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Revolution #188, January 10, 2010
An Introduction to Our Coverage on the Copenhagen Conference on Global Climate Change
The conference on global climate change in Copenhagen last month, and the protests surrounding it, sharply revealed three key points:
1) The economic system of capitalism-imperialism has brought on a crisis that threatens the extinction of many, many species and is endangering the very environment that makes human life possible. In fact, this crisis is already having catastrophic effects in many parts of the globe. HUMANITY MUST MOVE, RAPIDLY, TO DEAL WITH THE CRISIS OF GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE.
2) It would take a monumental effort to begin reversing, stop and repair the effects of this environmental crisis. But the basis to develop the knowledge and technology for that effort already exists. Humanity has the potential to repair the environment and develop a way of life in which it serves as the guardians-—and not the plunderers—of the earth and its species.
Yet the capitalist-imperialists who rule the planet showed in Copenhagen that they cannot unite on any sort of serious plan to even start to do so. All they can do is fight with one another over the division of the plunder, and use their police to brutally repress those who clamored outside their doors demanding action. THE CAPITALIST-IMPERIALIST SYSTEM STANDS IN THE WAY OF WHAT URGENTLY CRIES OUT TO BE DONE TO DEAL WITH THE ENVIRONMENTAL CATASTROPHE NOW UNDER WAY.
3) The only thing that can save the earth and its inhabitants is revolution—a communist revolution which would eliminate the chains of profit from the productive forces, unleash the creativity of humanity to understand and deal with the problems which capitalism has wrought upon the environment, and enable people to usher in a new morality which does not see the planet—and other people—as a means to profit and plunder. Even as revolutions are made in individual countries, the perspective of each revolution must be to ultimately liberate the entire planet. THE PEOPLE—AND THE PLANET—NEED A COMMUNIST REVOLUTION.
In the articles that follow we show some effects of this crisis right now on the people of Asia; we analyze what happened in Copenhagen and why; and we lay out some basic principles on how a revolutionary society on the road to communism would deal with this.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #188, January 10, 2010
This is an edited and updated version of an article available online at revcom.us.
Many people were hoping the UN summit on climate change in Copenhagen would seriously address the crisis of global warming that threatens the planet and humanity. But the accord signed at Copenhagen does nothing to cut emissions of greenhouse gases that are the major cause of this threat. It does not represent any serious plan to even start to do so. Instead, the biggest global powers, especially the United States, made clear that their message to the earth and humanity is: Drop Dead.
The Obama administration and some other leaders of the rich imperialist countries have proclaimed the accord a significant breakthrough. The media portrayed it like Barack Obama came in at the last minute and pushed through a process that can now go forward. But this is pulling the wool over people's eyes, exactly at a time when people need to wake up to the urgency of this crisis. This is worse than nothing coming out of Copenhagen.
The Copenhagen summit was not an urgent gathering of scientists and people of good will from around the world coming together to solve a global emergency. It was a meeting dominated by leaders of the world's powerful countries, with the U.S. as top dog. It was about the leaders of these powerful countries fighting to gain advantage over their rivals. It was about powerful imperialist countries enforcing their interests over poor countries and the world's people, all the while trying to "rebrand" themselves as eco-friendly savers of the planet. 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. What these negotiations proved is that the only thing any of the capitalist powers are capable of is viciously pursuing their own interests while the planet and its people are left to burn.
From the start, this summit was extremely contentious. Outside the talks, mass protests punctuated the atmosphere and broke into the international spotlight.
Inside the summit, the U.S., European Union (EU) and China tried to force concessions on each other—on targets for emissions cuts, procedures to monitor whether countries were complying with emissions targets, and other issues. The U.S. and EU, who together are responsible for the great majority of the build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that are already causing devastating changes, tried to strong-arm and bribe poor countries to accept the terms they set.
At one point, poor nations walked out, demanding the goals for any agreement be a temperature rise of no more than 1.5 degrees C because higher temperatures could mean the death of whole continents—especially Africa. In response, Obama, who spent all of eight hours in Copenhagen, threatened that if these countries didn't sign on, it would be worse for them. First the U.S. dangled as a bribe the promise of billions of dollars for poor countries to deal with the devastation already caused by global warming. Then the U.S. led in imposing a do-nothing agreement that will deny this aid to any countries that don't sign on.
On the last day, the talks threatened to completely break down. This was a problem for the United States. Not because it cares about the planet. But because this threatened what the U.S. wanted to get out of the summit. The U.S. has been widely condemned for up until recently being the single largest contributor of carbon emissions. And the U.S. is widely seen as the biggest obstacle to solving this problem. Obama hoped to reverse this at Copenhagen and rebrand the U.S. as a leader in saving the planet. The U.S. also wanted to institutionalize an approach to global warming in line with its imperialist interests—like the spread of carbon trading markets. And the U.S. wanted to use these talks to shift the blame to one of its rivals—targeting China for being a "reckless emitter" and not playing by rules the U.S. wants to impose.
Obama coming in at the last minute and "saving the talks" was highly staged and orchestrated. Strategically this was a way for the U.S. to assert its hegemony —making clear it is the power broker of international accords.
