Voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA
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Revolution #249, November 6, 2011
Announcing: A Mass Campaign to Raise Big Money to Get BA’s Vision and Works Into Every Corner of Society
“I hope he gets number one Amazon.com. We need to get this kind of word, this kind of conversation out—it needs to be disseminated, it needs to be in the mainstream more. We got to stop thinking that this kind of stuff just belongs at the very, very fringe of society...”—journalist and writer
“I wish I had a copy of BAsics in high school so that I could counter the bullshit being taught to me. I didn’t have that opportunity, but there are millions of students today who need to hear the voice of Bob Avakian so they can join the fight. BAsics presents an essential challenge to all that is oppressive and intolerant. It paints not only a picture of a new world, but it leaves room for innovation and growth, as a communist future will have, as Bob Avakian says, ‘a solid core with a lot of elasticity.’”—student from the Midwest
“I want to urge everybody out there to get their hands on this book and to help get it into the hands of others, not just prisoners, but into the hands of youth who are in danger of becoming prisoners themselves. ... Help them unlock their potential and give them a sense of purpose that doesn’t involve killing each other. Give them an alternative to the criminal lifestyle that doesn’t involve conforming to this horrid system. That is what they need, that is what they ache for. They want to rebel, they just have to be introduced to the correct way to do so. Put them on the path to becoming communists...”—a prisoner from California
These are things people have written us after reading BAsics, a book of quotations and short essays from Bob Avakian. They feel the need for more people to know about Bob Avakian—his vision and works. And so do we.
To do just that, we are launching today a major, multi-faceted fundraising campaign to project BA, his voice and his work way out into society—far beyond what it is today. A fundraising campaign that will raise the necessary major money to make this possible. A fundraising campaign that unleashes and develops imagination, defiance, and community in everything it does.
Imagine what we could change... and imagine how we could change it.
BAsics has had a real impact, with virtually no advertising and a shoe-leather sales force weighed down by day jobs. Now imagine BAsics with a serious advertising budget that could project with broadness and consistency, and with people freed up full time to get it out. And that’s just a beginning.
Artists have done amazing and inspiring things off this book, and other works by Avakian—and there are more exciting projects in the works. Now imagine if there were the money to fund these projects, the money to advertise them, the money to document and record them and then to publicize and distribute them on a level that begins to come close to their quality and potential reach. Imagine the people inspired... and imagine the new kinds of culture and cultural scenes that begin to emerge...
Prisoners—when and where they can get it—have taken this book up as a lifeline. An important, a precious, connection is growing and taking hold. But there is still not enough money to fill nearly every order that comes in from prisoners! Imagine if there were the money to not only fill those orders, but to spread the word through the 2.3 million prisoner population, and to hire a publicist to make known to the general public that there are people in these dungeons who are transforming themselves into emancipators of humanity.
Imagine buses with eye-catching decorations touring the nation, spreading revolution and BA’s voice to those hungry for it in outlying areas. People on a mission rolling through community centers, high schools, Ivy League and community colleges, from mountains to valleys, suburbs to rural areas. Showing the film of Bob Avakian’s talk Revolution: Why It’s Necessary, Why It’s Possible, What It’s All About in classrooms and community centers. Getting Avakian’s memoir, and other key works, out all over the country. Reaching the youth, visiting the Occupy encampments that have sprung up all over, going to where there is outrageous oppression going down, taking a week in an inner city...and then another inner city... “The BA bus is coming to your town.”
Imagine Raymond Lotta, Carl Dix, Sunsara Taylor, and others with the funds to really tour the campuses, and communities, speaking powerfully to the need for revolution and a whole new world, popularizing the re-envisioned communism that BA has brought forward—radically challenging and changing the discourse—and, as a key part of that, promoting this fundraising campaign.
And imagine all that getting documented by filmmakers and film students, becoming the raw material for films and other forms that could spread it all even further. Imagine films and other works of high quality getting into the festivals and theaters and onto cable TV—this could really happen, there are the people and there is the potential... but there is not the money.
Imagine the mix of people from different walks of life coming TOGETHER to think about these things and wrangle deeply over them and relate them to their own experiences, in all different kinds of places and all different kinds of scenes—from campuses to basic neighborhoods, from the prisons to the Occupy camps, in all kinds of cultural scenes and concerts, and out into the suburbs. And imagine all this taking place in the midst of—and providing a framework and context for—all the efforts being launched to fight the power, and transform the people, for revolution, whether against mass incarceration or against pornography and patriarchy or other outrages and other sites of resistance that the movement for revolution will relate to. A whole ensemble of things—a whole creative, compelling mix of the different elements of this campaign, and a whole package of fighting for a different and far better world—will come through to people.
Part of this mix gets created in the very ways you raise funds. Fundraising—if it’s done right—does two things. It raises the money that is badly needed to make a huge difference; and it brings people together—in this case to engage with BA, and what he represents and the whole process of changing the world. And the fact is that there are many, many people who may not agree with everything BA stands for, or who feel that they themselves need to learn more about this, but who also understand very deeply how important it would be, what a difference it would make, to have this voice and vision being projected, and engaged and debated, by people in every part of society. So let’s imagine again, from a little different angle—let’s imagine a week, or maybe even a weekend, where a goal is set to raise so much money to achieve a certain, concrete goal—to fund and distribute, say, a short film of actors reading letters from prisoners responding to BAsics. Imagine all kinds of people, all over the country, doing different things to meet that goal. There are big parties, with food donated from local restaurants, in the projects and on campuses. Car washes, bake sales, and yard sales are organized and publicized. In another part of town, there’s a big cultural benefit. A fundraising salon is held among wealthier sections of people. Maybe someone with more resources publicly pledges to match whatever is raised by a big group of people in a housing project. Everyone participating in something that is bigger than their individual efforts while at the same time, their individual efforts have a decisive effect as part of that. Imagine the lively discussion over BA and what he’s all about going on in the midst of this. A social movement and community can be forged through this, a sense of momentum and excitement at accomplishing big breakthroughs and then seeing how the funds translate into an immediate impact in society... laying the groundwork for more fundraising breakthroughs.
This is a battle for funds with a very specific goal—to project this person’s voice and work into every corner of society. 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.
Projecting this voice... making this person a point of reference for all of society will make a HUGE difference! So let’s imagine one last time—at least for now. Imagine the difference it could make to the whole social atmosphere and culture of this whole country if thousands, hundreds of thousands, and eventually millions more were actively being made aware of the works and vision for a whole new society and world brought forward by BA. Some people would passionately agree, some people would passionately disagree, some people would for now simply feel the need to get better informed in order to understand it better. But people throughout society would be debating and wrangling over truly “big” questions about the nature of the present system (capitalism-imperialism), a concrete and worked out vision of an alternative way of organizing society which really would benefit the vast majority of people (as put forward in the recently published Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal), a document that embodies the new synthesis of revolution and communism that BA has brought forward).
Imagine if these were the kinds of things that served as the framework that people could debate and bounce off of as they developed their thinking and worked out points of agreement and disagreement. Wouldn’t that be so much better than what too often characterizes things today—with many people still in denial of reality and either avoiding altogether the “big questions” about whether and how to better organize society, or still clinging to the hope that this horrendous system could somehow be fixed if we could just find some better person to elect to high office. And for those who are lifting their heads and questioning and critiquing the direction of things more often these days, and are newly engaging in much-needed active resistance: What, here again, could be better than being offered a fully developed, coherent framework for what to do to remake society, a framework which includes many new and provocative insights and a very different method and approach and which has been developed and further fleshed out and sharpened up over the past few decades by BA. Imagine what a difference it could make if hundreds of thousands and then millions were actively discussing and debating the pros and cons of what he is proposing.
THIS—effecting a radical and fundamental change in the social and political “atmosphere” of this whole country by projecting the whole BA vision and framework into all corners of society where it does not yet exist, or is still too little known, and getting all sorts of people to engage and wrestle with it—is what this massive fundraising campaign is all about. You can love and agree with most of what BA has to say, or you can disagree with a lot of it, or you can just feel like you don’t know enough yet to be sure one way or another, even as you find yourself drawn in and attracted by different elements... but if you are a decent, thinking person, a person with a conscience, someone who just can’t go along with the notion that it’s acceptable for great social injustices to repeatedly be tolerated or swept under the rug, then this campaign is for you.
Because if we succeed with this—if we collectively raise enough money to make it concretely possible to project the whole BA vision and project into all corners of society and to introduce him and what he is bringing forward to millions who are not yet familiar with his works and vision; if the framework he is bringing forward and advocating for becomes increasingly debated and wrangled over by thousands and by millions of people from all walks of life; if, together, we manage to accomplish this, this will actually make a very big difference. The whole social and political culture will “breathe” more freely, people will wrangle passionately over “big questions” concerning the direction of society (like knowing that much of the future of humanity hangs in the balance) and the times will once again resonate with big dreams for fundamental change and the emancipation of humanity.
All this and more will be further developed and unfolded, beginning with conferences this month for people who want to take part in getting this started. So... let’s do it!
Send us your comments.
Revolution #249, November 6, 2011
November 8, 8 pm at Nublu (24 First Avenue between 1st and 2nd streets, New York City). Tickets: $30; reserve yours now at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This will be a unique and powerful artistic piece sorely needed in today's world... creating space for radical imagining, critical thinking and basic revolutionary truths.
Proceeds from the night will go towards sending copies of BAsics to prisoners. Hundreds of copies have already been sent; for responses go to revcom.us/basics and click on "What People Are Saying."
Your support is needed to make this happen. $5,000 is needed for artists' compensation, promotional costs and a quality video to be made of the night.
Contributions can be sent to the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund, given online at prlf.net or sent to 1321 N. Milwaukee, #407, Chicago, IL 60622. Please specify it's for the Parker/BAsics event.
The William Parker Quintet includes: William Parker, bass; Dave Hofstra, tuba; Matt Lavelle, trumpet; Ras Moshe, tenor sax; Bernard Myers, drums; Dave Sewelson, baritone sax.
William Parker is a master musician, improviser, and composer. He plays the bass, shakuhachi, double reeds, tuba, donso ngoni and guembri. Parker is also a theorist and author of several books. As Steve Greenlee of the Boston Globe stated in July 2002, "William Parker has emerged as the most important leader of the current avant-garde scene in jazz."
Listen to an earlier piece, "All Played Out," with music by William Parker and words by Bob Avakian (soundcloud.com/allplayedout).
Send us your comments.
Revolution #249, November 6, 2011
On April 11, 2011, hundreds of people of diverse ages, backgrounds, and political perspectives came together for an evening of jazz, funk, soul, rock, theater, dance, poetry, visual arts, commentary, and film. All of it aching for, giving voice to, and infused with the possibility of a radically different world than the maddening planet we live on now.
All of it occasioned by the publication of BAsics, a book of quotations and short essays by Bob Avakian, the Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, with much of the evening's performances flowing from, bouncing off of and inspired by the life and the work of Avakian and what it means to celebrate revolution and the vision of a new world.
This was a night where people felt a door opened to the potential for a whole new world... a different way to think, feel and be. In this intense and important political moment, this is something that has to reverberate throughout society.
But this film can't be made without your support. Go to indiegogo.com/basicsevent... watch the trailer for the film... contribute generously... and spread the word!
As a thank you for any level of contribution, there is a range of perks... signed copies of the poster for the event, the beautifully designed program, a thank you memento that was given to participants on the night itself, a copy of BAsics—the book that occasioned this event—and other special gifts from the performers and artists who took part in this historic event including original artwork from Dread Scott, Emory Douglas, and even a chance to have dinner with the MCs of the event, Sunsara Taylor and Herb Boyd. And more than anything, you'll be contributing to impacting society with a vibrant and moving celebration of revolution and the vision of a new world.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #249, November 6, 2011
Herman Cain, the "Black conservative" candidate for President, calls to mind Booker T. Washington. Washington was promoted as a "responsible Negro" by the powers-that-be—and was actually the darling of open, aggressive white supremacists—during the period of Jim Crow segregation and Ku Klux Klan terror, because Washington insisted that Black people should not fight their oppression but should work to "better" themselves by accepting and working within their horribly oppressed conditions. Cain today, in this era of New Jim Crow and supposedly "colorblind" oppression, is treated as a serious political contender, and is a favorite of the—yes, racist—"Tea Party," because Cain acts the part of a 21st century Minstrel Show clown, posturing and proclaiming: that he made it all by himself...that America is the greatest country, and there are no racist barriers, no racist oppression to be angry about...And if you don't have a job and aren't rich—blame yourself.
And then there is President Obama, who uses his "blackness" to help enforce and "justify" the "modern-day" enslavement of the masses of Black people, along with the deepening divide between the haves and have-nots, the violation of the environment, the robbing of the future from the youth, the wars, torture and assassinations, and other abominations carried out by the ruling class of this country, and its machinery of violent repression, death and destruction, all around the world as well as "at home."
From Booker T. Washington to his "successors" today...from second-class servant of the system to actual or wannabe commander-in-chief...it's all about perpetuating a capitalist-imperialist system based on exploitation and oppression—committing countless crimes against humanity.The masses of people, and humanity as a whole, must and can do better.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #249, November 6, 2011
The New Jim Crow just met the new Freedom Fighters
Friday, October 21, 2011. People stood up and said “Enough!” to our youth getting jacked up and humiliated every day by the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk program.
The NYPD is on pace to stop and frisk over 700,000 people in 2011, or more than 1,900 people each day. More than 85 percent of those stopped and frisked are Black or Latino, and more than 90 percent of them were doing nothing wrong when the police stopped them. 700,000 youth will be stopped and frisked in NYC this year. This is the first step in a pipeline that has locked 2.3 million in prison.
Hundreds of demonstrators marched from the Harlem State Office Building to Harlem’s 28th Precinct, where more than 30 people were arrested in an act of nonviolent civil disobedience. This first action of the campaign to STOP “Stop and Frisk” in NYC is part of a new initiative to build determined resistance to mass incarceration. [stopmassincarceration.tumblr.com]
Those arrested included: Cornel West, professor, author, public intellectual; Carl Dix, Revolutionary Communist Party; Rev. Stephen Phelps, Interim Senior Minister of Riverside Church; Rev. Earl Kooperkamp, Rector of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church; Debra Sweet, Director of World Can’t Wait; Prof. Jim Vrettos, John Jay College of Criminal Justice; and Elaine Brower, military mom and World Can’t Wait. Among those arrested and protesting was a large contingent from downtown’s Occupy Wall Street. (For more, see “An Audacious Start to the Movement to STOP Stop and Frisk,” Revolution #248, October 23, 2011, available at revcom.us.)
The following is an excerpt from a talk Carl Dix gave on October 23 in Harlem at a meeting to take the struggle against stop and frisk further and organize more actions of civil disobedience. (Excerpt edited by the speaker.)
We had this chant going, we aren’t stopping till we STOP “Stop and Frisk.” And we meant that, but we should get what we’re saying when we say that. Because they are very serious about this, this is not just a policy that someone mistakenly came up with. This is something that’s very important to the folks that run this country. I mean, they see what kind of conditions exist in the ghettos and barrios across this country. They know that those conditions are a result of the way their system operates. And they remember the 1960s, and what happened when Black people had had enough and stood up to fight back against those conditions. They remember how that caught on like wildfire and in the wake of that, a broad revolutionary movement was brought forward. It rocked the system back on its heels. And they want to be able to head that off this time. And part of how they’re doing this is through policies like stop and frisk, catching our youth up in the criminal injustice system, so that they’re all vulnerable and feeling like they can’t act. The rulers of this system are actually aiming to do this. They’re practicing a counterinsurgency before the insurgency starts.
Black people in the U.S. have caught hell since the first African was dragged to these shores in slave chains. The forms of the oppression they were subjected to have changed, but the oppression has continued unchecked. Slavery was a key part of the economic foundation of the U.S., and it spawned laws, customs and ways of thinking that reflected and reinforced the domination of whites over Black people. And this has remained built into the very fabric of U.S. society, from slavery thru Jim Crow segregation and up to today’s legalized discrimination, criminalization and mass incarceration. So we’re challenging something that is very serious for the rulers of this country, and for us too.
I mean, different people express it different ways. Cornel West said “I want the young people to know that we’re doing this because we love them.” That we don’t view our youth as the problem. We don’t see them as predators to be thrown in the prisons and caught up in the judicial system. And that’s a very important sentiment to take. Myself, I come at this in terms of those youth need to step forward and join the emancipators of humanity and be the force that’s gonna get rid of this imperialist system and the exploitation and oppression it brings down on humanity. And we can’t have them trapped up in the criminal justice system and feeling like they can’t act. We have to give them space to stand up, to raise their heads, to resist what’s being done to them, but also to understand where it’s coming from and join the fight to get rid of it. So this is a very important thing that we’re embarking on.
Things don’t have to be this way. Thru revolution, communist revolution, we could bring a totally different and far better world into being, a world where the youth wouldn’t be feared and treated like criminals—guilty until proven innocent. In a revolutionary society where power was in the hands of the people, we could give the youth training and education and enable them to be part of building a new society. And we could involve them in figuring out what that society should be like and struggling over how to run it. It’s way past time for this rotten capitalist system to be gotten rid of thru revolution because we could run things way better than these bloodsuckers.
Part of getting ready and in position for this kind of revolution involves fighting the power, and transforming the people, for revolution. And struggling to STOP “Stop and Frisk” is part of that. This is not something that they will easily back away from. And I want to go back to the early ’60s on this for a minute because I’m actually old enough to remember when Jim Crow segregation, lynch mob terror that enforced it, was the order of things. You know, whites-only bathrooms, whites-only water fountains, lunchrooms; excluded from sitting at the front of the bus, and all of this kind of stuff. And that just seemed to be the way things were. You thought there was nothing you could do about it. Then all these young people were getting on the bus and saying we ain’t moving to the back. The hell with this, we’re not putting up with it anymore. And they put a lot on the line. But that’s what it took to create the kind of situation where things could be transformed.
We gotta actually say, who’s gonna be today’s version of the Freedom Riders? Who is gonna say this is intolerable, this is unjust, we’re not gonna put up with it anymore? And I’m putting that challenge out today because if we’re gonna go forward some people have to actually step up and play that role. They have to say, I’m going to be today’s version of the Freedom Riders, I’m going to put something on the line to see to it that something happens, to see to it that this is dealt with. And looking at this we have to look at it in the way that youth of that generation did. Because if you remember anything about the Freedom Riders, they weren’t all Black. There were some young white people that went down there and it wasn’t because they were being made to ride in the back of the bus. It was because when they learned that because of the color of their skin, people were being subjected to that kind of abuse, they were like, I can’t live in a society like this. I can’t just sit by and know that this is happening and just ignore it. I have to join in the struggle to do something about it. I have to stand with these Black youth who are saying they’re tired of taking this bullshit.
So that’s what we need today. We need some people to stand up and say, I am going to be today’s version of the Freedom Riders and know what that means. It means we’re going forward with this civil disobedience. We’re going into Brooklyn in about a week and a half. So some people gotta be the people who do this. I’m going to do it with you. I’m not backing away one bit. But we need some of you all to stand up and say I’m doing this, I will put my body on the line. And that’s very important because we are aiming to win this battle, to STOP “Stop and Frisk,” to force them to just scrap this policy—it’s no damn good, it is unjust, it’s illegal and unconstitutional and human beings should not have to put up with this stuff. But the way that that’s going to happen is not just talking about how bad it is, not just lobbying some politicians, or something like that. Direct action, dramatic action, what we did on Friday, has to continue.
We’re going to continue something that’s been started, that has the potential to create a thing where people all across the country are looking at this and saying, “You know what those people in New York are doing? We could do that here.” There is injustice going on all across the country. There are certainly attacks targeted at Blacks and Latinos all across the country. And similar to the way the Occupy Wall Street movement spread like wildfire, we want to create conditions where this can spread.
We also need to create conditions where here in New York City, churches are setting a day of Bear Witness where they invite their congregants, or people who aren’t their congregants, to come and talk about how the police have abused them with stop and frisk and to tell those people that we’re not putting a stigma on you, we love you, we celebrate your humanity and we stand with you. And then off of those days of Bear Witness, the churches themselves set the day that we are going to the police precinct, or to the mayor’s office, and we are doing civil disobedience as part of STOP “Stop and Frisk.” We want to create a scene where on campuses students are forming committees to STOP “Stop and Frisk,” doing actions on campus, coordinating actions together and maybe even setting a national day of students to do this. We want to create the conditions where lawyers, social workers, other groupings of people are talking about how they could act together to take this up.
That’s what we’re looking to do because a door has been opened by what we have done and it’s very important that we not let that door be closed, because if that door gets closed it will be worse than before. Because people have been told all their lives, you can’t do anything about what the government does. Now we’ve done some things that have given people some hope, they got glimmers in their eyes that maybe we could do something. But if we let it dissipate and don’t follow through then they’re going to be like, yeah, I guess they were right, nothing can be done. And as somebody who has been, all my adult life, fighting to end the injustice people face here and around the world, that is a message I don’t want to be a part of delivering. But we also don’t have to deliver that message. We can deliver the other message, which is yes, things don’t have to be like this, yes, we can stand up to injustice. Yes, we can do something about this bullshit that they bring down. We could deliver that message by coming out of this meeting today organized to carry this campaign forward.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #249, November 6, 2011
The following letter was read at a program around Stop "Stop and Frisk" at Revolution Books in New York City:
Dearest family, friends, and supporters:
On October 21st I will join Cornel West and Carl Dix in a civil disobedience action targeted at stopping the illegal, unconstitutional "Stop and Frisk" policy by the NYPD. 600,000 stops and frisks per year; 1,900 stops per day; 85% of which are Black and Latino; we're talking about a policy implemented by the NYPD that deliberately absolves 4th Amendment rights from whole sections of the population, and criminalizes an entire generation of youth because they "fit the description." This is the other end of police brutality, the pipeline to prison—the slow, relentless obliteration of entire communities.
As someone who has grown to "put the world first" and is influenced by revolutionary communism, this issue is very dear to me. As a Black kid growing up, I was raised to know that after a certain age, I would be considered a threat by law enforcement. With each escalating brush with the police during high school, I was reminded by my mother that the most important thing was safety, and I should remain decent, docile and subservient to police officers, especially in cases of abuse. Weeks before I was to leave to embark on a grant to study overseas, I was assaulted and arrested by Boston Police, and had my grant threatened as the State Department refused (initially) to back me up. I learned in jail that night, that it actually doesn't matter if you know your rights, what you're doing, or if you are decent or not, you will always be a target because of your skin color and socioeconomic status. It isn't a decent kid, bad kid thing, nor is it a good cop, bad cop thing; it's systemic.
Although the experience of being a Black male informs my decision, I am not doing this because of some personal vendetta against the police, or even because I am directly impacted by this policy. I am not doing this because I've been stopped, and out of interest for myself, or people like me, want to never be stopped again. I am doing this for mothers, like my own, who have to raise their sons to be docile and complacent with police injustice, knowing that speaking up only means more trouble. And, as police forces around the country wantonly murder child after child, there is the ever present fear that their child, regardless of how complacent they are, can just be another life stolen by law enforcement. I do this for the youth, like the ones I teach, who are offered no options under this system, treated as criminals the moment they mature, and who have come to see themselves that way. No parent should have to raise their child this way; no child should have to grow up this way.
