Voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party,USA
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Revolution #205, June 27, 2010
South Africa Soccer Hype:
What a trip! For the first time ever, the World Cup is being held in soccer crazy Africa. And not just Africa in general, but South Africa. More than 300 million people will have their eyes laser focused on South Africa from June 11 to July 11.
And what a show they'll see. Ten brand-new state-of-the-art stadiums, new high-speed train lines, new highways, gleaming five star hotels. Clearly, there's a whole lot more than a soccer game going on here. A special issue of Sports Illustrated focused on the World Cup shouted it out on the opening page: "The Big Rollout for the host country, this World Cup is more than a global soccer tournament. It is vivid proof that a nation that once symbolized racial oppression has been transformed into a vibrant, multicultural society." The head of the Organizing Committee for the tournament, Danny Jordaan, put it this way: "You're talking about the transformation of a country and a society. Our past has been a past of apartheid, a past of separation of people based on discrimination. This project can actually bind the nation."
And while even the most enthusiastic praise poets have to allow some degree of admission that, in the midst of all this supposedly remarkable transformation, South Africa does have its continuing "problems," the basic point remains—what was once a brutal racist heaven is now a "rainbow nation." And hanging over all this, like the soft white clouds that drape over Table Mountain in Cape Town, is the core message: this "promised land" was reached not through revolution against apartheid and imperialism but through finding common ground with and conciliating with imperialism as the road to ending apartheid and imperialist oppression. That's the real story of the South African miracle.
It's funny, a lot of the people writing about South Africa today like to talk about the land of contrasts. Sometimes they talk about the contrast between the "new, free and progressive" South Africa and all the police raids, forced evictions and removals, arrests and protest bans that have been part of the preparation for the World Cup. But mostly they're talking about the striking contrast between poverty and wealth, the first-world gleam of the major cities and the third-world squalor of the squatter camps and townships, often one standing in the shadow of the other.
Watching all the coverage of the World Cup, I'm reminded of my own memories and the contrasts they provoke. I visited South Africa—or, as the revolutionary minded people called it in the rebellious years, Azania—twice during the countrywide uprisings in the urban townships that helped bring the apartheid regime down. Soccer was always a big, big subject. I remember being struck by how deeply into soccer the black people were. I had a friend who always had a big, warm smile on his face and when he talked about soccer, the smile practically consumed his face. He explained that he thought soccer was a form of rebellion—while the white settlers played rugby, the black people went for soccer. He also went on to school me about how the black people not only loved a good soccer match for the joy of the sport but also for the opportunity to secretly meet in the stands, to organize and spread the struggle.
Often as we talked he would be kicking a soccer ball—now you have to get this picture clear, when I say kicking the ball, he was literally dancing in mid-air as he moved the ball from foot to foot, off of his knee and up to his head where he bounced it off into the air and let it drop to the tip of his shoe only to start the whole beautiful dance all over again. I once asked where he learned to do this and he smiled and said he just picked it up.
Another friend told me later that he had been a major soccer star in Soweto—people came from all over to see what he could do and share in all the dreams of making the impossible seem so possible and beautiful. But my friend had his soccer career cut short. When the anti-apartheid rebellions broke out he enthusiastically joined the struggle. He lost one of his eyes when the South African police shot him during a demonstration in Soweto. But that's not a World Cup story for today.
Everything that exists in South Africa today came in the wake of the fall of the apartheid regime in the early 1990s. And it's the product of the way that fall came about. The apartheid regime began in 1948 and was one of the most savage and racist settler colonial regimes in modern history. Apartheid means "separateness" in Afrikaans, the language of white settler colonialists. It's an ugly word, it's a rolling grunt that pushes its way out of your mouth and it's pronounced "Apart-hate." It was a system that legalized racial segregation throughout the entire society. It was closely tied in with and subordinate to global imperialism. It couldn't survive without imperialism, and imperialism hungered for the extreme profit it could reap under apartheid. The U.S. and other Western imperialists supported the apartheid regime politically and militarily and saw it as a forward outpost of their system in Africa.
Under apartheid the black people, who were 90% of the population, lived on 13% of the land while the white settlers who made up 10% of the population owned and lived on 87% of the land. The white people owned and controlled everything. The black people were not officially considered citizens of South Africa and had no rights. When they lived inside the "official" South African territory they were forced to live in segregated tin shacks, ghetto townships or squatter camps, lacking the most basic services and sanitation. Otherwise they were confined to remote and desperately poor "homelands" or Bantustans that were holding pens for African laborers hoping to get a job in the city or in the mines. Under apartheid the black people, the Azanian people, were used as beasts of burden and driven until they couldn't be driven any further.
It's June 16 as I write this article, the 34th anniversary of the Soweto Uprising. This was a township demonstration of school kids, some as young as 11, who left their classrooms and took to the streets against an order from the apartheid government that they had to learn Afrikaans. Hundreds, and some say thousands, were killed by the apartheid police and army on that day. But these youths, marching behind a banner that read "For Freedom We Shall Lay Down Our Lives!" captured the hearts of people all over the world and set a fire in South Africa that eventually helped spell the end of apartheid.
The Azanian people, especially the youth, dreamed of revolution and liberation. They fought heroically for over 15 years and many of them paid dearly—thrown into apartheid dungeons where torture was guaranteed—including with electric cattle prods shipped to the South African police with the approval of the U.S. government. Countless numbers lost their lives, shot down in the streets, murdered in prison or assassinated by white hit squads. Standing up against the monstrous twins of apartheid and imperialism, often with little more than rocks, bottles and a lot of heart, they continued to inspire hope and joy in people everywhere.
The Azanian people were up against a whole world of oppression. Apartheid South Africa churned out superprofits for capitalist-imperialist investors through hellish exploitation on the settlers' farms and in the capitalists' gold and diamond mines. And geo-strategically, South Africa served as the regional enforcer of the interests of the U.S. in the region. By the 1970s, the Soviet Union—no longer socialist in anything but name, but still portraying itself as a socialist alternative—was a rival imperialist superpower challenging U.S. domination in Africa. Armed conflict raged throughout the region that involved anti-colonial struggles, but increasingly became dominated by wars between forces allied with the Soviet Union and U.S./South African-sponsored groups—those wars left deep scars in the region that remain today.
Around the world the U.S. and Soviet imperialists faced off with each other, each plotting and planning to undercut and outmaneuver the other. Sometimes this confrontation was more openly done and other times not. And in many parts of the world the Soviet Union worked through parties like the South African Communist Party (SACP). The SACP was a revisionist party—that is, it had long ago given up on the goal of revolution and communism.
For a long time the SACP was the critical element in the Soviet contention with the U.S. in South Africa, a contention based on undercutting and countering U.S. domination there as part of the Soviet drive to ultimately redivide and dominate the world. And even while pro-Soviet forces in South Africa were hit with repression, the U.S. imperialists kept "channels open" with them. These forces were concentrated in the African National Congress whose leader was Nelson Mandela, and the SACP that was "communist" in name only.
There were other, more radical forces on the ground as well, like Steve Biko. Despite his "adoption" at times by the current rulers of South Africa, Biko denounced those who preached reconciliation with the system as he understood it, and along with others struggled to forge a movement and an agenda that would liberate Azania. The regime was particularly vicious in crushing these radical and revolutionary forces—Steve Biko was beaten to death in prison by the regime in 1977 at the age of 30.
But as heroic as the people's struggle was, the Azanian struggle was not able to develop the kind of revolutionary leadership—a real communist leadership—that could lead the people to wage the kind of revolutionary struggle it would take to not only defeat apartheid and imperialism, but to build a whole new society.
Still, the people fought on ferociously and along with other major developments in the world at the time, helped create a situation that brought the apartheid regime to the edge of collapse. The imperialists and their white South African partners faced the need and found the way to adjust their form of domination in South Africa while maintaining, and even in some ways strengthening their imperial interests. To do this they had to stop the rebellions and they used a two-pronged approach to do it. They unleashed brutal military repression and they sought out those within the struggle who were willing to partner up with the regime and imperialism. They found these partners in the ANC, their leader, Nelson Mandela and the (phony communist) SACP, many of whose leading members were also in leading positions in the ANC. During the anti-apartheid struggle, the SACP, in conjunction with the overall agenda of the Soviet Union, never aimed to do more than gain some influence in the society through pressuring the rulers for reforms while leaving the overall system intact.
During the anti-apartheid struggle, when the Soviet empire collapsed the U.S. imperialists moved quickly to reassess and reshape how they dominated South Africa, a plan that hinged on ditching formal apartheid and bringing the ANC (including some elements of the revisionist/reformist SACP) into the whole apparatus of imperialist domination in South Africa. By the early 1990's negotiations set the tone for the day and a deal was worked out that put black faces in high political places, developed and nurtured a black middle class and incorporated many elements of the anti-apartheid movement into the system of colonial rule while leaving the backbone of imperialist domination and exploitation adjusted, but not fundamentally changed.
Without a revolutionary state power there was no way that the new South African ruling coalition could ever birth a whole new liberated society. The future the Azanian people—and all people the world over—ultimately need is a communist future, a future described in the Message and Call from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, The Revolution We Need...The Leadership We Have as "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." The most important point to understand about the dictatorship of the proletariat is not simply—or definitely not mainly—all the radical changes that can and will be made in the living conditions of the people. Revolutionary state power will be able to effect a whole lot of radical and sorely needed changes like land reform. But this isn't enough and in fact, if left here, the masses of people will soon find themselves back in some form of imperial hell. The most important point about socialism and the dictatorship of the proletariat is that it is a transitional phase, a way to move from all the horrors of imperialism to communism. The revolutionary state will lead the people themselves to dig up and do away with all the old scars of imperialism—all the roots of the social, economic and political inequalities and oppressive relations as well as all the old traditional thinking and ideas that are spawned by, bolster and reproduce these relations. Yes, this will be full of ups and downs, twists and turns, and should be marked by widespread debate and dissent, exploration and discovery in every facet of human life—in other words a really invigorating and exciting process of uncovering the truth, bringing to life new ideas and changing the world. And in doing all this the people themselves will be changed. This is what real revolution and a real revolutionary communist leadership is all about. Absent this, we have South Africa today.
When Nelson Mandela was elected president in 1994 the fix was in, all kinds of compromise and conciliation with the old apartheid masters and the imperialists paved the way—formal apartheid and all of its most grotesque features were done away with and the Azanian people were promised a land of economic well-being and political equality. Sixteen years after the end of apartheid this scheme has been revealed to be a pirate ship floating on a sea full of blood and broken dreams.
Make no mistake: in the new South Africa the main pillars of the economy—still dominated by mineral mining for export—remain firmly under the control of global imperialism. The black faces in high places serve those imperialist interests and not the interests of the people. And while many of the figures illustrating the conditions in South Africa today are done to appear "race neutral," the conditions inside the country are still very much conditioned by race.
It's a country that has the greatest income inequality in the world, the largest gap between rich and poor. The median annual income for black working adults age 15-65 is five times less than for whites in the same age group. Life expectancy at birth is 49.2 years and 36.1% of the people are not expected to live to be 40. Forty-three percent of the people make less than $2 a day—up from 34% in 2006; 26.2% of the people make less than $1.25 a day. The official unemployment rate is 25.2% but when you add in all those who have been out of work so long they've stopped looking, the figure jumps to 35.2%. When the black townships are taken alone, the unemployment rate is even higher. The unemployment rate for black adults from 15-65 is seven times higher than it is for whites in the same age bracket.
Land redistribution remains a burning issue. As of 2006 70% to 80% of the land was still controlled by a relatively small number of white people protected by the ANC government's "willing seller/willing buyer" redistribution scam. Forced evictions and removals of black people are common. More than a million black people have been evicted from farmland since the end of apartheid. As of 2009 the urban population of South Africa had ballooned to 61% of the entire population. Thirty-three percent of them live in "informal settlements" without electricity, sanitation services, sewers and water. As a result, cholera is a major risk. The overall squatter population is estimated to hover around 10 million people or more and it mushrooms year to year. Soweto, now hailed as a sparkling new "city," still remains very much a township whose hills are covered with makeshift shacks and tin rooftops. Hundreds of thousands of new housing units provided by the government in the townships around Johannesburg—called kennels by the people—are actually only half as big as the old 40-square-meter matchbox houses provided under apartheid.
Yes, South Africa is a land of contrast. And perhaps the biggest and most damning contrast is the one that the World Cup hoopla is meant to cover up. And this is the contrast between what might have been and what is, the contrast between a society dominated by imperialism and one liberated by revolution. And in this contrast, the need for a genuine revolutionary communist leadership stands out starkly. While not a guarantee of victory and liberation, the lack of it is a certain guarantee that the people will pay the ultimate price.
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Revolution #205, June 27, 2010
In the last few weeks, it has been easy to catch the wave of excitement and inspiration that has been building for the U.S. Social Forum to be held in Detroit June 22-26.
As millions of barrels of oil spew into the Gulf of Mexico, thousands of activists are pedaling their bikes to Detroit... unplugging from the use of fossil fuels and converging to dream of a world without them and the wars they fuel...
As the U.S. military rains death from the skies on people throughout the Middle East... thousands are converging to live the idea that human life is equally valuable in every corner of the planet...
As poor and Black people in record numbers, and Black women in particular, are put out on the street as their homes are boarded up, housing activists are preparing to construct tent cities or fix up old homes and return them to their residents...
As it becomes equally illegal to teach the truth about how Arizona was stolen from Mexico as it is to be of Mexican descent in Arizona, immigrants and the native-born are gathering to learn each other's histories and cultures and to organize disobedience to these fascist anti-immigrant laws...
As each day we are bombarded with a culture that reinforces alienation, selfishness, and ignorance... artists are uncorking their imaginations and sharing their skills to beautify a decaying city, forge community with different morals, and celebrate the struggle and the joy of creating a different world...
It is invigorating to catch the wave of hard work and real insights, of dreaming and hope that is carrying tens of thousands of activists and eager-to-become-activists to Detroit. And it is refreshing to see the lie put to the notion that "this is the best of all possible worlds" and that people are too apathetic or me-centered to do anything about it.
Unfortunately, even as we gather, we all know that the outrages that have brought us together are continuing to multiply... more toxic waste dumped into the air and the oceans... more families and children put out of their houses... more women brutalized and raped from the civil wars of the Congo to the "oh-so-civilized" dorm rooms and family homes of the U.S.... more peasants forced off their land and across militarized borders in the desperate struggle for survival... more wars... more torture... more nightmares for humanity, seemingly without end.
All this, because the system of capitalism-imperialism has a stranglehold on the global economy enforced by its highly repressive and massively violent state power. And this system, so long as it has state power, will continue to frustrate—and at times violently repress—those who do dream of and work for a better future.
This does not mean that the efforts and the insights of all of us gathering have no meaning or impact.
Precisely the opposite. Exactly because of how desperately humanity needs a radically different world, it is precious that people are coming together to exchange and wrangle over ideas, and to explore and share new models of community and interaction with the environment. It is difficult to conceive of something better being wrenched out of this nightmare without the kinds of sharing and efforts and insights and hard work and joy of the tens of thousands of people gathering this week. All this is something that everyone interested in a better world should be interested in learning from, being challenged by, and building upon.
But there is one model that has been tried and proven tremendously liberating, a model that is rich in accomplishments, lessons, and relevance for today, that is almost entirely missing from the buzz, planned discussion, and wrangling going into and anticipated at the USSF. This is the model of genuine communist revolution.
Now, if you are not a regular reader of this newspaper, it is likely the vast majority of what you have heard about "communist revolution" has very little to do with reality. So put it aside and ask yourself the following questions:
If there was a model in which peasants and formerly exploited workers grabbed hold of and restructured their nation's economy and agriculture and healthcare so that it met people's needs—rather than serving export and private profit—and over the course of 27 years (from 1949 to 1976) had raised life expectancy among a quarter of the world's population from the age of 32 to 65, wouldn't that be worth examining?
What if this model didn't stop there but went about radically transforming the culture and human attitudes, shattering thousands of years of ignorance and oppressive traditions? What if this included replacing a common attitude that, "A wife married is like a pony bought, I'll ride her and whip her as I please" with a vibrant culture promoting the ideas that "anything a man can do a woman can do too" and "women hold up half the sky!"? What if this model included massively expanding education so that the literacy rate went from a mere 15% all the way up to 80% so that people who had formerly been locked out of intellectual work, including helping administer and lead society, could take part?
