Voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party,USA
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Revolution #223, January 23, 2011
January 22 marks the 38th anniversary of the historic 1973 Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion nationwide. Before Roe v. Wade, thousands of women in the U.S. were seriously injured or died each year from unsafe, illegal abortions. Countless others were forced to bear children they did not want. The legalization of abortion meant that, for the first time, women could decide whether and when they wanted to bear children. It was, and is, central to the emancipation of women.
But immediately afterward, and in an escalating way over decades, that right has been under steady assault. Laws have restricted access to abortion for young women, in later months of pregnancy, and have subjected women seeking abortions to unscientific and biased lectures. Positive portrayals of abortion have been nearly banned in culture. Politically, it is beyond the pale of mainstream discourse to unapologetically support a woman's right to choose whether or not to have a child.
Christian fascists have been given powerful backing by ruling class forces and have been unleashed—under the banner of "family values"—to hound and harass women seeking abortions. They have gone so far as to blow up clinics and even murder doctors—including the May 31, 2009, assassination of Dr. George Tiller, one of a handful of doctors in the country providing abortions for women in later stages of pregnancy.
And anti-abortion forces have pushed the shame and ignorance of "abstinence only" into the public schools and throughout society.
Meanwhile, Barack Obama's message of "ending the polarizing debate on abortion" serves as a call to reconcile two irreconcilable positions—which can only mean giving in to and conceding more ground to the Christian fascist attacks on abortion. There is no way to reconcile a woman's fundamental right to abortion with attacks that in fact mean taking away this right—especially when these attacks are headed toward eliminating this right altogether.
All this has combined to create an atmosphere of widespread ignorance, confusion, and disorientation over the basic question of right and wrong here.
The following—drawn and updated from an article originally published in Revolution in 2006—speaks to those very questions of the morality of abortion, and the immorality of opposing it.
The forces behind the assault on the right to abortion are overwhelmingly against birth control as well. An examination of why this is the case sheds critical light on the essential agenda of the so-called "pro-life" movement. There is not a single "pro-life" organization that supports birth control. The mission statement of the largest right-to-life educational organization—The American Life League—reads "A.L.L. denies the moral acceptability of artificial birth control and encourages each individual to trust in God, to surrender to His will, and be pre-disposed to welcoming children."
The Pro-Life Activists Encyclopedia explains the justification for efforts to ban contraception:
"Contraception cannot be separated from abortion. In fact, anyone who debates on the topic of abortion will inevitably be drawn to the topic of artificial contraception over and over again, especially in the post-Roe era of pro-life activism.... How does contraception lead to abortion? Quite simply, they are virtually indistinguishable in a psychological, physical, and legal sense...those individuals who use artificial contraception take the critical step of separating sex from procreation. Contraception not abortion was the first step down the slippery slope."1
Banning birth control has been a target of these Christian fascists. They have already passed laws in South Dakota, Arkansas, and Mississippi that legally allows pharmacists to refuse to fill birth control prescriptions on moral and religious grounds. And this is becoming the new Christian fascist litmus test for running for office—in some states like Kentucky candidates who want the endorsement of Kentucky's Right to Life must now oppose the use of standard birth control (not just the morning after pill).2
This is a matter of reactionary religious doctrine in service of a morality that wants to take society backwards. In 2006, state legislator Bill Napoli, speaking on behalf of the South Dakota ban on abortion, put it this way: "When I was growing up here in the Wild West, if a young man got a girl pregnant out of wedlock, they got married, and the whole darned neighborhood was involved in that wedding. I mean, you just didn't allow that sort of thing to happen, you know? I mean, they wanted that child to be brought up in a home with two parents, you know, that whole story. And so I happen to believe that can happen again.... I don't think we're so far beyond that, that we can't go back to that."3 Napoli's "whole story" is one where young people are forced—through the notorious "shotgun marriages"—to get married and where young women in particular are coerced into having children that they do not want. The "whole story" is one of reasserting and reinforcing the traditional order of things where a woman's role is to be subordinate to her husband and the procreator of his children, where women are openly the property of men to be controlled by their husbands. It means going back to a morality that cuts women off from acting in the larger society, contributing all they can to that, and living full lives as productive human beings in every sphere and independent from men. This is the traditional biblical morality that says wives must "submit yourself unto your own husbands as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the Church" (Ephesians 5:22-23)—and these people want to return society to a place where THAT standard sets the law of the land. That would be a horror for women and a terrible thing for society as a whole.
The mass access to birth control and abortion has undermined religious doctrine and traditional morality that subordinated women for centuries. Though they are still held down by the underlying social relations of capitalism, this step enabled women to participate much more in every sphere of society—something that after almost 40 years we may take for granted but is actually a relatively fragile and new idea in this history of human society. And now these people want to rip this away!
Tens of millions of people rebelled againt traditional morality in the 1960s and '70s. The movement for women's liberation that arose in that era made widely known and accepted the whole idea of abortion on demand. This unapologetic position of women's liberation changed the culture—it changed the ways people thought and changed the quality of human emotions. It shifted the way millions of people viewed reproductive rights and sexual equality, which paved the way for Roe v. Wade and the legalization of abortion in 1973. And this was overwhelmingly positive in emancipating the full potential of women and in benefiting all of society in doing so.
There is nothing immoral about terminating an unwanted pregnancy or removing a clump of cells that have not yet developed into a viable human being from a woman's body. A fetus is not a baby. If a woman doesn't want to continue a pregnancy all the way (for whatever reason), she should have the freedom to end it, safely and easily. There is nothing tragic about it—indeed, the real tragedy lies in the lives of women that are foreclosed and disfigured and even ended by being compelled to have children that they do not want, a tragedy that happens millions of times a day on this planet, with the connivance and support of the U.S. government.
The life of a woman who is forced to continue an unwanted pregnancy is endangered. From the dangers of illegal abortions to the disrespect for her own life, she is harmed and demeaned as a human being. Being forced by society to have a baby when a woman either does not want or cannot care for one is one of the age-old tragedies that are no longer necessary for anyone to have to suffer. But if a woman is not allowed to control her own body, her own reproduction, not allowed to decide whether or not or when to become a mother, she has no more freedom than a slave. This is for the greater good for the health and overall well-being of that woman, whose life we should value and cherish more than that of a partially formed fetus. And for the greater good of humanity—for don't we want a society where all forms of slavery are ended?
The morality that should be supported and fought for is one that values the rights of women to lead full social lives. It supports social and intimate relations where people respect each other's humanity and flourish together—and not where women are supposedly commanded by "God" to "submit themselves" to men. This morality sees children as a joy to society, and as ultimately the responsibility of all society, while not compelling anyone in any way to have children against their will. It does NOT, as these theocrats do, sanctimoniously shout hosannas to a clump of cells that might someday become a child—while feverishly upholding the murder of real live children in the war being waged by the U.S. in Afghanistan, and self-righteously dooming literally millions of other real live children, right in the U.S., to lives of deprivation and punishment—in the name of those same traditional values.
In fact, overturning the ban on abortion—a ban which consigned thousands of women a year to death or horrible mutilation, and millions more to humiliation and oppression—was a profoundly moral thing to do! It was and is part of a morality that corresponds to the fundamental interests of the vast majority of people in this society and worldwide. These values are also consistent with communist morality, which in addition to the emancipation of women aims at the elimination of all oppressive and exploitative relations among people and the establishment of a freely associating community of human beings. And at the same time, there are many, many people beyond communists who actually yearn for and even strive to live by values that promote and celebrate equality between women and men, and between peoples and nations; that appreciate both diversity and community; that put cooperation over cut-throat competition and the needs of the people over the accumulation of wealth, that oppose imperialist domination, and that cherish and foster critical thinking.
Why in the world should anyone be defensive about such a morality? Why should we not proudly proclaim these morals and values, strive to live up to them and put them in practice, and rally millions more to live their lives by them? Truly, we should and we have to—it is an absolutely crucial and necessary part of defeating this reactionary fascist offensive.
But these days the major pro-choice advocates stay away from the morality question. They concede that abortions should be reduced and prevented. In 2006, in the wake of the frontal assault on Roe v. Wade in South Dakota NARAL urged "responsible legislators to enact common sense legislation to prevent unintended pregnancy." And NARAL placed an ad in the conservative Weekly Standard asking abortion opponents to "Please, help us prevent abortions." The ad encouraged abortion foes to support a bill introduced by then Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, whose position is "abortions should be legal only when the pregnancy resulted from incest or rape, or when the life of the woman is endangered."
Today's shrinking ground is now being fought over contraception—but this will lose if it is not fought from the morality of upholding the right of women to control her own reproduction, including abortion as indispensable to this. And again, we have seen where this logic leads. The anti-abortion group, Democrats for Life of America, has pushed "95-10," a plan they claim would reduce abortions by 95 percent in ten years in a platform that doesn't even mention birth control.
How did we get to this place where the "national dialogue" on abortion now portrays it as tragic, terrible, and wrong? Where having an abortion is stigmatized and women are shamed, where unintended pregnancy is seen as an act of not taking personal responsibility and even a "sin"? And now, where even the right to abortion is being conceded, in the name of still trying to maintain birth control—which itself is slowly being given away. The road to this hell was paved by a series of moral concessions and political retreats.
The roots of this lie very deep and go very far back, but there is a way in which much of what has led to this spot is concentrated in the Clinton years. While now portrayed as a period of defending the right to abortion, the Clinton years were in fact a period of intense attack and an official ideological and political policy by the Clinton administration of reconciliation with resurgent traditional morality. Clinton ceded critical moral and political high ground to the opponents of abortion. He signed the anti-gay "Defense of Marriage Act" and made the formulation that abortion should be "safe, legal and rare." Principal in all this is the idea that abortion should be rare, that at best it should be seen as some kind of necessary evil. Hilary Clinton took this further in a speech in which she also called abortion "a sad, even tragic choice to many, many women." The movement to defend abortion followed suit and more than ever framed their position as pro-choice vs. pro-abortion; they disdained the slogan "abortion on demand and without apology"—an eminently reasonable slogan which enables people to struggle around the real moral questions at the heart of this battle—as somehow being extreme.
Casting abortion as a necessary evil has meant stigmatizing the providers and the women who have them. It has meant uniting with the premise that abortion is morally wrong. Pro-choice appeasement of the so-called pro-life movement has succeeded not in protecting the right to abortion but instead in ceding both science and morality to the Christian Right. "Finding common ground" has led to changing the way people are trained to think and to people's emotions being manipulated and twisted into the emotions of shame and regret.
Women who have had abortions are now being re-educated to look back principally at how hard this decision was and to re-writing memory to devalue wise choices they may have made over the timing of when they decided consciously to plan a family and their own future. Young women now come up in a culture that looks at abortion as morally wrong, as baby killing. And even when a young woman chooses, against tremendous societal and legal pressure, to terminate a pregnancy, she is being burdened with guilt and shame.
This is nothing but bowing down before the morality of religious and patriarchal control over women—and over people generally who strive for a world where human beings are equal. THIS is morally unconscionable!
What has to be recognized is that the top Democrats answer to a different standard than the emancipation of women. They are above all ruling class politicians—and that has real content. It means that they put the ability of the U.S. to maintain its empire above everything else. They agree with the Republicans that the widespread questioning of traditional morality, among other things, that so marked the 1960s and early '70s, has to go—that people have to accept "God, country, and family" morality that has arisen on and serves to fortify the whole system of oppression. They differ with the Republicans on how to do that and, in certain circumstances, those differences could become explosive—but thus far and overall they have mainly served to grease the way for the dominance of the theocratic fascists on the question of abortion. They uphold "choice," but only within the constraints of it being rare, difficult, humiliating, and shameful experience. This "pro-choice" position accepts the underlying morality of women-hating patriarchs. It is unacceptable on a moral plane.
If the terms of "debate" remain between, on the one hand, the anti-abortion, anti-woman position of the Christian fascists and, on the other hand, those with the conciliating position that abortion should be "legal but rare"—we are in for a very dark time—overall, and in particular around women. And this is not a "back to the future" of the 1950s, bad as that was. If Roe is overturned and abortion becomes a crime, doctors will face much more extreme punishment than in the '50s where those who performed abortions were typically prosecuted only if the woman died. In a post-Roe world, doctors could be tried for murder of the fetus. 38 states have passed "Unborn Victims of Violence" legislation and fetal protection laws. 21 states have passed fetal homicide laws that apply to the earliest stages of pregnancy "from fertilization to birth."
In Texas in 2005, 17-year-old Erica Bastoria asked about an abortion and was falsely told by her gynecologist that she could not get one. Desperate, she asked her 19-year-old boyfriend Geraldo Flores to stand on her stomach, and she miscarried. Since abortion is still legal in Texas, Erica was not prosecuted. But under the Unborn Victims of Violence Act her boyfriend was prosecuted and convicted of homicide and sentenced to life in prison.
We need a movement that does not cede the morality of abortion and that consistently stands up for the facts and for principle. We need a movement that boldly and without any shame-facedness stands up for the morality of equality, and a critical and scientific understanding of the world and human reproduction. If we build such a movement, we will find that people are receptive and many are waiting for someone to stand up and say ENOUGH nonsense! Even those confounded and confused by the steady propaganda that has promoted ignorance and intolerance can be won to a very different world view if people stand up for the truth.
And it is on us, all of us, in the broadest sense, to build and be that movement.
1. American Life League, "Introduction: The Abortion-Contraception Connection," Chapter 97 of Pro-Life Activists Encyclopedia. [back]
2. "Right to Life adds Pill to List" (Cincinnati Enquirer, April 2002). Original research from Cristina Page, How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America—Freedom, Politics and the War on Sex (New York: Basic Books, 2002), p. 19. [back]
3. Jim Lehrer News Hour, "South Dakota Bans Abortion," March 3, 2006.[back]
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Revolution #223, January 23, 2011
A letter to raise funds for:
Editors' Note: The following letter was developed by volunteers working on BAsics, from the Talks and Writings of Bob Avakian. Download this letter from revcom.us and get it out broadly to raise urgently needed funds for the publication of this book. Money orders can be made out to RCP Publications.
The whole point of principle is that you have to fight for it when it is not easy to do. There is no need for principle if the only time it is applied is when it doesn't matter.
The above quote is from Bob Avakian. There's plenty more where that came from!
BAsics, from the Talks and Writings of Bob Avakian—a book of quotations as well as several powerful short essays from Avakian—is set to be released in the spring of 2011. Your generous financial support is needed to ensure that this important book gets out into the world and into the hands of people being beaten down in this society and people who hate the injustices being inflicted around the world and wonder what if anything could be done to end them.
Who is Bob Avakian? He is many things: The Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party; the most radical revolutionary on the planet; someone Cornel West has called "a long distance runner in the freedom struggle against imperialism, racism and capitalism"; a wide-ranging thinker and provocative commentator on art and science, religion and philosophy, doo-wop and basketball; a leader whose sense of humor is as sharp as his hatred for oppression is fierce. Most of all, Avakian is the person who has devoted decades to deeply studying the experience of earlier revolutionary societies and has developed a new vision of the kind of world that could be brought into being through revolution... and he is the leader of the movement for revolution in the U.S.
BAsics... will make Avakian's work accessible, concentrating more than 30 years' work on everything standing between humanity and complete emancipation into a concise book of essential quotes and seminal short essays. This book needs to get out broadly in society. It can dramatically change the way people look at the world and the prospect of radical change. There are plans to send 2,000 copies to people in prison, and funds are urgently needed to cover the cost. We need to place ads in newspapers, magazines and on the Internet. BAsics..., and through it Avakian's work overall, becoming known broadly in society can help lift the lid on today's suppressed social imagination, helping many more people to see that things don't have to be this way; that radical change is not only necessary, but possible. Your financial contribution will help make all this possible.
Think about inner city youth—brutalized, and even killed by police; incarcerated in staggering numbers; sacrificed by a military that sends them around the world to kill, rape, and torture; driven to crime and violence against one another by the desperation and misery this system imposes on them; enticed with the supposed allure of "getting theirs" in a dog-eat-dog world; constantly degraded and objectified if they happen to be born female; viciously persecuted if they are lesbian or gay; and repeatedly hit with the message that any attempts to fundamentally change the world are "naive" and "unrealistic."
Imagine these youth discovering this quote from Avakian:
No more generations of our youth, here and all around the world, whose life is over, whose fate has been sealed, who have been condemned to an early death or a life of misery and brutality, who the system has destined for oppression and oblivion even before they are born. I say no more of that.
Imagine this quote being read aloud, posted and discussed in high-school cafeterias, on Facebook pages or in college dorm rooms. Imagine lively debates about the true nature and history of this country in the back of school buses, or in the hallways of housing projects, or campus coffee shops. Think about people from all walks of life, in the cities, suburbs and rural areas wrestling with a scientific understanding of what it would take to build a far better world and what they can be doing now to build that world.