We are at a historical moment, similar to 1950s America, where Jim Crow terror ran rampant, and everyone knew it was illegal, unconstitutional, racist, and illegitimate; yet no matter how much mothers trained their sons in subservience, there was always the threat of lynching. It took people like the Freedom Riders, who, through civil disobedience (it was once illegal to have whites and Blacks sit together on a bus) showed people that they didn't have to take it anymore, and that there was a way out of this. It challenged the humanity of those that "just went along with it," and forced them to take a stand. But in this age, civil disobedience is a crucial missing component in the fight against injustice and oppression. Right now, youth all over the world are rising up against the injustices of this system—and many here in New York have taken part in the Wall Street Occupation. It is crucial that we link arms in the struggle and develop synergy between what occupiers are starting to realize are working class problems, and longstanding concerns in oppressed communities, while recognizing the important role civil disobedience plays tactically and principally in galvanizing mass resistance.
This is why I will be presenting myself for arrest on October 21st at 1:30 pm, as part of a symbolic lockdown of the 28th precinct in Harlem using civil disobedience—and I challenge you to join me. More than anything, we need your strength, encouragement, and support in the coming days. Take the pledge, and join in on the civil disobedience action on O21. We also need masses of people to come down to bear witness, and spread the word online and to your contacts. If everyone forwards this along to their lists, we will reach hundreds more by tomorrow! As we are launching a campaign to end the stop and frisk policy, taking it to a higher level necessitates fundraising, so please give, and give generously. This Friday has the potential to be the beginning of a new kind of resistance, a breath of fresh air for the downtrodden and oppressed.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #249, November 6, 2011
Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Everywhere
From New York to Denver to Oakland and other cities, the Occupy movement is coming under brutal and heartless attacks from the police and the powers behind them—and the people at the Occupy encampments and their supporters are responding with determination and courageous resistance.
In Denver on October 29, riot police fired rubber bullets and pepper spray at close range at protesters. In Oakland, the police came in the middle of the night, tore down the encampment, and arrested those who refused to leave. The same day, 3,000 people took to the streets—and the police attacked with stun grenades and tear gas. An Iraq war veteran, Scott Olsen, was hit on the head with a police projectile and critically injured. Occupy Oakland has now called for a general strike on November 2. At Occupy Wall Street, the NYPD and fire department confiscated all the biodiesel generators—the day before a storm brought freezing winds and snow. Occupy Wall Street (OWS) put out a call and people came out with blankets and other supplies. Police and city authorities have carried out violent attacks in Chicago, San Diego, Atlanta, Nashville, Tucson, and Providence.
Thousands have stood up, determined to go forward and not back down. They have braved arrest not only to express anger at their own situation, but to change the way things are under the current system, which causes so much suffering for people here and around the world. An 18-year-old woman at Occupy San Francisco is emblematic. Diagnosed with leukemia at age 14, Miran Istina has been living on “borrowed time”—her health insurance company refused to provide her with life-saving surgery. She says, “I’m done being the victim. However long I have left is dedicated heart and soul to this movement, no matter what it takes.” The OWS movement has touched millions in all corners of society, awakened, stirred and given heart, and inspired and emboldened people around the world to take action.
OWS, in its audacity and with its cooperative ethos, is challenging the numbing atomization in society, where people feel isolated and left to their own. A new generation of young people is stepping to the fore, taking responsibility, and setting an example. Big questions about economics, the oppressive power structure, and the nature of capitalism are getting posed. All of this is causing concern and consternation in the ruling class—which is striking back, with police attacks as well attempts to pen in, channel, and derail this movement.
The courage and determination of the Occupy movement has struck a deep chord among broader sections of society—the NAACP, teachers and nurses unions, and others have expressed their support and condemned the police crackdowns.
This major development in U.S. society is important, and it’s crucial that this movement continue and intensify and rise to new challenges. As the Occupy movement shines the spotlight on the inequalities and injustices of the system we live under, those in the midst of the struggle are grappling with, debating over, and summing up some crucial lessons. Here, we want to dig into some of these lessons.
1. When people are in the midst of a hard-fought struggle and facing urgent, immediate questions—about next steps, how to deal with pressing needs and new turns—it is vital to “zoom back the lens” to look at the overall significance and context of that struggle. It’s important to recognize the profoundly positive role that OWS and other Occupy actions have and are playing in the world right now.
This is a society and a world of horrors for the vast majority of people. For example: Look at the 3.5 million people in the U.S. who will get foreclosure notices this year, and the 2.3 million people behind bars in the U.S., disproportionately Black and Latino. And look at the victims worldwide of U.S. drone attacks and missiles, and those sweating, dying and maimed in factories and sweatshops that feed the global machine of capitalism-imperialism.
Up against these realities, people have put themselves on the line to say “Enough!” For many, it’s an end to accepting things the way they are. Youth and others of all ages are fighting not just for themselves, but for a different and better future for all those who are ground down by this system. Over the past month and a half, people have occupied city parks and plazas in the “belly of the beast” saying: here we are, here we’ll stay, and here we’re going to make a stand. This has given great heart to many—including those at the bottom of society in the U.S. and the world, with nothing to lose but their chains.
All this is extremely important.
2. Those who stepped forward initially have been joined by many others—and this has had an electrifying effect on society. This shows how crucial it is for all those who yearn for radical change to relate to, stand with, and join in the Occupy struggle. At the same time, one lesson is how vital it is for people from the Occupy movements to reach out to other important expressions of protest, rebellions, and resistance.
One important development was the OWS movement joining the struggle against the apartheid-like oppression of Black and Latino people, particularly the youth. This movement to end mass incarceration (see “Taking the Movement of Resistance to Mass Incarceration to a Higher Level Thru Unleashing Determined Mass Resistance” by Carl Dix, at revcom.us) saw its audacious start on October 21, when people were arrested at a police precinct in Harlem, demanding a STOP to the racist, illegal, and unconscionable NYPD practice of stopping and frisking hundreds of thousands each year, over 80 percent of them Black and Latino.
When people from OWS joined the civil disobedience action against stop and frisk, when those fighting Stop and Frisk went to Occupy Wall Street, this strengthened the impact and determination of both struggles. There are beginning seeds of “fighters on one front becoming fighters for all”—and this needs to happen even more.
3. The illegitimate and increasing police violence and repression against the Occupy movement is making it more clear that the role of the police is not to “serve the people.” The police are NOT part of the 99% but are in fact a key part of the state apparatus, and their role is to enforce the current order of things—in the interests of the “1%.” And this 1% is not just an amorphous group of super-rich, parasitic and corrupt bankers and financiers, but a ruling class that dominates and controls the politics and economics of this society.
At the same time as attempts to crush Occupy encampments with the organized violence of the police, authorized by city governments, we have seen the powers-that-be (and those who promote their interests) trying to contain or co-opt the movement. There are those who are constantly “advising,” cajoling, and working for this movement to be a force to pressure the politicians and the corporations to make one reform or another. They push the view that the real, and realistic, achievement of the movement would be to pressure one section of the elite or another to give up this or that concession. Bringing the Occupy movement under the tent of “pressure politics” would mean nothing more than accepting those bounds set by the system—and leaving this intolerable world the way it is.
Those who would put an end to this movement employ two methods. First, they use the open repression of the state and its armed enforcers. And they also attempt to corral and tame the struggle through appeals to settle for a few reforms. These two tactics come hand-in-hand.
Why are those in power so intent on seeing the Occupy movement come to an end, one way or another? The actions of occupiers at Wall Street and in other cities are intolerable to the rulers precisely because this has been a movement of mass protest that refuses to accept the bounds for what the system has deemed “acceptable.” They cannot accept people stepping forward in determined protest to expose and oppose the crimes and outrages that those in power perpetrate on people here and around the world.
It’s also a fact that this situation is posing real difficulties for those at the top, and real concerns among them about the legitimacy of their system being broadly called into question. When the authorities have attacked the encampments, and the people have stood strong, this has led to more people being drawn in and broad outrage at the violence of the police. There are differences among the rulers over how to deal with the Occupy encampments—even as none of them can tolerate a movement that is in many ways breaking out of “protest as usual” and questioning the whole setup.
What we have seen is that when this movement has deepened and sharpened the focus against the system, and when it has broadened and reached out, when it has responded to police attacks with more determination—it has been able to come out even stronger, carve out more space, and open up new possibilities. This is a key lesson in forging the way forward.
4. A key part of the strength of OWS—and the inspiration it has given to people—has been the wrangling, debate, and questioning around the big questions confronting humanity. What is the actual source of the obscene inequalities and the heart-breaking injustices in this society? How do we understand the real nature of the government and the police? Is there something fundamentally unjust and exploitative about U.S. society and its political-economic structures, or can these be made to serve the interests of the great majority of people? What is the actual solution to these profound problems facing humanity? And many more crucial questions are being taken up and tested out.
It’s important that this lively scene of intellectual inquiry and contestation of ideas continue. It opens up a vision of how people could relate to each other in a future, liberated society, and is part of what has made OWS a magnetic force for many here and worldwide. And it is through such ferment and debate that people can “deepen and sharpen” the thrust of the movement against this system. Coming to as accurate and scientific understanding as possible of reality at any point is vital to being able to change that reality in the interests of humanity. As people rise up in struggle, they can go further the more that they learn about the cause of the problems, and the solution.
Revolutionary communists have been in the middle of this, learning from everyone, being a part of the process of discovery, and bringing out an understanding of how all the problems that people are outraged about are rooted in the system of capitalism-imperialism...just what the nature of that system is and how this system must and can be abolished through communist revolution...the possibility of building a whole new, socialist society that is in the interests of the masses of people...and how there is a visionary leadership for this revolution in Bob Avakian and the Revolutionary Communist Party. People all over are reading the book BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian, watching the Revolution Talk (online at http://revolutiontalk.net), and reading Revolution newspaper. More people becoming aware of, debating, and getting into this radical, viable vision of revolution and liberated society is an important part of “deepening and sharpening” the focus of the movement.
As part of this, the Revolutionary Communist Party is consistently bringing forward the need and basis for—and consistently working to actually draw people in, in different ways, to contributing to building—the movement for revolution. Revolution newspaper plays an important role in all of this. It helps to spread the word about what is really happening; it helps people to connect with each other and act together in a powerful way.
5. The Occupy movement has attracted people and forged new unities between people: students, homeless people, Black youth from the communities, older ‘60s people, unionized people and other working people (to name a few). People who have different experiences and different outlooks about the world and approaches to questions. The kind of mix taking place is very exciting, especially for those who see how the society constantly tries to divide different sections of the people. And together with this, there are sharp differences and struggles, or contradictions, among the people.
These differences among the people are not the same as the “contradictions between the people and the enemy”—between the people on the one hand, and the rulers, their police, and their whole state structure on the other. This can get complicated, because these two types of struggles or contradictions can become intertwined—particularly when the enemy, in various forms and guises, is seeking to instigate, exaggerate, and seize on the struggle among the people in order to serve its anti-people aims.
In this situation, there is an important need to distinguish between these two types of contradictions, and correctly approach the differences and struggles among the people—from the standpoint of the larger interests of humanity. Part of this is the need to set and struggle for standards of conduct within the movement, such as not talking to and giving information to the police. These standards should reflect and promote the forging of a new morality and new relations among the people—where differences are settled in ways that serve the interests of the people and not antagonistically...where people learn from each other, while struggling out differences in a principled way...where there is conscious struggle against racism and patriarchy, which reflect and reinforce the current oppressive society.
Revolution newspaper calls on people in the Occupy movement and those who are coming to support it to write to this paper and contribute to this discussion with your thoughts, observations, and questions, in order to further enable the “deepening and sharpening” of the focus of this movement, in the interests of all of humanity.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #249, November 6, 2011
Dispatch from Occupied Oakland:
"We know we are here for a cause. And that cause, it has to be achieved. There's no way we're going to go back. No way. Nobody's going to push us back. No way. The more you try to put us back, the more we'll come in large numbers."
—An Occupy Oakland Protester (Democracy Now!, October 27)
It has been an extraordinary week in Oakland, California. In the early morning hours of Tuesday, October 25, the Oakland Police Department (OPD) unleashed a brutal attack against Occupy Oakland, which had set up an encampment in Frank Ogawa Plaza (renamed Oscar Grant Plaza by occupiers) right in front of City Hall. The camp was dispersed, over 100 people were arrested, and people's belongings trashed. The City of Oakland, which ordered the assault, may have felt they'd succeeded in smashing Occupy Oakland. But they were wrong.
People were shocked and angry. That afternoon protesters came back in even greater numbers, took to the streets, and into the night stood up against police tear gas, batons, rubber bullets, and shock grenades. Scott Olsen, an Occupy supporter and Iraq vet, was very seriously injured when he was hit in the head by a projectile canister fired by the OPD. The shooting fueled even more outrage and has become an international incident. At this writing (Oct 29), there have been gatherings, rallies, and protests every night since, with the Occupation growing in numbers, determination, and support.
With a multinational and multigenerational throng of thousands flooding into downtown Oakland, by Thursday night (Oct 27), the occupy resisters had forced the city to backtrack, with Mayor Jean Quan publicly apologizing for the attack (while Oakland's Chief of Police continued to defend it), and reopening the plaza to Occupy Oakland—which is now being rebuilt. The occupiers have generated very broad support—and brought forth new attitudes and new thinking among different sections of the people in Oakland—from Black youth, to educators, to middle class people who live in the hills overlooking the flatlands where the masses of people live.
The Occupy camps themselves have forged all sorts of new unity with homeless people, students, youth, older '60s people, unionized workers and other working people—of many different nationalities. The kind of mixing taking place is very exciting, especially for those who don't like how this society constantly tries to divide different sections of people from each other.
The struggle in Oakland has had impact nationally and internationally. The Oakland Tribune announced that Occupation Wall Street (OWS) in New York City sent tents to Oakland after the police raided the Oakland camp. There were vigils for Scott Olsen in cities around the country. The day following the attacks on the Oakland encampment protesters in Egypt marched from Tahrir Square to the U.S. Consulate. Reporting on the Egyptian protest PBS said, "Protesters held signs equating the Occupy protests rocking cities across the U.S. with the Egyptian revolution earlier this year. 'Those in Oakland are our brothers and sisters, a class that was dispossessed like we were,' the protesters chanted, according to an Egyptian blogger."
In the wake of all this, the Occupy movement in Oakland announced its decision to take its struggle to another level: a general strike and day of mass action for November 2. The call for the strike reads:
"We propose a city wide general strike and we propose we invite all students to walk out of school.
"Instead of workers going to work and students going to school, the people will converge on downtown Oakland to shut down the city.
"All banks and corporations should close down for the day or we will march on them.
"While we are calling for a general strike, we are also calling for much more. People who organize out of their neighborhoods, schools, community organizations, affinity groups, workplaces and families are encouraged to self organize in a way that allows them to participate in shutting down the city in whatever manner they are comfortable with and capable of.
"The whole world is watching Oakland. Let's show them what is possible."
The call for a general strike has broad support. The Oakland Education Association (the teachers union) has unanimously supported the call for the November 2 strike. Occupy Oakland has connected with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and there are plans to march to the Oakland docks as part of the general strike.
Throughout the last week the political authorities in Oakland have thrown down in a big way against Occupy Oakland, and the Occupy forces have consistently found ways to continue and intensify the struggle, win victories, and win new people to their side. Here's a brief timeline of the back and forth battle between Occupy Oakland and the City of Oakland through the week.
Tuesday, October 25: "The Battle of Oscar Grant Plaza." At 3:00 am word spread that the encampment would be raided. A couple hundred people prepared to stand their ground. By 4:00 am, hundreds of police in riot gear from many different cities cordoned off the blocks of the area around City Hall and Oscar Grant Plaza (officially Frank Ogawa Plaza). Police moved on the camp, ripping up tents, scattering belongings everywhere. Flash grenades went off and smoke filled the air. Over 100 people were arrested. As word spread of the attack, others came to downtown Oakland to protest. Police made more arrests. Revolution witnessed incidents of police suddenly swarming in on people and taking them away.
Word—and outrage—quickly spread throughout the Bay Area about the police assault and arrests. At 4 pm, over 400 people gathered at the Oakland Public Library and rallied to defend Occupy Oakland. As the march back to Oscar Grant Plaza was about to begin, rapper and musician Boots Riley said: "I'm proud to see all of you shown' up here in Oakland to show that you are committed to that...All over the world, people are wondering what's goin' to happen here in Oakland. People that are not involved in the movement are looking to see if this is a movement they want to join. People that are in the movement want you guys to win. We are the 99%. We will stop the world and make those motherfuckers jump off."
Metal blockades and a row of some 100 cops standing shoulder to shoulder, dressed in riot gear and holding shields with their batons drawn confronted the marchers when they arrived at the corner of Oscar Grant Plaza at 14th and Broadway. Behind them were many more cops armed with various types of guns that appeared to shoot different kinds of projectiles. Others were armed with tear gas canisters and shock grenades that make a large flash and noise when they explode. There also was some sort of armored vehicle.
Tuesday night, Oct 25: Wounding of Scott Olsen. Many more joined the protests when they got off work or saw reports on TV. Protesters stood their ground and wouldn't leave. Suddenly, without provocation, the police lobbed tear gas and shock grenades and other projectiles into the crowd. As the crowd scattered Scott Olsen, a Marine Corp Iraq veteran and a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War was standing near the police barricade. Next to him stood another veteran, in a Navy uniform, holding a Veterans for Peace flag and a little book of the U.S. Constitution open to the first amendment. Some sort of police projectile hit Scott Olsen in the head and he fell to the ground unconscious. When people rushed to gather around and help Scott, police threw a flash grenade at them. (See, "Occupy Oakland: Courageous, Determined Resistance in the Face of Brutal Police Assault," Revolution Online, October 27, 2011, http://www.revcom.us/a/248/occupy_oakland_courageous_determined_resistance-en.html)
Scott was rushed to the hospital and admitted to intensive care where he was listed in critical condition with a fractured skull and brain swelling. After two days his condition was upgraded to fair. The part of Scott's brain that controls speech was affected and it is unclear if there is permanent damage. Amnesty International condemned the tear gassing and attacks on the Oakland protesters. ("Outrage Over Veteran Injured at 'Occupy' Protest," New York Times, October 27)
During the evening and late into the night there were at least five attacks by the police, and many people were hit with police projectiles. But the crowd, mainly youth from different backgrounds along with many—of all ages—from the bottom of society, still didn't leave. Again and again people regrouped, marched, and fearlessly faced the army of riot cops. They chanted "Who are You Protecting?" and "We're still here!" They also put a sports chant to good use: "Let's-go, Oak-land!" There were chants of "From Oakland to Pelican Bay: we refuse to live this way." And then the spirited, quintessential Oaklandese slogan: "Hella Hella Occupy!"
A video later posted on youtube shows that the Oakland Police sent undercover pigs in "protester" costumes to the Tuesday night action. It also includes a 2003 audio of current Interim Chief Howard Jordan discussing planting plainclothes cops and others in protests to "get them to do what we want them to do." (See, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VrvMzqopHH0&feature=youtu.be)
Wednesday, October 26: More Marches; Plans for a General Strike. In defiance of the attacks of the night before, on Wednesday evening, a surge of 2,000-3,000 people came to Oscar Grant plaza for the general assembly. The City had by then conceded the temporary use of the concrete sections of the plaza, while fencing off the lawn, and still refusing to allow people to camp overnight. But the fences were soon taken down by the people. The police had backed off, for the evening. After consensus was reached to call for a general strike to shut Oakland down on November 2, people again took to the streets and marched until the early hours of Thursday morning.
Thursday, October 27: "I am Scott Olsen": During the day some 30 tents, along with a library and a day care center, were set up in the plaza—in defiance of Mayor Quan's call not to camp in the plaza. That evening, two days after she ordered Occupy Oakland disbanded and unleashed the police on protesters, Quan tried to address the General Assembly—to "apologize." She was clearly attempting to cool out the situation and head off even more powerful protests. This didn't work. Quan was met with cries of "Go home!" and "Citizen's arrest"—and she then scurried back into City Hall.
At 7:00 pm a vigil for Scott Olsen took place on the plaza. 2,000 people were there. Scott's comrades in Iraq Veterans Against the War and those who helped him after he was injured spoke. A friend and roommate who served with Olsen in Iraq described what drew Scott to the Occupy Protests where he spent almost every evening after work. "He felt you shouldn't wait until something is affecting you to get out and do something about it." Many began chanting, "I am Scott Olsen."
Friday, October 28: Occupied Once More: By Friday morning, there were about 60 tents in the plaza. The Oakland Tribune reported, "It seemed as if the tents were multiplying by the minute. For every tent, there are probably quadruple the number of people in the camp, with many sleeping unsheltered on the ground in front of, behind and between tents." The Oakland Tribune also reported new broad support: "Alicia Arnold and Steve Butler, two Oakland school teachers, were up early to help unload nine portable toilets paid for by donations, mostly from unions friendly to the cause." (Oakland Tribune 10/29)
At a morning press conference, there were more indications of the initiative the Occupy movement had seized and the quandary faced by city authorities. Mayor Quan backed up even further than the night before, stating, according to the Bay Citizen, "that while she doesn't want protesters 'to camp downtown,' she doesn't want to evict them 'if closing the camp would create more violence.'" (Bay Citizen, Oct 28, http://www.baycitizen.org/occupy-movement/story/quan-wont-evict-occupy-oakland-now/)
Meanwhile other city officials including the Police Chief defended the actions of the police as did the San Francisco Chronicle and there continue to be calls from local ruling class forces to crack down. (See Salon.com's exposure of the Chronicle's anti-Occupation coverage at: http://www.salon.com/2011/10/29/great_city_forced_to_read_swill/)
That afternoon activist film maker Michael Moore came to the plaza to support the protest. "Occupy Oakland! Occupy everywhere!," he said over the bullhorn. "I am honored to be here!... I have to tell you the other night, not being here and watching from afar what took place here, it was really horrifying, to see what took place here in this country." Marches and "propaganda actions" (going out to the people with information) are happening every day.
In the face of attacks by the police, some have tried to argue with the police to convince them that "they are part of the 99%." At the same time, a Black youth, about 13 years old, boldly carried a sign with quote 1:24 from BAsics on how the police's role isn't to serve and protect the people, but to serve and protect the system that rules over the people. When a Revolution reporter asked him why he was carrying the sign, he pointed to a picture of two cops brutally beating a Black youth and said, "That's my cousin. That's Oscar Grant. This tells it true." This kind of mixing and debate is an important part of this struggle and a very good thing.
Revolutionaries are in the mix of all this, protesting and camping out with the people, setting up nighttime screenings of the DVD Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About by Bob Avakian, and getting out copies of Revolution and BAsics.
Here in Oakland we see a movement standing up to repression and emerging even stronger, more determined, and with broader support. All those who care about the future need to take up the fight and continue to expand and defend Occupy Oakland. The battle is far from over, and there's great potential and need to draw forward many thousands more to Occupy Oakland. The whole world is watching.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #249, November 6, 2011
ask a communist
“We are the 99%” has been a unifying theme of Occupy Wall Street. The slogan speaks to the grossly unequal distribution of wealth and income in U.S. society. But this is just the tip of the iceberg.
