Voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA
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Revolution #258, February 5, 2012
Editors' Note: The following is part of a major interview that was recently conducted with Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. Given its timeliness, this part of the interview is being published now (see also the article in this issue, "Tips for Tim Tebow," written by Bob Avakian to accompany this excerpt from the interview). We are looking forward to publication, in the near future, of other parts of this interview, and the interview in its entirety.
Q: One aspect of the new synthesis that you were just talking a little bit about—and it's obviously a key aspect of the new synthesis—is a much deeper recognition and appreciation of the role of art and culture in making revolution and transforming society, and so I wanted to maybe shift gears a little bit and talk about some of that. And I guess one place to start is that you were telling me that you have something that you're working on, something about Tim Tebow and the "tuck rule"—so I don't know if you wanted to get into some of that.
BA: Well, first of all, before turning to Tim Tebow and the "tuck rule," I do want to briefly make clear that prior communists, and in particular theoreticians and leaders of the communist movement such as Marx, Lenin, and Mao, had a significant appreciation for the role of art and culture in relation to revolution; but, as I touched on a little bit earlier, there was a tendency—maybe this is a little oversimplified, but it does get at something—a tendency to see art and culture too much one-to-one with the political revolutionary movement. To see it as a part of the machinery of the revolution, in a more linear or direct sense. Not that they didn't appreciate this at all, but perhaps there was a tendency working against fully appreciating the way in which the realm of art and culture has its own dynamics and has to explore a lot of different questions or phenomena from a lot of different angles, including new and unusual angles. Some art and culture should be directly related to the struggles of the day, so to speak—there's a definite need for that—and some of it should be addressing more explicitly political questions, and ideological questions directly related to the contrast of world outlooks, for example. But some art and culture needs to be, so to speak, more indirect, not one-to-one or in any kind of immediate sense tied in with the major political and ideological questions of the day. Now, in an overall and ultimate sense, art and culture does give expression to one worldview or another, and it does become part of the arena of ideological and ultimately political struggle, even where it is given a lot of rein to go in a lot of different directions and is not so directly tied to political and ideological struggle. There's a difference between being ultimately related to this and being directly and more linearly and one-to-one related to it. So that's one point I wanted to make at the start.
Away With All Gods!
Now, to turn to Tim Tebow. Since, for many years now, he has prominently promoted fundamentalist Christianity—including by literally wearing references to Biblical verses on his face during football games when he was a prominent "star" in college—I was thinking it might be a good idea to send Tim Tebow some quotes from the Bible that he should promote and popularize—ones that get to the essence of what the Bible is about—like the passages in the Bible that call for the oppression of women, for slaves to be obedient to their masters, or those which insist that children who are rebellious should be put to death, that women who are accused of witchcraft should be executed, that homosexuals should be executed, that women who are not virgins when they get married should be executed in the town square, that people who practice religions that are opposed to the supposed one true God should be slaughtered, with the women raped and the heads of babies bashed in. Or the Biblical verses in which Jesus thinks that epilepsy is caused by demon possession instead of understanding it scientifically, which is pretty piss-poor for the son of god, if you think about it. And on and on. I think there are a number of verses like this that I would like to forward to Tim Tebow, along with a copy of Away With All Gods!, to provide him an opportunity to get a true understanding of what the Bible really represents, and have a chance to get up off of all of this reactionary shit and stop spreading a bunch of Dark Ages mentality and morality, when there's already far too much of it in the world. Whether Tebow himself can be moved in this way, I can't say for sure—it certainly doesn't seem very likely—but in any case it is important that a real understanding of what the Bible actually represents, and all the very real horrors it promotes and indeed insists upon, be brought to light. 1
But as for Tim Tebow and the "tuck rule," let's get into this subject this way. It's clear that "somebody up there" likes Tim Tebow. I'm not referring to a non-existent god, and I'm not referring just to somebody in the ownership and management of the Denver Broncos, for which Tebow plays. I think of a comment by Michael Cooper when he played for the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team in the NBA back in the early 1980s: During one of the championship series that they seemed to have in those times as an annual spectacle, between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics, when the Lakers lineup was announced, right before the start of the first game, instead of doing the traditional "high-five," the Lakers players did a "low-five" (slapping hands down low instead of up high). And I guess for the people in the NBA offices it was something like what Richard Pryor once described, in terms of the reaction of certain white people upon seeing Black people doing something that those white people didn't understand—whenever Black people get together and are doing something like that, Pryor observed, these white people say, "Hey, there's a whole bunch of 'em, what are they doing, what's going on here, what are they up to, are they plotting and conspiring?" So, it seems the NBA executive office had a similar reaction: "Uh-oh, what's this thing they're doing? We just got used to the high-five, now they're down 'low-fiving' like that—is this some kind of dangerous thing they're doing here?" So, according to Michael Cooper, the Lakers players were told that they could no longer do this low-five. And when asked who told them that, Cooper answered: "somebody higher than the team and lower than god." So when I say "somebody up there likes Tim Tebow," I'm thinking of somebody "higher than the team and lower than (a non-existent) god."
And the reason I say that is because it's clear that Tebow has, at this point at least, inconsistent and mediocre skills, to be charitable, as a professional NFL (National Football League) quarterback. Yet he has led all these "miracle" comebacks toward the end of games, where his team has not been doing anything all game long on offense but then suddenly comes from behind, and wins right at the end, or ties the game up at the end of the fourth quarter and sends it into overtime, where they, once again, miraculously pull out a win. Somehow, in these situations the defense of the other team suddenly forgets how to play defense. Somehow, for example, the defensive backs, who are supposed to "cover" the offensive players ("pass receivers") who are trying to get "open" to catch a pass—somehow those defensive players forget how to "cover" the receivers, leaving them wide open to catch passes from Tebow, who is anything but an accurate passer, on any consistent basis, and has a hard time completing passes to his "receivers" unless they are wide open.
The point is that there seems to be some sort of program involved here—once again, beyond just the team and beyond just Tim Tebow and the circle around him and his agents. Marketing Tebow commercially is certainly part of this, but beyond being part of a marketing strategy, this promotion of Tim Tebow is serving an ideological purpose. It's serving the purpose of projecting the kind of reactionary Dark Ages religious fundamentalism that Tebow represents and insists upon spewing forth and imposing on everybody—it's a matter of giving that a lot of free rein and wide expression. Having Tebow come out as a "winner" on the football field—and particularly having him pull out "miracle comeback wins" at the end of games—is crucial in order to give Tebow credence, to make him more effective, in spreading his reactionary religious fundamentalist viewpoint (after all, this is America—and nobody will listen for long to a "loser"). In fact, a recent survey indicated that nearly half of the people polled in this survey believed that intervention by god had something to do with these "miracle comeback wins" that Tebow has been credited with producing (and even if a survey of this kind might involve an unusually high percentage of people who are Tebow fans and religious fanatics themselves, it still reveals something about what is "up" with this whole promotion of Tebow).
So, it seems clear that forces "higher than the team and lower than (a non-existent) god" feel that this is not only good for marketing, but it's important ideologically to spread this religious fundamentalism through a major cultural figure, a sports icon that they've worked to create in Tim Tebow. The reasons for this should be obvious if you think about it: Here you have a crisis in society, upheaval in society, resistance mounting, deep questions starting to be grappled with more broadly about the whole way of things and the whole direction of society—and one of the main means through which powerful sections of the ruling class see for cohering the society and holding it together on a reactionary basis is precisely the spread of religious fundamentalism, Christian fundamentalism in particular. And that's why we've seen such a flowering, if you will—which is really a misnomer since this is something really putrid, but let's just call it a flowering—of religious fundamentalism in such a major way over the past several decades in the U.S., and once again intensely so in recent years.
It's not that there weren't already people who adhere to fundamentalist religious views. Even without encouragement from "on high" (among the ruling circles of society), there would be this phenomenon of religious fundamentalism in this society, given that this kind of religious viewpoint has been promoted since the beginning of this country. You can think of things like the Scopes trial (the trial of a teacher in Tennessee in the 1920s, who was charged with violating a law in that state which prohibited the teaching of evolution) and the ways in which reactionaries have tried to prevent people from learning about evolution, right up to today. That is just one sharp example of what I am referring to. But the point is, in more recent decades—and now, once again, in a sharp way in recent years—there has been a concentrated effort, by powerful and influential people, to cohere this kind of religious fundamentalist belief into an ideological and political force, and to exert and magnify its influence in society in that way. Scattered and dispersed as just a bunch of individuals, such a phenomenon would have far less influence. But as a more cohered and organized force, which is given powerful backing and financial resources—as this Christian fundamentalism is in the U.S.—it becomes a whole other phenomenon with much more major impact.
So into this fits Tim Tebow. Now I follow sports as closely as I can, and it's very interesting: Tebow played a few games as quarterback for the Denver Broncos last year but he was beaten out for the starting position during "training camp" before this season began. Yet a clamor was raised and a campaign orchestrated to have Tebow become the starting quarterback for the Broncos. And when the Broncos were doing poorly at the beginning of this season, the guy who beat Tebow out as the starting quarterback, Kyle Orton, was dumped, demoted, and Tebow took over as quarterback (and then Orton was eventually let go and ended up with another team). But in any case, they brought Tebow in, and he started having these "miracle" wins, which I referred to earlier.
Now, listening to all this, some people might say: "Are you really trying to tell me that there's some kind of conspiracy, that what happens in a football game is not determined on the field by what the players and what the coaches do, but somehow something else is going on—is this another conspiracy theory of how there are powerful forces that are manipulating things?" Well, yes. It is definitely the case that this happens in sports, particularly (though not only) professional sports, and there are very good reasons to believe that this is what's happening here, with Tim Tebow.
As I said, I follow sports as closely as I can, including football, and I noted that shortly after Tebow became the starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos this season, they were trounced by another team, the Detroit Lions. And, to use the metaphor commonly employed in "football parlance"—a very revealing metaphor—Tebow was "sacked" many times by the Lions' defense (this means that when he went back to pass the ball, the opposing team broke through and tackled him behind the line of scrimmage before he could throw the ball). And they intercepted a Tebow pass (meaning that, instead of the pass being caught by the "receiver" on his team, to which Tebow was trying to throw the ball, a defensive player on the other team caught the ball instead), leading to serious setbacks for the Broncos. The Lions routed the Broncos, and Tebow looked miserably poor as a quarterback on a professional football team. But on top of that, it seems that on a number of occasions when these defensive players from the other team would "sack" Tebow, they would then mockingly do a version of "Tebowing"—which has become a widely promoted phenomenon—referring to the fact that Tebow will be seen on the sidelines bowing in prayer during the course of, or at the end of, a game. So these Detroit Lions defensive players would come in and tackle Tebow for a loss, and then they would do a mocking version of Tebowing. And it seems very clear that this was deemed highly undesirable, and unacceptable, by those powers "higher than the team and lower than (a non-existent) god." It was after this game with the Detroit Lions that the Broncos suddenly went on a whole string of "miracle comeback wins," helped along by defensive players on the opposing teams who somehow suddenly forgot how to play defense. (As I recall, there was one game, before they were demolished by the Detroit Lions, where the Tebow-led Broncos came back to win in overtime, but it was after the game with the Lions that the Broncos went on a string of "miracle" comebacks.)
Again, it seems pretty clear that "somebody up there" didn't like the fact that not only was Tebow being shown up to be not that good, but that "Tebowing"—which was being promoted as a mass phenomenon—was being mocked. Couldn't have that. So, all of a sudden, Tebow and the Broncos went on this string of "miracle" comebacks. No more mocking of Tebow and "Tebowing."
Now, again, some people might say: "Oh c'mon now, this is just another conspiracy theory. You really think powerful people care that much about things like football?" Yes, they do. Because football is an important part of the cultural realm, and it has mass influence in this society. The Super Bowl (the national championship of American professional football) is a major event, for example—watched by literally hundreds of millions of people, if not more, around the world, as well as in the U.S. And football certainly does have a major influence, particularly on guys and "guy culture"—which is not a healthy culture—it's a male chauvinist culture, for short, which incorporates the celebration of violence, real as well as ritualized violence. I'll leave for another time a whole discourse about football and violence—that's another story. As I said, I do follow football and I have to admit that I like a lot of the athleticism involved. There is a beauty to that. But there are definitely things about the culture surrounding football, including the culture of violence that's an integral part of it, that is very negative.
Returning more directly to Tebow, for those people who say, "this couldn't be happening that way, there couldn't be that kind of conspiracy"—I have two words for you: "tuck rule."
What does this refer to? Back in the National Football League playoffs that followed the 2001 season—note well, 2001—the Oakland Raiders were involved in a playoff game. The Raiders, by the way, are the designated team to be penalized and dumped on by the hierarchy of the rest of the NFL. 2 The Raiders were playing the—now, pay attention—New England PATRIOTS. That is worth repeating: the New England PATRIOTS. And this was in the playoffs after the two thousand and one season—2001, the year of the 9/11 attacks.
The Raiders-Patriots playoff game in 2001 was a close game, hotly contested in the snow in Boston. It came down to the final few minutes, with the Raiders leading by 3 points. The much vaunted Patriot quarterback, Tom Brady, went back to pass... he was rushed and tackled by an Oakland Raider defender... he dropped the ball (what's called a "fumble" in football)... and the Oakland Raiders fell on the ball—recovering the fumble and thereby getting the ball back. All they would have to do then was to "run out the clock" (keep possession of the ball while time ran out), and they would win the game, advancing in the playoffs, and eliminating from the playoffs—the playoffs following the 9/11 events in 2001—the New England PATRIOTS.
