Voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party,USA
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Revolution #206, July 4, 2010
Obama Dismisses McChrystal
Wednesday, June 23, President Obama held a press conference to announce what he had decided to do about Stanley McChrystal—the general in charge of the U.S. war in Afghanistan. The day before, an article about McChrystal in Rolling Stone magazine (see box below) had hit the internet. And by the time the general was on a plane, summoned to Washington, people all over the world were reading how he had mocked and disrespected U.S. officials in charge of foreign policy and made comments challenging the president's authority. This was a big deal. And airwaves quickly filled with speculation about what would happen next.
In an extraordinary move, Obama promptly fired McChrystal from command of U.S. operations in Afghanistan. But he made two things clear right away. One, that the U.S. appreciated the great service the general had made to America. And two, that this "is a change in personnel, but it is not a change in policy."
The president said, "I relied on his service, particularly in helping to design and lead our new strategy in Afghanistan. So all Americans should be grateful for General McChrystal's remarkable career in uniform."
"But," Obama went on to say, "war is bigger than any one man or woman, whether a private, a general, or a president. And as difficult as it is to lose General McChrystal, I believe that it is the right decision for our national security."
U.S. politicians and the mainstream media mostly greeted Obama's decision. And David Petraeus—the general who will now take charge in Afghanistan—is being praised as the right man for the job. He is credited with the successful "surge" in Iraq. He has served as commander of U.S. operations in the entire region and is seen as someone who can be counted on to lead the U.S. war for empire in Afghanistan.
Some commentators and analysts worry this change in leadership will interrupt the war. But the firing of McChrystal has NOT prompted public discussion by politicians or op-ed writers about the war crimes this general presided over (see box, "War Crimes... and the Promise of More"). Or WHY this war—now the longest in U.S. history (passing the Vietnam War)—continues to kill innocent civilians. Or WHY the U.S. is in fact widening, not winding down the war, including carrying out drone attacks in Pakistan.
The U.S. is fighting reactionary Islamic fundamentalist forces in Afghanistan who clearly don't represent the interests of the masses. But between these two outmoded reactionary forces—the U.S. and Islamic fundamentalists—it is the U.S. by far that is the one doing the most harm not only in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, but in the world as a whole.
This is a war to further and protect the interests of U.S. imperialism—not to liberate the Afghan people. This is a war for empire in which the U.S. has set out to dominate this strategically crucial region of the world with unchallenged military and political power. And with strategic goals in mind, U.S. occupation and intervention is digging in deep, pushing out and continuing to hold and expand military operations in countries throughout the region.
Obama is being applauded for bringing in Petraeus and there is hope he will effectively take charge of the war in Afghanistan. But the U.S. is facing really BIG problems here.
The U.S. has been trying to reverse what McChrystal called "insurgent math"—where for every innocent person killed, 10 new enemies were created. The training of Afghan military and police was supposed to allow U.S. soldiers to withdraw. Obama's surge of 30,000 more soldiers was supposed to make significant gains in wiping out the Taliban. July 2011 has been set for U.S. troops to begin withdrawing.
But all this has not been going well. The surge of more U.S. troops has resulted in a surge of problems. Mounting civilian casualties continue to fuel widespread hatred of the United States. Many of the Afghan soldiers and police trained by the U.S. are very unreliable. U.S. casualties have gone over 1,000. Hamid Karzai, the U.S.'s puppet president is widely discredited among the Afghan people. Two days after McChrystal's ouster, Middle East expert Ahmed Rashid wrote in the Financial Times:
"[T]he US-NATO strategy in southern Afghanistan has barely made a dent in the Taliban's resistance, which is spreading across the country. NATO's offensive in Marjah, in Helmand, is five months old and still has not secured the area. The anticipated surge to secure Kandahar province has been postponed due to the Taliban's penetration of the region. Seventy-nine NATO soldiers have been killed in June so far—the highest monthly figure since the war began."
It is a big deal when a U.S. president fires the general commanding a major war—and it is rarely done. Ironically, McChrystal was put in charge of the war in Afghanistan last May when Obama dismissed General David McKiernan. This shakeup signaled a major change in the adoption of a new counterinsurgency strategy (COIN).
Fighting by U.S. and NATO forces had relied heavily on the air force, high-tech weapons, heavy bombardment of villages and indiscriminate killing of civilians. Military analysts voiced concern—not over the immorality of killing—but over the fact that such atrocities were pushing people into the arms of the Taliban.
COIN is meant to address these problems. This strategy, modeled on the genocidal U.S. war in Vietnam, relies more on massive ground troops, in conjunction with air strikes. It involves taking and occupying large swaths of territory, killing insurgents, and then trying to form alliances with reactionary local forces in order to establish pro-U.S. governance. It aims to "win the hearts and minds" of civilians—hoping they will not aid, abet and join the forces fighting the United States. It is billed as a "kinder, gentler" occupation, but in reality it is no less brutal and murderous—and NOT in the interests of the people.
COIN is supposed to minimize civilian casualties. But in reality this has hardly been the case. In fact, in 2009, civilian casualties in Afghanistan climbed to their highest number since the start of the war. (UN Annual Report on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, 2009)
A basic contradiction here is that the U.S. military is an occupying army—its mission by definition is brutal and murderous and the more it bombs, murders, tortures, etc., the more it alienates the people. A central goal of the U.S. war in Afghanistan is subduing—by any means necessary—a population in which most don't want to be under foreign domination. Thousands of people in Afghanistan have experienced the brutality and murder of the U.S. troops and they distrust if not hate the American occupiers and the Afghani flunkies the U.S. put in the government. Night raids, special operations, covert assassinations, extrajudicial killings, drone strikes, the use of military contractors, massive detentions and torture, and all-around terror are embedded in the nature of this imperialist occupation. And every U.S. bombing of a wedding, every massacre of civilians, only fuels anti-U.S. sentiment—no matter how hard the U.S. tries to "win hearts and minds" by building a few schools.
These big problems and failures have given rise to major disagreement and in-fighting in the U.S. ruling class—even as they all agree that whatever is done should be guided by the strategic imperialist interests of the United States. Obama reiterated this in the press conference on McChrystal when he said: "Our politics often fuels conflict, but we have to renew our sense of common purpose."
The next day, the AP report that went out all over the world said:
"America's Afghan and international allies embraced the choice of Gen. David Petraeus to run the war in Afghanistan, hoping the architect of the Iraq surge will seamlessly pursue the strategy laid down by his predecessor and smooth over divisions that led to his dismissal. By naming Petraeus, President Barack Obama managed to replace Gen. Stanley McChrystal without derailing the mission at a critical juncture in the war, when casualties are rising and public support in the West is waning. Still, the jury is out on whether the counterinsurgency strategy that Petraeus used to turn around the Iraq war will show results in Afghanistan by July 2011, when Obama wants to begin withdrawing U.S. troops. The split between the U.S. civilian and military team in Afghanistan has not disappeared with McChrystal's departure. Those fissures, laid bare in disparaging remarks to Rolling Stone magazine, led to McChrystal's dismissal Wednesday."
Petraeus represents, as Obama has emphasized, continuity in the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. But there is also talk about the need to re-evaluate how well this is working. And in particular, there is a lot of debate over whether or not Obama's July 2011 deadline for troop withdrawal is "unrealistic." Obama himself is now saying this deadline is NOT about actually withdrawing troops—but when the U.S. will evaluate whether or not it can/should do this.
In his op-ed piece in the Financial Times, Ahmed Rashid, author of Taliban, noted: "Since they were appointed, the senior officials who decide US policy in the region have been at loggerheads. The White House has failed to consult Richard Holbrooke, the state department's special representative to the region. In Kabul, Gen McChrystal and retired General Karl Eikenberry, the US ambassador, have at times barely been on speaking terms. In turn, Gen Eikenberry and Ann Patterson, the US ambassador to Pakistan, have had sharp differences with Mr Holbrooke." ("It is time to rethink the west's Afghan strategy," Financial Times, June 24, 2010)
All of what is being fought out here in the ruling class is not completely clear. But the McChrystal incident revealed the tip of an iceberg.
McChrystal openly questioned the authority of the White House and expressed vulgar contempt for civilian authority. This is one reason Obama fired McChrystal—saying the General's behavior "undermines the civilian control of the military that is at the core of a democratic system." And note that Obama is saying this at a time when one way that deep divisions in the ruling class have expressed themselves is open rancor between powerful figures in the military and members of the Obama administration.
Different contradictions in the ruling class are intersecting with and building off each other. There are all the problems with the war in Afghanistan and the region as a whole. The different forces within the U.S. ruling class share common objectives when it comes to the need for U.S. imperialism to achieve unquestioned dominance in the world—militarily, politically and economically. But the problems in achieving these goals are mounting. And this is reflected in and giving rise to sharp differences in the ruling class over how to deal with these contradictions and how to advance the interests of U.S. imperialism.
At the same time, there are other divisions in the ruling class that have been sharpening over the last three or more decades. On the one hand, there are aggressive reactionary forces, including theocratic conservatives, who actually consider Obama unworthy of leading the country (perhaps even more unworthy than Bill Clinton, whom they impeached)—especially when it comes to matters of national security. One expression of this is the way in which Obama's presidential authority, in particular his role as commander-in-chief, has been challenged. And there are other forces in the ruling class, largely associated with the Democratic party, who have big disagreements with these conservative forces and feel that Obama basically represents the right course for the country.
