Voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party,USA
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Revolution #218, November 28, 2010
UC Students Confront Attacks on Education
On Wednesday, November 17, University of California (UC) students and university workers came from around the state to a meeting of the UC Board of Regents in San Francisco to protest brutal attacks on public education in California. They were met with tear gas and—outrageously—a policeman drew his gun to threaten them. The next day, university regents voted to raise student tuition 8 percent—the fourth tuition increase for students in the University of California system in three years. Just last year, tuition went up 32 percent. Adding insult to injury, the regents also slashed the university budget.
The fact that a cop drew his gun on protesters made national news. Associated Press accounts, reprinted in papers across the country, simply channeled statements by campus police that the cop "had drawn his weapon to protect himself. He was very concerned about his safety." This was contradicted by many eyewitnesses. The official student newspaper at UC Berkeley, the Daily Californian, ran an article with an account from a protester that "the officer hit a student with his baton with such force that the baton bounced out of his hand. Facing the crowd, the officer panicked, pulled his gun and aimed it at students, according to Lara-Briseno."
In any event, the use of pepper spray, the arrest of 13 protesters, one for a felony, and threatening students with a gun, were not in any fundamental sense because a cop—who had been beating students with his baton—felt threatened.
The police violence was a completely unjust escalation of ongoing attempts to brutally intimidate, stop, and terrorize the students and their determined struggle to defend the right to education. In recent days, these attacks have ranged from the arrest of five students at UC Irvine for writing protest messages in chalk, to the stationing of UC police and county sheriffs outside student protest meetings and in the hallways of classroom buildings on campus. One young activist was stopped and harassed by police on the UC Berkeley campus for legally posting flyers with a picture of the cop with the drawn gun and the headline, "Pay your fee increase or I'll shoot you." Then he watched as the police tore down all the flyers. "This is intimidation and harassment," the student said. "They're trying to silence us. Yesterday that cop with the gun was scary. It reminded me of what happened in Oakland with Oscar Grant."
A UC Berkeley student who was pepper sprayed and jabbed with a police baton gave voice to the motivation of many who were there when she told Revolution, "Education is a right. It's a basic tenet of a healthy society. The university is being privatized. We are losing something very precious right now. People need to be able to understand the world they live in, they need to be able to understand the differences around them so they don't become misdirected or prejudiced."
But that is not the logic of the capitalist system—where education is not a right.
Tuition has been going up for years at UC schools, but since the financial crisis in 2008, students have been subjected to a relentless series of fee hikes, cuts in staff, resources and services, and cuts in classes with progressive departments in the liberal arts have been first on the chopping block. The University of California system has long been considered the "crown jewel" of public education in the United States—an institution open to anyone who meets the academic requirements. Now, education quality and accessibility are being radically restructured. Enrollment of Black and Latino students is dropping at many UC campuses and students of all backgrounds are "paying more for less," burdened by massive debt as they go out into a world of unemployment. And similar drastic slashing of spending on public higher education is going on across the country, from Louisiana to New Jersey.
People are being told they have to accept all this because the State of California has a budget deficit of $25 billion. In addition to slashing public education, the budget deficit has led to a wide range of drastic attacks ranging from the temporary layoff of 200,000 workers in November, to cuts in Medicaid payments that endanger the most baseline medical care for the poor.
The current economic crisis has sharpened and intensified what has been true for over 100 years—all over the world, capitalism-imperialism is grinding up lives and thrusting people into ever more vulnerable positions. In the imperialist countries in Europe and in the U.S., this has taken the form of massive slashing and/or "privatization" of essential social services, education, and the public sector generally.
But for the last year, students in California's public university system have refused to accept that this is just the way it has to be. There have been major protests and building occupations. And the protests against attacks on education have intersected with other important student activism in California. Early this year, hundreds of students at UC San Diego were part of protests against racist incidents on campus. And there was a hunger strike during finals last year at UC Berkeley protesting the budget cuts and Arizona's fascist law against immigrants, SB1070. At each point students have been met by repression and brutality from the police.
When a cop drew his gun to threaten student protesters at the recent UC Regents meeting, he was in essence the armed enforcer of a capitalist system which cannot and will not tolerate any challenge to the major changes that are being imposed on education.
