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Revolution #286 November 25, 2012
by Alan Goodman | November 25, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
At this writing, a brutal wave of targeted and indiscriminate killing, destruction, and terror is being rained down on the Palestinian people in Gaza by Israel—an operation the Israelis are calling "Pillar of Defense." Health officials in Gaza say 46 people have been killed and 440 people wounded so far in the attacks. By the time you read this, that number will be larger (there have been three reported deaths on the Israeli side). This terror and brutality—overwhelmingly hitting at non-combatants in Gaza—is fully backed by the United States, with Obama insisting over and over that Israel's murderous bombardment of essentially defenseless people in Gaza is "self defense."
Israel's assaults on Gaza are taking place under cover of darkness—literally. Israeli missiles and bombs have, at this writing, knocked out power in Gaza, leaving people, hospitals, homes, and emergency responders without light. What few reports from Gaza make it into mainstream media coverage portray a reporter standing in pitch dark, describing sonic booms, earth-shaking bombs, and flames erupting high into the sky. The Israeli assault has already killed elderly people, children, and many, many other people who could not possibly be considered "combatants" in any military activity originating in Gaza.
One of those killed by the Israelis was the 11-month-old son of Jihad Misharawi, a BBC journalist who lives in Gaza. An Israeli missile hit Misharawi's home on November 14, early in the assault, killing both his son and sister-in-law. When the Israeli missile hit Misharawi's home, there was no military activity observed in his residential neighborhood. After the Israeli missile hit Misharawi's house, his BBC editor tweeted, "if Israel can kill a man riding on a moving motorbike (as they did last month) how did Jihad's son get killed." This murder of the 11-month-old child and the sister-in-law of a BBC journalist is part of a long record of Israeli (and U.S.) killings and terror against even mainstream reporters to keep the world from seeing what Israel is doing to the Palestinians.
Only a very partial picture is available of the situation in Gaza. But what emerges from postings on social media is alarming. A doctor in Gaza posted this at Facebook two days into the attack:
Dear Friends, Gaza is under extensive Israeli military attack, in less than 2 hours, 14 military attacks against different targets in different parts of Gaza Strip, 6 were killed including 2 young girls age 4 and 7, 11 were injured, the hospitals are already lacking essential emergency medications, and citizens were called for blood donation, we do not have power, iam using UBS, the first stage of this operation has been accomplished, we expect more escalation. your solidarity means a lot at this difficult times, pass the word, this aggression, should stop now.
Again, a clear picture of the terrible human cost of the attack on Gaza is not available at this writing, and all indications are that what is leaking through Israeli blackouts and U.S. media distortion is only the surface of the death and suffering the people there are being subjected to as you read this.
And as this issue of Revolution is posted online and goes to press, Israel is massing troops on its border with Gaza and there is talk of a ground invasion, which would further escalate the death and destruction.
The current assault on the people of Gaza comes four years after Israel's "Operation Cast Lead" which killed 1,400 people in Gaza and destroyed schools, hospitals and housing; and after four years of a blockade that has kept building supplies and other necessities of life from reaching Gaza. On May 31, 2010, Israeli military forces stormed the Mavi Marmara, one of six ships attempting to bring concrete, toys, workbooks, chocolate, pasta, and substantial medical supplies to Gaza, items that Israel banned from Gaza. Israeli commandos killed nine unarmed activists on board.
It is important to highlight the utterly shameful complicity of the U.S. mainstream media in justifying all this by framing it as "Israel's response to terror," even when their own reports reveal a different picture.
A revealing exchange took place on the Piers Morgan show on CNN. Morgan—who himself is a mouthpiece for the interests of U.S. imperialism, but may have "lost his head" for a moment after watching a report from CNN's reporter in Gaza depicting massive destruction and terror being rained down on people—more or less blurted out: "Gaza is, to many people, one of the key problems in the region because of the terrible oppression, whatever the right phrase is for it, of the Palestinian people there. It's an awful place for people to try and live, isn't it?"
He was immediately "corrected" by his guest, CNN analyst Fareed Zakaria, who said: "First, one has to say, Piers, as you did, the Israelis are justified in doing something when all these rockets are being fired at them. So there's no question that it's justified."
And with that "settled," the terms of acceptable discourse were re-set, and the discussion moved on... to critiquing how successful (or not) Israel had been at advancing the interests of Israel (and by extension, its sponsor, U.S. imperialism). And in the process, utterly upside-down terms were set as the beginning and ending point for any "analysis" that was going to come across the airwaves, and how viewers were being programmed to think.
Israel's assault on Gaza is taking place in the context of a complex and rapidly and radically shifting political situation in the region, and in the world. There is work to do to analyze how all this is playing out right now, but a basic and sweeping analysis of the current world situation, and how to act in the face of it, can be found in Bob Avakian's talk "Why We're in the Situation We're in Today... And What to Do About It: A Thoroughly Rotten System and the Need for Revolution." The audio of this talk is available at revcom.us, and again, this provides an essential foundation for contextualizing the conflicts and upheaval in today's world.
But in order to have any sense of how Israel and the oppression of the Palestinian people fits into the big picture, it is necessary to ground one's understanding in three basic, objective facts that define the nature and role of Israel in the world today:
And Israel, built on a foundation of ethnic cleansing, enforcing imperialist exploitation and oppression, and justified with profound immorality, is upheld by the "international community," the great powers of the world, especially the U.S., as a "bastion of enlightenment" in the Middle East.
The (elected) government of Gaza—a section of Palestine not directly occupied by Israel—is Hamas, which is an Islamic fundamentalist movement aligned in various (and shifting) ways with other Islamic fundamentalist forces. And Israel's attack on Gaza is taking place in the context of a whole set of global conflicts, including the clash between "the West" and Islamic fundamentalist forces.
Bob Avakian speaks to that conflict this way:
What we see in contention here with Jihad on the one hand and McWorld/McCrusade on the other hand, are historically outmoded strata among colonized and oppressed humanity up against historically outmoded ruling strata of the imperialist system. These two reactionary poles reinforce each other, even while opposing each other. If you side with either of these "outmodeds," you end up strengthening both.
While this is a very important formulation and is crucial to understanding much of the dynamics driving things in the world in this period, at the same time we do have to be clear about which of these "historically outmodeds" has done the greater damage and poses the greater threat to humanity: It is the historically outmoded ruling strata of the imperialist system, and in particular the U.S. imperialists.
In the world today there is a great and urgent need for not only mass resistance to both these "outmodeds" and above all the imperialist "outmoded" —but for qualitative advances and breakthroughs for the real and fundamental alternatives to both these outmodeds: revolution led by a genuinely communist vanguard aiming for the final goal of a communist world, free of every kind of outmoded, exploitative and oppressive relation and corresponding ideas. (See "On the Strategy for Revolution" by the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA for a full presentation of what is needed for there to be a revolution, and how the work of revolutionaries, along with developments in the world, can make that possible. The statement on strategy is in BAsics and at revcom.us.)
There is a basic question of right and wrong here: Israel's attack on the people of Gaza is essentially a mass slaughter of civilians in the service of reactionary aims, to enforce and impose an exploitive and oppressive world order. Nobody with a basic sense of justice should be silently complicit in that! And while there have been important protests around the world, and some in the U.S., there is not anywhere near enough visible political outrage in this country.
Going back to the challenge to break out of the parameters of the "two outmodeds," the lack of visible opposition in the U.S. to these attacks would feed the whole deadly paradigm where the two alternatives people think are possible are these "two outmodeds."
But on the positive side, the more people around the world do see a force in the U.S. that is cohering around a whole other way things could be, and is, opposing the crimes of "our" government, and the more that resistance is framed in the context of a movement for revolution, this can be a really important part of a whole ensemble of work to put revolution on the map here, and around the world.
* Ulster is the name the English ruling class assigned to a section of Northern Ireland, where there has historically been a section of people who identify with and have served as enforcers for English domination of Ireland, and Ulster has been a stronghold for the English domination of Ireland. [back]
Revolution #286 November 25, 2012
by Li Onesto | November 25, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
November 15, Queens, New York. The jury in the trial of four STOP “Stop & Frisk” freedom fighters didn’t buy the prosecution’s flimsy case that tried to prove Carl Dix, Jamel Mims, Morgan Rhodewalt, and Bob Parsons were guilty of two counts of Obstruction of Government Administration and should go to jail for one year.
The six jurors came back with a NOT GUILTY verdict on both counts for all four defendants.
The jury did find all four guilty of one count of disorderly conduct, for failure to disperse—which is a violation and carries a maximum penalty of 15 days in jail. And on January 7, the day of sentencing, the four freedom fighters, their lawyers and supporters will be in court demanding NO JAIL TIME!