The "McChrystal incident" seems, in part, to reflect the intersection of both of these contradictions. While there has been a certain cohering in the wake of the firing of McChrystal and the appointment of Petraeus, the strategic problems and contradictions they face with their wars of aggression have not been resolved. There will no doubt be new twists and turns ahead.
The point for revolutionaries here in recognizing these contradictions and divisions in the ruling class is NOT to choose between two reactionary sides, which each represent the interests of U.S. imperialism. The U.S. war in Afghanistan—with all its horrors and atrocities—has become acceptable for far too many people. But this whole McChrystal affair has now created a certain moment where the U.S. war in Afghanistan has been thrust out in the public eye. And people need to seize this time to stand up and oppose these war criminals and this whole criminal war.
As Carl Dix said in a press statement released at the U.S. Social Forum in Detroit, "No matter who's in command, no matter what the strategy, the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan is immoral, unjust, and illegitimate." And NO side in the ruling class debate over how to wage this war is in the interests of the people.
A statement recently published in the New York Review of Books titled "Crimes Are Crimes—No Matter Who Does Them"—scheduled to appear soon in Rolling Stone—argues that U.S. military killings of civilians in Afghanistan are outrages under President Obama's command as they were under George Bush's command: "Such measures by Bush were widely considered by liberals and progressives to be outrages and were roundly, and correctly, protested. But those acts which may have been construed (wishfully or not) as anomalies under the Bush regime, have now been consecrated into 'standard operating procedure' by Obama, who claims, as did Bush, executive privilege and state secrecy in defending the crime of aggressive war."
We need to build mass opposition to the U.S. war in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan—as part of building a movement for revolution. And the more U.S. imperialism faces big contradictions, problems, difficulties and divisions—the more the people need to be stepping up the struggle against this murderous system.
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Revolution #206, July 4, 2010
Different U.S. generals may have their own personal style of leadership. But McChrystal and Petraeus are war criminals and mass murderers who perfectly reflect the system they serve.
One thing that comes through so viscerally in the Rolling Stone article is the gross, macho, "kill 'em all and let god sort them out" mentality that McChrystal both models and promotes. This is the mindset that leads to and justifies mass murder. The Rolling Stone article reports that, "The general's staff is a handpicked collection of killers, spies, geniuses, patriots, political operators and outright maniacs." And this is not being questioned by Obama or the mainstream press. In fact, it's either downplayed as "inappropriate" or written off as "locker room," "boys will be boys" behavior. Some commentators have justified this by saying this is what U.S. generals always do. There is a view of, "what do you expect.... this kind of behavior comes with the job." AND THEY ARE RIGHT ABOUT THIS.
Men like McChrystal and Petraeus perfectly reflect the imperialist military. War is the extension of politics by other means. And the military, especially its top commanders, are a personification of the imperialist aims and goals of the wars they command.
McChrystal is being criticized for making disparaging remarks about fellow officers and civilian officials. But no one is criticizing him for brazen remarks about the killing going on under his command. No one is critical of the fact that, as McChrystal himself admitted in an interview, "We have shot an amazing number of people, but to my knowledge, none has ever proven to be a threat." (New York Times, 3/26/10)
People should read the ugly soldier banter in the Rolling Stone article. Then go watch the video from Wikileaks taken from cameras on U.S. Apache helicopters in Baghdad, Iraq in July 2007 (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:July_12,_2007_Baghdad_airstrike_unedited_part1.ogv). You can hear the pilots' radio transmissions and those of U.S. troops on the ground. You hear someone urging the pilot to "light 'em all up" and then people walking on the street are shot by the gunship's cannon. When a van arrives to rescue the wounded, it is fired upon. You see some slight movement and a voice says, "Looks like a kid." Another one answers, "Well, it's their fault for bringing their kids into a battle." Throughout the video you hear joking, laughing soldiers begging to be given permission to shoot. All together 12 people are killed, including two journalists working for Reuters.
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Revolution #206, July 4, 2010
Barack Obama on dismissing General Stanley McChrystal:
"I don't make this decision based on any difference in policy with General McChrystal, as we are in full agreement about our strategy.... I've got great admiration for him and for his long record of service in uniform."
This long record includes:
McChrystal approved a more than four-fold increase in night raid operations, from 20 in May of last year to 90 in November. Civilian deaths rose dramatically. Night raids caused more than half of the nearly 600 civilian deaths attributable to U.S./coalition forces in 2009, according to United Nations and Afghan government estimates.
In fact it should be no surprise that such atrocities happened under McChrystal's command in Afghanistan. All this was part and parcel of the "surge" strategy he oversaw in Iraq.
And General Petraeus, who Obama picked to take McChrystal's place, is another big war criminal. In announcing that Petraeus was taking over in Afghanistan, Obama declared, "Let me say to the American people, this is a change in personnel but it is not a change in policy. General Petraeus fully participated in our review last fall, and he both supported and helped design the strategy that we have in place."
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Revolution #206, July 4, 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 #206, July 4, 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 #206, July 4, 2010
Verdict Near in Mehserle Trial
The murder trial of ex-BART police officer Johannes Mehserle who shot and killed Oscar Grant on January 1, 2009 is proceeding swiftly. There may be a verdict as you read this. The point is: The killing of Oscar Grant, an unarmed 22-year-old Black man, was a cold-blooded murder.
Seven minutes after the first cop arrived at the Fruitvale Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) train platform in Oakland, and began pulling Oscar Grant and his friends off the train, Johannes Mehserle shot Oscar point-blank in the back. Witnesses have testified they turned on cameras when they saw the police become increasingly aggressive. Jackie Bryson, a friend of Oscar's who was near him on the platform, testified, "He [Mehserle] stands up, he says f– this, and he shoots." Bryson said he looked at Oscar. "You see smoke coming out of his back. They roll him over, and there's just a puddle of blood."
The legal requirement for a murder conviction includes "intent," and this is something Mehserle's attorneys have tried to sow doubt over. The defense's video expert, a former sheriff, spent hours on the witness stand re-interpreting the video frame by frame for the jury. He argued that in spite of what the video looks like, Oscar Grant and his friends were the aggressors—they were the ones who were trying to attack the cops. This "believe me, not the video" method was used in the trial that acquitted the cops who beat Rodney King in a famous case of videotaped police brutality in Los Angeles in 1992. When four cops were acquitted the city erupted in the famous L.A. Rebellion.
On Friday, June 25, the defense called Mehserle to the stand. The defense has tried to rebrand Mehserle, a 6-foot 4-inch, 240-pound cop who had towered over Oscar, as a boyish teddy bear, a real nice guy who was voted "most huggable" in high school. Mehserle, weeping on the witness stand, said he drew his gun by accident when he meant to use his taser.
The evidence shows that this is not true. A picture that Oscar took with his own cell phone camera shows that moments before Mehserle forced Oscar to the ground, he had a taser out pointed right at him. Mehserle had to reholster the taser before finally drawing his gun. Video shows Mehserle looking down at his gun before he pulled it out of its holster. It has been reported that "Mehserle never told other officers at the station that the shooting was an accident or that he had meant to grab his Taser" and that Mehserle's first excuse for murdering Oscar Grant was "I thought he was going for a gun." ("Dramatic Video of BART Shooting Released by Court," LA Times LA Now blog, 6/24/10.)
Oscar's mother dismissed Mehserle's story: "Now he's sitting on the stand crying? I've been crying every day. He knew the difference between his gun and his taser... he knew what he was doing. He killed my son with intent."
There are plans for a convergence in downtown Oakland at 14th and Broadway at 6 pm on the day the verdict is announced. People need to be there and elsewhere to respond politically to the verdict. And the LA Coalition for Justice for Oscar Grant is calling on people to gather at the courthouse (at Spring and Temple) on the day of the verdict. To be notified of the verdict, text "TRIAL" to 213-973-3434.
It was the outcry and protest of the people, in many different ways, including on January 7, 2009, that forced the system to arrest and bring murder charges against Mehserle. The law fundamentally enforces a system of inequality and exploitation, including the oppression and subjugation of Black people, and "legitimizes" violence the police use to maintain the whole set-up.
The authorities are sowing confusion and also trying to intimidate people from speaking out in the wake of the verdict. Police staged a highly publicized practice "riot" in the port of Oakland. They set up a hotline for "tips, rumors and information" relating to protests or "potential problems" after the verdict. Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums met with non-profit groups, urging them to inoculate their base against "outside agitators."
But the truth is the people acted with conscience and vision when they said "we are all Oscar Grant." Protest was needed and justified. It made a big difference. And the people's verdict must also be heard.
Stay tuned to revcom.us for more updates.
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Revolution #206, July 4, 2010
Arizona Freedom Summer has hit the ground running, taking out the Revolutionary Communist Party's (RCP's) Message and Call, bringing to people the "Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have," and building broad and defiant resistance to SB 1070. This is the law that will go into effect on July 29 that targets immigrants with no papers and, in essence, legalizes racial profiling. Our slogans are: We are all Illegals! We don't gotta show no stinkin' papers! We don't have an immigration problem, we have a capitalism problem! No more troops! Demilitarize the border!
