Voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party,USA
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Revolution #197, April 4, 2010
Like a shadow play, where the movement of puppets is amplified onto a much bigger screen, the clash over healthcare reveals, and represents, profound and volatile social divides—both in the halls of power and in society as a whole. And it reveals the potential for conflicts at the top and bottom of society to spin out of control, and create unexpected openings for something really radical to burst through.
* * *
When thousands of "Tea Party" protesters descended on the Capitol to protest health care reform, they called Representative John Lewis (an African-American and veteran of the Civil Rights movement) a "nigger." They called Representative Barney Frank (who is openly gay) a "faggot." They spit on Representative James Clyburn, who told reporters, "I heard people saying things that I have not heard since March 15, 1960 when I was marching to try and get off the back of the bus."
The Republican National Committee put out a fund-raising appeal that included a picture of Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, surrounded by flames. The committee's chairman declared it was time to put her on "the firing line."
Sarah Palin sent out a tweet: "Don't Retreat, Instead - RELOAD!" And she circulated a map showing the districts represented by Democratic congressmen who voted for the bill, with rifle-scope cross-hairs marking their districts.
Democrats who voted for the bill began receiving death threats. One was told snipers would kill the children of lawmakers who voted yes. Several Democrats had their district offices vandalized, and a gas line was cut at a home that tea partiers announced as being the home of Rep. Tom Perriello.
At a "Tea Party" rally at the capital, Republican Representative Steve King of Iowa shouted, "If I could start a country with a bunch of people, they'd be the folks who were standing with us the last few days. Let's hope we don't have to do that! Let's beat that other side to a pulp! Let's take them out. Let's chase them down. There's going to be a reckoning!"
Speaking of King's rant, a columnist in The Des Moines Register wrote: "Where have we heard that sentiment before? The cry for secession, the call to violence, the reference to chasing 'them' down. The only thing King didn't mention to complete the link to the Civil War was race. But others in the movement he champions have been less restrained, even spitting on and used the N word on African-American members of Congress."
It is significant that a mainstream commentator invoked real parallels to the buildup to the first U.S. Civil War. These parallels have serious implications for those who desire real change to correctly understand, and act with appropriate urgency and focus.
All this over a healthcare reform bill that promises so little (see sidebar, "What's In the Healthcare Reform Bill?") The question is: What is really behind all this?
What's In the Healthcare Reform Bill?
When Barack Obama ran for president, he declared that health care "should be a right for every American." A modest proposal one might think—something that other advanced capitalist countries like Canada, most of Europe and Japan promise.
The reforms will make it possible for parents, starting three months from now, to buy insurance for children and themselves with "pre-existing conditions" through subsidization of a high-risk insurance program, and then will kick in further in four years. As filmmaker Michael Moore put it, "you can rack up another, you know, probably 20,000 to 40,000 deaths in the meantime from people who otherwise would have received help had we truly gotten rid of the pre-existing condition thing for all citizens." Eventually, the bill would extend medical insurance to 32 million currently uninsured Americans over 10 years, through requiring nearly everyone to purchase insurance through private exchanges.
But the overall situation for health care in the U.S. will remain a horror. There are no restrictions on insurance companies raising prices. Half of all personal bankruptcies will still be caused by an inability to pay astronomical medical bills.
Underneath the eruption of fury over the passage of the healthcare reform bill are two opposing and clashing conceptions within the ruling class of this country over how to maintain the "social contract" in the United States.
That "social contract" requires that a significant enough section of people are convinced the government represents their interests, that society is relatively cohered and stable, and at least broad sections of the "middle class" accept the legitimacy of this capitalist system. And it requires that the use of force by the powers-that-be (and only the powers-that-be) is seen as legitimate. Foundational to the system maintaining power is the repressive apparatus that today locks down millions in prisons, enforces police-state conditions in the inner cities, and spies on and represses dissent and dissenters.
The social fabric that once held America together is coming unglued. Since the collapse of the former Soviet Union in 1991, and the U.S. becoming the sole superpower in the world, radical changes have taken place both in the world and in the U.S. economy. These include the disappearance (or moving) of millions of relatively high paying manufacturing jobs that provided "the American way of life" for significant sections of people. And the current economic crisis is greatly intensifying this. In several states, unemployment levels are approaching those during the Great Depression of the 1930s. This is further contributing to a widespread feeling of instability and insecurity.
And the economic crisis has had a much worse impact on Black and Latino people. Today, for example, the median wealth for single white women today in the U.S. is $41,000 (half of all single white women have more wealth than $41,000, and half have less). By contrast, the median wealth for single Latina women is $120, and the median wealth for single African-American women is $100.
And there have been other big social changes. The position of women in the workforce has changed radically over the past decades. Attitudes towards lesbians and gays have changed. There have been big demographic changes in the makeup of society; soon, half of all children born in the U.S. will be non-white.
These changes are taking place in a society where real, if limited, advances were made by Black people and other oppressed nationalities through the civil rights and Black liberation movements. These and other concessions made by the system during and in the wake of the 1960s—like affirmative action, changes in what is taught in schools, and the right to abortion—are under siege. In many cases, these concessions have been brutally truncated. But these changes have all been destabilizing factors ungluing the traditional white supremacist and male supremacist social cohesion in America.
Along with these domestic challenges, the U.S. occupation of Iraq and war in Afghanistan have created serious problems for the U.S. empire. Bush and company thought they could relatively easily bludgeon the Middle East into complete subjugation. But the U.S. has been bogged down in Iraq for over seven years. And the U.S. is deeply mired in Afghanistan. These difficulties have created openings for rival powers and allies to maneuver and look for openings to expand their influence and role at the expense of the U.S.
The extreme nature of the situation is reflected in, and revealed by the extreme remaking of U.S. society called for by the section of the ruling class identified with the Republican Party.
To them, church and the family—and traditional fundamentalist Christian religion and draconian, repressive family values—must assume a radically greater role in the functioning of society. God, guns (in the hands of racists, anti-immigrant vigilantes, and fascists), and religion are asserted with a vengeance.
In many ways, at the heart of this agenda is the kind of virulent racism that was openly unleashed against Black congressmen, and the kind of vicious enforcement of traditional gender roles that made the only openly gay congressman the target of particular venom.
As a critical component of this reactionary re-cohering of America, these forces demand an assertion of virulent dog-eat-dog, look-out-for-#1-individualism, as they rail against "big government." At her website Sarah Palin proclaims: "Protecting good health is largely a matter of personal responsibility." (Think about the cruel and insane implications of that statement in a world of toxic workplaces, global epidemics, looming planetary environmental disaster on the one hand, and on the other hand tremendous resources that could be mobilized to cure disease and improve people's health.)
When students across California protested draconian cuts in public education, reactionary talk show host Glenn Beck declared that "[E]ducation is not a right. The Constitution doesn't mention that one. Let me clarify: The United States Constitution doesn't mention that one. But there are some constitutions that do mention it, like the Soviet Constitution. Let me help 'save education': Rights do not come from government, they come from God."
A key element in all this is the insinuation of Christian fascists and reactionary politics into the functioning of the U.S. military—which has historically "stood above" particular disputes within the ruling class. In February of 2009, an episode of Glenn Beck's show on Fox "News" called " War Room: 'Bubba Effect'—Martial Law, Looting, Hyperinflation, Depression, Chaos, America Implodes," posed a scenario of an armed fascist uprising to "take back America," and restore its white, Christian roots... and its destiny... as divined by God. A major part of this scenario was projecting that this fascist uprising would be supported, not opposed by the U.S. military (search for "Glenn Beck" and "Bubba Effect" at YouTube).
For many years, these forces have been forging organization in the U.S. military through networks of Christian fundamentalist evangelicals, and movements which recruit active-duty soldiers, police, and veterans to disobey any orders they deem illegal or against the Constitution (as it has been radically re-interpreted by the Christian Fascists).
Nobody should underestimate how much the agenda that dominates the Republican Party requires the tearing up of ideas, structures, and values that have overall kept "America together" since its founding. The Republicans are for tearing up and rewriting the social contract forged by the founders of the United States in the U.S. Constitution—and in particular, the concept of the U.S. as a secular nation.
The Democrats are convinced that this agenda—for a Christian fundamentalist theocracy based on extreme individualism and brutal repression—is not a viable way to maintain the U.S. as the world's dominant superpower. Nor do they see this as a viable way to re-cohere domestic social stability of the U.S.
While disagreements over foreign policy are not surfacing sharply at this moment, there are significant, and potentially explosive differences between these factions of the ruling class over how (but not whether) to deploy the U.S. military to enforce the interests of the U.S. empire.
There is a major economic crisis. And there is a widespread sense of insecurity and disorientation in society. The Democrats insist that in order to maintain this country, there needs to be a secular government, and a baseline sense of economic security and basic social services. Reportedly, there was a tense meeting between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi—who played a key role in pushing the healthcare reform bill through Congress—and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel (who apparently was counseling Obama to back down on healthcare reform). Right before this, Pelosi issued a statement that "We can't say to [the American people], at the end of the day, well, we had an idea, we had a vision, we had a majority, but the process did not allow us to make a change for your lives." Pelosi was essentially saying—in a message that appeared to be directed at the White House and other leading Democrats—that their credibility, and the legitimacy of the system, was at stake.1
But for the Democrats, maintaining a minimal social safety net is narrowly defined. It includes public school systems and some government role in health insurance, but not addressing the profound inequalities in this system. Social justice is "not on the agenda."
One sharp illustration of the terms of what today stands as the liberal ruling class agenda is the message conveyed in a series of meetings held at the White House with—among others—Rev. Al Sharpton. In an article about Sharpton's role, the Wall Street Journal summarized: "Mr. Obama has resisted calls to target an economic agenda to African-Americans, saying programs that help the economy generally will 'lift all boats.'" Such "lift all boats" formulations—that oppose acknowledging or addressing the history and reality of discrimination against Black people, Latinos, Native Americans and others—have traditionally been the watchwords of Republicans and the "right." Sharpton's role as point man for the White House in this is particularly outrageous.
There are, in short, two sharply and bitterly clashing agendas within the ruling class that exploded with the passage of healthcare reform, and the Tea Party rebellion.
