Voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party,USA
Please note: this page is intended for quick printing of the entire issue. Some of the links may not work when clicked, and some images may be missing. Please go to the article's permalink if you require working links and images.
Revolution #201, May 16, 2010
Editors' Note: The following article draws on a May 4 talk given by Raymond Lotta on the Gulf of Mexico environmental disaster, at Revolution Books in New York City; audio of the talk is available for download at revolutionbooksnyc.org.
A massive oil spill is taking place in the Gulf of Mexico—a devastating disaster that threatens to become an unparalleled environmental catastrophe.
The April 20 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform, operated by British Petroleum (BP), killed 11 workers and unleashed an underwater volcano of gushing oil from one mile below the water's surface. Estimates are that 210,000 gallons of oil are spewing out every day; the area covered by the spill stretches 240 miles east to west and 100 miles north to south. And the spill continues to spread.
The spill endangers fragile salt marshlands, fresh-water ponds, creeks, lakes, and other wetlands around the Gulf region, which contains up to 40% of total U.S. wetlands. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries estimates at least 400 species—from shrimp to pelicans to river otters and many others—could be impacted by the oil, including a dozen considered endangered.
Oil has already hit offshore islands. But the danger is not only to ecosystems on shore. Oil spills can be devastating to species living in the sea, and there are interactions between marine and shore life in the life cycles of many species. Around this time of the year, the eggs and larvae of dozens of species of fish and shellfish spend their earliest days floating on the water surface, where the oil from the spill sits. The oil is also lethal to adult turtles, dolphins, and fish. Already, more than 30 loggerhead sea turtles have washed onto beaches, their flesh oozing blood. A biologist told the New York Times, "The iconic images of oiled seabirds are just the tip of the iceberg, because oil spills affect life up and down the food chain."
And the poisonous effects of the oil are long-lasting. A British marine biologist pointed out some frightening facts: "That part of the gulf's coastline consists of a sedimentary shore with lots of muddy inlets. The oil will penetrate into the mud, and because it contains no oxygen the oil will not biodegrade. For generations, any disturbance of the sediment will bring oil back to the surface and that will happen over a very large area."
BP moved to supposedly limit the flow of oil by placing a "containment dome" over the gushing well—but so far they have failed in that attempt. According to many estimates, it could take as long as six months to actually stanch the leak.
This environmental disaster was not an "unavoidable accident." It certainly wasn't an "act of god." Oil well blowouts like this are not uncommon. But BP has refused to spend money and effort on safety and environmental measures and equipment. BP has been packaging itself as a "green" company, even branding itself as "Beyond Petroleum." But this "green" corporation, along with other major oil corporations, was able to block regulations requiring installation of a device called an "acoustic switch" that triggers an underwater valve to shut down a well in case of a blowout—finding the $500,000 cost of the device too high.
But what is the cost—to all life in this whole region and beyond, including humans—of what the BP spill is doing to ecosystems on a vast scale?
BP tried to initially downplay the seriousness of the current spill—until it could no longer hide the fact that oil was gushing out at five times the rate BP was claiming. This corporation has been involved in a series of environmental disasters, including repeated spills in Alaska from corroded oil pipes. BP has been fined millions of dollars for violations of the Water Pollution Control Act. And in the year before this current spill, BP aggressively cut back to save $4 billion in operating costs.
As outrageous and immoral as all this is, BP isn't a criminal acting alone—it has had the open backing of the government. The Obama administration approved BP's bid to drill in the Gulf in February 2009, despite BP's record. The U.S. Interior Department's Minerals Management Service (MMS) used a loophole in the law to exempt BP from environmental restrictions. In fact, according to the Center for Biological Diversity, "MMS exempts hundreds of dangerous offshore oil drilling projects in the Gulf of Mexico every year."
BP's plan and environmental impact statement for the Deepwater Horizon drilling project claimed it was "unlikely that an accidental surface or subsurface oil spill would occur from the proposed activities." BP said any spill would likely not cause much damage because the oil platform was too far from shore and that "response capabilities" would be adequate—so "no significant adverse impacts are expected." All this is now exposed as bald-faced lies.
Just a month ago Obama lifted a decades-long moratorium on offshore drilling and proposed massively expanding offshore U.S. drilling into new areas in Alaska, the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic coast from Maryland to Florida. Obama himself offered this assurance: "Oil rigs today generally don't cause spills."
Obama and his administration are now saying BP is responsible and will be made to pay for the cost of the spill, and that they are rethinking the ending of the offshore drilling moratorium. This is nothing but cover-your-ass hypocrisy.
What dollar amount can be put on the incredible harm being done to all kinds of animal and plant life—including those in peril of dying out forever—through this oil spill?
In a May 7 press release, the Center for Biological Diversity exposed how the MMS approved 27 new offshore drilling projects since the first day of the BP spill—"26 under the same environmental review exemption used to approve the disastrous BP drilling that is fouling the Gulf and its wildlife." Two of those approvals for drilling operations were awarded to BP.
The truth is this monstrous environmental disaster had very definite causes in the short-sighted, profit-driven activity of a capitalist corporation—and official U.S. government policy which encouraged and enabled such activity.
But what is actually behind the drive to expand the drilling for oil in places like the Gulf? To get at the deeper reality, we have to come to grips with the fact that there is much more to this oil spill than the greed of a giant oil company (or even the whole oil industry) and the policies—as outrageous as they are—of any one government. What we're seeing here are the workings of an economic and political system: the system of capitalism-imperialism.
Obama and other world "leaders" are not, and cannot be, caretakers of the planet—because they are caretakers of a system that is, by its very nature, behind the environmental emergency confronting humanity.
The current energy system of extracting oil, coal, and gas (known as fossil fuels) is tremendously profitable. This is why this system based on fossil fuels is the dominant form of energy used in the world, despite the fact that it is tremendously destructive to the environment and now fueling potentially catastrophic global climate change. Fossil fuel and automobile transport are deeply embedded in the structures of capitalist production and expansion. Of the 10 largest companies in the world in 2007, six were oil companies and three were car companies.
The U.S. is an imperialist power that dominates, exploits, and oppresses whole nations and peoples worldwide—and oil is integral to the maintenance, defense, and extension of this empire. The U.S. military is the single largest institutional purchaser of oil in the world.
Because capitalist development and expansion rely on this highly profitable—and environmentally hazardous—source of energy, the more accessible and conventional sites are becoming depleted. The system's response to the end of "easy oil" has been to tap more unconventional sources, through deep offshore oil and gas drilling around the world. Natural gas and coal companies are also pursuing a strategy of maximum extraction—by drilling through shale rock or removing mountaintops.
Mega-companies are jousting over who will be the first to lay claim to these new sources, to strike deals with host countries, and to find the means to extract this energy. And it's not just a matter of individual companies. There are huge geopolitical factors involved. The major capitalist powers—the U.S., European Union countries, China, Russia, Japan, and others—are all vying with each other for strategic control over regions where new fossil fuel sources are to be found.
Not that long ago, the Gulf of Mexico was thought to have been "played out" as a major source of oil, mainly because the fields known to exist were considered unreachable. But the rush to drill has been enabled by new technological developments. In the mid 1980s there were several dozen active oil rigs in the Gulf—by 2006 there were 3,858.
The result has been the aquatic (and mineral rights) equivalent of a land grab in the Gulf—a process going on elsewhere as well—as various companies stake their claims to different fields recently discovered or recently opened up because of the technological "advances." The following is from an April 30, 2010, NY Times article on the current spill, revealingly titled "The Spill vs. A Need to Drill":
There is another reason why offshore drilling is likely to continue. Most of the new discoveries lie beneath the world's oceans, including the Gulf of Mexico. For the oil companies, these reserves are worth hundreds of billions of dollars and represent the industry's future. Since the 1980s, the Gulf has turned into a vast laboratory for the industry to test and showcase its most sophisticated technology. This is where oil companies found ways to drill in ever-deeper water, where they developed bigger platforms to pump even more oil, where they pioneered the use of unmanned submarines and elaborate underwater systems straight out of a science fiction novel.
What's totally missing from this picture is any concern about environmental hazards and impacts. And that is not science fiction but a brute reality of how the capitalist system operates.
In a concentrated way, the Gulf oil spill is an expression of how this planet's environment and human destiny itself are being driven to the brink of disaster. This is happening at a time when there exists wealth on a vast scale and technology on a level never before imagined...wealth and technology that is in the hands of the capitalist-imperialist system.
People are rightly outraged by the criminal actions of the oil company and the government in the Gulf. But the reality is that disasters like this, and the environmental crisis as a whole, cannot be addressed within the framework of this system. This is a hard truth—but one people must come face-to-face with.
There is, however, another truth. Things don't have to be this way. Under a radically different system, the tremendous wealth and technology that exist could and should be a resource shared by all of humanity and used to meet the needs of people everywhere for decent and fulfilling lives and to safeguard the planet we live on. We encourage readers to get into the articles "Communism and Ecology: How Revolution Opens the Way for Humanity to Confront the Environmental Crisis and Become Caretakers of the Planet" and "Some Key Principles of Socialist Sustainable Development," which are part of the recent special issue of Revolution newspaper on the environment.
We are building, right now, a movement for all-the-way emancipatory revolution that includes taking up major social battles such as around the environment—while projecting and popularizing our vision of a whole new world. And the campaign now, "The Revolution We Need... the Leadership We Have," is aimed at making a big leap in this revolutionary movement. Everyone who is concerned and outraged about the state of the existing world should find out about this and find ways to relate to and become part of this campaign and movement in various creative ways.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #201, May 16, 2010
The following are excerpts from two articles in the special Revolution issue on the environment (#199, April 18, 2010) that discuss how a revolutionary socialist society would actually act as custodians of nature, rather than its plunderers. Other articles in the special issue examine the dimensions of the crisis and how the source of the problem is the capitalist system. The articles and the issue as a whole are available online at revcom.us.
As a point of orientation, socialist society has to be proceeding, first and foremost, from the long-term interests of humanity and the planet. Preserving and protecting ecosystems requires "taking the long view"—looking ahead over many decades and generations. This is something that capitalist society, with its "get-rich-quick" mode of operating and the necessity imposed by expand-or-die competition, cannot do—and which has led to the situation we are now facing.
C. Transforming the Structure of Industrial Production, Agriculture, and Transport
The new socialist society will set out to transform the environmentally destructive structure and functioning of today's imperialist economy:
It must immediately begin to move decisively away from reliance on non-renewable and polluting fossil-fuel energy (oil, coal, and natural gas)—and to adopt and develop ecologically sound technologies, like solar, wind, and geothermal power. To move in this direction, the socialist economy must combine diversified large-scale with diversified small-scale production, and develop a rational mix of advanced and intermediate technologies.
Major efforts must be made towards reorienting transportation away from private automobile ownership and from the auto-highway and fossil-fuel-centered systems of transport. Safe and efficient mass transit will be given priority in all new development, restructuring, and research.
It will be necessary to develop agricultural systems based on principles of long-term land-use planning, comprehensive soil and water conservation, and agro-biodiversity. These agricultural systems—large, medium, and small-scale—must allow for technologies and practices that can be locally adapted, fitted to particular conditions, and that can respond to climate change and changes in demand. In reorienting agriculture, the goal must be to achieve high and sustainable yields of agricultural goods and healthful food products that minimize use of resources and minimize damage to nature and to people.
Socialist society must be working to make conservation of resources a standard in all aspects of economic and social life: in technology development, in production, in the consumer goods that are produced and how they are used. It must promote recycling and multi-use of materials and products—this in place of the irrational upgrading of products (annual "new models") and the wasteful consumption of materials of capitalist society.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #201, May 16, 2010
For Immediate Release
Monday, May 3, 2010
Raymond Lotta and Orpheus Available for Interviews
The explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform that killed 11 workers on April 20 threatens to become a massive and perhaps unparalleled environmental disaster. Current estimates are that 200,000 gallons a day are gushing out of the sea floor, one mile beneath the surface. The spill endangers fragile marshes, ponds, creeks, lakes, and other wetlands making up 40 percent of U.S. total wetlands. Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries estimates that at least 400 species—from shrimp to pelicans to river otters—could be impacted by the oil, including a dozen listed under the Endangered Species Act.
