Voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party,USA
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Revolution #216, November 14, 2010
The 15th National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation was marked by a spirit of defiance in the face of the epidemic of police brutality and murder ravaging this society. NO MORE! In nearly two dozen cities and towns across the U.S., and in Montreal, protesters marched and rallied. Many, many people wore black that day. Families and friends of those who have been murdered by the police came together with youth, oppressed nationalities and others who are routinely denied their basic rights, wantonly and illegally brutalized by the police. High school and college students joined with others who are full of anger and outraged by this treatment. A number of organizations endorsed the National Day, joined the demonstrations and spoke out. Revolutionaries and communists were in the mix, bringing out the reality that we can do away with all the horror people suffer in this society and the world. A whole different world is possible—we have to fight for that world, that future.
Heart-wrenching testimony from families and friends of people murdered by the police like Oscar Grant, Aiyana Stanley-Jones, Manuel Jaminez, and John T. Williams hit people hard. The demonstrations were punctuated by groups of people gathering to bear witness and speak bitterness about how they are treated at the hands of the police. There were many stories like that of a 15- or 16-year-old woman in New York who spoke of being slammed up against a police car for nothing. Handmade signs documenting police abuse stood out in the marches.
And on the 15th National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, there were some significant new shoots of resistance—and a dynamic between students and basic people. (See "A Significant New Thing" and "Correspondence: Mixing It Up at UC Berkeley.")
In the San Francisco Bay Area, activity began October 21 when a group of family members and others from the barrios and ghettos made their way to UC Berkeley. A giant "wall of stolen lives" confronted students with the reality of systemic and systematic police brutality. Students responded by writing heartfelt messages on an October 22 banner. The people from the neighborhoods were inspired by the experience of coming to the campus and having an impact on the students. (See "Correspondence: Mixing It Up at UC Berkeley.) On October 22 itself, there were gatherings at the Fruitvale BART plaza (this is the station where Oscar Grant was murdered by BART cop Johannes Mehserle) and later in East Oakland near where Brownie Polk was murdered by the Oakland police, and where Cephus Johnson (Oscar Grant's uncle) spoke. In East Oakland following the rally, there was a spirited and militant march which electrified the normally quiet neighborhood.
In Los Angeles, about 500 people, mainly youth, marched with family members and activists. Many carried pictures of Oscar Grant, Manuel Jaminez and others killed by police, as they marched from downtown LA through the immigrant neighborhood of Pico Union where people had risen up against the murder of Manuel Jaminez. Several dozen Black students from four University of California campuses—including a contingent from UC Merced who drove 300 miles to be there—came because of the murder of Oscar Grant and what it concentrates about police violence against Black people. A group of high school students from Watts brought a sign pasted with pictures of Oscar Grant, Manuel Jaminez, Aiyana Stanley-Jones and others which said: "Stop Police Brutality, No More Criminalization—Fighting for those who are gone!" At the end of the march, there was a rally where people spoke out about their loved ones killed by the police, and they were joined by members of the Afrikan Black Coalition, the coalition of Black Student Unions and Afrikan Student Unions who had mobilized all the UC students, along with teachers from the Association of Raza Educators and their students, and Michael Slate of Revolution newspaper.
In New York, in the Harlem area, Black and Latino students recorded and wrote their experiences with police abuse in preparation for October 22. When schools let out on October 22, seven of those stories—handwritten on large boards—were displayed prominently in an uptown park. Groups of up to 25 people gathered at the display to speak out about how they had been abused and brutalized by police. Later, seven families whose relatives were killed by police spoke at a rally in Union Square. Following the rally, between 150 and 200 people marched through the area chanting, "We're all Oscar Grant! The whole damn system is guilty!..." and then changing the name to other victims of police murder.
The following day, October 23, demonstrations were held on the West Coast demanding justice for Oscar Grant. The cop who murdered him was sentenced on November 5 in Los Angeles. (See "Token Sentence for Oscar Grant's Killer, Anger in the Streets of Oakland.") San Francisco Bay Area ports were shut down by the ILWU (Longshore and Warehouse Union). In Oakland, 1,000 people—including Oscar's family, union members, students, activists, and basic people—attended the demonstration.
For additional correspondence on October 22 events, go to "Correspondence / Additional Coverage from the National Day of Protest Against Police Brutality, Repression and Criminalization of a Generation, 2010."
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Revolution #216, November 14, 2010
"Let's take the October 22 day of protest to stop police brutality and repression onto the campuses, and let's unite some of the people who face that every day to come with us as we do. Let's remember the response of a student from an elite campus who came to a conference on building the movement for revolution, when he met and talked with some people who live in the projects about their lives—"the people on my campus have NO IDEA about this!" What might be the impact if even a couple of people who DO live this hell every day came to campus with signs saying "Ask me what it's like to live in the hellhole called America"? And what might be the impact of some of the students going on guided tours of the ghettos and barrios, led by these same people?"
-From editorial "Take THIS Revolution to the Campuses" in Revolution #212
On October 21, the day before the October 22nd National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, something new and different came to the UC Berkeley campus. Seven revolutionary-minded proletarians and family members of police murder victims felt inspired to come to Cal, along with a crew of revolutionaries, to help build for O22 and challenge the students to take up this fight.
In preparing, we discussed the fact that students here don't know much about what goes on in places like East Oakland, less than 10 miles away, and we should bring that reality alive for the students and challenge them to come out with us to the protest. And we talked about how October 22 is the first day of "Revolution Week" on campus, a week of radical imagination and important events—about police brutality, the state of Israel, the capitalist oil disaster in the Gulf, and the Message and Call from the RCP about "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have."
We set up the big "wall of stolen lives" at the main entrance to campus with some displays, including the very powerful photo from the Message and Call of the white pigs kneeling on the neck of young Black guy. Almost immediately students started gathering around, all different types of students, and taking our flyers. One of the revolutionaries started agitating on the bullhorn, talking about the epidemic of police brutality, how systematic it is, in every ghetto and barrio around the country, how the pigs are like an occupying army in neighborhoods like East Oakland. He invited the students to come look at the wall with all the names and pictures of lives stolen by law enforcement, to talk to the family members here whose loved ones were killed by police, and definitely to come out to the protest the next day. He talked about the role the police play in making sure the oppressed stay beaten down and maintaining the status quo overall, that this is why they came beating students down for standing up for their right to a decent education. And the U.S. military and Israel play basically the same role on an international level, brutally enforcing imperialism all over the globe. He challenged students to connect the dots, to get at the root of the problem, and to be part of Revolution Week.
Danny García, brother of Mark García (killed by San Francisco PD), also stepped up to the bullhorn. He pointed at the different faces of people on the wall who he knew, and told their stories. A young Central American proletarian from Oakland spoke in Spanish about the need for revolution and for students to be part of it. At one point a couple of non-student Black youth came up and said they were friends with Gary King Jr. (killed by Oakland PD). We had a big picture of Gary King Jr. which they held up for a little while. Two different students, African-American women, came by and signed a big banner against police brutality that we had, saying their friends had been killed by police. One Black student from Atlanta came by and looked at the picture of the pigs kneeling on the dude and said "that could be me."
This was a VERY different scene from activism as usual at Cal, and not something that could be ignored. At a certain point we took the big O22 banner and marched through Sproul Plaza to a busy area in between two academic buildings. At first a crowd gathered to see what was going on. Students were signing the banner, writing very thoughtful comments on police brutality. At a certain point we stopped doing loud agitation so that students would feel more comfortable coming up to sign the banner or talk to the families. The banner signing was a really good way to involve the students and all different types came up to sign. Someone even signed in Chinese.
We had a harder time getting students to come talk to the families. There were a few interactions, including a young Latino student who talked for a while to one of the family members in Spanish. Another family member said that he felt like he could've done better at breaking the ice with the students, just going up to them and introducing himself. A young woman who was part of our crew, the sister of someone killed by police, was getting frustrated with so many students just walking by (even though for us it was a way better than usual response), so we said to her, "why don't you just go up to the students and talk to them." And she did for the rest of the day.
Overall, the families and others who came from East Oakland seemed invigorated by the day. It seems that a big part of what motivated them to come was some sense that UC Berkeley is an important place to go to if you want to change society. And it's true, universities are centers of ideas—of the ruling ideas and potentially of revolutionary ideas—and in that sense they are where you want to be if you want to challenge the dominant discourse and have a societal impact. Additionally, Bob Avakian has emphasized the strategic importance of the "transfer of allegiance" of a section of intellectuals, from the bourgeois order to the new revolutionary order, and the disproportionate impact they could have. And students have had a crucial role in every revolutionary movement. At the same time, as the revolutionary movement develops on the campuses and among the middle class—and also develops among those most oppressed by this system—there is a decisive role that those on the bottom of society who "catch hell every day" and don't have such a fear of upheaval can play in metaphorically "lighting a fire," politically and ideologically, radicalizing the rest of society.
Some of this kind of back-and-forth synergy really got going on October 21. From what we know, no UC Berkeley students came out to the protest the next day. So there is a challenge to both the students and to the proletarians to step across this huge social divide and all the barriers that exist. And there is a challenge to the revolutionaries as well—to give people a sense of how this kind of thing fits into our strategy for revolution and a vision of the kind of society we are fighting for, and to really lead people with the understanding and confidence that everyone (regardless of where you come from) is capable of thinking and acting in terms of the emancipation of all of humanity. Done in that way, everyone involved will be lifted up to a different place. This was a very good first experience and we need a lot more.
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Revolution #216, November 14, 2010
Editor's note: In addition to coverage elsewhere in this week's issue, Revolution received the following letters from activists and participants in O22.
In the days going into October 22 a new wind blew through a park in Harlem and into the cluster of nearby high schools and junior highs, and a college. Black and Latino students as young as 12 years old responded to the call from Revolution newspaper for them to bear witness—to tell their stories about police brutality, abuse, and degradation. Over the course of the week what emerged was a gut-wrenching picture of the commonplace and outrageously oppressive treatment these young people are subjected to by the police.
Stories were transcribed from two or three-minute audio interviews, recorded as students were on their way to school in the morning. Then the stories were printed and distributed in the park. Day two—two stories. Day three—four more stories. Day four—three more. This became a huge social question. Students told us their teachers and fellow students were reading the stories aloud in classes. Discussion was being stirred and more stories were being told. Questions were being asked, among them, "Why do the police do us like this?" and "Can things really be different?"
Everybody was being challenged to wear black and bear witness on O22.
On October 22nd, seven stories from Harlem youths were hand written on large boards and posted at a park. Enlargements of Revolution newspaper centerfolds were put on view: the police murder of 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley Jones and the brutal rape and murder of 14-year-old Abeer Qasim by U.S. soldiers in Iraq; the Stolen Lives Centerfold with the faces and names of others murdered by the police. Passersby joined people who had come for the Speak Out and read the stories with recognition and smoldering rage. Still others read in shock. "Is it really this bad?"
At times the scene in a little plaza at the bottom of a hill buzzed. Revolution reporters, students from near by City College of New York, joined others to record interviews. Three and four interviews were going on at a time as one heartfelt recounting after another came from youth and adults. Young people hovered over a swath of butcher paper spread across a table intently writing. More stories of police cruelty and abuse poured onto the paper. Interest and enthusiasm built around a table with information and organizing materials for the October 29th Carl Dix, Cornel West Dialogue "Police Terror, Incarceration, No Jobs, Mis-Education- What Future for Our Youth" while others talked about the upcoming Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America and the possibility of a different kind of society and future.
At one point 20 or so people gathered into a loose circle that grew ever tighter as one person after another spoke. The People's Neighborhood Patrol, which has patrolled the streets in Harlem over the last year read a proclamation declaring that it would continue to witness, call out, and stand up to any and all illegal actions by the police against the people.
The proclamation began with:
"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."
People were excited by the fact that this declaration is being acted on in this way—with a plan connected to building the movement for revolution. Several people signed up and went out with the next patrol.
Half the people in this circle spoke. Two Black students from CCNY, a young immigrant from Ecuador, a young white woman who had found out about the speak out that day, a high school youth, a Revolution reporter spoke about the police murder of 20 year old DJ Henry at Pace University only a few days earlier, and a person spoke for the Revolutionary Communist Party about the system that produces all this madness and the movement for revolution we're building now as part of the preparation to make revolution and put an end to all this.
By the end of the Speak Out everybody involved felt that something very important had happened. Two Latino high school students who had checked out the event from beginning to end stood in front of the What Future for Our Youth? table pooling their money. "Four, five...." They put together to get one "This System Has No Future for the Youth—But Revolution Does" T-shirt. "This is awesome," one of them said. "I want to join this."
Sixty-five people, mostly youth, came out to protest police brutality, repression, and the criminalization of a generation. As people assembled in downtown Cleveland, black armbands were passed out along with the October 22nd Calls, and "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have" Message were gotten out among the throngs of youth waiting for a bus.
Then parents who lost young Black men spoke about the horror they feel. Alesia Kirkman, who lost her 17 year old son who was unarmed, said, "We have to do something to stop the police from killing our young men and harassing our young daughters. We have to do something."
Tina Bronaugh, mother of two high school students who were viciously beaten and charged for protesting school cuts and layoffs, spoke passionately about that case and called for people to stand up to it. "They were attacked by the police, thrown to ground, they had knees on their backs and necks... Why for a peaceful protest. You tell me why! Because they wanted to stand up for something they believe in. No we won't have this, we won't have this going on against Black kids, givin' them records throwing them in jail for nothin', we won't have this. Black people white people Chinese people stand up! Stand up!"
A supporter of the RCP spoke about how "we need a revolution and a revolutionary movement to get to a whole different world...which will unleash the creativity, energy and thinking of the youth, not pen them in and crush it all...there is a movement for revolution that youth and others can get into right now..."
Then people took off and marched to the "Justice Center," where prisoners waved from the windows hearing loud chanting and then the march went through an entertainment district in which Blacks have been repeatedly profiled and then harassed, and arrested. People along the way got Revolution papers and Message/Calls and asked people about the protest, others honked their horns in support. Along the way, "Killer cops in every town, We won't forget, We won't back down!" was shouted loudly for everyone to hear.
At the end, parents and others spoke about how to end police brutality and murder. There is a determination among the youth and others to build a movement of resistance to stop police brutality, repression and the criminalization of a generation.
In Seattle O22 was built off of widespread outrage at seven murders by police in the state in a two-week period in early September, including the killing of Native American wood-carver artist John T. Williams. In the days leading to O22 posters put up at Seattle Central Community College (SCCC), where the protest was to start, listed stolen lives by police and their stories, told people October 22nd was a national day to take this on and challenged people about where they would be on that day.
People at the rally were visibly affected by moving testimony from the families of Richard Simms, David Young, James Whiteshield and friends of John T. Williams—all recently murdered by police or jail officials. One young man in tears said hearing these stories left him heartbroken, but he was moved to think about what he could contribute to stopping this and to the cause of revolution. One young Black girl held up the printout from revcom.us of Aiyana Stanley Jones, one of the Stolen Lives and said, "She was 7 years old, like me."
A speech from a correspondent for Revolution newspaper put revolution into the air, onto people's lips and helped set a very defiant and resistant mood and provoked debate and controversy over revolution and communism. The Party's Message and Call was very broadly distributed.
A mix of nationalities was brought together—mainly youth but with some older people. There were crews of white proletarians who were friends and family of David Young, students of many different nationalities from SCCC, Native proletarians who were close with John T. Williams, and a crew of young Black girls from a church ministry who carried the O22 lead banner.
The feeling of anger and that people were sick to death of this police murder poured out into the streets—a palpable unleashing of defiance. Youth called out the police all along the way, and challenged others to come into the streets, which dozens did. There was a spirit present among people of refusal to let police murder and brutality stand, and of real uplift. Some 300 people took the streets. One chant was "Killer cops are guilty, guilty, the system is filthy, filthy". At the site of John T. Williams murder hundreds did a die-in blocking intersections and dozens carried the protest into the night into the streets of the Capitol Hill neighborhood. A number of youth commented they had never been on a march that felt like this.
Oct 22nd, Chicago. Noon – and a yellow school bus pulls up just short of the banner stretched across the corner of the Plaza. The banner announces the National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation.
The crowd gathered in the plaza cheers as students pour off the bus, together with some of the teachers and staff from their alternative HS. They are carrying signs created in friendly competition between classes at their school. In a few minutes some will read poetry and statements.
Already in the plaza: people from Chicago's southside ghetto, other high schools, and colleges who had a flyer handed to them or read it on a wall; families of people killed by police; activists around issues of police brutality, war and racial injustice; revolutionaries, communists, anarchist youth and religious activists. People hold stolen lives posters overhead—pictures and descriptions of dozens killed by police in Chicago.
Groups pose for pictures in front of the banner. People want a record of their involvement with this protest. Even as the plaza was being set up for the rally a group of students from Canada coming through had posed for pictures with stolen lives posters.
In the plaza literature is distributed – October 22nd flyers, Revolution newspaper, and the Message and Call from the Revolutionary Communist Party, stickers with the graphic "Danger: Police in Area." A young man and woman stop to tell about their cousin, killed by the police two years ago. They join in with the protest. In the plaza, along the edges, walking past or coming through on the way to lunch people stop to tell those distributing literature their own stories of run-ins with the police.
The day's rally starts with a roll call of stolen lives followed by the recognition of Stolen Lives families in attendance. Students read poetry and a powerful speech on "fighting Police Brutality and transforming the people for revolution" is delivered from a representative of the Chicago branch of the Revolutionary Communist Party.
A student introduces himself as "a young revolutionary" representing his school. He details what people face daily across the U.S. at the hands of the police – physical and verbal abuse, hit with night sticks, tazed, guns stuck in people's faces, homes and vehicles illegally searched. He lays out the need for people to act to do something about it! This student has proudly brought his mother out to hear him speak at the rally.
As the rally ends participants take off in a powerful, enthusiastic march that surges down State Street and back up Michigan avenue—drums pounding and chants echoing through the canyons of the Chicago Loop in the midst of lunch rush hour. Led by a banner with the pictures of 22 people murdered by the Chicago police, the mainly young and predominantly Black march meets strong encouraging (and encouraged) greetings from the basic masses. It meets curiosity, interest and some support from many of the middle class people along the route. The youth make sure that people know what they are in the streets about – holding stolen lives posters against the windows of restaurants and cafés as we march past. There are 75 to 100 people marching, the number rising and falling as people join in off the streets to march for a few blocks before dropping back out.
