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Revolution #244, August 28, 2011
|CHAPTER 1:||A WORLDWIDE SYSTEM OF
EXPLOITATION AND OPPRESSION
|Supplement:||Reform or Revolution
Questions of Orientation,
Questions of Morality
|CHAPTER 2:||A WHOLE NEW—AND FAR BETTER—WORLD|
|Supplement:||Three Alternative Worlds|
|CHAPTER 3:||MAKING REVOLUTION|
|Supplement:||On the Strategy for Revolution|
|CHAPTER 4:||UNDERSTANDING THE WORLD|
|Supplement:||"A Leap of Faith" and a Leap
to Rational Knowledge:
Two Very Different Kinds of Leaps,
Two Radically Different Worldviews and Methods
|CHAPTER 5:||MORALITY, REVOLUTION AND
THE GOAL OF COMMUNISM
|Supplement:||Beyond the Narrow Horizon of Bourgeois Right|
|CHAPTER 6:||REVOLUTIONARY RESPONSIBILITY
|Supplement:||The Revolutionary Potential of the Masses
and the Responsibility of the Vanguard
Send us your comments.
Revolution #244, August 28, 2011
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, whom the system has destined for oppression and oblivion even before they are born. I say no more of that.
Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible,
What It's All About, a film of a talk by Bob Avakian. Available at
revolutiontalk.net and in a DVD set from RCP Publications.
It is not uncommon to hear these days, from government officials and others, that only 1 percent of the population is in the U.S. military but that this 1 percent is fighting for the freedom of the other 99 percent. The truth, however, is this: That 1 percent, in the military, is in reality fighting for the other 1 percent: the big capitalist-imperialists who run this country—who control the economy, the political system, the military, the media, and the other key institutions—and who dominate large parts of the world, wreaking havoc and causing great suffering for literally billions of people. It is the "freedom" of these capitalist-imperialists—their freedom to exploit, oppress, and plunder—that this 1 percent in the military is actually killing and sometimes dying for.
Revolution #220, December 19, 2010
Let's get down to basics: We need a revolution. Anything else, in the final analysis, is bullshit.
Now, that doesn't mean we don't unite with people in all sorts of struggles short of revolution. We definitely need to do that. But the proffering of any other solution to these monumental and monstrous problems and outrages is ridiculous, frankly. And we need to be taking the offensive and mobilizing increasing numbers of masses to cut through this shit and bring to the fore what really is the solution to this, and to answer the questions and, yes, the accusations that come forth in response to this, while deepening our scientific basis for being able to do this. And the point is: not only do we need to be doing this, but we need to be bringing forward, unleashing and leading, and enabling increasing numbers of the masses to do this. They need to be inspired, not just with a general idea of revolution, but with a deepening understanding, a scientific grounding, as to why and how revolution really is the answer to all of this.
Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity – Part 2:
"Everything We're Doing Is About Revolution," Revolution #114, December 30, 2007
Religion is the doctrine of submission—blind obedience; Marxism of rebellion—ever more conscious rebellion.
Communists Are Rebels: A Letter from RCP Chairman Bob Avakian to His Parents on
Philosophy, Religion, Morals, and Continuous Revolution, 1980
There is not one human nature. There is not some uniform and unchanging way that everybody is and how everybody sees the world. Human nature has different meanings in different times and for different classes and groups in society.
Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible,
What It's All About, a film of a talk by Bob Avakian.
Available at revolutiontalk.net and in a DVD set from RCP Publications.
Marx said about the future world, the world of communism, that it will seem as ridiculous and outrageous for one part of society to privately own the land, and everything that goes along with that, as it now seems for one human being to own another.
Communism will mean that we have reached the point where the very idea that the way society should advance is for a few to benefit and then to proclaim that to be in the general interest of the society, where that idea will seem so ridiculous and outrageous that in a certain sense, to put it simply, it couldn't get a hearing.
"The Role of Dissent in a Vibrant Society," Observations on Art and Culture,
Science and Philosophy, 2005 (quote originally published 2004)
It is easy to have a society where a privileged intellectual elite has considerable freedom to grapple with ideas—as long as they stay within certain confines and don't fundamentally challenge the existing order....
The hard thing is turning all of this upside down without stifling the critical spirit, the wrangling over ideas and theories and so on. Because we have also seen from history that it might be quite easy to institute a kind of monolithic system where only a few ideas are allowed to be debated out and where there is not real critical thinking and dissent. And we have seen that, to the degree that this is a tendency in socialist society, it works against socialism, against the revolutionary transformation of society, against the advance to communism.
"The End of a Stage – The Beginning of a New Stage,"
Revolution magazine, Fall 1990
Let's imagine if we had a whole different art and culture. Come on, enough of this "bitches and ho's" and SWAT teams kicking down doors. Enough of this "get low" bullshit. And how come it's always the women that have to get low? We already have a situation where the masses of women and the masses of people are pushed down and held down low enough already. It's time for us to get up and get on up.
Imagine if we had a society where there was culture—yes it was lively and full of creativity and energy and yes rhythm and excitement, but at the same time, instead of degrading people, lifted us up. Imagine if it gave us a vision and a reality of what it means to make a whole different society and a whole different kind of world. Imagine if it laid out the problems for people in making this kind of world and challenged them to take up these problems. Imagine if art and culture too—movies, songs, television, everything—challenged people to think critically, to look at things differently, to see things in a different light, but all pointing toward how can we make a better world.
Imagine if the people who created art and culture were not just a handful of people but all of the masses of people, with all their creative energy unleashed, and the time were made for them to do that, and for them to join with people who are more full-time workers and creators in the realm of art and culture to bring forward something new that would challenge people, that would make them think in different ways, that would make them be able to see things critically and from a different angle, and would help them to be uplifted and help them to see their unity with each other and with people throughout the world in putting an end to all the horrors that we're taught are just the natural order of things. Imagine all that.
Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible,
What It's All About, a film of a talk by Bob Avakian,
excerpt transcribed in Revolution #176, September 13, 2009
Why am I—why is my body of work, and method and approach—important? Because this is bringing forward an advanced understanding, a heightened understanding, of what revolution and communism are all about and how to move toward the objective of revolution and communism, as well as a method for engaging and struggling through the contradictions that are inevitably going to be encountered in that process....
If we are in fact being guided by the scientific understanding that human society needs to, and can, advance to communism, that the struggle to achieve this objective must be the conscious act of masses of people, on the one hand, while at the same time this must have, and has no prospect of being realized without, leadership—leadership that, in relation to this goal, embodies the most advanced understanding and methodology—and that what is concentrated in this person, yes, but most fundamentally in the body of work and method and approach of Bob Avakian represents that leadership; then what flows naturally from that is the recognition that this is something the masses of people must be made aware of and acquainted with, and must take up as their own, with the understanding of how crucial it is, in terms of their own fundamental interests and ultimately the highest interests of humanity as a whole. As a document of our Party on the question of revolutionary leadership emphasizes:
"the fact that certain individual revolutionaries emerge as a concentration of this process, and themselves become a concentrated expression of the best qualities of revolutionary leadership—including a selfless dedication to the revolutionary cause and deep love of the masses, as well as a strong grasp of the scientific methodology needed to unleash the masses and chart the path of revolution in line with their objective interests—then the existence of such an individual leader or leaders is not something to lament but something to welcome and celebrate! It is part of the people's strength."
Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity – Part 2:
"Everything We're Doing Is About Revolution," Revolution #115, January 13, 2008
If you want to know about, and work toward, a different world—and if you want to stand up and fight back against what's being done to people—this is where you go. You go to this Party, you take up this Party's newspaper, you get into this Party's leader and what he's bringing forward.
Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity – Part 2:
"Everything We're Doing Is About Revolution," Revolution #116, January 20, 2008
If you have had a chance to see the world as it really is, there are profoundly different roads you can take with your life. You can just get into the dog-eat-dog, and most likely get swallowed up by that while trying to get ahead in it. You can put your snout into the trough and try to scarf up as much as you can, while scrambling desperately to get more than others. Or you can try to do something that would change the whole direction of society and the whole way the world is. When you put those things alongside each other, which one has any meaning, which one really contributes to anything worthwhile? Your life is going to be about something—or it's going to be about nothing. And there is nothing greater your life can be about than contributing whatever you can to the revolutionary transformation of society and the world, to put an end to all systems and relations of oppression and exploitation and all the unnecessary suffering and destruction that goes along with them. I have learned that more and more deeply through all the twists and turns and even the great setbacks, as well as the great achievements, of the communist revolution so far, in what are really still its early stages historically.
From Ike to Mao and Beyond: My Journey from Mainstream America
to Revolutionary Communist, A Memoir by Bob Avakian, 2005
Send us your comments.
Revolution #244, August 28, 2011
Cornel West, professor, public intellectual, activist: I want to say a word about my dear brother Bob Avakian. He has a deep love for the poor people and even as a Jesus loving free Black man, I love that brother. He bears witness, he's willing to pay a cost and, thank God, we've got his text now of writings that provide us an analysis of how we think about this mess in which we find ourselves... People are suffering, working people are being debased and it's time for us to straighten our backs up and brother Bob Avakian is one of the voices, one of the very important voices.
Prisoner in California: I want to urge everybody out there to get their hands on this book and to help get it into the hands of others, not just prisoners, but into the hands of youth who are in danger of becoming prisoners themselves. There are kids out there who actually know that life in prison could be part of their foreseeable future. I know because I was one of those kids. Get this book into their hands now before they end up in a cell next to mine for hurting someone in their own community. Direct them to BAsics 3:16, show them there's another way and bring them forward. Help them unlock their potential and give them a sense of purpose that doesn't involve killing each other. Give them an alternative to the criminal lifestyle that doesn't involve conforming to this horrid system. That is what they need, that is what they ache for. They want to rebel, they just have to be introduced to the correct way to do so. Put them on the path to becoming communists...
University student: I bought it expecting to disagree with a lot of it, but even the opening chapters have really been very lucid and provocative, with glaring parallels to the driving ideas behind veganism which I'm much more familiar with...You start reading it and it's like "the emperor has no clothes."
Bill Laswell, musician and producer: BAsics is the fundamentals of how things really are, if you choose to see it. Sometimes the truth can be in plain sight but you need someone to bring it out. Bob Avakian has done that.
Prisoner: I believe that a book like BAsics is very important, because it provides people with a scientific understanding of the world in which we live in; as well as, with a vision of a different and better world. When I talk to people about BAsics I tell them to think about it in the following way. "Let's say you're sick and you want to get rid of the sickness, first, you have to know what the sickness is. In this way, you'll know what steps you have to take to get rid of the sickness. So, if you identify the sickness as a cough, then you know that you're going to need cough medicine to get rid of the cough. In this case, capitalism is the sickness and B.A. and his synthesis is the medication to the sickness." It's a crude analogy, but it helps in getting people to understand why a book like "BAsics" is so important.
Dongping Han, political scientist, author of The Unknown Cultural Revolution: Bob Avakian's book is soul searching. It is powerful and courageous. If we want to have a better world in the future, we have to face our past, and we have to understand what we are doing in the world today cannot be sustained.
Revolutionary communist youth: All the teens and 20-somethings who are desperately searching for something more meaningful in their lives than another hazy, chaotic, and forgotten weekend—they need to know about Bob Avakian and the party he leads. The youth in high school—from those who have never been given the opportunity to dream, to those even in the most elite institutions who see the futility and apathy of a school system designed to socialize and confine, rather than educate and liberate their minds—they need to know about Bob Avakian. For those of us in my generation who are already in and around this, it's our responsibility to let them know about BA, the BAsics, and to bring them in to changing the world.
Erin Aubry Kaplan, journalist and author: I hope he gets number one Amazon.com. We need to get this kind of word, this kind of conversation out into—it needs to be disseminated, it needs to be in the mainstream more. We got to stop thinking that this kind of stuff just belongs at the very, very fringe of society... Everyone should hear it, you don't have to necessarily agree with it but, my god, it needs a place at the media table... A lot of say Black people are still vested in integrating into the mainstream, they're still very trained on that, that's what they want to do. But I think you just need to introduce to folks—just pass it [BAsics] out, maybe at the subway, on the street level. And I think BAsics is a great way to do it because it's like the quotable Bob Avakian. It's like pieces of stuff but they all add up. And like you could read a little bit at a time, you don't have to invest the time to read the entire book. But you could actually open the page at any point and get something out of it. I think it's a great format and good for popular reading. I think it's actually a really good way to disseminate everything he's about. So I think it's an important step.
Prisoner: Upon receiving BAsics and becoming totally engrossed in the talks and writing of Bob Avakian, my cellmate, a 21-year-old first termer, inquired about the book. After explaining to him my limited expertise about the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, I allowed him to read a chapter for later discussions. This we did until we both completed the book, and now we conduct discussion seminars on the yard for all who are interested. The number of prisoners attending grows steadily and I have even been called into the Captain's office and asked to control the size of the crowds. I now have a waiting list of prisoners waiting to read BAsics and it is very evident that your perspectives and viewpoints convey your messages.
reg E. gaines, poet and playwright: Basic as the voice, the words, the simple yet inexplicable thoughts of Bob Avakian, who may have the blueprint, the recipe, the undeniable common sense socialist solution necessary for our ever growing global community to make real change.
Prisoner in Alabama: This book has to be put into the hands of the rappers or the youth must demand that the rappers read it. So this information can spread like a wildfire. For the youth to get involved in the reading of the BAsics, it has to be made the cool or hot thing to do.
Herb Boyd, professor, journalist, and author: One doesn't need a B.A. or a bachelor's degree to understand or to grasp the essential meaning of the lessons delivered in Bob Avakian's latest book, BAsics... As in most of his books and columns in "Revolution"—the Revolutionary Communist Party's paper from which much of BAsics is derived—the writing is clear, the analogies simply conceived to breakdown complex issues, and the content absolutely relevant.
Prisoner in Midwest: Today Aug. 3rd was a most wonderful day for the four of us inmates here at the YY Correctional Center. First to be honest we didn't think yous were going to send us the book BAsics by it being new cause we assumed yous had to gain back your expenses first, but wow, we are truly overwhelmed and at a lose for words and words can't express the joy and gratitude We feel but our appreciation is off the charts so to speak.
William Parker, musician: I think people should read the book. And again, it's a stimulator. It has a lot of historical facts, information, not so much just blaming, but it sort of inspires you to begin to investigate. Now, you don't have to read the book and say, "OK, because Bob Avakian said, this is true." He's mirroring what happened. He's mirroring a tale. He's mirroring an idea. So you can say, OK, imperialism. So what is imperialism? Bob Avakian says imperialism is the cause of all the troubles in the world. So you investigate it. And then you find out what he's saying is true.
Lynne Stewart, Lawyer: Since that day we have all been called upon as Progressive Leftists to protest and support more causes than even we could have imagined—now, the U.S. has three wars on far-flung battlefields and those are only the ostensible ones; torturing our "enemies" has been confronted but is largely ignored and our Iscariot president has perpetrated his lies over the non-closing of Guantánamo but not ending the practice of torture. Through all of this, and there is more to come, the Revolutionary Communist Party has been in the vanguard. I am sure, given the new impetus of the book BAsics, that movement will gather strength. I am looking forward to reading it!
Emory Douglas, Revolutionary Artist, former Minister of Culture, Black Panther Party: 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...Bob Avakian continues to Educate to Liberate.
Prisoner: [W]hen I read Bob Avakian's latest book called BAsics recently, it put a wide smile on my face because the title of it couldn't have been more appropriate. As BAsic as it may be for those with a longer history and background in studying the subject of communism, that's what makes this book so profound and significant to me. There's no question in my mind, that its simplicity will be the start of many people coming to see the world as it actually is for the first time in their life and proactively taking up a communist world outlook and methodology, with the intent on changing the world for the better. And to me that's what it's all about anyways.
Richard Brown: I want to say to the young people, please get this book. Get it. Young people, you have to get it... When I was in the Black Panther Party, we used the Red Book as a means of uniting a whole community, and uniting each other. We read that book every night in the Black Panther office, we took it to the street corners and some nights we would go into the communities to people in our community, we'd go in their living room, and we'd have block parties to bring the community together and read from the Red Book. It united us, it gave us principles, it taught us how to work together and we did everything we could in order to bring about a revolution. That's what this country needs and that's what we have to do. We have to have a revolution.
Carl Dix, founding member, Revolutionary Communist Party: For those in the ghettos and barrios across the U.S. who have had it with modern day slavery and are willing to get scientific about the source and the solution to the problems humanity faces, for students and youth who are willing to confront the horrors this system forces people to endure and to act to end them, for everyone agonizing over the state of the world and wondering whether something better could be brought into being—I urge you to get into this book.
Prisoner: I like the concept of having a bunch of B.A.'s writing in one place. A long time ago I used to cut out his articles from the paper and save them, but then I realized they were starting to pile up so I had to get rid of them. It's not feasible to save newspapers indefinitely in prison cause your cell will start to look like a junk yard, and, as you probably know, prisoners are limited in how much property we can have. This book, however, allows for you to have some of his best writing all together in one compact disk—so to speak. Plus, you don't have to sit around and read it straight through. You can jump around to different parts and browse on your spare time, just like you can with Mao's Little Red Book—which is fitting since B.A. has picked up the torch from him, and both books even have their images/pictures in them.
Aladdin, actor and playwright: I know a lot of the quotes in BAsics... Each time that Bob Avakian talks you really engage because he's really uncovering the truth. And like I say, the great thing about the truth is that you don't have to remember lies. Everything that Bob says is all facts so what really caught my attention is that I think he was trying to make people understand that the way that we learn the history of America is full of lies. And what he's trying to embark on is a movement that if we can embrace the truth and know the past and acknowledge that we've been lied to then revolution is realistic because we can approach what is clearly a lie and approach it with truth. And the great thing about truth is that is one of the ways you can get people's attention. And I think it can mobilize because people identify when they've been lied to. So when I heard Bob Avakian I knew that it was something that I was definitely interested in because it was based on truth.
Maggie Brown, singer: I'm new to Avakian and his quotes, but I'm impressed by him. His language and ability to state it real plain. And so far what I've read of the book, I agree with a lot of things that he says, the situation of Black people and so forth. And I think the book, his quotations, it's like sometimes people feel a certain way but they don't know how to articulate it. He's articulated some things that are needed and makes it accessible, more tangible. Sometimes the voiceless need a voice, they know it's wrong but they don't know how to say it in a way that can be heard and comprehended... It's so deep. I did get into the pages—the quote that says, "if you can conceive of a world without America,"—get your head around that. Then that's a baby step that's a necessary thing. It is hard to do, your mind fills with all kinds of question—what would you do... how would this happen, what about this? We've been so damn indoctrinated, we're so damn used to things.
Prisoner in Midwest: Why is BAsics so important for this generation? Well, "the essential question is not 'thinking for yourself,' but thinking according to what method—a correct or incorrect one—leading to what basic result—truth or falsehood." BAsics does just that, but in the most accessible way for the masses to grasp, while making it their own...I've already received and read my copy of BAsics. It's definitely a handbook for my generation and the youth coming up. I'm certainly promoting it as much as my influence will allow me behind these walls. ...
Nicholas Heyward Sr., father of Nicholas Jr. who was murdered by NYPD cop in 1994: I remember hearing Bob Avakian talking about Revolution and speaking up for poor people. And I love how he speaks the truth about what's going on and backs it up with facts, and mixes in a little humor. In today's fucked up world, I need what Bob Avakian brings to the situation—the whole world does.
Matthew Shipp, musician: I come at it from a little different angle, but what impressed me about Bob's work was an openness and a non-doctrinaire attitude. He always talks about a firm center and elasticity, and the fact that he talks about how revolutionaries have to have a poetic spirit. So I think freeing imagination is one reason we go into music, poetry, dance or whatever, and I really feel that the way he approaches things leaves a lot of things open for all kinds of possible syntheses and things to happen that you can't maybe pinpoint, but if we have a situation where people's imaginations can be unleashed, lord knows how things can evolve and come into being....So basically all that is to say that what I really liked about his work is that he approaches things in a non-dogmatic way. And at the same time he recognizes all the failures that have happened in revolution in the past. We have to learn from all the mistakes in the past but that should not close your mind to the fact that something better can emerge in the future.
Letter to the Hood
To all the fellas in the hood
Yeah, I'm talking about you, dude
Sittin' around in a bad mood
Walkin' around acting all rude
If only you had the BAsics
Then you'd know your actions are without basis
That they only serve to make the man feel safest
When he knows he has you at your tamest
Watching as you take it out on each other
Instead of acting like that homeboy's your brother
It's no longer even a wonder
Why we're all still asunder
Maybe if my generation had a B.A. degree
Then we'd all be outside and free
It sounds that simple, don't you agree?
What are you waiting for then, an RCP decree?
You already know that this place ain't no fun
That there's more important things to be done
It's not like you're a coward choosing to run
Just 'cause you realize life's much brighter under the sun
And that you'd rather sacrifice for a noble cause
Than to live out some T.V. fantasy from "Oz"
So think real hard and take a pause
'Cause ride or dying in the hood won't get you applause
It'll just turn you into an afterthought in someone's memory
While you waste away in the penitentiary
Adding to the fodder of some reactionary
'Cause you chose to live the life of a criminal than a revolutionary
By Prisoner at Pelican Bay
June 27, 2011
Send us your comments.
Revolution #244, August 28, 2011
What you have in your hands is a taste of BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian. This book is a powerful concentration of the work of Bob Avakian, who 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.
Get into BAsics! This book is for everybody who is straining to understand why the world we live in is the way it is. And it is for everyone who dreams of changing that world. Buy this book... dip into it... go deeper... engage it. And talk about it with other people.
Get BAsics out into the world! As you read and discuss BAsics — as you "get into" it — get it to others. And...
Get connected with this movement for revolution! See if there is a Revolution Books in your area. Talk to people who are part of this movement. Share your questions and thoughts. Or email this newspaper. Read, subscribe to and spread Revolution newspaper.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #244, August 28, 2011
Bob Avakian has dedicated his life since the 1960s to the cause of revolution and communism. He is the Chairman of the RCP, USA. While providing practical leadership to the Party and the revolutionary movement, he has deeply studied and summed up the world historical experience of the communist revolution and the socialist societies it has brought into being—the great achievements and the serious problems and errors—and has studied many other fields of human experience and knowledge. He has advanced the science of communism and made decisive breakthroughs in the theory, method, and strategy of revolution and the final goal of communism throughout the world. It is crucial for growing numbers of people to know about and study his talks and writings...to defend and protect him...to take up the leadership he is providing, which opens new pathways for revolution.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #244, August 28, 2011
at www.revcom.us/basics or at amazon.com
or send $10 + $3.98 shipping/handling/tax to:RCP Publications, PO Box 3486, Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654.
For bulk rates: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more go to bobavakian.net.
BAsics eBook coming October 2011.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #244, August 28, 2011
Outrageous Verdict in Rockford Illinois!
After an 18-month vendetta by the Winnebago County State's Attorney against Shelia and Marissa Brown—the brave witnesses to the Rockford police murder of Mark Anthony Barmore—the State's Attorney got a conviction against Marissa Brown. On August 17, a jury found her guilty of three felony counts of lying to police in an unrelated case in which she was charged with filing a false report. This case stemmed from an incident when Marissa was in high school and reported that she was held at gunpoint by a man who came into the school bathroom.
On August 24, 2009, the police with guns drawn chased 23-year-old Barmore into the basement of the Kingdom Authority church, where Marissa and her mother, Shelia, a pastor at the church, shielded the children present in the day care there. Marissa, just 17 years old at the time, courageously told the truth about how she had witnessed the police murder Barmore after they trapped him in a boiler room. "He came out real slow with his hands up and his head down, and they shot him." (See previous coverage of the case at revcom.us, including "Outrage as Grand Jury Approves Police Murder of Mark Anthony Barmore.")
Yet Marissa is the one who was brought up on felony charges! Charges were lodged by the same police department whose officers she was to testify against in the Barmore case. And Marissa is the one found guilty of serious crimes after the State's Attorney put a parade of "testi-liars" on the stand in this trial (and showed a videotape which repeatedly skipped significant chunks of time, thereby proving nothing), while the State's Attorney made sure that the killer cops who murdered Barmore were exonerated and walked scot-free.
This trial took place in the wake of a whole reactionary onslaught: a rally of a thousand people—almost all white—in support of the killer cops, along with horrible racist comments in the media, racist graffiti of guns with bullets coming out of them, and racist threats aimed at the Barmore and Brown families. All this in turn followed on the heels of large protests drawing in thousands of people, predominantly Black but also white and Latino, expressing their anger at how the killer cops snuffed out Barmore's life.
The courtroom was packed throughout this trial with people supporting Marissa, including her family, others from the Black community in Rockford, and members of a coalition of clergy who had unsuccessfully met with State's Attorney Joe Bruscato to get the whole case against Marissa thrown out pretrial. All were horrified and outraged at this wantonly cruel verdict of "guilty, guilty, guilty" coming down on this young woman.
Reverend Bob Griffin, president of Rockford Renewal Ministries, said of the verdict, "One, it doesn't encourage the black community that there is reasonable justice or mercy in the system. Secondly, for a young girl to go through this and have this on her personal record about lying or not lying—that is really a tragedy for her future, and she is a very smart girl."
Steve Muhammad, an activist with the New Life Movement, denounced the entire case against Marissa as retaliation against Marissa, her mother and her father, Apostle Melvin Brown of Kingdom Authority, for seeking justice for the police murder of Mark Anthony Barmore.
On September 27, Marissa must appear before the Judge for sentencing. She, along with her mother, is already facing previous charges of contempt of court stemming from the Barmore case. Now Marissa could be punished with up to three years' imprisonment on these felony counts.
By persecuting Marissa on these "unrelated" charges of lying to police, the authorities are discrediting her as a witness to the police murder of Barmore. They are also taking revenge against her and her parents and all those who courageously rose up against police murder in Rockford. And they are sending a message of intimidation to people broadly in society as well. "If you are Black, you can be shot down and killed by anyone with a gun and a badge. Anywhere. Even in a church, and while unarmed. And there is nothing you can do about it. Don't dare to raise your voice and speak the truth. Don't even think to step out into the street in protest. Because if you do, we will not only come after you but we will destroy your children!
This is NOT acceptable! We cannot let this happen to this young woman! People need to step forward and visibly show their support. Let's join together and create a huge outcry that can reach to the sentencing hearing with support for Marissa Brown!
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
1) Send an email and get your friends to send a flood of emails to:
Judge Rosemary Collins: c/o email@example.com
State's Attorney Joseph Bruscato: firstname.lastname@example.org
You must send your email to both Judge Collins and the State's Attorney or it may be disregarded by the judge. Sample email or draft your own: "I denounce the outrageous verdict against Marissa Brown! I strongly urge that Marissa Brown not be given jail time but be given the most lenient sentence possible. Ms. Brown is a courageous young woman who inspires those seeking justice for victims of police murder and a better world."
2) Send a copy of your email to:
Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, Chicago Branch
c/o Revolution Books
1103 N. Ashland
Chicago, Illinois 60622
3) For more information and to give your ideas write to the same address.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #244, August 28, 2011
"Undocumented and Unafraid!"
From readers in Atlanta:
In the weeks leading up to the July 1 implementation of Georgia's fascist, anti-immigrant law (HB87), a refreshing wave of youth resistance fearlessly hit the streets. In a time when far too many are passively waiting for change, these youth, many of whom are undocumented, have taken part in courageous acts of resistance against HB87.
On June 27, a federal judge blocked parts of the law that penalize people who transport or harbor illegal immigrants. He also blocked provisions that authorize police officers to verify the immigration status of someone who can't provide proper identification. Despite this partial and temporary success in the courts, the youth recognized the need to continue the fight against the many other repressive measures contained in the bill. On June 28, hundreds of students and youth of many nationalities gathered at Georgia's capitol building to speak out against the bill. Following the speak-out, nearly 200 youth blocked the intersection in front of the capitol for nearly 45 minutes, surrounding and protecting a group of six undocumented students who were all wearing caps and gowns. The cap and gown signifies opposition to the Georgia Regents ban on undocumented students from the state's top five universities (where only 27 undocumented students attend). The crowd chanted "Undocumented and Unafraid!" as they locked arms trying to prevent police from arresting the six undocumented students (ages 16-24). As the cops moved in, handcuffed, and arrested the six students, the crowd broke into chant, "Who do you protect? Who do you serve?"
Despite their arrests, the students have continued to organize and have formed a group called Georgia Undocumented Youth Alliance (GUYA). Recently, several distributors of Revolution were able to sit down with a group of undocumented students and their supporters. The youth shared their stories and this is some of what we learned:
There were very different experiences being undocumented and growing up in this country from an early age. One recent high school graduate, who came to Georgia when he was nine years old and grew up in the suburbs where there weren't many other immigrant families, said he generally knew he was undocumented in his early years. His family joked about being undocumented but he never took it seriously until he wanted to get a driving learner's permit in 10th grade. Many of his friends were getting their permits, however his mom told him he couldn't because he didn't have the necessary papers. In high school the impact of not having papers really hit him. Most of his friends had been accepted to college and many were leaving in the fall. He lamented that he could not go to college because Georgia had banned undocumented students from the top five universities and he was unable to afford the expensive out of state tuition at the others. As his friends left to pursue their degrees, he felt alone and depressed.
A young woman, who crossed the border with her mom when she was three years old and lived in Los Angeles, was very aware that there was something different about her, but she didn't understand what it was. She was sent with her grandmother to live in New York when she was still little because it was "safer" there. She eventually moved back to California where her mother home schooled her. She described the constant harassment and fear of the Border Patrol in her neighborhood. Her mother feared letting her go to the public school because of the threat of deportation by la Migra who were going through their apartment complex regularly. Her mother encouraged her to assimilate and speak without an accent; she wanted her to try to fit in as an American as much as possible. When she finally convinced her mom to let her go to school in 10th grade, she found herself an outcast. She recalled feeling that she "wasn't Mexican enough for the Mexicans and wasn't American enough for the Americans." Feeling out of place, she ate her lunch by herself in the bathroom for the first three months of school.
Another young man called his experience "being undocumented twice." While his mom was still pregnant with him, his father had come to Georgia to find work to be able to support the family. His father became a migrant worker and the rest of the family was able to come here five years later. Through the amnesty program, his father eventually became a citizen, which extended citizenship to him as well. But he had gotten involved in gang life and spent much of his youth in jails, eventually finding himself in prison for five years. The prison authorities claimed he was undocumented and started the deportation process. He fought deportation and through studying the law while in prison and with the help of an attorney, he proved he actually was a citizen. He prevented deportation, but for retribution the prison officials kept him in prison until the last day of his full original sentence. When he got out of prison, he faced the "New Jim Crow" affect of not being able to get a job due to being a convicted felon. Now he faces the burden of oppression as an immigrant and a convicted felon.
One person described how it feels to be undocumented this way: "The media has done a good job of portraying undocumented people as illegal, being a burden on the system, not paying taxes. People who are undocumented are looked down upon as criminals, not contributing to society. It's actually the opposite... It makes you feel unwanted, unneeded—trying to send you back to a country that sometimes you don't even know. It can be depressing and really lower your self esteem."
There was a common theme among all the youth that for a long time they thought they were the only ones going through what they were going through. They felt isolated and all alone. Many described forming bonds with teachers that helped them through. They each discovered that they weren't the only ones through different means, but when they came to that understanding, they all were compelled to fight for change and let others know that they're not alone either.
The young woman who grew up in California got an opportunity to go to college there through a church-based refugee program. Once in college, she got involved in social justice activism on campus, at first avoiding immigrant rights issues because of conflicting feelings about her identity.
The young man who spent time in prison actually became socially and politically conscious while in prison. He said, "The whole experience of being in prison for me was actually positive, because it opened my eyes to see the different injustices people suffer. It really helped put our society in perspective and the need for people to be engaged with the community and the social injustices that happen to people from all different backgrounds and cultures."
These activists have an appreciation of the significance of their role in the resistance. And they want to tell their stories and let everyone understand the fundamental injustice of what undocumented youth are up against in this country. There is an acute awareness and understanding that youth, historically, have been on the front lines of change. Many still have hopes of reform and are seeking solutions within the system. However, the escalation of reactionary attacks on immigrants by the Georgia legislature and the federal government has shown the need for independent political action. One person described the role of HB87 and its impact on the community, "HB87 is really being used as a scare tactic, to instill fear in people. To cause people to not speak out, keep quiet and run away from the situation." Despite the threats coming down from the legislature, the youth's resistance has been uncompromisingly bold. They have come out fearlessly announcing that they are "undocumented and unafraid," putting themselves at great risk and boldly challenging others to act.
Another youth described the critical role of youth at this moment, "If you look at the civil rights movement, there was always the point when the youth got involved, and that's when the message got out to people. With Obama, a lot of people were disappointed that he wasn't able to do anything, or he didn't do anything about it. People are getting restless; people want to see something done. It's been years, and nothing's been done. Just to see the youth stand up, and actually bring awareness to college students in general, and nationwide, is very exciting."
Send us your comments.
Revolution #244, August 28, 2011
Letter from Prisoner
The following letter from a prisoner was sent to the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund:
June 29th 2011
The [Revolution newspaper we get from] PRLF has taken on the not so monumental task of revolutionizing those of us held captive in the dungeons of this capitalist system. The PRLF [literature] has not only introduced me to the humanization of communist thought, theory & righteous practice through the teachings of Comrade Bob, but it has enlightened me to the knowledge of self by giving me a true look at my history & culture and the struggle that my people have endured throughout our existence in this capitalist system.
In my youth I was actively engaged in the genocidal destructive ways that are so prevalent in our communities so I wholeheartedly overstand the feelings of emptiness and going nowhere-ness that this sinking & stinking system can instill in someone who comes from nothing but please believe me there is a different world. There is opportunity to be seized! You must revolutionize yourself by first recognizing your humanity and your people's humanity as well as all other people's humanity.
I was not afforded the chance to pursue higher education. At 17 the judge & jury decided my college campus was going to be the level 4 yards of California. All you young conscious collegiate students grappling with how to get involved in the struggle for humanity. Check out comrade Bob, his program is sound and righteous. Those campuses can easily guide you to be part of this foul system we currently live under. You must pull your revolutionary rebellious spirit all the way to the left pass Barack Obama and those who prop up this failing capitalist system.
Power to the people who don't fear freedom.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #244, August 28, 2011
Letter from Prisoner
The following letter from a prisoner was sent to the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund:
Pelican Bay, 6-24-11
Greetings an upraised fist goes out to you all!
I recently received the new book BAsics and really dug its content. Over the years while reading Revolution newspaper I have been able to build my understanding of the society we live under here in America. While growing up in the 'hood all one knows is being poor broke and hungry is "just the way it is," gangbanging becomes a release for the anger that consumes those in the ghetto, and ultimately prison is where we end up and yet don't know why we got here. The truth is this society is not set up in our interests and it doesn't have to be this way, it's this way because too many people are focusing on "coming up," on hanging on the street corner or chasing that high and taking their eye off the prize and not creating a Revolutionary environment wherever they are at!
I call on the youth to imagine an environment where over the dinner table parents and children discuss Lenin's contributions to today's struggles. Imagine going to school and your class is studying Karl Marx in economics class and learning to apply a Marxist analysis of today's current economic crisis. Imagine after school all those spots, street corners, parks and parking lots where young people hang out holding up the wall, imagine those spots being transformed into places where you discuss and learn about those groups back in the days like the Young Lords, Black Panthers and Brown Berets who were mostly people from the 'hood who grew up just like you who made that leap to fight the oppressive society and transform their hoods into Revolutionary zones. Imagine a whole generation in a 'hood gathering to learn about Revolution and being apart of building Revolution today. Nobody is going to force you to grasp Revolution it must be one's own choice to make that leap but the time is here for the second wave of homegrown Revolutionaries, a wave like we seen or read about back in the 60s. Young people today have so much more resources at hand that were not in existence in the 60s, things like the internet and technology needs to be harnessed to help the youth capture their moment in history.
So many people hook up for all the wrong reasons that amount to nothing whether in relationships or to engage in negative behavior but young people should be hooking up for Revolution and show the older generation how it can be done today!
The same Rage and Determination spent on repping your hood or turf should be put into repping the revolution.
The same knack for spitting them verbs to holla at that female or male should be used to bring more folks into Revolution, the same energy and gift of gab you may have thought you had to 'come up' and 'hustle' on the street corner should be used to raise money and create projects toward building the Revolution. Young people come with so many naturally gifted abilities that have been learned and honed from necessity of being born into a "sink or swim" thinking society and it is these survival tools that will contribute and make it possible for Revolution to be successful in Amerika. Because to honestly say how important the young people are I will say there will be no revolution without the participation of the youth!
Those youth who find themselves on college campuses will go on to enter all levels of this society's work force and it is through your energy and input that will rebuild this society into a socialist one built in the people's interest. College students have always been at the forefront, Mao himself came out of the student movement and Blossomed to a Revolutionary. College campuses like prisons are places where people are often exposed to ideas outside the normal American Imperialist view for the first time in their lives and so colleges like prisons are fertile grounds for Revolution. It is in colleges like prisons where people first start paying attention to World events and how everything they been told about this country being land of the free etc are lies. But college students shouldn't just "go with the flow" but should do all they can to raise the conscious of their college campus and not wait for others as being a leader sometimes amounts to who stands up first in a situation.
College students today face the effects of Imperialism with student tuition costing so much. Some will be paying off student loans for decades after graduation making some students to be forced to take two jobs to survive and gain an education in America. But what kind of system makes it next to impossible to be educated? What kind of system will end ethnic studies which is basically classes that teach history of minorities in America as is being done in the Southwest? And what kind of system fires college professors who speak truth of the history of America as was done to Ward Churchill the Native Professor?
This is a system that only operates and was built to uphold the future of the white ruling class, this handful of wealthy elite sets the agenda for America domestically and its foreign policy, this bloody policy is what college students should not be going along with and it is precisely this reason that young people should get ahold of Revolutionary literature, study it, discuss it with others and contribute to building a movement for Revolutionary society to take root in America.
I do this from within the penitentiary and the "hole" where I was placed years ago for Revolutionary activity while in general population, for this the prison singled me out and unleashed the repression that must have existed in Nazi Germany and still I rise. So if I can continue my efforts even while being placed in chains every time I leave my cell and held in an ossuary [depository for the bones of the dead] for 23 hours a day, if I can continue I ask the youth to show that there is one receptive ear out there and that our efforts are not in vain!
Liberate your mind and hook up with the Revolution! Power to the people!
Send us your comments.
Revolution #244, August 28, 2011
From Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund
The letters from prisoners that appear in Revolution newspaper—like the one below—are hand-written and mailed to the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund (PRLF) or Revolution and then typed into electronic form by volunteers around the country. (For more letters go to www.prlf.org.) As dedicated and determined as these volunteers are, their efforts have been outstripped recently by the number of letters prisoners are writing—their thinking about fast-moving events in the world, about articles in Revolution newspaper or the new book BAsics, other books they are reading, insights on religion, culture and philosophy, about the prisoners' hunger strike in California, etc. You will be challenged, educated and inspired by these letters. To volunteer, email email@example.com and write in the subject line "Volunteer to type." No matter where you are, as long as you have access to the Internet, whether you can spend an hour every couple of weeks or more time, your stepping up to help will make a real difference.
Greetings in solidarity! I've been receiving Revolution for a while now. I relish each new issue. Revolution newspaper is my weekly dose of revolutionary reality.
I am doing an AODA drug program here in the prison. Recently the subject of domestic violence, sex roles, and male dominance came up. After the group I was re-reading the June 12th issue of Revolution, when I came upon the center feature about "Rape and A World of Violent Domination." I knew I had to share it with the other prisoners in my AODA group.
