Voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party,USA
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Revolution #194, March 7, 2010
International Women's Day 2010
When so few dare...
The following has been issued by the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA:
On International Women's Day we are taking to the streets to call for something sorely needed and unseen in generations: an uncompromising outpouring of fury and resistance from women and men who want to see women, the world over, lifted from centuries of being condemned to being treated as the possessions of men.
March 8 is special this year. This year we are honored to stand together with and affirm our sisters and brothers in Iran who for the last year have heroically defied batons, bullets, harsh prisons and now hanging. In a society where women are denied basic rights—where a woman who doesn't cover her hair faces jail and up to 80 lashes, and where it is still legal for a woman found guilty of adultery to be stoned to death—a new generation of young women are joining their brothers in the streets, with many of them confidently throwing off their head coverings and demanding an end to the theocratic regime.
WE ARE BUILDING A MOVEMENT FOR REVOLUTION...
Because in the 21st century women are still being stoned to death for sleeping with the wrong man—at the same time that women by the tens of millions are being forced by the workings of capitalism-imperialism into prostitution in a globalized "sex industry."
Because slavery—both literal and in barely disguised form—has made a worldwide comeback, with young girls abducted and offered up from desperately impoverished villages and mega-cities of the oppressed nations of the globe and transported across borders.
Because we live in a capitalist culture where women are devalued and reduced to disembodied breasts and bottoms—advertised at every turn as objects that exist for the sexual gratification of men. Because sexuality and human intimacy have been twisted into being just another commodity: a thing to be bought and sold and exploited in the marketplace, instead of a way to express love and as a source of mutual pleasure.
Because some women are defined and confined by the role of mother and denied full participation in the wider world, while other women—again mainly from the impoverished and oppressed nations of this globe—must leave their children for years to work in the rich nations and send home badly needed money for their family's survival.
Because of all this and so much more, we need a revolution. And we are building a movement for revolution.
When a young girl growing up in this culture cuts herself, starves herself or hates herself, and when this goes on in epidemic proportions—it's not merely a personal problem.
When a woman cannot walk the street anywhere on this planet for fear of rape—this is not merely a personal problem.
When a woman is denied reproductive freedom—when she cannot get a condom in Africa, an abortion in Latin America or birth control from a pharmacist in the United States who subscribes to a cruel Christian fascist morality, the problem is global and systemic.
These horrors that happen by the billion are not because of the "bad choices" of individuals—they happen because of backward institutions propped up by an outmoded economic and political system. This must go.
When half of humanity is held down—all of humanity is held back. It is long past time for people to wake up—it's time to refuse to accept this as the natural order of things. There is no biological, god-given or man-made reason for things to remain this way—these days must be gone and they can be.
Imagine for a moment women being treated like human beings—not lesser, not inferior but as full human beings capable of participating fully and equally in every realm of human endeavor. This is real and possible. But because the oppression of women is bound so deeply into the fabric of society here and around the world... because it is so intricately and intimately bound together with all the other forms of oppression in capitalist society... it will take a total revolution—communist revolution—to liberate women.
The Revolutionary Communist Party is building a movement for revolution. Never has revolutionary communism been more radical and scientific and viable than with its advance and development through the leadership of Bob Avakian. This is a communism that builds on the extremely significant (and suppressed) achievements of the past revolutionary movements and societies, while critically examining their shortcomings in conception and practice; this is a communism that on that basis is bringing forward radically new insights and pathways for change. Avakian's far-seeing new synthesis of communism takes the full emancipation of women as a cornerstone for a revolution that is serious about uprooting and abolishing all exploitation, oppression and the degrading social relations and ideas that go along with this—here and all over the world—and it does this in whole new ways.
In this revolution the defiance and impatience women feel is welcomed and sustained as a mighty force that can move us all forward in the fight to emancipate all humanity. In this revolution, women and men are transforming themselves as part of fighting for a world worth living in. This revolution is real and it's creating the kind of ethos, culture, and communist morality for women to be fully unleashed, not some time later, but in this struggle today.
March 8th March! Assemble that day1 and bring with you examples of and symbols of the kind of oppression that squanders and suffocates the spirits and lives of women and say "NO MORE."
1. Go online at revcom.us or call your local Revolution Books (page 15) for information on actions on March 8, as well as other programs and other manifestations of International Women's Day celebrations. [back]
The revolutionary movement today must be a living manifestation of the new social relations between men and women and a new morality that fosters mutual respect and equality. As Bob Avakian has put it:
Send us your comments.
Revolution #194, March 7, 2010
Editors' Note: The following are points made by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, in a recent exchange with other comrades. This has been edited for publication here.
One of the more important statements in the Manifesto from our Party (Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage) is the quote from Marx: "Once the inner connection is grasped, all theoretical belief in the permanent necessity of existing conditions breaks down before their collapse in practice." This is not just a matter of abstract theory—it has a broader effect. That belief weighs heavily on people who don't like the way things are—they are weighed down by a belief in the "permanent necessity of existing conditions." Over and over we are confronted by the fact that people can't see beyond the way things are now.
This has to do with the importance of constantly wrangling with what a revolutionary situation would look like and how a revolution could actually be made. There is a point in "Out Into the World—As A Vanguard of the Future" on grappling with what a revolutionary situation would look like.1 We need to give people a really living sense of what we mean by "hastening while awaiting" the emergence of a revolutionary situation. And this is linked to the point that what we're doing is building a movement for revolution and letting people know what we think that revolution would look like.
This question of belief in the permanent necessity of existing conditions—and the inability to see beyond those conditions—came up with World Can't Wait when people would ask: "What good would it do to drive out the Bush Regime?" Well, think of the pyramid dynamic2 in that light: what would the Democrats have had to do if there were a million people demanding "Drive out the Bush Regime"? If there were millions even today insisting in the streets that the Democrats not "bow down" to what is represented by the Republicans, even that would change the dynamic; the Democrats would have to make tactical adjustments to deal with this, and the adjustments would create more necessity and more freedom for the revolutionaries to deal with. We have to break people out of the belief in the permanent necessity of existing conditions.
This has to do with the idea of putting out a constitution for the future socialist state.3 It has to do with the Raymond Lotta speech.4 We are precisely taking on, in many different dimensions, this belief in the permanent necessity of the existing conditions. This also happens with initiatives among the proletariat and other basic people that project an alternate authority while challenging illegitimate and abusive actions of the current authority. And so is what we're doing with the woman question, and morality and culture—because what we're doing with popularizing and actually creating a movement where people live our morality is nothing less than projecting an alternate authority in the realm of ideology. All of these initiatives are saying that the world does not have to be this way; they are all different avenues of bringing people to grapple with the reality that the world really does NOT have to be this way.
A big part of transforming the people is, yes, a different consciousness and morality, but also people seeing the breakdown in their own understanding of the "permanent necessity of existing conditions" and the possibility of a whole different thing. This is related again to how we talk to people: we ARE BUILDING a movement for revolution—not asking them: "Would it be a good idea to have a revolution?"—after which they give all the reasons why it wouldn't, or why we can't, and that sets the tone and conditions for what follows. No, we don't ignore those questions—we talk with people about them, but by saying, "okay, those are points and we have thought about them and have answers we can get into—but we ARE BUILDING a movement for revolution and this is what that revolution will look like, and this is how everything we are doing is contributing to this revolution."
That Marx statement is very profound—and not just for the intellectuals. Just because "all theoretical belief" is used, we could make the mistake of thinking it only applies to people who grapple with high levels of theory. But in today's world, this belief (that the world cannot be fundamentally changed) has "filtered down" and is one of the main things that weighs on people. So this is a thread that has to come through much more in terms of this campaign that we're waging this year to really change the whole trajectory of things, now, very radically, focused on the message and call issued by our Party, "The Revolution We Need...The Leadership We Have."5 It is nowhere near the case that the basic spirit, substance and sense of what Marx is getting at there guides what we're doing now. And this is one of the biggest weights on people. There are ways in practice as well as theory that we have to begin to break down the belief in this "permanent necessity," as well as battling over whose morality is attracting people.
This has everything to do with the "hastening while awaiting" point. If you conceive of revolution as someday the world is somehow going to be radically different and at that point we will do something to radically change it...no, that won't happen—but that's not what we're doing. We have to elevate our sights and lead consistently with the understanding that the world does NOT have to be this way, and we ARE building a movement for revolution. This is not put forward, at least not in any consistent and compelling way, to the advanced around us at this point—whose number is still too small—this is not what's coming through to them. The whole thing about "revolution is real"—revolution made palpable—this is bound up with everything I'm talking about here. Actually building a movement for revolution and bringing that to the fore.
What follows that quote from Marx is that he brought to light not only the inner connections of capitalism itself, but its inner connection with other systems and showed on that basis that there was no necessity for capitalism or any other systems of exploitation. He showed that this is an historically evolved system. Marx made the point that bourgeois theorists will talk about all kinds of changes in capitalist relations, but always with the assumption that those relations are the highest and final end point of human development. But it's not the only way, especially in today's world, to do things—there's a much better way. This is the point that's made in the "Revolution" speech on the DVD, about how we can do all this complicated production without the imperialists, and do it better.6
But everything you say gets filtered through the existing production relations and superstructure that arises on this economic base. Look at the experience of the person who wrote the newspaper on the "Imagine" section of the talk on revolution: because they didn't first see it in the context of the whole speech, they understood it as just another "politician's promise." Then they saw the whole speech all the way through, and it clicked in a whole different way with them.7
All this has everything to do with whether we're building a movement for revolution and a radically different society, or whether we're just puttering around. We're not going to get there if this orientation doesn't infuse and inform everything we're doing. Then you get the phenomenon where people newly coming into this run into opposition and fall away, and while there are problems with our comrades taking an "all-or-nothing" approach with such people, this point I'm making here is even more essential.8 In fact the actual breakdown of the existing system is impossible in practice if it has not been done first in theory, that is to say, in the understanding of many people. This has to much more consistently come through, in everything we do—not just in speeches or articles, but in the whole ensemble of the work we do, this is what we should bring forward to people: There IS NO permanent necessity for the existing conditions.
There will never be an attempt at revolution, a real attempt, if you are not constantly grappling with what that might look like when, with the necessary qualitative changes and leaps in the objective situation, what is talked about in "On the Possibility"9 would be real. You cannot transform things through this capitalist economic base in a progressive way; if you want to "get beyond General Motors" you will have to do away with the existing state power. I'm not saying we should give a speech to this effect all the time, but this should infuse and guide what we're doing, and what we bring to people.
Then, when you do have a significant core that no longer believes in the permanent necessity of these conditions, they can do much better in going back and forth with broader masses. They can make clear to people who do come forward that, yes, you will get a lot of opposition out there, but that's just because there's a superstructure (there is a whole apparatus for "molding public opinion" and shaping "popular culture") which influences people to think that there's no other way to live than this—and in actual fact that's just not the case.
This is what it means to build a movement FOR REVOLUTION. Yes, fight the power, but this is the "for revolution" part.10 We should be going to people like I said: "We are building this movement for revolution and you should be part of this, but we're not having a poll as to whether people think it's possible...we have plenty to say about that...but we are in the meantime building this."
What is the actual new synthesis?11 The heart of it is solid core and elasticity. At a talk I gave, years ago now, someone asked: "How would you do better than the Soviet Union or China under Mao?" One of the things I said to him is: "I don't believe in tailing people because they're oppressed—we need emancipators of humanity." When you are in a qualitatively different situation than what we have now—when the present system has been swept aside and the new, socialist system has been brought into being—there would have to be an army, as the backbone of an actual state, that enforces the new system, and that army would be made up of very basic people in large part. But we have to train them to understand that, as part of that, they are going to have to be out there protecting the rights of people who oppose this new system, and they are going to have to defend the right of these people to raise this opposition, while at the same time they would also have to stop people who really are making attempts to smash the state power we have. I said that this will be a struggle with masses, but we have to bring forward on every level people who have this kind of understanding of what we're doing. The Constitution of the new, socialist system is going to enumerate the rights of people, and this state apparatus is going to protect people's rights who don't agree, so long as they don't actively and concretely organize to overthrow that state apparatus. That is where the Lenin point comes in: As long as there are classes, one class is going to dictate, and "better me than you"—that is, better the dictatorship of the proletariat than the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie (capitalist class).
But what is that dictatorship of the proletariat? BOTH aspects of this are important—solid core and elasticity. There would not be a General Motors in socialist society, and there would also not be an FBI or an LAPD. Those kinds of institutions would be abolished and—unless they agreed to abolish themselves voluntarily—they would have to be forcefully abolished under a future dictatorship of the proletariat. Maybe they would be given 24 hours to disband!...but disbanded they would have to be. There would be revolutionary institutions in place of those old, oppressive and reactionary institutions...and, yes, that is what we're building for—aiming for the time when there is a qualitative change in the objective situation, when a revolutionary situation and a revolutionary people in the millions and millions have been brought into being. And when that revolution is made, when a new, revolutionary state power is brought into being, there would not just be a new army, but that new army would be guided by very different principles. There would be a culture in that army, but it definitely would not be (as in the hymn of the imperialist Marine Corps): "From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli"—that's just not going to be what guides the new state apparatus! No more General Motors and no more Marines. The principles we're talking about here, and the reason we're going out to win people to be emancipators of humanity, is that they're going to be the actual backbone of the new state.
This has everything to do with the "permanent necessity" point. It has to do with "human nature," and the fact that, just as there is no "permanent necessity" for the existing conditions, there is also no "unchanging and unchangeable human nature."
People say: "You mean to tell me that these youth running around selling drugs and killing each other, and caught up in all kinds of other stuff, can be a backbone of this revolutionary state power in the future?" Yes—but not as they are now, and not without struggle. They weren't always selling drugs and killing each other, and the rest of it—and they don't have to be into all that in the future. Ask yourself: how does it happen that you go from beautiful children to supposedly "irredeemable monsters" in a few years? It's because of the system, and what it does to people—not because of "unchanging and unchangeable human nature."
We're talking about a whole different and better way that we can bring into being...if we win.
Yes, we are talking about conditions that don't yet exist now, and our enemies can intentionally take things out of context and misconstrue it. So we had better learn how to talk about this well, because people do need to grapple with the possibility of these future conditions as part of having this vision out there. Let's inspire people—let's have a lot of expressions of a radically different culture, and let's write some new hymns for people—ones with a radically different message than that of a marauding, murderous, invading and occupying imperialist force—"From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli"...NO. How are people being led and inspired to live and to die? We have to say to those who want a new world but who don't want—or don't understand the need for—the whole thing of fostering and protecting and listening to dissent: "If you want a new world where children are not killed by police and where all these other outrages don't happen, then we have to be down for this whole thing. We should not want these outrages to happen to any group of people. Our aim should be a radically different world, where all that has been buried in the past."
1. This refers to the following passage from "Out Into the World—As a Vanguard of the Future," a talk by Bob Avakian in 2008:
"Next, I want to turn to what could be called: more on—more work to be done on—a revolutionary situation (with its various components), particularly in a country like this. What I'm getting at here is the importance of continually wrangling with the questions: What would such a revolutionary situation actually look like? What could it emerge out of? What factors could come together to establish the necessary basis for such a revolutionary situation?
"It is very important to be continually returning to and wrangling with such questions. At the same time, it is also important to emphasize that this must not be approached in an idealist fashion—conjuring up a scenario and then seeking to impose this, in an apriorist manner, on reality. Rather, it is a matter and a need of constantly probing, digging beneath the surface to identify trends and forces, within a particular country and in the overall world situation, that could become part of, or contribute to, the 'mix' of a revolutionary situation; and it is important to do that in advance not only of the actual emergence of a revolutionary situation, but well before the specific features of that situation become immediately and obviously apparent. Well before that, and repeatedly, it is necessary to be grappling, in the realm of strategic conception once again, with both the objective and subjective aspects of such a revolutionary situation: with how objective factors could conceivably come together to provide the objective elements of a revolutionary situation and what position would the vanguard of the revolution have to be in, in terms of its influence as well as its organized ties with different sections of the masses, in order to seize on such a situation—and what the vanguard would have to do in such a situation to bring about its full ripening and to then lead people, in their millions, to wage the actual struggle for the seizure of power. This is another expression of theory, or strategic conception, 'running ahead' of practice. But, at the same time, it would be necessary and important to keep in mind and maintain the recognition of a decisive principle that Lenin stressed—that, in the event itself, life is much richer than its anticipation in conception and, in this sense, as Lenin emphasized, theory is gray while the tree of life is green—and accordingly, as real-life contradictions continue to unfold—including through the role of accident and contingency, in dialectical relation with necessity and causality—it is necessary to be continually returning to and grappling anew with the conception of what a revolutionary situation would look like and what demands its development would place on the subjective factor (the vanguard party).
"It is not idle speculation—nor, again, idealist apriorism—that is being called for, but a continual wrangling with what, after all, we are trying to get to, in terms of the first great leap, getting over the first great hump, and how that informs and influences what we are doing now, even while our work in this period is qualitatively different than the work revolutionaries would be doing once a revolutionary situation actually emerged. This is another way of saying: what is the living link here?—in this case particularly on the level of strategic conception and its relation to practice at any given time.