But wait a minute. The play is being "reviewed upstairs." This is how things are done in the final 2 minutes of an NFL game: officials sitting somewhere above the field have the responsibility for reviewing plays, on a TV monitor, showing the play from different angles. They look at the play to make sure that the "call" by the officials down on the field (for example, whether a player "fumbled" the ball) is correct. But, in this case, "upstairs" refers not just literally to the officials sitting up in a booth above the field who are responsible for reviewing plays in the final 2 minutes of the game. "Upstairs" here also refers—to paraphrase Michael Cooper—to people "higher than the game and lower than (a non-existent) god." In this case, first of all, it wasn't even clear why there was a "review"—since, even in the final two minutes in an NFL game, plays are reviewed only if there is a legitimate question about whether the "call" by the officials on the field was correct. And in this instance, there didn't seem to be any doubt—it was very clear that there was a fumble and it was recovered by the Oakland Raiders. So, why was an obvious fumble even being reviewed in the first place? Brady was tackled while standing up, the ball dropped out of his hands, it was recovered by the Raiders—what's to review? Second of all, the review took a very long time—much longer than normal—and then all of a sudden it's announced by the referee on the field, getting the word from "upstairs," that, lo and behold, what you thought was a fumble wasn't a fumble after all. Wait a minute: We saw him being tackled, and he dropped the ball. How could that not be a fumble? He wasn't moving his arm forward to throw the ball, so it couldn't have been an attempt to pass—he was just holding the ball—it had to be a fumble. What do you mean no fumble?
Well, some obscure part of the rule book, called the "tuck rule," was invoked. Here we're going to get into some fine points of the mechanics of football, but it's important, so stay with it. What they invoked, in overturning the ruling of a fumble, and giving the ball back to New England, was that there's a rule that says: If the quarterback brings forward his arm to start to pass the ball, and then decides not to pass it, but doesn't bring the ball all the way back to his chest (doesn't "tuck the ball in"), then, while his arm is still extended somewhat, holding the ball, that constitutes part of throwing a forward pass, and therefore if the ball is knocked out of his hand in that situation, it's not a fumble. Bullshit!
Bullshit on two levels. First of all, that's an impossible rule to have, or to apply, because it would mean that every time a quarterback started to throw the ball, if he didn't see anybody to throw it to, and he was worried about being tackled and fumbling, he'd just have to hold the ball out like this (in front of him) and never bring it back to his chest, and then if they tackle him and he fumbles, you invoke the "tuck rule." Never happens. You can look at miles and miles of film and video of professional football and you can see quarterbacks holding the ball out like that, and then losing it, or having it knocked loose, and it's called a fumble, as it should be.
But what happened in this case? Note this well. Not only did they conjure up and invoke this "tuck rule" but, even if you strictly applied this ridiculous rule (which is never applied and never invoked) the truth is—and you can see it clearly by watching the replay or looking at the still pictures of this play involving Tom Brady—that he, in fact, had brought the ball all the way back to his chest ("tucked it in") in exactly the position it's supposed to be in, in order for it to be ruled a fumble. So, on two levels, this was outrageous bullshit. First of all, they dug around and came up with this ridiculous "tuck rule," which never gets applied in any other circumstance. That's why it took so long reviewing the play "upstairs"—they had to go dig around for an obscure rule. Second of all, even according to this ridiculous rule, it was still a fumble. And yet the ball was given back to New England. Then New England moved down the field and kicked a 3-point field goal, sending the game into overtime, and the PATRIOTS ended up winning the game in overtime.
And then what happened? This may be familiar to people who have lived through the experience of "weapons of mass destruction" that didn't exist in Iraq, but which every significant official of the Bush regime insisted did exist. In that case—in the invasion and occupation of Iraq—they said: Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction, that's why we have to go in there. It's a danger to us. We don't want the next thing we see to be a mushroom cloud over the United States, said Condoleezza Rice. We know he has them—north and south and east and west—said Donald Rumsfeld. Dick Cheney insisted: There's absolutely no doubt he has weapons of mass destruction. And on and on with these deliberate and calculated lies. They went in, waged a war, looked all over, and couldn't come up with any weapons of mass destruction. Then the mainstream media, which had been consistently complicit in propagating these lies about weapons of mass destruction, changed its story: The claim that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction turned out not to be true, it was admitted, but it was declared to be just a matter of "faulty intelligence"—when in fact, it was a concerted campaign of systematic, conscious, and deliberate lying to try to rationalize and sell a war that they decided to wage soon after Bush took office. And they definitely decided to seize on the "opportunity" of the 9/11 events in order to wage war against Iraq and eliminate a regime that they had previously worked with but now wanted to get rid of, because it was no longer useful to them in their calculations.
So, what did the mainstream media do then? Well, besides claiming the whole thing was just a matter of "faulty intelligence," it was said: Yes, it's true that there weren't any weapons of mass destruction—but, anyway, everybody thought there were. Which is another lie. "Everybody" did not think that. Most notably, the inspectors from the UN who were on the scene in Iraq were reporting that they weren't finding any evidence of weapons of mass destruction. At the very time when Bush and his whole retinue were repeating these lies, including Powell at the UN, these UN inspectors, who were on the ground in Iraq, were reporting repeatedly that they were finding no evidence of any weapons of mass destruction. They even made a report after Colin Powell went to the UN and lied before the whole world about alleged weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Powell brazenly declared: We have the definite proof, this is not speculation, this is proof. Then Hans Blix, one of the main inspectors, gave a report to the UN, as he was required to do, and he said: We have checked out Colin Powell's allegations, and we can't find anything to them—there's no evidence—these claims by the U.S. government aren't backed up by any evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
In other words, Powell just got up and lied, presenting shoddy and fabricated "evidence." Mr. Morality, Colin Powell, you know. This was not the first time that he had been involved in war crimes. You can go back to Vietnam and the My Lai massacre during that war—when U.S. soldiers slaughtered, in the most perverse ways, hundreds of Vietnamese people in the village of My Lai, most of whom were women, old people, and children. Colin Powell, who was an officer in the U.S. military at that time, was involved in an attempted cover-up of this egregious war crime. And you can go to the first invasion of Iraq by the U.S. in 1991—when, among other things, Colin Powell, then a high official in the U.S. military, lied to cover up the slaughter of hundreds of Iraqi civilians in an air raid shelter which was deliberately bombed by the U.S.
Perhaps it seems we've gotten far afield from football and in particular the incident with the "tuck rule" and how this relates to Tim Tebow. But, the point is, there is an analogy. What did the media do in the "tuck rule" situation? They said: Well, yes, it's too bad, it was really unfair to the Raiders, but what could you do? That was the rule. Even though it's a stupid rule, and it's not usually applied, this is a playoff game and you do have to go by the rules—and there is a "tuck rule"—and so, therefore, Tom Brady, the quarterback, didn't fumble, it was an incomplete pass, so it was correct, even though it was unfair.
That is analogous to saying: Yes, it turns out that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but everybody thought there were, or it was just "faulty intelligence." The fact—and the reason I say there is an analogy here—is that, in the case of the NFL playoff game involving Oakland and New England, and specifically with regard to the "tuck rule," if you looked at the actual evidence—that is, the replay on video and the still pictures—you could see that, even according to the ridiculous "tuck rule," which is never applied in any other circumstance, it was a fumble. It fit the definition of a fumble, even according to the "tuck rule." So what was really going on was that some powerful people were determined, secondarily, that the Raiders wouldn't get very far in the playoffs—but primarily that, shortly after the events of 9/11 in 2001, the New England—what?... the New England PATRIOTS—had to advance in the playoffs. And, in fact, the PATRIOTS went on to win the Super Bowl that time.
And this is analogous as well to Tim Tebow and the backing he's getting from "upstairs." I raise this to say—for those who claim, "things like this don't happen, conspiracies like this don't take place in sports"—that, besides all the evidence I've cited for how it happens repeatedly in professional basketball, in my talk "The NBA: Marketing the Minstrel Show and Serving the Big Gangsters,"3 this also happens in other professional sports, including the National Football League. It happened with Tom Brady, the "tuck rule," and the New England—wait for it... the New England PATRIOTS—and something analogous is happening now with Tim Tebow and the promotion of the medieval Christian fundamentalism of which he is a fanatical advocate.
A Final Note Added By Bob Avakian:
The interview, from which this article ("Tim Tebow and the 'Tuck Rule' ") was taken, was conducted before the NFL playoffs this year (2012). As it turned out, after beating an injury-riddled Pittsburgh Steelers team, Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos were trounced by the... New England Patriots, led by quarterback Tom Brady. Perhaps there is irony in this, but it seems that it was acceptable for the people "upstairs"—"higher than the team and lower than (a non-existent) god"—for Tebow and the Broncos to lose to Brady and the PATRIOTS. In any case, these people "upstairs" certainly should feel gratified that they have already gone a long way in fabricating an icon in Tim Tebow, fueling an irrational mania around this icon, and promoting everything outmoded and reactionary that is represented by this.
1. See "Tips for Tim Tebow" in this issue. [back]
2. Footnote by BA: To explain the extent, and the reasons for, the rather overt discrimination against the Oakland Raiders, directed from the highest levels of the National Football League, is beyond the scope of what can be gotten into here, but this discrimination is a fact. And yes—"full disclosure," as the expression goes—I'm an Oakland Raiders fan, insofar as I'm a professional football fan. Nonetheless, it is true, the Raiders are the designated team to be dumped on by the rest of the owners and the hierarchy in the NFL. They are, for example, the most penalized team in all of professional football—and not because they commit more penalties, but because more penalties are called on them. [back]
3. "The NBA: Marketing the Minstrel Show and Serving the Big Gangsters" is one of 7 Talks given by Bob Avakian in 2006. Audio of these talks is available at bobavakian.net. [back]
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Revolution #258, February 5, 2012
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Tim Tebow, quarterback for the Denver Broncos in the National Football League, is being widely, and seemingly endlessly, promoted—as an icon not only in the realm of sports but much more broadly. I have followed sports, including football, for many decades now, and I cannot recall ever witnessing anything like this. In a highly orchestrated and concentrated campaign, Tebow is being held up as a “worker of miracles” on the football field but, more than that, as a “role model” and moral standard-bearer.
This hype around Tebow is completely and strikingly out of proportion to any demonstrated ability or actual accomplishments on Tebow’s part, in terms of performance as a professional football quarterback. If you have been paying attention not only to the arena of sports but to things more broadly in this society and the world, you should be able to quickly guess why this is: Tim Tebow is a religious fanatic—of the Christian fundamentalist variety—who aggressively promotes his medieval views and values in a way that is obviously considered useful by significant sections of the powers-that-be in the U.S. Among other things, during the Super Bowl (the American professional football championship) a couple of years ago, Tebow was the centerpiece of an ad whose purpose was to oppose the right of women to reproductive freedom, in particular abortion. The ad was sponsored by a right-wing Christian organization which aggressively opposes the right of women to abortion (it is also a fact, and highly revealing, that as a general rule the reactionary Christian fundamentalist forces that oppose a woman’s right to abortion also want to ban birth control).
This promotion of what is in reality a fascist outlook and program, in the form of fundamentalist Christianity, is aided by the notion—aggressively championed by some, and far too often unchallenged by others—that there is a direct connection between how religious someone is and how “moral” he or she is. Which avoids the critical question: What is the content of this morality? More specifically: What, in fact, is being promoted through the propagation of religious fundamentalism, including the kind of “Biblical literalism”—insisting that the Bible is the word of God which must be accepted as absolutely true, and as the standard for behavior, in every respect—with which Tim Tebow is associated? In reality, it is irrational, anti-rational ignorance and superstition—which denies well-established scientific fact, such as evolution, and is opposed to the scientific method and approach in general—as well as the insistence upon all kinds of reactionary, extremely oppressive and literally murderous values, social relations, and actions. And this is not something that should somehow be overlooked, excused, or minimized because Tebow works hard at being a quarterback (has a “good work ethic”) and supports religious charities (something reactionary religious fundamentalists often do).
Since one of the main ways in which Tim Tebow in particular propagandizes and proselytizes for his religious fundamentalism is through continual and prominent citation of verses from the Bible, I am offering the following tips for Tim Tebow, in terms of passages from the Bible he should cite and call attention to, in order to bring to light what is the actual content—the fundamental worldview, relations, values and morals—which are promoted, and indeed insisted upon, in the Bible.
The above are only some passages from the Bible—and many, many more could be cited—which clearly illustrate the truth that (as I put it in the book, Away With All Gods! Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World) the Bible, taken literally, is a horror. (I would be happy to provide Tim Tebow with a copy of this book.)
If Tim Tebow wants to truly inform people about what the Bible represents, let him cite the above verses of the Bible and acknowledge what they actually advocate. If he wants to claim that he does not insist on taking the Bible as the literal and absolute word of the one true God, then let him say that openly and without equivocation—and admit that the Bible is not a divine work, but rather the work of human beings, which is full of ignorance and superstition as well as the advocacy of all kinds of truly horrendous values, relations, and actions. If he wants to say that he does not uphold what is put forward in what has been cited here, then let him disavow not only these particular Biblical passages but indeed the Bible as a whole, for the words spoken in these passages are not presented in the Bible as deviations from the righteous path, advocated by enemies of the one true God. No, these are said to be the words of the Biblical God himself, or of those identified, in the Bible itself, as the most worthy messengers, prophets, and apostles of this God—such as Moses, Isaiah, and Paul—as well as the supposed son of this God, Jesus.
Meanwhile, enough with the incessant campaign to not only portray Tim Tebow as a far greater football player than he actually is, but also to portray him as a nearly god-like icon, serving as a moral example and compass. Enough of the morality, and all that is bound up with the morality, that Tim Tebow stands for and aggressively shoves in everyone’s face.
|A depiction of punishments for people accused of witchcraft from Ulrich Tengler's Laienspiegel, 1508|
|King Jehu causes his wife to be beheaded for infidelity, by Albrecht Dürer, 1493|
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Revolution #258, February 5, 2012
BA Everywhere... this is a campaign aimed at raising big money to project Bob Avakian’s vision and works throughout society, to make BA a household word. Success in this campaign can effect a radical and fundamental change in the social and political “atmosphere” 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.
