Voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party,USA
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Revolution #217, November 21, 2010
It's an all too familiar scene in every city in the U.S.: houses and businesses are abandoned and boarded up; entire neighborhoods lie derelict; factories that once employed hundreds or thousands are ghostly hulks, their time long since passed. Youth—overwhelmingly Black and Latino—with no jobs and no hopes of getting one hang out, passing the time and trying to figure a way to scrape some cash together while everything around them crumbles. But there's no work, and no prospects for work.
Pull back a little bit. Entire cities and regions of the U.S. are desolate; once booming industries are shut down completely or teetering on the verge of extinction. The figures are brutal, but they only hint at the reality of crushed lives, abandoned dreams, and lost hope they represent. The unemployment rate for Black people is nearly double that for whites. It is higher still among Black youth. In the spring and summer, youth unemployment rose by 571,000, most of that among inner city Black and Latino youth. Hundreds of thousands of jobless youth live in largely Black cities like East St. Louis, Detroit, and Newark.
Pull back a bit more. You'll see that tens of millions of people live every day in a desperate struggle to survive. At least two million Mexican peasants were forced out of the countryside to seek work elsewhere between 1995 and 2008. In China, millions of young people live in wretched slums thrown up in China's large cities, struggling for the barest survival in China's headlong dash to establish itself as a capitalist power on the world stage. In the continent of Africa, devastated and tormented for centuries by colonialism, capitalism, and imperialism, official unemployment in Namibia is 51.2 percent; in Zimbabwe, a staggering 95 percent.
Massive unemployment rips like a plague across this planet. In the U.S., inner city youth grow up and come of age knowing that this society has nothing to offer them, no way for them to contribute, no way for them to even hope to live a life worthy of a human being. The paths this society—this capitalist-imperialist system—offers to countless youth are savagely hard and soulless: prison, crime, the military, a shit job in a fast food place—maybe, and for as long as you can take it. And quite possibly, whatever the choice, an early death.
The official unemployment rate for Black youth is 49 percent. As is well known, the U.S. government calculates unemployment in a way that conceals the actual number of people out of work; the true number is higher. A recent study by Northeastern University's Center for Labor Market Studies concluded that the actual unemployment rate for Black and Latino youth is over 80 percent. The study stated that "low income Black and Hispanic teens face the equivalent of a Great Depression."
Actually the situation is far worse for these youth. This same study pointed out that Washington, D.C., has the highest youth unemployment rate in the country—86 percent. New York City, Detroit and Chicago all have youth unemployment rates over 80 percent. In Gary, Indiana, whose population is 84 percent Black, jobs have decreased by 54 percent since February 2009. And this huge loss of jobs came after the large steel mills that shaped Gary had largely shut down.
This is not a world created by Black and Latino youth of the inner cities. It is a world twisted and distorted by capitalism-imperialism in its endless, global pursuit of profit. A capitalist world where every spark of friendship and love is extinguished, and everything—and everybody—is turned into a commodity to be bought and sold. A world where people can find work only so long as their labor enriches capital; and capital restlessly prowls the globe in its never ending drive to maximize profit.
To take an important example of all this, look at the history of Black people in this country. Black people toiled for centuries in the cotton fields of the South, first as slaves, then as sharecroppers. Their backbreaking labor was an essential component of what enabled the U.S. to rise in the ranks of capitalist and imperialist world powers. As agriculture mechanized, and other changes coursed through society, millions of Black people left the South, in one of the world's great migrations, and went to the cities of the North and West. Many worked in factories and mills—almost always in the lowest paying, most dangerous jobs, with no possibility of moving into another position. Many more, especially women, worked in the minimum wage service industry.
But these factories and mills ceased to be profitable. Thousands were shut down altogether. Commercial districts were abandoned, their restaurants and shops closed. Millions of people lost their jobs. And as capital continued its pursuit of profit, and its own expansion, factories moved from Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland to Mexico, then Vietnam, then China, bringing exploitation everywhere and leaving devastation in its wake.
The "pull" of a possibility of a paying job and an escape from the vicious Jim Crow regime of lynching and segregation that had brought many Black people out of the rural South within a few short decades became a bitter, dried up reality of dead cities, shuttered factories, and impoverished neighborhoods constantly prowled by police.
And to pile outrage upon outrage, the youth themselves are blamed for the situation that the system has caught them in!
This world was not created by the youth of the inner cities, but it is the world they have inherited. This system has no future for the youth. But the revolution does.
"A WHOLE DIFFERENT WORLD, A MUCH BETTER FUTURE, IS POSSIBLE. WE HAVE WHAT WE NEED TO FIGHT FOR THAT WORLD, THAT FUTURE.
"IT IS UP TO US TO GET WITH IT AND GET TO THE CHALLENGE OF MAKING THIS HAPPEN.
"As our Party's Constitution says: 'The emancipation of all humanity: this, and nothing less than this, is our goal. There is no greater cause, no greater purpose to which to dedicate our lives.'"
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Revolution #217, November 21, 2010
This week significant celebrations of the release of the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) took place in cities from coast to coast. Diverse groups of people of all ages and nationalities—and from at least seven countries—gathered at Revolution Books stores. Just some of the people who came were high school and college students, people from the neighborhoods, ghettos and barrios, teachers and professors, lawyers and scientists. The celebrants included longtime revolutionaries and people completely new to the revolution. Quite a few people came who had received a flyer or seen the promotion for the Constitution online, were provoked by the title and wanted to see what this Constitution was all about. One student expressed basic differences with the revolutionaries, but when asked what drew him to the event said, "If someone goes to the trouble of writing a constitution for a new socialist society, it seems like I should read it, so I came."
The welcoming remarks from the Revolutionary Communist Party focused on the importance of this Constitution. They drew on the document itself and also made the point that "the significance of having this kind of framework for day one, and then beyond after the seizure of power in a country like this, can't be underestimated. This is huge, and those at the core of a movement for revolution need to be living in this themselves..." And, in concluding, the remarks spoke to all in the room: "...wherever you see yourself in relation to this Constitution, and the movement for revolution we are building to bring this society into being... and whatever this Constitution evokes and provokes in you... we very, very much want to hear your response, embarking on and keeping up a dialogue."
At the bookstores that night, the desire to dig into and engage with this Constitution was palpable. Some had read the whole Constitution, while others had read only part of it, and still others were there to get their copy and began pouring over the pages right there.
