Voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party,USA
Please note: this page is intended for quick printing of the entire issue. Some of the links may not work when clicked, and some images may be missing. Please go to the article's permalink if you require working links and images.
Download Promotional Materials:
Revolution #175, September 6, 2009
New CIA Documents Reveal:
Threats to kill the children of a detainee… Threats to sexually abuse the female relatives of a detainee… Use of waterboarding in ways that greatly exceeded even the guidelines approved by Bush’s “Torture Memo” White House Office of Legal Counsel… These, and other new outrages are documented in a 2004 report from the CIA’s Office of Inspector General (IG). The report, along with other material, was made public on August 24, in response to lawsuits filed by the ACLU and Amnesty International.
The full implications of what is revealed (and what is covered up) in this report have yet to be fully identified. Large sections of the 109-page report are redacted (blacked-out by censors). But even from what is revealed in the report, it is clear that torture carried out under the so-called war on terror has been criminally inhuman; orchestrated, devised, supervised, and approved at the White House, the Justice Department, and in Congress; and deeply embedded in U.S. war-fighting doctrine.
And, the new revelations highlight with greater stakes and urgency the need for protest and resistance—to demand the prosecution of those responsible all the way to the top, at the White House.
Reading the CIA report is like reading the cold, clinical reports from those who ran Nazi concentration camps. Depraved crimes against humanity are meticulously recorded in detail, along with rationalizations and legal justifications.
From the report:
“...debriefer, according to a [redacted] who was present, threatened Al-Nashiri by saying that if he did not talk, ‘We could get your mother in here,’ and, ‘We can bring your family in here.’ The [redacted] debriefer reported wanted Al-Nashiri to infer, for psychological reasons, that the debriefer might be [redacted] intelligence office based on his Arabic dialect, and that Al-Nashiri was in [redacted] custody because it was widely believed in Middle East circles that [redacted] interrogation technique involves sexually abusing female relatives in front of the detainee.”
“...debriefer entered the cell when Al-Nashiri sat shackled and racked the handgun once or twice close to Al-Nashiri’s head. On what was probably the same day, the debriefer used a power drill to frighten Al-Nashiri. With [redacted] consent, the debriefer entered the detainee’s cell and revved the drill while the detainee stood naked and hooded.”
“...the [redacted] interrogators said to Khalid Shaykh Muhammad that if anything else happens in the United States, ‘We’re going to kill your children.’”
The report also details threats to kill detainees, and at least one murder at the hands of CIA interrogators. In June 2003 a detainee who turned himself in voluntarily to the CIA for questioning in Afghanistan was, according to the report, “allegedly” beaten “with a large metal flashlight and kicked … during interrogation sessions,” killing him. And human rights researcher John Sifton has documented the deaths of some 100 detainees—including CIA-held detainees—some of whom are known to have been tortured to death (see “The suppressed fact: Deaths by U.S. torture,” by Glenn Greenwald, salon.com, June 30, 2009).
And to be clear, this report was not written as an exposé of the CIA. While it does raise issues about the illegal nature of many of the torture techniques used (and how each of these illegal activities was OK’d by the Bush White House and Justice Department), it overall presents the CIA’s treatment of detainees as providing “intelligence that has enabled the identification and apprehension of other terrorists and warned of terrorist plots planned for the United States and around the world.”
We will address the claims that these torture programs “save American lives” shortly, but before that, let’s examine the systemic nature of U.S. torture.
The torture incidents documented in the CIA report are not the actions of “rogue elements” in the CIA. They were—according to the report—carefully reported to and approved by top government officials. The CIA report cites as guidelines, and reprints as appendixes, the infamous “Torture Memos” produced by Bush’s Office of Legal Counsel.
But the report also identifies that even those guidelines that anyone but a moral cripple would be outraged by—that gave torturers a green light to use waterboarding and other inhuman torture—were exceeded. When the IG informed Attorney General John Ashcroft that one detainee had been waterboarded “in a manner inconsistent with” the Justice Department legal guidance, Ashcroft responded that he had no problem with waterboarding one detainee 119 times, that the “CIA is well within the scope of the DoJ [Department of Justice] opinion and the authority given to CIA by that opinion.”
When the CIA IG reported to Justice Department prosecutors that a detainee had been threatened with a power drill and a handgun, both unauthorized techniques for which he did not seek approval, the Justice Department announced a decision not to prosecute this CIA employee on September 11, 2003.
And it was not just the Bush White House that was in on, and approving of all this. Obama’s new head of the CIA, Leon Panetta, in the course of defending the CIA torturers announced that, “The CIA provided the complete, unredacted IG report to the Congress. It was made available to the leadership of the Congressional intelligence committees in 2004 and to the full committees in 2006. All of the material in the document has been subject to Congressional oversight and reviewed for legal accountability.” (“Panetta Defends CIA: Report Already Reviewed by Congress, DOJ,” corner.nationalreview.com, August 24, 2009)
One thing that emerges from this report is a more clearly defined picture of how the definition of legal torture has been continuously extended through the “war on terror”—now being rebranded (and extended) by the Obama administration. Historically, torture has been deeply embedded in U.S. war fighting and repression (for a history of the use of torture by the U.S., see “Torture Techniques at Guantánamo: ‘Communist Inspired’ ...or Developed, Refined, and Exported by the USA?,” Part 2. by Li Onesto, Revolution #138, August 3, 2009). But it has been carried out under wraps, in the form of secret “refuse to confirm or deny” actions of the CIA. Or by proxy, through puppet foreign dictators serving U.S. interests. The CIA report explicitly notes the change from public denunciations of opposition to torture, to overt legalization of torture.
The CIA report says that, “The EITs [so-called Enhanced Interrogation Techniques] used by the Agency under the CTC [Counterterrorism Center] Program are inconsistent with the public policy positions that the United States has taken regarding human rights.” [emphasis added]
The CIA IG report then goes on to identify that this program of so-called EITs “diverges sharply from previous Agency policy and practice, rules that govern interrogations by U.S. military and law enforcement officers, statements of U.S. policy by the Department of State, and public statements by very senior U.S. officials, including the President...”
In short, what emerges is that those at the head of the CIA were identifying explicitly, for the White House, for Congress, and for the ruling class as a whole, that major doctrinal changes were taking place through institutionalizing legalized torture. And documenting that the White House Office of Legal Counsel, and the Justice Department were approving these changes.
While an exploration of the strategic role of torture in U.S. military doctrine, in particular vis-à-vis the “war on terror” is beyond the scope of this article, it can be noted that torture and terror—massacres of innocent civilians as a conscious military tactic—are integral to the U.S. war fighting doctrine, and this is true in very extreme ways in the “war on terror.” And within the ruling class, there is a view—widespread at least—that old legal norms that have been considered foundational to the United States, like taking “public” positions in opposition to torture, have to be torn up and rewritten.
In this light, it is unacceptable and intolerable that the parameters of the current torture “debate” in the mainstream media and politics, and—among the public at large—are defined by asking “does torture save American lives?” This completely obscures the real question.
The systematic torture that is central to the U.S. wars for empire has nothing to do with whether or not it “produces information that saves lives.” For the rulers of the U.S., the capitalist-imperialist ruling class, torture violently enforces a profoundly unequal, unjust world of exploitation and oppression, with them at the top. It is essentially a tool for beating the people of the world into submission, to preserve and expand their empire.
And, in the context of the current, very unfavorable polarization in the world, where reactionary Islamic fundamentalism is seen as the alternative oppositional pole in important parts of the world, U.S. torture, while aimed at Islamic fundamentalism, also serves to rally people around that banner which they perceive as standing up to the U.S. in some form.
But even if torture did “save American lives,”two things must be said. One, American lives are not more important than the lives of other people. And two, torture is immoral.
As we wrote previously in Revolution, “Let’s make it plain: torture is, literally and in essence, a crime against humanity. Like rape, it is a systematic attempt to violently degrade people and rob them of their very humanity. Any government which not only tolerates such things but which, from its highest offices, justifies and insists on them as ‘instruments of policy’… any government which does not, once this has been exposed, prosecute the perpetrators but instead provides them in advance with immunity...reveals itself as a system that requires such crimes, and such criminals, for its functioning. Any people that does not resist such crimes, and demand prosecution of the torturers and, even more so, those who formulated the policy at the highest levels, reveals themselves to be complicit in those crimes. And in passively allowing the humanity of others to be degraded and attacked, they lose their own.” (“The Torture Memos … And the Need for Justice,” issue #164, May 17, 2009)
For the people of the world, including people in this country, this whole dynamic is not in our interests. And people in this country have a special and urgent responsibility to resist, to wage political protest against torture, and coverup of torture—including demanding that everyone involved in torture be prosecuted, especially all the way up to the top of the chain of command—those who devised and ordered the torture.
If those who set up, legitimized, and endorsed open torture simply walk away and go free, that is nothing other than a statement that torturers need not look over their shoulders in the future.”
On the other hand, if people in this country DO resist, if they DO demand that everyone who was part of torture, up to and including those in the White House who orchestrated it, be prosecuted, and wage a serious political struggle to make that happen, it can be the beginning of a struggle that can, among other things, lead to the beginnings and possibility of real justice—and not some phony, feel-good, ‘let’s-forget-about-the-past-and-move-on’ so-called redemption and/or “reconciliation” that only ultimately enables still more, and still worse, crimes by the bloody criminal enterprise known as America.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #175, September 6, 2009
Even before the release of the CIA Inspector General's report documenting CIA torture, Obama's Attorney General Eric Holder apparently decided to launch an investigation to identify CIA agents for possible prosecution. But the criteria for criminal charges in this investigation is not those who broke the law—but those who went beyond the guidelines they were given by the White House Office of Legal Counsel.
Salon.com's legal commentator, Glenn Greenwald noted: "the scope of the 'review' is limited at the outset to those who failed to 'act in good faith and within the scope of legal guidance'—meaning only those interrogators and other officials who exceeded the torture limits which John Yoo and Jay Bybee [authors of the Bush Office of Legal Counsel Torture Memos—Revolution] approved. Those who, with good faith, tortured within the limits of the OLC memos will "be protected from legal jeopardy."
The Torture Memos issued by the Bush White House Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) were an attempt to overwrite longstanding U.S. and international law that prohibits torture. The Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane, and Degrading Treatment (the Torture Convention) is, according to the CIA report, binding law in the U.S. (page 16, footnote). That Convention outlaws, almost word for word, the very techniques that the White House determined to be legal. For example, the CIA report cites international law against torture as prohibiting "the threat of imminent death," "procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or personality," and "threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering."
And Eric Holder himself, in his Senate confirmation hearing, essentially confirmed that waterboarding is torture and illegal. When asked by Senator Patrick Leahy, "Do you agree with me that water boarding is torture and illegal?" Holder responded, "I agree with you, Mr. Chairman. Water boarding is torture."
By making the criteria for prosecution exceeding illegal guidelines in the White House OLC Torture Memos, Holder's investigation—even if he actually indicts anyone associated with CIA torture—effectively serves to enshrine as law those illegal guidelines, including waterboarding. In the realm of law, it adopts the standard that the president can order the White House OLC to approve of any illegal activity, and then impose that finding as "law." And in the realm of morality, the criteria for Holder's investigation serves to put a stamp of approval on the torture techniques orchestrated from the White House.
Even as Holder's investigation serves to radically expand the scope of what is legal torture, it is fiercely opposed by powerful forces within the ruling class. This tension is expressed not just in recent verbal volleys between Obama and Dick Cheney, but also within the Obama administration. ABC News reported that "A profanity-laced screaming match" broke out at the White House when CIA Director Leon Panetta reacted furiously to being informed of Holder's investigation.
These conflicts reflect real divisions. Not over whether, but over how to pursue global war for empire, and how to ratchet up spying and repression. For an analysis of the motive forces behind these conflicts within the ruling class over torture policy, and how to bring forward the interests of the masses of people in the context of these divisions, see, "Night of the Living Dead: Obama, Cheney, and the 'Debate' Over Torture," (Revolution #167, June 7, 2009).
For a strategic perspective on these and related questions, we urge readers to study:
Send us your comments.
Revolution #175, September 6, 2009
[Editors' note: The following is the 11th excerpt from the text of a talk by Bob Avakian, earlier this year, which is being serialized in Revolution, beginning with issue #163. Parts 1-10 appeared in issues #163, #164, #165, #166, #167, #169, #171, #172, #173, and #174. Part 11 is the from the beginning of the section titled “Further Wrangling with Meaningful Revolutionary Work.” 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]
With all this as background, I want to move on to engage in some further grappling with the question of meaningful revolutionary work, as this applies both to basic masses—and more specifically basic youth—as well as to college and university students. There is a need for more systematic summation of our party's practice in this regard, in relation to "Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution"—understood in its full meaning—and overall. And, besides the need for more systematic summation of practice, there is a need for further wrangling in the realm of theoretical conception, specifically in regard to meaningful revolutionary work. And, as I spoke to in "Out Into the World—As a Vanguard of the Future," there is a need to grapple further, on the level of theoretical and strategic conception, with what a revolutionary situation would actually "look like" and how it could actually develop—a need which is underscored by the deep and multi-pronged crisis in which the imperialist system is now enmeshed.
Here again arises what we have referred to as the "George Jackson question"—the fact that, as George Jackson put it, the idea of revolution as some far off goal has no meaning to a slave who does not expect to live beyond tomorrow1 —and the contradictions bound up with this in terms of meaningful revolutionary work on the necessary road in a country like the U.S. (or, to put it another way, meaningful revolutionary work in relation to what is concentrated in "On the Possibility of Revolution"2 ). As has been repeatedly emphasized, this is "a tough nut to crack" and at the same time it is of decisive importance in relation to actually making revolution in a country like this. Continuing to make advances and breakthroughs in relation to this is critical in terms of really making our very advanced line—which is our great strength, or a concentrated expression of our great strength—making this very advanced line a material revolutionary political force among growing numbers of the masses of people.
A way of formulating the contradiction, which gets to the crux of things, or much of it, is this: All along the way, even before there is a revolutionary situation, and through all the work and struggle of preparing for the emergence of such a situation, how to make revolution, and the building of a movement for revolution real—and, yes, even palpable—without falling into the orientation of seeking palpable results as the means for building the movement, which would mean that it would be a non-revolutionary movement. This is a contradiction that we have to constantly be conscious of and continually working on, all along the way. (For a discussion of the fundamental error of seeking to build a movement pivoting on "palpable results," see "'Palpable results': economism, reformism and revisionism," in "Revolutionary Strategy, Bringing Forward a Revolutionary People," an excerpt from "Out Into the World—As a Vanguard of the Future," in Revolution #160 [March 29, 2009], available online at revcom.us/avakian/Out into the World/Avakian_Out_into_World_pt4-en.html.)
We hear from masses of people—and I've seen this in reports recently—statements or sentiments along the following lines: "I know revolution is needed," or "I know revolution is what's gotta happen at some point," but "what do we do now, what do we do in the meantime?"
Answer? Make revolution. Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution. Prepare minds and organize forces for the time when a revolutionary situation and a revolutionary people, in the millions and millions, emerges. Work actively and consciously to bring this time closer and to bring things to where we are in the best position to act decisively when this does come about. Devote your life, energy, daring and creativity to confronting, fighting through and overcoming the obstacles to making this happen, and to winning more and more people to doing the same.
That statement—that answer to this question of "what do we do now?"—is not meant to be facile or flippant. It is intended to embody all the content, and recognize all the complexity, that goes into doing that, but at the same time to stress the fact that making revolution is what we're doing every day, in order to actually be able to have a revolution, and that there is nothing more substantial or meaningful to which people can and should be devoting their lives. Of course, the meaning of this has to be fleshed out more fully—and I'm going to speak to this further here, to lay the groundwork, or some of the groundwork, for doing this more fully in an ongoing way.
In this context, I do want to emphasize a fundamental point of orientation and crucial dividing line, in the context of the already very deep and continually deepening financial/economic crisis which has gripped U.S. society and, indeed, world capitalism as a whole, involving a certain ideological "crisis of confidence" of capitalism, which is increasingly accompanying this material crisis—all of which is occurring in the context of profound challenges all-around for imperialism and U.S. imperialism in particular, with its wars for empire in the name of "war on terror." The basic point of orientation and line of demarcation is this: In the context of all this, we must not fall into the revisionist sinkhole that marked the CPUSA in the 1930s depression, or into the neo-FDRism that much of the so-called "left" and "progressives" are so abjectly and pitifully salivating and begging for now, with regard to Obama's presidency.
Here it is worth highlighting—specifically in relation to Obama, and along with the continuing exposure that has been done in our newspaper, and must continue to be done, around what Obama really represents—what is said in the statement by the March 8 Women's Organization (Iran-Afghanistan), exposing how Obama will not and cannot be fundamentally different from other imperialist heads of state, and his "good wars" are no different from what was done under Bush. (See "Revolutionary Women Cry Out: Revolution Is the Way Out for Humanity," reprinted in Revolution no. 156, February 15, 2009.) This, and other exposure of Obama, is something we have to drive home very forcefully to people.
But more generally, the point I'm stressing is that here is a deep crisis of capitalism—which all (or at least most) of the capitalist representatives, experts, pundits, and so on, are saying is not going to end any time soon—and we must not repeat the experience of the CP in the 1930s depression, of striving to crawl under—and actually crawling under—the wing of the bourgeoisie. We must very sharply struggle against that tendency, not only among ourselves, but more broadly in society.
We must remain all the more firmly grounded in a revolutionary orientation and work unswervingly and with great energy and initiative for revolution, aiming for the final goal of communism—and nothing less—as our strategic approach and the guide and measure in all our work. Let me put it this way: We really have to be about revolution, and we have to come across very clearly and boldly as being about revolution, in all we do. Not in some religious sense, not just with incantations or even just with very good exposure about the need for revolution, although that is in fact indispensable; but everything we do has to be about actually building a movement aiming for revolution, and we have to be continually straining against the limits and constantly coming back to the question of how to make revolution real and palpable without falling into fashionable means or gimmicks or, in fact, seeking palpable results as the means for building the movement.
