Voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party,USA
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Revolution #186, December 20, 2009
The warming of the earth is a global emergency and many people are hoping that something good will come out of the international meeting on climate change in Copenhagen (Dec. 7-18). But the dominant players at this summit are more concerned with preserving the capitalist system and gaining competitive advantage than with saving the planet. Different forces, including powerful political figures, spread lies about and deny the reality of global warming. Others admit global warming exists but put forward lukewarm patchwork answers that don't seriously address the enormity of the problem. So it is very important to step back and get a scientific understanding of what global warming actually is... how this is an extreme environmental emergency... and why people should care about this crisis.
The warming of the earth will negatively impact the earth's living systems and every human being for generations to come. If things aren't changed dramatically and quickly, global warming combined with other forms of environmental destruction will very likely change the world to one where many forms of life go out of existence—to a world that no one would want to, and may not be able to, live in.
So let's get into some science on this. Think of the atmosphere that surrounds the earth acting like a greenhouse. Sunlight streams through the glass panes, but some of the sun's rays that bounce off the floors are trapped by the glass walls, warming up the greenhouse. The atmosphere on earth functions similarly. The sun's light goes through the atmosphere and strikes the earth, and certain parts of the light bounce back into the sky. Some of this energy is trapped by gases in the earth's atmosphere. This trapping of some of the sun's heat by gases is what keeps our planet relatively warm—an average of 57 degrees planet-wide. These "greenhouse" gases—carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, water vapor, and several others are naturally present in the atmosphere and they make the planet livable. If they weren't there, the earth would be a ball of ice.
Over the last 150 years, since the beginning of the industrial age, the amounts of greenhouse gases have been building up in the atmosphere. As they increase, more of the energy from the sun is getting trapped, heating the earth up. The growth of the amounts or concentrations of these gases is primarily the result of the forms of economic development the capitalist-imperialist system has developed and is dependent on, like burning of coal, gas, oil, etc. The burning of these fuels gives off CO2 into the atmosphere, the main greenhouse gas. Clearing and burning of forests and other practices are also adding to the build-up of CO2 and methane in the atmosphere.
Scientists have measured the amounts of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and found the amount of CO2, for example, has risen from 280 parts per million (ppm) in the 1800s to 386 ppm today. What is shown is that as CO2 rises, so does the earth's temperature; when CO2 drops, the temperature drops. They've found evidence that in earth's past history, warming has melted the ice at the North and South Poles, and this has changed ocean currents—which has transformed the climate dramatically.
The history of the earth's climate is one of dynamic change. There have been much warmer eras and also much colder periods—including periodic ice ages, in earth's history. Some of these climate variations are caused by periodic changes in the earth's orbit and tilt. Other natural changes have caused climate warming, which is one likely cause of mass die-offs of species in the earth's history at certain points. Today's warming of the earth is being caused by human activity—predominantly by the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation. But looking to this past history of big changes shows that truly catastrophic things can occur from climate change.
The science of the climate is complex. The warming of the planet is not linear or uniform. Sometimes people say, "the earth can't be warming up, it was really cold last winter." A cold winter in one area or even a whole region doesn't prove global warming isn't happening, because the warming doesn't happen in a straight line or uniformly. When scientists talk about global warming they are talking about trends over years, and also it is based on measurements at stations all over the entire globe and then averaged. Climate is not consistent. There are natural variations. But now greenhouse gases produced from human activity are taking things in a certain direction. Global warming isn't happening by every area of the globe warming equally at the same rate. But the earth as a whole is warming over years and decades, with different regions affected differently.
The "proof" that global warming is real comes from many different lines of evidence. Polar ice and glaciers are melting at an accelerating rate. Studies measuring temperature over the last several decades show a clear warming trend. The decade of the 1990s was warmer than the 1980s, and 2000-2009 was warmer than the 1990s. Eleven of the past 14 years are the warmest ever recorded. There is a great deal of evidence that, on average, spring is occurring earlier and earlier on the planet as a whole—affecting many plant and animal species. And there is also increasing evidence that climate extremes—more devastating floods in some regions, severe droughts in others, heat waves and more powerful hurricanes in certain regions —have been occurring as climate patterns are being changed through this process.
As global warming continues, there is growing danger of "tipping points," where much more dramatic shifts to an unrecognizable planet become not only likely, but if greenhouse gases are not quickly and dramatically cut, inevitable. If "business as usual" continues, the planet will experience tremendous changes, such as the melting off of glaciers that provide fresh water for tens of millions making an already dire situation (where a billion people on earth don't have access to clean water) much, much worse. Even the potential breakdown of human societies causing much greater suffering and chaos than already exists could happen because of warming and other environmental destruction. These things and more are very possible and indeed likely if dramatic cuts in greenhouse gases are not made, and relatively quickly. These gases need to be cut by 80% by the year 2050, and by 25% to 40% by 2020 worldwide, in order to prevent the worst of global warming. Some warming is already inevitable and "built into the system" because the gases already in the air will continue to cause warming for a long time even if the amount put into the air is cut now.
The technology and know-how exist to make the dramatic and radical changes that are required to reverse all this. The kind of changes needed to address this problem would mean tremendous dislocation of the capitalist-imperialist system. It would require undermining the nature and workings of a capitalist-imperialist system that treats nature as just one more resource to be exploited and poured into production for profit. And the never-ending competition dictated by "expand or die" puts one fundamental goal above all else: the maximization of profit. This is why this system will not and cannot do what is really needed to address the problem of global warming.
To save the planet we need revolution—to bring into being socialist societies aimed at a communist world, where billions of people all over the world, with their vast knowledge and potential creativity, can be mobilized, led and unleashed to build a society that truly safeguards humanity and the very life of the planet itself.
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Revolution #186, December 20, 2009
Mass Arrests in Copenhagen:
As we go to press, significant protest and resistance to the UN climate summit conference in Copenhagen (COP15) is taking place.
December 12 was called as a global day of action by Climate Justice Action (CJA). Events were planned in over 100 countries. In Copenhagen, as many as 100,000 people marched through the streets, the largest protest ever held around global warming, according to the UK Guardian. Danish police surrounded and then arrested almost 1,000 youth. A police spokesperson claimed this mass repression and round-up was necessary "to give the peaceful demonstration the possibility to move on."
Reports on the website Indymedia Danmark (indymedia.dk) say that people released from detention have reported horrible conditions in detention—people locked into small cages, some forced to urinate on themselves due to being denied toilet facilities and others fainted while handcuffed for hours. One woman arrested and then released because she had an injury said, "Of course we're angry—people all over the world are angry about being lied to by governments who are making a corporate deal at the climate talks, and now when we try to protest against this on the streets we are randomly held by police."
Reports from Australia said 50,000 people marched nationwide on December 12.
On December 13, hundreds of people gathered for the "Hit the Production" march on Copenhagen's harbor. The call for this action says, "The COP15 UN climate negotiations will not solve the climate crisis. Stuck in an ideology of never ending economic growth, their market-based false solutions only reinforce the interests of the most powerful actors. Meanwhile, ecological destruction and social injustices proliferate... In Copenhagen we will target the harbor with a mass blockade..." People carried banners saying "Our Planet Not Your Business." Police surrounded the protest, confiscated the sound truck and then arrested 200 people.
Danish authorities approved new police powers in anticipation of the summit protests, allowing police to detain people for up to 12 hours if the police suspect they might break the law in the future. The laws also allow police to jail activists for 40 days if protesters are charged with "hindering the police." The UK Guardian reported that on December 8, police in Copenhagen raided a place where activists were sleeping, holding people for two hours and confiscating items the police claimed "could be used for civil disobedience." Denmark, which is fond of touting its great democracy, is demonstrating very clearly the class dictatorship that is the essence of bourgeois democracy. The criminals who preside over the capitalist-imperialist system that is destroying the planet's environment and endangering humanity and its ecosystems are being protected and defended—while the masses who are fighting to preserve the planet are being rounded up and abused.
Other protests are planned and things could heat up much more when heads of government come to the summit next week. A group called Reclaim Power! has put out a call for activists in Copenhagen to disrupt the summit by climbing physical barriers and set up space for a people's assembly to discuss a real solution to the climate crisis.
Before the summit began, 50,000 protested in London to demand a real solution to global warming, and thousands marched in other European cities. In the U.S., hundreds of people in at least eight cities protested and sought to block headquarters of banks and corporations tied to global warming. These actions were held on the tenth anniversary of the November 30 protests in Seattle that disrupted and derailed the World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting and inspired worldwide resistance to imperialist globalization. Revolution will have further coverage of the summit and protests.
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Revolution #186, December 20, 2009
Jared Diamond, a professor of geography at the University of California at Los Angeles, is known to many people around the world for his best-selling books Guns, Germs and Steel and Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. A major op-ed piece by Diamond appeared in the December 6 issue of the Sunday New York Times, titled "Will Big Business Save the Earth?"
In his essay, Diamond writes, "There is a widespread view, particularly among environmentalists and liberals, that big businesses are environmentally destructive, greedy, evil and driven by short-term profits. I know—because I used to share that view. But today I have more nuanced feelings."
In Collapse, Diamond analyzed and closely examined how and why ancient and modern societies have fallen apart—for a number of reasons, but especially due to ecological disaster. And he raises the question of implications of such collapses for the world today—where the very fate of the planet is at stake.
But now, here is Diamond, in the pages of the New York Times, promoting the view that the giant capitalist corporations that have been responsible for pushing the world toward ecological collapse can now be relied on to save the earth. Diamond cites three corporations which are among the world's largest capitalist entities: Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola, and Chevron.
WHAT HAPPENED here, Jared?! Your book, Collapse, forced people to confront the enormity of the environmental crisis. But now you're arguing that paltry, if that, reforms by capitalist corporations will save the earth??!!! C'mon, Jared.
The crucial reality is that Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola, and Chevron are part of a whole system—the system of capitalism-imperialism. The fundamental problem that we face is not "greed" or "human nature"—but that this system is driven by the logic of "profit above all" and "expand or die." It is a vampire system that feeds off the blood of countless millions of people around the world whose lives are constrained, ground down, snuffed out.
Diamond speaks positively about Coca-Cola's supposed efforts in contributing to the conservation of the world's largest water basins. But meanwhile, what is the "answer" given by the capitalist-imperialist system as a whole to the problem of 20% of humanity having no access to clean water? To increasingly privatize water resources in order to sell for profit what should be a rationally shared resource of all humanity.
Chevron is the same corporation that, among its many crimes, is responsible for the massive contamination of a huge area of the Ecuadorean rain forest with 18 billion tons of toxic sludge—which people call "Chevron's Chernobyl in the Amazon."
Capitalism is a system in which the production and distribution of the necessities of life is carried on through cutthroat competition between individual capitalists or groups of capitalists constantly trying to gain advantage over other competitors. And this is a worldwide system, with a huge divide between the handful of super-rich powers that super-exploit and live off the backs of the majority of the world.
The truth about how this system works is something that is scientifically knowable, if you confront reality as it is. And taking this approach, the only conclusion that you can come to is that nothing short of radical, wholesale change in the way society is organized and run—in the near future—will prevent an ecological collapse on a world scale. But that is not where Jared Diamond goes—and he has turned to illusory "solutions" that place false hope on the very system that has brought the world to this brink in the first place.
Jared Diamond poses the question, "Can big business save the earth?" The answer is NO. The real, and extremely urgent, question is: Will the people of the world STOP this outmoded and monstrous system before it destroys the earth?
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Revolution #186, December 20, 2009
EDITED TRANSCRIPT OF A TALK BY BOB AVAKIAN, CHAIRMAN OF THE REVOLUTIONARY COMMUNIST PARTY, USA, FALL 2009
[Editors' note: The following is the third in a series of excerpts from the text of a talk by Bob Avakian in Fall 2009, which is being serialized in Revolution. The first two excerpts appeared in Revolution #184, November 29, 2009 and #185, December 13, 2009. The entire talk can be found online at revcom.us/avakian/driving.]
In this context, I want to speak to something which would be very wrong to ignore or to underestimate. And that is the moral appeal of the Christian Fascists in particular—and more specifically their opposition to and attacks on selfishness, individualism, consumerism and, as they frame it, "materialism." That is, the grasping and the lusting and striving after more and more consumer goods and material possessions.
This is a big part of the moral indictment and moral appeal of Christian fundamentalist fascists in particular. All of this is raised by them, however, from the standpoint of vigorously upholding and aggressively seeking to reinforce tradition's chains, as applied to women and the family in particular, and all on the basis of accepting and serving to perpetuate the dominant oppressive relations in this country and the world overall—including, as a key pillar of this, the position and role of U.S. imperialism as "the most monstrous, most oppressive superpower." (See "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have," Revolution #170, July 19, 2009; this statement is also available online at revcom.us.)