Shortly after the verdict, Carl Dix told Revolution:
"They were going to make people pay a heavy price for protesting against stop-and-frisk. They crafted it from the beginning, and they failed in this objective. They put on a case where they couldn’t provide any evidence. This verdict is a victory for our side. For this trial, we gathered support, including bringing together lawyers who wanted to fight this case. We spread the word and built the kind of fight that, in the end, prevented them from delivering their message and exacting the punishment they were aiming for. But the fight isn’t over. There are nine more people who were arrested that day who are going to be going on trial in Queens. And there are 13 people facing trial for Stop "Stop & Frisk" protests in Brooklyn. Freedom fighter Noche Diaz faces several additional trials, one in Manhattan and one in the Bronx. And all of this is part of the larger fight to stop mass incarceration."
The four defendants in this case were arrested as they participated in a non-violent civil disobedience protest against the NYPD's illegitimate stop-and-frisk policy in November 2011. But from the very beginning, the judge and prosecution repeatedly said this case had nothing to do with stop-and-frisk. Before the trial started the prosecution made a number of motions: They asked the judge to prevent the defense from talking at all about stop-and-frisk, saying “that’s not on trial here.” They argued against bringing in any First Amendment free speech issues. They said defendants should not be able to discuss their opinions about stop-and-frisk, that this would only "confuse the jurors." And the judge concurred on this, saying this trial was "not an opportunity for a soapbox" to discuss the nature of stop-and-frisk procedures.
The judge and the DA wanted jurors to judge the case only on whether or not the defendants had in some way obstructed the business of the 103rd precinct that day and committed the violation of disorderly conduct.
But the reason these four freedom fighters and 16 other people were arrested that day has everything to do with the fact that they were protesting the illegitimate, racist NYPD policy of stop-and-frisk, which stops and harasses hundreds of thousands every year, especially Black and Latino youth. The four had taken their message of protest right to the front of the precinct responsible for the 2006 murder of 23-year-old Sean Bell, a precinct that has one of the highest numbers of stop-and-frisks. And this protest was part of a whole campaign aimed at bringing public attention to the utter illegitimacy of this policy. THIS was why the DA’s office was set on making these freedom fighters pay a high price for the courageous stand they took that day. And the defendants and their attorneys, Marty Stolar, Meghan Maurus, and Tom Hillgardner, along with many supporters, were determined to defeat these efforts.
In pre-trial motions and opening arguments, the prosecutors claimed they would show how the defendants had disrupted important precinct business. They said they would prove that because of the protest, 911 calls went unanswered, prisoners couldn’t be transferred, and other important precinct functions were prevented. But by the time it came to closing arguments, the prosecution stood before the jury arguing that the defendants should be found guilty because.... one cop was a few minutes late to work and roll call was a little late that day... period. And even this assertion had no real evidence to back it up.
In fact, the commander of the precinct testified that the normal business of the precinct was NOT disrupted during the seven minutes the protesters were in front of the door. Defense lawyers pointed out how in fact it was the NYPD’s own doing—setting up barricades and creating a frozen zone where no one except cops were allowed—that prevented members of the public from getting to the precinct. Police logs, entered as evidence by defense lawyers, revealed that it is not unusual for roll call to be late. And the prosecution didn’t argue that there was any connection between this supposed late roll call and the demonstration outside the precinct.
The prosecution’s main witness was the commander of the precinct, Deputy Inspector Charles McEvoy, and what was revealed in his testimony was a plan to set up protesters for arrest. In closing arguments, defense attorney Marty Stolar laid this out for the jury: Hours before the protest there was all kinds of planning—barricades were set up, cops from other precincts were called in along with police from Community Affairs, and a legal adviser from the NYPD Legal Bureau; a frozen zone was set up where no one could enter. When the protesters arrived they were stopped at the barricades. But after a very short while, the police actually opened the gate and not only let protesters in but actually escorted them to the front of the doors. Then, after only a few minutes, McEvoy gives a warning (without a bullhorn) telling people they will be arrested if they don’t leave. A few more minutes go by, another warning is given, and then the cops begin arresting people. From the time the gate was opened until the last arrest was made, only 10 minutes went by!
In closing, defense attorney Stolar told the jury, "Why did they open the gate and escort them to the front of the precinct? If the object [with the barricades] was to keep them from the precinct, they succeeded. They let them in, it appears, in order to give them the opportunity to arrest them... Why did they [the police] let them in? If the only reason was to arrest them, convict them, and make them pay the price, then you should not convict."
Despite the repeated objections of the DA, upheld by the judge, to keep any testimony about the outrageous NYPD policy of stop-and-frisk and the murder of Sean Bell out of the trial and away from the jurors—this still came through.
The prosecution itself offered as evidence of the defendants' obstructing government administration a video showing the crowd of passionate protesters chanting, "We won't stop until we STOP 'Stop & Frisk'" and "We are all Sean Bell, NYPD Go to Hell." The jurors then saw the police arrest the freedom fighters as they continued to chant.
The jurors also had the chance to hear from three of the defendants. Jamel Mims, the first defendant to take the stand, painted a picture of how about 100 had rallied in the park, how people in the community had joined them, how they had marched through the neighborhood. He talked about the intentions of the protesters that day—not to stop business at the precinct—but to do civil disobedience as an “escalated form of protest” with the aim that with “these actions people would be challenged to confront this human rights issue.”
Morgan Rhodewalt testified next. He talked about being a Quaker and how at the end of 2011 he had came down from Massachusetts to witness Occupy Wall Street, bringing vegetables from his farm. Over six weekends he became part of Occupy at Zuccotti Park where he met people who were organizing to STOP “Stop and Frisk,” and joined in this struggle. The morning of the protest at the 103rd precinct he woke up early to make the 3½ hour drive to Queens. When asked what he brought with him that morning, Morgan said, "I brought my energy, inspiration, a warm jacket, tha'’s about it."
Carl Dix was the last defendant to take the stand. Dix explained, "We had determined previously that we saw stop-and-frisk in relation to larger issues. Some people wanted to lobby around this, pass laws, etc. But not enough people knew about this and we felt we needed to work on that part, do something to bring this issue to as many people as possible, about the injustice of this policy."
Dix also talked about what actually happened that day—putting the lie to the prosecution’s telling of events. He talked about how there was a very moving rally where people spoke out about their own experience with the police, being victims of stop-and-frisk and related issues like the police murder of Sean Bell. He talked about their determination to protest in Queens because of the high volume of stop-and-frisks from this precinct. And he also described how it was the police who opened the gate right behind him and then escorted the protesters to the front of the precinct, and then minutes later started arresting people.
The prosecution had tried to prevent all the real issues and actual facts of this case from coming out. A juror—who had stated she was against stop-and-frisk—was kicked off the jury after she was arrested for disorderly conduct as she left the courthouse. And the prosecution then tried to get a mistrial. (See "Juror Arrested and Kicked Off Jury, DA Calls for a Mistrial, Top Cop Testifies on Plan to Arrest Protesters...," Revolution #285, November 18, 2012) But the lawyers and defendants—despite repeated motions, objections, and jumping up and down by the prosecution—were able to give the jury a sense of what the trial was really about and what actually happened that day and why they should NOT be punished.
After the verdict was delivered, one juror said, "We didn’t want the defendants to go to jail because they didn’t do anything bad."
This verdict is a victory for our side. But the fight isn’t over. Nine more people who were arrested that day are going on trial soon and there are 13 people facing trial for STOP "Stop and Frisk" protests in Brooklyn. Freedom fighter Noche Diaz faces several additional trials, one in Manhattan and one in the Bronx. And all of this is part of the larger fight to stop mass incarceration.
As the trial was going into its last week, Carl Dix wrote:
"Mass incarceration has almost 2.4 million people warehoused in prisons across the country, two thirds of them Black or Latino. Almost 5 million people on parole or probation treated like second class citizens, discriminated against when looking for work, barred from living in public housing or receiving government loans, often not even allowed to vote. Racial profiling serves as a pipeline to mass incarceration. When you add in the loved ones of all these people, there are tens of millions of people living their lives enmeshed in the web of the criminal justice system. This comes down to a slow genocide targeting Black people....
"Despite the protestations of the judge and the prosecutors that this trial isn’t about stop-and-frisk, it’s clear to me that what’s on trial here is people’s ability and right to stand up and say NO MORE to stop-and-frisk and the whole way this country’s criminal ‘injustice’ system comes down on people. If they get away with convicting and jailing us without a fight, it will send a message that those who resist all the brutality and repression brought down on the people will suffer heavy punishment for doing that. On the other hand, winning this legal battle will inspire many more people to join in resistance to injustice and feed the hopes of many that the continuing disaster this system has been raining down on Black people can be taken on and beaten back." ("Reflections on Natural, and Man-made, Disasters and Standing Up Against the Oppression of Black People," Revolution online, October 31, 2012)
Revolution #286 November 25, 2012
November 25, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The following letter, written by a young woman, was read at a dinner to raise funds for the BA Everywhere campaign. It has been lightly edited for publication:
Hello. Hope everyone is having a great time at the dinner tonight. I can't be there but will just share with everyone how I learned about Bob Avakian and Revolution Books and some of the ways I chose to distribute the palm cards and info, as well as some other ideas I have.
It started when I learned about the band Outernational. I was very moved by their music and truly impressed with all their hard work and dedication. Also just SO, SO happy to see a band out there with a mission to educate the public, to go right to the core of it all, and do all they can to gather people and make some much needed changes. They really touched my heart and they're pretty nice on the eyes as well... wink wink!