People clustered in pockets and talked into the night, eagerly raising a wide range of thoughts and questions about what the Constitution says and how the new society would function: how the economy would run, how the new society would move to overcome and do away with the oppression of Black people, about education in the new society, the policy for media which includes funding state, party, independent and oppositional press, and many others. One young woman who'd begun reading it said: "I was surprised at first to read about the executive, legislative, judiciary and so on, but then I thought, yeah, we would be responsible for running this entire society—there would have to be governing bodies. If something is going to be done, the people would have to organize it!" A graduate student who grew up in Mexico was full of thoughts and questions about envisioning a revolution that doesn't consider the current imperialist borders to be sacred. He was especially intrigued by what he had seen online about the seriousness with which this Party and its leadership in Bob Avakian takes the elimination of the oppression of women as a foundational component of emancipating humanity. A number of people who have stepped forward to join the movement for revolution and known the Party for some time wanted to dig into how Bob Avakian's new synthesis, and the principle of solid core, with a lot of elasticity, is being applied to the future socialist society, and taking concrete shape and form in this Constitution.
All in all, this was the opening up of an engagement and dialogue which must continue, deepen and spread.
Throughout the celebrations, ideas flowed about how the Constitution could get out into and be debated in the opinion-making sections of society and in the hidden corners. People spoke to the urgency of getting this Constitution out at colleges and universities (including law schools), in the projects and barrios, in the media and the arts. To maximize the impact this Constitution must have, here and around the world, funds were donated to promote the Constitution; at many of the celebrations upcoming fundraising dinners were announced and tickets to them sold.
These celebrations were spirited, festive—and full of energetic debate over and engagement with this Constitution. They were a good beginning. They drew people forward who, coming from different perspectives and different angles, want to talk about revolution and the ways the world can—and should—be changed. For many, the possibility of a better world took on new—and more concrete—meaning. This Constitution radically challenges everything that people think is possible—and impossible. It can change the way people think about the world. The importance of maximizing the distribution and impact of this Constitution getting out in the world—and the ways in which this model of the future can contribute to repolarizing for revolution—should not be underestimated in any way.
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Revolution #217, November 21, 2010
from Chapter Eight: Getting Down with Revolution
Toward the end of 1967, it was time to make the move. It was time, as Mao had put it, to "integrate with the masses." We were trying to take radical and revolutionary politics, as best as we understood them, particularly to poor white people, which was what the Panthers, SNCC and other Black nationalist forces were urging. So, in a basic sense, that was our mission, but we didn't really have any idea how to go about it. We just knew we had to move there. That was the first thing, just literally move there. We had an orientation that we were still going to relate politically to things happening at Berkeley and other parts of the Bay Area and other important political struggles, but we were going to try to orient ourselves toward really, deeply immersing ourselves there in Richmond, and not just always go back to those places that we were more familiar and more comfortable with every time we wanted to do anything culturally or socially. So it was a big move and a big change for us.
Ideologically, we were into a real mixed bag. We thought of ourselves as revolutionaries and we were for socialism — sort of — but with a little bit of Mao, a little bit of Che, the influences of the Panthers and revolutionary nationalism all part of this mixed bag. That's where we were at and it was typical of a lot of radical people at that time. And it wasn't just the radicals in the Bay Area who were into this kind of mixed bag, but people more generally throughout the country and even in other parts of the world. Things are very different now, but at that time, even a lot of bourgeois heads of government in the Third World — say in Algeria or India — would talk about socialism of one kind or another in some sort of favorable way. So there was a lot of mixed bag ideology around and we were just a part of that.
Then we tried to figure out, "Okay, what are we going to do practically to begin trying to integrate with people here socially and culturally, and what are we going to do to start doing some political work with them?" So we started hanging out in bars to get to know people and going to local events. I always hated beer, but I started drinking beer so I could hang out and socialize with people. Politically, we decided, "Well, let's go investigate things they're doing with poor people here." So one of us went to this meeting of the local group that was set up under the whole Johnson "Great Society" anti-poverty program. It was a government-run group there in Richmond, but we decided, "Well, maybe we'll meet some interesting people there anyway." And we did meet a few interesting people that way, but I remember the person who went to the meeting coming back and describing how it was just this whole bureaucratic thing. It was captured in this diagram that they had with the President of the United States at the top, then all of these other government agencies, and then down at the bottom is "us," said the person who was running the meeting — this was actually a poor person from the neighborhood, but they were being turned into a hack by this whole program. Our comrade who went to the meeting finally couldn't take it anymore, and he got up and said, "The first thing we need to do is turn that chart upside down!" And that was our first political foray.
At the beginning, it was just a couple of us guys there. We were radicals, revolutionary-minded. We even had this sort of macho image of ourselves as revolutionaries. Now, as it turned out, as we did more work there, we started working among all different kinds of people, women as well as men, Black people, Latinos, Native Americans — but our goal initially was that we were going to hook up with poor white people. And so the first people we started drawing around us a little bit were a number of these young white working class guys, poor whites who lived in the area where we were.
After getting to know them a little bit socially, we decided: we've got to do something to break the ice here politically. What could we do? Well, we lived in this house where the bedrooms we were staying in were upstairs and the living room was downstairs and we used some other rooms downstairs for a mimeo machine — back in those days, that's how you did things, you ran off flyers on mimeograph machines — and we had typewriters and things like that down there. So we took all the newspapers we could find — movement newspapers, regular newspapers — and we clipped out everything we could find where people had gotten into it with the police, like a police attack on strikers in Newport News, Virginia, cases of police murder, cases where the Panthers were defending themselves and Black people against the police, cases where Latinos were getting into it with the cops. All the way around the living room walls we pasted up these pictures and then we put captions below all of them. So one day, okay, here it goes — some of these guys we were hanging out with came over to our house. We opened the door and welcomed them in, and their eyes went really wide and they started walking around the living room almost as if they were in a museum, quietly looking at these pictures from beginning to end. And it was very interesting. Their response was very good. It was very favorable. They identified with the people who were being brutalized by the police and the people who were fighting back, and so this broke the ice politically.
During this time we were pretty sure our phone was being tapped, because you'd hear these clicking sounds and things. So, more to make a statement that we were aware of this than to actually get it fixed, we called the phone company and said we wanted someone to come out and see if our phone was being tapped. So this fairly backward guy came out. He walked into our place and he did the same thing — he looked all around our living room at these pictures — and he knows he's there to check to see if the phone is tapped, and he says, "What are you guys, spies?" "Man," we said, "just check the phone." Then he checked it and said he couldn't tell if it was tapped or not.