We have to really be building a movement for revolution, consistently and systematically, and constantly struggling against the pull of spontaneity toward getting drawn into something else, something less. We have to firmly and consistently grasp, fight for and apply—and continually draw in others to take up and apply—the orientation of not just waiting for some "fine day" when revolution will come, but actually hastening while awaiting the emergence of a revolutionary situation. We have to understand more deeply and more consistently apply ourselves—and win continually greater numbers that we draw forward to understand, and act on the understanding—that "Enriched What Is To Be Done-ism" (the overall ensemble of revolutionary work drawing from and expanding on the basic principles that Lenin stressed in his seminal work What Is to Be Done?), including the two mainstays within that overall ensemble, is meaningful revolutionary work. This is not something else, and it must not be reduced to or perverted into something else. The following from our party's Constitution is very relevant here:
"This work of 'hastening while awaiting' requires that the party must strain against the limits of the objective political situation it faces—working to transform the situation to the maximum degree possible at any given time and doing so in relation to, and maintaining its tenseness toward, any possible openings for revolution. To do this, it leads a whole ensemble of revolutionary preparations, with the party's press and the spreading of communist theory, especially as concentrated in the body of work, method and approach of Bob Avakian, as the mainstays of that activity." (Constitution of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, I. Preamble: Basic Principles of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, RCP Publications, 2008, p. 10)3
That whole ensemble—including the two mainstays, as actual mainstays—is meaningful revolutionary work, not just for more educated and literate strata, but for basic masses, including in particular the youth among the basic masses.
There is a very real and pressing need to win masses of people to see that this is what they should be giving their lives to. Our party's line and strategy is a way to actually make revolution, in the correctly understood sense—not that we're carrying out the struggle for the seizure of power now, but everything we're doing is building for revolution, in all of its different dimensions, as concentrated in the overall ensemble of "Enriched What Is To Be Done-ism."
1. Bob Avakian has addressed this "George Jackson question" in "Rereading George Jackson," part of the series "Getting Over the Two Great Humps: Further Thoughts on Conquering the World," in Revolutionary Worker (now Revolution) #968 (August 9, 1998), available online at revcom.us/a/v20/960-69/968/jackson.htm. [back]
2. "On the Possibility of Revolution" appears in the Revolution pamphlet Revolution and Communism: A Foundation and Strategic Orientation (May 1, 2008), pp. 80-81 and in Revolution #102, and is available online at revcom.us/a/102/possibility-en.html. [back]
3. In addition to the Constitution of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, a discussion of "Enriched What Is To Be Done-ism" and the two mainstays can be found in "Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity," Parts 1 and 2, available at revcom.us and in Revolution and Communism: A Foundation and Strategic Orientation, a Revolution pamphlet, May 1, 2008; and in the speech "Making Revolution in the U.S.A.," which was serialized in Revolution newspaper beginning with issue #148 and is available online at revcom.us/a/148/speech-en.html. [back]
Send us your comments.
Revolution #175, September 6, 2009
About six weeks ago, our Party launched an unprecedented campaign.
To make this revolution, and what it’s all about, known to millions of people, here and around the world...
To make Bob Avakian, whose leadership greatly heightens the actual possibility of making that revolution, a major reference point in society...
To bring forward a core of people willing to fight for this line, build up the organized strength around it, and prepare for—and hasten the advent of—a situation in which this revolution can truly be made.
The principal means?
A message, and a call, to millions, that concisely and powerfully indicts the system at the root of humanity’s suffering... puts forward the vision of the revolution that has to be made to get free of it... and gives people a sense of the leadership we have to make that revolution. This message and call first appeared in issue #170 of our paper. It is the pivot of a whole campaign, with many dimensions, reaching through the whole country, with reverberations through the world.
Why are we doing this? Because the world as it is is intolerable... because more and more people understand that things cannot go on in this way, and that humanity needs a way out... but everywhere they turn they are offered false solutions. There is only one real way to emancipate humanity: revolution, communist revolution. And there is a leadership that makes the prospect of this revolution real. But people don’t know this.
To get at the importance of this campaign, we need to realize where we stand in world history.
In 1976, a counter-revolutionary military coup in revolutionary China killed and imprisoned thousands of revolutionary communists. Capitalism was restored in what had been a socialist country on the road to communism (even though the current leaders of China still claim to be “communist”).
Since that bitter defeat, the capitalist-imperialist class worldwide has conducted a relentless ideological and political assault against communism.
“The temporary defeat of socialism and the end of the first stage of the communist revolution has... [a]mong other things ... led to lowered sights and low dreams: Even among many people who once would have known better and would have striven higher, it has led, in the short run, to acceptance of the idea that—in reality and at least for the foreseeable future—there can be no alternative to the world as it is, under the domination of imperialism and other exploiters. That the most one can hope for and work for are some secondary adjustments within the framework of accommodation to this system. That anything else—and especially the attempt to bring about a revolutionary rupture out of the confines of this system, aiming toward a radically different, communist world—is unrealistic and is bound to bring disaster.
At the same time, in the ‘vacuum’ created by the reversal of socialism and accompanying setbacks for communism, and with the continuing, and even heightening, depredations carried out by imperialism—with all the upheaval, chaos, and oppression this means for literally billions of people throughout the world—there has been a significant growth of religious fundamentalism and its organized expression in many parts of the world, including among the desperately oppressed. Imperialist marauders and mass murderers, and fanatical religious fundamentalists—the former more powerful and doing greater harm, and in so doing giving further impetus to the latter, but both representing a dark veil, and very real chains, of enslavement and enforced ignorance, reinforcing each other even when they oppose each other.” [See revcom.us, Revolution #143, September 21, 2008]
As the Manifesto later poses it, communism is at a crossroads. The revolutionary communist movement, worldwide, faces the very real and sharply posed question of whether it will be a “vanguard of the future, or residue of the past.” Vanguard of the future is the only acceptable answer to that question. Putting revolution and communism back on the map—not just surviving, but contending as a real force, all over the planet: this must become the mission of this generation.
This campaign aims to take a giant step toward carrying through that mission. Because of its overarching importance, it is particularly important to sum up the progress so far, and to apply the lessons learned to charting out some key focuses of the next few months. In this editorial, we are speaking to those who have taken up this campaign—and inviting others to join in on grappling with the challenges the revolutionary movement is taking on.
“We mean what we say, and we will not back off or turn our backs on what we have started, on the people who need this revolution. We will keep coming back and digging in, to strengthen this movement for revolution, to build up the bases, spread the influence and organize the forces we need to make revolution. We will not be scared off, backed down or driven away.” [Revolution #170, July 19, 2009, “The Revolution We Need… The Leadership We Have”]
There is a new boldness in how the revolutionaries have been rolling these past several weeks—not just in the way they carry themselves when they come into an area, but in the clarity with which they put forward their aims, their leadership, and what they’re all about. Not hype, but substance—and a boldness befitting that substance.
As part of that, they are stepping to people with “a style of work” that involves deeper listening and a more substantive engagement with people’s questions and views. Revolutionaries are beginning to involve people in supporting the movement in different ways and on different levels, fully appreciating and building on even very initial forms of support. And there have been important instances—from Oakland to Akron—where all this has been combined with joining with, and leading, people to fight the power.
This is good; but it is really just a beginning. This has to become a whole campaign. The revolutionaries are out to forge the ways to take this to a higher level, to actually succeed in its goals, not just “do a few good things.” As a key part of that, we aim to continue to find the ways for all kinds of people to be part of this revolutionary mission; that’s part of why we’re laying out what we’ve learned here.
A few key lessons so far:
“Bob Avakian has developed the scientific theory and strategic orientation for how to actually make the kind of revolution we need, and he is leading our Party as an advanced force of this revolution. He is a great champion and a great resource for people here, and indeed people all over the world. The possibility for revolution, right here, and for the advance of the revolution everywhere, is greatly heightened because of Bob Avakian and the leadership he is providing.”
Really getting people acquainted with Bob Avakian’s leadership, in its different dimensions, really focusing on this, is a powerful way to cut through the fog and defeatism and give people hope... on a solid, scientific foundation.
Other ways that people have already found to bring this home—like using the pictures in the special issue in which the message and call was printed, or reading the statement out loud in groups and stopping to break down and examine each idea—must be built on. In particular, the poster printed in issue #171 (August 2, 2009) of Willie “Mobile” Shaw, with Bob Avakian’s statement on Mobile’s death, can serve as an important gateway for people into the statement, and the revolutionary movement... and at the same time provides a powerful example that must be further popularized. The Manifesto from our Party, its powerful recent statements on the oppression of Black people and the oppression of women, our newspaper—all of these and more should also be wielded fully.
Again, even with beginning advances in involving the people, this must become much more a “campaign of the masses”—taken up in manifold ways by hundreds and then thousands and then tens of thousands of people.
Which leads to our next point:
“We must 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.”
It is very important—it is a crucial goal of this whole campaign—to bring forward a core of convinced and dedicated revolutionary communists. But this core cannot be forged in a hothouse. This core must be part of, and at the heart of, a larger process involving many different kinds of people, with many different levels of understanding and commitment, all supporting and to different degrees participating in this movement. The glue and pivot of all this will be getting out the statement. But there are many different forms that revolutionary work will take: getting small groups together to talk about it... taking up different struggles against the system in the course of this next year…raising funds to sustain and expand this movement…and others as well. All of these are crucial elements requiring the efforts of many many people, working at different levels. And all of these are potential doorways deeper into the revolutionary movement.
The point is this: the movement we are building requires many different kinds of people with different levels of understandings doing many different things... from today forward. We should be striving to build ongoing, working relationships with people in everything we do.
With the vision of a vibrant and many-sided revolutionary movement, with all kinds of unevenness and elasticity in it, you can also see even more clearly just how crucial a leading core is—and just how urgent it is for that core to expand right now, to grow deeper roots, to become clearer on the goals, aims, and means of making revolution. And people can also begin to see the outlines of the future society in the work and struggle of the present, and get a feel for that.
“It is up to us: to wake up...to shake off the ways they put on us, the ways they have us thinking so they can keep us down and trapped in the same old rat-race...to rise up, as conscious Emancipators of Humanity. The days when this system can just keep on doing what it does to people, here and all over the world...when people are not inspired and organized to stand up against these outrages and to build up the strength to put an end to this madness...those days must be GONE. And they CAN be.”
Two things that have become even more sharply focused through what people have told us as we have taken out this statement: their deep concern for the future faced by the youth; and their anger and hatred for the ways in which the police dog, brutalize and murder these youth. This points up the importance of building an extraordinarily powerful day of protest against all that on October 22 of this year, in ways that challenge the brutal stranglehold of the authorities.
The statement is the glue and pivot of a larger campaign. And that campaign very much includes “fighting the power” as a critical element. Already, as noted above, there has been good experience in integrating the statement, and other ideological forms like the DVD, with fighting against oppression. This must be redoubled, and become a permanent feature of what happens when the revolutionaries come on the scene. There have also been the important instances of standing up for women’s right to abortion, and militantly protesting against the Bush regime torture-monger John Yoo… and in October there will be important actions against the war, against recruitment in high school, and for the rights of gay people, including to marry. The message and call must be at all of these, part of “inspiring and organizing people to stand up.”
All the elements of the slogan above—Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution—must be in effect when the revolutionaries roll next week with the special issue directed to the high schools and middle schools.
One urgent element to this is fund-raising. Contributing and raising funds is a key way in which very broad numbers of people can get involved in and support this movement. And, at the same time, without a leap in fund-raising, both in quantity and in the way it is integrated into every phase of revolutionary work, the revolutionary movement cannot advance.
Take just one example: there are today over 150 prisoners on the waiting list for a subscription to Revolution. These prisoners, each and every one, could play a crucial role in spreading the ideas in this newspaper to those the system has cast off, changing people from cast-offs to “emancipators of humanity”—but they cannot do so because there is not sufficient money to send papers to all those who want them. And these prisoners are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of potential. It is hard to sleep knowing that. It is an intolerable, and utterly unacceptable, situation. Yet can we not win many many people to support the right of these prisoners to plug into this crucial lifeline to the revolution and to life itself?
Of course, the financial needs are even greater than that: the support of the bookstores that spotlight and spread the Party’s literature, as well as other radical books and publications, during hard and changing economic times; the financial support of speakers who can bring the Party’s line to life and connect it to thousands and, yes, millions; publicity for the spreading of the DVD of Bob Avakian’s speech Revolution: Why It’s Necessary, Why It’s Possible, What It’s All About; the publication and expansion of this newspaper; and so on.
Each of these is a challenge that must be met... and each is also an opportunity to bring new levels and layers of people into supporting the Party, and to cultivating an ethos among thousands and tens of thousands right now that the people need to support their leadership.
But let’s be clear on the stakes: this is not just a “good thing to do.” This is about actually rising to the challenge, as we said above, of being a vanguard of the future. This is about whether we will come through this crossroads for humanity with real revolution on the minds of millions and as the life purpose of a growing core, especially of youth. This is about revolution breaking though, emerging as a new force in the world, and this is about breaking out of the grip of “low sights and low dreams” and the widespread acceptance of THIS as the “best of all possible words.” This is about beginning a new stage of communist revolution in the world.
Now is the time.
Those who have set out on, and enlisted in, this campaign around “The Revolution We Need… The Leadership We Have” should take pride in being part of initiating such a bold, and absolutely necessary endeavor. They will be part of initiating a new wave of communism.
We have begun. Now we must persevere—not aimlessly, however, but working consistently, and concretely, toward the three objectives of the campaign, on the basis of the Party’s line, as concentrated powerfully in the statement.
We must persevere with correct principles and methods in command and, as a concentrated expression of that, with the three objectives of the campaign—and the need to be constantly learning, and developing and forging the means of advancing toward the actual realization of those objectives—consistently in mind and as a standard and measure of everything that is being done in this campaign.
We must persevere in a way to make good on what is pledged at the end of the statement—not as some kind of abstract “stand,” divorced from (and therefore really opposed to) the actual line and strategic objectives embodied and concentrated in the statement and the campaign, but precisely with the unwavering aim of making a material-political reality of what is set forth in the statement and what the campaign is all about.
In the words of the message and call:
A WHOLE DIFFERENT WORLD, A MUCH BETTER FUTURE, IS POSSIBLE. WE HAVE WHAT WE NEED TO FIGHT FOR THAT WORLD, THAT FUTURE.
IT IS UP TO US TO GET WITH IT AND GET TO THE CHALLENGE OF MAKING THIS HAPPEN.
As our Party’s Constitution says: “The emancipation of all humanity: this, and nothing less than this, is our goal. There is no greater cause, no greater purpose to which to dedicate our lives.”
Send us your comments.
Revolution #175, September 6, 2009
The following letter was sent in response to the statement, “The Revolution We Need, the Leadership We Have,” in Revolution #170
I tried to keep the enclosed letter to the point. Although you’ll find that I’m not the best with words, what I’ve tried to express comes from deep within me. I hope my thoughts and opinions are useful.
Greetings from behind the concrete walls of a capitalist prison, and salutations to all who are contributing to the revolutionary movement.
I only recently received issue #170 of Revolution [“The Revolution We Need, the Leadership We Have”]. And I must’ve read and re-read it countless times. So far, with the numerous highlighter marks, underlines, and enthusiastically scribbled notes I have put on the paper, have made it resemble subway graffiti art.
This issue has had a profound effect on me and on my life-changing decision to no longer be just a reader of Revolution, but to be a part of the revolutionary movement, under the RCP leadership.
The way in which the article was written was extremely insightful into the vast destructiveness of the capitalist-imperialist system. This may not be news to many people. However, the realization is somewhat new to me. And it has struck a chord deep within me, at the same time filling me with a revolutionary fervor for change.
The article, “The Revolution We Need… The Leadership We Have,” said just enough to kick off a firestorm of analysis regarding the causes of the downward spiral society is headed into oppressive oblivion. And there’s necessity of bringing about revolution.
Furthermore, this article was very illuminating as it showed the far-reaching and intertwined effects of the system that is impacting all aspects of society.
What type of government puts a price tag on quality education and health care? Or what type of system allows corporate racketeers and their profit-making schemes to take the forefront over the well-being of the majority in society?
When in the heck did we cease to be humans, and start being consumers of target (market) audiences? Well, we know the answer to these questions. But these are examples of the many disparities existing in society as a result of the system.
And they boil my blood with a burning desire to change the system through revolution.
However, this has led to another set of questions and answers. How, as revolutionaries, are we to awaken the masses from their over-consumptive induced slumber? This is not going to be easy, as many people are content with the daily grind of the status quo and are preoccupied with chasing the illusionary American Dream. And becoming the Next Top Model or the New American Idol.
To awaken the masses I believe we (revolutionaries) must become more visible in not only the hardest or most oppressive parts of society, but in also the other strata of society that are being directly affected by the system too. At the same time becoming more vocal against the vast injustices caused by the system. We must empower the masses and take back our lives from the death grip of the capitalist imperialist system and liberate humanity...
How does the Party plan to utilize technology, internet, peer to peer networks, blogs, etc. during the revolution and throughout the development and progress of the revolutionary movement. In this issue of Revolution (issue #170) a face was put on the leader or representative. At first I didn’t think this was a good decision. However, as I began to analyze this decision, I believe that it was a very wise choice. Taking the human psyche into consideration I think that people need and want a leader who can be seen and be somewhat accessible to them. Although this may not be feasible during the revolutionary process. I believe the leadership should be an emphasis on interacting with the masses and Party members and supporters. Whether through personal appearances or through internet technologies such as webcasts, blogs, and real time conversations in a chatroom type of environment, the interaction between the leadership and the masses, I think would be extremely beneficial to the future of the revolutionary movement and the party. As I would give people a sense of participation who haven’t experienced that through the corrupt capitalist system. At the same time this would form a very strong Party and revolutionary base.
In closing I must say this issue of Revolution (#170) was in my opinion the most inspiring. The article, the photographs were like sharp spears tipped with reality being thrown at me, piercing my dormant human consciousness. It (issue #170) showed and proved that no place on earth is exempt from the oppressive and destructive forces brought on by the capitalist imperialist system. Its tentacles are far reaching, and the importance to emancipate humanity through communist revolution has never been clearer.
[Prisoner from California]
Today there are over 150 prisoners on the waiting list for a subscription to Revolution newspaper. These prisoners, each and every one, could play a crucial role in spreading the ideas in this newspaper to those the system has cast off, changing people from cast-offs to emancipators of humanity. These subscription requests cannot be filled until funds are donated to subsidize them.
Write your check today to the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund (see information and address on this page).
We received this from PRLF:
Donate to the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund
The Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund (PRLF) is an educational literature fund that fills requests from U.S. prisoners for revolutionary literature.
The main requests received by PRLF from those behind bars are for complementary subscriptions in Spanish and English to the weekly newspaper Revolution* and for revolutionary and other books, including ones highlighted in the newspaper. Through providing this literature, PRLF provides an educational opportunity for prisoners to engage with world events and key political, cultural, and philosophical questions of the day from a unique revolutionary perspective, including discussions of morality, religion, science, and the arts. Every week prisoners can delve into the urgent and lively news and debate about unfolding political and social struggles, and can critically think about and dissect the current state of society as well as search for an alternative.
