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Revolution #274 July 8, 2012
$50,000 Needs to Be Raised
“[Bob Avakian] is opening our understanding to the way it is, where other people are afraid to speak because it’ll put their life on the line, and this man put his life on the line for everybody to know the truth. And he just told it just how it is. How can we make that change if we don’t know the basics?”
—Virginia, woman in Sanford, Florida,
who was introduced to BAsics
during the bus tour through the South
A new movement is being forged—bringing something radically new onto the scene—and this can take a big leap through the next leg of the BAsics Bus Tour kicking off in mid-July. The pilot project of the bus tour rolled through California in February, followed by the tour through the South in May. Building on this, the tour now hits New York City and surrounding areas.
Photos: Special to Revolution
The tour is part of the mass campaign to raise big money to project Bob Avakian’s vision and works into every corner of society: BA Everywhere... Imagine the Difference It Could Make! This leg of the tour will spend time in the global financial center of imperialism—New York—a city where incredible wealth and opulence exists side by side with neighborhoods that have been abandoned and left to rot by this system. And it will go to other cities in the region—where there are also apartheid-like conditions of the New Jim Crow, and where there are people from all over the world, many forced to come to this country because, to paraphrase BA, U.S. imperialism has fucked up their homelands even worse than what it has done to the people here. The tour will reach out especially to the youth with no future under this system.
Volunteers of different nationalities, ages, and life experiences will bring to the people word of Bob Avakian and the new synthesis of communism he’s brought forward, the strategy for revolution he’s developed, and the leadership he’s providing for the movement for revolution. The volunteer crew will be connecting people broadly with the two BAsics quotes for July (see poster in this issue), as well as continuing to reach out with BAsics 1:13.
Let’s get many copies of BAsics into the hands of people where the tour is going, and all across the country, and have all kinds of showings of BA’s talk Revolution: Why It’s Necessary, Why It’s Possible, What It’s All About. The volunteers will be working to leave behind cores of people, organized to be part of the movement for revolution in beginning ways. The tour will be a catalyst for mobilizing people across the country—to follow and support the tour, and to organize and bring more into the whole BA Everywhere campaign in many different ways.
This is going to take LOTS of money. $25,000 needs to be raised by the July 6-8 weekend, and $50,000 overall by August 1. This is a huge need—but also a great OPPORTUNITY to reach out even further and more broadly to many new people... to all those who are concerned about the state of the world and where things are heading, and to involve many more people in all kinds of ways (see “What You Can Do NOW” on this page).
|What You Can Do NOW
Reach out to others to let them know about the tour and the ways they can donate and be part of this movement in various ways.
Send a statement of support to firstname.lastname@example.org and encourage others to do the same.
If you’re in the New York area and can provide housing or food for the volunteers, or know someone who can, email email@example.com.
Get word out about the tour to everyone you know, especially in the New York area. If you know musicians, ask them to come join the tour for a day.
To be part of media outreach, online research, video editing, graphic design, and other aspects of the tour, write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Whether you’re someone who has recently learned about the bus tour and the whole movement for revolution, or you’ve been involved for a while, Revolution calls on you to go out to others—talk to people one-on-one or organize various gatherings and get the word out about the tour (and raise money!), using the organizing materials available at basicsbustour.tumblr.com and revcom.us.
When you donate to and take part in other ways in this tour, you are joining with many others across the country like yourself who are outraged at the way things are and feel suffocated at the level of discussion in society, who have been inspired and moved by Bob Avakian and the vision and strategy he’s developed for a radically different—and far better—way the world could be. You are joining with others in a movement across the country—acting as individuals, there is no way we can change the horrors confronting humanity, but with leadership, and acting together with thousands of others, even small things we do can be part of having meaningful impact on the whole political and ideological terrain throughout the country. Join the thousands today who are part of influencing millions with a revolutionary message... and preparing to lead those millions toward revolution when conditions emerge to do so.
As of the end of June, $8,500 was raised—through people coming together for fundraising picnics, stoop sales, and other efforts, and through individual contributions. $16,500 more is needed by July 8 to reach the $25,000 figure.
As part of this crucial weekend of fundraising, a new video will be released online on Friday, July 6. Join with others across the country to get together with people in various gatherings—house parties, salons, community centers, one-on-one meetings, etc.—to watch the video and raise funds for the tour. And the activities that weekend can be a springboard to raise the rest of the goal for this bus tour and get donations for BA Everywhere, and to bring many more people into the campaign.
These plans taken together—including, very importantly, documenting what has been done for posting at basicsbustour.tumblr.com and for Revolution—can go a long way in radically changing what people, here and around the world, think is necessary and possible, and bring them into the process of changing the world. July can mark a leap in BA’s voice getting out into society even further. You are needed to make this happen... your contributions and ideas, your energy and creativity, your questions and participation.
For more on the BAsics Bus Tour, including nodal points during the tour, see “July: The BAsics Bus Tour and Making Big Leaps with BA Everywhere” online at revcom.us.
Revolution #274 July 8, 2012
The following is the text of a June 27 talk at the New York Revolution Books store. We felt the points made in the talk are important in relation to the efforts across the country around the next leg of the BAsics Bus Tour.
In May, the BAsics Bus Tour went to the South, kicking off from Atlanta and heading down to Sanford, Florida—the site of the murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Now it's getting ready for the next leg... kicking off from New York and going into surrounding areas. It will launch in 19 days. To appreciate what this can open up towards revolution, I want to get into some of what these efforts have begun to impact thus far.
One of the principles of the revolution is that people are the most precious resource. So as you see these pictures, and listen, think of the people who are being reached, the people who confront the horrors of this system, but had not until now had the opportunity to find out WHY this happens—that it is because of the workings of the system, not human nature, and that because of the work BA has done over several decades, summing up the positive and negative experiences of the communist revolution so far, and drawing from a broad range of human experience—there really is a viable vision and strategy for a radically new, and much better, society and world, and there is the crucial leadership that is needed to carry forward the struggle toward that goal. And not only is such a revolution possible, but we ARE BUILDING a movement for this revolution which provides a way to begin working on that now.
This is what is beginning to change people as they step forward—in all kinds of ways big and small—to change the world. Through this bus tour and through the whole mass campaign to raise big money to project Bob Avakian's vision and works into every corner of society—BA Everywhere... Imagine the Difference It Could Make—people are being brought into the process of making revolution.
First, words from Bob Avakian—the leadership we have for the revolution we need. (See the collage slideshow here).
Now I want to play about 10 minutes of an audio interview Michael Slate did with a woman they met in Sanford at a speak-out in front of the Sanford Police Station. She bought BAsics and they arranged the interview for the next day in a barbershop where she brought several people to be there with her. (Slate interview starting at 44:35)
What transformed with this woman, Virginia, is an example multiplied all over. It is similar to what happened with the high school kids who wore a button with BAsics 1:13 to their graduation. You see this in the prisoner letters responding deeply to what's in BAsics and arguing with other prisoners about what they're living and fighting for. You see it in the young women taking part for the first time in fighting the power. You see it in the people in a neighborhood contributing to a stoop sale to raise money to reprint these palm cards as part of BA Everywhere. You see it in the hundreds who signed those banners all across the country... In all this, something is being cohered.
Watching these videos, reading these snapshots... I've been thinking very deeply about the revolutionary potential of the masses of people—the masses of people who are brutalized, degraded, oppressed, exploited and cast aside in our society. And who have that oppression in common with people all over the world. And I want to quote here from the last essay in BAsics, "The Revolutionary Potential of the Masses and the Responsibility of the Vanguard":
"One of the things that I see, something that I haven't lost sight of, is this: I see all the strength of the ruling class, but I also see all the way through all this shit, all the contradictions in society—I actually see a force in this society that, if it were developed into a revolutionary people, actually could have a go at it, could have a real chance of making a revolution, or being the backbone force of a revolution, when the conditions were ripe. I see a force of millions and millions and millions—youth and others—for whom this system is a horror: It isn't going to take some cataclysmic crisis for this system to be fucking over them. The ruling class, ironically, sees them too. It is those who once had but have lost—or those who never had—a revolutionary perspective...it is they who can't see this.
"So what I'm working on is all the things that are in between that revolutionary potential and its actual realization. How does this force of masses at the base of society get joined by people from other strata, how does it get allies broadly, how does it get 'friendly neutrality' among many in the middle strata—how does all this get developed into a revolutionary people that can become a powerful fighting force when the conditions emerge to fight all out for the seizure of power? How does all that happen not in a passive sense, but how do we work on bringing this revolutionary people into being, even if most of the changes in society and the world are not owing to our initiative but to larger objective factors? I actually believe there is such a revolutionary force in potential—I actually believe this, I see this potential—I believe that there is a force there that, if somehow (and the bourgeoisie knows this too) if somehow the bourgeoisie got into a real, deep crisis...
"Yes, these masses have got a lot of ideological hang-ups, and everything else—that's why we have work to do—but we should never lose sight of that potential."
How to work on bringing this revolutionary people into being with the kind of leadership required is laid out in the strategy statement from the RCP ["On the Strategy for Revolution"], the third essay in BAsics:
"All this [meaning what is spoken to in the full statement... Fight the Power, and Transform the People, For Revolution, strengthening the Party, learning from BA and spreading the knowledge and influence of his pathbreaking leadership and defending and protecting this rare and precious leader, wielding Revolution newspaper] can enable the revolutionary movement, with the Party at the core, to confront and overcome the very real obstacles in its path...to advance and grow, through ongoing work, and through a series of critical leaps in times of sudden breaks and ruptures with the 'normal routine'...to prepare the ground, and accumulate forces, for revolution—and have a real chance at winning. It is how thousands can be brought forward and oriented, organized and trained in a revolutionary way, while beginning to reach and influence millions more, even before there is a revolutionary situation...and then, when there is a revolutionary situation, those thousands can be a backbone and pivotal force in winning millions to revolution and organizing them in the struggle to carry the revolution through."
Fighting the power... think of the struggle begun against mass incarceration and stop-and-frisk... all going to a higher level with the STOP "Stop & Frisk" defendants and growing mass resistance. Think of the fight to end pornography and patriarchy: the enslavement and degradation of women... to take on and defeat the vicious war on women through growing, defiant societywide struggle. Think of the people lifting their heads, opening up to the biggest questions... and think of all the people who will be getting involved in saving Revolution Books, raising money, organizing events, building up the pulsing engagement with revolution going on here. And think of ALL this—coming together with this campaign to get BA Everywhere and all those who will be reached and involved through this BAsics Bus Tour.
There are very significant beginnings. A powerful connection forged between sections of people and BA—the person and the leader. In beginning ways people are getting organized and a seething outrage tapped into... this is connecting deeply and must be built on. And the people who have dared to lift their heads, who have begun to allow themselves to hope, who are stepping forward into this revolution must be joined by many more—and they need to feel the impact they are having and the sense of being among many others like them stepping into this... learned from and cohered, amplified and made more broadly known... becoming a dynamic force for revolution, and for building a movement for revolution for real.
BA is the leading edge of all this, the person who concentrates the way out—just as Virginia said in the beginning, as others who are stepping forward are feeling... and the fact of many others also beginning to check out this revolution, to get their hands on BAsics, to take up beginning ways of making this revolution more known and stronger... all this makes what BA is about seem all the more possible—propels them further into it, and by going further into it and helping spread it they are changing themselves and becoming more and more capable of influencing millions and being organized and trained to lead millions as things develop...
In 19 days, the BAsics Bus Tour will launch its third leg, kicking off in New York City, spending time here and heading out to surrounding areas. This time out, there will be TWO RVs going out for TWO weeks, with AT LEAST TWO dozen volunteers plus. We have an incredible opportunity here and a great plan... and we have 18 days to make this what it needs to, and can, be. Now, 18 days is not a lot of time, but it is enough time, and everyone here—in whatever ways you can—has a chance to be part of something transformative, something that can inject a very new and needed thing into society.
Just think about New York—the global financial center for imperialism, a place of tremendous wealth and opulence... listen to this: the Upper East Side of Manhattan has a population that is 88% white and as of 2000, 75% of the population received a college degree. It has one of the greatest concentrations of individual wealth in the world.
But just hop on the 3 train and head south to Brownsville, Brooklyn. 90% of the population is Black or Latino, only 30% are high school graduates, and only 8% completed college. Just as Sanford, Florida, was ground zero in the murder of Trayvon Martin... Brownsville is ground zero for the NYPD's apartheid like stop-and-frisk policy, where youth are harassed and stigmatized, terrorized and brutalized. In Brownsville, there are 93 stops for every 100 residents.
Or the South Bronx... There is no sign of gentrification in the South Bronx—instead there is decades-old rubble and burned out buildings, like a bombed out city after a war. Up there kids play among filth, broken glass, rats and pollution... record asthma rates... what kind of system does this to generation after generation?
This area, and other places the tour will be going, is also crammed with people who have, to paraphrase Avakian, come here because the U.S. has fucked up the rest of the world even worse than what they have done in this country. As part of gaining their riches and power, they have made it impossible for many people to live in their own countries—places like Palestine, Lebanon, Mexico, El Salvador, Peru, Syria, Bangladesh, Turkey... people have come hoping to find work and to be able to send money back home. Once thrust into the American nightmare, these different sections of people are set against each other, not knowing their common oppression in the system of capitalism-imperialism nor realizing their common hope in being part of a movement for real revolution, aimed at bringing into being a radically different, and far better, world.
The BAsics Bus Tour will go right into this mix, reaching out especially to the youth who have no future under this system. Black and Latino youth who are tracked into the prison pipeline from an early age... immigrant youth whose parents' ways don't fit into this culture and who themselves are still often thrust into the shadows... young women who are pimped by boyfriends trained to view them as property to be owned and sold... youth who have never been told that all this is the product of a system, not of human nature... and that it doesn't have to be this way.
Right into this—volunteers of different ages, nationalities and life experiences will come together, piling into brightly decorated, 30-foot RVs to bring word of Bob Avakian. The leading edge of this will be BAsics—a book which lets people in on the biggest questions of the revolution, right from the start. Whether it be wrangling with a single quote—like the one on the foundation of this country in slavery—or gathering in a group to get into the statement on strategy. Whether it be opening up a debate over the questions of science, philosophy and the harms caused by religion—or being struck by, and forced to reconsider things, from the power of the quotes being featured in July: "American Lives Are Not More Important Than Other People's Lives" and "Internationalism—The Whole World Comes First."
Through BAsics—as well as the talk Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About, which we will also be focusing on—people come to know BA and the leadership he is providing. There is a lot they get right away, and there is a great deal people can dig into over time. The importance of fighting the power and transforming the people for revolution, the truth that has been kept from people about the real history and liberating potential of communist revolution, big questions of morality and how to live a life that will really count for something liberating.
For two weeks, there will be full-time volunteers on the ground... but there will also be all kinds of people joining up for day trips throughout the two weeks. Join the tour as they set up neighborhood screenings of the Revolution talk... be part of making a big deal out of the distribution of BAsics 1:13 and other BAsics quotes... if you are a musician, bring a crew of others and play street-side to inspire people and help stir things up further. Bring a dance crew or a bunch of graphic artists... organize a cultural event in a neighborhood or town along the way... come with us as we are invited into people's living rooms, community centers, have neighborhood picnics and BBQs. And for those across the country, this will also be reported in near-real time so people everywhere can follow the bus, learn as it's learning and participate wherever they are. This is the leading edge of what will further cohere this movement nationally... as people all over will themselves be finding out about BA, responding to BA's quotes and voicing their support for and participation with the movement for revolution, and what the revolutionaries are doing right now on the ground in the rotting apple and surrounding towns.
One of the questions people have had as we've talked with them about this tour is how this won't just be a flash in the pan, what will we leave behind? This is an essential question and something this Party is serious about solving, but that also needs to be put back to you. This Party and this movement is too small... This revolution faced a worldwide defeat first with the Soviet Union in the 1950s, and then with a coup in China in 1976 which reversed socialism in that country and instated capitalism... which we've seen the brutal effects of today. Since then, people have suffered through 30 years of a counter-revolutionary assault against communism piling on lies and distortions about this liberatory experience. But in the face of this defeat, and going up against the "verdict" on communism—Avakian has forged a new synthesis of communism. This provides the foundation on which to go forward, it is rooted in the real world contradictions we face in making revolution, and emancipating humanity, this work provides answers... and a framework and foundation with which to forge answers to what we don't know... this provides the basis for this revolution to succeed—but that takes YOU being a part of it.
Because of the situation, I described, there is a big gap right now between the need for revolution, and the vision, strategy and leadership that exists for revolution concentrated in the new synthesis of communism and the leadership of BA. This gap needs to be closed and this revolution needs to be made a material force through coming to feel all the ways people are stepping forward into this revolution... and being sustained in how they're stepping forward and how that interacts with people just like them all across the country.
This brings me to another part of the RCP's statement on the strategy for revolution:
"For those who have hungered for, who have dreamed of, a whole different world, without the madness and torment of what this system brings every day...those who have dared to hope that such a world could be possible...and even those who, up to now, would like to see this, but have accepted that this could never happen...there is a place and a role, a need and a means, for thousands now and ultimately millions to contribute to building this movement for revolution, in many different ways, big and small—with ideas and with practical involvement, with support, and with questions and criticisms. Get together with our Party, learn more about this movement and become a part of it as you learn, acting in unity with others in this country, and throughout the world, aiming for the very challenging but tremendously inspiring and liberating—and, yes, possible—goal of emancipating all of humanity through revolution and advancing to a communist world, free of exploitation and oppression."
This tour—and this BA Everywhere campaign as a whole—is meeting a need and providing a means, finding a place and a role for thousands now and ultimately millions to contribute to building this movement for revolution, in many different ways, big and small—with ideas and with practical involvement, with support, and with questions and criticisms.
The significance—and world changing potential—can't be underestimated. The world is crying out for revolution... just thinking about the places this tour is going—there is no fucking reason people have to live this way... except that we live under a system whose economic and political functioning requires it. This is outmoded, it is a relic of history... a far better world is possible—a society, again from the strategy statement, "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." And that is what all this is working towards today.
And I'll add this—working towards this in the ways I've discussed here, along with joining in mass resistance, is a part of shaping that terrain and repolarizing society towards revolution.
But making this tour happen—and making it known throughout society—will take a lot of energy and creativity, it will take a lot of money and a lot of support of different kinds, it will take housing, places for the RV to park, reporters and bloggers to make this known, participation from people in the neighborhoods the tour is going to, volunteers riding the bus and volunteers joining for a day outing here or there. It will take a lot of advance work in the neighborhoods—learning from people where the tour should go—the residents, social workers, teachers, librarians, store owners... everyone... and what it should do while there, it will take a lot of food, meeting places, musicians and artists of all kinds participating. There are a great many needs to fill... and every single need—from the bake sale to the video editor to the empty couch to the two-week volunteer is an opportunity to involve people as a conscious dynamic force.
The next 18 days need to crackle... with contributions pouring in, fundraising house parties and salons among different strata, word of this tour spreading via Twitter, online and on the streets, join the tour for a day or write a volunteer application to join for one or two weeks... be part of garnering media coverage, legal support—because this tour is going to where things are hot, reaching out to artists and others... helping with the whole logistical setup to get this on the road, and keep it on the road. Be part of designing beautiful eye-catching displays, helping with the advance work in the neighborhoods and towns the tour is going to, be part of the extensive phone banking that will be going on... there are a multitude of ways for you—and all your friends—to be part of making this happen.
Revolution #274 July 8, 2012
The following is a template for letters to send out to people broadly to raise funds for the BAsics Bus Tour. You can draw from and adapt this template, or write your own letters—the important thing is to reach out to everyone you know and call on them to donate to this tour that will make a big difference in the world. If the person you are writing to is in New York and other areas this leg of the tour is going to, make sure to ask if they can donate food or housing for the volunteers, or if they know someone who could. You can use the version below, or download the letter in a Word version.
I'm writing to let you know about an opportunity to make a meaningful impact on the world right now—by contributing to the next leg of the BAsics Bus Tour that's hitting New York City and surrounding areas in mid-July.
This tour is building off the last leg in May, which went from Atlanta to Sanford, FL (where Trayvon Martin was murdered), connecting people with the vision and works of Bob Avakian, the leader who has developed a new synthesis of communism and a viable strategy for revolution. The crew of volunteers—from all over the country, multinational, of different ages—got out copies of BAsics, a book of quotes and short essays from Avakian speaking to the essential questions of revolution and human emancipation.
Virginia, a Black woman who came to a speak-out organized by the tour at the Sanford police station, said: "I started reading [Bob Avakian's] book and I just could not put his book down because he was explaining a whole lot about what is going on in America that a lot of us don't even know and everything that's in his book makes sense. And I can't wait to finish reading it... He is opening our understanding to the way it is, where other people are afraid to speak because it'll put their life on the line, and this man put his life on the line for everyone to know the truth. And he just told it how it is. How can we make that change if we don't know the basics?" (You can read more of this interview here.)
This is just one example of the powerful effect that the tour had—I encourage you to go to basicsbustour.tumblr.com to learn more. This had reverberations around the country, as people in different cities followed the tour and sent messages to the people of Sanford on banners with this quote from BAsics: "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." (A slide show of this, with BA's voice, is available here.)
Now imagine the BAsics Bus Tour going right into New York, the financial center of world imperialism, and surrounding areas. Think about the impact when the tour crew—doubled in size as the last leg, in two RVs instead of one—goes out to neighborhoods that have been left to rot by the system, and brings to those "the system has destined for oppression and oblivion" the message that there is absolutely no reason we have to live this way...except that we live under a system whose economic and political functioning requires it. Think of how this can be a catalyst for breaking through the stifling political atmosphere in this society, as people around the country follow and support the tour.
You can be part of making all this happen. $50,000 is needed for the NY area BAsics Bus Tour by August 1. I am asking you to donate to this goal. I'd also like to ask you to send a statement saying why you are supporting the tour, and encourage others to do the same. (You can read support statements from a wide range of people here.) You can donate here.
