U.S. imperialism. This is something people learned back in the 1960s. One very significant manifestation of this occurred with people who went into the Peace Corps and then found out what imperialism was actually doing and what they were being directed and led to do as part of an imperialist agency—and who then came back and formed groups like Returned Volunteers, which were explicitly anti-imperialist. They learned in those times, in a situation where people were rising up against imperialism around the world, what the actual relations were that they were being called on to give service to, by being part of imperialist agencies like the Peace Corps. They learned that things like the Peace Corps were an "adjunct" to, and part of the same overall apparatus as, the U.S. military, the CIA, and other instruments of violent, life-crushing imperialist domination and exploitation—and they rebelled against that. This underscores how crucial it is that people break out of the imperialist-constructed framework in which they are conditioned to see the possibility of making contributions to a better world: the ways in which that is distorted and perverted to the literally bloodthirsty aims of imperialism—yes, as represented by Obama, no less than Clinton, no less than "W" Bush, and all the others.
At the same time, we see how in the world today there is the growing phenomenon of Islamic fundamentalism, an outmoded world-view, representing outmoded relations, highly oppressive relations, including the enslavement of women in many different forms. People are drawn to that because they see it as a force actually opposing the dominant imperialist powers of the West (however they understand that), represented above all by the U.S. In this connection it is worth recalling again the comment made by a bourgeois observer about people in England who carried out what were objectively acts of terrorism there, on the basis of being influenced by this Islamic fundamentalist ideology. He noted that a generation ago these people, or many of them, would have been Maoists. Now, as I've stressed before, the point is most decidedly not that Maoists carry out the same kind of tactics as Islamic fundamentalists—clearly communists have a very different world outlook and different fundamental objectives and, flowing from that, very different tactics—but the essential point here is that a few decades ago, in circumstances where, in the world overall, revolutionary communism had a much more powerful impact and influence, such people, or many of them, would have been in a radically different and much better place, being drawn to a radically different and truly liberating world outlook and a whole different strategy for changing the world that relies upon and draws forward the masses of people, women no less than men, and aims to uproot all relations of exploitation and oppression, and doesn't seek to terrorize sections of the people into accepting a new form of oppression, or a slightly altered form of oppression.
In this context it is also worth recalling a front page article in the New York Times, on December 24 of last year (2008), where it quotes a youth in a Middle Eastern country, saying that the Islamic fundamentalist movement is for youth like him what Pan-Arabism was for his parents' generation.
This general phenomenon is something that I've pointed to and analyzed in some depth in the book Away With All Gods!—Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World. But one thing that was not sufficiently spoken to there (I have spoken to this elsewhere but I actually wish I had spoken to it more in that book...but I'll speak to it here [laughs]) is that, besides the phenomenon of masses of poor people from the countryside—peasants and so on—being uprooted and thrown into the urban areas, and in particular the shantytowns, in countries throughout the Third World, there is also the phenomenon of educated youth who are, however, educated (as one bourgeois commentator put it) on a certain narrow foundation: people who go to college to become engineers or technicians or similar occupations, but find their aspirations for that thwarted by the corruption of the governments in those countries (this is how many of these youth spontaneously see this), but fundamentally by the fact that the economy of those countries and their role within the overall framework of imperialism cannot provide an outlet for these aspirations—to put it simply, cannot provide enough positions and jobs for people who do get the education and training in these spheres. This is one of the sources that is feeding organized Islamic fundamentalist trends and movements within many of these countries. And this is feeding Islamic fundamentalism—and other religious fundamentalism—in today's world more broadly.
In opposition to this, there is a need to much more broadly and deeply capture the imagination of people generally, basic masses but also educated youth—to inspire them with the vision of communism and win them to its truly liberating outlook and goals, win them to truly be emancipators of humanity seeking to abolish all shackles, mental as well as economic, social and political, that hold down the masses of people—as a key part of building the overall movement for revolution, toward the final aim of a communist world. This is an extremely important point, and something I'll come back to: the attractiveness of what is represented by communism, and the need to much more boldly and vigorously put this forward and fight for it among educated youth, as well as among basic masses, and other sections of the people.
To be continued
Revolution #172, August 9, 2009
IRAN’S CONTINUING UPHEAVAL:
The biggest political crisis in Iran since the 1978-79 revolution that overthrew the U.S. lackey, the Shah, and brought the Islamic Republic and clerical theocracy to power continues to unfold. Divisions at the top of the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) are sharpening. Rage at Iran’s rulers is deepening, not ebbing, fueled in part by new revelations of official brutality and murder. And thousands continue to courageously defy brutal state repression to go into the streets as well as speak out in other ways against the regime.