And what if, in this grand and liberating struggle, the revolutionary leadership hadn't (as conventional wisdom claims that all leadership must) sought to retrench and consolidate power for its own sake, but fought at every stage to bring millions into both the defense and the wielding of the revolutionary state power that made all this possible? What if this leadership sought at every stage to bring millions into both supervising those who were leading society and stepping forward, and being trained and unleashed in their capacity to do so, to take part increasingly in administering the ongoing transformation of society towards complete liberation? What if it raised people's consciousness to see the goal as the emancipation of humanity the world over?
Wouldn't this experience—carried out by nearly a billion people of a formerly oppressed and imperialist-ravaged nation over the course of 27 intensely experience-rich years—merit deep examination? Wouldn't a model like this—both where it accomplished things more liberating than had ever previously been imagined and where it fell short and took approaches and had results that undercut the goal of liberation—be something that everyone who is dreaming of and is working towards a better world needs to deeply engage and learn from?
The fact is, all of these things have been accomplished during the first stage of genuine communist revolutions in the world—that is, the experience of the Soviet Union from 1917 to the mid-fifties and in China under Mao Tsetung from 1949-1976 (before capitalism was restored in both those countries). All this reached its highest pinnacle during the Cultural Revolution in China which was not, as the bourgeoisie claims, a culture-destroying bloodletting by a power-hungry Mao, but an effort led by Mao which not only succeeded for ten years in preventing the restoration of capitalism in China but did so through the greatest mass participation and revolutionization of society by the formerly oppressed that has ever been achieved.
Yes, all this experience has been buried and slandered, it's been lied about and distorted by the very capitalist system and its representatives who defeated these revolutions. But this should only underscore the importance of those who oppose the crimes and the system of capitalism to look into this honestly and deeply for themselves.
But that is not all. The rich experience of these revolutions has been summed up and learned from—both the lessons and breakthroughs and the shortcomings and errors—and these lessons have been brought together with the tremendous developments in the world since that time, as well as the experience and insights brought forward in other realms of endeavor, to forge a new vision of socialist society. Breakthroughs in the method and approach to understanding and transforming reality, including society, have been made. Not only that, all this has been applied to the questions of how a revolution could actually win in a country as powerful as the United States. All of this has been brought together in a new synthesis of revolution and communism and all this has tremendous implications for humanity's struggle to get free.
The person who has done this work is Bob Avakian.
As the Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party states: "...in the new synthesis brought forward by Bob Avakian, there is an analogy to what was done by Marx at the beginning of the communist movement—establishing in the new conditions that exist, after the end of the first stage of the communist revolution, a theoretical framework for the renewed advance of that revolution."
It is a tremendous thing for humanity that someone has done this work of rescuing and building on the experience of genuine communist revolution. And it is a game-changer in terms of the prospects of actually making revolution real in our lifetimes that this experienced and tested leader is actively leading a revolutionary party in the belly of imperialism today.
So, we invite and we challenge you—as you come together to learn from the insights and experience and dreams of others gathered and to share your own—to make sure to include looking with fresh and open eyes at this most liberating experience and the even greater possibilities for the future, based on engaging with and taking up this new synthesis.
Many of us who are building the movement for this revolution will be at the USSF. We are eager to learn from your experience and insights... your greatest hopes and wildest ideas... and we are eager to share with you our understanding of the revolution we need and the leadership we have.
Come check out one of our workshops or other activities we'll be involved in that are listed at revcom.us. Even more essentially, get your hands on one of the works by Bob Avakian featured in the centerfold of this newspaper.
Another world IS possible. Let us join together and take a collective leap in making it real!
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Revolution #205, June 27, 2010
June 21-26, Detroit
At the U.S. Social Forum (USSF) in Detroit, the Revolution Books booth will be at Hart Plaza, and the Revolution newspaper distribution table will be inside Cobo Hall. Join the teams getting out the Message and Call from the RCP, "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have," and Revolution newspaper.
The following are workshops at the U.S. Social Forum sponsored by Revolution Books-NY (Rev Bks), RCP Publications (RCP Pubs), and Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund (PRLF), and events where people can hook up with revolutionaries. The list also includes World Can't Wait (WCW) workshops.
Monday, June 21
Hart Plaza. Hook up with Revolution teams at the Revolution Books Booth on the plaza.
Tuesday, June 22
USSF March - Join the Revolution contingent in the march. Meet up at the Revolution Books table in Hart Plaza at 2:00 pm.
Wednesday, June 23
Thursday, June 24
Friday, June 25
Saturday, June 26
"Redeem Aiyana's Dream"—March & Rally
Grand Circus Park on the corner of Park Ave. & Woodward Ave Sponsors: Rev. Omar Wilks of Unison Pentecostal Church & Rev. Darryl Young of Siloam of Presbyterian Church —Carl Dix is one of the speakers
Carl Dix will present a screening the video of Bob Avakian's talk Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About in the community during the week.
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Revolution #205, June 27, 2010
Iran is ruled by an Islamic theocratic regime, with laws based on religion and the clergy wielding a special role in controlling the state (the army, courts, bureaucracy, etc.). This regime has killed over 5,000 revolutionary political prisoners since coming to power in 1979. Women face arrest if they don't veil themselves in public and people face execution for "homosexual acts." One year ago, simmering anger against this regime erupted into massive protests when sharp conflicts emerged among the Iranian rulers around the June 12 election, which was widely seen as stolen by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In response, hundreds of thousands poured into the streets, many for the first time in their lives. Three days after the election, government forces opened fire on protesters at Tehran University, killing five.
Rather than quell the protests, this massacre further enraged people and delegitimized the regime. The following day, over two million people took to the streets and protests continued for days. Among those who came out was 26-year-old Neda Agha-Soltan. June 20 marked one year since she was gunned down in the midst of these anti-government protests.
Neda's relatives say that from a young age, she rebelled against the Islamic regime's repressive restrictions on the basic rights of women. She was the first in her school to refuse to wear the chador, the covering forced on women. When mass outrage burst out at the regime's open thuggery, Neda joined others who courageously stood up against the rulers, in the face of vicious threats and violent attacks.
On June 20, 2009, uniformed government forces suddenly attacked and began beating protesters. Shots rang out. A bullet hit Neda and she died bleeding on the ground. As cell phone videos of this crime spread around the world, Neda came to symbolize the fearless determination of millions in Iran who are rising up against injustice and for a different future. Many protesters in Iran and around the world have donned masks with Neda's photo on them and declared "We are all Neda."
One year later, the justified anger at the Islamic regime still rages among millions in Iran. But protests to mark the anniversary have been called off by former prime minister Mir-Hossien Mousavi and the "green movement" opposition he leads, out of concern for the stability of Islamic rule.
Revolutionaries are increasingly working within all this, calling on people to break with siding with one or another faction of the ruling class and to direct the struggle toward the revolutionary overthrow of the Islamic Republic altogether. We should be alert for new rounds of opposition to the regime, ready to politically support the rekindled resistance of the Iranian people. (See revcom.us for "Revolutionary Eye on Iran.")
Gaza, a part of Palestine, is known as the world's largest outdoor prison—1.5 million people are under a lockdown enforced by the Israelis with the backing of the U.S. In 2008 and early 2009, Israel (with U.S. support) launched a massive military assault on Gaza, massacring 1,400 Palestinians, destroying schools, and shelling hospitals. Since then Gaza has been under Israeli siege—a collective punishment of an entire population that has meant even more extreme poverty, malnutrition, health crises, and separation from the outside world. In the pre-dawn hours of May 31, 2010, Israeli commandos attacked an unarmed flotilla of ships—in international waters—that was attempting to break the siege and deliver banned items like concrete, medical supplies, toys, pasta, and chocolate. Nine people were killed by the Israelis. The siege of Gaza is part of maintaining Israel as a nuclear-armed enforcer of U.S. geopolitical interests in the Middle East and beyond. Tens of thousands around the world poured into the streets in outrage over the Israeli massacre on the flotilla. And the continuing siege cries out for powerful, determined political resistance to demand that this horrendous crime, carried out in service of a world of suffering and oppression, come to an immediate end.
An environmental, wildlife, and human catastrophe has been unfolding before the world's eyes since late April, when BP's blown drilling pipe a mile deep in the Gulf of Mexico began gushing millions of gallons of oil. Wetlands incredibly rich with life are facing destruction. People's lives are being shattered. Whole marine ecosystems are threatened with a Chernobyl-like situation. BP and the government have proven themselves unable and unwilling to really do what is necessary to stop this disaster. Millions of people—from fishermen to scientists to students—are outraged, but have been discouraged and prevented from acting. This ecological disaster is a product of a global capitalist system that bases its entire functioning on the extraction of cheap and extremely profitable energy sources from fossil fuels, despite the fact that the burning of these fuels is killing the planet. A call has gone out, from supporters of Revolution newspaper, for all who feel the urgency of this crisis to come to New Orleans and rally people to stop this catastrophe, protect the environment, and spread revolution. On June 19, an Emergency Summit in New Orleans brought together scientists, people from fishing communities, environmental activists, progressives, radicals and revolutionaries, artists, intellectuals and others to thrash out ways to act, now.
Oscar Grant was killed in cold blood on New Year's Day 2009—as he was being forced face down on an Oakland, Calif., train platform by a cop, who shot him in the back. Grant, a 23-year-old Black man, is one of at least 100 people killed each year by police in California. He is one of the many thousands killed and brutalized each year around the U.S. by the police who act like an occupying army in the oppressed communities. No cop in California had ever been tried for an on-duty killing...until now, when Johannes Mehserle, the cop who shot Oscar Grant, has been put on trial. The main reason there is a trial at all has to do with how people resisted. As cell-phone videos of the murder spread, outrage grew—and erupted onto the streets of Oakland. The system has counter-attacked. The cop's trial has been moved from Oakland to Los Angeles. The fight is at a turning point, and it is urgent that many more people step forward in protest and resistance. On June 14, over 100 people demonstrated outside the L.A. courthouse, including many youth. Oscar Grant's face was everywhere, on T-shirts, posters, and banners saying "We Are All Oscar Grant!" Among the protesters were Juanita Young, mother of Malcolm Ferguson (killed by the NYPD in 2000), Nicholas Heyward, Sr., father of Nicholas Heyward, Jr. (killed by the NYPD in 1994), and others from the October 22 Coalition‑NY. Protesters have returned daily and vow to maintain this presence throughout the trial.
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Revolution #205, June 27, 2010
On July 29 the new Jim Crow law recently passed in Arizona will go into effect. This law (SB 1070) requires police to demand proof of legal residency from any person they suspect could be an undocumented immigrant. It will set into place new legal norms that will by law establish racial profiling and a further repressive atmosphere against immigrants. It will mean a whole new leap in terror against immigrants and anyone with brown skin, where people taking their kids to school or going to the grocery store can expect to be stopped by the police, subjected to verbal abuse, or brutalized, even thrown in jail. And it will mean a leap in viciously enforcing, as well as strengthening the poisonous propaganda that people who are "undocumented" have no right to be here and no right to be treated as human beings.
The battle lines are being drawn. The reassertion of white supremacy and American chauvinism has sharpened up in Arizona and if allowed to set the terms there, will be further unleashed throughout the country. Since the passage of SB 1070, the Arizona legislature quickly followed up with a law outlawing the teaching of Ethnic Studies in Arizona schools, and all this has strengthened moves to challenge the 14th Amendment to the Constitution—the one that says everybody born in this country is entitled to citizenship and due process, the one that was supposed to give ex-slaves full rights as American citizens. In Arizona, racial profiling by police is already increasing and white racists are being unleashed—feeling free to yell at and threaten brown-skinned people on the street. And in the midst of this, Obama's answer is to send more National Guard troops to the border, where in the last month two people were killed by U.S. Border Patrol, including a 14-year-old on June 7. No more troops! Demilitarize the border! We don't have an immigration problem, what we have is a capitalism problem!
Arizona Freedom Summer is about radically changing this whole dynamic, defying this whole direction, and setting new terms. "The days when this system can just keep on doing what it does to people, here and all over the world... when people are not inspired and organized to stand up against these outrages and to build up the strength to put an end to this madness... those days must be GONE. And they CAN be." (from "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have," A Message and A Call from the RCP, USA)
The passing of this fascist law has drawn forward widespread opposition across the country. Cities and organizations are boycotting Arizona, tens of thousands have marched in the streets of Phoenix and in other cities, undocumented college students have chained themselves to the capitol building, and there have been waves of high school walkouts in Phoenix and Tucson. This summer many people will be mobilizing and coming to Arizona from all over the country. There needs to be a broad and defiant resistance that refuses to comply with this law, and there need to be many thousands of people in the course of building this resistance finding out about the revolution we need and the leadership we have, coming to see that it is this system and the rulers of this country that are totally illegitimate and that another world is possible.
Come to Arizona as part of Arizona Freedom Summer. Be part of bringing the Message and Call to people who are looking for a way out but are being told every day it's not possible. Be part of the day of non-compliance when SB 1070 goes into effect on July 29. Help to bring forward the resistance that's needed as part of building the movement for revolution.
The way things are being polarized, people who do "have papers" or are citizens of the U.S. are supposed to stand aside while "those other" people, those "illegals" are targeted, rounded up in raids, terrorized and degraded. Imagine instead that there started to be people everywhere wearing stickers or buttons or T-shirts saying WE ARE ALL ILLEGALS! Imagine people of all nationalities—including a lot of white people—wearing this and acting in accordance with it, standing in solidarity with people coming under attack. Imagine artists coming up with new ways to express and display this defiance on posters and stickers: We are all illegals! We don't gotta show no stinkin' papers!
Revolution newspaper is sending a reporter right away to report on what's happening in Arizona and how the battle is taking shape.
Arizona Freedom Summer
c/o RCP Publications
P.O. Box 3486, Merchandise Mart
Chicago, IL 60654-0486
(Make check or money order payable to "RCP Publications.")
If you want to come to Arizona and for more information, e-mail email@example.com.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #205, June 27, 2010
A YouTube video titled "Dying Detroit" takes you on a tour of "neighborhoods literally falling apart"—through streets that look like "a hurricane has recently swept through, destroying nearly everything in its path." Thousands of houses have been abandoned—in many areas 50-60% of the houses are in foreclosure. Some blocks have only a few homes left standing. A thousand people a month are leaving what has been called "America's fastest dying city."
There used to be almost 2 million people in Detroit. Today the city's population is just under a million and 85% Black. Many thousands are living the city's slow death:
For many decades after World War 2, big auto plants and other factories that once hired tens of thousands of workers moved to the suburbs and overseas. And more recently, over the last 15 years, U.S. imperialism has forged a globally integrated cheap-labor manufacturing economy, with huge labor reserves from China, India, and other parts of the Third World.
These larger workings of global capitalism/imperialism have deeply impacted Detroit, leading to further de-industrialization, loss of jobs and many people moving out of the city. In 1992 the big Chrysler plant moved, and overnight 4,500 people were left unemployed. More recently, when the sub-prime bubble burst, a wave of foreclosures displaced an estimated 5,000 people. Today, Detroit has at least 80,000 empty houses.
The federal and city government has responded to all this by basically throwing the city and the people to the dogs. And meanwhile all kinds of schemes are being proposed to find new ways to exploit the people and "rebuild" the city in a way that will be profitable.
The twisted and cruel logic of current federal and city policy in Detroit is that since fewer people now live in the city, everything must be "downsized"—which means cutting back on health care, education, city services, etc., and abandoning whole neighborhoods where people still live. And in line with this, DTE Electric has been heartlessly cutting off power for non-payment to tens of thousands of people in poor neighborhoods even in cold weather—making it even more difficult and dangerous to remain in these areas.
The Obama administration has an "urban policy" to deal with "shrinking cities" which the Mayor of Detroit, David Bing, is following. Bing is using a $40 million federal award for "renewal work" to carry out a plan which amounts to expelling poor people from "desolate" neighborhoods and promising to relocate them to more "stable" areas. According to the Detroit News, "Brookings Institution, local foundation leaders, several national funding groups and the White House offered financial support of up to $100 million a year for downsizing the city." The vice president of the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program, Bruce Katz, said, "There is a nothing-left-to-lose quality in Detroit, much like there was in New Orleans after Katrina."
Mayor Bing has said he will use studies to determine who the "winners and losers" will be and put it this way: "If we can incentivize some of the folks that are in those desolate areas, they can get a better situation. If they stay where they are I absolutely cannot give them all the services that they require." The city is reportedly planning to use eminent domain laws to physically remove people who resist and then seize their homes and bulldoze them. The city's argument is that a single house in an abandoned neighborhood is "blighting" the city because it requires fire and other services to the detriment of the larger community.
