Voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party,USA
Please note: this page is intended for quick printing of the entire issue. Some of the links may not work when clicked, and some images may be missing. Please go to the article's permalink if you require working links and images.
Revolution #227 Online, March 21, 2011
On Saturday, the U.S., along with France, Britain and other powers launched vicious military aggression against Libya. Once again, the U.S. launched an air war against another country in the Third World, or global south. Once again, the U.S. has arrogated to itself the right to use force to punish and control any country that crosses it.
On Saturday, the U.S. hit Libya with a barrage of some 112 cruise and Tomahawk missiles launched from U.S. submarines and destroyers in the Mediterranean, off the Libyan shore. French and British warplanes attacked targets in the east. The attacks continued Sunday and are continuing at this writing. Radar and anti-aircraft installations, military fields, air bases, and military convoys have all been attacked—both in the west in and around Tripoli, as well as in the east near Benghazi. On Sunday, the U.S. struck with Harrier jump jets and B-2 stealth bombers, attacking the Qaddafi government's ground forces and air defenses. Qaddafi's residence was also hit, even as the U.S. claimed it was not targeting him. So far there are reports of dozens of military personnel killed along the road to Benghazi and over 64 dead and no doubt more wounded or injured in the western half of Libya.
The U.S. rulers and their allies claim they're doing this out of "humanitarian" concern for the Libyan people who are being attacked by Qaddafi's forces, and that their military aggression is justified because it's been sanctioned by the UN, joined by other world powers, and approved by the Arab League.
These are lies.
Qaddafi's reactionary effort to brutally crush an uprising against his 42-year-long rule does not change the fact that the war launched by the U.S. and its allies has nothing to do with concern for humanity or the Libyan people. These are the same U.S. imperialists who launched wars of aggression, based on blatant lies, against Afghanistan and Iraq, murdering, maiming, torturing or displacing literally millions of civilians in the process. This is the same U.S. government responsible for the slaughter and torture of civilians in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and other places... the torture chambers of Guantánamo and Bagram and who knows where else... and the wholesale backing of the apartheid Israeli government—and its criminal wars on the Palestinians in Gaza.
At this very moment, when U.S. officials denounce Qaddafi for systematically abusing "the most fundamental human rights of Libya's people," the U.S. is backing violent despots savagely repressing their own people in Bahrain, Yemen and Saudi Arabia because it conforms to U.S. imperial interests. On Friday, March 18 alone, at least 45 people were killed and 200 wounded by the pro-U.S. Yemeni government in the capital Sana'a. On the same day in Pakistan, a U.S. drone strike killed 26 people—mainly tribal elders and local civilians.
But now, suddenly, the U.S. finds violence against civilians "unacceptable" in Libya—why? Because it conflicts with the U.S.' imperialist interests.
(For an in-depth analysis of Qaddafi and Libya, see, "Revolution Interviews Raymond Lotta: The Events in Libya in Historical Perspective... Muammar Qaddafi in Class Perspective... The Question of Leadership in Communist Perspective," Revolution #226, March 8, 2011)
The fact that this is being carried out under UN auspices means nothing. The UN is a cabal of reactionary states dominated by the world's big imperialist powers. The UN is an institution whose purpose is maintaining capitalism-imperialism's domination of the planet, including when necessary legitimizing its violent aggression against those who stand in the way of the U.S. and other big powers. The UN authorized the 1991 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, whose purpose was to maintain U.S. imperialist control of the Persian Gulf, which resulted in the slaughter of over 200,000 Iraqis and the destruction of Iraq's civilian infrastructure. The UN approved sanctions against Iraq that led to the deaths of over 500,000 Iraqi children and probably over a million other Iraqis during the decade of the 1990s. Just as the U.S. has fully backed Israel and all the crimes it has committed against the Palestinians, the UN has refused to act against Israel, not even putting sanctions on them, despite being in flagrant violation of UN resolutions for over 40 years! Now, suddenly, at the U.S. behest, the UN is acting.
European imperialist powers have joined the U.S. in the slaughter, hoping to carve up Libya in the post-Qadaffi era, even bring the old colonialism back: Italy, which carried out massacres in Libya when it dominated it as a colony... France, which killed over a million Algerians to maintain its grip... and Britain, which dominated Egypt and many other parts of the Arab world for decades. This is the imperialist "multi-lateralism" that the U.S. claims legitimizes this criminal enterprise.
These forces now see an opening to violently reassert their power and to actually tighten the imperialist noose around Libya's neck, and to project military and political power deeper into a region that is now full of upsurge against regimes long supported by these imperialists. In fact, while the uprising against Qaddafi began with strong elements of justice to it, the vicious military attacks by the U.S. and its allies have now fundamentally altered the situation and made it necessary for everyone to oppose this gangster attempt to take advantage of the situation for imperialist ends.
Then there's the Arab League—made up of pro-U.S. lackeys and despots, like Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, who are widely hated by their own people, many of whom are now rising up against them. The Arab League has never fought for UN actions against Israel, but now finds its voice when it comes to Libya.
All this calls to mind Malcolm X's point: "Uncle Sam's hands are dripping with blood, dripping with the blood of the black man in this country. He's the earth's number-one hypocrite. He has the audacity—yes, he has—imagine him posing as the leader of the free world."
The United States is the greatest single purveyor of violence against ordinary people in the world today—and has no right to carry out aggression against anyone, anywhere.
People within the U.S. have a special responsibility to condemn U.S.-sponsored military aggression against Libya. We call on people all over the U.S.—especially students—to act against this outrage.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #227 Online, March 21, 2011
Announcing new release Tuesday, March 22
Words by Bob Avakian
Music by William Parker
Yoni Kretzmer, tenor sax
Ben Syverson, trumpet
Zhenya Strigalev, alto sax
Drum track by Brian Forbes
William Parker, bass
Music and arrangements by William Parker
Send us your comments.
Revolution #227 Online, March 21, 2011
The following is a slightly edited transcript of a talk by Raymond Lotta given at the Left Forum in New York City on March 19, 2011:
This is a very important moment to be holding this panel. The crisis in Japan, now the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl, poses critical dangers to the Japanese people who have already suffered greatly from the earthquake and tsunami. This crisis carries potentially grave risks for the well-being of world humanity and the global environment. This is a global event, and we all have to take responsibility to be developing and struggling for demands on the system to deal with the effects of this disaster—at the same time that we dig into its larger significance.
The earthquake and tsunami in Japan were the result of natural tectonic forces. But why Japan was so reliant on nuclear energy and how this crisis continues to unfold is mediated through social relations.