The emerging contours of seismic social conflict are not good for the people, to say the least. Theocratic fascistic forces are mobilizing their base of racists, fascists, and religious lunatics with the incendiary rhetoric that erupted into physical attacks in the aftermath of the healthcare bill. Arrayed against them, in the current alignment of forces, the Democrats are determined to forge a "lean, mean" state that administers minimal social services. Both visions are horrors that the masses have no interest in.
A powerful element in this whole equation is the subjugation of Black people, and their ongoing resistance. The Republicans demand the overt assertion of ugly white-American supremacy. The Democrats promote diversity at the top—bringing forward Black and brown faces in high places—while maintaining structural white supremacy in every realm of society from jobs to housing, to education to culture. And doing this while blaming oppressed people for their own oppression. And the Democrats' agenda maintains the unconscionable, illegal, and unconstitutional warehousing of hundreds of thousands of Black and Latino youth in prisons.
Even with the integration of some African-Americans into the middle class, and a few into powerful positions in the ruling class (including, now, the White House), conditions of Black people—especially those "on the bottom" of society in the inner cities, remain desperate. This is an intense contradiction for those who rule this country, that poses the potential to erupt out of the framework in which the ruling class can contain it. That is something that has the potential to contribute to a revolution. And that potential is also recognized by those who pull the strings of the Tea Party fascists, who see this potential as a profound threat to their whole agenda.
The vast majority of people in this country have no interest in maintaining this oppressive system. People do, however, have an interest in defending people's rights, and opposing the unbridled racism and imposition of oppressive values that the Tea Party types are spearheading.
Doing this will be complex and challenging. Bob Avakian, the leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party, has gone deeply into those challenges. He recently emphasized: "There may be a need, and in fact almost certainly will be a need, for conscious revolutionary forces to take the lead in opposing certain fascist initiatives which take form, to a significant degree at least, as attacks on bourgeois-democratic rights and norms and, in certain cases perhaps, even some figures identified with bourgeois democracy and liberalism; but, let me underline, this must be done not by way of promoting and defending bourgeois democracy and bourgeois-democratic political leaders, but instead radically recasting this and directing it against the whole system of bourgeois rule, that is bourgeois dictatorship (which is what is actually embodied in the dominant political structures in this country) and the capitalist-imperialist system this enforces." ("UNRESOLVED CONTRADICTIONS, DRIVING FORCES FOR REVOLUTION," available at revcom.us)
Nothing in the world develops in a straight line, and a conflict which starts with one set of terms, and "alternatives," could be ruptured into a different kind of conflict with a different, revolutionary outcome. As conflict between rival sections of the ruling class intensifies, and even breaks out into open clashes, the legitimacy of the entire old order could be called into question.
When two sections of the ruling class are at each other's throats, as the social norms that people have accommodated themselves to are torn up, as the whole way society is organized is thrown up for grabs...people will try (and exhaust) all kinds of roads and programs. But in the midst of that, a real revolutionary alternative can come to the fore. This could be possible if—going into such a situation—millions knew about the revolutionaries and their program. It could be possible if—going into such a crisis—millions were aware of revolutionary leadership. And it could be possible if there was a revolutionary core around which people could rally. Under those circumstances, a whole new revolutionary state power could be wrenched out of the situation.
Any resolution of the current situation will involve great dislocation, suffering, and sacrifice. The question is, will all that simply lead to a reconfiguration of the existing system of exploitation and oppression? Or, can a revolutionary solution be wrenched out of that?
1. Other commentators have focused on remarks by Barack Obama along the lines of saying healthcare reform should be passed, popular or not, because it is the right thing to do. But those comments were made for public consumption, after Pelosi's position was established and it appeared likely that the bill would pass. Pelosi's comments, on the other hand, were more candidly speaking to her fellow Democratic Party leaders. [back]
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Revolution #197, April 4, 2010
On the evening of February 12, some 25 friends and relatives gathered at the home of Hajji Sharaf Udin in the village of Khataba, a few miles outside Gardez, the capital of Paktia province in eastern Afghanistan.
They were there to celebrate the naming of Udin's newborn grandson. "Sitting together along the walls of a guest room, the men had taken turns dancing while musicians played," The Times (UK) later reported. Before sunrise five innocent Afghan civilians, all relatives, would be murdered.
Around 3:00 am, one of the musicians went outside the compound to use the toilet. Someone shined a light in his eyes. He ran inside and yelled that the Taliban were outside. While most of the guests slept, Udin's son, Mohammed Dawood, a police commander, went out to investigate with his 15-year-old son Sediqullah. Perhaps under fire, no doubt in terror, father and son ran back across the courtyard. Both were shot by a gunman on the roof. The Times (UK) reported (March 13) Dawood was killed instantly. His son was hit twice but lived.
Some in the compound realized that the attackers were not Taliban—but American Special Operations forces and Afghan police special forces, looking for 'suspected Taliban.' Udin's second son, Saranwal Zahir, a prosecutor, came to the door because he spoke some English. "Zahir shouted, 'don't fire, we work for the Government,'" Commander Dawood's mother said, "But while he was talking they fired again. I saw him fall down."
Three women were crouching behind Zahir in the doorway. Bibi Shirin, 22, the mother of four children under five; Bibi Saleha, 37, the mother of 11 children; and Gulalai, 18. Both mothers were pregnant. All three were gunned down by the volley that killed Zahir.
Two of the women died instantly. Gulalai, who was engaged to be married, was wounded and died later. "'We had already bought everything for the wedding,' her soon-to-be father-in-law, Sayed Mohammed Mal, the Vice-Chancellor of Gardez University, said."
All the survivors interviewed by The New York Times insisted that Americans had conducted the raid and the killings and that they were not in uniform.
As if this weren't horror enough, the U.S. forces—who claim to be fundamentally different than the Taliban and fighting for the interests of the Afghan people—ignored the survivors' protests that they weren't Taliban.
Instead, according to an unpublished UN report obtained by The Times (UK), U.S. and Afghan government forces inflicted "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment" on them. Guests and injured relatives were "assaulted by US and Afghan forces, restrained and forced to stand barefeet for several hours outside in the cold." One of the guests, a 22-year-old ambulance driver, said "he was dragged across the compound by his hair. 'The Afghans said put up your hands. I stood up and I don't know who was behind me. I was kicked from behind and fell over.'"
The survivors also said that "US and Afghan forces refused to provide adequate and timely medical support to two people [Dawood and his niece Gulalai] who sustained bullet injuries, resulting in their deaths hours later," according to the UN. They insisted both might have survived if they'd been taken to a hospital sooner.
Afterward eight survivors were arrested and flown to a U.S.-Afghan base, then held for four days and interrogated. All were released without charges.
Barack Obama and the U.S. military claim that they're implementing a new strategy. A strategy that's about helping the Afghan people; about bring them aid and assistance; about winning over the people and doing everything in their power—including changing their military tactics—to avoid civilian casualties.
If this were true, the U.S. military would have been horrified by the events in Gardez. It would have immediately admitted responsibility and launched a full investigation.
It has done none of these things. Instead, NATO attempted to cover up the massacre. On February 12 it issued a statement titled "Joint Force Operating in Gardez Makes Gruesome Discovery."
An Afghan-international security force found the bound and gagged bodies of three women during an operation in the Gardez district, Paktiya Province last night.
The joint force went to a compound near the village of Khatabeh, after intelligence confirmed militant activity. Several insurgents engaged the joint force in a fire fight and were killed. Subsequently, a large number of men, women, and children exited the compound, and were detained by the joint force. When the joint force entered the compound they conducted a thorough search of the area, and found the bodies of three women who had been tied up, gagged and killed. The bodies had been hidden in an adjacent room.
The joint force immediately secured the area and requested expert medical support and will conduct a joint forensic investigation. Eight men were detained for further questioning.
Every part of this statement is a lie. There was no firefight. The victims didn't throw even a stone. The women were not tied up, gagged, hidden or found dead. U.S. forces refused to give the wounded medical treatment. And there has been no investigation or accounting.
The truth about this made-in-the-USA massacre only came out because the people of Gardez refused to be silent, (their "protests brought Gardez, the capital of Paktia, to a halt," The Times (UK) reports) and because a prominent international newspaper reported their story.
Yet even after The Times (UK) exposure, U.S. and NATO officials continue to lie and stonewall a month after the massacre. Rear Admiral Greg Smith, NATO's spokesperson in Kabul, told the Times there had been no cover-up, claiming that the men U.S. forces shot were armed and showing "hostile intent," and that NATO's February 12 statement had been "poorly worded," but the women appeared to have been dead for hours "to people who see a lot of dead bodies." As late as March 14, NATO officials continued to claim that the women's deaths were the result of an "honor" killing.
Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, has recently made a public show of apologizing for civilian casualties and promising to end them. The military is now supposedly imposing tighter controls on night raids, Special Operation forces, and private military contractors.
Yet night raids, special operations, covert assassinations, extrajudicial killings, drone strikes, the use of military contractors, massive detentions and torture, and all-around terror are embedded in the nature of this imperialist occupation. This occupation's central goal is subduing—by any means necessary—a population in which most don't want to be under foreign domination and many have learned through eight-plus bitter years of war and occupation to distrust if not hate the American occupiers and the flunkies they've empowered in Kabul. The goal driving this is furthering U.S. imperialist interests in Afghanistan and the region, not liberating the Afghan people. In both Afghanistan and Pakistan violence, troop levels, and the numbers of military contractors have all greatly escalated under Obama, even as the Pentagon may be trying to limit what it considers certain counter-productive excesses.
The Gardez massacre and the U.S. military's response shines a light on these horrors, which have been deliberately hidden by the U.S. power structure—from the President, to the Pentagon, to the media.
Consider the following. The team that massacred the Udin family near Gardez was based at Baghram Air Base, home to a massive prison, interrogation and torture operation. Its action took place after a January 23 order supposedly limiting night raids.
The Washington Post ("When the CIA's intelligence-gathering isn't enough," March 18, 2010) reports that private military contractors who have been accused of targeting people for assassination by the military are operating in Paktia province. Might they be tied to this massacre?
Even NATO's efforts to cover up the Gardez massacre indicate how U.S. forces operate normally. NATO's spokesperson, in explaining U.S. actions, admitted that the victims "were not the targets of this particular raid," but still justified their murder saying, "I don't know if they fired any rounds.... If you have got an individual stepping out of a compound, and if your assault force is there, that is often the trigger to neutralise the individual. You don't have to be fired upon to fire back." Think about this statement. What's being said, in essence, is that it's standard operating procedure to kill any Afghans who could possibly be hostile, suspicious, or uncooperative—whether they're the right "targets" or not—even if they're in their own homes and simply stepping out to see who is threatening them.
