Revolution #287, December 9, 2012 (revcom.us)

Voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA

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Revolution #287 December 9, 2012

Concerning the Thomas Jefferson Controversy...

Automatically Disqualified

by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA

December 9, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

Editors' note: Recently there has been a great deal of discussion and controversy over two recent books about Thomas Jefferson—Master of the Mountain: Thomas Jefferson and His Slaves, by Henry Wiencek, and Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, by Jon Meacham. In addition to being a major figure in the American Revolution and the first decades of the U.S., Jefferson was also a major slave owner and defender of the slave system. As president, he oversaw the Louisiana Purchase—the buying from France of a huge territory that now comprises part or all of 15 states, primarily in the interests of the slave owners and with the aim of spreading the brutal and murderous version of the slave system in North America into these new areas. Some of those who have been featured in the current controversy have argued that Jefferson must be "judged in the context of his times," and that—taking into account his beliefs and actions concerning slavery—he was a "flawed giant." We think the following, which is taken from parts of a recent talk by Bob Avakian, needs to be injected into this discussion. For a more thorough treatment of Jefferson and his theories, see Avakian's Communism and Jeffersonian Democracy, RCP Publications, 2008 (also available at revcom.us).

 

Now, in this context it might be useful to think about the contrast—in response to a system of oppression and the possibilities offered by the oppressors—the contrast between the response of a slave who seeks at most minor changes in the conditions of slavery, or the response of the serf in the Middle Ages who cannot imagine a world without his lord and master owning the land and dominating the work and the very lives of the serfs, who cannot imagine a different world than the one in which the place of everyone, from the ruling monarch to the lowly serfs themselves, is predetermined by a supposed god and reinforced by religious dogma. All that on the one hand, but in contrast to that, the response of the conscious, scientific freedom fighter and emancipator of humanity. What the latter, the conscious freedom fighter and emancipator of humanity, knows and which the slave needs to know is that only by getting rid of the system of slavery can there be really any meaningful change in the position of the slave. And the same applies to the serf—only by abolishing that whole system can the possibility of something radically different and better be opened up. And the same is true in relation to the current system of exploitation and oppression we live under, the capitalist-imperialist system.

But we have a problem. The problem is we have a lot of bourgeois-democratic intellectuals thinking like serfs. [laughter and applause] You go out and you try to talk to them about something radically different... "No, no, no, we gotta make sure the Democrats stay in office." You say: "But the world could be a completely different way." "I can't imagine there could be anything better than our system of democracy—we just have to make it work better." "Yeah, but look, there's a whole history here of communist..." "Oh, don't talk to me about communist revolution—that was a nightmare and a horror and it just proved what I'm saying that there's nothing better than this system." Bourgeois-democratic intellectuals thinking like serfs—unable to see beyond the confines—or refusing to see beyond the confines of this system.

Now, I want to introduce a phrase into political discourse. I got it from a movie and I'll talk about that in a second. The phrase is "Automatically Disqualifed." If you come up to anybody and start saying: "I want to talk about freedom and democracy," and then you want to go on and talk about our great founding fathers, you are Automatically Disqualified. [laughter and applause] I mean somebody needs to tell these people: "You do know that you're talking about slave owners, right? You do know that out of the first five presidents of the United States, four of them were slave owners. You do know that, don't you? Washington, Jefferson, Madison and Monroe—you do know that's what we're talking about—people who owned other human beings and viciously exploited them while they were denouncing the 'slavery' the British monarch imposed on them." Automatically Disqualified.

Now I got this from the movie High Fidelity which is a movie about . . . the main character is played by John Cusack. And he's a guy who owns what used to be called a record store—now it's gotta be called a music store. But anyway, he owned a record store and during the course of the goings on in the record store, some of the employees there, one of whom is played by Jack Black, would get into discussions about what music was great music and so on and so forth. And at one point one of the other characters mentions a song—I believe it was by the Temptations—and the Jack Black character says, "Automatically disqualified because of its association with The Big Chill." Now I don't know how many of you remember the movie The Big Chill. But The Big Chill was a movie very consciously made by Lawrence Kasden, whom if I remember correctly was actually part of SDS back in the University of Michigan in the '60s and then turned his back on it. And this is a movie that's consciously made to say to all those kind of people who were part of the upsurge of the '60s, particularly the white middle class youth in the student movements and antiwar movements: "It's okay for you to have turned your back on all that. It's alright for you to have settled in and accommodated to the system and go along with it because now we know better."

That was the whole point of the movie and it's captured in many scenes, but one in particular stuck with me. And that's when there's a woman—I believe it's played by Mary Kay Place—who became a public defender to help people out. And think about how insidious and vicious this is: they're going back and forth, she's talking about how disoriented she is, disillusioned she is, and all these people she has to defend as a public defender. And other people said, "What do you expect?" And she said, "Well, I expected they'd all be Bobby and Huey—I never thought they'd all be so guilty." Now think of the viciousness of this and what message it's delivering—and it makes me furious. Look, there have been people from among the oppressed nationalities, Black people and others—I've known some—who've given up and sold out and stabbed people in the back. But there was a phenomenon when we went out in the '60s—we would go out into the neighborhoods of the oppressed, spreading the word of radical change and so on. And a lot of people were very positive toward it but some people if they got to know us a bit and felt like talking to us down on the ground would say, "Look, you white people, you come out here and you say this and talk all this stuff but when this is all done, when this movement ebbs you're gonna go back into your lives and get comfortable with this system and leave us here fucked once again." And it makes me angry that so many people have allowed that to be what they've done.

I think of the song by the Clash, "London Calling." I don't know what they were getting at but I want to take one of the lines—"London calling" and they'd say "Come out of your cupboards, you boys and girls." And I feel like saying to all these people who once knew better and should know better now from out of the '60s: "Get the fuck out of that place. You know that you were right when you recognized the criminal nature of this system. You know you were right when you knew there was a radical alternative that was better. Get out of that whole shit of accommodating to the system. Come out of your cupboards and join with the movement and get back into the thing where you're doing something real that means something and is fighting for the oppressed." [applause] Whether they do that or not we have to win many, many more people, older and especially younger, to be doing just that from all different parts of society, but especially among those who most urgently and desperately need this revolution.

So don't come talking to me about the founding fathers and Jefferson and Madison. "Well, yes," you say, "but you gotta understand. See, that's the way everybody saw things in those times. People didn't know any better in those times. Everybody thought that slavery was just a natural part of things, and it eventually would die out."

Bullshit! Don't try to tell me that nobody in the time of Jefferson and Madison knew better. There were many people who knew better—not the least of which were the slaves themselves! [applause] And here's a fact—I referred to Adam Goodheart who unfortunately just put this in a footnote in this book 1861, but he did have it in there. He recounts that this man named Edward Coles, who for a time was private secretary to James Madison and later became the governor of Illinois, freed his own slaves and then tried to convince Madison and Jefferson to do the same. But they refused. So don't tell me people didn't know that there was another possibility and it couldn't have been done differently. Jefferson, the big hero of American bourgeois democracy, not only was a slave owner, he was actively using his presidency and his prestige to fight for the extension of the slave system. That's a big part of what the Louisiana Purchase in the early 1800s was all about which at the time doubled the size of the United States and provided an avenue for the expansion of the slave system. And don't talk to me about Andrew Jackson, the great populist hero being upheld these days, who was a slave owner and who then forced the Cherokees—who had gotten into a bad place, some of whom had actually gotten set up on plantations and owned slaves themselves—but then, when it was decided that they needed more room for Europeans to come in and do that, under Jackson's direction these Cherokees were sent on the Trail of Tears, marching across huge expanses of territory in harsh conditions and with many dying, including children, all along the way. Don't talk to me about the founding fathers and the great populist slave-owning leaders of this country. If you do, you are Automatically Disqualified.

 


 

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Revolution #287 December 9, 2012

Spread the Cornel West Interview with BA Far and Wide

December 9, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

In early October, the revolution went out in a big way over the airwaves when the Smiley & West radio show on PRI (Public Radio International) aired an interview that Cornel West did with Bob Avakian.

The impact of this concentrated 30-minute introduction to BA on broad swaths of society needs to be multiplied thousands of times. And let’s especially go deeply into the neighborhoods, gathering spots, and workplaces of those who catch hell every day in this society and spread and discuss this interview. This interview is sharp and wide-ranging, challenging and inspiring. Cornel West engages with Bob Avakian in an interview which gives a living sense of this leader and the work he is and has been doing over decades. There really is a viable vision and strategy for a radically new, and much better, society and world, and there is the leadership that is needed to carry forward the struggle toward that goal. The warm, heartfelt introduction by West and his thoughtful questions open the door to listeners to really check BA out if they haven’t before, or to get deeper into him if they have.

Getting this exchange broadly out into society, and fundraising as we do so, is critical to letting people all over this country and the world know about and connect with Bob Avakian.

As part of the holiday plans already in process, and at the center of those: now is the time to get this interview out all over the place—and raise money to project BA Everywhere throughout society at every turn! Envision this campaign growing in waves as people listen to this interview and then spread it further. Think about how linking up with BA’s voice can not only begin to open people’s eyes to the actual source of the horrors we face but to a whole other way the world can be. Through all this and more, imagine how a radically different pole can be planted, opening up minds and sparking conversations about the “big questions” over the direction of society... and contributing toward making BA a household name.

Revolution newspaper and the BA Everywhere campaign want your ideas for many more ways for this interview to reach throughout society and for maximizing its impact. And we want to learn about the buzz being generated by this interview: the discussion and controversy it is touching off and what people are asking about. Write to us at revolution.reports@yahoo.com and baeverywhere@gmail.com.

Here’s a sample of what people are saying:

“I want to tell you that I listened to the Bob Avakian tape with Cornel West. What struck me most was Avakian’s direct and clear analysis, which seems, at once, to be both obvious and rare! It’s like a good poem: Avakian makes you see the world that you know—because you live in it every day—in a way you never clarified for yourself. You are lost in the fog of the capitalist bullshit, the fog of spin and lies. I found myself saying, Of course! Ah, that’s what I knew all along, but I never had the courage and the clean thinking to recognize or articulate the simple facts. I also like very much hearing Avakian’s actual voice, which is warm, human, and colloquial. Finally, I esteem him because, as West pointed out, Avakian never gave up on his youth, on the sixties, on his vision, thinking, ideals, and commitment—a commitment not just to dreaming, but to enacting those dreams with real people, suffering hard lives at the hands of a cynical and greed-ridden culture. He claims the honorable place of all oppressed people.”

—From an attorney on the West Coast

“It’s superb and informative and done in a manner that everybody could understand what is being said by both of the participants. It gets 5 stars from me.”

—Richard Brown,
former Black Panther Party member and co-founder of The Committee for the Defense
of Human Rights, founded by the SF8

 


 

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Revolution #287 December 9, 2012

Fire in Bangladesh Garment Factory Kills 121 people:

If your shirt could talk. . .

December 9, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

Download poster of this article

On November 24, 2012, 121 garment workers died and at least 200 were injured in a fire at the Tazreen Fashions factory in Ashulia, an industrial suburb outside Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Photo: AP
On November 24, 2012, 121 garment workers died and at least 200 were injured in a fire at the Tazreen Fashions factory in Ashulia, an industrial suburb outside Dhaka, Bangladesh.

On November 24, 2012, 121 garment  workers died and at least 200 were injured in a fire at the Tazreen Fashions factory in Ashulia, an industrial suburb outside Dhaka, Bangladesh.  The nine-story building had no fire escapes, the ground floor exits were locked. Tazreen is part of the larger Tuba Group, which makes apparel for top global retailers like Carrefour, Walmart, H&M, Tesco, IKEA, C&A, Gap, and Sainsbury’s. In Bangladesh, about 600 workers have been killed in fires like this since 2006. Two million workers, mainly women, are employed in the country's 4,500 garment factories. Among the lowest paid in the world, Dhaka's garment workers sometimes earn less than a dollar a day. (Go to revcom.us for the article "Bangladesh workers burned alive in death-trap garment factory")

The fundamental thing that enables human beings to live and have society is the exchange of labor among people, but this is not at all obvious.

“If you go to work, you put in a certain amount of work, you get back a certain amount of money in exchange for that work. You go buy certain products at the store or whatever and then you take them to your house and use them and you exchange things in that kind of a way. This goes on in such an everyday way that we don’t even stop and think about it. But you are actually exchanging things indirectly through all these different stages with people all over the various parts of the globe.

“Think about it this way. Don’t do it right now, but when you go home, check out your clothes. Look at the labels on them. Don’t just look at where it says what company, brand is on the clothes. But look where it says where these clothes or other things you have were made. In Nicaragua, in Honduras, in Haiti, in Pakistan, in Egypt, all over the world. We are exchanging things and ultimately and fundamentally we’re exchanging labor. People in those countries are putting in a certain amount of labor and we’re putting in a certain amount and that’s being exchanged through the form of the way in which we buy things with money. But it’s not very obvious because partly they want to keep it hidden from us. And the other reason is there are things that get in the way of our seeing that very clearly. First is the fact that there are all these intermediate steps. We’re not the six people directly exchanging labor with each other. We’re exchanging money getting something, the remote character of where it came from is not obvious unless you do go read those labels, for example. So that’s kind of one thing that keeps it hidden from us is that here’s somebody working in a sweatshop in Pakistan making a shirt that you wear and you’re over here putting in a certain amount of work so that you get the money to be able to go to buy that shirt when it gets to a store that you go to. You’re exchanging the labor you put in for the labor they put in to make that shirt. But it goes through so many stages in between that you don’t see that.” 