1) The decisive question is ownership. A small class owns and controls the means of production: land, raw materials and other resources, technology, factories, etc. Because of this, a class of wage-laborers must work for these capitalists in order to live—they must sell their capacity to work to these capitalists. This system is organized around production for profit and is based on exploitation.
The “1%” are not some amorphous grouping of super-rich, parasitic, and corrupt bankers and investors. They constitute an actual capitalist ruling class. On the basis of its economic dominance, this class controls the state—the government, the military, and other repressive forces. It shapes and uses the state-repressive apparatus to enforce a whole system of ownership and political-social domination.
You can’t correctly evaluate people’s place and role in the system simply by how much money they earn. The police may have middle-class incomes, but they are not part of the “99%.” They are part of the repressive arm of the state; they “serve and protect” the ruling class.
2) Capitalism is a unified economic, social, and political system. By 1900, it had developed into the world system of imperialism. Three “savage inequalities” have shaped and continue to shape U.S. society:
* There is the ongoing oppression of Black people, Native Americans, Latinos, and other oppressed nationalities. This oppression began with the kidnapping of slaves to work plantations in the South and with the genocide against Indians. This savage inequality has been and continues to be a source of economic and political strength for U.S. capitalism.
The conditions of life of Black and other minority nationalities have changed over the centuries, but exploitation and oppression remain. This savage inequality has also been a vital support structure for the system. White people, even those with lower incomes, have certain privileges in U.S. society—and white supremacy has not only justified the continuation of systematic discrimination but functions as an ideological social glue that maintains an oppressive, unequal status quo.
* There is the savage inequality of America’s dominance over the impoverished nations of the world. The U.S. economy is the home base of a global network of exploitation that operates through political and economic control, and through military power. People in the Third World are subjected to horrific conditions of oppression: sweatshop labor producing iPads, exploitation of child labor, plunder of resources and environmental devastation. America is an empire—and the standard of living in the U.S. is inseparable from America’s brutal dominance in the world.
*There is the savage inequality of women’s oppression. Women defined as breeders of children and sex objects... subjected to all kinds of economic and social discrimination... working in the worst of conditions in global sweatshops... trafficked as prostitutes... degraded by the explosion of pornography... denied control over their bodies and reproductive decisions... subjected to physical abuse. The oppression of women, the deep inequality between men and women, is part of the DNA of this system.
“1% vs. 99%” tells us something about U.S. society. But things don’t have to be this way. A society and world without exploitation, and that can overcome these savage inequalities and all oppression, is possible. People should get into BAsics and the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) to learn more about the nature of capitalism-imperialism and the kind of revolution needed to truly emancipate humanity.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #249, November 6, 2011
October 22—16th Annual National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression, and the Criminalization of a Generation: Thousands across the country, determined and fired up, marched and rallied against the viciousness and brutality of the police.
Occupy protesters joined with forces from the October 22nd Coalition in cities like New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Los Angeles—expressing solidarity with families of victims of police brutality and murder, and anger at the police, some saying they hadn’t heard the stories of families who’ve lost their loved ones to law enforcement.
A salute to all those at these demonstrations nationwide—to the families and friends of those gunned down or beaten to death by the police, to the high school students who are protesting police brutality, to those who came from the Occupy movement, to those who are working every day to expose and fight the illegitimate use of force, and to the many others who joined these demonstrations from all walks of life and a range of organizations.
A salute to the thousands of courageous prison hunger strikers and those who have supported their struggle to end what amounts to torture. And to outraged people here and around the world who took up the fight against the “legal” lynching of Troy Davis. A salute to the immigrants and all the people who have stood up against the record- breaking deportations and detentions being perpetrated by ICE and the U.S. government. A salute to all those people of conscience who were there to say NO in bold ways to this whole program of mass incarceration.
|Seattle: More than 1,000 people marked the 16th annual National Day of Protest (NDP). Family members of those killed by the police gave powerful testimonies, then marched to the infamous spot where Native American John T. Williams, a wood carver, was murdered a year ago by a Seattle cop. There continues to be tremendous outrage over this cold-blooded murder and the refusal to bring charges against the murderer cop. At the site people did a die-in, blocking the street.
Photo: Elliott Stoller
|New York City: Hundreds took to the streets for a spirited march through the busy streets of the East Village through Tompkins Square Park, ending in front of housing projects in the Lower East Side.
Photo: Li Onesto/Revolution
|Greensboro, North Carolina: 60 to 70 people marched against police brutality through the Smith Homes public housing community where Gilbert Barber was gunned down by police on May 18, 2001.
|Los Angeles: The spirit and optimism of the Occupy L.A. encampment came together with a deep, visceral anger against police brutality. More than 150 people marched from the Occupy L.A. encampment to Pershing Square to join a march that kicked off 500 strong, passing by the infamous Rampart police station to the area where Manuel Jamines, a homeless Guatemalan day laborer, was murdered by police last year.
Special to Revolution
Photo: Elliott Stoller
|Chicago: A lively march of 100 went from Federal Plaza through crowded streets of the Chicago Loop, chanting “Egypt, Wall Street, Pelican Bay—We refuse to live this way!”
Special to Revolution
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Revolution #249, November 6, 2011
Editors' note: The following is an excerpt from Communism and Jeffersonian Democracy by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, published in 2008. This excerpt is a continuation of the excerpt published in the last issue of Revolution (#248). These excerpts, and the work as a whole, address important questions that are on many people's minds in the situation today. The pamphlet is available for purchase online at revcom.us/Avakian or amazon.com. The text is available at revcom.us/Comm_JeffDem/Jeffersonian_Democracy.html; audio available at bobavakian.net/talk2.html
And here we get to the fundamental point: What Dahl upholds as a “good society”—or, as people like him see it, the best possible society—is one in which the role of the masses of people, of the citizens, is reduced to acting as a “check” on the elites who actually make political decisions. This is another expression of the notion that the best possible political system is one in which there is not one supposedly uniform and monolithic elite, but competing elites, and the “freedom” of the masses of people—including the preservation of their human rights and liberties—resides ultimately in their ability to choose among, and perhaps maneuver between, competing elites. The presumption is that, particularly through the medium of elections, this will somehow cause the elites to compete for the people’s support in such a way that somehow the will of the people will be exercised in setting the direction of society, to the degree that is really possible in a modern, complex society.
Well, to more thoroughly refute this, to demonstrate what it amounts to in reality—and to make clear that it is possible to have a radically different and much better kind of society, in which the role of the people is actually to be the decision-makers, through an overall process which takes place in a qualitatively different way and in a whole greater dimension than anything practiced, or even conceived, by the rulers and political theorists of capitalism (and previous forms of society in general)—let’s begin with the following, speaking to the essential nature and role of elections as the ultimate expression of democracy in bourgeois society:
To state it in a single sentence, elections: are controlled by the bourgeoisie; are not the means through which basic decisions are made in any case; and are really for the primary purpose of legitimizing the system and the policies and actions of the ruling class, giving them the mantle of a “popular mandate,” and of channeling, confining, and controlling the political activity of the masses of people. (Democracy: Can’t We Do Better Than That?, p. 68)
To illustrate this further—and to further highlight what is wrong with the notion of influencing competing elites in a way that will benefit the people—let’s turn to a similar argument that was made by Malcolm X. Much as I love Malcolm, it is necessary to point to the limitations of his view of and approach to this—which ultimately flow from the fact that he had not taken up the scientific, materialist and dialectical, viewpoint of communism (although his development was in motion and was cut short by his assassination). In a speech which, back in the day, I listened to over and over again, and which I still enjoy in many ways, “The Ballot or the Bullet,” Malcolm goes into a whole argument about how Black people shouldn’t be slavishly dependent upon and loyal to the Democrats. With his typical sharpness and biting wit, he speaks of how the Democrats and the Republicans are of the same type—they’re both canines, both of the same family as the dog: one is a wolf and the other is a fox—and they are both against you. But, in the end, what Malcolm proposes is a familiar device: He argues that Black people in particular shouldn’t just be a tail on the Democrats—who simply take Black people for granted and never do anything for them—but instead Black people should form a voting bloc and reward, or punish, those who do, or who don’t, act in ways that benefit Black people.
Malcolm talks about how, at the time Lyndon Johnson became president, after Kennedy’s assassination, Johnson flew back into Washington, D.C., and the first thing he did, when his plane landed, was to look around for his friend Richard Russell. As Malcolm tells it, Johnson “gets off the plane and what does he do? He says, ‘Where’s Dickie?’ Now, who’s Dickie? Why, he’s that old racist, southern segregationist, white supremacist Richard Russell. No, that man is just too tricky, ‘cause his best friend is still old Dickie.” [Laughter]
We shouldn’t trust those Democrats, Malcolm insists. And he goes on to talk about how some people argue that Johnson can handle the southern segregationists because he’s from Texas and he knows them. Well, says Malcolm, if that’s the argument, what about Eastland—a senator who was one of the most overt southern segregationists—he knows the southerners even better. Why don’t we have Eastland for president!
Yes, Malcolm is very sharp in punching holes in this idea of relying on the Democrats—and it’s great to listen to this, even now. But then, ultimately, what does he say? Well, he argues, if Black people form a bloc, then the Republicans will have to come to us, and the Democrats will have to come to us, and we’ll go with whichever one will do more for us.
But what are the actual dynamics when this has been attempted? The Democrats come to you, and you put a bunch of demands on them and you insist: “Now, if you don’t do this, and you don’t do that, and you don’t do the other thing in our interests, why we’ll...we’ll...” [Laughter] You’ll what? You’ll vote for the Republicans?! You see, it’s very true, you’ve got the wolf and the fox, and one of them pretends to be for you and the other one doesn’t even pretend to be for you, as Malcolm explained. But those are your choices, as long as you play by the rules of the game that they have set up. So, what leverage do you really have in this game? If the Democratic Party’s role is to talk, at least sometimes, in terms that make you think that maybe with enough pressure applied to them you can make them adopt some of the things that you believe are really important—and if you try to put pressure on them to actually do that by threatening to vote for the Republicans—well, then, either openly or behind closed doors they will laugh uproariously, because they know you can’t go and vote for the Republicans, who don’t even pretend to be for those things that are important to you.
So, even on those terms and on that level, you have no leverage against them. They have you—you don’t have them—as long as you are looking at things as being concentrated within and finding their only (or their best possible) expression within these, yes, very killing confines of bourgeois elections (and bourgeois politics overall). It is only by breaking out of those confines that you can actually begin to influence things in a significant way—by going up against the whole operation of this machinery, breaking free of it and challenging it in a meaningful way.
The following from Democracy: Can’t We Do Better Than That? helps to provide a concentrated summation of crucial points that are at issue here:
Many will say: how can the political system in a democratic country like the U.S. “serve to maintain the rule of the bourgeoisie over the proletariat” when everyone has the right to choose the political leaders by participating in elections? The answer to this is that elections in such a society, and the “democratic process” as a whole, are a sham—and more than a sham—a cover for and indeed a vehicle through which domination over the exploited and oppressed is carried out by the exploiting, oppressing, ruling class.” (Democracy: Can’t We Do Better Than That?, p. 68)
In order to have a deeper and more solid foundation for a correct understanding of this question, and to recognize more fully how apologies for bourgeois democracy, like that of Robert A. Dahl, represent fundamental distortions of reality, it is crucial to turn once again to the question of outlook and method—to the decisive importance of dialectical materialism, and, on the other hand, the striking lack of materialism (and lack of dialectics grounded in materialism) in bourgeois-democratic views and analyses.
One of the most basic truths that dialectical materialism brings to light is that the political and ideological/cultural superstructure in any society—and this definitely includes the U.S.—corresponds, and fundamentally can only correspond, to the character of the economic base of that society—in other words, to the underlying social and, above all, production relations and to the class relations and the forms of exploitation and domination that are rooted in those production relations. In a capitalist society, such as the U.S., the capitalist class predominates in the ownership of the crucial means of production; at the same time, there is a large group of people—the working class, or proletariat—numbering in the millions and millions in the U.S. today, who own no means of production and therefore can live only by working for, and being exploited by, the capitalist class which monopolizes ownership of the means of production; while some others own a small amount of the means of production, and perhaps employ a few people, and so constitute a part of the middle class (or petite bourgeoisie).1 If the superstructure—and in particular the political processes, institutions, policies, and so on—come into any kind of serious conflict with the dynamics of the underlying capitalist economic base and its process of accumulation, then the whole functioning of society will be seriously disrupted and, unless you’re prepared to follow that through to its full conclusion—in other words, to the overthrow of the system—you’ll be forced to recoil from that and to adjust things (to adopt or accept policies) so that the superstructure is once again brought back into conformity with the fundamental nature and functioning of the underlying economic base and the whole process of capitalist accumulation (as it takes place and takes shape not only in the particular country, but today more than ever on an international scale).
Grasping this is crucial in order to understand how and why things happen in society (and the world) the way they do, including how and why politicians act the way they do.
Why, repeatedly, are even people who know better on some level seemingly unable to help themselves and, time after time, vote for politicians who promise one thing and do another, and never really act in the basic interests of the people? This calls to mind the “Charlie Brown with Lucy” experience in the “Peanuts” cartoon: the scene where Lucy is going to hold the football for Charlie Brown to kick it, and then at the last minute she pulls the ball away and he kicks wildly without making contact. He keeps falling for it—and she keeps doing it. Many, many people who have gotten involved in mainstream politics in one way or another have had this kind of experience—repeatedly. Remember, during the “traveling road show” of Democratic candidates before the last presidential election, in 2004, Dennis Kucinich and Al Sharpton articulated some of what people wanted to hear, but Time magazine declared early on in the process that, although Sharpton often got the best popular response, he was not a serious candidate. Why was he not a serious candidate, especially if he was getting the best popular response? Well, Sharpton’s hardly a revolutionary, but even the things Sharpton said during that road show (however sincere he may or may not have been) were outside the pale of what the Democratic Party could actually seriously pursue, even in an election, let alone what it could actually do in running the government.
From the beginning, the conscious representatives of the ruling class were very well aware of all this. Sharpton, whatever his individual intentions, performed a function, objectively, of drawing people yet again into the bourgeois electoral framework, in particular people with a lot of progressive inclinations who were (and today still are) very dissatisfied—or even deeply distressed—with the whole direction of things. And Sharpton actually articulated and advocated the “competing elites” orientation. For example, while being interviewed on one of the main news channels, Sharpton explicitly argued that the role of the masses is to influence what the elites do. Nonetheless, he was “not a serious candidate,” nor was Kucinich, because what they were putting forward, as limited as it was in terms of any real change, had nothing to do with what the actual dynamics of the system were bringing forth and required.
So then you ended up with Kerry as the Democratic candidate, and we all know what that was about. It’s the same “Lucy and Charlie Brown” routine, over and over again. Maybe this time they’ll actually hold the football...No, this time they will do what they always do, leaving you feeling the blues again when, yet another time, they do what they do—and not what you are encouraged to imagine they will do. That’s what their role is—that is, it is in line with the actual functioning of the economic base to which these politicians, in an overall and ultimate sense, have to conform and which they have to serve. Through a lot of complexity and struggle, the politics and policies of the campaigns, and of running the government, get worked out among those who represent the capitalist ruling class and the capitalist system, the fundamental dynamics of which shape all this and set its basic terms and limits.2
In relation to all this, it is crucial to grasp that what characterizes the political system in this country—and in bourgeois democracies in general—is a monopoly of political power not by elites detached in some way from the underlying economic base, but a monopoly of political power by a group of people who, yes, occupy an elite position, but most essentially are an expression of definite relations of class domination and, fundamentally, definite exploitative production relations. The political representatives of the mainstream political parties (the Democratic and Republican parties in the U.S.) are in an ultimate and all-around sense the expression, in the political-ideological superstructure, of the underlying production relations of capitalism and the dynamics of capitalist accumulation, particularly as this takes shape and operates in this era of highly globalized capitalist imperialism. They are the expression, in the political sphere, of the monopoly of ownership of the means of production by the capitalist class—which, through that control over the economy, also exercises a monopoly of political power, expressed in an ultimate and concentrated way as the monopoly of “legitimate” armed force, the control of the established armed forces and police of the country, along with control of the courts, the bureaucracies and the institutions and processes of government as a whole.
This fundamental reality—that all this is rooted in the underlying production relations and the accumulation process of the capitalist-imperialist system—is the fundamental reason why the “political elites” are not free to act any way they will—any way they themselves might like to—and, in a basic and overall sense, cannot makes decisions based on “mass pressure” that is exerted on them. While, in the face of massive political opposition and resistance—especially as this is manifested outside, and in opposition to, the established political framework and processes—they may be forced, in the short run, to make certain concessions, they will then work to reverse this, in the short run or over time, and in any case they are not free to act in a way that runs contrary to the fundamental class interests they represent, and to the production relations in which those class interests are grounded.
All this, again, is why, to put it simply, they act the way they do—repeatedly. This is why they say one thing and do another. This is why they get you to vote for them and then “sell you out” every time. This is why, for many years, the Democrats have had “no spine,” in opposing what the Bush regime has been insisting on doing. What exists, and is expressed, in the political system is, above all and in essence, a monopoly of political power, not for “un-rooted elites” floating free in the air, but for a class. And when, or to the degree that, the “political elites” actually do “compete,” they do so most fundamentally on the terms of that class and of the system in which that class dominates, and in an effort to win the approval and support of that ruling class (or particular sections of it). It is that ruling class which fundamentally and ultimately—including through struggle within its own ranks—determines what the parameters and limits of “acceptable” politics will be, who the competing candidates will be and what policies they will actually carry out.
It is important to emphasize the aspect of struggle within the ranks of this ruling class because it is necessary to have a living, scientific—dialectical as well as materialist—and not a crude, dogmatic and mechanical understanding of this. As I pointed out in an article that appeared in the newspaper of our Party, Revolution, in 20053 there is not a single “committee of the ruling class” sitting in permanent session and deciding all these things. Particularly in a large and complex imperialist country like the U.S., operating on the principles of bourgeois-democratic rule, things are much more complex than that, and decisions are arrived at through much more complex processes. But, in fundamental terms, it is the interests of the ruling capitalist-imperialist class that determine the character, and the confines, of political decision-making, including the electoral process and the actual functions this serves. Once again, deeply grasping this is crucial in understanding why politicians act the way they do and, in opposition to that, what are the actual means to effect social and political change, even short of revolution—and, ultimately, to make revolution in order to qualitatively and radically change the whole character of society and have that kind of qualitative and radical impact on the world as a whole.
1. Here it might be helpful to refer to the following, which speaks to the essential features of the economic base (the production relations), in general and specifically in capitalist society:
The production relations, in any economic system, consist, first of all, of the system of ownership of the means of production (land and raw materials, machinery and technology in general, and so on). Along with, and essentially corresponding to, this system of ownership, are the relations among people in the process of production (the “division of labor” in society overall) and the system of distribution of the wealth that is produced. To take the example of capitalist society: Ownership of the means of production is dominated by a small group, the capitalist class, while the majority of people own little or no means of production; the “division of labor” in society, the different roles that different groups of people play in the overall process of production, including the profound division between those who carry out intellectual work and those who carry out physical work (the mental/manual contradiction, for short), corresponds to these relations of ownership (and non-ownership) of the means of production; and the distribution of the wealth produced is also in correspondence with this, so that the wealth that is accumulated by capitalists is, in a basic sense, in accordance with the capital they have (the means of production they own or control) and their role as exploiters of the labor power (the ability to work) of others, who own no means of production; while those who are not big capitalists but may own a limited amount of means of production, and/or have accumulated more knowledge and skills, receive a share of the wealth in accordance with that; and those on the bottom of society find their small share in the distribution of social wealth to be determined by the fact that they own no means of production, and have not been able to acquire much beyond basic knowledge and skills. It should not be surprising that these—highly unequal—relations and divisions in society continue to be reproduced, and even tend to be accentuated, through the ongoing functioning of the capitalist system, the ongoing process of capitalist accumulation and the social relations, the politics, and the ideology and culture which are in essential correspondence with and which enforce, and reinforce, the basic nature and functioning of this system. And especially in today’s world, this functioning of the capitalist system takes place not only within particular capitalist countries but above all on a world scale. (Bob Avakian, AWAY WITH ALL GODS! Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World, Insight Press, Chicago, 2008, footnote, p. 163.) [back]
2. Although the talk from which this text is drawn, was given in 2006, and therefore it does not speak to the current (2008) presidential campaign/election, the basic principles and analyses discussed here apply to bourgeois elections and politics in general, and the “Obama phenomenon” in this (2008) election is a graphic, and highly concentrated, illustration and confirmation of these principles and analyses. [back]
3. See “There is No ‘They’—But There is a Definite Direction to Things—The Dynamics Within the Ruling Class, and the Challenges for Revolutionaries,” in Revolution, #007, June 26, 2005; see also Bob Avakian, The Coming Civil War and Repolarization for Revolution in the Present Era, RCP Publications, Chicago, 2005, also available at revcom.us. [back]
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Revolution #249, November 6, 2011
Revolution issued a call in August to our readers to respond to the 3:16 quote from BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian, "An Appeal to Those the System Has Cast Off." We received many responses written by those the system has cast off, as well as from many others. We featured responses from prisoners, an ex-prisoner and high school students in an oppressed community, in the print edition of Revolution #247 and posted many more online. The following are new responses we have recently received:
Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund received the following letter:
“Us prisoners, along with all the unemployed, the homeless, the starving are the ‘human waste material’ that Bob Avakian mentions in BAsics 3:16.”
4 October 2011
Revolutionary Greetings! I hope this letter finds all your staff doing well and full of revolutionary energy.
I just received Issue No. 246 (25 Sep. 2011) of Revolution newspaper. I was waiting anxiously for this issue last week. When I didn’t receive it I suspected that there must’ve been some mention of the California prisoners’ hunger strike which resumed on September 26. The prisoners who participated in this righteous act of solidarity here in this prison (SATF-Corcoran) began eating after a few days, but we are aware that this is a continuing struggle. Apparently prison staff decided to withhold this issue until after we started accepting food so that we wouldn’t feel encourage by the support that we are receiving from the outside.
CDC has called this peaceful protest of unjust conditions and policies a “mass disturbance” and threatened us with “disciplinary action” for participating. One prisoner in this cell block was immediately removed from the yard and thrown in the hole on a baseless suspicion of “leading a mass hunger strike”. He was put in a building separate from the regular Ad-Seg Unit surrounded by protective custody inmates and mentally ill prisoners making him unable to know when the rest of us started accepting food. Once we started eating he was brought back to the yard.
