Voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party,USA
Please note: this page is intended for quick printing of the entire issue. Some of the links may not work when clicked, and some images may be missing. Please go to the article's permalink if you require working links and images.
Revolution #195, March 14, 2010
The March 4 National Day of Action against cuts in education was an extraordinary day of resistance, something that has not been seen on campuses in decades. At UC Davis, northeast of San Francisco, 300 students attempted to shut down an interstate on-ramp and were met with 200 law enforcement forces...UC Santa Cruz students blocked entrances to the campus and shut down the whole school... 15 students at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee were arrested in a protest at the chancellor's building. In over 100 actions in more than 30 states, thousands of students—along with teachers, staff, parents, workers, and others—marched, rallied, took over buildings, and blocked streets.
In California, the epicenter of the attacks on education, students from elementary, middle, and high schools, community colleges, and universities joined the day of action throughout the state. The massive turnout was driven by the slashing of public education at all levels: classes slashed... teachers, assistants and staff pink-slipped... class sizes increased... school libraries cut back or shut down... music and art classes eliminated... and tuition fees skyrocketed as much as 32 percent in the UC system. The energy was high and the atmosphere electric as protesters made clear that these massive cuts in education were simply unacceptable. Also an important part of this day was outrage against the noose that was hung recently at UC San Diego, and other racist outrages (See "UC San Diego: 'Don't UC Racism?'" in this issue.)
A widespread demand on March 4 was, "Education is a right, not a privilege." Many students are fighting for a world where higher education would be available to everyone. This is in stark opposition to those forces in this country who openly advocate that only those who can afford to pay $25,000 a year or more should go to the top schools. If you can't afford it, "It's your fault. Too bad."
The following are from reports by Revolution correspondents in the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles.
Protests took place throughout the Bay Area. Hundreds of students walked out from several high schools in Oakland. In some places, administrators and principals organized whole schools to attend rallies, or teachers took elementary school kids to the protests as a field trip.
At UC Berkeley, several hundred students blocked Sather Gate, where thousands pass each day on the way to classes. A march of 2-3,000 students headed for Oakland, five miles away. As the march passed Willard, a Berkeley middle school, the younger students shouted out, "Willard School Is Hella Tight, Education Is Our Right!"
The UC students linked up in downtown Oakland with many hundreds of students from a broad array of schools. The Oakland Education Association, the teachers' union, was out in force. About 150 youths set off on a march to the UC President's office, and then took over the freeway, blocking traffic for over an hour. Police arrested everyone involved, and one protester was seriously injured.
Across the Bay, 10-15,000 people rallied at the San Francisco Civic Center. About 300 SF City College students joined a large march from the Mission District to the Civic Center. The entire student body of 700 from the Mission campus of City College came, organized by teachers, the administration, and student activists. Hundreds came from Mission High; 10 buses came from De Anza College south of San Francisco.
The protests at California State University Northridge engulfed the whole campus and basically shut it down. Professors cancelled classes, and students went through the campus calling people out of the classes. At the height of the protests, several thousand students gathered at the library. Hundreds marched and took over an intersection and a strip mall. Cops broke the arm of a 73-year-old woman protester, and then arrested people who came to her aid.
At UCLA, over 1,000 students marched and rallied for the whole day—the highlight was a four-hour occupation of Murphy Hall, the administration building. One speaker at a rally was an Iranian woman, who was in L.A. for International Women's Day. In her speech in Farsi (translated for the students), she said she was bringing the students' voices to Iran and the voices of people in Iran to the students. A first-year student told us, "I really care about the future. I am really a part of this new generation. This is the world I'm living in, and I want to make this a better place."
In other actions around the region:
Send us your comments.
Revolution #195, March 14, 2010
Over a thousand students, joined by faculty and campus workers, held a powerful, defiant march and rally on the campus of the University of California San Diego (UCSD) March 4. Their protest was a part of the statewide and national protests against the attacks on education represented by the dramatic increases in tuition and cuts in classes and programs. But the day's actions were intensified by the anger and outrage that's been unleashed in recent weeks in response to an ugly series of openly white supremacist (racist) and male supremacist (misogynist) events on campus.
UCSD has been in turmoil since February 15, when a group of white campus frat rats held an off-campus party for UCSD students, announced in advance as a "Compton Cookout." The invitation featured degrading, racist and misogynist caricatures of inner city Black people, with special vitriolic hatred for Black women.
The party was not only meant to humiliate Black and other minority students, but to deliberately mock Black History Month. Over 200 people had confirmed to the party on Facebook. Word of this celebration of racism quickly sparked widespread outrage among students and faculty, only to be followed three days later by students on the UCSD Student Run Television Program (SRTV) defending the "Cookout," using racial slurs targeting the Black community.
Coming after a long series of similar attacks on different sections of minority students, this escalation of open racism was the last straw—a section of the campus community of all nationalities erupted in protest.
Their refusal to put up with openly white supremacist and male supremacist intimidation of Black and other minority students, and gay, lesbian and transgender students, is a welcome breath of fresh air long overdue. This bold and determined resistance has been gaining strength and resonating with more and more students and the whole campus community at UCSD with each new provocation.
The UCSD Black Student Union (BSU) demonstrated the next day, declaring a "State of Emergency: Real Pain, Real Action." The administration's attempt to smooth over the conflict with a campus assembly titled "Mutual Respect" led to a walkout by a majority of the students who held a counter-rally outside.
When a noose, a threatening symbol of the era of lynchings of Black people, was found hanging in UCSD's Geisel Library on February 25, 300 students responded by occupying the Chancellor's office, while hundreds more rallied outside, chanting, "We've got your back." Two days before the March 4 protest a KKK-style hood was found draped over a statue on campus, leading to the defiant outpouring of rage at the March 4 protests.
The March 4 protest began with a march through campus, followed by a rally at the library. The crowd was large, boisterous, and very multinational, the atmosphere charged and militant. Students had signs and t-shirts that said "Don't UC Racism?" And they chanted, "We're fired up, won't take it no more." One sign connected the tuition hikes and budget cuts with the rise of racist incidents: "Our Education Is Dying and Racism Is Intensifying," with the word "Education" hanging from a noose.
The students listened closely and shouted or cheered in response to the speakers and artistic performances. Speaker after speaker spoke with passion about the attacks on education, and linked this with the threatening situation on campus that had been brought to light by these racist attacks. And they spoke about their determination to not back down. A faculty member spoke about the harm the tuition hikes and budget cuts will cause, and the need for a rebellion against the privatization of the university. He described the atmosphere at the school as "cold, hostile and callous," and spoke of an attempt to "re-segregate" the campus. Gay and transgender students described their fear of being assaulted.
Los Angeles Times columnist Sandy Banks wrote in her March 6 column that so many students have missed classes or gone home that university officials have agreed not to penalize them academically. She spoke with the head of the campus Black Student Union (BSU), a graduate of a mostly Black charter school in South LA, who is one of those who has stopped going to class. "It's hard to sit in class thinking one of those people at the party might be sitting next to you." And he called the atmosphere "toxic." Banks spoke with another UCSD student who grew up with a diverse group of buddies. The student said she's embarrassed not just by the vile things her white classmates are saying, "but that they say it out in the open; they don't care who hears."
Two days before the protests, a forum was held in support of the students at a church in the Black community in San Diego. A thousand people packed the church, and gave the BSU president a standing ovation when he rose to speak. He told them the most pressing issue for Black and other minority students was safety, that many don't feel comfortable being on a campus which often appears intolerant. "Under this campus atmosphere, it is difficult to sit in class... to go around school, to walk around campus." Banks quoted a pastor of a local Baptist church who attended: "I grew up here. San Diego has never been kind to Black people."
Think about what it means for students to feel fear of racist, misogynist and anti-gay threats on a college campus where they should expect to feel safe. A professor of ethnic studies called what was happening on the campus as "Not a budget crisis, but a moral crisis."
But all that is being challenged, and changed, as a result of the determined resistance of these students. A theme running through the March 4 rally was that the campus has undergone a dramatic change in a matter of weeks. A once lethargic campus was now bristling and boiling. Many people at the protest were commenting about it saying, "I can't believe it's the same school," and welcoming this. One campus worker who has worked there for 30 years said he'd never seen anything like this on campus before.
The firestorm raging at UCSD brings to the surface what has been taking place at public colleges and universities throughout California. And the actions of the UCSD students have inspired and awakened students at the UCs and other public colleges throughout the state to take actions in solidarity—and to confront the increasingly threatening atmosphere for Black, Latino, and other students of color, those who are gay, and those whose religion is under attack on their campuses.
On February 24 at UC Irvine, a group of about 20 UCI students and employees barricaded themselves inside the UCI administration building to show support for the UCSD protests. They issued 15 demands, including increased funding for the ethnic studies department. This was followed by a "student solidarity speakout" to condemn the racist incidents at UCSD, and another incident at UC Davis aimed at a Jewish student.
Two days later, at UCLA, about 100 protesters occupied the office of UCLA Chancellor Gene Block demanding he pressure the UCSD Chancellor to act decisively against racism at UCSD. Then on Tuesday, March 2, a multinational, but mainly Black, group of students lined up on two sides of Bruin Walk, the main campus walkway, so the students would have to walk between the rows, which narrowed until by the end their classmates could only pass through one at a time as they chanted, "We're here; deal with it!"
On March 1, 200 Black students at UC Berkeley held "Blackout 2010," a silent protest of the increasingly threatening academic climate for Black students and in support of their fellow students at UCSD. Dressed in black, with mouths covered with black scarves, they blocked Sather Gate, the main entrance to the campus, for two hours.
There has been a dramatic drop in Black and Latino enrollment in the University of California system since the November 1996 passage of Proposition 209, which put a halt to affirmative action by prohibiting public institutions from considering race, sex or ethnicity in determining enrollment. As a result UC enrollment of Black, Latino and Native American students is among the lowest in the nation. UCLA's 2006 freshman class had only 96 Black students. And UCSD's Black population is only 1.3 percent of the total student population. The attack on affirmative action has contributed to encouraging and emboldening the reassertion of white privilege.