By donating to and taking part in other ways in this tour, you will be among others across the country like yourself who are outraged at the way things are and feel suffocated at the level of discussion in society, and who have been inspired and intrigued by Bob Avakian and the vision and strategy he's developed for a radically different—and far better—way the world could be. You will be joining with others in a movement across the country that is making a meaningful impact on the whole political and ideological terrain. Join the thousands today who are part of influencing millions with a revolutionary message... and preparing to lead those millions toward revolution when conditions emerge to do so. Be part of changing the world.
I look forward to hearing back from you.
Revolution #274 July 8, 2012
BAsics Bus Tour Through the South:
In May, the BAsics Bus Tour went through parts of the South, starting in Atlanta and going to Athens, GA; Gainesville, FL; and Sanford, FL (where Trayvon Martin was killed in February). Go to basicsbustour.tumblr.com for reports, photos, and videos from that leg of the tour. The following is a correspondence from one of the bus tour volunteers.
"Think of the situation this tour is heading into... a region where the memory of public lynchings is still quite vivid in many people's minds and where modern-day lynchings are backed up by local authorities... a region where some of the harshest anti-immigration measures have been put into place, legalizing racial profiling and instilling terror in the lives of immigrants who have come here for survival for themselves and their families... a region where there have been hundreds of incidents of attacks on abortion clinics including arson, fire bombings and even the murder of providers ..."
—From Revolution #268
This is exactly what the BAsics Bus Tour through the South in May stepped into!
From the photographs of these neighborhoods, one gets a sense of the living conditions of hundreds and thousands of people in this country (but also throughout the world). People finding the ways to have time pass by, as one woman recounted. She mentioned that people hang outside to step outside of their home (for a minute). In the hot days, the BAsics Bus Tour hit the scene with a beautiful chant letting people concisely know how things will be different day one after the revolution.
I walked in there with trepidation—unsure of how (people hanging outside) would respond. There was a moment of silence/pause, and then the revolutionaries stepped in. Immediately the scene changed as pockets of people began to deeply interact with the revolutionaries. It was as though a dusty brown painting was splashed with colors of liberation (red, black, yellow, etc.). Life was brought into this oppressive hot day. I quickly realized how much people really wanted to engage this movement for revolution—specifically, its leader Bob Avakian. Stories began to pour out of people's daily existence (police brutality, mass incarceration, no jobs, mis-education).
One woman talked about wanting to "get ahead" in this world because in the neighborhood very little information gets filtered in. She talked about attending different free lectures—including one by Donald Trump. As she continued she didn't seemed convinced of everything she'd heard at these lectures—of becoming a "self-made man." I asked if at any of these lectures she heard of how the world could be different. She paused to think. I said, this BAsics Bus Tour is travelling through the South bringing the works and vision of Bob Avakian—a voice and a person that people need to know if they are struggling to understand why the world is the way it is; and it is challenging people to be a part of changing the world through revolution—as the back of the book says, "You can't change the world, if you don't know the BAsics." It seemed as though she still wanted to find an answer to my original question, and she responded with "the community church." But even then she was skeptical and recounted the church's financial problems. But her interest was sparked; she began to look through the beautiful displays (that were propped against a fence with quotes from BAsics). We went through a series of questions—including the type of morality religion promotes (because she raised disagreement with same sex marriage).
The biggest immediate lesson learned was people's openness to be challenged and questioned—in their thinking, but also with the challenge to be one of the thousands working on the revolution, to be emancipators of humanity. Also, it made me think deeply of the relationship between the superstructure (morality, ideology, politics, etc.) and the masses. In other words, so much of what people usually throw at us is in one way or another upholding this system, but it isn't solid. The people we met did not thoroughly uphold and defend the bourgeois class outlook. (This is further synthesized in "The Revolutionary Potential of the Masses and the Responsibility of the Vanguard," the last essay in BAsics.)
Also intertwined in the above is that people have not lost sight of their humanity. A lot of the people we met throughout the tour described the horrific daily living conditions, but even through all that, this system has not sucked out their humanity. And this is further reflected in Sunsara Taylor's articles (on basicsbustour.tumblr.com), in regards to the joy people had in meeting the revolution but also in their willingness to be part of this movement for revolution (even if in beginning ways).
I knew the relevance of this quote from BAsics before the tour, but once arriving on the ground it hit hard how much religion weighs on people's thinking around confronting reality and the drive to change it. In Athens, GA a woman signed the banner thanking the revolutionaries and wanted a large stack of palm cards with the BAsics 1:13 quote to distribute in her building. As she was walking away, she began to preach about Jesus. So I tried to clarify that this quote is not about Jesus, that we're atheist, and we're saying the problem is the system not the youth. She disagreed, but thought it was important that others read this quote because it's talking about change.
Another way religious convictions found expression was with the statement "what can you do, it's all in god's hands." But when this notion of nothing can be done was sharply challenged (especially with quotes from Chapter 4 of BAsics), it would put people on edge—almost as though god was a conventional wisdom that everybody knew and accepted. But there was a real openness in having that challenged, and an interest in understanding why we didn't believe in god; and in understanding why the world doesn't have to be this way and why we need a revolution.
Overall BAsics 1:13 began to break through some of the heavy chains of religion and framed the problem and solution on a world scale.
In Atlanta we had a quick 30 minutes on a street corner—as the RV drove up and down a strip—playing Bob Avakian's "Why do people come here from all over the world?" (from his talk Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About) on the loudspeakers. We went to a laundromat, gas station, and a bus stop—focusing on BAsics 1:14. There was general excitement and we raised a couple of dollars from the masses.
In Athens, GA a local activist gave us some insight into the layout...it took searching to find immigrant neighborhoods, and as suggested by the local activist we stayed at a neighborhood convenience shop. While it seemed like there weren't that many shoppers, the convenience shop was shaken. We talked with every single person (including the store owner). The masses constantly told us, "I work from morning til night, I don't even have time to put together my thoughts let alone think, but what you're saying sounds good." We sold copies of Revolution newspaper, a copy of Lo BAsico, and raised some funds, and people took small stacks of BAsics 1:14 quote cards. We also went to the immigrant neighborhood (close by) and fanned out briefly. (Note: We approached these neighborhoods more low key so as to not draw unnecessary attention; as the activist suggested—no displays or RV.)
Part of what we were trying to grapple with was—what effect did the relationship between "the harshest anti-immigrant measures" and the daily "back-breaking work" (partly stated in BAsics 1:15) have on the masses; because it seemed as though there was an ideological stifling. While many people appreciated us being there, it was difficult to draw people out and speak bitterness about the horrific living conditions. As one person put it, "I knew coming into this country I would have to work two jobs to stay alive." Instead of anger there was an acceptance to that reality (even when challenged).
In Sanford things were more sharply challenged. We spontaneously went to a park that had a sizable number of immigrant masses. I was the only Spanish speaker in our crew, but we had the large banner with BAsics 1:13. We began to get the same response of "sounds good," but with the synthesized approach of breaking-down BAsics 1:13, I proceeded to do that. When I mentioned Trayvon Martin, encouraged people to sign the banner, and explain why the bus tour came to Sanford, conversation broke open. One man said, "The response (protest) would not of been the same had it been a Latino youth because Black people are more organized." Others mentioned that they wanted to be part of the protest but were unable to because of work. We encouraged people to sign the banner, but there was a noticeable hesitation. The more backward voice set the terms by saying, "What's the point of signing this banner if nothing is going to change." We struggled this out by drawing from the "We Say 'No More'" statement—and clearly drawing the line of demarcation; this is not a "Black issue," this is a matter of injustice, and all those who stand against injustice need to stand in opposition to the modern American lynching; and (while doing so) struggle to understand how to put an end to this horrific reality—especially since there is a way out. Again there was a hesitation, and a person proclaimed, "I'll sign the banner because I think what she's saying is correct." And while this still divided out, the resetting of terms allowed people to come forward who did want to sign the banner.
Overall this experience was brief but it brought some clarity to the statement "sounds good," though I think there still needs to be a lot of struggle to rupture from the "my country" (i.e., Mexico) or this isn't "my country" (i.e., U.S.) to the "whole world comes first/emancipators of humanity."* Two people each gave a $10 donation and thanked us for coming to talk to them; they said, "Had you not come here to talk to us we would of never known about the revolution and Bob Avakian—now we have a lot to think about."
*One way to speak to this would be to compare/contrast with quotes from BAsics that speak to the contradiction of "why do people come from all over the world" and "Internationalism--The Whole World Comes First."
In Sanford we heard Joe Veale's message: it was inspiring and situated the Bus Tour historically in its role in this movement for revolution—specifically, that of getting BA's vision and work out into society. While in Sanford, I also had the opportunity to sit and read the blog and was deeply moved to understand (and take in) the nationwide support for this bus tour—from fundraising correspondence to photographs to statements of support to the send-off in Atlanta, GA—it truly captured a vision of the hundreds on this tour.
Sanford/Goldsboro was an unforgettable town—from the small segregated (all Black) neighborhoods to the dense poverty. When the RV hit the scene it changed the dynamics of everyday life. From cars stopping mid-street to speak with revolutionaries to clusters of people seriously engaging this movement for revolution. Our aim was to not leave any stone unturned (and it seems we were successful). And while the speak-out seemed small, it actually concentrated the hopes and aspirations of everybody we met in Sanford and throughout the bus tour (including the hundreds nationwide). From one woman jumping with joy when the bus tour arrived to another woman asking "Where have you been—why are we only finding out about this now?" This city captured and concentrated humanity's hunger for a radical understanding and solution to the world. Many were interested to know who BA is: from one man wanting to look at his picture to many asking "who is Bob Avakian?" When people discovered more about his history (how he became a revolutionary and then a communist), people were glad to know he was alive and leading this movement for revolution. And all were introduced to BAsics and the Revolution talk, and in beginning ways people joined this movement for revolution.
This bus tour was alive with Bob Avakian's new synthesis of revolution and communism. From ongoing deep discussions into his latest interview to political discussions in the RV, many of us transformed in a very quick and concentrated time. The far-sighted leadership provided to the tour set terms and aspirations that all of us should strive to emulate but it also challenged us--from down-on-the-ground tasks to the decisiveness of line in leading a communist revolution. This was somewhat different from the pilot project of the Bus Tour in California—in that it seemed to be more consciously led. Also, the unevenness of the volunteers became our strength, because it mirrored the method of a "team of scientists" working on this bus tour being successful.
Overall I think the importance of this bus tour being the current leading edge of the BA Everywhere Campaign sheds light on the difference getting BA's vision and works out in society is making (especially BAsics and the Revolution talk)—particularly amongst those who catch hell every day. There's the need to continually find the ways and forms so that people can make leaps in their understanding and better enable humanity to change the world. It's crucial to not lose sight of how important BA is to humanity and the difference/paradigm shift of the "Join Us—Twelve Ways" in building this movement for revolution—because the emancipation of all of humanity is counting on the thousands leading this movement for revolution to break free of this system of capitalism-imperialism and begin the first great leap in the direction of total emancipation.
Revolution #274 July 8, 2012
Millions of Egyptian people from all walks of life, drawing inspiration from the people of Tunisia, have heroically risen up, defied the hated regime of Hosni Mubarak and forced Mubarak to resign. This has shattered the notion that "things can never change." It is a powerful demonstration that there is no permanent necessity to the existing conditions under which the great majority of humanity suffer so terribly. Oppressed people and people who hunger for an end to oppression, in every country all over the world, have deeply shared in the joy and hope of these massive uprisings. And the stirrings of revolt continue to spread.
At the same time, while Mubarak has stepped down, the same basic forces that have so cruelly ruled over and exploited the Egyptian people remain in power. And, despite their honeyed words of praise for the masses of youth and others who have risen up, despite their promises of "freedom" and "democracy," in reality they are determined to bring about a "transition" that will ensure that there is no fundamental change—that whatever new arrangements are engineered in the political process will still keep the masses of people in Egypt, in Palestine, and other countries of strategic importance for U.S. imperialism, in unbearable conditions. After all, the armed forces in Egypt—which are now supposed to carry out this "transition"—are the same armed forces which for decades faithfully and brutally enforced the rule of the Mubarak regime, while the heads of this military enriched themselves through becoming major exploiters of the Egyptian people; and the imperialists of the U.S.—who fully backed Mubarak and his cronies and kept them in power for 30 years, without any regard for the suffering of the people—are the very same imperialists who are now seeking yet again to call the shots and give the ultimate orders in terms of what the "transition" in Egypt will be.
The plans and designs of these oppressors and exploiters are NOT what the masses of people desperately want and need. Theirs is the cry of "freedom," and the struggle must be carried forward until real freedom is achieved—freedom from the rule of the imperialists and their local henchmen and junior partners, freedom from all forms of oppression and exploitation. Freedom from both the outmoded forces which would enslave women, and the people as a whole, in medieval darkness and oppression—and from the outmoded forces who would enslave people in the name of "democracy"..."freedom"...and capitalist-imperialist exploitation marketed as "progress."
It has frequently happened in history, as has been the case in Egypt (as well as Tunisia), that the domination of imperialism and the rule of local exploiters has taken a concentrated form in the regime of a "strong man" butcher. This was the case, for example, in Iran, with the torture-chamber rule of the Shah, in the Philippines with the tyranny of Marcos, and in Indonesia with the long monstrous reign of Suharto—all brutal dictatorships put in power and long kept in power by U.S. imperialism. In Iran in the late 1970s, in the Philippines in the 1980s, in Indonesia more recently, massive uprisings of the people forced the U.S. imperialists to throw aside these hated tyrants and to allow some changes. But in every case, the ultimate result was not one which led to real "freedom" for the people—instead they have continued to be subjected to cruel oppression at the hands of those who replaced the old, hated rulers, while these countries have remained within the overall framework of global imperialist domination and exploitation. But historical experience has also shown that the continuation of oppressive rule, in one form or another, is NOT the only possible outcome.
In Russia, in February 1917, another brutal despot, the Czar (absolute monarch), was overthrown by the uprising of the people. Here again, the U.S., British, and other imperialists, and the Russian capitalists, tried to continue the oppression of the Russian people in a new form, using the mechanisms of "democratic rule" and elections which, while allowing for some broader participation of different parties, would still be totally controlled by the exploiters of the people and would ensure their continuing rule, and the continued suffering of the masses of people. In this case, however, the masses of people were enabled to see through these maneuvers and manipulations, to carry forward their revolutionary rising, through many different twists and turns and, in October 1917, to sweep aside and dismantle the institutions and mechanisms of bourgeois dictatorship and to establish a new political and economic system, socialism, which for several decades continued to advance in the direction of abolishing relations of exploitation and oppression, as part of the struggle throughout the world toward the final goal of communism. The crucial difference was that, in the uprisings in Russia, there was a core of leadership, communist leadership, that had a clear, scientifically grounded, understanding of the nature of not just this or that ruthless despot but of the whole oppressive system—and of the need to continue the revolutionary struggle not just to force a particular ruler from office but to abolish that whole system and replace it with one that would really embody and give life to the freedom and the most fundamental interests of the people, in striving to abolish all oppression and exploitation.
Even though the revolution in Russia was ultimately reversed, with capitalism restored there in the 1950s, and today Russia no longer seeks to disguise the fact that it is a capitalist-imperialist power, the lessons of the Russian Revolution of 1917 hold valuable, indeed decisive lessons for today. And the most decisive lesson is this: When people in their masses, in their millions, finally break free of the constraints that have kept them from rising up against their oppressors and tormentors, then whether or not their heroic struggle and sacrifice will really lead to a fundamental change, moving toward the abolition of all exploitation and oppression, depends on whether or not there is a leadership, communist leadership, that has the necessary scientific understanding and method, and on that basis can develop the necessary strategic approach and the influence and organized ties among growing numbers of the people, in order to lead the uprising of the people, through all the twists and turns, to the goal of a real, revolutionary transformation of society, in accordance with the fundamental interests of the people. And, in turn, when people massively break with the "normal routine" and the tightly woven chains of oppressive relations in which they are usually entrapped and by which they are heavily weighed down—when they break through and rise up in their millions—that is a crucial time for communist organization to further develop its ties with those masses, strengthening its ranks and its ability to lead. Or, if such communist organization does not yet exist, or exists only in isolated fragments, this is a crucial time for communist organization to be forged and developed, to take up the challenge of studying and applying communist theory, in a living way, in the midst of this tumultuous situation, and to strive to continually develop ties with, to influence and to ultimately lead growing numbers of the masses in the direction of the revolution that represents their fundamental and highest interests, the communist revolution.
In my writings and talks, in Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage, a Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, and in other major documents of our Party, we have striven to draw as deeply and fully as possible the critical lessons from the historical experience of the communist revolution and the socialist societies it has brought into being—the very real and great achievements, and the serious errors and setbacks—and to learn from the broader experience of human society and its historical development, in order to contribute all we can to the advance of the revolutionary struggle and the emancipation of oppressed people throughout the world. As the Constitution of our Party states:
"The Revolutionary Communist Party, USA has taken the responsibility to lead revolution in the U.S., the belly of the imperialist beast, as its principal share of the world revolution and the ultimate aim of communism....
"The emancipation of all humanity: this, and nothing less than this, is our goal. There is no greater cause, no greater purpose to which to dedicate our lives."
It is in this spirit, and with this orientation and goal in mind, that I extend heartfelt support and encouragement to the millions who have risen up. To all who truly want to see the heroic struggle of the oppressed masses develop, with the necessary leadership, in the direction of real revolutionary transformation of society and genuine liberation: engage with and take up the emancipating viewpoint and goals of communism, and the challenge of giving this organized expression and a growing influence and presence among the struggling masses.
Revolution #274 July 8, 2012
Threatening Situation for the RCP and Bob Avakian
The letter by Raymond Lotta, printed below, addresses highly important legal and political issues focused up in a recent lawsuit initiated by several progressive activists, journalists, and scholars. The lawsuit is contesting the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2012, in particular one of its key provisions, section 1021. The NDAA gives any president the power to detain U.S. citizens indefinitely in military prisons, without charge or trial. It is a very ominous and threatening development.
On May 16, a federal judge ruled in favor of the plaintiffs that section 1021 of the law is unconstitutional—and issued a temporary injunction blocking its enforcement. At this time, there is a further legal process underway which will determine whether this injunction will become permanent, preventing this section of the law to be enforced.
But dragged into this mainly positive ruling is an erroneous and potentially harmful characterization of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA and its Chairman, Bob Avakian. This mischaracterization (reproduced in Lotta’s letter below) could lend itself to false interpretations about the principles, objectives and strategies of the RCP, and could be misconstrued in such a way as to insinuate that the RCP is “terrorist.”
As the letter points out, this is a very serious matter: “A genuine revolutionary organization and its leader have been named and singled out as something they are not. In addition, this ruling could facilitate government persecution and harassment against, and attempts to restrict the political activity of, the Revolutionary Communist Party and its Chairman, with spillover effects to broader forces of dissent and opposition to the powers-that-be. The ruling could also invite and ‘legitimize’ attempts by reactionary forces to act against Bob Avakian and the RCP.”
In response to this dangerous, wrong and harmful mischaracterization, steps are being taken in the legal arena to object to this and to correctly characterize the principles and policies of the RCP. While making clear that there is agreement that the law that the plaintiffs’ suit is challenging is very bad and illegitimately gives sweeping powers to the government that constitute a serious threat to fundamental rights and liberties, and could result in people being arbitrarily subjected to indefinite detention, at the hands of the government, without just cause or due process, it is necessary to set the record straight regarding the actual philosophical and political positions of the RCP and BA. [See “Some Crucial Points of Revolutionary Orientation—in Opposition to Infantile Posturing and Distortions of Revolution.”]
The NDAA is part of a larger government-judicial assault on dissent and opposition to the status quo. It is part of a larger move to expand government powers of repression. Since Obama has come to office, he has continued Bush’s rendition program and extended the Patriot Act. His attorney-general has claimed that presidential assassination policy, complete with secret “kill lists,” passes constitutional muster. In the 2010 case of Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, the Obama administration successfully argued before the courts for broadening the crime of “material support” to “terrorists” to include speaking with and advising any such group that is designated as terrorist.
It is imperative that people oppose any and all moves to restrict and criminalize oppositional speech, association, and political activity—and not allow anyone to be singled out or targeted. Lotta’s letter is being published to facilitate broader awareness of all of this, and to bring more people forward to stand against it.
Noam Chomsky, a plaintiff in the NDAA lawsuit, has responded to Lotta’s letter, and his comments are reprinted here with his permission.
* * * * *
June 9, 2012
I am writing to inform you of a serious and potentially very harmful legal-political development, and to elicit your ideas and support for countering this. I am referring to a recent court ruling that contains a dangerously inaccurate and misleading characterization of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA and its Chairman Bob Avakian.
On May 16, U.S. Judge Katherine Forrest of the Southern District of New York ruled on the constitutionality of certain provisions of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). She decided in favor of a challenge to Section 1021 of the NDAA brought by journalist-activist Chris Hedges and later joined by Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg, and four others. In the decision, the judge agreed with the plaintiffs that this provision “is not merely an ‘affirmation’ of the Authorization to Use Military Force [AUMF] passed in 2001,” as argued by the Obama administration. She found that, in its broad language—allowing the government to use “all necessary and appropriate force” to detain any person, including U.S. citizens, who are “part of or substantially supported by al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces, under the law of war until the end of hostilities”— this provision of the NDAA “has a non-specific definition of ‘covered person’ that reaches beyond those involved in 9/11 attacks by its very terms.” In other words, Judge Forrest found that this section (1021) of the NDAA is overly broad and vague and could leave people who have nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks, or with terrorism in general, vulnerable to indefinite detention by the government.
