Voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party,USA
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Revolution #179, October 15, 2009
This information is from the October 22nd Coalition to Stop Police Brutality, Repression, and the Criminalization of a Generation
Assembly Points for October 22:
12 noon Federal Plaza, Adams & Dearborn
Los Angeles, CA
12 p.m. Gather Crenshaw and Florence
2 p.m. March Leimart Park
4 p.m. Rally
6 p.m. Vigil
5 p.m. Loring Park
March to Homeless Shelters and other areas strongly impacted by police brutality
New York, NY
4:30 p.m. Washington Square Park—Rally and March (assemble west of fountain)
6:30 p.m. Voices Against Police Brutality—music and art protesting police brutality
at Gay and Lesbian Community Center,
208 West 13th Street
(7th Avenue and 13th St.)
San Francisco/Bay Area
12 noon Oakland City Hall Plaza, 14th and Broadway
Rally and March and then to the neighborhoods
Check at www.october22.org
for other cities and more info.
From the Call for October 22, 2009:
OCTOBER 22ND is the day when people all over the country demand a STOP to police violence, repression, and the criminalization of a generation. In different cities and through different means of expression, we raise a resounding “NO” to these police raids, attacks on the youth and immigrants, and destroying of lives.
To contact October 22 National Office:
P.O. Box 2627, New York NY 10009
Revolution #179, October 15, 2009
On September 29, people around the country had a special and unique opportunity to log in and listen to a live presentation by Raymond Lotta and then, in real time, ask questions and hear Lotta’s answers.
Lotta’s webcast speech, titled “Behind the World Economic Crisis: System Failure and the Need for Revolution,” is extremely timely. Despite big pronouncements of “recovery,” the economic crisis of the capitalist system is continuing. The worldwide food crisis and hunger have reached even more extreme levels. U.S. war continues in the Middle East and plans are being made for more U.S. troops in Afghanistan. People are wrestling with how to understand all this. Millions are going to Michael Moore’s film, Capitalism: A Love Story. Meanwhile, discussion of “socialism” and “communism” is being bandied about in perverse ways by right-wing populists who spread mass confusion by calling Obama a “socialist.” And all the while, people still believe the BIG LIE that “this is the best of all possible worlds,” that nothing better is possible, that socialism and communism have failed.
This special web event also served to kick off a major campus speaking tour by Raymond Lotta, titled, “Everything You’ve Been Told About Communism Is Wrong—Capitalism is a Failure, Revolution is the Solution.” This tour has great potential and will address a great need—to radically change the public discourse on campus about capitalism, revolution, socialism, and communism. This tour aims to really crack through the stifling atmosphere and suffocating confines of discourse among students. To really get into what is wrong with this system, how things don’t have to be this way, and how a whole new, liberating society is possible. To connect revolution and communism and the vision and leadership of Bob Avakian with a whole new generation of students. To overturn the verdict on communism; call out the system; and organize a new generation into the movement for revolution.
The questions submitted at the webcast event were serious, wide ranging and provocative—and reflected a diverse audience. Among the questions Lotta addressed were ones about socialist countries and self-reliance; micro loans in the Third World; the environmental crisis; and motivation under socialism. There were many more questions Lotta did not have time to speak to. But this hour-long Q&A previewed the kind of powerful arguments, substance and real answers to questions and challenges that Raymond Lotta will be bringing to campuses on his upcoming tour.
This event was a fundraiser for Revolution Books in New York, part of a $100,000 campaign now underway. By logging in and paying $20, people contributed to making it possible for Revolution Books to not only survive, but thrive and grow as a center of radical and revolutionary ferment. As a “Dear Friends” letter from the bookstore put it, “This is a moment in history when Revolution Books is needed to soar—expanding its unique collection of progressive and revolutionary books; producing even more cutting edge programs, and developing the capacity to broadcast these events on the internet and cable TV.” And for those who missed out on September 29, it’s not too late! To donate and hear Lotta’s webcast speech people can go to revolutionbooksnyc.org and click the “Buy Now” button.
Revolution #179, October 15, 2009
Excerpt from Raymond Lotta
In the following excerpt from Raymond Lotta’s September 29, 2009 webcast talk (“Behind the World Economic Crisis: System Failure and the Need for Revolution”) he discusses what is behind the system’s failure to provide people with health care and how socialism will be able to address this important question in the context of building a truly emancipatory society. This has been slightly edited for publication.
I want to [talk about] a major public event right now which is the health care debate in the United States. I want to say something about this, because it too concentrates so much of the essence of this system. Here you have a situation, and think about it, where you have to be working (and close to 10 percent of the work force is unemployed), where you have to be working or you have to have a health insurance policy to get health care. This is antediluvian, this is like the age of dinosaurs. Think about that. Health care should be a basic responsibility of society. There are these qualifications, these strictures, and all of them are bound up with private ownership, control over the means of production, the organization of this economy. And what calls the shots? Profit.
You have a situation right now where according to one Harvard medical study, this was in the New York Times, there are some 45,000 needless deaths each year in the U.S. because people do not have health insurance. And there are now some 45 million people without health insurance. And under the most likely of outcomes of this health care debate, of this Obama health plan, these people will likely be herded into pools of profitable private insurance investors.
You have this absurd and obscene spectacle of a so-called debate around health care pivoting in part around whether undocumented workers will get health care. Again, the expendability of a section of humanity. Where whether abortions required by women will be financed—when any sense of care and compassion and justice would dictate that these things would be guaranteed, in any rational, sane society. But they are not, in a society shot through with male supremacy and great nation chauvinism and run according to that profit-rules-all logic.
And listen to this, in terms of the wonderful democratic political structures of this society. There are now—a record has been set—for every member of Congress there are now eight professional lobbyists from the pharmaceutical and “health care industries.” Aha, health care industries, that’s the nomenclature, it’s a sector for investment. It’s not health care, it’s not social need. It’s not social responsibility. It’s a business. It’s the health care industry. Well, there are now eight professional lobbyists from the health care industry per every single legislator in Congress. This is a new record. And then you have this right-wing madness [sarcastically]: “Oh, I’m just fine. I’m feeling very healthy. I don’t give a shit about anyone else, and anyway, they’re just a bunch of freeloaders.” That is an important voice in the town hall meetings in this democracy of ours.
You know, there was something very revealing that I heard on a special CNN forum about health care. I was listening to this guy Sanjay Gupta, some of you may know of him. He’s the CNN health expert. And he was asked at one point, “Wouldn’t it make sense to focus on preventive care, on the actual health of people as the first priority?” This was a question that was put before those who were sitting on this roundtable discussion. You know, they had all their talking heads. Someone raised that. And his answer was, and I had to get my notebook out and take this down; he said, “From a medical and ethical standpoint, yes it would make sense to put more emphasis on preventive health care. But from the bottom line, it doesn’t.” And then later someone raised that it seems as if we should be training more primary care doctors, and Gupta gave the same response: “Well, medically and ethically, it makes sense, but not on the bottom line.”
And you know, Gupta is on to something. He’s not to my knowledge a Marxist. [speaking in an ironic tone:] At least I haven’t found his writings on any of the Marxist websites I go to. But there is in fact a fundamental clash between social need and social health and the imperatives of profit. And this, I think, really concentrates so much of what is before us, this clash between basic needs and the bottom line. The bottom line.
And this is what socialism changes. Profit is no longer in command. There is no such bottom line. Under socialism you will have an economy that is geared to serving the people and that channels resources and expertise to where they are needed. And serving the people and serving the needs of world humanity. This will, going back to Sanjay Gupta, this will be the ethics of socialist society.
Now I want to talk a little more about how we would organize health care under socialist society. I really encourage people to listen to the DVD by Bob Avakian where he talks about this in a section titled, “Imagine.” Imagine how we can do things differently in a society based on the principles that I’ve been talking about. This DVD is now available online—Revolution: Why It’s Necessary, Why It’s Possible, What It’s All About. Under socialism, how it is possible.
Under socialism, you have a new political system that empowers people to solve problems in multi-dimensional ways, drawing on and mobilizing the skills and knowledge and determination of all to remake society. You will have a society which is consciously seeking to break down the divisions between experts and non-experts, in which doctors will be learning from, and actually listening to, patients. You will have medical training that puts doctors in touch with the great needs of society and the world. You will be spreading medical knowledge among basic people and creating new combinations of the highly trained and the less trained.
You will be treating health issues in an integrated way: in relation to how and where people work and where they live; you’d be dealing with health issues of the environment and carrying on appropriate social investigation; you’d be paying attention to the special needs of women and minority nationalities. You will combine advanced research with basic ground-level research that directly draws people into these processes of discovery and experiment.
