Voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party,USA
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Revolution #189, January 17, 2010
One eyewitness described part of central Tehran as looking like a "war zone" with "shattered glass everywhere, dozens of overturned and smoldering garbage cans, several burned-out cars, and the skeletons of a couple dozen police motorcycles." As in some previous demonstrations, the protestors showed that they are no longer fearful of the security forces or plainclothes vigilantes despite the threats of harsh treatment that were issued prior to the year's most important day of mourning for Shi'ites. But this time at least some went one step further and showed that they are angry enough to engage in street battles. And the security forces—commanded by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) since the immediate post-election demonstrations—showed, in turn, that they are unable to control the crowds despite their use, in some cases, of lethal force that, according to the government's own numbers, left at least eight people dead.
"Whither Iran?" Farideh Farhi, December 31, 2009, Inter Press Service
In some parts of Tehran, protesters pushed the police back, hurling rocks and capturing several police cars and motorcycles, which they set on fire. Videos posted to the Internet showed scenes of mayhem, with trash bins burning and groups of protesters attacking Basij militia volunteers amid a din of screams. One video showed a group of protesters setting an entire police station aflame in Tehran. Another showed people carrying off the body of a dead protester, chanting, "I'll kill, I'll kill the one who killed my brother."
New York Times, December 28, 2009
• • •
Iran's Islamic Republic (IRI) has been escalating its savage, all-around campaign to crush a mass uprising of the Iranian people which continues to shake their reactionary rule. There have been waves of struggle alternating with periods of intense calm. In late December this uprising roared back even more powerfully than before.
Leading up to the major Shi'ite religious commemorations of Muharram culminating in Ashura on December 28, the Islamic Republic threatened severe consequences for anyone who dared to protest against the government. And people in Iran know that this can mean death, imprisonment, or torture. The government deployed thousands of its armed enforcers—the police, the Basij militia, the Revolutionary Guards. Yet, hundreds of thousands of Iranians still turned out for the most massive, defiant, and determined anti-regime demonstrations since the current uprising began in June, following the apparent theft of the presidential election by incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The regime's forces set on people with tear gas, batons and chains, beating them "relentlessly," as one witness described. Government forces smashed the windows of cars driven by people who were honking in solidarity with the protests. There were reports that protesters were stabbed or suffered skull fractures. At times, the regime's militias fired live ammunition directly into the crowds, killing an estimated 37 people (and perhaps more) and injuring many more. All told some 1,500 were arrested.
But the day wasn't only marked by the Islamic theocracy's brutality. On Ashura and the days before, thousands stood up to these savage assaults and, more often than before, fought back. Videos show demonstrators refusing to back down in the face of brutal repression. Witnesses described parts of Tehran as "covered in thick smoke from fires and tear gas," and "the scene of hand-to-hand combat between security forces and the protesters." Protests and street battles were also reported in other major cities. (New York Times, December 29, 2009)
According to the Communist Party of Iran (MLM), more than a million people all over Iran took part, with several hundred thousand scattered in Tehran alone. The slogans and mood were more radical than before, with demonstrators walking over and sometimes burning pictures of Supreme Leader Khamenei and chanting "This is the month of blood, Khamenei will be overthrown."
The struggle in Iran remains complex, contradictory, and rapidly changing. Many different forces are contending for leadership and shaping events.
Iran's uprising began with the demand, "where's my vote." People felt the election had been stolen and candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi had won. At that point the protest movement was dominated by the "Green Wave" (Green for Islam), led by Mousavi and the other failed presidential candidates. All were former high-ranking officials who remain ideologically and politically committed to Islamic rule. However, they've come into sharp conflict with the forces currently in power, grouped around President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Ayatollah Khamenei, and the top leadership of the Revolutionary Guards, over how to best preserve the IRI. Mousavi argues the IRI should be reformed and re-legitimized, repressive Islamist laws and moral codes loosened and attempts be made to normalize relations with the West—not confront it. This is an attempt to retain the legitimacy of the IRI.
In a statement put out shortly after the Ashura protests, Mousavi acknowledged that he had not called or led the protests, and criticized the "unacceptable radicalism" of some protesters. And he also tacitly acknowledged the legitimacy of Ahmadinejad's government—a huge concession to these reactionaries that spit on the blood shed by the Iranian people fighting this criminal regime—while putting forward a program for healing the divisions in the ruling class.
It was clear that a significant segment of Iranian society has been radicalized over the past seven months, and is more willing to stand and fight the regime. Sections of the people are becoming increasingly alienated from Iran's current ruling clique and from the core principles of Islamic rule and the Islamic Republic itself. The spirit and slogans of the Ashura demonstrations showed that Mousavi and the "Green Wave" are not as dominant in setting the terms for the opposition.
One Iranian observer described scenes that might indicate that religious rituals and fundamentalism are beginning to lose their grip on a section of people within those demonstrating. "For the first time in many years, thousands went to the streets during Ashura without relying on religious methods and costumes and without the blessing of Ayatollahs. According to Shi'ism, Ashura is supposed to be a day of mourning for Imam Hussein. But they didn't do ritual flagellation (hitting themselves on their heads, cutting themselves to draw blood, or symbolically whipping their backs to show their piety). Instead, they turned the day into an occasion to rise up against the regime."
Meanwhile, many thousands took part in ritual processions, or alternated religious chants with those directed against the regime, or combined the two.
The participation of women is a key element in the broadening, deepening and radicalization of protest. Women are increasingly on the front lines of the battle. And on Ashura, for the first time since the election, many women protested without wearing head scarves or hejabs. This new development in the uprising is one reason women were singled out for vicious attacks by the regime.
This rebellion, and women's deep involvement, is challenging core tenets, social relations, and moral codes which the Islamic Republic is based on—including the oppression and suppression of women. "The authority of the regime, in fact, came to hinge on its success in policing sexual morality," Ziba Mir-Hosseini writes. "Women's 'rights' were only those granted them by the rulings of Islamic jurists, and relations between the sexes—in private as well as in public—were strictly confined by red lines set in old jurisprudential texts. An official gender policy and culture were instituted, epitomized by compulsory head covering for women, which high-ranking clerics such as Ayatollah Ahmad Azari-Qomi called the 'culture of hejab.'" So women joining the front lines of the battle is one major element threatening to delegitimize, undermine and unravel all of that. "Iranians of today, from both genders, all classes and all parts of the country, have rejected or at least questioned many of the gender codes and sexual taboos firmly enforced by the Islamic Republic over the past 30 years." ("Broken Taboos in Post-Election Iran," MERIP, December 17, 2009)
The IRI's decision to open fire on protesters could further erode their legitimacy, as Ashura has traditionally been a day of non-violence. All this is bringing out more clearly that the Islamic Republic is a clerical dictatorship representing the interests of the exploiting classes—backed up by brute force. And maintaining this dictatorship means more to these reactionary clerics than any religious strictures.
There are also signs that revulsion against the regime's naked violence has spread the revolt to other segments of the population, including working people and many with a variety of more traditional, religious and conservative outlooks. On December 22, 500 workers protested during a speech by Ahmadinejad—"We have no bread to eat," their banner read. A laborer from south Tehran told the New York Times, "People in my neighborhood have been going to the Ashura rituals every night with green fabric for the first time. They have been politicized recently, because of the suppression this month." (New York Times, December 24 and 28, 2009)
The forces around Ahmadinejad and Khamenei recognize that they are facing a revolt with the potential to threaten their rule and develop into a revolt against the very existence of the Islamic regime itself—and they have reacted accordingly. On Ashura, the regime's security forces assassinated Mousavi's nephew (whose body was confiscated to prevent his funeral from turning into an outbreak against the regime). Two days after the Ashura protests, dozens of prominent journalists, activists, students and others were arrested in a crackdown the New York Times (December 30) called "the largest since June." Some protesters arrested during Ashura are being charged with "warring against god," a charge which carries an automatic death sentence (a charge used to justify the slaughter of thousands of political prisoners during the 1980s).
And on December 30, the regime—which still has an extensive social base—organized demonstrations of tens of thousands of its supporters to defend the IRI's rule and uphold its violent suppression of the protests.
U.S. ruling class figures from Obama to hardcore rightwingers have spoken out against the "violent and unjust suppression" of the protests by the IRI, and in support of Iran's protesters. "For months, the Iranian people have sought nothing more than to exercise their universal rights," President Obama declared on December 29. "Each time they have done so, they have been met with the iron fist of brutality, even on solemn occasions and holy days."
But is the U.S. really about befriending the Iranian people and supporting liberation?
Iran is a large, very strategically-located, and oil-rich country that has been the object of imperial invasions, conquest, and intrigue for over 100 years. From 1953, when it installed the murderous tyrant Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi on the throne in Iran through a CIA-directed coup, until the Shah was overthrown by the Iranian people in 1979, the U.S. exerted direct imperialist domination of Iran—militarily, politically and economically. The 1979 revolution was a serious blow to U.S. power in the Middle East, but the U.S. tried to limit the damage, prevent the further radicalization and deepening of the 1979 revolution, and maneuver to recoup their losses by behind-the-scenes support for the clerical takeover by Ayatollah Khomeini and his supporters and the establishment of the Islamic Republic (which soon massacred thousands of genuine revolutionaries and communists).
In the decades since, the U.S. has tried to weaken the Islamic Republic and contain its regional influence. Following September 11, 2001, the Bush regime embarked on a far reaching "war on terror," which aimed to defeat Islamic fundamentalism as an anti-U.S. force, overthrow regimes standing in the way of U.S. objectives in the Middle East-Central Asian regions, and radically restructure this whole swath of the planet in order to solidify and deepen U.S. imperial dominance. In this context, Iran was declared part of the "axis-of-evil" and the U.S. adopted a strategy of regime change to overthrow the Islamist clerics in Tehran and install a pro-U.S. regime.
The U.S. has not been able to quickly make the sweeping regional changes they attempted. But they have never given up their objective of maintaining and strengthening U.S. imperialist dominance of the Middle East. And they have increasingly seen Iran as a big obstacle and problem because it contributes to anti-U.S. Islamic fundamentalism overall; because its regional needs and objectives clash with the U.S.'s; and because its pursuit of nuclear power and possible building of nuclear weapons (or at least developing that capability) threatens a significant shift in regional power unacceptable to the U.S. and threatens its key client in the region—Israel.
During George W. Bush's second term and now under Obama, the U.S. has attempted to come up with a strategy to deal with Iran (including considering military strikes), while intensifying political, economic, diplomatic and military pressure on the Islamic Republic. This has been focused on pressuring Iran to abandon its nuclear program, but is also part of a strategy to weaken the regime, perhaps topple it, but in any case end up with more compliant, pro-U.S. forces in power in Tehran. This debate has become more intense and pressing as Iran has continued to pursue its uranium enrichment program, despite big power demands that it stop.
The uprising in Iran has weakened the IRI, and given rise to sharp debates in the U.S. ruling class over how to best achieve their strategic objectives in this new, unexpected situation. Some have seized on this weakness to argue that military strikes could topple the regime. Others argue not so fast: the current protests won't topple the Ahmadinejad-Khamenei crew, so best cut a deal with them. (See, for instance, Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett, "Another Iranian Revolution? Not Likely," New York Times, January 6)
None of this is in the interest of the people of the world.
The courage and determination shown by millions of Iranian people is truly inspiring. It is important that people in the U.S. step up—and make visible and vocal—their opposition to maneuvering or attacks on the part of the U.S. government. And at the same time, we must stand with the just struggle of the Iranian people against their oppressors, and especially the efforts of the more radical and revolutionary forces within the movement.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #189, January 17, 2010
One year ago, Israel's Operation Cast Lead massacre of Gaza resulted in the deaths of 1,400 Palestinians (13 Israelis died, some by "friendly fire"). The massacre was followed by a blockade that, today, is literally starving the people of Gaza. Over the holiday week, over 1,300 people from around the world went to Cairo, Egypt, which was to be the start of the journey to Gaza for the Gaza Freedom March (GFM). The Call for the March stated: "The conscience of humankind is shocked. Yet, the siege of Gaza continues. It is time for us to take action! On December 31, we will end the year by marching alongside the Palestinian people of Gaza in a non-violent demonstration that breaches the illegal blockade. Our purpose in this March is lifting the siege on Gaza. We demand that Israel end the blockade. We also call upon Egypt to open Gaza's Rafah border. Palestinians must have freedom to travel for study, work, and much-needed medical treatment and to receive visitors from abroad."
Egypt blocked the Gaza Freedom March from getting near the Gaza border. Buses and taxis were stopped; the drivers and bus companies were threatened by Egyptian security forces. Several dozen individuals who eluded security checkpoints and made it to the resort town of Al Arish, near the border with Gaza, were placed under virtual house arrest. In Cairo, marchers were prohibited from congregating in groups of more than six, and harassed, followed, and detained constantly when they protested. In the face of very repressive and challenging conditions, all kinds of creative ways to meet, get organized, protest and reach out to Egyptians emerged. Three hundred people camped out for several days in front of the French Embassy. Palestinian flags were flown from high up on Egypt's famous pyramids. A delegation from the U.S. went to the U.S. embassy, where over 40 people were detained by Egyptian authorities at the direction of U.S. embassy personnel. There were protests at the Israeli consulate. Egyptian people—who are routinely subject to disappearance and torture for any kind of public protest—staged inspiring protests against the blockade of Gaza, and Egypt's planned wall to seal tunnels that provide the only commercial connection between Gaza and the world. For days, the Gaza Freedom March was the main news story in Egypt and made front pages of newspapers across the Middle East.