PRLF is a project of the International Humanities Center, a non-profit public charity exempt from federal income tax under section 501(c)(3) of the IRS code (www.IHCenter.org.) Checks should be made payable to IHCenter/PRLF and mailed to:
International Humanities Center
To volunteer or reach PRLF, please write us at the Chicago address, call us at (773) 793-8637, or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*published by RCP Publications (www.revcom.us)
Send us your comments.
Revolution #175, September 6, 2009
When we are young, there are times when we look out on the world and wonder why it has to be this way, why society is so seemingly insane. Questions nag at us, late into sleepless nights… Do we really have to live like this? Why do people treat each other the way they do? Why do children go hungry? Why does it seem nothing is ever done to change things? Why are so many living in poverty and despair? Why is there so much desperation and so little meaning?
For millions of youth around the country, for the next few weeks you’ll be packing up your stuff, moving into the dorms and going out on your own. You won’t have a curfew or your parents listening in on your phone calls. Your classes aren’t going to revolve around the next standardized test, and you’ll meet people from all over the U.S. and the world with different life experiences and views. You’re looking at your life and what it’s going to be about, where it’s going to go. You’re trying to figure out what your relationship to the world will be.
I remember when I was starting college in a big city. I looked for people who were questioning things, who were dissatisfied with the way things are. I looked for people with a burning desire to find the answers that I agonized over…only to find that I was living in a time where a whole lot of that kind of thing was NOT going on among students. And still today, the atmosphere on campuses is pretty deadly when it comes to questioning, debate, and resistance.
As the recent statement from the Revolutionary Communist Party puts it, “despite the good intentions of many teachers, the educational system is a bitter insult for many youth and a means of regimentation and indoctrination overall. While, particularly in some ‘elite’ schools, there is some encouragement for students to think in ‘non-conformist’ ways—so long as, in the end, this still conforms to the fundamental needs and interests of the system—on the whole, instead of really enabling people to learn about the world and to pursue the truth wherever it leads, with a spirit of critical thinking and scientific curiosity, education is crafted and twisted to serve the commandments of capital, to justify and perpetuate the oppressive relations in society and the world as a whole, and to reinforce the dominating position of the already powerful.” (“The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have,” Revolution #170, July 19, 2009)
We can’t change all that without a revolution. But we can change the atmosphere on campus, starting here and starting now. And that’s what we aim to do this fall, when the revolution comes to a campus near you! We’re coming to break open the stifling atmosphere and change the terms of debate. We’re bringing a powerful, and controversial, new message and call—“The Revolution We Need… The Leadership We Have,”—and we’re asking you to check this out…to discuss this with us…and to participate in breaking open the debate.
This message and call boldly declares “this is NOT the best of all possible worlds and we don’t have to live this way.” It shows what’s behind the unnecessary suffering on this planet, and how a real revolution to sweep all this away and establish a socialist society, with the goal of a communist world, is both needed…and possible. This call brings to people the leadership of Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA.
Yet what most people have been told, what most people in this country believe, what “everyone knows”…is that socialism and communism are horrible. Well, the fact is, you have been lied to. Lied to about what socialism and communism are all about, lied to about what happened in the past when socialist societies existed in the Soviet Union and China, and lied to about the possibility for not only building on those experiences but doing better. And to be honest, people have far too quickly accepted those lies.
When I got to college the only thing I knew about China when it was socialist was from my 10th grade world history class where our teacher assigned us to read the book, Wild Swans. I did not think that communism was a good thing after reading that, certainly not anything worth fighting for. But by the time I was in college I had some skepticism about mainstream America and some critical thinking that led me to feel I didn’t know enough about Mao and China to draw the conclusions that were the “accepted wisdom” about the Chinese revolution. I certainly didn’t like capitalism, and when I met the revolutionary communists, they had compelling arguments about why the world is the way it is and they argued with real substance that communism is the solution. So I went to the communists I had met and told them I was interested in learning more about the revolutions of the past.
As I learned more about this history and with some studying and some debate, I came to find out that none of what I had been told was true. I also learned how the book Wild Swans was only one of a whole barrage of literature, promoted by the U.S. and the current, anti-communist Chinese government, to distort, lie and defame Mao and the Chinese Cultural Revolution—and to justify the return of capitalism in China. (In fact, for a view of what that Cultural Revolution was really like, you should check out the series we are running—including in this issue—of a speech and Q&A with Dongping Han, a Chinese man who lived through that revolution in the countryside and the author of The Unknown Cultural Revolution—Life and Change in a Chinese Village.)
One thing the statement, “The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have” answers is exactly what communism is. “A world where people work and struggle together for the common good…Where everyone contributes whatever they can to society and gets back what they need to live a life worthy of human beings…Where there are no more divisions among people in which some rule over and oppress others, robbing them not only of the means to a decent life but also of knowledge and a means for really understanding, and acting to change, the world.”
But some say, “Look, communism is a good idea, but it never works in practice.” Others argue, such a world just isn’t possible because of a “hardwired” never-changing “human nature.” Many argue that communism is totalitarian, or there is no freedom of speech, or role for the individual.
There are real answers, with real facts, analysis and substance, that refute these charges. And this generation has not had a chance yet to actually hear these answers. The debate over questions this important really needs to be cracked open—on campuses especially. Upholding and getting out the truth on all this—and showing how we can do better and go further than these previous revolutions—is a big part of what Bob Avakian’s leadership is all about—and you should check out what he has to say about this on revolutiontalk.net.
And the facts on the past, present and future of this revolution will also be the focus of a major speaking tour that is going to the campuses this fall. This tour will feature Raymond Lotta, a revolutionary expert on China and communism and the leader of the Set the Record Straight! project (thisiscommunism.org). We intend to make this speech a big deal on campuses—to “raise the ceiling” of people’s horizons and charge up the whole atmosphere of debate about a whole different future. And we need you to be part of this—checking out the DVDs of Bob Avakian…getting into Raymond Lotta’s speech (revolutionbooksnyc.org/Lotta4-23-09.mp3)…and seeking and demanding answers from everyone—including, indeed especially, us communists…and refusing to be bound by the conventional wisdom.
This brings us back to the question of whether or not you can make a difference in the world. You can, but not in just any old way, and definitely not by getting behind the system that’s the problem. Today’s generation has been called upon by Obama to take up a “spirit of service.” This encompasses a range of things from local “grassroots” volunteer work, joining the Peace Corps, and joining the army.
But what does this really mean? I saw so many students out at the Obama inauguration, getting into the culture, volunteering, watching all the YouTube videos of celebrities and artists optimistically telling us change is here. On one level, I can understand why this is appealing. People don’t want to go along with the “me first” compete-or-die mentality today. Students and youth especially want to be part of making the world a better place.
Yet all of this “spirit of service” stuff is well within the parameters of keeping the world as it is. On that level, this is disturbing. What does it mean to work for this system, to keep this system going and even to kill and die for it in the U.S. military that is carrying out all kinds of crimes around the world? Here’s how the RCP statement puts it:
We live under “a system of capitalism-imperialism...a system in which U.S. imperialism is the most monstrous, most oppressive superpower...a system driven by a relentless chase after profit, which brings horror upon horror, a nightmare seemingly without end, for the vast majority of humanity: poverty and squalor...torture and rape...the wholesale domination and degradation of women everywhere...wars, invasions and occupations...assassinations and massacres...planes, missiles, tanks and troops of the USA, bombarding people in far-away lands while they sleep in their homes or go about their daily lives, blasting their little children to pieces, cutting down men and women in the prime of life, or in old age, kicking down their doors and dragging them away in the middle of the night...while here in the USA itself the police harass, brutalize and murder youth in the streets of the inner cities—over and over again—and then they spit out their maddening insults, insisting that this is ‘justified,’ as if these youth are not human beings, have no right to live, deserve no respect and no future.”
So I say, ask yourself this question when Obama talks about a “spirit of service”: In service of who, and in service of what?
Some people tell me, “Oh, you may be right…but revolution isn’t really possible.” But nothing is more unrealistic than thinking that small, incremental efforts at patching up a sick system can hold back the tidal wave of suffering that it requires for its ongoing functioning—the unending, grinding exploitation endured by billions, the foreshortened futures and spiritual deaths that it visits on people in every corner of the planet, and now the looming environmental catastrophe.
In fact, it’s not only unrealistic to think a spirit of service for this country is going to change the world, it is harmful because you’re actually misdirecting your anger and frustration and putting your energy and efforts in service of the system that’s the problem!
What is realistic, what the world needs, is revolution. The idea that this is not possible even if it were desirable—that too is another big lie, and one which we intend to combat this fall with substance, facts and imagination. The fact that we have a leader like Bob Avakian who has gone deeply into these big questions greatly heightens the chances to make the kind of revolution we need—and again, we urge you to get into what he’s all about, both through the DVD, Revolution: Why It’s Necessary, Why It’s Possible, What It’s All About, and his memoir, From Ike to Mao and Beyond: My Journey from Mainstream America to Revolutionary Communist. Here’s the point: we want you to be part of all this, checking it out, getting into this debate on whatever level you feel, raising your questions and contributing your insights and actions, following the truth wherever it leads, and being part of making this a major question.
Finally, we are going to be talking with you and working with you to actually take on the crimes of the system, even as we discuss and debate the source and solution. Get with us on October 5 and 6, when we take on the torture and war carried out by the U.S. government… join with us on October 10 and 11, when we fight for the rights of gay people in D.C....and be part of the resistance on October 22, the National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation.
Every generation leaves its mark on the world. Will this be another that goes by, accepting the status quo, making its peace with the system and even embracing it? Or will this be the generation that breaks out of that with a core of people taking up revolution? Think about what it would mean for students to be talking about the biggest questions humanity faces, not just quietly among a few, or with those rare and important professors who aren’t afraid to foster critical thinking and challenge the mainstream, but if all this was going on in a mass way throughout campus. Think about if the ideas of radical revolutionary change, of a whole new world, were in the air on campus and had some space.
It makes a difference right now, when people come into, in different ways, a revolutionary movement that is beginning, not only on campuses but in the prisons, ghettos and barrios, the cities and suburbs—spreading throughout society, taking on a life of its own. The revolutionaries are here, and there’s something new that’s beginning. You owe it to yourself, and to the people of the world, to check it out and get into it.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #175, September 6, 2009
Q&A: At the Beginning
The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (GPCR) in China, from 1966-1976, involved one-quarter of the world's population and took humanity to unprecedented heights in the struggle for liberation. But today, what people mostly hear about the Chinese Cultural Revolution is lies and slander.
Dongping Han grew up during the GPCR and is the author of the book, The Unknown Cultural Revolution—Life and Change in a Chinese Village. His story is a very welcome contribution to the struggle to get the real story out about the GPCR. In December 2008, Dongping Han participated in a very significant symposium in New York City, "Rediscovering the Chinese Cultural Revolution: Art and Politics, Lived Experience, Legacies of Liberation," which was sponsored by Revolution Books, Set the Record Straight Project, and Institute for Public Knowledge-New York University. On December 12, 2008, the opening night of the symposium, Dongping Han spoke at Revolution Books. Revolution is serializing the transcript of this talk as well as the Question & Answer session (which will soon be available in full at revcom.us). Dongping Han has edited this for publication. Bai Di, who also grew up in China during the GPCR, was another speaker at this symposium—and an interview with her is available at revcom.us.
See issue #174 (August 30, 2009) for the transcript of Dongping Han's talk. The following is the transcript of the Q&A session:
Question: When you went around in 1986 and started doing research, when did you and others like you start to see that things were different, that the way Chinese society was, was very different than what it had been during the Cultural Revolution?
Dongping Han: I think people realized right away. The land was privatized in China in 1983. Many people tend to think that farmers are stupid and ignorant. But I think the farmers are very intelligent people. Many of them realized the implications of private farming right away. That was why they resisted it very hard in the beginning. And in my village and in other villages I surveyed, the overwhelming majority of people, 90 percent, said the Communist Party no longer cares about poor people. Right away they felt this way. The Communist Party, the cadres, no longer cared about poor people in the countryside. The government investment in rural areas in the countryside dropped from 15% in the national budget in 1970s to only 3-4% in the '80s. So the Chinese public realized that the Chinese government no longer cared about them by disbanding the communes. But I was in college at the time and I didn't start to think about the issue very hard until 1986.
Question: Can you explain a little bit more how the Cultural Revolution came to your village and what the role was of the rank and file members of the Communist Party in the Cultural Revolution?
Dongping Han: The Cultural Revolution started slowly. Before the start of the Cultural Revolution, there was a call to start to study Mao's works. I talk about the significance of that in my book. The Chinese People's Liberation Army came to the village to read Chairman Mao's works. They held performances in the village. They came to people's home to teach people to read Mao's three classic articles: "Serve the People," "In Memory of Norman Bethune," and "The Foolish Old Man Who Removed the Mountains." They explained to the villagers what these articles were about. After the PLA soldiers left, many school children, like myself, started to teach villagers about Mao's works as well. When the central government announced the beginning of the Cultural Revolution, high school and middle school students left their schools, and began to write big character posters in the streets. The high school students dragged 20 of their teachers to the marketplace and denounced them publicly and shaved off half their hair in front of a big crowd. I do not think that most people knew what the Cultural Revolution would be like at the beginning.
Many students began to publish newspapers and pamphlets. There were so many pamphlets at the time, criticizing government officials. In the beginning they were mostly written by students. Not long after this, farmers and workers began to write them as well. There was so much information going on at the time. Later on, there was a group of high school and middle school students from my county that traveled all the way to Beijing to see Chairman Mao. When they came back in August 1966, they began to organize into different Red Guard factions. They started to organize mass rallies to criticize the county and commune leaders. All officials were under some kind of popular scrutiny and attack at the time. Almost everybody, I would say 90 percent of the population, was part of a mass organization.
I was in third grade at that time. Five of my friends and I also organized a Red Guard organization. We designed our Red Guard symbols and began to publish a single page newspaper. We collected enough money to get a hand printer to print our newspaper. In my school there were 13 small newspapers. We would recruit others and write something and go to the marketplace to distribute it to the people. That's how it started. There were big character posters everywhere. The village streets were plastered with big character posters, mostly criticizing village leaders. Before the Cultural Revolution, the village leaders had a lot of power. They normally didn't work in the field and they would eat and drink a lot at the village's expense. And the Cultural Revolution held them to task. That's how it started actually.
In all these activities with the big character posters, all were written by the farmers themselves. And I remember some of the farmers who didn't know how to write. They came to us, they came to the school kids, and we would write it for them. So it was a very mobilizing movement. Everybody in the village was touched by that.
One of the most important things that I think about today is that the reason the officials are corrupt today and were not during the Cultural Revolution years is because the masses were really empowered. There was always a mass meeting every night and all the government policies and directives were read to the farmers. And it was required by the government at the time. They were read to the farmers and then the farmers discussed these documents, so everybody knew what was going on and why. The reason why the Chinese people were eager to read and willing to recite Mao's works at the time is because they found what Mao said represented their best interests. And Mao said what they wanted to hear. For example Mao's article, "To Serve the People" is only one and a half pages long. But in this short article Mao elaborated on how a communist official should behave. A communist official shouldn't have any self interests. He should work for the people and serve the people. They should care about the poor people and the farmers. They should welcome criticism. If they were not doing something right, they should change it for the sake of the people. This is all something the farmers never heard and they wanted to hear.
Question: Why during that time, during those 10 years of the Cultural Revolution, was there no effort made to purge the Communist Party of the right-wing capitalist roaders? Why was nothing done to purge the different apparatus of the Party of the capitalist roaders?
Dongping Han: That's a very good question. This question has been asked many times. The Cultural Revolution was not to purge people, it was to educate the people. Many of the capitalist roaders had fought for the revolution and made important contributions to the Chinese revolution. It was an accepted traditional idea that those who fight for the revolution should enjoy the privileges when the revolution succeeded. It was not enough to purge these people. The problem was the old traditional ideas. So the Cultural Revolution was to do away with the traditional ideas and educate the people through mobilizing the farmers and the workers. I think if there was no coup in 1976, I doubt that this government apparatus would have changed by itself. It happened because there was a coup. But I don't think to purge people is a solution either. I remember during the Cultural Revolution there were some high officials in my county who encouraged their own children to work with the farmers and to ask for the most difficult assignments and tasks to build their character. It seemed that these high officials did change with the change of social climate during the Cultural Revolution years. But when the social climate changed, they changed back.
Most people were not aware that there was a coup in 1976. Mao's wife and three other important leaders were arrested. And there was a very extensive purge throughout China. Hundreds of thousands of people who supported the Cultural Revolution were arrested right away. Some people argue that Mao should have killed Deng Xiaoping and a few others to prevent the arrest of the Gang of Four. Maybe he should have, but he did not.
Question: I really enjoyed hearing your speech. My question is: could you paint a picture comparing what the average daily life was like for you and your family during the Cultural Revolution compared to, on the one hand communism before the Cultural Revolution, and then compared to your family now in capitalist China?
Dongping Han: The Cultural Revolution was launched because the Great Leap Forward1 failed. It failed partly because there was a 100-year natural disaster on the one hand. On the other hand, it failed because communist officials in the villages were not really socialist yet. They ordered farmers to do too much and they themselves didn't want to work hard. There was not enough to eat during the Great Leap Forward because of the natural disasters on the one hand and mismanagement on the other. So the reason I think the Cultural Revolution was launched by Mao was that he realized at the time that the Chinese officials needed to be educated and that the Chinese people needed to be educated through a socialist movement. That's why he mobilized the Chinese farmers to criticize the officials in the village. And of course, I was too young, I don't remember too much about the Great Leap Forward. But during the Cultural Revolution, I remember very well. I was working in the fields with the farmers and at that time in the rural areas, each village had a production brigade, and each brigade was divided into several production teams. In my village there were eight production teams. Each production team had about 40 families. We elected five production team leaders each year. We had a production team head, a woman leader, an accountant, a cashier, and a store keeper. Before the Cultural Revolution these people were appointed by the village leaders and the village leaders were appointed by the commune leaders. It was not democratically elected. During the Cultural Revolution years, these production team leaders were elected by the farmers.
We worked in the fields together. Everybody came out and worked together. And at the end of the day the cashier would record how many people worked that day. And at the end of the year, when the harvest came in, the village accountant, together with the production team accountant, would develop a distribution plan. Seventy percent of the grain was distributed according to how many people you had in your family. Thirty percent was distributed according to how much you worked in the collective. So if you did not work in the fields, you were still entitled to 70 percent of the grain from the collective. That was the distribution on the production team level. There was also distribution at the production brigade level. The village owned many enterprises. After putting away money for a welfare fund, money to purchase new equipment and so on, the village would distribute its income according to how much you had worked in the collective. The collective also produced vegetables, fruits, peanuts and we also raised pigs. These would be distributed to villagers regularly according to the same distribution schedule as grain was distributed. We also purchased fish, wine, cigarettes collectively with the money earned by the village enterprises, and this was distributed to each family on important occasions like Chinese New Year and other holidays. We got almost all our supplies from the collective.