In the legal proceedings, the plaintiffs argued that this provision has had a deleterious effect on their activities—and with regard to Chris Hedges has affected his work as a journalist, insofar as he has had association with various groups not explicitly named or covered by the AUMF. This section, 1021, of the NDAA, and indeed the NDAA overall, constitutes a further basis for serious government assault on fundamental rights and liberties, and should be strongly opposed and overturned. In this light, the judge’s ruling on section 1021 could be considered a positive development. But incorporated in the judge’s decision is the following:
[Chris] Hedges also testified that he has previously associated with a group called Bob Avakiam Revolutionary Party [sic], a Maoist group, which he stated he understands endorses the use of violence towards revolutionary ends—a philosophy to which Hedges stated he did not ascribe. Tr. 177. Despite that fact, Hedges understands Sec. 1021 as potentially encompassing his association with the Avakiam Revolutionary Party [sic] and thus, the statute already has had a chilling effect on his associational activities. Tr. 177.
What is being referred to in the above passage is, in actuality, the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA whose Chairman is Bob Avakian. More importantly, the characterization of this Party and its Chairman does not comport with the facts. Yet this mischaracterization sits in the ruling, uncontested. This creates what can only be described as a very threatening situation for the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA and Bob Avakian. The ruling carries the danger of sweeping this Party into a category that could be construed as outside the boundaries of what is considered protected speech, and potentially into a category of terrorist-like organizations.
Furthermore, this part of Judge Forrest’s May 16 ruling follows after many paragraphs which deal with organizations that are identified as “terrorist” by the U.S. government. Thus, while the RCP and its Chairman Bob Avakian are, as a matter of fact, fundamentally different, in their views, objectives, and methods, from these other organizations, the way this ruling is constructed, and formulated, could have the effect of furthering the false impression or insinuation that the RCP and Bob Avakian are “terrorists.”
A genuine revolutionary organization and its leader have been named and singled out as something they are not. In addition, this ruling could facilitate government persecution and harassment against, and attempts to restrict the political activity of, the Revolutionary Communist Party and its Chairman, with spillover effects to broader forces of dissent and opposition to the powers-that-be. The ruling could also invite and “legitimize” attempts by reactionary forces to act against Bob Avakian and the RCP.
As for what the RCP actually stands for. Here I am drawing on the Party’s official documents and statements. The Revolutionary Communist Party, USA aims to bring a radically different and far better world into being. Today, that means building a movement for revolution, which involves raising the political and ideological consciousness of masses of people and mounting massive political resistance to the injustices of the system. The Party is preparing for a future revolutionary situation, one where millions and millions of people have decided the existing order is unjust and illegitimate. In this struggle for revolutionary change, the millions and millions of revolutionary people and those who lead them will be confronted by the violent repressive force of the machinery of the state which embodies and enforces the existing system of exploitation and oppression; and in order for the revolutionary struggle to succeed, it will need to meet and defeat that violent repressive force of the old, exploitative and oppressive order.
The Revolutionary Communist Party has, again in official documents and statements, distinguished its guiding philosophy, as well as its objectives and methods, from the outlook, strategy, and tactics of what it describes as “the two outmodeds”: Islamic fundamentalism and the ruling imperialist system in the world. The RCP has consistently drawn, and insisted upon, a clear and sharp distinction and line of demarcation between terrorism and genuine revolution.
To reiterate, the May 16 decision of the District Court of Southern New York conveys a factually untrue characterization of the RCP with a seeming imprimatur of legal finding. It can contribute to a situation in which the danger of repression and attack against the RCP and Bob Avakian, including through official government persecution, in the legal arena or otherwise, is significantly heightened.
That is the problem I am putting before you. And it is linked to the broader struggle against repression.
The open-ended, so-called War on Terror launched in 2001 has served as a pretext for the U.S. government to detain, torture, and assassinate—and to take measures to restrict and criminalize dissent and opposition to the government and status quo. The draconian character and consequences of this have aroused righteous concern and prompted protest and legal challenges. But how this ongoing legal juggernaut is fought, and what principles should be adhered to in order to truly advance the people’s interests and just struggles, is also of great consequence.
In combating attempts by the government to broaden its legal capacity to strip people of their political rights, it is important to do so in a way that creates the most favorable conditions for determined resistance and broad unity. The Revolutionary Communist Party is opposed to the government drawing up lists of who is and who is not politically acceptable; it is opposed to designating groups “within” or “outside the pale.” There is a whole history of such categorizing used to target and repress genuinely radical and revolutionary forces, and to divide the people. People should learn from and continually remind themselves of the self-critical reflections of Pastor Niemoller in regard to what happened in Germany in the 1930s:
First they came for the communists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak out because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak out for me.
The dangers of this kind of slippery slope should be constantly kept in mind.
I would be eager to hear your thoughts on this May 16 district court decision, as well as any suggestions you might have for challenging the false and harmful characterization of the RCP and Bob Avakian that have been included in this legal ruling. I also call on you to support efforts, including legal efforts that might be undertaken, to counter the mischaracterization of the RCP and Bob Avakian, and the potentially dangerous effects of this mischaracterization, in this legal ruling by Judge Forrest.
P.S. I have attached a link (http://revcom.us/a/055/crucialpoints.html) to the RCP’s statement “Some Crucial Points of Revolutionary Orientation—In Opposition to Infantile Posturing and Distortions of Revolution,” published in 2006.
Revolution #274 July 8, 2012
Revolution is a very serious matter and must be approached in a serious and scientific way, and not through subjective and individualistic expressions of frustration, posturing and acts which run counter to the development of a mass revolutionary movement which is aimed at—and which must be characterized by means that are fundamentally consistent with and serve to bring into being—a radically different and far better world. Revolution, and in particular communist revolution, is and can only be the act of masses of people, organized and led to carry out increasingly conscious struggle to abolish, and advance humanity beyond, all systems and relations of exploitation and oppression.
A bedrock, scientific understanding which must underlie the development of such a revolutionary movement is that:
The whole system we now live under is based on exploitation—here and all over the world. It is completely worthless and no basic change for the better can come about until this system is overthrown.
In a country like the U.S., the revolutionary overthrow of this system can only be achieved once there is a major, qualitative change in the nature of the objective situation, such that society as a whole is in the grip of a profound crisis, owing fundamentally to the nature and workings of the system itself, and along with that there is the emergence of a revolutionary people, numbering in the millions and millions, conscious of the need for revolutionary change and determined to fight for it. In this struggle for revolutionary change, the revolutionary people and those who lead them will be confronted by the violent repressive force of the machinery of the state which embodies and enforces the existing system of exploitation and oppression; and in order for the revolutionary struggle to succeed, it will need to meet and defeat that violent repressive force of the old, exploitative and oppressive order.
Before the development of a revolutionary situation—and as the key to working toward the development of a revolutionary people, in a country like the U.S.—those who see the need for and wish to contribute to a revolution must focus their efforts on raising the political and ideological consciousness of masses of people and building massive political resistance to the main ways in which, at any given time, the exploitative and oppressive nature of this system is concentrated in the policies and actions of the ruling class and its institutions and agencies—striving through all this to enable growing numbers of people to grasp both the need and the possibility for revolution when the necessary conditions have been brought into being, as a result of the unfolding of the contradictions of the system itself as well as the political, and ideological, work of revolutionaries.
In the absence of a revolutionary situation—and in opposition to the revolutionary orientation and revolutionary political and ideological work that is actually needed—the initiation of, or the advocacy of, isolated acts of violence, by individuals or small groups, divorced from masses of people and attempting to substitute for a revolutionary movement of masses of people, is very wrong and extremely harmful. Even—or especially—if this is done in the name of "revolution," it will work against, and in fact do serious damage to, the development of an actual revolutionary movement of masses of people, as well as to the building of political resistance against the outrages and injustices of this system even before there is a revolutionary situation. It will aid the extremely repressive forces of the existing system in their moves to isolate, attack and crush those, both revolutionary forces and broader forces of political opposition, who are working to build mass political resistance and to achieve significant, and even profound, social change through the politically-conscious activity and initiative of masses of people.
Revolution #274 July 8, 2012
Sixteen months after the Egyptian people rose up and drove the hated U.S. puppet Hosni Mubarak from power, the country has elected a new president. On Sunday, June 24, a week after the June 16-17 run-off voting, Egypt's Constitutional Committee named Mohammed Morsi of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood the winner over former general Ahmed Shafik. Shafik was the candidate backed by Egypt's military which has run the country for the last 52 years.
The U.S. government and media called the vote Egypt's "first free and fair election." The Brotherhood, Egypt's military, and the U.S.—which had been closely involved in these events—all praised the outcome as a victory for "democracy," the transition from military rule to civilian control, and a big step toward fulfilling the aspirations of Egypt's 90 million people and completing their "revolution."
Egypt's vote may have served the agenda of the defenders of Egypt's intolerable social order, including the U.S., at least for now. But for the Egyptian people, it will not bring or open up possibilities for any meaningful change. Instead it is but another maneuver to keep the chains of oppression firmly around their necks.
This vote—and the whole 16-month transition leading up to it, including the Egyptian military's June 13-17 assertion of decisive control of the state apparatus right before this latest vote, very clearly showed what elections under the rule of oppressors and U.S.-led democracy are—and are not—about. They demonstrate that elections don't decide state power—state power decides the overall terms and outcome of elections. The dominant classes never put the fundamental nature of society and how it's ruled up for a vote.
Instead, Egypt's rulers worked to use elections to channel peoples' hopes, dreams and activism into political dead-ends and to legitimize—or re-legitimize—the very system that's abused and tormented them. The June 16-17 presidential election was a perfect example: the people were given the "choice" between two outmoded, reactionary oppressors—one an Islamic fundamentalist, the other a representative of the blood-soaked, pro-U.S. Egyptian military—with both part of the current horrific status quo. Emancipation was not on the ballot.
If anything, the last 16 months should teach oppressed people they'll never win liberation through elections—it takes a real revolution, a communist revolution aimed at the emancipation of all humanity to do that—a revolution Egypt has not had and urgently needs. For that to happen, the most crucial task is forging the leadership and organization capable of seizing on the storms ahead and leading such a revolution. (See statement by Bob Avakian.)
Life under Mubarak's 30-year U.S.-backed reign was a horror—for Egyptians and the millions across the Middle East who suffered from his regime's role in U.S. and Israeli crimes, interventions, and economic and political dominance. Mubarak's Egypt was a socially oppressive, patriarchal, and highly stratified class society, and a key cog in the U.S. empire. It was an enforcer of U.S. interests in the region, in particular backing and protecting Israel.
While a tiny elite grouped around the military and linked to foreign capital grew powerful and enormously wealthy, four of ten Egyptians lived near or below the poverty line, many families trying to survive on $2 a day. Three of four young Egyptians were unemployed, with half of Cairo's 18 million people living in urban slums or shantytowns without basic services. Worst of all, it seemed Mubarak's grip was unshakable, a nightmare without end. (For more, see "Interview with Raymond Lotta About Events in Egypt: Geopolitics, Political Economy, and 'No Permanent Necessity,'" Revolution #224 online, February 11, 2011.)
Then came January 2011. Suddenly, as if out of nowhere, millions of Egyptians courageously rose up. Sick of life under Mubarak and inspired by neighboring Tunisia's January uprising, Egyptians took to the streets in a series of massive demonstrations, work stoppages, and clashes with the military that forced Mubarak to step down on February 11. This powerful uprising in the Arab world's bellwether and largest country (with 90 million people) shook the Middle East, pierced the pervasive feeling of despair that the world's autocracies are all-powerful and unchallengeable, and spread the spark of revolt far and wide—including helping inspire the Occupy movement in the U.S.
But there was no Egyptian revolution. When Mubarak resigned, forced out by the gathering upheaval and the urging of the U.S., he formally handed power to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF)—the same institution from which he had emerged, which formed the core of the Egyptian state and his regime, and which has deep ties with the U.S. Led by U.S.-trained Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, the generals pledged their loyalty to the people and the "revolution," and a peaceful transition to democracy and civilian rule. Their American backers hailed Egypt's generals and their pledge as a model for the transition to democratic rule for the entire region. Most ordinary people were swept up in the hope that Mubarak's departure would change everything, that the army would deliver on its promises, and that freedom was at hand. Crowds chanted, "The Army and the people are one hand."
Mubarak was gone, but the repressive core of the old, reactionary state—the military, the courts, the judiciary—had never been defeated and dismantled. Instead they remained in power and in place. Yet the generals and their U.S. patrons understood that the regime couldn't simply carry on as before after Egypt was shaken by mass revolt and millions were beginning to awaken to political life. It needed a facelift and the incorporation of other social forces to maintain its legitimacy, stability, and ability to continue to function as a critical U.S. regional ally. The challenge for Egypt's military rulers was how to maintain their control of the essential levers of power, while re-legitimizing the state and harnessing the hopes and energy of the Egyptian people toward that end.
This necessitated opening up Egypt's political space somewhat, including legalizing the Muslim Brotherhood as well as other political forces. (The Egyptian state promoted Islam and relied on it as a legitimizing tool, and encouraged the growth of Islamist forces to undercut the secular left at times, and clamped down on them at others. See Samuel Albert, "Egypt: Will god and the ballot box keep the people enslaved?," A World to Win News Service, June 25, 2012).
In the wake of Mubarak's fall, the Brotherhood and other Islamist groups have emerged as the strongest, most organized component of the anti-Mubarak opposition. They no more represent the people and liberation than the Egyptian military. The Brotherhood advocates market capitalism, and has no program (or intention) of breaking with the global capitalist system and world market. While it is not currently calling for overt Islamist rule, since its founding 84 years ago it has called for regressive Islamic Sharia law to be the basis of social mores and legitimacy, including its brutal patriarchal strictures against women. While the Brotherhood may draw supporters from many different strata, its program represents the interests of Egypt's big capitalists and landowners, including those who felt marginalized by the Mubarak-military clique and feared rapid secularization was undermining the country's traditional social order. Their overall interests lie in Egypt's integration and subordination to the U.S.-dominated global order.
Over the past 16 months, the Brotherhood has collaborated with the SCAF—which has continued to brutalize its opponents and has killed some 150 protesters—and reportedly worked out a "rough accord on power-sharing," with the Brotherhood agreeing to work with the military on national security issues, and not prosecute military officers or interfere with the military's commercial and budgetary prerogatives. A key element in these negotiations has been the Brotherhood's agreement to uphold Egypt's 1979 Camp David Accords with Israel, which essentially turned Egypt into an ally and military bulwark for the U.S. and Israel and is a cornerstone of U.S. imperialist interests in the region. In terms of being accepted by the U.S., abiding by this reactionary treaty is a litmus test for anyone seeking to be put in charge—and the Brotherhood has passed. ("Declaration of Winner Is Said to Be Near in Egypt," New York Times, June 23, 2012)
So in Egypt, the regional clash between imperialism and Islamic fundamentalism takes expression in the complex collusion and contention between the military and the Brotherhood for reactionary state power, illustrating how these outmoded forces reinforce each other, even as they clash.
Four different nation-wide votes have been held since February 2011. In March 2011, Egyptians voted in a nationwide referendum on a "road map of transition to civil, democratic rule," as the military put it—with 77.2 per cent voting yes. In November 2011, Egypt held its first post-revolt parliamentary elections, with Islamist parties winning some three-quarters of the seats. On May 23-24 of this year, Egypt held its first post-Mubarak presidential elections. Then on June 17, a Presidential runoff election was held between Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood and Ahmed Shafik, the last premier under Mubarak.
Throughout this process the military and the Mubarak-appointed election commission had set the terms, including deciding who could and couldn't run for office. Yet the Brotherhood's domination of parliament and the drafting of a new constitution, its decision to run a presidential candidate, and then Morsi's strong showing in the May 23-24 first round of the presidential elections, all heightened tensions with the military. "Clearly, the military must have guessed that the balance of power was shifting quickly under their feet...," one analyst told the Christian Science Monitor. ("Is Egypt's revolution over?" June 22, 2012)
So on June 13, 14, and 17—just before and even as the June 17 run-off presidential vote was taking place—the triumvirate of Egyptian state power—the Egyptian military, Ministry of Justice, and Supreme Constitutional Court—issued a series of decrees giving the SCAF sweeping and unchecked legislative, judicial and military powers.
First, the Ministry of Justice issued a decree giving the military and police the right to arrest anyone deemed "harmful to the government" or who "resists orders." Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous called it a return to "elements of martial law to Egypt" that "allows the military widespread powers of arrest and detention of civilians." (Democracy Now!, June 15)
The next day, Thursday, June 14, Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court, a hold-over from the Mubarak regime, dissolved the Islamist-dominated parliament as well as the Constituent Assembly it had just formed to write a new constitution, and ruled that former Mubarak officials—in particular the military's choice Ahmed Shafik—could indeed stand for election and hold office. "The parliamentary dissolution has erased the legislative elections in which 30 million participated," the International Crisis Group (ICG) wrote. ("Media Release: Egypt," International Crisis Group, June 25, 2012.)
Then, on June 17, moments after the polls closed, the SCAF issued a decree giving it the right to rule until a new parliament was in place, control over the budget and legislation, the right to choose a new Constituent Assembly to write the new constitution, expanded political and economic power, and most importantly total control over Egypt's military and internal policing affairs, including selecting military leaders and having the final say-so on deploying the military and waging war.
Democracy Now!'s Kouddous (June 15) described the June 13-14 decisions as "monumental" and the 16-month transition as "a crisis of legitimacy at every turn":
"We spent three months going to parliamentary elections, and that's just been voided. There's been no reform in the security apparatus. There's been no reform of the media. There's been no reform of the judiciary. So, really, the Mubarak regime is still very much in place. And to top it all off, its last prime minister is now in a runoff against the Muslim Brotherhood, which is really the same political landscape that Egypt has had for many decades now."
Then, in another high-stakes maneuver to shape the post-election terrain, the military refused to announce election results for a full week after the June 17 vote—even though it was clear the next day that the Muslim Brotherhood's Morsi had won. In short, after controlling who could and couldn't be a candidate for office, the military was now fighting to ensure its continued control of the state no matter who got the most votes.
Egyptian activists are increasingly confronting these bitter realities. "When you think about it, the revolutionaries were never in power, so what kind of revolution is it?" one activist now organizing a boycott of the elections told the New York Times. Another summed up, "The system was like a machine with a plastic cover, and what we did was knock off the cover." He had thought if the people "ousted the head of state its body would fall. The roots of the ruling elite were 'much deeper and darker' than they initially understood, he said." ("Revolt Leaders Cite Failure to Uproot Old Order in Egypt," New York Times, June 14, 2012)
"The army's commanders and the government's key ministers have not changed; the Interior Ministry violates human rights as brazenly as ever; thousands of ordinary Egyptians have been subjected to military trials; and injustices are being perpetrated on Egyptian citizens under a new decree giving the military police and intelligence officials the right to detain civilians." (Sara Khorshid, "The Betrayal of Egypt's Revolution," New York Times, June 18, 2012)
Think about it. If the military rulers of any country the U.S. had a beef with had so brazenly seized new powers, there would have been no end to the howls of protest and the denunciations of "dictatorship" and "coups" coming from every corner of the ruling establishment. Instead, the Egyptian military's seizure of sweeping authoritarian powers was met largely with silence, or quiet expressions of concern, and support for the generals by U.S. officials and the media.
This low-key official response to the outrages in Egypt comes a few months after the Obama administration restored $1.3 billion in annual aid to the Egyptian military, despite its ongoing and widespread abuses. This, as the U.S. hypocritically declares, "We will stand with the Egyptian people as they pursue their aspirations for democracy, dignity, and opportunity, and fulfill the promise of their revolution," as a White House statement said. ("Egypt Results Leave White House Relieved but Watchful," New York Times, June 24, 2012).
When the ruling military junta refused to announce the election results, thousands of Brotherhood supporters and others, fearing the military would simply declare its candidate Shafiq the winner, gathered in Tahrir Square, vowing to stay until their candidate was declared the winner.
The U.S. was extremely concerned that naming Shafiq the winner could trigger violent clashes and further radicalize and destabilize Egypt. Behind the scenes, in private communications and meetings and occasional public statements, numerous top U.S. officials, including Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, and Sen. John Kerry, were in contact with Egyptian officials and the Muslim Brotherhood. Their message was two-fold: on one hand, backing the Egyptian military's efforts to maintain its overall standing and role in the state, on the other insisting that the stability of imperialist-dominated rule in Egypt and its broader interests and image in the region depended on continuing the "democratic transition"—even if that meant a Brotherhood victory. (See, for example, "US defense secretary Panetta calls Egypt's Tantawi," AFP, June 16)
Massive protest, the Brotherhood's willingness to protect the military's overall role, and direct pressure from the U.S. apparently compelled the SCAF to accede to Morsi's electoral victory. "On Sunday [June 24]," The New York Times reported, "the combination of the growing, angry crowds in Tahrir Square and warnings from administration and international community may have influenced the military to avoid a potentially bloody showdown over the presidency..." ("Egypt Results," June 24, 2012)
However, this remains a high-wire act for the U.S. and the secular Egyptian military. Egypt's strategic importance to the U.S. as a key regional ally and military partner of the U.S. and Israel makes this particularly acute. The U.S. and Egypt's military remain concerned that empowering the Brotherhood—even if initially just by sharing power in a state dominated by the U.S. and the military—could add fuel to Islamism across the region and set in motion a process that could weaken or break Egypt's strategic partnership with Israel (a partnership the Egyptian military pledged to continue after Mubarak's departure).
"Beneath the White House's public pronouncements, fears are mounting inside U.S. national-security agencies about the prospects for Washington's alliance with Cairo, as well as for the regional interests of the U.S. and its allies," the Wall Street Journal reports. The U.S. is particularly concerned that "the Muslim Brotherhood's rise could accelerate the continuing expansion of Islamist governments across the region"—citing Libya, Tunisia and possibly Syria should Assad fall, and the growth of the Brotherhood in Jordan, a crucial U.S. and Israeli ally. "It's scary what the region could look like in a year," said a senior Arab official. "You could have one bloc of the Muslim Brothers and the others close to Iran." ("Morsi's Win in Egypt Draws Kudos, Caveats From U.S.," June 24, 2012)
The U.S. and the Egyptian elite may have dodged a bullet for the moment, but the situation remains fluid and fraught with perils for all parties involved—including the masses of Egyptian people.