Bing explains: "There is just too much land and too many expenses for us to continue to manage the city as we have in the past... You can't support every neighborhood. You can't support every community across this city. Those communities that are stable, we can't allow them to go down the tubes. That's not a good business decision from my standpoint."
Think about it: The city and the people are dying an accelerating death and the Mayor justifies massive cutbacks and the abandonment of whole communities by saying these are "good business decisions."
Good business decisions is what has led to tens of thousands of people in Detroit losing their jobs. Good business decisions is what's behind the killing cutbacks in healthcare and education. Good business decisions is what is killing the city and the people of Detroit.
This is a system that develops and brings together vast productive forces, including masses of working people. It organizes and utilizes great resources that have great potential to benefit society and people. But when these things and people cannot be profitably used by the capitalist system—factories are shuttered and left to rot, people are tossed aside and left with no way to feed their families. Cities are devastated and left to decay.
Just think about the fact that the "dying city" of Detroit is overwhelmingly Black. The USA arose on the foundation of the genocidal theft of Native American (Indian) lands, and the enslavement of African people. Since that time, the oppression of Black people has been essential to the functioning of this system, changing as that system has changed, but always deeply woven into the very fabric of society. For generations, Black people in Detroit have faced vicious discrimination in all spheres of life—and this continues in old and new ways.
This doesn't necessarily mean a place like Detroit will be left to completely die. But as long as capitalism is running the show, any "re-invention" or "revival" of the city will be because new ways have been found to extract profit from the people and the city.
The productive forces in society—natural resources, technology, the creativity and knowledge of the people—are all held back and constrained, by the private and exploitative nature of capitalism. They are fettered by the need of capital to constantly produce for profit—not to meet the needs of the people.
This basic rule of capitalism—that the whole point of production is to make profit—means that people are treated as things to be used or tossed aside. It means the system considers thousands of Black people, especially the youth, as just so much surplus that can't be profitably employed. It means the system, through its armed enforcers, must come down with even more repression against this socially combustible and potentially rebellious section of society. And it means poisonous ideological assaults that justify such attacks and blame the people for the oppressive situation the system has put them in.
Detroit is a painful and clear example of how we need a whole new way, a whole new system, a whole new society. And we need revolution to bring this into being.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #205, June 27, 2010
Nearly a year ago, the RCP, USA launched a campaign around "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have." Anchored by a powerful Message and Call from the Party, the campaign has accomplished some important things. But the campaign has not yet broken through to its main objectives—popularizing to millions the need for, and character of, revolution; making the leadership of this revolution, Bob Avakian, a household word; and bringing forward a core of new fighters around this revolution and this leadership. To deal with this, the Party called conferences on May 29 and 30 in two cities.
These conferences were very successful. People came from a number of different cities, large and small. And they brought a wide range of experience with them—experience in different forms of fighting the power and, in many cases, in beginning to take out revolution. The chemistry that came through by having people with diverse viewpoints and experience wrangle with the purposes and goals for this campaign and then, on that basis, develop ideas and plans—and in so doing, constantly returning to those larger goals and purposes—brought forward something new. For the first time there was a sense of a national campaign; now the charge is to make that real, and take it all to a higher level.
We have a lot to do here this weekend, a lot to accomplish, and I want to lay out a framework that can help us accomplish that on the best possible basis. Our overall purpose is to take this campaign—"The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have"—to a qualitatively higher level.
So I'm going to talk about why we undertook this campaign. I'm going to talk about the high stakes involved. I'm going to get into the goals of this campaign. And then I want to explain in some depth what all this has to do with doing what we ultimately and urgently need to do—and that is to make revolution.
But I want to start by talking about Aiyana Stanley-Jones, the 7-year-old child murdered by Detroit police two weeks ago today. I know you've read in our paper how she was sleeping on the couch in the living room, next to her grandmother, when the cops swarmed into their home after midnight. You may have read how the cops had every basis to know that there were children in the home because they had been surveilling the place. How these pigs shot her in the head and then carried her lifeless body out of her home like a rag doll. How they then brutalized her father and arrested her grandmother, putting her in chains. And how all this was filmed for a reality TV show in order to sell back to people their own brutalization and degradation, and add bitter insult to the horrible injury. How the mayor of Detroit then jumped to defend the police and attack the family's lawyer and, yes, attack the masses themselves for "making bad decisions." How Al Sharpton then ran to Detroit to "give the glory to god"—and put the blame on Black people themselves, especially the youth. But to echo the article in our paper, THAT'S STILL NOT THE WORST OF IT: for yet again, at least for now, the masses have been forced to chew on their sorrow and swallow their anger and just walk on—until they eventually turn it back, once more, against each other.
Or maybe you read in our paper a few weeks back about the massacre in Gardez, Afghanistan. Twenty-five people were celebrating the birth of Hajji Sharaf Udin's newborn grandson. At 3 in the morning, again while people were sleeping, Udin's son, Mohammed Dawoud went to investigate noises that he heard outside. The noises were American special forces, who promptly murdered Dawoud. Just like the Detroit police, these American soldiers then attacked the house and murdered three women who were crouching behind the door in fear. Bibi Shirin was 22 years old and the mother of four children under 5; Bibi Saleha was 37 and the mother of 11 children; and Gulalai was 18 years old. Maybe you remember how those same American soldiers then assaulted the survivors, arresting eight of them and holding them for four days of American-style interrogation, hoods and all, and then tried to cover up the massacre, stonewalling and lying for more than a month before the truth finally became undeniable. And here too THAT'S STILL NOT THE WORST OF IT—for all too many people remain passive in the face of this and other outrages by the Obama administration, including Obama's self-declared right to assassinate, without even the semblance of any due process, anyone that he decides to.
Or maybe you're burning in anger over Arizona and its maniacal fascist legislature, one day virtually criminalizing people of color and almost literally the next day forbidding the teaching of ethnic studies—including the teaching of the historical fact that the U.S. stole New Mexico, Arizona and large parts of the rest of the western U.S. from Mexico in the first place...because teaching that fact "might incur resentment."
Maybe you read our declaration for women's liberation and the emancipation of all humanity, and were stunned by what it revealed about the scope and depth of the oppression of one half of humanity all over the world. A fabric of oppression, to quote our declaration, that "is carved deeply into the calloused hands of women in the sweatshops of China and Honduras," that "is draped over the faces of young women in Saudi Arabia and Indonesia," that "is stripped off the bodies of girls of Moldova and Bangkok who are put up for sale in brothels," and that "is worn like a prize by pre-teens in the U.S. and Europe who are taught to dress and move like sex objects long before they understand what sex even is."
Or maybe you're heartsick over the disaster now unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico. Maybe you've read our paper, which goes into the real depth of this disaster, and here too, once again, exposes the lying and suppression and cover-up that is second nature to the people who run this system.
Or perhaps you're losing sleep over the continued rise of a fascist movement in this country... distressed about people who have been organized by one section of the rulers to aim their resentment and anger toward those "below" them or "slightly higher"—toward immigrants and Latinos more generally...toward Black people, particularly poor Black people...and on the other hand, toward intellectuals and artists...and, yes, toward communists, including very explicitly this Party.
All that and more keeps you up at night. All that and more brought you here today.
But the fact is: none of this has to be this way.
Let's go back again to the heartless murder of Aiyana Stanley-Jones. Mayor Bing in Detroit said this: "It's quite demoralizing. I don't know how to stop it." But we DO know how to stop it. We know how to stop it because we know how to deal with what started it and what keeps it going—this rotten capitalist system, with its ever-changing but somehow never-dying structures of white supremacy. We don't need murdering pigs—but so long as you have a SYSTEM which relies on the social structures designed to keep the masses of Black people and other people of color impoverished, imprisoned, insulted and brutalized, then for just that long there will be murdering pigs to enforce those structures. But we don't need that system and we can do away with that system—through revolution.
And no, we don't need the masses of youth preying on each other and even killing each other off. But so long as you have this capitalist system, where everything and everyone is looked at as a source of profit and where as a result "look out for number one and screw everyone else" (while "giving it to god" on Sunday) is the real morality that is promoted and reinforced every day... so long as you have these white supremacist, racist institutions constantly blaring the message that lives lived in black and brown skins are worth less than those lived in white skins... then this kind of ugly thing will play out amongst the most oppressed...whether you are talking about Detroit, Mexico City, Mumbai or Paris. But we can do away with that too, but not by sermons and not by education—education that leads nowhere. We can do away with it if—but only if—we make revolution against the system that spawns it and do away with that system and all its fucked-up ways of relating. This system, with its planet of slums and its planet of gangs, has NO future for these youth—but the revolution DOES.
We need state power—revolutionary state power—a state power not of these imperialists, but a state power serving and rooted in the masses of people, with the leadership of the vanguard party. If we had state power, we would deal with the worst of this overnight, even as we set about the longer but still do-able process of leading people to tear up the deeper roots of this horror. And even before we have that power, right now as we ARE BUILDING a movement for revolution, we are learning how to draw these youth into something else and something far better—fighting the power, and transforming the people, for revolution.
We can stop this shit. It doesn't have to be this way. We don't need a system that divides the world into different sets of turf ruled by different cliques of legitimate gangsters—that is, the ruling capitalist-imperialists—fighting like dogs over who has the right to exploit and super-exploit the people and to plunder the resources of the earth. What we need is revolutionary state power—and if we had it, we would use it to build a system that does NOT run on the worldwide division of people into exploiter and exploited, oppressor and oppressed. We would use that state power NOT to rain down terror on oppressed people all over the planet, but to support revolution—REAL revolution, revolution designed to end oppression and NOT just repackage it, with a different set of oppressors—all over this planet.
And there is no objective need to befoul and devastate and destroy the environment either—unless you have a system in which every player is driven to seek profit on top of more profit... If we had the power, we could forge a future where people would live as caretakers of the planet, nursing its terrible wounds and developing a sustainable relationship to nature—and not piratically and insanely plundering the earth the way that these rulers do now. These dominators and despoilers need to get the fuck out of the way—and the people need to MAKE them do it, through revolution, for these capitalists will never leave on their own. Just look at the principles in the special issue of Revolution on how our revolutionary socialist state power would handle the environment and tell me that there is anyone else willing to stand up and say "Give US the power, and we could deal with this"—and able to actually back that up with substance. [Revolution's special issue on the environment is available online at revcom.us/environment/]
We want state power. We would use that state power both to prevent the exploiters from returning and to set about resolving the great disparities and inequalities in the world—between oppressor and oppressed nations, between men and women, between those who work with ideas and those who are locked out of that sphere—and we would do it in a society that would be full of ferment and initiative from many different directions.
Revolution—the REAL revolution, the communist revolution—could deal with all these outrages and more, and could do it as part of moving forward to a planet without any exploitation...without any forms of oppression...and without all the institutions and ideas, whether ancient or oh-so-modern, that reflect and reinforce that exploitation and oppression. Revolution—the REAL revolution, the communist revolution—would get rid of their instruments of oppression and it would bring in a new power, one which would mobilize the people to transform the material reality they face.
We need state power—state power to defend the people as they overcome the age-old divisions and as they work through the complicated but nevertheless very do-able and very joyful process of dissolving the mental shackles that chain their minds. We need a state power that would lead people to transform their own supposedly unchangeable human nature, not in a crude way that tramples on people's individuality, but through a whole process where as people transform the material world they are also led, and take initiative, to open up capacities and parts of themselves that they never knew they had.
But here's the most painful thing of all: this revolution right now is pretty much off the map in people's thinking. Even where people are fighting back—like in Arizona, or in the fights against education cuts—we have to face it: Revolution isn't out there as a REAL viable possibility in their thinking.
This revolution—the REAL revolution, the communist revolution—is fighting for its life. That's right, fighting for its life. And not just to survive, as some kind of abstract hope that might as well be a religion—but to survive and grow as a real contending force, increasingly mobilizing people to fight the power, and preparing people to SEIZE the power as part of conquering and transforming the whole world.
But even worse—not only is the reality of this not known to most people, to the extent they have heard of it, people have been convinced that such a revolution is either impossible or undesirable.
How did this happen?
The communist revolutions that came to and held power—first in the Soviet Union in 1917 and lasting for several decades, and then in China from 1949 to 1976—achieved things that had never been seen on this planet. People began the process of genuinely freeing themselves, and they set about creating a whole new world on the soil of this rotten and decaying one.
But these were the first attempts. These new socialist states were surrounded on all sides, constantly invaded or threatened with invasion. The leaders of these societies were starting almost from scratch in building a world without exploitation and oppression. True, they had the insightful and far-seeing (but nevertheless beginning and somewhat basic) framework brought forward by Marx and Engels, and then Lenin; but now all that had to be applied, and that is always more complicated and full of learning once you get into it. In both the Soviet Union and then China, our movement led people to do amazing things, our movement and its revolutions inspired the whole world, and tremendous lessons were learned. But ultimately both these revolutions were, as the Message and Call of this campaign puts it, "turned back by the forces of the old order."
Looking at it from the long view of history, looking at it with a scientific understanding of how different classes come into being and the tortuous process through which they reshape the world in their own image—and on this point, I will refer people to especially the second part of Bob Avakian's talk Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About—these defeats are very painful but not surprising. And from this same viewpoint, it is not surprising that the imperialists—the concentration of everything that is old, decaying, rotten and reactionary in this world—would then do everything that they could to bury this movement, once and for all.
I mean, talk about brainwash! These imperialists use their television stations, their publishing houses, and their news media to slander and distort these revolutions, and to downplay and deny their incredible accomplishments, day after day, week after week, year in and year out. Where this movement has still raised its head, these imperialists have used threats and prison and murder, as well as slander. And all the while, they have brought forward and supported, all over the world, religious fundamentalists as "an alternative" for dispossessed and angry youth.
Their so-called brilliant scholars just brazenly make up lies or distort facts, as Raymond Lotta so powerfully shows in his talks, and then they broadcast them over and over until "everyone knows" these lies as the truth. Those who dissent or question this verdict are warned, sometimes quietly and sometimes quite openly, that they are risking their "access" and their position... and sometimes more. And the imperialists have also played on real weaknesses and shortcomings of the first stage of our revolution, some of them quite serious—even as those shortcomings were overall secondary to the great achievements.
It got so bad, over those decades, that all too many communists themselves—including, yes, most of us in this Party—let themselves get worn down by it and, in the words of the Manifesto from our Party, objectively abandoned the outlook and aims of the communist revolution, accommodated to the system of imperialism, and settled for, at most, reforms within this horrific system. All too many communists stopped being communists, perhaps not in word, but in fact.
But there was, during this period, someone who traveled a different road. The Message and Call puts it this way:
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.
Bob Avakian confronted the problem, head on and straight up. He analyzed the first stage of the communist revolution, upholding its achievements but also confronting and digging into its shortcomings. He worked on the problems we faced, he wrangled with them from many different angles, and in the course of this he came up with a new synthesis of communism—something that is comparable, as the Manifesto from our Party says, to "what was done by Marx at the beginning of the communist movement—establishing, in the new conditions that exist, after the end of the first stage of the communist revolution, a theoretical framework for the renewed advance of that revolution." Communism has not only been defended, but further developed and, in important aspects, re-envisioned through Bob Avakian's new synthesis.
And when he found that most of the people in the Party that he led were pulling to a different road, turning away from advancing the revolution and into a preoccupation with building a reformist movement, in one form or another, he launched a tremendous struggle within that Party—a cultural revolution within the RCP—to not only get this Party back onto the revolutionary road, but to put it on a more profoundly revolutionary basis than ever.
This Cultural Revolution was a struggle over LINE—that is, over what would be the guiding method of the Party for understanding reality; over how the Party understood the whole history of our revolution; and over the strategy and policies that flowed from that method and understanding. At bottom, it was over whether this would be a revolutionary party—a vanguard of the future—or whether it would be a relic of the past. And this high-risk high-stakes struggle, initiated and led by Bob Avakian, did in fact result in a
real revitalization of the revolutionary and communist outlook, objectives, spirit, and culture of the Party—a Party facing squarely, and confronting scientifically, the complexities, the difficulties and the dangers, as well as the inspiration, of doing all it can to work for revolution in this country, and to contribute the most it can to this same cause throughout the world, all aiming for the final goal of communism. 1
Bob Avakian saved this Party as a revolutionary party; and now this Party must, and can, move forward and lead people to initiate a whole new stage of communism, fighting for this understanding everywhere and using it to make revolution right here.