Arizona Freedom Summer will be uniting with people who hate this law to oppose it and to change the current dynamic where people are being told, and mobilized, to identify immigrants as a problem. We will be countering this with the truth that it is this system of capitalism-imperialism that is the problem. This system compels people to come here, seeking a way to survive, and then forces them to live under conditions of terror and with no rights. "The days when this system can just keep on doing what it does to people, here and around the world...when people are not inspired and organized to stand up against these outrages and to build up 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)
Things are very polarized in Arizona. On the one side stands Governor Brewer with the Arizona State government, law enforcement like Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County and the Border Patrol, and the extreme forces of reaction like the Minutemen and Nazis. Sheriff Joe has announced that on July 30 he plans to start implementing SB 1070 with his sixteenth operation of mass arrests, deporting all those who do not have papers. Governor Brewer has made the outrageous statement that "The majority of the people that are coming to Arizona and trespassing are becoming drug mules."
On the other side of this extreme polarization stand those who are targeted by SB 1070 along with a broad section of the people who oppose this law and have stepped forward to resist this whole offensive. Many people around the country have come forward and expressed their opposition in different ways, but it is on the ground in Arizona where the struggle is now joined most intensely.
An immigrant told us what it's like getting ready to go to work on Monday morning, the hesitation before you leave, knowing that a stop by the police, at any moment and for whatever reason—like your car being parked wrong—could mean you won't make it back home, and then what will happen to your children? We heard a story from one person about a carload of five youth being stopped by the police for a broken headlight and when they protested that there was nothing wrong with the headlight, the cops smashed it in. None of the young men had papers and all were taken in, some are still being held and others already have been deported. Immigrants, who are looking for leadership, have welcomed the revolutionaries and have taken up the Message and Call as a way to end this madness in Arizona and in this country. One guy told us, "I never knew there was a Party talking about revolution in this country, and I never knew it was possible."
Many people are planning to come to Arizona on July 29 in a massive show of defiance and opposition to this law. Between now and then, Arizona Freedom Summer will be reaching out to immigrants who are targeted, but also to many different sections of the people to build up the spirit of resistance and defiance against this law as part of building a movement for revolution. We have big plans and need many people to come and contribute to making this real. If you really want to make a difference and change the world, there is no better place to be this summer than Arizona. Come for a week, come for a month, but come. And donate generously.
See "Arizona Freedom Summer—Be in Phoenix starting June 26" at revcom.us.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #206, July 4, 2010
Prisoners Correspond On:
In 1852, anti-slavery fighter (and former slave) Frederick Douglass wrote and delivered his powerful and famous poem, "What, to the American Slave, Is Your Fourth of July?" This year, the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund (PRLF) called on prisoner subscribers to Revolution to correspond on that theme. Below are excerpts from the responses. The full letters and more can be found at prlf.org.
Plain and simple: the Fourth of July don't mean a damn thing to me. The Fourth of July is a day that celebrates when this country—the U.S.—was stolen from a peaceful nation of people. It is also a day that celebrates the lies & treachery of a nation of people who don't give a damn about anything but capital.
Why would anyone want to celebrate a day like that with people who "founded" this country on deception & murder?!?! When you rejoice or celebrate by shooting fireworks in the sky, you are saying that you are okay with stealing, lying, murder & exploiting anyone you can just to make it to a top position in this so called "land of the free." You are saying that you are okay with killing millions upon millions upon millions of people just because you are in a position to do so at the time. You are saying that you are content with living under a Capitalist-Imperialist government who most likely has their foot on your neck.
I urge anyone who is reading this to look deep into the history of the "Land of the Free" and learn of the many, many lies that have been told for hundreds of years. Upon learning the truth, I encourage you to join the revolutionary movement founded and led by the wonderful Mr. Bob Avakian.
* * * * *
When people celebrate the fourth, they shouldn't forget they're celebrating their country which kills and exploits other countries and their armies for financial gain and corporate profit. The freedoms boasted are not equal nor for all. Money dictates equality more than race or age, while birth still predicts best who will have the most money. For prisoners, most of us don't have much to celebrate. We were given tough conditions, sold the "American dream" and lost in a unforgiving justice system. Now, in concrete cages this fourth of July doesn't bring hope nor celebration.
No, for the prisoner in America there is no celebrating the "fourth of July." The extra portions we are given is mocking us who have nothing to celebrate. America's wars do not benefit us. We have to feel for the exploited and the oppressed whom we can relate to; not the rich and the powerful who've committed our same crimes, but walk free and privileged because of it.
* * * * *
To the prisoner in America your 4th of July is a sham and a farce. Your advertised justice and equality in the light of so much injustice is cruel and deserves mockery.
America's proclamation that this is the land of the free is absurd and hypocritical. America has about 5% of the world's population; but has almost a quarter of the world's prisoners. In 2007 the number of prisoners in jails and prisons totaled 2,293,157; and that's not counting the population in ICE facilities, military, or juvenile detentions! So to call America the land of the free is like a slap on the prisoner's face; it is telling the prisoner that he is non-existent, that he is not even worth mentioning; that his life is worthless.
* * * * *
What to the prisoners in America, is your Fourth of July? A celebration of over 500 years of parasitism, another year of experiencing the miscarriage of justice that exists in this country....
We use prisoners in America as the new victims who are blatantly singled out and segregated and stripped of the so-called Civil Rights. Prisoners in this so-called land of the free are not free at all even after being released. Prisoners in America are most often unable to obtain work as job applications ask, have you ever been arrested? If you say yes you will not get hired, if you lie you'll be fired after they check, so even after a prisoner is released, he has done his time, he is still punished with no work and means of subsistence. These are the conditions the prisoner in America has to be grateful for in the land of the free.
Poor People are pitted against each other out in society along with prisoner against prisoner so that the real culprits continue their vileness undisturbed. I call the people everywhere to see this upcoming July 4th this year and in the future for the day of horrors it really is... Never again will we celebrate the 'master's' anniversary of slaughtering our ancestors....
* * * * *
To answer the question, "What, to the prisoner in Amerika, is your 4th of July?" Well, I believe I can speak for us all when I say that the 4th of July means nothing. To celebrate this day would mean that we are either unconscious or content with the injustice that is continually dealt to us prisoners by this system. It would mean that you do not want better for yourself or for humanity as a whole.
Me personally, I want emancipation for all the oppressed people in the world. Which is why I've chosen to follow the leadership of the great Bob Avakian.
* * * * *
Your ideology of independence has oppressive connotations and was structured as a dictatorship using violence, fear, murder and imprisonment to maintain order over the multitude of captives; this celebration of freedom can have no meaning to me as long as I remain in chains locked away in your gulags now called a correctional system that has been turned into a multi-billion-dollar-a-year business that denies its inhabitants life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Your 4th of July is a reminder of the outcome of a revolution against a tyrant government who had a deliberate systematical plan of keeping the people oppressed, and here we are over 200 years later still being oppressed; it's time for a new revolution where steps are taken towards an existence in which the people count for more than the establishment of a capitalism imperialistic system of power and greed; the political atmosphere in America is now charged with both deep animosities and new hopes for bettering the world.
* * * * *
We greatly appreciate receiving letters from prisoners and encourage prisoners to keep sending us correspondence. The viewpoints expressed here are those of the writers and not necessarily Revolution newspaper.
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Revolution #206, July 4, 2010
Saturday, June 19: Day 55 of the capitalist oil disaster that is spewing a volcano of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, spreading destruction from the marshy wetlands of Louisiana to the white sand beaches of Mississippi and Florida; from deep in the ocean to its surface, toxic plumes feathering and spiraling throughout the Gulf's channels and currents.
June 19: The day that 100 people came together in New Orleans to develop plans to initiate resistance to stop this disaster.
About half the people were from New Orleans; others had traveled from Gulf Coast communities in Louisiana, Alabama, and Florida; car loads had driven overnight from Houston and Atlanta. Some people who knew they had to be at this summit had come in from Los Angeles and Memphis. Two people had driven a vegetable oil powered bus from D.C., staging protests at BP stations in every state they passed through on their way to New Orleans.
The atmosphere buzzed as people readied themselves for the challenges of the day—developing a plan for confronting—and stopping—the environmental catastrophe that began with the explosion and fire on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. Elizabeth Cook, from the New Orleans- based Women United for Social Justice, put the challenge before people: "We're here to channel our grief and anger into collective action. We're here to press on until the oil is out of the water." John Clark, professor of philosophy and environmental ethics at Loyola University in New Orleans, talked about the economic and social history of the region. Political economist Raymond Lotta of Revolution newspaper and antiwar and social justice activist Cindy Sheehan also spoke.
A highlight was a moving presentation by Kindra Arnesen of Venice, LA. Kindra gave testimony of the slow motion health disaster that has afflicted the people of southern Louisiana since the Deepwater Horizon sank, and the economic vice grip people there face as they lose their livelihoods. She said, "They are slowly poisoning everyone I've ever loved or cared about ... Are my people expendable?" A YouTube video of Kindra's speech has over 90,000 views.
A draft set of demands—since finalized—framed the lively and serious discussion that followed the opening talks. People wrestled with the best ways of developing plans that would rely on the people, in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, and throughout the country. The spirit of "all hands on deck" permeated the proceedings and deliberations: building this battle by bringing together diverse people and forging new connections: scientists with local fisher and working people; environmentalists, radicals, and revolutionary communists with professionals and artists; activist youth with voices of conscience.
