Voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party,USA
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Revolution #245, August 28, 2011
10 Years After 9-11:
On September 11, 2001, nearly 3,000 people died when jets flew into the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.
The immensity and horror of the attacks shocked people. Never had such a thing happened on U.S. soil. Some reacted with rage, with blind patriotic fury. Mobs formed to call for revenge; people who "looked foreign" were not only spat upon and often beaten, but in some cases actually killed for the offense of "looking different." A network TV host deviated from the message and literally got told by the president's spokesman in a press conference to "watch what you say." He lost his show. Massive government roundups of over 1,000 immigrants occurred.
Other people—a minority, but not insignificant—were reminded of the scenes of horror on the nightly news that happen to "other people" who are "far away." They mourned the 9-11 victims... but began to ask questions. Why did this happen? They sought out others—friends, sometimes strangers—to talk, to make sense of it all.
But the very act of asking such "dangerous questions" quickly got ruled out of order by the Bush regime and through the mainstream media: We're not going to talk about that... don't think about any history before 9-11, don't consider the context for what happened... no, it's time to get with the program. "You're either with us or against us," Bush said and all of Congress rose to its feet to cheer.
|How the Imperialists
Seized on 9-11 to Carry Out Longstanding Plans
In the talk, "The New Situation and the Great Challenges," shortly after 9-11, Bob Avakian noted, in analyzing the background, "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." (The talk is available online at revcom.us/a/245/ba-newsituation.) One point to note is that almost three years after 9-11, it came out that Bush had received an intelligence memo on August 6, 2001, titled "Bin Laden determined to attack inside the U.S.," which said that the FBI had detected "patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings."
After the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, high-level U.S. ruling class strategists began to push the view that the U.S. should act decisively to lock in the position as sole superpower and prevent any challengers from emerging. This position was articulated in the U.S. Defense Department's 1992 "Defense Planning Guidance," which argued that the U.S. should ensure "that no rival superpower is allowed to emerge in Western Europe, Asia or the territory of the former Soviet Union," and that these objectives should be accomplished by preemptively attacking rivals or states seeking "weapons of mass destruction," strengthening U.S. control over Persian Gulf oil, and refusing to allow any international law or coalitions to inhibit U.S. freedom of action. The document was written by Paul Wolfowitz, Lewis Libby, and Zalmay Khalilzad under the direction of then-defense secretary Dick Cheney—all later top officials in the Bush II administration. Over the decade of the 1990s, this core in the ruling class continued to flesh out and fight for this vision—in numerous research papers, think-tank seminars, opinion pieces, and efforts like the "Project for a New American Century." They also led a growing chorus demanding more aggressive action against Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq, as well as against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. All this was years before the September 11, 2001 attacks.
In September 2000, the neocon Project for a New American Century wrote that "[T]he process of transformation [of America's global posture], even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event—like a new Pearl Harbor." On the night of September 11, 2001, Bush wrote in his diary, "The Pearl Harbor of the 21st century took place today."
The carnage caused by the 9-11 attacks in the U.S. has been multiplied perhaps a hundred-fold by the response to that horror. On October 6, 2001, the U.S. went to war in Afghanistan—launching the beginning of what has now been a decade of unending war in the Middle East and South Asia—and resulted in 10 years of mounting death tolls and immense suffering for the people of Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan. These wars have caused the murder and mutilation of hundreds of thousands of people and traumatically destroyed or disrupted the lives of literally millions. According to a 2006 study done by Johns Hopkins and published in the British medical journal Lancet, in Iraq alone there were at least 600,000 deaths. UNCHR, the UN refugee agency, reports that 3.4 million refugees have fled Iraq for other countries.
In short, over the last 10 years: The U.S. has invaded and occupied Afghanistan and then Iraq; and in the name of a "War on Terror," (WOT), the U.S. has demanded a license to attack anyone who opposes U.S. domination anywhere in the world. The U.S. ruling class has declared a doctrine of "preemptive war"—now being furthered by Obama—claiming the "right" to threaten or launch wars of aggression based solely on so-called "intelligence estimates" of "potential threats" in the future; using covert operations, including assassinations, kidnappings, infiltrations, spying, and funding of networks of foreign agents.
We are told the WOT is "keeping the world safe." But in fact, the real aims and goals—and even many of the plans aggressively put in place after 9-11—were on the agenda before 9-11.
What is really behind the so-called "war on terror" is a grand strategy aimed at reshaping the whole world, beginning with the Middle East and permanently establishing the U.S. in a position that has never before existed in the history of empires in the world—unchallenged and unchallengeable, in every dimension, on a scale never before seen in history. Their objective has been to violently recast international relations and make the U.S. the unchallengeable ruler of the world.
And under the banner of "homeland security" all kinds of fascistic policies and legal changes have been put in place—including vast new police powers of surveillance, systematic tracking of people, and attempts to mobilize the population in a climate of fear and mutual suspicion. There has been deep erosion of fundamental constitutional rights—including the protection from imprisonment without charges and searches without probable cause.
Just think about the morality of this: The U.S. is killing people, including many innocent civilians, because they think someone or some group might attack the United States. And this can often mean people are killed because they might resist U.S. troops or other pro-U.S. institutions in their country. They might be killed for utterly unfounded reasons... or for no reason at all.
In all this, Barack Obama has made some of the worst crimes of the Bush regime legal. And at the same time, he has gone even further and instituted measures that Bush didn't even do. For example, he's continued Bush's policy (which Bush never actually implemented) of having the Joint Chiefs of Staff compile "hit lists" of Americans. And he acted on this. A Washington Post article in January 2010 suggested that the American-born, U.S. citizen, Islamic cleric Anwar al-Awlaki was on that list. The following week, Obama's Director of National Intelligence, Adm. Dennis Blair, acknowledged in congressional testimony that the administration reserves the "right" to carry out such assassinations. Then in April, the Obama administration took the extraordinary step of authorizing the targeted killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, who they said had become a recruiter for a terrorist network—no matter where he was found, no matter his distance from a battlefield, and with no due process of any kind, no charges, no trial. Just an official U.S. "fatwah.1" (See "Confirmed: Obama authorizes assassination of U.S. citizen," Glenn Greenwald, Salon.com, April 7, 2010.)
Those who rule the U.S. know that unleashing all this requires heightened repression on the "home front"—to prevent and suppress any resistance against what they are doing. This is the "reality" we are told is essential to protecting American lives.
A list of what the U.S. has done since 9-11 would fill many hundreds of pages. But even a brief overview of the "new norms" that have been rammed through or crept in over the last 10 years underscores the extreme and fascistic character of how the U.S. now operates in the world and at home:
To the millions of youth: The U.S. has been at war for as long as you can probably remember. It's hard to imagine an airport where you don't have to take your shoes off, or a backpack that can't suddenly become suspicious... you've been told over and over again that the "war on terror" is to "keep you safe" even as the U.S. makes the world more dangerous by the day. Start questioning all this. Can you still accept everything the U.S. government is doing as "just a part of life?"
Everyone needs to ask themselves—and each other: What kind of society has come into being since 9-11? Where is it headed? And is this the kind of world we want to live in?
The horrors of 9-11—and the even more horrific 10 years since 9-11—should raise profound questions about the world we live in—and the world we should want to live in. It poses before people the road of fundamentally challenging this system and fighting to bring a better world into being. Or the road of signing up to defend—or going along with the defense of—an empire of misery that now openly depends on and justifies mass murder in foreign lands, torture and repression at home, and unthinking obedience. If you thought Obama would somehow change that, you should have been disabused of that notion long ago. All the representatives of this empire can do nothing but give you more of the same... and worse.
But there IS a different future that is possible. A future that involves making common cause with—not wars against—the oppressed of the world. A future that breaks free of all fundamentalism and blind, my-nation-first patriotism, and involves fostering the critical spirit and an inclusive vibrancy in culture and politics that cannot even be imagined within the constraints of today. A future that does not plunder the planet—and the people on it—in a blind rush for profit, but can in fact make it possible for people to live lives worthy of human beings while protecting other species and the environment. But the only way to get to that future requires revolution. Such a revolution is possible—and in particular because of Bob Avakian and the work he has done over several decades, summing up the positive and negative experiences of the communist revolution so far, and drawing from a broad range of human experience—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. And not only is such a revolution possible, but we ARE BUILDING a movement for this revolution.
We invite you—we challenge you—we urge you—to check this out and get into it. There really IS a better way—a viable and sustainable better way, and a movement for revolution that is fighting for it. And as you are doing this, there is the need to refuse complicity with what is being done and what is being planned... and to resist, and to support others who resist. To join with those on 9-11 who will protest the crimes carried out in the name of its victims... to support and participate in actions planned against the 10 years of war on October 6-8. Take part in the actions being called or co-sponsored by World Can't Wait.
The essence of what exists in the U.S. is not democracy but capitalism-imperialism and political structures to enforce that capitalism-imperialism. What the U.S. spreads around the world is not democracy, but imperialism and political structures to enforce that imperialism.
1. A fatwah is an official or religious decree issued by a Muslim leader or scholar. [back]
2. After 9-11 new Department of Justice regulations, according to the American Bar Association, "permit[s] the government to monitor all communications between a client and an attorney when there is 'reasonable suspicion' to 'believe that a particular inmate may use communications with attorneys or their agents to further or facilitate acts of violence or terrorism.'" "Reasonable suspicion" is decided by the DOJ, with no need for prior court approval. ("Is the War on Terrorism a War on Attorney-Client Privilege?" Paul R. Rice and Benjamin Parlin Saul, Criminal Justice Magazine, Summer 2002) [back]
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Revolution #245, August 28, 2011
With the 10th anniversary of 9-11, NYC will be the destination of choice for major U.S. war criminals, including Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and John Yoo. These are the people who brought us torture, indefinite detention, and trillion-dollar wars that have claimed countless Afghani, Iraqi and U.S. lives. They should be indicted and prosecuted for their crimes, not honored as speakers and special guests at symposiums, memorials and fancy dinners. Go to warcriminalswatch.org for a list of dates.
World Can't Wait is putting out the call to people of conscience & artists for a virtual memorial of works of art in memoriam to the victims of the U.S. war on terror. Website under construction at 911globalmemorial.net. Gathering at City Hall Park, NYC, Sunday, September 11, noon.
Washington, D.C., October 6, morning, Freedom Plaza (13th St. & Pennsylvania Avenue NW). More info at October2011.org.
San Francisco, October 7, 4:30 pm, New Federal Building, 7th & Mission Streets. Contact email@example.com or call 415-864-5153 for more info.
Chicago, October 8, 12 noon, Rally & March starting at Michigan Avenue & Congress Parkway. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 773-614-1819 for more info.
Miami, October 8-9, conference on Saturday, followed by rally & march to the gates of the U.S. Southern Command, Doral, Florida, on Sunday. See soaw.org for more info.
Las Vegas and Creech Air Force Base October 7-9
For more information and updates go to worldcantwait.net.
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Revolution #245, August 28, 2011
This month, representatives of the Palestinian Authority (PA) are planning to call for a United Nations vote on resolutions that would recognize an independent state of Palestine. The U.S. has declared opposition to the resolutions, and is moving forcefully to prevent a UN vote. The Palestinians have been violently exiled from their homeland and subjected to repeated attempts to write their very national existence as a people and culture out of existence. For generations they have been penned in and confined in refugee camps, living under military occupation in the few territories that they managed at first to hold on to. For analysis of the fight over this UN resolution, and how it fits into the larger picture of the interests of Israel and the U.S. on the one hand, and those of justice and liberation on the other, see coverage at revcom.us, coming soon, and the special issue of Revolution, "The Case of ISRAEL: Bastion of Enlightenment or Enforcer for Imperialism" at revcom.us/israel.
After the Holocaust, the worst thing that has happened to Jewish people is the state of Israel.
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Revolution #245, 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 #245, August 28, 2011
1 "Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction."
—Vice President Dick Cheney,
No "weapons of mass destruction" were ever found in Iraq. An October 2004 CIA report concluded, "Iraq unilaterally destroyed its undeclared chemical weapons stockpile in 1991" and found "no credible indications that Baghdad resumed production." An unnamed CIA official later said, "Bush didn't give a fuck about the intelligence. He had his mind made up [to go to war]."
2 "I will promise you this, that if we have not gotten our troops out by the time I am President, it is the first thing I will do. I will get our troops home. We will bring an end to this war. You can take that to the bank."
—candidate Barack Obama, 2007
Obama expanded U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan and increased the number of bombing raids into Pakistan. As of June 2011, 46,000 U.S. troops occupied Iraq. Under Obama the U.S. has staged bombing raids on six countries. The number of open military bases outside the U.S. has grown to over 1,000. When Obama took office in January 2009 there were 32,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. By December 2009—when this number had grown to 68,000—Obama announced an "Afghan surge" to add over 30,000 U.S. soldiers. Now Obama plans to withdraw the 33,000 "surge troops"—10,000 by the end of 2011 and the rest by the summer of 2012. This means by the end of 2012, there will still be 68,000 troops in Afghanistan—more than twice as many as the 32,000 when Obama took office.
3 "The idea of liberating women, empowering women, encouraging women, educating women in Afghanistan is all part of laying a foundation for lasting peace."
—President George W. Bush,
in an interview on Fox News
While women in Afghanistan living under the Taliban were treated horribly, the U.S. military occupation has in some ways worsened and created new conditions making women vulnerable to exploitation and degradation. In terms of impoverishment, homelessness, and lack of medical care, the situation of Afghan women has deteriorated under the U.S. occupation and the barbaric imposition of Islamic law on Afghan women remains largely unchallenged. August 2009: U.S.-backed Afghan president Karzai signed a law which, among other horrors, allows men to deny food and housing to their wives if the husbands' sexual demands are not met, and prohibits a woman from leaving her home without her husband's permission.
The Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) reported in July 2011, "about 50 women die in childbirth each day in Afghanistan. One in three is physically or sexually abused and the average life expectancy of women is 44 ... more than 85 percent of Afghan women are illiterate, while 70 percent of school-age girls do not attend school for various reasons—conservative parents, lack of security, or fear for their lives."
Speaking about Afghanistan in March 2011, a top Obama official said, "Gender issues are going to have to take a back seat to other priorities."
4 Jessica Lynch "was fighting to the death. She did not want to be taken alive."
—U.S. Army official to assembled media, March 2003
Lynch was part of a small Army convoy attacked by Iraqi resisters. The vehicle she was in overturned and she suffered broken bones, was knocked unconscious, and taken to a local hospital by some Iraqis. A doctor who examined her said, "It was a road traffic accident that caused her wounds. There was not a drop of blood.... There were no bullets or shrapnel or anything like that." At the hospital, he said, "She was given special care, more than the Iraqi patients."
Media reports claimed, "Lynch was rescued from an Iraqi hospital in a daring nighttime raid by U.S. commandos acting on a CIA tip." In fact, the U.S. raid on the hospital actually encountered no opposition. In June 2003, the Washington Post wrote: "This was the single most memorable story of the war, and it had huge propaganda value. It was false, but it didn't get knocked down until it didn't matter quite so much." As Lynch herself said later in 2003 about the hype surrounding her injuries, "It was not true."
5 "Torture is never acceptable, nor do we hand over people to countries that do torture."
—President George W. Bush,
New York Times interview,
January 28, 2005
"I was clear throughout this campaign and was clear throughout this transition that under my administration the United States does not torture."
—President-elect Barack Obama,
January 2009 press conference
It has been clearly documented that the U.S. has tortured many, many prisoners at Guantánamo, its Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, and at the Bagram U.S. Air Base. The U.S. has captured and illegally held prisoners and then "rendered" them to dozens of countries to be tortured and interrogated under the direction of U.S. officials. Bush's Justice Department wrote memos sanctioning the use of torture. Under Bush and Obama, countless people have been tortured by the U.S. and at the direction of the United States. In 2010 Bush boasted, "Yeah, we waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. I'd do it again."
6 "The loss of Army Corporal Pat Tillman last week in Afghanistan brought home the sorrow that comes with every loss, and reminds us of the character of the men and women who serve on our behalf."
—President George W. Bush,
May 1, 2004
After 9-11, Tillman walked away from a multimillion-dollar professional football contract to join the U.S. Army. But Tillman increasingly questioned what the U.S. was doing in Iraq and Afghanistan. He began expressing opposition to the U.S. war in Iraq and continued to be outspoken when he was sent to Afghanistan. In April 2004, Tillman was shot to death by U.S. soldiers in what is called "friendly fire." The circumstances of his death remain murky. In 2007 Associated Press reported that doctors who did an autopsy on Tillman said, "it appeared the Army Ranger was cut down by an M-16 fired from a mere 10 yards or so away" and that a criminal investigation was warranted. No such investigation ever happened and instead Tillman's death was used by Bush and Rumsfeld to promote the kind of mindless patriotism Tillman opposed.
7 "Under this compromise legislation... the President's illegal program of warrantless surveillance will be over."