"And it can also be emphasized, and must be emphasized, that not to grapple with this, in the way I've been speaking of this here, is another form of tailing spontaneity and will lead in the direction of 'gradualism'—or, to put it simply, revisionism—and of accommodation and capitulation to the world the way it is, as it's dominated and ruled by imperialism and reactionary classes." [back]
2. For a discussion of the pyramid dynamic, see Bob Avakian's most recent talk, "Unresolved Contradictions, Driving Forces for Revolution" at revcom.us/avakian/driving—in particular, the section "The Continuing Relevance and Importance of the 'Pyramid Analysis'" under "I. Once More on the Coming Civil War...and Repolarization for Revolution." [back]
3. Bob Avakian has recently raised the idea, among Party leadership, of having some comrades in the Party write a constitution of a future socialist state, as a way to give substance and life to how the new synthesis would apply to actually governing a society that would be both a radically new system itself and at the same time a society in transition to communism. [back]
4. This refers to Raymond Lotta's speech "Everything You've Been Told About Communism Is Wrong—Capitalism Is a Failure, Revolution Is the Solution!" given on college campuses in 2009-2010. [back]
5. See Revolution, #170, July 19, 2009, for this message and call. That issue also contains an editorial laying out the campaign's aims:
"First, we intend to really put revolution out there in this society, so that millions of people here and around the world come to know about THIS revolution.
"Second, we intend to make Bob Avakian, the Chairman of our Party and leader of the revolution, a 'household word'—someone known throughout society, with growing numbers checking out, getting into and supporting his work, his thinking and his leadership.
"And third, as laid out in Chairman Avakian's recent talk Ruminations and Wranglings, we aim to draw forward a core of 'people who see it as their mission, and are guided by the Party's vision and line, to go out and actually fight for this line, win people to it, organize them into the revolutionary movement and struggle for them to become communists and then to join the Party once they've made that leap to being communists.'" [back]
6. This refers to a passage in the speech Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About, where Bob Avakian states: "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. But then, what there would be, is no capital, no capitalism, no imperialism, exploiting and robbing the people and plundering their countries. And the masses of people everywhere in the world would be much better off. You cannot make this system into something else than what it is. So long as it rules, so long as it is in effect, everything that it does, all the ways it makes people suffer all over the world, will continue and will only get worse. Because that's the only way this system can operate." [back]
7. The reference here is to a letter from a reader published in Revolution #190, "The Revolution Talk: 'A Precious, Rare, and Enormous Tool.'" [back]
8. The "all-or-nothing" approach being criticized here is one that demands a high level of activity and commitment from anyone who shows interest in revolution, communism and the Party, rather than finding the ways for people to check things out and participate at a level corresponding to their actual understanding of the world and their sense of how to change this at any given time, "giving them air to breathe" and room to learn through their own experience, while at the same time struggling with them over these questions—struggle which is carried out in a living, non-dogmatic way, encompassing both learning and leading. [back]
9. The reference here is to "On the Possibility of Revolution," which originally appeared in Revolution #102 and is included in the Revolution pamphlet Revolution and Communism: A Foundation and Strategic Orientation (May 1, 2008), pp. 80-89. [back]
10. The formulation "Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution" embodies a basic part of the Party's strategic approach for building a revolutionary movement. For a discussion of this formulation, see Bob Avakian's talk "Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity," in particular "Part 2: Everything We're Doing Is About Revolution." [back]
11. Substantive discussions of the new synthesis can be found in "Re-envisioning Revolution and Communism: WHAT IS BOB AVAKIAN'S NEW SYNTHESIS?" (a talk given in spring 2008 and available online at revcom.us) and in a section from Bob Avakian's talk "Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity," which can be found in PDF format at revcom.us/i/188/188new_synthesis-en.pdf. Go to revcom.us for more works by Bob Avakian. [back]
Send us your comments.
Revolution #194, March 7, 2010
EDITED TRANSCRIPT OF A TALK BY BOB AVAKIAN, CHAIRMAN OF THE REVOLUTIONARY COMMUNIST PARTY, USA, FALL 2009
[Editors' note: The following is the eleventh 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 ten excerpts appeared in Revolution #184-193. The entire talk can be found online at revcom.us/avakian/driving.]
In light of the situation and the stakes, it is very important to critically review the historical experience and views of the revolutionary and communist movements on this question, and to grasp more firmly the need for yet a further radical leap and rupture. There is definitely a need for further investigation, study, analysis and synthesis in regard to all this, but the following speaks to some important aspects of this and can, in part at least, help provide a framework and guidelines for that further investigation, study, analysis and synthesis.
I want to begin by touching briefly on the movement of the 1960s and into the 1970s, and its legacy and aftermath.
Even as there were different trends ideologically and politically among the more radical forces in that period, these radical forces increasingly gained the initiative within the movements and struggles and the overall upheaval of those days. They were going up against, and seeking in various ways to pose radical alternatives to, the dominant forces in the world, in particular U.S. imperialism. But also, at least objectively and to no small degree consciously, they were rebelling against the revisionist parties and forces which were not only stodgy and conservative, in some general and abstract sense, but had themselves become defenders and advocates of the existing oppressive order, seeking at most some kind of adjustments or realignments within that order.
The women's movement coming out of the 1960s, and specifically the contributions as well as some shortcomings both in what it brought forward and how that was responded to by the broader movement, as well as the broader society, is the next point I want to speak to.
Extremely important questions were being raised and grappled with, particularly by the more radical forces within the women's movement that emerged out of the 1960s and into the 1970s, even though this was not on the basis of, and in some significant ways was objectively in opposition to, a consistently scientific approach. But economist influences and related tendencies within the new communist movement that emerged in that period, including the RU (Revolutionary Union) and then the RCP (Revolutionary Communist Party), worked against the correct scientific assimilation and synthesis of very important things that were being raised by the women's movement. Valuable insights and important elements of a more advanced understanding were squandered by the communist movement at that time, as a result of economist and other erroneous influences.
So this emphasizes the importance of a more dialectical as well as materialist approach to what came out of that women's movement, even if we can say, as objectively we should, that this movement was largely characterized by a petit bourgeois orientation, not only, or even essentially, in terms of the class position of most of the women who took part in it, but more fundamentally in terms of its outlook and orientation. Nonetheless, on the part of that women's movement, and particularly its more radical sections, extremely important questions were being grappled with, and criticisms were being raised of the communist movement and its approach to the woman question at that time which had some validity and which should have been embraced in an overall sense and sifted through and synthesized in a way that they were not.
All this needed then, and definitely needs now, to be approached with the understanding that the status of women and the struggle for the emancipation of women will continue to have a tremendously important role, not only in the struggle for revolution but also in the transition toward communism once a new socialist society has been brought into being. Twenty years ago now, in "The End of a Stage—The Beginning of a New Stage" (Revolution magazine #60, Fall 1990), I grappled with the question of unresolved contradictions under socialism and how this can be a propelling and driving force to continue the socialist revolution toward the goal of communism and to combat and defeat revisionist influences and forces which would turn the revolution back. As spoken to earlier, unevenness and contradiction hold the basis and potential for change. The unresolved contradictions under socialism and their potential to be a driving and propelling force for continuing the revolution is another expression of this role of unevenness, in terms of its posing the potential for radical transformation. Among the most important of those unresolved contradictions which were spoken to in "End/Beginning" was precisely the aspects of the oppression of women that would persist in socialist society and the importance of the struggle for the complete liberation of women not only in its own right but as a driving force for continuing the revolution overall in socialist society.
In this context, and in regard to the opportunities that were lost, or squandered, on the part of the communist movement to learn from and to correctly, scientifically assimilate many crucial things that were being raised by the women's movement at that time, there is a dimension that I want to touch on here, which might be captured in the formulation: the relation between the visceral and the theoretical. In the 1960s and into the '70s, there was, as a very vibrant, vital and crucial part—not just a legitimate part but a very vibrant, vital and crucial part—of the women's movement, the bursting forth of visceral feelings of outrage, of pent-up outrage over decades (and, in a larger sense, centuries and millennia) of the oppression of women. At times, this came forward in ways that were not thoroughly scientific, although it must be stressed that there has been, on the part of many forces within the women's liberation movement, serious work done and struggle waged in the theoretical sphere, with the aim of making scientific analysis of the oppression of women and the road to their liberation. Even where that fell short, there were important theoretical contributions that were made and important theoretical questions that were focused on and wrangled over, including by way of criticism of some of the stereotypical thinking and economist influences within the communist movement.
But the dynamic synergy between the visceral and theoretical, and the correct understanding and handling of this dialectical relation, is very important in regard to the oppression and the liberation of women, as it is in general in the development of the revolutionary struggle toward a whole new world. Just as in other dimensions of this, it is impossible to conceive of a correct understanding and the waging of the necessary struggle without the element of visceral hatred for the oppression, and without the correct approach to—the correct scientific assimilation and synthesis of—what is brought forward through the visceral expression of outrage at this oppression.
To put it another way, as is true with every important aspect of the revolutionary movement, it will be impossible to proceed on the right basis, with the right foundation, in struggling to uproot the oppression of women with only a theoretical understanding, though that is important and should in no way be underestimated. It is also indispensable to proceed, in a real sense, from a visceral feeling of all that it means to be female in this world. Our party's Declaration1 on the woman question speaks to this very powerfully, particularly in its opening sections, and it is worth reviewing that and continually returning to it, to reground ourselves in both the sweep of this and also the acuity of it, and the outrage of it.
There are the very egregious things that stand out in terms of the oppression of women in more "medieval" forms, particularly in the Third World, which people like Goldberg and Kristof and WuDunn2 are able to point to (and let us allow that they do speak to this out of a sense of genuine outrage). There is the whole phenomenon of "honor killings," where members of her own family will murder a woman, or young girl, if she "dishonors" the patriarchal family by being involved in sex outside of "approved" (and often arranged) marriage, even if this is a result of being raped! There is the whole way in which, in countries where the Islamic religion is dominant, a girl at a certain age suddenly is shrouded in a hejab or in a veil or a chador or a burkha, with everything that this concentrates in terms of the subordination of women. There are the wife burnings or widow burnings in a country like India. The selling of women on the international sex market in the millions and millions. The outright brutality at the hands of husbands (recalling the old saying in China, which expresses a viewpoint, and relations, that are deeply entrenched in societies throughout the world: "a woman married is like a pony bought, I'll ride her and whip her as I please"). The ongoing practice of female genital mutilation to which literally millions of girls are subjected every year—cutting out the clitoris, which deprives women of sexual satisfaction, and/or sewing shut the vagina to ensure "chastity" until marriage. The generalized acceptability of marital rape. The killing of girls at birth—which has re-emerged in China, for example, as a result of the reversal of the revolution and the restoration of capitalism, and the patriarchy and male domination which is an integral part of this—as well as the misuse and abuse of the right to abortion to carry out the abortion of specifically female fetuses, because females are deemed to be less valuable than males.
At the same time, while all this is very widespread in countries throughout the Third World, in the so-called "modern" imperialist countries there are no less egregious ways in which woman are demeaned and degraded, and yes brutalized through sexual and other violence on a massive scale.
In the "Revolution" talk (Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About), there is a section where it is said: Look at all these beautiful children out here—speaking specifically of the children in the inner cities of the U.S.—and the point is made that these children's fate is sealed, a life of oppression and degradation is set out for them, even before they are born, and soon the smiles and laughter and the carefree play that you can see among these children when they are very young will be turned into horror upon horror. All this is very true and very important, and again a visceral feeling about this, combined with a scientific theoretical understanding of its basis and of the basis for overthrowing and eliminating it, is indispensable for what we're all about.
But it's also very important to focus on the question: What does it mean to be born female in this world? Look at all these beautiful children who are female in the world. And in addition to all the other outrages which I have referred to, in terms of children throughout the slums and shantytowns of the Third World, in addition to all the horrors that will be heaped on them—the actual living in garbage and human waste in the hundreds of millions as their fate, laid out before them, yes, even before they are born—there is, on top of this, for those children who are born female, the horror of everything that this will bring simply because they are female in a world of male domination. And this is true not only in the Third World. In "modern" countries like the U.S. as well, the statistics barely capture it: the millions who will be raped; the millions more who will be routinely demeaned, deceived, degraded, and all too often brutalized by those who are supposed to be their most intimate lovers; the way in which so many women will be shamed, hounded and harassed if they seek to exercise reproductive rights through abortion, or even birth control; the many who will be forced into prostitution and pornography; and all those who—if they do not have that particular fate, and even if they achieve some success in this "new world" where supposedly there are no barriers for women—will be surrounded on every side, and insulted at every moment, by a society and a culture which degrades women, on the streets, in the schools and workplaces, in the home, on a daily basis and in countless ways.
How long does it take before the carefree play of female children—yes, in countries like the U.S.—gets turned into cutting themselves, in response to an unbearable feeling of worthlessness and despair, and often as a result of abuse; or starving themselves in an attempt to conform to the dominant and incessantly propagated notions of female beauty, with which their worth as a human being is equated and to which it is reduced? How long does it take before many girls who show intellectual curiosity and the spark of wanting to know about the world, and of learning about the world, learn instead to stifle that, to "play dumb" and stop speaking up, because it becomes all too clear to them that boys and men feel "threatened" by strong, competent and intelligent women? Or girls who, once having been actively involved in the joy of playing sports, give that up in order to be perceived as more "feminine." Girls in general who, whatever else may happen in their lives, will be insulted and assaulted by pornography and other degradation of women, soft core and hard core, from mainstream advertising to the most extreme and grotesque and perverse. Who will learn to accommodate themselves in various ways—or will be encouraged, and in many ways coerced, into accommodating themselves—to the oppressive relations that prevail and predominate in society, particularly as regards women; or, on the other hand, will be encouraged and will learn to become hardened and cynical, to treat everyone and everything, including themselves and their own bodies, as commodities, and will be further degraded and debased in the process; will learn to lower their sights and not to dream and think of fully taking part in every sphere of society nor dare to rise up and change society, including in the way that it treats women? All this too, is laid out for female children, including in countries like the U.S., even before they are born.
We could go on and on and on, detailing the further dimensions of this. Learning every day, and having to be mindful every day, of going through the world constantly seeking to guard against being assaulted, physically and/or sexually, all the way down to the smallest details of how you walk down the street, or enter and leave a building, whether or not and how you get on an elevator—having to carry these burdens every day through your life. Having normal and natural bodily and sexual functions—when girls' breasts develop or they begin to menstruate and go through other hormonal and physical changes—having all that portrayed in a thousand ways as an object of others' gratification and/or as something that's unclean and shameful (that's not just an old biblical injunction, it still has force and exerts its influence and force in ways that devalue and demean the human beings, the half of humanity, who are oppressed in this way).
As our party's Declaration very rightly insists, in the world today and where humanity now stands, all of this should, and could, be swept from the earth—and the fact that it is perpetuated and enforced by outmoded systems, and above all the dominant system of capitalism-imperialism, makes it all more outrageous.
It is a striking fact—which is starkly evident in the U.S. now—that, in comparison to what is done to women, there is no other group in society that is so systematically reviled and defiled in a way that has become acceptable (or widely accepted in any case) as a significant part of "mainstream" life and culture, as happens in a concentrated way through pornography and the extremely demeaning and degrading images and messages about women it massively and pervasively purveys (with the Internet a major focus and vehicle for this), including pornography's extensive portrayal of sadistic and violent sexual domination of women. (In this regard see, for example, Pamela Paul's book, Pornified, How Pornography is Damaging Our Lives, Our Relationships, and Our Families, Holt Paperbacks, 2005.)
I began the "Revolution" talk with "They're Selling Postcards of the Hanging," reviewing the ugly history of the lynching of Black people in America and the way in which celebration of this became a cultural phenomenon in the U.S., with the selling of picture postcards of these lynchings a major expression of this—often including smiling and leering crowds of white people surrounding the murdered and mutilated body of a Black man. In a recent exchange, a comrade emphasized this profoundly important and compelling point: Today, the way in which pornography depicts women—the displaying of women in a degraded state for the titillation of viewers—including the grotesque brutality and violence against women which is involved in much of this, is the equivalent of those "Postcards of the Hanging." It is a means through which all women are demeaned and degraded.
All this while pornography is an accepted part of Internet and other mainstream culture and is in fact a highly profitable business, through which billions of dollars are made each year and in which many "pillars" of the capitalist economy are heavily involved. And this "mainstreaming" of pornography is facilitated and furthered by the fact that the degradation of women is a regular feature of TV programs and other forms of "popular culture," which routinely use the term "bitch" and other demeaning words to refer to women, crassly discuss the physical attributes and commodity value of female body parts, and often extol the sexual conquest and domination of women by men.