The significance of what the students at UCSD have done cannot be underestimated. It is sending shockwaves throughout the UC system, and beyond, and showing the potential to resonate among middle strata broadly, as well as in the barrios and ghettoes, among all those disgusted with the open intimidation, racism and male chauvinism, and more that are growing in this society. They are giving voice to a courageous section of youth who are striving to live in a different world; who don't want to live in a world where the gap between Black and white is widening; where women are treated as less than men; and where education isn't a right, but a privilege only for those who can afford it. In refusing to accept all of this, they are striking at an Achilles heel of this society, whose racism and male domination are bone-deep and fundamental.
The question is where is this struggle going to go? These students must be given broad support and encouraged to continue their resistance. The lessons must be deepened, and the debate opened up about what is at the root of this, and why a radical solution is both necessary, and possible.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #195, March 14, 2010
The attacks on education are huge and are putting into question whether large numbers of youth are going to even have access to public education. People's beliefs are being shaken about whether they're going to be able to get a good education, or any education at all, which they see linked with their ability to have a better life—or even just stay out of prison. And beyond that, big questions are being raised about of what kind of society we are, and will be, living in. Will this be a world where the existing sharp divide between those who work with ideas and those who are shut out of that realm becomes even deeper?
There are very different views out there: Is the key thing to make changes in the state constitution in California so Democratic Party legislators can pass better bills and end this attack on education? Or is there something much more fundamental going on here—is this part of a much bigger and larger problem?
The education people get within the framework of capitalism is limited, and education as a whole serves the functioning and perpetuation of this system of exploitation. Nevertheless, the kind of education that has been available to people is being yanked out from under them, and the severity of these cuts is causing people to question some of their basic assumptions. Something new is struggling to be born as people are resisting these attacks and looking for answers about what's causing them, what they have to do with the kind of society we live in, and what can be done about them. More than a few people are beginning to see that this crisis in education stems from deeper fundamental problems, from the very way this capitalist system operates—and a LOT of people are willing to at least seriously consider this analysis.
Throughout the day on March 4, Revolution reporters in the San Francisco Bay Area interviewed students and others participating in the protests. The discussions were rich and complex, covering what was behind the budget and education cuts; why people had stepped into the streets; how broader issues of capitalism skewed priorities, and how social polarization played into the situation; what was behind the racist attacks at UC San Diego; and also broader discussions about the nature of education, and about revolution and a whole new society.
Most people were quite willing to get into wide-ranging discussion that goes far beyond where they are at right now. Some think the government should easily be able to spend money on education, as in the slogan, "Drop Fees, Not Bombs!" Many think that education should be a human right, but that instead of making education a priority, this system benefits entrenched interests—the rich or corporations. Others point to the deeply embedded inequalities in this country and the world. One African student said bitterly, "I never even conceived that there could be a society in which prisons were funded more than schools until I came here to the U.S."
One theme and broad-minded spirit many students expressed was that these attacks aren't just about them or UC Berkeley. It was in solidarity with other students, other communities, all nationalities, and everyone impacted by the cuts. One very important thread in this whole battle has been a series of racist incidents, most recently at UC San Diego where a noose was hung in a campus library. It is important that on the march from Berkeley to Oakland, people chanted "No racism, No homophobia!"
Send us your comments.
Revolution #195, March 14, 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 #195, March 14, 2010
Something new is happening on campuses across the country this spring. In a provocative speech, "From the Burkha to the Thong: Everything Must, and Can, Change—WE NEED TOTAL REVOLUTION!" Sunsara Taylor is challenging and engaging a broad section of students to think in new ways about the world, about the situation of women, and about the necessity and possibility for fundamental change. As the announcement for the speaking tour brings out, Sunsara is recruiting a new generation for revolution and building a movement for revolution–starting now!
Learning from the experience in building for the tour in New York City, we have put together a basic organizing kit for making this happen, reaching new audiences with the most radical and liberating revolution that can liberate women and all of humanity. This is aimed towards assisting those who already have tour dates set up; and to enable those who want to bring Sunsara to their campus to envision how they could do this.
Keep in mind:
Organizing kit includes:
Keep in contact with the coordinator of Sunsara's speaking tour at firstname.lastname@example.org
Send us your comments.
Revolution #195, March 14, 2010
EDITED TRANSCRIPT OF A TALK BY BOB AVAKIAN, CHAIRMAN OF THE REVOLUTIONARY COMMUNIST PARTY, USA, FALL 2009
[Editors' note: The following is the twelfth 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 eleven excerpts appeared in Revolution #184-194. The entire talk can be found online at revcom.us/avakian/driving.]
To get into this more deeply, let's step back a little bit. Let's recall, for example, the official characterization of Black people that prevailed in mainstream and respected institutions well into the 20th century. To cite one really horrendous example, in the Encyclopedia Britannica, a very prestigious institution, well into the 20th century "the Negro" was characterized as being highly emotional, intellectually inferior, childlike and yet "subject to sudden fits of emotion and passion during which he is capable of performing acts of singular atrocity" (this is drawn from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, under the definition of "Negro"). This, again, in the prestigious Encyclopedia Britannica—portraying "Negroes" as in essence an inferior subspecies among human beings.
Let's compare that to the "official" characterization of women during that same general time period. Let's look, for example, at the medical profession. In For Her Own Good: Two Centuries of the Experts' Advice to Women, Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English catalog some of the prevailing views about women in this profession and cite particularly sharp examples of it: the way in which women were associated with "flights of hysteria"; the supposed "child-like ignorance" that they exhibited toward the larger, male-dominated world; the whole attitude that prevailed toward menstruation, pregnancy and menopause—treating these as illnesses and/or defects; and even the alleged negative effect on the uterus if a woman were to use her brain too much! As Ehrenreich and English point out, with the appropriate caustic irony, "The great uterine manifesto of the 19th century, Dr. Edward H. Clarke's 'Sex and Education, or a Fair Chance for the Girls,' concluded with startling but unassailable logic that higher education would cause women's uteruses to atrophy." (Ehrenreich and English, Second Anchor Books Edition, January 2005, p. 140) Things like this were actually written by respected scientific experts late in the 19th century.
Ehrenreich and English call attention to the fact that there was a highly influential trend in natural history in the 19th century which held the view that "the existing human races represent different evolutionary stages"—and this was applied to the sexes (p. 128). Ehrenreich and English point out, for example, that with regard to the supposed hierarchy of human types, Karl Vogt, a leading European professor of natural history in the second half of the 19th century, categorized the Negro male as follows: "[T]he grown up Negro partakes, as regards his intellectual faculties, of the nature of the child, the female and the senile White." As Ehrenreich and English go on to comment: "Where this left the Negro female one shudders to think, not to mention the 'senile' female of either race." (p. 129)
And there was no prospect for the status of women improving with further societal development, according to Vogt, for as Ehrenreich and English quote him further: "'The inequality of the sexes increases with the progress of civilization.'" (p. 130)
Attitudes and notions akin to those cited here not only were prevalent in the 19th century but continued well into the 20th—and, in fact, are far from having lost all currency, even in "modern-day" imperialist society. They are at times voiced by powerful and influential figures in countries like the U.S. For example, the following statement, made by E.O. Wilson, only a few decades ago:
"In hunter-gatherer societies, men hunt and women stay at home. This strong bias persists in most agricultural and industrial societies and, on that basis alone, appears to have a genetic origin.... My own guess is that the genetic bias is intense enough to cause a substantial division of labor in even the most free and most egalitarian of future societies.... Even with identical education and equal access to all professions, men are likely to continue to play a disproportionate role in political life, business and science." (Cited in Ardea Skybreak, Of Primeval Steps & Future Leaps: An Essay on the Emergence of Human Beings, the Source of Women's Oppression and the Road to Emancipation, Banner Press, 1984. E.O. Wilson is known as a prominent proponent of sociobiology. As can be seen in the statement by Wilson cited here, this approach involves erroneous attempts to attribute the development of human behavioral characteristics and social relations in a linear and mechanical way to biological factors and causes, significantly underestimating the role of social factors in the development of—and changes in—human relations, behavior, traditions and ways of thinking. "Steps and Leaps" contains an important critique and refutation of the viewpoint and methods of Wilson and other sociobiologists.)
And more recently views of this kind were expressed by Lawrence Summers, insisting that women were naturally inferior in things like math and science. This at a time when he was the President of Harvard University—and, we should note, he is now an official in the Obama administration.
In this connection, also—and this is something referred to by Ehrenreich and English—the role of Freud and his theories and the whole psychoanalytic tradition, with the great harm this has done to women, as well as overall, is something which needs to be dug into and criticized much more thoroughly. Some important criticism of this has been raised by various feminists and some others. But, again, there remains a need for a much more thorough and radical exposure, critique and refutation of this, particularly through the application of dialectical materialism/historical materialism and the consistently and systematically scientific outlook and approach this embodies.
I recall myself that back in the 1960s, many of us were influenced, to varying degrees, by Freud's theories, and there were many attempts by radical theorists—particularly male ones, but not only them—to somehow link and commingle the theories of Freud with the theories of Marx. In reality, these theories are in profound opposition to each other, and the influence of Freud not only has had a negative influence in society overall, but did so within the radical movements of that time. More thoroughly critiquing Freud's theories and their influence can play an important part in the further development of the truly radical, and scientific, theory of communism, as applied to the oppression and the liberation of women, and overall.
Returning to the point made earlier about Red Papers 3—in terms of economist and related influences within the RU (Revolutionary Union) and more broadly within what was called the "new communist movement" at that time, and how this interfered with moving toward a correct synthesis with regard to what was being raised by the women's movement in that period, particularly its more radical sections—I want to refer to a comment that was made about 40 years ago now, at a meeting of what was then called the Revolutionary Youth Movement.
This was at a time when within SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) there were splits into different tendencies: there was the "Weatherpeople" phenomenon, which is well known; there was also Progressive Labor Party and its decidedly economist line (I mean, after all, what does it say when "communists" choose to call themselves the Progressive... Labor... Party—you only have to look at the name to know that such an organization is not going to lead to any kind of a radical new society!); and then there was this trend which identified itself at that time under the heading of the Revolutionary Youth Movement.