—Senator Barack Obama,
June 19, 2008
In 2002 George W. Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency (NSA) to eavesdrop on U.S. citizens and foreign nationals in the United States. By 2006 the NSA was collecting phone records of tens of millions of Americans. In 2008 Bush signed into law a bill that legalizes warrantless wiretapping.
Barack Obama, then a U.S. senator and presidential candidate, voted for the bill. Domestic spying has increased during Obama's presidency. The number of federal wiretaps doubled in 2010 from 2009; the Electronic Freedom Foundation said, "Obama has gone two steps further than Bush," and concluded, "essentially, the Obama Administration has claimed that the government cannot be held accountable for illegal surveillance under any federal statutes."
8 "This war in Iraq is a grotesque mistake."
—Democratic Party congressional leader Nancy Pelosi, June 2005
From the first votes in the U.S. Congress to approve the invasion of Iraq, which passed overwhelmingly, to today, when wars in three countries are being led by a Democratic president, the Democrats have, overwhelmingly and as a party, been in full support of the U.S. wars aimed at extending and defending the U.S. empire. Congressional Democrats have approved every military spending measure since 2002.
9 "Our courts have employed habeas corpus with rigor and fairness for more than two centuries, and we must continue to do so as we defend the freedom that violent extremists seek to destroy."
—candidate Barack Obama,
Habeas corpus is a judicial mandate in which a prisoner must be brought before a judge to determine whether he/she is legally imprisoned, and if not, released. In 2002 the Bush administration claimed sweeping new police state powers that effectively put an end to habeas corpus.
Hundreds of people seized by U.S. forces under any pretext in Afghanistan and other countries have been denied any right to judicial review. A U.S. Supreme Court ruling said prisoners taken by the U.S. and sent to Guantánamo have the right to a hearing. Bush circumvented this ruling, setting up "military tribunals"—after the pretense of a "legal hearing," prisoners are sent to dungeons other than Guantánamo. In February 2009, a month after Obama took office, his Department of Justice argued in court that military detainees in Afghanistan have no legal right to challenge their imprisonment there, embracing a key argument of former President Bush's legal team.
10 "I can say that the types of operations... that the US has been involved in, in the counter-terrorism realm, that nearly for the past year there hasn't been a single collateral death because of the exceptional proficiency, precision of the capabilities that we've been able to develop."
—John Brennan, Obama's
"counter-terrorism" advisor, on U.S. drone attacks
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports that at least 2,992 people have been killed by U.S. drones in Pakistan. This is part of a larger war that has brought massive death and suffering to many people. A Johns Hopkins study published in the British medical journal the Lancet reported that by 2006 there were at least 600,000 deaths in Iraq as a result of the U.S. invasion and war. The number of dead civilians in Afghanistan is unknown, but more than 2.7 million Afghans are refugees. Wholesale and often random killings of civilians are part and parcel of the wars the U.S. is waging.
* * * * *
Readers: There's lots more... Write in and add to this list and we'll print and post them in a future issue.
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.
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Revolution #245, August 28, 2011
Part 2: BUILDING THE MOVEMENT FOR REVOLUTION
Editors' Note: The following is the thirteenth excerpt from Part 2 of a recent talk by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, which is being serialized in this paper. Previous excerpts appeared in Revolution #232 to #243. This has been edited, and footnotes have been added, for publication. The entire talk is available at revcom.us.
We have to be hastening with the whole world in mind, not just in the sense that the world situation overall and the dynamics of the contradictory objective conditions in the world as a whole are ultimately decisive in terms of making revolution in any particular country, and advancing this revolution overall, but at the same time with the sense, and a deepening understanding, that our objective is to actually make revolution as part of a larger worldwide process whose final aim is achieving communism. This has to be something that we consciously act in accordance with—and something that we bring to the masses of people and enable them to consciously understand and act on. The situation we are confronted with, the goal for which we are struggling, and the process involved in the struggle for that goal—all this is an important part of objective reality that the masses need to understand more and more deeply in order to be able to emancipate themselves and all of humanity. And they have to understand what that emancipation of humanity is all about and how it relates to sweeping away all of the things that people are aware of and abhor, or whisper about in angry tones, or revolt and rise up against, or even at any given time are ignorant of but need to, and can, learn about.
This is a theme I'm repeatedly hitting at here because it's so important: All these different phenomena are just objective reality—important aspects of that reality—which masses of people need to understand. And for that to happen, they need us to bring to them a living, scientific understanding of this reality. Where else are they going to get it? Yes, the masses have a lot of wisdom, but it is very scattered and unsystematic, and it is intermingled with and influenced by a lot of wrong understanding and thinking which is consciously shaped and influenced by the dominant institutions and forces in society and the world as a whole. They are not going to come to a fundamentally correct understanding of reality and how it can be radically transformed, and of their own role in that, as well as the larger context of the whole world that all this fits into, unless we bring that to them.
So we ourselves have to act on a correct understanding of the relation between revolution in a particular country and the advance of the revolution in the world overall—and the dialectics of that, in which ultimately and fundamentally the situation in the world as a whole is principal, but there is an important back and forth process in which initiative seized in particular areas or particular countries can in turn have a major impact on the development of the whole world situation and world struggle. We have to not only understand and act on that ourselves but, once again, we have to bring this to the masses of people and enable them to understand and act on it.
And there is a particular, and particularly acute, dimension of this—which we have spoken to in a special issue of our newspaper (#199) but which we need to continue to deepen our understanding of and speak to in a continually compelling way—and that is the truly urgent situation with the environment, and specifically the ways in which the capitalist-imperialist system is daily heightening this emergency, in which the future and fate of humanity really is at stake in a very direct and active sense. This gives a further dimension to and underscores even further the necessity of an internationalist orientation in everything we do, in order to advance the cause of revolution and communism. It is strikingly the case—and many people are aware of this fact, even if they don't understand it in its full dimensions or fully scientifically—that this environmental crisis and real emergency cannot be solved within the borders of any particular country. In fact, some people will even throw that back at us when we're talking about and putting forward our program for how to approach this environmental crisis—more than a few have said: even if you could make a revolution, you can't solve the problem within just one country, plus there would be a lot more environmental disaster as part of that revolution. This is a reality we have to recognize and discuss and struggle over honestly and, above all, scientifically with people. But it does underscore the importance, and adds another dimension to the importance, of internationalism as our fundamental orientation.
There is a need, in all the work of building this movement for revolution, to be linking all this, in a meaningful and living way—but not in a linear way—with what is spoken to in "On the Possibility of Revolution." In going out to masses of people, and talking about building a movement for revolution, it is crucial to give people a living sense—although not a reductionist, inaccurate and inappropriate sense—of how all the work that's being done today relates to what's discussed in "On the Possibility of Revolution." It is necessary to find the ways to correctly discuss, not only among the people already won to revolution but with growing numbers of people more broadly, what is in "On the Possibility of Revolution" and the ongoing development of that strategic conception. If the link is not drawn—in the correct way, and in a living and meaningful way—between what is being done today and what is spoken to in "On the Possibility of Revolution," then this means that work for revolution is not really being carried out and that, once again, the masses of people are not being enabled to understand the possibility of revolution, and the strategic conception of revolution.
This goes back to the point about "hastening while awaiting"—or not. The growing strength of the revolutionary movement has to become an increasingly powerful part of the objective situation, as a political-ideological force and a "mood creating factor"—being continually transformed more fully from a subjective factor (something that the conscious forces are doing) into an objective factor (something which is increasingly impacting and exerting influence on growing numbers of people, and on the objective terrain overall) and in that way strengthening the basis to in turn make further leaps in the process. We have to consciously approach things in this way—and we have to explain things to masses of people in this way. This has to come through, in the correct ways, in our newspaper and in our work overall.
Many people, including many people who might like to see a revolution, say baldly: "You can't make a revolution." It is necessary to put forward clearly to them why we think revolution is possible. Where there are gaps in our understanding about this, we have to go to work on them, and we have to draw masses into working on them, to figure them out and to make further breakthroughs—to discover more bone fragments and more artifacts to put more of the picture together as we go.
In this context, it is important to emphasize that popularizing the strategy for revolution is a key part of carrying out that strategy. If we are supposedly carrying out a strategy yet we ourselves don't understand very well what it is—and don't talk about it with the masses—what kind of strategy is that and what is it really a strategy for? On the positive side, let me emphasize it again: popularizing the strategy for revolution—in the correct way, in a meaningful and living way—is a key part of carrying out that strategy. When we do popularize this strategy, and growing numbers of people engage with that strategy, then that itself becomes part of the objective terrain too. It influences how people think, particularly about the possibility of revolution and the strategic conception for making revolution. The more that people understand that work has been done on the problems of really making revolution, the more they engage with the strategic conception that is being developed for how to make revolution and how the work that's being carried out actually proceeds—which it must—in accordance with, and as a way of implementing, that strategic conception, the more this is going to come alive for them. And the simple dismissal of the possibility of revolution—"you can't do that...the people we would have to go up against are too powerful...we're too fucked up, it's human nature for things to be this way..."—that is going to have something contending more and more powerfully up against it.
To be continued
Send us your comments.
Revolution #245, August 28, 2011
In the past few weeks, nearly 100,000 copies of the special issue #244 on the book BAsics, from the Talks and Writings and Bob Avakian have gone out on college campuses. Hundreds of copies of the book have been sold. Hundreds of e-subs to REVOLUTION have been garnered off this effort. New people have engaged with the work of Bob Avakian and the movement for revolution, and some have gotten actively involved. And, as the accompanying article says, we are doubling down on this effort on the campuses in the week of September 14-20.
In October, we aim to do something similar in the communities of the oppressed. But we thought it would be important to make an opening foray during the week of September 14-20—and to involve some of the new students that we're meeting in this effort. So, as people are mainly taking the paper out on campus during this week, we want to set aside two of those days to take this special issue to the people in the communities and neighborhoods of the oppressed...
Saturday, September 17: a day of a special effort to take the special issue 244 into the communities of the oppressed. Fan out on the streets, the bodegas and small shops, the barbershops and beauty parlors, the community centers and churches, the supermarkets and mini-malls, the soup kitchens and shelters, the subways and bus stops... everywhere people are. Go to neighborhoods where people know about the revolution, and where they don't. Get a pickup or truck or van—rent a cheap one for a day if you don't have it—and festoon it with posters and make a "Revolution-mobile" to take the special issue, along with BAsics, the image cards and T-shirts, the statement on the strategy for revolution from the Party, and other literature—including the newspaper—and get this out very widely. Bring copies of the DVD of Bob Avakian's talk Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About and show it on portable DVD players. Play "All Played Out" loudly—create a scene and get this out. In your city, there may be major September 16 Mexican Independence Day festivals, and in some places independence celebrations by Central Americans. Go out to these celebrations and spread the special issue and Lo BAsico. Make this fun... and definitely, definitely let the new students who've given you their e-mail addresses know that this is happening and that they are invited.
Monday, September 19: a day to get BAsics out to high schools of the oppressed. Really get this into the hands of the students on the way to school (on the subways and busses and hanging out at the little restaurants nearby the school) and at school itself—and if you know friendly high school teachers see if you can get invited into class.
Again, these will be initial efforts—more will be done in October. But not only will these efforts have value in themselves, they will prepare the ground for a more major "saturation push" in October.
Again: be SURE to raise money as you go... to put the book in people's hands and SELL it to them... to get people to sign up for e-subs and see if they want to be involved and how they want to be involved... Develop a rhythm where saturation alternates with getting to know people—who they are and what they think.
Take the revolution to the people.
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Revolution #245, August 28, 2011
Waking Up and Shaking Up the Campuses
It's been two weeks in some places—a bit more, and a bit less, in others—that the revolutionaries have been out on the campuses with the special issue of Revolution promoting the new book, BAsics, featuring quotations and short essays from Bob Avakian.
Among many of the teams that have been out, there is a palpable excitement. Knots of students engaging with quotes from BAsics together, around tables of revolutionaries. Dozens of students buying books after discussing a quote or two in their class. Students seeking out the revolutionaries to tell them they read what they got and want to know more. Professors welcoming revolutionaries into their offices, into their classrooms, or stopping by the tables themselves—many of them making clear, and seeming quite uplifted by the fact, that they've noticed how well the students are responding. Some snapshots of this experience—including creative ways of sparking off debate and exchanges—are available here, here, here, here, and here.
There is an undeniable openness on the campuses to Bob Avakian and his new vision of revolution and communism—his words are bringing to the surface and connecting deeply with the inchoate yearnings as well as more open and restless stirrings among students for a radically different and far better world. Further, as we've gotten out there, we've learned quite a bit about how to do even better at connecting Bob Avakian and his work, as concentrated in this special issue and even more so in BAsics.
Yet, what we are confronting—all of us, including this new generation of students—is a world full of horrors and a sick and dying planet. Every day this disease advances. Even where people are rising up, they don't know the way out. Bob Avakian has brought forward the revolutionary understanding and vision humanity needs to get out of this madness and he is providing the crucial leadership to get there. But people don't know this. It is urgent that his work and his leadership become a material force very soon.
In this light, it is not enough merely to have more very good engagements with students, or even to sell hundreds more copies of BAsics, nor simply to sign a lot of people up to get involved in some way. While all of those things are necessary parts of what we must do, even the best of our work thus far must be vaulted onto a whole different level and into a whole different framework. These good beginnings must be not only marshaled, but wrenched into a different dynamic, one where the movement for revolution and our leader, Bob Avakian, are becoming more and more widely known, engaged, and debated and where this movement and its leader are gaining an organized following.
In a sense, the door to the campuses has been pried opened an inch. Deep stirrings and powerful potential have been revealed. But whether this door gets pushed back closed by the press of people's lives and the weight of the soul-crushing routine of an imperialist order, or whether the door gets busted wide open with this revolution breaking through and breaking out... THIS DEPENDS ON YOU! Its time to double-down!
As of this writing, nearly all of the first run of 100,000 copies of the special issue of Revolution featuring BAsics for the campuses have gotten out into the hands of students nationwide. Ten thousand dollars is needed to print another 100,000 to really push this effort over the top.
Our plan is for everyone who can be mobilized to participate to spend the next week raising thousands of dollars, as well as getting out this current issue throughout society as many commemorate and reflect on the 10-year anniversary of the September 11 attacks. This should include, but not be limited to, a very bold presence on the campuses where we've been taking out BAsics. All this will synergize with the efforts begun on the campuses as well as have a much needed impact more broadly in society.
After that, it's back to the campuses with BAsics on a whole greater level.
Giving money is one of the most meaningful ways to contribute to the movement for revolution. Asking people to give money is one of the most important ways of inviting people into this movement and enabling them to make a meaningful difference in its strength and its reach.
What is the key to raising money? Its quite simple: you must yourself really grasp that this money is necessary, that making a real leap in this work matters tremendously to the world's future. On that foundation, you must go out and ASK FOR IT! Talk to people about why the money is needed—how we have begun to have this impact on the campuses and how there is the potential to take this out all over the country, but not without the money to print more. Giving money is one specific and extremely significant way people can contribute.
One team taking out BAsics at a public university where many of the students struggle even to afford their course books went from raising around $2-$8 dollars a day from students to $100 in one day. What was the difference? They spent the whole day ASKING FOR MONEY from EVERYONE who walked past. Most students gave a dollar or some change. A couple of people gave $5. But this is just the beginning.
Think what this reflects—that close to 100 students in one day felt enough affinity for the revolution to reach into their pockets and give. Think about how donations concretely increase the revolution's capacity to reach back out to these students and others like them. And on yet another level, think about how creating a mass movement of support among these students deepens their partisanship and is an actual means of mass involvement in this movement for revolution!
This needs to go on at many levels.
Take this special issue to professors—whether they've known the revolution for a long time or whether this will be their first introduction. Let them leaf through it. Tell them how it is connecting, as well as what we are fighting to accomplish and then ASK THEM TO CONTRIBUTE. Ask for a specific amount—for some this will be $200, for others this will be much more, for some it might be less—but make sure it means something. Again, this is one of the most meaningful ways for them to contribute to growing this movement for revolution. When they give, this also almost always occasions a deeper engagement and partisanship.
Do the same with others. Whether you are a regular reader of this paper or whether this is your first time, as soon as you finish reading this call three people (or more) and ask them to meet up with you to take a look at this special issue. Ask them to contribute.
Raising money is not an onerous task to be undertaken in order to get back to the "real work" of making revolution. Raising money is one of the most important means of introducing new people to this revolution, of organizing people into it, of deepening their partisanship and engagement, and of significantly growing this revolution's reach and its strength!
ACCUMULATE FORCES FOR REVOLUTION!
At the end of Chapter 3 of BAsics, the following is included 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."
Every need of the revolution is also a means through which new people can take up and become involved in this revolution. One of the most critical examples of this is what's highlighted above: fundraising! It cannot be said too many times that this is one of the most critical, most meaningful, and most impactful way for people to come into this revolution from the very beginning.