The title of my talk is: We Cannot Solve the Environmental Emergency Under this System, But There Is a Way...and It Is Communist Revolution. I will discuss the nature of the system that dominates the world and plunders the planet—and what that has to do with this nuclear crisis. And I will talk about something new on the political-ideological scene, the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA—and what this has to do with a way forward for humanity.
Now in the geological and ecological history of this planet, there have been massive environmental disturbances, changes in climate, and great extinctions. What is unique about the current environmental emergency is that it is primarily caused by human activity. Not by human activity in the abstract, but by the workings of the economic and political system we live under: capitalism-imperialism.
You see, capitalism is a system that operates according to certain rules. It's like basketball or soccer: there are rules of the game. If a basketball player kicked the ball like a soccer player to get it down-court, he or she'd be penalized; and if she kept doing it she'd be thrown out of the game. Well, capitalism has its rules. Yes, particular corporations have done egregious things to the environment. But the rules of capitalism make it impossible for it as a system to deal with the environment in a sustainable and rational way—even if an individual capitalist or group of capitalists wanted to. Let's look at these rules:
RULE #1: Everything is a commodity and everything must be done for profit.
Everything under capitalism is produced in order to be exchanged, to be sold. Things must be useful to be exchanged. But under capitalism, the measure and motivation of what is produced and how it is produced is profit—whether we are talking about housing, medicine, technology, or energy development. Profit comes from the exploitation of billions on this planet.
When a company like Texaco extracted oil in the Ecuadorian rainforest, it sprayed and spilled toxic waste and oil, destroying pristine forest, turning rivers and streams black with oil, and creating not only one of the worst environmental disasters in history, but also leaving people dead or dying from cancer. But this was a profitable investment.
Under capitalism, nature is either something to be seized and plundered...or viewed as a limitless and "free" resource to be exploited and poured into profit-based production.
RULE #2: Capitalist production is by its nature privately owned and driven forward by the commandment: "expand or die." A capitalist economy is fragmented into separate and competing units of capitalist control and ownership—like Toyota and Ford...like Exxon-Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell. Each unit of capital must fight others for market share, and must continually cheapen costs, in order to stay alive. And each unit of capital, because it is private, is fundamentally concerned with its operations, with its profits, and with its expansion.
Let's take the case of nuclear power plants. Investors will be paying close attention to the cost and efficiency of operations. But what happens outside that immediate sphere of operation and ownership—the environmental costs of mining the uranium that these plants depend on, the damaging effects of the release of hazardous gases, the health dangers to people in surrounding and distant areas, and the longer-term effects of disposal of nuclear waste—those costs are not the concern of their profit-and-loss ledgers.
Capitalism is an anarchic system. Its horizons are short term. There is no conscious, society-wide planning to meet social need, or to cope with the many-sided effects of what is being produced and how it is being produced.
RULE #3: Capitalism today is a global system and proceeds through the domination of oppressed nations by imperialist countries and through rivalry among the imperialist powers, rivalry that led to two world wars in the 20th century.
Today the great powers are in an intensifying race for control over sources of cheap fossil fuel and other energy sources in the oppressed nations in Africa and Central Asia. They are scrambling for position in the Arctic. And this is a dirty little secret of empire: the U.S. military, which enforces international exploitation and plunder, is the single largest purchaser of oil in the world.
In light of these three rules, let's look at Japan's commercial nuclear program.
Nuclear power now provides 30 percent of Japan's electricity. There is nothing preordained or necessary about this situation. One might ask why Japan did not invest in safe renewable energies—like wind, solar, or geothermal. Well, the decision to go nuclear was conditioned by those rules of the game: by profit in command and by rivalry and geopolitics.
Japan has been almost wholly dependent on imports for its oil. The oil crisis of 1973 was a major shock. It disrupted Japan's oil supplies. It jeopardized Japan's then rapid economic growth and increasing international reach. The decision by the Japanese ruling class to develop nuclear power was based on a certain calculus.
For Japanese capital to profitably expand, for Japanese capital to secure export markets, for Japanese capital to press its global economic challenge to rival imperial powers, it needed a fuel source that would be capable of producing energy on a massive industrial and commercially profitable scale. It needed a fuel source that would not be vulnerable to these kinds of supply shocks.
Those strategic imperatives trumped the then already-known dangers of building nuclear plants near one of the most active geological faults on the planet, and along coastal areas reachable by tsunamis.
The U.S. encouraged Japan's nuclear energy program. Why? Because Japan has been a key flank of the Western alliance the U.S. constructed after World War 2—and a stable Japan, a Japan that is host to U.S. military forces, has been integral to U.S. power projection in East Asia. The U.S. provided technological support for Japan's nuclear reorientation. Indeed, Japan's decision to ramp up commercial nuclear power provided a market for the U.S. energy industry. As people know, the reactors that are now in danger of meltdown are based on GE designs.
And for both the Japanese and U.S. ruling classes, commercial nuclear power has been an ideological wedge to pave the way for all things nuclear: including nuclear weapons. This was happening in the only country in the world to have experienced the devastation and horror of atomic bombs as a result of the American bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But that is not all.
Over the past three decades that Japan has been building these reactors, the rest of the capitalist world had largely put new nuclear power construction on hold, mainly for economic reasons. That is, until recently, with the so-called nuclear power renaissance. So Japan has been somewhat in the forefront of developing nuclear energy—and this has given Japanese imperialism a certain competitive leg up: to secure contracts for the highly profitable construction of overseas nuclear-powered plants.
This nuclear reactor export push has been especially important as part of Japan's efforts to overcome a 15-year economic slowdown in an increasingly competitive international environment. And how convenient that Japan's supposed watchdog agency over the safety of nuclear power, the Nuclear and Industrial and Safety Agency, is overseen by Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry!
So here we are. A nuclear catastrophe is looming. The same capitalist "rules of the game" that led to a situation where the Japanese state embarked on the rapid expansion of nuclear power also govern the response to the crisis. The main concern of the Japanese imperialist state is to maintain order and safeguard strategic interests. The main concern of the power companies is to protect investments.
This is why the Japanese people have been kept uninformed. This is why they have been kept from mobilizing in the way called for. Remember how BP monopolized control over information about the Gulf oil spill and set the terms for what would be done in response—because this was their proprietary investment. And in a world divided into contending imperialist nation states, there cannot be the kind of global mobilization of people and resources commensurate with the scale of this grave crisis.
This crisis did not have to happen. Just as the kind of suffering after Katrina made landfall did not have to happen. Just as impoverished conditions, lack of preparation, and poor medical infrastructure in Haiti or Kashmir at the time of those earthquakes were not necessary givens. Just as deep-shore oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico is not some unavoidable feature of economic development.