At this point I’d like to make clear that I don’t speak as part of any HS leadership or on their behalf. I am but one of the many thousands of prisoners who found it important to participate in this statewide demonstration to call attention to issues that affect us all in one way or another. My personal reasons for participating have to do with my hatred for injustice and recognition of the need to stand together with all those who protest against what this system does to them. Us prisoners, along with all the unemployed, the homeless, the starving are the “human waste material” that Bob Avakian mentions in BAsics 3:16. We need to understand that we’ve all been cast off by the same system. Whether we recognize it or not our struggle is part of the class struggle. Our struggle is against the oppressive forces of the bourgeois ruling class. The police who snatched us off the streets, the courts that sentenced us, and the prisons that hold us are all instruments of class rule. Their fundamental function is social control to enforce the relations of exploitation and oppression that cause poverty, homelessness, hunger, and overall misery not only in the neighborhoods we grew up in but also out there in the Third World. The same system that allows the police to brutally murder poor people in the ghetto is the same system that drops bombs on poor people in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Libya. The same system that tortures prisoners in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. Here and all over the world we can find millions of victims of these relations of exploitation and oppression that CDC, the police, the courts, the military, and the bureaucracies are meant to enforce. When we recognize the capitalist-imperialist system as our common enemy, we can come together not just to challenge its latest outrage but in a conscious effort to overthrow it and rid ourselves for good of all the things that people continually feel the need to protest or rebel against.
It is my hope that through this struggle more people come to recognize the true nature of this system. That any “disciplinary action” taken against us only serves to awaken us out of the complacent stupor in which we’ve found ourselves for far too long. That we recognize not only the need for change but our collective capacity to bring about that change. That we raise our sights, come together in even greater numbers, and “Become a part of the human saviors of humanity”. There are sacrifices to be made but we’ve had very little to lose for a long time. I for one welcome the struggle ahead.
Thank you for your time and your support. Please continue with the amazing work.
P.S. I also just received Away With All Gods. The envelope was postmarked Aug 22, 2011. Thank you.
Letter from a high school teacher
What nobler calling is there for the oppressed than to challenge the system that has cast them aside? As a descendant of slaves, I think of my ancestors whose blood and sweat fertilized the ground they worked for centuries building this society. They were denied human treatment for over a century after the Emancipation Proclamation, lynched and hung for the slightest assertion of their humanity. I think of the original people who populated this land that were brutally pushed out of existence or forced to eke out a living on concentration camps termed reservations. From the beginning up to the present this nation’s architects have viewed most of the population as dispensable.
The forms of exploitation and marginalization of groups of people have only become more sophisticated over time and have scarcely diminished. Today we see millions cast aside. A large portion of America’s black population is considered superfluous. No longer able to compete with new immigrants for low wage jobs and deemed unemployable, they are fodder for the prison industrial complex.
As the youth of our society, black and brown in particular, are pegged for prison in elementary school due to failure to fit into established roles. Funding that could provide decent education is cut and teachers are laid off. Armed police officers are used to intimidate and coerce our children on high school campuses instead of them receiving proper guidance from concerned adults. The youth are placed on probation or sent to detention centers for infractions that were once treated as “boys will be boys” behavior such as fighting, stealing and minor drug possession. They are literally placed on a track to prison designated as “throw away” before they are old enough to recognize what’s happening to them.
This system sweeps millions of the poor and oppressed into dungeons where many are beaten, tortured and turned on one another like animals. They are sent back into their communities branded as felons, treated as a pariah class unable to find work or secure housing only to inevitably return to prison. This cycle continues as the prison industrial complex constantly eats and regurgitates its prey.
What type of free and democratic society is this when the educational system doesn’t educate, the corrections system doesn’t correct and the justice system doesn’t promote justice? What type of society do we live in when those whose duty is to protect and serve can shoot down America’s poor like animals in the street and the state knowingly murders the innocent?
There is a profound outrage and loss of faith in the systems that govern us. This type of treatment cannot be carried out with impunity indefinitely. These problems were not voted into existence, so the electoral system will not solve them. The Constitution will not solve these problems. Only when the angry, dispossessed, and cast aside step to the forefront can this system be turned around. I proudly answer the call to create a new society.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #249, November 6, 2011
U.S. Troop Withdrawal From Iraq:
On Friday, October 21, President Barack Obama announced that all 40,000 remaining U.S. military forces would be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of this year: "After nearly nine years, America's war in Iraq will be over," he said.
Obama presented the end of the war as the fulfillment of a campaign promise, and a proud moment for the U.S. in fulfilling a noble mission:
"The last American soldier[s] will cross the border out of Iraq with their heads held high, proud of their success, and knowing that the American people stand united in our support for our troops...This December will be a time to reflect on all that we've been through in this war. I'll join the American people in paying tribute to the more than 1 million Americans who have served in Iraq. We'll honor our many wounded warriors and the nearly 4,500 American patriots—and their Iraqi and coalition partners—who gave their lives to this effort."
Obama also called the withdrawal from Iraq part of "a larger transition." He said, "The tide of war is receding...Now, even as we remove our last troops from Iraq, we're beginning to bring our troops home from Afghanistan..." He claimed "the United States is moving forward from a position of strength."
While Obama talks about "the tide of war receding," the U.S. is increasing its military presence and aggression in Libya and Africa. It's escalating drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. It's waging a bloody war in Afghanistan, where there are still close to 100,000 troops. And no, the U.S. military role is not being ended in Iraq either. The U.S. has been forced to withdraw its military units—in part because it couldn't forge a new "status of forces" agreement with the Iraqi government. But thousands of U.S. diplomats, military contractors, CIA operatives, and other support personnel will remain in Iraq after the end of the year. The U.S. will still have tens of thousands of troops, as well as air and naval power and various military alliances in the Middle East and Central Asia. And it continues to rattle its sabers against Iran and Syria.
This announcement by Obama should make people reflect—on how and why this war was launched, what it was actually about, and what it says about the nature of the U.S. capitalist-imperialist system. Obama and the ruling class and media have deliberately obscured, covered up, and lied about these issues for a decade—ever since the run-up to the Iraq war began in the hours after the attacks of September 11, 2001.
This war was justified on the basis of bald-faced lies that were cooked up through a deliberate campaign of deceit that began soon after Sept. 11. There was the lie that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Then there was the lie that Saddam Hussein had ties to Al Qaeda and was somehow involved in September 11. U.S. government "investigations" and the media have blamed "faulty intelligence" or being "suckered" by Iraqi sources for their failure to find a single cache of WMD in Iraq. This is just another cover-up.
There is overwhelming evidence—from many sources—that prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that these were deliberate lies—concocted at the highest levels of government, repeated endlessly by both Democrats and Republicans, and by the imperialist media, which served as cheerleaders for the war. And these lies were enforced by threats, smear campaigns, and retaliation against any government and/or military officials or former officials who tried to challenge or expose them. (For instance, government officials and experts knew full well that Hussein was hostile to Islamic fundamentalism and that Al Qaeda essentially didn't even exist in Iraq before the U.S. invasion—it was only until after the invasion that they arose within Iraq.)
Obama and the rest of the rulers want us to forget about all this.
These lies were designed to cover up the nature of the U.S. invasion: a naked act of aggression against a small, weak, Third World country which had not attacked the U.S., and which had been subject to over 20 years of U.S. military assaults, covert attacks, and political and economic strangulation. This aggression included the Iran-Iraq War (green lighted and prolonged by the U.S.), the 1991 Persian Gulf War, and a decade of U.S.-UN sanctions. These sanctions were responsible for the deaths of at least 500,000 children and perhaps as many 1.7 million Iraqis overall.
In short, the U.S. invasion of Iraq fit the textbook definition of a criminal war—a war crime. This basic—and obvious—truth has systematically been censored, suppressed, and covered up by a decade of ruling class lies and double-talk.
These lies—and the lie that this war was about "liberating" the Iraq people—twisted the truth inside out, in true Hitlerian fashion. In reality, this was a war launched by the world's most violent and globally oppressive power. It was part of a plan to seize on 9/11 to launch a war to strengthen and extend its empire of exploitation and military domination. The U.S. imperialists aimed to turn Iraq into a U.S.-controlled military and political outpost—and imperialist gas station—in the heart of the Middle East. It was to be a first step toward reshaping the whole region to suit U.S. capitalism-imperialism. It was meant to be part of defeating and socially undercutting Islamic fundamentalist forces in the region, which were posing obstacles to U.S. plans. The U.S. rulers planned to use this oil-rich and strategically located region as a club against any rivals—regional or global. They were driven by a real fear that their "unipolar moment" of global dominance—when the U.S. was the only imperialist Superpower after the demise of the USSR—could be slipping away. And the U.S. was intoxicated with imperial hubris—they dreamed of creating an unchallenged, and unchallengeable empire—dominating the planet as no other power ever had before.
As Bob Avakian puts it, "These imperialists make the Godfather look like Mary Poppins." (BAsics 1:7)
Obama talked of honoring "our many wounded warriors and the nearly 4,500 American patriots—and their Iraqi and coalition partners—who gave their lives to this effort"—the reference to the Iraqi people inserted in passing, a throw-away line, with no content.
But what has the impact of this war been on the Iraqi people? This reality—while well documented—has been deliberately ignored and lied about by the imperialist state, and the ruling class' multi-faceted apparatus for shaping public opinion.
The U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq has led directly to massive slaughter, displacement, torture, sectarian violence, suffering and death. While the U.S. media occasionally mentions that 100,000 Iraqis have died during the U.S. war and occupation, this number vastly understates the actual number of Iraqis directly murdered or who died as a result of the war—as well as those whose lives have been drastically shattered.
A 2006 survey published in the British medical journal Lancet found that there had been more than 650,000 "excess Iraqi deaths as a consequence of the war" up to that point. In 2008, a study by the polling firm Opinion Research Business put the number at over 1 million.
According to the UN's Refugee Agency, over 4.7 million Iraqis have been driven from their homes—two million forced out of Iraq entirely. Three million Iraqi women are now widows, according to Iraq's government—many forced into prostitution.
When government officials and the mainstream media do mention the fact that the war has left 100,000 Iraqis dead, what's left unsaid is who is responsible—making it seem as if these deaths were accidents or unfortunate "collateral damage," or the fault of "terrorists" or "age-old conflicts" among Iraqis. In fact, the U.S. imperialists are directly responsible for most of these deaths—even as reactionary Islamists (whether inside or outside the Iraqi government)—have carried out atrocities was well. First, many of these millions were killed or displaced directly by U.S. forces. Second, since 1990, the U.S. had systematically shattered Iraq's civilian infrastructure (water, power, etc.), and then violently dismantled Iraq's governing structures after the invasion; both actions had catastrophic impacts on life in Iraq. Third, the U.S. empowered reactionary forces, including Islamist parties, to govern Iraq—butchers who have carried out widespread massacres and campaigns of religious sectarian cleansing against the Iraqi people, particularly against the Sunnis, as well as campaigns to forcibly impose reactionary Islamic strictures on Iraqi women.
The U.S. military has committed widespread war crimes and crimes against humanity. They have tortured and sexually degraded and abused countless thousands of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib and other torture centers. They've turned prisoners over to the reactionary U.S.-backed Iraqi regime knowing they would be tortured. "US authorities failed to investigate hundreds of reports of abuse, torture, rape and even murder by Iraqi police and soldiers whose conduct appears to be systematic and normally unpunished," the Guardian UK reported. ("Iraq war logs: secret files show how U.S. ignored torture," guardian.co.uk, Oct. 22, 2010).
In November 2005, U.S. Marines murdered 24 Iraqis in cold blood in the city of Haditha, and then blamed it on "insurgents." In 2006 in Ishaqi in central Iraq, "U.S. troops executed at least 10 Iraqi civilians, including a woman in her 70s and a 5-month-old infant, then called in an airstrike to destroy the evidence." In July 2007, a U.S. helicopter gunned down 11 civilians in Baghdad. Iraqi blogger Raed Jarrar wrote, "A video posted this week by WikiLeaks [of the helicopter massacre] is not an exception to how the U.S. occupation operated in Iraq all along, but rather an example of it. While the video is shocking and disturbing to the U.S. public, from an Iraqi perspective it just tells a story of an average day under the occupation." ("The Haditha Massacre, and the Bush Regime: Illegal, Immoral, and INTOLERABLE," Revolution #50, June 11, 2006; "WikiLeaks: Iraqi Children in U.S. Raid Shot in Head, U.N. Says," McClatchy Newspapers, September 1, 2011; "Video Shows U.S. Killing of Reuters Employees," New York Times, April 5, 2010; Raed Jarrar, "Iraq: Seven Years of Occupation," CommonDreams.org, April 10, 2010)
These are the actions that Obama says Americans should "be proud of."
Not one single major U.S. military commander, U.S. official, political leader or war-leading media talking head has been held to account for any of this.
The U.S. and its military forces are not beloved by Iraqis as "liberators"—they're hated by millions of people around the world as savage, violent foreign imperialist occupiers.
For all this violence, the U.S. has not been able to achieve its grand strategic objectives in Iraq, or even its scaled-back objectives. When George W. Bush signed the status of forces agreement in 2008 calling for an end to the U.S. presence in Iraq by the end of 2011, it was assumed (perhaps even directly agreed upon) that U.S. forces would remain in Iraq for sometime after that "withdrawal date."
For over a year under Obama, the U.S. has been trying to negotiate a treaty with Iraq under which as many as 18,000 U.S. military forces could remain in Iraq. This summer, the U.S. scaled down its demand to some 5,000 military personnel. But when the U.S. insisted its military forces be given immunity from prosecution by Iraqi authorities for crimes under Iraqi law, the negotiations broke down. This breakdown reflects, and is a product of, the many complex, shifting contradictions the U.S. faces in attempting to more forcefully assert its domination in the Middle East—and how its "war on terror" to forcibly reshape and more directly control Iraq, Afghanistan, and the region has ended up exacerbating the very contradictions and obstacles the war was designed to resolve. All this has also intersected with new, unanticipated developments across the region and globally.
So it was this breakdown (and ultimately these deeper difficulties)—not a deliberate plan—that forced Obama's hand (even as he had strategically aimed to scale back U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, in an attempt to better deal with the deep stresses and strains on the empire).
This is but the latest chapter of U.S. ambitions in Iraq being thwarted, then scaled back, and then thwarted some more. It is important to recall what exactly the Bush regime dreamed of in Iraq. A March 21, 2003 Wall Street Journal piece spelled some of it out:
"[Bush's] dream is to make the entire Middle East a different place, and one safer for American interests. The vision is appealing: a region that, after a regime change in Baghdad, has pro-American governments in the Arab world's three most important countries, Egypt, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. In the long run, that changes the dynamic of the region, making it more friendly to Washington and spreading democracy. Reducing the influence of radicals helps make Palestinians more amenable to an agreement with Israel."
But the U.S. began to encounter big problems within a few months of invading Iraq. The Bush regime thought it could quickly and totally remake Iraqi society and start "fresh"—creating a fully subservient neocolony, designed to fit the global needs of U.S. capital and the regional needs of U.S. power. The U.S. disbanded the Iraqi Army, barred most Sunnis from holding government positions, and attempted to install a hand-picked U.S. puppet council to rule. It even tried, under Paul Bremer, the U.S. "Administrator" of Iraq, to ram through drastic "free market" capitalist economic restructuring.
These predatory and nakedly imperialist measures soon sparked a growing armed resistance, centered among Iraqi Sunnis, that led to a 5-plus year civil war and threatened to both tear Iraq apart and render the U.S. occupation untenable. The American invasion, coupled with the end of Hussein's essentially secular regime, fueled Islamic fundamentalism—both Sunni and Shia. It provided an opening for Al Qaeda and other Islamist forces to gain a foothold in Iraq. The U.S. was forced to abandon its chosen lackeys (who had little following inside Iraq) and turn to reactionary Shia religious forces and parties, willing to work with and under the U.S., to attempt to govern and stabilize the country. (A majority of Iraqis are Shias, and these parties have a long history in the country.) These forces have varying ties to and tensions with Iran; and they have tensions and differences, as well as common interests, among themselves and with the U.S.
Being a foreign occupying power and creating a new state from the ashes of the Hussein regime proved to be extremely difficult. Toppling the regimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, other regional developments, and the hatred the U.S. wars spawned across the region ended up strengthening Iran. Such tensions and contradictions, including the mood of the people in Iraq, and the Iraqi rulers' fear of the kind of popular uprising sweeping the region (perhaps triggered by a too-close public embrace of the U.S.) factored in to the impasse in negotiations over U.S. forces continuing in Iraq.
None of this is to say that the U.S. is giving up on control and domination of Iraq, or that it won't continue to have a presence and shape events there—including with new assertions of political and military intervention. Iraq's economy, politics, and military remain subordinate to and dominated by imperialism (even as there are complex, shifting, and multi-layered contradictions at work). The largest U.S. embassy in the world is in the heart of Baghdad, Iraq's capital. ABC News reported that the State Department will continue to have some 5,000 security contractors and 4,500 other support contractors in Iraq, as well as a significant CIA presence. And U.S. officials have stated there will be a continuing military relationship with Iraq that will include the training of Iraqi forces. "So we are now going to have a security relationship with Iraq for training and support of their military," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated, "similar to what we have around the world from Jordan to Colombia." (Democracy Now, 10/24)
Further, the U.S. has built up a regional military infrastructure over the past 30 years, and officials have made clear they are not leaving the region: "We're going to maintain, as we do now, a significant force in that region of the world," Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta stated, including some 23,000 troops in Kuwait and about 100,000 in Afghanistan. "So we will always have a force that will be present and that will deal with any threats." ("U.S. Withdrawal Plans Draw Suspicion, Fear in Iraq," Wall Street Journal, Oct 23)
Containing, weakening, perhaps overthrowing Iran's Islamic Republic of Iran has been a central objective of U.S. strategy since the launch of the "war on terror" in Sept. 2001. Yet in many ways, the U.S. war and other events have strengthened Iran. And now, it's possible that the U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq may strengthen Iran further—in Iraq and regionally.
"The withdrawal from Iraq creates enormous strategic complexities rather than closure," one imperialist think tank analysis posed. "Therefore, if the U.S. withdrawal in Iraq results in substantial Iranian influence in Iraq, and al Assad doesn't fall, then the balance of power in the region completely shifts. This will give rise to a contiguous arc of Iranian influence stretching from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean Sea running along Saudi Arabia's northern border and along the length of Turkey's southern border." ("Libya and Iraq: The Price of Success," STRATFOR, Oct 25 2011)
This possibility has driven the U.S. to ramp up its threats against Iran. As soon as the troop withdrawal was announced, Secretary of State Clinton warned, "Iran would be badly miscalculating if they did not look at the entire region and all of our presence in many countries in the region." (CNN—State of the Union, 10/23)
Grand Schemes.... Profound Difficulties
Obama's hollow claim that "the United States is moving forward from a position of strength" cannot hide the fact that this entire decade of war has cost the U.S. enormously. It has greatly aggravated deep stresses in the U.S. empire, and it has intensified a whole cauldron of contradictions the U.S. faces in the strategically crucial Middle East-Central Asian regions. Dominance in this area has been a pillar of U.S. global power in the post-World War 2 era, and to its current and future status as the world's superpower. So the U.S. imperialists are compelled to attempt to find ways to maintain their power, presence, and preeminence in the region. But they're finding this an increasingly difficult and uncertain endeavor.
So yes, let's reflect on these nearly nine years of war and occupation in Iraq. They demonstrate that the U.S. is willing to employ massive violence and commit savage crimes to advance its imperialist interests and stave off reversals or defeat. It shows that the rulers of this country are chronic liars who will say anything—including the most blatant and obvious lies—to bamboozle people into going along with their program. These eight plus years prove, once again, that nothing good can come of U.S. intervention and aggression—no matter how it's dressed up. And they underscore the moral imperative of exposing the crimes and opposing the aggressions committed by this country.
At the same time, the war's unfolding and now the U.S. military's ignominious exit from Iraq, also illustrate the empire's profound and growing vulnerabilities, and how quickly its grand schemes can backfire. All this points to the potential for even deeper shocks and crises to jolt U.S. capitalism-imperialism, and the urgency of revolutionary work today to prepare for such a moment in order to be able to seize such an opening to sweep this war-mongering system away. Then we won't have to mark anniversary after anniversary of imperialist war after imperialist war.
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Revolution #249, November 6, 2011
It feels like the early days of Nazi Germany
A new law aimed at driving immigrants out of Alabama or forcing them into hiding from state and city authorities went into effect in early October, upheld in part by two federal court decisions. The dramatic and horrible effects of this began right away:
Gonzalez is a taxi driver. Soon after the law went into effect, he began getting calls from Hispanic families. "People started asking me for prices. How much would it cost to go to Indiana? How much to New York? Or Atlanta, or Texas, or Ohio, or North Carolina?" At about 2 a.m. one night, he was woken up by a woman who asked him to come and pick her and her family up immediately and drive them to North Carolina. At the apartment where he picks them up he finds two parents, three children, and a small number of bags waiting for him. "Can you hurry up, we're very scared," the woman said. "The police followed my husband on his way back from work and that's why we're leaving." It took eight hours to get to North Carolina. The children slept the whole journey; the father sat in silence; the mother cried all the way.
A hundred families a day visit the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama. Many are parents who have come to get legal papers that will give guardianship of their children to a relative or close friend in case they are picked up and deported. In many cases, while the parents are undocumented, the children are U.S. citizens.
There is a sign posted outside the public water company office in Allgood, Alabama: "Attention to all water customers, to be compliant with new laws concerning immigration you must have an Alabama driver's license or you may lose water service."
Isobel has barely left her apartment on the outskirts of Birmingham, Alabama, since September 28 when the law was upheld by the District Court. She is cooped up, shut off from natural light and almost all contact with the outside world. There are boxes of bottled water, rice, beans, and tortillas stacked against the living room wall—sufficient to last her family of five several days. The curtains are drawn and the lights on, even though it is early afternoon. She leaves the apartment only once a week, to stock up on those boxes of essentials at the local Wal-Mart. The day after the new law was upheld, Isobel saw three police cars driving around her housing complex, which is almost entirely Hispanic. Word went around that the police asked men standing on the street to go inside their homes or face arrest. From that moment she has barely set foot outside. She no longer drives. Under the new law, police have to check the immigration papers of anyone "suspicious" they stop for a routine traffic violation—a missing brake light, perhaps, or parking on the wrong spot. "If they see me they will think I'm suspicious and then they will detain me indefinitely," Isobel says.
(These stories are taken from "The grim reality of life under Alabama's brutal immigration law," Ed Pilkington, Guardian (UK), October 14, 2011.)
One day the law goes into effect and you are no longer a person. No contract you sign will be upheld in court, so how can you rent a home? Any contact with the police or any governmental authority requires proof that you are here legally, and if you don't have that paper, it could mean you are immediately and indefinitely detained. Frightened and fearful, your take your family and whatever you can carry and hurriedly move out of the state, leaving in the middle of the night, less likely to be noticed. "We have to move. We have to leave everything. We can't take anything because I'm afraid they can stop us and say why are you moving?" ("Latino Students Withdraw From Alabama Schools After Immigration Law Goes Into Effect," Olivia Katrandjian, ABC News, October 1, 2011) Other families are torn apart as parents take young children and move back to Mexico or Central America while leaving their older children with U.S. citizenship, believing their children will have a better life here.
This is Alabama in 2011. It feels like the early days of Nazi Germany.