But the same is true of every need of this revolution.
However, finding the ways for new people to meet those needs almost never fits neatly into the routines of those who've been at this for a while. And that is just fine! We are not going to really break this revolution onto the scene simply by doing more of the same—not even more of the best of what we've been doing—or simply adding more people into that. Not only do most new people not want to do things exactly as those who have been at this for a while, but what is required is leaping and vaulting onto a whole new level and framework. What is necessary is to find and forge the means to involve many new people in forging the means to do that—which really will be new!
In recent months, our website has reported on some beginning new ways that new people have stepped forward as they have been getting into and being challenged and moved through getting into BAsics. The key lesson to draw from this—and to apply in many new and creative ways—is the method of taking BAsics and everything it concentrates as a solid core and unleashing tremendous elasticity, creativity, and new forms on that basis.
One of the most urgent needs right now—one which is within the realm of the possible, but which cannot be achieved without really straining against and transforming the limits of what now exists—is to really break through in this next couple of weeks in waking up and shaking up the campuses. Achieving this—creating a situation where many thousands of students nationwide are involved in echelons of engagement with BA that are mutually reinforcing and with an increasingly organized and partisan and growing core—will make a very significant difference in leaping this revolution to a different level.
This is what everyone reading this can, and should, put themselves to—write in your experience and ideas, send in and raise money. Where people reading this can sit down together with others, pull together even in the midst of continuing to push way out. On the foundation of what is being accomplished and what is being learned, knit your brows, act as teams of scientists, and fight through on forging the means—together with everyone you are meeting—to vault this tremendous beginning experience to a level that really breaks through and breaks out.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #245, August 28, 2011
A Call for Volunteers: Come to Boston, September 23-25
Revolution Books in Cambridge is calling for volunteers to help to stir up the scene at Harvard on the weekend of September 24-25.
On that weekend, the Conference on the Constitutional Convention is taking place. It is co-sponsored by the Harvard Change Congress and sections of the Tea Party. It is a gathering of self-described "left" and right forces, meeting to discuss whether a special "constitutional convention" is needed to deal with the fact that "our Republic does not work as our Framers intended." That a section of liberal-progressives is seeking common ground with the reactionary Tea Party is not a positive development. But the conference is likely to bring out some progressive forces and students, and attract media attention.
The main thing people at Harvard and those coming out to this conference should be hearing about is the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. A new challenge will be put before them: there really is a visionary, viable, and very concrete alternative to this capitalist-imperialist system.
Volunteers are needed to help in different kinds of ways:
This is going to be fun and important...the opening salvo of a big effort this fall to push out with the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America. And other campus events are taking place in the Boston area that weekend.
On Friday night, September 23, we'll be hosting an open house at Revolution Books in Boston-Cambridge to orient people.
To volunteer, get in touch with Revolution Books in Cambridge at email@example.com, or leave a message at (617) 492-5443.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #245, August 28, 2011
On August 28, 2011 Baburam Bhattarai, one of the main leaders of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), was elected Prime Minister of Nepal. His first major act was to symbolically hand over the keys to the weapons of the Maoist-led People's Liberation Army which had waged a 10-year-long liberation war, to a governmental supervisory committee including representatives of the political parties and classes which had been the bitter and bloody opponents of the People's War. UCPNM Chairman Prachanda also participated, in what many in Nepal and elsewhere are seeing as an abject ceremony of capitulation before the reactionary forces and an utter betrayal of the interests of the people in Nepal and around the world.
There were reports of torchlight marches and demonstrations the next day by opposition forces from UCPNM who were repulsed by Bhattarai and Prachanda's action, with reports of 25 arrests and some injured by police baton charges.
The new Prime Minister's principal mandate is to finish, in a few months' time, the stalled task of writing a new constitution for Nepal and to finish the task of demobilizing the PLA in which a small percentage are to be integrated into Nepal's reactionary army and others are to be found jobs, given training programs or just be sent back to their villages with some money. This is supposed to put a final end to the process that began in 1996 when an insurgency started in Nepal which quickly spread throughout the country, igniting the hopes of the people of Nepal of being able to forge a new type of society that would go in the direction of ending exploitation and class divisions as part of the world revolutionary process. The powers-that-be in Nepal and their international mentors feel that the hopes of the people for genuine revolutionary change need to be finally and definitively erased and the inspiring example that revolution in Nepal had served for people around the world before 2006 be turned into a different kind of lesson—a bitter but false view that no real revolutionary change is possible. They want the "revolutionaries" to join the scramble for positions in government; they want the oppressed to give up their hopes for a fundamental change in their situation.
Ever since the People's War was suspended and the Maoist party, CPN(M), which had led it entered into a process to establish a state based on the Comprehensive Peace Accords (CPA), there have been growing divisions within that Party over the direction of the revolution, but at least until the present all sides have argued that their differences were over which is the best way to carry forward the revolution in the concrete conditions of the Nepali situation. Throughout this whole period the People's Liberation Army was confined to cantonments, with the keys to their weapons being held by the UCPN(M). Meanwhile, in reality a program of demobilization, delegitimization and demoralization of the revolutionary forces was being carried out by the bourgeois forces who were building up and strengthening the Nepali Army as the only legitimate armed force in that society.
On Developments in Nepal and the Stakes for the Communist Movement: Letters to the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, 2005-2008 (With a Reply from the CPN(M), 2006)
On the Critical Crossroads in the Nepal Revolution, and the Urgent Need for a Real Rupture with Revisionism
From a distance it is difficult to sort out the facts of the agreement or violation of agreement to turn over the keys. But what is clear is that this is a culmination of a long chain of retreats, compromises and betrayals that have been in process from the time of entering into the Comprehensive Peace Accords. The slow death of the revolution in Nepal has to do with questions of fundamental line, confounding the need to carry forward the revolution to end the domination of the bourgeois and feudal class forces with the goal of and in favor of establishing a more modern form of (bourgeois) government while leaving the basic exploitation and oppression of the people untouched, and to guarantee Nepal's place in the "international community" (to use the term that the imperialists and reactionaries use to describe the spider web of imperialist relations that keep whole nations and countries oppressed).
These questions of the fundamental direction of the revolution have been the focus of internal struggle inside the UCPN(M) for the last several years, but the underlying issues of the direction of the revolution date back to the decision made in 2005 by the Party leadership at that time to adopt a line that eclectically converged with the line articulated by Bhattarai in his article "The Question of Building a New Type of State." Letters and articles by the RCP,USA criticizing the lines that were dragging the revolution down the wrong road were published in 2009 giving a very thorough analysis of the issues at the heart of the line struggle in the UCPN(M), and we encourage readers to study these materials in light of the juncture that is sharply focused up by these latest developments in Nepal. We will have further coverage of this in the future.
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Revolution #245, August 28, 2011
We received this correspondence:
Our local Revolution Books store was invited to sell course books to students in two classes in a business college. While business was a major for all of them, they minored in history, and these two classes took up the civil rights movement of the '60s. We were invited to speak about BAsics, something the professor has supported in the past. Joining me was a young intellectual who is a student in this school who is volunteering at Revolution Books. His input in the discussion was very important to taking up and answering the questions we got from the classes and shaking up and waking up his fellow students.
"How are we going to get involved in making revolution when they have us so strapped and just trying to survive? We aren't able to think straight since we have no time to think, period." Another student piped in saying, "It seems to me that it is only when something major happens that we all pay attention to things not right in front of us, and even then we are told what to think and how to react to it. How can we think outside the box if all of our information is given to us by the very people who want to maintain the status quo?" "It seems to me," a young Latina student said, "that either we are going to all act at once to stop this madness you described from those quotes you read or we are all going to go down the tubes together."
This last point of "all or nothing" was made by students in each of the two classes. A white woman said, "I just feel overwhelmed by the enormity of what we are facing. People, good people who would like to live in a different world just feel powerless." I made the point from one of the correspondences the paper received that is actually taken from Bob Avakian about if you knew of a doctor who had a cure for a disease that was plaguing a whole city, wouldn't you do everything you can to find that doctor and get that medicine? I held up BAsics and said, "Here is the cure. You want to talk about morality and communism? It's in here. You want to talk about strategy for revolution? It's in here. You want to talk about how to analyze this world and this murderous system that is killing tens of thousands of children every day? It's in here." 7 out of 40 students bought the book and gave donations toward the special issue. One woman said, "I don't know if [BA] is the doctor and medicine, but based on what is in this paper and what you read I want to see what he's saying." I read the first two quotes in chapter 1.
The professor in each class asked me to ask the class two questions I asked in classes of his a year ago. The two questions are "How many students here were asked 'what do you want to be' when you grow up?" In both classes everyone raised their hand. The second question was "How many of you were ever asked 'what kind of world do you want to live in?'" For both classes only one person raised his hand. I asked this one student the context. He said that his dad wanted him to care about the world around him, "the poverty, the wars," and asked what he was going to do about it when he grew up. In the class there was a noted envy for this student for the kind of character his dad has and I told him be sure you get BAsics and make sure your dad sees it and comes down to Revolution Books with you. One student said in this line of comments he would like to see a more modified and moral capitalism and rejected communism, and this is where my young friend jumped in. He said that it wasn't possible or in the nature of this system of everything and everybody being commodified to be moral. "You can't turn this system into something it isn't."
Now this college is not a priority in terms of saturation we are doing in this city, but my young friend and I sure had a good time and learned that even business majors are sensing some need for fundamental change and are willing to give Bob Avakian a hearing. In both classes we raised $23 in donations besides the 7 BAsics sold, and everyone got a copy of the paper and some wanted to be enlisted in this right away. One student who works for an independent TV station wants to invite a speaker who can speak on this BAsics. We need to hook that up.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #245, August 28, 2011
Campus Discussion Group on Revolution Special Edition
From a reader:
On my campus a small group of about seven or eight students got together to discuss the special edition of Revolution. These students were mostly left leaning who would probably use the words "liberal" or "progressive" to describe themselves. What one person said at the beginning of the meeting was, "I don't know what needs to be done, but I know something needs to change." This student was commenting on the general state of society, and in particular the constant economic disasters that seem to keep popping up today.
The BAsics quote that we probably had the most discussion on was 2:8. This quote really allowed us to go into what revolutionary culture would look like and how it would actually be made. The conclusion we came to as a group was that the Party does indeed need to build a solid core of revolutionary art and culture, but by giving people both the time and resources under socialism the elasticity could be built by people as well without direct interaction with the Party. The point is that everyone has the potential to be an artist, a creator of culture and the students were highly supportive of this idea.
Unsurprisingly, the other quote that really got the group talking was 2:19, which talks about how the privileged intellectual elite has the ability to wrangle with ideas insofar as they stay within certain limits. The group really, really agreed that universities today do not encourage true critical thinking and alternative methods of interpretation. Some students also had more of an academic background in history, including in the history of revolutionary China. One of the main things they said was that it is critical to build up an atmosphere of critical thinking and critical theory, but the point is not simply to flip the scheme of oppression; that is, they don't just want Marxism or the New Synthesis to become "the" interpretation. If ideas are not constantly challenged and struggled with, then we will have completely lost the revolutionary spirit that a socialist society needs. Really, the students want a "socialist renaissance."
As I'm sure we all have experienced, one of the major arguments that people put forward against communism pertains to human nature. That is, humans are just eternally greedy, selfish, etc. This group did not agree with this. It was a main point that people are a reflection of the social circumstances in which they live; the confluence of the social relations of production, the superstructure, and all that. I think it's very telling that there are students in universities today who are at this point intellectually. If this can be acknowledged by students, then they can easily move to the point of actually building a movement for revolution.
This special edition was an absolute success. The group has decided to continue discussions, with an emphasis on reviewing the news in each issue of Revolution along with tackling a piece written by either Bob Avakian or the Party. They were really eager to understand how a movement for revolution can be built and what the Party's method is, so this is probably the direction we will go in next. This issue really did "wake up and shake up" our campus!
Send us your comments.
Revolution #245, 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."
Send us your comments.
Revolution #245, 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.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #245, 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 #245, 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 #245, 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 #245, 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 #245, August 28, 2011
From a reader:
I attended one of the recent summer music festivals as part of a crew of people out to introduce the concertgoers to BAsics and Bob Avakian, as well as Revolution newspaper.
Beginning the week following the concert, I began to make phone calls to both those who had stopped by the Revolution Books booth or had signed up with one of our crew because they wanted to be contacted. I was able to reach close to 20 people.
A number of the conversations I had were short and consisted of just making sure we had the correct email and asking if it would be fine to keep in touch with them about upcoming events and get their thoughts on what they may be reading from us from time to time. These mainly said fine, "I support the cause," and were friendly. These were mainly folks who indicated on the sign-up list that they were giving their names because they wanted to "stay informed." But I concentrated my time on trying to draw out the folks that marked "get involved" on the sign-up sheet. Oftentimes the conversation began with why and in what ways would they like to get involved. I'm writing to share how some of these conversations went.
One thing I found out through the conversations was that many of the people we met outside did not make it to the area where the booths were. I wasn't surprised about that because of its location and the massive crowds with so much going on.
Here are some of these conversations.
"K" met us at the beginning of the day. She did not make it to the booth but did keep the sticker with the website to check out later. (We were getting out stickers that said, "I'm With the REAL Revolution" and had the website for Revolution newspaper.) She has more recently been finding out about a lot through online sources on conspiracy theory websites. She has been astonished by the conditions of poverty which a large portion of humanity live under, with a beginning grasp that these horrors are all connected. She was surprised to hear about the prisoners' hunger strike and what led to it. She seemed thrilled to find out that there was such a place like the bookstore and figured she would come by soon to check it out. I spoke to her about the need for "Friends of Revolution Books" and she said she would be willing to donate on a monthly basis.
"P" was friendly but couldn't talk much because she was at work. She did mention that she would be checking out the website and the bookstore blog to stay on top of things. She encouraged us to go out to a free weekly concert series in the city because of the large crowd and she thinks many there would be open to checking out what we are all about and supporting it.
"G" first got involved through following Wikileaks. Through it he learned about "We Are Not Your Soldiers/World Can't Wait" and wanted to check out their booth and the bookstore booth, but he never found the location. "There were no visible signs to follow," he said. He found out about the bookstore through his favorite band, Outernational. He follows the band on Twitter and the lead singer has posted things about the store. "G" is one of our followers on Twitter. He wasn't in a rush to get involved and said he would check out the store when he gets a chance. I have seen him at every show Outernational had in the city and he's a big fan.
"F" had begun to get our emails. He knew about one event at the store and really wanted to come but searched online and knew the book featured at the event would be expensive and he couldn't afford to give a $10 donation at the door. I explained that it shouldn't keep him from coming because he wouldn't be turned away for lack of funds. The main thing was to check out the speaker and interact with others at Revolution Books. He met us at the end and bought BAsics, along with a packet of newspapers. While he hadn't taken a look at the paper, he did begin to check out BAsics and had almost completed Chapter 1. He was excited about what he had been reading.
The conversation took off and went on for quite a while with quote 1:5 about the one percent and 99 percent. He himself is an Iraq War vet. This quote really captured his attention, I can't explain how much feeling he had in his voice. "I went there for nothing!" We spoke some about the Ethan McCord speaking event at the store and what I learned through his story. "F" said it was very much true, being forced to do things you didn't want to do and "all for what?" The other quote that he appreciated was 1:9, "This was the choice I had, the streets or the military, I never wanted to go!" He understood the impact that BAsics could have on the younger generation and expressed in many ways the point made recently in the paper about the difference it could make for a generation... "if I only had this." There were several friends that he thought of right away who should have the book and he wanted to consider getting copies for them though he had to figure out how he would get the money. I suggested he sell it to them. One of these friends was "R."
"R" is F's sister's boyfriend. I found this out after telling "R" about the conversation I had with "F." "He sounds very familiar! What a small world!" He got a copy of the Message and Call from the RCP after the show and he said he had read all of it. He liked the exposure and agreed "things are fucked up, but communism???" "It hasn't worked, look at Cuba and North Korea." "I know capitalism isn't working but neither would communism." I asked where he had gotten all these ideas from, to which he answered, "from school." Not much later he acknowledged how fucked up the educational system in this country is with a few facts. I asked him to think back to the Message and Call and if he recalled the definition of communism that is in it. I read it aloud to refresh his memory and followed it by saying, "does that sound like what is going on in the countries that you pointed out?" He answered with "that's why I want to read that book BAsics, it seems that there is a lot that I need to learn." He had kept the palm card on BAsics. He said he would get the copy of the book from F and asked to keep in touch.
"D" bought the Science of Evolution book because he wanted to get different opinions to form his own. He said he would look into the newspaper online and come to the store when he is "ready to get off my butt."
"N" said he liked the facts in the book, "It's all true." He said he would help spread the word and volunteered to get out the special newspaper issue on BAsics when it drops. He had so far finished Chapter 1. Our conversation was cut short because he had to go back to work.