No, these are outcomes of the working of this capitalist-imperialist system: of profit in command...of the blind, expand-or-die impulse of capital and its oppressive social relations...of the division of the world into oppressor and oppressed nations...of the rivalry between blocks of capital and contending imperial states. These crimes will continue as long as this system continues. But the world does not have to be this way.
The only viable way to deal with the environmental emergency is revolution: a socialist revolution that establishes a radically new and different state power that unfolds its priorities from the needs of humanity overall, from the emancipation of humanity, and the protection of the planet.
The ultimate aim of this revolution is to bring a communist world into being: 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 means for really understanding, and changing, the world.
Socialism is the first step towards that world. In socialist society, ownership and control of production, the means of production that are in fact socially worked by thousands and millions of people, are socialized through this new revolutionary state. There will no longer be Wal-Mart or ExxonMobil. There will no longer be an imperialist military machine that rains death and destruction on people in the interests of empire. And under socialism, the rules of commodity production—of profit first, of expand or die—these rules no longer set the terms and framework for what is possible and desirable.
The Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA sets out a framework for how a vibrant socialist society would be constituted and how it would function as a transition to a communist world. This Constitution is based on Bob Avakian's new synthesis of communism—which builds on the past experience of the Bolshevik and Chinese revolutions, draws on their positive and negative lessons, and raises this to a new, higher level of synthesis.
This is a socialism striving to overcome the great gap between mental and manual labor, where today only a small minority of society is engaged in the realm of working with ideas...but overcoming this gap on the basis of the flourishing of intellectual, scientific, and cultural life. A socialism where state power is held on to and used to solve the most accursed and vexing problems of society and to spread revolution in the world...but where power is held on to on the basis of the flourishing of great political ferment, dissent, and initiative.
This is not some utopia. A socialist society will face enormous challenges. There is the very gravity of the environmental crisis. For some time, any revolution that comes to power will face threats from considerable swaths of a hostile capitalist-imperialist world. The socialist society will have to confront the danger of counterrevolution. The new society will contain social divisions and backward ideas inherited from exploiting-class society. To make revolution, and keep it going forward, requires visionary leadership that bases itself on a scientific understanding of how society is and how it can be transformed.
The Constitution for the New Socialist Republic of North America sets out how a socialist economy and society would, and here I quote: "apply itself to contributing all it can to solving the environmental crisis and, to the degree possible, reversing its terrible and manifold effects and to ushering in a new era in which human beings and their society can truly be fit caretakers of the Earth." In a special issue of Revolution newspaper, we have put forth some key principles of socialist sustainable development.
* Economic development will be advancing the world revolution to uproot all exploitation and oppression and to emancipate all of humanity...this will be an economy 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 the oppressive divisions between mental and manual labor, town and country, different regions and nationalities, and men and women.
* The new socialist society will put the preservation of the ecosystems of the entire planet above its own national development...it will take special responsibility to heal the scars of environmental damage caused by the former U.S. imperialism to other countries...it will be promoting unprecedented planet-wide cooperation among scientists and sharing knowledge and expertise with the rest of the world—while learning from others. It will imbue people with an appreciation of nature and a sense of responsibility to it.
* Socialist planning will combine centralization with decentralization. There will be overall leadership in drawing up plans, coordinating the economy, and establishing key social priorities, like uprooting racial oppression and the subordination of women. At the same time, the new economy will maximize, to the greatest degree possible, local initiative, management, and responsibility, and give wide scope to grass-roots experimentation within the framework of a unified socialist economy.
* Society will move decisively away from reliance on non-renewable fossil as well as nuclear power, and rapidly transition towards safe and ecologically sustainable technologies. This will be an economy that no longer relies on long-distance supply and delivery systems—that no longer exploits people or plunders the planet.
Again, this is not some blissful utopia. The Constitution sets out the principles and orientation for the transformation of society: it sets out the processes and structures of governance of the new society. But the motion and development of the new society is complex and new things and new problems will emerge. Basic policies, economic plans, and indeed the very direction of society must be interrogated and debated out broadly in socialist society. Moreover, the unresolved contradictions of socialist society—around patriarchy, around issues of sustainability, of balancing long- and short-term requirements, and so forth—will give rise to controversy and struggle. This will be a source of dynamism in socialist society.
Bob Avakian has given the example of novelist and social activist Arundhati Roy. Many of you know that she's been in the forefront of struggles against the construction of environmentally destructive dams in India. The question is posed: will it be possible for people like Arundhati Roy to organize and protest in opposition to environmental policy and direction under socialism? Yes, Avakian has emphasized that socialism must be a society teeming with dissent, protest, and contestation.
This is all part of the process of getting at the truth of society and the world, of promoting critical thinking in socialist society and enabling those formerly on the bottom of society to more deeply understand and more profoundly transform the world; this is crucial in advancing the struggle towards communism. And this will get very tense and wild at times, including protests, strikes, and upheavals that can destabilize society. People like Arundhati Roy must also be looked to—in order to help develop solutions to these very deep and serious environmental problems, even as there will be ideological struggle over issues of socialism, communism and where humanity is headed and needs to go.
How would a new and radically different state deal with a natural disaster, like a Katrina or a major earthquake. It would have the capacity to mobilize economic and technical resources on a vast scale. It would unleash the most important resource: people. The socialist state would enable scientists, medical personnel, technicians and engineers to come together with basic people in new combinations to analyze and solve problems—and to learn from each other. If there were an industrial or power disaster the state would warn about and seek to limit damage to ecosystems. And in all of this it would put the health of the people front and center.
You would have to be doing this in real time. You would want to popularize successes as well as continuing problems and what is being learned in coping with such disasters. Information and knowledge, rather than being quartered up, would be disseminated and critically examined. Mass education and debate would be going on at the same time. The socialist state would be unleashing people at all levels to take responsibility and initiative.
In confronting such a disaster, you would be paying attention to social disparities that come from a whole history of inequality, like the legacy of racism—as well as the uneven ways that disaster strikes—sparing some and devastating others. You would be broadly projecting a "serve the people" ethos—as opposed to the passivity and "each for themselves" outlook of capitalism. In short, there would be a world of difference in how an emancipatory socialist society would deal with such a situation.
Let me conclude. Huge questions of life, health, and the global environment are being posed in extreme terms in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan. We are living in perilous times. But there is no permanent necessity to live this way. There is the potential, locked up and suppressed by this system, for humanity to deeply understand and profoundly change the world in a liberating direction—to get to a world where human beings can flourish and humanity can truly act as caretakers of the planet.