Participants from New Orleans, and some from out of town, didn't waste time in putting plans into action. On Monday 25 people went to the newly relocated "Unified Command Center" in New Orleans, marched past the security who said they couldn't enter, and delivered the demands from the summit to a PR representative from BP.
Then, on Thursday, a government/BP "informational meeting" in New Orleans didn't go as planned. Members of the newly formed Emergency Committee read the demands and demanded that BP and government reps speak to them. An outburst of questions and challenges came from many people in the audience—the entire scene caught on the cameras of local TV stations.
To find out more about and to get involved with the Emergency Committee to Stop the Gulf Oil Disaster—and to sign its mission statement and to make donations—readers can go to its website at www.gulfemergencysummit.org.
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Revolution #206, July 4, 2010
Testimony at Emergency Summit
The following is from the testimony given by Kindra Arnesen of Venice, Louisiana, at the Emergency Summit on the Gulf oil disaster that took place June 19 in New Orleans. Arnesen has been a volunteer in the BP-organized cleanup operations. Video of this testimony is on YouTube.
When this first happened I really didn't know what to do, who to ask questions, who was gonna give answers. The first day when we were introduced to anyone from BP, they came into our building and said "BP does business right." Yeah, can you believe that? "BP does business right." Well, 61 days later, that's a joke.
For the past weeks I've heard, in the Ops meetings, "We have to cut costs." Yes, that's what they've said. I almost came out of my chair the first time I heard that.... They have what they call ponies and balloons. Well, the only place I've ever seen ponies and balloons is in the circus. About a week and a half in, I learned what ponies and balloons means. It means every time a big official is headed anywhere near Venice, all assets are deployed into the hardest-hit areas. An official comes in, flies over, pats people on the back, and says "good job fellas." When that official disappears out of the hardest hit area, so does 75 or 80 percent of the response...
I'm gonna go into the health issues for a moment. I've sat through endless hours of meetings with BP's safety officers. I've sat through an hour and 45 minute meeting with the Coast Guard safety officer, both in the Houma command post, as well as OSHA [the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration]. In order to obtain a respirator for our responders—now this is everybody, not just our responders, people off the street, everybody involved—number 1, you have to file an OSHA questionnaire. Number 2, they have to have a physical evaluation by a medical professional. But, EPA [the federal Environmental Protection Agency] is doing air monitoring, and telling us everything is OK, it's great....
I wish it was law that says volunteers have a right to wear a volunteer respirator. But, as we all know, BP has taken over our Gulf. BP rules right now. Bottom line, that's who's in charge of this situation! They couldn't even run their own company, and now they're running this response! I'm totally appalled!
So people can't wear a volunteer respirator, because if they're not properly trained—BP says people have to be properly trained to wear a respirator. BP says they will provide the respirators, and provide the training; but, "everything's OK," and they don't need respirators. And as far as the "right" to wear volunteer respiration? Guess what? If you don't follow BP's rules, you don't have a job. And that's what they told me.
Now I asked them to discuss the 7 (injured) men that were brought to hospitals. I asked them if they were at liberty to discuss that with me, and they said, "Yes ma'am, we are." I guess these guys didn't realize who they were talking to. Number 1 response, from Mr. Hayward, was food poisoning. Four different boats, all way away from each other—food poisoning. Second response was heat exhaustion. Then, a week ago Wednesday when I sat with OSHA and the BP safety officer, the OSHA man informed me that all 4 boats took Pinesol, sprayed it all over their boats, and then sat and breathed in the fumes all day long, and that's what caused the chemical poisoning.
I've been on boats all my life. When we spray something on a boat, we wash it right off. We take care of the boat. We take care of ourselves. It was just a blatant, out and out lie.
My children have broke out with four rashes. My daughter broke out, I took her to Florida, she magically cleared up. I brought her back, she broke out again. I left, she cleared up. Now she's broke out again. Not to mention that my beautiful, healthy, straight A student, gorgeous daughter has a double ear infection, upper respiratory problems.
I left and went to Baton Rouge, and as I drove back home, she started clearing her throat from the stickiness, the upper respiratory irritation. You know, the bottom line here, is this morning I contacted Miss Marla Cooper, of Plaquemines Parish, she's a wonderful person, and I told her, Miss Marla, we have got to call for an evacuation of our area. We cannot allow our citizens to sit like we're out in the middle of—we are, this stuff's on all three sides of my home. I walk outside and there's a haze. They're called "bad air days." They say don't go out, stay inside and leave your A.C. on.
Well, why do we need to lock ourselves up in our house? Do you really think that's gonna cut it? Do you really think that's gonna make the situation better? No, its not. Where do you think the air comes from that's inside the house—outside the house. These people, they never cease to amaze me. The lack of humanity here! I know that my parish only makes up 2% of Louisiana's population. But does that make my people expendable?
This is unacceptable! They are slowly poisoning every person that I've ever been close to in my entire life. And I'm standing here saying no more. If I ruffle some feathers and make some people mad, so be it. I don't care. My people are more important to me than their bottom line. And that is my bottom line.
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Revolution #206, July 4, 2010
From A World to Win News Service
June 21, 2010. A World to Win News Service. The oil spill off the coast of Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico is the kind of disaster people living in the Niger River Delta have suffered continuously for half a century.
Predatory pumping and almost unbridled burning of fossil fuels is killing the planet. But nowhere has oil brought more devastation than Nigeria. Making matters even worse, there is little effort to clean up this poison.
To give an idea of the scale of the catastrophe, BP's Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico has spewed between 2-4 million barrels of oil in the two months since the blowout. Almost six million barrels have oozed and washed through Nigeria's main river delta over the last 50 years. Most of it has been concentrated in a thousand-square-kilometer [about 247,000 acres] area called Ogoniland.
The once-fertile land is dotted with puddles of crude oil. In many areas wild plants and cultivated crops like cassava are dead. Palm trees no longer yield much wine. The inland waterways and mangrove swamps, once rich in shrimp, crab and other fish, are lifeless. The birds are gone. The sea, for many people a source of life, has become a source of sickness and death. People emerging from the brackish waters of the delta find themselves coated with oil. The flares of gas deliberately set afire are so bright and unrelenting that in some villages it has been two generations since people have seen complete darkness.
"Nigerian light" is the world's best quality oil, prized because it is relatively easy to refine into fuel products. But it has been a curse for the people who live here, bringing asthma, skin diseases, organ disorders, and cancer. Average life expectancy has fallen for several generations. It now stands at little more than 40 years.
Foreign oil companies, led by the British-Dutch company Royal Dutch Shell, started drilling for oil here in 1958. The country ceased to be a British colony two years later, but it has never been independent of oil.
The Niger River Delta is criss-crossed by thousands of kilometers of pipelines. Many are four or five decades old. They are rusty, and they ooze oil—when they are not spouting streams of it high into the air. The columns of valves that sprout up above the bushes leak. The ancient terminals leak. Abandoned oil wells leak.
But new investment may make matters worse. It is being funnelled into offshore wells and pipelines—and they leak too. Already tar balls dot the coastline
As the world now knows, the newly developed deepwater rigs are potential weapons of mass environmental destruction. Super-deep underwater wells coming on line or in the planning stages ring the so-called "golden triangle"—the oil-rich Atlantic ocean basin ranging from the Gulf of Mexico and Brazil to Mauritania, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Angola and Congo-Brazzaville. This planned new investment may bring Nigeria and other countries even worse devastation in the future. Similar projects threaten India and Indonesia.
Shell claims that most of the spillage in Nigeria is caused by sabotage and theft. If some people illegally drain oil from pipelines, it is because Shell has stolen their livelihood in all legality. Even if oil jobs were any compensation for environmental catastrophe, which they are not, the local Ogoni people aren't even getting that. And if there has been violence against Shell property in the course of the people's struggles against Shell, it has been in response to the violence Shell has inflicted on their lives and the part of the planet where they live. Shell has had the Nigerian military kill peaceful protestors and raid whole villages. In 1995, the military hanged playwright Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni rights leaders.
Oil companies can sell oil at the world market price, but they can often hold down production costs when they drill it in countries where they don't have to observe global "best practices"—which, as we've seen in the Gulf of Mexico, are themselves far from foolproof. Oil spill rates (spill per length of pipeline) in Nigeria are among the world's worst, even without counting the pollution from wastewater and the gas flares. In the rich countries where the six Big Oil companies are based, gas from oil wells is usually captured, not burned to get rid of it. Obviously the harm done by the carbon dioxide flaring releases is global.
Shell (allied in Nigeria with France's Total and the Italian Eni), Mobil Exxon, Chevron and other oil companies have been able to invest less here than would have otherwise been necessary. They haven't had to build better facilities, perform better upkeep or dismantle obsolete or derelict equipment. Nigerian law calls for spills to be stopped and clean-up to begin within 24 hours, but major leaks continue for months or years. When clean-up does take place, it usually involves digging a hole and dumping the oil or oil-coated dirt into it, or burning pools of oil, methods that get rid of the obvious evidence but create permanent environmental damage, ruin agriculture and sicken and kill people. (See "Double Standards? International Best Practice Standards to Prevent and Control Pipeline Oil Spills Compared with Shell Practice in Nigeria," by Professor Richard Steiner, www1.milieudefensie.nl/globalisering/publicaties/rapporten/rapport double standards.pdf)
While the burning of fossil fuels is by far the biggest component in global warming and other grave threats to humanity and the Earth's ecosystems, the profitability of oil and its central role in so many other profitable industries means that it is the lifeblood of the capitalist world economy. Four of the world's seven most profitable corporations are oil companies. Therefore oil is also the object of a life and death competition between companies and imperialist powers. The cost of damage to the environment and people is not factored into the costs of any company. Even though some companies may be forced to pay out a little from time to time when spills occur under particular political circumstances, the economic system's dependence on fossil fuel is enormously harmful even when everything goes "right."