Student activists at Berkeley have responded to the tuition raise and the police brutality and intimidation they faced at the regents meeting with more resistance. As this goes to press students at UC Berkeley just did a "snake march" through campus, decorating the ground and buildings with chalk messages against police brutality and budget cuts as they went. Their flyer said "$822 tuition increase? Bigger exec salaries? UCPD officer pointing guns at students then ripping down flyers of pictures of the incident? ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!"
"And, despite the good intentions of many teachers, the educational system is a bitter insult for many youth and a means of regimentation and indoctrination overall. While, particularly in some 'elite' schools, there is some encouragement for students to think in 'non-conformist' ways—so long as, in the end, this still conforms to the fundamental needs and interests of the system—on the whole, instead of really enabling people to learn about the world and to pursue the truth wherever it leads, with a spirit of critical thinking and scientific curiosity, education is crafted and twisted to serve the commandments of capital, to justify and perpetuate the oppressive relations in society and the world as a whole, and to reinforce the dominating position of the already powerful. And despite the creative impulses and efforts of many, the dominant culture too is corrupted and molded to lower, not raise, people's sights, to extol and promote the ways of thinking, and of acting, that keep this system going and keep people believing that nothing better is possible."
—from "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have" by the RCP, USA
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Revolution #218, November 28, 2010
from Chapter Nine: Becoming a Communist
At that time, there were just a few of us in our core group in Richmond who considered ourselves conscious revolutionary activists. But we were meeting a lot of people, and people were starting to hear about some of our work and to call us from different parts of the Bay Area, and even other parts of the country, asking about what we were doing. Also, we started hooking up with other people who had similar politics to ours. We were moving more in the direction of recognizing that we had to get much more clear ideologically and in particular that we had to become more firmly grounded in communism and communist theory. So, we were moving in that direction, and we were meeting with, talking and struggling with other people who had similar politics.
At a certain point, we decided that we needed to form some kind of an organized group, not just in Richmond but more broadly in the Bay Area. So I wrote up a position paper, which we took around to other -people, and it became the basis of discussion and the basis of unity, more or less, for drawing people together — originally just a handful — to form some kind of a group. We didn't exactly know what kind of a group. It was still sort of a mixed bag ideologically, but clearly we were for revolution, as we understood it, and moving in a direction of being for socialism and communism, as we were beginning to understand that more fully.
About this time I came in contact with someone who would play a very important role in developing me fully into a communist and in lending more ideological clarity to our efforts in forming the organization that we did form in the Bay Area late in 1968, which we called the Revolutionary Union. That person was Leibel Bergman, who had himself been in the Communist Party in the 1930s, '40s and early '50s. (He had also been in PL for a brief period after that, before deciding that it was not really going in the right direction and could not provide the needed alternative to the revisionism of the CP.) Leibel was a veteran communist, but he broke with the Communist Party in 1956 when they took up the Khrushchev program of in effect denouncing and slandering the whole experience of socialism in the Soviet Union up to that time. Khrushchev did this largely in the form of denouncing Stalin, but this was part of his renouncing the basic principles of socialism and communism. Leibel had criticisms of Stalin, and as we developed our theoretical understanding in the Revolutionary Union we began to deepen those criticisms of Stalin, but we saw that just negating and trashing the whole history of the Soviet Union under Stalin's leadership was going to lead you back into the swamp of embracing capitalism.1
That's one of the things that I came to understand through a lot of discussions with Leibel. He had written a paper criticizing this move on the part of the CP in the U.S., to take up this Khrushchev program. And it wasn't just denunciation of Stalin; along with that, and with that denunciation of Stalin as kind of the battering ram, Khrushchev started promoting his "Three Peacefuls": "Peaceful Coexistence" between capitalist and socialist countries; "Peaceful Competition" between socialism and capitalism; and "Peaceful Transition" to socialism from capitalism. In other words, Khrushchev started promoting the idea that revolution was no longer necessary, that somehow through electoral parliamentary means and peaceful means in general you could achieve socialism — somehow the imperialists were going to allow you to bring into being a socialist society, and ultimately a communist world, without using violent means to try to suppress that and drown it in blood. Leibel rejected that, and he wrote a paper criticizing it which got circulated in the communist movement not only in the U.S. but internationally.