During the week between the end of the June 17 voting and the June 24 announcement of Morsi's victory, there were a series of backdoor meetings between the SCAF and the Brotherhood over the shape of post-election Egypt. U.S. officials reported that Morsi was saying "all the right things" on economic issues. In his acceptance speech, Morsi made clear his support for the military and his commitment to "respect agreements and international law as well as Egyptian commitments and treaties with the rest of the world"—a clear reference to Egypt's agreements with the U.S. and Israel. And the military SCAF may have agreed to modify or roll back some of their June 13-17 decrees. (The June 13 expansion of the military's powers to arrest and detain people has apparently already been struck down. "Egyptian court suspends military arrest powers," BBC, June 26)
Yet the struggle between the SCAF and the Brotherhood are continuing in this new situation. Morsi and the Brotherhood are demanding the decrees stripping the incoming president of power and nullifying their victory in the parliamentary elections and their role in drafting the new constitution be rescinded. Even as the military continues to control the key levers of state power, the potential exists for "duelling constitutional principles with no constitution," the ICG warns, "duelling understandings of how to create the constituent assembly; duelling legislative bodies...; duelling conceptions of SCAF prerogatives...; duelling perceptions of executive authority; duelling mass demonstrations setting one Egypt against the other; and no agreed mechanism or legitimate arbiter to settle these disputes." (ICG, June 25)
Calling the situation "deteriorating," with deep problems the presidential election did "little to resolve," the ICG concludes:
"[E]ighteen months after the uprising that led to President Hosni Mubarak's ouster, the political system is paralysed, no institutions enjoy the required legitimacy or credibility to break the logjam, all political actors have been discredited to varying degrees, and societal polarisation has reached new heights...all this is enormously fragile, a brittle reality at the mercy of a single significant misstep." (ICG, June 25)
Sixteen months ago, people around the world were inspired when the Egyptian people rose up and drove the hated U.S. puppet Hosni Mubarak from power. Now, Egypt's rulers—determined that whatever "transition" happens does NOT include any fundamental change—have used these elections to hijack people's desire for liberation into dead-end hope in the very system that has been—and continues to be—responsible for all their suffering. Even more urgently, the hopes, aspirations, and struggle of the people of Egypt cannot be allowed to be buried, but must be carried forward until real freedom is achieved.
Editors' note: For more on Morsi, we think our readers will find "Egypt: Will God and the Ballot Box Keep the People Enslaved?" from A World to Win News Service of interest.
Revolution #274 July 8, 2012
In late May I joined the BAsics Bus Tour as it rolled into Sanford, Florida, the town where Trayvon Martin was killed. The tour brought the work and vision of Bob Avakian and his book BAsics into Sanford and I spent my time in the Black neighborhood of Goldsboro talking with the people about their lives and digging into the deep questions of how to change things. This series is dedicated to the people of Sanford and to the crew of volunteers on the tour, whose enthusiasm for spreading the work and leadership of Bob Avakian and for fighting to build the movement for revolution inspired everyone they encountered. See Revolution #272 for "I Couldn't Put It Down."
For more on the BAsics Bus Tour, go to basicsbustour.tumblr.com.
Trees! That's what struck me the most about the look and the feel of Central Florida. After living in L.A. for a long time I'm like a kid in a candy store when I come up on a whole lot of big, full on oak and cypress trees, their branches and leaves throwing up a natural canopy to help you get through the humid and way too damn hot days. And then there's the Spanish moss hanging down off of the branches of these trees like silver grey beards. And when tiny flowers start to bloom on the moss, little red specks in all that grey—kind of like...blood... that's when it hits me. Trees carry with them a whole different meaning for Black people in Sanford and other parts of Central Florida. When a soft wind passes through these trees it's not the soothing whooooshhhh sound of the surface of leaves gently passing over one another they hear. Instead, it's more like a brittle clacking, the sound of dried bones that have been hanging there for centuries banging into one another. After all, as Bob Avakian has so sharply pointed out, "The 'Bible Belt' in the U.S. is also the Lynching Belt." And all these great beautiful trees, draped in Spanish moss, are also lynching trees.
In the Goldsboro neighborhood of Sanford, one of the historic Black neighborhoods, it's striking how many people have a lynching story. Samuel is a middle-aged, middle class Black man living with his family in a well-kept little house, with a well-kept lawn in Goldsboro. Samuel teaches in a local school. He's a striver in a terribly downpressed town. He has a rock-bottom belief that the system works—or at least it works for those who know how to work the system. Samuel believes that things will get better once Black people get into the system and learn how to work it.
He stands at his door wearing a green and black striped polo shirt, neatly pressed pants and slip-on shoes. Samuel moved to Sanford from another part of Central Florida a little less than 10 years ago. When I approached him to talk with me, Samuel looked out at the BAsics bus and wanted to know what it was and what all the commotion was about. We talked for a few minutes and as we stood there I noticed a Black man about Samuel's age riding past the bus on an old 1960s-style cruiser bike, not once but a few times, carefully checking everything out. On his last pass-by he looked over, nodded and rode off in the opposite direction.
Samuel commented that we were attracting attention and soon the conversation turned to the murder of Trayvon Martin. I read Samuel BAsics 1:13, the "No More Generations" quote that's a big part of the message this tour is carrying with it. Samuel started talking about his thoughts on what was behind the murder of Trayvon and how it has been handled by the authorities. "It was just a litmus test to see if they could get away with a modern-day lynching. Because in Central Florida, lynching been taking place for a long time. And a lot of the lynchings that have taken place in history have been done by law enforcement. It's been done from as long as I can remember. And one of the most notorious lynchers was Sheriff [Willis] McCall over in Lake County."
Samuel got quiet and tense, took a deep breath before he went on with his story. "I was six years old. I didn't go to school that day because I was sick. I was dropped off at my grandmother's house. My grandmother had to go to work, so I was with my grandfather. He was picking fruit at that time, so we drove out to the area where he worked and he pulled up into the orange grove and he stopped. And when he stopped it was more like a pensive stop. He saw police cars there. He basically knew something was wrong. He got out the car. He told me, he said, 'Whatever you do, do not look out of the car. Get in the back and stay down regardless of what you see or hear.'
"So I knew that something was wrong, and then he started yelling, 'Strange fruit! Strange fruit!' to the other workers that were around. When I peeked over the back of the station wagon window, I saw that Sheriff McCall and his deputies had hung a Black man. And I know he told me not to peek, or not to look and to stay down, but I looked and I saw what was going on. And I also saw Sheriff McCall brutalize my grandfather and the workers that were out there and told them that 'you better not say nothing, nigger, or else. That was the warning that we all heard, and we all grew up with."
Samuel's face was tense, he took a minute to pull himself together again and then brought things back to the murder of Trayvon. "Yes. I told everybody. This was the litmus test to see what they can get away with. And what I mean by they, I'm not talking about just the police force. But I'm talking about white men in general. Because everybody that was in charge of that investigation was white: the state attorney, the chief of police, the detective that was on duty at that time. Even though he wasn't a homicide detective, he was a narcotics detective. A homicide detective didn't respond to the shooting. It was a narcotics detective, which was wrong in the first place. Because if you have a shooting and there's a death, it should be a homicide detective that responds.
"Any time that there is a shooting involving somebody Black, it's always assumed that drugs are involved. Exactly. So normally they just roll out a narcotics detective because they assume that it's criminal mischief involved in the first place."
I asked Samuel when he saw that lynching. He said it was in 1968 and lynchings were still going on in Central Florida. To drive home his point, he told me that the "Coloreds Only" signs weren't removed from the water fountains in the Greyhound bus station until the late 1970s.
I looked over toward the BAsics bus and one of the volunteers was on the sound system reading BAsics 1:13, breaking down and talking about revolution and communism and why people have to be checking out Bob Avakian and becoming part of this movement for revolution. Samuel stared at the bus for a bit and listened to some of the agitation. Then he turned to me and said, "I think you're asking for trouble here in Seminole County. Because this is the area where it's the good ole boy system, and if you buck against the system you're going to be hurt."
I pointed out to Samuel that people in Sanford had stood up when the system justified and tried to sweep under the carpet the murder of Trayvon. I commented that it's not just the color of your skin or the "good ole boy" system but the bigger system of capitalism and imperialism that is built on the foundation of white supremacy that's the problem and what we have to deal with. Samuel responded quick: "Because we're tired of it. We're tired of it and we're not going to stand for it any longer. You're right. Like you said, it's more than just the color of your skin. Because not all white men are evil and not all Black men are good. So you have to think about where do we go from here? We have to get people who are going to let their words mean something, where their yea is yea, and their nay is nay. You have to have people that are going to let their words mean exactly what they say."
I talked with Samuel about the tour and why it's called the BAsics Bus Tour. I talked about how we're spreading the word about the vision, work and revolutionary leadership of Bob Avakian and why that's so critically important today. I asked Samuel if he ever thought of revolution. He hesitated for a minute and then replied: "No, I haven't thought about revolution. I've thought about change. But as far as revolution is concerned and about changing the system, I think the system works, but it works for people who know how to work the system. I think we can change things. But the change has to come not only with our vote, but with our way of thinking. Knowledge is powerful." It was coming up on dinner time and Samuel's kids were kind of insisting that he come in so they could eat. As he stepped back into his house, he turned and said that he doesn't "buy into" communism because as far as he could tell it hasn't worked. And with that he was gone.
I saw Samuel the next day as we started to march through his neighborhood down to the speak-out at the Sanford Police Department. Samuel was watching and listening and as he was heading back into his house, he came over and asked me if I had any more of those cards with BAsics 1:13 on them. He smiled and said he wanted to think about that [BAsics 1:13] for awhile.
Bicycles are a popular way of getting around in Goldsboro. It's flat and a relatively small area so people take advantage of it—lots of old cruisers with big fat tires and fenders. As I walked towards the bus after my conversation with Samuel, the man on the bicycle passed by again. This time he stopped to read the banners on the bus before heading off deeper into the hood. I was watching him and almost walked into another bicycle rider on the street. I jumped when I heard a young woman yell "Excuuuuuusse meeeeeeeeee!" in total frustration with my not watching where I was going. She stomped back on the pedal brakes and stopped an inch away from my leg. Her name was LaLa and she quickly let me know that I was gonna get run over if I didn't pay attention. I apologized and she asked if I was with the big old RV on the corner with all the banners and the sound system. I said I was and explained who we were and what we were doing there. I asked her about her thoughts on what happened to Trayvon Martin.
LaLa twisted her lips before she spoke. "I think it's cruel. I think that it's selfish. I feel like they not really doing nothing. I think they're just letting it go just because of his [Zimmerman's] mother and his father and what they're known for. He's a judge, and she's work at the courthouse. I feel like if you have money you can do whatever you want to do basically. That's what I feel about the whole situation."
I read BAsics 1:13 to LaLa and she took the card to read for herself. "I feel the same way that he feel and not only for Trayvon, but I feel it for the other people that's in the community that got killed by the police." LaLa thought hard for a minute, it was like she wanted to be certain she would use the words she needed to use to make her point. "I'm glad that—not that somebody would lose their life, but I'm glad that they're picking up on it. People starting to understand, and people are getting more understanding, and there had to be a 17-year-old boy that get killed for something to happen. But my boy was 16 years old. He got shot from behind. He was driving a stolen car or whatever. He was leaving and the security guard shot him from behind, and he died. He died and there's nothing we can do to bring him back. There's nothing that we can do. But we can try to speak for him, but not to say just because we speak I'm feeling that justice will be served."
I showed LaLa the photo collage of the "We Say No More" banner with BAsics 1:13 on it and told her how many people all over the country were stepping up to stand with the people of Sanford. I told her that hundreds had signed this banner and, before I could finish, LaLa proudly said, "And I'm one!
"It feel good to have somebody behind you and to have somebody, you know, that feel the same way that you do. If you by yourself, then you by yourself. No one'll hear you. But with a thousand more people, a lot of people gonna hear you. So it feels good to have somebody by your side that'll help you through it. It does. See, I'm glad that all this is going on, I really am, because I'm just 23 years old, and I'm sick of all this that's going on in Sanford, that I done seen in the 23 years of my life. I'm tired of it."
It was getting close to the time we had set to leave the neighborhood and LaLa said she had things to do. I wanted to ask LaLa if she ever thought about revolution and being part of the movement for revolution. She said she hadn't but she thought that it was kind of like everything happening today is in the Bible. We kicked religion around for a bit and LaLa was really intrigued by the idea that religion promoted a slave mentality that would keep people in chains. I asked LaLa again what she would say if she was asked how she could be part of this movement for revolution. LaLa got a huge—but suddenly very shy—smile, and said, "I'll be trying to get ready. I'm just happy that the movement is going. I'm real happy that the movement is going." Her friends called out from down the street and LaLa reached out for a handful of the "Join Us! Twelve Ways That You Can Be Part of Building the Movement for Revolution- Right Now" cards. She took off down the street on her bike, yelling out the longest "Thannnnnnnnnk youuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu" imaginable and then letting loose with a loud, long laugh.
Revolution #274 July 8, 2012
From a Prisoner:
I just wanted to write and share a few thoughts about “What Humanity Needs: Revolution, and the New Synthesis of Communism”—the interview that BA had given A. Brooks earlier this year. I haven’t finished reading the whole thing yet, but the 83 pages (out of 119) which I’ve read so far, is on point to say the least. Now... although I haven’t read all of the interviews and speeches BA has ever given, I’ve read enough of his works to at least say, that it stands at the top of my list. Like BAsics, it really captures what the essence of the struggle is all about from many different directions and in a way apprehenable not only to the seasoned communist, but also for those new to BA’s new synthesis of communism. That’s a rare attribute for any leader to possess, and this interview certainly captures that throughout the entire dialogue. I definitely recommend all those inside prison and out to check it out, and make it an integral part of our effort to build a movement for Revolution. It will certainly contribute to that. I have no doubt about that.
There were many parts of this interview, however, that really stood out to me specifically—like the subsection later headed (to break down the interview by topics) “The Importance of Line... and of Polemics.” The essence of what BA was getting at in this part is captured by the following quote, in which he said:
“Lines, and contention between opposing lines, are not just some sort of sectarian squabbles—and they should not be reduced to sectarian squabbles, let alone to personal vendettas or personal grievances, but should be focused on the question of how do you go about understanding the world, what do you understand about the world, and what does that lead you to believe needs to be done. If things are joined on that level, and people are enabled to see what the differences are, and where the one and the other leads, then that provides a much richer basis for people who are serious—who really feel compelled to understand the world, and further to change it—to actually be able to sift through these things and come to a better understanding. Not all on their own, but through people engaging this with them and going through the process together with them of sorting this out and sifting through it.” (p. 15, 16)
This is a very significant observation to make since there’s really two different ways in approaching opposing lines—one being in a principled way and another being in an unprincipled manner.
The fact of the matter is that we all come with a particular world outlook and method of approach to reality, no matter if we’re conscious of this or not. Those who are, often develop “lines” of various sorts which are concentrations of those world outlooks and method of approaches, which are subsequently applied to reality in the form of policies, plans, objectives, programs, and strategies. Depending upon how well a particular line reflects a certain aspect of reality with all of its contradictory facets, will determine just how effective that particular line will be in meeting its objectives. Since not all political lines are “created equal”—meaning not all of them are capable of getting at the essence of the matter at hand—there will always be varying degrees of understanding and effectiveness between any two political lines. And that’s why, that, and that alone, should be the primary focus of our disagreements with those who come with differing political lines than us. This is the point BA was getting at and I absolutely agree.
One of the biggest weaknesses of the radical left throughout the 60’s and 70’s, was that this wasn’t the primary focus of many political organizations, which in effect, weakened and divided the left as a whole and enabled the government to take advantage of that. Instead of focusing on the correctness or incorrectness of a person or an organization’s political line, many were inclined to take personal jabs at that person or the organization’s leaders, as if that in and of itself determined the correctness or incorrectness of their line.
Well... I agree 100% with BA. I think we should leave the petty superficial personal shit the bourgeoisie and their representatives—where raising “birther issues” and erroneously insinuating a person is a Muslim (read: not like us) rather than a Christian is an acceptable way to replace substance with diversion, and in many cases, outright distortions just to acquire votes by appealing to backward sectors of the general public, who tend to be ultra–right wing fundamentalist Christians.
This too, however, is a world outlook and method of approach in American bourgeois politics, tends to emphasize consequences and results in any applied policy, program, plan, objective, and strategy over and above principles and categories of reality, in other words, reality and truth are secondary concerns, and not always primary ones to the pragmatist. That explains why a bourgeois politician can outright deny the validity of global warming, despite all the scientific evidence to the contrary, since for the pragmatic politician, his/or her primary concern is often maintaining those contributions from the oil and gas industries. If he/or she has a little more “depth” to their pragmatism, then they may equally fear the economic consequences that their political recognition of global warming being an actual fact will have on an economy which is absolutely dependent upon fossil fuels.
As for the radical left, however—who’s supposed to be more committed to the truth than the bourgeoisie and their representatives—we must act the part not only in theory, but also in practice, especially when we’re confronting and debating our opposing political lines amongst each other. This also goes for how we should approach all opposing lines, too—not just those of the radical left. If not, we might as well join the Republican or Democratic Party, because that’s whose interest we’re actually serving whenever we reduce ourselves to the same tactics of “dialogue“ and “debate” which they love to unprincipally engage in.
There are many other points he raised throughout this interview that really stood out to me, but to name another one in particular involved his analogy of “Poor Mr. Wakefield,” which he took from Marx’s Capital (pages 73-79). I really dug this part of the interview because it poignantly captures in a concentrated sense the function, role, and importance of the economic base.
He makes the point—which is very revealing about the nature of the superstructure from its infancy to its full maturation—that in the beginning in the U.S.—just like in Australia when colonialism was just taking root there in the 1800’s—it was a whole lot easier for blacks to evade the dictates of the economic system of chattel slavery. For example, BA highlights how some Blacks escaped slavery by fleeing their plantations and joining the Seminole tribes down in Florida. That was largely because chattel slavery in its infancy had a weaker superstructure then—meaning its laws, politics, values, ideology and the institutions that embodied those things weren’t well developed and entrenched. Because of this, the later policy of mass genocide against the Native American nations throughout all of continental North America (particularly the lower 48 modern day states) had to be postponed until the superstructure developed sufficiently enough to remove this alternative from its slave population. Yet as time went on and the superstructure of slavery matured, this increasingly changed as legal precedents enshrining chattel slavery into law became more entrenched and established, the court systems which were relied upon to legitimize those economic relations between masters and slaves became more widespread and functionable, along with the various institutions created to enforce those laws and economic relations also became more capable, genocidal, and expansionist. Moreover, an equally important shift in the superstructure was also strengthened and expanded, and that was the white supremacist values and views which were institutionalized in both religious and non-religious institutions. This had the effect of creating a white supremacist form of solidarity amongst the slave owning ruling class and lower class whites, therefore, dominating the Black population of slaves more thoroughly not only on the individual plantations themselves, but more importantly, throughout all of American society at large. By the 1850’s the South’s superstructure was by then so well-developed, that many slaves only saw their “freedom” in relation to escaping to an entirely different country (Canada), or more likely, in reaching “an after-life,” that didn’t actually exist. The same occurred in the North, and later came to represent all 50 states as capitalism-imperialism became the new entrenched economic base of the country. Likewise, the maturation of the superstructure—again through its laws, its court system, police forces, prisons, religious institutions, and non-religious institutions—all “grew-up” directly or indirectly around the capitalist economic base not only to perpetuate the economic relations between the bourgeoisie and proletariat, but also to establish the overall economic system on a firmer basis—becoming something like a “virtual fence,” that the general public increasingly comes to view as Marx would say “a permanent necessity of existing conditions”—or in other words, a reality they had no power to change. BA didn’t exactly explain it like this, but what I took away from his “Poor Mr. Wakefield” analogy, though—along with what I already knew about history as it relates to this—is that the “belief in the permanent necessity of existing conditions” (BAsics 3:4), which has the effect of making people feel trapped within the perimeters of the system, has a history in itself, and it’s all rooted materially in the maturation and expansion of the superstructure in relation to its economic base. In its infancy, it generally has a weak hold over its subjugated population, as it did with Black slaves who escaped their enslavement by fleeing and joining those Seminole tribes in Florida, for example. Yet once the superstructure developed and became entrenched, so did the subjugated population’s “belief in the permanent necessity of existing conditions” also became entrenched and established in their thinking. By people being able to take away this level of understanding from BA’s usage of the “Poor Mr. Wakefield” analogy, I think it enables the masses to better understand why it’s only with the destruction of these various institutions of the current capitalist superstructure, and its subsequent replacement by new revolutionary institutions of our own making, that we can ever put an end to all these “virtual fences” and material forces which keeps us subjugated, exploited, and oppressed in ACTUAL FACT. I believe this particular analogy really begins to put a more scientific analysis on the nature of this system, and illustrates why we say Revolution—particularly Communist Revolution—is the only real alternative way forward.
Overall, as I’ve said, I’ve been really enjoying reading this interview. It touches on a wide range of complex subjects in a very understandable form—which got me to thinking, it might be a good idea for the party to compile a few “Basic-type” of interviews and speeches of BA’s into a single book. If BAsics is the Party’s attempt to introduce people to BA’s new synthesis of communism and his leadership on a very basic level, then maybe a compilation of a few of his speeches and interviews into a single volume could serve to raise that basic understanding up just a little more. Just some food for thought.
Well... I’m going to bring this letter to a close, but I hope everybody after reading this interview walks away knowing what humanity really needs, and that’s communist revolution and the new synthesis of it in order to make such a revolution possible. Again, it’s the only real alternative we truly have today.
In Solidarity, XXXXXXXXXXX
Revolution #274 July 8, 2012
The following letter was written by a prisoner in Pelican Bay, California, July 5, 2012
I write in regards to the BAsics quote “American lives are not more important than other people’s lives.”