After days of protest, Egypt offered to allow 100 of the marchers entry into Gaza to deliver humanitarian aid, while denouncing the bulk of the marchers as "hooligans," and vowing to leave them "in the streets." In the course of passionate discussion and great debates within the delegations of different countries, this offer was overwhelmingly rejected by GFM participants, who reaffirmed and strengthened their collective commitment to go to Gaza to march en masse, to break the blockade.
On December 31, the scheduled Gaza Freedom March took place, though not in Gaza as planned. From what appeared to be a bunch of tourists with suitcases (full of protest signs), a march emerged in the middle of one of Cairo's busiest thoroughfares. The security forces were taken by surprise, and began madly punching, kicking, pushing, and shoving the protesters to get them out of the street. Encircled by police in the middle of downtown Cairo for seven hours, the march became a living call to the people of Egypt and the world: Break the Blockade of Gaza! Free Palestine!
The challenges faced by the Palestinian people are complex and daunting. Israel is a powerful, U.S.-sponsored attack dog in a region that is a focal point in the clash between imperialism and all of its horrors, and Islamic fundamentalism, which does not offer a path to any kind of liberation. But the inspiring example and impact of the GFM gives a glimpse of the potential to mobilize the people of the world to stand with the people of Palestine in their struggle for liberation.
Revolution correspondent Alan Goodman was part of the Gaza Freedom March. He kept a blog at alanxgoodman.blogspot.com. In coming issues of Revolution, he will tell the stories of the people and the impact of the Gaza Freedom March—the motivation and experiences of people who made great sacrifices and took great risks to leave their homes and families to march for freedom for Gaza. He'll share experiences with Egyptian activists, and conversations with people in the streets. And his articles will paint a picture of life in Gaza and the West Bank through interviews with activists who have been there recently.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #189, January 17, 2010
January 13, 2010
From the Editors of Revolution,
The world's eyes are riveted on scenes of horror in Haiti. The world's hearts are straining. People everywhere are trying to support the Haitian people in any way they can. Meanwhile, the clock ticks very urgently, as people literally die beneath the rubble and perish on the streets as well for lack of medical care, water, food, and shelter.
The means exist to rescue and aid the Haitian people! These must be made immediately available by the governments of the world and, first and foremost, the United States. While some governments have sent doctors and other forms of aid, as of Thursday morning the United States has focused on sending paratroopers and militarily securing the area. While Obama has now promised $100 million, the U.S. government is above all concerned with ensuring the continuation of the repressive government order and controlling and/or suppressing the initiative and efforts of masses to deal with this horrible situation. ($100 million is less than 1/10 of 1% of U.S. yearly military expenses in Iraq and Afghanistan.) The U.S. government must immediately focus its resources on getting aid directly to the Haitian people, putting supplies on the ground and marshaling the many doctors, engineers, construction workers, etc. who work for the government, as well as the many many people who would volunteer to help any way that they could. THIS IS A HUMANITARIAN EMERGENCY, AND MUST BE DEALT WITH AS SUCH.
The Haitian people themselves must be assisted, and not suppressed. The media – just as it did in Katrina – is already portraying the Haitian people as animals and criminals. In fact, the masses in Haiti – as they did in New Orleans during Katrina – are in the main mobilizing to collectively deal with their situation. These efforts must be supported in all aid programs, and there must be no suppression by the U.S. troops of those who are trying with all their might to save themselves and their people. Volunteers coming from other countries must be assisted by the governments now sending aid to Haiti, and not suppressed.
History shows that there will be, and must be, a struggle against this system to demand that the needs of the masses actually be met and that there NOT be suppression of the masses. As part of this:
There must be no harassment, prosecution or deportation of Haitian immigrants within the U.S. attempting to locate, or aid, their loved ones and friends. Instead, government assistance must be made available to those trying to communicate to the island with a guarantee of at least temporary amnesty for any attempting to go through U.S. government agencies to do so.
There must be no attacks on Haitian people attempting to flee their situation through boats. Instead, the Coast Guard must help people attempting to flee to safety and if they are trying to get to the U.S., must help them do so.
The disaster in Haiti is neither the result of the so-called "will of God" nor the fault of the Haitian people. It is the result of centuries of imperialist domination, occupation and isolation. The news reports talk about Haiti's poverty, but they don't tell you why Haiti is so poor. Very few people know that Haiti was the scene of the only successful slave revolution in history – when the heroic descendants of African slaves drove out the strongest army in the world at that time, the French. Very few people know that the world's powers – especially the U.S., which at that time feared the influence of Haiti on the slaves in this country, and France – embarked on a policy of isolating and impoverishing Haiti. Very few people know that for nearly 20 years in the early 1900's the U.S. marines occupied Haiti, suppressing a liberation struggle and implanting puppets. Very few people know that the U.S. backed the infamously cruel tyrant "Papa Doc" Duvalier, and then his son "Baby Doc," in the middle of the century. And all too few know that it then conspired to overthrow the popular president Jean-Bertrand Aristide in the 1990's and then again in 2004. All these criminal actions – this long criminal history of oppression – flowed from the economic and political needs of the U.S. ruling classes during the time when the U.S. was run, first, by a coalition of capitalist and slave-holding classes, and then more recently by the ruling capitalist-imperialist class. Throughout the last two centuries, the U.S. has backed up reactionary ruling classes within Haiti as part of this.
In other words, the fact that the Haitian people live in terrible conditions and now must face this disaster with little resources other than their own hands and minds, and up against an extremely repressive set of social relations, is the result of a worldwide system. As the message "The Revolution We Need...The Leadership We Have," from the RCP,USA puts it:
Throughout the world, as a result of this system, a billion people or more go hungry every day...with many facing the threat of starvation. Hundreds of millions of children are forced to work like slaves and to live in putrid slums, in the midst of garbage and human waste. Waves of immigrants, unable to live in their own homelands, travel the earth in search of work--and if they find it, they are worked until they can hardly stand and are forced into the shadows, with the constant fear that they will be deported and their families broken apart. Growing numbers of people cannot find work at all now, with many losing their homes as well as their jobs, while others are worked even more mercilessly. Everyone is lured and driven to consume more and more, at the cost of ever mounting debt and the loss of any sense of larger purpose or meaning to life or any deeper connection with other human beings. Many are being pushed to the edge...growing numbers are going over the edge, often lashing out in crazed desperation.
Now this system makes a terrible disaster even worse. Imperialism, of course, did not cause the earthquake. But the system of imperialism dictates how that earthquake is responded to and dealt with.
In sum: this is NOT the best of all possible worlds. We do NOT have to live this way. To again quote the message:
And it is through revolution to get rid of this system that we ourselves can bring a much better system into being. The ultimate goal of this revolution is communism: A world where people work and struggle together for the common good...Where everyone contributes whatever they can to society and gets back what they need to live a life worthy of human beings....Where there are no more divisions among people in which some rule over and oppress others, robbing them not only of the means to a decent life but also of knowledge and a means for really understanding, and acting to change, the world.
As we work and struggle side by side to fight for the urgent demands of the Haitian people, we call on people to also engage with us in discussion on why things ARE the way they are, and wrangling over how to get to a whole different, and much better, world and to get into the work that our leader, Bob Avakian, has been doing on the kind of revolution we need and the ways that such a revolution could be made.
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Revolution #189, January 17, 2010
First, six questions for the politicians, generals, commentators and columnists who now profess such deep sympathy for Haiti:
ONE: If you are so concerned about the catastrophe in Haiti, and feel so sympathetic to the terrible plight of the Haitian people, then why has President Obama promised a mere $100 million in aid, which is barely 1/10 of 1% of what this country spends on its military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq each year? Why has it taken so long for the most powerful country on earth, a mere few hundred miles from Haiti, to deliver the badly needed teams and technology which can remove people from rubble, the fresh water which people so desperately need, the food and medicine and medical personnel so urgently required? And why does the U.S. Coast Guard still insist on turning back any Haitian attempting to seek refuge in the U.S.?
Are you really so concerned? Or are you in fact giving just enough so that America cannot be criticized for its callousness as it was after the tsunami of 2004 and Hurricane Katrina? And are you giving this aid in such small amounts and so slowly because you are more concerned to maintain the repressive government authority in Haiti than you are about meeting the urgent and immediate needs of the Haitian people by getting the aid directly to the people and allowing them to collectively organize to distribute it in a time of crisis, when the ordinary authorities are not totally in control? Are you thereby, despite your professions of sympathy and urgency, sacrificing lives to the maintenance of the repressive social order you back in Haiti?
TWO: If you are so concerned about Haitian "political culture," if you are so desirous of "helping Haitian democracy..." – then tell us WHY you supported a collection of gangsters, military men and proven torturers in their overthrow of the popularly elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, in 2004? Why did the U.S. armed forces kidnap Aristide, flying him into exile in Africa, against his will? Why did the U.S. support the ban on the political organization led by Aristide – Lavalas – and why does the U.S. still insist on banning this organization and preventing Aristide from returning to Haiti to mobilize this group to help deal with the suffering now going on?
Are you really concerned to "spread democracy"? Or is it really the case that your system is NOT about "spreading democracy," but creating structures and instruments for capitalist exploitation and imperialist domination?
THREE: If your army is now the main vehicle you are using to deliver aid, then please inform us as to how this army will be different than the one you used to invade, occupy and dominate Haiti from 1915 to 1934? How will it act differently than that army did, when it militarily suppressed the Caco uprising of peasants, an uprising which demanded an end to the occupation and, in some cases, more equitable agricultural relations in Haiti's countryside? How will it act differently than the army which enslaved Haitian people to work on its projects and bases, and which then forced a constitution, and a new ruling elite, down Haiti's throat during that occupation? And how will it be different than the one which gave assistance and training to the military of the hated tyrants Papa Doc and Baby Doc Duvalier? Indeed, how will it be different than the army that now rages through Afghanistan and Iraq, kicking down doors and killing from the air, and imprisoning and torturing people without charges by the thousand in prisons like Bagram?
Will your army really be used only for aid and assistance? Or is it really the case that the army that defends and fights for your system will, in the guise of delivering aid, actually suppress the will and efforts of the Haitian people to deal with this crisis and their overall situation, and will carry out this suppression with maximum brutality and no mercy whatsoever, in order to further dominate them?
FOUR: If you are so sympathetic about how Haiti has been deforested and turned into an ecological disaster area, how its agriculture has been ruined, how it now has half of its population in a city where in some sections unemployment runs as high as 90% (!), then how did it come to be that it was the U.S. itself which insisted that the Haitian peasantry do away with its huge and valuable pig population back in the 1980s, due to some supposed threat to the U.S. pig population...and how did it happen that U.S. agribusiness during that same period dumped surplus rice into Haiti at below cost, and thereby severely crippled and in some senses ruined Haitian rice growers? And why does Bill Clinton's much-praised plan for Haiti, which we are told will bring hope to Haitians, actually involve setting up sweatshops in which Haitians will be paid 38 cents an hour?!
Do you really want to aid Haitians in developing self-sufficiency? Or is it really the case that America decided in the early 1980s to crush any elements of the economy in scores of oppressed countries, Haiti among them, which might be a basis for self-sufficiency, and to do so in a way that made the economies of these nations even more dependent on the needs and actions of the U.S. imperialist economic system, and that your plans now entail even more fully using the brutal and terrible impoverishment of the Haitian people as a way to pile up even higher profits?
FIVE: If you are so overwhelmingly concerned to just help Haiti, and criticize those who would speak of the U.S. role in creating the conditions that have made this disaster so much worse than it had to be, then why do you grant a megaphone to certifiably insane ignoramuses like Pat Robertson who claim that Haitians made a pact with the devil, or to vicious morons like Rush Limbaugh who stirs up hate and resentment against Haitians among his audience? Why do you have your think tanks like the Heritage Foundation write up ideas for using this disaster to even further take over and reshape the Haitian economy to imperialist needs, and then hurriedly have them remove this blueprint from their website once they are discovered? (Listen to Naomi Klein on Democracy Now!, 1/14/10) Why do your hired slime-merchants like David Brooks of the New York Times spout off about how the reason for Haiti's suffering is that its "culture" is inferior to that of the country which first, in 1804, isolated Haiti and put vicious economic sanctions on it for daring to rise up and overthrow slavery and French colonial domination (and this policy was the brainchild of that great American "father of democracy" Thomas Jefferson)...inferior to the country which invaded Haiti and occupied it and plundered it, backing tyrants and overthrowing (twice) popularly elected presidents...inferior, in other words, to the "culture" of the imperialist system for which Brooks so slavishly propagandizes?
Or are you in fact concerned only that some political explanations – those which point to the actions of your system – not be allowed out, but that other political explanations – those which blame the Haitian people and absolve American imperialism – be circulated 24/7?
SIX: If you are so eager for people to give to charity and want people to believe that such charity is more important than and should even trump mobilizing politically to fight for aid, then please explain how it came to be that the tons and tons of aid collected by people in 2008 to aid Haitians hit by a series of four hurricanes sat in a warehouse in New York for months, with food and medicine literally rotting there, as government officials shirked responsibility and went back on promises? Please, dear sirs and madames, explain how this won't be like so many other crises where the huge efforts of people to assist are channeled into ways that dissipate their feelings of solidarity, where governments make huge promises which then are never delivered, once the TV arc lights go away?
Or is this in fact just one more crisis for your system to snake its way through, distracting people from the root causes, taking their highest aspirations and channeling them into harmless dead ends, as your system continues to create conditions and preserve social relations which make the cost in human lives of such crises far beyond what they need to be?