Further, this contradiction that is built into the capitalist system, between the cost capitalists pay for production and the real social cost, intersects with another inherent feature of the imperialist system, the division of the world into a handful of monopoly capitalist oppressor countries and the nations they oppress. Consequently, although all humanity lives on the same planet, much of today's environmental nightmare is concentrated in the oppressed countries like Nigeria.
The same factors that make Nigeria so attractive to oil companies and make their investments such a source of nightmares for the people are at work in other industries and in the global economic system as a whole. The total disregard for people and the environment that Shell and its sister oil companies flaunt in Nigeria was also on display in Bhopal, India. There faulty maintenance and safety procedures led to an explosion in a fertilizer plant that has killed tens of thousands. The consequences are continuing to sicken and kill 26 years later. In June 2010, the courts finally got around to convicting two local managers for negligence, while the American leadership of the plant's owner, Union Carbide (since then gobbled up by Dow Chemical) has never been seriously bothered. To this day there has been no thorough clean-up and no adequate health care for those still suffering from the effects of the chemicals spread by the explosion.
The fact is that Shell and other companies can do almost anything they want in places like Nigeria. All these multinationals have to do is threaten to freeze their investments and the government of the day usually must bend to their will, as recently happened with Nigeria's new civilian president. Even in countries where the oil has been nationalized, the governments are bound by the same dictate: profit must be maximized. Ecuador and Venezuela—where the governments claim to be using natural resources and partnering with international Big Oil for the good of the people—are being poisoned by the same lethal combination of oil and the capitalist world market. They figure alongside Nigeria, Angola, Chad, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Uganda and Sudan on the list of the countries most ravaged by oil spills and contamination.
This is not only because imperialist capital always seeks to ally with local reactionaries and their military, but even more because the very workings of the international capitalist market have made them so economically dependent. This dependency can only be broken through a radical reconfiguration of society to achieve a self-reliant economy as part of a worldwide struggle to emancipate all of humanity from the dictates of capital and the politics of imperialism.
A World to Win News Service is put out by A World to Win magazine (aworldtowin.org), a political and theoretical review inspired by the formation of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, the embryonic center of the world's Marxist-Leninist-Maoist parties and organizations.
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Revolution #206, July 4, 2010
Report from the Conferences:
One of the highlights from the recent conferences on the Revolutionary Communist Party's campaign, The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have, was collective brainstorming and percolation that got kicked off about how we're really—in a mass, societal way—going to accomplish the goals of this campaign. On the foundation set by the main speech, people were alive to the stakes of accomplishing these goals, and the potential, and ideas came pouring out in a collective process. It was the beginning of something that needs to run through this whole campaign—to continue to step back and analyze: What will it take for this campaign to achieve societal impact, for revolution to be really on the map? Is what we're doing part of that? Are there openings we're missing? How does a particular effort or breakthrough synergize with other efforts or breakthroughs? What can we learn from what we've done—right and wrong? And how do we maximize all that and get it all working together... to really begin a new stage of revolution?
This atmosphere was definitely felt in the workshops to make Bob Avakian a household name. The day before the workshops, we'd had serious discussion and wrangling with a theme of the opening speech on the importance of Bob Avakian—to this whole campaign and to the movement for revolution:
"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." (Read the whole opening speech at revcom.us/a/203/conference_speech-1-en.html.)
This was foundational right along with what the Message and Call of the campaign lays out about BA's leadership. And this concentrates the basic reason why we should speak about this leadership for revolution with no apology—and challenge and inspire people to get into BA's work, to learn more about this and how this is true, and so crucial in putting revolution on the map. This main opening speech at the conference deepened people's understanding of this and unfettered their thinking. One attendee at the conference said, "Once you really understand this and get why it's true, you actually have a responsibility to tell people." And in the workshop itself, someone else said "That's the spirit we need on how to break through and we should take a lot of pride in that."
People also drew on some of the main themes from the second day's speech (read the whole speech at revcom.us/a/205/conference_speech2-en.html): on the relationship and interpenetration of all three goals of this campaign (these three goals are explained in "Opening Speech at May 29-30 Conferences on the Campaign, 'The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have,'" on page 6 of this issue), the importance of saturation and the need to be "utterly outrageous and eminently reasonable." There was fluidity in the discussions and in people's thinking—a lot of emphasis on the importance of synergies and people seeing or hearing about BA from a lot of different angles. Someone said, "We need to come at this so it's in a lot of mediums at the same time; on walls, T-shirts, projections, fliers in the same area, things on the radio... wherever you turn, this is injected into all these different places."
These workshops pulled together people's different kinds of experience and knowledge, different strengths and sensibilities... all throwing in to figure out how to reach a common and critical goal. People's ideas built on each other or informed and gave rise to other ideas. Someone suggested we have a BA day where everyone wears the image T-shirt and all across the country does stuff to promote BA—on campuses, in neighborhoods, figuring out how to get into the media. Someone else took off from there, agreeing this could be a really big deal, and said maybe we could do it the day BAsics is released (BAsics will be a back-pocket-size book of 100 or so quotations from Bob Avakian to be released in Fall, 2010).
There were big ideas and wild ideas. Someone suggested raising money for billboards with the BA image, for the Revolution talk and with BA quotes to build anticipation for BAsics (see photo of billboard above). There were different ideas around "flash mobs" or living tableaus using BA quotes. There was a lot of thinking around this in relation to July 4th events or other places where media will already be (this would be something where people stand somewhere with enlarged quotes from BA, or just the image making a dramatic and artful presence). People suggested different kinds of videos including a mix of people talking about why they're into BA: one on the Revolution talk (which people can begin doing interviews for at the anti-July 4th picnics) or a video that mixes in well-known people with people from the neighborhood with everyone starting out their rap, "I'm into BA because..." or "I'm interested in BA because..."
There was also discussion of how we should be making an impact at the summer concerts and festivals where the revolution and revolutionary leadership really becomes THE thing—getting bands to wear T-shirts with the image, or post it on their bass amps, fliering big-time with the Message and Call, getting out the BA image and getting BA quotes out everywhere, going straight on into the most controversial questions in the crowds—religion, revolution and communism. One person who lives in the projects had another idea around the image, wanting to wear the BA image shirt every day because it makes a statement, and people will start asking, "Why are you always wearing that guy on your T-shirt?" And this will crack open a discussion of who BA is and what he's about.
People had all kinds of different brainstorms on the relationship of BA's work and voice being in the midst of where people are fighting the power, as well as fundraising and Internet promotion of BA overall, and especially the Revolution talk.
The discussion was electric, and these were just a small number of the ideas that the workshops came up with. And even more than all the great ideas, as important as those are, you felt the beginnings of a movement of appreciation, promotion, and popularization of BA—with creativity and boldness. This is a new thing—and something we need to learn from, build on, and carry forward. It will be a vital part of this campaign as a whole, and the movement for revolution that we are building. And all the good ideas were themselves part of trying to figure out how to accomplish that larger process—and the essential role of Bob Avakian to that. The feeling in these workshops—and reflective of the conferences as a whole—was that we are beginning the fight for a new wave of revolution, with all the creativity, determination and defiance to go out and make that seen, heard and felt. Keep the ideas and lessons from your experience coming!
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Revolution #206, July 4, 2010
On Sunday, June 20 the first-ever "Put Revolution On The Map" National Fundraising web-a-thon went "live" with a six-hour webcast, combined with phone banking by volunteers in more than 10 cities. The goal was to raise $10,000 for "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have" campaign.
By the end of the evening, $8,362 had been raised and an additional $2,115 had been pledged. By the next night, the total had jumped to $8,872 raised and more than $2,100 pledged. Stay posted for final figures.
Hosts Sunsara Taylor, Annie Day and Will Reese brought alive the national campaign: what's been happening and upcoming plans—and how people can join in through donations and in other ways. By the beginning of the second hour, which featured clips from the talk by Bob Avakian, Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible What It's all About, a reading from From Ike to Mao and Beyond (Bob Avakian's memoir), and other presentations... $2,000 had been raised for a billboard in Detroit promoting the Revolution talk. The billboard went up the opening day of the U.S. Social Forum.
Highlights of the show included Michael Slate's interview with Revolution writer Larry Everest, fresh from the Gulf Oil Emergency Summit, and Sunsara Taylor's interview with Carl Dix and others in Detroit who were standing with the people in the wake of the police execution of 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones and taking out the Message and Call. Michael Slate also spoke about Arizona; clips were shown from Raymond Lotta's speech, "The Gulf Oil Spill: A Capitalist Oil Spill, A System Not Fit to Be Caretaker of the Planet, and the Need for Revolution." There were also dramatic readings of letters by prisoners who read Revolution newspaper.