Consider what it would mean for humanity for BAsics... to get out into the world. For people to discover this revolutionary leader who not only has a deep understanding of the root cause of all this madness but also knows the way out, and who has taken responsibility for leading all the way through. Consider all this and help make it happen by making a generous financial contribution.
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Revolution #223, January 23, 2011
Raising money to publish and promote BAsics, from the Talks and Writings of Bob Avakian is a pressing necessity... and as we meet this need, we will—and should—be creating anticipation among a wide range of people for this essential book.
Download the fundraising letter from revcom.us and get it to people you know. Take it into the networks and circles organized around Revolution. Get it into the hands of students in high schools and colleges. Think about people from all walks of life who should know about BAsics, from the Talks and Writings of Bob Avakian—and who should support this effort. And then send this letter out more broadly to people you don't know too. Urge all these people to contribute.
Sit down with your friends at work, school, and in the community—and talk about what this letter says about the book, its author Bob Avakian, and as the letter states, the ways in which "it can dramatically change the way people look at the world and the prospect of radical change." Then come up with creative ways we can spread the word about BAsics..., different ways to raise and collect funds for its publication and promotion, and then set about to put these plans into practice.
Money orders can be made out to RCP Publications and sent to:
P.O. Box 3486, Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654
or deliver donations to your local Revolution Books store.
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Revolution #223, January 23, 2011
NEW ONLINE RELEASE
a spoken word piece from Bob Avakian
We are excited to announce the upcoming online release of Bob Avakian's "All Played Out," a powerful spoken word poem. Avakian's heart and soul, outrage and humor, poetic spirit, and confidence in the masses to make revolution—transform the planet and themselves—comes out in this challenging declaration that the world really doesn't have to be this way, and we can make and live in a radically different and better world.
On January 25 be challenged and inspired.
YOU are needed to spread this!
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Revolution #223, January 23, 2011
Letter to the Editors on:
"Revolution is NOT a Tea Party" in Revolution #211 was a very important and materialist contribution to understanding the current political landscape in the U.S. This article both explained in some depth the character of the growing fascist movement in this country, as well as unpacking the reality and motivation behind the way this fascist movement attempts to garb itself in the trappings and mythology of the American Revolution. Most importantly the article demonstrated why this fascist movement cannot be fought by appealing to the "true" character of the American Revolution, a revolution that itself could only lay the groundwork for a modern imperialist state.
In reviewing the history of the American Revolution, Revolution correctly explains that it was led by two exploiting classes, the slave owners and the mercantile and nascent manufacturing capitalists. But I believe that Revolution erred in describing the old order that was overthrown as "separate colonies ruled by a king" with social relations in which "one class ruled over another by virtue of their inherited position, supposedly ordained by god."
This description shows a tendency to believe that the American Revolution was the first bourgeois democratic revolution and tries to shoehorn actual events into the general pattern laid out by Engels in "Socialism: Utopian and Scientific" (although the quote from Engels used in the article is most correct and appropriate).
The first bourgeois democratic revolutions, in which rule of a king and feudal relations were overthrown, occurred in England and the Netherlands in the 1600s. Each of these was intertwined with the Protestant reformation and the Catholic counter-reformation, and in the Netherlands there was also a war of national liberation against Spain. But in both these countries, each with their own particularities, absolute monarchical rule was replaced by bourgeois democratic institutions, and the principal class in power became the mercantile capitalist class.
In England, this was a back and forth process lasting from 1642 to 1688. It began with a revolutionary civil war which led to the execution of the king and the proclamation of a "commonwealth." There followed a restoration of the monarchy. Then finally the king was forced to flee the country and a constitutional monarchy was established with the control of the state firmly in the hands of parliament and with a new monarchy playing an increasingly ceremonial role.
None of this followed a neat and clean pattern. The mercantile capitalists had the landed gentry as junior partners, the parliament retained the House of Lords, the voting franchise was severely restricted, and manorial rights continued in the countryside for some time. Acts of parliament in theory required the "assent" of the monarch, but the last British monarch to veto an act of parliament by denying assent was Queen Anne in 1708 (and this was done on the advice of her ministers, leaders of the parliament). Thus by the time of the American Revolution, England was a full-blown bourgeois state on the verge of the industrial revolution and neither England nor the colonies were ruled over by a king. Still, as one of the legitimizing forms of the English state, all the actions of the capitalist state continued to be proclaimed "in the name of the King."
It was a tenet of mercantile capitalist theory that colonies existed for the purpose of enriching the mother country through trade, exploitation and outright plunder. Thus many of the American colonies were established as chartered corporations and most of British India was for many years ruled exclusively by the British East India Corporation. But by the time of the American Revolution, most of the original charters had given way to direct rule by an appointed English governor who ruled in the interests of the English capitalist class, albeit "in the name of the King." Also the American colonies, with three million inhabitants, had developed a considerable amount of home-rule through elected colonial legislatures. Most were bicameral, but without an hereditary upper house as in England. The only place that feudal manorial rights hung on was in the patroon system in the Hudson valley. Thus by the time of the American Revolution, the colonies were not ruled by a king nor did feudal relations characterize the colonies.
What did characterize the American Revolution was a burgeoning American mercantile capitalist class and chattel slavery producing products for an international capitalist market. But this capitalist class was denied any representation in the English parliament and eventually decided to strike out on its own together with large plantation owners of the South. Reading the documents of the time (for example, the Federalist Papers) gives an idea of how clearly the colonial ruling classes saw the potential for a new empire (a word they used) arising in North America and competing with Europe in the world.
At the same time, many of the intellectual and political representatives of the American capitalists were also deeply influenced by the ideology of the Enlightenment in Europe. As the Revolution article points out, "It was not the case that these original revolutionaries were tricksters or hypocrites. At least some actually believed that they were abolishing social divisions." But their vision—the establishment of the market-friendly conditions of equality before the law (for European-Americans only)—was an idealization of the needs of the capitalist mode of production that brought it into being. It was a vision that stands out today as truly paltry compared with the emancipating vision of communism which transcends the boundaries of bourgeois right.
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Revolution #223, January 23, 2011
From A World to Win News Service:
January 17, 2011. A World to Win News Service. In a world sorely in need of good news and a Middle East that has seemed to be getting darker, a ray of light has broken through in Tunisia.
Instead of accepting being pressed down and passive, the masses of people seized the initiative and toppled a hated head of state who had long administered the country for the benefit of France, the other European powers and the U.S., a man who was backed by all of them until the very end. While the Tunisian events are not like, for instance, Iraq and Afghanistan, where the U.S. has suffered serious military setbacks, this is a movement where no reactionaries have hegemony, at least so far.
This is rare in today's world where imperialists and Islamic reactionaries too often monopolize the political stage. These events have brought hope not only to Tunisians but millions of other people sick of the unbearable status quo crushing the region and the globe.
For this reason Tunisians face a very difficult situation as the enforcers of today's world order and their present and possible future Tunisian underlings and allies maneuver to stuff the genie—the people—back into the bottle.
In less than a month events moved at such a dizzying pace that each day brought about new and unexpected situations. The cork began to loosen last December 17 in the town of Sidi Bouzid. The police confiscated the fruit and vegetables Mohamed Bouazizi, a 26-year-old unemployed university graduate, was selling in the street. When his efforts to protest through legal channels went unheeded, he set fire to himself in front of local government offices. Security forces attacked demonstrating local students who put the blame for the young man's death on the regime.
This resonated deeply in a society where the schools have been churning out large numbers of graduates who seldom find a place in an economy subordinated to foreign investment, particularly tourism and low-wage garment and footwear manufacture for export. At first the protest movement was strongest in towns in the country's disadvantaged central and western regions. By late December thousands of people in the capital and other coastal cities demonstrated in support of the youth in Sidi Bouzid. The demand for jobs quickly went over to a movement to topple the regime.
The movement drew in the educated classes—a strike by 95 percent of the country's lawyers and a demonstration by hundreds of them in front of the government palace in Tunis January 6 gave it impetus. But it also involved much of Tunisian society, including various classes, with little political differentiation. In January, especially during the second week, the protests became more confrontational. Demonstrators set up barricades and fought back against the security forces. In the working class Tunis suburb of Ettadhamen-Mnihla people attacked government buildings. Their chant, "We are not afraid, we are not afraid, we are afraid only of god," revealed both a new mood of daring and determination and the persistence of traditional thinking. For the first time the army was deployed in several cities. Many dozens of people were killed in clashes with the police over the next days.
After first dismissing the crowds as "terrorists," President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali began to try to save his regime by offering them concessions. He visited the hospital room of the dying young man who had immolated himself. On January 12 he sacked the Interior Minister, claiming that orders for shooting people at Bouazizi's funeral and other demonstrators had been issued behind his back. The next day he promised not to run again in the 2014 elections. But the protests only became more defiant. On January 14 he fled, reportedly after the army chief of staff advised—or told—him to go.
As his last act, Ben Ali told a long-time loyal henchman, his prime minister Mohamed Ghannouchi, to replace him as head of state. This was not acceptable to the protesters. In a desperate attempt to cover the new government with the cloak of the rule of law, the courts declared that the speaker of parliament, the Ben Ali henchman Fouad Mebazaa, should become head of state, according to the constitution that Ben Ali had put in place. Mebazaa turned around and made the ex-prime minister the new prime minister.
As things now stand, the situation is complicated. The police and armed militia that were Ben Ali's personal gang have been using their guns to cash in on their loyal service by looting. Their rear-guard action, including sniper fire on crowds, has had a (perhaps intended) political effect. It spurred a popular demand for order—neighborhood self-protection committees sprang up—and helped divide those who now want stability from those still unsatisfied.
Ben Ali had reportedly recruited militia members from among petty criminals, and the police are certainly extortionist thugs at best, in addition to their role as the main force imposing repression and torture. The army has arrested the former Interior Minister and Ben Ali's head of security, accusing them of fomenting violence to prolong political instability.
At the same time the army is also trying to make the people back down. While armed forces units were briefly withdrawn from the streets just prior to Ben Ali's abdication and flight, reportedly because they did not want to use their tanks and armored cars against the crowds, they have moved back in force. On January 17 came the announcement of a "unity government" in which the six key portfolios went to seasoned members of the ruling party and three other senior ministerial positions were given to opposition parties legal under Ben Ali. Several thousand people, including many trade union members, gathered in front of the Interior Ministry to chant that this new government did not meet the people's aspirations. They were attacked with clubs, water cannons, tear gas and warning shots.
Unhappiness in the Western capitals
This joyous explosion of the Tunisian people has brought unhappiness and deep concern to the Western governments. Nowhere is this more true than in France, where President Nicholas Sarkozy called an emergency meeting of his cabinet to plan what to do after the fall of Ben Ali.
As the newspaper Le Monde and other media have abundantly detailed, France supported Ben Ali to the bitter end. (See the Facebook page "Ben Ali Wall of Shame"—more than a third of Tunisia's 10 million people are said to have access to Facebook and Twitter.) Early on in his presidency, in 2008, Sarkozy feted the Tunisian tyrant with a super-delegation featuring Mrs. Sarkozy and seven ministers. IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who hopes to be the opposition Socialist Party's next presidential candidate, visited to tout Tunisia's economy as a "model for emerging countries." Several French government ministers made statements supporting Ben Ali during his final days. The day before Ben Ali fled, Sarkozy's Interior Minister Michéle Alliot-Marie offered to send French police to "share French skills" and train their Tunisian counterparts in handling "security situations." Although in her statement for French public consumption she added that the police should preserve order and respect democratic rights, the official version of her statement left out this second clause, probably because it might embolden Ben Ali's opponents. In Tunis, people commented that the last thing they needed in fighting a "police state" was French police.
When the fleeing president's private plane approached Paris, Sarkozy apparently gave orders that it not be allowed to land. Members of Ben Ali's family, who had been waiting for him in a luxury hotel at the Euro Disney amusement park, were asked to leave. Finally, it was Saudi Arabia that gave Ben Ali shelter, probably to France's great relief. A leader of the fascist National Front criticized Sarkozy bitterly for betraying a great personal friend and a friend of France.
It could be said that the basic deal that kept Ben Ali in power so long was that France allowed him and especially his wife's family to enrich themselves obscenely as long as he efficiently performed his role as manager of France's Tunisian enterprise—not very different than a bank or other big corporation. In trying to protect France's man, Sarkozy was continuing the policy of all the French presidents of the right and left who came before him.
Tunisia's ties with France are not only financial. In fact other European powers (especially Italy) and the U.S. have also profited from Tunisia's enslavement to the world market and the economic boom under Ben Ali. But there are also political and cultural ties that have made Tunisia particularly pliable to Paris and therefore important to France's regional and global efforts.
France made Tunisia a "protectorate" by invading it in 1881 and ran it directly until 1957. But unlike Algeria, for instance, which France's ruling capitalists considered an integral part of their country so that it had to win its independence through a long and hard-fought war, Tunisia became formally independent without a violent struggle (not unrelated to the war going on in much larger Algeria at the time), and was quickly turned into a neo-colony. Its first president, Habib Bourguiba, was also a close "friend of France" from independence until 1987, when the senile old man was overthrown by his security chief, the military leader Ben Ali.
The U.S. did not see Ben Ali as their man the way France did, but Washington was not far behind in supporting him. The "Tunileaks" (WikiLeaks of cables to the U.S. State Department from the American embassy in Tunis) are very revealing in that regard. A report from the U.S. ambassador spread over a series of cables details the almost surreal degree to which Ben Ali's family used its power to accumulate personal wealth, so much so that "50 percent of the economic elite" are members of his and especially his wife's family. This is seen as making the regime more fragile than it would be with a broader-based ruling class. Yet the ambassador's main complaints center around Ben Ali's failure to support American initiatives that might soften the country's ties with France, particularly in the educational and cultural fields.
The cables make the point that while Tunisia is small and without much regional influence, it is particularly useful to the U.S. in terms of its informal ties with Israel and its refusal to support the Palestinians, even in the purely rhetorical and hypocritical ways dear to some other Arab regimes. The ambassador also expressed appreciation for the regime's westernized trappings (such as its adoption of French family law, including a ban on polygamy) and its apparent success in strangling Islamic fundamentalism. For these reasons, while continuing to express concern for what are seen as the regime's self-inflicted weaknesses, a later cable advises the U.S. State Department to "dial back the public criticism" and continue efforts to strengthen U.S. influence in the country in the context of supporting Ben Ali.
But U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did have the very good luck to give a speech calling on Arab governments to reform the day before Ben Ali fell, and President Barack Obama was the first head of state to salute the developments. Under the guise of "promoting democracy" the U.S. will likely seek to advance its influence in Tunisia and the Arab world in the course of the present political turmoil.
Still, turmoil in the Middle East is what the U.S., France and all the big powers are united against. Tunisia does not have the strategic value to the U.S. as other "friends" such as Egypt, Algeria and Jordan, as the diplomatic cables point out, but what has broken out there does pose dangers for regimes that are crucial to continued U.S. regional control. It is no accident that the focus of Clinton's speech was the need to strengthen Arab regimes under the U.S.'s thumb in order to isolate the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The bright spots and dangers of the current situation
The best thing about the events in Tunisia is that for once the people themselves have stepped in and become the motor force driving events. As a reactionary Washington commentator pointed out, even if U.S. and Western interests are not necessarily threatened by the fall of Ben Ali in and of itself, those interests could be imperiled by the fact that he has been thrown out thanks to a popular upsurge and not allowed to go quietly in the kind of smooth transition that characterized the end of fascist regimes in Pinochet's Chile and Franco's Spain. (Anne Applebaum, Washington Post, January 17, 2011)
Many commentators have said that the absence of a strong Islamic movement is one reason why the West is not more worried about what's going on there and hasn't tried to more directly intervene. Actually, there hasn't been much opportunity or means for the West to do that so far. But it is also true that it is a very good thing that this upsurge has been able, until now at least, to steer clear of the deadly dynamic that has kept the terms of struggle in other countries confined to open capitulation to imperialism versus a reactionary Islamic fundamentalist movement that does not truly break with the imperialist system even while upsetting the imperialist order.
Commentators have compared the events in Tunisia with the 1979 fall of the Shah of Iran. The revolutionary process there had the advantage of a much longer period of political turmoil and fighting before it was aborted by the installation of today's hated Islamic Republic. When the U.S. and the UK could no longer keep the Shah in power, they decided that an Islamic regime in Iran would be preferable to the uncertain and perhaps revolutionary alternatives, although they probably regretted that later. In the case of Tunisia, it is not impossible that the U.S. summed up those lessons and decided to pull the plug on Ben Ali before the situation became even more uncontrollable.