I approached my AODA counselor with the idea of doing a presentation about "Male Domination and its effect on women and society." I was surprised when he was fully supportive and told me I could come up with the presentation and run the group for one day.
My presentation went great. I taped the feature from Revolution up on the board and presented to my fellow prisoners many ideas that they had never considered before; namely that "women are not breeders, lesser beings, or objects created for the sexual pleasure of men, that when women are held down all of humanity is held back." I could see the shock on the other men's faces as I shared the statistics "one in three women and girls is sexually abused or beaten in her lifetime" and all the others.
Men who only the day before had argued that male domination over women was "the natural order" suddenly began to see the horrors that these societal views force onto women and girls. The men I most suspected would dispute and argue against me began to ask questions like "what can I do to stop this violence against women?" and "How can I teach my young son to treat women as equals?"
I'm writing today to thank you from the bottom of my heart for Revolution newspaper. It gave me the opportunity to share Revolutionary thought and equality with others. It is a gift I was proud and touched to be able to share. I am happy I was able to share the truth of women's equality with these men. I truly believe it will change their lives and the lives of the women they encounter in the future in a profound manner.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #244, August 28, 2011
On July 22, Anders Behring Breivik, a 32-year-old Christian fascist who described himself as "one of several leaders of the National and pan-European Patriotic resistance movement," set off on a brutal killing spree in the country of Norway. By the end of the day, 77 people were dead, and Breivik was in police custody, reportedly looking forward to the next phase of his "project"—using the killings to publicize and organize around his extremely reactionary ideology.1
Just before he set out, Breivik posted a YouTube video and a 1,500-page "manifesto" (2083: A European Declaration of Independence), which elaborated his world view and political program, and explicitly called upon the "tens of thousands of brothers and sisters who support us fully and are willing to fight beside us" to follow in his footsteps: "Follow the guidelines in this book and you will succeed!" 2
Breivik carried out his crimes with a chilling combination of efficiency and pleasure. According to an account in the online journal the Global Post,3 after setting off a huge bomb in front of government offices in the heart of downtown Oslo (the capital city), Breivik proceeded to the island of Utoya, which was hosting 600 teenagers attending the annual youth camp of the liberal Norwegian Labour Party, the ruling party in Norway. Dressed in a police uniform, he gathered the youth around him, saying that he was bringing news of the Oslo attack. Lisa Irene Johansen Aasbo described what happened next: "We were told to gather inside... When we went inside we heard someone shooting outside... we heard people screaming so we looked out the windows and saw a man wearing a police uniform and a safety jacket. He stood on a big stone and shot the girls who lay on the ground.... We ran outside and saw several girls covered in blood, so we fled into the woods."
The Global Post went on to describe how Breivik "chased the teens across the small island, executing them one by one. After shooting the victims, he walked next to them and shot them in their heads.... 'He was laughing and cheering when shooting people in their faces,' said Bjerge Schie, 21, who ran for cover." Some youth fled to the beach and tried to swim away, but Breivik shot them in the water. He continued killing for 90 minutes, until the police arrived, at which point he surrendered.
As word of this nightmare got out, there was an outpouring of grief and sympathy for the victims and their loved ones from people in Norway and around the world. The deaths of youths who are just beginning to taste life, and to try to affect the world around them, is especially painful to the people. And the methodical way they were killed added an element of horror-movie terror.
The murders gave rise to confusion and big questions. What motivated Breivik? Since he hated Muslims, why did he direct his attack at the youth of the ruling party, mainly Christian Europeans? Was this a one-time aberration, or part of a rising tide of right-wing terror? How should people respond to such a terrible act in Norway, a small, well-off country usually insulated from the turmoil and violence that grips much of the rest of the world?
The mainstream media in the West and some representatives of the government in Norway rushed to address these questions, with their focus and answers tending strongly in the direction of saying that Breivik was "a madman"4; that his connections to the large and growing extreme right in Europe and the U.S. were "all in his head," a "delusion"; that he was a lone wolf5; and to treat the whole thing as a terrible tragedy which had nothing to do with any real contradictions in Norwegian, European or U.S. society. Norway would rally to its "liberal" traditions (which in truth rest on a prosperity derived from its privileged position in the worldwide system of imperialist exploitation, including the grinding exploitation of the immigrants who Breivik wants to drive out) and "normal life" would go on as before. In fact, in spite of the horrific and dramatic character of the massacres, the story essentially dropped out of the news within a week.
If one is to take a serious and scientific approach to understanding new, major and shocking developments like this, then it must be said that there is still much to learn about Breivik and his relationship to other reactionary forces in Europe and the United States, as well as the ideology expressed in his lengthy manifesto.6 But the rush to declare Breivik a "lone wolf" and to close the book on the whole incident is not only way premature (and contrary to much existing evidence), but it is aimed at covering up what the massacres began to expose.
Whether or not Breivik himself is legally and/or medically sane and whether or not these massacres were carried out as part of a larger organizational structure, the truth is that there is a multilayered, powerful, and increasingly aggressive fascist movement with centers throughout Europe and the U.S., with a substantial popular base. And again, while there is much to uncover about this fascist movement and its exact connections with powerful ruling class circles, there are—as we will bring out—definite themes and directions that correspond between these fascists and major forces and figures in the Western ruling classes, and there are ways in which the actions of particular forces and individuals—like Breivik—within this fascist "universe" reflect and reinforce larger agendas of the ruling classes. Breivik was not only "inspired" by the overall ideological poison that this movement spews out, but very consciously saw his own actions as playing a strategic role in helping that movement advance to full political power.
Breivik claims that Europe and "western civilization" are under attack and facing "Islamic colonization... through demographic warfare." He sees Europe and the U.S. as having an essentially Christian identity, and that the presence of large numbers of "unassimilated" Muslims—that is, Muslims who continue to practice their religion and, in many cases, are highly critical of the role of "the West" in the Middle East and the rest of the world—is undercutting that Christian identity and eroding European "civilization." Breivik says that "The problem can only be solved if we completely remove those who follow Islam. In order to do this all Muslims must 'submit' and convert to Christianity.... If they refuse to do this voluntarily prior to Jan. 1, 2020, they will be removed from European soil and deported back to the Islamic world."7,8
But Breivik also believes that this "Islamic colonization" is being facilitated from within European society, by what he refers to as "multiculturalism." As a philosophy, multiculturalism is basically the idea—held by many progressive people—that different peoples and cultures can and should coexist in society, each preserving its own culture and respecting and appreciating that of others. It is opposed to the idea of "assimilationism"—that people of the non-dominant culture should be forced to abandon their own ways and ideas and "assimilate" into the dominant culture—as well as to outright "exclusionism," which holds that cultural, religious and ethnic minorities should either not be allowed in or should be deported.9
Breivik sees the "multicultural" approach as leading to the destruction of Europe. But what he is railing against is not just the idea of multiculturalism, but the fact that for a number of decades, the dominant forces in the ruling class in most of Western Europe have themselves, and for their own reasons, allowed and even encouraged large-scale immigration. Breivik brands these ruling class forces as multiculturalists (sometimes he also refers to them as "Cultural Marxists") and says they are "traitors," betraying European civilization to the barbarian invaders.
It is important to understand that these ruling class forces have not embraced immigration out of internationalism, humanism, or anything else positive. Rather, the—partial and relative—opening of Europe's borders to immigrants has been driven by cold imperialist calculation. On the one hand, immigrants have filled a vital role in maintaining capitalist profitability in the West. Driven by desperate economic conditions (and often political repression) in their own—Western-dominated—countries, immigrants in Europe, as in the U.S., are now the backbone of large parts of the economy, from restaurants and grocery stores to hospital staffs and low-wage factories; their cheap labor is what makes the modern city hum and makes Western capital competitive in the world. On the other hand, money sent back home by these immigrants is an important stabilizing element in these Third World countries which are, again, dominated by Western (and Japanese) imperialism and are a major source of their wealth and power. So for some time most of the Western ruling classes brought immigrants in, and while hunting and hounding them in various ways, also made some allowances for the existence of immigrant neighborhoods where people can practice their own culture and religion, speak their own language, etc.
Breivik sees this policy as national and cultural suicide, and its political advocates as the main problem, the main obstacle to the survival of Christian Europe. So, "If they refuse to surrender until 2020, there will be no turning back. We will eventually wipe out every single one of them." 10
Breivik is also openly patriarchal and misogynist. Partly this flows from his view that Muslims are waging "demographic warfare," and that because European women, influenced by feminism, are "selfish" and put their own happiness and well-being above their responsibility as women to bear and raise more European children, the Muslims will overwhelm the white Europeans.11 But his patriarchy is not reducible to that—it is part of a broader view of what is needed to save Western civilization from destruction. "The female manipulation of males has been institutionalized during the last decades and is a partial cause of the feminization of men in Europe... He writes: 'men are not men anymore, but metro sexual and emotional beings that are there to serve the purpose as a never-criticising soul mate to the new age feminist woman goddess.'" He bluntly states that the "fate of European civilization depends on European men steadfastly resisting Politically Correct feminism." When cultural conservatives seize control of Europe, "we will re-establish the patriarchal structures," and eventually, women "conditioned" to this "will know [their] place in society."12
To "defend" against all of these threats to Europe, Breivik summons up the legacy of the Christian Crusades of the Middle Ages, when large armies were mobilized by various kings, popes and lords, to make war on the Islamic countries of the Middle East. In particular, he claims to be part of a group that is resurrecting the Knights Templar (an elite military order during the Crusades) to initiate and lead the Christian "resistance." He explicitly poses the massacre he is about to commit as a model that should be taken up by others, saying "Knights" like him "will be role models...[who] should even be considered as candidates for official veneration."13 (He appears to mean Catholic "sainthood.")
All of this has been presented in the media to cast Breivik as an isolated lunatic. But the core of Breivik's view is actually a major current of ruling class opinion in both the U.S. and Europe.
On July 26, Pat Buchanan posted his article "A Fire Bell in the Night for Norway."14 After the requisite condemnation of the killings, he went on to articulate Breivik's outlook, point out that it is the outlook of major leaders in Europe, and then—in large measure—agree with him.
"[Breivik] chose as his targets not Muslims whose presence he detests, but the Labor Party leaders who let them into the country, and their children, the future leaders of that party.... He admits to his 'atrocious' but 'necessary' crimes, done, he says, to bring attention to his ideas and advance his cause: a Crusader's war between the real Europe and the 'cultural Marxists' and Muslims they invited in to alter the ethnic character and swamp the culture of the Old Continent...." Buchanan then notes that this is not an extreme view and that "[Chancellor] Angela Merkel of Germany, [President] Nicolas Sarkozy of France and [Prime Minister] David Cameron of Britain have all declared multiculturalism a failure....
"As for a climactic conflict between a once-Christian West and an Islamic world that is growing in numbers and advancing inexorably into Europe for the third time in 14 centuries, on this one, Breivik may be right." (emphasis ours)
Buchanan's language wildly distorts reality. When he speaks of a "climactic conflict" between the Christian West and the Islamic world "for the third time in 14 centuries," he is referencing actual armies—the Moors of North Africa, who invaded and occupied what is now Spain and Portugal from the early eighth century to the late 15th century, and an invasion of south-central Europe by the Ottoman empire (based in what is now Turkey), an invasion that was defeated 400 years ago. And he is applying that template to what is in fact the desperate emigration of millions of ordinary people from their homelands, with the aim of feeding their families, getting an education, or escaping persecution. By presenting this in military terms, Buchanan is seeking to stir ultra-nationalist patriotism, and fear and hatred of immigrants in the white European population; this is an ideology that lends justification to Breivik's slaughter.
Buchanan is not a fringe element—he is an influential figure in U.S. politics. He was a senior advisor to Presidents Nixon, Reagan and Ford, a serious contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 1972 and 1976, gave the keynote address at the 1976 Republican National Convention, and is a regular pundit on major news shows.
Moreover, Buchanan is correct to link other major leaders to the core of Breivik's views.
In February 2011, French President Sarkozy declared: "We have been too concerned about the identity of the person who was arriving and not enough about the identity of the country that was receiving him.... If you come to France, you accept to melt into a single community, which is the national community." He continued, "And if you do not want to accept that, you cannot be welcome in France."15 (emphasis ours)
In September 2009, Theo Sarrazin, a former leader of the German central bank and prominent member of the ruling party, wrote: "I do not have to acknowledge anyone who lives by welfare, denies the legitimacy of the very state that provides that welfare, refuses to care for the education of his children and constantly produces new little headscarf-girls. This holds true for 70 percent of the Turkish and 90 percent of the Arab population in Berlin." This kicked off a huge public controversy; in its wake, in October 2010, German Chancellor Merkel told a meeting that "This [multicultural] approach has failed, utterly failed." It is important to remember that a few generations back, the German ruling class committed genocide against its religious and ethnic minorities for the crime of supposedly not fitting into the German ideal. Merkel's statement is the equivalent of the president of the U.S. declaring that "integration has failed; it is time for Black people to accept their inferior status, and only then can they live peacefully in the U.S."
We could also point to many examples on the U.S. political scene. Just a few weeks ago, Texas governor and Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry spoke at a "Christians-only" rally (which Perry called for in his capacity as governor) where he shared the platform with numerous Christian fascist preachers, and where Perry declared that "God has put me in this place at this time to do His will," and that people "proclaiming Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior" and "hand[ing]" the fate of the U.S. "over to God" is the answer to the problems that beset the country.16 Or the targeting of abortion doctors, not only by Operation Rescue but also well-accepted mainstream fascist commentators like Bill O'Reilly on Fox News, and the murder of these doctors by "individuals" who, of course, are claimed to have nothing to do with Operation Rescue.
These trends, ugly and indeed criminal as they are, do not arise from the prejudices of backward and ignorant "citizens"; they are a major pole—a pole with great power and initiative—in the ruling classes of the Western imperialist countries, and these forces are using their control of media and other means to organize and unleash backward sections of the population around this. The above statements are from mainstream "conservative" leaders, but most or all countries in Europe (and the U.S.) also have more or less openly fascist mass movements and/or political parties with substantial legislative representation, who put out even more bluntly racist and chauvinist calls.
It is clear that Breivik sees himself as a heroic "knight" in this "clash of civilizations." And he sees his project in international terms, touting alliances with fascist organizations in other European countries, and quoting heavily from the Christian right in the U.S. He claims to have attended a meeting of nine representatives from eight European countries to reestablish the Knights Templar. He says that he worked with two other "cells" in Norway, that he had been in touch with and in fact was "recruited" by members of the English Defense League (a large fascist organization in England, recently in the news for promising to put 1,000 vigilantes in the streets to help police crush the youth rebellion there in early August).17
But if Breivik's ideology is attuned to that of powerful forces in the ruling class, why did he unleash his murderous rampage on the Norwegian government and on the youth group of the ruling party? Again, further investigation and analysis is necessary. But it is an important fact that there is actually a sharp split in the ruling classes in the Western imperialist states (including the "smaller" and more "liberal" ones like Norway, Sweden, etc.)
Again, the situation in Europe is not identical to the U.S., nor is Norway the same as every other country in Europe. A close analysis of Norwegian politics is beyond the scope of this article, and more work needs to be done to uncover the actual relationships between the fascist forces in different countries. But there are some basic points that can be made.
Throughout Europe and the U.S., some ruling class forces—and the reactionaries they organize and unleash—argue that there is urgent necessity to restructure society on more openly fascist and theocratic terms in order to meet the challenges of the empire, while other sections—even while seeing the need for major moves in that direction, don't want to completely jettison all the traditional ideas and institutions of liberal democracy—political freedoms, secularism, cultural tolerance, the social safety net. These more "liberal" forces fear that their system will lose all legitimacy in the eyes of the people and that such an attempt to tightly "cohere" society will actually end up causing it to fly apart. Those sections of the ruling class are seen as a major obstacle by the more fully fascist section, and the struggle between them can be intense.
Bob Avakian addressed this in "The Fascists and the Destruction of the 'Weimar Republic'...And What Will Replace It"18:
"...And, besides attacking people who are genuinely opposed not only to this fascism but to the capitalist-imperialist system as a whole, one of the main lines of their assault is (to use a very relevant analogy) viciously going after the Weimar Republic (the bourgeois-democratic republic in Germany after World War 1, which was replaced and forcibly abolished when Hitler and the Nazis came to power in the 1930s). We have to understand the meaning and significance of this, and the purpose behind it."
The shootings in Norway happened in the context and framework of this intense struggle within the ruling class over how to best preserve their system. The "liberal" forces are defending a social order that is built on the imperialist domination of the planet, the siphoning of the wealth produced by billions into the economies of a handful of wealthy nations, and the relative civil peace and civil liberties that can be made available to at least the better-off classes in these countries on that basis. The fascists who attack them argue that these niceties are no longer sustainable in the lean and mean world of the 21st century, and want to strip away even these limited rights, in favor of open patriarchy, white/European supremacy, and Christian fascist "values." And far too many people end up thinking that they have to choose between these two nightmares.
1. In his "manifesto" Breivik wrote: "Explain what you have done (in an announcement distributed prior to operation) and make sure that everyone understands that we, the free peoples of Europe, are going to strike again and again." Quoted in the Toronto National Post, July 24, 2011, news.nationalpost.com/2011/07/24/suspect-posted-manifesto-before-mass-killing-in-norway [back]
2. Time Magazine, July 24, 2011, "An Interview with a Madman: Breivik Asks and Answers His Own Questions" [back]
3. globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/110723/32-year-old-christian-extremist-behind-cold-blooded-terror-deeds [back]
4. Time Magazine, July 24, 2011—"An Interview with a Madman" [back]
5. See Time Magazine, July 24, 2011, "Killer's Manifesto: The Politics Behind the Norway Slaughter", and Reuters, July 30, 2011, "Norway killer 'more than willing to talk': police" [back]
6. To get a deeper understanding of the underlying forces at work behind the rise of the extreme right, and the Christian fascists in particular, and the implications of this for revolutionaries, we strongly recommend reading Bob Avakian's work, The Coming Civil War and Repolarization for Revolution in the Present Era, especially "The Pyramid of Power and the Struggle to Turn This Whole Thing Upside Down." Though this work is mainly an analysis of developments in the U.S. itself, and there are significant differences between the political landscape in the U.S. and the various European countries, the basic analysis and challenge presented is extremely relevant. [back]
7. csmonitor.com/World/Europe/2011/0731/Will-Breivik-attack-change-Norway [back]
8. Note: In the U.S. a large majority of immigrants are from Mexico and Latin America, whereas in much of Europe the majority of immigrants are Muslims from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Serbia, Somalia, Turkey, North Africa and the Middle East. This difference influences the shape of fascist movements—in the U.S. the anti-immigrant movement is mainly focused on the Mexican border, and there is also an anti-Muslim movement that targets the (nonexistent) "threat" of an Islamic takeover of the U.S. through the implementation of Sharia law.
These reactionary movements are distinct currents that swim together in a common fascist sea, with the "Tea Party" as a primary arena where they come together. In much of Europe the "anti-immigrant" movement is an anti-Muslim movement, and vice versa. The point in common is that in both cases these reactionaries—and the ruling class forces which back them—see "unassimilated" immigrants as a threat to the social cohesion and white/European supremacist character of their societies, and call for a return to the "traditional values" of patriotism, patriarchy and Christianity as the glue cohering the dominant society and excluding or crushing those who cannot or will not accept and conform to this. [back]
9. In fact, the question of multiculturalism is a complex one. Cultures are not unchanging things or identities that stand apart from the world. To the contrary, cultures reflect the ever-changing economic relations in any society and as such constantly change and develop more or less as those relations change. Moreover, in a society divided into classes, into oppressor and oppressed, most cultural practices and beliefs serve the maintenance of whichever class dominates—while at the same time there are cultural beliefs, practices, etc. which more reflect the strivings of the oppressed to get free.
The rise first of colonialism and then imperialism meant the domination of the vast majority of the globe by Europe, the U.S. and Japan. The capitalist-imperialist powers suppressed, vilified and held back the cultures of the peoples that they conquered (even as these conquerors also upheld, adapted, reinforced and/or utilized for their own ends some particularly backward or reactionary practices). For instance, enslaved and oppressed people were punished and even killed for speaking their own languages or maintaining their own religions, as the rulers deemed this to be evidence of rebellion—as indeed it sometimes was. This practice of outright cultural suppression is one that the likes of Breivik would like to bring back, with his program of forced conversion.
Communists strongly oppose the forcible assimilation of peoples and uphold the equality of languages—and there will be a flourishing of the language and culture of the oppressed in the future socialist societies, as shown in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic of North America (Draft Proposal). But multiculturalism, as it has come to be known, falls short as a full answer. There is an importance to criticism of that which is oppressive and reactionary within the cultures of the oppressed—for example, elements of patriarchal oppression of women. In this, it is crucial to rely on the masses of the oppressed nationalities themselves to carry forward the struggle to transform these cultures, in the overall context of revolutionary struggle. And there is great importance today to standing against the demonization and denial of equality to the languages and cultures of the oppressed, broadly speaking. [back]
10. time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2084895,00 [back]
11. Breivik wrote: "The West has skyrocketing divorce rates and plummeting birth rates, leading to a cultural and demographic vacuum that makes us vulnerable to a take-over by... Islam. And feminists still aren't satisfied." translated.by/you/2083-a-european-declaration-of-independence/original/?page=156 [back]
12. Michelle Goldberg, thedailybeast.com/articles/2011/07/24/norway-massacre-anders-breivik-s-deadly-attack-fueled-by-hatred-of-women [back]
13. Time Magazine, July 24, 2011, "An Interview with a Madman" [back]
14. buchanan.org/blog/a-fire-bell-in-the-night-for-norway-4810 [back]
15. CBNNews.com cbn.com/cbnnews/world/2011/February/Frances-Sarkozy-Multiculturalism-Has-Failed [back]
16. agapemovement.com [back]
17. The response of these fascist forces to the Norway massacre has been two-fold. On the one hand, they have tried to distance themselves from Breivik, claiming that he was a lunatic, "evil," that "there is no ideology there." Some, like Bill O'Reilly, have absurdly tried to claim that Breivik was not a Christian! Breivik himself anticipated and "understood" this distancing, stating in his manifesto that fascist political forces "have to condemn us at this point which is fine. It is after all essential that they protect their reputational shields."
But having done that, many—like the Pat Buchanan article already cited – have gone on to say that Breivik really made some good points, and that the real responsibility for the murders lies not with the Christian fascist right, but with Islamic radicals who "provoked" him. (See http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jul/29/internet-norway-killer-censorship-folly, for several such statements.) Some have gone further and expressed barely restrained sympathy for the murders—e.g., Pamela Geller's Atlas Shrugged blog posted this comment (taken from another site—Anti-Mullah) about the victims of the massacre: "The camp was run by the Youth Movement of the Labour Party and used to indoctrinate teens and young adults. Breivik was targeting the future leaders of the party responsible for flooding Norway with Muslims who refuse to assimilate, who commit major violence against Norwegian natives, including violent gang rapes, with impunity, and who live on the dole... all done without the consent of the Norwegians." atlasshrugs2000.typepad.com/atlas_shrugs/2011/07/summer-camp-indoctrination-training-center. Glenn Beck infamously compared the camp to a "Hitler Youth" camp. guardian.co.uk/media/2011/jul/26/glenn-beck-norwegian-dead-hitler [back]
18. revcom.us/a/009/avakian-fascists-destruction-weimar.htm [back]
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Revolution #244, August 28, 2011
A special feature of Revolution to acquaint our readers with the views of significant figures in art, theater, music and literature, science, sports and politics. The views expressed by those we interview are, of course, their own; and they are not responsible for the views published elsewhere in our paper.
Editors' note: Among the uprisings sweeping North Africa and the Middle East against repressive regimes has been the struggle of the people of Bahrain. That country's ruling royal family, backed by the U.S., responded to the protests by detaining hundreds. Bahrain Center for Human Rights President Nabeel Rajab was quoted recently by CNN as saying of the detainees: "Very rarely will you find someone who was not abused." The protests and repression have been almost completely whited out in the U.S. media. Human rights groups have asserted that hospitals are being used as torture chambers. Medical professionals in Bahrain have played a key role in exposing the brutality of the regime, and have—in turn—been targeted for vicious repression. Recently Revolution had the opportunity to interview a medical professional from Bahrain, and we are sharing that interview to provide some insights into the situation in Bahrain from their perspective.
Q: Can you briefly explain to our readers the background of the situation in Bahrain? What are people's grievances?
A: The Kingdom of Bahrain is an archipelago in the middle of the Western coast of the Arabian Gulf composed of 40 islands with a total surface area of 747,000 square kilometers. The total number of the population is around 1.2 million. Bahraini citizens are around 600,000. The majority of the Bahraini people are Muslim; Shi'a are around 70 percent of the population. The ruling family, "Al Khalifa," are from the Sunni minority.
The basic demands of the people are political reform, freedom, true democracy, equity between all the citizens, and fight the massive corruption and the sectarian discriminations.
Q: What sections of people are protesting, and what do the protests look like?
A: The uprising that started in Bahrain on February 14, 2011 was by a group of youth inspired by the Arab Spring that started in Tunisia and Egypt. These youth are from different sectors, some are liberal, leftist, some are Islamic Shi'a—the majority—and some few were Sunni. These youth had arranged a peaceful demonstration in the Pearl Roundabout in the capital city of Manama.
Q: And what was the response of the regime to these protests?
A: From the start of the uprising, Bahraini troops and security forces started to attack medical workers, medical institutions, and patients suspected of participating in protests, primarily on the basis of the injuries they had sustained. At first the attacks appeared aimed at preventing medical personnel from treating injured protesters, but once the crackdown revived in mid-March security forces increasingly targeted medical personnel and institutions themselves, accusing some doctors, nurses, and paramedics of criminal activity as well as involvement with anti-government protests.
More than 47 health professionals, 24 doctors and 23 nurses, had been arrested during March and April 2011 and faced special military trials. The Bahraini government aimed at punishing and intimidating medical professionals suspected of sympathies with protesters and hindering access to health care facilities for persons wounded by security forces.
Q: Why have medical professionals been such a target of the regime's repression?
A: The Bahraini government appears to have targeted medical professionals directly in order to punish them after they started speaking publicly about human rights violations in hospitals and providing information on injuries inflicted on protesters, indicating excessive use of force by army and security personnel.
Q: What can people around the world do to oppose the detention and brutal treatment of these medical professionals?
A: They should conduct an independent investigation into alleged violations of the right of access to health care services and facilities in Bahrain by the UN personnel. And there needs to be international pressure on the Bahraini authorities to immediately stop the harassment, intimidation, arbitrary arrest and detention, and torture or ill-treatment of medical staff working in health centers. To release all doctors and medical staff who are still in jail for no solid reasons. To stop the pro-government mass media from continuing fabricating information about the health professionals. To ensure that all medical records are returned to hospitals and health facilities and carry out an investigation to determine responsibility for any tampering with medical records. To ensure that all detained individuals have access to appropriate medical care—including specialized medical treatment, where necessary. And, request an invitation from Bahrain to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to investigate the detention of medical personnel and of patients with protest-related injuries in hospitals and health centers and report back to the UN Human Rights Council on the treatment of injured patients being held in detention facilities.
Q: The other dimension of how the situation in Bahrain is presented to people in the U.S. through mainstream media is that the Islamic Republic of Iran is contending for influence there. Little is made of military intervention by Saudi Arabia to support the regime, and the fact that Saudi Arabia too is a brutally repressive Islamic fundamentalist regime—albeit one allied with the U.S. How do progressives in Bahrain see posing an alternative to either of these "choices"?
A: As I mentioned in the beginning, the February 14 youth revolution had been inspired by the Arab Spring . It is pure Bahraini demands and nothing to do with Iran or other country. Though the government had related it to Iran, there is no evidence for that, and people in Bahrain don't want to replace their monarchy with another dictatorship.
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Revolution #244, August 28, 2011
This is correspondence received from one of a group of the young revolutionary communists who are organizing "Radical Revolt" Against a Revolting Culture, Tuesday, August 30, 4-8 p.m. at the Shrine World Music in Harlem, 2271 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd., New York.
I was very excited to read "A Plan to Shake Up and Wake Up the Campus" in Revolution #242. I would urge anyone who has not yet read this article to do so and anyone who has to re-read it, and people in both categories to study it. I can't nearly do justice in this correspondence to everything that struck me about that piece, but here are a few key things that stood out: I thought the piece spoke with a lot of radical simplicity to the nightmare that humanity is up against and the liberating pathway out of that nightmare that has been carved by Bob Avakian. I felt the article powerfully captured the "agonizing irony of the time we live in": namely, that communist revolution is largely off the map and absent from people's thinking at a historical juncture in which the necessity and possibility of this revolution has never been greater and the leadership for this revolution is there. Very much intertwined with that point, I thought the article really drove home the urgency and stakes of introducing Avakian, his work and leadership to millions of people now as a decisive element in building a movement for revolution, and to the particular role that the new book BAsics—a powerful concentration of Avakian's entire body of work—can play in putting this revolution and its leadership on the map and bringing forward and training a new generation of revolutionaries. And of course, flowing from all this, I thought the piece laid out some really crucial and exciting plans for getting BAsics out into society in a huge way, especially among the youth, starting with the special issue of Revolution on BAsics that comes out August 23 and the printing of 100,000 copies of that issue.
One of several passages from the article that I thought succinctly concentrated all this: "We actually have answers for what people face—the only real answers—and we have the leadership to make those answers real, if people take those answers up and follow that leadership."
With all this in mind, I wanted to write in about something new and exciting that is being kicked off, which I think is both very much related to the points and plans put forth in the article and very important in its own right as part of building a movement for revolution: A "Radical revolt against a revolting culture" inspired by BAsics.
This new radical revolt takes inspiration from—and represents one important expression of—what Avakian calls for in BAsics 3:24:
"A genuinely radical, liberating revolt—as opposed to a reactionary 'rebranding' and celebration of parasitism—must be fostered among the youth in today's conditions, a revolt within which the need is powerfully raised for a new society and a new world, which will move to eliminate the urban/suburban contradiction, and antagonism, in the context of the transformation of society, and the world, overall and the abolition of profound inequalities and divisions—opposing, overcoming and moving beyond the parasitism which is such an integral and indispensable part of the operation and dynamics of imperialism, and has reached such unprecedented heights in 'late imperial America.' In short, we need, in today's circumstances, a counter-culture that contributes to and is increasingly part of building a movement for revolution—in opposition to a counter-revolutionary culture. We need a culture of radical opposition to the essence of everything that is wrong with this society and system, and the many different manifestations of that; we need an active searching for a radically better world, within which revolution and communism is a powerful and continually growing pole of attraction." (BAsics 3:24)
I am proud to take up Avakian's challenge and take responsibility for helping to kick off, develop and spread this new radical revolt as part of bringing into being a whole new "counter-culture that contributes to and is increasingly part of building a movement for revolution—in opposition to a counter-revolutionary culture." I am writing partly in the hopes of inspiring many others—including those who may be very new to this movement for revolution or even picking up a copy of Revolution newspaper for the first time or reading it online; those who have been following the movement for revolution "from the sidelines" for awhile; and those who are already heavily involved in building this movement for revolution—to grasp what this radical revolt inspired by BAsics is and why it is so critical, and to check out and be part of it in a wide variety of ways.
I am also proud to answer the call to "Shake Up and Wake Up the Campus" by helping to introduce whole new generations of students to Bob Avakian and to the BAsics, starting with the several-week saturation of the special issue of Revolution aiming to reach tens of thousands of students in the next several weeks.
And I think there are definite and important connections between these two initiatives.
As it says on the back cover of the book: "You can't change the world if you don't know the BAsics." "Meeting" Bob Avakian and learning the BAsics can dramatically transform how entire generations of students understand the world they live in, what kind of world is necessary, possible and desirable, what it will take to get to that world, and their own responsibility and morality in the face of that. It will let these students know that we are building a movement for revolution, we have the leadership we need for this revolution, and they need to get with that revolution and follow that leadership. It can inspire many of these students to do exactly that, in different ways and on different levels, starting now. This new radical revolt inspired by BAsics, in turn, is an important vehicle through which many new people—including whole new sections of youth and students—will "meet" Bob Avakian and learn the BAsics.
To get a sense of this, think about the historic night of April 11 in Harlem—"On the Occasion of the Publication of BAsics: A Celebration of Revolution and the Vision of a New World." As "And Now...A Glimpse of Spring, A Reporter's Notebook on April 11 in Harlem" in Revolution # 231 put it: "Hundreds of people of diverse ages, backgrounds, and political perspectives came together in one place for an evening of jazz, funk, soul, rock, theater, dance, poetry, visual arts, commentary, and film. All of it aching for, giving voice to, and infused with the possibility of a radically different world than the maddening planet we live on now. All of it unleashed by—and cohered around—the occasion of the publication of BAsics, a comprehensive yet succinct new book of quotations and short essays by Bob Avakian, the Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, with much of the evening's performances flowing from and a large portion of it explicitly inspired by the life and the work of Avakian." As a result, people experienced Avakian and what he's brought forward in a new, broad and multifaceted way. While the idea of this new radical revolt is not to duplicate April 11, we are going for that same basic dynamic.
More broadly, this radical revolt can inspire, unleash and give voice to a widespread questioning and defiance of the world as it is and an envisioning and celebration of the world as it could be. It can play a big role in showing people that there is no "permanent necessity" to the way things are. All this, in turn, is critical in terms of building a movement for revolution, accumulating forces for that revolution, and bringing forward the thousands who will reach and influence millions today and then lead those millions to make revolution in a future revolutionary situation.
To be clear, this obviously does not mean that everyone who is part of this radical revolt will be a revolutionary or be approaching it from the standpoint of building a movement for revolution; in fact, for this new form to be what it needs to be and have the impact it needs to have will require a lot more elasticity than that, with people from a broad range of perspectives being part of this for a broad range of reasons and contributing in a wide variety of ways. But I would add two points: One, it is important to keep in mind that people do not become revolutionary communists according to a formula, in one fell swoop or along a linear pathway; art and culture can play a very important role, as part of a mix of things, in shaping how people see the world in an ongoing and continually developing way. In fact, if you read From Ike to Mao and Beyond: My Journey From Mainstream America to Revolutionary Communist, A Memoir by Bob Avakian, you will see that artistic, cultural, and intellectual ferment—while obviously one of many factors in Avakian's development—played an important role in his becoming first a radical and then a revolutionary communist and then the most advanced revolutionary communist leader on the planet. And a deep and ongoing appreciation of the need for and role of art and culture, "awe and wonder" and "poetic spirit" is a major element of how Avakian has re-envisioned and advanced revolution and communism and a big part of what makes him the rare and precious leader that he is. Secondly, even while clearly not every individual who is part of this radical revolt will be—or become—a revolutionary, this new culture as a whole can nonetheless be an important part of building a movement for revolution.
On that point, consider this quote by Avakian from "Making Revolution And Emancipating Humanity":
"But, fundamentally (and, so to speak, underneath all this) freedom does lie in the recognition and transformation of necessity. The point is that this recognition and the ability to carry out that transformation goes through a lot of different 'channels,' and is not tied in a positivist or reductionist or linear way to however the main social contradictions are posing themselves at a given time. If that were the case—or if we approached it that way—we would liquidate the role of art and much of the superstructure in general. Why do we battle in the realm of morals? It is because there is relative initiative and autonomy in the superstructure. And the more correctly that's given expression, the better it will be, in terms of the kind of society we have at a given time and in terms of our ability to recognize necessity and carry out the struggle to transform necessity." (See p. 11, in Revolution and Communism: A Foundation and Strategic Orientation, a Revolution pamphlet, May 1, 2008)
Think of John Carlos and Tommy Smith raising their fists for Black power at the 1968 Olympics. Think of Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit." Allen Ginsberg's "Howl." Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changin'." Nina Simone's "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free." John Lennon's "Imagine." Gil Scott-Heron's "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised." Public Enemy's "Fight the Power." Green Day's "American Idiot." These are but a few individual examples of the powerful and lasting impact that radical art and culture can have in changing how people see the world around them. More broadly, think about the role of things like Woodstock—and the whole 1960s upheaval and counter-culture it was a part of—in terms of helping to unmask the illegitimacy and immorality of this system, and putting forth far a different and better moral authority, ethos, and set of values and relations among people.
But this is a key point: This radical revolt that is being kicked is not about creating "radical culture" in its own right, or trying to duplicate radical cultural expressions of the past, or putting forth a utopian vision of how we wish the world could be, even while this actually needs to involve many people who are viewing things and contributing from these standpoints. But at the core of this radical revolt is BAsics—a concentration of Avakian's liberating, scientifically based understanding and vision of a whole new way the world actually can be—a communist world free of all exploitation and oppression—and everything that is involved in getting there.
As Avakian says in Part 2 of "Birds Cannot Give Birth to Crocodiles, But Humanity Can Soar Beyond the Horizon" (see Revolution #233 for this excerpt):
"So here again is the great need for a 'cultural revolution': what I've referred to as a mass revolt—with youth as a driving force—daring to defy and repudiate the oppressive, degrading and suffocating relations, values and morals of this system, and those who enforce and uphold all this; being, in opposition to that, in many different ways and to the greatest extent possible, a living embodiment of new and liberating morals, values, relations and culture, as well as a growing force of resistance against the continual outrages and injustices of this system. And those who consciously, scientifically understand the need for revolution to do away with the system and bring a new, radically different and better system into being, with the ultimate goal of a whole new world, a communist world, must foster and breathe further life into this 'cultural revolution,' with all the creativity and imagination, the questioning, ferment and upheaval that this would, and should, involve as part of building a movement for the revolution we need—fighting the power, and transforming the people, for this revolution—aiming for nothing less than to do away with this system and actually bring that new world into being."
Everywhere you look, the need and the basis for this—and for winning people to be a part of it—is visible. If, for any length of time, you just walk down the street, turn on the TV, browse the Internet, flip on the radio, spend some time talking with people or listening to conversations at a coffee shop or bus stop, you will be greeted by a culture and society of brutality, cruelty, consumerism, commodification, competition, degradation and oppression. And you will be greeted by the fact that there are many people—especially youth—who hate all this, feel suffocated by it, and would jump at the chance to be part of something that goes up against this bullshit and raises people's sights to something far loftier and more liberating.
Recent coverage in Revolution newspaper has also brought this very sharply to light. For instance, I was really struck by the two-part article "End-of-Year Conversation with Black High School Students: Deeply Interested in the World...Acutely Aware this System Has No Future for Them" (see Revolution #240 and #241). The article's observation that "These young people basically hate most of their life," was incredibly damning of this system, culture, and society and what they do to the youth. Among the other things that hit me were the palpable frustration of these youth with what they are taught (and not taught) in schools, and with the pervasive superficiality and consumerism of the culture; the constant brutality, degradation, and harassment they face at the hands of the pigs; the sense of suffocation they experience—and to some degree are conscious of—as a result of dominant societal gender roles and relations; and their defiance and hunger for engaging big ideas and a vision of a completely different way the world could be. Actually, even the title of the article alone gives a powerful sense of both the need and potential for this new radical revolt. And then we have to think about the fact that the conditions and sentiments of these youth in many ways speaks for tens of millions of youth in this society.
Or, returning to the piece "A Plan to Shake Up and Wake Up the Campus," the article's analysis of the dreary, repressive and stifling climate that increasingly characterizes college campuses was very heavy. The quotes in the piece from Darren Fleet's article in Adbusters give a sense of how the phenomena and ethos of parasitism and suburbanism have taken pronounced expression on these campuses, with the sick dog-eat-dog commodity relations of this system penetrating into every aspect of campus life. The Revolution article then put forth an insight I thought was really important, including as it relates to this new radical revolt:
"This description is all too accurate. Yet beneath the surface, and in response to this, there are yearnings and stirrings for something radically different that cannot find air to breathe without what we are bringing. BAsics being powerfully in the mix will draw these sentiments to the surface and begin to challenge the dominant ethos and culture with some certitude that things should not be—and don't have to be—this way. These campuses badly need shaking up. These campuses sorely cry out for the movement for revolution. These campuses are way past ready, whether the students know it right now or not, for...BAsics."