The hosts called on people to write or call in their comments and questions. People spoke to how this brought alive the importance of what the RCP is doing and the growing sense of a vibrant national movement for revolution. People grasped that a small donation can be part of accomplishing something larger. A $20 donor said, "I feel exhilarated that I can make a small contribution to bring down this imperialist system and bring Bob Avakian's name to the forefront." Longtime supporters made comments like, "I'm loving this webcast... I had made up my mind to donate the minute I heard about this fundraiser because I have admired the activists of the RCP for many years... But watching this webcast unfold, I'm realizing just how crucial [is] the work this Party is doing."
A significant grouping of people who have been following the Party, and who knew about the campaign, expressed a renewed and deepened appreciation for the work of the RCP and what this party is doing to put revolution on the map. This was reflected in some of the more substantial donations.
This webcast also reached a newer and diverse audience: the parent of a victim of a police murder, immigrants from El Salvador and Mexico, students, a young Black man in the projects, attorneys, Internet activists, an oil refinery worker from Texas, a bilingual teacher, and others. A professor said he'd give $100 if four students from his state gave—and this challenge was met. Near the end of the webcast a donor said he'd give $250 if three others would give $250 to make up $1000. Five people responded with $250 donations each.
The phone banking was extremely important. It was an opportunity to reconnect with some people and to connect for the first time with many who had signed up to be contacted. The webcast viewings scheduled at open houses and Revolution Books across the country also opened the door for more people to join in and donate.
By the end of the web-a-thon, funds had been raised to implement big plans immediately. In addition to the billboard promoting the Revolution talk, it was possible to send a crew of revolutionaries, including Revolution correspondents to Detroit before and during the U.S. Social Forum, and to the Gulf to organize an Emergency Summit there. The pledges that have yet to come in are still needed to make all this possible.
We have bold plans ahead this summer—and nationwide plans for further fundraising to support them. Stay tuned for future webcasts and other major efforts. Send your ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Revolution #206, July 4, 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.
If you hate everything that July 4th is celebrating, if you dream of a world without America—without everything America stands for and everything it does around the world—then you'll want to be at one of the Revolutionary Anti-July 4th picnics taking place around the country.
This will be a day to come together, with friends old and new, for good food, conversation, music—and to raise funds for the campaign, "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have."
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
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
Monday, July 5 (note day)
at Belle Isle.
Time and place TBA
Revolutionary Anti-July 4th Potluck
Sunday July 4th 2-4pm
Basin Hall St Jude's Church
410 Basin St.
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 #206, July 4, 2010
From Revolution Books, Berkeley
The killing of Oscar Grant, an unarmed 22-year-old Black man, was a cold-blooded murder. It was a towering crime. This verdict is a slap on the wrist. It is another crime of the system.
Under the law, 2nd degree murder is the unjustified, intentional killing of a human being. Involuntary manslaughter is a much lesser offense, and carries a much lighter sentence. We saw the videos. From the beginning, the cops were the ones driving the action. Detained, lying face down, putting his hands behind his back while one cop kneeled on his neck, Oscar was shot in the back. Cold-blooded murder, a totally unjustified and brutal act.
Think about it: If this case did not involve police, the situation would be completely different.
Imagine if seven ordinary people had swarmed the BART platform that night, rousted people off the train—cursing them with racist epithets—kicking, and shoving people to the ground, and then killing a man who was lying face down—shooting him in the back. Imagine if dozens of people had seen it. If they videotaped it. What had happened wouldn't even be a question. It would be obvious. Murder.
This involuntary manslaughter verdict tells cops everywhere they can kill and get away with it. And this verdict tells the people that when we or people we love are gunned down, a slap on the wrist to a cop is the best that we can get.
Let's tell the truth—this system lets cops get away with brutality and murder every single day. The only reason that Mehserle even had to face murder charges at all—and everyone should know this almost never happens—is because the people rose up and fought for justice. And now the defenders of this system are saying that the battle for justice hurt the people. Bullshit. It's the system the cops enforce with their brutality that hurts the people.
But it doesn't have to be this way. We don't have to live in a society where our youth are gunned down by the police who get away with it over and over, where immigrants are criminalized by just the way they look, where oil gushes into the gulf and marshes week after week killing rich sea life and a whole way of life for many thousands. We could build a society where police brutality and other injustices are done away with and people work together to build a new society. Building that kind of society would take a revolution. We need such a revolution and right now we are building a movement for revolution.
The system is rotten. We don't have to live this way. We need a Real Revolution!
REVOLUTION BOOKS, Berkeley
2425 Channing Way, Berkeley, CA 94704
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Revolution #206, July 4, 2010
Revolutionary greetings to all those at the anti-4th of July picnics from the Arizona Freedom Summer. We are with you today and we are having our own gathering in Phoenix.
A carload of five youth are stopped by the Phoenix police for a broken headlight and when they protest that there is nothing wrong with the headlight, the cops smash it in. None of the young men had papers and all were taken in, some are still being held and others have already been deported. We have been told that routine traffic stops end up with people being deported, and this goes on every day. People hesitate before leaving home for work, knowing that a stop by the police, at any moment and for whatever reason—like your car being parked wrong—could mean you won't make it back home, and then what will happen to your children?
All of this is occurring before SB 1070, the Arizona law that targets immigrants with no papers and in essence legalizes racial profiling, goes into effect on July 29. Throughout Arizona, racial profiling of immigrants, mass arrests, deportation, and deaths at the border—all this is happening right now!
The situation on the ground in Arizona is one of terror for the masses of immigrants. It comes at them from all angles, from Governor Brewer with the Arizona State government, from law enforcement like Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County and the Border Patrol, and from the extreme forces of reaction like the Minutemen and Nazis. People are feeling stifled, and many of those who don't think that they can do anything to stop this are leaving the state. At the same time, there are people standing up and finding the ways to go up against all this.
In the midst of this extreme polarization, the revolutionary communists have brought the Arizona Freedom Summer to the neighborhoods where immigrants live, to the Warped Tour in Phoenix, to an anti-SB 1070 demonstration in Tucson, to a swapmeet and the Art Walk in Phoenix. We have begun to bust through the negative polarization with our slogans:
We are all illegals! We don't gotta show no stinkin' papers!
We don't have an immigration problem, we have a capitalism problem!
No more troops! Demilitarize the border!
We have connected with people who are looking for leadership and a way to transform this current situation. Our slogans and the Message and Call from the RCP—The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have—have had a magnetizing effect on people in taking on this attack and in them beginning to grasp the need to repolarize for revolution.
We have started uniting with people who hate this law to oppose it and to change the current dynamic where every day people are being told to view immigrants as a problem. We have brought forward the truth that it is this system of capitalism-imperialism that is the problem we need to deal with. It is this system that compels people to come here, seeking a way to survive, and then forces them to live under conditions of terror and with no rights. And it is this system that promotes ugly racism and American chauvinism through their media and their laws.
At the Warped Tour this past week, thousands of young people from all over Arizona found out that there is a movement for revolution in this country, and right now in this state. They heard the revolutionaries denouncing the Nazi-like racism bubbling up in Arizona and found a group of people that refuses to back down and accept it. This had an electric effect and our booth was busy all day with people signing up to get involved. Native Americans from all over Arizona took stacks of the Message and Call to take back to the reservations. A young Latina woman faced off against another youth in front of our banner. She told him about how Jews in Germany were forced to wear special badges so they could be targeted and took a bunch of "We are all illegals!" posters to put up.
With SB 1070 and the intense anti-immigrant fervor that exists here, Arizona has become a concentration and "ground zero" in the struggle to oppose the reactionary targeting of immigrants that is being whipped up all over the country. What happens here, now, will have reverberations nationally and beyond—positive or negative.
Right now, we are a small group, and we have begun to make a difference. We and the people we have met have seen the potential of what can be changed and have taken up that challenge. But there is much more that needs to be done to step up the opposition to SB 1070 and the whole reactionary offensive, and to change the polarization as part of the movement for revolution.
Join us in any way you can. We cannot overstate the importance of people coming here to be a part of the Arizona Freedom Summer. Every single person who comes here to join us will make a difference.
We need people and we need funds to support the people who will be coming here. Spread the word!
Sign up today to join the Arizona Freedom Summer. If you can't come earlier, come on July 29, when many people need to be here to stand with the people in Arizona and send a message that these kinds of laws will not be accepted.
"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."
For more information go to our Facebook page at Arizona Freedom Summer. Donate* funds today (checks can be made out to RCP Publications earmarked for Arizona Freedom Summer).
*Contributions or gifts to RCP Publications are not deductible as charitable contributions for federal income tax purposes.
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Revolution #206, July 4, 2010
From A World To Win News Service
28 June 2010. A World to Win News Service. The American international policy professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, who are critical of U.S. support for Israeli settlement expansion and its attacks on Lebanon and Gaza, argue that "the unmatched power of the Israel lobby" distorts U.S. foreign policy. Many people outraged by these crimes have been influenced by their still widely circulated article "The Israel Lobby" that first appeared in The London Review of Books in 2006 (available at lrb.co.uk) and was later expanded into a book published in 21 countries.
Their work contains much useful information about the links between the U.S. and Israel. Yet their basic theory turns reality upside down. The truth is that Israel exists largely thanks to the U.S., because it plays an essential role in American domination in the Middle East and its current quest to "stabilize" an unjust and unacceptable situation for the people. In arguing that "American interests" would be better served by less uncritical support for Israel, Mearsheimer and Walt do not really confront the nature of the U.S.—a monopoly capitalist country whose wealth and power are inextricably linked to a global empire of exploitation and oppression. Nor do they thoroughly deal with the nature of Israel as a colonial settler state whose existence itself is no more defensible than the apartheid regime in South Africa.