From Revolution: Why It’s Necessary, Why It’s Possible,
What It’s All About, a film of a talk by Bob Avakian,
from the section “What Is Capitalism?”
(available online at revolutiontalk.net)

 


 

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Revolution #287 December 9, 2012

Conflict in Egypt, Agendas of the Oppressors...
And the Need for Another Way

by Alan Goodman | December 9, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

Egypt

Massive protests are sweeping Egypt, and many people who are part of them have aspirations for real liberation from oppression. At the same time, right now the terms of what is possible in Egypt are far too much defined by the interests of competing oppressive agendas, and a whole other way is needed to liberate Egypt. AP Photo

Massive protests are sweeping Egypt, triggered by Egyptian President Morsi’s November 11 decree that, among other things, radically restricted the role of Egypt’s judiciary. While it is difficult to get a clear picture of the forces in the field, they appear to represent a wide range of interests, agendas, and sections of society, including the ongoing aspirations of the people of Egypt for real liberation from oppression.

At the same time, right now the terms of societal conflict in Egypt are defined in the main by intense contradictions between two sections of the ruling class. Neither of these forces represents anything positive for the millions of Egyptian people who rose up with such inspiring courage in 2011.

The Uprising of 2011

The significance of, and the challenges facing the inspiring uprising in Egypt in 2011 were identified incisively in Bob Avakian’s statement, “Egypt 2011: Millions Have Heroically Stood Up...The Future Remains to be Written.”

That statement begins:

“Millions of Egyptian people from all walks of life, drawing inspiration from the people of Tunisia, have heroically risen up, defied the hated regime of Hosni Mubarak and forced Mubarak to resign. This has shattered the notion that ‘things can never change.’ It is a powerful demonstration that there is no permanent necessity to the existing conditions under which the great majority of humanity suffer so terribly. Oppressed people and people who hunger for an end to oppression, in every country all over the world, have deeply shared in the joy and hope of these massive uprisings. And the stirrings of revolt continue to spread.

“At the same time, while Mubarak has stepped down, the same basic forces that have so cruelly ruled over and exploited the Egyptian people remain in power. And, despite their honeyed words of praise for the masses of youth and others who have risen up, despite their promises of ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy,’ in reality they are determined to bring about a ‘transition’ that will ensure that there is no fundamental change—that whatever new arrangements are engineered in the political process will still keep the masses of people in Egypt, in Palestine, and other countries of strategic importance for U.S. imperialism, in unbearable conditions. After all, the armed forces in Egypt—which are now supposed to carry out this ‘transition’—are the same armed forces which for decades faithfully and brutally enforced the rule of the Mubarak regime, while the heads of this military enriched themselves through becoming major exploiters of the Egyptian people; and the imperialists of the U.S.—who fully backed Mubarak and his cronies and kept them in power for 30 years, without any regard for the suffering of the people—are the very same imperialists who are now seeking yet again to call the shots and give the ultimate orders in terms of what the ‘transition’ in Egypt will be.

“The plans and designs of these oppressors and exploiters are NOT what the masses of people desperately want and need...”

That basic situation remains. And, at the same time, there are sharp conflicts within the forces that control, or aspire to be cut in on, the exploitation of the people of Egypt.

The Army and the Muslim Brotherhood

Media analysts generally portray the conflict in Egypt today as one between “secular democracy” (the army and apparently major sections of the judiciary), on the one hand, and Islamic forces gaining strength within the region on the other.

The Israel Factor

Both the Army and the Muslim Brotherhood have a long history and current role in Egypt’s shameful collaboration with Israel in the oppression of the Palestinian people, in Gaza and beyond.

In 1978, the U.S. oversaw the "Camp David Accords" between Israel and Sadat of Egypt, which became the first Arab country to officially recognize the Zionist state. The Mubarak regime was a shameless collaborator with Israel, enforcing Camp David and sealing Egypt’s border with Gaza to contribute to the starvation, isolation, and imprisonment of the 1.7 million Palestinians in that crowded outdoor prison.

The Muslim Brotherhood is no better. In October 2012, Morsi wrote a letter to Israeli President Shimon Peres—a fanatic Zionist who has presided over years of brutal oppression of the Palestinian people. Morsi called Peres "a great and good friend" and went on to call for "maintaining and strengthening the cordial relations which so happily exist between our two countries." Morsi closed the letter by expressing "highest esteem and consideration." For purposes of domestic consumption within Egypt, a Muslim Brotherhood leader claimed that the letter was "fabricated," saying that "Zionist media have leaked baseless statements by Morsi in the past." However, Morsi spokesman Yasser Ali told Egyptian state-run newspaper Al-Ahram that the letter was "100 percent correct." And all indications are that this represents the actual position of the Brotherhood.

Morsi has repeatedly made clear he would honor all of Egypt's international treaties, a clear signal to the U.S. imperialists and Israel that he would honor the one that mattered most—Camp David.

On November 14, 2012, when Israel launched Operation Pillar of Defense in the Gaza Strip, Morsi's government condemned the operation and called for a halt to air strikes. And Morsi sent Prime Minister Hesham Qandil to Gaza to express solidarity with Gaza. But Morsi kept Egypt’s border with Gaza essentially sealed, and overall he collaborated with the U.S. and Israel in locking down the defenseless people of Gaza as they were being slaughtered by Israel’s murderous rocket and bombing attacks (see "Israel's Murderous Assault on the People in Gaza...
And the Need to Oppose These Crimes NOW"
in #286).

Barack Obama had six phone conversations with Morsi during Israel’s assault on Gaza, and by all (U.S. ruling class) accounts, Morsi played an invaluable role orchestrating a cease fire with terms Israel found acceptable.

Republican Senator John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Kelly Ayotte said in a statement after the ceasefire: "We commend Prime Minister Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders for the role they played in reaching today’s ceasefire. We also are encouraged by the responsible leadership role played by the President of Egypt and his government. President Morsi deserves credit for successfully bringing an end to the violence and preventing further loss of life on both sides. These actions are befitting the commitment to peace and security that Egypt has traditionally upheld as a leader of the Arab world."

Speaking of the diplomatic maneuvering, Bruce Jentleson, a Duke University public policy professor and former State Department adviser, said "What we're seeing here is 21st-century peacemaking, where the U.S. still has a very central role to play, but the old Camp David model is no longer sufficient.” And he added, "There have to be key players in the region who bring their own identity and credibility to the table."

Such is the role of the Morsi regime, in service to U.S. interests in the region, including support for the key U.S. hit man in the region—the state of Israel.

The “secular democracy” of the pro-U.S. Mubarak regime was characterized by grinding poverty, an economy that turned on the command of foreign investors, brutal repression, and slavish complicity with the agenda of the U.S. in the Middle East, particularly in relation to Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people.

Sitting atop all this were forces concentrated in the Egyptian army. The Egyptian army was and is a force for repressive violence, intervening at key times during the uprising two years ago to constrain, control, and set limits on what could be challenged.

And, as pointed to in the excerpt from Bob Avakian’s statement on Egypt, the clique of top army officials is itself a grouping of major comprador capitalists—big Egyptian capitalists who serve as local agents of international imperialist capital. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) controls as much as 40 percent of Egypt’s economy. Those holdings are largely secret, and this network of investments is closely guarded by the officers and generals who benefit from its profits. The Egyptian army reportedly owns tourist resorts, processed food plants, weapons factories, and owns companies that make and sell household appliances. And financial networks controlled by the army generate profits for the SCAF on everything from bottled water and olive oil to computer chips and cotton underwear.  (See: “In political fight with Egypt’s army, Muslim Brotherhood follows the money,” Global Post, April 3, 2012)

This entrenched network of parasites sits on top of the masses of Egyptian people. And it stifles and suppresses other comprador forces that have their own aspirations and alternate visions of how to cohere Egypt as a stable, regional power within the chains of global imperialist exploitation.

The Muslim Brotherhood developed, over decades, as something of a parallel economic, political, and ideological network in Egyptian society. It provided social services for the poor, closely associated with the mosques. It both served as a stabilizing factor in Mubarak’s Egypt, and as a force “waiting in the wings” for an opportunity to become the senior partner of the forces serving imperialist interests in Egypt. The uprising that toppled Mubarak, along with the highly unstable situation and rise of different Islamic forces in the region overall, has provided such a moment. Morsi was put forward by the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP—the political party associated with the Muslim Brotherhood) as candidate for president and won the first post-Mubarak election with about 51 percent of the vote.

The Muslim Brotherhood has its own social base and vision of a cohering morality to re-stabilize Egyptian society, with a more overt role for oppressive Islamic values in the state. One very legitimate target of protest against Morsi’s proposed new constitution is the codifying of women’s oppression in Article 10 which mandates: “The family is the basis of the society and is founded on religion, morality and patriotism.” One can look to the inhuman oppression of women in other countries where Qur’an-based oppression of women is institutionalized in law to get a sense of what horrors such a constitution might usher in.

The Muslim Brotherhood opposed or sat out the uprising against Mubarak until the very eve of his overthrow. And it has exerted a powerful conservatizing impact on the people since then, including driving women out of the upsurge, and providing an “alternative” that seeks only to restructure the way Egypt fits into the world of capitalism-imperialism.

EGYPT 2011: MILLIONS HAVE HEROICALLY STOOD UP...
THE FUTURE REMAINS TO BE WRITTEN

A Statement By Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA
February 11, 2011

Translations available at this page in Arabic, French, German and Spanish.

Nothing put forward by the Muslim Brotherhood even claims to provide a program for breaking Egypt out of the crushing chains of global capitalism. Instead, their differences with the Mubarak/army clique revolve around how Egypt will operate in that world of oppression. As part of those differences, there are very real clashes over how to reforge the legitimacy of whatever oppressive state structure emerges in Egypt, including the formal role of Islam in that.

And there are sharp conflicts over shares of the loot allocated by imperialism to its local compradors in Egypt. Shortly after the fall of Mubarak, a leader of the FJP said: “The army must be made aware that there was a revolution, and that things have to and will change... The army must go back to its normal role as defender of the nation, and it should not have this kind of economic control. It should not be a state within a state.”

The FJP leader did not mean that a real revolution had taken place where the oppressive structures that serve and enforce capitalism-imperialism were shattered, and a whole new society could be built. Nor was he calling for such a revolution. He meant that too much of the spoils of imperialist-capitalist exploitation were still going to the army. And like a rising mob boss, he was demanding a bigger cut of the action for the networks of the Muslim Brotherhood, something that would give them a basis to shore up the allegiance of their social base.

The Egyptian army, for its part, is not about to step aside without a fight. Like an established mob boss, the SCAF’s chief financial officer, Maj. Gen. Mahmoud Nasr, told Al-Ahram news agency in early 2012 that “the armed forces will fight to defend” their projects. “We have been building them for 33 years,” he said. “And we won’t give them to anyone else to destroy.”

The Need and Basis for Another Way

Behind slogans of freedom, democracy, and justice issued by the contending ruling class forces in Egypt are essentially agendas of these forces to impose their version of an exploitive, oppressive order.

Right now, masses of people who desire real liberating change are being drawn into protest throughout Egypt—such people make up at least a significant section of those in the streets. But given the present lineup of forces, they are pushed and pulled back and forth between one or another faction of the ruling class.

Both these factions of the ruling class appeal to people with demagoguery, and at times attack real elements of their opponents’ positions. The Muslim Brotherhood issues demands that the army and judiciary stop protecting officials of the Mubarak regime who ordered torture and murder, but their objective is to remove obstacles to themselves assuming improved positions within the existing setup.

The Mubarak-associated clique calls people into the street to defend “secular democracy.” But people need to understand that when you hear someone like Mohamed ElBaradei—a favorite of the U.S. who overall served the interests of U.S. imperialism as head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), say that Morsi “usurped all state powers and appointed himself Egypt’s new pharaoh,” behind that rhetoric is essentially nothing more than the class interests of sections of the ruling class in Egypt issuing demagogic appeals to sections of the masses (and making their case in public to the rulers of the U.S. as well)—in service of one of the contending agendas for exploitation and oppression.

On the other hand... speaking of the real aspirations of the Egyptian people, Bob Avakian, in his Statement on Egypt, wrote:

“Theirs is the cry of ‘freedom,’ and the struggle must be carried forward until real freedom is achieved—freedom from the rule of the imperialists and their local henchmen and junior partners, freedom from all forms of oppression and exploitation. Freedom from both the outmoded forces which would enslave women, and the people as a whole, in medieval darkness and oppression—and from the outmoded forces who would enslave people in the name of ‘democracy’...‘freedom’...and capitalist-imperialist exploitation marketed as ‘progress.’”

And later in this statement, BA—drawing on the experience of Lenin in the Russian revolution, emphasizes this:

“When people in their masses, in their millions, finally break free of the constraints that have kept them from rising up against their oppressors and tormentors, then whether or not their heroic struggle and sacrifice will really lead to a fundamental change, moving toward the abolition of all exploitation and oppression, depends on whether or not there is a leadership, communist leadership, that has the necessary scientific understanding and method, and on that basis can develop the necessary strategic approach and the influence and organized ties among growing numbers of the people, in order to lead the uprising of the people, through all the twists and turns, to the goal of a real, revolutionary transformation of society, in accordance with the fundamental interests of the people. And, in turn, when people massively break with the ‘normal routine’ and the tightly woven chains of oppressive relations in which they are usually entrapped and by which they are heavily weighed down—when they break through and rise up in their millions—that is a crucial time for communist organization to further develop its ties with those masses, strengthening its ranks and its ability to lead. Or, if such communist organization does not yet exist, or exists only in isolated fragments, this is a crucial time for communist organization to be forged and developed, to take up the challenge of studying and applying communist theory, in a living way, in the midst of this tumultuous situation, and to strive to continually develop ties with, to influence and to ultimately lead growing numbers of the masses in the direction of the revolution that represents their fundamental and highest interests, the communist revolution.”

During the time I was in Egypt, as part of the Gaza Freedom March three years ago, I had some, if limited, opportunity to engage with Egyptian activists who at the time were bravely organizing protests against the Mubarak regime, in solidarity with striking workers, in opposition to Egypt’s support for Israel, and around other issues. Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage, A Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, had not been translated into Arabic at that time, but I was able to get it to a number of English-speaking activists.