In the course of building for October 22nd new things came forward. Going into one alternative school you got a sense of anticipation for the day. Teachers in the hall talked about what their classes were doing for the day. On a classroom door – a homemade poster demanding "Stop the Criminalization of a Generation." A teacher told us, "Every day at least one of the students doesn't have their homework done because they spent the night before in custody." She put together a Powerpoint presentation from the October 22nd National Web Site and had used the Revolution newspaper stories on police murders in New Orleans during the Katrina crisis as a topic of class discussion.
At an El stop, where students from this alternative school and four other high schools converge when school lets out, we set up a clothesline with a stolen lives display. Youth hanging out let us know "I'll be there" at the protest on October 22nd.
Across town, a young man who is sometimes active with the revolution encouraged us to build for the day at a high school where his cousin goes – a place where he knows a progressive teacher who reads Revolution newspaper when the cousin takes it to school. We met the younger cousin and her teacher who encouraged her to make black ribbons for students to wear on the day – and we arranged to speak about Oct 22nd in his class.
At another school the contention was sharper. This was a school where a number of friends and relatives of Corey Harris are—Corey was shot in the back by police and killed at the start of school last year. When the school let out there was a full-scale police occupation. More than a half dozen police vehicles – including hulking SUVs and police vans. Clumps of police on the corners. Police cars blocking the streets.
Students welcomed the flyers for October 22nd and gathered around a Stolen Lives display, telling us about the people on it they had known – and not just Corey Harris. The response of the police and one of the school administrators was anything but welcoming. The administrator and the police verbally attacked us, tried to force us to move, and police issued a bunch of traffic tickets.
The week of October 22nd we returned with legal observers from the National Lawyers Guild who had volunteered to come out to the school when they heard what had happened. They were shocked when they saw the scene of police occupation. One of the cops told his sergeant "They're back" and started over to the Stolen Lives display—the sergeant waved him off . The balance was different. A student took the centerfold poster from Revolution newspaper and defiantly paraded around, waving the poster in the face of the police.
October 22nd, evening—a rally is held at Corey Harris Park on Chicago's Southside. About 50 people, mainly friends and family of Corey Harris, come out to protest police brutality and to remember Corey. Corey was shot by police September 11, 2009 just a few blocks from the park we gather in—a park whose backboards and basketball nets knew Corey well.
Family members and friends speak of what the official brutality of the police had cost them. People wrestle with how to respond to, what to do about, how to resist the daily brutality of the police.
October 22, Atlanta: About fifty people wore black and held signs in Woodruff Park, a busy downtown park that serves as a networking area for many of the city's homeless (many of whom are victims of police violence).
The demonstration consisted of many different organizations: FTP Movement, CopWatch, Progressive Student Alliance at Georgia State, the Revolutionary Communist Party, and Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. The event consisted of a speak out which gave voice to many victims of police brutality. Victims of police brutality shared their stories to hundreds of passersby. The demonstration ended in a short march up to the MARTA train station, people cheered as demonstrators chanted "NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE, NO BRUTAL POLICE!"
October 22, 2010: Greensboro shook today to the sounds of beats, chants, outrage, joy, and resistance as the movement to stop police brutality, repression and the criminalization of a generation took to the streets. The planned protests against the new $114 million Guilty County jail and the rally and march at Smith Homes took on an even heavier tone this year, as early on this Friday morning of October 22nd, the day was shattered by the brutal slaying of the unarmed 28 year old Marques Burnett by Greensboro police. Organizers managed to reach the family by this afternoon, and we were once again joined by another shattered family struggling with the horribly common reality of deadly police violence.
A crowd of about 40 demonstrators, including students, families, immigrant rights activists, and the Cakalak Thunder radical drum corps, had gathered in the shadow of the jail that is under construction, and already towering over downtown. A local immigrant rights activist told of how Sheriff BJ Barnes planned to pay for this new high-tech dungeon by taking millions of federal dollars to round up immigrants under the 287g program, known by many activists as "the modern-day Fugitive Slave Act." A revolutionary activist talked about the role of jails, cops, and courts in promoting and upholding a savagely unequal capitalist system.
As we were wrapping up the jail demonstration and preparing to head to Smith Homes public housing, where another demonstration was planned, we were joined by the aunt of Marques Burnett, who saw us as she was driving by. She was embraced by the demonstrators, including a mother whose son was murdered by a Guilford County deputy in 2001. Meanwhile, across the street, a group of about 12 Greensboro cops massed threateningly in the parking lot. Protesters pointed out that we were here peacefully and intended to remain so, that we had not killed anyone—that's the difference between us and them.
When we regrouped at Smith Homes, we were met by another of Marques' aunts, who addressed the group honestly in spite of the overwhelming pain of her loss that very morning. She then added her nephew's name to the Stolen Lives banner as organizers promised that he would not be forgotten. A revolutionary poet then performed an intense piece, and the mother of the young man killed in 2001 led the group in reciting the Stolen Lives pledge. We then began a loud, spirited march through all of Smith Homes, led by Cakalak Thunder and revolutionaries agitating via bullhorn for people to come down and join the march.
The website of the Coalition to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation is: http://www.october22.org/
* * *
A variety of activities took place on October 22nd, and the day was noted by a wide range of news sources. The following links give some sense of the spectrum of those activities and reports.
The Orange County Register reported, "Fifteen activists turned out in front Friday afternoon of the Costa Mesa City Hall to denounce what they call police brutality against immigrant communities. The protest organized by Colectivo Tonantzin, a day laborer advocacy group was held in observance of the National Day of Action Against Police Brutality." (Day laborers hold rally at Costa Mesa City Hall, by Cindy Carcamo. See slideshow)
La Coop Média (The Media Coop) in Montreal reported that "members of various families who have been touched by police violence, both in Montreal and across Canada, gathered to share their stories and to call on Montrealers to join them tomorrow for a vigil in front of the offices of the Montreal Police Brotherhood (the Montreal police officers' union) and on Saturday for a family friendly march through downtown Montreal. The march is being held as part of the North American Day to Stop Police Brutality & Repression." (Vigil and march to mark police violence in Montreal, by Tim McSorley)
The Daily Iowan wrote: "They are commonly deemed 'bad apples' — a handful of bad cops among the good ones, smearing the reputation of other noble officers. But these bad apples do more than just make police forces look bad: They also marginalize minority groups and deal irreparable harm to the community. Because today is the National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, it's time to pay more attention to the way police actions play a role in the stratification of American society." (All-too-pervasive cop brutality, by Shay O'Reilly)
The October 22nd Coalition to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation was mentioned in a generally negative piece on Fox News, "U.N. Human Rights Council Takes Aim at New Target: United States."
The Huffington Post wrote: "Friday, October 22nd marks National Day Against Police Brutality, a day where we raise awareness of police violence, brutality and abuse in this country and call for more humane, fair and effective policing practices. New York has been the stage for particularly horrendous tragedies of police brutality and abuse, including: the shooting of Amadou Diallo with 41 bullets as he pulled out his wallet to identify himself to the police; the assault and sodomizing of Abner Louima, a Haitian immigrant in police custody; the sexual assault of a 35-year-old Latina woman who was forced to perform oral sex on officers after being stopped for a traffic violation; the shooting of Sean Bell after his bachelor's party; and the tasing and subsequent death of Iman Morales, who was suffering from a seizure on a fire escape and died after police were called to help him." (On a Day Against Police Brutality, Let's Talk About Stop-and-Frisk, by Nahal Zamani, Education and Outreach Associate with the Center for Constitutional Rights).
Photos special to Revolution
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Revolution #216, November 14, 2010
From the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA
The New Socialist Republic in North America could only have been brought into being as a result of heroic, self-sacrificing struggle carried out by millions and millions of people who had been forced to live under a system of exploitation and oppression in the former United States of America; who could no longer tolerate the continual outrages and injustices perpetrated by the system of capitalism-imperialism and the structures and institutions of power and repression which enforced all this with violence and brutality as well as lies and deception; who refused to any longer accept that this was the best possible society and world, and were increasingly aware of and inspired by the possibility of a radically different and better society and world; and who therefore rose up, with the leadership of the Revolutionary Communist Party, to defeat, abolish and dismantle the imperialist system in the former USA and its institutions and apparatus of repression and violence. At the same time, this new socialist state could only have resulted from a whole process of revolutionary work and struggle, in the realm of theory as well as practical-political activity, by the Revolutionary Communist Party, acting as the vanguard of the revolutionary process, to enable both the Party itself and growing numbers of broader masses to prepare for and then to seize on the emergence of a revolutionary situation, to defeat and dismantle the forces of the old, oppressive order, and establish the new socialist state. In this whole process, the interaction and mutual reinforcement between the vanguard role of the Revolutionary Communist Party–with its theoretical basis in the science of communism and the further development of this science through the new synthesis brought forward by Bob Avakian–and the growing consciousness and increasingly determined struggle of masses of people, constitute a decisive element in the success of the revolution and the founding of the new, revolutionary socialist state. The Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America continues and gives further expression and initiative, in the conditions of the new society, to the fundamental principles and motive forces that constitute the basis for the establishment of this new socialist state.
In contrast to the way in which the capitalist-imperialist state serves and enforces the interests of a small ruling group of exploiters, the New Socialist Republic in North America, with the continuing leadership of the Revolutionary Communist Party, bases itself on, and proceeds from, the fundamental interests of those most bitterly exploited and oppressed under the old system, and the masses of people broadly, and provides the means for them to play an increasingly widening role in the exercise of political power and the functioning of society in accordance with those interests–in order to carry forward the struggle to transform society, with the goal of uprooting and finally eliminating all oppressive and exploitative relations among human beings and the destructive antagonistic conflicts to which these relations give rise.
This is a process and goal which, fundamentally and in the final analysis, can only be achieved on a global scale, with the advance to communism throughout the world. The orientation and principles of this state, as embodied in this Constitution, are internationalist: While giving due emphasis to meeting the material, intellectual and cultural needs of the people within this state, on a continually expanding basis, and to promoting the further transformation of this society to continue uprooting social inequalities and remaining aspects of exploitation and oppression, the socialist state must give fundamental priority to the advance of the revolutionary struggle, and the final goal of communism, throughout the world, and must adopt and carry out policies and actions which are in accordance with and give concrete effect to this internationalist orientation.
Regardless of differences, even very great and qualitative differences, in their political structures, institutions and guiding principles, all states have a definite social content and class character: they are an expression of the prevailing social relations, and most fundamentally the economic relations (relations of production), which have a decisive and ultimately determining role in regard to how the particular society functions and is organized. The state serves to protect and expand those relations and to enforce the interests of the social group–the ruling class–which holds the dominant position in society, as a result of its role in the economy, and in particular its ownership and control of the major means of production (including land, raw materials and other resources, technology and physical structures such as factories, and so on). In capitalist society, it is the capitalist class which holds this dominant position: the government structures and processes–and above all the organs of the state as an instrument of class rule and suppression (the armed forces, police, courts and prisons, the executive power, and the bureaucracies)–are controlled by this capitalist class as a means of exercising its rule over society and its repression of forces whose interests are in significant opposition to, and/or which resist, its rule. In short, all states are an instrument of dictatorship–of a monopoly of political power, concentrated as a monopoly of "legitimate" armed force and violence–exercised by, and in the interests of, one class or another. Any democracy which is practiced in this situation is democracy on the terms of, and fundamentally serving the interests of, the ruling class and its exercise of dictatorship. And it will remain the case that there will be a state, and that the state will constitute a dictatorship of one kind or another, serving the interests of one ruling class or another, so long as society is divided into classes (and other groups) with interests that are fundamentally antagonistic–a division rooted in the underlying social relations, and above all the production relations, which predominate in the given society.
The New Socialist Republic in North America is, like all states, a form of dictatorship–the dictatorship of the proletariat–which means that, in its essential character and its basic principles, structures, institutions and political processes, it must give expression to and serve the fundamental interests of the proletariat, a class whose exploitation is the engine of the accumulation of capitalist wealth and the functioning of capitalist society and whose emancipation from its exploited condition can only be brought about through the communist revolution, with its goal of abolishing all relations of exploitation and oppression and achieving the emancipation of humanity as a whole. In accordance with this, the governing bodies and processes of this socialist state, at all levels, must be vehicles for the furtherance of the communist revolution; and, as a key dimension of this, they must provide the means for those who were exploited and oppressed in the old society–and were effectively locked out of the exercise of political power and the governance of society, as well as the spheres of intellectual endeavor and working with ideas overall–to increasingly take part in these spheres, with the aim of continually transforming society in the direction of communism. All this is given expression through the principles and provisions, and the institutions, structures and processes which are set forth and provided for in this Constitution.
At the same time, the New Socialist Republic in North America is a continuation of the strategic orientation of United Front under the Leadership of the Proletariat, in the conditions of the new society which has been brought into being through the revolutionary struggle. This means that, while it must be recognized that the essential nature, and the basic principles and processes, of this Republic are oriented in accordance with the interests of the proletariat, as a class, in the most fundamental and largest sense–abolishing all relations of exploitation and oppression through the advance to communism throughout the world–the struggle to achieve this goal cannot be, and will not be, carried out simply by PROLETARIANS, as some idealized "perfect embodiment of communist principles," and in some uniform and linear sense. As the new synthesis brought forward by Bob Avakian has given emphasis to, the process of making revolution, and then continuing the revolution in the new socialist state toward the final goal of communism, must involve the active participation of broad ranks of the people, of different strata, and will proceed through many different "channels," involving many diverse forces among the people in many different spheres of human endeavor, not only those more directly political or relating more directly, at any given time, to the functioning and objectives of the leadership of the revolution and the new socialist state; and the orientation and aim, consciously taken up by growing numbers of the people, must be to work so as to enable all this to contribute, in the final analysis, to the struggle to further transform society in the direction of communism.
In keeping with this orientation and these objectives, the principle of "solid core, with a lot of elasticity" must be applied. This means that, on the one hand, there must be a continually expanding force in society, with the revolutionary communist party as its leading element, which is firmly convinced of the need to advance to communism and deeply committed to carrying forward this struggle, through all the difficulties and obstacles; and, on the basis of and at the same time as continually strengthening this "solid core," there must be provision and scope for a wide diversity of thinking and activity, among people throughout society, "going off in many different directions," grappling and experimenting with many diverse ideas and programs and fields of endeavor–and once again all this must be "embraced" by the vanguard party and the "solid core" in an overall sense and enabled to contribute, through many divergent paths, to the advance along a broad road toward the goal of communism. This orientation and approach is embodied in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America.
The New Socialist Republic in North America is a multi-national and multi-lingual state, which is based on the principle of equality between different nationalities and cultures and has as one of its essential objectives fully overcoming national oppression and inequality, which was such a fundamental part of the imperialist USA throughout its history. Only on the basis of these principles and objectives can divisions among humanity by country and nation be finally overcome and surpassed and a world community of freely associating human beings be brought into being. This orientation is also embodied in the various institutions of the state and in the functioning of the government in the New Socialist Republic in North America.
The oppression of women arose together with the emergence of exploitative class divisions among human beings thousands of years ago, has been carried forward and become deeply entrenched in all societies ruled by exploiting classes, and was a marked feature of the imperialist United States of America and its domination and influence in the world. Abolishing and uprooting all this is one of the most important objectives of the New Socialist Republic in North America. This is expressed not only in full legal equality between women and men, but beyond that in the declared orientation and policy of this Republic to overcome all "tradition's chains" embodied in traditional gender roles and divisions, and all the oppressive relations bound up with this, in every sphere of society, and to enable women, as fully as men, to take part in and contribute to every aspect of the struggle to transform society, and the world, in order to uproot and abolish all relations of oppression and exploitation and emancipate humanity as a whole.
In an overall sense, and in accordance with the principles and provisions of this Constitution, the Revolutionary Communist Party provides leadership to the state and its key institutions. Members of the Party, at all levels, dedicate themselves to upholding, propagating and implementing the Constitution of the Party as well as the Constitution of the New Socialist Republic in North America. While there are differences between these two Constitutions–as aspects of the viewpoint, objectives and responsibilities of Party members, embodied in the Party Constitution, extend beyond what is set forth in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic–there is a fundamental unity between the principles of the two Constitutions; the Party, and all its members, are accountable to and may not act in violation of, and on the contrary must consistently act on the basis of and in accordance with, the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America.
As historical experience has demonstrated, socialist society will–for a considerable period of time–contain, and in fact regenerate, elements of exploitation, social inequality and oppression, which have been, unavoidably, inherited from the old society and cannot be uprooted and abolished all at once, or soon after the establishment of the socialist state. Further, there is likely to be a protracted period in which new socialist states come into existence in a situation where they are, to one degree or another, encircled by imperialist and reactionary states, which will continue to exert significant influence and force, and may even occupy a dominant position in the world for some time. These factors will, for a long time, repeatedly give rise to forces within socialist society itself, as well as within the parts of the world still dominated by imperialism and reaction, which will attempt to overthrow any socialist states that exist and restore capitalism there. And historical experience has also demonstrated that, as a result of these contradictions, forces will emerge within the vanguard party itself, including at its top levels, which will fight for lines and policies that will actually lead to the undermining of socialism and the restoration of capitalism. All this underscores the importance of continuing the revolution within socialist society, and of doing so in the overall framework of the revolutionary struggle throughout the world and with the internationalist orientation of giving fundamental priority to the advance of this worldwide struggle toward the achievement of communism, which is only possible on a world scale–and the importance of struggle within the party itself, as well as in society as a whole, to maintain and strengthen the revolutionary character and role of the party, in keeping with its responsibilities to act as the leadership of the continuing revolution toward the final goal of communism, and to defeat attempts to transform the party into its opposite, into a vehicle for the restoration of the old, exploitative and oppressive society.