This is a capitalist oil spill. The Gulf of Mexico has been turned into a vast laboratory for deep-water oil drilling to serve capitalism's relentless drive for profit and strategic control of energy resources. Official U.S. government policy has encouraged this—and has refused to require use of the most advanced technology to stop disasters exactly like this. The inconvenient truth is that this oil leak could have been prevented. But it is "cost-effective" for companies like British Petroleum to scrimp on safety and environmental protection measures and equipment.
The capitalist system depends on highly profitable and environmentally destructive fossil fuels. Remember, the Obama administration just a month ago proposed massively expanding offshore U.S. drilling, while President Obama himself offered this assurance: "oil rigs today generally don't cause spills." And this comes after the deliberate failure—engineered mainly by the U.S.—of the December 2009 Copenhagen climate talks to take any meaningful action to stop global warming.
This is outrageous and immoral. What is happening in the Gulf points to the reality that the capitalist system is unable and unwilling to protect the planet and the people.
Raymond Lotta and Orpheus bring a unique communist perspective to global environmental issues:
Raymond Lotta is the author of America in Decline and of Maoist Economics and the Revolutionary Road to Communism; he has been interviewed by the BBC and Agence France-Presse. Orpheus writes on issues of the environment and the antiglobalization movement. Both contributed to the Special Environmental issue of Revolution newspaper, "State of Emergency! The Plunder Of Our Planet, The Environmental Catastrophe and The Real Revolutionary Solution" (revcom.us/a/199/emergency-en.html).
Send us your comments.
Revolution #201, May 16, 2010
Sometimes really big things happen in the world that make millions of people sit up and pay attention. Recently, in the space of four days, two major events captured headlines and set off huge discussion and debate among millions of people.
The April 20 explosion of a British Petroleum (BP) oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico has resulted in what may become the worst man-made ecological disaster in human history. (We cover this on page 10-11. Plus online extras)
And SB1070—the law signed by Arizona's governor on April 23 requiring the police to interrogate anyone they suspect of being in the U.S. illegally—has set off huge controversy and protests all over the country. (We go into this on page 6. Plus online extras)
There are always lots of things we can see bubbling beneath the surface—including "disasters waiting to happen" or reactionary movements pressing their agenda. But no one can predict exactly if, when and how such things will go to a new level and erupt overnight into a major event consuming and convulsing society.
So, lots of different kinds of people are outraged at an intolerable Nazi-type law and many are taking a "no business as usual" attitude—recognizing the terrible precedent this sets for the whole country and waging struggle to beat this back. This oil disaster has awakened many people—and should be intolerable for anyone who cares about the planet. And there is a need to build determined mass struggle around both of these outrages.
Think about what has happened, what has been revealed, with these two events. In both cases, the ruling class has no real solution to the problem posed. BP is scrambling around trying to figure out how to put a cap on this gushing oil—which they still haven't been able to do. And no one in the U.S. ruling class is even addressing in any kind of for-real way the bigger problem this disaster highlights—which is that the capitalist system is dependent on fossil fuels due to the basic commandment of the system—profit above all.
And with regard to the so-called "immigration problem"—this is also something this system can't really resolve. Because U.S. imperialism has, and can only, fuck up the lives of people in other countries even worse than what they have done in the U.S., forcing millions to desperately seek a better life in the U.S. The system needs super-exploited immigrant labor. And for the U.S. ruling class, growing numbers of immigrants coming to the U.S. from Mexico and other parts of Latin America are a problem because this threatens the social stability of this country which has been defined in large part as being a white-American nation. So the system institutes all kinds of repressive measures against immigrants which have much larger implications for all of society. At the same time as the system thrives on and can't live without immigrant labor, the system's very need for it and what they do to satisfy that need unravels their social stability and creates extreme volatility.
The fact is this system doesn't and can't solve the big economic and social problems facing humanity. But things actually don't have to be this way. And when something like this BP oil disaster or SB1070 erupts in society—there is the potential for people to see and act on this truth. This is where the work of revolutionaries is crucial.
Take both the oil disaster and SB1070. In both cases different plans and programs are being offered for what the U.S. government and the capitalist system should do. And there is intense debate and struggle among many different kinds of people, including, in the case of SB1070, over how to build mass protest. Revolutionaries need to get into the middle of all this. When we do compelling exposure of WHY such things happen... then people see to the root of the problem. When we give people a vision of a whole different way that these crises—as well as all the other outrages the rulers tell us are "intractable problems"—could actually be solved in a socialist society which has as its goal the emancipation of all humanity... then people see more clearly that things really don't have to be this way. When we jump into these struggles and bring a combination of all this to bear... then there is potential for people to think in a whole different way about what is possible and desirable. This is why it is so important for people to get out there today in the midst of these developing crises.
These two mini-crises taken together are not a revolutionary crisis. But these are the kind of moments in which people can be won to see things differently and a defiant and questioning spirit can be built among the people. Again, this is why it is so crucial for revolutionaries to be in the midst of these crises, getting the RCP's Message and Call, "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have," and Revolution newspaper to people and engaging with them over the big questions of how humanity can actually solve these, and other, urgent problems. This is why it is so crucial for revolutionaries to bring to people the fact that we have a leader, Bob Avakian, who is willing and able to take the responsibility to lead people out of this hell. (See page 4-5 for "Bob Avakian on the Essence of Communist Leadership, and Bringing Forward New Leaders," an excerpt from the REVOLUTION talk by Bob Avakian.) The Party's campaign to spread the word about this revolution and this leadership has to reverberate into and then amplify back out of these major crises now racking society.
Let's look for a minute to the future, to what a revolutionary situation could look like—and then what this says about what revolutionaries need to be doing today. In fact, if we look at crises that break out today—like this oil disaster and the big upheaval around SB1070—we can see the outlines of the way different crises and struggles could come together on a whole different scale. And we can see the contours of how a really major crisis could actually provide an opening in which people in their millions would be looking for a way out. The right of the imperialist ruling class to rule—their legitimacy—could be brought into question. And people can be won, in their tens of millions, to struggle on the side of a revolutionary force that puts forward a program with real answers to the intolerable problems people face. For example, we revolutionary communists have beginning answers for how to stop the destruction of the environment. And we have an overall orientation and approach to fundamentally transforming the world and emancipating all humanity which could enable us to solve supposedly "intractable problems" like immigration in a way that would be part of overcoming inequality and exploitation—not reinforcing and exacerbating it... if we had state power.
This past week marked the 40th anniversary of the day Ohio National Guards murdered four Kent State students. (See "Kent State!...and the lessons for today," centerspread) This happened at a mass protest in response to the U.S. escalating its war in Vietnam. And after the shooting at Kent, protests erupted on campuses all over the country. An important lesson from this is how things can take a leap almost overnight to a situation where literally millions of people go into motion against the powers that be. People's thinking and their willingness to sacrifice for fundamental change opens up in a whole new way. The response to the Kent State murders and the mass struggle against the Vietnam War never reached a full-blown revolutionary contest for power. But there are important lessons to be drawn from all this with respect to how quickly things can radically change, in terms of what a developing revolutionary situation could look like AND what this says about the role of revolutionaries in such situations.
Flash back again to what is happening today. There can be different crises going on in society that all contribute to a kind of hot mix in which people's faith in the system's ability to rule is seriously being questioned. Think about the dynamic in which you have an oil/environmental disaster that can't be fixed, an anti-immigrant law that sharply polarizes society—two things where the system cannot offer any real solutions.
No one can say what will happen with these two crises. But in part, depending on the work and orientation of revolutionaries in recognizing and fully seizing openings—struggle around these two things can gain in clarity and force, and spread. The future is unwritten, and what we do—how aggressively we respond—has a great deal to do with what happens.
And even if these particular crises do not take a leap to a more full-out crisis where the capitalists' right to rule is called into question, whether and how revolutionaries work in the midst of all this right now to spread their message to millions, and organize thousands, including strengthening the core of passionate fighters for communist revolution, could have everything to do with what WOULD happen in the event of a major future crisis where everything really does "go up for grabs." As the RCP's Message and Call says:
"Revolution can be made when there is a revolutionary situation, an even greater crisis in society as a whole: when people in greater numbers come to deeply feel and understand that the present power has no legitimacy...that it serves only a handful of oppressors...that it uses lies and deception, corruption and completely unjust force and violence to keep this system going and 'keep the people in their place'...when millions see the need to fight to break this power and establish a new power that can bring about the changes that people desperately need and want."
We ARE BUILDING a movement for revolution, working to bring a revolutionary people into being, with a backbone of those who have no faith in the system and are devoting their lives to resisting oppression and building up for the time when we can get rid of the cause of all this oppression. We have to be "hastening, while awaiting" the emergence of a revolutionary situation—actively attempting to influence public opinion and organize people to both hasten the emergence of such a situation, shape the character and ground on which such a crisis would be struggled out to resolution, and prepare to take advantage of such a situation to make revolution.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #201, May 16, 2010
Forty years ago, on May 4, 1970, four students at Kent State University were gunned down by the Ohio National Guard. Days before, on April 30, the U.S. had begun the invasion of Cambodia in Southeast Asia. This represented a major escalation in and expansion of the war in Vietnam and Southeast Asia. At the same time, Bobby Seale, a leader of the Black Panther Party, faced trumped up murder charges in New Haven, Connecticut. Thousands militantly protested against this outrage over the weekend of May 2-3.
When the U.S. invaded Cambodia, students across the country poured into the streets and took over buildings in protest. In the months before this escalation of the war, protest on Ohio campuses had been developing, as students mobilized against the war and joined this with a movement of Black students. The governor had called in the National Guard to Miami University at Ohio in response to a building takeover there that was brutally repressed by the local police, and then again he mobilized the Guard at Kent State. In the face of the Guard forbidding the demonstration against the invasion of Cambodia, the students defiantly went ahead. Tear gas was fired. Students were pushed around. But still they refused to back down in the face of these attacks. Then, the Guard fired into the crowd (61-67 rounds in the space of 13 seconds), killing four students and wounding nine others, one paralyzed for life. Then 10 days later, two students were murdered and 12 others were wounded at Jackson State University in Mississippi.
Why did the students resist? What were students thinking? On campuses across the country (and more broadly in society), people were not thinking the war should be opposed because it was unnecessary, or detrimental, to U.S. national security interests. Students were not thinking that the financial cost of the war to Americans was too high. Their thought was not that maybe the U.S. shouldn't have gone into Vietnam to begin with, but since it did, it had to stay and "rebuild" the country. People were not saying: "We think killing innocent civilians is probably wrong, but then again we are not there, so we can't be sure." And they were definitely not of a mind that the determination about whether the war in Vietnam was just should be left to the President and the U.S. generals, or any of the other assorted war criminals who were waging that war in the first place.
No, the leading edge of opposition to the Vietnam War—including among those tens of thousands of students who were at the forefront of resisting that war—was a clear and basic moral and political stand: the U.S. has no right whatsoever to be in Vietnam; it is visiting crimes against humanity on the people there, and we demand an immediate end to the war. Over years of resistance, this movement had spread from more radical campuses, like Berkeley and Columbia, and was penetrating deep into what the U.S. calls its heartland. On page 1 of The Report of the President's Commission on Campus Unrest, it plainly stated: "The crisis on American campuses has no parallel in the history of the nation. The crisis has roots in divisions of American society as deep as any since the Civil War."
These were times of mass struggle and upheaval. The movement against the war came together with the movement against racial oppression and for Black liberation—all within the context of a much broader and sustained societal rebellion against oppressive relations and ideas. Defiance and a determination to fight for what was moral and just typified the resistance movements of that time. There was a flowering of movements of youth, like the hippies, who were thoroughly alienated from the traditional norms of society and searching for alternatives. And this brought them into increasing conflict with the powers-that-be and the system as a whole.
