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Revolution #177, September 27, 2009
Upsurge Erupts Again in Iran... Protests Planned at UN
Like lava pushing up through cracks between the plates of hard rock that form the surface of the earth... the seething anger of the Iranian people again erupted in the streets last week.
Seizing on the opportunity provided by Quds ceremonies (rallies and marches organized by the Iranian regime supposedly in support of the Palestinian struggle) tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets in the cities of Tehran, Shiraz, Isfahan, Tabriz, Kermanshah, and elsewhere on September 18. As we go to press, details of the protests are hard to come by, but what is known is that protesters defied police, the chain-wielding Basij (a reactionary militia linked to the regime’s armed forces); and the threat of prison, where the regime has been systematically torturing, raping, and murdering jailed protesters. Web sites report that in Shiraz, protesters skirmished with Basij militiamen and freed a group of fellow protesters who were being arrested.
This week, the president of Iran, Ahmadinejad—who symbolizes the repressive, oppressive regime ruling Iran—is scheduled to speak at the United Nations. Iranians from around the world will be coming to New York City the week of September 21-25. They will be joined by others in protest when Ahmadinejad speaks. A cutting edge of the protests will be exposing and opposing the horrific crimes carried out by the regime against those who were part of the initial wave of protest that involved hundreds of thousands after the Iranian election on June 12.
All who hate oppression and injustice should support the Call for Protest Assembly Against Islamic Republic of Iran in Front of UN, by a group of ex-political prisoners and the families of those political prisoners executed by the Islamic Republic of Iran [IRI] (see call in Revolution #175, September 6, 2009 or online at revcom.us).
* * *
The current wave of uprising in Iran was sparked by the perceived theft of the June election by Ahmadinejad. Millions of Iranians were desperate for real change and hoped that the election of one of the opposition candidates would be the beginning. Instead, within hours after the vote the Islamic Republic blatantly lied about the election, claiming it had hand-counted millions of votes and Ahmadinejad was winning in a landslide.
People were outraged and immediately took to the streets. Iran’s rulers responded by insulting those who wanted change, comparing them to disappointed soccer fans, even dirt; they tried to censor news of the protest, and they threatened marchers with arrest, even death. They failed. The revolt was joined by literally millions in street protests, chants from rooftops, and in many other ways. Young people and women—the future of Iran—were in the forefront of the battle.
The uprising in Iran, and the fearlessness of the people, is remarkable and inspiring in many ways. For three decades, the Iranian people have suffered under a dark-ages theocracy. That regime came to power on the backs of the Iranian people’s uprisings thirty years ago when the hated U.S. puppet, the Shah—a king put in power by the CIA in a 1953 coup—was overthrown. The Shah was despised for turning Iran into an outpost of U.S. imperialism in the region and a feasting ground for global capital and the rich, while millions lived lives of bitter poverty and his opponents were savagely tortured by the U.S.-trained secret police.
But the people’s dreams for liberation turned bitter when the revolution was hijacked by Islamic theocrats led by Ayatollah Khomeini. There was no fundamental uprooting of the relations in Iranian society, just the refashioning of them. The new regime strengthened feudal relations. It continued the oppression of nationalities like the Kurds. And it imposed Islamic Sharia law on women, forcing them under veils and denying them basic rights. The Islamic fundamentalist regime jailed tens of thousands of opponents, executed thousands of communists, and ever since has reacted to any form of protest with vicious violent repression.
The recent outpourings in urban areas and especially among youth, students and women—the largest since the 1979 revolution—are the eruption of decades of discontent and alienation over the suffocating, dead-end and dark-ages character of Islamic rule—and a determination to change things. This is reflected in protest slogans: death to dictatorship, freedom of thought, freedom or death, and the widespread demand for an end to press, artistic, and intellectual censorship and suppression.
And the regime’s response has been brutal and deadly. Peaceful street demonstrations have been attacked with clubs and teargas, broken up with motorcycle charges. People have been shot in cold blood—like 20-year-old Neda Agha Soltan, a woman student. Thousands have been arrested. Many have been tortured or raped while in prison and some have been murdered.
Perhaps nothing concentrates the reactionary depravity of the IRI and its ideology more than the systematic rape, torture and murder of prisoners, throughout its rule, and with a vengeance in response to the post-election uprisings. (See, A World to Win News Service, “Iran: rape, torture and murder of prisoners as regime policy,” September 7, 2009 and the New York Times blog, “The Lede,” August 28, 2009.)
Seventeen-year-old Saeedeh Aghaee was arrested by Basiji militiamen because she was shouting slogans on a rooftop. In prison, she was first tortured, then raped, “and then burnt in acid from the knees upward to destroy any evidence of the rape and other kinds of torture.” Twenty days later her mother identified her body in a morgue in south Tehran, but the authorities refused to hand over her body unless her family paid a huge ransom, which they couldn’t afford. The regime also pressured the family to publicly state that her death was due to “kidney failure,” even though she had no history of kidney problems. Only an investigation by friends and family members led to the discovery of her murder. Today, there are many other cases like Saeedeh’s.
The regime’s response to the protest has deepened the anger and alienation felt by millions of Iranians and has sharpened the deep divisions within the IRI establishment over how to keep the Islamic Republic in power. Reformist forces within the IRI who opposed Ahmadinejad in the election, like Mir-Hossein Mousavi, have denounced the election results (and to some degree denounced some of the brutality and torture and rape against protesters) and have serious differences with the Ahmadinejad “hard liners.”
But the reformers are not against the Islamic Republic and all it stands for. Their differences with the hard-liners are around how to shore up, reinvigorate, and uphold the Islamic Republic. They have adopted the green color of Islam as their banner. And their stated and objective agenda is to re-legitimize the Islamic Republic, and renegotiate, not break out of, the terms in which Iran and its oil-based economy and regional influence fit into the global system of capitalism-imperialism.
As we wrote shortly after the election:
“These forces represented by the electoral reformers are by no means minor players or any type of friends of the people. While having real differences with the current core forces of the regime, and while currently isolated from the heart of power, they are as essentially reactionary as the “hardliners” represented by Ahmadinejad. The main representatives of this movement are not only loyal to the main institutions of the Islamic Republic, many of the key players in this movement were actually central to the initial emergence of the Islamic regime after the revolution against the Shah. Some directly oversaw the extremely brutal suppression of progressive and revolutionary forces in the 1980s, which included massive imprisonment, torture, exile and the outright executions of thousands of people. Mousavi himself was prime minister in this very period, from 1981-1989. (“Uprising in Iran,” by V.T., Revolution #169, June 28, 2009)
A communiqué from the Communist Party of Iran (Marxist-Leninist-Maoist) put out on the morning of June 20 posed, “Mousavi’s trademarks are the slogan ‘God is great’ and the [Islamic] color green. Many of you think that these symbols are important for your unity. But they are first and foremost the symbols of the society that Mousavi promises to build—nothing but the same Islamic Republic with minor reforms to make it stronger.
“Is this really the kind of society you want? Is it worth so much sacrifice? Why can‘t we make sacrifices for much higher and loftier goals? Why not struggle for a fundamentally different society and future? A society free of all oppression and exploitation. A society where everyone shares and cooperates. Where the equality of women and men is a fundamental and self-evident principle. Where the beautiful scenes of collaboration, mutual help, and consideration we are witnessing in our common battles today would be institutionalized. A society that is rid of boredom and stagnation, and always lively and active.”
Today, we’re told that the only options for people in the world are either U.S.-style capitalism-imperialism and the “democracy” that serves it on one hand, or medieval Islamic fundamentalism. The oppression women face in Iran is held up as one concentrated example where perhaps if nothing else, the model of U.S. democracy is preferable to what exists today in Iran for women. But it is under the perverse economic and social relations of the global system of capitalism—presided over and enforced by the United States—that millions of women from all over the world are trafficked in sexual slavery and that inside the U.S. itself women are still looked at as breeders of children and objects of sexual gratification while the rates of abuse and rape of women are staggering.
The March 8 Women’s Organization (Iran-Afghanistan) said in a statement issued for International Women‘s Day (March 8) this year:
“It is a system that we are facing. Misogyny and women’s slavery, poverty, homophobia, racial and gender apartheid, child labor, religious slave mindedness, wars, holocausts and genocides are continuously produced by this system...The road to the world capitalist imperialist system has been paved by the enslavement of women. The road to its undoing deeply depends on the women of the world consciously rebelling against it.” (“For An Internationalist March 8—The International Women’s Day Revolutionary Women Cry Out: Revolution Is the Way Out for Humanity,” reprinted in Revolution #157, February 22, 2009, and available at revcom.us)
Iran’s own history graphically illustrates how the U.S. has brought oppression and misery to Iran, first through the Shah, but then even facilitating the coming to power of Islamic fundamentalists—with all the horrors that has meant for women and the vast majority of Iranian society (see “The Role of the U.S. In Iran—Then… and Now,” in this issue and at revcom.us). This shows how imperialism incorporates and integrates feudal and semi-feudal forms of oppression into its web of oppression and exploitation. And it shows how imperialism and Islamic fundamentalism reinforce and feed off each other—even as they sharply clash in many ways.
The country of Iran remains in the grip of the world capitalist-imperialist system. Ahmadinejad and the dominant forces in power in the IRI pose as standing up to (some) foreign powers, even as they try to maneuver within the relations of the imperialist world-system. And the U.S. hypocritically poses as the enlightened opponent of the obscurantist and tyrannical Islamic Republic. The truth is that neither of these forces represents any kind of pathway for liberation of the Iranian people.
Neither the U.S. nor any faction within the Iranian ruling class aims to break the people of Iran out of the system of imperialist relations in the world. And it is this system—with all the relations it props up and enforces—that lies at the root of the oppression of the Iranian people.
The solution to the situation the people of Iran face lies outside the parameters of either U.S. imperialism or the Islamic regime. It lies in a REAL revolution that BREAKS the chains that bind Iran to the global system of capitalism-imperialism, not in trying to maneuver for better terms within those chains as both the Iranian “hard-liners” and the “reformers,” in different ways, are trying to do.
This REAL revolution would overthrow the Islamic Republic of Iran and put in its place a liberating society which opens the road to uprooting all oppressive and exploitative relations and ideas—including the oppression of women.
As we wrote in “Uprising in Iran”:
“There is the potential for revolutionary forces, even starting out small, to take advantage of the upsurge and strengthen the influence and organization for a revolutionary solution. If such forces are among the people in revolt, and if they struggle to change the terms of the revolt and divert it out of the channels of fighting just for a ‘reformed IRI,’ then a social struggle that at the beginning and spontaneously is confined essentially within the terms of opposition, between two poles which are both, fundamentally and ultimately, reactionary (e.g., bourgeois democracy vs. fundamentalist absolutism), provides both the necessity and the possibility to transform this into a dynamic in which there is a growing pole of radical opposition, breaking out of those confines and with a revolutionary communist force able to enter into and contend within the dynamic process and grow in strength through the course of this.”