As a result of that, Leibel had been invited to China. So he'd gone to China around 1965, and he was there when the Cultural Revolution broke out. He was there for several years during some of the high points of the upsurge of the Cultural Revolution, and then he came back to the U.S. At a certain point, he approached me and said, "Well, you seem to be very radical-minded and very active, and you seem to be strongly against white chauvinism" (that's the term he used). He thought I had the potential to be a communist, and he decided to work to develop me into one.
I began spending a lot of time with him, and he had a big influence on me in getting me to read more communist theory. I read things like The History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. I started reading more than just the Red Book, going further into Mao's Selected Works and other writings by Mao about the Chinese revolution and about communism. I started reading Lenin's writings on imperialism, and his famous work What Is To Be Done?, as well as various works by Marx and Engels (although it would be a few years before I managed to launch into the study of Marx's Capital and — after some initial frustration and difficulty in understanding Marx's method of analysis — I was able to work my way through it and learn a great deal in the process). I was also discussing and struggling over big political and theoretical questions with Leibel.
Leibel would struggle with me — sometimes subtly, and sometimes quite sharply. For example, there was a meeting in Berkeley which had something to do with supporting the struggle of the Angolan people — Angola was still a colony of Portugal at that time, and Angolan revolutionaries were waging an armed struggle for independence. People at this meeting were debating back and forth about Angola and the freedom fight there, and I got up at one point and made this speech supporting the Angolan people's struggle and said: "It doesn't matter if the Portuguese think the Angolans are a nation. It doesn't matter if everybody here thinks the Angolans are a nation. It doesn't matter if I think the Angolans are a nation. What matters is that they believe they're a nation. So they should be able to be free."
Leibel was there at the meeting, and afterward he talked to me about this. He said: "Well, you know, you made a lot of good points, but the way you put it is not right. It's not a matter of what anybody, even the Angolan people, just thinks. It's a matter of what's objectively true, what's the reality. And since it is true that they are an oppressed nation, a colony, then they should be supported in fighting for liberation. But it is not a matter of what anybody thinks. It's a matter of what the reality is." That was a big lesson for me that I've remembered to this day.
Around this time a book came out that had a lot of influence in the radical movement. It was written by Regis Debray, who is now a bourgeois functionary in France, and it was called Revolution in the Revolution. It basically put forward the Castro-Che Guevara line on how you make revolution, particularly in Latin America, and argued that you didn't need a party to lead it, you just needed a military "foco," as they called it — that is, a military force that would be both a political leadership and a military leadership and would go from place to place fighting and supposedly spreading the seeds of revolution.
I was very influenced by this book, and so were many other people I knew. But the thrust of the book, the essential position it was putting forward, was not correct and influenced people in the wrong direction. I recall arguing vigorously with Leibel about this for hours, because I was being swayed by Debray's arguments. And at one point he got very frustrated with me — in the course of this argument, he slapped me on the thigh and said, "You know, you're an asshole" because I was being stubbornly resistant to his arguments, which were actually more correct than mine, and he got frustrated. But finally, I remember the thing that really stuck with me. He said: "This whole line about how you don't need a party is really wrong, because without a party there is no way you can really base this among the people" — he was talking about an armed struggle for revolution in countries of the Third World. I asked why.
"Because," he said, "in order to base it among the people, you have to do political work among the people. You have to organize the people to actually take up economic tasks, to carry out transformations in the economy and meet their economic needs, to make changes in their conditions and their social relations, as well changing the politics, the culture and ideology; and in order to do that, you have to have a political force that isn't just moving around with the army from place to place but is rooted among the people and actually mobilizing and leading them politically and ideologically. The military is a separate force, which may do political work, but it can't substitute for sinking deep roots and leading the people to carry out these transformations. That has to be done with the leadership of a party, and its cadres — it can't be done by an armed force which is made up of full-time fighters, and which has to move from place to place in fighting a war." That was a very profound point; it struck me very penetratingly at the time, and it has stayed with me since.