It's amazing that one would have to even write this out to point to people that there is something very wrong with this backward thinking but many “Americans” do think American lives are better than lives from other parts. This warped sense of reality finds its roots in the long bloody history of the foundation of this Empire. One only need look back to the war crimes of Hiroshima and Nagasaki where American bombs wiped out generations of women, children and elderly. To see American Imperialists always have thought non American lives were unimportant. This deranged thought trickles down to the masses in America and instills this jingoism that has no basis in material reality. It may even be said that other peoples lives are more important than American lives because it is Americans who prosper off the backs of the oppressed, off the sweat, toil and blood of billions!
Most Americans do not realize their first world chauvinism and this in part is caused by being born and bred in the social cesspool of capitalism, this selfish mindset that compels the average American to remain aloof to human despair outside of America will be the key to unlock the gates of oppression. It is precisely this dialectic of capitalism in which the most parasitic relations in society develop unharnessed and engorge the economies of developed nations that will eventually lead to its demise.
Our job is to explain how ridiculous the notion is that American lives are more important than any other lives, how twisted this outlook is in the face of so much death and despair. Guns pour into Mexico by America in an attempt to fuel the chaos, children working in toxic sludge in Bangledesh, women blown to hamburger meat by killer drones, Grandparents watching their flesh drip off their bodies from white phosphorus bombs in Palestine, all the while Americans complain about not having an air conditioner this summer! It is precisely this mindset that the ruling class hopes to keep people in, to continue to think like a parasite and to our own inconveniences while babies are blown up by American flying assasins of poor people. (drones) I say fuck that! The people are going to be shown why American lives are not more important than other people’s lives and this must be done through education that was not obtained in American propaganda schools, and it must be done with conscientious suppression of what is First World Chauvinism. Only when the people understand what the ruling class has being doing in their name will they refuse to continue being silent accomplises to the terror unleashed on the world, I been terrorized by America my whole life in its dungeons so not only do I refuse to be an accomplise but I say fuck American terror!
With a clinched fist,
Revolution #274 July 8, 2012
As part of the saturation weekend of June 22-24 (to get BA everywhere and raise money for the upcoming bus tour), a group of us held an "Open Mic: Speak your mind—speak from your heart" in a park deep in the 'hood. The overall theme of the open mic was how people responded to BAsics 1:13; and 25 people came forward to contribute in many ways ... from selling hot dogs, to a children's art exhibit (children also took part in selling food, bundling up palm cards and even posting them), to poetry, spoken word and rap.
Starting in the morning, crews went out in a sound truck and cars distributing 2,300 palm cards and gathering people's reactions to the quote. We didn't simply settle for people saying they liked the quote ... they had to at least know who said it for one thing!
So back at the park later in the afternoon, the stage was decorated with various displays like the girl skipping rope in Haiti amid desperate conditions next to big replicas of the cover of BAsics; as well as the children's art exhibit. A boom box played "All Played Out" and a CD from a cultural night at Revolution Books the night before. The open mic began with a call and response of 1:13 by one of the children, and this was followed by a long time neighborhood resident reading nine different statements (see separate report) in response to the BAsics quote!
These statements went to the heart of how BA connects with these people. Some examples:
One woman with four kids, mentioning Oscar Grant who was killed in Oakland, said "No more police killing here and around the world. ... We need to make revolution all over the world."
A 15-year-old high school student said, "We need to help youth all around the world, not just Blacks. If we can stop the system in doing that, we can do the 'no more.' I'm open to finding out the ways to do just that."
A 18-year-old Black youth said, "It's TRUE that youth are condemned even before they are born all over the world" (using Hiroshima to highlight his point). He ended by saying, "I think people need to hear BA, what he says about revolution and communism. He speaks in a way that even people like me can understand."
Some of the featured poets came to the 'hood straight from a Revolution Books poetry night on the night prior. It was quite something to see the mix of the crowd, in age, race, and even in what 'hood they came from. A couple of teachers came specifically to this area to share their poetry and rap about "Revolu-SHUN" which was a call-and-response from the crowd. Another poet began her poem specifically off the last line of the quote "I say no more of that." One of the rappers from the 'hood offered a personal poem about Trayvon Martin; and this was followed by someone reading the Gil Scott-Heron poem "Jose Campos Torres" which rings eerily with the Trayvon Martin case. More readings followed from BAsics; and then another rap group performed.
The emcee announced the main points of BA Everywhere through this summer, using a Revolution paper article to emphasize the upcoming bus tour back East and also referring to the bus tour to Sanford, Florida last May. People were encouraged to stick around later to discuss how to raise funds, etc., for this major bus tour.
The people from the surrounding neighborhood were deeply involved in actually pulling this whole event together; and this was quite different than something we just plan and carry out. Quite a few of the audience were pulled together by one of the local women; and then many stuck around later to plan for an anti-July 4 picnic fundraiser in the same park. A major theme of this upcoming anti-July 4 is around "internationalism, the whole world comes first"; and this led into a lively struggle over how we view revolution..... some were arguing that we had to "take back our communities" from the police, while others struggled to bring the internationalism more in focus rather than trying to "fix the system"; and the slogan of "fight the power, and transform the people, for revolution" came to the fore in this discussion. We DO need to fight the power, but if we are talking about revolution, it can't be only about the community. There was also a lot of emphasis on this anti-July 4 of being against U.S. patriotism and imperialism, and some basic plans were laid about how we could show this graphically at the picnic.
All together for the saturation weekend, we distributed 5,700 palm cards in this area of the city, most of which were in bundles of 40 and 100, and those taking the bundles had various ideas of how to distribute them. $45 was raised from selling hot dogs on Saturday. Close to $200 has been raised for BA Everywhere by selling hot dogs, candies and water over the last couple of weeks in this same park.
Revolution #274 July 8, 2012
All across the country, people have been going out to neighborhoods, schools, cultural events and elsewhere with the BAsics 1:13 quote from Bob Avakian: “No more generations of our youth, here and all around the world, whose life is over, whose fate has been sealed, who have been condemned to an early death or a life of misery and brutality, whom the system has destined for oppression and oblivion even before they are born. I say no more of that.” The following are a few of the responses from the people.
"We need to help youth all over the world, not just Blacks. This system is destroying their lives. If we can stop the system in doing that, we can do the 'no more.' I'm not sure how you can destroy the system. I'm open to finding out ways to do that."
—15-year-old high school student in a park
"I want to talk more about the quote...that's where this music is coming from!"
"It's sad—youth are facing dangers everyday, being killed by wars and police. I say no more to that, too."
—10-year-old Black girl playing in a park
"When I saw the picture of the Haitian girl (in the newspaper's centerfold), I got the sense that people are struggling to get a drink of water. It's legalized slavery—people are paid so little for whatever kind of work they can find. The word 'condemned' in the quote is the right word. That means people have been destined for destruction. You have no say under this system. We have to unite and come together. We need to start a new revolution."
—a Black woman in her 20s
"We need to fight for justice and equality, and we need to get to the younger generation so they'll be able to see the problem and fight. That's how we'll get to the 'no more.'"
—a Black woman in her 40s
"When the baby was in my womb, I had doubts that she could make it 'cause once she grows up she would be killed by police or the drive-bys. What a terrible world my baby was born into! We need to stop that."
—a young mother with an infant
"I believe 'no more generations of our youth...' means no more police killing, here and everywhere in the world. This system is designed for the police to get way with everything they do to the people, look at the murder of Oscar Grant. People all over the world are facing police murder, police brutality, misery, homelessness, being in jail, living in fears. 'No more' means all this has to stop—we need to make revolution all over the world."
—a young Black woman with four kids
"I'm an immigrant from Mexico. For our young people, their life means violence and death if they stay in the country or if they cross the border. Even if they make it and come to here, on the streets there are violence and death, too. It's our labor that helps keep the economy going but they still come after us and they break up our families. If you are a worker or if you are poor, this is what you'd get in this country or other countries. To me, 'no more' means you try to negotiate with the government to try to change things. If things don't change, then you need a revolution..."
—a middle-aged Mexican woman with two kids responding in Spanish
"This system is based on a racist power structure. It's true that youth are condemned before they are even born—that's set up. They are already racially profiled. I've heard that they use school tests of third graders and then they plan how many jail cells to build. And it's not just here, it's all over the world—their military is invading countries all over the world and they have no sympathy for little children they kill. How about the bombing of Hiroshima? I remember seeing a photo where a little kid stuck under a rock was crying, 'help me, help me' and the mother was crying too because she couldn't help the kid. This is very upsetting and brings me sadness. It's only greed and money profit that drives this system. I think people need to hear Bob Avakian, what he says about revolution and communism. Like the prisoner (in a letter to Revolution newspaper) said, BA can break things down and use a language people can understand. He speaks in a way even people like me can understand. I have been reading BAsics."
—an 18-year-old Black man
"I agree totally with the quote. Things are so bad that we're getting to the point that nothing but revolution is the way to go. We need a huge change to make things equal."
—a 56-year-old man bringing grandsons to the park
"Police in our 'hoods bullying people is racial profiling. That's bullshit. We need to unite to fight for a law against racial profiling. We need to stand up and fight—nothing we've got was without people fighting."
—an old Black man sitting in front of a grocery store
"This country is going to hell. They don't give a damn to nothing. Obama is a puppet. Things are getting to the point that even people don't give a damn about each other. We need to change that, we need to unite. I myself don't give a damn for this system, I hate it. But I don't know how to fight it and win."
—a Black Vietnam vet who was injured in that war and is now homeless
"The quote is a strong statement. Lots of people are living a life of misery and early death. We need to stop all that."
—a middle-aged guy trying to repair his car
"It sounds like genocide. A pre-determined plan of poverty and brutality! Those whom the system has destined for oppression and oblivion even before they are born—that is heavy. No more! We need to take action."
—a 40-year-old homeless man
"Kids feel like they are in prison. Kids have nothing to do in their lives. Kids in other countries are facing hunger. We say no more!"
—a 6th grade boy
"I feel that we should change the world to make it a better place so that people will feel more safe in their environments."
—a 10th grade girl who is the sister of the boy
"I agree with that quote. No more of this shit. We need to all stand together and say it loud, 'no more'. We need to organize ourselves. We do need a revolution in the final analysis to stop all this shit."
—a Black man in his early 30's shopping at a mall
"Heck of messed-up of how the system treats people in other countries. Messed up here too. I'm open to find out how to make revolution to change all this."
—a 14 years old high school freshman
"I fully agree with the quote. I've been in this city for 30 years. I've seen lots of my friends died at the hands of police. I don't know what good revolution would do for the people. If revolution can solve problems like homelessness, no jobs and police brutality, I'm all for it!"
—a Black woman in her 30's with one kid
"This quote is very deep. 'No more' would take a revolution. To actually carry the revolution through we do need a leader like this (BA). And we need to protect this leader. Otherwise, the system will put fear into people and keep them from rising up."
—Black man in his 40's leaving a store
Revolution #274 July 8, 2012
From a Reader
We took BA and BAsics out to a Juneteenth* festival in a small town in an outlying area. This is a town that has seen an influx of Black and Latino residents and a shrinking, aging white population. The Black and Latino residents are much younger than the white residents. 60 percent of white residents are over 30 years old. 60 percent of Black and Latino residents are under 30. A lot of the white residents are retired from the aerospace industry and the military. In some ways the community reminded me of Sanford, Florida, because it was very polarized with open white supremacist activity. At the festival, while 90 percent of the people were Black, all the police were white.
The festival was in a part of town that had been one of the first places Black people had been allowed to live. One of the people there told us that in the 1960s, the city cut off water to the whole area in an effort to drive Black people out. The Juneteenth festival was poorly attended this year because a major street had been closed off so you had to drive on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere to get there.
We had some initial discussion about the "12 ways" palm cards—about involving people on the spot to be part of this revolution. People could get out the "12 ways" and BAsics 1:13 palm cards, stickers, and posters we brought. We had copies of the "Three Strikes" posters to sell to raise money for the bus tour. Some on our team who more recently have taken up the BA Everywhere campaign got out the palm cards and stickers, talked to people about mass incarceration and revolution. Revolution newspaper was sold and people were introduced to BA and BAsics and the BAsics Bus Tour that brought BA, revolution and communism to the South. There was interest in the bus tour to Sanford. One person commented, "We need that here!"
There were no more than 200 people at any one time. We stayed there until it got dark as more youth came out later in the day. The older people were more conservative. There was a group of guys dressed up like Buffalo soldiers and for the first two hours nobody even mentioned anything about Juneteenth from the stage.
A young man from the town who we invited came by with his young daughter and helped us set up and hung with us for awhile. He was glad to see us and said, "All right, the Party is in the house!" He very much agrees with what we are saying about mass incarceration and said that he still has the sticker from April 19 on a notebook but he does not agree on Obama. He is not so sure about communist revolution but does want to know more about it. One question he asked was did we think the response to the Trayvon Martin murder would be the same if he was a white guy and the guy who killed him was white. We asked him why was Trayvon the victim treated as a suspect by the police who drug tested his dead body and did a background check but let Zimmerman go. He gave a $5 donation and got the paper and a bundle of posters.
There were maybe 50-75 youth in the park when it was busy. All this was new to them and some of them took a palm card and checked us out for a long time before stopping to speak with us. We found that we had to break down the "Three Strikes" poster for some of the youth. They were not so sure what mass incarceration, genocide and Jim Crow were. All of them who stopped were familiar with police brutality depicted on the "Three Strikes" poster and it was a matter of filling in the dots.
The enlargement of the quote from BAsics 1:13 struck a chord with people and some of them told us about encounters they had with police murder and brutality. One youth told us about a case in a town he was from where a youth was killed by police while walking down the street wearing a hoodie but nobody had heard of it as it never made the news.
There were over a half-dozen guys who had been part of an April 19 protest against mass incarceration who came to perform at Juneteenth. Before they went up on stage, we got all of them to wear the Mass Incarceration + Silence = Genocide stickers. A number of them came up afterwards and got the paper, palm cards and talked. Two of them said to us, "We are down for revolution."
The palm cards and stickers with Mass Incarceration + Silence = Genocide were things that some of the youth took out to their friends. There were some interesting interactions between them as most youth were Black but a few were Latinos and Native Americans. In one exchange, a Black youth explained to a Native American youth what happened with Trayvon. The Black youth did not know what genocide was so we said, "It's like what they did to the Native Americans," and the youth who didn't know about Trayvon said, "Yeah, I'm Native American and that's what they did to my people."
A community college student bought a bundle of "Three Strikes" posters to put up, as well as palm cards. He has a real hatred for the system and said he is down for revolution but doesn't see how we could win. I told him about BA and how he has a strategy, vision and program for revolution to emancipate all of humanity. He sees the ruling class as all-powerful and raised things about the Illuminati and space aliens messing with people's mind. We challenged him to prove it. We talked with him on some of the points in the Illuminati article in Revolution newspaper which compared and contrasted Illuminati theorists with reality. He did not know the Illuminati theory was anti-Semitic or anti-communist.
A white couple who performed on stage came up and donated a few bucks. They described some of the rampant racism in the area schools. The woman told us about picking up her son from school and seeing a cop just jump out of a car and brutalize a Black kid for no apparent reason. She went to the police station to complain and it was turned around with the cops asking for her name and address to intimidate her. She said at her son's school there was a white teacher who called students stupid and said abusive things like they would never amount to being more than gangsters.
Religion was a question and a number of the youth gave back the stickers when they learned communists are atheists. The influence of religion was evident as many of the acts were religious, such as a number of local Christian rappers who performed. We got into a debate with a woman who initially liked the stuff against mass incarceration but said she could not support it because we were communist and communists were atheists. We challenged her about why it is not acceptable to not support resistance to mass incarceration because she disagrees with atheism. One of the guys who joined us has read Away With All Gods and loves to argue with people around communism and religion. His attitude is if they are religious, send them to me and I will convert them to be atheist.
We found there is a real sense of people joining the movement for revolution on different levels and people appreciated the difference it makes when BA and the Party are in the house!
* Juneteenth is a holiday commemorating June 18 and 19, 1865, when Union troops seized Galveston, Texas, and declared the emancipation of slaves throughout the state. [back]
Revolution #274 July 8, 2012
It's June and graduations are everywhere—caps and gowns, balloons, ecstatic families, crying grads. And looming over it all like a dark shadow is The Future—what is the world students are entering into, what promise does it have, and what meaning are their lives going to have? At one inner-city high school in Los Angeles, where less than half the students who start there as ninth graders make it to graduation, and where this year's graduation included memorials for two classmates who died during the school year, graduating seniors got the opportunity to do something meaningful at their graduation and they eagerly took it. As students sat in their seats on the stadium floor and then walked up to have their name announced and picture taken with the principal, nearly 50 students, about a fifth of the graduating class, wore small orange-colored buttons on their blue gowns. From a distance all you could see was a button. But up close and in person, students wore the button so it could be read:
|Photos: Special to Revolution.
BAsics 1:13 worn by nearly 50 students at a Los Angeles high school graduation.
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.
Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, BAsics 1:13
The week before the graduation, this quote was starting to get around the school, passed out in front by the revolutionaries, and spread around and taped up inside by students getting involved in the movement for revolution. Many students read the quote and said, "I agree with this," or "This is important." A couple of the graduating seniors were thinking about how to do something meaningful with it at their graduation. A few days before the graduation, one young woman who had been part of the June 5 hoodie day for justice for Trayvon Martin said, "If we had this on a pin, we would wear it." Some students and teachers were already planning to wear a button memorializing one of their classmates who had died. A couple of people in another area who often contribute to the movement for revolution by donating buttons were asked if they wanted to be part of making this happen and they said yes. They quickly put together 50 buttons and shipped them overnight to arrive in time for the graduation.
This year's graduating class has been through a year of national outrages concentrating the oppression of Black people and new and beginning resistance to that in the context of other jolts happening in society and throughout the world. As they were coming out of rehearsal the day before graduation, many stopped to talk with a revolutionary who'd come to involve them in bringing BAsics quote 1:13 into their graduation. Seniors who had organized protest against the murder of Troy Davis at the beginning of the school year; seniors who had stood with hunger-striking prisoners and spoken out against mass incarceration on the October 22nd National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation; seniors who had passed out stickers saying "We are all Trayvon, the whole damn system is guilty"; and seniors who hadn't been part of any of this, read the quote. They looked at the pictures in Revolution newspaper of laboring children carrying boulders in India, of a little girl jumping rope amidst housing rubble in Haiti, of students like themselves all over the country wearing hoodies and posing with banners against the murder of Trayvon Martin. They liked the quote and they liked the plan, and a couple of people who more seriously wanted to see it happen took stacks of palm cards with BAsics 1:13 to spread the word to others in their graduating class.
One of the more serious was a guy who read the quote and liked it, but at first shrugged it off because "you can't do anything about it." He showed it to a friend, who said it has too many negative words in it and gave it back. But then the first guy heard about Bob Avakian, the leader who has developed a new synthesis of communism and is leading a party that has a strategy for revolution. He heard about the BAsics Bus Tour that boldly took this to the South, which is where this student grew up as a child, and he opened up the book BAsics reading its first sentence and its last. He was then presented with a challenge: there is a leader and a party, a strategy and a vision, and a movement for revolution struggling to be born. There are people throughout this country becoming part of this in beginning ways, to grow this movement and to put revolution on the map with our sights set on liberating humanity. Are you going to contribute your strength to this or are you going to withhold it and stand aside while others are fighting to break through? The whole look on his face changed. Then he began to talk about what might be involved in doing something like wearing these buttons at graduation, including the repression that might come down from the school administrators. He said for months they have put obstacles in front of our ability to graduate and there is a hanging threat that if we do anything wrong, we won't walk. He decided that if the administration tried to stop it, he would wait until the last minute to put the button on, so it would be too late for them to make him take it off, and he took a stack of palm cards to pass around at grad night.
On graduation day, as they gathered nervously waiting to go in the building they would be graduating in, a revolutionary brought the buttons over and asked the grads if they wanted to make a statement at their graduation by wearing this button. Students readily took the button and read the quote on it. Many put the button on immediately. Some wanted to discuss it more, what the quote means and what it means to wear it at graduation. Some had strong disagreements against revolution or challenging the status quo and didn't want anything to do with it. Others started with disagreements and worked through them.
One student, his voice full of emotion, said the system is horrible and we need to do something about it. Another student read the quote and said, "I like this a lot," but then she wanted to make sure she was clear on what it's about and where she's coming from, so she said, "I agree with abortion, because I don't think unwanted children should be brought into this world." As soon as she heard that this quote encompasses the liberation of women and the essential right of women to have abortions as a key part of that, she pinned it on her gown and told her friends to get one and put it on. Another student read the quote and handed the button back, saying he appreciates the sentiment, but doesn't agree with communism. After discussing the quote using the pictures in Revolution newspaper, hearing about the BAsics Bus Tour, and thinking about the point that people can get involved in the movement for revolution even while they have disagreements, he took the button back and pinned it to his gown. The student, who the day before had started off saying you can't do anything about it, put on the button right away and took a few extra, then came back to report that he'd gotten them to two students who are on the board of student government.
All 50 buttons were taken by students and pinned to their gowns, and some students were upset that the buttons ran out before they could get one. Some who had taken buttons had second thoughts and didn't wear them onto the graduation floor, but the vast majority wore them throughout the ceremony, while outside a thousand copies of the quote were passed out on palm cards to family and friends in the audience. Several students wanted their involvement in the movement for revolution to be more than just this one act so they took the card that describes Twelve Ways That YOU Can Be Part of Building the Movement for Revolution—Right Now and gave a way to stay in touch with them.
Revolution #274 July 8, 2012
Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Arizona’s anti-immigration law Senate Bill 1070, unanimously upholding the reactionary centerpiece of the law, “the one critics have called its ‘show me your papers’ provision” (New York Times, June 25, 2012, “Blocking Parts of Arizona Law, Justices Allow Its Centerpiece”). The Court also ruled by a 5-3 vote that the remainder of the law was unconstitutional because its provisions gave a state (Arizona) the authority to interfere with federal immigration policy and enforcement. But to be clear, the essence of this ruling or this law is a huge attack on the masses of Latino immigrants in Arizona, the masses of Latino people, and ultimately the people as a whole—with implications for the whole country, and it is a further continuation of the repression and oppression that sets the terms and conditions for the lives of immigrants in this country.