As the past few months have demonstrated, the road ahead for the people of Iran is full of twists and turns, unpredicted outbreaks and tense calms...and the masses of people will be called upon to make great sacrifices as they go up against brutal repression. Conflicts within the ruling regime in Iran have opened up space for the struggle of the masses to break through. There is an opportunity for the interests of the masses to be brought to the fore through a tortuous and complex struggle. There is the potential for something good, in fact, something great, to come out of all this.
The path to that is building a truly revolutionary movement in Iran. This is something that all who hunger for fundamental radical change—for revolution—should not only fervently hope for, but politically support.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #177, September 27, 2009
In 1953, the CIA orchestrated a coup that overthrew the government of the popular Prime Minister Mossadeq. The coup brought to power Mohammed Reza Pahlavi—the Shah of Iran—who served as a close and subservient enforcer of the interests of U.S. empire in the Middle East for nearly 26 years.
In 1976, Amnesty International reported that the Shah’s regime had the “highest rate of death penalties in the world, no valid system of civilian courts and a history of torture which is beyond belief. No country in the world has a worse record in human rights than Iran.”
And yet, U.S. President Jimmy Carter proclaimed, “Under the Shah’s brilliant leadership Iran is an island of stability in one of the most troublesome regions of the world. There is no other state figure whom I could appreciate and like more.” Carter’s statements about supporting human rights at the time, and his positions since leaving the White House not-withstanding, this fervent support for the Shah was dictated by his role as commander-in-chief of the U.S. empire, and the strategic role that the Shah’s Iran played as a powerful regional enforcer of U.S. interests.
An uprising of millions of people drove the Shah from power, but not before the Shah’s military gunned down thousands of protesters. Several thousand people were murdered on September 8, 1978, in massacres that came to be known as “Bloody Friday.” The revolution that drove out the Shah, however, was stolen from the people by Islamic fundamentalist clerics.
As the Shah fell, the U.S. used its diplomatic resources to assist the Ayatollah Khomeini in coming to power—seeing him as the better bet than allowing the uprising to continue with the possibility that progressive, or even revolutionary forces could come to the fore. One senior U.S. official wrote in February 1979, Khomeini’s movement “is far better organized, enlightened, able to resist communism than its detractors would lead us to believe.” (See the series “The U.S. & Iran: A History of Imperialist Domination, Intrigue and Intervention,” by Larry Everest, available at revcom.us/iran-history/).
When the Iranian regime attacked post-election protests in June, Obama issued a fairly muted criticism, saying that “The universal rights to assembly and free speech must be respected and the United States stands with all who seek to exercise those rights,” but even these muted complaints have hypocrisy stamped all over them. The U.S. has never balked at imposing, supporting, and enforcing its interests through brutal dictators, especially in the oppressed nations of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Those who harbor illusions about the kinds of changes the U.S. is angling to bring to Iran might look to the east, to Afghanistan, or to the west, to Iraq, to see models of the democracy the U.S. brings to the world.
Over the past several years, the danger of U.S. or Israeli military aggression against Iran has hung over the Middle East, and the world, like an ominous cloud (See “An Assessment of the Momentum Towards War Between the United States and Iran: Causes and Potential Ramifications,” available revcom.us/iran-history/.) Israel, which has a substantial nuclear weapons arsenal, has repeatedly threatened strikes against Iran using the pretext of Iran’s nuclear program—a program that to date has produced no nuclear weapons. And mainstream media sources funnel a steady stream of “leaks,” “rumors,” and insider quotes speculating on the imminence of an Israeli military air strike on Iran.
During the election campaign, Obama criticized Bush for a one-dimensional approach to Iran, and called for a mix of “unilateral and multilateral sanctions” and “aggressive diplomacy.” The bottom line however, underneath whatever diplomatic initiatives Obama takes, is the threat of military aggression (and sanctions, militarily enforced, are a form of military aggression with a particular edge of creating misery and death for the civilian population).
U.S. military threats against Iran escalated sharply in the past week. On September 18, Obama announced plans to redirect U.S. missiles (referred to by the U.S. as “anti-missile defenses”) towards Iran. Much news coverage focused on accusations from Republicans that this represented Obama backing down from confronting Russia, but the lead sentence in the AP story on the decision summed up the essential point: “The Obama administration’s revamped plan for a European missile shield is part of a broad new strategy for squeezing Iran.” That article continued, “With U.S. troops already stationed on Iran’s eastern and western flanks — in Iraq and Afghanistan — the addition of anti-missile weapons aboard U.S. Navy ships in the region would add to Iran’s military isolation.” And news reports have also speculated that part of the package of moving missiles that Moscow objected to was more active Russian support for moves against Iran.
Any U.S. or Israeli attack on Iran would be criminal aggression. And it would further intensify the current, terrible framework where for many in the Middle East and beyond, the “choices” they face are viewed as being between Islamic fundamentalism and U.S. imperialism. On the other hand, a movement that supports the Iranian people and opposes U.S. imperialism—could be part of bringing forward another way—the potential for a genuinely liberating force to get on the map.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #177, September 27, 2009
Among the Iran resources at revcom.us
Send us your comments.
Revolution #177, September 27, 2009
The Raymond Lotta Campus Tour:
“Imagine a situation in which Christian fundamentalist creationists have seized power, in the academies of science and in society overall, and have proceeded to suppress knowledge of evolution. Imagine that they go so far as to execute and imprison the most prominent scientists and educators who had insisted on teaching evolution and bringing knowledge of this to the public, and they heap scorn and abuse on the well-established scientific fact of evolution, denouncing and ridiculing it as a flawed and dangerous theory which runs counter to well-known ‘truth’ of the biblical creation story and to religious notions of ‘natural law’ and the ‘divinely ordained order.’ And, to continue the analogy, imagine that in this situation many intellectual ‘authorities,’ and others following in their wake, jump on the bandwagon: ‘It was not only naïve but criminal to believe that evolution was a well-documented scientific theory, and to force that belief on people,’ they declare. ‘Now we can see that it is “common wisdom,” which no one questions (so why should we?), that evolution embodies a worldview and leads to actions that are disastrous for human beings. We were taken in by the arrogant assurance of those who propagated this notion. We can see that everything that exists, or has existed, could not have come into being without the guiding hand of an “intelligent designer.”’ And, finally, imagine that in this situation, even many of those who once knew better become disoriented and demoralized, cowed into silence where they do not join in, meekly or loudly, in the chorus of capitulation and denunciation.
“The temporary defeat of socialism and the end of the first stage of the communist revolution has had many features and consequences that are analogous to such a situation. Among other things, it has 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.” (Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage, A Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, RCP Publications, 2009, P. 18-19.)
Nowhere is this sharper than on the campuses. And yet the campuses play a strategic and necessary role in making revolution, in innovation and in the search for truth more generally. Without ferment and a truly radical movement on the campuses, and among intellectuals generally, there can be no revolution. Recognizing and truly coming to grips with this situation for what it is—in order to radically transform it—is urgent.
In this editorial, we want to focus on the upcoming campus tour of Raymond Lotta, which is the focal point on campus of “overturning the verdict on communism, introducing a new generation to the leadership of Bob Avakian, cracking open mass debate and ferment... and organizing a new generation into the movement for revolution.” (Issue #174, “Bringing Revolution to the Campuses—A Strategic Mission of Any Revolution Worth Making,” August 30, 2009) In doing so, we again want to speak both to all those who have taken up this campaign, in one way or another—and to invite others to join in grappling with the challenge as well. Lotta will be giving a speech entitled, “Everything You’ve Been Told About Communism Is Wrong, Capitalism Is a Failure, Revolution Is the Solution.”
In particular, we want to get into the importance of this tour to “cracking open mass debate and ferment” on the questions of socialism and communism. The metaphor with which we started this editorial—a situation in which creationists have seized power and suppressed real science—actually applies pretty directly to what we face. In such times, it would be much more important to have hundreds on campus actively taking notice of and entering into debate around the viability of communism, than to just attract a few score or so of the already interested to hear Raymond Lotta. Of course, we do want those who are already interested to come as well—but our point in putting it this way is that these speeches need to be part of creating a situation where the “already interested” are part of a larger mix of ferment, mass debate and intellectual excitement that is simmering and bubbling...and where that situation, even on several campuses to begin with, spreads to other campuses and to society as a whole. We’re aiming at getting a whole different dynamic going, on campus and in society overall.
Having laid out in unvarnished terms the serious and substantial challenges we face, we should look as well to the openings and opportunities within the situation—some of them even posed by the obstacles themselves.
Let’s begin with the fact most students don’t know anything about communism, and that what they do know—or, rather, what they think they know—is wrong. Even as this is so, it coexists with a certain openness to engagement on this, in part because it has been ruled so off the map. If you can find the ways to shake people up about the most commonly accepted “proofs,” you can begin a serious conversation on this. To take one example, go to the video that Raymond Lotta posted on YouTube, “Raymond Lotta-Everything You’ve Been Told About Communism Is Wrong.” Mao Tsetung led the Chinese revolution and made towering contributions to the cause of human emancipation. Yet the conventional wisdom on Mao is that he was a mass murderer, akin to Hitler. And the work that “everyone knows” is the authoritative source of this is Mao: The Unknown Story, by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday. But when people see how Lotta pulls back the curtain on one particularly egregious fraud the authors of Mao: The Unknown Story perpetrate, and when they see how he exposes Chang and Halliday’s method in doing so, this stops them in their intellectual tracks, so to speak, and gets them to look at things anew.
Or take the controversy about Obama right now, where racist thugs and fascist lunatics call him communist or socialist, and where almost all of those who defend him do so on a basis that implicitly accepts, and reinforces, the idea that being a communist is a bad thing. Without falling into focusing on Obama, which would be a distraction from the main purpose, revolutionaries should put out very boldly: “Obama is no socialist or communist—we ARE—and YOU should be, too. Come hear Raymond Lotta explain why.”
Or think about this: no decent person ever says “Naziism—great idea but couldn’t work.” But people, especially many young people who are not so locked into the way things are, very often say this about communism. They see, on some level, the insanity of today’s society and the ways in which this capitalist system causes disaster. At the same time they have accepted, without ever being exposed to real communism, what our message and call (“The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have.” issue #170, July 19, 2009) says is the “biggest lie of all”:
[T]hat there is no other way than this system—or that attempts to really make a different way, through revolution and advancing toward communism, have brought about something even worse. The wretched of the earth have made revolution and started on the road to communism—first in Russia and then in China—and they achieved great things in doing so, before they were turned back by the forces of the old order. We are here to tell you that not only has this been done before, but we can do it again—and even better this time. This is the truth that is covered up and lied about, but we have the facts and the analysis to back this up—tremendous historical experience has been summed up, scientifically, and is there for us to learn from and build on.
The content of “doing it even better”—the new synthesis of communism brought forward by Bob Avakian—can be a tremendously liberating and mind-opening factor in this whole debate and discussion, speaking in depth and with real substance to the questions that honest people do have about the previous revolutions. As Avakian himself has emphasized:
[I]t is very important not to underestimate the significance and potential positive force of this new synthesis: criticizing and rupturing with significant errors and shortcomings while bringing forward and recasting what has been positive from the historical experience of the international communist movements and the socialist countries that have so far existed; in a real sense reviving—on a new, more advanced basis—the viability and, yes, the desirability of a whole new and radically different world, and placing this on an even firmer foundation of materialism and dialectics....