As has been noted by Pamela Paul, and a number of other authors who have examined this phenomenon, the great increase in the dissemination and consumption of pornography in recent decades, along with its increasingly extreme forms of humiliating and degrading women, is unquestionably related to the inroads women have made in a number of previously "male only" spheres of society and the challenges that have been posed to male domination overall. This is occurring, however, within the confines of a system in which patriarchy and male domination have not been, and cannot be, eliminated or uprooted—but are, in fact, essential and indispensable components of capitalism, and indeed all systems marked by class division and exploitation and oppressive social relations. In such circumstances, and given the prevailing ideology that corresponds to continuing male domination, despite—and in significant ways because of—real challenges to it, pornography serves as a vehicle of crude and vicious revanchism, a forceful reassertion of relations and traditions in which women are subjugated by and subservient to men. In all this pornography has, in a real sense, a "mirror opposite identity" with fundamentalist religion in today's world, in its Christian as well as Islamic, and other, forms: they have in common a dark misogyny and determination to slam, and chain, women in a position of enforced subordination.
So when we say, "look at all these beautiful children," and then we confront the question of what does it mean to be born into this world?—this has profound meaning for the masses of oppressed people and it has a double meaning for the female half of humanity, not only among the most oppressed and exploited sections of society, but among all strata of women. Back in the days when the women's movement first emerged as a radical force in the late 1960s, focusing on the oppression of women as a crucial social question, some of the men who purported to be radical would come back with "quips" like: "Is Jackie Kennedy oppressed?" That was supposed to somehow be an answer to the fact, the very real fact, that the masses of women of all strata are treated as less than men, and in many ways as less than human. Yes, women of the ruling class take part in the exploitation of the masses of people. But that does not eliminate even their subordinate status within the ruling class, and it certainly does not eliminate the many and horrendous forms of the oppression of women of all strata throughout the world. We could go on and on and still not do justice to this, and still not give anything like full expression to what this means.
1. A Declaration: For Women's Liberation and the Emancipation of All Humanity, Revolution #158, March 8, 2009. [back]
2. Michelle Goldberg, The Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power, and the Future of the World (Penguin Press, 2009) and Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide (Alfred A. Knopf, 2009). [back]
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Revolution #194, March 7, 2010
From A World To Win News Service:
We received the following from A World to Win News Service:
February 15, 2010. A World to Win News Service. With the approach of February 11, the anniversary of the Iranian people's uprising in 1979 (when the rule of the Shah and the monarchy as a political system was ended and the Islamists came to power), people were eager to wage another round of battle and show their hatred for the Islamic regime. Expectations were heightened by the experience of the protests on Ashura (December 26), when the people were able to take the initiative through radical and inspiring struggle. But any idea that the path of development would continue in the straight line and that the regime would be driven to the verge of collapse proved incorrect.
On February 11, people determined to protest came out in different cities and regions. Since there was no pre-agreed assembly point in Tehran, anti-regime protestors gathered at 10 main locations. Despite the draconian military force they found there waiting for them, thousands of youth were not deterred and continued their protests, chanting slogans against the regime. Most of the protestors were trying to get to Azadi (Freedom) Square, where the regime was holding its own reactionary celebration, but the security forces had blocked all the access streets except the one that the government-organized march was passing through. The security forces were concentrated on that street. Their advance preparations to keep it under control included installing loudspeakers along the route so as to be able to drown out unauthorized chanting. Thousands of security officers had been stationed in the square since the day before.
This made it very difficult for protestors to reach the square in any organized fashion. Those who did manage to get through the square were scattered and lost amid the crowd brought by the government. However, foreign journalists spotted some brave enough to shout "Down with the dictator" under these circumstances. (Los Angeles Times, February 12; The New York Times, February 14).
In many other parts of Tehran, youths came out in small groups, but these groups were not able to hook up with one another. They chanted anti-regime slogans and clashed with the Basiji (militia members). Their slogans differed from place to place. In some locations people's chants were in support of the Green leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi and followed the slogans they had suggested, such as the demand for a "referendum." In other places slogans warned the Green leaders against any compromise with the regime. For instance, although it loses its rhythm in translation, one slogan was "We did not give our martyrs in order to compromise, and praise a murderer leader."
This was a clear reference to Mousavi and Karoubi statements after the Ashura demonstration in which they recognized President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's legitimacy as the Leader. Although the Green leaders later tried to justify their statements and spin them as though they hadn't meant what they said, people had taken a note.
People also chanted, "Free all political prisoners." Slogans such as "Death to the dictator" and others against Khamenei were common everywhere. In some demonstrations, "Down with the Islamic Republic" and "Independence, Freedom, Iranian Republic" were also chanted, despite the fierce opposition to these slogans by the Green leaders.
Protestors tore down the big portraits of Khamenei and ripped them into pieces. Many people deliberately walked on them. According to other sources, protestors tore down portraits of Ahmadinejad and Khomeini (BBC-Farsi website, February 12). Despite all the reinforcements the regime could muster, protestors were able to seize at least one Basiji's motorcycle and set it on fire. It was reported that there were clashes in dozens of locations in Tehran, including Vali Asr Square and Sadeghi Square where Karoubi started his own march. Youth who could not get into Azadi Square turned the underground trains and the buses into moving demonstrations, continually chanting slogans like "Death to the dictator" with few objections from passengers, who often cooperated with the youth.
Many observers noted that the brutality of the uniformed and plainclothes security forces was worse than at any other time since the beginning of the current wave of protests in June. The brutal beating of one man whom the security forces had stripped naked was caught by a protestor's camera and posted on YouTube. The regime said it had arrested dozens of protestors. There are unconfirmed reports that a woman was killed.
Reports also indicate that despite the threats by Islamic Republic officials and security force commanders, people came out to protest and show their determination in other main cities such as Isfahan, Shiraz, Mashhad and Ahvaz. Footage of what seems to have been serious fighting in Isfahan was posted on the Web.
Despite the fact that the regime is at its weakest point in the last 31 years, in terms of internal unity, popular support, the economy, corruption and many other aspects, it has not lost all its powers. It has kept all of its firepower and intends to show that it is not in a mood to back down.
In fact, after the shock of the Ashura protests last December, the regime came to the conclusion that the existing level of threats and brutality—including murder, imprisonment, torture, and rape—was not enough to crush the people's determination. When people chanted, "Cannon, tanks and Basiji are no longer effective," they really meant it. So in desperation the regime decided to show off its remaining strengths leading up to and on February 11. It qualitatively increased the level of suppression and repression, and it showed that it still can mobilize people. In this way it sought to demoralize the people or at least the Green leaders, and this time not lose the initiative.
Thousands of people were arrested and charged with involvement in the Ashura protests. In addition, there have been arrests of hundreds if not thousands of student activists, women activists, worker activists, many journalists not in full agreement with the government and many lawyers and human rights people. The regime put a lot of pressure on the Kurdistan region and arrested many activists there who were taken to an unknown location.
Two young prisoners were executed in Tehran in early February. Arrested before the first June 2009 demonstrations, they were accused of membership in a monarchist organization that no one had heard of before, and whose existence was widely questioned. Many of the arrested have been sentenced to long prison terms for doing nothing, or just for taking part in a demonstration—in one man's case because he had honked his car horn in support of marchers. Top officials of the reformist faction also were sentenced to long imprisonment. Some of them are in their 70s and suffer from cancer or heart problems that have worsened in prison. Among them are Ibrahim Yazdi (the Islamic Republic's first foreign minister), Mohammad Maleki (the first head of Tehran University after the revolution) and Behzad Nabavi, who previously held several high-level jobs in the Islamic regime, including a ministerial position. The regime has refused to allow them visitors or even reveal where they are being held.
While stepping up the repression, the government forces also did all they could to mobilize people from all over the country, no easy job for a hated and isolated regime. They used their country's money and resources to incite and even bribe people to attend Ahmadinejad's speech in Azadi Square. The regime spent 300 billion Touman (equivalent to 300 million dollars) on this event, according to Mohsen Sazegara, a defected regime official speaking on Voice of America's Persian TV on February 14.
First of all there were the thousands of trusted men on the regime's payroll whose job includes being present to cheer for top officials. They usually travel with Khamenei and Ahmadinejad to other cities when they go to speak, and they participate in Friday Prayers. In addition, the regime organized people in remote towns and villages and used hundreds or maybe thousands of buses to transfer them to Tehran in that day. They were promised good food, and cameras showed cake and food parcels being distributed among the participants. Apart from those who were doing their job and hardcore Islamic Republic supporters, many of the participants were in a far less combative mood than the protestors a few blocks away who were engaged in fierce fighting with security forces. For them this was a picnic, a day off from work, a free ride to Tehran and free food and snacks. They could spend the day with family, away from home and above all avoid the risk of losing their job.
An eight-minute amateur video on YouTube reflects the mood of the regime's event. Despite all its preparations, still the regime was apprehensive. Scaffolding was used to divide the crowd into many different sections. Yet with all this, during Ahmadinejad's speech chants of "Down with the dictator!" could be heard from among the crowd. It was even said that the regime's TV stopped broadcasting his speech earlier than expected, maybe because of this.
The regime invested a great deal financially and militarily to achieve the political results that it sought: the appearance of legitimacy. They have already started a campaign to exaggerate the results, boasting that five million people took part in Tehran. In contrast, some foreign media (for instance, The New York Times, February 14) noted that the square was significantly less full than previous years, despite the combination of threats and bribes, and several informed Iranian sources gave estimates of hundreds of thousands. These seem to be confirmed by broadcast photos. The reality is that the regime's count of supporters at Azadi Square was as fake as number of votes Ahmadinejad claimed were cast for him in the June presidential election.
But even so, the people and the revolutionary forces should look at reality and correctly assess the weaknesses and strength of the enemy as well as their own.
What the regime did was not from a position of strength but of weakness and fear of the people's movement. But given the offensive character of the people's protests on Ashura, it was certainly not correct to think that the Islamic regime would remain passive and idly wait for another attack. The Islamic regime not only carried out extensive militarily preparations, it also tried to outmaneuver the people and regain the initiative. For example, when the people went to the usual gathering points they found out that those locations had already been occupied by thousands of Basiji and security forces. It was also not correct to assume that the regime had reached its limits and was on the verge of collapse. It is true that the Islamic regime has become more unpopular and isolated than ever. But it still holds political power, and it has a huge army and the money of a nation to spend for its own interests. The Islamic regime will resist until the last moment and it is not in a mood to back down.
Looking at the people's side, it is true that a popular mass movement exists and the vast majority of the people hate the Islamic regime, its leaders and its principles. That is an important strength of the people's movement. The protest of tens of thousands of Iranian people on February 11 is a great achievement in the face of such repression and considering that they had either no leadership or the leadership of the Green leaders who continuously worked to limit the people's initiative. The fact that the protests happened anyway shows the determination of a section of the people.
However, it was not possible under such circumstances for the people to gain the initiative. It is true that the people's movement has been growing in number and in quality in the last few months and has taken on dangerous dimensions for the ruling power. But that doesn't necessarily mean the movement will continue to grow and develop spontaneously, and that the reactionary ruling power will not be able to seize back the initiative. The fighting people have to see the weaknesses of the movement and try their best to remedy them and develop the movement into a stronger movement.
One of the movement's most important weaknesses is that so many people still go along with the Green leaders and their line. Even among the people who have no faith in the Green leaders, many have various reasons to justify supporting them anyway. Some say yes to the Greens just in order to say no to Ahmadinejad and Khamenei. Some believe they should stay united under the leadership of the Greens because they are the only ones who can unite the people in this situation, or because they do not want to divide the movement. Some people believe they should fight the ruling power step by step, isolating and getting rid of Khamenei and Ahmadinejad first. While there are some points to be seriously considered in some of these reasons, none are enough to justify support for the Green leaders. The Green leaders are part of the Islamic Republic; they say they are "proud" of that. They have repeatedly emphasized their commitment to the Islamic Republic and its principles. Their past confirms that as well. In one way or other they took part in stealing the people's revolution and suppressing the people and their achievements, and the massacre of the political prisoners throughout the 1980s, including the 1987 mass executions. This has to be kept in mind when they say they want to go back to the Islamic regime's founding principles under Khomeini.
The Iranian people are engaging in a serious battle with a brutal regime armed to teeth. The "silent" and "non-violent" movement propagated by reformist and pro-imperialist circles cannot topple it. On the contrary it will buy time until it gets the opportunity to crush the movement.
Revolutionary tactics and strategy are needed to overthrow the Islamic Republic and replace it with a system that really relies on the people and works for the people. A system that does not dictate religion and its grip on the people but keeps religion out of the state, a system where women are not discriminated against and humiliated, a system where national minorities are not oppressed and students are not suppressed, a system that opposes imperialism in reality and does not just pretend to be anti-imperialist while being highly dependent on the imperialist world market. To overthrow the Islamic Republic and achieve freedom and independence, the people must be organized and seriously engage in an uncompromising revolutionary war with a brutal and armed enemy. That is only possible under the leadership of conscious proletarian party armed with the scientific ideology of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism.
A World to Win News Service is put out by A World to Win magazine (aworldtowin.org), a political and theoretical review inspired by the formation of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, the embryonic center of the world's Marxist-Leninist-Maoist parties and organizations.
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Revolution #194, March 7, 2010
Correspondence from a Prisoner on International Women's Day:
The following letter was written by a reader who is in prison:
Although I won't be able to physically show my unwavering solidarity for the International Women's Day 2010 demonstrations—I'm glad to have this opportunity to do so through my words. I'm an adamant believer that proletarian internationalism's strength and power is only enhanced by our recognition that women are just as capable, deserving, and integral to our collective emancipation as any man.
Over the past several months, I've been coming to appreciate the broader implications of atheism when it comes to the question of women and their collective liberation. I've recently written in a project I'm working on, that "atheism is feminism on steroids." And I certainly believe that upon a number of levels.
First of all, religion has played the biggest role—second only to the class factor—in the oppression of women. It has historically been the most relied upon justification when relegating women to subservient roles in all societies. What's the most despicable about all this, is that most young girls grow up with internalized feelings of inadequacy, of being "the downfall" of "mankind," of being less than the opposite sex, and so on. It's kind of like how I felt growing up with the belief that I was somehow inferior to whites because of "the curse" that Noah had placed on the descendants of Ham (Canaan, his son) (Genesis 9:24-27). I've never lived in the shoes of a woman, personally, but I do know how it feels to believe once, that God, Himself, had sanctioned my race to endure the humiliation and dehumanization of slavery. Such a feeling makes you feel as if the whole universe had conspired against your very existence. So in that sense, you can say, I was born a woman through my experience of living as a black person underneath a Christian dominated worldview for most of my life.
It's funny to me now when I hear moderates of all faiths, claim that their religion is a religion of equality, brotherhood/sisterhood, and love. I'm forced to think to myself at those times, "You must haven't read 1 Timothy 2: 11-14 then," which states that:
A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or have authority over a man: she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. (New International Version of the Bible [NIV])
Whenever I hear a Muslim say the same thing—that their religion is a religion of equality, brotherhood/sisterhood, and love—I'm forced to think to myself, "You must not know what Surah 4:15 says," which states that:
If any of your women are guilty of lewdness, take the evidence of four [reliable] witnesses from amongst you against them; and if they testify, confine them to houses until death do claim them, or Allah ordain for them some (other) way.
The above is only a small proportion of the "holy decrees," which have oppressed, subjugated, and demonized women for millenniums with the belief that there was something innately wrong with their existence; but I'm glad to inform my sisters that they no longer have to internalize such beliefs of self-hatred any longer.
I believe atheism is the most potent vaccination against all fallacies based upon "divine decrees." The scientific materialism which is inherent in an atheist world outlook, allows women and men alike, to recognize the validity and implications, for instance, of Ardea Skybreak's book, The Science of Evolution and the Myth of Creationism—thus not only falsifying the creation myths of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and all other superstitions, but also strips away the justification for why women should forever play subservient roles within society. In that book, Skybreak includes a quote from the physicist Steven Weinberg, that should resonate with us all, especially women, when he mentioned that, "One of the greatest achievements of science has been, if not to make it impossible for intelligent people to be religious, then at least to make it possible for them not to be religious. We should not retreat from this accomplishment."
In a wider context, I mentioned, that "atheism is feminism on steroids." What I mean by that, is once we are compelled to sever God and Religion from our social discourses on women, we'll be in a position for the first time in human history to define our gender and sex relations upon a concretely human-centered basis. Ultimately it forces men to confront their biases and conditioned responses by reexamining our relationship to women mundanely as well as within the context of the proletarian revolution. If every communist is a microcosm of the world we wished to bring forth, then it's imperative that we start by resolving these sexist notions internally in order to eradicate them the most effectively externally. Marx once remarked that, "Right can never be higher than the economic structure of society and its cultural development conditioned thereby." (Critique of the Gotha Programme by Marx.) If that's the case and we are representatives of the far superior society of socialism-communism, then surely our right must be higher and richer than the male chauvinism now prevalent within bourgeoisie society. And I'm certainly of the belief that it absolutely is.
I'm aware that the RCP Publications is the publisher of Phony Communism is Dead...Long Live Real Communism by Bob Avakian. I would like to be sent a copy of that book, if it's possible. My comrades and I have heard about it, and we would definitely like to get our hands on it. Thanks, either way.
Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund
The Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund (PRLF) is an educational literature fund that fills requests from U.S. prisoners for revolutionary literature. The main requests received by PRLF from those behind bars are for complementary subscriptions in Spanish and English to the weekly newspaper Revolution* and for revolutionary and other books, including ones highlighted in the newspaper. Through providing this literature, PRLF provides an educational opportunity for prisoners to engage with world events and key political, cultural, and philosophical questions of the day from a unique revolutionary perspective, including discussions of morality, religion, science, and the arts. Every week prisoners can delve into the urgent and lively news and debate about unfolding political and social struggles, and can critically think about and dissect the current state of society as well as search for an alternative.
PRLF is a project of the International Humanities Center, a non-profit public charity exempt from federal income tax under section 501(c)(3) of the IRS code (www.IHCenter.org.) Checks should be made payable to IHCenter/PRLF and mailed to:
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Revolution #194, March 7, 2010
Reporter's Journal on the Earthquake
Part 1: "It Has All Fallen Down"
On January 12, 2010 an extremely powerful earthquake struck Haiti—devastating the capital of Port-au-Prince and the nearby cities of Léogâne and Jacmel and killing over 200,000 people. As news of this human disaster spread, hearts throughout the world ached for the Haitian people. Millions donated money, medical aid or food, and many immediately went to Haiti to try and help.
Meanwhile, the U.S. government took control of the airport in Port-au-Prince. And as U.S. soldiers and military supplies came in, shipments of desperately needed aid were turned away or ended up piled up on the tarmac. In the week after the earthquake—as the U.S. actually blocked aid from getting into Haiti—it has been estimated that as many as 25,000 people died each day, as a result of treatable ailments such as bleeding, dehydration, suffocation and infection.
Revolution newspaper had run important articles exposing the history of U.S. domination of Haiti and how this created conditions of intense poverty and lack of infrastructure—direct causes of the huge death toll. There had been exposure of the whole way the U.S. was sabotaging aid deliveries and justifying this in the name of "security concerns."
But we needed to get a deeper picture of what all this really meant for the Haitian masses and how people were looking at and dealing with the situation. So 12 days after the earthquake—the Katastwòf as it is called in Kreyol—a Revolution reporter found himself on a bus from Santo Domingo to Port-au-Prince. The following is the first part in a series of excerpts from his journal.
The bus is overwhelmingly Haitian-Americans. I talk to one guy from Brooklyn. His brother was killed in the quake and he is going home to help in any way he can. Another man, Alphonse, tells me: "I came to Haiti because I have two adopted kids. After the quake it took me four days to get through on the phone, to find out if they were okay. During that time, I almost lost my mind! Then when I reached them, my little boy, four years old, got on the phone and said 'Papa, our house fell down and I'm living in the street! I want you to come and pick me up. Come pick me up, Papa!' And I thought right then, 'I have to go to Haiti!' I love those kids!" With quiet anguish he told me: "My kids were not hurt in the quake, but how long can they live in the streets?"
Finally we pull into the bus station in Pétionville (a part of Port-au-Prince on the hill above the heart of the city). At one time this area was considered more prosperous and chic, with a vibrant club and restaurant scene. It had been hit hard by the earthquake but was not as devastated as other areas. The scene at the bus station is crazy—hundreds of people waiting for family, along with drivers offering rides. Alphonse introduces me to Janot, who he says will help me with my mission.
As it turns out, Alphonse had been an occasional reader of the Revolutionary Worker (the former name of Revolution) many years back in the U.S. He knows Janot is a revolutionary-minded activist, and entrusted me to his care on that basis. This was a tremendous stroke of luck, because for the rest of my stay Janot helped me understand the situation in basic terms, taught me the lay of the land and provided me with places (which is to say, loosely organized encampments on side-streets or in yards of damaged buildings) where I could sleep and get some food, water and companionship. He also introduced me to many other people who were a great help and proved to be great friends as well. (So Janot, if you're reading this now, kite-m di lot fwa, "mèsi anpil kamarad!" [let me say once again, "thank you, comrade!"])
Janot and I talked, sitting outside a day-care center that had become home for about 25 people who had come together in the wake of the quake. In days to come I would learn more about the people there and how they had organized the tasks of survival in a truly hellish landscape. But what struck me most then was that the street had been blocked off by cars parked crossways and cinder-blocks, and makeshift awnings strung across much of the street with nylon thread. Beneath, amidst the ruins of their once-neighborhood, under a brilliant Haitian moon, within the brief cool interlude of late night in the tropics, slept over a dozen men women and children. For a moment I allowed myself the illusory thought that maybe things weren't as bad as I thought... But it was not long before I began to confront the stark reality of the situation.
While in Haiti I stayed in two different encampments, both set up by a progressive organization called KASAV. KASAV stands for Kolectiv Ayisyen Solidarite Aksyon Voluntre, and a kasav is a root vegetable that is a staple of the Haitian peasantry. As the name says, these encampments sought to apply principles of collective action for the good of the people. Like everyone in Port-au-Prince, we lived outside and confronted a daily struggle to get food and especially clean water, but the situation in the KASAV areas was much better than in the big shantytowns and tent cities.
Here I was befriended by many people and got to hear their stories in greater depth. Daniel, the leader of the downtown encampment, introduces me to Roger, who volunteered to be my translator. Roger is 25 and had just started college when the quake hit, utterly destroying his school. Initially he saw helping me as a way to improve his English, but coming from his own experience he also had a great hunger to understand what had happened, and why, which made him an invaluable participant beyond just translation, and a wonderful companion as well.
Roger's language skills turned out to be pretty good for someone with little higher education who had never left the country. Mainly this came from books and from practicing whenever he came across a foreigner. But he was also into hip-hop and had a pretty good sense of street language. Sometimes when I was talking to him I would forget I was in Haiti, feeling like I was back in the U.S.
Roger tells me his own story and thoughts about the Katastwòf:
"It was around 4 p.m. I was sitting in the front of the house with an English book. My sisters were upstairs watching TV. I heard a noise and I began to tremble. Then the whole house shook, very powerfully, and then I didn't have time to call to my sisters, I just ran out of the house. I didn't know what it was exactly, but the houses next door were falling over, one after another. Then I did shout to my sisters; I said 'get out, the house is falling.' We found my father outside too, and then we were all crying. All the neighbors were out in the middle of the street. We didn't know what was going to happen.
"This is so difficult for every Haitian. Now we have nothing, not food, not water, not electricity, clothes or homes...just our faith in God. I have only the clothes on my back. I can't think of anything now but myself and my family. We are sleeping outside, it is getting cold now, but we have no choice. Before this area was very beautiful, beautiful architecture but now it has all fallen down. This is something very heavy to go through, physically, mentally and emotionally. Sometimes it still affects me; sometimes I just start to shake, I can't speak, thinking about people dying..."
Another day I sit down with four guys: Voltaire, a reporter with Radio Metropole; Jacques, a teenager; Daniel and Roger. They paint a vivid picture of not only the quake but also the aftermath. Voltaire says he was at the university when the quake happened:
"There had been a demonstration called to protest the assassination of a well-known progressive professor the day before and I was covering it. I was leaning against a wall and it started shaking. I picked myself up and started to call my girlfriend. Then there was nine seconds of intense shaking, a pause and then more shaking. Houses were crashing down, the wall I had been leaning on partially caved in, trapping some students. Other students rushed to help them and then the whole wall collapsed, trapping them as well.
"It was 4:53 p.m. After the quake the air was filled with dust and debris—cars were crashing into each other as people who were trying to get home were blinded. The Palace radio station went off the air...."
Jacques: "Me and my family just waited in the middle of the street, standing there, thinking that everyone was going to die, but waiting to see what would happen. We stayed there until the next day."
Voltaire: "The day after there was no space to walk, the streets were covered with dead bodies, swollen and rotting, on every street. There was no one to pick them up. It was very terrible. My first thought was that God himself had come down to earth.... I saw a man on his cellphone talking, trying to find out if his wife and two kids were alive. Suddenly he took a gun out of his pocket and put it to his own head; he was about to kill himself. But people came around and argued with him, saying, 'No, what's done is done, we have to go on.' I took the gun from him and gave it to a Haitian policeman....
"Wednesday was awful. Everywhere you go you step on dead bodies. Families are crying out because they lost family members, almost every family. At night we can't sleep. People were trying to move the dead bodies away from their sleeping areas. People were still crying, people still thought it was the return of God, punishment for all their sins. People knelt down and asked for mercy. There were a lot of tears."
Roger: "After the Katastwòf, there was no food, no water, the worst situation. The government did nothing, the international community promised aid but up to now has done nothing. After 15 days the government hasn't done anything. Either you find food for yourself, or you die."
To be continued.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #194, March 7, 2010
The following was sent to Revolution from a professor.
It has been remarkable to note in the efforts to spread the influence of Bob Avakian that "introducing" him into whatever the circumstances, turns things immediately more concrete and more serious. This is an important factor to take into account and to make the most of in these efforts—and the outcome of these efforts can have a defining influence on the world to come.
There is a growing sense among many people everywhere that we are moving through an acute phase of human history. There never has been a time like this, where the alternatives are between a course of action that is now leading to the destruction of human life, or a course of action leading to the emancipation of all humanity. It is within our capacity to create a radically different world, but we are not going to get on this high road leading in the direction of a communist world without Bob Avakian. This is because he has filled the theoretical need and developed the practical leadership without which it will be impossible to advance beyond the present capitalist-imperialist structures of society. No one else has done this. This is why when his "presence" is experienced in the many different ways it can be, his influence is unique and can immediately change the dynamics of what is happening.
And this is why, unless there is a transformative effort that successfully brings his leadership to the fore in society, things look very bleak for the world.
An exchange with a freshman student from rural Ohio captures the experience I am trying to describe. It was on the University of Chicago campus, building for the Raymond Lotta campus tour where Lotta talked on the history of communist revolution and Bob Avakian's New Synthesis to over 300 students and others. This student was serious minded to begin with and personally involved in the question of what will become of the world and what should she make of her life. She was well aware of the shroud that has been wrapped around communism, even as she was reading some Marx and Engels. What stopped her, and what directed the conversation onto a different terrain, more concrete and thus more serious, was Avakian's combination of both upholding and critiquing the past communist revolutions, and from that standpoint, and from an analysis of what is really going on in the world today, bringing forward something new. It was the something new Avakian embodies that struck her. Something new that does not dismiss the past but addresses both the upside and the downside, and brings forward a legacy in a way that creates something truly radical and truly new, that gave the conversation a concrete feeling of being for real. And it prompted a series of questions about the past, present, and the future that Lotta's talk addressed.
As our conversation turned to Avakian, she also became afraid, cautious of what pursuing this might mean for her. The fear, in this case, was a not so unusual response to the fact that when you start talking Avakian, you are going to get into ways of looking at the world and promoting a world view that are not only contrary to the accepted wisdom but also to what might be considered "acceptable" behavior, to one's peers and to the state. So Bob Avakian's vision that can compel hope and daring, can prompt an array of responses springing from things becoming immediately more concrete and more serious.
This observation of the effect of introducing Avakian into the conversation originally came from experiences in the classroom. In teaching a course on human nature and the possibilities of the future, I had been observing the way in which the approach of the students to the subject matter changed with the introduction of Avakian (via readings from "Views On Socialism and Communism: A Radically New Kind of State, a Radically Different and Far Greater Vision of Freedom," concerning wants and needs being socially determined, and that there is no such thing as unchanging human nature).
In the class, we had been discussing communism in more general and abstract terms, prompted by reading Alexander Luria's Man With a Shattered World about a young communist soldier in the Soviet Union who received a severe brain injury in World War 2. Students discussed the soldier's call for a world without exploitation, oppression and war, but the discussions did not seem to reach into their personal lives, did not have a feeling of being for real. As one student put it, "While I find Zasetsky's [the soldier] final statement poignant and inspirational, I also find it a bit unrealistic... As for me, I know I will walk away from this course with a whole new store of knowledge, but this knowledge changing who I am and how I live my life is unlikely."
With the reading and discussing of these sections from "Views On...," the atmosphere in the class and the kinds of questions and observations changed. There was a sense among many that the way people think and feel about this world and the future of communism really matters.
For instance, a student wrote that the paragraph in "Views On..." on the relation between thinking and feeling "is very powerful...it raises the question, why don't we feel the passionate urge to change that [a world based on exploitation and oppression]?" She criticizes herself for fearing that something worse will come of trying to change the world, and explains, "...I feel powerless, therefore don't spend my time and energy trying to do something that I feel is futile and out of reach, but yet, I blame us as a whole for feeling that way."
The question of framework of thought becomes a big issue as soon as one steps into Bob Avakian's thinking. Wrote one student, "My hatred for the current status of the human condition has been growing for as long as I can remember, but I never had the framework of the human mind and social revolution to understand it with." Or, as another one put it, "According to Avakian, it is important to understand the circumstances and the context in which certain human thought patterns exist....The way that Avakian talks about communism presents a whole new way to think about the idea of communism and our society in general."
In these discussions in and outside the classroom, it becomes clearer the way in which there is also a very strong pull to render Avakian's thought less radical, less demanding, even less liberating. The text itself, or whatever mode of Avakian's communication, fights intensely against this pull. The struggle that can erupt immediately over whether to take the radical thrust of his thought at its word is likewise a way in which introducing Avakian brings a concrete and real world dimension to the struggle.
From another student, "He [Avakian] goes on to say that in order for real change to happen, we have to change the way people feel and think about certain things that seem unchangeable and eternal, when they in fact might be just the opposite." And finally, from a student, in response to studying the effects of brain injuries on people's thinking, "This makes me wonder what Avakian's reaction to a frontal lobe injury in him would be like. He has such a different view on the world and social structure, that unlike the other cases we have studied he may have had a completely different reaction."
Note that the word "introduce" does not necessarily mean for the first time. This phenomenon I am trying to describe also applies to instances in which Avakian, though already known, is being introduced again into the discussion and has an immediate effect on the tenor and valor of the discussion.
In a long, spontaneous conversation with two professors who have had an introduction to Revolution and Avakian, but who have not seriously pursued that line of thought, we argued back and forth in a very serious vein, essentially over the New Synthesis. Finally one of them concluded, "I'm going to go back and look again at Avakian."
There was a moment in this conversation, as there has been in a number of others recently, when I interjected with the comment that you can see now why the way we have been promoting Avakian is not cultish. The response was not cynical, but thoughtful.
To conclude: The more deeply we understand why the possibility of revolution is greatly enhanced because of Bob Avakian, why he makes revolution and communism real and possible, the more we will feel compelled to do everything we can to extend his reach, and not let advances slip away.
I remind myself that the "introducers" need to be in the same space as the one being introduced, and need to stay in that space, outside the boundaries of the present, with a concrete, serious, deep sense of this historical moment. The suffocating air of this capitalist-imperialist climate envelops us, and we need to break out of it and stay out of it, and breathe freely in an atmosphere that is truly radical, revolutionary and liberating.
Spread the Word and Help Crack Open the "Communism Debate":
Raymond Lotta's campus speaking tour, "Everything You've Been Told About Communism Is Wrong: Capitalism Is A Failure, Revolution Is The Solution," will be entering its next phase this Spring with programs at Columbia and Harvard universities.
At these events, Lotta will give a dynamic presentation on the real history of revolution and the actual promise of communism, followed by a no-holds-barred dialogue and debate.
April 8, Columbia University. 7 pm, International Affairs Building, Room 417 (420 W. 118th Street), New York City
April 14, Harvard University. 7 pm, Emerson Hall, Room 105 (in Harvard Yard), Cambridge, Massachusetts
Contact the Tour: email@example.com
Send us your comments.
Revolution #194, March 7, 2010
Don't Be Bamboozled by Agents of Repression—
We find ourselves living in a popular culture where the TV shows, from the tabloid programs to the ever-present law and order shows of one kind or another, and even the news, all trumpet the same theme: An individual accused or just suspected of a crime is presumed guilty from the start; exercising one's legal rights is viewed as further evidence of guilt; even the most basic right—getting a lawyer to defend oneself from the legal and illegal onslaught of cops, prosecutors and judges—is depicted with a sneer as "lawyering up." Those who through speech and dissent politically expose, oppose and stand up against this repressive government and protest its crimes are slandered and labeled as "terrorists," while those who knowingly condemn innocent people to prison and death row; who routinely terrorize, beat, and kill people in the inner cities; and who brutally torture people in interrogation rooms are glorified as "heroes." This is nothing but a police state and a martial law culture—this is truly intolerable and should not be tolerated.
Invoking the "threat of terrorist attacks" the government has unleashed police agencies of every kind to repress any serious political opposition to the crimes they are committing worldwide. They are waging a "war on terror" that is in reality a war for empire to remain the world's only superpower and it requires repression of protest and, in fact, attempts to totally eliminate all effective resistance.
The following examples are a snapshot of the sweeping measures employed by the police, FBI, and government prosecutors which show that far from being neutral arbiters of justice, these authorities are the repressive arm of the government. Many of these measures were institutionalized and expanded after 9/11; they continue to be in effect and have been upheld by the Obama administration.