With the final abolition of class divisions and all other exploitative and oppressive relations among people, throughout the world, there will still remain a need for government, in the sense of providing an organized framework for decision-making and the administration of the common affairs of the human beings who make up society, on its various levels, and for the pursuit by individuals and groups within society of their particular inclinations, preferences and concerns within the overall cooperative functioning and ethos of society. But the need and the basis for a state–as an organ of class rule and of suppression of classes and groups antagonistically opposed to the ruling class–will have been eliminated, and the state will have been abolished. In these conditions, the basis and need for an organized group of people exercising a disproportionate influence in the sphere of government, and in society overall, will also have been surpassed, and vanguard parties, with a special role in the governance of society, will have been eliminated. Advancing to such a communist society, bringing into being the conditions that make that possible and achievable–through continuing revolutionary struggle to transform all spheres of society, within a particular socialist state and in the world as a whole–is the fundamental aim of the socialist state and of the vanguard party which plays a leading role within that state. While recognizing the complex and protracted nature of the struggle to overcome the relations and divisions which make a state and a vanguard necessary, the socialist state and its leading party must, at every stage in this process, not only propagate this goal but promote and give effect to concrete measures which lead in this direction.
The preceding constitutes the basis and foundation for the Articles that follow in this Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America.
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Revolution #216, November 14, 2010
There is great potential for the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) to impact and inspire a very wide range of people, including those who burn with the desire for a better world, but who will have differences or questions about aspects of this Constitution, or even the basic thrust of it. Getting this way out into the world should, and will, spark all-round debate and ferment over how we live today, and how we could live tomorrow.
In the world today, the importance of this must not be underestimated.
The articles in Revolution (especially issues #214, October 24, 2010; and #215, October 31, 2010) provide important and basic guidance for taking out the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal).
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Revolution #216, November 14, 2010
On Wednesday, November 10, join in release celebrations across the country. Celebrate the release of this historic document out into the world, pick up your copy, contribute to big promotional plans, and feed in your ideas and questions. See the following for the times and locations in various cities. For Revolution Books addresses and contact info, consult the bookstore page.
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Revolution #216, November 14, 2010
from Chapter Seven: "...Are Beyond Your Command"
Huey and Bobby formed the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense in 1966, and shortly after that Eldridge joined up with them. I've written about this elsewhere, but it may be hard today to realize just how radical and, yes, shocking the Panthers were when they came onto the scene. Here you had Black youth, dressed in uniforms of black leather jackets and berets; carrying guns not to use in "gang warfare" but to defend the masses against police violence; and attempting to apply Mao's Red Book1 to making revolution in America. This took everything to a whole other level. There was nothing remotely like this on the scene in terms of the specter it raised and the impact it had, and I'll get more into this in the next chapter. But here I want to speak to the impact that my relations with the Panthers had on my relations with my family.
A little while after the Black Panther Party formed, I began working with and supporting them, and even writing articles for their paper. And with that, I really crossed a line with both my family and Liz's family — and Liz herself. I remember there was something almost like a "summit meeting" where both sets of parents came over to our apartment and basically read me the riot act for what was I doing.
Liz's father, who was the most political, actually tried to engage me on an ideological level, criticizing the Black Panther Party for speaking in the name of the "lumpen proletariat" as if that were the most revolutionary force. The Panthers were really talking about sections of Black people who were largely proletarians, in and out of jobs, especially a lot of youth — while the "lumpen proletariat" actually refers more to people whose whole life is centered around crime. Now there aren't hard and fast divisions there, especially when you're talking about an oppressed people, but really the people the Panthers were rallying were a lot of proletarian youth by and large. Some of them had been in jail, because that was the situation for huge numbers of Black people, especially youth, at that time (and it is even more the case now). And they were constantly harassed by the police. But a lot of them were also in and out of jobs and actually had a more proletarian position.
Anyway, Liz's father was arguing with me: "The lumpen proletariat is not a revolutionary force. You're making a big mistake here." He tried to argue with me ideologically and politically as to why the Panthers were wrong and why I was wrong to be uniting and working closely with them. It ran the whole gamut, though. All of the parents were arguing that I was wrecking everybody's future — my future, Liz's future, everybody's future was being dragged down by what I was doing. So this was very intense and emotional.
My relationship with Liz was going through changes as well. As I said, when we first met Liz was more politically experienced, more politically advanced, more politically active than I was, and she had a very positive influence on me in that kind of way. But at a certain point — and I'll try to get into some of the complexity of it — she began to pull back from more radical positions, and especially to pull back from political activism. Now, part of the basis for that was that the women's movement was beginning to develop, feminist ideas were beginning to be brought forward more forcefully within the movement and also more broadly in society, even though this was the beginning stages of that, the mid to late 1960s. She was beginning to examine her own life and her own role in things, and she also had criticisms of our relationship because there were aspects of it that were more traditional, even though we shared a lot of intellectual interests and political beliefs. She was upset, for example, that when I dropped out of school, she was working while I was being a political activist and she felt like this is the traditional way in which things have always been done — a woman working to support a guy while he pursues his interests — although that situation did change once I got a job at Ramparts and we were both earning money.
But there were a lot of different aspects to this. Women were examining their position and role in society — and they were demanding changes in their personal relations. Liz was part of that in an overall sense, but one aspect of this was that she began to see things more in personal terms, to more and more turn inward, and to pull back from involvement in political struggles. As I was coming to see the problem as the whole system and starting to consider the question of communism, I remember at one point we had an argument where she was reading this book and she said, "Listen to this. Listen to this." And she read from this book where one of the characters says: "One nurse holding one bedpan in one hospital one night has done more good for humanity than all the communists in the world." Liz was reading this in a way that made clear that she agreed with it. And I said, "You know, that's exactly wrong. That's exactly upside down."
This kind of captured the different directions our lives were taking. I was struggling with her, "Look, we've got to become more radical, more revolutionary." As part of this, I was talking about moving from Berkeley — where we were living — to Richmond, which, as I mentioned before, is a more proletarian town. "We've got to go and integrate with the proletariat and take radical politics to the proletariat." So we were having a lot of struggle because she was resisting that. She was still progressive, she still had enlightened views on all these questions, she was still sympathetic to these struggles; but, partly out of feminist concerns and partly out of the fact that, as exemplified by this passage she read from that book, she didn't see how you could change things on a big scale in society, she was turning away from efforts to do that. She thought that the enemy was too powerful, that what you were up against was too great, or that in any case this wasn't the right way to go about changing things. More, the idea that started gaining currency with her was that you should change people individually or one at a time — people should seek change "within" and that would ultimately lead to change in society. So we were going in very different directions at that time, and it was a very emotionally difficult thing because we still shared a lot in common, but we had these fundamental differences about the direction of our lives and our priorities were becoming very different.
To be continued
1. Quotations from Chairman Mao Tsetung (Peking: Foreign Language Press, 1966). [back]
Insight Press • Paperback $18.95
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Revolution #216, November 14, 2010
Revolution is running a series of excerpts from Bob Avakian's memoir, From Ike to Mao and Beyond: My Journey from Mainstream America to Revolutionary Communist. Previous excerpts appeared in issues #208-#212, #214 and #215. We continue the series here.
From the description of the book: "Bob Avakian has written a memoir containing three unique but interwoven stories. The first tells of a white middle-class kid growing up in '50s America who goes to an integrated high school and has his world turned around; the second of a young man who overcomes a near-fatal disease and jumps with both feet into the heady swirl of Berkeley in the '60s; and the third of a radical activist who matures into a tempered revolutionary communist leader. If you think about the past or if you urgently care about the future ... if you want to hear a unique voice of utter realism and deep humanity ... and if you dare to have your assumptions challenged and your stereotypes overturned ... then you won't want to miss this book."
We're running these excerpts to encourage everybody to take the memoir out broadly, as part of what they do all the time, and to introduce many more people to Bob Avakian. The memoir gives a real sense of why the Message and Call of the campaign "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have" says of Avakian: "He is a great champion and a great resource for people here, and indeed people all over the world."
Some ways to get the memoir out:
Hear Bob Avakian read sections from his memoir.
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Revolution #216, November 14, 2010
If you weren't there, you missed something electric.
A sold-out crowd of more than 650 people at Aaron Davis Hall in Harlem, largely composed of African-Americans and youth but also other people of many nationalities and ages, turned out on October 29 for a dialogue between Cornel West and Carl Dix: "In the Age of Obama, Part II... Police Terror, Incarceration, No Jobs, Mis-education: What Future For Our Youth?" The dialogue was a fundraiser for Revolution Books and the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund (PRLF).
West—a prominent Black intellectual, Princeton University professor, and longtime opponent of racial oppression—and Dix—a founding member of the Revolutionary Communist Party who served two years in prison for refusing orders to go to Vietnam—were speaking less than two years after the election of the nation's first Black president led many to proclaim that a brighter future was ahead for youth of color. It was also less than two weeks after police 30 miles north of New York City murdered 20-year-old D.J. Henry, an unarmed Black college student; and three days after an article in the New York Times reminded us that the NYPD has stopped-and-frisked hundreds of thousands of people each year—the vast majority of them African-Americans and Latinos who had committed no crime.
In other words, the main themes of this dialogue are badly needed, almost completely absent from the social and political landscape, and right on time. Where, for instance, in all the election debates and coverage did you hear this being discussed? The title of the event clearly resonated with, and intrigued, people walking into the auditorium.
One man told Revolution, "I have read a couple of Cornel West's books. Carl Dix is with the [Revolutionary] Communist Party—a publicly declared atheist, which is a beautiful thing. I'm a non-theist myself. Particularly in this country, stigma goes along with one saying they're an atheist. Christ and religion—period—is so predominant in the U.S. There is a negative stigma with anyone who believes otherwise. Christ is shoved down your throat in this country whether you want to be exposed to it or not."
He added, "The title is very good...it's complete, timely, necessary—instead of newscasters presenting supposedly what Americans' opinions are, a lot of the people here are of the opinion that don't necessarily get voiced..."
Another said, "I am familiar with Cornel West. I've not heard him speak publicly before. And I know he's a little bit of a radical. And sometimes I feel that it's important to hear those voices. I don't necessarily disagree or agree. But I like to hear a balanced argument."
Dix was the first to take the microphone. He began by condemning the humiliation, harassment, and murder that police regularly bring down on youth, linking these crimes to pervasive violence against women in our society, the prejudice against and violent persecution of gays and lesbians, children in South Asia slaving away in sweatshops, and U.S. drones raining destruction onto villages in Afghanistan and Pakistan. All of these crimes, Dix said, come from a common source: the capitalist-imperialist system that has a stranglehold on the planet and its people.
However, Dix said he did not come just to expose the horrors facing this planet, or explain why these horrors occur. Rather, he said: "My message is simple and urgent. I came here to tell people: Things do not have to be this way. We have a solution. Through communist revolution, we can end the horrors of this system and bring a far better world into being. And, we are building a movement for revolution. And we have a leader—Bob Avakian, the Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party—who makes this revolution immeasurably more possible." To drive home to the 650-plus people there just how serious and real this movement for revolution is, Dix held up a copy of the hot-off-the-press Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal). (See the Preamble to the Constitution in this issue.) Dix referred to this new Constitution throughout the evening, and urged people to buy it.
Dix acknowledged that youth today are caught up in a lot of "bad shit," but emphasized the reason for this is what the capitalist-imperialist system does to them and the killing choices with which it leaves them. The way for youth to get out of this situation is not lectures about personal responsibility, "getting with god," or pulling up their pants: it is to get with the movement for revolution to end this capitalist-imperialist system, transforming themselves in the process. He emphatically argued that all religion promotes a slave mentality.
Cornel West was next to speak, and there were both differences and extremely important points of unity between him and Carl Dix. West began by saying that whether he agreed with everything he said or not, Dix—as well as Avakian—should be praised for a fierce commitment to the oppressed. He referred to himself as a "Jesus-loving free Black man," and responded to Dix's sharp critique of religion by saying the god he (West) envisioned and believed in was one that sustains those who advocated for poor people and empowered themselves.
West's speech exuded anger, compassion and love for the oppressed, and moral clarity. He poignantly condemned the degradation, isolation, hatred, hopelessness and violence this system imposes on its youth, several times explicitly linking these things to capitalism-imperialism and the culture that this system spawns. He angrily denounced the criminalization and demonization of impoverished youth, while challenging these youth to reject a culture of "superficial titillation" and "moral constipation," and to give their lives meaning by fighting for justice and the oppressed. West told the young people in the room not to strive for success if they defined success as accommodating to injustice. "Justice," Cornel told the audience, "is what love looks like in public."
And West said that if the youth choose to be revolutionary communists, "that's your choice," and that if they choose to fight for justice, they would find themselves alongside revolutionary communists.
Following moving and successful appeals for funds, audience members posed questions to the speakers, including: Why is there so much violence among the youth, and what can be done about it? What steps can students take to learn critical information being denied to them in school curricula? What are some concrete things that individuals can do to resist the system? How should we view the question of Black nationalism?
As they took turns speaking to these and other questions, Dix and West embraced their shared hatred for this system's crimes, while also engaging their differences with honesty, liveliness, principle, and mutual respect. After the dialogue, several people said they were struck by the way Dix and West related to each other. One student said that at her high school, too often people with different views believe that because someone thinks differently they have to be separate and stay apart. And she was impressed to see an atheist and a religious person on stage discussing and engaging their differences; this showed her a different way that society could be.
This was an insightful comment. This whole event was a model of the kind of debate and contestation of ideas that will go on in the new socialist society all the damn time.
After the event, the lobby was full of people who were clearly inspired, moved, provoked, and intrigued—by the dialogue, and by the experience of being in a room full of people passionately engaging the issues at hand.
A 23-year-old African-American student summed up her reactions to the event by saying: "I've been motivated, entertained, and uplifted all in one. Fantastic."
"Everything that they talked about is exactly the things that I think are prevalent to me right now as a teenager, as a student, as the youth that they were talking about," said a 17-year-old white high school student from Brooklyn. "This is what I feel—that this is a moment in time where we have the future ahead of us and we have to seize it, and it's our decision what we're gonna do with it."
The student said he had just gotten a copy of the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal), and said:
"To say: 'There's another way'? Very powerful." "It's so common to say 'The way things are done is wrong'—to denounce the government, to denounce the way we're doing things, to say 'this is fucked up, we can't be doing this.' It's so common to be contrarian that it's almost meaningless. What is meaningful is to offer a solution to those problems.... You can read this."
Many people expressed being very fired up and inspired and at the same time were still taking in and sorting through what they had heard, and grappling with how to understand what type of movement for revolution was being put forward, and what they could do as an individual.
A college student was asked what sense he had gotten of what the Revolutionary Communist Party and this movement for revolution are all about.
"Hmm, let me think for a moment," he said, pausing. "I think I would have to look into more of the Party's readings to truly understand what they—like how they want to do things. 'Cause I know what they want. It sounds like they want a more collective organized system of equality for the people in an economic way. But I would have to read more about their means of doing it. 'Cause I understand it only on a surface level, I think, after tonight. But I do understand the urgency of change on a deeper level."
A young boxer, one of whose parents is from Puerto Rico and the other from Guam, said he had long been passionate about the themes West and Dix were addressing: "I connected to everything...This is my life. This isn't just an event for me. This is already a cause I'm already actively pursuing. So to know that I'm not alone, it's the most amazing feeling. The most amazing feeling. Like I cried—I'm not a crier, I'm a fucking boxer."
Asked if there were things that surprised him, a high school student said:
"You know, I was surprised by how enthusiastic everybody around me was. It was inspiring to see everybody so into it. To see people feeling—and not just sitting around and listening... People taking it in and feeling it and feeling like they can go out and do something. You can tell this isn't something where people are going to listen to some really nice radical notions and ideas and go home and say, 'Well, I saw Cornel West and he said some very interesting things.' You can tell these are people who want to do something about this and start this revolution and make things happen in the world. To stop eating all the crap that they're fed and go out and make something of this, take that power, because the world belongs to us. And people in this room realize that. It's all about community, and that feeling of community, I think, was my favorite thing here tonight."
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Revolution #216, November 14, 2010
A significant new thing—People's Neighborhood Patrols—was boldly announced at a number of the actions that took place on the 15th Annual National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation.
On October 22, 2009, groups of people in some major cities began to patrol in neighborhoods in an organized, highly disciplined way, observing police activity with the intent "to witness, call out, and stand up to any and all illegal actions by the police against the people." They have continued doing this throughout the last year, making their presence and intent known in some communities and beginning to set a different standard.
The speaker from the patrol in New York City read a statement saying, "Our patrol does not and will not initiate any acts of violence or engage in unlawful acts, or any activity that is against the interests of the people, but we WILL stand up to illegal actions of the police and violations of the rights of the people and WILL constantly uphold the interests of the people."
These patrols have been launched in a context where the police are running roughshod over the people, and over the laws themselves in doing so. But the courts do nothing to prevent this and everything to enable it to go on. These patrols are beginning to project an "alternate authority," one that challenges through its actions and moral code the illegitimate and abusive current authority.
In several cities, members of People's Neighborhood Patrols were present at the National Day of Protest—and encouraged and welcomed people to join in observing their patrol at the close of the rally or soon after. In one city, 20 people joined enthusiastically in this effort, holding up their cell phone cameras to notify the authorities: We are watching you and we are going to catch on video anything illegal you try to do.
The following statement was read at the New York City demonstration by a member of the People's Neighborhood Patrol:
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.
Every day, in the barrios and ghettos of this country, Black and Latino youth, immigrants, and poor whites are brutalized by police, and their basic rights violated. They are stopped, searched, detained, cuffed—and all too often routinely subjected to lethal use of force as a matter of police procedure. Two people gunned down in a weekend in LA; four last month in NYC—children and old women slain in their own homes. It's not even a headline anymore—but something we're supposed to get used to. For what? For no good reason, no good cause—the police routinely act as judge, jury and executioner.
Two thousand people stopped in NYC a day—for WHAT? The police captains in Brooklyn call this "owning the street." They give orders at the beginning of the shift to go out and "ground and pound." Under the stop and frisk program they say they can stop you for "probable suspicion." Like what? Like putting a sandwich in your pocket on the way to school, as one 14-year-old testified. Or stopped and killed because you had an asthma inhaler in your pocket. Or killed for celebrating with your friends before you were about to get married like Sean Bell or celebrating a big college football game like DJ Henry [a student at Pace College near NYC] or coming home on public transportation on New Year's Eve—like you are supposed to—and being shot lying face down on the platform in front of hundreds of people like Oscar Grant was. To not be free just to return to your own apartment after work—without having to worry about being stopped on the way home. To know that a chance "encounter," in police parlance, can result in your life being snuffed out—and then you and your family slandered and lied about.
All of this is illegal and illegitimate.
Let me say this again... ALL THIS IS ILLEGAL and ILLEGITIMATE.