To be continued
1. Joseph Stalin led the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from the mid-1920s up to his death in 1953. Shortly after his death, Nikita Khrushchev took the reins of power and instituted a form of capitalist rule under a fairly threadbare socialist cover. For more on Bob Avakian's evaluation of Stalin—his overall positive historical role and accomplishments, along with his serious shortcomings and grievous mistakes—see, among other works, Conquer the World? The International Proletariat Must and Will. [back]
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Revolution #218, November 28, 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-#217. 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 #218, November 28, 2010
In a recent column, New York Times pundit David Brooks called for Americans to be "unapologetic" about "preserving American pre-eminence." And to "preserve America's standing in the world on the grounds that this supremacy is a gift to our children and a blessing for the earth."
In this time of "thanksgiving"—in a nation built on land stolen through the genocide of the Native Americans and in large part on a foundation of slavery—let us take an honest look at America's "gift" to the world:
America's "pre-eminence" and "supremacy" were ushered in through the burning alive of hundreds of thousands of people at Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War 2. Its "gift to our children" includes enslaving children of Bangladesh, who sew soccer balls and recycle batteries. America's "standing in the world" is imposed through endless wars for empire, leaving destroyed villages, torturers, and brutal occupations from Afghanistan to Palestine. Its "blessing for the earth" turns the shores of Africa into toxic waste dumps, threatens the rainforests, and fills the oceans and skies with poisons.
As "The Revolution We Need...The Leadership We Have—A Message, And
A Call", from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA says:
"It is a system of capitalism-imperialism...a system in which U.S. imperialism is the most monstrous, most oppressive superpower...a system driven by a relentless chase after profit, which brings horror upon horror, a nightmare seemingly without end, for the vast majority of humanity: poverty and squalor...torture and rape...the wholesale domination and degradation of women everywhere...wars, invasions and occupations...assassinations and massacres...planes, missiles, tanks and troops of the USA bombarding people in faraway lands while they sleep in their homes or go about their daily lives, blasting their little children to pieces, cutting down men and women in the prime of life, or in old age, kicking down their doors and dragging them away in the middle of the night...while here in the USA itself the police harass, brutalize and murder youth in the streets of the inner cities—over and over again—and then they spit out their maddening insults, insisting that this is 'justified,' as if these youth are not human beings, have no right to live, deserve no respect and no future."
What the world REALLY needs is REVOLUTION. And revolution in what is now the United States would—in the most basic and fundamental sense—be a part of, and serve the worldwide struggle to end all exploitation and oppression.
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Revolution #218, November 28, 2010
Update on Overturn the Ban at Pelican Bay State Prison campaign
In February 2010, the first official word arrived from authorities at the supermax Pelican Bay State Prison in California—Revolution newspaper was banned. The Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund (PRLF) provides the subscriptions for 45 prisoners at Pelican Bay, one of America's most notorious hellholes. Days later, Chuckawalla Valley State Prison (CVSP) sent a similar notice.
A lengthy political and legal fight ensued to Overturn the Ban at Pelican Bay and Chuckawalla Valley state prisons.
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Through the efforts of the PRLF and its legal counsel, the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California (ACLU-F, S. Cal.), extensive evidence was gathered that a blanket ban had been in place for over five months before there was any notification from Pelican Bay officials. This was a gross violation of the California prison system's own rules and regulations for barring publications from the California prison system—the outcome of a court-supervised settlement won by Prison Legal News.
PRLF mounted a public campaign. A statement to overturn the ban was signed by many lawyers, human rights groups, anti-censorship and prison activists, academics, and other prominent voices. The San Francisco Bay Guardian ran an important article. On the legal front, the ACLU pursued getting the prison system to turn over all the documents related to the ban, making strong arguments about why a blanket ban was unconstitutional, and further that there was no basis to bar even a single issue of Revolution.
