Voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party,USA
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Revolution #221, January 9, 2011
February 6, 2009: U.S.-led NATO forces strike two houses in a "night raid" in a village near Shar-e-Safa in Zabul province, Afghanistan. Six are killed and two arrested. The U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) issues a press statement reporting that those killed had been "militants" while "24 women and 45 children were protected from harm." (centcom.mil/press-releases/ansf-coalition-forces-further-disable-ied-cells-in-khowst-and-zabul)
Local officials protested that those killed were innocent civilians. "Six people in the two houses were killed and two more were arrested, all civilians," Mohammad Khasin Graned, chief of the Provincial Council, told China's Xinhua News Agency on the same day CENTCOM issued its statement. He also said villagers were planning to launch a protest against the killings. ("Raid of international troops kills 6 civilians in S Afghanistan," People's Daily Online, February 6, 2009)
This U.S.-led attack received, at most, scant—if any—coverage in the U.S. media. But now, secret State Department cables published by WikiLeaks paint a picture of the kinds of attacks and escalating carnage the U.S. continues to carry out across Afghanistan under President Obama, and the rage generated among the Afghan people. And a deeper look into the pattern of such massacres provides an insight into the nature of U.S. imperialism's bloody war in Afghanistan.
A February 12, 2009 State Department cable provides some sense of the nature of U.S. night raids, like the one on February 5, 2009. It paints a picture of the intense reaction provoked by the February 5 Special Forces attack. One delegation of tribal elders, religious leaders and Provincial Council members told U.S. officials: "Stop the night raids which terrify women and children." They told U.S. officials that "many district families had abandoned their homes and livestock," and that "when the villages hear the sound of helicopters at night, the men flee into caves out of fear, not guilt."
Demonstrations of 300 and then 800 people took place in the town of Qalat within days after the killings. Afghan officials told U.S. officials the mood at the rallies was "frightening" and "scary."
Zabul province, where the February 6 attack took place, has a population of roughly 270,000 people. Located in south Afghanistan, it is one of the most remote and impoverished regions in one of the world's most impoverished countries. Three decades of imperialist invasions and wars (from the Soviet invasion in 1979 through the U.S. invasion and current occupation) have wreaked havoc on the irrigation canals essential for growing wheat, almonds, grapes, and apricots. Now poppies for opium are one of the few crops grown. Less than 10 percent of the people are literate; of the district's 136 schools, only 10 are functioning. (Washington Post, May 1, 2009)
The February 12, 2009 State Department cable noted, "Another special operation with casualties could tip the balance in Zabul towards anti-coalition forces," and there is "the firm public conviction that CF [U.S. Coalition Forces] are killing civilians and treating women badly." ("US embassy cables: Afghan tribal elders threaten to 'fight Nato like the Soviets,'" Guardian UK, December 3, 2010)
Night raids that kill women and children and others are designed to, and do, create an atmosphere of generalized terror among Afghan civilians. And, in spite of widespread outrage among civilians noted in diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks and elsewhere, the raids are a fundamental part of the U.S. and its allies' war in Afghanistan.
State Department cables report on a prior series of similar night raids across Zabul in December 2008 and January 2009.
A January 19, 2009 cable describes the outcry after "at least six operations since mid-December" led to charges of "civilian casualties" and "wrongful detentions." The cable also reports, "Two special operations missions in December 2008 in Arghandab district allegedly displaced up to 200 families, who fled to Qalat [a town of some 10,000 people and the capital of Zabul province]." ("WikiLeaks cables: Afghan elders threaten to display civilian victims' bodies," Guardian UK, December 3, 2010)
On January 9, five more people were killed in a U.S. attack in Jaldak, southwest of Qalat. According to the cable, "The Jaldak elders maintain the innocence of the dead and detained, to the point that they refused to bury the bodies and threatened to display them on Highway 1....among the five dead males were an 80 year-old, a 70 year-old, an 18 year-old, a 20-year-old and 30 year-old—leaving no men in that household. The governor suggested to PRT [the U.S. coalition's Provincial Reconstruction Team] that they were not enemies but allies of the government."
These cables, previous WikiLeaks revelations, and other studies show that such killings are not "isolated incidents" or "regrettable" errors, but are part of a broader pattern of escalating murder and violence being inflicted on the Afghan people by both the U.S.-led coalition and the reactionary Islamic fundamentalist Taliban and its allies.
In July, WikiLeaks released 92,000 secret field reports filed by U.S. military forces between January 2004 and December 2009 that documented widespread atrocities and war crimes, including those listed in this Al Jazeera summary: "A string of shootings by British troops in a non-combat zone resulting in scores of dead civilians; a highway rampage by US troops; a deaf boy shot at when orders barked at him did not illicit [elicit] a response; a previously unknown US special forces unit reporting directly to the White House, as well as a 'capture kill' list with which they operated, and their botched up missions that resulted in scores of casualties, including the deaths of children at an Islamic school....Some 200 files contained in the war logs reveal that Task Force 373 was a US special forces unit operating with a 'kill or capture' list of supposed Taliban and al-Qaeda commanders, which reportedly numbered well over 2,000 people." ("Searching for accountability," Al Jazeera, October 10, 2010)
Evidence has also come to light that a "kill team" has been operating out of the U.S. Army's 5th Stryker Brigade that has been murdering Afghan civilians "for sport" and committing other crimes including "mutilating their bodies, and collecting fingers and skulls from corpses as trophies." The Pentagon has announced it will conduct an investigation. ("US Military Investigates 'Death Squad' Accused of Murdering Afghans," Guardian UK, December 30, 2010; "Troops Accused of Killing Afghans for Sport," Washington Post, September 18, 2010)
The UN recently reported that 2,412 civilians were killed and 3,803 were injured by U.S.-led forces and the Taliban in the first 10 months of 2010, a 20 percent rise compared to the same period in 2009. The UN claimed that U.S.-NATO forces were responsible for killing or wounding 742 Afghans, but as the WikiLeaks revelations have demonstrated, much carnage in Afghanistan goes unreported. Marc Herold, Associate Professor of Economic Development and Women's Studies at the University of New Hampshire and contributor to globalresearch.ca, estimates that between 8,705 and 10,283 civilians have been killed by U.S.-NATO forces since the beginning of the war. (See "Pentagon Lies and Afghan Civilian Deaths: The Unspoken Truth," Global Research, December 8, 2010)
In August, one woman told a Washington Post reporter, "Many times NATO troops and these cars have killed our innocent people. They never care whether we are Afghans or animals." ("Afghans march in Kabul to denounce NATO strikes that killed civilians," Washington Post, August 2, 2010)
Why does the U.S. military carry out such massacres and atrocities—on an increasing scale—even as they talk of "winning hearts and minds"? In coming coverage, we'll explore what State Department cables published by WikiLeaks show about the nature and role of the Karzai regime. And how maintaining and propping up that regime has been both seen as necessary by the U.S. and has been fraught with intense contradictions that present the U.S. with real difficulties in carrying out its strategic goals in Afghanistan.
But here it can be said that the U.S. military and NATO forces in Afghanistan—and the way they fight—are in the most basic sense defined by the exploitative and oppressive world relations they represent and enforce. Before mid-2009, they relied heavily on air power (including drones and helicopters), high-tech weapons, heavy bombardment of villages from afar, and indiscriminate killing of civilians.
These war-fighting tactics—mass and indiscriminate death from the sky—in turn gave rise to even more outrage broadly in Afghan society against the U.S. U.S. military analysts have repeatedly raised concerns about this approach—not over the immorality of killing, but over the fact that such atrocities are pushing people into the arms of the Taliban.
In response to these big problems, the U.S., over about the last year and a half, has tried to adjust its military strategy in Afghanistan, drawing on what they perceive as the lessons of the genocidal U.S. war in Vietnam. Those adjustments include more emphasis on massive ground troops in conjunction with air strikes; taking and occupying large swaths of territory; killing insurgents and then trying to form alliances with reactionary local forces (including sections of the Taliban willing to be incorporated into the overall objectives of the U.S.)—all in order to establish pro-U.S. governance. The U.S. military tries to "win the hearts and minds" of civilians—hoping they will not aid, abet, and join the forces fighting the United States.