Last year on October 22, the National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation, we began a form of disciplined and organized activity that can greatly contribute to people being inspired and organized to stand up against these outrages and that can certainly help people build up the strength to put an end to this madness.
We in the People's Neighborhood Patrol have been walking neighborhoods of the oppressed—where police abuse under color of authority is rampant—to witness, call out, and stand up to any and all illegal actions by the police against the people.
Our patrol does not and will not initiate any acts of violence or engage in unlawful acts, or any activity that is against the interests of the people, but we WILL stand up to illegal actions of the police and violations of the rights of the people and WILL constantly uphold the interests of the people.
Bitter experience has shown over and over again that their courts and procedures do not prevent the illegal actions of the police. It's time we stood up and acted on our own behalf. And we have begun to put that into effect! And we will continue.
We insist that the rights of the people be upheld and defended. Being young and Black, being Latino or being an immigrant does NOT constitute probable cause for police action, let alone brutality and even murder.
We call on everyone who believes in justice and hungers for emancipation to support this and to get organized so that this can go forward from here.
Read our proclamation and check out the points of discipline for our patrol.
We will be going on patrol tonight and we invite you along to observe—to find out about the impact this IS having and the difference this IS making. We say to you that you do not have to suffer these indignities of being treated as if you and your whole community are criminals. You do not have to suffer these humiliations as an individual who feels isolated and alone. You are not someone lesser with no rights, deserving of no respect. And you do not have to put up with this just because it seems like nothing can change... because it can. You are people whose lives mean something and whose lives now really can count for something. That's why I say, "Fight The Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution."
We encourage anyone who witnesses illegal acts by the police, or who recognizes threats of illegal activity by the police against the people, to report it to the Bear Witness Project (firstname.lastname@example.org) so that it can become known to all.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #216, November 14, 2010
Token Sentence for Oscar Grant's Killer
Johannes Mehserle, a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) cop, shot and killed Oscar Grant while Oscar lay face down on the BART platform on New Year's Day, 2009. After a series of determined protests in the Bay Area and beyond, Mehserle was charged, and later convicted—but only for "involuntary manslaughter."
On Friday, November 5, Mehserle was sentenced in Los Angeles. He was given two years in prison with credit for time served, the lightest possible sentence he could have received. The judge overturned the jury's decision to convict Mehserle on a separate charge of intentionally firing a gun, which meant he could give Mehserle the minimum punishment. First, after the people were told to trust the courts to get justice for Oscar Grant, Mehserle was convicted only for involuntary manslaughter rather than second-degree murder. Then on top of that, one of the only two charges that Mehserle was convicted on has been tossed out! The immediate reaction by many was shock, but not necessarily surprise. This verdict showed again that there is great injustice built into this system.
As the word of the slap-on-the-wrist sentence meted out to Mehserle circulated among people in downtown Oakland, a crowd started forming for an Oscar Grant memorial where an altar to his memory was being created by young activists and artists.
This was not a gathering to mourn, but to voice outrage against the sentence, and with determination to continue to resist. People came together at the spot of the powerful January 2009 rebellion of thousands of youth that, along with other protests, forced the system to arrest Mehserle in the first place. And now, nearly two years later, the sentence—two years minus 290 days already served—is yet another reminder that the system is set up to protect the police and those they serve, not the people. In the face of hundreds of Oakland police, and massive reinforcements from Alameda County and other cities, the rally grew from a couple hundred youth to over 500 people, streaming in from all over Oakland and adjacent cities. Four hours later nearly 200 took the streets, marching toward the Fruitvale BART station where Oscar was killed. When the march entered a proletarian section of the city, the police brought in a huge force to encircle the march, would not let anyone leave, and made mass arrests.
As we go to press, news media are reporting 152 people were arrested. People on the scene say this included media, observers, and marchers.
Some people on the street seemed surprised or dismayed by the light sentence. When asked what she thought, one young white woman said, "We live in a very unjust world." But the rally seethed with outrage. A Black woman from Sacramento said, "They run roughshod over people, they bully you, they disrespect women, they call them 'bitches,' they take people's lives. It's not surprising to any people in Oakland. Definitely not to a Black person, I'm sure. But when something happens to a police officer, the world stops. So justice needs to be demanded."
A 55-year-old Black veteran said, "I mean it's so unfair, so fucking unfair. They got it on videotape. You can't even justify what that fucker did. You know the difference between a taser and a damn pistol. (Mehserle's defense included the absurd claim that he shot Oscar Grant with a gun but thought he was reaching for a taser.) The weight is different. I was in the service. Don't give me that bullshit. It was all set up to let him go." He added, "I'm really angry, man. That's why I come down here. I'm tired of all this injustice in this nation. If it keep going the way it's going, they're gonna have a civil war right here, they're gonna be fighting us in a minute."
Revolutionaries on the scene showed him the Message and Call from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA—"The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have," and read the part which says, "yes, 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." He took some copies of the Message and Call to get out. Later he was overheard telling a reporter, "I think this system can't be fixed. We need a revolution, a whole different system!"
Black youth lined up at a microphone to speak out against the verdict, against the brutality they face every day, and against the racism that puts every Black and brown life at risk. Since the murder of Oscar, the Revolution Club in the Bay Area has popularized the slogan, "Justice for Oscar Grant! The Whole Damn System is Guilty." And in this rally, it was clear that some people have taken it up. Speaker after speaker spoke out against "the system," and for "revolution." For some this meant a system where cops can no longer murder Black youth and get away with it. For others it meant seeing the police as a system, particularly as they relate to and oppress Black people.
Different ideas of what kind of change is needed were debated, and were reflected in contradictory things said even by the same person. One activist said, "It's the whole damn system that we're fighting, but we've got to keep fighting for a BART police review board. We've got to get something out of this struggle." An older Black woman said (in response to a speaker who said the system is broken, we have to fix it), "It is the system. It ain't broken. That's the way it's set up." But then she went on to say that we have to learn from Martin Luther King and to fight to change the laws.
An Iraq war veteran, a rapper, said he is no stranger to police brutality. His uncle was killed by the L.A. police. He talked about the similarity of kicking down doors and murdering people in Iraq and what goes on here. All around the world "Fuck the Police." This got a powerful response from the crowd.
A speaker representing the Revolution Club spoke to the verdict being illegitimate and the whole damn system being illegitimate. She spoke to the kind of revolution we need and that we are building—for socialism and communism, not only for the outrages heaped upon the people of this country but the outrages this system is bringing to the whole world. She read a passage from the Message and Call and invited everyone to read the statement. "Make today the day you get serious about what it's actually going to take to change this. Make this the day you get serious about making revolution." She was greeted with broad applause, and many people were seen digging into the statement.
Letting off a cop who murdered a young Black man in cold blood, in front of hundreds of witnesses, with a token sentence is a crime. Demanding justice for Oscar Grant is not! All those arrested at the November 5 protest in Oakland should be released immediately without charges.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #216, November 14, 2010
"The Continuing Relevance and
Importance of the 'Pyramid Analysis'"
an excerpt from
"Unresolved Contradictions, Driving Forces for Revolution"
an edited transcript of a Talk by
Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA
"This 'pyramid analysis' was first put forward more than five years ago now, in the question-and-answer session of the 'Revolution' talk (Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About). To briefly summarize this, the point is that you can conceive of the political structures and the way that they relate to the larger society in the U.S. as something of a pyramid: At the top you have the ruling class forces, which, speaking in broad strokes and for general purposes, are divided on the one hand into the Republican Party and on the other hand the Democratic Party, and what these parties represent in terms of 'conservatism' and 'liberalism' (about which I'll have more to say a little bit later); and then, continuing the metaphor of the pyramid, you have lines extending (or angling) from the top of the pyramid, where the ruling class sits with its two basic wings, down to the social bases that these different wings of the bourgeoisie at the top of the pyramid seek to appeal to—on the one side the 'right,' and on the other side the 'left,' in the terms that are utilized commonly in the framework of bourgeois politics. These two ruling class forces, and the political parties that generally represent them, appeal to people on the two sides of this pyramid, in terms of seeking their votes; and they also, at times at least, appeal to them to become politically active—but always within the framework of the dominant capitalist system, and on terms conforming to the interests of the ruling capitalist class, of which both of these political parties are representatives."
Read the entire article at revcom.us/avakian/driving, Revolution #185, December 13, 2009
A Film of a Talk by Bob Avakian
In 2003 Chairman Bob Avakian delivered an historic talk in the United States, available on DVD. This talk is a wide-ranging revolutionary journey. It breaks down the very nature of the society we live in and how humanity has come to a time where a radically different society is possible. Full of heart and soul, humor and consciousness, it will challenge you and set your heart and mind to flight.
"The Pyramid of Power and the Struggle to
Turn This Whole Thing Upside Down"
From the Q&A of
Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About, a Film of a Talk by Bob Avakian
View it at revolutiontalk.net
"The Center — Can It Hold?
The Pyramid as Two Ladders"
by Bob Avakian
Read it at revcom.us/a/004/avakian-center-can-it-hold.htm
Also at revcom.us:
Revolution is NOT a Tea Party!
Read it at revcom.us/a/211/tea_party-en.html, Revolution #211, September 12, 2010
Glenn Beck, the "Founding Fathers"
...and A REAL Radical Alternative
Read it at revcom.us/a/210/glenn_beck-en.html, Revolution #210, August 29, 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.
This capitalist-imperialist system is in crisis...This system is bankrupt...This system is rotten to the core...This system is based on ruthless exploitation...This system commits so many monstrous crimes, and causes so much unnecessary suffering. We do not need to be sacrificing even more to "rescue" this system. This system needs to be swept aside...its crimes against humanity stopped cold...its institutions dismantled, and replaced by ones that empower people to build a new society free of exploitation and oppression.
—From "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have, A Message, And A Call,
From The Revolutionary Communist Party, USA"
Send us your comments.
Revolution #216, November 14, 2010
Revolution received the following letter from a reader:
I thought your special issue on Israel was very good. I got a lot out of how you situated the stages of the development of Zionism and Israel in relation to what was going on with the imperialist powers at any given time. But it strikes me that the Holocaust is a very complex phenomenon, demanding more explanation than you gave it in the article. Could you respond?
This is an important question that deserves and requires some additional exploration. The discussion of the causes of the Holocaust, and the relationship between that terrible crime and Zionism, was an important element of our special issue on Israel. As the reader points out, this was part of overall situating the factors that made Zionism a viable force in the world, within a whole complex set of developments in Europe, with the Holocaust being a very important part of that.
The special issue of Revolution, and in particular the article, "Bastion of Enlightenment... or Enforcer for Imperialism: The Case of ISRAEL," and the shorter article, "Question: Does the Holocaust Justify the Dispossession of the Palestinian People?" expose that the Holocaust was a crime of imperialism. The Holocaust was a terrible crime. And as the special issue on Israel pointed out, and we will expand on here, this was not some inexplicable crime that can only be "understood" as an expression of humanity's capacity to do evil, or some eternal and inherent anti-Semitism. Instead, the Holocaust was the product, in complex ways, of the workings of the system of capitalism-imperialism. And, the issue makes the case that it is utterly unjust, immoral, and without basis to defend the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, and the establishment of the Zionist state of Israel, on the basis of the Holocaust.
As we wrote: "Let us state in no uncertain terms that the Holocaust was clearly one of the great crimes of modern history. But on a very basic moral level: how does a crime against one people (the Jews) committed by the government of another (the Germans)—no matter how horrific that crime—justify the dispossession, exile, constant humiliation and oppression, and denial of self-determination to a third (the Palestinians)? It does not and it cannot."
But all this does require examination in more detail, and in many dimensions.
In responding to this question from a reader, we will not attempt an overall analysis of all the causes of the Holocaust. But we will explore some key political, economic, social, and yes—religious—factors underlying this great crime. And in the process, further deconstruct and expose claims that Israel's existence is justified by the Holocaust.
In discussing the underlying causes of the Holocaust, the special issue of Revolution on Israel focused on the factor of the massive and bloody clash between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, and the alignment of Jewish people in relation to that1. "The Nazi regime conflated Judaism and communism; that is, the Nazis rolled them into one big enemy, the so-called Judeo-Bolshevik conspiracy. The Nazis regarded the communist project of emancipation—including the abolition of anti-Semitism—as utterly intolerable and evil; the participation of Jews in this project only added to their hatred. As the Nazi forces invaded the Soviet Union, the counter-revolutionary forces from among the Soviet citizenry which supported them were the same ones who eagerly assisted in the extermination of the Jews and the murder of communists."2
This was, indeed, one—and a very significant—factor behind the Nazis' "final solution," that is, their attempt to literally kill off nearly all the Jewish people in Europe, along with the Roma people (referred to as Gypsies), gays, and others. But there were other factors—both long-term and immediate—behind the Holocaust, particularly rooted in centuries of promotion of fear and hatred of Jews by the ruling establishment in Europe, and the powerful role of Christianity in the ruling order. And Hitler's fanatical nationalism that carried with it an absurd, yet foundational notion of "racial purity." Even the connections between Hitler's war on the Soviet Union and his anti-Semitism were multi-layered and complex.
The Nazi plan for the mass murder of the Jews of Europe was laid out and implementation orchestrated in gruesome detail at the Wannsee Conference, held in the Berlin suburb of the same name in January, 1942. The agenda of this conference was, explicitly, what the Nazis called the "Final solution to the Jewish question."
The Conference confronted, from the perspective of the Nazi leadership, how to carry out the "cleansing" of German-occupied territories of Jews. This ethnic cleansing of the Jews had been part of the Nazi program for some time, but a set of developments and circumstances—including setbacks Germany was encountering in World War 2, created a situation where, at Wannsee, even more extreme measures towards the Jews were adopted.
Leading into, and early in the war, the Nazis had explored possibilities for massive deportation of Jews from Europe—including forced emigration from Europe to African countries dominated by European imperialism, including Madagascar3.
But the Nazis were unable to implement mass deportation of Jews from Germany and German-occupied areas for a number of reasons. One was the refusal of the "Allies" to accept Jewish deportees4. Another was the continuing domination of naval passageways that the Germans had hoped to use to deport Jews from Europe by British naval power.
Further, the Nazis had hoped to send large numbers of able-bodied Jews to die in forced labor on their Eastern Front. But on the eve of the Wannsee Conference, the Germans began to suffer serious military setbacks in the war with the Soviet Union, and made an assessment that they did not have the resources or freedom to implement the scale of forced labor involved in that plan.
There were other immediate factors behind the adoption, at Wannsee, of the "final solution" in the form of death camps. Among them, serious food and housing shortages in German-occupied territories in Eastern Europe. Local Nazi officials, along with allied local fascists, demanded these shortages be mitigated by seizing the homes and property of Jews.
All of these factors combined to set the stage for the horrific crime of the killing of some six million Jews in Europe. The Nazis, led by Hitler, unleashed and carried out vicious attacks on the Jews as soon as they took power in 1933 (including building the Dachau concentration camp). Prior to 1942 many Jews were slaughtered, and Nazi officials made statements about the need to exterminate the Jews. Wannsee marked an extreme escalation of even this situation. The Nazis adopted and put into motion detailed, and definitive plans for the most thorough and efficient murder of all Jews in areas under their control—setting in motion the deportation of remaining Jews under Nazi control to death camps.5
Beyond, and underlying the immediate agenda that produced the "final solution," an interweaving set of political, economic, and ideological factors formed the historical backdrop for the Nazis' vicious anti-Semitism.
One profoundly influential factor was the generalized virulent, violent anti-Semitism that was pervasive in Europe for over a thousand years. From the time that the Roman emperor Constantine adopted Christianity as state religion, Christianity was tightly integrated with the political, economic, and ideological domination of oppressing classes in Europe. The Catholic Church was an extremely powerful element of the ruling state structures in feudal Europe.
The Jews, as non-Christians, were outsiders—ostracized, and periodically persecuted. This was justified in part by the explosive claim that Jews had committed "deicide"—the killing of a god!—by refusing in great numbers to follow Jesus and, according to Christian myth, legend, and theology, agreeing to his crucifixion at the hands of the Roman authorities.
The Spanish Inquisition in the decades around 1500 saw the use of waterboarding torture, and the burning of Jews at the stake. Jews who refused to "convert" to Christianity were killed or driven from the country.
The rise of the bourgeoisie and capitalism in Europe was accompanied by the Enlightenment—an ideological and political trend. In the economic base of society, as well as in the superstructure (the laws, customs, and thinking of people) these developments gave rise to seismic changes. These changes had great, and contradictory, impact on the status of Jews.
Speaking of the ideologists of the French Revolution, but applicable more broadly to the bourgeois-democratic revolution and the Enlightenment era, Frederick Engels wrote:
"The great men who in France were clearing men's minds for the coming revolution acted in an extremely revolutionary way themselves. They recognized no external authority of any kind. Religion, conceptions of nature, society, political systems—everything was subjected to the most unsparing criticism: everything had to justify its existence before the judgment-seat of reason or give up existence. The reasoning intellect became the sole measure of everything. It was the time when, as Hegel says, the world was stood on its head, first in the sense that the human head and the principles arrived at by its thinking claimed to be the basis of all human action and association; but then later also in the wider sense that the reality which was in contradiction with these principles was, in fact, turned upside down. Every previous form of society and state, every old traditional notion was flung into the lumber-room as irrational; the world had hitherto allowed itself to be led solely by prejudice; everything in the past deserved only pity and contempt. The light of day, the realm of reason, now appeared for the first time; henceforth superstition, injustice, privilege and oppression were to be superseded by eternal truth, eternal justice, equality based on nature, and the inalienable rights of man.
"We know today that this realm of reason was nothing more than the idealized realm of the bourgeoisie; that eternal justice found its realization in bourgeois justice; that equality reduced itself to bourgeois equality before the law; that bourgeois property was proclaimed as one of the most essential rights of man; and that the government of reason, Rousseau's social contract, came into being, and could only come into being, as a bourgeois-democratic republic. The great thinkers of the eighteenth century were no more able than their predecessors to go beyond the limits imposed on them by their own epoch." (Socialism: Utopian and Scientific)
As part of subjecting religion, conceptions of nature, society, and political systems "to the most unsparing criticism," irrational hatred and fear of Jews, the exclusion of Jews from economic, political, cultural, and intellectual life, and different forms of prejudice, persecution, and oppression came under attack. The bourgeois-democratic revolution that overthrew the French monarchy and nobility granted Jews full political rights. And the 1776 revolution in the U.S. against England institutionalized the separation of church and state.