During these engagements, I did my best to struggle with them to engage and take up BA’s new synthesis of communism, and to seriously grapple with what it would take to really transform Egyptian society in the context of getting to a world without oppression and exploitation. Often the response was that if there was any country in the world where revolution was a far-far-far-off possibility, it was Egypt, where the political police crushed protest, where people were viscerally demoralized, and where—it was argued—distinctions between “progressive Islam,” “radical democracy,” and revolutionary communism were abstract issues that might be relevant in a distant future. So, obviously there is a lesson in that for everyone everywhere who desires serious political change but can’t see the potential for a revolutionary situation developing, and the urgency of preparing for (while hastening the coming of) such a moment.

Several people I met were intrigued by the Manifesto. But they tended to see it as one of many sets of good ideas, along with illusory conceptions of “Western democracy” and/or “enlightened Islam.” Events are demonstrating that demarcating between contending reactionary or non-revolutionary poles on the one hand, and real revolution on the other, is a question of life and death for the masses of people.

If even a small core of forces cohered in Egypt around what is in the Manifesto, that could make all the difference.

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/287/bringing-ba-to-the-school-of-the-americas-protest-en.html

Revolution #287 December 9, 2012

Bringing BA to the School of the Americas Protest

December 9, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

We received the following from supporters of Revolution Books in Atlanta:

Supporters of Revolution Books made the annual trip (90 miles south of Atlanta) to Columbus, Georgia on the weekend of November 17, to the site of Fort Benning, a vital base for U.S. imperialist armed forces worldwide, and notorious in part for its "School of the Americas," a decades-long training ground for the officer corps of U.S. supported/directed dictatorships of many Latin American countries. Hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans have been tortured, raped, assassinated, "disappeared," massacred, and forced into exile by those trained at the School of the Americas (SOA), and for this reason the School of the Americas has been historically dubbed the "School of Assassins."

We strategized over how to bring the BA Everywhere...Imagine the Difference It Could Make! campaign to the people who come from all over the country (and other parts of the world) to the annual SOA protest. It is an interesting mix of youth, who are new to the protest, and elders, many of whom have year after year for over 20 years come to "Shut Down the School of Assassins." Two speakers this year told of how they had been cruelly tortured, one in Paraguay, another in Chile; and the person spearheading this protest since 1990, Father Roy Bourgeois, has spent more than four years in prison for "crossing the line" into the base repeatedly.

Days before the SOA protest on November 17, Israel's murderous assault on Gaza erupted and we wanted to make sure there was visible opposition to this outrageous attack. To make a big splash and create thoughtful discussion, we decided to display one of the giant panels we had saved from the southern leg of the BAsics Bus Tour this summer. On it, in huge words it said "USA is NUMBER ONE... Terrorist" followed by the Abiodun Oyewole (of the Last Poets) poem called "Rain of Terror." And underneath this display we featured the slogan, "Stop U.S./Israeli Assault on the People of Gaza!" Dozens of people, particularly the youth, not only stopped but stooped down to read the entire poem, and were drawn to our booth. Inside the booth we had a poster of BAsics 5:12, "After the Holocaust, the worst thing that has happened to Jewish people is the state of Israel." Several people, young and old, really appreciated that insight.

Another key part of our plan was to inundate the protest with the palm cards with BAsics 5:7, "American Lives Are Not More Important Than Other People's Lives" and 5:8 "Internationalism – The Whole World Comes First," and to draw people forward in particular to engage with BAsics, the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal), as well as highlighting the special issue of Revolution #285 "Get BA Everywhere!" As a fundraiser for the BA Everywhere campaign, people had baked brownies which we sold under a sign "Brownies Hand-Made by Communists," which people got a kick out of (we sold out and raised a total of $84).

A dramatic feature Revolution Books brought to the SOA protest this year was a bold expression of how the military is a concentration of the oppression of women, "The Military Culture of 'Be All You Can Be' Patriarchy (Inside the military and the lands they invade and occupy)" as a part of the Call to "Take it to the Streets! Stop the War on Women!" on November 17. (See stoppatriarchy.tumblr.com for report and pictures.) This attracted crowds throughout the day, particularly young women. Most everyone who came by left with BAsics 3:22 "You cannot break all the chains, except one...," and we sold several copies of the special issue of Revolution: "A Declaration: for Women's Liberation and the Emancipation of All Humanity."

As we sold Revolution #285 to a number of the youth throughout the day, we also made a point of promoting Cornel West's interview with Bob Avakian. Most had never heard of BA (or Cornel West). Many of the youth who were interested in finding out about this revolution were from faraway places like Iowa and even Canada. Some were interested in getting the paper distributed in their hometown, and having people from the Revolutionary Communist Party address their college classes via Skype. They were totally fresh in their openness to communism.

A number of the veteran religious activists who have lived in other countries were curious and often friendly. One woman who had lived in India had a favorable view of the Maoist movement there because of the writings of Arundhati Roy, and wanted to know what we thought about it.

In contrast to the openness of many of the youth and the curiosity of some of the older activists was the attitude of some anarchists who dismissively and dogmatically scoffed at the booth as they passed by. We challenged them as to how they planned to fundamentally change the world, and why they should be open to engaging with BA and his new vision of communism, even with their significant differences, if they were really serious about fighting to liberate humanity. This approach actually led to some brief, but more thoughtful, exchange.

The day was non-stop with vibrant discussions around the exhibit for N17, communism, the need to oppose the murderous crimes against Gaza, the mass campaign of BA Everywhere. In the midst of this righteous protest to stop the horrific crimes perpetrated by the School of the Assassins, there was a great deal of debate and discussion over what is the underlying problem, and what is the solution.

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/287/scenes-from-ba-everywhere-week-of-december-3-en.html

Revolution #287 December 9, 2012

Scenes from BA Everywhere

Week of December 3

December 9, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

"Scenes from BA Everywhere" is a weekly feature that gives our readers an ongoing picture of this multi-faceted campaign, and the variety of ways that funds are being raised, and the whole BA vision and framework is being brought into all corners of society. Revolution newspaper is at the hub of the BA Everywhere effort—publishing reports from those taking up the campaign. Revolution plays a pivotal role in building an organized network of people across the country coming together to make BA a household word. We urge all our readers to send us timely correspondence on what you are doing as part of this campaign.

Anti-Thanksgiving Potluck

Over the weekend, a small group of us got together for an anti-Thanksgiving potluck dinner to kick off fundraising and promotion of BA Everywhere. One person arranged for the use of a house, and invited some of his friends over too. People brought all kinds of great food with diverse international flavors. We raised $100 and several people signed up to plan and participate in fundraising activities over the next few weeks.

Most everyone who came took BAsics palm cards to get out at their family gatherings, and some young people took some to get out at their schools. One person took a stack of BAsics Bus Tour, Atlanta to Sanford... and Beyond videos to sell to his friends to introduce them to BA Everywhere. And, one guy who couldn't make it, called to make sure he was signed up to work on a cultural event next month.

Bringing BA to the School of the Americas Protest

Supporters of Revolution Books, Atlanta, traveled to Columbus, Georgia, on the weekend of November 17, to join the protest at the site of Fort Benning, a vital base for U.S. imperialist armed forces worldwide, and notorious in part for its School of the Americas (SOA), a decades-long training ground for the officer corps of U.S.-supported/directed dictatorships of many Latin American countries. Hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans have been tortured, raped, assassinated, "disappeared," massacred, and forced into exile by those trained at the School of the Americas, and for this reason the School of the Americas has been historically dubbed the "School of Assassins."

We strategized over how to bring the BA Everywhere campaign to the people who come from all over the country (and other parts of the world) to the annual SOA protest. It is an interesting mix of youth who are new to the protest and older people, many of whom have for over 20 years come to "Shut Down the School of Assassins." Two speakers this year told of how they had been cruelly tortured, one in Paraguay, another in Chile. The person spearheading this protest since 1990, Fr. Roy Bourgeois, has spent more than 4 years in prison for "crossing the line" into the base repeatedly.

Days before the SOA protest, Israel's murderous assault on Gaza, and we wanted to make sure there was visible opposition to this outrageous attack. We decided to display one of the giant panels we had saved from the southern leg of the BAsics Bus Tour this summer. On it in hugewords, it said: "USA is NUMBER ONE... Terrorist" followed by an Abiodun Oyewole (of the Last Poets) poem called "Rain of Terror." And underneath this display we featured the slogan "Stop U.S./Israeli Assault on the People of Gaza!" Dozens of people, particularly the youth, not only stopped but stooped down to read the entire poem and were drawn to our booth where we had a poster of BAsics 5:12, "After the Holocaust, the worst thing that has happened to Jewish people is the state of Israel."

Another key part of our plan was to inundate the protest with the palm cards with BAsics 5:7, "American Lives Are Not More Important Than Other People's Lives" and 5:8 "Internationalism—The Whole World Comes First," and to draw people forward in particular to engage with BAsics, the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal), as well as highlighting the special issue of Revolution #285 "Get BA EVERYWHERE!" As a fundraiser for the BA Everywhere campaign, people had baked brownies which we sold under a sign "Brownies Hand-Made by Communists," which people got a kick out of (we sold out and raised a total of $84).

A dramatic feature Revolution Books brought to the SOA protest this year was a bold expression of how the military is a concentration of the oppression of women called, "The Military Culture of 'Be All You Can Be' Patriarchy (Inside the military and the lands they invade and occupy)" as a part of the Call to "Take it to the Streets! Stop the War on Women!" on N17. (See stoppatriarchy.tumblr.com for report and pictures!) This attracted crowds throughout the day, particularly young women. Most everyone who came by left with the BAsics quote 3:22, "You cannot break all the chains, except one... ," and we sold several copies of the special issue of Revolution: A Declaration: For Women's Liberation and the Emancipation of All Humanity.

As we sold Revolution #285 to a number of the youth throughout the day, we also made a point of promoting Cornel West's interview with Bob Avakian. Most had never heard of BA (or even Cornel West). Many of the youth who were interested in finding out about this revolution were from faraway places like Iowa and even Canada. Some were interested in getting the paper distributed in their hometown and having people from the Revolutionary Communist Party address their college classes via Skype. They were totally fresh in their openness to communism. A number of the veteran religious activists, who have lived in other countries, were curious and often friendly.

In contrast to the openness of many of the youth and the curiosity of some of the older activists, was the attitude of some anarchists who dismissively and dogmatically scoffed at the booth as they passed by. We challenged them as to how they planned to fundamentally change the world, and why they should be open to engaging with BA and his new vision of communism, even with their significant differences, if they were really serious about fighting to liberate humanity. This approach actually led to some brief, but more thoughtful, exchanges.

The day was non-stop with vibrant discussions around the exhibit for N17, communism, the need to oppose the murderous crimes against Gaza, the mass campaign of BA Everywhere. In the midst of this righteous protest to stop the horrific crimes perpetrated by the School of the Assassins, there was a great deal of debate and discussion over what the underlying problem is, and what the solution is.

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/287/new-synthesis-of-communism-is-really our-only-option-en.html

Revolution #287 December 9, 2012

From a prisoner:

"This New Synthesis of Communism is really our only option..."

December 9, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

Midwest
11/4/12

Hey, what's Good? Right on for the 2nd chapter to Science of Revolution. It arrived in the mail this past Friday night. Good looking out! I've been receiving the "Revolution" Newspaper that the P.R.L.F. sends to me as well, and I am very grateful for it. I want to congratulate those brothers who are serving time on the SuperMax Unit out on the west coast for that Real Shit they are putting down out there. With all of the fake and unprincipled bullshit that goes down behind these walls, its very Important that we give honors to the Real Shit when it happens. What's sad is, most of us in here behind these walls wouldn't recognize Real Shit even if it were to smack us in our faces. I also want to thank the brother out on the Midwest who wrote in response to the heroic stance those brothers out west are taking, offering his revolutionary analytical insight in assistance to those brothers... I don't have those articles in the cage with me now because I've passed them on, but as the brother said, "A solid core with a lot of elasticity" must be developed A-Sap. Beware of the agent provocateurs and the "illegitimate" capitalist looking to make a profit and turn the movement into its opposite. We recognize that this movement is new and it bares the Birthmarks of the lumpen organizations that it was developed out of, so principled struggle must take place in order to beat back and restrict the actions of those deviationest whose aim is to disrupted the progress made within the movement. This reminds me of what chairman Mao said about the Communist Party during the historical period of Socialist Society in China:

"With the socialist revolution they themselves come under fire. At the time of the co-operative transformation of agriculture there were people in the Party who opposed it, and when it comes to criticizing bourgeois right, they resent it. You are making the socialist revolution, and yet don't know where the bourgeoisie is. It is right in the Communist Party—those in power taking the capitalist road. The capitalist-roaders are still on the capitalist road."

So as the brother in the Midwest said, we must use our unfortunate circumstances of being trapped in these cages, and further develop our understanding of Revolutionary Communism. We have the leadership of Bob Avakian with his books and teachings. This New Synthesis of Communism is really our only option if we're truly seeking Radical change. My point being, with the application of these lessons, we will be able to stand on the bullshit within the Solid Core, because we will recognize the bullshit when we see it.