After the Cultural Revolution years, I went to college and my two sisters who used to work for the village, found jobs in a state-owned factory in the early '80s. Now the factory has been sold and my two sisters have been unemployed since 1996. My younger sister is still working in the village, as the village cashier now. My village is doing well compared with other villages. Life has changed dramatically in the countryside. I think for most working class people, life has changed for the worse. Even though they may get more money, they have lost benefits like free medical care and free education of the socialist past. They now have to pay for their education. They have to pay for their medical care. Most farmers cannot afford the medical care. If they are sick for a small problem, they just endure the problem. If they are sick for a big problem, they just wait to die. Many of them say they do not want to leave a big debt for their children by going to the hospital. The medical care is very expensive now and it is beyond the reach of most farmers and working class people in urban areas.
Question: Could you talk a little about what the cultural life was like in your village and how that changed?
Dongping Han: The Cultural Revolution was truly a cultural revolution. The changes that took place in the field of culture were revolutionary. Before the Cultural Revolution, Chinese performing arts were mostly about talented young men and beautiful ladies, kings, generals and so on. That's what the Chinese traditional plays were about. During the Cultural Revolution, there was a surge of a new kind of art. Every village at the time had a group of farmer artists and they played instruments, sang revolutionary songs, danced revolutionary dances, and staged revolutionary plays. There was some kind of performance in the village almost every night. These performances became educational tools. Revolutionary ideas spread because of these revolutionary performances. And it was very powerful. But of course today you don't see that anymore in the countryside. But if you go to China today, you can still see older people singing the revolutionary songs in parks and public spaces to entertain themselves.
Question: In the movies that we see about China and the Cultural Revolution, there is a representation of people being picked up and tried by popular tribunals and paraded around town, punished. My question is: where does this image come from, did you hear about things like this in China, how widespread was this?
Dongping Han: That image was from the Cultural Revolution years. For a few weeks in the beginning of the Cultural Revolution, many Chinese officials were being criticized on the stage. That was very common. I saw it many times. I would say most government officials went through some of that at the beginning of the Cultural Revolution. At the same time, I would argue, many of these people deserved some kind of punishment. They had made mistakes in their work. And because of their mistakes, people suffered. People were looking for ways to air their anger. In the villages, the struggle against village leaders was more gentle and peaceful.
These public struggle sessions to deal with officials who committed crimes and made mistakes were different ways of dealing with these people. After they were struggled with for a day or two, they were allowed to go free. They were taught a lesson by the people. In the U.S. people are sent to prison. I still think this public education during the Cultural Revolution was very effective, not only to educate the village officials, but also everybody else. After the session, they were free. So I don't think that was a bad practice. I think it was a very good practice.
Question: Your presentation was mainly about the Cultural Revolution, but I wonder if you could spend a few moments talking about the situation in China now, particularly the economic crisis and how you think that's working itself out, especially in the rural areas, but more generally?
Dongping Han: The Chinese government is faced with a huge challenge today and the Chinese government officials themselves have admitted that on many occasions. Some people estimate that there are 100 incidents involving more than 100 people challenging the government and 300 incidents involving less than 100 challenging the government each day. I read in a document about an incident in Guangdong province where three police officers stopped a car without a license plate and upon further check they found the driver without a driver's license. But the three people came out the car and yelled that the police are harassing people and about 2,000 people came out. They turned the police car upside down and set it on fire. The government is warning the police to be careful because the tension between the people and the government is very high. And there are a lot of people in the countryside who are very angry with the township government. I was told by a farmer about an incident in a rural township. The party secretary was taking a nap one day. But about 100 farmers ,who were angry with the township government's decision to move the market to a different place, went to his bedroom. They actually dragged him by his four limbs into the marketplace and threw him up into the air for a half hour. They didn't hit him. They just toyed with him for a half hour. In the end the government had to remove him from office because he had become an embarrassment for the government. This happened last year. There was another government official who was beaten by the farmers. The villagers wanted him to take a patient to the hospital. He refused. He said that not everyone could ride in his car. The farmers almost killed him, but the government didn't punish the people who did it. So I think the government realizes how tense its relationship is with the masses.
In the old days, the Chinese government officials came to the village and worked with the farmers. And today they don't do that. They come to the village in big cars, only to get money from farmers and to enforce the one child policy... I think the government has a legitimacy crisis. The Chinese government was able to survive the challenges of the Great Leap Forward posed by unprecedented natural disasters and mismanagement by its officials because of the socialist legitimacy. I don't think it will be able to survive any challenges close that of the Great Leap Forward.
Question: Thanks for coming. I'm really looking forward to getting into your book. I have two questions. First, you mention the coup in 1976. Could you talk about what happened and also how that whole period was being understood where you were? How did people understand the struggle that was going on that led up to right before Mao's death and up to the coup? My second question is: in describing all the upheaval right now in China, what kind of revolutionary thinking is there, are there any trends that are looking towards Mao or towards Maoism, how is that developing, what are the ideas that are capturing people in this period?
Dongping Han: I still remember where I was on September 9, 1976. At 4 o'clock that day, I was walking with my friend outside the village when the loudspeaker said there was a very important announcement. And we immediately realized something was wrong. And they said Chairman Mao had passed away. I don't know how I walked home that day. I remember that everybody around me was crying. Finally I reached home. My father cried all the way home from his factory. When my grandpa died he didn't cry. He gathered the family together and he said, today our poor people's sky has fallen and we do not know what life will be like tomorrow. At the time, I thought, in my heart, how could that be possible? We have built the socialist state. How could the poor people's sky fall just because Chairman Mao died?
It turned out that my father was right. When the Gang of Four was arrested, the Chinese government said the people were really happy. That was not true. In my hometown many young people really respected Jiang Qing because of an incident that happened in a neighboring commune. On Chinese New Year in 1975, the village leader played over the loudspeaker a traditional drama which was criticized during the Cultural Revolution. A young man in the village criticized the village leader for playing that over the loudspeaker. But the village leaders accused him of causing trouble in the village. He called the police and the police took him away. While he was in prison, he wrote a letter to Jiang Qing, and in less than five days, Jiang Qing responded to his letter. Jiang Qing ordered that the person be released. And the village leader was dismissed from office. Young people in my area loved Jiang Qing. When the Gang of Four was arrested a few weeks after Mao died, we knew things were going to be different. We still don't know the details why Hua Guofeng, who was appointed by Mao, decided to arrest the Gang of Four. We didn't know then. Today, looking back, I think Hua Guofeng was the person who was responsible for this. There were some people who have talked about how at the time, before Mao died, Mao had the intention to appoint Jiang Qing to be his successor, and that Hua Guofeng apparently was not supposed to succeed Mao. And I think probably he arrested the Gang of Four not because he had a different agenda, but he had his own personal ambition for power. But I don't think he intended to change Mao's line. But by arresting the Gang of Four, Mao's wife, he had to justify why he arrested these four important leaders. By doing that he had to condemn the Cultural Revolution—because the Gang of Four were the crucial leaders of the Cultural Revolution. And by condemning the Cultural Revolution he paved the way for Deng Xiaoping to come back. Of course, that's what happened. I think that the workers and farmers were not actually, like the government said, happy when the Gang of Four was arrested. Hua Guofeng did two other things after he arrested the Gang of Four. He decided to preserve Mao's body, against Mao's will. That was a popular thing to do at the time. Because the Chinese people, working class particularly, considered Mao their greatest leader. So by doing that they thought Hua Guofeng was still continuing Mao's legacy. And he also announced he was going to publish the fifth volume of Mao's works. That was also very popular as well. He did some very smart things. But he did the most damage by arresting the Gang of Four as well.
In terms of the situation now, it's very hard for me to give you a full picture. Two years ago, Deng Xiaoping's elder son said in response to a question by an Associated Press reporter that the Cultural Revolution was not only tragic for himself and his family, but also for the whole Chinese nation. He said that on December 10, but within 20 days, there were more than 35,000 people who responded to his comment on line. About 90 percent of these responders condemned him for slandering the Cultural Revolution. The Chinese government was able to get away with condemning the Cultural Revolution before. Now it is hard for them to get away with that anymore. It seems that the Chinese people are really waking up about the Cultural Revolution. Now, people say, they lied to us for 30 years. History proves that Chairman Mao was right, from the very beginning. The Chinese officials are very corrupt now. People understand that Mao launched the Cultural Revolution to prevent that from happening. Mao realized before he died that without an empowered working class to serve as watchdogs, the officials were bound to be corrupt.
The crisis in China is very serious. During the Cultural Revolution years, we did not have much corruption. From little corruption to a lot of corruption, people tend to perceive the problem as more serious. To be fair, I think the Chinese officials are not more corrupt than American officials. For example, if The Big Dig in Boston was taking place in China, there would be a huge public outcry, but here there was no public outcry about it at all. People are used to it in the U.S.
Question: When you were talking earlier, you were saying that the 10 years of the Cultural Revolution were the most exciting of your life. Could you give some examples of that spirit that you felt?
Dongping Han: The way that I felt at that time was that I had a strong sense of security. I was not alone in this world. My neighbors, my production team leaders, the village leaders would take care of anybody if they needed help.
In 1998, one of my friends who worked with me committed suicide. When I received the news from my village I cried. The reason I cried was because I felt that if the collective had not been disbanded he would not have died; he would not have committed suicide. And this person was about my age. When he was young, he couldn't get up early in the morning. So every morning my production team leader told me to go to wake him up. When I went to wake him up the first time, he answered me, and got up. The second day, he said, I'll get up but he never got up. So I had to drag him up from his bed. The third day his grandmother was very upset that I woke him up every day. She told me that her grandson needed more sleep. But the production team leader said to me: "Do not mind his grandmother. Wake him up. He needs help." So he came to work with us with my help. He worked every day. He was a very good worker. He was very talented as well. He played the Chinese instrument, the erhu very well and he also painted well. But after the collective was disbanded, nobody went to wake him up anymore. He was able to sleep as much as he wanted. So eventually his wife left him. And by 1996, 1997 he became mentally disturbed. And the last time I saw him was in 1997 when I went back home. I saw him walking naked on the street. He saw me and ran back home. I followed him to his house. I asked him why he walked naked in the streets. He said that life was bad for him. He did not want to live any more. I told him that he had to change his mindset, that he needed to face the challenges. I asked him why he didn't go back to painting if he could not do anything else. I told him that I would be in the village for another 10 days, and I would like to buy a painting from him. He promised that he would do it. But the next day, he came to see me. He said that he could not do it now. He told me that he would do it for me the next year. I told him that it was him that I was interested in not the painting. I wanted to see him stand up and take control of his life. But three months after I left the village, he committed suicide. He hung himself. When I learned of this news from my younger sister, I cried very hard. I felt that if the collective were not disbanded, he did not need to commit suicide. The community was no longer there. Your friends and your neighbors became competitors and strangers to you. The security network had been taken away. For Americans you're used to this kind of competition. But for Chinese farmers who lived under the socialist system before, the change was too dramatic for many people.
Question: Like everybody here, I really want to thank you for sharing, especially the last story you told. I have two questions. My first question is: the Cultural Revolution sent shock waves around the world. Do you have a sense in your village, how much were you aware of the international situation, the influence this was having internationally?
Dongping Han: That is a very good question. At that time when I was in the village, I really felt we were part of the international revolution. We were young and we were part of a big picture. I remember in 1971 there was a huge drought in our area. The county government held a huge rally in the marketplace. At the rally, government leaders and representatives of farmers and workers said that we were fighting this drought not just for ourselves. We were fighting this in support of the Vietnamese people's fight against U.S. imperialism. We were fighting this drought to support oppressed people in Africa and so on. After the rally, everybody in our school wrote a pledge to join the fight against the drought. The school was closed for two weeks. We went back to the village to fight the drought with the villagers for two weeks. Everybody worked very hard. I felt that I was doing something significant to help the revolution. At that time I didn't really understand what it meant. It was standard language. I believed what we were told by the government that we had friends all over the world. After the Cultural Revolution was over, the Chinese elite told us that it was government propaganda. But it was not simply propaganda. I found this out when I studied in Singapore. When Mao died in 1976, China did not have diplomatic relations with Singapore. So the branch bank of Bank of China decided to hold a memorial service for Mao for three days. Ordinary Singaporeans and seaman from all over the world came to show their respect for Mao day and night. The line was so long, the staff at the Bank of China had to extend the memorial service from three days to ten. I realized then that our fight in China was connected with the struggle of oppressed people all over the world.
Question: This is a kind of a follow up question to what was asked earlier. I know that the Cultural Revolution went through different phases. And in the year or so that led up to Mao's death and then the coup, it was in a different kind of phase, it wasn't a high tide of big character posters and demonstrations all the time. But there were those of us who were out in the world and the world revolution looking to China and reading things. And I read a magazine a lot that was called Peking Review at the time. And you talked about the effect of Mao's essay, "To Serve the People" in the villages. But there were things in Peking Review that were kind of telling people in the world that Mao wasn't going to cut off the head of Deng Xiaoping. But he was saying very sharply that there were two lines at the top of the Chinese Communist Party. I remember there was a thing on the cover that said, "You are making the socialist revolution and you don't know where the bourgeoisie is. It's right at the top inside the Communist Party, the capitalist roaders taking the capitalist road." It talked a lot about the difference between the capitalist road and the socialist road. Was there any sense of that? How did people receive that in the village? Or had the Cultural Revolution gone to a point where those things weren't really being heard?
Dongping Han: I talk about it in my book, what does it mean, the capitalist roader? Some have a hard time understanding this. But for the Chinese farmers, the workers, it is easy to understand. The words "capitalist roaders" were used all the time during the Cultural Revolution and two line struggle was always talked about during the Cultural Revolution years. The capitalist roaders were the people who did not want to continue the socialist revolution, who aspired to the capitalist lifestyle and who didn't want to work. They became parasites. There were very clear examples in the village before the Cultural Revolution years. They didn't work. And they got more. Their families got more back but they didn't work for others. The farmers knew exactly what they wanted. They wanted the leaders to work with them. They did not want to go back to the old society. Farmers and workers did not want to go back to the old capitalist society of the past. They did not want to do private farming.
Question: Do you have a sense of any organized movement today among the workers and peasants?
Dongping Han: I don't know much about this. But there are some various small groups working to get people organized. In one province in early 2000 there was a group of young people, farmers, who organized a group around Marxism and Maoism. And the government arrested about 200 leaders. I heard that the group grew very fast, to more than 2,000 people in a matter of few months. The Chinese government keeps a very close eye on these people. There have been some people who have tried to organize demonstrations and protests. There are some things like that. But I don't see nationwide strong organization at this point.
Question: Are there rumors or reports of large rebellions in China fighting against the police? Can you tell us the extent of this and what the reason is?
Dongping Han: The New York Times reported a couple of years ago about two large protests in Sichuan province against the government. A migrant worker who worked in the city as a porter was carrying stuff in an urban street. He was carrying a pole and going through the streets. His pole touched a woman. And the woman was angry with him and slapped his face and then called her husband. Her husband was a low-level government worker and came to the scene in a government car. He beat the man again. He said that he could kill the man and it would only cost him $20,000. And all the onlookers heard him and became very angry. About 100,000 gathered up and set his car on fire. They marched to the local government and surrounded it for three days. The government had to send about 100,000 police to pacify the crowd. And a couple of months later, also in Sichuan province, there was a fight for land and the report said that the farmers actually held the provincial governor for a couple of days. And the government had to send a large number of police to pacify the farmers. I think this kind of thing is going on a lot in China, mostly not reported to the outside world. As I said before, the tension with the government and the government's ability to deal with these kinds of things is more and more limited. In the eyes of the people, the government is on the other side, the rich people's side, and is trying to suppress them. So I think this kind of rebellion is going on quite widely in China today.
Question: I heard of one instance of an expropriation of an economic development, that they moved people off the land so they could build a factory.
Dongping Han: That kind of thing goes on almost everywhere in China. The Chinese local officials want to make more money. They always want to open new development zones. So whenever new development zones are being developed, the residents have to be moved and they sell the land to the developers. So in many cases the people don't want to move and the local officials hire thugs to force them to move. And in many cases the farmers fight back. So the contradiction between the farmers and the local officials is very serious in China today.
Question: I want to step back to your experience in the Cultural Revolution, in 1966 you were 11 years old, you traversed from 11, you grew up, came of age. You describe how the People's Liberation Army came and read these three articles; the people saw their interests represented and everything changed and the entrenched officials were challenged and you as a young person were writing the big character posters and all that. You were able to go to school, you grew up and became an educated youth in the countryside, and yet there was this political campaign that was going on for 10 years. How did this intersect with you, how much were you continuing to follow it?
Dongping Han: My whole value system was changed very dramatically. Before the Cultural Revolution, my father never allowed me to talk back to him; that's how the Chinese family was. He never allowed me to talk back to him. Whenever there were guests in the house I was never allowed to say a word. But during the Cultural Revolution years that changed. I said, "Chairman Mao said I can talk back to you!" But many people in this country think that the revolutionary campaign is an interruption of life. No. The revolution did not disrupt most people's lives, particularly in the village. During the day most work continues, and at night people went out to the streets and there was a lot of debate; different groups debate in the streets. My cousin and I went to shops at the beginning of the Cultural Revolution to propagate Mao's ideas. The government-owned shops extended their hours until 10 at night at the time. So we went to the shops to read Mao's teachings and perform the plays, and so on. We loved that.
I do not know how to describe the change in the rural areas. Maybe I can give you an example to illustrate the change. Before the Cultural Revolution years, people in my area never gave blood to anybody. If you needed a blood transfusion, you went to your family: your wife, your father or your brothers. People thought that if you gave blood to another person, you would lose your own vitality in life. But one day, one of my colleagues was sick and needed a blood transfusion. Most of the factory workers were working in fields harvesting. It was a busy time in the village. Twenty young people who were working in the village went to the hospital. The nurses checked our blood types. I was the only person who qualified to give the blood. I knew at the time any one of the 20 people would give their blood to save my colleague. The village party secretary asked me what to do. I said that we needed to save the patient. They took more than 700 cc from me and after that I couldn't walk and they had to take me home in a wheelbarrow. And the next morning I woke up and my mom and my two aunts were all crying. They actually cried the whole night. They thought I wouldn't be able to get married, nobody would marry me. But life changed, and it wasn't just me. All the people who went to the hospital that day would have happily given blood to that person that day.
Whenever there was a storm, even at midnight people would get up to cover the collective crops. If it snowed we would get up to clean the streets. We did not have bulldozers. Everybody would get out to clean the streets. Another important change in the rural life was that there were almost no crimes during the Cultural Revolution years. For 10 years, we did not have any crime in the village. In my commune of 50,000 people, I did not hear of any serious crime for 10 years. But now, crime has become so common in China.