This moral appeal of theirs focuses and seizes on some of the elements of the dominant popular culture and ethos that we also criticize—and very rightly so—but from a radically different perspective. From the standpoint of Christian Fascist morality, around which a social base of very large and significant proportions is presently being mobilized and has been mobilized over a number of years in the U.S., this involves a critique of things that could be concentrated in the word "licentiousness": both sexual license, by which they mean any kind of sex outside of the framework of the traditional patriarchal family, and a more general licentiousness of seeking gratification in terms of personal—and what are very often, spontaneously and within the dynamics of this system, selfish—objectives and selfish motivations.
As these Christian Fascists see this, what is involved, and is dragging society toward damnation, is everything from abortion to same sex relations (and, specifically, gay marriage) as well as the question of evolution—all these things which call into question the traditional dominant relations that have existed for thousands of years and are associated in a general sense, particularly by these fundamentalist religious forces, with the "Judeo-Christian tradition."
These reactionary Christian Fascist forces insist that such challenges to "traditional" viewpoints and values can only lead to chaos in society. There is some truth to this, and from their standpoint this can only be a very bad thing, since they are proceeding from within the framework of the capitalist-imperialist system and the need to continue—and enforce, as violently as necessary—U.S. imperialist domination in the world. But the more fundamental question is: how to view the prospect of "chaos," or the disruption of "stability"—when that "stability" involves the perpetuation of this system and its monstrous crimes—and how to view the prospect of major social upheaval and struggle, when that upheaval and struggle can bring an end to this system and its very real horrors?
Now, it's important to note that the "moral appeals" of the Christian Fascists find some resonance, are able to strike a chord, not only among "old fogies," but with a number of youth as well—including, very importantly, some young women who, among other things, are very legitimately alienated and disgusted by the rank degradation of women promoted everywhere in the dominant culture and embedded in the dominant social relations in this society. This is something that is very important, once again, not to be ignorant of, or to ignore or underestimate.
It is also very significant that this kind of appeal finds a basis among those who make up the ranks, and not just the officer corps, of the U.S. military. Those who have been drawn to the U.S. military, as a voluntary military now, are appealed to in significant measure on the basis of being different from, and better than, the "nasty" society outside the military. (This was true when Bill Clinton was president, during most of the 1990s; and, while this does need more looking into, it would be surprising if it were not the case now with Obama and the politics and "ethos" that he is associated with.) This denunciation of the dominant society as corrupt and rotten often focuses on the rampant individualism among the U.S. population—contrasting this with the "team spirit" of the murderous U.S. military!—and, once again, rampant individualism is something that we also criticize, but from a radically different standpoint.
In the book Making the Corps, by Thomas Ricks (Scribner, 1997)—which was written in the 1990s, and was about the U.S. military broadly even while it focused on basic training for U.S. Marines—this theme came up over and over again. It was stressed by the officers, but also voiced spontaneously by a lot of the soldiers who were going through this basic training, that they were the ones who had the real values, and the irony was that they were protecting a society full of people who were rotten and selfish.
Somewhat related to this, it's worth noting the posturing of these fascists and in particular fundamentalist Christian Fascists as "anti-colonialists": the ways in which, in certain circumstances and at least in certain aspects, they will defend "traditional cultures" against what they sometimes denounce as "liberal cultural imperialism." For example, in the name of opposing liberal cultural imperialism, they may uphold even some of the most horrific traditional forms of oppression of women: things such as female genital mutilation in Africa and some other parts of the Third World; or other ways in which women are debased, degraded and subjugated in traditional forms in the Third World, rather than in the "modern" forms that more often take shape in the imperialist countries themselves.
These Christian Fascist forces also promote a perverse populism (which is a feature of fascist political tendencies generally). As people like Chris Hedges have pointed out, this was quite pronounced in the short-lived but significant Huckabee candidacy during the Republican presidential primary in 2008. This populism involves an effort to rally the "common folks" against "liberal elitism"—all on behalf of truly elite and ruling forces at the top of the capitalist system (or, at least, significant sections of them). You can see that now, for example, in the debate around health care.
Right-wing—and it is not exaggeration to identify them as fascist—demagogues seek to rally "common folks" against what are, in fact, some positive aspects in liberalism, such as secularism and advocacy of certain rights for oppressed and marginalized groups, even while liberalism itself frames and confines all this within a bourgeois and imperialist dominated framework. This, too, is a very perverse dynamic, and it is crucial to wage the struggle to break people out of this in growing numbers.
This is also akin to how, in certain circumstances, these Christian Fascists will promote relativism. Even while they denounce relativism and promote the absolutism of Biblical literalist "certainty," they will at times turn around and foster and support relativism—especially in opposition to science—with once again, their attack on evolution a concentration of this.
All this is an arena, morality and culture, where we need to contend much more—more extensively, systematically, sharply and creatively—bringing forward a truly radical and truly liberating alternative to all this, to every way in which culture and morality is presented on the terms of the exploitative and oppressive system of capitalism-imperialism.
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Revolution #186, December 20, 2009
Over the winter holiday this year, Revolution correspondent Alan Goodman will be participating in and reporting from the Gaza Freedom March.
We need your financial help to do this.
People are coming from all around the world to participate in this march, which marks the one-year anniversary of Israel's massacre in Gaza, Palestine. The main demand of the march is an end to the blockade that has cut Gaza off from the world, and prevents people from receiving even necessary food and medical supplies. Before the march, Alan Goodman will be able to spend several days in Gaza, witnessing the devastation of last year's one-sided war, and the impact of the blockade first hand.
Revolution newspaper has analyzed and exposed the situation for the people of Gaza, and the underlying global and regional forces and interests at work. This trip will strengthen our ability to do so. And beyond that, actually being on the ground in Gaza, talking to people, learning about their lives, their culture, their dreams and their questions will help make it possible to paint a living, breathing, and truthful picture of people who are confined to what has been called the world's largest outdoor prison. It will help bring to light the lives of people who the most powerful forces on earth have sought to dehumanize.
When Alan Goodman returns from Gaza, he will energetically reach out to audiences large and small to tell the world what he's seen, and in so doing impel people to politically oppose the crimes of Israel and the U.S. This is particularly important right here in the U.S., the country that provides full backing for Israel's horrific crimes against the Palestinian people. And in the course of doing that outreach, there will be many opportunities to open people's eyes to a whole other way the world could be—without imperialism or oppression of any kind.
The budget for this trip is substantial, and large donations are necessary. In addition, we strongly encourage many of you to raise and donate smaller amounts. We will also appreciate suggestions on how to spread the word broadly when Alan Goodman gets back, including your thoughts on speaking and writing opportunities in, and beyond Revolution.
To contribute to this project, send checks and money orders, with "Alan Goodman Travel" in the memo field, to RCP Publications, PO Box 3486 Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654.
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Revolution #186, December 20, 2009
Monday, December 7, thousands of students and other Iranians defied government threats and repression to demonstrate against their current rulers—the widely hated regime of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. The occasion was 16 of Azar—National Student Day, a commemoration of the 1953 murder of three Iranian students by the U.S.-installed monarch, Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. On campuses and in nearby streets, alleyways, and squares in over a dozen Iranian cities—including Tehran, Mashad, Tabriz, and Isfahan—Iranian students and their supporters fought the regime's massively deployed police and militia, responding to their truncheons, chains, teargas and stun guns with rocks, barricades and fires in the streets. Many protesters were beaten and over 200 were arrested, yet the protests continued the next day as well.
The current wave of upheaval began in June after Ahmadinejad's apparent theft of the presidential election. Since then, people's rage and protests have also been stoked by the regime's naked and vicious repression. At least 36—and perhaps twice that many—have been killed and over 4,000 arrested. Prisoners have been raped and tortured; Iranians around the world have been spied on and harassed; and the regime executed 115 "criminals" between June and August alone.
The regime tried to block any Student Day demonstrations—threatening and arresting student leaders in the weeks before, and then shutting or locking down campuses in the days before the commemoration. The regime even arrested over 20 mothers who were protesting the deaths of their children.
Press reports noted a "new ferocity to the opposition movement's confrontation with the state." Many demonstrators more directly condemned the core institutions and leaders of the theocratic Islamic Republic, not just President Ahmadinejad, while the "green wave" movement and spirit of reforming the Islamic Republic (which has been led by former presidential candidates) was less in evidence. There were chants of "Death to the oppressor whether Shah or Supreme Leader"; protesters burned posters of Ahmadinejad, Khamenei, and even the regime's founder, Ayatollah Khomeini; others held up Iranian flags from which the "Allah" emblem had been removed. (New York Times, December 8, 2009 and December 11, 2009) Such actions break taboos enforced by Iran's theocratic regime.
In response, Iran's Islamic rulers mobilized thousands of clerics on Friday and Saturday (December 11 and 12) to condemn the political attacks on Iran's theocracy and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. Meanwhile, people in Iran and internationally are continuing to find ways to protest the regime's arrests and attacks on student leaders.
Revolutionary forces led by the Communist Party of Iran (Marxist-Leninist-Maoist) have been working within this volatile and evolving situation to bring forward a new, revolutionary path in opposition to both imperialism (from which the Islamic Republic has never ruptured) and religious theocracy. Recent communiques and leaflets from the CPI (MLM) can be found on our website at revcom.us/a/169/AWTWNS-CPIMLM_No6-en.html and revcom.us/a/168/AWTW_leaflet-en.html.
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Revolution #186, December 20, 2009
On Tuesday, December 1, at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, President Barack Obama announced that he would send 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan. He also called for 10,000 more NATO troops, which pushes the total U.S.-led forces to nearly 150,000, and he announced plans to step up the war on a number of fronts including (without being specific) in Pakistan. Obama has now tripled the number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan since he took office.
These military forces will not be going to Afghanistan to set up vaccination programs or conduct literacy classes for Afghan girls. They are going there as part of the most destructive military machine on the planet, to wreak violence. The military machine that has bombed wedding parties, that has held thousands of young Afghan men in Bagram prison without charges, that kicks down doors in the middle of the night—this machine is being strengthened and further unleashed.
The West Point speech is being called the "defining moment" of Obama's presidency. Thus far into his term, at least, that is true. So it is important to look deeply at the questions Obama posed and the answers he gave—and in doing so to get into the real underlying causes of the military escalation now being put into effect.
Obama began his speech this way: "It is important to recall why America and our allies were compelled to fight a war in Afghanistan in the first place. We did not ask for this fight. On September 11, 2001, nineteen men hijacked four airplanes and used them to murder nearly 3,000 people. They struck at our military and economic nerve centers.... As we know, these men belonged to al Qaeda.... Al Qaeda's base of operations was in Afghanistan, where they were harbored by the Taliban—a ruthless, repressive and radical movement that seized control of that country after it was ravaged by years of Soviet occupation and civil war, and after the attention of America and our friends had turned elsewhere."
Obama later returned to his explanation of why the Taliban and al Qaeda had taken root in Afghanistan: "Now, the people of Afghanistan have endured violence for decades. They've been confronted with occupation by the Soviet Union, and then by foreign al Qaeda fighters who used Afghan land for their own purposes."
Obama implies that the U.S. had nothing to do with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and that it bears no responsibility for the growth of the Taliban and al Qaeda there, or the spread of Islamic fundamentalism in the region. According to Obama, the U.S. itself therefore played no role in the events that lead to the attacks of 9/11.
The facts are different. The U.S. actually helped prompt the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. In July 1979, some five months before the Soviet invasion, the U.S. had initiated a covert campaign to destabilize Afghanistan's pro-Soviet government by arming and funding the Islamist opposition. The goal, according to Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Jimmy Carter's National Security Adviser, was "to induce a Soviet military intervention." When the Soviets did intervene in December, Brzezinski wrote Carter: "We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam War."
The Carter administration undertook this operation because at the time the U.S. was locked in a bitter struggle for global supremacy with what was then the Soviet Union.* After helping trigger the Afghanistan invasion, the U.S. worked behind the scenes with Pakistan and Saudi Arabia throughout the 1980s to make the war much longer, more violent, and more destructive. These forces organized, funded, and armed the Mujahideen ("warriors for Islam"). While many other Afghans took up arms against the Soviet invaders, the U.S. and its partners worked to build up the reactionary Islamic fundamentalist fighters. Over the next decade, the U.S. government funneled more than $3 billion in arms and aid to these fundamentalist forces, and in so doing helped fuel a global Islamist movement. This is where Osama bin Laden got his start. This is where the seeds of al Qaeda and the Taliban were first sown.