And then, one question for the people:
When will we see through these lies and fight the power? When will we penetrate into, and show others, the root causes of the problems we face? And when will we build a movement to fight for a whole other way, a revolution, and bring in a new system and society – a communist revolution – that could actually put an end to the ways that these kinds of situations just amount to horror upon horror, agony upon agony, insult upon insult, trauma upon trauma?
Is NOW too soon to begin working to bring into being the conditions where such a revolution could be made? Or is it time, and past time, to be about this? And will YOU take what you have learned in your agonizing over this crisis and your activity to deal with it to join those who are dedicating themselves to this work?
Send us your comments.
Revolution #189, January 17, 2010
On his January 14 700 Club Christian Broadcasting Network television show, Christian fascist Pat Robertson offered his opinion on why the Haitian people were stricken by the devastating January 12 earthquake: "[S]omething happened a long time ago in Haiti and people might not want to talk about it. They were under the heel of the French. Napoleon the Third and whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, 'We will serve you if you get us free from the French.' True story. And so the devil said, 'OK, it's a deal.' They kicked the French out, the Haitians revolted and got themselves free. But ever since they have been cursed by one thing after the other, desperately poor. ... They need to have, and we need to pray for them, a great turning to God."
So, according to Robertson, the Haitian people have only themselves to blame for the January 12 earthquake and the fact that "they have been cursed by one thing after the other" for two centuries. Why? Because from 1791-1804, the slaves there carried out an armed rebellion and—with no help from an imaginary devil—overthrew their French overlords and declared themselves a free people. (Why is it, by the way, that the Pat Robertsons of the world always proclaim that people who rise up against slavery in one form or another have made a "pact with the devil" and, by extension, that the slave masters and oppressors always have "god on their side"?)
Ever since, the people of Haiti have been made to pay for their defiance, including a murderous U.S. occupation of Haiti from 1915-1934, while today Haiti remains a destitute U.S. neo-colony, the poorest country in the Western hemisphere whose flimsy homes and buildings quickly crumbled when the earthquake struck, burying tens of thousands under the rubble and severely injuring many more.
This is the horror that Pat Robertson argues is of the Haitian people's own making. And this is the kind of reactionary utterances this Christian fascist has made many times before, in the service of empire. Here are a few of them:
Over the years, the U.S. mass media and ruling class politicians have treated Robertson's insane, and insanely reactionary, opinions as legitimate, and have given space for them in public discourse, even as they sometimes issue tepid criticism, wondering aloud whether he may at times go "too far" and be "off-color." Robertson's "pact with the devil" comments after the Haiti earthquake drew less-than-withering criticism from President Obama's press secretary, Robert Gibbs, who told reporters that "at times of great crisis there are always people who say really stupid things." Are these merely "stupid things," Mr. Gibbs?
No, they are the views of a longtime apologist for the crimes against humanity committed by U.S. imperialism, and at the same time a well-connected political operative for the Christian fascist movement, which seeks to bring about a theocracy based on a literal interpretation of the Bible. This is a person who ran for president in 1998 and was considered a viable candidate.
At the same time, the U.S. media have directed much attention to how large numbers of Haitians have turned to god for an explanation of the earthquake. There have been reports of how tens of thousands of Haitians have been spending the nights in the streets, singing hymns and calling out the Gospel. The New York Times describes singing going on in the streets of Port-Au-Prince on January 13: "One phrase in Creole could be heard repeatedly... 'Beni Swa Leternel,' they say. 'Blessed be the Lord.'"
And each time someone is pulled alive from the rubble, U.S. politicians and commentators shout about "a miracle," downplaying or completely ignoring the fact that the saving of lives is not due to any "miracle" but to the Herculean, collective efforts of the Haitian people themselves, often digging through concrete with nothing but their bloodied bare hands. One article tells of a Haitian woman, Anne-Marie Morel, raising her arms to the sky after a neighbor is found alive, saying "it's a miracle." But another neighbor, Remi Polevard, who tells the reporter that he has five children buried under nearby debris, shouts back at Morel: "Nonsense, there is no God and no miracle."
You are correct, Remi Polevard. There is no god, and people need to understand that the earthquake is the result of natural causes, but that what is happening now is not at all "natural" and instead is a powerful example of the workings of the capitalist-imperialist system. And it is essential for the oppressed people of Haiti, and all oppressed peoples, to climb out of the ignorance and superstition into which they have been driven and kept by their masters—to examine and understand the world as it really is, and on that basis to radically transform the world as they radically transform themselves, so that the very man-made oppression and misery are things of the past and humanity has truly emancipated itself.
As Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, says in Away With All Gods! Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World, referring to the centuries and centuries of horror that the masses have suffered, and who are told by their oppressors that it is all due to a god "who works in mysterious ways": "How much of this has to go on, and how long does it take, before it becomes clear that if such a god existed, it would indeed be a cruel, vicious, sick, twisted, and truly monstrous god? That no sane and decent person would want to bow down to or follow such a god. And that it is very fortunate that no such god exists—and very liberating to finally come to that realization."
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Revolution #189, January 17, 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
Send us your comments.
Revolution #189, January 17, 2010
The role of the police is not to serve and protect the people. It is to serve and protect the system that rules over the people. To enforce the relations of exploitation and oppression, the conditions of poverty, misery and degradation into which the system has cast people and is determined to keep people in. The law and order the police are about, with all of their brutality and murder, is the law and the order that enforces all this oppression and madness.
Denying women the right to abortion, denying them the right to decide if, and when, they will have children, with everything that means, and all the effects that will have on their lives, denying this is like battering and rape. Denying the right to abortion is a means of exercising forcible control by a male supremacist society over the very lives of women and over their bodies.
No more generations of our youth, here and all around the world, whose life is over, whose fate has been sealed, who have been condemned to an early death or a life of misery and brutality, who the system has destined for oppression and oblivion even before they are born. I say no more of that.
With all the monstrous crimes the U.S. has committed... all these crimes throughout their history and all over the world, crimes so atrocious that it is actually difficult to speak of them. With all that, they still picture themselves as "the good guys taking on the evildoers in the world" and they train and indoctrinate their armed forces and their police inside the U.S. to think of themselves as the good guys going out to fight the bad guys... which means anybody who gets in the way of the rulers of the U.S., who are the real world class evildoers.
If you want to eliminate a problem or an evil, you must get to the root of it. If you want to eliminate the oppression and miserable conditions of the masses of people in the world today, you have to dig down to the underlying foundation, the ground on which this oppression and misery is rooted and which continually gives rise to this oppression and suffering. You cannot get rid of a poisonous plant and create something healthy in its place just by pulling off the top of the plant. You have to pull it up from the roots and then grow something completely different and change the soil too. That is what a radical solution is. Radical means having to do with the root. And this is why a real revolution is needed and this is what it's all about.
Capitalism, especially now that it has reached the stage of imperialism, controls, dominates, manipulates and mangles the lives of people all over the world. Many times you hear these imperialists and their mouthpieces say things like this, "Well you say we're exploiting people. But without us there'd be no jobs." They come out with this especially when it comes to light that they are paying people something like a few cents an hour in countries all over the Third World. No. The truth is, without these imperialists, there would still be people capable of working, people capable of planning and running an economy. There would still be natural resources and potential wealth for the people in those countries when they take control over their societies and remake them in a radical way through revolution.
You hear these people say, "I'm on this corner selling my product, I'm regulating the corner." You ain't regulating shit. You're just being regulated. You're just being put there and allowed to be there as long as what you are doing serves the people who really regulate things, who really run the system, for as long as it serves them or doesn't get in their way.
The time in history, the situation in human society where things have to be this way – that time is over. The basis already exists to meet the needs of the people throughout the world. And to put an end to the vast, horrible and completely needless suffering and misery that people are going through, that people all over the world and, yes, millions and tens of millions of people within the U.S. itself are forced to endure. There's the basis for everyone to have enough food, shelter fit for human beings and things like medical care to enable them to lead healthy lives. Yet at the same time, 40,000 children die every day in the Third World, from starvation and diseases that could be easily prevented or treated, while people all over the world, including in the U.S. are in their millions and billions denied the means to a decent life that should be possible for all.
There is not one human nature. There is not some uniform and unchanging way that everybody is and how everybody sees the world. Human nature has different meanings in different times and for different classes and groups in society.
In order to emancipate themselves, in order to run society and revolutionize the world, masses of people need to wrangle with, they need to think about, to discuss and debate all kinds of things.... One of the main features of socialist society, and one of the main aims of the advance through this socialist stage to communism, is for the masses of people to take up all kinds of questions and to have their creativity set loose in all kinds of ways.
Now I can just hear these reactionary fools saying "well Bob, answer this. If this country is so terrible, why do people come here from all over the world? Why are so many people trying to get in, not to get out?"... Why? I'll tell you why. Because you have fucked up the rest of the world even worse than what you have done in this country. You have made it impossible for many people to live in their own countries as part of gaining your riches and power.
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Revolution #189, January 17, 2010
EDITED TRANSCRIPT OF A TALK BY BOB AVAKIAN, CHAIRMAN OF THE REVOLUTIONARY COMMUNIST PARTY, USA, FALL 2009
[Editors' note: The following is the sixth 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 five excerpts appeared in Revolution #184, #185, #186, #187, and #188. The entire talk can be found online at revcom.us/avakian/driving.]
While putting emphasis on bringing forward basic masses and youth—including basic youth, but also, I would stress, educated youth, and specifically college students—there does continue to be great importance to "the transfer of allegiance" of a section of the intelligentsia: winning a section of the intellectuals to become ardent advocates and active fighters for communism and revolution.
In this regard, particularly in today's circumstances and with the prevailing culture serving the dominant system, we should not underestimate the importance of epistemology, of such fundamental questions as: Is there such a thing as objective reality? Is there such a thing as truth, objective truth? And can we arrive at important, even fundamental elements of a correct understanding of objective reality, in other words of truth?
All this up against all the widespread promotion—particularly among the democratic intellectuals and the intelligentsia more broadly—of what is in fact a very poisonous relativism, which serves the imperialist system very well because it robs people of the initiative and even of the orientation of fighting back against oppression. For how consistent can people be in fighting oppression, and how can they get to the root of that oppression, if they are mired in the misconception that there is no objective truth, not even such a thing as objective reality, but only different "narratives" expressing the different and often conflicting interests of various "identity groups," each pursuing its own "agenda" within the confines of the existing world, dominated as it objectively is by the dynamics and dictates of the capitalist-imperialist system? This relativism reduces people to the narrowest terms when they do oppose oppression. And it is also a perfect foil for, and paralyzes people in the face of, fascist forces with their absolutism—even while, as I pointed out earlier, these fascists themselves are willing to and will wield relativism when it serves them, particularly against such things as the scientific fact of evolution and the scientific method in general.
Along with the importance of epistemology is the point, which I have stressed previously, about how epistemology meets morality. This refers to the fact that it is necessary to struggle vigorously with people that it is not acceptable to say, "I choose not to think about that, not to know about that"; or "I choose to ignore this or that thing because it makes me uncomfortable." This kind of orientation leads many people to become complicit with what are in fact monstrous crimes being carried out by the U.S. imperialist ruling class today, including such things as overt torture and the overt justification of torture.
Also important in this framework, and in relation to the goal of winning a section of the intelligentsia to become ardent advocates and active fighters for communism and revolution, is the role of polemics—and, specifically in this regard, the online theoretical journal putting forward our party's viewpoint, Demarcations (demarcations-journal.org), which has gotten off to a very important start with its major polemic against the political philosophy of Alain Badiou, but which needs to be further developed and to take on other important pillars of erroneous thinking and orientations which are leading people away from gaining a correct understanding of crucial questions—questions such as how to understand the actual nature and deeper causes of major events in society and the world, and is radical change necessary and possible, and if so what kind of radical change, embodying what goals and achievable by what means?—and from acting on a correct understanding to actually change the world.
Now, all this is linked to, and must take place in the overall context of, broadly creating an atmosphere of questioning and contestation—contestation with the prevailing ideas and culture and, in a certain sense, contestation with everything. Where in today's scene, and particularly among the youth, including the educated youth, is the hunger to know about the world as it actually is? Where is the spirit of critical thinking and scientific curiosity to pursue the truth wherever it leads? There are in fact many among the educated youth and among the intelligentsia more broadly with good sentiments, wanting to see a better world and even seeking some ways to try to effect this, through volunteering and in other forms. But all this today is overwhelmingly conditioned, shaped and vitiated by the notion that there is no alternative to the present system; it is weighed down and confined by lowered sights and impoverished dreams, channeled back into service to the very system which, to paraphrase again our party's statement, is itself the cause of so many horrors and so much unnecessary suffering. Where is the alienation at what is truly alienating about this whole society? Where is the revulsion at what is truly repulsive? Where is the defiance of what calls out to be defied? Where is the revolt, the ferment? Where is the dreaming and the restless searching for another way, a radically different world? Where is the culture that gives expression in many diverse ways to all this?
All this, of course, cannot be created out of nothing, or by merely attempting to wish it into being. But there is in fact not nothing in the current situation and atmosphere out of which this can be brought forward. There are real, if at this point fragile, shoots of this, and it is essential to encourage, foster, nurture and develop this in order to have the conditions in which it is possible to win more than an individual here and there to revolution and communism. And here let me emphasize once again what was said earlier about morality and culture and the need to contest much more in this arena.
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Revolution #189, January 17, 2010
We live in a time of extraordinarily high stakes. There is a howling gap between the world that is and the world that humanity could, and badly needs to, bring into being. Sometimes this gap strikes you with an intensity that is little short of agonizing. And there are times, in the dead of a long night, when the odds of achieving what so urgently needs to be done can seem very long indeed.