A campaign to raise funds with a very specific goal has been launched. We’re on a mission to get BA Everywhere. This means reaching out to those who are deeply discontented with what is going on in this society and the world, stirring up discussion and debate and wrestling with the problem and solution. It means finding the ways to challenge the conventional wisdom that this capitalist system is the best humanity can do—and welcoming the controversy and contestation over big questions of the revolution.
Foundational to this whole campaign is getting BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian out and into the hands of people all over the place. The engagement with the quotes and essays in BAsics is the way in which all those who are looking for solutions to the basic problems in society and who, whether they fervently agree or adamantly disagree, want to see this revolutionary solution in the mix can enter into and join with this campaign. And everybody who feels BA’s work and his re-envisioning of communism must be a part of the broad debate in society (and more) has contributions to make to this effort: Get into BAsics. Take it out to your friends, colleagues, and others you meet. Read the quotes and introduce them to the book. And when questions get posed—get back into BAsics and read what BA has to say about these things.
This campaign will be punctuated with and accelerated by making important leaps along the way. In just a few days, the BAsics Bus Tour (pilot project) will be launched—with a national tour to follow. As we look ahead in 2012, we can envision the potential impact of the dramatic national advertising which will promote and project BA and his vision and works. But the impact of this tour, other such concentrated initiatives, and a national advertising campaign can only be maximized when they are linked to and part of a whole ensemble of efforts which are working together. Such initiatives can and should be nodal points in a movement with its sights set on raising money continuously and in all kinds of ways. And, again, forging this movement relies on getting BAsics everywhere—and utilizing it to raise money.
February is Black History Month. What if large posters with quotes from BAsics appear on street corners and in campus quads, with the audio of “All Played Out” loudly playing, and teams of people engaging all those who come around, distributing BAsics and taking up a collection to send BAsics to prisoners? Think about what kind of buzz could kick off if dozens of copies of BAsics were in the hands of residents in a housing project or students in a high school... or if hundreds on a large university campus were reading and discussing the quotes and essays in BAsics?
Achieving our goals depends not only on raising big money, but on how we go about raising those funds. Broad publicity and promotion alone will not make Bob Avakian a household word. Achieving our goals depends on who is drawn into this work, and in what ways and forms. It is critical for people to be engaging with BA and specifically with BAsics. This campaign must reach a wide range of people, from those with little means to those with substantial resources, and everybody in between. But, at the heart of this must be an ever expanding core of people who are getting into BA and know what difference it can make to get BA Everywhere, an ever expanding core whose sights are set on raising the big money that is needed to project BA and his work in a way that has societal impact. A core that is seizing on every opportunity to take the work of BA to people everywhere and finding the ways more and more people can join in.
There is real importance to the range of contributors and contributions. Even as intense work must go on to reach people who can donate substantial amounts, the coming together of groups of people to raise smaller contributions through sales and other activities will be one important way that this movement grows and gains strength—on campuses and in communities. Bringing people together in diverse ways is essential to this campaign.
In the neighborhoods of the oppressed we should invite people to come to gathering spots or into people’s homes, introduce them to BAsics and organize discussion groups. Let’s go out to the high schools and speak in classrooms. And take Lo BAsico out to Spanish-speaking communities. We should look to getting this book into libraries and their local bookstores—and not overlook the possibilities of holding book programs in these spaces. And unleash extensive and creative promotion, from hanging banners in appropriate places to passing out flyers to putting up posters in stores. And as all this is happening, big money can and should be raised for more major promotion and events. Think about the impact a billboard with a quote from BAsics could have in many areas of the country. Especially if it went up as people were broadly promoting and distributing BAsics, having discussions, and organizing fundraising to make more possible.
And BAsics needs to impact campuses across the country. Popularize it in Facebook ads, letters and ads in college newspapers. Everybody—sell the BAsics ebook! Together with this, let’s get into the classrooms. And let’s work with students to invite students into the cafeterias and dorms to dig into BAsics. Then, with the students already buzzing about the quotes and essays from BAsics, the impact will be all the greater when Raymond Lotta, Sunsara Taylor, or Carl Dix come to these campuses. And the funds to bring them will be able to be raised.
So, let’s do it! Let’s welcome the debate and controversy. Let’s find the ways to get BA Everywhere, forging a movement which seizes on every pathway to take this campaign all over the place. Let’s make BA a household word!
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Revolution #258, February 5, 2012
Picture this scene:
A bus rolls up to the entrance of a local college or into a high school parking lot. Or it pulls into the center of town and sets up big displays. Or maybe it appears at a club where the youth hang out or a neighborhood church where progressive people go. Or a homeless encampment of people driven into the hidden corners of society because they no longer have anywhere to live, or a place where farmworkers gather before heading out to another day of field work under the pounding hot California sun.
But this is no typical bus. It is covered in giant replicas of the front and back covers of BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian. “You can’t change the world if you don’t know the BAsics.” A crew of revolutionaries pours out the door with brightly colored T-shirts emblazoned with the BAsics logo or the BA image. Bob Avakian’s “All Played Out” blasts out of loudspeakers. The bus riders come with copies of BAsics.
In some places a welcoming committee meets the bus as it pulls up; in others, through getting BAsics into the hands of numbers of people, interest and controversy is sparked. And a buzz and audience is created. Some people check out the large photo displays depicting the crimes of U.S. imperialism around the world that are quickly and boldly erected outside the bus. Some grab up materials on BAsics, on works by Avakian, and on the possibilities to bring a whole new world into being based on the new vision of communist society that he’s brought forth. Still others, not convinced or maybe not even fully aware of what they’ve stumbled upon, raise questions about whether a better society really is possible, whether it could really work, and whether revolution and communism are the way to get there. But all along the way, BAsics will be getting into people’s hands and lots of interest will be sparked by the arrival of this bus on the scene.
This is the BAsics Bus Tour. This is real. And the Los Angeles launch of the BAsics Bus Tour is just days away.
* * * * *
On Tuesday, February 7, the inaugural pilot run of the BAsics Bus Tour will kick off in Los Angeles. Over the next two weeks, the tour will make its way from the southern to the northern parts of the state. There will be stops in neighborhoods filled with the basic people. It will go into the midst of those situations where things are sharpening up and raising big questions about the oppression people face and the road out of this madness. It will visit Occupy encampments on California college campuses and go into some of the richest farming areas in the state. It will touch down briefly in the Berkeley/Oakland area where people took to the streets after the murder of Oscar Grant and returned to the streets again and again when the Occupy movement was attacked by the powers-that-be.
A Revolution reporter will be on the tour to send back reports and photos so readers can go to the Revolution newspaper website and follow the tour as it goes from town to town. There will be efforts to get local progressive and mainstream media to cover the bus as it rolls through a community. And there’s a possibility that there may be live streaming video at key junctures of the tour, or postings on YouTube.
By the time the pilot tour is over, the bus will have racked up hundreds of miles and introduced thousands of people to Bob Avakian. It will have involved many new people in the “BA Everywhere ... Imagine What A Difference It Could Make!” campaign, from donating funds to hosting a discussion with the bus riders to maybe getting on board the bus for several days themselves. It will have provoked controversy and challenged many of those who are met to go deeper, to look at the revolutionary work Avakian has been doing for the past four decades and why what he’s brought forward is so crucial in understanding the reasons why the present-day world is so messed up, why it doesn’t have to be this way, and what it will take to get to a whole new world of possibilities for humanity.
And last but not least, the California pilot tour will accumulate important experience that can be fed into plans for a national bus tour later this year.
We have already met people in some of the far outlying areas of Los Angeles and San Francisco who know about us, like the woman who lives hundreds of miles from L.A. but saw people taking out BAsics at the Rose Parade in Pasadena when she came to join the Occupy contingent. She told us how impoverished the area where she lives is, how it is “surrounded by three prisons, full of poverty and no culture, nothing to do.” Others in outlying areas have been giving us their contact information so they can be a part of the BAsics Bus Tour when it comes to their area, some of whom have been buying BAsics. Still others are passing on suggestions of where to go and who to reach.
One striking similarity about these people is how disturbed they are at the way things are and how hungry they are for something different. Most have never met a revolutionary before or encountered people with serious, worked-out ideas on how to overturn the existing horrendous state of affairs and bring something far better into being in its place. The bus tour aims to begin to change all that. In short, the potential impact of the tour is significant. Now imagine how much bigger the impact can be if every one of the people reading this figured out how you can be part of the tour in some way.
And then there’s the question of funds to make all this happen. As Revolution reported a couple weeks ago, $7,000 has been raised for the initial budget for the pilot tour. Several thousand more is needed.
It will make a huge difference if those who want to be on this bus can take two weeks off work. The money needs to be raised to support them so they can see the tour through from beginning to end.
* * * * *
This tour will be a beginning for one of the linchpin components in the “BA Everywhere...Imagine the Difference It Could Make!” campaign. Together with the massive fundraising efforts on all fronts, this tour will take a big step in impacting society as a whole.
Readers who want to be a part of the tour, to learn more, or to provide much needed funds for this historic beginning to a national “BA Everywhere” Bus Tour should contact the Los Angeles tour coordinator at BAeverywhere_LA1@yahoo.com. Donations for the tour should be sent to:
5726 Hollywood Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90028
Updates with more tour specifics will be appearing at revcom.us soon.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #258, February 5, 2012
Editors' Note: Revolution is serializing an important speech given by Raymond Lotta during his national campus speaking tour in 2009-10. This version of the speech, given at Harvard University in April 2010, has been slightly edited and footnotes have been added for publication. Part 1 was printed in Revolution #257, January 29, 2012; Part 2 in #258, February 5, 2012; Part 3 in #259, February 12, 2012; Part 4 in #261, February 26, 2012; Part 5 in #262, March 12, 2012, and Part 6 in #263, March 25, 2012. Below is the final installment.
I am very pleased to be at Harvard to speak with you about communism. My talk has five main themes:
I look forward to a vigorous and fruitful exchange in the question-and-answer. So let me start.
Imagine a situation in which the Christian fundamentalist creationists have seized power overall, and have proceeded to suppress knowledge of evolution. Imagine that they go so far as to execute and imprison the most prominent scientists and educators who had insisted on teaching evolution and bringing knowledge of this to the public. And they heap scorn and abuse on the well-established fact of evolution, denouncing and ridiculing it as a flawed and dangerous theory which runs counter to well-known "truth" of the biblical creation story and to religious notions of "natural law" and the "divinely ordained order."
To continue the analogy, imagine that in this situation many intellectual "authorities," along with others following in their wake, jump on the bandwagon, saying things like: "it was not only naïve but criminal to believe that evolution was a well-documented scientific theory, and we should not have been forcing that belief on people." And some intellectual authorities make statements like: "But now we can see that it is ‘common wisdom,' which no one questions—and we won't question it either; we can see that it is common wisdom that evolution embodies a worldview and leads to actions that are disastrous for human beings. We were taken in by the arrogant assurance of those who propagated this notion. We can see that everything that exists, or has existed, could not have come into being without the guiding hand of an ‘intelligent designer.'"
To keep with this "thought experiment." Suppose that in this situation, even many progressive and radical intellectuals become disoriented and demoralized. They are cowed into silence.1
Well, this is an analogy to the situation that exists in intellectual life and discourse when it comes to communism. It is now the accepted and unquestioned verdict that communism is a failure. Radical thinkers who at one time took on anti-communist lies and opened their eyes and the eyes of students to the actual and liberating experience of communist revolution—many such progressive scholars have unthinkingly bought into the verdict.
You see, back in the 1960s, the world was alive with revolution. The Chinese revolution inspired people around the world. The most revolutionary and far-reaching movements of the 1960s— whether we are talking about the Black Panthers or radical women's liberation—were influenced by the communist revolution, and especially the Cultural Revolution, in China. And this reacted back on the universities—including right here at Harvard—on how people looked at their lives and the meaning and purpose of intellectual work. But since the defeat of the revolution in China in 1976, for almost 35 years now there has been an unremitting ideological offensive against communist revolution. And this has real consequences.
I know there are people in this room who want to do something meaningful with their lives for the betterment of humanity. Maybe some of you want to devote your energies to solving the environmental emergency we face...or teaching in the inner cities...or going into the arts to explore in the realm of imagination and metaphor the way people are and might be, and the way the world is and might be.
But no matter your passions and convictions, this system has its own logic that shapes everything. I am talking about a system that operates on the basis of profit. I am talking about an economy that is the home base of an empire: a global system of exploitation in which the U.S. arrogates to itself the "right" to wage war and to invade and occupy countries. I am talking about an economic system safeguarded by governing institutions and a military machine of death and destruction. I am talking about the values and ideas that get promoted in this society.
You are someone who knows that radical measures must be taken to reverse looming environmental catastrophe. But what happens—really what doesn't happen in dealing with the environmental emergency, with the Copenhagen summit the most recent glaring example—is driven and circumscribed by the workings of the capitalist world market...by corporate bottom lines...and by the power relations and power struggles between the U.S. and other oppressive great powers.
You want to teach "uncomfortable truths" about America's actual history and role in the world? Well, you should, but you are going to be pressured, threatened, and likely find yourself without a job. You are a woman who wants to break free of convention and stereotype. But you will face a lifetime of menacing gaze, physical threat, and demeaning sexual images that reflect and reinforce enslaving tradition and subordination.
We need a different system. Humanity needs "total revolution": in economy, politics, culture, and morality. And the fact is: we can create a world without exploitation, in which humanity can flourish. But, and this is a cruel irony, exactly at a time when capitalism is in crisis, when all its irrationality and the suffering it inflicts are escalating exponentially—at this very moment, we're told "you can't go beyond capitalism; the best you can do is to tinker around its edges."