So, we should not underestimate the potential of this as a source of hope and of daring on a solid scientific foundation. (“Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity,” Part 1, Revolution #112, December 16, 2007.)
If on this foundation we can open up debate, if we can open up ferment, if we can spark thinking on those terms—and the sharper the debate, the better—then we can begin to fight for this. If we can engage students in really thinking about all this, then—but only then—we have a fighting chance. For an example of how this can work, see “Taking Revolution to the Campuses” [in the “Spreading Revolution and Communism” section at revcom.us].
You see, the bourgeoisie really does dominate the major media and the schools, and it spreads its distortions and lies into every corner of society. But we have one (very big) thing going for us. To again quote our Manifesto:
But all this has not done away with reality: the reality of how the world is, under the domination of this capitalist-imperialist system and the daily horror this involves for the great majority of humanity—or the reality of what communism actually represents for humanity and the possibility of making new breakthroughs and advances on the road of communist revolution.
Bringing home this reality—in a very bold, living, scientific way that takes on people’s toughest questions, in a way that shakes everything up and has some of the flair and fun and gusto to it that actually should be part of this revolution —this is what the Raymond Lotta tour is all about.
This speech by Raymond Lotta will and must pose a provocative challenge to those who have accepted and spread the verdicts on communism, particularly liberal and progressive professors. This speech must be built in a way so that it is something that people cannot just blow off, but feel they must confront. We want students who follow these professors to feel compelled to come and find out the real deal, to defend their professors with everything they’ve got—to check out a compelling speech by Raymond Lotta, and engage in scientific give-and-take over what is really real.
Finding the ways to issue this kind of challenge is a crucial element to making this speech a really BIG DEAL. But HOW this is done is very important. Such a challenge must be done aggressively—but with the right kind of aggressiveness. Ad hominem attacks—that is, going after people who have been spreading lies in ways that attack them as individuals—have nothing to do with what we’re about and do more harm than good. And just shouting at people, with no substance, doesn’t convince anyone. Of course neither does backing off and backpedaling at the first sign of opposition or debate! What we DO want to do is to very provocatively pose the real deal to some of these professors—especially those who have influence among the more progressive students—using substance and scientific method to hammer home that in repeating these anti-communist slanders, “you’re wrong, you’re spreading lies, you don’t know what you’re talking about, and you’re doing a great deal of harm!”
Some particular attention should also be focused on “China scholars” who have pushed out the official story that slanders and distorts the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution and the revolutionary leader Mao Tsetung. Again, this should be done in such a way—with boldness, and substance, that captures the imagination—that people feel compelled to come—and that these scholars feel they HAVE to defend their work, and contest what Lotta will be saying.
The Raymond Lotta speaking tour should be anything but a linear, step 1-step 2-step 3, recipe. It should be the furthest thing from a self-contained exercise, carried out by a handful of people, no matter how dedicated and hard working they may be. On the contrary: for this to come off in the way it has to, we need a “wild mix” of different people and different kinds of activity.
To begin with, Bob Avakian has often emphasized and returned to the positive interaction between intellectual and political ferment in the middle strata of society, and revolutionary activity and sentiments from those on the bottom. This should find expression in this effort as well. Those who have lived life at the bottom of American society—those who face police brutality and criminalization as a fact of life, who risk their lives to cross the borders only to live in the shadows, who have no future other than to slave or be cast off and even blown away—have much to teach students, even as they have much to learn. When people from those sections of society begin to come into political life, their coming on to the campus can be invigorating for all sides—and we should work to maximize this feature of the Lotta speaking tour.
Another important channel of change can be through the interaction between the media and the campus. The bubbling ferment heading into these programs should be the occasion for advance media coverage, and coverage of the event itself, and this in turn should reverberate back onto the campus, each amplifying the other. The orientation and approach laid out in this editorial should open up new thinking on possible openings in this sphere.
In addition, while the particular campuses where Lotta will be speaking are the main base that the programs will draw from, and require real concentration, we should also “spread the contagion” to other campuses, and high schools as well. Students will go to where things are happening; they don’t confine themselves to the boundaries of their own campus, and neither should we in our thinking.
Finally, and most important: there are many people coming from many different kinds of understanding and levels of commitment, who must be part of making this happen... or it will not happen on the scale it needs to. There should be all kinds of different ways that people can be part of creating this wild mix, all leading to the program itself—whether by spreading materials, hosting dorm meetings, being part of posses that take out materials—which do not require them to feel convinced of the whole program, let alone able to argue it out with others. Indeed, there should be many who build and contribute to this in many ways who are still working through whether they agree with this or not, but want to have a real chance to engage with these ideas and see others engage with them. Those at the core of this campaign will be needing to learn from, and foster, all kinds of activity—in other words, they must be able to unleash a great deal of elasticity on the basis of the solid core of this speech, and everything it will be concentrating and contributing to.
There is no sense in kidding ourselves—we are coming from behind on this. But if we really confront the terms of the situation with science—that is, with an open-eyed but sweeping and deep-going analysis of the reality we face, in a way that can reveal the possible pathways and channels of change, even possibilities that may seem counter-intuitive from the angle of conventional thinking—then we can actually accomplish the important goals bound up with this speaking tour. So let’s take on this serious task... and let’s have some fun as we do.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #177, September 27, 2009
Raymond Lotta is a revolutionary intellectual. He takes as his foundation Bob Avakian’s new synthesis and has written extensively on China during and after the Cultural Revolution and played a major role in elucidating the actual thinking of Mao and the so-called Gang of Four that supported Mao. He also played a major role in working to expose the restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union and China, including through written work and mass public debate. He has, through the Setting the Record Straight project which he leads, fought to spread the truth—and refute the lies—about the experience of the communist revolution in the Soviet Union between 1917 and 1956 and China between 1949 and 1976. Most recently, he co-authored “Alain Badiou’s ‘Politics of Emancipation’: A Communism Locked Within the Confines of the Bourgeois World” (demarcations-journal.org).
Lotta has also done major work on political economy, including America in Decline (Banner Press, 1984) and “Shifts and Faultlines in the World Economy and Great Power Rivalry,” a four-part series published in this newspaper in July and August 2008. A recent speech—“Understanding the Global Economic Crisis: System Failure and the Need for Revolution”—can be heard at revolutionbooksnyc.org/Lotta4-23-09.mp3
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Revolution #177, September 27, 2009
[Editors’ note: The following is the 12th and concluding excerpt from the text of a talk by Bob Avakian, earlier this year, which has been serialized in Revolution, beginning with issue #163. Parts 1-11 appeared in issues #163, #164, #165, #166, #167, #169, #171, #172, #173, #174, and #175. Part 11 was taken from the beginning of the section titled “Further Wrangling with Meaningful Revolutionary Work.” Part 12 includes the rest of this section (which includes three subheadings: “The continuing importance of ideological struggle—correctly waged”; “Giving full expression to the attractive force of what we’re all about”; and “A still more deepened understanding, and living reality, of ‘Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution’”) and the last section of the talk, “Building a Movement for Revolution—And Nothing Less.” 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]
Once again, it is crucial to give emphasis to the ideological dimension and ideological struggle, with masses of people broadly—basic masses but also people of other strata. With regard to the basic masses in particular, and as a matter of fundamental orientation overall, while of course it is important to unite with people who hold religious views but take a stand (or can be won to take a stand) in opposition to various forms of oppression—and while it is also important to recognize that winning people, in their masses, away from religion will involve a long-term process, of struggle—this struggle cannot, and must not, be put off, or put to the side, until some future time; there is a decisive and ongoing need, even in the context of uniting in the practical struggle, to carry out very sharp struggle against religion, in all its forms—struggle waged in a living and compelling way, not in a dogmatic way and not in a way that is contemptuous of the masses in fact, but in a way that actually manifests strategic respect for them, embodying the understanding that they can, and strategically they must, cast off this mental shackle of religion and confront and transform—be part of a growing mass revolutionary movement to confront and transform—reality as it actually is.
We also have to go straight up against the mentality of a defeated and degraded people, especially as this applies among people in the inner cities. And, along with this, we have to struggle fiercely against the deceit and self-deceit around the Obama election and the Obama presidency, including the pathetically false notions—in the actual and full meaning of "pathetically"—that "we've had our revolution, it's a new day in America," which is really just defeated people mentality turned inside out, and which sets people up for further defeat and, even worse, for enlisting them in the crimes of this system, while at the same time they are further victimized by crimes of this system.
We should remember and constantly bring out the real meaning of William Bennett's comments on election night about "now, no more excuses,"1 and what all these "grand hopes and inspirations," bound up with illusions about Obama, are going to turn into when the system asserts itself according to its actual nature and dynamics and prevents the masses of people from actually being able to realize even the aspirations they spontaneously have under this system—and when this system does what it does to masses of people, in particular the masses of people in the inner cities, and then adds insult to injury by seeking to blame them for their situation, and adds even further insult by saying, "now you have no more excuses because of Obama." We really need to grasp firmly the bitter reality that's bound up in the masses getting caught up in this Obama thing, and the way this is going to be ruthlessly wielded against them.
And there is a need for ideological struggle to enable people to rupture with the "hustler mentality" and the spontaneity that goes along with the life of many of the masses in the projects and the inner cities generally.
All of this ideological struggle must be waged sharply and at times even fiercely. But in terms of basic stance and orientation, let me stress once again that it must also be waged, as I have put it previously, with our arm around the masses, maintaining a clear and firm sense of the real revolutionary potential of these masses.
We need to vigorously struggle with people—and here I am speaking especially of basic Black people and other basic masses—so that their mentality, and the actions that go along with that, are not those of a defeated people...nor a deluded people. As we put it in the special supplement, "The Oppression of Black People, the Crimes of this System, and the Revolution We Need,"2 there must be a conscious confronting of the reality of being oppressed people…and transformation into becoming revolutionary people.
There is also a need, of course, for ideological struggle, waged sharply and compellingly, among other sections of the people, and in particular educated youth and the intelligentsia broadly speaking—in particular sharp struggle against the forms that bourgeois individualism and bourgeois-democratic illusions and prejudices take among these strata; struggle against idealism and various forms of relativism and petit-bourgeois "ultra egalitarianism," including as this takes form as opposition to leadership. This "ultra egalitarianism" is, at base, another form of "me first-ism"—it is a version of striving to be "first among equals," which ultimately is in the service of perpetuating this system with its profound inequalities and fundamental relations of exploitation and oppression.