At the time of this split in SDS, there was a conference of the Revolutionary Youth Movement trend which some of us took part in as representatives of the RU. At one point in that meeting the question of sexuality, and more broadly the woman question, was being discussed, and one guy made an impassioned speech in which he very pointedly and emotionally said: "If you are a male and you want to be radical, you have to learn what it feels like to be a woman."
Now, while this statement itself was pointing to something very important, it was made in the context of, and was in fact a part of, a trend that was increasingly giving up on the possibility of effecting truly radical change on a societal, and even global, level. It was part of an emerging trend of "identity politics"—of lowered and narrowed sights—a view that each "identity group" must concentrate on its particular situation and demands, which objectively would remain within the confines of the existing system. This was a retreat from the whole orientation of building a movement to go up against, and overturn and uproot, imperialism and bring a radically different world into being. Even then you could recognize that this was part of taking steps in that direction. And we were right to reject the road of "identity politics" and reformism and, in a basic sense, to insist on continuing on the communist road, even while that was marred then to a significant degree by economism. But, at the same time, and especially looking back on it now, it is clear that there was something very important being raised which was too easily dismissed.
It was too easy to recognize and seize on the obvious "identity politics," reformist and petit bourgeois orientation that was coming through in this statement. But it would have been far better to have united with what was correct and important in this statement. It would have been much better if those of us who were serious in considering ourselves communists had taken that kind of approach and on that basis had striven to achieve a further synthesis, through the application of the scientific communist viewpoint and not one marred significantly by economism. And now there is all the more need—and, yes, there is more of a basis—to do precisely that. This is the challenge we face and the important task we have to take up urgently.
Stepping back to look at this with a broader sweep, it is important—without negating or downplaying the very positive character overall, and the very real contributions, of the 1960s movement—to recognize that there were, within this movement, and even on the part of its most advanced forces, real weaknesses with regard to the woman question, including a significant element that involved the assertion of "manhood." Now, especially as applied to Black people, this is a complicated question, because one of the main and most humiliating forms of the oppression of Black people in the history of this country has been the way in which Black men have been subjected to being treated as subordinate beings, as though they were at one and the same time child-like and extremely dangerous, forced—with the real prospect of death as the price for not doing so—to act in a manner subservient to white people, and in particular white men, as reflected, among other things, in the way that white people, including young white males who themselves had not yet reached adulthood, would consistently address grown Black men with the demeaning term "boy." But the answer to all this—if the goal is to finally and fully uproot the oppression of Black people, women as well as men, and to abolish all forms of oppression—is not to strive to establish the "rightful place" of Black men in having, equally with white men, a dominant position over women—in asserting traditional relations between men and women which fasten tradition's chains on women, as a key link in keeping humanity as a whole in an enslaved condition.
In a world marked by exploitative and oppressive divisions—where one of the most profound, and most oppressive, of these divisions involves the subjugation and degradation of the female half of humanity—the assertion of "manhood," whatever the intent might be in doing so, can objectively only mean, and find expression as, active participation in that subjugation and degradation. And in a world where oppressive and exploitative divisions, including those in which men dominate women, would have been abolished and surpassed, the word—and the very concept—"manhood" would not have, and could not have, any real meaning, and certainly not a positive one.
To put this another way—to draw the necessary line of demarcation sharply—the assertion of "manhood" is ultimately and fundamentally a form and a means of accommodating to and seeking to "find your place" within the oppressive system, with all of the horrific crimes it embodies and enforces. In this connection, the role of Booker T. Washington is instructive. In the latter part of the 19th and the first part of the 20th century, after the reversal of Reconstruction, Washington became a prominent figure—and was promoted by the powers-that-be, including the openly segregationist and white supremacist powers-that-be in the South—in advocating that Black people not struggle against segregation and their overall oppression but instead strive to "better themselves" within the confines of their segregated and oppressed condition. An interesting insight in this regard is found in Jackson Lears' recently published book, Rebirth of a Nation—The Making of Modern America, 1877-1920 (HarperCollins, 2009). In Rebirth of a Nation (whose title rather clearly invokes, critically and ironically, the overtly racist, and highly influential, early-20th-century epic film Birth of a Nation) one of the main themes Lears explores is how the assertion of "manliness" and "manly virtue" has, in the history of this country, been closely linked with militarism in the service of U.S. empire, with Theodore Roosevelt the most salient personification of this. Lears' focus is on the period marked by the advent of capitalist imperialism—at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century—but clearly, and very correctly, he has in mind, and frequently suggests, parallels with phenomena today, a century later. And, as part of this discussion, Lears makes the following observation about Booker T. Washington—citing his role in preaching subservience to the established oppressive order, and contrasting him, significantly, with the much more militant and non-accommodationist Ida Wells, who boldly stood up against and organized against segregation and lynching:
As resistance to the emerging Jim Crow regime seemed increasingly futile, the frankly accommodationist views of Booker T. Washington appeared to hold out more promise than the angry resistance of Ida Wells. Washington epitomized the marriage of manliness and black uplift. (Lears, p. 131).
While here Lears seems to be conceding too much to the notion that resistance, like that of Wells', was futile, there are important insights in his observations about Washington, in contrast with Wells, particularly in the linking of "manliness" and "uplift" with accommodation to the oppressive system.
Once again, the 1960s had a radically different and much more positive character and impact—with regard to the struggle of Black people in particular, and overall—than what was represented by Washington's "accommodationism" (or, to use a less elegant but no less accurate phrase, Washington's "Uncle Tom-ing") in the period after the defeat of Reconstruction. In fact, the struggle of Black people in the 1960s, in its main and overwhelming aspect, was in direct opposition to, and a powerful refutation of, the kind of stand taken and promoted by Booker T. Washington. But the link remains, and is all too real, between the assertion of "manhood" and the orientation of accepting, and even seeking to "get in on," at least some of the oppressive relations that are the lifeblood of this system. To repeat a statement of mine, which is cited in A Declaration: For Women's Liberation and the Emancipation of All Humanity:
In many ways, and particularly for men, the woman question and whether you seek to completely abolish or to preserve the existing property relations and corresponding ideology that enslave women (or maybe "just a little bit" of them) is a touchstone question among the oppressed themselves. It is a dividing line between "wanting in" and really "wanting out": between fighting to end all oppression and exploitation—and the very division of society into classes—and seeking in the final analysis to get your part in this. (emphasis in original)
And, as that Declaration also makes clear, quoting the special issue of Revolution, The Oppression of Black People, the Crimes of This System, and the Revolution We Need, the role models that are needed, by Black children and by people in general, are not "male role models" but
revolutionary role models, women no less than men. They need to see men and women who model the mutual respect and equality that reflects the world we are fighting for: a whole new liberated world where girls grow up strong and without fear of being raped, degraded or abused, where no child is ever deemed "illegitimate," and where men—like everyone else—find their worth in contributing to the betterment of all humanity through the revolutionary transformation of society rather than by getting in on even a little of the oppression of this nightmare world. (boldface and emphasis in original)
Again, as we look back on the movement of the 1960s overall, the point now is not to be determinist and teleological, as if it would have been impossible then to achieve the basic elements of the correct synthesis—with regard to the liberation of women, in its fullest dimensions, and the crucial relation between that and the emancipation of humanity as a whole—even though that would have been difficult to achieve given the overall weaknesses of the communist movement at that time; nor is the point that "it's all good," everything that has happened has led to the situation where such a synthesis is—only now—possible. Not only would it have been far better if a more correct approach had been taken back then, but the fact is that there is a great need now for that synthesis—and there is the basis, through focused and concentrated work and struggle, to make the leap and ruptures required to actually achieve that synthesis in theory and line, as a much firmer foundation for carrying forward struggle around this fundamental sphere of human social relations, as one of the most decisive elements of actually unleashing a new stage of communist revolution in the world at the crossroads we are now facing, and in order to really be a vanguard of the future.
To be continued
Send us your comments.
Revolution #195, March 14, 2010
"If women of Iran can brave death and batons and torture, we can laugh and dance at a little rain!" Sunsara Taylor's call to march as the skies darkened captured the spirit of the defiant, inspiring and joyous rally and march—often through pouring rain—by 150-200 in celebration of International Women's Day in Los Angeles.
International Women's Day 2010—"Break the Chains! Unleash the Fury of Women as a Mighty Force for REVOLUTION!" was called by the International Women's Day Coalition and endorsed by over 20 groups and individuals. This year's celebration took on special meaning: there was a palpable sense of standing shoulder to shoulder with the Iranian people—especially Iranian women—who've risen up against the hated, misogynist Islamic Republic and who "refuse to choose between the Islamic fundamentalist theocracy or U.S. imperialism, as they aim to bring into being a world without this oppression."
As people gathered, the chants reflected the mood: hatred of women's oppression and an intense desire to be rid of it: "Women, half of humanity—we'll fight until the whole world is free." "Women in Iran are catching hell, against this madness, it's right to rebel."
A diverse group of 25-30 Iranians were there—some veterans of the 1979 revolution, some from a new generation awakened to political life by the current uprising. Many students, women and men, turned out from universities, colleges and high schools in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area. For many of them it was their first IWD.
The rally took the energy and sense of global purpose and connection higher with a diverse blend of speakers and statements, including a powerful poem read by two young Iranian women in memory of a classmate murdered in the uprising; half-dozen students from the Critical Thinking Group at Cal State LA; the VP of Hollywood NOW, who delivered an impassioned call on behalf of women across the world; Nargis Khestoo, an Afghan-American student at UC Berkeley, who performed her spoken word piece—"I am woman hear me rooooooooooooooooooooar with a voice too loud to ignore...."
An Iranian representative of the March 8 Women's Organization (Iran-Afghanistan) declared, "Revolution is what we need, not one word more, not one word less" (in opposition to the slogan "Islamic Republic, not one word more, not one word less").
