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Revolution #187, December 27, 2009
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Revolution #187, December 27, 2009
EDITED TRANSCRIPT OF A TALK BY BOB AVAKIAN, CHAIRMAN OF THE REVOLUTIONARY COMMUNIST PARTY, USA, FALL 2009
[Editors' note: The following is the fourth 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 three excerpts appeared in Revolution #184, #185, and #186. The entire talk can be found online at revcom.us/avakian/driving.]
As another important dimension of the "pyramid analysis" and the present polarization in U.S. society—both at the top and among different strata extending out and down from the top of the "pyramid"—it is, of course, necessary to recognize and point sharply to, and take the full measure of, the American white supremacist element in all this. It is important, for example, to note how, as we and some others have pointed out, the current economic crisis is hitting Black people and other "minorities" even harder than the "general population" (or, in other words, white people), deepening in this dimension as well the objective "racial divide" in America. What goes along with this, ironically—and you see this very clearly in the mobilization of these fascist forces, in their "tea parties" and other forms—is the sense of white male American entitlement.
I believe that, as a general phenomenon, one of the main elements that contributes to a fascist mentality, and the inclination (or the vulnerability, however you want to put it) to be mobilized around a fascist program, is a sense of frustrated entitlement. And this is a very big element of the current political situation overall and specifically of this fascist force that we see being mobilized very rabidly on the scene now.
Here enters in, once again, the "de Tocqueville point" that we have emphasized many times. With his romanticized view of the United States at that time, de Tocqueville (a French politician, scholar and philosopher who traveled in the U.S. in the early days of the American republic, about 200 years ago) extolled American democracy and the prospects for this to not only survive but flourish over the long term. But, at the same time, he did take note of and call attention to a certain vulnerability, or Achilles heel, in all this: the existence at that time of slavery. And extrapolating from that down to the present, we could refer more generally to the situation, the viciously oppressed situation, of Black people within the United States, which in the 200 years or so since the time of de Tocqueville has gone through changes in form and in particular circumstances, but remains one of the most pronounced aspects of American society and one of the greatest exposures of the crimes of the American capitalist-imperialist system overall.
This remains a vulnerable point of this whole system. Even with very real changes in the situation of Black people, as part of the larger changes in the society (and the world) overall—including a growth of the "middle class" among Black people, an increase in college graduates and people in higher paying and prestigious professions, with a few holding powerful positions within the ruling political structures, even to the extent now of a "Black president"—the situation of Black people, and in particular that of millions and millions who are trapped in the oppressive and highly repressive conditions of the inner city ghettos, remains a very acute and profound contradiction for the American imperialist system as a whole and for its ruling class—something which has the potential to erupt totally out of the framework in which they can contain it. And something which, at the same time, is a point of very sharp contention and spur to mobilization, not only of potential revolutionary forces, but also now of reactionary and potential or actual fascist forces.
In this connection, I want to go back to a contentious but very real and important point that I have been stressing for a number of years now, which is captured in the formulation "the Bible Belt is the lynching belt." To put this another way, religious fundamentalism in the United States, as with all reactionary social and political expressions, cannot help but have, as a major component, white supremacy, including in its most extreme and virulent forms. Of course, I am not the only one who has pointed to this basic phenomenon and made some important analysis of it. Here, for example, it is worth recalling what was said by Dr. Hubert Locke, an African-American theologian, in a 2005 talk at the Pacific School of Religion, entitled "Reflections on Pacific School of Religion's Response to the Religious Right." In this speech, Locke pointed particularly to two factors in regard to what he very forthrightly called Christian Fascism in the U.S. in this period: unresolved contradictions going back before the Civil War—or, as Locke put it, there is a "thinly-veiled cry to return to a set of ideals and values that this nation demolished when the South lost the Civil War"—along with an attack on what was brought forward through the 1960s. This embodies an attempt to impose a fascist resolution to contradictions which in important ways have remained unresolved and which repeatedly pose themselves in profound and acute ways and become especially acute in the context of a serious crisis, such as the current economic crisis and the broader dimensions of crisis that now exist in the U.S. and in its role in the world. (Locke's speech, "Reflections on Pacific School of Religion's Response to the Religious Right," is reprinted in Revolution #32, January 29, 2006.)
In tracing the relation of these factors to right-wing Christian fundamentalism in the U.S., Locke makes essentially the same point that I have made, including in the book Away With All Gods!,1 concerning how the Bible Belt is the lynching belt—in other words, the very close connection, or intertwining, of religious fundamentalism in the U.S. with overt, virulent and violent white supremacy, from slavery to lynching down to the wanton murders of Black people repeatedly carried out by the police in cities across America today.
In Away With All Gods!, along with examining the implications of the reality that the Bible Belt is the lynching belt, I also emphasize that there is a great irony in this: that among the masses of Black people there is a particular form of Christian fundamentalism in which they are getting caught up and which is being promoted by a section of reactionary—yes, let's call them what they are: reactionary—Black preachers who are, objectively at least, serving this system which has for centuries oppressed Black people. Even while among Black people there are some particular features of Christian fundamentalism which differ from the way this takes form among reactionary white Christian fundamentalists, two things remain profoundly true and important: religious fundamentalism in the U.S. cannot help but include a significant dimension in which it embodies and serves to reinforce white supremacy; and this religious fundamentalism is more generally a poisonous force which plays a key part in shackling masses of oppressed people, and people of different strata, to a reactionary worldview in the service of oppressive relations and the system of capitalism-imperialism which encompasses and enforces these oppressive relations.2
What is particularly relevant in today's situation is how to a large degree this is concentrated around Obama. Not long ago, I saw an interview with Janeane Garofalo (I believe it was on the Keith Olbermann show) in which she was talking about the earlier mobilizations of this "tea party" phenomenon, and she made the point: "Look, let's just cut through the bullshit here"—I'm paraphrasing, but this is the essence of what she said—"let's just cut through the bullshit, everybody knows what this is about. These people are white supremacists, racists who can't stand the idea of a Black president." Well, that's not the whole of the matter, and it would be oversimplifying to reduce it to that alone, but it certainly is a major element in it. It's barely disguised, if disguised at all, and often undisguised.
Here we come back to the two wings of the imperialist ruling class in the U.S.—what we could call, as a general characterization, the fascist wing on the one hand and on the other hand the more mainstream imperialist wing—which are represented in the political structure, broadly speaking, by the Republican Party and the Democratic Party, respectively. As discussed earlier, one side is very aggressive in putting forth its particular program and ideology within the overall framework of imperialist politics and imperialist interests in general. That is the right-wing side, the fascist side. The other side is shamefaced, at best, halting and often apologetic about its particular views, and is always seeking common ground with the overtly fascist section of the ruling class. This is why, for example, today people are again bringing up that the Democratic Party "has no spine," that it won't stand up to the Republicans, even when the Republicans are being outrageous and totally out of touch with reality in terms of what they are putting forward and the basis on which they are mobilizing people.
To further characterize these two wings, and how they act, you have on the one hand something like CNN, which pretends to be an objective news source, along with publications like the New York Times, the "newspaper of record" for more educated and "sophisticated" sections of the population ("all the news that"—a very pregnant phrase—"is fit to print"... from a certain standpoint, we should underline). So you have these kinds of media, who pretend to be objective—they have no particular axe to grind, no particular interests that they are advocating for, they insist—they are just there to tell you the news the way it really is. Well, recently, there was Anderson Cooper of CNN in Afghanistan, with his ill-fitting military helmet on, looking ridiculously like Ted Koppel (didn't he learn from Ted Koppel and Dan Rather?—they didn't look very good when they dressed up like that and played that role during the beginning of the U.S. war on Iraq). So, here is Anderson Cooper embedded with U.S. forces in Afghanistan, and he's going along in his "newsman" guise, pretending to be giving you an objective account of what's happening—recounting how he went out with U.S. troops in this area in Afghanistan, and there was some explosion and then some shots were fired, and "we ran over there but the bad guys seem to have disappeared." Now, if you're presenting the news "objectively," and you don't have a partisan point of view, how did you determine who were the "bad guys" and the "good guys" in this situation? This is just another expression—which is so common, so extensively propagated and hence so "embedded" in the popular consciousness, that it goes right by most people and they don't even notice it—of the highly partisan nature of all the mainstream and dominant media in the U.S., including those, like the New York Times and CNN, which are not the most overtly right wing. These media, despite significant differences among them, are all partisans of the imperialist system and its ruling class. They are not state-run media—at least not at this point—they are imperialist-run, ruling class-run media; and it is the viewpoint of the imperialist ruling class (or viewpoints which differ in some aspects but all within the framework of imperialist ruling class interests) that they dutifully and systematically put forward. That is why it shocks nobody, and most people wouldn't even stop to reflect on what it means, when they hear Anderson Cooper say: "But we weren't sure where the bad guys went."
Now, you do have Fox News, which overtly purveys fascist propaganda, and openly mobilizes fascist social forces. These right-wing politicians and their media representatives (such as Fox News, as an outstanding example) put forward ideas and portray things in ways that are wildly in conflict with reality, whether the subject is the "health care debate" or such a fundamental fact of science as evolution—you have prominent politicians in the Republican Party who openly deny the scientific fact of evolution and appeal to people on that basis. So, here's a question which goes back to the "pyramid analysis" and how one side is paralyzed, or is always seeking consensus and the common ground, while the other side is overtly and aggressively putting forward its partisan views within the overall imperialist framework—here's a question that highlights that: Why is it that CNN, the New York Times, etc., cannot openly and straightforwardly speak of one side of this polarization as dangerous lunatics, or as crazed lunatics? Why is it that they are unable or unwilling to look at what's said by these right-wing forces, for example in the debates about health care, and say unequivocally and with real conviction: "This is totally out of line with reality, this has no relationship to the actual reality"? Or, around the question of evolution or other ways in which these fascist forces are totally out of step with reality, why cannot CNN straightforwardly report that one side in this is actually a bunch of dangerous lunatics and crazed fanatics?
Their inability and unwillingness to do this is for two essential reasons: One, they are not willing to deal with the fallout from that. In other words, when the response comes from the right-wing fascistic section of the ruling class and that social base is mobilized on this kind of crazed basis, the "liberals" and the more "mainstream" imperialist media and politicians are not willing to mobilize and call into motion, in opposition to this, the people whom they generally seek to appeal to in their role as news media or as politicians. That is the last thing they want to do, as we have emphasized.
And the other, even more fundamental reason flows from the fact that the continual theme that's drummed at people over and over again is that the only real, legitimate and meaningful political framework is Republicans vs. Democrats. When any news item comes out, what does CNN do, very quickly? They present things in terms of: "What do Republicans say? What do Democrats say? Here's some Republican spokespeople, here's some Democratic spokespeople on the panel to debate it." Not what's the truth and what are the larger implications, but "what do the Democrats say, what do the Republicans say?" Over and over again, through "mainstream" ruling class media, such as CNN, the idea is propagated and reinforced that these are the only terms on which things can even be considered politically—Republicans vs. Democrats.
Well, if you insist on that, on the one hand—as they must, because this is integral and crucial for maintaining the dominance of bourgeois politics and, more fundamentally, bourgeois rule in American society and American domination in the world—if you insist that these are the only terms and this is the only framework, but then you were to turn around and say, "one side is a bunch of crazed lunatics," that would not only be seen as an insult to that one side—while actually being an accurate portrayal—but it would in fact be calling into question and fundamentally undermining the whole framework. How can you insist that the only legitimate framework is one in which one side is a bunch of crazed lunatics?!
Here it is important to emphasize that in a real sense these two wings of the ruling class, and of bourgeois politics in American society, also reinforce each other even while in some significant aspects opposing each other (in a way that is somewhat analogous to how, on a world scale, imperialism and Islamic fundamentalism reinforce each other even while opposing each other). And once again, Obama is a focus of this to a very significant degree in the present situation, with the rabid opposition to Obama that's being whipped up with, yes, not only very definite racist "overtones" but essential racist elements within it.
This also explains a significant phenomenon that we have to confront and transform, through struggle: Even people who have become very disaffected with and disillusioned about Obama and everything that got whipped up around his election—"hope" and "change" and all that—now that they see at least some of the reality of what Obama represents and what he is doing in accordance with that, they are becoming more disillusioned and disaffected, and even critical of Obama—but they are also being paralyzed to a significant degree. This is not only due to the fact that Obama and what he represents (that side of the "pyramid" of ruling class structures) does not want them to be mobilized—in fact wants them to be demobilized and politically paralyzed, except to act in very limited and passive ways within the dominant political framework—but they are also being demobilized and paralyzed to a significant degree by their fear, which is sometimes openly expressed, of criticizing Obama precisely because of and in the face of this mobilization of a truly fascist, and yes racist, force which is focused to a large degree on hatred for Obama.