In wrestling with this recently, I found myself thinking about intellectual courage. It occurred to me that there are at least three kinds of this all too rare quality.
There is the courage to insist on and fight for what you know to be true in the face of conventional wisdom and overwhelming social pressure. You might be surprised at how difficult this can be and how uncommon it is—but people are social animals, conditioned to seek social approval, living in a class society where the critical spirit is determinedly domesticated and kept within the narrowest of constraints. Yet without this courage, nothing of value can be, or ever has been, accomplished.
There is a second kind of intellectual courage: the courage to maintain your convictions in the face of severe repression and threats. In the past few years, I have met a revolutionary woman who had been in the torture chambers of the ayatollahs and refused to say she believed in Allah; and I have heard Dr. Susan Wicklund speak, who takes her life in her hands to provide abortion to women in small towns and, moreover, stands up to speak and write about this with eloquence and honesty. To say the least, I have been moved and inspired by these encounters. Revolutions require that many, many people come to take up this kind of bravery.
And then there is another kind of intellectual courage: the courage to steadfastly look full in the face at a daunting problem or difficult situation—precisely those kinds of situations where the way forward is far from clear and the odds seem forbidding—and to not only refuse to flinch or retreat, but to set yourself to plumbing its full depth and examining its every tortuous complication. The courage, in one sense, to refuse the easy answer.
This courage stands in sharp contrast with the mentality that finally turns away from the depth of the challenge because of the huge and possibly discomforting implications of its possible solutions, choosing instead to either ignore or to effectively re-define and paper over the problem. It stands in opposition to the mentality that, once facing the abyss, reaches instead for a comforting but narcotic and ultimately killing fiction. This mentality, today, is pervasive; unchallenged, it will not only keep humanity in chains but strangle any hope for the future. Given that, one could say that this third type of intellectual courage is the most uncommon and precious of all.
There is nobody that I know of who combines all three types of intellectual courage—and especially that crucial last kind—like Bob Avakian does. There is a tremendous amount—a monumental amount, really—that Avakian has accomplished in creating a body of work, and forging a method and approach, that has rescued and re-fashioned communist thought and communist revolution, which is in fact the only viable answer that humanity actually has to today's excruciating situation. But, as a key part of that approach, there is also an orientation—again, a courage—that has restlessly spurred forward that body of work. His latest talk, "Unresolved Contradictions, Driving Forces for Revolution," addresses a multitude of difficult questions and problems grouped around three crucial and, well, unresolved contradictions: the extremely difficult political polarization that revolutionaries and progressive-minded people face in the world today, including within the U.S. itself; the defeats suffered in the international communist movement in recent decades and the false (and deadly) explanations that are now being put forward in the face of that; and the true depth of the horrific oppression of women, one-half of humanity, along with the painful-but-necessary-to-examine shortcomings of our own movement in rising to the challenges in that arena.
The way that Avakian goes at these constellations of questions provides an example of what I'm getting at. No prettifying, no false reassurances... but a relentless analysis of the depth and texture and motion of these agonizing contradictions, and through that process, painstakingly locating the hidden sources of change and possible pathways forward within these unresolved questions, drawing out the ways in which they are in their essence driving forces for revolution, and posing the challenge to us to fully face reality and help forge those pathways in the realms of both theory and practice and thereby undertake, as effectively as possible, the hard but urgently necessary work of making revolution, of transforming the world.
There is a fearlessness there, and a hunger for the truth. But it is not something mysterious; it is something to think about and draw on, something to learn from and apply, no matter how dark the night or bright the day.
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Revolution #189, January 17, 2010
The film Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire is a brave endeavor. It explores a rarely depicted reality for millions of women in our society, in particular the ways this brutal reality is experienced by Black women. The main character, Claireece Precious Jones, is an obese, dark-skinned young Black woman whose life has been a hell on earth of physical and sexual abuse.
The film looks unflinchingly at all Precious has suffered—raped by her father, pregnant with his second child, HIV positive, abused by her mother, subjected to disrespect from classmates and an uncaring school system. She feels, for good reason, invisible to the world. But, as Annie Day's review in Revolution newspaper put it, "The film also traces through a transformation for Precious. She is helped, nurtured and challenged by Blue Rain, a literacy teacher in a pre-GED program. And she is surrounded by young women like herself―some who are poor, formerly strung out young mothers, others who are beaten and cast out but all of them caring for each other in what is otherwise a largely uncaring world." (Revolution #184, November 29, 2009)
It's also beautifully made, with stirring and complex performances, putting you in the shoes of one of society's downcast and demonized. And, like powerful art, it is truly soul stirring.
Many, many people have welcomed this. Lines at theaters showing the film snaked out of the building and around corners. And commentary about the power of the impact of this film went on for weeks in print, on the radio and blogs.
The Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund received the following letter from a reader in prison:
But some have responded with sharp critiques of the film, saying it's like "ghetto porn" and contributes to negative stereotypes of Black people. One widely referenced critique is from Black author Ishmael Reed. In a lengthy review titled "Hollywood's Enduring Myth of the Black Male Sexual Predator: The Selling of Precious," Reed condemned the movie for both "demonizing Black men," and for having "the worst depiction of Black females I've ever seen." Reed also said, "I would argue that it [Precious] makes D.W. Griffith look like a progressive." (Griffith was the director of the film, Birth of a Nation, a glorification of the early 20th century KKK.) Reed also charged the film with "minstrelism."
The promotion of minstrelsy is a pervasive part of American culture—images that negate the humanity and real creativity of Black people, reducing them to stereotypes that reaffirm in the minds of whites their own sense of superiority. These take form today with things like the parade of pro athletes and rappers portrayed as mindless criminals and thugs or Black women being depicted as sexually promiscuous gold diggers. So concern about the portrayal of Black people is understandable. But does Precious do this? No. Precious takes people who are usually only depicted as stereotypes, hated and looked down at, if looked at at all—overweight, dark-skinned Black girls and women on welfare—and shows them as they are, full humans with complexity and humanity. In this way it contributes to understanding more deeply the depths of the oppression people like them face and the impacts of those stereotypes. This is the exact opposite of minstrelsy.
It would take reams to take apart all of Reed's argument, but the essence of what he says is that Precious was made by white people—with Black artists as fronts—to market negative images of Black men to white audiences.
From Reed's article: "[D]id Daniels direct Precious or is he really playing the flak catcher for this heinous project like [executive producers] Oprah Winfrey and [Tyler] Perry? When he went on the set to exercise his role as 'director' did the white people who own the movie and provide the crew for this film call security? Hard to say."
He develops this further: "They [white people] want to peek behind the curtains of black life to seek confirmation that all of the myths they've heard about black life are true. Richard Wright said that 'The Negro is America's metaphor.' More like America's anti-depressant. People who are miserable in their own lives getting off by consuming black depravity, a big business."
And towards the end of his article, Reed writes, "Will the 'niche' audience for which this movie is intended ever become weary of the brothers being a symbol of universal male misogyny? The face on the bull's-eye at which disgruntled feminists from all ethnic groups aim their arrows, women who are scared to challenge the misogyny practiced by males who share their background? Judging from the box office receipts, maybe not."
First, Reed never once asks if the film reflects reality. He never asks what it is actually like for young women and girls—of all nationalities—who are raped and molested in our society. And the particular ways this impacts Black women who are doubly oppressed. He never suggests that these stories should be told. By making this solely about a "marketing strategy" to sell "images of Black male depravity," Reed erases the brutal and undeniable reality of what it means to walk the earth as a woman. In the U.S. alone, 1 in 4 women are raped, a woman is beaten by her partner every 15 seconds, 3 women are killed every day by lovers and husbands, and almost 220 children are sexually abused every day―most of them by a relative or family friend.
Reed even criticizes the Pulitzer prize winning play, Ruined, about rape in the Congo, for contributing to this demonization. (Rape was systematically used as a weapon of war in the Congo and this play depicts the harrowing reality. There are no comprehensive statistics, but hundreds of thousands of women were raped in the Congo in the last 10 years and this is continuing at a frightening rate. The play also alludes to the role of the West in fueling the conflict in order to gain control of coltan resources, which are used in electronic devices such as cell phones. (Raymond Lotta discusses this in his powerful, short video: The Rape of the Congo and Your Cell Phone, youtube.com/raymondlotta.)1
Now do something Ishmael Reed refuses to do—stop and think about the lived impact of those numbers. The dreams of young girls crushed and broken and the lifetimes of nightmares that fill young girls' sleep. And think what it means that on top of this, like Precious, women are told in a thousand ways that they brought this torment on themselves. Annie Day wrote, "The story of Precious is not an anomaly but a distillation." And this reality reflects how this is so.
Reed also ignores the way the film has touched many, many people, especially (though not only) thousands of Black women who responded to seeing the film by telling anyone who would listen their own stories of abuse. Across the country, on Internet forums, schools and theatre lobbies Revolution distributors have talked to people. Even if not experienced with the same extremity, many women said they felt Precious gave a window into what they experience.
Third, Reed erases and ignores the development and personhood of Precious. She confronts horrific sexual and physical abuse, illiteracy, being infected with AIDS by her father and more, but isn't broken by them. He ignores the relationships Precious forges with her classmates, and with her teacher, who nurture and challenge her. They develop bonds of friendship, respect, struggle, and caring. While the film does not go easy on the brutality Precious suffers—it also shows her with humor, humanity, curiosity, a vibrant imagination, intelligence, and heart. This is not some faceless victim. But not once does Reed talk about her this way.
Writing in Salon.com, Erin Aubry Kaplan made an insightful point about why a young woman like Precious would be ignored and the importance of the film in telling her story, "Far from being some exploitative spectacle for whites, the hard-hitting tale of Precious is a film for blacks and a challenge to drop our own emotional armor and embrace a real-life story we have been minimizing for a long time—that of a big, black, sullen-faced, illiterate girl who lives in the depths of the ghetto and in all likelihood will stay there. She is the bogeywoman not just of white society but of black society, too, especially for a middle class that's been trying for years to rescue its 'negative' racial image from the likes of Precious. But while we in the real world preach community ad nauseam, it's girls—and boys—like her who remain at the bottom of the well. In making the bottom dweller eminently human, the movie forces blacks to assess their own humanity. And I found myself squirming in the seat more than once."
The other thing that stands out in Reed's article is the way he talks about women generally. He refers to young Black women professors who have commented positively on Precious at the web zine The Root as "...[T]he types who are using university curriculum to get even with their fathers." He suggests that the poet and author Sapphire and the filmmaker Lee Daniels have falsely remembered histories of abuse. He hardly ever mentions a woman without saying something about her looks. Mariah Carey, who plays a welfare case worker, is "firm," "the camera favors" Paula Patton, who plays Precious' teacher, Blue Rain; he says three times that the actress who plays Precious is 350 pounds (a fact which he is clearly bothered by), and he describes one of the film's financial backers as "manicured" and "buffed," and one who "doesn't go lightly on the eye shadow." And in linking Oprah Winfrey's backing of this film with what he sees as her other efforts to demean Black men, including backing and starring in The Color Purple (which he calls a "black incest product"), he quotes someone as saying, "like her addiction to food," Oprah can't help demonizing Black men.
His defense of patriarchy also bubbles over in relation to gay people. Here he gets the basic facts of the film wrong. He says a male nurse, John John, played by Lenny Kravitz, is gay. In actuality, the film makes clear that John John is straight, but Reed's vision is so distorted he can't seem to fathom a soft-spoken male character who isn't gay. He goes on to say Precious is "a film in which gays are superior to Black male heterosexuals," creating some sort of patriarchal totem pole and then seeking to determine where "his group" sits in relation to the top.
Not everyone who has raised concerns about the film contributing to stereotypical portrayals of Black people or the demonization of Black men would uphold this kind of straight-up misogyny. But you have to ask why Reed's argument goes there and why his argument has resonated.
"Women are not breeders. Women are not lesser beings. Women are not objects created for the sexual pleasure of men. Women are human beings capable of participating fully and equally in every realm of human endeavor. When women are held down, all of humanity is held back. Women must win liberation, and they can only be liberated through the revolutionary transformation of the world and the emancipation of all of humanity, and through being a powerful motive force in that revolution."
Is there a reason to be concerned about the portrayal of Black men in popular culture? Absolutely. America was built on this—during slavery, the spectre of Black men as sexual predators was used to justify brutal subjugation. During the Jim Crow era, it was used to justify hundreds of lynchings of Black men. Birth of a Nation, which we mentioned above, is a celebration of the KKK, which was responsible for thousands of those lynchings and for creating a situation of literal terror for Black people. It was given a world-premiere at the White House and a ringing endorsement by the president at that time, Woodrow Wilson. (Wilson was reported to have commented that "it is like writing history with lightning. And my only regret is that it is all so terribly true.")
Today, everywhere you turn are images of "young Black super-predators" and "irresponsible gangsters"—reality TV shows like COPS and even sports reports on ESPN are full of depictions of Black men as criminals and thugs. And the only "positive" images offered up are of Black men as cops, soldiers and Navy Seals. We don't need any of this!
And this system has sought to "emasculate" Black men throughout history. Literally, in the case of many lynchings where Black men were tortured (in the case of Claude Neal who was accused of murdering a white woman, his penis and testicles were cut off and he was forced to eat them before being barbarically killed2). And figuratively. Under slavery, any white man connected to a plantation could rape any female slave on that plantation, and her husband or brother or father or other loved ones could do nothing about it (to say nothing of what women slaves faced if they fought back). And Black men were treated like children, forced to scrape and shuffle, and bow their heads at any white person who crossed their path, with the threat of death if they didn't.