Sunsara Taylor spoke of the inspiration and hope people the world over should draw from the courageous uprising in Iran. She said one of the most hopeful things about this uprising is that there are communists within it—seeking to gain influence and give leadership so that this upsurge becomes not something that people will look back on in their old age as the "good old days," a "glimmer of light" in a still-repressive society—but as the beginning of a whole new world, of revolutionary successes first here, then there, until the whole world is liberated. She called on people to get into the revolution in this country, to be part of what the RCP calls "fighting the power, and transforming the people, for revolution."
The march through Westwood—with torches "lighting the way forward," was electrifying. 125 people took part—chanting, singing, and dancing. An Iranian woman turned her red scarf into a prop, ripping it off her head, waving it in the air, dancing and chanting, "Down with the Hejab!" Two students from Glendale, who'd never been to IWD, said, "We're telling everyone we know... it doesn't stop here."
Send us your comments.
Revolution #195, March 14, 2010
People marched through the upscale downtown Miracle Mile area full of shoppers and tourists. The marchers stopped at places symbolizing women's oppression, like a Victoria's Secret store, and also to support the work of a rape crisis center. Among the people speaking out were a Latina describing growing up in a macho household and a retired teacher from India who told of her experience with Hinduism and said that all religions oppressed women.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #195, March 14, 2010
From a reader:
On Friday night a raucous crowd of about 50 people marched through Chinatown carrying signs and chanting slogans demanding respect and equality for women and gays. It was the First Friday Art Walk and thousands of people were gathered around galleries, open food courts and night clubs. Many clapped and chanted along—and some grabbed up signs and joined what turned out to be a rousing beginning of the International Women's Day weekend. This outpouring of resistance demanding a woman's right to choose had been called by World Can't Wait-Hawai`i and was joined by supporters of the RCP, Planned Parenthood, and a civil unions coalition.
After months of lamenting the apathetic attitudes around abortion and a woman's right to choose in particular, it was an incredible breath of fresh air for activists to see such a fresh, bold, and diverse group come together. And for the thousands who heard and saw us, it was impossible for them not to respond—with either enthusiastic support (the majority) or with dismay and disapproval. When the noisy group finally finished, people were hastily exchanging names and phone numbers, picking up leaflets for Sunday's International Women's Day celebration at Revolution Books, and making plans to work together in the future.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #195, March 14, 2010
Harlem residents and artists, a woman from a Queens shelter, groups of college students from Columbia-Barnard, NYU and Pace University—fresh from hearing Sunsara Taylor at NYU. Sorority sisters from upstate. High school students. People from different backgrounds spoke bitterness, exchanging experience and called for people to "join the total revolution." The march stopped at American Apparel, the military recruiters and the welfare office. People carried signs in English and Farsi "standing with our sisters and brothers resisting in Iran." People defied hostile nationalists who declared that such a multinational march should not happen in Harlem and certainly shouldn't fight for the liberation of women. In fact the march drew in MORE people through all this.
After the march, people packed into a cafe for poetry and readings, including a message from a young Dominican woman responding to the call from the March 8 Women's Organization (Iran-Afghanistan). Carl Dix of the RCP polemicized against arguments of fighting for "manhood" or for "putting women on a pedestal," putting forward the need to fight for the emancipation of all humanity, and for women being fighters in every sphere. Revolution correspondent Annie Day dug deeper into the importance of joining the total revolution and the leadership of Bob Avakian.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #195, March 14, 2010
The following was sent to Revolution from a reader:
2000 women and men took to the streets for the 20th annual march celebrating International Women's Day in San Antonio, TX. All ages represented, with a large number of young Chicanas at the core of the activity and organizing. The initial rally targeted the "Grande Hyatt" where mainly immigrant women are fighting for a union. Then the march took to the streets, in the face of intense and increasing efforts on the part of the city to shut it down—including demands for tens of thousands of dollars in "public security fees." Posters and banners reflected the many struggles in which these women had become the central force—"Stop the Violence Against Women—We are not the Enemy!"; "No More Racism!", "No to War." "Not the church; not the State—women must decide our fate!" was one of the favorite chants.
Into this mix we brought the party's statement—"Break the Chains! Unleash the fury of women as a mighty force for revolution!" The women we spoke to loved it, even breaking out in applause as we finished up our agitation with the section talking about Bob Avakian's new conception of revolution and communism: "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." Several hundred papers got out throughout the day, with significant contributions. And a number of new women stepped forward to offer their assistance to our projects—most especially wanting to bring Sunsara Taylor to their campuses.
Revolution—the need for it, the possibility—drew interest, support and deep thinking, and challenges of the best kind. When presented with some of the ideas in the new synthesis, one woman, who started out talking about Cuba and Venezuela, questioned the ability of those who come after a great leader to carry through on the original conception. She called the new synthesis a "very very optimistic" view of what is possible—but her face lit up when we said that these kinds of relationships and this kind of morality has to be brought forward and fought for today. She was one of those contributing for a pack of literature, including the DVD, AWAG & the Manifesto, for a new study group. Her friend had grabbed us saying that "I need that DVD," and then exclaimed several times at reading the themes listed in the index of the party's Manifesto—"This is so important!"
There were so many other inspiring elements and moments throughout the day—the young men refreshed and enlivened by an atmosphere in which women were breaking radically from Adam & Eve morality; the reading of a poem by Merle Woo tracing and interlacing the defiant spirit and brutal murders of Rachel Corey and Gwen, a transvestite beaten to death by reactionary dominating thugs here in the U.S.; a participant's summation of the importance of the march—that so many women are brutalized and suffer every day individually and alone, but on this day thousands have come together, in resistance—to say NO MORE.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #195, March 14, 2010
About 200 women and men marched, including people from Mexico, Iran, Somalia, El Salvador, and other countries. The march, called by a coalition of over 40 groups, stopped at different sites that concentrated oppression of women, including the jail and military recruitment center. People showed images and spoke out exposing the horrific oppression these institutions force upon women.
Revolution #195, March 14, 2010
Following is an excerpt from a speech by Sunsara Taylor, "From the Burkha to the Thong: Everything Must, and Can, Change—WE NEED TOTAL REVOLUTION!" given in New York City on February 23, 2010, kicking off a national speaking tour:
[C]ulture is not something sacred. This is another argument you hear all the time. "But that's just part of the culture..." Or, "But you can't criticize someone else's culture."
This has even come up, I have been told, in many people's reaction to the title of my speech [From the Burkha to the Thong: Everything Must, and Can, Change—WE NEED TOTAL REVOLUTION!]. "Who is she, who grew up in this country, to criticize the burkha?" Or, "Who is she, to say from the outside, that these women are oppressed?"
Well, lynching was part of American culture for a long time too. White people used to gather in crowds to watch Black people get lynched—they used to bring their lunches and their children, like it was a picnic. And, after the lynchings, often as the bodies of Black people hanging from trees had been mutilated and disfigured, white people would pose and snap pictures, and make post-cards. That was a big part of this culture of this country—not only in the South, but also in the North. But, by this logic, I guess this should have been respected. Maybe it was impossible for anyone who didn't live there to say whether those Black people really were oppressed?
The question is not, "Who are you to criticize a culture," but, "Who are you standing with?" Do you stand with the slave-masters and the racist mobs—or do you stand with the Black people who rose up against that and, yes, disrupted the culture and the way of life of those white people?
And today, are you going to stand silent and passive in the face of the modern day slave-owners and exploiters, the rapists and the chauvinists, the Christian fascists and those oppressors my Iranian comrades call the "filthy mullahs"? Or will you stand with the women and the men who are rising up against this—and will you become one of these women or men?
The veil is not just some cultural symbol. If it were, you wouldn't need to have "virtue police" roaming around like thugs throwing acid in the faces of women who dare to walk in public with their faces showing. You wouldn't have these filthy mullahs and other fanatics waiting to arrest and molest young women if a wisp of their hair falls out from behind their veils.
The veil and the chador and the burkha are not just things that women took up one day. They were forced onto women.
How come no one here ever learns about the fearless uprisings of women against the veil, like in Iran, in 1979. This was just a few months after the Iranian revolution that overthrew the U.S.-backed Shah. But the Islamic fundamentalists seized the initiative—they hijacked the Iranian revolution and consolidated a theocracy. One of the very first laws they passed in the first year they were in power—as part of crushing the people's spirit and their resistance—was a law mandating that women cover themselves in the chador. The veil wasn't taken up voluntarily—it was forced on women by a reactionary fundamentalist theocratic state. And women erupted over this—they poured out into the streets by the tens of thousands, chanting, "We did not make revolution to go backwards." But the Islamic Republic sent its thugs and its secret police and its torturers after these women—they imprisoned many thousands... they tortured many hundreds of these women and they killed a great many of these women. And ever since then, they have mandated that women endure the ultimate humiliation of covering themselves when in the presence of men who do not own them. Women who have sex outside of marriage can still be legally stoned to death. The testimony of women is worth only half that of a man. Things are so barbaric that the calculation is actually made that the entire female body is worth only one testicle of the male.
Or look at Iraq—this is a country where, before the U.S. launched its unjust war that has caused the deaths of more than a million Iraqis, women used to be able to walk around uncovered. Now, as the fundamentalists have grown in strength and ability to recruit with every U.S. bomb that has dropped and every child orphaned or buried in rubble—women have been forced under the veil and the burkha. This was not voluntary—15 women a month were beheaded in the city of Basra alone for walking the streets without head-coverings. Don't tell me this is just a cultural thing.
So, when someone asks me who am I to criticize the veil, I have an answer: I am a communist, I am someone who understands that humanity can live a whole different way, free from all of this... I am someone who looks to a place like Iran and sees not some foreign culture, not some distant other kind of people, but who sees our blood—our sisters and our brothers putting everything on the line to get free.
Let me stop here for all of you to take a second and ask yourselves, "Did she just say she was a communist?"
Yes, I am a communist—and you should be too. I'm a communist who works out of the theoretical and practical framework developed by Bob Avakian. Avakian has defended the great achievements of the genuine communist revolutions of the past, but has also criticized their weaknesses and revitalized and re-revolutionized this whole movement. Bob Avakian is also the leader of a party, the Revolutionary Communist Party, that is actively and aggressively building a movement for revolution right now—hastening and preparing for the day when revolution can be made. And, by the way, if you haven't checked out Bob Avakian then you don't know a thing about communism and you especially don't know why the communism being developed by Bob Avakian is the key to emancipating ALL of humanity—so you really do have a responsibility to check him out.