Question: Could you compare your daily life during the Cultural Revolution to what the daily life would have been like for your grandparents before 1949?
Dongping Han: My grandparents on my mother's side came from very a poor family. But my grandparents on my father's side owned a lot of businesses at the time. But my grandfather's mom died. He had a rough relationship with his stepmother. So he ran away with two horses from his father. He set up a small factory and did pretty well in Manchuria. He came back to his hometown and got married. Later on he took my father, my aunt and my grandmother to live with him in Manchuria. He was a businessman, and like most other businessmen, he smoked opium and visited prostitution houses. My grandmother was very sick of his lifestyle. So she decided to go back to the village. And she came back to the village without telling my grandfather. And her family in the village thought she came back to the village with my grandfather's knowledge, and expected her to bring back some money to the family. But she did not have money to give her family because she ran away. So my grandmother's family was angry with her so when the family divided up the assets, they didn't give my grandmother anything. That's why my father had to work for the capitalists as a child worker from 1942 until the communists came to power in 1949. The reason why my father was so supportive of the Communist Party was that he had to work 18 hours a day. He had to pick up the capitalists night soil and did household chores beside long hours of work in the workshop. When the communists came to power, the workday became eight hours, so my father's life changed for the better under socialism. My father used to believe in Buddhism. After the communists came to power, he no longer believed it any more. On the Chinese New Year, my mom always asked to kowtow to the gods of the family. My father would always tell me not to do it. He was told that he was suffering because he did something wrong in the previous life. He changed his previous life, but his life suddenly changed for the better with the Communist Party in power.
Both my father and my mom begged before 1949, and were hungry all the time. Both my grandmothers died in their 30s in 1944, without any medical care. But ever since I could remember, I never felt hungry. I always had enough to eat. My father never bought any toys for me when I was young. I often compare my childhood with my son's in the U.S. At the time, we had a lot of kids in the neighborhood to play with and we made toys for ourselves. We played a lot of games ourselves. We worked on the collective farm during the summer, spring and fall. In winter we played popular games in the streets when there was nothing to do in the fields. And I always ask my son which childhood is better. Of course it's very hard for him to imagine. But I strongly believe that my childhood was much more healthy, much more creative than that of my son who has nothing else but toys and video games. We had community, and we learned how to interact with one another; we learned how to build up leadership skills and things like that. And my son didn't have those skills. When I first came to the U.S, I had a class on the Cultural Revolution. And the professor said that Cultural Revolution education was a disaster, and most students in the class agreed with him. In the end, I told the class that I was a product of the Cultural Revolution education. I challenged the whole class to a competition with me to see who is better educated. Nobody was willing to take on the challenge.
1. The Great Leap Forward, launched in 1958, was a movement to revolutionize economic and social relations in China’s countryside. Over the course of three years, peasants organized into communes, which created more advanced collective forms of work, education, health and child care. The Great Leap Forward saw the expansion of industry in the countryside and large scale irrigation and other infrastructure. And it involved the struggle for socialist consciousness, working for the common good and combating feudal, bourgeois and patriarchal ideology. [back]
Send us your comments.
Revolution #175, September 6, 2009
We are thrilled to announce the online launch of Revolution: Why It’s Necessary, Why It’s Possible, What It’s All About, a film of a talk by Bob Avakian, starting on Tuesday, September 1, 2009. This four-part film will be going up online. There will also be selected clips posted that day on YouTube.
The film thoroughly goes into the kind of revolution we need—and it gives people an up-close-and-personal experience with Bob Avakian, the leader of the revolution. He lays it all out in a nine-hour speech—and then goes into three hours of question-and-answer dialogue with the audiences. It’s all there—full of heart and soul, humor and seriousness.
Posting this film online opens up a new opportunity for people to dramatically expand the major and multifaceted campaign recently announced by the Revolutionary Communist Party calling on people to join with “the revolution we need… the leadership we have.”
Online millions and millions of people are searching for the truth, and watching videos, short and long. Some of these give part of the answer; but some of them—including some of the most popular—give people bullshit answers, pointing people in the wrong direction and spreading poison. There is nothing online like THIS DVD of Bob Avakian’s: nothing that answers the questions of why we are in the situation we are in... what is the source of the problem... and what is the nature of the solution. Nothing that gets at these questions as deeply, thoroughly and truthfully as this. Here and all over the world, people need to see this video. And wherever people are debating these big questions...this film needs to be in the mix and part of the debate.
To make that happen, this launch needs to be A BIG DEAL. And you are needed to accomplish this. Imagine… on Tuesday, September 1, people on Facebook and MySpace linking to the new Revolution film website being set up, embedding the clips on their page and encouraging others to do the same… blogging everywhere, tweeting… text blasts and email lists reverberating with the news of this launch. This would coincide with postcards passing hand to hand in neighborhoods and during freshman orientation at colleges and schools across the country… signs and posters appearing in dorm rooms, housing projects, community centers, coffee shops, laundromats and barber shops. This kind of launch could have an exponential effect—making the presence of this talk online known to many thousands on Day 1. And on the weekend of August 22-23, when there will be another major effort to get out the statement, “The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have,” there should also be an effort to sell and show the DVD very widely.
And that’s just the beginning… Revolution: Why It’s Necessary, Why It’s Possible, What It’s All About will be capturing people’s attention in many different ways… Clips being projected on the sides of buildings or neighborhood lots and folks going home to catch the full talk... debates and discussions breaking out and then people sending the links to all their friends. The views on the YouTube clips should grow to where thousands and thousands are watching this and spreading it to their friends… ultimately going viral on the net.
Getting in on this and doing the work to make this happen is a way many, many people can join in and contribute to this movement for revolution.
And the work begins now. Call your friends and the people you’ve been meeting taking out this message and call: “The Revolution We Need… The Leadership We Have” the last few weeks. Play them a clip of the DVD, go to YouTube and look up the short film, “Next Stop… Revolution.” Talk with people about this campaign, the message and call from the RCP. Get everyone organized to be part of launching this Revolution talk online on September 1, 2009. Collect as many email addresses as you can and prepare to send out the links to the film.
On September 1, 2009, look for clips from this talk on YouTube and before then, check revcom.us for promotional materials and the announcement of the Revolution film website. Promotional materials will be available on Thursday, August 20.
Get with and be part of launching the Revolution film online.
We must 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.
—“The Revolution We Need… The Leadership We Have,”
Revolution, #170, July 19, 2009
Send us your comments.
Revolution #175, September 6, 2009
Statement by the Revolutionary Communist Party USA
Revolution #014, September 18, 2005, posted at revcom.us
Three fundamental things to be learned from what has been happening, including the role of the government, in relation to hurricane Katrina:
1. The real nature of those who rule over the people, and real weaknesses of this ruling class, have been further revealed before the world. The “superstitious awe” that people are conditioned to have toward the powers-that-be and their state—their whole machinery of rule, and of repression—has been dramatically shaken through these events and in particular through the actions of the government itself. In the eyes of large numbers of people, the ability to rule as well as the right to rule of this current regime, and indeed of the ruling class as a whole, has been called into question in significant ways. Things which this ruling class attempts to keep hidden, to deny or to distort and misrepresent—including the oppression and the extreme poverty of large numbers of Black people in the U.S. itself—has burst through the “normal” web of deception and the iron hand of suppression. What does and does not matter to the powers-that-be—and in particular their complete lack of concern for the masses of poor and oppressed people, and indeed for the people in society in their great majority—has stood out for all to see, throughout the U.S. and all over the world. At the same time, it has been graphically illustrated that, even though they remain very powerful, the rulers of the U.S., and their armed forces and other machinery of oppression, are not all-powerful.
2. Not only the need but also the possibility of revolution, and of a radically different society, shows through in these events—once they are understood in their true light. Masses of people, in the areas most immediately affected, were being left by the government to suffer, day after day, in conditions not fit for human beings, yet they showed their humanity in many ways and put the lie to the slanders that portrayed them as criminals and animals. Where they took matters into their own hands, the great majority did so with right on their side, in the attempt to meet needs that could be met no other way. Overwhelmingly, the people trapped in these conditions have responded by supporting and helping each other, especially those in most desperate need, while expressing outrage at the indifference and inaction of the government; and in this they have been supported and assisted by people all over the country. In all this can be seen the potential for masses of people to be mobilized to bring into being a society in which relations among people are radically different than the daily dog-eat-dog that this capitalist system pushes people into. Yet what has also stood out very clearly is that the masses of people are not fully aware of and organized on the basis of an understanding of how the whole operation of this system is in direct and deep-going conflict with their real and fundamental interests. When they gain that understanding, and are organized to act on that basis, then a revolutionary struggle of millions and millions of people, combined with the development and sharpening of certain objective conditions, could make it possible to break the hold of the class of cold-blooded capitalist exploiters who rule over this society (and much of the world) and to bring into being a new society and a new state which would put the interests of the great majority of the people at the foundation and at the center of everything it stands for and everything it does. But for this to happen, the masses must have revolutionary leadership. And that points to a third and final crucial point.
3. There is such a revolutionary leadership—the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, and its Chairman Bob Avakian. But to put things squarely and honestly, while the Party has been exerting real efforts to take up its responsibility in relation to the events surrounding hurricane Katrina, the ability of the Party to actually lead in these dire and urgent circumstances has been far short of what it needs to be. If the influence of the Party and its organized ties with masses of people had been much greater, leading into these events surrounding hurricane Katrina, the Party would be able to play a far greater role in raising the understanding of the masses of people as to what was happening and why: why the government and the whole ruling class reacted the way they have—with the loss of thousands of lives, and terrible suffering for hundreds of thousands more, much of which could have been prevented or significantly lessened—and what this says about the nature of their system and why we need a radically different system. The Party could have been playing a far greater role in enabling masses of people, in the areas immediately affected and throughout the country, to be organized to respond to these events and to wage organized political struggle, on a much higher level and in a much more powerful way, to force steps to be taken immediately to save hundreds and probably thousands of lives that have been, and are still being, needlessly lost. And all this could be having the effect of raising the consciousness and the organized strength of masses of people to a far higher level, with the necessary goal of revolution more clearly and sharply in view. These events surrounding hurricane Katrina and all that has been forced into the light of day in connection with this, has shown the great need for the Party to rise to its responsibilities and play its leadership role in this way, on a whole other level, and for masses of people to rally to, to support, to join and build, and to defend—this necessary and crucial revolutionary leadership, as embodied in the Revolutionary Communist Party and its Chairman Bob Avakian.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #175, September 6, 2009
Whole families wading in chest-high floods.
Bodies floating in toxic water, a dead grandmother left to bake in the sun.
Desperation, hunger and thirst emanating off scorching rooftops.
People, most of them Black, packed into a modern-day-stadium slave ship.
Over 100,000—abandoned and criminalized.
Soldiers and cops and even Blackwater mercenaries pointing guns at—and yes, beating, shooting at, and killing—people trying to survive.
Families separated by heartless evacuation.
Many, many needlessly dead.
And we remember the poor, mainly Black, people in New Orleans—abandoned by the government—taking matters into their own hands, overwhelmingly in order to support and help each other, especially those in the most desperate need. We remember the youth wading in chest-high water to save those who were trapped, commandeering school and city buses to get people to safety, and sharing food and water taken from deserted stores. We remember people voicing their outrage at a government, a regime, a system that had not only left them to rot, but penned them in by force.
We remember the people all over the country, from many different walks of life, stepping forward in thousands of ways to try to help, only to be thwarted by the government.
And we remember Bush, fiddling like Nero when Rome burned, heartless. We remember learning how first Congress and then Bush had slashed funds for the levees—in the face of warnings that they would blow. We remember his mother saying that things “were working out very well” for the Katrina victims, as families were split apart and people waited for word of their loved ones. We remember the Louisiana Congressman who said they had been trying to get rid of public housing for years, and now “God had done it” through the hurricanes.
We remember. And we must never forget . . . and never forgive.
The U.S. government knew for years what would happen if a huge hurricane hit New Orleans. Hundreds of scientific reports predicted that the Black neighborhood of the 9th Ward, and the mainly working class neighborhood of St. Bernard, would be flushed away and the industrial districts and wealthy neighborhoods would survive. The way the levees were built made this all but inevitable. But Congress slashed funds for the levees and Bush cut them even more. It was known for days that Hurricane Katrina was coming, but authorities failed to evacuate the city. Then after the storm hit on August 29, they abandoned the poorest sections of New Orleans, with the highest populations of Black people. They left those most vulnerable to face the storms and flooding with no help of any kind. Bush refused to interrupt his vacation and allowed people to suffer and die for days. Over 1,000 died and hundreds of thousands suffered and are still suffering—unnecessarily.
Whether by negligence or design or both, this was MASS MURDER carried out by the authorities, beginning with Bush.
THE AUTHORITIES AIM THEIR GUNS AT THE PEOPLE: The government and its armed forces treated tens of thousands of desperate, hungry, and sick people like an enemy. The media, politicians, and officials created an ugly, racist atmosphere—spreading the lie that there was widespread looting and savage atrocities being carried out by Black people. Brig. Gen. Gary Jones, commander of the Louisiana National Guard’s Joint Task Force, said, "This place is going to look like Little Somalia. This will be a combat operation to get this city under control." Bush said there would be "zero tolerance" for looters and Louisiana's governor said National Guard troops would "shoot and kill" people taking things from stores. Blackwater, the company hired by the U.S. for death-squad activities in Iraq, deployed 200 men to the city, authorized to use lethal force. When hundreds of people tried to escape the floods at the Crescent City Connection Bridge, the police fired warning shots at them and blocked them from crossing. Set loose by the tone set from on high, the New Orleans and other police departments in the area beat and even killed many people, for which there has never been an accounting!
THE PEOPLE TAKE COLLECTIVE ACTION: The disaster showed the people's potential to organize themselves and courageously take matters into their own hands. One 20-year-old man commandeered a school bus to bring people from New Orleans to the Houston Astrodome. A group of mostly teenagers and young adults pooled what money they had for gas and necessities like diapers. Some young men broke into the kitchen of the Marriott Hotel, fixed a batch of scrambled eggs, grits and bacon, and served it to other victims. A retired teacher at the Convention Center praised these youth as "Robin Hoods"—bringing food to the people. Another elderly woman said, "Those ‘looters’ are the only ones keeping us alive." A young man put 18 babies and children from apartments near his in a rowboat and rowed them to safety and continued to care for them. Others went through apartments in the projects or houses in their neighborhoods searching for people they knew wouldn’t be able to move out on their own, and helping get them to safety. People with boats from the surrounding area and bus drivers in Houston, Dallas, and Lafayette, Louisiana, tried to rescue people in New Orleans but were stopped by FEMA. This showed the potential strength that the people "on the bottom" have when they join together—the strength to resist and, ultimately, to make revolution and build a new society.
TURNING DISASTER INTO PROFIT, ETHNIC CLEANSING AND BUILDING UP THE CHRISTIAN FASCISTS: Bush announced plans for "enterprise zones" in New Orleans, where the big capitalists could turn disaster into big profit with billion-dollar construction contracts, new zoning laws, no environmental protections, tax breaks, and even lower wages.
Before the hurricane, Black people made up about 70% of the population of New Orleans. After Katrina, Bush’s Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Alphonso Jackson said: "New Orleans is not going to be as Black as it was for a long time, if ever again." Louisiana Congressman Richard Baker said: "We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn’t do it, but God did."
Katrina was a natural disaster, easily explained by science. But reactionary preachers blamed the masses for the hurricane, saying, "God did this to punish the people of New Orleans" for gambling, abortions, drugs, Mardi Gras, gay pride days, or even voodoo. And the disaster was used to support and promote Christian fascist churches and funnel money into their "charities."
CRUEL EVACUATION: The authorities subjected tens of thousands of people to slaveship conditions at the Superdome and Convention Center. There was no food or electricity, and the toilets backed up. People suffered from dehydration and were surrounded by disease-ridden water. Dead bodies were left out in the open. Thousands were herded into shelters and dispersed all over the country. Echoing slavery days, many were separated from their loved ones. People were treated like criminals or potential criminals. Background checks were done when people checked into shelters. Some were jailed on old warrants, some immigrants were deported. People were housed in heavily guarded centers, with metal detectors, surrounded by police cars, armed soldiers, and FEMA agents and federal, state, and local officials.
KATRINA WAS PART OF THE WHOLE CRIMINAL HISTORY OF CAPITALISM: The neglect, abandonment, abuse, and brutality of Black people after Hurricane Katrina is a crime of the capitalist system, connected to a whole legacy of slavery and Jim Crow laws. This system has always treated Black people as exploitable, expendable, and undesirable.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #175, September 6, 2009
August 27, Cindy Sheehan set up "Camp Casey on the sea" at Martha’s Vineyard to challenge Barack Obama, who was vacationing there. This was in memory of her son Casey, who was killed in Iraq, and to protest Obama’s expansion of the war in Afghanistan and the continuing U.S. occupation of Iraq. Sheehan was joined at a press conference announcing the protest by Missy Beattie, whose nephew, Chase Comley, died in Iraq; Matthis Chiroux of Iraq Veterans Against the War; Carl Dix of the Revolutionary Communist Party; and others. This protest is especially important because far too many others have been paralyzed into inactivity around the wars or have even been drawn into embracing these criminal wars because they’re being presided over by the first Black president.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #175, September 6, 2009
Revolution received the following call which is also available in Farsi at revcom.us:
By a group of ex-political prisoners and the families of those political prisoners executed by the IRI
On September 23 and 24, 2009 Ahmadinejad is expected to take part in a UN meeting. We will be there in order to be a voice of the recent uprising of the people of Iran against the Islamic Republic; in order to show our solidarity with thousands of political prisoners and the families of those who were brutally butchered by the security and police forces of the IRI during street protests or in dungeons of Evin and Kahrizak; in order to show our solidarity with millions of youth who are fighting for a new and liberatory society; in order to show our solidarity with millions of women who are determined not to be crushed by a medieval patriarchal system and today are constituting the front rows of battle against the IRI.
We invite the Iranians and people in North America who have wholeheartedly supported the uplifting struggles of the brave people of Iran against the criminal IRI, to join us in this protest.
We invite all ex-political prisoners of Iran who are currently living in North America as well as the families of those who never made it out of the clutches of the IRI and were executed in the last 3 decades in Iran, to join us in this protest. Please bring the picture of your beloved ones who fell in struggle.
We call upon women to take part in great numbers and be an expression of audacity of tens of thousands of women who have dared to stand in the forefront of struggle against the woman hating regime of Iran.