One of the examples Reed cites is the Central Park Jogger case. In 1989, five Black and Latino youth were falsely charged of raping a white woman in Central Park. The media and authorities whipped up an ugly racist fervor around this case, painting these youth as if they were uncontrollable animals. Despite DNA evidence that showed none of them were linked to the crime, they were convicted and spent years in prison on these false charges.
Reed seizes on a poem written by Sapphire at the time called Wild Thing, where she writes about the rape from the alleged rapists' perspective. It was controversial at the time—many charged that she was attempting to "humanize" the alleged rapists because she painted a real and powerful sense of their anger, and from where it arose though she didn't idealize or uphold them. It is true, and a problem, that she, like most people at the time, did not question their guilt. This is a necessary thing to learn from, but we encourage readers to look up the poem, as she is attempting to speak to an important contradiction, and was not out to "demonize Black men" or make great financial gains, as Reed cynically states.
The perpetrator of all this is not women. And it's certainly not women who have spoken out about the oppression they've faced as women. The capitalist system is what's really responsible for the oppression of Black people, and it's what's holding down all of humanity. The brutal subjugation of Black people has been built into the very fabric of U.S. society from the beginning. The system of white supremacy has gone through many changes, but it has NOT gone away and has in fact been integral to the economy, the politics, the culture and the psychology of America since Day One. It was on the basis of the enslavement of Black people that the wealth of this country, both that of the slaveholders in the South and of the merchants and factory owners of the North, was built up. The exploitation of Black sharecroppers was a pillar of continued development of the U.S. economy during the Jim Crow period. And Black workers being limited to the bottom tier of the U.S. work force was a source of superprofits for U.S. capital post-WW2. Today, the other side of the images of Black people as inner city thugs and welfare queens is a reality based on the very operation of the capitalist system, which has sucked the jobs out of the cities across the country, as capital moves around the world in search of higher rates of profit.
Along with this grinding exploitation has been denial of the very humanity of Black people, both men and women! This may seem obvious, but when Reed looks at it, the heart of what he sees is the denial of Black manhood. In this view, depicting the ways Black men participate in the subjugation of Black women is offensive and harmful because it undercuts their ability to be unfettered dominators of "their" women.
Striving to enable Black men to assert their "manhood" in a society saturated in the violent and systematic oppression of women will only lead to keeping this system with these relations intact. What meaning does manhood even have in this society except one that involves the assertion of strength and power over women, whatever the intention? It means asserting the privileges that historically are granted men and in this case, Black men wanting their share of that privilege. It would be as if a slave were to assert his/her right to be a master—as opposed to being free.
And far too often, this "privilege" of being a dominator is upheld and even celebrated. Oppressed men of all races are conditioned and taught to act as the agents of the oppression of women and to gain gratification from this. Men are told, and take up the view themselves, that women are inferior beings over whom they have dominance, who exist for their sexual pleasure or to serve them as mothers or wives. These ideas have deep roots in the centuries old development of human societies into class societies with the oppression of women as one of the most essential divides.
From Annie Day's review: "We are told and taught that the family is a divinely inspired eternal institution, forged out of love and caring. In fact, the form of the family has changed over the centuries.
"Our ancestors traced the lineage through the mother and lived in kinship units that did not involve relations of domination, ownership or suppression. Only with the development of society's ability to produce a surplus over what was necessary for mere survival, and the rise of private property and the division into classes on that basis, did the modern family arise. Once that had happened, it began to matter which child belonged to which father so the surplus wealth, or lack thereof, could be passed down. The family enforced a division of labor where the woman was responsible for providing the man with children and the raising of children, and the women and children were the property of the man."
One of the things that confuses people is that patriarchal structures and views are often maintained and defended by women as well. Mothers are expected to prepare their daughters for the role society expects them to play. In many semi-feudal societies, the mother-in-law plays a dominant, and often direct, role over her son's wife. Or in many Black families, grandmothers have often been seen as, and celebrated for, playing the role of an enforcer (for an example of this, go back to Richard Pryor's routines about his grandmother and the switch). Nonetheless, all this is still part of, and part of maintaining, the overall patriarchal setup.
Precious depicts this powerfully and painfully. Mary Jones, Precious' mother, abuses Precious—sexually, physically and mentally. In the film, she is monstrous, and through the story you come to understand the monstrous choices she faced—if she was going to keep her man, she would have to exchange her daughter. This cruel choice then shaped everything about who she was. Bound up with this, she adopted the view that since she'd been sexually humiliated, and fucked over for someone else's pleasure, she deserved the right to humiliate and fuck over her daughter for her sexual pleasure. This is a calculation, it is about property and domination in our most intimate spaces. And it drives all too much of male sexual behavior, even as in this case it is clearly shown animating a woman abuser.
All this is actively inculcated in, and far too often taken up by, people today. Through the increasingly violent pornography where women are literally empty shells to be demeaned and degraded for men's sexual pleasure and through the ceaseless speculation about prominent women's baby bumps in celebrity magazines—women are told they should find their meaning in being a sexual commodity or breeder for men. And in books, magazines and advice columns—women are told, often by other women, to shape their lives around attracting and keeping a man.
This comes down in particularly sharp and painful ways among Black people because "the traditional two-parent family" has, in many ways, broken down—most Black children are raised by single mothers. But this too is a product of the workings of the system itself—the economic base for two-parent families was undercut with the outflow of jobs internationally to further exploit people around the globe, there was an influx of drugs consciously directed at the Black community, then brutal repression leading to there being almost a million Black men in prison today. On top of this, there is an ideological assault that turns this situation on its head and blames Black people themselves for these conditions which are not of their making. You hear this poison trumpeted all over—that the source of the problems in the Black community is irresponsible Black fathers. And it's even coming from the commander-in-chief of the American empire, Barack Obama, blaming "absent Black fathers" for the way this system has written off now generations of youth, unable and unwilling to provide jobs or decent education or any kind of future at all.
Lots of people think the solution to all this is "strong male role models and father figures." And many have pointed to Precious in that light as well—that it's harmful because, whether it depicts reality or not, these are characters that shouldn't be highlighted. But art like this, art that depicts the oppression of women—and the role men play in that—should have, as one of its effects, the posing to such men of the real human cost of this oppression and should propel them to not only renounce "their part" in it but to fight against it.
Here we'll quote a special issue of Revolution, "The Oppression of Black People, The Crimes of This System, and the Revolution We Need": "Black children don't need 'male role models'—they need an end to the crippling conditions that hem them in at every point. They need revolution, and they need revolutionary role models, women no less than men. They need to see men and women who model the mutual respect and equality that reflects the world we are fighting for: a whole new liberated world where girls grow up strong and without fear of being raped, degraded or abused, where no child is ever deemed 'illegitimate,' and where men―like everyone else―find their worth in contributing to the betterment of all of humanity through the revolutionary transformation of all society rather than by getting in on even a little of the oppression of this nightmare world."
Any other approach to this will only strengthen the chains that keep us all bound.
In many ways, particularly for men, the oppression of women and whether you seek to completely abolish or to preserve the existing property and social relations and the corresponding ideology that enslave women (or maybe "just a little bit" of them) is a touchstone question among the oppressed themselves. It is a dividing line between "wanting in" and really "wanting out": between fighting to end all oppression and exploitation—and the very division of society into classes—and seeking in the final analysis to get your part in this.
Bob Avakian, A Horrible End or An End to the Horror?, p. 140
A final point in all this: one of the controversies around Precious has been whether the film ends on a high note. And here we need to unravel some things.
Ishmael Reed quotes writer Courtland Milloy: "Strangest of all, many reviewers felt the movie ended on a high note. Time, for instance, wrote that Precious 'makes an utterly believable and electrifying rise from an urban abyss of ignorance and neglect.' Excuse me, the movie ends with the girl walking the streets, babies in her arms, having just learned that her father has died of AIDS—but not before infecting her."
But this ignores, or doesn't recognize, the way Precious does triumph on one level. This is captured in the gift from Precious of an orange scarf to a small girl with a black eye, also beaten by her family, whose friendship Precious had earlier spurned. Precious found this orange scarf discarded, though in her dreams it was a gift from a Black fairy godmother and in the film, it is ever present—a piece of brightness in her otherwise dark life. She passes this on to help this little girl make it through. Precious is determined to move forward, she does not return to the familiar confines of her mother's dark apartment, she does not return to the brutal and bloody as so many women in our society do. She strikes out—into the unknown and uncertain. As the film closes, we are certain her life will be a struggle, but we also know she will not go back to what was.
It is the case however that this alone will not lead her to the victory we hope for her. And here is where there is bitterness at the film's end—but it is a bitterness made of the world today, and the film is an honest depiction of that. One of the things we heard from many people in interviews or on online forums after the film was that this showed that making good choices can get you out of a bad situation. This is not true, and we don't think this is the lesson to draw from this powerful story.
Annie Day's review spoke to this: "[T]his situation is not a product of one individual's poor choices or irresponsible behavior. People do not choose the society into which they are born. They do not choose the structure of that society's traditional relations between different groups of people―relations in which people of one gender, or one race or nationality, possess privileges and lord it over the others. They encounter these relations from even before they begin to speak, so that it can seem as natural as the air they breathe―but they do not choose them. They do not choose to be in a situation where everything―and everyone―is seen as a means to profit and more profit by those who have power, and where this outlook saturates and permeates everyone else. All this is thrust upon them, and they must find their position within it.
"The only real choice we have is whether to resist this, to make our peace with it, or to respond to being demeaned by reaching back, demeaning and brutalizing others. To either fight against being made meaningless as 'black grease,' or to try to get your own piece of that domination."
Reed's answer to this choice is clear and wrong, but a radically different answer is required from all those who want to see the potential "of Precious girls everywhere" realized.
We need a revolution. The most radical revolution of millions bringing into being a radically different system. A total revolution, aiming for the emancipation of all of humanity—putting an end to a situation where people are crushed down and crushed under by the millions, putting an end to class divisions, the oppression of whole peoples and the supremacy of others and the brutal and ubiquitous subjugation of women—literally half of humanity.
As a part of fighting for, and fueling, that revolution, we need to be bringing forward today a radically different morality—new ways of being and of treating each other. Where instead of an ideal of asserting one's "manhood," there is an ideal of asserting and expressing one's humanity. A morality of equality and respect among different nationalities and cultures, between men and women. An appreciation and encouragement of the outpouring of bitterness at what it means to be oppressed in the world today, tsunamis of speak-outs about the otherwise all too hidden pains and abuses. A fostering of friendship among men and women, boys and girls without seeing each other as commodities to be gained or gotten over on. Sexual relations that explore the full range of human pleasure explored mutually by fully present equals. A spirit of debate and struggle, curiosity and learning, imaginings and resistance—all as part of really building a movement for revolution to change the whole world once and for all.
1. See also www.guardian.co.uk/world/2006/nov/14/congo.chrismcgreal and www.vday.org/drcongo/background#1. [back]
2. This case is discussed powerfully in Bob Avakian's talk, Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About, youtube.com/revolutiontalk. [back]
Send us your comments.
Revolution #189, January 17, 2010
Successful Fundraiser for Revolution Books:
I thought it was refreshing to hear people so articulately express what I've always felt and what I sometimes have trouble expressing. I thought they raised a lot of really good points. Especially the questions about human nature...
Woman in her 20s, NYU alumnus
On Friday night, January 8, 285+ people packed into Friends Meeting House in New York City for an evening titled "After 'Change You Can Believe In,' Wally Shawn reads from his Essays and discusses human nature with a communist."
After reading his essay "The Quest for Superiority," playwright and actor Wally Shawn sat down for a probing conversation with Andy Zee, spokesperson for Revolution Books. The audience, which included people in theater, publishing, film, and academia, as well as activists and students, really welcomed and listened intently to what was a serious discussion of deep and urgent questions facing humanity. Significantly, Wallace Shawn took part in the evening in order to help save Revolution Books, and the event raised several thousand dollars towards the store's $100,000 Fund Drive. Look to Revolution newspaper (revcom.us) for future coverage.
Revolution #189, January 17, 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]
Revolution #189, January 17, 2010
"I went to prison on Robben Island. I was arrested for protesting against apartheid. I was willing to make that sacrifice for the struggle. And I will continue as long as I am alive."
Dennis Brutus in an interview, 2008
Dennis Brutus—who fought fearlessly for many years against South Africa's notorious apartheid regime; who in the following decades stood front and center in struggles for economic and social justice across the globe; and who penned sublime, engaged poems available today in more than a dozen collections—died on December 26 at his home in Cape Town, at age 85.
As a young man Brutus spoke out against the racist system of apartheid, especially in the arena of sports. He formed the South African Sports Association (an umbrella organization of Black sports groups that demanded official recognition in South Africa and internationally) as a form of protest and as an alternative to the country's all-white sports association. Brutus was also at the forefront of an effort that led to Olympic officials banning South Africa from international competition from 1964 until apartheid ended some 30 years later.
In the early 1960s Dennis Brutus was "banned" because of his activism—which meant he was forbidden to publish his poetry, essays and journalism, and barred from meeting with more than two non-family members at a time. In 1963, after he broke this ban, Brutus was arrested and sentenced to prison. He fled to Mozambique when released on bail, but was captured and taken to Johannesburg. Attempting there to escape police custody, he was shot in the back and nearly died while waiting for an ambulance that would accept Black people. After recovering, Brutus was sentenced to 18 months on Robben Island, where his cell was next to Nelson Mandela's.