It is as though a warning label were affixed to the discourse on human possibility. Danger: anything that fundamentally challenges capitalism is at best a pipe dream and at worst an unworkable utopia imposed from above that will result in nightmare. Caution: the project of making revolution and building an economy and society that promote and serve the common good violates human nature, economic logic, and the very flow of history. Reminder: we have reached the end of history: Western society represents the high point and end point of human development.
At UCLA, NYU, and the University of Chicago, we distributed this multiple-choice "pop quiz" on basic facts about communism. These weren't obscure or arcane things. We asked questions like: what was the only country in Eastern Europe during the 1930s that stood against anti-semitism? The answer is the Soviet Union.2 We asked: what was the only country in the world in the 1960s where the government and leadership were calling on people to rise up against oppressive institutional authority? The answer was Maoist China.3 People did abysmally—the average test score was about 58. In other words, people failed.
This is shameful. Because in the 20th century, something world-historic happened and people don't know the first thing about it. The first socialist societies were forged out of monumental revolutions, the rising up of the wretched of the Earth: in the Soviet Union from 1917 to 1956, and in China from 1949 to 1976. These were the first attempts in modern history to create societies free from exploitation and oppression—socialism. And the experience of these revolutions...it changes everything. The world does not have to be this way, and we can go further and do better in a new wave of revolution.
So what is socialism? Let's clear away some confusion. Socialism is not just government ownership of some enterprises or some government regulation—all capitalist governments do that. And socialism is not something that Obama is doing—Obama is no socialist.
In fact, socialism is three things:
First, socialism is a new form of political power in which the formerly oppressed and exploited, in alliance with the middle classes and professionals and the great majority of society, rule over society with the leadership of a visionary, vanguard party. This new form of state power keeps old and new exploiters in check. It makes possible a democracy that a) unleashes the creativity and initiative of people in all kinds of directions and b) gives the masses of people the right and ability to change the world and to engage in meaningful decision-making, that promotes the most far-reaching debate, and that protects the rights of the individual. This new socialist state that I am talking about is a launching pad for revolution elsewhere in the world.
Second, socialism is a new economic system where the resources and productive capacities of society are socially owned through the coordination of the socialist state, where production is consciously organized and planned to meet social need, and to overcome the inequalities of capitalist class society—like the oppression of minority nationalities and the subordination of women. This is an economy that is organized to promote revolution in the world and protect the planet. No longer does exploitation and profit rule over society and people's lives. No longer are Big Pharma and financial-insurance conglomerates setting the terms for health care provision and research. They won't exist anymore. No longer is there a General Motors or Boeing—they too won't exist anymore, either—skewing transport development and energy production to the needs of profit.
Third, socialism is a historical period of transition, between capitalism and communism, a period of revolutionary struggle and experimentation to transform all the economic structures, all the social institutions and arrangements, and all the ideas and values that perpetuate the division of society into classes.
And what is communism? Here I want to read from a statement, "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have," from the Revolutionary Communist Party:
Communism [is] a world where people work and struggle for the common good.... Where everyone contributes whatever they can to society and gets back what they need to live a life worthy of human beings... Where there are no more divisions among people in which some rule over and oppress others, robbing them not only of the means to a decent life but also of knowledge and a means for really understanding, and acting to change, the world.4
Now the Russian and Chinese revolutions, in what amounted to a "nanosecond" of human history, accomplished amazing things in the direction I am describing. Not without problems and serious shortcomings...but these revolutions accomplished great things against great odds during their existence.
Why were the odds so great? For one thing, the imperialists worked overtime to crush these revolutions. The socialist revolutions of the 20th century posed a mortal (and, yes, a moral) threat to the established global order of exploitation, privilege, and inequality. They opened new possibilities for humanity and new roads for realizing these possibilities.
But the imperialists didn't say to Lenin or Mao: "Oh, you want to try to create a new society based on cooperation, you want to create a planned economy based on putting human needs first, you want to solve your health and education problems, and you are going to attempt to enable those on the bottom of society to increasingly administer it. Okay, why don't you try that for twenty years? Then come back and we'll compare notes? We'll see whose system does better."
No! The capitalist-imperialist powers encircled, pressured, and sought to strangle these revolutions. Within months of the victory of the Bolshevik revolution in October 1917, France, England, Japan, the U.S., and thirteen other powers sent money, weapons, and troops to aid counterrevolutionary forces in Russia who were trying to restore the old order of exploitation, religious obscurantism.
How many of you know that the world's first oil embargo was applied against the Soviet revolution? How many of you know that during the entire time between 1917 and 1950, the new socialist society of the Soviet Union was either preparing for war, or having to fight war, or dressing the wounds of war?
Or consider the circumstances facing the Chinese revolution after it came to power in 1949. Within a year, U.S. troops were moving up the Korean peninsula and threatening to invade China itself. How many of you know that in the early 1950s, the U.S. imperialists issued veiled nuclear threats, and developed military plans for launching nuclear strikes, against the new People's Republic of China?5 This is real history.
It was in these historical circumstances that millions in the Soviet Union and China made revolution and brought about profound changes in their conditions and in their thinking. And another reason they faced great odds was the fact that these revolutions did not unfold in vacuums. They took place, as will future revolutions, in societies that still contained the scars and influences of the old social order, including class divisions along with the ideas and traditions of the past. This too is part of the reality and challenge of making revolution.
Is that what you have been learning about 20th century history? Did you learn that in the 1920s, when Black people were being lynched in the U.S., when the racist film extolling the KKK, Birth of a Nation, was one of the biggest things in American culture—did you learn that in the Soviet Union something utterly different was happening? At this very time in the Soviet Union, incredible efforts were being made to overcome inequality among nationalities.
The new socialist society was waging struggle against the historical chauvinism of the dominant Russian nationality. Economic and technical resources were being channeled to regions where minority nationalities were concentrated. The new Soviet state established autonomous forms of government in these regions, enabling people in these areas to take responsibility for administration. It promoted the equality of languages and even developed written scripts for languages that previously had none.6
This was an amazing sea change. You see, before the Bolshevik revolution Russia had been known as the "prison-house of nations," with infamous pogroms against Jews, and the domination of whole nations. It was a society where, before the revolution, people of certain minority nationalities were forbidden from using their native languages in schools.
Most of you don't know this because that knowledge has been ruled out of order in the academy and society. You are surrounded by and imbibing the master narrative that nothing good came of these revolutions—and that they failed and could only fail.
There is one small problem with this "conventional wisdom" about communism. It is built on the wholesale distortion of the actual history of socialist revolution; it is built on outright lies.
You know, I have to say it is amazing what passes as intellectual rigor when it comes to communism. And sadly, it's amazing what gets over on people who pride themselves on intellectual scrupulousness.
I want to deconstruct three typical high profile and highly charged examples of what I am talking about.
Let's start with the book Mao: The Unknown Story by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday. This has been hailed in the mainstream as the definitive biography of Mao Tsetung. It was on the New York Times bestseller list. Jung Chang and Jon Halliday want you to believe that Mao was a cynical hedonist who murdered ten times as many innocents as Hitler. They insist that Mao was a cold-blooded murderer—but since they can't substantiate that with facts, their book is strewn with lies and distortions.
Let's go to Chapter 40 of the book. It deals with the year 1958. It has this running head on each page: "The Great Leap: 'Half of China May Well Have to Die.'"7 You see, Chang and Halliday quote from a November 1958 speech by Mao in which he says: "half of China may well have to die."
They cite this as proof-positive that Mao had no concern for human life: let half of China die to fulfill a crazed vision of a new society. But if you read Mao's speech, he is actually saying the opposite:
"In the construction of irrigation works, between last winter and this spring we moved, nationwide, over 50 billion cubic meters of earth and stone, but from this winter to next spring we want to move 190 billion cubic meters nationwide, an increase of well over three times. Then we have to deal with all sorts of tasks: steel, copper, aluminum, coal, transport, the processing industries, the chemical industry—[they all] need hordes of people. In this kind of situation, I think if we do [all these things simultaneously] half of China's population unquestionably will die; and if it's not a half, it'll be a third or ten percent, a death toll of 50 million people.... Anhui wants to do so many things, it's quite all right to do a lot, but make it a principle to have no deaths."8
Mao is pointing out that the economic plan is trying to do too many major things at once, and if we stick to the plan, well..."half of China's population unquestionably will die"—and we don't want that! He's cautioning against overzealousness—that it could lead to overwork, exhaustion, and deaths—and he's doing this in a highly dramatic way.
So Chang and Halliday have totally ripped Mao's phrase out of context and inverted its meaning. They've lied. That would be bad enough. But this lie gets repeated in reviews, in newspapers, and in blogs. It spreads and becomes so frequently cited that it becomes an established fact. So no one has to prove anything. Case closed: Mao was worse than Hitler. This is incredibly dishonest and vicious. And yet it passes for scholarship.
Let me turn to a prestigious academic source with a veneer of scholarly rigor. I'm talking about the book Mao's Last Revolution, by Roderick MacFarquhar, the highly celebrated China scholar here at Harvard, and Michael Schoenhals. This book was published in 2006 and is widely considered to be the "definitive" account of the Cultural Revolution.
MacFarquhar sets the stage for Mao's launching of the Cultural Revolution. Here's how MacFarquhar does it: "Various remarks indicate that Mao craved a measure of catalytic terror to jump start the Cultural Revolution. He had no scruples about the taking of human life. In a conversation with trusties later in the Cultural Revolution, the Chairman went so far as to suggest that the sign of a true revolutionary was precisely his intense desire to kill." And then MacFarquhar presents this alleged statement from Mao: "This man Hitler was even more ferocious. The more ferocious the better, don't you think? The more people you kill, the more revolutionary you are."9
Well, this is a pretty sordid declaration. So I went to the notes and sources at the end of the book, and let me tell you what the endnote says: "From a very reliable source seen by one of the authors."10 Can you believe this! Here you are supposedly citing evidence for the bloodlust that ostensibly drove Mao and the Cultural Revolution. And this is the documentation that MacFarquhar offers? Stop and think about this intellectual outrage. People are given proof that Mao was a monster based on totally unsubstantiated and unsubstantiable hearsay.
It's egregious. The classic "trust me, I can't give you the speech, conversation, or article... but trust me, it's reliable." Kind of reminiscent of George Bush going to war in Iraq: "Look, Sadaam Hussein is developing weapons of mass destruction. I can't share the evidence, but trust me, my sources are reliable." This hearsay masquerades as something solid and damning.
And then this statement, without any meaningful or provable attribution to Mao, or any meaningful context being specified, gets repeated in the mainstream media and by other lords of academia. Andrew Nathan, a well-known, liberal China scholar who teaches at Columbia includes the statement attributed to Mao in his review of the book in The New Republic.11 I tracked Nathan's review, and it got posted on different blogs and book review sites.
Now suppose one of you in the audience is trying to learn about the Cultural Revolution and you go to Wikipedia. Well, lo and behold, in the entry on the Cultural Revolution, you will find the following statement from Mao Tsetung, presented as part of Mao's guidance for the Cultural Revolution: "the more people you kill the more revolutionary you are." And what is the source? You guessed it, Roderick MacFarquhar, that grey eminence of China studies.12
My question is this: why didn't these other scholars scrutinize this footnote, instead of repeating this sensationalistic claim about Mao? Because they don't have to prove anything: the communist project is declared to be a disaster and horror. And many of these and other so-called scholars have been part of weaving together a narrative of the Bolshevik and Chinese revolutions built on similar distortions and misrepresentations of what these revolutions set out to do, what these socialist societies actually accomplished, and what real difficulties and challenges they faced.
I've issued a public challenge to Roderick MacFarquhar to debate me (my challenge mentions this footnote)—and organizers of my speaking tour turned this into a paid ad and submitted it to the Harvard Crimson last week.13 But guess what? The president of the Crimson refused to publish the ad, saying it was "too controversial." Duh!
Where are the progressive scholars? Why are they not calling this out? Because many of them have bought into these verdicts, in an atmosphere of unrelenting attack on the communist project—while others have been intimidated by the conventional wisdom and what have become the norms of intellectual discourse: before one can even speak of socialism, even positively, one has to disavow the experience of socialist revolution in the 20th century.
Indeed, these anticommunist distortions deeply permeate progressive political thought. Take the activist and social critic Naomi Klein. Here I am drawing on analysis by Bob Avakian that appeared in Revolution newspaper.14 In the early pages of her book The Shock Doctrine, Klein describes the situation in the U.S. after 9/11, and how the Bush administration exploited this.
Klein writes, "Suddenly we found ourselves living in a kind of Year Zero, in which everything we knew of the world before could now be dismissed as 'pre-911 thinking.'" And she is right about this. But then she draws this analogy: "Never strong in our knowledge of history, North Americans had become a blank slate—a 'clean sheet of paper' on which the 'newest and most beautiful words can be written,' as Mao said of his people."15 Klein is actually referencing a short essay by Mao from 1958 titled "Introducing a Cooperative." But she totally rips this passage out of context to make it appear that this was about mind control of the untutored masses by totalitarian leaders.
Let's look at what Mao actually said:
"Apart from their other characteristics, the outstanding thing about China's 600 million people is that they are 'poor and blank.' This may seem a bad thing, but reality it is a good thing. Poverty gives rise to the desire for change, the desire for action and the desire for revolution. On a blank sheet of paper free from any mark, the freshest and the most beautiful characters can be written, the freshest and most beautiful pictures can be painted."16 And then Mao goes on to point out that the masses are in fact using big-character posters in the cities and rural areas to conduct mass debate and ideological struggle—and he says this is a great antidote to "dullness" in society.
In other words, Mao was not saying, "oh great, the peasants are just a bunch of putty and we leaders can shape them however we please." He is saying the opposite of what Klein suggests. He is saying that being "poor and blank" results in people not only wanting radical change but being capable of taking initiative to fight for that radical change. And it is clear, if you read this essay, that Mao is saying the "freshest and most beautiful characters" and "freshest and most beautiful pictures" are being written and painted by the peasants themselves—and, yes, this is happening with communist leadership.