Meanwhile, the U.S. and Israeli rulers (whose actions, including sanctions, covert operations, threats of war, and Obama’s diplomatic and propaganda initiatives, contributed to this unexpected crisis), are openly evaluating what impact recent developments will have on their efforts to contain and weaken Iran as a regional power and obstacle to their own imperialist hegemony. Against this backdrop, their talk of “crippling sanctions” and possible military attack is growing louder.
The latest outpouring of opposition took place on Thursday, July 30, when thousands (some estimated tens of thousands) tried to gather at the gravesite of Neda Agha-Soltan in Behesht-e-Zahra cemetery in Tehran to mark the 40th day since her murder by the IRI in defiance of a government ban on protests. Neda had become a worldwide symbol of the uprising—and the regime’s murderous brutality. When mourners attempted to gather, they were attacked by the regime’s police and paramilitary forces, sprayed with tear gas, and clubbed. Protesters, whose chants included “death to the dictator,” “this government is dead,” and “Neda lives! [Iranian President] Ahmadinejad is dead!” reportedly tried to regroup and march through Tehran. Large crowds also gathered in central and northern Tehran, and they too were attacked by police. The New York Times called it “some of the largest and most violent street clashes in weeks.” (Democracy Now! and NYT, July 31, 2009)
There are calls for more demonstrations in coming days and weeks, including a call circulating for everyone in Tehran to come into the streets—and for no one to stay home—on Wednesday, August 5, to protest Ahmadinejad’s swearing in.
(For more coverage of the Iranian people’s uprising, see “Live from Iran: Excerpts from A World To Win News Service Coverage,” Revolution #171, August 2, 2009, revcom.us/a/171/live_from_iran‑en.html.)
In recent days there have been new revelations about the IRI’s vicious attempt to crush the people’s uprising with torture and murder. These revelations have poured fuel on the flames of mass outrage against the Islamic Republic but also provide a very stark exposure of the horrors of religious fundamentalism in power.
Accounts of the widespread abuse of arrested protesters in Iran’s jails have come forward—and been spread on the web—thanks to the courage of friends, relatives, and former prisoners. The New York Times reports on several online posts:
“We were all standing so close to each other that no one could move. The plainclothes guards came into the room and broke all the light bulbs, and in the pitch dark started beating us, whoever they could.” By morning, at least four detainees were dead, he added.
“In another account posted online, a former detainee describes being made to lie facedown on the floor of a police station bathroom, where an officer would step on his neck and force him to lick the toilet bowl as the officer cursed reformist politicians.
“A woman described having her hair pulled as interrogators demanded that she confess to having sex with political figures. When she was finally released, she was forced—like many others—to sign a paper saying she had never been mistreated.”
Others describe fingernails being pulled out. Hospital officials have reported evidence of over 100 deaths since June 12. And more and more families are receiving the battered corpses of their loved ones.
(“Reports of Prison Abuse and Deaths Anger Iranians,” New York Times, July 28, 2009. For more exposure of prison brutality, see From Iran: “Urgent call to defend arrested youth from torture and ‘disappearance’” (July 6, 2009. A World to Win News Service), issued July 3 by the Iranian student newsletter Bazr (bazr1384.com and bazr1384.blogfa.com); and A World to Win News Service, July 13, 2009, “Tehran doctor: ‘The authorities are covering up the number of dead,’” Revolution #170, July 19, 2009 at revcom.us/a/170/AWTWNS-Tehran_doctor-en.html.)
The immediate trigger for this crisis was the apparent rigging of the June 12 presidential election which returned current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to office. This seemingly stolen election sprung from bitter factional infighting at the highest levels of the clerical/Islamist establishment over how to best preserve their reactionary theocratic rule. And the election theft and these fissures in Iran’s ruling structure opened the door for a mass outpouring by millions of Iranians, the likes of which hasn’t been seen for 30 years, both immediately before and especially after the stolen election.