On August 4, at Revolution Books in New York City, there was a significant, if initial, glimpse of what a "radical revolt against a revolting culture" inspired by BAsics can look like and unleash. The evening witnessed art, culture, and performances centered on the theme of BAsics 3:16 ("An Appeal to Those the System Has Cast Off") and the letter from a prisoner, "The Conditions at Pelican Bay May Shock the Public." The recent hunger strike of prisoners at Pelican Bay and other prisons throughout California demanding an end to torturous conditions figured heavily into the evening. Some of the performances that night, which in different ways gave voice to the theme, included: Readings of BAsics 3:16 in English and Spanish as well as the "Conditions May Shock the Public" letter; a poem that a woman wrote and read about a person she knows who is on death row; a short poem a revolutionary had written on a banner sent to the hunger strikers that spoke to police terror, mass incarceration and the criminalization of a generation and the need for revolution as envisioned by Bob Avakian to do away with all this; the reading of a quote from former Black Panther George Jackson about the vicious repression of revolutionaries by prison authorities followed by a quote from Mao's Red Book about the role of art in making revolution; a poem in Spanish speaking to the conditions that prisoners face as well as their ability to transform into emancipators of humanity; a performance condemning this country's vicious history of racial oppression, from Jim Crow segregation to the present; the reading of BAsics 5:11 ("There is a place where epistemology and morality meet...") followed by several statements of support for the hunger strikers written by prominent people in different spheres; the reading of "Letter to the Hood," a poem written by a prisoner at Pelican Bay which calls on the oppressed masses to rupture with the bullshit this system catches them up in and get with the revolution and speaks to the role of BAsics in enabling them to make that rupture (see Revolution #240); and a video recently shown to tens of thousands of people at the L.A. Rising Festival with the audio of Avakian's "No more generations of our youth" quote from his talk Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About, accompanied by a beautiful slide show with photos of youth.
Again, this was an exciting but also initial experience. This radical revolt is just getting off the ground. It needs to get much bigger and much broader. And many people are needed to be part of making this happen.
The next installment of this form will be:
Inspired by BAsics: from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian
An afternoon of Spoken Word, Music, Art
"RADICAL REVOLT" Against A Revolting Culture
August 30 at Shrine World Music in Harlem, (Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd between 133rd and 134th Streets), from 4-8 p.m.
If you are in the New York City area, you should come to Shrine World Music on August 30 as part of helping this radical revolt go to another level. And you should invite as many people as you can to come with you. More broadly, whether or not you are in New York, you have an important role to play in this. One key way you can help take responsibility for developing and spreading this as part of building a movement for revolution is by writing into Revolution newspaper, even if what you write is brief: Share your thoughts or questions about this new radical revolt. Share your ideas—both for the August 30 program, and in an ongoing way for this new culture we are forging.
To close with another quote from Part 2 of Avakian's talk "Birds Cannot Give Birth to Crocodiles, But Humanity Can Soar Beyond the Horizon"—and specifically the section titled "A Radical Revolt Against a Revolting Culture" (See Revolution #233 for this excerpt):
"All this is not just of minor or secondary significance, but of strategic importance, has strategic implications, in terms of repolarization—for revolution."
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Revolution #244, August 28, 2011
Taking inspiration from the courageous actions of the California prison hunger strikers, who came together across racial and other dividing lines from within the depths of the most dehumanizing and degrading conditions, and recognizing the moral imperative to take urgent action commensurate with the heroic stand of the hunger strikers, I took the lead in organizing a Forum on the California Prison Hunger Strike & Torture in U.S. Prisons, held in Chicago on August 4, 2011. Sponsored by the Chicago and Evanston Chapters of World Can't Wait and the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund, and endorsed by the Chicago Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, the Forum brought together a broad range of people deeply concerned about and actively involved in opposing torture in U.S. prisons.
After opening the Forum with a discussion of the background of the hunger strike and the prisoners' demands, including situating the prisoners' actions in the context of the explosion of mass incarceration in the U.S., several panelists spoke.
Alan Mills is the Legal Director of the Uptown People's Law Center, which has been engaged in litigation to change conditions at Tamms, Illinois supermax prison which was directly modeled on Pelican Bay, since the day it opened. He began by describing the massive increase in the prison population in the U.S. since the 1970s, with the United State's current prison population of nearly 2.5 million literally off the charts—an incarceration rate never seen in the history of the world. He explained that the prison population in the U.S. is not linked to the crime rate: the crime rate has dropped since the 1990s, while the prison population has continued to explode. As one stunning example of the racist nature of the system of mass incarceration imposed by the rulers of the U.S., he compared the rate of incarceration of adult Black males in apartheid South Africa, a regime universally condemned as one of the most racist in the history of the world. The U.S. currently incarcerates adult Black men at a rate that is over five times higher than apartheid South Africa!
What are people in prison for? Contrary to what many might believe, Mills explained: "People in prison are not there because of murder, rape and mayhem. People are in prison because of drugs. That's what happened in the mid-70s. People didn't go out and start killing more people. The federal government, followed by the state governments, cracked down on people who possess drugs and they all went to prison... Not surprisingly, it's also not racially neutral. Whites use drugs, just like everybody else—whites don't go to prison... If police concentrated the same resources on college campuses as they concentrate in public housing projects, you'd have a lot more young white college-educated men in prison."
Mills then went on to describe the horrendous conditions in California and Illinois prisons, supermax and SHU conditions in particular. He showed photographs of "group therapy" in a California SHU, where prisoners sit inside phone-booth size cages: "This is mental health treatment in California. They put you in these little cages, and this is called 'group therapy.' The therapist out there gave up, he said 'I can't treat men like this,' so he brings a guitar in... and plays, at least gives them some music to listen to during therapy session—that's mental health treatment in California. They're the lucky ones. If you try to commit suicide in California you get moved to a suicide bed, but there aren't enough of them, so you sit there in these cages, for hours and hours and hours and sometimes days. And in at least one case... someone died in there. Standing in a pool of urine and vomit and blood, when he sliced his arm waiting for a suicide bed in a cage."
After further describing the conditions in Tamms, Mills talked about receiving a video tape as part of their legal case challenging the conditions there; the tape recorded the cellblock, and they timed the number of minutes that a prisoner actually spends talking to someone at their cell door. The average prisoner got about 45 seconds a day of "face-to-face" contact with someone, through their cell door.
Professor Stephen Eisenman spoke next, with a presentation called "Tamms Supermax and Solitary Confinement: A Ten Point Indictment." Eisenman is Professor of Art History at Northwestern University, the author of several books including The Abu Ghraib Effect, and a prison reform activist with Tamms Year Ten who regularly publishes his criticisms of the "penal state."
Professor Eisenman began by recounting the history of the use of solitary confinement in the U.S., which was rarely used as punishment until the opening of Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia in 1829 and has been rarely used ever since—except for the last 25 years. Prisoners in Eastern State were kept in small cells for 23 hours a day, with one hour out for solitary exercise in an adjoining yard. Meals were served through a slot in the cell door, and there was no possibility of physical or even visual contact with other prisoners—whenever prisoners left their cell they were hooded. A similar, though somewhat less severe, regimen was developed at the same time at Auburn Prison in New York.
But, as Professor Eisenman described, "The efficacy and morality of solitary confinement was soon challenged. Within a few years of opening, Eastern State was condemned by prison reformers for increasing recidivism rate and causing prisoners to become insane. Inhumane conditions become the subject of international notoriety." And by the end of the 1800s, even the U.S. Supreme Court condemned the use of solitary confinement. Until Alcatraz D Block opened in 1934, solitary confinement remained very rare, and even very rarely used in Alcatraz until it closed in 1963. Between 1963 and 1983, no federal prison had solitary confinement as its main operative function. Then in 1983, the federal prison at Marion, Illinois established a permanent lockdown and six years later the first supermax prison opened at Pelican Bay.
He went on to document that international law and UN treaties consider long-term solitary confinement and sensory deprivation to be forms of torture or "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment." He documented that solitary confinement is prohibited by numerous UN conventions. After reading one UN prohibition against medical or scientific experimentation without the pre-consent of people involved, Professor Eisenman made the observation, "We really are conducting long-term experimentation of solitary confinement, of isolation, the kind of experimentation that we tend to associate with Nazi doctors, or with horror movies..."
In closing, Professor Eisenman poignantly pronounced: "The weight of history, the judgment of courts, the testimony of physicians and psychiatrists and the determination of international law all argue for the elimination of long-term solitary confinement and supermax prisons. How much longer will the state and federal government uphold them? How much longer will this violation of human rights and reason continue? States as different as Maine and Mississippi have made major strides in reducing the use of long-term solitary confinement. My organization... Tamms Year Ten has succeed in pressuring the IDOC, the Illinois Department of Corrections, to reduce their supermax population by between one-fourth and one-third, and to obtain finally the prisoners' rights to make telephone calls... But the basic armature of isolation at Tamms and in other supermax prisons such as Pelican Bay remains, almost 200 years after it was shown at Eastern State penitentiary to be cruel and useless."
The next panelist, Dr. Antonio Martinez, is a psychologist with the Institute for Survivors of Human Rights Abuses and co-founder of the Marjorie Kovler Center for the Treatment of Survivors of Torture. He has lectured about the trauma and consequences of torture and abuse throughout the world.
Dr. Martinez expressed his visceral reaction to the exposure of the inhumanity of the torturous conditions of isolation that tens of thousands of prisoners languish under in the U.S. "I'm appalled. I have heard so many stories of torture around the world, and when you hear these kind of things happening right here in the United States, not that I am surprised, but it's in your own context, yes? I wonder how, what this makes you feel, as a person living in this context..."
He went on to further describe some of the feelings that the Forum had brought out: "One is the reaffirmation of normality in us, and 'the Other,' that is the sick, the 'bad person,' reinforcing that we are ok, and they are totally wrong. That we are the repository of total virtue and they are the scourge of humanity, and because of that they don't deserve treatment as a human being. That's one response that probably at some level we all feel because we are human and we have that kind of reaction, especially if we have been victims of a crime at one moment, it becomes the reaction of attacking 'the Other,' and by attacking 'the Other' losing our own humanity.
"The other reaction I have every time that I talk about this, and that's why I sometimes I do this as a sense of duty, I don't enjoy this at all because every time that I talk about this topic and I have to first face seeing how human beings can be so cruel to human beings just to maintain a society of privilege, because this is not in isolation, we have a very political context to why this happens in this society and it doesn't happen in the Pygmy people, for example, who don't own anything and don't have a sense of private property."
Speaking to the broader impact of the use of torture, he explained that one of its major effects is to instill fear in the population, to keep people from stepping forward and challenging those in power. He recounted an experience he had, when he was invited by Amnesty International to give a healing workshop for women of Atenco. In May 2006, the peasant women of Atenco, Mexico had an agreement with the municipal authorities to allow them to sell flowers in the market square. However, when they arrived on the morning of May3, masses of police were arrayed and waiting to stop them. They staged a protest, where the police killed two people (including a 14-year-old boy) and injured many more. In the next few days, more protests were held, and the police reacted with a campaign of beatings, house raids and indiscriminate detention. Of the hundreds of people detained, dozens of women suffered beatings, rapes and sexual assaults at the hands of the police while detained.
On his way to Mexico to give the healing workshop, Dr. Martinez was detained by security, who held him in a room and claimed that a person with his name was an international terrorist and that they had to "check to make sure it wasn't him." They held him for over half an hour in isolation and then came back and told him they would have to keep a copy of his passport. And this had a real effect on him, "It was difficult for me to denounce the things I wanted to denounce. I had to stop and had to remember what I was, what was my center, my heart, what was the center of my humanity and decided: other people are taking bigger risks than me and I need to take these risks and say what I came here to say. But it really choked me up, really."
That fear and control is exactly what torture is used for: "And that's what all these things are about, its about social control. Its about a society—and you know this, I'm just repeating—it's about a society that needs to control 'the Other' and to let people know that they are under control. Because 2% of the population that owns 80% of the resources wants to maintain business as usual. That's what it's all about. In the last moment, that's what its all about—about social control."
Dr. Martinez then went on to compare the use of torture in U.S. prisons to experiences of torture in other countries: "What I hear here is very similar to what I hear about the torture chambers in Guatemala, in Colombia, in Chile. Actually in Chile, Pinochet was more humane. They allowed people to be among others, they allowed some music, they allowed some type of interaction and they allowed more generous visits. And that was Pinochet. So what does that say about us as a society where all these things are the rule and not the exception? ...It reflects a very increasing trend to what I call, because I haven't found a better name, friendly fascism. With a smiley face. Where we have two United States: one that is for all of us 'law-abiding citizens' with certain economic status; and another one for what it calls the 'dangerous classes,' the classes that need to be controlled, the classes that have to be measured and observed. And where unfortunately psychology—my profession that sometimes I hate, to be a psychologist—but psychologists are a big, big part of it. Because just as part of our existence we contribute to this mess by creating an illusion that social problems are individual problems, yes?"
In describing the effects of isolation and solitary confinement, Dr. Martinez explained: "All human experience is contextual. We know that we are human because we interact with other humans. If that is broke, it's broken the most essential part of what it means to be a social person. Being a human is to be social. So what they are doing in these prisons is breaking, breaking the individual to the point that some of them will be very difficult to return. They would be better if they tortured them physically and they killed them rather than to do that to another human being. And then a percentage of them will return to society eventually and then we all will pay for that crime that they are doing—this is criminal, the situation and in any international court would be a criminal act what they are doing there."
People subjected to these forms of torture struggle with so much internal fear, depression and other symptoms that one of the most debilitating effects of isolation and solitary confinement is that it serves to make it even more difficult for people to organize for social change.
The use of torture has wide-reaching effects, including on those who participate in torture, as Dr. Martinez recounted: "We have to think that these people are working there 8 hours, sometimes overtime 10 hours. What it does to the mind of a guard having to do all these cruel things to these prisoners... One of the fundamental positions of this system, this monstrous system that we live in, is that there's a separation between work and family. That what happens at work doesn't have anything to do with your family. But we know that that's a myth, that you cannot be going around being a crocodile in your business trying to eat everybody alive, treating other people like objects not as subjects, and suddenly you enter into the reality of the space of your house and you turn into this sweet angel of compassion and love. So what does this type of treatment do to the guards but [also] the families of the guards? What does it do also to society? What does it do to the children of these prisoners that are not able to have human contact with their father or their mother?"
In closing, Dr. Martinez tied together the haunting effects of torture: "So in reality all these parts that look isolated there, it filters down into the fabric of society that we are constructing every day. And in reality I don't want to be part of that society because it is a society that is based on the oppression of 'the Other,' on fascist oppression, on the use of force, on the use of intimidation. I don't know what else to say. Because it is appalling that this type of thing is happening and we still can call ourselves a democracy. It's acting against our own interests to do this type of thing. And it really will create harder criminals and people without hope, and communities without hope, because this filters down. Torture in Latin America was always a secret, a secret that everybody knows, and this type of behavior that is also torture, is a secret that in order to work as it is intended to work has to leak out. This is not by chance that we know about these things, because part of this type of behavior in these prisons is to create social control over us right here."
The final panelist, Laurie Jo Reynolds, organizer of Tamms Year Ten, a grassroots campaign to end the use of long-term isolation at Tamms, spoke about her work in organizing against torture. She highlighted a prominent art campaign where they used mud-stencils proclaiming "Tamms is Torture" and "End Torture in Illinois" on sidewalks and walls across the city to expose the use of torture. She also discussed the work they've done in bringing out the humanity of the men suffering torture in Tamms, including mounting more than 50 educational, artistic and cultural events about the use of isolation and segregation in Illinois prisons. She also described the work they've done in pushing for legal reform of the prison system through the legislative process.
In closing, I reiterated the heroic example that the hunger strikers have provided us, including being the basis for organizing the Forum, and the exposure they've brought to the pervasive and systematic use of long-term isolation as torture in U.S. prisons. People have a moral responsibility to act both in support of the hunger strikers, including ensuring that their demands are met and that they do not suffer retaliation for their peaceful political protest, as well as to take actions that are commensurate with the risk and the stand that the prisoners have taken coming together on the hunger strike to end the use of torture in U.S. prisons.
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Revolution #244, August 28, 2011
From A World to Win News Service
May 23, 2011. A World to Win News Service. Following is the first instalment of a report written for AWTWNS by Samuel Albert. It describes what the revolt in Tunisia has achieved, and how. Subsequent instalments will analyze the underlying and triggering factors behind this revolt, and what the future may hold.
Great things have happened in Tunisia.
The greatest thing is that Tunisians, kept down first by the French and then by more than half a century of autocratic government subservient to France and other foreign capital, have awoken to political life in a way that happens only in special moments in history. They cast off passivity and routine's chains and sought to take the destiny of their country in their own hands. In fact, the masses of people were able to seize the political initiative countrywide – how often has that happened in today's world? – and impose changes that the Tunisian ruling classes and France and the U.S. might or might not be able to accept but definitely did not want.
Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali ruled over Tunisia for 23 years. On January 14, 2011, he fell so unexpectedly and suddenly that the world was stunned, including Tunisians themselves. Since then they have brought down two successor governments and are challenging the third. The country remains in a rare state of effervescence.
Bourguiba boulevard in Tunis is a grand, French-style avenue with two rows of trees in the middle and cafés and expensive shops lining the sidewalks. Almost every evening since January 14 people of all walks of life gather to discuss and debate the issues of the day. The crowds are thickest on Friday and over the weekend. Knots of university students and older unemployed workers often listen to each other. Sometimes everyone shouts at once about this or that government proposal, about whether or not people should quiet down and go back to work and let the authorities take charge, or about Islam and the role of women in society. It's not unusual to see a woman loudly proclaiming her views to dozens of surrounding men. It seems to be a rule that everyone gets to speak.
Tongues have been untied. What a foreigner hears over and over again, from young and old, men and women, is this: "We've been kept silent all our lives. Now we are going to talk and nobody can make us shut up. We're going to be heard. Everybody's going to have to listen to us now."
People in the neglected smaller cities and dusty towns of the country's interior gather in squares and the cafés where men drink tea, smoke and argue from morning to night. They want to make sure that the country is still listening to them. There have been several violent social explosions over the past several months. Unemployed youth in at least two towns are on hunger strike, continuing to send the message that a young street peddler conveyed when he burned himself alive on December 17 and set off the revolt: they'd rather be dead than go on living this way.
Everywhere, one of the most contentious questions is whether or not there has been a real revolution. The current government says there has been, and that it is the revolution's representative. The armed forces says that there has been, and that it is the revolution's protector. In the streets and cafés, opinion is divided. An immense number of people are far from satisfied, especially the youth in general and the lower classes, and various parts of the middle classes, including the intelligentsia. What they have done so far has demonstrated their potential strength and made them hungry for more.
The question now is this: Will what the people have achieved so far make it possible to bring about the kind of radical change that could satisfy the aspirations expressed in their revolt? Or will the gains they have won through their self-sacrificing spirit be snatched away?
II. How it happened
Sidi Bouzid, where it all began
Sidi Bouzid is the town in the country's center where the uprising began. It is the administrative capital of an arid governate (province) isolated from the world by wretched roads even though it is only a few hundred kilometres from the coast over flat land.
—A doctor (general practitioner):
Sidi Bouzid is last no matter what parameter you use to measure it. By law, health care is supposed to be guaranteed for everyone, but there's only one small, badly equipped clinic in this town and other towns have none. I've never heard of a woman from the countryside coming in for a prenatal checkup. The public dispensaries have no medications—the supplies are sold illegally to private clinics.
There are no gynecologists/obstetricians. Why would a specialist come to live in a province that has 413,000 inhabitants but not a single cinema? People are scattered in the countryside and small towns. There's no industry to concentrate people, no cultural life and it's hard to get to the big cities. Only 10 percent of the population is connected to the sewer system. There are 140,000 unemployed university graduates in this country of ten million, and 10 percent of them, 1,400, are in this town of 45,000 people.
—A primary school teacher:
I was one of the first to pass by in front of the building after Mohammed Bouazizi set fire to himself, about 1 in the afternoon. A few men and women were demonstrating, mainly family members.
I called comrades and told them what happened and how it was the fault of the authorities. There are about 6,000 school teachers here. We're the biggest union, and we're also the intellectuals most closely in touch with the youth. Other activists came, including lawyers.
About 10:30 the next morning, lots of police came from Kasserine (the nearest city, towards the Algerian border). The battle began and continued for two days. About 8,000 gendarmes were brought in from all over the province. Ninety busloads of them, plus motorcycles (two-man teams, one to drive and the other to beat people). The whole town was throwing stones and fighting them—women, youth, elderly. We didn't burn and loot because it's our town, after all.
On the fifth day, people came from other towns and villages to demonstrate. Other towns of 5-10,000 people erupted. It spread to Gabes on the coast, and then back to larger interior cities like Medenine. Then to Sfax, on January 12, and the other big coastal cities. We didn't go to Tunis until after Ben Ali fled on January 14...
—An older schoolteachers' union leader and political activist associated with the Patriotic and Democratic Labour Party (PT):
Most of the people in this region are small farmers. They tend livestock—especially sheep, and grow olives and other crops. Some land is irrigated, some not. There are no big landowners here. Families hire seasonal laborers during harvests, mostly women from neighboring areas. There are some tomato canneries and an air conditioner plant, but not many factories. Aside from the top local government employees, living standards range from OK to pretty bad. Many farmers can't sell their crops in the coastal cities because there's no transport, and the buyers here rob them. The government programs and other institutions like cooperatives are run by corrupt people with ties to the regime. Instead of helping the peasants they bleed them.
The poor peasants take out credit to buy a small truck or other equipment, and often can't pay back their loans. The interest is high. They end up going bankrupt and have to leave the country. When someone else buys up their land—and here there are few big capitalists and even fewer foreign investors—they irrigate it and grow crops for export like grapes, lettuce, peppers, cucumbers and melons. Because we're so far south, crops are ready for market early in the year, long before Europe and even northern Tunisia.
There isn't a single large store. There are lots of cafés because it doesn't take much capital to open one up and there's nothing to do but drink tea in a café. Some people buy and sell alcohol illegally.
Until now, hardly anybody was interested in politics, society or culture. Traditional holidays and folkloric events were organized by the regime for its own political purposes. Tribal relations are dying out because so many people are moving to big cities. In some places in this province 50-90 percent of the population have gone to look for work in Sfax, Monastir and Tunis, or immigrated illegally to Italy and France.
What we have here are lots of schools—313 primary schools, 170 middle schools and several high schools. Education is compulsory and free. Among other reasons, peasants send their children to school because they don't have enough land to divide it up among their children. There's nothing else for kids to do but go to school. But the schools are in terrible condition and don't have much modern equipment.
The roads are so bad, especially the farm roads, that children who come to town for high school can't commute and have to find a place to live here. For university they go to the coastal cities. Many youth end up living with five or six other people in a garage. They drink wine, like most youth.
Isolated from their families and connected to the world by television and the Internet, craving a modern lifestyle that unemployment and the lack of development won't let them have, they grow distant from their families and traditions. This is a patriarchal society, but they don't recognize their parents' authority. They won't even let their fathers find them a wife. That's a big generational rupture.
My son has two years of technical university. He's 29. I tell him, "I want you to have a wife and children like me." He says, "I can't, papa. That's too big a burden, too much responsibility." Some people are 40 years old and still haven't started their own family.
On top of all this is the fact that the youth weren't allowed to talk freely to each other and nobody would listen to them. Politics and political life was forbidden to them. Police were in the cafés to keep people from talking.
There were social explosions in 2006, 2008 and 2010 in the mining areas to the south and near the borders with Libya and Algeria. The government's solution was the police, and this aggravated the situation. Some brave people, especially teachers, were sentenced to long prison terms. The economic situation got worse; peddlers selling contraband became numerous. The general mood among youth was very pessimistic and there were suicides.
Mohammed Bouazizi was typical of these youth. He wasn't a university graduate like the media said. He had a pushcart selling fruit and vegetables. He didn't have a permit, so a municipal agent confiscated his scale. Without a scale, he couldn't make a living. He complained to the authorities, but nobody would listen to him. A woman municipal agent slapped him in the face.
I wasn't there when he set fire to himself in front of the administration building on December 17. His family staged a protest, and spread the word to other towns through tribal relationships. On the 18th and 19th we organized demonstrations. There were teachers and government employees, and soon most of the townspeople were in the streets. Our slogans held the regime responsible for Bouazizi's death. The police encircled the whole city. We met in the offices of the UGTT (the union federation). The police wouldn't let us out of there to demonstrate in the streets.
So the youth started protesting in their neighborhoods. They fought with the police, especially at night when police cameras couldn't take pictures.
Our first slogans were "Work is a right" and "Gang of thieves – where is our right to work?" Then the central government sent in the gendarmes. We chanted slogans for freedom of expression and demonstrations and equality of development.
The media didn't mention any of this. There was a total blackout for the first few days, even as the protests spread to nearby cities. Many towns were blockaded by the police and gendarmes. We made videos with our mobiles (cell phones) and posted them online.
—University student, Tunis (with half a dozen other students chiming in):
I'm a member of the Communist Party of Tunisian Workers (PCOT). I've been a student activist since 2000, when we were arrested for holding a demonstration at school. We were always getting clubbed by the police. When Bouazizi burned himself, students and high school teachers' union members from Tunis went to Sidi Bouzid. The regime was trying to calm people down. Ben Ali gave Bouazizi's mother money. We paralyzed the city and used our mobiles to spread the news. Many comrades were shot in the head while fighting the police. Some of us stayed there; others came back to Tunis to work Facebook and show people what was happening in Sidi Bouzid and Kasserine.
The demonstrations started to reach Tunis on December 28 (when artists and professionals, especially lawyers, protested), but not in a big way until January 11, when there was a major protest in a suburb near the capital. The next day there was a demonstration in Bab El Khadra, about a kilometer from the city center. A youth was killed in another demo there the next day. Seven of us comrades went there. On the 14th we carried his body all the way through the city and down Bourguiba boulevard, calling on the people to revolt. People on the street were very respectful of us. We attacked the police. We didn't want to have just another demonstration and then everyone go home. We were tired of seeing youth get beaten.
—A third year student:
For a long time I felt like I was just about the only one who thought like me. We started using Youtube and Facebook because it was the only way we could talk freely. Then two bloggers were arrested in mid-2010, and everyone got scared.
When friends called and told us what was happening in Sidi Bouzid and Kasserine, and the media wasn't saying anything about it, we got mad. We had to express ourselves. About a hundred of us used Facebook to organize the first demonstration in central Tunis. On January 13, the police arrested me and other bloggers and held me for about three hours. I'd been clubbed before, but never arrested. They asked why we were demonstrating; I said because of injustice.
When they let me go I went home to the working class neighborhood where I live. On the Net I saw that other bloggers had been busted. We told everyone to come out into the streets the next day. That night Ben Ali gave a big speech saying that he wouldn't step down. Some guys—nobody knows who they were—were driving around in cars without license plates and shooting people at random. I was scared to go out. A curfew was in force, but a few people were allowed to come to Bourguiba boulevard to applaud the president. We heard that France and the EU were going to send Ben Ali help. I thought that was going to be the end of it.
The next morning, at 8:30, I was on the boulevard. There were three or four thousand people in front of the Municipal Theatre. Everyone carried Tunisian flags and protest signs. For once, it wasn't raining. By 10 or 11 the boulevard was full; there wasn't room for one more person. I didn't think the police could attack, because there were so many of us and the international press was watching. Nothing was happening, and then suddenly tear gas grenades were fired. People in the first ranks in front of the Interior Ministry began trying to back up. I thought that would be it for the day and we'd come back tomorrow. It was an unforgettable moment—people were crying as they sang the national anthem. The old people, children and some women retreated. The rest of us started fighting. We fought all day.
—Union members and leaders, UGTT regional headquarters in the Tunisian industrial suburb of Ben Arous:
This town has half a million people. It has chemical plants, an oil refinery and many factories like electronic parts sub-assembly plants for foreign car companies and food processing. It's considered attractive for foreign investment because of its educated and skilled workers and technicians and good infrastructure. Most of the workers here are originally from this region.
We were never a "normal" union. The UGTT was founded during the liberation struggle in the 1930s. We were doing political work for years, especially in the mining region of the south. The national union leadership supported Ben Ali, but the regional and local leadership were against that. Because political parties were outlawed, the leftist parties worked mainly through the unions, as well as human rights organizations and NGOs.
It's true, like people say, that the revolution was made for liberty, not bread, but it's also true that while we were suffocated by the Ben Ali mafia, people in the interior were suffering from extreme regional inequalities and unemployment.
We had our first rally here on January 5, mainly union members and other workers. The police surrounded our offices. After that we held a mass meeting to decide what to do, and called for a regional general strike on January 14 from 10 am to noon.
Ben Ali closed the schools because of the unrest. The students came to meet in our offices because they had nowhere else to meet—the official student union was run by the regime. It turned out that there were no strikes because many factories didn't even open that morning. Everything just stopped. So students and other people went to demonstrate in central Tunis. That evening Ben Ali resigned.
To be continued
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.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #244, August 28, 2011
From A World to Win News Service
May 30, 2011. A World to Win News Service. Following is the second instalment of a report written for AWTWNS by Samuel Albert. The first instalment described what the revolt in Tunisia achieved and how it took place. This instalment discusses the underlying and triggering factors behind this revolt.
If poverty alone were enough to set off revolt, Tunisia would have been one of the last Arab countries to explode. It is among the most socially and economically developed of the non-oil exporting Arab countries. Few people go hungry or have nowhere to live. Tunis has nothing like the slums of Cairo—nor its displays of wealth. Yet Tunisia is also a country where the minimum wage is about $216 a month and many people wish they could make that much, if they can find work at all.
A lot more people have Internet connections than have flush toilets in Sidi Bouzid, the town in the interior where the revolt began. About a quarter of the slightly more than 10 million Tunisians have some Net access, and there are two million Facebook accounts. Images of Sidi Bouzid and the spreading uprising were brought to nearly every home by Al Jazeera.
Many Tunisians are directly connected to the rest of the world, and they are acutely aware of what the modern world has to offer that is denied to them. They want to know why.
Tunisia's place in the international network of economic, political and social relations is what constitutes the stage on which the various actors in the revolt played their part. Like other Third World countries, its economy is organized according to the needs of the world market, which is not a flat playing field but an expression of the division of the world into monopoly capitalist countries and the oppressed countries whose economies are subordinated to foreign finance capital. Because of the domination of capital based in New York, London, Paris and so forth, instead of developing national economies where the various branches of industry and agriculture more or less fit together, the different parts of their economies are more connected to the international market than to each other.
Tunisia, considered a model by the IMF, has had the highest growth rate in Africa, an average of about five percent over several decades. But its economic subordination has held back a far greater potential development, and the distorted development the country has experienced is a major source of the people's misery.
A central question in Tunisia, as in other oppressed countries, is agriculture. In Europe and the U.S. farming is subsidized because food self-sufficiency is a prerequisite for an independent and balanced national economy. In ancient times Tunisia fed much of the Mediterranean world. Now the best land in the region along the coast is used for a handful of export crops and the rest neglected.
Investment goes to where it can be most profitable, to plunder resources for export in industries like phosphate mining that contribute little to overall development, and to the coastal region (where roads aren't needed because goods are shipped abroad by sea), while most agriculture stagnates for lack of resources, even phosphate-based fertilizer. Whole sections of the people in the interior are pulled into the coastal cities to work in export-dependent light industry and call centers and other services provided to Europe, while the rest of the people and country are left to rot. The market-driven international division of labor and organization of the global economy determines development in every corner of Tunisia, both where investment reaches and where it doesn't. The relative underdevelopment of the interior that is a result of the dominance of imperialist capital makes investment more profitable by bringing down the cost of labor throughout the country.
Now once again tourism is being promoted as Tunisia's salvation. Even if the rate of a million tourists a year could be sustained—let alone vastly increased—in today's global economic situation, this "industry" has already proved itself a destroyer of nations.
The prostitution that has inevitably accompanied it is the ugliest facet of a trade whose basic reason for existence is not Tunisia's natural beauty or its archaeological wonders but the inequality that makes it cheap and turns its people into servants instead of offering them the opportunity to contribute and develop their talents. The more tourism grows and gobbles resources, the worse it is for the environment and a balanced national development that could make possible the all-around development of human beings.
In fact, one of Tunisia's main exports is its people. At any given moment one in ten Tunisians lives abroad, half of them in France and the rest in Italy, Libya and other countries. Most are workers, sometimes in services because of their language skills. They also include teachers, technicians, engineers and other professionals who are a bargain for the countries where they work, not only because of salary inequality but even more because the cost of their education is borne by Tunisians. It is an advantage for Tunisia that so many of its people know the world, but this situation is also a huge drain on its potential and one of the many sources of national humiliation.
Since Ben Ali fell and the security services began to falter in patrolling Tunisia's shorelines and coastal waters, tens of thousands of Tunisians have embarked in small boats trying to escape a dead-end life. Probably thousands have drowned or died of thirst trying to reach a Europe that is still eager to exploit them there, although in far smaller numbers than before the current financial crisis. These deaths are a dreadful human indicator of how much the international market and the oppressive economic and political relations it represents have imprisoned Tunisia, and how much the country's development has come at the expense of its people.
Many, maybe most Tunisians blame Ben Ali for this situation, as do some international experts. It's important to see what's true and not true about that, especially if your viewpoint is how Tunisia could become radically different and not just how Humpty Dumpty could be put back together again.
The Ben Ali regime was based on a patronage system largely organized around family ties. Looking downward, this meant a system of political favors right down to the poorest neighborhood. Whether or not you got a job or a health care card or other things depended on your ties to the regime and who you were related to (and being related to the wrong people, such as a regime opponent, would mean constant trouble). Looking upward, it meant that the biggest sources of wealth were in the hands of the family of Ben Ali and his wife, Leila Trabelsi. Nothing could be done without bribes, and anyone starting a major business had to give the ruling "clan" a stake in their company. The importance of inherited personal relationships throughout this relatively developed economy and society seems to be a holdover from feudal and other pre-capitalist social relations.
Similarly to Syria and Egypt, when Ben Ali's liberalization of what was once a state-enterprise-dominated economy began to put old and new enterprises into private hands, more fully bringing market forces into play, that led to a greater concentration of wealth among fewer people—people associated with the dominant "clan."
This may have been a serious drag on capitalist development, since it made foreign investors reluctant to do business in Tunisia and held back and even locked out some major domestic capitalists. This is the opinion expressed by the U.S. ambassador in a cable to Washington exposed by WikiLeaks last year. It may also be true, as some Tunisians argue, that there was a split between the capitalist and landowner "clan" associated with Ben Ali and the "clan" associated with Habib Bourguiba, Tunisia's first president after independence, from whom Ben Ali seized power in a palace coup.
But it is not true that the concentration of wealth among an increasingly smaller circle; the instability and deteriorating conditions faced by those who considered themselves middle class; and the increasing inability of the country's health care, educational and other social welfare systems to deliver on what Tunisians consider their rightful entitlements; can be explained only or even mainly by "kleptocracy," the boundless greed of the regime "clan." These developments are common not only to the Arab countries and the Third World but most of the capitalist world today. This kind of polarization is a general feature of capitalist accumulation under the conditions of the necessities and current economic crisis faced by the global imperialist system, even though this works out differently in different countries.
All this sets the stage for what happened, but it doesn't at all mean that the masses were simply pawns in someone else's game. The mass revolt intensified the development of splits within the ruling class, which in turn encouraged the development of the mass movement. One of the least understood and most important factors is the dynamic interaction of various sections of the people themselves
For decades the regime remained unthreatened and nothing happened because it was "common knowledge" that nothing ever could happen. Most people were silent and passive because they thought everyone else would remain silent and passive. Then, when youth in the interior towns took Bouazizi's tragic suicide as a signal that they, too, had nothing to lose, and teachers encouraged them in throwing stones at the police while lawyers and artists spoke up for them, that made students and other youth in the big cities, especially Tunis, much braver and determined to go over from the Net to the street. All this in turn reacted back on the provincial rebellions.
The January 12 demonstration in Sfax (the country's second-biggest city but one disfavored in comparison with other coastal cities) seems to have played a pivotal role in bringing the provincial revolt to the capital. This was the first big demonstration to openly demand that Ben Ali get out. But while it was the biggest protest up to then, it was still probably only about 30,000 people. Its political significance was far more important than its size.
Not only had the regime lost its legitimacy, it had lost its ability to terrorize a growing number of people, even in the country's urban centers, and this of course made it lose even more legitimacy in the eyes of its own supporters and wavering elements. Suddenly instead of everyone at least tolerating the regime, "everyone" was against it.
It is remarkable that the regime party, which claimed to have a million members, was not able to organize more support. It has been argued that with privatization and the disastrous decline in public services, the ruling party became unable to deliver favors to the worse-off sections of the people who had been most dependent on them. According to some scholars, the lower classes were a more dependable base of support for the ruling party (RCD) than some of the better-off families who, for instance, might prefer to see a private doctor and thus not really need a state health-care card. An activist in Sidi Bouzid explained that the ruling party leadership was more used to deploying its supporters as thugs than as political activists. According to regime figures, 20 percent of the population of Sidi Bouzid were RCD members, one of the highest concentrations in the country.
The regime called for its masses in the capital to rally to its support on the morning of January 14, and the police, unable to identify who was who, at first did not try to stop people from assembling on Bourguiba avenue. Even if the crowd might have included pro-regime people, it ended up solidly united against the police and their chief, Ben Ali.
In speaking with dozens of people, including some who said they were among the main organizers of these events, one of the most striking things is this: few people, if any, got involved in this movement with the idea that they were going to drive out Ben Ali.
It's not that no one wanted to. Today nearly everyone says how happy they were to see him go. But very few people in Tunisia (and leading experts on Tunisia abroad) thought that the regime would ever fall in the sudden and dramatic way it did. What most people hoped for, at best, was a gradual opening, a process of gaining democratic rights. Few people, if anyone, openly called for the regime to be overthrown until close to the very end, or even after Ben Ali fled. The leader of the PCOT, Hamma Hammami, said that his party was "practically the first" to issue such a call, on January 10, four days before the end, when the slogan "Ben Ali clear out!" suddenly swept the country.
Overnight, it seemed like a whole people were chanting it in unison, thrilled to be able to shout those words as loudly as they could and hardly able to believe their ears.
In a tumultuous mass interview in a café on Bourguiba avenue that began with a half-dozen university students and younger teenagers and eventually involved many of their friends, they contended that they (some of them specifically, but more generally other youth like them) were the only ones to call for "the revolution," even though those who came to the biggest demonstrations involved a far broader sampling of society. Even their elders grudgingly admit that this was the case in Tunis, although they argue that support from lawyers' organizations (a key force), artists and especially the trade unions gave the movement its power.
None of what happened was planned by anyone. Most of the left on a national level was held back by their belief that only gradual change was possible. Youth with less fully developed political views acted spontaneously and took the lead, not by "organizing" the movement but by setting its terms and pushing it ahead in the belief that they would win because their cause was just—without being at all clear on what "winning" would be.
There are antecedents to the revolt, notably an upsurge in the southern phosphate mining town of Gafsa in 2008, sparked by miners' widows protesting the fact that jobs in the industry were going to people with regime connections instead of their sons. Interior cities like Sidi Bouzid, Kasserine, Redeyef and Gafsa all saw sharp outbreaks during 2010. Police repression always followed. In the capital, while open political life, especially demonstrations, was not allowed and many people suffered arrests and other forms of persecution, and while the media and other forms of public expression were muzzled, still it seems that consciously or not, the opposition had achieved a certain modus vivendi with the regime, which refrained from fiercer repression as long as people kept their political work low-profile and their demands within certain bounds. Revolutionary work and any call for Ben Ali's overthrow were definitely not allowed, but frankly, it seems that people who consider themselves revolutionaries went over to adapting themselves almost totally to what they were allowed to do.