The Alabama law, HB 56, called the "Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act," is part of a campaign of cold, vicious, relentless repression against immigrants that took a leap in Arizona in 2010 with SB 1070, has gained momentum with similar laws in Utah, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina, and is now at its sadistic worst in Alabama.
While a few of the most cruel sections of the law were enjoined by the courts, the heart of it remains intact. The U.S. District Court in Alabama and 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld most of the law passed in Alabama earlier this year.
The bill was signed into law June 9, 2011 and was set to go into effect on September 1. Church leaders, civil rights organizations, and the federal government filed a challenge in U.S. District Court. Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn halted the implementation of the law for a month, until September 28, in order to have time to issue a ruling. On September 28, she enjoined several sections of the law—the sections that made it a crime for undocumented immigrants to solicit work; made it a crime to harbor, help, or transport undocumented immigrants; and that prevented undocumented immigrants from attending public colleges or universities.
The remaining sections of the law, including the sections that required schools to determine the immigration status of "suspect children," and that required law enforcement to check immigration status of all people they stop and to hold people in jail until they determine the immigration status of these individuals were allowed to go into effect even though it was clear that there would be an appeal.
The federal government appealed the ruling to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeal on October 12, and on October 14 the Circuit Court issued its ruling which prevented the enforcement of two more sections of the law: the sections requiring public schools to determine the immigration status of its students and the section making it a crime not to have registered as an alien with the government. But the law as it stands requires the police and other law enforcement to check the immigration status of all individuals who they "reasonably suspect" are undocumented. If a person is arrested for driving without a driver's license, the police can hold the person until they determine the immigration status; if found to be undocumented, the person will be turned over to immigration authorities. The law bars Alabama courts from enforcing contracts made with someone who is undocumented—a loan, a sales agreement, an employment contract, a rental agreement—none of those will be enforced by an Alabama court if you are undocumented. The law makes it a crime for an undocumented individual to enter into a "business transaction" with the State of Alabama or any subdivision of the state. It is this section of the law that allows the public water company to demand to see a driver's license as proof that a person is here legally before turning on their water.
The Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) plays the role of aiding entities—from Congress, to states, to individuals—in crafting fascistic and racist anti-immigrant laws and shepherding them through the courts. It helped write the Alabama law and calls it a model. The law includes extreme measures aimed at driving Latinos out of Alabama—the law's supporters call it "self-deportation." And learning from the problems Arizona's SB 1070 had in the federal court, Alabama's law was carefully written to include explicit language upholding federal immigration laws and stating that it will not allow any state official to violate those federal laws, the better to withstand court challenges. "If the trend of the past five years persists, the Alabama model will be a touchstone for other states in the 2012 legislative sessions, and also serve as a influential guide for nationwide reform by the Congress," said Trista Chaney, an IRLI staff attorney who has worked extensively on anti-immigrant legislation appearing in states throughout the U.S. "This is why they call the states laboratories of citizen democracy," Chaney added. ("Alabama Passes the Most Advanced State Immigration Law in U.S. History," irli.org.)
The fascist anti-immigrant forces are enforcing this ethnic cleansing state by state, sometimes town by town, passing laws and ordinances that make it impossible for immigrants to work, rent homes, get a driver's license, speak their language, send their kids to school, get medical care. In the first quarter of 2011, 30 states introduced immigration-related bills modeled on Arizona's SB 1070. At the same time, these fascistic forces have worked to create the poisonous atmosphere that demonizes immigrants as drug smugglers, gunrunners and narco-gang members, and scapegoats them for the economic hardships facing a large swath of U.S. society today.
The results of this law have created disruptions and tensions among other sections of the population as well. Farmers in Alabama have been used to finding immigrants who because of their undocumented status are willing to do the grueling, back-breaking labor of harvesting tomatoes and other crops for horribly unfair wages. But now that cheap labor is hard to come by. Lana Boatwright, a tomato grower said she and her husband had used the same crews for more than a decade to harvest tomatoes, but only eight of the 48 workers they needed showed up after the law took effect. "My husband and I take them to the grocery store at night and shop for them because they are afraid they will be arrested," she said. Chad Smith, another tomato grower, said his family would normally have 12 trucks working the fields, but only had the workers for three. He estimated his family could lose up to $150,000 this season because of a lack of help to pick the crop. ("Immigration law author tells farmers: No changes," David Martin, Associated Press October 4, 2011) Farmers are being driven out of business and some talk about not planting next season if they cannot be assured labor will be available for harvest. The same kinds of disruptions are taking place in other industries dependent on immigrant labor.
Commentators talk about these economic losses as unintended consequences of this law. But the people who wrote and fought to pass HB 56 are very clear. They knew these disruptions would come. Kris Kobach, Kansas Secretary of State, former IRLI attorney, and the behind-the-scenes author of Alabama HB 56, Arizona's SB 1070, and other anti-immigrant bills across the U.S., says the law is working as intended, "We're displacing the illegal workers. That may cause short-term pain for some, but the markets will adjust.... It may be they have a season with some losses, and it may be that they have to increase their wages. But you've got something like 200,000 unemployed people in Alabama and many of them are going to find jobs as a result of this." In response to the suggestion to hire the unemployed, tomato farmer Jamie Boatwright said, "Since this law went in to effect, I've had a total of 11 people that were Americans come and ask for work. A total of one of those actually came back the next day... that person picked four boxes of tomatoes, walked out of the field, and said 'I'm done.'" Other supporters of the bill propose using prison labor in place of undocumented immigrants.
The sponsors of this fascistic law know they are creating economic hardships among sections of people who are part of their base. And even while they offer up "solutions" like the unemployed and prison labor as the new underclass of workers, they have a more strategic objective and are determined to push through whatever obstacles may get in the way. These die-hard racists are being fomented and financed by a section of the ruling class that envisions a return to the white-supremacist, male-supremacist social contract as the glue holding America together. They are incensed that people from other parts of the world are turning the U.S. into a multi-cultural, multi-lingual society; they see it as degrading and as a dangerous centrifugal force that is pulling America apart. In their view, if it takes establishing a fascist regime to restore those traditional values and to return America to its former greatness, then so be it.
What is the answer the Obama administration and the Democrats offer—these so-called allies of the Latino people? According to Maria Hinojosa, Frontline reporter for the October 2011 documentary "Lost in Detention," Obama has overseen the deportation of more immigrants than any other president in history—it will soon hit one million. Obama promised that his "Secure Communities" program would focus on deporting "criminal aliens" who committed violent felonies. But the only "crime" committed by the vast majority of the 226,000 people being deported under Secure Communities this year, is having come to the U.S. in search of survival for themselves and their families. And why? Because, as Bob Avakian so succinctly put it, "Because you [the U.S. imperialists] have fucked up the rest of the world even worse than what you have done in this country. You have made it impossible for many people to live in their own countries as part of gaining your riches and power." The U.S. immigration laws that are being broken by "illegal immigrants" are completely unjust and illegitimate.
During the battle against SB 1070 Revolution described the dangerous trajectory we have been on.
Obama and the Democrats too want "order" above all else, but most of all they do not want to call the people who are horrified by what is happening into the streets to stand up to and oppose these fascists. The damage this repeated compromise and conciliation with fascism has caused, over several decades, is incalculable. It has for far too long encouraged and influenced progressive people to accommodate to a dynamic where, as Bob Avakian has pointed out, "[Y]esterday's outrage becomes today's 'compromise position' and tomorrow's limits of what can be imagined," and it has contributed to the disorientation among progressive people in the face of this growing, fascist movement. Remaining on that path, the future can only mean watching while things get worse and worse, while the masses of immigrants are put continually in a more locked down and super-exploited position, with no way out. ("Stop the System's Fascist Attacks on Immigrants," Revolution #208, July 25, 2010)
The savage, relentless exploitation of millions of immigrants, documented and undocumented, is essential to the functioning of the system of capitalism-imperialism in this country and to its dominant standing in the world and how immigration to the U.S. has served the U.S. as well as Mexico and the countries of Central America. Not only does the money sent home by immigrants work to alleviate the tremendous economic suffering, but the so-called promise of a better life in the U.S. becomes a "way out" of unbearable conditions for millions. But this poses intractable problems for the U.S. ruling class. The 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country are a potential source of instability and "disloyalty." All sections of the ruling class see this contradiction and agree that this section of the population must be brought under control, but they differ on how exactly to do it. Neither fascist laws nor Obama's hundreds of thousands of deportations offer a "better" choice for immigrants.
In Alabama some of the masses targeted in the sights of this law have refused to obey the self-deportation order. On October 3, a week after the law went into effect, five mothers—all of them white U.S. citizens—demonstrated against HB 56 in front of the federal district court in Birmingham. Their partners, the fathers of their children, are undocumented and could be torn from their families at any moment. ("HB56: American Kids Pay The Price," Maribel Hastings, Huffington Post, October 6, 2011)
On October 12, hundreds of people in northeast Alabama stayed home from work, school, and shopping to protest the law and to demonstrate the critical role Latino workers play in the economy. The boycott, called by Spanish language radio and television, was strongest in the part of the state where the poultry industry is concentrated. At least six poultry plants closed or scaled back operations. The Wayne Farms poultry plant, which normally employs 850 people, was idle and many businesses that catered to Latinos closed in support. ("Alabama Latinos Protest New Law on Immigration," Jay Reeves, Associated Press, 10/12/11)
On October 16 in the little town of Athens, in northern Alabama, a courageous march of 200 took place to protest the law. Tamitha Villarreal and her boyfriend, Armando, an illegal immigrant from Mexico, decided they would stay and fight to overturn HB 56 rather than leave as many of Armando's friends did. Tamitha posted the protest march on her Facebook page. At the appointed time more than 200 people—legal and illegal immigrants from Mexico, Colombia, and Guatemala—massed in the parking lot of a supermarket which was closed down because so many of its immigrant customers had left. People came with homemade signs and "fire in their bellies" as the news story described it. They marched through the streets of Athens for three hours, shattering the post-church quiet with shouts of "No more HB 56!" (From "Hispanic Limestone County Residents Protest Against Alabama's New Immigration Law," Steve Doyle, Huntsville Times, October 16, 2011)
Standing with them, church leaders, civil rights organizations, teachers and students at the University of Alabama in Birmingham and other campuses have protested HB 56, and continue to speak out in opposition to the law. Scott Douglas III, a Black minister and Executive Director of the Greater Birmingham Ministries, issued this challenge to the youth, "If you missed the 60s, guess what, now is your time. Now you can make the same kind of contribution that young people made in the 60s. And that is to be out front in saying 'no' to this system that will allow people to be treated worse than animals and denying basic human rights. And all in the name of instilling fear in people."
To all people who hunger for a different and better world—immigrants and native born, documented and undocumented, young and old: What is now urgently needed, on a scale much wider than now exists, is a determined resistance to these fascist laws and the stepped up detentions and deportations, aimed at creating a world where all human beings are treated with respect and dignity.
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Revolution #249, November 6, 2011
We received the following from a reader:
The City of Honolulu, Hawai`i, is bracing for the 2011 APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) Summit, which is scheduled to meet here from November 7-13. The 7-day meeting will culminate with a CEO Summit from November 10-12 and a Leaders' Summit from November 10-13. The CEO Summit will include CEOs representing hundreds of corporations, including Walmart, Microsoft, Freeport Copper, Dow, Boeing, and Chevron. The Leaders' Summit will include government leaders from the 21 member countries, including President Obama and Hillary Clinton from the U.S., President Hu Jintao of China, and President Dmitry Medvedev of Russia.
Leading up to and during APEC, a variety of events and actions in opposition to APEC are also being planned. Art exhibits, workshops and talks are being held leading up to the conference, and an alternative conference with a full slate of speakers and workshops will be held from November 9-11 (Moananui2011.org). World Can't Wait-Hawai`i has taken the lead in organizing a staging area from November 10-12 at Old Stadium Park (Isenberg and King), and marches, banner drops, sign-holding, drum groups and art happenings are being planned.
The 2011 APEC meeting is taking place against the backdrop of 1) continuing instability and crisis in the world economy, 2) a situation in which East Asia in particular represents one of the few regions of dynamic economic growth in the world, and 3) a time when China has surpassed Japan to become the world's second largest capitalist economy, and is asserting its strategic interests in the world, and economically challenging the United States.
APEC has 21 member countries and has been historically dominated by the United States. Using code words like "free trade," "deregulation," and "liberalization," APEC's policies pry open the economies of its member countries to foreign investment and control, and give imperialist powers and transnational corporations the "right" to take out whatever resources they want. Deregulation of industries, environmental laws, and labor laws enables corporations to move more freely between countries, chasing the regions where profits are the highest, and privatization opens up government-owned and/or government-controlled lands and companies to private ownership and control. The major economic powers, particularly the U.S., Japan, and China, use APEC to advance their geo-economic agendas.
As a result of policies established by APEC, small-scale, sustainable and indigenous agriculture has been destroyed; huge silver and copper mines in Papua New Guinea have displaced entire villages and created enormous regions that are uninhabitable due to air and water pollution; and subsistence agriculture has been greatly undermined in the poorest countries, forcing people to migrate to cities where they are caught in a never-ending cycle of either unemployment or work in slave-like conditions. Environmental restrictions have been lifted, allowing uncontrolled plunder of natural resources. APEC policies of deregulation and privatization have accelerated the destruction of the environment. (See accompanying article, "What APEC Is and Why People Should Protest Against It")
In 1999 huge protests disrupted the 2000 World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting in Seattle, and this was a time of protests all over the world against imperialist globalization. After this, the Asian Development Bank (ADB), which facilitates imperialist economic development in Asia, announced it was moving its May 2001 meeting from Seattle to Honolulu, Hawai`i—where it would be much more difficult for protesters to mount significant opposition. To prepare for the ADB meeting in 2001, Hawai`i mounted a concerted campaign of repression including special training for 1800 officers, the purchase of special equipment to deal with protesters, and a whole set of repressive rules and ordinances aimed at limiting the freedom to protest (which remain today). In spite of this concerted campaign of intimidation, more than 500 people marched to protest the ADB meeting.
In the wake of the ADB meeting, Hawai`i's governor issued an open invitation to the WTO, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and APEC to hold future meetings in Hawai`i. APEC, which has been confronted by protest wherever it has gone, accepted the invitation and announced it would hold its November 2011 Summit in Honolulu.
Hawai`i is now working at a fever pitch to roll out the red carpet to welcome 20,000 government leaders, dignitaries and the CEOs from some of the most hated corporations on the planet. Hotels are being upgraded. Public sidewalks and streets in Waikiki are being repaved. Sand is being dredged up from the bottom of the ocean to expand beaches fronting the hotels, and 205 palm trees are being removed from less visible locations on other islands, shipped to Honolulu, and replanted along the corridor from the airport, along with two miles of grass. As Lt. Gov. Schatz said, "First impressions are everything." At the same time, security measures are being taken to create an atmosphere of fear and intimidation should anyone dare protest.
According to a local tourism official, "APEC will be a linchpin for our future. It creates excitement and provides a vehicle to solidify future international conferences in Hawai`i. Everyone is starting to feel more optimistic."
The local media is hyping APEC as a vehicle to promote Hawai`i as a high-end tourist destination. Visions of 2,000 members of the international media beaming images of palm trees and white sand beaches around the world have the tourism authorities, hotels, and shop owners salivating. Small businesses are vying for space at an APEC trade fair showcasing Hawai`i -based companies in hopes that their business will be chosen to expand into the global market. High schools are organizing simulation conferences, with students jumping into roles as senior officials from participating countries. Cash prizes are being offered to high school students in an essay contest on "sustainability," and college students will be rewarded with cash and Apple products for submitting videos on "what APEC means to them." Huge billboards have sprung up on the University of Hawai`i campus, and the president of the University is on the host committee. One thousand two hundred volunteers are being lined up to greet delegates at the airport with flower leis and to give directions. In an effort to create the illusion of promoting "sustainability," local organic restaurants are being invited to cater, and indigenous Hawaiian artists are being paid for creating artistic pieces to decorate the walls of the Summit venue.
All of this is happening when austerity measures are hitting Hawai`i's people hard. Small businesses are being shuttered. Last year state employees (including teachers) were furloughed every other Friday, and this year they were forced to accept lower salaries and cuts to their benefits. Social services to children and seniors have been drastically cut, and low-income residents are being forced to move from "affordable housing" because they can no longer afford the rents. Fees for school lunches and city bus services have been increased, causing many children to go hungry or miss school altogether. Unions are being busted, including the state teachers union, whose rights to collective bargaining were overridden by Hawai`i's "liberal" governor. Funding for environmental protection, including the monitoring of alien species (animals/plants brought into the state from the outside), has all but disappeared. The infrastructure is so broken that in many parts of Honolulu, the stench rising from broken sewer pipes causes people to gag, and potholes in streets bring traffic to a crawl. Consequently, the exorbitant amount of money and resources being spent to host APEC elicits a schizophrenic response from most people, who are disgusted that taxes are being spent to host the most rich and powerful but hope that the meeting will strengthen Hawai`i's economic future.
While the state is preparing to greet APEC delegates with leis and hula, it is creating an atmosphere of fear and intimidation should anyone dare to protest. The City and County of Honolulu alone have budgeted $45 million for security, including $18.3 million for the police, and it was recently disclosed that the Honolulu Police Department has purchased an arsenal of "non-lethal" weapons and 25,000 additional pepper spray projectiles, 18,000 units of bean bag ammunition, 3,000 Taser cartridges, and hundreds of smoke grenades. More than 5,500 Army and National Guard troops are being trained to assist the Honolulu police. Hospitals are making plans to be on "lock-down," although it is as yet unclear what measures would be taken if they were. Eight million dollars is being spent by the Fire Department to purchase "special devices, multi-agency communications, decontamination, hazardous incident management," etc. Surveillance cameras are being installed along the streets and roadways APEC delegates are expected to use. Public sidewalks in Waikiki have been torn up and replaced with exotic plants, and sidewalks in front of hotels and Waikiki businesses have been privatized. As a result, areas which appear to be "public" are actually off-limits to demonstrators. Reactionary talk show programs and on-line newspapers are spreading lies and rumors, and are targeting activist groups and individuals by name.
The security measures being taken to "ensure the safety" of the delegates is mind-boggling. The air over the entire island of O`ahu, where the city of Honolulu is located, is restricted. Scheduled commercial airlines are allowed to take off and land, but all private aircraft (including planes, helicopters, hang gliders, and parachutes) are banned. More than half of Honolulu's huge boat harbor has been designated a "restricted area," and boat traffic will be banned. The Ala Wai Canal, which runs along one side of Waikiki, will be patrolled by heavily armed security forces in boats. A huge expanse of ocean near the venues that extends 2,000 yards from land has been designated a "security zone" and will be off-limits to swimmers, surfers and boaters. Beaches in the same area will be closed. Access to the five venues hosting the Summit will be closed, and 10-foot high chain link fences, covered with black tarp, will be set up far beyond the sites. Hawai`i's world-famous international hula competition has been kicked out of its venue fully two miles from the Summit venue to make way for security staging. Three of Honolulu's largest public parks will be largely closed; many of Waikiki's roadways will be closed, and parking will be severely restricted. New and restrictive plans are being disclosed almost daily, and increasing numbers of people are beginning to question whether hosting APEC is really "worth the trouble."
Throughout all of the preparation, the single issue getting the most attention is "What are we going to do with the homeless?" Thousands of homeless people live in tents on Honolulu's sidewalks, under hedges, on benches, and in beach parks. Shopping carts piled high with belongings form sidewalk parades, as their owners move from trash can to trash can to search for food and cans to recycle. Hundreds are in Waikiki and the area surrounding the convention center, and there is a relentless debate being fomented over "what to do with THEM." Should they be removed to an isolated area en masse? Should a special tent be set up? Governor Abercrombie has a 90-day plan, whose first step is a new regulation prohibiting the feeding of the homeless in the parks. Honolulu's Mayor Carlisle likened the homeless to "rats" who had to be removed. The heartlessness of the attacks against the homeless has rightly outraged many people, but this has not prevented the massive sweeps against the homeless that are currently happening and are sure to increase.
In spite of a daily barrage of media hype about APEC in Hawai`i's media, one question is seldom heard. "What is APEC, and what is APEC's effect on the world's people and its environment?" When asked, many just shrug their shoulders and say they don't know. Some say they've heard it's "just a bunch of rich guys who get together in order to vacation in luxury." Others say they don't care, as long as it's good for Hawai`i's economy. But all of this is beginning to change because a very a small minority has been trying to dig into deeper questions about the effects of globalization, and are ferreting out facts about APEC's agenda and finding ways to expose it.
Revolution Books has hosted four well-attended forums on APEC's policies. Hundreds of copies of Raymond Lotta's recent talk at Occupy Wall Street ("Are Corporations Corrupting the System...or is the Problem the System of Capitalism") have been reproduced, as well as his longer analysis of the world financial crisis ("Shifts and Faultlines in the World Economy and Great Power Rivalry," in Revolution #136). Posters of Bob Avakian's quotes from BAsics, and ads for "What Is Capitalism"—an excerpt from the film of his talk Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About (accessible online at youtube.com/revolutiontalk and revolutiontalk.net)—have been posted broadly. The store has also expanded its selection of books on globalization and is becoming a real center for discussion and debate over the future.
A sharp but friendly debate is being waged about the future: Is the problem capitalism/imperialism, and is it going to take revolution to begin to build a better world? Or is the problem that corporations have taken over the government, and we need a combination of government laws to "control the corporations," along with more "personal responsibility"? What's clear is that many are disgusted with capitalism as it is, and are much more open to ideas of socialism than in the past, even while having a knee-jerk reaction against communism. It is in this conversation that the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) plays a powerful role, as we challenge people to compare THIS with the horrors of the capitalist-imperialist world we live in.
World Can't Wait-Hawa`i is also playing a key organizing role. They have distributed thousands of pamphlets about APEC, have done PSAs calling on people to protest, which are running on community television stations, and have organized an anti-APEC festival at the University of Hawai`i campus. It has secured a permit for an organizing center in a public park during the 3-day Summit, and is uniting with other organizations around plans to hold protests.
"Eating in Public" has collected more than 1,000 used T-shirts, screened them with anti-APEC slogans, and distributed them free. A group of artists are holding anti-APEC workshops at a popular downtown nightclub, and an art show is being set up at a downtown studio. An advertised visit by the Yes Men is creating a buzz, and new plans are springing up seemingly out of nowhere. Sovereignty activists and academics, along with the International Forum on Globalization (IFG), are planning an "Alternative APEC" conference focusing on their vision for the future. A new website (apecsucks.com) carries news of the latest plans and actions.
ACLU-Hawai`i has been playing an important role in the mix and is training protest monitors, disseminating information on the right to protest, is making public records requests of the city demanding disclosure of police preparations, and protecting the rights of the homeless. According to Dan Gluck, attorney with ACLU, "We're very concerned that if HPD believes it's in for a war, then officers will be hostile to all members of the public, even those who seek to peacefully exercise their First Amendment Rights." Consequently, the ACLU has been monitoring the police and state closely, and has been waging a media campaign encouraging people not to give up their right to protest in response to the atmosphere of intimidation being created.