We are building a movement for that revolution. And debating out the causes and lessons of this latest calamity...formulating and fighting for demands that rise to the challenge of this crisis...and raising sights to a whole new world—this is part of building that movement for revolution.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #227 Online, March 21, 2011
As this article is posted, the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex in Japan continues and there is still a real threat this could escalate into a larger catastrophe. Large amounts of radioactivity have already been released into the air through multiple explosions, fires, and venting of radioactive steam. These radioactive clouds have spread in different directions, depending much on wind direction. Reports say two of the nuclear reactors have been turned into a "mangled mix of steel and concrete." Japanese officials announced they were making progress in cooling down some of the reactors that had been posing the least threat of causing further danger, but the crisis is far from over.
Dangerous levels of radiation have been detected in the plant itself, and lower levels have been measured in other areas, including 130 miles away in Tokyo, a city of almost 13 million people.
An AP article on March 20 said there were already increasing signs of radiation contaminating crops, plants, and drinking water. It said, "The government halted shipments of spinach from one area and raw milk from another near the nuclear plant after tests found iodine exceeded safety limits. But the contamination spread to spinach in three other prefectures and to more vegetables—canola and chrysanthemum greens. Tokyo's tap water, where iodine turned up Friday [March 18], now has cesium. Rain and dust are also tainted."
This disaster has already caused significant damage and has potential to cause more in a number of ways and on varying levels. And there remains real danger that the situation could spin even more out of control, with much more massive and widespread releases of radiation in the immediate vicinity of the plant, but also spreading far beyond.
Japan is the only country to have suffered the immediate impact of nuclear bombings—the two nuclear bombs that decimated the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 at the end of World War 2. And then, for generations, hundreds of thousands of Japanese suffered from the immensely horrible impacts of radioactive contamination from these bombs. Now, on top of the massive death and suffering wrought by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, millions of people potentially lie in the path of widespread radioactive fallout. And we should never forget that these—first and only—nuclear bombings were carried out by the U.S.
The earthquake and tsunami were natural disasters. But the decisions to build nuclear power plants in quake zones, the failure to alert people to the potential radioactive dangers and instead to cover-up the extent of danger—these are the result of the existing social relations of a capitalist-imperialist system. This crisis has enormous implications for human life in Japan and nearby countries especially, and for the ecosystems in this region and beyond, on land and sea.
TEPCO and the Capitalist Nuclear Disaster
With the development of a nuclear crisis in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, a pattern is being revealed of cover-up of accidents, safety violations, and damage to the ecosystem in Japan's nuclear industry—a pattern not unlike what came to light after last year's disaster in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico after the explosion at the BP oil well.
The Fukushima plant is owned by Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the largest power company in Japan and the fourth largest in the world. Thirty percent of energy needs in Japan are generated by nuclear power. Japan doesn't have a domestic source of oil, which is still the main energy source in that country. And the Japanese government made a decision to increasingly rely on nuclear power in a bid to best serve the needs and functioning of the capitalist economy. This decision also had to do with putting Japan in the best position to strengthen its economic position in relation to other capitalist powers by establishing more energy independence from imported oil. And this has involved Japan's government and nuclear interests working closely together. The pattern of nuclear power development in Japan has been driven by the needs of capitalist competition and profit-making, the compulsion to cheapen costs including by cutting back on safety and even falsifying safety records that would slow production or make it more expensive, and the complete inability to take account of the long-term needs and safety of both the people of Japan and of the natural environment.
TEPCO (like BP in relation to its fossil fuel operations) has a long and ugly history of repeated accidents and safety violations in its nuclear plants. In 2002, the head of TEPCO and other company officials had to resign after revelations that they had falsified safety records and covered up 200 accidents in TEPCO facilities over 25 years. In 2003 TEPCO had to temporarily shut down all 17 of its nuclear plants due to a scandal over the falsification of safety inspection reports. TEPCO officials apologized and swore they had learned their lesson and would change. But in 2006 it came out that TEPCO had falsified other coolant-water data in the 1980s. And accidents continued to happen, including ones in which workers were killed by radioactive steam and or sprayed by radioactive water. Despite this record, the Japanese government has been continuing to allow TEPCO to operate—and even renewed authorization for the Fukushima Daiichi plant just one month before the current disaster.
In 2007 a 6.8-scale earthquake set off a fire at TEPCO's Kashiwazaki reactor on Japan's west coast. Japanese seismologist Ishibashi Katsuhiko warned then that Japan's nuclear power plants had a "fundamental vulnerability" to major earthquakes. U.S. embassy cables recently released by Wikileaks revealed that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had warned Japan in 2008 that strong earthquakes would be "a serious problem" for its nuclear plants. In fact, the Fukushima Daiichi plant was only built to withstand a 7.0 earthquake, 100 times weaker than the 9.0 quake that just struck. It wasn't only this plant, but many others in Japan that have been built and continuously approved by the government to operate right in the midst of earthquake fault zones—despite a great deal of opposition from many people and political forces in Japan. (And this is happening not just in Japan, but in the U.S. and other countries as well.) These are not just zones where earthquakes might happen. They are zones where powerful quakes repeatedly have happened and will happen in the future. Tokyo, the huge metropolis of many millions 130 miles southwest of the Fukushima plant, has been hit by six extremely powerful earthquakes since 1700, causing tremendous damage.
Nuclear plants are built on earthquake fault zones even when it is known this is a danger. Nuclear power is continually developed as an "economically competitive" strategy, despite the inherent danger it involves, including the danger of meltdown and radioactive contamination in addition to the production of toxic waste that remains dangerous for thousands of years and will outlast any type of structure that can contain it. Repeated approval and go-ahead is given for companies that have clearly demonstrated pattern of disregard for safety and have produced accident after accident. All this is not just a matter of greed or cozy corporate-government relations. What is involved are the profit-above-all workings of the capitalist system.
The reactor design used at Fukushima has been known to have safety problems since 1972. The Fukushima reactors are Mark 1 reactors, built by General Electric beginning in the 1960s. According to the New York Times, GE marketed the reactors as "cheaper and easier to build—in part because they used a comparatively smaller and less expensive containment structure." These are the structures that have been ruptured by explosion in the current disaster. Questions about the safety of these reactors were raised to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in the U.S. in 1972. An official who later became chairman of the NRC said that while a ban on the Mark 1 reactors was "attractive," the technology was so widely used that banning it "could well be the end of nuclear power." So these reactors continue to be used, including in 23 nuclear reactors in the U.S. The truth is that the U.S. is implicated by what has been revealed by the nuclear disaster in Japan—with the design of the Fukushima reactors developed by GE, the use of these same reactors in the U.S., and the insane positioning of nuclear power plants in earthquake zones just as in Japan.