A big part of what Bob Avakian has fought for is internationalism, and a whole deeper and higher understanding of the centrality of the liberation of women to any revolution worth making.
So I am very proud of my comrades in Iran and Afghanistan.
Here, I want to tell you about something I find exciting and inspiring. There is a group of women from Iran and Afghanistan who have come forward to say they don't want either Islamic fundamentalism OR U.S. imperialism. They call themselves the March 8th Organization, named after the date of the revolutionary holiday International Women's Day, and they are calling on people to celebrate and stand with the women of Iran who have been a great source of strength in the outpourings against the reactionary Islamic Republic of Iran in this last year in the challenges that have grown up against the so-called election of President Ahmedinejad. Many of these women have cast off their veils, and together with their brothers, are lifting their heads and demanding an end to the Islamic Republic.
In calling for protests commemorating International Women's Day this year, these Iranian and Afghani women of the March 8th Organization have pointed out that these women of Iran are "braving street battles with the Police force and militia thugs of the Islamic Republic of Iran—one of the most brutal women hating regimes on the planet Earth. Many have been arrested, injured and even killed in these street battles and others have been picked up by the security forces in their work place, classrooms and university dormitories. These women who dare death need nothing less than the complete overthrow of the IRI—and this is a growing sentiment. And in doing this they need the internationalist support and love of their sisters—and their brothers—around the world. If they achieve this, it will be a new day for women in the Middle East and a victory for women's liberation movement and for ending all oppression in the world."
I am very proud to say that this March I will be joining my Iranian comrades of the March 8th Organization to take action around this by marching in the streets of Los Angeles. And I invite you to join the march that will be held in Harlem as part of this on Saturday, March 6th.
We don't have to choose between U.S. imperialism and Islamic fascism. Between these two, the U.S. has—by far—done the greatest damage and poses the greatest threat to the world's people—but we can't let ourselves be forced into thinking these are our only choices.
As Bob Avakian has said, "What we see in contention here with Jihad on the one hand and McWorld/McCrusade on the other hand, are historically outmoded strata among colonized and oppressed humanity up against historically outmoded ruling strata of the imperialist system. These two reactionary poles reinforce each other, even while opposing each other. If you side with either of these 'outmodeds,' you end up strengthening both."
We have to bring forward another way—and this is what revolution is.
Revolution #195, March 14, 2010
Reporter's Journal on the Earthquake
Part 2: Life and Death on the Streets of Port-au-Prince
On January 12, 2010 an extremely powerful earthquake struck Haiti—devastating the capital of Port-au-Prince. This Katastwòf, as it is called in Kreyol, killed over 200,000 people. In the week after the earthquake Revolution newspaper ran important articles exposing the whole history of U.S. domination in Haiti, how this created conditions of intense poverty and lack of infrastructure—direct causes of the huge death toll. And we did extensive coverage of the whole way the U.S. was sabotaging aid deliveries and justifying this in the name of "security concerns." (See "The U.S. in Haiti: A Century of Domination and Misery" and "Why So Many People Died in the Earthquake... And Why the U.S. Can Do No Good in Haiti.")
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 we sent a reporter to Haiti 12 days after the earthquake. The following is the second part in a series of pages from his journal. To read the journal entry, part 1, go to "Part 1: 'It Has All Fallen Down.'"
Port-au-Prince is now literally a city of homeless. Even homes not completely destroyed are considered unsafe. People who could not flee the city have set up makeshift shelters in parks, the streets of residential areas, even on the median strip of busy roads. Photo: In the Montrepons section of Carrefour people have marked off portions of the street with cinder blocks to keep from being run over while they sleep. (Revolution photo)
One morning we drive over to the National Palace where 82 people reportedly died. Even before we get there, the smell of dead bodies, human waste, garbage and dust is nearly overwhelming. People are wearing surgical masks if they can find them, but nothing can shut out the grim reality that confronted us.
Even though I had seen photographs of this well-known symbol of Haiti's government, ruined by the earthquake, it was still dramatic to stand in front of it. But more striking was the huge refugee camp directly across from the Palace in what was a grand park, the Champ De Mars. Spread out before us was a scene of terrible squalor and misery—thousands of people in ragged makeshift tents or shanties, trying to get out of the scorching midday sun. There didn't seem to be any toilets or any organized aid. Later I would find out that Champ De Mars is only one of hundreds or perhaps even thousands of camps, big and small, throughout the earthquake zone. It strikes me that Port-au-Prince is now literally a city of homeless people, a city of people living on the street and on the edge. Champ De Mars is from many accounts far from the worst, but it is bad enough.
We stop to talk to the first group we see. I ask people to tell me what it was like when the earthquake hit. A woman who looks to be about 50 begins talking feverishly about what happened to her. She had lived on the third floor of a house that started to shake and then fell all around her. She tells me she grabbed her granddaughter and ran, the stairway falling even as she went down it. At the end she leapt to safety still holding the baby. Her two daughters also got out and were now under the awning with her.
But they were far from safe. She said: "The U.S., the international community, the government, they do nothing for us. Even water—maybe they bring a four-liter supply (a little more than a gallon) every few days. It is not enough. They bring nothing to help the children. Now we are about to run out of money, we can no longer buy what we need. Every day the situation gets worse and worse. The international community says all these words, but they are empty and we receive nothing."
In the crucial day after the earthquake many died because of the lack of medical aid and rescue equipment—a reflection of the poverty and lack of infrastructure in Haiti. In Carrefour, a heavily damaged neighborhood of over 400,000, people relied on the neighborhood dogs to find survivors, and then dug them out with their bare hands. But many more were buried alive. (Revolution photo)
We go up to Kenscoff, a suburb up the mountains that rise above Port-au-Prince. Kenscoff used to be a very nice area—some of the houses were built as second homes for the wealthy to escape to in the summer and on weekends and are really more like mansions. But like everywhere in the Port-au-Prince area, the overwhelming pressure for housing as the city grew had burst through barriers, and now there are more middle class and even poor people living here. We are taking Armand and Cherie, and their young daughter Fatou, back to their former home to collect what they can. I'm in the backseat with Fatou, who is quiet, pensive and seems troubled.
After a half-hour we pull up in a small district of businesses and houses, under a looming rock face of the mountain above. The cliff face is mainly a brownish hue, but directly to our right is a 100-foot-high section that seems gouged out and is almost white. In fact, this is where a chunk of the mountain had broken off... and crashed onto the rear of Cherie and Armand's house. Luckily they had not been at home, but the elderly mother of a close friend had been staying there. When they returned a few days after the quake, they learned she had been crushed to death; neighbors had already removed her body.
We go inside, and while Janot and I sit in the living room in the front part, the family rummages through what is left of the back for things they need. It was a nice little house, nothing fancy, old furniture and not a lot of decoration, but still with the accouterments of a normal life—a family photo, a certificate of honor for Cherie from her work. These things remind me, in a way that the devastation I had already seen did not, that every single destroyed home meant the shattering of individual lives, the crushing of not just things but dreams. And the fact that an older woman had her life taken from her only added to the haunting feeling. It was as physically comfortable as anyplace I had been so far, or would be for the rest of my trip; but I have to admit, I was glad to leave.
In the car on the way back, Fatou plays with her Barbies and is willing to talk a little. She is happier, but hasn't lost her pensive look.
Montrepons, once a thriving and busy neighborhood, has been completely abandoned by the authorities, leaving the people on their own to solve all the most basic problems of survival. Photo: A young boy carries water back to his encampment. (Revolution photo)
We go to the downtown shopping area adjacent to the government buildings, a district centered around the intersection of Rue du Mirak and Boulevard du Jean-Jacques Dessalines. If I thought I had already seen the worst of things, I was profoundly mistaken. This once-crowded and hectic shopping district looked like the bombed-out city of Berlin at the end of World War 2. Fermin and I wind through the area taking pictures of buildings reduced to rubble, buildings pancaked, buildings hollowed out, buildings leaning precariously. The tropical sun beats down on us producing a blinding light which seems to bounce off the fragments of blasted white concrete; it was so bright it was hard to see.
In a different way the area is still hectic. The streets are filled with people trying to scrape together the means of life. Vendors are selling the usual—food, water—but also brightly colored clothes, tools, nuts and bolts, boxes, college textbooks, and even one stand with a nice selection of rum and whiskey, glistening like jewels in the white-yellow light. All this amidst piles of rubble and streets six inches deep in uncollected garbage, with dust thick in the air.
On the tops of some of the collapsed buildings, small groups of men are working, removing stones... but there is not a single piece of machinery to be seen, at most an occasional sledge hammer. I could not begin to imagine how long it would take to clear the area like this, but it seemed people were doing the best they could under the circumstances.
Leaving downtown we take the road to Carrefour, a huge working class and poor area in the southwest part of Port-au-Prince. About 400,000 people lived here before the earthquake and we pass shanties everywhere, including a row of about 50 that were built on the median strip of the main road, cars whizzing by on either side of them. The road winds upwards, not too steeply, but we are out of the flat area surrounding the port and downtown.
Turning down a side road we hit what must have once been a pleasant if not well-off residential area, called Montrepons. It has lots of small two-story concrete houses and some three-story ones, that were once well tended. But now it is a disaster area, with the bulk of houses flattened, badly damaged or knocked from three stories down to two. We pull up at one house like that and sit down in a small courtyard with a little shade to talk.
We meet pastor Maurice, his 19-year-old son Pierre, his wife Evangeline and two of their neighbors, Jean and Destiné. Maurice is the first to tell us about what it was like when the earthquake hit:
"It was 4:50 in the afternoon and the wind blew noisily. It came closer and it sounded like a bulldozer. The earth started shaking, I ran to the middle of the street. The earth was rolling up and down like a wave, and then started the collapse. Dirt covered the whole neighborhood; a lot of people were yelling for help. We started going into the street, shouting 'God have pity on us.' At that moment we realized that some houses had collapsed on top of people.