The sudden emergence of the Occupy Wall Street movement has infused new energy into all of this, and there's a growing "Occupy APEC" spirit. The involvement of young people, newly interested in activism, is creating a freshness to the movement that we haven't seen in decades. The connection is being made: APEC is the 1%.
In only a month, the shift in attitudes toward APEC is palpable. People are hungry for information and are grabbing up leaflets. Many who had volunteered to help at APEC or had contracted for services with APEC are questioning their decisions.
All this is not being lost on the police, who are openly boasting of monitoring organizing meetings and actions. Many are new to protest, and have not personally witnessed police brutality against protesters, so they don't recognize such illegal blatant violations. Police regularly approach activists and greet them by name, asking them for private personal information and about upcoming plans. Consequently, it is relatively easy for the police to gather information on protesters. A new "Civil Affairs" police unit sporting aloha shirts is passing out calling cards to protesters which promise to "protect First Amendment Rights to Protest" and are stamped with "2011 APEC USA."
Images of police brutality beamed from New York, Minneapolis, or Philadelphia have long seemed remote, and we often hear people say "at least we don't have THOSE kinds of protesters here," blaming the protesters rather than the police. Consequently, when police show up at organizing meetings and openly listen in on planning meetings, few people object. When the police announce that the surveillance cameras will be used to identify protesters, few voices of concern are raised. When security forces boast that they are closely monitoring "outside protesters" who might arrive in Hawai`i, too many people accept it.
One of the real challenges is to change this situation, and it's beginning to happen. As the Occupy movement is growing on Hawai`i, people are more closely identifying with protesters in the Occupy movement who are coming under police attack. As the federal government and the Honolulu Police Department issue joint statements disclosing the latest repressive measures being implemented to quash protest, the real role of the police is becoming clearer to some people.
But there is a crucial need to bring out to people the whole history of the political police in the U.S. in the targeting of movements of resistance and revolutionary forces, and how political repression has been greatly expanded and intensified since 9/11. Revolutionaries must take the lead in setting standards on the question of the political police. As the Revolution article "Don't Talk" pointed out, "Part of building a culture of defiance and resistance, based on mass movements of people, is refusing to allow the government to either intimidate or bamboozle people into giving up resistance, and refusing in any way to enter into complicity with such intimidation and repression. The authorities are not interested in the truth; they are not out to seek justice. They have an agenda—using the legal system (as well as illegal means) to repress serious movements of resistance of all kinds. As bitter experience has shown, not only will they outright murder revolutionaries (as they did with Black Panther leader Fred Hampton, who was gunned down as he slept in his bed), but they will spin a web of lies and fabricated evidence in order to use the courts to frame and railroad those whom they want to silence. When facing agents of government repression (here we are talking about the local police and prosecutors, state or federal law enforcement or various government agencies), the principle of 'Don't Talk' is an important legal principle which is crucial in fighting to protect the various movements of resistance and of revolution from government repression."
On October 17 the first APEC forum on Climate Change was held at the University of Hawai`i and was met by a small group of protesters. Significantly, among the first signs picked up by college students were "Capitalism Sucks! We Need a Revolution" and "Capitalism IS the Crisis!" As APEC 2011 draws closer, many people are becoming newly conscious of the horrors of capitalism/imperialism and are debating what it's going to take to realize a better future. Huge questions are being thrown up, the system itself is being questioned, and momentum for a spirited protest during the APEC Summit is growing. Such protest is absolutely necessary—and must become a reality in the coming weeks. We here in the "belly of the beast," in the most criminal imperialist country on the planet, have a special responsibility to step up and struggle against the moves of the U.S. and all those who will be at this summit to strengthen their domination, exploitation and oppression of the people of the world and the further destruction of the environment.
As events unfold we'll keep Revolution readers informed of the latest developments.
Stop Thinking Like Americans! Start Thinking About Humanity!
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Revolution #249, November 6, 2011
The 2011 APEC meeting is taking place against the backdrop of 1) continuing instability and crisis in the world economy, 2) a situation in which East Asia in particular represents one of the few regions of dynamic economic growth in the world, and 3) a time when China has surpassed Japan to become the world's second largest capitalist economy, and is asserting its strategic interests in the world, and economically challenging the United States.
APEC was established in 1989 and currently has 21 member countries (or "economies," as they like to call them) with borders on both sides of the Pacific Ocean1. APEC's member countries account for approximately 40% of the world's population, 54% of the world GDP and about 44% of world trade.
APEC's stated mission is to "champion free trade and open trade and investment" to "facilitate a favorable business environment" and to establish a Pacific "free trade zone" similar to NAFTA (North American Free Trade Zone). Using code words like "free trade," "deregulation," and "liberalization," APEC's policies pry open the economies of its member countries to foreign investment and control, and give imperialist powers and transnational corporations the "right" to take out whatever resources they want. Deregulation of industries, environmental laws, and labor laws enables corporations to move more freely between countries, chasing the regions where profits are the highest, and privatization opens up government owned and/or controlled lands and companies to private ownership and control. The major economic powers, particularly the U.S., Japan, and China, use APEC to advance their geo-economic agendas.
The United States has historically played the dominant role in APEC and promotes a package of economic policies known as the "Washington Consensus." Its central features include free markets, trade liberalization, deregulation, financial liberalization and "structural adjustment" or "fiscal discipline." This economic policy shifts government funding away from social spending and toward the privatization and liberalization of the economy. As a result of policies established by APEC, small-scale, sustainable and indigenous agriculture has been destroyed and replaced by corporate agribusinesses Small rice farmers in Vietnam and the Philippines have been driven out by agribusiness. Huge silver and copper mines in Papua New Guinea have displaced entire villages and created enormous regions that are uninhabitable due to air and water pollution. Subsistence agriculture has been greatly undermined in the poorest countries, forcing people to migrate to cities where they are caught in a never-ending cycle of either unemployment or work in slave-like conditions. Environmental restrictions have been lifted, allowing uncontrolled plunder of natural resources. Regulations controlling the energy sector have been removed and the cheapest and most destructive forms of energy (petroleum, coal, hydro and nuclear) are being promoted.
The social consequences of these policies have contributed to an ever-growing economic gap between rich and poor. In Indonesia, which APEC upholds as the poster child of economic growth, the number of poor people has soared, and more than 80 million live on less than $1 a day. Urban China has experienced enormous income growth over the past decades, even while there has been a huge increase in urban and rural poverty. Education, housing, and medical care, which were previously either free or subsidized by the state, have been privatized. Grain and fuel prices have been deregulated, causing enormous price fluctuations.
Many APEC countries point to rising income levels of sections of the poor as proof of reducing poverty levels. But this rise in income is often the result of massive migration from rural areas to the cities, where food, housing and health costs are higher. So the statistics about rises in income does not give a full or accurate picture of the real situation. For example, fuel prices have risen more than 100% in both Indonesia and the Philippines, while wages have increased only marginally.
APEC policies of deregulation and privatization have accelerated the destruction of the environment; for example, 65% of the native forests of Sumatra have been deforested.
While APEC boasts of its successes in creating a "favorable business environment" in Indonesia, 1.8 million hectares of land have been deforested annually for the international timber and palm oil industries. The government of New Zealand has privatized its national energy sector, and its mountaintops are being removed to extract coal for China. In Papua New Guinea indigenous villages have been evacuated to make way for silver mines, where native people now work in conditions that condemn them to an early death.
The APEC 2011 Summit in Honolulu is of strategic importance to the U.S. imperialists in the face of the current world financial crisis, the downgrading of the U.S. credit rating, and increasing competition from China. And the compulsion at this meeting will be to introduce and promote even more destructive policies that will protect and strengthen U.S. domination at the expense of the majority of the people in the region and the planet's environment.
1. Member countries include: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, United States and Vietnam. [back]
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Revolution #249, November 6, 2011
Occupy Oakland, November 2:
An Initial Report from the Bay Area Revolution Writers Group
Eight days ago, the City and the Oakland police tried to violently disperse and shut down Occupy Oakland, seriously wounding Iraq war vet and Occupy supporter Scott Olsen during the assault. The attempt was turned back within days, and today the Occupy Oakland movement took another big leap. At least 10,000-15,000 people, perhaps more, turned out for a day-long "General Strike & Mass Day of Action—Everyone to the Streets! No Work! No School! Converge on Downtown Oakland to Help Shut Down the City."
The day was marked by both celebration... and defiant mass struggle. There was a tangible sense of uplift and joy among the thousands who thronged to downtown Oakland to see so many other people turn out and to have turned back the system's efforts to crush Occupy Oakland. One Revolution Books staffer who talked to people throughout the day said, "People seem like a weight has been taken off their shoulders—they've said how glad they are to see something like this, that maybe change is possible. People have told me, 'maybe you're right, maybe things can be changed.'"
|Oakland, November 2
Special to Revolution
There were also defiant actions. Protesters blocked entrances to some banks and forced them to close temporarily, final notices were placed on the doors of the banks and one woman wrote, "give me back my house." Students marched to the offices of the University of California Regents. While most of the city remained at work, many businesses did shut down or supported the action in other ways. And the high point of the day was a march of many thousands from downtown to west Oakland that closed down the port of Oakland, the fifth-busiest port in the U.S.
The crowd was very diverse in age, nationality, culture, and politics as many joined the Occupy protests for the first time, and there was a big anti-capitalist thread throughout. There was truth in today's banner headlines in the Oakland Tribune—"The 99 Percent, United in Anger...Thousands descend on downtown, bringing city to standstill, Protesters mostly peaceful as they decry 'capitalism run amok.'"
"Today is about saying no to the 1 percent," one organizer said. Other demands included "end police attacks on our communities" and defending Oakland schools and libraries against budget cuts.
The City of Oakland was stung by the outpouring of protest after the vicious police assault against Occupy Oakland on October 25, and for most of the day the police maintained a low profile. But late Wednesday night, after most who had joined the general strike had gone home, the police viciously attacked some protesters who had occupied a downtown building.
These different actions of the police on Wednesday took place against a backdrop of open disagreements between Oakland's mayor and the Oakland police department over how to handle the protests, and ongoing calls from the local ruling structure—expressed in editorials in the Oakland Tribune and the San Francisco Chronicle—to find some way to clamp down on and curtail the occupations in those cities.
The National Lawyers Guild, which dispatched roughly 50 legal observers to the protest, told Revolution that some 90 people were arrested late Wednesday night for an unlawful assembly (most will be cited and released). According to the NLG, the significant thing was the extreme level of police violence. The NLG has reports that in at least one case, the cops surrounded and trapped people at the plaza and then started shooting at them with tear gas and rubber bullets. They also have reports of two people being hospitalized who were hit by rubber bullets. One man was hit in the face. (See interview "Break On Through! To The Occupy! Hella Occupy Oakland!")
So while the people have taken a big step forward with the general strike and day of mass action, it is still urgent to take up the battle to defend Occupy Oakland and indeed the whole Occupy movement.
The day was supported and joined by many organizations, unions, small businesses, as well as teacher, student, professional and political organizations, and thousands came to downtown Oakland for a day of rallies, marches, and cultural happenings. It began at 7 am Wednesday morning, when people began setting up at Occupy Oakland at 14th and Broadway / Oscar Grant Plaza (officially Frank Ogawa Plaza) in the heart of downtown Oakland. By 9 am, there were probably several thousand downtown, and the general strike gained strength as the day went on. Thousands more—some coming individually, some in groups, some in organized marches—came downtown to join in. And the strike and day of action continued late into the night.
There were three separate marches from UC Berkeley—at 11, 1, and 5—with hundreds of students participating. A teacher in the Peralta Community College system told Revolution that over 1,500 students from the system, which includes Berkeley City College, the College of Alameda, and Laney and Merritt Colleges in Oakland, had marched. Nine students from UC Santa Barbara drove up for the protest. There were students from Holy Names College, SF State, and Mills College. Hundreds of high school students came out from Berkeley High, Oakland Tech, Skyline, Mt. Tamalpais, Bishop O'Dowd and no doubt many other schools. One Mills student told Revolution that 100-200 of her classmates had come to the protest; that some teachers had come down with their classes; and that others were using the day to teach about Occupy themes—including decolonization.
There was a convergence in Oakland's Latino Fruitvale District. There were professional groups—doctors, nurses, architects, and teachers including a contingent of 50-100 from the Oakland Education Association. The Service Workers International and Teamsters unions had a big presence. There were varying reports that five percent of city employees and anywhere from three to 20 percent of Oakland teachers joined the strike.
The SF Chronicle reported: "More than 300 Oakland public school teachers did not show up to work today. City officials allowed public employees to take the day off, but every Oakland police officer was required to show up for work. About 5 percent of city employees called in to say they would be taking either an unpaid furlough or paid vacation day, officials said. Major labor unions in the city expressed support for the movement. Most union workers can not legally strike today, but some said they planned to participate by taking time off or walking off their jobs."
Oakland School of the Arts closed for the day in solidarity, and at least 20 students had come to the protest together. Revolution talked to two sisters, one in the 7th grade, the other in the 8th. The 8th grader said she liked the day—her first protest—because "I can find out what's going on—I don't have to just get it from the TV." One sign said, "We are the 7 billion."
The Grand Lake Theater's marquee—visible from the 580 freeway and normally carrying the names of movies playing—read: "We proudly support the Occupy Wall Street Movement. Closed Wed. to support the strike."
The crowd of thousands in front of the sound truck at 14th and Broadway would grow in size—sometimes filling the three blocks from 16th to 13th Streets—then ebb as different marches set out in different directions. At 9:55 am there was an "I Will Survive...Capitalism" flashmob, with people dancing in the street to the disco hit "I Will Survive"; at 10 am and again at 12:30 pm "March and Bank Actions/Mobilizations" took place. Later there was a march to the UC Regents building downtown to protest budget cuts, and the Regents' decision to allow the Oakland police department to use their building during the attack on Occupy Oakland. At 2 pm there was an anti-capitalist march. Hundreds, sometimes thousands, joined these actions.
Throughout the day Oscar Grant Plaza was jam packed. Bands and musicians played in the amphitheater right in front of City Hall, where the general assemblies are held, to hundreds of people. Groups had set up lit tables and food dispensaries. There were drum circles. DJ'ed music was pumping out from the Oaklandish space—on Broadway—as people danced on the sidewalk. A festive and celebratory atmosphere prevailed.
Revolution Books had a big table and display area right on Oscar Grant Plaza right on 14th Street. It was there to support the Occupy movement—and to let many, many people know about Bob Avakian and the movement for revolution he is leading. To the left of the table--stretching 25 feet, people had stood up five 3x4-foot enlargements of different quotes from BAsics (3:22, 1:3, 2:10, 1:5, and 1:24). Over the day hundreds of people were drawn to the quotes and stopped to study them. (There was also an enlargement of BA's three strikes quote and of the April Revolution centerfold—Who Are the Real Criminals.) The store had printed up 2,000 copies of the latest Revolution editorial on the Occupy Movement ("Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Everywhere—Police Attacks...Courageous Resistance...Big Stakes for the People," #249, November 6). The main focus was on getting out Revolution #244, the special issue on BAsics, and on selling the book itself.
The staff of Revolution Books found tremendous openness. By the end of the day some 9,000 copies of #244 had been distributed and nearly 50 copies of BAsics had been sold, as well as other revolutionary literature including the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal). One way the store enlisted people in the effort to spread revolution was by printing up 200 of two colorful 11x17-inch two-sided posters—one read "Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution" on one side, "Get Into Bob Avakian" on the other. The other read "This System has no future for the youth, The Revolution does" on one side, and "Get with the Real Revolution" on the other. Each side included Revcom.us at the bottom. People were carrying them, or just taping them to their shirts.
When it got dark, people showed the Revolution DVD and deepened the engagement further with some people watching for nearly an hour. "Oh—that's the guy you're talking about," one person said. It was also notable that three former prisoners were drawn to the table because they were thrilled to see the banner supporting the hunger strike. One bought a copy of BAsics for his brother who is in the Pelican Bay SHU.
The main event of the day began at 4 pm: a march from downtown to the port of Oakland to shut down the docks (with another march following at 5 pm). Hundreds of "Critical Mass" bikers had gotten to the port and began shutting it down a little after 4 pm, by preventing trucks from leaving the port facility. By 5 pm the whole operation had been shut down as six busloads of people and thousands of marchers converged on the port. The march topped the bridge leading to the docks and stretched as far as one could see up 7th Street, filling the street. One Revolution Books staff person described it as "like Woodstock." There was amazement that people could bring this all together.
According to a report posted on the Occupy Oakland website (www.occupyoakland.org/):
"The evening march to the Port stretched from downtown to the freeway overcrossing in West Oakland and thousands more protestors kept arriving as the third convergence of the day reached its peak. Over 20,000 people joined the march which made its way to the main entrance of the port and shut it down completely. Port officials confirmed that the workforce was sent home."
According to one mainstream report, there were 5,000 people at the port, some climbing onto trucks and cargo containers. The authorities planned to keep the port open, but the protesters simply overwhelmed the area. "Nothing is coming in or out of here right now," a union official stated.
"Whose port? Our port!" many yelled, while dozens climbed on top of the idled trucks and waved signs. "It's a victory," exulted one protester, a 21-year-old Oakland art student. "To get all these people together as one unit is amazing." (SF Chronicle)
"It's OK," one trucker whose truck was prevented from leaving told a news camera; "they're doing it for us, right?"
There was a real current of people trying to picture a different future. One student carried a sign that said "I want to create more than just wealth." And Revolution reporters saw a number of people sitting at the gates at the docks reading the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal).
Revolution will be carrying further coverage of the general strike and Occupy Oakland.
|Special to Revolution|
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Revolution #249, November 6, 2011
Interview with a revolutionary:
The following report and interview is with someone who was part of Occupy Oakland nearly from the beginning and who was arrested in the police attack and destruction of the camp. Occupy Oakland has now come back, to the same place as before.
Q: Can you tell us why people came together initially for Occupy Oakland?
Hella Occupy Oakland started off converging onto Downtown Oakland's Frank Ogawa Plaza, all united around the slogan "WE ARE THE 99%!" Many people spoke of the deeply felt anger towards this system in many different ways, from the greed of corporations to the ongoing wars for empire. Others expressed a sense of hope coming from the Occupy Wall Street Movement that is spreading throughout this country and the world, because it is based on mass resistance and mobilization to the crimes of this system on many levels, including mass nonviolent civil disobedience, challenging people to act in accordance with transforming the world, however they may see that or relate to that. Nonetheless the call was clear; we the 99% are indeed, as Annie Day said in her article "Report from Occupy Wall Street: 'We Only Want the World'" (Revolution #247, October 9, 2011), "fed the fuck up," may I add, "hella fed the fuck up!" In the mix the first day were two communists who supported the newspaper Revolution. I was one of them and I had my backpack ready with clothes, hair and toothbrushes, and a sleeping bag ready to hella occupy this mutha fucka! While I listened to people speak and express their sentiments on unity, inspiration, and concerns, a HUGE FUCKING BANNER saying "WELCOME TO THE OSCAR GRANT PLAZA ON OHLONE LAND" struck me. I was filled with joyful emotions seeing that sign and what it represented in terms of people seeing the need for calling out the system and its historic crimes as well as current crimes. Oscar Grant was a young man murdered in cold blood by a Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer, (I mean pig, hog, swine, animal for the 1%, let's just get that clear now) Johannes Mehserle on New Year's Day 2009. And the Ohlone were the native inhabitants of Oakland and much of the Bay Area before the brutal U.S. expansion to the west led to the near destruction of the people and the culture, along with the theft of the land. There was a vibe in the crowd that what was happening with these Occupations around the country was historical and necessary in a time of great demoralization about the future of humanity as a whole.
Q: Who was part of Occupy Oakland?
A lot of what makes up the majority of the people there, I thought it was anarchists at first, but a majority of the people there are middle-class white youth from different backgrounds, from different ideological standpoints, who, you could get this sense they feel like they have no purpose in this society, like traveler kids from all over, and there is, within that, a section of anarchists, and that gets tricky too, you have black block who are militant and more closed off, and anarcho-syndicalists who have some kind of unity with communism, you have people who aspire to communism, consider themselves Marxists and some consider themselves Maoists, and some Marxist-Leninists and not Maoists and disagree with Maoism, and you have a lot of people from Oakland, homeless people who were living at that place before we even got there, who have been integrated into that community and have been contributing, whether through security or helping with the food, they are contributing as part of this. People are coming because they really are coming at this for the first time, they never even engaged in a protest before. And also, within that crowd, you have a lot of people from the older generation who are camping out and contributing and coming by and donating, and doing as much as they can to help out. So that is the campers. That is what the campers were looking like, the first round, before the police attacked and destroyed the original camp. (Editors' note: This protest has grown over the weeks, and many, many more people from all walks of life are now participating and supporting this movement, as evidenced in the General Strike on November 2.)
That was what the campers looked like. During the day, you had people from every background coming by. It is hard to put your thumb on what section of the people are coming to this because so many people are coming to this. You are getting more basic masses from East and West Oakland who are coming by to check it out. You are getting business people who work around downtown Oakland taking their lunch break and going down and eating with us and talking with us and figuring out what we are doing. You have high school students coming down every morning now, you have a class of high school students who come by and just talk with us, we have somebody give them a tour and explain what is going on. You have grandparents, parents, children, you have a kids' village. So during the day it is really hard to say "this is the kind of people" because everyone is coming. And that definitely has changed since the raid. After the raid there has been more people coming by and a certain sense of respect for what Occupy Oakland is now as opposed to before.
Q: Can you describe how the camp grew in its early days?
The size almost doubled the second day with people coming in to stay and many, many others coming in to show support and donate food, tents, water, medicine and anything else they can. People expressed a unity with the campers and sought in many different ways to see how they can plug in and help in whatever way they could. You really got a sense that not only were the campers determined to stay but that we had the support of the people. Hay bales and wood pallets were donated by American Steel, which is a huge warehouse that rents spaces to artists of all trades but in particular those who work with metal and wood arts, a lot of who work on art for Burning Man. We utilized the hay bales to spread around the grass that was soaked and muddy from the rain that hit strong for about a week before the occupation. We then set up roadways with the wood pallets to have more accessibility.
The food tent stayed open practically all night and day with people helping and contributing whatever they can, whether it be food or volunteer time. One thing that stood out to me is the active involvement of the homeless people in not just the food tent but also everything. You get this real sense and they even say it, "we have nothing at all and what you all have done has inspired us to become active contributors to changing the world." There was a woman who came and donated a salad and water and I helped her get the stuff from her car. She was saying how sorry she was that that's all she could do was bring food and leave but that she wanted to help somehow. I began to explain to her as we walked over to the food tent how important any donation is, especially food; in the middle of me explaining tears started to build in my eyes as she asked we what was wrong. I pointed to the food tent that had a huge line of people waiting, not to get food but to give us food. I said to her, "We need this, this gives us hope, and it makes us stronger, not just nutritionally but also emotionally."
Q: Can you describe the atmosphere in the encampment?