Explicitly examining the Tunisian situation from the angle of how to pursue U.S. interests, the academic Steven A. Cook wrote for the Web site of U.S. Council on Foreign Relations, "Whether the [Tunisian] military leaders are democrats is not the issue; rather, their concern seems to be that graft, corruption, and the practices of one of the worst police states in the Middle East proved to be a threat to social cohesion and stability." Cook deliberately overlooks the fact that U.S.-dependent regimes in the region like Egypt have killed and tortured many more people than in Tunisia. Probably he means that Ben Ali ran one of the most successful states in the region in terms of its ability to stifle opposition almost completely for 27 years—until a month ago, when these "practices" no longer worked. But his characterization of the role of the Tunisian military is both accurate and expresses the American imperialist point of view.
While various clans have disputed over the spoils, the Tunisian army has always been and is still the backbone of a comprador (imperialist-dependent) state and the ultimate guarantor of a whole imperialist-dominated economic, social and ideological order. In fact, given the country's geopolitical situation, it has little other reason to exist. If the army dumped Ben Ali and has tried to distance itself from his torturers and jailers, it is all the better to play that role. This is why one of the Wiki-leaked U.S. cables stresses the importance of American support for the "neutrality" of the Tunisian army vis a vis disputes among the "economic elite."
It is impossible to predict what concessions to popular demand the military behind Tunisia's governments of the day may feel compelled to grant, and to what degree such concessions may succeed—or fail—at quelling people's anger. It is very possible that they will have to allow more space for political debate and the people's will to be expressed than they normally do. But it is absolutely certain that the Tunisian armed forces and the imperialists will focus on preserving the existing state power.
The media are now arguing that this is the first Arab revolution. One reason why that is wrong is that so far, this has not been a revolution, strictly speaking, in the sense of bringing about fundamental change in social, political and economic relations, or even a thorough regime change. But lessons should be taken from earlier upheavals that toppled feudal monarchies (Egypt and Sudan, Iraq) and neocolonial republics (Syria). For instance, while the U.S. was at certain points somewhat favorable to the nationalism of Egypt's Gamal Nasser, in terms of challenging British and French dominance of the Middle East, the U.S.'s objective was to make Egypt an American neocolony. Similarly, while the military coups in Syria and Iraq, with their nationalist trappings, created problems for some Western powers, neither of these countries experienced any liberation.
There is also the example of neighboring Algeria in the 1990s, where the U.S. and the West at first backed political reform in order to achieve a more broad-based and stable comprador regime, and then dropped it when it became clear that Islamic elements would win elections. This helped provoke ten years of bloody and thoroughly reactionary strife in which both the regime and the fundamentalists slaughtered many thousands of people and both sides specifically targeted the intellectuals. The fact that many Algerians felt trapped and mortally threatened by both the comprador regime and its religious fanatic opponents played a major role in putting a damper on the popular struggles that had shaken Algeria in the 1980s. In fact, this experience had a big influence in bringing about a state of political depression in the Arab world.
The media have also enjoyed throwing around the term "Jasmine Revolution," in hopes that the Tunisian upsurge will take the path of the non-violent (on the part of the people) and totally non-revolutionary "color revolutions" in former Soviet-bloc countries, most recently in Ukraine, which have brought nothing but disappointment, disillusionment and a new plunge into passivity for the people. That is one possibility, and the one for which the enforcers of the world order will do their best to impose, but that is not the only one now.
The Tunisian people have every reason to be happy and proud, but it's no use pretending that they don't face formidable obstacles. The imperialists and the various varieties of smaller reactionaries are going to interact with the people's movement in complex and perhaps unpredictable ways, seeking to slam shut the door that the people have opened through their struggle and sacrifice.
It is far from certain, but there are objective reasons to hope that the enemies of the Tunisian people will not be able to consolidate their grip for a while, and that this situation will continue to inspire and spur on other people and constrain the reactionaries' regional efforts, especially if the movement that brought down Ben Ali develops in a way that gives expression to the independent and revolutionary interests of the people in opposition to the imperialists and their system. The world needs more open doors like the one the Tunisian people have given us, and it needs breakthroughs to the other side.
(AWTWNS urges readers to translate and circulate this article on the Web. We hope readers in Tunisia and elsewhere will send us their opinions and help keep us informed and able to comment. email@example.com)
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 #223, January 23, 2011
From A World to Win News Service:
January 17, 2011. A World to Win News Service. The Indian Supreme Court has ruled that the Union (central) government and the state government of Andhra Pradesh must respond to two petitions demanding a judicial inquiry into the killings of Communist Party of India (Maoist) spokesperson Comrade Azad (Cherukuri Rajkumar) and journalist Hemchandra Pandey.
Azad and Pandey were captured and murdered on the night of July 1, 2010, in Adilabad district of Andhra Pradesh, close to Maharashtra by Indian security forces who subsequently announced that the two were killed in an armed "encounter," a claim often made when revolutionaries are illegally and secretly executed.
The Supreme Court was responding to a petition from Pandey's widow, Bineeta Pandey, and Swami Agnivesh, who had been involved in an exchange of letters with Azad, a leading member of the CPI(M), concerning the possibility of talks between the party and the government. India's Home (Interior) Minister had previously turned down a request from Agnivesh for an inquiry into the killing, arguing that such a move would be up to the Andhra Pradesh authorities.
On January 14, 2011 two Supreme Court justices gave the central and state governments six weeks to answer the questions raised in the two petitions, which cite post-mortem reports that both men were shot at very close range and fact-finding carried out by the Coordination of Democratic Rights Organisations.
In explaining the ruling, one of the two judges on the bench, Aftab Alam, said, "Our Republic cannot bear the stain to kill its own children. We will issue notice. They [the governments] will have to respond. We hope there will be good and convincing answers to the questions [raised in the petitions]."
In a "Letter to comrades and friends of the Indian revolution" dated November 30, the CPI(M) wrote, "Losing comrade Azad is one of the biggest blows party and Indian revolution had suffered. Azad was one of the topmost leaders in our party. He has been leading the Indian revolution since a long time. In our country, People's War is intensifying with each passing day. With the aid and support of imperialists, particularly the American imperialists, the Indian reactionary ruling classes are trying to suppress the revolutionary movement and are carrying on ruthless atrocities in an unprecedented severe manner. In this war between the people and the ruling classes, the enemy had particularly schemed to murder our leaders and concentrated on comrades like Azad who are leading the revolution. It is as part of that conspiracy that comrade Azad was caught and killed in the most brutal and cowardly manner. Comrade Azad was leading the entire urban movement on behalf of our Central Committee and was also looking after political propaganda, party periodicals, party education and other such crucial responsibilities. He was a most experienced and popular mass leader. He maintained close relations with many comrades at various levels and with the revolutionary masses. In the midst of severe repression, he worked selflessly and unflinchingly in spite of the many risks involved. It is under such circumstances that the enemy came to know about his whereabouts somewhere and could catch him by laying in wait."
On December 27, 2010 the CPI(M) issued a major statement calling for a united protest movement against the killing of Maoist leaders, the imprisonment of alleged Maoists and other activists and the general repressive climate the government is unleashing against a broad range of political opponents and critics in the context of the central government's Operation Green Hunt, a military offensive against the jungle areas where the Maoist-led revolution is strong among the tribal peoples.
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 #223, January 23, 2011
Haiti One Year After the Quake
It is one year after a huge earthquake hit Haiti: Over a million people—including 300,000 children—are still homeless, mostly living in huge squalid camps with little access to food, clean water, sanitation or medical care. A cholera epidemic—the first in Haiti in 100 years—has killed 3,000 people, and 140,000 are sick with the disease. The capital of Port-au-Prince remains a city of rubble. Except for the main airport, no infrastructure has been rebuilt. Bodies are still being uncovered. Only 10 to 20 percent of reconstruction aid pledged by the international community has been received.
On January 12, 2010, a major earthquake devastated Haiti. Over 200,000 people died, 300,000 were injured and 1.5 million were left homeless. The quake was powerful, but the death and destruction was greatly increased by the impoverished conditions resulting from 100 years of U.S. domination. U.S. policy in the '70s and '80s consciously destroyed much of Haitian agriculture, driving millions of displaced peasants into the cities seeking jobs. Port-au-Prince grew from 257,000 in 1960 to three million at the time of the quake, with many people packed in shacks that blanketed steep hillsides and deep ravines, totally vulnerable to the quake's devastation. Corrupt, U.S.-imposed governments had never bothered with such things as earthquake preparation or building codes. And Port-au-Prince was a city with little infrastructure, heavy equipment, or healthcare, making rescue efforts vastly more difficult.
Millions of people, in Haiti and around the world, responded in one of the largest humanitarian outpourings in history. Half the people in the U.S. made donations to relief aid (CNN). Many people dropped everything and went to Haiti to help. But for the U.S. government, the priority was ensuring political and military control. 22,000 U.S. troops seized the airport and prevented aid from coming in. Food and medicine piled up in warehouses and on tarmacs while people suffered and died. All aid flights had to be approved by the U.S., and the little food distributed by the U.S. came with an intimidating show of military force—dropped from helicopters to hungry crowds below, or passed out by squads of heavily armed soldiers.
U.S. imperialism operates—and can only operate—according to certain rules. When a U.S. company goes into Haiti, it's to make profits. When the U.S. sends in troops, it's to dominate Haiti and protect its larger regional interests. When the U.S. sends aid, it's done to advance U.S. economic interests and to achieve certain political and strategic goals. Everything the U.S. does in a country it dominates is to reinforce relations of exploitation and the political and social relations that serve that. These are the rules of the game.
When Haitian slaves rose up, drove out the French and abolished slavery in 1804, the U.S.—fearing the rebellion would spread to its own slaves—punished Haiti, refused to recognize it and placed the newborn island nation under a trade embargo. U.S. Marines invaded and occupied Haiti from 1915 until 1934. The U.S. seized land and distributed it to American corporations. Heroic resistance against the U.S. was brutally crushed. Starting in 1957 the U.S. propped up the pro-U.S. dictatorial Duvalier governments—first Papa Doc and then Baby Doc—and the murderous Haitian military, along with the Tonton Macoute gangs that terrorized the people. After popular uprisings ousted these dictators the U.S. maneuvered and intervened—opposing any forces that threatened U.S. interests. In 2004, the U.S. was directly involved in overthrowing the popularly elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Referring to the U.S. role in Haiti, Bill Quigley, Legal Director for the Center for Constitutional Rights, said: "We have kept the country dependent. We have kept the country militarized. And we kept the country impoverished. We have dumped our excess rice, our excess farm produce and that stuff on the country, thereby undercutting the small farmers who would make up the backbone of the place... We didn't create the earthquake, but we created some of the circumstances that made the earthquake so devastating...." (Democracy Now!, January 14, 2010)
Most of the billion dollars in aid pledged by Obama has not been delivered. But even the "aid" that has been delivered serves, and can only serve to increase U.S. domination. Sociologist Alex Dupuy of Wesleyan University writes: "[O]f the more than 1,500 U.S. contracts doled out worth $267 million, only 20, worth $4.3 million, have gone to Haitian firms. The rest have gone to U.S. firms, which almost exclusively use U.S. suppliers... the bulk of the money and profits are reinvested in the United States." And for U.S. imperialism Haiti's poverty and desperation are an "asset" in "reconstruction" geared toward making Haiti a haven for cheap labor sweatshops.
At the same time, the same capitalist rules of ownership and profit that guide these dreams present roadblocks to reconstruction. The New York Times wrote: "[D]ebris... also has a potential monetary value if it is to be reused. 'It's not just the rubble, it's the question of rubble ownership,' Mr. Scales [of the International Organization for Migration] said. Most [people on the land to be cleared] are renters, but the rubble technically belongs to the property owners. And sorting out who owns what land, and getting their permission to excavate has proved difficult." (July 10, 2010) "Rubble ownership" is being sorted out in the midst of massive human suffering.
The efforts of the Haitian people to rebuild their country, and the generosity of millions around the world, has been utterly squandered by a system that puts power and profit before the lives of the people.
Amidst the rubble and continuing misery, there have been stories of tremendous resilience, courage, and generosity among the Haitian people. This has been very inspiring and here we can see great potential. In a Haiti free from the grip of imperialist domination and the capitalist system, with a revolutionary government, this tremendous potential of the people could be brought forward as a powerful force for not only overcoming conditions of poverty but building a whole new society free of exploitation.
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Revolution #223, January 23, 2011
Discussion on the Constitution For The New Socialist Republic In North America (Draft Proposal)
I was anticipating the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) anxiously and in a very positive way. I didn't know what I was going to encounter in reading it because when you think of a constitution you think of previous documents like the Constitution of the United States and think that is what this one is going to be modeled on. I found it to be so much more uplifting and so much more symbolic of something that represents and is much more impactful for human beings than what the Constitution of the U.S. represents. Now this is a very health-bringing document, this is a look into tomorrow and what kind of real advancement for human beings there is. It is through waging revolution and looking at society as if we have revolution victoriously won on behalf of the proletariat already. And looking at society as though we have set up a new socialist power to effectively establish an economy and set up a basis of living as human beings that is on a more fair and unbiased and equitable level for human beings based on the fact that they are human beings, not that they belong to a certain class anymore, because they are male anymore, because they are white anymore. In reading its pages, reading the details, the nuances about how things are going to be set up as far as gun laws, or autonomous regions, or what the media is going to represent in the Socialist Republic, it just really reminds me as an individual of the fact that we have people thinking in a forward motion fashion regarding what is going to take shape, what is really going to become of this country once revolution is successful and reading it is a very helpful process. It gives you hope as a human being that we can be involved in something that is enriching on that level and represents positive things for humanity.
A big misconception people have with socialism and communism is that it is sort of like a dictatorship that anything that opposes the state in terms of your right to free speech is going to be outlawed and you are not going to be able to represent who you are by expressing your emotions and thoughts and ideas through art and culture, cultural expressions like different types of art work or being able to express yourself in public in spoken word format or in writing essays. This is a drastic misrepresentation of what communism and socialism are really about, to understand it better you would know that free speech is a value that we hold very high in society as communists, that there will always be the right for people to be dissenters, always going to encourage dissent. The Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) represents this. We have a healthy value in our society for people being dissenters and being in a place where they want to question and even mock government and the establishment and parts of the socialist republic. We think this is healthy for the discourse of the people, that it is necessary for the discourse of a people, that people need to be able to vent themselves in a frustrated fashion against the establishment. And if they feel they cannot do that it is not really freedom and doesn't represent a new level of freedom. So as far as the media there will be a certain part of the media set aside for people to vent their ideas being against the party, the legislative, the executive council, and being against the Socialist Republic as a whole because that is necessary for our growth as a species to have total freedom of speech, not just the stuff some people like or these people like but total freedom of expression. People will be allowed to vent but of course we can't let it endanger the public health and safety of the Republic and the safety of the citizens of the Republic. But if you are, say, you are a white supremacist or a male chauvinist or something like that, your comments are going to be as honored as anyone else as long as you are not posing a detriment to public health and safety or taking away the rights of anyone else to enjoy their lives. Sometimes we are going to have to put up with people saying things that are absurd but that is the cost of having freedom of expression. Say people like Glenn Beck, he has the right to express himself whatever way he wants until he poses a detriment to the Republic and its security and the public health and safety of other people. He has to be the idiot that he is.
This Constitution is significant because it's such a projected look into the future, with so much ironclad resolve in what the real good of what revolution really represents is that people can look to this document and become more enthusiastic about revolution because of what it represents and how it is fashioned. This gets to the details [of the new society], that's significant, that's monumental; this is a historic document in every respect of the word and the more people read it and get engaged in it, the more people will get enthused about revolution because they are going to see we have people who are using their creative abilities as thinkers and revolutionaries to put ourselves in a place of being past the goal line with the victory already achieved. We have not only won the revolution but are enjoying the new Socialist Republic and this is how it is taking shape. When you read its pages, you put yourself past the goal line in your mind and you put yourself in the frame of experiencing your life even if for a short moment of time in reading though its pages of living in the New Socialist Republic. This is what this document will do for you and it's uplifting because it represents a world not based on exploitation and oppression anymore and that is refreshing to anybody, that is something that would give solidarity to anybody.