But a) such adjustments are not a "kinder, gentler" occupation—in 2009, civilian casualties in Afghanistan climbed to their highest number since the start of the war. (UN Annual Report on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, 2009); and b) the U.S. military is an occupying army—its mission by definition is brutal and murderous—and all about U.S.
domination. The more it bombs, murders, tortures, etc., the more it alienates the people. A central goal of the U.S. war in Afghanistan is subduing—by any means necessary—a population in which most don't want to be under foreign domination. Thousands of people in Afghanistan have experienced the brutality and murder of the U.S. troops and they distrust, if not hate, the American occupiers and the Afghani flunkies the U.S. put in the government.
The U.S. war in Afghanistan is, first and foremost, a war of empire, a war of domination, a war NOT in the interests of the people of Afghanistan. And this is why—no matter what changes the military may implement—brutality, murder, and civilian massacres remain as core elements of their war.
Night raids, special operations, covert assassinations, extrajudicial killings, drone strikes, the use of military contractors, massive detentions and torture, and all-around terror are embedded in the nature of this imperialist occupation. And every U.S. massacre of civilians, only fuels anti-U.S. sentiment—no matter how hard the U.S. tries to "win hearts and minds" by building a few schools.
(For an in-depth exploration of the contradictions the U.S. faces in its war and occupation of Afghanistan, see, "Obama Dismisses McChrystal: The Firing of a War Criminal.... And the Criminal War in Afghanistan," Revolution #206, July 4, 2010.)
A Pentagon review of the military situation in Afghanistan released on December 16 claimed that Obama's 30,000-troop escalation, drone strikes, and stepped up night attacks had weakened the Taliban and reduced its influence in its traditional strongholds of Kandahar and Helmand provinces. The report "singled out night raids' usefulness," the Wall Street Journal reported. "U.S. officials credit a sharp increase in the number of raids with putting heavy pressure on insurgents. They say their intention is to keep up the pace of operations, if not accelerate them. Last month, Mr. Obama rebuffed Mr. Karzai's call for halting the raids." ("Obama Cites Afghan Gains as Report Says Exit Is on Track," New York Times, December 16, 2010; "U.S. Revises Rules for Raids Touted in Review," Wall Street Journal, December 16, 2010)
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden recently called WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange a "high tech terrorist." (Meet the Press, December 19, 2010) In reality, it's the U.S. imperialists who are the "high tech terrorists" in Afghanistan—and around the world. For Biden and the U.S. ruling class, Assange's "crime" is exposing their terror and their crimes.
The U.S. war in Afghanistan—with all its horrors and atrocities—has become acceptable for far too many people. Recent material published by WikiLeaks has revealed even more clearly the depths of the horrors the people of Afghanistan are being subjected to, and the role of the U.S. behind these crimes. And these new revelations—including those published by WikiLeaks—have again thrust the horrors the U.S. is imposing on the people of Afghanistan into public view. People need to stand up and oppose these war criminals and this whole criminal war. We need to build mass opposition to the U.S. war in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan—as part of building a movement for revolution. And the more U.S. imperialism faces big contradictions, problems, difficulties, and divisions—the more the people need to be stepping up the struggle against this murderous system.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #221, January 9, 2011
A Revolutionary Resolution:
As you start the new year, scan the globe.
Start in Pakistan and Afghanistan, where U.S. drones rain death down on families in wars that grind on, seemingly without end.
Move down to the Congo, where political forces and militias—set up by and serving competing capitalist entities and governments—systematically rape women and girls so brutally that they can no longer hold their bladders or their bowels.
Look at the razing of the planet's forests, the extermination of its species and the poisoning of its waters and air by corporations and militaries competing for dominance.
Cast your eyes into the concrete and broken-glass ghettoes of the U.S., where Black and Latino youth as young as ten or twelve years old are daily brutalized by police.
Turn to the southern border of the U.S. where immigrants live in the shadows and in fear of being locked up and deported for nothing more than crossing the border in search of the means to survive.
Look to Washington, DC—the pulsing heart of the so-called beacon of "freedom" and "democracy"—and witness the ever-narrowing range of political discourse with its open fascists at the one end and an aggressively repressive and compromising-with-fascists president at the other.
In view of all this, we at Revolution newspaper will not be updating you on who was the best dressed in 2010, filling you in on the latest celebrity break-up, or predicting the 2011 trend-setting iPhone app. Nor will we be offering tips on how to take off the inches gained through the holidays or whether it is okay to exchange the gifts you got. We won't EVEN be focusing on those admittedly much better resolutions about being a "better person" and "doing good" in this messed-up world.
Instead, we call your attention to something much less reported on and much less known, but also much bigger-hearted, much more global-minded, much more impactful than any of that. It is also something that we resolve—and hope you will join with us in resolving—to turn into something that cannot be ignored in 2011.
A revolution that can lift all of humanity out of its war-torn, blood-soaked, hunger-stricken state... a revolution that will empower people to build a society where people are no longer exploited, competing with each other just to survive, and brutally oppressed; that can not only put a stop to the plunder and destruction of the planet; but can unleash the creativity and joyfulness, the critical thinking and highest aspirations of masses everywhere as they join together to transform this world, and themselves, in the most liberating ways.
Over the last year, this revolution has been fighting its way onto the stage of history with new depth, renewed strategic approach, new momentum and—most of all—tremendous, still untapped potential. While there are many aspects to this movement for revolution, we want to highlight three developments which carry a great deal of the hope humanity has for a better world.
The first is the publication of the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) from the Revolutionary Communist Party. This Constitution makes concrete and vivid the vision and the actual workings of a liberatory, socialist society starting "Day 1" after the revolution. It lays out the economic and social principles of a society in transition to a world without classes or any of the oppression bound up with them and it gives a working, breathing sense of what it would actually feel like to be free. In the short time since its publication, we've glimpsed the unique potential for this Constitution to change the discussion and lift people's sights to another way, including in sparking people who had been convinced, or had convinced themselves, that communist revolution was hopeless to look at it anew with life and interest.
The second is the campaign: "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have," with its three interrelated goals of putting revolution on the map throughout society for real, making Bob Avakian—the leader who has both re-envisioned revolution and communism for the world and who is actively leading the movement for revolution here—a household name, and bringing forward a growing core of people who are taking up the goals and outlook and method of this revolution, getting organized into it, and fighting for it to advance all throughout society. While this campaign has real leaps to make before it achieves its goal, this past year was marked by significant advances in this campaign, particularly the distribution of hundreds of thousands of copies of the Message and Call from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, which powerfully and concisely captures the sweep of this revolution, the strategy for making this revolution, and the precious leadership we have in Bob Avakian. This historic campaign is critical in the struggle for the future of humanity.
While each has importance in its own right, these two things together take on even greater significance. The success of the campaign will bear greatly on the chances of an actual revolution succeeding in this country, which itself is necessary if the Constitution is to be implemented with everything that will mean for humanity. Yet, even before the seizure of power—and the construction of the new society—this Constitution can and must become a catalyst in this movement for revolution now. People will be introduced to the actual character and content of this revolution. Their sights will be elevated to the positive vision of a whole new world, repolarizing for revolution. And it will train and prepare growing cores of people to take part in leading the new society when we do succeed.
Third, a key dimension of our work to make Bob Avakian known throughout society in the coming year will be the publication of BAsics. This will be a book of powerful quotations from Bob Avakian. It must introduce many thousands of people to this leader BA and give them the BAsics of revolution. BAsics will include concentrations of method and truth that are principles to live by and fight for, that provide a framework for understanding and changing the world, that provide a materialist source of inspiration and daring, that provoke and challenge.
In an ongoing way, this newspaper will have much more to say about this new Constitution, the campaign, and BAsics. It will spotlight the experience people are having among different sections of people; it will serve as a center of the dialogue over that experience as well as the content of this work; and it will give shape and direction to the efforts to maximize both their reach and impact, projecting important plans for getting these out into the world.
But, in this first issue of the year 2011, we want to speak to the role Revolution must, and intends to, play in society and the world—and in advancing this burgeoning movement for revolution.
In the whole ensemble of revolutionary work, this newspaper must be at the hub of hastening the development of—and preparing the people, ideologically, politically, and organizationally for the emergence of a revolutionary situation. This newspaper is central to getting people ready for revolution. Revolution gives guidance and direction to all our work; it is the scaffolding of the movement for revolution. For this movement to grow in the way it can and must, Revolution looks forward to going far beyond what we have done thus far as the scaffolding of the movement for revolution.