So this is how we began our political work. We started increasingly to involve the people we were meeting in various political activities — both things we did locally but also having them go with us to demonstrations in other places, and political meetings, and things like that. And then pretty soon through these first contacts and in other ways we started meeting other people; and again, while our initial mission was to go work among especially the poor white youth but more generally among poor white people, our contacts had friends who weren't all white and many different kinds of people were attracted to what we were doing — mainly younger people but some who were older, women as well as men, Blacks, Latinos, Native Americans, and these white proletarian youth. We started developing a kind of a political center there and of course it became known after a little while to the police in San Pablo and Richmond and the Sheriff's office, partly because we were also doing support work for the Panthers there. This was after the Huey Newton shootout incident, and his case had become a major political battle. So we started doing work around that in Richmond and that created quite a bit of controversy, but also brought forward some more advanced people.
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Revolution #217, November 21, 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-#216. 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 #217, November 21, 2010
Michael Slate Interviews Michele Collender
Julian Collender, 25 years old, grew up in Yorba Linda, Orange County, in southern California. Julian was a skater, loved music, managed bands, and started a couple of independent record labels along the way. He was headed to Cal State Fullerton in hopes of becoming a screenwriter. On the night of June 30, 2010, arriving home around midnight, Julian found himself surrounded by heavily armed cops. Within seconds, Julian lay near dead on the ground, his guts torn apart after being shot by a military assault rifle. Julian's family agonized over his execution by the cops—and they and others have fought back. Skate crews and punk bands have held memorials and started a website and a Facebook page. The Collender family and their friends and neighbors have packed City Council meetings, going up in the face of attempts by the police and city officials to cover up and justify the murder. They've gotten arrogant silence in return—witness to what Bob Avakian refers to as the "conspiracy to get the cops off" when they brutally murder people.
On October 22, Julian's father, Richard, spoke at the National Day of Protest Against Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation. A week or so later I got in touch with Julian's sister, Michele, and asked her to come onto my radio show and tell the story of her brother—his life and his murder.
A Note on the Interview
We are publishing this interview courtesy of The Michael Slate Show on KPFK radio, Los Angeles. The views expressed by the interviewee are, of course, her own, and she is not responsible for the views expressed elsewhere in this newspaper.
Michael Slate: Michele, welcome to the show.
Michele Collender: Thank you for having me. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to get my brother's story out there and acknowledging what we've been doing to try to get some answers and actions from authorities.
Slate: Why don't you tell people what happened to Julian?
Collender: Like you said, earlier this year, on June 30, my brother Julian Collender, he was shot and killed by the Brea Police in front of my parents' home in Yorba Linda.
Slate: This is part of the savagery of what they do.
Collender: My brother, he was 25 years old. He had no prior record. He was unarmed, when the Brea Police shot and killed him with a high-powered assault rifle in front of the house that we grew up in, in Yorba Linda. The terrifying picture that the police have painted for us is that three people went to the police station and reported an armed robbery only 15 minutes before the shooting occurred. The report happened three hours after the supposed, alleged robbery actually occurred.
Slate: So the robbery supposedly occurred at 8:15 and they didn't go until 11:15 or something?
Collender: 11:35, actually. It was over three hours later, and as far as we can tell the police did nothing to substantiate this report. Like I said, Julian had no prior record. And within less than an hour, they were already outside my parents' home. Multiple units were there, including at least one unmarked car, while Julian was arriving home. The police stopped him. He got out of his car. There were multiple officers shouting different commands at him. Jules was unarmed, and he was alone. There were at least five officers there. And within a few seconds of getting out of his car, he was shot and killed with a high-powered assault rifle.
Slate: He was shot with a high-powered assault rifle. It would be important for people to understand, again, in terms of the savagery of this, what that meant. And what did they do to him after that?
Collender: Yeah. I think it is important. People want to point out, why do you say assault rifle? But I think it is important. Those weapons, number one, a lot of people don't even know that municipal police actually have those weapons, and they do. They're supposed to be locked up. So the fact that it took this officer time and thought to get that rifle out to kill my brother I think says a lot. And what happened after is, they handcuffed him.
Slate: After he was dead.
Collender: Yes. He was shot and then immediately handcuffed. Even though he was shot with this high-powered weapon that—you know, he was in shock. His body's in shock. He couldn't move. He couldn't do anything. He already posed no threat to the officers to justify their shooting, and there he is, shot, dying in the street in front of my parent's home, and they handcuffed him. It's absolutely disgusting.
Slate: Then what happened?
Collender: And then, my mom, she was awoken by the sound of the gunshot, and she was outside of the house within minutes. She opens the door and she's faced with a SWAT team, I mean this is within minutes, SWAT pointing guns at her, pointing lights at her, shouting different commands at her. She finally gets down the steps to the street and a police officer grabs her, slams her against the side of the car, puts her in handcuffs behind her back, and searches her and puts her in the back of a police car. And the same thing happens to my dad, to Julian's dad, right after they shoot Julian. And just to paint a picture for people, my mom, and my dad, they're in their 60s, they're grandparents. My mom, she is maybe a hundred pounds on a good day. She's 5'5", a small woman. To treat her like that after shooting her son. I have no words for it.
Slate: And it gets worse. They detained your mother and father, right?
Collender: They did. They put them in the back of separate police cars. They were each handcuffed behind their back. My mom had bruises on her arms. My dad had cuts. They detained them for hours, wouldn't tell them anything, wouldn't give them any answers, wouldn't tell them anything, just kept saying, "This is a crime scene."
And then after a couple hours, released them from the separate police cars, but then told them they had to go about half a block away outside of what they call, a "crime scene," which I find ridiculous, because the only crime that occurred there is the murder of my brother, and they weren't even allowed to see him or touch him.
So about four hours or so after my brother was shot and they were released from the police cars, they're waiting to hopefully get a cab or something because they knew what was going on kind of, and they thought they should go to the hospital. Finally, instead of a police officer going up to them and compassionately telling them what happened, a police officer on the other side of the street called them over and says, with no compassion, "I can tell you what happened now. Your son is at Kaiser. He died." Turns around and walks away. And that's it. They offer my parents no ride to the hospital, no offer for counseling, nothing like that.
They were able to get to a neighbor's house, to give them a ride to the hospital, and were even detained before leaving the neighbor's house. They were stopped in the car and detained and questioned.
Slate: The neighbor's car was stopped?
Collender: Yes. It's really unbelievable.