So, I noticed quite a few times they had mentioned Bob Avakian and I was curious. I got a friend to go to Revolution Books with me for the listening to and discussion of the Bob Avakian interview given by Cornel West and there I bought the book BAsics. It was a great experience for both myself and my friend and we left with a lot of information to share as well as a new realization, and that is that we realized, wow, there really is a lot that we can do. A friend once wrote something that expressed how you don't have to be a giant in the public eye to make a difference in the world and to spread a message. And I think we both went home that night with a very clear understanding of that. We had brainstormed with the others who attended that night and learned a lot.
The next day I began reading BAsics and got a much better understanding of Bob Avakian. Not only has he been at it for decades but he has done the work, done the research, has the clear understanding, and has formulated a new synthesis that will set this world in the direction that it needs for the sake of all of humanity. This is not something that has been done before either, he has researched and studied that, and learned the mistakes that have been made. He knows what has helped and what has harmed. And ultimately what is needed is "a solid core with a lot of elasticity." As you read on in BAsics you will see more of what is meant by that. "A solid core with a lot of elasticity."
A few days later we began to put the ideas into action. I contacted a friend in a band and discussed with him in short what I was learning and the great effect it could have if his band would be willing to leave the information out on their merch table with their CDs and shirts. Also that I'd like to distribute some personally at the show. That weekend they played a show and the palm cards were received very well! On that same weekend the friend who went to Revolution Books with me was in Syracuse where her boyfriend lives. They distributed their palm cards with his pizza deliveries. Each food delivery came with some Bob Avakian flavor! And this is a large college community which is also always a good place to spread the word. The remainder of the cards they brought to a head shop called Exscape on Marshal Street. They even said there were already some BA cards in the windows there!
Another idea I have and would like to approach is tattoo parlors. I know some tattoo artists in NY and NJ who I will soon be contacting to see if they'll be open to keeping stuff in the waiting rooms at the tattoo shops. There are always friends or family members there just along for support who would rather read something other than tat mags...even the people getting tattooed! I wouldn't mind donating some copies of BAsics even once I am in the position to do so.
So really, the point of me sharing this is to say that we easily fall into the thinking that there isn't really anything we can do. When in reality it is just not so. There is SO MUCH that we can do! Even if you leave only 25 palm cards in the neighborhood deli, salon, mechanic...anywhere! And even if out of those 25 people who take them only half of them do more research and then maybe they go out one day and distribute more. All the little things count. BAsics is a great little book for waiting rooms like the car wash/mechanic, hair or nail salon, tattoo shop... And it's a great book to bring out when hanging with friends. All the little things count.
Hope you're all enjoying the dinner!
Revolution #286 November 25, 2012
November 25, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Here are some ideas for going all out through the holidays and into the New Year to raise big funds and forge a community of people working together to project BA's vision and works to all corners of society.
Imagine in these coming weeks... efforts around these and other ideas intersecting with and building on each other, raising money and building community as part of this nationwide campaign and movement—which would take a leap with the New Year's Eve parties.
Revolution #286 November 25, 2012
November 25, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Roughly 50 to 60 people came together recently for a dinner to raise money for the campaign BA Everywhere... Imagine the Difference It Could Make! This is a mass campaign to raise big money to get the vision and works of Bob Avakian—the revolutionary leader who has developed a new synthesis of communism—into every corner of society. The evening brought alive, in a powerful, moving, and lively way, what Bob Avakian's leadership, vision, and work means for humanity; what this unleashes; the many exciting ways that people have been inspired to take this up and spread it throughout society; and the profound difference it would make for this campaign to make leaps and for BA to truly become a household name.
A quote from BA that speaks to an essential element of his new synthesis of communism is: "Internationalism—The Whole World Comes First" (BAsics 5:8). There were several aspects of the night that reflected this theme: People of many different nationalities were in attendance; the food at this potluck dinner came from different cultures and included Peruvian potatoes, tamale pie, Chinese duck and pork, and rice and beans; the decorations, in addition to enlargements of the BA image and Revolution newspaper, featured an incredible giant map of the world that an artist made showing the crimes this system and the U.S. in particular have committed in every corner of the planet as well as quotes from BAsics speaking to the nature of this system and this country; and the emcee for the cultural program spoke in both English and Spanish.
The evening started with people of all different ages sharing food, lively conversation and laughter at tables festively decorated with flowers and candles. Those in attendance included people from housing projects, from the local Revolution Club, people involved with the initiatives to end mass incarceration and to end pornography and patriarchy, veteran revolutionaries, students and others of many different generations. They hung out and shared thoughts about major developments in the world that were on people's minds and key things that were happening in the movement for revolution.
After awhile, the cultural program began. The emcee welcomed everyone and said that if they were seething with outrage at the way people have been abandoned and left without basic necessities after Hurricane Sandy... at police murder... at the oppression of women... at wars for empire... if they didn't want to live another day with all of this and dared to dream of a different world... then they were in the right place.
Next, clips were played of BA speaking over the years. One thing that was very striking was to see a clip from 1979 where BA speaks to those who would ask how they could be sure that he and the Revolutionary Communist Party would not sell out; BA points out that he had been fighting the system politically for 15 years, had been a revolutionary for 12 years and had been a conscious communist for 10 years or more and had no intention of being or doing anything else as long as he's alive. In the 33 years since that speech, and in the face of significant setbacks and tremendous sacrifice, BA has never wavered from going ever more deeply into the past experience of the communist revolution, and human experience more broadly, in order to forge a new synthesis of communism that provides a viable vision and strategy for a radically different and better world. He has continued to apply this new synthesis to many different spheres of society and develop it further. And not only is he leading a party and movement for revolution to get to a radically different world, but he has fought tirelessly to keep that party and movement on the revolutionary road and to continually identify and address the many questions and contradictions that must be grappled with and transformed in the process of making revolution. And here we all were in the room because of all of this. To say that BA has kept his word would be a massive understatement.
After watching the film clips, a woman stepped to the microphone to do two extremely moving readings. First, she read a letter from a prisoner, which recently appeared in Revolution newspaper, in which this prisoner talks about sending $10 each month in order to buy a copy of BAsics to give to people behind prison walls as well as $10 for the BAsics Bus Tour. In the letter, the prisoner talks about initially sending money for the bus tour in Texas, but then realizing, after getting into BA's new synthesis of communism: "This is not just about 'My' home state or whatever locality I may reside in, this is about the State of the 'World', and this 'Nation', ... about truly building the 'New Socialist Republic', of North America." The way the woman read this letter really brought the voice of this prisoner into the room, and there was a sense that people were very stirred and very struck by the gravity of the letter. This was followed by a reading of BAsics 3:16 ("An Appeal to Those the System Has Cast Off"...), in which BA appeals to those most viciously exploited by this system to rise to their potential to be emancipators of humanity. The combination of this quote and the prisoner letter, which provides a dramatic example of the very potential BA is talking about in that quote, was very powerful.
Someone who could not make it to the dinner wrote a letter that someone else read out. In this letter, which was teeming with creativity and enthusiasm, the author described listening to Cornel West's recent interview with BA and then buying a copy of BAsics. As she was reading BAsics, she got very inspired to take out BA, and she had all kinds of ideas for how to do this. (See "BA EVERYWHERE... 'There is SO MUCH that we can do!'") The author of this letter clearly had a deep appreciation for BA—she talked about the importance of the work he has done to forge a new synthesis of communism. One couldn't help but think, listening to the letter: this is exactly the kind of initiative and brainstorming about ways to project BA throughout society that is needed on a massive scale!
At roughly the midway point of the program, a speech was given that spoke very sharply to the horrors of the world as it is and the fact that what humanity needs most is revolution and the new synthesis of communism that BA has brought forward. The speaker urged everyone in the room to get into BAsics as well as the interview with BA, What Humanity Needs: Revolution, and the New Synthesis of Communism.
A young revolutionary gave a fundraising pitch, which he started by saying that he could tell people in the room the difference it would make to get BA Everywhere, but he believed they already knew. And this revolutionary himself would not be up there telling people shit, he noted, if not for BA. He spoke to the urgent need for people to find out about this leader and the responsibility of everyone in the room to make this happen. He also pointed out that it cannot be left to accident that people find out about BA. More than $900 was raised through the evening.
The revolutionary then introduced a young person who had been part of donating food for people in housing projects that were hit hard by Hurricane Sandy and then abandoned by this system. The revolutionary asked the young kid if he would say a few words. "I'm here to have fun, and to eat dinner," the young kid said, drawing appreciative laughter from the crowd. He then talked briefly about how he had been part of the food donation.
In the midst of the cultural program, there was important struggle over what kind of culture—and what kind of standards—this movement for revolution is going to have and is going to project to the world. This is an internationalist movement and its standards and culture—which were decisively insisted on at this dinner—aim to bring a future society into being which is about upholding the humanity and emancipation of oppressed peoples, overcoming and abolishing all the oppressive divisions among the people, all the exploitation in the world, and bringing into being a new society and world.