Revolution is essential to fighting the power right now. What is exposed in this paper week to week can fill people with an irresistible desire to resist. As the Message and Call says: "It is up to us: to wake up...to shake off the ways they put on us, the ways they have us thinking so they can keep us down and trapped in the same old rat-race...to rise up, as conscious Emancipators of Humanity. The days when this system can just keep on doing what it does to people, here and all over the world...when people are not inspired and organized to stand up against these outrages and to build up the strength to put an end to this madness...those days must be GONE. And they CAN be." Getting this paper out consistently and broadly is essential in bringing people to that position.
The MORE people see that this oppression is not only brutal but unnecessary... that this is not something that people brought on themselves but something imposed on the people by this system... and that there is a better system and a better society possible... the MORE people grasp that, the MORE they will resist, and the more that resistance will feed into building a revolutionary movement.
Fighting the power is very much part of what this paper has to and will be about. We will be there when people stand up, taking our communist understanding into these struggles, spreading the word about them, and highlighting, popularizing and building on what they achieve.
We will be there when students fight against cuts in education. We will be there when people stand up against police brutality and murder, and when people fight against attacks on immigrants. We will be there, covering the struggles of people all over the world to save the environment. We will give people the full and uncensored picture of the movement to end the horrific wars the U.S. is waging. And more.
Revolution needs to connect with those who are most inclined towards revolution—but it needs to reach far more broadly, to everywhere people are dissatisfied or angry, everywhere they are standing up or just searching, to those who may be put off by its revolutionary communist perspective but are willing to listen. Everywhere we go, we should be taking this paper and getting it into people's hands—and utilizing it to unleash discussion and debate over events in society and the world.
It is true that there is not right now a high tide of struggle against the system—though there ARE instances of people standing up, and these must be popularized and given leadership to. But there are elements pulsing beneath the surface—a book like The New Jim Crow begins to become a phenomenon among Black students and Black people more broadly. Cultural works that, with whatever shortcomings, in some way express a mainly progressive defiance for the values of this society and at the same time become very popular, striking a chord with people very broadly—works like the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo series, the movie Avatar, or "The Suburbs" by Arcade Fire—indicate that "all is not well," that there is dissatisfaction and more beneath the surface, even if people are not yet giving this political expression. This too forms part of the basis for the works of Bob Avakian and for this newspaper—and more than that, this movement FOR revolution and communism—to find much farther reach and deeper root in society.
Nowhere else can people from all corners of society find the systematic exposure and analysis they need to understand, and to become an active part of knowing and changing the world in the most liberating ways. Nowhere else can people regularly engage the writings of Bob Avakian on questions of strategy, philosophy, art and science, life's choices and meaning, and more. Nowhere else can people connect up with, hear the voices of people here and around the world, and see the revolutionary potential of others—from behind the walls of America's prisons to the halls of academia, from the suburbs to the shantytowns, and beyond.
In this next year, we at Revolution will continue—and go even further in—featuring the engagement and debate of this growing movement. In the pages of this paper and at revcom.us, readers need to engage each other...taking on the toughest questions and sharing experience. And the newspaper will be an active participant in this back-and-forth. In this way, the embryos which have been forged in building the movement for revolution can be both consolidated and spread.
Emphasis must be given to systematically organizing people in circles and networks around this paper. Building these networks gives people the means to link up with each other, to think and act together in a meaningful way—and work towards a real, radical alternative. Even as many do not yet fully agree with everything the paper says, they can get organized around it, work on it, dig into it and study it, and develop ways to distribute it.
Step back and think about the people described at the start of this article: the child who has grown up under U.S.-made bombs, the women who have lived through hell, the beautiful Black youth and others who have been made to feel there is no place for them on this planet. Think about the people who are in turmoil over the crisis of the global environment, or the deadly "choices" framed by electoral politics. Most of these people—and the millions more like them—have never heard of this revolution or its leader. Yet, all of their futures and all of their hopes for something better, not only for themselves but for their children and the planet, are objectively bound up with this revolution advancing.
In this next year, let us who do know of this revolution not keep it to ourselves. Let us find the ways, as it says in the Message and Call, to "spread the word to every corner of this country... giving people the means to become part of this revolutionary movement, and organizing into this movement everyone who wants to make a contribution to it..." Let us put ourselves—collectively, creatively and energetically—to fighting through to the success of this campaign and towards the greatest advances that can be made towards revolution.
In sum, let us refuse to be hemmed in in our dreams and our determination by the weight of the very horrors of this world that we so righteously detest, let us not aim merely to "do some good" in this terrible world, but let us instead take up the challenge—and the joyful work—of fighting to bring a whole better world into being.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #221, January 9, 2011
From readers in Los Angeles
On Sunday, December 12, a diverse audience gathered at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles for a forum entitled, "Overturn the Ban of Revolution Newspaper! End Political Censorship in Prisons Nationwide." The program opened with a moving performance of "Letters from the Hellholes of Prison." Through the actors of Dramastage-Qumran, prisoner subscribers to Revolution described the transformations they are making through engaging with Revolution newspaper and the works of Bob Avakian. Their letters speak of forging ties with prisoners of other races, of beginning to understand and oppose the oppression of women, of delving into many topics in the newspaper's pages, of imagining a world where human beings live in mutual support and cooperation. Many letters speak movingly to how much Revolution newspaper means to the writers and thank the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund (PRLF) for sending the paper every week.
Following the performance, Michael Slate, writer for Revolution and host of The Michael Slate Show on Pacifica station KPFK in Los Angeles, introduced the panel. Clyde Young, representing Revolution newspaper, spoke on the ban of the paper at Pelican Bay and other U.S. prisons. As a young man, Young spent many years in prison, where he became a revolutionary. "I turned my life around through learning about and getting with the revolutionary movements of the time," Young said. "Consequently, I got out of a life of crime and dedicated myself to radically transforming the world. Without the freedom to explore all kinds of ideas, this would not have been possible."
Speaking to the significance of the ban and the struggle to overturn it, Young told how prisoners were called on, as part of the campaign "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have" launched by the RCP in 2009, to take an active role in winning people to revolution and to appreciating and recognizing the leadership we have in Bob Avakian, by writing to Revolution. Prisoners answered this call with a flourishing of letters, which had a profound effect on people from all sections of society who read and heard them.
Through the pages of Revolution newspaper, Young said, prisoners are learning about science and atheism, understanding why there are so many Blacks and Latinos imprisoned in this country, rejecting misogyny and porn, exploring radical, revolutionary, and communist solutions to the plight of the planet and the people, and transforming themselves from a life of crime into a backbone force of emancipators of humanity.
Young quoted from a prisoner asking for a copy of the recently published Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal): "...Please. Please. Send me a copy so me and the few others that believe and think how I do can start putting this in our lives...." The ban on Revolution newspaper cannot stand, Young said. Revolution must be spread geometrically behind prison walls and the voices of revolutionary-minded prisoners heard widely in society.
The next speaker was Stephen Rohde, a constitutional lawyer, lecturer and writer who is Chair of the ACLU Foundation of Southern California. Rohde is the author of American Words of Freedom, a book that explores the origins, history and meaning of the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and many articles and book reviews on civil liberties and Constitutional history.
Rohde spoke on "Prisoners and the First Amendment." He exposed the unconstitutional nature of the ban on Revolution in the prison system and gave the government no quarter on the issue of the First Amendment. He made a legal and political case that showed censorship of Revolution has ominous implications throughout the prison system in the U.S. and is an immediate and serious threat to freedom of speech and of the press in society at large. With regard to the rights of prisoners to explore a spectrum of ideas and to be free of "mind control" by the state, he surveyed Supreme Court opinions by Justices Stevens and Ginsberg. He explained the current complex juncture in the efforts to overturn the ban and said this battle is not yet won, and that it must be won.
Rohde said that censorship is habit-forming; once a precedent is set, it spreads throughout society. "Censoring the idea that government is repressive and tyrannical does not eliminate the idea that government is repressive and tyrannical," he said. "In fact, censoring the idea corroborates and documents that government is repressive and tyrannical."
To illustrate what is at stake in the fight to end the censorship of Revolution newspaper in California prisons, he quoted Pastor Martin Niemoller's well-known statement about Nazi Germany, "First they came for the communists, and I did not speak up, because I was not a communist...."
Rohde pledged that the ACLU will see this fight through to the end, until the ban and continuing censorship are verifiably lifted and the official state documents which led to the censorship are revealed.
The last speaker was Laura Magnani, Interim Regional Director of the Pacific Mountain Region, American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). She spoke on "Ending Torture and Racism in California Prisons." She is the author of "Buried Alive: Long Term Isolation in California's Youth and Adult Prisons," an AFSC report issued in 2008 in conjunction with AFSC's STOPMAX campaign to end long-term solitary confinement; and co-author of the book Beyond Prisons: A New Interfaith Paradigm for Our Failed Prison System, published in 2006.