So what rights DO people have when agents of repression come sniffing around?
Your Rights If Arrested
In the event a person is arrested, other than providing his/her name, the person has the right to remain silent, as well as the right to an attorney. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) offers the following advice if a person is arrested:
Once a person demands an attorney, by law, the authorities are supposed to stop questioning him/her. The ACLU advises, "Ask for a lawyer right away. Repeat this request to every officer who tries to talk to or question you." If a person is arrested, he/she should only discuss the case with their own lawyer and with other reliable and trustworthy activists, such as a defense team formed to mount a political and legal defense, although even there it should be with and under the advice of a lawyer. In order to get a person to talk freely and reveal information that can be used against himself/herself (as well as others), the authorities sometimes plant a snitch in the same cell or coerce another prisoner to become an informant. While activists and political prisoners often discuss their politics and views with new-found compadres in jail or prison, they should be careful about what they say and be alert and become wary if a cell mate begins to ask intrusive questions about one's case or the circumstances of one's arrest. Any jail phone call will be monitored, so if a person is making their "one phone call," he/she should clearly inform the person who is called where he/she is being held, but should not discuss the details or circumstances of the arrest.
The Just Law Collective pamphlet for the 2004 Republican National Convention also advises that people should be careful what they sign while in custody:
In regards to providing a DNA sample (hair, blood, saliva, etc.), the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) points out that if a person is arrested by federal agents, "Even before being charged with a crime, they can take a DNA sample and send it to the CODIS (Combined DNA Index System) database." They also point out that the legal authority for DNA sampling varies from state to state, and that as of the writing of the 2009 NLG pamphlet, the following states allowed it if a person is under arrest by local or state authorities: Alaska, Arizona, California, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.
The principle of "Don't Talk" is important at all times, including after a person is arrested. The cops may try to get a person to drop their guard, make damaging statements, or reveal information about themselves or other people or activities. The cops will use various ruses to try to get a person to talk: they may even become friendly, almost buddy-buddy; and they may convey distaste for having to be in this line of work and pretend to be genuinely interested in you and your politics.
To repeat the ACLU's advice: If arrested, "Do not tell the police anything except your name. Anything else you say can and will be used against you. Ask to see a lawyer immediately."
In the period after an arrest (for instance, as part of a public defense campaign) it is also important that any statements made by a defendant or potential defendant, or anyone speaking on behalf of a defendant, be cleared with their lawyer. These types of statements can also be used against an activist being persecuted by the government.
History has shown that where movements refuse to concede the moral authority on what is right and what is wrong, these movements are better able to withstand repression and continue to grow. If they do not take this approach, they find themselves in a situation where, as described by the organization The World Can't Wait, "That which you do not resist and mobilize to stop, you will learn—or be forced—to accept." Part of building a culture of defiance and resistance, based on mass movements of people, is refusing to allow the government to either intimidate or bamboozle people into giving up resistance, and refusing in any way to enter into complicity with such intimidation and repression.
The authorities are not interested in the truth; they are not out to seek justice. They have an agenda—using the legal system (as well as illegal means) to repress serious movements of resistance of all kinds. As bitter experience has shown, not only will they outright murder revolutionaries (as they did with Black Panther leader Fred Hampton, who was gunned down as he slept in his bed), but they will spin a web of lies and fabricated evidence in order to use the courts to frame and railroad those whom they want to silence.5
When facing agents of government repression (here we are talking about the local police and prosecutors, state or federal law enforcement or various government agencies), the principle of "Don't Talk" is an important legal principle which is crucial in fighting to protect the various movements of resistance and of revolution from government repression. This principle is stressed very strongly by criminal defense lawyers and civil rights organizations.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), and other progressive legal organizations have published materials to inform people about "what rights you have when you are stopped, questioned, arrested or searched by law enforcement officers."6
No matter which police agency or arm of the state (i.e., FBI, Homeland Security, Immigration, IRS, etc.) is doing the questioning, the ACLU clearly states:
"You have the constitutional right to remain silent. In general, you do not have to talk to law enforcement officers (or anyone else), even if you do not feel free to walk away from the officer, you are arrested or you are in jail. You cannot be punished for refusing to answer a question."7
Leading legal professionals stress that it is very important to find an attorney who is very clear on the right to remain silent, who understands and will agree to uphold this basic principle of due process. Not all lawyers are firm on these basic principles, so it is extremely important to get a lawyer who understands that it is quite likely that any questioning done by legal authorities is done with the intention of developing evidence to charge and convict people, and that despite assurances to the contrary, they will attempt to use anything said to go after people—including the person being questioned.
The NLG advises what to do if an FBI agent or police officer knocks at the door:
"Do not open the door. State that you are going to remain silent. Do not answer any questions, or even give your name. Anything you say, no matter how seemingly harmless or insignificant, can be used against you or others. Ask the agents to slide their business cards under the door and tell them that your lawyer will contact them. If the agent or officer gives a reason for contacting you, take notes and give the information to your lawyer."8
According to the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR),
"This is one of the most frequently asked questions. The answer involves the nature of political 'intelligence' investigations and the job of the FBI. Agents will try to make you feel that it will 'look bad' if you don't cooperate with them. Many people not familiar with how the FBI operates worry about being uncooperative....(T)hey [the FBI] are intent on learning about the habits, opinions, and affiliations of people not suspected of wrongdoing....
FBI agents and other investigators are employed to ferret out information you would not freely share with strangers. Trying to answer agents' questions, or trying to 'educate them' about your cause, can be very dangerous—as dangerous as trying to outsmart them, or trying to find out their real purpose. By talking to federal investigators you may, unwittingly, lay the basis for your own prosecution—for giving false or inconsistent information to the FBI. It is a federal crime to make a false statement to an FBI agent or other federal investigator. A violation could even be charged on the basis of two inconsistent statements spoken out of fear or forgetfulness."9 (Emphasis added)
The FBI and other law enforcement agencies are well known for using any number of ruses, lies, and threats to try to get people to talk.
A very common and calculated ploy is to start out with seemingly "innocuous" questions. A person may naively start to talk, but then, as the line of questioning changes and the questions begin probing into who they know, their political beliefs and activities, etc., the person may realize the real agenda of the police. The ACLU points out that legally "Even if you have already answered some questions, you can refuse to answer other questions until you have a lawyer."10 While this is true (and it is certainly better to stop talking rather than to continue answering their questions), the problem with not practicing "Don't Talk" in the first place is twofold: First, the authorities will take and twist any answers to their advantage. Second, they will make up their own conclusions about why certain questions caused a person to stop cooperating.
Police and other law enforcement agents are trained to encourage people to try to "figure out" what an agent is after. In their textbooks on interrogation they write about this as a potential gold mine of useful information. A person may think that he/she is "pretending to cooperate," but in fact, by going along with the interrogation and answering any questions, he/she actually is cooperating and providing information.
Your Rights If Stopped on the Street
According to the American Civil Liberties Union [ACLU], if police stop a person on the street:
Lawyers counsel that even in states where a person is technically not required by law to provide his/her name, authorities routinely demand that the person provide his/her name and identification (driver's license, etc.), and not complying potentially invites arrest. Consequently, they advise that a person who is stopped provide his/her name (and ID), but draw the line there and provide no other information.
If a person thinks that he/she can just "bullshit" an agent, this too is a trap. The investigators are trained to be "friendly" and listen to people's stories. To quote a textbook on interrogation techniques, "Letting the subject tell a few lies, and letting him apparently get away with them, is an excellent technique, and works well with many types of subjects. We have seen that lying on the part of the subject works to the advantage of the interrogator...." The ACLU/NLG have pointed out:
"Keep in mind that although they are allowed to lie to you, lying to a government agent is a crime. Remaining silent is not. The safest things to say are 'I am going to remain silent,' 'I want to speak to my lawyer,' and 'I do not consent to a search.'"11
Remember, Martha Stewart went to prison because when FBI agents showed up at her door asking questions, she foolishly tried to answer them and then was prosecuted for false statements.
Another reason agents like it if you lie to them: then they have something on you which they can use to pressure you to give information about someone else, and if you refuse, they can prosecute you for the false statements.
They may act as though they are trying to help or protect you, and on that basis try to enlist your cooperation. In the case of environmental activist Judi Barr, who was severely injured when a bomb that was planted in her car exploded, when she and others cooperated with authorities, suddenly she found herself being treated not as the victim, but as the perpetrator and the target of their investigation.
They will do anything to get a person to talk: from good cop/bad cop approaches (aimed at getting the person to "open up" to the more sympathetic cop) to threats and outright brutality. They also use "mind games" such as saying that others have already informed on a person; or even going so far as falsely telling someone a family member has died in order to get the person to let down his/her guard and reveal information about themselves or others.
One tactic they may use is to threaten a person with a grand jury subpoena if he/she refuses to answer their questions. The ACLU exposes this threat and advises:
"(Y)ou still do not have to answer the officer's questions right then and there, and anything you do say can be used against you. The officer may or may not succeed in getting the subpoena. If you receive a subpoena or an officer threatens to get one for you, you should call a lawyer right away."12
To underline: Even if the agents do produce a grand jury subpoena, you are still not obligated to talk to them. And if you do get a subpoena and don't have a lawyer, call the Federal Defender Office.
The authorities' objectives may be not only to get a person to talk, but to get the person to spy on fellow activists. In order to coerce or convince a person to become an informant, they may use threats of legal charges or argue that this is a way to "protect" people. In one recent case, the government tried to enlist people to go to "vegan pot lucks" to gain information on plans for protests at the 2008 Republican National Convention. One courageous University of Minnesota student not only refused to be an informant, but he went public and exposed the government's effort to recruit him.
Any information that a person provides—no matter how seemingly insignificant—can be twisted and used against those who expose and oppose the crimes of this system. The government has a long history of lying about the facts and fabricating "evidence" in order to frame movement activists and revolutionaries. They take intelligence gathered from a variety of sources and use it in the most sinister ways, even including murder. Consequently, there is no reason to be in the least defensive about not talking to or cooperating with authorities.
Your Rights in the Face of a Search
Despite what the authorities might tell a person, if the authorities do not have a search warrant, they have no legal right to search a person's house or belongings without the person's consent.
The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) offers this advice for how to respond to a request to search a person's home or office:
If the authorities have a warrant, the person has a right to see the warrant before letting them in, and the NLG advises:
The NLG points out that while the police and FBI can ask for a DNA sample (for example, samples of hair, blood, or saliva), this falls into the same category as a search of a person's home—unless they present a warrant, the person has a right to say no. The NLG advises that if they request a DNA sample, "You can, and should, refuse the request." The same applies to handwriting samples.
Myth #1-—Cooperating will make the authorities go away.
In fact, it often does just the opposite. After all, if they size someone up as a "talker" or weak link, they'll milk this person for all the information they can get. They may return with more questions or continue this line of questioning with others.
Myth #2—Talking will prevent being arrested.
The authorities promote the illusion that a person should try to "save their own hide" by cooperating and talking. In reality, as the ACLU and NLG underscore, in many circumstances talking may increase the chances of a person being busted, and may be sealing the case against himself/herself as well as others.
Myth #3—As long as the information provided is harmless, there's nothing wrong with talking.
When people don't know their rights and talk freely to the authorities, this can do great harm—no matter what information they provide.
First of all because the person doesn't know the full agenda of the authorities, he/she has no basis to evaluate whether or not information is "harmless." Even if the authorities claim to be investigating something that has nothing to do with your politics or political activities (or those of others), appearances can be deceiving. The authorities can and will twist any information to their advantage.
Secondly, the act of talking encourages the authorities to pursue this tactic and go after others.
Finally, and most importantly, talking fuels the government's efforts to eliminate any movements of opposition and dissent, while standing firm and not talking as a matter of principle contributes to building a culture of resistance and defiance.
As spoken to throughout this article, as part of trying to beat down movements of protest and revolution, agents of the government (police, FBI, prosecutors, etc.) have developed methods to trick, intimidate and brutalize people into giving up legal rights and protections established by the legal system in this country. These are not "rogue cops"; this represents business as usual in this country and is an expression that, in essence, the "rule of law" (the legal system, its laws and especially how those laws are enforced) serves, in one way or another, to enforce and reinforce the rule of the prevailing system of capitalism-imperialism. This basic dynamic and truth needs to be clearly understood, and if various organizations and movements are serious about the challenges they face, they need to grapple with how—mainly by relying on mass movements of the people—to resist such repression.
In this context, the legal principles underlying "Don't Talk" take on heightened importance. Those confronted by police agents should not be bamboozled into giving up what legal rights still exist, as this will only lead to strengthening the repressive apparatus of the state, and in particular this will undercut the ability to build the necessary mass movements to fight the crimes of this system, including its increasing repression.
Know Your Rights—When Encountering Law Enforcement, ACLU Booklet, available at www.aclu.org/files/kyr/kyr_english.pdf.
"Operation Backfire: A Survival Guide for Environmental and Animal Rights Activists," by National Lawyers Guild, 2009.
"Punishing Protest: Government Tactics that Suppress Free Speech," by Heidi Boghosian and the National Lawyers Guild, 2007. Available at www.nationallawyersguild.org/NLG_Punishing_Protest_2007.pdf.
"Know Your Rights! What to Do if Questioned by Police, FBI, Customs Agents or Immigration Officers," by National Lawyers Guild, S.F. Bay Area Chapter, the ACLU of Northern California and the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC-SF), 2004. Available at nlg.org/resources/kyr/kyr_English2004.pdf.
PublicEye_org _ If an Agent Knocks.htm - Posted on Center for Constitutional Rights Web site, originally published 1985. www.publiceye.org/liberty/Feds/If_an_Agent_Knocks.html
Just Cause Law Collective, "Legal Briefing for Activists at the Republican National Convention," 2004. Available at www.lawcollective.org/article.php?id=201.
1. "F.B.I. Violated Rules in Obtaining Phone Records, Report Says", New York Times, Charlie Savage, January 20, 2010. [back]
2. "The Political Persecution of the RNC 8," Revolution Online February 23, 2008 & #158, March 8, 2009. [back]
3. "The NYPD—Securing the City for Whom?," Revolution #182, November 8, 2009. [back]
4. "NYPD Stop-and-Frisk Brutality," Revolution #154, February 1, 2009.[back]
5. See The Assassination of Fred Hampton: How the FBI and the Chicago Police Murdered a Black Panther, Jeffrey Haas, Lawrence Hill Books, November 2009; and for discussion on how police framed and jailed youth in "the Central Park jogger case" see "A Roundtable with Revolution newspaper," Revolution Online, November 19, 2009—a discussion about the film, William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe, with Sarah Kunstler and Emily Kunstler (filmmakers and two youngest daughters of Bill Kunstler); Margaret Ratner Kunstler, progressive lawyer and Sarah and Emily's mom; Michael Ratner, president of Center for Constitutional Rights), an important legal advocacy organization cofounded by Bill Kunstler; and Yusef Salaam, exonerated in a rape case known as "the Central Park jogger case"; Bill Kunstler was his lawyer. [back]
6. While informing people of their basic rights, these publications state that they are not a substitute for legal advice, and people should contact an attorney if they are arrested or think their rights have been violated. [back]
7. The ACLU points to two exceptions to this rule: 1) In some states a person must provide his/her name to law enforcement officers if the person is stopped and told to identify themselves—but the person is not required to answer any questions 2) If a person is driving and pulled over for a traffic violation, the person can be required to show their license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance—but again the person does not have to answer questions. The ACLU also points out some limited exceptions for non-citizens, but these apply to immigration authorities only. See ACLU's Know Your Rights for more information on special circumstances for non-citizens. [back]
8. "Operation Backfire: A Survival Guide for Environmental and Animal Rights Activists," by National Lawyers Guild,2009. [back]
9. PublicEye.org, "If an Agent Knocks." Posted on Center for Constitutional Rights Web site, originally published 1985. www.publiceye.org/liberty/Feds/If_an_Agent_Knocks.html. [back]
11. "Know Your Rights! What to Do if Questioned by Police, FBI, Customs Agents or Immigration Officers," by National Lawyers Guild, S.F. Bay Area Chapter, the ACLU of Northern California and the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC-SF), 2004. Available at nlg.org/resources/kyr/kyr_English2004.pdf. [back]
Send us your comments.
Revolution #194, March 7, 2010
On Saturday, February 13, the U.S. and its allies launched their largest military offensive in Afghanistan since the U.S. invasion in 2001. Some 6,000 U.S. and Afghan government forces moved—on foot and in the air—toward Marjah, a town of 80,000 located in Helmund province in southern Afghanistan, bordering Pakistan. This assault is part of a larger offensive involving 15,000 U.S., British, Canadian, Danish, Estonian, and Afghan government troops. It's the opening salvo of Barack Obama's new war strategy and 30,000-troop escalation, which he announced in December.