And the management and decision-making within medical institutions—whether hospitals and clinics or medical schools—will no longer be the province of a privileged and controlling few. It will involve combinations of administrators, doctors and nurses and other medical personnel and medical students, and representatives of the masses. At all levels of society, the basic people will be participating and taking responsibility.
And one thing that socialist society will ban forever is the criminal bottom line of patents and property rights over medications and treatments, like AIDS vaccines or new ways of treating malaria. This knowledge, these breakthroughs, these medications will be made available to the people of the world. Or to put it differently: there will be no such thing as Big Pharma, of pharmaceutical companies profiting off disease and treatment under socialism.
Now, again, this is not some utopia. It’s quite viable. But it can only happen when you have a different kind of economy and a different state power. And it has happened—in Maoist China, especially during the Cultural Revolution.
Now, Maoist China was not a rich country. But it was able to create what the U.S. hasn’t come close to having: a universal health care system. Health services were provided free or at low cost, and the health care system was guided by principles of cooperation and egalitarianism
The emphasis in China when it was genuinely socialist was on prevention, hygiene, and other mass, public measures. China was able in 15 years to overcome epidemic diseases like smallpox and cholera. Mass campaigns were launched to tackle the problem of opium addiction. One of the important and defining features of health care in socialist China was to maximize community participation and people taking responsibility at the grass roots over health concerns and issues. There was both centralized allocation of resources and a tremendous amount of decentralization and reliance on people in neighborhoods and communities. And along with mass mobilization, there was mass education.
The Chinese health system also combined modern with traditional and indigenous treatments, like acupuncture and herbs. The slogan popularized in revolutionary China was “serve the people” as opposed to maximizing self-interest and personal gain. This was the spirit in which doctors were trained. The success of this system was not measured by profits or cost-containment—but by social health and social well-being as a means of building a new and liberating society. And social well-being—people’s health and the overall quality of life—as an important goal of that society.
During the Cultural Revolution, the focus of health care expenditure and allocation of resources shifted to the countryside, even as overall health improved in the cities. At any given time, some one-third of urban medical personnel were on the move, going into the rural and remote areas where they were needed. And one of the most exciting developments of the Cultural Revolution was what was called the “barefoot doctor” movement. These were young peasants and urban youth sent to the countryside who were quickly trained in basic health care and medicine geared to meet local needs and who were capable of treating the most common illnesses.
The results were astounding. You hear these ridiculous and unsubstantiated charges about how many deaths Mao caused. But life expectancy under Mao doubled from 32 years in 1949 to 65 years in 1976. And in the early 1970s, Shanghai had a lower infant mortality rate than did New York City at the time.
This is part of the legacy of the first wave of socialist revolution that we can learn from and build on, and as I said, in the next wave, we can go further and do better.
Revolution #179, October 15, 2009
Revolution #179, October 15, 2009
The Ray Lotta Campus Tour:
Lipman Room, 8th floor of Barrows Hall on the UC Berkeley campus
NYU, New York City
Cantor Film Center- NYU
UCLA, Los Angeles
Broad Art Center at UCLA,
University of Chicago
Kent Hall, Room 107
Revolution #179, October 15, 2009
Support, Join the March for Equality
“Free and equal people do not bargain for or prioritize our rights, so we are coming to DC this October 10-11th to demand equal protection in all matters governed by civil law in all 50 states. Now... As members of every race, class, faith, and community, we see the struggle for LGBT equality as part of a larger movement for peace and social justice.” (LGBT stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender [people who identify as other than their socially defined gender]).
From the call for The National Equality March in Washington, DC, October 10-11
On campuses, and in communities across the country, students and others are mobilizing to march in DC, responding to a “Call to Action,” issued by a group of student leaders, including student body presidents at dozens of colleges. The Call declares:
“The United States must end its system of inhumane segregation that continues to discriminate against LGBTQ Americans, denying equal opportunity to serve one’s country, denying the equal right to marry, and denying equal access to over 1,000 rights, benefits and protections granted to all American citizens... To remain silent is to endorse hatred. So we add our voices to the increasing millions who demand justice, freedom, and equality for America’s LGBTQ citizens. We urge all students to converge on Washington DC on October 10th & 11th for the National Equality March. We urge our students, no matter their sexual orientation, to organize buses, planes and trains, so we may express our unity and unwavering commitment to freedom and equality. Now is the time to speak out against this outrage and now is the time to march side by side in a powerful show of force in the struggle for freedom.” (For full statement and information go to equalityacrossamerica.org).
The march has been endorsed by a wide range of organizations and religious leaders. At performances of the Broadway musical Hair, the cast has urged the audience to go to DC and the show’s producers canceled a Sunday matinee so that the cast and crew could attend and perform at the march.
For all those who hate discrimination and oppression —and especially from the point of view of revolutionaries who are fighting for a world free of all oppression—this march and this cause are very important to support and join. And we have to seek to make this a powerful struggle that exposes and goes up against this system.
The capitalist-imperialist system we live in rests on a foundation of exploitative and oppressive economic and social relations. And the male-dominated traditional family both mirrors and enforces these relations, as well as all the backward ideas and values that reflect and promote all this. Patriarchy, traditional gender roles and traditional thinking about men and women all stem from and prop up the oppressive property relations in this society. To the powers-that-be, gay marriage, gay relationships, gay rights, and anything that deviates from the “father-knows-best” model of a traditional marriage undermines those relations. And for those who rule over society, shoring up the traditional family is part of a whole package of imposing and enforcing a whole set of “traditional values,” like racism, women being subjugated to men, and hatred of immigrants.
Victims of Anti-Gay Murders
On February 13, 2007, in Detroit, Michigan, 72-year-old Andrew Anthos was riding a bus home, and a stranger asked Anthos if he was gay, followed him off a bus, and beat him with a pipe. Anthos spent the next ten days in a coma, paralyzed from the neck down, before dying on February 23. Witnesses say the assailant, who has not been apprehended as of mid-July 2008, spewed anti-gay expletives in the process of attacking the senior citizen victim.
On March 14, 2007, in Wahneta, Florida, 25-year-old Ryan Keith Skipper was brutally murdered. Skipper's body—with 20 stab wounds and a slit throat—was found on a dark, rural road in Wahneta, less than two miles from his home. William David Brown, Jr., 20, and Joseph Eli Bearden, 21, were later indicted on robbery and first degree murder charges. Their trial, originally set for August 2008, was pushed to February 2009. The accused killers allegedly drove Ryan's blood-soaked car around the county and bragged of killing him. According to a sheriff's department affidavit, Ryan's murder should be considered a hate crime since one of the men stated that Ryan was targeted because he was a "faggot."
On February 12, 2008, in Oxnard, California, 15-year-old Lawrence King was shot twice in the head while sitting in his classroom at E.O. Green Junior High School. He was pronounced brain-dead the following afternoon and was subsequently taken off life support. According to his classmates, King was considered a social outcast and often wore makeup, jewelry and high heels to school, making him the subject of ridicule among other boys. Brandon McInerney, 14, was charged with the premeditated murder of King.
Being gay, lesbian, or transgender in America in 2009 means facing official and unofficial discrimination in every realm of society.
Only a handful of states allow same-sex marriage. This means that most gay couples are denied the more than 1,138 rights and protections (according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office) that U.S. citizens are supposed to have when they get married. These include Social Security benefits, veterans’ benefits, health insurance, Medicaid, hospital visitation, estate taxes, retirement savings, pensions, family leave, and immigration rights.
And, while people should not enlist in the U.S. military—which is an institution for torturing, raping, killing and dying in service of global empire—it is a stark indication of societal discrimination that, according to a recent article in an official U.S. military publication, some 12,500 people have been forced out of the military for being gay since the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was implemented in 1994. (“The Damage of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” New York Times, October 3, 2009)
Beyond legal discrimination, gays, lesbians and transgender people in America are forced to live in fear, and told they should live in shame. Fifty-four percent say they are concerned about being the victim of a hate crime (Harris Interactive 2006).
In part because of the situations they face at home, it is estimated that between 20 and 40% of all runaway youth are LGBT and they face a cold shoulder or a hostile environment at many runaway shelters maintained by religious organizations that promote discrimination against gays. Many religious organizations including the Salvation Army have successfully lobbied for protection against being prosecuted for refusing to hire gays or lesbians (Washington Post, 2001)
A 2007 survey revealed that nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT students (86.2%) experienced harassment at school in the past year, three-fifths (60.8%) felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation and about a third (32.7%) skipped a day of school in the past month because of feeling unsafe. (“2007 National School Climate Survey: Nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT Students Harassed,” GLSEN)
Transgender students face particularly extreme attacks. More than half of all transgender students experienced physical harassment because of their sexual orientation and gender expression and more than a quarter experienced physical assault because of their sexual orientation and gender expression. (“Harsh Realities Finds Transgender Youth Face Extreme Harassment in School,” GLSEN)
Suicide rates among gay students are difficult to find. An article in Edge reported that, “Teen suicide is a serious problem, but among LGBT youth, it has been catastrophic” (March 3, 2009). A 2001 study of Massachusetts high school students revealed that 40 percent of gay and bisexual students surveyed attempted suicide.