This greatly weakens their critique of the U.S.-Israel nexus and reduces it to wishful thinking. That's especially dangerous at a time when the U.S. is trying to have it both ways, to do everything possible to support Israel's continued existence and aggression and at the same time try to appear as a friend to the Palestinians.
Despite their academic prominence, these two scholars have been the object of a Zionist hate campaign and an intellectual boycott, especially in the U.S. It is shameful that so many writers and public figures who explode in the face of any criticism of Israel have tried to silence Mearsheimer and Walt by pinning the label of anti-Semitism on them. But while these two consider themselves critical friends of Israel, it is true, as their attackers realize and they do not, that once you start to analyze Israel from the point of justice for all, the whole Zionist enterprise can be called into question.
In fact, their argument is essentially similar to the all-too-common idea among the masses of people in the world and the U.S. itself, that U.S. crimes in the greater Middle East and beyond can be explained by "Jewish pressure groups" rather than a system that basically can't work any other way.
The following reply to Mearsheimer and Walt was written in April by Stephen Maher, who describes himself as a graduate student at the American University School of International Service who has lived in the West Bank. We are reprinting it from his blog rationalmanifesto.blogspot.com and electronicintifada.org. While we do not share some important elements of his analysis, we welcome both his basic conclusion and his method of taking all the facts into account and testing ideas against reality.
Many of Israel's critics blame an "Israel lobby" for the near-total complicity of the U.S. in Israeli annexation, colonization and cleansing programs in the occupied West Bank. This complicity continues to the present, despite the "row" that erupted after the Israeli government humiliated U.S. Vice President Joe Biden by announcing the construction of 1,600 settlement units in occupied East Jerusalem while he was visiting the country. Indeed, despite the apparent outrage expressed by top White House officials, the administration has made clear that its criticism of Israel will remain purely symbolic. However, as we shall see, the lobby thesis does little to explain U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.
Years after Noam Chomsky, Stephen Zunes, Walter Russell Mead and many others published their critiques of the Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer "Israel lobby" thesis, many of the sharpest critics of Israel continue to attribute U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East to the influence of the lobby. Given the prevalence of the Israel lobby argument, and the latest diplomatic confrontation between the U.S. and Israel, it is important to revisit the flaws in the thesis, and properly attribute U.S. behavior to the large concentrations of domestic political and economic power that truly drive U.S. policy.
U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East is similar to that which is carried out elsewhere in the world, in regions free of "the lobby's" proclaimed corrupting effects. The inflated level of support that the U.S. lends Israel is a rational response to the particular strategic importance of the Middle East, the chief energy-producing region of the world. By building Israel into what Noam Chomsky refers to as an "offshore U.S. military base," it is able to protect its dominance over much of the world's remaining energy resources, a major lever of global power. As we shall see, those blaming the lobby for U.S. policy once again misunderstand the U.S.'s strategic interests in the Middle East, and Israel's central role in advancing them.
A central claim of the "Israel lobby" thesis is that the "lobby," however defined, overwhelmingly shapes U.S. policy towards the Middle East. Thus, if the argument were true, its proponents would have to demonstrate that there is something qualitatively unique about U.S. policy towards the Middle East compared with that in other regions of the world. Yet upon careful analysis, we find little difference between the purported distortions caused by the lobby and what is frequently referred to as the "national interest", governed by the same concentrations of domestic power that drive U.S. foreign policy elsewhere.
There are states all around the world that perform similar services to Washington as Israel, projecting U.S. power in their respective regions, whose crimes in advancing Washington's goals are overtly supported and shielded from international condemnation. Take for instance the 30 years of U.S. support for the horrors of the Indonesian invasion and occupation of East Timor. In addition to the use of rape and starvation as weapons, and a gruesome torture regime, Indonesian president Suharto slaughtered 150,000 persons out of a population of 650,000. These atrocities were fully supported by the U.S., including supplying the napalm and chemical weapons indiscriminately used by the Indonesian army, which was fully armed and trained by the U.S. As Bill Clinton said, Suharto was "our kind of guy."
Daniel Patrick Moynihan, U.S. ambassador to the UN at the time of the Indonesia invasion, later wrote that "the Department of State desired that the United Nations prove utterly ineffective in whatever measures it undertook" to end the butchering of the East Timorese, a goal he carried out with "no inconsiderable success." Yet this support was not due to the influence of an "Indonesia lobby." Rather, planners had identified Indonesia as one of the three most strategically important regions in the world in 1958, as a result of its oil wealth and important role as a link between the Indian and Pacific oceans.
In some regions, as in Latin America where U.S. clients like Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, and terrorist armies like the Nicaraguan Contras, spent years murdering defenseless peasants demanding basic human rights, the threat is mostly one of "successful defiance"; that is, a country defying U.S. orders and getting away with it. Should the U.S. tolerate one such case, the logic goes, it will embolden resistance to its dictates elsewhere. The danger underlying such defiance—referred to as "the threat of a good example" by Oxfam—is that a country will implement a successful model for independent development, refusing U.S. dictates and seeking to direct much-needed resources to serve the needs of the domestic population instead of wealthy foreign investors.
Such thinking is deeply institutionalized and exhibited by U.S. policy worldwide, going back to the very beginnings of the modern imperial era after World War II. It was clear from early in the war that the U.S. would emerge as the dominant world power in its aftermath, and so the State Department and Council on Foreign Relations began planning to create a post-war international order in which the U.S. would "hold unquestioned power." One way it planned to do so was gaining control of global energy resources, primarily those of Saudi Arabia, which were referred to at the time as "the greatest material prize in history" by the U.S. State Department.
As Franklin Roosevelt's "oil czar" Harold Ickes advised, control of oil was the "key to postwar political arrangements" since a large supply of cheap energy is essential to fuel the world's industrial capitalist economies. This meant that with control of Middle Eastern oil, particularly the vast Saudi reserves, the U.S. could keep its hand on the spigot that would fuel the economies of Europe, Japan and much of the rest of the world. As U.S. planner George Kennan put it, this would give the United States "veto power" over the actions of others. Zbigniew Brzezinski has also more recently discussed the "critical leverage" the U.S. enjoys as a result of its stranglehold on energy supplies.
Thus in the Middle East it is not simply "successful defiance" that the U.S. fears, nor merely independent development. These worries are present as well, but there is an added dimension: should opposition threaten U.S. control of oil resources, a major source of U.S. global power is placed at risk. Under the Nixon administration, with the U.S. military tied down in Vietnam and direct intervention in the Middle East to defend vital strategic interests unlikely, military aid to pre-revolution Iran (acting as an American regional enforcer) skyrocketed. Amnesty International's conclusion in 1976 that "no country has a worse human rights record than Iran" was ignored, and U.S. support increased, not because of an "Iran lobby" in the U.S., but rather because such support was advancing U.S. interests.
Strategic concerns also led the U.S. to support other oppressive, reactionary regimes, including Saddam Hussein's worst atrocities. During the Anfal genocide against the Kurds, Iraqi forces used chemical weapons provided by the U.S. against Kurdish civilians, killed perhaps 100,000 persons, and destroyed roughly 80 percent of the villages in Iraqi Kurdistan, while the U.S. moved to block international condemnation of these atrocities. Again, supporting crimes that serve the "national interest" set by large corporations and ruling elites, and shielding them from international criticism, is the rule, not the exception.
It is no coincidence that the U.S.-Israel relationship crystallized after Israel destroyed the independent nationalist regime of Gamal Abdel Nasser in a pre-emptive attack in 1967, permanently ending the role of Egypt as a center of opposition to U.S. imperialism. Since before World War II, Saudi Arabia had happily served as an "Arab facade," veiling the hand of the true ruling power on the Arabian peninsula, to borrow British colonial terminology. With Nasser's Arab nationalist rhetoric "turning the whole region against the House of Saud," the threat he posed to U.S. power was serious. In response, the State Department concluded that the "logical corollary" to U.S. opposition to Arab nationalism was "support for Israel" as the only reliable pro-U.S. force in the region. Israel's destruction and humiliation of Nasser's regime was thus a major boon for the U.S., and proved to Washington the value of a strong alliance with a powerful Israel.
This unique regional importance is one reason for the tremendous level of aid Israel receives, including more advanced weaponry than that provided to other U.S. clients. Providing Israel with the ability to use overwhelming force against any adversary to the established order has been a pivotal aspect of U.S. regional strategy. Importantly, Israel is also a reliable ally—there is little chance that the Israeli government will be overthrown and the weapons end up in the hands of anti-Western Islamic fundamentalists or independent nationalists as happened in Iran in 1979.
Today, with the increased independence of Europe, and the hungry economies of India and China growing at breakneck speed along with their demand for dwindling energy resources, control over what is left is more crucial than ever. In the September 2009 issue of the Asia-Africa Review, China's former Special Envoy to the Middle East Sun Bigan wrote that "the U.S. has always sought to control the faucet of global oil supplies," and suggested that since Washington would doubtless work to ensure that Iraqi oil remained under its control, China should look elsewhere in the region for an independent energy source. "Iran has bountiful energy resources," Bigan wrote, "and its oil gas reserves are the second biggest in the world, and all are basically under its own control" (emphasis added).