The U.S. claims it's doing everything possible to avoid civilian casualties, but in the first several days of the offensive at least 19 civilians were killed, including 12 whose home was hit by a U.S. missile. Ten were from the same family; six were children. Initially, the U.S.-NATO forces claimed that a missile had missed its target by 300 yards. Two days later, NATO changed its story, saying the missile had not misfired and that there had been Taliban fighters in or near the house. As this was taking place, five more civilians were killed and two others injured by a U.S. air strike in neighboring Kandahar province. The U.S. also claims to have killed 120 Taliban fighters, many who may turn out to be civilians. ("NATO says its rockets killed 12 Afghan civilians," Reuters, 2/14; "Missile that killed Afghan civilians not faulty: NATO," Reuters, 2/16; PBS Newshour, 2/18)
There are conflicting reports concerning how many residents of Marjah fled their homes before the offensive, but it may be as many as 4,000. And those remaining in their homes could be trapped indoors or caught in house-to-house searches or fighting. They could face U.S. troops kicking in their doors, or suffer from lack of access to food, water, and medicine. The Italian NGO Emergency has stated that 22 patients were not able to reach the closest hospital in Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital, because of military checkpoints and blockades. Six died because their evacuations were hindered. NGO Emergency denounced what it called "severe war crimes" by U.S. forces. (Democracy Now!, 2/16, 2/17)
One Marjah resident evacuated his family because he feared "the worst attack ever... Always when they storm a village the foreign troops never care about civilian casualties at all. And at the end of the day they report the deaths of women and children as the deaths of Taliban." ("Thousands of Civilians Flee Afghan Region as Nato Plans Onslaught," Guardian/UK, 2/6)
Since news from Marjah comes either directly from U.S.-NATO military forces or from bourgeois reporters embedded with the military, it's possible that the level of death and injury is far higher than what is being reported. And the nightmares may be just beginning for the people of Marjah and southern Afghanistan. The U.S. has encountered significant resistance and has called in helicopter gunships for support. House-to-house clearing operations, fighting, and the blockade of Marjah may go on for weeks. And there are reports that the next U.S. target will be the much larger city of Kandahar. All this points to the likelihood of many more dead or injured, and much more deprivation and suffering. (Washington Post and LA Times, 2/17)
The U.S. has been fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan (and increasingly in Pakistan) for the last eight years. The Taliban are reactionary Islamic fundamentalists who enforced barbaric social relations and punishments—especially on women—and caused horrific suffering when they ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001.
The U.S., Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia had built and organized the Taliban and other fundamentalist or jihadist forces during the 1980s to fight the Soviet Union—which had become an imperialist power and was occupying Afghanistan. It succeeded: the Soviets were defeated and forced to withdraw in 1989. Two years later, in 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed, giving the U.S. imperialists an historic victory and radically altering the world's political and ideological terrain. Ironically, over the following decade the clash between U.S. imperialism and Islamic fundamentalist forces—previously fighting together against the Soviet Union—grew in scope and intensity. Many factors were involved. Islamists were emboldened by the Soviet defeat, while increasingly angered by the U.S. and its Middle East allies. After the Soviet withdrawal, the U.S. rulers turned their attention elsewhere, abandoning their former allies to wage a bloody civil war for control of Afghanistan. Israel's vicious suppression of the Palestinian people; the U.S.'s 1991 invasion and destruction of Iraq; and the basing of massive U.S. military forces in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states all helped fuel anti-U.S., pro-Islamist sentiment.
Meanwhile, deeper American economic and social penetration of the region modernized certain aspects of the societies there, while undercutting traditional relations; this also stoked religious fundamentalist anger and opposition. Taken together, all this led to the beginning of open conflict between the U.S. and Islamist forces, who began carrying out guerrilla operations against the U.S. in the region.
(It is also the case, although beyond the scope of this article, to fully explore the defeat of the first wave of communist revolutions following the 1976 death of Mao Tsetung, and the subsequent restoration of capitalism in China. This was followed by the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union—at the time an imperialist power masquerading as a socialist state. These developments had a major impact on the global political and ideological terrain and provided an opening for reactionary Islamist forces to lead opposition to the U.S.)
By 1996, the Pakistani government had helped install the Taliban in Afghanistan to both stabilize the country under extremely repressive Islamic rule, and to use it as a counterweight to Indian ambitions in Afghanistan and the region. The U.S. attempted to build a relationship with the Taliban regime in order to advance its regional objectives, but didn't succeed. A consensus was emerging in the U.S. ruling class—which was solidified by 9/11—that Islamic fundamentalism was becoming a prime obstacle to U.S. objectives. The U.S. rulers concluded that it would need to be defeated, and that a radical restructuring of the whole region was needed to undercut these forces and secure U.S. hegemony. In October 2001, the U.S. invaded Afghanistan and overthrew the Taliban as part of an overall plan to achieve these objectives.
Since 2001, the reactionary brutality of the U.S. "war on terror" and its Afghan occupation has fueled Islamic fundamentalism across the region, including a Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan. Many there have been driven to oppose the U.S. occupiers and their client Karzai regime, or to tolerate or support the Taliban.
U.S. forces have killed thousands of Afghans,and detained, imprisoned and tortured many more. The U.S. installed a hated cabal of reactionary warlords and power brokers who prey on the Afghan people and whose power is based on preserving feudal and patriarchal social and economic relations, and Islamic strictures, particularly toward women (which differ very little from those enforced under Taliban rule). So, after eight years of occupation, life remains a horror for the people: life expectancy has fallen to 43.1 years, adult literacy has dropped to 23.5 percent, and one of every three children under five is now malnourished.
Eighty-seven percent of Afghan women suffer abuse in their homes, honor killings and rape are on the rise, and the vast majority of women remain enslaved in their homes—under the control of male relatives. Last year the U.S.-installed Karzai government passed a law governing Afghanistan's Shi'a population (10-15 percent of the total) giving men the right to starve their wives if they refused the husband's demands for sex. The law also forces Shi'a women to obtain their husband's consent to leave their homes—"except in extreme circumstances." ("As Obama Sends More Troops...Afghanistan: Lackies of U.S. Legalize Marital Rape and Other Anti-Women Laws," Revolution, April 19, 2009, revcom.us/a/162/afghan_rape-en.html; "Afghan Husbands Win Right to Starve Wives," New York Times, 8/17/09)
So today, the Taliban reportedly have a strong presence in Marjah, Helmund province and neighboring Kandahar province. These provinces border Pakistan, whose government has, at least until now, allowed the Taliban to have a safe haven from which to operate. (The Pakistani government has supported the Taliban to advance its own interests in Afghanistan and the region, and its covert support has also been key to the Taliban resurgence.) Meanwhile the authority and control of the pro-U.S. Afghan government headed by President Hamid Karzai has been largely absent in this region. The Marjah offensive is part of a larger offensive, expected to take several months, which is aimed at taking control of a 200-mile arc encompassing the main cities in Helmund and Kandahar, and driving the Taliban out of their main base areas. (And this particular offensive is part of a broader escalation of the war Obama has ordered, including in neighboring Pakistan.)
The U.S. is waging a propaganda offensive to portray its military operation as a just and humane effort to help the people of Helmund. The U.S. military insists it is doing all it can to avoid civilian casualties, including limiting air and missile strikes. Over the past several weeks, U.S. forces met with tribal elders, warned people of the coming offensive, and told them to stay in their homes to avoid casualties. The U.S.-NATO forces say they have stockpiled food and other supplies for those who flee Marjah as well as those who stay—to be delivered as soon as the fighting ends. Afghan government and police forces are reportedly poised to take control and remain permanently to maintain the peace and deliver needed services. U.S. officials say that the presence of thousands of Afghan troops shows that this offensive—which they've named "Moshtarak" or "Together"—isn't aimed at strengthening a foreign occupation, but helping Afghans run their own country. The U.S. military is reportedly even providing medical aid to wounded Taliban fighters. "We don't want Falluja," said U.S. Commanding General McChrystal, referring to the Iraqi city the U.S. conquered in 2004 by reducing much of it to rubble and causing enormous death and suffering. "Falluja is not the model." (New York Times, 2/13)
If the U.S. military is trying to avoid civilian casualties, while supplying food, medicine and other aid to the people of Marjah, it's not out of humanitarian concern for the Afghan people. It's because the Pentagon has reportedly summed up that massive civilian casualties—like those caused by bombing Afghan wedding parties—and indifference to the lives of the people have made it harder for the U.S. to defeat the Taliban and control the country. And no matter what strategy the U.S. comes up with, it will not change the unjust, imperialist nature of the U.S. war and occupation or the reactionary character of the U.S. military. And these realities dictate that the U.S. must and will rely primarily on overwhelming military force, and that many innocents will inevitably be massacred even if the Pentagon tries to more precisely control its violence.
The U.S. is compelled to rely on its technological advantages—including massive firepower and air power—which will inevitably bring death from a distance, and death from above. The U.S. is an occupying army fighting for reactionary aims with a fundamentally antagonistic relationship to the Afghan people. So it cannot rely on—or trust—them; instead it is operating in a sea of well-founded suspicion, distrust, resentment and hatred (no matter what villagers may say when interviewed by U.S. reporters or military officials). So the U.S. military will inevitably kill and brutalize people—even as they realize that such crimes may backfire.
Two recent news stories illustrate the U.S.'s ongoing reliance on brute military force, as well as the savage violence it's carrying out. First, the U.S. now has 400 military camps, outposts and bases across Afghanistan, while the Afghan military has 300 (many built by the U.S.). (Nick Turse, "The 700 Military Bases of Afghanistan—Black Sites in the Empire of Bases," TomDispatch.com, 2/10; Democracy Now!, 2/12)
Second, journalist Anand Gopal paints a chilling picture of the secret war being waged against the Afghan people. U.S. forces are staging "night raids" and breaking into Afghan homes, seizing suspects, and then taking them to one of these hundreds of bases or secret prisons in Afghanistan where they are often tortured, abused, and sometimes disappeared:
"It was the 19th of November 2009, at 3:15 am. A loud blast awoke the villagers of a leafy neighborhood outside Ghazni city, a town of ancient provenance in the country's south. A team of U.S. soldiers burst through the front gate of the home of Majidullah Qarar, the spokesman for the Minister of Agriculture. Qarar was in Kabul at the time, but his relatives were home, four of whom were sleeping in the family's one-room guesthouse. One of them, Hamidullah, who sold carrots at the local bazaar, ran towards the door of the guesthouse. He was immediately shot, but managed to crawl back inside, leaving a trail of blood behind him. Then Azim, a baker, darted towards his injured cousin. He, too, was shot and crumpled to the floor. The fallen men cried out to the two relatives remaining in the room, but they—both children—refused to move, glued to their beds in silent horror.
"The foreign soldiers... [t]hey threw clothes on the floor, smashed dinner plates, and forced open closets. Finally, they found the man they were looking for: Habib-ur-Rahman, a computer programmer and government employee. They took the barefoot Rahman and a cousin of his to a helicopter some distance away and transported them to a small American base in a neighboring province for interrogation. After two days, U.S. forces released Rahman's cousin. But Rahman has not been seen or heard from since.... Of the 24 former detainees interviewed for this story, 17 claim to have been abused at or en route to these sites." (Anand Gopal, "America's Secret Afghan Prisons," The Nation, 2/15)
And these are only glimpses of the horrific violence Barack Obama and the U.S. military are inflicting on the Afghan people.
The stated goal of this operation is to put the Karzai government in charge of Helmund and Kandahar provinces and to strengthen its military forces overall. But what is the Karzai government: a reactionary gang of warlords, drug dealers, mass murderers and rapists. Afghanistan's current rulers were put in power by the U.S. to serve U.S. interests, and they remain completely dependent on and subservient to the U.S. The Karzai regime has been running Afghanistan for the past eight years and has done nothing but exploit and oppress the Afghan people—including by maintaining the suffocating and oppressive religious strictures and social relations that imprison Afghan women. While the U.S. claims the Taliban is behind Afghanistan's rising drug trade (Afghanistan produces over 90 percent of the world's opium and heroin), Karzai and his allies in the Afghan government are responsible for most of it, with likely U.S. complicity if not direct aid. For instance, the New York Times reports that President Karzai's brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, is a major drug dealer—and also on the CIA's payroll. ("Brother of Afghan Leader Said to Be Paid by C.I.A.," 10/27/09)
The Karzai regime's Afghan troops may end up occupying and controlling Helmund province. But contrary to U.S. claims, this would not represent a step toward national independence from foreign imperialist domination. Nor would it be a step toward uprooting the sources of poverty and oppression in Afghanistan. The Karzai regime and its military have been put in place and built up as a national "face" for U.S. imperialist dominance, and to further U.S. objectives in the region—not to represent the interests of the Afghan people.
"The Afghan police force is particularly feared by Afghan civilians who view it as corrupt and liable to use violence against people passing through its checkpoints," writes journalist Patrick Cockburn. "Its men have been frequently accused of the homosexual rape of boys, a tradition which has tended to alienate villagers whose sons have been violated and lead them to support the Taliban." ("The Assault on Marjah," Counterpunch, 2/15)
(Building up a local, pro-imperialist and reactionary military is a key element in U.S. neo-colonial control of many countries around the world. It's the purpose of institutions like the notorious School of the Americas—where the U.S. military and CIA train pro-U.S. Latin American leaders and military officers in the tactics and strategy of controlling their populations—including through bloodbaths and torture.)
Extending the control of the Afghan government could also heighten longstanding ethnic rivalries and oppression in Afghanistan (which is one contradiction driving the ongoing war), including leading to revenge killings in Pashtun areas like Helmund and Kandahar, where the Taliban draw most of their support. While Pashtuns make up 42 percent of the Afghan population, they comprise less than 30 percent of the Afghan army, while Tajiks (25 percent of the population) dominate the Afghan military and comprise 41 percent of its forces. ("A Code for Ethnic Cleansing in Afghanistan?" Counterpunch, 2/15)
U.S. objectives in this offensive also point to the reactionary character of its occupation and goals in Afghanistan. "We are trying to take away any [Taliban] hope of victory," General McChrystal has stated. This, according to the New York Times, "would set the stage for a political settlement that General McChrystal believes is the only way the war will end." By political settlement, McChrystal means cutting deals with Taliban elements who break ties with global jihadists and bringing them into the government. If one's goal was liberating the Afghan people, how could one see any role whatsoever for pro-capitalist, Islamic fundamentalist oppressors like the Taliban? ("Afghan Offensive Is New War Model," New York Times, 2/13)
The Marjah offensive is being used by the U.S. government and the bourgeois media to increase support for Obama's Afghan escalation (which former Vice President Dick Cheney "wholeheartedly" supports). But people need to take off the blinders and face the fact that while Obama may have changed some U.S. tactics and rhetoric, he's unleashing just as much—and in some cases more—horror and violence on Afghanistan and the world as George Bush and Dick Cheney did.
People also need to face the fact that this is being driven by the urgent necessities and challenges facing the U.S. rulers in maintaining and strengthening their global dominance—which is what shapes what Bush did, what Obama is doing, and what any U.S. president does. As the Financial Times recently noted, "It is a measure of the gravity of the situation in Afghanistan that a four-star general who led a clandestine project to remove insurgent leaders in Iraq is now speaking so openly about talking to the Taliban." ("Race against time for Nato strategy," 1/24)
The U.S. position in Afghanistan is precarious. The war has bled into neighboring Pakistan, a key U.S. ally, which now faces its own growing Islamist insurgency and other deep and volatile internal and external contradictions. And the U.S. is facing real obstacles and challenges to its dominance in the Middle East (such as Iran) as well as globally. It is responding to these challenges by escalating its violence against the people.
All this shows that the U.S. is about dominating the world—not doing anything good for it. It shows that this domination is based on extreme and massive violence. And it shows that these crimes can only be ended by getting to their source or roots: the system of capitalism-imperialism itself, and overthrowing that system through revolution and bringing a new system into being that does not rest on exploitation and oppression. This is something we'll be digging into in relation to Afghanistan in coming weeks.
Anyone who cares about the people of Afghanistan—and the world—should actively and vigorously oppose the U.S. offensive and escalation in Afghanistan—and other U.S. threats around the world.
Go to World Can't Wait's website—www.worldcantwait.net—for how to oppose U.S. wars and torture, including the upcoming and very important demonstrations against the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan, taking place on or near the anniversary of the March 20, 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #194, March 7, 2010
Sunsara Taylor Campus Tour at New York University
They were provoked by the title: "From the Burkha to the Thong: Everything Must, and Can, Change – WE NEED TOTAL REVOLUTION!" They cared passionately about the treatment of women. They were curious about what a radical voice would have to say about this, and intrigued by "what communism has to do with feminism" (as they understood it). For these and more reasons, they came from a number of NYC campuses to hear Sunsara Taylor, knowing that they were not just going to a speech but to encounter, as well, a call to be part of building a movement for revolution.
This was the first stop of her major national campus speaking tour, which includes the University of Chicago March 3, UC Berkeley March 15, and UCLA in April.
The audience was riveted as Sunsara Taylor put things together in a new way that both challenged and inspired them, spinning the globe to expose the horrors of women's oppression, scientifically outlining its material basis, and speaking to the deepest longings and aspirations of youth to change the world. Her talk started from the most horrific conditions of abuse and degradation faced by millions and millions of women in this country and around the world to the most seemingly mundane and commonplace indignities that go on so much that people don't even notice them—and made people see how absurd, unnecessary, and intolerable—and changeable—these things are. She said that she took as her foundation the new synthesis of communism—the scientific theory and strategic orientation for actually making the kind of revolution we need—brought forward by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party. Throughout the program, she urged people to find out more about this leader.