Magnani said that, having worked on this issue for 20 years, she sometimes thinks she's seen it all until the state reaches a shocking new low in dehumanization, like the recent case of a prison stopping the water in prisoners' toilets and forcing prisoners to wear diapers with no opportunity to change them for long periods of time, for the sole purpose of humiliating the prisoners.
Magnani personally witnessed a prisoner, stripped to his underwear and barefoot, paraded across the snow-covered exercise yard at High Desert Prison near Susanville, Calif., where mentally disturbed prisoners were kept in solitary confinement for months. When solitary confinement has been exposed as torture, Magnani said, prison officials change the names of the units and continue the same practices. (For example, in California, the Behavior Modification Units are now termed Behavior Management Units to supposedly distinguish them from the former, where for decades officials subjected prisoners to sensory deprivation and pharmaceutical, electroshock and surgical experiments.)
Throughout her talk she exposed how the stereotype of "the worst of the worst" is used to justify and hide cruelty and racism towards prisoners as well as denial of their First Amendment rights. "Prisoners are human beings," Magnani said in closing, "No matter what they've done, I do not concede or consent to the state's right to treat prisoners as less than human."
The dramatic readings and panel provoked a range of questions and comments; from what it will take to definitively overturn the ban on Revolution, to what the letters reveal about the suppressed human potential behind prison walls, to issues of censorship in society at large. People left the program uplifted and inspired by the prisoners' letters and the trenchant arguments of the panelists.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #221, January 9, 2011
Editors' note: A recent piece in New Yorker magazine recycles, reinforces, and expands on profoundly untrue and distorted "conventional wisdom" about Mao Tsetung and the communist revolution he led in China ("Staying Power: Mao and the Maoists" by Pankaj Mishra). In particular, it asserts that the Great Leap Forward (in the early years of socialist China) was Mao's campaign of "condemning tens of millions to early death." While not responding in detail to all the lies and distortions in the New Yorker piece here and now, this excerpt from Raymond Lotta's speech, "Socialism is Much Better Than Capitalism, and Communism Will Be a Far Better World," paints a basic picture of the real nature of the Great Leap Forward. The entire speech was serialized in Revolution, and is available online at revcom.us (revcom.us/strs/set-the-record-straight.html).
The Great Leap Forward of 1958-59 was the first bold step by Mao to forge a more liberating road of socialist economic and social development. At the heart of the Great Leap Forward in the countryside was the movement to form communes. They combined economic, social, militia, and administrative activities and became the basic units of proletarian power in China's countryside.
The people's communes came about as a result of a complex and dynamic process of social and economic struggle and transformation and mass upsurge and experimentation.
Early in the history of the revolution, peasants, with the backing of the [Communist] party, had formed mutual-aid teams to help each other in planting and harvesting. Within a few years of Liberation, they established cooperatives in which they farmed land together and distributed the produce according to how much land, tools, and animals each family had put in, as well as their labor.
By the mid-1950s, peasants had formed higher-level cooperatives. They burnt the deeds to their land because they now worked the land, tools, and animals in common. This was a zigzag process, with different areas moving at a different pace. Some peasants would join and then drop out. But at some stages of this process there were waiting lists of peasants wanting to join up. Many peasants pooled their land and labor, giving up isolated plots and working together to change the physical face of the land. This enabled peasants to use tractors and other machinery in areas that had never before even seen an iron plow.
This was the setting for the Great Leap Forward.
The communes started spontaneously. In Honan province in 1957, peasant cooperatives joined forces with their neighbors to begin a vast project to bring water across a mountain range to irrigate dry plains. The peasants merged their cooperatives and created something new: an economic and political form through which tens of thousands of people built a common life. Mao toured these areas and later gave the name "commune" to describe what was going on.
The Great Leap is often vilified as an irrational utopian experiment. But it made enormous economic and political sense... from the standpoint of liberating people and productive capabilities.
The communes were able to mobilize and organize China's vast reserve of labor power. Irrigation and flood control works, road construction, reforesting, land reclamation, and other projects could now be planned and carried out on a large scale. Fertilizer and cement factories and small hydroelectric power works were built. The communes provided experimental space for teams of experts and peasants to engage in scientific farming and geological prospecting.
The Great Leap Forward brought women out of the household and into the swirl of the battle to create a new society. The communes opened community dining rooms, nurseries, cooperative home repair, and established other forms of social welfare that provided collective solutions for social needs. Women took part in the start-up of new factories and in irrigation projects like the famous Red Flag Canal. "The Iron Women's Brigade" was in the front lines of that project.
Old habits and values were questioned. Ideological struggle was waged against superstition, prejudice, and fatalism, along with feudal customs that still persisted, like arranged marriage. The communes established networks of primary and middle-schools, as well as health facilities.
The Great Leap Forward put the emphasis on the rural areas in order to gradually close the gap between the city and countryside, and between workers and peasants. Small-scale industries took root in the countryside; peasants began to master technology; scientific knowledge was spread. The approach of the Great Leap was a liberating alternative to the process of rural dislocation and massive urban immigration that takes place in the imperialist-dominated Third World.
A self-reliant economy that spread industrial and technical capabilities into the countryside could also stand up better to imperialist attack and invasion and support world revolution.
Jung Chang and Jon Halliday in their book Mao: The Unknown Story charge that the Great Leap and the communes were just a cover for slave labor. They allege that 30 million people died because of Mao's policies. Some things need to be said straight up here.
First, as I have explained, the Great Leap Forward was not reckless but guided by coherent policy goals. It tapped the energy and enthusiasm of the peasant masses.
Were there problems? Were there famine deaths? Yes. But the difficulties of those years was a complex phenomenon.
There was a sharp decline in food production in 1959. China had suffered the worst climatic disasters in a century. Floods and drought affected over half of China's agricultural land.
The ideological struggle between revolutionary China and the Soviet Union had been intensifying. Mao denounced the Soviet leadership as revisionist—analyzing that it had gone off the socialist road and was selling out the interests of the world revolution to U.S. imperialism. In response, the Soviets sought to punish China by withdrawing advisors, halting aid, walking off with blueprints to unfinished industrial installations, and leaving the country with a debt burden that had to be repaid. This created additional strains on the economy.
There were also certain policy mistakes by the Maoists. One problem was that in many rural areas too much peasant labor time was spent on nonagricultural projects. This hurt food production. In the euphoric spirit of the times, output levels and capabilities were often exaggerated by local officials. This made it hard to know how much grain there really was and to plan accurately.
Chang and Halliday charge that Mao didn't care about the hardships and suffering and willfully suppressed knowledge of deaths. In fact, investigations were conducted and adjustments were made. The communes were reduced in size, eventually stabilizing at about 15,000 to 25,000 people. The amount of grain to be delivered to the state was lowered. Certain nonagricultural projects were scaled back, so that people could spend more time on food production. Grain was rationed countrywide and emergency grain supplies were sent to regions in distress.
As for the accusation of 30 million deaths—this is an absurd and sensationalistic estimate. It is based on unreliable statistics. It is based on outrageous calculations that compare projected population size with actual population size. In other words, people who weren't even born are added to a total death count.
And the main point is this: By 1970, China was for the first time in its history able to solve its food problem. The new society was able to provide for a minimal diet and food security. This had everything to do with the Great Leap Forward and the formation of communes. It had everything to do with the collective mobilization of people to build irrigation and flood works, to reclaim and improve land, to master new agricultural techniques, and to establish small industries in the countryside. It had everything to do with the spirit of working for the common good promoted by socialist revolution.
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Revolution #221, January 9, 2011
Michael Slate Interview with Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow
A Note on the Interview
We are publishing this interview courtesy of The Michael Slate Show radio show on KPFK, Los Angeles. The views expressed by the author in this interview are, of course, her own, and she is not responsible for the views expressed elsewhere in this newspaper.
In 1980 a half million people were in jail in the United States. By 2006 the number of prisoners had swollen to 2.3 million, an increase of over 450 percent. And this has hit Black people particularly hard. While African-Americans are 13 percent of the U.S. population, they are over 50 percent of the prison population and are incarcerated at a rate eight times higher than that of whites.