The fact that millions of youth, and people of all ages, live under this kind of constant terror, and that this system creates a situation where over sixty percent of all LGBT students feel unsafe in school is a profound indictment of the system and the oppressive morality and relations it engenders and enforces.
Christian Fascists and Gay Marriage
The virulent cutting edge of opposition to gay rights is coming from Christian fundamentalists. These forces may be lunatics, but they are dangerous, tightly connected with and dominant in the Republican Party, and have a lot of power. The Mormon church played a significant role in bankrolling the hateful, incendiary, and lie-filled media campaign that banned gay marriage in California in 2008. And the Christian fascist movement indoctrinates its followers with bizarre, Biblical fundamentalist hatred for gays.
Recently, Iowa's Rep. Steve King threw gay marriage into the toxic stew of this vast right-wing populist rebellion—supposedly against Obama's healthcare proposals. (See "The Right Wing Populist Eruption: Yes, It Actually IS Racism," at revcom.us). King said that the demand for gay marriage was part of "a push for a socialist society where the foundations of individual rights and liberties are undermined and everybody is thrown together living collectively off one pot of resources earned by everyone..."
On the one hand, King's statement is insane; the right to get married, and lead a traditional life in a traditional family unit, is not at all, in and of itself, a radical demand. It is simply a demand for equality under the law. It does not challenge the capitalist or even the foundational moral and social structures that reinforce the present order. And yet, on another level, King's statement should not be dismissed as simply disingenuous incitement of his base.
As Bob Avakian puts it in Away with All Gods!: Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World, "The real objective of the Christian Fascists around the issue of gay marriage, and their condemnation of homosexuality in general, is to enforce 'traditional morality' and all the relations of oppression embodied in and enforced by that traditional morality—including patriarchy and the oppression of women, the subordinate position of women in society, and their essential role, as the Bible presents it, as breeders of children within the confines of male-dominated marriage relations, sanctioned not only by the church, but also by the state."
The March for Equality is taking place at a time when right-wing, Christian fascist forces are continuing to very aggressively and actively promote their whole agenda of oppressive “traditional values”—like racism, women subjugated to men, the demonization of immigrants, and hatred of gay people. The attacks on demands for equality for gays and lesbians are coming down in extreme, virulent, and very dangerous forms from the Christian Fascists, with their invocation of the Bible (which calls for killing people who engage in homosexual acts).
While these reactionary forces have, if anything, become even more rabid with the election of Barack Obama, many progressive and enlightened forces in society have become sedated by the Obama presidency. So you have a situation where there is a great need for heightened struggle to demand gay rights, but many of the forces in society that should be motivated around this are instead putting their efforts into “holding Obama’s feet to the fire” and counting on him to win this fight.
Many who support Obama think he shares their values on ending the oppression of women and of gay people. But have they noticed how he routinely characterizes abortion as a bad thing, even if he does not oppose the right to abortion? Or how, at a time when the right of gay people to marry was being attacked in electoral referendums, he said that while he did not support those referendums, he at the same time opposed gay marriage itself—on the basis of his own religious beliefs?
Cleve Jones, a long-time gay rights activist who played a key role in initiating the March for Equality, said: “[W]e voted in enormous numbers for Obama. We want very much to believe that he has our best interest, as well as the entire country’s, in his heart. But he seems to be continuing this really hurtful policy of doling out increments of rights, fractions of equality. We’re tired of this state-by-state, county-by-county, city-by-city struggle for fractions of equality. And this latest thing [a memorandum signed by Obama to extend limited benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees], this is really just crumbs. And it’s disheartening to see so many of the leaders of our community standing there behind him while he sprinkles out these crumbs.” (Democracy Now!, June 19, 2009)
A big part of Barack Obama’s political agenda is finding “common ground” among “all Americans”—which has meant finding “common ground with” reactionary right-wing forces in society. It has meant uniting with and conciliating to those who support the killing of doctors who provide abortions; who think it is a sin—punishable by death—to be gay; who are behind the most hateful laws that would deny immigrants the most basic human rights.
But we have to ask: How can there be “common ground” between those whose core beliefs include the most vicious prejudices and draconian punishments for homosexuality, and those who believe in tolerance and equality? This is like Black people finding “common ground” with the KKK.
There may be struggle within the ruling class over how to deal with the question of gay marriage in society. But there is unity on the need to enforce and reinforce the oppressive economic and social relations that lie at the heart of this system—and all the “traditional ideas” that go along with and buttress this. And Obama’s agenda has many elements in common with conservative, religious forces in society. Obama has called for bringing religion more fully into political life; he has advocated an expansion of federal funding of faith-based organizations. Obama’s first televised campaign appearance with John McCain took place at Rick Warren’s fundamentalist Saddleback Church where Warren said he had asked both candidates about their definition of marriage and both said the same thing: “It is the universal, historic definition of marriage, one man and one woman, for life. And every culture for 5,000 years and every religion for 5,000 years has said the definition of marriage is between one man and a woman.”
The Obama presidency plays a very important role for the system—insofar as it is able to rope in and divert the struggle of the people into acceptable confines that do not really challenge the oppressive status quo. Obama wants people to believe in and rely on this oppressive system for change. He does NOT want people in the streets, fighting a determined struggle for equality that does not find “common ground” with reactionaries, but instead wages an uncompromising battle to demand an end to oppressive relations in society.
Obama, or any other representative of this system, doesn’t want to see this kind of struggle. Because once that genie is out of the bottle—once the oppressed people and the more enlightened people begin both to see and feel their potential strength and at the same time begin to investigate and debate why all this shit keeps happening and what can be done to really change it—then all kinds of possibilities for radical, and even revolutionary, change could open up.
But that is exactly the kind of struggle we need.
• • •
The current struggle for LGBT equality is part of a larger battle over the whole direction of U.S. society. And right now there is a lot at stake in uniting many, many more people to step into the fight.
The world does not need to be this way. This does not have to be a world where people are hounded, discriminated against, degraded, and killed for their sexual orientation. As we wage the struggle for LGBT equality, those who really want to get beyond the subjugation of women and gays in society must link that struggle to a revolutionary movement, and a revolution that will allow humanity, for the first time, to envision and bring into being new forms of intimacy and relationships that are liberated from all the ugly traditional oppression of women.
(For information on the National Equality March in Washington, DC on the weekend of October 10-11, go to equalityacrossamerica.org).
Revolution #179, October 15, 2009
This is a description of what is happening in a major country in the world today: In the space of a few months, the police in this country’s largest city stop hundreds of thousands of people who are not violating any laws and subject them to humiliating questioning and searches. Most of those stopped are people of oppressed minorities. The police put the names and addresses of everyone they stop this way into their database.
You can imagine how the official voices in the U.S. would howl if this country were one of the countries that the U.S. denounces as run by “dictators who deprive the people of their basic rights.”
But the fact is, what is described here is not happening in some other country—it’s right here in the USA, in New York City. This outrageous police practice is called “stop-and-frisk.”
Dogged by Police in Harlem
The stop-and-frisk facts and statistics in the NYCLU press release reflect the daily life experiences of hundreds of thousands of Black and Latino people in New York City, and millions more throughout this country.
Rodney, a Black man who lives in Harlem, told Revolution newspaper recently that he has been stopped-and-frisked by the police for "no apparent reason," or for just being "in the wrong neighborhood." When Revolution asked Rodney how he felt when cops treated him this way, he said that he was harassed so constantly by the police that he has become accustomed to it. "I'm used to it. I don't feel no certain way," Rodney said. "Everybody in Harlem, especially the minorities, they're used to it by now."
Read that sentence again: "Everybody in Harlem, especially the minorities. They're used to it by now." What kind of a society is it where many, many people—especially youth of oppressed nationalities—have come to think of being demeaned and brutalized by the police as a daily fact of life?!
An August 14, 2009 press release from the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) is titled “Record Number of Innocent New Yorkers Stopped, Interrogated by NYPD During First Half of Year.” Based on figures from the NYPD, the NYCLU reports that in the first six months of 2009 alone, cops in New York City stopped more than 273,000 people who—according to the police themselves—were not violating any laws. This represents the highest number of innocent people stopped and questioned by the NYPD in six months since the department began keeping stop-and-frisk data.