At the start of the essay, Mao observes: "Never before have the masses of the people been so inspired, so militant, and so daring as at present." "Inspired," "militant," and "daring": not exactly the world that George Bush or Barack Obama wants us to live in! Nor the stereotype that Klein implies of communist leaders turning people into mindless robots.
So here we have three different examples of high-profile lies and distortions being spread that reinforce ignorance about communism: from the reactionaries who wrote Mao: The Unknown Story; the liberal anti-communist Roderick MacFarquhar's Mao's Last Revolution; and the progressive social critic Naomi Klein in her book The Shock Doctrine. As I have been emphasizing, the effects of this cannot be overestimated: the lowering of sights, a generation of young people being robbed of understanding.
In the rest of this talk, I will be drawing on Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage, A Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party.17 This Manifesto sums up the history of communist revolution so far, its breakthroughs and lessons. It explains how communism has developed as a living, creative, open-ended science, beginning with Marx, through Lenin, to Mao, and Bob Avakian. This Manifesto provides a framework to initiate a new stage of communist revolution. And let me add that you cannot say that you are educated and up to date on emancipatory human thought if you have not yet read this Manifesto.
Now one of the things we hear so often in discussing communism with students is this: "well, it might be a good idea, but it doesn't work in practice." I want to answer this, precisely by returning to the Cultural Revolution and getting into what it was about and accomplished.
The Cultural Revolution of 1966-76 was the high point of socialist revolution in the 20th century and the whole first stage of communist revolution, beginning with the Paris Commune. The Cultural Revolution was the most radical and far-reaching struggle in human history to uproot exploitation and oppression and to change society and bring about new values and new ways of thinking.18
But the bourgeois "master narrative" is that the Cultural Revolution was Mao's power-mad and vindictive purge of opponents: an orgy of senseless violence and mass persecution that plunged China into a decade of chaos. There is not a scintilla of truth to this narrative. But before I take it on directly, I want to set the stage for the Cultural Revolution by talking a bit about Chinese society before the revolution of 1949.
The vast majority of China's people were peasants who worked the land, but who had little or no land to call their own. They lived under the dominance of landlords who ruled the local economy and people's lives. Peasants desperately scratched out survival. In bad years, many had to eat leaves and bark, and it was not uncommon for peasant households to sell children to meet debt obligations. Agriculture was plagued by endless cycles of floods and droughts and famine. For women, life was a living hell: beatings by husbands, the painful binding of feet, arranged marriages, and young women forced into becoming concubines to landlords and warlords.
In China's largest city, Shanghai, an estimated 25,000 dead bodies were collected from the streets each year by municipal sanitation teams. Meanwhile, foreign-controlled districts of the city glittered. In a country of 500 million, there were only 12,000 doctors trained in modern medicine, and 4 million people died each year of epidemic and infectious diseases.19
This is why people make revolution. This is why millions in China consciously took part in the struggle led by Mao to seize state power and to create a new society.
Distortion One: So-called China experts like Roderick MacFarquhar talk about Mao's obsession with revolution, combating revisionism, and preventing counterrevolution, as though Mao were imagining or contriving enemies to suit his political whims.
The truth is that the revolution of 1949 overthrew foreign domination, big capitalism, and landlordism. But right from the start, there were leading forces in this revolution whose vision of society went no further than to turn China into a major industrial power that would take its place in the world economy and international nation-state system. These forces became a new capitalist class centered within the Chinese Communist Party and state, and by the mid-1960s, they were positioning to take power. Their leaders, like Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping, had coherent aims and a coherent program for China: to put an end to socialism, to reinstitute exploitation in the name of efficiency, and to open China up to foreign capital in the name of engaging with the modern world. This is why Mao was warning against revisionism, which is a capitalist program and world outlook expressed in Marxist terminology.
Distortion Two: Bourgeois accounts depict the Cultural Revolution as Mao's horrific attempt to whip people into mass frenzy.
The truth is that the Cultural Revolution was a mass revolutionary upheaval involving hundreds of millions of people in profound and intense struggle over the direction of society:
Would socialist China go forward along the socialist road to communism: to a world community of humanity without classes, where all forms of exploitation and social inequality have been overcome, where men no longer lord it over women, where there are no longer dominant nations and dominated nations and the world itself is no longer divided into nations, where the division of society into those who mainly work with their hands and those who mainly work in the realm of ideas is overcome, where there is no longer a need for a state to enforce the rule of one group of society over another?
Or would socialist China take the capitalist road back to sweatshops and exploitation, to the crowding of the cities with migrants desperately in search of work, to the subordination of women and the reemergence of prostitution and the objectification of women—in short, would China become...the China of today?
Distortion Three: The bourgeois narrative of the Cultural Revolution talks about Mao's "disastrous enactment of utopian fantasies."
The truth is that Mao and the revolutionaries who led the Cultural Revolution had coherent and visionary aims. What were these aims?
*To mobilize people in society to overthrow these new capitalist forces and to revolutionize the Communist Party itself.
*To reinvigorate the revolution by subjecting every level of authority and governance to mass criticism and questioning.
*To promote socialist values of "serve the people" and putting the interests of world humanity first and challenging the capitalist morality of maximizing self-gain and self-enrichment as well as the Confucian mind-set of bowing down to authority and convention.
*To reshape and revolutionize the institutions and fabric of society: a) to create an educational system that, instead of producing a privileged elite, was actually contributing to raising the knowledge and skills of society and overcoming the great divisions of society; b) to forge a new revolutionary culture, like the model revolutionary works in opera and ballet that put new emphasis on workers and peasants and their resistance to oppression (in place of the old imperial court dramas) and that conveyed powerful images of strong and independent revolutionary women; c) to create new base-level institutions within factories, schools, and hospitals that truly empowered people.
These were crucial goals of the Cultural Revolution; this was not "crazed utopianism."
Let's be clear, the Cultural Revolution was a real revolution. It was disruptive of the routine of normal life; it was full of invention and innovation; inspiring tens of millions but also shocking and disturbing tens of millions at its outset. The schools shut down; youth went to the countryside to link up with peasants, students from Beijing went to Shanghai to stir up protest in the factories, workers were encouraged to raise their heads and ask: "who's really in charge here?" This became very wild. There was massive political and intellectual debate: street rallies, protests, strikes, demonstrations, what were called "big character posters," which contained comments and critiques on policies and leaders. Paper and ink were provided free of charge, public facilities were made available for meetings and debates.20
This was about changing society and changing the world in an ever more conscious way. There has never, never in world history, been a revolutionary movement of this scale and consciousness. Mao looked to the youth as a catalytic force to awaken and arouse society. In Beijing, over 900 newspapers were circulating in 1966-67.
In Shanghai in the autumn of 1966, there were some 700 organizations in the factories. Eventually, the revolutionary workers, with Maoist leadership, were able to unite broad sections of the city's population to overthrow the capitalist-roaders who had been running the city. And what followed was extraordinary: people began to experiment with new institutions of citywide political governance; and the Maoist leadership was able to learn from and sum up this experience and these debates.21 In the countryside, peasants were debating how Confucian values and patriarchy still influenced people's lives.
Standard Western accounts charge that violent attacks on people and physical elimination of opponents had the official blessings of Mao—and that, policy or not, thuggish violence was the norm. Both of these claims are false.
Mao's orientation for the Cultural Revolution was clearly spelled out in official and widely publicized documents. In the Sixteen Point Decision that guided the Cultural Revolution, it was stated, "Where there is debate, it should be conducted by reasoning and not by force."22 Yes, there was violence during the Cultural Revolution. But: a) this was not the main character of the Cultural Revolution—its main forms of struggle were mass debate, mass political mobilization, and mass criticism; b) where young activist Red Guards and others resorted to violence, this was sharply condemned and struggled against by the Maoist revolutionary leadership—for instance, in Beijing, workers following Mao's guidance went into the universities to stop factional fighting among students and to help them sort out differences; and c) much of the violence that occurred during the Cultural Revolution was actually fanned by high-ranking capitalist-roaders seeking to defend their entrenched positions.
This Sixteen-Point Decision was not some narrowly circulated inner-party directive that has somehow escaped the notice of our brilliant academic scholars. It was, in fact, put out to all of China as guidance as to the aims, objectives, and methods of this revolution!
The Cultural Revolution accomplished amazing and unprecedented things.
*We're told that Mao was anti-education and anti-intellectual. It's a lie.
How many of you know that during the Cultural Revolution middle-school enrollment in the countryside rose from 14 to 58 million?23 Or that worker and peasant enrollment in the universities soared? The reason Mao is branded "anti-education" is that the Cultural Revolution challenged the bourgeois-elitist idea that education is a ladder for individuals to "get ahead," or a way to use skills and knowledge to gain advantageous position over others.
This was not anti-intellectualism, but rather a question of putting knowledge in the service of a society that was breaking down social inequalities. The old curriculum was overhauled in the universities. Study was combined with productive labor. The old teaching methods of viewing students as passive receptacles of knowledge and teachers and instructors as absolute authorities were criticized.
*We're told Mao did not care about human life. It's a lie.
China, a relatively backward country, achieved something that the richest country in the world, the U.S., has not been able to do: provide universal health care. As a result of the Cultural Revolution, a health system was established that reached and addressed the needs of China's peasants in the countryside who made up 80 percent of China's population.
In a little more than a decade after the seizure of power in 1949, the revolution was able to overcome epidemic diseases like small pox and cholera. Mass campaigns were launched to tackle opium addiction.24 And along with mass mobilization, there was mass education. This was a very important and defining feature of health care in socialist China: to maximize community participation and grass roots awareness and responsibility over health issues and concerns. There was both centralized allocation of needed health resources and a tremendous amount of decentralization.25
One of the most exciting developments of the Cultural Revolution was what was called the "barefoot doctor" movement. These were young peasants and urban youth sent to the countryside who were quickly trained in basic health care and medicine geared to meet local needs and who were capable of treating the most common illnesses. In 1975, there were 1.3 million of these "barefoot doctors."26
The results were astounding. Life expectancy under Mao doubled from 32 years in 1949 to 65 years in 1976.27 Amartya Sen, the Nobel Prize-winning economist, made a calculation: if India had the same heath care system as China did under Mao, then 4 million fewer people would have died in India in a given sample year. That works out to a total of some 100 million needless deaths in India from the time of independence in 1947 to 1979.28
Tell me about which economic-social system values human life...and which doesn't.
Now people say that communism can’t work because it goes against human nature...that people are selfish and will only look out for themselves...that people won’t have any incentive to work if they’re not allowed to compete to get ahead of others. These are not scientific statements about an unchanging human nature. They are statements about human nature under capitalism, about how people are conditioned to think and act in THIS society.
Capitalism produces and requires a certain mind-set: me-first, winner-take-all, greed is good. And this outlook and these values stamp everything, every institution and every relation in society. People have to compete for jobs, for housing, for places in the educational system. They even have to compete and perfect themselves in the “marketplace” of human relationships. Is it any surprise, then, that people are indifferent, callous, and even cruel to each other in such a society?
This is what socialism, what socialist revolution, changes. It opens up a whole new realm of freedom for people to change their circumstances and their thinking. This is what happened during the Cultural Revolution.
In China during the Cultural Revolution, there was an economic system based on using resources for the benefit of society and the world revolution. There were new social relations and institutions that enabled people to cooperate with each other and to maximize the contributions that people can make towards a liberating society and the emancipation of humanity. The educational system promoted values of serving the people, using knowledge not for individual self-aggrandizement but for the betterment of society and humanity. During the Cultural Revolution, people were measuring their lives and the actions of others through the moral lens of “serve the people.”
You can read interviews and books by scholars like Dongping Han, Bai Di, and Mobo Gao. These authors grew up during the Cultural Revolution and took part in it—and they write about what it was like coming of age in the social environment of the Cultural Revolution, what it meant for there to be a social framework that valued cooperation and solidarity. They talk about how this affected their attitudes towards other people, their sense of social responsibility, and how the Cultural Revolution influenced what they felt was important and meaningful in life.29
Again, I am not talking about some kind of utopia, and I am not saying everything was done right in Maoist China. But people did change—because socialist society creates this new framework that makes it possible for people to consciously change themselves.
And when capitalism was restored in China in 1976, and the old dog-eat-dog economic relations brought back, people changed again: back towards the old “me against you,” “everyone for him- or herself” outlook. People changed not because a primordial human nature had somehow reasserted itself, but because society had changed back to capitalism.
The Cultural Revolution Mao initiated in 1966 was defeated in 1976. Following Mao's death, a core of capitalist-roaders launched a military coup. They arrested Mao's closest comrades and killed thousands. These counter-revolutionary forces instituted capitalism, while maintaining a certain socialist camouflage.
How could this happen? For one thing, the Cultural Revolution was bitterly opposed by powerful neo-capitalist forces who occupied leading positions in Chinese society: in the Communist Party, in the government, and in the military. These forces, Mao had pointed out, were part of a social-historical phenomenon of the Chinese revolution: they were "bourgeois democrats" who had evolved into "capitalist roaders." Let me explain.
China had been a nation subjugated by imperialism. It was a society kept backward and poor by feudalism. For many who had joined the Communist Party before the seizure of power in 1949, the Chinese revolution was in essence about breaking the grip of imperialism and turning China into a modern, industrialized society. And once the revolution succeeded in driving out imperialism, these forces, many now in leading positions, saw the task before the revolution as building up China's economic power—by whatever methods promised the most efficient results. These "bourgeois democrats" turned "capitalist roaders" were powerful and had a great deal of influence.
But that was not all. Revolutionary China faced enormous international pressures. The Soviet Union, which was no longer a socialist country in the 1960s and '70s, was threatening war, even nuclear strikes, against socialist China. This strengthened the conservative forces within the party. They claimed that the ferment and innovation of the Cultural Revolution were too risky, that it was time to put a stop to the Cultural Revolution—and that all must be focused on defense, stability, and rapid modernization. And they organized and mobilized social forces around this agenda.