The program closed in an extremely poignant and electrifying manner. A young woman and man led everyone in singing Nina Simone's beautiful and uplifting song, "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free." Before doing so, the young woman talked about what the song meant to her, and how in the future society and world, people would actually be able to do the things that Nina Simone wished she could do.
It was hard to hold back tears—and why try?—upon seeing men and women of different nationalities and ages joining together to sing lyrics like "I wish I could break all the chains holding me," and "I wish I could give all I'm longing to give." You could feel a whole different way the world could be, which made the utter insanity of the way the world is stand out all the more.
Towards the end of the song, the young woman really started to let go and belt out the lyrics. It was powerful, soulful and joyous, full of uncorked promise and potential. Which is to say: It was a perfectly fitting way to end the occasion.
Revolution #286 November 25, 2012
November 15, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The New York Times and the New York Review of Books have recently featured two high-profile articles about the Great Leap Forward of 1958-60. They both serve the anticommunist "master narrative" that the Great Leap Forward was an exercise in demonic Maoist control that led to history's worst famine. And they share in common a method of argumentation that traffics in colossal lies and distortions about historical fact, as well as the actual goals and policies of the Great Leap Forward.
These articles are part of the continuing bourgeois ideological offensive to slander and vilify the Soviet revolution of 1917-56 and the Chinese revolution of 1949-76. The take-home message of these widely promoted attacks on the first wave of socialist revolution is this: "leave this capitalist world of horror as it is; this is the best and only of all possible worlds."
The op-ed "China's Great Shame" by Yang Jisheng in the New York Times (November 13) states that the Chinese revolution, and the Great Leap Forward in particular, had instituted a "vast system of slavery in the name of liberating mankind" and that this system led to the death of "36 million victims." There is not a shred of truth to these statements, and the "facts" cited by the author are no more than baseless assertions.
But readers can learn the truth of the Great Leap Forward—about what it set out to achieve, its actual record of accomplishment and problems, the causes of the famine that did take place, and the measures taken to alleviate it. They can access valuable material from Bob Avakian in "Radically Different Systems: Radically Different Outlooks and Objectives, Radically Different Results," (section of the new interview, WHAT HUMANITY NEEDS: Revolution, and the New Synthesis of Communism), from the Great Leap Forward page on the Set the Record Straight website (www.thisiscommunism.org), and from the YouTube, "Raymond Lotta Takes on Lies about Mao's Great Leap Forward."
There are four key points to keep in mind:
1) The Great Leap Forward was aimed at creating a sustainable agriculture, bringing masses of peasants into the running of administrative and political affairs, bringing women out of the household and into the swirl of the battle to create a new society, and overcoming unequal development between the cities and countryside. The commune system that was one of the great innovations of the Great Leap Forward created new forms of social cooperation. This was not "slavery," as Yang Jisheng asserts, but a leap in social organization.
2) The famine that struck China in 1959-60 was principally the result of unprecedented droughts and flooding. There were other factors, including the sudden withdrawal of aid and technical support by the Soviet Union to punish China for challenging and breaking with the Soviet economic and political model; policy mistakes made by the revolutionary leadership; intense social and political struggles; temporary dislocations in the planning system; and China's encirclement by Western imperialism. This was not "Mao's great famine" but a famine of complex, intermeshing causes.
3) Yang Jisheng's claim that 36 million people died as a result of the Great Leap Forward is just that...a claim. It is based on sensationalistic and politically motivated estimates, unreliable demographic and census data, archival materials of questionable quality, and dubious statistical projections. Such wildly exaggerated mortality numbers are highly contested by demographers and other scholars.
4) Mao and the revolutionary leadership took measures to cope with food crisis and famine. These included emergency deliveries of grain, changing the structure of the communes so that they could better deal with economic matters, putting more emphasis on agricultural production, and scaling back exports. China's historic food problem was overcome by 1970. China's socialist revolution saved millions of lives, as evidenced in the doubling of life expectancy between 1949 and 1976.
To learn more about socialism in the Soviet Union (1917-1956) and in China (1949-1976), readers should go to the Set the Record Straight website, www.thisiscommunism.org.
Revolution #286 November 25, 2012
November 25, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Revolution received the following flier from the Revolution Club in Chicago:
15-year-old Dakota Bright was shot in the back of the head by Chicago police at 3:30 in the afternoon on November 8, 2012—two days after the re-election of Barack Obama. Dakota was on his way to his grandmother’s house—a few hundred yards from where he was shot to death. His body lay in the grass in a back yard handcuffed while—according to witnesses—the police shooed away an ambulance. For 4 hours he lay there while police refused to tell his family what was going on.
Police claim Dakota was pointing a gun at them when he was shot but the gun the police “recovered at the scene” was three backyards away from Dakota’s body. Witnesses report only one gun shot—the one that hit Dakota IN THE BACK OF THE HEAD. Facts are facts—Dakota was murdered in cold blood!
Dakota was a regular 15-year-old kid. A freshman at Paul Robeson High School, Dakota loved to dance to hip-hop music, tell jokes and play video games. He wrestled and played basketball for fun. He collected shoes and hats. And, like any Black teenager, he faced daily harassment and terrorization from the police. Two months ago police kicked Dakota in the mouth, chipping one tooth and knocking another down his throat. When he spit out the blood they charged him with “Aggravated Battery to a Police Officer.” Police said they did this because Dakota “had a smart mouth.” In the old south a “smart mouth” could get a Black kid lynched. Today it is the police doing the lynching.
For days following this outrageous murder family members, friends and people from the community have marched, rallied and held vigils demanding “JUSTICE FOR DAKOTA” and “No More Cops Killing our Kids.” These demands should be taken up far and wide by all—Black, white, Latino and all nationalities. To stand aside in the face of an outrage like this would be immoral. The struggle for justice for Dakota is an important part of the larger struggle against an unjust system of capitalism/imperialism that has at its very core long, long years of brutal oppression of Black people.
The case of Trayvon Martin powerfully showed that the determined struggle of thousands is required to get even a hint of justice for a young Black man. And the continuing police murders, daily harassment and mass incarceration show that only doing away with the system will bring an end to these outrages once and for all. And that takes revolution.
Revolution doesn’t mean going off all crazy. Revolution means millions of people rising up when the time is right to get rid of this system and building a totally different and far better society. Now is the time to build a movement for revolution—so that revolution can be made when the time for that is right. That means we have to be “fighting the power, and transforming the people, for revolution” today. Winning Justice for Dakota is part of that.
No More Cops Killing our Kids!!
FIGHT THE POWER, AND TRANSFORM THE PEOPLE,
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.
FROM: BAsics, from the Talks and Writings of Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA.
Revolution #286 November 25, 2012
November 25, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Today the family was more than disrespected by Chicago police, while trying to lay Dakota to rest there were helicopters and a mob of police following the funeral procession. The police told one of our cousins to “shut the fuck up before you get fucked up next”. They had rifles in their hands as if we were in a third world country at war. They are trying to scare us but we are not letting up on these killers...
From the “Justice for Dakota” Facebook page.
After 15-year-old Dakota Bright is shot in the back of the head by Chicago police on November 8, 100+ people march in the neighborhood on November 10, demanding Justice for Dakota. Protesters disrupt city hall—marching INTO city hall blowing whistles and chanting—up the stairways which amplify the sounds, echoing up and down the building. Protest occupies the hall outside 2nd floor chambers where city council is in session and then re-take the stairs up to the mayor’s office on the 5th floor.
Friday, November 16, is the funeral for Dakota Bright. Family members pass out the flier from Revolution Club in Chicago and poster calling for “Justice for Dakota! Indict, Convict and Jail Killer Cop!” to hundreds attending funeral. Many at funeral wear “Danger: Police in Area” stickers. After the funeral people take bundles of fliers, posters and especially stickers to get out.
Family and friends head to cemetery. The funeral procession is “escorted” and harassed by what people said was a “mob of police cars.” Police stop cars in the procession and harass friends and family of Dakota. There is a police car with lights flashing at every intersection along the route. Procession is followed by a couple police helicopters. In the cemetery cops stand outside their cars which line the route to the gravesite. Cook County sheriffs and detectives are there.
Police are lined up outside the cemetery with rifles. They pull over cars carrying Dakota’s mother, uncle and sister as the funeral procession leaves the cemetery. People report that an AR 15 rifle is pointed at one uncle, a shotgun is pointed at another. Police have cans of mace out and ready. Police tell Dakota’s mother, “This isn’t about your son anymore, this is about you.” One cop tells other cops, “We should take [Dakota’s uncle] into the back of the [police] car and fuck him up.” A sergeant in charge says, “We don’t do that anymore.” A cousin of Dakota’s gets on top of a car and says, “We are going back to City Hall on Monday.” Cop tells the cousin, “Get the fuck down or you will be the next one fucked up.” Eventually the family members are released with no arrests or tickets.
Revolution #286 November 25, 2012
November 25, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From a reader and supporter of the movement to End Pornography & Patriarchy: The Enslavement & Degradation of Women.