From January to June of this year, the NYPD as a whole (including the various precincts as well as bureaus such as housing, transit, and narcotics) stopped and frisked 311,646 people, the overwhelming majority of them Black and Latino. Of that total, more than 9 in 10—or 273,556 people—were not arrested or given a summons. In other words, by the NYPD’s own admission, in just the first six months of this year they had stopped and searched close to 275,000 people who were not even alleged to have committed any crime. It should be pointed out that the actual number of innocent New Yorkers subjected to these stop and frisks is no doubt even higher, since the figure does not account for people who were wrongfully accused of a crime by the police.
The stop-and-frisk figures are undeniable evidence of racial profiling by the NYPD. Of the total of 311,646 people stopped between January through June 2009, 163,118 (52.3 percent) are Black and 81,210 (32.1 percent) are Latino, while only 29,782 (9 percent) are white. Compare this with the overall New York City population figures according to nationality: 24 percent Black, 28 percent Latino, and 35 percent white (the rest are Native American, Asian American, and others).
Breaking down the data a bit further, of the 163,118 Black New Yorkers who were stopped and frisked, 148,731 (91.2 percent) were neither arrested nor given a summons. Similarly, of the 81,210 Latinos stopped, 68,689 (84.6 percent) were neither arrested nor given a summons.
The figures for the first half of 2009 come on top of the statistics for last year, when the NYPD stopped and frisked a record total of 531,159 times—again, overwhelmingly targeting Black and Latino people.
These figures for 2008 and the first half of 2009 are a massive increase even from the intolerable levels of 10 years ago, when a police shake-down squad carried out the cold-blooded murder of Amadou Diallo, firing 41 shots at him when he pulled out his wallet. This murder put a spotlight on the fact that the NYPD had conducted 80,000 random searches of Black and Latino people in a year. In 2002, it was considered scandalous when it was reported that there were 98,000 stop-and-frisks. Now, seven years later, there are more than five times as many.
Furthermore, as the NYCLU points out, the names and addresses of all those subjected to stop-and-frisks are entered into an NYPD database. Christopher Dunn, associate legal director for the NYCLU, spoke to the implications of this: “The NYPD is, in effect, building a massive database of black and brown New Yorkers,” Dunn said. “Innocent New Yorkers who are the victims of unjustified police stops should not suffer the further harm of having their personal information kept in an NYPD database, which simply makes them targets for future investigations.”
And what justifications do the police offer for their massive harassment and humiliation of Blacks and Latinos? The NYPD’s own reports provide incredibly revealing, and infuriating, answers to that question. Let’s zero in on one particular precinct—the 75th Precinct in the East New York neighborhood of Brooklyn.
The police in that one precinct made a staggering 8,073 stops (far more than any other precinct) just from January to March 2009; 6,220 of those stopped (77 percent) were Black. In 3,795 of these 6,220 instances, the cops listed “furtive movements” as a reason for the stop. Other factors listed by the 75th Precinct for stopping and frisking African Americans included: “time of day fits crime incidence” (3,053); “proximity to scene of offense” (1,222); “inappropriate attire for the season” (656); and “wearing clothes commonly used in a crime” (543).
So what is being said here is, if you are Black or Latino in America, especially if you’re young, you must not do the following things or else you will be treated as a criminal, resulting in arbitrary warrantless searches or worse: Move in a way the cops don’t like; wear clothing the cops don’t like; be outdoors at a time when the cops say crimes are likely to be committed; or be in the area where the cops say somebody has committed a crime.
This is the reality of what is taking place in the biggest city of this “land of the free and home of the brave.” And NYPD’s racist stop-and-frisks are part of the daily police harassment and brutality faced by people of color in Chicago, Los Angeles, Oakland, Houston, Philadelphia, and innumerable other cities and towns throughout this country. And every youth who is paying any attention knows that when the armed thugs in uniform stop them and order them to “assume the position,” a wrong move on their part, or just nothing at all, can lead to a brutal beating or death, and nothing will happen to the cops who do it.
This is NOT about “bad training procedures for cops” or “mistrust between the community and the police.” When police are stopping and harassing Blacks and Latinos in such massive numbers, that is not an “anomaly” or the result of a “few rotten apples.” This is a systematic policy. These are actions of an armed force of the state, whose role is to serve and protect a system—the system of capitalism-imperialism—and to sow an atmosphere of terror among the oppressed, especially the youth. Under this system, millions and millions of youth in the inner cities are robbed of any chance at a decent life—offered a “choice” between a life of crime and prisons, or killing and dying for an imperialist military that brutalizes and murders people around the world. The police are part of a whole state machinery, including the courts, laws, and so forth, that enforces the oppressive economic and social relations in this society. Trying to “foster greater community-police relations” makes about as much as sense as “fostering greater relations between the community and the KKK” would have made back in the day.
What makes the NYPD stop-and-frisks so outrageous is that they are blatantly and totally illegal, according to even this system’s own laws, including the Constitution. And the fact that the police are basically given free rein to do this exposes the actual role of the state machinery, including the police. People are supposedly protected from arbitrary searches by law enforcement forces, or being targeted by cops just because of their nationality or color of their skin. As the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) noted this January, in relation to the NYPD stop-and-frisk statistics for 2008: “Police stops and frisks without reasonable suspicion violate the Fourth Amendment, and racial profiling is a violation of fundamental rights and protections of the 14th Amendment and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”
Under this system’s own laws, things like running away from police or most violations of the law are supposedly not punishable by the death penalty—let alone execution on the spot, with no trial. But look at what happened to Corey Harris, killed by a gunshot to the back by an off-duty Chicago cop this September 11 when he and other youths started running after an altercation. Look at many others murdered by police around the U.S. in similar situations. Or many killed for nothing at all, like Oscar Grant, killed by transit police in Oakland at the start of this year as he lay face down on a train platform.
This October 22, the National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression, and the Criminalization of a Generation, it is critical that people join protests happening around the country, taking a visible stand against the vicious, systematic crimes of the police. One of the most heartbreaking sentiments Revolution has encountered in recent conversations with Black and Latino people about the police is a feeling of powerlessness: people saying they have been beaten up or beaten down so frequently by the cops that they don’t see how things could be any different. This is a situation that must be quickly and decisively transformed. Living in constant terror of being violated by the police is something that should never be accepted. People from many different backgrounds stepping out on October 22 can play an important role in giving heart to those most viciously subjugated by this system and its police.
As the statement “The Revolution We Need… The Leadership We Have” from the Revolutionary Communist Party says so powerfully: “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.”
Revolution #179, October 15, 2009
Letter from a Reader
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. September 24-25. For months ahead of time a vast array of repressive state machinery was put into place to ensure that the G-20 Summit, comprised of representatives from 20 of the world’s largest economies, would be prepared for the thousands of people who came to protest. A lot was at stake. As one young person said, capturing the sentiment of many, “I’m here because I think the G-20 is part of an organization among others that leads to the subjugation of people all over the world…We need to stand up and say that we’re going to put an end to all this…”
This is a world of enormous inequalities: the rich countries have 20 percent of the world’s people but 80 percent of its gross domestic product (or income), while the 20 percent living in the poorest countries have 3 percent of world income. This is a world that is stalked by disease, malnutrition, and life-destroying poverty: some 2.6 billion people, about 40 percent of the world’s population, live on less than $2 a day.
Over $19 million was spent on protecting the G-20 Summit, to ensure that the nightmare of the G-8 in Seattle or London (when the meetings were disrupted) would never happen again. But the demonstrators, and especially the youth, were not cowed or threatened—this was a moment in history that demanded determined resistance. The whole world was watching.
The G-20 “welcoming committee” was aptly described by Bill Quigley in his Smirking Chimp Blog:
“For days, downtown Pittsburgh, home to the G20, was turned into a militarized people-free ghost town. Sirens screamed day and night. Helicopters crisscrossed the skies. Gunboats sat in the rivers. The skies were defended by Air Force jets. Streets were barricaded by huge cement blocks and fencing.
“Bridges were closed with National Guard across the entrances. Public transportation was stopped downtown. Amtrak train service was suspended for days. In many areas, there were armed police every 100 feet. Businesses closed. Schools closed. Tens of thousands were unable to work. Four thousand police were on duty plus 2500 National Guard plus Coast Guard and Air Force and dozens of other security agencies. A thousand volunteers from other police forces were sworn in to help out.
“Police were dressed in battle gear, bulky black ninja turtle outfits—helmets with clear visors, strapped on body armor, shin guards, big boots, batons, and long guns. In addition to helicopters, the police had hundreds of cars and motorcycles, armored vehicles, monster trucks, small electric go-karts. There were even passenger vans screaming through town so stuffed with heavily armed ninja turtles that the side and rear doors remained open.”