Beyond these more immediate concrete factors—at a deeper level, there is the fact that socialist revolution is going up against thousands of years of master-slave relations, tradition, and the ideological force of habit, like people deferring to authority and convention.
It is these objective factors—the strength of counter-revolution and the monumental challenges of transforming class-divided society—that mainly account for the defeat of socialism in China in 1976. But the defeat was also conditioned, though secondarily, by some mistakes in orientation and conception on the part of Mao and the revolutionaries.
To get into this, we need to understand that an event of these world-historic proportions—the defeat of a truly transformative revolution that spanned 27 years in a country of almost a billion people—required a serious analysis. And the only person on this planet who analyzed what had happened in China from the standpoint of: why the revolution had been defeated, its implications, and how we have to not only build on the unprecedented, liberating experience of the Cultural Revolution but also learn from its problems and go beyond it in initiating a new stage of communist revolution... this was Bob Avakian.
This brings me to the last part of my talk: how Bob Avakian's new synthesis of communism enables humanity to go further and do better in making communist revolution in today's world.
Bob Avakian has argued that we not only have to uphold the great victories of the first wave of socialist revolution. We also have to air and get into their problems. We have to understand more deeply where these revolutions came up short, and how we can do better. We have to unsparingly interrogate the experience of proletarian revolution, not just the mistakes and negative features but also its high points and breakthroughs. Not just because we're not scared of the truth, but because we thirst for the truth.
In discussing all of this, I am applying insights from works of Avakian such as Observations on Art and Culture, Science and Philosophy and "Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity."30
Bob Avakian has examined the Soviet experience and the experience of the Cultural Revolution deeply.
In the Soviet Union in the late 1930s, as danger of attack from Germany was growing and society was mobilizing for war, political and intellectual life grew increasingly restrictive and ossified.31
During the Cultural Revolution in China, many artists and intellectuals were not able to pursue their work. There were revolutionary model works, which were wonderful things. There was a flourishing of the arts among workers and peasants, who had previously been locked out of these spheres as they are in capitalist society. But there was a problem of a single-minded focus on developing model revolutionary works and enabling the masses to take up art—this to the exclusion of much else. There was too tight a hand.32
We have to do better.
Let's be clear: the achievement of socialist state power is a great thing. To allow counter-revolution to capture power would be a betrayal not just of the sacrifices of the masses who make revolution but of the hopes of the whole world.
The revolution must keep a firm grip on that power AND must also make sure that that power must be worth maintaining: it must be truly revolutionary and emancipatory. A new state power and the overall leadership of a vanguard party are indispensable to bringing a new world into being.
Avakian is saying that there must be a "solid core" in socialist society—a "solid core" rooted in the principle of achieving communism and emancipating all of humanity, and maintaining power on that basis. This is essential to really be on the road to getting to a society where there is no longer need for any institutionalized leadership.
On the basis of this solid core, there must also be "maximum elasticity": ferment and contestation, things churning, new and unexpected things "bubbling up" in society. Leadership must be learning from all of this while giving this overall direction, so that this elasticity can contribute to the rich process of getting to communism.
This is a breakthrough in understanding and vision. It requires that leadership be exercised in ways that are, in certain important and crucial respects, different from the understanding and practice of previous socialist societies.
Revolution must set the terms. But that cannot come at the cost of inhibiting dissent, or stifling the richness of individual expression, or putting a halter on the vast middle strata of society. We have learned that you cannot get to communism if society is not sprung into the air, if there is not a profound interplay of experience and discovery and insight, opening new pathways of change.
Bob Avakian has forged new understanding and new appreciation of the vital role of intellectual work and intellectual ferment in socialist society. This has to be happening on a scale that is unimaginable in capitalist society. At the same time that you are working to overcome a situation where only a relative handful of people can engage in the realm of “working with ideas” you must also be giving scope and space to intellectuals, artists, and scientists.
Now there are attitudes and values on the part of intellectuals—attitudes stemming from their relatively privileged position and relative separation from the masses in class society—that must be struggled with. But everyone in society, including those on the bottom, is influenced by bourgeois ideology, and this too must be struggled with. Everyone’s thinking, whether we are talking about workers who may be either deferential to or resentful of intellectuals, or intellectuals and professionals who may look down on the masses...everybody’s thinking must be transformed. This is part of becoming emancipators of humanity.
Handling all of this correctly is a great challenge. Because, again, the communist revolution is aiming to overcome the oppressive social division of labor of class society—but going at this with the understanding that intellectual and scientific ferment are essential to the search for the truth, to adding to the store of human knowledge, to enabling the masses of people to know the world more deeply so it can be transformed more profoundly.
There is something else. The probing and questing character of intellectual activity can contribute to the dynamism and to the critical and exploratory spirit that must permeate socialist society. This is all part of the process of uncovering and struggling over the problems and defects in society. Such ferment contributes to the atmosphere where the policies, structures, direction, and leadership of society are being debated and interrogated throughout society.
Now, socialist society will be promoting Marxism. But Marxism cannot be imposed as an “official ideology” that people have to agree with as part of becoming full members of society. This has been a problem in previous socialist societies. Marxism must be promoted in an atmosphere in which it is interacting and engaging with other intellectual currents and discourses, and actually being enriched through this. And people ultimately have to come to Marxism themselves.
This model of socialist society that Avakian is bringing forward attaches great importance to the need not just to allow but to foster dissent, protest, and contestation in socialist society. Socialism must be pulsing with discovery and upheaval. You can’t have that if you are tightly controlling things, if people are looking over their shoulders, or “watching what they say” for fear of being wrong.
People often ask, “You advocate protest today, but what about the universities under socialism, but will there be student movements and protests?” The answer is “yes, and then some!” The universities in socialist society must be seething with far-ranging intellectual debate and dissent, with protest and with contestation which will, yes, lead to disruption. We’re talking about a society that teems with debate and protest far beyond what exists in capitalist society.
You know, as part of this speaking tour, I issued an open letter and challenge to debate to Jeffrey Sachs. He teaches at Columbia and is an avid advocate of what he considers to be “socially conscious” capitalism. He vigorously opposes communism and sees markets as ensuring freedom. Well, people like Jeffrey Sachs, or social critics like Naomi Klein, and the Roderick MacFarquhars, must and will have the ability to articulate, disseminate, and defend their views widely in socialist society. There will be great debate in society about these views as part of the struggle to understand and change the world. We will not get to communism without this kind of ferment.
Let me move on to another aspect of this new synthesis. In summing up the experience of socialist revolution in the Soviet Union under Lenin and Stalin, and in China under Mao, Avakian has pointed to a particular problem. Yes, it is crucial and necessary for socialist society to have real focuses—from waging struggle to liberate women from the bonds of patriarchy to dealing urgently with the environmental crisis. Yes, it is crucial and necessary for leadership to be developing policies and winning people to see the need to keep things going in an overall direction towards communism, and waging determined struggles to keep the revolution going forward.
But this too has to be understood in a new way. Yes, socialist society must be moving forward in an overall sense towards communism. But people also have to be able to pursue their own visions. They have to be able to strike out in all kinds of diverse and creative ways—whether we are talking about artists and scientists, or the masses of people.
This is not a detour from creating a new and liberating world. This “elasticity” is an essential part of the dynamic of getting to that world. People can only arrive at a truer understanding of society through the fullest possible debate to thrash out right and wrong, and to themselves experiment, discover new things, make mistakes, and be able to reflect and relax.
Now this is another great challenge that is full of risks. You have to be not only allowing but encouraging things to go in all kinds of wild and unexpected directions; but you also have to be doing so without losing your priorities, and without losing power. Make no mistake about it, the imperialists and counter-revolutionaries will try to restore the old order. There is the reality of counterrevolution, of active and organized attempts to sabotage and overthrow the new society. But there is also the reality that you are not going to get to communism unless society is pulsing with ferment and experimentation, dissent, and protest. The Constitution and legal framework of socialist society must reflect that understanding and make the necessary distinctions.
What this new synthesis is underscoring is that intellectual ferment and dissent not only contribute to new and deeper understanding of society, not only contribute to opening up those new pathways to a society without classes, but also, and critically, are vital to the process of enhancing the capacity of people to more consciously and more voluntarily change society and themselves.
I have spoken about the experience of communist revolution in the 20th century and about Bob Avakian's new synthesis of communism. The Revolutionary Communist Party, USA has been applying this new synthesis. It's been doing work on how a new socialist society, achieved on the basis of making a revolution that overturns this system, would tackle major social questions.
Let's take the crucial problem of racism and the oppression of Black, Latino, and other minority nationalities in this society.
The police forces that today degrade and brutalize young people and masses in the ghettos and barrios would be immediately dismantled. The new state would establish new security forces that both protect the rights and interests of the masses of people and that help the people to resolve contradictions and disputes non-antagonistically—without resorting to violence.
The new revolutionary state would take over the factories, land and mines, machinery and technology. A new socialist economy would utilize these means of production to develop an economy to meet the needs of the people, safeguard the ecosystems of the planet, and promote world revolution.
Right away, the revolutionary state would channel economic and social resources into the former ghettos and barrios. It would bring together people in the communities with specialists like architects, state planners, and environmental scientists. People would be debating and figuring out what kinds of housing, recreational facilities, and health clinics are needed.
The youth would not only have jobs, but meaningful jobs that would make a difference in the lives of the communities and in society overall. Society would be mobilizing middle-class professionals, who also have a desire to do something meaningful with their lives and who have skills to share. People would be learning from each other in the context of transforming society. People would be forging new cooperative relations, and carrying on debate and waging ideological struggle over the direction of society.
The new socialist state would immediately outlaw segregation in housing and the apartheid-like system of education in the U.S. and promote integration throughout society. The new society would foster exchanges of experiences and ideas among different sections of people—like Latinos and Blacks.
At the same time, the new socialist state would uphold the right of self-determination for African-Americans, that is, the right to form an independent state. The new society would also make possible forms of self-government and autonomy for African-Americans, Chicanos, Native Americans, and other formerly oppressed nationalities—and provide the resources to make this real and vibrant. The educational system and media would be combating racist and white supremacist ideas and hurtful myths.
The revolutionary state would give initiative and support to people taking on the still-existing racist ideas and ways that influence how people relate to each other and that perpetuate inequality. The arts and the media and the educational system would be giving voice and expression to a rich cultural diversity—in an atmosphere that brings out human community.
Bob Avakian has pointed out that socialist society will be teeming with "unresolved contradictions." There are still tremendous social struggles and ideological battles to wage to overcome patriarchy and the legacy of the oppression of minority nationalities. There are the still-existing social differences between professionals and intellectuals and those who are mainly working with their hands...still the need to use money...still gaps in development between regions.
These still-existing differences and contradictions will call forth questioning and bring forward new ideas—but also engender dissatisfaction and criticism, and spark struggle and even upheavals. Is this a good or a bad thing? Avakian sees this as nothing less than a driving force for continuing the revolution.
The point is that the world does not have to be the way it is now, and Bob Avakian's new synthesis of communism opens incredibly exciting vistas for making revolution in today's world.
Think about how a socialist economy and a socialist society guided by the kinds of principles I have been talking about could in fact address the environmental emergency we face. Imagine a society that was unleashing creative energies and waging soul-stirring struggle to emancipate women and transform all relations between men and women, interrogating traditional notions of gender—and the very idea of what it means to be a man or woman. Think about how art could flourish throughout such a society, and how a new revolutionary culture, with profound liberatory content and rich formal innovation, could take root in society...while social imagination and artistic experimentation take flight.
The experience of communist revolution and the new synthesis of Bob Avakian are things you need to know about. These are not just interesting historical or philosophical questions. We are not talking about a "more balanced" discussion in the academy. What we are talking about is the fate of the planet and the future of humanity. What we are talking about is historical truth and human possibility.
You have been blocked from knowing about the vital history of communism, the real concepts and real development of communism. You have been prevented from debating these questions in any meaningful way. Everything you've been told about communism is wrong. The verdicts and "conventional wisdom" about communism are a profound obstacle to what is most needed: an emancipatory politics and an emancipatory discourse. But we're changing all of that.
You have now finally been told something about communism that is not wrong. So let's get into it.