So, when people ask, "Why do you make such a big deal about Bob Avakian?" there's a very basic truth that they're not getting. And we should tell them that, straight up, with no apology. Without Bob Avakian and the work he did and is doing—without Bob Avakian and the courageous struggle he waged, and led—it is very likely that there would BE no communism today, at least no vital and viable communism. Without Bob Avakian, it is very likely that there would be no Party in the U.S. today—at least no party that is really a vanguard of revolution—nor would there be a revolutionary movement.
One more thing. Without Bob Avakian—BA—and the work he's done, it is very likely that there would be no plan, no foundation and no strategy for actually making revolution in the USA—actually figuring out how to break through the suffocating situation of today and get things to the point where people in their millions could actually be won and roused to take on this monster...and to win.
Do you realize how precious THAT is? To not only be able to uncover and analyze the causes and forces behind the character of the prison that confines you...to not only see the basis for a future without those bars and chains...but to know the way out?
Why do we make such a big deal about Bob Avakian? Because he IS a big deal. And in fact, we need to make a much bigger deal about him—and that's one big objective of this campaign, and one big thing we're going to be getting into this weekend. The work he has done has provided the potential to MAKE revolution known; and not just known—to make it a real goal, actively fought for, by increasing numbers of people—a viable force that can actually carry forward the needed changes that only grow more urgent with each unbearable day. The Party that he has fought for and led in re-forging can lead that. We don't intend to die of slow suffocation; we don't intend to "fight the good fight" so that we can shuffle off the stage with good consciences... we intend to do what the old '60s song said: "break on through to the other side."
This campaign—The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have—is the crucial link to getting on a trajectory to doing that. And that's what this conference has got to be about. To quote from the letter that called you here:
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 thisrevolution, 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.
These three goals are somewhat distinct, but they work together. First of all, people got to know about, hear about, see, and FEEL the revolution. In all kinds of different ways—speeches, posters, literature, and yes, in bold hard-fought struggles standing up against the system and its enforcers, especially where it is carrying out its most atrocious outrages—this revolution has to get known. People have got to see the revolutionaries rolling with these T-shirts with the BA image or with the Revolution masthead. People got to see, and they have stand up with, the revolutionaries standing firm and fighting back when we come under all the different attacks that the system comes at us with, and we have to mobilize them to make every assault politically boomerang against the enforcers of oppression, as we turn these attacks into a way for more people to hear about and come together to defend this new movement.
People have got to know—and we have to bring it home in all kinds of imaginative ways—that this is not just about their neighborhood, but it's something going on all over the nation, with potentially worldwide reverberations.They have to see and hear this Message and Call not once, not twice, but over and over—coming from different places, some unexpected and even wild—so that this doesn't just fade from memory after a week or two. They have to be led to go deeply into this statement—this Message and Call is RICH, this is "Revolution 101"—with a basic foundation in the goals, methods and strategy of revolution concentrated in it. The basic fact that there is a movement for revolution...a revolutionary communist movement...this has to penetrate into the atmosphere, and affect all of society. Some people are gonna love it, some people are gonna hate it, and some people are gonna just have it circulating in their minds—but the revolution has got to get out there and get known. Let me tell you, the days will come—and they may come sooner than you think and almost certainly those days will come before we feel fully ready for them—when masses of people will be seeking a way out. And when they do, they better know something about this revolution.
But there's another element to this campaign, another objective. There's making known the leadership of Bob Avakian. I've talked about Bob Avakian in one dimension earlier, and it's an important one: the objectively undeniable role he's played in laying a foundation from which the whole movement can go forward and in waging a battle to save this Party as a revolutionary...communist...party. But there's more to say. The Message and Call puts it this way:
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.
"A great champion and a great resource for the people here, and indeed people all over the world." People need to know that, they need a basic sense of how that is so, and they need to know him. It is up to us to get Bob Avakian's memoir—From Ike to Mao and Beyond—out there to people. Up to us to spread the Revolution talk to people, watch it with them where we can, and write up the lessons of that for our newspaper. Up to us to get this T-shirt out there, and this way cool graphic out and about. Up to us to do a hundred and one other things that are going to get taken up in this workshop tomorrow to make this leader a household word.
Obviously, things have not yet broken loose in this country. And in many ways the atmosphere is more suffocating and locked down than it was in the early '60s—though there ARE openings, some of which we can recognize and seize on, and some of which we are going to have to create. But there is a real basis to get Bob Avakian's leadership out there, now, on a much much huger scale than it has been, through this campaign, and to do that in such a way so that when and as things begin to open up—and this campaign, along with other things we do, is part of prying things open—he will be a point of reference and more than that: a magnetic pole for people who are searching for a leader with real answers and real substance.
And look. I've read reports about, and I've talked to people, who've said, "It would make such a difference if we could see and meet the Chairman in person. It would make such a big difference if the Chairman could be out here speaking." Now some people say that in a nasty way or a baiting way. But the people I'm talking about are mostly coming from a good place. Well, the Party appreciates your sentiment. But let me also say this: the Chair IS "out here." He's out here in his memoir... out here in the Revolution talk...out here in the graphic image...in the pages of Revolution newspaper, almost every week...in other audios that are online. He's out here and we have to get him much much further out here to hundreds of thousands and then to millions. Not five years from now, not two years from now, but right now—beginning with the plans we make this weekend. Let's make "Are you getting into BA?" a mass challenge. And let's make "GET INTO BA" a mass slogan.
And we have to be bold with people. We don't need to—in fact we most definitely should NOT—get into long defensive explanations when people raise this stuff about "why are you making such a big deal," or "everyone says you're a cult," or "I don't follow leaders"—in other words, when people begin, frankly, repeating a lot of the conventional wisdom or prejudices that have been hammered at by the bourgeoisie in these past 35 years of counter-revolution. No. We should just put it right out there, like I said to you earlier: you don't understand—without Bob Avakian there would very likely be no revolutionary communism in today's world. And the fact is that we're not promoting him ENOUGH yet—and we aim to do a whole lot more and a whole lot better!
We should put it out there, plainly, matter of fact, without any hint of religiosity, and then we should challenge people: if you are serious about fundamental change, it is the height of irresponsibility to fail to engage Avakian's work on the level it demands.
If you are at all serious about human possibility, then you have to wrangle with why the previous revolutions were defeated. You have to wrangle with whether we can really make a revolution that both can overcome the terrible inequalities and disparities and horrors in the world—and can do that without turning out the lights, as Avakian has put it, on intellectual and artistic endeavor and initiative.
If you are serious, you have to wrangle with whether Marxism really is a science—and if it is, what it really means to say that, and how our scientific understanding of the world has changed in the 160 years since this science was first forged.
If you are serious, you have to wrangle with how do people change their understanding of the world and, yes, their deepest moral feelings—not just after the revolution, but how do they change now, in order to MAKE revolution and as part of MAKING REVOLUTION?
If you are serious, you have to wrangle with whether it is even conceivable that the ruling class of this country could some day be vulnerable to a revolutionary challenge...and if it is conceivable, then how could that possibly come together and what would be required of revolutionaries—both then and, from the vantage point of that future time, today?
And if you are wrangling on that road, then you will meet someone else who got there first and will welcome you onto it and wrangle with you and try to learn everything he can from you—because that's how he rolls. And that would be Bob Avakian.
It's there for the taking. And then sure, let's argue about it. Let's learn from each other as we do. But on the basis of you being serious enough to get deeply into this. To quote Bruce Springsteen, the door's open but the ride ain't free—you have to do some work too.
This gets us to the third objective of this campaign—bringing forward a core of dedicated, ardent fighters who are going to passionately advocate for this revolution and make it a driving dynamic force in society and the world. Fighters who are going to come at this not from what my friends think, or what my family thinks, or how backward things are out there, or how brutal and heartless these monsters at the top are—but from what humanity needs and what really is possible.
Fighters who are going to put their questions on the table from the standpoint of working them through, on the road to deepening their commitment to this revolution.
Fighters who will boldly take on what the enemy throws at them, and who will just as boldly take on both the backward thinking and the real questions among masses broadly, as well as the sophisticated apologists for this system.
Even a relatively small initial core of such fighters, coming forward from all ages but especially the youth, and from all walks of life, especially those on the bottom of society, can make a huge difference. It can have a magnetic effect. And such a core will stand out all the more sharply against the backdrop of today. Such a core can act as a living embodiment of the vision of a revolutionary movement that Bob Avakian put forward in "Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity":
There will be, and there should be, all kinds of struggle about those questions [of how to make revolution]. But people should have a sense: If you want to know about, and work toward, a different world—and if you want to stand up and fight back against what's being done to people—this is where you go. You go to this Party, you take up this Party's newspaper, you get into this Party's leader and what he's bringing forward, you come to the Revolution Clubs, you join in with the people carrying out political activity that embodies this—spreading revolution and building resistance, and the "positive synergy" between the two—all aiming for revolution.
There needs to be more room for and emphasis on systematic study and struggle for people who are getting into this. There needs to be a more widespread and keener sense of what this Party is about and what it means for people...of the crucial importance of the Cultural Revolution in our Party and what a great thing it is...of what it means to take leadership from this Party and what it would mean to join it... All that has to be much more part of the atmosphere, much more of what we call a "mass question"—something that lots of people are openly and constantly wrangling over and returning to, in their conversations and their thinking. People have to be coming into this Party, and helping to further transform it, too, into an even more revolutionary party...into an even sharper instrument with which to deeply understand and radically transform reality in the interests of the masses.
Our aim and our plan with this campaign is this: to get those three objectives working together, so that some people may be hearing about Bob Avakian and then checking out the Revolution talk or the memoir and from there learning about the revolutionary movement and getting into it... and other people, within the atmosphere where the image of Avakian is getting around and the Message and Call of this campaign are everywhere, see this movement stand up to the authorities and they come into things from there...or still others are going to a speech by Sunsara Taylor or Raymond Lotta or Carl Dix about some particular burning question and from there look more deeply into all this... or they're beginning to read Revolution, every week... or they are hearing about and supporting the fight to allow prisoners to continue to get and read Revolution...and where, as people are doing this or hearing about it, they are catching the feel that there is a wave—even if right now the beginning of a wave—of people who are getting into this, for real, and as they see and encounter these people, the elan and the hope and the science and the fresh approach of these new revolutionary communists draws them forward to check all this out further.
The idea here is to get all three of these objectives—and all the work involved in each particular effort and initiative related to this campaign—cross-fertilizing, and synergizing, and amplifying one another—so the message and feel gets out NOT that these people are good-hearted folks with interesting ideas, but that these people ARE BUILDING a movement for revolution.
Right now we do not have this campaign clicking on all eight cylinders. But this is a goal that we can reach. This is a goal that we can brainstorm about and percolate on and develop plans for and carry out those plans so that in a finite time this movement for revolution can be in a different position in society. We can, through waging and winning this unprecedented campaign, break through and break out... and get into position where we can begin advancing the revolutionary communist movement with societal impact and worldwide reverberations...making known to all a political and ideological force on a mission to fight for this new stage of communist revolution.
Now all this is part of a larger strategy. And yes, we have a strategy. I'll say it again, because it's something that we don't do enough to let people know: we have a strategy to make revolution. There's actually a method to what we do—it's not something like Jehovah's Witnesses, where their members go around and talk to people and try to recruit them, waiting for the day when god comes to deliver the big payback and set everything right. It's not "we're doing this because this is what communists always do." No. And make no mistake—we are NOT trying to stir up a "radical opposition" for its own sake. We ARE BUILDING a movement to actually MAKE REVOLUTION.
How could you make a revolution? Let's talk about this a little. The Message and Call of this campaign says that,
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.
Let's break this down. "An even greater crisis in society as a whole." How could that happen? Well, let's look back at some of what we started this speech with. Let's look at these fascists out here. These Tea Party people and others. Believe me, we take these people quite seriously. We see these people in Texas rewriting the textbooks to even further distort U.S. history and these Republican governors "honoring the Confederacy"—that is, the slaveholders in the Civil War. We see—and we are out there opposing, including our people right now out there today—these fascists in the Arizona legislature with their apartheid-style laws. We see these Christian fascists, continuing their onslaught against abortion and murdering and threatening providers, lashing out against women, and threatening our comrades who lead struggle against them as well. We see them demonizing and stirring up fear of and hatred against gay people, and denying them their elementary rights. We watch Glenn Beck, and we call attention to his scenarios of militias made up of what he calls "angry Bubbas"—translation: racists—taking up arms.
And we see the Democrats—doing everything they can to hold it all together and to PREVENT people from resisting this, at the same time as they join with the Republicans to push forward the wars and repression and massive imprisonment of minority youth and serious economic deprivation that both parties are firmly behind. And we see and run up against how all this right now is intimidating and suffocating people.
But we see something else, too. We see the way that the divisions at the top of the ruling structures of society at a different point could come unraveled. Among these rulers, there are two different visions of how America needs to be ordered in the next few decades, and the potential antagonism between them is very great. Be clear, the point is most definitely not to choose sides between these rival factions of imperialists—because "they're both worse." The point is that this clash could provide the people with one of those rare openings when revolution could actually come onto the agenda for real.
Here's what I mean. When "the center cannot hold"—that is, when there is not enough cohesion among the ruling class itself to hold together its rival factions—and the "weakness of the center" is what a lot of their commentators have been bemoaning—when this happens in societies, there are fissures created out of which mass discontent can erupt. Splits that provide cracks through which the anger and discontent that people are just forced to swallow in "normal times" can come roaring out, like lava erupting from a suddenly active volcano. And something else can happen, too; to return to the Message and Call, "people in greater numbers [can] 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.'"
You can see the embryo of something like that going on in Iran over the past year—where a society that seemed locked down tight for 30 years suddenly was engulfed in a crisis that started as a clash between two rival factions in the ruling class of the Islamic Republic over how an unstable society rife with contradiction was going to be ruled. This clash led to massive street demonstrations and fighting, and bigger questions were thrown up, and other forces began to come into play.
You can even study the history of the Civil War in this country from this angle and learn how fundamental change can actually happen.
But here's the rub—if there is not a revolutionary pole strong enough to lead people to wrench something altogether new out of this... then the rulers will just bludgeon their way out, and things will go to a still deeper circle of hell.
No, it's not enough for there to be a societal crisis to which we the revolutionaries could somehow "just add water," as if fundamental social change was like instant coffee. Here's how the Message and Call lays it out:
For a revolution, there must be a revolutionary people, among all sections of society but with its deepest base among those who catch hell every day under this system...people who are determined to fight for power in order to radically change society, to get rid of oppression and exploitation. But the point is this: we cannot, and we must not, sit around and wait for "one fine day" when this revolutionary situation comes about and a revolutionary people comes on the scene. No, we must--and we can—work to bring a revolutionary people into being...to enable people to see why they should put no faith in this system, and should not live and die in a way that keeps this system going...but instead should devote their lives to resisting oppression and building up for the time when we can get rid of the cause of all this oppression. Using our Party's newspaper, Revolution, as the foundation, guideline, and organizational scaffolding for this whole process, this is what our Party means when we say we are hastening while awaiting the revolutionary situation, preparing minds and organizing forces...for revolution.
It is crucial that when things do go up for grabs—when people are searching for a way forward, when they are questioning the assumptions they've believed in their whole lives, when they are streaming into the streets at great personal risk—it is crucial then that there be a different magnetic pole, one with the ties and influence and understanding that could enable it to forge and lead a powerful united front that actually COULD make revolution and bring in a whole new system.
So, yes, we have a strategy. We have a way to get to that tomorrow, starting from today. We are hastening revolution, even as we're not going off half-cocked... even as we're tensely awaiting, while doing all we can to shape, the situation where you actually COULD begin the fight to establish a new state power.
Recently, Revolution published two paragraphs from Bob Avakian that put out a very concise guideline on this:
At every point, we must be searching out the key concentrations of social contradictions and the methods and forms which can strengthen the political consciousness of the masses, as well as their fighting capacity and organization in carrying out political resistance against the crimes of this system; which can increasingly bring the necessity, and the possibility, of a radically different world to life for growing numbers of people; and which can strengthen the understanding and determination of the advanced, revolutionary-minded masses in particular to take up our strategic objectives not merely as far-off and essentially abstract goals (or ideals) but as things to be actively striven for and built toward.