"J" had begun reading BAsics and plans on sharing it with four other friends who all put in $2 each to get a copy of the book to share. They are waiting patiently to read it too.
I was able to have an extensive 45-minute conversation with a recent grad from high school who plans on going to one of the local community colleges in the fall. He had just begun to read BAsics and liked it a lot. He commented that this is something that youth need. He pointed out what a difference it made to have a teacher who took the time to explain current events that mattered. "If it wasn't for him, I and many other students who were inspired would have never known about what was happening in Egypt." When I asked him about what he has been following lately, he said the events in London. His question was how could something like that go on here.
I began to tell him about the plan to get out 100,000 copies of the special issue of Revolution onto the college campuses. We got into what difference it would make if this was what was informing many of the youth, heightening their level of understanding and resistance. I took the opportunity to get him deeper into BAsics. He put me on hold and went to get his copy of BAsics to read along as I read him a section from "On the Strategy for Revolution" on Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution, along with the importance given to the leadership of Bob Avakian and the newspaper. I recall what got him to buy the book at the bookstore booth. He said a guy came up to him and handed him the book and told him to read the first quote in it on slavery in the U.S. This hit him hard. He said he had never thought about things in that way. He grew up only knowing that this was the land of freedom and opportunity and didn't ever make a connection with the enslavement of Black people. This was enough to have him get the book.
We spoke some about what it would take for people to begin to resist on a different level in this country. He grew up and lives in one of the oppressed areas of the city and is Latino. World events have been what has his attention. I brought in police brutality which wasn't something on his mind. I gave him a few examples captured in the latest issue of Revolution which astounded him, he had no idea. I brought this up to partly focus some attention on key concentrations of social contradictions and how it could lead to a further rupture among people. Conveniently, I directed him to the latest issue of the newspaper and the excerpt from Bob Avakian's "Birds and Crocodiles" talk on alternate authority. He also read along with me BAsics quote 1:24, wanting to highlight how this is a system of oppression over the people to enforce the continuation of the relations of exploitation. He really liked this quote because he had never looked at it that way.
By the end of the conversation he had gone online to check out our website to begin reading the editorial. I briefly mentioned that he should think of people to go out to around this and for him to gather his thoughts since we would love to hear ideas he has on how to run with this issue. I told him that I would call back the following week.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #245, August 28, 2011
From a group of educators and Revolution newspaper readers investigating the situation in the schools. In the near future they hope to write more extensively on education.
On Saturday, July 29, teachers, parents and education activists across the U.S. rallied in at least 12 cities, brought together by the major teachers unions under the name Save Our Schools (SOS). Washington, D.C. was the scene of the largest of the gatherings—3,000 to 5,000 teachers and allies demonstrated, spoke and marched. The rally was part of a four-day event including a two-day conference at American University with dozens of workshops, such as “Winning the Testing War” and "Dismantling the School-to-Prison Pipeline." There was also a strategy session and film festival featuring a documentary called The Inconvenient Truth About Waiting for Superman, in response to the 2010 film, Waiting for Superman, which promotes charter schools and attacks public education and public school teachers.
This is a time of great turmoil and sharpening struggle around education in the U.S., and SOS is one response to that. In 2001 the George W. Bush administration, with overwhelming support from Democrats and Republicans, passed the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation. NCLB came in the context of a decades-long process of undermining the legitimacy of public schools, the development and funding of alternative schools such as religious schools through the use of vouchers, and the creation of models for a new kind of privatized public school funded by corporations like Walmart and the Bill Gates Foundation operating on principles of business "accountability." NCLB greatly intensified the effort to reshape education to fit the needs of a more parasitic globalized U.S. capitalism, with its increased polarization of wealth, “runaway shops,” the abandonment of the inner cities, millions of youths, especially Black and Latino youth, cast into a pit with no future.
Under No Child Left Behind, standardized testing has become the new touchstone of education, ushering in an era of teaching to a script. Under NCLB and its successor, Obama's Race to the Top, schools, teachers, administrators are not judged by how well students learn about the world nor in how students develop creative, problem-solving or critical thinking abilities, but rather rote memorization and success in cultural and class-biased tests. Teachers who value their students and see their role as nurturing thoughtful and knowledgeable young people have long bridled at the straitjacket of testing and recognize its role in strangling real education and public education—one that recognizes education as a human right.
Many educators had put their hopes on the 2008 elections. "We had reason to believe from his campaign promises that Obama was going to reverse the damage that this law [NCLB, ed.] has caused," said Jonathan Kozol, a public education activist, author and participant in the SOS rally in Washington. "He has betrayed us. That's why we are here today." In fact, Obama's Race to the Top school policy is a marked intensification of the policies of the Bush regime with the addition of heavy attacks on teachers, tenure, seniority and teachers unions. NCLB reforms have failed to achieve even the limited and distorted goals of higher test scores. Rather, they have set off a competition among schools for limited funds which has resulted in widespread cheating and dishonest manipulation of statistics, not by students, but by those administering the tests. All the while teachers and teachers unions have become the scapegoats for this failure and a cover for slashing of public education funds.
At their rallies the SOS organizers handed out Guiding Principles that reflect some of the contentious issues in education, including such demands as equitable funding for all public school communities; an end to high-stakes testing; an end to school evaluation and public school closures based on test performance; teacher, family and community leadership in forming public education policies and an end to political and corporate control of curriculum, instruction and assessment decisions for teachers and administrators; and a well-rounded education that develops every student's intellectual, creative, and physical potential.
Several Bay Area teachers and supporters of Revolution newspaper traveled to Sacramento to join one of the Save Our Schools rallies. About 200 to 300 teachers, students, administrators and others came to Sacramento from as far away as San Diego, Fullerton and Chico. We went there to support this struggle, engage with fellow teachers and others rallying there, learn from their experiences and concerns and better understand the struggles around education.
We found a great deal of receptivity and openness—not only a willingness, but an anxiousness in many cases to talk about the state of education, its relationship to issues such as poverty, war, mass imprisonment, and racism, and even what education would look like in a revolutionary society. The following are some comments taken from conversations with teachers and students from Sacramento, and other comments gathered from press accounts from the rally in D.C., to give Revolution readers a sense of the concerns and thinking among educators and students.
A Cal State Fullerton student:
"The way the school system works, most people, minorities, are not allowed to learn their own culture—they have to learn a very Anglo, colonialist literature and understanding of the world, and through that we can really appreciate one another as humans, and the environment around us. And with all the major issues going on around global warming, the wars, poverty, hunger, racism, fascism, patriarchy—there are too many major issues to have them all shoved under the rug in the name of standardized testing, and standardization and math and science without really focusing on us, as humans. So that's why I am out here—not just on getting more funding but shifting the funding and the focus on education, and away from this very business model."
A preschool teacher from the Sacramento area:
"I've worked for the district about seven years. The reason why I came out here was to support my families—my students are the first time into education—their first school experience. For some of my families they are Head Start parents, low income, living in the Title One area—so sometimes school wasn't the most positive experience themselves. So I'm trying to show that (lack of) education is a double loss and in preschool we set the foundation. I want to say don't cut it, I wish that preschool was open to everyone in the state of California, no matter what your income. I hear people say teachers should be evaluated on what their children know. There's a whole different factor of where the child comes from. If there is no support at home how can you be evaluated on that student getting their needs? Why should that kindergarten teacher be evaluated because of the students who don't know their shapes, colors, how to spell their names because they never had the support at home. I just don't think it is fair."
Cal State Fullerton student:
"We're seeing the encroachment of the private sector on public education, specifically higher education.... Recently we had a 22% increase in tuition... When it comes to what the students are fighting for, I think that is one of the most fundamental issues at hand because it affects the students. But there is also that greater underlining issues of the structuring of education which starts at kindergarten. We have an education that focused in an ethno-centric kind of way—a lack of attention to critical thinking—and it is more about providing a worker for the workforce to make economic profit. It is not something that allows the citizenry to become critically engaged and make constructive, positive decisions."
From speeches at the DC rally:
Diane Ravitch, former head of the U.S. Department of Education and an opponent of school privatization:
"What we call 'accountability' now is just totally unreliable numbers that are meaningless in terms of the lives of children and the careers of teachers."
Cody Anthony, Oakland educator:
"Teachers are in an inescapable ethical bind. We know that the tests do not measure critical thinking... As a science teacher, I believe that the essence of science is the exploration of the natural world. It is all about inquiry: asking good questions, and then using all the tools we can muster to investigate and answer those questions."
Matt Damon, actor:
"I said before that I had incredible teachers. And that's true. But it's more than that. My teachers were EMPOWERED to teach me. Their time wasn't taken up with a bunch of test prep—this silly drill and kill nonsense that any serious person knows doesn't promote real learning. No, my teachers were free to approach me and every other kid in that classroom like an individual puzzle. They took so much care in figuring out who we were and how to best make the lessons resonate with each of us. They were empowered to unlock our potential. They were allowed to be teachers."
Linda Darling-Hammond, Stanford University education professor:
"Our leaders seek to solve the problem of the poor by blaming the teachers and schools that seek to serve them, calling the deepening levels of poverty an 'excuse,' rewarding schools that keep out and push out the highest-need students, and threatening those who work with new immigrant students still learning English and the growing number of those who are homeless, without health care and without food. Are there lower scores in under-resourced schools with high-need students? Fire the teachers and the principals. Close the schools. Don't look for supports for their families and communities, equitable funding for their schools, or investments in professional learning."
The battle over the schools and the education system is literally a battle for the future. The deeper one looks into the way U.S. education is being shaped by powerful economic and political interests, the more one sees, not only the need for resistance, but also the need to look beyond a rotten and decaying system to a kind of society that raises instead of crushes human potential.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #245, August 28, 2011
A special issue of Revolution, coming out on October 3, will feature responses to the quote from BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian, "An Appeal to Those the System Has Cast Off." We want to hear from those to whom this appeal is made—especially prisoners, but also many others this system has cast off. And we invite many other people to contribute—students, teachers and professors, people from all different parts of society. You can send in letters, poetry, drawings, photos, and any other kinds of creative writing and visual art. Email to firstname.lastname@example.org or send by U.S. mail to RCP Publications, PO Box 3486, Chicago, IL 60654.
An Appeal to Those the System Has Cast Off
Here I am speaking not only to prisoners but to those whose life is lived on the desperate edge, whether or not they find some work; to those without work or even homes; to all those the system and its enforcers treat as so much human waste material.
Raise your sights above the degradation and madness, the muck and demoralization, above the individual battle to survive and to "be somebody" on the terms of the imperialists—of fouler, more monstrous criminals than mythology has ever invented or jails ever held. Become a part of the human saviors of humanity: the gravediggers of this system and the bearers of the future communist society.
This is not just talk or an attempt to make poetry here: there are great tasks to be fulfilled, great struggles to be carried out, and yes great sacrifices to be made to accomplish all this. But there is a world to save—and to win—and in that process those the system has counted as nothing can count for a great deal. They represent a great reserve force that must become an active force for the proletarian revolution.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #245, 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 #245, 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.
* * * * *
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.
* * * * *
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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Revolution #245, August 28, 2011
A special issue of Revolution (#247), coming out on October 3, will feature people's thinking about the quote from BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian, "An Appeal to Those the System Has Cast Off" (see quote below). We will especially highlight responses from prisoners, but also many others on the bottom of society, as well as people from all different walks of life. We have called on people to send in letters, poetry, drawings, photos, and any other kinds of creative writing and visual art.
Putting this special issue together will be both challenging and exciting and we need volunteers to work on all different aspects of this production.
An Appeal to Those the System Has Cast Off
Here I am speaking not only to prisoners but to those whose life is lived on the desperate edge, whether or not they find some work; to those without work or even homes; to all those the system and its enforcers treat as so much human waste material.
Raise your sights above the degradation and madness, the muck and demoralization, above the individual battle to survive and to "be somebody" on the terms of the imperialists—of fouler, more monstrous criminals than mythology has ever invented or jails ever held. Become a part of the human saviors of humanity: the gravediggers of this system and the bearers of the future communist society.
This is not just talk or an attempt to make poetry here: there are great tasks to be fulfilled, great struggles to be carried out, and yes great sacrifices to be made to accomplish all this. But there is a world to save—and to win—and in that process those the system has counted as nothing can count for a great deal. They represent a great reserve force that must become an active force for the proletarian revolution.
This special issue will be a way for many different kinds of people to dialogue and share ideas about this quote from Bob Avakian. This is an opportunity for people to be part of the process of reading and picking the letters, artwork, photos, etc. for issue #247. We also need people to work on many other aspects of this production—transcription, design, picking photographs, proofreading, and more. Financial donations for this special issue are another way people can contribute.
Many people have been especially inspired by the letters from prisoners that have appeared in Revolution (go to revcom.us or prlf.org). And this special issue will be a way for prisoners locked away from society to get their ideas out into the world. PRLF's correspondents are very pleased to see their work in print, and an important trust has been built because they understand that we will protect their identities while spreading their thinking. And volunteers who transcribe and read these letters will have to agree to one very important rule: that these letters must be returned to the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund only and must not be sent to any other person, publication, or used in any other way. These are protected communications and there is a trust involved that must not/cannot be violated.
We are starting to work on this issue NOW—so those who want to volunteer should contact us RIGHT AWAY. Let us know a little about you. How did you learn about Revolution newspaper? Why do you want to volunteer? Are there certain things you want to work on/contribute to? Are you a student/working? What are some of your other interests? Send e-mails to: Revolution.Volunteers@yahoo.com or U.S. postal mail to RCP Publications, PO Box 3486, Chicago, IL 60654.
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Revolution #245, August 28, 2011
From July 1 to July 20, prisoners in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) in California’s Pelican Bay State Prison held a three-week hunger strike, demanding an end to the barbaric, inhumane conditions of solitary confinement. These prisoners set a courageous example and inspired people all over the world. And this heroic struggle of prisoners from the most brutal hellholes of the U.S. prison system continues to be an extremely significant and extraordinary development.
The hunger strike shined a damning light on the fact that prisoners at Pelican Bay are being tortured—kept in windowless cells for 23 hours a day, denied human contact, subjected to routine brutal “cell extractions” where they are beaten down by squads of guards. And because of this, many more people also became aware of the fact that tens of thousands of prisoners in maximum security prisons all over the USA are being subjected to the barbaric cruelty of solitary confinement.
After weeks of refusing to negotiate and insisting the prisoners are less than human, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) was effectively forced to meet with some of the hunger strikers and say they would review the prisoners 5 demands and the prisoners decided to suspend the hunger strike. But in the last two months there has been no indication that the CDCR is going to meet the prisoners’ demands.
On September 1, the San Francisco Bay View newspaper received a letter from Pelican Bay SHU inmate Mutope Duguma saying “we are going forward with our indefinite hunger strike, which will start on Sept. 26, 2011.” Prisoners at Calipatria State Prison have indicated they will also be involved.
The following is a letter from the hunger strike representatives that was published by San Francisco Bay View:
For the past 10-40 years thousands of California prisoners have been confined in CDC-SHU units indefinitely based on status [E.G., a gang label – active gang classification, based on innocuous association activity, and allegations from confidential inmate informants] – wherein, they have been demonized as the worst-of-the-worst, in order to justify decades of human rights violations – including state sanctioned torture for the purpose of breaking the prisoners, and coercing them into becoming known informants for the state –thereby placing such prisoners, and their families in serious danger of retribution; as well as, the severe-permanent physical and psychological pain and suffering to these long term SHU prisoners and their families – directly related to CDCR-SHU policies and practices, all of which violate U.S. Constitutional, and international legal principles [as summarized in the prior formal complaint and 5-core demands available online].
As of September 2011, these SHU-prisoners continue to be subjected to CDCR’s torturous human rights violations, in spite of the July 2011 peaceful protest via hunger strike, wherein thousands of prisoners of all races/groups united in their effort to bring mainstream exposure and force an end to such barbarous policies and practices. [CDCR has responded with more propaganda, lies, and vague double talk promises of change in time].
SHU prisoners are dissatisfied with CDCR’s response to their formal complaint and (5) core demands, and therefore will continue to resist via peaceful protest indefinitely, until actual changes are implemented as summarized below.
Beginning Feb. 5, 2010, dozens of PBSP-SHU prisoners and their family members and friends began sending copies of the formal complaint to numerous law makers, CDCR Secretary Cate, and to many organizations. CDCR’s response was,..”file and inmate appeal.” In May 2011, the formal complaint, notice of hunger strike for July 01, 2011, and Five(5) core demands, were served on CDCR Sec. Cate, and Warden Lewis. There was no response...[notably, these documents were all posted on-line in March 2011].
The H.S. began on July 1st at PBSP-SHU, and quickly spread to other prisons- at one point more than 6,600 prisoners participated at thirteen (13) prisons across the state!