1. This analogy is taken from Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage, A Manifesto from The Revolutionary Communist Party, USA (Chicago: RCP Publications, 2009), p. 18 (revcom.us/Manifesto/Manifesto.html) [back]
2. The Russian Revolution of 1917 had brought political and social emancipation to Jews in a country with a history of virulent anti-semitism and violent anti-Jewish pogroms. Equality of rights for Jews continued under Joseph Stalin during the 1930s and World War 2. By contrast, Jews in Hungary, Romania, and Poland faced organized fascist movements and institutional anti-semitism in the 1930s—and, later, death camps. See Arno Mayer, Why Did The Heavens Not Darken? (New York: Pantheon, 1988), pp. 55-89. [back]
3. At the start of the Cultural Revolution, Mao raised the slogan "it is right to rebel against reactionaries" and called on people to "bombard the headquarters" of capitalist roaders who were carrying out elitist and oppressive policies. Providing resources for posters and newspapers, free use of trains for students, and encouragement in the press were some key ways in which mass criticism and struggle were promoted. See "Decision of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party Concerning the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution" (Adopted on August 8, 1966), in Important Documents on the Cultural Revolution in China (Peking: Foreign Languages Press, 1970); also at: www.marxists.org/subject/china/peking-review/1966/PR1966-33g.htm. [back]
4. revcom.us/a/170/Revolution_we_need-en.html. [back]
5. On nuclear threats and nuclear war planning against Maoist China in the early 1950s, see John Wilson Lewis and Xue Lita, China Builds the Bomb (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1988), chapters one and two; Rosemary J. Foot, "Nuclear Coercion and the Ending of the Korean Conflict," International Security, Winter 1988/89 (Vol. 13, No. 3); Matthew Jones, "Targeting China: U.S. Nuclear Planning and `Massive Retaliation' in East Asia, 1953-1955," Journal of Cold War Studies, Fall 2008 (Vol. 10, No. 4); and "For Eisenhower, 2 Goals if Bomb Was to Be Used," New York Times, June 8, 1984, and Bernard Gwertzman, "U.S. Papers Tell of '53 Policy to Use A-Bomb in Korea," New York Times, June 8, 1984. [back]
6. On the Bolshevik revolution's approach to and achievements in expanding education to minority nationalities, ensuring equality of languages, and promoting instruction in native languages, see, for example, Jeremy Smith, "The Education of National Minorities: The Early Soviet Experience," Slavonic and East European Review, Vol. 75, No. 2 (April 1997). [back]
7. Jung Chang and Jon Halliday, Mao: The Unknown Story, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005), Chapter 40, pp. 426-439. [back]
8. Mao Tsetung, "Talks at the Wuchang Conference, 21-23 November 1958," in Roderick MacFarquhar, Timothy Cheek, and Eugene Wu, eds., The Secret Speeches of Mao Tsetung, (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989), pp. 494-495. Chang and Halliday use the same Chinese-language source but produce a slightly different translation. [back]
9. Roderick MacFarquhar, Michael Schoenhals, Mao's Last Revolution (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006), p. 102. [back]
10. ibid., p. 515, endnote 2. [back]
11. Andrew J. Nathan, "The Bloody Enigma," The New Republic, November 30, 2006. The statement attributed to Mao by MacFarquhar is prominently invoked by another "reputable" China scholar in a more recent review-article in the New York Review of Books; see Jonathan Mirsky, "How Reds Smashed Reds," November 11, 2010. [back]
12. This alleged statement by Mao originating in Mao's Last Revolution has since been removed from the Wikipedia entry on the Cultural Revolution. [back]
13. "An Open Letter from Raymond Lotta to Roderick MacFarquhar," Revolution #198, April 11, 2010. [back]
14. Bob Avakian, "Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine and its Anti-Communist Distortions—Unfortunately, No Shock There," Revolution #118, February 3, 2008. [back]
15. Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine (New York: Henry Holt and Company, Inc., 2008), p. 20. [back]
16. Mao Tsetung, "Introducing a Cooperative," in Selected Readings from the Works of Mao Tsetung (Peking: Foreign Languages Press, 1971), pp. 499-501. [back]
17. Op. cit., and at revcom.us/Manifesto/Manifesto.html [back]
18. For a historical-theoretical overview of the Cultural Revolution, see Bob Avakian, Mao Tsetung's Immortal Contributions (Chicago: RCP Publications, 1979), chapters 5-6; and Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage, op. cit., II. [back]
19. Jonathan D. Spence and Annping Chin, The Chinese Century (New York: Random House, 1996), p. 84; Fredric M. Kaplan, Julian M. Sobin, Stephen Andors, Encyclopedia of China Today (New York: Harper & Row, 1979), p. 233. [back]
20. On the early phases of the Cultural Revolution, see Jean Daubier, A History of the Cultural Revolution (New York: Vintage, 1974) and Han Suyin, Wind in the Tower (Boston: Little, Brown, 1976), chapters 3-5. [back]
21. On the mass struggles in Shanghai, see Daubier and also Elizabeth J. Perry and Li Xun, Proletarian Power: Shanghai in the Cultural Revolution (Boulder: Westview Press, 1997). For how Mao was summing up mass experiences and giving leadership in the struggle to forge new institutions of power, see Raymond Lotta, Nayi Duniya, and K.J.A., "Alain Badiou's 'Politics of Emancipation': A Communism Locked Within the Confines of the Bourgeois World," Demarcations, Summer-Fall 2009, chapter 6, II. [back]
22. From Point 6 of the "Decision of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party Concerning the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution," op. cit., and at: www.marxists.org/subject/china/peking-review/1966/PR1966-33g.htm. [back]
23. Suzanne Pepper, "Chinese Education after Mao," China Quarterly, March 1980 (No. 81), pp. 6-7. For useful studies on the expansion of schooling in the countryside and educational transformation during the Cultural Revolution, see Dongping Han, The Unknown Cultural Revolution: Educational Reforms and Their Impact on China's Rural Development (New York: Garland Publishing, 2000); and Ruth Gamberg, Red and Expert: Education in the People's Republic of China (New York: Schocken, 1977). [back]
24. See Kaplan, et. al., op. cit., p. 233, 242; and C. Clark Kissinger, "How Maoist Revolution Wiped Out Drug Addiction in China," Revolutionary Worker #734, December 5. 1993. [back]
25. Victor W. Sidel and Ruth Sidel, Serve the People: Observations on Medicine in the People's Republic of China (Boston: Beacon Press, 1973), pp. 22-24. [back]
26. Teh-wei Hu, "Health Care Services in China's Economic Development," in Robert F. Dernberger, ed., China's Development Experience in Comparative Perspective (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1980), pp. 234-238. [back]
27. Penny Kane, The Second Billion (Hammondsworth: Penguin, 1987), p. 172. [back]
28. See Jean Dreze and Amartya Sen, Hunger and Public Action (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989), pp. 205, 214. Noam Chomsky uses Dreze and Sen's comparative mortality rates to reach this estimate of 100 million needless deaths in India (see "Millennial Visions and Selective Vision, Part One," Z Magazine, January 10, 2000). [back]
29. See, Bai Di, “Growing Up in Revolutionary China,” Interview, Revolution, April 12, 2009, revcom.us/a/161/Bai_Di_interview-en.html; Dongping Han, “The Unknown Cultural Revolution: Life and Change in a Chinese Village,” Interview, Revolution, September 6, 2009, revcom.us/a/175/dongping_han_full_QA-en.html; Mobo Gao, Gao Village (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 1999). [back]
30. Bob Avakian, Observations on Art and Culture, Science and Philosophy (Chicago: Insight Press, 2005); "Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity," in Revolution and Communism: A Foundation and Strategic Orientation (Chicago: RCP Publications, 2008). [back]
31. "On Communism, Leadership, Stalin, and the Experience of Socialist Society," Revolution, June 21, 2009. Audio available at bobavakian.net. [back]
32. See Bob Avakian, "The Cultural Revolution in China...Art and Culture...Dissent and Ferment...and Carrying Forward the Revolution Toward Communism," Revolution, February 19, 2012. [back]
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Revolution #258, February 5, 2012
End Pornography and Patriarchy:
the Enslavement and Degradation of Women
We are told that "equality for women has been won" and that "there are no limits to what girls can achieve." BULLSHIT!
Every 15 seconds a woman is beaten. Every day three to four women are killed by their partners. One in four female college students will be raped or sexually assaulted while in college.
Pornography has become increasingly violent, cruel, degrading towards women even as it has become more mainstream. Millions of women are trafficked as literal chattel in the international sex industry.
This is NOT society becoming more comfortable with sex. This is society becoming saturated with the sexualized degradation of women. If you can't imagine sex without porn, you're fucked.
At the same time, the right to abortion and even birth control are under escalating assault. Being forced to bear a child against your will is a form of enslavement.
THIS MUST BE STOPPED!
Women are not objects. Women are not things to be used for the sexual pleasure of men NOR are they breeders of children. WOMEN ARE HUMAN BEINGS CAPABLE OF FULL EQUALITY IN EVERY REALM!
End the Culture of Rape and Pornography!
Abortion on Demand and Without Apology!
March for the Full Liberation of Women!
People who want to be part of building for these International Women's Day protests and marches should contact email@example.com. Join the ongoing conversation at sunsara.blogspot.com.
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Revolution #258, February 5, 2012
On Anniversary of Roe v. Wade:
Washington, D.C.—On January 23, the day after the 39-year anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, more than 100 abortion rights supporters demonstrated at the Supreme Court in FAVOR of expanded access to abortion and birth control. At a time of unprecedented restrictions on women’s access to abortion and birth control, and in the face of tens of thousands of religious protesters who were “Marching for Life” (i.e., marching for forced motherhood), most of these abortion rights activists were young and all were defiant and unapologetic.
Groups of students from surrounding colleges (including Catholic University), activists with World Can’t Wait, a new effort to End Porn & Patriarchy, artists, and various members of women’s organizations boldly declared, “Abortion on Demand and Without Apology!” and “Forcing a woman to have a child against her will is a form of enslavement!”
Throughout the day, these supporters of abortion rights took turns speaking out—including unapologetically telling their own abortion stories, chanting, and getting into intense debates with many of the anti-abortion protesters. Young women and girls who had been brought by their anti-abortion parents or church groups listened intently to open explanations about women’s bodies and sexuality, other young March-for-Lifers were fiercely challenged to confront the horrors that are commanded in the Christian Bible, and thousands more had to confront the bold celebration of the positive morality of abortion and birth control.
Given the ongoing and escalating assault on women’s right to abortion and birth control, all this constitutes a very significant beginning that must go much further in reclaiming the moral high ground and relying on ourselves (not on the Democrats or the “pro-choice” groups that have subordinated themselves to the Democrats) to defeat the assault on abortion and birth control and gain ground in the fight for the full liberation of women. Many of those who turned out expressed interest in the protests that have been called for International Women’s Day to declare: “Women are not objects. Women are not things to be used for the sexual pleasure of men NOR are they breeders of children. WOMEN ARE HUMAN BEINGS CAPABLE OF FULL EQUALITY IN EVERY REALM!”
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
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Revolution #258, February 5, 2012
This information is from The World Can't Wait:
In many ways, U.S. war on Iran has already begun.
The United States and Israel, both of which have nuclear weapons, say they will stop at nothing to keep Iran from having a nuclear program, even though the U.S. Secretary of Defense says Iran won't have nuclear capability anytime soon.
The U.S. has begun harsh economic sanctions that can destroy the Iranian economy and the lives of millions of Iranians through depriving them of food, medicine and electricity. Either the U.S. or Israel is killing Iranian scientists in car bombings. U.S. surveillance drones are flying over Iran, in violation of its sovereignty. Three U.S. carrier groups are off Iran, and secret U.S. commando operations are going on inside Iran.
Will we allow another U.S. war based on lies?
Iraq is devastated from decades of U.S. military intervention and sanctions that took the lives of hundreds of thousands of children, and led to 4.5 million people being driven from their homes. Afghanistan, the poorest country in the world, is being destroyed by the richest.
Let the whole world see that we will not let the U.S. rain death, destruction and devastation onto yet another country and further inflame a dire situation in the Middle East. One thing we know is that when people stand up together to resist the crimes of their government, like the courageous protesters of the Arab Spring and the Occupy movement, something beautiful can emerge.
There are actions in 27 U.S. cities, Vancouver, Calcutta, Dacca, and at Shannon Air Force Base, Ireland, planned by dozens of organizations.
• • •
Go to worldcantwait.net for more information, including a list of endorsers and to find or organize local protests.
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Revolution #258, February 5, 2012
Carl Dix at STOP Stop & Frisk action, Harlem, October 2011.
Special to Revolution
On Saturday, February 18 at 4 pm, Carl Dix will give an important talk on mass incarceration, where it comes from, where it's taking things if the current trajectory of U.S. society isn't radically changed, what needs to be done about this, and what all this has to do with the revolution we need.
Carl Dix is a longtime revolutionary and a founding member of the Revolutionary Communist Party. In 1970, he was part of the largest mass refusal of U.S. soldiers to go to Vietnam. In 1996, he cofounded the October 22nd Coalition to Stop Police Brutality. In 2006, he coordinated the Katrina Hearings of the Bush Crimes Commission. In 2011, he co-issued a call for a campaign of civil disobedience to STOP “Stop & Frisk.” Recently he participated in the fourth in a series of dialogues with Cornel West under the theme: “In the Age of Obama: Police Terror; Incarceration; No Jobs; Mis-Education... What Future for Our Youth?”
For an update on the location of the talk, check online at revcom.us or at revolutionbooksnyc.org.
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Revolution #258, February 5, 2012
Editors’ note: The following article from a reader notes how Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich cited Andrew Jackson as a model, and then delves into the role that Jackson played in America’s bloody history. While we are not able here to analyze the Gingrich phenomenon in any depth, it should be noted that he is playing a particularly vicious role in the Republican presidential primaries and the overall climate of official politics. He has spewed out, on national media, blatant racist talk: declaring that Black people should “demand paychecks and not food stamps,” that Black kids should be put to work as school janitors because “they have no habit of working,” that Palestinians are an “invented” people, and so on. There’s also his arrogant bully posturing that exudes white privilege, and violent rhetoric about killing America’s enemies.
The promotion of Gingrich as a “legitimate” contender to be the Republican presidential candidate reflects the fascistic direction of American society that is being pushed by significant sections of the U.S. capitalist-imperialist ruling class, and that others at the top think should at least be a major “theme” in this “election year.” Whatever happens with Gingrich’s candidacy, it has already served to further legitimize this poison in the mainstream discourse and energize the white chauvinist hard-core base of the Republican Party.
The focus on Gingrich also serves as a way to channel people who are becoming increasingly disillusioned with Obama back into the camp of the Democrats and electoral politics. The deadly logic in operation is that the most “realistic” way to oppose extremists like Gingrich is to get behind someone like Obama who tries to find a “middle ground,” even as he continues systematic oppression in terms of policy (for example, the mass incarceration of Black and Latino people, especially youth)—as opposed to working to overturn this whole system that was founded on slavery and genocide, and that continues to fuel and feed on the kind of racist shit coming out of Gingrich.
From a reader:
At last week’s GOP “debate” in South Carolina, Newt Gingrich brought up the specter of Andrew Jackson as a model of someone who had a good “idea about America’s enemies: kill them.” The fascist social base in the room, and in U.S. society, cheered. This was a blood-curdling moment for anyone who knows American history. It was an open celebration of genocide as clear and loud as any that has been issued from this pack of hyenas that are government officials and presidential candidates.