In her book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, legal scholar and civil rights activist Michelle Alexander provides an incisive and insightful picture of how all this works today, how all the resources of the U.S. legal system have been brought to bear and adapted to carry out this unprecedented mass imprisonment of Black people, especially young Black men. Alexander details how the so-called War on Drugs was developed and shaped as part of this whole process and how it continues to play a key role today. And importantly, Alexander shows that all of this has created a new racial caste system, a New Jim Crow system of dehumanization that locks millions of Black people into the bottom of U.S. imperialist society based on their status as ex-prisoners. All this as we are continually told that this is a colorblind society.
Michelle Alexander was a guest on The Michael Slate Show on KPFK radio last May and this excerpt is drawn from that interview.
Michael Slate: You describe the systematic mass incarceration of Black people and brown people over the last 30 years as having created a new racial caste system. Can you explain what you mean by that?
Michelle Alexander: I believe that within a few decades after the collapse of the old Jim Crow, we as a nation have managed to recreate racial caste in America. Of course, with the election of Barack Obama, it's widely believed that we have triumphed over race. But in some major American cities the majority of African American men are locked behind bars, or labeled felons for life. Once you're labeled a felon, you're trapped. You're trapped in a permanent second-class status, in which you may be denied the right to vote, automatically excluded from juries, and legally discriminated against in employment, housing, access to education, food stamps, public benefits.
So many of the old forms of discrimination that were supposedly left behind during the civil rights movement are suddenly legal again once you've been branded a felon. That's why I say we haven't ended racial caste in America. We've merely redesigned it by targeting African Americans, primarily through the War on Drugs, branding them felons often at young ages, before they are even of an age to vote: branding millions of young people of color as felons, often for non-violent and drug-related offenses, the very crimes that are largely ignored in middle-class white communities. We are recreating a caste system where these people are locked in a permanent second-class status for life.
Slate: I think a lot of people are a little surprised by your statement that the American penal system has emerged as a system of social control unparalleled in world history. Can you give people a sense of the scope of this?
Alexander: Consider this: Today there are more African Americans in prison or jail, on probation or parole, than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began. There's more African Americans under correctional control today than were enslaved. That's the scope and size of it. I think part of the problem is that, when people go to prison, they're out of sight and out of mind, so it's easy for us to be in denial about just the sheer size, scope and scale of mass incarceration, because prisons for the most part are out of public view. But the reality is that within a few decades our prison population has quintupled, not doubled or tripled, quintupled. We now have the highest rate of incarceration in the world, dwarfing rates of incarceration even in highly repressive regimes like Russia, China and Iran.
This explosion in our prison population has not been driven by crime rates. The supposedly colorblind justification for the mass incarceration of people of color is crime rate. But as I describe in some detail in my book, crime rates do not even begin to explain the astounding and rapid increase in imprisonment in African American communities. The War on Drugs is the primary cause of the prison boom, a war that has been waged almost exclusively in poor communities of color, even though studies consistently show that people of color are no more likely than whites to use or sell illegal drugs.
More than 30 million people have been arrested since the drug war began, the vast majority of whom are people of color. While many people assume that the drug war was declared in response to rising drug crime in inner-city communities, it's just not true. The current drug war was officially declared by President Ronald Reagan in 1982, at a time when drug crime was actually on the decline, not on the rise. It was a couple years before crack hit the streets in Los Angeles, and later spread to inner-city communities across America. The drug war was declared in response to racial politics, not drug crime. It was part of the grand strategy of the Republican Party to appeal to poor and working class white voters through racially coded "get tough" appeals on issues of crime and welfare.
Republican Party strategists and pollsters found that they could be highly successful in appealing to white poor and working class folks, particularly in the South, through using racially coded "get tough" appeals on crime and welfare. In fact, H.R. Haldeman, President Richard Nixon's White House chief of staff, observed, "The whole problem is really the blacks. The key is to devise a system that recognizes this while not appearing to." So, they did.
A few years after the drug war was announced, and crack hit the streets, the Reagan administration seized on this development with glee, hiring staff whose job it was to publicize inner-city "crack babies," "crack mothers," "crack whores." The goal was to make inner-city crack abuse and violence a media sensation, bolstering public support for the drug war, so it would be possible to turn what had been a rhetorical war into a literal one. The plan worked like a charm. For more than a decade, black drug dealers and users would be regulars in newspaper stories and would saturate the evening news. Congress and state legislatures nationwide would devote billions of dollars to the drug war and pass harsh mandatory minimum sentences. Democrats began competing with Republicans to prove they could be even tougher on crime, tougher on the dark-skinned others who had been defined in the media as the source of all our social ills. Within an incredibly short period of time, not in response to crime rate—again, crime rates have fluctuated over the past 30 years and are today at historical lows. But incarceration rates have consistently soared. They've moved independently of crime rates, due to a war that has been declared, not against drugs, but against communities defined by race.
Slate: Let's talk a little more about the War on Drugs. How does it actually work in relation to all this.
Alexander: One of the biggest myths about the drug war is that it's focused on rooting out drug kingpins or violent offenders. But nothing could be further from the truth. Federal funding flows to those state and local law enforcement agencies that are willing to boost dramatically the volume of their drug arrests, the sheer numbers. The Reagan administration adopted new rules and new programs that authorized millions of dollars in federal funding to flow to agencies, some of which had initially been reluctant to wage the drug war, feeling it would be a distraction from more important crimes like murder, rape, and robbery. The way in which the Reagan administration persuaded law enforcement agencies to get on board with the drug war was through bribes, through cash grants that were made available to law enforcement agencies that would drastically increase just the sheer volume of drug arrests.
To make matters worse, the Reagan administration managed to change federal drug forfeiture laws so that state and local law enforcement agencies could keep, for their own use, 80 percent of the cars, cash, homes seized from drug suspects, thus granting law enforcement a direct, monetary interest in the profitability of the drug market. The result has been entirely predictable. People of color are rounded up en masse. Kids are stopped and searched on the way to school. If they learn to drive a car their cars are often searched in the hopes of finding drugs, sometimes dismantled. There are sweeps of public housing projects, schools, for drugs. And again, it's not that they're looking for violent offenders or drug kingpins. They're trying to boost their numbers of drug arrests in these communities.
In 2005, for example, four out of five drug arrests were for possession. Only one out of five was for sales. Most people in state prison for drug offenses have no history of violence or even felony activity. In fact, in the 1990s, the period of the most dramatic expansion of the drug war, nearly 80 percent of the increase in drug arrests was for marijuana possession, a drug now widely believed to be less harmful than alcohol or tobacco and at least as prevalent in middle class, white communities as it is in communities of color. But the drug war has been waged almost exclusively in poor communities of color. In fact, in some states 80 to 90 percent of all drug offenders are African American.
So through financial incentives, and the Supreme Court granting law enforcement license to stop and search just about anyone, anywhere, as long as they're able to extract consent, the drug war has managed to brand millions of people felons. And once you're branded, discrimination against you is legal for the rest of your life. People who are released from prison have an extraordinarily difficult time finding jobs. They're forced to check that box on the employment application, no matter if the minor drug felony they committed was 20 years ago, still having to check that box on employment applications. States deny convicted felons professional licenses. Thousands of professional licenses are off limits to felons. In some states you can't even get a license to be a barber if you've been branded a felon.
Slate: You talk about how the War on Drugs has been used as a justification for gutting a lot of the basic constitutional rights. What does this look like, how many rights have been redefined in order to facilitate the mass incarceration of people of color?
Alexander: The U.S. Supreme Court has eviscerated, just shredded, many of the constitutional protections that once protected people from arbitrary and discriminatory police actions. Through a series of actions, the U.S. Supreme Court has made it perfectly legal for the police to stop people on the street, question them about potential drug activity or criminal activity, frisk them. As long as the demand is phrased as a question, it's perfectly legal. So if the police say, "Will you put your arms up in the air?" and "Will you turn and face the wall so we can frisk you?" and the person complies, that's interpreted as consent. So there's no reason for law enforcement to have even reasonable suspicion of criminal activity as long as they "get consent." Now of course many people are not brave enough or foolish enough to resist the police when they say, "Will you put your hands up in the air? May I search your car?" People don't understand those to be questions. They understand them to be demands, and comply. Often when people do try to resist and refuse consent to search, they face police brutality.
So the U.S. Supreme Court really has paved the way for the roundup of millions of Americans for relatively minor drug offenses. And the Supreme Court has also made it virtually impossible to prove racial bias in the criminal justice system. People always ask me, "Well, if the system is a biased as you say it is, why don't we hear more about it in the news? Why aren't people filing lawsuits about it?"