Now I don't want to just emphasize the negative over and over again, but it is important to recognize that the present polarization is very negative. To a large degree, even to an overwhelming degree at this particular time, the positive side of the base of the pyramid is paralyzed. In the case of basic masses in particular, they are heavily weighed down by the hardships, and often the real horrors, of their daily life under this system. And they are being told to put all their faith in Obama and the Democratic Party, as well as in god, while a fascist base on the other side is being riled and revved up, rabidly, and mobilized on the basis of racism and a very much related religious fundamentalism. And, with regard to the "progressive middle strata," to use that term, they are weighed down by, among other things, their real fear of chaos and upheaval and their desire to "go on with their lives" without having to "get out of their comfort zone." Once again, this calls to mind the line from William Butler Yeats: "The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity."
Into this mix and this mess also comes a certain political trend among some "liberals," represented for example by people like Michelle Goldberg and expressed in her latest book, The Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power, and the Future of the World (Penguin Press, 2009). People with this outlook pose, wrongly, the polarization internationally as well as within the U.S. in essentially these terms: Secular liberalism and modernity vs. religious fundamentalism and traditionalism of various kinds (I'll come back to this more fully, later in this talk, specifically in relation to the oppression and the struggle for the liberation of women). This drawing of the lines of polarization does, in fact, reflect an aspect of present reality. But much more fundamentally, it reflects, for us and for all those who do want to see a radically different and better world, the crucial necessity of repolarization on the basis of and with the aim of a revolutionary orientation and revolutionary objectives.
Here, again, comes to the fore the crucial role that must be played by a force capable of actually leading opposition to these fascist forces and directing this toward revolution. I mean this both in terms of what we might call the "objective factor" and the "subjective factor"—that is, masses of people, on the one hand, and on the other hand, conscious revolutionary forces, and in the most concentrated expression of this our party, the Revolutionary Communist Party.
And here once more is the relevance of a point that has been stressed before and was emphasized in particular during the years of the Bush regime: There may be a need, and in fact almost certainly will be a need, for conscious revolutionary forces to take the lead in opposing certain fascist initiatives which take form, to a significant degree at least, as attacks on bourgeois-democratic rights and norms and, in certain cases perhaps, even some figures identified with bourgeois democracy and liberalism; but, let me underline, this must be done not by way of promoting and defending bourgeois democracy and bourgeois-democratic political leaders, but instead radically recasting this and directing it against the whole system of bourgeois rule, that is bourgeois dictatorship (which is what is actually embodied in the dominant political structures in this country) and the capitalist-imperialist system this enforces.
Here again we can see the continuing relevance and importance of the strategic orientation of the United Front Under the Leadership of the Proletariat—and let me emphasize specifically the latter aspect of this: the Leadership of the Proletariat. But, at the same time, let me also emphasize that this must be understood and acted upon not in terms of reification—not by treating the proletariat, or even individual proletarians, almost as some kind of supernatural force, some force imbued with the logic and momentum of history behind it in some metaphysical and essentially religious sense. It is a question of the fundamental interests of the proletariat as a class, and a question of mobilizing a mass social base, drawn from proletarians but also other oppressed people and broader strata in society, around a line representing the interests of the proletariat in the largest sense; giving life to the very real fact—with its very real material basis in actual human society, and not in some religious fantasy—that the proletariat as a class can only emancipate itself from its exploited condition by emancipating all of humanity and uprooting and abolishing all relations of exploitation and oppression.
This is the goal around which people must be brought forward: the advance to communism, the achievement of what we refer to as the "4 Alls," as they were popularized in China at the time of Mao: the abolition of all class distinctions, the abolition of all the production (or economic) relations on which these class distinctions rest, the abolition of all the social relations corresponding to those production relations, and the revolutionizing of all the ideas that correspond to those social relations.
This is what a force must be brought forward and mobilized around, in order to be emancipators of humanity. But as has been emphasized previously (for example in my talk "Out Into the World—As a Vanguard of the Future"3) this is not a matter of linearly going to "the workers" in an economist sense and appealing to them on a narrow basis, or just going to the lower sections of the proletariat as they actually exist in the millions and even tens of millions in this country. Rather, it will involve a process through which diverse forces—including many of those in the lower, deeper sections of the proletariat, as well as other oppressed people, particularly among the oppressed nationalities in the inner cities, but also masses from other strata among the people—must be brought forward around this orientation of being emancipators of humanity, around the line and program that corresponds to the largest objective interests of the proletariat as a class: making and carrying forward revolution to sweep away the capitalist-imperialist system and advancing to a world without exploitation and oppression.
This is crucial in terms of our overall strategic revolutionary objectives, of getting to a whole different and radically better world. But it is also crucial in terms of the present polarization in society and the challenge of repolarizing not for reform—not to try to ameliorate or mitigate or smooth out the rough edges of the ways in which things are being sharply posed now, and not only, or in and of itself, to oppose and defeat this fascist force that's being mobilized—but to repolarize for revolution—and, yes, as part of this, even seeking to win over as many as can be won from among those who now gravitate toward reactionary and even fascist programs, working to achieve repolarization among them as well—including by addressing in a much more vigorous way, in a much more creative way, in a much more profound way, the current moral crisis and the whole question of morality and culture.
1. Away With All Gods! Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World, Insight Press, 2008. [back]
2. It is beyond the scope and purpose of this talk to elaborate further on this subject. There is important discussion of it in Away With All Gods!, which, among other things, drew from some of the insights of Kevin Phillips in his book American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century (Viking, 2006). Away With All Gods! also references the Chris Hedges book, American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America (Free Press, 2006). [back]
3. "Out Into the World—As a Vanguard of the Future," a talk by Bob Avakian in the first part of 2008, is available, in its entirety, online at revcom.us, and was serialized in Revolution, beginning with issue #156 (Feb. 15, 2009) and continuing in issues #157 and #159-61. [back]
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Revolution #187, December 27, 2009
Obama Speeches at West Point and Oslo:
At West Point on December 1, one of President Barack Obama's key arguments for escalating the war in Afghanistan was the danger that Islamic fundamentalists like al Qaeda or the Taliban might seize power in Pakistan and/or get hold of Pakistan's nuclear weapons.
"The people and governments of both Afghanistan and Pakistan are endangered," Obama stated. "And the stakes are even higher within a nuclear-armed Pakistan, because we know that al Qaeda and other extremists seek nuclear weapons, and we have every reason to believe that they would use them."
This justification for escalation in Afghanistan is part of a broader argument by Obama about the continued need for U.S. global "leadership" on the danger of nuclear weapons. It goes like this: whatever mistakes the U.S. has made, it has preserved global peace for the past 60-plus years and helped advance the interests of humanity. Now today, in the face of new threats from terrorists—who are far less rational and concerned about human life than the U.S. and its allies, but instead are driven by "rage"—the U.S. should continue in its role as guarantor of world security. Other countries should follow its lead in Afghanistan and on nuclear proliferation overall (especially in regard to Iran and North Korea) because this is the best and most realistic way to prevent the use of nuclear weapons and ultimately eliminate all nuclear weapons.
Obama articulated these themes at West Point and again in Oslo, Norway, when he received the Nobel Peace Prize on December 10.
"We will have to take away the tools of mass destruction," Obama declared at West Point. "And that's why I've made it a central pillar of my foreign policy to secure loose nuclear materials from terrorists, to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, and to pursue the goal of a world without them, because every nation must understand that true security will never come from an endless race for ever more destructive weapons. True security will come for those who reject them... But more than any other nation, the United States of America has underwritten global security for over six decades."
At Oslo, Obama argued that in the wake of the "destruction" of World War 2 and "with the advent of the nuclear age":
"America led the world in constructing an architecture to keep the peace: a Marshall Plan and a United Nations, mechanisms to govern the waging of war, treaties to protect human rights, prevent genocide, and restrict the most dangerous weapons. In many ways, these efforts succeeded. Yes, terrible wars have been fought, and atrocities committed. But there has been no Third World War."
But, he argued, "this old architecture is buckling under the weight of new threats. The world may no longer shudder at the prospect of war between two nuclear superpowers, but proliferation may increase the risk of catastrophe. Terrorism has long been a tactic, but modern technology allows a few small men with outsized rage to murder innocents on a horrific scale."
Obama is amplifying the core post-September 11 narrative repeated over and over by government and the media: Islamic fundamentalists are unconstrained crazies who think "god" has ordained them to strike their enemies, including with nuclear weapons, without regard for human life or world opinion. And that's why people should back the U.S. in its efforts to defeat them and keep nuclear weapons out of their hands.
But before jumping on this bandwagon, people need to stop and think, and examine this logic and where it leads.
First, are nuclear weapons a horror? Yes. Would their use—anywhere by anyone—engulf thousands if not millions in an inferno of death and suffering? Yes. Is Islamic fundamentalism a reactionary political movement and outlook, whose tactics reflect its reactionary nature? Yes.
But does it automatically follow that people's best or only choice is fighting with and for the U.S.?
In this article we're going to walk through Obama's claims and arguments—are they true, or not? And where do they lead?
Is it true that the rulers of the U.S. are more rational and less murderous than the Islamic fundamentalists—especially concerning nuclear weapons? Is their stewardship the best way to prevent nuclear conflict and eventually eliminate nuclear weapons? Who actually unleashed the "nuclear genie" on the world, and is most responsible for nuclear proliferation? Who is most likely to use nuclear weapons today? And what is driving the nuclear danger? And, looking honestly at all the facts, who is it today that actually fits Obama's description of how "modern technology allows a few small men with outsized rage to murder innocents on a horrific scale" without regard for world opinion, and justifies this in the name of "god"?
Looking at Afghanistan and Pakistan specifically, what gave rise to the possibility that Islamic fundamentalists could gain access to Pakistan's nuclear weapons? And what impact will it actually have for the U.S. to continue—and be allowed to continue by lack of resistance in the U.S.—to play this role overall and to escalate the war in Afghanistan? (Obama's argument is a package deal—supporting Obama's Afghanistan escalation also means supporting the U.S.'s "right" to be the "guarantor of global security" and supporting U.S. efforts to enforce or impose that.)
Obama's narrative of the positive role the U.S. has played in the world regarding nuclear weapons focused on the post World War 2 period and is rooted in the concept of a "just war." According to Obama, one criteria for a "just war" is one in which "the force used is proportional, and if, whenever possible, civilians are spared from violence." World War 2 was a just war, he argued, yet acknowledged it "was a conflict in which the total number of civilians who died exceeded the number of soldiers who perished." Obama then argued that "In the wake of such destruction, and with the advent of the nuclear age, it became clear to victor and vanquished alike that the world needed institutions to prevent another World War"—an effort in which "America led the world in constructing an architecture to keep the peace."
Here Obama "forgets" to mention the key and central fact—who actually ushered in the "nuclear age": in fact, it was the United States by developing and then dropping two nuclear bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Those horrific bombings epitomize the other point Obama forgot to mention: that during World War 2, the United States was guilty of the massive slaughter of civilians. By the end of 1945, between 140,000 and 150,000 people had perished in Hiroshima and another 75,000-80,000 in Nagasaki. The victims—overwhelmingly civilians—died from direct injuries— flash burns, trauma, radiation burns—illness, malnutrition and radiation sickness. In the years that followed, more died from various cancers caused by radiation.
The U.S. rulers have long claimed that they were forced to drop "the bomb" because otherwise they would have had to directly invade Japan, and many more lives would have been lost. This is a narrative that fits one of Obama's key criteria for a just war: that such violence be only used "as a last resort or in self-defense."
But historians have unearthed abundant evidence disproving this imperialist mythology (which continues to be the dominant narrative about Hiroshima and Nagasaki today). Japan was reeling and its rulers had secretly communicated their desire to end the war—before the bombs dropped. According to historian Gar Alperovitz, "A critical message of July 12, 1945—just before Potsdam [and some 3 weeks before Hiroshima was bombed]—showed that the Japanese emperor himself had decided to intervene to attempt to end the war." In his private journal, President Harry Truman called it a "telegram from [the] Jap Emperor asking for peace," at once exposing both his racism and that his administration consciously lied about their reasons for nuking Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
"The consensus among scholars is that the bomb was not needed to avoid an invasion of Japan and to end the war within a relatively short time," according to J. Samuel Walker, chief historian of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. "It is clear that alternatives to the bomb existed and that Truman and his advisers knew it." (Emphasis added)
So Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not obliterated for self-defense. So then: why were these cities obliterated and over 200,000 people incinerated?
Here's how then-Secretary of State James Byrnes' personal assistant put it in his private journal. Byrnes was "hoping for time, believing [that] after [the] atomic bomb Japan will surrender and Russia will not get in so much on the kill, thereby being in a position to press claims against China." Alperovitz writes, "I also believe the evidence is strong, but not conclusive, that American leaders saw the bomb above all as a way to impress the Russians and also as a way to end the war before the Red Army got very far into Manchuria [in northern China]."