Obama and Hillary Clinton reportedly burst into a meeting held by China and other countries. They announced that negotiations would not go on in secret, without the involvement of the United States! This from chief representatives of an empire that is unrivalled in the history of the world for its covert CIA/military operations, and its declared unilateral right to attack and invade any country that gets in the way of its interest. Then, between the five countries present—the U.S., China, India, Brazil and South Africa—they made the agreement! Other dominant powers were brought on board. And only then was this agreement announced to the rest of the 192 countries, who were given one hour to decide whether they would sign on or not. The head of Tuvalu, a Pacific Island nation that is being submerged by rising seas due to global warming, refused to sign and said, "it looks like we are being offered thirty pieces of silver to betray our people and our future."
Lumumba Stanislaus Di-Aping, a Sudanese diplomat who has been representing the Group of 77 developing countries, compared the decision to the Nazi Holocaust, because this is what global warming will actually mean for Africa due to drought, water shortages and collapse of food production.
The "Copenhagen Accord" contains no binding commitments on the part of anyone, to cut the emissions of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels, or deforestation, that are warming the planet. The accord even dropped goals for cuts in previous agreements—which were already a sham because they contained no way to enforce these cuts. The Copenhagen Accord says world temperatures need to be kept from rising above 2 degrees Celsius (C). But it says nothing about how to do this. It sets no date for when greenhouse emissions must peak, then decrease, in order to save the planet. And there is no time frame for when a supposedly "legal and binding" agreement will be signed.
No matter what these powers say, their actual plans show they have no serious intention of doing anything but extracting and burning more coal, oil and gas. Coal, oil and gas, and even more "dirty" forms of fossil fuels continue to be dug and drilled out of the earth. And many countries, including the U.S. and China—have plans for building even more coal fired power plants that are the largest and most dangerous polluters. Copenhagen addressed none of these vital questions.
Countries who signed the accord are supposed to say how much they plan to cut emissions. But a group of climate scientists (www.climateinteractive.org) who came together to analyze the proposals at the summit report that even if all the promises for greenhouse emission cuts were actually carried out—the temperature of the planet would still rise 3.9 degrees C (7 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100. The consensus among scientists is that temperature increases must be kept below 1.5-2 degrees C in order to prevent an ecological disaster.
Author George Monbiot, who writes on 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 U.S. offered a pathetic proposal to cut its own emissions only 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. This would be only a 3-4 percent cut below 1990 levels. But 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.)
Obama came to Copenhagen fresh off of picking up a Nobel peace prize while escalating the war in Afghanistan. This was a double hypocrisy, because the dirty secret is that the U.S. military is the single largest institutional consumer of oil in the world and one of the largest producers of greenhouse gas emissions.
The European countries meanwhile posed as "green capitalists," while Danish police beat and preemptively arrested at least 1,500 people protesting to save the planet. These "green capitalists" floated out that they might agree to cut greenhouse emissions 20 percent or more by 2020—if their rivals in the U.S. and also developing countries would agree to make more cuts. The EU countries try to portray themselves as the real champions of the earth. But the truth is that since the 1997 Kyoto Accords (which set binding limits on emissions from developed nations) carbon dioxide emissions in the European countries as a whole, have actually risen 5 percent! (UK Guardian, November 30, 2009)
Meanwhile, China and India—countries still dominated by imperialism but seeking to develop into major capitalist powers with global reach—also refused to make any binding emissions cuts. They acted in this way precisely because of their need to expand and compete with the larger powers that are trying to prevent them from doing this. While China has surpassed the U.S. in global emissions, 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 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, amount to offloading pollution from the rich countries onto China.
This production fueled by international capital has led to a situation where 7 of the world's 10 most polluted cities are in China. Eighty 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.
Some environmental groups have bought into the deadly logic that at least Copenhagen is a "step in the right direction." They should be sharply challenged that such low sights means writing off much of humanity and huge swaths of the globe and its ecosystems to destruction. Others have condemned the accord but continued to direct their efforts towards appealing to world leaders to "do the right thing."
But 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 if they would just decide to put the planet first. Yes, the dominant forces in power are facing some very extreme environmental problems too. But they are only capable of addressing them within the confines of their systems of production—which is the problem in the first place.