We're just getting in reports from yesterday's coordinated national actions by people answering the call to "Take it to the Streets! Stop the War on Women."
Chants rang out yesterday from downtown Oakland, to LA on a busy Hollywood street right on the "walk of stars," to New York City near Union Square, to downtown Seattle, and more.
"Women are tattered, tortured and torn, by the word of the Pope and the images of porn!" "I don't know but I've been told, women are getting mighty bold! We won't shut up, we won't submit! We won't stand for woman-hating shit!" "It's bullshit, get off it. Women aren't for profit!" These were small but determined cores of people. And everywhere we drew forward enthusiastic support as well as people pissed off that porn was being challenged or abortion unapologetically fought for.
In Oakland, people marched with a banner, "Break the Chains! Unleash the Fury of Women as a Mighty Force for Revolution." One organizer in Oakland wrote, "We took turns speaking both bitterness and inspiration, projecting our voices out to the street, and down the cavernous, echoing hallway of a porn store."
At every action, we spread the "7 THINGS YOU CAN DO TO END THE ENSLAVEMENT AND DEGRADATION OF WOMEN" palm cards, both "If you can't imagine SEX without PORN, you're FUCKED!" and "Abortion on Demand & Without Apology!" Thousands were distributed around the country—including at an indoor rodeo in northern California, after the planned action was called off due to a heavy rainstorm! Everywhere we were loud. We were angry. We had many, many conversations and I have to say, we had fun!
"DANGER: CRIMES AGAINST WOMEN!" crime scene tape ended up on misogynistic ads, porn stores, and a Hooters.
In New York, where people came together for an "End Patriarchy Pageant," one young woman wore an orange prison jumpsuit, scrolled across with what we're told to commonly think why women are in prison: "MURDERER" "JUNKIE" "WHORE" "BAD MOTHER" "DYKE." And she held up a large fact sheet exposing the reality of women in prison: "Women are the fastest growing part of mass incarceration—especially Black, Latina and increasingly immigrant women... It is estimated that between 2,000 and 4,000 women are imprisoned for killing their abusers... 33 states allow prison officers to shackle female prisoners to their hospital beds while they are in labor and giving birth."
Taking the reality show "Toddlers in Tiaras," the sexualization of younger and younger girls and "fetal personhood" to its logical extension, one protester in NYC showed up with a tiara and a pageant sash across her "pregnant" belly saying "#1 Prettiest Fetus." She handed out sonogram "head shots" that showed the fetus wearing a tiara with the blurb, "Isn't she sexy!"
At the end of each event, people announced the next planned action from this movement. We're calling for people to come to Washington, DC on January 22, 2013 on the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade to stand up for abortion and birth control and to challenge the so-called "March for Life." From what was read in NYC: "This January, as tens of thousands pour into DC in the 'March for Life' to further shame and enslave women, join us in standing up to demand ABORTION ON DEMAND AND WITHOUT APOLOGY! A woman who cannot decide for herself when and whether to have a child is not free. Forced motherhood is female enslavement. And when women—half of humanity—are not free, then no one is free."
Revolution #286 November 25, 2012
November 25, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From a reader in Cleveland:
On October 8, a flier was posted in a men's bathroom in a coed dorm at Miami University, a state university in Oxford, Ohio. The flier "Top Ten Ways to Get Away With Rape" spews out horror after horror against women such as "Rape rape rape college boys live it up!", "If a woman's window is unlocked sneak in and rape her to teach her not to do it again," "Practice makes perfect: the more you rape the better you get at it," "If you are afraid she will identify you, slit her throat," and six more of the most misogynist shit you can imagine. After the flier was discovered, Kate Van Fossen, the vice president of a campus women's group, Women Against Violence and Sexual Assault, said, "I honestly cannot stop my tears of rage." And what was the university's response? The student affairs office refused to send out an alert to all students because "it didn't pose an immediate threat." The university called it an "offensive flier" and the students involved might get suspended from school and get sensitivity training. For women and men who stand against oppression on campus it is not just an "offensive flier," it is a flier with words threatening any woman, threatening them with rape or worse. But for a system that upholds the enslavement and degradation of women, the flier is just "offensive" or a "bad joke". No, it's not a fuckin' joke, it's not funny.
Butler County prosecutor Mike Gmoser accepted a guilty plea of disorderly conduct from a student whom he has refused to identify, saying he has been "through enough," calling him the "victim" and accepting up to a $100 fine. Outrageous!—when one in four college women are raped or sexually assaulted. Outrageous when the government is trying to send stop-and-frisk freedom fighters to jail and Noche Diaz, a leader in the movement to end mass incarceration, faces years in jail for standing up for the rights of the people. This leaflet of violence against women, the coverup and acceptance by the powers-that-be are powerful reasons to go all out on November 17 to "Take It to the Streets! Stop the War on Women" to say "We will not accept a world where women are routinely raped, brutalized, humiliated and degraded....We will resist the culture of rape and pornography that equates sex with domination and conquest and treats women as mere objects to be plundered by men."
Revolution #286 November 25, 2012
Reflections on What Humanity Needs: Revolution, and the New Synthesis of Communism:
by Lenny Wolff | November 4, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
I recently went back over the interview with BA (What Humanity Needs: Revolution, and the New Synthesis of Communism). This interview is extraordinarily wide-ranging. It deeply explores questions involved in bringing forward new initiators of a new stage of communism; the new synthesis of communism; questions of strategy; culture; science and morality; the "head and the heart"; and other really critical questions. And it explores all these from many different angles, from the most world-historical to the personal.
I started this particular reading of the interview with an intention to deepen my grasp of its sweep and depth "in its own right." But as I read, I was struck by its direct relevance to some particular problems that the movement for revolution (and those working to lead it forward) confront right now. So I wanted to pull out and highlight, and comment on, a few things that struck me in that light. I'm not trying here to speak to the whole interview, and it would definitely be wrong to reduce the interview to these points—but, as I said, a few points did strike me with particular impact about some of the problems confronting the movement for revolution. The stakes right now are very high and, one way or another, what revolutionaries do in this period will be pivotal to whether we break through the "tough spot" we face—and not breaking through is not an option. So I'm raising all this in a spirit of a hard, scientific look at some trends and tendencies in our work that pull against our breaking through, and of drawing all that we can from what is a very rich piece by BA.
As I was reading through the interview, I thought of a question posed to me by another comrade: do we realize that in everything we do, we have to be leading people? Not just getting them to do this or that particular thing, or to have a conversation about this or that particular point or topic... but actually leading them to engage with, contribute to and be part of building the movement for revolution. Struggling with people, and learning from them as well...and doing all of it as part of something larger. As I went through the interview, not only was BA talking about leadership—in fact, this is a major explicit theme that weaves through the whole interview, and I want to get to that shortly—but he was also providing a model in this.
In talking about this with another comrade, she said well, leadership is line. That's true—but what is line?
Here I want to draw on something that has struck me every time I've read the interview. At one point, in a really rich answer to a question by Brooks on the importance of line, BA notes that, "Line is the application of a world outlook and method to reality. It's a probing of reality and the drawing together and synthesizing of the lessons that are learned from probing reality."
I want to focus on that phrase "probing reality." BA does this in the interview, throughout. Look, for example, at the question that Brooks raises, referring to what someone said on the contrast between the '60s and today, in the section "Resistance... and Revolution." What's BA's approach here? First off, he's doing deep listening—he's thinking about the reality behind Brooks' question, and then he's looking at that reality from different angles... he's using line to probe the reality beneath the question. It's not just "here's where you're right, here's where you're wrong"... or "here's where we agree and here's where we don't, so let's move on." It's not a canned answer taken off the shelf of a set of positions. It's a real exploration of, yes, objective reality—one which fleshes out the contradictory forces and directions of the two different periods under discussion, explores how these played out and still play out in a number of different dimensions, examines how other developments entered into the process, and really fleshes out the dynamics of how things have developed over time and why they did. From there—from that probing of reality—he goes to both the challenges we confront and what we actually have going for us in confronting those challenges. And because it's a fully present, in-the-moment consideration, and because the pulse of life that beats within the abstractions is kept in mind, there's a real freshness to it—new ways of looking at the question, new insights are unearthed. In other words, there's a deep probing and, on that basis, a real synthesis.
You can see this method throughout the interview1, and you can see it in other things too. It's in the questions and answers at the end of the Revolution Talk, for instance—listen again, for instance, to the answer on whether Black people should receive reparations for slavery and the oppression that has followed slavery. Or listen to the recent interview with BA done by Cornel West.
Over and over: probing reality, and synthesis. I'm stressing this because I think that all too often, in practice, a lot of us treat line as if it were a static set of ideas that we bring forward against other sets of ideas (or else, sometimes, as a set of ideas that we don't bring forward because they may "get in the way" of a particular objective!). There's no life to that. And there's no real leadership involved in that either.