Opposition to anti-Semitism arose along with other enlightened movements like those to abolish slavery and grant equality to women. All this was fiercely contested, both by pre-capitalist forces and institutions, and among different sections and trends in the bourgeoisie.
Within this explosion of social turmoil and intellectual ferment, there was a lessening of elements of centuries of oppression and marginalization of the Jewish people. And, Jews were active in all the economic, social, philosophical, and political movements of the time. The Jewish philosopher Spinoza identified places where the Bible and the Torah (essentially the first five books of the Bible adhered to by Judaism) are self-contradictory, and he did other rational studies that revealed that the Bible could not be the inerrant word of an all-knowing, all-powerful god who actively intervened in the lives of humans. For this, Spinoza was excommunicated by the Jewish religious authorities, and Protestant and Catholic authorities censored, burned, and banned his writings.
The capitalist system brought into being new forms of grinding exploitation and brutal oppression. Vast numbers of people who had suffered under feudal rule in the countryside were now violently and forcefully "freed" of their connection to the land, and driven and pulled into the slums and sweatshops of European cities. Through this, a new class of exploited people—the proletariat—emerged, an international class which owns nothing, yet has created and makes the modern, highly socialized means of production work. In some ways, the exclusion of Jewish people from wide areas of economic and political life in pre-capitalist societies in Eastern Europe facilitated their entry into new realms of economic and social life created by the rise of capitalism. In much of Eastern Europe (where the overwhelming majority of the world's Jews had lived for a thousand years), economic and social status was historically related to ownership of, or permission granted by the nobility to work the land. For hundreds of years, in these agrarian societies, legal and social prohibitions, persecution, and pogroms (mob violence against Jews) prevented or greatly restricted Jewish people from engaging in farming. They ended up concentrated in the cities where they acquired craft and other skills.
Locked out of many professions (like the military and civil services), many Jews ended up in professions like medicine, finance, and law. These professions rose in societal influence and prestige with the advance of capitalism and the decline of feudalism. Jewish traditions of literacy based in theological study and debate (among men at least) were advantageous in entering new arenas of intellectual and scientific inquiry.
And Jewish people were disproportionately represented in the radical and revolutionary movements of the time, including the communist movement for the abolition of all exploitation and oppression.
All this was intensely and wildly contradictory. As Engels summed up, the formal equality enshrined by the bourgeois-democratic revolutions and their ideologues actually covered up profound inequalities built into a system where the fundamental relations in society are grounded in the exploitation and oppression of the many by a relative handful. And where the drive of the capitalists to expand their profits/their capital dominates all of society and all the relations among people in society.
But even the fulfillment of the promise of formal equality was highly contested and uneven. The rise of capitalism emphasized the ideology of equality. In previous oppressive societies, people had their place in life defined by the social class, or religion, or the gender they were born into, and this was enforced in the realm of law, and in people's thinking. These ideas (and laws) were obstacles to the capitalist reorganization of society. And in the context of the promotion of formal equality, old customs, laws, and prejudices were subjected to criticism and in different ways knocked aside.
All this gave rise to all kinds of movements for equality. But as the bourgeoisie came to power, it often found it in its interests to limit or oppose demands for even formal equality—for women, for example.
And Christianity remained, for powerful sections of the ruling classes, an essential factor in legitimizing and maintaining (and enforcing) their rule. Leaders of the Protestant rebellion against the Catholic Church—expressing the outlook of the rising bourgeoisie in opposition to the absolute rule of kings, nobles, and the church hierarchy—challenged the authority of the Pope. At the same time, Martin Luther, the leader of this Protestant rebellion, wrote that Jews were a "base, whoring people." Luther advocated that Jewish synagogues and schools should be set on fire, Jewish prayer books destroyed, rabbis forbidden to preach, homes razed, and property and money confiscated. Luther wrote, of the Jews, "[W]e are at fault in not slaying them." (Luther, On the Jews and Their Lies, 1543)
In short, the profound changes in the economic foundation of society associated with the rise of capitalism gave rise to closely related changes in law, culture, and thinking. Jews found greater acceptance in commerce and cultural life. But at the same time, powerful countervailing trends erupted. In many realms the bourgeois revolutions were not able to, and did not, even complete the ruptures with feudal traditions and prejudices—traditions, institutions, and prejudices that they found useful and essential to maintaining social order and their class rule6. Further complicating the terrain was the fact that in much of Eastern and Southern Europe, feudal economic and social relations remained powerfully embedded in society. With the rise of capitalism in Europe, Jews both entered into broader society in unprecedented ways, and were the victims of periodic pogroms instigated directly or indirectly by the ruling classes.
The clash between openings for Jews and various forms of backlash and attacks on the status of Jewish people formed a tense contradiction. Both sides of this complex equation developed in intensity with the rise of imperialism in the late 1800s, and the spreading of capitalism into still semi-feudal Eastern Europe.
The earth-shaking changes ushered in by the emergence of capitalism in Europe loosened and challenged, but did not come close to uprooting traditional theocratic-based fear and hatred of Jews. And even as great changes took place in the political and social landscape of Europe in the 1800s, and early 1900s, powerful forces in European society—including elements of the Christian establishment, along with feudal and other reactionary forces—lashed back at these changes, and, as part of that, targeted the Jews.
Sections of people were periodically enlisted in spasms of anti-Semitic violence. Peasants locked out of any scientific understanding of the forces that were upending their lives had their desperation channeled away from the ruling classes and towards the Jews. Even in the most cosmopolitan countries—like Germany—anti-Semitic demagoguery had an appeal among sections of small business owners and shopkeepers who tended to be blinded by their social and economic positions to the actual mainsprings of capitalist society.
At times, the status of Jews, served as political flashpoints in contention within the ruling classes. The Dreyfus Affair that divided France in the late 1890s and early 1900s involved the framing of a Jewish officer in the French military on bogus treason charges. It was a move by reactionary sections of the French army and church to reassert influence that had been curtailed by the French revolution. Radical bourgeois-democratic forces in France, including the influential intellectual Emile Zola, rallied behind Dreyfus and he was exonerated. For sections of the French bourgeoisie, the Dreyfus Affair was a challenge, and an opportunity to strike at remnants of feudal influences and impediments to the rise of—as they saw it—"true equality."
The inexorable demand of capitalism to "expand or die," including the contention of different imperialist powers over colonial domination, exploded into World War 1, from 1914 to 1918. As the special issue of Revolution on Israel identified: "On one side were Britain, France, the U.S. and Russia. On the other stood Germany, and the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman (Turkish) empires. Neither side was fighting for any greater cause than a bigger share of the plunder. Sixteen million people died as the armies of contending imperialists slaughtered each other, and civilians, to determine which imperialists would expand and which would be crushed. In the course of that war, empires crashed to the ground—most importantly the vast Russian empire, where a socialist revolution emerged victorious. In other parts of the world, the old order collapsed but the victorious imperialists raced in with new forms of domination."
The horror and suffering of World War 1, along with the world's first successful socialist revolution in 1917, profoundly challenged—both in reality and in people's thinking—the permanence of the existing order. And this was as true in Germany as anywhere. In the short two decades between the end of the first World War, and the beginning of the second World War, Germany saw both an attempt at socialist revolution (that was crushed by the German ruling class with invaluable aid from reformist "socialists" in the government), and then the rise of Hitler with his fascist (extreme, overtly and violently repressive) program for German imperialism.
Post World War 1 Germany had offered tradition-breaking openings to Jews in economic, political, and cultural life. By the 1920s, Jews were as accepted and assimilated in Germany as they were anywhere in capitalist Europe. At the same time, and partly in reaction to these changes in the status of Jews, Germany was a hotbed of anti-Semitic resentment. This resentment was felt, and fostered by powerful sections of the ruling class who saw changes in post-war Germany as treasonous, and inimical (intolerable obstacles) to Germany rising to the top of the imperialist world order.
These reactionary forces could continue to pluck the strings of irrational fear and hatred of Jews that were deeply embedded in the culture. German Jews ended up—as they had in the Dreyfus Affair in France—as flashpoints in conflicts within German society. But this time with terrible results.
As the special issue on Israel briefly alludes to, the German ruling class turned to Hitler, and his fascist program in all its dimensions, at a time of great crisis for German imperialism. The point of situating the roots of the Holocaust in the traditions of European culture and politics is not to argue that Hitler's ferocious anti-Semitism and the Holocaust were simply extensions of traditional fears and hatred of Jews.
In re-cohering German society, Hitler did draw on a deep well of prejudice against Jews, and a long tradition of scapegoating Jews. But there were other factors that came together—in the situation faced by German imperialism, and in Hitler's ideology—that led to the Holocaust.
Germany had been on the losing side of World War 1, and was cut out of the international division of Africa, Asia and Latin America by European, U.S., and Japanese imperialism. In the immediate aftermath of World War 1, Germany was devastated militarily and economically.
Many Germans drew the conclusion was that the horrific imperialist war—responsible for the deaths of some ten million people—and the system that gave rise to it, had to go. There was great attraction to the model of the Bolshevik revolution in what became the Soviet Union. Others, including dominant sections of the ruling class, drew opposite conclusions: that the loss in the war was the result of weakness that had to be, and could only be overcome with more extreme nationalism and a return to a mythic and reactionary Germanic identity.
All these contradictions sharpened tremendously with the global Great Depression, which began in 1929. Germany's economy had developed very dynamically after World War 1, and politically, the post-war Weimar Republic was a period of relative tolerance (again, based on the bloody suppression of an attempt at socialist revolution). During the Weimar period, reactionary fascist forces who seethed at what they perceived as the "betrayal" of German national interests by "weak" forces in the ruling class provided the ground from which Hitler emerged. Even as Hitler and his program emerged, he and his movement were kept somewhat in abeyance by the German ruling class.
But with the severe depression that wracked the capitalist world in the 1930s, the balance of forces within the German ruling class moved towards Hitler and his fascist program. They shared Hitler's determination to end Germany's exclusion from colonial super-exploitation that was choking the ability of German capital to expand in the face of rivals like Britain and France. And they saw in him a populist demagogue capable of channeling desperation and outrage of sections of the masses into appeals to vitriolic nationalism.
An immediate result of Hitler's coming to power was the ruthless, violent crushing of Germany's large communist movement. After the defeat of the revolution in Germany in the aftermath of World War 1, communists had again developed great influence among the poorer sections of the German working class in particular. And Hitler went after them with a vengeance. In the famous words of German theologian Martin Niemoller, "First they came for the communists..."7
One significant dimension of Hitler's ideology and agenda was his adoption of, and taking to extremes, the pseudo-science (fake science) of Eugenics along with bizarre "master race" theories. Absurd as these theories were, they found a home among Germans who gravitated towards a mythology that whipped up and supposedly "rationalized" national chauvinism and the superiority of their nation when the status, and very coherence of that nation seemed to be in question. And these theories were adopted as the ideology of the Nazi state—to devastating effect.
Eugenics claimed that humanity could be improved by forced sterilization of people with real or perceived physical or mental conditions (which included, along with genuine medical and mental handicaps, categories like homosexuality and poverty). These theories had significant influence in the rest of the world, including the U.S. in the period leading up to the rise of Hitler. In the U.S., laws and policies were implemented in less extreme ways in the form of forced sterilization, for example, of prisoners in some parts of the U.S. And Eugenics theory merged with traditional racism in significant parts of the U.S.—especially the South—as a force behind the adoption of laws and policies enforcing sterilization of Black people and others.
To Hitler, much of what he saw as weakness in German society was a result of the "dilution" of not only German culture, but the Aryan gene pool by "degenerates" (like the handicapped, gays, and people suffering from alcoholism), as well as the "dilution" of the gene pool by non-Aryans—particularly the Jews. Eugenics theories, along with other unscientific schools of anthropology and other realms, formed part of the framework from which Hitler developed his "master race" theory.8
And again, regardless of the extent to which other leading members of the Nazi power structure and German ruling class actually believed these insane theories (and some did), they took on a "life of their own." A significant section of German people was mobilized behind this poisonous mythology that in turn invoked—and drew on—centuries of Christian anti-Semitism.
Hitler was not a "perfect fit" for German imperialism. German scientists working on nuclear weapons were handicapped by the exclusion of Jewish physicists and other scientists, as well as by ideological dictates that they not acknowledge the work of Jewish scientists like Einstein9. And Hitler's determination to exterminate the Jews factored into real divisions in the German ruling class over his whole program10. But Hitler's master race ideology, hyper-aggressive military policies, and brutally repressive domestic agenda—with its component of genocidal anti-Semitism, was overall adopted by the German ruling class as—if not a "perfect fit"—the perceived best solution to the situation they found themselves in.
The Jews in Germany posed—by their very existence—a challenge to Hitler's program of a tightly united German nation cohered by a mythology of an "Aryan master race." These theories provided a—profoundly false—"justification" for German expansionism, domination of other countries, and the driving out or crushing of supposedly "inferior races." Hitler's "master race" lunacy provided a core ideology for a movement that would crush internal dissent and embark on hyper-aggressive imperialist adventures.
Integrally mixed into all this was the relationship of Jews in World War 2 Europe to the communist revolution and the socialist Soviet Union.That relationship had different, complex, and contradictory components—including but not only in the political dimension. To Hitler, the threats to German imperialist interests from the Jews and the communist revolution were integrally intertwined.
Overall, Hitler's conflation of Jews and communism reflected some, secondary elements of reality—there was an attraction among Jewish people to progressive and radical causes including communism. But this was coupled with mountains of exaggeration, distortion and outright invention, all underpinned by insanity, as reflected in the "master race" theories.
But a) Hitler's program was seen as expeditious to dominant sections of the German ruling class (whether they themselves all believed all of Hitler's master-race and anti-Semitic theories or not); and b) the adoption of these theories and programs had terrible implications and led to horrific crimes—including the Holocaust.11
A whole complex mix of political, ideological, and military factors converged to lead up to the great crime of the Holocaust. We have explored some of them here in expanding on the discussion in the special issue, and other factors are still beyond the scope of this article.
But the overall framing dynamic that set the stage for the Holocaust was the operation of global capitalism-imperialism. The Holocaust was not a pre-determined result of the workings of global imperialism, or even necessarily the only possible outcome of the situation confronting German imperialism. But it was a product of a whole series of policies adopted by the German imperialist ruling class in furtherance of their interests—both contention with their imperialist rivals, and their drive to crush the Soviet Union. Hitler's virulent anti-Semitism served the mission of cohering and enforcing unity on the German "home front" for a horrific war, and in particular the war against the Soviet Union that resulted in over 20 million deaths.
And as noted in our special issue on Israel, the U.S. and the "democratic West" remained mostly silent and restrained in response to the Holocaust while it was taking place, refusing entry to Jews fleeing Hitler, and shared the Nazis' determination to wipe the socialist Soviet Union off the map.
In this light, the Holocaust—a great crime of imperialism—in no way justifies Zionism, which, as our special issue makes clear, is another crime of imperialism.
The Palestinian people were not in any way responsible for the Holocaust. Their exile from their homeland through terrorist ethnic cleansing is utterly immoral and unjust, and cannot be defended by invoking the crimes of the Holocaust. Nor does the Holocaust in any way justify Israel's ongoing role as a global hitman for the same imperialist system that gave rise to the Holocaust.12
The solution to all oppression—in any form—cannot be achieved by a persecuted people turning on another oppressed people, as Zionism insists. Instead, as we pointed out in the special issue on Israel, "So long as imperialism exists, the majority of nations and peoples will be oppressed by a relative minority of dominant nations. It is important and valuable and just—in fact, it is absolutely necessary—that people stand up to that oppression, refuse to tolerate it, resist it, and work to abolish it. But if that turns into a fight for national rights at the expense of another people's rights, then it is not so fine—then it is on the road to very quickly becoming reactionary. The only way to be finally sure that there will be no more genocides, of any kind and against any people, is to abolish imperialism itself—to, yes, emancipate all humanity, and nothing less."
1. In two different articles in the special issue, the number of those killed in the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union was given in one article as 24 million, and in another article as 28 million. Both these figures, and numbers in between, and others in the same ballpark are given by historians and different sources as the death toll in that conflict. Conditions of a long, vicious war, with massive civilian casualties, and widespread deaths due to hunger, cold, and disease, among the population, along with a lack of today's level of sophisticated record keeping make it difficult to determine the exact numbers killed in that theater of World War 2, but all agree that the great majority of deaths in World War 2 in Europe were in the Soviet Union (see resources at wikipedia under "World_War_II_casualties.") [back]
3. The French surrender to the Nazis in World War 2, and Nazi expectations that Britain would capitulate as well, led the Nazis to anticipate "inheriting" and having access to France's extensive colonial empire. This formed a backdrop to the Nazi "Madagascar Plan," to deport the Jews of Europe to Madagascar—a French colony in Africa. [back]
5. Minor adjustments in these policies were made for some countries in Western Europe under Nazi domination, where there were small numbers of Jews, and where it was the assessment of Nazi diplomats and others that rounding up and killing all the Jews would have very negative consequences – this policy was applied in Norway, for example, but affected very small numbers of Jews. [back]
6. Even today, feudal and theocratic remnants like formal recognition of kings, queens, official state religions, and powerful "Christian Democratic" parties are integral to political life in modern Europe. [back]
8. Today, evolution-deniers claim that Hitler's "theories" of racial superiority were derived from or rooted in Darwin's theory of evolution. The opposite is true–the theory, and reality, of evolution debunks theories of racial superiority. As Ardea Skybreak writes in her book The Science of Evolution and the Myth of Creationism: Knowing What's Real and Why It Matters, "The main thing that evolution teaches us about race is that there is no such thing as truly distinct biological races of human beings!" (Insight Press, 2006, p. 166). What are called "races" are socially and culturally defined categories, with meaning in that sense, but not natural divisions of the human species. Throughout recent history, and down to the present day, oppressive forces have seized on what are actually fairly minor secondary characteristics of appearance like skin color, or the shape of the eyes, to create social categories of races—and on that basis to justify, and carry out, terrible oppression of whole peoples. For more on the actual nature of races, see "Evolution, Racist? No Way! The Creationist Big Lie," Revolution Feb. 15, 2009, available at revcom.us. [back]
9. Many German Jewish scientists were forced to flee Nazi Germany, and were welcomed by the U.S. – even as other German Jews fleeing Hitler were refused entry to the U.S. They were a factor in the U.S. developing the atomic bomb ahead of the Nazis. [back]
10. For example, Hitler's Secretary of State, Ernst von Weizsäcker, who claimed after the war that he had opposed Hitler, and who maintained some contacts at least with more actively pro-Western factions of the German military during the war, was not invited to the Wannsee Conference because Hitler's closest associates suspected he was not fully on board with the "final solution." [back]
11. For an in-depth and insightful exploration of the factors behind Hitler's anti-Semitism, and factors that led to the Holocaust, see Why Did the Heavens Not Darken? by Arno J. Mayer. [back]
12. See for example, "The U.S. ... Israel ... and Crimes Around the World," special issue of Revolution Oct. 4, 2010. [back]
Send us your comments.