Sources for this article:
1. Maude Barlow, Blue Covenant: the Global Water Crisis and the Coming Battle for the Right to Water, New Press, 2007
2. Climate Interactive, climateinteractive.org
3. "Copenhagen closes with weak deal that poor threaten to reject," Guardian UK, December 19, 2009, guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/dec/19/copenhagen-closes-weak-deal
4. "Copenhagen reaction: delegates speak," Guardian UK, December 19, 2009, guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/dec/19/copenhagen-reaction-delegates-speak
5.James Hansen, Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and our Last Chance to Save Humanity, Bloomsbury USA, 2009
6. Raymond Lotta, "The Elephant in the Room: Can Anything Short of Revolution Solve the Environmental Crisis?" online webcast, revolutionbooksnyc.org/home.html
7. George Monbiot, "Copenhagen negotiators bicker and filibuster while the biosphere burns," Guardian UK, December 18, 2009, guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/dec/18/copenhagen-negotiators-bicker-filibuster-biosphere
8. "Global Carbon Emissions since Kyoto," Guardian UK, November 30, 2009, guardian.co.uk/environment/interactive/2009/nov/30/copenhagen-summit-world-carbon-emissions
9. "Pressure on poor at Copenhagen led to failure, not diplomatic wrangling," Guardian UK, December 23, 2009, guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2009/dec/23/g77-copenhagen-bernaditas-de-castro-muller
10. Andrew C. Revkin and John M. Broder, "A Grudging Accord in Climate Talks," New York Times, December 19, 2009, nytimes.com/2009/12/20/science/earth/20accord.html?_r=1&scp=3&sq=copenhagen%20accord&st=cse
11. Barry Sanders, The Green Zone: the Environmental Costs of Militarism, AK Press, 2009
12. Peter N. Spotts, "Copenhagen climate change talks stall as CO2 emissions rise," Christian Science Monitor, November. 18, 2009, csmonitor.com/World/Global-Issues/2009/1118/p06s01-wogi.html
13. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Draft Decision-/CP.15 Copenhagen Accord, unfccc.int/resource/docs/2009/cop15/eng/l07.pdf
Send us your comments.
Revolution #188, January 10, 2010
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.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #188, January 10, 2010
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 #188, January 10, 2010
Upcoming Major Effort:
Bob Avakian's major talk, Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About, was posted online in its entirety several months ago, along with four three- to five-minute clips on YouTube in English and Spanish.
Having this talk available online makes Avakian himself accessible to potentially millions of people that could not be reached otherwise. It can go a long way to making Bob Avakian a household name and making this revolution known. But just having the talk available does not in and of itself drive people to watch it; there is a huge potential audience which must be reached, made aware of it, and drawn to it.
This whole effort really has to grow exponentially beginning now—and that is what we are aiming to launch during the week of January 18-25.
We are calling for a week of getting out many tens of thousands of posters, palm cards, and other materials as part of driving people to check out the talk online. In order for this week to have the high impact it needs to have and to involve all kinds of people who would want to be part of this in different ways, we have to start now making concrete plans and getting to people with this vision and purpose, getting their ideas and enlisting them. On-the-ground and creative saturation with the content of this talk has to synergize with mass campaigns on Facebook, online advertising and reviews. Everyone can contribute—those with and without Internet knowledge.
We want to go all out during that week, and then sum up how to keep going from there.
This is the most radical, and most liberatory video you can find online. There really is nothing else like it in answering deeply the three questions in the title, three of the most important questions of our time.
And through this talk, you get to meet Bob Avakian—America's most radical revolutionary... his sharp intolerance for the suffering brought onto the masses of people, his deep understanding of the cause of this suffering, and what can be made possible with a revolution made by those same people. He breaks down an understanding that is hidden, letting people in on the secret workings behind this system... and more than that, breaks down a scientific method so they can apply and understand this themselves. He lays out what this revolution is about, challenging people to step out of the world this system has us locked in, articulating a radically re-envisioned socialism and communism. And he does it all with heart and humor.
Right now, millions of people are watching different kinds of videos online that lay out various theories on what is wrong today. Some of these are reactionary and downright poisonous; others get at part of the truth or provide crucial information but without the analysis that enables people to get to the heart of the matter. There are whole online movements surrounding many of these. While these lines have to be spoken to in their own right, they are tapping into a deep desire among millions for answers and for analysis, to go "under the hood," the hidden truth behind the workings of this system. Through struggle, the truth concentrated in this Revolution talk can cut through—can intrigue, illuminate and inspire.
By getting out massive amounts of materials, we intend to make a serious, if initial, leap in the reach of this talk. People who want to see this happen should make plans and set goals that are commensurate.
There should be saturation in neighborhoods, high schools and campuses where the revolutionaries have had some presence and there should also be well planned forays to neighborhoods where artists, musicians and "the digerati" (the digital literati) hang out. Palm cards and posters should be up and out in boutiques, record shops, used clothing stores, and Internet cafes.
Different materials will make use of the powerful Revolution talk logo and this slogan:
Some of these graphics will be in the next issue of Revolution newspaper and will be available as a download at revcom.us. There are some materials already available, which can be ordered at Revolution Books in New York.
Along with palm cards, longer quotes from the talk itself can be put on 8.5 x 11 sheets of paper with the Revolution talk logo. These can go up all over college campuses, bathroom stalls, elevators in dorms and housing projects, cafeterias, laundromat bulletin boards, etc. Or imagine a busy Friday night by the projects, a campus, or artists' neighborhood—a big projection goes up on a wall with a short quote and the Revolution talk logo with the website address. These kinds of dramatic displays can capture people's imagination, and the more people are getting the same thing from different angles, the more their curiosity will be piqued, and potential controversy stirred.
There are lots of people, from different strata and with different levels of unity, understanding and commitment, who would actively want to help this talk reach more people. We have to talk with them, and enlist their participation now.
This should include people we've been meeting over the last few months, and people who have known about and appreciated this talk and Avakian's work over the years. There are lots of people who respect Avakian and his work in different ways, people who have seen parts of this talk, or sat and watched the whole thing. There are people who work with the Engage Committee to Project and Protect the Voice of Bob Avakian. There are students, shop owners, artists and professors who have taken up revolutionary work in different ways. If you think about it, there are a whole lot of people who are not necessarily working that closely with the revolutionaries right now but who would want to see this talk, and Avakian, having a much bigger impact. Let's go talk and plan with them!