While this uprising was initially sparked by the stolen election, and encompasses many different viewpoints (including many who—at least for now—follow the more liberal of the Iranian theocrats and hope that the Islamic Republic can be reformed for the better), at a deeper level, it reflects the profound hatred significant sections of Iranian society have for the stifling, oppressive character of life under Islamic theocratic rule, anger which is deepening with each outrage committed by the IRI to maintain its grip on political power. This in turn has intensified the divisions at the top of the Islamic state, and clerical infighting has then created new opportunities for expressions of mass anger and discontent. All of this has radically changed Iran’s political terrain, compared to even a few months ago. Maj. Gen. Ali Jafari, the head of the regime’s Revolutionary Guards, talked of needing to unleash his troops “to quell a spiraling unrest.” (Roger Cohen, New York Review of Books, August 13, 2009)
“An analytical declaration on the present crisis and the tasks of revolutionary communists” by the Communist Party of Iran (Marxist-Leninist-Maoist) dated June 28, 2009 calls the situation, “an unprecedented crisis of legitimacy for the Islamic Republic of Iran and a leap in revolutionary sentiments among the masses of people.”
“It was clear from the beginning that we were going to face an intense situation with the presidential election,” the document states. “But nobody imagined the extent of its dimensions or the degree of bloodiness.” (A World to Win News Service, July 27, 2009)
(See also V.T., “Response To Election Fraud Reveals Deep Schisms in Iranian Ruling Circle and Broad Based Profound Hatred of the Regime—UPRISING IN IRAN,” at revcom.us/a/169/Iran‑en.html; and Larry Everest, “Roots of the Iranian Uprising: A Society Drowning in Corruption, Destruction, Superstition, Dark Religious Ignorance, Drug Addiction and Prostitution,” Revolution #169, June 28, 2009, revcom.us/a/169/iranian_uprising‑en.html)
The fractures within Iran’s ruling class—both those between the “reformist” wing and those currently in control of the state, as well as among those currently in power—have continued to intensify despite the efforts of Supreme Leader Khamenei, President Ahmadinejad, and their allies to quash dissent and opposition.
Some examples give a flavor of the breadth and intensity of these disputes. On July 17, former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, one of the founding members of the Islamic Republic and a major godfather-type figure in Iran who backed Mir Hossein Mousavi in the June 12 election, condemned Ahmadinejad’s (and implicitly Khamenei’s) leadership, calling the situation a “crisis” and warning that the ruling class could “collapse” if steps weren’t taken to bridge the growing gap between ruled and rulers.
Two days later former President Khatami called for a referendum which would basically overturn the results of the election. The next day Supreme Leader Khamenei counter-attacked, warning the critics to be careful and—sounding like the Bush regime’s Ari Fleischer—to watch what they said.
This was followed by an open letter from 70 leading opposition movement figures condemning the government’s crackdown for being “illegal, immoral” and using “irreligious methods,” while demanding the release of those arrested. Revelations of prison abuse have also sparked bitter recriminations among Iran’s rulers.
There are also growing fractures among the so-called “conservatives” now currently in power. Ahmadinejad was forced by Khameini to rescind his pick for First Vice President, Esfiander Rahim Mashaei. Ahmadinejad then turned around and made Mashaei his top aide, causing an uproar in right-wing circles and leading to speculation that Ahmadinejad may not serve out his term.
The CPI-MLM calls the situation “an unprecedented split among the rulers on top (an expression of the fact that they can no longer rule in the same way as in the past),” intensified over the past several years: “The continual economic crisis, the deep dissatisfaction regarding the regime among various classes and strata of the people and U.S. imperialism’s pressure on the IRI were the most important factors intensifying the regime’s international contradictions.” (Statement of June 28)
Their differences are over how to best preserve the Islamic Republic. “One faction believes that the whole system will fall apart without some reform in the IRI’s ruling structures. The other fears that such reforms would trigger the regime’s collapse,” the CPI-MLM states. (Four days before the election, Yadollah Javani, head of the Revolutionary Guard political office, warned that if Mousavi or others wanted a velvet revolution, it would be “quashed before it is born.” (Roger Cohen, New York Review of Books, August 13, 2009)
And, at least for the present, all the IRI’s leading political figures and factions—including those who have condemned the June 12 election—are working furiously to direct that discontent toward maintaining and strengthening—not weakening, much less overthrowing—the Islamic Republic.
In the midst of this crisis, what is the U.S. and its partner in the region, Israel, up to?
The Islamic fundamentalist rulers of Iran have for some time been clashing with the U.S. and its allies in the region. The IRI has sought to strengthen their position in a situation where the U.S. has faced difficulties and a knot of contradictions. For the U.S. the existence of this Islamic regime and what it is doing poses an obstacle and threat to unfettered U.S. domination and hegemony in the Middle East.