Slate: One thing they did too, as I understand it, your parents also, because they were asleep when the murder happened, they came out of the house to check out what was going on and your mom was in a bathrobe and a nightgown, your father had no shirt on and no shoes, right?
Collender: Exactly. No shirt, no shoes. My mom was in a knee-length bathrobe, no shoes. They had no money, no car, they couldn't get anywhere.
Slate: And they weren't allowed back in the house to change or get money or anything else.
Collender: No, they weren't allowed back into their house to get their car to drive to the hospital, nothing. And then the way they treated them at the hospital. They wouldn't even let them see Julian's body. They had to fight with the doctors, with the police and just begged them and pleaded with them, "Let us see our son."
Finally they acquiesced, and let them in the room. But not before warning them before they went in. A police officer said, "Don't make me lay hands on you," before allowing them into the room to see Julian, who had already died. And they wouldn't even let them touch him. They said, "You can stand five feet back for 20 seconds. Don't make us lay hands on you." And it was clear that that was how it was going to go down. Again, I just don't have the words for that, to not allow a parent to touch their son, their baby. That's my parents' baby, he's the youngest.
Back to what you were saying they were not let back into the house until later that day, about 10 probably hours or so after Julian was shot. They searched the home.
Not only do they do that to Julian and take our youngest son, our youngest brother, and then completely dehumanize my parents by leaving them with nothing, and forcing them to walk around the hospital barefoot, in clothes borrowed from neighbors, my mom in her bathrobe, going to a hotel room that day so they could have a place to stay until they can get back in their home, walking around the hotel room like that. There's just no humanity. It makes me sick.
Slate: As well it should, sick with anger. Michele, one of the things I want to ask is that part of the demonization of your brother is they've done a lot. They say they found guns in the house. They've done a lot of dancing around what happened in terms of painting a picture that somehow your brother deserved what he got. Can you speak to that?
Collender: I do not know how someone can say that Julian deserved what he got. No one deserves what Julian got. Julian was not a criminal. He was not a thug. He had no prior record. The information that the Brea Police have released is only in their press release, which is so minimal and so full of holes, and absolutely misleading and sometimes false. They said that Julian came out of the house and confronted police officers, and that's just a lie. He was coming home and he was stopped. He wasn't coming out of the house. They also said that they found evidence linking him to this earlier reported crime based on search warrants. That's not true. You're right.
The information they've provided, even by not saying whether or not he was armed, is implicating to people that he was. Or maybe he did something for this to happen to him. But the truth is, they've provided no explanation whatsoever for why they shot him. And they've provided no explanation, no apology to my parents for how they treated them, for handcuffing them in the back of police cars.
They won't give us police reports. They won't give us the autopsy. They really just won't say anything. Comparing it to other shootings, basically every other shooting, including the Westlake shooting, within four days, people had all the information on why the man was shot, what happened, "He had a knife, these are the officers involved," etc., because they thought it was maybe a justified shooting, which I'm not going to talk about, but now this is four months, more than four months, after my brother has been killed. And they still won't give us any information.
Slate: They won't even allow you to know the name of the cop who shot your brother.
Collender: That's true. They will not release his name, even though he's back on duty. I've been calling the Brea Police, you know we've all been trying to get answers. We've all been trying to get information. I talked to Sgt. Smyser. He's the spokesperson for the Brea Police, and he has confirmed that the officer is back on duty, even though there's been no internal investigation completed. That's just terrifying. If they think it's a good shoot, if they think it's justified enough to put that officer back on duty, then why can't they be transparent about this? Why can't they give us information? To me, them hiding their information is a testament to their guilt.
Slate: You've also led a fight around this, which as I was telling you earlier, was really heartening to see so many people coming out, and one, just the expressions of support for Julian, for who he was and the impact of his murder on them, but before we talk about who Julian was, why don't we talk a little about the fight that you've led around this. What is it that you're trying to do? What have you done so far? What's the response been?
Collender: Julian's friends have been amazing. That's a testament, I think, to who Julian was, and what a great person he was. What's going on now in the case is, it's currently under investigation by the District Attorney's Office. They've told us it's going to be about six months to a year until they make a final determination on whether or not to press charges. We would like to see the DA press charges. We would like to see the DA bring a good, zealous case against this officer shooter for what's happened. Based on what I know and what I see, I believe this officer's guilty of murder. But that's up to the DA to at least bring a case so that this officer shooter can face a jury of his peers as far as what happened.
Slate: Has the Orange County DA ever brought a case against a cop for something like this?
Collender: No. No. That's the thing. Officer shootings are investigated by the Orange County District Attorney, which is supposed to be an independent investigation. But, like you asked, the Orange County District Attorney has never pressed charges on an officer shooter before. There's an underlying relationship here between the District Attorney and the police. So the DA relies on the police to testify basically in every prosecution that they bring. So to realistically think that they're going to alienate an entire police department is kind of absurd. And in Julian's case specifically, there's two very important things beyond just this underlying relationship that I'm really concerned about. First of all, I believe they're doing an ineffective and incomplete investigation. They've told us now that the investigation's actually completed, and has been forwarded to a district attorney for legal review. Even though it's been completed, I have no faith that it's at all comprehensive, because no DA investigator has even come out to talk to my parents, who are witnesses.
Secondly, it's not an independent investigation. There's a gigantic conflict of interest here. They're relying on the Brea Police's investigation of the supposed underlying crime. So how is that an independent investigation to rely on the Brea Police, the police agency? In my opinion, they're not going to give them any objective information. They only have an interest in providing self-serving information to justify their actions later, to justify their shooting and their murder of Julian, their execution of my brother.
Slate: When you mention this thing about the Orange County DA and the fact that they haven't brought a charge against any cop who's shot any person, you also talked about the fact that they won't name the cop. To this day, the cop remains unnamed. Now, there is no law that says that they have to leave the cop unnamed. In fact, it seems to me that it's part of the continuing demonization. I remember when a man named Julian Alexander was killed in Anaheim. He had walked out of his house to check what the noise was, what was going on, and he got shot. They did the same thing. They would not release the name of the cop that killed him, and the whole thing was, they even had an article in the LA Times saying it would endanger the officer if people knew. It's the further demonization of your brother, of the victim and the victim's friends and family, as if they're the ones that society has to be concerned about and worried about, as opposed to these hog-wild, mad-dog police that are going and executing people at will.
Collender: I absolutely agree. Julian Alexander, yeah, that's another tragic case. Of course, I feel for his family and everything. You're right. By protecting those officers' names, it's giving them a shield, it's giving them another tool to be able to hide behind their badge and prevent people from closure, from healing and grieving. And again, this officer shooter's back on duty.