It is partially as a result of this independence that Israel's strategic importance to the U.S. has increased significantly in recent times, particularly since the Shah's cruel, U.S.-supported dictatorship in Iran was overthrown in 1979. With the Shah gone, Israel alone had to terrorize the region into complying with U.S. orders, and ensure that Saudi Arabia's vast oil resources remain under U.S. control. The increased importance of Israel to U.S. policy was illustrated clearly as its regional strategy shifted to "dual containment" during the Clinton years, with Israel countering both Iraq and Iran.
With Iran developing technology that could eventually allow it to produce what are referred to in the February 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review as "anti-access weapons" or weapons of mass destruction that prevent the U.S. from being able to freely use force in any region of the world, this is a crucial moment in Washington's struggle to seize control of Iran. This confrontation, stemming from the desire of the U.S. to control its oil and destroy a base of independent nationalism, makes U.S. support for Israel strategically crucial.
If we adopt "the lobby" hypothesis, we would predict that the U.S. would bend to Israel's will when the interests of the two states diverge, acting against its "national interest." Yet if U.S. policies in the Middle East were damaging its "national interest," as proponents of the lobby argument claim, that must mean that such policies have been a failure. This leads one to ask: a failure for whom? Not for U.S. elites, who have secured control of the major global energy resources while successfully crushing opposition movements, nor for the defense establishment, and most certainly not for the energy corporations. In fact, not only is U.S. policy towards the Middle East similar to that towards other regions of the world, but it has been a profitable, strategic success.
Indeed, the U.S.'s policy towards Israel and the Palestinians is not to achieve an end to the occupation, nor to bring about respect for Palestinian rights—in fact, it is the actor primarily responsible for preventing these outcomes. To the U.S., Israel's "Operation Defensive Shield" in 2002 had sufficiently punished the Palestinians and their compliant U.S.-backed leadership for their intransigence at Camp David. While the Palestinian Authority was already acting as Israel's "subcontractor" and "collaborator" in suppressing resistance to Israeli occupation, in the paraphrased words of former Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben Ami, former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's deliberate destruction of Palestinian institutions provided the opportunity to rebuild them, and ensure an even greater degree of U.S. control.
The settlement and annexation programs help guarantee Israeli control over the most valuable Palestinian land and water resources, ensuring Israel will remain a dominant society not easily pressured by its neighbors. To help achieve these goals, the U.S. shields Israeli expansion behind a "peace process" in hopes that given enough time the Palestinians will concede more and more of what was once theirs. The primary concern is to present the appearance that the U.S. and Israel are ardently crusading for peace, battling against those who oppose this noble objective. Though it is true that people across the region are appalled and outraged by Israeli crimes, such anger is a small consideration next to the strategic gain of maintaining a strong, dependent ally in the heart of the Middle East.
The reconstitution of an even more tightly controlled Palestinian Authority, with General Keith Dayton directly supervising the Palestinian security forces, enabled the U.S. to meet these goals while more effectively suppressing resistance to the occupation. Likewise, redeploying Israeli soldiers outside of Gaza allowed Sharon a free hand to continue the annexation of the West Bank while being heralded internationally as a "great man of peace."
The treatment of Israel by the mainstream U.S. media is also standard for all U.S. allies. Coverage in the corporate press is predictably skewed in favor of official U.S. allies and against official enemies, a well-documented phenomenon. Thus, proponents of the lobby thesis are missing the forest for the trees. What they see as the special treatment of Israel by the mainstream press is actually just the normal functioning of the U.S. media and intellectual establishment, apologizing for and defending crimes of official allies while demonizing official enemies.
Of course, this is not to argue that there are not organizations in the U.S., like the American Jewish Committee, Anti-Defamation League and AIPAC [the lobbying group American Israel Public Affairs Committee] that seek to marginalize dissent from Israeli policy in every forum possible. Rather, I am pointing out that the power of these groups pales in comparison to other, far more powerful, interests and concerns. While the AJC or ADL may mobilize for the firing of a professor critical of Israel, for example, that argument is amplified by the elite-owned and controlled press because doing so serves their interests. Likewise, AIPAC can urge unwavering support for Israel on the part of the U.S. government, but without the assent of other far more powerful interests, like the energy corporations and defense establishment, AIPAC's efforts would amount to little. U.S. policy, like that of other states, is rationally planned to serve the interests of the ruling class.
Israel could not sustain its aggressive, expansionist policies without U.S. military aid and diplomatic support. If the Obama administration wanted to, it could pressure Israel to comply with international law and resolutions, join the international consensus, and enact a two-state solution. While the "Israel lobby" thesis conveniently explains his failure to do so and absolves U.S. policy-makers of responsibility for their ongoing support of Israeli apartheid, violence and annexation, it simply does not stand up under closer scrutiny.
A World to Win News Service is put out by A World to Win magazine (aworldtowin.org), a political and theoretical review inspired by the formation of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, the embryonic center of the world's Marxist-Leninist-Maoist parties and organizations.
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Revolution #206, July 4, 2010
As this system celebrates its criminal empire, make a voice for real revolution heard. Check this clip from Bob Avakian's landmark Revolution talk, "What to the slave is your fourth of July? From the past to the present" at www.youtube.com/watch?v=ljXoAfxTMdg and in Spanish at www.youtube.com/watch?v=JCTE5sLUSMk
On Friday, July 2 be part of a campaign to reach 1000 views of this powerful clip. This is a proper way to mark July 4th and is part of putting revolution, and revolutionary leadership, on the map.
Starting from the great abolitionist and former slave Frederick Douglass's bold and cutting speech, "What to the Slave Is Your Fourth of July?" Avakian lays bare the system that has evolved in the U.S., rooted in slavery, fed by brutal exploitation, and inextricably bound up with white supremacy. "White supremacy is built into the foundation of this country," Avakian says. "It is something that this system, and those who rule it, could not do without, even if they wanted to...which they don't."
On Facebook: Post the clip to your profile and to your friends' pages. Post it as a Note and tag several friends. Post it in various Facebook groups and fan pages for various political causes (anti-racism, immigrant rights, anti-war, etc.). Check www.facebook.com/revolutiontalk for frequent updates.
Twitter: ReTweet the tweets from twitter.com/revolutiontalk throughout the day, write your own reasons for sharing this, and encourage all your friends and followers to do the same.
YouTube: Favorite and like the video clips. Write about it on your friends' walls, and send the link to the clip in messages.
Via email: Email the link to the clip to friends and email lists, and encourage people to forward it to their friends and lists!
Text: Send text messages: "What to the slave is your fourth of July? From the past to the present" youtube.com/revolutiontalk. Watch this clip, FWD this text.
Blogs: If you've got a blog, post it there, and if you have any connections to widely read bloggers, encourage them to post it to their blogs as well.
On Internet discussion sites: Post the link in political discussion forums...and get the discussion going!
Please contact us at email@example.com with any other ideas you have for reaching this goal—1,000 views on Friday, July 2, for www.youtube.com/watch?v=ljXoAfxTMdg and www.youtube.com/watch?v=JCTE5sLUSMk
The REVOLUTION is real. Watch it. Spread it.
—the Revolution Talk web promotion team
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Revolution #206, July 4, 2010
It is this system that has got us in the situation we're in today, and keeps us there. And it is through revolution to get rid of this system that we ourselves can bring a much better system into being. The ultimate goal of this revolution is communism: A world where people work and struggle together for the common good...Where everyone contributes whatever they can to society and gets back what they need to live a life worthy of human beings...Where there are no more divisions among people in which some rule over and oppress others, robbing them not only of the means to a decent life but also of knowledge and a means for really understanding, and acting to change, the world.
This revolution is both necessary and possible.
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Revolution #206, July 4, 2010
In Bob Avakian, the Chairman of our Party, we have the kind of rare and precious leader who does not come along very often. A leader who has given his heart, and all his knowledge, skills and abilities to serving the cause of revolution and the emancipation of humanity. Bob Avakian came alive as a revolutionary in the 1960s—taking part in the great movements of those days, and especially working and struggling closely with the most advanced revolutionary force in the U.S. at that time, the Black Panther Party. Since then, and while many others have given up, Bob Avakian has worked and struggled tirelessly to find the way to go forward, having learned crucial lessons and built lasting organization that could continue the struggle, and aim to take it higher, while uniting with the same struggle throughout the world. He has kept on developing the theory and strategy for making revolution. He played the key role in founding our Party in 1975, and since then he has continued the battle to keep the Party on the revolutionary road, to carry out work with a strong revolutionary orientation. He has deeply studied the experience of revolution—the shortcomings as well as the great achievements—and many different fields of human endeavor, through history and throughout the world—and he has brought the science and method of revolution to a whole new level, so that we can not only fight but really fight to win. Bob Avakian has developed the scientific theory and strategic orientation for how to actually make the kind of revolution we need, and he is leading our Party as an advanced force of this revolution. He is a great champion and a great resource for people here, and indeed people all over the world. The possibility for revolution, right here, and for the advance of the revolution everywhere, is greatly heightened because of Bob Avakian and the leadership he is providing. And it is up to us to get with this leadership...to find out more about Bob Avakian and the Party he heads...to learn from his scientific method and approach to changing the world...to build this revolutionary movement with our Party at the core...to defend this leadership as the precious thing it is...and, at the same time, to bring our own experience and understanding to help strengthen the process of revolution and enable the leadership we have to keep on learning more and leading even better.
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