This nuclear disaster was triggered when the earthquake and resulting tsunami off of Japan's eastern coast knocked out electricity and back-up power to the Fukushima plant. Power is generated in the reactors in nuclear plants by bombarding enriched radioactive elements, like uranium, with neutrons, causing their atoms to become unstable and split. Tremendous heat (and radiation) is given off in this nuclear fission reaction. This heat is used to heat water and produce steam. The steam is then used to turn turbines and generate electricity that can be transmitted via power lines. The radioactive elements used in the reactors are bound together in nuclear fuel rods, and they continue to generate large quantities of heat even when control rods are inserted into the nuclear cores to shut down the nuclear reactions.
The reactors at Fukushima shut down automatically after the earthquake struck. But because all electric power to the plant had been lost, the water cooling systems that are needed to prevent the uncontrolled heating of the nuclear fuel were also shut off. The superheated nuclear fuel rods boiled off the water, and this apparently generated hydrogen gas, which caused or contributed to fires, explosions, and releases of radioactive steam and smoke into the atmosphere. Explosions appear to have ruptured the nuclear cores of two of the active reactors at the Fukushima plant, reactors #2 and #3. Fuel rods in the first three reactors appear to have partly melted down, and there is danger of larger meltdowns that could cause further explosions and a more massive release of nuclear contamination. (A meltdown occurs when the radioactive fuel heats to the point that it literally melts, which can potentially burn through the cores containing the fuel.)
There are six reactors in total at Fukushima Daiichi. All six apparently contain spent nuclear fuel rods. A tremendous amount of radioactive material at Fukushima is in the form of these spent rods, which are generally stored in pools of water at the top of the reactor buildings, outside of the nuclear core. So this means that these rods are more exposed to the atmosphere. Even when the rods are "spent," they generate enormous amounts of heat and must be cooled for years.
On March 16, an official with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said water in the pool responsible for cooling the spent fuel rods in reactor #4 had boiled off, leaving the rods dry. He said this was causing very high radiation levels and danger of more fires and meltdown—and that due to the potentially lethal doses of radiation caused by this, it would be very difficult for emergency workers to even get near the reactors to continue to cool them. (A small crew of about 50 workers, out of the normal workforce of 800, had been left behind at the plant to deal with the disaster.)
It also appears there is a dangerous situation with the spent fuel outside the reactive core in reactor #3—Japanese military helicopters and crews manning water cannons repeatedly tried to douse this fuel in the reactor. The fuel in this reactor contains plutonium, a particularly dangerous radioisotope that is very long-lived and can cause cancer even if microscopic amounts are ingested. Desperate efforts are underway to try to get water into the pools surrounding the fuel rods and to restore power to the cooling pumps, and authorities have been claiming some progress—but the crisis isn't over.
A sign of the radioactive danger already present was the quick evacuation of hundreds of workers from the plant, leaving a smaller crew to try to cope with the disaster. Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated from a 12-mile radius around the plant, and 140,000 more in a larger 18-mile radius have been warned to stay indoors and seal up their doors and windows. Other countries and many nuclear experts are saying this zone should be greatly expanded. It's been reported that people who are able to have been leaving Tokyo.
There are different kinds of radiation—some are low energy and not damaging to life, but there are also high-energy forms that are known as ionizing radiation. Ionizing radiation at very low levels is present all around us in the form of cosmic rays and radioactive elements in the earth, and from other sources. For the most part, these very low levels of "background radiation" don't produce much if any damage to living cells.
But ionizing radiation that poses a much greater threat than at low background levels is produced in enormous amounts by nuclear reactions from detonation of nuclear explosions and in the fission reactions in nuclear power plants. Nuclear reactors also produce huge amounts of highly radioactive nuclear waste, like uranium and plutonium, that can continue to emit dangerous radiation for thousands of years. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), even small amounts of radiation over a long period of time can increase the risk of cancer. Ionizing radiation can cause mutations in the DNA of living cells, which can be passed on to children. And high levels of radiation over a short period can kill living cells and cause radiation burns, sickness, and even death at acute levels.
Ira Helfand, of Physicians for Social Responsibility, said on "Democracy Now" on March 18 that there are two dangers present in the current nuclear crisis in Japan. One is the presence of very high-level radiation, which is concentrated right now in the immediate area of the plant but which could become a much bigger problem in the surrounding areas with a much larger release of radioactivity from meltdown or further explosions. But the other is radiation at lower but still potentially damaging doses spreading out much farther. This leads to "the possibility of cancer and other chronic illnesses being caused down the road from this episode. The radioactive material coming out of the plant is made up of 200 different radioactive isotopes, and particles of these radioactive materials can travel great distances with the wind if they are dispersed into the air." Right now the levels people are being exposed to in places like Tokyo are still quite low, and if it remains this way, the health risk is also low. But Helfand points out that "the situation there is still completely out of control," and that with a larger release, the current situation "could change dramatically, and we could end up with a situation, as occurred at Chernobyl."
Many nuclear experts are saying that the Fukushima Daiichi crisis is just one level below what happened in 1986 at Chernobyl, in the former Soviet Union. They have rated Fukushima as a level 6 disaster—Chernobyl was a 7. Chernobyl killed thousands, and the estimates of the total number of people who will eventually die of cancer caused by radiation spread from Chernobyl ranges from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands. Possible increases in thyroid cancer linked to the radioactive fallout from Chernobyl reach as far as England. And the area surrounding Chernobyl where the radioactive clouds passed, known as the Red Forest, remains one of the most contaminated areas in the world. There are real differences between Fukushima and Chernobyl, and certain problems at Chernobyl are unlikely to occur here. On the other hand, there other ways in which the situation is more dangerous than Chernobyl. For instance, there are six reactors at Fukushima, and four have been in deep trouble. Only one exploded at Chernobyl. The danger involved in this prompted former nuclear engineer Arne Gunderson to say the Fukushima disaster could escalate to be like "Chernobyl on steroids."
Given the seriousness of this situation, let's look at how the ruling powers and their system have handled this. Japanese government and officials of the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) have, from the beginning, downplayed the seriousness of this crisis and tried to make it sound like it was no big deal. Faced with a situation completely out of control and verging on a full nuclear catastrophe, they first said the danger level was only level 4—equivalent to a relatively controllable problem. They only inched up their estimation to level 5 days after the nuclear cores were ruptured and fires and explosions had underscored the seriousness of the actual situation in the eyes of the world. The officials have not released a clear picture of the extent of releases of radiation. It's not clear to what extent the radiation release is even being closely monitored—but if it is, it isn't being systematically presented to the people and to the world. They have kept from people the potential risks of exposure and not given out information about the actual truth of the situation and efforts at the nuclear plants. In short, they have completely failed to warn and prepare the people, and then failed to mobilize the people to deal with the possible impacts of a tremendous disaster.