"When the earth started rolling people lay down in the street. A lot didn't understand exactly what was happening, we had no understanding of earthquakes, we thought it was the end of the world. People cried out to Jesus. Some people who had been in the shower ran out in the streets naked. Others took their shirts off and wrapped them up in them, but they had not even realized they were undressed."
Jean said, "I had just come into my house. My wife was making dinner and called me in to eat. I remember seeing the baby on the bed. I looked at him and then headed to the kitchen. Then I heard the bulldozer: keh-keh-keh-keh-keh. The whole house started to shake, I put my hand up and called out 'Jesus, have pity.' I stepped on the stairway out of the house. Then I saw another house had collapsed onto mine, and when that happened, blocks from my house started to break loose. I couldn't see where to go and I called out to Jesus again. I fell down the stairs. I got up and started back up the stairs to save my wife and baby. I saw her coming down the stairs with the baby and some other people. I got to the stairs at the top of the kitchen and asked for the baby and then told them to get out. They got out and I took the baby but I fell down, rolling over and over, holding the baby on my chest. I injured my hip, it still hurts today. But the baby was okay. He was covered in dirt so I took off my shirt to clean him up. I went to sleep that night with no shirt, because all my other clothes were buried in the house."
Pierre spoke next: "I was inside the house, in my room with my mom, watching TV. Then the electricity went off, the ground was shaking, dust falling. Mom hid in the closet; I pulled her out and we went out of the house. Falling blocks were everywhere. Our way to the street was blocked so we had to pass through a neighbor's house to get out. I stayed up all night long, I didn't know what was going on. At one point crowds of people came running up the hill from below because they heard that a tsunami was coming. We ran too, but then we went back and stayed in front of the house."
We leave the house and one of the neighbors walks us around the area to see all the damage. We pass a few groups of people living under awnings in the street. They have marked off portions of the street with cinder blocks to indicate where people will sleep that night. The neighbor shows us a house where he says that neighborhood dogs helped them find and save five people. I am not much of a dog person, but after that I feel compelled to take pictures of several of the scroungy hero-dogs of Montrepons. We walk a little farther and then I see a mound of dirt rising about a foot out of the street and someone tells me, "Here we buried two children who died in the quake." I am taken aback. So far I have heard many terrible stories of death and I even know that there are still many bodies buried in the buildings I've seen. But this is more visceral. Here is the sad evidence of the end of two young lives right in front of me. I don't respond, I don't know what to say. A little farther on is another site even grimmer where a body had been burned and there are still grizzled remnants, charred ligament twisted up in the center of a burned circle.
To be continued
Revolution #195, March 14, 2010
A Journal of Communist Theory and Polemic
Alain Badiou's "Politics of Emancipation": A Communism Locked Within the Confines of the Bourgeois World
by Raymond Lotta, Nayi Duniya, and K. J. A.
From Chapter I: WHY ALAIN BADIOU IS A ROUSSEAUIST... AND WHY WE SHOULD NOT BE
Equality is a first principle, an axiom, in Alain Badiou's politics of emancipation. He has stated: "the philosophical embrace of emancipatory politics is to be carried out through the name of a radical politics of equality," the "egalitarian maxim [is] proper to every politics of emancipation." He has enshrined equality as "the principle of principles."
But real communism is something far different, far more radical, and far loftier than equality. Describing the content and goal of communism and the socialist transition to communism—and distinguishing it from utopian and ultimately reformist socialism, Marx writes:
Socialism is the declaration of the permanence of revolution, the class dictatorship of the proletariat as the necessary transit point to the abolition of class distinctions generally, 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. [emphasis in original, underscoring ours]
From Chapter V: A FALSE POLITICS OF EMANCIPATION: CONCILIATING THE STATE WHILE PASSIVELY AWAITING THE "EVENT"
Badiou has written about the "creation of a space of autonomy in the factories [with] the objective...not to take power, to replace an existing power, but to force the state to invent a new relation with the workers." But what kinds of "new relations" is he imagining?
On the one hand, it is not possible within capitalist society to establish an alternative mode of production, to put an end to the exploitation of wage labor and create a planned economy based on social need (a point which Badiou will occasionally acknowledge). Socialism is indeed the only alternative to capitalism; but it can only be established, develop, and function systemically—on the basis of the socialization of ownership of the means of production and the leadership and coordinating role of a new state power.
On the other hand, any truly transformational politics is going to bring you into collision and antagonism with the existing bourgeois state. Mao's famously provocative statement about the Paris Commune is rather apt in this regard: "If the Paris Commune had not failed but had been successful, then in my opinion, it would have become by now a bourgeois commune. This is because it was impossible for the French bourgeoisie to allow France's working class to have so much political power."
Badiou can advocate for, and may even find, some "space" within the existing system and state power, because his politics of equality is not transformational; it does not stand in fundamental antagonism to bourgeois relations.
As for notions of "worker cooperatives" within capitalist society (a politics echoed in the perspectives of people like Naomi Klein), any such sites would be interacting with the larger capitalist economy of society and the imperialist world economy. They would not be able to free themselves from surrounding commodity relations: at the level of input and exchange requirements, competitive pressures, and ideological influences (the narrowing perspective of "my/our" production unit, etc.). Badiou "subtracts" economics from his politics and autonomous spaces.
The repressive force of the bourgeois state—its policing, surveillance, and punitive powers—reach into all zones of modern bourgeois society. The pervasive influence of bourgeois ideology, the shaping of public opinion, the control over the means of disseminating ideas—all this too is part of the fabric of bourgeois society.
Is this to say that all resistance is futile, or that it is impossible to build a revolutionary movement in bourgeois society? No, of course not. But resistance is struggle, and spaces of resistance—which are possible and desirable—will collide with the repressive powers of bourgeois society. Any revolutionary movement must be forged with full recognition of its fundamental antagonism with the ruling state; it cannot carry on work aimlessly but—particularly in modern capitalist countries—must work with the perspective of accumulating strength to go over to the contest for power at a time when society is convulsed with social crisis and upheaval.
Issue Number 1, Summer-Fall 2009
Demarcations: A Journal of Communist Theory and Polemic seeks to set forth, defend, and further advance the theoretical framework for the beginning of a new stage of communist revolution in the contemporary world. This journal will promote the perspectives of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA.
Without revolutionary theory, there can be no revolutionary movement. Without drawing sharp dividing lines between communism as a living, critical, and developing science serving the emancipation of humanity, on the one hand, and other perspectives, paths, and programs that cannot lead to emancipation, on the other—whether openly reformist or claiming the mantle or moniker of "communism"—without making such demarcations, it will not be possible to achieve the requisite understanding and clarity to radically change the world. Demarcations will contribute to achieving that clarity.
In the wrangling spirit of Marxism, Demarcations will also delve into questions and challenges posed by major changes in the world today. The last quarter-century has seen intensified globalization, growing urbanization and shantytown-ization in the Third World, the rise of religious fundamentalism, shifting alignments in the world imperialist system, and the acceleration of environmental degradation. Demarcations will examine such changes, the discourses that have grown up in connection with them, and the ideological, political, and strategic implications of such developments for communist revolution. Demarcations will also undertake theoretical explorations of issues of art, science, and culture.
It is fitting that the inaugural issue of Demarcations opens with an extensive original polemic against the political philosophy and thought of Alain Badiou.
Revolution #195, March 14, 2010
We ARE BUILDING a movement for revolution, concentrated now in mounting the campaign: The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have. The point: to familiarize millions with the goal and character of communist revolution, as it has been reconceived by Bob Avakian, to inject this into the discourse in a radically creative and urgent way, and to make known very broadly in society the leadership of Bob Avakian—giving people a sense of the work he is carrying out, his history and character as a rare and outstanding communist leader, and—on the broadest level—his connection to revolution... and through all this to begin forging a core of dedicated, ardent fighters for this revolution.
We ARE INITIATING a new stage of communist revolution—with a leader, Bob Avakian, who has analyzed both the overwhelming achievements of the first stage of the revolution, and the significant shortcomings and problems... and developed a new synthesis that can take things further. And this paper is a major outlet for that new synthesis, both its foundations and basic principles, and in its ongoing development.
Today Revolution newspaper and the online edition is a lifeline and scaffolding for this movement. Thousands of people already read this newspaper every week—including many, many people in countries around the world—from those who value its unique analysis of events, to those who are learning what is worth living, and dying for, through its pages. It is an entry way for many thousands more—and potentially for tens and then hundreds of thousands more.
Your financial support is URGENTLY needed to enable this paper to flourish and develop, and indeed to continue its regular publication.
This is a time when the future is openly in the balance. After Copenhagen... and in the midst of brave people refusing to take it any more, from Iran to Oakland to the universities in California... there is a crying need for a vision, for an analysis, that reveals the real inter-connections between things, and that shows a real way out.
The restless and dissatisfied, the questioning ones, will hear about the "tea party" movement, they will be inundated with quasi-fascist conspiracy theories on the one hand and the killing confines of choosing between Republicans and Democrats on the other.
But will they get to read analyses that actually lay bare the real causes and real solutions of the horrors of today, and the greater horrors in the making? And will they not only learn about the horrors, but also the potential heights of humanity? Will they hear about Avakian's vision of revolution and have a chance to get to know what this rare and unique leader is all about? Will they be exposed to the movement for revolution that comes to life in its pages, spreading its advances, analyzing its problems, and criticizing itself where it falls short? Will they learn that there is a party that is actually and actively preparing people to make a revolution that could really bring about the changes that we need?
Only if you support this. Act—supporting this paper in both its print and online editions, and winning others to do so, is vital work toward revolution. Sustain this paper every month! Donate now!
How to donate/sustain:
Revolution #195, March 14, 2010
Feb. 23, 2010
I just received your letter, as well as the editorial: "International Women's Day 2010: A Time to Act."
I want your readers to know that I am constantly struggling with prisoners about the importance of the liberation of women as part of the emancipation of all humanity, which is not easy by any stretch of the imagination but still must and can be done. Men's prisons, as the one ex-prisoner pointed out to you, are heavily "pornified" directly & indirectly.