And consider the fact that, according to The Times (UK), "A US official in Kabul refused to identify the force involved, citing 'utmost national and strategic security interests.'" Why is it in NATO's "utmost national and strategic security interests" to cover up this operation? Because these kinds of operations are a core part of the entire U.S.-NATO military strategy and occupation. In fact, while much is being made of preventing U.S.-military controlled private contractors from carrying out assassinations, The Times (UK) notes a way the Pentagon may get around new restrictions: "The United Nations has criticised intelligence agencies in Afghanistan in the past for using paramilitary groups to carry out 'extrajudicial killings.' If the force was controlled by the CIA or Afghanistan's domestic intelligence service it would be exempt from new Nato guidelines designed to limit night raids, which came into force on January 23."
Finally, the U.S. press, acting as cheerleaders for the war, have barely covered the story, which The Times (UK) broke on March 13. Since then the Washington Post hasn't reported on it at all, and the New York Times didn't cover it until March 16, when rather than focusing on the massacre, included a few paragraphs on it the middle of a long article titled "U.S. Is Reining In Special Forces in Afghanistan."
The Gardez massacre is also a brutal illustration of the reactionary character of the U.S. occupation The U.S. has offered $2,000 "compensation" to the family for each victim.
"Before, when I heard reports of raids like this and elders said [foreign troops] only came to colonise Afghanistan, I told them they are here to help us," said Sayed Mohammed Mal, the vice-chancellor of Gardez University, whose son Mansoor was Gulalai's [one of those murdered] fiancé. "But when I witnessed this in my family's home, I realised I was wrong. Now I accept the things those people told me. I hate [foreign forces]. I hate the Government."
"My father was friends with the Americans and they killed him," said Commander Dawood's son. "They killed my father. I want to kill them. I want the killers brought to justice."
"The foreigners are always talking about human rights. But they don't care about human rights," said Gulalai's father, Mohammed Tahir. "They teach us human rights then they kill a load of civilians. They didn't come here to end terrorism. They are terrorists."
If you pretend there's no war going on, if you say, "give Obama a chance" or "he's doing his best to wind down the war," or if you refuse to actively protest this war, you need to face the fact that you're actually telling the people of Afghanistan that slaughters like these don't bother you enough to really do much of anything about them—or worse, that they're OK with you.
The Times (UK): "Nato 'covered up' botched night raid in Afghanistan that killed five," March 13; 2010; "Survivors of family killed in Afghanistan raid threaten suicide attacks," March 15, 2010; "UN report criticises covert troops who committed Afghan killings," March 16; 2010
New York Times: "U.S. Is Reining In Special Forces in Afghanistan," March 16, 2010
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Revolution #197, April 4, 2010
EDITED TRANSCRIPT OF A TALK BY BOB AVAKIAN, CHAIRMAN OF THE REVOLUTIONARY COMMUNIST PARTY, USA, FALL 2009
[Editors' note: The following is the last 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 thirteen excerpts appeared in Revolution #184-196. The entire talk can be found online at revcom.us/avakian/driving.]
In this context I want to say something briefly about the important role of our comrades in the Communist Party of Iran (Marxist-Leninist-Maoist) around the woman question. These comrades have made a very important contribution in their insistence that the communist movement overall must focus much more attention on this question, as one of decisive importance for the radical transformation of society and the world as a whole; in their recognition of the even greater role that the struggle against the oppression of women—and, as our slogan says, unleashing the fury of women as a mighty force for revolution—can and must play in the next, new stage of communist revolution; and in calling for a scientific materialist, as opposed to a sociological or a cultural, approach to this question, while emphasizing the need to learn from, and to synthesize from a scientific communist standpoint, the work of others and in particular feminist scholars on this question. All these are important contributions of our Iranian comrades.
In carrying out further work on this crucial question, it will be important to consistently ground this work in the scientific outlook and method of dialectical and historical materialism. There is a need to guard against tendencies toward mechanical materialism and, specifically, toward attempting to situate the essential basis for women's oppression in, or even to reduce it to, the fact that throughout human history it has been women who have borne children and that women have had to take the main responsibility for the nurturing of children in their early years. Along with this, it is necessary to guard against ahistorical tendencies that fail to give the necessary attention to the specific forms which the oppression of women takes in the context of different modes of production and the property relations, as well as the ideas, customs, etc., that correspond to a particular mode of production.
In order to more fully chart the path of the emancipation of women, as a pivotal part of the emancipation of humanity as a whole, while recognizing the role of women's biology—specifically in giving birth to children and in their early care, particularly in conditions where prolonged nursing remains a necessity—it is also important to recognize that it is not this biology itself which is the fundamental source of women's oppression. Rather, it is the way in which this biology has figured into—or, better said, has been encompassed and subordinated within—definite production relations (and the corresponding social relations). These relations are historically evolved and have, in different societies and different epochs since the emergence of class society, differed with regard to the specific forms and the specific ways in which they embody class division, exploitation and oppression, even as they have in common that they all are, in one form or another, an embodiment and a fountainhead of exploitative and oppressive relations.
This understanding and approach is critical in order to be able to fully develop the conception, the strategic orientation, and the policies and actions flowing from this, which can lead, in fact, to the emancipation of women and of humanity overall in the most fundamental and thorough sense.
In this regard, it is also important not to underestimate the importance of the Declaration by our party: For Women's Liberation and the Emancipation of All Humanity. This Declaration begins with, and throughout brings forward, searing exposure of the oppression of women in many different forms, in all parts of the world, including the so-called "advanced" capitalist countries. It also contains important analysis of how and why the capitalist-imperialist system does not, and cannot, eliminate the oppression of women, including as this is embodied in traditional gender roles, but on the contrary this system perpetuates and enforces such oppressive relations, in both "modern" and "medieval" forms, in both the capitalist-imperialist countries themselves, most definitely including the U.S., and in the Third World countries it dominates and exploits; and it drives home that only through revolution and the advance to communism throughout the world, and the decisive role of the struggle for the liberation of women in that revolution, can the oppression of women be ended together with all forms of exploitative and oppressive social relations.
Still, this Declaration is precisely that—a declaration, a very crucial statement of basic principles and orientation, situated in both the current conditions in the world and in the strategic framework of communist revolution. It is not intended to itself make, but to help inspire, the further deeper analysis and synthesis with regard to this question which is necessary in order to have a still more powerful foundation for carrying forward the struggle for the liberation of women—from all tradition's chains, from all the horrific forms of their oppression, not only throughout history, but in the present world—as a crucial part of achieving the emancipation of humanity as a whole.
And here I want to (so to speak) step back to "Steps and Leaps" (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). This is an important—and, I believe, still too much overlooked—work. The following concise statement in "Steps and Leaps" provides some rather jolting historical perspective with regard to the development of a scientific understanding of the origins of the oppression of women: "It is sobering to recall that the material origins of the subordinate social status of half the human species throughout recorded history was not posed as a question, nor certainly deemed worthy of serious investigation, until the middle of the nineteenth century." And Skybreak goes on to point out that Marx and Engels:
cut through the societal prejudice of their time to insist that the subordinate position of women had nothing to do with either some innate deficiencies of female nature or any divine decrees (or "natural features") sanctifying this order of things. They maintained, instead, that the oppression of women was a product and consequence of the social organization of human beings, basically determined in any given society by the particular level of development of the productive forces and the corresponding set of production relations. (The above quotes are from Skybreak, p. 107)
In no way should the profound importance of this initial breakthrough by Marxism, and its continuing significance, be underestimated. At the same time, however, this is, from an historical standpoint, an initial breakthrough—a beginning foundation which must be built on and qualitatively advanced. This, of course, is something which applies to all scientific breakthroughs, and all the more so when they have to do with the crucial, and highly contentious, question of human relations, the character and prospects of human society and the struggle bound up with all this.1
"Steps and Leaps" points to, and makes very important contributions to the analysis of, pivotal developments in relation to this very important contradiction: the initial and essentially unavoidable division of labor between men and women in early human society, owing to biological differences relating to childbirth and the rearing of children in their early years—emphasizing that this division of labor would not have constituted an oppressive relation, at least not in any fully developed and institutionalized sense, but that, on the other hand, it contained seeds of oppressive relations, between men and women in particular, which would then (to continue the metaphor) ripen into oppressive relations with changes in the productive activity of various human societies, the relative weight which different kinds of basic productive activity acquired, and along with that the emergence of the differential accumulation of material surpluses, and corresponding changes in the property and other social relations.
And "Steps and Leaps" points to this truly world historic conclusion: "the biological necessities associated with bearing children are themselves not immutable or necessarily permanent factors, and eventually the further elaboration of human social organization will be such that biological attributes will no longer contribute to channeling or restricting the activities of half the human species." (p. 137)
Along with this, one of the things that stands out very powerfully in "Steps and Leaps" is the way in which it examines all the different attempts—from sociobiology to general theories about human nature, and on and on—to evade, or in any case to come up with an alternative to, a scientific understanding of the fact that stares us in the face: The oppression of women, and all oppressive and exploitative relations, are rooted in actual material conditions that have resulted from the historical development of human society. Toward the end of "Steps and Leaps," this great irony is highlighted: At the very time when the need and possibility of abolishing and moving beyond all this is objectively posing itself more and more forcefully, there is more and more an attempt to turn away from that and to find any other kind of explanation for the state of human social relations and the very real horrors bound up with this—explanations which, whatever the intent, can only lead to the perpetuation of all this.
In acting on this objective basis, in terms of our conscious understanding and ability to take conscious initiative, we have a great deal to build on, but we also have many challenges to meet in going forward and achieving new advances. There is a need for further study and wrangling on the basis of consistently applying a scientific outlook and method, and specifically the scientific outlook and method of dialectical and historical materialism, as it has been developed up to this point, and doing so in a way that will contribute to its further and even qualitative development.