Their idea was that by working through legal channels and organizations, raising and organizing people around legal demands that did not challenge the whole economic and political system, and not challenging traditional thinking and social relations, gradually the masses of people would become conscious of the need for political liberty, and once that was achieved, the conditions would be prepared for more revolutionary changes.
They thought that if they tried to lead a revolutionary movement before the masses of people were ready for that, they would be isolated. But then when a political crisis broke out and many people—a minority of the population but still a critical mass—decided that they could not live in the old way, the left was caught unprepared and could not fully connect with that opportunity. The youth, it turned out, suddenly became far more radical than the cynical leftists who thought they had a "realistic" plan for gradual change.
Some people abroad claim that the revolt in Tunisia was essentially a trade union movement, but that's half wrong and half misleading. It's wrong because the unions followed the youth, who had no organizations, and misleading because until nearly the end the main organizations that did take part were those of teachers and others members of the intelligentsia. Furthermore, the debate about how much the leftists working through the unions and other groups helped spread the revolt is beside the point, because all they did was help people do what they were already doing spontaneously.
What they did not do, and what no one did, was lead this movement in the sense of striving to impart a conscious direction, even in a limited sense of driving out Ben Ali, much less trying to transform the spontaneous movement into a conscious movement to seize power and begin the kind of revolutionary transformations that could actually satisfy people's needs and demands.
There's not much evidence for the claim that these events were the result of a gradual accumulation of organization and consciousness over the last few years, either among the majority of people, or even the few hundreds and thousands who first revolted and the hundreds of thousands who actively joined in during the last few days. It could be argued that yes, there were outbreaks and righteous struggles, but they were defeated, and wasn't that a negative factor weighing on people?
People's desire for change, and especially whether or not they acted on that desire, was interrelated with whether or not they thought that was possible. There was a confluence of dynamically interacting factors that came together to produce a situation in which, almost overnight, the ruling classes could not rule in the old way and the people were no longer willing to go on living in the old way either, and these two conditions—which Lenin said define a revolutionary situation—reverberated back and forth.
It is hard to write about these complex interactions without falling into simplistic literary devices, but the point is that the extremely powerful dynamics within such situations can transform individuals, whole sections of the people and the political landscape overnight.
French capital and France's "political class" were very closely supportive of Ben Ali, just as they had been with his predecessor and fellow "strong man" Bourguiba. But as the American ambassador's memos indicate, the U.S. became quite willing to see Ben Ali go—and the U.S. had acquired considerable influence in Tunisia, especially among the armed forces who are largely American-equipped. Such armaments are not just an expression of political support, but can also be a source of political influence, since they mean that the Tunisian military trains and works closely with their American counterparts.
Serious observers agree that what forced Ben Ali to flee to Saudi Arabia on January 14 was not that the mass upheaval could no longer be repressed but that the armed forces refused to fully step in when the police and other security services could no longer do so. A Tunisian newspaper reported that Ben Ali asked the armed forces to bomb Kasserine in December, but they disobeyed. It is known that the army—at the top levels—refused to give the order for tanks to fire on demonstrators in Tunis.
Regime loyalists apparently tried to force the armed forces to intervene through deliberate provocations, including the snipers said to have fired on the crowds—many dead were reportedly shot in the head or chest from above—and the mysterious roaming squads that spread random terror in the neighborhoods on Ben Ali's last night. If violence became generalized, they seemed to think, the army could no longer maintain its somewhat standoffish attitude toward the revolt. But in forcing the army's hand, that hand seems to have struck at them instead.
What changed Ben Ali's mind between the evening of 13th, when the 75-year-old went on TV to announce the previously unthinkable "concession" that he would not run for election again in 2014, and some time the following late afternoon when he and his wife were bundled aboard an airplane? It has been widely reported, and never denied, that armed forces chief of staff Rachid Ammar told him that if the crowds marched on the presidential palace that day, his safety could no longer be guaranteed. Some people think Ammar put it less politely. At any rate, it is hard to believe the general made that decision unless he was confident that the "international community" and particularly the U.S. would go along with it. American representatives speaking from Washington and political and military bigwigs visiting Tunis have expressed warm support for the Tunisian armed forces ever since.
The U.S. and certainly France did not want to see a representative of their interests fall and they especially did not want the common people to taste the blood of their oppressors, politically speaking, but they may have considered the alternative—a long and bloody struggle with unpredictable consequences in Tunisia and throughout the region—even worse.
The cohesion of the armed forces and their loyalty to their foreign paymasters gave the imperialists a certain freedom to dump Ben Ali, knowing that the heart of the state, its ability to enforce the prevailing economic and social relations through violence, would remain intact. At the same time, it was clear that if Ben Ali were allowed to cling to the presidency too long and the army supported him in that, its authority and legitimacy in the eyes of the people and maybe its cohesion would be in danger.
It is no disrespect of the people and their accomplishments to point this out, and even to point out that a movement with more revolutionary goals probably would have met with more resistance.
A regime, or the core of a regime, has fallen, but the economic and political system remains intact.
The old political forces are desperately fighting for their legitimacy, but they are still strong, and they can count on the force of habit and the old ways of understanding the world among the masses of people. It is not widely understood that the armed forces are ultimately the local representative of imperialist domination and the enforcer of the imperialist world market, and their guns and fighting organization remain untouched. Even among those who were more advanced in terms of setting the terms for the revolt and in that way pushing it forward, not many people understand how Tunisia and the world could be completely different, so naturally they fall prey to ideas and political trends that basically seek a more or less different version of the world as it is.
It is precisely because of this complex and contradictory situation that the question of leadership is so acutely posed in Tunisia.
To be continued
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.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #244, August 28, 2011
From A World to Win News Service
June 6, 2011. A World to Win News Service. Following is the third and final instalment of a report written for AWTWNS by Samuel Albert. The first instalment, parts I and II, described what the revolt in Tunisia achieved and how it took place. The second discussed the underlying and triggering factors behind this revolt.
It's not every day that there exists such a thing as "the people." During the revolt, there was a "people" that made its will known, not in the sense of all ten million or even millions of Tunisians coming out into the streets, but in the sense that people of conflicting social classes and political and ideological trends were united in their determination to get rid of Ben Ali, on the one hand, and on the other, those who supported the regime or weren't sure were no longer in a mood to speak out.
Now "the people" has begun to divide out according to the class interests of the various forces involved, even while nearly everyone's thinking remains contradictory. Millions remain dissatisfied, especially among the lower classes and the workers. That is very favorable for radical social change. But the factors that stand in the way of that change include not only the persisting strength of the world economic system and its local ruling classes, but also some elements in the thinking among the people and especially the lack of a clearer understanding of the basic problems that afflict them. Some of these conflicting ideas can be seen in what was said in interviews
- Spetla, a very small town in the center of the country, between Kasserine and Sidi Bouzid. Newspaper and refreshments stand owner:
There is no work in this town at all. If you don't farm, the only way to make a living is commerce. People from here go down to the border with Libya, buy a few things made in China or Europe and bring them back here to sell. Before we couldn't make a living because people were just coming back with a knapsack of smuggled goods while Ben Ali's wife Trabelsi was having whole shipping containers full of merchandise brought into the country without paying customs fees. Local smugglers just couldn't compete. But we never had any demonstrations here
Now Ben Ali and the Trabelsi are gone but there's a war in Libya and the border is closed. So people from here are going abroad to look for work. When you hear about all those "sea jumpers," Tunisians dying to make it to Italy in small boats, that's us. We have liberty now but there's no way to make a living.
- Unemployed older man, Bourguiba avenue:
I've been unemployed for ten years. I can't tell you how I've managed to feed my family. I have a wife and two kids; one works in the street and another is seven and will go to school next year. I don't know how we survive. I studied in France and came back to a good job in the sanitation department. My brother-in-law was with the Islamics and I got fired for that. I haven't been able to find work since. I'm very glad we have liberty now but my life is still lousy.
- Grizzled older worker and other strikers at a plant that makes reinforced concrete pipes, Ben Arous:
We're poor. That means we don't have any money. Yes, we did contribute to the movement that overthrew Ben Ali. When he saw the crowd on January 14, he was afraid we would storm his palace, so he and his family got on an airplane and left. He was backed basically by the French and the U.S. France intervened militarily in Libya and the Ivory Coast but they never told Ben Ali to go.
At our plant they treated us like slaves. Paid us less than the minimum wage. Now we have liberty, so it's only natural that we start a union and try to get the protection of the law. But the government is still a mafia, paid off by the U.S. and France.
What do we expect from the revolution? We hope for the best. So far we haven't seen anything at all, zero percent change. In fact, things are worse economically, not better. The bosses are still ugly and hard-headed. We all want—freedom to talk, freedom of the press, freedom of everything. Does democracy mean that the employers have all the rights? The new government is the same as before. Ben Ali was a big thief, but we've been under the same system for 56 years (since independence from France). Democracy hasn't changed that so far, but we want it to change.
- 23-year-old student, at rally on Bourguiba avenue:
It's very important to me that we have liberty now. That's why we made the revolution. But when are the snipers who shot us down going to be brought to justice? Who's protecting them? Why does the government deny that they even existed? And why do the police have the right to stop me on the street and demand to know why I'm taking pictures with my mobile (cell phone)? And here's my big question: Why do bad people always end up on top?
- Middle-aged high school chemistry teacher, shopping center cafeteria:
I decided to wear hijab (in this case a "modern" head scarf) five years ago. My mother wore one of those old-fashioned white head scarves but my family wasn't observant. It was when I got older that I turned to Islam. I teach and my husband is a teacher and we share all the household tasks. I'm not someone who believes women should stay home or be paid less.
Why are people like me turning to religion? When you're frustrated and don't have freedom you take refuge in religion, drinking or drugs. I hate to see all those kids doing nothing with their lives but hanging out in cafés and drinking beer. I don't want to see so many university graduates without jobs. My daughter, who's a chemical engineer, couldn't find work here and had to go to France to teach. If the extremists come to power, they won't let her work here or even go abroad. But under Ben Ali, I wasn't allowed to cover my head in school.
I'm the one who decided to cover my head, and I'll decide when to take it off. I believe in an indulgent Islam, one that believes in forgiveness. I define religious extremism as not wanting to allow discussion. What I want is a democratic, balanced country where people have values.
- Owner of a restaurant frequented by merchants in the Medina, the Tunis old-quarter markets. Employs six people:
I'm an Islamic. But I'm against extremism. Islam means moderation in everything. What we need now is security. The laws should be changed so that they can cut off the hands of thieves.
It's a good thing that the army didn't shoot the people but this revolution isn't working. Things have gotten out of hand and they shouldn't have let that happen. People aren't going to work and there are thieves everywhere. The garbage workers are on strike and the rubbish is piling up. Everyone should be working hard now, but they're not.
I want three things:; security, order, everyone going to work. The old regime people are still running the government, business and industry.
God protects our country, but it could be better. It's not really our country. The economy is very iffy—we have industry, even hi-tech, phosphate mines and agriculture, but things could go better. A new president means nothing. Belgium has gone without a government for a year and nobody cares. But we do need police and security.
When I'm at work I should be able to concentrate on business without worrying about my wife at home and my kids on the street. What I want to see is a country without iron bars. The day I no longer see iron bars on all the doors and windows is the day we'll have law.
We fathers need more support as heads of the family. We need child subsidy payments so we can have more kids. And I want to pay less taxes and utility fees. In France, if you make minimum wage and spend it all on meat, you could buy 100 kilos. Here it would be only 15 kilos. And we pay relatively a lot more for health care than in France. Why is that?
- Young woman activist, Ben Arous:
When we had an International Women's Day demonstration on Bourguiba avenue on March 8, the Islamics held a counter-demonstration. They didn't physically attack us, like they sometimes do to "immodest" women in the cafes, but they were very aggressive. They chanted, "Women go home!" That's their solution to unemployment: make all women quit their jobs and spend their lives taking care of their families.
There have always been Islamics among the workers and the union members, but now that the preachers can operate openly, more young workers are joining that movement, just like thousands and thousands are joining unions and political parties. That's what freedom means. I'm afraid of the old regime making a comeback and I'm afraid of the Islamics.
- Teachers' union official, Ben Arous:
First we battled the dictatorship, now we're battling the fundamentalists. Since the revolution there's been a lot of Islamic agitation, especially among the youth. They didn't lift a finger during the revolution but at last night's meeting they demanded most of the seats in our Committee to Defend the Revolution. But I know that the government won't let them take over.
On his way out the door on January 14, Ben Ali named his Prime Minister, Mohammed Ghannouchi, the new head of state. This was seen as a last act of tyranny on his part, since it went against the procedure established by the constitution.
Veteran and new activists organized Committees to Defend the Revolution at open mass meetings in cities and towns throughout the country. Students, youth and others from Tunis were joined by youth who came from the provincial cities in a giant sit-in in front of the government office complex called the Kasbah, on the other side of the Medina from Bourguiba avenue, to demand the dissolution of a government made up of the "living dead," Ben Ali's old ministers and notables.
To appease the people and demonstrate that Tunisia would now be a state of law, the head of the National Assembly, Fouad Mebazzaa, became president as prescribed by the constitution. Mebazzaa turned around and appointed Ghannouchi his prime minister.
Then on February 25 came a new occupation that lasted until Ghannouchi was replaced as prime minister by Beji Caid Essebsi, an 84-year-old man who had been prime minister under Bourguiba but was not so associated with Ben Ali. Eventually the youth from the provinces went home and the second Kasbah sit-in dwindled and came to an end. An attempt in March to organize a "Kasbah III" to depose Essebsi failed.
The new government successfully brushed aside the attempts of the Committees to Defend the Revolution to exercise a kind of dual power. Instead it proposed what Essebsi described as a "synthesis" between those advocating continuity and those fighting for a clean break with the old regime: a High Authority for the Achievement of the Goals of the Revolution, Political Reform and the Transition to Democracy, whose 155 members are nominated from below and approved by the state (hence the union leader's statement that the government won't let the Islamics take over). This body is to prepare for elections to a Constitutional Assembly, which in turn would write a new constitution and hold new parliamentary and presidential elections. Originally scheduled for July 24, now it seems that these elections may be delayed until November
This body has been joined by most (but not all) of the organizations that took part in toppling Ben Ali and some that did not, such as Ennahda (The Renaissance), a newly-revived Islamic party that says its aim is not an Islamic regime but what some people call "Islam lite" modeled after the governing AKP party in Turkey. Ennahda defends its failure to participate in the revolt as a tactic to avoid allowing Ben Ali to discredit the movement against him, but many people think it hoped for an accommodation with the regime. Considered the largest party now, it is among the most loyal supporters of the present government and consistently praises the armed forces.
These measures taken in the name of democracy have significantly lessened the participation of the broad masses in the political process. Many people feel that things are being decided behind closed doors in cynical negotiations between representatives of what they see as hard-to-define "interests" who don't care what ordinary people think or want or need. Yet at the same time there is a still a tug of war between the regime's efforts to stabilize and the continuing dissatisfaction.
One of the most important of these tests of strength took place in May, when a recently-fired Interior Minister told a TV interviewer that he had been prevented from getting rid of former regime figures in the security services. He also said that the president and the head of the armed forces had discussed launching a military coup if they didn't like the results of the Constituent Assembly elections. This swelled the ranks of the Friday march to the Interior Ministry on May 6. Protesters chanted, "The people want a new revolution!" The police not only attacked it with special savagery, they rampaged throughout the city center and into adjoining lower-class neighborhoods. They also hunted down and beat journalists, chasing some into the offices of a regime mouthpiece newspaper.
There are constant strikes (hence the restaurant owner's complaints) and mini-"Clear out!" movements aimed at getting rid of petty tyrants linked to the old regime in schools, offices, hospitals and all sorts of institutions. But some activists now feel a discouraging sense of drift, a feeling that they don't know where things are headed or exactly what to do about it. They also understand that "stabilization" doesn't necessarily mean that things would stay the way they are right now. Facebook, Twitter and mobiles (cell phones) helped make the revolt possible, but their electronic records also mean that if the forces of repression regain the initiative, they would know who to round up and punish.
Despite its name, most of what the High Authority is supposed to decide is not related to "the Goals of the Revolution," in the sense of the yearnings that drove people forward. It is true that the electoral code grossly favored the ruling party (which never, however, skipped an election), and that the formulation of a new code and related matters will have consequences. But it's like an interminable squabble over the rules for a discussion to avoid discussing the basic issues and hide the fact that they are already being decided.
Whether in the High Authority or elsewhere, there is little debate over the big questions that the country faces, issues that made themselves felt, even though not clearly understood: How is Tunisia going to recover its national dignity and become the truly independent country that more than half a century of political independence from France has not yet brought about? How is it going to overcome the yawning regional disparities? How will it have the kind of development that can provide not only jobs but the dignity of fulfilling lives to everyone? How are the workers ever going to be anything but slaves? How are people in the countryside going to be rescued from their living tombs and freed to become a long-term force for social transformation? Are women's aspirations for equality going to bring them more fully into the movement for social change, or are these aspirations going to become a target? How can the education of so many youth become a force for that kind of transformation and not a cruel joke on them and their parents? What kind of social and moral values and what kind of world outlook will prevail?
Again, the question of "Who will lead" is not just an abstraction. Two visions are competing for the people's loyalty, and neither is good.
Many people, including religious people, are terrified by the prospect of a fundamentalist takeover. This danger is far from a fantasy. In April, a man yelling "Allahu Akbar" swung an iron bar at the head of one of Tunisia's most famous film directors, Nouri Bouzid, as he chatted with a student at a university. His 1992 film Bezness (the title combines French slang for sex and the English word "business"), about a prostitute who sells himself to tourists but insists on male domination in the family in the name of "honor", brought out the side of Tunisian society many people would rather not see. Other Tunisian artists and intellectuals took this as more of a warning than an isolated incident. In May, Nadia El-Fani was threatened with death because of her new film Neither Master nor Allah.
In the 1990s, the Tunisian Islamic movement, led by Ennahda and the man who still leads it today, Rachid Ghannouchi (no relationship to Ghannouchi the prime minister), allied with fundamentalists in neighboring Algeria in an attempt to foment and actually carry out an armed takeover in Tunisia.
It would be hard to exaggerate how traumatic that period was for Algeria, Tunisia and elsewhere in the Arab countries. The Algerian military canceled elections after an Islamic party won the first round. Hundreds of thousands of people were killed in a convoluted civil war between the military and two rival Islamic trends. Who was killing whom became hard to determine and ultimately not the most important question. All sides massacred whole villages and urban neighborhoods. Intellectuals and artists were murdered in such numbers that many fled the country.
In Tunisia, Ben Ali succeeded in crushing Ennahda by means of arrests, torture and imprisonment on a vast scale. He also used this as an excuse to crush all dissent for the next two decades. But the Islamics bore the brunt of the most violent repression.
Ennahda re-emerged as a major force almost as soon as Ben Ali fell and its leaders returned from exile in the UK and France. There is constant debate about whether it has abandoned its goal of religious rule. It has strength among the lower and middle classes, from factory workers to shopkeepers and especially lawyers, who are divided between secular and religious tendencies. Meanwhile, a Salafist movement has also sprung up overnight. (Salafists are Sunnis who advocate a return to Islam as they believe it was practiced in the early days.) Hizb al-Tahrir (The Party of Liberation) calls for an Islamic caliphate and the abolition of political freedoms. It has been able to recruit many youth, apparently from among the poor, and they go around looking for fights. The situation on the streets is complicated. Often, when "immodest" women and girls are treated as fair game, people say they aren't sure who is doing it.
It can't be ruled out that Ghannouchi sincerely has become a "revisionist Islamic," as some people call him, and would like to follow the path of the Turkish "Islam lite" AKP in becoming part of a pro-U.S., modernizing government. In a recent major report on Tunisia, the International Crisis Group, run by the cream of European and American diplomacy and government-friendly think tanks, is unashamedly enthusiastic about Ennahda. But it would be wrong not to recognize the contradictoriness and fluidity of the situation. Once religion has been accepted as the ground of legitimacy and truth, then "indulgent" religiosity can find itself at a disadvantage in relation to fundamentalism.
Bob Avakian has introduced the concept of the "two outmodeds": "Jihad on the one hand and McWorld/McCrusade on the other," "historically outmoded strata among colonized and oppressed humanity up against historically outmoded ruling strata of the imperialist system." While "it is the historically outmoded ruling strata of the imperialist system" that "poses the greater threat to humanity," "if you side with either of these 'outmodeds', you end up strengthening them both." (Bringing Forward Another Way) In Tunisia, it's not that one side stands up and proclaims itself in favor of imperialist domination and the other opposes everything modern. But still, this quote accurately describes a trap that most people are falling into.
When pressed about their hopes for Tunisia, many activists and intellectuals as well as people from the lower classes answer that they want it to become like France, a stable parliamentary multi-party democracy with a social safety net. Many Tunisians have lived the harsh lives of immigrant workers, and they don't think Europe is heaven. It's just hard for people to conceive that anything better is possible, especially in today's world, where even most of the Tunisian left has not really analyzed the historical experience of the communist-led revolutions, and instead accepts the dominant thinking that radical change has proved futile. Further, while many ordinary people do have some sense that France could not be the way it is without the super-exploitation of countries like Tunisia, they don't have enough of a scientific understanding that the "French" model is actually impossible in Tunisia, again largely because they don't see any alternative.
This posing of Tunisia's possible future in terms of the French model or Islamic fundamentalist rule (what people not so scarred by the Algerian experience would call the Iranian model) provides more favorable grounds for Islamicism—and vice versa.
This is a society modern enough to have as many girl students as boys but where not only is there more than twice as much illiteracy among women than men in general, but even among today's generation there are twice as many unemployed female university graduates as male. Secularist Tunisians are right when they point out that Tunisia's 1959 constitution was more advanced than France's at that time in terms of women's rights, but it also makes serious concessions to Islam on this subject (women only inherit half as much as men and have less rights in other family matters). At any rate, the example of France should tell us something: women there are equal in legal terms but it is still a thoroughly male supremacist, patriarchal society, as the recent wave of support for the accused rapist, IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn, should make obvious, since the argument is not that he is innocent but that rape isn't important. Male supremacist religion and patriarchal elements are still very powerful in Tunisia, reflecting the hold of reactionary traditions, beliefs and practices among the people, and the Islamics can gain an advantage by openly appealing to male supremacy rather than trying to cover it up.
Some people contend that a more radical stand against the "French model' and the "Iranian model" would cut off political activists from the broad masses and especially the lower strata, but in fact fuzzy and wrong thinking on these questions is a major obstacle to being able to connect in a sustained way with those who have nothing to lose and unite these masses, better-off strata, the intelligentsia and others.
Further, clarity on these questions is the only way to provide a scientific understanding that can deal with a major source of depression among ordinary people and activists alike right now: when they look at the Tunisian regime, the army and the Islamics, and think about Algeria and the civil war between the French- (and American-) backed Algerian military and the Islamic fundamentalists there, many people feel that the question now is not whether things can get better but whether or not, one way or another, they are about to get much worse.
Political liberty—freedom of expression, protest, the press and so on—is not just for the educated middle classes. In fact, as can be seen in the concrete development of the revolt as people seized these rights through their own struggle and sacrifice, ordinary Tunisians have spoken up fearlessly, defied authority and produced a more profound and society-wide social questioning and ferment than seen since the 1960s in most "advanced" countries where such rights are enshrined in law. This is necessary for people to become fully alive and for real social change to take place.
But what to tell those whose lives will continue to be miserable? That now that some relatively better-off people have gotten some of what they want, the "revolution" is over?
The unspoken assumption behind the political arrangements now being put into place is that life—Tunisia's relationship with the rest of the world and the economic and social relationships between Tunisians (the various classes, men and women, the regions)—is going to be like before, only a little better because now they have political rights and parliamentary democracy.
Whether or not people are fully aware of it, what they are rebelling against in Tunisia and throughout the Arab countries (and elsewhere in the Third World) is the way imperialism dominates the organization of their economies and shapes their societies as a whole on that basis, and the political regimes that enforce that domination.
Tunisia is not necessarily doomed to the rule of an autocrat or a military junta, but it's no accident that naked dictatorship has been so common throughout the Third World, geographically and historically. (Latin America, sometimes held up as proof that those days are over, has actually known alternating periods of "democratic openings" and military clampdowns for the last century.)
They may have elections and sometimes constitutional rights (as opposed to arbitrary rule of the Ben Ali or other varieties), but these things tend to get restricted, when not just cut off. The local foreign-dependent ruling classes are smaller and weaker than the ruling classes in the imperialist countries, the middle classes are smaller and even less stable, the conditions of life more often impel people to rebel, and lopsided regional development often makes centralized rule difficult. Persisting feudal and other pre-capitalist exploitative relations often facilitate imperialist domination, and the classes and forces that represent these relations are also bitter enemies of the people's basic interests.
Most fundamentally, no matter what the system of government, the ruling classes of such countries are representatives of the imperialist relations, and the right of self-determination and the equality of nations are never on the agenda. It is not just that they are subservient to imperialism politically, although it is true that imperialist machinations and interventions play a major role in bringing governments into office and taking them out again. As long as their economies are organized according to the laws of capitalism, especially the pursuit of the highest rate of profit, in a world where the competing monopoly capital formations rooted in a handful of countries dominate the rest, or in other words, as long as they are dependent on the imperialist world market, they must bow to the interests and dictates of Paris, New York, London, Berlin, Rome, etc. This is the only logic capitalists and other exploiting classes can follow.
A development that would meet the needs of the people would require a whole different political system, one whose purpose was to free the people and the nation from the domination of imperialism and the Tunisian capitalists and other exploiters reliant on them, not seeing development as a goal in itself, which would simply open the door to old or new exploiters, but as part of a process leading toward the abolition of forms of exploitation and oppression and the overcoming of all inequalities on a world scale. As part of this, there would also have to be a process of breaking with prevailing oppressive social relations, customs and thinking, both those imposed by imperialism and those traditionally embedded in Tunisian society.
Tunisians are right to want to be able to express themselves, organize themselves, and enjoy other liberties, to be free of arbitrary rule, to recover individual and national dignity and take their country back. But they can't be free unless they understand that the word "freedom" is meaningless and deceitful unless they ask themselves: freedom for who, for which class? Freedom for the imperialists and their local allies? Or freedom from them for the people, freedom to have a decisive role in determining the direction of society and join with people worldwide to free humanity?
These questions, even in the most immediate forms of why Tunisia and Tunisians suffer like they do and what can be done about it, are not being thought about deeply enough and debated in Tunisia right now. Instead, too many people are caught up in what seems possible at any given moment, even when they know or suspect that there is no way out for Tunisia unless it breaks the bonds of politics as it is now practiced and people start figuring out how to make possible a real revolution. In a word, the future of the revolt in Tunisia has not been settled. Today's "democratic opening" can favor the training and preparation of the people for revolution; but it can also disorient and lull them, leading to the loss of the revolt's great gains: their political awakening, their widespread and acted-upon determination for some kind of radical change without which such change is impossible, and the political initiative they have seized out of the hands of their oppressors.
The point is to see the situation in Tunisia not just as it is, but as it could become. Some activists close their eyes and hope that history will always do the right thing, while others are prone to bouts of dark thoughts. Many are afflicted by both. The important thing is not to pluck up one's courage but to see how what the masses of people have done has created a very favorable situation for the revolutionary work that has to be done.
No one can predict how long this situation will last. Nor can anyone predict how the regional and world volatility that Tunisians have helped bring about might react back on Tunisia.
So far the Tunisian people have accomplished amazing things on their own initiative. But they are facing obstacles that they can either overcome or be defeated by. The question is who will lead the people now—one or another sort of reactionaries who seek to drag the people backward, or comrades who break with reformist politics, seize the possibility of training themselves and many others in the most advanced understanding of the science of communism amidst the upheaval and confusion, and forge a revolutionary strategy.
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 #244, August 28, 2011
Posted Thursday, August 25, 2011
"All along the way, both in more 'normal times' and especially in times of sharp breaks with the 'normal routine,' it is necessary to be working consistently to accumulate forces—to prepare minds and organize people in growing numbers—for revolution, among all who can be rallied to the revolutionary cause. Among the millions and millions who catch hell in the hardest ways every day under this system. But also among many others who may not, on a daily basis, feel the hardest edge of this system's oppression but are demeaned and degraded, are alienated and often outraged, by what this system does, the relations among people it promotes and enforces, the brutality this embodies."
— from "On the Strategy for Revolution," A Statement from
the Revolutionary Communist Party
These next few weeks will witness something really new—scores, perhaps hundreds, of people fanning out on college campuses and handing out the powerful special edition of Revolution to acquaint tens of thousands of students, and others, with the book BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian.
The message that will come through: "you can't change the world if you don't know the BAsics!" These students will get acquainted with what BA has been bringing forward, and what he's all about. Many will get more deeply into this, on different levels—pondering and discussing the quotes in the special issue, and buying the book and engaging that, right away and over time. This activity will be very important in its own right to putting revolution—this revolution, based on BA's new synthesis—on the map. Recent editorials have gone into the purpose of this initiative and the importance of making that very broadly known, and we won't repeat that here. Rather, as we now go into this great effort, we want to emphasize the importance of "accumulating forces for revolution," as we do this and coming out of it.
While many people, as noted, will want to mainly engage through reading the book, at least at first, there are some people who will want to find other ways to get into the movement for revolution. We are posting with this a letter from a comrade about experience going out to a concert with people newer to the movement—one who literally got involved that very day—to popularize BAsics. And there are other positive experiences as well to get into, and ideas which we are going to lay out later.
But in order to do that right, there are still fetters in our own thinking, expectations and habits, that we have to root out. The fact remains that we still hear from people who are interested in getting involved that it is hard to figure out how—where to carve in... and what is expected. Bringing forward the new people that we meet and making a place for them in the movement for revolution is part of the ongoing struggle to further strengthen and deepen the revolutionary character and foundations of the Party—part of more deeply breaking with the revisionism (being revolutionary in words, but reformist in actual fact) that has been identified and struggled against in the Cultural Revolution within the RCP. It has everything to do with grasping the fact that there is a real material basis for the understanding of revolution and communism we are taking to people—a basis for people to be drawn to this, to engage it, and to take it up and help, in many, many different ways, to take it out and make it a point of reference—and increasingly a material force—in this rotten-to-the-core society.
The truth is this: Because of BA and the work he has done over several decades, summing up the positive and negative experience of the communist revolution so far, and drawing from a broad range of human experience, there is a new synthesis of communism that has been brought forward—there really is a viable vision and strategy for a radically new, and much better, society and world, and there is the crucial leadership that is needed to carry forward the struggle toward that goal.
These next few weeks are a special opportunity to bring that home to many, many new people—and to involve many of them, as well as longer-standing ties, in spreading that word to others.
And let's remember the real deal here: These students are in a situation in which despair, no matter how well-concealed or suppressed, is so rampant that according to the president of Cornell University, "about 2,000 alcohol-related deaths each year occur among American college students." ["A Pledge to End Fraternity Hazing," David J. Skorton, NY Times, August 23, 2011]* Their desire to engage big ideas, to seek out a purpose and calling in life, and to find meaning at this pivotal time of their lives is mis-channeled, stifled or squashed. The metaphor drawn in "Birds Cannot Give Birth to Crocodiles, But Humanity Can Soar Beyond the Horizon" takes on a particularly vivid meaning in this context:
"If there were an epidemic disease striking down people and there were a doctor in the area who had developed a cure for the disease, should we be defensive about telling the masses about that, or should we be knocking on their doors and shaking them awake to tell them, 'hey, you don't have to suffer this terrible disease—the cure may not be easy, but it's there and it's real'?"
When we keep all that in mind—what we actually represent and what is concentrated so beautifully in BAsics, up against what people are actually forced to swallow every single day in this putrid culture—it should make it much easier to creatively come up with ways to involve people—to "accumulate forces...FOR REVOLUTION."
So, what are some ways to open things up for people to make real what is said in the statement on strategy: "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"?
First off, donating funds. We should be shaking the bucket everywhere we go... and we should be going to people we meet and people we know, and really giving them a chance to support this exciting initiative financially. Such support is very critical to the revolution—it is active support and it is serious support. It is a way to feel part of, and to BE part of, supporting the effort to make BA a point of reference in this society and specifically among the youth and students.
Second—and this is very related to raising funds—we should be systematically going to professors and sharing with them this book, and what we're all about. Revolution has now received several reports of professors utilizing, or planning to utilize, BAsics or other works of BA in their classes. This is very good; it comes from giving people the book, sitting down and hearing them out about their concerns and their aims, learning from them, and working with them to see how BAsics can be a unique and dynamic element in their classes. Other professors might themselves wish to pass out the eight-page special edition on BAsics, or might wish to invite a representative to speak—a few words, or perhaps more—and get it out.
Third, let people whose interest gets piqued by the paper know where they can go—that same day—to talk about what they've just encountered. It could be a coffee shop, a table in the cafeteria, a spot on campus or nearby... wherever. Somewhere to wrangle with these ideas. People have often taken up this opportunity in the past. We can learn as well from the experience reported last Spring, where students in a cafeteria table were given a quote to read—it was 1:10—and it sparked a great deal of very deep discussion.
We should note as we do all this that during the tours of Raymond Lotta and Sunsara Taylor a few years ago, several students at different campuses wrote op eds for their campus paper saying that while they were not fully convinced of the ideas of either Lotta or Taylor, they appreciated the chance to engage them and wanted to invite others to do so. We should ask ourselves—and ask them, and people with those same feelings—what are the forms in which they would like to do that? People want to hear the contestation of ideas—would they be interested in debates, discussions, forums? Would they want to set up a club on campus to sponsor that? Would they want help in doing that?
Fourth, set up discussion groups around BAsics in our stores, or in other centers. Thus far, people have attended these discussions—some have stayed with it, and others have come in and out... but all that is part of the process. At the same time, there should also be a new wave of discussion of Birds/Crocodiles—so that new people can get more deeply into the substance of the science, and what BA has been doing.
Fifth, let people know about cultural events, store discussions on other books, etc.—let them know what is going on and give them many ways to plug into all this.
Does this mean that we should not try to involve people in other active work that the Party and other revolutionary forces are doing, work that is already underway? Far from it! In fact, everywhere we set up we should have a flier that we give to interested people that lets them know the multitude of ways they can get connected and get involved—from taking an e-sub to the paper to actually distributing or working on the paper or website; from spreading BAsics in different ways to volunteering at the local bookstore; etc., etc.
To re-emphasize: our main activity in these next two weeks should be to actually saturate some key campuses and other sites, including some high schools, with the eight-page special edition. As we do that, we should also be involving others, including as we meet them. Then, after this, we should give some special focus to further consolidation—which we will discuss next week.
The point is this: to come out of these next few weeks significantly strengthened in all three of the objectives in the campaign around "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have"—that is to say, the particular but interrelated objectives of putting THIS revolution on the map in people's thinking; making Bob Avakian a point of reference in society; and bringing forward cores of new initiators of a new stage of communism. To come out with much more active and vibrant layers and groupings of people relating to the movement for revolution in all kinds of different ways. And to be poised for greater advance, moving forward from a new, and higher, plateau.
* This article is well worth reading. It is, whatever the intention of its author, a massive indictment of this entire society. In it, the president of Cornell University describes a campus culture in which sexual abuse, bullying, and "dangerous humiliation" are not only endemic but generally take place "without [a] feeling [of] remorse" on the part of those perpetrating it. This was written because this past February a 19-year-old sophomore at Cornell died during a fraternity initiation rite that included "mock kidnapping, ritualized humiliation and coerced drinking." While the tone of the article is somewhat dry, the statistics and descriptions cited by the author should actually shock anyone with a sense not only of how actually horrific these behaviors and their consequences are as well as how unnecessary and terribly, terribly wasteful (from the standpoint of what humanity actually IS capable of) they are—but also how utterly rooted these kinds of "pastimes" are in the values of this inhuman, shark-like capitalist society, with its relentless pressure to commodify one's very humanity, and with the suffocating context of the "social and psychic glue" that holds it together—the pervasive and crippling patriarchy, the vicious white supremacy, and the callous America-uber-alles mentality. [back]
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Revolution #244, August 28, 2011
Posted Thursday, August 25, 2011
We received the following correspondence:
Recently a festival of music put on by the DJ known as Bassnectar took place in New York City. We found out that Lupe Fiasco was on the lineup, and given the content of his recent album and how he has been speaking out recently around Racism in America and opposing the policies of Obama, as well as his overall work and audience, this would be an important place to connect thousands of youth with BAsics. Bassnectar is also a progressive DJ who has done a lot of advocacy and raising funds for food aid for people around the world.
A group of us went out with the palm cards for BAsics and a banner that said, "You Can't Change the World If You Don't Know the Basics." There was a good-size crew of people at all different levels, including about a half-dozen people who had never gone out with the movement for revolution or done any work like this before. One of these individuals, a young immigrant and student, actually spoke with a woman at Revolution Books as the team was getting ready to go. She is a Black woman from another country who just happened to be walking by and was intrigued by the bookstore. After this young guy told her about BAsics and what we were doing and invited her to come, she was convinced and joined up with the team for the afternoon!
Not everyone who gets involved, or volunteers, or is checking things out, or wants to contribute to the movement for revolution and BA being known in the world, necessarily wants to right away actively get this out and engage people and distribute materials—and that is perfectly fine and okay, people can come and just watch and listen. But it was interesting and positive that this group of a half-dozen young people who had never done this before, including two white students as well, actually were really eager to do this in a big way and jumped right in, walking through the crowds of people lining up to go into the show and handing out postcards, doing agitation, selling Revolution newspaper. One young guy would say to people, "Stop working for a system that's not working for you," and hand people a postcard. Another young person who came and was not entirely new to this, but in taking new responsibility he had already emailed a couple of the artists about playing a clip from the Revolution talk by BA. He is also a huge Lupe Fiasco fan, and when someone gave him a ticket was very excited to be going in and wanted to make sure he had BAsics and copies of the clip that was played at the recent L.A. Rising concert [See "An Inspiring Breath of Fresh Air," Revolution #243] to try and reach out to the artists as well.
So the scene was that one person had this banner and was reading the short quotes and telling people not to leave without a copy of the new book on revolution and human emancipation by Bob Avakian, the leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party. We said that we can change the world, don't believe the lies they tell you that this is the best of all possible worlds, but you can't change the world if you don't know the BAsics. A few people stayed close to this agitation, and another person who was more experienced grabbed a couple people and started going into the line to go in and more actively sell books. Within a very brief period of time they had sold a book and less than half the way through the evening there were three books sold to people on the street. One person heard that the book was about revolution and got his wallet out and came straight up to get it. Others were involved in more back and forth.
It turned out that this was not the crowd of Lupe Fiasco fans we thought it would be, which would be multinational youth, a lot of skateboarders and other youth into different counter-cultures, and with a general bent against the status quo. This crowd was mostly white and into electronic music and had lots of sparkles and black light paint. This is not negative, just a different grouping than we expected and which turned out to be very interesting.
At first there were a lot of comments that were in some way trying to make light of what we were saying, or dismiss it, or just trying to understand it because people hadn't ever heard anything about it. Other times people made silly remarks to be contrary: "You can't change the world if you don't know the BAsics—Yes you can!" "I already know them." "What are you trying to say?" "Revolution, what do you mean?" "Wait, you're for slavery?" "Are you promoting communism or against it?"
One person responded to the quote "American lives are not more important than other people's lives" by saying, "Yes they are, and being someone living in America 1 can make a good argument for that."