At root, this is contention taking place—within the framework of imperialist relations—between two historically outmoded, reactionary strata, both of which are exploiters and oppressors. One of these outmoded strata exists among colonized and oppressed peoples—and the other “outmoded” is the ruling strata of the imperialist system. The country of Iran remains in the grip of the world capitalist-imperialist system. The objective of the Iranian ruling class is not to break free of the world imperialist system. The maneuverings and moves of the Iranian ruling class, including up against the U.S., are aimed at advancing the interests and ambitions of the regime within the confines of the imperialist system. It is this system that lies at the root of the oppression of the Iranian people.
Today, even while offering some expressions of support and concern, the U.S. rulers have never publicly questioned or condemned the results of the June 12 election, and have made clear their continued willingness to deal with the butchers of the IRI. This points to the fact that U.S. actions are guided by imperialist interests, in particular its perceived need to contain and if need be cripple or bring down the IRI in order to roll back its regional influence, prevent it from further developing its nuclear energy program, deal a blow to anti-U.S. Islamic fundamentalism globally and strengthen U.S. regional hegemony. The issue of liberating the Iranian people is not part of this agenda.
In this atmosphere of tension and uncertainty, there are alarming signs that stepped-up imperialist intervention and aggression, and possibly military attacks against Iran, are becoming more likely. Vice President Joe Biden recently commented that it’s Israel’s sovereign right to bomb Iran to prevent it from becoming a nuclear power (and there’s still no firm evidence that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons). Former UN Ambassador and Bush official John Bolton writes (“It’s Crunch Time for Israel On Iran,” Wall Street Journal, July 29, 2009) that Israel will likely strike Iran by December if the nuclear issue isn’t resolved: “absent Israeli action, prepare for a nuclear Iran.” Neocon Senator Joe Lieberman recently stated that a military strike is the “only” option if sanctions don’t force Iran to give up its nuclear program. (WashingtonTV, July 31, 2009)
Obama seemed to contradict this position the day after Biden spoke—stating he wanted the issue solved “in a peaceful way,” and just this past week top U.S. officials—Defense Secretary Robert Gates and National Security Advisor Gen. James Jones—met with Israeli officials to discuss Iran.
The well-connected Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports (July 31) that while Gates told the Israelis that the U.S. “red light” against attacking Iran (something top Israeli officials have repeatedly threatened) still stood, “the Americans—influenced by the Iranian regime’s conduct toward the post‑election unrest that began in early June—are for the first time showing more understanding for Israel’s view of events. The United States is more skeptical than before about the likelihood that a diplomatic dialogue, or even harsh sanctions should that option fail, will dissuade the Iranians from their goal.” Iran has so far not responded officially to Obama’s offer of talks, and the U.S. and its allies are reportedly stepping up their timetable for an Iranian reply—now demanding one in September.
Haaretz also notes that these talks took place just after the completion of a joint American-Israeli exercise at Nevada’s Nellis Air Force Base. Dubbed Red Flag, it included training for in-flight refueling of Israeli jets by American airplanes, and “the participation of a squadron of Israeli F-16i (“Storm”) jets, the new model that will bear the brunt of long‑range target attacks should the need arise.” (See also Air Force News Today, July 22, 2009, www.nellis.af.mil/news/story_print.asp?id=123160032)
(Haaretz also notes that while there may be differences between Israel and the Obama administration on Iran, strategic cooperation continues: “Though it seems the red light on an Israeli attack still stands, the recurrent warnings by Israel’s prime and defense ministers about all options being on the table actually serve American interests: They allow Obama to wave the Israeli stick at the Iranians as part of his effort to get the Iranians to agree to a dialogue, and possibly even to concessions.”)
Given imperialism’s historical and present-day domination of Iran (even as the particular forms it has taken have gone through various changes), and ongoing U.S., Israeli and European intervention in and threats against Iran, it’s imperative that people in this country both support the just struggle of the Iranian people and oppose all the moves by our own rulers to maintain their suffocating and deadly grip on Iran and the region.
The heroic struggle of millions has not only changed the political landscape in Iran, it is also reverberating globally. This is what one New York high school teacher posted at Huffington Post (on Nico Pitney’s blog, posted July 20, 2009):
“I teach at a NYC high school, and recently one student stood up to our very intimidating principal, (something that almost never happens). When he did not get permission for what he intended to do, another student said ‘Let’s go iranian on him.’ By that he meant organize a protest. And so now they ‘IRAN’ anything they want to change. So it has become a verb now and to ‘Iran’ the situation is to stand up to authority, well at least here in this corner of the universe. And it is a huge bonus for me because I cannot usually get them to even pay attention to another part of the world.
“Point being, even these students who get very small amounts of news equate ‘Iranian’ with bravery and I completely agree, and wish I had that kind of intestinal fortitude. You have our greatest admiration and respect!”