Well, the reason there are not more lawsuits challenging racial bias in the criminal justice system is that the Supreme Court has closed the door to claims of racial bias at all stages of the criminal justice process, from stops and searches to plea bargaining and sentencing. In a series of cases beginning with McCleskey v. Kemp, the Supreme Court has said that no matter how severe the racial disparity, no matter how overwhelming the statistical evidence, if you can't provide proof that the law enforcement official acted out of conscious racial bias, you can't even get in the courthouse door. You can't even state a claim of discrimination. In the age of colorblindness, where everyone knows better than to say, "I stopped him because he was black," "I sought the death penalty because he was black," "I refused to give him a good plea deal because he was black," everyone knows better. So insisting on evidence of conscious racial bias, a smoking gun, guarantees that the routine discrimination that African Americans face in the criminal justice system will never be subject to judicial scrutiny.
And in this way, the mass incarceration of African Americans has been immunized from challenge in the legal system, much in the same way that the Supreme Court once protected the institutions of slavery and Jim Crow.
Slate: Something that might come as a surprise to a lot of people is that you point out that the Supreme Court has said that the police can actually use race as a factor in deciding who to stop and search or question.
Alexander: I call it the dirty little secret about racial profiling, which is that the U.S. Supreme Court has actually authorized law enforcement to use race as a factor in making decisions about who to stop and search. Now this is particularly relevant today, now that Arizona has passed a law authorizing law enforcement to demand citizenship papers from anyone they suspect might be in the country illegally. The claim that this will inevitably lead to racial profiling is absolutely right, because the U.S. Supreme Court has said, specifically in the context of immigration but it's a decision that applies in drug law enforcement as well, that race can be used as a factor in making decisions about whom to stop and search. So many people hoped that the U.S. Supreme Court would reverse that case. In that case the court concluded that the police could take a person's Mexican appearance into account when developing reasonable suspicion that a vehicle may contain undocumented immigrants. The court said, "The likelihood that any person of Mexican ancestry is an alien is high enough to make Mexican appearance a relevant factor" in decisions about whom to stop and search.
Now that's absurd, the idea that anyone who looks Mexican [laughing] is a reasonable suspect as an illegal immigrant is outrageous. And today, many law enforcement agencies claim that they don't engage in racial profiling. But they make those claims with a wink and a nod. Because they know that they have been authorized by the U.S. Supreme Court to use race as a factor, as long as race isn't the only factor, the only reason for the stop, they can get away with racial profiling.
Slate: One of the ideas you wrestle with is that this is a supposedly colorblind society. One of the expressions of how this contradiction plays itself out is the cops and the prosecutors being able to say, "We're not dealing with race here," even though they clearly are. They say, "We're just using our discretion."
Alexander: On their face, drug laws are race neutral. The laws aren't written to apply differently to black people, white people, or Latinos. On their face, they appear race neutral. But they are enforced in a racially discriminatory manner. They are able to be enforced in a racially discriminatory manner because law enforcement has been granted virtually unbridled discretion in making decisions about who will be stopped and searched, who will be charged for what crimes. There is very little oversight or accountability for law enforcement decisions about who will be stopped, who will be searched.
The same goes for prosecutors. Prosecutors and police have this enormous discretion about whom on the streets to view as a suspect, who to go after, who to stop and frisk, who to let walk by. And this enormous discretion inevitably produces racial disparities. Why? Because we all have conscious as well as unconscious biases about who the criminals are. As I indicated earlier, these biases and stereotypes don't exist in our head purely by accident. They've been created by media campaigns that have been waged by politicians.
The fact that our television sets were saturated with images of black and brown drug dealers during the crack epidemic isn't an accident. The Reagan administration actually launched a media campaign and hired people whose job it was to publicize inner-city crack users and dealers. So it's no surprise that when a survey was done in 1995, asking people, "Close your eyes for a minute and imagine a drug criminal," 95 percent of the respondents pictured an African American. Only 5 percent pictured anyone of any other race. So we now have in our public consciousness an association of crime and race that is deep and profound. The association between African Americans and drug use and drug sales is profound, even though people of color are no more likely to use or sell drugs than whites.
The Supreme Court has said, as long as law enforcement can identify some reason besides race for the stop, it's OK for them to use race as one factor. The absurdity of this logic can be evidenced by the fact that the police almost never stop someone solely because of race. A young black kid wearing baggy pants standing in front of his high school surrounded by a group of similarly dressed black friends may be stopped and searched because the police think he looks like a drug dealer. But clearly race is not the only reason for that conclusion: Gender, age, attire and location are playing a role. The police probably would ignore an 85-year-old black man standing in the same spot surrounded by a group of elderly black women. So there will always be factors that can be cited in addition to race.
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Revolution #221, January 9, 2011
Cancun Climate Talks:
On December 11, UN talks on climate change ended in Cancun, Mexico. Like the talks held in Copenhagen a year ago, the Cancun summit moves the world no closer to seriously dealing with the pressing environmental emergency on this planet. (For more on the Copenhagen talks, see "Copenhagen Climate Summit Accord: A Crime Against the Planet," Revolution #187, December 27, 2009.) At the last minute, an agreement was announced in Cancun. This article is not able to get into a full analysis, but it is clear that this agreement does not fundamentally move toward stopping the danger of climate change.
Earth's ecosystems and humanity face a multifaceted environmental emergency—the destruction of forests and other natural habitats; extinction of species; acidification of the oceans and wiping out of ocean life; pollution and degradation of water, air, and soil. Climate change is a leading edge of this emergency, interacting with and making worse the other factors. Climate change is already occurring and threatens to become unstoppable.
In his recent book EAARTH, author and activist Bill McKibben presents an extremely sobering and frightening picture of the changes already occurring, and the more extreme changes to come:
If humanity does not protect and preserve the fast-vanishing natural ecosystems and address the causes of their destruction, we will very likely witness before long a qualitative unraveling of the natural world on our planet. The climate situation cries out for immediate action to massively cut emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that cause global warming. But the Cancun agreement does nothing but pledge that countries will make emissions cuts. A statement from Friends of the Earth says the agreement's "embrace of the 'pledge-based' paradigm, with rich countries polluting however much they like, could lead to a future in which temperatures rise by up to nine degrees (Fahrenheit) according to a recent UN analysis. This would devastate human civilization and the natural world."
In the midst of the Cancun talks, Wikileaks released U.S. diplomatic cables, which revealed how the U.S. threatened and bribed countries to adopt the 2009 Copenhagen accord. The Copenhagen agreement included voluntary cuts in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions of 5 percent below 1990 levels, which is criminal when scientific studies say cuts of 50 percent or more are actually needed. This deal was engineered at the last minute by the U.S. and a few others and then rammed down the throats of the rest of the world. The leaked cables show that the U.S. used the promise of paying money to oppressed countries in a "green fund" for helping them deal with climate change to both bribe and blackmail them to support Copenhagen. U.S. officials discussed with European officials how to "neutralize, co-opt or marginalize unhelpful countries" such as Venezuela and Bolivia.
These revelations make it even clearer that the future of earth's ecosystems can't be left in the hands of the U.S. and other powers, who have repeatedly proven incapable of doing anything but using talks such as those at Copenhagen and Cancun to pursue their own interests at the expense of the natural world and humanity. To hope that real efforts on climate change can come from such a system is complete illusion. This capitalist-imperialist system is not only incapable of solving this problem—left in its hands, there is no other path but unraveling environmental catastrophe that will set the course of things on this planet for generations and potentially thousands of years.
But there is a way out! The needed basic technology, knowledge, and science exists to combat the problem of climate change, and there is potentially a tremendous desire latent among the world's people that could be mobilized, but is being blocked by this system. We need revolution and a new state power to generate all these potentials in the way they must go.
Most importantly, there is a plan for a radically different approach, contained in "Some Key Principles of Socialist Sustainable Development" outlined in Revolution newspaper's April 18, 2010 special issue on the environment.
But the reality of potential environmental catastrophe has to be faced upfront, and we don't have much time. We need to develop massive resistance against the capitalist assaults on the environment, and this must be part of building a movement for the one thing that has a shot to save the planet—communist revolution that would set up a new socialist state power.
This system and those who rule over it are not capable of carrying out economic development to meet the needs of the people now, while balancing that with the needs of future generations and requirements of safeguarding the environment. They care nothing for the rich diversity of the earth and its species, for the treasures this contains, except when and where they can turn this into profit for themselves... These people are not fit to be the caretakers of the earth.
Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA
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Revolution #221, January 9, 2011
Bradley Manning is a 23-year-old private first class in the U.S. Army. He was assigned to a battalion stationed near Baghdad, Iraq as an intelligence specialist when he was arrested in May 2010, accused of providing classified information to Wikileaks. If he is found guilty, he could receive a 52-year prison term. Republican Congressman Mike Rogers, new head of the House Intelligence Committee, has called for Manning to be executed if convicted. One of the things Manning is alleged to have leaked is the video known as Collateral Murder, which shows a U.S. Apache helicopter firing on civilians on a Baghdad street in 2007 and killing 11 people.
Since his arrest Manning has been imprisoned in solitary confinement, now going on seven months, without being convicted of any crime. He is currently held at the U.S. Marine Corps base at Quantico, Virginia. The persecution of Bradley Manning is part of a whole barrage of repression and threats that the U.S. has unleashed in an attempt to silence Wikileaks. (See "U.S. Lashes Out at Wikileaks" online at revcom.us.)
Manning is held in a six-by-twelve cell with a bed, drinking fountain, and toilet. According to Manning's lawyer, David Coombs, he is woken up at 5 a.m. each day (7 a.m. on weekends) and is not allowed to sleep at any time between then and 8 p.m. If he tries to sleep during those hours, the guards make him sit up or stand. Manning's jailers have put him on a "prevention of injury" watch, which means even more extreme and cruel conditions. Coombs reports that Manning is confined to his cell for about 23 hours a day; forbidden to have any personal items in his cell; only allowed to have one book or magazine to read at a time (which is taken from him at night); prevented from exercising in his cell, and forced to stop if he attempts to; given one hour of "exercise" daily, which consists only of walking in an empty room; required to strip down to his shorts and hand over his clothing to guards when he goes to sleep. ("A Typical Day for PFC Bradley Manning," www.armycourtmartialdefense.info/).
This is the kind of inhumane, people-destroying treatment that the U.S. carries out in military and CIA prisons around the world and in Supermax prisons within the U.S. What is being done to Bradley Manning is, without question, torture.
Why is the U.S. lashing out so viciously against Bradley Manning? It is because the information that he is alleged to have provided to Wikileaks, and the material provided overall by Wikileaks, contains clear, direct, and indisputable evidence of all kinds of crimes that the U.S. has—and continues to—carry out around the world.
Take, for example, the "Collateral Murder" video (available online at www.collateralmurder.com) which was released by Wikileaks in April last year. The video, taken from a U.S. Army attack helicopter, shows American troops cold-bloodedly gunning down 11 Iraqis, including two people who worked for the Reuters news agency and a man who had come onto the scene in a van to try to help the other victims. Two small children in the van were seriously injured by the gunfire.
The video includes an audio track of voices of the soldiers in the helicopter during the attack. The soldiers can be heard repeatedly requesting and being granted permission to open fire, and joking with each other about the dead and injured victims on the ground.
The U.S. accuses Wikileaks of endangering lives by publicizing classified material, some of which Manning is alleged to have provided. But the actual reality is that the leaked material such as the "Collateral Murder" video threaten the ability of the U.S. operatives—those responsible for immense crimes—to massacre, torture, and brutalize people in service of U.S. imperialist dominance around the world.
The vicious and vindictive repression against Bradley Manning is meant as a threatening message against people broadly, including within the military, against standing up to and resisting the crimes of the U.S. empire.
There are also reports that U.S. officials are trying to put pressure on Manning in order to get him to cooperate in the government's efforts to go after Wikileaks' Julian Assange. In a December 22 interview with the "Frost Over the World" news program on the English Al Jazeera network, Assange said, "There is pressure that's been applied to one of our alleged sources, Bradley Manning in his prison cell. He is a young intelligence analyst being held in Quantico, Virginia, for some six months now, prior to trial, and there is pressure on him through his physical cell conditions, according to his lawyer David Coombs, to coerce him into testifying against me, or against the organization, to try and suggest that there is some kind of a conspiracy to commit espionage. Which there is not."
Bill Quigley, Legal Director at the Center for Constitutional Rights, told Revolution that Manning "is being held in punitive solitary confinement—which is defined as torture in international human rights law. Reports say he is being threatened with the death penalty unless he implicates Wikileaks. This is another example showing how little the U.S. believes in international human rights when it comes to their own actions."
For news and information about these developments, go to the Bradley Manning Support Network website at bradleymanning.org.
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Revolution #221, January 9, 2011
As Barack Obama delivered his December 16 report on the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan at the White House, Veterans for Peace (VFP) brought hundreds of veterans and others to demand: Stop These Wars Now! Daniel Ellsberg, who at the risk of life in prison leaked the Pentagon Papers that exposed government lies about the Vietnam War, author Chris Hedges, and 129 others were arrested for standing at the White House fence and refusing to leave. For many, this was their first arrest for civil resistance. And it was a break with protest as usual, as people put their bodies into an expression of enormous anger at the U.S. wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the drone bombings and secret war in Pakistan.
Leah Bolger, a VFP leader, said the protesters were "willing to disobey the police as an act of resistance to our government as a way of saying 'No' to the senseless slaughter of innocent people, 'No' to outrageous war profiteering, 'No' to our government's flagrant disregard of international law, 'No' to the squandering of hundreds of billions of dollars. Although it is we who were treated like criminals—handcuffed, arrested and charged—we are not the ones ordering drone strikes or sending in troops. We are not the ones using illegal weapons and poisoning the earth. We are not the ones with blood on our hands. The real criminals continue unabated, shamelessly claiming that they are 'making progress,' and unabashedly announcing that they plan to continue their crimes for many years to come."
VFP, World Can't Wait, and ANSWER plan anti-war actions in Washington and nationwide on Saturday, March 19, 2011, the anniversary of the "shock and awe" in 2003 when the U.S. began the massive bombing of Iraq before the invasion.
December 16, 2010: Veterans and others at the White House demand "Stop these wars now!"
Author Chris Hedges being arrested.
Photo: Ellen Davidson
Photo: Ellen Davidson
Daniel Ellsberg, who at the risk of life in prison leaked the Pentagon Papers that exposed government lies about the Vietnam War.
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Revolution #221, January 9, 2011
We received the following from a reader:
On December 9, 2010 thousands of men in at least six Georgia prisons initiated the largest prisoner strike in U.S. history. For six days prison inmates refused to leave their cells or perform their jobs. Their demands included:
Prisoners coordinated the simultaneous strike through "contraband" cell phone calls, text messages, and word of mouth. Despite racial divisions which are so often created and encouraged by the prison authorities, striking prisoners defied divisions, organizing across religious and color lines. Strikers included Blacks, Hispanics, whites, Muslims, Rastafarians, and Christians.
The system did not let this act go unpunished. In several prisons inmates were ripped from their cells and beaten, resulting in broken ribs for several men; some were beaten beyond recognition. Brutal guards placed some in isolation and ordered heat and hot water to cells turned off. At least four of the prisons were placed on lockdown, prisoners were ordered to remain in their cells. Prisoners responded defiantly saying, "We locked ourselves down!"
On December 15, prisoners ended the protest. One of the prison organizers told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "We needed to come off lock down so we can go to the law library and start ... the paperwork for a [prison conditions] lawsuit." Prisoners explain that this non-violent protest is only the beginning. They claim that they are allowing prison authorities time to meet their demands and if they are not, they will escalate their resistance in future actions.
This righteous act of resistance in Georgia's hellholes of incarceration is an inspiration for all those seeking justice! These prisoners have raised their heads, broken with the "dog-eat-dog" mentality encouraged by the system and set an example that should be learned from by everyone living under this system.
When oppressed people fight back, this system responds with even greater brutality. This system of capitalism-imperialism systematically confines, brutalizes, batters, humiliates, and rapes entire groups of people and justifies it! There is no good reason for it to continue one more day. For all those who say, "People are just too messed up... they'll never come together and struggle for a better world," take notice!
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Revolution #221, January 9, 2011
From A World to Win News Service
December 13, 2010. A World to Win News Service. On December 9 Parliament Square in London became the scene of an intense struggle. On one side were energetic university and secondary school students fighting for their right to an education and for the education of future generations. On the other were around 650 Members of Parliament hiding behind a brutal police force as they prepared to dictate a tripling of tuition fees to as much as £9,000 ($14,000) per year.