Everything people do can make a difference, and will contribute to the overall, multilayered impact this has to have. People can send out emails to their friends, post on their Facebook page, share this through other online social networks; talk about it on Twitter, take a stack of materials to their theatre, church, school; give materials to select individuals they know who have some influence in society. They can have a house party, show the talk to a few friends, and even just raise suggestions about ways they think this can spread. There is not a one-size-fits-all in this, and the more kinds of diverse activity that take off, the better.
Also, there's strategic import in amassing much bigger email lists (and phone lists), and growing the number of Facebook fans and Twitter followers through follow-up with contacts as well. Only a minority of these people may follow up with you right away or may want to get active right away, but people are asking to stay connected. They are hooked in to the revolution, receiving updates as the world changes, and as they change.
People broadly watching, discussing, and spreading this talk themselves is a critical goal to meet early on. This will be in conjunction with the all-out and multifaceted efforts of the revolutionaries, but it will not break out in the way it needs to without that buzz and without people being moved to let others know.
The saturation efforts will synergize with online advertising and fundraising—online and among people you know. $5,000-$10,000 needs to be raised for online and print advertising, along with the cost of promotional materials. A lot of this fundraising will go on online, but there will need to be conscious and active follow-up and struggle.
Important: the Facebook page (facebook.com/revolutiontalk) will become much more of a destination and organizing center. It will run regular quotes from the Revolution talk itself—provoking regular debate and discussion, and these quotes will also run through a Twitter feed so people can re-tweet them. It's where people will go to get updated on how the promotion of this talk is going, what difference we're making and what kind of response we're getting. And it'll be how people will get organized in the planned online blitzes, fundraising, etc.
And we really want to learn from other ideas people have—what kinds of blogs and message boards we should be entering into discussion on, potential for excerpting the Revolution talk for radio play, online seminars about the talk.
There are a lot more ideas, and a lot of creativity that needs to be applied. And we should be learning from experts, admen, madmen and marketing media mavens. This first week will kick off these major efforts to make this talk seen and spread—by hundreds of thousands, and in the process we'll learn more fully what it will take to make that happen. Let's put ourselves to really making this known—go all out, have fun, and learn all we can.
Go online to revcom.us for letters from readers on
Letter from Cleveland:
More letters available at the "Spreading Revolution and Communism" page at
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Revolution #188, January 10, 2010
EDITED TRANSCRIPT OF A TALK BY BOB AVAKIAN, CHAIRMAN OF THE REVOLUTIONARY COMMUNIST PARTY, USA, FALL 2009
[Editors' note: The following is the fifth 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 four excerpts appeared in Revolution #184, #185, #186, and #187. The entire talk can be found online at revcom.us/avakian/driving.]
This brings us to the question of meaningful revolutionary work. This has been touched on in other works, including most recently "Ruminations and Wranglings,"1 and here I just want to emphasize a few basic points. The whole orientation that's concentrated in the formulation "Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution" is a key part of repolarizing forces in society and, in particular, bringing forward that force that can actually be the bedrock basis for revolution.
Without bringing forward a significant force from among that social base, it is not going to be possible to achieve repolarization, in anything like the full dimension necessary. In particular, without a significant force of basic masses who are rising up in resistance and increasingly taking up a revolutionary communist orientation, it is not going to be possible to win, on the correct and necessary basis, people broadly from among the middle strata, including the many who are horrified by what is represented by these fascist forces and beyond that are also, to a significant degree, horrified by many of the crimes that are carried out by this system—whether it's torture, or wars of aggression, or the oppression of women, or police brutality and murder and other ways in which Black people, Native peoples, Latinos and immigrants are oppressed under this system—but who are paralyzed in terms of acting against this for reasons that I pointed to earlier.
Without being crude about this, the fact is that while we have to work among and win forces from among these middle strata by carrying out penetrating and compelling exposure of this system and bringing forward policies and programs that can lead people in opposing these outrages that they do abhor, and by struggling with them ideologically to move in this direction, it is not going to be possible to do even that on the scale that is necessary unless, to use a metaphor—and let me underline that this is a metaphor—unless a fire is lit, politically and ideologically, underneath them by bringing forward a force of people for whom the idea of upheaval and chaos is not some dreaded prospect that they seek to avoid, almost at all costs, but something that is much more a part of their daily lives, even while it is true that in the course of resisting the crimes of this system and building a movement toward the goal of revolution, people will come up against the fact that the ruling class will seek to make them pay an even greater price for standing up than what the daily grind and the daily oppression of the system subjects people to. Pursuing the metaphor, it will be necessary, and critical, to light such a "fire"—one which inspires people broadly, including among the middle strata, when they see those who are much more oppressed and exploited standing up and in fact fighting the power and transforming themselves and others toward the goal of revolution, as happened on a very broad scale, for example, in this country in the 1960s. So this is not a negative thing when I use the metaphor of lighting a fire, but overwhelmingly a positive thing.