Revolution #172, August 9, 2009
In a speech delivered in Ghana, Barack Obama talked about disease and conflict ravaging Africa. Then he said:
“It is easy to point fingers, and to pin the blame for these problems on others. Yes, a colonial map that made little sense bred conflict, and the West has often approached Africa as a patron, rather than a partner. But the West is not responsible for the destruction of the Zimbabwean economy over the last decade, or wars in which children are enlisted as combatants.” (July 11, 2009)
In actual fact, “the West” – European countries and the U.S. – have a long colonial past and neo-colonial present in Africa. And for centuries, and today, what this has meant for people throughout the African continent is economic destruction, poverty and misery.
The history of the Congo is only one example of this:
From the end of the 19th century through the turn of the 20th century, King Leopold II of Belgium ran the so-called Congo Free State as his private property, amassing an enormous fortune by turning most adult males into slaves to collect wild rubber and ivory from the jungle. The women and children were held hostages—their hands, noses and ears often chopped off when the men in their families did not meet their rubber quota or failed to return. For over 23 years, Leopold’s army forced hundreds of thousands of slaves to work in killing conditions where many died from exhaustion. Some 20 slave uprisings were put down with extreme bloodthirstiness. After the Belgians discovered gold in 1903, they worked thousands to death in gold mines. It has been estimated that about 10 million people out of a population of 20 million lost their lives under King Leopold’s barbarous rule.
In 1960, the Congo gained formal independence from Belgium. Patrice Lumumba, a popular nationalist leader and critic of colonialism, became the country’s first elected prime minister. The imperial powers who had dominated the Congo set out to remove Lumumba from power. The CIA worked to destabilize the country and recruit pro-U.S. forces within the army and government, including Joseph Mobutu. Mobutu, who had been a colonel in the Belgian colonial army, was later put in power. A memo by Allen Dulles, Director of the CIA, stated that Lumumba’s “removal must be an urgent and prime objective.” Mobutu staged a coup d’état and shortly afterwards, on October 10, Lumumba was arrested. After escaping and then being recaptured by Mobutu’s men, Lumumba was beaten, tortured and executed. It is now known that U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower ordered the assassination of Lumumba during a White House national security meeting in August 1960, less than two months after the Congo became independent. Just days before Lumumba was arrested, the Belgian Minister for African Affairs sent a cable to Katanga’s capital calling for the “definitive elimination” of Lumumba.
After the murder of Lumumba, Joseph Mobutu came to power with the help of U.S.-supplied arms and money. The country’s name was changed to Zaire and became a U.S. neo-colony—a legally independent state dependent on and dominated by U.S. imperialism. U.S. companies began plundering the country’s wealth anew, while Mobutu enriched himself to the tune of $5 billion. The country became a mainstay of U.S. interests in the region. The regime’s security apparatus used torture and murder to crush attempts at building rebel movements among the people over almost four decades until he was overthrown in 1997 by Laurent Kabila, a former supporter of Lumumba and guerrilla commander in the mid-1960s.
Coltan is a composite mineral used to make micro circuits for cell phones and other handheld electronic devices. Coltan brings huge profits to companies like Sony, Motorola, Ericsson, Nokia, Hewlett-Packard, Compaq, Dell, Intel and IBM. The Congo holds 80 percent of the world’s coltan reserves. Coltan is mined in the Congo by super-exploited workers and in some instances slave labor. Think about the hundreds of millions of people around the world who are walking around with blood-soaked coltan in their cell phones and Sony Playstations.
|photo copyright keith harmon snow www.allthingspass.com|
Civil war in the 1990s in the Congo was fueled and financed by competing foreign powers, using local mercenary and government armies in which rape was a common weapon of domination and control. This cost the lives of over 5 million people—making it the deadliest conflict worldwide since World War 2. Competition over coltan perpetuated the civil war with fierce fighting between different groups over access to the mines in concession areas and trade or smuggling routes, as well as control over the mine workers, their work camps, and the “right” to extort protection money from the workers and prostitutes based in and around the camps.
Today there is a new scramble for great power control over the vast resources in Africa, including copper, cobalt, and titanium. In West Africa, the U.S., Western Europe and China are vying for control over oil resources and the U.S. has established a new Africa military command.
The horrible situation of war and poverty in Africa is actively shaped by the colonial past AND further heightened by the imperialist present. Obama’s argument that the West is not responsible for today’s poverty and wars is a lie!