Revolution #216, November 14, 2010
The following speech was given at Revolution Books stores this fall. It has been edited for publication.
The Revolutionary Communist Party is building a movement for revolution—we are hastening and awaiting, preparing minds and organizing forces to be able to seize on a revolutionary crisis when it does break out. We have a strategy to do that, and we have strategic thinking on how to make sure that the people can win... And there's a whole lot that goes into that.
Central to all of this right now is the campaign the Party has undertaken pivoting on the statement it issued, "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have," with its three goals: to really put revolution on the map in a societal way; to make Bob Avakian a household word—someone referenced, debated, deeply engaged, and broadly known about; and to bring forward and train a growing core that is consciously and actively taking up this revolution and taking it out and fighting for it everywhere. Taken together, these goals are aimed at putting this revolution in a whole greater position to fight its way forward in a world undergoing profound changes, potential openings, and tremendous and pressing need for revolution.
But today I am going to be focusing on a specific part of this whole ensemble, actually the central hub and pivot of the whole revolutionary movement, and of the campaign I just mentioned... something we don't talk about nearly enough or often enough, something that people don't have nearly a scientific enough understanding of and something that the movement for revolution that the RCP is building is still not making a big enough deal about or taking full enough advantage of—and that is the revolutionary newspaper, Revolution.
Bob Avakian and the RCP have spoken repeatedly to what goes into a revolutionary situation—what kinds of conditions must come together and how this will be far from simple and predictable, but rather full of complexity, different levels and layers of developments in the world and among the people and many contradictory dynamics. Attempting to repeat all that now is beyond the scope of today's talk, but here I will say just a few things.
If you think that revolutions come about because people get more and more oppressed, more and more fucked over, and out of that grows more and more outrage, resistance, protest, and rebellion until finally people "just can't take it any more" and then there is a revolution... you are wrong. There have been countless examples of times when great crimes against the people were met with quiet acquiescence... or, on other hand, when rebellions and upheavals have occurred when things were far from "their worst." If you look out at the terrain today and say, man, people are so caught up in empty consumerism, in god or gossip, they won't even resist torture... they will NEVER wake up to the world around them—you are wrong.
Sure, there's an overabundance of backwardness among the American people—but there are also strains against this, strivings in a different direction, and there are times, especially when there are shocks and jolts in the world, when people in great numbers have been sprung into motion in resistance and defiance. No one can say when or how exactly things might develop, but when powerful rebellions, major crises and major upsurges have occurred—things like the U.S. during the 1960s or Iran in the last year and a half—they erupted out of a whole host of contradictions that had been intensifying for a while, but not all on the surface and not in linear ways. None of them grew gradually out of more and more resistance building up over time, and it certainly didn't grow mainly out of the "good organizing" efforts of activists.
Societies leap into revolutionary crisis. These crises emerge out of contradictions that existed beforehand, but were largely buried and suppressed. That's why a reactionary New York Times columnist like David Brooks, when writing about the upsurge of resistance following the last election in Iran, picked up on something written by Michael McFaul of the National Security Council, that: "In retrospect, all revolutions seem inevitable. Beforehand, all revolutions seem impossible."
Now, part of the work of revolutionaries—and this is one of the functions of the revolutionary newspaper, as I will be discussing more fully later—is to be identifying, analyzing, and going to work to shape the development of these contradictions that could lead to a revolutionary situation, but even with that no one can predict exactly what contradiction, or combination of contradictions, will develop into the kind of crisis necessary to make revolution—and in many ways, even for those who have been looking for it and certainly for those who haven't been, it will seem to "come out of nowhere."
But once that crisis has broken out, the question will be posed—is there an organization, a party, with a scientific understanding of the need for—and the strategy to make—revolution? Has it been trained and tempered over a whole period of time leading up to that crisis, through entering into and pushing forward the struggle of the masses, working to divert the spontaneity of that struggle into a revolutionary movement and a revolutionary people? Has this party been built over a whole period of time in such a way as to preserve its privacy and organizational integrity?
Does this party have deep roots and organized ties among all sections of society, but with its deepest roots among those who catch hell every day? Does this revolutionary movement have experience in—and is it organized and oriented in such a way as to be able to make leaps in—reaching out to and influencing, bringing forward and organizing, growing numbers of people—millions upon millions—as they are sprung into political life and looking for guidance on "how to live and how to die"?
Is there a broader mass that have been being influenced by this movement for revolution, over a whole period of time, so that they gravitate towards a revolutionary pole—or at least know of its existence and where to turn when things are really breaking loose? Has this party—through its direct work as well as through its broader influence on all these sections of people, and their interaction with and influence on each other—been helping to shape the way people are lining up, how they are seeing different faultline questions in society, like the role of women, or immigrants, or the role of the police and the imperialist wars? Is there, in other words, a contending revolutionary polarization on these and other questions, that people know about and are broadly considering and being influenced by?
All of this relates to whether the sharp contradictions brought about by this system will actually develop into a major crisis, and what the contours of that crisis will be. And you can't even imagine doing all this without a revolutionary newspaper.
How else, besides a newspaper, would what would even at the time of major expansion still be a relatively small core be able to reach out and have influence way disproportionate to its numbers as when millions are waking up and events are unfolding rapidly? How else—besides a newspaper—will networks of revolution be both steeped and trained in a line and understanding and, at the same time, forged in such a way they cannot all be easily suppressed or disrupted? How else—besides a newspaper—will the party itself be making a living analysis of the developing contradictions and setting out direction for the revolutionary people for how to impact the terrain? And when that crisis comes, this can't just be pulled out of a hat. These deep roots, this influence on the broader mass, this ability to function, this kind of party—all that has to be being worked on and built up over a whole period of time.
And in all these dimensions, in answering all of those questions, the revolutionary newspaper is decisive. The newspaper is the main organ of a revolutionary party and a revolutionary movement—in its political, ideological, and organizational dimensions. And the revolutionary newspaper is the main way that this movement reaches out to and influences the broader society in all its contradictoriness, through the ups and downs of non-revolutionary times and leading into and through the emergence of a revolutionary situation where the all-out struggle for power can come on the agenda.
And even today, before the emergence of that kind of all-out revolutionary crisis, the role of the paper needs to be much greater. Even in a time like this, it needs to be getting out regularly in the hundreds, and sometimes the thousands, in key communities of the oppressed where the revolution is getting known and being taken up, developing understanding and building consistent partisanship in a growing swath of the community... it needs to be finding its way much more consistently onto the campuses and cultural scenes—entering into their all-night discussions and debates about how to understand the world and what to do with their lives... it needs to be provoking and unsettling people—causing them to go into print to argue against what it is saying but through the process stirring more people to begin to engage... it needs to be finding its way out to the disaffected youth in the suburbs... its website needs to become more and more of a place where people are checking in and sending correspondence, that is being linked to and hotly debated, meeting Bob Avakian and browsing everything from history and analysis to science, the arts, and philosophy... it needs to be providing a means for people to be coming together in groups to wrangle with its content and method—and to be forging organizational networks of people getting it out... it needs to be getting out to everyone who is lifting their heads in struggle... to people who are yearning for a different way and attracted to the idea of revolution... to people who tend to feel that's too extreme but yet are dissatisfied and searching and willing to listen... to people who are driven crazy by what it is saying but who, nonetheless, are compelled to keep up with what we are saying...
Right now, there is the basis for this to be happening. What is standing in the way of this vision? Some of it is objective—we are a relatively small number of people and there is an intense relative calm in much of society—but even more, there are still shortcomings in our own understanding and even contending lines in our thinking on the importance and role of this paper in making revolution. It is crucial that we not only "do better work" and raise the level of distribution of this newspaper manifold, and soon! But also that we clear out the cobwebs in our thinking, the default mode of just plodding along "building the movement" with no real sense of strategy or direction... and rupture to an ever-deepening scientific understanding of the strategy for revolution and the centrality of the revolutionary newspaper within that.
It was over a hundred years ago now that Lenin first identified and ruptured with these very same wrong understandings within the communist movement in his pathbreaking book, What Is To Be Done. And it was only by doing this that he was able to lead people in the first successful communist revolution in 1917 and leave a treasure trove of understanding and orientation to the whole world communist movement ever since.
A lot of this wrong thinking has, since the time of Lenin, come to be referred to as "economism." Originally this referred to the approach of focusing the efforts of revolutionaries on leading the workers in their economic struggles against their immediate conditions in labor—the bosses and such. But, since that time it has come to be understood as the overall approach of focusing the attention on involving the masses in the immediate struggles—not only in the economic sphere, but also the broader political sphere, but with the view that the most important and the first thing that must be done is to get people to resist, and only once that has begun are people "ready" to be introduced to communism and revolution. Together with this is the view that while people need revolutionary consciousness to make revolution, they will gain this consciousness primarily through their involvement in the struggle, or at most as an add-on to their involvement in that struggle.
Now, don't get me wrong—resistance is extremely important. It matters tremendously—both in the immediate and in the ways things develop and unfold towards revolution. It matters in terms of keeping the system from being able to just totally crush and destroy the masses of people, in terms of training the masses and giving them a sense of their fighting capacity, in terms of waking more people up to political life. (A lot of times what stirs people from just going along with their routine is when they see others standing up in struggle and they think, what is it that they know that I don't know that makes them feel so strongly as to do all that?) This has impact around how people view key fault-line questions of the day, it has to do with whether the ruling class has more room to maneuver when confronting new contradictions or whether their difficulties—including potential in-fighting—get compounded by the resistance of the people, and it plays into how people line up, what kind of broader polarization emerges as a full-on revolutionary crisis develops... and all this compels both those involved in these struggles as well as others to look to deeper and more fundamental contradictions in society, to the source of all this and its solution, making them more open to revolution ... because when people stand up they do lift their heads, they begin to get a broader view of the world and the other forces who make up society.
But resistance is just one part of a whole ensemble of what is necessary for revolution—and it is a subordinate part within something bigger. It must be approached from and built within the overall framework of making revolution—not revolution somehow unfolding out of resistance. At every point, we need to be approaching our work to understand and change the world from the final goal of communist revolution back, NOT: "first we have to get people resisting, and then we can bring in the final aim." And in all this, the revolutionary newspaper is the most important means of hastening the development of—and preparing the people, ideologically, politically, and organizationally, for—the emergence of a revolutionary situation.
To understand why this is true, let's start with the basic fact that no one comes to understand the need for revolution, and they don't get prepared for revolution through resistance alone. Spontaneously, even as people begin to question and to rebel they do so on the basis of thinking that someone is cheating or breaking the rules, there is a corrupt—or a stupid, or a really mean—politician or official or police officer, or that if only the people in charge understood what was really going on someone at the top would do something about it. A lot of times, even their efforts at resistance are aimed at forcing someone "in charge" to do something so that they can go back to their "regular lives" and not have to deal with politics and the world anymore.
As Lenin put it, "People always were and always will be the foolish victims of deceit and self-deceit in politics until they learn to discover the interests of some class or other behind all moral, religious, political and social phrases, declarations and promises. The supporters of reforms and improvements will always be fooled by the defenders of the old order until they realize that every old institution, however barbarous and rotten it may appear to be, is maintained by the forces of some ruling classes."
Just look at something like major mass movements that developed against the war on Iraq. In case people don't remember, there was incredibly widespread and powerful resistance and this was extremely important and had great impact—and, its lasting impact is still being felt. Even if only for a while, it showed the world a different sentiment and a different force—coming right from within the most powerful empire—that was opposed to the crimes of its government. It ripped the cover of popular mandate and legitimacy off the Iraq war from the very beginning—a problem that continues to haunt the rulers of this system. It posed the question to millions about why all this was happening, what it revealed about the system behind it... this resistance shaped the consciousness and experience of a whole generation... it gave people a sense that their government—at least at times—lies to them and causes great suffering to real people in other parts of the world... It brought to the fore the common interests of different sections of people—and a different morality, that valued the lives of people around the world and valued sacrificing and struggle for something greater, not just devolving into consumption and self... even if only for a little while.
But, at the same time, many people largely entered into that resistance on the basis of being convinced that the war was a distraction from what they felt was a legitimate "war on terrorism." And a big part of what caused so many to take to the streets was they felt that the normal channels were not available to them, that those at the top weren't doing their job... but then, as soon as they were given a candidate who even mildly gave voice to sentiments against what had been done—calling the war on Iraq not a "criminal act of mass murder" but a "dumb war," they flocked to him, they superimposed anti-war positions onto his very pro-war speeches, they deluded themselves into thinking that someone would take care of all this for them and they could get back to their regular lives, not having to mind the crimes of this system...
And this is how things will always spontaneously develop. Seeing the need—and the basis for—revolution requires science and it requires RUPTURING with spontaneity.
Take the example of Oscar Grant. Anyone with a heart can look at the YouTube video of him being shot point blank in the back by a Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer as he lay face down on the ground—and every single person ought to be horrified and outraged. But this is not enough. Think about it: you can go out in the very neighborhood where that happened and find Black people who'll tell you, "Yes that was horrible and yes it happens all the time. But God has a plan... He works in mysterious ways." Or you can go to another neighborhood and find people who'll say, "Yes, that was horrible. They really need to give those police better sensitivity training." Or they'll go on about "human nature"—how anytime someone puts on a uniform "human nature" causes them to abuse their power.
To understand why both of those "explanations" are complete bullshit—and why the problem is the nature of this system itself, and how this system can be done away with and replaced with something much better through revolution—understanding all that requires SCIENCE.
Making revolution is like curing a disease. Anyone who has ever had cancer—or even who has known someone with cancer—can tell you that the disease causes great suffering and potentially death... but to explain how it develops and spreads, how this impacts on different organs and their functioning, what is going on beneath the surface that gives rise to the symptoms of pain and discomfort—that requires SCIENCE. And to be able to cure the disease—to develop the correct method of treatment and care... that requires not only a general understanding of cancer, but of the particular patient and the stage they are in, how that cancer is developing and the strengths of the body overall... and, on that basis, a prescription of treatment.
And when they confront a really bad disease a lot of people go into denial, they don't like to confront how bad it really is. They don't like the implications—that they will have to change the way they are living and acting. And trust me, if you are trying to convince a cancer patient to undergo chemo—with all the pain and discomfort, all the disruption that brings—you aren't going to convince them without making a very compelling and scientific argument as to why all that will be worth it. But you CAN convince them—convince them they not only need this treatment, but that they themselves have to actively strive to understand what is killing them and what to do about it.
The same is true of revolution. People resist the need for revolution. Most people will try everything else out before turning to revolution. Why? Because revolution is HARD. It takes struggle. It takes sacrifice—not because of the intentions or actions of the revolutionaries, but because of the nature of the system and all the ways it will try to defeat and crush attempts at revolution. Making revolution means going against the tide. It means you can't leave things up to the politicians and the people who are "supposed to be dealing with things like that." It means going up against the state—and everything it will bring down on the revolutionary forces and masses more broadly. It means standing out from your friends and family and others...
Now, not everyone is going to become fully convinced of the need for this revolution all at once, or even at all. But this paper is working on a lot of different levels. Let's look at another example:
Let's look again to some of the major developments in the world and how our newspaper is relating to them. Take something like the recent law, SB1070, in Arizona attacking immigrants. It matters tremendously that people stood up against that law—the Los Suns... the student protests... the major musicians' boycott... the revolutionaries who went down there, along with many others, to Arizona Freedom Summer... but it also matters the understanding that people enter into that struggle with—and how that gets deepened and transformed.
Our paper covered all this—brought this alive. And it issued calls for people to act—to get down to Arizona, to join in this resistance... and it reported on and popularized the experience of this resistance. But, as incredibly important as all that is, to reduce the role of our paper in the Arizona struggle to that would be gross economism. The paper much more importantly, and much more principally, worked on how people were understanding what they were up against.
Do people see it as just a racist governor beholden to a reactionary redneck social base? Do they oppose this extreme measure which requires racial profiling and deportations by the state police by instead supporting Obama's plan for workplace enforcement and thousands of more troops on the border? Or, do they see that all this is fundamentally rooted in a system—the way the operation of this system has so plundered Mexico that many can no longer survive in its countryside while at the same time, because of many of the same economic shifts driven by globalization, many of those immigrants are being sucked into the shadows of the U.S. economy as a source of super-profits? And do they see that it is no longer necessary for humanity to live in a world carved up into oppressor and oppressed nations, where the side of the border you were born on and the color of your skin will determine and shape whether you are treated with the dignity of a human being? Do they see that both Governor Jan Brewer and Obama, for all their profound differences, are both operating from the framework of wanting to preserve, stabilize and extend this system and neither of them are operating on the concern for the lives of immigrants or other oppressed people? But do they also get that there are real contradictions within the ruling class over this—how the changing role of immigrants is destabilizing their system and how they are actually contending over different visions of how to hold this thing together, even as they are very addicted to this immigrant labor? The point is that people spontaneously don't get the real weaknesses, or rather the real necessity facing the enemy, and so they don't see how this could be part of a revolution developing. And how will they see that WITHOUT a paper? How will they understand—in fact, how will WE understand—the meaning of something like the court decision that stopped part of the act, but upheld the rest?
Through this example of Arizona I am again underscoring the importance of how people think and that people won't get all the understanding they need to make revolution just through their experience in the struggle. People act on what they understand, and the more they scientifically understand the living dynamics and contradictions of this system that give rise to all the outrages that stir them and distress them, the more they will see the need and the basis for making revolution, and act increasingly and increasingly consciously on that foundation. As part of this, the paper acts on many levels—giving them an understanding of the contradictions of the system and the strengths and potential strengths and potential revolutionary unity among different sections of the people. And the paper has a broader impact on shaping the masses and their views already on a small scale—but frankly, too small a scale. Our paper needs to be—right now—reaching out to thousands who are aroused through struggles like this and that includes many who don't even themselves become active, but are thinking and questioning and interested in answers.