I remember, decades ago, when we were opening things up to public discussion and debate about our old Programme, an anarchist wrote in and put forward standard anarchist arguments against vanguard leadership—while at the same time insisting that he's all for releasing political prisoners when the revolution comes...but if the "murderers, rapists, and psychopaths" among the incarcerated threaten his daughters, then he's going to use the training he got as a U.S. soldier in Vietnam to kill those threatening his daughters. All of a sudden, the idea that there should be guaranteed rights for people (which this person was strenuously arguing) goes up in smoke with the invocation of the prospect of this guy's property—in this case his daughters, which he is essentially treating as his property—being threatened. Here, in this apparent "flip"—from lofty sounding principles about protection from arbitrary authority, to starkly narrow individualism and "vigilante-ism"—we see a rather classical (if somewhat extreme) example of the outlook of a patriarch and a small property owner: we see, sharply revealed, the fundamental nature of this "ultra egalitarian" outlook (including, in this case, not only extreme individualism but also rather pronounced and aggressive patriarchy).
This—to invoke again the very important formulations from Marx that I cited earlier—is another expression of the outlook of the petite bourgeoisie, and more specifically of the petit bourgeois democrat—who, however, imagines that he or she is expressing some universal principle about how society ought to be, something which represents the road to the general emancipation of society, when it only represents the illusory notion of remaking the world in the image of the petite bourgeoisie and in reality leads to perpetuating this system ruled by the bourgeoisie with not only its profound inequalities, but the fundamental relations of exploitation and oppression in which this system is grounded and through which it proceeds.
Directly posed against all this—and something which must be boldly put forward in a living, meaningful, powerful and compelling way—is the radically different and truly liberating outlook and objectives of revolution and communism. There is great importance to fully recognizing—and acting on the recognition of—the positive attractive force of what we are actually all about: our goals, and above all the final goal of communism, but also our outlook, methods and morals. In this regard it is very instructive to read the article by Sunsara Taylor in issue no. 152 of Revolution, "Some Thoughts on the Importance of Bob Avakian to Building a Revolutionary Movement," where she speaks precisely to the attractive force of what we represent and how radically different it is from everything else that is out there—the liberating content of this, and the way that this both calls forward inspiration among people, and also a lot of questions and struggle which, as she emphasizes, we should want and welcome, because this, too, is part of the process through which we're going to win people to what we're all about.
As I have previously emphasized, there is crucial importance to fostering, through many different means and in many different arenas, a radically different culture—among the youth and among all sections of the people—a culture of defiance, resistance, and, above all, revolution, infused with the communist emancipators of humanity ethos and spirit. Once again, this will require both determined and, yes at times, even fierce struggle, straight up against the prevailing culture (and "sub-cultures") that reflect and ultimately serve the existing system of commodification, domination, exploitation and oppression. And it will require unleashing initiative and creativity among masses who are drawn forward to the emancipators of humanity outlook.
We really should be, and increasingly need to be, calling on youth (and others) to be utilizing and giving expression to their creativity to develop and popularize this culture, in all kinds of ways, in every sphere—to be spreading this culture, and in particular the communist core of this culture, in art and all the different forms of popular expression, on the internet, and in a thousand ways which people can be unleashed to take up, when they begin to get a basic grasp of the liberating potential of what we're all about. While struggling consistently for the communist outlook to gain increasing influence within all this, we should not seek to tightly control but should seek to unleash and to, once again, "put our arms around" and strive to lead all this toward the communist goal, working through the contradictions that will inevitably be involved in this, especially if we are actually going to have a living process, which we really need to have on a much bigger scale.
In addition to, and in important ways overlapping with, the roles of certain comrades as public spokespeople and representatives for the party, and more particularly their roles in terms of fostering a culture of appreciation, promotion and popularization of our Chair, his body of work and method and approach—and with the newspaper as the hub and pivot, and organizational "scaffolding," of the revolutionary movement overall—there is a great need for propagators, in a compelling way, of the party's line and, in the correct sense, fighters and organizers for this line—people who see it as their mission, and are guided by the party's vision and line, to go out and actually fight for this line, win people to it, organize them into the revolutionary movement and struggle for them to become communists and then to join the party once they've made that leap to being communists. With even a relatively small increase in the ranks of people who are really won to do this, we could make significant advances, we could make important changes in terms of building the movement for revolution. We need to have a conscious orientation toward this, and pay systematic attention to it, both inside and outside the ranks of the party: It must be increasingly developed from within the party itself, and among those very close to and partisan to the party, at any given time, but also by bringing forward newly advancing people within the broader movements and struggles as, through our systematic work on the basis of our party's line, people are won to the revolutionary communist position.
There is a need to be much more straightforwardly putting out the challenge, especially to youth but to others as well who are drawn toward our party and its revolutionary communist line, that—even before making the leap to joining the party, but as a crucial aspect of moving in that direction—they need to advance beyond just being drawn toward the idea of revolution and weighing, "from the outside," whether they think the idea of revolution can take hold among broader numbers and can really become a powerful political force—they need to make the leap from that to taking up the challenge themselves of assuming responsibility for building the revolutionary movement, actively playing a role in figuring out how to make this happen and actually making it happen. This, too, is something to which further attention—including the further development and refining of a basic approach in this regard—needs to be seriously and systematically devoted on the part of the party leadership and the party as a whole, from here forward.
In light of all this, we should grasp more fully everything that is embodied in the strategic orientation: "Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution." We need a deepened understanding of this and more consistent and systematic application of it: by the party itself; in terms of the orientation and practical activity of the Revolution Clubs; and in an overall sense. This is not a slogan just for resistance. Nor, on the other hand, is it a slogan that is meant to encourage scholasticist discussions in the abstract (in a bad sense) of how the world could be different and how people need to change, or the idea that first we have to change ourselves before we can change the world. Quite the contrary. We need to change ourselves—and growing numbers of people have to be involved in changing themselves and others—in the context of, and in the process of, making revolution and changing the world. That is what "Fight the Power, and Transform the People"—and the dialectical unity of the different aspects involved in this, and the struggle involved in this—is all about. It is all aiming, and building, for revolution.
It should be clear to the masses—and this has everything to do with meaningful revolutionary work—especially to those masses who at any given time are drawn toward the party and to the attractiveness of what it's all about, it should be clear that when they want to stand up and fight back against oppression, this is where they go: to the vanguard, to the movement around the vanguard. When they want to grapple with the problems, the contradictions and the difficulties of how the people themselves are going to be changed in order to become revolutionary and in order to take up the challenge of making revolution, this is where they come: to the vanguard, and the revolutionary movement around it. It is not somewhere else and something else that is involved in resisting the oppression of this system and in making that resistance part of building a movement to sweep away this system and advance toward the final aim of communism. It is, it must be, this party and the movement for revolution with this party at its core.
This has to be deeply internalized on the part of the party as a whole and fought for, and won, among growing numbers of people who are drawn around the party. And, as I have been stressing here, they have to themselves take this up and—not as "a leap of faith" but on the basis of being won to this, through struggle involving substance and science—move "from the outside" and agnosticism to coming into the process and actively, themselves, taking up the challenge of building this movement for revolution, with the party at the core of that.
We have to give all this organized expression—not for economist purposes and not with an "economist culture" ("the movement is everything, the final aim nothing") but with a revolutionary culture and for revolutionary communist aims. We have to give this organized expression in various forms on the basis of consistently and systematically carrying out and fighting for this revolutionary communist line, and no other, and continually struggling to enable this line, and no other, to be in the guiding and leading position, in an overall sense. We have to actively carry out—and win others to understand the crucial need for, and to carry out—the process of preparing minds and organizing forces—for revolution.
This goes back to the answer to the question: What do we do now? We make revolution: we "Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution"; we carry out the overall ensemble of "Enriched What Is To Be Done-ism," with its two mainstays; we bring forward fighters for this revolution, people on a mission to win people to and organize them around the line of this party and into this revolutionary movement with the party at its core, guided by this line and no other; we prepare minds and organize forces for revolution. This is what we are, and must be, doing—now, and throughout the whole process of hastening while awaiting the emergence of a revolutionary situation and a revolutionary people in the millions and millions. Not in the sense that, right now and without the objective conditions and the millions of people prepared to fight for this, we're going for the seizure of power, but in the sense that everything we're doing is nothing else and nothing less than building a movement toward the goal of revolution, real revolution.
It is crucial that we maintain a firm grounding in and consistently apply our strategy of United Front under the Leadership of the Proletariat. To be very clear: The emphasis in this talk on the importance of class analysis—dialectical materialist analysis, not reified and reductionist "class analysis"—should not be taken to mean that we should simply "accept," and in fact tail rather than struggling with, the spontaneous outlooks of other class forces ("what do you expect?—that's just the way the petite bourgeoisie is—there's nothing you can do about it") nor, on the other hand, that we should adopt a sectarian attitude toward, and simply "write off," petit bourgeois forces, and others who spontaneously gravitate toward that outlook—a category which, it must be recognized, constitutes the great majority of people, including the majority of the basic masses, at this point. No, the point of all this is to strengthen our grasp of dialectical materialism and our ability to apply this in a living way, and to have a fuller and deeper appreciation of the strategy of United Front under the Leadership of the Proletariat, and of the correct relation between the two aspects of this: United Front, and Leadership of the Proletariat. But this is only important, and only correct, precisely as a strategy for revolution—revolution aiming toward the ultimate goal of communism—and nothing else, nothing less. Implementing this strategy involves building broad mass movements and mass organizations with people coming at things from different viewpoints and with different specific objectives, particularly around the major concentrations of social contradiction (in this connection see, for example, "Some Crucial Points of Revolutionary Orientation—In Opposition to Infantile Posturing and Distortions of Revolution"3). It involves the process of unity-struggle-unity and how, through this whole rich process, the revolutionary interests of the proletariat—in the largest sense and not in a narrow and reified sense—can be brought to the fore and the ground prepared for revolution.
Going back to a repeated theme in this talk, one class or another is going to seize the reins, in the ultimate sense; and that class, headed by its leading political representatives, is going to work to bring into being the solutions that it sees in line with the way it sees the problems, in accordance with the outlook, interests and aspirations that are characteristic of that class. The only way that the revolutionary interests of the proletariat are going to be able to come to the fore and finally seize the reins, and bring about the actual solution that is in the interests of the great majority of people, and ultimately of humanity as a whole, is if the communists remain firmly grounded in that and, through all the complexity of unity-struggle-unity and the whole implementation of the strategy of United Front under the Leadership of the Proletariat, constantly struggle to bring to the fore these revolutionary interests and objectives and prepare the ground in this way—politically and ideologically and, yes, organizationally, preparing minds and organizing forces—for when it comes down to the situation where the fight can be waged for the seizure of power, when in fact a revolutionary situation develops, a revolutionary crisis becomes extremely acute, and a revolutionary people emerges in the millions and millions (as spoken to in Revolution And Communism: A Foundation And Strategic Orientation, including "On the Possibility of Revolution" and "Some Crucial Points of Revolutionary Orientation—In Opposition to Infantile Posturing and Distortions of Revolution").
Through all this, we must keep firmly in mind the fundamental point that the party itself is the most important and decisive expression of organization of the masses, which in fact embodies the highest interests of the proletariat as a class and ultimately the emancipation of humanity.