Over many months, Pelican Bay prison officials wriggled under the glare. They made the ridiculous claim that in the original February ban letter, they had mistakenly omitted four critical words, thus converting a total ban into a ban of only one issue of the newspaper. Later, feeling the growing pressure, Pelican Bay's warden sent a letter to the ACLU stating that "no ban of Revolution newspaper is in effect" and that all newspapers have been delivered to all prisoner subscribers, and that they "consider the matter closed." The warden has yet to openly acknowledge the five-month-long blanket ban. CVSP stonewalled and claimed that the case was moot due to the fact there were no longer subscribers at their institution. Conveniently, Chuckawalla Valley prison officials transferred out the prisoner who appealed the ban of Revolution there. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has still not responded to the ACLU's follow-up demand for public documents related to this situation.
Currently, the ACLU continues to pursue getting a response to its demands for documents, which so far have not been forthcoming. If the prison system can get away with flagrantly ignoring the ACLU, then that is a very bad precedent not only for Revolution's prison subscribers but for prisoners' basic constitutional rights. Most prisoners face situations like these without the legal help of a prestigious civil liberties group. It is not hard to imagine that if the prison officials get away with basically thumbing their noses at the ACLU, what happens to an individual prisoner's appeals? Conversely, if the ACLU succeeds fully in this situation, that will be very positive for the right of prisoners to a life of the mind. This is all the more reason why this issue needs to be pursued and not be stopped short of the goal line.
As of this writing, most prisoners at Pelican Bay that PRLF has heard from either report getting most of their issues of Revolution or at least have not reported ongoing problems. It continues to be very difficult for the PRLF and the ACLU to verify whether all prisoners are receiving all issues. Real-time communications are obviously impossible and are compounded by the fact that many prisoners are issued limited numbers of stamps each month. One prisoner even traded away future stamps in order to get a single stamp to write the PRLF.
Indications continue that at least some issues of Revolution are not getting through to some prisoners. At least one prisoner has written that he has not received most issues. Last month, Pelican Bay officials returned a batch of various single issues of Revolution (June to October) addressed to 10 different inmates. Neither the ACLU nor PRLF has received notification from Pelican Bay State Prison, again, as required by their own regulations, that there was any problem with any issue for any prisoner. Most disturbing is the response to a prisoner subscriber's appeal in which the Pelican Bay warden states in July 2010, "the particular banned Revolution issues will not be issued to the inmate population...," contradicting his own June 2010 statement to the ACLU. Pelican Bay authorities also recently returned an envelope containing a Revolution newspaper. The envelope was stamped "contents unacceptable at Pelican Bay State Prison."
The PRLF and the ACLU continue to pursue getting all documents related to the ban from the California Department of Corrections and Pelican Bay and Chuckawalla Valley state prisons, and to correspond with prisoners to monitor the situation. PRLF is actively seeking remedies on a statewide level to end all instances of censorship of Revolution newspaper; to prevent the authorities from either re-instituting the ban or carrying out a de facto "underground" ban; and to prevent retaliation against prisoners who have appealed the ban.
Basic rights are at stake: the PRLF insists that news publishers, including Revolution newspaper, have access to readers in all places and situations, including state institutions; and that prisoners have a right to explore a spectrum of ideas, including revolutionary ideas, free of state interference and efforts at thought control. Prison authorities cannot arbitrarily ban Revolution, or any other alternative newspapers based on political disagreements with their content. Prison officials must reveal what was behind the ban of Revolution in the first place and turn over all relevant documents to the ACLU.
Meanwhile, subscription requests at Pelican Bay have grown in the face of the ban and requests for subscriptions have surged throughout the California prison system. In Illinois, a blanket ban is now in effect and PRLF has vowed to take the fight against censorship to the Illinois prison system next.
Sunday, December 12 @ 3pm
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Revolution #218, November 28, 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 #218, November 28, 2010
We received the following from readers:
Just days after Johannes Mehserle was given a mere two-year sentence for the cold-blooded murder of Oscar Grant (see "Token Sentence for Oscar Grant's Killer: Anger in the Streets of Oakland"), another unarmed Black man has been killed by police in Oakland. On Monday, November 8, two cops from the Oakland Police Department (OPD) shot and killed Derrick "Dee Dee" Jones, an act that drew immediate outrage. As word spread, dozens of people gathered at his place of business and tens more outside his family's home in somber vigil. All afternoon people were driving up and getting out of their cars to embrace Derrick's family, offer their assistance, and condemn the killing. Derrick Jones was well known and well loved in the East Oakland community. His barber shop was also a popular spot for people in the neighborhood for young and old. A place to chill, talk, and eat the BBQ that Derrick prepared on his hibachi. One young girl who used to hang out at the shop told us, "I miss him already. I hurt. We all do. He did not deserve to die."