There is a whole atmosphere of people wanting to contribute in any way they can. This is crucially important to learn from in terms of applying it to our movement for revolution. Because of the fact that you have people from so many different sections of society wanting to contribute on whatever level they can. That can be in the form of donating water, food, to tents, that can look like doing your own workshop or coming by and expressing your art, music; you have screen printers who come in from different artistic backgrounds doing printing, you have musicians coming with free music for people that is uplifting and creative, you have performers, people who can juggle fire, who do belly dancing, folk music, rock music, rap music, all of these different things coming together, and then within that, not even within that, but what is characterizing all of that is this hunger, this drive to fight for a different world however people see that, you really do see a strong determination to go up against race, class and gender, and those are the three things that have constantly been at the fore of Occupy Oakland. And it is something that I found really significant and characteristic. I don't know if it is just Occupy Oakland, but what is happening here is people are putting the question of this whole system and what that has to do with things like race, class and gender, and people really hashing that kind of stuff out. Like women taking on the question of patriarchy and gender and their position in the world, I found was really significant. It has been the case that young women are taking up most of the organization and responsibilities of maintaining and keeping the camp going. And that is not just on the level of some patriarchal they are feeding and cleaning for the men -- they are taking an active part in politically organizing this whole thing. And it is something that is really significant. The challenge I think does need to be put up to more of the men, though there are men who are taking a role in organizing too politically...
Q: Early on, a decision was made about the homeless and people from the drug rehab places in downtown Oakland—are they in or out? Can you talk about that and why you thought it was important?
There were several situations where people in the camp were confronted with the wounds this system has put on people, mentally and emotionally, in terms of homelessness, alcoholism, mental illness. When certain sections of people confronted that, late at night, in the encampment, people didn't know how to deal with that. Some people were saying let's just ignore these confrontations or these issues, other people were saying, no, we have to address these situations, and then there were different ideas on how to address that. The question that was put forward in front of the GA [General Assembly] one day was how to deal with this situation, will we just turn our backs on these people and say they are worthless and have no role in any of this? Because of the wounds they have got through this system? Or are we going to integrate them into our community? The fact is that they have illnesses that we don't know how to treat right now, but are working on getting people who can deal with these things. And it was decided, amongst everyone, the majority decided that we need to integrate them into our community. They have been living a life, and we confronted especially in particular the anger a lot of these Black homeless people were letting out. And what we realized was especially for someone who is homeless, who has a mental illness, and has an alcoholism problem, they are living a life where they are already feeling marginalized, already feeling outcast by society, like they are worthless, and if you have a process where people can't voice that anger, it builds up, especially when you have alcoholism and mental illness together. These bursts of outrage, though expressed really wrong sometimes and really violently sometimes, they stem from what people have been conditioned to become under this system. People wanted to confront that and they decided that was a challenge the camp was going to take up, that we were going to police ourselves. So that is when the actual question of how we were going to deal with these situations came up, because it was a gut wrenching process to see some people who were so on point about the role of the police, and the stress of situations like that, and there were some times when those people would say, I am all for being against the police but this guy, maybe it wouldn't be that bad to call the police and have this guy removed. And it was good, because overall what happened in the camp is that the police were not called. People realized that we have to take this on ourselves, and this is exactly what the system wants, for us to rip ourselves apart, through internal stuff.
And then there began to be talk of people who would come into the camp and start something, or steal something, or be aggressive, and when confronted by the entire camp, and confronted by the reality that this is a serious movement, some people would admit, "I was paid to come in there and do this by the police or by this person, somebody gave me an amount of money and told me to come in here and do this." So then we were really confronted with a serious situation. Now we had not only homelessness, mental illness, and alcoholism, but when that is combined with the police and other provocateurs paying people, that created a whole other level of something that people began to not really understand how to confront.
Q: Can you talk about what kind of conversations you have gotten into about revolution and communism?
On the front of my tent, before the police destroyed it, I had a sign that I made that says, Humanity Needs Revolution And Communism www.revcom.us. I had a little stand with Revolution newspaper by my tent. One thing I paid attention to is talking to the homeless.
For example, one guy is amazingly interestingly contradictory but I love this guy for the questions he brings up and the things we get into. He is a Black man who has spent nine years in the penitentiary. I met him on the third day around 3 am. I asked him why he was here. He said, "What you mean? Y'all came to me. I been at this park for a while 'cause I'm homeless, well I mean before this occupation I was and I was staying here. I was able to hustle up and make some money to get up out of here and up to Stockton where I got a little spot to stay in with the money I hustled. But the day I was going to leave y'all showed up and I realized I had to stay. This shit meant something to me. It was a fight for the underdogs, we need that. So I see this as the most important thing in my life right now, you know? This shit means more to me than anything because it's about real shit and dealing with real shit, fighting for real shit to get out of real shit. This shit is more meaningful than all the women I've fucked, all the money I've made, all the music I've done, this is the time, right now, for me to do a 180 and get out of this shit. That's why I stayed. Why are you here?" I told him, "Well I'm a revolutionary, a communist..." and before I can say more he snapped back, "Bro, you're a communist!?! A communist!?! You mean like them mutha fuckas that be running people over with tanks and shit!?! Why would you want to do that!?!" I smiled and said, "Nah man, that wasn't communism, they used the named communist but that was no longer a socialist society in transition to communism anymore." He paused and looked at me then said in an honest way, "Bro, I don't know what the fuck you talking about." I handed him the paper on "The Voices This System Has Cast Off" and he took it. We talked for a bit and he told me about being in prison for nine years and how he felt bad about the shit he did and how he wanted to make up for that. I told him, "First off, stop blaming yourself for what this system made you do, two if that's how you feel that you want to change the world then you need to read that paper and get with the revolution." He looked at the paper, and then looked back at me with a concerned look. I said, "What's up, you good?" He replied, "Bro, I will be real with you, I can't even read, like at all, I know this say 'revolution' up at the top cause you told me." I said, "Man don't be ashamed, I got you. Check out this quote." I read to him the quote in the paper on those the system has cast off. After I finished he said, "Damn... Damn Bro... wow... bro... um... wow... I'm like at a loss of words man... What is this paper, man? I want to be a part, man. I want to help out this right here. I know I can't read or write but I want to help this paper, can I sit down with you some time and you write down what I say and put it in the paper? I know that's asking a lot but what can I do to help even sort of that?" I told him, "Yeah, I can do that! Hell lets start now." He said, "Not now, I prefer later when I get some rest to think straight." I told him, "ok that's cool... want me to read you the rest of the paper?" He looked up with a look of "what the fuck!?!" and "hell yeah!!!" mixed together. He later explained his facial expression as "hell yeah I want to hear more" and "What the fuck? Is he really going to read it to me?"
I asked him what he thought it would take to bring forward basic masses to this occupation. He said, "I don't know man, they need to see determination, but not just camping, you feel me? We need to be getting together demands for our people, we need to get into those libraries and get into those law books and fight these mutha fuckas with facts and laws and demand what is ours." At first, I didn't understand the point he was making, so I told him, "See bro what you're talking about is reform, we can't seek justice through this system, we need to be out here fighting the power and transforming the people for revolution." He said, "That's what I'm saying though." I said "Nah bro you want to work within the system to ask them for favors, that's what you're talking about." Then he said something that stuck out to me, he said, "Nah fuck that! I don't mean ask them for help and shit. I'm just saying as a Black man in America we have been conditioned generation after generation to fear these mutha fuckas, you know? I mean I'm down to fight but my whole thing is, no more locked doors, you feel me?" ("No more locked doors" is a saying that became popular among sections of the basic masses after that movie Next Friday by Ice Cube had a Latino character who spent time in prison and disliked all locked doors and would get anxiety when doors where locked, and at one point he walks into a room flipping out about prison going in prison rape flashbacks and leaves the room saying, "No more locked doors! Gracias!") So I asked him to get deeper. He said, "Look man, if we don't have lawyers and other down ass people who are up on all these laws, we going to get crushed. How can I feel comfortable doing an action where the risk may be getting arrested and I got no help to get out? They going to keep my Black ass in jail." And that's when I saw what he was trying to get at is this point Avakian makes in the quotes about a force of communists among the basic masses and the feeling of being surrounded and crushed. The next few days that followed have been interesting with him in terms of dealing with some heavy contradictions. One is paranoia which I can relate to but realized that his time in prison has really, on the one hand made him very observant of his surroundings and being able to feel people out and see what they are serious about, while on the other hand has created a paranoia that I feel has developed into a mental disorder or block for him. He is constantly rethinking whether or not to stay or go. There are moments when he is down and loves the people he is surrounded by and then an hour later he is calling me saying he is sorry but he is done and going back home, only to come back and apologize for momentarily giving up. And this has happened a lot; for example one day he said six times that he was done and "fuck this shit, I will just make my money," only to return back apologizing for losing his patience with the people here. I asked him today what he thinks makes him do that. He said "I don't know Bro, it's like I see something here, it's beautiful what they got going here, but this isn't a utopia to me, this shit is real to me, and when I talk with people who are just cool with what we got here so far, I get pissed and I want to leave but as soon as I leave, I want to come back, because this isn't happening anywhere else. So I'm conflicted, I want to stay and I want to go."
Q: Can you paint a picture of the last days before the police raid, what was going on with the police?
On several occasions, when some of these confrontations I have described inside the camp were happening, a few of us would notice that on roof tops there would be people, it was hard to see who these people were.
Q: You are talking about on top of 15-or-more story buildings surrounding the camp in downtown Oakland?
Yes, big buildings, surrounding the camp, the shortest one is about six stories, and there would be one person on each building, normally three people. The plaza is shaped like a triangle and there were these observers on each point of the triangle; it was hard to see any symbols of who they were, but they were there all night, a few of us started to notice that when some of these situations were happening, in terms of confrontations with internal security issues, that there would be these people standing on these rooftops looking down. A few times some people said they saw telescopes. And this was all what was confusing us, we didn't know how every night, something happened, and then the next day it was in the newspaper. We were trying as hard as we could to not let that internal stuff be out there. We did discuss some of these things at general assemblies, and at certain occasions we would have emergency general assemblies to discuss what happened, when people's lives were on the line or threats were made. But it seemed like every time the news reported about these stories it was highly distorted. They would talk about whatever situation happened, but it would never cover the effort that was made to resolve that, the organization it took to de-escalate the situation, that it didn't end in a violent place. Obviously all of the newspaper articles were shaping public opinion around what this camp was, and they utilized that. People got frustrated day by day at the articles attacking the occupation. I remember jokingly saying that it is funny saying that the news talks about all of these problems it has with this occupation, but all of these problems exist in their cities but they won't talk about that. Nor will they talk about 30 to 40 people gathered to talk about race, class and gender, and make progress on their understanding of that. The news isn't going to say that. The news is going to talk about the rats, the smoking and drinking.
Q: Can you talk about when the police moved to attack the camp, to tear it down.
At the beginning, around 12 noon, that day, before the raid even happened, we had people coming to the camp, people were contacting me, these were people who had friends and family in the police department. They were coming down to let us know that something strange is happening. My brother-in-law, my uncle, my cousin, my friend, they are being called in at 2 am to work in Oakland. They are from Vacaville, Hayward, Fremont. People were coming in. We have heard rumors like this from the beginning of the occupation. So we would dismiss them. OK, thank you for that, but we would take it as hearsay. But that day, we felt it was too many people, we had some people's wives coming in saying my husband was called in, he can't come down here but he told me to come down here and let you guys know. And that I thought was really interesting. Because I don't agree that these cops are part of the 99 percent, but it had me thinking about situations where sections of people split and decide not to go against the people. Even though from what I know every cop showed up for work that night they came after us.
As the day progressed, we had people on bikes going out around downtown. Around 1 am in the morning, we had a call from some people saying that there was an enormous convergence of cops at the Oakland Coliseum. This was miles away from downtown Oakland. We were a little worried, but they had done this before as scare tactics. There was a situation where the first few days of camp they would park a police cruiser right outside the camp with a police dog which would bark for a couple hours. Like 4 am to 6 am. So that is what we thought. A lot of things are pointing to a raid. But we still wanted to wait. Around 3:30 in the morning, we had word that they were setting up around downtown Oakland and putting on riot gear. So at that point there was a struggle over how to defend the camp. There was a struggle among certain sections of the anarchists and other youth that were adhering to that model of resistance, to take an aggressive fighting stance. There were other sections of the people that said no, this has to be done as a question of legitimacy. We have to stand together peacefully to expose what these cops will do. We know that they are going to come in beating our asses and we have to be prepared for that. So there was a strong back and forth as barricades were being set up as to how, where, and for what reasons. Afterward, we were able to wake everyone up, and wait. That was the longest hour of my life. We know it was going to happen. We didn't have the support at that time in the morning, we sent out a call, but by the time they showed up we were already getting raided. The cops showed up at 4:30 am, surrounded us, from everywhere, everywhere, everywhere, there was no place for anyone to go. They announced we had five minutes to leave. We sort of joked about it afterward, the way they did it, they said, first, we are going to spray the shit out of you with tear gas, then we are going to beat the shit out of you, then we are going to arrest you. After the five minutes, they lobbed tear gas and concussion grenades from every angle. It was hard to describe where the first shots came from, I was at the front and we were hit with tear gas. I decided to look back, at one point I couldn't take the tear gas, I was thinking where the fuck could I go to get away from this tear gas, and I looked back to a tent melting on fire. Tear gas everywhere, concussion grenades still going off, cops coming in ripping down our barricades, beating people out of tents. It was like beating cats in bags to be honest with you. I don't understand why, but some people ran back in their tent and assumed that maybe they wouldn't fuck with the tent, and those people were beat out of their tents. Beaten and the cops would rip it open to get them out. They weren't arresting anyone. For a good five minutes, they were just whooping ass and launching tear gas. They had a line of cops sent in to rip down our barricades, then another line of cops to whoop ass. I guess that is what they were planning to do that day.
Q: Can you tell us about leaving jail and going out into the middle of the fierce battle that was raging late into the night in the streets of downtown Oakland in response to the police attack on the encampment?
When I was released, it was about 7:30 or so at night. The CO said, when you are released, you have to go directly out the door, talk to the National Lawyers Guild person, and then keep on walking or you will be arrested. I looked at him, like, god damn. He said, you can't go into the lobby, you can't go to the bathroom, you have to get out the door, go straight to the NLG person, talk to them, and continue walking, or you will be arrested. I was like, fuck, what is happening outside? Then we walk outside, and along the side of the police station there are riot police and a whole bunch of cops and helicopters. I looked at the guy next to me, and said, what the hell happened? We had no idea what the hell was going on. He looked up all confused, and said, "Do you think Oakland finally broke?" I said what do you mean? and he said, "I mean like exploded, do you think they finally gave up?" I said, gave up what, and he said, "Believing in this system, man. For all we know, there is a rebellion everywhere in Oakland." I said let's talk to the NLG, then get the hell out of here like we were told before we get arrested."
We walk over to the NLG lady and we said are we really going to be arrested? She said yeah, just talk to me then walk over there and then you won't be arrested. I said why would we be arrested? She was like, well, it's been a long day, and this area is kind of considered an illegal protesting ground for the evening, and you guys being here alone is cause for arrest. I said, wow, OK, good to know. She said if you get arrested twice in 24 hours, it is a felony. I said, OK, good to know.
Me and the other guy left, and we decided let's go back to the occupation. It was me and this homeless guy. I was like fuck it, let's go back. We started heading up there and we saw cops everywhere, and they were staring at us like, how did you guys get in here? And we just had to have this little card the NLG gave us, and we had to say to every cop, we just got out of jail.
We got to Broadway and 14th and we saw hella riot cops, and we saw people standing in front of the riot cops, yelling at them, cussing at them. And we still didn't know what had taken place. I saw one of my friends, and I said hey, what is going on? He said, Dude, I been looking for you all day. Did you just get out, and I said yeah, I just got out. And he said "these motherfuckers been on a rampage. I hate these motherfuckers. I want to fight. I want to learn more about how to fight." This is coming from a friend who doesn't like going to protests. He doesn't like it. He sees it as pointless. You do all of this stuff just to end up with the same system. So why even try.
Then five minutes later we saw thousands of people coming down the street and it was like the most beautiful thing ever. From being in jail, completely by yourself, to surrounded by thousands of people, god, that felt good. And there were smiles, but there was resistance, militancy, anger and frustration. Joy that we were standing up against it. And a lot of anger. So about 20 minutes of me being out of jail, I find myself being in another protest that gets labeled an illegal assembly, and the tear gas and grenades started again.
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Revolution #249, November 6, 2011
Revolution received the following report:
Tuesday, November 1, Brownsville, Brooklyn. On Tuesday afternoon, nearly 100 people came out to rally and march to STOP "Stop and Frisk." The Network to Stop Mass Incarceration, participants in Occupy Wall Street, and people from the neighborhood joined together. Twenty-eight people were arrested participating in nonviolent civil disobedience outside the 73rd NYPD Precinct. Protesters marched through Brownsville to the police station where people linked arms while others were part of bearing witness.
Among those arrested were: Rev. Luis Barrios, professor at John Jay College for Criminal Justice; Carl Dix of the Revolutionary Communist Party; Randy Credico, social comedian/activist and former director of the William Kunstler Fund for Racial Justice; Margaret Ratner Kunstler, widow of the late William Moses Kunstler; and Gbenga Akinnagbe, the actor who portrayed Chris Partlow on the TV show The Wire. The Washington Post, Channel 12 News, and Democracy Now! reported on the event.
The action is part of the movement to stop mass incarceration, which has initiated STOP "Stop and Frisk" to end the racist, illegitimate¸ illegal practice of stop-and-frisk by the NYPD. The police are on pace to stop-and-frisk over 700,000 people this year alone. Eighty-five percent of those stopped and frisked are Black and Latino, and 90 percent of them are found to be not doing anything wrong at all.
Brownsville is known for being an area with one of the highest rates of people being subjected to stop-and-frisk. A rally was held at the corner of Rockaway and Livonia where people spoke bitterness and expressed their determination to end stop-and-frisk. A participant in the rally and march told a story of being stopped, questioned and detained at a local corner store in Brownsville. Nicholas Heyward, Sr., whose son was killed by police years ago, spoke along with several of those participating in the nonviolent civil disobedience. The rally grew as people from the neighborhood stopped to listen. A woman from Brownsville spoke. Carl Dix from the Revolutionary Communist Party told people that Cornel West was sending his love, and spoke of how any revolutionary "that is worthy of that name" is also driven by love; "you have to love the people, put your life on the line to free the people." Dix spoke of how he has put out a call for a new generation to step forward in the way that the Freedom Riders of the Civil Rights Movement did to challenge segregation—and that a number of young people have already answered that call and stepped up. He called them up to stand with him, and a multinational group of young people, Black, white, Latino, Asian, both men and women, gathered around him, smiling.
Before stepping off to march, Carl Dix read and commented on 1:13 from BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian: "No more generations of our youth, here and all around the world, whose life is over, whose fate has been sealed, who have been condemned to an early death or a life of misery and brutality, whom the system has destined for oppression and oblivion even before they are born. I say no more of that."
The march stepped off with two rows of those participating in nonviolent civil disobedience leading in the front with drums and high energy. People held signs against mass incarceration, stop-and-frisk, police brutality and repression, and the whole system. Several people came out from the neighborhood, including a small group of shorties full of energy and dance.
At the precinct, police crowded in front of the door, making it difficult for protesters to form a line there. The march bypassed the metal barriers police set up to contain the demonstration, and those engaging in civil disobedience formed a line right up in the face of the rows of police. As 28 people were arrested, people continued to chant, "We say no to the new Jim Crow, stop and frisk has got to go," and "We won't stop until we STOP stop and frisk," "stop and frisk don't stop the crime, stop and frisk IS the crime." Supporters cheered and called out to those putting their bodies on the line, and reporters asked them to comment on why they were being arrested as police put them in plastic handcuffs. After the arrests, one Brownsville resident said, "It touched my heart and brought tears to my eyes. Stop-and-frisk doesn't affect me but it's unjust, demeaning and dehumanizing."
A white woman in her early 30s who had heard about the stop-and-frisk protest at Occupy Wall Street and who came out said, "I never in my lifetime thought I would see people mobilized in the way they have been in the last month, and that's why I'm out here today."
That night a group of a dozen or so people waited outside the 77th Precinct for 25 of the 28 to be released late that night. It was a raucous disturbance in the precinct as each person released was greeted with cheers and applause and you could hear singing and "Mic check! Mic check!" coming from inside where the Freedom Fighters were held. Carl Dix was the last person released in a prolonged, punitive processing at approximately 2:50 am. Three people remained in custody overnight. Out of the 28 people arrested, at least eight of them had been arrested at the first bold civil disobedience action to STOP "Stop and Frisk" on October 21 in Harlem.
When asked what difference this will make, a 30-year-old white male from Occupy Wall Street talked about his experience that day, for the first time participating in nonviolent civil disobedience: "I think it will make a huge difference because, you know, we marched in Harlem and I saw all those kids come out and all those people come out and stand on the other side of the street. I talked to people on the streets today and people were thanking me for going out and doing this, some girls said, ya know, 'we really support what you're doing, unfortunately we can't join you today, but we really support it and we really believe it's a good thing that you're here, because you're protecting our families,' and I went to a barber shop to use the bathroom and the guys at the barber shop gave me a round of applause and thanked me for being out there because their friends and their loved ones and they themselves are being victimized by this every single day so I know this is making a difference. Even if the numbers at the march aren't big, people know that we're there and its gonna spread, ya know."
This is the second action following the October 21 rally and protest in Harlem where 33 people were arrested including Cornel West, Carl Dix, and several reverends and social justice activists ("From Up Against the Wall to Up in Their Faces . . . A Movement Has Begun to STOP 'Stop and Frisk'").
There is a new generation of Freedom Fighters stepping forward to take on the New Jim Crow, from all walks of life, with different life experiences compelling them to play this role. Revolution spoke with people as they were released and will report further on this most recent action and the new movement to STOP "Stop and Frisk."
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Revolution #249, November 6, 2011
Revolution is a serious and complex matter. It involves many different people coming together to unite on a common program of struggle, identifying and working toward the aims and means of fighting to make a radical change in the whole way humans interact with each other. Communists are fighting for a revolution which will bring an end to the power held by the capitalist-imperialists over the lives of billions, and bring into being a very different—and better—society for all of humanity. Those who hold power promote counter-revolution, working in every way they can to oppose and derail movements for revolution. This is the counter-revolution, which comes in many forms, but means active opposition to revolution, with the intent to destroy revolutionary groups or individuals. (For a fuller discussion see "What Is Counter-Revolution?" in Revolution No. 241.) It is important to have criteria for making distinctions between those who are part of the camp of the people, and those whose activities are part of, or strengthen, the camp of counter-revolution.
It is an essential part of making revolution to have lively and principled debate and political struggle in the camp of the people, among those who are in favor of revolution and also among people who disagree with all or part of a revolutionary program and approach. This will often involve sharp struggle over what are the aims and goals of the revolution and what is the strategy for getting there. This kind of struggle is aimed at getting at the heart of the disagreements over what is the problem and what is the solution. This is a key element in making revolution, a necessary part of understanding the reality we are dealing with and working to change, and it is important for drawing the masses of people into the process of determining how to go forward toward revolution and the emancipation of humanity–and steering clear of false paths. It needs to be carried out in a principled way, according to standards that help to clarify and strengthen revolution. The RCP, and Bob Avakian in particular, have fought for and have been guided by these standards in the way we carry out this kind of struggle. An important principle and method is this: if people have disagreements with the line of an organization or individual, they should take on the best representation of the line they are criticizing, based on what that group or individual publishes about their views, and then state how they differ as clearly and sharply as possible with that line.