On July 14, 2011, CDCR Undersecretary Kernan spoke to the inmate representatives via phone conference, promising them that the (5) core demands would be addressed, with positive changes occurring over time. The reps asked Kerman to put details of the changes on paper for their review.
On July 15, 2011, the reps received the documents provided by Kernan and determined the documents were not satisfactory because they were very vague and did not specify any changes of substance in relation to the (5) core demands.
On July 20th, Kernan and additional CDCR administrators met with the inmate reps in the PSB-SHU parole board hearing room. Kernan made more assurances about positive changes to SHU policies being in the works, and stated he would meet with the reps again in a couple of weeks in order to provide specifics as to each of the (5) core demands re: changes and progress made. As well as agreeing that, other than adding an extra day of visiting each week...the rest of the demands on (#5) re: programs/privileges, were reasonable and would be granted, as a show of good-faith on CDCR’s part.
All of the reps (14) then met and discussed the proposals from Kernan, and then decided to temporarily suspend the H.S., in order to give CDCR “a couple of weeks” grace period to keep their word on the (5) core demands [per Kernan’s request and assurances].
On August 19th, Kernan and other CDCR Administrators, met with the reps again, to follow up on the July 20th assurances re: specifically addressing the (5) core demands in detail.
Kernan did not have anything on paper to specifically address any of the (5) core demands. The meeting consisted of Kernan’s words – in very vague, general terms, about CDCR staff working to come up with some type of step down program for inmates to get out of SHU, which does not require debriefing- informant status- and Warden Lewis stating (SHU) inmates would soon be allowed to purchase sweat suits, and have the use of a handball on the yard.
The reps pointed out that Kernan’s verbal, vague presentation was not what was agreed to on July 20th. Kernan responded that “a step down” program will be operational by the end of this year, or early next year.”
The reps asked for specific details to be provided on paper to all SHU sections so all inmates can have something tangible in their hands. And Kernan eventually agreed to begin providing this documentation within (2) weeks. Instead, on Sept. 02, a memo dated Aug. 25th, entitled gang mg. proposal was only issued to the (4) principle reps; this document is again, extremely vague and general. It is not adequate nor acceptable!
On Aug. 23rd, Kernan appeared before the Calif. Assembly Public Safety Comm., to answer questions re: SHU policies and practices, that were exposed to the world via the H.S....according to the transcript of this Aug. 23rd hearing, Kernan was very vague, general, non-responsive, and focused on propagating CDCR’s out right lies about PBSP SHU policies, and the inmates subject to the torture therein – examples are;
On Aug. 31st, PBSP-SHU staff issued (4) memos, addressing the allowance of the following; handballs on the yard; ability to purchase sweat suits; and, with (1) year free of disciplinary action and committee approval, the ability to get a yearly photo taken and purchase art pens and drawing paper from the prison canteen. [While said memos were being passed out, a Sgt. was loudly telling staff to start writing up all prisoner’s for any type of reason they can think of, in order to prevent prisoners from getting their newly won privileges!]
PBSP-SHU inmates have considered all facts and circumstances, summarized above, and remain united in our dissatisfaction with CDCR’s lack of specific substantive action on our (5) core demands. Our dissatisfactions are summarized below;
Re: Core Demands #1-3
Our problem with CDCR’s response to core demands #1, 2, and 3 is this...
#1. We remain in (SHU) indefinitely, deprived of our basic human rights – based on illegal policies and practices, that amount to torture; torture of us, as well as our family members and loved ones on the outside. CDCR remains in denial, and continues to propagate the lies re: “worst-of-the-worst” 3000 gang generals, etc. – in order to dehumanize/demonize us, so as to maintain the status quo, and “continue to hammer us” [per Sec. Cate’s press statement earlier this year], and subject us to “harsh” conditions [per Kernan’s Aug. 23rd testimony]. These terms “hammer” and “harsh” conditions, are used in place of the word torture – and the fact is, CDCR’s intent is to break us down, and coerce us into becoming state informants! A violation of international treaty law-period!! This is not acceptable!
CDCR has failed to produce any documentation re: details of how their so called “step-down” program will work, who it will apply to, exceptions-exclusions etc.; and our problem is,...” step down” from what”? When someone has been in (SHU) deprived of normal human contact- especially the lack of any physical contact with family/loved ones, for 10-40 years [based on a “label” without being charged and found guilty of illegal gang activity]; yet CDCR is dragging it out, coming with nothing but words, and vague “proposals,”...which indicate we will have to remain in (SHU), jumping thru a bunch of CDCR’s security hoops, to advance through “steps”...inspite of (3 to 25+) years free of any serious rule violations!
Plus, we’re certain that CDCR Administrators have no intention of ever giving most of us in PBSP short corridor, any real chance for general population!
#2. CDCR has made clear that one certainty is, their plan to substantially expand on the use of “solitary confinement”, via targeting all prisoners deemed “disruptive groups” [security threat groups], which is defined as: “2 or more inmates who are collectively deemed to be a security threat” – e.g., all street gang affiliates, prisoners deemed political-revolutionary etc, etc, etc. [see also; CCR Title 15; sec. 3000 “Disruptive Behavior”] which with CDCR’s history of abuse of policies re: “prison gangs” in solitary confinement, it’s clear, things will get worse, not better. This new policy is a way CDCR plans to maintain their staff and funding status quo, in response to the Plata order to reduce prison population – it costs nearly double to house prisoners in solitary confinement!
Our position is, CDCR’s “plans” to date, are not acceptable, and are another example of their intent to maintain, and expand on, “solitary confinement;” and demonstrate a failure of the entire CDCR management to make positive reforms! And, all long term (SHU) inmates should be released to general populations!! ASAP!!
#3. Also, the medical care problems re: core demand #3, have not been resolved!! All PBSP-SHU inmates suffering from chronic disease, and denied adequate care at PBSP, due to deliberate indifference, and efforts to coerce them to debrief..should all be transferred to New Folsom Medical SHU, while waiting to be released to general populations!!
Re: Core Demand #4
This issue concerns our poor diet, small portions – all watered down, dirty trays, etc... and has not been fixed- in fact, its gotten worse since we came off the hunger strike on July 20th!! This lack of adequate nutritional food/vitamins causes all of us to lack energy and harms our mental/physical health – which greatly increases medical care costs! Plus, our lack of sunlight, and related lack of vitamin D, is a problem too..we need better food and portions, clean trays, and ability to purchase healthy food items and nutritional supplements ASAP!!
Re: Core Demand #5
There remains a problem with many of our program/privilege examples listed on demand #5, not being implemented [e.g., phone calls, canteen and package issues; T.V./Radio – channels; extra visiting time- what about the ability to get photos in visiting room, wherein c/o takes picture of inmate and visitors thru the glass?]. And, the ones that have been implemented in PBSP-SHU, have been done in a way that it makes it real hard for most inmates to get a photo, or art pens/drawing paper, because the warden has state via memos, that inmates have to have (1) year free of discipline, and they must first “have to go to committee to get approved” [Kearnan’s Aug. 29h memo to all SHU Wardens does not say inmates “need to go to committee” for these.
And, having to get sweat suits in yearly packages, equals another 40-50 ounces of weight, which means less food items! This weight for non-food items takes a lot out of food amount; then, you add all the packaging [e.g. box, etc.], and we will end up with very little food items in our packages [e.g. packaging (50-ounces), tennis shoes (50-ounces), sweat pants, shirt, shorts (40 ounces), thermals (18-20 ounces), equals 158 ounces of a max weight of 480 ounces!] An easy fix for these non-food items, is that PBSP can return to their old policy of allowing us to purchase all “non-food” items, thru special purchase, just like we continue to do when ordering books and periodicals...
In closing, to all SHU-prisoners and all our outside supporters,2 we wanted to let you know [as you can see from this], that this is far from over..and once again, hopefully for the last time, we will be risking our lives via a peaceful hunger strike on Sept 26, 2011 to force positive changes. Thus, we still need your support to contact the governor, etc, to force CDCR to make fair and reasonable changes to their policies, and indicated here. Thank you.
Respectfully and in Solidarity,
From all PBSP SHU H.S. Reps.
1. See Cal. Code of Regulations, Title 15, Section 3000, “Disruptive Group-1 means any gang, other than a prison gang.” [back]
2. “People” what’s right is right, and we the people, should not, and will not, compromise ours, and families, health, safety, and security, to le CDCR continue to violate our human and constitutional rights and U.s. international law. This is wrong, and we the people need to end these evil inhumane violations! If not now, when? The time is now!!! [back]
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Revolution #245, August 28, 2011
Revolution newspaper received the following from A World to Win News Service:
September 12, 2011. A World to Win News Service. Thousands of youth assaulted the Israeli embassy in Cairo on September 9. To the rhythm of drumbeats and enthusiastic chants, they used a lamp post to batter a hole in the wall of concrete and metal around the building. Several dozen succeeded in entering the compound, where they tore down the Israeli flag and replaced it with the Egyptian and Palestinian banners, and began tossing Hebrew diplomatic documents to the crowd below.
The regime had put up the protective structure following another anti-Israel protest a few weeks ago, when Israeli soldiers killed six Egyptian border guards. This time the youth did what the Egyptian government had failed to do the last time despite its promises – effectively expelling the Israeli ambassador, who fled along with more than 80 other diplomatic personnel evacuated by Israeli military jets screaming away across the Cairo sky.
Earlier that afternoon, tens of thousands of demonstrators had gathered in Tahrir Square following Friday prayers in the first such major action in a month, for what was billed as a protest to "Correct the path of the revolution." The organizers represented a broad coalition of groups that call themselves secular and revolutionary. The gathering was opposed by most of the main political parties, who have been arguing that the goal now should be to reach national consensus rather than engage in disruptive protests. Following this turn by many forces over the past months, the continuing Tahrir Square occupation dwindled and was forcibly dispersed by the security forces at the beginning of August. The weekly Tahrir Square demonstrations were put on hold during Ramadan. The military and their friends seemed to have seized the initiative away from the angry youth who had set the terms during the January revolt that toppled Mubarak.
But this apparent stability was challenged in mid-August when Israeli soldiers shot the Egyptian border guards in circumstances that neither government has seen fit to fully clarify. There had been a raid on the Israeli Red Sea town of Eilat that killed six Israeli civilians and two soldiers. Israel responded by bombing Gaza, far away on the Mediterranean side of the peninsula, and by the killings on the Egyptian side of the border. Perhaps they mistook the guards for the attackers, a claim that Israeli authorities at first asserted and then dropped. Perhaps it was a demonstration of strength, or a warning to the Egyptian government that it would have to pay for any failure to protect Israeli security. Tel Aviv's unexpected refusal to apologize seems to have been a violent reminder to the Egyptian military that it had better not forget why the US so lavishly funded and nurtured it for three decades – to implement American interests, including protecting Israel.
This created a very difficult situation for the Supreme Armed Forces Council to which Mubarak turned over power when he resigned February 11. The question of standing up to Israel has often played a critical role in Egyptian politics.
The nationalist upsurge that began in the late 1940s held the British puppet King Farouk responsible when Israeli armed forces easily crushed the Egyptian military in the 1948 war. The Free Officers Movement that overthrew the king and brought Gamal Nasser to power in 1952 was rooted in that moment. Certainly the prestige gained when Egypt (with US support behind the scenes) beat back the combined attack by Israel, the UK and France in 1956 following Nasser's nationalization of the Suez Canal was a hugely important factor in allowing the Egyptian military to claim that it represented the whole nation. In turn, Egypt's ignominious defeat in the 1967 war marked the decline in Nasser's ability to mobilize the Egyptian people.
Egypt's relative success in regaining its soil occupied by Israel in the 1973 war gave Nasser's successor Anwar Sadat the nationalist reputation he used to enter into negotiations with Israel and eventually sign a peace treaty – and this war also demonstrated that the US was fully reasserting its dominance when Washington warned that it would not hesitate to use its full strength, even nuclear weapons, to prevent Israel's definitive defeat. Sadat, who had unleashed Islamic fundamentalist forces against the communists and others, was himself killed by Islamics for capitulating to Israel.
While his successor as head of the military regime, Hosni Mubarak, went even further in working with Israel against the Palestinian people (for instance, in helping Israel blockade Gaza), he, too, portrayed himself as a military hero in the wars against Israel – which is the main argument against punishing him used by his supporters today. In fact, military rule and the central role of the Egyptian army in economic and political life, and these generals' autocratic rule and violent repression, were all justified as necessary to withstand Israel. Mubarak's claim that the peace treaty was necessary so that Egyptians could take care of their own interests found some echo, but now, especially, many Egyptians see a link between his subservience to the US and its Israeli outpost and all the ways the Egyptian people suffered under his rule.
The new military regime headed by Mubarak's Field Marshall (army chief) Hussein Tantawi (also portrayed as a hero in the wars against Israel) is acutely aware that critical sections of the people would rather die than accept an Egypt as it had become under Mubarak. How they have handled the killing of the border guards is a good example of how they've hoped to deal with the contradiction between a critical sector of the people's aspirations for change and the fact that the junta mainly represents the continuity of the old regime and above all of the ruling classes.
At first regime spokesmen announced that it would expel the Israeli ambassador if the Zionists did not apologize, but then fell silent when Israel called their bluff. Probably this was because Israel saw any concession to Egyptian national pride as dangerous, not because it fears the Egyptian regime but because it is afraid that such concessions, even if desperately needed for the regime's legitimacy, might embolden ordinary Egyptians to push the military harder.
When, during the 18 August Cairo demonstration against Israel, a young man managed to get into the diplomatic compound, tear down the Israeli flag and replace it with Egyptian and Palestinian ones, "Flagman", as millions called him with admiration, became a national hero. The regime tried to co-opt his act by awarding him an apartment and a job, but at the same time it built the protective wall around the embassy and warned that further disorder would not be allowed.
One of the main demands of the September 9 demonstration was that the military drop the three-decades-old emergency rule that has allowed it to ban demonstrations and arrest people without charges or bring them before military tribunals. Since the fall of Mubarak, the new regime has been arresting and imprisoning people on a scale unseen during the Mubarak years – nearly 12,000 prosecutions since February. Further, although the extent is not clear, there were definitely slogans denouncing Tantawi as an American puppet because his regime had been forced to accept Israeli humiliation . The slogan "The people want a new revolution" was also reportedly heard.
Yet it seems that the military was not anxious to tangle with the protesters when they were so numerous, a pattern that has been seen repeatedly over the last few months. After the Tahrir Square rally a part of the crowd headed for the Giza district a few kilometres away. Supporters of a football team whose members have been victimized by the police played a vocal role. Among the groups on the breakaway march were the highly visible "pro-democracy" April 6 Youth Movement, according to a spokesperson. Other organizations that later denounced the attack on the embassy included the pan-Arabist Karama Party and the Freedom and Justice Party formed for electoral purposes by the Muslim Brotherhood. A well-known Salafist preacher said it was right to take down the wall but wrong to attack the embassy.
A number of Western commentators, especially in the Israeli media, unashamedly nostalgic for the most hated man in Egypt, complained that the regime seemed to be avoiding a confrontation that night. Mubarak, they said, would not have hesitated to have his tanks open fire right away. There may be some truth to that, but why? Not because today's generals are any more concerned with the people's welfare or more nationalist. Killing demonstrators to protect Israeli interests is exactly what the regime does not want to do as it struggles for legitimacy. And many Egyptians themselves are different now than how they were under Mubarak – they have come to believe that serious change is possible, and they are willing to risk their lives for it. It's not clear what could have stopped the thousands of young men (and a few women) who stormed through the Giza District.
As an activist said in her live Tweet, "Today we toppled an Israeli separation wall!" By comparing this wall to the one the Zionists erected to imprison Palestinians on the West Bank, many people seem to have been expressing the way they see the connection between American domination of the Middle East, the centrality of Israel in that and the way that they feel they and all of Egypt have been kept imprisoned by this situation. The crowd was euphoric when the first few dozen protesters broke into the compound. Then came events that underlined the truth of exactly what the protesters were denouncing.
Articles in the Israeli press claim that top Egyptian officials avoided taking phone calls from their Zionist counterparts. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was following the situation in real time, rang up US President Barack Obama. Describing the conversation, Netanyahu said, "I asked for his help. This was a decisive and fateful moment. He said, 'I will do everything I can.' And so he did. He used every considerable means and influence of the United States to help us. We owe him a special debt of gratitude."
As another Egyptian blogger pointed out, it is a supreme irony that Obama, who never said a word when Israel flaunted international law by attacking the Turkish relief ship bound for Gaza and killing nine passengers, and who remained silent while Israel illegally bombed and assaulted Gaza in 2008-09, felt it necessary to warn Egypt that it was required by its international treaty obligations to protect the Israeli embassy. According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, the top American officials who got in touch with their Egyptian colleagues warned of "consequences" if the attack on the embassy was not stopped.