All of the facts are not yet known, but what is known is that police were called to the barber shop because of a "domestic dispute." Two cops confronted Derrick at his shop, and then chased the unarmed man around the corner where they shot him multiple times in the chest, in a residential alleyway lined with houses and apartments. Police said they first used a taser, but that Derrick ran away and they pursued him and shot him. They said they started shooting because they thought he was "reaching for his waistband" and that they saw something "shiny" in Jones' hand, something they now claim was just a small scale. They also now say that a small amount of marijuana was found on Jones. As if that justified anything! Horrified neighbors, many of whom have either witnessed or protested police brutality and murder before, say they heard seven or eight shots. Some said they heard that before officers shot, Dee Dee was stuck on sticker bushes by a fence. They said they heard shots separated in time, "pow, pow, pow, pow, pow," and heard "don't move, don't move" and then "pow, pow." One woman said it sounded like a gun fight and asked, "Why would you shoot like that? You have families staying here." Another man looking at the sidewalk memorial shared his memories of Dee Dee, said, "This ain't nothing new, killing a black man in Oakland. We're tired of them taking our lives. This has to stop!"
Derrick's sister Tonya, a recent law school graduate, told the media, "My brother was murdered. And we will prove it." She also recounted that this was not the first time that the family or Derrick had been the victims of police brutality and that when Derrick was 16 he had been falsely detained and accused of stealing his own motor scooter, and when they brought Derrick home, police then had assaulted one of his sisters, and that the family had sued the OPD and caused two cops to be fired.
Like Oscar Grant, Derrick Jones leaves behind a small daughter, and many, many friends. Once again there is a jagged hole in the heart of a community. Once again a life full of potential, stolen by this system's enforcers. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!
On November 11, people in Dee Dee's neighborhood, his family and friends, members of Oscar Grant's family and people who have been fighting for justice in that case, revolutionaries, community organizers, and religious leaders gathered at Derrick's Quik Kuts barber shop 200 strong. The march took off at a fast pace, and the 30 blocks to the Fruitvale BART station (where Oscar Grant was murdered in 2009) seemed to fly by. Copies of Revolution newspaper were snapped up, both by those in the march and people along the sides. A woman came up to a Revolution distributor and told her how her uncle had been killed by Oakland police a few years ago, and there had been no protest but there should have been. She waved the newspaper in the air, punctuating her point that immediate protest and much more is needed.
There was a defiant mood in the streets as the relatively small march spread out, taking up the whole of the width of the boulevard. The Revolution Club carried a banner that read: "Derrick didn't have to die. The whole system is guilty. We need a revolution." Many people responded to the slogan "The Whole System Is Guilty" and there was fertile ground for spreading the word that another system was possible. Dozens of cards promoting the RCP's Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) went out (people summed up later that this should have been a much more prominent aspect of the revolutionary presence).
When the march arrived at the BART station, the crowd chanted their demand that the police who shot Derrick be arrested. The station was shut down. As people spoke at an impromptu second rally, the clash of programs among those who were protesting was evident, with some promoting stale reformism, others preaching against rebellion, and revolutionaries putting forward revolution as the solution to the great crime and epidemic of police brutality.
The next day, on Friday, 50 people returned to the street where the incident began, to protest again. After the rally broke up and people began to leave, police stopped and arrested and cuffed one of Derrick's brothers several blocks away. This is an outrage on top of an outrage.
In the face of brutality and repression, there is a mood of resistance in Oakland that is building. One of his friends told us "Dee Dee was a good man... I was in jail for a year. I got out of jail, and Dee Dee was the only one I wanted to cut my hair. He'd take his time and made sure you looked good... I'm gonna speak out, and I'm gonna resist. I'm on probation. They can lock me up but I will not be quiet."
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Revolution #218, November 28, 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 #218, November 28, 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 #218, November 28, 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 #218, November 28, 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 #218, November 28, 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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