In sum, the record shows that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were obliterated for coldly-calculated imperialist geopolitical objectives, including weakening the Soviet Union's post-war influence and making a statement to the world that America would henceforth rule the planet and would brook no challenge. (Quotes re Hiroshima/Nagasaki above from Gar Alperovitz, "Hiroshima: Historians Reassess," Foreign Policy, Summer 1995, ncesa.org/html/hiroshima.html; Gar Alperovitz, "Hiroshima After Sixty Years: The Debate Continues," CommonDreams.org, August 3, 2005)
U.S. savagery and wanton slaughter of civilians wasn't confined to the dropping of "Fat Man" and "Little Boy"—the codenames turned nicknames for America's first two atomic bombs. These bombings came in the wake of the U.S. bombings of Tokyo and other Japanese cities (where most homes were made of wood) using incendiary bombs designed to burn the cities down. On March 9-10, 1945 alone, the firestorm over 16 square miles of Tokyo killed over 100,000 people and injured many more. At the time, former Secretary of Defense and architect of the Vietnam War Robert McNamara was doing statistical analysis for Gen. Curtis E. LeMay of the Army's Air Forces.
"We burned to death 100,000 Japanese civilians in Tokyo—men, women and children," Mr. McNamara recalled; some 900,000 Japanese civilians died in all. "LeMay said, 'If we'd lost the war, we'd all have been prosecuted as war criminals.' And I think he's right. He—and I'd say I—were behaving as war criminals. What makes it immoral if you lose and not immoral if you win?" ("Robert S. McNamara, Architect of a Futile War, Dies at 93," New York Times, July 7, 2009. McNamara quotes taken from the Errol Morris film, The Fog of War.)
Did such actions meet Obama's criteria that force be "proportional," and "whenever possible, civilians are spared from violence"?
No. The real history of World War 2 gives the lie to any notion that those who run the system base any of their key decisions on concern for civilian life, or that they're bound by any precepts of "just war."
Why should such a power be entrusted with "constructing an architecture to keep the peace"?
This is quintessential Obama: rewriting history in the service of imperialism and its current objectives—by acknowledging wrongdoing in a general way, while omitting any specific mention or accounting of the record of towering U.S. crimes and carnage.
What, in fact, was the U.S. record after World War 2? Did the U.S. come to its senses after Hiroshima and Nagasaki and do all it could to "prevent another World War," as Obama implied, or halt the use and spread of nuclear weapons?
No. The U.S. accelerated its production and development of nuclear weapons (at its peak in the mid-1960s, the U.S. arsenal was comprised of over 30,000 nuclear warheads), it fueled the nuclear arms race, it facilitated nuclear proliferation, it repeatedly threatened the use of nuclear weapons, and took the world to the brink of nuclear war more than once.
The U.S.'s development—and use—of nuclear weapons and then its nuclear war threats against the Soviet Union and China, helped spark a nuclear arms race. After World War 2, the U.S. threatened to use nuclear weapons against China during the Korean war (1951-53), and threats of nuclear war against the Soviet Union also hung in the air during the late 1940's and early 1950's. Then the U.S. had secret plans to turn the Soviet Union into a "smoking radiating ruin at the end of two hours." (David Alan Rosenberg and W.B. Moore, "Smoking Radiating Ruin at the End of Two Hours": Documents on American Plans for Nuclear War with the Soviet Union, 1954-55, The MIT Press, 1981.)
As part of its "Cold War" struggle against the Soviet Union, the U.S. also helped its allies Britain and France develop nuclear weapons. And it has continued to refine and develop its own nuclear arsenal, both in pursuit of nuclear supremacy and to make its nukes more usable.
Nuclear weapons were—and continue to be—central to U.S. military strategy, operations and global actions and posture (and a key way the U.S. imperialists, with but 3% of the world's population, planned to dominate the whole planet). The U.S. has never renounced the first use of nuclear weapons, and threatened—either overtly or covertly—or seriously considered the use of nuclear weapons dozens of times in the post-World War 2 period against many different countries. According to one tabulation, the U.S. threatened the use of nuclear weapons at least 15 times after World War 2, in the Middle East, Asia, Latin America and Europe. (academic.evergreen.edu/g/grossmaz/interventions.html)
For instance, in the Middle East, in 1958 the U.S. threatened to use nuclear weapons after the Iraqi monarchy—a staunch U.S. ally—was overthrown and a more nationalist regime took power. The U.S. threatened war against the new republic, and U.S. forces—including the Strategic Air Command—were put on worldwide alert. Shortly before Iraq's revolution, 70 naval vessels, hundreds of aircraft and 14,000 Marines had been dispatched to Lebanon. They arrived in mid-July in position to intervene in Iraq. Micah Sifry, formerly Middle East editor at The Nation, notes that these forces reportedly included an "atomic unit" with artillery capable of firing nuclear shells. Eisenhower had in fact issued a secret directive to the Joint Chiefs of Staff ordering them to prepare to use nuclear weapons to prevent an Iraqi takeover of Kuwait's oil fields.
In response to U.S. threats and deployments, the Soviet Union began large-scale maneuvers on its borders with Turkey and Iran. Sifry concluded, "Until the makeup and intentions of the new Republic of Iraq became clear, 'general war' was a real possibility." In April 1959, CIA Director Allen Dulles told Congress that the situation in Iraq was "the most dangerous in the world today." (Micah L. Sifry, "U.S. Intervention in the Middle East: A Case Study," The Gulf War Reader, pp. 27-30; William Blum, Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower, pp. 133-134)
The Iranian revolution of 1979 overthrew the Shah who was a key pillar of U.S. dominance in the Middle East. This came at a time of escalating rivalry between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, and there was enormous concern in Washington that the Soviets might gain ground in the region in the wake of the Shah's fall and the ongoing turmoil in Iran after the seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in November 1979.
Soviet fears of U.S. military action against Iran were sparked on August 16, 1980 when columnist Jack Anderson published an article reporting that, "A startling, top-secret plan to invade Iran with powerful military forces has been prepared for President Carter. The ostensible purpose is to rescue the hostages, but the operation also would exact military retribution." Anderson reported that the assault, tentatively scheduled for October, called for seizing and holding Kharg Island, through which 90 percent of Iran's oil flowed, and possibly other oil fields in southern Iran. Anderson called it a "desperate political gamble.... There already have been ominous rumblings out of the Kremlin, warning of retaliation if Iran should be attacked. A Soviet-U.S. clash over Iran, of course, could become the opening skirmish of World War 3."
The Carter administration claimed it had no such plans, but the Soviets seem to have responded to Anderson's exposé by placing their forces near Iran in a higher state of readiness, perhaps as a warning. In late August, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Carter's National Security Advisor, writes that Washington detected Soviet forces deployed "in a mode suited for intervention in Iran" and decided to warn the Soviets that any move into Iran "would lead to a direct military confrontation" and to "develop military options both for the defense of Iran itself and for retaliatory military responses elsewhere, in the event of a Soviet move." Those options included the use of tactical nuclear weapons.
The atmosphere was so fraught with tension that when the Carter team was debating whether to move AWACS planes to Saudi Arabia following the September 1980 outbreak of the Iran-Iraq war (thus directly inserting advanced U.S. weapons in the region), Brzezinski writes that then-Secretary of State Muskie "exploded and said that we are plunging headlong into World War 3."
Journalist and author Dilip Hiro concluded, "In short, when it came to keeping the Soviets out of Iran the Reagan administration (like the Carter administration before it) was prepared to go to the furthest limit, including nuclear warfare."
(Sources re Iran crisis: Jack Anderson, "Iran invasion plan reported, denied," Chicago Sun-Times, Aug.16, 1980; Gary Sick, October Surprise: America's Hostages in Iran and the Election of Ronald Reagan, pp. 25-26; Zbigniew Brzezinski, Power and Principle, pp. 451-453; Richard Halloran, New York Times, September 2, 1986; Benjamin F. Schemmer, "Was the U.S. Ready to Resort to Nuclear Weapons for the Persian Gulf in 1980?" Armed Forces Journal International, September 1986, Halloran and Schemmer cited in an unpublished paper by Daniel Ellsberg; Dilip Hiro, Iran Under the Ayatollahs, pp. 325-6)
These and many other examples demonstrate that U.S. threats were not empty bluffs. The U.S. often put its nuclear forces on alert or moved nuclear weapons into position for use; and all the while the U.S. were risking setting in motion events which the U.S. couldn't control which could lead to the use of nuclear weapons. In short—the U.S. was gambling with the future of humanity in order to advance its imperial objectives.
The U.S. rulers paint the Islamic fundamentalists as insane, while they themselves are worthy stewards of the planet. In fact, the imperialists practiced "brinksmanship," pushing things to the brink—and even acting as if they were irrational—in order to get opponents to back down.
President Richard Nixon called it "the madman theory," and in 1969, he put it into practice and nearly plunged the world into nuclear war. "I want the North Vietnamese to believe that I've reached the point that I might do anything to stop the war," Nixon told his top advisor. At the time the Vietnam War had turned into a major debacle for the U.S. and Nixon wanted to force the North Vietnamese to sue for peace on U.S. terms—but Hanoi was refusing. "We'll just slip the word to them that for God's sake, you know Nixon is obsessed about communism. We can't restrain him when he's angry, and he has his hand on the nuclear button, and Ho Chi Minh himself will be in Paris in two days begging for peace."
Nixon soon unleashed his "madman" strategy. "From Oct. 10, 1969, through the rest of the month the U.S. military was ordered to full global war readiness alert, without any provocation, and with no explanation to U.S. commanders as to the alert's purpose," writes James Carroll. "Nuclear armed fighter planes were dispersed to civilian airports, missile countdown procedures were initiated, missile-bearing submarines were dispersed, long-range bombers were launched, targeting was begun. On October 27, in the climactic action designed to make it seem the madman was loose, the Strategic Air Command was ordered to dispatch B-52 bombers, loaded with thermonuclear weapons, toward the Soviet Union."
Unbeknownst to Nixon, he put his plan into effect at a moment of escalating threats by the imperialist Soviet Union against revolutionary China, then a socialist country led by Mao Tsetung, with both countries approaching a war footing. "Thus, when signals of an American nuclear countdown were picked up," Carroll continues, "Moscow would have had every reason to assume that the United States was preparing to attack in support of Beijing, perhaps launching a preemption of Moscow's own contemplated attack against China."
"If Leonid Brezhnev [the Soviet leader], that is, behaved as Richard Nixon did in October of 1969," Carroll concludes, "the world would have been plunged into nuclear horror." ("Nixon's Madman Strategy", Boston Globe, June 14, 2005)
Pentagon whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg, who has also analyzed these developments, writes that at the time, Nixon was seriously considering using nuclear weapons against North Vietnam, but was forced to reconsider after two million people took to the streets for the October 15, 1969 Moratorium against the war. ("Daniel Ellsberg: Time to Drive Out the Bush Regime," Truthdig.org, September 16, 2006, truthdig.com/report/item/20060916_daniel_ellsberg_drive_out_bush)
In the first installment of his personal memoir of the nuclear era, Ellsberg paints a bone-chilling picture of overall U.S. plans to wage nuclear war which would have obliterated "most cities and people in the Northern Hemisphere." Ellsberg writes, "The total death toll as calculated by the Joint Chiefs, from a U.S. first strike aimed primarily at the Soviet Union and China, would be roughly 600 million dead. A hundred Holocausts." ("A Hundred Holocausts: An Insider's Window Into U.S. Nuclear Policy," Truthdig.org, September 10, 2009, truthdig.com/report/item/20090910_a_hundred_holocausts_an_insiders_window_into_us_nuclear_policy)
The record of U.S. actions shows that in reality, the Islamic fundamentalists are no more irrational or callous toward human life than the imperialists—who are driven by necessities beyond their understanding and control—and the US imperialists have far, far, far more destructive power at their command. The main reason the U.S. hasn't again used nuclear weapons wasn't revulsion at the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was the simple fact that their rivals possessed nuclear weapons as well.
OK, someone might argue, the U.S. has done bad things, but what Obama said is true: "there has been no Third World War." Isn't that reason to trust the U.S. rulers and feel they're the best option for preserving the peace?
Here's the reality; true, there has been no World War 3. But it wasn't because the U.S. wasn't preparing for the possibility of waging a third World War; it wasn't because the rulers never risked world war; and it wasn't because the imperialists felt that nuclear war was just too horrible to contemplate and should not be considered under any circumstances.
As their rivalry with the Soviet Union intensified over the 1970's and 1980's, the U.S. rulers and their military establishment seriously prepared for the possibility of nuclear war—debating its pros and cons, incorporating nuclear war fighting in U.S. strategy and force posture, and building new weapons systems, and overall working to gain nuclear superiority over the Soviets. "For the first time," former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote concerning the late 1970s and early 1980s, "the United States deliberately sought for itself the capability to manage a protracted nuclear conflict."