We invite people from oppressed nationalities and religious minorities of Iran (and now living in North America) who for the last 30 years have born the brunt of medieval discrimination, to join this protest rally.
We call upon young women and men of Iranian origin to join this struggle along with their non Iranian friends and comrades. Our people as well as people in all countries need a new generation who braves to fight for a different world—a world without reactionaries and imperialists.
We also call upon ex- activists and supporters of the Confederation of Iranian Students Associations (USA) to revisit your old dreams for a better society and world, amongst us. Bring the pictures of your comrades in I.S.A. who went back to Iran in 1979 in order to join the revolution but were arrested and killed by the new reactionary power builders of IRI.
We invite the friends and families of the political prisoners in the USA (for which Mumia Abu Jamal is a symbol of), the families of the victims of police brutality, all anti war and anti globalization groups and forces who have earnestly struggled against US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and US threats to wage war on Iran, and have fought against imperialist capitalism ravaging of the peoples of the world, to join us and help us to turn this protest assembly into a strong expression of internationalist solidarity of the people of the world.
From Guantanamo and Abu Ghoreib to Evin and Kahrizak: Down With Systems of Torture and Execution
Down with the Islamic Republic of Iran—Free All Political Prisoners
For further communication please use this e mail:
On Wednesday September 23 & Thursday September 24, at 10 am
Place of Demonstrations: DAG HAMMARSKJOLD Plaza
First Ave. & 47th Street, Manhattan, New York
Send us your comments.
Revolution #175, September 6, 2009
Coming Next Week:
The next issue of Revolution (#176), which will go online and be shipped on September 7 & 8, will be a special issue directed at high school and middle school students. This special issue will take on the lies and confusion, often taught in schools, about communism; get into just what sort of future this society has for the youth; and speak to a whole new world that is possible through communist revolution. This issue has the potential to bring forward many young people, challenging them to hook up with the revolutionary movement and to engage with the leadership of Bob Avakian.
The special issue needs to get into the hands of many, many thousands of youth in schools across the U.S. Here’s how YOU can help make this happen:
To donate, order bulk copies, or hook up with distribution teams, contact your local Revolution Books stores and outlets (see p. 2) or:
RCP Publications • PO Box 3486 Merchandise Mart • Chicago, IL 60654 • 773-227-4066 • email@example.com
Send us your comments.
Revolution #175, September 6, 2009
Inaugural issue now online! demarcations-journal.org
Demarcations: A Journal of Communist Theory and Polemic seeks to set forth, defend, and further advance the theoretical framework for the beginning of a new stage of communist revolution in the contemporary world. This journal will promote the perspectives of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA.
Without revolutionary theory, there can be no revolutionary movement. Without drawing sharp dividing lines between communism as a living, critical, and developing science serving the emancipation of humanity, on the one hand, and other perspectives, paths, and programs that cannot lead to emancipation, on the other—whether openly reformist or claiming the mantle or moniker of “communism”—without making such demarcations, it will not be possible to achieve the requisite understanding and clarity to radically change the world. Demarcations will contribute to achieving that clarity.
In the wrangling spirit of Marxism, Demarcations will also delve into questions and challenges posed by major changes in the world today. The last quarter-century has seen intensified globalization, growing urbanization and shantytown-ization in the Third World, the rise of religious fundamentalism, shifting alignments in the world imperialist system, and the acceleration of environmental degradation. Demarcations will examine such changes, the discourses that have grown up in connection with them, and the ideological, political, and strategic implications of such developments for communist revolution. Demarcations will also undertake theoretical explorations of issues of art, science, and culture.
The inaugural issue of Demarcations opens with an extensive original polemic against the political philosophy and thought of Alain Badiou.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #175, September 6, 2009
June 28, 2009
May 24, 2009
February 1, 2009
December 6, 2008
I went to the rally for Juanita Young and I was impressed by the young people from the revolution party who came in support of her. I was disappointed in one of the supporters who attacked the youth. Their feelings were the youth would make it harder for blacks and they would go back to their community.
My son was one of 158 murdered and like the rest who didn't come out to support Mrs. Young, I understand fear of losing employment, limbs and possible life. Besides from physical weakness, I have an overwhelming fear that all the cops have to do is stress me with the tactic they are using with Mrs. Juanita Young and the system would just completely deny medical help. As it stands they are doing the wait and see game and even though I pay for medical coverage I'm tagged as high risk.
It didn't take 50 bullets for me to lose someone who was irreplaceable and it takes all I have to try and reach one person and talk about change. The so-called assimilated blacks and whites feel that Carl Dix and his members just want to stir up trouble. I lose my breath every time I hear someone saying that as if all is right with the world.
Sorry I can't be as mentally, physically and spiritually as strong as Juanita Young.
Revolution? I'm in. I understand the urgent need for a revolution and believe that the people need to break the physical and mental chains this capitalist society creates. Growing up in this society we're taught to accept the lies about communism, that it is a totalitarian state. I recently (within the past few years) started seriously questioning this world, about what can be done to fix these problems and what is causing all these problems. In that quest I learned what capitalism actually was and all the problems of this system. I realize it's main purpose is the bottom line, money/power, and to exploit anyone or thing to gain more capital. Using up people and the earth to expand their power and tyranny. Meanwhile brain washing the masses into believing this government is for the people, by the people. What a joke that is. The masses of people do not have a real say in what goes on. Only a very small percentage control everything. That small percentage is the ruling class, manipulating the masses into thinking they have a true say in the workings of this government, instead they're exploited in every way. Everything that is sold to us is at the expense of someone else who reaps no benefit from their labor. We are treated like work horses that are abused and oppressed until we can't produce anymore, then we're abandoned with no remorse or even gratitude for the work that has been done. Our lives are supposed to be committed to this system that steps on anyone or anything in its way. You can't even go to the store and purchase goods for survival without contributing to the oppression. These are the very things that sicken me. The more I learn the true meaning of capitalism the more it angers me.
A few years back, at the beginning of my quest for what's real and what isn't, I wanted to support the anti-war movement. Seeing the lies and tricks the Bush administration committed for an imperialist agenda. At a rally in Los Angeles I picked up the 4 DVD set of talks by Bob Avakian, and watched only a little. At that time I was still confused about what was right, trying to shake an entire life of force fed propaganda from the capitalist system. It wasn't until recently I saw what communism is really about. After learning more about the history of capitalism and it's imperial agenda I decided to check out more of what Bob Avakian had to say. After listening to him speak it all dawned on me, the truth. It was like all the questions I had were answered. Realizing the importance of a communist revolution. He explains very well the history of communism and his ideas of what it's about. Explaining the contradictions of a society and a ever evolving revolution for the people. He debunks the pro-capitalist propaganda that has been shoved down our throats. Helping to realize what a peoples revolution is really about. I also understand the need for leadership if this is to actually happen. The need for organization and education and the fact that it can't be done without leadership. In listening to Bob I can see a real dedication for the people and a revolution. I see his compassion for the movement and the work that goes into it. Bob Avakian is a leader who understands the needs of people and a society. In his words "we need to get with this."
Finally I would like to express how relieved I am to have found the revolution. Without this type of leadership and organization we are lost, regardless of our beliefs.
I just read the article about poor Brandon McClelland who was cruelly murdered in Paris, Texas. I was feeling a lot of emotions while reading this. I guess what saddens me the most about your well written article is that your writer shows historical continuity, not just with the gruesome crimes done to James Byrd in Jasper, Texas and with the lynchings that began in the late 19th century.
I miss bringing your paper to work and reading it during coffee/lunch breaks. I love it when even the democrats (fat cats) get upset and yell "bullshit!" I am going to give something up so I pull together sub money again.
In the health care debate, John Mackey (CEO of Whole Foods) raised up a storm among liberals last week with his op-ed column in the Wall Street Journal. Among Mackey's cold-blooded comments, he pointed out:
"Health care is a service that we all need, but just like food and shelter it is best provided through voluntary and mutually beneficial market exchanges. A careful reading of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution will not reveal any intrinsic right to health care, food or shelter. That's because there isn't any. This 'right' has never existed in America."
The liberals are offended, but it sounds like another reason for revolution.
I was having a discussion with a friend of a friend around spirituality and religion, and she was coming from the standpoint of 'what's so bad about people feeling good through religion'? She was also grappling with the way in which poor people in the third world, where she has traveled, despite their real poverty, seem more 'content' or 'happy' than so many people in the U.S.
The next day I sent her BA's article, "Can we do without myth?" and she responded:
"Dude, this article is so provocative and is leading me to your world. So much in it and so many questions....when is 'article club?'"
She's in her late 20's, and a middle school English teacher, with a strong 'social justice' orientation about her work. She has been very influenced by 'American Buddhism'.
The whole exchange was just another example of the way Bob Avakian can really speak to people's biggest questions, and draw them to this line.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #175, September 6, 2009
August 21, 2009
Six of us went back out last Friday night to the neighborhood in East Oakland where the police recently killed Brownie Polk (see Revolution #173, August 16, 2009, "Serial Killers of the Oakland Police Department Strike Again"). Since we first went out to this neighborhood, a few days after Brownie was gunned down by a cop at the corner liquor store, the Party's call and message about the revolution we need, the leadership we have, and our call to resist police murder and brutality has resonated with the people. The first time we took it out people's anger at this heartless police killing erupted into a protest through the neighborhood with 30 to 40 people gathering with us on the corner where he was killed to challenge cars driving by and anyone who passed that they were determined to have their voices heard, that they were not going to let this go down without a challenge, that people would not be silent.
There was unleashed a real spirit of defiance, especially that first night we went out. Dozens of newspapers went out, cars honked in support and stopped to take the newspapers and contribute, as people from the neighborhood took turns on the bullhorn to demand "Justice for Brownie Polk!", shouting out with us "The whole system is guilty!" and joining in shouting out "What do we need? Revolution!" "Who's the leader? Bob Avakian!" As the rally went into the night, even a Channel 2 camera crew showed up and the protest was aired on the 10 o'clock news.
We've been back to the neighborhood repeatedly, joining in and speaking out at Brownie's funeral about the crime of police murder and the need for revolution, joining people after the funeral for a community gathering of 50 to 70 people, where we set up the Revolution DVD (Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About) for people to watch that was interrupted when someone from the community heard that the police were jacking up a youth at gunpoint just down the street. On the spot, we called on people and organized a small crew to march down with our placards and find out what was going down. At that point the pigs had the youth sitting in a car and we observed the scene from across the street until we saw that they were letting the youth go. So, in all this, and the fact that many were very glad the revolutionaries were on the scene and giving leadership, there were glimpses of what it could mean for there to be a contending political authority developing among the people. But, still there has been way too much of people saying: "Hey, you guys are doing a great thing!" but not seeing it as what THEY need to be doing. So there's a lot of work to do to lead people to dig into and take up this revolution and this revolutionary leader, Bob Avakian.
This past Friday, two weeks after the murder, we went out with the orientation of sharply challenging people to become organizers for this new movement, to find many different ways to be part of this revolution, to contribute $3 and to take up a packet of organizer materials to spread the word and get others involved. The packet had a couple of copies of the Revolution issue [#170] with the party's message, a few copies of the short version (we were running very low on these), a copy of special issue #144 ["The Oppression of Black People, the Crimes of This System and the Revolution We Need," October 5, 2009], the issue with the declaration on liberation of women ["A Declaration: for Women’s Liberation and the Emancipation of All Humanity," #156, March 8, 2009] and a DVD sampler.
We also took out 11x17 posters of Oscar Grant and Brownie Polk with the slogan "The Whole System Is Guilty" and the quote on it from the call that says: "It is up to us: to wake up...to shake off the ways they put on us, the ways they have us thinking so they can keep us down and trapped in the same old rat-race...to rise up, as conscious Emancipators of Humanity. The days when this system can just keep on doing what it does to people, here and all over the world...when people are not inspired and organized to stand up against these outrages and to build up the strength to put an end to this madness...those days must be GONE. And they CAN be."
We marched around the neighborhood making a special point of stopping the agitation at various points when people came out on their steps, or stopped in their cars, and challenging people to make this movement become what it needs to become, a movement that can sweep away this system as soon as it is possible, that, as the statement says: "...yes, it is true—now is not yet the time, in this country, to go all-out to seize the power away from those who rule over us and to bring a new power, serving our interests, into being. But now IS the time to be WORKING FOR REVOLUTION—to be stepping up resistance while building a movement for revolution—to prepare for the time when it WILL be possible to go all out to seize the power."
While most of us marched, another person went around in his car and stopped at different spots in the neighborhood to post up the 11x17 poster on light poles. He ran into several youth around 10 or 12 years old who knew about Brownie and Oscar Grant and helped put up these posters everywhere. They were still putting them up when we left and when I was at the neighborhood a few days later, all the posters were still up. A 16-year-old from the Revolution Club engaged more deeply with one of the 12-year-olds and invited him to be part of the movement and work with the Revolution club.
At the beginning there were some problems with the agitation on the bullhorn. But then someone else got on the horn and really put the challenge to people that THEY need to do this, that they are the ones who are capable of doing this, and that we do have the leadership, a very precious leadership in Bob Avakian, but without them we don't have a chance of making this revolution known to many others and making this leadership known to millions, that without THEM it won't happen.
This connected with what a lot of people are feeling, including that there is way too little resistance going on to what the system does to people every day. People really united with the spirit of fighting the power, and transforming the people, for revolution. People came out of their houses. Cars stopped and we were able to get out the 12 packets that we had in about an hour. Most people had no trouble finding $3 for the packet, sometimes asking a friend or someone else in the house to borrow it from.
We also stopped at the corner and played a CD with Joe Veale reading the short version through some small loudspeakers. We brought it over to where a crew of women in their late teens were hanging out together on this block. A couple of them were part of the march and protests when we first went out there around the murder of Brownie. We invited them to listen to it, agitating that this is from the call that we are distributing and it speaks to how we people need to be a part of this revolution and people CAN do this, that is has been done before, but they don't want YOU to know about it, or they lie and tell you that this communism stuff is a horror, but don't tell you the truth, about how liberating it has been and how we can do even better.
Right away, one of them said, "we don't want to listen to that shit!" But then, two other young women said: "I want to hear it, go ahead and play some of it." So, we played some of it and there was some intent listening for about four or five minutes and then other conversations started breaking out about something else, and one of the women who had marched with us before spoke out and said, "Hey, come back later and look for us, the thing is we are off to do something, but we'll be back." It's bad that we weren't able to kick off more discussion right then and there on the content of the call, but we need to come back and keep looking for opportunities like this.
There is a real impatience among these youth. What they demand is that we give them a way to fight right now, and that it is really ways they can take up. They liked the poster and took posters to distribute and put up. Some of them, especially young women, DID march with us the previous week... but to sit down and listen to a talk, many of them don't have the patience for this. We have to figure out ways to break through with the deeper content of this revolution and this leadership. But the overall scene that night was the kind of scene we need to have when we go out. People coming out, taking up materials, joining in on-the-spot discussions—focused on the challenge to take this up.
One fun incident that night was that while we were near a corner talking with several older Black women who had gathered and we were struggling for them to do a DVD showing that night, a bus stopped (we were near the bus stop) and the driver asked what was going on. I went on the bus and showed the bus driver the poster and the call and said that we were organizing a revolutionary movement to sweep away this system and replace it with a system where this doesn't happen anymore, and challenging people to be part of it. She invited us into the bus to pass out copies to all the passengers on the bus, so we passed out copies on the bus and she bought the paper, took extra copies of the poster and the short statement, made a contribution and gave us her name and continued on her route. At that point we had run out of packets.
We looked at each other and said, "Wow, for people riding the bus that night, little did they know... next stop on their bus ride was... REVOLUTION!"
Send us your comments.
Revolution #175, September 6, 2009
I feel like there have been some very significant advances in meeting the three goals set forth by the new message from the RCP, even while I feel we have just scratched the surface. Here I want to present to Revolution readers some of the experiences I've had in taking out (in particular to the youth) this call and some of the obstacles I've run into in doing so.
At the Rock the Bells concert we had a pop-up tent with huge displays, a banner and a red flag. One young woman walking with a group of friends stopped and looked at the picture of the little girl in Iraq with her legs blown up. Here first response was, "Oh my god." But her friends kept walking and started urging her to move on. She responded by telling them, "How the fuck can you ignore this? Look at this!" I told her this is why people need to confront this and why they need to begin to understand that we need a communist revolution to get rid of this system that causes all this. I showed her the statement and told her that this is what this Party and its leader, Bob Avakian, is setting out to do. She said that she agreed that people shouldn't ignore this, but when it came to communism she said, "Why would you want to take away people's rights, though? I don't understand how you could want this suffering to stop and yet be a communist."
I struggled with her and told her that we've been lied to about everything—about the source of the horrors and especially about the liberating experience of the communist project. I said far too many people who aren't willing to accept these crimes—I pointed back the picture of the Iraqi girl—are then suckered into having faith in this "democratic system" and in turn learn to accept the very crimes they oppose. She said she wouldn't have ever considered communism as a positive experience before this encounter with us, but that she feels compelled to check it out. She said she is sick of the crimes being committed and it's why she stopped and tried to make her friends look, but that communism killed millions of people. I asked her where she heard that and she said, "From school…duh!" I simply asked her if she believed everything they taught her in school. She said she saw my point and bought the statement and gave us her phone number. She didn't want to join on the spot but wanted to learn more.
A young man came up to me in amazement, "You guys are really communists?!" He was very anti-communist, but genuine in his shock and interest to find out what it's like to be a communist. I told him about the leadership and strategy we have to make revolution. He bought the statement based on the fact that he was very surprised to go to a concert and find communists.
A group of us went to a farming town where they were having their annual Strawberry Festival. It was a two-day weekend event. Originally we were planning on going only Saturday but we realized when we got there that all the farm workers were still out on the fields on Saturday and the majority would come on Sunday. The first day was kind of lean because of that. The second day there were probably ten times as many people.
On Sunday we returned and I had the approach of finding youth and focusing on them and organizing them into this movement for revolution. We ran into a big contradiction in that we don't go to this area that often. So we had to find ways for people to organize on their own and where they are—which we should be trying to do anyway, we later summed up.
I posed this problem to one young woman in high school that I encountered. She said she could take the statement and show it to her friends and talk about it. So I decided it was worth taking some time to go through the statement with her. We read the several paragraphs from it: on the youth, on women, on a revolutionary crisis and on the role of Bob Avakian. So then we figured out plans to leave her with an assignment. I had her name the friends she could think of who were like-minded. I asked her how she thought they were like-minded. I explained to her to not avoid, but also not to waste her time on the intermediate and backward people. She asked me if she had to know everything to take this out to others. I explained to her that what she needed to know was really concentrated in the statement and that she should study it and try to find answers to the questions she's dealing with, as well as going to our website. So we left with a plan: she would study the statement, distribute it to like-minded people and call me to tell me what happened and questions she ran into.