The New York Times reported that “More than 30 officers in riot gear holding semi-automatic weapons stormed a building where members of the group Seeds for Peace were preparing food for a demonstration on Monday.” (Seeds for Peace provided medical support and food for protestors.)
On Wednesday, the day before the summit was to open, diplomats were greeted by Greenpeace activists who hung a giant color banner reading “Danger: Climate Destruction Ahead, Reduce CO2 Emissions Now” on the West End bridge. Fourteen people were arrested. This front page news opened up the next two days of activities.
Students and those in their 20’s had been coming in from around the country to hook up with people in Pittsburgh. On Thursday afternoon resistance kicked into high gear. The Pittsburgh G-20 Resistance Project hosted an unpermitted march from Arsenal Park on the G-20. After a short rally of mainly young people, around 1,000 people took off for the downtown summit. They knew that a massive show of force would be unleashed against them with arrest, injury or worse. This defiant crowd came with their homemade signs and banners stating “G-20=Death by Capitalism,” “No Hope in Capitalism,” “Capitalism is in Crisis,” and “No Bailout for Capitalism.”
Many in the crowd wanted to directly confront the concentration of international capitalist economic and political power directly in the streets. One young woman protestor dressed in black emphatically stated, “This is what I live for.” They were sickened by the continued horrors brought down by capitalism upon billions of people and how it destroys people’s lives. There was a sense that this was a moment in history where people needed to take the opportunity to challenge the G-20.
Within a very short period of time the march was told not to go forward, then attacked by police, using tear gas and high frequency sound devices against the protestors. City officials stated that this was the first time the sound cannon had been used on protestors within the United States. Similar devices have been used in Fallujah, Mosul and Basra, Iraq. With tear gas spreading through the area, the march dispersed into various decentralized actions.
Once dispersed, actions were held throughout the city as the police in full riot gear sought to shut down any resistance to the summit. But the protestors were determined and actions continued throughout the day and into the evening and the next day. The police kicked in the doors of their communications centers and took all their equipment. This still didn’t stop people as they texted messages to everyone they could off reports from the police radio.
Hundreds of police officers in full riot gear, with SWAT and other vehicles, swarmed around and onto the University of Pittsburgh campus and the nearby area, assailing about 400 protestors and students who live on, or just happened to be on campus. One McCain supporter said it was the first time he was afraid of his own government. There were reports of tear gas, pepper spray and people being beaten. An estimated 110-plus protestors were arrested after hundreds of police arrived and dispersed the crowd with a show of force and clouds of OC gas. Many are still facing charges and are calling for support.
Friday was the mass march. Organizers had waged a lengthy legal battle just to get a permit to march in the streets. It brought out approximately 4,500 people from various human rights groups, unions, anti-war activists, environmentalists, anarchists, students and revolutionary communists. The state of siege was still in effect as lines of SWAT teams and bus loads of ninja cops lined the march. As the march snaked through the city, hundreds and hundreds of people lined up behind the pigs, some taking literature and others joining in. A group of students from Pitt, who joined the contingent on the spot, carried the banner “Capitalism is a Failure, Revolution is the Solution.” Revolution newspaper got into people’s hands along with the Message and Call from the RCP, “The Revolution We Need… The Leadership We Have.” Pluggers for the online Revolution Talk by Bob Avakian were distributed.
Through the course of the few days we spent in Pittsburgh and in the midst of these actions, there was debate and struggle over what direction the world needed to go in. Many youth came to Pittsburgh with conceptions that the problem was the “20 men” meeting at the G20 making decisions for everyone. Or that with enough pressure, this system could be changed to put people ahead of profit. As people took to the streets, and discussed politics during lulls in the action, people got exposed to a more radical critique and solution—that this is “a system of capitalism-imperialism,” as the Message and Call from the RCP says, “driven by the relentless chase for profit.” And that “This system needs to be swept aside…its crimes against humanity stopped cold…its institutions dismantled, and replaced by ones that empower people to build a new society free of exploitation and oppression.”
Revolution #179, October 15, 2009
On Friday, September 25, President Barack Obama and the leaders of France and Britain interrupted the G-20 summit meeting in Pittsburgh with a “dramatic revelation” to the world: Iran was building a new, secret underground plant to process nuclear fuel. In fact, there was no revelation—four days earlier Iran, for its own reasons, had disclosed the plant’s existence to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Nonetheless, Obama, French President Sarkozy and Britain’s Prime Minister Brown claimed it was yet another example of Iran lying about and covering up the true nature and scope of its nuclear program.
Obama called Iran’s actions “inconsistent with a peaceful program,” that “represents a direct challenge to the basic foundation of the nonproliferation regime,” and claimed Iran was “breaking rules that all nations must follow.” Obama put Iran “on notice” to “come clean” and submit to U.S. demands. Otherwise, he warned, Iran was continuing “down a path that is going to lead to confrontation.” No option—in other words, a military attack—he repeated, was off the table. (New York Times, September 26, 2009)
These provocative charges were “propelling the confrontation with Tehran to a new and volatile pitch,” the New York Times (September 26, 2009) commented. All this comes in the wake of Obama’s announcement on September 17 to redirect the U.S. “missile defense architecture” (U.S. missiles) towards Iran—a move that was mainly covered in the U.S. media from the angle of U.S.-Russia relations, but one that was an aggressive threat to Iran.
As we go to press, there are new “revelations” from the U.S. media that Iran has “the knowledge” to make nuclear weapons. These “revelations” should not be taken at face value either.
Neither new “revelations” nor opposition to nuclear weapons or proliferation explains why Obama propelled the U.S. confrontation with Iran “to a new and volatile pitch.” Obama’s charges against Iran are full of holes, and the U.S. remains determined to keep its own massive nuclear arsenal and has no qualms about helping spread nuclear weapons when it suits its interests.
What’s “propelling” the conflict between the U.S. and Iran over Iran’s nuclear program is a broader clash between these two outmoded and reactionary social systems, each driven by its own set of deep necessities—with the U.S. representing the far more aggressive and dangerous side of the equation.
No sooner did these charges leave Obama’s lips than the media began running with and amplifying them—whipping up an atmosphere of crisis and danger, stoking speculation about—and demands for—aggressive action, even war.
The day after Obama’s press conference, the Wall Street Journal ran a special two-full-page report, “The Iran Attack Plan,” weighing U.S. and Israeli military options (September 26-27, 2009). In the space of a few days, the Washington Post printed four different editorial page pieces supporting military action against Iran. (See Glenn Greenwald, September 29, 2009, Salon.com). Fox News went wild and after several days of its “coverage” conducted a poll asking viewers whether they thought Obama was responding forcefully and effectively enough to Iran’s actions. Only one percent said yes. Few if any mainstream commentators demanded conclusive evidence proving U.S. charges.
As Lenin said, “People always were and always will be the foolish victims of deceit and self-deceit in politics until they learn to discover the interests of some class or other behind all moral, religious, political and social phrases, declarations and promises.” (V.I. Lenin, “The Three Sources and Three Component Parts of Marxism,” in Marx, Engels, Marxism, Peking, Foreign Language Press, p. 73, emphasis in original)
So first, remember who’s making the charges and their long history of creating pretexts to both maneuver against—and attack—those who challenged their world domination.
To take a most glaring, recent example... This is the same system, the same ruling class, the same institutions, the same imperialist media, and many of the same people that concocted the deluge of lies and fabrications used to justify the invasion of Iraq.
Think back to the atmosphere leading up to that March 2003 invasion. Top U.S. officials from the president on down were making dramatic claims that Iraq had a massive stockpile of WMD—weapons of mass destruction. Their charges were very specific—complete with charts and photos—that Iraq had tons of this, and tons of that, weapons labs here and mobile missile launchers there. Bush and company claimed that Iraq was lying to the world, cheating on weapons inspections and breaking its agreements with the UN.
The media ran with this storyline—treating it as well-established truth that no sane person could question. They built on the lies to have “discussions” of what the U.S. should do about the “danger” posed by Saddam Hussein—Sanctions? Invade? Bomb? This full-court press by the machinery of state and media proceeded with barely a critical word—even as experts like former Iraq weapons inspector Scott Ritter publicly stated Iraq had been disarmed, even as UN inspectors—on the ground in Iraq—did not discover any WMD.
What did the U.S. find after invading Iraq and combing it for WMD? Nothing. Nada. Not one single U.S. claim about WMD turned out to be true.
Iran isn’t Iraq, and the situation today isn’t the same as before the Iraq war. But there’s already plenty of evidence that the U.S. rulers are hyping, spinning and lying, and why no one should take anything they say on faith.