It is important to understand that here, too, it is not a matter of linear development. This is one thing that should be learned from the historical experience I have reviewed here, in stressing the need for further synthesis, including the missed opportunity for synthesis going back decades, as captured in the story about the meeting of the Revolutionary Youth Movement and the very heartfelt statement there—that if you are a man, and you truly want to be radical, you have to learn what it feels like to be a woman—and the overall point about how much of what was being challenged and wrangled with by the women's movement, particularly its more radical currents that came forward through the 1960s and into the 1970s, involved crucial questions which should have been, but were not then, fully welcomed, deeply engaged and correctly assimilated and synthesized through a consistent application of the communist outlook and method. This is what we have to do now. And, in doing so, we have to learn from our mistakes: We can't go back and correct that error of 40 years ago, but we can and must learn from it.
In 1970 Susan Brownmiller wrote that, "We want to be neither oppressor nor oppressed. The women's revolution is the final revolution of them all." (Susan Brownmiller, "Sisterhood Is Powerful: A Member of the Women's Liberation Movement Explains What It's All About," New York Times Magazine, March 15, 1970. Cited in Ariel Levy, Female Chauvinist Pigs, Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture (Free Press, 2005)—a critique of women who promote the degradation of women through pornography and other aspects of "raunch culture.") Now, in reading Brownmiller's In Our Time: Memoir of a Revolution (Dell Publishing, 1999) it is clear that her politics have gone in the direction of reform rather than revolution. Even at the time when she was part of a more radical upsurge and made the above-cited statement, it seems clear that there were significant limitations in how Brownmiller conceived of "revolution," and that she was influenced by contradictory trends, including not only revolutionary but also revisionist ones. But whatever the full picture is with that, it does not negate the important contributions she and others like her made, particularly in the period of the late 1960s and early '70s, nor does it remove from us the responsibility of correctly understanding and synthesizing something very important that's spoken to with the statement that "The women's revolution is the final revolution of them all."
There are two things that are important to emphasize once more in relation to this. First, that the emancipation of women can only be achieved as part of a real and profound revolution—the communist revolution—the most radical revolution in all of human history, aiming for the emancipation of all humanity, the historic leap beyond all forms of oppression and exploitation, through the transformation of all the material and ideological conditions which give rise to and reinforce exploitation and oppression. And, at the same time, a fundamental and decisive component of that revolution, without which that revolution will never achieve its goals, is the struggle for the complete liberation of women.
This takes us back to the very important point from "The End of a Stage—The Beginning of a New Stage" about unresolved contradictions under socialism. What is said there is another way of expressing the understanding that the struggle for the complete emancipation of women will be a crucial part of "the final revolution." In other words, it will be a crucial component in propelling and driving forward not only the revolutionary struggle to overthrow the rule of capitalism-imperialism but to continue the revolution, within the new, socialist society itself, in order to advance on the road toward the final aim of communism. The point is that, among the unresolved contradictions which will remain in socialist society, and which can be a driving force propelling that revolution forward, the continuing ways in which the emancipation of women will need to be fought for and fought through will be one of the most decisive aspects and expressions of that.
It should be clear that what will be involved in this whole process is not a matter of linear development—not a simple straight line continuation of the theory of the communist movement and the experience of socialist society—but will of necessity be a more complex and much richer process, drawing and learning from a much greater variety of experience and of analysis and theorizing, carried out from different perspectives, representing ultimately different class viewpoints—all of which must be encompassed and embraced by, and at the same time synthesized through, the application of the communist outlook and method.
In conclusion on this crucial question, all that has been touched on here underlines the need for further ruptures and leaps—in theory, and in practice guided by that theory—with regard to the liberation of women, as a decisive part of the communist revolution and the achievement of the "4 Alls"2 in the fullest sense. It underscores the need for the method and approach of the New Synthesis to be more fully and systematically applied to this question and for crucial and urgently needed advances to be made on this basis.
Concluding this talk overall, the statement issued by our party, "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have," powerfully presents in a very concentrated way the situation and the challenges we face and the truly historic stakes that are involved. There is the possibility of serious, and perhaps even devastating, setback for our whole movement, historically and internationally, but also the real prospect of decisive breakthroughs to be made. For our party, this is embodied and concentrated to a large extent now in the campaign in which this statement is the leading edge, and in the three objectives of that campaign: To spread revolution throughout society; to make the leader of our party, Bob Avakian, a household name; and to bring forward a core of new forces, grouped around the party and coming into the party, who are firmly convinced of, and dedicated and determined to fight for, this line and this goal of communism and to build a revolutionary movement toward that end.
What is brought into further and sharper focus is the great challenge of building the movement for revolution overall with a continually growing solid core of emancipators of humanity in the fullest sense, toward the time when a revolutionary situation is developed, a revolutionary crisis ripened and a revolutionary people in the millions and millions has been brought into being and, as the statement emphasizes, it will be possible to go all out for the seizure of power and to do so on the foundation of a firm scientifically based understanding of what the nature and goals of that revolution and revolutionary power are, and the largest vision of the final aim: the emancipation of all humanity from thousands of years of tradition's chains, the abolition of all relations of exploitation and oppression, and the thorough uprooting of the soil that gives rise to such relations throughout the world—the beginning of a radically new era in human history.
1. Here it is worthwhile taking note of the statement by Engels, cited in "Steps and Leaps" concerning, as Engels put it, "one of the most absurd notions taken over from eighteenth century enlightenment ... that in the beginning of society woman was the slave of man." (Engels, The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State, cited in Skybreak, p. 111)
This is a very pungent observation by Engels, and it underlines once again the basic orientation that we have stressed: the Enlightenment, yes and no. There are definitely things from the Enlightenment that must be upheld and defended, and this has special importance today when the Enlightenment, and specifically its more positive aspects, are under attack by Neanderthal fundamentalist Christian Fascists, who are a major force in the U.S. and are in fact no less obscurant than the most backward Islamic fundamentalists.
But, at the same time, there needs to be a recasting of what is correct and what is valuable in the Enlightenment, and a radical rupture with what in the Enlightenment is not positive, as part of a radical rupture with all traditional ideas as well as all traditional property relations. (In this regard, see "Marxism and the Enlightenment," in Bob Avakian, Observations on Art and Culture, Science and Philosophy, Insight Press, 2005.) [back]
2. Earlier in the talk, Avakian describes the "4 Alls": "This is the goal around which people must be brought forward: the advance to communism, the achievement of what we refer to as the '4 Alls,' as they were popularized in China at the time of Mao: the abolition of all class distinctions, the abolition of all the production (or economic) relations on which these class distinctions rest, the abolition of all the social relations corresponding to those production relations, and the revolutionizing of all the ideas that correspond to those social relations." [back]
Send us your comments.
Revolution #197, April 4, 2010
An Open Letter to Arundhati Roy
Two Questions and a Challenge
This public letter aims to open a dialogue and debate with Arundhati Roy. I am putting these issues before all who are concerned about the state of humanity and the prospects for a radically different and better world.
The novelist and activist Arundhati Roy is a powerful and eloquent voice in the antiglobalization, antiwar, and social justice movements, within and outside of India. She has courageously stood against the repression of the poor and oppressed who have risen up with arms in India's countryside. In particular, Roy's recently published account of her time spent with the revolutionaries in Central India's Dandakaranya Forests is a brave and important work.
Her new collection of essays, Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers, contains searing exposure of the "new India." But when it comes to revolution, to communism, and to the future of humanity, Arundhati Roy has unfortunately abdicated the "factual precision" (alongside of the "precision of poetry") that she calls for and applies in treating other issues in her essays. Rather than critically engage with the most important efforts at human emancipation thus far, in this one sphere she takes the conventional wisdom at face value. It's a stance that goes against the best impulses and work of Arundhati Roy, and it does real harm in today's movements for change.
This cannot go uncommented on and uncontested. So I am putting two questions and a challenge to Arundhati Roy:
1) You have written recently of learning that much of what you had been led to believe about the Maoists in India's countryside were lies, that the authorities had invented tales of Maoist atrocities. Might there be a lesson here in approaching similar tales told about what happened in China under Mao's leadership?
Specifically, where is the evidence that Mao is guilty of genocide? In chapter nine, "Listening To Grasshoppers: Genocide, Denial, and Celebration," you accuse Mao of perpetrating "genocide" (p. 146) and go on to write:
"The battle [between the Indian government and poor people who have taken to arms against it] stinks of death. It's by no means pretty. How can it be when the helmsman of the Army of Constraining Ghosts is the ghost of Chairman Mao himself? (The ray of hope is that many of the foot soldiers don't know who he is. Or what he did. More Genocide Denial? Maybe.)" (p. 167)
You have furnished footnotes in your book specifying or sourcing statistics and fact-based analyses of genocides in Congo, Iraq, and Indochina (p. 148). But there is not a single piece of documentation in Field Notes backing the claim that genocide took place in Maoist China. It is as though it were a self-evident truth.
But where is the evidence? Whether it concerns the food crisis of the Great Leap Forward of 1958-60; the policies taken towards former exploiters when the revolution came to power in 1949; or the struggles, policies, and transformations that took place during the Cultural Revolution of 1966-76—I am more than willing to examine what you have read, critically engage it and get into the real truth of what happened during the all-too-brief period of socialist transformation in China.
Here I must note: you have spoken of the liberatory effects of revolution on the women of Dandakaranya Forest. You have, rightly, pointed to the role of a different, even if embryonic, state power—a people's army, and people's courts—in even enabling this to happen. Can you allow yourself to consider the idea that something on a far greater scale happened in China, when those who had formerly been oppressed had the backing of the state power? In actual fact, what happened in China during the period of Mao's leadership—from 1949 to 1976, before the coup and counter-revolution which took China on the road that, yes, had been fought against in the Cultural Revolution—was an emancipation of the oppressed unparalleled in history. In every sphere there were astounding achievements—and a scope for democratic criticism and participation by masses of people never seen before or since on this planet.
The charges, routinely bandied about in the mass media, of "mass murder" and "genocide" in Maoist China are lies. These are charges which I and others have refuted. At a time when the world cries out for revolution, for profound and emancipatory change, for the overthrow of the old state power and the creation of a new one, these lies about the experience of genuine communists in power contribute to the lowering of sights and to constraining the discourse on human possibility. Repeating and even spreading them goes against the spirit of the best of what you have contributed—and does real and great harm.