This crisis is also being covered up and used to gain advantage by other powers—notably the U.S. The U.S. has found it necessary and opportune to raise certain criticisms of the way the Japanese are failing to deal with this crisis. But Obama and other top officials have made it clear that while they may "review" safety of nuclear plants in the U.S., nuclear energy remains a vital part of the U.S. "energy strategy." The truth is that the U.S. is directly tied to this disaster in Japan—the design of the Fukushima reactors was developed by General Electric. And these same reactors are being used in 23 reactors in the U.S., with the same insane positioning of many nuclear power plants in earthquake zones, just as in Japan. And instead of warnings and mobilizations for people to come to the aid of the people in Japan, there have been repeated announcements that "Americans have nothing to fear" from the radiation, fostering ugly, selfish American chauvinism—that "it's only us who matter."
None of these imperialist powers have said anything about the potential dangers to the ecosystems arising from the potential radioactive fallout. How will the oceans and life in the oceans, so rich and varied and at the same time so crucial to human life, be impacted by continuing or heightened radioactive fallout? What will be the full impact on other ecosystems—on wildlife, plants and animals, on food crops—from what has already occurred, or if there is greater release of radiation?
In contrast to how the Japanese and the U.S. imperialists are dealing with this disaster, how would socialist society moving toward a communist world deal with such things?
To state it briefly: the new socialist state would move as quickly as possible after the revolutionary overthrow of the capitalist-imperialist state and the seizure of power to transform the energy base of society, as part of the transformation of the whole economy, from one of reliance on fossil fuels and nuclear power (both of which are damaging and dangerous to the environment and human life) to sustainable and renewable forms of energy. The new socialist society would move to immediately assess and shut down any still functioning nuclear power plants on earthquake faults.
In any type of disaster, the socialist state would fully mobilize scientists to fully investigate, with the help of others, including those from other countries who wanted to contribute. And the findings of these investigations would be released so people could be as fully informed as possible, and be able to act on that scientific understanding. The socialist state would do everything possible to mobilize the masses—and to rely on their conscious activism to prepare for and do the most possible to protect the people broadly from the effects of the disaster, for example, if people had to be evacuated to safety.
The socialist state would warn about and seek to limit damage to the ecosystems arising from any similar crisis. In a more overall sense, the revolutionary state would NOT be guided by and make decisions based on the anarchic expand-or-die, profit-above-all else, grab-and-plunder workings of this capitalist system. Instead, it would be guided by the principles of protecting and preserving the lives and fundamental interests of the broad masses of the people, and also the health and functioning of natural ecosystems.
In other words, there would and can be, a world of difference.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #227 Online, March 21, 2011
The earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan on March 11, 2011 have already caused, and are continuing to cause tremendous destruction and death. The terrible suffering, the threat of an even more catastrophic nuclear disaster demand an urgent response. The lack of aid and assistance from the global powers—not just the Japanese government—is shocking and outrageous. Huge questions of life, health, and the global environment are being posed in extreme terms in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan.
Revolution will be speaking to these questions in more detail and depth in the coming days, but the following points can be made right now:
Come to this site Monday for more coverage.
Things to do right now:
Send us your comments.
Revolution #227 Online, March 21, 2011
The following correspondence is from a reader who has been following events in Japan:
The scenes of vast destruction and suffering of the people from the unprecedented (in Japan), earthquake and tsunami that hit northeast Japan are heart-rending. Earthquake preparation is a daily fact of life in Japan, which lies in a very active quake zone, and coastal areas have seawalls and tsunami alert systems. But no one was prepared for what happened on March 11. That Friday afternoon, an earthquake of magnitude 9.0—the seventh largest ever recorded in the world, and the largest ever recorded in Japan—occurred not far off the coast near Sendai, a city of a million people. The earthquake itself caused heavy damage in Japan's Tohoku region to the northeast of the capital, Tokyo. People described the violent shaking as going on for more than five minutes. Sizable aftershocks have continued to rock the area.
But this was not the worst of it, by far. A little more than 30 minutes after the quake, a huge ocean wave—tsunami—caused by the shaking of the ocean floor crashed onto the coastal area. The wave—30 feet or more high—quickly inundated cities, towns, and fishing villages, penetrating miles inland. While tsunami warnings had sounded and many did manage to escape to higher ground, many others did not get the warning or were not able to get to a safe place on time. Shocking and almost surreal videos of the powerful tsunami show whole houses, boats, cars, and huge amounts of unidentifiable debris being swept away.
The village of Minamisanriku used to have 17,000 people—in the days after the disaster, more than half were missing and feared dead. The whole port area of Sendai was flattened. Many other communities along the coast were heavily damaged. This was no slow-moving flow of water. One man in Minamisanriku described how, as he fled in his car at 45 miles per hour, he saw the huge tsunami behind him—and gaining on him.
As this is being written, the officially reported death toll is several thousand—but there is no question that the figure is going to rise much higher, perhaps into the many tens of thousands. There are vast stretches of debris fields many feet deep, and no one knows how many bodies are buried in them. More than 400,000 people have lost their homes and are living in emergency shelters. Supplies of water, food, and electricity have been scarce. And the night-time temperatures have been near or below freezing.
The 9.0 quake and the gigantic tsunami were, by themselves, disasters of horrific proportions. But that still has not been the end of the nightmare—not by far. About 75 miles south of Sendai is a nuclear power plant called Fukushima Daiichi, with six nuclear reactors. The quake and the tsunami knocked out electrical power to the station as well as the emergency generators. With only battery power, which ran out after a few hours, there was no way to keep the water circulating to cool the cores of nuclear material and control the nuclear reaction—which could lead to what is known as a "meltdown." Experts around the world are sounding urgent alarms about what's happening and warning that we are on the brink of a potentially unprecedented nuclear catastrophe. One expert said this could be a "Chernobyl on steroids"—a reference to the 1986 nuclear core meltdown and explosion at Chernobyl in the Ukraine (then part of the Soviet Union), which sent dangerous clouds of radiation over a widespread area and caused thousands, perhaps tens of thousands and more, deaths from cancer. Chernobyl had one reactor—the Japanese plant has six, all of which now seem to be in serious trouble.
In a matter of hours and days, "normal" everyday life for millions of people in Japan was shattered. As I write this, the situation could undergo dramatic developments very quickly. And there are many unknowns and unanswered questions, partly because of the unprecedented nature of the events but also because of deliberate attempts by the authorities to play down the situation and cover up the truth. I think there are a couple of points that can be noted about the whole situation.