Another person said they already knew the BAsics. Someone responded, "Really? You know about Bob Avakian's new synthesis of communist revolution? You know about the fundamental contradiction of capitalism? You know about the strategy to get beyond that through revolution?"
They became more thoughtful and seemed really glad to engage; they said that actually they were halfway through Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States and they asked if we heard of a theory called "Boomeratis," which had to do with analyzing the effect that the baby-boomer generation was going to have on society and the planet and what they would be leaving future generations to deal with. Someone said to this person that this was important history and very interesting, but BAsics was the only book today like this, looking at all these questions having to do with understanding and changing the world, from the point of view of making revolution. This young white student wanted to stay in touch with Revolution Books and said he would look for the book online.
Within this whole scene of getting out BAsics as hundreds of kids were waiting in line to get into the concert, a couple of us started reading the poem "Rain of Terror" by Abiodun Oyewole of the Last Poets, which was in Revolution newspaper, to unite with the way in which Lupe Fiasco has been doing some exposure about what the U.S. with Obama as commander-in-chief has been doing. This sharpened up the question of what kind of world is possible and desirable very quickly. There was flag-waving and "USA" chanting, and we took it right on! One person started agitating very powerfully that this flag is dripping with blood and what does it actually represent for the people in this country and around the world and the whole history of genocide of Native Americans and slavery. Then someone started chanting "USA, USA, USA!!" and three or four others joined in and were trying to drown this person out who was agitating against them. And the person kept going—they said, "Yeah, the so-called land of the free home of the brave and this is a big lie, when in reality a young Black man cannot walk down the street without being afraid of being harassed by the police, brutalized and even killed, where 40 percent of Black men in inner cities are unemployed and have little hope of a job, where youth have no future and the most dangerous place for women is in her home, and a woman is never free to walk down the street without fear of being raped and without being degraded and looked at as a thing for the pleasure of others, yes that's your land of the free and what does this country mean to the people of the planet, the little children who see that flag as their families are being slaughtered when bombs are dropped on wedding parties and schools. Where people are driven to compete more and more as part of a whole system." They connected this back to BAsics, making the point that "Things don't have to be this way" and anyone who is listening that has ever dreamt of a different world, know that it is possible because of this leader Bob Avakian and the movement for revolution that's he's leading, and don't leave here tonight without getting a copy of BAsics because we can bring into being a whole different world, but we need this leadership and we need to make a revolution and we can change the world fundamentally and this is your chance to find out about it, it's way past time.
After this died down, one of the other volunteers pointed out that there was something very significant that happened. They said that if you ever watch a baseball game, and he does, people start up the USA chant and it can get going and spread throughout the whole stadium for several minutes and that these kids were trying to get this going and there, with these hundreds of young kids, it very well could have, but it didn't stick and even the people waving the flag backed down as we stood our ground and spoke about the need and possibility of revolution and BAsics. Indeed you could feel a tension in the air and hear the conversations stop as people paused to listen and one person said they saw someone watching from the sidelines with a lot of intensity and they were unsure at first whether to approach this person and when they ran into them later at the concert decided to find out what they thought. It turns out they are Native American and said they agreed with everything we had been saying and were on our side.
We went right up in the face of the status quo and challenged everything and it was exciting and important that we did so and people took note, and also, the people who came out to make this happen, felt a little..."Whoa." They were thrown a little and that was okay. For different reasons we didn't fully expect to have a crowd with this more mainstream America suburbanism vibe to it, but it was a lot of kids coming from out in the suburbs to go to the show. We also thought it would draw a lot more people who were really looking for something radical and more broadly were against the status quo, but what we got was more the status quo. And so people that came out with us had different responses to this and went through a process.
At first some people were saying that this crowd just wanted to go party and they weren't really receptive and too into themselves and their own lives and getting more and having a good time to really care about anything. But a couple of people pointed out that actually there was a lot of that, but there was also a lot of people who were interested and intrigued and even engaging, and indeed very quickly we got out hundreds and hundreds of cards.
Another person tried to read the poem, and unfortunately they came much more under attack politically and weren't able to get through it and at first they were thrown and they hung back and watched for a while but kept getting out BAsics cards. Then they saw how this more experienced person was engaging people and selling books and they were attracted to this and paired up with them and listened as well as joined in with the conversation.
The young immigrant student pondered, "Hmmm, I think we would have better luck in the neighborhoods of oppressed people." The brand-new person who came to the store that day said, "Look, I think people would be more likely to get into this if you would give them the books for free." We talked about how there are no shortcuts to making revolution, that people should actually buy the book and donate to support this, and that actually it was a really important thing that money was being raised for the special issue of Revolution on BAsics so that 100,000 copies could be given away for free to high school and college students. Another volunteer chimed in here that actually we should have brought the RCP's Message and Call, "The Revolution We Need ... The Leadership We Have." She said she had been reading it that day for the first time and that it was a leaflet that was handed out which gave people more information so that those who were interested in finding out would be able to. We thought this was a good idea, actually.
Another young woman who is an abortion rights activist who was doing this for the first time was taking a breather and said she was having a hard time—"I'm used to being called baby killer, but all these underhanded comments and snickering, it's just brutal." She said that she usually has a really thick skin but some of the response was really getting to her. I asked her why she was not phased by being called a "baby killer," and she said, "Well, I know it's not true, and I know what I'm doing is right. With this I see the need for revolution, but I'm still finding out more about communism."
Send us your comments.
Revolution #244, August 28, 2011
Posted Thursday, August 25, 2011
We received the following correspondence:
First is a short correspondence on the first day out in a major university neighborhood. Followed by a few short excerpts from correspondences on experience in preparing for the "Wake Up and Shake Up."
An initial foray to the area of a major private university was made Wednesday afternoon. The main school is not yet in session and move-in isn't until this weekend. But students and faculty are starting to filter into the area, and smaller schools nearby are in the midst of first-year orientation. We set up an eye-catching table at the entrance to a park which serves as the crossroads of the campus neighborhood, with lots of the BAsics books and enlargements of some of the quotes. Roving distributors went through the park reading quotes out loud to groups of folks hanging out in the bright afternoon sun and passing out the special BAsics issue of Revolution newspaper.
The object was to get some experience in getting out the special issue and the book. In total, 600 papers were distributed and four BAsics books were sold, plus one Away With All Gods, and one Revolution and Communism: A Foundation and Strategic Orientation pamphlet, and we received contributions of $13.
A couple of things were learned. First, while we all felt the difficulty of penetrating the "i-zone" of younger people tuned into electronic devices, there was actually a higher acceptance rate of the paper than with previous materials at this campus. One person distributing with another reading the quotes with flair and projection was very effective. We estimated that 35%-40% of people took them when this was done, which is a very high rate for this campus area. All ages and nationalities took them. Foreign-born academics and artists, and Black masses who work in the area were especially interested. In some cases, people started applauding after the readings. A few people read the special issue on the spot and went to talk at the book table as the roving distribution team moved on through the park to reach more people.
Second, we want to experiment with a smaller table and a larger graphic presence. Teams in our city need to be mobile and able to carry or roll their table and supplies. Our table was too big and it limited what else we could carry. A smaller table, a very large, light-weight display that people will stop and read (front and back cover of the special issue, these are now either produced or in production), a large hand-made sign or chalkboard with something inviting and provoking like: "Ask me about the BAsics of Revolution and Communism"—and equipment for playing audio such as "All Played Out" (which we did not have) would be the essentials.
At the Revolution Books open house when the new special issue arrived, there was a demonstration of "how to sell the BAsics book." It was a very simple demonstration: watch who is interested in the visuals and the readings and conversations. Put the book in their hands and let them look through it. Get it?? In our experience those who bought the book had, indeed, had it put into their hands and started to read parts of it. We later summed up that where people were sitting on park benches, we should have just passed the books out down the row, and asked people to open it up and read from any page.
* * * * *
Professor who has ordered BAsics as a course book:
A professor at a major private university ordered BAsics as a course book for her class of 15 students on the prison system. We need to learn more about this but we do know some initial things.
She has done work on the topic of diversity and the need to unearth all of our prejudices where she conveys a viewpoint supporting unity of all the respective identities against systemic white supremacy, patriarchy and even capitalism.
She was already ordering her other course books through RB, including The New Jim Crow. She said she read most of BAsics and even has notes in the margins, but apparently her colleague—a Black professor she co-teaches this class on prisons with—borrowed it so she didn't have it with her when we met. While she said that she agrees with what's in the book, we had trouble learning why, or what she likes about it. She was supportive of the plans for the 8-page all color issue getting everywhere to shake up and wake up the campus, having conversations all over the place on BAsics as this handbook for this movement for revolution. She wonders "how can we really shake up and wake up this student body which has been anything but woken up outside of their immediate personal concerns." We have had previous conversations about how she sees that only a few students are actually seeking some way to make a difference in the world, and then only on a small and localized level.
It was on the basis of wanting to see the students engaged and wanting to support this vision and handbook for revolution and communism reaching them that she is including BAsics in the syllabus. She wants to have a speaker come in to class to specifically address BAsics when it is discussed, and we discussed other ways she will support her students learning about and connecting with this movement for revolution as well.
* * * * *
Rally against attacks on Libya:
We took out Revolution #242 to a significant rally in opposition to America's "illegitimate war" against Libya. The front page of #242 is the Chicago police shot 42 headline. We were speaking to the police and national oppression in our agitation along with shaking up and waking up the campuses with BAsics.
The principle organizers of the rally were Nation of Islam and nationalist forces. People came from all over the region, including a couple of significant contingents of youth. But most of those attending the rally were older.
There was outrage about the U.S. attacks on Libya and anger and disappointment with Obama. A significant number of Muslims bought the newspaper. One musician we know came by and donated $5. He expressed skepticism about waking up the campuses but was glad we were undertaking the push. This was a theme: "the people are asleep and I hope what you are trying to do works."
We made it a point to ask everybody to contribute to raising $10,000 to shake up and wake up the campuses. We got about half the $98 we raised while we were selling the paper and the rest as we were distributing the Message and Call. After we sold all the papers we had (several dozen), we went to saturation mode with the Message and Call, aiming to get it to everyone as they were leaving toward the end of the event.
The agitation included telling people to give a donation when they crossed the street. On the other side of the street was one person distributing the Message and Call and collecting funds, and a second person with a big bag decorated with pictures from the newspaper who was only collecting money.
Several of the remarks indicated the disaffection with Obama. One Black man in his 30s: "Anybody who is still defending Obama after this is completely lost. I am through with him!" He made it clear that he was one of those who had supported and cheered for Obama when he was elected. Many people in the rally thought of Obama as being "mis-guided" by those around him. And that he is not speaking for Black people but trying to curry favor with others. As it was said by one woman, "He don't realize that what he is could only have happened with all of us!" I even heard someone say that he has "helped the gays and the unions but he hasn't stepped for the interests of Black people!" And that this is concentrated in the attacks on Africa. The person didn't explain how they thought he'd helped gays and unions or what this perception is based on.
* * * * *
A fundraising experience (from before the publication of the special 100,000 BAsics issue):
I have raised $150 from two people I know, and probably $50 from a third, toward the Shake up and Wake up campus issue. One thing that keeps coming up in conversation among folks who are older (they are 66, 65 and 42 respectively), is what is addressed in the editorials on what difference it will make if the students get with this revolution. This was decisive in their deciding to donate (and these are people who I've known for a long time but haven't often donated before)—the fact that we are going to reach out to students from Boston to Honolulu with this revolution and its leader (and the scope of the project was important). They have differences around promoting Bob Avakian, but in spite of that they know that with him and this revolution in the mix things will get shaken up in a good way. They are concerned about the malaise and deafening silence of today's students and youth and they are super-concerned over consumerism. Most of all, they are concerned about the environmental emergency and think that if students don't play a leading role in reversing this then humanity is doomed. So they see our effort in building this movement for revolution as positive (they have read Revolution #199, the special issue on the environmental catastrophe). They also responded to and liked the term "shaking up and waking up" and are encouraged by the upsurges in North Africa and London. I pointed out what difference it makes that we have Bob Avakian and that he is leading this movement for revolution that we are building. It was on this basis that they decided to support this effort.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #244, August 28, 2011
Posted Thursday, August 25, 2011
Revolution received the following correspondence about taking out BAsics:
We took BAsics out to a two-day music and arts festival. As in years past, it drew 1,000's of people of all nationalities, including many Black people.
We had a good impact on the event—the word about BAsics got out to 1,000's. Our booth stood out with displays on BAsics, the quote from BA on 3 Strikes, a NO MORE poster on police brutality with Oscar Grant and Aiyana Jones, drawing attention. We had two tables, one featuring Revolution newspaper and statements and books, most prominently BAsics. We sold over 15 copies of BAsics, as well as the Constitution For The New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) and newspapers, and got out 2,000 postcards with the BA quotes on slavery and women's oppression.
The 3 Strikes quote by BA drew the attention of quite a few who stood and read it, and elicited some heart-felt comments from people on their experiences w/national oppression. One woman from Louisiana said her great-grandma had been a slave and had been the mistress of the slave owner. Because of this, the slave owner gave them the burial plot where her relatives are now buried. She talked about how racist this society is and of an experience her family had in being discriminated against in Arizona. When they went to a large hotel to check in, they were told there were no vacancies.
A Black man had grown up in Arizona where his relatives had moved from Louisiana to get jobs as loggers. At one point there was a town where 50,000 Black people lived until the logging work was finished and the whole town was shut down. He spoke of the oppression that he's seen, such as in Las Vegas where it was so racist that his family was afraid to get out of their cars. The question of Black people's oppression and how BAsics speaks to it strikes a deep chord and interests people in what BA has to say. For instance, on hearing the first quote from BAsics about slavery, many people agreed it's true. Many said they'd check it out on-line or asked if they could buy it on-line.
We met some students and others who said they wanted to join with us to "wake and shake up the campus." One Black man who we just met on Saturday joined us at the festival on Sunday. He got out the postcards and said revolution was needed yesterday. Another Black man bought BAsics on Saturday, read some of it and said, "You want the truth, you need the BAsics. It's very informative, enlightening and appealing. Do we need a revolution? It's overdue. I love it."
There were really interesting people we met; people of different nationalities and ages bought BAsics. Questions came up about are you kidding? Revolution here? Questions about spirituality, changing yourself, and what kind of revolution were we talking about. We got into discussions about how things could change. Some agreed that the upsurge in London showed how things could change. One white man said he was a communist, but most people aren't into this, maybe he could see a revolution in 100 years, so he bought BAsics because he thought he should know what it says.
The last year has been one of "stirrings of unrest and change in the world" and a "time of churning" as the Revolution article says in, "Ready...Set.. BAsics Plan to Shake Up and Wake Up the Campus." One thing we learned is that people seem more willing to get involved. At this festival, we invited people to come to a discussion at Revolution Books a few days later to talk about "Waking up and shaking up the campus." The morning of the event, we called people and several new people came; one person had started reading BAsics, found it interesting and had many questions.
On Monday, August 22, the first day of the push to "Wake Up and Shake Up the Campus," freshmen at the big university in our city were introduced to Bob Avakian as they walked onto campus the first day of freshman week. Although the special issue of Revolution newspaper was not yet available, we didn't want to miss this opportunity. Postcards with quotes from BAsics on slavery and the oppression of women were taken up by hundreds.
Then, that afternoon, a Freshman Convocation was held where students were addressed by the Chancellor. Thousands streamed into the theater, many coming in groups of friends. Waves of students came by and were greeted by revolutionaries with BAsics cards and books. Again they were introduced to Bob Avakian and BAsics. The Revolution Club in this city greeted people: "Here's a handbook for revolution." "This is the most important book you could read while you're at this school." "Join with the movement for revolution," "You can't change the world if you don't know the BAsics." Students were grabbing the cards out of our hands, we could hardly keep up with the number of people. Soon a group of Chinese students came up to our table. First, one said he wanted to get a book. Then both of his other friends wanted one too. They were all from China and were excited to find revolutionaries here. They gave us their names and wanted to be contacted. Later a white student said he had heard about BAsics at the LA Rising concert. He too bought BAsics and his friends signed up to get contacted.
The next day, we had the beautiful special issue of Revolution newspaper on BAsics and set up our table again, this time with a paper banner with quote 1:1: "There would be no United States as we now know it today without slavery. That is a simple and basic truth." We asked people to write their comments. Some were very much in agreement with the statement. Another said that both communism and capitalism had failed and we needed another way. That student was challenged: If that is what you think, you really need to read this book, to get to know Bob Avakian.
Later out on the street nearby a group of anarchist youth stopped to check out the newspaper and BAsics. One of them, after reading Chapter 3 of BAsics (MAKING REVOLUTION) for 20 minutes said people "need to read this book. It shows how revolution is possible."
At Revolution Books Tuesday a Black student came by. He had already bought a copy of BAsics. He was invited to join us for the discussion on the special issue of BAsics and to be part of taking this issue and the book out to the campus. He couldn't stay for the discussion but, he agreed right away to take a bundle of 100 newspapers to distribute in his dorm and to people in student groups and students in his classes. Several other new students stopped by Revolution Books that day to check out the bookstore, the newspaper and BAsics. They were invited to be a part in any way they could, even if they had only an hour. A poetry contest based on quotes from BAsics was intriguing to some young poets.
Several other people we had just met also came to the store Tuesday night, some because we called them right away after meeting them. We sat in a circle and took turns reading all the quotes from BAsics in the new special issue of Revolution. It was really fun—and moving—to hear how each person—including some people who had met us and come to the store for the first time—read and related to a particular quote. We also read quotes from "What people are saying about BAsics," and then "Get In...Get Out...Get Connected," and "Bob Avakian—Leadership for a New Stage of Communist Revolution." It underscored the point made in Revolution #243: "let BAsics, its quotes, its essays and the book as a whole, speak for itself."
After hearing all the quotes read, a Black woman who was at the store for the first time remarked, "Well, I think I may be a communist. I don't know much about it and I'm kind of scared, too." Another Black woman in her 30s from also came by. She told personal stories of police murdering her brother and cousin and about how hopeless and frustrated so many of the youth in her neighborhood feel. She said these youth need this newspaper and BAsics. BAsics, she said, provides a foundation for people who want to get out of this horror they live in. If youth had the guidance given in BAsics, they would know what to do with their frustration and pain. It is important for them to know there is hope. It is important that people read this book.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #244, August 28, 2011
Posted Sunday, August 28, 2011
A couple of us were summing up key lessons from our first rounds of campus saturation with the special issue of Revolution on the BAsics.
We came to recognize that to make the impact we need on a campus, we need a dynamic, multi-layered plan and a squad that is fighting through collectively all day, to reach our objective of waking up and shaking up the campus. The students should feel that the revolution was at their campus!
We felt that a small core with the right plan and orientation, working with and searching out creative ways to make an impact and involve new people, can do this. Key is coming from and continually returning to our overall objectives and understanding this as part of the Campaign, The Revolution We Need, The Leadership We Have... the goals and stakes of which are spoken to powerfully in the last few editorials. (See "100,000 Run for Special Issue on BAsics, A Plan to Shake Up and Wake Up the Campus", Revolution #242, August 14, 2011, and "Ready...Set... BAsics Plan to Shake Up and Wake Up the Campus", Revolution #243, August 21, 2011.)
Getting out 100,000 of the special issue on campuses nationally is at the heart of this two-week phase. But this will only be successful and contribute to the overall objectives if it is part of a multilayered and dynamic plan. How many students take the special issue and then feel compelled to read and engage what it says, is impacted when they experience the image of Bob Avakian, cards with quotes from the book BAsics up in clubs and in campus bathrooms, quotes chalked on the sidewalks, quotes read and debated in the parks and quads, people in their classes talking about it, etc.
We felt that teams need to set overall and daily goals on five elements of this effort which will synergize together:
Then there should be flexibility and creativity, and a lot of learning. Every day won't be the same and team leadership should be summing up how we are doing, and collectivizing on adjusting and changing plans to meet goals.
One positive experience we have had was when people read along in the special issue or in BAsics while quotes were read out loud. You can point to the quote in the special issue or pass out copies of the book, and then people read along. We did this in a park but it would also apply to people sitting in a cafeteria, or in a classroom. We found that done this way the longer quotes in the special issue really "stuck" and were very thought-provoking to people as they were able to read along. And when we were saturating at moments when lots of people are walking by, one person reading out one very short quote and even short of that, the distributors using a penetrating "This is the revolution, and you can't change the world if you don't know the BAsics!" shout-out to people was most effective.
A good way to fundraise as part of the broad distribution has been 1-2 persons with a large, well-decorated fundraising bucket "catching" and challenging people after they have passed through our presence and seen/heard the visuals and readings. This next week, when the large universities in our city open for orientation, we will also be incorporating going door to door to professors' offices to give them a short introduction to the BAsics and the movement for revolution, to invite them to donate now to the BAsics and the "wake up and shake up the campus" effort, and to consider an ongoing financial sustainership of either Revolution newspaper or Revolution Books.
Some further ideas about flexibility and the synergy of a multilayered plan: One day a team might focus on broad saturation of major class change times/locations and then spend a couple hours in a dorm learning more about the mood and expectations and questions on the minds of the new first-year students; another day there might be saturation of required first-year large lecture classes during the day and hanging out with new interested students in the evening. Another day could be spent getting the special issue up on bulletin boards and in stacks at all the all-age clubs, campus art studios and cafes—a team can pass out the special issue to people in those places and ask groups of students which quote they want to respond to and talk about.
Yet another afternoon could be spent focused on creative fundraising in the park or the quad—challenging students and faculty to drop $5 in the bucket and select, read, request or respond to a favorite (or least favorite!) quote. Then in the evening call and email all the new people and arrange for next-day dorm and café discussions, and uncover other ways they may want to talk about and get into and spread the BAsics themselves.
These are just a few ideas—not intended to be comprehensive or to replace the planning and conceptions in Revolution #243 editorial. We need to be attuned to uncorking a lot of creativity when we put this special issue in the hands of hundreds and thousands of students, learning what they think about it and challenge them to be part of changing the world with the BAsics! Again, working at the key elements that interact together to really wake up and shake up the campuses with the BAsics.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #244, August 28, 2011
Talking to students about what's on their minds
We received the following correspondence:
Taking up the plan to shake up and wake up the campus, a team of us spent several days at an elite private university that has a conservative reputation, distributing the special issue on BAsics, selling the book BAsics, and using suggestions in the editorials about how to shake things up. We have been on this campus in the past to talk to professors, but we have never gone there to engage the students.
Our crew got out 4,000 of the BAsics special issue of Revolution newspaper, sold 13 BAsics, got 75 e-subs to Revolution newspaper, and raised $100.
In engaging with students at the table, meeting with professors, and doing "social investigation"—i.e. talking to students about what's on their minds—we learned some of what students are thinking about, some of their concerns and the contradictoriness of how they see the world, and more of what life is like on campus.
Many people stopped at the table to find out more of what this is about, and a small number of those kind of "jumped out" in terms of their deep appreciation for us being there. These students (and faculty) characterized the climate on campus as one where the dominant voice seems to range from being closed-minded to being, as one young woman teaching assistant put it, "(right-wing) frothing motherf...ers." In one instance there was a heated exchange with one of these "frothing" people, and a woman passing by who was listening stopped and bought BAsics, very happy that this Dark Ages mentality was being challenged.
A couple of professors took copies of the special issue to distribute to the students in their classes, and one of those professors took issues to give to other professors in their department to hand out to students in their classes. Several professors bought BAsics.
As we talked with people, one thing that started to emerge is that even if the loudest voices on campus are the backward ones, there are many, many students who have deep concerns about what is going on in society and what is happening to people other than themselves. While this includes some positive political stirrings on campus—like protests against violence against women or against Israel's occupation of Palestine—most of the students we talked with don't consider themselves "political" and don't conceive of their concerns as political, and mainly they are not paying attention to things going on in other parts of the world. In many cases, students are trying to find ways to do something meaningful about the things they're concerned about, but almost none of them are considering fundamental change—only the options that present themselves within how capitalism works.
Some people are concerned about poverty and/or the economic crisis and talked specifically about the disparities in opportunity for those on the bottom of society and those from privileged backgrounds. Some are concerned about the objectification of and violence against women, like a woman who grew up in an oppressed neighborhood and said she decided on a business major so she could start a foundation for battered women. Some people were disturbed about what is going on among college students. One student began the conversation saying she's concerned that everybody is walking around in their own bubbles, not paying attention to what is going on in the world or even each other. She also said that with Facebook and texting, people don't even talk to each other.
Other students talked about different projects they have taken up or interests they are pursuing. An Iraqi film student did a documentary about Iraqi refugees in the U.S. An architecture student is dedicating himself to developing sustainable agriculture in urban spaces. In getting deeper with these students about fundamental change, and in particular revolution and communism, they were attracted to the actual goals of communism in contrast to the capitalist credo of profit-above-all and everything turned into commodities, but rejected out-of-hand "communism" as a viable answer for humanity, conceiving of socialism as really a capitalist social-welfare state—which they saw as more acceptable. When it came to revolution, this was not a legitimate solution to these students. One in particular articulated that whatever change anyone tries to bring about, it is only legitimate if it is done peacefully and through popular vote—and went on to say that ideally, you could start with a vacuum in terms of economic systems and then take a vote and establish whatever system the popular vote calls for.
We found this kind of thinking and these questions were very common when people stopped to discuss the special issue on BAsics: questions and disagreements in terms of violence, leadership, morality, a viable alternative. Change on the level of the individual or the family, or social work and small reforms, were the most common views of the kind of change that is possible. A professor who decided to buy BAsics and was thinking about how to use it in class reflected, "We don't teach this kind of sweeping change. There's a hegemonic capitalist ethos on campus," and went on to start examining his own thinking and what he is teaching in that regard.
The quotes from BAsics starting to get in the mix of people's thinking was something new and refreshing, controversial and intriguing. A woman who had left France because of the intensity of the oppression of Black people there, ended up moving to Atlanta where she found things were worse—in a climate of racism and anti-immigrant laws and propaganda. When she opened BAsics and landed on quote 1:14 about why do people come here from all over the world, she was so thrilled she got on her cell phone and told a friend they had to come to this table. University faculty came to the table after seeing quote 5:14 scotch-taped in bathroom stalls, "Religion is the doctrine of submission—blind obedience; Marxism of rebellion—ever more conscious rebellion," leaving with multiple copies of the special issue to help get out to students. Some students were shown the essay on reform or revolution, but were not quite ready to engage it. Quote 4:13 about how there is not one human nature, was chalked in big letters on a busy walkway and many students stopped to read it, sometimes groups of them gathering up.
Many students said there don't tend to be discussions of larger ideas or even what's going on in the world or in the news—and they appreciated the times when it does happen, mainly in class, sometimes in the apartments where people live. Some described feeling stifled, and a professor of critical thinking said that people don't challenge things. The characterization of students in "bubbles" separated off from the world and each other is something that came up repeatedly.
It is actually the other side of that contradiction that stood out the most about what is going on with these students: the desire for human connection. The humanity of what they are thinking about and care about. Whether it's the one person saying she wants to be able to have conversations with people that's not just texting, or the guy doing the documentary on Iraqi refugees who feels it is a story that needs to be told, or the public policy major who described feeling welcomed on campus by what is promoted there as being part of the "family" of students and faculty, or the social work student who really liked her "community immersion" assignment—going to an oppressed neighborhood and walking around asking people what they think. I think this is something our work on campus has to give expression to and we should find the various ways to give expression to that.
An email a friend got from a student in another city also illustrated something important about the yearnings of these students and positive new shoots. He described the founding of an organization on his campus in response to a leaked school administration document that called for a "for-profit" model of education, that said "humanities, fine arts philosophy, and literature" are "esoteric" (and essentially worthless) and said students are "human capital." The student went on to explain that the organization is part of an overall "positive project of forming a less individualist more socially conscious movement."
These yearnings and new shoots, deep concerns and humanity, are not yet part of the movement for revolution but are truly fertile ground for what is quoted from Bob Avakian in BAsics 3:24:
"A genuinely radical, liberating revolt—as opposed to a reactionary 'rebranding' and celebration of parasitism—must be fostered among the youth in today's conditions, a revolt within which the need is powerfully raised for a new society and a new world, which will move to eliminate the urban/suburban contradiction, and antagonism, in the context of the transformation of society, and the world, overall and the abolition of profound inequalities and divisions—opposing, overcoming and moving beyond the parasitism which is such an integral and indispensable part of the operation and dynamics of imperialism, and has reached such unprecedented heights in 'late imperial America.' In short, we need, in today's circumstances, a counter-culture that contributes to and is increasingly part of building a movement for revolution—in opposition to a counter-revolutionary culture. We need a culture of radical opposition to the essence of everything that is wrong with this society and system, and the many different manifestations of that; we need an active searching for a radically better world, within which revolution and communism is a powerful and continually growing pole of attraction."
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Revolution #244, August 28, 2011
We received the following correspondence:
Before school started, we went out to a major university campus in this area and set up a table. Students were arriving and there was quite a lot of traffic on the campus. One thing we did was to put about 6 quotes on a large piece of butcher paper with "Write your comments" at the top. At first people were a little hesitant to write on it, but a group of Latino students came by. They read all the quotes then chose their favorite quote. One drew a large arrow next to the one on slavery (BAsics 1:1) and wrote, "Hella true." Displaying the quotes in this way is a good way to provoke engagement with what Bob Avakian is saying. Another student wrote on the paper that both communism and capitalism were old, and we needed "something new." I was thinking about this "something new" point, and thinking about some of the experiences and grappling with this campaign. There is a lot in this point about "new"—for the students, most of whom have no idea what is new about BA, or communism, but also from people who have been at this for awhile.
It is important to get how NEW our effort is to get out 100,000 copies of Revolution to key campuses, to broadly sell copies of BAsics, and to introduce many, many people to BA. I have noticed an approach which fails to really fully recognize what we have here in BAsics, in BA, and what is involved in this moment. There are three things I am thinking about off the work I am familiar with, mainly on this one major campus. 1) how new BAsics itself is, and, more fundamentally, how radically new the whole new synthesis is that BA has brought forward. 2) how there are some important new things emerging in the world and on the terrain of the campuses. 3) there are some very important new methods and approaches to carrying out this effort that Revolution newspaper has been arguing for in recent editorials, which deserve a lot of attention and grappling.
To get into this a bit, we do have to get that there has never been anything like BAsics itself—and never an effort to connect students with such a powerful concentration of what BA is about—a whole radically new and different way of understanding the world and changing it. At a time when communism in the world is hanging by a thread, in a world full of howling madness and savage oppression which most people on the planet cannot see beyond, BA has brought forward an entire new synthesis of communism, a new and powerful synthesis, the basics and essentials of which are amazingly concentrated in BAsics. We need to find the ways to fight for and connect with many, many people—and connecting people with BAsics, including through this push with the special issue of Revolution, is really not like anything that has ever been done before.
Also new are some things emerging in the world. I was thinking about what happened in the senior year in high school of the students newly arriving on the college campuses this fall. It is fairly extraordinary—the uprisings across the Arab world (for all the complexity, imperialist intervention, and limits); the uprisings across Europe of different kinds, Spain, Greece, and now England; financial crisis and the battle over the budget in the U.S.; and much more. One thing that is exciting to me is finding out how all of that is percolating in the minds of the students on the campuses, and even more, what can open up and what imagination can fly when BAsics (along with other works by BA and our newspaper) gets into the mix of all of that.
And then finally, there are some really important new approaches to how to do all of this that Revolution has been arguing for—including, of course, BAsics itself and the idea of this special issue of the paper really getting out on the scale of 100,000 copies across the country and setting a kind of tenor and tone for what follows on the campuses. We really do need to break with the old thinking, methods and habits that still have sway that it is a kind of all or nothing thing to be involved in the movement for revolution—as Revolution has been arguing for, we need to find good ways to involve people at many levels and in many ways and we have the ability to do this now. This has everything to do with getting what is in BAsics—and what BA has brought forward.
I think we are just starting to see some glimpses of all three of the things outlined above coming together in this push onto the campuses. I feel that there are some important shoots and some beginnings and you can see important potential—and there is a lot that we still need to do better and transform in our thinking and in what we are doing. There was one day on this campus when some of this came together—which pointed to how things are changing and also revealed ways we can do better.
One part of this was an interesting crew came to the university to be part of taking out the special issue and BAsics. There has not been anything like it on this campus at least in recent years:
This all made for an interesting and dynamic crew and many hundreds of copies of the special issue went out, some copies of BAsics were sold to students, and there was a scene on the campus that at least caught the attention of thousands of students. One student said on coming up to our table that the enlarged quotes from BAsics, and the displays from the cover of Revolution, were "mesmerizing...but in a good way," he was referring to the display of cover pages and the quotation of BAsics 3:1 "let's get down to basics: we need a revolution..." and he ended up buying a copy of the book.
One thing we learned through this is that quotes from BAsics which had been posted in some academic buildings had had a real impact. We had put up a range of quotes in academic buildings. Some of them had just had the quote and then said, for example, "BAsics, 1:1" without explaining further what BAsics is, who wrote it, and how to get it. This was perhaps a mistake. But in any case, one effect of it was to pique the curiosity of students, and it seems some professors as well. One student told us of taking a picture of one of the quotes taped up in a bathroom—she said she thought "This is GREAT, someone who thinks!" Another student, in Middle Eastern studies, said he saw a quote and couldn't figure out what it was about. He thought "BAsics 1:1," was announcing a class. Then he saw other quotes with BAsics and other numbers, so he thought this couldn't be a class. He wasn't sure what he thought of the quote about slavery, but he thought it was interesting. He went on his way until he accidentally ran across the bookstore, where he saw Revolution Books' window display showcasing Bob Avakian and a variety of his books. Prominently in the window is a large sign that says, "You can't change the world if you don't know the BAsics." Once he saw the BAsics books, he connected it to the quotes he had seen earlier. He decided to buy BAsics.
One small look into some of the kind of thinking going on among students came through a story one of the organizers told. He said that he was experimenting with different ways to introduce people to BAsics in one sentence as the students rush by. One he used which got a lot of responses was "have you ever thought of revolution?" He said that quite a few people responded "I think about it all the time." And some said that and didn't even stop to talk, for one reason or another, while others did stop and get into it.
The table was a big center of debate and discussion, with many things in the mix. Those who had come from the neighborhoods reported that they found the students interested in what they had to say, and they also noted that a number were asking "who is Bob Avakian?" They pointed people to how the special issue spoke to this. You could see we were entering into engagement with the influence of a variety of left trends. For example, a few people were surprised BAsics was not just about political economy or the poor and hungry—after reading the "3 strikes" quote from BA, which we had on display, a young woman from Peru (her parents were in the socialist party and were Che supporters) was surprised to hear that people were still getting lynched in the U.S. "just because of a little more melanin in their skin." She said "Maybe this is what real communists are like—not just concerned with the poor and hungry, but with Black people and gays, open-minded to everything."
It was important to just put the book into people's hands. One student asked if she could sit and read through the book, and she sat on the chair that was behind our table and joined in conversation with someone else who was browsing through the BAsics. Later that night when we came back to Revolution Books, the student had dropped by and ending up buying BAsics.
Human nature was a big question. One student from Canada told us he knew nothing about BA—he wanted to know who BA is and what this revolution is about. After hearing some of our views, and looking at some of the quotes, he argued that it comes down to human nature, that people are in two categories: they are either eager to learn or stay dumb. We brought out the quote in the special issue on that, BAsics 4:13, and after a big pause he said "you got a point..."
In thinking about all of this, and where we are at, one point is that we felt that we learned that it was important to focus on one day when we made a bigger effort to get people to come out to the campus and brought people together—it was fun to do, and it amplified our impact. There are some things that Revolution has been writing about that we still need to give a lot more thought and attention to transforming our thinking and what we are doing. There really are so many ways that people can come in and be part of this movement—and we have to find the ways for this to be made known to people much more than we have been doing. We have been inviting people to discussions but we need to have more, more informal, more accessible to the students, and to different kinds of students. We still need to do a lot better in finding out what the students are thinking—certainly about BA, but also about all kinds of other things. We have developed a sign-up sheet with many things people can do and also asking what they want to do. And one thing which we need to give further attention to is fundraising.
And finally, once again, and pivotal to everything else, is getting what we have in BAsics and in BA.
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Revolution #244, August 28, 2011
New digital uploading instructions and new videos posted
Posted Thursday, August 25, 2011
Be part of making BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian, impact the internet by making videos of people reading quotes from BAsics and sending them to be posted at the YouTube channel youtube.com/KnowTheBAsics1.
To send the video, use an easy online service like sendspace.com or yousendit.com and e-mail the video to firstname.lastname@example.org, or snail mail a flash drive or DVD to Revolution Books, 146 W. 26th St., New York, NY 10001.
Read this correspondence for some guidelines on how to do this. Two new videos are great examples, here and here. The article "Get BAsics Out on YouTube" in Revolution emphasized that we should make these videos in a way that protects people's privacy. Pick a good spot to record the video, and, before you start recording, have a stack of hats, dark wrap-around glasses, bandanas, and so on. Get creative with things people can wear while they record their videos.
From a previous letter to Revolution: "What we have with this YouTube project is a chance to amplify and magnify the impact of BAsics. To do it right, we need all kinds of voices sharing their favorite quotes from BAsics—a whole range of voices, comin' up from the underground—projecting the exciting and unpredictable breadth of the movement for revolution that we are building. Bringing out of the shadows people who are attracted to this book on one level or another, from one angle or another."
Also, check out new videos featuring reg e. gaines, William Parker and others with more to come. Watch and share them all at youtube.com/KnowTheBAsics1.
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Revolution #244, August 28, 2011
Check It Out:
Posted Thursday, August 25, 2011
We received the following "Check It Out" from a reader:
Many people have remarked on the very first quote in BAsics: "There would be no United States as we now know it today without slavery. That is a simple and basic truth." Some people read that and say, "I gotta have this book!" Others read it, frown, and ask, "Is that really true?"
There are two important books that demonstrate just how true this statement is. The first is Complicity: How the North Promoted, Prolonged, and Profited from Slavery by three reporters from the Hartford [CT] Courant. The second is A Slaveholders' Union: Slavery, Politics, and the Constitution in the Early American Republic by George William Van Cleve.
The Hartford Courant authors began an investigation of the role of New England insurance companies in the slave trade. They soon found that not only did New England companies profit from the slave trade and cotton trade (based on slavery), they were central to the whole institution, while slavery, in turn, formed the basis for the rise of capitalism in the U.S. As the authors point out:
This economic integration and the power of the slave-owning class in the newly independent United States found its expression in the drafting of the U.S. Constitution. This is the theme of A Slaveholders' Union.
The economic clout of the slave-owning class became concentrated as a result of the American Revolution. In 1774, the major slave colonies in North America represented 10 percent of the population and 14 percent of the wealth of the British Empire. With the formation of an independent USA, the slave states constituted over 50 percent of the population and over 50 percent of the wealth of the new country.
The principal source of wealth for the colonies was the export of slave-produced agricultural products from the South and the export from the North of foodstuffs for slaves in the West Indies and rum for the slave trade in Africa. These were instrumental to the primitive accumulation of capital in the United States. As the result, a series of behind-the-scenes deals were brokered during the writing and ratification of the U.S. Constitution.
First, the northern colonies gave up a profitable (to shipping interests) treaty with Spain in return for southern colonies agreeing to maintain the ban on slave labor (thus guaranteeing wage labor) in territories north of the Ohio River.
Second, the new Constitution guaranteed the states equal representation in the Senate (that is, veto power for the slave states) and extended constitutional protection for the importation of slaves for 20 years (both of which were explicitly exempted from the amendment process in the Constitution).
Third, the southern states, whose free white population was smaller than in the northern states, were given inflated voting power through the counting of 3/5 of the slaves in calculating congressional representation.