Distilled out of all this, a core emerged convinced of the need to fight for revolution. This was a core which opposed U.S. imperialism in an all round way—and drew the connections between the crimes of the imperialist system committed throughout the world and the crimes that this system committed in the U.S. This core worked tirelessly to show that it was the capitalist-imperialist system based on the exploitation of the vast majority of people on this planet that was at the root of the oppression—the U.S. war in Southeast Asia, the oppression of Black, Latino, and other minorities, the oppression of women, and the many other horrors people were resisting. They did not see their interests as lying with the interests of U.S. capitalism (at home and abroad), nor did they act as though they had a stake in protecting and defending that system. Instead, this core brought to the broader thousands of students, who opposed injustice and war and felt completely alienated from their government, the understanding that the system itself was the evil that needed to be done away with. And they fought with all their fiber to build the revolutionary movement with that goal in mind. Internationalist in their outlook, they were inspired by and supported revolutionary movements throughout the world. And they especially looked to China, which was a genuine socialist country at that time, led by Mao Tsetung.
All this set the stage for May 1970. When the U.S. army invaded Cambodia, which President Dick Nixon had promised NOT to do, broad swaths of society opposed to the war joined the movement. And those who had been resisting became all the more determined to stand up and put an end to this war.
With the killing of the students at Kent State and Jackson State, about 4 million students at 1,350 universities, outraged by the murders, took to the streets in protest.*
Campuses across the country shut down. There was a leap in the situation, and many who had been sickened by the war—and the treatment of Black people in this society—but passive, sprang into action. They confronted the forces of the state, refusing to back down in the face of this brutal repression. And began to look at things in new ways. For hundreds of thousands, the very legitimacy of the current order's right to rule was called into question. The political polarization in society changed, seemingly overnight. And within this outpouring of people across the country, the revolutionary core gained in strength... many, many people were radicalized and the target of the uncompromising protest became the system itself... the revolutionary movement, while still far from encompassing the majority in society, had the initiative in many ways.
On the 40th anniversary of the Kent State massacre, over a thousand people, including alumni from Kent, youth from colleges and high schools and many others rallied and marched to honor those who died and were wounded. Banners declared: "Long Live the Spirit of Kent and Jackson State!" and "Roots of Resistance, Continuing the Struggle." Veterans of the 1960s, Bobby Seale, Bernardine Dohrn and Mark Rudd—and Gerald Casale of DEVO—spoke together with those who had been there on May 4, 1970. And the Kent State Truth Tribunal was convened by members of the families of the students killed that day. Accounts and testimony from people who were there that day, family members and others was streamed live on Michael Moore's website and filmed by award-winning filmmaker Emily Kunstler.
Many who participated spoke to the horrors going on in the world today: the continuing wars the U.S. is waging in the Middle East, the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the attacks on immigrants in Arizona. Revolutionaries went into the crowd, distributing the Message and Call from the Revolutionary Communist Party: "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have," the May Day issue of Revolution (#200) and works by Bob Avakian.
May 1970 was a time when students were NOT complacent, passive, and complicit but dared, even at the cost of very real sacrifice, to stand up against and resist the crimes of their government, and the system that government serves and enforces—and there are very important lessons from this inspiring experience for today. It is time, once again, for students—and many others—to step up and join the movement we are building for revolution.
* Kenneth Heineman, Put Your Bodies Upon the Wheels: Student Revolt in the 1960s, Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2001; page 176. [back]
Send us your comments.
Revolution #201, May 16, 2010
We received the following correspondences from a Revolution newspaper seller who went to the Kent State 40th Anniversary Commemoration.
I went to Kent State University in the late 1970's, and have been to almost every May 4 since then. The same banner hangs on the stage each year which expresses why people need to commemorate this day – "Long Live the Spirit of Kent and Jackson State!" This year's theme was expressed by an additional banner on the stage – "Roots of Resistance, Continuing the Struggle."
There had been so much on the news, on the internet, and mainstream media about this 40th anniversary. It was unlike anything I'd seen before. There was also a nationwide movement begun which I joined because it was the first time I'd seen anything like this! In its description on Facebook, which has over 1000 members, it says "Because permitted marches once a year do not seem to be getting Obama's attention."
When we got to Blanket Hill, people were everywhere, and still coming. Groups of students from Kent State, and other Ohio colleges; a variety of high schools students, including from as far away as Dayton; Kent State alumni brought their kids, and some their grandkids; people who live in the surrounding area of small towns; professors from many local colleges & universities. Young women walked through the crowds giving out flowers. Dogs romped; Frisbees soared. And then at 12:36 pm the victory bell rang out, marking the time when the shots were fired here in 1970. And a moment of silence. 13 doves were released, marking the 13 students killed or wounded on that day 40 years ago.
Then the commemoration began. Many people spoke and it was hard not to be angry one moment and be close to tears the next. Students gave the history of May 4. Eyewitnesses to the Kent shootings and family members of the slain students talked. One man spoke who was a witness to the shootings at Jackson State, 10 days after the Kent shootings.
The main speakers were Black Panther leader Bobby Seale and Gerald Casale of DEVO; Bernardine Dohrn and Mark Rudd, ex-SDS leaders.
As the commemoration was going on, Revolution Books had its table and big red flag set up. We are the revolutionary pole of the May 4 scene every year. We mainly exhibited the works of Bob Avakian, and we told people that we are part of a nationwide campaign, "The Revolution We Need...The Leadership We Have." We were not there 5 minutes and sold a copy of Away With All Gods. That particular book got picked up more than any other. We also sold a copy of Bob Avakian's memoir, From Ike to Mao and Beyond. We sold Revolution newspaper, and distributed almost 1000 copies of the RCP's Message & Call, "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have."
The exhibit of books, the papers, and the red flag drew a good amount of attention, curiosity, and conversation. One thing that created a scene was when a young woman began giving out a few of the florescent colored stickers we had, "We are ALL Illegals." For about five minutes, people had their hands out, mainly young people but a few older ones as well, wanting to put on the stickers right away and being glad that someone was speaking about the fascist attacks on immigrants in Arizona and beyond.
We then found out, a couple minutes later that a student group called SADIP (Students Against Discriminatory Immigration Policies) was calling for a march after the commemoration. A young woman student took a huge handful of stickers and said she'd distribute them to the marchers. A number of students had little fliers, about 1/8 of a page, that they passed out during the commemoration.
The march was great! The bright stickers were seen everywhere. One person said that it was the most multi-cultural protest he'd ever seen. The march started on the commons, went over the hill of daffodils to the killing fields. The marchers circled the parking lot where the four were killed and a few minutes of silence, then the march wound up at Risman Plaza, by the Student Center. One person also said that this was the high point of the day!
Send us your comments.
Revolution #201, May 16, 2010
Q. What was the significance of May 4, 1970?
A. The significance then was massive. There's no question about how important that was at the time. It marks the end of one era in terms of a peaceful, nonviolent Civil Rights Movement and started a new era of the new left, and a radical movement. I personally feel that way, looking at history. Strains of the New Left were around for five years, but it cemented a change. When you look at the changes that were happening at that time, you see KSU radicalizing the white left. The Black community was already a few steps ahead, the BLA (Black Liberation Army), RNA (Republic of New Africa), the Revolutionary Action Movement, had already been around. By 1970 and with May 4, the white left movement became a lot more radicalized. It was a wake up call for America. It was white kids finally realizing that their government will kill them. It had a profound impact on students and activists across the country. It made America realize, or those parts of America that were fighting for truth and justice, that we were entering a new front in that struggle.
Q. And the May 4, 1970 rally was called for against the invasion of Cambodia, and in defense of Huey Newton.
A. On April 30, 1970, Nixon announced that we were entering Cambodia. It was something that activists already knew, they knew about Laos too, that the war was on 3 fronts. But Nixon having that press conference and admitting it was the catalyst. We're at war on three fronts now – in Iraq, Afghanistan, and secretly in Pakistan - so to me it's one of the reasons that I wanted to get involved as faculty advisor this year. To really push that radical agenda for the youth. Typically M4TF [May 4th Task Force] has had two roles as a student organization: 1) to commemorate the shootings and to memorialize the martyrs that were killed and the casualties as well; 2) to promote student activism. In years past, it's always been a struggle between those two. There is a need for balance between those two, but the balance has always been towards memorializing. My intention was to bring the balance to an equal level between those two factors, and to press student activism. We did a lot of things on the days from May 1- 4 to promote student activism, and engage the youth to engage the vital discussion and issues on their minds. What the issue really is is that things are really bad. Students are duped that we have a Black president. But they also don't have a great historical context for what happened in the past. So we brought back a lot of folks from SDS (Students for a Democratic Society), BUS (Black United Students), SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee), the Weather Underground to work with the students of today. Mark Rudd & [Bernardine] Dohrn came on their own dime, they wanted to connect with the students and give them the historical context that the students have lacked. They also wanted to hear from the students about what their concerns were and reality is. And they did that.
Q. What were the issues and concerns of the students?
A. Issues of racism, classism, sexism, hetersexism. Arizona was one of those main issues. Also the issue of the skyrocketing cost of education today. And the serious clash between the richest 1% of the population and everyone else. It's internationally, not just in this country. The huge inequities vs. this plutocracy that runs the world. During the conference, we talked about international movements, like what's happening in Africa, Mexico, Central America, Asia, the Middle East and about war and environmental concerns. Women's rights as well; the people that bear the brunt of exploitation in the new world order are women. It was a really powerful week. About 150 - 200 students participated in the conference.
Fire in the Heartland, a film by Dr. Daniel Miller, was so important, and an anchor of this conference. We brought in a lot of people who were in this film. All the other KSU documentaries show only white students in the movement. This film focused on a lot of the common work that SDS and BUS in Kent had together. They worked on common issues. It was really amazing. It showed a three-year relationship with one another. Dr. Crosby (faculty advisor to BUS) warned Black students not to be part of the May demonstrations. On May 2, BUS had a rally at the commons saying we're in support of you, but we can't be a part of this action or they'll kill us, because of what's happened in Oakland, Chicago. But they did send some reps, but they stayed out of the fray.
And the Weather Underground was also really strong in Kent.
Q. Tell us more about the immigrants' rights march that took place on May 4 this year.
A. The immigrants' rights march was very multicultural. Latino, Muslim, Black, white. 200 students marched, and then took 500 up to Risman Plaza. We showed the Kunstler film before May 4, and one of the issues was Native American rights. We've done a lot to deal with that, and people realize the police can stop anyone, Black or brown or radical looking white kids. We live in a country today where if you bring up race, people scoff because we have a Black president, but students know that that's BS and that's a lie.
Q. What have people been saying about Obama?
A. At the conference, there was a lot of discussion. It ranged from wanting to support him, but at the same time, having difficulty doing that. Recognizing the forces that are behind him. The wars continue, insurance companies drove health care reform... they are pissed. But they still feel like it's better than Bush. And they're frustrated, that the radical right has the power to ram whatever they want down the throat of America and the world, but the left has to make minuscule, incremental changes. The young people especially are pissed off. The older generations are pissed off, but not as pissed as the youth. They are very impatient, and very disenfranchised from the political system and less trusting of it.
Q. Is there anything else you want people to know?
A. It's like Bobby Seale said- All power to all the people... The people need power. If there's anything I've learned or had reinforced, it is that the people need more power. And now more than ever, the people need more power cause we've lost a lot over the past 40 years.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #201, May 16, 2010
"A New Generation of Revolutionary Leaders"
From the Talk: Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About
Editors' Note: The following is the text of the answer by Bob Avakian to Question 14 in the "Questions and Answers" Section of the DVD: Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About. This has been slightly edited for publication, and a footnote has been added.
Now, finally, as far as written questions—because we wanted to allow time for people to ask questions from the floor, so to speak—the question is: "Given how crucial the revolutionary upsurge of the '60s was in forging the leadership of the RCP, how can a new generation of revolutionary leadership be brought into being in the absence of such a revolutionary upsurge?"
Well, those were favorable times. There was a revolutionary upsurge generally in the world, in many different forms and many different levels and with many different kinds of programs and ideologies. But there was a general revolutionary ferment in the world, and this did find very broad expression even within the U.S. itself. I mean this even penetrated into some of the mainstream silly popular culture. Like some of you might remember the movie Car Wash—it was made in the '70s. There's a scene in there where the son of the owner of the car wash brings in the Red Book [Quotations from Chairman Mao Tsetung] and is trying to propagandize the other people working in the car wash about how great the Red Book is. Well, this was kind of silly, on one level, but it reflected something about what was going on in the culture. There was another movie made with Peter Sellers called I Love You, Alice B. Toklas. This was all about how... Alice B. Toklas was this woman who developed this recipe for making cookies with marijuana, I think. And it involved this guy [played by the actor] Peter Sellers who was a mainstream, really straight-by-the-book lawyer who's supposed to have one of these marriages that's sort of, you know, almost like a merger. And at the last minute he drops out and goes and joins his brother in kind of a hippie life, and he keeps going back and forth between these two lives. And at one point his brother takes him to a bookstore and says, "Oh, the Red Book—you really gotta get one of these." So this is a kind of reflection, even reaching into the mainstream culture, of what was going in the society at that time, especially among the youth of different nationalities, but not only them.