Very much related to this is the point that is brought out very boldly in the statement of our party—"The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have": "The days when this system can just keep on doing what it does to people, here and all over the world... when people are not inspired and organized to stand up against these outrages and to build up the strength to put an end to this madness... those days must be GONE. And they CAN be." As that statement also makes clear, now is not yet the time, the conditions do not yet exist, to go all out to seize power, but "now IS the time to be WORKING FOR REVOLUTION—to be stepping up resistance while building a movement for revolution—to prepare for the time when it WILL be possible to go all out to seize the power."
So I want to underscore again the importance of this whole orientation—and of giving life to this, mobilizing masses of people around the orientation of "Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution." But this, at the same time, has to be understood and approached in the context of all-around work to build a movement for revolution. As we have repeatedly emphasized, and is emphasized again in the statement of our party, what is called for is not just sitting around waiting for a revolution to somehow happen "one fine day," but "hastening while awaiting" the development of a revolutionary situation and the emergence of a revolutionary people in the millions and millions.
All this is encapsulated in the formulation "Enriched What Is To Be Done-ism": building on and further developing and strengthening the basic orientation that Lenin stressed in his classical work, What Is To Be Done?, where he emphasized that the role and orientation of a communist is not to be a trade union secretary—in other words, not to focus on fighting for reforms within this system—but acting on, and bringing to life for masses of people, the understanding that only through the abolition of this system and the bringing into being of a whole new system can the real and fundamental interests of the people, in their masses, actually come to fruition, actually be realized. Or, as Lenin put it, the goal of a communist is to be a tribune of the people.
What is involved in "Enriched What Is To Be Done-ism" is sharply and scientifically exposing the system, bringing to light the causes and reasons for the oppression that different sections of the people suffer and the outrages that masses of people detest; showing, in a living way, how all this is rooted in and has as its source the system of capitalism-imperialism, which perpetuates and enforces this on a daily basis and in horrific dimensions; illustrating, through the application of a scientific, dialectical materialist method, how different sections of the people tend to respond to different events in society and the world, and how this relates to their position within the overall production and social relations; bringing forward and setting before all, and boldly struggling for, our revolutionary and communist orientation and convictions; and mobilizing people, yes, to fight back against oppression but to do so on the basis and with the orientation and aim of building a movement for revolution, toward the goal of sweeping aside the capitalist-imperialist system, bringing into being a new, socialist system and continuing to advance, together with people struggling throughout the world, toward the final goal of communism; and setting before the masses of people not only the goals of the revolution and the basic strategy for making revolution, as embodied in the line and policies of the party, but also the problems of making revolution, involving growing numbers of the masses in grappling with and helping to resolve these contradictions in the direction of revolution and communism.
All this is discussed in greater length in the pamphlet, Revolution and Communism: A Foundation and Strategic Orientation, is presented in a concentrated way in the Constitution2 of our Party and spoken to in some other works, so I'm not going to go into this at greater length here. But I do want to emphasize the importance of this understanding: On the one hand, without resistance, without fighting the power, it will not be possible to build a revolutionary movement; on the other hand, if that resistance is not approached, on the part of communists, with the orientation of building a movement for revolution and the goal of sweeping away this capitalist system and bringing into being a radically new society and world, then that resistance will be reduced to the equivalent of being on a treadmill, leading to no fundamental change, and before long most of the people involved will become demoralized and fall into passively accepting, once again, their oppression and the overall outrages perpetrated by this system, or turning against each other and fighting over crumbs, as we've seen the system succeed in getting people to do over and over again.
Even while others we unite with in particular struggles will proceed from different perspectives, we have to proceed in everything we do with the understanding and from the standpoint that is concentrated in the formulation: "Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution."
1. "Ruminations and Wranglings: On the Importance of Marxist Materialism, Communism as a Science, Meaningful Revolutionary Work, and a Life with Meaning," a talk by Bob Avakian in early 2009, is also available, in its entirety, online at revcom.us, and was serialized in Revolution, beginning in issue #163 (May 1, 2009) and continuing in issues #164-67, #169, #171-75, and #177. [back]
2. Revolution and Communism: A Foundation and Strategic Orientation, A Revolution pamphlet, May 1, 2008. Constitution of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, RCP Publications, 2008. [back]
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Revolution #188, January 10, 2010
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 #188, January 10, 2010
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 #188, January 10, 2010
We received the following from a correspondent who went to Rockford. (See Revolution #177 and #178 for earlier coverage):
These facts brought a thousand people into the streets in Rockford last summer to protest and demand justice for Mark Barmore. This was another clear-cut case of a young Black man gunned down by armed agents of the system, and people were determined that the killers face justice.
Soon afterward, there was a well-publicized demonstration by a thousand reactionary supporters of the police and open death threats were made against the Brown family. This was a brazen racist challenge to the whole Black community and some were intimidated and effectively silenced, though deep anger over this unjust murder continued to seethe in Rockford.
The local prosecutor announced that a grand jury would decide whether or not the two policemen who killed Mark Barmore would go to trial. And calls to let the system do its work were heard from city officials and leaders in the Black community. One Black woman in Rockford described her reaction: "I knew this was not going to be good, but I still had a glimmer of hope."