Slate: I wanted to ask you to tell people a little about your brother because what never comes through is the truth about the person that the police execute. Tell us a little bit about your brother.
Collender: Jules was amazing. And thank you for asking, because that's one thing, you know, that people take away from this is, this is a human life. This is my brother, and this is my parents' son, and this is an uncle. Jules was—he's just the coolest, most dynamic, stylish person I've ever known. (Pauses) I want to get this out, because I do want people to know. People who know Jules know that they'll never meet anyone like him again. But more than what a great person he was, of course, I'm going to cry because he's my brother and I miss him and I love him so much, but he really was just a very good person. He's a tall, skinny guy. He was no threat to these officers, he's surrounded by these cops and it's just tragic what happened. But who he was, he was a funny guy, goofy guy. He loved music. He started his first record label when he was like 17 years old. He loved playing guitar. He loved playing drums, supporting his friends' band. He was going to college. He was going to be a film major at Cal State Fullerton. He was getting into screenwriting. He devoured movies. So he was really into that.
He was really liked by everyone he met. You could meet Jules one time and people just—he was so charismatic, and not in a fake way, but just so sincere. He could get along with everybody, from my boyfriend's 80-year-old grandparents at my graduation, to like a struggling punk rock band living in a van. He was all over the place, and he was just great, he really was.
He loved skateboarding.
Slate: I watched the video of him skateboarding that was up, and it was amazing. He had quite a few skills on that.
Collender: He did. He was a great skateboarder. He'd been doing it since he was 12 years old, and his closest friends were skateboarders. He gave his friends and him the name, The Razor Sharp Crew, and they still use it to this day, and they're amazing. That's just who Jules was. He was great.
Slate: What can people do if they want to support this cause?
Collender: Like you mentioned, we have this website, justiceforjulian.com. There's a link to a petition there that we're trying to get to the Orange County District Attorney to get the District Attorney to press charges on this case. That's the most important thing here. This shouldn't happen to anybody, but it could happen to anybody and it happens too often. We need to stop that, and we need accountability from the police. That's what we need to do. We need the District Attorney to press charges in this, we need a federal investigation, and we need to hold the police accountable.
Because it doesn't matter if you have a badge. If you commit a crime behind a badge, you're still a criminal. And if you murder someone behind a badge, you're still a murderer.
Slate: Thank you very much for being with us today, and we'll keep in touch with you about developments.
The Michael Slate Show is where you'll hear some of the most radical, provocative and farseeing analysis in the country today, including the voice and analysis of Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. It provides an in-depth look at the critical and cutting-edge issues of the times. And it's the one spot on the dial where revolutionaries, scholars, journalists, artists and everyday people who care about finding the truth and changing the world have a platform for their voices and their ideas. This is revolutionary radio. It's radio that digs into the world as it is and how it should be and could be. Don't miss it!
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Revolution #217, November 21, 2010
From A World to Win News Service
The following excerpts from an article from A World to Win News Service are about the cholera epidemic now devastating Haiti. Cholera is an acute bacterial infection of the intestine that causes intense diarrhea and vomiting—it can kill a person within hours if untreated. But if there is prompt medical care, most people with cholera can be successfully treated if they just are given water with sugar and salt. Cholera is most often spread through water contaminated by human waste, and cholera epidemics can be easily prevented if clean water and sanitation systems are available. For an in-depth analysis of how Haiti came to be so poor and utterly distorted by U.S. imperialism, go online at revcom.us for the Revolution article, "Truth Amidst the Rubble in Haiti: The U.S. Is the Problem, Not the Solution," by Li Onesto, which appeared shortly after the January 2010 Haiti earthquake.
November 8, 2010. A World to Win News Service. Unlike the earthquake that hit Haiti last January, the cholera outbreak was predictable and preventable. The danger is far greater because of the earthquake, but the disease might have struck even without that destruction. People have known for many years that this was possible unless serious sanitation measures were taken.
Already many thousands of people have fallen ill with acute diarrhea and more than 540 have died of it. So far most of the confirmed cases have occurred in the Lower Artibonite River, in the rural Central Plateau region north of the capital. The river is believed to have recently become infected with the bacteria that causes the disease.
Just after the cholera epidemic struck, Hurricane Tomás made the Artibonite overflow. The floodwaters have further isolated some people from medical help, forced others to flee and may spread the contamination. There is fear that the disease may reach the crowded capital. Suspected cases have appeared in Cité Soleil, a huge shantytown that lies in the direction of the Artibonite Valley.
No one knows how rapidly this disease will spread. Even if efforts to contain it succeed, it is likely to become yet another affliction for Haiti's people for some time to come.
Most often cholera spreads through water contaminated by human excrement. There is a cruel irony to the fact that infected drinking water causes people to die of dehydration, the emptying of the water in their bodies due to a diarrhea so intense it can kill in a few hours. The key to preventing or containing it is clean drinking water. It's that simple. That's what people are dying for lack of, in a world marked by unprecedented riches and scientific and technological progress.
The Artibonite region was not heavily damaged by the earthquake, although the situation there has been made more difficult by the influx of homeless people forced to return from the capital. The dangers created by the people's dependence on river water have been known for a long time. This beautiful river is central to people's lives. People live alongside it, bath in it, wash their clothes and themselves in it and drink it. They can't afford the fuel to boil water before they drink it. No matter how careful they try to be about sanitation and cleanliness, everything they do in their daily lives with the only plentiful water at hand can kill them and spread the disease.
Most people infected by the disease don't fall ill, although they can spread it anyway. Malnutrition can make them more vulnerable. Treatment should be simple: water with a little salt and sugar will keep the majority of people alive even without hospitalization, and intravenous fluids can help almost all of the rest to survive. In some cases antibiotics are needed to save people, and they can help prevent the infection from spreading.
Cholera first appeared in the nineteenth century and has spread around the globe six times before....
Cholera epidemics are often associated not just with poverty, but changes in how people live due to natural disasters, population displacements, unplanned rapid urbanization and especially the kinds of large-scale social breakdowns that make it impossible for communities to keep up their sanitary conditions....
One reason cholera victims in Haiti need hospital treatment is that the amount of clean water they need to drink to avoid dying of dehydration, about 20 litres a day, just isn't available anywhere else. And what are people supposed to wash with to prevent spreading and catching the disease? What toilets can they use? They can and should take precautions, but on the whole there isn't much they can do in this context. The health crisis reflects a social crisis.