The objective and orientation must be to carry out work which, together with the development of the objective situation, can transform the political terrain, so that the legitimacy of the established order, and the right and ability of the ruling class to rule, is called into question, in an acute and active sense, throughout society; so that resistance to this system becomes increasingly broad, deep and determined; so that the "pole" and the organized vanguard force of revolutionary communism is greatly strengthened; and so that, at the decisive time, this advanced force is able to lead the struggle of millions, and tens of millions, to make revolution.
Now there's a lot packed into those two paragraphs. You could—and at some point everybody should—spend a day and more breaking this down and getting into this. The point I want to focus on here, though, is that when we focus on these outrages—be it the environmental catastrophe in the Gulf, or the cruel murder of Aiyana Stanley-Jones, or Arizona even as we speak—we are focusing on them both because they demand action in their own right and as part of "bringing a revolutionary people into being."
We have an analysis of these contradictions—even as we are open and attuned to new ones emerging or coming to the fore. The pace can be intense, but we're NOT aimlessly or randomly running around. What we do has a point—to review and roughly paraphrase those paragraphs, we are searching out those concentrations of KEY social contradictions, and we are looking for the right forms, that can strengthen people's consciousness AND their fighting capacity to carry out political resistance...we are bringing to life the fact that we need, and can get, a radically different world...and we are making revolution real for people. But that's not all—we're doing this in a way that calls into question the very legitimacy of the rulers...that builds up society-wide resistance...that strengthens the pole of revolutionary communism within all that...and that does all this in such a way so that the advanced revolutionary force could actually lead millions at a future time when things have further ripened.
Listen: the very things that are at the root of the power of this ruling class—their ability to exploit people all over the planet and plunder the earth, their murdering police, the repression and injustice against immigrants and people of color generally, their structures of gender oppression, their wars and military strength—these are the very contradictions that can politically backfire against them, if revolutionaries wield their science to work on those contradictions and if things come together in a certain way.
We have a strategy—and our newspaper is, as the statement says, "the foundation, guideline, and organizational scaffolding for [the] whole process" of carrying out that strategy. This is the paper that cuts to the bone to tell you WHY things are happening... to show you HOW it doesn't have to be this way...and to give you the ways to ACT to change it. It is a call to action and a means of struggle. It is, and has to be much more, the scaffolding on which this movement is built, where those who are getting into it and following it can wrangle in its pages and on its website with how we can better build this movement. It is a guideline, where today thousands, but soon tens of thousands and eventually millions, all over the place, stay connected and learn to act in a powerful and united way. It is the foundation, where those who read it learn about the larger goals of revolution and communism, and come to see the ways in which the struggles of today are connected to those larger goals...where they come to grasp the scientific communist outlook through its application to all the many particular events and outrages and developments in society... and where they get organizationally linked up to this revolution.
And, yes, we have a strategy that takes in how, at a future time when things DO get to the point at which the rulers are weakened and fighting amongst themselves, when many other political forces are paralyzed, and when millions are ready to put everything on the line, that those millions would not be left without a way to fight and win—that is, to actually be able to meet and defeat the violent, repressive force of the old, exploitative and oppressive order. This is contained in the contribution to the pamphlet Revolution and Communism: A Foundation and Strategic Orientation that is entitled "On the Possibility of Revolution"—and a basic sense of this has been put in the speech two years ago, available on-line,"Making Revolution in the USA." This article, "On the Possibility of Revolution," is something that people need to get into and study, now.
Do you realize what it means that we not only have a leader and a party that knows where we need to go, but a strategy that can actually get us there? This is very precious—and this is something that we have to make much more widely known than it is today, as we carry forward with the campaign.
So we've traveled a bit into the future in this last section. Now let's bring it back to the here and now (even as that future is pregnant in the here and now). The Message and Call puts it this way:
[Y]es, it is true—now is not yet the time, in this country, to go all-out to seize the power away from those who rule over us and to bring a new power, serving our interests, into being. But now IS the time to be WORKING FOR REVOLUTION—to be stepping up resistance while building a movement for revolution—to prepare for the time when it WILL be possible to go all out to seize the power.
Which leads me back to this campaign. This campaign is the crucial link right now in "hastening while awaiting the revolutionary situation, preparing minds and organizing forces...for revolution." If we accomplish the goals of this campaign—if the revolution gets known and its magnetic force increases...if Bob Avakian becomes a household word among those who are awake or awakening...and if a growing core of people, including and especially from the "catch-hell-every-day, nothing-to-lose" section of society, advocate, fight for and sacrifice for THIS revolution...if we do that, then we will not only have made a must-do leap along the road from where we are today, we will have gotten into position where we can make further and even more powerful leaps in this whole process.
Remember why we started this campaign.
Because at a time when revolution urgently cries out to be done, revolution is not only not on the map in people's thinking—it is in danger of becoming a relic of the past.
Because not only is revolution needed, but the problems that communist revolution ran up against in its first stage have been identified and a framework for their solution has been developed, by Bob Avakian.
Because we must and we can break out of the situation we're in right now and get a whole different trajectory going.
At a time when in the space of one month the police can murder a lovely 7-year-old girl and utterly violate her family... when Nazi-like legislation can get passed against people who have been driven here for their survival... when the capitalists can inflict, in their insane and heedless drive for profit, a major disaster on the environment... we need revolution, and we badly need a movement right now FOR REVOLUTION– a movement that puts forward its message in compelling ways and that on that foundation can inspire and backbone resistance, linked to the goal of revolution.
To quote again our Message and Call, the foundation and glue of this whole campaign:
The days when this system can just keep on doing what it does to people, here and all over the world...when people are not inspired and organized to stand up against these outrages and to build up the strength to put an end to this madness...those days must be GONE. And they CAN be.
We are here today at conferences which can play a crucial role and have a decisive impact in building the movement we need—FOR REVOLUTION. Though our numbers right now may be small, especially when weighed against the challenges we face, our movement is very very large in terms of the truth it grasps, the justness of its cause, the vision it aims for and the determination and boldness and imagination it possesses to rally people to it. We are here to wrangle with these goals and their connection to revolution...to brainstorm different ideas and angles and hammer out ways to make it all come together...to get much, much better organized...and to break out. And we do all that on the foundation of the Message and Call, and in particular its conclusion:
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.
1. Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage, A Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, RCP Publications, 2008, page 43. [back]
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Revolution #205, June 27, 2010
The Revolutionary Communist Party is in the midst of a major campaign—and you need to know about it, and become part of it.
This campaign aims to let people know what communist revolution is all about... to acquaint them with the leadership that we have for this revolution, Bob Avakian and the RCP,USA which he leads... and to bring people into making this revolution happen, in many different ways.
The idea: to put revolution—this revolution—much more on the map in people's thinking. To initiate nothing less than a whole new stage of communist revolution, building on the achievements of the past but critically sifting and going beyond them in significant ways... reviving the viability and desirability of communist revolution based on Bob Avakian's new synthesis, and bringing forward a real social force around this, contending powerfully with the other solutions that are out there.
The Party's Message and Call, "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have," forms the glue of this campaign. You can get it online, or in Revolution Books bookstores, or from Party supporters. The video of Bob Avakian's speech, Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About, forms a basic foundation—and is available on-line. Many of the things we do and talk about in this paper—from the efforts to spread Bob Avakian's classic talk on revolution... to the fight against the censorship of our paper in the prisons... to the tours by revolutionaries like Raymond Lotta or Sunsara Taylor... to initiatives to "Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution"... to building the circulation and sustainership of Revolution newspaper—these are all related. They are all getting people to see that, in the words of that message and call, "This is NOT the best of all possible worlds...And we do NOT have to live this way."
Find out about this campaign. Download and distribute the statement and call. Popularize the online Revolution talk by Bob Avakian. Get this paper out. Come to one of our bookstores and find out how you can volunteer. Write us with your questions, your ideas, your experiences. Be part of, in the words of the Message and Call, spreading "the word to every corner of this country... giving people the means to become part of this revolutionary movement, and organizing into this movement everyone who wants to make a contribution to it, who wants to work and fight, to struggle and sacrifice, not to keep this nightmare of a world going as it is but to bring a better world into being."
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Revolution #205, June 27, 2010
Nearly a year ago, the RCP, USA launched a campaign around "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have." Anchored by a powerful Message and Call from the Party, the campaign has accomplished some important things. But the campaign has not yet broken through to its main objectives—popularizing to millions the need for, and character of, revolution; making the leadership of this revolution, Bob Avakian, a household word; and bringing forward a core of new fighters around this revolution and this leadership. To deal with this, the Party called conferences on May 29 and 30 in two cities.
These conferences were very successful. People came from a number of different cities, large and small. And they brought a wide range of experience with them—experience in different forms of fighting the power and, in many cases, in beginning to take out revolution. The chemistry that came through by having people with diverse viewpoints and experience wrangle with the purposes and goals for this campaign and then, on that basis, develop ideas and plans—and in so doing, constantly returning to those larger goals and purposes—brought forward something new. For the first time there was a sense of a national campaign; now the charge is to make that real, and take it all to a higher level. (The opening speech for the first day of the conferences can be found at: revcom.us/a/203/conference_speech-1-en.html)
So, today we are going to get further into this campaign. But it's not like, "Yesterday we did the big ideas... and today we are getting down to the work of it." We are going to do this by going back and forth between the practical dimensions of what we are undertaking and the larger strategic aims that all of this is for: making revolution, leading millions to seize state power, and advancing humanity as far as we can, as fast as we can, toward real emancipation, all over the world.
Our aim is to come out of these conferences with not only the plans and vision we need—but with a deeper collective sense of the dynamics to accomplish this, the ways we are going to make leaps to another level, and a new capacity to work as an overall team on a mission to—and capable of—rising to the historic challenge that was laid out yesterday of opening up a new stage of communist revolution for the world.
In laying out these plans, I am going to be drawing from a lot of the lessons we summed up through a recent period of investigation that the Party conducted. Many of you were part of this—either asking questions or being asked a lot of questions and getting into this campaign. And we learned more fully the impact we have been having, what has begun to be brought forward, what we need to more fully confront, and the ways for more people to contribute to this effort even as they are learning more about it and drawing closer in the process.
On one level, it's very easy to see the obstacles. We are a relatively small group of people. What we are fighting for—communist revolution—has been slandered, heaped with distortion, and suppressed. Many of those who most need this revolution are caught up in killing each other or in reactionary religion. Most progressive people are paralyzed and silent in the face of U.S. war crimes—like the massacre in Gardez that was spoken about yesterday as well as a whole host of domestic repression and fascist attacks on the people.
Further, even after several months of rather tireless work, we still have not broken through on our goals—making this revolution known society-wide... making Bob Avakian a household word... and bringing forward a core of fighters to initiate a new stage of communist revolution. Accomplishing these would actually be a break-out for our movement, and put our movement, and the masses of people, into a whole different position from which to go forward.
But, it would be very wrong to leave it at that. It would be unscientific—that is, it would not be an accurate reflection of reality—and it would therefore be damaging to our ability to go forward—if we did not recognize that there HAS been a lot we have begun to accomplish, a lot that we have learned, many thousands who have been introduced to this revolution and a great many who have contributed in different ways. There are, in actual fact, important seeds of this new movement for revolution.
One of the big charges of the conferences being held this weekend is to seriously and scientifically grapple with BOTH aspects of this contradiction—BOTH the fact that we do not yet have a campaign AND the beginnings we have made. We have to grapple with and develop plans for these seeds to be nurtured and how there can be cross-fertilization and synergies between new things that have begun to take root so that we can make leaps in establishing something that really goes societal.
This means really taking in the lessons and plans I am going to lay out and then, on that foundation, wrangling collectively over whether and how these plans will truly have societal impact and how they can be improved upon, fleshed out, further developed so that they DO lay out a way we can accomplish our goals.
In doing this, we should act like a team of scientists. By this I mean we should be looking for patterns, looking at the ways things are developing, struggling to identify both trends and countercurrents in society and our work. We should be working to identify the material basis for the things we are observing and seeking to transform. We should be looking not only at surface phenomenon, but what is moving and shaping things—or what has the potential to—beneath the surface. All of us together have to be struggling to ascertain the most accurate understanding of what reality is and how it has the potential to change through our work.
Each of us should strive to be right but not be afraid of being wrong. We should set aside preconceived notions and limits in our thinking and imagination. We should stretch ourselves to get into things that maybe we had always thought were for other people to think about. I don't care how long you've been in this—for a few decades or for a few weeks—we all need to contribute in this way to further forging our plans and our collective will in a way that none of us can do on our own.
So, with that as orientation, the first lesson I want to get into is the importance of taking up this campaign as a campaign. During our investigation, a LOT of people told us they didn't even know we were doing a campaign. They said, "I thought you were doing what revolutionaries always do." Through this, we came to more fully recognize that while we had been doing many important things—putting Bob Avakian's Revolution talk online and promoting it, touring the campuses, spreading this movement to people in the basic communities, and much more—we hadn't been stitching them together and waging this as a campaign.
But, no, we are not "doing what revolutionaries always do." We are doing what revolutionaries do when they finally are shaken awake from revisionist slumber and look out at a world that has been ravaged by decades of an imperialism that arrogantly declares itself an unchallengeable "best of all possible worlds"—and when these revolutionaries come to appreciate what it means that we have the leadership we need to lead the masses to make revolution to get out of this nightmare—and to really fight to bring forward a new stage of communist revolution.
So, we undertook a campaign—and now, through these conferences, we intend to really make it a campaign—to really put revolution back on the map, to make Bob Avakian known throughout society and to bring forward the beginning cores of this movement for revolution.
These three goals of this campaign are not just "good things to work towards"... or, as some people said to us, "It's always important to have goals." They are three interrelated, dynamic components of a way that a new dynamic can begin to be forged—beginning to bring forward a new stage of revolution and communism, within a finite and rapidly shifting time and terrain, to the point where the revolutionary movement representing this is much more of a contending force in society and in a qualitatively different position from which to hasten, while awaiting, the development of a revolutionary situation.
Flowing from this, people who meet us through this campaign should not weigh their own possible participation in this campaign in terms of whether they want to adopt what probably strikes them as a rather demanding but perhaps ethical lifestyle.
No, they should be led to grasp that they have a role to play in whether the possibility of real liberation gets opened up and whether people will be able to seize it when it does. And one thing we've learned is that, right from the outset, people can grapple with this campaign—and they can relate to and contribute to this campaign—if they know it IS a campaign.
Why should someone take a few extra—or a few hundred extra—copies of the Message and Call when we knock on their door in the projects or in their dormitory? Only if they have closely studied it and agree with all of it? Or because they want to see the possibility of revolution open up in the real world and learn more about it—and the leadership we have—themselves? Yes, people need time to absorb this message; but frankly, they are more compelled to dig into it because they realize this is not a one-on-one conversation, but about changing the whole world.
Why should a professor or a student step out and advocate that people should engage Raymond Lotta1 even as they fear academic repercussions? Because it is the intellectually honest thing to do? Yes! But along with this and compelling people to be true to their intellectual principles, they should do this because there are stakes for humanity in opening up an honest debate and engagement over the communist project on the campuses, stakes that have to do with busting open that ferment more broadly in society at a time when the world is hurtling towards greater disaster and yet a force is on the scene that is working to change all of this.
The MORE that people understand each important component of this campaign as part of a campaign AND the more they see the campaign in the context of really initiating a new stage of communist revolution—getting in position so that when the time is right we can actually MAKE revolution, seize state power, and set about emancipating humanity... the more people see this, the more they will want to and can find the ways to contribute to this, even as they themselves are still learning more and wrestling through their own questions about this revolution.
The second major lesson about this campaign that we need to really deeply grab ahold of is the tremendous importance of the statement, "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have."
This Message and Call is the glue and the pivot of this campaign. And there is a LOT packed into this statement.
This statement speaks to people's conditions of life and dissatisfaction—and grounds this in a system that is not permanent. As the very opening of the statement makes clear: "This is NOT the best of all possible worlds... And we do NOT have to live this way." It addresses the biggest obstacles in people's thinking—from religion to Obama to the idea that people are too messed up... to questions of strategy for revolution. It gives people a basic definition of communism and lets them know we have a liberating history we are building on and an even more liberating future to make real. It boldly puts forward the great champion and resource for people here and worldwide we have in Bob Avakian. It pledges to the masses of people that there IS a force—a Revolutionary Communist Party and a revolutionary movement it is leading—that will not turn our backs on those who need this revolution.
And it challenges and invites people to get into this revolution.
We ourselves need to be much more constantly returning to this statement, digging into and drawing guidance from it, measuring our work against it and the vision it lays out.