All this makes a difference, it makes ALL THE DIFFERENCE—not only today, but as events develop towards a revolutionary crisis. It makes a difference in whether that resistance is able to grow and become more deep, broad and determined—or go with the spontaneity back under the wing of a section of the bourgeoisie and back into politically "safe" and meaningless channels designed to absorb and render impotent the outrage of the masses. It makes a difference in terms of whether growing numbers of people are coming to a fundamentally better view of immigrants, viewing them as human beings worthy of the same rights and lives as anyone else, forging unity with them in the course of that struggle, whether immigrants and other oppressed people are feeling less isolated and more emboldened to think about and step forward politically to act to change the world, and whether people broadly are coming to see that it is this system itself that is the problem. It makes a difference in terms of a growing core—even if a minority at any given time—who out of this are gravitating to a more radical understanding and solution, and beginning to take up that outlook and get trained in it. And it matters in terms of whether, when that movement dies down—which all movements do eventually as long as the system of capitalism remains in operation—those who have become radicalized get demoralized and give up or whether they are brought into a movement with a strategy and given a meaningful way to contribute to hastening the development of revolution, even as we all must fundamentally await the conditions which make it fully possible. It makes a difference if significant numbers of people have some experience—even if partial and contradictory—in stepping outside the official channels of bourgeois politics, if many more people have heard of BA or seen even a clip of his speeches and have a sense of what he stands for, if the idea of revolution has been circulating broadly in the minds of millions... if people know there is an organization and a leader prepared to lead all this to an actual revolution. Because all this comes together again when the system goes into crisis the next time... and nobody knows exactly which "next time" will be THE time when revolution becomes possible.
One of the hallmarks of Bob Avakian's leadership has been that he has dug up, defended—and frankly rescued—these tremendous contributions of Lenin which were all but buried in the communist movement, including within the RCP itself for some time. At the same time, and through the process of defending this whole approach of What-Is-To-Be-Done-ism, BA has further developed and enriched this understanding.
As he put it in Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity:
"In speaking of an 'enrichment' of 'What Is To Be Done-ism' we are referring to what more has been learned since the time of Lenin—including in terms of the dialectical relation between consciousness and the transformation of material reality, or between the subjective and objective factors—and an even more heightened emphasis not only on enabling increasing numbers of the masses to engage with what's going on in all the different spheres of society and how that relates to the fundamental nature of society and the fundamental question of transforming society and the world, but also an emphasis on breaking down, to the maximum degree possible at any given time, the barriers to their engaging in the sphere of 'working with ideas' and the struggle and contention in the realm of ideas (in the spheres of art and culture, science and philosophy, and so on) as well as putting before these masses the problems of the revolution—drawing them, as much and as fully as possible, at every point, into grappling with crucial questions relating to the need for communist revolution and the means for making that revolution. The point of all this is not simply to create a situation in which growing numbers of masses will 'feel involved' in the revolutionary process, but to actually help find the solutions to these problems and to enable the Party, as well as the masses, to learn in this way."
Think of the letters from the prisoners that have been run in our newspaper, for instance. One of the things that is striking—in addition to the deep appreciation many of them express for the all around leadership of BA—is the profound impact of Ardea Skybreak's series on evolution (which has since been published as a book, but first appeared serialized in Revolution newspaper) or Bob Avakian's Away With All Gods! Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World. Many of them wrote about how they learned, through these works, to think critically... to break with their religious outlooks... to seek the causes for things in the natural world rather than the supernatural. It is one of the profound crimes of this system—and one of the big challenges for our revolution—that those who most need revolution are the most systematically locked out of the ability to work with ideas. So, it is through the newspaper that not only are people trained politically and ideologically—but also where the things which are obstacles to them even engaging in those realms get taken on and transformed. As they begin to see things this system keeps hidden (about other sections of people or about science or about politics), it is not just that they find out one truth they didn't know before; in addition to that, they start to ask, "what else has been hidden from me?"
The newspaper is not the only way this goes on, but the newspaper is a key means through which this goes on—and it is a key training ground for the more developed revolutionaries in modeling how to take this revolution out and make it the property of those who need it the most.
And—it is also through these pages—that people connect: prisoners with professors, students with street youth, people born in this country with people from all corners of the world—they come to understand each other's experiences and their common interests in revolution. This breaks down their isolation—and it has an impact on how they are thinking overall.
As for this point about putting the questions of the revolution before the masses of people and drawing them into wrangling with and developing answers to these questions, we need to be doing much, much better. When the paper puts out, as it has been recently, that we want people to send in their toughest questions—the people listening to this talk right now have to be doing that, both going out and drawing forward the toughest questions of the masses as well as sending in your own, so that this paper can much more be crackling with the things that really weigh down on people and pose obstacles in their thinking. Or when BA says something like, "Over and over we are confronted by the fact that people can't see beyond the way things are now... This has to do with the importance of constantly wrangling with what a revolutionary situation would look like and how a revolution could actually be made," in his piece, "There IS NO 'Permanent Necessity' for Things to Be This Way; A Radically Different and Better World CAN Be Brought Into Being Through Revolution." We should take him up on that—we should be pulling together to stretch their minds to do this. Then they should find the appropriate ways to share their thinking and insights, their questions and thoughts, with the Party. We need much more of a culture like this in the revolution.
Another thing we should all be wrangling with much more—as well as seeking to apply, are the two paragraphs on strategy that we've been running every week from BA:
Some Principles for Building a Movement for Revolution:
"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 the 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, here I am not going to delve into everything that he poses, but I will highlight one particular element within this because it relates to our greatest strength overall and one of the greatest—yet still under-appreciated—strengths of the newspaper: that is BA. The promotion of Bob Avakian is a major means through which we "can increasingly bring the necessity, and the possibility, of a radically different world to life for growing numbers of people."
Key to bringing this alive is bringing alive the fact that we DO have the leadership we need: BA... and the Party he leads and has fought for. And every week in this newspaper people get a sense of this leader—through his short quotes that concentrate powerful truths and enable people to find their bearings and their compass on key political or moral questions of the day. Through his memoir - where people come to understand more fully his life and his thinking, his sense of humor and his depth, his influences and his method of learning and pursuing questions, what kind of person he is and what it means to live a life with meaning and purpose, not just for oneself but for the whole of humanity. Through his analysis of major political developments or philosophical debates which enable people to see the world more fully—and the potential for understanding and changing the world more vividly and more scientifically. The more people get into his work, the more they understand the nature of this revolution, and its possibility, and the more they are enabled to contribute their thinking to the key questions and in many other ways play a role in this revolution.
And through his fuller body of work, including in many of the major theoretical talks and pieces that we run in our paper, people get an understanding of his new synthesis on revolution and communism as well as its significance. Through his work they come to understand more fully the tremendous and liberating things that were accomplished during the first stage of communist revolution and the lessons and legacies that must not be lost, but must be defended and built upon—even as, at the same time, BA reveals the real limitations that these revolutions ran up against in their own conception, philosophical framework and practical experience. The fact is that after these revolutions were defeated—with the devastating and disorienting and rolling impact that has had for nearly two generations now—humanity found itself at a crossroads where communist theory and the communist movement either had to make a leap into the future, bringing forward a whole new stage of revolution, or become a relic of the past—and BA stepped up to fill that need. The theoretical framework that BA reforged—his new synthesis—has answered the questions posed by the end of the last stage of communist revolution and the changes in the world since that time, and it forms the foundation out of which a new stage can be launched... and BA is fighting to lead that as well. All of this has given people the means to understand what they are up against and the way to shape the future. It's the foundation of the Party's ideological and political line, and of our paper.
In these, and many other ways, BA is a game-changer for this revolution and the bigger a deal we make out of him the better it will be for the prospects of revolution.
That is why he is in the paper every week—but not only that, that is why this paper is also where people sum up and learn about their experience in making BA and what he's all about a household word—which is, as I said earlier, one of the main objectives of the crucial campaign we are now involved in. The paper highlights experience in getting out the new image of BA, it features correspondence where people write about how the Revolution talk has influenced and shaped them, it has the particularly deep response of prisoners to what he has been bringing forward... and this is all crucial today even as many don't even yet know they are searching for this... and whether the revolutionaries, over a whole period of time, have been fighting to make this leader known VERY, very broadly—even among many who right now only have him "circulating in their minds"—will be all the more crucial as major crises break out and millions and millions are looking for someone to lead them.
Now, not everyone is going to understand everything about this revolution or about this leader or about this newspaper all at once. But that is not surprising. Lenin made the point that "there are masses and masses." That is to say, he distinguished between those who were politically awakening and those who were, so to speak, relatively still asleep, and he went on to say that, at any given time, you mainly aim your work towards those who are politically awakening. Sometimes that might only be hundreds or thousands of people—at other times that means tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, and millions. But, at any given time—while you need to be reaching the broadest numbers of people possible, what you need to be bringing them needs to be determined not by "what people are ready to hear" but by what is true and what the events of the day reveal and where things ultimately need to go and how they can get there.
But no one can say in advance how different sections of the people will line up—and no one can say in advance who among the people, among every strata, will come all the way forward to take up the outlook of communism and actively dedicate themselves to being fighters for this revolution. So, you have to be stretching this out to the broadest numbers of people at any given time—working on all of them on many different levels.
A lot of people, including a lot of revolutionaries, seem to think that you only get the newspaper to those who are already "ready for it." In fact, the opposite is true. This newspaper is central to getting people ready for revolution. In reality, people are all filled with contradictions. They are filled with illusions, they are filled with distractions, they are filled with questions—many of which are quite perceptive and sharp, by the way—but they are all part of the same reality and that reality is confronting us all—every day—with a million reasons for revolution. Yes, we have to be reaching those who are most inclined towards revolution—but we also have to be going much more broadly, to everywhere people are dissatisfied or angry, everywhere they are standing up or just searching, even where people may be put off by this but are willing to listen.
The point is, through many different ways our strategy for revolution involves working on that side of people that is open to this revolution—deepening that side of people and developing it. We need to be learning from these people even as we are struggling with them and transforming them through the process.
Look, we ourselves constantly underestimate the significance and potential impact of this newspaper—how powerful a tool it is in all of this. A lot of it has to do with this short attention span culture and need for immediate gratification or to see results and impact immediately—"I got them the paper and they didn't become a communist." Or, "I took the paper out to the May Day demonstrations, but man—all those immigrants were waving American flags!" Okay, we want people to become communists and there is a BIG problem with the American flag and all the plunder and ruthlessness it represents, but people are contradictory and the point is that we want to be part of what is influencing how their own internal contradictions unfold over time and as they interact with each other and with the events that develop in the world.
Now, before moving to a conclusion, I want to say a few things to those who advocate "excitative" actions—who say, "If you were for real about revolution, you wouldn't be dealing with a newspaper," and then they go on to advocate isolated acts of violence, by individuals or small groups, divorced from masses of people and attempting to substitute for a revolutionary movement of masses of people.
Now, if you are really serious, you'd understand that this is very wrong and extremely harmful. As it says in Some Crucial Points of Revolutionary Orientation—in Opposition to Infantile Posturing and Distortions of Revolution, "Even—or especially—if this is done in the name of 'revolution,' it will work against, and in fact do serious damage to, the development of an actual revolutionary movement of masses of people, as well as to the building of political resistance against the outrages and injustices of this system even before there is a revolutionary situation. It will aid the extremely repressive forces of the existing system in their moves to isolate, attack and crush those, both revolutionary forces and broader forces of political opposition, who are working to build mass political resistance and to achieve significant, and even profound, social change through the politically-conscious activity and initiative of the masses of people."
If YOU are serious you'll understand that revolution must be the act of masses of people in their millions and if you are really serious, you'll be applying yourself to developing the kind of strategy, methods and organization in which you can draw those masses forward, forge them into a revolutionary people, and then organize and lead them to make revolution when the time is right. Anything else, anything less, will not only lend itself to getting the revolutionary forces isolated and crushed by the state before the opening for real revolution and will only leave the masses without the ability to act when they are aroused and ready to do so.
Finally, I want to talk about the importance of the newspaper as the voice of a party.
Recently someone said to me that we need the newspaper because we can't always bring out the most experienced communists to talk directly with everyone who is coming forward and really break down the line.
But look, while in one way this is true and important, more this itself reflects the kind of thinking that we need to rupture out of. The newspaper is NOT a substitute for meeting a really good communist.
The newspaper is the voice of a Party. It is an instrument through which individuals come together as a collectivity—founded on a common line and method for understanding the world and making revolution and acting as a team of scientists in that process, wrangling deeply and scientifically with key questions of the revolution and acting in a disciplined and unified way to lead masses of people in making revolution.
What comes out in this paper—week in and week out—is the product of a lot of scientific work—analyzing what are the key contradictions that need to be spoken to, wrestling with how to understand different phenomena in the world which perhaps are unanticipated... or which maybe are highly routine but working to get people to see them as the outrages they are. Figuring out how to bring alive the common interests of people this society keeps divided and ignorant about each other's lives. Going deeply into the phenomena concentrated in this Tea Party movement, or the Christian fascists, or the rise of Glenn Beck. Even things like quizzes or satires lampooning the things that people have come to accept (for instance, our recent piece on "entre-manure-ialism"...) that enable people to see things with fresh eyes and to laugh at the ways they themselves, or people they know, get caught up in the putrid culture of this world. All this is led by the Party—it is what enables people to pull together and produce something that no individual communist could produce or spontaneously understand on their own.
And then, each week it is translated into Spanish—reflecting this Party's internationalism and its strategic appreciation for the role of immigrants as well as people living on the other side of the border in learning about and joining in the struggle for this revolution.
It is very important that this newspaper is the voice of a party—the Revolutionary Communist Party. This is extremely important because without this Party, the dream of revolution can only remain that—a dream. To make revolution for real, there needs to be a vanguard force—forged on the basis of a scientific understanding of the need and basis and methods of the revolution that must be made, organized on the foundation of democratic centralism in order to be learning as fully about the world and coming together in a unified and disciplined way to act on and change the world and withstand repression as it does so—and people need to know of the existence of this Party. This is a very important element of what this newspaper does—even more than any single analysis in this newspaper, people get the living and developing voice and leadership of a party...
And the paper is the key way that people come to work with this Party—and to get organized around it, even as many do not yet fully agree with everything the paper says, they can get organized around it, work on it, dig into it and study it, develop networks to distribute it... some of them out on the corner or at tables on campuses... but even more of them being organized so wisely and so well that the other side cannot stop it.
All of this is not something separate from the campaign the Party is currently leading, "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have" with its three goals of putting revolution back on the map in a powerful and society-wide way, making BA a household name, and drawing forward and training a growing core of fighters for this revolutionary understanding and cause. This newspaper is a key means through which this campaign is led and summed up, lessons are analyzed and popularized, new people are connected up with the need for revolution and introduced to BA and then, if and as they get deeper into this movement, trained. Making more use of this paper—in all these ways I have been describing—is going to be key in making these advances.
Let's get this paper widely read and distributed... let's get rungs and rungs of people alive and unleashed with the potential of this newspaper—how it fits into the strategy of hastening while awaiting a revolutionary situation... how it pits our greatest strengths—that is, our very advanced revolutionary line and leadership and organization—up against the very big challenges in this world—that is, the tremendously lowered sights, unscientific thinking, passivity and acquiescence, the widespread ignorance and fear, the isolation and segregation among different sections of the people—and go to work on transforming all this at a time when a great deal is in motion and transformation... this paper is a way for people who are new and checking things out to learn, to be trained in the science, to come to understand events in the world, in history and philosophy and to—even while they are learning and wrangling, resisting and debating—be a part of spreading this very wide and broad, making a huge and meaningful contribution in the advancing to a much better world.
The other thing which we haven't spoken much about in this discussion which I want to at least highlight before we conclude the formal part of the evening is people getting organized around this paper. We've just heard way too many times that people think we're doing really good stuff, they think we're really good people, they like the ideas that we come with—or sometimes they do. But they don't have a sense of our strategy and they don't know we have a strategy and they don't know what our strategy is. And we have to give them a sense of how our strategy is working on and helping shape and influence the terrain even while we are fundamentally awaiting the developments which are objective to us. But we're not just awaiting. We're working on them and we're organizing forces.
It's both those things. We're working on the ideological and political terrain overall...we're not just preparing a few people and waiting for things to change. We're working on and shaping the terrain and we're preparing minds but we are also definitely organizing forces. And this organization part is crucial. It means people all over the country following this paper, getting direction from it, getting common understanding, seeing each other in it—people from all sections of society in it—the revolutionary movement, nationwide, as well as people in resistance and revolution all over the world. In that way, this paper is like the scaffolding of a building, and the movement for revolution is the building itself—the paper is a way that the people working on that building are seeing what's developing, what's going on, what are the things we have to work on, what is the experience we can learn from, and where can we really go forward.
And we really need networks of distribution—in the projects, on the campuses, in people's workplaces—starting now on one scale, but with the potential to get really vast. And in ways where it's not so obvious how everybody gets the paper—who gets it to them—but where people are engaging it regularly. And the reason I bring up strategy is people have to understand that all of this is part of our strategy for how a revolutionary people is shaped politically and ideologically, how a core is trained, how a broader mass is being influenced over a whole period of time and how forces are being organized now in a way where they can continue to move and act politically and increasingly reach out and absorb and be able to grow when people are jolted into political life by the millions and millions. This is a key part of that strategically.
At some point the potential for the revolutionary forces to really grow exponentially could emerge. But when you get to that point, there actually has to be a mechanism through which people when they are jolted awake can get organized. How does a small number of people, a relatively small number, a core of people... even if you have tens of thousands, in a country of 300 million that's a relatively small number of people. So when tens of millions of people are convulsed into political action, how do you grow? And how do you grow not just on any old basis, but actually where you're training forces to understand the need for revolution and what goes into making that revolution? It's through a newspaper, where they're being trained ideologically and politically and where they're being organized. That's the kind of organization that can expand exponentially—networks of people coming and reading and wrangling with and distributing the newspaper and branching out and branching out.