In addition to the party itself, there is the importance of other organizations and instrumentalities following the party's line, such as the Revolution Clubs and revolutionary bookstores. And there is the need for developing other forms that give expression to the movement for revolution and a culture of defiance, resistance, revolution and communism. Once again, this must involve, as a significant aspect, unleashing the creativity of growing numbers of people, especially youth but others as well, in many different ways and many different dimensions—in an overall sense on the basis of, and guided by, the party's revolutionary communist line—to bring into being not only new forms of struggle but new forms of organization that all contribute to the process of building a movement for revolution.
So, in conclusion: We've talked about "reascending Chingkangshan."4 We've talked about once again, and even more fully, grounding our party in a revolutionary communist line and orientation, actually carrying out that line and transforming reality on that basis, through all the twists and turns that will inevitably be involved. As has been stressed before—but cannot be emphasized too many times—the point, after all, is really to make revolution, radically transform the world and advance to communism throughout the world. There isn't any other point to all this. And anything else, anything less, is something that none of us should be oriented toward, since we should clearly understand that all these other things (all these other ideas and programs, and so on) that get raised by way of distraction—or which objectively constitute a distraction or diversion—from the revolutionary path and from our objective of advancing to communism, are things we need to engage, yes, but struggle to sweep aside in a fundamental sense. Because if we don't, and if revolution is not made, the masses will continue to suffer, unnecessarily, the horrible consequences of living under the domination of this system when it has long since become outmoded. And while, as our party's Constitution clearly and powerfully states, it does not have to be this way, without our making revolution it will remain this way—this cruel irony will continue to torment and torture the masses of people and humanity as a whole—this horror will be perpetuated when, in fact, it is long past time that this should have been swept from the stage of history.
As the Manifesto from our party puts it:
There have been revolts and uprisings, massive rebellions, armed conflicts, and even revolutions in which societies, and the relations between different societies, were transformed in major ways. Empires have fallen, monarchies have been abolished, slave owners and feudal lords have been overthrown. But for hundreds and thousands of years, while many people's lives were sacrificed, willingly or unwillingly, in these struggles, the result was always that the rule of one group of exploiters and oppressors was replaced by that of another—in one form or another, a small part of society continued to monopolize wealth, political power, and intellectual and cultural life, dominating and oppressing the great majority and engaging repeatedly in wars with rival states and empires.
But, once again, this is no longer necessary. It does not have to be this way, and whether it will continue this way for generations to come—or whether radical breakthroughs will be made, and everything possible will be done at every point to advance toward the goal of communism—depends on us and others who are won to, and take up, the communist outlook and objectives. And it is this and nothing else, nothing less, which must fundamentally concern and motivate us in everything we do.
1. See the article by Bob Avakian, "In the Wake of the Election, a Basic Point of Orientation: To the Masses…With Revolution," in Revolution #149 (November 30, 2008), available online at revcom.us/a/149/avakian_on_election-en.html. [back]
3. "Some Crucial Points of Revolutionary Orientation—In Opposition to Infantile Posturing and Distortions of Revolution" appeared in Revolution #102 (September 23, 2007) and is available online at revcom.us/a/102/crucial-points-en.html and in Revolution and Communism: A Foundation and Strategic Orientation, a Revolution pamphlet, May 1, 2008. [back]
4. The phrase "reascending Chingkangshan" is drawn from a poem of that name by Mao Tsetung, and is used in this context to refer to revitalizing and reinvigorating the RCP, USA as a revolutionary communist vanguard and fully taking up its responsibilities as such. [back]
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Revolution #177, September 27, 2009
This fall teams of revolutionaries will be hitting campuses around the country—challenging those who have been lied to about communism, those who have been told that the horror of this capitalist-imperialist system is "the best of all possible worlds."
A centerpiece of these efforts to bring revolution to the campuses will be a major speech by Raymond Lotta. Lotta's speech will be substantive and potentially transformative for all who hear it, and it must be made a VERY BIG DEAL. The buzz should spread about a revolutionary who is serious about overturning the verdict on communism and has the facts, the analysis, and the passionate commitment to humanity's liberation to back it up. Those who are attracted to the idea of communism but who've been told "it can never work" should know this is the place to come and ask their toughest questions. Opposition from reactionaries should be turned around and made part of the growing controversy and sense that Lotta's speech must be heard and engaged. All those who consider themselves progressive critics of the current order but who use their "radical" or even "Marxist" credentials to rule real revolution off the table should be compelled—by the overall atmosphere and expectations created campus-wide—to bring their best arguments and put them up against what Lotta will have to say.
The following is the leaflet announcing the first stop on this tour, on October 8, at the University of California, Berkeley:
EVERYTHING YOU'VE BEEN TOLD ABOUT COMMUNISM IS WRONG
Thursday, October 8, 2009
(Barrow Lane & Eshleman Road)
Presentation by Raymond Lotta:
EVERYTHING YOU'VE BEEN TOLD ABOUT COMMUNISM IS WRONG
CAPITALISM IS A FAILURE
REVOLUTION IS THE SOLUTION
You need to hear Raymond Lotta.
Because you've been lied to about communism.
You need to hear Raymond Lotta.
Because society does not have to be this way.
We can create a world in which there is no exploitation.
A world in which people can live cooperatively and solve problems collectively.
A world where individuals can flourish.
But wait a minute…isn't communism a totalitarian nightmare? Don't all the textbooks and experts and memoirs agree?
No, you've been fed distortions about communism…
By the same people who told you that the war in Iraq was about weapons of mass destruction...
And by liberal and even some progressive scholars who don't want to see the world turned upside down.
This is about the nightmare and horror that is THIS system.
This is about the future of humanity and the future of the planet.
You need to hear Raymond Lotta.
Because the new generation needs to learn about the actual and emancipating history of socialism in the 20th century.
And we need to go further and do better in the next round of communist revolution.
Raymond Lotta is bringing revolution to Berkeley and other campuses this Fall.
Indicting this whole system of capitalism-imperialism as utterly unreformable and unredeemable.
Talking about why the future of communist revolution is both viable and desirable because of the leadership and ongoing role of Bob Avakian.
If you yearn for a radically different world and want to learn about why communism will be a far better world…you need to hear Raymond Lotta.
If you want to defend this system and uphold the distortions about socialism, you should be there too…because Raymond Lotta is taking on all comers.
In October 2008, when the global banking system was facing possible collapse, the Agence France-Presse went to the German finance minister, a former U.S. Treasury official, and Raymond Lotta for comment. Raymond Lotta is a Maoist political economist and communist revolutionary. His book America in Decline was reviewed in Foreign Affairs. He has given talks at UCLA, Harvard, and Howard, as well as in London and Mexico, about socialist revolution in the 20th century. An activist-scholar, Raymond has been part of anti-globalization conferences and protests in India, the Philippines, and Canada.
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Raymond Lotta exposes lies in anti-communist Mao biography, announces bold campus speaking tour on Youtube:
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Revolution #177, September 27, 2009
September 29, Tuesday, 7:30 pm EDT
"Behind the World Economic Crisis: System Failure & the Need for Revolution"
Then you need to hear Raymond Lotta and participate in a unique live webcast.
In October 2008, when the global banking system was facing possible collapse, the Agence France-Presse went to the German finance minister, a former U.S. Treasury official, and Raymond Lotta for comment. Raymond Lotta is a Maoist political economist and communist revolutionary. His book America in Decline was reviewed in Foreign Affairs. He has given talks at UCLA, Harvard, and Howard, as well as in London and Mexico. An activist-scholar, Raymond has been part of anti-globalization conferences and protests in India, the Philippines, and Canada.
Listen to Raymond Lotta on YouTube: "Everything You've Been Told About Communism is Wrong" at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ms99-3Nj81I
This interactive, live webcast is a fund-raiser for Revolution Books in New York City. You will be able to log on by donating $20 (go to www.revolutionbooksnyc.org and following the instructions to donate for the webcast). Details of how to log onto the webcast will be sent to those who donate. You will be able to ask questions via e-mail or possibly by phone.
Spread the word through e-lists, Facebook, etc. And let us know if you would like to help work on making this important talk get out to as many people as possible.
Revolution Books—New York City
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Revolution #177, September 27, 2009
"If you think you are too small to make a difference, Try sleeping in a closet with a mosquito." African Proverb
I have perused through your Article #170, it was articulated at its clearest. I do not know much in depth of the current events, but my crawl has me learning more and more as I move alone. In with more knowledge than of yesterday, and your material helps me better to place pieces together of the addressed nefarious acts, and machinations.
The beginning of the article was a terrific way to get the adrenaline robustly pumping. From the beginning with enslaving to genocide, clearly not much has changed over the years. It just took on a different look. As prisoners, we're not immune to dealing with similar oppressive acts. This system is definitely broken and activated for a crash and burn spontaneous combustion of all independent thought faculties. I have a difficult time believing in "human rights" and this "democracy" that's spoke of. I think that this is a battle of mental warfare. But given the options, a firm Revolution can help give people their independence with a sufficient not subject to dissolution lifestyle, with equality, not inequality. Lies and deception only benefits a few people, but best believe opportunity will show its head for the proletariat, for the people. No journey comes without some sort of battle that one must bring down.
I might be imprisoned, but the mind & soul are eternally free to imagine, express and influence the physical realm. And in society and in prison, there is a fear, a tendency to avoid tapping into and developing our unlimited power and potential.
To many it seems easier to run away from our greatness, and stay hidden in a hole of what I call mediocrity, but in fact it is the harder choice where darkness and insecurity prevail. Each one of us is empowered with a unique, but wonderful gift that can only be expressed through us individually and if we dare to embrace and share this magnificence it will have a positive effect on our environment and those around us on more levels than we are capable of comprehending. We free our mind as a whole, we can soar into brilliancy to transform this needed Revolution.
I was once told that, "when something does not change, it does not grow." We must awake others to change our ways of thinking, to finally give ourselves a real/true chance to grow. A small mind will always think that something is, impossible. Our mind is the tool to make choices in this life, but many fail to see how crucial their turn is away from the true way by the personal biases in their minds, and the individual warps in their vision. Our vision is what keeps us out of the dark, we are defenseless without it. It's not much to ask that we push perseveringly down our own pathway, instead of capitalism/imperialism that is leading us down this dark tunnel of destruction, and castration!
George Jackson once said:
Settle your quarrels, come together, understand the reality of our situation, understand that fascism is already here, that people are dying who could be saved, that generations more will die or live poor butchered half-lives if you fail to act. Do what must be done, discover your humanity and your love of Revolution. Pass on the torch. Join us, give your life for the people... The Article #170 was on point! Thank you.
PSS If possible are the funds available for the Publications of: Marxism and the Call of the Future OR Observations on Art and Culture, Science and Philosophy
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Revolution #177, September 27, 2009
Sunday Oct. 11, 2009
7pm at Boocoo
1823 Church St. (at Dodge), Evanston Illinois
$20 at the door; $17.50 advance; $10 under 21
On Sunday evening October 11, 2009, a unique and inspiring all ages benefit will be held in Evanston for the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund (PRLF). The evening at Boocoo Cultural Center & Café at 1823 Church St (at Dodge) will be filled with music, performances, food and beverages beginning at 7pm.