But one thing we have found is that people don't get all this out of the statement from just one read. This is not a problem of the language of the statement—in fact, we have found that when people actually stop and read just about any sentence in it, it provokes them to go further into the whole thing.
But the substance of this statement is dealing with things that people don't think about in their day-to-day lives—at least not yet. As one person said at a program at Revolution Books in New York, most people—and he was including himself in this—go all year without considering if and how the world could be different or what it would take to make it so.
We've also learned that it's not enough for people to encounter this statement just once. They have to see it—and other signs of this growing movement for revolution—bubbling up in many different directions, over and over in regular ways that they come to rely on and in ways and from people they didn't expect.
This is why we've focused on saturating key areas with this statement—and this will again be an important part of our plans coming off this conference. We are going to focus on this nationwide for a concentrated ten days coming immediately off these conferences.
Now here, I need to make clear: saturation does not mean "get out a lot of fliers." You know, I hear people talking about, "We saturated this neighborhood and we saturated over there on that campus." No you haven't. Speaking scientifically, there is only one place in the country that we know of where we have actually saturated and that was at the University of Chicago in the run-up to Raymond Lotta speaking there. And, you know what? It had a really big impact. By the final days leading up to his speech, students were saying to us constantly, "I got your flier EIGHT times already!" They were saying, "I had been seeing your fliers all over the campus, but then I read what you posted in the bathrooms about the education system and it really got inside me—let me get that flier again." Reactionary defenders of capitalism were using sidewalk chalk to argue against the constant presence of our fliers and student associated websites were beginning to discuss the flood of information about this upcoming speech. When we sat down to take a break and have lunch, we could overhear students talking with each other about the communists and their propaganda that were all over campus. And all of this continued over the course of a couple of weeks—with fliers and agitation and posters in all kinds of unexpected places and table tents and announcements in classes and at events.
That is what it means to saturate. And it makes an ideological statement. This is not optional. Too much is at stake. Others are starting to talk. You, too, must form an opinion.
And so far as I know that is the ONLY place we have actually achieved saturation yet during this campaign.
By saturating we aren't just trying to get out a lot of materials and we aren't trying to become fixtures on the scene. We are working to push this enough into people's worlds that they have to engage this and have their assumptions challenged by it and to create a situation where people are wrangling with each other about it—and where we are operating in that whole mix. And by concentrating our efforts in key areas we are not really just trying to impact those areas—the point is to get this to have a big enough social effect in a concentrated place it can start to have broader impact. It starts to get blogged about and debated and make it into the news and spread to other places.
So, starting this upcoming Friday after this conference we are going to have a 10-day concerted national saturation push to really put this campaign onto the map in key areas and to get some momentum for the summer. Our goal is to distribute a million of these statements over the course of the summer—and to get out 200 in 10, that is, 200,000 nationwide during this first 10-day push.
We are going to do this as a national effort and with every area having goals and calling in their numbers each night. Each day we will tally up where we are at—giving everyone a sense of the growing momentum and what they are contributing to. Lessons will be quickly summed up and popularized on the We ARE Building A Movement For Revolution page of Revolution's website. And we are going to do all this in a way that draws in and involves many hundreds of people—this means as soon as we get home from this conference getting on the phone with everyone we have met so far through this campaign and this means quickly organizing and involving all those we meet through this 10-day saturation period.
Next I want to walk through the key areas of focus that—while they are not the limits of what we should be thinking about—they are the areas this conference is going to take up in workshops. Even as people will be focusing on different components, it is important for everyone to have a sense of the whole picture and to be thinking about ways that there can be cross-fertilization and positive synergies between different elements of this campaign. This is part of getting a campaign—as opposed to separate, discrete efforts that are good, but frankly don't add up to something larger.
These workshops include: 1) campuses and youth, 2) making Bob Avakian a household name, 3) Revolution newspaper, 4) the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund including the fight to overturn the ban on Revolution newspaper at Pelican Bay and other prisons, and 5)—very importantly if we are going to make good on any of the rest of our plans: Fundraising.
I will begin by discussing the campuses. We have done a lot of things on the campuses—with the statement, with the major speaking tour by Raymond Lotta, "Everything You've Been Told About Communism Is Wrong: Capitalism Is a Failure, Revolution Is the Solution," as well as the tours by Sunsara Taylor and Carl Dix. Rather than going through each of these efforts, I am going to try to extract some overall lessons.
One of the biggest things we had to struggle out in taking revolution and communism—taking this campaign—to the campuses is again, what are we seeking to do? This is a question we have to keep asking ourselves in all that we do. Get a few people around "our thing" and hope to somehow avoid all the anti-communist lies people have ingested? Or open up a new stage of communist revolution which means really going frontally up against these verdicts in order to open them up as contested ground in a societal way?
And do we grasp that there is a strategically favorable dimension to going at this on the campuses which do, after all, at least to an extent and in principle train people in critical thinking and at least claim certain standards of intellectual honesty? It is worth noting that at every campus we have found students resonate deeply with what is written in the Party's Message and Call: "And, despite the good intentions of many teachers, the educational system is a bitter insult for many youth and a means of regimentation and indoctrination overall. While, particularly in some 'elite' schools, there is some encouragement for students to think in 'non-conformist' ways—so long as, in the end, this still conforms to the fundamental needs and interests of the system—on the whole, instead of really enabling people to learn about the world and to pursue the truth wherever it leads, with a spirit of critical thinking and scientific curiosity, education is crafted and twisted to serve the commandments of capital, to justify and perpetuate the oppressive relations in society and the world as a whole, and to reinforce the dominating position of the already powerful."
One of the most significant things we have learned so far is that the more we are completely outrageous and yet eminently reasonable, the better.
Let me say that again: completely outrageous... and yet eminently reasonable.
The more we have been able to provocatively challenge the pillars of anti-communist so-called authority while at the same time backing those challenges up with substance and counterposing a far greater vision for humanity's future... the better. This is very different than incrementally grooowiinnnggg a moooovement.
When you sharply and radically challenge institutional anti-communist pillars, you reveal and clarify the polarization that exists. You create a situation where students can't just continue to go along as they did before—they increasingly have to decide if they want to defend those pillars or be a part of challenging them, and this means they have to think about and rethink things they used to take for granted. This is the kind of situation where those fighting for the truth and for the highest interests of humanity can increasingly gain advantage.
Anyone who attended Raymond Lotta's talks, for example, will recall the audible gasp and nervous laughter that followed his damning exposure of the LIES that are given a scholarly gloss by people like Roderick MacFarquhar of Harvard University, who are considered major authorities on communist revolutions. Students who were so confident on their way in to the event that Raymond Lotta was exaggerating when he said, "EVERYTHING you've been told about communism is wrong" were shaken. Then they have to ask themselves, "If one of the most respected and widely cited authorities in academia was peddling lies and no one was challenging him... how deep did it go?"
At the University of Chicago students were busy googling "Bob Avakian" on their iPhones during the presentation or trying to look up new statistics to try to stump Raymond. The more he exposed, the harder they tried and the harder they tried, the more he exposed. And where did that leave people? One student wrote, "If all your facts and predictions are true, I think I agree with you. But I am wary of human nature, practically." Another student told us she now realized that she'd never investigated what she'd been taught about communism and now she had a lot of new reading to do.
Even if people go into this reading and debate with the aim of proving we are wrong—reality is reality and communism has been profoundly liberating and will be even more so in the future due to Bob Avakian's new synthesis—and people who are honest will increasingly have to confront this. Besides, if we are wrong in any element of our understanding, we are not afraid of that—we want to know that and welcome being held to those standards.
We saw some of this as well in Carl Dix's tour, "From Buffalo Soldier to Revolutionary Communist," where he took on people's illusions about Obama and, drawing from his own life story and transformation, posed instead a revolutionary way out for Black people and all of humanity.
And we saw this approach—of being completely outrageous and yet eminently reasonable—in something as simple as the title of the tour Sunsara Taylor did, "From the Burkha to the Thong: Everything Must, and Can, Change—WE NEED TOTAL REVOLUTION!" When students and professors all over the country began raising, "Who is she who grew up in this country to criticize the burkha?" she did not seek to avoid this controversy, but instead took it head on, incorporating a polemic on this in her speech and then—as you can watch on YouTube—being eager to take this on when people came to her event to argue for the veil.
People were attracted to this and inspired by this and whatever they thought they couldn't get it out of their heads and were debating it for days. Along with this, they were attracted and inspired by the fact that Sunsara Taylor was confidently putting forward a solution to this madness, and was recruiting people into a movement for revolution that welcomes women's anger and impatience and is modeling a whole different morality NOW.
There are young people on these campuses who are searching for a way to contribute to changing the world—but they don't think communism is the way to do it. If we are going to provoke them to not only rethink but to get into this—we need to build on and do even better at both hitting hard at their deeply held assumptions in ways that cannot be easily dismissed and speaking to people's highest aspirations.
So, this workshop on the students and youth needs to get into these lessons and how we can go even further with this approach, and it needs to grapple with how do we do something we haven't done thus far—really get a dynamic going where people from among the most oppressed sections of society are coming onto the campuses and mixing it up and these students who are starting to get into the revolution are coming out into the neighborhoods and learning from the people there and helping spread the revolution.
And this approach of being completely outrageous and eminently reasonable must infuse this campaign as a whole.
One key nodal point in this will be the U.S. Social Forum to be held June 22-26 in Detroit. Many thousands of people who crave a better world will be attending and yet, they too, are filled with anti-communist assumptions. Various writers for Revolution newspaper will be holding workshops ranging from the environment to a debate over sex work, to the real truth about communism, and more. This is also taking place in the city where 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones was just murdered by police, and at a time when the horrific oil spill will still be going on. All this means we want to go in there and really stir things up and introduce many people to this revolution and this campaign but most of all the fact that we have a solution to all this, we know the way out, and we are recruiting people into the movement for this revolution NOW.
We're going to be doing the same thing on some of the concert tours going on this summer. And, of course, this is going to be controversial. But, look—the only people who are afraid of controversy, who want to seek to avoid controversy, are the people who think that the way things are going right now is just fine. The way people are thinking is just fine. The ways they are acting is just fine. The massive crimes being done to the people all over the world and to the planet itself are just fine. I'm sorry, that's not acceptable!
Next, I want to get into the biggest strength that we have: our Chairman, Bob Avakian.
The second objective of this campaign—and one that has a tremendous amount of dynamism and frankly defines the character of the other two objectives—is to make Bob Avakian truly a household name, someone whose work and talks and life story are being broadly debated and deeply engaged. Someone whose existence is known by millions and who people have an opinion about. Someone whose reputation and mystique is both a force of attraction and inspiration as well as opposition, even fierce opposition.
Really pushing Bob Avakian out there in a big way—and really struggling with people who are provoked by the idea of revolution to get deeply into his work—this is going to make a critical difference in accomplishing all three of these goals. And here I want to reference everything that was in the speech yesterday—about who Bob Avakian is... the role he has played... and the role he is playing... and say that we all have to continue to get an ever more deeper grounding in this, learning more, even as we are very aggressively popularizing him.
First, I want to talk about this incredible new image.
Obviously, this is HOT. This is intriguing. This is challenging. This is celebratory. This has an edge. This is SERIOUS. This is clearly something going on.
Implicit within this image is the fact that this leader is of a caliber that belongs on a shirt. And that the people who are into this leader are not pleading with you to [meek voice] "maybe... please think about what he is saying... if you don't mind... and if it doesn't offend you"... but are making a statement: "This is the shit—if you don't know, you better go find out." It's a radical challenge.
Imagine this image bubbling up from the underground—really taking off in the youth culture this summer... popping up in unexpected places... imagine concerts where a third of the crowd is wearing this image and the rest are trying to figure out where to get one... imagine kids leaving eager to be the first among their friends to show up in this new shirt... Imagine those who have felt too alone until now starting to feel that they'd be hooking into a spreading counterculture. And it's not just a "counterculture" that is alienated with the world the way it is, but a counterculture aiming to become the dominant culture that upends the way the world is.
And yes, there will be polarization with this as well—people who put on the shirt will come under attack, and some will take it off and we will have to struggle with them to put it back on again. But the question will be getting opened up and spreading. Many thousands will be getting on the internet and the question will emerge broadly as to what and who this is all about.
And all this will synergize and interact with other ways people are running into this campaign—propelling them back into the statement or to check out the Revolution Talk online or to give money when they are asked or to come out to a bookstore.
Another key dimension of this work to make Bob Avakian known is BAsics. This is a back-pocket-size pamphlet coming out in early fall made up of 100 key powerful quotations from Bob Avakian, introducing people to this leader BA and giving them the BAsics of revolution. This will include concentrations of method and truth that are principles to live by and fight for, that provide a framework for understanding and changing the world, that provide a materialist source of inspiration and daring, that provoke and challenge, and provide a standard to measure everything and everyone by—including this Party and its leadership.
There will be promotion and ads for this publication and many of the people seeing the image will want to get their hands on it. It will be a major way into this revolution. And we want to raise the funds to send 2,000 copies of it into the prisons for free right away.
The third big component of the immediate plans around this second objective is the Revolution Talk by Bob Avakian. This really is a thorough revolutionary education—why the world is the way it is, how it can be radically transformed and emancipated through revolution and an introduction to the leader of this revolution.
One of the things that has been summed up in Revolution newspaper is that this talk hits people on a lot of levels. It is extremely accessible and there is a lot people can get right off the bat, but also, what he is saying is outside people's thinking... it is challenging and they need to do the work to get into the whole thing...
One person told us that they had to watch the talk three times to really begin to understand it. It was just too much and too different from anything he'd ever heard for him to even really take it in the first two times. But when he finally made it through the third time he felt he was beginning to understand the world and appreciate this leader in a whole different way. Another person wrote in to our paper and admitted that the first time they watched the "Imagine" section of that talk, it struck them as just another politician promising things—until they went through the entire film and spent additional hours talking it over with others, they really didn't begin to see how he wasn't just promising, he was laying out something that there was a material basis for and how it could be accomplished and why it must be.
So, we need to be getting this Revolution Talk out everywhere—on palm cards and posters, showing it outdoors in parks all summer, and making a really big deal on a whole other level about this talk online. And as we go very broadly, we also have to be challenging people to not make a facile judgment—but to really go through it deeply.
Now, I made the point that Bob Avakian is the greatest strength that we have. Not surprisingly, Bob Avakian and our promotion of him has also provoked the greatest, and the most stubborn, controversy. But this kind of controversy can actually be very positive. Wrapped up in this controversy are the key questions that people are going to have to grapple with and work through in order to come to a revolutionary stand. Do the masses of people actually need to make the kind of total change we are talking about, that is to say, do they need to make revolution? Do we need leadership to do this—and if so, what kind of leadership? And why is Bob Avakian's leadership in particular—in particular, the new synthesis he has forged of communism and his method and approach—so absolutely crucial to making revolution... and keeping it a revolution worth making? So finding the ways to provoke this kind of controversy and, once provoked, to jump into this—this is something that we all need to be putting our heads to.
So I want to clear something up. The people who are saying these things about there being a cult around BA—well, this accusation isn't original. This accusation isn't original. All this is is mainly the voice and the strength of the bourgeoisie that has been hammered into people for decades being given voice through the people themselves.
Now some of the people who say this stuff about a cult DO know better, and they are just counter-revolutionaries. But most of the people saying these things don't have even a clue what they are talking about. They haven't watched the whole Revolution Talk and really worked to wrap their minds around it. They didn't wrestle with the Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage, where Avakian's contributions are laid out in their world-historic context. They haven't read BA's memoir to get a sense of what his life has been and continues to be about.
No. They are just repeating anti-communist "conventional wisdom." And this conventional wisdom is shaped by—and reinforces—the horrors of this world, the very world that you correctly want to see changed. A lot of you read the resolutions on leadership put out by our Party coming into this, and the commentary that went with that.2 These actually speak very deeply and very boldly to these questions, and I want to suggest to everyone that we return to these, using them ourselves and going over with them with others who have this question.
And we need to be very clear in answering when people say that we shouldn't promote Bob Avakian so much, for whatever reason. We should just tell them: Given what we understand about what BA actually represents, what he has brought forward and the role he plays, and what this means for the masses of people, not only in this country but throughout the world, and for the future of humanity, it would be HIGHLY IRRESPONSIBLE if we DID NOT promote BA as fully as we could. In fact, the real problem is not that we are promoting BA too much, but on the contrary that we have not yet been able to do nearly enough to promote him; and this is something we are setting out to change in major way, like it says in the Message and Call.