In getting this Constitution to others, I have gone through my whole Rolodex of my phone list of anyone I can think of that might be minorly receptive that might need to get a copy of this new Constitution because I believe every American should have it. This is the sort of thing we need to be discussing as a culture and we need to be getting into the group enjoyment of it to be able to sit down and read through its pages and put yourself in the mind state or the projected mind frame feeling like you are already in a new socialist republic where this oppressive, tyrannical system doesn't exist anymore. This is a liberating thing for anyone who values what human beings' experience is meant to be as far as what we are entitled to as far as having dignity, worth and self respect and opportunity and be able to contribute something to the whole and feel like we are being productive and engage in relationships that are not based on exploitation and not oppressive relationships and things like that. Anyone who values the traditional values of just being human and wanting to enjoy life is going to find alot of enrichment in the process of reading through its pages. It has motivated me to get it to people, I spent all day yesterday going through my whole phone list trying to get hold of people in my phone list. So that they could be more aware that this document has come out so they can get a copy of it. I think every American should have it.
From a Revolution reader and distributor
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Revolution #223, January 23, 2011
Discussion on the Constitution For The New Socialist Republic In North America (Draft Proposal)
Discussing the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) in Class
From readers of Revolution newspaper
Recently we had the opportunity to discuss the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) in high school classes.
With some students, we had them split up into smaller groups and each group chose a different section from the Constitution and then they shared what they learned collectively. We had selected, printed out and distributed different sections for students to choose from ahead of time. The three sections that students picked out for this exercise were on "Education" (in Article I); "Legal and Civil Rights and Liberties" (Article III, Section 2); "Eradicating the Oppression of Women" (Article III, Section 3).
We encouraged them to get inside these contradictions and many did (and some were even compelled to want to re-think some things).
In the group focusing on "Legal and Civil Rights and Liberties" there was a lot of grappling with what's on pages 66 and 67, in particular where it mentions that "special bodies" would have been set to "review, as quickly as possible, the cases and the situations of all those who had been incarcerated under the old imperialist system and who remained imprisoned at the time of the founding of the New Socialist Republic in North America." So, there were questions and concerns among the students about this process. As part of the "group exercise," the students imagined themselves as part of this "special body" that would be responsible for the release of prisoners who had been unjustly imprisoned. The students discussed many aspects of this, including the "educational process" this would involve for both the prisoners and the broad masses of people throughout society to better "understand the actual reasons and causes for crime in the old society." And at times there was sharp back and forth as to who should be "let out"; for example, some students thought that people who had been caught doing drugs and perhaps did small scale selling should be treated differently (e.g., they should be given help and let out sooner) than the people who had been hard core "distributors" and had been responsible for hurting thousands of people. Again, we kept going back to the content of the Constitution in attempting to answer these questions.
The group dealing with overcoming the oppression of women read page 76 (Article III, Section 3). After reading it and discussing it they came to agree with much of it, especially because it helped them understand that women in the U.S. are still oppressed. One Latina student talked about her personal experience having to deal with machismo among the men in her family and she wanted to understand why men felt like they could treat women "like they own them."
In the breakout group on "education" they mentioned that they liked that people would get to learn both Spanish and English. There was a positive view with both Latino and Black students on this point, although some students at first had raised concerns over what would happen in areas where languages other than Spanish and English were spoken. So the students read page 33 of the Constitution where it says that "in any areas where significant sections of the population have another language as their first language, efforts and resources shall be devoted to providing education in that language as well." So this helped to clear things up. A woman student (representing for the group) stood up and said, "We agree with this part of the Constitution because it will allow people to get an education and to be able to use that education to help people."
So, this was just a part of all that got unleashed as a result of discussing the Constitution. It really helped, among other things, to really lift the students' sights to a whole new world that's not only necessary but also possible. And it gave us (readers of Revolution) a deeper sense of the tremendous role that this Constitution can play today in training and preparing students and many others to lead a radically new society after the revolution.
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Revolution #223, January 23, 2011
Discussion on the Constitution For The New Socialist Republic In North America (Draft Proposal)
First, I think this is a highly welcome document—a concrete proposal which gives guidance about what revolution is for and what it is aiming at in the short term as well as in the long term. It's aiming at a correct relationship between proletarian dictatorship and democracy.
I think that a key relationship—and contradiction will be the socialist state as a base area for world revolution. This is very correctly emphasized in the Constitution (Draft Proposal) and will be an ongoing constitutional issue in political and ideological struggle in society. I expect continual tension in society in terms of democracy under the dictatorship of the proletariat. Here's how I see this contradiction: In its solid core the RCP and the state in which it has a leading role represents an international class—the proletariat—most of whom are not within the governance of this state or able to participate in its political process. To advance to communism the state will need to continually act on behalf of billions of people who do not have a direct, legally compelling, voice in its representative institutions. To put it in bourgeois terms, people outside the state are not "stakeholders" in the sense that residents are. The state can make serious errors in the direction of abandoning to various degrees its basic international responsibilities (and fundamental social base). This is the main danger and if not corrected will ultimately lead to abandoning revolution and socialism. The state can also override its domestic political process in the name of international responsibilities and get into a situation where its constitutional integrity is threatened. If not correctly dealt with this will end up flipping over to the main error above. There is a lot of relevant history, I think, in anti-colonial struggles and nationalist movements as well as in the history of the communist movement. I think the history of the Ba'ath Party in the Middle East is worth studying in this regard.
I don't think this can be resolved in a constitution per se. One thing that would help clarify terms would be some solid constitutional case law. It is likely that upon assuming power a new state would be in a situation of revolutionary ferment on a world scale. My thought is that good agreements should be concluded with other forces in the world at that time with such agreements being based on and explicitly including solid internationalist principles. Such agreements could have the domestic side effect of generating a legal basis for future reference. (Note: I understand that the Constitution (Draft Proposal) does not have something like the old U.S. constitution thing of treaties being the "supreme law of the land." That's not what I'm suggesting either.)
Elections: The electoral process will require election law supplemental to the Constitution. I think the Anglo-American tradition of "winner take all" elections is, even on bourgeois terms, very restrictive of people's political choices. One current reform idea might have applicability in a socialist electoral system. This is "instant runoff voting" whereby voters can rank candidates by order of preference on ballots in multi-candidate elections.
This Constitution (Draft Proposal) needs to be widely commented on. I think an interactive public internet forum should be set up for this purpose.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #223, January 23, 2011
On Friday, January 7, Birgitta Jónsdóttir, a member of Iceland's Parliament and a volunteer with WikiLeaks, the website devoted to government transparency, sent out two tweets on her Twitter account. One, "usa government wants to know about all my tweets and more since november 1st 2009." Two, that she had just received the following email: "Twitter has received legal process requesting information regarding your Twitter account in (relation to wikileaks)." Attached to the message she received from Twitter was a Department of Justice subpoena issued by a U.S. federal court in Virginia.
The subpoena, dated December 14, 2010, gave Twitter three days to provide detailed "customer or subscriber account information" for "the time period November 1, 2009 to present" on WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, on Army intelligence specialist Bradley Manning (arrested in May 2010 on suspicion of leaking classified material to WikiLeaks), on two WikiLeaks computer programmers, and on Jónsdóttir.
The information demanded about each one included:
Subscriber names, user names, screen names, or other identities; mailing addresses, residential addresses, business addresses, e-mail addresses, and other contact information; connection records, or records of session times and durations; telephone or instrument number or other subscriber number or identity...; means and source of payment for such service (including any credit card or bank account number) and billing records...all records and other information" relating to "records of user activity for any connections made to or from the Account, including the date, time, length, and method of connections, data transfer volume, user name, and source and destination Internet Protocol address(es). (See salon.com, January 1, 2011)
The DOJ subpoena claimed the government had "reasonable grounds to believe that the records or other information sought are relevant and material to an ongoing criminal investigation." Yet the U.S. government has produced no evidence whatsoever that WikiLeaks, Assange, or any of the WikiLeaks supporters being investigated have committed any crimes at all. Publishing classified information, as WikiLeaks and other media outlets have done, is not a crime, although the Obama administration may be seeking ways to criminalize that as well.
The New York Times reported that the U.S. government is "seeking a legal rationale for charging Mr. Assange with criminal behavior." ("U.S. Subpoenas Twitter Over WikiLeaks Supporters," January 8, 2011)
Constitutional attorney and blogger Glenn Greenwald wrote: "all of this extraordinary probing and 'criminal' investigating is stemming from WikiLeaks' doing nothing more than publishing classified information showing what the U.S. Government is doing: something investigative journalists, by definition, do all the time." ("DOJ subpoenas Twitter records of several WikiLeaks volunteers," salon.com, January 7, 2011) And the attempt to criminalize WikiLeaks is thus nothing less than a full frontal assault on press and Internet freedoms." ("How propaganda poisons the mind—and our discourse," salon.com, January 12, 2011)
Meanwhile, suspected whistleblower Bradley Manning has been held for months without being convicted of any crime, in conditions the Los Angeles Times recently described as "inhumane" and "indefensible," while the U.S. attempts to build a case against and make an example of him. ("Soldier's inhumane imprisonment," January 10, 2011)
The subpoena demanding Twitter activity of Birgitta Jónsdóttir is the first public evidence of the government's criminal investigation into WikiLeaks, which was announced in mid-December. But this is merely the tip of the iceberg of the U.S. government's aggressive, ongoing, and multifaceted attack on WikiLeaks and Julian Assange—most of which almost certainly remains secret.
And it falls into a pattern of attacks moving on many fronts to silence WikiLeaks, and intimidate and isolate people associated with it. Shortly after WikiLeaks began publishing batches of 251,287 secret State Department diplomatic cables in late November (following earlier releases of classified documents on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in April, July and October), its domain name was shut off, its web servers shut down, its bank accounts frozen, and credit card companies shut off contributions. The U.S. government denied any involvement in these attacks. But WikiLeak-published cables have exposed many instances of the U.S. secretly and aggressively pursuing its interests—and repressing opponents—across the globe. For instance, the U.S. secretly demanded and threatened that the Spanish and German governments must ignore their own laws and quash investigations into U.S. torture and rendition. And the State Department engaged in widespread, extensive and illegal spying on foreign leaders and officials. (See "What Wikileaks Reveals: Cables, Lies & Murder," and "U.S. Lashes Out At Wikileaks," Revolution #220, December 19, 2010.)
Pointing to the near-certainty that the Birgitta Jónsdóttir subpoena is the tip of an iceberg is the fact that the subpoena "ORDERED" that "Twitter shall not disclose the existence of the application or this Order of the Court, or the existence of the investigation, to the listed subscriber or to any other person, unless and until authorized to do so by the Court." The subpoena was made public only because Twitter challenged the secrecy order in court (although not the demand for information), and on January 5 a judge ruled in its favor. Twitter then informed Ms. Jónsdóttir.
It's likely that Google, Facebook and other Internet providers have also been subpoenaed, with demands they keep the subpoenas secret. WikiLeaks has demanded that Google and Facebook reveal the contents of any subpoenas they've received, but so far they've refused to do so. (The New York Times reported on January 8, "Officials for Facebook declined to comment, and Google did not immediately respond to an inquiry.")
A full exploration of the state of massive and illegal U.S. surveillance of people's Internet activity is beyond the scope of this article, but the Twitter subpoena is also part of a massive expansion of secret Internet and telephone "data mining" of personal information by the U.S. government. The New York Times ("Twitter Shines a Spotlight on Secret F.B.I. Subpoenas," January 9, 2011) reports that 50,000 "national security letters" are sent every year by the government—without any court order—to Internet providers for information on individuals in "terror" or "national security" related investigations. (For background, see "Lawyer Shayana Kadidal of Center for Constitutional Rights: Wiretapping Bill and the Unprecedented Expansion of Presidential Powers," Revolution #124, March 23, 2008.)
Why has the U.S. government acted so aggressively and gone to such lengths to shut down WikiLeaks? And why is secrecy so important to it in everything it does—around the world and even in this case?
U.S. documents published by WikiLeaks provide direct evidence of systematic murder and torture in Afghanistan and Iraq, protecting illegal rendition in Europe, targeted assassinations in Yemen, preparing for a possible war with Iran, and supporting predatory pharmaceutical companies in Nigeria. And that is just to cite a few WikiLeaks revelations. The published material shines a light on the U.S.'s Mafia-like rivalry with other global exploiters, and documents how the U.S. operates through a global network of reactionary surrogate or client regimes. They show how the U.S. lies about everything, and they point to the reality that the U.S. is not a "friend" of the world's people, but a pitiless global oppressor and exploiter, responsible for enormous suffering and destitution around the world. (See "WikiLeaks: Exposing War Crimes of a Criminal War," Revolution #209, August 15, 2010.)
Simply publishing evidence of these crimes does not, by itself, reveal the foundational underpinnings of the global system that these crimes are a product of, and enforce. Nor does it—in-and-of-itself—necessarily rouse people to protest, let alone to build a movement for revolution. But it does create potential and openings for all of that. And revealing these cables does create real and immediate problems for the U.S.
To take one example from this week, tens of thousands of Tunisians rose up and drove President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, the hated tyrant who ruled Tunisia for 23 years with U.S. backing, out of the country. According to the New York Times, "Some demonstrators also cited the evidence of cables from the United States Embassy in Tunisia that were released by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks providing vividly detailed accounts of the first family's self-enrichment and opulent lifestyle." ("Prime Minister Claims Power in Tunisia as President Flees," January 14, 2011)
The U.S. empire relies on pro-U.S. tyrants like their (former) puppet in Tunisia. In Asia, Africa, and Latin America, such client regimes facilitate the operation of intense imperialist exploitation of the people and resources of oppressed nations. And the U.S. works through such regimes to contend with rivals of all kinds, and to brutally suppress protest and rebellion. The rulers of the U.S. do not take kindly to even partial exposures of the nature of their relationships with these neo-colonial regimes.
The multifaceted assault—censorship, threats, spying, and repression—directed against people involved with or suspected of being involved with WikiLeaks reveals the actual essence of U.S. democracy. Behind the operation of democratic forms (like a "free press" that systematically covers up the crimes of the system), the U.S. government is at bottom a dictatorship—a state whose rule is enforced by armies and police, courts and prisons. The most basic element of the U.S. state—the kind of democracy and dictatorship—is the use of violence to suppress anything the rulers perceive as a threat to the operation of the capitalist-imperialist system they sit atop and serve.
This system, and the exploitation, oppression, and repression that enforce it, is neither legitimate nor justified. Nor is it morally acceptable to acquiesce—to go along with—the crimes of this system which are imposed through massive eavesdropping on Internet communication, along with censorship, torture and terror. All this requires that people oppose these crimes, with courage, with principle—and with their eyes open...shedding illusions about the nature of what it is they are up against.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #223, January 23, 2011
On Saturday, January 8, a gunman opened fire at a "meet your congresswoman" event at a Tucson, Arizona supermarket. Six people were killed and the congresswoman, Representative Gabrielle Giffords, was seriously injured.
At this time, it is impossible to say much definitively about the motivation of the shooter and about the meaning of the incident. Whether or how this fits into a whole atmosphere of violent intimidation that has been deliberately stoked by the fascist movement in American politics and which has found particular expression in Arizona—though it is far from limited to there—is something that has to be further investigated.
One thing that is clear is that different forces within the ruling class are putting forward different interpretations of this incident and generally utilizing it to advance their own agendas, and the struggle over the meaning of this event will be part of setting terms for the period ahead. This has real importance, and we will continue to speak to this as more becomes clear.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #223, January 23, 2011
As the new year opened, the outgoing head of public education in Arizona, Tom Horne, issued an official "finding" declaring that the Mexican American Studies program in the Tucson school district, one of four ethnic studies programs in that district, was in violation of a new state law that had just gone into effect. The finding by Horne—now the newly elected Arizona state attorney general—gave the Tucson school district 60 days to "comply" with the law. And the finding threatened that "the only way in which compliance can be effective within the next 60 days is by elimination of the Mexican American Studies program." The Tucson school district could have 10 percent of its budget taken away, amounting to about $15 million, if it does not eliminate the program.
The law that went into effect on January 1 declares that a school district or charter school in Arizona cannot include in its program of instruction any course or classes that include any of the following:
1. Promote the overthrow of the United States government;
2. Promote resentment toward a race or class of people;
3. Are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group; or
4. Advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.
While the law does not make ethnic studies as such illegal, those behind the law have made no secret of their desire to get rid of the Tucson school district's Mexican American Studies and other ethnic studies programs in the state.
This new law, passed by the Arizona legislature last April, came on the heels of Arizona's reactionary anti-immigrant law, SB1070, which legalizes racial profiling by requiring police to stop and question anyone who they suspect is undocumented. That was followed by an announcement by the state's Department of Education that teachers with heavy accents must be removed from classes for students still learning English. Many have interpreted this as targeting immigrant teachers who were first hired under a program to teach bilingual education, a program later abolished as part of the overall anti-immigrant climate.