One New York University student said she came after seeing it on Facebook, then researched Sunsara, and thought, "Holy shit, I need to get in on that." She wasn't disappointed. "I thought [the speech] tied a lot of unique, or a lot of similar ideas together, but from different parts of the world. I thought it was really well-rounded. I was at first saying, 7 to 9:30, that's long. But I found myself saying, 'Please don't stop. I want more.'"
The audience of over 150 was made up overwhelmingly of students and youth who posed many thoughtful, wide-ranging and deep-going questions, including about: whether all pornography is harmful; sexuality and sexual relations that are non-oppressive; late-term abortion; the relation between feminism and communism; how to view men; and what a revolutionary state is. (Go to revcom.us to get a full list of the questions.)
Some students came after seeing a dramatic street theater performance where two women, one dressed in a burkha and one in a thong, confronted each other and unraveled the similarities in the oppression they both faced. (Go to revcom.us to see a letter about this.) Others heard about it on Facebook, from listservs, or the massive flyering and postering, especially at New York University where the talk was held. As they left, many said they'd been inspired, and a number said they planned to check out Bob Avakian's writings and to get down more seriously with those who are building a movement for revolution.
One young woman, when asked what was most striking about the content of Sunsara's talk, said that Sunsara "is a very brave woman," adding later that "she's made it concrete for [me] to say, 'this is what I believe.' Now, finally, someone's been able to put it into words what I've been suffering...what I've been feeling internally."
Send us your comments.
Revolution #194, March 7, 2010
On February 23, Sunsara Taylor kicked off her national speaking tour in New York City: "From the Burkha to the Thong, Everything Must, and Can, Change—WE NEED TOTAL REVOLUTION!"
The following are the questions asked by audience members during the very lively Q&A session:
Send us your comments.
Revolution #194, March 7, 2010
From A World To Win News Service:
We received the following from A World to Win News Service:
February 8, 2010. A World to Win News Service. Swapan Dasgupta, 59, the editor of the Bengali edition of the monthly publication People's March, died while in custody at the SSKM Hospital in Kolkata after his arrest and imprisonment October 6, 2009. He had been interrogated by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and police Special Branch. Already ill from asthma, Dasgupta underwent severe mental and physical torture and was refused proper medical treatment. (Times of India, 3 February 2010) By the time he was hospitalized December 17, his condition had become critical. He died on February 3.
The police knew Dasgupta had done nothing illegal, but they held him anyway and let him die. West Bengal is the state in India where the Lalgarh uprising of tribal people has taken place. Never a revolutionary party, the Communist Party Marxist that governs the state of West Bengal has gone after the tribals and their Maoist leadership with the vengeance called for by the central Indian government.
An anonymous senior CID official said: "We interrogated him for several days. But we did not find anything substantial to book him under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (the law used by the Indian state to ban the Communist Party of India [Maoist]). In the case diary, it was mentioned that he used to publish a banned magazine and also published an exclusive interview of elusive Maoist leader Kishenji and PCAPA chief Chhatradhar Mahato (one of the leaders of the Lalgarh Adivasi movement). But it was not something unique to his publication, as several newspapers also published such interviews and articles. No charges were proved against him and we did not get any evidence against him to submit the chargesheet." The commissioner of police said Dasgupta had several other charges pending against him but those charges had not been actually filed. Human rights activists have protested this death, calling for the withdrawal of UAPA.
The Indian Press & Registration Appellate Board (PRAB) lifted the ban on the central edition of People's March on August 7, 2009. The editor of this English-language edition based in the state of Kerala, P. Govindan Kutty, was kept in prison for 21 months. As a consequence of this legal decision, he was released in September 2009—two months before Dasgupta's arrest.
This criminal death occurs in a larger context. Over the last few months the Indian government has initiated a military assault of 100,000 troops, using high-tech intelligence, helicopters and drones. This so-called Operation Green Hunt is focused in the eastern and central regions of India (Jharkhand, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra). This is the area where, since the 1970s, the CPI (Maoist) has been leading the masses of the most poor and downtrodden to fight for a different kind of society where they no longer have to tolerate theft of their lands, starvation conditions, rape, torture and humiliation at the hands of the police, other authorities and high castes.
Despite government efforts to suppress news of Operation Green Hunt and any opposition to it, widespread anger has been rising all over India. Intellectuals, authors, filmmakers, academics, lawyers, doctors and other professionals have joined mass gatherings and rallies to raise their voice in protest and to defend the just cause of the oppressed tribal people in India. People who want to report on what is happening are being thwarted and intimidated in every way possible by the authorities.
The following paragraph is from Outlook India, February 1, 2010: "In Narayanpatna, Orissa, an all-women's team out to investigate last November's killing of two adivasi leaders in police firing was first attacked inside a police station and then on the road. The attackers were plainclothesmen and civilians who were later 'dispersed' by policemen. In Chhattisgarh, the police have set up an obstacle course for teams trying to reach the Maoist heartland of Bastar. On December 14, they seized the vehicles of an all-women team, citing irregularities in the drivers' documents. When the women tried to go ahead by bus, the police warned the bus drivers not to carry them. All this was to 'save' them, the women were told. The police let them have a taste though—a mob punctured the tires of the bus in which the team was returning. Professor Nandini Sundar of Delhi, a petitioner in the Supreme Court against the government-backed Salwa Judum [a government-organized counter-revolutionary militia], was stalked by the police, turned away by hotels and hounded by Bastar's unique tribal Special Police Officers in the hostel she stayed the night. She, too, had to return without reaching her destination. Only Medha Patkar managed to breach, briefly, the police's 'No Entry' sign, but not before her team was attacked with eggs by Salwa Judum tribals on Dantewada's main road as police stood by, watching."
In another area, journalists trying to reach the area of Operation Green Hunt were finally able to get into the region only after local residents gave them a motorcycle with no license plates so that the police could not trace it back to the owners. (see, among other reports, "Mao and the Motorcycle Diaries," Tehelka.com).
The recently-formed International Campaign Against War on the People of India reports, "Already more than one hundred tribal people have been killed in Chhattisgarh, Orissa, West Bengal and Jharkhand as part of this brutal war, 'Operation Green Hunt'. Several thousand tribal people have been tortured, maimed, and pushed out of their villages, women raped, houses burnt and villages burnt to ashes. Though the Government of India unofficially imposed a censor on media to publish reports from the killing fields, democratic journalists, and civil rights bodies have been making efforts to bring the facts of this war out for the public." (See icawpi.org for more information)
A World to Win News Service is put out by A World to Win magazine (aworldtowin.org), a political and theoretical review inspired by the formation of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, the embryonic center of the world's Marxist-Leninist-Maoist parties and organizations.
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Revolution #194, March 7, 2010
Recently Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, drew attention to the following contradiction and then invited some people associated with or with responsibility in regard to the Party to respond with their thinking on this contradiction. Avakian wrote the following:
In the polemic against Alain Badiou's political philosophy in the online theoretical journal Demarcations, the following concise indictment is made of Badiou's ultimate reformism, and of reformism in general:
"And the world stays fundamentally unchanged. Capitalism-imperialism continues humming in the 'background,' crushing lives and destroying spirits in its meat-grinder of exploitation. And the horrors continue unabated."
This is our standing and powerful refutation of every other trend in the world. On the other hand, the way that a lot of people look at what we're about—and not entirely without justification—is: "Here come the communists, turn out the lights, the party's over."
All this embodies a real, and profound, contradiction that we must continue to wrestle with.
We are excited in this issue to run the following responses to Avakian's invitation.1
1. Editor's note:
The following replies were originally written as personal letters and hence assumed a certain "common language" between Bob Avakian and the correspondent. As a result, there is a lot of "shorthand" used. Sometimes the meaning of these terms are explained in context, or are otherwise clear; at other times, this may not be so. Some of those terms include:
New synthesis: the basic breakthrough in communist theory developed by Bob Avakian, in the dimensions of philosophy and method; internationalism; the character of the dictatorship of the proletariat and of socialist society as a transition to communist society, including the particular concept of "solid core with a lot of elasticity"; and strategic approach to revolution. [For more on the new synthesis, see especially the Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage, A Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA.]
The 4 alls: this formulation was often used to drive home the all-round character of the communist revolution by the Chinese communists who sided with Mao during the last battle to prevent capitalist restoration in China. (Capitalist restoration began with a military coup that occurred shortly after Mao's death in 1976, in which Mao's closest followers—including his widow Chiang Ching—were arrested and/or killed.) Marx's formulation (from The Civil War in France) was: "This Socialism is the declaration of the permanence of the revolution, the class dictatorship of the proletariat as the necessary transit point to the abolition of class distinctions generally, to the abolition of all the relations of production on which they rest, to the abolition of all the social relations that correspond to these relations of production, to the revolutionizing of all the ideas that result from these social relations."
The two humps: this is a formulation from Bob Avakian's mid-'90s talk "Getting Over the Two Great Humps: Further Thoughts on Conquering the World." These "humps " refer to the process of 1) getting to the point where the forces of proletarian revolution are strong enough to seize power in a particular country; and 2) getting to the point internationally where the overall "balance of forces" has shifted in favor of the proletariat and the question of actually getting to communism comes more directly onto the agenda.
The "Ohio": the "Ohio" process borrows a metaphor from the Ohio State marching band and its routine where the band members spell out "Ohio" in script in a marching routine in which the first members of the band traverse through, and spell out in turn, each letter of "Ohio"—the point being that people who come around the revolutionary movement go through a process of development.
Class truth: this refers to the notion widely held in the international communist movement that "the bourgeoisie has its truth, and the proletariat has its truth," as if truth itself had a class character. In reality, truth has no class character; an idea is true to the degree that it accurately reflects the objective world. Bob Avakian is the first communist who identified and criticized this notion of "class truth," which ends up constraining and ultimately blocking the search for what is really true.
The proletariat, due to its position as a class which has nothing to fortify in the present order, has every interest in being as thorough-going as possible in getting to the truth of things; and the science of communism, and its outlook and method of materialist dialectics, is the best method for getting at the truth; and in these senses it can be said that communism is both partisan and true. But it does NOT follow that communists are always correct in their observations and conclusions, and that non-communists are never correct; relatedly, all statements must be judged on the degree to which they correspond to reality, and not who says them or what (often narrowly conceived) interest they seem to serve.
Reification: literally, turning a process into a "thing." As it applies to the proletariat, this refers to a view, also more or less explicitly unchallenged in the communist movement until Avakian's criticism, that confounded the fundamental interests of the proletariat as a class and the sentiments, views, and programs that conformed with those fundamental world-historic interests with the position, sentiments, views and programs that find a following among this or that section of the proletariat at any given time.
Reductionism: a philosophical method that reduces complex phenomena to a single determinant cause—e.g., reducing the causes of complex social behavior to a gene (or set of genes) and ignoring the social factors that come into play in shaping social behavior and constraining the forms it can/might take. This is linked to positivism, a philosophical school that limits the search for truth and the scope for statements about the dynamics of reality to immanent causes. Such views are often contrasted to the metaphor used by Bob Avakian of truth being like a multi-level, multi-layer, constantly moving map.
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Revolution #194, March 7, 2010
They say they couldn't prove the cops who killed my son acted intentionally. What are they saying? Nobody's going to say they went out to kill somebody intentionally. They had the 50 shots—what more did they need?
What are they talking about? They had all this time to put their case together, and this is what comes out of it? They BS'd me—that's what they did to me.
They're telling me my son's life didn't mean anything as far as they're concerned. They're telling me to go to hell. It's like they slapped me in the face 3 times now. Once when they murdered him, again when the court let the cops who murdered him walk and now again with the federal government saying they're not going to prosecute. How can I forget this, the way they murdered Sean, and how they've treated us since then. They don't know what I'm dealing with around this.
It's like when they used to hang us. They do it different now—then it was the lynching rope, today it's the cops and 50 shots—but it comes down to the same thing.
Who makes these laws? The cops can kill you and get away with it, and everybody in the government says it's OK. When are we going to get our rights back? When are we going to get our rights period?
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Revolution #194, March 7, 2010
Carl Dix on Justice Department Giving System's Ok To Police Murder of Sean Bell
On February 17 the federal Justice Department issued a statement saying they would not be prosecuting the cops who killed Sean Bell. Their reason, "A team of experienced prosecutors and FBI agents determined that the evidence was insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the cops who fired at Sean Bell, Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield acted willfully.... Neither accident, mistake, fear, negligence or bad judgment is sufficient to establish a federal criminal civil rights violation."
Are they talking about the police murder of Sean Bell here? Are they talking about the cops who followed Sean and his friends to their car, surrounded it with guns drawn and killed Sean and severely wounded Guzman and Benefield in a hail of 50 bullets? Who handcuffed Guzman and Benefield, despite their serious wounds, and forced them to "assume the position," laying face down on the ground? And who handcuffed Sean's lifeless body to a bed in the hospital room for hours?
This was no accident or mistake or bad judgment—it was cops gunning down young Black men on the streets of a U.S. city. This happens all the time. Since 1990 The Stolen Lives Project of the Oct 22nd Coalition has documented 100's of such killings each year. It has also documented that the overwhelming majority of these victims of the cops were Black or Latino and that most of them were unarmed and doing nothing wrong when they were killed. These killer cops almost never get tried for their crimes, and in the few cases where they do, they virtually always get off scot-free.
Sometimes, the Justice Department is brought in to do civil rights investigations in cases where cops are exonerated in local courts after killing people, especially when there is mass outrage at seeing the killer cops get off. These investigations usually end up just like the case of the cops who murdered Sean Bell. They go on for months or even years. Then the feds announce they aren't going to prosecute. Some felt this time, since it would be a Black attorney general in Obama's Justice Department presiding over the investigation, it would be different. But when it came down to it, nothing had changed. Another case where an innocent, unarmed Black man was gunned down. Another case where the cops had gotten away with murder. As William Bell, father of Sean Bell, said in a statement he issued in response to the Justice Department's decision:
"What are they talking about? They had all this time to put their case together, and this is what comes out of it? They BS'd me—that's what they did to me....
"It's like they slapped me in the face 3 times now. Once when they murdered him, again when the court let the cops who murdered him walk and now again with the federal government saying they're not going to prosecute. ...
"It's like when they used to hang us. They do it different now—then it was the lynching rope, today it's the cops and 50 shots—but it comes down to the same thing."
This has gone on for too damn long. A system that treats a whole generation of youth like they're criminals, guilty until proven innocent, if they can survive to prove their innocence; a system whose cops kill our youth, and whose criminal justice system exonerates these killer cops, has been around too damn long. These kinds of murders are horrific outrages that call out for getting rid of this system through revolution and going on to build a whole new society in place of this messed up one and forging a new, revolutionary government authority.
If this is the best their system can do—murdering our youth and exonerating the murderers again and again, then they need to get out of the way. A revolutionary society would deal with the youth in a completely different way than this one does.
A revolutionary society wouldn't subject so many of the youth to being trapped in ghettos and barrios that had been stripped of opportunity and hope for the future. It wouldn't limit the doors open to so many of the oppressed to joining the army and becoming mindless killers for the system or going to jail. It wouldn't treat the youth like they were criminals. It wouldn't have its police patrolling the cities like they were an occupying army in hostile territory, enforcing the conditions that exist there through brutality. It wouldn't try to justify the shit it does to the masses by trying to convince them and others that it's all their own damn fault.
Institutions entrusted with public security in a revolutionary society would operate radically different than this system's pigs. Its members would sooner take a bullet themselves than endanger the life of a single person. Any cases where members of the public security force were accused of violating people's rights or brutalizing or killing someone, would be thoroughly and seriously investigated. Where the accusations were found to be true, swift and appropriate punishment would be given to the offenders.
In a revolutionary society, the authority would be looking for every opportunity to unleash the youth to help tackle the problems the new society was up against. It would involve them in the administration of the new society. And it would involve them in the debate, discussion and dissent that a socialist society would need to unleash to get as deep an understanding of reality as possible in order to continue transforming society and humanity till all the exploitative and degrading relations from the old society and the backward ways of thinking that help to keep them in effect were eliminated. It would tap into their creativity and daring to help eliminate problems like the divisions between people of different nationalities, the subjugation of women or the gaping chasm between the lives and conditions of those on the bottom of society and those who were better off. It would work to break down the barriers that have kept so many of the youth, especially Black and Latino youth, from having any opportunity to work with their minds. And it would give them the space to be experimenting with new approaches in culture and other aspects of society.
This kind of society is one that people would want to live in. To bring it into being would take a revolution, getting rid of this state structure and building an entirely different one in its place. It isn't yet time to make this kind of revolution. The powers that be aren't deeply enough divided amongst themselves and the people aren't ready to put it all on the line for revolution.