A highlight of the evening will be the dramatic readings of letters from prisoners by actors Ernest Perry Jr. and David Shapiro.
Ernest Perry Jr., the highly acclaimed 30 year resident at the Goodman Theatre who attended Evanston Township High School, has been in productions of Magnolia, Gas for Less, An Enemy of the People, A Raisin in the Sun, and many others. David Shapiro, another actor with Evanston roots, is currently appearing in An Apology for the Course and Outcome of Certain Events Delivered by Dr. John Faustus On This His Final Evening with the Oobleck Theater.
Clyde Young, a former prisoner and member of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, will make a fund appeal at the October 11 Benefit.
Ted Sirota’s Rebel Souls have their roots in the rebellious jazz and improvised music of the 1960’s but draw on myriad styles, including afro-pop, funk, reggae, ska and hip-hop. “Ted Sirota has put together a band that includes some of the better young musicians in Chicago who can play on both sides of the inside and outside split in jazz aesthetics...” -The New York Times.
Hip-hop artist Diverse will be in the house. The Daily Northwestern described his talents, “Raised in Evanston, the local rapper is gifted with one of the freshest flows out there—his authoritative voice effortlessly swoops between the beat, filling up every possible space with carefully placed syllables. Diverse is clearly a rapper’s rapper, spitting thoughtful verse after thoughtful verse.”
Tickets are $17.50 in advance, $20 at the door, and $10 under 21. Two advance $17.50 tickets will buy a prisoner a subscription to Revolution newspaper for one year. The evening is hosted by: Bennett J. Johnson; Ted Sirota, musician; Joann Shapiro; Jed Stone, criminal defense lawyer; and Dave Trippel, peace activist.
The Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund (PRLF), is an educational fund project of the 501c3 International Humanities Center (www.IHCenter.org). PRLF has filled thousands of requests from men and women who are locked up in U.S. prisons and are seeking revolutionary literature, especially subscriptions to Revolution newspaper, (www.revcom.us). Donations can be tax deductible. For more information see the PRLF website at
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
773-225-6800 or email: benefit4PRLF@yahoo.com
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Revolution #177, September 27, 2009
We received the following correspondence from Chicago:
September 10. Over the last ten days, hundreds of the Black people in Rockford, Illinois, have poured out in repeated marches and rallies, speak outs and vigils, town hall meetings, and church services, all expressing their outrage and demanding justice in the police murder of Mark Anthony Barmore, a 23-year-old African American killed by two white officers on August 24, 2009. Barmore was shot in the back by the two officers who pursued him into a local church and killed him in front of ten to twelve children in attendance at the day care center in the basement of the church.
According to the minister's wife, Sheila Brown, who is also the director of the daycare, Barmore was walking near the church after twelve noon that day. He was chatting with her because he was wanted in connection with a 911 call filed by a girlfriend in a domestic dispute and wanted Brown's advice. Brown then walked into the daycare center and she says that before the door could swing shut, Barmore ran into the building, shouting "They are coming after me." Brown said she was trying to shield the group of children, aged five to ten, when Officers Oda Poole and Stan North ordered Barmore out of a boiler room. According to Brown, he complied with their order. "Barmore had his hands up and his head down. He was totally submissive." But the officers went ahead and repeatedly fired their weapons into him, even as he lay face down on the floor, also endangering the lives of the children whose exit the police blocked. Brown and her 17-year-old daughter, who was also an eyewitness, deny the officers' story that Barmore had gotten a hold of the officer's gun, insisting that there was no such struggle. An independent autopsy done by the family of Barmore showed that Barmore was shot three times in the back, confirming the Browns' account and contradicting the police lies.
As news of the murder spread, family and friends of Barmore and others in the community converged at the church, quickly calling out the lies and demanding to be heard, especially angry that the Rockford police chief was declaring on the news that the officers' version was "the facts."
These two cops were known brutalizers. In 2003, Officer North shot Lataurean Brown during a traffic stop, claiming he had tried to back over him. In January 2007, his partner, Oda Poole, shot two men in a car and then also claimed that the men tried to run him over. A few months later, Poole shot and killed 66-year-old Louis Henderson, Jr, saying he approached with a gun – but it turned out to be a hammer in a sock. These previous shootings and the murder by these officers were all found to be "justified and appropriate" by the Winnebago County authorities, as was each and every case since 1992 of Rockford police using deadly force against people. In eight of these cases, people lost their lives at the hands of the police. In each case, the Rockford police officers were gotten off and allowed to go back out on the street. In response to an email from local media, Police Chief Chet Epperson admitted that this police force is trained to shoot to kill, "Shoot at center mass. We teach officers that when they are using deadly force they should continue on until the threat has been eliminated /minimized."
At one of the marches, hundreds blocked traffic on the city streets and proceeded three miles over the bridge from the predominantly minority westside of town (where racial tensions have built in recent months over a variety of issues) to end up at City Hall and police headquarters chanting, "The Blood is on the Badge" and "He Had His Hands Up." One woman expressed the sentiment of many people, "I just feel that enough is enough and something needs to be done." She drove an hour and half to be part of the demonstration, which was mainly Black but joined by whites and Latinos, including members of dozens of churches in Rockford. "This is a very worthy cause. I thought a church would be a refuge, that you would be safe in a church. He ended up in a church and lost his life." The tradition of taking refuge goes back to the Old Testament, according to Bishop John Senter of Faith Walkers Assembly. But Barmore was killed when he was running to a safe place. As one man at the rally put it, "There was no damned struggle, Barmore was surrendering! When is this gonna stop? Kids are getting killed!"
In response to this angry outpouring of the people, Rockford authorities for the first time called in a supposedly "independent" investigation by a task force composed not of the Rockford police but of investigators of the Illinois State Police and the Office of the Cook County State's Attorney. This is a sick joke and a crime in itself in light of the facts: that the Cook County State's Attorney justified huge numbers of police murders in Cook County; that they wrongfully convicted many an innocent man in other types of cases, and left them to rot on death row decade after decade until they won their own exoneration; that the Cook County States' Attorney helped unleash and covered up the outright torture by the infamous Area Two torture team and then gave honors to their commander, Lt. Jon Burge.
The Reverend Jesse Jackson soon entered the fray in this city of 150,000 people, which is 80 miles northwest of Chicago and has the highest unemployment rate in the state at over 15%. Jackson's involvement has called more attention to this terrible murder and has had the effect of many people in Rockford feeling that they have some backing in their demands for justice. But his overarching message (a la Obama) of declaring that both sides need to come together in a "positive healing of the divisions" (and for jobs and personal responsibility of Black people) has had the effect of channeling people's anger and determination to fight against the crime of police brutality away from the system which is the root cause and enforcer of not only this crime but of all the hardships of the masses in Rockford and the entire the planet.
Jackson is calling for a federal investigation to be conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice. But thus far, the feds, through the DOJ Community Relations Service, have only come in to—get this—provide public relations services to the City of Rockford! They are also offering "mediation, conciliation, training and technical assistance." But the Community Relations Services and the relationships it cultivates with members of the Black community to "mediate racial tensions" were exposed as an intelligence source for government counter-intelligence operations, part of the larger operations that tapped phones, monitored bank and tax records, blackmailed, beat up and framed people, in order to disrupt, destroy, and at times even murdering those who dared to raise their voices in the movements of opposition back in the 1960s, Malcolm X and Fred Hampton being just two examples.1
Many progressive forces at this point seem to be falling for all this crap about reconciliation and the like, putting forward that now they are confident that things are turning positive and that justice will be done. But this is wrong and dangerous too, when the dogs are in the street! Yes, the cops are now mounting their own upcoming rally, demanding that the two officers be taken off administrative duty. (This is the standard procedure of the Rockford police in police murders—giving the officers administrative duty, meaning desk work, pending the usual finding that the murder was "justified.") A hue and cry is now being raised that these cops are somehow being unfairly persecuted in this way. And it gets worse. Right-wing reactionaries full of passionate intensity and genocidal intent toward Black people are calling in the local radio shows, spewing out their racist garbage: that it is a good thing that Barmore was shot in the back and too bad more of them (translation; Black people) weren't shot down!
Of course, many Black people on the westside are not satisfied with the so-called solution through "healing" in the face of all that has been coming down. Says Steve Muhammad of New Life National, "There is a trust issue. Black people in the city of Rockford—we are having a trust issue." And many want to keep on taking up the gauntlet that has been thrown down. Some, including members of Barmore's family, pledge to fight to their last breath to see these killer cops brought to justice in the case.
There is another march on Saturday, September 12 which will be going through the westside, picking up forces to then head downtown to the seat of power. Revolution will be coming back there, to join with the masses in this significant battle, and to keep on engaging them with the statement "The Revolution We Need…the Leadership We Have." We got going with this last weekend, making it the hub and pivot of our efforts as we visited Rockford from Chicago, going out with the photo display on the back of our truck of the lives stolen by the police, which was swarmed by the people, who then grabbed up the newspapers and the statements. Everyone we met wanted to engage about all of this and learn about October 22, the National Day of Protest Against Police Brutality and the Criminalization of a Generation. From teenagers in the projects, to the ministers, church staff, and parishioners of the churches in the community, to family members and neighbors of Barmore, to the owner of a hair salon driving a late-model car, to the white proletarians walking through to the waterfront concert. We will go to the march with the display, featuring the Call for NDP, and the words from the statement:
"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."
And we will keep you posted as new things unfold.
1. The Age of Surveillance, The Aims and Methods of America's Political Intelligence System, Frank J. Donner, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1980. [back]
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Revolution #177, September 27, 2009
On October 2nd there will be an important hearing which will decide whether the murder trial of Johannes Mehserle—the BART cop who shot 22 year old Oscar Grant in the back as he lay prone on an train platform in Oakland—takes place in Alameda County, the county where the murder occurred, or is moved to some other county in California.
In the recent past, attorneys for police on trial for acts of brutality have succeeded in getting acquittals by changing the venue. This is true even in the most extreme and damning cases where the guilt and conviction of police seemed almost certain. The police who killed Amadou Diallo in the Bronx in 1999 when he reached for his wallet were acquitted by an upstate Albany, New York jury. The Los Angeles police who were videotaped beating Rodney King were acquitted in their first trial, in 1992, when that trial was moved to suburban Simi Valley. (Mehserle’s lawyer relies heavily on the arguments in the Rodney King case (Powell v. Superior Court) as the legal authority to support his request for a change of venue.) This “change of venue” for Mehserle’s murder trial is wrong and must be opposed. People need to be at the court on October 2nd.
The 75-page motion can only be partly dissected here. Mehserle’s attorney, Michael Rains, faces defending a man who has been seen on video, from several different angles, shooting an unarmed man in the back. The actual shooting was seen by hundreds on the train that night, and was videoed by a handful of those witnesses, and then, in the following days those videos were seen by millions on TV and on the Internet. The only defense Mehserle’s attorney has offered is that the point blank shooting of Oscar Grant was an “accident,” that Mehserle meant to use his taser and not his gun. This defense is incredibly thin. Mehserle’s attorney hopes to move the case to an area where the jurors who sit in the trial will overlook the evidence and be biased in favor of a white police officer who killed a young Black man.