And of course this provided very favorable terms and conditions for people to develop into revolutionaries and into communists. Now, naturally, it didn't happen automatically. Just because there was all this stuff around, just because there was a Red Book there, you didn't have to read it. And just because you read it didn't mean you understood it. And just because you read it and understood it didn't mean you really went deeper and understood something more fundamental than that. I mean the Red Book is a condensed version of a lot of things. It's very good, obviously, but to really understand these things and really develop as a communist you have to go a lot deeper and a lot broader than that. You have to get into a lot of the underlying principles that are being spoken of and concentrated there. And you have to get into all the complexities of this.
But this general kind of atmosphere created very favorable conditions for that, it's true. This is a situation in which I myself and others in the RCP—or what became the RCP—this is the context in which many of us developed. But, of course, we shouldn't romanticize that. There were lots of people who developed in that time, became very radicalized, even became revolutionary-minded, who did not become Maoists, who did not become communists. They went in other directions. Or they proclaimed themselves Maoists and communists but it wasn't really that. And when some real twists and turns and some real tests came, like when the revisionists seized power in China [in 1976], they just fell all apart. So it wasn't some kind of automatic or easy thing to be..."oh, you know, everybody was being a communist then, man, all you had to do was fall into it." It wasn't like that. And a lot of people got killed in that period of time, especially members of the Black Panther Party, who might have also developed into revolutionary leaders in a more developed way but never got the chance. This is the way it goes. Some of this is accident—who emerges and who doesn't as a revolutionary leader and what emerges as a vanguard party.
One of the questions we didn't get into here—we didn't have time—is somebody asked the question of did I think that as a white male I could actually lead the revolution. Well, the answer is no, not as a white male—but I think I could play a leading role in it as a communist [applause]. This is the challenge: what you follow is not people based on what nationality they are, or what gender they are, and so on, but whether they really represent the way forward out of all this and whether they have a plan and a program for actually leading people in that way, and developing in that kind of a way. Like I said, there's a lot of accident that goes into that. A lot of other people who might have emerged as leaders in forming the new vanguard party reached a turn in the road and couldn't keep going forward on the right road for a lot of different reasons—or maybe they got killed or thrown in jail and didn't have the opportunity to do it.
So we shouldn't idealize that period of time. There were very favorable conditions. But, first of all, on the one side it's not automatic that you're going to develop into a communist out of conditions like that, or that you can forge the leadership necessary to form a vanguard party out of all that. See, that's something else I want to say—just a little detour here. Leadership is not a matter of ego, it's not a matter—at least proletarian leadership, communist leadership—it's not a matter of asserting that you know better than everybody else, you're smarter than everybody else and everybody should follow you blindly without questioning what you say. Leadership is essentially a matter of responsibility. It's a matter of being willing to be ruthlessly scientific, caring enough about this revolution—having a deep enough grounding and understanding that this revolution is necessary and possible—to be willing and on that basis to develop the ability to apply yourself to actually lead this revolution and to take up all the daunting and heavy responsibilities that go into actually providing that leadership, learning but also leading and not shirking the responsibility. Yes, I'll say it straight up: I'm ready and I'm willing to take the responsibility of leading this revolution all the way. And our party is willing and ready to do the same thing. [applause]
But this is a matter of responsibility. It's a matter of taking this seriously. It's a matter of saying: this is where this needs to go, this is where this is tending to go, these are the forces that are resisting and pulling back away from it, this is what has to be overcome, this is what has to be overthrown, this is how people have to be led, this is how we have to go out and work among people and learn from them while we're giving them leadership, this is the process of the mass line that has to be applied, these are the problems that have to be studied. This is what it means to lead—it means you're willing and you're ready to take that responsibility and you're prepared, not just as an individual but collectively—collectively in the party and together with the masses of people who come forward to join the revolution—you're ready to carry that all the way through and to take up every challenge, both in theory and in practice, that has to be confronted and dealt with in order to make that revolution and contribute to it in the whole world. That's what it means to develop and to take the responsibility as a vanguard and to develop revolutionary leadership.
Now, while there were particular circumstances that were favorable to develop people like that out of the '60s, there are also plenty of favorable conditions to do that now. That's why you see many young people coming forward as communists right now, a number of whom are sitting right in this room. Where do they come from? They came out of the upsurges of this time. They came out of a different way, not the same way as the '60s, a different way that things are posing themselves now. They came out of recognizing, as we recognized then, that all these things stem from the same system. As they were introduced to this idea, they embraced it and took it up, and that's how they began to develop and are continuing to develop as communists.
Now, in order to bring forward new leaders in any kind of period...there's lots of upsurge going on now—look around you. Even [with the war] in Vietnam we didn't have a million or more people demonstrating against the war at that time.1 Overall, things then were more advanced than they've gotten to be now, but there are plenty of elements of upsurge and resistance now that hold great potential.
And it's a very tricky and complicated issue how you develop new leaders when you already have leaders. Because there's a tendency when you have long years of experience...well, first of all there's a tendency to get stuck in your ways. That's one thing you have to struggle against all the time, constantly trying to not get stuck in your ways and to recognize new things that emerge that might look to you like nothing significant but then you look deeper and you dig deeper and you see that they are, and that they do represent something that's shaking things loose. So there's not getting stuck in your ways and stuck in a rut.
There are positives and negatives to being a veteran, to having been around in the struggle for a long time. The positives are obvious—you gain a lot of experience, you learn a lot. One of the things you develop is a certain subtlety about things, you don't see things in oversimplified terms. You understand the complexities of things, at the same time as you see the simplicity within the complexity. What do I mean by that? Like, for example, to actually make a revolution is very complex, but it's also very simple that we need this revolution and that's what we have to do. And you have to not lose sight of either part of that. Then there's a question of not getting stuck in a rut or stuck in your ways, but there's also a question of not getting in the way of new people sometimes. Because you can look at what people are doing who are new and you have years of experience and you say, "I've seen this movie before, I know where this is going." Well, sometimes you do, and sometimes you don't because nothing is ever exactly the same as the way it was before. But even when it is in its main lines the same, there's still always new things to learn, and there's still always much to learn from people who are newly encountering these things and maybe coming up with new ways of confronting it that you didn't think of before.
Yes, there's a temptation to say, "Well, look, we know how to do this." I like this new generation, but let's face it, you know, they make a lot of fucking mistakes. [laughter] And it's very tempting to say, well we just can't let them take this initiative here because these are not times when we can make a lot of mistakes. This is a serious situation we're dealing with. These people that we're up against, the core of this ruling class—they're not playing. The shit that I was talking about is not some kind of thing I made up. The dangers that are represented are very real, and mistakes can cost a lot in this situation. So, it's very difficult to handle this contradiction of saying: "OK, let's let people take initiative even if they make some mistakes—some that I might have made too and some that are all their own." Because if we don't let that happen, first of all we're not going to learn as much as we might learn, including from how they handle it that might be different and even better in some ways—to our surprise—than the way we might have handled it. And second of all, if we don't do that they're never going to learn in this whole furnace of the struggle and, even if making mistakes, how to advance to the next level so that they can develop more as leaders and come forward.
So, part of it is actually leading people to develop as leaders, but part of that is knowing when to assist and when to get the fuck out of the way. And that's not easy to determine. One of the hardest things and one of the most important things in life in general, and especially in the revolutionary movement and socialist society, is knowing what are the things and when are the circumstances in which you really have to pay a lot of focused and very concrete and detailed and calibrated attention to everything, and what are the situations and what are the circumstances in which you should really step back and let things develop. This comes up all the time: You're working with other people, you want them to take initiative. Well, what are the times when you really have to kind of walk together with them step by step to help them do it, until they can do it more on their own? And what are the times and circumstances when you just have to have a general discussion and then let them go, and get out of the way?
So bringing forward new leaders is also a matter of handling that kind of contradiction, and there is a strategic importance to this. One of the principles we stress—whether you're talking about youth or people with more experience, whether you're talking about people of different genders or different nationalities—leadership is not a joke, and leadership is not a matter of tokenism. Leadership is responsible to the masses of people, here and all over the world. Leadership is something that has to be brought forward on the basis of people developing the ability, and being helped to develop the ability, to actually lead for real, to actually apply the revolutionary ideology and scientific methods to solve the real contradictions you're up against.
Otherwise, what we're doing is playing around so that we can feel good among ourselves and forgetting about the larger world and the masses of people out there, not just here but all over the world. You can feel good setting up arrangements that look good to other people—but what about the real contradictions that the masses of people are up against and the ways in which they're suffering every day? Are you really doing something to change that? Or are you just playing around? Developing leadership has to be done in line with and in mind of actually changing the world—that's what I'm trying to say. You have to change the world out here! It doesn't do any good if we don't change the world! I don't care whether we look young or old, what nationality or gender we are, if we don't change the world the masses of people are going to be fucked again! And that's not what we're about, that's not what this is about.
Yes, we have to bring forward the youth, we have to bring people forward from among the oppressed nationalities and from among the proletariat, and we have to develop them not only as communists but as communist leaders, and we are doing that and we have to do more. But it's gotta be on the basis of applying this ideology to change the world and to mobilize the masses of people and lead them to emancipate themselves, or else it doesn't mean anything. And that's what we're about. That's the standard we apply. That's what we're aiming for, and that's what we're thinking about and keeping uppermost in our minds when we're working to bring forward leaders from among the youth and from among the proletariat and oppressed masses. And there's plenty of circumstances and conditions to do that—there's plenty of work to be done and plenty of people to be brought forward. And I say: Let's get busy with it. [applause]
1. This talk, and the question and answer session that followed, from which this text is drawn, was given in the summer of 2003, a few months after there were massive protests against the impending war in Iraq; this is what Bob Avakian is referring to here, in speaking of "a million or more people demonstrating against the war." [back]
Send us your comments.
Revolution #201, May 16, 2010
With brightly decorated sound trucks, marches, and outreach into the protests against Arizona's fascist anti-immigrant law, the revolutionaries were in the streets on May First. They came with style, attitude and the rhythms of drummers and chants:
Everywhere we go
People want to know
Who we are
So we tell them
We are the revcoms
Mighty, mighty revcoms
Their message: The Revolution is Real. They got out tens of thousands of copies of the Message and Call from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA: "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have" (the focus and pivot of the RCP's major campaign).
Sound trucks played audio clips from Bob Avakian in his talk, Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About. Everywhere the revolutionaries went, people encountered something different: "This is NOT the best of all possible worlds... and we do NOT have to live this way." And, "A WHOLE DIFFERENT WORLD, A MUCH BETTER FUTURE, IS POSSIBLE. WE HAVE WHAT WE NEED TO FIGHT FOR THAT WORLD, THAT FUTURE.
"IT IS UP TO US TO GET WITH IT AND GET TO THE CHALLENGE OF MAKING THIS HAPPEN."
That night, people celebrated with potlucks, programs, showings of the REVOLUTION talk video, and a vibe that foreshadowed, and demanded, a whole different world.
Across the country, the revolutionaries went to housing projects and places where there has been struggle against police brutality and murder. In one south side Chicago ghetto neighborhood, a young man said, "You came to the right place." In East Oakland where revolutionaries have been taking out the RCP's campaign since July, a lot of people driving in the neighborhood honked their horns and raising their fists in support—some lowering their windows and yelling out "Revolution!"
The revolution reached out to college students at places like Berkeley, the district near UCLA, and Union Square in NYC. In Houston, a boldly decorated "Revolution Truck" rolled through the Montrose, a mainly middle class district with many youth and a large gay and lesbian population.
At protests against the Arizona law—from LA to San Jose, from Houston to Chicago—the revolutionaries wore and got out "We are ALL illegals" stickers. And they challenged protesters not to swallow the American flag poison and to cast their eyes to the horizon of revolution, when such outrages will be done away with.