Speaking of bullshit, I definitely enjoyed the "We Call Bullshit" article in the latest paper. When I got the 2nd Chapter to Science of Revolution in the mail the other day, I also received a small note saying that one wanted to know what I felt about the interview between Brooks/B.A. I Love It!! I've definitely made this interview a point for reference. And the "We Call Bullshit" article in the paper is an example of what B.A. was talking about when he spoke of the need for sharp, and principled, struggle. For me, the more I study, the more my confidence builds up about engaging in debates with others. Just recently I received a letter from a friend of mine who's doing time a different prison. We've been dialoguing through the mail for years now, so quite naturally Im going to introduce him to B.A. and the New Synthesis of Communism, and the movement we are building. Right now the idea of being an atheist is counter-intuitive to him right now, and his recent letter to me he wrote saying that he is a "spiritual being". (L.O.L.) He said he does'nt subscribe to any particular line, because he is "Universal". He said a whole bunch of bullshit in this letter, and I swear, about five new gray hairs popped out of my scalp after reading it. Dude he's both a metaphysics practitioner and a dialectical materialist. So I guess being a "universal" means to be inconsistent or should I say Consistently Inconsistent. And a "Spiritual Being" means he believe in superstitions and shit. I hit him up with BAsics 4:20 and some other quotes, and I called it a day. In the most recent paper I received I saw where a brother doing time (I believe in Texas) sent money to P.R.L.F. to order a book (BAsics) for one of his comrades. I would like to do the same thing for my partner whose doing time at a different location than I, is that possible? ...I would like P.R.L.F. to send him a copy of BAsics and a copy of the Brook/B.A. interview. We need to [get] B.A.'s image at that joint A-sap. So be on the look out for a check from my prison account with his info.

Well, until next time. Please continue to do the work that you do because it is greatly appreciated.

--Struggle--

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/287/bradley-manning-testifies-on-his-torture-and-abuse-by-u.s.-military-en.html

Revolution #287 December 9, 2012

Bradley Manning Testifies on
His Torture and Abuse by U.S. Military

December 9, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

“I remember thinking, ‘I’m going to die’... I’m stuck inside this cage. I just thought I was going to die in that cage. And that’s how I saw it: an animal cage.”

Bradley Manning testifying at a pretrial proceeding, November 29, 2012

Bradley Manning has been imprisoned for over two and a half years, and finally on November 29 he was able to tell the world directly of the torture and abuse he has faced at the hands of the U.S. imperialist military and government. Manning testified as part of a pretrial hearing which began November 27 and is expected to run through December 2. This hearing is on a motion filed by Manning’s lawyers charging the military with unlawful pretrial punishment and demanding all charges against him be dropped and that he be released from custody.

Bradley Manning
AP Photo

Manning, a 24-year-old private and intelligence analyst in the U.S. Army, was arrested in May 2010 in Iraq and was held in conditions amounting to torture for nine months. He’s charged with “aiding the enemy,” and is now facing a military court-martial and possible life in prison. He is accused of leaking nearly a half-million classified documents which were later published by the website WikiLeaks. These documents include the Collateral Murder video, Afghanistan War Logs, Iraq War Logs, U.S. State Embassy cables and Gitmo Files releases.

Kevin Gosztola, an author and civil liberties blogger at Firedoglake, told Revolution in June, “The Collateral Murder video shows a 2007 Apache helicopter attack in which two Reuters journalists were gunned down. A ‘Good Samaritan’ with his two children pulled up with a van and tried to save those wounded. He was shot and killed and his two children were severely wounded. The Afghan War Logs revealed a directive known as Task Force 373, an assassination squad of Navy SEALs and members of the Delta Forces who decided whether to arrest or kill targets. The logs also revealed that U.S. and UK forces adopted a military order, ‘Frago 242,’ to avoid taking responsibility for the torture of Iraqis by military or security forces in the country. These are just a few of the documents released to WikiLeaks.” (“Interview with Kevin Gosztola: The Political Persecution & Inhumane Punishment of Pfc. Bradley Manning,Revolution #273, June 24, 2012)

These documents published by Wiki-Leaks have exposed many truths about the nature of U.S. imperialist actions around the world. And whoever is responsible, this is one of the most heroic and courageous actions in recent memory and a clarion call for others who know truths about the savage U.S. empire to act on their conscience and blow the whistle on such crimes.

The response of the Obama administration to the revelation of these crimes has not been to end them, prosecute those who committed them, or change its policies now that these horrendous crimes have become known to the public. Its response has been to viciously attack Bradley Manning and WikiLeaks so that they can continue lying about and covering up the crimes against people all over the world. And it is important to repeat: The torture and abuse of Bradley Manning has taken place entirely on Obama’s “watch.”

The shocking testimony of Manning and others, including military doctors and officials, reveals the extreme and barbaric lengths to which the military has gone to punish Manning before any trial has even taken place. Such torture is aimed at breaking Manning and intimidating other military personnel from leaking documents that expose the crimes the U.S. imperialists are committing on a daily basis around the world

Julian Assange, the founder of Wiki-Leaks, told Democracy Now! (November 29), “What is happening this week is not the trial of Bradley Manning. What is happening this week is the trial of the U.S. military. This is Bradley Manning’s abuse case . . . [he’s been] subject to conditions that the U.N. special rapporteur, Juan Méndez, special rapporteur for torture, formally found amounted to torture.

“Why was that treatment placed on him for so long, when so many people—independent psychiatrists, military psychiatrists—complained about what was going on in extremely strong terms? His lawyer and support team say that he was being treated in that manner, in part, in order to coerce some kind of statement or false confession from him that would implicate WikiLeaks as an organization and me personally . . . this young man’s treatment . . . is directly as a result of an attempt to attack this organization by the United States military, to coerce this young man into providing evidence that could be used to more effectively attack us, and also serve as some kind of terrible disincentive for other potential whistleblowers from stepping forward.”

Caged Like an Animal in Kuwait

Manning took the stand on November 29, and in just one day conveyed both the barbarity of the U.S. government and military and his own courage and humanity. Manning began by describing what happened to him after he was arrested by the military on May 27, 2010 while serving in Iraq and then taken to Camp Arifjan in Kuwait.

He was brought into a military tent that had two cage-like cells inside. It was 8 x 8 x 8 feet and had a rack and toilet. Kevin Gosztola, who attended the hearing, wrote, “He was not told why he was moved and it was the same cell he was in during ‘indoctrination.’ After being moved back to segregation, there still were no formal charges. He didn’t know what was going on. He was limited, he said, and it was ‘very draining.’”

He was not sleeping much because his jailers were waking him up in the night and only allowing him to try to sleep in the day. Attorney Michael Ratner, who is representing Julian Assange and also attended the hearing, recounted on Democracy Now! (November 30) that Manning said, “For me, I stopped keeping track. I didn’t know whether night was day or day was night. And my world became very, very small. It became these cages.... I’m someone who likes current events. I take a broader view of the world.” Ratner said Manning gave an example of the oil spill in the Gulf and then said, “When that ended, my world all of a sudden was totally confined to these cages.”

Solitary Confinement, Sensory Deprivation = Torture

Manning also testified to his treatment in the brig at the Quantico Marine base in Virginia, where he was transferred from Kuwait on July 29, 2010 and held until April 20, 2011, when he was transferred to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He is currently being held there, awaiting court-martial scheduled for February 2013.

Gosztola told Revolution that during the hearing, “Manning’s lawyers outlined the 6- x 8-foot cell Manning was confined to with tape, and then Manning did a walk around pointing out where everything was—the toilet, sink, bed. There was hardly any space to move around in. He said he basically sat on his bed, he was not allowed to lay down because he was supposedly ‘on duty,’ the most he could get away with was sitting cross-legged on his bed. He said his mirror was one of his best sources of entertainment—he’d make faces just to entertain himself as he was alone in his cell without human contact. He’d do resistance training by stretching his arms because he was forbidden to exercise. Or he would dance with himself. He was bored out of his mind and had to do things to keep himself sane. He testified, ‘If I needed toilet paper I would stand to attention and shout: Detainee Manning requests toilet paper!’”

Attorney Michael Ratner spoke on Democracy Now! about how they forced Manning to sleep on his bunk facing the light so they could observe him: “If he turns over to avoid the light, they come in and they wake him up. That’s night. Day—what happens during the day? He’s in that cell 23-and-a-half hours a day, maybe 20 minutes of what they call sunshine exercise, which is just nothing. And what can he do? Because he’s on duty, supposedly, he has to either stand or he can sit on that metal bunk with his feet on the ground and can’t lean against anything. That’s 10 or 15 hours a day of what you have to call sensory deprivation.”

The justification for this abuse was that Manning was supposedly a suicide risk and a danger to himself and others—despite the fact that an experienced military psychiatrist testified that he found that Manning posed no such risk and that he’d recommended he be removed from this category. He also testified that the detention conditions Manning faced at Quantico were extremely harsh and “unprecedented”—and that his recommendations had never been ignored before including at Guantánamo.

Speaking of Manning’s composure during his court appearance, attorney Ratner said, “It was so horrible what happened to him over a two-year period. But he described it in great detail in a way that was articulate, smart, self-aware.” And later, after pointing out how the government is trying to break Manning, Ratner said, “What’s remarkable is that he still has this incredible dignity after going through this.”

Since Manning’s imprisonment, many, many people have supported him—including contributing to his defense fund and organizing mass protests demanding, “Free Bradley Manning!” It is critical that many more rally to Manning’s defense and demand that all charges against him be dropped and that he be released.

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/287/courageous-youth-standing-up-against-police-murder-of-dakota-bright-en.html

Revolution #287 December 9, 2012

To the Courageous Youth Who Are Standing Up Against the Police Murder of Dakota Bright

December 9, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

We received this correspondence. Dakota Bright, 15-year-old Black youth, was killed by Chicago police on November 8 (see "Justice for Dakota Bright!!! Indict, Convict, Send the Killer Cop to Jail—The Whole Damn System is Guilty as Hell!!"):

There was a time in my life where I was eyeball deep in the streets and all the self destructive shit that went with that. Like many who grew up in the slums of Chicago, I was conditioned to think that the harassment and terrorization from the police was just part of the daily grind to get mine, or that someone down the block who is in the same oppressed situation as I am was my enemy.

It wasn't until I was buried alive for many years in prison (the only real future this system has for millions of us) under some of the most harsh and brutal conditions that I began to question why things are the way they are in the world. In the midst of that questioning I happened to come across revolutionary literature that was being provided by a revolutionary leadership that would ultimately inspire me to "Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution."

As we wipe away the tears for Dakota Bright and the anger and outrage towards the police starts to bubble over, it's important that we begin to lift our heads and broaden our vision to the fact that Things Do Not Have To Be This Way.

Why are the pigs allowed to come storming in our neighborhoods gunning down our people and youth? Whose interests are these pigs really "protecting and serving"?

"The role of the police is not to serve and protect the people. It is to serve and protect the system that rules over the people. To enforce the relations of exploitation and oppression, the conditions of poverty, misery and degradation into which the system has cast people and is determined to keep people in. The law and order the police are about, with all of their brutality and murder, is the law and the order that enforces all this oppression and madness."

Bob Avakian
BAsics 1:24

Keep this in mind as we go forward...the rulers of this system would like nothing more than for us to forget about Dakota Bright and all the stolen lives before him and go back to killing one another. Our struggle and outrage is linked with the millions and millions across the globe.

From a former prisoner who is now dedicated to the emancipation of humanity

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/284/the-critical-importance-of-leadership-en.html

Revolution #287 December 9, 2012

Reflections on What Humanity Needs: Revolution, and the New Synthesis of Communism:

The Critical Importance of Leadership

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]

 


 

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Revolution #287 December 9, 2012

Former Informant Reveals Dirty NYPD Practices Against Muslims

December 9, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

From a reader:

Recently the AP reported that an informant recruited by the New York Police Department to spy on Muslims quit and denounced publicly his actions. He was recruited, in a standard police informant recruiting method, by offering him leniency on minor marijuana charges he was facing. He informed on Muslims from January to early October this year. Shamiur Rahman, a 19-year-old American citizen of Bangladeshi descent, said at first he thought he was doing important work in protecting NYC and considered himself a hero. He came to see his work as "detrimental to the Constitution."

He was part of a strategy the NYPD calls "create and capture." He would create a conversation about jihad or terrorism, then capture the response to send to the NYPD. He earned as much as $1,000 per month, as well as consideration around the marijuana arrests. This was all part of the NYPD's methods of operation with its intelligence unit since September 2001. It involves widespread spying on Muslims in all aspects of their daily life, and it also has involved several times going beyond "create and capture" conversations to proposing illegal activities and then luring in people who would not have had the means or even inclination to carry out such actions without the role of the NYPD informant or operative. It is part of a larger paradigm shift in law enforcement, with the NYPD playing a vanguard role in jettisoning the concepts of probable cause and due process of law and spying on anyone they want. This spying has targeted whole populations of people based on their nationality or religion, that is, Arabs, South Asians and Muslims.

The AP revealed earlier other aspects of this wide-ranging spying on Muslims at mosques or student groups. Informants reported on things as innocent and mundane as how many times a day members of a Muslim student group prayed when on a rafting and camping trip. This activity ranged outside the NYPD jurisdiction, from New Jersey to Connecticut. Never was there any indication of any criminal activity on the part of the students or others. This is all illegal, illegitimate and immoral. And the NYPD has defended these tactics publicly under the rubric that its job is to protect New Yorkers and, basically, the law be damned.

The entire intelligence unit created after 9/11 was set up by an ex-CIA high-level official, and these tactics have been developed with the knowledge and assistance of the FBI and CIA, including their knowledge that the tactics are illegal. In internal emails revealed through hacking by Anonymous and WikiLeaks of a right-wing intelligence group, STRATFOR, that works closely with various U.S. intelligence agencies, the following was said: "The [NYPD Intelligence] are going to make Hoover, COINTEL, Red Squads, etc look like rank amateurs compared to some damn right felonious activity, and violations of US citizens' rights they have engaged in." (For more on this, see the Revolution #182 article "The NYPD—Securing the City for Whom," November 8, 2009, reviewing the book Securing the City. Inside America's Best Counterterror Force—The NYPD.)

Rahman was instructed by his NYPD handler to spy on mosques and report on what the imam said and who attended, take pictures of attendees, and note license plate numbers of cars of attendees. He was told to spy on public programs of the Muslim Student Association at John Jay College, get to know the students, take pictures, determine who belonged to the student association, identify its leadership and report on all manner of personal history and activities. He was also sent to the annual convention of the Muslim American Society in Hartford, CT, in 2008 at which there were at least three NYPD informants.