For starters, the timing of Obama’s September 25 announcement was driven by U.S. strategy against Iran—not the discovery of new information. It turns out the U.S. knew about the facility long before the September 25 announcement. In July, Obama reportedly ordered his staff to prepare a detailed brief on the site, which could be “deployed” in the event Iran refused to negotiate, if the information leaked, or if Iran revealed it. The exact timing was aimed at maximizing the U.S. leverage in confronting Iran and pushing other countries to support the U.S. position. “Everyone’s been asking, ‘Where’s our leverage?’” one administration official said. “Well, now we just got that leverage.” (New York Times, September 26, 2009)
Obama didn’t provide any proof for his charge that Iran’s new enrichment facility is “inconsistent with a peaceful program”—i.e., that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. In fact, his claim contradicts U.S. intelligence agency findings that Iran halted its weapons program in 2003, an assessment reaffirmed last month. (Newsweek, September 16, 2009). (And there’s no dispute—Iran doesn’t have any nuclear weapons.)
Obama claimed Iran was “breaking rules that all nations must follow”—violating its agreements with the IAEA—by not disclosing this site. In reality, Iran may well have fulfilled its obligations with its September 21 disclosure.
And there is much more evidence, concerning these and a number of other related questions, that show a pattern of U.S. lies and distortions concerning Iran’s nuclear history, program and ambitions. (See, for instance, Scott Ritter, “Keeping Iran Honest,” Guardian, September 25, 2009; Gareth Porter, “New Doubt Cast on US Claim Qom Plant is Illicit,” Antiwar.com, October 2, 2009; and Glenn Greenwald, “How similar are the cases against Iran and Iraq?” Salon.com, September 30, 2009)
The point isn’t that people should take the Islamic Republic’s claims about its nuclear program on faith (i.e., that it’s simply pursuing its legal right, under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty—NPT—to enrich uranium for nuclear power and there’s no military component). Nor would it be good for the people of the Middle East and world if the IRI did obtain nuclear weapons.
The point is that the U.S. rulers—whether Obama or Bush—have a track record of bending, twisting and trampling on the truth, and whipping up fear and hatred, in pursuit of imperialist objectives. Again, people should think critically when such revelations and threats are made and fear whipped up.
The U.S. is the only country to ever use nuclear weapons (twice) and it still maintains one of the world’s two largest and most lethal nuclear arsenals (along with Russia)—an estimated 9,960 warheads, some 5,735 of which are operational and 3,696 of which are strategic (long range). (These are weapons of mass destruction, thousands of warheads which could still wreak unimaginable destruction over the planet.)
And the U.S. is continuing to upgrade and modernize its nukes. Democracy Now! (September 25, 2009) reports that the Obama administration is “going ahead with a Bush administration program increasing nuclear weapons production... The administration is proposing to build new plutonium pits at the Los Alamos lab in New Mexico and expand enriched uranium processing at the Y-12 facility in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.” (And one heard no calls in the media for international inspection of these facilities!)
And with regard to the spread of nuclear weapons to other countries—the U.S. has helped facilitate or looked the other way while allies like Israel, Pakistan, and India built nuclear weapons.
Israel’s nuclear arsenal—an estimated 150 to 250 nuclear warheads—is treated as untouchable, even though Israel has repeatedly threatened to attack Iran (and other countries). There are no calls by any U.S. establishment political figures—Democrat or Republican—for Israel to sign the NPT or submit to international inspections. Instead, the U.S. condemned a recent UN resolution calling for Israel to join the NPT, and Obama also recently “reaffirmed” a secret agreement not to reveal the existence of Israel’s nuclear arsenal or pressure Israel to sign the NPT. (Washington Times, October 2, 2009; Reuters, September 18, 2009; Antiwar.com, October 2, September 18, 2009)
Why are the U.S. and other powers so adamantly opposed to Iran having a nuclear program—even being able to enrich uranium for nuclear power?
The problem is not that Iran’s Islamic Republic is a repressive, backward-looking theocracy. The U.S. supports a backward-looking theocracy in Saudi Arabia, right across the Persian Gulf, and the U.S. helped put Shi’a religious forces in power in Iraq who strengthened the grip of suffocating—and for women deadly—religious strictures. (Think about it, Obama did not interrupt the G-20 Summit to tell the world press that he’s discovered new evidence about the oppression of Iranian women or the rape and torture of Iranian prisoners.)
Iran’s Islamic Republic (IRI) poses a major obstacle to U.S. objectives and dominance in the strategically key Middle East-Central Asian region. Control of this region—a military-strategic crossroads and “pivot” between Asia, Europe and Africa, with 80 percent of the world’s energy reserves—is considered vital to continued U.S. global supremacy, and crucial to the very functioning of U.S. capitalism-imperialism.
Iran is a large, strategically located country with the world’s third largest oil and second largest natural gas reserves. In 1979, Islamic theocrats took power and formed the IRI. The IRI has been a relatively coherent state, an Islamic fundamentalist theocracy and pole of opposition in conflict with the direction the U.S. wants to take the region. The IRI has helped strengthen Islamic fundamentalism—which has become a big problem for the U.S. And Iran’s agenda in Gaza, Lebanon, Iraq and elsewhere conflicts with U.S. and Israeli plans.
The IRI controls Iran’s vast energy resources at a time when control of energy has assumed heightened importance in terms of both global capital accumulation and in the contention between different blocs of capitalist countries. As the U.S.’s position of dominance in the Middle East is challenged, other powers like Russia, China, and the European Union see openings to advance their own interests in the region.
The Islamic Republic is driven by its own set of necessities and ambitions. Its legitimacy, coherence and regional standing have also been based in significant part on both its real clash with the U.S. and by its “anti-imperialist” posturing. (Though readers should be clear: Iran remains in the grip of the world imperialist system—and the IRI’s program does not represent a rupture from but the striving to strengthen its position within that network of world imperialist relations.) Its nuclear program has taken shape in this context, as an indicator of national strength and possibly greater military power.
The IRI is pursuing its ambitions at a time of shifts and changes in the world economy and global politics, building ties with newly assertive powers like Russia and China. This has given Iran more maneuvering room and contributed to the potential emergence of a rival constellation of forces that could stand up to U.S. global dominance.
This is why the U.S. has been so hostile toward the IRI and why overall U.S. strategy has been aimed at eventually overthrowing, replacing, or forcing the restructuring or reorientation of the Islamic regime. (For a detailed discussion, see “An Assessment of the Momentum Towards War Between the United States and Iran,” posted at revcom.us.)
The nuclear issue must be understood against this backdrop. If the IRI were able to master nuclear technology and develop the capacity to make a nuclear weapon (even if it didn’t immediately do so), it would exacerbate all these problems for the U.S. and potentially give the IRI more regional clout and maneuvering room. It would change the military-political equation in the region and undercut U.S.-Israeli military dominance.
It could also threaten the stability of America’s regional gendarme—Israel (and other U.S. allies). Israel’s existence is predicated on military superiority over all other countries in the region—most of which Israel remains in sharp conflict with, and high levels of emigration (mainly from Europe, Russia, and the U.S.) which demands military “security” as well as a Western-imperialist lifestyle for most.
So the imperialists consider even Iran’s pursuit of nuclear power and mastery of nuclear technology (legal under the NPT) intolerable and unacceptable, and they’ve mounted a multi-faceted campaign which has included leaks, propaganda, sanctions, military threats, diplomatic isolation, and covert operations to force Iran to halt its uranium enrichment program and to weaken the IRI overall.
Iran is now highly polarized and the IRI is under great stress—from both the millions of Iranians who hate the regime as well as divisions among Iran’s rulers. Mounting international pressure on the regime is also part of the picture contributing to destabilizing (and the potential unraveling) of the theocratic regime. These pronouncements by Obama, et al., not only reflect but increase this external pressure on Iran and the maneuverings of U.S. imperialism in particular to gain advantage in this situation and pursue their own hegemonic designs. All this may result in pushing the rulers of the IRI to move forward with their nuclear program.
Neither side of the tense and dangerous confrontation between U.S. imperialism and the Islamic Republic of Iran represents anything positive for the world’s people. With the stakes very high and the potential for war real, what cries out is the need to bring forward an entirely different path that does represent humanity’s interests— a world without the towering crimes and injustices perpetrated by global imperialism, a world without oppressive religious obscurantism of any kind.
The potential for another, liberating path opposing both outmoded imperialism and outmoded Islamic fundamentalism can be glimpsed in the Iranian people’s courageous uprising of recent months. That just and righteous struggle must be supported, especially the efforts of those striving for a real revolution. And in the U.S. we have a special and urgent responsibility—beginning with opposing aggression by the U.S. and its allies in any form—whether sanctions, threats, or military attacks. But our responsibility doesn’t end there—we must also work to bring forward a real revolutionary alternative right here in the belly of the imperial beast that ends the scourge of imperialism and accelerates liberation struggles planet-wide.