Forced to leave South Africa in 1966, Brutus emigrated in 1971 to the U.S., where he taught literature and African studies at Northwestern University and the University of Pittsburgh and continued his activism against apartheid. He published many volumes of poetry but his work was banned in South Africa, except for one book that slipped through under the name John Bruin. In the U.S., Brutus was persecuted by the Reagan administration, which tried to deport him in the early 1980s. But he won a political asylum case in a U.S. court and throughout the following decades Brutus lived in the U.S., continuing to stand with the people in many just causes, including the fight against apartheid.
In February 2000, Brutus was one of 185 people arrested at the U.S. Supreme Court demanding a new trial for framed death-row political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal. Before being arrested, he told the Revolutionary Worker newspaper (now Revolution): "I went to prison for my opposition to racism and I'm right here opposing racism and injustice.... We want a new political and legal order where there is justice." (Revolutionary Worker #1046, March 12, 2000, at revcom.us)
After apartheid was officially ended, Brutus returned to South Africa. But the change he expected to see, including a better life for the people, did not come—and Brutus became highly critical of the leading African National Congress. In a 2005 interview with Amy Goodman he said, "[W]e come out of apartheid into global apartheid. We're in a world now where, in fact, wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few; the mass of the people are still poor. ... And this is quite striking in South Africa ... a society which is geared to protect the rich and the corporations and actually is hammering the poor, increasing their burden, this is the reverse of what we thought was going to happen under the ANC government."
Dennis Brutus was part of a movement of African artists who wrestled with the legacy of colonialism and a colonized education. And his writing passed through different phases as he struggled to speak to the common people. In 1973 he was invited to an international friendship table tennis tournament in revolutionary China. He had been reading Mao Tsetung's poetry and was impressed by the spare power of Chinese verse to convey much, with few words. In 1975 he published a book, China Poems, influenced by Chinese chueh chu, a forerunner of haiku.
Brutus stayed active and committed all his life. From apartheid to the environment he spoke out, took risks, and stood with the people. In October 2005 and January 2006, Brutus served as one of the distinguished jurists on the International Commission of Inquiry on Crimes Against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration, held in New York City.
He was also one of the honorary hosts for an evening of reading on December 7, 2005 in New York of Bob Avakian's memoir, From Ike to Mao and Beyond. In a message issued in building for the reading, the hosts said: "Coming from diverse outlooks and perspectives, we are proud to serve as honorary hosts for this celebration. At a very dangerous time in this country it is crucial that voices like Bob Avakian's must be heard, his work and ongoing story of his life be engaged with."
In December 2009, shortly before he died, he urged people to protest the Copenhagen UN summit on climate change, recording interviews punctuated with poetry from his sickbed.
Over the years, Dennis Brutus completed more than a dozen collections of poetry, including Sirens Knuckles Boots and Letters to Martha while imprisoned at Robben Island.
There will come a time
There will come a time we believe
When the shape of the planet
and the divisions of the land
Will be less important;
We will be caught in the glow of friendship
a red star of hope
will illuminate our lives
A star of hope
A star of joy
A star of freedom
Caracas, Venezuela, October 18, 2008
Dennis Brutus will be greatly missed.
Revolution #189, January 17, 2010
LA Students: "We Are All Oscar Grant..."
Students in a club at Locke High School in Watts staged an inspiring rally in the senior quad at their lunch hour. They had made signs and stood together chanting, "No Justice, No Peace, Don't Trust the Police." At first only about a dozen students stood together chanting. Then one student organizer got on the bullhorn. He said, "We are all Oscar Grant. I am, you are, we all are. What happened to him could happen to you or any one of us. We need unity. Enough is enough. ... This isn't the first time someone has been killed by cops and it won't be the last unless we get together to stop it. This is about humanity. This is our struggle." More students grabbed signs. Another student got on the bullhorn and also called on people to stand with them and join in. She said, "You always talk about how your friends were beat by police, or your cousin was shot. Well this is your opportunity. It's time to take a stand." At the end many were standing together, their chant: "Stop police brutality, stand up for humanity."
On Friday, January 8, a significant protest was held at the county courthouse in downtown Los Angeles at the first LA court date for Johannes Mehserle—the cop who shot Oscar Grant in the back, killing him on New Year's Eve 2009 in Oakland.
Starting at 7 a.m., people began to gather until there were more than 150 who showed up for a protest and press conference. After the case was moved to Los Angeles, activists including the October 22nd Coalition against Police Brutality, Repression & the Criminalization of a Generation brought together different groups and individuals and formed the L.A. Coalition for Justice for Oscar Grant. They spread the word through flyers, Facebook and email. Students from different schools, including UCLA and high school students from the FREE LA High School, came.
At UCLA, 40 or 50 students signed a banner, "UCLA students say: 'We are all Oscar Grant. The whole damn system is guilty," and eight students from UCLA went to the demo and carried the banner.
A woman and her son drove in from the San Fernando Valley—they wanted to be there to show their outrage about the murder and oppose any attempt by the system to bury this case by moving it from Oakland to LA. About two dozen activists came from the San Francisco Bay Area, in addition to many members of Oscar Grant's family who went inside to attend the hearing.
A highlight of the rally was a solidarity statement from Keisha Brunston, whose nephew was shot 80 times by police, and the mother of Carlos Rivera, who was also killed by cops. Many of the speakers noted that Mehserle would not have been going to trial on murder charges if not for the resistance, including the rebellions by people in Oakland.
People chanted "Justice for Oscar Grant," "We are all Oscar Grant," and "The Whole Damn System is Guilty." People coming from their own court dates joined the rally and listened to the statements, taking up fliers and telling their own stories of abuse at the hands of the police.
Inside the courtroom the judge ruled on three issues: continuing the gag order forbidding the attorneys from making public statements about the case, turning down TV station KTVU's request for allowing cameras in the courtroom, and requiring the continued presence of Mehserle at every court date. In his rulings Judge Robert Perry talked about the "violence" of the protests in Oakland, warning that he had the power to put the case off for years, if he thought it was warranted.
The next court date will be February 19, when the defense will argue a motion to recuse the district attorney and a motion to reduce the bail amount. The trial is expected to last two weeks and to begin in mid-May.
Revolution #189, January 17, 2010
Grand jury let killer cops off in police murder of Mark Barmore!
Shelia and Marissa Brown are facing charges in retaliation for speaking the truth about the cold blooded assassination of Mark Anthony Barmore by the police. Mark Barmore was shot to death August 24, 2009 in the House of Grace daycare center, in front of a dozen children, in the basement of the church where Shelia and her husband Melvin are pastors. Shelia and her daughter Marissa were there, with the children, watching as Mark surrendered to the police and was shot down in cold blood.
Pastor Melvin Brown himself has played a key role in getting the community to stand up in the face of this outrage and demand justice for Mark Barmore. He has also continued to fight the official attempts to cover up the crime and to cool out the resistance of the people to it.
At 10 pm on December 23 the grand jury found the police were "justified" in the shooting of Mark Barmore. Their decision was made without hearing the testimony of the eyewitnesses.The investigation was delayed for four months before even starting to hear evidence in the case. Authorities twice cancelled appointments to hear the Browns' testimony. Finally, at the last minute, they subpoenaed the Browns, right before Christmas, at a time they were to be in Mississippi visiting the grandmother. When the Browns petitioned the court for a brief continuance so that they could tell the facts—after a four-month delay—this request for a few brief days by the eyewitnesses was summarily denied by Judge Joseph McGraw!
And this, in turn, meant that the grand jury never heard these eyewitnesses' testimony—and the two cops walked!
Now, heaping outrage on top of outrage, and in a blatant retaliation against the Browns for speaking the truth, officials have brought charges of contempt of court against Marissa and Shelia.
The way it stands now, police killed this unarmed youth, in a church in front of the pastor's wife, daughter, and a dozen children. The courts let the cops walk and then brought contempt of court charges against the pastor's wife and daughter. The message is: "We can kill Black people anytime, anywhere and there's nothing you can do about it. And if people dare to stand up and resist this, we'll come after you too!"
We can't let them get away with this attack on the Browns! Take action now!
What you can do:
1. Post this email to your list serves. Spread the word everywhere!
2. Flood the authorities with emails from around the country!
Send emails to State's Attorney Joseph Bruscato: firstname.lastname@example.org
Demand that the criminal contempt charges against Shelia and Marissa Brown be dropped and their testimony in the police murder of Barmore be heard.
Send a copy of your letter to: (And for more information, and your ideas)
Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, Chicago Branch
c/o Revolution Books
1103 N. Ashland
Chicago, Illinois 60622
3. Call the State's Attorney at 815-319-4700
Demand that the criminal contempt charges against Shelia and Marissa Brown be dropped and their testimony in the police murder of Barmore be heard.
4. Attend the court hearing and show your support for the Browns:
Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 2:30 pm
Courtroom A, Winnebago County Criminal Justice Center
650 West State St., Rockford, Illinois
5. Read and spread Revolution newspaper coverage of the Rockford police murder of Mark Anthony Barmore: Rockford, Illinois: Outrage as Grand Jury Approves Police Murder; Reactionary Counter-Attack in Rockford, Illinois; Masses Rise Up Against Police Murder in Rockford, Illinois
6. Post comments at the Rockford Register Star to counter the many racist, hate-filled messages and lies! Go to www.rrstar.com
— Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, Chicago Branch
c/o Revolution Books, 1103 N. Ashland, Chicago, IL 60622
Revolution newspaper: revcom.us
Revolution #189, January 17, 2010
Revolution received the following correspondence:
I am a professor who is a reader of the paper and a supporter for the local bookstore, Libros Revolución. We have been raising funds for the bookstore through book sales on campus where I teach. I'd like to share our experience in doing this as a way to spur on other professors and students who are supporters to do some similar fundraising.
I think we've done about 10 tables in the last two years. Initially, the books came from boxes that had been donated to Libros Revolución and probably 250 books donated by a friend of a bookstore supporter. Those books included things like What Happened To the Stars of the 50's? and art deco and crafts books. Since then, another supporter of the bookstore donated at least 250 books, with a lot of good children's books and a lot of dime-store novels. A faculty member in Pan African Studies that I know from the union donated another 150 that someone had given to her. She sees us out there and thought of us when she got them and she has read Revolution newspaper. In addition, I've taken at least 200 used books from the shelves at Libros. I've donated some; some have come from various supporters of the bookstore, and some students have donated small numbers. I have a place in a room adjoining my office where I keep the books and add as they come in. I have 4-5 tables and some rolling carts and a grocery basket I've either bought or borrowed. We need at least 600 books to have a good sale.
The last time we did a table two days in a row from 10am to 7pm. On the second day, we finally separated books into categories that really helped key people into what they were looking for. Before that they were all on a long table and people had to search. The first day, before we had it organized, we made $400 and even though the second day we had many less books, they were organized, and we made another $400. We had fiction, non-fiction, children's books, ethnic studies, cookbooks and self-help and crafts books. We also had some Play-station video games that were donated. We sold some of the old photos from a couple years ago fund-raising for the paper and the Sir No Sir DVD (about GI protest during the Vietnam War), which we sold for $10 each. The first day a couple students also baked cookies and another brought Filipino empanadas to sell. We made a total of $800 in the two days. This is the best we've done.
I make sure the students who help at the table have gotten a copy of Revolution newspaper and a Libros Revolución bookstore brochure when they sign up so they know what it's for. We have had both Revolution newspaper and the brochure for Libros Revolución at the book table most of the time. A bookstore supporter was at the table one time and sold the paper, but in the main, we haven't had anyone to sell it except me. For the last two times, we had flyers posted around campus. People have gotten to know us, and we get people saying they got something the last time and will hang around and look. Usually, there are a couple of people who have gone to bookstore events or been involved in other programs we've done. This last time students who are involved in defending abortion and who have been involved in discussions on "A Declaration: For Women's Liberation and the Emancipation of All Humanity" were at the table much of the time. I ran into a Nigerian, who was in my class, at an AIDS march and he signed up and stuck around for hours and helped set up and take down the table and the books. It's a real social scene for the students and some of them have gotten their friends to come along and help too. A student's boyfriend, who is not in my class, sold three International Women's Day t-shirts last summer.
When we first started, we also sold pizza, candy, nuts, soda, etc., but given that we have to pay for them and don't make that much money on them, I've mainly given up on that. One time, a student made cute little 2x2 inch purses to put condoms in and we sold all of them for $5 each. But the books are the main thing, especially since we don't pay anything for them. We have made as low as $60 because there were only two of us at the table and we only stayed about 5 hours. $800 is the most we've made; that was over a two-day period. We made $600 the first sale in October, and before that, I think the most we made was $500, which included the pizza, etc. The other times we have raised between $150-$350.
It takes my being involved for this to come off. I have to oversee the set-up and basically talk to people and sell a lot of books. But, it's not necessary for me to be there the whole time. It does take someone who loves books and has read broadly. I see former students and faculty I know who stop by the table. The initial set-up is the hardest. It takes at least 4-6 people to get the table and books set up. Since I have an office close to where we set up the tables, we are able to use it for storage, which makes the logistics of setting up easier. We sell books from $1-$5 and new things for more than that—like the DVD Sir No Sir. We have a couple of big tubs full of dime-store novels that we sell for $1 each or 10 for $5. One woman whose sister is bedridden got a total of 50 of these books last time.
Revolution #189, January 17, 2010
December 20, 2009
November 15, 2009
September 6, 2009
June 28, 2009
May 24, 2009
February 1, 2009
December 6, 2008
The following letters were submitted by readers who read Revolution's coverage on the environment, global warming and the Copenhagen summit on climate change. We are posting these as part of promoting debate and wide-ranging discussion about how to understand and deal with the urgent environmental crisis in the world.