During the 1980s there were some Afghans fighting against the Soviet occupation who opposed religious fundamentalism and both U.S. and Soviet imperialism. They stood for an entirely different future—a future free of imperialist domination, free of capitalist exploitation, and free of the backward, traditional feudal social relations and ideology that keep most of the Afghan people in shackles—especially women. These forces were led by Afghanistan's revolutionary Maoists. Yet these forces were targeted—viciously and murderously—by all the reactionary forces involved in the Afghan conflict—the U.S. imperialists, the Soviet imperialists, the Islamic Mujahideen, and the U.S.-backed warlords.
When the Soviets finally pulled out of Afghanistan in 1989, more than a million Afghans (along with 15,000 Soviet soldiers) had been killed and one-third of the population—that's over 7 million people—driven into refugee camps. Just two years later, the Soviet Union collapsed. Its defeat in Afghanistan had played a major role.
Meanwhile, Afghanistan was left in a state of civil war between the existing pro-Soviet regime and different groups of Islamist religious fanatics and reactionary warlords who fought each other while repressing the people. Yet the U.S. rulers considered their Afghan gambit a tremendous success. When asked by the French newspaper Le Nouvel Observateur in 1998 (January 15) whether he regretted inducing the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and "having supported the Islamic [fighters], having given arms and advice to future terrorists," Brzezinski replied: "Regret what?... What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?"
"What we see in contention here with Jihad on the one hand and McWorld/McCrusade on the other hand, are historically outmoded strata among colonized and oppressed humanity up against historically outmoded ruling strata of the imperialist system. These two reactionary poles reinforce each other, even while opposing each other. If you side with either of these 'outmodeds,' you end up strengthening both."
It is easy, of course, to start the movie on September 11, 2001. But if you press the rewind button you find out that the U.S. government had not been innocently minding its business all these years only to find itself the victim of an utterly unprovoked attack. There is a whole history here of arming and utilizing Islamic fundamentalists, and of being party to destroying a million lives. Indeed, it is hard to overstate the level of horror and needless suffering that was visited on the Afghan people through this superpower dance of death. All of this was done in the interests of preserving and defending U.S. imperial domination. None of that justifies what was done on 911—but if we are to understand the actual causes of what is going on, we had best understand the full dimensions of the story.
Obama said that after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989, "the attention of America and our friends had turned elsewhere."
So where was U.S. attention focused in the 1990s in this part of the world? Beginning with the first Bush administration (George H.W. Bush) and continuing through the Clinton administration, the U.S. moved on a number of fronts to consolidate the tremendous advantage it derived from the fall of the Soviet Union. It aimed in particular to deepen and extend its domination of the Middle East and Central Asia. This included the 1991 invasion and destruction of Iraq, which caused what a U.S. Census Bureau international analyst—Beth Osborne Daponte—estimated to be over 200,000 deaths (another 500,000 at least were killed by UN sanctions during the 1990s), and the basing of massive U.S. military forces in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States. It also included new overtures to, and increased working through, predominantly Hindu India, which aggravated the rivalry between India and Pakistan—a rivalry which the U.S. has attempted to manipulate and play for its own advantage. All this, along with the continued U.S. support for Israel in the face of the massive rebellion of the Palestinian people in the late '80s and early '90s, involved tremendous and often horrific levels of violence against Arab and Central Asian peoples and the assertion of open U.S. domination.
At the same time, deeper American economic and social penetration of the region modernized certain aspects of the societies there, while undercutting traditional relations. Taken together, all this led to the beginning of open conflict between the U.S. and Islamist forces. The same so-called "holy warriors" whom the U.S. had initially supported and often pulled together on the basis of reactionary opposition to "modernization" now began to oppose the U.S. and to carry out guerrilla operations against it in that region. Meanwhile, by 1996, the Pakistani government had helped install the Taliban in Afghanistan to both stabilize the country under extremely repressive Islamic rule, and to use it as a counterweight to Indian ambitions in Afghanistan and the region. All these developments led the U.S., by the late 1990s, to once again intensify its attention to Afghanistan, in the context of the region as a whole. During this period a consensus emerged (which was solidified by 9/11) among what would become the dominant political forces in the U.S. that Islamic fundamentalism was becoming a prime obstacle to U.S. objectives, that it would need to be defeated, and that a radical restructuring of the whole region was needed to undercut these forces and secure U.S. hegemony.
Much of this history is well-known—certainly to anyone in public office or in the mainstream press. Yet following Obama's speech there was no comment on his "omission" from either.
Obama defends the decision to invade Afghanistan and says it brought good results. He notes that Congress "authorized the use of force against al Qaeda and those who harbored them, an authorization that continues to this day"—98-0 in the Senate, 420-1 in the House of Representatives—and that NATO supported the U.S. and that the UN Security Council "endorsed the use of all necessary steps to respond to the 9/11 attacks. America, our allies, and the world were acting as one to destroy al Qaeda's terrorist network and to protect our common security."
"Under the banner of this domestic unity and international legitimacy—and only after the Taliban refused to turn over Osama bin Laden—we sent our troops into Afghanistan."
Here we must go deeper into exactly what was done under "this banner of domestic unity and international legitimacy" and why.
The Bush regime had a number of objectives in invading Afghanistan in October 2001. First, to quickly and massively attack and conquer Afghanistan in order to demonstrate to the world that America's will had not been shaken by the September 11 attacks and that it was still willing and able to crush with overwhelming force any who dared challenge it. This is not just macho posturing, but essential to maintaining global "credibility"—i.e., fear—and dominance.
Second, the U.S. wanted to quickly overthrow the Taliban regime and install a loyal client state in Afghanistan as part of an overarching effort to deepen its military control of Central Asia (Afghanistan abuts two of the U.S.'s main potential rivals—Russia and China) and to gain greater access to and control of the region's energy. (During the 1990s the U.S. was attempting to build a pipeline across Afghanistan that would avoid going through Russia or Iran. The U.S. oil giant UNOCAL was the prime contractor—one of its consultants was Hamid Karzai, later installed by the U.S. as President of Afghanistan.) Doing so was also part of an effort to defeat anti-U.S. Islamist forces across the region.
Simply capturing or killing Osama bin Laden was never the central objective. (Obama's claim that the U.S. invaded Afghanistan "only after the Taliban refused to turn over Osama bin Laden" is at least open to serious question. According to the Guardian UK (10/14/01), "President George Bush rejected as 'non-negotiable' an offer by the Taliban to discuss turning over Osama bin Laden if the United States ended the bombing in Afghanistan.")
Obama praises the results of the U.S. invasion: "Within a matter of months, al Qaeda was scattered and many of its operatives were killed. The Taliban was driven from power and pushed back on its heels. A place that had known decades of fear now had reason to hope," and points to the formation of a U.S.-created regime with Karzai at the head as a positive development "to help bring a lasting peace to a war-torn country."
It was nothing of the kind. The Karzai regime was a regime of U.S. lackeys, warlords, drug-dealers and war criminals—many as hated as the Taliban they replaced. Warlord Gen. Abdul Dostom, who has served as Chief of Staff to the Commander in Chief of the Afghan National Army under Karzai, is responsible for the 2001 Dasht-e-Leili massacre when some 2,000 prisoners of war were forced into boxcars, suffocated to death, and dumped in the desert. And, among other viciously anti-woman policies and laws, the US-installed Afghan government passed a law in February, 2009, which applies to Afghanistan's Shia population (10-15 percent of the Afghan people) that explicitly legalizes rape in marriage by banning women from refusing to have sex with their husbands. That law also prevents women from working, going to school, getting access to health care or other services, or even leaving her home without husband's permission. This replacement of one set of oppressors with another—not surprisingly—did nothing to end oppression there. Rather it reinforced the sources of oppression in Afghanistan—foreign domination, capitalism and feudalism, religious fundamentalism, and patriarchy.
(It is also important to briefly take note of what else was done under "the banner of domestic unity and international legitimacy." In the days directly after 9/11, the Bush Administration introduced the USA-PATRIOT Act, which tremendously heightened the reach and scope of the repressive apparatus in the U.S. Immigrants were rounded up and held for months without charges and often deported in the dead of night. Massive surveillance programs were begun, beyond even what had been authorized by the PATRIOT Act and without the knowledge of most of Congress. "State secrets" was made an excuse to deny all kinds of information that showed the U.S. in a bad light, even when this meant preventing people who had been detained and tortured "by mistake" from having their day in court. The U.S. arrogated to itself the right to kill and capture people anywhere in the world, without trial, if the U.S. suspected these people of being "terrorists." Most dramatically, it instituted a widespread regimen of torture—beginning at Guantánamo (where people were detained indefinitely, in violation of international law and of the U.S. Constitution) and then spreading throughout the military, into Iraq and Afghanistan; and over 100 people were killed as a result of this torture. None of this was even mentioned in Obama's speech—in large part because he has actually continued the great majority of these repressive measures!)
"It is a system of capitalism-imperialism...a system in which U.S. imperialism is the most monstrous, most oppressive superpower...a system driven by a relentless chase after profit, which brings horror upon horror, a nightmare seemingly without end, for the vast majority of humanity: poverty and squalor...torture and rape...the wholesale domination and degradation of women everywhere...wars, invasions and occupations...assassinations and massacres...planes, missiles, tanks and troops of the USA bombarding people in faraway lands while they sleep in their homes or go about their daily lives, blasting their little children to pieces, cutting down men and women in the prime of life, or in old age, kicking down their doors and dragging them away in the middle of the night...while here in the USA itself the police harass, brutalize and murder youth in the streets of the inner cities—over and over again—and then they spit out their maddening insults, insisting that this is 'justified,' as if these youth are not human beings, have no right to live, deserve no respect and no future."
From "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have: A Message, And A Call,
How did things get to the current point—with the Taliban resurgent and the U.S. occupiers in trouble and losing ground?
Obama claims that after starting out well things started going badly (i.e., for the U.S. occupiers) in Afghanistan for two reasons. First, "in early 2003, the decision was made to wage a second war in Iraq... for the next six years, the Iraq war drew the dominant share of our troops, our resources, our diplomacy, and our national attention..." Second, while the Karzai regime is "a legitimate government ... elected by the Afghan people," according to Obama, "it's been hampered by corruption, the drug trade, an under-developed economy, and insufficient security forces."
What about this explanation? Yes, resources were diverted to the war in Iraq. But without getting into a full analysis of the trajectory of the Afghanistan war, it's important to note that this isn't the essential reason for the Taliban's resurgence and its ability to "control additional swaths of territory in Afghanistan" as Obama put it. There are deeper reasons which have to do with what U.S. capitalism-imperialism brings to the world and countries like Afghanistan.
The first is the brutality of the U.S. occupation. U.S. forces—hailed as heroes by Obama—have committed countless atrocities in Afghanistan—from bombing wedding parties, to murdering civilians, to humiliating Afghans with house-to-house searches, to locking people up in U.S.-controlled dungeons, where torture, illegal detention, and rendition have been in effect.
Here's one example. On August 22, 2008, the people in Azizabad, a small village in western Afghanistan, were asleep when U.S. forces attacked—first with guns, then air strikes. By the next morning, according to UN investigators, over 90 people had been massacred, including 60 children and 15 women. There have been many such massacres during the course of the war—most recently on September 9 of this year when 100-200 were killed in one attack in Kunduz province. While there are no precise figures for the number of Afghan casualties (in part because the U.S. military refuses to release – and perhaps doesn't even count -- them), studies have been done that give a glimpse of the scope of the carnage. Prof. Marc Herold documented 3,000-3,400 civilian deaths, mainly as a result of U.S. bombing, during the first six months of the war alone. The Guardian UK (11/19/09) estimates that 6,584 civilians were killed (by both the U.S. coalition and the Taliban) between Jan. 2006-Oct. 2009. Womens' rights activist and former member of the Afghan Parliament Malalai Joya states that 8,000 civilians have been killed in the war. (Democracy Now!, 10/28/2009)
These crimes have strengthened the Taliban. The Taliban for its part has used a combination of strong-arming people combined with playing upon the nationalist sentiments of the masses (particularly the Pashtun nationality in Afghanistan), as well as the appeal of "traditional Islam" in a society that has been deeply shattered, to take advantage of this.
Second, the warlords, landlords, tribal chiefs and pro-U.S. power brokers in Afghanistan are widely hated for preying on, exploiting and brutalizing the Afghan people. A prime example is Karzai's own brother—Ahmad Wali Karzai, who was put in charge of Kandahar, Afghanistan's second largest city. He's a major warlord and drug trafficker—and also on the CIA payroll.
It was not until 2005 that the Taliban began to mount an offensive against the occupation in earnest; the U.S. occupation forces and their hand-picked lackeys had years to show they could improve life for the Afghan people. But they didn't do it. Why? Because the U.S. imperialists were not in Afghanistan to liberate the people or develop the country; they were in Afghanistan to achieve their global objectives: to defeat al Qaeda and to create a pro-U.S. regime that would not destabilize neighboring countries and would be amenable to U.S. regional objectives.