2) Your critical edge against the hypocritical claims of today's democracies is welcome and important. But there is a sentimentality when it comes to the ideal of democracy which blurs the vision. Specifically, where has democracy ever existed as a pure, classless political-social-economic form? You advance a certain dream and vision of democracy, not what you describe as the currently flawed democracy that now exists in India, but something that lives up to democratic ideals:
"Whether democracy should be the utopia that all 'developing' societies aspire to is a separate question altogether. (I think it should. The early, idealistic phase can be quite heady.)" (Field Notes on Democracy, Introduction, "Democracy's Failing Light," p. 1)
Let us, for the moment, leave aside socialism and the unparalleled democracy it opens up for the great majority of society, while exercising dictatorship over old and new exploiters.
Name a single situation—any place in the world, in any time period—in the history of societies which have claimed to be, or which you would consider to be, democratic (whether in ancient Greece, the U.S., Europe, India, or anywhere else) where such democracy was not in fact marked by the profound social divisions and inequalities and ruthless exploitation and oppression of large parts of society reinforced by murderous repression directed against individuals and groups that posed any serious threat to those who in reality ruled over that society and its people.
Name one. And, if you cannot successfully cite any such example, what implications must be drawn from that?
The framework and horizons of democracy are harmful illusions that keep people locked within the current social order. While you yourself hunger for a better world and support those who fight for it, in your recent book and elsewhere you fall into propounding a politics that can only lead to tinkering on the edges for "more democracy"—in a society based on dictatorship of exploiters.
3) And my challenge to you. Re-examine your assumptions about the past, and future, of communist revolution. As someone who is deeply concerned about the nightmare that is daily life for the majority of humanity and who sees the ecological precipice the planet is approaching, you have a responsibility to engage with a solution that is commensurate with the magnitude of the problem.
That solution is revolution... communist revolution. Communism has not stood still. Bob Avakian, the Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, has developed a new synthesis of communism, "criticizing and rupturing with significant errors and shortcomings while bringing forward and recasting what has been positive from the historical experience of the international communist movements and the socialist countries that have so far existed; in a real sense reviving—on a new, more advanced basis—the viability and, yes, the desirability of a whole new and radically different world, and placing this on an even firmer foundation of materialism and dialectics...." (Revolution and Communism: A Foundation and Strategic Orientation, a Revolution pamphlet, 2008, pp 36-37) Avakian's vision of socialism recognizes that a new state power and vanguard party are indispensable—while also recognizing that leadership must be exercised in ways significantly different from how this was understood and practiced in the past.
This is a socialism that is as determined to forge a society in which intellectual and cultural ferment and dissent will flourish on a scale unseen in human history...as it is committed to solving the most pressing material problems confronting humanity. Socialism must be a society of experimentation, initiative from below, questioning and debate...all done in a wild and risky process which must be led in a way to simultaneously strengthen and continually transform the state power for which millions will have sacrificed. This is a different vision—and one you really must engage with. There is too much at stake to refuse to.
Indeed, Avakian himself—in answering a question about remarks you had made—spoke to the role in future socialist society of those who "may be raising criticisms coming from a different perspective—a different ideological perspective, and a different political perspective—than the leading forces inside socialist society; but they may still bring forward important truths. And even if they don't, in any particular instance, it's important that there be the kind of atmosphere where they are encouraged to bring forward their ideas, and to be part of, and to create, and to help stimulate the intellectual and the political ferment that we need—which we, with our methodology, have to be continually sifting through, embracing, integrating, and more deeply synthesizing in the correct way.
"I've said this before: If you really get this epistemology, you want people to challenge you." ("The Revolution We Are About Should Not Only Encompass But Welcome the Arundhati Roys of the World" Revolution #67, October 29, 2006)
So, I invite you to publicly discuss and debate these questions—as part of the search for the truth and the struggle for a world that human beings can truly thrive in.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #197, April 4, 2010
We received the following from correspondents in Houston who recently visited Jena:
Jena, Louisiana, July 9 2009: While most of the central Louisiana town of Jena slept, a small army assembled at the Jena Rodeo Building on the local fair ground. Over 75 cops gathered, from at least nine local, county, state, and federal agencies, including a total of five SWAT teams from the Louisiana State Police, the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force, and the Pineville police department. Armed teams from the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms were in the restless mob. All those from outside LaSalle Parish were administered an oath of office before beginning their day's work in Jena.
LaSalle Parish Sheriff Scott Franklin told the impatient crowd that they should be ready for anything: "This is serious business we're fixing to do. If you think this is a training exercise or if you think these are good ole boys from redneck country and we're going to good ole boy them into handcuffs, you're wrong. These people have nothing to lose. And they know the stakes are high."
The Jena 6
Louisiana: In 2006 a Black student at Jena High School asked if Black students could sit under what had "traditionally" been a "whites only" tree on school grounds. When students arrived the next day, three nooses were hanging from the tree. Dozens of Black students courageously stood under the tree in a defiant act of protest. The white students who hung the nooses were not punished. After a fight broke out at the school, in which a white student received minor injuries, six Black students were arrested and charged with attempted second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit attempted second degree murder. Most of them ended up in jail for months.
A struggle was built in Jena to defend the Jena 6 and let the world know about this outrage. After Mychal Bell was convicted of two felonies by an all-white jury, 300 people, including many from other cities, protested in Jena. Then on September 20, 2007, tens of thousands from throughout the country demonstrated in Jena—in defense of the Jena 6 and to protest the oppression of Black people in Jena and the entire country.
Mychal Bell was sentenced to 18 months in prison and in June 2009, the case ended with a plea bargain that resulted in fines and unsupervised probation for the five remaining defendants.
Armed mobs similar to this one have long gathered in the late night hours in the backwoods, small towns, and even cities of the South. Men wearing white hoods would burn crosses before embarking on their murderous mission—lynching Black people, often as a grotesque spectacle in full public view intended to terrorize an entire population. According to the Tuskegee Institute, from the years 1882 to 1951, 4,730 people were lynched in the United States, the vast majority of them Black men.
Racist vigilantes still roam the streets and police in blue and green uniforms also carry out mob terror against Black people. They affix helmets and body armor on themselves rather than hoods and sheets. They are the open and direct enforcers of a system of brutal, relentless oppression of Black people, and the targets of these raids are overwhelmingly Black and Latino people. In the past, the pretext for lynchings was often an alleged assault on a white woman by a Black man. Today, the pretext for police raids is almost always the "war on drugs."
In the U.S. today, one in eight young Black men is in prison or jail on any given day. Seventy-five percent of all the people in prison on drug related charges are Black or Latino, despite the fact that use of illegal drugs by Blacks and Latinos is statistically no higher than it is for white people.
Scott Franklin ran for his office with a pledge that everyone understood to mean he would launch an intense campaign of repression upon the Black community of Jena and surrounding LaSalle Parish. He said that he would offer "drug dealers" in the Parish three choices. As the local newspaper described it, "you either quit dealing drugs, you leave LaSalle Parish, or you go to jail." The slogan on his campaign literature stated: "Quit, Move, or Go to Jail."
The final court case involving the Jena 6 concluded a few weeks before the night of the "Operation Option Three" raids on June 26, 2009. Bold and courageous youths in Jena had stood up against overt and brutal racism. They had defied the racist tradition of a "whites only" tree on school property and protested the hanging of nooses at Jena High. Their actions had emboldened others in Jena and inspired people throughout the country to stand with them.
Less than a month after the final hearings in the Jena 6 cases, the authorities in Jena and LaSalle Parish unleashed their night of terror upon Jena. The nightmare continues to this day.
Soon after Franklin swore in his deputized agents on July 9, teams of cops spread out to cordon off about a one-square-mile area of Jena, populated overwhelmingly by Black people. No vehicular or foot traffic was allowed in or out. At about 5 a.m., SWAT teams broke through the doors of five homes.
Heavily armed cops burst through inside. People were roused from their sleep at gunpoint. Several people, in different locations, were shot multiple times with tasers. Children were woken, guns poking them in the ribs. Homes were ransacked, turned upside down in a frenzy of destruction that the cops call their "search for evidence." Smoke bombs were sent through windows, and at least one house was set on fire. Houses and lots were marked off with the infamous yellow tape of a "crime scene," establishing the parameters for the massive seizure of property that was to follow in the aftermath of the raids.
Mike Patterson, who owns a detail shop in Jena and was one of the people arrested that night, described what happened in the raid on his home. "I had kids in the house. We were sleeping. They come in about 4 o'clock in the morning. All of a sudden you heard, 'BOOM, BOOM,' and them yelling 'Search warrant, search warrant.' I could hear them coming down the hall, and I was in my room with my hands up in the air. They got all these guys with guns and flashlights, and they came in and hit me. I'd say something like 'cut the light on,' and they'd hit me with the taser.
"They got me up and cuffed me. They didn't say nothing to me about what it was about. They didn't read me my rights or anything like that. I have an 11-year-old and a 14-year-old. The 11-year-old was woke. I could hear him in the next room. He was saying 'Quit poking me with the gun. Quit poking me with the gun'. I said 'Let me go in there and talk to my son.' Then I heard him say, 'Quit fucking point the gun at me.'
"My oldest is 14, he's very quiet. He told me they pulled the covers off him. You know how you're taught to protect your kids? There was nothing I could do. They pulled the covers off him and were poking him, 'get up, get up.' They put handcuffs on him, but they didn't put shoes or nothing on him. This kid has never been in any kind of trouble. They had cuffs on him for three or four hours. They had him on TV.
"I'm a grown man, whatever they do, I can take it. What can they do that's worse than living here? They took a lot from my kids. You take kids, and you handle them all rough like that, 11 years old and 14 years old, I don't wish that on nobody. He was a happy kid, and he's getting punished for something his daddy supposedly did? That's bad. Talking to these kids like they're 20, poking them, telling them to shut up.
"You see my kid is sleeping, don't be poking him and cuffing him. They took his bike, they actually took all my kids stuff. Dirt bikes and stuff. They won't let us have it—they keep saying 'how do we know it wasn't bought with drug money.' I've been owning this shop for 9, 10 years; I've been working since I was 16. Working in this town for seven years, every day, in front of them.
"They put the kids in the cop car with me. The 14-year-old was cuffed just like me. Then they took us to the park. They set their whole thing up in our ballpark, in our neighborhood. They had a big barbeque in the Black neighborhood. They had all the vehicles they took that night to show them off, for people to come by and see. And they had us standing there like goldfish in a tank, for all the TV people to take pictures. Then when they took us to they courthouse, they had us stand there, just stand there, for people to see and take pictures."