1. The quake and tsunami that struck Japan's northeast coast was a devastating natural disaster. But the nuclear horror now threatening the Japanese people—and possibly many others in East Asia and beyond—is entirely a product of the capitalist system in effect in Japan. The company that owns and operates the Fukushima Daiichi plant, the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), is one of the world's largest non-government utility operators and has a notorious history with previous accidents and near-disasters. In 2002, some of its executives were forced to resign when it came out that the company had hidden evidence of cracks in the containment vessels at their nuclear reactors. In 2007, an earthquake damaged a TEPCO nuclear plant on the west coast of Japan, reportedly causing leaks of radioactive material. But the company was allowed by the government to start up the reactors at this plant again in 2009, over protests by anti-nuclear and environmental groups and people in the area.
According to a diplomatic communication that was among the documents recently released by WikiLeaks, an official from the International Atomic Energy Agency warned in 2008 that safety rules for Japanese nuclear power stations were seriously out of date and that a strong earthquake would pose a "serious problem." But the Japanese authorities ignored such warnings and mass opposition.
These outrages are not mainly a matter of government negligence or corporate greed. It may seem like an act of insanity to build extremely dangerous nuclear facilities on a known earthquake zone—and it is totally irrational, from the standpoint of the interests of humanity. But those in power in Japan—the capitalist-imperialist class and its state—are being driven by the necessities of their system. As part of their ceaseless striving to maximize profits—and in the face of other imperialists and rival powers who are doing the same—they pursue and utilize energy sources that serve those class interests. They don't—and they fundamentally can't—look at the long-term interests of the people of the world and act as guardians of the earth's ecosystems. Japan is an island country with no domestic sources of oil, and its rulers have been particularly intent on increasing their use of nuclear power, which now makes up a third of Japan's energy source. (Japan certainly is not the only country to build a significant number of nuclear plants; for example, there are over 100 in the U.S., including two right near major earthquake faults in California, and France gets some 80% of its energy from nuclear power plants.)
The so-called "dawn of the nuclear age" began with the U.S. atomic bombing of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which killed 200,000 people instantly—but the Japanese rulers have been promoting nuclear power as an "efficient" and "clean" source of energy. And, of course, the Japanese imperialists (like other imperialist powers) are also continuing to use massive amounts of coal and petroleum fuels that produce greenhouse gases and are accelerating global climate change. But if they didn't act in this way, they would be pushed aside and even pushed under by other imperialists and major rivals like China.
2. From the first days of this crisis, the Japanese authorities—hand-in-hand with TEPCO--have consistently tried to downplay the seriousness of the nuclear threat and to keep the truth from the people. For example, on the Democracy Now! program on March 16, Philip White, from the Citizens' Nuclear Information Center in Tokyo, said officials are covering up the seriousness of radiation already coming out of the damaged reactors: "They have repeatedly said that below...a dose of 100 millisieverts, there is no risk. Sometimes they qualify it by saying there's no immediate risk, which is perhaps technically accurate. But they have completely refused to point out that these lower levels of radiation are scientifically recognized—there's maybe some debate—but basically, the consensus is that there's—your risk is proportional to your dose. And that goes right down, you know, right down to the lowest doses. So, this notion that you're somehow or other safe below 100 millisieverts is—it's not recognized in the scientific community. The difference is that there's no—you're not going to get acute radiation sickness; you're looking more at long-term effects, such as cancer. But they have just refused to give that perspective, which—you know, that's getting to the point of being outright deceptive, I think."
Some news commentators "explain" that Japanese government officials are trying to avoid panicking the people. But the lies and cover-ups have nothing to do with genuine concern for the people. The Japanese state—the government, the police, and armed forces in particular—does not represent the real interests of the people but is an instrument of rule by the capitalist-imperialist class, and stands in fundamental antagonism against those who they rule over. This fundamental truth is what's guiding the overall way the Japanese state is responding to this disaster.
The Japanese government is not really mobilizing the initiative, determination, and creativity of the masses of people, scientists, and other experts to deal with this crisis. Instead, in many stricken areas, people have been left to passively wait for help or totally abandoned. A woman standing in the middle of the devastation in one town angrily told Al Jazeera, "There are old ladies coming and going around this dangerous area. The local government has not called for anything or told us what to do next. They're basically ignoring us. And they're basically telling us to clean up on our own. Nobody is coming here."
As the article, "A Global Disaster... A Necessary Response" (posted at revcom.us) says: "Humanity can't predict and control nature but effects of natural disasters don't have to be mediated through the existing social relations. People are being denied information about what is happening to them. People are being told to be 'orderly,' to obey the authorities. This is the exact worst way to handle something like this—people need to be informed and mobilized to deal with a disaster of this type, and history shows that when the normal social relations are suspended in such disasters the people almost always react by organizing themselves to deal with the situation... and the authorities always react by forcefully suppressing that. This must not happen."
A quake and tsunami of the magnitude and force that struck March 11 would have been devastating for any society. But the suffering of the people—and the potential for even greater horrors to hit the people and the environment—has been magnified many times over by the nature and workings of the capitalist-imperialist system.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #227 Online, March 21, 2011
A salute to Revolutionary Bob Avakian on his book "BASICS." I recall meeting Bob Avakian in the early, early days of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense while working on the BPP newspaper with Eldridge Cleaver, then the Minister of Information for the BPP. We worked out of his studio apartment in San Francisco, CA. Bob Avakian then a college student would come by often to converse with Eldridge on political issues, on many occasions I observed the conversations to be very intense at times, Eldridge always prodding and pushing Avakian to his limits with his responses. I'm sure from those conversations did help mold the student Bob Avakian into the Revolutionary leader and critical thinker he is. Bob Avakian thereafter would begin to talk at many BPP rallies on the issues of Liberation and Revolution which he unwavering continues to express in "BASICS." Bob Avakian continues to Educate to Liberate.
former Minister of Culture, Black Panther Party
Send us your comments.
Revolution #227 Online, March 21, 2011
We are happy to announce that $15,000 has been raised to cover the printing of BAsics in English and Spanish! April 5 is the official release date for the English edition with the Spanish edition soon to follow.
Plans are being made for broad advertising and promotion of the book. $15,000 more is needed to fund these efforts. Send in any ideas you have for national promotion that will help break BAsics out into the atmosphere.
Spread around the $200 challenge. Raising funds gives people a chance to learn about the book, learn about Bob Avakian, and learn about the movement for revolution... and support it. Send in your experience and learn from the other experiences that are posted.
Consider what it will mean for humanity for BAsics... to get out into the world! Get others involved and help make it happen.