As most of you know by now, I have been state raised by cold steel & concrete since I was 13 years old... I'm 31 now. I can remember when I first entered juvenile prison, some of the officers would bring in porn movies for us to watch depending on how we "behaved." If we were really "good"—which I never was according to their standards—the institution would bring in a bus load of girls in from the female institution & organize dances. In other words, we had to be "good" & be considered "model" prisoners in order to be able to have the "privilege" to participate in the oppression & exploitation of women. I can't help but to look back & cringe at what was being promoted & the damage this caused to all the girls, as well as boys that were involved, especially given the reality that most of us came from homes where we had to watch our mothers & sisters being abused by the "man, or men of the house."
As I graduated to the "Big House," where I now languish away, the "pornofication," oppression & exploitation of women takes on a whole other dimension. It is more in your face & promoted on all levels from all directions. Officials will ban the Revolution newspaper from coming into the facility, but will allow unlimited porn magazines & materials to enter.
Just the other day, "Orange Crush" came storming in here armed with their oak sticks, shields, leaded gloves, helmets, & shotguns to do a massive shakedown & humiliation campaign. We were handcuffed & forced to walk with our heads down, & for those who dared to raise their head, they were swiftly beaten & dragged away. Once they got us into the chapel, they lined us up in front of—get this—a giant painting of the "Last Supper" where they forced us to strip naked, bend over & spread our ass cheeks, & lift our nut sac all while we had to look at this Jesus with his white skin & cold blue eyes.
Still in all, according to the reactionary "prison politics" of the day, there is nothing worse than for "another man to call another man a bitch," yet its perfectly okay for these same men to refer to the women of the world, who truly hold up half the sky, as "bitches" and "hoes."
You can rest assured that I will continue to fiercely struggle with prisoners from a revolutionary communist perspective on the importance of the liberation of women, which is a must for the emancipation of all of humanity. With this being said, & my commitment & contribution to getting this done, I would like for you to arm me with "A Declaration: For Women's Liberation & the Emancipation of All Humanity."
I would like to close up this letter with a quote from Bob Avakian's amazing & insightful book "Away With All Gods":
"The point is not to apologize for or to extol bourgeois society and its forms of the oppression of women; but, in some significant aspects, this is very different in these 'modern' imperialist countries than it is in the countries where feudal relations and traditions, or remnants of them, continue to exert a significant influence, and where, along with that, patriarchal domination is more overt and entrenched in a traditional form. That's important to emphasize: in a traditional form...
"All this is very complex because, to a significant degree, the ways in which women are oppressed in a country like France, or the U.S., appears, especially to people coming from a traditionalist framework, to involve 'an excess of freedom.' Women are not regulated in all the same ways and not required to wear traditional clothing in the same way, nor to act in the same 'modest' manner. In reality, this 'freedom' for women is part of a different web of oppressive relations, which often assumes extreme expression in its own way. There is pornography, soft or hard core, everywhere you turn. Advertising, to a very great extent, is based on the use of the female body to sell commodities—and the female body itself is, in very extensive and very degrading ways, treated as a commodity."
Let's all work & struggle to do away with "the burkha & the thong—hideous embodiments of the degradation of women," which can only thoroughly be done by way of a true communist revolution. We must continue to work & struggle towards such a revolution... International Women's Day 2010, is truly "A Time to Act!" Revolutionary prisoners stand with & fight along side the women of the world!!
Thank you for everything. Continue to provide me with revolutionary literature such as:
and anything else you feel I need in order to be effective in the fight for a better world.
P.S. I would also like for you to send, if possible, Bob Avakian's "A Leap of Faith and a Leap to Rational Knowledge" and "God the Original Fascist" by A. Brooks.
Revolution #195, March 14, 2010
The following was sent to Revolution by a reader:
On March 7th, over 50 people in Greensboro, NC, residents of J.T. Hairston Homes and supporters, marched from Hairston Homes to Shiloh Baptist Church. Shiloh is the owner of the apartments, and has contracted Westminster Properties as the property manager.
Residents describe Hairston Homes as being run like a prison camp, with arbitrary rules that change every couple of months. Residents are not allowed to have visitors after 10 pm, they are not allowed to socialize in front of their homes, and a new rule even proposes to make residents wear picture IDs (like in apartheid South Africa or occupied Palestine) with their children's names on the back. Violations of these rules get residents hit with sometimes heavy fines (like $45 to replace a lost key) and get you the attention of abusive and racist property management. All playground equipment and the basketball court has been torn down, leaving the children with no safe places to play.
Recently, a group of residents presented a petition of their complaints to Westminster, and soon several of them found themselves served with eviction notices, which are being upheld by the courts, in spite of pending discrimination proceedings against Westminster.
Residents and supporters have been asking Shiloh's board to intervene on their behalf to get Westminster to back off, but have gotten no response. Today's march took residents right out front of the church as services were ending, to be visible to churchgoers and the church leaders. None of the church leadership came out to talk to the marchers.
A flyer written and distributed by residents to nearby neighborhoods connected the wave of evictions of Black and working class women and their children to the massive lockdown of Black and working class men in American prisons, and put the blame for this situation squarely on the capitalist system. In honor of International Women's Day, and the role of the women leading the Hairston Homes struggle, some supporters of the Revolutionary Communist Party brought a banner with the slogan "Unleash the Fury of Women as a Mighty Force for Revolution." This was one of the most popular signs carried on the march; women and men made sure that the banner was held high to be seen by oncoming traffic and churchgoers leaving services.
Revolution #195, March 14, 2010
From A World To Win News Service
November 2, 2009. A World to Win News Service. Inglourious Basterds is an immoral film. This might seem like an odd thing to say for two reasons: One, because it's a complete fantasy—a handful of Jewish-American soldiers and a young French-Jewish woman bring down the Third Reich. Two, because how could you ask for a more clear-cut case of "good guys" and "bad guys"?
Director Quentin Tarantino himself helps answer the first objection. His movies are full of references to movies. Among other things, this one is a tribute to American films about World War 2, Italian 1960s "spaghetti Westerns" and the German directors and films of the 1920s. While its audience doesn't need to know much 20th-century history to realize that the plot is wildly counter-factual and intentionally impossible, we can be sure that Tarantino's winks and nods to film history are as factually accurate as they are sometimes obscure. Motion pictures matter to Tarantino, and in this film they change history.
As for the second objection, Tarantino answers that one too. The moral viewpoint his film communicates is that the world belongs not to the "good guys" but those who are the most unflinchingly and single-mindedly vicious—the "basterds" who show no weakness in the face of the dirty work that in the filmmaker's eyes has to be done for "good" to triumph.
The film opens with a long, powerful scene in which SS Colonel Hans Landa (played by the award-winning Christopher Waltz) interrogates and psychologically toys with a French shepherd who is sheltering the Jewish Dreyfus family under the floorboards of his shack. The youngest daughter, Shosanna (Mélanie Laurent), escapes. Landa takes aim at her fleeing back, but does not fire. His men machinegun the rest of the family in their hiding place.
Three years later, the U.S. army puts together a band of Jewish-American volunteers to operate behind German lines in France after the Allied landing in Normandy. Their officer, Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt), a wily ex-moonshiner from the Tennessee hills, explains the mission to his eight men: they are to torture to death every German they manage to take prisoner. He tells the men that they each "owe" him a hundred scalps carved off the heads of the corpses.
No distinction is made between zealous Nazi officers and reluctant conscripts. Just the opposite—they make a point of killing the lowliest just like the highest. Raine's soldiers are one-dimensional brutes and psychopaths, but there is a plan behind their assignment: to demoralize and weaken the German military. They always allow one man to escape and tell the tale to others. Raine explains that the entire German armed forces from top to bottom will lie awake in their beds at night in fear. Hitler himself eventually becomes hysterical about the Basterds' effect on his army.
Meanwhile, the Jewish little girl has grown up (astonishingly quickly, but everything in this film deliberately runs counter to realism). Now she runs a Paris cinema. Shosanna is pursued by the young German private Frederick Zoller (Daniel Brühl), a sniper returned from the front where he mowed down hundreds of American soldiers. He stars as himself in the upcoming film made by Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, The Pride of the Nation. The German occupiers decide to hold a gala film opening night at her theatre. With the help of her assistant Marcel (Jacky Ido), a Black Frenchman, she figures out how to kill them all.
The plot goes through twists and turns as she receives the unwanted attentions of SS officer Landa, potentially foiling her plans, even though he doesn't recognize her. The Basterds also face complications in their scheme to team up with the famous German actress Bridget van Hammersmark (Diane Kruger) who has become a British agent, but she gets them opening night tickets. At that fateful soirée each team of Nazi-killers is unaware of the other's presence, but to make a very long story short, Shosanna's collection of hundreds of movies—made in those days with highly flammable nitrate film—burns the entire Nazi leadership alive. Footage she previously prepared projects her face above the smoke and flames as if rising triumphantly from the holocaust. The dying Nazis hear her gloat, "I'm the Jew who killed you."
The film's four main characters can be considered two matched pairs. The young German soldier pursues the young Jewish woman but cannot connect with her. They seem to be opposites. The unsentimental Shosanna has clarity of purpose and is not about to let herself be distracted by the aggressively amorous Zoller. He, on the other hand, although celebrated in Goebbels' film as a single-minded exterminator for the fatherland, is sentimental and full of doubts about killing. Yet after shooting him because he gets in the way of her plans, she weakens and falls into a gesture of remorse, which allows Zoller, not yet dead, to kill the object of his affections. Both have been betrayed by their emotions, but her film trumps his after their death.
The second pair—Raine, the smooth-talking Southern "good old boy" who leads the Jewish soldiers hunting Germans, and Landa, the aristocratic SS officer in charge of hunting down Jews—are modelled on stock Hollywood and European film characters. (Again, this is a movie about film culture as national psychology—it's not for nothing that the planner of the Basterds' operation turns out to be a former film critic, an expert on German films and thus presumably the German mind.) Landa, too, pursues his counterpart. But when he captures Raine he reveals an unrequited longing for the American's admiration, while Raine also has clarity of purpose and like Shosanna unexpectedly prevails. Both men are sadists, but there is a difference: Raines coldly adopts sadism to achieve pragmatic goals but the emotionally complicated Landa needs to be sadistic.