That glimmer of hope was shattered on December 23, when the grand jury issued its decision: that the police had used "justifiable force" and would not face any charges. Maryann Barmore, who had raised Mark since childhood, told the local TV station that "it was as if Mark had been killed all over again."
Among many in Rockford, and concentrated in the Black community, faith in the ability of the local "justice system" was further unraveled by the fact that testimony from the eyewitnesses to the police shooting and killing of Mark Barmore was not even considered by the grand jury.
Rev. Shelia Brown and her daughter, Marissa Brown, were in the day care center with the children and saw the whole brutal murder. The Browns' attorney said that the Browns had all along offered to be interviewed by the State Police and any law enforcement officials. But twice the State Police cancelled scheduled meetings with the eyewitnesses. The authorities did not contact the Browns about their testimony for months—until December 17, when a subpoena arrived for them to appear at the grand jury on December 23. The Browns' attorney contacted the prosecutor to ask for a continuance because Shelia and Marissa Brown had long been scheduled to be on a Christmas visit to family in Mississippi at that time. This reasonable request was denied and the grand jury went ahead without bothering to hear this eyewitness testimony.
Then, on December 28, the prosecutor announced he would ask a judge to bring contempt charges against Shelia and Marissa Brown for not appearing at the grand jury! As several Black people in Rockford told us, it is as if the Deep South traditions of racist justice lived on in the North.
This came two days after a press conference on December 26 at the very spot where Mark Barmore was murdered. Nearly 100 people, mainly from Rockford's Black community, along with Black and white religious leaders, Black community activists, revolutionary communists, representatives of the NAACP, LULAC (League of United Latin American Citizens), and Rev. Jesse Jackson from PUSH, gathered to condemn the grand jury's verdict and to demand justice for Mark Barmore. Rockford activist Steve Muhammad spoke plainly: "Rockford police: liars. State prosecutor: liar. The grand jury: liars."
Kelli Harrington, Mark Barmore's mother, told Revolution: "I think people ought to be outraged. They should stand up and fight against this. My son was not only a good man, but to know that the police can come in and shoot and kill an unarmed man, and have no remorse and no type of consequences whatsoever—what is that telling the public? ...This is outrageous, we will not stand for it, and we will get our justice. My son did not die in vain."
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Revolution #188, January 10, 2010
Over the winter holiday this year, Revolution correspondent Alan Goodman will be participating in and reporting from the Gaza Freedom March.
We need your financial help to do this.
People are coming from all around the world to participate in this march, which marks the one-year anniversary of Israel's massacre in Gaza, Palestine. The main demand of the march is an end to the blockade that has cut Gaza off from the world, and prevents people from receiving even necessary food and medical supplies. Before the march, Alan Goodman will be able to spend several days in Gaza, witnessing the devastation of last year's one-sided war, and the impact of the blockade first hand.
Revolution newspaper has analyzed and exposed the situation for the people of Gaza, and the underlying global and regional forces and interests at work. This trip will strengthen our ability to do so. And beyond that, actually being on the ground in Gaza, talking to people, learning about their lives, their culture, their dreams and their questions will help make it possible to paint a living, breathing, and truthful picture of people who are confined to what has been called the world's largest outdoor prison. It will help bring to light the lives of people who the most powerful forces on earth have sought to dehumanize.
When Alan Goodman returns from Gaza, he will energetically reach out to audiences large and small to tell the world what he's seen, and in so doing impel people to politically oppose the crimes of Israel and the U.S. This is particularly important right here in the U.S., the country that provides full backing for Israel's horrific crimes against the Palestinian people. And in the course of doing that outreach, there will be many opportunities to open people's eyes to a whole other way the world could be—without imperialism or oppression of any kind.
The budget for this trip is substantial, and large donations are necessary. In addition, we strongly encourage many of you to raise and donate smaller amounts. We will also appreciate suggestions on how to spread the word broadly when Alan Goodman gets back, including your thoughts on speaking and writing opportunities in, and beyond Revolution.
To contribute to this project, send checks and money orders, with "Alan Goodman Travel" in the memo field, to RCP Publications, PO Box 3486 Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654.
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Revolution #188, January 10, 2010
Letter from Cleveland
We received the following letter from two Revolution sellers in Cleveland:
There has been continued outrage and protest about the 11 Black women raped and murdered on Imperial Avenue in Cleveland, some calling for the resignation of the police chief for not pursuing the allegations of a woman that the rapist, Sowell, had attacked her. The cops claimed she was "not credible." There have been other demands by a group of activists calling themselves "The Imperial Women," one being that a grass roots activist be on the Mayor's panel to look into the way the city responds to sexual assaults and missing-persons reports. So on Saturday, December 19, there was a rally called at the Mayor's house demanding the above and more.
One of us spoke about the revolution we need and the leadership of Bob Avakian we have, and the experience when the people made revolution in China, how there were great strides in getting rid of the oppression of women, first stopping the practice of foot binding, another transforming the situation for women so that prostitution was a thing of the past. We called on people to "Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution," to build the revolutionary movement today—not build a movement that tries to smooth out the edges of this system of horror. We have had lots of struggle with people over the problem being capitalism and the solution being revolution, not the line of some of the organizers that there needs to be more police on the rape-assault detail, or a Black police chief, and other such demands that keep the illusions that the system can in fact be reformed. So on Saturday we decided after the rally to call on people to watch the "Imagine" and "The Dictatorship of the Proletariat and What It's For" parts of Bob Avakian's speech Revolution [Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About. A film of a talk by Bob Avakian]. We thought this would be a way for people to begin to break out of the system's framework of monstrosity and fast forward into the revolutionary society Bob Avakian is running out in the DVD. So we made our way to a nearby McDonald's.