Revolution #179, October 15, 2009
The following is a correspondence from readers:
Before writing more specifically about what we've been doing the last three days on this campus, I want to indicate how helpful—actually, essential—last week's editorial on how making the Raymond Lotta tour of campuses a REALLY BIG DEAL was. As part of taking our work on this particular campus to a whole different level, and with a better overall direction, a group of us really steeped ourselves in that editorial and struggled to grasp what it was calling for in opposition to lesser visions and other methods. While there is a LOT in that editorial that we found helpful and necessary to follow, almost paragraph by paragraph, the most essential thing was for all of us to confront the historic moment we are in, as captured in the Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage. The editorial begins with a quote about how, when it comes to the subject of communism, it is as if the creationists have taken over society as a whole... including the biology department. We really have to confront this and set our sights on taking this on, turning this around, and not trying to side-step it. In particular, we had to really dig into and "get with" the part where that editorial compares and contrasts:
"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."
We had to shift, even more fully, from a conception of just going out and finding the people who were interested and organizing them to get into the movement for revolution – and really aiming to change all of society, starting with a major breakthrough on the campuses as a whole, and bringing forward a core in the context of that. This really does have to do with whether we are confronting what it means to fight to begin a new stage of communism, or if we are just falling into old routines and ways of doing things and "doing our thing" on campus or anywhere else.
On this basis—in just a few days we have begun to accomplish a great deal...
The campus we've been at is particularly open and there is a tremendous amount of freedom in this. We've been able to walk into classes and make announcements to hundreds of students at once. Some professors let us do this and sometimes we just do it after most students have filled in their seats and before professor arrives. Some don't let us make an announcement and so we flyer and move on.
We picked out classes with hundreds of students each, many in subjects that might attract progressive students, others that are just big and/or likely to have many freshman. We've been quite successful—making agitational announcements in probably 15 classes in the last three days and speaking to probably 2,500 students who were seated and listening. In a couple classes, small numbers of students applauded. Our announcements have varied, but also gotten better. We use the title of Raymond Lotta's talk, "Everything You've Heard About Communism Is Wrong. Capitalism Is a Failure, Revolution Is the Solution," and we make a big deal about who Raymond Lotta is and what it means that he is coming to this campus. We make the point that if you dream of a better world and wish it were possible, come with your toughest questions; if you want to defend capitalism or to argue that communism has been a disaster; you should come too because Raymond Lotta is taking on all comers. We make the point that it is not acceptable what passes for "intellectual discourse" on campuses—including by many professors—when the subject is communism and that you, the students, have been lied to about the things that matter most.
We give out flyers for Raymond Lotta's talk with the short version of the RCP's statement, "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have" printed on the back. We also distribute the new survey/quiz testing people's knowledge of communism with no answers but with a place for people to leave their email address and phone numbers. We tell students we'll collect the quiz after class and email them the answers and other information.
The first two days, I sat in on a number of classes—both to learn more about the terrain and in hopes of finding ways to speak up or engage from the floor.
While we are looking to challenge lies being told by professors about communism, we have not allowed ourselves to get bogged down doing extensive research on everyone who teaches and what they have written. More, we've gone out very broadly with what we are doing and are seizing on the openings that emerge when various professors or other people on campus dismiss or denounce what we have to say.
Already, it is becoming the case that people are frequently coming up and saying, "Yeah, I've heard about this." Or, "You were in my class the other day,"... or, "in my dorm"... etc. Most are not super into what we are doing, but some are provoked and interested in coming and helping to spread the word. Beginning saturation can be discerned. One student today told one of us, "Yeah, my frat brothers were telling me about this," and took a stack of flyers.
The first day we went to campus, there was no plan and so no table. The next day, we had a table on the main campus walk and did a lot of flyering. But it is hard to make a big deal on this walk, where there are scores of clubs and tables competing for the students' attention. Today, we made a much bigger deal of ourselves. We got out in the walk during high traffic class change and started agitating and we had other people flyering and many more students stopped and took flyers. It was still a minority, but we were much more taken seriously because we were taking ourselves seriously. Students responded better both because we were making this program by Lotta "A Very Big Deal" and because by now many students had run into this multiple times.
Two young women came up and one said, "Yeah, I took the quiz in my class the other day. I am so glad you are doing this." They agreed that they've been lied to and should find out the truth about communism. So, I got into how the lies are just repeated and repeated, even in the academy and that this shouldn't be allowed to be taught. One woman backed up, "No, people with different views should be allowed to teach." I quickly clarified that it was fine for people to teach different perspectives and opinions, but that is not what I was talking about. I walked thru what Raymond Lotta does in his youtube on Chang/Halliday book, Mao, the Unknown Story (how they take a quote from Mao completely out of context to make it sound like he didn't care if half of China died, when actually he was warning against exactly that), and the two women gasped, "WOW." Then they agreed, "Yeah, lies shouldn't be taught."
We also had made a poster that had the quote from the statement, "The Revolution We Need...The Leadership We Have": "...despite the good intentions of many teachers, the educational system is a bitter insult for many youth and a means of regimentation and indoctrination overall. While, particularly in some ‘elite' schools, there is some encouragement for students to think in ‘non-conformist' ways—so long as, in the end, this still conforms to the fundamental needs and interests of the system—on the whole, instead of really enabling people to learn about the world and to pursue the truth wherever it leads, with a spirit of critical thinking and scientific curiosity, education is crafted and twisted to serve the commandments of capital, to justify and perpetuate the oppressive relations in society and the world as a whole, and to reinforce the dominating position of the already powerful."
Then at the bottom of this poster we put a big box with the speech title, Lotta's name and the time and place of the event. I brought the women to the table and had them read it. They really agreed and nodded. One took four of these posters to put up around her next class. Both gave their email addresses. One said she was so disappointed in school, she thought it would be more radical but it is not. At one point I told them that Raymond Lotta is the leading expert in the world on the actual history and how to sum it up of the Soviet Union and China when they were revolutionary, that he has extensively immersed in this for decades. One of the women looked up and asked, "Well, what about Bob Avakian. Isn't he your leader?" This was great and unexpected. I told her it was a great question and then got into how Avakian is analogous to Marx, he has forged a deeper framework of the whole science and revolutionary movement of communism, and this new synthesis is something that has and needs to even more set a framework for revolutionary work and advance of millions. Lotta is someone who, having studied and taken up that framework, has gone into this particular history with a depth and rigor and having dissected the charges and excavated the history in a way that is unique. I made the analogy of his work more to Engels who wrote The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State. Engels couldn't have written this work without taking up Marx's overall breakthroughs and framework, but then Engels did that particular work, not Marx. These women were really taken by this. It seemed they were getting an appreciation for communism being a science in a new way, not just, "Which leader are you most adherent to and most promoting?"
Another guy came up and said, "Okay, what are the lies I have been told?" I again used the lie that is taken apart in Lotta's youtube video. Then the guy raised a lot of particulars of the Great Leap Forward in China in 1958 and about the communes and cooperatives. He actually knew quite a bit of particulars about the Soviet Union and how they did agriculture and China and how they did, but was fundamentally wrong. He insisted that Mao Tsetung killed millions and that the Great Leap Forward was a total disaster. I responded by digging into the many things that came together during the Great Leap (the biggest climatic disruption and drought that China had experienced in 100 years, the Soviet Union pulling out their experts and blueprints and equipment that completely disrupted the development of infrastructure, as well as some real shortcomings in the leadership provided by Mao which was NOT flowing from his lack of concern for people's hunger, but from this being the first time anything like this had been attempted anywhere), but that the communes formed during the Great Leap did lay the basis for being able, through adjustments and learning off that, to solve China's hunger problem for the first time ever. This was more real than he seemed to anticipate and while he wasn't won over he did stay a lot longer than he had clearly intended to. At the end, he looked at flyer for the date and said he would try to come.
We had the Raymond Lotta youtube clip set up to show on a TV all day and showed it to students. Overall it was a minority of students who stopped to watch it, but those who did were very impressed with it. This youtube has double impact: people get a concrete sense of having been systematically lied to on a scale and with blatancy that they never imagined, and they get a sense of who Raymond Lotta is, which is very essential to building a buzz and having people get exactly what a big deal it is that he is coming to their campus.
A lot more is being, and needs to be, done to plug Raymond Lotta and the date of his event to make these a big deal themselves. Sometimes we just call out the date and say "Raymond Lotta, right here on this campus. Then we add the title of the speech and various other riffs. Mostly it is just a fast stream by us at class-change time, but agitating this way has the effect of people feeling they need to know what the big deal is about this person and this date, then they get the mention of communism and capitalism from the title. But the fact of an event, something coming in particular, grabs them more than just topic would alone.