This emphasis on probing reality relates to another major theme of the interview—being scientific in our approach, letting other people in on this scientific method, and struggling for that method. Popularizing the scientific method, demystifying it, and explicitly posing it against other methods. I wonder how often, when we're wrangling with someone and they're clearly basing themselves on another method—post-modernism, or religion, or pragmatism, or whatever—I wonder how often we say, "hey, that's not quite scientific" and explain why and then work things through with them with a scientific approach. This has always been a hallmark of BA, but it's extremely striking in the interview—and it's something that, again, I think we could all stand a little self-interrogation on.
(And I mean self-interrogation, and not self-cultivation or self-criticism—I mean going into shortcomings in how we too often come at things precisely in order to do better. I found this part of the interview very important in this regard:
Look, we're all gonna make errors, we're all gonna make mistakes. You can't do anything in the world of consequence, and you certainly can't engage in any major undertaking—and especially one which is trying to transform the whole of human society and the whole relations of people in the world, up against such powerful entrenched forces—there's absolutely no way in the world that you're gonna take very many steps, let alone carry out that whole process, and not make mistakes. The point is: do you learn from your mistakes, do you learn to learn more quickly and more thoroughly from your mistakes, do you honestly confront your mistakes, do you sum them up, and do you let other people know—do you popularize your understanding of the mistakes you made and why you made them, and enable other people to learn from your mistakes? That's the key thing. Because everybody's gonna make mistakes, okay?)
Again, this theme of leadership runs through the entire interview, right from the beginning with the doctor-patient analogy. But here I want to draw on one very pithy way that it's put toward the end of the interview, where BA is speaking to "the heart and essence of communist leadership." It's not, he says, "providing tactical advice in a particular circumstance or particular struggle, even though that may be something that people need to do, and it can be an important element of what they do." Then he goes on to say:
[T]he heart of it is actually implementing "Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution"—is actually bringing forward all of the things we've talked about in terms of enabling people to get a real understanding, scientifically grounded, of the larger picture that any particular thing fits into. What is the overall foundation and framework in which all these things are occurring? What is, to put it simply again, the problem and solution: what do all these outrages stem from; what are they all rooted and grounded in; what do we need to do to uproot and eliminate all this, and how do we actually build the movement to do that? All that is the essence of communist leadership, whatever level of a party, or whatever part you play in the division of labor of a party, as part of a revolutionary communist vanguard.
Think about that for a minute. This is not to say that particular things don't need to be done. But are we putting them in the "overall foundation and framework in which all these things are occurring" and which in fact actually determines their significance? Sometimes people will hunger for this. And sometimes it will be quite contentious. All too often, it seems, we let others set the terms on what IS the overall foundation and framework, and then we try to come at things from within those terms. Now it is not about "our framework vs. their framework"—as if these are two different, equally subjective narratives. It is about what is objectively real, and which framework corresponds to that. To return to the quote: "What is, to put it simply again, the problem and solution: what do all these outrages stem from; what are they all rooted and grounded in; what do we need to do to uproot and eliminate all this, and how do we actually build the movement to do that?" We have an understanding of that, we have a method and approach to deepen that understanding, we have a way to listen and go back-and-forth with people without losing that grounding and, indeed, for that very grounding to enrich it—but we have to lead with that.
This is not just a question of whether we do this when we talk with others, important as that is. There is in fact a more fundamental question to pose to ourselves: are we going back to what is said about the "overall foundation and framework" in our own approach to everything we do, to every objective we undertake? And when we do lead others in (very important) objectives—do we understand all that as being part of, and on that basis something that has to be knit into, a larger process, or do we mentally separate these off from that larger context? And, as one comrade recently pointed out in a discussion we had of this, if we don't consciously synthesize these objectives and activities into a larger picture, including how all these relate to preparing people to wage the all-out struggle for revolution when the situation emerges in which that can be done as the next major leap in emancipating humanity... and if we don't weave these together as part of a movement which contains many diverging threads and strands but is all forming a tapestry leading to revolution... then all this work will spontaneously and inevitably be synthesized into "just another part of the current scene"—that is, just another part of the ongoing permanent necessity the masses face. Now I definitely don't want to reduce the whole discussion of leadership in the interview, and even in this section, to just this point: but... again... are we doing this? And if we're not doing this, to quote Joe Veale from a few months back, what ARE we doing?
This leads to yet another important point to compare and contrast on: winning. This comes in at a number of points—and it grounds the whole interview—but here I want to highlight a particular point where BA has just emphasized the fact that what we represent really DOES objectively represent what humanity needs, and that what we're fighting against really IS utterly reactionary, cruel, needless, and, yes, evil. This is an important point of principle to deeply get and to fight for. "But, then," he goes on to say, "the 'good guys' have to win."
We have to actually make this real. If we don't win, if we don't break through, first here and then there—and then, if we're set back, learn from that and go forward again with a new stage and a new wave of this revolution, and eventually get to the point where the imperialists are cornered and holed up in a few parts of the world, and then eventually they're swept away entirely—if we don't do that, then the suffering of the masses of people, the things we were just talking about that we should feel real outrage and passion about, are gonna continue; it may be in some new forms, but they're gonna continue. And the future of humanity is gonna be threatened in an even more acute way through what's happening—what this system is doing to the environment, for example, as well as through the wars that these ruling classes wage, directly or through proxies, or whatever—and they have these nuclear arsenals, and all the rest of it. If we don't sweep all that away and not allow them to destroy humanity in the process, then it ultimately doesn't matter that we're the "good guys." It matters, but in the final analysis it doesn't matter if we don't win.
Let's really sit with that for a minute. It's important to be right and it's important to actually BE "the good guys." But... it ultimately doesn't matter if we don't win. It's important to do the work ourselves to understand and ground ourselves in how everything we're doing is part of politically transforming the terrain and accumulating forces that could actually lead a revolution... that could actually win... and it's absolutely critical that we imbue others with this understanding. Otherwise, what's the point?
Now BA never loses sight—and he never lets others lose sight—of what it means NOT to win. The acute sense of what it means to let this system keep running—that's always there, in a living painful way, in the interview and in everything else. These are REAL PEOPLE being put on the rack every single day, by the billions. But he also never loses sight of the scientific basis for masses of people to defeat this. There IS a way out... and a way to win. Not a guarantee, not something that won't require a whole lot more work and struggle and mind-wrenching thinking... but a way. A possibility—a real possibility.
This is first of all a point of orientation for communists: is this what we are about? Is this what we are grappling with? Is this part of the "whole larger picture" that we ourselves are living in and thinking about—or is it off to the side? This is a "prove-it-all-night" question and, first of all, for us. But then there's the relationships we're building: are we not just telling people that this is important, but actually showing them how everything is fitting into that—into getting closer to the time when we can actually lead people to deal with all that? Not in a silly way or a way that could unwittingly open us up to distortion ... but are we making the effort to consciously situate everything, in our own thinking and the thinking of others, "from the revolution back." Another way to think about this: do we think about things from the standpoint of leaders of a future socialist state, and leaders of a revolution to get to that state? Do we exude that? It's not a gimmick; it's a question of basic approach. When people meet us, they should come away not only having heard a compelling case for why we need a revolution, but with a real sense that this party is taking responsibility to lead that and has a real grounded sense of how to go about it ... AND that there is a role for them in this revolution, a place for their thinking and suggestions, room for them to probe reality, and a need for them to get on into it, at whatever level of understanding and agreement they're at now.
If we DO understand and do this, then it should not be difficult to instill in the people we work with and lead the feeling that this work has real purpose and direction. I think the way in which the statement on strategy is paraphrased in the interview is important—it's a very basic and simple principle that everyone we're working with should understand, and see themselves in:
While we're reaching and influencing millions, thousands can be and need to be brought forward, oriented, trained, and organized in a revolutionary communist way and enabled to actively struggle for the objectives of this revolution. And, when the time comes that there is a much deeper and broader crisis in society that reaches objectively revolutionary proportions—when the ruling class really has much greater difficulty ruling in the way they've ruled, and masses of people in the millions and millions, and tens of millions, don't want to and, in an active sense, are increasingly refusing to, live in the old way—then that core of thousands can, in turn, influence, can bring into the revolutionary movement, on many different levels, and can lead the millions and tens of millions who are refusing to live in the old way, and are actively seeking radical change.
Yes, this involves struggle. People do not spontaneously see that larger picture, they do not spontaneously see where their activity fits into the whole movement for revolution and how it is transforming society and to what end, they don't spontaneously approach things scientifically (indeed, as BA points out early on, the whole question of whether society can even be approached scientifically is a hotly debated one). Even when they are drawn to revolution, they face all the resistance of society at large—the constant saturation of anticommunism, the constant attacks on the humanity of the masses, and the way in which all that has broad influence right now. And communists themselves, by the way, are subject to the same pulls on this as everyone else and also have to struggle against spontaneity.2
This struggle is a living process. It is itself scientific—or it must be scientifically approached and grounded—and not religious ("spontaneity, get thee behind me"). It is a question of a solid core, with a lot of elasticity, and those two aspects in constant dialectical interplay.