Rather than an unbreakable taboo, nuclear war was something the U.S. rulers actually joked about—most infamously when Ronald Reagan "joked" "we begin bombing in 5 minutes." And during the 1980s—whether over Iran or after the September 1, 1983 Soviet shootdown of Korean Air Lines (KAL) Flight 007, the U.S. imperialists were willing to escalate tensions to weaken the Soviets and/or force them to back down—with no guarantee that would happen and knowing the possibility that events could spin out of control in ways catastrophic for the planet.
In short, the rulers were compelled by the underlying dynamics of the capitalist-imperialist system they represent and serve to pursue global power and supremacy—which is foundational and essential to the functioning and continuation of their system. The interests of humanity and the lives of billions of people were secondary to those considerations.
In the final analysis, World War 3 did not happen primarily because the Soviet Union under Gorbachev "blinked" first—backing down in nuclear negotiations in 1986—and ultimately because it collapsed (in no small measure due to the strains placed on the Soviet empire as a result of the U.S. "full court press" and its threats of nuclear war.)
The end of the Cold War in 1991 did not bring fundamental change—much less an end—to the U.S. imperialists' reliance on nuclear weapons. Neither did Obama's election.
Today, the U.S. still maintains one of the world's two largest and most lethal nuclear arsenals (along with Russia)—an estimated 9,960 warheads, some 5,735 of which are operational and 3,696 of which are strategic (long range).
Nuclear weapons have remained a core element in U.S. military strategy. In 2002 under George W. Bush, the U.S. made ominous changes in nuclear strategy including scrapping arms control treaties, developing a new generation of nuclear weapons—including more "usable" tactical warheads—more fully integrating nuclear weapons into U.S. war fighting strategies, and planning for the possible preemptive use of nuclear weapons. For the first time, the U.S. stated it would contemplate nuclear strikes on non-nuclear powers—which effectively undermines the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
In September 2002, Bush signed Presidential Directive 17, a document which states, "The United States will continue to make clear that it reserves the right to respond with overwhelming force—including potentially nuclear weapons—to the use of [weapons of mass destruction] against the United States, our forces abroad, and friends and allies."
Three months later, in December 2002, a new "National Strategy to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction" was issued which threatened first strikes, possibly with nuclear weapons, against countries thought to be developing chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons.
It is not widely known, but during its 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration never took the nuclear option off the table. Two months before the war, the Los Angeles Times reported that the Pentagon was "quietly preparing for the possible use of nuclear weapons in a war against Iraq...including the possible use of so-called bunker-buster nuclear weapons against deeply buried military targets." (See endnotes for sources)
During his time in office, Obama has stated that a central component of his foreign policy is strengthening treaties to reduce nuclear weapons, including U.S.-Russian agreements, and he has talked generally about working for a world without nuclear weapons. The U.S. and Russia recently concluded an agreement to cut their arsenals of deployed strategic nuclear warheads by one-quarter to 1,600 each. This does not count each side's thousands of stored strategic warheads and tactical nuclear weapons, and still leaves them with an arsenal capable of wreaking unimaginable destruction over the planet. (New York Times, December 18 & 19, 2009)
There is no evidence that Obama has fundamentally changed U.S. nuclear strategy, rolled back the decisions of the Bush years, or has any serious plan to actually eliminate the U.S. nuclear stockpile.
There is, however, evidence, that Obama is continuing to upgrade and modernize U.S. nukes. Democracy Now! (October 1, 2009) reports that the Obama administration is "going ahead with a Bush administration program increasing nuclear weapons production... The administration is proposing to build new plutonium pits at the Los Alamos Lab in New Mexico and expand enriched uranium processing at the Y-12 facility in Oak Ridge, Tennessee." (See Matthew Cardinale, "Nukes Agency Pushes New Bomb Production," Inter Press Service [IPS], September 30, 2009)
As discussed below, the actual purpose and impact of Obama's rhetoric and his diplomatic steps are not to eliminate nuclear weapons, but to put the U.S. in a stronger position to keep its own arsenal—while imposing its own diktat on those it seeks to prevent having nuclear weapons. In short, to maintain the nuclear monopoly—largely in the hands of the U.S. and its allies.
At Oslo, Obama condemned Islamic fundamentalists for their wanton disregard for human life: "Terrorism has long been a tactic," he said, "but modern technology allows a few small men with outsized rage to murder innocents on a horrific scale."
But who was it—repeatedly and massively over the 60 plus years following World War 2 that wantonly snuffed out millions and millions of lives—overwhelmingly civilians—often to terrorize and crush whole populations? None other than Barack Obama's United States of America: whether killing some 3 million with conventional weapons in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War, or by killing over 500,000 through its backing and organizing of death squads in Central America in the 1980s, or by killing over 500,000 Iraqis—mainly children—during the 1990s via the imposition of crippling economic sanctions.
The U.S. rulers were perfectly clear about what they were doing—and occasionally they blurted out some of that truth. In 1996, then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was asked during a CBS 60 Minutes interview about the impact of sanctions on Iraq. Leslie Stahl asked: "We have heard that half a million Iraqi children have died. I mean, that's more children than died in Hiroshima. And—and you know, is the price worth it?" Albright's answer: "I think this is a very hard choice, but the price—we think the price is worth it."
Earlier in the year Obama stressed that when it comes to nuclear treaties: "Rules must be binding. Violations must be punished. Words must mean something."
In Oslo, he focused on the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), "whose bargain is clear," as he put it: "all will have access to peaceful nuclear power; those without nuclear weapons will forsake them; and those with nuclear weapons will work toward disarmament."
Obama then insisted, "it is also incumbent upon all of us to insist that nations like Iran and North Korea do not game the system."
There is so much lying and hypocrisy here it's hard to know where to begin.
First, the NPT was signed in 1968. Since then the major nuclear powers—especially the U.S. and Russia—have refused to "work toward disarmament" in any kind of real way, but instead as we have described, maintained huge stockpiles of devastating and potentially planet-killing weapons—even as the numbers of those have fluctuated—and continued to hold humanity hostage, and continued to threaten to use nuclear weapons, most recently in U.S. threats against Iraq in 2003 and recent Israeli threats against Iran.
Second, the U.S. has been "gaming the system" since day one. When it has suited U.S. imperialist purposes, it has aided, abetted, and allied with countries who have refused to even sign the NPT, and instead developed nuclear weapons, reactionary countries which pose grave nuclear threats to the people: Israel, Pakistan, and India. Meanwhile, it has threatened sanctions and even war against a country like Iran for pursuing the development of nuclear energy, a right under the NPT. (Iran may in fact seek nuclear weapons or the ability to make them; however this has not been proven, and in any event, the U.S. has made clear that it considers even Iran's mastery of the enrichment cycle needed to process uranium for nuclear power intolerable.)
Compare the U.S. attitude toward Iran—a country with no nuclear weapons which has signed the NPT—with its attitude toward Israel—a state with a stockpile of 150 to 200 nuclear weapons, which has not signed the NPT, whose facilities are never inspected, which has waged one war after another against its neighbors and which is committing war crimes and crimes against humanity against the Palestinian people as part of its campaign of ethnic cleansing.
Israel's nuclear arsenal is treated as untouchable, even though Israel has repeatedly threatened to attack Iran (and other countries). There are no calls by any U.S. establishment political figures—Democrat or Republican—for Israel to sign the NPT or submit to international inspections.
Instead, as Noam Chomsky has recently written, in the weeks before Obama's Oslo speech, "Amid the furor over Iranian duplicity, the IAEA passed a resolution calling on Israel to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and open its nuclear facilities to inspection. The United States and Europe tried to block the IAEA resolution, but it passed anyway. The media virtually ignored the event. The United States assured Israel that it would support Israel's rejection of the resolution—reaffirming a secret understanding that has allowed Israel to maintain a nuclear arsenal closed to international inspections, according to officials familiar with the arrangements. Again, the media were silent." (Noam Chomsky, "War, Peace, and Obama's Nobel," In These Times, November. 5, 2009)
Israel has also been a nuclear proliferator—helping the racist apartheid regime of South Africa to obtain nuclear weapons in the 1970's.
So today, one of the greatest dangers of nuclear attack—a conflict that could engulf the whole Middle East and spread to the whole world—does not come from Iran. It comes from the U.S. and Israel and their efforts to maintain their nuclear monopoly in the Middle East and prevent Iran from even acquiring the know-how for enriching uranium.
The first question is—why does Pakistan even have nuclear weapons, which Islamists could potentially get hold of, in the first place? Pakistan's nuclear program has its roots in its 60-plus year rivalry with India, but also in American support for Pakistan's reactionary rulers, and its tacit support of Pakistan's nuclear program. Pakistan is ruled by big capitalists and landlords, and has one of the world's deepest chasms between rich and poor. It has been ruled by military juntas for much of its existence, juntas which fostered Islamization as a foundation of legitimacy, a tool of state, and a means of suffocating the masses.
For decades, the U.S. supported Pakistan as a counterweight to India—which was then allied with the Soviet Union—in the region, despite Pakistan's refusal to sign the NPT. This included billions in military aid and close military collaboration. India exploded its first nuclear weapon in 1974. Two years earlier Pakistan had decided to embark on a nuclear program of its own. By 1986 it had the capability of assembling a nuclear bomb, and in 1998 it carried out its first test explosions of its nuclear weapons.
The U.S. has at various times chastised Pakistan for developing nuclear weapons, and temporarily imposed sanctions and cut off aid. But these cuts have been short-lived and never trumped U.S. strategic objectives in the region. For instance, in 1979, the U.S. cut off all military aid to Pakistan over concerns its nuclear program was not strictly peaceful. Yet as soon as the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, the U.S. pledged military and economic support and by 1982 had lifted its embargo and resumed military and economic aid. The Reagan administration in particular turned a blind eye to Pakistan's efforts to develop nuclear weapons.
India and Pakistan have nearly gone to all-out war, potentially including nuclear weapons, twice, most recently in 2002. In addition to helping Pakistan develop nuclear weapons, U.S. actions in the region have helped fuel the India-Pakistan rivalry and thus poured fuel on this potential nuclear fire. For instance, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the U.S. began trying to cultivate India as its main ally in the region (and recently agreed to aid India's nuclear program). Then, in 2001, it overthrew the pro-Pakistan Taliban in Afghanistan and thus opened Afghanistan up to further Indian influence. (And the U.S. has refused to work for any just resolution of the Kashmir issue, which is a key fault line between India and Pakistan.) All of this has stoked the regional India-Pakistan rivalry—and this is one reason that Pakistan has continued to support the Taliban in Afghanistan—and contributed to the danger of war between these reactionary, nuclear-armed states.
Having helped pile up combustible nuclear tinder in South Asia, the U.S. imperialists have also fueled reactionary Islamic fundamentalism and in that way as well contributed to the possibility of fundamentalists getting the bomb. The U.S. has fanned the flames of fundamentalism by, among other things, supporting the Pakistan's reactionary and quasi-fundamentalist military rulers, arming and training jihadists in Pakistan and Afghanistan during the 1980s, driving the Taliban and other Islamists out of Afghanistan and into Pakistan with its 2001 invasion and occupation, and then poured gasoline on this tinder in both Afghanistan and Pakistan by its mass bombings of civilians and overall brutality of its occupation—including illegally detaining, holding, and torturing both Pakistanis and Afghanis.
All this has created enormous rage, tension, and instability in Pakistan. And Obama's latest surge—which includes more drone strikes and other military operations in Pakistan (reportedly including in major cities)—may well intensify these hatreds and increase the fragility of the Pakistani state.
Obama, like his predecessors in the Oval Office, justifies U.S. actions by claiming "god" is on America's side: "God bless you, and God bless the United States of America," he concluded at West Point, after announcing the escalation of the war in Afghanistan and the deployment of 30,000 more troops.
What is this clash between imperialism and Islamic fundamentalism—both reactionary and "outmoded" social forces—leading to? In Bringing Forward Another Way, Bob Avakian writes, "I have pointed out before that, sooner or later if things keep going the way they are—and in particular if these ′two historically outmodeds′ continue to drive much of the dynamics of things and reinforce each other even while opposing each other—then things could get to the point where some of these Islamic fundamentalist forces will get some real weapons of mass destruction, maybe even nuclear ones, and then the shit's going to really fly on a whole other level."
This is looming larger today in Pakistan.
So any honest accounting of the history of U.S. actions around the world in the last 60 years—and today—shows a wanton disregard for human life, a ruling class repeatedly driven to murder millions and risk even greater slaughter, whose actions have not only spawned enormous suffering but also sharpened rivalries, accelerated the nuclear arms race, and fueled Islamic fundamentalism.
So given all this, you can't make an honest argument that the U.S. rulers are any more guided by concerns of humanity, avoiding civilian deaths, and protecting the planet from a nuclear holocaust than the Islamic fundamentalists they condemn. In fact, the imperialists are the primary authors of these horrors, with far, far more power to inflict damage than the Islamists.