And there is a deeper reason here. You cannot "improve life" for the Afghan people without uprooting the traditional social relations, and the class forces that benefit from those relations, which have held the masses in subjugation and darkness for centuries. Imperialism introduces great instability into oppressed nations, driving peasants off land and into the cities, and often introducing education to a broader section of masses (in order to modernize some sectors of the society). This is a byproduct of, and a necessity for, the implantation of capitalist relations in predominantly feudal societies. In doing this, imperialism relies on the former ruling forces and new elites to keep a lid on the upheaval ("to manage the transition," in their words)—that is, to prevent masses from raising their heads and rebelling against the exploitation, the dispossession, and the backward relations and ideas that still hold the society and its people in their grip. Imperialism relies on, and must rely on, the very forces, in other words, that benefit from either the old traditional forms of oppression or the new "market-based" ones—and sometimes both.
The kind of revolution that would decisively move to uproot those relations—the kind of revolution that would rely on and unleash the masses to take destiny into their own hands -- would necessarily directly oppose structures of foreign (including U.S.) domination. That's why the U.S. must rely on and further entrench and reinforce very oppressive forces, which do in fact stand in the way of a better life for the people, as a bulwark against any such revolution. A force like the Taliban—which does not actually pose the possibility for a real rupture with those relations of domination and dependence and which represents, often very directly, some of the most backward feudal forces in the country—can "gain traction" in that situation; at least to the point where they win a following among a section of people, and can intimidate the rest into acquiescence.
Third, Obama mentioned that al Qaeda and the Taliban had been able to establish havens in Pakistan. What he did not mention is that the Pakistani state, long backed and funded by the U.S., has actively promoted Islamic fundamentalism as a pillar of its legitimacy, and funded, supported and probably helps direct Jihadist fighters in Afghanistan and in Kashmir as part of its rivalry with India. This has included tolerating, even supporting, the Taliban and al Qaeda. And many in Pakistan are turning to the fundamentalists out of hatred for the dictatorial rule of the military, and the domination of Pakistan by U.S. imperialism, in league with big landlords and capitalists—a domination that has left the vast majority of the population in deep poverty and deprivation.
(While Obama did not spell out his precise plans for Pakistan, a subject we'll be covering in future issues of Revolution, there are widespread reports that he will be escalating the war there too, including through stepped up attacks by drone or unmanned aircraft. The stability of the Pakistani state is of major concern to the imperialists and one of their main reasons for escalating in Afghanistan.)
Again, these are the kinds of relations and regimes the U.S. promotes around the world. And Obama is not breaking from this practice—he's escalating it, as we'll discuss below.
While Obama spoke out against the war in Iraq in 2002, and rode to the White House based in large part on the credibility among the disaffected with which that endowed him, at West Point he hailed this war as a success and job well done: "Today, after extraordinary costs, we are bringing the Iraq war to a responsible end ... we have given Iraqis a chance to shape their future, and we are successfully leaving Iraq to its people." And his "surge" in Afghanistan is being justified by, and modeled in important ways on, Bush's "successful" surge in Iraq.
Let's take a closer look at what Obama calls "success." The war in Iraq—a war based on lies—cost the lives of between 500,000 and 1,000,000 Iraqis; over 4 million have been driven from their homes; the Sunni population—some 20 percent of Iraq's population—has been decimated by the U.S. occupation and a sectarian war of ethnic cleansing unleashed by the reactionary Shi'a forces the U.S. helped empower—an ethnic cleansing with tacit U.S. support. That slaughter, along with cash payments to the defeated Sunni fighters, is at the heart of the "successful" surge in Iraq. Yet Obama did not utter a word about the Iraqi victims of this U.S. aggression. Apparently the only civilians worth talking about in his view are the almost 3,000 killed in the U.S. on September 11.
Obama's treatment of Iraq is typical of his approach throughout his speech. He repeatedly refers to Americans who have lost their lives, but not to those America has killed in its "war on terror," whether in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, or other countries. By doing this, he is rendering totally invisible the enormous toll of people killed by the U.S. In sheer numbers, the U.S. has so far killed something like 200 to 300 people for every American killed in the attacks of 9/11! By rendering these victims invisible and not even worth mentioning, he is training people in this country to see the world as if only American lives count. He is training them, in other words, in the mindset of imperialism.
And what of this new Iraq? The U.S. has brought to power an alliance of reactionary, pro-U.S. Kurdish warlords with reactionary Shi'ite religious parties. Iraq's military and police are dominated by sectarian death squads. Religious fundamentalism has been strengthened and the abuse and subjugation of women—including enforced veiling and legal discrimination -- has intensified and is actually worse than it was under Saddam Hussein. Meanwhile, Iraq is being gradually opened up to foreign exploitation– including its vast oil sector. And Iraq's ethnic and religious faultlines have not been healed—and remain volatile and potentially explosive.
The strategy Obama laid out at West Point is not less violent or imperial, nor is it more truthful or humane than Bush's strategy.
The core of Obama's argument for why people should support an escalating and ongoing war in Afghanistan is the same as Bush's: I'm doing it to protect you and your loved ones:
"If I did not think that the security of the United States and the safety of the American people were at stake in Afghanistan, I would gladly order every single one of our troops home tomorrow.... I am convinced that our security is at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is the epicenter of violent extremism practiced by al Qaeda. It is from here we were attacked on 9/11 and it is from here that new attacks are being plotted as I speak."
"This is no idle danger, no hypothetical threat. In the last few months alone, we have apprehended extremists within our borders who were sent here from the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan to commit new acts of terror. And this danger will only grow if the region slides backwards and al Qaeda can operate with impunity."
Here's the truth. The system Barack Obama is leading cares nothing for human life—whether those living within its borders or those living outside. It has demonstrated this for the 200-plus years of its existence by its actions in every corner of the globe. Its workings have savaged millions upon millions of lives, whether through outright killing or condemning people to lives of exploitation and destitution. The rulers care about people's safety only to the degree that it impacts on their power, legitimacy, and grip on the population.
"Our security" and "way of life" is based on global exploitation and plunder in the interests of a relative handful of imperialists. Crumbs from this plunder are used to pacify and/or retain the loyalty of a large section of the "home" population. The privileges accorded to a large section of Americans are based on the parasitical exploitation of billions. And this parasitical exploitation, in turn, rests on highly repressive, and widely hated, political structures in oppressed or Third World countries—like the Karzai regime in Afghanistan—imposed by the U.S. to enforce its strategic interests and meet the needs of global capital.
Our "security" and "way of life" also rests on the grinding exploitation of tens of millions of people within the U.S. itself, with millions of immigrants denied any rights whatsoever and declared outlaws and millions of others living in desperate circumstances, seeking jobs and a way to live and often consigned to a life of crime and punishment. This too is reinforced by both raw force carried out by the repressive institutions of the police, prisons and army—the instruments of dictatorship, to be scientific—and by the ideas promoted through the schools, media, religious institutions, etc. So Obama's talk of "we"—as if everyone living within the borders of the U.S. shares common interests and a common cause, as if "we're all in this together"—covers over the real divisions in the world and within the U.S. It's a framework and way of looking at the world that hides the most fundamental facts about society and how it operates, and instead aims to win people to go against their own most basic interests—which actually consist of a world without one nation dominating another, a world without exploitation, and a world without all the relations and poisonous ideas that flow out of and reinforce those relations-- in short, a communist world.
This "we-have-to-protect-our-way-of-life" outlook is poison—and promoting this outlook among both the most oppressed and more enlightened sectors of society—is Obama's special role, and special talent, for the rulers. If this speech does nothing else, it must serve as a way for those who do know better to break those who should know better out of this outlook.
So people shouldn't join the imperialists in "threat assessments" to their system, much less rally to its defense. But even if you take this selfish and ultimately complicitous standard—the "safety of the American people"—as your own, Obama's strategy—which will greatly increase the violence brought to bear against the people of Afghanistan—will further stoke hatred of the U.S. and support for Islamic fundamentalism.
Toward the end of his speech, summing things up, Obama said: "We do not seek to occupy other nations. We will not claim another nation's resources or target other peoples because their faith or ethnicity is different from ours." This is double-talk aimed at obscuring how the system operates. First of all, when it suits their needs and interests, the imperialists will massively occupy countries for years, even decades—as they're doing right now with 100,000 troops in Iraq and perhaps even more in Afghanistan! At the same time, modern empires have many other tools for shaping the destinies of countries and entire regions without direct occupations.
And though the U.S. doesn't try to "claim resources" due to differences in "faith and ethnicity"—it does seek to control key resources (and indeed whole economies!) to further its strategic contention with other rivals and to maintain the functioning of U.S. capitalism—no matter the faith or ethnicity of its victims. And imperialism does enforce national oppression—against oppressed peoples (what Obama refers to as "ethnic" groups) right within its borders, and overall by forcibly perpetuating the national oppression and subordination of most countries in the world to imperialism. The history of the U.S. empire—from its genocide against the native peoples, the use of Africa as a hunting ground for the slaves who built its wealth, the theft of huge sections of Mexico, and its numerous invasions of other countries, clearly illustrates this—and clearly contradicts Obama's assertion. And a key element of the entire "war on terror" has been to seize greater access to crucial energy resources: in Afghanistan to further U.S. contention with Russia in particular over oil and gas pipelines; in Iraq to open up the country's vast oil resources to international capital.
Obama ended his speech with a stark assessment of the difficulties confronting the empire, and a call for the kind of support the rulers had following 9/11:
"[W]e as a country cannot sustain our leadership nor navigate the momentous challenges of our time if we allow ourselves to be split asunder by the same rancor and cynicism and partisanship that has in recent times poisoned our national discourse. It's easy to forget that, when this war began, we were united, bound together by the fresh memory of a horrific attack and by the determination to defend our homeland and the values we hold dear. I refuse to accept the notion that we cannot summon that unity again."
Unity like we had after 9/11? If you recall, that was a time of a lynch-mob atmosphere of chauvinist hysteria, fear-mongering, and the suppression of any critical thinking about why the 9/11 attacks happened and what should be done about them, and any critical resistance to the crimes the U.S. empire was preparing before our eyes. Wars were launched on the basis of lies. Basic freedoms were severely truncated, and in some cases eliminated. Now, eight years later, after the horrors of what that "unity" and support for America brought to the world—over a million dead in Iraq, legalized torture, and the devastation of Afghanistan—why would anyone with a shred of concern for humanity want to repeat THAT chapter in U.S. history?
But that's precisely what Obama has called on people to do—to blindly get behind the empire as it violently forges ahead in Afghanistan and globally. Obama's course is a criminal course; to fall blindly behind this, or to merely express trepidation or opposition and then impotently shrug your shoulders... especially for those who knew better when Bush did the same... is nothing less than complicity.
People need to do just the opposite. We have pointed to the fundamentally antagonistic interests, worldwide and within this country, concealed and obscured by talk of "we the people," and by the chauvinist notion that American lives are more valuable than those of other people. The imperialists are pursuing their interests, and we've had eight years to see where that all leads—whoever the President is. It is time and past time to see that these interests are directly opposed to those of humanity as a whole ... and to take up and fight for those larger interests.
Obama spoke the truth when he said America was "passing through a time of great trial," and in the midst of "storms." These storms are due to the workings of imperialism and the whole cauldron of contradictions the U.S. "war on terror" has set roiling in the Middle East and Central Asia in particular, as well as to the most profound financial crisis since the 1930s.
If anything positive for humanity is going to come out of this "time of trial" it will happen because millions of people refuse to heed Obama's call and refuse to choose between supporting either imperialism or Islamic fundamentalism. It will happen—and it will only happen—if people instead can be led to break out of the entire framework set by this current clash. Humanity does need another way, in the interests of the people. This means revolution and it requires the broadest and most determined possible resistance to this criminal escalation.
With the whole world watching, Obama and the U.S. rulers have been openly debating just how much force and violence they should bring to bear against the people of Afghanistan. Now the whole world is going to be watching what the people in the U.S. do when it's decided to escalate and continue this war of conquest and empire. Will they resist? Or will they passively go along? Will they shed their delusions about Obama, face reality and judge him by what he's actually doing, not his false narratives, his empty promises, and his double-talk?