Landa betrays his country and allows the Basterds to succeed, not because of any moral qualms about the Nazi cause but out of pragmatic considerations. Raine, after accepting Landa's surrender, takes it upon himself to ensure the German's life-long humiliation. He exacts the same revenge on this Nazi officer as he did on a young conscript early on, after the boy gave up military secrets so he could go home to his mother, carving a swastika deep into the German's forehead as a mark of shame and defeat. You can't help thinking that if only Landa had not hesitated to fire that shot at Shosanna when she was a little girl—maybe because he wanted to think of himself as a cultivated human being and not an animal, or out of some other weakness—he wouldn't have ended up this way.
What is the point of this? That good people should do vicious things to achieve good ends, and that bad people may be vicious but their emotions keep them unfocused and weak and they can be out-terrorized. This view does not correspond to the world as it really is, and it is morally wrong if looked at from the point of view of the fate of humanity.
First of all, how do you know who the "good guys" are? Why are we supposed to be disgusted by the sight of ugly Nazi leaders laughing at Goebbels' film of Private Zoller picking off American solders, while we're supposed to laugh at Tarantino's film when handsome Americans carve up Germans? Tarantino is doubtlessly aware of the irony—he is a specialist at getting the audience to wince at cruelty and giggle with uneasy pleasure at the same time. But still there is a self-aware, cynical logic. The implicit argument is that you can tell who the good guys are because they are "us."
His film is resolutely American nationalist. Even the defiant misspelling of "Basterds" (and "inglourious") in the film's title is a self-consciously Americanist and populist affectation.
Not only are the Basterds led by a "real American" non-Jew (maybe with the same thinking that makes Hollywood argue that white audiences can't identify with an all-Black cast of characters), but he is the quintessentially American movie hero. In contrast to the overly-articulate and overly-well mannered Landa, who knows his Champagne, Raine is a "regular guy" and "man's man" who has been kicked around in life. His weapon of choice is a Bowie knife, named after a legendary slave trader and killer of Indians and Mexicans. (Nicknaming him "Aldo the Apache" is a typical Tarantino touch, evoking the Indians while siding with those who exterminated them.) Here the director is playing around with film history, since Aldo Raine is such a well-drawn old Hollywood cliché (part Humphrey Bogart, who starred opposite Claude Raines in the 1942 Casablanca, part 1950s and '60s WW2movie tough guy specialist Aldo Ray).
But while Shosanna is the most sympathetic and heroic character—the film's real hero, Tarantino says in interviews—he lets his fans know that he wants them to identify him with Raine. Why else would he choose to make this character an anti-racist Tennessean with a partly Italian name and partly Indian background just like himself? The filmmaker calls Inglourious Basterds his masterpiece, by no coincidence the same word used to describe Raine's last artistic carving of a swastika. This is not just a fantasy movie; it is a simultaneously cynically sophisticated and deliberately crude display of a moral attitude.
As for the alleged moral clarity of that "good war", World War 2, that Tarantino's film hankers after, in terms of what the war was about and how it was fought, neither the U.S. nor Germany were the "good guys".
The key to the defeat of Nazi Germany was the socialist USSR, whose conduct in the war was determined overall (if far from consistently enough) by its character and goals. It fought not out of imperialist rivalry but to save socialism and liberate mankind from imperialism. The ending act of the war, the U.S. atomic holocaust bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, demonstrated that the Allies and the Axis powers fought the war by the same kinds of methods because they fought for the same kinds of ends. The world that emerged from World War 2, with American domination of much of the third world and subordination of the other imperialist powers, was the world the U.S., like Germany, was fighting for all along.
Following American official history in general, Tarantino tries to appropriate the Nazi genocide against the Jews to make his Basterds look good. For the purposes of this review, it is enough to point out that while the death camps were central to the Nazi political project and ideology, the Allies went along with them. They kept secret their knowledge of what was happening to the Jews and refused to take any action to save them—for example, by bombing the rail lines carrying Europe's Jews to their deaths. Most of the Jews who survived in continental Europe either lived in the USSR or managed to make it to Soviet lines.
Tarantino's biggest fantasy is the idea that you could out-terrorize the Nazis or any other reactionaries. The German occupiers in France and elsewhere often employed a very effective method: when the resistance killed one of their soldiers, they would kill ten or a hundred prisoners or civilians chosen at random to demonstrate who had the most power and who could best terrorize the other side and the people. Further, it's ridiculous to think that knives and clubs could add much to the terror already felt by soldiers at the front.
In fact, Tarantino's idea is not original. The U.S. and UK practiced terrorism on a massive scale by carrying out incendiary bombing raids that turned Dresden and other German cities into infernos. But the massacres of hundreds of thousands of civilians did not necessarily have the desired effect, any more than the Basterds' bats. Instead, it may have reinforced German nationalism. The German armed forces tried to do the same in England, with the same effect on the British population.
Contrast Inglourious Basterds with the example of the armed resistance against the Nazi occupation in real-world Paris, portrayed in The Army of Crime, a recent French film directed by Robert Guediguian travelling on the international film festival circuit and now playing in the UK (a DVD is to be released in early 2010). It is the dramatized but basically historically accurate story of the members of a revolutionary immigrant workers' organisation and others who were pulled together by the Communist Party to wage war against the Nazi occupation. Some were veterans of the Communist-led International Brigades in Spain; many were teenagers. About half of the 22 men and one woman eventually caught and executed were Jewish refuges from Eastern Europe. Three were French. The larger group (about a hundred) also included several German army deserters. The group carried out leafleting and other forms of agitation and propaganda to win over as broad a section of the French population as possible to resist and fight alongside them and the socialist Soviet Union for the liberation of humanity as they conceived it. They also combined fighting the German army with appeals to ordinary German soldiers to come over to their side. Their guerrilla army concentrated on military targets, assassinating high-ranking officers and sabotaging trains carrying war supplies, and avoided killing civilians, even civilian women who consorted with the occupiers.
This handful of resisters were only a few more in number than Tarantino's Basterds, and they didn't enjoy the support of the American or any other army in France. But they inflicted much material and political damage on the occupation in the spring, summer and winter of 1943. (The film makes it clear that the French police and administrators who finally tracked them down were the same kinds of forces, the same state organizations and some of the same people who carried out these functions after the war.) One of the filmmaker's main points is how these fighters struggled to fight an effective war while not becoming the same kind of inhuman monsters they were up against.
The real-life group of Jews and others did inspire some panic in Berlin. The tide of war had begun to turn against Germany with its defeat at the hands of the Red Army in Stalingrad. Not only were the Paris guerrillas hurting the Nazi war effort, but the French population had begun to lose its fear of the occupation and the French state. Many could be won over and organized to fight—which is what happened on a growing scale after the dismantling of the "army of crime", as the Nazis tried to label these "terrorists"—a word that does apply to Tarantino's Basterds, and not the Paris revolutionary fighters. While fighting from clandestinity, the resistance shook up the reactionary authorities by using their armed actions and agitation and propaganda to place the need to wage a liberating war squarely in the minds and laps of the people. Even after they were executed, the authorities felt compelled to launch a massive anti-foreigner and anti-Semitic propaganda campaign against their memory—which only made their example more powerful.
They were not bastards, and they were glorious. There was a consistency between their aims and the means they used to attain them.
Ends and means can't be separated. Communist morality is based on the goal of communism, the liberation of humanity from all forms of oppression and exploitation, which means that revolutionaries fight wars in very different ways than reactionaries because they seek very different ends. This, contrary to Tarantino, is a strength, not a weakness.
One thing that has made Tarantino so popular ever since Reservoir Dogs is that this films feature characters many people want to identify with. The filmmaker and fans attracted by Tarantino's sympathies for the underdog should take warning from the Basterds who his heroes become.
As the American Jewish author Daniel Mandelsohn wrote, "In Inglourious Basterds, Tarantino indulges this taste for vengeful violence by—well, by turning Jews into Nazis. In history, Jews were repeatedly herded into buildings and burned alive... in Inglourious Basterds, it's the Jews who orchestrate this horror. In history, the Nazis and their local collaborators made sport of human suffering; here, it's the Jews who take whacks at Nazi skulls with baseball bats, complete with mock sports-announcer commentary, turning murder into a parodic 'game'. And in history, Nazis carved Stars of David into the chests of rabbis before killing them; here, the 'basterds' carve swastikas into the foreheads of those victims whom they leave alive.
"Tarantino, the master of the obsessively paced revenge flick, invites his audiences to applaud this odd inversion—to take, as his films often invite them to take, a deep, emotional satisfaction in turning the tables on the bad guys... Do you really want audiences cheering for a revenge that turns Jews into carbon copies of Nazis, that makes Jews into sickening perpetrators? I'm not so sure." (Newsweek, 16 October 2009)
Tarantino greeted the audience at his film's Tel Aviv premier by shouting, "Are you ready to kill some Nazis?" The showing was followed by a ten-minute standing ovation. It would defeat the larger purposes of our analysis to label his film Zionist propaganda—the film would be disgusting even if Israel didn't exist—but the fact that, deliberately or not, this film has served that end should tell us something. It's not far-fetched to say that the Zionist state is a real-life fulfilment of Tarantino's fantasy, guided by a similar moral and ideological stance. Israel justifies oppression, brutality and ethnic cleansing against the Palestinians by arguing that the only sensible point of view for anyone from a Jewish background is to ask, "What's good for the Jews" (or "my people" or "me"), with a good dose of revenge thrown in. Israel isn't Nazi Germany, but morally it's not different enough: it preaches that a people can overcome their real or perceived status as victims by becoming victimizers. The underdog dreams of revenge and becomes, to echo Nazi terminology, the über-dog, the master race, the top dog in a dog-eat-dog world. That is the viewpoint of Inglourious Basterds.
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.