Today, Obama is arguing—and demanding—that this same ruling class be strengthened and followed. At Oslo it wasn't simply or even mainly that his speech was hypocritical in a general way (War = Peace). The deeper reality was that he was using the Peace Prize platform to advance and legitimize a U.S. imperialist agenda of escalating war, bullying and bloodshed. Obama's talk of a world without nuclear weapons, in particular, is an effort to legitimize the continued U.S. possession (and possible use) of nuclear weapons and its role in policing who has and doesn't have them—and its use of military force (including nuclear weapons) if need be, in pursuit of its own interests—as if this is somehow part of a plan to get rid of nuclear weapons.
In short, now that the imperialists have created an explosive and nightmarish hell on earth—with the potential to engulf whole regions and the planet in ongoing and possibly nuclear war, they demand that only they be allowed to solve the crisis—with the very means that have helped create it in the first place and when history has shown that their "solutions" only pave the way and prepare the ground for the next horror and the next emergency.
On the deepest level, capitalism is an economic and social system whose core nature and functioning rests on ruthless competition—economically, politically and militarily—between rival powers and blocs of capital. And this expresses itself in military rivalry, clashes and horrific wars for dominance over vast swaths of the earth and efforts to prevent other powers from doing likewise. And it means these powers will never give up their military forces and advantages—including nuclear weapons.
In sum, Obama is demanding that we protect and preserve this system and the deadly dynamics it spawns for our "safety." The only thing these imperialists are concerned about keeping "safe" is their right and ability to dominate, exploit, and threaten the planet. This is a choice anyone who faces reality and has a conscience should vehemently reject.
He's telling us we should ignore everything the U.S. has done to the people of the world, to forget how 80% of the world's population is forced to live and the threats and death they endure at U.S. hands—instead we should just focus on "us," and the possible danger to "us." And to give the U.S. rulers a blank check to continue to do what they will to defend the interests of empire. In short, let however many be slaughtered or tortured for our "safety" and the American way of life.
Supporting Obama and the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan is signing on to ALL this. This is sickening and unconscionable for anyone with a shred of basic morality or concern for humanity.
And we should vehemently reject their entire system. Can there be any insanity as monumental and criminal as repeatedly risking all human life on the planet for the strategic concerns of a handful of exploiters and oppressors? Can there be anything as monstrous as the repeated murder of hundreds of thousands and even millions in the horrific wars they fight—whether by conventional or nuclear weapons? Can there be anything as perverse as the biggest practitioners of nuclear terror and risk-taking and mass slaughter posing as the guarantors of "peace"??
And that's not all. As we speak, these same monsters are also plunging the planet into ecological catastrophe (while arresting and beating those who protest on the planet's behalf) and consigning billions to a "way of life" that, as the Manifesto, Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage says, "drains away—or in an instant blows away—life for the great majority of humanity."
Well... isn't that argument enough for revolution? And the possibility exists to eliminate the roots of these kinds of wars and conflicts, through revolution to get to—again, as laid out in the Manifesto—"a whole different way of life... in which human beings, individually and above all in their mutual interaction with each other, can throw off the heavy chains of traditions and rise to their full height and thrive in ways never before experienced, or even fully imagined."
And when that revolution includes the elimination of destructive conflicts between nations and indeed the whole existence of antagonistic nation-states oppressing the people and fighting each other, well, isn't that worth putting everything you have into making that happen?
** Excerpts from Oil, Power & Empire: Iraq and the U.S. Global Agenda on changes in U.S. nuclear posture during the George W. Bush administration (Chapter 1, pp. 22, 23)
Ominous changes are also taking place in U.S. nuclear strategy. The latest U.S. "Nuclear Posture Review," leaked to the Los Angeles Times in February 2002, advocates scrapping arms control treaties, developing a new generation of nuclear weapons—including more "usable" tactical warheads—more fully integrating nuclear weapons into U.S. war fighting strategies, and planning for the possible preemptive use of nuclear weapons. For the first time, the U.S. stated it would contemplate nuclear strikes on non-nuclear powers. This latter move effectively undermines the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The Los Angeles Times reported:
The Bush administration has directed the military to prepare contingency plans to use nuclear weapons against at least seven countries and to build smaller nuclear weapons for use in certain battlefield situations, according to a classified Pentagon report obtained by the Los Angeles Times. The secret report, which was provided to Congress on Jan. 8, says the Pentagon needs to be prepared to use nuclear weapons against China, Russia, Iraq, North Korea, Iran, Libya and Syria. It says the weapons could be used in three types of situations: against targets able to withstand nonnuclear attack; in retaliation for attack with nuclear, biological or chemical weapons; or 'in the event of surprising military developments.'1
In September 2002, Bush signed Presidential Directive 17, a secret document which states, "The United States will continue to make clear that it reserves the right to respond with overwhelming force—including potentially nuclear weapons—to the use of [weapons of mass destruction] against the United States, our forces abroad, and friends and allies."2
Three months later, in December 2002, a new "National Strategy to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction" was issued which threatened first strikes, possibly with nuclear weapons, against countries thought to be developing chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons.3
Top Bush officials radiate, as it were, a vicious eagerness to use military power, including nuclear weapons. "Rule nothing out," Rumsfeld wrote in the May/June 2002 issue of Foreign Affairs. "The enemy must understand that we will use every means at our disposal to defeat them, and that we are prepared to make whatever sacrifices are necessary to achieve victory."4
It is not widely known that the Bush administration never took the nuclear option off the table in Iraq. Two months before the war, the Los Angeles Times reported that the Pentagon was "quietly preparing for the possible use of nuclear weapons in a war against Iraq...including the possible use of so-called bunker-buster nuclear weapons against deeply buried military targets."5
1. The review had been underway since September 2000, and was made public after it was leaked to the Los Angeles Times in February 2002. Paul Richter, "U.S. Works Up Plan for Using Nuclear Arms," Los Angeles Times, March 9, 2002. [back]
2. Jonathan Schell, "The Case Against the War," The Nation, March 3, 2003. [back]
3. "National Strategy to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction," December 2002; David E. Sanger, "U.S. Issues Warning to Foes in Arms Plan," New York Times, December 11, 2002; Mike Allen and Barton Gellman, "Preemptive Strikes Part Of U.S. Strategic Doctrine," Washington Post, December 11, 2002, A1. [back]
4. Rumsfeld, Foreign Affairs, May/June 2002, p. 31. [back]
5. Paul Richter, "U.S. Weighs Tactical Nuclear Strike on Iraq" Los Angeles Times, January 25, 2003. [back]
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Revolution #187, December 27, 2009
Excerpt from Raymond Lotta webcast:
The following transcript is of excerpts from a webcast talk by Raymond Lotta given on December 15, 2009. It has been slightly edited for publication by the author.
Tremendous productive forces and technology already exist that could be used to address the environmental crisis. Most importantly, there are billions of people all over the world, with their vast knowledge and potential creativity, who could be mobilized, and unleashed to figure out how to put a stop to the way the earth is being destroyed.
To save this planet, we need revolution. And by revolution, I don't mean just lots of change and new things happening. I am talking about something very specific: the people rising up, with visionary leadership guided by the most advanced understanding of social transformation, rising up and overthrowing the rule of the capitalist class. Revolution means stripping the capitalist-imperialists of their economic, political, and military power. Revolution means creating a new state power and a new economy, with new aims and goals, and the means to carry out those goals.
We need revolution to bring into being socialist societies around the world aimed at creating a communist world. A world free of exploitation and all oppression, a world that is no longer divided into classes, where there is a shared material wealth that meets the needs of individuals and society as a whole. Communism is a community of world humanity in which people are consciously changing the world and changing themselves.
And socialism is the first step in getting to a communist world. Under socialism, humanity can interact with the environment in a rational and sustainable way, consciously regulate production, and reverse and transform environmental devastation. In a socialist economy, ownership and control of production is socialized and there is a planned economy aimed at serving the needs of the people. The preservation of ecosystems would be integrated as a central priority in economic planning and development.
Earlier I talked about capitalist monetary calculation and accounting. Under socialism, economic calculation would be radically different. Yes, attention would have to be paid to issues of cost and efficiency. But this would no longer be in the interest and pursuit of profit. Economic calculation would be guided by broad criteria and goals: social need; environmental sustainability; achieving rational balances between industry and agriculture; seeking new ways to integrate town and country; to overcome the division between mental and manual labor.
And under socialism, the externalities of production that I'm talking about—the direct and indirect effects that a unit of production, a sphere of production, any region of production, might have on broader economic and social and environmental life—these effects, these externalities, would be the responsibility of society as a whole. In a certain sense, socialism "internalizes" these externalities, makes them a question for society as a whole to analyze and understand, to figure out how to deal with the problems and the contradictions thrown up by these externalities, and to marshal the know-how and the resources and the resolve of people in society to solve them.
Planning under socialism would be integrated and multidimensional. It would take in issues of health, the alienation from work that people might experience. And a socialist economy and society would be consciously working to promote and advance the world revolution towards a communist world.
Socialist society will promote a sense of appreciation and responsibility for the protection of the environment. Now socialism existed in the Soviet Union in the years 1917-1956, and in China between 1949 and 1976. And Maoist China, especially during the Cultural Revolution, made advances, rather stunning advances, in developing the economy in a rational way, and paid attention in a way that previous socialist society in the Soviet Union did not, to ecological issues. And Mao made breakthroughs in understanding socialist planning as a dynamic process that must serve the most radical transformation of society—and that must rely on the conscious activism of the people.
But much more is needed. Much, much more is needed and much more is possible. This is so for three reasons:
For one, the environmental problem has grown more perilous than was the case in the first wave of socialist revolutions in the 20th century.
Second, we as communists have gained new knowledge of how central environmental issues are to economy, society, and the survival of humanity. In my opinion, it is no longer possible to do political economy, to do any kind of serious political economy outside an understanding of the crucial role of ecological and environmental issues in the development of society and humanity.
And most importantly, it is possible to go further and to do better in making socialist revolution because of the new synthesis of Bob Avakian—which provides us with new understanding of the kind of society that socialism needs to be and an orientation to build that society and to spread and promote world revolution.
Bob Avakian, the leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party, has been developing a re-envisioned socialism and communism—a more vibrant and scientific communism that does provide a solid basis to go much further and do much better than in previous socialist societies.
One of the things that Avakian has been emphasizing is the importance of intellectual, scientific, and cultural ferment in socialist society. Science must be freed from all the institutional fetters and constraints of capitalism that I mentioned earlier—like the commercial imperative, the role of the military, and so on and so forth.
On the one hand, socialist society will need to mobilize scientists, engineers, and ecologists to work on enormous problems such as the environment. There will be need to organize great mobilizations, great efforts and enormously focused projects to address the kind of calamitous situation we face. But society and humanity will also require far ranging research, new thinking, and experimentation that will not be so directly related to these focused projects. There will be room for scientists to pursue questions that are not directly applicable to problems in society. And this experimentation must also be supported and funded. Science must be unfettered.
And at the same time, science must be uncloistered. There is the knowledge that comes from basic people in workplaces and communities. And socialist society must be promoting all kinds of cross-pollination of understanding and experience: meteorologists and engineers exchanging knowledge about the sciences and scientific method with basic people getting into science, while professionals will be learning from the insights and the aspirations of basic people.
Science will be popularized in society. The great debates among scientists and ecologists about how to solve the problem of global warming, about its scale and how it is developing—these debates, these discussions, these insights will be popularized and taken up in society. Socialist society, through the socialist state led by a vanguard party, will need to establish priorities in development: in reconfiguring industry, in allocating funds and materials and protecting natural resources.
We will need to create sustainable cities. We will need to develop agricultural systems that do not cause undue harm to the environment, that allow for technologies and practices that can be locally adapted and fitted to particular conditions—and that can deal with changes in climate, that can innovate, and that can respond to changes in need.
We will have to meet the great and immediate needs of the masses of people—to pay focused attention to those who have been at the bottom of society, their needs and requirements—and at the same time we're going to have to be developing an economy that is no longer based on fossil fuels, and that's going to require extraordinary innovation and extraordinary effort. It's going to require a correct understanding of priority and how to mobilize and unleash people to address these problems.
But these policies, and indeed the very direction of society, all of this must be debated out broadly in socialist society. And the unresolved contradictions of socialist society, the fact that there still are social differences between professionals and intellectuals and those who are mainly working with their hands, the fact that in socialist society there is the need to use money and price in some forms, the fact that in socialist society there are still gaps in development between regions, still tremendous social struggles and ideological battles to wage to overcome patriarchy and the legacy of the oppression of minority nationalities. The fact that we don't have all the answers to the environmental crisis.
All these kinds of things in socialist society will bring forward questioning... will bring forward new ideas... will bring forward protest, dissatisfaction, struggle... and even upheavals. Is this a good or a bad thing?