The ruling powers in Africa—whether “democratically elected,” forcibly installed, or coming to power through coups—are all regimes dependent on and serving one or several imperialist powers. And imperialism uses these corrupt thieves and tyrants to extract untold wealth and riches, leaving behind unimaginable suffering.
The essence of what exists in the U.S. is not democracy but capitalism-imperialism and political structures to enforce that capitalism-imperialism. What the U.S. spreads around the world is not democracy, but imperialism and political structures to enforce that imperialism.
Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA
Resources used for this centerfold include:
King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonia Africa. Adam Hochschild. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin. 1999.
King Leopold’s Ghost. Film by Pippa Scott, with Don Cheadle, Alfre Woodard, James Cromwell. DVD released from Direct Cinema Limited, January 2009.
"Understanding the Global Economic Crisis: System Failure and the Need for Revolution," presentation by Maoist political economist Raymond Lotta at Revolution Bookstore, New York City, March 29, 2009. Audio file available for download from revolutionbooksnyc.org
“Millions Die Amid Neocolonial Plunder: The Agony of the Congo.” A World to Win News Service, Aug. 21, 2005. Available online at http://revcom.us/a/012/agony-of-congo.htm
Revolution #172, August 9, 2009
From Ike to Mao:
Revolution received the following review of From Ike to Mao and Beyond: My Journey from Mainstream America to Revolutionary Communist, A Memoir by Bob Avakian from a reader:
What do you want to be when you grow up? Such is the perennial question posed to each generation. In a child’s world the answers are usually simple and predictable: fireman, bus driver, movie star, doctor, sports hero, revolutionary communist. Huh?!? Well, it is unlikely that being a revolutionary when he grew up was the first thing that sprang to Marx’s mind. And it certainly did not for Bob Avakian, Chair of the Revolutionary Communist Party. Avakian’s fascinating autobiography From Ike to Mao and Beyond: My Journey from Mainstream America to Revolutionary Communist reveals the complexity of a human being seeking to change the world while interpreting life’s deepest meanings and contradictions in revolutionary terms.
If you want to understand the most important questions from a radical perspective about how humans might live, there are many books within the socialist canon to which students must devote time and energy. Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Mao are obvious primary sources, but they can pose significant challenges to those not versed in philosophical thought or in the spirit of the times in which their ideas emerged. Marx’s style can be especially abstruse without interpretation and annotation regarding the surrounding currents. Avakian’s work is accessible to moderns because he has studied and synthesized much revolutionary thought, and his experience is attuned to contemporary generations. What’s more, he is a communist practitioner continuing to call forth a strong revolutionary movement and not just an armchair theorist.
If you want to understand revolutionary communist thinking and specifically Avakian’s thought, or you are a regular reader of Revolution newspaper, Ike to Mao is the book you must read. If you’re just learning about revolution, this book serves as a good point of embarkation. Here is the development of modern revolutionary thought leading to a new synthesis. How did it all start and where did it all come from? Why did it come about? Why is the hope of revolution still present and desired in these extremely bleak, neo-conservative times? How does revolution make sense in a world dominated by global, neoliberal, free-market capitalism? Is it even possible or is it just a fantasy, a pipe dream? These are all hard hitting questions this book attempts to answer.
Without trying to romanticize the author or the movement, Ike to Mao is a dense work, and it contains contradictions Avakian and his sympathizers must wrestle with. Dispelling all the unfortunate myths many hold about communism and its adherents, it may be assuredly said that communists are passionate people with a firm sense of justice and fair play. They are hardly the wild-eyed monsters resistant to ideas, fun, pleasure and life’s myriad possibilities that popular media has portrayed them to be. Nor are they the utopian romantic ideologues steeped in dreamy reverie of a past that has never existed or is hardly possible.
Communism does not equate to or advocate totalitarian dictatorship, nor is it an inevitable metamorphosis with eternal recurrence. Communists desire a world emancipated from suffering and oppressive slave/master relations without the necessity of being dour or ascetic. Their dictatorship is that of the proletariat, not the ruling elite. The approach is from the bottom, not the top. Interestingly, Avakian exudes a pronounced American quality in his love for sports, specifically basketball, as well his admiration for doo-wop and the music of Black Americans. He’s really a neighborhood kid, the boy next door, but with wide-reaching and humane ideals that are never compromised throughout his life.