In the motion, Rains claims the media coverage, the repeated viewing of the videoed murder of Oscar Grant, and the protests, mean Mehserle can’t get “impartial” jurors in Alameda County and therefore the trial must be moved. In the course of his argument, Rains brings out some damning exposure of the reality of how police treat Black people in Oakland. Rains argues that any Black person who gets on the jury will face extreme pressure to find Mehserle guilty and that their life experience will influence them. “...there can be no doubt that police officers shoot and kill black citizens of this county at a proportion far higher than their proportion of the population....it is impossible to dispute the impression left by the numbers, an impression held by significant numbers of potential jurors in this County: if you’re a black person in Alameda County, it’s dangerous to deal with the police.” (p. 62 of Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of Motion for Change of Venue) The motion cites damning statistics “...in this county blacks are the targets of police homicides determined to be justifiable at a rate about three times that of their proportion of the population. There were forty-eight such killings between 1999 and 2008 and African Americans were the targets of some 41% of these homicides, though they make up only about 13.5% of the population of the County.” (Motion, p. 8) Further, that “between 2004 and 2008, there were 45 police shootings in Oakland alone . Although blacks make up about a third of Oakland’s population, they were the targets in 85 percent of the shootings.” (Motion p. 8, 9, italics in the original.)
Rains further argues that in the context of Oakland’s continuing history of systemic racism in its police force, AND since there has been a continuing history of resistance against police brutality there, Mehserle can not get a fair trial. Rains cites the January 2009 rebellion in Oakland— when hundreds of people of different nationalities erupted in protest after a week had passed since Oscar Grant’s murder but Mehserle had not even been arrested—as well as many other protests and gatherings by activists, and the existence and “proliferation” of groups that have mobilized against this murder. He accuses activists of spreading disinformation and creating political pressure that will unfairly influence the case. “Indybay has provided regular coverage of the Grant shooting and its aftermath, with a strong and not particularly concealed view that Grant was killed because he is Black, that the shooting is evidence of generalized police brutality against the Black community, and that Mehserle is guilty of murder. Indeed, the site always refers to the shooting as the “murder” of Oscar Grant, a word not used by the Chronicle, Tribune, television stations and so forth.” (Motion, p. 57) He cites http://revcom.us as one of the many websites that spread “bias” against his client, including by using such words as “murder” when it covered the killing of Oscar Grant. Actually, without all the protest, the struggle to speak the truth about what happened and get it out in the public eye, Mehserle might never have even been arrested, let alone tried for murder.
Think about it—we live under a system that methodically lies about and covers up police brutality, murder and repression, and that never acknowledges that this creates an atmosphere where ordinary people can’t get fair trials and are systematically mistreated all the time. But in this case the fact that SOME of the truth has gotten out is supposed to be a reason that the trial should be moved from Alameda County.
The trial of Johannes Mehserle is, according to the motion, the first trial of a police officer for a murder committed while on duty in the history of California. This is a searing exposure of how the system protects murdering cops—thousands of people have been killed by cops in California, and not a single murder trial until now. This change of venue motion must be strongly opposed and exposed. There was no justice in the first trial in the Rodney King case. There was no justice in the trial and acquittal of the four cops who shot Amadou Diallo. The system must not be allowed to exonerate the blatant execution of Oscar Grant. As this case moves toward trial people will be organizing across the country and in Oakland for the 14th National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality.
Enough is Enough! Justice for Oscar Grant.
Mehserle’s motion for change of venue can be found here: http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2009/09/16/18622182.php
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Revolution #177, September 27, 2009
(This letter was written in Spanish and translated into English by Revolution newspaper)
Letter from a reader
In this letter I want to share with you the impact of the event celebrating the publication in Spanish of the book Away With All Gods! Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World, which originally was published in English, written by Bob Avakian, the Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA—a book that makes a significant contribution toward the emancipation of humanity, with its very well-developed critique, based on Bible texts, of the damage caused by religions and belief in gods. Attending the event were proletarians, intellectuals, students, atheists, communists and religious people of all ages looking for answers. This activity took place in the Librería Martínez Books and Art Gallery in Santa Ana, California.
In this event there was a brief introduction by Heriberto Ocasio of Engage! A Committee to Project and Protect the Voice of Bob Avakian in which he spoke of the importance of exchanges such as this one, how damaging religion is. To illustrate this point he gave an example (which had a big impact on me) of a young Iraqi girl who was stoned to death for having fallen in love with someone who did not follow her religion, and that’s not all. The women and girls of the village were forced to watch as they dragged the mutilated corpse of this young girl through the streets. Heriberto read from “The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have, A Message and a Call from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA”: “Some say this is all ‘god’s will’ and we just have to ‘put it all in god’s hands.’ But it was not some god that got us in this situation... and it won’t be some god that will get us out of it. The truth is, there are no gods... and we don’t need them!”
Later, various people read from parts of the book: “Liberation Without Gods; Why Do People Believe in Different Gods?”; “The Growth of Religion and of Religious Fundamentalism and Religion, Patriarchy, Male Supremacy and Sexual Repression.” For example, parts were read on how Christian scripture and traditional morality based on biblical laws have been used to enslave and subjugate the masses, including the oppression of women with different expressions, always devaluing and condemning women since “the fall of mankind” in the Garden of Eden, always keeping them in an inferior position to men. Forcing humanity to endure all these injustices, making them believe that worldly authorities have been ordained by god and how according to Jesus: if you don’t follow or accept these teachings, you will NOT go to heaven and will be condemned to suffer for eternity in hell, which is ridiculous and untrue. Another reading told us why people believe in different gods and a good example are the conquests in which various cultures were subjugated by force such as the Aztecs and Mayas, under the pretext of religion or evangelizing these peoples while the conquistadors plundered these lands and extended their oppressive tentacles.
Then there was a discussion of the sections that were read and of questions about communism and how to transform the world. In this, there was active participation of people of different social strata in the audience. I want to share with you the main questions, responses and thoughts that came up. For example, one person asked: How would a modern communist system be different from the communist governments we have seen? A person exposed very passionately how the capitalist system has “covered up and falsified” the great example of the revolutions in Russia and China and challenged everyone to “look for the truth” and not let themselves get caught up in the idea that “communism has failed and capitalism is better.” Another person emphasized the contributions of Avakian to communism, based on the breakthroughs and shortcomings of previous communist revolutions, to adapt to modern times and make steps forward and reach communism.
When the question “what’s the harm in people believing in religion” was raised, one person said that religion has been responsible for the murders of innocent people, and gave the example of the indigenous peoples of Mexico, how they were persecuted by Christianity. And they added “why continue believing in something which has done so much damage to us, that has oppressed us and continues oppressing us?” Other points raised were the idea of sin, secularism versus communist morality, liberation theology, human nature, communism as a science, how are we going to bring forward the youth?
At the end of the program Rubén Martínez, the bookstore’s owner, expressed the enthusiasm that he felt about his bookstore being the scene for an event of this kind. He said, “In the 15 years since this bookstore came into being, we have never had a conversation like the one we had today.”
It impressed me a lot that people from different social settings engaged in a discussion of issues of real importance to the development and future of humanity. And it made me think that all this would not have been possible without the valuable contributions of Avakian and his book that beyond removing the dark veil that religions and superstitions create in people, goes much further in seeking human emancipation to create a critical, ideological and scientific atmosphere, and thus radically transform the world for the common good. It is a very inspiring book. Imagine for a moment how that society would be where, as like in this event, people come together not focusing on social differences but engaging in debates in search of a transformation for a better road for humanity to benefit everyone and not for the few. The good thing is that you not only can imagine it, but it is possible. At the same time, I extend an invitation to religious people, atheists, agnostics, or those who aren’t interested who have not read this book: fearlessly dig into this valuable contribution that provides us with a very broad and critical picture of how our reality has been manipulated, discover yourselves all those truths that have been hidden from us and how we can initiate the transformation of our reality that is not good like many already realize. In conclusion, the ignorance of some is the wealth of others.
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Revolution #177, September 27, 2009
Revolution received the following letter:
People participate in this revolutionary movement in a lot of different ways. At Curves, where I work out, I usually leave 3 copies of the Revolution newspaper in the “borrow and return” area of the club. Recently the owner of this particular Curves went through a series of shut-downs of this, which I suspect was due to the paper being out there with the glamour and fashion magazines and one or two ecology or news magazines on occasion. (Gary Heavin, the founder of Curves—the largest fitness franchise in the world—is a Christian fundamentalist and large donor to anti-abortion causes.) First the club owner put up a sign saying “magazines only, no newspapers”; then, when I continued to put the paper there anyway and a young woman who works there started reading it and came to support this, the owner put up a sign that said something like “glamour and fashion magazines only.” When I still continued to put the paper out, she discontinued the “borrow and return” area all together. The person working there and I had been discussing this, and she made the decision after this “last straw” to talk to the owner and tell her that people were asking for the reading materials, and that not everyone was interested in glamour and fashion, some people were interested in news and what is going on in the world. The owner opened up the magazine section again with no restrictions.
The young woman has since begun paying for her paper (she previously just borrowed a copy and returned it), got an e-sub, read the RCP Constitution, and is currently reading Bob Avakian’s memoir. She has also been talking to her boyfriend about communism and trying to get him to come out to events at Revolution Books with her. They haven’t made it yet, but she is definitely part of this revolutionary movement we are building.
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Revolution #177, September 27, 2009
|Students in Harlem engage with the special middle school/high school issue of Revolution, and the Message and Call from the RCP, “The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have.”|
|Revolution correspondent Larry Everest recently spoke in three high school classes. He exposed the truth about the
U.S. war in the Middle East and military recruitment. And he spoke about communism, Bob Avakian, and the need for
revolution. Each student received a copy of the special middle/high school issue of Revolution newspaper (#176), and
Everest walked through the pages of the paper with the students.
About half of each class was reserved for Q&A, with students asking questions like “Who is Bob Avakian?”, “Are you religious?”, “What do revolutionaries do?”, “We’re exposed to a lot of different opinions from a lot of different places. How do we know what’s true?” A teacher in one class asked Everest to come back, saying that not only
were the students interested, but that he himself had felt a re-awakening of the spirit he had felt in the 1960s.
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Revolution #177, September 27, 2009
This letter was written in Spanish and translated into English by Revolution newspaper
Upon reading the article about the launching on line of the DVD Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About of Bob Avakian, the Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, I couldn't pass over the opportunity to express how happy I am and the importance I see for the hastening of the revolution with this very bold initiative by the party. Having this material posted aims to reach those who for whatever reason prefer video format. Also this is a medium of greater access for people of different social strata here and around the world. It is very necessary to let people everywhere know of the existence of Chairman Bob Avakian and the significant role he plays within the revolutionary communist movement with his contributions and his history within the revolutionary movement in the United States. This provides us more support to more widely spread the word that we have an alternative for changing the world and a leader; that people who look at reality critically and who desire real change need to become familiar with the Chairman and thus build this revolutionary people of the thousands that will lead millions.