Well, Avakian sees this as a driving force for continuing the revolution. And specifically with regard to the environmental crisis, he has spoken of what he calls the Arundhati Roys under socialism. As people know, Arundhati Roy had been in the forefront of struggles against the construction of environmentally destructive dams in India. Will Arundhati Roy and people like her still be able to protest under socialism? Avakian has emphasized that socialism must be a society where dissent is not only allowed but encouraged and valued. And people like Arundhati Roy must also be looked to—in order to help develop solutions to these very deep and serious environmental problems, even as there will be ideological struggle over issues of socialism, communism and where humanity is headed and needs to go.
This is all part of the process of getting at the truth of society and the world, of promoting critical thinking in socialist society, and enabling the masses to more deeply understand and more profoundly transform the world. And this will get very tense and wild at times, including protests and upheavals that can destabilize society. But all this is part of the process of getting to communism. Maximum elasticity and experimentation—without losing power, without losing the revolution and everything it means for world humanity. You need visionary communist leadership, a solid core, as Avakian calls it, to lead this complex process forward.
With this understanding of socialism, it becomes clearer why the masses of people are the single greatest resource. And with all their creative energy, knowledge, and concern, the people can be mobilized to struggle out, to argue and debate, and work together to figure out how build a society that truly safeguards humanity and the very life of the planet itself. In this way, human society can appreciate the wild, the wondrous beauty, and the complexity of nature—and consciously act on that as the guardians of the planet.
All of which is to say: we need to save the world from environmental collapse and we need to create a radically different and better world.
Now I want to sketch out some key tasks and challenges a socialist society will face—on the basis of seizing power in what is today the United States.
First, there is the question of how a socialist society relates to the world. A sustainable socialist economy must bend every effort to promoting and supporting the struggle to remake the world through revolution. It will take socialist revolution and ultimately a communist world to deal with this planetary crisis. It will take overcoming all systems of exploitation and oppression, and overcoming and transcending capitalism. This is because capitalism is both the cause of this crisis and the barrier to seriously, substantively moving to solve this environmental crisis on the scale required. So socialist society must be promoting world revolution.
But there will be a great challenge—because revolution will not take place simultaneously throughout the world. And yet we face a global environmental emergency. And for a genuine socialist society, this means that it cannot put its national development above the interests of the preservation of the ecosystems of the entire planet. The new socialist society will provide technical and financial assistance for helping to clean up and reverse environmental damage in other parts of the world. Scientific knowledge will be shared. Intellectual property rights will be torn up.
The new socialist society cannot be based on exploitation and cannot be built in a way that reproduces relations of international domination. It will immediately dismantle all military bases, occupations, and cancel all imperialist treaties. A genuine socialist economy cannot be built in a country like the United States without shattering its former international economic relations.
When the revolution comes to power, the new socialist state in what is today the United States, will liquidate all international holdings. It will put an end to, it will abolish its entire pollution-intensive, cheap-labor, global manufacturing grids of production. The structure of production and the resource base of the new socialist economy will no longer depend on labor and materials from other countries, like cheap inputs from maquiladora factories in Mexico, or inflows of oil from abroad.
Now, a key goal of the new economy will be to quickly move away from reliance on non-renewable and polluting fossil-fuel energy and technology towards ecologically sound technologies, like solar, wind, and geothermal power. Transportation will be moved away from the automobile/highway and fossil-fuel freight-centered transport systems. The senseless burning up of oil to have people commute to work hours away must end. Safe and efficient mass transit will be given priority in all new development, restructuring, and research.
The socialist economy will combine large-scale with diversified small-scale production. This system of production will no longer be focused on long-distance supplies and deliveries. Rather, it will involve interchanges within local and regional economies within the coordinated socialist economy of society as a whole.
Now, you know a plate of food that's consumed in the United States travels, on average, 1,500 miles from source to table, 1,500 miles. And transportation in turn is fossil-fuel-intensive. This has to change. These are the kinds of challenges that we face, to feed people, but to feed people in environmentally sustainable ways. To develop a transport system that is environmentally sustainable.
And you need a unified socialist economy, you need unified and centralized socialist planning, to establish key balances, to establish key requirements, to identify key requirements in production and technology. And we need a unified socialist economy to deal with the new "externalities" that we'll be facing in socialist society, that is, those things that arise unexpectedly from the activities of different units of production, from different levels, different regions of society and that impact larger society.
And socialist societies, freed from the dictates of profit and private control, will be able to prepare for and confront natural disasters such as floods, hurricanes and droughts, whose dangers and effects will require concerted and society-wide efforts and mobilization.
The shift toward self-reliance will require resource conservation and the radical overhauling of production practices. There must be a different mix of output to meet production and consumption needs. Recycling and multiuse of materials and products will replace the economy of planned obsolescence and throwaway products.
So this kind of economy has to combine centralization, the overall coordination, the overall sense of where things have to go, these key balances, with decentralization, with all kinds of experimentation, all kinds of incredible initiative throughout society. And all this has to be summed up and learned from. This is part of the crucial dynamic of socialist society and socialist planning: centralized coordination and direction and leadership, and decentralized initiative and management. And this has tremendous implications for rationally interacting with the environment.
Now, the changes I've been talking about, the requirements of confronting this ecological crisis, will affect the consumption of the new society. People's needs will be met and the new economy will strive to produce a rational variety of consumer goods. But the "convenience" of having Indonesian workers cater to the athletic clothing needs, or peasants in other parts of the world catering to the upscale coffee sensibilities, of people in this society—that will be no more. This will clearly be a matter of education and ideological struggle. At the same time, people's social needs will change with the transformation of social life. There will not be the same obsession with consumption, with the need to define oneself on the basis of what and how much one consumes.
Finally, in talking about some key principles of socialist sustainable development, I want to come back to the international ecological responsibilities of a socialist society in a highly developed country like the United States. Given what is happening, given the scale of this environmental emergency, and given how the productive forces, as they have developed, and as they have been utilized, and as they have impacted the world environment under capitalist rule, under imperialist rule... given how all that has developed and unfolded, it will be necessary, and this is a new insight for socialist sustainable development theory and understanding, it will be necessary to substantially cut the scale of economic output in the already developed countries.
In other words, while I have been emphasizing the radical qualitative changes that must take place in what is produced and how it is produced, it will also be necessary to consciously regulate and curb growth in what are today the rich capitalist countries. [Author's note: I have received some comments raising questions about the formulation of scaling down the level of economic output--that this is perhaps presented too categorically, and does not take sufficient account of various needs and contradictions the newly-won socialist state may be facing. I am continuing to study this question.]
These are new challenges that we face. I'm doing a lot of reading about this, trying to understand what the implications are. This is important, and there is much to learn from ecologists, scientists, and social theorists of different persuasions, from the work that they've been doing.
These are the kinds of challenges we face. We have principles of socialist sustainable development to deal with them, but we have to develop those principles much further. And we have the new synthesis of Bob Avakian that can enable us to develop the kind of society that can unleash and mobilize people, a society that will allow us not only to solve these basic problems, but to create a world in which humanity can flourish.
So I want to conclude.
There are people right now demonstrating in the streets of Copenhagen. Some are carrying banners that read "we have a system emergency." They are saying that we can't wait until the auto companies find their way, perhaps 20 years from now, to electric cars. They are saying that we can't wait 50 years until the energy companies recover their heavy investments that are sunk into oil wells and coalfields, that we can't wait those 50 years before we adopt renewable energy practices.
There are scientists like James Hansen who are taking the occasion of Copenhagen to educate the people about how dire the situation is, to spread understanding of climate science, and to point out how the agenda at Copenhagen has very little to offer in truly addressing the problem of climate change. Hansen likened the moral stakes to ending slavery. Could you compromise with slavery, could you say, "well, maybe we could accept a 30 percent cut in slavery"?
This is a time to raise sights. This is a time to raise our determination. If you want a world where people live and flourish...where we act together as caretakers of the globe...where we enhance the wild and natural world we live in...then you need to get with this revolution, with this communist revolution, and spread it now. The very fate of the planet and humanity are stake.
Thank you very much.
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Revolution #187, December 27, 2009
The Copenhagen UN Summit talks on climate change are over and their message to the earth and humanity are clear: Drop Dead.
The accord that came out of this meeting was first called "an important (though modest) step" by U.S. and European Union leaders—despite the fact that no commitments of any kind were made to cut greenhouse gas emissions responsible for global warming. A day later this farce of an agreement was being hailed by spokespeople as a "great step" and an "unprecedented accomplishment." This is a complete cover-up and sham.
Barack Obama, who was in Copenhagen for all of eight hours, and other U.S. officials rammed this agreement through at the last minute when the summit was facing breakdown. This summit was contentious. Poor nations had walked out of the meeting at one point due to the lack of any commitment to cut emissions by the main producers of greenhouse gases and other issues. Repeated mass protests outside of where the talks were held punctuated the atmosphere and broke into the international spotlight.
Like the world-class gangsters they are, Obama and Hillary Clinton burst into a meeting held by China and other countries, according to the New York Times, announced that negotiations would not go on in secret, without the United States. This is blatant godfather thuggery and hypocrisy from a system known for conducting secret wars, criminal invasions and imperialist arm-twisting throughout history.
In fact, this agreement itself was pulled together by the U.S. in a closed door meeting of representatives from only 25 or so of the 190 countries represented and then imposed on the rest. And from now on, it appears the rich capitalist countries will solve the problem of the "contentiousness" of these summits by just totally barring the poor nations entirely. The New York Times wrote that according to a representative from the Council on Foreign Relations, that the world's leading greenhouse polluters will instead meet only amongst themselves to, "tackle a narrower agenda of issues, such as technology sharing or the merging of carbon-trading markets, without the chaos and posturing of the U.N. process."
At the summit, Obama used the promise of billions of dollars in aid to poor countries to supposedly deal with devastation from global warming as a bribe. Then he threatened that without an agreement there wouldn't be any aid.
Lumumba Stanislaus Di-Aping, a Sudanese diplomat who has been representing the Group of 77 developing countries, denounced the accord: "The developed countries have decided that damage to developing countries is acceptable," he told reporters, saying that the 2-degree target would "result in massive devastation to Africa and small island states." He and many other representatives of the most vulnerable countries wanted a target of 1.5 degrees.
"Today's events, which really are a continuation of the history of the negotiations for the last two years, represent the worst development in climate change negotiations in history," Mr. Di-Aping said. (New York Times, December 12, 2009)
The "Copenhagen Accord" that emerged contains absolutely no binding commitments to cut the emissions of greenhouse gases or deforestation that are warming the planet. The accord even dropped goals for cuts in previous agreements. And these agreements were already a sham because they contained no method of making or enforcing these cuts. The accord claims great concern about global warming and says world temperatures need to be kept from rising above 2 degrees, but says nothing about how this will actually take place. In other words—this agreement is just a continuation of business as usual—which is a potential death sentence for the environment and humanity.
A group of climate scientists (www.climateinteractive.org) came together to analyze the proposals on the table during the summit. Up until the day of the accord, they had been reporting that even if all the promises for greenhouse gas emission cuts were actually carried out by all these governments—the temperature of the planet would still rise 3.9 degrees Celsius (C) (7 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100. (The scientific consensus says that temperatures must be kept below 1.5-2 degees C or disaster will ensue.) After the accord was released, climate interactive stated the accord had too few quantifiable results to even analyze.
People around the globe desperately wanted something to come out of this summit. Many felt, with the eyes of the world on Copenhagen, with a new U.S. president... maybe something significant would finally be done to substantially reduce global greenhouse gas emissions responsible for global warming. They told themselves that doing anything would be better than doing nothing. But what the world's powers did was actually worse than doing nothing. This is because what came out of this summit does absolutely nothing to stop the planet from burning—while a BIG lie is being promoted that this summit has opened up the way to actually doing something about the environmental crisis.
The summit in Copenhagen never was an urgent gathering of scientists and people of good will from around the world to solve a global emergency. It was a gathering of government leaders, dominated by the capitalist-imperialist powers, with the U.S. as the head godfather. It was about the leaders of different powerful countries advancing their own interests at the expense of each other—and to the detriment and severe damage to humanity and the earth's ecosystems. It was all about these powers trying to gain advantage over their rivals. It was about creating new markets—such as the carbon trading market—as a new way to use rights to pollute to generate more profit. It was about powerful imperialist countries enforcing their interests over poor countries and the world's people, all while trying to "rebrand" themselves as eco-friendly savers of the planet.
Author George Monbiot who writes on globalization and the environment compared the Copenhagen summit to meetings in 1884 in Berlin where the world was carved up between the colonial powers. This time, however, he said, it is the atmosphere that's being carved up. The head of the G-77+China delegation (a grouping of poor nations and China), said for Africa, already facing massive drought fueled by global warming, the Copenhagen accord is akin to the Holocaust.