She ran into questions around nationalism and what we thought about Che. Like why have a white leader and is this a movement for oppressed nationalities, in particular Chicanos. I told her those were big questions and were important. We discussed some of the limits of nationalism and I referred to the side bar on that topic that's in the Black national question issue of Revolution ("The Oppression of Black People, the Crimes of This System and the Revolution We Need," #144, October 5, 2008). I read some parts of it. She generally agreed with that analysis. She had some questions around Che but had to go because her mom wanted her off the phone. (Her mom didn't like that she was talking to a guy on the phone.) The last thing I told her was that she should write up her experiences and send them to Revolution.
My experience with the "Strawberry Queen" of the festival was also interesting. There's apparently a competition where some young women dress up in strawberry costumes and compete to see who has the best costume. One of the contestants was a high school student. She came up to me in her big strawberry costume. The first thing she asks is, "What kind of revolution are you talking about? Is it like Che?" Then we get into some of the content of the message and particularly the paragraph on a revolutionary crisis/people and how this has to be the conscious act of millions—something Che was not about. So she bought the statement with her friend's money (she had no pockets!). She put the statement inside the strawberry costume's pouch.
When the Warped Tour came to town a tiny crew of us went with the RCP's call, a pop-up tent and a bunch of displays. For a group of three of us we really shook things up and unleashed both the positive forces as well as the reactionaries who lashed out against us. We were making some good connections with people. So when the Christian fundamentalist band Under Oath (blah!) started performing these punk youth who were atheists but forced to go to Catholic school joined us in going into the audience with an enlargement of the front cover of Bob Avakian's Away With All Gods! and stacks of the call. The response from the crowd was very divided. Immediately some gave us thumbs up, started giving high fives to the person holding the enlargement, while others flipped us off or shrugged us away.
I ended up getting separated from the group when a mosh pit broke out where I was getting out the statement (I didn't want to mosh to a fundamentalist band). When I managed to get out of the pit I started getting out the statement again. I guess I went into the crowd that liked the band...one girl took the short-version and spit on it and ripped it, another guy told me to get the fuck out of there with my evil message, and another guy was about to fight me until his girlfriend pulled him away.
The other crew with the enlargement ran into another guy that really liked what we were doing around religion (because he thought it was irrational to be religious) and joined us on the spot by distributing the short-version. When I met up with them they were having a pretty large and heated debate with these Christian youth about why you can still have morality without religion. I heard one of them say, "It makes me feel good that there is a god up there." A comrade responded by saying that that is consolation, and to the degree that you're doing that versus confronting reality, that's a problem. He goes on and says that we need a scientific approach to reality. The Christian youth said, "So why are you here with that sign if you're promoting that 'don't-give-a-fuck' attitude?" The comrade responded by saying we DO give a fuck about the future of the planet and that's why we're atheists AND communists! The Christians just couldn't believe we really were communists and ended the debate.
Earlier that day I met two young women who were handing out free condoms and getting people to sign a petition to get Walmart to sell emergency contraceptives. They gave me a condom, and I asked them what they thought about revolution. They said they liked the idea. I read the paragraph on women to them and explained that the whole battle around abortion and birth control is really about women's larger role in society and whether they will remain enslaved to men and to their reproductive organs. They really agreed and asked how they could get involved.
I explained to them the three main goals of the campaign and got into it with them around Bob Avakian's leadership. They asked how he became a leader and I told them a little bit about how he came out of the '60s and working with the Black Panther Party, and how he's gone way beyond anyone else on the planet in his understanding of revolution and communism. I told them they should give us their contact information and take a stack of fliers and the "I'm with the REAL revolution" stickers and give them to people with the condoms. "Teach them about safe sex and the need for revolution and introduce them to this leadership," I told them.
Later in the week I called them and they told me they had just put the stickers on their condom can and on their shirts and people would ask them what it was about. They told them it was about revolution and gave them the statement and referred them to our booth. They also told me that some of the guys were being fucked up and patriarchal toward them and since they were handing out condoms the guys were equating that with wanting to have sex with them. They explained to me that the way they would handle that was by trying to give them the statement. And the guys would say they didn't want it, or that they didn't want to hear it and they just wanted the girls' numbers. They told me that at that point they would say that if they weren't interested in talking about politics that they would move on. They would tell the guys, "I'm not here to have sex with you, I'm here to teach you about safe sex." But they also explained that there were some young men and a lot of women who were genuinely interested and said they would go to our booth.
I summed up later that it would have been better if I'd walked with them and got out the statement with them so that I could explain to them more of what it was about, get into the statement more, and give them some "on-the-job training" in taking revolutionary communism out. It wasn't correct to say here's a stack of fliers I'll talk to you next week. We have to prepare people for and give them a taste of the controversy they will encounter, and help them learn how to turn it into an opportunity to spread revolution.
Later in the day this older white guy came to our booth and was reading the "American Democracy=Capitalism=Imperialism" display. There were a lot of youth lined up at the booth next to us where a band was giving autographs. I came up to the guy and asked him what he thought. He started getting in my face and screaming saying, "This is the most blatant, unadulterated bullshit I've ever seen in my life! We're letting these criminals in Iraq just go scot-free and continue to kill our troops. Don't you have any respect for what our soldiers are doing for you?!" I responded by taking our display off of the tent and putting it up so that others could see and said, "Look at those little girls! Were they criminals? That's what those soldiers are doing! Do you have any fucking clue what you're talking about?"
At this point the youth who were waiting in line were all looking. And I guess this reactionary fool thought I would get defensive about "our freedoms" and that he would embarrass us in front of these people. But neither happened. We started distributing the short-version to everyone who was around us. That one reactionary brought another big white guy to stand next to our booth and look tough (I guess).
We decided that we didn't want them to just be standing around the whole time and put the situation on their terms, and we should confront them to either diffuse the situation or to escalate it on our terms. It wouldn't have been good to just leave them standing around and intimidating others. So we got into it with them, and we let other youth who were digging the revolutionaries being at Warped Tour know what was up with these reactionaries. These two youth got into the debate with them basically saying that they wanted to hear our perspective because we wanted to change the world. These other young women were also on the sides listening.
We had talked to one of these women, told her what we're about and told her what was going on with those reactionaries. But I guess it didn't come to her attention that we were communists (even though we said it plenty of times). In the middle of all this she reads the statement and tells me that she doesn't understand how there could be a party called the "Revolutionary Communist Party." She said that the words "revolutionary" and "communism" are two antagonistic things. Communism is anti-revolutionary and is dictatorial, she said. I told her that if you want to talk about dictatorship and the horrors it brings on people, talk about capitalism. Where communists have held power there have been tremendous accomplishments in meeting people's basic needs and in tearing apart exploitative relations and ideas that go along with those relations.
She interrupted me and said that she doesn't like capitalism. She hates what it does to people. "Fuck Obama, too," she said. "He's fucking tricking people into believing shit that Bush wanted people to believe in." She started telling me that her family was from Poland and that the tremendous suffering there was caused by communism and only now by capitalism. Her argument was that both were really bad. But the interesting thing was that this anti-communism was in the context of her being really hurt by and emotional about the suffering people go through all over the world. Her friend kept on telling her, "OK. Fine, you disagree. Let's leave and see the next band." But she refused to stop arguing with me because she said that it matters what kind of change you have in the world. And she doesn't want people to suffer whether it's under communism or capitalism.
I told her basically that there are no socialist states in existence in the world. Her argument was that their names are communist. It was getting pretty heated. And I told her, "Look, personally, it fucking hurts that the tremendous suffering your family went through, that people in China are going through, that people in Cuba are going through, is done in the name of communism. But let's be scientific and objective. This is the functioning of capitalism with a communist façade. Nothing else and nothing less. And I think that if you're serious about changing the world, if you really, really care about the suffering people go through, you can't accept ANY argument at face value and you have to be scientific. And you have to actually fight against the crimes of this system right now and organize to stop them. That's what we're doing."
And I explained to her the work that Bob Avakian has done is summing up the experience of past socialist societies (which were tremendously and overall positive, but secondarily not good enough). I made it clear, using the paragraph on Avakian from the statement, that this leader was different and far beyond anything that has ever existed on this planet. She said she agreed that you need to fight against the crimes right now and build resistance and talk about this revolution and debate it. And, even though at first she gave me back the short-version statement, after that back and forth she bought the full version and gave me her phone number.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #175, September 6, 2009
Ideas for Spreading the Special Youth Issue Among High School and Middle School Students
Some of us got together to brainstorm and plan for the high school/ middle school issue of Revolution that will publish on Monday 9/7. There were several young and a couple older teachers; and some revolutionary communists. Everyone has seen the Revolution DVD or sections of it or read Bob Avakian's memoir, From Ike to Mao and Beyond: My Journey from Mainstream America to Revolutionary Communist
We began by listening to the 20-minute audio recording of the short version of the Message and Call from the RCP, "The Revolution We Need... and The Leadership We Have." People also looked through #170, the special issue that published the full Message and Call with the incredible pictures. I gave a basic picture of what the party is aiming to accomplish over the next several months with this Message and Call as the focus and pivot.
A middle school teacher gave a sense that even among this young age group there are kids who have aspirations for something different, but what they conceive of as possible is very limited and constrained. One teacher described an 11-year old girl who was always arguing against the wars, for the environment, for people to protest -- she was passionate and dynamic -- and then after the election of Obama it was almost like her personality changed. The teachers said their students in the last several years were all very anti-Bush, very upset about the wars in particular, and then when Obama won, it was like the lights went out and the kids overall cannot conceive that there are still things to be concerned about.
It was difficult for these teachers to imagine the effect of and potential for a revolutionary current to take hold and set different terms among the youth and in society overall. One of them said young people have no idea what a system is and it will take more work to explain this in a basic and simple way. She talked about how she had learned how a small minority owns everything, employs millions of people and takes what they work to produce and pays them just enough to survive. She contrasted this with the taken-for-granted idea that the way things are is because of human nature. She said it doesn't occur to most young people to even think about why things are the way they are.
One of the teachers felt that the paragraphs in the Message and Call about the youth are very, very powerful but would be difficult for the youth themselves to understand. She thought that for this to connect, there need to be forms for middle school kids to discuss it and keep coming back to discuss it some more, including with each other. The teachers said it will be hard for the young kids to do things like come to meetings but that they live on-line and that's where this will need to go on. All their kids are on face-book but even face-book now is becoming "old school" and twitter is more the thing. And they suggested finding the ways for kids to blog about this.
When we talked changing the atmosphere and breaking the bounds of what the youth are allowed to think and dream about, one of the teachers imagined things like kids starting to protest homework and protesting teachers as the absolute authority. But how game-changing could it be for a section of young people to take up the challenge to get out of what they are into and into the revolutionary movement and into the science involved in understanding what is real and true, which is not what schools are for. One teacher recalled a deep discussion her students fell into one day about racism, with the white kids being challenged, and the kids really listening to each other, about their ignorance and preconceptions. She threw out her lesson plan and closed the classroom door. She expressed a deep desire for the youth to have the "space" to talk about basic reality that isn't supposed to be talked about -- racism, oppression of women.
The situation of young girls came up again and again through the whole evening. The teachers are extremely concerned about the destructive effects on their girl students of both traditional morality and also the other side of this, the oppressive over-sexualization. They said that oppression of women and girls is not even conceived of, young girls and young women think there are just men who treat you badly and men who don't treat you badly. One of the teachers was shocked by an old interview she saw recently of John Lennon talking about "the woman question" -- she had never heard anyone but revolutionary communists use that terminology. She was amazed to hear Lennon describe how his thinking changed because Yoko fought with him to get conscious around the oppression of women. It brought more alive what it was like for "the woman question" to be an essential part of challenging and taking on all oppression in society.
We also kicked around the "Twilight" phenomenon more informally. These teachers said many middle school teachers and all the middle school girls they know have read these books including them. These books have now surpassed the Harry Potter series in popularity. I asked whether the teachers read them because the kids read them -- and that's part of it -- but there is an attraction. Both women middle-school teachers in this discussion were really into the Twilight books before they learned about the fundamentalist (Mormon) orientation of the author. They didn't recognize this from the content of the books -- until the fourth book, which was extremely disturbing. In this book the main character gets pregnant and the baby is a vampire and eats her body and is killing her from the inside, but she refuses to abort because she loves her baby so much. This promotes a horrifying morality that women are worth nothing except as breeders. One person asked if they didn't see an infusion of patriarchal traditional values from the beginning, in the centrality of "romance" and finding/deciding on the right male partner as giving meaning to the life of the main young woman character. But they didn't see this -- they thought the main character was appealing because she didn't fit in, she dressed differently and was an outsider in other ways. The fundamentalist orientation and motivation of the author didn't stand out to them until the main character has this horrifying pregnancy.
There were a lot of ideas for spreading both the RCP's "Message and Call" and the special youth issue of Revolution newspaper. Some of the most important were:
--The teachers want to write a letter to other teachers that discusses why share this special youth issue of Revolution with your students and will contain their suggestion for a basic "user guide" for teachers. They will spread this on-line on teachers lists and union lists they are on. One teacher said that a big thing to tap into is broad concern among teachers about the more and more narrow media that students are getting exposed to, that they are only hearing the "official" stories.
--They are going to spread the notice about the on-line launch of the film, Revolution: Why It’s Necessary, Why It’s Possible, What It’s All About, on these lists. They were excited about it: "This is huge!"
--They suggested that a hard-copy mailing of the special youth issue of Revolution to social studies teachers / departments would get a reading and probably generate subscriptions. One social studies teacher said that they often get -- and open -- mail addressed to "Social Studies Teacher @ xxx school."
-- Two of the teachers will plan a fundraising gathering for the special youth issue, probably a couple weeks after school has started. We thought one of the young revolutionaries who has contributed to the special youth issue, and maybe other youth, would go talk about the special issue.
Other ideas and suggestions, some of which came from them and others were developed by the group:
-- Revolution Books could have two "teacher appreciation" days -- one before school starts, on a weekday, and a back to school evening or weekend open house. All the Staples and Barnes & Nobles etc. do this -- they offer discounts and "goodie packets" and tons of teachers go. This would involve some kind of promotion/coupon for teachers on that day, a special display for the teachers of materials that should be classroom resources, and someone there all day who can meet and greet and talk with them. There should be a special promotion to teachers who bring or send their whole classes to Revolution Books. They want to publicize this kind of promotion on the teachers lists and are very confident that teachers will be interested in Revolution Books and will come.
-- The newspaper should promote a classroom subscription price (teacher subscriptions and/or discount for subscriptions for a whole class).
--Take the special youth issue to rec centers in the projects after school -- this is where lots of kids go and there are organized programs with progressive and concerned youth workers.
--Make efforts to get the special youth issue posted on librarian lists. Librarians want kids to get exposed to lots of ideas, and local libraries are packed with kids every day after school.
--Go to the smaller magnet/alternative high schools. There is more room for the teachers to use material of their own choosing.
--Go to key schools on teacher prep days to talk with teachers about spreading and using the special issue among their students.
--They suggested some kind of debate or exchange about Twilight at Revolution Books.
This was exhilarating and we are all looking forward to the challenges of connecting this special youth issue of Revolution newspaper with teachers and students.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #175, September 6, 2009
West and Dix Open Up the Dialogue:
On July 14, 650 people filled a Harlem auditorium completely, and an overflow crowd of at least 100 more gathered on the streets outside, to hear, "The Ascendancy of Obama… and the Continued Need for Resistance and Liberation: A Dialogue Between Cornel West and Carl Dix."
In his promo video for the event—which has now been viewed more than 3,000 times on YouTube—Dix, a founding member of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, set unmistakably clear terms:
If you're somebody who doesn't want to hear straight talk on these questions, I suggest that you just stay your ass at home on July 14, and I feel sorry for you. But if you're somebody who's concerned about the state of humanity… if you hate the fact that these wars for empire continue whether it's Bush or Obama in the White House... if you feel it in your gut every time that you hear that the police have killed another unarmed Black or Latino youth and gotten away with it… if it really bothers you that women in this so-called "best of all possible societies" face violence and sexual assault in horrific numbers… and you wonder what, if anything, can be done to deal with these and other problems that people face, then you need to be out on July 14, and you need to spread the word and challenge others to be there as well. It's that important.
In the days and weeks leading up to July 14, the Revolutionary Youth Summer Project—a collective of 20 young people from across the country who have arrived in New York City to build a revolutionary communist movement—had done extensive outreach in Harlem to mobilize people for the event. The team took to the streets with sound trucks, banners, red flags, and plenty of newspapers and leaflets, as well as a portable DVD player with which to show the YouTube video. In their chants and agitation, the youth emphasized that Obama was a representative of the same imperialist system that has always committed brutal crimes around the globe, and that people should therefore not support Obama. One chant went: "Barack Obama is part of the system/commander in chief of imperialism/fuck that shit, no more confusion/what we need is revolution!"
Some people, like a young Black man visiting from Atlanta, dug this message: "That's all I needed to hear!" he exclaimed enthusiastically, when one youth told him that Obama's presidency was nothing to celebrate. Others did not like what the young revolutionaries had to say, and suggested that they take their message "downtown," or "to Long Island." Some were just taken aback. "Say that again!" a young woman of color exclaimed, after one of the youth repeated the statement from Dix's video that those who felt Obama's election constituted a revolution had "lost their muthafucking minds." Her tone seemed to be partly a challenge (as in "I dare you to say that again!") and partly a sincere desire to hear the statement repeated.
Heading into the program, then, it was clear that Dix's message—as well as the event it was promoting—had a powerful polarizing impact: it had the potential to push away those unwilling to question what Obama's presidency really represents for the people of the world, to draw forward those who were willing to engage this question, and to compel people in both camps to take note that new terms were being boldly thrust onto the scene.
With their presence at the Harlem Stage of City College's Aaron Davis Hall, the hundreds who turned out—whether or not they had literally seen the video clip—embraced the spirit of Dix's challenge: Yes, they did want to hear the truth about Obama, and the crimes of their government. And no, they did not wish to accept the world as it is as tolerable.
Conversations with a handful of people in the building's lobby, before the dialogue began, suggested an atmosphere of excitement, curiosity, and anticipation.
Christianne, a 26-year-old waitress, said she had found out about the program during a recent visit to Union Square, during which she encountered volunteers with the Revolutionary Youth Summer Project.
"In talking about what I see wrong with the world, and what I'd like to see happen, and my inability to come up with a solution, this seemed right up my alley," Christianne said. She added that she had watched Dix's three-minute video in Union Square.
Christianne said that she wasn't going into the event with particular questions in mind, nor expectations of specific issues on which Dix or West would speak.
"I'm just going to see what piques my curiosity," Christianne said.