One tactic revealed by Rahman is that, according to the AP, he sometimes intentionally "misinterpreted what people had said." He said it was easy to take statements out of context and he wanted to please his NYPD handler. He said he was trying to get money and was "playing the game."

By October of this year, Rahman told the NYPD he was finished as an informant. He said he never witnessed any criminal activity or saw anybody do anything wrong. He told friends he had been a police spy but had quit. He also told some of the Muslim student groups' members. According to the AP, he wrote, "'I was an informant for the NYPD, for a little while, to investigate terrorism.' He said he no longer thought it was right. Perhaps he had been hunting terrorists, he said, 'but I doubt it.'"

 


 

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Revolution #287 December 9, 2012

Murder of Jordan Davis: 
Another Modern-Day American Lynching

December 9, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

Jordan Davis
Jordan Davis

In an echo of the racist vigilante murder of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, earlier this year, a white man shot dead an unarmed 17-year-old Black youth on November 23 in Jacksonville, Florida. Jordan Davis, a high school junior, was sitting in a car with three friends at a gas station when Michael Dunn approached, complaining of loud music. Dunn pulled out a gun and fired eight times, two of the bullets hitting Davis and killing him. Dunn fled the scene and was arrested the next day. According to news reports, Dunn claims that he saw a barrel of a shotgun poking out from the SUV the youth were in. Police found no firearms at the scene. But Dunn's lawyer claims he shot in "self-defense," indicating he may justify the shooting under Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, which can mean that someone only needs their word that they thought their life was in danger to establish self-defense. Twenty-four other states have similar laws. Given the ugly history and continuing reality of white supremacy and oppression of Black people in the USA, these are nothing but legalized lynching laws. Even as the struggle for justice for Trayvon Martin continues, there is now this latest modern-day lynching. There is urgent need for powerful resistance against these outrages, as part of the movement for revolution to really and finally put an end to these and countless other crimes that spew forth from this system.

 


 

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Revolution #287 December 9, 2012

What About Israel’s “Right to Defend Itself”?

December 9, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

The following transcript is excerpted from an interview with Revolution correspondent Alan Goodman on The Michael Slate Show on KPFK radio, November 23, 2012.

Slate: It’s horrendous when you actually investigate what’s going on here. One of the things I was looking at in terms of the media coverage—there’s been a slew of things. If they show something from the people in Gaza, and what they’re suffering under, they have shown—at least the LA Times, a few other papers that I’ve seen have bent over backwards to present sort of, “Well, it’s sort of an equal situation,” and they’ll show Israelis like, getting out of their vans and hiding behind the van and rockets coming in, and they always make it appear to be this sort of equal, equal thing: They’re both to blame, they’re both suffering, it’s equal suffering. It calls into question, one, the nature of the media coverage, and also the question of complicity, in particular with a lot of the media in the U.S.

Goodman: Well, I think that’s true, but we’ve got a short show, or a short segment, so let’s get to the heart of things. I think, you know, underlying a lot of this, and this paralyzes even a lot of good people. For example, take our friends at Democracy Now! I’ve been watching Amy Goodman’s coverage of this situation. She had a defender of Zionism on a couple nights ago, and she continually challenged him, correctly so, on the incredible disproportionality of death. I mean Israel is reporting five deaths, but nothing even in the ballpark of the kind of widespread terror, death and suffering that’s been inflicted on the Palestinian people.

But the defender of Zionism kept coming back to, well, look, you know, Israel has a right to defend itself. And until people deconstruct, demystify and refute the whole underlying premise behind this, good people are going to be way too paralyzed.

Theft of Palestinian Land - 1947 to PresentThere’s two salient facts that people need to understand. One is: Israel was and is literally built on the blood, bones, land and homes of Palestinian people stolen through terrorist ethnic cleansing. To talk about Israel’s right to defend itself no more corresponds to the actual terms of things than if someone went into your house, drove you out, shot up the house, killed a couple of your family members and sprayed machine gun fire around the place and as you were running out yelled, “I do have a right to defend myself, don’t I?”

This is what happened. This stuff’s documented. I really want to encourage your listeners to go to revcom.us/israel for a special issue of Revolution on Israel that documents this in a lot of detail, drawing on Zionist sources in many cases.

So that’s one thing. And the second thing is that Israel’s role in the world is as an enforcer of capitalism and imperialism. What does Israel supporting the apartheid regime in South Africa, or playing a key role in the massacre of 200,000 indigenous Guatemalan peasants in the 1980s have to do with defending yourselves?

So these are facts—and yes, we are going up against an enforced narrative. It’s not just the LA Times that’s got that perspective. CNN, and unfortunately again, too many people who are correctly appalled by what Israel is doing to the Palestinians—we all need to get out of that framework that the media and Obama and all of them are imposing on us that no one can question Israel’s quote-unquote “right to defend itself.”

Listen to the full interview with Alan Goodman talking about Israel's Murderous Assault on the People in Gaza... And the Need to Oppose These Crimes NOW on The Michael Slate Show on KPFK (11-23-12)
(Play | Download)

 

 

 


 

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Revolution #287 December 9, 2012

The Two-Sided Battle Over
Smiley & West Radio Show

December 9, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

From a reader in Chicago:

In late September, the Smiley & West radio program was taken off the air by WBEZ in Chicago, a major and influential station in the so-called “public” radio broadcasting sphere. Three other radio stations around the country had also recently removed the program.

Smiley & West is co-hosted by Tavis Smiley and Professor Cornel West. Tavis Smiley is the most prominent African-American broadcaster in the country. He hosts his own weekly television and radio talk show. Cornel West is known as one of the most prominent public intellectuals in the U.S. He is a professor of Religious Philosophy and Christian Studies at the Union Theological Seminary in New York.

Each week, the show brings a mix of interviews, commentary, and listener feedback to around 70 radio stations across the country. The show is unapologetically partisan to the dispossessed and disenfranchised and delights in “speaking truth to power.” In particular the hosts have made no secret of their criticisms of President Obama. Coming in the last weeks leading up to the elections, in Obama’s home town, the cancellation raised to many the question of whether this was straight-up political censorship.

WBEZ did not contact or consult with the show’s producers in advance of the cancellation announcement, nor was it announced to listeners. Afterwards, WBEZ stated that “...the show had developed much more of an ‘advocacy’ identity, which is inconsistent with our approach on WBEZ. The goal is to present public affairs content that is reasonably balanced. We feel that Smiley & West had become a departure from this approach.” The station also tried to justify its action by claiming that the show’s listenership had dramatically declined in recent months.

To add insult to injury, Torey Malatia, the CEO of Chicago Public Media, WBEZ’s parent company, complained to a Chicago Sun-Times columnist that Smiley & West was not produced well and had become characterized by “a lot of seat-of-the-pants kind of crap.” According to several media commentators, and referred to later by Tavis Smiley in an open letter to Torey Malatia, Malatia actually compared Tavis Smiley to Bill O’Reilly, the fascist television and radio attack dog. Malatia also reportedly said that Smiley & West was “becoming like Democracy Now!,” Amy Goodman’s progressive news program, which is also not broadcast on public radio in Chicago.

Coming on top of the cancellation, WBEZ’s statements are an unprecedented public attack on one of the very few progressive radio shows in the whole country. And this is part of a pattern. Veteran Chicago media observer Robert Feder wrote in his blog that “WBUR-FM in Boston dropped the show earlier this year for being ‘too political,’ and KWMU-FM in St. Louis and KMOJ-FM in Minneapolis dropped it last year, citing pressure from listeners for Smiley and West’s controversial and outspoken views of President Obama.”

And get real, WBEZ! What is wrong with so-called “advocacy journalism”? The reality is that there are almost NO voices on broadcast television and radio that even come close to the honest and penetrating challenging of the powers-that-be that characterizes Smiley & West. The show regularly features interviews with people who are taking on various aspects of this oppressive capitalist-imperialist system. It has news features about outrages the system tries to sweep under the rug, such as the murder of Trayvon Martin—outrages that shine a great deal of light on the structural economic, political and cultural underpinnings of the crimes that take place regularly in this society. The recent 30-minute interview by Cornel West with Bob Avakian (to listen or download, go to "Cornel West Interviews Bob Avakian on PRI Smiley & West radio show, October 2012.") is an outstanding example of the ethos of the show that courageously tries to expand the room for voices that are suppressed in the “mainstream media.”

For this, the Smiley & West show has been punished by those who control the gateways to reaching millions of people over the airwaves.

But this has been a two-sided battle. Many have come to the defense of the show and there has been a lot of exposure of what WBEZ and other stations have done. Most importantly, Tavis Smiley has launched a counter-offensive. He issued a powerful open letter to Torey Malatia that called out Malatia’s lies and his phony stance of “balance.” Smiley dissected some of the real functioning of those who hide behind the disguise of “public radio” in order to regurgitate the values of the present system and to stand as guardians of the established order. Among other truths, Smiley pointed out: “One could argue that it is easier for an African American to be president of the United States than it is to host a prime time radio program on Chicago Public Radio.” (See Tavis Smiley’s full open letter on the website smileyandwest.com.)

On November 8, Tavis Smiley, Cornel West, and Amy Goodman hosted a public forum in Chicago with the title “Poverty, Power, and the Public Airwaves.” Coming only days after the presidential election, the call for the event said, “While trading barbs on the narrow range of issues on which they differ, Pres. Obama and Mitt Romney were united in ignoring issues of critical importance to a vast majority of people, from poverty, to war and climate change.”

Around 1,000 people turned out for the forum, and Tavis Smiley spoke quite a bit about the attacks on the show. At this program over 1,100 palm cards advertising the interview with Bob Avakian were distributed by supporters of Revolution newspaper. A number of people commented that they were glad to see the revolutionaries at this event.

At the forum, Smiley also announced that two stations in Chicago had agreed to carry the Smiley & West program: WVON, a major “Black/urban” FM station, and WCPT, a well-known AM talk station that used to carry the liberal “Air America” programming.

It is vital to defend broadcasts like Smiley & West. And there is much to be done to fight for the truth about this system and the possibility of a vibrant communist society that is fit for humans to live and thrive in.

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/287/aftermath-of-hurricane-sandy-jacob-riis-projects-nyc-en.html

Revolution #287 December 9, 2012

Reporter’s Notebook

In the Aftermath of Hurricane Sandy:
How the Other Half Lives in the Jacob Riis Projects

by Li Onesto | December 9, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

November 4, 2012, six days after Hurricane Sandy hit New York City, we’re walking in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. It’s early afternoon and the sun is out and bright, but the wind has a bitter edge and is definitely signaling winter. We’re headed to the Jacob Riis Houses and the dropping temperature reminds me that thousands of people in these government projects just got their power back on, but they still don’t have any heat.

The NYC Revolution Club has been organizing around seven demands, including that the government provide hard-hit areas with emergency housing, shelter, food, safe water, and medicine—all things which at Jacob Riis have been non-existent or totally inadequate. In Harlem, the Rev Club went door to door in the projects, talking to people about the movement for revolution, getting out the demands, exposing how the system is not meeting the needs of the people, and collecting food and water to take to Jacob Riis. People signed a banner that said: “From the people of Harlem to the people of Jacob Riis Projects—We are human beings. We Demand to Be Treated With Respect and Compassion. We Got Your Back!”

The Jacob Riis Houses, built in 1949, were named after a photographer who exposed the squalid living conditions of people on the Lower East Side in the 1880s. Riis’ famous book, How the Other Half Lives, depicted horrendous living conditions and enormous inequalities—which, over 130 years later, still exist in these projects that bear his name. And in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy this situation stands out all the more starkly.

Some 400,000 people live in 334 New York City Housing Authority developments. And many of the brick buildings situated near the waterfront are old and not well maintained. Living conditions here are bad to begin with. So it’s not surprising that those in public housing were affected a lot worse when Sandy hit. And then the second punch came when people were by and large abandoned by the government for days—even as other areas in the city were getting up and running.

Jacob Riis consists of nineteen buildings, between six and 14 stories each, with 1,191 apartment units. About 4,000 people live here. This is the Lower East Side of Manhattan; the buildings are close to the water and when Sandy hit, the tidal surge for a time ringed the buildings like moats, flooding some of the first floors.

Some people, like the elderly, those with diabetes, or others with serious illnesses, were literally trapped when the power went off and the elevators stopped working. For days, there were those who ended up just sitting in their apartments in the dark, some with little food or water. Others had to walk up and down, up to 14 flights of dark stairways hauling water to flush toilets and to try and stay clean. People lined up at open fire hydrants to fill pails and jugs with water.

For several hours, as the sun gets low in the horizon and the temperature drops even further, I talk to people in Jacob Riis about what they experienced in the first week after Hurricane Sandy.

Part 1: Searching for Water

A Black woman named “Gloria” is walking back and forth in front of the building where she lives. A quick strut and the look in her eyes suggest she’s on a mission. But I think she’s also trying to keep warm. She lives in Jacob Riis and describes her struggle in the last several days, just to get water and basic necessities.

“I’m living in this house with my six kids and my two grandkids, the lights came back on but we have no hot water, the water that is coming out of the faucet is brown. We’re basically walking around the Lower East Side trying to find water. I went to one of the park sites where they was giving out water but they didn’t have any more, so they gave me one bottle. They had wipes as well. But they said we had to bring the kids out so that they could see that we have kids, ’cause people are saying they have kids but they don’t really have kids. So they want us to bring babies out in the cold. They gave me two Pampers. They said I have to bring the kids back out. So now I’m just walking around trying to find more water. It’s crazy. We have no power, no nothing. We have been standing on line to get water, canned food. We have to go to the fire hydrants to get water. We have to walk up the stairs, sometimes 14, 15 flights of stairs with buckets of water to wash, to wash dishes. It’s crazy. And you have to bring your kids out in the cold to prove that you have kids to get diapers and wipes.”

Gloria had to wait three hours to get two diapers and a bottle of water.

“And then they were telling me to bring my child here in the cold, so I was like, are you crazy. My baby is like eight months. I’m not going to bring him out here to stand in the cold in a carriage. I need the food but I can’t do that.”