The sun was breaking open another morning when the people snared in the raids were taken in shackles to the courthouse. At least one man was naked. They were paraded before the media of Central Louisiana for display in the local newscasts—before they were taken off to prisons throughout central Louisiana.
The cops then began a day long barbecue to celebrate their "catch." Tina Jones—whose son is one of the Jena 6—told us, "It's almost like they're mimicking what we did during the Jena 6 to get a message across. They had their little barbeque at the fairgrounds like we had rallies. They called in media like we called in people. They even made t-shirts—with men looking through bars and 'Operation Option Three' on them."
From the days of runaway slaves being captured and returned in chains to triumphant masters; to the days when howling racist mobs advertised public lynchings in local newspapers; to today, when Black people are displayed in an exhibition meant to intimidate and shame them and an entire community before they are marched off to prison, some of the forms of the oppression of Black people have changed.
But the cold fact remains that this oppression soaks into every aspect of life and every institution of this society, and is in fact in many ways more savage, more soul and body crushing than ever.
As the special edition of Revolution, titled "The Oppression of Black People, the Crimes of this System, and the Revolution We Need," puts it: "...this system, even when given a chance to reform, has time and again betrayed Black people and demonstrated that, because of its very nature and essential dynamics, it cannot reform or be reformed.... [F]ar from being 'post racial' or even 'improving,' the oppression of Black people continues in many horrendous forms and has been reinforced and intensified over the past period—with real prospects of even worse horror now posing themselves."
Thirteen people were arrested that night. Franklin claimed the arrested included a "high level drug trafficker and money launderer" and people in the man's "drug ring." The people arrested in the initial "Operation Option Three" raids—eleven men and two women—were almost all charged with "distribution" (not possession) of controlled substances, mainly cocaine and meth. One was charged with "conspiracy to distribute." Bonds for these people ranged up to $200,000, and the alleged "king pin," Darren Brown, was immediately turned over to federal authorities and bond was set at $500,000. The two people actually arrested for "possession" were charged with having small amounts of marijuana.
"Operation Option Three" didn't stop on July 9. At least two dozen people have been caught up in the snare set by Franklin and LaSalle Parish D.A. Reed Walters. Walters is notorious for, among other things, telling the Black students at Jena High who dared protest nooses displayed on school grounds, "I can be your best friend or your worst enemy. With the stroke of a pen I can make your life miserable or ruin your life."
The authorities also set about destroying people's homes and businesses, and confiscating their property. Darren Brown was the town barber. He had a shop near the center of town. People we spoke to said Darren was known for his generosity—giving free haircuts to kids, going out to the homes of old folks who couldn't make it into town for a trim.
Darren's shop was torn apart by the police in the aftermath of the July 9 raids. The floors were torn out by cops claiming they were searching for hidden drugs and money. The grounds around Darren's shop and home were dug up. One man told us what they did to the barber shop: "They took a bulldozer and tore up the ground, saying they were looking for money. They tore up the floor of the shop. They never found anything. What they tore up they left tore up."
And to this day, physical evidence of the alleged "drug dealing" has not been produced.
People's vehicles—which are lifelines in this small and isolated community—were taken. Tina Jones took us to a lot outside town where at least 50 vehicles—including hers—were taken by police and are being held behind chains and barbed wire. The police claim these are all being held as "evidence," but have thus far successfully stonewalled and suppressed any attempts to produce that evidence or to turn the cars and trucks back to their rightful owners. This is the case even when, as in Tina's, she wasn't even in the car when it was impounded.
The police claim they have videotaped evidence that proves their charges of "distribution," and "conspiracy to distribute." No one outside of them has seen these tapes, despite attempts of several lawyers to force the state to produce its evidence.
Tina and several others told us what the authorities are relying upon to build their cases: snitches—usually people who are threatened with more serious charges if they don't "cooperate," and often paid off with petty bribes like cell phones and hundred dollar bills—threats, and planted evidence.
"They're using these guys who have a little charge on them, telling them it'll be dropped, and they're believing that. Some of them are. They're giving them $20 for a cheap cell phone and $100 for dope. Then they turn around and say someone is charged with possession with intent to distribute—based on a conversation they started. Anyone who's been in their system—and that's a lot of people who get caught up in it just by living here—is being rearrested. If you have a little something hanging over your head, they'll use it against you. And then they pressure you to talk about other people."
Mike Patterson said, "Then they give the impression these are hard core criminals they're arresting! I've never had a charge against me in my life before this. I've worked all my life, and now I have my own little business. But they just lied about me, and they lied about others. There are people who've worked in logging since they were kids. I think if you do wrong, you're wrong, and you should pay a price for it. But I ain't done nothing wrong."
The people arrested have been scattered to different jurisdictions, with different trial dates. Those forced to rely on court appointed attorneys, as one man said to us, "might as well write themselves a ticket to Angola [the infamous Louisiana State Penitentiary], because they're looking at some serious time."
Several evidentiary hearings and trials are to begin in April in Jena. People are being kept in the dark about what's going on with all these arrests and property confiscations—the number of people arrested, all the charges they're facing, when they are going to trial, who's testifying against them, what evidence (if any) the state claims it has. Tina Jones said, "Nobody knows anything, really, about how all this is going on. People don't even really know where things stand with their own cases."
A lot of people in Jena are proud of the fact that they stood up to the racist intimidation that reached a boiling point when nooses were hung at Jena High. Many people told us that LaSalle Parish has always been known for its corruption and racism, but that things have just gotten totally out of hand. Most of them think it is because the authorities are retaliating for what people did during the battles around the Jena 6.
Tina Jones said, "They don't like the fact that we came in and did something, and they didn't win. They don't want anyone else to have the upper hand. The Jena 6 took us on a whirlwind. We called some people, and before you knew it people like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson were in town. It all was a shock to us. My son [who was one of the Jena 6] felt he had to leave town.
"But at the end of the day, I'd do it all over again. We're still being affected by what happened at that school. We want people to know what's happening here."
Send us your comments.
Revolution #197, April 4, 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.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #197, April 4, 2010
From a reader:
As a reader of Revolution's letters from prisoners, I am outraged that a prison in California or ANYWHERE USA is banning their right to read Revolution newspaper. This goes to the most basic rights of people locked up on the bottom of society to lift their heads to understand the world and through their voices to be part of changing it.
Do prisoners have a right to develop as critical thinkers?
Do prisoners have a right to the wonder and awe of science?
Do prisoners have a right to atheist views and to break the mental shackles of religion?
Do prisoners have a right to understand why so many of them are in prison?
Do prisoners have a right to learn how to build bonds of multi-racial unity through recognizing the common roots of their oppression?
Do prisoners have a right to understand the oppression of women, to reject the misogyny and porn so prevalent in prisons?
Do prisoners have a right to explore alternatives—radical, revolutionary and Communist solutions to the plight of the people and of the planet itself?
Do prisoners have a right to transform themselves into emancipators of humanity?
I have read the letters. I have seen the future in these letters. I see in your prison bans the echo of the past when it was a crime for slaves to teach themselves or be taught to read. It is as basic as this—Do prisoners have a right to a life of the mind, to be human even under the most horrible conditions? YES THEY DO!
Send us your comments.
Revolution #197, April 4, 2010
The following appeal from the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund appears online at www.prisonersrevolutionaryliteraturefund.org:
Imagine you are in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) of a prison that is as far from your family as it can be and still be located in the same state. You are locked in a solitary cell for 23 or more hours a day, every day, year after year. Your window, your lifeline to the world is a newspaper and all of a sudden prison officials decide that you cannot read it anymore. As a prisoner wrote: "I've been getting the Revolution paper for about 8 years and can't imagine being in this dungeon without it."
Welcome to California's remote supermax Pelican Bay State Prison, just miles from the border with Oregon. Here 1200 of the 3400 inmates are in the most restrictive prison-within-a-prison found anywhere in the U.S. At Pelican Bay is also the single largest block of subscribers to Revolution newspaper in U.S. prisons. The 45+ subscriptions are provided through funds raised by Prisoners' Revolutionary Literature Fund (PRLF). And each Revolution reaches many more hands. "I'm in Pelican Bay SHU ... there's eight people in my section. I share Revolution newspaper with everyone in the section."
In February, 2010, prison officials at California's Pelican Bay State Prison declared that Revolution newspaper was banned from their institution. It appears that issues of the newspaper dating as far back as October 2009 were confiscated, leading up to the recent outright ban of Revolution. The first issues confiscated last fall announced a special issue, Revolution 183 on prisons and prisoners, "From the Hellholes of Incarceration to a Future of Emancipation." (Available at www.revcom.us or from the PRLF.)
PRLF has received literally hundreds of letters which convey the tremendously educational value of Revolution newspaper for these prisoners. Their subscriptions and other revolutionary literature has enabled them to hone critical thinking; learn about history and debate current events in the world; understand root causes for why so many are in prison in the U.S.; come to appreciate science and atheism; consider radical, revolutionary and Communist alternatives for how the world could be different; examine historical lessons from previous socialist revolutions; examine causes of divisions between the people by nationality and gender.
Many people from all sections of society who have listened to these prisoners' voices have been struck by the power of their words and their moral vision for transforming society. Now it is up to those on the outside to make sure this lifeline is not cut off and these voices are not muffled or worse silenced.
Our Mission: The Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund (PRLF) is an educational literature fund that fills requests from U.S. prisoners for revolutionary literature.(For our full Mission Statement and more information on PRLF, go to our website: www.prisonersrevolutionaryliteraturefund.org)
Here are mere snippets from these prisoners. You can visit PRLF's website: www.PrisonersRevolutionary LiteratureFund.org, to read substantive excerpts from letters that arrive at the PRLF's mail box every week:
"Everyone I've managed to share issue 183 (special issue on prisons and prisoners) of Revolution newspaper with had positive feedback. You understand this place is a dungeon where we communicate through solid steel doors with plexiglass slits .... everyone's thrilled to know someone out there has an inkling what we're forced to go through for years and even decades...and actually cares."
"One main thing which I love about your news–paper—it covers all topics, presents pro and con positions, raw facts for the reader to analyze, one can not help but recognize the details that the mainstream media isn't telling the public through its corporate machine. Your publication is read by me from cover to cover, although some articles I greatly disagree about. We must be open minded, accept new ideas, be tolerant to accept and understand other opinions and belief system, though they are different from our own."