Humanity is confronted with something humans have never confronted before—the possibility that life, or at least much of life, on earth, could be snuffed out by environmental destruction with global warming the leading threat. Disastrous things are already occurring due to this warming (see online article, "Global Warming in the Himalayas"). For 17 years, world powers and other governments have been talking about stopping climate change. World governments have held conferences, summits, even passed treaties among some—such as the Kyoto treaty of 1997. But with all this, and now with Copenhagen, the only thing that has actually happened is that greenhouse emissions have skyrocketed and the rate of growth of them is getting worse. From 2000-2008, greenhouse emissions increased 29 percent worldwide. This system and its approach to nature place the very existance of life on the planet at risk. We need a revolution, and soon.
The capitalist system's approach to dealing with greenhouse gas emissions is by bringing these issues "into the marketplace." They plan to base emissions cuts on a global "carbon trading" system where greenhouse limits are supposedly set, and rights to pollute can be traded, generating tremendous profit. This is the logic and rules of operating-market profitability in command. This does not and can not really address the problem of rising carbon emissions—which to begin with come from putting profit in command. In fact, where this market system approach to the problem has been tried, it has totally failed to cut emissions.
The capitalists want to incorporate some new energy technologies into their profit making framework and are competing over who will benefit most from this, while their overall process of production remains completely locked in the framework of burning oil, coal and gas. In fact, as capitalist production is heating up the earth, the system seeks even more destructive and irrational means of grabbing up new reserves of oil and gas. In Alberta, Canada, huge reserves of dirty oil are being flushed out of tar sands—leaving massive pools of contaminated water in large open pits and threatening massive environmental destruction. As the arctic melts because of burning fossil fuels, the U.S., Norway, Canada, Russia and Denmark are vying to take advantage of the ice melting so they can do what? Drill for more oil in the regions of the northern seas that are becoming ice free.
Copenhagen showed once more that these summits are about different world powers vying to gain competitive advantage. U.S. negotiators, for example, tried to say that Obama's pledge to cut U.S. emissions and a decision by the EPA to declare greenhouse gases a pollutant (cleverly timed to coincide with Copenhagen), were examples of the U.S. moving to the forefront of the "global fight against climate change." In reality, the U.S. came with a pathetic proposal to cut emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. This would mean only a 3-4 percent cut below 1990 levels. The accepted science says that industrialized countries must cut emissions 25-40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 and 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. Emissions in the world as a whole must be cut 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. This is what must happen if there is to be any chance of averting catastrophic environmental damage.
Obama came to Copenhagen fresh off escalating the war in Afghanistan and picking up a Nobel peace prize while advocating more war. This was a double hypocrisy, because the dirty secret is that the U.S. military is the largest single user of petroleum and the largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions. Can anyone imagine U.S. tanks, bombers and drones warring on the planet powered by solar panels? Obama and U.S. officials came to Copenhagen representing the country that is by far the largest contributor in historical terms to the climate crisis. And yet had the audacity to demand concessions from China and other countries and then ram through a disastrous deal.
And the European countries meanwhile-posed as the "green capitalists," while Danish police spied on, beat, pepper sprayed and preemptively arrested at least 1,500 people out to fight for a planet that is livable. These "green capitalists" floated out that they might agree to cut greenhouse emissions 20 percent or maybe more by 2020—if their rivals in the U.S. would also cut much more, and as they also sought to enforce stringent cuts on oppressed countries. All the time European Union countries tried to portray themselves as the real champions of the earth. The world press talked about how the Kyoto treaty has been the only treaty that set binding limits on developed nations to cut emissions. But the blinding and hardly mentioned reality is that over the time of Kyoto—from 1997 until today—emissions in the European countries as a whole, have actually risen 5 percent (UK Guardian)!
Meanwhile, China and India—countries still under the domination of imperialist powers but seeking to develop into modern capitalist powers—also refused to make any binding emissions cuts, precisely because of this need to expand and "grow their economies." While China has surpassed the U.S. in global emissions, a central point is that this is largely because China is now the workshop and sweatshop of the world—integrated into a global network of capitalist production. Fully one-third of China's emissions have been linked to production for export, overwhelmingly goods produced by cheap exploited masses of proletarians for consumption in the rich imperialist countries. What this means is that all the investments in China by the imperialist countries, taking advantage of the low wages and lack of safety and environmental standards amounts to just offloading pollution from the rich countries onto China.
And this production fueled by international capital has led to a situation where 7 of the world's 10 most polluted cities are in China. 80 percent of China's major rivers are so degraded they don't support aquatic life and 90 percent of all groundwater systems under the major cities are contaminated. Even with the surge of emissions in China, still 75 percent of the carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere is the result of emissions from the advanced capitalist countries. The U.S. with 5 percent of the world's people, still produces 25 percent of the world's carbon dioxide. This amount is 30 percent when the emissions from the U.S. military, which aren't included in any of the account books, are added on. And the U.S. produces 4 times more greenhouse pollution per person than China.
Copenhagen didn't "fail" due to a "lack of will" on the part of the participants, or simply because there are just "too many divisions" that could be overcome by these leaders putting the planet first. Yes, the dominant forces in power are facing some very extreme environmental problems too—but they are, and showed themselves to be, only capable of addressing them within the confines of their systems of production which is the problem in the first place.
Capitalism is both the cause, and the barrier to solving, global warming.
Copenhagen's decisions are the result of power being in the hands of a system that is driven to maximize profit, to continually grow and expand—and ruthlessly out-compete others seeking to do the same. And it is impossible for this system to rupture out of this without tremendous dislocation and an overturning of all its structures of accumulation of capital and unending growth. This was supposed to be the summit where—after science has made dramatically clear that global warming threatens life on the planet—that drastic and mandatory cuts to greenhouse emissions were finally made. Instead, this summit was, and could only be, about the dominant players seeking to force concessions on competitors while preserving their own economic advantage, letting the planet and its people go die.
Life on this planet faces a crossroads. We don't have much time—the planet cannot be left in the hands of this system of capitalism-imperialism. This summit should go down in history as a meeting of historic criminality and shame further showing this system is simply incapable of doing anything but destroying the environment. But there is a way out. We have principles of socialist sustainable development that are capable of totally reorganizing society along different lines. And we have the more scientific and vibrant communism of Bob Avakian—a way to unleash the tremendous creativity and enthusiasm of masses on a scientific basis to tackle what would be extremely challenging environmental problems. These approaches offer real hope of preserving the ecosystems of the planet and humanity, and creating a world people could live and flourish in. We must confront the stakes of the global environmental emergency and have this fuel our determination and imagination. And we must work urgently to spread this revolution and to develop resistance to the crimes of this system on the environment and many other fronts as part of developing a revolutionary movement that can bury this system before it's too late.
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Revolution #187, December 27, 2009
Throughout the Copenhagen summit, there was courageous protest and resistance in the streets. On December 12, as reported in last week's Revolution, tens of thousands protested in Copenhagen along with at least tens of thousands more around the world. Danish police pre-emptively attacked and rounded up 1,000 people, subjecting them to abuse and pain in jail. In some cases, protesters were locked in cages inside the detention facility and pepper sprayed by police. Cops on the scene referred to these cages as "Guantánamo junior." Over the course of the 11 days of protests, at least 1,500 people were arrested in pre-emptive arrests. Danish police used newly passed powers to arrest and detain people who they suspected might break the law in the future. The laws also allow them to jail activists for 40 days if protesters are charged with "hindering the police." Daily marches were attacked by police with repeated rounds of arrests.
On December 16 thousands of people mobilized to Reclaim Power! and sought to march in various blocs to get to the Bella Center where the summit was being held. Their plan was to climb over barriers and set up a People's Assembly where real causes and solutions of climate change would be discussed and figured out. The protesters were viciously set on by Danish police, beating people with batons and shooting pepper spray. Delegates and non-governmental representatives who tried to walk out of the summit to join the protests for a people's assembly were also attacked and driven back into the hall. A number of mainstream environmental groups including Friends of the Earth (FOE) were refused entry into the summit on the day of the Reclaim Power! protest. In response, 50 members of the groups staged a sit-in inside the Bella Center. FOE is the largest environmental organization in the world, with chapters in 70 countries. Separately, hundreds of non-governmental organizations who had been attending the summit were informed they could no longer attend the summit as of December 17 to make way for world leaders.
Climate Justice Action (CJA) which coordinated and mobilized the protests spoke out to expose the many forms the police were taking to repress opposition to the summit. Three spokespeople for the group were snatched up by police before or during the December 16 protest and have been held and charged with felonies. In court hearings against two CJA leaders, it came out that Danish police had been tapping activists' phones. Activists also said that there has been widespread use of undercover police infiltrating protest meetings and actions.
Despite all this, the protests have been continual and defiant, and have broken through into the international spotlight—showing the desire of millions to save the planet, and indicting the forces responsible for global warming and their false solutions. And through all this as well, the nature of bourgeois democracy with its essence of vicious and brutal dictatorship enforced by the police forces, courts and jails has been brought more to light. As the criminals who are responsible for destroying the planet's living systems and humanity were meeting to carry out more plans to continue this—it was these instruments of state repression that defended this and tried to put down and shut up the people who were fighting for the future of the planet. This is outrageous and should be condemned by people all over the globe as the resisters are also defended and supported. On December 18, the summit's final day, CJA is planning a solidarity march to support those arrested and continue to indict the summit.
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Revolution #187, December 27, 2009
As the Copenhagen summit continued, a stunning example of the killing and devastating effects global warming and climate change is already having on humanity came out in a story from the UK Guardian newspaper. Reporters for the paper wrote a story about a 1,000 mile journey they had undertaken—from the Himalayan mountains in Nepal to the Bay of Bengal in Bangladesh where the rivers that start in the Himalayas empty out. These reporters wanted to observe and witness the actual effects of global warming on the people and ecosystems in this region.
Their journey started in the high Himalayas—the roof of the world, a world of snow-capped peaks and awe-inspiring glaciers. But they found something else—evidence of immense changes that are occurring. They saw the Thulagi glacier—with a melted lake that has doubled in size in a few years and is held back by only a low wall of dead ice and earth. If the glacier continues to melt as it has, billions of gallons of water will burst through this dam and devastate villages and farmland below. Thulagi is just one of 20 growing glacial lakes in Nepal. Average temperatures in Nepal have risen 1.6 degees C in 50 years. But high in the mountains of Nepal, temperatures have risen 4 degees C and are expected to increase 8 degees C by 2050 at the current rate.
The story says the people of the area feel as if they are "living under a death sentence." A local official in one town in the Everest valley region says, "They say they are not sure there will be a tomorrow... the snow used to come up to your waist in winter. Now children do not know what snow is. We have more flies and mosquitoes, more skin diseases. Communities are adapting by switching crops, but diseases are moving up the mountains."
Farther down from the mountains people are not able to plant their crops because the winter snows are not heavy—they have always relied on snow and glacier melt to water their fields. As the journey continues into other regions of Nepal, rainfall is becoming more unpredictable and erratic. In some areas there is drought, in others, torrential monsoon rains. Nepal's largest river, the Khosi, flooded hundreds of square kilometers of farmland, killing 1,500 people and displacing 3 million people in Nepal and India. When the water receded, people's farmlands were buried in 6 feet of sand, making it impossible to grow anything.
Further along this journey in India, it is drought which has been growing worse and worse. In the poor state of Bihar, only about 22 percent of the usual rainfall has come. As a result, 63 million people are expected to go hungry next year. The droughts used to happen every 4-5 years, but now things are much more erratic—rainfall is unpredictable and sometimes heavy and very destructive, while some of the flood-prone areas are facing drought. In cities in India such as Kolkata, temperatures have risen significantly and there are more cases of disease such as dengue fever and malaria.
When the journey concluded in the Bay of Bengal, dual problems were encountered. A sea-level rise is eating away at people's villages in some areas—and more powerful and frequent cyclones are also inundating islands and coastal villages with storm surges. Bangladesh will lose 20 percent of its land to sea level rise in the next 80 years if global warming is not reversed.
Think of all of this—of the effects on this entire region where 1 out of 4 people in the world live—all of them dependent on the Himalayas for water to drink, for irrigating croplands, for sanitation. What will it mean for decades more of global warming, melting off these glaciers until they are no more? Eliminating the natural beauty of these structures but even more devastating and destroying the lives where one-quarter of humanity live. And think of all the other changes brought by this warming drought, flooding and powerful storms already affecting so many people. And then multiply that again because that same thing is being repeated across the planet, with the poorest and the oppressed suffering by far the worst. The earth and humanity need revolution.
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Revolution #187, December 27, 2009
From A World to Win News Service
December 14, 2009. A World to Win News Service. The protests on December 7, National Student Day, revealed a developing situation in the upsurge in Iran. They included some of the most tactically combative street actions since the current movement arose in the wake of last June's presidential elections, and involved schools and universities throughout the country, including Iranian Kurdistan. Moreover, they showed a decreased, although still powerful, influence of the "green movement" led by presidential candidates Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi, who consider themselves an Islamic loyal opposition to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and many people's heightened determination to topple the whole Islamic Republic.