* The Soviet Union had actually been born through a revolution in 1917, and had embarked on building a socialist society and working toward a communist world. But, through a complex series of struggles, new bourgeois forces within the communist party there seized power and capitalism was restored in the Soviet Union by the mid-1950s. By the time we are referring to, it had become a capitalist-imperialist power and leader of its own bloc, which was clashing very sharply with the U.S. for global predominance during the 1960s, '70s and '80s. For more on this see Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage, A Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, February 2009, available online at revcom.us. [back]
From Oil, Power & Empire: Iraq and the U.S. Global Agenda on the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (documentation and endnotes can be found in the book)
On U.S. National Security Strategy
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Revolution #186, December 20, 2009
In the wake of Barack Obama's speech sending 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, the activist and author Tom Hayden has announced to the world: "no (Obama) bumper sticker" on Tom's car until the troops are withdrawn. ["Obama Announces Afghanistan Escalation," Tom Hayden, December 1, 2009, The Nation]
In opposing Obama's escalation, Hayden makes an important point:
"This is not like the previous conflict with Bush and Cheney, who were easy to ridicule. Now [the U.S. war in Afghanistan] has a persuasive advocate, a formidable debater who will be arguing for support from the liberal center—one who wants to win back his Democratic base."
Obama, in other words, will be more effective in getting people to support this war than McCain would have been. But Hayden leaves out the role that he played in telling people to pour their energies into supporting this "formidable debater" as the best way to end the war. In a call entitled "Progressives for Obama" published in March 2008, Hayden—along with Barbara Ehrenreich, Danny Glover, and Bill Fletcher—promoted the illusion that the Obama campaign was a "social movement...greater than the candidate himself ever imagined." Hayden no doubt knew that Obama had actually announced during his campaign that he would not only continue the war in Afghanistan but "refocus American attention" on it. But this real-life position of Obama's wasn't even mentioned in this endorsement call—replaced instead by a wish that Obama not "simply transfer American combat troops from the quagmire in Iraq to the quagmire in Afghanistan." The election of Obama, in this fantasy, would be a "powerful peace mandate." Most damagingly, they demanded that "everyone must join this fight to the finish."
Hayden and his co-authors left out back then that not only was Obama saying very openly that he would continue to "project American power" (that is, use violence against everyone who got in America's way), but that mainstream conservative analysts like Andrew Sullivan were arguing that Obama should be supported precisely because he would have significantly more political credibility and finesse than John McCain in carrying out these, and other, wars in the Middle East and Central Asia. Which has, in fact, proven to be the case: when was the last time a president traveled to pick up a peace prize barely a week after announcing the escalation of a war in one country and the further extension of that war to another?
Further, Hayden refuses anywhere in his current article to analyze or explain the real reasons that the U.S. is not just maintaining but raising the stakes of the highly risky war. He literally calls this an "obsession" of the U.S. (as if it were some kind of psychological disturbance), and paints Obama's decision as one borne of trying to please "the generals" and the "public" (the latter with a promise of withdrawal)—rather than a very risky but necessary move, as the accompanying article shows, to protect what Obama perceives to be the interests of the U.S. imperialist system. (See "Obama's War Speech: The Questions It Raises... And The Answer That Must Be Given" by Larry Everest, Revolution # 185. Go to revcom.us/a/185/obama_speech-en.html).
"Well," you might say, "what of it? Give poor Hayden a break, why don't you? At least he's opposing the war now." But what is Hayden telling people to do? Read the rest of his article, and while the phrase "hitting the streets" pops up once, and Hayden vaguely alludes to anti-war movements in Europe, the overall thrust of his article focuses people's attention on "persuading" Congress and working in the 2010 elections and then yes, once again, in the 2012 elections (Hayden rushes to assure us he will once again support Obama in those elections, even if "stickerless" this time)—in other words, Hayden continues to lead people to stay in the very quicksand that he and others did all they could to drag them into in 2008. He does NOT call for massive political resistance to this war. He also focuses people on U.S. casualties and moneys spent, not on the utter injustice of the war and the unimaginable brutality being dealt to Afghanistan's people. And he accepts that the U.S. has some sort of need to find a "negotiating partner" to preserve—and yes, he uses these words—an "honorable (!) exit strategy"—when what the U.S. must do is to get the hell out, now. Hayden, in short, seems to give voice to outrage...only to pull people back into the same terms and the same framework of understanding and political action that has kept them in a state of paralysis for the better part of a decade. He expresses great disappointment with results that he could have easily predicted—but rather than honestly examine and criticize the analytical framework that led to this disappointment, he instead tries to salvage and reinforce it!
At a "teachable moment" when people may be compelled to figure out how they were so badly deluded about Obama—and why they in large part deluded themselves—Hayden opposes Obama only to keep people clinging to the larger deception: that the rules of capitalist democracy can be played in the interests of the masses of people. Hayden gives comfort and further delusion to those who don't want to confront what is actually needed to change what this empire does all over the planet. This is very harmful. By draining people's anger into frustrating and impotent dead ends, Hayden's program of lobbying and electoral activity will actually prolong the pain. It reinforces the paralysis and thus prepares the ground for the next outrage.
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Revolution #186, December 20, 2009
December 1, 2009
It's time to strip the Obama sticker off my car.
Obama's escalation in Afghanistan is the last in a string of disappointments. His flip-flopping acceptance of the military coup in Honduras has squandered the trust of Latin America. His Wall Street bailout leaves the poor, the unemployed, minorities and college students on their own. And now comes the Afghanistan-Pakistan decision to escalate the stalemate, which risks his domestic agenda, his Democratic base, and possibly even his presidency.
The expediency of his decision was transparent. Satisfy the generals by sending 30,000 more troops. Satisfy the public and peace movement with a timeline for beginning withdrawals of those same troops, with no timeline for completing a withdrawal.
Obama's timeline for the proposed Afghan military surge mirrors exactly the eighteen-month Petraeus timeline for the surge in Iraq.
We'll see. To be clear: I'll support Obama down the road against Sarah Palin, Lou Dobbs or any of the pitchfork carriers for the pre-Obama era. But no bumper sticker until the withdrawal strategy is fully carried out.
But for now, the fight is on.
This is not like the previous conflict with Bush and Cheney, who were easy to ridicule. Now this orphan of a war has a persuasive advocate, a formidable debater who will be arguing for support from the liberal center—one who wants to win back his Democratic base.
The antiwar movement will have to solidify support from the two-thirds of Democratic voters who so far question this war. Continuing analysis from The Nation and Robert Greenwald's videos have a major role to play. Public opinion will have to become a growing factor in the mind of Congress, where Representative Jim McGovern's resolution favoring an exit strategy has 100 co-sponsors and Rep. Barbara Lee's tougher bill to prevent funding for escalation is now at 23.
Key political questions in the immediate future are whether Representative David Obey, chair of the House Appropriations Committee, will oppose Afghanistan funding without a surtax is only bluffing, and whether Senator Russ Feingold will step up with legislation for a withdrawal timetable.
Beyond public persuasion and pressuring Congress, activists are sure to be hitting the streets and precincts in the year ahead. The antiwar movement has a certain leverage based on the current doubt in the minds of voters and policy experts, and the potential dissent from within the Obama base. Democratic turnout increased 2.6 percent in 2008 over 2004, while Republican votes dropped by 1.3 percent. Twenty-two million more young people voted in 2008 than in 2004. The unprecedented energies of those young people who volunteered their time, money and hope could drain away by 2012, if not sooner.
In addition, the peace movement will be globalizing its reach as Obama seeks to extract more troop concessions from wary NATO countries. Opposition is particularly strong in the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany and France. When Obama accepts the Nobel Prize in Oslo on December 10, he may address as many as ten thousand protestors.
Adding 30,000 to 35,000 U.S. troops will raise the U.S. death toll by over 1,000 by 2011 on Obama's watch, in addition to the 750 who died under Bush. The numbers of U.S. wounded are rising faster than ever, with 300 counted in the past three months. Civilian casualties are under-reported according to the UN mission in Afghanistan. The budgetary costs are growing to $75 billion annually, and could become another trillion-dollar war.
The albatross of the Karzai government will threaten any plans to rapidly expand the Afghan army and police, themselves divided along sectarian lines. In 2005, the Kabul regime ranked 117th on the list compiled by Transparency International; by this year it was 176th.
There are alternatives. There is evidence that the Taliban in Afghanistan are seeking a peace settlement without havens for Al Qaeda. There also is an October 11 statement by Gulbaddin Hekmatyer of Hezb-I-Islam Afghanistan, a mujahadeen leader and former prime minister in the 1990s, once funded by the CIA. Never reported in the U.S. media, the letter proposes an honorable exit strategy, including
But instead of pursuing an Afghan-based political settlement without havens for Al Qaeda, the U.S. strategy is to pursue the same goal through more bloodshed, leaving Afghanistan somewhere between the Stone Age and ashes. What is obsessive about this approach is the fact that there is no longer an Al Qaeda haven in Afghanistan, which means the U.S. troops are fighting Afghan insurgents in their own country. But if your primary tool is a hammer, as the saying goes, all problems appear to be nails.
The war clearly is shifting to Pakistan, a far more clandestine and dangerous conflict fought by American secret operatives on the ground and drones from the sky. The targets are twofold: (1) to eliminate the Afghan Taliban from their enclave in Quetta instead of negotiating with them, and (2), using U.S. advisers and drones, to push Pakistan's army into a war against Pakistan's homegrown Taliban and other insurgents now in the tribal areas, impoverished and unrepresented in Pakistan's institutions. This approach so far has caused a sharp expansion of violent attacks and suicide bombings across the region. The fear of a destabilized Pakistan with scores of nuclear weapons may lead Obama's advisers to soon present the president with a more apocalyptic scenario than anything so far, if they have not already.
Copyright 2009, The Nation, used by permission of Agence Global
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Revolution #186, December 20, 2009
Author of Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity
The following transcript is taken from an interview by Sunsara Taylor that was aired on WBAI Radio's Equal Time for Freethought, December 6, 2009. The full interview is available at www.equaltimeforfreethought.org/2009/12/06/show-327-sunsara-taylor-chats-with-robert-jensen/
Sunsara Taylor: This evening we are going to be speaking with Robert Jensen. He is a professor of media law, ethics and politics at the University of Texas at Austin. His books include Getting Off, Heart of Whiteness, Citizens of the Empire and Writing Dissent. His newest book is called All My Bones Shake: Seeking a Progressive Path to the Prophetic Voice.1
He's also someone who has come under fire recently for taking very principled stands against unjust wars, against jingoist repression and against attacks on dissidents, and for real academic freedom. The first book I read of his is called Getting Off and I felt this was a particularly courageous and moving book for its confrontation with male supremacy and pornography, the brutality as well as the degradation that is so pervasive in pornography, but also how this is really a concentration of the society in which we live.
Robert Jensen, welcome to Equal Time for Freethought.
Robert Jensen: Great to be with you. Thanks for having me.
Taylor: I'd like to jump right in on this question of pornography. You make the claim in your book, Getting Off, that pornography over the last couple of decades has gotten more brutal and degrading towards women at the same time as it's gotten more mainstream, and I wonder if you could substantiate that and say why you think that's important to understand.
Jensen: That's what I call the paradox of pornography. Over the last 20 years, the period of time I've been studying and organizing around pornography, those two things are both true. The fact that it's become more mainstream I don't think is controversial, that pornography, while still criticized by some, rejected by some, has moved much more to the center of the mainstream of pop culture and of course pop culture itself has become more pornographic. That's not hard to justify, that claim. The claim that it's become more overtly cruel and degrading and also more overtly racist is actually also easy to defend. If you look at the content of pornography—and my own work has studied this trajectory along with the work of others—as pornography has tried to expand market share and profit, it's had to up the ante, to increase the intensification of the sexual charge, and in a patriarchal society, in a white supremacist society the easiest way to do that is with the degradation of women and overt racism, and so especially in the genre of pornography that's called gonzo, where the more extreme sexual practices are pushed, you see a clear trend. Now the question, the paradox, is how can, in a civilized society, you have a media genre that moves closer to the mainstream at the same time that it becomes more overtly cruel and degrading to women and more overtly racist; and I think one resolves the paradox, and this is part of the importance of the pornography issue, I think, by asking how civilized are we. In a corporate capitalist culture that consigns a large number of people to poverty, in an imperial state that practices war in the way the United States does, how civilized are we I think is a very important question.
Taylor: One thing that struck me in reading the book is that the increase both in (and I'm glad you brought in the element of racism as well) the cruelty and misogyny towards women but also the racism that's so much more explicit in pornography now, as well as becoming more mainstream, do you feel this is part of a backlash against the women's liberation movement? Where do you feel this comes from in terms of, as a societal phenomenon?
Jensen: Well where it comes from of course is the way in which in patriarchy, in a male dominant society, sexuality is one place where men express and practice that dominance. The backlash theory, as you pointed out, that as women made gains through the feminist movements of the '60s, '70s, and '80s that men sort of pushed back in one of the few places where they could easily push back, which is in the bedroom—in the private sphere, in intimacy. I think there's a lot to that. I also think we shouldn't overlook the role of capitalism in all this—as pornography moved out of the back alleys, as it became more mainstream starting in the 1970s, became more of a so-called legitimate business, we also saw the values of capitalism, the sort of amoral exploitation of any part of the human experience for profit. So I think what we see in pornography is what a friend of mine, a really good sociologist named Matt Ezell, calls the "perfect storm of inequality," you see patriarchy, male dominance, white supremacy, and the predatory core of capitalism coming together to exploit any aspect of the human experience; that's what pornography and the sexual exploitation industries more generally, not only pornography of course but stripping, prostitution, phone sex, all these things that tell us a lot about white supremacy and patriarchy, but also tell us a lot about the pathological nature of capitalism as well.
1. Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity, South End Press, 2007; The Heart of Whiteness: Confronting Race, Racism and White Privilege, City Lights Publishers, 2005; Citizens of the Empire: The Struggle to Claim Our Humanity, City Lights Publishers, 2004; Writing Dissent: Taking Radical Ideas from the Margins to the Mainstream, Peter Lang Publishers, 2001; All My Bones Shake: Seeking a Progressive Path to the Prophetic Voice, Soft Skull Press, 2009. [back]
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Revolution #186, December 20, 2009
In May of this year, Dr. George Tiller, one of the most courageous abortion doctors in the country, was assassinated. Two weeks ago, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a version of health care reform that includes an amendment, Stupak-Pitts, that would deprive women of health care that covers abortion if they receive any form of government stipend or tax break. While a similar amendment was narrowly defeated in the Senate, the final health care bill is yet to be determined.
Taken together, these events represent an escalation in the legal and extra-legal assault on women's right to abortion beyond anything under the Bush Regime.
Yet, precisely at this moment, when an outpouring of rage and defiance is most needed, the silence and capitulation of the pro-choice "movement" is almost as stunning as it is deadly.
This movement has channeled people into the dead end of relying practically on the Democratic Party and ceding the moral high ground and political initiative to Christian fascists.
In response to the Stupak amendment, the nation's most recognized pro-choice organizations—NARAL, Planned Parenthood, NOW, the Feminist Majority Foundation, and others—formed a coalition and called for a "Day of Action" in DC. But, for reasons they didn't explain, they canceled their outdoor rally at the last minute and focused entirely on lobbying. The Democrats all already know that Stupak will cause women to suffer and die. What they—along with everyone else—need to know is that the pro-choice majority is no longer satisfied to just come begging for our rights.
The name of their coalition, "The Coalition to Pass Health Care Reform and Stop Stupak," is itself quite revealing. Note that their lead slogan is to "Pass Health Care Reform." Only secondarily do they mention "Stop[ping] Stupak." And nowhere do they demand a repeal of the woman-killing Hyde Amendment which banned federal funds for abortion and is the precedent that Bart Stupak is claiming. All this is keeping precisely within the logic of the Democratic Party and almost guarantees capitulation. Even Louise M. Slaughter, the co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus, voted for Stupak-Pitts in the name of passing health care reform!
Unfortunately, this defensive and losing dynamic is not new.
In 2006, the governor of South Dakota signed a complete ban on abortions. The pro-choice coalition that formed (which included NARAL and Planned Parenthood) did not expose this as the viciously anti-woman measure that it was, nor did they seize the moral high ground against it. Instead, they ran television ads which argued merely that the ban "went too far" by failing to make any exception for rape, incest and the life of the woman. These ads also called for people to "honor and protect human life, reduce the number of abortions."
Stop and think about that. If you have to actually argue that women who are raped or whose lives are in danger ought to have access to abortion, you are arguing with people whose view of women is nothing more than sex objects or breeders. Even worse, you are arguing on their terms! And the idea that pro-choice people who donated to stop this ban ended up underwriting ads against abortion and for the idea that fetuses are "human life" to be "honored and protected" is truly sick!!
Finally, the pro-choice movement not only has distanced itself from abortion, it has distanced itself from the doctors who provide abortions—even when they have been under deadly assault. Harkening back to Dr. Tiller, it is notable that despite the outpouring of nearly a thousand supporters from around the country to his funeral, the leaders of NARAL, NOW, and the Feminist Majority didn't even bother to show up.
This type of "leadership" is worse than nothing at all.
The problem is not that there is a lack of pro-choice people who would flood into the streets to protest. The last time they were called on to do so (in 2004) more than half a million descended on DC. Nor is the problem mainly, as some now argue, that a whole generation has grown up without the harrowing memories of botched illegal abortions. While these kinds of visceral memories certainly can lend urgency and passion to pro-choice people, the real problem is that for decades the energies of the pro-choice majority have been consistently squandered, suffocated and channeled into dead ends by pro-choice "leaders" who long ago slavishly subordinated themselves to the Democratic Party.
The real problem is that, because of this, two generations have grown into a world where it is far more common to hear a passionate defense of the so-called "rights" and "dignity" of frozen embryos than it is to hear an unapologetic defense of the right and dignity of women being able to decide for themselves when and whether to have children.
The real problem is that for decades the lunatic Christian fascists have consistently mobilized while the pro-choice "movement" has remained largely passive and straitjacketed in the Democratic Party's dynamic of capitulation.
The fact is, as much as some Democrats may disagree with banning abortion, they are a ruling class party. Their allegiance to maintaining the stability of U.S. capitalism-imperialism is much greater than any principles they have on behalf of women or any other oppressed group they seek to appeal to for votes. They desperately want to avoid the fallout from actually mobilizing the forces necessary to go up against and defeat the Christian fascist movement more than they want to avoid fascism itself. As for the Christian fascists, they actually make up a very important core of the ruling class and are quite eager to mobilize their social base into a fascist frenzy. This dynamic, if left on the terms of the ruling class, will only get worse.
Barack Obama and the Democrats are wrong when they say we can or should seek "common ground" on abortion.
What "common ground" can there be with a movement whose aim is to enslave women to our reproduction and force us to bear children against our will? What "common ground" can there be with a movement that will stop at nothing—not terror and assassinations or faulty science and woman-killing legislation—to deprive women of the ability to be more than breeders? As bad as a ban on abortion would be, it would not stop there. There is not a single "pro-life" organization that upholds birth control. The very Catholic Bishops who pushed Stupak-Pitts consider birth control "intrinsically evil." Groups like Human Life International praise the anti-abortion laws in El Salvador, where miscarriages are investigated by the government and women are thrown in jail if they get an abortion.
The right to abortion is central to women's role in society and there is nothing "tragic" about it. Fetuses are not babies and abortion is not murder. Without being able to decide for themselves, free of coercion, shame or danger, when and whether they will have children, women have no more freedom than slaves. When half of humanity is oppressed, all of society suffers.
It is long past time a different dynamic be set. It is time for the pro-choice majority to unchain themselves from the craven political calculations and capitulation of the Democratic Party. It is time to unshackle our energies from the pro-choice "leadership" that has tied itself to that Party. It is time to go back into the streets. It is time for the millions of women who have had abortions to come out and speak openly and defiantly about this, to lift the shame and to challenge the stigma. It is time for doctors who provide abortions to be cherished and protected. Not only must Stupak-Pitts be defeated, abortion and birth control must be expanded and celebrated. Abortion must be available on demand and without apology. Women are human beings capable of participating fully and equally in every sphere of society together with men, we must not be enslaved to our reproduction.
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Revolution #186, December 20, 2009
Saturation week got off to a slow start in our area. After the first couple of days, we asked ourselves this question: were our plans based on the need to make a qualitative leap in saturating key areas and involving many people to accomplish that? Or were they trapped in too small a vision based on thinking that "what is necessary is what is possible, and what is possible is what is already being done"? Out of this struggle, we came up with a loftier and much more inspiring plan, and there is an initial sense that new things are being done and people are being unleashed, including people just beginning to join in this campaign and movement, and we are beginning to saturate some key places.
So far this week we have distributed about 15,000 of the concise version of the statement, aiming to distribute another 25,000 in the next three days. Three inner-city high schools have been saturated with the statement. All of these schools were places where students participated on different levels in the October 22nd National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality.
At one school, several students took a stack of 500 flyers and passed them out to everyone they could find during lunch. Other students got the statement when speakers came to talk in their classes. Some of them saw it again—and many others saw it for the first time—when a team passed out flyers in front of the school, playing the audio of the concise version. One student listened to the audio and approached one of the people passing out flyers to ask how he could join. He took a stack of flyers, and stickers promoting Bob Avakian's Revolution Talk, to distribute in the school. At this school, the Revolution Talk stickers are already a presence. One student told us that anybody who has a sketch book has a Revolution sticker in it. A group of three young women covered themselves in stickers and walked down the street passing out flyers to other students. A few students also bought the current issue of Revolution because of wanting to read the Precious [movie] review, and in this way also came to take up stacks of the message and call to distribute. Many Black young women at this school said they have watched the movie with their mothers, aunties, godmothers, etc., and they all said they know at least one Precious in their lives.
At another high school, a team went once early in the week and got out a few hundred flyers. We went back at the end of the week and even with those few flyers, there was already a buzz—all the history teachers were talking about it in their classes. One history teacher told students the flyer was bullshit and not to read it. It seems another history teacher worked it into his lessons about communism, and according to a student, seemed to like it. Some students took stacks of flyers into the school to distribute and others passed them out on the spot. Especially in the wake of Obama's announcement to send 30,000 troops to Afghanistan, many of these students expressed the need for radical change. A team that went back to the high school in the afternoon included two older Black men who live in a nearby neighborhood, one of them who just found out about this revolution at the October 22nd protest and has been watching the Revolution Talk and reading and distributing Revolution newspaper since then.
At the third high school, a teacher took 200 flyers to distribute to his students and said he would also get it to all the teachers in his department. This teacher recently had revolutionaries come to speak in his classes and reported that in the wake of those speaking engagements, his students have been asking to see more of Bob Avakian's Revolution Talk. A student we met a couple weeks ago and called during phone-banking, said we need revolution. She got online and watched the clips from the Revolution Talk and met us the next day to donate money and pick up a stack of 500 flyers to distribute at the school and in the neighborhood. One afternoon more than a thousand flyers were distributed outside of school in small stacks, but many of them ended up on the ground and we summed up that the likely reason for this is that there wasn't enough engagement with students on the content of the message and call before they took the stacks. When we went to the other schools, we made sure to play the audio statement loudly and had many color photo displays of the pictures in the full-version statement—and this made a big difference in how quickly students were able to understand what this was about and take it up on that basis. At this school a two-person team went back during the football playoffs and distributed 800 flyers at half-time to students and parents who helped pass the flyers down the rows of seating and took extras to get to other people later.
One other short anecdote: some of us were thinking about how to make an impact with the statement at a large garment factory that employs thousands of immigrants. People come in around 5 or 6 in the morning; there are four entrances, and big parking lots that security guards kick you out of if they catch you passing out flyers. A two-person team went to the factory and decided to just go inside. They jumped on the elevator with the workers and got off on the cafeteria floor. In the half-hour before they were discovered and thrown out, they distributed 1000 copies of the concise version message and call in Spanish—aided by several of the workers who took stacks of the flyer on the spot.
In the course of all this, one important conclusion we reached is that the more we bring out not only "The Revolution We Need..." but also "The Leadership We Have" that heightens the possibility of being able to make this revolution, the more we are able to draw forward those who are more inclined to think we need revolution. We are also summing up the need to really take up the model in the Revolution #184 editorial ("Saturate—far and wide—everywhere people turn—with: 'The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have'") of teams where there is someone agitating especially for funds, to be able to raise much more money and bring more people into supporting this campaign.
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Revolution #186, December 20, 2009
This was the first time I was part of systematically asking for money as a major thrust of what we were doing and this is something me and my partner got better at as the day progressed. We were going door-to-door in one of the housing projects where we have done a lot of work over time and then particularly during this week of saturation.
First, we made fundraising a central theme of what we were doing. We didn't just talk about the revolution we need and the leadership we have and then, after that, ask those who were interested to give money.
Instead, we told everyone that they need to know about this rev and this leadership and get involved in putting this on the map because we need a different world and it can only happen through the involvement of those who most need revolution. (Often, I would do very brief explanatory agitation about we are talking about revolution to get to a world without police brutality and murder, without the U.S. waging wars on people across the world, without the abuse of women that happens every day on the streets and in the home—this revolution is possible because of Bob Avakian and you need to know about him, but so does everyone else) We'd then immediately tell people, "Let me tell you quickly what we are doing out here—our goal today is to distribute 10,000 of these leaflets and raise $300 from folks in the projects and neighborhood around here. This type of thing is happening in concentrated areas all over the country—as part of making a real beginning towards revolution. We are asking EVERYONE to give something to make this possible—and for everyone to take 2 or 3 more statements to give to folks you know, to start spreading this now."
It made a difference to stress right up front that our goal was to distribute and to fundraise—and that we are asking EVERYONE to GIVE SOMETHING.