"For many years, I was bound & chained to the walls of ignorance. However, thanks to the revolutionary leadership of Bob Avakian*... I have since been provided with the tools to shatter these chains from deep within the bowels of the beast. I now enthusiastically accept the responsibility of helping others do the same..." [*FYI: Revolution newspaper is the voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party, whose leader Avakian is a frequent contributor to its pages.]
"Got the literature you sent... It's good to have some good study material at hand for the brothers here. I have been trying to get deeper into the theoretical and philosophical questions as regards communist application. I like to study so many different fields of science, all of it basically. I'm just amazed at the whole realm of science, especially how everything is interconnected. I was reading Stephen Hawking..."
"I kind of like the idea that women are equal to me. But I never would have this understanding if it was not for Communism."
"I was reading the [Revolution on prisons and prisoners] and had to stop and reflect on my crime. My victim was female: kicked her several times over a bad drug deal, luckily I didn't have a gun. But reading your article on the women of society, that is the prison society we belong to. ...I am 27 years old and have been in and out of prison since I was 17, and for the first time in my young life, guilt left a bitter taste in my mouth."
Prison authorities allege that Revolution incites racial violence. Quite a charge when prison authorities in California SHUs have been exposed for instigating fights, including gladiator-style, between prisoners of different nationalities, leading to numerous inmate deaths—sometimes by other inmates, sometimes directly by prison guards.
As one Pelican Bay prisoner replied, "what racial group in particular are they speaking of, in other words to which audience is the paper targeting to incite racial violence when the fact is prison officials are basically the architect of racial disharmony among prisoners?"
The reality is the opposite of what prison authorities have alleged. Prisoners including at Pelican Bay write about how the newspaper has helped forge bonds of unity among prisoners of different nationalities:
"This paper has been a primary vehicle of crossing racial lines and bringing the people together."
"This paper has made a big difference in the relationships that races in here deal with each other. Not as a whole but with some of us. Meaning that prisoners of different races are so caught up on this plan that our captors are pushing that they have nothing but hatred for the next race. But this prisoner of a different race recently seen me passing one of these papers to a neighbor of his... He said he used to read the papers at another prison and we struck up a conversation about how informative the contents of the papers are and how everyone should be reading them and how different prison would be if everyone read the papers."
"I'm African American, and everything I read prior to Bob Avakian was afro centric in thought. ...what he teached changed my perspective on all of that. It's more than a black and white thing with me now. I see the commonalities that black and white share now..."
"Maybe you could send me an English and Spanish copy of the paper because many of my comrades are Latino."
Banning Revolution newspaper from Pelican Bay State Prison is inhumane, unconstitutional and immoral—HELP OVERTURN it now!
The banning of Revolution is an overt political act of censorship by prison officials and a suppression of prisoners' most basic rights to have access to the educational opportunity provided by the PRLF when it provides subscriptions to Revolution newspaper as well as other revolutionary literature. As PRLF's mission statement explains, this literature provides "an educational opportunity for prisoners to engage with world events and key political, cultural, and philosophical questions of the day from a unique revolutionary perspective, including discussions of morality, religion, science, and the arts. Every week prisoners can delve into the urgent and lively news and debate about unfolding political and social struggles and can critically think about and dissect the current state of society as well as search for an alternative."
Anyone concerned about the rights of prisoners including the right to educate and transform themselves while in prison—the right for revolutionary alternatives to be considered—the rights of alternative media—the rights that are supposed to be guaranteed by the First Amendment—should see that this is a precedent that cannot be allowed to stand for these prisoners in California's hell holes, for its implications throughout the prison system in the US and for the broader society of which they are an integral part.
A determined legal and political struggle needs to be waged to overturn this ban. PRLF is expanding its work through stopping this effort to cripple its work. We together can stop the prison officials from removing the oxygen out of windowless cells.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #197, April 4, 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]
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Revolution #197, April 4, 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:
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Revolution #197, April 4, 2010
The Revolutionary Communist Party is in the midst of a major campaign—and you need to know about it, and become part of it.
This campaign aims to let people know what communist revolution is all about... to acquaint them with the leadership that we have for this revolution, Bob Avakian and the RCP, USA which he leads... and to bring people into making this revolution happen, in many different ways.
The idea: to put revolution—this revolution—much more on the map in people's thinking. To initiate nothing less than a whole new stage of communist revolution, building on the achievements of the past but critically sifting and going beyond them in significant ways... reviving the viability and desirability of communist revolution based on Bob Avakian's new synthesis, and bringing forward a real social force around this, contending powerfully with the other solutions that are out there.
The Party's Message and Call, "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have," forms the glue of this campaign. You can get it online, or in Revolution Books bookstores, or from Party supporters. The video of Bob Avakian's speech, Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About, forms a basic foundation—and is available on-line. Many of the things we do and talk about in this paper—from the efforts to spread Bob Avakian's classic talk on revolution... to the fight against the censorship of our paper in the prisons... to the tours by revolutionaries like Raymond Lotta or Sunsara Taylor... to initiatives to "Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution"... to building the circulation and sustainership of Revolution newspaper—these are all related. They are all getting people to see that, in the words of that message and call, "This is NOT the best of all possible worlds...And we do NOT have to live this way."
Find out about this campaign. Download and distribute the statement and call. Popularize the on line Revolution talk by Bob Avakian. Get this paper out. Come to one of our bookstores and find out how you can volunteer. Write us with your questions, your ideas, your experiences. Be part of, in the words of the message and call, spreading "the word to every corner of this country...giving people the means to become part of this revolutionary movement, and organizing into this movement everyone who wants to make a contribution to it, who wants to work and fight, to struggle and sacrifice, not to keep this nightmare of a world going as it is but to bring a better world into being."
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Revolution #197, April 4, 2010
The upcoming Revolution that will go online and be out on the streets the week of April 12 will be a special issue focusing on the environmental emergency that humanity now faces.
Global climate change and other factors are coming together to confront us with the threat of massive extinction of species—and even beyond that, the possible collapse of whole ecosystems and transformation to a different kind of planet that could endanger the very existence of humanity.
The special Revolution issue will connect the dots on the dimensions of this unprecedented crisis. But in order to really deal with this emergency, our actions must be based on an understanding of the actual causes of the problem—and so the special issue will show how the environmental emergency is rooted in the capitalist system. And the issue will give people a sense that there is a way forward for humanity—a revolutionary society in which we could actually live as custodians of nature, rather than its plunderers.
The special environment issue will speak to—and needs to reach—a broad range of people: from scientists to prisoners in America's bulging dungeons... from youth in the inner cities to students in the "elite" universities... from immigrants working as modern-day slaves to activists in the environmental movement... and our readers internationally, from Mexico to Germany to India and elsewhere.
So, we call on our readers to prepare NOW for the special environment issue:
Very important, start raising funds now for this issue for the costs of production (like powerful photographs), printing, and distribution.
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Revolution #197, April 4, 2010
Reporter's Journal on the Earthquake
Part 4: The Disaster After the Disaster—Still Waiting for Aid...
January 12, 2010—an extremely powerful earthquake struck Haiti. This Katastwòf, as it is called in Kreyol, killed over 200,000 people. In the week after the earthquake Revolution ran articles about U.S. domination in Haiti which had created conditions of intense poverty and lack of infrastructure—direct causes of the huge death toll, and how the U.S. was sabotaging aid. To get a deeper picture of what this meant for the Haitian masses we sent a reporter to Haiti 12 days after the earthquake. The following is the fourth part in a series of pages from his journal. Go to revcom.us to read Parts 1, 2 and 3 and for more analysis.
My second day in Haiti, Janot, who has been taking me around, says, "Now I'm going to show you a radio station that is operating completely in the street." We drive for 30 minutes to the former offices of Radio Galaxie/Radio Caraïbes where broadcasting equipment is stacked on a long table on the rubble strewn sidewalk. Behind it sit a number of engineers, DJs and newsmen, with dozens more people crowded around. Radio is the main form of communication in Haiti, and is all the more crucial now.
When I ask some guys who seem to be employees of the station about the earthquake, right away, they start talking about the lack of aid. A guy in a khaki shirt says: "The majority of the people have received nothing. Probably it's a problem of coordination, but 13 days, that's a lot. They [the U.S. and the international community] keep promising and promising but still the people see nothing. They send soldiers, but the soldiers do nothing for us. They are here to protect U.S. interests."
Marc, who works for Radio Galaxie says, "They distributed some aid, around Boudon, around the Pétionville Country Club; they try to do the job in an organized way. But that is one place. In Delmas as we saw, there was nothing. At the soccer stadium [where thousands have set up home made tents and shanties], again, nothing."
Stefan (another radio employee) says that "at the University Hospital the U.S. Army is camped outside, and when people come to bring food for family members who are in the hospital, the soldiers are very rude. Often they just turn people away without letting them deliver the food." He describes the aid distributions he has seen: "The Americans just throw the food from trucks or helicopters, and then of course the people fight over it. The Americans seem disinterested in the food distribution; they have a look on their faces like they are here to do something else."
Someone else at the radio station says that Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders have been all over but don't have enough supplies. And people say this is true of hospitals as well. In fact, amputations were routinely done without pain killers. [Even now, two months after the quake there are reports of children dying of diarrhea in hospitals because of lack of basic things like respirators, or in some cases even food or hydration fluids.]
I mention hearing reports that Doctors Without Borders tried five times to get clearance at the airport to land a plane with medical supplies but had been turned back by the U.S. military. The guy in the khaki shirt says, "Yes, we know about that. Since the U.S. has military control of the airport, they control what comes in and what does not." He says this with a matter-of-fact tone, almost of resignation, but there is an edge of anger to it, which you can feel with all these guys.
These radio stations were taking calls from different communities who were in desperate conditions, who had received no food, water, medicine. Then they would announce the location and describe the situation on the air so as to let the government and aid agencies know where aid was most needed. The idea was that even given a still-chaotic situation, no one would be forgotten completely. But then, almost invariably, they would hear from the same area two or three days later that they still had not gotten any aid.
Almost every Haitian I talked to wanted to know what was happening to the aid, why was it so slow in coming. Many people asked in anger, some in despair, others in genuine bewilderment.