During the night the Egyptian regime moved in tanks, armored cars and soldiers to reinforce the police. The assault on the embassy turned into a battle between youth and police. At least three protesters were killed and more than a thousand injured in the fighting between youth hurling rocks and setting vehicles on fire, and security forces who tear gassed, charged and tried to run over them. Protesters threatened the nearby Saudi Arabian embassy, chanting "Saudi Arabia and Mubarak are one hand!" They also defaced a security forces headquarters.
Meanwhile, demonstrations were also going on in Luxor and other Upper Egypt cities.
By morning, Egyptian commandos managed to free the few Israeli embassy personnel left behind in a fortified room. The police arrested dozens of people throughout the night, and many more the next day – about 130 so far. They raided the Al Jazeera offices and shut down its Egyptian broadcasting service that often features protest footage. Armored cars and troop carriers filled the square around the embassy. Above all, instead of dropping emergency rule as the demonstrators demanded and the generals had promised, the junta announced that it would revive the law's powers to ban demonstrations and send civilians before military tribunals on an even more massive scale. Those arrested for protesting martial law would be tried under martial law.
Yet a blogger wrote the next day, "This is the first time I haven't been depressed since the referendum" (in February, when the regime and the Muslim Brotherhood teamed up to win a high percentage of popular participation in an electoral exercise whose subtext was that street politics have come to an end and the country's future will be decided by the elections scheduled for November). It remains to be seen how long the initiative youth have snatched back will remain in their hands. Surely the regime's counter-attack is very serious. But the military has been forced to do exactly what it has been trying to avoid: to reveal a bit of its ultimate capitulation, willing or not, to American and Israeli interests, even against its own short-term interests, and its determination to put a violent end to the very process of popular revolt that it claims to represent. These are not factors in the regime's favour.
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 #245, August 28, 2011
The following letter was posted at the NY Times website page: "Share Your Thoughts: Looking Back at the Decade—Has the last 10 years changed your outlook about America's place in the world?" (www.nytimes.com/interactive/us/sept-11-reckoning/comments-the-decade.html?permid=284&offset=15#comment284)
To the Editor,
Your invitation to readers to reflect on the 10th Anniversary of September 11th pivots on whether or not "the government has done enough to keep the country safe"—and in that premise is the horror and Achilles heel of America's response to September 11, 2001. The results of that logic are clear and unending: 1 million Iraqi dead, 4 million Iraqi refugees, 10 years of war & occupation in Afghanistan, 9 years of Guantanamo, while the President (current) arrogates to himself the right to execute people (US citizens and not) solely on his say so, all while the rule of law eviscerated under President Bush has now been codified under Obama.
A starting point to assess all that has changed—and all that must be changed now—is the simple and basic truth spoken by the revolutionary leader Bob Avakian that "American lives are not more important than other people's lives." Were that the standard that guided people in this country, we would be on our way to struggling for a new and far better world.
146 West 26 Street
New York, N.Y. 10001
"There is a place where epistemology and morality meet. There is a place where you have to stand and say: It is not acceptable to refuse to look at something—or to believe something—because it makes you feel uncomfortable. And: It is not acceptable to believe something just because it makes you feel comfortable."
from BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian Chapter 5, # 11
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Revolution #245, August 28, 2011
We received the following correspondence about going out to an elite school with BAsics and a very large artist's banner/painting of the world with information about imperialist penetration of different areas, and quotes from BAsics.
Today we went to an elite campus with the orientation of taking engagement with Bob Avakian and BAsics to a different level. We sold nine BAsics, one Manifesto, 47 copies of Revolution newspaper #245, and got out 75 of the special issue on BAsics. We raised $47 towards a new run of the BAsics special issue. We got 21 e-subs, which include people who want to meet with a representative later, and be contacted about events. We saw a few people we'd met before, and met many new people.
We moved our "spot" to a stretch of the wide main street a little away from the campus entrances, which gave people a little more time to see our display without having to rush inside, and gave us more room to stretch out an amazing piece of artwork loaned to us. A pair of artists painted a 17 x 8-foot canvas with a map of the world, highlighting the crimes of U.S. imperialism, and using four quotes from BAsics, and a drawn image of the cover of the book.
The first quote, reading from the left, is "The essence of what exists in the U.S. is not democracy but capitalism-imperialism and political structures to enforce that capitalism-imperialism. What the U.S. spreads around the world is not democracy, but imperialism and political structures to enforce that imperialism."
Immediately when we rolled it out, people began to stop. About 10 percent of those who studied it pulled out their phones and recorded it completely. Once one person stopped to look, others would be curious, and several times during the day more than a dozen would be studying the map. There were really too many to talk to in depth, and we found that people liked being able to read the map without interruption, but then often wanted to talk about the map and the quotes. Some people walked away not liking what they saw, but surprisingly few wanted to make an argument for why.
We were emphasizing #245 of Revolution, concerning 9/11. It may have been the 9/11 anniversary that made people more interested in talking about the world...or that they read the quote, "Internationalism: The Whole World Comes First." We would say, "This is the book these quotes came from" and hand people a copy of BAsics.
In this way we met students and others from every continent. One had arrived for grad school from Afghanistan days ago. Other students, from Ghana and Nigeria, were surprised to find, first, their countries on the map with pertinent information; and then, that there is a movement for revolution here. One Black businessman emphasized how this country was built on slavery, and no one will admit that. He was glad to find BAsics starting with "There would be no United States as we now know it today without slavery" and bought it, and the paper, while walking away, saying, "The revolution will never happen." An elderly Black woman in the antiwar movement was moved to tears about the wars coming out of 9/11, bought the paper, declined to buy BAsics, and then came back, saying that the idea of internationalism is so needed, she felt she should take BAsics to her book club, "even though they won't read it." An older white elevator repairman said that he is a Christian, but wants to work with anyone who would bring about a world where people will be kind to each other, so he bought BAsics and came back to film the map.
Quite a number of people said they "already knew" about imperialism, because they had talked about it in class. We would ask them if they knew there is a revolutionary leader in the U.S. who says there can be a new wave of socialist revolutions; a new society here that would immediately close U.S. bases in other countries? A "peace studies" professor wanted to keep in touch and got a copy of #245. One of our team overheard a guy walking by, saying to another, "There's the BAsics people. They're in Chicago, too."
As we were packing up the last parts of the table, and after the map was rolled up, a young Black woman pushing a stroller and waiting for the bus nearby inched over and asked one of us, "Is that Bob Avakian on your T-shirt?" Yes! "I just love Bob Avakian. He just wrapped me around his finger with his book Away With All Gods." We dug out a copy of BAsics, and she immediately dug out $10, and then another dollar for the paper. She said she sees the Revolution guys on the corner near her building, and sometimes they get in touch with her. She's graduated college, and wants to become a criminal defense attorney to protect people's rights. She ran to catch the bus, saying, please, please keep in touch with me. I want to get that paper in my email, and I'll read BAsics right away.
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Revolution #245, August 28, 2011
Behind Concrete and Barbed Wire (Part 2):
On August 23, in Sacramento, attorneys, psychologists, religious leaders, and most of all, former prisoners and their family members and loved ones testified on the savage treatment in California's Security Housing Units (SHUs). Their testimony revealed a prison system that can only be described as torture, a nightmarish system in which a prisoner can be thrown in solitary confinement for decades based on anonymous informants and rumors, a system which would be cruel and unjust if it were applied to animals and not human beings.
Very little of the content of these hearings—or of the conditions these prisoners face—has been reported in the mainstream press. In issue #245, Revolution ran excerpts from the testimony presented at the hearings (see "Hidden Behind Concrete and Barbed Wire: Hearings Expose Torture in California's SHUs": revcom.us/a/245/../a/245/hearings-expose-torture-california-shu-en.html).
This week Revolution continues with more excerpts from the testimony.
Delores: “I have a son that has been in the SHU 10 years. One thing that I want to touch on is what Scott Kernan [the prison official who spoke at the hearing] said, that the reason that they are in the SHU is because they are the generals, that they are the ones who are responsible for guard and inmate stabbings. If that is their way of thinking then why did they just conduct a hunger strike, willing to risk their own lives, to suffer on a daily basis in a non-violent demonstration that spread across California prisons involving thousands and thousands of men crossing all racial lines? It's because they are human beings. They do have dignity and they want to be heard.”
Marta: “I have a brother in the SHU. I am afraid to say his name here for fear of what CDC can do to him. My mother died 2 years ago. He was 14 years in Pelican Bay and they only gave us 10 minutes to tell him that our mother was dead. One of the five demands is a phone call. I haven’t been able to talk to my brother since my mom died.”
Lisa: “I have two brothers that are in the SHU at Pelican Bay... One received one point [toward being validated as a gang associate] for working out with someone who is a gang member. But that other person was housed in the same unit. How can they house my brother in the same unit with other gang members and then turn around and punish them for doing day-to-day activities?”
Marilyn McMahon with California Prison Focus: “Some SHU prisoners can be dying of cancer, they come back from major surgery and they’re given no pain relievers greater than ibuprofen; Medical staff have said to prisoners in the SHU ‘if you want better medical care, get out of the SHU... One prisoner during hunger strike had a very serious heart problem, he was rushed to an outside hospital. When he regained consciousness he was surrounded by guards trying to get him to debrief [name other prisoners as part of a gang]... He was almost dying and all they cared about was getting him to debrief. Another prisoner has end stage liver disease...he was told he had 6 months to live. ... He requested a phone call. Now, in SHU they don’t get phone calls. So he made a special request: let me talk to my family once before I die. The request was granted. On the day the phone call was set up for, the guard came to his cell, held a piece of paper up and it said “DEBRIEF.” He refused, and he didn’t get that phone call.”
Laura Magnani, American Friends Service Committee in SF: “Over 240 in isolation are women. They face particular hardship because of special needs, and extreme lack of privacy. When male COs have 24 hour access to women’s most intimate functions, this creates an extreme form of oppression, and often trauma, made all the more acute because many women prisoners have a history of abuse at the hands of men. Isolation on the one hand, also lack of privacy: even in their isolation they cannot escape the cameras, and slots in cell doors, seeing every move.”
Ron Ahnen with California Prison Focus: “We get dozens of letters every week, hundreds every month that complain about these types of things. ...If you listen to story after story after story, and I read dozens of letters a month and I can’t believe this is going on. One prisoner said they put him into a cell next to a gang member...now I’m six years in isolation. The system is totally being abused, but there is a reason: the guys getting false validations are the ones who stand up for themselves, the ones who stand up for other prisoners and who put in those 602s [complaints] and the ones that help sue the systems. Those are the guys who are falsely validated so they can control the systems for themselves.”
Urszula: My loved one just got validated this April. The three points [pieces of information from prison guards used to identify a prisoner as a “gang associate” and send them to the SHU]: one, literature; two, cultural drawing and, third point, an informant that did not himself want to be in the SHU. I don’t want him to be in the SHU thirty plus years.
Willie Tate, one of the San Quentin 6, prisoners who were put on trial following the assassination of prison leader and Black Panther Party member George Jackson: “Hugo Pinell is the only surviving member of San Quentin 6 still in prison. Every one of us got out, except for him. Why they keeping him in the SHU, locked up since 1969; our trial ended in 1976. Hugo was convicted of assault. He’s still in there and he’s in the SHU of all places. He hasn’t had a write-up for over 30 years. He’s 66 years old, why are they holding him? We became political while inside. We changed our life. We dedicated ourselves to serving the people. Hugo Pinell deserves to have a real chance at freedom and deserves to be taken out of the SHU. That’s no way to force a man to live his life. That’s inhumane. Free Hugo Pinell!
Meredith: My son has been in the SHU at Pelican Bay. I haven’t seen in 5 years. I’ve tried. They come up with strange reasons why I don’t qualify for a visit... What is happening in our country and in this state is so beyond belief that the public needs to understand that this is really happening.
Carol Travis, Chair of MT Diablo Peace and Justice Center in Walnut Creek: “I had the privilege to go to Pelican Bay last week to interview 7 prisoners in SHU. The emotional experience was profound and surprising to me. These individuals were incredible people who taught me a lot about humanity, suffering and dignity. These people don’t often see people’s faces. One of the people I visited had not had a visit since 1989, an elegant graceful, warm human being ... They want to have a picture taken once a year and sent to either a friend or relative. Many of their families have not seen what they look like in decades...”
G2 Sadiki: I am a former SHU prisoner spent 4 years in SHU, in 1970s... I’ve experienced extraction from the cell, where you have 6-7 guards lined up behind 6” Plexiglas shield, rush you and beat you down. These men don’t have an opportunity to speak for themselves, these men have been dehumanized... apologize ...I know these things first hand. A lot of men in SHU now, they have consistently been in SHU for over 30 years... Unless you have courage to really look at them and talk to them, don’t say they are prison gang members.
Harriet: “My brother-in-law has been in SHU for 25 years...If he is a gang member or was a gang member, what can he do in the SHU? He’s 65 years old. What could he possibly be continuing to do in gang activity when locked up 24 hours a day? How can he possibly still be a gang member, people that were in the gang, or alleged to be, these people are gone...Because he won’t debrief, what chance does he have to get out? His Mother is dead, his children are grown, what can he do to just be a part of his family?”
Dorsey Nunn, Executive Director of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children: “With the hunger strike looming, I visited Pelican Bay for first time. ...Two people told me that day, ‘I miss talking to black people.’ What it would be to be annihilated culturally?....One guy complained he only spoke to one other black person legally in 20 years; other times when he made an attempt he was given disciplinary report.”
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Revolution #245, August 28, 2011
40th Anniversary of Attica Prison Rebellion
We are men! We are not beasts and we do not intend to be beaten or driven as such. The entire prison populace—that means each and every one of us here—has set forth to change forever the ruthless brutalization and disregard for the lives of the prisoners here and throughout the United States.
What has happened here is but the sound before the fury of those who are oppressed. We will not compromise on any terms except those terms that are agreeable to us. We call upon all the conscientious citizens of America to assist us in putting an end to this situation that threatens the lives of not only us, but of each and every one of us.
L.D. Barkley, 21-year-old spokesman for the Attica prisoners,
killed by New York state troopers on September 13, 1971
On September 9, 1971, 1,200 prisoners at Attica prison in upstate New York seized control of half the prison, taking 38 prison guards hostage. For four days, the Attica Brothers controlled D-yard, issuing a call to people on the outside to witness the brutal nature of the system and support their stand.
For months, the Attica Brothers had tried to negotiate with prison officials over a long list of grievances and demands.
Attica prison was built to hold 1,600 men but by 1971 the prison population was more than 2,200—54 percent were Black prisoners, 9 percent Puerto Rican, and 37 percent white. Confined to their cells from 14 to 16 hours each day, and paid between 20 cents and $1.00 a day for prison work, the men at Attica were allowed one shower a week, allotted one bar of soap and one roll of toilet paper each month. Their mail was heavily censored, access to literature was restricted and visitors were harassed, when they were even allowed inside. Black and Latino prisoners were routinely subjected to racist slurs and beatings by prison guards who referred to their billy clubs as "nigger sticks.'' There were no real education programs, and food and medical care was horrible.
Across the country a prisoners' rights movement was growing and many of these prisoners had been part of the Black liberation movement and the anti-war struggle of the '60s.
On August 21, 1971 revolutionary Black prisoner George Jackson was murdered in cold blood in a California state prison. As word of George Jackson's murder spread from cell to cell, a plan developed to organize the whole prison in a united protest of bitter outrage and mourning. The next morning, as the men filed out for breakfast, they organized themselves into two columns, a Black prisoner heading each one. Inside the mess halls, hundreds of prisoners sat in total silence. Wearing black armbands, they fasted, seething with hostility at the system that had murdered their comrade and continued to incarcerate them under brutal, inhumane conditions.
An Attica Brother interviewed by the Revolutionary Worker (now Revolution) in 1980 described how the rebellion broke out the morning of September 9:
"We were walking back from the mess hall. And I mean the tension was high. We were just up to the point where it was about to explode. So, when one of the guards pulled someone out of the line, we started hassling this guard. And it just blew up right there. We had had it! We just started getting some. Putting the guards up against the walls. Taking those clubs. It just spread like wildfire.
"Those with organizing and leadership qualities began organizing things. Setting up command posts, getting everybody together, taking over the workshops, letting out inmates who had been in segregation. We blew holes through the walls to give us access to other blocks. We took hostages and put them in cells, with security around them. We set up a place for food. People brought their extra stuff to one area and it became a sort of commissary. Everybody had a task.
"At Attica, it just got to a point, we said, the hell with this. We might just have to get out there and tear this damn place apart no matter what the consequences are. Because we're just as good as dead anyway.''
The Attica Brothers formed a leadership and negotiating committee made up of Black, Latino and white prisoners. And among the prisoners as a whole, there was an unbreakable unity among prisoners of all nationalities. They were highly organized and disciplined. Despite the fact that they had suffered under the sadistic prison guards, they gave their hostages decent living quarters, food rations and set up a security force to protect them.