The attack on ethnic studies represents yet another "brick in the wall" of an officially sanctioned white supremacy and American chauvinism in Arizona, while encouraging its spread around the country. Arizona has become an ugly battleground, and testing ground, for a new "Jim Crow," reviving an official second-class status for the 30 percent of the people of Arizona who are Latino. (A federal judge issued an order that temporarily prevented Arizona from putting into effect several major provisions of the anti-immigrant law, but other repressive sections of the law did go into effect on July 29. See Revolution articles "Arizona's Anti-Immigrant Law Is Inhumane & Illegitimate: Stop the System's Fascist Attacks on Immigrants," (#208, July 25, 2010) and "Behind the Federal Court Ruling: Vicious Attack on Immigrants Continue," (#209, August 15, 2010), both online at revcom.us.)
In an online interview in July last year, Curtis Acosta, a high school ethnic studies teacher in Tucson and part of the group SaveEthnicStudies.org, said, "The purposes of our classes are varied, but our main objective is to rehumanize the academic experience for our students through culturally and socially relevant curriculum. It is no news flash that Latin@, African-American and Native American students have been historically marginalized and ignored in mainstream public school curriculum, and that the drop-out/push-out rates for our communities are far out of proportion compared to European-American students. The numbers are disturbing, unsettling, and as educators we have an obligation and responsibility to offer progressive pedagogical and curriculum changes to promote academic equality and achievement for all our students." (Full interview is online at freshloveink.com/fli/tag/curtis-acosta.)
Rene Martinez, also a high school teacher of ethnic studies in Tucson and part of SaveEthnicStudies.org, told Revolution, "In our school district, we are 63 percent Latino students. So they really have grabbed on. And it's been effective academically. In this era of standardized testing, students who have participated in our ethnic studies classes, regardless of ethnic background, they outperform their peers on the state standardized tests. But yet we continue to be scrutinized and attacked by our state legislators."
Martinez, who teaches history, says that one of the things the program instills in the students is captured by the African proverb: "Until the lions have their historians, tales of the hunted will always glorify the hunter." Martinez said, "We talk about how we come from the lion's perspective, from the story that's never told. We emphasize the whole history, which historically and even now, continues to be left out."
And it should be noted that learning about history—including the brutal oppression of Black, Latino, Native, and other people in the USA—is good for all students, including white students.
Ethnic studies programs that exist today have their origins in the 1960s. As the national liberation and anti-imperialist struggles of that period developed and a revolutionary current emerged, one powerful expression was the hard-fought student strikes demanding courses, departments and schools of ethnic studies. Ethnic studies programs, which later expanded to include women's studies, gender studies, etc., established a foothold where oppressed nationality students especially could for the first time learn about and be part of discovering their own history; the struggle and resistance; and the contributions to art, culture, science, etc. of Black, Chicano, Native American, Asian and other oppressed peoples in this country.
These programs have contributed significantly to bringing to light the truth that America's ultimate global domination rested on the foundation of the kidnapping of millions and millions of African peoples and their enslavement in the "new world," the genocidal destruction of the Native American peoples, and the theft through war of 40 percent of the territory of Mexico as the start of a process of conquest that ultimately spanned the globe.
These are basic historical facts—not something off to the side, but realities that are central to the foundations of the United States and its development into an imperialist power. Now that the authorities in Arizona have outlawed ethnic studies, in the name of opposing "racial resentment," what does that tell you about who fears the objective study of historical truths and wants to shut down critical inquiry in the schools? What does that say about who pushes and promotes ignorance? What does that tell you about the educational system under capitalism? And where does this indicate things are headed?
While the Arizona authorities are now focusing on the Mexican American Studies program in Tucson, it is clear that the forces behind this attack have further targets in mind. The finding by Tom Horne, the former head of public education in Arizona, said that two other ethnic studies programs in the Tucson school district aside from Mexican American Studies "could be found in violation" of the law. John Huppenthal, who replaced Horne as the Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction, has talked about wanting to see ethnic studies eliminated at the university level as well.
Last May 18, right after Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed the anti-ethnic studies law, there was immediate reaction from students. Rene Martinez told Revolution, "There were massive walkouts. These students, ages all the way from middle school to seniors in high school, they all walked down to Tucson Unified School District headquarters. It's a pretty large property, and they created a human chain around the entire perimeter of the place, yelling chants like 'When our education is under attack, what do we do? Fight back!'"
Eleven Mexican American Studies teachers, including Martinez and Acosta, have filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the anti-ethnic studies law. The Tucson school district has announced, in response to the finding, that it will try to comply with the law. Martinez said, "We feel that if our school district is trying to comply with House Bill 2281, then essentially they're embracing it as a legitimate law... We feel why do we need to compromise and restructure our program, when we've done nothing wrong and what we've done has been very effective?"
Those behind the Arizona anti-ethnic studies law claim that their actions are based on the view that it is "fundamentally wrong to divide students up according to their racial group, and teach them separately" (from finding against Tucson school district's Mexican American Studies). But what these forces are actually part of is the fascistic move on the rise in U.S. society today to reassert white supremacy and American patriotism—and an essential element in that is what they perceive as the need to restore the "official narrative" about America and its "special role" as the "good guys" in the world. To these reactionary forces, the Mexican-American and other ethnic studies programs on the secondary school and college campuses are an obstacle that must be eliminated.
The attacks on the Mexican American Studies program in the Tucson schools is deeply unjust. It is the responsibility of people broadly to strongly resist and speak out against this reactionary attack.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #223, January 23, 2011
The following are reader responses to a "toughest question" submitted by a reader and printed in last week's issue of Revolution. That question included the following: "The words in your name are loaded with almost 100 years of a massive negative thought campaign against them. Those words evoke frightening images of atheism, terrifying nuclear war, duck and cover, loss of personal property, gulags, Siberia, and so many many more horrifying images that were drilled into the heads of the American public."
The entire question can be read at revcom.us.
* * *
This is a comment on the "toughest question" of "your name scares away millions". I've been asked the same question, and feel it is a valid concern. But I think you must take the frontal approach as you've been doing with Set the Record Straight Project, etc. If you make up some nice sounding name, it will in the end just make you look (and be) so phony and manipulative to a person, because to get fully involved that person must finally understand Marxist theory, and communism, which is what you have to know to work towards the emancipation of humanity with a classless and stateless society and all that entails to get there. You just would not be fooling anybody, and it would be completely unprincipled and dishonest. Sure Republicans or Tea Party hide behind nice names, but the people will sooner or later find out what is behind those names, and then those names themselves take on their true evil connotation. That's my two cents.
* * *
In response to the turn off of millions to the name "Revolutionary Communist Party"...millions is still a very small number, compared to the number of people who would support and defend a group of scientists who stayed true to the line, "the emancipation of all of humanity"...all the work done on this piece of the planet, the last 35 years... we keep running into people saying "WOW the RCP! Still for real? I hadn't seen no revolution for 30 years," etc. The RCP stays true! So the sentiment remains among the masses, ebbs and flows, but does not dissipate but in fact spreads! The masses have their own "polls" that will not be on T.V. and though it may be true that the revolution will not be televised, the apologists of the system sure are going to squawk and screech just before! And to talk about "scary" at least 100 million people in this country live a real Halloween every day, everybody saying "BOO", trick or treat, and wearing disguises! The Revolutionary Communist Party is for truth, they are in it for the long run, and because they stay true, they have even more support than can be documented! At a local bulletin board in a store, RCP flyers remain posted lately, come to find out the employees are all pissed at the owners!
From a Revolution newspaper distributor in the Midwest.
The Toughest Questions You Face...
We want to know the toughest questions that you run up against. When you are getting out Revolution newspaper, or wearing the T-shirt with the image of Bob Avakian, or in some other way representing for revolution... what questions do you run up against that provoke you, or intrigue you, or bother you—and that you want help understanding and answering. Especially if you are newer to the movement, or cut off from other revolutionaries—we want to hear from you. Send us the questions you run up against, and we'll do our best to answer them. Not only that, we'll ask everyone else who reads the paper for help. If you can, tell us a little bit about who tends to ask you these questions, and how you understand and respond to them. You might also want to let us know a little bit about what you're doing—without going into specifics, in what kind of situation are you building the movement? For instance, whether you are selling the paper on a campus, or wearing the BA T-shirt in a neighborhood, or debating with people in prison, etc. But that's optional. The main thing is this: we want to hear the questions you're running up against.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #223, January 23, 2011
Letter from a reader:
On January 3, 2011, four prisoners launched a hunger strike at the supermax Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown, to protest the 17 years of horrible isolation and inhumane treatment. The four men, Bomani Hondo Shakur, Siddique Abdullah Hasan, Jason Robb, and Namir Abdul Mateen, were sentenced to death for their alleged part in the killing of 9 inmates and 1 guard in the 11 day major prison uprising at Lucasville in 1993. While the actual circumstances behind these deaths is not known, there is no credible evidence that any of these men were involved. The real reason for the death sentences is that they were in different degrees activists and leaders in the uprising.
After enduring years of dehumanizing treatment and isolation, they are saying, "NO MORE!" and began the hunger strike. (Because of serious health issues Namir Abdul Mateen was unable to go on the hunger strike. George Skatzes, the 5th man who got the death penalty for the rebellion is at another prison because the authorities think he might commit suicide.) For 16 plus years, they have been confined to their cells for 23 hours a day. They cannot have any physical contact with relatives and friends who visit, and they are not allowed to be around other prisoners at anytime, including during "recreation" time. They are being punished for their involvement in the 1993 uprising and are being treated worse than the more than 100 prisoners on death row. One demand is for them to be put in with other death row inmates who they say are getting better treatment. Prisoners on death row can walk around, have collective meals outside their cells, and have some slight physical contact with their visiting family and friends. Bomani has been told by prison authorities that he will be kept in social isolation until they execute him.
Just before the hunger strike began, Bomani Shakur stated, "When the uprising [1993 rebellion in Lucasville] was over, and all was said and done, five of us were singled out as leaders and sentenced to death....[W]e have undergone penalty on top of penalty, been kept from fully participating in our appeals, from touching our friends and families, denied adequate medical treatment, and so many other things that are too numerous to name. In a word, we have been tortured. And yes, I am aware that the word 'tortured' is a strong word to use, but I know of no other word that adequately describes what we have been through. We have been put through hell."
The 1993 uprising was the result of years of prison abuse and clampdown. In 1990, after a white teacher was allegedly killed by a prisoner, the prison authorities carried out Operation Shakedown. Lines were painted on the floor on which prisoners had to march to meals; there were special post office boxes set up by the warden so that prisoners could snitch on each other, and prisoners were allowed one brief telephone call at Christmas time per year. Then in 1993, Muslim prisoners protested being inoculated with a TB shot that contained alcohol, a substance that cannot be ingested according to the Muslim religion. When the authorities refused to comply with the demand not to take the shots, 400 prisoners took over a cell block for 11 days, during which all kinds of pent up outrage of the prisoners were expressed. The uprising was against many prison conditions. For playing an important role in the rebellion, the system has never forgiven the Lucasville 5.
After the rebellion, the state built the supermax in Youngstown which had no outside recreation area. When Staughton Lynd, a lawyer and author of Lucasville: The Untold Story of a Prison Uprising asked Wilkinson, head of the Ohio prison system, about the fact that there is no way for the inmates to go outside, feel the rain, see the sun and exercise, he replied,"Well, the Lucasville riot began on the recreation yard."
Then came the railroading of the 5 men the authorities claim led the rebellion and had a hand in the killing of 9 inmates and 1 guard. During the trial of Bomani, the prosecution did not provide discovery, which means that the prosecution is supposed to give the defense information that might be exculpatory. The prosecution gave the defense lawyer a list of 50 names and a list of interview summaries, 3 or 4 sentences and then said they can't tell which prisoner gave which summarized interview because that would be a security risk.
Bomani's appeal centered around the issue of discovery and his petition for habeas corpus. In the appeal hearing, Staughton Lynd had a statement by a prisoner which said, "I was there. I watched the events for which LaMar [Bomani Shakur], was convicted. LaMar had nothing to do with it." In other cases, prisoners were coerced by the authorities to target the 5 men for being leaders of the uprising. (For more details and overview surrounding the 1993 Lucasville rebellion, see Staughton Lynd's book, Lucasville: The Untold Story of a Prison Uprising.) At this point Bomani has lost his last appeal and says he is now closer to being executed.
An open letter to Ohio prison officials on behalf of the Lucasville prisoners on hunger strike has been signed by a thousand activists, academics, artists and others from the U.S. and around the world. It states in part: "Keeping men in supermax isolation for long periods clearly violates the Eighth Amendment prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment."
As we go to press, Staughton Lynd told Revolution that prison authorities have agreed verbally to some of the demands, including that the four men can be out of their cells 18 hours a week and can be around other prisoners, the ordinary death row inmates; however, they cannot play any sports with them or eat with them. They can be in an area with others to talk, but no group activity. As of February 1 they can have semi-contact visits; that is, there will be a plastic opening for inmates to hold their loved one's hand. The inmates will have access to computerized research on their legal cases. They will have the opportunity for a one-hour phone call every day. It was much less before. They will have access to everything in the commissary and they can receive packages from friends and family.
However, the state did not give in on the demand to be put onto death row with the other 125 men. And there is no signed agreement between the prisoners and the prison authorities. We encourage readers to remain vigilant, and stay tuned for updates at revcom.us.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #223, January 23, 2011
From a reader
"I want to throw up because we're supposed to quietly and politely make house in this killing machine called America and pay taxes to support our own slow murder and I'm amazed we're not running amok in the streets, and that we can still be capable of gestures of loving after lifetimes of all this." (from Close to the Knives: A Memoir of Disintegration, by David Wojnarowicz—whose work was recently banned from the Smithsonian)
On October 30, 2010, the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery (NPG) in Washington, D.C. opened a new exhibit entitled "Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture." For many, hopes were high that this signaled a major milestone. A report on National Public Radio (NPR) said that Hide/Seek "marks the first time a major museum in the United States has dedicated an entire exhibition to gay and lesbian portraiture."
The major exhibit contains work by artists as diverse and prominent as Thomas Eakins, Peter Hujar, Annie Leibovitz, Felix Gonzalez‑Torres, Nan Goldin, Marsden Hartley, David Hockney, Georgia O'Keeffe, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Robert Mapplethorpe, Agnes Martin, and Andy Warhol. The Washington Post ran an extensive review praising Hide/Seek as an overdue project whose time had finally come, saying it "surveys how same‑sex love has been portrayed in art, from Walt Whitman's hints to open declarations in the era of AIDS and Robert Mapplethorpe's bullwhips." And the Post, too, noted that "Amazingly, this is the first major museum show to tackle the topic."
But to powerful right-wing forces, the exhibit was intolerable, especially because it was associated with the Smithsonian. On November 29, the right-wing media site CNS News launched the attack on Hide/Seek, damning the exhibit as "images of an ant‑covered Jesus, male genitals, naked brothers kissing, men in chains, Ellen DeGeneres grabbing her breasts, and a painting the Smithsonian itself describes in the show's catalog as 'homoerotic.'" The Catholic League's president Bill Donohue denounced the exhibit and specifically attacked an excerpt of a video by the late artist David Wojnarowicz, Fire in My Belly, as "hate speech" against Christians.
The very next day, November 30, two top Republicans, House Speaker John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor issued statements calling for the closing of the exhibit. "This is an outrageous use of taxpayer money and an obvious attempt to offend Christians during the Christmas season," said Cantor. "When a museum receives taxpayer money, the taxpayers have a right to expect that the museum will uphold common standards of decency. The museum should pull the exhibit and be prepared for serious questions come budget time."
The head of the Smithsonian, G. Wayne Clough, responded to the threats not by defending the exhibit and calling out the gross attempts at its censorship but by hastily capitulating in a poisonous "compromise"—keeping the exhibit open while pulling the four-minute video excerpt of Fire in My Belly.
The film IS a stinging cry of protest—a montage of images against poverty, suppression and... Catholicism: it was a tribute to a fellow artist who had died of AIDS. It is a disturbing, provoking, angry piece of art. Wojnarowicz was a prolific visual artist, musician and writer. He wrote about the need for the "private," including the expression and exploration of gay sexuality, to be in the public discourse. Wojnarowicz himself was courageous and outspoken against the censorship of art. He spoke out against the attacks on artists Andres Serrano and Robert Mapplethorpe and criticized the cowardice of museums and galleries. Shortly after creating Fire in My Belly, Wojnarowicz was diagnosed with AIDS. He wrote in bold caps, "WHEN I WAS TOLD I'D CONTRACTED THIS VIRUS IT DIDN'T TAKE ME LONG TO REALIZE THAT I'D CONTRACTED A DISEASED SOCIETY AS WELL." So in the late 1980s he became an activist against the government's and medical establishment's criminal lack of attention, energy and funding in halting the spread of the disease, or trying to find a cure, while AIDS was decimating gays, Blacks and poor people, and AIDS victims were demonized.