Fourth, the Constitution required the return of runaway slaves.
In addition (although this is not dealt with in Van Cleve's book), the federal capital was moved south into the slave states in return for the South agreeing to have the federal government assume the revolutionary war debt of the states (debt principally owed to northern banking interests).
The result was a slaveholders' union that held together until the slave system and the political stranglehold of the southern states on federal political power became too great an impediment to the growth of capitalist production. But by then it had shaped the America that exists today.
* Why did the slave colonies in the West Indies import food for slaves from New England? The answer is that sugar cane was such a fantastically profitable crop that no land in the West Indies could be wasted on growing food for slaves. One horrible result is that during the American Revolution, when this trade was interrupted by the British blockade, thousands of slaves in the West Indies starved to death. [back]
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Revolution #244, August 28, 2011
Posted Thursday, August 25, 2011
The 42-year rule of Muammar Qaddafi over the north African country of Libya appears to have come to an end. Anti-Qaddafi fighters poured into the capitol city of Tripoli—Qaddafi's main stronghold, over the weekend of August 20-21 and by Monday, August 22, had taken over most of the city. (At this writing, the whereabouts of Qaddafi and his sons apparently remain unknown.)
Qaddafi's overthrow and the victory of the "rebel" forces is being presented by the U.S. rulers, their European imperialist allies—including Britain, France, and Italy—and their media mouthpieces as a big victory for the people, a triumph of "democracy" over tyranny, and a vindication of their "humanitarian" military intervention in Libya.
As the anti-Qaddafi forces took over Tripoli, President Barack Obama stated, "The people of Libya are showing that the universal pursuit of dignity and freedom is far stronger than the iron fist of a dictator... The future of Libya is now in the hands of the Libyan people."
It is nothing of the sort. The unfolding events in Libya are primarily the result of a U.S.-NATO military, political, and economic assault on Qaddafi's forces, stretching over months.
The day the Tripoli fell to the anti-Qaddafi forces, the New York Times reported:
"Through Saturday, NATO and its allies had flown 7,459 strike missions, or sorties, attacking thousands of targets, from individual rocket launchers to major military headquarters. The cumulative effect not only destroyed Libya's military infrastructure but also greatly diminished the ability of Colonel Qaddafi's commanders to control forces, leaving even committed fighting units unable to move, resupply or coordinate operations." ("Sharper Surveillance and NATO Coordination Helped Rebels Race to Capital," August 22)
This assault has had not been about liberating Libya or ensuring self-determination for the nation of Libya. Instead, it has been aimed at strengthening imperialism's grip on Libya.
Libya is a north African country of 6 million people. It is strategically located on the Mediterranean Sea, and it has large reserves of light, high-sought crude oil. It was first colonized by Italy in 1910. After World War 2, the U.S. became the main power dominating Libya, including its oil sector. The U.S. built one of its largest overseas military facilities in the world—Wheelus Air Base—in Libya. In 1969, Col. Muammar Qaddafi and a group of young military officers, organized a coup and seized power from the pro-U.S. monarch then ruling Libya. Qaddafi's forces were inspired by Arab nationalism and sought to loosen the direct stranglehold imperialism had on Libya, including more control and a larger share of its oil wealth. But as Raymond Lotta put it in an interview with Revolution, "Qaddafi was for many years a real thorn in the side of imperialism, especially the U.S.... even though the Qaddafi regime never fundamentally broke with or fundamentally challenged imperialism." By the late 1990s, the Qaddafi regime was seeking closer ties with Western imperialism including the U.S., and in 2004 formally forged an alliance with the U.S., including aiding it in the so-called "war on terror."
Over these decades, the situation of the people of Libya grew worse, both economically and politically. The regime brutally suppressed its opponents, and peoples' hopes and aspirations were suffocated if not outright crushed.
When the dictatorship in Tunisia was overthrown by the masses in January, and then the Mubarak regime in Egypt was brought down in February, people across the Arab world—including in Libya—were inspired and emboldened. On February 15, an uprising broke out in Benghazi, Libya's second largest city (triggered by the arrest of a human rights activist). The Qaddafi regime attempted to violently suppress this revolt.
From the very beginning, this uprising included a variety of political forces—including former Qaddafi officials and other reactionaries tied to various imperialist powers. (The National Transitional Council, anointed the leadership of the anti-Qaddafi forces by most of the world's big powers, is dominated by pro-imperialist forces who called for U.S.-NATO intervention in Libya as soon as it was formed.)
(For an in-depth analysis, 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)
Whatever role the imperialist powers did or didn't have in initiating this uprising, they very quickly intervened to shape and control it for their own interests. On February 26, the UN Security Council—a body controlled by the U.S. and other big powers—imposed sanctions on the Qaddafi family. On March 17, it voted to authorize a "no-fly" zone over Libya in order to defeat Qaddafi and support pro-imperialist forces. And on March 19, the first U.S.-NATO air assaults began.
Since then, U.S.-NATO military, economic, and political intervention has grown steadily. And increasingly "rebel" forces have been organized and directed by the U.S., France, and Britain (Britain, France and other U.S. allies deployed covert military forces inside Libya "to help train and arm the rebels..."). International sanctions were squeezing and weakening the Qaddafi Regime. And the anti-Qaddafi forces' final push to Tripoli was made possible by the cumulative impact of U.S. and NATO bombing, intelligence, and military coordination.
The August 22 New York Times report paints a picture of the extent of U.S.-NATO military intervention:
"As rebel forces in Libya converged on Tripoli on Sunday, American and NATO officials cited an intensification of American aerial surveillance in and around the capital city as a major factor in helping to tilt the balance after months of steady erosion of Col. Muammar el‑Qaddafi's military.
"The officials also said that coordination between NATO and the rebels, and among the loosely organized rebel groups themselves, had become more sophisticated and lethal in recent weeks, even though NATO's mandate has been merely to protect civilians, not to take sides in the conflict."
So now, it is clear that the U.S., Britain and France are mainly shaping events in Libya, and whatever the initial intent and aspirations of some of the Libyans who began the uprising may have been, at this point they've now been reduced to being objectively extensions and pawns of the U.S.-NATO imperialists.
The U.S. and NATO claimed their intervention in Libya was for humanitarian reasons—simply to protect civilians, and not to determine the outcome of the conflict in Libya. Both claims have been shown before the world to be bald-faced lies.
Hundreds and hundreds of Libyan people have been killed by NATO bombs and missiles. One attack on August 9 killed, according to a Libyan government spokesperson, 33 children, 32 women and 20 men. (Reuters, 8/9/11) Tripoli, Libya's capital, where nearly one-third of its population is concentrated, was not spared as bombs rained down. In contravention of international law, the U.S. and NATO openly tried to assassinate Qaddafi, bombing his compound numerous times.
And as events have made crystal clear—and the imperialists have done little to try and even conceal—their intervention has from the start been aimed at shaping events, not protecting lives. In fact, the day after Tripoli fell, the New York Times carried an article headlined, "Scramble Begins for Access to Libya's Oil." (August 23, 2011)
None of this means that even if the imperialists have succeeded in overthrowing Qaddafi, they have everything all sewn up and that everything will go smoothly according their plans and designs (including because there are contradictions among these imperialists themselves). Time and events will tell how all this will play out, and Revolution will be covering these developments.
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Revolution #244, August 28, 2011
From A World to Win News Service:
Posted Thursday, August 25, 2011
Revolution received the following report from A World To Win News Service and is posting it here because we thought it would be of interest to our readers.
August 22, 2011. A World to Win News Service
By Geoffrey Scott, London
Following the four days of rebellion that shook Great Britain last week in the wake of the police killing of a young black man, Mark Duggan, the British state has unleashed a wave of repression whose severity has not been seen here in many years.
Almost 2,000 people have been arrested, and the police have announced that they hope to grab up as many as a thousand more from surveying CCTV footage. Most of the charges are the kind that would not result in detention, and still less in jail terms, in ordinary times. But the Magistrate's courts have been working 24 hours a day after the upheaval and handing out three- and four-month terms and worse in the name of restoring "law and order." About half of those arrested have been sent over to the Crown courts, which alone have the authority to issue sentences of more than six months.
So far 138 youth under age 18 (legally children in England) have been sent to prison. The anonymity usually granted juveniles has been lifted by special order. The average age of those convicted in London is 19, and only one-third are being granted bail, instead of the usual 90 percent in Magistrate's court. Jails and longer-term prisons are full to bursting, with 723 new inmates in the week before August 19 alone.
Some sentences and administrative punishment measures against the families of those convicted have been so extreme that even staunch international law-and-order media like the New York Times have warned the British government about the "long-term impact" of "excessive sentences for minor offenses" and "collective punishment" that could discredit it, warning that this might look like a war of the upper classes against the lower.
Some of the more outrageous sentences include: Nicholas Robinson, a 23-year-old Londoner who took a case of bottled water worth 3.5 pounds [about $5.75] from a looted store, was given six months in jail. Some were sentenced for little more than being present. Three young women from Croydon with no criminal records got six-month sentences for "burglary" solely because they entered a store, even though they were not accused of taking anything. Michael Fitzpatrick, an 18-year-old from Manchester, was sentenced to 28 months in jail for going into a store, touching (but not taking) a pair of trainers [sports shoes] and sipping from a stolen champagne bottle. The 48-year-old Thomas Downey from the same city was given 18 months for taking doughnuts from a looted chain store. A teenager is to appear for sentencing to custody next week for eating two scoops of ice cream. Another was given nine months for taking a pack of chewing gum.
Even longer sentences are being given to those accused of encouraging others. Jordan Blackshaw and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan, who allegedly posted calls on Facebook to go out and "riot," were each given four years in prison for "encouraging the commission of a serious offense"—even though no one but the police showed up at the place and time they mentioned. Four years is the average prison term in the UK for sexual assault, and 47 months the average term for kidnapping. The contrast speaks for itself: almost none of those arrested are accused of causing bodily harm, and many are not accused of any kind of violence at all, and yet their "crime"—rebellion against the police and the established order and lack of respect for private property—is considered almost as bad as rape and kidnapping. The British authorities are making this point explicit by announcing that many offenders are to be paraded in their communities in orange jumpsuits, evoking Guantanamo, as if they were "terrorists."
UK Prime Minister David Cameron calls this repression the "fightback." Clearly what is in question is the existing social order. At times like these, when that order is even slightly threatened, the British state, like any other capitalist state, goes a long way towards dropping its usual "democratic" rhetoric. In response to criticism, Cameron denounced "phoney human rights concerns," and the state is purposely displaying the violence on which the capitalist dictatorship rests.
Politicians, authorities and the mainstream media have tried to cut off coverage and discussion of the police killing that set off the rebellion, as if it had no political and social content and could simply be written off as "a shopping riot." But on August 17 the police once again blatantly demonstrated their role as the system's violent enforcers of injustice when they entered the home of the unarmed Dale Burns, a 27-year-old father of two, sprayed him with pepper gas and applied Taser electric shocks to him three times in quick succession, until he died.
It is undeniable that most of the youth were involved in breaking into shops, particularly chain stores, and taking petty consumer items. But the first building destroyed was not a store, but a police solicitor's office in Tottenham, a conveyor belt in the railroading of the youth into the criminal justice system. The office was located only a few hundred meters from where Mark Duggan was gunned down in cold blood.
Consider the story told by Police Constable Paul Warner, who was on the front lines in Tottenham, when the rebellion first erupted. "They were hurling everything they could at us, bricks, bottles, scaffolding, poles, the lot. I have been in some public order situations before but I have never seen anything like this... This was the first time that I have felt that level of malice towards us. There was real hate." (Evening Standard, August 12) The Guardian headlined a two-page spread on London's Hackney Central area, "What did they want? To fight the police." Everywhere, from Birmingham to Croydon, police told tales of being attacked fiercely every time that they were outnumbered by the youth. Anyone who was in the streets, or even saw the video footage, knows that's true. If all the youth wanted was to loot, why did they risk imprisonment to fight collectively for something that promised such little material gain?
Another side of the anti-police spirit that drove these events is that during the four nights of rebellion there was an almost total end to fighting between local gangs. Gang members spoke openly about how they suddenly felt themselves free to roam into neighbourhoods that had always been off limits to them, as they united in the face of the larger enemy. Locals from Tottenham's Broadwater Farms Estate recounted a meeting held there to declare an ongoing truce between gangs.
The liberal media declaration that this revolt was nothing but "a shopping riot" has been accepted even by some people who consider themselves enlightened. This is hypocritical. After all, the youth were hitting back at a whole set of invisible chains that lock them out of a consumer society where, they are told in a thousand ways, what you own is the only source of status and meaning. Great Britain's great wealth, like that of all the imperialist and monopoly capitalist countries, is rooted in a system that has looted the entire planet, exploiting people everywhere and destroying the environment. Why should taking a bottle of wine or a flat-screen TV be considered morally repugnant to the rulers of such a system? Why indeed, except insofar as it threatens an order based on private property, one whose routine "legal" functioning makes the means of producing and extracting the world's wealth the private property of a handful of exploiters who can only use it against the interests of the people and the planet?
Further, how can anyone who cares about a morality in the service of humanity not be nauseated when these youth, who are not running society or anything else and are not responsible for the mess that has been made of the UK and the world, are lectured on values and called all sorts of names by an establishment that over and over again, with the MPs expenses scandal and the Murdoch phone hacking scandal, has been shown to care about nothing but power and profit, and whose highest good is personal gain? Lower-level police have been shown to be corrupt by the phone hacking scandal, as they took bribes for turning over confidential information about celebrities, royals and crime victims to the media. But few people have applied the word corruption to the Labour and Conservative Parties and police and other top officials whose political and personal intimacy with magnates like Rupert Murdoch are simply considered normal relations of mutual benefit. Yet now they criticize people who have to go out and get their own loot instead of having it delivered. How can these people even talk about "the rule of law" while Great Britain's powerful have shown time and time again that even their own laws mean nothing to them when there is money to be made, political careers to be advanced—and potential threats to that order to be repressed?
These people have shown that they are not fit to rule.
Government ministers have been denouncing the "rioters" as "parasites" who "live on the taxpayers' money," "refusing to work," and who are now "biting the hand that feeds them," and they have called for those convicted and even their families to be cut off state benefits. But who's responsible for a million youth being out of work? It wasn't the youth who outsourced the jobs from the working class districts of London, Birmingham, or Liverpool's Merseyside. Even before the smoke had cleared from some of the burned-out sites, the UK office of national statistics reported a "shocking" rise in unemployment this spring, which is hitting the youth, minorities and women especially hard, in particular in poor areas like Tottenham. Is this because the youth don't want to work—or because the capitalist system is throwing hundreds of thousands of people out of their jobs and into the streets?
So perhaps the politicians who preside over this system that is tossing the youth onto the jobless rolls might offer them more education instead? On the contrary: A week after the revolt, it was announced that "record numbers of youth" who have applied for university have been turned down this year, as young people struggle to get into higher education before huge rises in tuition fees hit next year.
While the austerity budget adopted by the Tory-led government was undoubtedly one important factor fuelling the revolt, the youth in the streets were going up against an entire system that keeps them locked into the bottom of society—a capitalist consumer society where they can't consume, a society where the great majority get jobs and education, but they are tossed out of school and into the ranks of the permanent jobless, dependent on the dole and benefits, with the ever-present armed enforcers of the system on their backs to be sure they don't step out of line. The tens of thousands of youth who raged out into the country's streets didn't just step out of line while protesting for a bit more—they stepped out into the night clad for battle with those hated enforcers of the system, living outside the law and now doing it together with thousands of others like themselves.
In addition to their attempts to deny the anti-police and to some degree anti-establishment sentiment that was at the core of this upheaval, the authorities and their apologists have tried to focus attention on what they condemn as "mindless violence." This, to them, is proof that these youth are "feral" (wild animals), and that therefore "society" needs to protect itself against them by the harshest means possible, as if they were not as much a part of UK society as anyone else. The official response to the rebellion, in fact, is proof that the youth are right about what they are rebelling against: they are not considered or treated as human beings, and the only future the rulers intend to allow them is servile silence or a lock-up.
This "mindless brutality" has been enormously and maliciously exaggerated. Was there such violence? Yes—but consider this: thousands, even tens of thousands of youth were out in the streets of many of Britain's cities, night after night for four nights, many of them with rudimentary arms—and how many sexual assaults took place in all that? Despite an attempt by the tabloid Daily Mail to invent a rape in a front-page story ("Rape in the heat of rioting"), this proved to be a lie, and the tabloid press has failed to find even a single such case to bring against the youth.
But there were wrong and reactionary acts of violence among the people, from rubbishing the establishments of small shopkeepers who are in no way responsible for the people's problems to the car that ran down and killed three youth of Pakistani origin guarding a shop in Birmingham. Those of us who look at this revolt from the point of view that the youth are right not to accept injustice have to point out that such acts reflect an incomplete or simply wrong understanding of the sources of the problems these youth are rebelling against. In fact, they reflect the dog-eat-dog, look-out-for-yourself-and-your family ("me and my mates" or narrowly-conceived "community") outlook that the system itself inculcates into everyone in society from top to bottom.
But once again, it is the height of hypocrisy for the system's authorities to pretend to care about the fate of South Asian or other immigrants who have been the target of the police, government anti-immigrant propaganda and official tolerance of hate campaigns (when white people attack immigrants, we're supposed to "understand" their fears and that the solution is immigration restrictions and deportations). But people of one oppressed ethnicity attacking others, and violence among the people in general, are very much linked to the lack of a revolutionary perspective that can forge unity among the exploited and oppressed and bring about revolutionary change, and not just a shift in the pecking order.
The outrage of these youth is righteous. But they do need to change—they need to understand where their real problems come from. They don't need to change in the way that the power structure demands, to accept the unacceptable (and even if they did they might be ground down further anyway). Those who seek radical social change should greatly value these youths' burning hatred of injustice and the status quo, the fearlessness of those from the bottom of society who sense that they have nothing to lose. Given the desperation of their circumstances and the hopelessness that is a big part of their thinking, in the absence of a revolutionary perspective, it is not surprising that these youth often act according to the same rules and outlook propagated by the people at the top of society and constantly reinforced by the daily workings of the system itself.
The change that's necessary from this point of view can come only as more people understand and fight the system that is the source of their problems, and look for ways to actually bring down that system and replace it with an entirely different one, based on exactly the principles, goals and values that official UK rejects, a society where, as Karl Marx and Frederick Engels wrote in the Communist Manifesto, "the free development of each is the condition of the free development of all" and vice versa.
Some "leftists" in the UK such as the Socialist Workers' Party would like to tame the force represented by these youth and turn it into just one more part of a pressure group to reform the system, rather than to find the ways to seize on its potential for a revolutionary uprising against the system. These youth represent a reality that's just too scary for them to face, and one that could lose them their hard-won respectability in the eyes of the establishment. And so, while they at times denounce the capitalist system, they repeatedly reduce the source of the oppression experienced by the youth to Tory PM David Cameron (one of their main slogans related to the revolt is that, "Cameron must go") and the "Tory cuts." In their major statement on the revolt (which they repeatedly term a "riot," just like the mainstream media, opening the door to the official bourgeois line that the essence of the revolt was "mindless violence"), they argue that, "Just as with the student protests last year, it is the 'lost generation' created by the Tories who are at the centre of these struggles." A "'lost generation' created by the Tories"!? From these "leftists," a newcomer to the UK would not have the slightest idea that the Labour Party, headed by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, was the parliamentary party presiding over the British government from 1997 to 2010, for 13 years—in fact, the only party that most youth on the streets would have ever really known in government until just last year. This was a period when intensified inequality ripped through British society—just as it did through the social fabric of most every country, as part of the wave of worldwide capitalist globalization. This was a reflection not so much of the policies of this or that party as of the fundamental workings of the capitalist system itself, and it is this that the youth need to understand.
This view of the SWP and like-minded reformist "leftists" does not simply miss the revolutionary potential of these youth for the future, although it most definitely does that. Right now this reformist view is abandoning them to the vengeance of the imperialist state. With a view that calculates the potential worth of a campaign to defend the youth that is based not on its potential for revolution, but its potential for gradualist reform, then for these so-called "leftists" defending thousands of youth charged with petty theft and the like isn't a big priority—or is even a burden on more "legitimate" protest.
But things didn't have to wind up in this infuriating state of affairs. It is certainly possible to do more, including to mobilize sentiment from within sections of the middle classes to stand up for the youth. The rebellion from the "lower depths" has caused a lot of soul-searching throughout British society. And many don't like what they see. A letter to a local newspaper in one of London's poshest neighborhoods argued for looking more deeply at the nature of British society: "What of interminable looting by our pig-greedy banking confraternity, looting by commission-hungry property dealers, by supermarket executives whose prices rise as regularly as we ourselves do every morning?" When Conservative Party Mayor of London Boris Johnson went out to join a couple of hundred young people who were cleaning up their local streets in the aftermath of the street fighting, a group he assumed would be receptive to his hard-line message, he began to run through the ritual denunciation of "mindless thieves and looters," but to his surprise was met by catcalls and jeers, and fled unceremoniously.
The youth rebellion has exposed the lies of progress in dealing with the racism that has been a foundation of British colonialism and the galloping inequalities that characterize contemporary UK society. It has brought to the light of day the grim oppression that afflicts millions whose lives are normally hidden from public view. All this offers possibilities for beginning to forge some kind of broader alliance to stand up for and with the youth.
In a society that is so marked by consumerism and by increasingly high levels of inequality, many even in the middle strata are taking a surprisingly tolerant view of what they perceive as an understandable redistribution of goods. The politicians, on the other hand, are justifying their merciless repression in the name of standing on the side of the middle class, especially small shopkeepers. Their "zero tolerance" of any infringement of the sanctity of private property, in the real world, mainly reflects the interests not of small proprietors but the tiny handful of monopoly capitalists and their representatives—the real criminal class.
And the measures they are taking today may well come back to haunt them. Pauline Pearce is a 45-year-old black woman from Hackney, a scene of heavy fighting, who became prominent on YouTube for remonstrating with the youth in the midst of the revolt in opposition to burning a local shop, to "Get it real, black people, get real. Do it for a cause. If we're fighting for a fucking cause let's fight for a fucking cause." In reaction to the government's subsequent crackdown on the youth, Pearce observed, "Right now, I feel there's a nervous calm. Can you hear it? It's a silence. It's a calm before the storm. We're going to end up in two years' time with a lot of people coming out of jail with no qualifications, no jobs—and what's that going to achieve? The government needs to be careful. Otherwise they're going to end up with another right little civil uprising."
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Revolution #244, August 28, 2011
Posted Thursday, August 25, 2011
"The authorities in Britain have worked themselves into a frenzy of name calling followed by brutal punishment against the people who rose up. They say these youth did nothing but engage in mindless looting. And that the root causes of these actions are poor parenting, a moral collapse in parts of British society and gang culture. These people are straight up hypocrites.
"Who are the real criminals? Police in London murdered Mark Duggan, a 29-year-old cab driver. This was only the latest in a series of brutal killings by police there. These murders happened in an atmosphere where police stop and frisk Black youth in scandalous numbers—2000 per day. This kind of brutality has characterized the way the British ruling class has operated around the world throughout history...
"There is a tremendous, simmering anger. Up till now, far too much of this has been turned inward with people lashing out against each other. But I am here to tell you, people will not, and should not, take this forever. There was a righteous fury and a lot to learn from the youth in the streets of England in these hot days of August...
"'The days when this system can just keep on doing what it does to people, here and all over the world...when people are not inspired and organized to stand up against these outrages and to build up the strength to put an end to this madness...those days must be GONE. And they CAN be.'"
Go there: http://bit.ly/nvtxol
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Revolution #244, August 28, 2011
Posted Thursday, August 25, 2011
I'll admit, when I first heard about Slutwalks I cringed. I hate the word slut. It is too hateful. Too bound up with shaming women for their sexuality. Too linked to the deep trauma experienced by millions of women and young girls every single day. Too much part of the cultural DNA that says, "She deserved it," or, "She was asking for it," or, "She's dirty," or, "You little cunt whore."
To get even more specific, for me the word "slut" was too indelibly linked to a girl named Kelly. She transferred into my junior high school in the middle of the year. She was ridiculed and outcast in that kind of mean-girls way that reduces a young woman to an invisible, despised zero for absolutely no reason except to make others feel like maybe they exist. And really, what could be more lonely and humiliating for a junior high girl than standing in front of a whole cafeteria filled with uproarious laughter carrying your lunch tray from table to table being told that every empty chair is being saved for somebody, anybody, who isn't you?
But, Kelly had big breasts and so a table full of boys called out to her and pulled up a chair. All it took was for her to sit down just that first time.
To be honest, as the weeks rolled on and the rumors rolled with them, I have no idea which—if any—were true. I do know there were parties with lots of drinking where the girls still wouldn't speak to her and the boys would lure her into bedrooms. I also know that a young girl seeking acceptance and desiring some means to explore their own budding sexuality in this highly repressive society can get caught up in—and even, at times, take initiative in—all sorts of behavior that is degrading and demeaning to herself in a very deep and lasting way.
But most of all what I know is that Kelly became someone who wasn't seen by anyone in that entire school as an actual human being. No, Kelly was a "slut."
And I know that wherever she is, even in the best-case scenario, Kelly is still living with the trauma of not only the abuse and (almost certain) sexual assault perpetrated against her by those boys, but also by the widespread dismissal of that crime, and the shaming and disrespect of her for being the victim of it, by a whole school full of her peers.
And I know that there were literally millions and millions of Kellys across the country's junior highs that same year and that in the years since, with the escalating backlash against women's liberation and the mainstreaming of porn, this story has only gotten worse.
Stop reading for a minute. Take a moment and picture the Kellys you have known. Consider their humanity. Imagine yourself in her shoes. And ask yourself what it says about this society if you've never done that before.
So, again, as is probably clear by now, when I first heard of "Slut"-walk I was not one-sidedly thrilled.
But, then I heard about the thousands of women who had poured out in the first Slutwalk after some asshole Toronto cop who insisted that if women didn't want to be raped they should "avoid dressing like a slut," and my feelings quickly changed. I watched with growing enthusiasm as women took to the streets in more than 70 cities across the U.S. I felt something deep in my heart when I saw pictures of the Slutwalks in India, London, Australia and Mexico. There was an undeniable and contagious righteousness of a whole wave of young women—after so many years of silently swallowing their pain—finally taking to the streets to say that it is the world, not the women who are raped, that is wrong!
So, when I was finally able to be somewhere at the same time as a Slutwalk was happening, I was thrilled.
Still, I was not fully prepared for what I encountered. By the time I arrived at the Slutwalk in San Francisco it was already in full swing. An exuberant and boisterous band of (mostly) women and (some very welcomed) men chanting, "Yes means yes! No means no! However we dress—whereever we go!" A huge, somewhat sloppily painted banner read, "Its a man's world—lets fuck it up!" Homemade signs proclaimed in many creative ways that women's bodies do not exist for the sexual gratification of men. Many declared the right of women to be sexual without being assaulted, raped or shamed.
But it is when I began talking to people that things really got raw.
I approached a group of strong, defiant young women. They had signs, they were loud, and their faces were beaming. But it took less than a hundred words exchanged before the tears started streaming. One young woman explained how, growing up, she came from a very progressive family. "We talked about every political issue you could imagine. By the time I was in junior high I had major political opinions about at least ten things... But," she paused a second before continuing, "I couldn't even say the word 'sex.'" It was at the word "sex" that she completely broke down. She laughed a little and apologized as she cried, seeming embarrassed by her flood of emotion.
But, her friend—quite correctly—grabbed hold of her tightly. I reached out too, this being a crowd where you could do that with complete strangers. I told her, and I deeply believe, that her tears are not something to apologize for. They are just one small indication of the heavy weight of shame that is heaped on women—not only shame about sex in a world where women are still told they have to be "pure," but even shame about feeling ashamed or confused about sex in this world where women are supposedly oh-so-"sexually empowered."
As we talked, I opened up the special issue of Revolution newspaper called, "Declaration: for Women's Liberation and the Emancipation of All Humanity." (Revolution #158, March 8, 2009) We looked at the pictures from its centerfold of the many ways that women across the planet are oppressed and degraded—from the trafficking of women as sex-slaves to the fundamentalist virginity vows of "Purity Balls," from domestic violence to sweatshop exploitation and beyond. We talked about the need for a real revolution, that it's time for women to stop choking on their pain and their anger and turn it into a mighty force for changing the world. She caught her breath and nodded, we talked for a while more, and then they all got copies of the Declaration and gave me their emails.
Not long after that, I found myself talking to another young group of friends. They, too, were brimming with the rebellious joy of the day. But when I asked why they were there, one of them looked me dead in the eye and explained, "I was sexually abused as a little girl," she began and then more quietly and slowing, "It's like every day you have to walk around and hide it." And then she just crumpled. The tears bounced off her cheeks and soaked into her sweatshirt as her friend hugged her close with equal emotion.
"I bet you've never said that to a complete stranger before," I responded, and she laughed. By the look of their faces, she'd never told it to the friends who stood holding her either. Then she looked up and seemed to find the words she'd probably never had the occasion to even search for before, as she explained how much anger she has knowing that other young girls are still going through what she had been through. She wanted to be part of making sure this doesn't keep happening. She was so happy—even through her tears—to finally have a chance to do something that might contribute to that.
I told her—and I repeat it here for everyone reading—how deeply courageous and absolutely necessary what she is doing is. It matters both for changing the world so other girls do not have to go through what she went through AND for herself being able to let go of any remaining feelings of blame or shame or denigrated worth for what was done to her against her will.
After she and her friends got copies of the Declaration I told her about a new movement to end pornography and patriarchy I am working to initiate. She spoke with great conviction against the violence and hatred she sees concentrated in porn and how she feels that porn has a lot to do with giving men the idea that it would be fun to hurt little girls like herself.
The organizers of the Slutwalk did a very cool thing and opened up a bullhorn for an open-mic speakout at the end of the march. I joined the crowd in cheering as a young man described the responsibility men have to be part of stopping sexual violence. We gave support to a South Asian woman who spoke against how rape-culture gets mirrored within the LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] community. She courageously described her heartbreaking experience of being raped in the bathroom of a club by another woman. When my turn came to speak, I saluted everyone who had come out and called out the lie that we live in a world where "women have achieved their liberation." I spoke of how every fifteen seconds a woman is beaten, every day four women are killed, one in four women are raped, and every second we are assaulted by ads and images and jokes that say women exist for nothing but the sexual plunder of men. I told people that rape is not just part of human nature, that it comes from this world dominated by patriarchy and that we can get rid of it with the kind of communist revolution that liberates women as a driving part of emancipating all humanity. I held up the Declaration and invited people to learn about and get down with the movement for revolution we are building right now.
I literally could sit here the entire night and not exhaust the stories, and the criminal nature of this society that is concentrated in those stories, that I heard from other women after speaking: the stranger rapes, the date rapes, the sexual abuse, the groping, the violence, the shame of never reporting the rape, the shame of being blamed after reporting the rape, the constant awareness every woman carries with her that she could be raped at any moment on the street, in her workplace, or in her home.
I could also write a whole other essay about the impossibility of reclaiming the word "slut."
But, then I think about Kelly. I think about all the Kellys. I think about all the women who never learned to speak of sex or ask for sex when they wanted it or to feel comfortable with their own desires because they had deeply internalized the hatred and shame that is hurled at girls like Kelly. I think of all the women who have been raped. All the women who have had that most intimate and vulnerable part of themselves, that part that ought to be a sphere for enjoyable sensations and real human sharing, invaded and used to hurt and demean them. All the women who have been abused. All the women who have never told anyone. All the women who thought it was their fault. All the women who have learned to deaden themselves to this pain just in order to move through the world day to day.
The truth is, we walk among these women every day. They are our friends, our mothers, our sisters, and our co-workers. They are the women who wait on our tables or take our orders at McDonald's. They are the ones whose moments of "Going Wild" and succumbing to incredible male-mob-pressure are being sold to other predatory men on late-night cable. They are many of you reading.
These women are not different than today's "slutwalkers." Each one of them is part of the walking wounded that make up half of humanity in this so-called "best of all possible worlds." Each one of them has the potential to zigzag violently between exuberant fury and near-crippling pain against the destruction wrought by patriarchy and male supremacy, just like the courageous women I met today.
And in the messy process of opening this wound up and cleaning it out, of fighting without compromise against every insult and assault that is heaped upon women, of building the movement for revolution to bring about a world without rape or any form of oppression and then—when the time finally comes and such a revolution is won—going on to build a world that finally uproots and heals all of these scars, in that long and righteous and wild and woolly process, there will be plenty of time and plenty of need to struggle through all of sorts of things, from the problems with the word "slut" to a million other things that will undoubtedly come up.
But right now, I challenge everyone who is reading this to join with and strengthen this worldwide wave of protest. I challenge those of you who are familiar with this revolution already to energetically take it into these marches and connect it with people. Those who are stepping out for the first time, I challenge you to get into what this revolution is about very deeply even as you take to the streets. Let's move forward together towards a world without shame and without rape.
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Revolution #244, August 28, 2011
Posted Sunday, August 28, 2011
Friday afternoon, a hurricane bigger than Europe was moving up the East Coast. At that point, it wasn't clear what impact this would have; the news media was running a 24/7 all eyes on Irene, and the ruling forces were planning an unprecedented shutdown of public transit in NYC – an international hub of finance. As it turns out, the worst did not happen though the full impact of the storm has yet to be entirely determined (lives were lost and many people are still without power as this is being written).
After we'd finished our food shopping and secured our water and flashlights, a couple of us revolutionaries started thinking about how to approach a situation like this that could have turned into a major crisis. We've seen all too often what happens to the people in natural disasters when you have a system that is oriented to maximizing capital. This often results in great suffering that was otherwise preventable. Such disasters over the last decade have revealed the unequal and oppressive relations of this system as well as the systemic and global problem of capitalism-imperialism laying waste to the environment. And we've seen how the dominant relations in society get re-asserted through force and violence directed towards the masses.
As the storm was barreling north, the governor of New Jersey bellowed that if you do not evacuate now, we will not save you. And, NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a news conference before the storm: "We are not evacuating Riker's Island," one of the largest prisons in the world that sits on a low-lying island in the middle of one of the key areas of expected flooding. Meanwhile, he was announcing a host of extreme measures including the unprecedented mandatory evacuation of some 250,000 people from similar low-lying areas.
While Hurricane Irene turned out not to have created all the havoc it could've, we did want to share with Revolution's readers our orientation going into this. We reviewed the Revolutionary Communist Party's statement On the Strategy for Revolution and Bob Avakian's summation of what happened in relation to Katrina. (See "Overcoming Obstacles and Limitations, Mobilizing All Positive Factors" in "Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity, Part 2: Everything We Are Doing Is About Making Revolution".)
There are times when the prevailing social relations are thrown asunder and the masses of people cast aside normal constraints and work together to help each other and when the necessity and possibility for a radically different social order can be revealed to millions. Revolutionaries need to be with the masses, leading in such situations, exposing the prevailing oppressive and repressive relations and fighting for a humane and just outcome. Through all we do, pointing to the potential for a radically different world and making known the revolutionary leadership we have.
At this point, it seems people are coming out of their houses, picking up the debris and figuring out how they're going to get to work and school, so we're returning to our big plans to "wake up and shake up" the campuses, having a major impact with this special issue of Revolution, joining with what could be a festive post-storm spirit among the masses and continuing to monitor how any after-effects of the storm unfold.
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Revolution #244, August 28, 2011
Posted Sunday, August 28, 2011
"All Played Out" with words by Bob Avakian, and music by William Parker, should be part of our efforts to shake up and wake up the campuses with BAsics and the special issue of Revolution. As an announcement in Revolution stated, "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."
Burn a few CDs, and print some double-sided jewel-case inserts (download front and back—both in Word format). Take 20 minutes and take these to the radio station and speak with anyone there, especially the music director and jazz, hip hop, and new music DJs, and current events and political program hosts. Play it on the spot if possible, and introduce them to this leader and the movement for revolution he leads. Be sure to have copies of BAsics and the special issue on hand, and extra inserts to leave. Pass out the CDs to everyone you meet, and follow up the next day. Learn as much as you can about what people are thinking of this piece and what it concentrates, and get suggestions of who would play this on their shows. Follow up to get "All Played Out" played on air! This would be an important part of saturating the campus.
Be sure to burn the high quality WAV file here: http://soundcloud.com/allplayedout/all-played-out-avakian-and-parker.
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Revolution #244, August 28, 2011
Posted August 30, 2011 at revcom.us
Note: The following are excerpts from a tape-recorded talk by Bob Avakian, the Chairman of the RCP,USA, in the aftermath of September 11 and in the context of the war launched by the U.S. government (and its "coalition"), focused initially against Afghanistan. The text has been edited for publication and subheadings have been added. We urge our readers to study this sweeping talk, which was not only quite prescient and far-sighted, but continues to be very relevant in today's world.
I want to speak first of all to the strategic dimension involved in the current and developing situation since September 11. I think we have to look at it in terms of a very wide range of possibilities connected with what the imperialists are up to and the whole cauldron of contradictions that are involved. To put it in stark terms, the range of possibilities involves everything from, on the one hand, on the negative side, devastating defeats for the proletariat and the proletarian revolution internationally, of a character that would set us back for decades. It could even lead to devastation organizationally, if not politically, for the international communist movement and its vanguard forces, and at the same time to very great advances and consolidations by the imperialists, the U.S. imperialists in particular.
Or, on the other extreme, on the positive side—and this too is possible—the whole course that the imperialists are embarking on could turn into its opposite for them in a profound, and perhaps even an unprecedented, way—it could lead to tremendous advances for the revolutionary struggle of the people all over the globe, for the world proletarian revolution—it could even lead to the possibility of a revolutionary situation and a successful revolution coming into being within what's now the United States. That's how we have to view the range of possibilities and the depth of the contradictions that are at play here and are being further unleashed and accentuated by what the imperialists are doing. One of those two extremes or the other, and everything in between, is possible as a resolution of—as what results or comes to the fore through—this whole cauldron of contradictions.
As can be seen in many ways, including in the major speeches by Bush since September 11, 2001, these imperialists—the U.S. imperialists in particular—certainly have wild ambitions. But they also have a great deal of necessity they're facing. And we need to look at both.
They have ambitions of essentially reshuffling the whole deck, reordering the whole situation—beginning with the strategic areas of Central and South Asia and the Middle East that are more immediately involved now—but, even beyond that, on a world scale. This is "New World Order Revisited" or New World Order 2 that they're trying to carry out on a deeper and more sweeping level than what they set out to do with their war against Iraq a decade ago. They've set themselves a very far-reaching agenda with gigantic implications.
Now on the one hand, they're not approaching this stupidly. Seeing things and proceeding from the standpoint of their class and their class interests as capitalist-imperialists, they are not just acting irresponsibly in the sense of just going off wildly and doing everything at once. They are trying to approach this in an echeloned way; they are trying to do it in a systematic way. From their own perverse standpoint, they're trying to unite all who can be united under their baton—baton in the double sense, the conductor's baton and the policeman's baton, but especially the latter—the "cops of the world" baton. They are trying to unite all who can be united at every particular phase, beginning with what they're doing in Afghanistan, and they envision that—and have explicitly put forward that—at each stage of this their "coalition" will reshape and reform, it will be different at different stages. They're not going to be able to hold the exact same coalition together, with all the same forces, through everything, but at each stage they're trying to effect the most favorable balance for them, the most favorable "united front," in a perverse sense, under their baton. At the same time—and to some degree this has even been openly aired—there is a struggle within their own ranks about the question: does the coalition set the terms for the mission, or does the mission set the terms for the coalition. And it's the latter line—that the mission sets the terms for the coalition at any given point—that is winning out among them.