All those who donate $100 or more will receive a free book hot off the press.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #227 Online, March 21, 2011
We received the following from a reader:
In a recent discussion of the RCP's new statement "On the Strategy for Revolution," someone observed that they had always thought of "accumulating forces" simply as winning people to become communists. Beyond that, they thought revolutionaries were mainly just seeking to create broad public opinion in favor of revolution and communism. This person is still relatively new to the movement for revolution, but I have observed that quite a few others—including veterans of this movement—still too much share in this same wrong conception of our strategy. For this reason, I felt it was important to compare and contrast two different approaches and where each of them lead.
To put it simply, winning people to become communists—and to join the Revolutionary Communist Party on that basis—is extremely important. So is creating broad public opinion for revolution and communism. But to think that is all that is meant by "accumulating forces" is both to envision a different—and far less realistic—strategy for revolution and to envision a different—and far drearier and less viable—vision of a new world.
Here are a couple of questions that sharpen this up.
When someone first encounters this revolution, when they first express an openness to learning about it, when they first find something attractive and inspiring about Bob Avakian and/or his re-envisionment of revolution and communism, when they step forward to fight the power or to contribute to the revolution in some other way, do we see this as a good thing to be worked with and learned from and transformed over time through an ongoing strategic relationship? Or, do we see those parts of the person's thinking and behavior that still reflects their lifetime of being trained and shaped by capitalism and decide that they really are a long way away from becoming a communist and so it's really hard to fit them into this movement?
This may sound like a no-brainer, but I have heard communists get frustrated that people who are relatively new still believe in god or don't really know how to explain to others what this revolution is about. I have even heard some communists complain that a person who is one of the first people in a certain neighborhood to start distributing Revolution newspaper is paying for the papers themselves and just giving them away rather than selling them!
Yes, we have to struggle with people to break with ways of thinking and acting that this system has trained them in... and yes, we have to train people in the full strategy of this revolution and enable them to act with increasing initiative... but to do any of this—and to do any of it in line with our strategic aims—we have to let people in to this revolution.
Are we seeking to learn everything we can from those who are beginning to step forward into this revolution and what clues this might offer as to potential pathways to bring forward others? Are we appreciating what a leap it is for people in society today to begin to relate to the movement for revolution and working together with them to develop forms that enable them to contribute in a meaningful way even as they learn more and get in deeper? Are we listening to—and learning from—the criticisms that people have, including about the "all or nothing" feeling they still too often get from us? And are we fighting for, and in line with, a society where everyone falls in line and carries out work in the same way, or are we really going for, and fighting in a way that reflects the kind of wild and woolly, vibrant and ferment-filled socialism that Bob Avakian has re-envisioned?
Further, do we really get that at the time of the all-out struggle for the seizure of power if there is going to be a real chance at winning the revolutionary movement will need to have organized into it many millions who are not communists? Do we get that while it is extremely important that a growing core of people do make the leap to becoming communists, no one can say in advance which people will travel that whole road? And, do we get that no one develops only through the work that we do with them, but rather through the whole multi-level reality that is influencing them which includes us, but also others who are themselves unevenly taking up this revolution, as well as the whole broader world?
When we make plans, do we comprehend the full scope of those who would want to contribute, in one way or another, and make sure that we are giving them opportunities to do so? Are we comprehending the ways that people with diverse views and levels of commitment coming together can actually create/unleash new energies? Are we building "we's" at all different levels... "we's" that interpenetrate with one another and create a whole greater than the sum of its parts?
If we are not finding the means to work with many different people who are at many different levels of political and ideological development, if we are not finding the ongoing ways to carry out ongoing political and ideological struggle with them, and if we are not increasingly developing the means for them to engage in this struggle together with each other, then almost no one will make this leap and even if they do they—and we—will still be very isolated and encircled by the broader non-revolutionary mood of society... as well as pretty brittle and dogmatic.
On the other hand, many people can make a meaningful contribution to the movement for revolution—including in influencing and reinforcing others towards this revolution—even as they themselves are still learning more and figuring out where they stand. This can mean things like giving money to particular efforts, helping to distribute Revolution newspaper or other materials, ushering at an event, inviting someone to make an announcement in their class, being part of fighting the power, and many other things. This can also mean things like raising their questions and reservations, offering their suggestions or their criticisms, and sharing with us the work and ideas they are passionate about.
A lot of this has to do with understanding how the concept of "solid core with a lot of elasticity" applies, and can be applied, to reality. I've emphasized here the elasticity—but this elasticity can only contribute on the basis of a solid core that is constantly expanding and deepening. To put it another way—none of what is talked about above can be unleashed in a way that can really contribute to revolution without the party being strengthened. The recently released RCP statement, "On the Strategy for Revolution," gives a great deal of emphasis to the importance of this in order to make revolution. Here's what it says, in talking about the work that has to be done now:
"To support and strengthen our Party as the overall leadership of this revolution. The more our Party's revolutionary viewpoint and strategy is spread and gains influence throughout society...the more that people come to understand and agree with what the Party is all about, and join its ranks on that basis...the more the Party's "reach" extends to every corner of the country...the greater its organizational strength and its ability to withstand and to lead people forward in the face of government repression aimed at crushing resistance and killing off revolution—the more the basis for revolution will be prepared and the more favorable the chance of winning."
It goes on from there to emphasize the need to "learn from the Chairman of our Party, Bob Avakian, spread the knowledge and influence of his pathbreaking leadership, and defend and protect this rare and precious leader," as well as the related need to "much more fully wield our Party's newspaper, Revolution." On the basis of doing and constantly strengthening this kind of work—on the basis of this solid core— we should be able to recognize the basis for and to do much better at unleashing all kinds of elasticity.
Finally, let's stop writing people off if they don't come around for a while. Are we only interested in those people who come forward in a straight line? Why not let's make much more systematic use of our newspaper—sign many more people up for the e-subs and get many more people to subscribe—while we encourage them at the same time to "get into Bob Avakian"... so that as they pursue other priorities and interests they are able to stay in touch... and to reconnect when events in the world cause them to think again.
With all this in mind, it is worth returning to, reflecting more deeply on, and really using as a guide for our practice the very broad invitation and challenge at the end of the Statement on Strategy:
"For those who have hungered for, who have dreamed of, a whole different world, without the madness and torment of what this system brings every day... those who have dared to hope that such a world could be possible... and even those who, up to now, would like to see this, but have accepted that this could never happen...there is a place and a role, a need and a means, for thousands now and ultimately millions to contribute to building this movement for revolution, in many different ways, big and small—with ideas and with practical involvement, with support, and with questions and criticisms. Get together with our Party, learn more about this movement and become a part of it as you learn, acting in unity with others in this country, and throughout the world, aiming for the very challenging but tremendously inspiring and liberating—and, yes, possible—goal of emancipating all of humanity through revolution and advancing to a communist world, free of exploitation and oppression."
Send us your comments.