In 1989 a huge controversy, a result and an expression of the rise of Christian fascism, erupted over public funding for the arts. Right-wing Senators Jesse Helms and Alfonse D'Amato attacked the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) for funding an exhibit that included the work Piss Christ by artist Andres Serrano (a photo of a plastic crucified Christ submerged in the artist's urine). Then the Corcoran Gallery abruptly canceled a major photo exhibition with sexually explicit images by the late gay photographer Robert Mapplethorpe rather than risk its NEA funding. Also in 1989, student artist Dread Scott displayed the U.S. flag on the floor (What Is the Proper Way to Display a U.S. Flag?) at a showing in the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and the school lost its state funding for that year.
The Hide/Seek exhibit's co-curator David C. Ward alluded to some of this history when he described the process of creating the exhibit: "[W]e evolved a discussion about the silence and contribution of LGBT artists in the creation of modern portraiture, a silence that seemed only to have gotten worse after the Mapplethorpe controversy of 1989. ... I was interested in the question intellectually, but also because the NPG has a commitment to show the diversity of the American people and the full range of this country's history. Moreover, it's a visually very striking exhibition so we hit all the notes for a successful exhibition."
Twenty-one years later, powerful politicians, right-wing media and religious organizations have effected censoring of a critically acclaimed exhibit on the history of LGBT art and artists in America. This exhibit is housed in the National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian, a U.S. government education, science, arts and research institute with 6,300 employees, so big it has its own police force. It is the largest museum complex in the world.
The Smithsonian claims that they pulled the film because "Attention to this particular video imagery and the way in which it was being interpreted by many overshadowed the importance and understanding of the entire exhibition." This is bullshit, double-talk and untrue on its face. The controversy has garnered the attention and interest of millions around the world who would have never heard of Hide/Seek otherwise. The decision to pull the film was, as the New York Times said, an "appalling act of political cowardice."
After the Smithsonian withdrew the film, colleges and private galleries and museums across the country have held screenings or ongoing showings of Fire in My Belly including: Portland State University; Smith College; Stanford University; University of Chicago; UC Irvine; University of Pennsylvania; the Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh; Hammer Museum; International Center of Photography, N.Y.; Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE); Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh; Light Work, Syracuse, N.Y.; Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego; San Francisco MOMA; Wood Street Galleries, Pittsburgh; and Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. (For more listings see hideseek.org.)
On January 13, New York City's Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) announced it had acquired the full version of Fire in My Belly, and began showing it that day as part of its exhibition, "Contemporary Art from the Collection." The four-minute excerpted version edited for the exhibit has been posted for viewing by the gallery PPOW (which represents the estate of Wojnarowicz.) PPOW has also posted the full-length work (ppowgallery.com). And another version has been posted on YouTube.
A few days after the video was pulled from the Smithsonian, about 100 people held a protest march on the National Portrait Gallery. Protesters held up an image from the film, Wojnarowicz' face, his lips sewn together with red thread. There was also a protest in New York City on December 19, calling on people to "Stand up for free expression, for art that challenges and even pushes our buttons."
Two protesters who played the video on an iPad outside the National Portrait Gallery were detained by police and banned from the Smithsonian for a year. Undaunted, the two got a trailer, have parked it outside the Portrait Gallery, dubbed it the Museum of Censored Art, and vow to show Fire in My Belly continuously until the Hide/Seek exhibit closes in February.
The Canadian artist AA Bronson has demanded that the Smithsonian remove his work "Felix" from the Hide/Seek exhibit. And the Andy Warhol Foundation, a major funder of the exhibit, has said that they will no longer fund Smithsonian exhibitions unless the film is put back in. (Hide/Seek was actually funded by private foundations and not public monies, though the Smithsonian buildings are provided through government funds.)
This high-level suppression calls for and has spurred protest. More is needed. It is also a potent example of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie in the realm of art. Much of the art in the exhibit reveals and cries out against the marginalizing and oppression of gay people under capitalism and needs to be seen by broader sections of people.
This battle also underlines the importance of art in any society, in challenging the norm, and art's role in exploring the world from different angles, and concentrating in its own way the clash of ideas. And it points to why, under the dictatorship of the proletariat, in a liberated socialist society, the approach must be for the government to fund art, including very importantly those projects that are controversial.
A protest is scheduled for January 20 in Los Angeles against the Fire in My Belly incident as well as the whitewashing of an antiwar mural by the artist Blu.
The Hide/Seek exhibit, minus Fire in My Belly, remains open through February 13, and ironically has in it two other works by Wojnarowicz. Video walkthrough of exhibit at youtube.com/user/NatlPortraitGallery#p/a/u/2/nWOe12pFV4M
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Revolution #223, January 23, 2011
It was Sunday night, and the Grand Opening weekend for Revolution Books/Libros Revolución at its new location in East Hollywood was coming to a close. The store was filled to overflowing as nearly 100 people from many different parts of L.A., and many different sections of society and walks of life, were crowded in. There was electricity in the air that you could feel in the noisy conversations going on as many of the people were meeting the bookstore—and this revolution—for the first time.
They had come to the store for a reception after seeing the remarkable film about the immigrant experience—Alambrista! (tightrope walker)—held at nearby Barnsdall Art Park as a fundraiser for the bookstore. After the film the audience had the opportunity to hear filmmaker Robert M. Young in conversation with Michael Slate, writer for Revolution newspaper and host of the Michael Slate Show on KPFK, and to ask questions of their own. The event, a fundraiser for the bookstore, drew 180 people, and afterwards people went to the store for the reception with the filmmaker.
Alambrista! first aired in 1977 and the next year it won the Camera d'Or award at Cannes and the best feature film award at the San Sebastian Film Festival in Spain. In the late 1990s, a group of academics in Chicano and American studies worked with Robert Young to re-release the film on DVD, together with a book of essays, Alambrista and the U.S.-Mexico Border. Alambrista! is a movie that brings the humanity of undocumented Mexican immigrants to the screen.
Young has said that his goal in making Alambrista! was "to humanize the statistics that I had read about in the papers, of the people who cross the border, and the people didn't know who they really were. ... Here Roberto [the main character] was in Mexico, he actually came from a valley where he did have a life, and it was fertile but economically he needed something more. And what I wanted to express was that I don't think that you can live with your stomach in one place, and your heart in another place."
He's also said about the film: "I wanted to honor these kinds of people. There was something powerful to me in the idea that in California, particularly where there are hardly any family farms but the people who pass through the fields and pick. And the wind... like the ballad... about the dust... there's not even a footprint left of them. They spend their lives picking the things that are growing for us, and they don't have a chance to grow themselves."
One of the contributors to Alambrista and the U.S.-Mexico Border wrote: "Young has a genius for understanding people different from himself, perhaps because in a fundamental way he does not see other people as strangers to himself. His genius, and the genius of Alambrista!, is to make us see things the same way."
Alambrista! is part of the rich movie-making history of Robert M. Young that spans more than 50 years: filming and directing award-winning documentaries; writing, producing, directing, and filming a wide array of fictional movies, but especially pursuing stories that delve into some of the most concentrated social contradictions of society. He emphasized that his method is not to tell audiences what to think, but to bring them into situations and allow them to draw their own conclusions. These qualities in Robert M. Young and his filmmaking have led to powerful documentaries such as The Inferno, about life in the slums of Palermo, Sicily, and the Emmy-winning Eskimo: Fight for Life, as well as feature films like The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez, and the unforgettable 1986 movie Extremities, with Farrah Fawcett and Alfre Woodard, about a woman who turns the tables on a rapist. His 1964 film Nothing But a Man, about a Black railroad worker who leaves the rails and struggles to live a life with dignity up against penetrating racism and oppression, is said to have been Malcolm X's favorite movie.
Word of the benefit and the bookstore Grand Opening spread in lots of different ways. The ad for it in the LA Weekly reached a large audience; and a local culture/arts writer did an article on the store opening and the fundraising event on hollywood.patch.com—a cultural web 'zine that specializes in significant events in the neighborhood and is read by a lot of people involved in the film industry on all levels.
Pacifica radio station KPFK was a media sponsor and promoted it. The co-sponsors of the film showing, Readymade Film Fest, also built for the event through their own networks, as did many individual people connected to various film, music, and art scenes. And "palm cards" and posters went out and up in different parts of the city, at UCLA and other colleges and high school campuses, at various events, and in a number of neighborhoods in L.A.
On the Friday before the Sunday screening, Slate interviewed Robert Young on KPFK. The interview was heard by many who know of and greatly admire the filmmaker and this film, and who were curious to learn more about the bookstore. As soon as the radio show ended, the bookstore began receiving calls and inquiries from people wanting to reserve tickets, and find out where the new store was located. The filmmaker said friends called him—including a number of them in the film industry—within an hour of the airing of the show, all wanting to know more about the event and how they could find out about this bookstore.
At the Sunday evening reception after the event at Barnsdall, many people were encountering Revolution Books, and this revolution and its leader, Bob Avakian, for the first time—and the great majority were struck by how different this revolution was from their preconceived notions. People would walk through the door and be drawn to the displays and the shelves. The breadth of books the store is already able to offer, with the promise of more titles and authors to come as more funds are raised, gave a sense of the value Revolution Books places on critical thinking, ferment, and ideological and political contestation and engagement, and the many different channels through which revolutionary discovery can flow. It introduced them to the campaign launched by the Revolutionary Communist Party in the Message and Call, "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have," and to Revolution newspaper. And it gave substance to the importance of the work and leadership of Bob Avakian.
Nearly everyone commented on the diversity of those who were there, making possible unique conversations between progressive and radically-minded people from all kinds of realms: filmmakers, artists and musicians, professors from several different campuses and fields of study; college and high school students; and revolutionary-minded immigrants, many from south of the border, from the Middle East, and elsewhere.
As the planned one-hour reception went into its third hour, the store continued to be alive with discussion and debate, including questions like how revolution could be made in a country stamped with the seal of parasitism/living off the backs of the world's peoples, the difference between communism and anarchism or reformism; and alongside these there were discussions about revolution, whether it is necessary, whether it is possible... or even desirable; and how could you keep it from being defeated or betrayed?... with the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) in the mix. Robert Young was signing the Alambrista! books as people continued to express how much they appreciated the film and the whole afternoon and evening; then pausing to respond to questions posed to him by Spanish-speaking immigrants and others about the movie, and about his plans for future projects; while he continued to share other episodes in his career.
This benefit capped a successful Grand Opening weekend, and it gave a glimpse of the potential for the movement for revolution to break out onto a societal scale.
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Revolution #223, January 23, 2011
(The following is adapted from a talk given at meetings that were held shortly after the publication of the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal))
The Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) is nothing less than the framework for a whole new society: a new political system in which the will of the people will be expressed... and a new economic system that will actually be geared to meeting people's material needs, as well as taking care of the environment and contributing to the revolutionary international process of eliminating all exploitation. Even more fundamentally, this is a framework to advance to a communist world—a world in which exploitation and oppression will be things to read about in history books and people will no longer be divided into antagonistic social groups but will instead live and work together as a freely associating community of human beings, all over the planet.
This is a draft proposal for an actual Constitution: the framework, the guiding principles and the processes of a radically new government, a radically new form of state power. We ARE building a movement for revolution—a revolution that WILL put this document into practice. These are the rules of a whole new game, to put it that way... a guide for those who will lead the new power for what to do on Day One, and after.
This isn't a pipe dream. It's based first of all on 40 years of deeply summing up the experience of the two main previous genuine socialist revolutions—the Soviet Union, from 1917 until the mid-1950s, when a counter-revolutionary, state-capitalist system was consolidated... and China, from 1949 until 1976, when a coup d'etat overthrew the revolutionaries who wanted to keep the revolution going forward. What were the accomplishments of these revolutions? What were the shortcomings, and errors? Why were they defeated? And what can we, and must we, learn?
It's based also on digging more deeply into, summing up and taking further the method and approach, and the content, of the science of communism—particularly in the realms of internationalism, method and philosophy, the socialist transition to communism, and the strategy for revolutionary struggle. Bob Avakian's body of work in these spheres has formed the basis for a new synthesis of communist theory—the foundation of our Party's understanding, and the groundwork for this Constitution.
This Constitution is a plan for the new society, and that is its main and overarching function. But it is also a vision of that society that can inspire people today... that can let people know that there is an alternative...that there is an answer... that it does NOT just have to be this way. With that in mind, a few reflections on this work.
* * *
Try to envision Day One of the new revolutionary state power. What will you be facing? And what will you have going for you?
First off, you will have in a certain sense "a new people"—a people millions strong that has come forward and withstood all the violence and repression that this system could throw against them, and has emerged victorious. The old institutions and apparatus of repression—the massive army and police, the courts and prisons, the bureaucracy—will have been dismantled. You will also have the rudiments—just the rudiments, but rudiments nonetheless—of new, qualitatively different organs of power. A terrible weight will have been removed, the ground will have been cleared, something new will be coming to life—and that is no small thing! And these millions will have not only made this monumental change but will have also, through all this, changed themselves in fundamental and important ways—even as, in another sense, that process has only just begun.
You will have a party—a vanguard leadership that has been tempered and tested in the crucible of preparing for, then seizing on, the emergence of a revolutionary situation and the all-out struggle for power. A vanguard rooted in a scientific method that it can apply to every sphere, a strong sense of where things need to go and how to get there on that basis, and experience in applying all that to many different and extremely challenging junctures. And you will have a bond that's been forged between the people and its vanguard leadership, the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, and what the preamble calls their "interaction and mutual reinforcement" that constitutes "a decisive element...in the founding of the new, revolutionary socialist state."
This too is no small thing.
All that is very positive. And that's good—because this new state is up against quite a bit! The revolution will have been won in enough territory to form a new state, but it is almost certain that capitalism will remain in effect in most of the world and the new revolutionary state may be surrounded by capitalist states that will work for its isolation and destruction. Lenin, writing during the Civil War of the Russian Revolution, said that the resistance of the bourgeoisie was ten times stronger after it was defeated.1 The bourgeoisie—that is, the capitalist-imperialist ruling class—never really believed it would lose its paradise, he said, and once it does it reacts with incredible fury. The imperialists have connections to ruling classes of other countries that they use. In Russia, over a dozen different countries invaded during the Civil War or otherwise gave support to the counter-revolutionary army. In China, the U.S. came right to its doorstep, threatening to cross into its territory and even drop atomic bombs on it just nine months after the revolution won nationwide victory. The defeated bourgeoisie still has its own military people who retain their skills—and their mentality. It has people still within the new socialist society, working to bring things back. It knows how to rule and it has the sense of entitlement to rule, and that should not be underestimated.
Not only that—as with any great storm, the material base of the new socialist republic will likely be devastated. Not only will it have to be rebuilt, but now you will no longer be living off of and exploiting the rest of the world. Moreover, this rebuilding will have to be done in new ways—ways that take the environment into account, ways that correspond to overcoming exploitation—and this is more complex than just nationalizing the preexisting capitalist industries, agriculture, mines, transport, and so on. And this will have to be done in a situation where people have enormous material needs to be urgently fulfilled.
And yes, the revolution will have going for it, at the core of the new society, a section of revolutionary people and a leadership of the Party who have been forged through the revolution with enthusiasm and a basic understanding of its means and ends. But, their understanding will itself have to develop with new conditions. Moreover, there will be other people in the new society.... tens, if not hundreds of millions more, will now be at one and the same time happy that the revolutionary conflict is over and victorious, even supportive of how they understand its basic objectives up against the forces of the old order, but will also have their own ideas—aspirations for what kind of life they want—needs and desires which have been largely conditioned and molded by the world of capitalism.
Added to that will be people who were neutral during the revolution, and others who opposed it bitterly and still oppose it. The core that fought the revolution cannot just build the new society for these people, let alone over them—these people also have a role and a voice in this new society, and the leading core has to be able to allow for and encourage that, even while keeping the whole society moving on track in a certain overall direction.
To be clear: those who committed war crimes, or who actively commit or conspire to commit criminal acts against the new power will be denied rights. But that cannot be the main way that the state handles the question of outright and fundamental political opposition, let alone what will almost certainly be the largest phenomenon of those who may share certain objectives and goals of the new state, or may be more or less favorably inclined toward it, but do not share the longer-term perspectives.
At the same time, you inherit the inequalities of the old society. Some people know how to run factories, how to coordinate production, how to plan, how to administrate... and others do not. Some people have been trained to work with ideas... and others have not only not been trained, they have been locked out of that. Some people have special skills—they can do surgery, they can construct physics experiments—and these skills require years of training and a lot of social resources. These inequalities do not get magically done away with overnight.