We opened up the DVD and people gathered around to listen and watch. Right away, Damian said, "I saw him on the internet before." One woman active in the prison movement when she heard the title of the DVD lit up and watched it for a long time. When we got to the part in "Imagine" on health care some people spoke all at once, it really hit home. People said what he is saying about how we are treated in the hospitals under this system is so true. One woman said how her husband was treated terribly and almost died from neglect and by the fact that he is poor. People jumped in on this conversation and could see from what Bob Avakian was saying that it doesn't have to be this way, that if we didn't have this system running shit, we could solve all kinds of problems that eat us up now.
After checking out some of the Revolution DVD, a Black women activist and journalist said, "it is great what he is saying, but I don't think it is realistic to get people to make revolution... the rich people always going to be there and there will always be the haves and have nots. Bob talked about the disrespect of women, I agree and not so far removed from what we are fighting for. He talked about the system. I think people are too quiet... he sounds like a activist, like us...He is talking about revolution and that is what we want. Imagine to have poor and women get rights. The people who make the rules, not us and the laws all is unjust. I believe in a revolution but I don't use the term because that would scare people, they wouldn't listen to [me]."
Another women active in the prison movement said, "I looked at this for awhile and I will have to go over it more. My memory is not that great but one thing I think is if you make a revolution then we will be confronted with the Islamic fundamentalist ideology. How are you going to deal with that after the revolution?"
There was lots of flow, a few people would watch some of the DVD, then talk about all the issues and analysis that are on their minds like police brutality, poverty and no jobs, racism and the oppression of women, and the war in Afghanistan. Then we would bring it all back to revolution and communism as the only solution and Bob Avakian and his new synthesis being key to getting to that new society. There was lots of debate and disagreement about the problem. One person said it is not the capitalist system but who is in power that makes the difference, that we need to put pressure on the government to get good people in office. Then we got into how this is a class society, an economic and social system and everything flows from the fact that the capitalists are in power and they run everything in terms of the expansion of profit and the empire to carry that out. There was lots of debate about that point and the point that the oppression of Black people is caused by a system. There was another conversation about the case of Rebecca Whitby, who was savagely beaten by the police who came into her family's house. She is facing many felonies for the beating and her trial is coming up soon. So this conversation spoke about the problem and solution to police brutality as well as people talking about their experiences with the police. Rebecca's aunt spoke about her daughter being beaten by the police in her own living room and then getting felonies for it, saying, "Her life has never been the same." In the midst of these conversations the DVD was still playing and people went in and out of watching it. All this went on for a few hours. As he was leaving, Rebecca's father asked us, "Now what is the website for Revolution?—I am going home and watch it now."
As we all walked out, there was an excitement among some that there is a leader out here who has some developed answers to the horrors that are coming down on the people—so deeply felt among the people were the rapes and murders of the 11 Black women and the brutal beating of Rebecca. This showing was a beginning in getting Bob Avakian's "scientific theory and strategic orientation for how to actually make the kind of revolution we need" (from "The Revolution We Need...The Leadership We Have" Call from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA) out among these 15 people who are fighting the power.
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Revolution #188, January 10, 2010
The Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund received the following letter from a reader in prison:
First of all, let me apologize for my writing. It's no excuse to let you read or try to figure out my writing. My sincere apology, I will try to slow down.
Thank you for your newspaper. I received it today. I just wish that I had the money to help out, but I will spread the word of our abuse in these imperialistic prisons. I was reading the newspaper and had to stop and reflect on my crime. My victim was a female, kicked her several times over a bad drug deal, luckily I didn't have a gun. But reading your article on the women of society, that is the prison society that we belong to. Women are suffering far more worse than the brutality that we face in this mental health facility. I am 27-years-old and have been in and out of prison since I was 17, and for the first time in my young life, guilt left a bitter taste in my mouth. I feel horrible for the pain that I caused my victim and the scars I left. Please allow me to apologize for all of the brutality these corrupt pigs breed in us, they convince us that the Amerikkkan system is the utopia of the world. And as your article stated, a woman is battered every 15 seconds. We as a people need to stand up and fight the injustice faced by our wives, mothers, and children. I am not in a supermax prison. I live in a mental health prison. When I first came to prison in 1999, I had a sound state of mind. Now 10 years later, after living in and out of segregation for "disruptive" behavior, I have lost all sanity. I go in and out of reality. The psych doctors keep me and my fellow comrades heavily medicated. When a new drug comes out, we get to be tested on it, myself included. If we refuse, they use Red Saber, a chemical agent ("non-harmful")—so that's what they said it was called. It doesn't have long term or after effects. They spray us until we develop blisters on our skin from this legal cell extraction "toy". If you can make 7 five-minute rounds, then the shock shield is enforced on us until we become more submissive to their will.