Andrew Jackson is well known as the “extermination president”—particularly of Native Americans and Black people. The symbolism of such racist vitriol being spewed in South Carolina, where the U.S. civil war began, should not be missed.
In his well-researched historical account, American Uprising: The Untold Story of America’s Largest Slave Revolt, author Daniel Rasmussen has a brief but damning segment about Andrew Jackson. He tells of an abandoned British garrison that had become a safe haven for freed slaves called Prospect Bluff with about 300 Black men, women and children:
General Jackson saw the presence of these armed free blacks just sixty miles away from the American border as a terrible danger, even though these people had given no indication of aggressive intentions. “I have little doubt of the fact that this fort has been established by some villains for the purpose of rapine and plunder, and that it ought to be blown up, regardless of the ground on which it stands,” he wrote to his commander. (p. 184)
And blow it up was just what Andrew Jackson did in July of 1815, instantly slaughtering 273 of the occupants and injuring another 60. The survivors were re-enslaved. There’s more:
To Jackson, free black people were necessarily “stolen negroes” and slavery was the only suitable place for them in America.... Jackson, in direct violation of international law, began a series of violent military and paramilitary cross-border expeditions. His illegal gallivants culminated in 1818, when his armies stormed through Florida to wipe out the remaining Native American tribes and capture escaped slaves. When the Spanish governor of Pensacola protested that Jackson’s invasion was illegal and threatened to expel him from Spanish territory, Jackson simply invaded Pensacola. (p. 185)
James Monroe, U.S. president at the time, said that Spain’s control of Florida was “a relic of the past, a figment of maps and treaties but no longer of reality,” with the border between the U.S. and Spanish Florida being “an imaginary line in the woods.” This is the history of that supposed immutable U.S. border that is brutally fortified today against Mexican and other immigrants. And there’s still more as captured by Rasmussen:
In 1828, Jackson ... was the nation’s most celebrated killer of Native Americans, known for subjugation of the Creek Indians, his subsequent crushing of the Seminoles, and finally his elimination of the Spanish presence in Florida and conquest of that territory for the United States. [That year he] was elected to the nation’s highest office. As president, Jackson presided over one of the most notorious episodes in American history: the Indian Removal of 1830. (p. 184)
The Indian Removal is aptly called the Trail of Tears (and I would add of Blood). It’s all part of U.S. history leading up to the civil war. The implications need to be fully confronted where a proven mass murderer like Andrew Jackson is being emulated by Gingrich and sections of U.S. society and ruling circles. Where was the condemnation from Obama? If you think the ruling class of BOTH parties are not FULLY aware of this history and imagery, you are being played for a fool. To paraphrase Malcolm X, the power structure knows what they are doing, given how long they’ve been doing it.
This bloodlust by Gingrich had me go re-read the pamphlet by Bob Avakian,The Coming Civil War and Repolarization for Revolution in the Present Era. In the piece by the same title, about the 2004 elections, he said:
Just to be clear, I didn’t choose this title lightly or facetiously, but in all seriousness. In speaking to “a coming civil war” I am “drawing inspiration” from Newt Gingrich... who made the observation that what’s happening now in the electoral arena and the broader things that it reflects in U.S. society is analogous to what was going on in the U.S. in the 1840s and the 1850s, and that this isn’t something that will go away. It will only be decided when one side or the other wins out. While, obviously, we don’t take at face value things that representatives of the ruling class say, we do have to think seriously about this, and I do think that this reflects—through the prism of Gingrich’s own point of view, it does reflect a very profound reality. (p. 6)
I think this essay and the entire pamphlet by Avakian is as timely and relevant to the 2012 elections as it was to the one in 2004, and recommend it for all thinking and reality-based people to ponder on what is unfolding in the current elections, including the trap of relying on the liberal wing of the ruling class (aka Democratic Party) to get us out of this. Instead, there is real urgent work to build the movement for revolution.
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Revolution #258, February 5, 2012
On January 28, more than 1,000 Occupy protesters and supporters marched through downtown Oakland and then attempted to occupy a long-vacant building, with the aim of turning it into a community center. The police responded viciously with tear gas, flash grenades, rubber bullets, and mass arrests. The police announced they made nearly 400 arrests. Check revcom.us during the week for further coverage.
As pointed out in “A Call for Mass Action Against the Suppression of the Occupy Movement”:
“...if this illegitimate wave of repression is allowed to stand... if the powers-that-be succeed in suppressing or marginalizing this new movement... if people are once again ‘penned in’—both literally and symbolically—things will be much worse. THIS SUPPRESSION MUST BE MASSIVELY OPPOSED, AND DEFEATED.”
|Photos from January 28, Oakland.
All photos: Glennshotspeople, Creative Commons
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Revolution #258, February 5, 2012
|Partial List of Signatories:
Gbenga Akinnagbe, actor on the HBO series The Wire
Fr. Luis Barrios
Renate Bridenthal, Professor of History, Brooklyn College, CUNY, retired
Elaine Brower, World Can’t Wait & Military Families Speak Out
Cynthia Carlson, artist
Nina Felshin, independent curator
Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition, NYC
Harmony Hammond, artist
Camille Hankins, Founder and Director: Win Animal Rights and No Kill, New York
Ray Hill, producer/host of Ray on the Raydio Internet radio show, Houston, TX
Lee Siu Hin, National Coordinator, National Immigrant Solidarity Network
Rev. Dr. James Karpen, Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew, NYC
Chuck Kaufman, Executive Director, Alliance for Global Justice
Rev. Earl Kooperkamp, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, Harlem, NYC
Jim Long, artist
Waqas Malik, artist
Lydia Matthews, Dean of Academic Programs, Associate Dean of Parsons/Professor
Ann Messner, artist
Dorinda Moreno, Fuerza Mundial/FM Global/Hitec Aztec, U.S. Liaison Secretariat, International Tribunal of Conscience of Peoples in Movement/TICPM
Nick Mottern, ConsumersforPeace.org & kNOwdrones.org
National Immigrant Solidarity Network
Bradley Olson, psychologist, activist
The Rt. Rev. George E. Packard, Retired Bishop of the Episcopal Church for the Armed Services and Federal Ministries
Craig Phipps, Ombudsman at Casa Esperanza
Suzanne Ross, PhD, clinical psychologist
David E. Rousline, PhD, Berkeley, CA
Rev. Juan Carlos Ruiz, New Sanctuary Movement
Jayce Salloum, artist, Vancouver
Donna Schaper, Senior Minister, Judson Memorial Church
Theodora Skipitares, Associate Professor, Pratt Institute
Stephen Soldz, Director, Center for Research, Evaluation, and Program Development, Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis,* Past President, Psychologists for Social Responsibility (PsySR)*
Rev. Max Surjadinata, Area Coordinator of Friends of Sabeel North America
David Swanson, warisacrime.org
Debra Sweet, Director, World Can’t Wait
Dennis Trainor, Jr, writer, producer & host of Acronym TV
Marina Urbach, independent curator, other projects, New York
Nancy Vining Van Ness, Director, American Creative Dance
Jim Vrettos, Adjunct Professor, John Jay College of Criminal Justice*
Vince Warren, Executive Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights*
Andy Zee, Spokesperson, Revolution Books, NYC
David Zeiger, Displaced Films
*For identification purposes only
DOWNLOAD PDF OF THIS CALL/SIGNATORIES
These past several months have witnessed something very different in the U.S. People from many different walks of life came together to occupy public space in nearly 1,000 cities in the U.S. They stood up to vicious police violence, they broke through the confines of “protest as usual,” and in the middle of all that, they built community. Even in the face of media attempts to ridicule, distort, and demonize these protests, their basic message began to get through. People throughout the U.S.—and even the world—took notice of and took heart from these brave and creative protesters.
The political terms of discourse began to shift; the iced-over thinking of people in the U.S. began to thaw. Standing up to the unjust brutality and arrests became a badge of honor. People began to listen to and read the stories of some of the victims of this economic crisis, and to share their own. And most of all, as the protests spread to city after city, the fact of people occupying public space forced open debate and raised big questions among millions as to what kind of society this is, and what it should be. Why does such poverty and need exist in the face of a relative handful of people amassing obscene amounts of wealth? Why do the political institutions of society seem only to serve that handful? Why do so many youth feel they face such a bleak future? Why does the insane destruction of the environment continue to accelerate? And what is needed to overcome all this?
Those who actually wield power in this country regarded these protests, and these questions, as dangerous, and reacted accordingly. Time and again those who wield power violated their own laws and ordered police to pepper spray, beat with clubs, and shoot tear gas canisters at the heads of people who were doing nothing more than non-violently expressing their dissent and seeking community. This reached a peak in the recent coordinated and systematic attacks of the past few weeks against all the major occupations. In fact, the mayor of Oakland admitted on BBC to being part of conference calls that coordinated national strategy against the occupiers. On top of all that, and in another blatant show of illegitimate force and power, they attempted to prevent journalists and photographers from covering these acts of repression—unless they were “embedded” with the police.
To put the matter bluntly, but truly: the state planned and unleashed naked and systematic violence and repression against people attempting to exercise rights that are supposed to be legally guaranteed. This response by those who wield power in this society is utterly shameful from a moral standpoint, and thoroughly illegitimate from a legal and political one.
Now this movement faces a true crossroads. Will it be dispersed, driven into the margins, or co-opted? Or will it come back stronger? This question now poses itself, extremely sharply.
One thing is clear already: if this illegitimate wave of repression is allowed to stand... if the powers-that-be succeed in suppressing or marginalizing this new movement... if people are once again “penned in”—both literally and symbolically—things will be much worse. THIS SUPPRESSION MUST BE MASSIVELY OPPOSED, AND DEFEATED.
On the other hand, this too is true: movements grow, and can only grow, by answering repression with even greater and more powerful mobilization.
The need to act is urgent.
As a first step in the necessary response, there must be a massive political mobilization on a day, or days, very soon to say NO! to this attempt to suppress thought and expression with brutality and violence. This mobilization should most of all be in New York, where this movement started... but it should at the same time be powerfully echoed all around the country and yes, around the world. This is a call for massive demonstrations—soon—carried out in public spaces where they can have maximum impact and exposure and where the authorities cannot pen in, suppress, and otherwise attempt to marginalize these demonstrations.
These demonstrations must be large enough to show clearly that people will not tolerate that which is intolerable... that people will not adjust to that which is so manifestly unjust. Such demonstrations, along with the efforts to reach out and build them, can draw many more people from passive sympathy into active support and can awaken and inspire even millions more who have not yet been reached. Such demonstrations can powerfully answer the attempt by “the 1%” to crush and/or derail this broad movement. Thousands and thousands in the streets, acting together, can seize new initiative and change the whole political equation. The urgent questions raised by Occupy—and other urgent questions that have yet to be raised in this movement—can once more reverberate, and more powerfully than before.
The repression of the Occupy movement must not stand. Act.
As put forward in its statement “On the Strategy for Revolution,” the RCP, USA stands for and struggles for a world “where human beings everywhere would be free of relations of exploitation and oppression and destructive antagonistic conflicts, and could be fit caretakers of the earth. But to make this a reality, we need revolution.”
That same statement emphasizes the importance of the way that crises in the system of imperialism can lead to “sudden jolts and breakdowns in the ‘normal functioning’ of society, which compel many people to question and to resist what they usually accept.” Such jolts “create situations in which many more people are searching for answers and open to considering radical change,” and pose important openings in the work of getting to revolution, and a whole new society.
The Occupy movement—both the unexpected and overwhelmingly positive nature of the protests and the brutal repression which the imperialist state has unleashed against it—has opened up just such a situation. From the standpoint of making revolution and carrying forward from there to communism—from the standpoint of building, and making leaps in building, the movement for revolution—it matters a great deal whether this broad Occupy movement will be able to surmount the repression that has been unleashed against it and go forward, or whether it will be shut down or derailed in one form or another. From that revolutionary communist standpoint, and with those stakes in mind, we are circulating this statement and call on people broadly to discuss, distribute, and post it.
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Revolution #258, February 5, 2012
"...officials in some states study the reading scores of fourth-grade boys in the inner city to know how many prison cells to build."
I read this recently in an L.A. Times page-two column by Sandy Banks, who was interviewing a 92-year-old retired judge. It made my skin crawl—and it still does. Here it is—made into an institution—vicious, calculated, cold-blooded criminalization of Black and Latino children by the "injustice" system. Talk about the "school to prison pipeline"—Isn't this an expression of the "slow genocide" that Carl Dix has been speaking to in his campus tour with Cornel West?
This is like throwing little children into the deep end of the swimming pool, finding the ones who are floundering, and then pushing their heads under until they drown instead of rescuing them.
The judge's answer, according to Banks—"Make sure those boys can read."
Of course! And while we're at it, let's teach them why this fucking system will never stop pressing its foot on the masses of oppressed people—women and men, not just here but throughout the world—until it is defeated through revolution, and done away with. Enlist them in the movement for revolution. Enable them to learn more deeply why things don't have to be this way as they fight the power, and transform the people, for revolution. And raise their sights to their role as emancipators of humanity.
Revolution newspaper, and now BAsics, should be getting inside these schools more and more. And at the other end of that "pipeline," they need to be reaching more prisoners—women as well as men—and "all those the system has cast off." One of the "big ideas" that is already underway is to raise funds to be able to dramatically increase the number of prisoners receiving subscriptions to Revolution, copies of BAsics, and other works.
Think about this quote from BAsics 1:13, taken from the DVD Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About.
"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."
Imagine when people are encountering Bob Avakian's vision and works everywhere; and where "it doesn't have to be this way" is inspiring a new generation to take on the mission of building the movement for revolution that can finally put an end to all this. Let's get to it.
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