And you also inherit the values, the traditions, and the force of habit of 5,000 years of class society. Now some of that, even a lot of it in some cases, has been transformed—but not all of it, and not evenly in every single person. All these things—the international strength of capitalism, those within the society unreconciled to the victory of the revolution, the unevenness in commitment and understanding between the minority who are communists and the rest of society, the real inequalities in training, the force of habit and old ways of thinking and doing things—all these form the soil on which bourgeois-capitalist relations can and will grow, and over which there will be struggle in society—including within the Party itself—and which the new state has to be able to contend with and transform—to overcome, in fact, through mobilizing people. And to do it in a way that gets you to a whole different world. So this is the context in which this Constitution would come into effect.
* * *
But there's something even more important than the contradictions that the new society faces on "Day One," and that is this: where is this Constitution designed to get society to? What is it founded on? How do its basic principles reflect all that? To that end, it is valuable to do a "close reading" of the Preamble. The Preamble sets the terms for everything that follows—so if we don't take the time to root ourselves in that, if we just go to this or that particular, we're going to miss the forest for the trees.
First, let's look at the goal. The Preamble2 says that:
In contrast to the way in which the capitalist-imperialist state serves and enforces the interests of a small ruling group of exploiters, the New Socialist Republic in North America, with the continuing leadership of the Revolutionary Communist Party, bases itself on, and proceeds from, the fundamental interests of those most bitterly exploited and oppressed under the old system, and the masses of people broadly, and provides the means for them to play an increasingly widening role in the exercise of political power and the functioning of society in accordance with those interests—in order to carry forward the struggle to transform society, with the goal of uprooting and finally eliminating all oppressive and exploitative relations among human beings and the destructive antagonistic conflicts to which these relations give rise.
This is a process and goal which, fundamentally and in the final analysis, can only be achieved on a global scale, with the advance to communism throughout the world. The orientation and principles of this state, as embodied in this Constitution, are internationalist: While giving due emphasis to meeting the material, intellectual and cultural needs of the people within this state, on a continually expanding basis, and to promoting the further transformation of this society to continue uprooting social inequalities and remaining aspects of exploitation and oppression, the socialist state must give fundamental priority to the advance of the revolutionary struggle, and the final goal of communism, throughout the world, and must adopt and carry out policies and actions which are in accordance with and give concrete effect to this internationalist orientation.
So that's the foundation. And it's pointing to a contradiction, a source of tension and potential pitfall for the new society—and a source as well of spurring things forward. Read again that last part: "While giving due emphasis to meeting the material, intellectual and cultural needs of the people within this state, on a continually expanding basis, and to promoting the further transformation of this society to continue uprooting social inequalities and remaining aspects of exploitation and oppression, the socialist state must give fundamental priority to the advance of the revolutionary struggle, and the final goal of communism, throughout the world, and must adopt and carry out policies and actions which are in accordance with and give concrete effect to this internationalist orientation."
So, that's at the very foundation. Bob Avakian goes at it another way in "Birds Cannot Give Birth to Crocodiles, But Humanity Can Soar Beyond the Horizon,"3 the very important new talk. He says:
A socialist Constitution must be based on, and must flow from, a scientific, dialectical materialist understanding of the dynamics of the historical development of human society, the basis and role of governments, and specifically the emergence and role of the state... It should correspond to the nature of socialism as an economic system as well as a particular system of political rule, the dictatorship of the proletariat, and as a transition to communism; and such a Constitution, at any given phase of this process—any given stage in this overall transition—should both in a general sense embody the relations, principles and objectives which are appropriate to that stage and give space to and foster the struggle to carry forward that transition toward more advanced stages of socialism, and fundamentally toward communism, together with the struggle for that goal throughout the world.
So that Constitution has to comprehend and encompass two different and, yes, contradictory purposes. And it has to handle those contradictory purposes in a way that is ultimately complementary.
But let's step back even further. What is communism, anyway? The Message and Call of the RCP, USA—"The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have"—gives a clear and concise definition. Communism is "[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."
Now with everything said earlier about what things look like on Day One of the revolutionary state power, it's plain to see that there's quite a road yet to travel to reach that communist world. In fact, all the monumental changes made possible on Day One, significant as they are—and they are incredibly, almost unimaginably significant in terms of how the revolution will change people's lives for the better right from the start—are only the first step to that communist world.
To get to that communist world, you need a state—a transitional state, but a state nonetheless. But what is a state? Here let's look again at the Preamble:
Regardless of differences, even very great and qualitative differences, in their political structures, institutions and guiding principles, all states have a definite social content and class character: they are an expression of the prevailing social relations, and most fundamentally the economic relations (relations of production), which have a decisive and ultimately determining role in regard to how the particular society functions and is organized. The state serves to protect and expand those relations and to enforce the interests of the social group—the ruling class—which holds the dominant position in society, as a result of its role in the economy, and in particular its ownership and control of the major means of production (including land, raw materials and other resources, technology and physical structures such as factories, and so on). In capitalist society, it is the capitalist class which holds this dominant position: the government structures and processes—and above all the organs of the state as an instrument of class rule and suppression (the armed forces, police, courts and prisons, the executive power, and the bureaucracies)—are controlled by this capitalist class as a means of exercising its rule over society and its repression of forces whose interests are in significant opposition to, and/or which resist, its rule. In short, all states are an instrument of dictatorship—of a monopoly of political power, concentrated as a monopoly of "legitimate" armed force and violence—exercised by, and in the interests of, one class or another. Any democracy which is practiced in this situation is democracy on the terms of, and fundamentally serving the interests of, the ruling class and its exercise of dictatorship. And it will remain the case that there will be a state, and that the state will constitute a dictatorship of one kind or another, serving the interests of one ruling class or another, so long as society is divided into classes (and other groups) with interests that are fundamentally antagonistic—a division rooted in the underlying social relations, and above all the production relations, which predominate in the given society.
The examples are as close as any recent issue of Revolution. Take issue #218 (November 28, 2010). Students protest in Berkeley, and out come the cops—and now, out come the guns as well. Or people protest the verdict on the cop who murdered Oscar Grant as he lay face down, hands bound, on a train platform—which itself was a naked and ugly example of dictatorship—and are met with over 100 arrests. Or look at the center spread of the issue that came out on Thanksgiving—the one on how the U.S. got and maintained the empire that we're all told to "give thanks" for—using armed force to kill off Native peoples and enslave Africans, and then using armed force to go all over the world to plunder and dominate. These are tools of coercion, not persuasion; they use these tools to dictate to people what they must do and not do, and even what they can and cannot express. And this is based on and serving specific class interests—those of the capitalist-imperialists.
* * *
The new socialist republic is also a state—that is to say, it is a dictatorship—but it is a dictatorship serving different class interests. Again, quoting from the Preamble:
The New Socialist Republic in North America is, like all states, a form of dictatorship—the dictatorship of the proletariat—which means that, in its essential character and its basic principles, structures, institutions and political processes, it must give expression to and serve the fundamental interests of the proletariat, a class whose exploitation is the engine of the accumulation of capitalist wealth and the functioning of capitalist society and whose emancipation from its exploited condition can only be brought about through the communist revolution, with its goal of abolishing all relations of exploitation and oppression and achieving the emancipation of humanity as a whole. In accordance with this, the governing bodies and processes of this socialist state, at all levels, must be vehicles for the furtherance of the communist revolution; and, as a key dimension of this, they must provide the means for those who were exploited and oppressed in the old society—and were effectively locked out of the exercise of political power and the governance of society, as well as the spheres of intellectual endeavor and working with ideas overall—to increasingly take part in these spheres, with the aim of continually transforming society in the direction of communism. All this is given expression through the principles and provisions, and the institutions, structures and processes which are set forth and provided for in this Constitution.
Now, here two ironies come to mind. The first is that the U.S. Constitution claims to be a democracy, not a dictatorship; yet you have this massive repressive apparatus—millions of soldiers on over 700 military bases around the world, a police force in New York City alone of over 30,000—and they are not here to debate with you. They are here to dictate to you and anyone else who stands in the way of the rule of the capitalists.
The second irony is one pointed to in "Birds Cannot Give Birth to Crocodiles, But Humanity Can Soar Beyond the Horizon" and this one is also very important. Here Bob Avakian makes the point that the U.S. Constitution claims to recognize no divisions among people. And yet this Constitution has served as a framework for generating and protecting and reinforcing inequalities and oppressive divisions between groups of people on an incredible scale. Their constitution guarantees a very specific form of private property—capitalism, mainly, though also slavery at its foundation and the first eight decades of its existence—and those economic relations cannot help but produce these huge inequalities and oppressive divisions. And then you get the state, backing that up. And yes, you get democracy too—democracy mainly practiced among the ruling class to thrash out their differences, and democracy also in the sense that the masses are allowed some leeway to protest, within certain very tight terms which are—as those Berkeley students once again experienced—very constricted, as well as being allowed the "right" to choose which representative of the rulers will preside over this horror (though that process too is very tightly controlled).
Unlike the bourgeois U.S. Constitution, the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America—a constitution of the dictatorship of the proletariat—recognizes those divisions, those inequalities, and so on—in order to overcome them. And it recognizes and openly puts forth its fundamental character as a dictatorship—as part of getting beyond the need for such things as armies and prisons, and institutionalized leading groups, and the social antagonisms which necessitate the very existence of such institutions. The part of the Preamble I just read also makes the very essential point that the institutions have to have a different character in socialist society—and that this state, again, "must provide the means for those who were exploited and oppressed in the old society—and were effectively locked out of the exercise of political power and the governance of society, as well as the spheres of intellectual endeavor and working with ideas overall—to increasingly take part in these spheres, with the aim of continually transforming society in the direction of communism."
But here's an extremely important point: this is not a society about making the last first, and the first last. It's not about revenge, or about "the workers"—or "those on the bottom"—now ruling over others. The Preamble emphasizes the united front that brings the new socialist republic into being, and it says that "while it must be recognized that the essential nature, and the basic principles and processes, of this Republic are oriented in accordance with the interests of the proletariat, as a class, in the most fundamental and largest sense—abolishing all relations of exploitation and oppression through the advance to communism throughout the world—the struggle to achieve this goal cannot be, and will not be, carried out simply by PROLETARIANS, as some idealized 'perfect embodiment of communist principles,' and in some uniform and linear sense. As the new synthesis brought forward by Bob Avakian has given emphasis to, the process of making revolution, and then continuing the revolution in the new socialist state toward the final goal of communism, must involve the active participation of broad ranks of the people, of different strata, and will proceed through many different 'channels,' involving many diverse forces among the people in many different spheres of human endeavor, not only those more directly political or relating more directly, at any given time, to the functioning and objectives of the leadership of the revolution and the new socialist state; and the orientation and aim, consciously taken up by growing numbers of the people, must be to work so as to enable all this to contribute, in the final analysis, to the struggle to further transform society in the direction of communism."
The Preamble then gets into a critical principle in doing that, a key element in the way Avakian has built on, but gone beyond, the previous socialist societies—and that is the "solid core, with a lot of elasticity." Returning to the Preamble:
This means that, on the one hand, there must be a continually expanding force in society, with the revolutionary communist party as its leading element, which is firmly convinced of the need to advance to communism and deeply committed to carrying forward this struggle, through all the difficulties and obstacles; and, on the basis of and at the same time as continually strengthening this "solid core," there must be provision and scope for a wide diversity of thinking and activity, among people throughout society, "going off in many different directions," grappling and experimenting with many diverse ideas and programs and fields of endeavor—and once again all this must be "embraced" by the vanguard party and the "solid core" in an overall sense and enabled to contribute, through many divergent paths, to the advance along a broad road toward the goal of communism.
From here on out, we need to be getting into how that is going to be done, the ways in which this will find expression—how it will come down in the real world. But what we also need is to appreciate how foundational this is—the importance of getting this relationship between that solid core, which has the whole goal and process in mind, and that widely diverse elasticity going off in a lot of directions—and yes, some of those directions in opposition to what the state may be doing at any given time—but with a solid core that can lead that so that it all contributes to people getting the fullest possible understanding of reality and how to transform it, and advance toward the goal of communism. To cite a passage at the end of the section of the Constitution on the media—and that section itself gives you a sense of the kind of diversity, the kind of elasticity, that is possible and necessary on the basis of this solid core—the point is made that "this is, once again, an application of the principle of 'solid core, with a lot of elasticity,' a key means for enabling the broad masses of people to be exposed to, and to debate and 'thrash out,' various ideas and viewpoints, in order to more deeply engage, come to understand, and transform the world in the interests of humanity. And, once again as well, all this must be 'embraced' by the 'solid core'—with the Revolutionary Communist Party as the most decisive leading element—and enabled to contribute, through many divergent paths, to the advance along a broad road toward the goal of communism."4
The Preamble goes on to underline that this finds expression through the Party's leadership of the state and its key institutions. This leadership is written into, embedded in, the Constitution. Why? On one level, because we do not intend to hand the power—which people will have sacrificed and fought for, and which in a real sense belongs to the masses of people around the world—back to the bourgeoisie. Let's remember, this will be a society in transition, which has to either forge its way forward to communism, through tremendous struggle to overcome the economic, political and ideological relations and traditions of the old world—or must otherwise go back to capitalism, in one form or another. Once again, socialist society is a society that, for some time after its founding, is fighting to advance in the midst of an overall imperialist world and one that retains many of the inequalities, social relations and ideas—many of the scars, if you will—characteristic of capitalism. This forms the soil which gives rise to and nourishes forces who wish to, and will fight to, fortify those differences and thereby take society in a different direction—and that different direction can only ultimately be capitalism. All you have to do to go backward is to stop the process at any stage, and the spontaneous force of these bourgeois relations will pull you back, one way or another, to some version of the capitalist hell we live in now.
On the other hand, and most fundamentally, to actually go forward, through all kinds of complex twists and turns, requires science—and a scientific, and expanding, leadership rooted in and proceeding from that science—to guide a whole wide and diverse process toward that goal. We are not going to allow a situation where the bourgeoisie can use international pressure and its overall dominance in the world, and the freedom that gives it in the military, political and economic spheres, along with the force of old ideas and old ways of thinking, to come back into power. So the Party has disproportionate weight in the leadership of the army and the courts, especially the Supreme Court—even as the Party itself does not directly control them, but has to obey the Constitution. And the Party has disproportionate weight in the electoral process as well.
"Who are you," some people will ask the Party, "to have such disproportionate weight?" Indeed, some people have even already raised, "Who are you to write a constitution?" The answer on one level is simple: we are people who have a scientific understanding of how societies can change, and an orientation to apply that to emancipating all of humanity.
Bob Avakian, as part of speaking much more deeply to this question in Birds/Crocodiles, put it this way:
[I]t is not a matter of arbitrarily "who gets to decide," but what are the actual dynamics of the material reality with which we are confronted and what pathways for change are there. And it really is either/or...: either it's the seizure of state power by masses of people, led by a vanguard of this kind, and then the advance to communism throughout the world, and the final abolition of state power and of vanguards; or it's back to capitalism, or the perpetuation of capitalism without ever having a revolution in the first place. Those are the choices. How come? Because that's the way reality is, that's the way human society has evolved. All we've done is recognize it and act on it.
In the framework of that leadership, there is room for quite a bit of diversity and dissent and initiative—in fact, this is envisioned on a scale far beyond anything that has ever existed, and certainly far beyond—an order of magnitude beyond, and of a qualitatively different character—than what there is here or in any other capitalist society. And there is a real need for the Party to find the ways for the masses to be enabled to "play an increasingly decisive role in the exercise of political power, as well as in every other sphere," as part of getting to the point where we can do away with states, and special institutionalized forms of leadership, altogether (though again—that can only happen on a world scale, and only once all exploitative and oppressive relations, institutions and ideas have been overcome).
Also essential and bedrock, and therefore in the Preamble: this state must be a vehicle to fully overcome national oppression and inequality. And it must likewise, to again cite the Preamble, serve "to overcome all 'tradition's chains' embodied in traditional gender roles and divisions, and all the oppressive relations bound up with this, in every sphere of society, and to enable women, as fully as men, to take part in and contribute to every aspect of the struggle to transform society, and the world, in order to uproot and abolish all relations of oppression and exploitation and emancipate humanity as a whole." And this includes as well the struggle for full equality for gay, lesbian and transgender people.