This kind of struggle actually deepens unity and should strengthen our relationships with people. Listen again to the interview of BA by Cornel West, where different outlooks and methods are clearly delineated, and this leads to the ground for unity being more clearly identified (and further strengthened and vitalized), while the areas for further grappling and wrangling are more clearly understood. It's not as if people have to be united with some checklist of points to be involved in this process—again, drawing from the interview:
Even people who may not agree with or may not know that much about the new synthesis of communism, for example—many, many people, thousands and thousands of people—can get actively involved in and be motivated to be part of helping to project this into all corners of society. They can find their own level, so to speak—as long as the way is provided for them to find their own level—to participate in that, with that kind of contradiction in their own understanding, and in their own approach.
That is one very important aspect of, at one and the same time, dealing with unity and contradiction, which is a lot of what you have to do in building the movement for revolution. There are different levels and different forms in which people can unite to fight oppression—to fight the power, to put it that way—even while they have disagreements about how to wage that fight, let alone about the bigger context and framework into which that fits.
- - -
I hope these points spark further grappling with the interview in its own right—which, as I said at the beginning, encompasses and speaks to quite a bit more than the themes I've chosen to focus on here... and further application of the interview to the pressing problems faced by the movement for revolution in both this and other very crucial spheres. In looking back through the interview as I'm wrapping this letter up, I see all kinds of points and passages that would be relevant to go back and put in, but this is the middle of a process, not the end, so I think I'll leave it here... for now.
1. To include just one, particularly striking instance of this approach to line, from a discussion toward the end of the interview on the new synthesis of communism:
I mean, what is represented by communism—and specifically the new synthesis of communism—is actually scientifically analogous to that [earlier an analogy had been made to a cure for "a massive epidemic which is causing horrific suffering"]. It is the way forward. It is not some magic solution. It's a scientific approach to forging the way forward. It has answered—or spoken in a significant way to—some real problems. At the same time, it has posed new questions, identified new contradictions that have to be confronted, which weren't seen as clearly before. And it's an ongoing process of discovering, confronting and transforming different aspects of reality that have to be transformed, in order to achieve the emancipation of humanity. That's what it is. That's why we put it forward. And that's why we struggle to let people know about it and to win them to engage it seriously—and, yes, to take it up—because that's exactly what it embodies and represents. It is analogous to a way to deal with a very serious epidemic. There is an epidemic in which the mass of humanity is suffering terribly, as constituted under this capitalist-imperialist system, and there is a way forward—not a magic wand to wave to solve all problems, but a means for forging a way forward on a higher level than before, as a result of this new synthesis that's been brought forward. [back]
2. In this regard, I want to particularly refer people to a passage in the very trenchant section "Particular Outrages, Particular Struggles, and the Overall Movement for Revolution":
And once you get that [communist] level of understanding—and, yes, it's a process and not a "once and for all" thing—but, once you make the leap to getting that basic understanding and grounding, then it's a question of continually struggling to remain grounded and to get continually more deeply grounded in that understanding, and to apply it in a living way to all the different particular aspects of building the movement for revolution—all the different spheres of struggle, be they cultural, ideological, or political, over major social questions or, as we were talking about earlier, over questions which, at first at least, don't seem to be major social questions but then, perhaps unexpectedly, become that. Now, for communists, like everyone else, there is the pull of what dominates in society. There is the pull of the putrid, revolting culture, ideology, and morals that you have to continually struggle against, not just individually but collectively, together with others. There is the political pull to seeing things in isolation from the overall and larger picture, and into simply being concerned with one particular form or manifestation of the oppressive nature of this system—losing sight of the larger picture into which this particular form fits. That is a constant pull on people. And there is a need—again, not just for individuals on their own, but together, collectively, with growing numbers of people—for struggle to continually loft all of our sights back up to the larger standpoint of seeing the whole picture and proceeding, with regard to any particular aspect of things, any particular part of the struggle, with this whole broad understanding in mind and as the constant guide in what we're doing. This all has to be built as part of preparing the ground for, and getting to the point where, when the objective conditions ripen, we can actually lead millions and millions of people to make this revolution we're talking about, to actually sweep away this system, to defeat and dismantle its repressive institutions, and bring into being new revolutionary institutions that really do serve the interests of the masses of people, and back them up in carrying forward the struggle to continue transforming society, to support others in the world waging the same struggle, and to help people see the need in other parts of the world to wage this struggle more and more consciously toward the common goal of a communist world. [back]
Revolution #286 November 25, 2012
By Raymond Lotta | November 3, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Hurricane Sandy has left parts of the eastern seaboard devastated. More than 100 people have died in the U.S. Two million people in the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area are, at this writing, without electricity. Parts of lower Manhattan remain flooded.
From public housing projects, the reports mount of older residents and the very poor going without food, needed medications, and means of travel. In suburbs, where the violent rampages of wind and rain literally hollowed out neighborhoods, people have been left to fend for themselves.
It is a time of immense suffering and need. But for the ruling authorities what was the litmus test for getting the city back on its feet? That Wall Street reopen, that the wheels of finance keep turning for the endless accumulation of capital. Meanwhile, and just several city blocks away, emergency deliveries of water and food to those in need were stalled for days. In New Jersey, the authorities moved with the same kind of Wall Street zeal to reopen the gambling casinos.
Under dire circumstances, people try to cope and solve problems together. But there are no institutional mechanisms to foster that cooperation. The overarching concern of ruling authority is to keep people passive, to keep people in place, and to keep people under control. People have been thrust into the darkness of power outages, but they are kept in the dark about what is actually happening. In places like Coney Island, people have gone without heat and lighting, while facing curfews and threats from the police.
This is a system in which a small owning-class of capitalist-imperialists controls the economic lifelines and resources of society. It is a system where profit rules. It is a system where state power is used to preserve and extend global exploitation and misery, and to suppress resistance.
But things do not have to be this way.
Let's first step back and examine three key dynamics of this natural and social disaster.
As the article "Superstorm Sandy and Climate Change" explains, the ferocity of Hurricane Sandy has everything to do with climate change. Massive emissions of carbon are leading to Arctic ice-melts and collapses, warmer oceans, and more moisture in the air. And this is causing more frequent and more severe hurricanes. Global climate change is also responsible for rising sea levels that put coastal cities worldwide, with their densely packed populations, at greater risk for flooding.
Capitalism-imperialism has everything to do with climate change. You see, oil, natural gas, and coal—the fuels most responsible for rising carbon dioxide levels that are contributing to global climate change—are essential and foundational to the profitable functioning of this system. Consider the fact that in recent years 7 of the 10 largest corporations in the world were oil and auto companies. Or that the U.S. military is the single largest consumer of oil in the world.
And consider the trends. In 1997 the U.S. pledged to reduce greenhouse emissions by 7 percent below 1990 levels. But by 2009, U.S. carbon emissions had risen by almost 7 percent! This is the logic of profit and big power jockeying. There is intense competition for market share and strategic advantage in the world economy. There is no "incentive" to radically transform energy production and energy consumption. It's expand-or-die. Drill in the Arctic...drill in West Africa—or some rival corporations and rival powers will beat you.
And so the planet heats up.
A city like New York plays a certain role in the workings and management of the American empire. It is a kind of financial-administrative command-and-control and communications center for globalized imperialist capital. It is profoundly parasitic. Finance is the engine of economic growth. Resources are siphoned towards real estate, speculative construction, and development.
It is a city of extremes: high-paying jobs and the concentration of wealth, on the one side, and, on the other, vast swaths of poverty, low-wage labor, chronically high rates of unemployment, unequal schooling and stop-and-frisk in the oppressed neighborhoods. It depends on vast pools of super-exploitable immigrant labor.
The city depends on carbon-intensive transport for food supplies. Its buildings are major sources of greenhouse gas emissions. And it has become more vulnerable to extreme weather.
The New York Times ran an article recently about how, for over a decade, scientists warned of the dangers of rising sea levels to the city, and how the city could be flooded. They called for storm and surge barriers to restrain floodwaters. Other task forces took a broader view, calling for measures to protect fragile shorelines and to rethink the density and patterns of urban development.
But these warnings and proposals were ignored. These kinds of long-term and protective measures run straight up against the short-term horizons of capitalism. It was more urgent, more of a priority, to expand lucrative property development than to invest in storm barriers, and protect and expand wetlands that soak up floodwaters. It made more "business sense" for the utility companies to keep investments on the maintenance and upgrading of transmission lines and other infrastructure to a minimum.
And the warnings from the scientists about the city's susceptibility to storm surges were borne out with Hurricane Sandy.
It is very stark. The disruptions in transport and power generation, the dislocation of basic services, and the fact that the city stopped working when people could no longer work—all this revealed how densely interconnected are the activities of social and economic life in a large city like New York. But the city and the larger society are not organized in a way that corresponds to that interconnectedness. There is no conscious social planning to meet human need, to mobilize for emergencies, to protect vital ecosystems.
People are atomized by the very workings of the system. They are forced to compete with each other for jobs, for housing, for higher education. Why? Because of private ownership and control over the means of producing wealth and over the resources of society. It is a system where people are compelled to sell their labor power to survive. At the same time, the system promotes its ethos of each for him or herself, and sets people against each other.
People have a great desire to join together to act in a crisis like Sandy. But that potential is held in check and quashed by this system.
The Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA sets forth a vision and a plan for building a very different social, political, and economic system. This Constitution is based on Bob Avakian's new synthesis of communism, which opens the way to a world in which human beings can truly flourish.
This Constitution is a blueprint for a new state power that protects the rights of the people, that enables people to participate in the running and all-round transformation of society, and to carry the revolution forward to a world without classes.
This Constitution sets forth the principles and mechanisms for a liberating economy that meets the basic needs of people, including overcoming the inequalities between nationalities, between men and women, between those who work mainly with their hands and those who work mainly in the realm of ideas. This is a society and economy that will promote the world revolution to emancipate all of humanity from exploitation and oppression. This is a society and economy that will be working to repair, to protect, and to enhance the ecosystems of the planet.
In short, this society is the opposite of what we live under.
In socialist society, the means of production—the factories, transport, telecommunications, land, raw materials, and so forth—will no longer be the property of a small handful of exploiters but will be under a system of public-state ownership. This will enable society to utilize these resources for what is useful and important to the betterment of humanity. People will be guaranteed work; and instead of being drudgery, work will be contributing to the development of society and people's all-around capabilities.
The new socialist society will develop an economy that is no longer based on oil and other fossil fuels and long-distance supply systems. This will require extraordinary innovation and effort, but it will be a priority. The new society will aim to create sustainable cities—more capable of producing to meet basic needs, including food.
These will be cities where the formerly oppressed, rather than being isolated and penned up, will be able to interact with each other in meaningful ways, to organize politically, to create and enjoy culture, and to forge vibrant community. These will be cities in which barriers are being broken down between basic masses and artists and intellectuals, in which people with different backgrounds, training, and talents would be dynamically interacting with and learning from each other as part of the long process of creating the social and material conditions in which everyone will be able to work productively and in the realm of ideas.
The army and police will no longer enforce global empire and the occupation of the inner cities. New security forces will serve the people, protect their rights, and help the people to sort out and work through their differences.
The Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America emphasizes that the conscious activism of the masses of people is what must be relied upon to solve problems and to carry the revolution forward. The Constitution also emphasizes that society will combine centralized planning and allocation of resources with decentralized initiative and creativity.
In a crisis like Hurricane Sandy, the socialist state would allocate needed resources, like food, temporary shelter, building materials, equipment, to where they would be needed most. This will not have to go through the patchwork and competing channels of private ownership and control that exist in capitalist society. The allocation of resources would not be contingent on the preservation of private property and the profit system.
The revolutionary state would be doing all it could to tap and unleash the desire of people to step forward and to help on all kinds of fronts. Relying on the masses would be at the heart of everything that would be done in the wake of such a disaster.
In a socialist society facing a natural disaster of the magnitude of Sandy, emergency priorities would be established—for instance in identifying the most vulnerable sectors of the population, helping the most devastated communities or areas of historic oppression and environmental degradation, and restoring critical links of the economy. Calls for volunteers would be issued and the means provided for them to become involved in relief efforts. Medical personnel, teachers, engineers, youth, and so forth would be dispatched to where they were needed.
Centralization means overall leadership and coordination. It also means paying attention to key social priorities, like uprooting the legacy of racism and the subordination of women.
In a situation like Sandy, efforts would be made to educate people about the scale and challenges of the situation. Specialized knowledge of experts would be popularized—for instance, environmental science, civil engineering—among broad sections of the people. But these experts would also be learning from the knowledge and direct experience and aspirations of basic people and of the youth. Architects and planners would be conducting investigations among the people. Medical personnel would be gaining a deeper sense of local conditions and needs—and training paraprofessionals.
Incredible local initiative and experimentation would be unleashed. Conditions are not the same everywhere. How to make the most of older equipment? How to conserve limited resources? What are the local priorities in rebuilding? Fact-finding missions. Group discussions and debates in neighborhoods. Streamlining administration. Transmitting ideas and criticisms to higher levels of leadership.
The government media and other institutions of state would be spreading advanced experience of dealing with the crisis and the new understanding gained, spreading lessons about how barriers between people and contradictions among the people are being overcome.
In such an emergency, big questions and controversies will pose themselves. Yes, there is acute short-term necessity to provide shelter, food, and health care, and to rebuild. But these needs cannot be met by disregarding longer-term effects on ecosystems. There will be disagreements over specific policies. And in times of disaster, some will be intensely agonizing over the overall direction of society.
It will be necessary to mobilize the activism and understanding of people to confront extraordinary circumstances such as a Hurricane Sandy, and to pull together. But differences will emerge, debates will break out. This is a good thing. The Constitution recognizes the importance of dissent and protest under socialism. In a crisis like this there will be contention and struggle. This process, if handled correctly by the leadership of the new society, will actually enhance both the knowledge and understanding of reality of society as a whole, and serve to forge unity on a new and stronger basis.
Bob Avakian teaches that dissent should not only be allowed but actively encouraged and valued. This is part of the process of getting at the truth of society and the world, of promoting critical thinking, and of enabling those who had formerly been on the bottom of society to more deeply understand and more profoundly transform the world.
This kind of socialist society, for which this Constitution is the framework, makes it possible for human beings to cope with a crisis like Sandy. It makes it possible for people to fit themselves to become caretakers of the planet. It makes it possible to bring a new world into being, to move towards communism, a community of world humanity.
Because of Bob Avakian and the work he has done in forging the new synthesis of communism embodied in the Constitution, there is a way out of the madness and misery of this system. There is a real solution. There is visionary communist leadership for the revolution humanity needs. As people face the challenges of mobilizing to fight for the basic needs of the people in confronting this disaster, they can and must also raise their sights to what is truly possible.
Revolution #286 November 25, 2012
November 25, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From a reader:
Editors' Note: November 17, 2012 was a national day of action to Take it to the Streets! Stop the War on Women! called by the movement to End Pornography & Patriarchy: The Enslavement & Degradation of Women. Though a heavy rainstorm caused the cancellation of the protest in one rural area, it didn't stop K.T. who sent in this report:
It was sort of cozy in the arena. At least it offered protection from the storm raging outside that vetoed the N17 plan to make a ruckus at the county courthouse. It was a first-name environment, too. We all knew each other from branding days or the county fair. Kids were stomping up and down the bleachers and through the stables in their boots, showing off their belt buckles and bragging about their advantages in this or that event. Everybody was dressed in plaid shirts and wrangler jeans, even the babies. It was just another rodeo.
I was hugging my bag tightly, thinking about all the palm cards I had in there. "ABORTION ON DEMAND & WITHOUT APOLOGY!" that would surely get me thrown out of the arena and into the rain. "IF YOU CAN'T IMAGINE SEX WITHOUT PORN, YOU'RE FUCKED!" that might offend people because of the cursing, but folks might actually take it. The rodeo crew needed these cards just as desperately as the more progressive crowd at the courthouse, so I figured I better hand some out and see what happened. It would be a shame if the cards all stayed in my bag.
I started with the anti-porn one, and got a surprisingly GREAT response with the usual laugh followed by a more serious interaction. Every single person was upset after reading the back of the card that states "Abortion is not murder." About eight people just gave me the cards back, but everybody else kept them. Only one person seriously engaged with me, but at a rodeo with about 60 staunchly conservative folks that was an accomplishment.
He actually helped pass out some of the abortion cards. He wanted to know why I supported abortion and I began by asking him why he didn't. He told me he was raised "pro-life." So was I. I went through all sorts of biological and ethical arguments, remembering what changed my understanding; nothing worked. He refused to change his mind. "If we cannot control our own bodies, we are nothing more than slaves," I finally cried out in frustration. I was getting ready to just leave, but that really hit him, you could see it in his face. "I never thought about it like that before..." Unfortunately, our conversation was cut short when the next kid was stuck on the bull and he proudly declared "that's my boy!" But he took a small stack of the abortion cards to pass out.
These palm cards need to be distributed everywhere, especially where they are NOT welcomed—at churches, porn stores, AND rodeos because that is where they are needed most.
Revolution #286 November 25, 2012
At a Critical Time...
October 28, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
In a world of vicious exploitation, brutal oppression, and environmental devastation, a new stage of the communist revolution, based on Bob Avakian's new synthesis of communism, is fighting to be born. And one essential component of that happening is that Revolution newspaper and revcom.us have the financial resources to survive!
But Revolution/Revolución does not have the financial base to continue to operate—in print or online. That is a situation which must change right away.
A big part of the solution: forging—with creativity and determination—a network of sustainers, people who contribute money to Revolution and revcom.us on a regular basis. Without this network of sustainers, Revolution will not continue to publish—in print or online—and what a disaster that would be! On the other hand, a vibrant, vital network of sustainers will literally sustain this paper and website. That network will itself be part of preparing the ground for revolution. For a full picture of how this can happen, and the role of Revolution within that, see "On the Strategy for Revolution" at revcom.us.
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Last issue, we called for focused activity in October to forge a network of financial sustainers for the paper and the website. Get together with others to take stock of how this is going—measured against the urgent need to accomplish it. Send us your experiences, and tell us why you are sustaining Revolution.