In Revolution #208 we wrote:
This law is an ugly, radically reactionary leap beyond the already intolerable conditions immigrants without papers face in this country. This law demonizes and outlaws people who are from Mexico or Latin America, or look like they may be from Mexico or Latin America, or indeed from any other country from which immigrants come. The law requires that police demand proof of legal residency from anyone they “stop, detain or arrest” if police suspect that person is an undocumented immigrant. Many legal residents as well as citizens are going to be subjected to interrogation by the police because they “fit the description”—that is, if you are dark-skinned; have an accent; wear a certain style of clothes; or live in the “immigrant” part of town.
This is what the Supreme Court has upheld and laid the basis to set into motion on a mass scale.
In the coming weeks, Revolution will be writing about this Supreme Court decision and speaking to its implications for the movement we are building for revolution.
Revolution #274 July 8, 2012
From a reader.
Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) that operates in East/Central Africa, has been recently thrust into mainstream American society as a result of the "Kony 2012" campaign. This campaign seeks to drum up support for the capture of Kony, and the defeat of the LRA more generally. The video that sparked mass interest in Kony was widely pushed by youth through social networking sites, which gained the video over 50 million views in just four days,1 and to date the video has over 90 million views on YouTube alone. The group Invisible Children has worked to spread the video widely.
There was initially strong support for the campaign from various sections of society, including the youth and many prominent celebrities, but there was also a strong criticism of the campaign. Particularly noteworthy in the video itself was the positive portrayal of U.S. President Obama's move to supply military advisors to various African nations currently in conflict with the LRA. While Obama pledged 100 armed military advisors to Central African nations, George W. Bush in fact sent 17 advisors to Uganda and millions of dollars in military equipment to Uganda during his presidency.2 Surely, many people would support such a move under the guise of "humanitarian intervention." Obama, however, justified the move as one that was "in the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States."3
Kony is not only the leader of the Lord's Resistance Army, but he is also a self-proclaimed prophet, and there have been accusations that his forces have employed mass rape, murder, and kidnapping as tactics in order to establish a new Christian, theocratic society. The LRA is often accused of using young boys as child soldiers and young girls as sex slaves.4
While most of the claims against the LRA are unsubstantiated, one thing is very clear: there is an absolutely criminal history of U.S. imperialism in the region that has served to create much of the chaos in Central/Eastern Africa. In fact, the crimes of U.S. imperialism in the region far, far outweigh the crimes of Kony and the LRA. The imperialism of the United States has created horrors in the region, and more imperialism will only create more horrors. Imperialism has no capability to change the world in a positive direction.
While there are a number of examples one could point to to see the vile role of U.S. imperialism in Africa—from the support of apartheid in South Africa to the resource pillaging in Nigeria—a particularly sharp example of U.S. imperialism's role in the region is the case of Mobutu Sese Seko. In what is today the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mobutu ran a regime that was backed by U.S. imperialism, both forces that have served to create the current crisis in the region.
From the 1870s to 1960, the Congo was a direct colony of Belgium (in the beginning as literally the private property of King Leopold II and the royal family). The Belgian colonialists were met with ever-increasing resistance from the Congolese people.5 Movements were directed against imperialist Belgium's plunder of the region's resources. In addition to the theft of resources, Belgium shifted production in the country heavily towards rubber.6 This was highly profitable, and the profit was, of course, controlled by and produced for the colonial "owners" of Belgium.
Leopold talked much about ending the slave trade. Despite the seeming benevolence of such words, Leopold actually actively promoted the slave trade in order to keep laborers working on the rubber plantations. Workers would often have their wives and children held hostage, their villages razed, and their children killed if they did not meet rubber quotas or outright refused to cooperate with the Belgians—or they would be mutilated, their hands hacked off.7 Colonial Congo was a land of mass murder and slavery. The rule of Belgium was simply one geared towards the plunder of resources, and this was accomplished through total and utter brutality against the Congolese people.
After broad resistance to colonial rule, Belgium granted the country independence in 1960, after much international pressure in addition to the domestic unrest in Belgian Congo. Despite independence from Belgium, the new country was born into a world of continuing imperialist practices, though markedly different from the direct colonial rule of Belgium. Both the United States and the Soviet Union8 were eagerly seeking out allies around the world in order to overpower the other, and this period began particularly from 1953 on.
It was well into this Cold War that the infamous Mobutu was appointed Chief of Staff of the new Congolese army, which proved to be a critical position when a power struggle took place between the Prime Minister and President in the newly formed state in 1960. As both the Soviet Union and the United States jockeyed for support among the feuding leaders in the Congo, Mobutu came under the sway of U.S. imperialism and led two consecutive coups that resulted in his claiming leadership of the country, with involvement from the CIA.9
The plot to assassinate the elected Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba was hatched by the United States and Belgium out of the fear that Lumumba, as a nationalist leader, would cut off imperialist access to the vast resources of the Congo—Lumumba desired to use the domestic Congolese resources to develop the nation and improve the quality of life of the Congolese people.10 It was this fear of a Congo that did not bend its knee to imperialist interests, particularly in regard to resource plundering, that led the United States to sponsor the assassination of Lumumba, after which Mobutu was installed as ruler and renamed the country Zaire.
Mobutu established himself firmly in a position of leadership of the state. He and his ruling clique robbed much of the country's economic output and put it into banks abroad in order to keep the wealth for personal use. The theft was so great that even the soldiers of the country would not get paid regularly, and Mobutu would often authorize the soldiers to simply pillage villages and steal from the people.11 The destruction, rapes, and murders were truly horrific. This tactic of robbing the people, letting the army rob the people again, and pandering to U.S. imperialism formed a complex web that allowed Mobutu to maintain his hold on power and wealth in the country.
During Mobutu's time, the country grossly neglected human rights,12 but Zaire and Mobutu enjoyed good relationships with U.S. imperialism. Mobutu was known for maintaining complete political control of the country, forbidding the creation of any opposition political parties and regularly executing political opponents. In the latter half of the 1960s, Mobutu turned the country into a conduit for operations by the United States against neighboring Angola, which was a Soviet-allied state.13 This move in particular heralded good relations between Mobutu and U.S. imperialism. Mobutu was particularly supported by Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush14 due to his consistent condemnation and animosity towards the Soviet Union during the Cold War period. He was a frequent visitor to the White House during both administrations.
In addition, Mobutu regularly worked to crush any popular rebellions for political or social change and received heavy amounts of U.S. "aid" as a reward. Between 1962 and 1991, the U.S. directly financed Mobutu with about $150 million in CIA bribes and gave his government more than $1.03 billion in development aid and $227.4 million in military assistance.15 Mobutu was able to stockpile such aid for largely personal use, all while neglecting to build nearly any infrastructure in the country, ensuring that the people had no access to modern amenities. Mobutu did nothing to alleviate the complete destitution of the people in the country. Decades upon decades of resource theft was compounded by Mobutu's theft of wealth from the banks, both of which have served to make the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) one of the most impoverished places in the world with horribly low living standards for the people.
However, once the Soviet Union collapsed and the Cold War ended, U.S. support for Mobutu declined—he was no longer needed as a client to play against the Soviet Union, and Mobutu and his access to wealth was under threat.16
U.S. imperialism began to push for Mobutu to give up power, but Mobutu resisted. While the situation was very complicated, the decisive factor in the collapse of Mobutu's regime was the withdrawal of support from U.S. imperialism. Without U.S. funding, Mobutu could not resist popular resistance or militias.17
After Mobutu, there have been more coup attempts, which have resulted in the now Democratic Republic of the Congo being turned into a battlefield—particularly in the eastern portion of the country.18 Today, it is one of the most horrific regions in the world, with constantly shifting authority between various militias, which regularly employ mass rape and murder in order to gain fleeting control of territory in the region. In 2010, the life expectancy in the DRC was still only 48 years,19 and in 2011 the DRC ranked lowest on the Human Development Index and lowest on Global Hunger Index—about 70% of the population does not have adequate food, and one in four children is malnourished.20
This disastrous environment has, however, been taken advantage of by imperialism.
Mining companies have been particularly exploitative in the country. Coltan, a rare mineral used mostly in electronics, is of particular value and abundance in the Congo. In 2002, over 80 companies were accused of supporting and sponsoring rape, torture, and murder by groups in the Congo, while major imperialist powers (the U.S., Germany, and the UK most importantly) had simply turned a blind eye and not investigated the companies responsible. One group was estimated to have made over $20 million per month just in selling coltan, which is in high demand due to the growth of the technology industry in developed capitalist countries.21 This trade has translated into huge profits for the mining companies and Congolese militias and warlords, all while the imperialist countries remain complicit in the horrors of the trade.
U.S. imperialism has, undeniably, been the architect of the problems in East/Central Africa today as evidenced by its relationship with the Mobutu regime. By consistently pushing for the interests of the larger capitalist-imperialist system, the United States has created environments of chaos and death in Africa. From 1998-2008, 5.4 million people died in the Congo alone!22 This figure does not include the many more that have since died in the continuing conflict.
In this one nation, the crimes of imperialism are apparent. Joseph Kony has been accused of many crimes, but the crimes of imperialism make Kony's supposed crimes look like child's play. U.S. imperialism has butchered more people, not only in this region, but also all over the world, than Joseph Kony ever could. Further, the environment that Kony has been able to seize upon to marshal forces under his leadership has been created by imperialist interests, mainly the United States, in the region.
The sham of "humanitarian intervention" goes all the way back to King Leopold II during Belgian colonial rule, a rule that did nothing more than plunder resources and promote slavery. The United States continued imperialist tactics in a new form during its conflict with the Soviet Union, supporting the ghastly rule of Mobutu. There should be no illusions about how the United States operates—when it no longer needed Mobutu, it allowed one form of inhumanity to collapse into another.
As not just the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but also the wider region of East/Central Africa is engulfed in increasing conflict, the many material resources of the region are becoming harder to access. Just as King Leopold originally was chasing resources in the region, so too are capitalist-imperialist countries, chiefly the United States, today. The United States is focused on maintaining open access to Congolese resources, and it will act under the guise of bringing "justice" to Kony to cover up the true, underlying drives of imperialism. The history of imperialism in the Congo reveals that any type of "humanitarian intervention" is nothing more than imperialist occupation, occupation with the goal of maintaining imperialist power throughout the world.
3. "Armed U.S. Advisers to Help Fight African Renegade Group," Thom Shanker and Rick Gladstone, New York Times, October 14, 2011. [back]
4. Ibid. [back]
5. "Order Restored in Congo Capital After Riots Fatal to 34 Africans," New York Times, January 7, 1959. [back]
7. Ibid. [back]
8. After the death of Stalin in 1953 and the subsequent rise of Khrushchev, the Soviet Union gave up Marxism-Leninism and instead became "social-imperialist" (socialist in name, but imperialist in action). Instead of working as a liberator, the Soviet Union became a competitor with the U.S. all while deepening the oppression of the world's people. [back]
10. "Patrice Lumumba: the most important assassination of the 20th century," Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja, January 17, 2011, guardian.co.uk. [back]
13. "Mobutu, 32-Year Dictator of Zaire, Dies in Morocco," Los Angeles Times, September 08, 1997; "Democratic Republic of Congo profile," BBC News Africa, May 29, 2012. [back]
14. "Leaving Fire in His Wake," Adam Zagorin Gbadolite, Time Magazine, June 24, 2001; "Remarks of President Reagan and President Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire Following Their Meeting," August 4, 1983, American Presidency Project, University of California Santa Barbara. [back]
18. Ibid. [back]
Revolution #274 July 8, 2012
The world has lost a precious and fierce fighter for the cause of the emancipation of all humanity. On May 26, Azar Derakhshan, a prominent member of the Communist Party of Iran (M-L-M) lost her 11-year battle with cancer and died at the age of 53. Hundreds of people from all over Europe gathered at the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris for her funeral and marched to the Wall of the Communards where the last fighters of the Paris Commune were executed.
As a communist, Azar stood in the forefront of the struggle against the oppression of women in Iran and all over the world and fought for the complete liberation of women as an integral part of the struggle for a communist world—for the emancipation of all humanity from all forms of oppression and exploitation.
She joined the Union of Iranian Communists in 1979 when the revolutionary upsurge in Iran was at its height. In 1981 the Sarbedaran uprising in Iran suffered defeat at the hands of the Islamic Republic which had established power and killed, imprisoned and tortured communists by the hundreds. In the mid-’80s Azar left Iran with her two small children and went to live in exile in Europe.
In the face of the defeat of the revolutionary uprising in Iran, and coming in the wake of world-historic setbacks with the loss of socialism in China, communists faced the difficult task of summing up this historical experience, confronting the questions posed by these defeats and going forward on that basis. While there was much turmoil and disorientation in the ranks of the communists in this period, Azar was among the comrades who kept her bearings, fought to uphold past achievements and to rupture with incorrect ideas that hold back the struggle. She was tempered and strengthened through this whole process, recognizing that advance was not possible without providing answers to past defeats.
In a statement about Azar’s life, the CPI(M-L-M) spoke about the breadth of her vision and heart:
She saw herself as belonging to all parts of the world. Her heart beat with every struggle against oppression and injustice in any corner of the world, from Palestine, India, Bangladesh and Nepal to Peru, Colombia and the United States. She carefully followed the theoretical debates in the international communist movement. She eagerly devoured the theoretical leaps in scientific communism. Every understanding that had the power to explain the problems brought her immense joy. She was open to any theory that could explain problems more correctly.
Starting in 1998, Azar played a central role in the efforts to forge a revolutionary pole within the women’s movement in Iran, developing the 8 March Women’s Organization and becoming a well-known spokesperson for the struggle against the brutal oppression of women in Iran.
Mary Lou Greenberg of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, in a statement in honor of Azar’s life, recalled her experience in working with Azar in March 2006 in the Great March Against Anti-Woman Laws in Iran where Iranian and Afghan women and their supporters rallied and marched in several European cities. She recalled Azar’s defiant words at the embassy gates of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the Hague:
“For 27 years we have been talking about the criminal things you’ve done. Today, we have news for you. A united and organized force is being born. When you took power, you celebrated by attacking these people. But these newly birthed forces will put the nails in the coffin of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
Mary Lou Greenberg went on to speak about some of Azar’s great strengths:
She had nothing but contempt for the theocratic Islamic Republic, for U.S. imperialism and for patriarchy in all its hideous forms, based on a great certitude in the absolute necessity and possibility of bringing about a fundamentally different society and world. While scorning the enemy, Azar exuded warmth toward the people, especially women, including those who disagreed with her—but she also struggled forcefully with passion and science against incorrect ideas and fought to understand more deeply the oppression of women and its relation to transforming the world.
While Azar was a tireless activist and fighter against oppression she also understood deeply the decisive role of communist theory—of developing a scientific understanding of the source of oppression and the pathway to emancipation through the communist revolution. The CPI(M-L-M) recalled the passion with which she studied and propagated communist theory:
She used to say that others may think that these theories belong to us, but they belong to everybody. When something is true it cannot remain in the hands of one party or group alone. These truths are for saving and fortifying a movement without which there can be no emancipation from oppression and exploitation.
And she fought particularly for other women comrades to develop their capacities in studying communist theory, in grappling with ideas so that through this they would be able to distinguish between false and correct paths.
The following words from the CPI(M-L-M)’s statement speak powerfully to the impact and legacy of Azar’s life:
Which of these qualities most define Azar? Rebelliousness, consciousness and understanding, uncompromising opposition to old ideas and traditions, immense energy, perseverance, hard work in making the impossible happen.
Azar was a communist. She was a communist in a period where the death of communism has been declared over and over again. She considered herself a full-time activist on this road. She fought with all of her being to bring forth a new generation of revolutionary communists. Her message to the new generation was this: Absorb the experience of the past generation, stand on our shoulders in order to see the far away horizons, envision it much better than we have and conquer new heights. At the sight of the young people who got her message, her eyes would sparkle.
When oppressed people produce someone like Azar, they in fact come to believe in their own capacity to change the world. Azars become a role model for struggle. They become a powerful proclamation against the world’s dominant reactionary social systems. A new sense of confidence sprouts in their hearts, that we can and must bring down the oppressive and exploitative system and create a new world.
Azar fought with great passion to the very end of her life to contribute all she could and to lead others in the fight to end the nightmare of the rule of capitalism-imperialism over the world’s people in all its hideous forms—and to bring closer the future of a communist world beyond exploitation and oppression where humanity can at last be truly free.
To all who dare to dream of the possibility of a whole new communist world: step forward to take up the vision and the cause Azar devoted her life to fighting for, and fight to advance the struggle to make this dream a reality for the people of the world.
Revolution #274 July 8, 2012
The following statement was sent sent by Mary Lou Greenberg to the memorial in Paris June 8 for Azar Derakhshan who died May 26 after a long battle with cancer. Azar was a member of the Communist Party of Iran (Marxist-Leninist-Maoist) and one of the founders of the 8 March Women's Organization (Iran-Afghanistan).
It was with deepest sorrow that I learned of the death of our beloved comrade, Azar Derakhshan. She was not only a part of the Iranian people, but of people everywhere who fight against injustice and all the horrors of the world as it is today. Her great heart for the people and her deep understanding of what is required to get to a totally different and far better world—a communist world—led her to commit her life to do everything possible in her lifetime to bring about that new world.
As a communist, Azar fought passionately against the oppression of women and for their full liberation as an integral and critical part of the struggle for the emancipation of all humanity from all forms of oppression and exploitation. I heard her speak in the U.S. at an international conference of Iranian women students and saw how she struggled against both cultural relativism and bourgeois feminism; against Islamic theocracy and those who would conciliate with it, as well as against the harmful notion that western capitalist imperialism could liberate women.
I had the great honor and pleasure of working with Azar on several occasions, especially in March 2006 on the Great March Against Anti-Woman Laws in Iran where Iranian and Afghan women and their supporters rallied and marched in several European cities. I will never forget her, confident and fierce, leading defiance at the embassy gates of the Islamic Republic of Iran in The Hague, and declaring:
"For 27 years we have been talking about the criminal things you've done. Today, we have news for you. A united and organized force is being born. When you took power, you celebrated by attacking these people. But these newly birthed forces will put the nails in the coffin of the Islamic Republic of Iran."
She had nothing but contempt for the theocratic Islamic Republic, for U.S. imperialism and for patriarchy in all its hideous forms, based on a great certitude in the absolute necessity and possibility of bringing about a fundamentally different society and world. While scorning the enemy, Azar exuded warmth toward the people, especially women, including those who disagreed with her—but she also struggled forcefully with passion and science against incorrect ideas and fought to understand more deeply the oppression of women and its relation to transforming the world.
In July 2007 Azar came to New York City where she spoke at a program at Revolution Books and to the media. The U.S. was intensifying war moves on Iran—as they are today—and Azar was firm in speaking out against the view that there are only two sides—Islamic theocracy or the U.S. "The voice of the people is almost completely absent in the U.S. media," she said in one radio interview. "We don't need the U.S. to liberate us...We want to decide our future ourselves. We want to fight our native enemy by ourselves." This voice had not been heard in the U.S. before, and it both challenged and inspired people.
As a member of The Revolutionary Communist Party USA, I want to convey the great sorrow of the comrades here for the loss of this passionate communist who gave her life to the struggle for the emancipation of humanity, who fought for others to step forward and take up this path, and who fought to the very end of her life to contribute all she could—for this we cherish and honor her memory.
Our comrade Azar Derakhshan will not see the bright future she fought so hard for, but her complete dedication and leadership have surely brought it closer.
Mary Lou Greenberg
June 4, 2012
Revolution #274 July 8, 2012
From: A World to Win News Service
Revolution received the following report from A World To Win News Service and is posting it here because we thought it would be of interest to our readers.
June 25, 2012. A World to Win News Service. By Samuel Albert. Egypt has had its first so-called "free" elections, but the nation and its people are not free. In fact, from beginning to end, the purpose of the electoral process was never to allow the people to express their will but to repair and reinforce the apparatus of their oppression.
For months many activists argued which was worse, a military regime or an Islamist regime. In the end, they got both.
In toppling Hosni Mubarak a year and a half ago, masses of Egyptian people and especially youth hit hard at the old political order, a political set-up ruling the country on behalf of foreign capital and the Egyptian capitalists and other reactionaries subservient to those economic and political interests. The electoral process has been about restoring that old order, providing it with new reactionary features—the equally empty but symbolically powerful validation of god and the ballot box—to restore the state's battered legitimacy.
In his victory speech, president-elect Mohammed Morsi made very clear what this election has not changed by paying tribute to the institutions that have made Egypt a prison. While lauding the "martyrs of the revolution" whose sacrifice made it possible for him to become president, he declared his loyalty to those who killed them.
That Morsi proved most effusive in his praise for the police might have surprised many people. They are Egypt's most universally despised men, gangsters given a franchise to rob the people in exchange for protecting the bigger robbery carried out by the Mubarak family and other regime favorites.
Yet Morsi intoned, "I salute the honorable policeman, my brothers and sons, some of whom mistakenly think I do not regard them highly. Those who commit any crimes are subject to law, but the honorable policemen who are the vast majority deserve to be saluted and appreciated. They will have a big role to play in the future to protect and serve the country." (Al Jazeera English)
Among Morsi's "brothers and sons" were the men who dragged the young Khaled Saeed out of an Alexandria Internet café, beat him in the street and bashed his head against an iron door and concrete walls until he died, and even afterwards. Khaled is said to have posted pictures showing police involved in drug dealing. Photos of his disfigured corpse multiplied on the Net. Youth and political organizations called for a demonstration on Police Day, contrasting the Egyptian policemen who revolted against the British occupation in 1952 and their ignominious role under Mubarak. That January 25, 2011 protest led to the occupation of Tahrir Square and the eventual toppling of the president.
Did Morsi mean to praise the high police officials who, during the protests, released criminals from prison, sending them to loot and provoke confusion and fear, and who are still encouraging criminality so that the people will turn to them as the “lesser evil”? Did he mean to praise the lowly traffic police, who since the fall of Mubarak, have sown chaos in the streets and traffic roundabouts, following instructions to prove that the only choice is the old order or disorder?