And that's not all ... it is important that it be on the internet, that it be a website that's being debated and spreading and reaching out to people in isolated areas, but it's also important that not everything of the revolutionary people, not every single person, and not every network of organization is carried out where it's easy for the other side to get its prying eyes in there and know everybody's business. The newspaper on all those levels—I said this in the beginning and I want to end with this—organizationally, politically, and ideologically—it is the way this movement for revolution gets led, understands and analyzes the world in a living and dynamic way.
Because revolution is not made by a formula, and it's not made by just build up your forces, build up your forces. There are changes in the world. A lot of them are unexpected, a lot of them you don't know the full implications of until you do the work. And where are the openings for revolution? Where are the openings for hastening? Where are the openings for shaping the contours of the contradictions? Those are being analyzed. That work is being done for the Party itself, as well as for the movement for revolution, in this newspaper. So even understanding the openings and how to act on them and seize on them to ripen the revolutionary situation, and even to recognize that revolutionary situation—that happens in this paper. To have people trained in the strategy of this revolution and sharing with each other the experiences: we went out over here, we encountered this backwards shit, but there was a countervailing dynamic too, and here's how we worked on that. And here's what are the broader lessons for the movement for revolution that can be popularized. And here's where people can hear the voices of other sections of people, and see the potential for a different alignment and for a society where the people on the bottom being part of running it is not a nightmare, the people on the bottom being part of running it as emancipators of humanity with this leadership is actually something quite inspiring and full of potential. Again, a scaffolding on the building under construction.
Those things people get a sense of, and all these dynamics, understanding the terrain, leading people to act on the terrain, understanding the biggest questions of where it's going, breaking down the obstacles for people getting into this revolution and taking it up, and being able to grow and reach and have people all act together, on a common aim, and wield disproportionate influence and impact when jolts in society come—and they will come repeatedly and die down and come in different forms and die down. And everything that you reach out and maximize and influence in every single one of those mini-crises, or mini-eruptions, or mini-tremors, all the way leading in is going to be part of what shapes how things line up. And then there will be a continual—that's the point of revolutions are complex, they're not just one side and the other side. There's a continual fight through every revolutionary process for the forces for those revolutions. Who's going to line up on what side? And that's contested and reforged and it shifts and it changes and everything you've done up to that point influences that and then whether you can seize on that has to do also with the organization that's been built up. And in all of this it's the paper that's very central.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #216, November 14, 2010
From A World to Win News Service
November 1, 2010. A World to Win News Service. The flap about President Hamid Karzai's threat to restrict the use of mercenaries in Afghanistan sheds a bright light on what the U.S. and its allies are doing there.
In August, Karzai announced that foreign security firms would be banned from operating in the country, citing the undeniable fact that the men they employ have been responsible for all sorts of murders and other atrocities. He also claimed that this would be part of reasserting Afghan sovereignty.
The U.S., UK and other allies have been reliant on paid civilian fighters as part of their effort to wage this war without awakening broader opposition in their home countries, especially the U.S., where, it must be said, the Obama government has been unhindered by antiwar public opinion. The exact number of mercenaries and their deployment are secret, but there have been reliable reports that the occupation forces include more private contractor employees than official troops (New York Times, October 25, 2010), who now total about 170,000.
These men perform tasks left to soldiers in previous wars, from guarding military convoys and bases to taking part in commando raids alongside special forces and CIA "kill teams" that storm into villages at night to assassinate suspected anti-occupation fighters and terrorize civilians suspected of harboring them. Many of these mercenaries are the worst of the worst, former U.S. and UK armed forces commandos who now combine their taste for murder with lust for money.
Further, it is extremely telling that the U.S. authorities responded to Karzai's threat by calling it "impossible" to trust Afghan national army and police forces to perform even simple defensive tasks. The U.S. trains its own soldiers in a few months, but these organizations are said to be "untrained and undisciplined" after Washington has spent nine years and billions of dollars trying to build them up. Members of Karzai's armed forces have repeatedly killed their "trainers." There are simply not enough Afghans whom the occupation forces can trust enough to turn their backs on.
Karzai's threat, as it turned out after the initial bluster when he spelled it out more clearly, was limited. He proposed to allow the U.S. military and State Department, the main combat mercenary employers, to continue as usual. Only for-profit construction and development firms would be forced to lay off their guards and rely on police and soldiers working for the Karzai government.
Even this was too much for the occupiers. President Barack Obama had his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ring up Karzai to make him change his mind. Obama also had General David Patraeus, the man running this war on his behalf as head of the U.S. and NATO forces, conduct an "unusually tense" talk with him.
Karzai backed down the next day, well before the December 17 deadline he had fixed. In fact, the first announcement that he had undergone a change of heart came not from the Afghan president or his office, but the U.S. authorities. They said that Karzai had decided to postpone a decision, so that any restriction on private security contractors would not come until February 2011 at the very earliest, if at all.
One reason why the Obama government became so focused on this matter is its enthusiasm for the use of mercenaries in Iraq as well as Afghanistan. While of course his predecessor George W. Bush initiated the policy on its current scale, the Obama government has distinguished itself by its insistence on continuing their use in the face of scandals and even some Congressional opposition.
The issue came to the foreground in the U.S. after the unprovoked massacre in Baghdad's Nisour Square in 2006, when mercenaries employed by the Blackwater company gunned down at least 17 Iraqis simply to clear a traffic jam. Some of these murderers were indicted under the Bush government, but Obama's Attorney General Stephen Holder, who is supposed to oversee the prosecution, has so far successfully failed to advance the cases against them. Blackwater, more ideologically driven than most security contractors in that it is run by extreme right-wing Christian fundamentalists, has changed its name to Xe Services. In Afghanistan, it supplies not just guards but also fighters for offensive operations and assassinations. In Iraq, the U.S. is greatly stepping up its use of mercenaries to replace some of the regular forces withdrawn from there.
But questions regarding the relationship between the U.S. and Karzai have also been at play in this matter. They involve both political pretense and real contradictions for both sides.
Karzai was, after all, brought to the presidency of Afghanistan by the U.S. and its allies. They chose him at a conclave of Western imperialist nations in Bonn in 2001, had their troops install him in office, organized an election in 2004 to lend his appointment legitimacy and have sustained his regime militarily, economically and politically. His regime could not survive without them, and everyone knows that.
In retaliation for Karzai's threats, at least according to him, the Western media began to make a big fuss about how he receives bags of cash from the Islamic Republic of Iran. He didn't bother to deny it: "It's not hidden. We are grateful to the Iranians for their help in this regard. The United States is doing the same thing. They are providing cash to some of our offices," he said. An unnamed "senior U.S. official in Kabul" commented, "Everyone knew about it, including the U.S. government. Everyone talked about it openly for years." (Washington Post, October 24, 2010) Karzai argues that the money was not just for him, and that's probably true. Of course the warlords, tribal leaders and others he has allied himself with have their own reasons to support his regime, but bags of money have furthered these fragile relationships.
It is almost funny to hear these complaints about Karzai and Co. taking a few million dollars a year from Iran when the U.S. admits that it has spent tens of billions of dollars in Afghanistan that it can't—or won't—account for.
Part of the real content of American complaints about corruption in the Karzai government is that he is ungrateful enough to take money from the U.S.'s enemies. Why is it, U.S. officials and their media seem to lament, that whenever we buy someone they turn out to be so corrupt!
The U.S. and the Iranian regime are certainly contending for influence in Afghanistan, both within and against the Karzai government. But just as with the Nouri Maliki government in Iraq right now, Iran is supporting a regime that tolerates a U.S.-led occupation. For Washington and Tehran alike, Afghanistan simultaneously represents a temporary confluence of interests and an arena of intense competition.
How this works shows just how ruthlessly cynical both the U.S. and Iranian governments can be in pursuit of their reactionary interests. Karzai's longtime chief of staff accused of being the funnel for Iranian funds and political influence, Umar Daudzai, like other members of Karzai's inner circle, was formerly with the Hezbi-Islami. Led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a warlord whose religious fanaticism and brutality the Taliban could envy, it was one of the Islamic fundamentalist groups to which the U.S. funneled money during the war against the Soviet occupation in the 1980s. In the civil war among the mujahideen in the 1990s after the withdrawal of the Soviet invaders, Hekmatyar's men bombarded Kabul extensively and killed many thousands of civilians. Now he is loosely allied with the Taliban—and continues to have ties with the Iranian regime. The U.S. is entertaining the idea of drawing more of this grouping—along with a part of the Taliban themselves and the equally vicious Haqanni group (once Washington's favorite mujahideen forces and now also allied with the Taliban)—into the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan over which Karzai currently presides.
It seems that the U.S. has also considered dumping Karzai, perhaps as part of some new configuration of henchmen and at any rate because he is one of the most hated men in Afghanistan. You could say the American attitude isn't really fair to Karzai, because what Afghans hate him for is above all the way he has put the interests of the U.S.-led occupation ahead of those of the people and sold out the country to the invaders.
Over the nine years since the 2001 invasion, the Taliban have gone from a widely discredited and hated organization, especially by people not part of its immediate ethnic and ideological base, to one that if not enthusiastically welcomed by most Afghanis throughout the country at least benefits from their neutrality. This change has been brought about by the occupiers' murderous disregard for Afghan lives and the moral climate and social collapse the occupation has produced. The fact that Karzai took money to facilitate the humiliation of the country and its people is just an added reason to hate him.
In these circumstances, it's no surprise that Karzai has tried a little nationalist posturing to try and renew his brand image. There are real conflicts of interest between him and the occupiers, since he has no one to depend on but them while they could consider alternatives. But also, as Karzai himself must realize, the more he succeeds at putting what looks like a little political distance between himself and the U.S., the more valuable he might be to them. It might not work, but what else can he do?
The occupiers want it to appear like they are in Afghanistan as partners of a local sovereign government and not just trying to impose their will on the country by force. They are also more than happy to blame Karzai for Afghanistan's misery. But his is not a sovereign government. The U.S. couldn't help demonstrating that yet again in the last few days by bringing in Russian forces to join American troops for a massive raid in eastern Afghanistan without even telling Karzai about it. This left him looking not only like a lowly underling of the U.S. but an heir of the national traitors who sold Afghanistan to the Soviet Union. No wonder he squirms and seeks to play the patriot.
Even now the U.S. doesn't take his protests very seriously. When he threatened to impose a deadline for private security firms to leave the country, a "Western official in Kabul" mocked it as a self-interested tactical political maneuver. "What this timeline means is withdrawal. The discussion that needs to happen now is: What do you really want? What are your real concerns? Let's draw up a different plan." (Washington Post, August 17, 2010) This statement was both the truth and an attempt to humble and undermine him further.
This filthy game shows what's really going on in Afghanistan. What the U.S. "really wants" is not an independent Afghan "partner" but a flunky regime that can facilitate and provide cover for the occupation. What matters to Washington are the U.S.'s strategic geopolitical goals and not the interests of any people. When the U.S. supports Karzai it is to serve those goals, and when it criticizes Karzai it's for the same reason, just as it fights the reactionary Taliban to serve those goals and seeks to negotiate for the same reason.
The situation in Afghanistan is a nightmare for its people and getting worse. Some misguided Westerners argue that even if the initial invasion was wrong, "'We' have no choice but to stay" until the U.S. can sort out the mess it has created. But when you see how the U.S. is weighing its options, all you can say is that until the U.S. leaves Afghanistan, it can only do more and more harm.
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 #216, November 14, 2010
Danroy Henry Jr., known as DJ, was hanging out with a couple of friends in his car outside a restaurant in Mount Pleasant, a suburb a little north of New York City in Westchester County. A junior at Pace University and a cornerback on the football team, DJ had gone for a night out with teammates and friends after the October 17 homecoming game. "We were just enjoying each other's company, laughing and making jokes, talking about things we were going to do, how we were going to get the most out of life," DJ's close friend Brandon Cox recalled later.
But in a matter of minutes, DJ Henry was dead, gunned down by police bullets. It was less than a couple of weeks before his 21st birthday.
Up until his young life was so brutally cut short, DJ had done what the Bill Cosbys and Bill O'Reillys of this world always lecture that young Black men should do: go to school, stay close to your family, be religious, stay out of trouble with the law... But none of that prevented him from becoming a victim of the epidemic of police shootings that is killing people, especially Black and Latino youth, in cities and towns across the U.S.
While DJ and Brandon were waiting for others to come out of the restaurant, police arrived and approached the car with guns drawn. DJ began moving the car out of the spot when gunshots suddenly rang out. Two of the cops, both white, had fired into the car. One or possibly several bullets hit and killed DJ, and another grazed and injured Brandon. Videos of the scene shortly afterwards, taken by bystanders with phone cameras, show an unidentified woman trying to give CPR to DJ, who is on the ground beside the car. DJ was pronounced dead at the scene.
The police, as they always do in these situations, immediately began to blame the victim of their shooting. A police officer, they say, saw a crowd spilling out of the restaurant that night and called for backup. When a cop approached DJ's car, which was in a fire lane, the car suddenly sped up, clipping one officer with the side view mirror and knocking another onto the hood. Because of this, the cop on the hood, and a third officer, fired their weapons at the car.
The police painted a picture of cops having to deal with an unruly crowd outside the restaurant—four of DJ's teammates were arrested at the scene of the shooting, three for obstructing the police and one for criminal mischief for smashing a store window. A few days after the deadly police shooting, the media reported on what was claimed to be the results of the autopsy on DJ showing that his blood alcohol level had been above the legal limit at the time of death. The Mount Pleasant police department, responsible for the "investigation" into the incident, denied that they had anything to do with the leak of the report. But clearly, the release of this information—whether it is true or not—was an attempt to put DJ in a bad light and justify the cops' actions.
Witnesses have contradicted the police version of events. A Pace senior who was at the scene said he did not see the shooting but did see DJ's car pull away. He said the car would not have been going very fast since it went only about 100 feet before crashing. "They didn't give him a chance to pull over," he said. "They could have pursued him in their vehicles." DJ's teammates who were arrested at the scene say they were trying to get to DJ to help after he was shot, but were prevented by the police.
An attorney for the Henry family said a ballistic expert has determined that the officer who fired into the windshield while on the hood, killing DJ, had first fired once into the hood of the car. According to the expert, the angle of the shot into the hood indicates that it was fired from the side—which goes against the police story that the officer was in danger from the moving car. Some witnesses say the cop who fired the fatal shots wasn't knocked onto the hood of DJ's car but jumped onto the hood before shooting into the windshield.
Friends and acquaintances who saw DJ at the restaurant say that he took his role as the designated driver that night seriously and wasn't drinking. A Pace junior said, "He was with me the whole night and wasn't even drinking. I kept trying to get him to take a sip of my drink and he kept saying, 'No, I'm driving.'"
The only reason DJ's family and friends have had to address this question is because of the suspicious "leak" of the supposed report on DJ's alcohol level, which became an issue in the mainstream media coverage. But whether the report is real or not, how does the number of drinks DJ may have had have anything to do with whether the cops should have shot and killed him? And if DJ had clipped a cop with a side view mirror while driving out of a parking stop—if that actually happened—how does that in any way justify the police firing their weapons?
There is no reason to believe the police version of events. But in any case, there is NO justice in the way the cops acted as judge, jury, and executioner when they stole DJ's life.
DJ's family has made it clear that they want to know the whole truth about what happened on the night of October 17. And they are demanding that the authorities release all the information they have—which they have refused to do, so far. DJ's father, Danroy Henry Sr., said about the alcohol level report, "If it's a part of the truth, so be it. But at the end of the day, the central question to us is, does that justify killing our son?... We still fundamentally believe it isn't."
The police killing of DJ Henry has been covered in the national media, including by the New York Times, ESPN, and Sports Illustrated. Over 2,000 people came to the October 29 memorial service for DJ—on what would have been his 21st birthday—held at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. DJ's family lives in Easton, a middle class Boston suburb, where he went to high school.
A sentiment expressed by many people at the memorial was that DJ's death was "so unnecessary." This is deeply true: there was absolutely no reason for DJ to be killed. Some people are saying that the problem is that the cops involved in DJ's shooting were "poorly trained." BUT the fact is that under this system of capitalism, the police are instruments for enforcing an unjust set of social relations and political order—including discrimination against and oppression of African Americans (and other minority nationalities) as a people. Look at the way the New York City cops murdered 23-year-old Sean Bell in his car in 2006, on the day he was to be married. Look at what happened to Oscar Grant, 22 years old, killed with a bullet to the back in 2009 in Oakland as a cop pinned him face down on a train platform. Look at the cold-blooded police execution of 23-year-old Mark Anthony Barmore in Rockford, Illinois, gunned down in a church daycare center. The list goes on—young Black men, unarmed, cut down by police bullets, like DJ Henry.
After his longtime friend was killed, Brandon Cox said, "I am heartbroken. I was fortunate to make it through. We won't rest until we get justice for DJ."
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Revolution #216, November 14, 2010
Be in Philadelphia on Tuesday, November 9, outside the Federal Courthouse at 6th and Market. Rally at noon before the 2 pm hearing before the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals. The hearing is occurring because the U.S. Supreme Court has ordered the Court of Appeals to reconsider its previous decision to throw out the death sentence on Mumia.
If the appeals court finds against Mumia, as the Supreme Court has strongly hinted it should, Mumia could very soon be facing a new death warrant and execution date.
A mass movement, reaching far and wide in society and around the world, was a crucial factor in stopping the rulers of this country from executing Mumia in the 1980s and '90s. At this moment, people must come together behind the demand to free Mumia Abu-Jamal.
For background on Mumia Abu-Jamal and his current status see: "New Threat Against Political Prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal; Court of Appeals Could Reinstate Death Sentence."
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Revolution #216, November 14, 2010
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.
Fight the power, and transform the people, for revolution.
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Revolution #216, November 14, 2010
We have a strategy—and our newspaper is, as "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have" 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.
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Revolution #216, November 14, 2010
Revolution newspaper is the foundation, guideline, and organizational scaffolding for the movement we are building for revolution. Stop and think about it—how essential is that?! But the reality is that this newspaper will not fill this need without more people becoming regular monthly sustainers. Sign up yourself to contribute regularly. And then, wherever you are—at a protest, a concert, selling Revolution, at FaceBook... or just hanging out—struggle with people, including people you just met, to sustain Revolution regularly. Once a week, check yourself: How is this going? How many new sustainers did you sign up?
To sustain Revolution: click the "Sustain/Donate" link at revcom.us or send a regular amount at the beginning of each month to RCP Publications, P.O. Box 3486, Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654.
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Revolution #216, November 14, 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 #216, November 14, 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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