A man in the Mon Repos section of Carrefour said, "Here, the government has not given us anything—no food, no water, nothing. [There is only one block in Mon Repos that] does receive water—they get a delivery of 50 small bags of water per family every three days—about four gallons." Another group camped under sheets in the middle of the street tells me that no one has brought any aid, no food, no water. They say there are still dead bodies under the houses and the government hasn't come to help them. They need water, baby food, women's hygiene. It's been 15 days and not even a bottle of water! Carrefour is a huge residential area, and most of the people ended up just leaving because of the lack of help.
In the downtown area, a bread vendor named Marie says: "I thought that the American people were coming to do something, to help us. But after all this time, they are still doing nothing." Daniel, the leader of the downtown encampment where I am staying, says, "No government or international institution has come to help. We know they have supplies of tents, food and water at the airport, but no one even brought us water." When I went to the larger shantytowns, crowds of people would gather, all with this same question: "Where is the aid?" Often children and teens would pull up their shirts and point to their bellies to show they were starving.
One day we spend seven hours driving around the city, visiting five encampments. We talk to 15-20 people. Everywhere we go we see hand-drawn signs: "We need HELP," "We Need Food, Water," "Forgotten area—Help Us." The ONLY evidence of aid I saw or heard about during this tour: Two Port-o-Lets and a UNICEF tent at a camp in Pétionville; two distributions of small amounts of water in the large camp at Champ Du Mars a few days earlier; organized distribution of aid at the Pétionville Golf Club. This is in an area of hundreds of thousands of people!
One of the most infuriating things about being in Haiti was hearing the U.S. blame their near-complete failure to deliver aid on "the security situation," the "scale of the destruction," the "logistics," etc. Pictures of scattered instances where people fought over food were widely shown as if this was what was mainly going on. False stories of the "dangerous" streets of Port-au-Prince were front page "news." A so-called "security" problem became the U.S.'s excuse for not getting aid to people—and at the same time, the justification for sending troops instead of doctors and rescue workers.
Impoverished street vendors were able to pull together and plug into a distribution network that reached across the island to the Dominican Republic and then penetrated to most parts of the earthquake zone I visited. Small ad hoc groups of 2-5 people were able to make the rounds of the spontaneous communities and deliver their pickup trucks full of aid (with no security and no fighting amongst the people). Yet the U.S. with its ships, planes, helicopters, thousands of troops, vast wealth, and considerable experience in logistics (such as supplying an invading army of hundreds of thousands of troops marching through the Iraqi desert at the start of the Persian Gulf War) was able to deliver only a pitiful amount of aid!
After the earthquake, the U.S. seized control of the airport in Port-au-Prince and sent 20,000 U.S. soldiers into Haiti. These troops were not used to dig out thousands of people buried in the rubble. They were not used to distribute aid. In fact the U.S. obstructed aid being sent by others! And because of this thousands died and hundreds of thousands had their misery deepened and prolonged.
Many people I talked to in Haiti expressed bewilderment at why aid was not pouring in from the United States. But what the U.S. did—and did not do—was guided NOT by humanitarian concerns—but the concerns of empire.
For 100 years the U.S. has used economic blackmail, coups, military invasions/occupations, and backed brutal dictators to dominate and control Haiti and crush the struggle of the Haitian people. And in the wake of the earthquake, the foremost concern of the U.S. was keeping this domination intact, preventing things from getting out of hand in a way that would threaten U.S. control, including any kind of mass rebellion. THIS is what guided what the U.S. did in the face of such a horrible disaster—NOT humanitarian concern.
To be continued
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Revolution #197, April 4, 2010
Recently Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, drew attention to the following contradiction and then invited some people associated with or with responsibility in regard to the Party to respond with their thinking on this contradiction. Avakian wrote the following:
In the polemic against Alain Badiou's political philosophy in the online theoretical journal Demarcations, the following concise indictment is made of Badiou's ultimate reformism, and of reformism in general:
"And the world stays fundamentally unchanged. Capitalism-imperialism continues humming in the 'background,' crushing lives and destroying spirits in its meat-grinder of exploitation. And the horrors continue unabated."
This is our standing and powerful refutation of every other trend in the world. On the other hand, the way that a lot of people look at what we're about—and not entirely without justification—is: "Here come the communists, turn out the lights, the party's over."
All this embodies a real, and profound, contradiction that we must continue to wrestle with.
We are excited in this issue to run the following responses to Avakian's invitation.1
1. Editor's note:
The following replies were originally written as personal letters and hence assumed a certain "common language" between Bob Avakian and the correspondent. As a result, there is a lot of "shorthand" used. Sometimes the meaning of these terms are explained in context, or are otherwise clear; at other times, this may not be so. Some of those terms include:
New synthesis: the basic breakthrough in communist theory developed by Bob Avakian, in the dimensions of philosophy and method; internationalism; the character of the dictatorship of the proletariat and of socialist society as a transition to communist society, including the particular concept of "solid core with a lot of elasticity"; and strategic approach to revolution. [For more on the new synthesis, see especially the Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage, A Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA.]
The 4 alls: this formulation was often used to drive home the all-round character of the communist revolution by the Chinese communists who sided with Mao during the last battle to prevent capitalist restoration in China. (Capitalist restoration began with a military coup that occurred shortly after Mao's death in 1976, in which Mao's closest followers—including his widow Chiang Ching—were arrested and/or killed.) Marx's formulation (from The Civil War in France) was: "This Socialism is the declaration of the permanence of the revolution, the class dictatorship of the proletariat as the necessary transit point to the abolition of class distinctions generally, to the abolition of all the relations of production on which they rest, to the abolition of all the social relations that correspond to these relations of production, to the revolutionizing of all the ideas that result from these social relations."
The two humps: this is a formulation from Bob Avakian's mid-'90s talk "Getting Over the Two Great Humps: Further Thoughts on Conquering the World." These "humps " refer to the process of 1) getting to the point where the forces of proletarian revolution are strong enough to seize power in a particular country; and 2) getting to the point internationally where the overall "balance of forces" has shifted in favor of the proletariat and the question of actually getting to communism comes more directly onto the agenda.
The "Ohio": the "Ohio" process borrows a metaphor from the Ohio State marching band and its routine where the band members spell out "Ohio" in script in a marching routine in which the first members of the band traverse through, and spell out in turn, each letter of "Ohio"—the point being that people who come around the revolutionary movement go through a process of development.
Class truth: this refers to the notion widely held in the international communist movement that "the bourgeoisie has its truth, and the proletariat has its truth," as if truth itself had a class character. In reality, truth has no class character; an idea is true to the degree that it accurately reflects the objective world. Bob Avakian is the first communist who identified and criticized this notion of "class truth," which ends up constraining and ultimately blocking the search for what is really true.
The proletariat, due to its position as a class which has nothing to fortify in the present order, has every interest in being as thorough-going as possible in getting to the truth of things; and the science of communism, and its outlook and method of materialist dialectics, is the best method for getting at the truth; and in these senses it can be said that communism is both partisan and true. But it does NOT follow that communists are always correct in their observations and conclusions, and that non-communists are never correct; relatedly, all statements must be judged on the degree to which they correspond to reality, and not who says them or what (often narrowly conceived) interest they seem to serve.
Reification: literally, turning a process into a "thing." As it applies to the proletariat, this refers to a view, also more or less explicitly unchallenged in the communist movement until Avakian's criticism, that confounded the fundamental interests of the proletariat as a class and the sentiments, views, and programs that conformed with those fundamental world-historic interests with the position, sentiments, views and programs that find a following among this or that section of the proletariat at any given time.
Reductionism: a philosophical method that reduces complex phenomena to a single determinant cause—e.g., reducing the causes of complex social behavior to a gene (or set of genes) and ignoring the social factors that come into play in shaping social behavior and constraining the forms it can/might take. This is linked to positivism, a philosophical school that limits the search for truth and the scope for statements about the dynamics of reality to immanent causes. Such views are often contrasted to the metaphor used by Bob Avakian of truth being like a multi-level, multi-layer, constantly moving map.
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Revolution #197, April 4, 2010
It is this system that has got us in the situation we're in today, and keeps us there. And it is through revolution to get rid of this system that we ourselves can bring a much better system into being. The ultimate goal of this revolution is communism: A world where people work and struggle together for the common good...Where everyone contributes whatever they can to society and gets back what they need to live a life worthy of human beings...Where there are no more divisions among people in which some rule over and oppress others, robbing them not only of the means to a decent life but also of knowledge and a means for really understanding, and acting to change, the world.
This revolution is both necessary and possible.
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Revolution #197, April 4, 2010
In Bob Avakian, the Chairman of our Party, we have the kind of rare and precious leader who does not come along very often. A leader who has given his heart, and all his knowledge, skills and abilities to serving the cause of revolution and the emancipation of humanity. Bob Avakian came alive as a revolutionary in the 1960s—taking part in the great movements of those days, and especially working and struggling closely with the most advanced revolutionary force in the U.S. at that time, the Black Panther Party. Since then, and while many others have given up, Bob Avakian has worked and struggled tirelessly to find the way to go forward, having learned crucial lessons and built lasting organization that could continue the struggle, and aim to take it higher, while uniting with the same struggle throughout the world. He has kept on developing the theory and strategy for making revolution. He played the key role in founding our Party in 1975, and since then he has continued the battle to keep the Party on the revolutionary road, to carry out work with a strong revolutionary orientation. He has deeply studied the experience of revolution—the shortcomings as well as the great achievements—and many different fields of human endeavor, through history and throughout the world—and he has brought the science and method of revolution to a whole new level, so that we can not only fight but really fight to win. Bob Avakian has developed the scientific theory and strategic orientation for how to actually make the kind of revolution we need, and he is leading our Party as an advanced force of this revolution. He is a great champion and a great resource for people here, and indeed people all over the world. The possibility for revolution, right here, and for the advance of the revolution everywhere, is greatly heightened because of Bob Avakian and the leadership he is providing. And it is up to us to get with this leadership...to find out more about Bob Avakian and the Party he heads...to learn from his scientific method and approach to changing the world...to build this revolutionary movement with our Party at the core...to defend this leadership as the precious thing it is...and, at the same time, to bring our own experience and understanding to help strengthen the process of revolution and enable the leadership we have to keep on learning more and leading even better.
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