The fact that the new president had to promise that policemen will be subject to the rule of law is telling about how arbitrariness and corruption have thoroughly pervaded Egyptian society and discredited authority on every level. But with this statement about the future, wasn't he also saying that the police need not fear punishment for their far more serious past crimes?
The Central Security Forces, volunteers from among army conscripts, used chains, whips, batons and guns to attack protesters in Cairo and other cities. These are the men who ambushed marchers in Suez, producing the first clashes in the escalating fighting that eventually forced the police to pull [back] across the country. Did Morsi mean to praise the riot police in charge of beating and killing demonstrators for decades?
The same courts that declared Mubarak responsible for the killing of demonstrators, just before the elections, also ruled top police officials innocent of those murders. Not an officer has been punished, aside from two policemen sentenced to seven years in prison for killing Khaled Saeed.
Morsi also had high praise for Egypt's judiciary system. This was less surprising, since the same judiciary that has protected the police also provided the legal basis for the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) to shape the electoral process. It was an electoral commission made up of Mubarak-era judges that declared Morsi president.
Most importantly, he slyly revealed "a love in my heart that only god knows" for the Egyptian armed forces and vowed "to preserve the military institution in Egypt." This is the military that stood by and watched the police and Mubarak's other thugs kill at least 800 people in the uprising and then posed as saviors of "the revolution" when at the last minute Mubarak had to be unplugged. This is the armed forces whose soldiers and military police, in the name of “defending the revolution," took over the task of attacking demonstrators who dared come back to Tahrir Square and began killing people at an escalating pace. In October 2011 they turned a protest against assaults on Coptic Christians into a massacre. A few months later, backed up by tanks and under the cover of dark clouds of tear gas, they used lethal rubber bullets, birdshot and sniper rifles to blind, cripple and kill hundreds of demonstrators in and around Tahrir Square and the Interior Ministry. That was the punishment for demanding an end to military rule.
Morsi even paid homage to Egypt's intelligence services whose speciality was not the defense of their country (they worked with Israel and the U.S.) but the torture and murder of their countrymen.
What Morsi's speech represented was not a perversion of the electoral process but its real purpose all along: the re-legitimization of the state apparatus and the reconciliation of the people with their worst enemies.
First of all, the whole concept of "the will of the majority" is misleading, because the people as a whole are never united by one will, and their "wills" are dynamic. During the toppling of Mubarak and the confrontations with SCAF since then, it has often been repeated that "Tahrir is not Egypt"—that the crowds who protested and fought, as large and socially diverse as they have been, are not "the majority." Yet at critical points, not only when Tahrir was filled with families but also during the fierce battles in late 2011 when students, unemployed young men and street children came to fight, SCAF was not able to mobilize large demonstrations or other shows of support for the military against the youth. On the contrary, some of their elders stood in line amidst the smoke, tear gas and shooting to donate blood at emergency facilities set up for protesters by medical volunteers. While many Egyptians may not consider themselves "revolutionary" as the Tahrir youth do, when SCAF attacked the youth, "public opinion"—especially those people who bother to express one—turned against the authorities. This repression was seen as illegitimate and sharpened SCAF's political crisis.
In the electoral process, SCAF hoped to appeal to the "silent majority," what Egyptians call "the party of the couch," people who passively follow events on television when their neighbors are in the streets. Those activist youth who endorsed or accepted the electoral arena as the way to determine Egypt's future failed to learn a vital lesson of their own accomplishments: suddenly one day, a day when conditions were right but which was unexpected and in fact unpredictable, the militant actions of a determined minority—who previously lacked a broad, active following—were able to awaken large numbers of people, divide their enemies and prevent those enemies from being able to mobilize the support of the backward.
Further, the electoral process wasn't (and never is) neutral. SCAF, the judiciary, the government-owned media and many other reactionary actors all worked to shape it, disqualifying candidates and discourses until the electorate was presented with a nightmare choice: to vote for Ahmed Shafik, the Air Force commander who was Mubarak's last prime minister, or the Muslim Brotherhood's Morsi.
According to official figures, about half the electorate couldn't bring themselves to vote for either. (Some reporters and other people who visited polling places estimated the participation at far less.) For many people this was a conscious boycott: a popular slogan was "Down with the next president of Egypt!" Yet some political and youth organizations supported the military candidate against the Islamist or vice-versa.
One group that ended up implicitly endorsing Morsi (by issuing a statement opposing Shafik's candidacy and not Morsi's) argued that "the Islamists" should be supported against "the state." (See "Revolutionary Socialists' statement on Egypt's presidential elections," socialistworker.co.uk; or the widely reposted article by Hossam el-Hamalawy, "Sometimes with the Islamists, Never with the State"; and his explanation of this long-standing International Socialist Tendency policy in Middle East Research and Information Project no. 242.)
This confuses the state and the government. Shafik was undoubtedly the armed forces' favorite among the candidates for presiding over the government, but his defeat in no way represents a blow against the state.
Elections or no elections, like all countries in today's world Egypt is a class dictatorship, in this case the rule of large-scale capitalists and landowners whose interests are in accord with the subordination of Egypt's economy to foreign-based capital and its political domination by the U.S. and other imperialist countries. The Egyptian state represents those class forces and their interests, and its instruments of repression—the armed forces, police and courts that are the core of the state—exist to protect and enforce those interests.
The people's movement forced the Egyptian state to dump Mubarak. But although the word "revolution" is so popular that Morsi and even Shafik claimed it as their brand identity, the basic economic, social and political organization of Egyptian life went unchallenged in the election, not only because no candidate or party posed that challenge, but more fundamentally because elections cannot overthrow this reactionary class dictatorship.
A week passed between the presidential elections and the announcement of the winner. The final tally of votes for the two candidates was more or less the same as initially indicated, and the electoral commission handily threw out the charges of vote tampering. The long pause was necessary because of intense negotiations among the Muslim Brotherhood, SCAF, and most importantly, the U.S government. (See the New York Times, June 25, 2012.)
If Washington and London were able to spare a moment from plotting to remove Syria's Bashar Assad and congratulate Morsi (although Obama is said to have rung up both Morsi and Shafik), it's because they believe that the result of the Egyptian elections are at least acceptable.
The above-quoted Revolutionary Socialist statement supporting the election of the Muslim Brotherhood "against the state" also presents a false equation between the religious sentiments among the people, which will persist for a long time to come even among many revolutionary-minded people, and the Muslim Brotherhood's political project. The two need to be separated as much as possible, and political Islam should not be bowed to in the name of freedom of religion.
To quote Lenin, "All oppressing classes stand in need of two social functions to safeguard their rule: the function of the hangman and the function of the priest. The hangman is required to quell the protests and indignation of the oppressed; the priest is required to console the oppressed, to depict to them the prospects of their sufferings and sacrifices being mitigated (this is particularly easy to do without guaranteeing that these prospects will be 'achieved'), while preserving class rule, and thereby to reconcile them to class rule, win them away from revolutionary action, undermine their revolutionary spirit and destroy their revolutionary determination." (The Collapse of the Second International)
Morsi is a good illustration of Lenin's observation. He promised over and over again to bring the common people a "life with dignity." These words could mean different things, including the very deep and positive aspirations that made people disgusted with the moral values of the Mubarak years. But Morsi is silent about how this is to be achieved, aside from promising to abolish political corruption (which is both an impediment to the smooth functioning of capitalism and an inevitable consequence of private ownership of the means of producing wealth)—and putting himself, "god's candidate," into office. While his speech played down the issue of religious rule, he and his party have proclaimed, from their founding more than 80 years ago through at least the day before he was anointed president, that "Islam is the solution."
The Egyptian military has sometimes been in sharp conflict with Islamists, but it has promoted Islam uninterruptedly since 1970, following the collapse of the nationalist project led by Gamal Nasser, whose vision of a "third way" between capitalism and socialism led to the emergence of a new capitalist class centered in the military and the state sector of the economy, today apparently represented by SCAF. Egypt's capitulation to Israel brought both an increased need to use religion rather than nationalism as a source of legitimacy and conflict with Islamic forces: Anwar Sadat, whose 1971 constitution enshrined Islam as the "principle source of all legislation," was himself assassinated by Islamists. When Mubarak assumed the presidency in 1981 he freed the Muslim Brotherhood political prisoners and entered into a complex but mutually beneficial relation with the Islamist movement, often allowing them to function as his loyal opposition (and thus providing political cover for his rule) and sometimes slapping them down, presenting himself as the only alternative to Islamic rule.
During the last days of the Mubarak regime, when Tahrir and the country's other public spaces were roaring with defiance, the Brotherhood was negotiating with Mubarak's head of intelligence and vice-president, Omar Suleiman, their contact man for many years. When the youth returned to Tahrir last November, again the MB refused to support them, and amid the political crisis entered into negotiations with SCAF to form a new government. After those talks failed and a Brotherhood leader came to speak in Tahrir, he was chased out.
In short, the Muslim Brotherhood is not a party of opposition to the state but a "party of order," one of an array of reactionary forces that both jointly and in rivalry with one another are striving to put an end to a period of popular revolt. Its program of throwing the veil of Islamic government over an Egypt whose economic and political structures are unchanged amounts to seeking to reconcile the people with their lot and the fate that imperialism, especially the U.S., reserves for their country. There is nothing nationalist or democratic about them.
The Muslim Brotherhood does have real political contradictions with the SCAF and possibly different economic interests (the MB has strong support among a section of newly rising private sector big businessmen). Further, although Morsi emphasized his support for the humiliating agreements with Israel that American officials unabashedly label a "red line" Egypt will not be allowed to cross, it may be hard for the Brotherhood to publicly kiss the Zionists' boots. Other Islamists not bidding for American approval may come to the fore.
This problem, and other highly unpopular measures sure to come, may help explain why Morsi officially resigned from the Brotherhood and its Freedom and Justice Party after he was elected. Maybe this way the MB can have its cake and eat it too, enjoying the benefits of heading a government and able to distance itself from governmental policies when necessary. In the end Morsi agreed to be president of a government which armed forces decrees had stripped of most of its powers, at least for now. Perhaps, after a proper show of submission, his government will be rewarded, but the situation is complicated. For instance, the Muslim Brotherhood might prefer that the armed forces keep the responsibility for arresting and imprisoning people, relieving the Islamists of the embarrassment of filling what were once Mubarak's jails with political prisoners.
Morsi promised that he would "continue the revolution" until "all the revolution's objectives" are achieved. What can this mean? It is true, unfortunately, that the objectives of those who brought down Mubarak have been far from clear and often contradictory. But whatever the new government looks like, even if it were to be very "democratic" in terms of paying lip service to the political rights of all citizens and inclusive of Copts and American-approved liberals, it will not free the people from what they need to be freed from.
For instance, the peasants and farmworkers will not be free to carry out the agrarian revolution that is crucial to freeing the country from imperialist economic and political domination and the resulting backwardness and stagnation throughout society. Morsi, like his rival presidential candidate, has been silent on that question.
Women will not be free to break the bonds of tradition and become a motor force in the country's transformation. Morsi, who often addressed "my family" and "my brothers and sons" in his speech, is a self-acknowledged representative of patriarchy—after all, his organization is not called the "Muslim Brother and Sisterhood." But the many misguided people hoping that the military will protect women from Sharia (Islamic law) law should remember how the armed forces dispersed a women's protest in Tahrir with a special bestiality. The image of soldiers stripping and stomping on "the girl in the blue bra" is matched by the Brotherhood's insistence that women be made faceless. This veiling has been well under way even without the force of law behind it. (It has to be pointed out that the new leader of the Coptic Church called on Christian women to follow this example of what he called Muslim "modesty.")
Those who mistakenly see either the military or the Muslim Brotherhood as possible allies in the struggle to solve even these most basic democratic issues are going to be sorely disappointed, if not crushed. These problems cannot be resolved except through the establishment of a revolutionary political power led, through whatever necessary stages, by the outlook and political program of the proletariat, not to win narrow demands for the workers but because, seen in its historical role, the proletariat can free itself only by freeing humanity from the enslaving division of society into classes and all the economic and social relationships, institutions, practices and thinking that go along with that.
Morsi's speech focused on "unity of all the people of Egypt." "We are all fingers of one hand," he declared, a new version of the now discredited slogan "The people and the armed forces are fingers of one hand." But the situation is defined by antagonisms. The interests of the country's rulers, and of the U.S. and its gendarme Israel, are antagonistic to the interests of the great majority of Egyptians.
It would be a big mistake to think that this election has resolved the situation. Over the last year and a half huge numbers of people have shown again and again that they would rather risk death than live in the way they have been forced to. Further, while there may never again be a "Mubarak moment" when most of society seems united, the people's enemies have not yet been able to resolve their internal contradictions and their legitimacy crisis and build a stable regime. Most of all, the people have lived an experience that has brought out some of the weaknesses of their oppressors who once seemed all-powerful, and given them more confidence in themselves and each other and their collective ability to bring about real change.
But there is another extremely serious problem: the fact that real social change has not been achieved despite all the sacrifices made can weigh heavily on the people, especially when combined with the lack of a political force that can put forward and mobilize people around a compelling understanding of why Egypt and the world are the way they are, and how, concretely, things could be different.
It would be wrong to underestimate either the difficulty and possible consequences of these problems for the people, or the present and potential problems for the people's enemies. The Egyptian ruling class and the U.S. and even the Brotherhood did not want to see Mubarak go in a way that would lead to such political instability, but that's what happened anyway. Thanks to the people, events spun out of all the reactionaries' control. This achievement continues to reverberate and keep the ball in play. The outcome remains to be settled—and is likely to remain the issue of the day for some time to come.
A World to Win News Service is put out by A World to Win magazine, a political and theoretical review inspired by the formation of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, the embryonic center of the world's Marxist-Leninist-Maoist parties and organizations.
Revolution #274 July 8, 2012
Justice for Ramarley Graham
On June 11, NYPD cop Richard Haste was indicted on manslaughter charges for the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Ramarley Graham.
The night of February 2, 2012, like so many Black youth before him, Ramarley Graham was cut down by a cop who had a story to justify the murder before Ramarley's family even knew he was dead.
Narcotics detectives barge into a home in the Bronx. They gotta come up with something to explain shooting a young kid, close range, dead, in the bathroom. First they say Graham ran into the building fleeing from the officers. But there's a problem. Surveillance cameras show Graham walking to his apartment, taking out his keys, opening up the door, and casually walking in. New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly at first says Graham "appeared to be armed." But this presents another problem for the police—because no weapon was ever recovered. They didn't have a warrant. But they kick down the door. Enter, guns drawn. In a matter of seconds, a death sentence is carried out—for no reason other than being young and Black and therefore, in the eyes of the police, suspicious.
The completely outrageous nature of this murder: chasing someone into their own home, busting through their front door, going into their bathroom and shooting them point blank... and then making up a whole story about how Ramarley was runnning into the building and was armed, all of which was clearly shown to be a complete lie. All this has hit people hard – and bitter anger has expressed itself in ongoing protest. Hundreds came to the funeral. Up to 200 people have come to demonstrations outside the the 47th NYPD precinct. People show up with t-shirts that say, “U C MY HANDS – NO GUN – Please don’t shoot” and signs declaring, “I am Ramarley Graham.”
Outside the home where Ramarley Graham was killed, a vigil is being held every Thursday (the day he was killed) for 18 weeks—to represent the 18 short years Graham lived. Leona Virgo, Ramarley's older sister, said on Democracy Now! (June 19), "At the end of the day, even though he's gone, it could happen to someone else. And all we're trying to do is prevent that from happening and to shed light on this situation here, because it does occur every day, and sometimes the stories do get unheard. But we're not going to let that happen in our situation, because they want us to forget, but we're not going to forget."
When Royce Russell, the lawyer for the Graham family, was asked if Ramarley had had problems being stopped by the police he said, "From those that you ask, 'Have you ever been stopped and frisked before?' it's probably highly unusual that you can grow up in New York City, African American or Latino, and walk the face of this earth, to and from school, in Bronx County, Kings County, Queens, Manhattan, and not be a subject of a stop-and-frisk, which we all know that doesn't mean you were doing something wrong, but be subject to a stop-and-frisk. I wish Ramarley was here to maybe tell us the stories of when he was stopped and frisked, if he was stopped and frisked, because we know oftentimes that many kids don't even reveal that to their parents. It's become such the norm that they don't even come home and say, 'Hey, Ma, you know what? Today a police officer pulled me over and went through my bag.' It is a norm." (Democracy Now!, June 19)
Richard Haste, the cop who stole Ramarley Graham's life, pleaded not guilty and was released after posting $50,000 bail. This is the first time an NYPD cop has been indicted on a charge stemming from an on-duty shooting since 2007 when three detectives were charged with the murder of Sean Bell. Those officers were later acquitted.
In December 2007, another officer, Rafael Lora, was indicted for an off-duty shooting in the Bronx that killed the driver of a minivan. He was tried and found guilty of manslaughter—a conviction then overturned by an appeals court. And in 2000, the four police officers who shot and killed Amadou Diallo in the Bronx—in a hail of 41 bullets—were acquitted.
This is all part of a slow genocide by this system—that can become a fast genocide: Mass incarceration where nearly 2.4 million people live behind bars; with 80,000 subjected to the most inhumane, conditions of torture in solitary confinement. Official illegitimate policies like stop-and-frisk, that institutionalize racial profiling—and serve as a major pipeline to the prisons. And the endless brutality and chain of lives stolen by cops, like the lives of Ramarley Graham... Sean Bell.... Amadou Diallo... Oscar Grant... and so many others in the past... and to come in the future—as long as this system is in effect.
Ramarley Graham's grandmother, Gwendolyn Henry, was there the opening day of the trial of 20 defendants arrested in Harlem for civil disobedience to STOP "Stop & Frisk." She told Revolution newspaper: "The reason I'm here is because of the injustice that is going on with our young Black and Latino children. This stop-and-frisk is nothing but something that has been planned to destroy our young children. And I am here to speak up about it because we are too silent. It has been going on for too long, too long. So we have to start and make a movement, this has to stop, this cannot go on."
Revolution #274 July 8, 2012
Enough With the (Poisonous) Bullshit
Why do we live in such a fucked-up world? Why are decisions so clearly out of the hands of the masses of people? And why do these decisions always run so sharply against the interests of these masses? Why do a few people control enormous amounts of wealth... while many more swim frantically to keep their heads above water... and the vast majority are ground down and chained to a life of misery, no matter what they do? And why are we lied to about all this?
People seek answers to these questions. Urgently. One of the biggest, most widespread answers out there pins all this on a shadowy group called the "Illuminati." This small but virtually all-powerful group, we are told, is bent on world domination. They have supposedly manipulated and rigged every war, every revolution, every economic or political crisis in accord with a master plan for world domination. There are 57 varieties of this explanation to be found on the Internet, differing in this or that detail and degree, but this is the basic framework you get from them all. (See sidebar for the actual history of the Illuminati.)
|A Few Basic Facts
The Illuminati was a secret society in Bavaria, Germany, that arose in late 1776. Bavaria at that time was ruled by a monarch and Roman Catholicism was the official state religion. The Illuminati, by contrast, promoted values associated with the bourgeoisie during this period. The bourgeoisie was rising up against the feudal order—advocating republicanism rather than monarchy; rational thought and secularism rather than religion and a state church; and the beginnings, at least, of gender equality. The Illuminati were suppressed by the Bavarian government in 1785, and despite some efforts to re-form, never regained their footing.
This was happening toward the peak of a period of transition and upheaval in Western Europe. The old order of feudalism—a social order in which the accumulation of wealth and power was based on land ownership and the exploitation of peasants (who are usually bound to the land, unable to move away, either by law or custom)—was being challenged. The rulers of this order were typically kings and other nobles—people who inherited their position, as a landlord inherited his land and even "his peasants"— and who defended the interests of the landlords.
But for centuries, things had been changing underneath the surface. New ways of accumulating wealth, based on the further development of manufacture in the cities and on the exploitation of a new class (the proletariat) that had been driven off the land, had gained predominance. These new ways drew on international trade, and a world market came into being. All this, in turn, got a tremendous boost from the colonization of the Americas and the establishment of slavery within those colonies. Of course, this "boost" meant the genocide of the people living in North and South America and the kidnapping and enslavement of millions of people from Africa!
For a while, these new capitalist ways could gain ground within the old social order. But the needs of this rising capitalist class increasingly ran up against the interests of the feudal lords and the laws and institutions that enforced those interests. The old structure of kings, backed by a state-sponsored church, had become an obstacle to the full growth and consolidation of the power of this new capitalist class. This rising new class—with its new ways of exploiting people's labor and accumulating wealth—had new ideas on how things should be organized to foster this, and they came together in groups to discuss these and to plan how to get rid of the old feudal order. Revolutions were waged against the kings who defended feudal power—first in England in 1642 to 1651, and then over a century later in France.
The French Revolution spread its influence to many different countries in Europe, and the authorities in those countries began labeling those who were revolutionary-minded as Illuminati—trying to sow fear of revolution by implying that they were part of a secret, "foreign-inspired" group. Over time, this became increasingly bound up with anti-Jewish thinking. In 1918, at a time when the communist revolution had begun to win victories, a British woman named Nesta Webster wrapped together the nativism (prejudice against people not from one's country of birth), anti-Semitism, and anticommunism into one big, ugly package. Today, in some cases, some of the rougher edges of anti-Semitism have been sanded down, but the message is conveyed through code words.
These "Illuminati theorists" focus a great deal on manipulation of the banking system. They do not really talk about any problems with the capitalist system apart from that. Almost all of them are either openly or just-below-the-surface anti-Semitic—that is, they focus people's hatred against what they portray as a cabal of Jewish financial families. They do not talk about the capitalist class as a whole. They string together a lot of facts, pseudo-facts, and lies that they claim to be grounded in deep research—while in reality, these are marshaled to serve a thoroughly unscientific and, indeed, anti-scientific theory. Many connect this to the biblical Book of Revelation, with its lurid visions of apocalypse and mumbo-jumbo talk of Antichrists, to say that this is Satan's plan; and there are other equally mystical and anti-rational theories advanced in other variants of the theory.