Tens of thousands of London students and pupils had walked out of class that morning to join a mass march through central London to Parliament Square. They assembled at Malet Street in front of the Union of London University (ULU). As they marched, passers-by expressed warm support. The provocative intentions of the police were clear from the beginning. As the march moved through Trafalgar Square, Whitehall, the main route to Parliament Square, was blocked by a police line so that the students could not pass by the Prime Minister's residence in Downing Street. Protesters were forced to go through St James Park where they were again blocked
But the police could not resist the enormous mass of protesters and were forced to retreat inch by inch. Finally demonstrators managed to break through into Parliament Square. As groups of students started fighting the police, the police did not hesitate to respond as brutally as they could. While the police were beating some students with their batons other youth joined hands and danced in the square without fear. The protesters' spirits were high and lively.
By just past 3 pm the police had been humiliated. A police van and all the police and their riot shields in front of the van were covered with paint.
Despite police promises not to stop the demonstration they started to close all the roads coming into Parliament Square to prevent more people from joining it. They also surrounded and "kettled" (trapped) those already in the square. While anxious parents and others watching live TV coverage were told that the youth were free to leave, that was a lie. By 5 pm no protesters were allowed out and the ring around them was getting tighter and tighter. The students were frustrated and angered by this "kettling" that was first used at the 2009 anti-G20 demos and has become a favorite police tactic in the UK.
At 5:40 the vote of the Parliament was announced. Many students felt that Parliament had shamefully ignored the people's will and the struggle with the police intensified. As the police raised their sticks higher and hit harder, angry demonstrators fought back and attacked the Treasury Office and the Royal Court of Justice. They tried to bring down the Union Jack (British flag). The statue of that great man of empire Winston Churchill and the War Memorial were also targeted.
The fight between protesters and the police got even fiercer and both sides threw crowd-control barriers at one another. The police kept beating students indiscriminately and attacking them on horseback.
To give a taste of what it feels like to be kettled, we quote the following: "Gabriel Lukes, 14, left Dunraven school in south London on his own to join in the march. He was kettled in Parliament Square before being moved to Westminster Bridge just after 9 pm. He stood alone for two hours before being allowed off at 11 pm. His father Peter was waiting for him. 'It was cold, cramped, you had like half a meter to yourself,' he said. 'It was just terrible.'" (Guardian, December 10, 2010)
Many people injured by the police were refused medical treatment and not allowed out of the temporary prison.
People attempted to break out, and some succeeded. A few protesters attacked a car carrying Prince Charles and his wife.
According to eyewitnesses, when one of the officers chasing people on horseback fell to the ground and was trampled by his own horse, the police became even more aggressive in hitting and swearing at people.
A 20-year-old philosophy student, Alfie Meadow, was left unconscious after a police officer hit him on the head with a truncheon while he was trying to leave Parliament Square. He underwent a three-hour operation for bleeding on the brain. The pavement designated a casualty area was littered with injured protesters. The majority were under 18. There have been reports in the media that around 40 protesters were taken to hospital, but these figures seem too low. There were certainly a great many walking wounded. It has been confirmed that police tried to stop hospital staff from treating the civilian wounded, including Meadow, who had to be taken from hospital to hospital. He is expected to recover.
Video footage posted on the Net since that night shows police dragging a disabled youth across the road after they tipped him out of his wheelchair. Another video shows at least one officer who removed her identification tag. This is considered a grave infraction of police regulations since officers without tags killed a bystander they mistook for a protester at last year's anti-G20 demonstration.
The kettling continued into the night as a form of punishment. Then after 9 pm the police pushed all of the several thousand demonstrators onto the Westminster Bridge. They were kept trapped there until 11:30 pm, when they were allowed to leave one by one after being forced to show their faces to be filmed.
Many young people were beaten and/or arrested. Scotland Yard confirmed 26 arrests that night. Another nine have been arrested since then and the police are circulating pictures of more than a dozen more wanted youth.
Thousands of demonstrators also marched through the city of Leeds, the constituency of Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal-Democrat party that is part of a Conservative party-led governing coalition. There were reports of student protest marches and other actions in many other cities that day.
Opposition to the proposed fee hikes had been building up to a fever pitch for a month.
The first demonstration on November 10 saw more than 50,000 students march through central London to Millbank Tower, the headquarters of the Conservative Party. Angry students attacked the building, broke the police line and forced their way inside. They occupied the building, its roof and the courtyard. At the end of day 35 students were arrested and 14 hospitalized.
On November 24 and 30, the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC) organized more demonstrations and days of action across the UK. The biggest demonstration took place in central London, but according to BBC, tens of thousands of university students and now secondary school pupils also staged marches, occupations and other actions in Manchester, Birmingham, Cambridge, Nottingham, Oxford, Sheffield, Leeds, Brighton and other cities.
After the debacle at Millbank, the police prevented the November 30 march in London from reaching its destination, even though it had been authorized. Avoiding a frontal confrontation that seemed to be what the authorities wanted, protesters split up into small groups. Eventually they converged on Trafalgar Square, where police contained them. By the end of the day, more than 150 were arrested.
Universities and colleges in London and all over England are still occupied. Many students believe that the parliamentary vote in favor of the tuition hikes has not settled the issue and want to continue this struggle.
The new coalition cabinet of Tories (Conservatives) and Liberal-Democrats introduced a plan to save over 9 billion pounds annually through huge cuts in public spending. Budgets were cut for universities and education as a whole. This was followed by the plan to raise the cap on university fees to £9,000 a year. The government seemed confident that it could carry out this plan with no serious opposition but the student protests put an end to this dream.
Although the Labour party voted against the plan on December 9, they were actually the first to introduce big tuition increases when they were in power, and they were the ones to commission the review that led to the current fee hikes. But the new coalition cabinet under Conservative leadership accelerated that trend with a speed that shocked everyone. Lib-Dem leader Clegg had put his signature on a pledge not to increase tuition when his party was campaigning for election. Then, after he became Deputy PM, he turned around and said that the pledge had been a "mistake" and that the proposed increases were "a fair and progressive solution to a very difficult problem."
This arrogant dishonesty enraged many people, who tend to believe that the Lib-Dems sold out just to share power with the Tories. This is not quite correct. In fact, while all three parties had promised to reject even smaller tuition increases than the ones that were eventually adopted, none of them have now stated any opposition to them in principle. Even the opposition Labour Party's disagreement is with the speed with which the increases are to be implemented, which they feel risks too much social discontent, and not with the overall approach.
The agreement among the ruling class parties is related to the financial crisis affecting all the imperialist countries, including the UK. Since the crisis broke out, billions of pounds have been allocated to bail out the big banks and companies and help them become more efficient and successful in their competition with the financial institutions of rival imperialist countries...
Education budgets in the UK have been reduced by billions of pounds over the last few years. This has already damaged the educational system and dramatically lowered its quality level. The UK has already gone from a third place ranking on a world scale to tenth. Previous fee increases and cuts in grants have made it much more difficult for people from the lower sections of society to acquire an advanced education. The availability of education to all, which was once proclaimed a right, has disappeared as an official goal for some time now.
The government defended the tuition increases by saying that students can get loans. Even if and when this is so, they must begin paying back the loans at the end of their study or when they find a job. That means students may start their post-university lives with a debt of 30,000-40,000 pounds that must be completely paid off within 25 years. Buying an education is the logic of capitalism. Education is to be privatized and any investment made conditional on its immediate profitability.
The idea behind this plan, or at least the excuse, is that by buying an education—as they might buy a suit—students can advance their earning power. But even if this "works" for some people, it can only increase social inequalities. Such an approach means a further step in reducing people to soulless, competing personifications of money. It robs individuals of their human potential and impoverishes society intellectually and culturally. No wonder so many youth reject this vision of the future.
The radical protest actions indicate the anger and frustration of students, teachers, lecturers and parents. They are fighting not only for themselves but for the education of future generations that is now under attack by the thugs who are trying to vandalize the whole educational system. Yet the government and some media have waged a campaign to depict the students as hooligans. They have launched a witch-hunt to criminalize these youth who are actually the hope of the future.
These huge and determined protests have signalled that the British ruling class and their guard dogs may have a very difficult time in carrying on with their planned "austerity" measures. Many people have compared these actions to the protests against the poll tax that broke the back of Margaret Thatcher's government two decades ago. While it is impossible to predict where the student movement will go next, it can certainly be said that British imperialism is in a much weaker and more volatile situation and deeper in crisis than 20 years ago.
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 #221, January 9, 2011
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 #221, January 9, 2011
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 #221, January 9, 2011
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?
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Revolution #221, January 9, 2011
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 #221, January 9, 2011
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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