Some of the reasons why clean water is missing in Haiti were documented by several U.S. and Haitian-based groups, including Partners for Health, an organization that has been working in Haiti for decades. They issued a report entitled "Woch nan Soley: The Denial of the Right to Water in Haiti" two years before the cholera outbreak.
One detail in that report has suddenly claimed people's attention. In 1998, the Inter-American Development Bank decided to lend the Haitian government 54 million dollars to improve the water system nationally. Specific upgrading projects included the city of St. Marc and the surrounding Artibonite department where today's outbreak first occurred. Later the U.S. got the IADB to block this loan as part of a covert program to destabilize the elected government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
The continuing lack of any public spending on water since then has created a deteriorating situation where the only clean water available is provided by private companies, and most people can't afford to buy enough of it no matter how much they love their children. Even before the cholera outbreak, other kinds of infectious diarrhea and gastrointestinal infections, highly preventable diseases that need not exist anywhere in today's world, became the leading cause of death of young children. Among the countries ranked by a world survey of "water poverty," Haiti ranked last long before the earthquake.
In other words, during the last 16 years that Haiti has been occupied by various combinations of UN and U.S. troops—and not just since the earthquake—most people's lives have gotten much worse....
In March 2010, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promised 1.15 billion dollars to reconstruct the country's infrastructure. Not a single penny of this has been delivered. (Associated Press, November 4, 2010)....
Most of the money promised by international organizations and other countries also never appeared.
Many plans were drawn up to put up housing, install solar power and building roads. But since then not even the rubble left by the earthquake has been cleared. Land ownership issues have contributed to a deadlock in which nothing has been done to restore even the impoverished infrastructure that once existed.
The U.S. and others have provided emergency humanitarian assistance. This and private charity has paid for emergency medical programs, tents, a little food and a few other things to keep people from dropping dead in such large numbers as to cause violent social unrest (which the UN troops are still there to prevent) with possible global implications. But this situation is not sustainable. Ever since last January conscientious NGO workers and others have been saying that without a fundamental turn in the situation, further disaster was inevitable, including possibly cholera.
It is particularly damning that most of the suspected cholera cases in the crowded capital so far have appeared not among the homeless stuck in temporary camps but in Cité Soleil, where people are living under the same conditions as before the earthquake....
The opening up of the Haitian economy to the world market ruined its peasants (leading, among other things, to massive migration into Port au Prince and other cities, and an enormous number of immigrants abroad whose checks are the main source of income for their families back home). But international capital has not flocked to exploit the Haitian people. In fact, despite drooling in American business publications about a "Bangladesh next door," efforts to encourage the establishment of low-wage factories for export products have not prospered. One important reason is the U.S.'s inability to set up the kind of politically stable regime foreign capital investment requires. This is largely a result of both the fact and the form of the U.S.'s own long-standing political domination, including the feelings this has created among the people.
Haiti is imprisoned in a criminally insane situation where people are dying of diseases other countries wiped out a century and a half ago. There is so much work crying out to be done to save the people, so many ditches to dig, pipes to be laid and homes, schools and hospitals to be built, even if rubble were the only building material and arms the only machinery. So many people are crying out for work and a chance to rescue themselves and their country. Yet nothing will be done if it doesn't profit some capitalist and especially U.S. imperialist capital.
For the imperialists and their Haitian henchmen, the people of Haiti are a big problem. But in reality they are the only possible solution. When revolution frees Haiti's people from imperialist political and military domination and the tyranny of the profit system, when a revolutionary regime can put the welfare of the people first and increasingly enable the people to become the conscious masters of all spheres of society, Haitians could rapidly free themselves from scourges like cholera as they take their first steps toward a world worthy of human potential.
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 #217, November 21, 2010
The largest courtroom of the federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals was packed with supporters of Mumia Abu-Jamal as a three judge panel heard the latest oral arguments in his case. Outside hundreds more marched and chanted. People from all over the Eastern United States were there, including a whole history class from Hunter College in New York. There were also delegations from France and Germany.
Mumia Abu-Jamal is one of the best known political prisoners in the world. Forces ranging from people of all walks of life to the European Parliament and Amnesty International have protested his unjust conviction. He has spent 27 years in isolation on death row, after being railroaded in a manifestly bogus trial. In 2001, a federal court refused to grant Mumia a new trial, but overturned his death sentence. Mumia has continued to fight his conviction, and the State of Pennsylvania has attempted in court to get the death penalty reinstated. This hearing was an attempt to reinstate Mumia's death penalty.
People were justifiably angry with the latest turn of events. This same federal appeals court had already thrown out the death sentence on Mumia in 2008 because the instructions given to the jury were in violation of well-established federal law. But now the U.S. Supreme Court, off an appeal by the state of Pennsylvania, had ordered the federal appeals court to reconsider their previous decision.
Casting a shadow over Mumia's whole appeal process has been the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (signed into law by Bill Clinton). A big thrust of this law is making it more difficult for prisoners seeking to overturn illegal state court decisions in the federal courts. Under this law, it is not enough for Mumia to show that his death sentence was obtained through a violation of federal law—he has to show that it was obtained through an "unreasonable application of clearly established federal law." This wording is designed to give state courts "the benefit of the doubt" in pushing through executions.
Mumia was represented at the oral argument by Prof. Judith Ritter of Widener University School of Law. Prof. Ritter had successfully argued the issue of the jury instructions in the earlier 2008 oral arguments. In a carefully reasoned presentation she asked the court to sustain their previous finding that Mumia's death sentence be overturned as the new case cited by the Supreme Court did not apply.
Many at the courtroom were fired up off a film showing and debate the night before. The screening was of an anti-Mumia film called The Barrel of a Gun. The theme of the film is that Mumia, as a young Black Panther, was part of a whole movement dedicated to killing cops. It even speculates that Mumia and his brother had set up an ambush to kill a police officer.
What followed the screening, however, ended up exposing and refuting the arguments of the anti-Mumia forces. They had agreed to a debate on the case. Representing Mumia were attorney Michael Coard and Prof. Johanna Fernandez who recently made the film Justice on Trial. Arguing for Mumia's execution were the current District Attorney in Philadelphia, Seth Williams, and Tigre Hill, who made the film The Barrel of a Gun.
The debate quickly turned into a rout as it became apparent that neither Williams nor Hill was grounded in the basic facts of the case. For example, DA Seth Williams said there were four eye-witnesses to the killing, when in fact only one witness at Mumia's trial ever claimed to have seen the actual shooting.