We all are well familiar with stories of so-called radicals and revolutionaries from the romanticized ’60s who ultimately ‘sold out’ to new age remedies, bourgeois roads to reform and mutual fund portfolios. We read the writings of former lefties and even Marxists, only to shake our heads at how they fell into the slimy pit of ’90s greed-is-good capitalism and the now euphoric Obamamania with all its nonsense about America taking the ‘socialist’ road. It’s easy to slide into comfortable patterns and clichés and to surrender to the path of least resistance. Changing the world is not an easy thing. One cannot help admire Avakian and his steadfastness to what revolution might do to change the world. Theologian Cornel West calls him communism’s ‘long-distance runner,’ never succumbing to the seduction of McWorld with its neoliberal commodification of virtually every aspect of life. So far, at least, and unlike Che Guevara, Benetton has not decaled Avakian’s silhouette on its t-shirts.
To be sure, there are many setbacks and disillusionments along the way, including failed marriages and relationships. I can’t imagine what it must be like to have to live in another country cut off from family, friends and loved ones or not to be able to be at the bedside of your ailing sister or dying parents. Yet Avakian’s book is testimony to a lonely life of scaling the mountaintop of human freedom. This is the price one pays for immersing oneself in revolution and for believing in ideals that one would be willing to live and die for. Perhaps many would ask why anyone would choose such an onerous path. I would venture to say that for someone who would tread the high and arduous road of emancipating society and bringing about sweeping social change, such a person must be unable and unwilling to imagine living any other type of life. There are easier, though not necessarily better ways to live. To me, Avakian’s life represents a higher calling; certainly much higher than serving an ethereal god.
I don’t think I could personally endure all the disillusionments, not just with society at large who may not understand or wish to adopt the revolutionary line, but with fellow communists and revolutionaries who copped out or gave in to the status quo or some sort of mealy-mouthed, liberal reformism. But it is this stubborn and steadfast belief in the party and its accomplishments that has forged Bob Avakian’s New Synthesis as well as the recent Ruminations and Wranglings,which explicitly spell out how the party should act and what it must do to further the cause of human emancipation and an entirely different world based on a new set of societal and economic relations. For me, at least, I don’t think I could understand these complex points very well without having a general sense of the thought and the person behind all this. Ike to Mao is the primer to understanding what the party can and must do to move forward to bring about a better world.
Read Ike to Mao, not only to better understand Bob Avakian and the Revolutionary Communist Party, but to laugh and cry with the hopes and struggles of an individual who never gave up his ideals no matter how tough the times became. Critics may call Avakian and others like him fools, but what good would the world be without more fools like him? The last chapter and its final words cementing his beliefs are especially moving. While reading them I happened to be listening to a recording of Carl Nielsen’s Symphony No. 4, The Inextinguishable. In the words of the composer, the work was written to express the ‘elemental will of life,’ even in the face of mass destruction that occurred during WW I, the time the symphony was completed. I would encourage anyone to listen to the final moments of this amazing musical composition while reading the last chapter of Avakian. All that is felt and thought about life in the most fundamental sense of the word, combined with the forces of aspiration and yearning, which are ‘inextinguishable,’ are what both the composer and the author have tried to present.
M. B. H.
Revolution #172, August 9, 2009
The Revolution We Need...The Leadership We Have
Along with inviting people to, and actually persevering to get them to come to, things like programs at the bookstores, it is very important to get people involved “where they are”—in their neighborhoods, through the social ties they have, etc. With growing numbers of people doing even little things—like finding places to have DVD showings in the neighborhood, or inviting the revolutionaries to their house to talk to their friends about this campaign, or baking goods or in some other way contributing to raising funds, or joining in with distribution of the statement, even for an hour at first—in all these ways, and other ways that can be found and developed, together with masses in the areas where the statement is being distributed, there can begin to develop a sense that there is a movement—a movement for revolution—that is growing and beginning to take root, in the neighborhoods and other places people get together, and people can actually see, and feel, the beginning shoots and growth of this movement.
This, together with seeing the revolutionaries continuing to come back—as is pledged at the end of the statement—as well as people getting a sense that this is taking place not just where they are but in all different parts of their city, and in other cities around the country, will give people more of a living sense of this movement, and of their own role in being part of it (which will, in turn, make them feel more encouraged to make the effort to go to things like bookstore programs in a different part of town, or even across town...where they will “mix” with others doing the same, and still more will feel like they are part of a movement, which both has roots in neighborhoods like theirs, etc., but also has a presence in many places, among different kinds of people).
This kind of dynamic is an essential element in really building the kind of movement that is needed, and to draw increasing numbers of people, including from the basic masses in particular (but, again, from other strata as well) into that movement. And, of course, in fundamental ideological and political terms, all this must be founded in, and continually regrounded in, a revolutionary communist understanding and line, which is concentrated in a very significant way in the statement, serving as the pivot of the campaign as a whole.