In the San Francisco Bay Area, 4,000 copies of the May First issue of Revolution got out.
Some of the people who helped make May First happen were new to the revolution, including Iranian people who have been inspired by and supporting the upsurge in that country. In Houston, the day ended with singing of the Internationale in English, Spanish, and Farsi. A young man from Puebla, Mexico came looking for the revolutionaries on May 1 in LA after he got a leaflet at the garment shop where he works. A young Dominican woman in New York joined a march outside of a ghetto housing project—she heard about it on Facebook and was outraged by the anti-immigrant law in Arizona. High schoolers in Cleveland came out to help after taking their SAT tests earlier in the day. Told by older, "wiser" folks on the street to get with god, or to go along with the program in other ways, they had different ideas: "Do you think we need change? Do you see the oppression all around and then just sit back and wait? Because that's never going to change a thing. You need to get active, get involved and be part of this movement!" A student from a prestigious university said participating in her first May First was "dynamic, interactive, and organic."
Revolutionary May Day in New York City stepped off from a corner in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan just north of Harlem, rolled down Broadway to Harlem past the Audubon Ballroom where Malcolm X was assassinated, past the neighborhood where masses rose up after the police murdered 23-year-old Kiko Garcia in 1992, and through an area with a deep history of resistance and rebellion.
A woman from the Caribbean stopped to watch some of Bob Avakian's video as it played in a café on May 1. "Why haven't we heard about this person before?" An older Black woman who heard the speech playing from a flatbed truck in Harlem bought the REVOLUTION talk DVD set on the spot.
A striking new image of Bob Avakian appeared on T-shirts and was posted in scores of windows along the march route. There was a definite buzz that day about this new image, and, no doubt, more to be heard on this.
Revolution #201, May 16, 2010
A Prisoner Writes on the Impact of the Ban On Revolution
We received the following letter from a reader in prison:
To Whom It May Concern:
I'm writing to lend my support to the Pelican Bay prisoners out in California. Being that I have been held hostage in a supermax facility for three years now, I can completely empathize with the comrade in the article that stated: "I have been getting Revolution newspaper for about 8 years now and can't imagine being in this dungeon without it."
The Prison Ban on Revolution Newspaper is Inhumane and Unconstitutional
Overturn the Ban!
Imagine you are in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) of a prison, locked in a solitary cell for 23 or more hours a day, every day, year after year. 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."
In February, 2010, prison officials at California's Pelican Bay State Prison declared that Revolution newspaper was banned from their institution. The ban must be OVERTURNED.
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.
From my own personal experience on such units—since first being confined to one in 2000, there's only two alternatives that ensues from being incarcerated in a cell up to 23 hours a day, without any real meaningful human contact. You either internalize your predicament by allowing your impotence and the correctional officers' constant repression and dehumanization to turn you into a walking time bomb of anger and bitterness; OR you can decide to search out those elusive answers to this biggest question in life. How did I even get in this predicament in the first place? And why am I even angry with life?—and most of the time have had disdain and contempt for it? Why is the world so fucked?—and will it always be this way? Is this how things will always be, or is there another more meaningful path for my life to take? And why does it seem that God never hears my prayers and appears to be omni-presently indifferent to the plight of "the least of these"? Is there even a God to call upon, or are we the only recourse to our own collective salvation?
Once one chooses this second alternative while on these supermax facilities and actively utilize their time painstakingly attempting to answer these questions and others, then they stand a good chance of maintaining their sanity and possibly even becoming politically conscious revolutionaries, that will one day be integral to the proletarian revolution. But even if one chooses this path, where will one go to find those answers except by coming across individuals and institutions that have already discovered them? In my case, there hasn't been any other institution out there that has raised my consciousness on a number of levels more than the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP). I'm sure that I am not alone in that regard.
Nevertheless, for every person like me, there's many more who have never been introduced to this second path, and instead, have been consumed by their anger, bitterness, self-hatred, and then leave these circumstances many times worse than they arrived. I'm sure most of those who can be classified in this category—if they haven't succumbed to psychotropic medication, suicide, or forfeited all ambition—have returned to their communities to commit even more heinous crimes of predation. There's no statistics to substantiate this claim that I know of, but I think there's good reason for that. If there were, opponents of supermax facilities would have a good argument against these "domestic Guantanamo Bays."
Nevertheless, my point is that with every setback, there's always a dialectical opportunity for advancement and progress. to become its principal manifestation once again. In a particular sense, anybody that finds themselves in a supermax unit or incarcerated period, has the potential and possibility to answer those BIG QUESTIONS of life, and subsequently come to understand the need for communist revolution. Many of us in here have dedicated ourselves to making this particular population our focal point, while down, just like the comrades on the outside focuses primarily on the communities they're engaged with on a daily basis. In order for us to reach as many as possible, though, we need tools such as the Revolution and other revolutionary literature that the RCP provides for us. Just like in the case of medicine, if one wants to build the strongest immunity against the dog-eat-dog bourgeois mentality that permeates our communities, then we have to inoculate all populations with the most resistant drug of rebelliousness, communist rebelliousness. By changing the particular, the individual who's incarcerated—we only enhance our chances of prevailing on the universal level, the communist revolution. There is an inseparable dialectical unity in this regard.
To fail to recognize this, or treat it dismissively, we stand to lose many more generations to the bourgeoisie's prison industrial complex. Like all industries, the prison industrial complex specializes in the production and reproduction of individuals who will leave prison, only to be a hindrance to the proletarian revolution. Therefore, we either allow the bourgeoisie state's apparatus to continually undermine our ultimate revolutionary aim indirectly, by reproducing cancerous personalities and proclivities within our communities, or we counteract this indirect assault by continually inculcating a proletarian consciousness within a population, which I believe will play an integral part in the communist struggle, movement, and in the final analysis, in us achieving our objective.
In Bob Avakian's autobiography From Ike To Mao, he included an analysis of Lenin that we should never lose sight of:
Lenin insisted that the economic struggle of the workers is important but not the heart and pivot of work to build a revolutionary movement among the proletariat. In What Is To Be Done? Lenin emphasized the crucial role of genuine, revolutionary class consciousness and how the workers could only develop this consciousness by having their attention centered on all the events going on in society and in the world, among all different classes, strata and groups, and by learning to evaluate these events from a communist standpoint and no other. Lenin emphasized that communists have to expose all the ways in which different issues and events in society affect these different classes and strata, and how in turn these classes and strata respond to them, in a fundamental sense, in accordance with their interests. (Bob Avakian, p. 375)
I think this ban on the Revolution newspaper at Pelican Bay State Prison, presents us with a pivotal opportunity to raise the consciousness of the masses and the prison population to this contradiction of bourgeoisie society, in regards to the emptiness of what we grew up believing about the "freedom of speech" and "the sacredness" of the First Amendment. Obviously, the "freedom of speech" and the First Amendment only seem to apply when that speech doesn't come with a concrete materialist analysis of the bourgeoisie state, its prison industrial complex, its baseless imperialist wars, its racist and sexist divisions of control, its lies about evolution, atheism, global warming, etc. If this isn't the true reason why they're banning the Revolution newspaper at Pelican Bay, then what is that reason? And if it is, as Lenin said, bringing this contradiction of interest out to the people will only raise the consciousness of the people to recognize where their true interest lies—either with the proletarian revolution or with their false bourgeoisie hope of "change that only a fool can believe in."
Right now, we're being assaulted by the bourgeoisie state and they're waiting to see what our response will be. Are we going to capitulate? If so, they'll end up banning the Revolution not only in California, but in all states, including the prison I reside at now. And if they succeed in doing so, what will be the impact of it upon the proletarian revolution, on our community's ability to rid itself of criminal mind-sets, or that individual like me, who may never become politically conscious now while incarcerated? This is a fight that we must not concede to the enemy. We must prevail! Our future depends upon it! We must fight this ban on all fronts: in the streets, in the courts, and in the media. As Frantz Fanon once said in The Wretched of the Earth, "Every generation out of relative obscurity must discover its mission—fulfill it or betray it."
Frederick Engels' answer to that, still remains true today: "To accomplish this act of universal emancipation is the historical mission of the modern proletariat." (Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, p. 13) We all know what our generation's mission is, so now it's up to us to fulfill it. All tactical battles that we succeed in, will eventually culminate to us being victorious in our proletarian war of global emancipation.
In Solidarity, XXXXX
DONATE TO Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund!
OVERTURN THE BAN!
Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund (PRLF), which provides revolutionary literature, especially subscriptions to Revolution newspaper, to prisoners across the country, for many their lifeline to the world, is launching a major fund drive, to expand its work in the context of mounting a wide-ranging legal and political struggle to overturn the banning of Revolution newspaper that has just taken place at the Pelican Bay State Prison in California as well as Menard prison and other prisons in Illinois.
Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund needs to raise $15,000 by the end of May. After reaching that goal, we are aiming to double those funds, reaching our goal of over $30,000 by the end of June.
Funds are urgently needed for the following expenses:
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP REACH THIS GOAL:
GIVE A LEAD GIFT! We already have one lead gift of $2,000 and smaller donations that together are 1/2 way to matching it. Let's finish matching it right away. And this week we need 4 more lead gifts of $1,000 to $2,000 each. Please write Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund with the amount of your lead gift and your reason for giving it, so we can challenge smaller donors to match it.
GIVE A DONATION! When you make any size donation, write 5 friends and tell them why you gave and ask them to match your contribution.
ADOPT A SUBSCRIPTION! Give Revolution newspaper for one year—$35 for each prisoner. If you can do so, adopt a block of subscriptions. There are now 65 California prisoners on the waiting list and 40 in Texas alone. When you adopt a subscription, PRLF will tell you the state and institution where the prisoner receiving the subscription you funded is incarcerated and remind you when it is time for its annual renewal.
All donors will receive the PRLF newsletter.
Your gift can be earmarked for a specific purpose. If you only want your gift to go to fighting the censorship and overturning the ban then please specify on your check or when you make your donation online and we will honor your request.
The Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund is in affiliation with International Humanities Center, a nonprofit public charity exempt from federal income tax under Section 501[c](3) of the Internal Revenue Code.
Send your checks to Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund, 1321 N. Milwaukee, #407, Chicago, IL. 60622
Make checks to:
Make tax deductible checks to: IHCenter/PRLF
Tax deductible credit card and Pay Pal donations can be made online at:
To volunteer with or contact PRLF:
Revolution #201, May 16, 2010
Arizona has passed a law that requires police to demand proof of legal residency of anyone who they suspect could be an undocumented immigrant. It means if you're brown-skinned you can expect to be stopped in the streets of Arizona, and subjected to verbal abuse, or brutalized, even thrown into jail. This law is a major reassertion and heightening of white supremacy and ugly Anglo chauvinism in America. And there's no reason to believe it will stop here. A student protester at Arizona State University said, "This is ground zero. Arizona is the guinea pig. If it [SB 1070] survives it's going to spread throughout the nation."
Protests broke out immediately. In Tucson 2,500 high school students walked out, and others chained themselves to the entrance to the capitol in Phoenix, which saw daily protests. A fifth grade student at a rally in front of the capitol in Phoenix, wearing a "We are humans" t-shirt, told Revolution that his parents are undocumented and are afraid to leave their home. He said his father has to drive to work every morning without a license and runs the risk of getting caught and deported.
All over Arizona, in major cities and small desert towns, a new generation is fighting to take responsibility for the future in the face of an extremely vicious anti-immigrant climate. In the face of hypocritical claims by reactionaries that walkouts undermine education, a student organizer from the small desert town of Mariposa, AZ, responded that being in the streets and trying to change society is education!
The passage of this law has triggered a sense of outrage and urgency among people from all walks of life. Musicians, actors and entertainers have spoken out against this law. City councils in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Oakland, and elsewhere around the country have voted to boycott Arizona; the city of Boston voted to divest; and Phoenix, Flagstaff and Tucson are considering legal action to block the law. The Arizona Diamondbacks baseball team faced pickets and a small plane flying overhead with a protest banner when they played in Chicago's Wrigley Field, and the 2011 All-Star Game scheduled for Phoenix may be canceled. On May 3, about 25 students at UC Berkeley started a hunger strike against SB1070. "This is life-threatening to our community, so we are putting our lives on the line," student activist Myra Gonzalez said. On May 4, students at Kent State University organized a protest march of many different nationalities against the Arizona law after a commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the U.S. government's massacre.