A video posted on YouTube shows students at Sharif University chanting, "Death to the oppressor, whether shah or supreme leader!" This is a reference to Ali Khamenei, whose position as both the ultimate religious and political authority is considered the essence of the regime's Islamic character, and the U.S.-backed regime of the Shah that the Islamic Republic replaced.
Marchers in central Tehran burned portraits of Khamenei and carried Iranian flags with the word "Allah" removed.
At some schools green flags and armbands and chants of "God is great!" predominated. At others anti-Islamic regime banners and slogans and even some red flags were more prominent. This situation varied widely from school to school.
Protests took place at nearly all of the country's universities and many secondary schools, including girls' schools. Internet media reported rallies in and around universities in Tehran, Kerman, Mashad, Isfahan, Kamedan and Sanandaj, a Kurdish city where the regime's repression is especially severe.
Security forces sealed off the main entrance to Tehran University. In streets and squares around the city huge pitched battles broke out between rock-throwing youth and baton-wielding plainclothes police and Basij militia members. Gunfire could be heard, although no shooting deaths were reported. Fighting continued through the next day.
Mousavi in particular was said to be upset by the youths' confrontational attitude. Pro-Western and imperialist-linked forces in Iran who want to pull the people's movement towards the U.S. imperialists were not happy.
Many young people expressed their radical sentiments openly in front of their schools and even within the school grounds in front of officials and snitches, unafraid of being recognized and punished. It was common to hear secondary school girls and boys defiantly proclaim that they could not be intimidated because they no longer cared what happened to them. All sorts of threats by various officials and Pasdaran (Revolutionary Guard) commanders and roundups of students in the days preceding December 7 failed to prevent these actions, the first in more than a month, although they were not as massive as some previous, less dangerous mass demonstrations involving a million or more people in the capital.
National Student Day has a 56-year history. In 1953, only three months after the U.S.-backed coup that overthrew the government of nationalist Prime Minister Dr. Mohammad Mossadeq and brought the Shah back to power, Richard Nixon, then the U.S. vice president, was supposed to visit Iran. Iranian students were determined to protest this visit and the U.S. imperialist coup-makers. However, on December 7 the Shah's army opened fire on a student demonstration. Hundreds were injured and three students were murdered. Since then the student struggle has been an important pillar of the Iranian people's movement. The Iranian student movement, both in the country and abroad, played an important role before, during and after the 1979 revolution that brought down the Shah.
This year Student Day had particular resonance. Many people believe that Ahmadinejad along with Khamenei and the Pasdaran imposed another coup on the country. This year again Student Day could not be confined behind the walls surrounding university campuses but spread to the streets and was widely joined by many people of all ages.
Following are excerpts from three reports received by the Iranian student newspaper Bazr a week before, two days before and on December 7 itself.
The government has decided to close the universities before Student Day. Everyone says they have done so out of fear. They sent the students who are not from Tehran back home in order to be able to control that day. We heard that the dormitories were evacuated, of course by force. Those who had to stay or wanted to stay were made to leave. Engineering faculty students who had to do their projects were sent to Asalouye (a construction site in southern Iran) to get them out of Tehran.
I got on the bus. It was very crowded – everybody was pushing everyone else. It was really hot inside the bus. Finally a woman said, "How long should we tolerate being so despised... forced to wear so much clothing and a scarf on our head? When will we be free? " A young girl immediately responded, "We'll teach them a lesson on 16 Azar (December 7)." Another one said, "They've announced that these days are a holiday, so that everyone leaves the city." Another young girl said, "People who want to protest won't go anywhere..."
Today everything is half closed. The government has announced today is a holiday. I go to the city but it is very crowded. No one has left town. It's not like other holidays. Maybe people are waiting for 16 Azar.
The security forces are everywhere and on all corners starting from Azadi Street. People are anxiously watching them and whispering to each other. People understand that there are plainclothes police and informers in the crowd, so they take that into account when they talk.
A middle-aged woman talking to a young girl asks her, "Why do you think that when Mousavi comes to power all our problems will be solved? Now that the people are in the streets and they want to change things, they must question everything. Mousavi is one of them (the regime) and is just like them. He will make no difference... I was young when he was prime minister. He founded the Saroallah patrols who beat women and hauled them off to jail." (The Saroallah are a notorious group whose mission was to make trouble for the people and especially women, wherever they might be. They would stop people who were driving or walking, or even go into their homes, and ask them about their relationship to any men present, and warn them or beat them or take them away if the women were not "properly" covered according to the rules, or if they were playing music or having a party, etc.)
We reach Enghelab Square. There is a huge security force controlling everything everywhere. All the shops are closed. But a huge crowd is moving on the sidewalks and in the streets. The sidewalk that goes toward Tehran University is closed between 16 Azar Street up to Quds Street where the university ends. There are temporary extra fences all along the length of the university, much higher than the normal university fences, so that people can't see what's happening on campus. The area in front of the temporary fences is full of security forces. A plainclothesman with his face covered is standing on top of a telephone box and filming the crowd. Police with batons are continuously threatening people and ordering them to keep moving.
I go to Vesal Street. The whole street is occupied by the security forces. The city is tense and feels strange. There is full-scale martial law... People have to pass through a very strict checking process before they can go to the university. It is 11:30 in the morning. Suddenly we can hear the students start chanting the slogan "Death to the dictator!" We can see from outside that there is a big crowd of students.
We were forced to take to the side roads. I was going along with a few young girls. One of them had voted for Mousavi. She said, "I'm sorry that I voted for him. I'm glad he isn't president now. Mousavi revealed his real face after the protests. He keeps saying, 'The Islamic Republic, not a word less and not a word more.' People are saying that religion must be separated from politics. But he keeps saying that our religion is good, it is different from the religion of those who are ruling. He keeps saying, 'I follow Khomeini,' but who was Khomeini. Wasn't he the person who ordered the execution of the political prisoners in 1988? Didn't he close the universities for three years? I am really happy to hear people say these things. They have become so conscious." Then she says, "Many people I talk to don't care anymore about Mousavi. Since two or three months after the election, people's demands have changed. " She is right but I wish they were showing this more in their actions, slogans and their symbols. However if there is a strong alternative in front of them, that might happen. That is why we should be thinking of the ways to present the correct alternatives and to show them to the people...
I get off the bus at Vali-e Asr and go toward the square. The entrance to the Polytechnical University is crowded. Students are trying to leave the university grounds but the security forces in front of the campus don't let them. Someone says they will not allow any student to leave before 4 pm, so everyone is waiting for 4 pm.
As it turned out, people were not able to assemble for a mass rally. Instead there were scattered actions all around the city. But it was a really a People's 16 Azar.
A World to Win News Service is put out by A World to Win magazine (aworldtowin.org), a political and theoretical review inspired by the formation of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, the embryonic center of the world's Marxist-Leninist-Maoist parties and organizations.
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Revolution #187, December 27, 2009
From A World to Win News Service
December 14, 2009. A World to Win News Service. The Maoist or Red Corridor stretches from West Bengal in India's northeast through the states of Jharkhand, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra in the west. It includes many forest areas including the Dandakaranya forest. Its millions of adivasis (Hindi for original settler, an umbrella term for ethnic and tribal groups who were among the original inhabitants of the subcontinent) were pushed into forest regions by waves of invaders and generally excluded from "mainstream" Hindu society. They have a long history of rebellion and militant uprisings against British colonial rule, from the Santal revolt of 1855-57 to numerous smaller uprisings and have been a major base for communist organizing.
The forests where the adivasis are concentrated have abundant mineral wealth (iron, coal, bauxite, manganese, corundum, gold, diamonds and uranium). Over the last years foreign and Indian corporations, with the protection of the Indian state apparatus, have been exploiting them and violently suppressing the people in the process. The struggle over forest resources and land rights are important aspects of a larger dynamic.
Two sides are shaping up in the "Red Corridor." One side consists of the adivasis and the Communist Party of India (Maoist) (CPI (M)), whose members have lived and fought side by side with them since the 1970s, following the Naxalbari rebellion of that period inspired by Maoism and China when it was still revolutionary. The Maoists have helped lead the tribals in their struggles for just demands, such as an end to the theft of their lands inflicted by the Indian government, their starvation conditions as a reserve for labor to be sent all over the country, and their rape, torture and humiliation at the hands of the police and other authorities. The Maoists also have support among the landless peasants including those who are Muslim, Dalits (who are considered impure in the Hindu caste system and are often referred to as "untouchables") and others. They have helped organize the people to improve subsistence agricultural methods, build wells and educate and struggle against backward feudal practices (for example, the barbaric practice of punishing women accused of witchcraft). For all this the Maoists have earned the label of terrorist and are seen as the biggest internal threat to the Indian state.
On the other side with its military and police force stands the central Indian state, the representative and protector of the ruling classes that live off and suck the life out of the Indian masses. For years when they considered these isolated forested hills peripheral to their projects, they left the adivasis in a state of utter poverty with no development but profiting from their labor. Huge numbers had to migrate annually to different parts of the country such as Punjab. This helped fuel India's capitalist development while maintaining tremendous backwardness in these areas. Now the Indian state urgently wants to clear the obstacles for a new wave of foreign investment and capitalist development to take advantage of the region's resources. They are even more concerned by the deep ties the Maoists have made with the region's people. Their goal is to wipe out any revolutionary vision of a better world the masses might hold and any force that embodies that vision.
With the beginnings of Operation Green Hunt, six battalions (a battalion consists of 700 soldiers) of India's paramilitary police forces have taken up positions in the states of Maharastra and Chhattisgarh. A police spokesperson said that after pushing the Maoists out of the area, and with further anti-guerrilla training of the police forces, the operation would move to other states one by one. By March 2010 they hope to have eradicated the Maoists and anyone who dares to support them and resist the government's armed presence. According to the Indian state's rough estimates, over 60,000 security personnel from the central paramilitary forces will "fight against 6,000-7,000 armed Maoist cadres." Officials complain that the Maoists are heavily armed but it is likely that most of the weapons in their possession were seized from the government forces.
In later stages of the operation a force specially trained for jungle warfare, the Commando Battalion for Resolute Action (CoBRA), will move into the area. Once these forces have "cleared and sanitized" the area of Maoists and hold the territory, another phase is to take place. Various government agencies will move in the area to initiate "developmental work". (Times of India, November 2, 2009)
Over the years, the CPI (M) and their base of support have already braved serious attacks on them by the Indian government. The government has tried to drive a wedge between the revolutionaries and the people by setting up local paramilitary groups like the Salwa Judum to make life hell for the masses and force them into prison-like camps modeled on the "strategic hamlets" the U.S. used to try to separate the guerrillas and the people in Vietnam. Lower level cadres have been killed in combat. Important communist leaders have been imprisoned, while many others have been killed in "encounter killings," a euphemism for when the police capture and execute people and dump their bodies elsewhere and then report that they were killed in a gun battle.
Still the rebels have grown in numbers and their influence has spread. During the uprising in Lalgarh, West Bengal, that reached a boiling point last November, tribal people forced out of their villages government agents belonging to the Communist Party (Marxist) which runs West Bengal and long ago dropped any Marxist trappings. The CPI (Maoist) has broad support in the Lalgarh area due to their uncompromising stand against rich landlords and corrupt officials. At the time of the Lalgarh uprising, the party called the area the first liberated zone in West Bengal.
Urban intellectuals from Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) went to Lalgarh and publicly exposed the fact that the armed forces were beating and humiliating the masses in every way imaginable and herding them into refugee camps. (See AWTWNS090629 and AWTWNS091012, for more details). With the beginning of Operation Green Hunt, many prominent intellectuals and others have come to vociferously oppose what they see as an onslaught on the masses.
While the Indian state is rattling its paramilitary apparatus in the west side of the "Red Corridor", at the other end of the "Red Corridor" in West Bengal, CPI (M) organized a public celebration of the founding of the People's Liberation Guerrilla Army on December 2. People from 50 surrounding villages attended the event as did a politburo member of CPI (M), Kisenji, and the head of the West Bengal-Jharkhand-Orissa border regional committee of CPI (M), Rakesh. Red-faced senior police officials have demanded explanations from the police stations in the area, which includes Lalgarh (police-occupied since the uprising there), over their failure to raid the gathering. The date and venue of the celebration was openly announced in some of CPI (M)'s pamphlets and distributed widely.
A World to Win News Service is put out by A World to Win magazine (aworldtowin.org), a political and theoretical review inspired by the formation of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, the embryonic center of the world's Marxist-Leninist-Maoist parties and organizations.
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Revolution #187, December 27, 2009
Over the winter holiday this year, Revolution correspondent Alan Goodman will be participating in and reporting from the Gaza Freedom March.
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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.
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