One students said, "I've been wondering how long it would take for me to attend my first communist meeting when I got to this campus." So, then we got into who Raymond Lotta is and what the speech will be. We got into the importance not only of the topic in some general sense, but that this is THE event to be at, for the already-interested and those who weren't before.
The in-class announcements have had big impact. Some students commenting that they were really impressed by the passion and wanted to find out more (seems mostly the moral certitude that strikes some of them, content as well as general curiosity about communism among some, others think we are off the deep end, but all seem pretty respectful and hear us out). We make a big deal about taking on all comers... this is both provocative and lends credibility to the whole atmosphere, that Lotta is not afraid of any challenge.
One professor said, "Communism, that's worse than Nazism." He has 250 students and we decided to go back to his class next week when it meets again with the fact sheet contrasting communism to Nazism from the Set the Record Straight project and say, "Your professor said communism was worse, this is an outrageous lie." Then we'll hand out the factsheet and event flyer and publicly invite the professor to attend Lotta's speech and make his argument there.
We decided also that we need to more take this event to the department of Asia Studies. We will put out a flyer from the STRS website about the economic and social achievements under Mao together with the flyer for the speech and hand it out to all the Asia studies classes we can find, hoping to provoke response and interest which we will then further relate to as part of blanketing more broadly.
Today a young woman told us her professor made a comment in his class that, "There are people handing out some flyer about communism and they are crazy and you should just ignore them." She said this made her more curious about our flyer and she got one and told us time and place and name of professor. We'll be visiting that class.
There is the beginning saturation and a beginning sense of profs feeling need to respond which we aim to take further.
There are a few students who are becoming very active in helping build for this, but we need to really pay attention to involving these guys not just in doing things but engaging more fully and wrangling with the campaign and how to involved other students, etc. Also, there are many new students we are meeting every day and we need to be better at involving them in spreading this even as they learn more.
There will be a challenge to figure out, we are starting to get real traction, how this continues to escalate and get greater traction and crescendo at the event and not crest sooner than that or lose momentum or die down. We have to stoke the controversy beginning to break out and work with many more students to take this up. Really involving students is key to getting to places we cannot be and in having other students begin more and more to see this taken up by their peers, not just from outside. Even things like writing Raymond Lotta and date on white board before class makes a big difference (this is an idea one student came up with when we asked what he thought he could do).
Another way we intend to build momentum is with a big release of the quiz results—both on campus and in the student newspaper.
—Addendum from another person who was at the table a lot:
Our table had the youtube of Raymond Lotta taking on Chang and Halliday playing for hours. The enlargement of the "Think you know about communism and capitalism?" quiz enlarged to poster size, attracted attention, as did the literature with Revolution newspaper, including prominently the issue featuring "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have," and literature from Bob Avakian. The title of Raymond's upcoming speech, "Everything You've Heard About Communism Is Wrong. Capitalism Is a Failure, Revolution Is the Solution," was enlarged on a posterboard. Sometimes we carried it with us as we went out into the crowds of students to agitate and to talk to them.
Too many still passed by, eyes averted, not even acknowledging we are there. But there are many who are open to engaging on one level or another and from different angles. We are starting to stir up a response from students who vigorously disagree with us and advocate for backward positions—at least some seem to be at the point where they can no longer ignore us, and are coming to argue. One guy was incensed at question #6 on the quiz:
"Before the Holocaust, the majority of the world's Jews lived in east-central Europe. What was the only country in this region during the 1930s and World War 2 where Jews were not persecuted, deported, or exterminated—and where official government policy was to outlaw anti-Semitism and protect the rights and safety of Jews?"
The fact that the answer was the Soviet Union infuriated this guy, who argued and then came back the next day with 4 or 5 others who wanted to debate. The ensuing discussion over what approach the Russian revolution actually started with toward the Jews—and other oppressed nationalities in old Russia, the prison house of nations—and how the communist revolution in its early days systematically attacked all of those inequalities and the chauvinism that went with them (complicated by the fact that all of that has long since been reversed with a vengeance) was something these guys had never heard and had a hard time believing. The point here is not to get deeply into the complexities of this (we told them to come and bring their question to Lotta), but that this kind of debate stirred things up and drew others into the mix.
The fact that "Raymond Lotta is coming" is beginning to percolate through the campus – one woman student came to our table and told us that her professor has warned her political science class about our leafleting classes on the campuses. Word seems to be circulating among and it seems at least some of the professors feel that this cannot be ignored. In this case, the professor's "warning" had actually piqued this student's interest in just what these leaflets were saying, and she now wants to help take this up.
It is strikingly true even among most of the students who are glad we are out there and who think that what we are doing is good, that they tend to identify "socialism" with government intervention in the capitalist economy and with social reforms—that the radical vision of rupturing with capitalist relations and ideas is something they have never heard of. We talked to one student who, after hearing the title of Raymond's talk, said "I'm a libertarian." We asked whether he was a rigid, hard core libertarian or someone who would consider other ideas and thinking. He said he was definitely the latter, and we went off into a whole back and forth about his views of "ideal capitalism" vs. the reality of this system. After a while, we posed to him that part of what he did not understand was how liberating and good the real socialist societies had actually been—that this has been completely suppressed and buried and his generation knows almost nothing about it. We talked about what the revolutionaries were trying to do in the Cultural Revolution—and what that had to do with their aim to go beyond all classes and states. He had never heard of all of this, and though he still had basic disagreements, he said that he found the whole discussion very exciting, and that he would probably come to hear Lotta. We asked him to talk to his friends and to bring them—that he should tell them why he thought these ideas should be engaged and that Lotta was "taking on all comers" and they should come with their questions. He agreed to take a small stack of flyers.
In another interesting reflection of the times, a business student from Japan looked at our flyer and said that he really didn't think socialism was right, that he liked and agreed with capitalism, including morally—but he added, "there is this big crisis right now with the U.S. banks and that makes me think—without that I would not even be talking to you." And after promising to seriously consider coming to hear Lotta, he said that he had to run—he smiled and said he had to go attend a lecture on business economics.
The more we got out there with the table—the better and sharper our agitation (which focused around come hear Raymond Lotta, and the title of his talk), and the more of a scene we created the more students took our flyers and came forward to engage with us. We summed up at one point that for the program to be a success we needed to enlist many students to be part of this—and that many of these would not take this up on the basis of anything close to full agreement with Lotta, but on the basis of recognizing the importance of understanding the failure of capitalism, beginning to confront the lies told about communism, and revolutionary solutions, they could take up bringing others to this event. And we have started to enlist people to do just that.
Revolution #179, October 15, 2009
Revolution has received a number of responses from readers to our call "Bear Witness!"—saying "Tell us your story about police abuse. If the police have…sweated you at school; dogged you in the streets; hit on you or otherwise sexually harassed you; or if the police have racially profiled, threatened, tasered or brutalized you or any member of your family." The following are two of the responses we have received.
This is pure madness and how on earth do they get away with it. Police are getting away with more murders than the so-called criminals. Why are they killing all of our young black men, is it fear, do they want to destroy our future? I am totally confused by what they get away with. Like the way they abused the middle-aged man in the wheelchair in California who was also un-armed. This is not the land of the free. I live in Houston, Texas and want to get involved when I can. I am on your mailing list already. Please keep the world posted.
Hello. Just wanted to let you know how you and this paper are appreciated for keeping it real and letting people know what's really going on out here, because you can't depend on the "main stream" newz. I live in L.A. and the "killer cops" are doing the same thing here, they just killed a young brother/father last month, shot him in the back!, it's happening everywhere!! I wish I could donate at this time but will in the near future, keep up the good work and remember "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised!"
We encourage other readers to tell us your story. Email email@example.com.
Revolution #179, October 15, 2009
Through being a volunteer with Revolution newspaper, I am turning ideas and feelings into action. And not just something that is confined to one country. We are still living right now in times of wars and poverty. And it seems like it's just getting worse. When people think about the center of the world, they probably think about Wall Street, or some country rich in resources created by capitalism. The real center of the world is places where people have been victimized by capitalist big powers. Think about the relationship between the world, and yourself, as an individual. Then you will see that this situation—people who have been victimized—is not something too far away, that you have no relationship with. You would be able to see that well. And I think that's why I'm helping put out Revolution.
One of the things I did was look for photos of police brutality. These were photos, simply photos, that appeared in the newspaper. But I learned that these images have a big effect on people who read the newspaper. I learned this when I tried to distribute the newspaper. Some people don't want to see it, but some people saw just one picture and they were interested in what happened. We spent six to seven hours in front of a computer to choose two pictures. It wasn't wasted time. I learned that various people's stories, what happens to Black youth, and the truth, can come out from one photo.