I ask her what the conditions were like in these projects before the storm and she says:

“They do have people that work the grounds but it needs to be better. It’s crazy down here. And right now, you come down here, it’s like you in a different world from being uptown where everything is on, everything is running after the storm. It’s even worse now. We don’t have anything. Like right now I have never experienced this where I have to actually stand before the store with the gate halfway down and they let people in one person at a time to get soda or juice. I mean some places is way worse than this, Staten Island, other places is worse, but this is like a Third World country to me, because I never experienced this. The basic essentials, water, soap. And then if you have a debit card you can’t even use it because there’s nothing working. So you have to have cash, but who has cash like that down here? So it’s crazy. It hurts. It makes me wanna... I get very emotional. I believe they can do better. This is crazy. We have no heat. Why haven’t we gotten any heat or hot water? This is ridiculous. And how long is this gonna be? It’s getting colder, with our babies. And then they talking about us going to shelters. Not everybody can just leave and go to a shelter.”

When I mention that “this is an area where stop-and-frisk is really out of control...” Gloria immediately cuts in, interrupts me and starts talking really fast: “Oh, yeah, stop-and-frisk. My son has been stopped and frisked a thousand times. In our own building. My son coming home and they say do you live here. Yeah, I live here. He said I don’t have ID but I can show you the key to the building and I can take you to my house. They wouldn’t do it. My son is 21. And they stopped him and he’s like I live here. My mother is upstairs, I can call her right now to come downstairs. Another example, one time he was standing in front of the building waiting for us to bring back groceries. They tell him to move. They search him, say you can’t stay. He says, I’m waiting for my mother to come back with the key, she has groceries. They took him to the precinct; they check and say he has warrants. When I get home I went to the precinct, find out he has no warrants. Then they try to say he was disorderly conduct, that’s why they took him.”

I ask her how many times, in one year of high school, her son has been stopped by the police. She pauses for just a couple of seconds, then says, “He has been stopped over 20 times, it had to be,” and goes on to give another example:

“They stopped him one time in front of the building. He was coming home from a party. He was feeling nice, he was going home. He didn’t have the key to the door upstairs. His cell phone went dead so what he did was he put something in the downstairs door to hold it open so he could run across the street to the phone to call us. The police ask him why he holding the door open and he said my parents, we live upstairs but I can’t get in my house, so I’m holding the door so I can at least get in the building. But I’m trying to get ahold of my family. He was telling them all this but then took him in again... This is all so crazy... and now I’m just walking around trying to get water and go back home.”

Part 2: What About the Desperately Poor?

The Revolution article “On Hurricane Sandy—What Is the Problem? What Is the Solution? And What We Need to Do Now!” poses the question, “Did those with real power in this society—the capitalist-imperialists—make sure that everybody would be adequately provided with necessities in the face of this disaster?” And then answers, NO:

“They left whole areas where the basic people at the bottom of society live without water, heat, electricity or food—and then they clamped curfews on them. And they also meted out outrageous, uncaring and downright dangerous treatment to people in more middle-class areas that were hit as well.

“Did they even make sure that people—including the desperately poor in this society whose food typically runs out by the end of the month—would be able to eat when Sandy hit?” (Revolution #284, November 4, 2012)

The fact that the system DID NOT do this is stark here at Jacob Riis—and underscores how profoundly different a revolutionary, socialist society would handle such a situation. Raymond Lotta points out, “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.... 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...” (“Why a Natural Disaster Became a Social Disaster, and Why It Doesn’t Have To Be That Way,” Revolution #284, November 4, 2012)

Jacob Riis Projects
Jacob Riis Projects
Photo: Special to Revolution

One resident from Jacob Riis pointed out that because Sandy hit at the end of the month, many people hadn’t gotten or been able to cash their disability, social security, or other end-of-the-month checks they depend on and so didn’t have much food, making a bad situation even worse. Another person said things were bad enough before the storm, that there’s always been big inequalities between here and “uptown,” but now all this stands out even more.

“Trina,” a 28-year-old Black attorney who lives in Harlem, just met the Revolution Club and joined them in collecting food, water, and clothing to bring to people in Jacob Riis. She says, “It’s not surprising, the idea that the resources were gotten out to the affluent areas first. The media told us that the power was turned on down here but there are buildings here without basic necessities.... The fact is that it is still necessary a week later for community members to be donating to each other as opposed to what the government should be doing.”

I tell Trina about a letter posted at revcom.us that describes how a shelter treated poor people who were evacuated, not with compassion, but like they were criminals, and she says:

“The thing that’s interesting is it’s not just the storm victims that are being treated that way. That’s the way people are treated in shelters generally. I have some experience with this just working with some of my clients. Many of them are residents of these shelters and I have had cases that involve shelters. I had a case where a client felt he was being targeted by shelter security and the NYPD. Many people in shelters are treated like criminals. He preferred to be on the streets than in the shelters because to him it’s the same as being in jail and it’s unfair because he’s only there because he can’t afford to be anywhere else. People know that the shelters are not comfortable places to be. And not just uncomfortable but you’re treated poorly. They know what it’s like and they would rather chance being re-incarcerated than having to live at a shelter. That happens all the time. . . . So it’s not surprising that storm victims are treated poorly in the shelter system. People that are typically in the shelter system are treated poorly. And I even hate that term, ‘treat them like criminals’ because we criminalize normal people. We criminalize everyday people. ‘Treat them like criminals.’ What the hell does that really mean? It’s terrible.”

“Something Wasn’t Quite Right”

Soon after this conversation, someone tells me that “Jackie” up on the 10th floor wants to tell Revolution about her experience in a shelter after Hurricane Sandy. The elevators still aren’t working and as we start the long walk up, I imagine what it was like to haul water up all these stairs, with no lights, for days. Jackie, a Black woman in her late 40s, is waiting in the hallway, eager to talk and she’s already way into her story before I even get my recorder on. When I get her to back up and start again she says, “It was the worst... I should have stayed home... and I’m going to chat about it!”

She lives in Jacob Riis with her 13-year-old, 9-year-old and grandson, who is three. She says living here has been “hell... even before the storm,” with leaking ceilings when it rains and other problems. She recently found out she has diabetes and her children suffer from asthma. Jackie says that at first she didn’t think the storm was going to be that bad so she didn’t evacuate. Later, when she got scared for her kids, she decided to go to one of the shelters. But soon after they got settled, Jackie says, “something wasn’t quite right.” They were given meals but hardly any water—so the only water she had for a while was what she had managed to bring from home. Increasingly, she felt the whole situation wasn’t safe for herself and her kids.

“I met some ladies from my building there. We were taking turns watching out, because men would come up to the floors and walk through. And we wasn’t safe, we had our kids. So we would take turns with the flashlight and we would stay up. I had fell asleep the night before and I was up that night and like I said, we was taking turns.

“We started complaining, why we not getting any help, why we not getting any water. In a few hours they came up and gave us water, but it was like—one water for you, one water for you. One water for me and all my kids.”

Given her diabetic condition and not having any water, Jackie started feeling really bad with a terrible headache and went down to the medical station. Her blood sugar tested really high and when she asked the doctor what she should do he told her to “drink a lot of water”—which, as Jackie pointed out, “Was really crazy—because they weren’t giving anybody any water!”

Finally, Jackie decided to go back home. “Even though it was dark here, even though we didn’t have no hot water, no heat, no nothing, just a stove to light with matches to try and get some heat. We still came home, even there was no elevator. With asthmatic kids, we climbed those stairs, with the shopping cart.”

Jackie has already been talking for a good 30 minutes, but she wants me to know how bad it was, not just for her and her kids, but for others who were also at the shelter. So all of a sudden, she grabs my hand and leads me to the stairwell. She takes me down two flights and introduces me to her friend Jeena. “Talk to her,” Jackie says, “She’ll really tell you how bad it was.”

To be continued

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/287/awtwns-bangladesh-workers-burned-alive-en.html

Revolution #287 December 9, 2012

From A World to Win News Service

Bangladesh workers burned alive in death-trap garment factory

December 9, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

November 26, 2012. A World to Win News Service. On November 24, 121 garment workers died and at least 200 were injured in a fire that spread rapidly throughout the Tazreen Fashions factory in Ashulia, an industrial suburb outside Dhaka, Bangladesh. Many of the bodies were burned beyond recognition. Thousands of people flocked to the factory frantically looking for their relatives. Sabina Yasmine, a worker from a nearby factory, found the body of her daughter-in-law. Her son was still missing. ''Where is my son?'' she cried out. ''I want the factory owner to be hanged. For him many have died, many have gone.'' (Associated Press, November 24, 2012) Tazreen's clients include clothing retail giants from the U.S., Europe and Canada.

An electrical shortcircuit seems to have been the cause of the fire. This has been the reason for many other industrial fires, whether the factory building is a more modern one like Tazreen Fashion or an older construction in the heart of congested Dhaka. At Tazreen, there were no outside escape routes, such as exterior fire escapes, even though the building was nine floors high. There were ground floor fire exits, but they were locked.

Rooms full of female workers were cut off from any possible escape. Piles of yarn and fabric filled the corridors, igniting quickly, and the flames rapidly spread to other floors. Witnesses tell how many workers leapt from upper stories to escape the flames. Twelve workers died in the hospital from injuries sustained in falls.

Relatives of the factory's workers gathered at the scene, desperate for news about their loved ones. Thousands of other workers and residents of Ashulia forced the closure of other factories, and blocked a major highway, halting transport between Dhaka and the port city of Chittagong for more than four hours.

The demands were the same as raised after the many previous factory fires—that those responsible for this latest disaster be punished, that working conditions be improved and that the government enforce protective laws gained through earlier workers' struggles. Despite promises made to punish those responsible for these intolerable conditions, the government uses the police exclusively against the workers. As if to prove a point, two days after this tragic fire, another factory fire broke out. This time there was no loss of life, but it was like rubbing salt in an already deep wound for the people.

Delwar Hossain, the owner of Tazreen Fashions—and seven factories in all—denied allegations that the building was unsafe to work in. But according to the Clean Clothes Campaign (cleanclothes.org), more than 80 percent of all factory fires in Bangladesh are due to faulty electrical wiring. Regarding this recent fire, they report that proper fire drills were not carried out, that the exits were blocked, that the workplace was not properly supervised and that the company only had a permit to work in the lower floors.

Tazreen is part of the larger Tuba Group, which makes apparel for top global retailers such as Carrefour, Walmart, H&M, Tesco, IKEA, C&A, Gap, and Sainsburys. Bangladesh is already the largest producer of T-shirts in the world and its garment industry is still expanding.

The Tazreen fire has been called Bangladesh's worst factory disaster ever, but in fact these kinds of catastrophes are common occurrences. About 600 workers have been killed in fires since 2006, not counting this most recent one. In December 2011, 29 workers died in a factory fire at That's It Sportswear, a Gap supplier. Many fell to their deaths from the upper floors of the building because doors to a locked stairway barred their escape. In June 2012, 116 workers were burned to death in a factory when a storeroom full of chemicals blew up and flames shot into the air. Windows covered by grills forced people through the only way out, the front door that was engorged in flames. In early 2012, more than 300 factories near the capital were shut down for almost a week as workers demanded a shorter work week, higher wages and better conditions.

In May of this year, textile workers shut down 200 factories over the disappearance of Aminul Islam, a well-respected trade union leader. His body was later found with his knees smashed, his toes broken and a hole drilled in one knee. Constantly harassed, he had already been beaten by known intelligence agents, who warned him that his activism around workers' conditions interfered with Bangladesh's economic interests. On the day he disappeared he had been trying to resolve a dispute between factory owners and workers who stitched shirts for Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren. Human rights groups have accused law enforcement agencies of his murder. The deliberately gruesome manner of his death can only be understood as an attempt to terrify those who would protest.

While there are few, if any, high-end fashion shops in Dhaka, one can say that Bangladesh has become a center for the production side of fashion for the U.S. and Europe, second only to China. Two million workers, mainly women, are employed in the country's 4,500 garment factories.

Dhaka has the highest population density of any city in the world. Reporting from Dhaka for Al Jazeera (October 3, 2012), Nicolas Haque says every three minutes a rural family moves to the capital, making it the world's fastest growing city. People from rural areas come in search of jobs and a better life in the face of increasingly difficult conditions in the countryside. The slums around Dhaka have swollen; new arrivals search for jobs in the garment industry.

Among the lowest paid in the world, Dhaka's garment workers sometimes earn less than a dollar a day, barely keeping their families alive. The government's minimum entry wage is $37 a month. Protests over low wages and poor work conditions are a recurrent feature of the industry.

But the government is notorious for not implementing the law, promising reform after intense factory strikes but always taking the side of the employers. The garment sector employs 40 percent of the country's industrial workforce and is the mainstay of its economy. The government very often employs brute force to quell unrest in an effort to pacify buyers—some of the world's top brands—who are concerned over delayed shipments. The police have a well-deserved reputation for brutality in the service of powerful interests.

The big brands go to Bangladesh because they are in intense competition with each other to produce at the lowest possible cost to gain market share and reap the highest possible profit. They would probably argue, and rightly so, that given the workings of the capitalist system they can't afford not to "outsource" in Bangladesh, no matter what the human cost. Companies crush other companies that can't cut their costs, and any company that doesn't make an acceptable rate of profit is going to see capital go elsewhere. The situation in Bangladesh is ideal for Carrefour, Walmart and the rest exactly because of its millions of people living at a subsistence level, desperately trying to feed their families, desperately looking for work.

Further, some benefits from the intense exploitation of garment workers in Bangladesh trickle down to ordinary people in the West, making it possible for them to buy reasonably priced clothing. And it allows the flourishing of a small group of Bangladeshi capitalists who together with other reactionary exploiter classes use their state to run the country in the interests of their global backers.

It's a perfect fit for globalized capitalism, a system which is driven and can only be driven by a relentless search for profit. And until that economic system has been overthrown, there will always be factory fires and every other kind of avoidable catastrophes.