In other words, occasionally you see some expressions of "pious doubts and petty amendments" coming from the State Department or from other representatives of the powers-that-be—warnings or worries that "if we get too aggressive, or take on too many adversaries all at once, it's going to alienate some of our allies." But the answer comes back from the "hard core" imperialist strategists: "Never mind about that—we can't let these 'coalition partners' set the terms of what we are going to do." (This has been explicitly said by Donald Rumsfeld, who said in a recent speech that the mission must determine the coalition, and not the other way around, or else "the mission will get dumbed down to the lowest common denominator.") There is a sort of brute Mafia logic that is expressed, especially by this hard core. Speaking of those over whom they are moving to impose their domination, they argue along these lines:
"The only thing these people really understand, the only thing that really counts, is power. Yeah, some of them won't like what we do, and some of them may even make a show of complaining about it, but they'll relate to the realities of power. And if we just pulverize people in our way, everybody's gonna just fall in line. So, yes, we have to pay some attention to the political and diplomatic aspects of this, but the leading thing has to be our raw power and its execution to effect what needs to be effected."
And this "mission," once again, is essentially to reshuffle the whole deck, reorder the whole world more in line with how they are perceiving their strategic interests.
It's as if they are saying, "Look, we had this great victory in the Cold War. Then we had this whole period when we had Clinton in there and everything, and we didn't really take advantage of the victory of the Cold War. We didn't 'roll up' the whole world the way we could have and should have, and now it's time to get in there and do this. We let things drift, and it's time to get in there and follow-up the victory of the Cold War with this whole new world realignment that we're going to bludgeon into being. So 'let's roll!' "
That's on the one side—what we can characterize as the wild ambitions they have, and of course this has its domestic component, in terms of setting a whole warfare police-state framework for everything going on within the U.S. itself (which I'll come back to later). But speaking particularly on the international level—which is the leading edge of what they're doing, given their whole imperialist nature and the international nature of the imperialist system—these are their wild ambitions, and in a certain sense this is the freedom they are trying to seize out of this situation. But, of course, everything is not just smooth sailing for them and won't be by far. Despite some initial victories they have won in Afghanistan, they are facing and will face real necessity in two senses: there's the necessity they already face, and there's the necessity that they are going to call into being by what they're doing. There is the potential at any given point—and especially as they roll down the road with this—for this to get wildly out of control.
I recently saw the video of the movie "Thirteen Days" about the Cuban missile crisis, and there are some things that come through in that movie that are food for thought. In particular, at the end of the movie, as a result of the resolution of this crisis (which mainly was a victory for U.S. imperialism in the sense that they forced the Soviets to take the missiles out of Cuba and back up in response to the U.S. "throwing down the nuclear gauntlet") there was this line articulated by one of the U.S. strategists to the effect that, now we're on a roll, now we can go deal with the Soviets, including in Southeast Asia (clearly referring to Vietnam). And, as you're watching this movie many years later, after the debacle for U.S. imperialism in southeast Asia, you can recognize (and perhaps this was the intent of the movie) that "syndrome" of these arrogant imperialists drunk with their own power.
This arrogance, this arrogant triumphalism, is already a marked phenomenon with their "war on terrorism," and particularly with their initial victories in Afghanistan, and this can come into play in a way that will cause them real problems, as things unfold further. Now, this doesn't mean that they won't try to have their strategic "wise men" (and, to be fair to Condoleezza Rice, strategic "wise women") thinking about this and trying to figure out how to avoid that happening—how not to get carried away with their own triumphalism and their "drunk-with-power syndrome"—but there is inherent in what they're doing the great possibility for them of overreaching and overstepping themselves, or unleashing forces that they can't control. And even the use of nuclear weapons by the U.S. imperialists, which is a real possibility through the course of this whole thing, is not any guarantee that they're going to be able to resolve everything in a way that's favorable to them—it could just unleash a whole other level of forces wildly out of control. And within all this, to whatever perverse and monstrous extent the imperialists' unleashing of destruction is carried and whatever forms it takes, the forces of the people, worldwide—and in particular the revolutionary forces of the international proletariat and the international communist movement—will have to be working to wrench something radically different and better out of all this.
So the imperialists do have necessity. In particular, there is the necessity that they will unleash—the conditions and forces they will call into being, or accentuate—by doing everything they're doing, and planning to do, and there is the potential for this to get out of their control at a certain point. They also have certain objectives that they are already pursuing at this point. In other words, some of their moves now arise out of things that were already in motion well before September 11. The RW has done a very good job of exposing some of this—it has been a very important source in bringing this to light—in terms of the whole strategic oil reserves in the area around Afghanistan: the oil pipeline contention which has been going on for a number of years, and all the machinations of the different oil companies and the imperialist state of the U.S. in relation to Afghanistan, and why they worked with or accepted the Taliban, what plans they had for that, why they turned against them—all of which predates September 11 and whoever was behind and involved in that.1
It is important to understand that it is not just a matter of U.S. corporations being "oil-hungry," or simply that the U.S. economy is "dependent on fossil fuels." The more fundamental truth is that the monopoly capitalists who rule the U.S. must control huge supplies of oil and other fuels, worldwide, in order to keep production costs for U.S.-based corporations as low as possible (particularly through super-exploitation of labor in many oil-producing countries), to strengthen their competitive position vis-a-vis other imperialist corporations and countries, and overall to control vital lifelines of the global economy. And these monopoly capitalists use the government apparatus—in particular the military—of the U.S. to enforce this control. This is an expression of the essential nature of the imperialist system we are confronting.
So there is the level of things that were already in motion, even before the current crew came into power in the U.S.—even under the Clinton administration. But at the same time, while there is all that, there is what happened on September 11, and I think the statement by the Committee of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (CORIM) is very much to the point here—that in the murky world of intelligence, where duplicity is the currency, it may be impossible to ever know exactly who was behind September 11. Who, actually, is Osama bin Laden? Of course, he's the villain of the week, or whatever. Remember it used to be Noriega and then it was "Saddam, The Dictator" (and don't forget Milosevic). But who knows exactly who Osama bin Laden is and with whom and for whom he is actually working? All of this stuff is impossible to tell, but it does seem at least quite likely that there were real forces—not the proletariat, not positive forces, but other reactionary forces—who actually hit out at U.S. imperialism for their own reasons. Whether the U.S. ruling class knew that this specific thing was coming and decided to let it go for their own reasons, or whether they knew in a general sense that some kind of attack was coming against them, inside or outside the U.S., but they didn't expect this (which is quite possible), whatever the truth of that is (and again we may never be able to sort all this out) the point is that there is both freedom and necessity for them in this situation.
Their freedom, or a major expression of their freedom, is along these lines: with a lot of things they were trying to get going anyway and that they had on track to one degree or another, once the September 11 attacks happened, they seized on it and said, "Let's go full speed ahead—just pull the throttle on the locomotive all the way." The necessity, or one important aspect of their necessity, is that they cannot allow such attacks to go unanswered—they have to strike back and strike back with viciousness and massive devastation. In fact, even if they were involved in this themselves on some level (or at least knew in advance that these attacks—or some form of attacks—were coming), they cannot allow the appearance that somebody can get away with attacking them. Like any Mafia thugs—and they are that on a monstrous and worldwide level—they can't allow even the appearance that somebody came up and poked them in the eye, and got away with it. If you are worldwide and world-class gangsters like them, if you are global exploiters with an apparatus of mass murder and destruction to enforce and extend that, you just can't allow even the appearance that someone can get away with hitting back at you.
And it is a fact that, whoever was involved with September 11, there are these forces out there who have their own interests—reactionary interests in terms of these Islamic fundamentalists and the class forces they represent—who do have real contradictions, real antagonisms with the U.S. imperialists, who even have a program of trying to force these imperialists out of certain areas of the world and to knock them off their position of being the dominant hegemonic power in the world. There are some real contradictions these imperialists face. There is a certain perverse truth to one thing they say: if they don't do anything about a situation where (at least to all appearances) hostile forces actually struck within the U.S. itself (and caused major civilian casualties—which the imperialists don't care about, except insofar as that makes it seem that they can't even protect the people of the U.S. within their own territory and brings into question the effectiveness of their rule), if they allow this to happen without striking back at the forces that they are identifying as being responsible, then that would in fact encourage some of these forces out there who'd like to strike at the U.S.
So you've got this sort of perverse dialectic or dynamic going where it is true that, from the standpoint of their imperialist rule and their imperialist interests, they do have to strike back. And there is a certain freedom that they're seizing out of the situation—there are certain things they had on track that they're putting on the fast track and going full steam ahead with. But there is also a certain necessity that they face—again, given their role and position as "the world's only superpower," as they like to boast, given the nature of their rule over people throughout the world, they do have to go and pulverize people and make the point, again like any good Mafia thug, that you cannot get up and do this, you cannot show disrespect and even strike at us without being crushed. Or else their whole empire would actually be threatened in a more serious way.
Look at their whole logic. Look at their logic that power is the language everyone understands, the only language they really understand. Well, what does it mean if they don't exercise that power and ruthlessly strike out when they're punched in the eye or kicked in the shin (which is how they look at it)? Their own logic applies, in a certain perverse sense, because they live and rule by that logic and they enforce that logic on everyone they rule over—and therefore, by that very logic, others will be encouraged to seize on their vulnerability that's been shown if they don't strike out viciously and massively in response.
All of this comes together and mixes wildly—that's why I call it a cauldron of contradictions—to produce a lot of potential for things to go in many different directions and even to get out of their control. This obviously poses a gigantic challenge for progressive forces, opposed to these imperialists, within the U.S. itself as well as throughout the world. And in particular it poses a great challenge for the communists throughout the world in terms of being able to wrench something positive, something radically different and better, out of this whole upheaval and the volatility of all these contradictions whose full expression we have not even come close to seeing yet.
So the imperialists have definite, strategic objectives internationally, but they also have major objectives domestically, if you will, in terms of political repression as well as a highly repressive social and cultural agenda. As touched on earlier, you can see how, in a certain sense, sections of the ruling class, in particular those that are right at the key levers of power now (the crew that's grouped around Bush—whoever's actually running things), are now setting the terms within the ruling class as a whole. And just as there has been, on their part, a certain feeling that under the Clinton administration the opportunities weren't seized on to make gains internationally—to maximize gains out of the "victory of the Cold War"—so it's also the case I think that there is a feeling among this same crew that what they want to have happen, and the kind of terms they want to set, within the U.S. itself, has got to be radically different than what it has been since the end of the Cold War.
And there is this whole Christian Fascist element—a powerful and highly connected force—that's been asserting itself within U.S. society for a whole period of time and was, for example, a driving force in the attempt to unseat Clinton, which reached its farthest point with the impeachment (and that is really reaching quite far, after all). Those pushing this impeachment were a kind of coalition, or a coalescing of groupings, but a driving force within that were the Christian Fascists, who represent a very powerful element within the U.S. ruling class. Let's not forget that, for example, Bush not only claims to be "born-again" but many of his key functionaries are Christian Fascists—not the least Ashcroft, as well as Ralph Reed and some of Bush's other close advisors during and after the election. (And Ralph Reed is just the cherubic protege of Pat Robertson, who openly spouts reactionary politics and ideology that are essentially theocratic fascism, as well as certifiable lunacy.) These people are hardly removed from key levers of power in the U.S. imperialist state and U.S. imperialism internationally at this point. They were a driving force, if not the driving force, in the Clinton impeachment. They were seeking to set a certain agenda with that and achieve certain political objectives, including actually ousting Clinton from office if they could. And they got very far—it clearly wasn't just a game they were playing, they actually impeached him, they just didn't get the conviction in the Senate to actually remove him from office. And I'm sure that, if you were to talk with them privately (or at least if you gave them some kind of truth serum), the overwhelmingly majority of them would say, "Of course, we didn't have any real legal or constitutional basis for this impeachment, but we had political objectives."
On the other hand, they ran into some real obstacles, and in particular they never won broad support for what they were doing, beyond their regular base of followers. It is not that people like this—the leaders of the Christian Fascists, or the political representatives of the imperialist system in general—make decisions based on what the people think or want, but there really was a certain kind of popular resistance, even if not a large-scale organized resistance, to this whole impeachment thing and to the whole way in which they were trying to construct things around that impeachment. So, even though the people who were the driving force in this actually got quite far, on another level they suffered a temporary political setback. They didn't get the kind of configuration politically, if you will, that they wanted to get out of that.
And then there was the whole election contention—the significant contention that came not with the election campaign itself (which was pretty universally recognized as failing to stir up any excitement) but with the virtual dead-heat in the election (in terms of electoral vote) and the very intense battle this called forth out of this dreary election itself—a battle that, it is important to recall, ended with a highly contentious and clearly partisan Supreme Court decision. Now we have 9-11 and its aftermath, and you can see a certain way in which this is being seized on by a section of the ruling class (whose outfront representatives are headed, nominally at least, by Bush) to more aggressively push their "agenda," not only in the international arena but within the U.S. as well, and to confront the rest of the ruling class with the necessity to go along with this agenda.
To say that this is a coup d'etat at this point is to overstate things, but it is accurate, and important, to note that there are significant aspects of a kind of "rolling coup," that is a situation where certain forces which are very closely linked in with the top echelons of the military are increasingly bringing power unto themselves—and bringing very much into light and illustrating very vividly Lenin's statement that the real power in a bourgeois dictatorship (whether "democratic" or openly fascistic) is the Executive, while the Legislature is a "talk shop." Never has that been more blatantly clear than in the present circumstances, as demonstrated by the slavish way in which the Congress has handed Bush, specifically in his capacity as Commander-in-Chief, greatly heightened and essentially unchallenged power, at least with regard to waging an open-ended "war on terror," and by the repeated, emphatic statements by the heads of the Democratic Party that there is no opposition now, with regard to this war. (This is illustrated, among other things, in the "Democrats' response" to Bush's 2002 State of the Union address, given by the Democratic leader of the House of Representatives, Richard Gephardt, who declared that, since September 11, "there has been no daylight between us in this war on terrorism" and who introduced some, largely indirect, statements of difference on economic policy with the overall observation that "to defeat terrorism, our economy must be strong.")
And this whole element of the military, and in particular the officer corps in the military, is one that has great weight. The fact that here, too, right-wing (and to a large degree Christian Fascist) viewpoints and allegiances hold sway, is highly significant. This reveals the posture of various writers and analysts who openly support the U.S. terror war on the basis of the need to defeat religious fundamentalism (and some even speak of defeating "theocratic fascism") to be all the more hypocritical and ludicrous.
For example, Andrew Sullivan (who, although a self-professed "conservative," wrote a major article in the New York Times Sunday Magazine during the Clinton impeachment crisis warning of the dangers posed by the Christian fundamentalist right in American politics—or at least the dangers of their "excesses") now writes a piece entitled "This Is a Religious War." In this article he notes the tendency within literalist, fundamentalist religion to terror and "totalitarianism," but then argues that the real danger—in fact "a more formidable enemy than Nazism or Communism"—is Islamic fundamentalism. Christian fundamentalists in the U.S. pose no real threat, Sullivan insists—or any threat they pose is diminishing and in any case will not prevail—because the U.S. Constitution, with its separation of politics and religion, provides "security against an American Taliban." (See the NYT Sunday Magazine, October 7, 2001.) Sullivan can say this while the Chief Executive of the U.S. government, and the Commander-in-Chief of its Armed Forces, declares himself a "born again" Christian and his inner circle contains a number of confirmed Christian fundamentalists (real embodiments of theocratic fascism), including "the top law enforcement officer in the country," Attorney General John Ashcroft; and the U.S. military, in particular its top echelons, is saturated with people whose sympathies and sensibilities lie with the Christian Fascists.
As for the Constitution, what is it except some words on paper whose meaning, or effect, is determined by the power relations in society, and in particular the needs and requirements of the ruling class of imperialists? And, of course, Constitutions can be torn up or "rewritten" by the powers-that-be. Even short of the open suspension of the Constitution and the open declaration of dictatorial rule by the bourgeoisie, who is it who has the final say in "interpreting" the Constitution? The Supreme Court—the same Supreme Court which, in its present composition, decided the last presidential election.
In some notes I wrote on this present crisis and war2 , I spoke to the fact, noted by a number of people, that after the bombing in Oklahoma City, there wasn't any profiling of "young white guys with crew cuts." This is true on one level, and something important to expose, but the deeper level I pointed to is that if they had done an analogous thing then to what's being done now—if they started tracking down all the financial connections and political connections of people like Timothy McVeigh—pretty quickly this would have led high up into the U.S. ruling class, including the military.
This is the kind of "political configuration" that's taking shape within the U.S. ruling class, and it's quite likely that if you gave truth serum to the liberals in the ruling class (and their liberal allies in society generally) they would tell you something along these lines: "You don't understand what's going on here, there's a whole police-state fascist thing being set in motion. We're doing our best to hold the ground against it, but you gotta understand what's going on here." And there would be a certain truth to what they're saying, although the standpoint from which they would be saying this is the standpoint of the imperialist bourgeoisie itself; and from this standpoint the ruling class liberals (and those who follow in their wake) will sooner or later (and often it is sooner) take this position: it is better, far better, to have all this war and police-state repression than to have our whole thing called into question or challenged fundamentally. And they would repeat all the same logic, the same Mafia logic, about how they can't allow themselves—U.S. imperialism cannot allow itself—to be punched in the eye or kicked in the shins (or whatever metaphor you want to use).
But while that is important to recognize, it also must be grasped that there is a whole agenda that I think has been in the works here by certain forces in the ruling class (represented now by the Bush administration) and they are saying, in effect: "Man, we can really go now—we can really ram through a whole program, domestically as well as internationally, that we have been pursuing for some time—we can take it to a whole other level, and we can run roughshod over any opposition." Whatever these forces (and the agencies and institutions of the ruling class in general) knew in advance of September 11—whether they knew some kind of attack was coming but were surprised by the actual nature and magnitude of it, or even if they had a basic idea of the attack that actually came and decided for their own reasons to let it happen (and again, we may never know this)—clearly they have seized on this with full force. And specifically in terms of the "home front," it seems that they feel that they've found a better way than the overt Christian Fascist agenda to get through a lot of things they have been pushing for some time. Rather than making the Christian Fascist agenda, per se, the leading edge and driving force, they are using "terrorist attacks" and the "war on terror" as the battering ram and means for implementing a whole larger agenda. The Christian Fascist element is part of the package—it is inside the larger battering ram—but it's not the overt leading edge and spearhead in this whole thing.
So, on the one hand, we can firmly say that, if those who claim to recognize the dangers posed by fanatical religious fundamentalism and "theocratic fascism" really wanted to fight this, they could do so most effectively by beginning with a serious fight against such forces right within U.S. society and its ruling structures and institutions of power. Then there are the many instances and ways in which the U.S. imperialists have supported religious fundamentalist reactionaries—including the Taliban, Osama bin Laden, and other Islamic fundamentalists—in many countries. And there is the even larger dimension in which they have installed, backed and fortified reactionary regimes of various kinds throughout the world and, even more fundamentally, the ways in which the workings of their whole system have condemned the great majority of humanity to unspeakable oppression and misery—all of which is enforced, as the "bottom line," by the machinery of death and destruction known as the U.S. military.
Beyond just theocratic fascist forces—which do have positions of real power and influence within the U.S. ruling class—there is the need to confront and build the most powerful struggle against the reactionary program around which the ruling class as a whole is being united. A key element in this program is greatly heightened police-state measures and overall political repression. This repression includes blatant "profiling" of people in the U.S. from Arab countries, central and south Asia and more generally those parts of the world where Islam is the dominant religion; it includes large-scale round-ups and detention of particularly men of these ethnic and religious groups, under conditions in which rights that are supposed to be guaranteed to them by the Constitution are flagrantly denied and trampled on; and it includes a general clamp-down on immigrants, legal as well as "illegal," and a further militarization of the borders of the U.S. All this, of course, is linked to an open-ended declaration of war, and the threat of war, in which the U.S. imperialists arrogate to themselves the "right" to intervene in any country where "terrorists"—as defined by them—pose a threat to the interests of U.S. imperialism, to launch attacks against, even to overthrow, any force or any government that they declare to be somehow connected with such "terrorist threats against the interests of the United States," no matter how far removed this may be from the September 11 attacks (or how flimsy and threadbare the attempt to fabricate such a connection).
When we step back and look at this, one thing that can be (and has been) emphatically said is: "Period of major transition with the potential for great upheaval" indeed! In recent times, even before September 11 and the actions of the imperialists in its aftermath, a number of people in and around our Party have commented that, looking at events in the world, this formulation (from the "Notes on Political Economy" that our Party published) has seemed smarter and smarter—and now this is all the more the case. This is indeed what is represented by the forces that have been unleashed as a result of the "victory of the West in the Cold War," although all this is rooted more deeply in the fundamental contradictions of this era of the capitalist-imperialist system. As we know from dialectical materialism, all things have their opposites (this is the nature of reality and its motion and development, which is reflected in the dialectical materialist world outlook and method). And now the "victory of the West in the Cold War" has called forth an opposite in a particularly sharp way. In other words, as spoken to earlier, there are real Islamic fundamentalist forces in opposition to U.S. imperialism. Whatever Osama bin Laden may actually be, there are real forces of Islamic fundamentalism, and other forces aligned with them or representing the same basic class interests (feudal and reactionary bourgeois class interests), which do have their own objective conflicts and antagonism with U.S. imperialism—and even have their own wild ambitions of knocking U.S. imperialism off its position as the hegemonic world power, the sole superpower in the world, etc.
So, the victory of the West in the Cold War has called forth an opposite in not only a sharp but also a kind of peculiar way—which, in its own way, is as surprising as the form in which the Cold War itself ended—that is, with the demise and collapse of the Soviet Union (something very few anticipated, our Party included, as was pointed out in our self-criticism on this in "Notes on Political Economy"). But, of course, this conflict between Islamic fundamentalist forces and U.S. imperialism is just one expression of a much broader phenomenon of intensifying antagonism between imperialism and the masses of people in the oppressed nations of the world; and all this is the expression of profound contradictions, of major world and world-historical contradictions of this era of capitalism-imperialism.3
Something that has been pointed to, something whose relevance and importance has stood out, in relation to this whole crisis and war and the developing accentuation of all these contradictions, is the statement in the Draft Programme of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, in the Appendix on Central Task, where it emphasizes that: "The Party does not overall determine the political challenges it faces, but how it meets those challenges can have a huge effect on the political terrain itself." In other words, we don't get to choose the necessity that we're confronted with—the objective situation at any given time is generally determined largely by factors other than our own efforts—but we do have some choice in how we respond to that situation, we can take initiative and seize freedom out of that necessity, transforming to the greatest degree possible the objective conditions that we're confronted with. We might like to have things occurring and confronting us in a more positive way, with a more positive alignment, right now.
For example, there has been a developing and already powerful struggle against capitalist globalization—a broad movement which, in its main aspect, was very positive both politically and ideologically. Even a number of imperialist spokespeople noted a few years ago that this "anti-globalization movement" represented not just a political but also an ideological challenge to the whole rolling triumphalism of the capitalist system. If it is not yet pro-socialist, and certainly not communist, it definitely has had a very strong and increasingly accentuated anti-capitalist thrust to it, both politically but also ideologically. And this has been a major challenge, and a growing one, for the imperialists—and a very favorable factor for the proletariat. We have been increasingly recognizing this and deepening our involvement in this movement in recognition of these very powerful factors. And had things continued on that trajectory and developed in that way as part of the overall mix of contradictions, that would have been more favorable perhaps—or more favorable certainly in the short run—than the situation that we've been confronted with since September 11. Yet, while it might have been overall more favorable in a certain sense (or certainly more favorable in the short term), it quite possibly would not have developed in as profound a way as the contradictions that have been unleashed, or accentuated, as a result of and in the aftermath of September 11.
So, on the one hand, what was taking shape in relation to that movement against capitalist globalization is something we would have liked to continue as a sort of defining alignment—or a major alignment on the terrain—and this movement has to be further revived and developed as such. But this is now taking place within a different context whose terms are set by different contradictions (or different expression of major world contradictions) which may very well prove to be even more profound and out of which there may prove to be, over the whole period of all that this involves, more basis for revolutionary advance, in the world as a whole, and perhaps even a heightened prospect for the masses to seize power in what has been the U.S. imperialist homeland itself.
This is an extremely important point of strategic orientation because, after all, what is it that we communists are all about and what is it we live for? We live for—and our whole orientation is geared toward—situations in which the contradictions of imperialism do reach their most acute expressions. And one of the things that is being driven home to us—this is something we have always known theoretically and have lived through on a certain level, certainly in the period, particularly during the 1980s, when world war was a very real possibility—is that the increasingly acute and explosive expression of these profound major contradictions of the imperialist epoch is not going to come to the fore without tremendous upheaval, without tremendous destruction, without tremendous volatility throughout the world, without there being many factors that are unfavorable for the proletarian revolution as well as factors that are strategically favorable. But, on the other hand, as I said, this is what we live for; this is what our whole orientation is geared toward. Otherwise, what are we doing? We are not going to slide neatly into the proletarian revolution. We're not going to oust from power these most monstrous and powerful exploiters and oppressors and mass murderers on a world scale and think that somehow it's all going to be easy, neat, clean, and without much sacrifice, without much upheaval, without much volatility, without much volcanic eruption all over the world, including in the U.S. itself.
So this is putting us to the test, and in fact people all over the world as well as within the U.S. are going to be put to the test in one way or another—we are going to be confronted with the consequences of what these contradictions give rise to, and in particular the horrors that these imperialists unleash. Where are you going to stand in relation to this? Are you going to stand with the great majority of people in the world who have been going through great horrors every day for decades and centuries, as a result of the workings of this system; or, in the hope that you can somehow escape these horrors, are you going to stand with the imperialists who have been inflicting this on masses of people, right within the U.S. itself, and on an even greater scale throughout other parts of the world—and are preparing to inflict this on a much more monstrous scale?
Everybody is going to be put to the test, but of course, that doesn't mean that if people do something bad in the short run, we should strategically write them off. We do have to maintain the orientation of uniting all who can be united, within the U.S. itself, while firmly upholding and giving life to our principles of proletarian internationalism, in unity with the great majority of people in the world against the imperialist system. But there is also the truth, and we have to tell people the truth, that everyone is going to be put to the test. This is not a minor or temporary thing that's going on in the world, after which things are going to return to "normal," whatever the hell that meant—and we know that normal has meant hell for the great majority of people in the world living under this system.
So, again, what is unfolding now is a peculiar expression of fundamental underlying contradictions, the major contradictions of the imperialist epoch. All this can and must be transformed radically—and, in fact, it will be in one way or the other and to the benefit of one class or another.
In the context of the current situation and the objectives and wild ambitions of the imperialists, we can see a very important point from Lenin: what begins as a war among imperialists or reactionaries does not have to end up as a war among imperialists and reactionaries—the alignment that they are trying to bring into being, and even the alignment that now exists, is not the only way things can turn out. And, of course, in this the vanguard MLM forces throughout the world have a tremendous role to play, if we are able to correctly apply our ideology to this situation through all the wrenching turmoil and upheaval of what I've referred to as this cauldron of contradictions. So this stresses that not only within the U.S. itself, but on a world scale, through a whole wrenching process, there is even greater importance to striving for and achieving repolarization, a realignment of forces politically.
One thing I wanted to speak to in connection with this is the question of the "softness" of those within the U.S. most inclined to support the imperialists and even the U.S. armed forces themselves. TV talk show host Bill Maher got in all kinds of trouble for saying that it is the U.S. military that exhibits cowardice by carrying out bombings from a safe distance (and, from what I've heard, Maher has been "making amends" ever since by acting as an avid, not to say rabid, supporter of the imperialists' "war on terrorism"). [NOTE: Since the time this talk by Bob Avakian was originally published, in early 2002, and particularly with the Bush regime's move to war against Iraq, Bill Maher became more critical of certain aspects of Bush's program and actions; but he has remained, in general, a supporter of the so-called "war on terror," even while raising criticisms of how this "war on terror" has been conducted.] And there is truth to what Maher said—which only made it worse for him! But it is wrong to look at this one-sidedly, or to ignore the fact that the ruling class itself is aware of and attempting to do something to change this, to the degree they can. In other words, one of the things that this crew that's in power now—and the U.S. ruling class overall, of which they're the inner, decisive core right now—one of the things they're trying to achieve is to overcome this aspect of "softness."
This is one of the reasons Bush and others have been out there from the beginning saying "We can't expect this to be like the Yugoslavia war"—where the U.S. essentially succeeded in achieving its objectives without suffering any significant casualties—or "it can't be like the Gulf War," where the U.S. had minimal casualties..."We have to be prepared for having much greater casualties in order to achieve our great objectives and deal with the 'evil-doers' in the world."
They recognize the importance of orienting and conditioning people in this way, not just with the immediate situation in mind but with the larger picture, the larger objectives, they have in mind. They are thinking strategically and are envisioning a situation in which things could get out of hand to a certain degree—or even if they don't get largely out of hand, there could still be heavy losses on the U.S. side in the course of striving for the objectives, the monstrous objectives that they have. And we have to understand that they can in the short run have a certain measure of success or achieve certain things with this effort to "prime" people—both in their military and among the "civilian population"—to make greater sacrifices.
In other words, despite a certain definite truth—and historical experience that illustrates this truth—that U.S. soldiers are unwilling to make the kind of sacrifices that armies fighting against oppression—and in particular revolutionary armies guided by communist ideology—have been willing to make, it would be wrong to think that the first time they get hit with any serious combat in which they're taking losses, these soldiers of the imperialist military are just going to all fall apart and that the civilian population that tends to back them in the short run will all just immediately turn against the government if and when there are serious casualties and a greater price to pay overall for the imperialists' "war on terrorism." It would be wrong to count on that and to hinge the building of resistance to this whole imperialist juggernaut on it.
To the degree this happens—to the degree that people turn against the government because they see that it is requiring people, soldiers and civilians alike, to make increasing sacrifices and this causes people to question further what this is all for—that is a positive factor that should definitely be seized on in building opposition to the imperialist juggernaut. Politically that can be an important element in favor of the proletariat and the people of the world, but we have to expect that this will go through a dialectical process and not in a straight line. And, in fact, on a certain level there will be, at least to some extent and for a certain time, a "hardening" of some of their forces—both their military forces and some of the base among the "civilian population" that they can mobilize in the short run—before, on a greater level, that turns into its opposite. This was the experience with the Vietnam War. The turning of increasing sectors of the population, and increasing ranks of the military itself, against the imperialist war in Vietnam didn't happen in a straight line. It happened through the kind of complex and dialectical process that I've been talking about, and this current "war on terrorism" has the potential to be much greater in terms of the conflict that it encompasses than the Vietnam War.
So we have to understand all this. Our political work should be strategically guided by winning the masses of people to the correct understanding of all this, and this does include recognizing that there will be a favorable factor, in an overall sense, as the imperialists suffer setbacks in what they're attempting to do—and from the revolutionary defeatist standpoint, the more setbacks they suffer, the better. But we can't expect this to be a one-to-one, immediate, and linear relationship where their suffering setbacks and/or increased casualties among their soldiers and increased hardship for the "civilian population" mean that things immediately and automatically become more favorable for building opposition to their juggernaut, and for linking this to strategic revolutionary objectives. It's going to be a much more wrenching and convulsive and complicated process than that.
Now, obviously, we have a lot of political and ideological work to do in relation to all this. We can't rely on the spontaneity of it. That's a point that needs to be emphasized out of all this. Achieving the necessary repolarization is going to be a wrenching process, but it's one we have to work on systematically. And this does relate to the objectives the imperialists have internationally and the whole way in which they're moving within the U.S. itself. That is, as I referred to earlier, their intention is to create a country that is more or less permanently at war, with the attendant police-state repression and all that goes with that, a kind of warfare police-state.
It is important in this context to think about the meaning of the Martin Niemoeller statement: "First they came for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up."
Now, on at least one occasion, when a spokesperson for our Party in New York City, Mary Lou Greenberg, brought up this statement, a reactionary talk show host responded by proclaiming, "Do you realize you just compared the United States to Nazi Germany?—how ridiculous." But of course the point is that even at the time when the Nazis came to power—when Hitler became Chancellor—NAZI Germany was not the same NAZI Germany that it became a few years later—and particularly in the midst of the war when it committed the mass genocide against the Jews. Things unfolded—they went through a process—and by the time NAZI Germany fully became NAZI Germany, in all its horror, it was too late to resist—that, after all, was the whole point of the Niemoeller statement! The point is not that the U.S. is already fascist, although it certainly is at war and there certainly are fascistic elements within this inner ruling group and within the policies they're pushing, which are being adopted by the ruling class as a whole.
They like to strike the moral posture of being the country of freedom and liberty and constitutional law. They are always emphasizing that, "This is a government of laws, not of men." Well, with their heightened police-state measures and overall repression, they are running into certain acute contradictions around this. Take, for example, the power they're arrogating to themselves to listen in on the conversations of accused terrorists and their lawyers. With that, they're basically undermining the whole concept of a fair trial. How can there be a fair trial when the government can listen in on the conversations of the defense, including its preparation for trial? And this new power to listen to conversations between defendants and their lawyers will undermine further, in a qualitatively greater way, the whole basis for a fair trial—to the degree that it actually exists anyway.
This, of course, goes along with the whole mentality, which they have been systematically trying to cultivate, that as soon as someone is accused they're automatically guilty, and any attempt to have them found not guilty is trickery, the evil doings of those evil (defense) lawyers taking an advantage of "technicalities" (otherwise known as provisions of the Constitution), and so on. It's the Edwin Meese line—the former Attorney General under Reagan—he actually articulated this at one point when he said, "Well these people wouldn't be on trial, we wouldn't be accusing them, if they weren't guilty." And that notion, to the degree that it is accepted and applied, goes a long way to undermining and obliterating due process.
So, you see, this is the way they've conditioned the populace for a long time, but in recent years they've also been carrying out a heightened and more systematic effort to undermine and reverse, in the minds of the people, the innocent until proven guilty principle. And now they're trying to take another leap with this. This relates to the military tribunals that Bush has announced he may, at his discretion, establish. Here, in this situation, the ultimate prosecutor is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and the judges are lesser officers in the armed forces—and while they've been forced to make certain cosmetic concessions to due process, Bush and company are still openly talking about legal processes in these military tribunals where many of the key protections and rights that are associated with due process will be eliminated or seriously undercut. So essentially, just as they're saying with terrorism, "it's whatever we say it is," now they're saying in effect and by their own logic, that due process is whatever they say it is.
This is graphically illustrated by the statement that Cheney made—that these people, these terrorists, don't deserve the same rights as other people. So, by this logic, once the executive branch of government—and more specifically the President in his capacity as Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces—declares somebody to be a terrorist, then they should lose rights that are supposedly guaranteed to them by the Constitution (which, it should be noted, is not supposed to apply only to U.S. citizens but to all people in U.S. territory). If you accept this logic, then you have obliterated the distinction between accusation and actual guilt. And if you accept that terrorism is whatever they say it is, and that as soon as they label someone a terrorist that person does not deserve Constitutional protections and due process of law, then in effect you're agreeing that the law itself is whatever they say it is, and that the Constitution means whatever they say it means (and doesn't mean what they say it doesn't mean). Well then, the whole pretense and the whole proclamation that the great thing about America is that this is a system or a country of laws and not of men—this is being undermined and all but obliterated right out in the open. Because you're essentially saying it is "a government of men." It's nakedly the government of the ruling class and its political inner core that decides what the law is, what the Constitution is, who has rights and who doesn't.
While we shouldn't overstate or exaggerate what the situation is at a given point, there is great relevance to the Martin Niemoeller quote and we shouldn't simply look pragmatically at what they're doing at any given time and not look at the whole trend of where things are going, as well as the logic that they themselves are articulating. What is the logic of what they're saying—as one of Richard Pryor's characters put it, "what is the logical conclusion of the logic?" Where does it lead? These are very important points both to understand and to do exposure around—both to help arouse broad opposition to this whole juggernaut and to bring further to light the essence of bourgeois dictatorship, in all its forms and manifestations.
I think it would be valuable, for agitational and propaganda purposes and also for more general purposes, to make an analogy to the genocide of the Native peoples in America, as the capitalist system and the slave system spread from the east to the west in the history of the United States. It is useful to look at that experience in light of what is happening today—what's the same and what is different.
In Preaching from a Pulpit of Bones4 I quote a statement by Jim Wallis who said very simply, in his book The Soul of Politics, that the history of the United States is the history of genocide (or I think he said near-genocide) and slavery. This is the history and origins of the United States of America. And, he added, this is not rhetoric; this is just a simple fact.
It's a simple fact, which of course the powers-that-be are always attempting to cover up or distort—or find some excuse, or rationalization, for. You know it's really ironic when you listen to their spokespeople trying to justify their crimes like this. If some criminal got up and made the kind of excuses they make for what they've done in the world, you would never hear an end to the howling! "Oh, yeah I raped that woman, but if I didn't do it, somebody else would have come along and done it worse.... Sure I went over there and murdered 12 people and robbed everybody around, but there was somebody else who was coming along who would have killed 15 people and stolen even more.... Or yeah, I had to go over there and murder and mutilate little children, because I needed to make an alliance with the big crime boss, and if I hadn't done that, he wouldn't have thought I was for real."
Just imagine if some criminal got up and made these kinds of arguments to justify his crimes! Yet, on a worldwide scale, they not only continue everyday to commit much more massive and monstrous crimes, but they continue to offer rationalizations for them that are at once ridiculous and outrageous: "Of course, we had to pull off a coup in Iran in 1953, and install a brutal despotic regime there, and keep it in power for decades, because that was in our strategic interests—we had to have control of the oil there to protect our way of life and prevent the Soviets, or even other big powers, from having control of it. Of course, we had to back Iraq in its war against Iran—or back both sides to a certain extent, to weaken them both while hundreds of thousands died in this war—because that was in our "national interests," to maintain control of that oil-rich and strategic region. Of course, we had to do what we did in Indonesia and slaughter hundreds of thousands of people because we had to keep the Indonesian people from following the communists and undermining our strategic interests (and our oil profits) there. Our way of life was at stake." And on, and on, and on.
So what is your way of life then? You're just admitting that your way of life is thuggery, plunder, rape, exploitation, mass murder. That's your way of life, OK. Now at least we've got it out in the open, so get off your moral high horse. Let's get down on the ground. You're just a bunch of oppressors who rule by brute force, yet you have the nerve to call yourselves the champions of democracy and the "leader of the free world." Mark Twain brilliantly captured something essential when he said that "What you need to get along in America is the perfect combination of ignorance and arrogance." I would add to that—and this is something that is coming more clearly to the fore now—that what American imperialism needs, what it constantly manifests, is the perfect combination of rapaciousness and self-righteousness. This is what is on display now: the perfect combination of rapaciousness and self-righteousness.
Of course, these days it's pretty generally admitted (at least it has been admitted broadly in recent times—maybe they'll try to reverse this verdict too) that, "Yes, we committed genocide against the Native Americans. That was bad."
But think of the reasoning that you're hearing to justify what the U.S. imperialists are doing—or what Israel is doing with the Palestinians, to take one part of this whole picture—and then reflect back on what happened during the time when the U.S. was seizing the land of the Native Americans and committing genocide against them. For example, we hear all this stuff now in the news about smallpox—the danger that smallpox could be used as a weapon of war, a "weapon of mass destruction." But who has actually used smallpox as a weapon of mass extermination? The westward forces of expansion of U.S. capitalism and slavery—the same system that today has become U.S. imperialism—that same system deliberately, knowingly gave smallpox-infested blankets to Native Americans as a weapon of war essentially. So let's remember who has actually done this. I mean, they're always talking about what this or that country or regime would do, how they would use weapons of mass destruction if they could, but who has already done this on a massive scale, in many parts of the world, as well as within the U.S itself—who has already used weapons of mass destruction, on a massive scale, whether it's nuclear weapons or smallpox as a weapon of war?