Sara, a 31-year-old white school teacher in the Bronx, said it was West who had drawn her to the event; she said she wasn't familiar with Dix at all. Sara described West as a "smart" and "provocative" speaker. Asked what she thought about the event's title, Sara replied, "I find it intriguing," and indicated she wasn't completely sure what it meant; she suspected its implication was, " [We have a] Black leader, but that doesn't mean we stop fighting."
Inside the auditorium, Bob Marley's "Emancipation Song" played as the beginning of the program drew near. Its opening lyrics—"Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery/none but ourselves can free our minds"—were quite fitting for a night in which one central theme expressed from the stage was that the people must take the responsibility of resistance into their own hands; that it is wholly unacceptable to be suckered into complicity with the crimes of our government simply because a Black president is now presiding over those crimes.
Shortly after 7 pm, Sunsara Taylor—a writer for Revolution newspaper, and one of the two moderators for the evening—stepped to the podium. She noted, to applause from the audience, that the event was being broadcast live on local progressive radio station WBAI, before promising an informative and thought-provoking discussion.
"We're in for a journey this evening," she said, as she introduced her co-moderator, the longtime radical journalist Herb Boyd.
"Welcome to City College," Boyd began. "Welcome to Harlem. Welcome to the revolution."
Boyd suggested that the theme of the evening's program was quite relevant to the history of Black experience in America.
"Resistance and liberation—those have always been operative words in the African-American canon and lexicon," Boyd said, adding that Dix and West were well qualified to address those topics. At that point, the two featured speakers walked onto the stage, hand in hand, to loud applause; some members of the audience rose to their feet.
Dix was the first to speak, and as was the case with his YouTube video, he wasted little time establishing clear terms of discourse. "What we're doing tonight is important," Dix began. "We're not gonna pretend Afghanistan is the good war."
The crowd responded with delayed, yet sustained, applause.
"We're not going to give Obama a pass for his Cosbyesque attack on poor Black people," he continued. "What we are going to do is get at reality as it actually is, and as it needs to be transformed."
And with that, a critical conversation happening virtually nowhere else was underway.
In the first part of Dix's speech, he laid out his analysis of the euphoric reaction to Obama's election, and contrasted that with what Obama's victory actually means for Black people and the people of the planet more broadly. Dix alluded to his "lost their muthafucking minds" statement from the YouTube video. At the Harlem Stage, Dix made clear that he stood by that assessment, but added that he wanted to address the underlying reasons why so many people were euphoric. Traveling with his family to the eastern shore of Maryland, which he described as "Mississippi further up north," Dix had to watch his 40-year-old father be addressed as "boy" by a white teenager. He witnessed the city of Baltimore close down its swimming pool, rather than integrate it.
"I know about the white supremacy of this setup," Dix said, "so I understand why people seeing a Black person elected president would get swept up." However, Dix added that while he understood the excitement over Obama's victory, he "did not and do not share it."
Obama's victory, Dix said, was serving to conceal the essence of this system of imperialism and the crimes it commits, and to solicit acquiescence to the system's crimes from people who would not have accepted them under any other president. As an example, he referred to Obama's recent speech in Ghana, during which the president demanded that African people and nations assume responsibility for rectifying their suffering. In so doing, Dix pointed out, Obama sought to mask the legacy of slave ships, the brutality of European colonists, the manner in which imperialism has consistently plundered Africa, and the murderous proxy wars carried out by the U.S. and other imperialist nations; the message Obama delivered, Dix said, was that the real cause of the plight of African peoples was that their governments were corrupt.
"This is a concentration of the role that he's playing," Dix said of Obama's speech.
The next section of Dix's presentation focused on the status of youth under imperialism, and the implications of Obama's presidency for those youth. Dix took on the commonly-expressed sentiment that, even if Obama himself does not represent anything good, at least having a Black man in the White House will inspire Black youth to achieve. In actuality, Dix said, Obama's victory will only suck youth into supporting a system that has condemned them to failure; the real doors that will open to these youth, Dix said, are the doors to the military recruiting centers, the jails, and the courthouses. On top of that, Obama attacks the oppressed youth and blames them for their conditions.
"It was bullshit when Cosby said it, and it's bullshit now," Dix said, to applause.
The final part of Dix's speech focused on what humanity needs to get beyond a system that thrives on torture and wars for empire, spawns massive disease and starvation, ravages the environment, violently subjugates women, and offers millions of youth no better fate than death or jail: revolution. Drawing on the RCP's new statement, "The Revolution We Need, the Leadership We Have," Dix told the crowd that the system of imperialism needs to be swept off the planet, with imperialist institutions replaced by revolutionary institutions. He explained that in past revolutionary societies, such as China under the leadership of Mao Tsetung, monumental and previously unthinkable advances had been achieved quickly under the guidance of a state that served the people; for instance, China went from a society where prostitution was pervasive to one in which the practice had basically been eliminated, and from a country where hundreds of millions were addicted to opium to one in which there were essentially no addicts. Dix went on to say: "Now revolutionary power in China was overthrown when Mao Tsetung died. But Bob Avakian has taken up the understanding that Mao developed and led the Chinese revolution on the basis of and developed it even further and that puts us in position to not only make revolution again but go farther and do even better with it the next time."
Similarly, Dix said, youth in modern imperialist societies who were immersed in the poisons of gangs, drugs, and religion need to be challenged to instead devote their lives to revolution, changing themselves in the process.
Dix finished by quoting the late Oscar Brown's poignant poem, "The Children of Children," and asking: "What is going to be our answer to the children of children all over the world?"
While he clearly did not share Dix's revolutionary communist perspective, West united with the need for resistance and repeatedly commended Dix for being a powerful voice for the oppressed who was willing to sacrifice his life to fulfill that role. "I am here," West said, "because at this particular historical juncture, we have got to create a space for principled criticisms of the Obama administration."
During an electrifying speech that often moved the audience to loud applause, as well as to appreciative laughter, West applauded Dix for driving home the message that humanity's goal should not be to place a Black man at the head of an empire that continues to heap horrific suffering on the vast majority of people of color.
West then walked the crowd through the process, and reasoning, behind his own decision to become a "critical supporter" of Obama's campaign. West joked that when he saw Newsweek heavily promoting Obama early in his campaign, "my suspicion was not just doubled, it was cubed." He then described speaking to Obama on the phone, and asking him if he would be true to the spirit of political activists such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Phil Berrigan. "I'll do the best I can," West quoted Obama as saying.
During his presentation, and then during the Q and A ,West argued that his concern for the world's oppressed compelled him to support Obama; he presented his decision as a tactical choice motivated by a desire to fend off the forces of fascism embodied in the McCain/Palin ticket and to end the age of Reagan-style conservatism. At one point, West argued that if McCain and Palin had emerged victorious, the dialogue he and Dix were having might not have been possible.
West mused that when Obama won the election, he was "relatively content," rather than euphoric. He added that the same factor that motivated him to support Obama—West's concern for the fate of humanity's downtrodden—moved him to be immediately critical of Obama after the election. For instance, West angrily ran down the list of Obama's team of economic advisers.
"Here comes Larry Summers!" West said. "Here comes Robert Rubin and his crew!" West contrasted Obama's $700 billion bailout to banks with his demand that the impoverished "pull themselves up by the bootstraps." And he condemned Obama's foreign policy team as a crew of "recycled neo-imperialists," as well as Obama's silence in the face of Israel's massacre in Gaza.
One of the more stirring moments of the program came when West, after alluding to the vicious FBI and CIA repression of resistance and revolutionary movements in the 1960s, sarcastically acknowledged the likely presence of federal agents in the room—"We know the CIA and FBI are here; we welcome you," he said, to thunderous applause and laughter—and then proceeded to put them on notice that the people in the room would continue to resist the crimes of their government, and to hold the government accountable for these crimes, and would not be deterred.
This was the sort of bold, unapologetic seizing of the political and ideological offensive that can give heart and courage to many people.
"We end with a call to action," West concluded, praising the young faces in the front row who were part of the Revolutionary Youth Summer Project. "You have to make reform and revolution a way of life."
After West concluded, Taylor returned to the podium, and said, "If you can believe this, now it's going to get really interesting."
She was right. During the Q and A from the moderators, and then the audience, both the unity and differences between Dix and West came into sharper focus. Taylor began by asking each speaker to describe his views on democracy, given that each of them had spoken of America's foundation of wars, slavery, and genocide. West stated very bluntly that, while he agreed that the U.S. was an empire, he believed in the "expansion of forms of democracy within the capitalist project," while Dix referenced Bob Avakian's three sentences on democracy in arguing that speaking about democracy in a society divided into classes was "meaningless and worse," and that the key questions that must be posed are which class is ruling, and whether the democracy it employs reinforces, or works to eliminate, class divisions.
"America was founded on slavery and genocide," Dix said, "but it was also democratic."
He went on to point out that American democracy was based, from its origins, on the violent exclusion of entire groups of people, and that it was on that basis that democracy was extended to one particular group—white men. He also reminded the audience that the American form of government involves dictatorship, not just democracy: when did the American people get to vote on ending the wars in the Middle East? he asked. Dix further stated that the goal of revolutionaries was not to "perfect" the system of U.S. imperialism, which commits crimes all over the world; it was to end that system.
Two of the five questions from the audience focused on the relationship between individuals transforming themselves and the overall transformation of society. The answers to these questions brought out further differences in the viewpoints of Dix and West. In response to an evacuee from New Orleans who argued that "revolution takes place internally," West largely agreed: After saying that talk of revolutionary overthrowing was "not my language," West added, "First and foremost, we have to muster the courage to bear witness to the system of evils inside of us."
Dix, on the other hand, essentially argued that West had the relationship between societal and individual change reversed: "It is through the course of resistance that we will change," Dix said. To illustrate the point, Dix drew on his own personal experience as a war resister who served time in Leavenworth prison rather than serve the imperialist army in Vietnam. When he was drafted, he faced a series of choices: He could serve in Vietnam; he could flee to Canada; or he could stay in the U.S. and be part of the resistance. He chose the latter course of action, which then set him on a radical (and eventually revolutionary) pathway.
The next question, asked by a young Black woman, was simple but profound: "How do you resist?" Within both Dix and West's responses was a sense that the decision to resist could come about in many different ways, and take many different forms. Dix said that the specific event which fills an individual with a strong sense of injustice and compels them to act politically could be a global issue, like the U.S. wars for empire, or it could be something more local and immediate, like seeing police harassing youth on the corner. As an individual resists, Dix said, their eyes start to open, and they realize that the atrocities against which they are acting are not isolated acts, but rather systemic. Dix said his orientation was to resist on the basis of putting forth that revolution was the solution to the particular problems being fought, and to unite with others who were genuine about resistance even if they did not agree with that view.
West drew an analogy between becoming involved in resistance and falling in love: As one enters into either process, an old part of them dies and a new part of them is born. West said that people can resist in a lot of ways, including through art; he cited Nina Simone's use of song and Talib Kweli's use of hip-hop as forms of fighting the power.
Towards the end of the program, there were two moments that exemplified the spirit of unity amidst struggle (friendly struggle with one another, and fierce struggle against the status quo), and the spirit of lively exchange, that characterized the evening. First, Dix broke out into a rendition of the Isley Brothers' version of "Ohio," with the opening lines: "Tin soldiers and Nixon's comin'/We're finally on our own/ This summer I hear the drummin'/ Four dead in Ohio/Gotta get down to it. Soldiers are gunning us down. Should have been done long ago."
The audience clapped in rhythm along with Dix, and cheered when he finished. West leaned over and embraced him.
"That was one of my favorite performances of my lifetime," a young white woman would say after the event. "And I'm 22 years old."
A moment later, West said that the reason he reads the works of Bob Avakian and wrestles with him is not because he is a communist but, "He is a certain kind of human being who has raised his voice and in his project that includes communism, I see some character, I see some quality of service to the poor, I see those who are concerned to sacrifice, I see a willingness to wrestle with deep issues that the mainstream does not want to wrestle with, including mainstream intellectuals."
While it is, of course, crucial to win as many people as possible over to the need for communist revolution—and the need to take up Avakian and his work on that basis—it is also crucial to building a revolutionary movement that broad sections of people, including those who are not communists, support, engage, and defend Avakian. The fact that West, a prominent and influential Black intellectual, made the public statement that he did, even though it will likely make him the target of unprincipled attacks from reactionaries and some "progressives" alike, is a big deal, and potentially an important opening in creating a culture of appreciation, promotion, and popularization of Avakian and his work.
In between questions from the moderators and the audience, Clyde Young of the Revolutionary Communist Party delivered a moving and convincing argument for the critical importance of revolutionary theory in general, and Revolution newspaper in particular. Young's speech was in tune with one of the major lessons of the program overall, which is that one of the first and most important steps in building revolution—or even mass resistance—is widely spreading the understanding of what fundamental change really means, and what it will require.
Since the event was a fundraiser for not only Revolution Books, but also the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund (PRLF), Young placed particular emphasis on the impact that spreading revolutionary consciousness can have within the nation's penitentiaries.
Young recalled digging into the works of Malcolm X and the Black Panthers, and immersing himself in revolutionary theory, while serving a 17-year prison sentence. At the time, he said, Revolution newspaper did not exist, so he had to break down and interpret works like the Communist Manifesto on his own. "Today," Young said, "Revolution is a lifeline for many, many prisoners behind walls."
Young told the crowd that Revolution newspaper frequently received letters from prisoners who were wrestling with the works of Avakian, and of the party in general. And he said that the paper had the potential to powerfully transform people, and the way they viewed the world; forging unity, rather than needless division, among different sections of the oppressed.
"Just changing the color of the president won't get the job done," Young said. "What we have to do is change the world. But to change the world, we have to understand it."
At the close of his presentation, Young informed the crowd that the newspaper subscriptions of 400 prisoners were due to expire after the month. He asked if anyone in the crowd was willing to donate $500. One person raised their hand to indicate they would be willing if two others stepped forward as well. Huge applause emanated from the crowd when the third and final donor stepped forward.
Young then asked if anyone were willing to donate $100, in order to buy three subscriptions for prisoners: at least two people stepped forward.
After the program ended, it was clear that people of many different strata and perspectives had been energized, inspired, and stimulated by the event; they had been provoked to think about new questions, and about old questions in new ways. Audience members expressed appreciation that they had the opportunity to hear frank, critical discussion of Obama and his presidency, in addition to blunt exposure of the reality that his ascendancy had not altered the imperialist system or halted its crimes.
"It was amazing!" a middle-aged white woman said of the program. (She seemed anxious to get where she was going, and efforts to have an extended conversation with her were unfortunately unsuccessful.)
"I'm new to this," she continued. "I'm not a revolutionary. I'm not a communist. I found them [the speakers] both very articulate and very real and true. I was surprised how much I agreed with them."
Asked to elaborate on why she said she was "surprised," the woman responded, "I'm a very centrist kind of person."
A young Black bank employee who was born and raised in Newark, and who described himself as a "freethinker," was very enthusiastic about both speakers. "It's so appropriate, what they're saying in terms of our view of Obama," he said, "the euphoria of a Black man in the White House, but the bottom line is he presides over a very racistand oppressive system."
"I thought the discussion was relevant in terms of creating that space to talk about Obama," another young Black man said. "Not the person, but Obama the president and what it means to the revolution or class struggles or different issues we're facing now. It's definitely timely, since Obama's been in office for more than six months now. It's good to have people who are out there thinking critically about how is Obama being the first African-American president going to address the issues that are systematic within the United States and capitalism."
He added that he was unfamiliar with Carl Dix before the event, and said he very much enjoyed hearing a person of color put forth a communist viewpoint. "I think I never really thought of the communist party as being relevant in American politics, to be honest with you," the man said. "I had nothing to disagree with them, it just seems like a relic of the past. It's kind of refreshing to see that there are people who are trying to create a paradigm shift, essentially, and not just look within the system and try to tinker with things within the system, but really say the system is inherently structured to perpetrate everything we are against."
Jenny, a 51-year-old white artist from England, said she wished she had heard more clashes between the speakers. "I thought they were being more careful of each other," Jenny said. She said she was quite familiar with both Dix and West going into the event, and that she knew they differed over the question of revolution; she felt that difference had been muted during the event.
"I suppose the main thing they were trying to focus on was Obama," Jenny said, "and I think it was useful that they did that for a lot of people."
Jenny agreed with the speakers that Obama's presidency was sucking many people into supporting the crimes of this government, and constituted a significant obstacle from the standpoint of building resistance to these crimes. However, she said that she viewed revolution as impossible.
"Why?" she was asked.
"Because I'm a pessimist," she said, with a laugh.
Asked to explain that sentiment further, Jenny replied, "The U.S. and the whole system that it perpetuates, I don't believe it's possible to end it the way you guys think it could be ended."
"Why?" Jenny was asked again.
"It's too powerful," Jenny replied.
Jose, a 21-year-old Latino student at Baruch College, said the roughly two-and-a-half hour event had held his attention the entire time.
"It was very stimulating and thought-provoking in the exchange of views that was shared by the audience, and of course Cornel West and Carl Dix," Jose said.
Jose, too, said he was already quite familiar with West—but not Dix—heading into the program. "But I'll start looking into him after the show," Jose added.
Asked what he thought of the speakers (particularly Dix, since he was far less aware of him going in), Jose said he was struck by Dix's emphasis on the need to radically change ideas and institutions, rather than simply looking to politicians to bring change.
"His point of view on society, and his approach to society, is new to me," Jose said.
However, echoing a comment made by the freethinker from Newark, Jose added that he still wasn't clear about what ultimate solution Dix was advocating. "I didn't understand what type of revolution he wanted to bring," Jose said, wondering if Dix envisioned means such as protest or civil disobedience as vehicles to implement radical change.
After the RCP's revolutionary strategy was explained to him—“hastening while awaiting" a revolutionary situation by working now to win millions of people over to understanding that the atrocities committed against the people of this planet stem from a common system, and that revolution is required to overcome that system, thereby laying the foundation for the people to actually make revolution when there is a crisis in the system—Jose said that he had more clarity on the question.
The young white woman who had raved about Dix's impromptu singing performance was equally thrilled about the event as a whole. "It was exhilarating," she said. "It was awesome. I got chills so many times just listening to people speak with so much passion about things that they really believe in. To hear other people say that they would die for something that they believe in, and to be talking about a poor working class, is a conversation that most people don't even consider because they don't belong to it. And I feel like I very much belong to it."
A few moments later, she spoke powerfully to the impact a program like this can have on those in attendance, and those who learn about the event after the fact.
"I think that for people to be talking about this stuff," she said, "versus all the trivial, superficial shit that goes on in everyone's daily lives—to find other people who want to have a conversation that's meaningful—is refreshing.”
Send us your comments.