What kind of utopia does this to their own and laughs about it later? This Amerikkkan imperialist make believe utopia.
Please continue to send me the publication.
Also, would you please send me some Marxist, Lenin and Mao's literature and help me grow? Your donations and support for this young but still strong revolutionary will not die in vain.
Viva la Revolucion_ (Please forgive my spelling)
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Revolution #188, January 10, 2010
The Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund received the following letter from a reader in prison:
I am confident that all the brothers and sisters under the banner of R.C.P. are continuing to strive in the spirit of excellence in all your noble endeavors.
I received issue no 183. Thank you very much for including me in this month's issue. I truly enjoyed each and every fine printed and expressed voice from fellow brothers of many other backgrounds and who are in the same position of confinement. Considering each others mind state under the banner of common teachings of R.C.P. and having a deep desire for the people's welfare, justice and equality in conduct, and knowledge of revolution, with a big heart to aid the oppressed is beautiful...what truly bothers me, and have yet to understand is, how is it that many brothers from other backgrounds/race come together under a banner of a common cause. Yet when a situation [occurs] here in this world of confinement with two races, they try to kill each other. I do not understand this mindstate, and though it's not my duty to seek answers, I do hope to understand. I believe that those who strive and live for revolution, aims should be to uphold the dictates of revolution, and bring order into the affairs of those who support and are a part of the movement. So that the oppressed can gain some form of relief in this world that we live in. History has proven that when the masses are not equipped with the requisite of revolution knowledge, we won't adopt the appropriate attitude to the decrees of our leadership. This leadership being that upon each other within this world of confinement, to stop the clashing of brothers under the banner of a common movement against one another just because we come from another background/race. Any time a group or class perceives a understanding of the law of revolution to be contrary to their own interest, we will find some kind of opening permitting us to violate or subvert the movement in question, or even start rebelling against it and not really understand why. When we do that, the origins of revolution starts to weaken in us. And if we continue to rebel against each other, the pillars of revolution will break down. And order and discipline will blow pass us like the wind. And for those reasons alone, I feel it's important for brothers in confinement under the banner of revolution teachings to acknowledge each other as brothers in action and deed. For there is a common bond that is shared. And that is revolution. These are only my views. As my heart is an instrument of weighing and measuring, and always open for improvement. As improvement is always needed within this world of confinement. Again, thank you for this month's issue. I loved it and a big desire to play my part. I understand the issue of funds, so I really appreciate allowing me to be a part of the knowledge that R.C.P. have to share. Thank you. And power to all my brothers and sisters who strive each day to keep the movement alive.
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Revolution #188, January 10, 2010
We received the following letter from a reader:
Avatar has stirred up passion, and controversy, everywhere. The movie had a deep, profound and gripping effect on me, on my 80-year-old mother whom I took to see it, on my 39-year-old son, and evidently on many more who are "weighing in" pro and con.
I speak here from the heart of a communist. Anyone who hates what has become of life on earth and yearns for something entirely different should embrace this movie and hold it closely, warts and all (the few that it may have). It would be quite hard, indeed, for a cynic to do this, no matter what variant of cynicism is at work. But, cynicism (and identity politics) confront this movie in many discussions.
Avatar is about the future, or even if we might continue to have one at all, much less one truly worth having. It is about different ways things could be. While it righteously upholds desertion, treason and rebellion, shifting allegiance of intelligentsia, against exactly the forces that need to be targeted, it hardly stops there.
It indicts the most fundamentally inhumane, grotesque, driving dynamics of the modern world (as they get carried into the 22nd century in this movie). And it raises up the specter of a diametrically opposed dynamic, or way of life, in thoroughgoing, absolute opposition. Something is being powerfully affirmed here beyond defeating and dispatching an imperial death and exploitation machine, righteous as that is. This is essentially what [director] James Cameron has given us.
As a communist I feel I must always keep my vision cast to the very farthest horizons, and to always hold within me a strong sense of a fundamentally different world. Yet, who might inhabit and walk about in this future? Who would those people be? James Cameron is not a communist, but he has been reaching and seeking in a way that many more should. And he has given us his sense of the possibility of a fundamentally different world and the people who might live there.
The Na'vi are his "future people." Much of how he has envisioned them resonates with me. But, there is some merit to a criticism I've seen in other places about problems with idealizing "the noble savage." I wouldn't think we should try to return to "primitive communalism." With Cameron, while this seems to be a fairly strong current in what he presents, he has given it some awesomely re-envisioned perspectives which transcend simple primitive communalism in important ways.
It's as if he has taken some very basic, core features (the better ones) from the earliest forms of human society, and has given new life and content to them for a future possible. We all should have that spirit and daring to imagine such things and hold them dear.
But, it likely would look much different. All those vast means and forces that are in the clutches and at the behest of the capitalist, imperialist system call out to be liberated through revolutions, the communist revolution in fact, so that they will become the common property of humanity as a whole. Humanity might then truly become a conscious collectivity of mutually flourishing beings, using these means only for the good of all, and of their home, planet earth. And they would do so with their vision cast to their farthest horizons, their future distant, their generations to come. So, who would those people be? I think there are real ways that the Na'vi can help us give true substance to that.
For opening this door in the way that he has, James Cameron deserves a very appreciative nod.
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