I want to share with you my experience of when for the first time I viewed this revolutionary audiovisual material. It helped clarify many of the questions I had about how to make revolution in these times and in a capitalist country like the U.S., as well as the importance this entails for repairing all the damage done by this capitalist-imperialist system up to today throughout the world with its drive for modernization, development and security. In his talk, Bob Avakian explains in a very easy to understand way an analysis of how this system works and its flaws, a system based on profit that just continues causing the oppression of the great majority of the people, making society worse with exploitation and taking it to the extreme that goes against human dignity in supposedly modern times, which has as its sole goal benefiting the class that has come to have privileges from what in one or another way we all participate in producing, as well as the damage it causes to the environment of our planet.
But he not only explains how the system works but also tells us of the alternative we have in modern times to be able to transform reality, something that had a big impact on me since I was not familiar with what this valuable leader has developed. Even philosophically he challenges us to imagine how that society would be and how we could participate in it, far from all oppressive relations, since the ideal is the participation of the masses in leading society.
Like many others surrounded by so much social injustice, I asked myself one day if the world had to be this way. And since meeting Bob Avakian through the DVD, my hopes were raised that a BETTER WORLD is possible, and we have the necessary foundation to bring it forward; giving the lie to those who say that communism means going back to the past and that it doesn't work, or to those who attribute this nightmare we are living to something predestined or magical, or in the worst case those that blame the people themselves for these problems. By analyzing my actual scene with the help of the analysis of Bob Avakian and the DVD, I understand that these are simply arguments created by the oppressors who fear losing the power they have over the masses, by educating others to be submissive. But the truth is that it is URGENT to make radical changes in our reality for the common good, and the words of Bob Avakian aroused in me a conscious commitment to support him in the struggle for revolution, since he is the unique and precious leader for the international communist movement. Avakian also has a history that we must all become familiar with, a long history and presence in the struggle for communist revolution. In these times with easy access to mass information, I have not found any other leader like this leader within the United States. There is nobody like him, with the vision, the commitment and the road to follow not only for revolution but for the emancipation of humanity.
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Revolution #177, September 27, 2009
I wanted to share the great experience I had in a discussion of Bob Avakian's Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It’s Possible, What It's All About with group of eight people (four of them youth). We watched several sections of the DVD: "They're selling postcards of the hanging," "What is capitalism?" "The dictatorship of the proletariat, and what it's for," and "Imagine... a new society—Healthcare, work, education, science, etc...."
Unanimously the favorite part was the "Imagine" section. One of the youth said that he really liked how Bob Avakian makes things really easy to understand and gives good examples to do that, and the "Imagine" section gives people a good sense of how the world would be under socialism. Another person added that even though he can imagine this happening most people can't, and was trying to understand why that is. He also brought out that the beginning part of the DVD lets people know how this country got to be in the position that it is in, "crushing other races and controlling them with terror." Someone, a regular reader of Revolution newspaper, expressed a lot of bitterness in how people are caught up with money, how it becomes the most important thing in people's lives and even when they have it they are still unsatisfied. Another person gave a really good summary of what he likes from the DVD—he got into the history of Black people in this country and how this capitalist system functions; he played a good role in the discussion, he was really unleashed and jumped into the discussion really grappling with what was being put forth.
We got into what was brought up earlier, about why is it that people have a difficult time imagining a better world. One person said that it is "part of the culture" and people just seem to adapt to it. One of the most vocal of the bunch said that this is what people know and they fear new things. People spoke about how people have been made to believe that this is the best of all possible worlds and they have been lied to about the history of communism, speaking to what the revolutions in Russia and China had meant for people in those countries but also for the people of the world, and now there is no socialist country. Someone asked “why are we going to still need money under socialism?” This was off of the section when Avakian says that the money is not going to have pictures of slave masters but of the people's heroes. This was coming from a hatred of what this person sees money makes people do. We got into how socialism is a transition to communism and how in that socialist transition you inherit what you had in the capitalist society and the goal is to get to the 4 Alls. Money would not exist in the context as it does under capitalism, in these capitalist commodity relations, but there will still be the exchange of commodities—and there will be money—until humanity advances beyond socialism to communism where the system will be based on “to each according to their needs and from each according to their ability.” We read the part from the statement "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have" that speaks to what kind of revolution this is about. This was also off of someone asking "who will decide what people need?" Someone else added that in socialism you are not just going to say "okay now everyone is equal." For example, a doctor would get paid more than a worker, but that is because of all that went into that person becoming a doctor.
Someone mentioned that people think that things have to be this way but with Revolution newspaper you learn how things actually work, you understand what type of revolution this is about and people transform in the process. People tripped out with the idea that now we have the advances to end the suffering of people but what is standing in the way is capitalism. Another person added that he had been unhappy with the way things are and had gone from place to place looking for answers, including two-three different churches, "even the people that have found god are unhappy." He said that when he lived in another country and had heard about what was going on in the world but had not given it much thought because he did not feel directly affected but people have "to wake up and find meaning for their life." A couple of people said that more people need to find meaning in life by being a part of this revolutionary movement and urged everyone there to hook up and spread the word about this revolution and this leader, Bob Avakian, because there is no one like him; you can give someone something to eat but tomorrow what are you going to do when they are hungry again, the masses need fundamental change. We also read the section in the new statement under "The Leadership We Have."
After the discussion one person said he had felt that he was missing motivation in his life but felt that this could be it. Another person bought a copy of the DVD to continue watching it and organize showings with their friends.
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Revolution #177, September 27, 2009
The following is from a reader:
“I learned about how much people are being lied to about Mao and [socialist] China. … like in that book about Mao [Mao: The Unknown Story, by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday]”
This was the response of a high school student on watching the Youtube of Raymond Lotta at a salon discussion.
The discussion itself was spirited and substantive covering questions on revolutionary strategy, and mainly the need for revolution. The main exchange was a back-and-forth volley on whether capitalism cannot be reformed, and on why revolution is necessary, sparked off by us watching the "Imagine…A New Society…" excerpt of Revolution: Why It’s Necessary, Why It’s Possible, What It’s All About, a film of a talk by Bob Avakian. A student asked why these changes [described in the excerpt] can’t be done under capitalism. This discussion, starting with responses and counter-responses to this question then progressively went into questions of whether human nature is inherently selfish, and whether and how society can be organized differently than in capitalism, on something other than material incentive and individual advancement. Four high school students and a couple of college students were part of the mix in this discussion with us.
From this animated discussion we segued into letting people know about and organizing for the Raymond Lotta talk on campuses, Everything You’ve Been Told About Communism is Wrong, Capitalism is a Failure, Revolution is the Solution. In this context, we all collectively watched the Youtube of Raymond Lotta. The room was generally charged by the exchange and students were really interested and curious about this speech -- and the Youtube introducing it.
In the following comments, two things really stood out to the students.
First, the specific refutation by Lotta of the accusation in Mao: The Unknown Story that Mao said “Half of China may well have to die” in the course of collectivization and related socialist transformations. In the Youtube, Lotta demonstrates how this quote is taken out of context to completely distort and, in fact invert the implication, and that Mao was warning that some socialist policies, especially economic plans, were trying to accomplish too much, risking such catastrophic impact, and these should be reformulated. To one student who had read about the book in the New York Times [these were some of the most intellectual high school students we have ever come across], Lotta’s specific refutation, citing page number of accusation and then refuting it, demonstrated that this book was dishonest and full of lies. The specificity and the refutation i.e. the fact that it was not simply assertions by Lotta, made the students feel they could trust what Lotta was saying. [Students seem to love specificity and examples.]
Second, that Lotta was willing to "take on all comers," inviting defenders of the capitalist-imperialist system and upholders of the slander against communism to his talk. This aspect of contestation and debate really appealed to the students.
Some of these students joined us at their school to get out the high-school issue of Revolution, getting out a large number of papers, and sparking debate and controversy…which as I understand, still continues.
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Revolution #177, September 27, 2009
The annual Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is one of the most important film events in the world. For ten days, thousands of filmmakers, writers, actors, critics and others mix it up in a spectacular display of some of the best films in the world from both new and well established filmmakers.
This year, the festival featured Michael Moore’s latest work, Capitalism: A Love Story, and other controversial films. But the hottest topic and fiercest debate was not over a movie, but over Israel’s continued occupation of Palestine and the war crimes and crimes against humanity Israel has unleashed against the Palestinian people. The organizers of the film festival decided to feature a celebration of Tel Aviv, the capital city of Israel, as one of the thematic centerpieces of the festival. In a breath of fresh air felt around the world, more than 1500 filmmakers, artists, writers and others in the film industry and beyond shouted NO!—signing an open letter to the festival titled, “The Toronto Declaration: No Celebration of Occupation.” Signers include Eve Ensler, Danny Glover, Wallace Shawn, Jane Fonda, Howard Zinn, Jeremy Pikser, Viggo Mortensen, David Byrne, Julie Christie, Noam Chomsky, and Naomi Klein among many others from all over the world. [torontodeclaration.blogspot.com/2009/09/toronto-declaration-no-celebration-of.html]
The organizers of TIFF had arranged the celebration of Tel Aviv as the inaugural event of the new City-to-City Spotlight program as a regular feature of the festival each year. Festival organizers said that the idea was simply to spotlight the diversity and vibrancy of Tel Aviv by showcasing ten films from filmmakers based in the city. In their statement the artists revealed that the City to City program was part of a million dollar PR campaign called “Brand Israel.” This campaign aims to take worldwide focus off of Israel’s continued occupation of Palestine and the oppression of the Palestinian people through war and crimes against humanity and refocus attention on the achievements of Israel in science, medicine and the arts. And the statement went on to denounce TIFF complicity in Israel’s propaganda machine. On September 16, the mayor of Tel Aviv confirmed the involvement of the Israeli Foreign Ministry and “Brand Israel” in the celebration of Tel Aviv at the festival.
Defenders of Israel—from pro-Israel actors and directors to Jewish religious figures and Christian fascists—attacked the statement and slandered its signers, calling them “Jew haters,” “anti-Semites” and “terrorists.” And, in an effort to sow massive confusion, these defenders of Israel have consciously distorted the content of the Open Letter, claiming it calls for banning and silencing films and artists from Israel.
The Open Letter is clear: “We do not protest the individual Israeli filmmakers included in City to City, nor do we in any way suggest that Israeli films should be unwelcome at TIFF.” And, in a statement issued on September 16, the artists pointed out the irony of them being falsely accused of advocating censorship while they have been unable to find even one newspaper willing to publish their “Toronto Declaration: No Celebration of Occupation” open letter to the TIFF.
This September 16 statement reiterated, “We are protesting because we could not stand idly by as Tel Aviv, the heart of Israel’s economic and military power, was being celebrated as if this was an apolitical decision. Palestinians in Gaza continue to live under a brutal Israeli siege that has turned Gaza into what countless observers have described as an open-air prison, with access even to food and medicine greatly restricted. We protested the spotlight to call attention to a humanitarian emergency and an ongoing crime.”
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Revolution #177, September 27, 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
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Revolution #177, September 27, 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.
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Revolution #177, September 27, 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.”
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