It is time and way past time to be doing all we can to bring closer the day when we can make this kind of revolution. This means spreading everywhere the message that the capitalist system is the problem and revolution is the solution. It means working to bring a revolutionary movement and a revolutionary people into being. It means connecting people with the leader we have for this revolution in Bob Avakian. It means mobilizing the people to fight the power and transform themselves and others, for revolution. We in the RCP, USA ARE BUILDING a movement for revolution. We've forged the basic answers on how to deal with this system. If you're someone who hates what was done to Sean Bell, who hates oppression, who loves the people and who doesn't give a damn about the odds—then you need to get with this and support it and build it and be part of it.
The kind of brutality that the police murder of Sean Bell concentrates is pervasive in U.S. society. So much so that it has become the way things are for too many of the youth. We have to open their eyes to the reality that things don't have to be this way. That we don't have to put up with this official murder and brutality, or any of the other foul things this system forces people to endure. That we can bring a different and far better world into being thru revolution.
WE ARE ALL SEAN BELL!
THE WHOLE DAMN SYSTEM IS GUILTY!
THE CAPITALIST SYSTEM IS THE PROBLEM, AND REVOLUTION IS THE SOLUTION!
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Revolution #194, March 7, 2010
In yet another maddening, outrageous travesty of justice, Richard Kern, the NYPD cop indicted for assaulting Michael Mineo, involving use of his baton to sodomize Mineo, was acquitted on February 22 by a Brooklyn jury on all charges. Two other cops charged with attempting to cover up the assault were also acquitted. This, despite overwhelming evidence of their guilt, and mirroring innumerable cases where cops have committed terrible crimes against the people—mainly people of color—but have walked free.
On October 15, 2008, Mineo was heading to work, smoking a marijuana-laced cigar butt. After cops approached him, he ran down into a subway station, where cops tackled him, beat and handcuffed him. Then one of them, Richard Kern, shoved his baton into Mineo's rectum. (For more on the case, see Revolution #193, "The NYPD Beating and Rape of Michael Mineo," online at revcom.us.)
What happened on that day was brought more fully to light by a number of people during trial testimony, including:
To try to discredit this testimony, the cops' attorneys called medical people to testify that the anal tears could have been caused by a bowel movement or other factors unrelated to what happened on October 15, 2008. These attorneys also suggested that Mineo may have inflicted the anal tears on himself! They also brought in a forensics expert, formerly an NYPD employee, to testify that the hole in Mineo's pants, because of its irregular shape, could not have been made by Kern's round baton.
But the main line of "defense" by the cops' attorneys was to attack Michael Mineo's credibility by focusing on his arrests and affiliation with the Crips gang, while also claiming that Mineo had fabricated everything to bring a multi-million-dollar civil suit against the city. As became clear in the jurors' statements to the media after the verdict, this line of attack strongly influenced their decision. One juror, for example, said that "Mineo was thinking money."
Adding to the outrage, pertinent evidence about Kern's history of brutality was covered up in the trial. Twice before the Michael Mineo incident, people had brought complaints against Kern for brutalizing them. The New York Civilian Complaint Review Board cleared Kern, just as it has cleared cops in almost all of the complaints that have come before it. However, one of the cases against Kern led to two civil lawsuits that the city quietly settled for $50,000. But the judge in the trial of the cops who brutalized Mineo ruled this important, revealing information about Kern was irrelevant and inadmissible, meaning the jurors never heard it. Whatever the actual legal basis of the judge's ruling, this was a blatantly unjust move to let the criminal cop off the hook and suppress the truth of what happened.
Shortly after the verdict came down, Michael Mineo put his finger on an even larger truth behind the farce that occurred in that Brooklyn courtroom, and what has occurred time and time again. Mineo said: "If you want to commit a murder and get away with it, join the NYPD." He also said: "Look at the Sean Bell case. They shot that boy ... cops got acquitted, didn't they?"
Yes, they did. And these crimes against the people must stop!
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Revolution #194, March 7, 2010
UC San Diego: Taking on the Noose
From a reader
Students at the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) have repeatedly staged defiant protests against escalating white supremacist and male supremacist incidents on campus for the past 3 weeks. The University administration and other authorities' attempt to chill out the boiling anger has met with more outrage and refusal to be silenced.
Chanting "real pain, real change," some in tears, more than 300 students of different nationalities occupied the office of Marye Anne Fox, UCSD Chancellor, on Friday, February 25. Hundreds more rallied outside, chanting "we've got your back" and other expressions of firmly standing with the Black students. And in solidarity, over 100 students marched and conducted a sit-in at the Chancellor's office at UCLA.
These protests were provoked by the latest outrage—the discovery of a noose hanging inside the UCSD library late Thursday night (February 25), admittedly hung by three UCSD students.
A student from Afghanistan told the crowd at the Friday UCSD rally that he had gotten used to a lot of racism growing up in Southern California but was shocked by the noose and took it "as an attack on all of us."
Two days earlier, some Black women students led a walk-out during a campus wide teach-in organized by UCSD administrators to promote "mutual respect." Saying that it takes more than a short 2 hour teach-in to resolve the racism on campus, the bulk of the 1200 students, staff and faculty joined in the walk out and protested outside the auditorium instead of listening to calls for calm inside.
The noose was the third in a series of vicious incidents at UCSD in two weeks. On Presidents Day (February 15) a number of UCSD frat rats issued an invitation for their so-called "Compton Cookout" theme party to mock Black History Month. These junior tea baggers' portrayal of Black men was deeply racist with their call for "for guys" to show up "stuntin' up in ya White T (XXXL smallest size acceptable), anything FUBU, Ecko...Chains, Jorts, stunner hats...Tats, etc."
The frat rats' hatred of Black women was vitriolic. "For girls" they called for "ghetto chicks...[who] usually have gold teeth, start fights and drama, wear cheap clothes...have short, nappy hair, and usually wear cheap weaves, usually in bad colors...speak very loudly, while rolling their neck, and waving their finger in your face...have very limited vocabulary, and attempt to make up for it, by forming new words...or simply cursing consistently, or using other types of vulgarities...."
A few days after this racist and sexist frat party was exposed and opposed, frat rats arrogantly went on Koala, the UCSD campus TV station, and called the protesters "ungrateful n***s." A placard with the words "Compton lynching" was also found on the floor of the TV station.
The Black Student Union issued a state of emergency and a list of 32 demands, including more Black student enrollment at UCSD. There are currently less than 600 Black students out of the 30,000 total student enrollment. Many Black students expressed feeling fear for their safety while on campus.
While some concessions to the BSU demands are being made, Chancellor Fox made clear that the university "cannot prevent the kind of deplorable events that have happened—and may happen again...."
To paraphrase the much larger question being posed to the students and others that Bob Avakian repeatedly asks in his film-talk "Revolution": just what kind of fucking society do you have then? What kind of fucking system is this where Black and women students beat the odds to get into college—and then have to be humiliated, degraded, demoralized and fear for their lives while trying to study and pass their exams and get their degrees? And then what awaits outside the ivory tower? Yes, more of the same—instead of NO MORE!
If this kind of fascistic attack on Black people is taking place on such a pristine and prestigious college campus, in the face of, and maybe in response to, the first Black president in U.S. history, what does it say about the root cause of the problem in American society? I would urge readers to check out two works by Bob Avakian, "The Coming Civil War and Repolarization for Revolution in the Present Era" and "Unresolved Contradictions, Driving Forces for Revolution."
A couple of Revolution newspaper distributors got out hundreds of the palm cards announcing Avakian's film-talk "Revolution" to UCSD student protesters. They also distributed copies of Revolution newspaper issue #144 on "The Oppression of Black People, the Crimes of This System, and the Revolution We Need." They hope to return to the campus and build for the International Women's Day events in Los Angeles on March 6-7.
One San Diego Union-Tribune reporter observed that these "incidents have stirred a level of emotion evocative of the war-and-free-speech-related protests that rocked the campus in the late 1960s and early 1970s." This captures the potential significance of the new breeze of student protests blowing through UCSD and other campuses. All who hope for a better world should work to push these embryos of change towards a movement for revolution on the college campuses that can uproot the white supremacist and male supremacist cornerstones of U.S. society, as well as all the other sick and brutal outrages of this capitalist-imperialist system.
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Revolution #194, March 7, 2010
Growing Resistance at UC Berkeley
On March 4, students, professors, teachers, workers and others will be marching in cities up and down the state to oppose the massive assault on public education in California. The attacks run from massive tuition increases and slashing cuts in staff and programs at the level of the University of California system, the "crown jewel" of public education in the United States, to parallel attacks on the state college and community college system, cutting things to the bone and beyond in high schools across the state (e.g., eliminating libraries), the complete elimination of many adult education programs, and more. And this is on top of an educational system that is already shaped to serve the needs of this oppressive system.
As it puts it in our statement "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have":
"And, despite the good intentions of many teachers, the educational system is a bitter insult for many youth and a means of regimentation and indoctrination overall. While, particularly in some 'elite' schools, there is some encouragement for students to think in 'non-conformist' ways—so long as, in the end, this still conforms to the fundamental needs and interests of the system—on the whole, instead of really enabling people to learn about the world and to pursue the truth wherever it leads, with a spirit of critical thinking and scientific curiosity, education is crafted and twisted to serve the commandments of capital, to justify and perpetuate the oppressive relations in society and the world as a whole, and to reinforce the dominating position of the already powerful. And despite the creative impulses and efforts of many, the dominant culture too is corrupted and molded to lower, not raise, people's sights, to extol and promote the ways of thinking, and of acting, that keep this system going and keep people believing that nothing better is possible."
Last fall new and important shoots of resistance emerged in opposition to the slashing budget cuts on many campuses in California—buildings were occupied on a number of campuses, police attacked student protesters in a way not seen in decades, and students fought back in ways not seen in decades. Voices from the students raised sharp and important critiques—and expressed broader concerns—of the way education is shaped to serve this system, of racism in education and in society, of the U.S. wars in the Middle East. And there is contention over that: the ruling class is "advising" against raising these bigger questions through articles quoting more conservative student leaders complaining that "too many slogans dilute our message." We welcome and encourage these bigger questions and more radical challenge to the status quo. This kind of ferment is extremely important—something for those who are building a movement for revolution to engage, to learn from, and to foster.
The March 4 protests coming up are the next major nodal point in this battle. A wide range of people and social forces are entering into protest—unions have organized their members, high school principals are finding the ways to encourage students to miss school and go, professors are organizing to go to Sacramento to lobby the state legislature for more funds. One indication of what is brewing among students on college campuses came out at UC Berkeley this past week. From February 22-25, students organized a "Rolling University," with art exhibits, discussions, theater and music building towards the protest. On February 25, students danced outdoors late at night on the campus in support of March 4. After the dance, some students briefly occupied Durant Hall and hung a banner that said "March 4" above the entrance, then walked and danced across the campus to Telegraph Avenue where they defiantly took over the street. Police attacked the crowd and snatched a student and arrested a recent graduate. Trash bins burned and bottles flew in response. Newspapers across the country ran articles denouncing the "violence" of the protesters and warning this was completely unacceptable—no doubt our rulers would prefer that the destruction of public education, the firing of thousands of people from their jobs, the gutting of major universities, etc., etc. go down with no protest at all—but if there is going to be protest, they want to keep it as conservative and contained as possible. You can see in this their worries that high school students who are encouraged by school administrators to go protest against budget cuts might end up mixing it up with emerging radical students—and with the revolutionaries.
New things are stirring. The same day as the clash on Telegraph Avenue, hundreds of UC San Diego students protested and occupied the university chancellor's office for several hours as part of protests against a series of outrageous racist provocations on the campus—including a noose hung in a campus library. (See correspondence from a reader on UC San Diego on our website.) And at UC Irvine, 11 students still face the threat of serious charges for a powerful protest against Israel's assault on the Palestinian people when they disrupted Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren's speech on that campus earlier in February.
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Revolution #194, March 7, 2010
The 2010 Winter Olympics is a time when the best athletes in the world awe billions of viewers with their stunning strength, grace, power and unbelievable achievements. From snowboarding to skiing and speed skating, the athleticism is beautiful and the competition is exciting. The famous five-colored rings of the Olympic logo represent the five parts of the world, viewed by many as a symbol of international unity.
On the surface, it looks as though the world as it is, is the best framework for people to flourish as athletes. The Olympics appear to be an expression of the amazing things the "world community" can accomplish when we come together. The truth is that throughout the Olympics, in both subtle and overt ways, the imperialist countries use the games to push forward their own nationalist interests and manipulate both sports and athletes to serve the needs of capital.
This year the winter Olympics are being held in Vancouver, Canada from February 12 through 28. In a press conference about the 2010 Winter Olympics, Canadian Prime Minister Steven Harper said that hosting the Olympics "symbolizes the Canada, our Canada, that has shown during this global recession and will show during these Games that it can compete and win against the very best." Think about what Harper is telling the world: Canada is going to come out on top both in the economic sphere and in the Olympics, and implies a relationship between the two. To be on top during a global recession means you will compete with other countries to serve your economic interests, even when it means using armed force. In 1982, both Canada and the U.S. boycotted the Moscow Olympics in retaliation for the Soviet Union's occupation of Afghanistan. Now Canada is occupying Afghanistan under the leadership of the U.S., an occupation based on the strategic needs of U.S. empire. ("The U.S. In Afghanistan: A War For Empire," Revolution, October 19, 2008, ) In the same press conference, with the eyes of the world on the Olympics, Harper sought to build public opinion for the war by saying, "Our armed forces serve, never for conquest and advantage, but simply to spread our gifts of freedom, democracy and justice to make the world a little safer and a little better; as they are doing in Afghanistan." Bullshit. U.S and Canadian forces have killed civilians, bombed wedding parties and launched air strikes on schools filled with children.
On February 12, 21-year-old Georgian athlete Nodar Kumaritashvili was killed when he lost control in the final turn of his practice run of the luge course. He was thrown from his sled over the sidewall of the track, striking the end run's steel pole at a speed of 89 miles per hour. There is much debate and controversy over whether Kumaritashvili's death was caused by an unsafe track due to its speed. When this track was tested in 2009, the speed was so high that it provoked Josef Fendt, President of The International Luge Federation (FIL) to comment, "It makes me worry."
Nodar Kumaritashvili also expressed reservations about the track when he told his father, "Dad, I really fear that curve." His father told the press in a heartbreaking account, "I'm a former athlete myself, and I told him: 'You just take a slower start.' But he responded: 'Dad, what kind of thing you are teaching me? I have come to the Olympics to try to win.'" Numerous athletes also reported that they felt the track was unsafe before the run and raised their concerns to the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Hannah Campbell-Pegg, who nearly lost control during a practice run said, "To what extent are we just little lemmings that they just throw down a track and we're crash-test dummies? I mean, this is our lives." In spite of all this, the FIL and IOC concluded that Kumaritashvili's death "was not caused by an unsafe track."
Under capitalism, athletes don't just seek to win, they face extreme pressure to win at all cost. Bigger, faster and better is the ethos of capitalism and it infuses the culture of the Olympics and sports in general. Under capitalism, athletes are not seen as whole people, but as the means to an end. Kumaritashvili's death is a stark example of this, and is one of many stories of crushed dreams and broken backs as a result of this system.
The IOC insists that one of its core values is promoting women in sports. However, women who compete in the Olympics often also suffer exploitation as women. Eating disorders and sexual abuse run rampant among young women in the Olympics. (Secret World of a Gymnast: Starvation, Sex and Fear: The Shocking New Memoirs of a Top U.S. Athlete by Paul Harris, April 27, 2008.)
In 2004, eight female athletes appeared nude in Playboy's "Women of the Olympics" pictorial. ESPN writer Laura Boswell joked about whether this indicated that being an Olympic athlete was not merit enough for women. Obviously it is not. All athletes are trained to market themselves, but for women, you haven't really made it until you can show that you are athletic and sexy for men.
Right now sports are under the control and domination of capitalism, but it doesn't have to be this way. In the Revolution Talk, Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About, Bob Avakian talks about all the young kids in the inner cities, with nothing to do because the playgrounds are covered in glass and the basketball hoops are missing their nets. With revolutionary state power, sports would be consciously developed as a sphere where people from all sections of society could mix it up, have fun and strengthen their health—and also learn how to do things they would have never been able to do in the old society. How many people, young and old, are locked out of various sports due to their position in society? Imagine if in every area where people lived, there were facilities for snowboarding or skateboarding, tennis courts and swimming pools that were free and accessible to all. International sports competitions like the Olympics would be a great form of entertainment. The focus would be on appreciating the grace and art of the athletes and encouraging athletes to perform for the people. Athletes from places around the world would not be pitted against each other as representatives of rivaling nations, but could appreciate one another for the strengths and talent they are sharing with the world.
And all of this would be about, yes, having fun, but also about breaking down the divisions between people and fighting against the spontaneous pulls of the dog-eat-dog mentality. This is not just a good idea. This is part of Bob Avakian's re-envisioned communism that is both viable and inspiring. Unleash your imagination, because something much better is possible.
See article "Olympics Resistance in Vancouver" in Revolution #193 (February 21, 2010) about protests at the Olympics.
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