There is a crucial distinction between principled struggle over differences in line and approach, on the one hand, and wrecking activities on the other. It is one thing for people to disagree with and even sharply criticize our positions, our outlook and approach—all of which we welcome because we are anxious to engage with people over the substance of this, and to learn from what people are raising. It is quite another for people to do things which have the effect of—which at least many of them know, or have every basis to know will have the effect of—aiding the actual enemy in its attempts to crush those who resist, and especially those who are proceeding from an understanding of the need to fundamentally oppose and ultimately sweep away this system through revolution.
Unfortunately, there are people who claim to be revolutionaries and communists but then conduct themselves in ways that objectively aid the counter-revolution. A very sharp example of this is the Kasama website, founded by Mike Ely several years ago with the intent of attacking the RCP and Bob Avakian in particular in very unprincipled ways. We have written and made available a substantial polemic titled "Stuck in the 'Awful Capitalist Present' or Forging a Path to the Communist Future? A Response to Mike Ely's Nine Letters" which addressed the content of the political arguments that were made initially on Kasama. But this website, while posing as a platform and forum for discussion of revolution and communism, has over several years engaged in activities that promote anti-communism and strengthen counter-revolution, and has been on a mission to alienate people from and to attack and destroy the RCP and its leadership, trafficking in innuendo, lies, gossip, and personal narratives.
Specifically, including very recently, there has been a whole practice of naming individuals who are identified on the Kasama site as being connected to the RCP, and then encouraging people to try to find out about individuals, their relationship to the Party, and speculation about the composition of different bodies and membership in the Party. And there has been an ongoing campaign of posting ad hominem (personal) attacks on Bob Avakian in particular. This alone puts it in the same camp as reactionary and vicious right-wing blogs and websites, doing the work for government agencies whose mission is to collect this kind of information which is then used to destroy individuals and organizations they deem to be a threat.
But that is not all. This website has orchestrated a campaign of gathering and propagating gossip, lies, half truths, and personal narratives—including of things alleged to have been said or done many years ago—which can in no way be verified or interrogated as to their truthfulness, with the conscious effort to whip up animosity toward Bob Avakian and the RCP more generally. Mike Ely in particular has sought out and published stories that in actual fact can only serve one purpose: to assist all kinds of reactionary forces in going after genuine revolutionaries. Mike Ely is very conscious of what he is doing and knows full well the ugly history of this kind of thing which was carried out by COINTELPRO and other agencies of the government in the 1960s and '70s, bitter lessons paid for in blood. He knows how this kind of pig activity served to isolate genuine revolutionaries and set them up for attack from all kinds of reactionaries, and what horrible consequences this led to, including assassinations of revolutionaries, destruction of revolutionary organizations, targeting of revolutionary leaders to isolate them from the masses, pitting people against each other by planting untruths and playing on the weaknesses of different individuals that would facilitate that. For example, the FBI and police would constantly foment and feed an atmosphere of rumor-mongering and gossip, often using anonymous poison-pen letters, which enabled them to surround the assassinations of people like Malcolm X, or the Black Panther Party leaders Bunchy Carter and John Huggins, with all kinds of murkiness and conceal their own roles in driving forward horrible events like that.
It can be very confusing to people when this is done in the framework of a website that claims and pretends to be promoting debate and honest struggle over questions of revolution and communism. But again, setting and acting according to standards that are designed at getting clarity over the essential matters of line is key to being able to sort things out. As we have made clear repeatedly as a matter of principle, debate and struggle over questions of political and ideological line, including on substantial differences over what will lead to revolutionary transformation and human emancipation, are essential. There is in fact a great need for more principled struggle over line to forge the kind of revolutionary movement that is sorely needed in today's world.
Further, from what our Party says and how we continually strive to conduct ourselves, it should be clear that we welcome and engage criticisms and disagreements, even sharp and fundamental disagreements, and recognize this as part of the necessary process of building the kind of society we're aiming for and the kind of Party that is needed to lead in getting there. Indeed, a key element at the core of the life of our Party is the struggle over what is true, and in the service of that we strive to present and engage the best representation of opposing lines; we do not go in for cheap shots, distortions or ad hominem attacks against people. This principled approach to struggle over line is a hallmark of the leadership that Bob Avakian has given our Party and has projected for the kind of future society that we are working to bring into being.
But the kinds of things we are describing that are promoted on the Kasama website about Bob Avakian and the RCP belong in the gutter and have put this site way beyond the pale, far, far from anything remotely connected to honest and principled struggle over line. Instead, all that this does is serve and assist the enemies of revolution and confuse the people, and everyone who is taking a serious approach to revolution knows, or should know, this. It has nothing to do with putting forward an alternative line as to how to change the world and in fact greatly undermines any serious efforts to get clarity on what are the source of the problems of the world and how to go about changing them. It is a telltale sign that there has been no serious engagement of any kind with the actual line of the RCP on this website—no principled approach to clarifying matters of line. Instead one finds a passion for spreading lies, inviting vendettas, and naming names and speculating about people and their association with the Party, all posted in the posture of a self-declared "expert" and authoritative voice about the RCP.
This website is no more of a reliable source about the RCP and its leadership than the FBI is. Despite Mike Ely's attempts to confuse people and pose authoritatively as someone "in the know," he provides no credible information that people should believe. First, he actually does not know a lot of what he claims to know; second, even more important is that honest people who have any scintilla of concern about protecting revolutionary leaders and organizations don't do this kind of thing—and people who do this are objectively doing the work of pigs. Whatever his particular associations might have been or might be, there is no objective distinction between his actions and a whole well-documented history of actions by the FBI and others of their ilk.
Think about what happens when you work to establish as "the truth" all kinds of unsubstantiated stories, rumors and lies about someone: what purpose does that serve and who benefits from that kind of counter-revolutionary activity? Think about what happens when you start naming people in revolutionary organizations and speculating about their whereabouts and activity. Think about what it means to encourage people to seek to find out and discuss publicly who are the leaders of a communist organization—an organization which is in fundamental antagonism to those who have powerful means to crush all opposition, and further to criticize that organization for not making this information public. The state wants to know the internal workings of any force that opposes them and especially a revolutionary organization which has the potential to bring forward masses of people to challenge their whole rule. And they use this information to destroy those organizations and the individuals who lead them. Anyone who has had the slightest experience—past or present—knows this.
All of this is aided by the current "culture of transparency," where millions of people promote and carry out the practice of posting in a permanent record many details about their lives, their family and friends and their daily activities, with no sense of the harm this can do, and how this can be used against them in many different ways. But beyond that, think about how the dominant culture of constant gossip spread all over the mass media, establishing "truth" and verdicts by posting things on the Internet, and using this means to accuse and "convict" people of horrible things in the media, how all this is training people how to think–or better said, training people to not think critically. And then think about the ways that this kind of thing being promoted and propagated on a website which claims it is interested in revolution both reinforces and takes advantage of that putrid culture. What does it say about people who rather than struggle with and encourage others to rise above it, sink down into it and utilize it? There is truly something very wrong with those who are more turned on by this tabloidization and bloodlust than they are concerned with trying to change the world in the interests of humanity.
It is important to take a serious look at what are the consequences of all this. Think about how this actually works against getting clarity on the important questions of what are the real problems that we confront if we are serious about building a movement that really can mobilize millions to change the world, a movement that is going up against very real and powerful forces who use everything in their disposal not only to directly go after those in opposition, but also to utilize, work with and unleash a whole host of people who do their work for them, whether getting paid for it or not. People should learn from history and be determined to not fall into the same kinds of traps that played such a destructive role in earlier times, like what was done at the height of the 1960s through the COINTELPRO program of the FBI and other covert operations of the government. Ask yourself, if the intention to destroy BA and the Party he leads were to succeed, how would humanity be better off? Who would benefit?
There are important reasons to keep confidential the identities of people in and associated with our Party, to keep confidential the composition of leading bodies and structure of the Party, and its ties to the masses of people. And it is not the business of those who are not members of our Party to spread gossip and speculation about these matters.
But there is no secret about what is important for people to know, which is the political and ideological line of our Party: what are our goals and methods for our work now and in the future. There is an abundance of material explaining our positions, outlook, and aims... and the reasoning for them. This is the basis on which people should judge whether what we represent is what is needed in the world or not. If people want to know how leadership is chosen and how our Party functions, go to the Constitution of our Party. If people want to know the foundation of our ideology, read the Manifesto from our Party: Communism: the Beginning of a New Stage. If people want to know our strategy for revolution, this is articulated in the statement "On the Strategy for Revolution" and in many articles and writings which can be found on revcom.us. And people can read the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) for a concrete vision of the kind of society we envision and are working toward. There are websites where people can go to find out more about Bob Avakian, and the actual work to build a movement for revolution and there are Revolution bookstores in major cities where people can find literature and discussions of our Party's line and the work we are engaged in, and many of the books written by Bob Avakian, including his own memoir, From Ike to Mao and Beyond. All of this is quite accessible to those who want to know about Bob Avakian and the RCP.
There is a need for those who are serious about fighting to bring about a different world to set and insist on some standards for the movements that will not tolerate this kind of counter-revolutionary activity. Anyone who is serious and does not want to be part of the counter-revolutionary cesspool concentrated on Kasama website (and related activities) should denounce it and have nothing to do with it. If you are involved with it you should get out, because if you know what goes on there and you don't then you are making a conscious choice to stay in it. There is no longer any remotely conceivable basis to think that what is put on that website regarding Bob Avakian and the RCP is any legitimate form of carrying out principled ideological and political criticisms.
Coming to grips with this form of counter-revolution and drawing a clear line in opposition to it is part of the struggle for revolution; and this kind of counter-revolutionary activity will emerge in different forms as the revolutionary movement develops. From the article "What is Counter-Revolution?": "All of this may be disconcerting to people who are new to the revolutionary movement. Why would people who claim to be for revolution act in such a way? Unfortunately, this type of counter-revolutionary activity is an inevitable part of making revolution—but that does not mean it should be excused, or shrugged off. While not getting pulled off course or disoriented, we have to be clear that this kind of thing does real damage, providing a climate where the forces of the state in power can bring down vicious repression on the revolution. This is one way you can tell the difference between people who are raising, even sharply, principled differences with revolutionaries, on the one hand, and counter-revolutionaries on the other. ...These are life and death matters which affect the lives of millions. Serious revolutionary movements have to raise their standards and learn to reject and have nothing to do with anyone who carries out these kinds of counter-revolutionary activities."
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Revolution #249, November 6, 2011
So read a headline on page one of the New York Times Sunday Review, calling attention to a recent article by Robert Worth, entitled "The Arab Intellectuals Who Didn't Roar." The "Arab Spring" (the various uprisings of the past 10 months across the nations of the Middle East and North Africa) "has not," in Worth's words, "yielded any clear political or economic project, or any intellectual standard-bearers of the kind who shaped almost every modern revolution from 1776 onward. In those revolts, thinkers or ideologues—from Thomas Paine to Lenin to Mao to Vaclav Havel—helped provide a unifying vision or became symbols of a people's aspirations." What Worth calls the "leaderless quality" of these upsurges "has become a liability. Organizers in and out of the country are now struggling to shape a set of shared political goals, and intellectual coherence and leadership is increasingly seen as important in that process."
While there are things to take issue with in his article, Worth has put his finger on a crucial question: what kind of leadership is needed to actually deal with the agonizing problems and realize the high aspirations that impelled the masses to rise up so courageously in January of this year.
It is in this context that the names of Lenin and Mao come up. Lenin, in 1917 in Russia, and then Mao in China, led revolutions that went after the deepest problems in society. They applied and further developed the theory—scientific communism, first brought forward by Karl Marx—that lays bare the source of the exploitation and misery in society and that shows how all that could be fundamentally overcome and then uprooted. Lenin and Mao forged and led parties that, first, led the masses to make these revolutions, against overwhelming odds; and second, to establish new structures that began to abolish the relations and institutions of exploitation and oppression and to give living expression to the possibility first uncovered by Marx: that of a new, emancipatory, dawn for humanity. (In this, by the way, they were a leap beyond and away from the others lumped with them in Worth's piece—Thomas Paine, a leader of the American Revolution, the primary aim of which was to displace the dominance of the British capitalist class over the colonies with the rule of the native capitalists and slave owners, opening the way to establishing the United States as a new capitalist empire; and Vaclav Havel, the Czech dissident who came to power after the revolts of 1989 which aimed only to replace systems in eastern Europe that were socialist in name only with ones that were more openly capitalist.)
In fact, for all the talk of being "leaderless," there is leadership being provided to these upsurges in the Middle East and North Africa. The question is leadership to do what. All kinds of forces have all kinds of programs—and later Worth describes some of how this is falling out. But none of those forces have a vision or program capable of tackling and resolving—or even correctly identifying—the most fundamental questions facing these societies. None of these forces can lead the masses to satisfy their most fundamental interests and highest aspirations.
Bob Avakian posed it like this:
Theirs [the masses] is the cry of "freedom," and the struggle must be carried forward until real freedom is achieved—freedom from the rule of the imperialists and their local henchmen and junior partners, freedom from all forms of oppression and exploitation. Freedom from both the outmoded forces which would enslave women, and the people as a whole, in medieval darkness and oppression—and from the outmoded forces who would enslave people in the name of "democracy"..."freedom"... and capitalist-imperialist exploitation marketed as "progress." ("Egypt 2011: Millions Have Heroically Stood Up...The Future Remains To Be Written," Revolution #224)
And then, actually summing up what happened when Lenin and the Bolshevik (Communist) Party did lead the masses in all-the-way struggle to get rid of the old system and replace it "with one that would really embody and give life to the freedom and the most fundamental interests of the people, in striving to abolish all oppression and exploitation," Avakian went on to say:
When people in their masses, in their millions, finally break free of the constraints that have kept them from rising up against their oppressors and tormentors, then whether or not their heroic struggle and sacrifice will really lead to fundamental change, moving toward the abolition of all exploitation and oppression, depends on whether or not there is leadership, communist leadership, that has the necessary scientific understanding and method, and on that basis can develop the necessary strategic approach and the influence and organized ties among growing numbers of the people, in order to lead the uprising of the people, through all the twists and turns, to the goal of a real, revolutionary transformation of society, in accordance with the fundamental interests of the people. [ibid.]
This is the sharpest question: will there be leadership which can lead the people to effect really fundamental change... or will there only be change which, however seemingly dramatic on the surface, leaves untouched the oppressive foundations of society? That question remains to be answered. The framework with which to chart the course to actual liberation exists—it is there, in concentrated form in the Manifesto from the RCP, USA, Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage, to be taken up and wielded by those who would take up the challenge posed by the current crossroads (and given expression by the headline writer at the New York Times). As Avakian ended his statement on Egypt:
To all who truly want to see the heroic struggle of the oppressed masses develop, with the necessary leadership, in the direction of real revolutionary transformation of society and genuine liberation: engage with and take up the emancipating viewpoint and goals of communism, and the challenge of giving this organized expression and a growing influence and presence among the struggling masses. [ibid.]
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Revolution #249, November 6, 2011
Revolution received the following letter:
An important embryonic synergy was brought into being at the October 22nd National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality in Los Angeles. There was the fresh spirit of challenging of everything old from the Occupy L.A.'ers, connecting with the bitter experience and deep anger of those who live at the bottom of society. In addition, there was a wide diversity of participants, including family members of people who have been killed by the police, as well as others who have been brutalized and harassed by police and sheriffs; people from different walks of life—proletarians, students, professionals, and others; plus a significant percentage of Black people marching through and rallying in the Latino neighborhood of Pico-Union—all of these strategically significant forces coming together and stepping out to stop police brutality and murder, mass incarceration, and the criminalization of a generation.
This had a transformative effect on many. A Black woman whose son was killed by police said she had been depressed for two years after her son's death, but coming out to O22 helped her a lot and had a healing effect. A Chicano youth said he was very moved and angered to tears by what the families said on stage, and signed up to become part of this movement. The 3 Strikes poster got a lot of attention in the immigrant community, and some people commented that mass incarceration is modern-day slavery. An immigrant woman who knew about the hunger strike declared, "We support the prisoners!" And a short skit was performed that sharply contrasted the illegality of this system with its invasions of other countries, to the situation of immigrants who are forced to come here.
This unusual scene did not go unnoticed by the powers-that-be. As the march took off from downtown, the radio dispatch from a police car was overheard, "Occupy LA. has joined the protest." And this was after a noticeable increase of police had surrounded the encampment in the morning, something that didn't succeed in intimidating marchers, but rather made them even more determined.
In the days leading up to the 22nd, there was a buzz developing, including an online call from a cyclist collective for a solidarity bike ride to end police brutality that announced, "Wear Black and Take Water!" At the OLA encampment, there were many people who were waiting eagerly for the contingent that would march to the rally site. Some had seen it on the Occupy LA website. Four students from a somewhat distant college had stayed overnight at the OLA so they could join the march, and they held up Bob Avakian's quote about the role of the police during the entire march route. A Black man from OLA who had spent time in prison was telling people, "This is our cause!" Another man said he was joining the protest because the police had brutalized his friends at Occupy Wall Street, adding, "Just because the police haven't attacked here doesn't mean police brutality isn't happening everywhere else." People held photographs of those killed by police, as well as signs from the occupation movement. When the spirited march took off, people chanted, "Who let the pigs out? Oink, oink, oink, oink!" and "No justice, no peace." And later when a newspaper team returned to OLA, a person told them that it was good to go into the Latino community and connect with the immigrants.
Throughout the day almost 500 Revolution newspapers were sold, about half in Spanish, especially along the march route. One immigrant bought 5 papers for $5 because he wanted to distribute them to his friends. A Guatemalan man bought Lo BAsico at the table because someone had talked to him before about the book and he wanted to get it, and a musician got it because he is intrigued by Avakian's new synthesis of communism.
All of this brings to mind the "two maximizings" described in BAsics 3:26 that is drawn from Bringing Forward Another Way:
"You are not going to bring forward a revolutionary force and a communist movement among the basic masses, on anything like the scale that is necessary, and potentially realizable, without there being the development of political ferment and political resistance broadly—and, yes, the development of a revolutionary and communist current—among the middle strata. In the absence of that, the basic masses are going to say to you—and they're going to have a point—that 'we'll never get anywhere, we're going to be surrounded, everybody's going to oppose us, and we're just going to be viciously crushed once again.' On the other hand, you can't hinge the development of a revolutionary force and a communist movement among the basic masses, and in society in general, on developments among even the progressive section of the middle strata or among the middle strata more broadly. That's not mainly where it's going to come out of. So we have to get the dialectics of this correctly."
This quote also poses challenges that revolutionary communists and others have to work on. As has been reported previously, there has been a lot of important debate around the role of the police at Occupy L.A. and around the country. And, at one point during the march there was a heated exchange between two immigrants, with one saying, "You must have done something wrong for the police to go after you," and the other responding, "But you shouldn't be killed for being drunk like Manuel Jamines." But there was also sharp back and forth here with some (and frankly we were slow to struggle around this) who looked at Occupy L.A. as a bunch of "privileged white people who would change the focus of the day" and opposed including a several block detour of the march to swing by the encampment, and undoubtedly gather even more forces and strength. As one of the family members emailed in the midst of the debate, "Isn't the point to have the biggest, most powerful march possible?"
Some of what was brought to life is what Bob Avakian wrote about in "There Is No 'Permanent Necessity' for Things to be This Way—A Radically Different and Better World Can Be Brought into Being Through Revolution":
"..what we're doing with popularizing and actually creating a movement where people live our morality is nothing less than projecting an alternate authority in the realm of ideology. All of these initiatives are saying that the world does not have to be this way; they are all different avenues of bringing people to grapple with the reality that the world really does NOT have to be this way."
The vibrant scene at the notorious Ramparts police station comes to mind where the names of nearly 50 people killed in L.A. this year were called out from the sound truck, and after each one, the crowd roared back "Presente!" And when a college student joined many in having their bodies chalked on the sidewalk in front of the station, she wrote beside it, "Think about humanity; Stop police brutality," which she found that many people liked. The streets in that area were lined with immigrants watching, listening, and reading the signs. They had not been stopped by the yellow police tape that had been put up to prevent people from joining the march. And in the same neighborhood, several immigrant shopkeepers handed out cups of juice and Gatorade to the marchers as they passed by. Participants could really feel the warmth from the residents and were emboldened by it. It was striking that there were many calls for unity made by the speakers on stage, especially from the families, who were very heartened by the breadth of marchers from different nationalities and social strata, and who were themselves a multinational mix of people, from a variety of proletarian and middle class backgrounds. And very significantly this alternate authority came to life when the People's Neighborhood Patrol gathered that evening, half a dozen people joined in to patrol the streets in a proletarian neighborhood.
One last point: a great idea developed in the invigorating conversations that night back at the OLA encampment. There's a lot of interest in BAsics but many people don't have the funds to buy it. And there's real desire to hold discussions on it. So learning from the BAsics challenge for prisoners, we are asking people to buy a copy for themselves, if they don't already have one, and donate a copy to the Occupy L.A. library. It would make a difference if there were 50 copies circulating there!
I talked to some older people who were setting up a film showing and they said they were already hooked in—had been to the meeting re Mass Incarceration and said they would talk to one of the organizers who sells Revolution newspaper and they would hook up with him about BAsics.
Ran into two people who were readers of the newspaper and of BAsics. One of them said that people are asking big questions and there is an answer—referring to BAsics. The other said that they were talking about an encampment at the county jail and she talked about how important O22 was—and how she really loved what the comrade I was with was saying from the truck. A very sizeable feeder march had joined O22 from Occupy L.A. and a two-hour rally was held there for the prisoner hunger strikers and a discussion on police brutality had taken place at OLA leading up to the day. She had talked to an older Black woman who was walking through OLA who argued that demonstrating won't do anything. She found herself marching with her on O22 and the woman said she had been brutalized by the police. And she talked about bringing her friend on the march. She said that they needed to bring their copy of BAsics to their tent so people could look at it.
I got home and thought about the quotation by BA on the back of this issue of the newspaper in the wake of those very momentous events in Oakland—and all the things that the occupiers were grappling with. I thought about the crucial role of Revolution newspaper and this very precious volume by Bob Avakian.
"When the whole society is erupting in upheaval and turmoil, when dramatic changes are taking place and things are going up for grabs politically, then what was tolerable, what people had adjusted to—maybe not just once but several times—becomes intolerable. With people who are discontented with their situation and just trying to get through it, when the possibility arises that they just don't have to do that, then they go through changes in their thinking and actions very quickly—not in a straight line toward revolution, but quickly all the same—and they become more and more open to the idea of revolution. A lot of people put up with what goes on all the time in this society and they also know it's garbage and when they actually see the chance to throw it away, a lot of them will do so quickly."
Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA
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