 

A World to Win News Service is put out by A World to Win magazine, a political and theoretical review inspired by the formation of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, the embryonic center of the world's Marxist-Leninist-Maoist parties and organizations.

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/287/anniversary-of-roe-v-wade-2013-en.html

Revolution #287 December 9, 2012

Week of Action on 40th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade

December 9, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

 

For the 40th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade
Come to DC Jan. 20 - 26th
for a WEEK OF ACTION

We Won’t Go Back!
ABORTION ON DEMAND
& WITHOUT APOLOGY!

Defeat the War on Women!

Abortion and birth control are fundamental rights. Forcing women to have children against their will is a form of enslavement.

And if women – half of humanity – are not free, then no one is free.

Yet, forty years after the right to abortion was won, this right is hanging by a thread. Abortion is more stigmatized than ever before. Women are shamed and harassed for seeking abortions. Abortion is not available in nearly 90% of U.S. counties. Despite a “pro-choice” president, recent years have seen record numbers of anti-abortion restrictions across the country; 92 restrictions were passed in 2011 under Obama, shattering the previous record of 34 restrictions passed in 2005 under Bush. Doctors are stalked, terrorized and killed for providing abortions.

It is time to turn the tide.

Fetuses are NOT babies!
Abortion is NOT murder!
Women are NOT incubators!

Register today to take part in all (or part) of the We Won’t Go Back! Week of Action in Washington DC to stand up for abortion rights on the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Organize your student group or friends to join you.

Activities include:

 

contact us via email at:stoppatriarchy@gmail.com
follow us on Twitter @stoppatriarchy
website: stoppatriarchy.org

 

* January 22, 1973: Roe v. Wade – the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nation-wide.

 

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/287/awtwns-violence against-women-and-the-capitalist-system-en.html

Revolution #287 December 9, 2012

From A World to Win News Service

Violence against women and the capitalist system

December 9, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

November 26, 2012. A World to Win News Service. We remember Doaa, the Kurdish (Iraq) woman stoned to death by her family because she fell in love with a man outside her village and religion.

We remember Nadia, the young Afghan poet murdered by her husband (in Herat, Afghanistan) because she dared to cross the boundaries of kitchen and housework. We remember Mukhtar Mai, gang-raped in her village by the men members of a powerful feudal family in her village in Pakistan. We remember Atefeh, the Iranian girl abused by an adult and then arrested for Zena (sex outside of marriage). She was raped while in custody, and then raped again by the judge and his team. The court falsely claimed she was 18 in order to execute her quickly.

Of course, we will never forget Abeer Qassim al-Janabi, a 14-year-old girl in a village near the town Al-Mahmudiyah, Iraq, gang-raped by five U.S. occupation troops. After that she was shot in the head and the lower body and then set on fire. We know Abeer was the victim of extremely brutal men from an extremely brutal army of an extremely brutal imperialist occupier, but we also know that she was not the only female victim on the endless list of wars. We know that Abeer, Doaa, Mukhtar and Atefeh and the rest are not alone but represent billions who have been the victims of extreme violence in patriarchal societies.

"Globally, up to six out of every ten women experience physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime. A World Health Organization study of 24,000 women in 10 countries found that the prevalence of physical and/or sexual violence by a partner varied from 15 percent in urban Japan to 71 percent in rural Ethiopia, with most areas being in the 30–60 percent range.

"In 1994, a World Bank study on ten selected risk factors facing women aged 20-44 found rape and domestic violence more dangerous than cancer, motor vehicle accidents, war and malaria." ("Violence against women," www.UNwomen.org)

We often hear about the murder of women by their husbands or partners. We often hear about the rape or gang-rape of women that may have happened in a village in Pakistan or India or in central London or elsewhere. We often read or hear reports about the sexual abuse of women in workplaces, schools and even in the family. We hear about bride-burning, honor killing, the traffic in women, forced prostitution, female genital mutilation, war-time rape, marital rape, forced abortion and the death of women because abortions are illegal. We could go on and on about different forms of violence against women.

Ruling class institutions in Western countries repeatedly warn about the "alarming" rate of violence against women. Ministers and ministries issue statements about it, not to reveal the dimension of the disaster but to calm the communities and show they are taking measures—for example, by passing this or that law or allocating such and such an amount to tackle these problems—and present a false picture about their achievements in this field.

In the face of the escalating rate of violence against women, in 1999 the United Nations declared November 25 as International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, officially marked every year since.

But these kinds of measures have done nothing to stop that violence or even reduce it. Atrocities against women are increasing at a frightening rate. Every day we are faced with new features and new forms and new figures. It is not difficult to see that the rulers of these societies and the world as a whole, despite their gestures and apparent sympathy, are not really willing to tackle this fundamental problem that threatens the lives of half of humanity.

They might worry about the criminal aspect of the "problem" that might threaten their legitimacy and control, but it is more than doubtful that their concerns about the status of women are genuine or at least meaningful.

The question is why women as a group continue to be discriminated against and victimized. This is not the exception but the rule in today's societies.

In fact the ruling classes, especially the monopoly capitalist class in the imperialist countries that dominate the rest of the world economically, politically and militarily, have been trying to divert public opinion and attribute violence against women to a particular part of the world, ethnicity or religion.

Reality has shown that violence against women has no nationality, no religion and no ethnicity; it can take different forms in various parts of the world at any time. With a glance at the statistics and only a brief review of history we can clearly see that this violence is part of the oppression of women as a whole on a world scale and is related to the subordination of women to men that arose when private property came into being. This factor has been part of all class societies, from the earliest times up to the prevalence of the capitalist mode of production today. But capitalists and their promoters have resorted to various ways to attribute this violence to everything except what it is related to.

First of all, the bourgeoisie in the imperialist countries do not generally publicize violence against women in their own country and even in other parts of the world. They report some cases, especially in third world countries, sometimes when such a case already enraged the masses and the news has already spread. Often they try to misuse it for their own political agenda. The content of this agenda may vary, from glorifying their own system and their own way of treating women to justifying military invasions, promoting racism and/or denigrating a particular religion, culture or nation.

For example, if this kind of violence is done by Taliban forces, the media do not hesitate to give it big coverage and publish the picture of the victim on the first page of Time or some other prominent magazine or newspaper to show their so-called support for women victims of the Taliban. If they have to, they may publicize the case of Ghazal, an Afghan woman who was raped by her cousin and became pregnant. She was sent to prison for Zena, but after international publicity, President Hamid Karzai intervened and said she would be released if she married the rapist. The coverage of such atrocities is used to justify the occupation of Afghanistan.

We know that the case of Mukhtar Mai did get a lot of coverage internationally and this encouraged her to continue her fight and stand strong against General Pervez Musharraf, the president of Pakistan at the time, who had no intention of intervening on her behalf. But this coverage was coupled with American political pressure on Musharraf and the Pakistani army to get them to do more in support of the U.S.'s war in Afghanistan.

Similarly, a case of violence against a woman might be given publicity in order to target a culture and religion. This is especially the case with honor killings by immigrants in Western countries. There have been a number of cases of honor killings in Sweden, UK, Canada and many other Western countries where women have been murdered by a family member because she had a boyfriend or refused to accept an arranged marriage or divorced or "betrayed" her husband.

If an Englishman or a Swede kills his wife, we're told that this is to be explained by some individual tragedy or pathology affecting the perpetrator—often alcohol is blamed. Rarely called into question are the prevailing relations between men and women that such individual acts concentrate. But if an immigrant from the Middle East or South Asia commits this crime, the media readily attributes it to the perpetrator's cultural or religious background.

The coverage often aims not to expose the everyday occurrence of violence against women but to blame immigrants for rising crime rates and argue that immigrants are bringing with them traditions and religions that are damaging to "our" society, as if violence against women were a foreign import.

But another way these crimes are sometimes dealt with is to point to the tradition and religion of the perpetrator in order to play down the seriousness of the act in the name of cultural relativism. And it is shocking that this kind of thinking has gone as far as to advocate the passing of special laws under which perpetrators of a particular religion would be tried by representatives of that religion.

Obviously, there should be no objection to the coverage of violence against women in third world countries; the more, the better. But the question is why the Western powers and their media are trying to make it look as if they were champions of women's liberation, as if women were not oppressed in their countries as well, and as if the religion, culture and tradition they promote were not also anti-women. And they imply that women all over the world should view their model as their dream.

Let's just look at some forms of violence against women in the Western imperialist countries like the U.S. and UK.

In 2005 in the U.S., 1,181 women were murdered by an intimate partner. That's an average of three women every day. 232,960 women in the U.S. were raped or sexually assaulted in 2006. That's more than 25 an hour. According to statistics provided by the U.S. Justice Department, more than 180,000 women were raped in 2010. It also estimates that one in five American women will experience rape or attempted rape during their college years, and that less than five percent of these rapes will be reported.

In the UK, according to the March 2011 Home Office Newsletter on Violence against Women, 400,000 women are sexually assaulted and 80,000 raped a year, that is, more than nine every hour. In addition, it reports, sexual bullying and harassment are routine in UK schools.

What does it say about the dominant culture in the UK that, in a survey conducted for Amnesty International, more than one in four respondents thought that the woman was partially or totally responsible for being raped if she was wearing sexy or revealing clothing, and more than one in five held the same view if the woman had many sexual partners?

On average, two women a week (110 a year) in England and Wales are killed by their partner or ex-partner. And in France, 122 women were killed by their partner or ex-partner in 2011.

These figures do not include deaths due to the illegality of abortions or the restrictions placed on them in the Western world, which are also a kind of murder. Savita Halappanavar, 31, a dentist who lived near Galway in Ireland, 17 weeks pregnant, died last October 28. The hospital refused to operate to cut short a prolonged spontaneous miscarriage that was killing her, because it is illegal to conduct an abortion while the fetus's heart is still beating.

This taboo is a basic teaching of the Catholic Church and many forms of Protestantism, which seek to give it the force of law wherever they can—and how many prime ministers and other British politicians (and French and German and American, etc.) proclaim that Christianity is at the heart of Western culture? In fact, what major culture does not have the oppression of women at its heart?

There are also many women who are poor and vulnerable and can be trapped, tricked, coerced or drugged into selling their bodies. This is now a worldwide phenomenon. Millions and millions of women and girls are brutalized and forced into the international sex trade, a modern-day form of slavery that generates billions of dollars in profits for the capitalist economy. This trade takes place in many parts of the world, including the Western countries where there is a huge market for buying sex and pornography, which degrades, humiliates and incites violence against women. What does this say about the reality of Western culture?

We often hear that murder and other kinds of domestic violence against women in the Western countries are motivated by a man's emotional distress at the idea of being left by a woman. But let's not fool ourselves. These are "modern" forms of honor killings.

When men kill or brutalize their wife or partner based on jealousy or "excessive" love or whatever you want to call it—it doesn't matter—this is about ownership of women and revenge for stolen "property." It is another way of expressing that this woman is mine, and I have the right over her, I should have control over her life, she should be under my command and she should serve me and my children and my family. This is also the grounds on which honor killings are justified: the ownership of female family members. No matter what the particular conditions and under what mode of production, whether feudal or capitalist, in both cases violence enforces the rules of ownership of women.

This is not to deny the differences in the forms, nor to deny the reforms that the bourgeoisie has made in the forms of women's subordination to men. The point is that violence against women, in whatever form it might take, is universal and very brutal even in the Western countries. It is not simply due to the particular culture or religion of any particular people, but deeply engrained in the culture of all class societies and an inseparable part of the religions, traditions and moralities that are generated by and enforce the exploitative mode of production and the resulting inherently oppressive character of social relations in all class societies.

Islam gives men the right to batter and punish their wives and this gives the ideological power to Moslem men to practice violence against female family members. But let's be clear—it was not only the Koran that ordered punishment of wives. Under U.S. law until 1870, a husband had a legal right to "physically chastise an errant wife," and in the UK a husband had a traditional right to impose physical punishment on his wife in order to keep her "within the bounds of duty." While that kind of physical violence against women is no longer legal, it continues to be widespread. In addition, verbal violence—with very damaging psychological consequences—continues to be practiced by men in those and other countries.

To be fair, none of the major religions are friendly towards women. In addition to the Catholic Church's teachings on abortion, consider the case of the Magdalene Asylums run by the Catholic Church throughout Britain, Ireland and elsewhere in Europe, and Canada and United States, during much of the nineteenth century and almost to the end of the twentieth. These "homes" were punitive and prison-like places for the involuntary confinement of girls considered "sinful" or rebellious, or who just happened to displease someone in authority—or their family.

They were required to undertake hard physical labor, like laundry and needlework, and long periods of prayer and enforced silence. The girls were also sexually abused by the priests, as happened to children throughout the West. Similar institutions were run by various Protestant denominations and the state in Northern Ireland and England. Hundreds died in custody. The tens of thousands who survived were scarred for life. The last Magdalene Asylum, in Waterford, Ireland, was operating as late as September 1996.

Violence against women cannot be eliminated by statements or calls for action to reduce the number of incidents. It cannot be eliminated by passing laws to restrict one form of violence while the whole society, from all its pores, exudes male chauvinism. No matter how many laws are passed and no matter how much funding is allocated to reduce the statistics of violence against women, no matter what kind of measures are taken, violence against women in this class society will continue as a means of control over women and as a mechanism to keep them in a subordinate position to men, because control over women and their bodies is part and parcel of all exploiting systems, including the capitalist system.

The capitalist system has proved incapable of solving the oppression of women. It has used it and added and invented various and horrible forms of violence against women, because it sanctifies private property, and the roots of discrimination and violence against women are in private property.

 

A World to Win News Service is put out by A World to Win magazine, a political and theoretical review inspired by the formation of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, the embryonic center of the world's Marxist-Leninist-Maoist parties and organizations.

 


 

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Revolution #287 December 9, 2012

Thomas Jefferson: "Flawed Giant" or Hardcore Defender of Slavery?