They set forth demands "that will bring closer to reality the demise of these prison institutions that serve no useful purpose to the People of America, but to those who would enslave and exploit the people of America.'' The demands included complete amnesty, speedy and safe transportation to a "non-imperialistic country'' and negotiation through a team of observers that they chose. The statement ended by saying, "We invite all the people to come here and witness this degradation, so that they can better know how to bring this degradation to an end.''
The spirit of Attica reverberated off the walls in D-yard for the next four days as leaders of the rebellion and other prisoners got up to address the crowd. One of the Attica Brothers, Herbert X. Blyden, told the rebels in D-yard, "We are standing here for all the oppressed people of the world, and we are not going to give up or knuckle under, we are going to show the way! For we have the way!'' Other prisoners got up and gave statements of solidarity with people struggling against imperialism around the world, especially the Vietnamese people.
The message of Attica reached and inspired people around the world and gave people a small taste of what it would be like to take power away from the hands of the oppressor and put it in the hands of the people.
Arthur Eve, an assemblyman from New York, one of the observation team, recalled: "It was very interesting. They had set up a somewhat elaborate communication system. They had certain people who were in charge of security. They had people who were in charge of dealing with human waste and garbage and some who were involved with food and other kinds of things. And any of the inmates who were ill or sick, how to deal with them. They had some of the inmates who served as medical staff. It was almost a community within a community. And it was very, very impressive that they had said, This is our home and we're now going to make it as livable as possible. There was a tremendous amount of discipline there within the yard.''
Very quickly the forces of the state stopped negotiations and prepared to crush the rebellion. They could no longer allow this symbol of resistance which so boldly defied their rule. And they were afraid of the effect it was having on millions outside Attica's walls. They moved to respond with the naked and terroristic armed force of the state.
On September 13, at the order of Governor Nelson Rockefeller, who had ignored the prisoners' demand for a meeting, 211 state troopers and corrections officers retook Attica using tear gas, rifles, and shotguns. After the shooting was over, 10 hostages and 29 inmates lay dead or dying. At least 450 rounds of ammunition had been discharged. Prison officials initially said the hostages had been killed by the prisoners. But pathology reports later revealed that all hostages and inmates died from gunshot wounds. And none of the prisoners had had any guns.
One of the Attica Brothers interviewed by the Revolutionary Worker recounted the terror of that morning:
"They came in there with their guns and bayonets blasting everything that moved. They shot at everybody. They went from cell to cell with machine guns, spraying the cells, under the beds. They didn't care whether there was anybody there. They were just shooting. Their objective was to kill, not to ask questions, but to kill. They were scared, you could really see that in their faces when they were running through the yard.
"Afterwards, they stripped everybody and made us crawl into the yard. They would make 30 to 40 of us run down their lines (they stood facing each other and made us run down the line). After the first man ran through, while they were beating on him, he told me to run swerving from left to right to make it hard for them to get a surface to hit... We felt like dogs. It was really demeaning. You can't be a savage like that. You don't want to become an animal like those people.
"After the rebellion a lot of us died, a lot of us were wounded. But none of us had any regrets because of what we did. As a matter of fact, if we had had another opportunity, we would have done it again and again. Because it was better than being treated like animals.''
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Revolution #245, August 28, 2011
Important events are being planned to mark this anniversary in New York City:
* * * * *
Opening rally, 3:00 pm, Saint Nicholas Park,
135 St. / Saint Nicholas Ave.
For more information: email@example.com.
* * * * *
Attica is All of Us
Friday, September 9, 2011, 7-10 pm
490 Riverside Drive
A Message from the Grassroots: Attica is Now
Saturday, September 10, 2011, 2-5 pm
The Riverside Church Assembly Hall
Claremont Ave. (120 & 121 Streets)
Presented by Attica is All of Us and The Riverside Church Prison Ministry, in collaboration with the Campaign to End the New Jim Crow, The Culture Project, The Nation, Drug Policy Alliance, and The Brecht Forum.For more information, go to http://atticaisallofus.org/ or contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Revolution #245, August 28, 2011
In the days after September 11, 2001, as the rubble of southern Manhattan still glowed and smoked, the eyes of the world were on the people of New York. There were gatherings throughout the city, in the streets, in Union Square—as people tried to sort out what had happened, and what would come next. Groups of artists decided to act, together. They stood, silently, dressed in black, in formation, wearing dust masks, nearly 100 of them—carrying stark, identical signs that said "Our Grief Is Not a Cry for War." These performances were powerful and courageous, as art should be. And they were sorely needed. In the following interview for Revolution, Andy Zee talks to artist Dread Scott about the project.
The Revolution Interview is 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.
Andy Zee: One of the first public mass protests to take place in the wake of September 11, 2001 was the project "Our Grief Is Not a Cry for War," which involved about 100 artists and others on September 22, 2001 in Union Square, followed soon after by an even larger protest. Could you paint a picture of that event—what was the scene in Union Square that day and what happened?
Dread Scott: First off, it certainly was a protest, but it was also an art work, and the art work was called "Our grief is not a cry for war." The piece was about 90 or 95 artists, all dressed in black, all wearing dust masks, which was the sign of living in New York at the time, because all the people that were working down at Ground Zero and everywhere in New York were trying to protect themselves from all the toxic burning bones and concrete and computers. The artists all had signs that said "Our grief is not a cry for war," and we stood silent and motionless for one hour at the bottom of Union Square, which was the furthest point south people could go in New York because the police and government had cordoned off all areas south of there. You couldn't go there unless you lived, or in some cases, worked below that. The park itself became sort of a scene where people gathered. People left memorials that were ostensibly people looking for their loved ones. They were "missing [person]" signs—they were generally Xeroxed on 8.5 x 11 paper. They would have a photograph of the person and a description, asking if you had seen them to contact so and so. But they were really kind of memorials to people who had been killed. There were people coming to sing songs, there were people coming to ask questions. A common question was why do "they" hate "us"?—whoever "they" is. But people who really hadn't thought so much about what the U.S. does to people around the world really were wanting to know why would anyone get into a plane and fly it into a building. And there were a lot of debates, and it was one of the most amazing areas I'd ever been in.
And so this piece comes into it, where people—it really intervened in that space and put a different spin on it, articulating what the artists who created the work were thinking. You were seeing in the news Bush say things with the message "Our grief has turned to anger, our anger to resolve, and we're just going to go bomb someone." They hadn't announced at that point who they were going to go kill. But they had basically very, very quickly determined and announced that they were going to utilize this incident to wage war on somebody—both as revenge but also to tell the world that anybody who dares mess with the U.S., we're gonna come retaliate. But also it was a much more strategic calculation for conducting imperialist aims for what they had planned and were planning.
So that was what was being promoted by Bush around the country. It's not so much that that was what you were hearing from people, but that's what media pundits were saying and repeating. And yet in New York when you were talking to people, that was not the feeling that I or the other artists were hearing. In addition to what we individually might have felt, there was much more determination that what happened to people in New York and the loss of life that had happened here not happen to other people, and not be used as a justification to bring death and destruction and murder down on other people.
[In] Union Square there were all sorts of people there grappling with what this meant, [for example] some Buddhists were there and they were chanting. And then here comes our piece and it froze everything. People didn't know what we were gonna do. We knew what we intended to do but we didn't know how this piece was going to be perceived. And people just stared back at us, and some people cried, not most people, but several people cried. It really set a tone for both a morality and a view that the people of the world are not our enemy. We wanted to communicate with people around the world. We were hoping to get news of this stance from people in New York who ostensibly were the reason and justification that the U.S. was going to wage war on somebody—we wanted the people of the world to know that we did not agree with what this government was saying and going to do. And we had hoped that people would see these images everywhere from Iraq to England to Sudan—just all over. But particularly knowing that they were going to ratchet things up and blame people in the Middle East, we hoped that this view connected and resonated there.
AZ: You mentioned that people were frozen where they were standing, just watching this silent vigil which was very striking. One thing you began to capture was how the entire park was just covered with pieces of paper from people searching for loved ones, but also signs and comments and poems and school kids' drawings, and lots of tears. I remember people would be singing John Lennon's "Imagine" over and over again. It became sort of the soundtrack for one section of people, and there was also a lot of patriotism.
You said that this stopped people in their tracks and that those of you who made this work of art and staged it in this setting really wanted to reach out to people in the world, and didn't want the grief that people were feeling to be used for purposes that they didn't agree with, and thought this needed to be spoken. Could you talk a little about—even among the organizers of this—what was the debate around this? What did people think they could say, and what did they want to say, and how did it go in terms of coming up with this?
I recall at the time that people were wanting to do something about this, but that it was really a lot of work to figure out what to do. There was a meeting that the artists had, and it was kind of inconclusive. People really wanted to do something. Some folks like yourself had been out in Union Square and you had to come back again, and there was a lot of wrestling with this. I think our readers, including people who are artists themselves, would really benefit from knowing what was that wrestling? What was pushing that forward and what were you trying to do, give people a sense of the actual struggle to step out and do something that would really matter.
DS: There was a wrestling with what to do, but initially there was a wrestling with what was. Just to understand the situation. And I don't just mean understand did the towers fall or didn't they, but understand the world. In the first meeting, everybody knew about four or five other people but there were like 50 people in the room. So first you are trying to get to know the people but you're all trying to have a conversation about this changed world and trying to understand it. And it was confusing. In a certain sense it was not that confusing. A bunch of innocent people died and the U.S. was trying to use their death as justification for more war. But there was still—it was confusing about how to act, and what was the grief. After the first meeting we said we wanted to meet again in part because we wanted to act, but I felt sort of dissatisfied, not that we hadn't come up with how to act, but that we didn't understand very well what was going on. And this [RCP] statement, "The Horrors That Come from This Horrible System" was really helpful to me in how to look at it in terms of what was at stake for the people of the world, and how important it was to stand with the people of the world, and what was the history of U.S. wars. It really put increased responsibility, as a revolutionary, on what to do with art and ideas—the need, and how to talk about a situation like this.
When the artists got together again, I felt going into that in a better place to, together with other people, sort through what was this new world and what was important to say. If we had the basis to speak to people, which we thought we did, what did we need to say? And how would we do it so we really could speak to hopefully millions. And we came up with a way to do that over the course of three meetings but it really took a lot of wrestling, initially just to come to understand simply what the attack on the World Trade Center meant, but more what was the U.S. going to do, what was that going to do to the people of the world, and then what was our responsibility living here to the people of the world to not let that happen.
AZ: In one sense this was an answer to the question of "why do they hate us so much?"—in terms of flipping the script and saying "our grief is not a cry for war"—it did bring people to confront, it seemed to me, what was now going to be unleashed, which was not that different, and in fact was completely consistent with what the U.S. does around the world.
DS: That first night we didn't come up with anything, but we knew we wanted to meet again. And the second time we got together about three days later, I said the words, "Our grief is not a cry for war." And we thought that was actually pretty good—it concentrated what people were feeling. And we sent it out. Initially, I think we just maybe even just sent the text, and then we made some PDFs, and people responded that that really resonated with what they were thinking, and were starting to make the stickers and post them up.
AZ: What do you mean by PDFs?
DS: We made a computer file that people could easily print that would fit on a piece of sticker paper of a particular size. We wanted people to get this message up and out in the world. At that point we didn't know that it was going to become an art work. We just knew that, for lack of a better description, it was like a slogan or saying or something that we wanted out there. And when we sent it out, it really resonated. People thought that that captured something. But we were mostly artists and we wanted to make some sort of art work. And so we were planning on meeting again, and I'd come up with the concept in talking with some of the other artists there of what if we do this sort of silent thing, standing around all in black, all with dust masks. We didn't feel that we needed to say more. There was a bit of debate but that was kind of the one thing that really—if we said that and only that, in a certain sense, I felt very strongly that that was what would work. With the staging of what it was, that that would be a very powerful piece. And I think that—people agreed with that. So there wasn't a desire to say a lot more on the day. It took time for people to come to accept that, but by the time we were ready to walk into Union Square, people said that's what we were doing.
AZ: As I recall it, people were really being put to the test—especially progressive people, radical people and revolutionaries. Because, where were you gonna stand, who were you gonna stand with, and how were you going to deal with the very deep feelings and emotions that were very, very raw? The city was covered, even up to Union Square, with white dust. Everybody knew somebody who had died. And there were a lot of people saying you can't—this is not the time to speak out. I don't think we should forget this. On the 14th the Revolutionary Communist Party had put out a leaflet, "The Horrors that Come From this Horrible System." And there was a struggle about really getting that out everywhere because lines had to be drawn. And so this statement by the artists, standing in silence at the foot of the park really seemed to have an enormous impact. So maybe you could talk some about that.
DS: I think the impact was electrifying. I think the point you're making about what the atmosphere was like and what this was going up against—it was very thick but also very weird. The city as you said was covered with dust, everybody knew people. There was a really great artist, Michael Richards, who died in the World Trade Center. He was part of a studio program that was there and he died. There was a tremendous amount of sadness and grief. That's actually in a certain sense—people felt they had a platform to speak on, because Bush was trying to use people's grief, and take that and manipulate it and use it for an imperialist war and a war for empire. And people in New York, despite what may have been felt around the country that people were actually angry at whoever, in New York there was a tremendous amount of grief—there really was. Because so many people were touched by it. And you gotta remember that on the 14th there was still promotion of the idea that there were going to be survivors from the World Trade Center. If the rescue workers kept digging, they would find people. It would be great to go back historically and look at the rhetoric because that was just a lie. If someone falls 100 stories they're not going to live. But there was a very orchestrated campaign to show a particular view of the World Trade Center, of the particular site. Meanwhile, all the doctors and nurses and medical personnel, they were finding corpses, and that wasn't promoted or talked about.
So there was this atmosphere where the people who died have to have justice done. Nobody can offend their deaths, and people should band together behind this country and whatever it's gonna do. But while there was this heavy, thick thing around that—I wouldn't say it was soft-sell, it wasn't initially bloodthirsty. The powers that be were trying to figure out how to craft their message and manipulate people's interests. But there was a thing that any step by anybody could actually go in a lot of different directions. It was a very charged atmosphere. And so there was a real responsibility to get any manifestation of progressive or radical or revolutionary sentiment right. It could galvanize people in a good way and be very strengthening for them and give people a basis to stand with the people of the world and build a movement that doesn't go along with what the U.S. was gonna do. Or it could polarize things in a negative way, and be more fodder for what the U.S. was planning. And so we had a real responsibility to get this right and everybody, I think, was thinking about that, if not articulating it consciously. To be honest, going into this there was a reactionary pole that was being built up around the firefighters, around the cops, and a movement for war. We didn't know if we'd get beat up if we went out there. We were silent with signs, just 100 artists. We didn't talk about it much but that was a real concern. Not that everybody would be against us. We felt very strongly that most people would appreciate what we were doing, but that doesn't mean that everybody would. And we were worried that one or two would just come and take a swing on people—and how would that then go. And so that was the courage with which people were having to decide whether they were going to do this.
AZ: I want to go back to those first days, after the towers drop on September 11, and then later the Pentagon happens, and then immediately people start flooding into Union Square. And then you're describing the place being just turned upside down and being this amazing center of mourning and debate and talking and song and wrangling. The whole world was being discussed there in a very intense atmosphere. And you guys meet three days afterwards and then 10 days after you then have this action. And that artistic action was the first time something had been put out in a public way that was picked up all around the world pretty quickly, that stood against the Bush administration, and let's not forget, America's fucking mayor, Giuliani, trying to set a certain tone of vengeance and reaction. I'd like to come back to what it meant to stand up, and then we can get into how it went from there.
DS: It was the first progressive public action. We knew we were scrambling for time because the longer things sat the more Bush and Giuliani's view was dominating the air waves and molding how people were supposed to think about this, and were thinking about this. There was what people objectively thought before they were told what to think, and then there was what was in their interests, regardless of what they thought spontaneously. Part of why this piece was effective was because it did actually resonate with what a lot of people—at least in Union Square, but I think far beyond that—were thinking. And we knew people wouldn't think that for long if there wasn't anybody standing up to what Bush and Giuliani and media pundits were saying. A lot of people in the press that were progressive writers took really bad positions in their initial op-eds and opinion articles. There was this whole thing we were going up against. But I think what people broadly in New York and around the country thought was that's more up in the air. We felt very much like it was on us to stand up to Bush, basically. He was the main spokesperson for war for empire. First it wasn't fucking true what he was saying about what people were thinking, certainly not in New York. And even to the degree that was what some people were thinking, people needed to get up off that shit because that's not in the interest of humanity. And so we felt that we really had to get this out quickly, in part because this motherfucker was speaking for us supposedly [laughs], and it just wasn't what we the artists but also not what literally millions of people in New York felt.
AZ: Well, how did it resonate—there was this 95 people, almost 100 people standing like this. What was the response in the square, you mentioned people were stunned. What was the response in the media? And what was the response among the artists? And then you went forward from there to continue this on even a larger scale. And there were also repercussions for some of the artists. I think our readers would like to know about that.