Very significantly, Black organizations like the NAACP, the National Urban League, Black churches, and major Black press have spoken out against the law. In New York City, the Black newspaper Amsterdam News ran an article with a headline that captured the essence of the new law: "Apartheid, Arizona."
On May First feelings of both fear and outrage poured into the streets, where hundreds of thousands marched in protest in 70 cities throughout the country. Estimates were over 100,000 and possibly twice that many in Los Angeles; 50,000 to 100,000 in Chicago; 65,000 in Milwaukee; thousands in the San Francisco Bay Area, New York City, etc.
"Todos Somos Arizona"—"We Are All Arizona"—became the unofficial theme. Handmade signs were everywhere, condemning Arizona and declaring people's humanity. A young woman's sign said, "My father was deported but I'm here to fight for his rights." In L.A. a popular chant was "Arizona, aguanta, Los Angeles se levanta!" "Hold on Arizona, Los Angeles is rising up!" A young woman and her father carried a jail-like grating with a sign that read "SB1070." They were chained by the wrists to the bars. Many spoke to the Nazi character of the law by carrying swastikas with pictures of Governor Jan Brewer and the reactionary Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio.
In San Jose, California, the defiant mood of the people was shown when cops tried to push the march off the street onto the sidewalk with their motorcycles. But the march of thousands refused to obey, stayed in the streets and the cops backed off. The people carried a long banner against the Arizona law that stretched for half a block, signed by thousands of people and carried by dozens, horizontally over the heads of the marchers.
On May 1 revolutionary communists were amidst the people, firmly supporting them while distributing the RCP's Message and Call, "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have." Thousands of Revolution newspapers were distributed in the SF Bay Area. In Cleveland, high school and junior high youth jumped to the forefront, boldly debating with the masses, challenging them to recognize another world is possible and inspiring them with their energy and vision.
In Chicago, a huge banner, "WE ARE HUMAN BEINGS!! WE WILL NOT ACCEPT SLAVERY IN ANY FORM!! IMMIGRANTS MUST HAVE FULL AND FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS!!!" and a loudspeaker playing the Message and Call in Spanish impacted tens of thousands who were gathering for the march. Revolutionaries snaked out through the crowd distributing Revolution newspapers and the Message and Call, chanting "No hay un problema de inmigración! Si hay un problema del capitalismo." "There is no immigration problem! What there is is a capitalism problem!" Armbands and stickers with the slogan "We are all illegals! Todos Somos ilegales!" made a visible impact on the crowd, including being worn by some of the speakers on stage. In L.A. a sound truck followed by a youth drum corps challenged people to break out of the dead-end framework of electoral politics, put down the blood-soaked U.S. flag, and take up a revolutionary communist future.
Politicians and public officials, the Catholic Church hierarchy and the leadership of unions like SEIU worked overtime to channel the energy of the people within acceptable, electoral confines.
A group of 35 immigration reform leaders including Democratic Congressman Luis Gutierrez were arrested in front of the White House. They are seeking to rope resistance into supporting proposals for immigration reform like the one written by Democratic Senators Schumer, Reid and Menendez, and blessed by Obama. This proposal focuses almost entirely on enforcement, including a further crackdown on the border and throughout the country; and the establishment of a mandatory national biometric ID card for everyone employed in the country, increasing the repression and control of the entire population. It offers an eight-year-long, costly road to "legalization" that most undocumented will find impossible to achieve, with a plan to replace them with an imported temporary work force that will be controlled under apartheid-like conditions while here and sent back whenever they're not needed.
L.A.'s mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, called for people to march on May First, wear white, and carry American flags. From the stage he led a chant of "USA, USA" that copied the reactionary gatherings. It must be said that this is not about being good citizens or hard workers and hoping to be accepted by the racists—THEY WON'T. It's about standing up for fundamental rights and for the humanity of those who have been driven here, often in a desperate search for work.
Raising the American flag—a symbol of conquest, terror, and empire all over the world for centuries and down to the current occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan—is sheer poison. Immigrants have a unique ability to let people born here know the real truth about this flag—not cooperate in whitewashing it.
With the passage of this reactionary law, a sudden, new wave of protest is washing over the country.
As we wrote last week, "[T]he main thing now is this: support and spread the outpourings against this bill, support and strengthen the spirit of defiance against this immoral and unconstitutional law, and assist and inspire people to cast their eyes to the horizon of revolution, when such outrages will be done away with, as part of emancipating all of humanity."
Revolution #201, May 16, 2010
Cheers & Jeers
This week, the NBA basketball team, the Phoenix Suns, wore their "Los Suns" jerseys in their playoff game against the San Antonio Spurs to oppose the Arizona racist anti-immigrant law that was passed last month. (See Revolution issue 200, "Oppose the Attack on Immigrants," revcom.us/a/200/immigrants-en.html)
Suns' General Manager Steve Kerr said, "It's hard to imagine in this country that we have to produce papers." Kerr also said, "It brings up images of Nazi Germany."
Amar'e Stoudemire, star forward for the Suns, said, "It's going to be great to wear Los Suns to let the Latin community know we're behind them 100%."
Fans came to the game in Phoenix carrying signs that stated "Los Fans" to support the team's opposition to the law.
Etan Thomas, an anti-war NBA player for the Oklahoma City Thunder, told sports columnist Dave Zirin, "I think what the Phoenix Suns are doing is great. Misguided is a polite way to describe this new law signed by Gov. Jan Brewer. Not only is it a grant to racially profile but it is a violation of basic equal rights. What reason would the police have to suspect someone of being illegal if they simply see them driving down the street?"
In response to the anti-immigrant Arizona law, people are organizing a boycott of baseball's Arizona Diamondbacks, and there is a movement among baseball players to have the 2011 Major League Baseball All-Star Game removed from Phoenix. It has been reported that San Diego Padres star first baseman, Adrian Gonzalez, and Chicago White Sox manager, Ozzie Guillen, have said they will boycott the game if it is played in Phoenix as planned.
Cheers to all the professional athletes who are joining the resistance against this racist anti-immigrant law.
Revolution #201, May 16, 2010
Observations by a Supporter of that Revolution
From a Communist Internationalist Perspective
Editors' Note: In Nepal, beginning on May First major demonstrations of Maoists (Unified Communist Party of Nepal [Maoist]) and their supporters have taken place centered in Katmandu in support of the demand that the current Prime Minister step down. A general strike lasting six days halted commerce, shut down schools and businesses and blocked transportation, and was then called off. The question of who is going to be in charge of the government is still sharply posed as the deadline for writing a new constitution, May 28, is fast approaching. There is no prospect of a new constitution being agreed upon in that timeframe, and a new people's movement has been called by the Maoist leadership in an attempt to put pressure on the other political parties to let them take the reins of government. Forces on all sides are tensely anticipating what will happen. It is not clear what the outcome of this contestation of strength will be in the coming days. This article, "On the Critical Crossroads in the Nepal Revolution, and the Urgent Need for a Real Rupture with Revisionism," was written before these latest developments, but it remains extremely relevant to this current juncture when the UCPN(M) will be weighing what course to take.
In studying important sections of a recent Resolution of the Central Committee of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist)—UCPN(M)*—I was struck by the argument in this CC Resolution that, in the particular circumstances of Nepal, where the current political and governmental process, including the writing of a new Constitution, have resulted from the people's war and the mass movement against the monarchy that was led by the UCPN(M), this process is now favorable to the UCPN(M) and the revolution, and is unfavorable to the reactionaries. In fact this document (CC Resolution) goes so far as to argue that the reactionaries cannot achieve their objectives through this process while (it seems this Resolution is saying) the UCPN(M) and the revolutionary forces can do so.
Thus—to give this argument its "very best" interpretation—by persevering in this process, and further establishing itself as the most consistent representative and fighter for a Constitution that embodies the interests of the people (and supposedly the content of the new-democratic revolution), as well as for civilian supremacy over the military and for national sovereignty, the UCPN(M) will be able to outmaneuver the reactionaries, including the reactionary forces at the head of the army (Nepalese Army), and in the event of a reactionary armed revolt and/or attack from foreign interventionists (in particular India), the UCPN(M) will be able to split the Nepalese Army, winning over at least much of its ranks (including those that have been integrated into it from the People's Liberation Army [PLA], assuming that integration proceeds) while at the same time rallying a broad united front in society, to carry the new-democratic revolution forward to victory, laying the basis for advancing on the socialist road.
Again, this is giving this argument its "very best" interpretation. But, even doing so, it must be said that this whole outlook and approach is full of, and in fact is based on, classical revisionist illusions. As a basic point of method, it ignores (or discounts) the general dialectical materialist understanding that things can, and often do, turn into their opposite—and specifically how this has frequently occurred when revolutionary forces have been drawn into the dynamics of electoral/constitutional processes, without smashing and dismantling the old, reactionary state, and the whole way in which the dynamics of such a process sap and rob the revolutionary forces of their initiative and strength. (My sense of this has been reinforced by reading some analysis, done in the service of imperialist strategic thinking, on how to derail and ultimately defeat people's wars in the Third World—and in particular the emphasis such analysis gives to the importance precisely of drawing the erstwhile armed insurgents into the electoral-constitutional framework and dynamics.)
Even if it were to be the case, in the specific conditions of Nepal today, that the reactionaries became restless and impatient with the course of things—even if they felt that the continuation of things in the current governmental/constitutional framework were not leading things in a direction favorable to them, and therefore they had to bring an end to this process through some kind of coup/military action (which has happened in situations of this kind when other parties have proceeded on a course similar to that now being taken by the UCPN(M))—it seems unfortunately clear that the orientation and approach of the UCPN(M) would leave them without any real means of dealing with this, and that the outcome would be one where they would be smashed and decimated.
This whole orientation and approach of the UCPN(M)—again, even giving this its "very best" interpretation—ignores (or discounts, in the name of the particular and supposedly unique circumstances of the situation in Nepal), a vast amount of historical experience where attempts at this kind of (revisionist) strategy have led to disastrous results for the revolutionary forces. Indonesia in 1965—where a numerically strong and politically influential Communist Party was essentially annihilated by a reactionary onslaught, carried out by the Indonesian army with the direction of the American CIA, in which somewhere between half a million and a million people were massacred—is perhaps the most devastating, but by no means the only, such instance.
It seems clear that, in the situation of Nepal now, it is correct to seek to rally broad forces against foreign interference and the potential of foreign intervention, and it is even correct to make serious attempts, as a subordinate TACTIC, to split the reactionary forces, including the reactionary army; but to raise this—and the latter in particular (splitting and winning over sections of the reactionary army)—to the level of a STRATEGY is completely erroneous, and very seriously courts disaster. One need only ask: What if these attempts (to split the reactionary army, etc.) fail, while one has made one's whole approach dependent on this...then what? And it does seem very clear that there is no other dimension in which real and serious preparations are being made by the UCPN(M) for an actual showdown with the armed forces of reaction. Mass and militant mobilization of youth, in the urban as well as rural areas, for example, could be an important element of an overall strategy for actually carrying the revolution forward, and preparing for the decisive showdown with the armed forces of reaction; but this in itself is not, and cannot be, a substitute for, or the essential means to, wield an organized and disciplined force that can meet and defeat the armed forces of reaction, domestic and very possibly foreign as well.
In short, all this—the overall orientation and approach being carried out by the UCPN(M), even giving this its "very best" interpretation—still falls within the category of seeking to "finesse," rather than to fully confront, and transform through the necessary struggle, very real and daunting contradictions. This approach of the UCPN(M) much more embodies the potential for disaster than any prospect of successfully completing the new-democratic revolution, through smashing and dismantling the still-existing reactionary state and establishing a new, revolutionary state.