Revised and updated December 16, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

Publication of the book Master of the Mountain: Thomas Jefferson and His Slaves, by Henry Wiencek, has sparked a heated controversy among scholars, journalists, and others. Wiencek’s book is an account of Jefferson’s lifelong defense and promotion of slavery, and his deep personal involvement in enslaving people of African descent. Wiencek shatters the myth that Jefferson was a reluctant slave owner who abhorred the institution and never abandoned the anti-slavery ideas he had supposedly held in his youth. In a December 1 New York Times article, Paul Finkelman, a professor of history at Duke University, wrote that, for the 50 years of his life after he wrote the U.S. Declaration of Independence, Jefferson “remained ... a buyer and seller of human beings.”

Almost immediately upon publication of this book, harsh criticism was leveled at Wiencek, his methods, and his book. Annette Gordon-Reed, herself a prominent historian of Jefferson, wrote for Slate, “suffice it to say that the problems with Master of the Mountain are too numerous to allow it to be taken seriously as a book that tells us anything new about Thomas Jefferson and slavery, and what it does say is too often wrong.”

Lucia Stanton, the recently retired official historian of Monticello, Jefferson’s former slave plantation, wrote that after reading Wiencek’s book she was “shocked by what I saw: a breathtaking disrespect for the historical record and for the historians who preceded him. With the fervor of a prosecutor, he has played fast and loose with the historical evidence, using truncated quotations, twisting chronology, misinterpreting documents, and misrepresenting events.”

“Flawed Giant” or Vicious Slave Owner?

Over the past several decades, histories of the early U.S. and biographies of Jefferson have focused more on the lives and conditions of slaves, women, and Native Americans, and have chipped away at the iconic, mythic figure of Jefferson, author of the U.S.’s Declaration of Independence, advocate of religious freedom, and champion of self-sufficient independence. But, Jefferson’s defenders argue, he and other slave owners and Indian killers from the U.S.’s early years remain, as Jill Abramson of the New York Times put it, “flawed giants.”

Yes, they say, Jefferson was shown to have owned over 600 human beings as slaves in the course of his lifetime. Yes, he protected the institution of slavery and worked to expand the territory open to slavery. Despite all that, Jefferson remains, in Abramson’s words, the man who “defined the fundamental liberties that are at the heart of democracy.”

This controversy and debate over Wiencek’s book has importance that extends far beyond the historians and authors involved. Far from being an insignificant dispute among a handful of scholars over details of history, the furor over this book opens up some important questions about what the history of this country actually is, about the legacy of the country’s “founders,” and about how that history and legacy are taught and understood.

A Brutal, Calculating Slave Master

What’s so controversial about Wiencek’s book? An article he wrote prior to publication of the book gives some indication. Wiencek wrote about the tension between a war fought under the banner of “all men are created equal” (words written by Jefferson) and the fact that when the former English colonies began their war of independence, about one-fifth of their population was of African descent, the vast majority of them slaves. “The very existence of slavery in the era of the American Revolution presents a paradox, and we have largely been content to leave it at that, since a paradox can offer a comforting state of moral suspended animation. Jefferson animates the paradox. And by looking closely at Monticello, we can see the process by which he rationalized an abomination to the point where an absolute moral reversal was reached and he made slavery fit into America’s national enterprise.”


Thomas Jefferson is promoted as the man who defined the fundamental liberties that are at the heart of U.S. democracy. Along with genocide and the theft of land of the Native Americans, one of those "fundamental liberties" was the right to enslave people. Jefferson personally profited greatly from the labor of his slaves, who were whipped when they didn't work hard enough, and hunted down like animals when they escaped. And Jefferson fought to enshrine slavery in the U.S. Constitution. These are not the acts or life of a "flawed giant." These are the acts of a man who embodied the savage essence of slavery in the United States, and who remained its champion until his dying day. Above: escaped slaves.
Photo: Library of Congress

Wiencek shatters the image of Jefferson as an aloof and “benevolent” slave master, more interested in his garden and his star gazing than in overseeing his slave plantation enterprise. In fact, he was a calculating, brutal owner of human beings who drove them relentlessly for his own profit, punished them without mercy, and saw the forced labor of black people as the surest path to his own enrichment.

Wiencek wrote in the Smithsonian that a “turning point” in Jefferson’s understanding of the profitability of slavery was expressed in a letter he wrote to George Washington. Wiencek wrote that in his letter “Jefferson set out clearly for the first time ... that he was making a 4 percent profit every year on the birth of black children. The enslaved were yielding him a bonanza, a perpetual human dividend at compound interest.”

In another letter written around the same time, Jefferson told a friend who was losing his fortune that if his family had any left, “every farthing of it [should be] laid out in land and negroes, which besides a present support bring a silent profit of from 5 to 10 per cent in this country by the increase in their value.”

Jefferson placed particular emphasis on the importance of women “breeding” future slaves. He wrote, “A child raised every 2 years is of more profit then the crop of the best laboring man. In this, as in all other cases, providence has made our duties and our interests coincide perfectly.... [W]ith respect therefore to our women & their children I must pray you to inculcate upon the overseers that it is not their labor, but their increase which is the first consideration with us.”

Wiencek wrote that these and other calculations of Jefferson threaten “the comforting notion that he had no real awareness of what he was doing, that he was ‘stuck’ with or ’trapped’ in slavery, an obsolete, unprofitable, burdensome legacy.” Instead, he understood it to be the surest way to wealth and power.

Thomas Jefferson, mythologized as the great champion of individual rights and small property owners, began every day at his plantation by walking around his property looking out at “an industrious, well-organized enterprise of black coopers, smiths, nailmakers, a brewer, cooks professionally trained in French cuisine, a glazier, painters, millers and weavers. Black managers, slaves themselves, oversaw other slaves. A team of highly skilled artisans constructed Jefferson’s coach. The household staff ran what was essentially a midsize hotel, where some 16 slaves waited upon the needs of a daily horde of guests.”

The exploitation was endless, and it began shortly after birth of black babies. As Jefferson wrote in his “Farm Book,” an organizational plan for the plantation, “children till 10 years old to serve as nurses from 10 to 16 the boys make nails, the girls spin at 16 go into the ground or learn trades.”

And he was relentless in seeing that vicious punishment was meted out to any slaves deemed to be rebellious. Wiencek wrote in the Smithsonian that Jefferson’s plantation ran “on carefully calibrated brutality.” One example involves the young boys in Jefferson’s nailery. Wiencek tells of a friend of Jefferson who reported that the “enterprise ran well because ‘the small ones’ were being whipped. The youngsters did not take willingly to being forced to show up in the icy midwinter hour before dawn at the master’s nail forge. And so the overseer, Gabriel Lilly, was whipping them ‘for truancy.’”


Thomas Jefferson oversaw the "Louisiana Purchase" which opened vast areas of the South for the westward expansion of slavery. Slaves sold "down the river" from plantations like Jefferson's in Virginia to the Deep South suffered brutality, disease, and misery. It is argued that Jefferson had to preserve and expand slavery in order to maintain the coherence and unity of the emerging United States. That argument is based on a damning premise: If maintaining and expanding slavery was essential to the formation of the United States, what does that say about the essence of what this country was founded on?
Above: slaves in Washington, D.C., 1850

When one “nail boy” infuriated Jefferson, he ordered that he be made an example of to terrorize the others. Jefferson wrote, “There are generally negro purchasers from Georgia passing about the state,” and ordered the youth to be sold “so distant as never more to be heard of among us.” After Lilly whipped a youth to the point where he was “really not able to raise his hand to his head,” a letter from Jefferson said Lilly “is as good a one [overseer] as can be.” In another letter the same year, Jefferson wrote, “certainly I can never get a man who fulfills my purposes better than he [Lilly] does.”

Defending and Expanding Slavery

Jefferson is widely portrayed as hoping slavery would die out gradually. But, as historian David Brion Davis points out, at every key point in his political life, “when the chips were down ... he threw his weight behind slavery’s expansion.” One of his most important acts as president of the U.S. was the Louisiana Purchase, which opened up huge sections of what would become the American South to slavery’s westward expansion.

The vast expansion of slavery that accelerated during Jefferson’s presidency intensified the brutality and misery inflicted upon the human property of the slave owners. Much of the land that had been worked by slaves in eastern states like Virginia, where Jefferson lived, was rapidly wearing out for agriculture that could bring profits to the slave owners. Jefferson coldly calculated the profits that could be gained by urging his fellow slave owners to have enslaved black women breed slaves—young black children—for sale. He did this at a time when a huge internal slave market was developing within the U.S. The threat of being “sold down the river,” and sent to far away plantations, away from loved ones and everything people knew, was constant.

As Frederick Douglass, a former slave who became one of the foremost fighters in the struggle to end slavery wrote in his book Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, if a slave was considered rebellious, or a possible “runaway,” or just stubborn in resisting the orders of unending backbreaking work,the poor man was then informed by his overseer that, for having found fault with his master, he was now to be sold to a Georgia trader. He was immediately chained and handcuffed; and thus, without a moment’s warning, he was snatched away, and forever sundered, from his family and friends, by a hand more unrelenting than death.”

Hundreds of thousands of people suffered this fate. In each decade from 1810, shortly after Jefferson orchestrated the Louisiana Purchase, to 1860, just before the outbreak of the U.S. Civil War, at least 100,000 people—enslaved black people—were taken from their place of origin and forced to move into the new slave territories.

The cotton, rice, and sugar plantations in the territory newly opening up to the U.S. for slavery’s expansion were notorious for their brutality, disease, and misery. They were also far from the “free” (non-slave) states and territories of the U.S., which made it much more difficult for people to escape.

David Brion Davis points out how successful were Jefferson’s and others’ efforts to expand slavery. By the eve of the outbreak of the Civil War, Davis writes, “American slaves represented more capital than any other asset in the nation, with the exception of land. In 1860 the value of Southern slaves was about three times the amount invested in manufacturing and railroads nationwide.”

A telling example of Jefferson’s lifelong commitment to slavery came after the death of his old companion Tadeusz Kościuszko. Kościuszko was a Polish nobleman who had fought on the U.S. side in its war of independence, and later returned to Europe. In his will, he left his fortune to Jefferson, with the stipulation that Jefferson use it to free and educate his slaves on the Monticello plantation.

But Jefferson, at this point nearing the end of his life and facing financial difficulties, refused to carry out Kościuszko’s will. He dreaded the reaction of his fellow slave owners, and the implications that setting his own slaves free would have on the institution of slavery.

These are not the acts or life of a “flawed giant.” These are the acts of a man who embodied the savage essence of slavery in the United States, and who remained its champion until his dying day.

What’s the Problem?

Another main criticism of Wiencek’s book is that he didn’t do original research. Lucia Stanton wrote that she is “angered by Wiencek’s distortion of history as well as disappointed that, with all his talents, he didn’t probe still-unexplored corners of the story of Jefferson and slavery. He has instead used a blunt instrument to reduce complex historical issues to unrecognizable simplicities.”

Wiencek agrees that much of his research was not original—but that isn’t the point at all. He told the New York Times, “Yes, I’m repeating some of the information that others have brought out. But others brought it out and buried it in footnotes. I brought it all together. I connected the dots.”

So what’s the problem here? Is the problem that a respected historian and author has pieced together the evidence that demonstrates how one of the most revered figures in U.S. history was a calculating, callous, and brutally vicious slave owner, not the man of dispassionate wisdom and reason, the philosopher of liberty and freedom and the rights of the individual he is always portrayed to be? Or is the problem that for 200 years this truth has been covered up, glossed over, footnoted, excused, and justified? Is the problem that generations of schoolchildren have been taught of the “greatness” of Jefferson and his fellow “founders,” but nothing of the bloody reality of the oppression and enslavement they feasted upon?

A common argument in Jefferson’s defense is that he had no real choices. He was trapped in a situation out of his control. In fact, Jefferson had choices, and he had people challenge his views. As Bob Avakian pointed out in a recent talk, “There were many people who knew better—not the least of which were the slaves themselves! [applause] And here’s a fact—I referred to Adam Goodheart who unfortunately just put this in a footnote in this book 1861, but he did have it in there. He recounts that this man named Edward Coles, who for a time was private secretary to James Madison and later became the governor of Illinois, freed his own slaves and then tried to convince Madison and Jefferson to do the same. But they refused.”

And what about the argument that Jefferson had to preserve and expand slavery in order to maintain the coherence and unity of the emerging United States? That argument is based on a  damning premise: If maintaining and expanding slavery was essential to the formation of the United States, what does that say about the essence of what this country was founded on? Indeed, Jefferson not only continued to work his own slave property without mercy for his own profit and enrichment, he maneuvered and fought in the political arena to ensure the growth of slavery. As Wiencek points out, along with the great cruelty he was personally responsible for, Jefferson’s focus and contribution to the development of the United States was to ensure that “slavery fit into America’s national enterprise.”

A Welcome Debate

The auction block. The whip and the chain. The packs of bloodhounds. The trip across the ocean that killed millions. The rape. Being “sold down the river.” Working from sunup to sundown. Endless misery, degradation, and brutality. Having “no rights that a white man is bound to recognize.” All this and more formed the foundation for Thomas Jefferson’s life of contemplation and his philosophy of “individual rights.” With Master of the Mountain and his Smithsonian article, Henry Wiencek has clearly struck a deep nerve in this system. These works have brought out some important truths about what has shaped this country from its origins down to today. And that is a very positive development.

 

 


 

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Revolution #287 December 9, 2012

At a Critical Time...

Sustain Revolution!

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.

So, it starts with YOU. If you're not a financial sustainer of Revolution, make arrangements with your local distributor to change that NOW. And with those who get, in the fullest sense, what difference this newspaper and website mean to the world at the core of the effort, we should all reach out to many others who are inspired by this new website and Revolution newspaperfrom their own perspectives. And we should struggle with and win them to be regular financial sustainers.

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.