This is my understanding of the economics behind global warming and pollution. Let's first look at the larger contradictions that we are dealing with. When we are talking about capitalism, we are talking about a mode of production that exists within an historic framework where the means of production are huge. And, this issue of global warming, is a great example of how the productive forces needed to be recast into a completely different framework. But more on this later.
Capitalism, as a mode of production has two major aspects that need to be understood in their interpenetrating dynamics 1) The anarchy, organization aspect of capitalist production and social organization, and 2) the contradictions related to the exploitation of the proletariat by capital (and the source of surplus value).
In this paper I will focus on the first aspect of this contradiction: namely the contradictions related to the anarchy of capital on a large scale.
First off, we start with a fundamental aspect of commodity relations: value (what a commodity is worth) can only be understood as a certain approximation of labor time. Marx called this the labor theory of value. In essence, commodity relations are in fact production relations. If something (bread for instance) is produced—that production can be organized in any of several different ways. Production of bread under communism will be production based on a common understanding that bread is needed. In this case—the "value" of bread will be its use value (usefulness) from beginning to end. But under capitalism, bread is produced for exchange as a commodity and thus bread is an exchange value. (Real bread for money bread.) The point is that all value represents a certain quantity and quality of the labor (production) process. And that every society must organize how that production will be organized (the property relations, the division of labor, exchange of what is produced etc.)
A society where production is based on the private production of commodities—is a society lacking a soul that understands overall social need. Under capitalism, there are two aspects to commodity relations. 1) Everything must be put on sale after it has been produced. (All things "enter the market.") 2) Every capitalist enterprise is working within a framework of money accumulation. In this relationship, the capitalist is put into a position of trying to accumulate more money at the end of the day in order to compete with other capitalists. Now, it is the commodity aspect, above, that makes for the anarchy of this society. Why? Because, if production is fundamentally production purely for exchange value (more money), and not use value (a useful social product), any commodities not sold in the market place becomes worthless. For example, if the baker makes a ton of bread, but only half of his bread is sold, then a half a ton of bread is left to rot even as people go hungry around him. So under capitalism—the watch word is sell-ability and not usability*. If it doesn't sell—it is worthless. (Another example of this anarchy in action is in large-scale unemployment. In this example, it is people looking for work, and not bread, that is "oversupplied" in the "labor market" place.) So "market forces easily create both over production and under production because there is little coordinated plan. In commodity relations, planning is secondary to selling and it is at the expense of other commodity producers who are trying to calculate how much to produce.
And it is the constant reproduction of the production process that creates new levels of this anarchy. For example, if a new and better and cheaper form of product [is developed]—cell phones come to mind—then all of the producers of cell phones will have to refit their factories or face failing in the market place. (And, it is precisely through piling up profit that a capitalist can invest and hope to compete in the ever changing world of competitive production.) But where in all this does planning to stop green house gasses come in? - obviously nowhere.
Let us make clear, that this is the real world - the world of an internationalized and monopoly hyperized markets - and not a fictitious "people serving democracy" marketplace. Today, because of the anarchy of competition– sell-ability trumps curbing global warming or any other attempts at making a greener world. Gas cars sell more than electric cars, that is a simple fact, and if you make cars you are constantly watching the bottom line because the next car company over may well drive you out of the race.
Why the reformist "democracy" models don't work.
For now, we will stick to economics and avoid the political class issues involved to get at the deeper systemic nature of the problem Let's ask the question: Why can't capitalism allow a "non- competitive" sector where things like global warming are addressed outside of the commandments of the marketplace? The problem is, schemes that create "non-competitive" sectors either drain capital away from competitive sectors or compete with the competitive sector. Solar power, for example, might someday compete with carbon based fuels, but for now, all development (capital investment) of solar power is development (capital investment) that could go into oil and coal exploration. And because oil and coal are still much cheaper to produce than solar energy, oil and coal are the obvious winners in any economy that is trying to "control its costs."
But beyond this—let's retrace our steps here: 1) All commodities are produced (in today's world) as values. Commodity for commodity, (value for value). 2) Because all commodities face competitive pressures in the market place "externalities" such as pollution—are not a priority compared to facing the bottom line. 3) Any attempt at changing this is a pipe dream until the basic production relationship is addressed (that is communist revolution). If for example, you are trying a "European social democratic" model, commodity relations will remain intact. (Don't the Europeans build cars, watches, cheese and so on AND SELL THEM!) And then if you ask these Europeans if they would be willing to give up the all mighty "value" on their investment for the sake of world climate control—what will be their answer? "Hey, we need to compete with the American's and Chinese!"
Competition ='s Anarchy ='s Disaster.
There is a certain logic to the capitalist "Efficiency" mind set. However, from a global perspective, this is a horror show. Mindless production of gadgets, junk food and endless consumer waste, is destroying the planet. From the destruction of the rain forest for cattle production, to the trillions of watts of electricity that is wasted every night at Las Vegas style casino's around the world—we are killing the only environment we are able to live on. But people need to understand why this is the case at the deepest level. Capitalism cannot stop this—because capitalism is at it's very essence a system out of control.
It is precisely this out of control struggle to "win all" that has spurred on the vastness of the productive forces. But it is these same huge productive forces that now menace the world climate and eco-system.
To make an analogy, let us think of the bull and the bear of the stock market. And let us think of the planet as a china shop (a shop full of delicate silverware and ceramic pots.) Now we let the bull and the bear loose in the china shop, what will they produce? A very large mess. A mess, that it now falls on us to do something about.
The revolutionary fervor of Revolution newspaper encourages me to submit this article I wrote on climate justice. Please let me know if you can consider it for publication.
The Human Crisis
On December 18 2009, the most significant and biggest United Nations Climate Change Conference COP15 (15th Conference of Parties) in Copenhagen, Denmark came to a close. The venue of the conference at Bella Center witnessed representatives from government, business and civil societies spanning 192 countries around the world. It was a continuation of the international efforts initiated at the "Earth Summit" in 1992 in Rio, which was attended by 172 countries and resulted in the first international agreement to limit emissions of greenhouse gases: the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). In 1997 the convention was expanded to include the Kyoto Protocol, which for the first time set binding targets for the greenhouse gas emissions of 37 industrialized countries by 2012. These targets amount to an average decrease of 5% against 1990 levels over the five-year period 2008-2012. The Protocol placed a heavier burden on developed nations under the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities." For the years following 2012, the 13th annual conference of member countries (COP13) in Bali came out with the Bali Action Plan aimed towards a new agreement to be negotiated at the 15th annual conference COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009. Through COP1 held at Berlin in 1995 to COP 14 held at Ponzan in 2008, technical details were resolved; responsibilities for each country, penalties/sanctions for non-cooperating countries, and modes for further actions were worked out. The meetings were often marked by vehement political discussions triggered by the U.S. stand on climate change and its complete rejection of Kyoto protocol. The U.S. remained the single biggest hindrance in all climate talks, especially since President Bush came to power.
Given this brief background, COP15 was an effort to create common ground to further substantially cut greenhouse gas emissions, explore methods of changing the way the world uses fossil fuels and possibly moving away from them significantly in the coming future. Since the UN adopted its convention on climate change in Rio in 1992, global carbon emissions have risen by 30 percent, a disturbing trend that the UN wants to reverse. COP15 was held to address this dire situation by coming up with some effective and immediate action plans. The goal of the UN is that by 2050, CO2 emissions, the principal greenhouse gas (other greenhouse gases are water vapor, ozone, nitrous oxide, sulphur hexafluoride and methane) should be halved compared to their 1990 levels. It also wants the planet to be no more than two degrees centigrade warmer than it was before the Industrial Revolution (a period between the 18th and 19th century). COP15 was supposed to bring the member countries together into a binding agreement like Kyoto Protocol to achieve these goals.
UNFCCC recognizes that the developed countries are principally responsible for the current high levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, as a result of more than 150 years of industrial activity. It also notes that, "Carbon dioxide is responsible for over 60 per cent of the 'enhanced greenhouse effect' (warming of earth's surface and lower atmosphere). Humans are burning coal, oil, and natural gas at a rate that is much, much faster than the speed at which these fossil fuels were created. This is releasing the carbon stored in the fuels into the atmosphere and upsetting the carbon cycle, the millennia-old, precisely balanced system by which carbon is exchanged between the air, the oceans, and the land vegetation. Currently, atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide are rising by over 10 per cent every 20 years." UNFCCC is essentially saying that we will have to depart from the culture of burning fossil fuels sooner than later. It is not hard to see which country burns the most fossil fuel.
The consequences of a warmer planet can be seen and felt from the melting polar ice caps to the drying sub-Saharan Africa. In countries such as Kenya, as the desert expands, the chances of nomadic farmers finding water for their cattle shrink and hence their main source of sustenance is threatened. In a country where famine threatens up to 10 million lives, crop shortages have devastating effects. In countries like Kenya, Cameroon, Swaziland, Malawi, Benin etc. indigenous people are solely dependent on forests which are quickly disappearing. Famine, drought, scarcity of water and food, and dying livestock constantly threaten these countries. In other countries like Nigeria, Zambia, Uganda etc. many coastal cities will disappear by 2050. Famine can soon be a threat to India too, with its melting Himalayan glaciers and shifting monsoon patterns. As in Africa, the Indian subcontinent can soon have climate refugees with rising hurricanes in coastal areas and flash floods in the Himalayan regions that have already contributed to the migration of a significant percentage of the local population. Further from mainland, Island nations like Tuvalu, Maldives, New Caledonia, Soloman Islands, Samoa and others in the Pacific and Indian oceans will be virtually wiped out from the face of the earth before the turn of this century if the biggest polluters like the U.S. do not pledge to cut down their emissions by 40% from 1990 levels. 80% of Maldives has an elevation less than 3 feet above sea level and the island nation of Tuvalu has a maximum width of only 5km; the threat of extinction for these countries is more real than one can imagine. The same threats exist for the Phillippines, Fiji, islands of Hawaii, many other island nations in the Pacific Ocean and archipelagos north east of Australia. Even the U.S. faced the devastation from Katrina, and recent snowfall in Oklahoma and Dallas, which shows that no country is isolated from climate change. The environmental group Germanwatch issued a report ranking the countries hardest hit by extreme weather based on socioeconomic data. For 2008, Burma topped the list, followed by Yemen and Vietnam. The United States ranked fifth, higher than any other industrial nation.
For the UN, these desperate times called for drastic measures that it had hoped to put in place in Copenhagen. However developed, emerging and under-developed economies did not all agree on targets. The biggest polluter in the world, the U.S., contributes to 25% of the total emissions with only 5% of the world population. Despite this disproportionate statistic, the U.S. has offered to cut emissions by 17% from 2005 levels which translates to only 4% from 1990 levels, a target matched by Canada. Along similar lines, the EU offered 20% with Russia and Japan offering up to 25% of 2005 levels. The world's second biggest polluter, China, said it will reduce its "carbon intensity"—or the amount of CO2 emitted per unit of GDP—by between 40-45% compared to 2005 levels by 2020. Similar to China, India says it will reduce its carbon intensity, while Brazil offered a 20% cut from 2005 levels. This shift from 1990 levels to 2005 levels was initiated by the U.S. significantly lowering the bar. Also, the U.S. offer was the least despite being the biggest polluter; China being the second biggest polluter still offered much higher cuts. Then there was the issue of who is going to pay for it. China, India, South Africa and Brazil came together to demand that richer countries share their green technology or pay poorer nations to develop their own. Ecuador which is sitting on a rich gas reserve demanded a compensation to 'keep the oil in the soil'. Miguel Lovera, the chief negotiator for Paraguay who has played a key role in negotiations over the world's rainforests, pushed for a deal for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD). African, Latin American and small island nations had more stringent demands of capping the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees, over 40% cut in emissions from the U.S. from 1990 levels, and reparations for the damage done to their country, environment and people. They said they are suffering the consequences of a problem they did not create; and hence have a just demand for compensation from industrialized rich nations who created this problem for their own unbridled development. Scientific studies which are unanimous in their opinion show that the current goal of capping temperature increase to 2 degrees and the non-binding proposals by each country, will culminate to a 3-3.5 degree temperature rise in Africa, spelling disaster and wreaking havoc in the African continent which already has climate refugees. In the first week of the conference, the developing countries reacted furiously to leaked documents that showed that world leaders were to be asked the following week to sign an agreement that hands more power to rich countries and sidelines the UN's role in all future climate change negotiations. Lumumba Stanislaus Di-Aping, the Sudanese chair of the group of 132 developing countries known as G77, condemned the leaked document. These are only a few examples of disagreements among nations showing a clear rich-poor nation divide and global north and global south divide. As a result, the countries could not come to an agreement and the talks failed.
The failure to achieve a binding agreement among the nations of the world not only shows a deep crisis to save our planet and ourselves, but it also has very profound implications that need to be carefully considered and acted upon. The Copenhagen talks amply displayed the global feudal order existing in the modern world. The so-called 'world leaders' showed extreme apathy and callousness not only towards a dying planet, but also towards fellow human beings whose lives are deeply entangled with the health of our planet. The talks were a tug of war between more than a hundred nations on one side and a few rich ones on the other and the result was quite predictable. It's almost a consensus that the U.S. single-handedly sabotaged the climate conference by flatly refusing to make any significant contributions. It constantly tried to circumvent, shirk and deny the historical responsibility of putting maximum greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, accepting which translates to justice for several countries especially small island nations whose very survival is on the line if the emissions are not controlled in the near future. There was hope in the international community that President Obama might take a different stand and propose a meaningful cut in emissions, but he brazenly reiterated the stand of his administration and climate negotiation team. In fact, just before leaving the UN climate summit, Barack Obama said to his own small White House press corps, "We will not be legally bound by anything that took place here today." The "hope" was shattered. President Obama has proved himself to be a "brown sahib" of colonial India.