Then, we'd ask for 2 or 3 dollars and mention that even 50 cents would be important. We found that some people, even after they initially said they didn't have anything to give, would go and dig for some change or a bill after we came back with, "This would be a very meaningful thing to do with 50 cents, really be part of making revolution real right here where people need it." This was FAR MORE successful than when we responded by saying, "Even a little bit would be okay, even if you just have some pocket change." While the amount we ended up with sometimes was "pocket change"—sometimes it was more, but even that we were much more likely to get if we let people know that it would be a meaningful thing to do, a positive thing, and very little can be done that is more meaningful as an individual with $2, but as part of a community helping support getting revolution and Bob Avakian known, this can have a real impact.
One young guy, maybe 19, who was wearing his colors listened intently to the brief description of the revolution we need cited above. I asked him, "Do you ever think about revolution?" He said, "No." I asked, "Now that you are hearing about it, how does it sound to you?" "It sounds good." Then, he said he couldn't contribute, but after I responded about how it would be a meaningful thing to do, he looked up and said, "Hold on," and went and dug around and came back with a handful of change. He then took 3 fliers for folks that he knows and promised he would read the statement.
Even people who didn't agree with the kind of revolution we are talking about gave money if we struggled with them. One guy, who was one of the few who had seen the statement and knew about this revolution, told me he had read half of it only and stopped because he thought it was "too radical." I responded by saying, "You know what radical means, right? It just means getting to the root and that is exactly what we need to do if we want to understand and solve the problems we are faced with." Then, we struggled over Obama (he was really arguing for him) and he was winding down saying he just didn't agree. I said I appreciated him taking the time to talk and that he really needs to read the whole thing and weigh what I had been saying about the problem being deeper than Obama, about how Obama had just committed 30,000 more troops to an unjust war, and about how a different system is possible through revolution and Bob Avakian makes that revolution much more possible. Then, I told him we are asking everyone to give something to support getting out 10,000 of these statements as part of a nationwide effort to do even more.
He responded that he didn't agree with it so he wasn't going to support it. I didn't give up, arguing back that whether he agreed with it completely or not, if he thinks the kind of engagement we just had was important and that other people, especially people up in these projects and other places like this, as well as campuses where there are young people thinking about the whole world, need to be getting into this stuff as well, he needed to help make that possible. He repeated again that he would read the whole thing and if he agreed he would support in his words, in his actions, and with his money. Again, I went back at it and argued that there is no corporate sponsorship or state funding that is getting this out, no one is making a profit off this or asking him for money to fatten our pockets—that we need to cover the cost of the fliers and making more materials. I pointed down the hall, where he could see that we'd left English and Spanish fliers on every door where people hadn't answered. I said this needs to be supported by people who want the world to change. He pulled out his wallet and gave $2.
As the day progressed, we got much better at raising money. Better at asking for it and better at arguing for it, but also ourselves we got better at seeing that it is integral to what we are doing and that it actually IS a meaningful way for people to first get involved in this revolution. And, that if we put that to people—not as an add-on or just as something people should do because it won't impinge on them too much (we're not asking for much, just spare change—type approach)—but as something really meaningful to do and worth stretching themselves for because it will make a difference, and as we gave them a sense of the overall goal and impact it is part of (including that by giving, they will be joining with others in their area and beyond in making a collective difference)—we would say that at least half the people we actually spoke to gave some form of donation.
Also, when we asked people if they wanted to take extra fliers to help get around, most people said no. But, when we concluded our conversations with them by saying, "Okay, so I am going to give you 4 more of these statements for you to give to other people to help get this revolution and this leader known," almost everyone took them. Often, we would talk with them then about who they might get them to (one woman said she was going to a nursing home where she is a care-giver and she would put one on the bulletin board), and you got the sense that with even 2 to 4 fliers that people were thinking seriously about where they would take them (as opposed to just leaving them on their table sitting). A lot of folks have never had these kinds of conversations or spread them, so being concrete and finite and then talking about where they'd take them seemed really important and it will make a big difference for them to hand out even a few to people they actually know—it will change the conversations they are having, the way this revolution is introduced to their friends will be much more "from the inside" and this will be in the context of us continuing to be out there as us in ways that are bolder than most people we are just meeting will be ready to do.
Of course, a few people will take more than this, but I don't think we should underestimate what it means for this to start to take root even in this kind of beginning way.
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Revolution #186, December 20, 2009
On November 11, Raymond Lotta spoke at the University of Chicago as part of the nationwide campus tour, "Everything You've Been Told About Communism Is Wrong, Capitalism Is a Failure, Revolution Is the Solution." The November 18 issue of the Chicago Weekly, which describes itself as a "student-written alternative weekly at the University of Chicago," published a piece by Keith Jamieson titled "Everything You Know About Communism is Right: What Raymond Lotta got wrong." The following is the text of Jamieson's article, and the reply to that article from Raymond Lotta.
Reprinted by permission.
Across the street from the Lubyanka prison, in Moscow, there stood in 1937 a nondescript building with a specially sloped floor, for drainage, and a wooden wall to muffle the sound of bullets. It was here that the Soviet secret police, the NKVD, executed enemies of the Communist regime. Between 1937 and 1938 this amounted to the deaths of at least 700,000 people, according to the Russian Memorial society. Among the victims were Nikolai Bukharin, once one of the chief Soviet economists; Mikhail Tukhachevsky, a Marshal of the Soviet Union; Genrikh Yagoda, former head of the secret police; and hundreds of thousands of ordinary people. Those who were not murdered outright were frequently deported to the Gulag prison camps, based on the katorga system that had existed under the tsars. These were scattered throughout Siberia and in 1939 housed over a million people, slowly freezing or being worked to death in some of the most hostile environments on earth.
Other crimes of the Communist regime in the Soviet Union include a terror famine in the Ukraine in 1933, the Holodomor, which killed well over a million people; a more general 1932–33 famine caused by Stalin's efforts to force farmers onto collectives; and various crimes against humanity perpetrated during the Russian Civil War, most prominently the use of chemical weapons and heavy artillery against peasants rebelling in protest of food requisition (the 1920-21 Tambov Rebellion). According to "The Black Book of Communism," a 1997 history of Communist atrocities that made use of recently opened state archives, by the time of its fall in 1991 the government of the Soviet Union had caused the deaths of some 15 to 20 million people. This does not include the deaths and misery suffered by the inhabitants of Soviet puppet states in Eastern Europe and the Third World, in which the names of the secret polices read like a nightmarish roll call: the Securitate, the AVH, the Stasi.
Now, if you've been on the University of Chicago's campus for the past two weeks or so, the above information may surprise you, because you're now aware that "everything you know about Communism is wrong." The statistics and figures that have been compiled over the decades by reputable historians working to ascertain the truth about Communist regimes must be incorrect (which makes sense, seeing as they're capitalists, and we all know that historians make the big captain of industry bucks). The true blazing light of historical verity can only be found in the agate lamp of the Revolutionary Communist Party, represented on our campus last week by Mr. Raymond Lotta, and the strange and glorious version of the past with which it sees fit to present us.
Thus we hear that the Soviet Union was "only country in the 1930s that stood against anti-Semitism," which is true insofar as Stalin cheerfully set aside swampland in far eastern Siberia as a homeland for Russia's Jews, cooperated with Nazi Germany, and after the war went about executing prominent Jewish leaders (including 23 poets and engineers on the single night of August 12, 1952). The Soviets also, we are assured, supported the ambitions of their country's non-Russian ethnic groups to an unprecedented degree, which explains why they were unwilling to let go of any of the oppressed territories of the former tsarist empire (and in fact re-annexed some of the few that got away, the three Baltic republics, in 1940) and systematically brutalized non-Russian peoples, including the murder of hundreds of thousands of anti-Communist Cossacks and the campaign of Russification in the Soviet Central Asian territories to the extent that, even today, a vast majority of Kazakhs speak Russian.
In fairness to Lotta, however, he is a Maoist scholar ("I'm pretty well-schooled in Mao's works," he says, "let me tell you"—and he does) and thus can't perhaps be expected to have a very solid grasp of things like Soviet policy at any point in the country's history. He did manage to discover that President Eisenhower in his "1952 inaugural address"—apparently delivered before Eisenhower's January 20, 1953, inauguration—"threatened to use atomic weapons against the People's Republic of China," something which cannot be found in the text itself but which is certainly in keeping with its spirit. (Sample sentences: "We stand ready to engage with any and all others in joint effort to remove the causes of mutual fear and distrust among nations..." and "We shall never use our strength to try to impress upon another people our own cherished political and economic institutions.")
Those of us in attendance at Lotta's presentation were also invited to explore the possibility that the 1966–76 Chinese Cultural Revolution represented "the high point of socialist revolution in the twentieth century," that it included "massive political and intellectual debate," and that "high-ranking capitalists," who somehow still existed in a country that had been racked by war for thirty years and which had long since done away with all of its industrial titans, "planned" most of the violence that occurred during this period. This world doesn't quite jive with the one in which those who lived through the period (and the current Chinese government) inform us that the Cultural Revolution forced thousands of teachers and students onto collective farms, burned enough books to power a fleet of coal-fired airships, and killed over a million people, but that's no doubt the result of capitalist lies. Lotta also somehow forgot to mention Western misconceptions of the Great Leap Forward, a collectivization policy pursued between 1958 and 1961 that resulted in the deaths of tens of millions via famine.
This is a highly entertaining and, in many ways, kinder and fuzzier version of history than that which we are accustomed to. Sadly, it's also a total mischaracterization of the nature of the Soviet Union, the early People's Republic of China, and other Communist states. I wish I could believe that our facts were indeed wrong, because a world in which, as Lotta asserted, "people were viewing their actions through the moral lens of serving others," wouldn't seem to me like such a bad place to live. Alas, the past doesn't go away when you don't look at it. For those of us who choose to examine it, there are two possibilities: either Communist governments in the twentieth century killed millions upon millions of people, or all those people disappeared as the result of alien abduction or relocation to a series of underground caves. This—not that you can't buy as much chocolate as you want, nor that there aren't as many channels on TV—is the real reason why "Communism is bad." There are a hundred million plots of turned earth in Siberia and the Yangtze plain that, when Lotta denies what happened to their inhabitants, protest the injustice with a great, silent howl.
Keith Jamieson's fevered account of my November 11 talk at the University of Chicago, "Everything You've Been Told About Communism Is Wrong," deserves a reply. Since the historical part of my talk focused on Mao and the Cultural Revolution, and since there is insufficient space to reply to each and every allegation from Jamieson, I want to make some points about the historical role of Stalin.
Jamieson cites statistics about deaths during the Stalin era. Leaving aside the bogus and easily refutable claim that the Soviet government "caused the death of some 15 to 20 million people," Jamieson provides no social or historical context. It's history by body count. It's as though one could understand the causes and significance of the French Revolution or of the U.S. Civil War by reciting numbers of the executed and killed (why not blame Abraham Lincoln, that obstinate defender of the Union, for the 700,000 deaths that resulted from that war?).
So how does one evaluate Stalin in larger historical perspective--with historical accuracy? Stalin's achievements as a revolutionary leader, his methodological shortcomings, and his errors, some of which had grievous consequences, are all part of the first wave of socialist revolution that opened new historical possibility for humanity in the first half of the 20th century. This historical experience is part of the "learning curve" of the communist project.
Following Lenin's death in 1924, Stalin stepped forward to lead a process of transforming, on a socialist basis, a backward and largely agrarian society (not that far out of its feudal past). Stalin articulated the need and basis for forging a socialist society that would contribute to the emancipation of the oppressed and exploited on this planet.
There was no blueprint, no previous historical experience, for how to develop socialist industry and agriculture. Nor did the Soviet leadership get to choose the circumstances in which it would undertake this bold experiment.
The Soviet Union faced unremitting imperialist encirclement and counterrevolution from within. In 1918-21, Western powers supported reactionary, ultra-nationalist forces in the Russian Civil War, and intervened with finance, arms, and troops (though by Jamieson's statistical reckoning, the Soviet government is responsible for all the deaths incurred both by the fighting and industrial-agricultural dislocation of that conflict).
But in the face of these challenges, and under Stalin's leadership, an extraordinary process of radical economic and social transformation took place in the Soviet Union in the late 1920s and early 1930s.
This had incredibly liberating effects for women breaking free of the oppressive bonds of religion and patriarchy, for people of the former oppressed nationalities (who enjoyed forms of regional autonomy and could carry on educational instruction in native languages), and for the creation of revolutionary culture. The working class was activated to remake industry and to change the relations of production.
By the mid-1930s, the international situation had grown perilous for the Soviet Union. In 1931, Japan had invaded Manchuria; not long after, Hitler consolidated power in Germany; conservative and pro-fascist forces had gained strength in Hungary, Bulgaria, and Rumania, and the Baltic countries, including Poland; in Spain, the Western powers stood idly as General Franco's 1936 uprising against the Spanish Republic was actively aided by Hitler and Mussolini; Germany and Japan had signed an Anti-Soviet Pact.