While progressive legal observers remain hopeful that the Third Circuit panel will hold their ground and resist calls to reverse their previous decision, were that to happen the State of Pennsylvania can still convene a new jury and hold a new sentencing phase for the original conviction, in which Mumia could again be sentenced to death. Ever since Mumia's appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn his conviction was rejected, the State of Pennsylvania has been on a tear to execute Mumia.
No matter which way the current ruling goes, the losing side will undoubtedly appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court again, plus there are still other legal issues concerning Mumia's sentencing that have never been ruled on. This means a considerable road ahead in court, but in a political climate that is much more reactionary than earlier years. 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 Abu-Jamal in the 1980s and '90s. It is ever more important that people must come together behind the demand to free Mumia Abu-Jamal.
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Revolution #217, November 21, 2010
A Challenge from a Former Prisoner
"So here's a challenge to you: every month I'm going to adopt a subscription to Revolution newspaper for a prisoner, to make sure that these brothers and sisters can continue to receive Revolution and that more can begin to take up its liberating vision. Join me in making that commitment!
Every issue of Revolution that gets behind the walls has a far greater impact than reaching just each individual prisoner who receives the subscription. Revolution is a lifeline for many prisoners, passed hand to hand and cell to cell, as prisoners read, discuss and debate its liberating ideas within the deepest depths of the most oppressive dungeons that this system has devised. And as they begin to transform themselves, the prisoners voices can pose a powerful challenge and inspiration to others from behind the walls: from shattering the demonizing (and most times nakedly racist) caricature that the rulers of this system paint about "criminals" and prisoners, to challenging the youth caught up in the street life to get up out of that bullshit and into the revolution!
Each one-year subscription to Revolution for a prisoner costs $35. If you have the means, adopt more than one subscription per month – there are over 200 prisoners already waiting to get subscriptions. If you don't have the means, ask a few of your friends to throw in and collectively adopt a subscription together. Also, donate more to the ongoing work of PRLF, which not only includes sending subscriptions to Revolution newspaper and other revolutionary literature into prisoners, but is currently engaged in fighting a major battle against censorship and the banning of Revolution in California and other prisons. And join hundreds of others opposed to censorship of literature in prisons by signing the Overturn the Ban statement.
Join me in taking up the challenge of adopting one subscription to Revolution a month for a prisoner, and together we can ensure that hundreds of brothers and sisters locked down in the hellholes of America's prison system can get with this newspaper and its liberating vision for humanity."
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Revolution #217, November 21, 2010
Editors' note: The following is an excerpt from the text of a talk by Bob Avakian in Fall 2009, which was serialized in Revolution. While presented last year, before the recent midterm elections, it remains highly relevant today. The entire talk can be found online at revcom.us/avakian/driving.
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).1 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.
What has been further pointed out in regard to this pyramid is not only that you can roughly conceive of the dominant or "mainstream" politics in terms of this kind of division, but also that on one side of the pyramid—that is, the openly right-wing side—the politicians of the ruling class who sit on top of that side of the pyramid are perfectly willing to, and often do, mobilize a social base "on their side of the pyramid"—right-wing and in fact fascist forces—which we see happening today in the context of what's going on with the Obama presidency in particular. These right-wing politicians (generally grouped within the Republican Party) can, will, and do actively mobilize this essentially fascist social base (and, even while they keep it on something of a leash, it's a long leash) yet, on the other side, the sections of the ruling class that are more generally represented by the Democratic Party are very reluctant to, and in fact resistant to, mobilizing their social base, if you want to put it that way—the base of people whose votes and support in the bourgeois political arena the Democrats seek to gain. This (Democratic Party) side of the ruling class generally is not desirous of—and in fact recoils at the idea of—calling that base into the streets, mobilizing them either to take on the opposing forces in the ruling class and their social base, or in general to struggle for the programs that the Democratic Party itself claims to represent and actually in some measure does seek to implement.
So you have on the one side (the "left" side, to use that term) a significant amount of paralysis, whereby the objective of the ruling class politicians is in fact to pacify and demobilize the people whom they appeal to to vote for them (their "social base" in that sense), whereas on the other side there is a very active orientation toward unleashing, revving up and mobilizing, in a very passionate and active way, the fascist social base that the Republican, right-wing part of the ruling class sees as its social base, or sees as a force it relies on among the population. This is not to say that the people down the sides and at the base of the pyramid, so to speak (the people in the middle strata, let alone those held down at the bottom of society) play any kind of decisive role in determining what the policies and actions of those at the top of society will be; but they are forces which in the one case—in the case of the right-wing politicians, the Republican Party—they're very anxious to mobilize; while, in the case of the other side, the people at the top of the pyramid are anxious to not mobilize into the streets the people they appeal to for support in elections. They are concerned to have this "social base" demobilized and paralyzed politically, other than to act, and very passively at that, within the dominant political framework, and always on the basis of seeking conciliation and compromise with the openly right-wing forces in the ruling class and the fascist base that they appeal to.
As an amplification of the basic point here, it is important to recognize this: Within the framework of the capitalist-imperialist system, and with the underlying dynamics of this system, which fundamentally set the terms, and the confines, of "official" and "acceptable" politics, fascism—that is, the imposition of a form of dictatorship which openly relies on violence and terror to maintain the rule and the imperatives of the capitalist-imperialist system—is one possible resolution of the contradictions that this system is facing—a resolution that could, at a certain point, more or less correspond to the compelling needs of this system and its ruling class—while revolution and real socialism, aiming toward the final goal of communism, throughout the world, is also a possible resolution of these contradictions, but one that would most definitely not be acceptable to the capitalist-imperialist ruling class nor compatible with the imperatives of this system!
All this is the fundamental reason why—as noted by the progressive observer and critic of the mainstream media, Jeff Cohen—it is not only conceivable but in fact very common these days to have "respected" commentators in the mainstream media whose position was captured by the recently deceased Robert Novak, who at one point expressed to Cohen that in the 1950s he (Novak) was an Eisenhower Republican, and every day since then he has gone further to the right; while, Cohen emphasized, it is inconceivable that there could be a regular commentator, treated as a reasonable and respected voice, who, from the other side of the political spectrum, could say: In the early 1960s I was a Kennedy Democrat, and every day since then I have gone further to the left!