And we should tell them this too: everyone who comes to understand what we understand about this should also contribute whatever they can to this effort. If you don't have that understanding, but you get on a basic level the importance of what he's doing, then you should contribute what you can to making him and his work much more widely known; and at the same time, you should more deeply engage with what we are saying about BA, and with his body of work and method and approach.
If you are proceeding from humanity's need to get free it can ONLY be a good thing that there is a leader who has solved or pointed the way towards solving the biggest problems of the revolution.
If you are proceeding from humanity's need to get free—you will be EAGER to get into this leader.
Now some people think they are being really clever and say things like, "I don't want to hear what BA has to say... I want to hear what YOU have to say."
Okay, so picture back in the day, someone coming up to you and saying—holy shit man, you gotta hear this guy, he does this stuff on the guitar that will totally blow your mind... no one's ever heard anything like this before. His name is Jimi Hendrix.
Would it really be appropriate for you to say, "Well, I don't want to hear how Hendrix plays the guitar, I want to hear YOU play"?
Obviously, the whole idea is absurd. There are people who are just better at certain things—and you have to check THEM out.
And yeah, I get that we are making revolution—and this is different than playing rock and roll and it's important that other people be able to get into and break down the science of revolution and be part of applying it. But there ARE people like that—there is a whole Party that went through a Cultural Revolution and has taken up the framework BA has developed and is out applying it and fighting for it in the world. But the point is, to the degree we are doing this—it's because we've gotten deeply into BA. And, he is still head and shoulders ahead of us—and that is a very good thing.
But for those of you who are newer—you don't have to be able to break down everything the way BA does. It's fine to tell people, I am still learning about this myself—but I know enough to know I have to get into it and that you should too.
Then there are people who say things like, "You act like Bob Avakian has the answer."
Well, find out. Has he developed breakthrough answers to very sharply posed and crucial questions of making revolution? And, beyond that, has BA further developed the scientific communist method for continuing work to develop answers to still further questions...while continuing to put these questions out there for others to grapple with, too, in the ongoing process of understanding and radically transforming the world?
And let's be real. You don't determine whether or not he does, you don't determine whether anything is true or not, by taking a poll—do your friends all agree or not. You determine what is true by going deeply into it—and measuring it up against reality.
No one would take you seriously if you saw one high school production of one Shakespeare play and started passing facile verdicts on his entire body of work. Well, the work that is concentrated in this talk is much more challenging and much more exhilarating than that and we need to be very upfront on setting the standard broadly that you actually have to get deeply into this. So... GET INTO BA!
Everyone needs the space to go through this and engage it at their own pace—but not the space to refuse to pursue this.
Those of us who are fighting for this need to know the difference—so I am going to say that again:
Everyone needs the space to go through this and engage it at their own pace—but not the space to refuse to pursue this.
Now, I want to speak directly to anyone in this room who is still up against this yourself—if this question of the so-called cult is still tugging at you:
Don't turn your back on the fact that you finally found a movement and a leader that not only speaks more powerfully than anything you've heard before about how completely intolerable this present world is, but also how unnecessary it is. A movement and a leader that poses a way out that has inspired and moved you. Sure, you don't yet know for sure that it can work. Sure, you don't know that it won't somehow go bad despite people's good intentions. Fine, you don't know. But that's exactly the point: you don't know. But you were attracted to this for a good reason and before you turn your back on the things that compelled you to get this far, before you turn your back on the chance that humanity can actually be led out of this hellhole of a world, before you turn your back on the opportunity—and, yes, your responsibility—to contribute to that, you had better go deeply into it.
There is a place where epistemology meets morality, and not acting on what you know to be true—and not pursuing something that holds the potential to liberate all of humanity to find out whether or not it really is true—just because you don't like the potential ramifications to you and your life, because it is unpopular or risky or because it goes against the tide—is immoral and unacceptable.
As it says in the Party's statement, "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."
Revolution newspaper is the voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party and it is the collective organizer of the whole movement for revolution. It lays bare the truth about what is developing in the world each week, it draws out the need for revolution from that, and it shows what such a revolution must be about and how it can be made. And as a big part of that it introduces people to Bob Avakian whose work is featured every week.
In line with all this, the paper and its website have a very critical role to play in this campaign. The more we make advances with this campaign, the more we put this revolution and Bob Avakian out in society—the MORE people are going to be turning to our newspaper, particularly online, to really find out about and get organized into this revolution.
The work to bring more volunteers into working on the paper, writing for it, fact checking for it, laying out the articles, doing research, giving feedback, and translating things into Spanish has been one of the very important seeds in this recent period and it needs to be built upon.
Soon, we will launch a new website for Revolution newspaper and we need to bring many more people into making this a vital and buzzing center for revolution and making this site increasingly known and debated over throughout the net. This website will be one of the main places people go when they decide to seek out this movement. And all of us must be able to increasingly go to this website and find the signs and the lessons of a growing movement for revolution being summed up and shared—through the Spreading Revolution and Communism section as well as in other ways.
This paper must much more become the scaffolding of the movement we are bringing into being. That means you, and people like you, voicing their ideas, writing on what you are learning, what we are accomplishing and what obstacles we are running into—so that we can all learn better and more quickly how to accomplish our objectives and advance the movement for revolution.
One of the most powerful examples of just how big a difference it makes for people to be systematically reading Revolution newspaper are the letters from the prisoners who subscribe and this brings me to the fourth workshop we are holding.
Now, before I get into this—let's just reground ourselves in what we are really talking about.
The prison system in this society is a concentration of everything ugly and wrong with this system. 2.3 million people are locked away in these dungeons. Think about that number. And think about what that means—1 out of every 8 young Black men is locked away like this. Whole generations of our youth in the inner cities grow up expecting to end up locked away and written off. Inside the walls is like a nightmare world of brutality, rape, humiliation and torture—from the guards and to the way that prisoners are set against each other by race, by rival gangs, by fundamentalists of all stripes who prey on and reinforce people's ignorance, machismo and fear. Tens of thousands driven to insanity in solitary confinement—ongoing conditions that meet and exceed the international standards of torture. These plantations of concrete and steel are made to erase and to break whole sections of people—think what that says about this system... and think what it means that even in the darkest cells in the most inhuman conditions there are prisoners who have risen above this muck and mire. Prisoners who have defied everything this system has done to them and tried to turn them into—and instead dared to lift their heads and get into Revolution. Who have learned through the pages of Revolution about all this system has kept hidden—from the science of evolution to the science of revolution and the incredible resource and inspiration of the leader of this revolution, Bob Avakian.
And think what it means that when given the opportunity to contribute to this movement for revolution, when asked to write in to this newspaper from behind the walls, we were flooded with hundreds of letters—of these human beings struggling in the most inhuman of conditions to give whatever they could to the revolutionary fight to emancipate all of humanity. Do we really get just how precious this is?
Do we get how unconscionable it would be to allow this to be snuffed out—for this connection between these prisoners and this movement for revolution and this leader to be cut off? And do we get how powerful this can become—how this is a seed not only of a revolutionary movement that can grow in the prisons but the impact this can have throughout society if it is known about and its influence spread?
The workshop on the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund needs to take up many dimensions of this fight: the legal battle, forming mass committees, and an idea that is already in development of staging theatrical readings across the country of the letters from prisoners.
But a critical dynamic of this fight is something our Party has referred to as: revolution, counter-revolution, more revolution. That is, how do we take this attack and not only turn it around—but do so in a way that draws many more people into this revolutionary process? How do we make this ban become something that Mao Tsetung described as a great big rock the other side picked up to hurl at us, only to drop on its own foot?
Let's take up this fight in a way that introduces all of society to these revolutionary prisoners and to the paper and leader that they are connecting to.
The other workshop topic and goal I want to discuss is Fundraising.
This is a big part of our plans—it needs to be if we are not going to stay on the margins.
At one of Sunsara Taylor's events, someone in the audience asked—how can you be a communist and claim to be against capitalism but yet you ask for money?
Well, here's the answer: this revolution is not about modeling a new lifestyle or trying to make a statement about how committed we are or just removing ourselves from capitalist structures (as if that were possible). NO! The point is to seize state power and radically change the whole world and nothing less than that! That's what this campaign is for and we mean to win it. This means raising BIG MONEY so we can have BIG IMPACT.
And we need to take this up with EVERYBODY. Look, there is still too much of an attitude that some people don't have money so we can't ask them and that other people have money and so by definition won't be interested in the revolution. Not correct. Yes, this system has people scrambling and hustling to survive, but these people are capable of grasping that there is something bigger here. There was a write-up on Spreading Revolution and Communism about a team that raised money in the projects not by asking people to only give what didn't hurt them, but by telling them why it mattered, giving them a vision of the campaign. Off this, even people who didn't agree with everything pulled out bills because they could see that this important effort needed support from people like them.
And, there are many, many people of greater means who have deep dissatisfaction with the world, with the lack of intellectual ferment and radical imagination, with the horrible acquiescence in society... people who do aspire for more and better, and who need to be struggled with but also given a way to contribute to this.
When people give money it has a real impact. Whether or not we can make reams of stickers for the youth, whether we can put T-shirts on promotional teams at concerts and tours over the summer, whether or not people feel that this is bigger than us and them, bigger than the projects they live in, bigger than one city, this is part of a nationwide effort that is aiming to seriously impact the whole world and they can be part of that. It is not every day that people get the chance to do something like this. In fact, most have never had this opportunity in their lives. People can grasp this and contribute to it. They are needed and we shouldn't sell them short by not asking, not struggling with them, not giving them the opportunity to contribute in this meaningful way to the campaign.
Besides, fundraising is a way for people to get organized—and to take part in the revolution with others in a way that breaks the isolation and grows the revolutionary culture. This includes high-level salons in people's homes and it includes making a big revolutionary celebration out of the anti-4th of July fundraising picnics we have planned across the country. Everybody we meet through our efforts at saturation should be invited to these picnics and we should start making a really big deal about them everywhere we go—letting people know that they'll be a place to meet others who are getting into this and to together raise the money to help REALLY put this on the map in an even greater way.
Finally, I want to step back from the workshops and even from the campaign as such and talk for a minute about the larger objective world.
This campaign is to build a movement for revolution to really impact and change the whole world. It is not a self-contained process—and we need to be interacting with the quickly and sometimes sharply changing larger world.
Things like the police killing of Aiyana Jones in Detroit, or the Nazi anti-immigrant laws in Arizona or the BP oil spill still gushing in the Gulf of Mexico or Afghanistan surge or something like the assassination of abortion provider George Tiller one year ago this weekend—what is our attitude when these things erupt?
Do we tell ourselves and tell the masses, "This just proves we've been right to be fighting the good fight and we'll keep it up..."?
Do we freak out and say, "Oh shit, I was already behind on the 27 things I am supposed to be doing and can't deal with one more"?
Or, do we act like revolutionaries and communists and people who can't wait for the world to fundamentally change? Do we recognize in these crimes the moments when it is both necessary and possible to lead the masses to stand up against these outrages and to fight the power and transform the people FOR REVOLUTION? Do we see the need and the increased basis to pose our revolutionary aims and objectives to thousands or even millions?
Do we jump in the car with as many other people as we can rustle up—as Carl Dix recently did after the police murder of Aiyana Jones—and drive all night to be out in Detroit, standing with the people in their righteous outrage and insisting, "The days when this system can just keep on doing what it does to people, here and all over the world... when people are not inspired and organized to stand up against these outrages and to build up the strength to put an end to this madness... those days must be GONE. And they CAN be."
Do we grasp how much seething anger there is among the basic people over this police terror—and are we straining to bring forward the necessary resistance and to forge increasing sections of the basic people, and the basic oppressed youth in particular, into the backbone of this revolution?
Do we recognize the potential, right now, to bring forward a section of truly radical young women and men who are completely fed up around the increasing assaults on women's rights and their lives—from the brutal and perverse portrayals of women as objects to be plundered and tortured and thrown away that saturate society to the increasing criminalization of and shame on abortion and even birth control. Are we stepping into this with urgent and revolutionary outrage as well as bringing forward a powerful contending vision and liberating morality that corresponds to total revolution?
Do we see openings in these flashpoints to pose a contending revolutionary legitimacy and alternate authority, the specter of a new state power that would do away with these outrages and a movement for revolution concretely struggling to get closer to that day—up against the completely illegitimate and unjust authority of this capitalist ruling power?
Are we constantly posing to the masses of people, "We need state power! State power representing, rooted in and mobilizing the masses, led by their vanguard which could right away put an end to the worst of these outrages. We have the understanding and leadership to lead the masses to both hold onto this new state power, preventing the overthrown exploiters as well as new capitalist forces from restoring this imperialist nightmare, while unleashing a process that is full of mass participation and struggle, ferment and space to go to work at overcoming the backward attitudes and relations and thinking that take more time."
And are we constantly ourselves grappling with the contradictions—as well as the method and framework for resolving those contradictions that has been developed by this Party and its leadership—that come with state power? An important thing to take note of in this regard is that soon the RCP will be publishing a new constitution of the future socialist state. This is something we are all going to want to dig into and make a really big deal out of—it will be a means for popularizing and making even more real for all of us what this new state power will mean.
The final point I want to make is that, in every thing we do, we need to make a real leap in really doing what it says in the end of the Party's Message and Call—"giving people the means to become part of this 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."
We need to be much better in quickly following up with people we meet, learning what they think, getting them into the Revolution Talk, finding ways for them to contribute and not giving up on them or writing them off if they don't come forward in a straight line. It is not possible to know in advance where each person will end up. Again, the more that we grasp this campaign as a campaign that is building a movement for revolution—and the more we let people know that is what it is—the more we will be able to find many different ways of involving many different people.
All of the workshops should discuss this question of how we are bringing people—particularly people from among the basic proletarian masses—into this movement for revolution. Every workshop should also get into how this Message and Call fits into its work, how each element contributes to—and is strengthened by—the fight to make Bob Avakian a household name, how we will be raising money through all of our work and how each of these elements being focused on fits into and contributes to the campaign as a whole.
So, I have gone through a lot of lessons and some vision of plans and some of this I have done in quite a lot of detail. But it's important that, even as we are dealing with a lot of details and making a lot of plans, we do not lose sight of the forest for the trees.
The trees are important—but the forest is the whole new world we are fighting to bring into being. This is a world where never again does a Black family have to bury their 7-year-old child after the police murder her and then brutalize and lie about her family. A world where a hero like George Tiller, who courageously risked his life to enhance women's lives, is not demonized, hunted down and killed—but celebrated, cherished and joined by many more. A world where the warnings of scientists are not ignored and suppressed, and the natural environment is not destroyed in the deadly competition for ever greater profit.
As the Message and Call puts it, "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."
"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."
1. Raymond Lotta has been on a speaking tour, "Everything You've Been Told About Communism Is Wrong, Capitalism Is a Failure, Revolution Is the Solution." [back]
2. The 1995 Leadership Resolutions on Leaders and Leadership. Part I: The Party Exists for No Other Reason than to Serve the Masses, to Make Revolution (revcom.us/a/Leadership_Resolutions/revolutionary_leadership.htm); Part II: Some Points on the Question of Revolutionary Leadership and Individual Leaders (revcom.us/a/Leadership_Resolutions/revolutionary_leadership_points.htm) [back]
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Revolution #205, June 27, 2010
Spreading the Message and Call: "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have"
In some key communities around the country the campaign, "The Revolution We Need...The Leadership We Have" is starting to become visible. Over 187,000 broadsheets with the Revolutionary Communist Party's Message and Call were distributed in 10 days and some very lively revolutionary scenes were created on the streets that had people taking notice, reading the Call, taking copies to distribute to their friends, donating funds for the revolution and asking "Who is that man on the T-shirts?" This is a good beginning to the summer-long effort to distribute one million copies of the Call.
While we have not yet fully achieved a situation in these communities where the revolution is pushing enough into people's worlds that it is being engaged and debated on a really broad scale, through this 10-day effort many new people have come into contact with the revolution, some controversy has been created, and there are some pockets of people beginning to wrangle with it among themselves, and new people are stepping forward and helping to spread the statement and the campaign.
These are some important new shoots and a critical task in building the revolutionary movement is to follow up on and develop these shoots.