What makes things even worse is that the UCPN(M)—and, it seems, unfortunately, all its various factions, including even those which have been, in varying degrees, in opposition to the revisionist line of the Party's leadership—appear to be trapped within, and obstinately determined to remain within, the circular revisionist logic which characterizes the thinking of the UCPN(M) leadership. And this leads to the dismissal of any essential challenge to this whole orientation and approach—even criticism raised from a revolutionary-communist perspective is discounted on the basis that it is just resorting to and regurgitating general principles (with which everyone agrees, of course!) while ignoring the particular and even unique circumstances that obtain in Nepal. This facile dismissal of criticism that should actually be seriously engaged, and in fact united with and acted on, is an expression of all too familiar empiricism and pragmatism, as well as nationalism.
It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the prospect that even forces within the UCPN(M) which are themselves critical of the dominant line and leadership of that Party, will actually seriously rethink, and then break with and mount real opposition to, this whole course—the prospect that such forces will, in a timely way in the critical circumstances, recognize the validity of, and act in accordance with, the revolutionary-communist critique that has been repeatedly made of this whole orientation and approach, including through speaking to the essential particularities of the current situation—this prospect seems increasingly bleak. The likelihood looms, and is growing, that the most compelling refutation of the revisionist line will turn out to be the practical reality of a disaster for the revolution and, in one form or another, destruction of the revolutionary forces (their full and final degeneration into revisionism and/or their physical decimation at the hands of the reactionaries), which this revisionist line is actually leading toward.
Nevertheless—and in fact precisely because this latter prospect, of devastating defeat, with its attendant demoralization and disorientation, not only for genuine revolutionaries but also for masses of people, in that country but also well beyond, is increasingly and ever more acutely posing itself—it remains crucial to wrestle with the question of how a decisive altering of this course, a real rupturing with revisionism, might be effected. As has been repeatedly, and very rightly, emphasized: In the current circumstances and given the current trajectory of things in Nepal, the real meaning and content of internationalist support is not acting as cheerleaders while the revolution is increasingly derailed onto a course heading toward a cliff and into the abyss, but instead a sharp and substantive criticism of this course, pointing to the urgently needed rupture back onto the revolutionary road.
Such criticism has been made, repeatedly. The question is now acutely posed: Will those who genuinely want to see the revolution in Nepal advance, rather than being decisively defeated, and who still might be able to fight effectively for the needed ruptures—will they finally take to heart this criticism and take up the substance of what it is raising, before it is too late?
* Resolution of the Central Committee of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), "Present Situation and Historical Task of the Proletariat" (2009). [back]
Revolution #201, May 16, 2010
We received the following from a reader:
Bob Avakian, the leader of the movement for revolution that we are building, begins his talk Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About by recounting the history of lynching in the United States. As Avakian describes a few especially horrific instances of the lynching of Black men and women at the hands of white supremacist mobs...as he unfolds the details of atrocities that are unbearable and infuriating almost beyond words, he returns to this refrain: "AND THAT'S STILL NOT THE WORST OF IT."
This is exactly how I have felt during the past several days, as details and reaction surrounding the execution of Aiyana Stanley-Jones continue to emerge. For those who have still not heard, Aiyana Stanley-Jones is a 7-year-old girl who was shot and killed by Detroit police during a raid carried out in the early morning hours of May 16. You read that correctly—7 years old.
Around 12:40 am on the morning of May 16, Aiyana Stanley-Jones was sleeping on the couch next to her grandmother, Mertilla Jones, when cops swarmed their home. During the raid that followed, Joseph Weekley, a member of the Detroit Police Department's Special Response Team, shot Stanley-Jones in the neck and head, killing her.
In the aftermath of Aiyana's murder, Detroit police—led by assistant police chief Roger Goodbee—have claimed that Weekley's gun went off accidentally after he entered the home, during a struggle with Mertilla Jones; as if, even if that were true, this would excuse the fatal shooting of a 7-year-old child.
But Aiyana's family, and their lawyer Geoffrey Fieger, say the police are lying through their teeth. They have filed lawsuits charging violation of civil rights, gross negligence, and a conspiracy to cover up the actual circumstances of Aiyana's death.
During a news conference announcing the lawsuits, Fieger—surrounded by Aiyana's grieving family—said that somebody stopped by his law office to show him a videotape that very clearly shows what actually happened during the raid. Fieger said that he is not currently in the possession of the video, and he urged the person who does have it to come forward.
As Fieger described it, here are the actual circumstances of the raid:
Multiple hooded police officers converge on the residence. They encounter a male outside whom they throw to the ground, proceeding to step on his back. He pleads with the officers, "There are children in the house."
Indeed, there were several small children in the house, which police had every basis to know before even conducting the raid; there were toys scattered on the front lawn, and a police surveillance van had been watching the residence earlier in the day.
Police then throw a flash bang grenade through a window, and it lands "either onto Aiyana, or close enough to her to burn her severely," as Fieger put it.
"BUT THAT'S STILL NOT THE WORST OF IT."
Almost immediately after throwing in the flash bang grenade, an officer fires a shot from the porch outside the house, clearly exposing as a lie the police claim that the shot was fired accidentally from inside the home during a struggle with Mertilla Jones. The bullet kills 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones.
"I seen the light leave outta her eyes," Mertilla Jones recounted, sobbing uncontrollably, during the news conference. "I knew she was dead. She had blood coming out of her mouth. Lord Jesus, I ain't never seen nothing like that in my life. My 7-year-old grandbaby—my beautiful, beautiful gorgeous granddaughter. My goodness, what type of people?! ... what type of people?! You can't trust the police. You can't trust Detroit police."
"BUT THAT'S STILL NOT THE WORST OF IT."
How do officers respond to the crime against humanity that they have just perpetrated—supposedly "by accident"? By carrying Aiyana's dead body out of her home "like a rag doll," in Fieger's words.
"BUT THAT'S STILL NOT THE WORST OF IT."
After they have just murdered her 7-year-old granddaughter right in front of her, the cops put Mertilla Jones in chains and lock her up for several hours, testing her for drugs and gunpowder in the process.
And on top of all this, it appears that the police did not even have the right address.
"What's being reported in the press is, well the fugitive or the suspect was found upstairs. He wasn't found upstairs in this home!" Fieger said during the news conference. "I don't know why you keep reporting that. This home is a lower flat. There is no upstairs in this home. There's an upstairs flat...which is a separate home, which they did not have a warrant for; they went in there and they subsequently got it and that's where he lived."
"BUT THAT'S STILL NOT THE WORST OF IT."
While Chauncey Owens, the man whom Detroit police were looking for, has already been arrested and charged with murder... Not only has Joseph Weekley not been arrested and charged with Aiyana's murder... Not only has he not been fired from the police force... He is on paid administrative leave.
And how has Dave Bing, Detroit's mayor, reacted to this atrocity? By calling Aiyana's death a horrific crime and demanding Weekley immediately be arrested and charged with murder? NO. In fact, he has urged people not to fault the police!
"Too many people are pointing to the police department," Bing said. "I don't think they are the problem. They have to be the solution."
On the other hand, Bing has been more than happy to blame Fieger, the lawyer for Aiyana's family.
"He's taking advantage of a terrible situation," Bing said, "and it's about money as far as he's concerned."
And Bing has also, somehow, found a way to blame the masses of Detroit. Like many other politicians and reporters in the days since Aiyana's death, Bing has sought to lump the murder of Aiyana Stanley-Jones together with recent violence in Detroit among the masses, which is also a product of this system—more specifically, of the severe desperation and misery and hopelessness into which this system has forced tens of millions of African-Americans and Latinos—though of course, Bing does not say that.
"It's a behavior problem, it's a cultural problem," Mayor Cosby—oh, sorry, Mayor Bing—said on May 20, speaking about Aiyana's murder and other recent killings of people in Detroit. "When people don't have jobs, they get frustrated and angry and people are making bad decisions."
Pardon me, Mayor Bing, but one brief follow-up question: Besides everything else that is wrong with what you just said, what the hell does any of that have to do with the police burning and then gunning down a 7-year-old girl in cold blood, as she slept next to her grandmother? What, pray tell, was the "bad decision" that Aiyana Stanley-Jones made?
To the reader: Pause for a second and think about these questions...
Whether or not this revolution—and this leader, Bob Avakian—become known broadly in this society, among millions of people of all strata and in all spheres, has everything to do with how people in this society and across the globe understand the answers to all of the above questions.
The entire Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About talk by Bob Avakian can be viewed online at revolutiontalk.net, and selected clips are available at YouTube.com/revolutiontalk. As soon as you finish this issue of Revolution, go online to watch the talk. If you want the DVD of the talk, order from RCP Publications or pick it up at the nearest Revolution Books store.
So, in closing, let me just say: If there were anyone with any doubt—or any need for a reminder of—the need for revolution... of the urgency and stakes of the campaign we are building to make this revolution and its leader known to millions in this society... or of the crucial importance of the upcoming conferences in terms of taking that campaign to another level...
Just think of the name: Aiyana Stanley-Jones.
Who Is Bob Avakian?
This is a leader who has an unmatched understanding of, and visceral hatred for, this capitalist-imperialist system, the countless horrors it produces, and the ways in which those horrors are linked. He also has a firm, scientific grasp of the fact that, as he put it in the title of a recent talk, "THERE IS NO 'PERMANENT NECESSITY' FOR THINGS TO BE THIS WAY—A RADICALLY DIFFERENT AND BETTER WORLD CAN BE BROUGHT INTO BEING THROUGH REVOLUTION."
As "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have: A Message and a Call from the Revolutionary Communist Party" puts it: "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."
Bob Avakian has also developed a radical new synthesis of communism, based on a vision of a vibrant socialist society that is organized in order to meet human need, overcome all exploitative relations and ideas, and draw the masses of people increasingly into running society. In this socialist society, which is a transition to the final goal of communism, security forces will be enforcing a system that is based on overcoming the exploitation and oppression of the masses, not enforcing it. Consequently, a member of these security forces would sooner give up his or her own life than steal an innocent one like that of Aiyana Stanley-Jones.
One of the defining features of Bob Avakian's leadership is his understanding of the centrality of the oppression of Black people to the functioning of this system, and the related centrality of the fight against that oppression to the process of making revolution. This is a particular aspect of who Bob Avakian is as a revolutionary leader that must become much more broadly known in the days, weeks, and months to come: There is a reason that he opens his "Revolution...." talk by speaking at length about the horrors this system has, and continues to, inflict on Black people. And there is a reason that he has said:
"There will never be a revolutionary movement in this country that doesn't fully unleash and give expression to the sometimes openly expressed, sometimes expressed in partial ways, sometimes expressed in wrong ways, but deeply, deeply felt desire to be rid of these long centuries of oppression [of Black people]. There's never gonna be a revolution in this country, and there never should be, that doesn't make that one key foundation of what it's all about."
Revolution #201, May 16, 2010
Arizona has passed another reactionary bill, signed into law by Governor Jan Brewer on May 11, that aims to eliminate Mexican-American Studies and all ethnic studies programs in Arizona public schools. House Bill 2281 declares that a school district or charter school in the state cannot include in its program of instruction any course or classes that include any of the following:
And the new law has teeth; any violations of its provisions will be punished by having 10% of their state funds withheld from the school district or charter school.
This new law comes on the heels of Arizona's reactionary anti-immigrant law, SB1070, which legalizes racial profiling by requiring police to stop and question anyone who they suspect is undocumented. That was followed by an announcement by the state's Department of Education that teachers with heavy accents must be removed from classes for students still learning English. Many have interpreted this as targeting immigrant teachers who were first hired under a program to teach bilingual education, a program later abolished as part of the overall anti-immigrant climate. This attack on ethnic studies represents yet another "brick in the wall" of an officially sanctioned white supremacy and American chauvinism in Arizona, while encouraging its spread around the country. Arizona has become an ugly battleground, and testing ground, for a new "Jim Crow," reviving an official second-class status for the 30% of the people of Arizona who are Latino.