Finally, this is a constitution—a framework—that takes fully into account the ways that the remaining strength of the bourgeoisie and bourgeois relations (which I have been talking about) will give rise to forces that "will emerge within the vanguard party itself, including at its top levels, which will fight for lines and policies that will actually lead to the undermining of socialism and the restoration of capitalism." This Constitution provides the framework for the consequently necessary "struggle," as the preamble says, "within the party itself, as well as in society as a whole, to maintain and strengthen the revolutionary character and role of the party, in keeping with its responsibilities to act as the leadership of the continuing revolution toward the final goal of communism, and to defeat attempts to transform the party into its opposite, into a vehicle for the restoration of the old, exploitative and oppressive society."
* * *
On the foundation of that close reading, let's look at the economy. This is the base of any society. People have to come together to produce the material necessities of life. If they did not, then they would, in very short order, die off. And they enter into specific relations with one another to do it.
What are these relations? First off, ownership: who owns the means of producing these material necessities. In the capitalist system, a relative handful of society monopolizes the ownership of these, and can compel others—who do not own such means—to work for them. They can open a factory—and they can close it, and move it elsewhere. They determine what is produced, how it is produced, and to what ends—ends which are, always, the profit of the owners.
This changes in socialism. The means of producing the material necessities required by society are owned by the state. And the very purpose of these means of production is radically different. To quote the Constitution, Article IV, these purposes are "Advancing the world revolution to uproot all exploitation and oppression and to emancipate all of humanity; ... Meeting social need, creating a common material wealth that contributes to the all-around development of society and the individuals who make it up, and overcoming oppressive divisions between mental and manual labor, town and country, different regions and nationalities, and men and women;" and "Protecting, preserving, and enhancing the ecosystems and biodiversity of the planet for current and future generations."
But ownership is not the whole story. There is the matter of how people relate to each other in production. Again, from the Constitution, Article IV, "Socialist production is based on and promotes relations and values of people working cooperatively for the common good and for the interests of world humanity. Socialist relations of production must enable the masses of people to gain increasing collective mastery over economic processes." And this must also mean overcoming, through waves of struggle, what Marx called the enslaving subordination to the division of labor and the contradiction between mental and manual labor (and the seeds of antagonism within that contradiction)—while doing this in a way that neither undermines the sphere of intellectual work nor reinforces an oppressive division between intellectual and physical work.
How are you going to motivate people in the new society? Under capitalism, people are motivated either by the prospect of personal gain, or the hunger that they, or their children, will experience if they don't do the job. But this new society has to be different. Socialist society can't use methods of motivation that work against those three overarching goals laid out above; instead, "To meet goals and solve problems of production, the state must mobilize the conscious activism of people in accordance with the principles and objectives set forth here and elsewhere in this Constitution. It must encourage initiative and creativity to advance the public interest."
And then there's distribution. The socialist economy has to continually expand the sphere of social consumption—that is, emphasizing goods that can be utilized communally (for example, public transportation for everyone is more important than producing cars for individual utilization; or providing good basic health care for all, instead of the class-tiered system we have today) and constantly narrowing the gaps in wages and compensation.
The inequalities in those latter two spheres—the relations between people carrying out production, and the distribution of what has been produced—along with the still powerful values engendered by generations of capitalism—to look out for yourself, to either seek advantage over others or do just enough to get by—will actually be a big part of the soil out of which new bourgeois relations can be regenerated, and new bourgeois forces can arise. And they will arise—unless and until that soil is dug up.
The socialist economy is going to be a planned economy—and this is very important. These plans not only give society the ability to rationally plan production—they are one very critical arena of mass participation and mass struggle in determining the actual direction of society. What gets produced and built? Where, and why? Who gets trained, and for what? How are long- and short-term interests of society balanced? How does the relationship between the needs of this society and the need to advance revolution in the world get worked through? How are the gaps between people to be narrowed as plans are carried out? How do these plans express and push forward core values of socialist society—for instance, how do they fit into overcoming the effects of the history of national oppression and racism, or overcoming the oppression of women? What is the application of solid core, with a lot of elasticity? All this is given expression in the Constitution, and the basic principles and framework laid out through which people's daily productive life can become part of a whole process of emancipating humanity... not struggling to survive a numbing, alienating job—if you have a job—to enrich a few.
Now this will not be a machine-like process in which you press a button and out comes socialism. This will be a question of ongoing class struggle—class struggle that is needed to dig out the soil that regenerates bourgeois relations, class struggle against the newly engendered bourgeois forces who will seek to restructure society back in a capitalist direction. The point made in Section 7 of Article IV is very important in this regard:
It is the right and responsibility of people in this society to interrogate, debate, and wage struggle over the actual content of socialist-state ownership and planning and the political-ideological outlook and policies in command of social production and development.
So those are a few points touching on the economy.
* * *
In the very short time that this Constitution has been out, there's been a number of points of controversy and discussion. This brief piece won't try to address most of them—this Constitution is going to be something that we're wrangling with for a while and there will definitely be the time made to get very deeply into every aspect of it. And there are many important different aspects to get into. But it would be valuable here to briefly speak to a point of controversy now: the right to self-determination, up to and including secession, for African-Americans, and the right to autonomous regions for oppressed nationalities more generally; and the ways in which overcoming inequality of the formerly oppressed nationalities relates to freedom of expression for people with backward or racist ideas.
In even thinking about this question, you have to approach it from how foundational the oppression of whole peoples is to America. This country—the USA—wouldn't exist without the dispossession and near-genocide of an entire set of peoples that were living here first. It wouldn't exist without the enslavement, over centuries, of millions of people who were kidnaped from their homes in Africa, who even after the end of slavery were maintained first in near-slave-like conditions and then, in the main, as superexploited wage workers, and finally, today, as an oppressed people in which literally millions have been cast aside and treated as prison fodder. It wouldn't exist without the theft of land from Mexico, and then an ongoing predatory and oppressive relationship with the Mexican nation, and Latin America more generally. It couldn't exist today without a superexploited labor force made up of millions of immigrants, driven here by the oppressive conditions in their home countries under imperialist domination.
And, to paraphrase Bob Avakian, there never will be—and there never should be—a revolution without the struggle against this oppression finding tremendous expression. It is very likely that there will be different forces in the field fighting against imperialism during the all-out struggle, some focused on the liberation of their peoples from the yoke of imperialism, allied with—but not sharing the same outlook or final goals as—the revolutionary communists. And whether there are such forces or not, the fact remains that many many people will join with the communists for revolution but with goals short of getting to communist society—and a huge part of that united front will be those who are struggling against the oppression of whole peoples as peoples.
Doing away with the division of humanity into separate nations is an integral part of the fundamental interests of the proletariat, a bedrock element of the communist mission. But if you really want to do that, you can't wish away, or fail to pay attention to, the scars that you have inherited from all that has gone on before the revolution. The new social order has to first overcome the inequality that actually does exist, it has to dig it up by the very roots. The Preamble makes the point:
The New Socialist Republic in North America is a multinational and multi-lingual state, which is based on the principle of equality between different nationalities and cultures and has as one of its essential objectives fully overcoming national oppression and inequality, which was such a fundamental part of the imperialist USA throughout its history. Only on the basis of these principles and objectives can divisions among humanity by country and nation be finally overcome and surpassed and a world community of freely associating human beings be brought into being. This orientation is also embodied in the various institutions of the state and in the functioning of the government in the New Socialist Republic in North America.
The Constitution goes on to make clear a sort of two-pronged approach to this. It begins by stating that:
In light of the egregious crimes, oppression and injustice perpetrated by the former ruling class and government of the United States of America against various minority nationalities, to give expression to the voluntary union and growing unity of the various peoples within the New Socialist Republic in North America, and to give the most powerful effect to the principles and objectives set forth in this Constitution, discrimination against minority nationalities, in every sphere of society, including segregation in housing, education and other areas, shall be outlawed and prohibited, and concrete measures and steps shall be adopted and carried out, by the government at the central and other levels, to overcome the effects of discrimination and segregation, and the whole legacy of oppression, to which these peoples have been subjected.
It then immediately goes on to say that:
As one important dimension of this, in regions (or other areas) of significant population concentration of minority nationalities which were oppressed within the borders of the former imperialist USA, there shall be the right of the people of those nationalities to autonomy, in the form of self-government within the overall territory, framework and structure of the New Socialist Republic in North America and its unified socialist economy, system of law, armed forces, and conduct of foreign relations.
After laying out the procedures for this, the Constitution makes the point that:
...[W]here such autonomous regions are established they provide an opportunity for people of the nationality concerned to live in areas of significant concentration of that nationality, if they so choose, but they shall not be required to live in such areas, and once again it shall be the orientation, policy, and active purpose of the government, at all levels, to prohibit and work to overcome the effects of discrimination and segregation that have been directed against these nationalities, and generally to promote integration and unity among the various nationalities throughout society, on the basis of equality.
To be clear, this is a right that can be exercised—it is not a requirement. And the provisions for exercising this right, if people so desire, are treated very seriously in the Constitution. And whatever forms are chosen, the struggle to overcome the effects of literally centuries of oppression, down to today, will be far from a static thing or a secondary matter—either society will go forward very dynamically on the basis of resolving, through waves of struggle, this and other major contradictions which will still be unresolved when the revolution comes to power, or the power will be turned into something else. The revolution will in a very real sense clear the ground to resolve this—through conscious and determined struggle in every sphere of society, in the framework of this Constitution.
* * *
Finally, to return to the question of state power. First, look at the title of Article III, Section 1: The Basic Right of the People, the Purpose and Role of the Government, and Contradictions Between the People and the Government, in the New Socialist Republic in North America.
Two things are addressed, straight off: first, that the "most basic right of the proletariat, together with the broad masses of people, in the New Socialist Republic in North America is to be enabled to have the fundamentally decisive role in determining the direction of society, and to join in struggle with others throughout the world, in order to finally abolish relations of exploitation and oppression; and to bring into being, and increasingly play the determining role in regard to, government which will be an instrument toward those ends." The first two articles of the Constitution are mainly concerned with instituting state structures for that purpose. But there is something else involved too—the rights of the people are to be protected from "government misconduct and abuse."
When you read through this section—and when you see the expansive conception of rights in both these dimensions—you do get a sense of a society that will be extremely vital and full of ferment, but where people will also have ease of mind. You get a sense as well of how these two dimensions of rights relate to each other, and react back and forth on one another. For example, without the constraint that forbids the government to prohibit expressions of opposition, even fundamental opposition, to it, you would not have the richness of the process that I referred to earlier which enables "the broad masses of people to be exposed to, and to debate and 'thrash out,' various ideas and viewpoints, in order to more deeply engage, come to understand, and transform the world in the interests of humanity. And, once again as well, all this must be 'embraced' by the 'solid core'—with the Revolutionary Communist Party as the most decisive leading element—and enabled to contribute, through many divergent paths, to the advance along a broad road toward the goal of communism."
Without this, people would not themselves come to more deeply understand society, in all its nuance and complexity, and learn how to transform it on the basis of that understanding... and through the course of it transform their own thinking as well. Now this will be a wild and wooly process; it will take those leading this society to the brink of being drawn and quartered. But this process is the only way for all of society to advance to communism, and there is definitely an exhilarating aspect to it!
There is much to be learned from, and a critical important need to get into the study of theory, and for this study to go on widely, in many different forms and in all kinds of venues, throughout society; but there is also no substitute for the learning that takes place in the broad swirl and no-holds-barred debate of a society in ferment—indeed, it is the dialectical link between the two that will yield the richest and most comprehensive understanding. And this, in turn, drawing from and interacting with the struggles of billions to transform the world in the spheres of politics and productive activity and scientific experiment, will enable humanity to advance to a whole new stage of freedom, a whole new level of being able to understand more deeply and transform more fully the world around them—including their own social relations—without the fetters that weigh so painfully on us today.
Obviously, these reflections only touched on what is an extremely important and very wide-ranging section of this Constitution. There is the whole question of the different branches of government; of the army; of the organs of power, including on a local level; of how the party exercises leadership, which maintains the essential principle learned from past revolutions on the necessity of the party's institutionalized role but has a different and far more expansive conception of what that means; and of other things besides. The point now is to further a process of people getting deeply into this constitution, in all its different aspects, and to wrangle with this.
* * *
In summary, what we have with this Constitution is a framework, a map, a set of rules that provides a way for humanity to work its way through to a whole higher plateau of existence—one far beyond the commodified, exploitative, oppressive, predatory and putrid society and culture that we have today. The Manifesto from the RCP, USA has said that we are fighting to initiate a new stage of communist revolution.5 This Constitution gives even greater concreteness to the content of that—and on that basis, can serve as a magnetic pole of attraction.
Toward the end of Part 1 of "Birds Cannot Give Birth to Crocodiles, But Humanity Can Soar Beyond the Horizon" contrasting the society we are fighting for with the one we are fighting against, Bob Avakian states that:
To bourgeois theorists—and again you can see this reflected in writers like Paine, Madison and Jefferson, as well as the leaders and (so to speak) the inspirers of the French revolution—freedom is conceived overwhelmingly in essentially negative terms. It is cast in terms of protection from the encroachment of government, and protection from other people in society lest they resort (or regress) to a "state of nature." But communism embodies a vision of freedom based on the understanding that freedom lies in the recognition and transformation of necessity—and this actually involves a conception of freedom in a much greater dimension and, yes, a positive character, as well as encompassing aspects of negative freedom, that is, protection from government abuse and abuse by other individuals. This freedom lies fundamentally and essentially in the ability of people to act together, and to struggle over how to act together, to radically transform society, in interrelation with transforming nature: to first of all uproot exploitation and oppression and social antagonism and move to a whole new era beyond all that, and then to interact with each other, and with nature, through non-antagonistic relations, to continue transforming the world and, yes, people, on an increasingly conscious and voluntary basis—not an absolutely conscious and absolutely voluntary basis, which would fly in the face of reality, but an increasingly conscious and voluntary basis. This is a very powerful expression of positive freedom.
Capitalism is mired in, and gives constant expression to, not only relations of exploitation but, bound up with that, "commodity fetishism"—the way in which people are impelled, and in a real sense compelled, to relate to each other not essentially as human beings but as owners (virtually as embodiments) of commodities to be exchanged. With this comes the atomization of individuals. All this rests on and is driven forward by concealed social relations of exploitation—as well as more overt relations of exploitation and oppression—and it is marked by the corresponding conceptions of freedom, and of the role of government and its relation to individuals in society. This is very starkly illustrated in the U.S. Declaration of Independence and Constitution. What is expressed there is a viewpoint of individuals as property owners and owners of commodities who are, in significant ways, in conflict with each other, even as they attempt to function together in one society to overcome "the state of nature," and to somehow utilize force and counterforce to keep things from becoming antagonistic within that society.
Socialism represents the open recognition of existing antagonistic social relations, and a conception of freedom and of association among people based on the fundamental goal of overcoming such relations and divisions, achieving the "4 alls" and transcending the "narrow horizon of bourgeois right." It involves conscious initiative and momentum to move beyond commodity relations and the corresponding division, and alienation, among atomized individuals, replacing all this with forms that give expression to and foster social intercourse on a cooperative basis among the members of society while actually, in this framework, giving greater scope to individuality.
He went on to conclude that: "This orientation, and the recognition of continuing struggle to create the basis for the fuller expression of this with the achievement of communism throughout the world: that is what needs to be"—and we could add what IS—"embodied in the principles and provisions of the Constitution for a socialist state and laws based on that Constitution."
1. V.I. Lenin, The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky, Foreign Languages Press, Peking, 1972. [back]
2. Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, RCP Publications, 2010. The Preamble begins on page 1 and can also be found online at revcom.us. [back]
4. Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal, page 40. [back]
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Revolution #223, January 23, 2011
Last September, in a nationally coordinated raid, the FBI targeted antiwar and Palestinian solidarity activists, raided their homes and subpoenaed them to appear before a Grand Jury. In December 2010, under the direction of U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, the FBI delivered nine new subpoenas in Chicago to antiwar and Palestine solidarity activists, and re-issued subpoenas against four people targeted by the original raids. They have been ordered to appear at a Grand Jury in Chicago on January 25.
A National Day of Protest Against FBI and Grand Jury Repression will take place on January 25. In more than 30 cities across the country thousands will be protesting at federal buildings, FBI offices, and other appropriate places, showing solidarity and standing with the subpoenaed activists, and with all the activists whose homes were raided by the FBI.
The call for the protests raises these demands:
Defend free speech! Defend the right to organize! Opposing war and occupation is not a crime!
For background on December 2010 raids, see "FBI Raids Anti-War Activists' Homes In Midwest" at revcom.us
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Revolution #223, January 23, 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 #223, January 23, 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 #223, January 23, 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?
To sustain Revolution: click the "Sustain/Donate" link at revcom.us or send a regular amount at the beginning of each month to RCP Publications, P.O. Box 3486, Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654.
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Revolution #223, January 23, 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 #223, January 23, 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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