To further illustrate what is captured in the "pyramid analysis," let's take an example from contemporary politics, the politics of the last couple of presidencies. Everyone recalls, or should recall, that in 2000 the presidential election was the most contested election at least in recent or modern history in the U.S. The conflict was not resolved on the day the voting took place (or early the next morning), but stretched out and became quite intense for weeks after that, with court cases and battles back and forth about whether Bush or Gore was the legitimate winner in Florida and therefore in the country—with all this finally being decided by a 5 to 4 decision of the Supreme Court.
Significant, and revealing, in terms of what I'm speaking to here—and, as so often happens in American politics, many people have no doubt forgotten this by now—is that in 2000 the conventional wisdom coming from the TV commentators and pundits and so on was uniformly, or at least overwhelmingly, that given the fact that this election was so contested and that it ended up in a highly controversial ruling by a sharply divided Supreme Court; and given, in addition, that Bush didn't even win the popular vote but in fact Gore did; Bush would have to "rule by consensus" and move "toward the center" in how he governed. Noooo. Exactly the opposite was the case. Bush took a very hard line, mobilized a hard core force of his followers in the ruling class and appealed, when he felt that he needed to, to a hard core right-wing, basically fascist, social base to back him up. And the whole notion of compromising with the other forces among the powers-that-be, and in particular those grouped in the Democratic Party ("reaching across the aisle," as they like to say) was not at all the way that Bush approached things, even before the 2004 election when he was "re"-elected and claimed that he had won substantial "political capital" through this election. But for all that time, up to that 2004 election, it was not at all the case, contrary to what was the conventional wisdom, voiced over and over again, that Bush would after all have to rule by consensus and move toward the center.
Now let's contrast that with the present situation. Obama did not become president as a result of a highly contested election, in terms of people calling into question the outcome. The outcome was clear, and by the standards of mainstream bourgeois electoral politics in the U.S., his victory was a decisive one. The result was not in doubt—by late on election night Obama's electoral victory was clear—and there was no controversy about who'd won the vote. On top of that, Obama has a clear majority with him from his party in the Senate and in the House of Representatives. In other words, in the Congress, the Democrats have a clear majority to go along with Obama's decisive victory in the presidential election.2 And yet, over and over again, it's insisted that Obama will have to seek consensus, "reach across the aisle," not become isolated from those who didn't support him, not alienate the Republican Party, and so on and so forth—and Obama acts in accordance with that, over and over again. In fact, whenever Obama carries out the actions that his role as chief executive of U.S. imperialism and commander-in-chief of the imperialist armed forces of the U.S. requires him to carry out, the rationalization that's frequently if not always given, particularly to those who voted for him but are disappointed by these actions, is that Obama, after all, has to compromise, he has to "reach across the aisle," he has to rule by consensus, et cetera, et cetera.
Why is it that, if you look at these two very sharply contrasting examples, logic would seem to indicate that Obama should be able to rule with a clear hand and come out fighting and not have to compromise with the opposition forces within the ruling structures but, in fact, he does constantly compromise with them, and it is repeatedly insisted that he must; whereas Bush, according to "conventional wisdom," should have been compromising and "seeking consensus" yet refused to do so and, in fact, had a more or less free hand in acting in such a way as not to seek compromise and consensus?
1. In addition to what is discussed in this talk on the "pyramid analysis," and in part 4 of the Bob Avakian DVD Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About, where this "pyramid analysis" was first put forward, see "The Right Wing Populist Eruption: Yes, It Actually IS Racism," in Revolution #178, October 4, 2009; also available online at revcom.us. [back]
2. At times it is said that, although the Democrats have a clear majority in both houses of Congress, they do not have a "filibuster-proof" 60 (out of 100) votes in the Senate. Without going here into all the "fine points" of bourgeois politics in the U.S. (and in particular the mechanics of Congressional procedures and related phenomena) the fact is that during the presidency of George W. Bush the Republicans did not have a "filibuster-proof" majority in the Senate either, and yet Bush and the Republicans were not, on this account, passive or conciliatory in their approach, and on the contrary were very aggressive in pushing their programs and policies and in countering any talk of "filibuster" by the Democrats. The fact that Obama and the Democrats are not now taking the same kind of aggressive stance, but instead are seeking compromise and conciliation with the Republicans, flows from what is discussed here, in regard to the "pyramid analysis."
It is also sometimes argued that Obama does not have a "free hand" to implement the policies he would like to implement because there are "conservative Democrats" in his own party with whom he must compromise on a number of issues. But this is another argument based on bourgeois logic—on the logic of bourgeois politics and the dynamics of capitalist economics which set the terms and determine the limits of those politics. And the fact is that the heads of the Democratic Party itself chose to throw their weight, and finances, behind those "conservative Democrats" in order to get them elected. If it is argued that they had to do so in order to have a majority of Democrats in both houses of Congress, well that is another expression of the same kind of bourgeois logic, and it is, on a deeper level, a circular argument: the Democrats never really tried to best the Republicans by going aggressively after the Republicans on issues around which they are potentially quite vulnerable, but instead, for the reasons touched on here, have conciliated and compromised with them, ceding more and more ground—and then claiming that they cannot beat the Republicans except by ceding yet more ground to them. The crucial question of abortion—where the Democrats have consistently yielded ground to the Republicans politically and ceded the "moral initiative" to them, allowing them to define the issue as one of "the right to life," or even more crudely "baby killing," rather than what is really and essentially at issue: the fundamental right of women to reproductive freedom—sharply illustrates this. And then there is the question of evolution, and more broadly the scientific method and approach to reality, as opposed to the denial of the reality of evolution and generally the flagrant irrationality that to a very significant degree characterizes the thinking and approach of the Republican Party: Instead of vigorously going after the Republicans around this—instead of emphasizing the very basic point that anyone who is so ill-informed and/or so irrational as to deny something as basic as evolution, and everything that is bound up with this in terms of a rational approach to reality (or anyone who would encourage, or cater to, people with such a mentality, rather than struggling to enlighten them about such decisive matters) should not be allowed anywhere near the levers of power, especially in a nuclear-armed country like the U.S.—instead of that kind of approach, the Democrats have sought to avoid confrontations, or even real controversy, around questions like this. Or there is the undeniable, and often overt, racism that is clearly a hallmark of the Republican Party and the mobilization of its base. Why does the Democratic Party and its leadership, including Obama, not call this out for what it is, without equivocation, and wage uncompromising struggle against it? Once more, the reasons for this have to do with what is concentrated in the "pyramid analysis." [back]
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Revolution #217, November 21, 2010
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Revolution #217, November 21, 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]
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Revolution #217, November 21, 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 #217, November 21, 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 #217, November 21, 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 #217, November 21, 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 #217, November 21, 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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