The author of this new law is Tom Horne, Superintendent of Public Instruction for the State of Arizona's Department of Education, and Republican candidate for state attorney general. Horne has made it no secret that the law is specifically aimed at eliminating the Tucson Unified School District's (TUSD) Mexican-American Studies program and ethnic studies programs in general. Roughly 56% of the TUSD district's 55,000 students are Latino, and about 3% of the students take these classes, which offer a rigorous course of study that gives students college qualifying credit. But Horne said the new law will put an end to this; it "would ban La Raza (Mexican-American) studies because it's a course that's aimed primarily at members of one race, and we have testimony that this has promoted resentment toward one race." And he also said the law would end other ethnic studies courses as well. [5/1/10 Arizona Republic]
Horne has been point-man for a years-long campaign to wipe out ethnic studies classes and courses in the secondary schools. In June 2007, on official state Department of Education stationary, Horne wrote "An Open Letter to the Citizens of Tucson," arguing that the TUSD Ethnic Studies Program should be terminated. He charged that "ethnic studies in the TUSD teaches a kind of destructive ethnic chauvinism..." He said "...students should be taught that this is the land of opportunity, and that if they work hard they can achieve their goals. They should not be taught that they are oppressed."
In other words, in the view of Arizona's Superintendent of Public Instruction the purpose of public education is to tell students what to think—not to enable them to develop the ability to be critical thinkers. "Truth"—for Horne and those like him whose starting point is protecting and preserving this system—is whatever set of ideas correspond to achieving their goals. What is being demonstrated now in Arizona is that raw power dictates what "narrative" about this country's history and present-day reality will be taught—that "might makes right."
Horne's letter went further; it singled out for attack particular books used in the curriculum, including Occupied America: A History of Chicanos by historian Rudolfo Acuña, a book which received the Gustavus Myers Award for an Outstanding Book on Race Relations in North America, and has been used as a standard text in college-level curricula for Chicano (Mexican-American) Studies for many years. And Horne targeted the student group MEChA for attack as well.
State Senator Russell Pearce, author of SB 1070, made this point even more openly in his amendments to a bill in the state Senate, SB 1108—a bill that had nothing to do with education—approved by the Arizona Senate's House Appropriations Committee in mid-April. It would withhold funding to schools, including on the college level, whose courses "denigrate American values and the teachings of Western civilization," and would bar teaching practices that "overtly encourage dissent" from those values, including "democracy, capitalism, pluralism and religious tolerance." Pearce too targeted Mexican-American Studies at the TUSD, and included provisions that would ban student groups like MEChA on any public campuses. The Senate bill would have confiscated books and teaching materials that are deemed "anti-American." Pearce also singled out Acuna's Occupied America, saying it amounted to "sedition." It appears these provisions did not make it into this final law, but they reveal the whole climate around this dangerous offensive.
As the national liberation and anti-imperialist struggles of the 1960s developed and a revolutionary current emerged, one powerful expression was the hard-fought student strikes demanding courses, departments and schools of ethnic studies. While the students of oppressed nationalities had to fight just to get into the universities, what they confronted when they got there was an educational system which distorted or suppressed those aspects of history and present-day reality that challenged and put the lie to the bullshit about America's "shining example," and its "special place" in the world. They began at San Francisco State University in 1968, which saw the longest student strike in U.S. history, led by the Third World Liberation Front (a joint effort of African American, Asian American, Chicano, and student organizations of other nationalities). That strike established the first School of Ethnic Studies.
Ethnic studies programs, which later expanded to include women's studies, gender studies, etc., established a foothold where oppressed nationality students especially could for the first time learn about and be part of discovering their own history; the struggle and resistance; and the contributions to art, culture, science, etc. of Black, Chicano, Native American, Asian and other oppressed peoples in this country. This contributed significantly to bringing to light the truth that America's ultimate global domination rested on the foundation of the kidnap of millions and millions of African peoples and their enslavement in the "new world," the genocidal destruction of the Native American peoples, and the theft through war of 40% of the territory of Mexico as the start of a process of conquest that ultimately spanned the globe.
An essential element in the reassertion of the white supremacy and American patriotism on the rise today is the need to restore that "official narrative" about America and its "special role" as the "good guys" in the world. To these reactionary forces, the Mexican-American and other ethnic studies programs on the secondary school and college campuses are an obstacle that must be eliminated.
Whether or not those in power in Arizona succeed in banning ethnic studies outright, the reactionary assault on education that's now been given the official stamp of approval by Arizona's new law is already having a chilling affect on those coming under attack, and it is taking a tremendous toll. In the face of attempts to put them on the defensive, the faculty and administrators have denied the charges against their programs with assurances that the allegations are untrue. Now each teacher entering a classroom will have to teach while looking over one shoulder, facing the choice of self-censorship, or risking state intervention for telling the truth. It is the responsibility of people everywhere to strenuously oppose the whole reactionary offensive that is gaining momentum in Arizona.
Revolution #201, May 16, 2010
To all those who have participated in the campaign "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have"...
To all those who want to see this campaign succeed....
Your ideas, creativity, energy and struggle—your participation—is needed.
Concretely, you are needed at the Memorial Day Weekend conferences being called by the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA to take this campaign to another level.
* * * * *
The RCP has been undertaking a campaign with world-historic stakes. As one student put it, "it's a question of whether revolution will die out with the '60s generation"...or whether it will take on new life as a vital force in the world. When headlines scream about obscene oil spills...about Nazi-like anti-immigrant and Latino laws in Arizona...about American troops dealing death in Afghanistan and Pakistan, while the president jokes about it at fancy press dinners... When you hear about yet another police shooting or murder going unpunished...when the airwaves assault you with anti-woman propaganda...when people are murdered because someone suspects them of being gay...when sharp cutbacks hit the schools, while the prisons keep filling up...when fascist movements are being fanned from high levels of government...can there be any question that such a revolutionary force is needed—urgently?
People need to hear and see that things DON'T have to be this way. They need to hear about revolution. And they need to know there is a Party that is building a movement for revolution. That is what this campaign is about. We aim to make known to millions the goal and character of this revolution, communist revolution, as it has been revitalized and reconceived by Bob Avakian; to make the leader of this revolution a household word; and through all this to forge a core of dedicated fighters who are going to advocate for this revolution and make it a driving dynamic force in society and the world.
Many of you have joined in these efforts and much has been accomplished—growing numbers of people are hearing about the revolution. More people are hearing about the leadership of Bob Avakian, and some are finding out about and getting deeper into what he's bringing forward. From the streets to the campuses, from the prisons to the suburbs—the revolutionary movement has begun to simmer and percolate. The Message and Call that is the foundation of this campaign is beginning to get out...and new things are happening that combine to give life to what that call says: "This is NOT the best of all possible worlds...and we do NOT have to live this way!"
But this campaign is still only just getting its footing. And let's face it—we are far from the goals laid out above. We need to get into a higher gear, and we need to do it very quickly. Because again—think about what is going on, every day...think about how the horrors every day, about how the future is being foreclosed and the walls are tightening...think about how people face all this and either think that there is no way out, or go with false and destructive paths... It is true: we can NOT afford to lose; anything short of the goals laid out above—anything short of getting revolution really on the map as a contending force—is unacceptable. There is a very real and very pressing need to accomplish the objectives of this campaign, as a key part of transforming this whole political and ideological "terrain" and "polarization," from terms that are currently quite negative to ones which are more favorable, in relation to the goal of revolution, and which lay more of the basis to further repolarize things in line with this goal.
Now the fact is that we CAN do this. But in order to do this we have to do much better at doing what the message and call says: "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." That is what these conferences are going to be for and about: giving people a sharper understanding of the content of this revolution and its leadership and of WHY this campaign is so important right now; getting much more deeply grounded in the ways that this campaign can put this revolution into people's thinking and spread the word about its leader; and getting us closer to actually making revolution and emancipating this battered planet and its suffering and bitterly suppressed people.
The Party's going to be bringing some big ideas into these conferences—and then there's going to be massive wrangling with those ideas, debating and getting into them and working on them and letting all that spark new ideas. Everybody will be able to put the vexing problems and sharp challenges we've run into on the table. We'll also look deeply at the advances that have been made and figure out how to spread and build on those. These conferences will be key—to forging plans to get this campaign into a higher gear...and to getting a whole lot better organized, so we can actually bring all these ideas much more powerfully to fruition, and accomplish the aims of this campaign.
These conferences are not just for those who have already been into this campaign (although they definitely ARE for them); these conferences are for everyone who recognizes that the stakes for humanity are too great to sit it out, who recognizes that making revolution is a living process and requires the collective problems solving of all of us, and who sees in the revolution being fought for by Bob Avakian and the RCP a real hope for the future. They are for everyone who sees in the mission and objectives of this campaign a way to actually do something—again—"not to keep this nightmare of a world going as it is but to bring a better world into being."
If this is you—and it should be—you are needed to be part of this process. Clear your decks. Talk to someone connected with the Party about what it will take to get there. You are needed to be at this conference.
Revolution #201, May 16, 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]
Revolution #201, May 16, 2010
Big changes are coming at revcom.us in May—changes that will make the site one that welcomes people to real revolution, and gives them a big picture of the movement we are building.
At the core of the new revcom.us site are the two "mainstays" of the RCP's all-around revolutionary work. The site will feature and promote the work of Bob Avakian, his history and character as a rare and outstanding communist leader, and—on the broadest level—his connection to revolution. It will provide easy access to Bob Avakian's writings, audio downloads, and the video of his talk Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About.
The new site will make the content of Revolution newspaper more attractive and accessible. Articles and other content will be updated frequently, indexed by topic, and easier to share across the web. And the new site will give people access to major documents of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA.
There will also be a section of the site devoted to Building the Movement for Revolution—including the RCP's current campaign (see editorial on page 3). This will be a center for sharing experiences, articles and comments from readers, correspondence, organizing materials, and much more.
This is a first step. And as the site develops further, it will increasingly become an online hub and pivot for the movement for revolution—a place where people can discuss and debate—in a uniquely vibrant atmosphere—the big questions of the hour, and the world. And a place people come to get organized to respond to major developments in the world—to fight the power, and transform the people, for revolution.
There is much ongoing work to do, and funds to raise, to bring the new site to life in May. To help, contact email@example.com; to contribute funds, click the donate link at revcom.us.
Revolution #201, May 16, 2010
We ARE BUILDING a movement for revolution, concentrated now in mounting the campaign: The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have. The point: to familiarize millions with the goal and character of communist revolution, as it has been reconceived by Bob Avakian, to inject this into the discourse in a radically creative and urgent way, and to make known very broadly in society the leadership of Bob Avakian—giving people a sense of the work he is carrying out, his history and character as a rare and outstanding communist leader, and—on the broadest level—his connection to revolution... and through all this to begin forging a core of dedicated, ardent fighters for this revolution.
We ARE INITIATING a new stage of communist revolution—with a leader, Bob Avakian, who has analyzed both the overwhelming achievements of the first stage of the revolution, and the significant shortcomings and problems... and developed a new synthesis that can take things further. And this paper is a major outlet for that new synthesis, both its foundations and basic principles, and in its ongoing development.
Today Revolution newspaper and the online edition is a lifeline and scaffolding for this movement. Thousands of people already read this newspaper every week—including many, many people in countries around the world—from those who value its unique analysis of events, to those who are learning what is worth living, and dying for, through its pages. It is an entry way for many thousands more—and potentially for tens and then hundreds of thousands more.
Your financial support is URGENTLY needed to enable this paper to flourish and develop, and indeed to continue its regular publication.
This is a time when the future is openly in the balance. After Copenhagen... and in the midst of brave people refusing to take it any more, from Iran to Oakland to the universities in California... there is a crying need for a vision, for an analysis, that reveals the real inter-connections between things, and that shows a real way out.
The restless and dissatisfied, the questioning ones, will hear about the "tea party" movement, they will be inundated with quasi-fascist conspiracy theories on the one hand and the killing confines of choosing between Republicans and Democrats on the other.
But will they get to read analyses that actually lay bare the real causes and real solutions of the horrors of today, and the greater horrors in the making? And will they not only learn about the horrors, but also the potential heights of humanity? Will they hear about Avakian's vision of revolution and have a chance to get to know what this rare and unique leader is all about? Will they be exposed to the movement for revolution that comes to life in its pages, spreading its advances, analyzing its problems, and criticizing itself where it falls short? Will they learn that there is a party that is actually and actively preparing people to make a revolution that could really bring about the changes that we need?
Only if you support this. Act—supporting this paper in both its print and online editions, and winning others to do so, is vital work toward revolution. Sustain this paper every month! Donate now!
How to donate/sustain:
Revolution #201, May 16, 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.
Revolution #201, May 16, 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.
Revolution #201, May 16, 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.