There is only one word to describe these theories: wrong. Actually, there's another word, too: poisonous. Totally poisonous. These Illuminati theorists point to the wrong problem and the wrong solution. To them, the problem is not capitalism; it is a small group of people who are supposedly controlling and perverting capitalism. To them, the solution is not revolution; it is returning to the "purity" of capitalism (a "purity" which never existed and never can exist and wouldn't be any good even if it could!). In actual fact, these theories have served as the foundations for reactionary, fascist, and racist movements for over a century.
These theories are not "a little bit right." Yes, they take advantage of people's correct sense that the answers to the questions we started this article with are hidden. But that's just the point—they "take advantage." They exploit the sense that people have of being lied to and use that to train people in reactionary, backward thinking and mislead them into acting against their own interests. They are no more neutral or harmless than a quack doctor who gives you arsenic for a highly contagious, fatal disease.
Why Do Things Happen?
According to the Illuminati theorists, there is no real logic to history other than these quasi-Satanic forces trying to get domination. Everything you can name—the U.S. Civil War, the Russian Revolution—happened because the Illuminati manipulated it.
Do powerful forces attempt to control events? Yes, they do. But these forces, in this day and age, are political representatives of a class—the capitalist-imperialist class. And they do not have total control. First off, the power of these capitalist-imperialists does not come from Satan—who doesn't exist in the first place! Nor does it come from "secret knowledge," numerology, aliens, etc. No, these capitalist-imperialists derive their power from something much more everyday. They own the vast material forces that create wealth in this society—the factories and mines, the agriculture, the means of transportation and communication, the banks and other instruments of finance, and so on. This ownership enables the capitalists to amass wealth through exploiting the labor of those who possess no means of creating wealth—the proletariat—which today numbers billions of people around the world. Exploitation means that the capitalists take what these billions create each day through their labor and pay them in return enough to survive (and sometimes barely that). This exploitation is where they get their profit.
And this capitalist class is the embodiment of the capitalist SYSTEM. As Bob Avakian breaks down in the Revolution Talk,1 a system is like a game with certain rules. So think of capitalism as a game with three rules:
On the basis of the wealth that they have amassed from exploitation, the capitalist class shapes and controls the official use of force in society (armies, police, prisons, courts) and decision-making (mainly through the executive branch of government, like the presidency). They wield this machinery—the state—to defend and enforce their interests. But because different capitalists have conflicting interests (see rule 2, above), they fight each other for control and advantage—even as they collaborate to keep down the masses.
In today's world, where capitalism has developed into a global system of imperialism, this takes place on an international scale. They are like gangsters in a turf war, though the scale of their viciousness and destruction far exceeds what any gangster even dreams of. All this—this system—leads to horrific, widespread, and totally unnecessary suffering for billions of people. But all this is driven forward by the rules at the heart of the system that demand that the capitalists, in order to survive, exploit the vast majority of people ever more extremely as part of their cutthroat competition with other capitalists.
So what is the root of the problem? Not a tiny band of superhumanly evil beings. Not a small group of Jewish financiers. But a system in which a class of capitalists 1) controls the means of production and exploits the labor of many, 2) on that basis wields tremendous military force to dominate people, and 3) also uses that power to control and shape the media, education systems, etc. to influence and dominate the ways that people think. So long as this is the system, we will face the problems—exploitation of the billions, plunder of the environment, oppressive institutions, and ways that keep that exploitation going—that we face today.
In the Illuminati version of the world, you have masterminds in near-total control of events. In the real world, the one in which we actually live, no one group of capitalists has total control; they fight with each other, and they also fight with the masses, trying to keep them suppressed and, when those masses rebel, trying to put them back into chains. Horrific, destructive wars go on as the concentration of all this. And sometimes, against tremendous odds, the masses break through the madness and make revolution.
No single capitalist or group of capitalists can predict the course of events; they cannot even predict whether this or that business will succeed. They try to, but they face a world of antagonistic forces and unintended consequences. The capitalist-imperialists fight for one reason: to defend, extend and expand their ability to accumulate capital in a world full of uncertainty and chaos. And they MUST fight—they are driven to do so by the "rules of the game."
This gives rise to huge crises in society, where things seem to unravel. These crises can mean great and even deeper horrors... but they can also contain the openings, if there is leadership and a revolutionary people, to make huge, positive changes—to make revolution.
Do these powerful forces—these capitalists—try to hide their real motives and their real interests? Yes... because their interests are against those of the masses of people. Let's take war. The imperialists will never say that their wars are in the interests of defending and extending an empire which they control. Remember the U.S. war against Iraq? Hundreds of thousands died as a result of that war, and millions of people were violently uprooted. That war was labeled "Operation Iraqi Freedom," not "Operation Extend and Deepen U.S. Imperial Domination of the Middle East in Order to Edge Out Rivals and Keep the Masses Suppressed." The capitalist-imperialists will always invent pretexts or excuses for going to war, sometimes with absolutely no basis in reality—and this is true of Iraq, Vietnam, and almost every war you can name—because if they came out with the real reasons, it would incur much more opposition from the masses of people.
|The Ugly Tradition of Anti-Semitism
Anti-Semitism has a long and ugly history, one very well-documented in the article "Revolution Responds to Question on the Nature of the Holocaust."
In brief, Jews were very oppressed within Europe for centuries. Laws barred them from owning land and from living in certain countries, they were subjected to torture, imprisonment and death in cruel "Inquisitions," and they were generally made one of the main scapegoats for society's ills by the ruling Catholic Church. As "Revolution Responds" explains, this began to come into question during the conflict between the established feudal order (dominated by landlords and kings) and the rising class of capitalists. The rise of capitalism was accompanied by the Enlightenment—an intellectual and social movement that used reason and science to examine and challenge many of the traditions and prejudices of the feudal society that stood in the way of the rising capitalist class. The rise of capitalism also meant that in some cases professions and occupations to which Jews had been confined in the old order now came into more prominence and importance, and this opened up room for some Jewish people to advance their situation.
The article points out:
The earth-shaking changes ushered in by the emergence of capitalism in Europe loosened and challenged, but did not come close to uprooting traditional theocratic-based fear and hatred of Jews. And even as great changes took place in the political and social landscape of Europe in the 1800s, and early 1900s, powerful forces in European society—including elements of the Christian establishment, along with feudal and other reactionary forces—lashed back at these changes, and, as part of that, targeted the Jews.This was also true in the U.S.—where Henry Ford published the phony "Protocols of the Elders of Zion," a forgery that claimed to report on a meeting of Jewish rabbis to plot world domination. While spasms of anti-Semitic violence would occur in Europe, and while there was pervasive discrimination against Jews in all capitalist societies (including the U.S.), all this went to another level with the rise of Hitler and the Nazis, which eventually led to the genocidal extermination of six million Jews.
At the same time, there was and is a Zionist movement that arose among some Jewish people in reaction to this oppression. This movement attached itself to the interests of imperialism and, at the end of World War 2, different imperialist powers saw it in their interests to create the state of Israel in the Arab country of Palestine. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were violently driven from their land, and the Zionist state of Israel became an instrument of imperialism—especially U.S. imperialism—in the Middle East. While Israel pursues what is sees as its interests in the larger imperialist framework, to claim that Israel controls imperialism is to say that the tail wags the dog.
The state of Israel should be opposed by anyone with a sense of justice—both for what it does to the Palestinians and more broadly in the Middle East and for its overall role in the imperialist system.9 But for oppressed people today to fall into the trap of anti-Semitism—of hating Jews or in any way going along with or giving ground to "Jews are the problem" instead of focusing on the real problem—is not just foolish, but profoundly poisonous to the cause of human emancipation, and immoral.
People sense this—but here come the Illuminati theorists and their ilk to say that the real motives of these wars were to further enrich "Jewish financial interests," or to cement control of the so-called "Bilderberg group," or to bring in one-world government under the United Nations.2 No! The real reasons for the wars mentioned above were 1) to impose U.S. domination over rival imperialists (or to risk being edged out or even subordinated by those imperialists)... or 2) to crush liberation struggles of the people in the nations which they have been oppressing, as was the case in Vietnam, or 3) some combination of the first two. But if the imperialists just came out and said that, people would be far less likely to go along with these wars. And if the Illuminati theorists just said that, it would imply that there is something wrong with the system of capitalism and not just the behavior of this or that capitalist or group of capitalists. So think about it—why do the Illuminati theorists invent all kinds of explanations which lead you away from looking at the forces within the system's functioning? And remember—the "normal" functioning of the capitalist system must mean the untold suffering of billions, and this has been true since its earliest days.
Are we taught the real motive forces of history? No, we are not. We are taught in school that "Abraham Lincoln fought the U.S. Civil War to free the slaves and to realize the true promise of America." We sense there is more to it than that. So here come the Illuminati theorists once more to say that the Civil War happened as a result of the Rothschilds—again, a family of Jewish bankers in Europe—egging both sides on against each other so that they could take over the U.S. financial system. Oooh, sounds heavy... sounds deep.
Just one problem: this is totally wrong... and dangerously misleading. The Civil War, in fact, arose out of deep contradictions at the very heart and foundation of the capitalist system as it developed in the U.S., namely the enslavement of millions of Africans. The northern capitalists and southern slaveholders waged an extremely bitter and bloody struggle. Why? Because as the northern capitalists grew in strength over the first decades of this country, they increasingly ran up against constraints imposed on their expansion by the southern slave system. They needed to control the whole economy and nation in order to fully consolidate capitalism. The southern slaveholders needed to dig in and not just consolidate slavery but expand its reach and power. All this is shown in some depth in our current series on the U.S. Constitution,3 as well as in Communism and Jeffersonian Democracy4 by Bob Avakian and "The Oppression of Black People, the Crimes of This System and the Revolution We Need."5 Those two antagonistic claims could finally only be settled by war.
Now, did a lot of capitalists—including banker-capitalists—make huge fortunes, and extend their individual power and influence off the Civil War? Of course! But to claim that was the cause of the Civil War is like saying that umbrella salesmen are the cause of the rain because they make extra money during downpours.
But there's actually more that this Illuminati theory hides. The northern capitalists, who eventually triumphed, quickly decided NOT to grant the newly free slaves the rights that they had fought for. Instead, they decided that it was more in their class interests to bring back the former slaveholders as "junior partners" and to put the African-American people into a new set of chains as sharecroppers tied to plantations (and convict-laborers—slavery in a new name—to build roads and industry in the South). This fit in with their interests—to politically "stabilize the home base" and extract super-profits from sharecropping agriculture, while they conquered the remaining Native American peoples in the West and prepared to contend as a world power.
This oppression of African-Americans, though going through many changes, has been the red thread running through the whole history of the U.S. and the colonies before it. It continues to be at the heart of U.S. society today. And the further development of this contradiction at the heart of America could still lead to, or certainly be a big part of, a major crisis in U.S. society, on the order of the Civil War, or the 1960s... or even beyond those earth-shaking days of change.
That fact has tremendous implications. It shows the depth of the oppression of the African-American people in this society. It shows the critical importance of the struggle against this oppression in a revolution to actually get free of this capitalist-imperialist madness. It shows how the capitalist-imperialist class in the U.S. has continually been driven to restore and rebuild institutions of white supremacy, even as these institutions go through changes. Understanding the true causes of the Civil War lets people see how there are times when these contradictions can come to a head in such a way so as to plunge all of society into crisis... and open up opportunities for huge and even truly revolutionary change.
But Illuminati theory covers up that understanding. It opposes that understanding. It leads people away from that understanding. According to it, the problem is not the deep-seated white supremacy built into the very heart of this system, which periodically leads to crisis and conflict and, yes, opportunity for radical and even revolutionary change; it is some comic book demon who "just happens" to have a Jewish name. Why do you suppose the Illuminati theorists want people to believe that the whole thing could have been settled were it not for the Jews (or in more "polite versions" some nameless financial capitalists)—instead of showing people the real reasons that go to the roots of the matter, with all the implications for the present and future that we just laid out?
Some people get taken in because these theorists talk about "big financial groups" and "hidden agendas." But where do those big financial groups come from and what drives their agendas? Their agendas are nothing but the expansion and extension of their particular bloc of capital or, on the international plane, their home nation. And why did these blocs of finance capital arise? This was actually explained by Lenin, in his analysis of imperialism.
Now this leads to another question: who is Lenin? V.I. Lenin was the person who carried on and carried further Marx's great insights into the workings of capitalism and the need for revolution. On the basis of these further advances in theory, Lenin led the first great revolution against capitalism in 1917. Lenin led this revolution against tremendous opposition and tremendous odds.
You wanna talk about conspiracies? Okay, how about this one: 14 capitalist powers all banded together to send their armies to crush this revolution. But the masses of people, in a terrible war that cost millions of lives, defeated this counter-revolution and went on to build socialism for four decades. This was a tremendous victory, unparalleled in human history up to that point. There was nothing pre-determined or neat about it.
But not if you listen to the Illuminati-types. According to them, Lenin—who led this incredible and heroic achievement of the masses—was nothing but a tool of... you guessed it... the Jewish financiers, once again... who were supposedly using him to implant total domination by the Illuminati.
Sorry, Illuminati theorists, you're wrong again—Lenin was a great revolutionary, a great champion for humanity, someone who gave us insight into how the modern world works and what it takes to fundamentally change it, for real. Lenin should be cherished and learned from by everyone who really wants to understand the world and change the world for the better. (And to those of you taken in by this other, lying shit, including those of you in the world of hip-hop who don't want to go along with the system: maybe you should ask yourselves what class interests are served by getting people who are searching for change to hate or at least have a totally false understanding of Lenin... and wake up to the fact that you are being played for something really vile and that your influence is being used to mislead others.6 )
To return to the point we started with—what is imperialism—before Lenin led the revolution, he developed a theory that explained several big changes in how capitalism functioned. First, the small, individual capitalists of prior times, through the process of relentless competition that is built into capitalism and "makes it run," so to speak, had been mainly wiped out. Big monopolies—one or a few capitalists, or blocs of capital, controlling huge industries—arose in their place. Second, banking and industrial capital had merged into "finance capital." The capitals of what had been different and smaller capitalists were now pooled into huge blocs which shifted capital in and out of different industries, different regions, etc. Third, capital itself began to be exported to the oppressed regions of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. The capitalist states of Europe, North America and Japan began to militarily occupy these countries and fight with each other over "spheres of influence," to defend the interests of the capitalist-imperialists of their respective countries. This in turn led to wars on a scale never before seen: wars between the imperialists as well as wars of liberation and revolution waged by the oppressed masses. All this meant that capitalism had emerged into a new stage: imperialism.
In addition to the effects briefly outlined above, imperialism also means that the huge blocs of finance capital exert power over the smaller capitalists. Imperialist capital controls credit, they make large decisions about economic priorities and practices that affect these smaller capitalists, etc. These smaller capitalists feed off the imperialist system for their very existence but are also extremely vulnerable to getting wiped out, and resent all this. At the same time, their class interests and position can set them in opposition to the people on the bottom of society—the proletariat, who in many cases they exploit. They can feel "caught in the middle."7
Illuminati theory reflects the position of this class of small capitalists. And this theory can also take root among others "in the middle"—including small business people who employ a few people, professionals and managers, self-employed, etc. This is NOT to say that every person in this class position thinks this way—many do not and many can be and have been won to be allies and partisans of the revolution. But this theory crystallizes and represents the fantasies and aspirations that spontaneously arise out of the social conditions of this class. As a class it can not envision and lead the way to a world without exploitation; it can only dream of a "more level playing field" in which to carry out that exploitation.
The Illuminati theorists want to bring back the "good old days" of early capitalism. Now, you remember the "good old days," don't you? The days of slavery... the days of the extermination of the Indians...the days when women had no rights whatsoever... the days of... well, you get the picture. The "good old days of America" were no fucking good in the first place! Yet these are what these people want to bring back! This is why so many of these theoreticians are fixated on the founding of the Federal Reserve Bank in 1913, which was put into place in order to facilitate the abilities of finance capital. These Illuminati theorists are not against capitalism. They're against the ways that other capitalists—in this case, certain financial interests—hamper them and hold them back, or at least seem to hamper them.
But even if these theories ultimately reflect the position and aspirations of the petty-capitalist class, their influence goes broader into society. And in recent years these kinds of explanations have gained a hearing among the oppressed. Why is this so? For a long time now, a lot of people have been discouraged about the prospects of revolution in the U.S. The defeat of the first socialist revolutions—with counter-revolutions taking place in the Soviet Union in the mid-'50s, and then in China in 1976—has enabled the ruling class to wildly distort and suppress history, to slander revolution, and to proclaim themselves to be all-powerful. The defeat of the heroic struggles of the 1960s within the U.S. has also had a huge effect. In particular, there is the fact that African-Americans were lied to, and lied about. They, along with Latinos, have been targeted by a "war on drugs" that has served as a pretext to institute a new form of Jim Crow, mass incarceration—while all around the official line was that "racism is over, if you can't make it now it's because of your own bad choices." People often feel hopeless—and helpless—in the face of all this.
Two people go to a casino, play blackjack, and lose all their money.
One spends all his time trying to figure out if the dealer was cheating; he then decides to see if there is a way that he can become so good at the game that maybe he can win. He may get real lucky... he may come out a little bit ahead, in the short run... or (most likely scenario) he may, if he keeps playing, lose everything. It doesn't matter. The casino continues.
The other notices that no matter how people play the game, many people lose everything... a few people win a little... and the house takes the lion's share. She studies the rules of blackjack and understands that this result is built into the very rules themselves. It doesn't matter whether the casino cheats and the house always wins so long as the game is blackjack. She decides we need a different game altogether, and a world without casinos.
Which one are you?
Illuminati theory reflects part of this reality—the part about people being lied to, about hidden forces with hidden agendas determining the real shape of people's lives. At the same time, Illuminati theory also represents going along with and reinforcing this ideological offensive against the people. It is NOT in any way, shape or form a way out of it. It slanders and lies about revolution. It spreads contempt for the masses and their ability to change history, especially through revolution. It directs people's anger against other ethnic groups that have supposedly "made it," while at the same time accepting that "making it" under capitalism should be people's highest goal. It spreads lies about and antagonism against communism and science, while it promotes mysticism and religion. How is ANY of that any good? It is NOT—it is poison.
Illuminati theory can seem to reflect a part of reality, but it does so like the fun-house mirrors in a carnival, giving you a distorted view. It does so in the service of a very unreal, very false and extremely reactionary explanation. The ruling class is powerful, but it is not all-powerful; as Bob Avakian (BA) recently has pointed out, "they are powerful, but their system is riddled with contradictions."8 History is not the plaything of a handful of men with secret knowledge; most of all, it is the struggle between contending classes, representing different ways to organize the production of what humans need to live, and different social and political and cultural lives that correspond to those different ways. There never was a golden age to go back to. Humanity will either remain locked in the endless horrors of capitalism-imperialism or go forward to something far better... communism, a society in which people carry out their lives without exploitation or oppression or antagonistic social conflict, a society in which people can rise to their full heights.
So how about instead of trying to go back to "good old days" that never existed and that we should certainly never go back to... how about we go forward? How about we quit getting taken in, or letting others get taken in, by people who worship capitalism and whose ultimate agenda is fascist and white supremacist? How about we call out the bullshit fantasy theories and worse that get people to focus on something other than the REAL source of the problem: capitalism? How about we eliminate the REAL source of the problem, capitalism, and bring in the REAL solution: socialism, as a transition to communism? And how about we promote and build a movement for revolution to bring in that new society, whenever the conditions emerge?
And how about, as a big step toward doing all that, we get with and deeply check out someone who actually has gone deeply into the problem, with REAL science... someone who has put forward a visionary and viable solution... who's developed a strategy to get there... and who leads a party that is bound and determined to lead millions on that road?
How about we get with BA?
1. Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About, a film of a talk by Bob Avakian, revolutiontalk.net. [back]
2. Many also say that the war was waged at the behest of Israel. While Israel certainly supported the war and in some ways benefited from it, they were not the motive force in it. For more on the relation between Israel and the world imperialist system, see the box on anti-Semitism. [back]
3. "The U.S. Constitution and the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal): Two Constitutions, Two Different Systems, Two Different Futures for African-American People." "Part 1: A Slaveholders' Union," Revolution #270, May 27, 2012; Part 2: "Reconstruction, and the First Great Betrayal, 1867-1896," Revolution #271, June 10, 2012; and Part 3: "Battleground Over Segregated Education in the 1950s and 1960s," Revolution #272, June 17, 2012. [back]
5. The Oppression of Black People, the Crimes of This System and the Revolution We Need," Revolution #144, October 5, 2008. [back]
7. This used to get expressed when such theorists would say that "there is an international conspiracy of finance capital and communists working together to rule the world." Despite the fact that imperialism and the communist movement are actually deadly antagonists, from the narrow view of the representative of the small capitalist (who has contradictions with both of these classes, but for diametrically opposed reasons) they seem to be in alliance—against him. [back]
8. "What Humanity Needs: Revolution, and the New Synthesis of Communism," an interview with Bob Avakian, revcom.us. [back]
9. Special Issue on Israel: "Bastion of Enlightenment... or Enforcer for Imperialism: The Case of ISRAEL," Revolution #213, October 10, 2010. [back]
Revolution #274 July 8, 2012
New Issue Available now
Table of Contents
Introducing Issue No. 2
KJA: “Scientifically Comprehending, Firmly Upholding And Going Beyond Maoism for a New Stage of Communism—Polemical Reflections on ‘What Is Maoism?’ An Essay by Bernard D’Mello”
Bob Avakian: “The Cultural Revolution in China...Art and Culture...Dissent and Ferment...and Carrying Forward the Revolution Toward Communism”
Raymond Lotta: “Vilifying Communism and Accommodating Imperialism, The Sham and Shame of Slavoj Žižek’s ‘Honest Pessimism’”
“The Current Debate on the Socialist State System”—A Reply by the RCP, USA