DS: The square was an amazing space. There was all this ferment and debate and singing and crying and grappling and wrangling. It was a mix, but it really was a space where people were trying to figure out both what happened and what to do. So in comes this piece which was the first public expression of anything good, and it was electrifying. Literally some people stared at us for an hour in silence. They didn't know whether we were going to stand for five minutes or five days. They didn't know. And yet they wanted to know what this was. I think for a lot of people it really spoke for them. After a few minutes various people in the media started showing up and taking pictures. They were trying to figure out what are they going to do and trying to get interviews. And we wouldn't do any interviews. We just stood and did our piece. That was what we wanted to say. It was complete. But all these crews started coming up and taking pictures.
It got on the front page of Yahoo which was great. This thing gets probably tens of millions of hits each day. And to have this on their front page for a couple hours, it mattered tremendously. It got covered in a few newspapers, just as this thing. As an art work it's something I feel very proud to have been part of conceiving and creating and being part of. It really mattered to people, and I think it changed the people who were part of this piece, but it also sent word out to others in the arts and beyond that it was imperative to not let the U.S. government and the powers that be do what it was going to do unchallenged and unopposed. And if you were strong, there would be people who would support opposing this.
And then as you say, there were repercussions. The artist who designed the sign—these were not handwritten signs, they were all uniform silk-screened signs that he designed, and they were beautiful. They were bold-faced, and very direct in what they said. He worked at the place where he printed them, and largely on technicalities and not because of the actual content of the piece, he was fired because of doing that. He kind of knew going into that he would be, but this was worth the risk. He'd hoped he could resolve it so he wouldn't get fired but the place where he worked, they let him go. It was a small artist-run shop, but they were like "you broke the rules, so you can't work here anymore." But he feels very good, not about getting fired, but about doing the piece.
AZ: You say he wasn't fired because of the content of it?
DS: He knew that this had to happen. And the person who fired him could not be united that this was worth breaking the rules for. He was breaking the rules to print these at this place, but we hoped—
AZ: Because it was a personal project—
DS: Yes, basically. It was sort of jumping the queue. What he did was in technical violation of the policies of where he printed this. He knew that and we felt that we could win over the director, and she couldn't be won over.
AZ: But it seems to me what you're saying is that it was really important that he acted right away, got this printed, no matter what the cost, and then he tried to unite people around him, but he wasn't able to do that. Shortly after these 95-100 artists held this vigil and art performance in Union Square, things took off and the next major manifestation of this was in Times Square. Could you talk about what that was?
DS: Well, there were two more manifestations, each was in Times Square—which was very different. Union Square was a progressive space. People were really honestly grappling and engaging, and not everyone agreed with anything radical, revolutionary or progressive, but there was a lot of initiative in the air in general but also in this location, for people to come out and oppose what the U.S. was doing. Times Square is kind of the heart of America and the image of America. And if you're gonna do something there, it's gonna get noticed but it's not going to have the support. There was not a movement of people singing "Imagine" out on Times Square.
There's a recruiting station with a big old flag on the side of it. It was important to do there. We wanted to see if we could get the people who were not the progressive ones who had traipsed down to Union Square, but people who were just—alright, where media's talking about America and stuff—we wanted to intervene there. It was a very different feel in terms of the aesthetic around it. This was an art work and the aesthetic of having the Dow Jones ticker, the ABC News, all the lights, all the American tourism... and the notion that "America's back, go to Times Square." The famous picture with the GI's coming home from World War 2 was taken there. It's where the ball is dropped on New Year's Eve. This is very much the projection of everything that is wrong with America in a certain sense. So we wanted to go there.
AZ: So did you put out a call for that? How many people came?
DS: About 200 people came. It was organized the same way. People sent it out on their email lists, called some people. Since we had done this once, word went out. This piece had been done once, and at least among the people who received an email to come to a second performance—there was a picture, there was an understanding of how powerful this work was, and also it pointed to the real need to act. That increasingly there was this drive from all areas of the media and government to get people rallying behind whatever war they were going to wage. And I think by the time we did the second piece, they had started the war in Afghanistan. My memory might be off on that but it was pretty fast that they'd drawn up the plans for war. And they'd announced they were going to go bomb somebody. And so increasingly we were up against that. But this was a way—it showed how politically and morally necessary it was to act and it gave people a way to do so. And so, while there were a lot of people who thought "I don't agree with all what Bush is saying, but you can't act," this was like, "no, actually you can and you need to." And so, more people came the second time around even though it was in less friendly territory. But people wanted to be part of this and have their bodies and voices counted as not being with the death and destruction that was being rained on the people of the world in their name and more specifically in the name of the people who were killed at the World Trade Center.
AZ: I agree that the creative way this was done, and the very presence of it, gave people air to breathe and room to move and to stand on principle. And it seemed that after the Times Square protest, this actually began to spread much broader and its impact was far beyond the situation in Union Square. And even at the end of September  there were some anti-IMF, International Monetary Fund, protests in Washington and people carried these [Our Grief Is Not...] signs into that protest along with other slogans opposing what the U.S. was beginning to do. And then it continued to reverberate around the world. And a year later, on the first anniversary, there was a large protest of something like 5,000-10,000 people in Washington Square in the Village where Amy Goodman introduced Democracy Now! saying there was a one-year anniversary around the theme of "Our grief is not a cry for war." So it continued to resonate. Maybe you could talk about what you're aware of about how this played out internationally and in other scenes.
DS: The weird thing is I honestly don't know. I do know it was important for many, many, many people. Emails that I received—people very much appreciated it. And you'd bump into people who—I saw film footage of it—this happened so quickly we didn't arrange to have it videotaped—but other artists knew about it and came and videotaped it, and they told me how meaningful it was. It became part of documentaries that were made. There was a documentary made, interviews with 10 artists—I'm forgetting the name of it—that was made in the thick of it. There was a woman who quickly found people within five or six days of the 11th and started interviewing them. Some were down at Ground Zero. She heard about this and filmed it, and she made this film about artistic responses. The slogan "Our grief is not a cry for war" became part of this art exhibition called Documenta, which is a very important art exhibition that happens every five years in Germany. It's similar to the Venice Biennial only it happens every five years. But there was this photographer who took pictures in Union Square and one of the pictures captures the "Our grief is not a cry for war" sign. So to have it inserted in one of the most significant international art gatherings was important. I know it's in art shows that had AP photographers' photos because they were doing photo-journalism, but it became emblematic. I don't know the real impact. When we talk about the effect on the artists, I can talk about some of the people I knew, but I think this was one of these things that went out and resonated far and wide, and you can't quantify exactly where all this went. And I am sure people know a lot more than I know.
AZ: I think that's undoubtedly true that you can't fully quantify it because it's a qualitative impact this has on people—how people see the world, and what they take responsibility for, and what they can envision that they can do. It did seem that this was the first of one of many artists' endeavors where artists began to use their public platform to speak out. That was one thing that happened. I know artists were prominent among the initial signers of the Not In Our Name Statement of Conscience and many other artists signed it and then people participated in theatrical events like the Evening of Conscience against the war. As the wars were ramping up in 2002, artists made really elaborate things to bring to the marches, and used their artistic skills and talents in that way. Artists developed flags against the war that hung on tens of thousands of houses around the country. And artists also formed groups and created art works and still are doing so, in theater, and in music and in the visual arts. And those works of art, while not always directly in the political arena, have also had a big impact. And there are going to be some shown and some theatrical productions staged in the New York area for this tenth anniversary. So maybe you can talk about that—in terms of the relationship of the artist to the larger political reality, utilizing their public voice, assisting the movement and also using their art to influence people in that way.
DS: That was a very important development. This is one of these questions that could go on and on and go in a lot of directions. There were artists who did find their voice and use their public persona and their art in a lot of ways that hadn't really happened in the recent past, up until that time. There was Artists Against the War that formed in the aftermath of the "Our Grief" piece. It took some time. The "Our Grief" ran its course and then people wanted to continue to do stuff. The war in Afghanistan had happened. There was first a demonstration of 25,000 people that was organized by Not In Our Name in Central Park. And then there was a demonstration of a million people, and millions of people in several cities around the world all at once trying to stop this war. Artists were very much part of that. Very prominent, as well as not so prominent artists were part of the Not In Our Name Statement of Conscience. There were art shows. Artists came together to do spontaneous couple-weeks-only pop-up gallery kind of things of art against the war. And some of the work was very explicitly talking about and directly talking to what it means for the U.S. to wage war on the world, and others was abstraction. But they wanted their name and persona to be part of this—"I do not agree with what the U.S. is doing, and I want that message to go out to the people of the world, including here."
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Revolution #245, August 28, 2011
"My brother has been in Pelican Bay SHU for the last ten years. I'm here today to be the voice, not only for him, but for all of the prisoners who are suffering in the SHU and for all of the prisons in California. There are a lot of questions that I want answered. I want to know what our elected officials are going to do to change what's being done? Why is it 30 days later and still nothing has been done when the CDC agreed to part of the prisoners' demands? I want to know why my brother is tortured on a daily basis year after year. Why is he not fed correctly and why is he so pale and skinny? Why does my mom have to cry every time she goes to see him? Seeing everybody that has come out today just lights my fire, because I know that I am not alone and I can let him know that he is not alone."
Today we will inform the general public that our loved ones, our families and our friends are being severely tortured at Pelican Bay and the State hasn't done anything yet.
Dorsey Nunn, former prisoner, Director of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children,
and part of the negotiating team for the Pelican Bay Hunger Strikers
On August 23, in Sacramento, attorneys, psychologists, religious leaders, and most of all former prisoners and their family members and loved ones testified on the savage treatment in California's Security Housing Units (SHUs). Their testimony revealed a prison system that can only be described as torture, a nightmarish system in which a prisoner can be thrown in solitary confinement for decades based on anonymous informants and rumors, a system which would be cruel and unjust if it were applied to animals and not human beings. Officials from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) also testified to defend and create public opinion for the prison system they run and its current practices, including the SHUs.
The hearings were called by State Senator Tom Ammiano and the California State Assembly Public Safety Committee in response to the 20-day hunger strike initiated by prisoners in the Pelican Bay SHU on July 1, 2011. These prisoners put their lives on the line, demanding basic human rights. More than 6,500 prisoners across the state joined the strike when it was initiated.
More than 200 people rallied outside and then packed the hearing in support of the prisoners, many had driven all night from Los Angeles, San Diego and other parts of the state.
Very little of the content of these hearings was reported in the mainstream press. Earl Fears, a former prisoner at the Corcoran SHU said, "We call the SHU the 'silent killer' because you have not a voice on the outside to tell the public what goes on." It is important that this powerful testimony be heard. And spreading this testimony can be part of challenging these conditions and exposing the illegitimacy and inhumanity of a system that allows them to exist. What follows are excerpts from the testimony, interviews done by Revolution and comments made at a rally/press conference before the hearing.
"It's torture to put human beings in a 10 foot by 6 foot cell and leave them there for the rest of their lives. No human contact, no photo. Nothing for 20 or 30 years. Even a year, or less than a year is torture."
Kendra, a family member of a SHU prisoner
The SHU is designed to destroy the mind, body and soul of those who are inside. It's also designed to destroy the mind, body and soul of the families. The administrators have done a very good job of portraying our brothers inside as wild animals, as beasts. You see it on the news. They don't even refer to them as human beings—and that's what they are: human beings. They are guaranteed human rights. We must do everything we can to ensure that they get those rights."
Statement at the hearings by Richard Brown,
former Black Panther and member of the San Francisco 8
Laura Magnani from the American Friends Service Committee and author of a report exposing isolation in U.S. prisons testified that, across the U.S., 80,000 prisoners were being held in long-term isolation in 2000, a 40% increase from five years earlier. She said that most experts put the current number at 100,000 nationwide. "These are shocking statistics," Magnani said, noting that the UN Human Rights Commission has specified that prolonged solitary confinement is prohibited as a form of torture.
"Other practices associated with these units also involve torture," Magnani said, "such as violent cell extractions, three point restraints, or hogtying, and, most recently, a process called 'contraband watch' that puts prisoners in diapers leaving them in their own waste for days at a time."
Craig Haney, a professor of psychology and a nationally recognized expert on solitary confinement said Pelican Bay "exposes inmates to psychologically dangerous conditions of confinement... routinely worse than prisoners in any civilized nation anywhere else in the world are treated, under conditions that many nations and human rights organizations regard as torture." Haney quoted Judge Thelton Henderson, one of the first jurists to review conditions in Pelican Bay, who wrote that the SHU "may press against the outer limits of what humans can psychologically tolerate."
Rev. William McGarvey, a Presbyterian minister and representative of Bay Area Religious Campaign Against Torture, testified that solitary confinement results in "the destruction of the human spirit." He said that Native Americans and Rastafarians are often placed in solitary for refusing to cut their hair or remove dreadlocks. He also said that anti-Islamic prejudice is responsible for the ballooning solitary population in federal prisons where 60-75% in CMU's (Communication Management Units) are Muslims.
"My husband is housed in the Pelican Bay SHU and has been there since the prison first opened in 1989," Virginia told the panel. "That's 22 years, and all of those in the SHU. That should be unheard of in the United States of America but unfortunately it is not. He hasn't been allowed to get any sunlight, walk outside or get his picture taken in those 22 years. As of recent he cannot even have a wall calendar or drawing paper. Those were taken away and when asked why the answer is always for the safety and security of the prison. Our visits are only two hours long but the prison is far from anywhere, located just 20 miles from the Oregon border. We can't hold hands during visits like other inmates and their wives as our visits are behind glass."
Earl Fears, the former Corcoran SHU prisoner, described why he thought conditions in the SHU constitute torture: "We need to talk about hunger. We need to talk about things that go on behind the wall that are not known to people in society. We need to hear about things that happen that make grown men cry, a gangster cry, a con cry. ... I want to talk about what it's like to have a guard walk by your cell open the little flap and say, 'Mr. Fears, your mother died,' and then shut the flap and that's the end of the conversation. You're shut off from all society in the SHU. I can't get a phone call to my lawyer to let him know something is being done wrong in here. In the hole you don't have a phone call to call a lawyer. You don't have a phone call to call your mother, to call your brother, to call your son. You don't have that right."
The items that validated him are items that would not be uncommon for me to have in my backpack on any given day..."
A law student whose brother is in the SHU
One of the main demands of the prisoners has been an end to the process under which prisoners are sent to the SHU. This system called, "gang validation," has resulted in thousands being sent to the SHU as gang members with little or no factually supported collaboration of gang activity and with no chance of getting out except by "debriefing," meaning giving names of other supposed gang members.
Charles Carbone, an attorney who represents prisoners testified that, "The overwhelming majority of prisoners who are doing time in the SHU for gang validation have not committed a serious rules violation of any kind." Carbone said that the affiliation process is not based on "gang activity," in other words being involved in any activities by a gang which violate prison rules, but on "affiliation," mere association, and this can be—and is—defined very loosely.
Carbone said that only three pieces of "documentation" are needed to validate someone and send them to the SHU. According to Carbone one of the most widely used is the confidential informant and that there is no opportunity for someone facing validation to challenge this. Another item that can be used for gang validation can be a book that merely mentions an historical fact. Carbone said that books by or about 1960s prison leader and revolutionary George Jackson are often used to validate someone as a gang member. He also said that he had just heard that the book The Art of War by the ancient Chinese military leader Sun Tzu was also used as evidence of gang affiliation.
With this kind of "evidence" people are sent to the SHU with no review for a minimum of six years unless they debrief, go insane or die.
Here are some remarks by family members to the panel:
A formal complaint by Pelican Bay SHU inmates laying out their reasons for starting the hunger strike documented denial of adequate medical care to SHU prisoners. According to the prisoners complaint, starting in 2006, Pelican Bay began to "systematically discontinue and deny medication, specialist care, assistive aids by telling SHU inmates, 'if you want better care get out of the SHU' and now SHU inmates are chained down to the floor of the clinic like animals if they need to see a doctor/nurse.) The psychiatric staff are complicit too, claiming that "there are no mental health issues precluding continue SHU confinement", without any personal interaction with those inmates."
The following are excerpts from the testimony at the hearing about health care in the SHUs:
These hearings clearly demonstrated, with overwhelming evidence, the inhumanity, cruelty and illegitimacy of California's prison system, and the utter justness of the prisoner's hunger strike and their demands.
Tens of thousands of prisoners around the U.S. are being held in the kind of barbarous conditions that the prisoners at Pelican Bay have so courageously rebelled against. It remains very urgent that all those who oppose injustice and oppression continue to speak out and wage a determined fight to support the prisoners and their demands and put an end to this. This battle is not over!
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Revolution #245, 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 #245, 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 #245, 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."
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 #245, 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.
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Revolution #245, 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!
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Revolution #245, 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 #245, 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.
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Revolution #245, 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."
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Revolution #245, 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 #245, 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 email@example.com, 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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