If you go back and do research, and look into what was written in the media and said by the representatives of the U.S. capitalist system, say in the latter part of the 19th century when they were completing the genocide against the Native Americans and the theft of their lands, whom do you think was portrayed as the "evil-doers" in those days? Do you think it was the cavalry? Do you think it was these people who carried out massacres and committed sexual mutilation of the dead bodies of Native American women, who mutilated children and made tokens and war trophies out of the body parts of the Native peoples that they slaughtered? Do you think that's who was portrayed as the hideous "evil-doers"? Of course not. It was the "savage" Indians. When finally the Native peoples had had enough and found a way to strike back, they didn't always strike back in the most "neat" way. Sometimes they did go to a farm and burn the whole farm down and kill all the people there, including the children—and then this was cited as proof that they were the "savages" who then had to be wiped out because finally they fought back, and when they fought back, they didn't always fight back by the Marquis of Queensberry rules. They perhaps on occasion did one little part of what had been done to them on a massive scale, and this became justification for doing it on an even broader scale or for completing the genocide.
People should go back and look at how these things were portrayed then as opposed to what's been admitted since, and then see how that same logic is being applied now on an international scale as far as who the "evil-doers" are. No, you imperialists don't get to be the "good guys" in the world, I'm sorry. This whole history is very relevant in terms of understanding, by analogy, what's happening now—whether it's Israel and the Palestinians or U.S. imperialism overall and what it's doing in Afghanistan, what it has in store for that whole region and ultimately for the whole world.
On the other hand, things are vastly different now, because despite the heroic resistance that was put up by the Native peoples to this whole genocidal juggernaut, they were not able to withstand these forces of capitalist and slave system expansionism at that time. They were outnumbered and overwhelmed by this whole juggernaut. But the world today is very different. It is not U.S. imperialism that is on the rise, that represents what is rising and developing in the world. It does not represent the interests, nor the felt sentiments, of the great masses of people in the world. Quite the contrary. Not only throughout the Middle East and the "Islamic world" now, but throughout the world as a whole, the masses of people do not look at U.S. imperialism the way U.S. imperialism tries to portray itself in the world—as the "good guys going out to fight the evil-doers." Masses of people throughout the world have an essentially correct understanding of the reality that the U.S. imperialists have tried to stand on its head—millions and millions of people, hundreds of millions and more, understand this at least in basic terms: they know who are the real "evil-doers" who have inflicted tremendous suffering on people throughout the world.
We can and do have sympathy for the thousands of people who were killed in the World Trade Center for example, thousands who died there. But you need to know, American people, that your government is torturing and killing that many children every month in Iraq. People need to be confronted with this. There are many memorials and all these other shows of support for the families of the people who were killed in the World Trade Center, which you can sympathize with, but why are there not memorials and why is there not outrage about the 5,000 Iraqi children that are being slowly tortured to death by the American government every month? Slowly tortured to death—as a direct result of deliberate U.S. bombing and destruction of the infrastructure of Iraq, including things like the water treatment facilities, as well as the continuation of the sanctions which prevent the repair of these things, along with preventing Iraq from getting adequate food and medicine. If they brought these Iraqi children to the U.S. and put them in an auditorium and stood there in front of you and tortured them one by one until they were dead, you would react.
Well, my point is not to blame the American people broadly, because most don't know. There are some reactionary forces who, when they find out, don't care; but most people don't know and it's our responsibility to bring this understanding as part of the overall picture of who the real monstrous "evil-doers" in the world are. And yes, the Osama bin Ladens, and the Taliban—and Saddam Hussein for that matter—represent class forces that also have to be swept aside as part of the revolutionary process of bringing a whole new, ultimately communist world into being, but they are a pittance compared to the monstrosity of U.S. imperialism. This has to be made real and vivid for people in the U.S., and it is our special duty obviously to play a key role in this.
And again, strategically speaking and looking at the world as a whole, things are vastly different than they were 100 or 150 years ago. While there are important points to be made in terms of political understanding, and also in terms of agitation and propaganda, by drawing an analogy to the genocide against the Native peoples in America, there's also the profound truth that the world is vastly different and strategically more favorable for the proletariat and the oppressed people of the world, including the indigenous peoples in the U.S. and all over the world, even though right now we have to face the fact that the alignment in the world is not favorable. It's very unfavorable, it needs to be radically transformed, and there is a lot of work to be done theoretically and in practice in order to bring about a radical transformation that actually does correspond to the needs and the basic interests of the great majority of humanity, and even the great majority of people in the U.S. itself.
One of the things that has been talked about by various intellectuals and pseudo-intellectuals (and even "leftists" or pseudo-leftists) in the imperialist camp is this whole "clash of civilizations" point. Back in 1993, Samuel Huntington wrote an article in Foreign Affairs magazine with that title, "The Clash of Civilizations." While Huntington's article is written from the point of view of justifying and furthering U.S. imperial domination, there are some things in this article that are somewhat prescient, far seeing, in terms of predicting ways in which world contradictions would get expressed which are actually being borne out in certain aspects now—including the conflict between what he described as Central Asia and the arc that includes the countries where Islam is the dominant religion, on the one hand, and on the other hand, the West as represented particularly by the U.S.
At one point in this article, Huntington makes the statement that a Western (bourgeois) intellectual and a Soviet Marxist could have a debate, they could find common ground for debate, whereas it is very hard for either of them to do that with an Islamic fundamentalist. Despite the fact that Christian fundamentalists in the U.S. could find a lot in common with the Islamic fundamentalists on many ideological questions, there may actually be an aspect of truth to Huntington's point. But Huntington's approach here also reveals some of the essential flaws in his overall methodology. Among other things, it reflects the error of detaching ideological questions from underlying material factors.
Within all the countries and all these regions of the world, there are different class forces, with different and conflicting class interests—there is not one large, amorphous bunch of people who, while they may be divided into classes, have this overriding commonality with people of the same Islamic or Hindu or Christian civilization, etc. There are very acute class contradictions within all these countries and regions (and "civilizations"); and, as I've pointed to in my writings, even before September 11, some of the ways in which these underlying material and social factors are finding expression right now are not actually in line with the real objective class and social interests of the people involved.
Masses of people, particularly those who have been uprooted from the peasant countryside and thrown into the urban shantytowns, for example, have sought out many different solutions—some of which do, but some of which do not, correspond to their real interests. In some cases, they've sought out, or been attracted to, MLM. But in other situations, especially where the MLM forces have been weak and other forces such as religious fundamentalists have been stronger, masses of people have, in the short term, gravitated toward religious fundamentalist movements in various places. In Iran, even in Turkey (which is regarded as and has a certain history as one of the more secular of the "Islamic countries") and certainly in countries like Egypt and other places, there has been this phenomenon of masses being drawn to Islamic fundamentalism. But, in the more profound and ultimate sense, this doesn't override, nor certainly eliminate, the actual material situation and actual objective interests of these masses.
Obviously, the challenge for the MLM vanguards in these areas, and throughout the world, is to transform this situation—which means we do need to dig into it more fully. We need to do more than just go back to the basics of MLM, or even just to go back to the basics and then try to creatively apply them in all these different places. While we must remain firm in certain bedrock principles of MLM—and apply them creatively, not dogmatically—at the same time we actually need to do some work theoretically and in terms of analysis (and synthesis) to more deeply grasp what's going on with this whole massive "demographic upheaval" in these countries, with the uprooting of masses of the peasantry, with the transformation of much of the peasantry into a sort of shantytown semi-proletariat. There is a lot of work to be done. This challenge is being taken up by the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (RIM), including our Party, and other communist forces, but there is much more that needs to be done. While maintaining our fundamental orientation with regard to the different revolutionary roads in the two different types of countries (imperialist countries and the oppressed countries of the Third World), and while continuing to recognize the fundamental importance of the road of protracted people's war to surround the cities from the countryside in the Third World generally (as discussed in our Party's Draft Programme), we need to understand the tactical and even in certain aspects the strategic implications of these major transformations going on in many countries, particularly countries of the Third World.
We need to confront and "engage" reality. What is driving masses of people in many countries into the arms of these religious fundamentalists? What are the underlying material as well as the political and ideological factors? What failures or shortcomings of secular forces, including Marxist forces, have contributed to this in what ways, and how do we learn to overcome this? How do we address the material but also the political and ideological concerns of the people? What are the factors that are favorable and must be built on in dealing with this? These are tremendous challenges confronting our movement internationally to which we all, including our Party, have to contribute as much as we possibly can and in the various ways that we can. But things are not as Samuel Huntington presents them. There are some things to learn from his analysis, certain ways in which it's insightful and prescient, but there are also definite limitations, class blinders and biases that are incorporated in it.
The same basic limitations can be seen in the book The Battle for God by Karen Armstrong, which I understand is now a big seller in the U.S. ever since September 11. This is another person who, from a quasi-materialist and quasi-religious standpoint, is trying to analyze some of these same contradictions. In particular the book is about religious fundamentalism within the three main monotheistic religions in the world: Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. So it's very relevant and important in terms of the present situation. It does have a lot of insightful analysis of what gives rise to these fundamentalist movements, in particular the ways in which certain dislocations in the situation of masses of people in various countries and regions—and ways in which they feel their traditional way of life and values are acutely threatened and undermined—give rise to this impulse toward fundamentalism and enable the organized fundamental forces to have much more of a hearing and to mobilize much more of a base. There is a lot to be learned from her analysis.
She does recognize and emphasize—and analyze to some depth—the point that modernity came through a very wrenching process in "the West." It was not a smooth, easy transition. It was wrenching, involving war and revolution and repeated upheavals: this is the process that has led to the kind of modern secular society that—at least at this point—characterizes the U.S. and other "advanced capitalist" countries. And, at least as importantly, Armstrong analyzes much of the way that modernity (or modernization) has presented itself to most of the Third World—as something imposed by, first of all, colonialism and imperialism and, linked with that, corrupt and repressive ruling cliques within these countries themselves (basically comprador forces dependent on and serving imperialism). As Armstrong presents it, these regimes (and the colonial-imperialist powers behind them) do not have, and have not created, an internal basis in these countries for modernization.
But the point she doesn't really, or fully, recognize is that the reason they don't have—and cannot create—a material basis for this is because of the system and class interests that they represent. In contrast, if you look at the history of the Chinese revolution, for example, both politically and ideologically as well as in their material economic and social conditions, masses of people were sprung free to a very large degree from tradition and tradition's chains by a bottom-up revolutionary process, guided by a communist vanguard and communist ideology. This is what is represented by MLM and the forces of proletarian revolution and the international communist movement—which can transform things in a profound way, in a radically different way than the bourgeoisie and the imperialists can impose change from the top down (even in the limited and distorted way that they seek to make social change within these countries).
The achievement of a secular society can be much more thoroughly and fully achieved by the proletarian revolution coming from the bottom up than it ever can be—or even is sought to be—by the bourgeoisie and the imperialists. And the things that drive these dislocated and uprooted masses (and also many among the more traditionally exploited and oppressed peasants and other basic masses) toward the fundamentalists—the underlying material transformations and accompanying social upheavals—can also be much more strategically and powerfully the basis for the proletariat to mobilize the masses in a revolution guided by communist ideology and leading to socialism and ultimately communism worldwide (even if, in the Third World generally, this proceeds first through a stage of new-democratic revolution against imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism linked to imperialism). But, again, to bring this about there is a great deal of work to do, including in the realm of theory and, more specifically, analysis (and synthesis) of these profound material transformations and social upheavals in much of the Third World and their political and strategic implications for the revolutionary process. In this there is much that can and should be learned from some of these analyses that are made from a bourgeois (or bourgeois-democratic) standpoint, but they need to be recast and re-synthesized.
With regard to both some things to learn from, but also criticisms that must be made of, the analysis in Armstrong's book The Battle For God (and, in some different aspects, Samuel Huntington's "Clash of Civilizations" article in Foreign Affairs) one way we can encapsulate an essential point is this: Only a society that has completely uprooted and abolished exploitation and oppression can be a completely secular society. And achieving our ultimate objective of bringing into being a society, and a world, in which all exploitation and oppression has in fact been fully and finally uprooted has to include not just economic, social, and political transformation but also a revolution in the ideological sphere, where the masses are won to and actively take up not only secularism in some general (or partial) sense but a thoroughgoingly scientific and revolutionary, critical and creative outlook, namely MLM and its continuing development.
As I spoke to earlier, there are both things that the U.S. imperialists have had on their agenda and had on track for a while which they put on the fast track, and there are also real contradictions and real necessity and real forces opposing them that they have to deal with. They have both freedom and necessity, and both have taken a new shape in the aftermath of September 11. And while we must grasp this as fully as we can at this point, and act on this, it is also important for us to continue digging into this and learn more about the dynamics driving them, the underlying material economic forces, the political and geostrategic factors, and the interconnection of these different economic, political, and social forces.
But a crucial point to emphasize here again is the imperialists have set things in motion that can't be easily reversed, and may not be easily controlled. And we can say with a great deal of certainty that at the end of all this—whenever and however what has been set in motion is finally resolved—things are bound to be and will be vastly different, not only internationally, but also within what has been the United States. Whether in a very terrible way, or in a very positive way in terms of the advance of the proletarian revolution worldwide, and perhaps even getting to the point where power is seized by the masses of the people in the U.S. itself—things will be radically different and the America we have known will not exist in the same way anymore.
In light of what has been spoken to so far, I want to talk about some of the challenges we face politically. To begin, it is worth reproducing a recent editorial in the RW (December 2, 2001) entitled "WANTED: A Powerful Antiwar Movement"5:
McWorld or Jihad?!? There must be another way. How can we fight against the unjust bombings and military interventions of the U.S. government and the intense repression and profiling of Arab and Muslim people?
How can people around the world deal with reactionary forces and ideologies in a way that does not end up strengthening global exploiters and oppressors?
How can people in the U.S. communicate to the people halfway across the planet that there is a difference between the U.S. power structure and the great majority of the people in the U.S.—who have no fundamental interest in oppressing and ripping off the people of the world?
How can we help give "air to breathe" to the kind of movements that can really liberate people from the global oppressors—and create societies where poverty, unjust violence, ethnic hatred, and the oppression of women can be eliminated?
Thinking about these problems—and the need for proletarian revolution in the U.S. and around the world—RCP Chairman, Bob Avakian wrote:
"We must bring forward the vision of a movement against the war acts and repression of 'our own' U.S. government that is so powerful that it cannot be hidden from the masses of people all over the world—including in the countries and areas that are targets of U.S. imperialist aggression and are, justifiably, 'hotbeds' of hatred 'against America.'
"Imagine, what it would (and will) mean to those millions and millions of people when they see hundreds of thousands and ultimately millions of people in America itself, taking on the aggression (and repression) of their own government and standing with the people of the world against all that this government stands for and is doing and enforcing in the world. Imagine the questions that will raise in those people's minds, the 'dialogue' (even if indirect) it will give rise to, among people all over the world with people in the U.S. itself.
"Imagine the inspiration it will provide and the potential realignment it will contribute to—with ordinary people worldwide finding common cause against the oppressors and bullies of the world, first and above all the rulers of America—who, it will be more and more clear, do not speak and act in the interests, or in the name of large, and growing, numbers of American people themselves...."
Unite all who can be united...
Realize the vision...
The whole world is watching.
Clearly, this expresses a grand vision—but one that is no larger than what is required in the face of everything the imperialists have set into motion and are seeking to bring about, at the cost of tremendous suffering. Building the kind of opposition called for in that editorial represents a very important objective that we should have before us as a concrete goal—something to be actively, urgently working toward and uniting and struggling with others to achieve.
Something that is noteworthy, and encouraging, about the situation since September 11 is that, in the face of the declaration of open-ended war (and heightened repression) by the imperialists, there have been some very good stands taken by many people, including some prominent people as well as students and other social forces in U.S. society. Many have not only taken a good stand in general but have sought to actively rise to the challenge of opposing and resisting this whole juggernaut of the imperialists.
And with this objective in mind, there are some important lessons to be drawn from the experience of the Gulf War and the movement of opposition to it. It is very important to keep in mind that, from the first days of the Gulf War, there was massive opposition to that war, in large parts of the world, including the U.S. and many other countries within its war "coalition" at that time. I remember watching a report about a demonstration in Germany of half a million people (or perhaps even a million) against the Gulf War. Of course, they quickly followed this with their typical methods of covering up unpleasant realities, their tried and true means of obfuscation: "However, polls show that the majority of Germans support the war." So, never mind reality; we always have a poll. This reminds me of what Lenin said about how the reactionary ruling classes have need of two functions: the hangman and the priest. Well, now, they also have the bombing and the polls. They have the bombs to kill you with and the polls to tell you what you're supposed to think.
The fact is there was a massive outpouring of opposition to the Gulf War, including in the U.S., especially in the early stages, but then to a significant degree people were disoriented, particularly when it became clear that the imperialists were going to achieve overwhelming military superiority and a military victory—and without many casualties. As this developed—and, at the same time, as the imperialists launched a political and public opinion counter-offensive against the anti-war movement—there was a significant amount of disorientation and even demoralization among the ranks of this movement. Part of this was based on an erroneous assumption—the assumption that this would be essentially like Vietnam, in the sense that the U.S. (and its coalition) would get involved in a "quagmire"; they'd get bogged down; the body bags would start coming home; and then people would turn against the war on a large scale.
First of all, this is a vulgarization of how and why many people opposed the Vietnam War in the first place. Although there were broader sections of the population that were influenced in that kind of way, even they got more politically advanced through the course of coming into motion against the war. But there was a very broad outpouring against the Vietnam War which wasn't based on body bags coming home or on the fact that it became increasingly clear that this war could not be won; it was based on understanding the political nature of that war—the reactionary, oppressive, murderous nature of the war the U.S. was waging and the interests for which it was fighting and, in opposition to that, the interests for which the Vietnamese people were fighting and resisting the imperialist war of aggression.
Secondly, in the Gulf War, there was a certain assumption that got taken up and propagated by some people with incorrect thinking, some political groups and tendencies who are always looking for the lowest common denominator, who took up this logic that "when the body bags start coming home, the people will turn against the war" in sort of a narrow, utilitarian, pragmatic way. And when those things didn't happen, many people were disoriented by that.
In addition, pretty quickly the imperialists began their counter-mobilization around the slogan of "support the troops," and this line was even taken up by some within the anti-war movement, where it served as a kind of ideological and political "Trojan Horse." How can you support the troops and not support the war? What is it that the troops were doing, except waging that war?! Those soldiers who should be supported are those who are resisting—or seeking the means to resist—the war.
This resistance became a large-scale phenomenon during the Vietnam War, and the movement against that war correctly gave support and encouragement to the thousands of soldiers who resisted and rebelled, while struggling to win many more to take the same stand. And there were many within the U.S. armed forces during the Gulf War who were taking the same kind of stand. But the "support the troops" line, when it was not only widely and loudly propagated and organized around by the imperialists themselves, but particularly to the degree that it was taken up by forces within the anti-war movement, had a very disorienting, demoralizing, and demobilizing effect. This is a lesson that should not be forgotten but should be consistently applied and struggled for, including in the face of the same, or other, attempts to derail the movement against this open-ended "war against terrorism."
Now, there are some ways in which we should listen to—and learn from—what the imperialists say and do. While, in the most fundamental sense, they are systematic and world class liars, at the same time, as Lenin said, they do have a need to mobilize the population or to affect the population in certain ways, and in their own perverse way they do let out a certain amount of truth because they want to prepare people for certain things. This goes back to what I was saying earlier about how they are trying to condition the population to realize that, on the one hand, there are going to be (or are very likely to be) more casualties and losses on the U.S. side than there were in the Gulf War. So that's one part of the picture—this is a real prospect for which the imperialists recognize the need to prepare and condition people. On the other hand, there are going to be military victories for the imperialists, and there already have been in Afghanistan. There are going to be aspects of the developing situation in which they are going to be able to minimize their casualties, or to swing more sections of the population behind them in the short run on the basis of greater casualties ("now that our troops are dying, we have to rally behind them even more").
This is going to be a complex process, and once again any sort of simple, linear thinking will fail. The idea that, first of all, they're going to almost automatically get into some quagmire or that, if they do, this will automatically lead to more people turning against what the government is doing—neither of those things is going to be true in that kind of linear way. It certainly won't be true without the active involvement and work of, first of all, the MLM forces in this country and around the world (in particular, our Party and the RIM)—and, together with that, and through a process of unity-struggle-unity, other progressive forces and forces of resistance and opposition to the whole juggernaut the imperialists are unleashing.
Our Party has a tremendous role to play in all that, in striving to unite all who can be united in opposition to this while at the same time, through our independent line and work, linking this to strategic revolutionary objectives. Here again we can see the tremendous importance of repolarization, realigning forces, winning much broader forces in society to oppose the imperialist juggernaut of war and repression. And a key thing to grasp is that this must and can be done—in fact can only be done most effectively—without watering down the movement of resistance to the lowest common denominator, but instead drawing the crucial dividing lines so that the greatest number of people, representing a great diversity of political (and ideological) viewpoints, can be united, in the most powerful way, against the essential thrust and the essential aspects of this imperialist juggernaut.
To quote an internal document of our Party:
"[What is needed is a] movement that can stick to basic principle and still build the broadest united front, keeping in the forefront what it will take to actually stop the whole juggernaut of war and repression vs. getting caught up in sectarian or even simply more narrow and limited interests....
"We have to be ferocious and relentless in exposing the nature of this system, putting forward the solution to all this madness, and on that basis work to unite as broadly as possible and build a real and powerful movement to STOP them....
"The basic approach of our September 14 statement6 was an important application of this orientation—of speaking to and seeking to influence millions from a revolutionary position, drawing the dividing lines and applying the mass line, so that we could unite the broadest number of people in a way that moves them objectively in the direction of our international class's strategic interest. Doing this correctly is a real challenge that we will face all the way through this wrenching process of repolarizing whole sections of society away from the ruling class."
Understanding things in terms of these crucial principles, the important thing is not whether people say they are "anti-war" or for peace, or whether they may be confused for a time about such things as whether the UN and similar international bodies can bring some kind of "just resolution" to the international conflicts that gave rise to the September 11 attacks, and so on. It will be necessary to unite with broad numbers of people who formulate the terms of things in many different ways and have different viewpoints about many different questions. The important thing is that the greatest number of people be won to and united around opposing above all what the U.S. government (and its "coalition" at any given time) is doing—its juggernaut of war and repression. If the dividing lines are not drawn in this way, if the spearhead of struggle is not directed above all at the U.S. government and its whole juggernaut, if the opposition to war and repression is watered down to the point where a general stand in favor of things like "peace" and "justice" fails to identify this government as the main perpetrator of unjust war and repression, then no matter how many people are mobilized, this opposition will be ineffectual at best and at worst may be co-opted and used against the kind of resistance that must be built to actually meet the challenges posed by the imperialist juggernaut. All this underlines the need to continually strive to unite all who can be united in opposition to this juggernaut and at the same time to carry out principled struggle over differences among the forces of opposition, including the crucial questions of how the dividing lines must be drawn and how to build the movement overall so that the greatest numbers are united in the most powerful way.
In an imperialist country a decisive aspect of proletarian internationalism is revolutionary defeatism. And this is especially the case with regard to the U.S., given its role in the world—both its overall position as "the world's sole superpower" and in particular its declared intentto wage open-ended war to further re-order the world under its domination. So the basic stand of revolutionary defeatism is not just something that we communists should uphold; we should struggle to win the movement of opposition and the masses broadly to this basic stand.
In this light it is important to clarify some things concerning revolutionary defeatism—what it is and how it should be applied. Revolutionary defeatism means that, for people in an imperialist country—or in any country where the government is carrying out an unjust war, a war of domination and plunder, a reactionary war that serves only to fortify oppression, or to replace one oppressive power with another—you must put special emphasis on opposing your own government in that war, even if the enemy of your government in that war is equally reactionary. It means that you must refuse to support your government in such a war and, beyond that, you must have a basic orientation of welcoming the setbacks and defeats of your government and making use of them to build opposition to your government and its reactionary war, in accordance with and guided by the objective of making revolution right within your own country and contributing all you can to the international revolutionary struggle. But revolutionary defeatism does not mean that you should actually support the enemy of your government if that enemy and the war it is waging is equally reactionary. Obviously, this can be complicated, and in order to correctly apply this orientation it is necessary to make a concrete analysis of the concrete situation while remaining firmly grounded in basic principle.
Specifically in the current situation this is complicated because, on the one hand, Afghanistan, for example, is not an imperialist country, it is a Third World country, a country oppressed by imperialism and devastated by imperialist war and civil war that has largely been provoked and shaped by imperialist aggression and intrigue. At the same time, the Taliban and other forces that have been the immediate target of U.S. military attack are not progressive forces—are themselves reactionary oppressors of the people. So how does revolutionary defeatism apply to a situation like this? Our objective here is not to root for the victory of the Taliban, for example, but to put emphasis on opposing our own ruling class and to welcome the setbacks and defeats they suffer, not so that another reactionary force can win out, but so that we—the vanguard and the masses in the U.S. as well as those in Afghanistan, and the world revolutionary struggle as a whole—can "break through the middle" of this and the people can rise up and make revolution, proletarian revolution, in their own interests. That's what revolutionary defeatism means. It means we must have an orientation and train the masses with an orientation of welcoming the setbacks of your own ruling class in order to bring closer the time when you can make revolution and sweep away this monstrous system and bring a whole better system and world into being.
We can't do this "off to the side" of the developing movement of resistance, and we can't wait until everybody is much more clear ideologically before we become deeply and actively involved in building this resistance. We have to be in the fray and we have to raise people's political and ideological level through the course of that, in a systematic and concerted way. Here another principle Mao stressed is very relevant: a line and a viewpoint has to be explained repeatedly, not just once or a few times. And in this radically new situation, the line and viewpoint that actually corresponds to the interests and needs of the masses of people has to be forged further and has to be more and more deeply and thoroughly explained and gone into repeatedly through the course of our getting more deeply into the political fray and actually mobilizing masses of people.
There is something we also have to recognize in all this, which is that, as perverted as the imperialist meaning is when they say this, in a real sense everything has changed. And as important as it is to be carrying forward with and not to fold up or downplay other important arenas and faultlines of struggle, besides the battle directly against this imperialist juggernaut of war and repression, there is a whole new and profoundly different context for everything, including these ongoing struggles. We should not ignore that or resist it; we should recognize it and act on it. And we should strive mightily to transform this whole situation in a way that serves and furthers the movement toward the actual sweeping aside and abolishing of this system.
Here again is the importance not only of the role of our Party in this country, but also the great importance of internationalism, of the whole international situation and the international movement, in particular the RIM. Once more, this may not be what we would have asked for, but it's what we're confronted with anyway, and we have to turn it into the greatest advances for the proletarian revolution, in the U.S. and throughout the world, whatever the cost we have to pay and whatever the wrenching process might be.
And, again, despite the perversity of how the imperialists are putting this forward, there is also a profound truth in connection with their insistence that you are with them or against them. The profound thing of importance for our side lies in inverting this. This is something we have to popularize broadly among progressive forces and the masses of people: with regard to this whole juggernaut of war and repression, where these imperialists have arrogated to themselves the power to attack anybody and everybody that they say deserves to be attacked and to repress anybody and everybody that they say deserves to be repressed; in that whole context, we can turn on its head Bush's statement that you're with us or against us, and bring out this profound truth, that if you don't join in building resistance to what they are doing, you will be swept along with it, whether you want to be or not—and you may also be crushed by it. That's a profound truth that we have to bring out to people. It's not enough to be critical. It's not enough to be non-supportive or to be passively against what they're doing. If you don't stand up against it, you will be swept along with it, and quite possibly crushed by it.
So these are major challenges we're going to face. And, once more, we're going to have to confront the fact that they're not going to allow dissent even to the degree that it has been allowed in the past and in the way it has been allowed in the past. In this new and developing situation we are going to face great political complexity but also this extremely draconian, literally police-state repression of an increasingly militarized society, a heightening repression that already has these very real fascist elements within it—very real elements of suspending or undermining the bourgeois-democratic principles that they proclaim so loudly. The fact is that these loudly proclaimed rights are already, and always have been, limited and restricted, are applied very differently with regard to different classes in society, are part and parcel of an overall system of class rule, of bourgeois dictatorship, and are based on oppression, exploitation and plunder all over the world; they are accompanied by death squads and despotic rule in many parts of the U.S. empire, in particular in the Third World, where generally reactionary dictatorship is much more open and brutal; and, even within the U.S. itself, the ruling class tolerates the exercise of these rights only when they do not represent any significant threat or obstacle to the ruling class. But now this ruling class is in the process of heightening the repressive nature of all this—taking major and open steps to undermine the bourgeois-democratic framework within which these rights have been proclaimed. Of course, they assure us, no one should worry, because as they repeatedly insist, "We are very mindful of people's constitutional rights and we are going to be careful to protect those constitutional rights." In other words, "We will take great care to protect people's constitutional rights while we trample on them and destroy them."
And they have certain "magical phrases" with which they refute every criticism of this. One such phrase is: "But we're at war." This is supposedly the answer to every objection to their police-state measures and militarization of society. Just like the way that, when they say "terrorist," everybody's supposed to stop thinking. And in this connection it is important to note that one of the most insidious things that happened on September 11, which has not been reported on in the media at all, is that not only were these buildings crashed into, resulting in the deaths of many people, but there was a secret virus that was unleashed that caused people to lose their capacity for critical thinking and to have political amnesia, so that for them nothing happened before September 11. Of course, I am being ironic here; but, although there is no such virus, the ruling class would very much like for people to lack critical thinking, to not question the version of reality that is pumped at them from morning till night through the mainstream mass media and other institutions, to think and act as if there is no history that precedes September 11, as if this happened out of nowhere and for no reason—other than that some fanatics hate "our freedoms" and "our (superior) way of life," and as if that "way of life" has nothing to do with the suffering of the great majority of people on the planet.
Once again, this is like the historical experience with the Native Americans—the whole monstrous atrocity committed against them. When some Indians rebelled against all that and, say, burned down a farm—well, was there no context for that? Was there no genocide; no massive theft of land, driving people out, slaughtering old people and children along with the others, and forcing the survivors into concentration-camp "reservations"; no repeated breaking of treaties; was it just a bunch of "savages," "evil-doers," committing "acts of terror" with no reason?!
This is why the powers-that-be become enraged over the fact that people are posing the question and many people are taking it up: "Why does everybody hate us?" That's another question that they don't like at all and they want to rule out of order.
And to use Richard Pryor's phrase once more, it is extremely important to ask: "What is the logical conclusion of the logic?"... Where is this logic leading? Cheney told a group of businessmen: all these things you see in terms of these repressive measures that are being put in place, these are going to exist for the duration, for our lifetimes, these are the new normalcy. So they're talking about permanent changes, and there is a definite logic with which they are presenting and justifying this, and a certain momentum that is represented by this logic.
This has big implications, for our Party and for the various forces of resistance and the movement of opposition as a whole. In The Collapse of the Second International Lenin made this pivotal point: because the great majority of the socialist parties of the Second International had become so accustomed to "peaceful times" and the relative tolerance of their activities by their governments; because in fact they hinged their whole "project" on parliamentarism and other forms of essentially "working within the system"; because they were completely unprepared for a radical change in the situation, with the outbreak of World War 1, when all of a sudden the governments no longer tolerated open opposition to their war programs; these socialist parties were in no position to maintain a stance of opposing the imperialist war and working to turn it into a civil war against their own ruling classes, as they had pledged to do only a few years before the outbreak of WW1. A concentrated example of this was the German Social-Democratic Party, led by Kautsky, which had a mass following of millions, positions of leadership in the trade unions, and a number of representatives in parliament. But, when the war broke out, those Social-Democrats in parliament voted for war credits, and when they were angrily confronted by masses of workers who accused them, correctly, of betrayal, all they could say was: "We would have been arrested." To which the workers responded, "What would have been so terrible about that?"—that would have been far better than this betrayal of the international proletariat.
While the situation confronting our Party—and, in a broader sense, the movement of resistance as a whole—is of course not exactly the same as that faced by those socialist parties at the time of WW1, there is much to learn, by negative example, from their experience, and the essential point Lenin was stressing with this example remains extremely relevant and important: we must not allow ourselves to be suddenly put in the position where the only choices are to capitulate or to be crushed. We must do our work and build our struggle and organization so that we are actually bringing forth increasingly broad and determined resistance to the imperialist juggernaut of war and repression and at the same time strengthening the ability of that movement, and the organized forces of opposition in general, to withstand the intensifying attempts to derail and crush them. In fact, we must have an orientation of working to transform such attempts to crush resistance and the forces of opposition into further advances for that resistance and the overall struggle against this system.
In moving to a conclusion, I want to emphasize a fundamental point in relation to the war and repression juggernaut of the imperialists: It is good that many people have made statements of opposition and have mobilized, and are mobilizing, in various ways against this; and it is also good that many others are at least raising questions, concerns, and even criticisms; but there is a profound and increasingly urgent need for things to be developed to a qualitatively greater and more profound as well as broader level. What the powers-that-be are already doing and, beyond that, what they are clearly indicating they are planning on doing—both internationally and within the U.S., both in terms of war and in terms of repression—must not only be questioned, must not only give rise to the expression of concerns, must not only be criticized or just opposed. There must be an orientation of actively resisting and of stopping this, through the mobilization of hundreds of thousands and ultimately millions of people.
In conclusion, then, we are called on to rise to the challenges that are posed with both a sense of real urgency and with a broad overview. To approach this not just in terms of the crucial tasks more immediately before us but to put this in an even larger strategic perspective. To see this not only in its very real negative dimension, but also in its positive potential, to recognize not only the increased horrors that the imperialists are moving to bring about, but also the possibilities for qualitative advance that can be wrenched out of this, for the emancipation of the masses of people all over the globe—for the world proletarian revolution and perhaps even the sweeping aside of this monstrous imperialist system in its most powerful bastion itself.
1. See: "Afghanistan: The Oil Behind the War," RW No. 1125, November 4, 2001, and "Afghanistan Intrigue: The CIA and Osama bin Laden," RW No. 1120, September 30, 2001. RW refers to Revolutionary Worker, now Revolution. [back]
3. All of these major contradictions are, in turn, rooted in the fundamental contradiction of the capitalist system and the capitalist epoch (or the epoch of transition from capitalism to communism) as a whole: the contradiction between socialized production and private appropriation. For a fuller discussion of this, see the book America in Decline, published by Banner Press. [back]
4. Preaching from a Pulpit of Bones: We Need Morality But Not Traditional Morality, Bob Avakian, Banner Press, 1999. In the essay "Preaching from a Pulpit of Bones: The Reality Beneath William Bennett's 'Virtues,' " Avakian dissects the philosophy and social agenda of this intellectual hitman of the Christian Right. In "Putting an End to 'Sin,'" Avakian critiques the views of liberation theology and explains why a truly liberating morality must break with religious tradition and beliefs. [back]
6. "The Horrors that Come From This Horrible System," RW No. 1119, September 23, 2001. "Through the shock we seek the truth: Global exploiters and mass murderers have no right to retribution and they can only bring more destruction and injustice. To join forces with them, to seek their protection, will only encourage them to commit more crimes against the people of our planet." [back]
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Revolution #244, August 28, 2011
Posted August 30, 2011 at revcom.us
This statement was distributed very widely in the days after September 11. The understanding concentrated in the statement remains very much to the point.
|Download PDF of statement|
September 11, 2001. USA. Shock. Mountains of steel and concrete falling, crushing. Loss. Lives shattered in a moment. Searching for loved ones buried under mountains of debris.
Horror from the sky.
A brown skinned woman stands at the Red Cross line holding a picture of her missing husband. Her eyes scan the scene as if looking hard will bring him back. A young blue eyed man waits nervously for news of his lover. Hope turns to the realization that partners, friends and colleagues are gone. Snatched away by a conflict that has brutally intruded into daily life from the heavens.
In an instant New York City reminds us of Baghdad, Belgrade, Sudan, the West Bank, Vietnam, Panama, Indonesia, Hiroshima, Vieques.
The images flood our minds. Mothers running through the streets of Baghdad with their children as U.S. bombs fall like rain. Iraqi women watching their children die because U.S. bombs and sanctions have deliberately poisoned the water they need to live. Families carrying the coffins of sons taken out by made-in-U.S.A. rockets on the West Bank. Workers at a medicine factory picking through the rubble in Sudan left by U.S. cruise missiles. Scrambling for cover in Belgrade as U.S. bombs strike from the air. Looking through the stadium in Chile where thousands of former lovers, sons, and daughters lay—stilled forever by a coup made in Washington. Gasping with horror as the firing squads of the Indonesian army, with CIA lists of political opponents in their pockets, massacre hundreds of thousands, filling the rivers with the dead.
Hiroshima, Vietnam, Baghdad. The war has come home. Even if the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were symbols of the financial and military power of U.S. imperialism, the reality is that many innocent people were killed as a result.
And who is responsible? Who has put the masses in the U.S. in harms way?
The U.S. power structure points the finger to the Middle East. But the answer lies on U.S. soil. These imperialists—who have perpetrated countless crimes and rained havoc on the people of the world through their relentless global exploitation and their military actions—have created a situation where millions of people all around the world hate the government of the United States.
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As the dust clears from our eyes, the people in the most powerful country in the world find ourselves held hostage to the inevitable repercussions of the actions of this U.S. power structure and their bloody military machine. Now, besides the horrors that they have perpetuated against the people around the world—horrors that multiply the tears shed in NY and Washington a thousand times—these cold-hearted imperialists have called forth the same kind of devastation in the belly of their own beast.
And now they call on the people to support their retribution. They speak of war and justice. No.
These hegemonic dominators do not have the right to continue on their warpath. They are the source of so much pain and suffering around the world. And their current moves to war and military actions—against named and unnamed countries and targets—must be actively opposed.
Through the shock we seek the truth: Global exploiters and mass murderers have no right to retribution and they can only bring more destruction and injustice. To join forces with them, to seek their protection, will only encourage them to commit more crimes against the people of our planet.
They show us pictures of Arab youth cheering in the streets of occupied territory and ask us to be horrified and seek revenge. But we need to ask why are people in the Middle East and other parts of the world celebrating the events of September 11: not because innocent lives were lost, but because an arrogant power that has been getting away with murder and boasting of its invincibility has been shown to be vulnerable.
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The rulers capitalize on our pain and ask the people to pray with them. But as the people remember our dead, what is the power structure doing? Unleashing more war and police state repression. Preying on the people of the world.
They talk of protecting the people but all the while they are drawing up lists of names, carrying out raids, and putting vast new Big Brother measures into place.
They talk of ending terror, through war, and ready their armed forces to bring about great horrors.
They want us to unite with them and wave their flag. No.
In the tension of the present, we remember the lessons of history. While they talk of another Pearl Harbor, we are reminded of how the U.S. government played on people's fear for their own safety to rally support for rounding up the Japanese-Americans, confiscating their property and putting them in concentration camps. We remember how they tried to paint anyone who opposed them as giving aid and comfort to the enemy.
And remembering these crimes strengthens our resolve to prevent such things from happening again. We cannot be intimidated by the official and unofficial pressure to line up behind their war moves and their flag. We can see the logic of this poison in the ugly threats and beatings coming down on Arab people.
As people mourn lost loved ones, as we put our arms around each other, all who seriously want justice need to reach out to the people of the world—to stand together against the crimes of this system, to strengthen our resistance against every act of war and repression.
And, as we build our resistance, we need to be crystal clear on the nature of these oppressors who are hurtling towards a new war: these arrogant lying creatures do not rule in the interests of the people of this country or the world. As long as they continue in power the horrors that come from their system will continue to rain from the sky.
Revolutionary Communist Party,USA
September 14, 2001
posted on revcom.us
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