People who have seen the image of Bob Avakian and read in the statement about the revolutionary leadership he is providing and want to know more about all this; people who have jumped in to help spread the statement in various ways—all these people need to have the opportunity to see the Revolution Talk and find out for themselves what Bob Avakian is saying and what he's all about. We need to make sure they have a copy of the full Message and Call, and we need to introduce them to Revolution newspaper and talk to them about the vital role it plays in bringing out the truth about this system and as a scaffolding for this revolutionary movement. And we need to tell them about the need to sustain Revolution newspaper. Sustaining the paper is a way that many people can right away give concrete support to the revolutionary movement even as they are learning more about it. All of these things are critical ways for the revolutionary movement to sink deeper roots and to build a firmer foundation from which to expand.
Below are some further sights of sounds from the nationwide effort:
|As part of making Bob Avakian a household word, his image is appearing everywhere. Above it is projected on a wall in Los Angeles.|
A Black man from the area dropped by to tell the revolutionaries his 14-year-old son had been given two years in juvenile detention. He seethed with anger. "I want to preach to the world about this damn system." He was on his way to work and said he could not join us on the spot. He took a few statements and started to walk away and then came back. "Give me some more!" he demanded, "I'll give them out at work and on the way to work." Another person we know said like many others, "I got it, I got it." He said the statement was put on his door, under his door, his wife and his son had brought it home. "It's everywhere," he said.
On this Saturday night we have two new volunteers with us—one who is just getting to know about the revolution through a friend, and a young high school woman who comes rushing up to the corner, out of breath, asking if we are accepting volunteers. Her mother brought the Message and Call home and thought she might be interested because "I'm always talking about communism, communism, communism." She wants to know how Avakian has developed Marxism because "isn't it kind of old?" She jumps into helping to flyer and at the end of the evening the younger folks head off to meet each other and get more into what this movement for revolution and Avakian are all about.
With the visuals being so important, the image played an important role in capturing people's attention and imagination. Sometimes people would turn around, after getting a statement, and come back just to ask, "Who is that?" And people were struck by the image to the degree it seemed more "everywhere" than we actually managed to get it. Several people came up to us saying, "Who is that, I've seen that picture EVERYWHERE."
People who were fundraising with the big buckets at a downtown arts festival said it made a big difference when they put out that this was part of a nationwide campaign to distribute 200,000 in 10 days and a million over the summer—giving people a vision of what we are trying to accomplish. People were dropping $5 and $10 into the buckets. It was very important that BA's image was very much out there and about 1,200 image cards went out that evening. And as a few of our crew were leaving, one guy jumped in front of them and said, "Okay, I just need to know —WHO IS that on your t-shirts?!!" That evening we distributed almost 3,000 broadsheets and raised $91.
We began to bring into focus—for ourselves—what it means to achieve saturation in the neighborhood where we returned day after day. We did things we have never done before, and mobilized a number of people who came to the conference in NYC who had never been involved in such an effort before, giving us all a sense of collectivity that felt like we WERE building a movement for revolution, even if in embryo.
Dozens of people asked us "who is on your shirt?" Dozens of store-owners or managers put up posters of BA. We played segments of the Revolution Talk in some of the stores, getting out cards for the talk in a way we never have before, in response to their curiosity, a sentiment we encountered much more than in the past when we just handed out flyers. One of the musicians who joined our team rigged up a sound system that had a powerful effect, blasting the Chair's voice at the train station.
There is a good basis to build for this anti-July 4th picnic in this neighborhood, as we have established a different kind of presence, among many people who have seen us over the years, have heard us talk about revolution, but sense something new is happening, a movement with a leader they want to know more about.
We had three volunteers who worked with us on the saturation teams which made all the difference in reaching our goals. One volunteer who is very familiar with the neighborhood took 500 on his own to a park in the area and got them all out, as well as running with us on a team. Another who was very new went around on a team for a couple of days and then took a bundle on his own. A third volunteer, a white professional who has participated in other ways, but not very much in the realm of broad work, said that he was really glad he was involved in this. He said that since the conference (which he attended) he is seeing that the party is becoming more serious about making revolution happen. He said going out with the statement really gave him a feel for what we need to deal with among the people, the sharp contradictions that exist in relation to revolution and communism.
Another phenomenon that was quite pervasive was people taking up stacks of the statements and distributing them to others and in more than a dozen cases coming back for more. In one housing complex that has been the target of police abuse someone took a bundle and got them out to the residents and then asked for more. Popsicle cart salesmen were seen distributing the call off their truck. We went through a laundromat and a young Latino approached us to ask for another bundle. As we circulated to the other side of the laundry, a Latina asked us for a stack of palm cards with the image. It turned out that she was the wife of the man who had approached us and she said that she wanted the image because this might be the picture of the man that the leaflet talks about.
One morning, we went to the day laborers' corner and played the statement on an iPod to a group of workers. They listened intently and one guy commented that he really needed to have a CD of that statement. The engagement at this spot revolved around the two different paths to power in the two different type of countries. For this grouping, this was the first time that they encountered a revolutionary strategy that differs from the one in the third world. The section of the statement that kicked off this discussion was: "It is true: now is not yet the time, in this country, to go all-out to seize the power away from those who rule over us..."
On the final day of saturation, at least 7 blocks of broadsheets were torn down from the poles by a religious woman who mobilized her children to help take the posters down. This happened after we had flyered at two churches (with fairly positive response overall, and some excitement and curiosity generated among youth churchgoers), which may have been part of what drew the attention of this woman to the broadsheets. While it was disappointing to discover that all of our work had been for nothing, as one member of our team said, "The woman who tore the statement down must have read it, at least as far as the part about god. She must have realized that this message would have a huge impact to have gone to all this trouble, and she felt threatened herself, and told a lot of other people about it." This gave us a different perspective on the significance of the statement and showed how, in its own way, the negative action of this woman stirred up another level of controversy that may have drawn more attention to the Message and Call.
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Revolution #205, June 27, 2010
A big part of how Bob Avakian is going to become known throughout society is through the promotion of his online talk, Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About. Over the next month, new clips from that talk will be posted on revolutiontalk.net and youtube.com/revolutiontalk. This week's clip will be "Valuing dissent under socialism." Last week's clips speak directly to two burning questions: "Why do people come here from all over the world?" and "Not fit caretakers of the earth."
Watch these clips, tell your friends about them, and find creative ways to spread them among those you know. This week we're focusing on spreading them on the Internet:
Tell others about these efforts, and get into how this is a part of building a movement for revolution. People taking up and spreading this themselves in these ways is exactly how online videos spread exponentially. And if you have any further ideas, post them to the Facebook page or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Revolution #205, June 27, 2010
The following are some key principles of socialist sustainable development, which appeared as part of the special issue of Revolution newspaper on the environment (Issue #199, 4/18/10, revcom.us/environment). These principles, though not exhaustive, concentrate an orientation that enables socialist society to begin to tackle the environmental emergency with a global and internationalist perspective. In putting these principles before people today, we hope to open up debate and discussion that can contribute towards raising understanding of what we are confronting—and raise sights about the viability and desirability of communist revolution.
The socialist state must use its strengths and resources to promote revolution. The new socialist state must be a "base area" for the world revolution. The emancipation of humanity demands this. The preservation of the planet demands this: for humanity to deal with the environmental crisis on the requisite scale and with the requisite urgency requires a totally different economic and social system and set of values. That requires socialist revolution and the spread of that revolution.
The new socialist society will put the interests of the preservation of the ecosystems of the entire planet above its own national development. It will encourage and give scientific, technical, and organizational backing for bold international initiatives to prevent widespread ecosystem collapse of coral reefs, rainforests, critical savanna regions, etc.
The new society will share scientific knowledge and technology with the rest of the world. It will contribute research to aid other parts of the world in dealing with various aspects of the environmental emergency—for instance, helping populations in low-lying poor countries deal with rising sea levels and flooding resulting from climate change.
Such initiatives will require unprecedented planet-wide cooperation of scientists and others, engagement of diverse populations and systems of governance, and the involvement of local communities. And the socialist state will seek to learn from the experiences, insights, and struggles of people around the world.
But for such initiatives to be truly effective and take hold over the long term, more of the world will have to break out of the capitalist stranglehold. Capitalist growth and development lead to massive environmental degradation. In the face of economic dislocation and societal breakdown, impoverished and desperate populations in vast parts of the world resort to environmentally destructive activities in order to survive. Civil wars fanned by the imperialists ravage land and water resources.
All of this emphasizes, again, why the new society must spread socialist revolution as far and wide as possible—and as fast as possible.
In its international relations, the new socialist society cannot be based on exploitation and plunder.
A revolution in the former United States will put an end to the pollution-intensive, cheap-labor, global manufacturing grids of production. The structure of production and the resource base of a new socialist economy will no longer rely on labor and materials from other countries—like cheap parts from hellish factories in Mexico and inflows of oil from abroad. The new society will provide technical and financial assistance for helping to clean up environmental damage in other parts of the world caused by the energy and mining operations, agribusiness and forestry, and industrial activities, as well as the export and dumping of toxic waste, of the former U.S. empire.
The new socialist state will immediately dismantle all military bases and occupations. It will vastly downsize the military industry and begin to convert huge components for productive, social use.
In place of the blind and environmentally reckless expansion of capitalism, a socialist sustainable economy will seek planned, regulated growth informed by:
This overall orientation will not only influence the specific mix of what is produced and how it is produced in the new socialist society. This orientation will influence levels of output, including decisions to consciously restrict or cut growth in particular sectors contributing to climate change and straining the planet's ecosystems, and curbing the use of certain resources that are dwindling.
The new socialist society will set out to transform the environmentally destructive structure and functioning of today's imperialist economy:
Given their privileged position in the global division of labor, the imperialist countries have evolved in a certain way. Their economies, and where people work and live, depend on high levels of mobility, the automobile complex, and long-distance, energy-intensive supply chains.
The system of production in a sustainable socialist economy cannot be focused on this kind of supply and delivery system. It must aim towards a system of interchanges within local and regional economies functioning as part of a unified socialist economy.
Cities must become more sustainable—more capable of producing more to meet basic needs and requirements, including efforts to develop local urban food production. The huge and wasteful consumption of energy associated with the parasitic commercialization of the contemporary city—office structures serving global financial invest-ments, advertising, insurance, etc.—will be transformed. The kind of intensive and speculative commercial and residential development encroaching on "green spaces" in the areas outside of cities, in suburbs and "exurbs," will be put a stop to.
Economic-social planning will strive to connect work that is meaningful and creative with people's sense of community—and forge new relations between work and where people live. Planning will seek to create a new kind of "social space" in the cities, where people can interact, organize politically, create and enjoy culture, and relax. At the same time, planning must seek to break down the distinctions between the cities and the outlying suburban and rural areas—and find new ways to integrate the economic and social activities of these adjoining regions.
A sustainable socialist economy in the former United States will strive to produce a rational variety of consumer goods. But this will not be the same "consumer society" (it would take the resources of almost five earths if the rest of the world had the same ecological footprint of the average person in the United States).
The "convenience" of having Indonesian workers cater to the athletic clothing needs, or peasants and plantation workers in Kenya and Jamaica catering to the upscale coffee sensibilities of people in this society—that will be no more. The "convenience" of the "Wal-Mart price," based on super-exploitation and environmental damage abroad, will be no more (and Wal-Mart will be no more).
Consumer goods must be functional and durable (not the "used once and thrown away" of today). Society will pay attention to changing demand, taste, and aesthetic. But there will not be the same obsession with private consumption, with the need to define yourself on the basis of what and how much individuals own and consume. This will be a matter of education and ideological struggle in society.
With the transformation of social life—with the creation of more "social space" allowing for richer and more meaningful connectedness among people—new values can take hold. With people gaining greater awareness of humanity's connectedness to nature, and of the ecological cost that imperialist "consumerism" has exacted, attitudes can change.
There is an ecological imperative for us to care about and value the planet. We depend for our survival on the natural world, from green plants that produce oxygen to other living species that provide food and medicine; we cannot live without fresh water, nutrient-rich soils, and clean air. At the same time, we are linked with the natural world: through complex evolutionary chains and through networks of ecosystems that provide flows of energy for life to maintain itself.
There is a moral imperative to care about and value the planet. We must strive to become the stewards of the planet: protectors and enhancers of the natural world of which we are part, and with which we are always interacting and transforming. Knowing more about our connections with the natural world and our responsibilities to it also enriches us as human beings.
There is an urgent time line to act: if we do not protect and preserve fast-vanishing natural ecosystems around the world, if we do not move to stem climate change, this planet could very well become uninhabitable for billions of people, and possibly all of humanity.
This is our orientation. Revolution makes it possible to live lives worthy of human beings and to protect the environment. It is why socialist revolution, and the creation of a new socialist state in one or several countries, would have an incredible effect on the world. The establishment of even one new socialist state—especially in a significant country, in terms of geography and population—would dramatically change political alignments in the world. It would give hope and inspiration to people throughout the world. This heightens our determination to make that revolution and to call on others to join and contribute to this most vital undertaking.
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Revolution #205, June 27, 2010
Sunday, July 4: Join in for good food, conversation and music
Bring others for a fun day and raise funds for "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have" campaign.
Noon to 6 pm
Riverbank State Park
Enter at 145th Street & Riverside Drive in Manhattan. Look for red flags in the picnic area.
Reports from the mobilizations in Detroit and the Gulf
Revolution Summer Raffle Drawing at 4 pm
People are encouraged to donate $10.00 or more and to bring your favorite dish to share. Bring your own poetry, music and dance to contribute to the anti-July 4th festivities.
Noon to 5 pm.
Program at 3 pm.
Echo Park Lake, north side off of Glendale Blvd. & Park Ave
$10 a plate, sliding scale for kids and unemployed.
1-6 pm, Barbecue
Carmen Flores Park,
1637 Fruitvale Avenue
(at E.16th), Oakland.
Donation: $5 to $25
Bring a dish to share.
Noon to 6 pm, with a central gathering/cultural event at 3 pm, 63rd Street Beach
3-6 pm, Picnic at Cal Anderson Park in Capitol Hill. Advance tickets are $10.
1 pm on Soldiers Field Road Park by the Charles River in Allston. Look for the red flags!
12 noon-4 pm, Old Stadium Park (Isenberg & King)
4 pm in Burnett Bayland Park @ Chimney Rock and Gulfton
Time and exact location to be announced.
Anti-July 4 Picnic with the Revolution crew at Belle Isle.
Time and place TBA
For information on these anti-July 4th picnics and those in other areas, contact the local Revolution Books store or go online to revcom.us/revbooks
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Revolution #205, June 27, 2010
It is this system that has got us in the situation we're in today, and keeps us there. And it is through revolution to get rid of this system that we ourselves can bring a much better system into being. The ultimate goal of this revolution is communism: A world where people work and struggle together for the common good...Where everyone contributes whatever they can to society and gets back what they need to live a life worthy of human beings...Where there are no more divisions among people in which some rule over and oppress others, robbing them not only of the means to a decent life but also of knowledge and a means for really understanding, and acting to change, the world.
This revolution is both necessary and possible.
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Revolution #205, June 27, 2010
In Bob Avakian, the Chairman of our Party, we have the kind of rare and precious leader who does not come along very often. A leader who has given his heart, and all his knowledge, skills and abilities to serving the cause of revolution and the emancipation of humanity. Bob Avakian came alive as a revolutionary in the 1960s—taking part in the great movements of those days, and especially working and struggling closely with the most advanced revolutionary force in the U.S. at that time, the Black Panther Party. Since then, and while many others have given up, Bob Avakian has worked and struggled tirelessly to find the way to go forward, having learned crucial lessons and built lasting organization that could continue the struggle, and aim to take it higher, while uniting with the same struggle throughout the world. He has kept on developing the theory and strategy for making revolution. He played the key role in founding our Party in 1975, and since then he has continued the battle to keep the Party on the revolutionary road, to carry out work with a strong revolutionary orientation. He has deeply studied the experience of revolution—the shortcomings as well as the great achievements—and many different fields of human endeavor, through history and throughout the world—and he has brought the science and method of revolution to a whole new level, so that we can not only fight but really fight to win. Bob Avakian has developed the scientific theory and strategic orientation for how to actually make the kind of revolution we need, and he is leading our Party as an advanced force of this revolution. He is a great champion and a great resource for people here, and indeed people all over the world. The possibility for revolution, right here, and for the advance of the revolution everywhere, is greatly heightened because of Bob Avakian and the leadership he is providing. And it is up to us to get with this leadership...to find out more about Bob Avakian and the Party he heads...to learn from his scientific method and approach to changing the world...to build this revolutionary movement with our Party at the core...to defend this leadership as the precious thing it is...and, at the same time, to bring our own experience and understanding to help strengthen the process of revolution and enable the leadership we have to keep on learning more and leading even better.
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