Revolution #172, August 9, 2009
July 20, 2009
I had an opportunity to be out this past Saturday at the Harlem Book Fair with Revolution Books. Blue skies, hot sun, and a lot of opportunity to meet and talk with people — hooking them up with the message and call from the RCP: “The Revolution We Need and The Leadership We Have.”
Not surprisingly, there was enormous excitement in the wake of the sold out Dialogue between Cornel West and Carl Dix on the “Ascendency of Obama . . . and the Continued Need for Resistance and Liberation.” People wanted to find out when they could get a DVD of the event. Several people said: finally someone spoke to what they’d been thinking and feeling about Obama — that the people have been anaesthetized while the same disastrous oppression continues. For others, Carl Dix’s revolutionary analysis and program gave them a new lifeline. They wanted to know more about Carl and his leader Bob Avakian. Scores more told of not being able to get tickets and listening on WBAI. All this indicated the beginning of cracking open a more radical and revolutionary discourse, and it evidenced the increased profile of Carl Dix, revolution, and the RCP.
This set the stage for the current special issue of Revolution Newspaper, the RCP’s major new statement which aims to put the whole thing before millions of people – straight talk about this revolution and the leadership we have. Connecting people with this statement, spreading it everywhere is crucial to beginning a whole new stage of revolution, here and around the world.
I want to share a few observations about how the revolutionaries did getting this out. The Revolution Books table looked sharp, big signs, flags, and a tent. At 3:30 PM the Revolutionary Summer Youth Project marched through Harlem Book Fair – the multi-national crew with their revolutionary chants and style turned heads and opened eyes. This was all to the good – signaling that the revolution and the revolutionaries were here.
Yet, lots of people gathered around the store table all day, not enough them left on a mission, as the statement puts it, to
“spread the word to every corner of this country…giving people the means to become part of this revolutionary movement, and organizing into this movement everyone who wants to make a contribution to it, who wants to work and fight, to struggle and sacrifice, not to keep this nightmare of a world going as it is but to bring a better world into being.”
All too often, it was easy to get into lots of discussion about people’s dissatisfaction with and/or questions about Obama. Yes, this is a crucial part of the political terrain — and revolutionaries need to engage it, it was the subject of the Cornel West / Carl Dix Dialogue — but, how are we going to stop the wars, the lock up of our youth, the degradation and brutalization of women, the destruction of the planet? What is really going to open people’s understanding of the basis, possibility and the means to bring into being a whole other world? The statement brings home that “it is this system that has got us in the situation we're in today, and keeps us there. And it is through revolution to get rid of this system that we ourselves can bring a much better system into being.” That takes leadership, really good revolutionary leadership. This is what this statement brings to people. If the revolutionaries are focusing the majority of their efforts on critiquing Obama, they are failing to bring people the news that they need.
This statement changes that — and revolutionaries need to change with it. Out at the Harlem Book Fair, most people had never heard of Bob Avakian. When we got right into it – who Avakian is and what a difference his leadership means for the prospects of revolution, here and around the world — it was a whole different ball game. This opened up serious and deep discussion about the revolution we need, it’s communist goals and the strategy to get there. There is a crucial method to the statement – unfolding the need for revolution out of the horrific conditions and the system that gives rise to them, but this must not become a detour, or way station, to never bringing forward the leadership we have. There is not “one way” to bring out the content of this path breaking statement. However, at least on this first day, I observed that when we got right to the reality that there is an incredible revolutionary leadership in Bob Avakian, and a Party that this bringing this to the people, then the seriousness, urgency and possibility of revolution opened up in new ways for people. That conversation provoked those who were ready and wanted to engage this, to buy Bob Avakian’s DVD: “Revolution Why It’s Necessary; Why It’s Possible; What It’s All About” along with a 10 Week subscription to Revolution Newspaper.
Finally, we did not make the case for why spreading this statement everywhere is pivotal to forging a new revolutionary movement. For one example, the Revolution Books table did not have pre-prepared bundles ready for people to distribute themselves. There is every basis for people, especially youth, to be spreading this revolutionary message as they are learning about the revolution. The wider the word gets out, the more “revolution” is on people’s lips, circulating in their thoughts... the more people are asking about and learning about Bob Avakian and his leadership ... the more youth and others begin to take up this revolution themselves, ready to fight to bring this new future into being... then, a new revolutionary movement will be taking root and contending with and influencing the whole political landscape. Then, people's horizons will open -- on a whole other level -- to a future worth fighting for.
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