The growing danger of inter-imperialist war and the likelihood of massive imperialist assault on the Soviet Union (and some 26 million Soviets died as a result of the Nazi invasion of 1941) were an important part of what set the stage for the purges and executions of 1936-38.
The standard story line is that Stalin was a paranoid despot inventing conspiracies and fabricating enemies in order to consolidate absolute personal power and to exact total submission from the population. But the historical truth is that Stalin was fighting to defend the world's first and only socialist society against real threat.
As international tensions grew, Stalin and the revolutionary leadership had reason to be concerned about the state of the party and the armed forces.
Counterrevolution inside the Soviet Union was real: economic sabotage, assassination of party leaders and activists, diplomatic subversion, reactionary social movements in places like the Ukraine. Various political oppositions emerged within the high party leadership, and the reliability of regional party leaderships was also a source of worry. In the 1920s, Soviet and German military officers had collaborated as part of government-to-government agreements involving training and transfer of weaponry—and now, in the face of the war threat, there was growing concern about the reliability of the high-officer corps.
Stalin was not going to allow the socialist Soviet Union to go back to capitalism, or to cave in to imperialism. The problem was that Stalin sought to deal with danger of counterrevolution and imperialist onslaught with a kind of "fortress socialism" approach.
In society and economy, a premium was placed on order, discipline, and everything for production. Repression, which should only have been directed against enemies, was increasingly used against people who were merely expressing disagreements with policies or even with socialism--or making mistakes in their capacities as administrators and leaders.
In 1937-38, there was a wave of purges, arrests, and executions. Individual rights and due process were violated in an atmosphere of conspiracy and intrigue. Not only did innocent people suffer, but also the Soviet Union became an increasingly cold and conformist society--with people looking over their shoulders, "watching what they said."
But it was not some pathological hunger for power on Stalin's part that produced this outcome. Rather, it was a question of outlook, understanding, and method. Mao Tsetung pointed out that Stalin failed to distinguish between two types of contradictions under socialism: those among the people, and contradictions between the people and the enemy. Stalin did not differentiate between, on the one hand, active efforts to undermine and overthrow the socialist state, and dissent and opposition on the other.
It was Stalin's inability to correctly distinguish and utilize different methods in handling these two different types of contradictions--suppression and punishment for counter-revolution; and persuasion, debate, and ideological struggle in resolving contradictions among the people--that led to the harsh excesses of the late 1930s. The masses did not gain the ability to understand why new capitalist forces arose under socialism, nor of the forms of mass struggle needed to combat these forces.
Stalin had a mechanical approach to Marxism and towards socialism. He saw socialism as a society that would march forward, almost in lockstep, towards classless communist society. But as Bob Avakian has envisioned in a whole new way, socialism must be a society of great swirl, dissent, and experimentation. Stalin's mechanical view of socialism was also a factor that underlay the purges, arrests, and executions of 1936-38.
Here it is important to clarify that Stalin did not kill millions. Some 680,000 executions took place in 1937-38—but this total represented 87 percent of all death sentences carried out "for counterrevolutionary and state crimes" between 1930 and 1953.1 By 1939, this wave of arrests and executions was put a stop to by the Soviet leadership.
Mao's Cultural Revolution was a very different matter. Here is the "learning curve" of the communist project. Mao summed up Stalin's mistakes. The Cultural Revolution was a struggle against a new capitalist class and a struggle to keep the revolution on the socialist road. But rather than resorting to administrative and police measures from on high, Mao mobilized the masses from below to take up the burning political and ideological questions of the overall direction of society. The principal forms of struggle of the Cultural Revolution were mass debate, mass criticism, and mass political mobilization. Society was opened up rather than shuttered. Indeed, no modern society has ever seen this level of mass political debate and political transformation.
The purpose of my speaking tour is to stimulate discussion, debate, and critical thinking about the first wave of socialist revolutions and to help people learn about how Bob Avakian has been re-envisioning the communist project. Keith Jamieson is incredulous that historians would so pervasively misrepresent this historical experience.
But the fact is: people have been lied to about communism. The dominant and self-serving narrative in capitalist society prevents people from accurately understanding what the revolutions in the Soviet Union and China set out to do, the real obstacles they faced, the extraordinary things they accomplished, and their real problems and shortcomings. Why should this be any surprise? After all, the legitimacy of this system rests on the notion that capitalism is the best of all possible worlds, or the "end of history." And let's not forget that the American people were systematically lied to about the Vietnam War (that cost the lives of at least two million Vietnamese people) and fed a bill of goods as to why the U.S. had to invade Iraq in 2003. In the late 1960s and 1970s, there was huge ideological struggle and new research undertaken to expose America as an empire and its real origins in genocide against the Native Americans and the enslavement and subjugation of African Americans.
The world cries out for revolution, for emancipatory change. That's what's riding on the search for the truth about socialism and communism: we can create a radically different and better world.
One last factual point. In my University of Chicago talk, I mistakenly referred to newly elected U.S. President Eisenhower threatening socialist China with nuclear attack in his 1953 inaugural speech. I meant to refer to veiled threats in Eisenhower's 1953 State of the Union address—where Eisenhower asserted the "retaliatory power" of the U.S. and stated that the Seventh Fleet would "no longer be employed to shield Communist China." On May 20, 1953, at a National Security Council meeting, Eisenhower concluded that if the U.S. were to pursue more effective action vis-à-vis North Korea, the Korean War would need to be expanded beyond Korea and it would be necessary to use atomic bombs if the Chinese and North Koreans did not sign the Armistice Agreement (this message was to be relayed to the Chinese through third parties). As additional warning, missiles with nuclear warheads were transferred to Okinawa in early spring 1953. On November 6, 1953, NSC document 166/1 spelled out that in a conflict with China, U.S. power "employing all available weapons, could impose decisive damage on the Chinese Communist air force and its facilities."2
For more on the question of Stalin, listen to the segment "On Leadership" from Bob Avakian's radio interview series with Michael Slate, available online at bobavakian.net/audio4.html
1. This estimate of executions is based on archival data of the NKVD (the internal security organ of the Soviet state) and research by Russian and Western scholars in archives opened in the former Soviet Union after 1990. J. Arch Getty, Gabor T. Rittersporn, and Viktor N. Zemskov reach the conclusion that the number of executed "was more likely a question of hundreds of thousands than of millions" ("Victims of the Soviet Penal System in the Pre-war Years: A First Approach on the Basis of Archival Evidence," American Historical Review 98, no. 4, October 1993, p. 1022). Robert Thurston, Arno Mayer, and Lewis Siegelbaum are among other scholars whose work offers insights into the Stalin era who have cited this broad assessment of the numbers of executed under Stalin. This research counters the grossly inflated (in essence manufactured) claims circulating for years in the West that "Stalin executed millions." That the vast bulk of executions during the entire 1930-1953 period took place in the two years 1937-1938 (see Lewis Siegelbaum, chapter 11 in Gregory Freeze, ed., Russia: A History, Oxford University Press, 2002, p. 311-315) and that regional and local political officials had a strong hand in who was targeted and put to death points to the particular—and, evidently at times, out-of-control--character of much of the repression of the late 1930s. Further research and analysis as to what was going on is required. [back]
2. On Eisenhower's nuclear threats and nuclear war planning against Maoist China in the early 1950s, see John Wilson Lewis and Xue Lita, China Builds the Bomb (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1988), chapters one and two; Rosemary J. Foot, "Nuclear Coercion and the Ending of the Korean Conflict," International Security, Winter 1988/89 (Vol. 13, No. 3); Mathew Jones, "Targeting China: U.S. Nuclear Planning and `Massive Retaliation' in East Asia, 1953-1955," Journal of Cold War Studies, Fall 2008 (Vol. 10, No. 4); and "For Eisenhower, 2 Goals if Bomb Was to Be Used," New York Times, June 8, 1984 and Bernard Gwertzman, "U.S. Papers Tell of '53 Policy to Use A-Bomb in Korea," New York Times, June 8, 1984. [back]
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Revolution #186, December 20, 2009
November 15, 2009
September 6, 2009
June 28, 2009
May 24, 2009
February 1, 2009
December 6, 2008
Comment: I am a college student looking into the future and I know that I do not want my life, my job, my time, and my sanity, to be determined on capitalist means. With the skills that I have I don't want to enter a capitalist job market and continue my work through their processes, through their bureaucracies. How can I live my life and explore my spirit through the means of revolution and at the same time sustaining myself? The food I buy, the clothes I wear, are all produced by capitalists systems, how can I resist this and still have a fulfilled life?
Comment: Humanity needs revolution! Humanity needs a planet to live on! The earth is a wild, wondrous place, full of an incredible array of life, and humanity shouldn't destroy it! But the earth doesn't "need" anything. Your analysis and coverage of the unfolding environmental catastrophe has been sparse at best. I have given you all the benefit of the doubt that it's because you want to be right when you speak about this and it's a difficult subject because the communist movement has never dealt with anything like this before. But consistently, whenever you say anything about the planet we live on, it seems you have ignored a lot of the implications of a scientific morality. You have taken up backward notions of imposing values on an inanimate object (the earth) and very traditional, even biblical claims about humans' role on earth—to be "its guardian," as you say in issue 185 and not to "despoil it" as you say in your constitution. Also, you say that if humanity were to be unleashed it could come up with solutions—this is true. But many real proposals exist, proposals which lead from the reality of what we're facing and could actually confront huge aspects of the changes already in motion and those to come. The problem is that these proposals cannot work in this system. Lastly, if there is to be a revolution, there needs to be a planet for this future society to live on. You've said things to this effect in the past. But then why is your coverage of this issue so spotty and rare? Why have so many scientists and students of the environment that have passed through your orbit not been put to the task of studying, analyzing and proselytizing your answer to this? Why is a solid communist analysis of this situation and its potential resolution, one that could draw so many people looking for scientifically sound answers to what they correctly see as being the greatest challenge to ever face humanity to this banner—why is that not being published and boldly put forward?
Why is there no "declaration" on this?
This was submitted by a reader who attended the recent symposium at UC Berkeley: "Rediscovering China's Cultural Revolution—Art and Politics, Lived Experience, Legacies of Liberation."
To Revolution Newspaper:
I was lucky enough to travel down to Berkeley with some other people to see the Symposium. One of the things that really stood out to me in both the posters, the movies, and what the panelists were saying, was how women were treated, and how they were behaving. On the day of the showing of The Red Detachment of Women, a friend and I had been up in the Haight district of SF, and one of our stops was (coincidentally) at a poster shop. Many of the posters that they had were depicting women in few or no clothes, and in sexually provocative poses, and one poster in particular was a set of breasts, with a whole paragraph of all these adjectives: Melons, Fun Bags, Bonkers, Jugs, ETC.
It was disturbing, they AREN'T just bags to be used as "FUN" for some guy, they're actually attached to a living breathing, thinking, feeling human being! What a contrast to what was being displayed at the Symposium! We walked into the Symposium late, after the Red Detachment of Women had begun, to see the "Fierce Eyes" of the main female dancer. This "model ballet" really spoke to how womens' roles were being transformed under socialism, especially embodied in the main female dancer. The message was that contributing to the revolution was the highest contribution that she could make to society, not putting her body & sexuality on display, and not being a good (obedient) wife, and mother. In contrast to supermodels, the ideal for female beauty today, and how bored, passive, or "sexy" their expressions are, the "fierce" expressions in The Red Detachment of Women are striking! In fact, later on I wrote a poem about the sense I got of how things could and should be different for women, especially in how we're fighting for a whole different world.
After Watching the Red Detachment of Women
(*Also taking inspiration from "Ode to the Plum Blossom," Mao Tsetung's response to Lu Yu's poem of the same name.)
I'm TIRED of seeing
Absent of fury!
I'm SICK of seeing
Half-starved vacant eyed models
Ethereal limbs hung with product
Their bodies' a wraith-like canvas,
Viewed as the ideal form of beauty & life.
I'm STARVED for images
Of fierce-eyed warrior women
Fury and impatience unleashed!
Their bodies, hearts, and minds set
On Revolution to free ALL Humanity!
I WANT to see
Women whose eyes and faces
Radiate OPENLY what they are for
And what they oppose
Whose eyes are focused on the world,
on REVOLUTIONIZING that world
NOT striving so hard to fit into a system
That has us filled with
hatred toward ourselves
A system that has us attempt to
Carve out of our own flesh
exactly what our status will be.
I WANT TO SEE WOMEN REBEL AGAINST ALL THAT!
I WANT to SEE
whose eyes SHOUT that we are
in the long, bitter, & joyous fight for
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Revolution #186, December 20, 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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