As the "leaders" of the world converged in Copenhagen, the civil societies, climate activists and hundreds of other dissidents were barred from entering the premises and their voices were shut out by police crackdown on the most peaceful, legitimate and humane demonstrations. Prominent active organizations banned from the conference were Greenpeace, Friends of Earth, Network to Protect Rainforests, League of Island Nations, African Wildlife Foundation etc., organizations that have waged the struggle to reverse climate change for decades. Several protesters were apprehended by Danish police merely on suspicion and were released long after the conference ended. Governments are supposed to represent the people, but in practice they act exactly opposite with hardly any exception. The rich nations stooped to horse-trading and "dinner-deals" in "green rooms" with several developing nations' leaders to give away as little as they could. A significant example is Ethiopia, which was persuaded by France to reduce their demand from 100 billion in reparations to a meager 1 billion. Australia did everything possible to persuade the island countries around it to cut back their demands. It is rumored that China cut a deal with the U.S. for emissions. The conference was marred with such incidents and the voices of the people largely remained unheard.
To register their presence just across the street from Bella Center, civil societies, climate activists and organizations held their own alternate people's climate summit called Klimaforum09. Thousands joined and its massive meetings (at times swelling to 100,000) were addressed by veteran climate activists like Vandana Shiva from India who said, "it is time for the U.S. to stop seeing itself as a donor and recognizing itself as a Polluter, a Polluter who must pay"; Koomi Naidu of Greenpeace; Nigerian Environmentalist Nnimmo Bassey of Friends of Earth who said, "the Global North Owes a Climate Debt to Africa" and has campaigned against Shell Oil's presence in the Niger Delta for nearly two decades; Sarah James, a longtime advocate for the Gwich'in people in Alaska (with the Indian-born photographer Subhankar Banerjee, who has spent years documenting life in the Arctic) said, "erosion, fires, depleting knowledge of land by people as well as animals has generated a tremendous crisis for survival." Kenyan Nobel Peace Laureate Wangari Maathai who started the Greenbelt Movement in Kenya mobilizing women to plant millions of trees was also present. Activists from the Pacific island of Hawaii (Kwai) see themselves as an illegal part of the U.S. and blamed the U.S. for bringing the island nations to the brink of survival. Rajendra K. Pauchauri, chair of IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, UN) commented that the offer for a cut for emissions is at least some progress from the Bush administration which had completely refused to recognize climate change. He also said that if people could give up eating meat just once a week, that would be a significant contribution (7-8%) to the reduction of greenhouse gases. A group of international climate justice activists are still on a prolonged hunger strike. Even before the conference began, protesters took to the streets in Belfast, Glasgow, Paris, Brussels, Berlin and London. The largest protest was in London, where the organizers of the "Stop Climate Chaos" protest estimated the crowd total to be 50,000. Participants in the march included Britain Climate and Energy Secretary Ed Miliband, actor Peter Capaldi and former BBC weather presenter Michael Fish.
Latin American, African and even Asian countries openly lambasted the U.S. stand and criticized it in strongest terms. Hugo Chavez from Venezuela summed it up by saying that if it were banks in need, President Obama would have very willingly shelled out trillions; but when the lives of people are on the line and countries are on the verge of extinction, it is of least concern to President Obama. Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa commented on President Obama: "He is now a Nobel Laureate—become what you are". Prime Minister Mohammad Nasheed of Maldives, one of the frontline countries in this conference, made an emphatic and impassioned appeal for climate change promising carbon neutrality for Maldives by 2050. Fifteen-year-old Maldives climate ambassador Mohamed Axam Maumoon in his message to the world said, "On the basis that you know what you are doing is wrong and you can see that the victim is begging for mercy...would you commit murder?" Bolivia's chief climate negotiator, Angelica Navarro said "Twenty percent of the population has actually emitted more than two-thirds of the emissions. And as a result, they have caused more than 90 percent of the increase in temperatures. We are not begging for aid; we want developed countries to comply with their obligation and pay their debt."
The appeals and cries for help went on and on. The Philippines were so vocal for climate change measures that the U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton had to pay a visit to the Philippines to pacify them (the U.S. invaded the Philippines in 1898 and established and supported an unpopular dummy government for years). After the conference, the Swedish minister openly lambasted the U.S. as the sole culprit for failed climate talks and a constant hurdle to humane and just climate solutions. The other Scandinavian country Norway also faces intense crisis for its indigenous people and their lands affected due to oil extraction.
It was nearly 25 years ago that Bill McKibben founded 350.org to educate and mobilize people to put pressure on governments to address the issue of climate change. The number 350 represents the amount of safe CO2 in the atmosphere in terms of parts per million (ppm). We are already at 387. If the emissions continue to increase at this rate, we will be at 770 by the turn of the century and the earth will be virtually unlivable. The cooler [and industrialized] global north will obviously be the last to be affected. This shows that the industrialized nations were aware of their wrongdoings and its possible impacts for a long time and still took no action and continued to splurge energy and resources thereby putting more CO2 in the atmosphere. However, the indigenous people of the extreme north (Alaska and Arctic region) put forth their extreme conditions where melting of glaciers has ruined their lives and source of food. The nations suffering the most today (African and island nations) are not the ones that put such dangerous levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. These nations are therefore perfectly justified in demanding climate reparations from industrialized nations. The EU and other rich countries more or less agree to this concept, but are willing to offer monetary aid and transfer of green technologies only if the U.S. took the lead. As expected, not only did the U.S. not take the lead of any kind, but it also bullied other countries to agree to its terms in which each country (basically the U.S. itself) will conveniently decide upon its own emission cuts [suiting them] and will contribute to a 100 billion dollar fund generated from public and private sources by 2020. It also refused to commit or put anything on the table unless its irrational demand was accepted. The overall offer from rich countries was only 10 billion.
It's a human crisis. It's a struggle to survive, a struggle to save populations from going under, a struggle between global north and global south, a struggle to save the planet and prevent countries from going extinct. Bolivian president Evo Morales directly blamed this crisis on capitalism and demanded an end to capitalism which according to him is reckless industrialization and pursuit of a "better life." He advocated living well rather than living "better," which by its very definition and connotation is at the expense of others. The fight for climate justice is a fight for social justice, it's a fight of poor against rich, it's a fight for equitable distribution of wealth and resources, it's a fight for a permanent end to the exploitation of people and resources, it's a fight to work for the welfare of the people and not industries and adopt green lifestyles irreversibly. Unfortunately, the onus to take the lead in this fight is on the most powerful nation in the world, which happens to be the single biggest contributor to emissions. Such world domination by a single nation, i.e. the U.S., has been unprecedented in history and so the task for the rest of the world to force the U.S. to change its ways becomes extremely daunting. It's a unipolar world now, where the sole superpower is extremely aggressive, hawkish and a threat to humanity.
The unipolar moment dawned with the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989. With the Soviet deterrent gone, the U.S. suddenly acceded to being the only imperialist superpower in the world. Although some might naively think that moment to be the end of the cold war and end of NATO, which was primarily formed to counter USSR during the cold war, nothing of that sort happened. On the contrary, NATO expanded quickly to eastern Europe dishonoring its pledges to Gorbachev for non-expansion. As it is not hard to guess, the key player in this expansion was the U.S. and it extended his hegemony rapidly. With the collusion of the EU, the U.S. can now intervene in other countries' affairs without fear of any repercussions. In the current unipolar world order, the U.S. is not likely to face situations like the Cuban "missile crisis" that occurred during the Kennedy presidency. As early as ten years ago, the U.S. considered "green" to be the new "red" scare. Jeff Luers, an environmental activist, was arrested in Oregon, U.S. ten years ago on charges of arson in which he and his fellow activist set fire to three trucks without hurting anybody to draw attention to climate change. He was sentenced to twenty-two years in high security prison. The sentence was later cut down to ten years by an appeals court and Jeff Luers was recently released. This shows extreme apathy within the U.S. government and its institutions for the environment and climate change. This is important in the context of climate change. This attitude and apathy gave a free pass to neo-cons operating in the U.S. and its allies (basically rich countries) to expand their operations unhindered into other countries, plunder and exploit resources and people, and thereby bring the world closer to destruction while reaping enormous profits and obscene lifestyles for themselves. The exploitation of resources, people especially in the global south is horrifying. Most delicate eco-systems such as the Amazonian basin, Niger delta, rainforests, and fishing waters have been polluted and destroyed by the corporations of the rich countries in their unbridled extraction of oil and other natural resources. The way for such massive atrocities was paved by wars and proxy wars on fraudulent reasons like security where popular governments were overthrown and proxy governments, hugely unpopular but favorable to the US, were established. It was a suitable condition for "businesses" to grow and expand thereby destroying earth and its indigenous people. Oil companies provide the most chilling and horrendous examples in African and Latin American continents. It is no surprise that Africa with much of its eco-system destroyed bears one of the severest brunt of climate change with no adequate rain, drought, flood, disease and dying livestock.
It is the glaring work of neo-cons that has brought the world and the human race to a near disaster. It's the neo-cons that control policies in the U.S. and accordingly the U.S. wages wars to gain access to new markets and resources and thereby contributing to destroying our planet. According to Karl Marx, given the material conditions and the plight of the people, especially workers, where survival becomes a daily struggle should have culminated in a world-wide spontaneous revolution. But that did not happen. The workers of the rich countries extracted some benefits from the capitalist class and thereby contributed to the fragmentation of what could have been a plausible world-wide movement. Other than the contribution of the labor movements, the benefits were obtained largely due to the destruction of competitive industries in other countries like Japan and Germany during World War II. The workers in the poorer and less privileged countries continued to suffer and re-distribute wealth to capitalist class and workers of the rich countries who became beneficiaries of the imperialist system. However, these benefits don't last forever. The current economic recession in most industrialized countries especially the U.S., triggered by the financial sector in their reckless pursuit of profits did not hit the "banking and business elites" but rather the common people. The government quickly stepped in to bail out the rich capitalist and financial class leaving the workers and common people in a lurch with a significant number of them losing their jobs and homes. Wringing benefits from the capitalist class is not a permanent solution for the perpetual welfare of the working class as when the inherently unstable (as Minsky noted in the early '60s) bubble of capitalism bursts as it did now and many times earlier, the working class will be the first to suffer the consequences. The rising unemployment especially in the automobile sector in the U.S. amply demonstrates this. The workers of the auto sector enjoyed decent and comfortable lives in the last century mostly due to protectionism from competition from other countries. This allowed the owners to make bad and risky decisions solely for profit thereby ruining the industry. In the long run the people who suffer are the workers and not the owners and the business and financial class. It is in this retrospective that it becomes crucially important to see beyond immediate benefits. The future of most people in the world is intricately linked through common welfare. It is not possible to sustain perpetually at the expense of other people. It is this stark fact that people world over especially people of rich countries must realize to unite in solidarity to reverse the most ugly profit making juggernaut of the capitalist class. Marx described such a phenomenon as "internationalism" in terms of unity of labor movement around the world where national boundaries are blurred for common and universal good. The current crisis calls for such unity of action and that is the only means to achieve universal and sustained welfare of people and planet.
The solidarity of nations displayed at Copenhagen is the only strong silver lining to this failed conference. This is quite unprecedented on the stage of world affairs and with right efforts can have profound implications. The failed climate conference has once again thrown a rare and tremendous opportunity for people world over to unite and fight for climate justice, which is actually fighting for social and economic justice. It translates to demanding structural changes in the way the economies are run; and making a clear and definite break from the market and capitalistic economy which is essentially exploitative. It is burying the concept of "business as usual" and the "free market" myth which is simply a tool for the rich nations to intrude into other countries to access and exploit their resources. The "free market" historically has never really existed. One need not be an intellectual to comprehend this when one's daily life is a witness to inhumane and degrading living conditions, worsening day by day and hope for a secure future getting slimmer. The ruling class the world over, whether elected by people or not, by far have given in to the neo-cons and have very rarely represented or fulfilled the aspirations of people. The so-called "world leaders" have again proved this to be true at COP15 where the modern feudal lords prevailed and destroyed the conference.
The progressive left forces in the world remain the only hope for humanity, but they continue to be terribly divided. It is of extreme urgency that they join together with all other progressive and active forces of climate justice and form a world-wide alliance. A lack of unity in purpose among progressive forces has given a stupendous advantage to the neo-cons who were united and clear in their objectives of turning the workforce into serfdom and exploiting the planet for reaping enormous and relentless profits for themselves. The neo-cons instituted a pseudo-democracy with token and farce elections which are meaningless and offer no real choices to people. It's a momentous point in the history of mankind, for people to join hands and fight together. It is also a great responsibility for people of rich countries, especially the U.S. to pressurize their governments to address climate change and hence social justice; justice for one and all, justice for the citizens of the world. A real democracy, communism and socialism will all converge to a single point if the will of the people and their welfare world-over becomes the primary focus in the socio-political process. That is the only way of achieving climate justice and a means to survive. BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India and China) together with G77 need to put economic pressure on the U.S. and the EU to change their ways. Transferring of green technologies has limited relevance; it's the political will propelled by the people that needs to come into action to stop this catastrophe.