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Revolution #294 February 10, 2013
Announcing the Premiere of a Film of a Major Talk by Bob Avakian in the Fall of 2012:
February 10, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
“Yes, this is a film, but that is not its essence. This is a daring, substantive, scientific summoning to revolution. 6+ hours that can change how you see the world and what you do with the rest of your life. Is this hype? No.”
From one of the filmmakers
If humanity is going to fight its way out of this horrific nightmare and create a world where human beings can rise to their full potential and truly flourish, it will be because of the work and leadership of Bob Avakian. And it will be because people—beginning with YOU—get into this work, get with this leadership, and fight for others to do the same.
In March, a new film of a major speech given by Bob Avakian in the fall of 2012 will premiere. This film can make a world of difference in a world that needs nothing more than to be radically different. Whether that happens depends on us.
In darkened theaters in major cities around this country, crowds will settle into their seats and voices will hush as the leader of the revolution is projected onto the big screen. BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! will open people’s eyes to the world around them as they have never seen it before.
It is possible to put an end to a situation where 10 million children die in the Third World each year from malnutrition and preventable disease...
It is possible to end the centuries of terror, brutality, exploitation, and now mass incarceration of Black people, and the oppression of other peoples of color that this system has fed off and still feeds off...
It is possible to create a world without the global epidemic of rape, violence, oppression, and degradation of women...
It is possible to end forever the devastation of war and to take dramatic steps to overcome the environmental emergency and halt the destruction of the environment...
It is possible for people—including people who today are caught up in all kinds of bullshit, some of it quite harmful—to rise up above the muck and mire and become emancipators of humanity...
It is possible to end the exploitation at the root of it all, the insane profit-driven madness of capitalism that leaves billions in misery—and all of humanity alienated from and pitted against one another...
It is possible to bring into being a world where people contribute what they can and get back what they need to not only survive, but to really flourish culturally, intellectually, and in their interactions with each other...
But all this requires: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!
And when BA Speaks, it is clear that there is the vision and concrete plan for a whole new, and radically better, world. When BA Speaks, you learn about the scientific understanding and the strategy necessary to make this revolution—this real communist revolution—to bring in a whole new epoch where humanity can truly flourish, free from all forms of exploitation and oppression. When BA Speaks, you see and hear the leadership of this revolution.
REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! This movie will be here, soon. The problem—and the solution—will be here. And YOU need to be here. Up against all this, it is not acceptable to simply look out for yourself or your family. It is not acceptable to try to do a little bit of good in your small corner of the world, while life on this planet grows more hellish each day. And no, it is not even acceptable to let the many truly crushing horrors and sacrifices of life keep you from engaging these answers.
As BA has said, “If you’re serious—and this is serious—dig into it and learn about it. That’s your responsibility.”
Don’t miss it.
Clear your schedules and come with an open mind and a sincere heart. Come driven by the weight of what humanity is facing and by the burning desire to see a whole new day for humanity. Come with everyone you know, and join with others who are seeking the way out and the way forward.
Revolution #294 February 10, 2013
by Alan Goodman | February 10, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
I know you’re workin’ for the CIA / They wouldn’t have you in the Ma-fi-a... ”
In 1975, the band War had a hit single with that line. It pretty much summed up what anyone who claimed to have any consciousness, and anyone who had a conscience, had to say about the CIA. If the Mafia wouldn’t have you, if you were so amoral, so enmeshed in sadistic violence, so willing to carry out the most barbaric crimes in the service of the most debased ends... if you were the kind of person who would kill babies and torture people without losing sleep, if you were so devoid of a conscience that they wouldn’t let you work for the Mafia as a hit man... then you were a good candidate for the CIA.
Of course that was true.
Today, self-proclaimed liberals make movies and television shows celebrating the CIA and torture. In the buildup to the Oscars, Kathryn PIGelow’s movie Zero Dark Thirty, justifying CIA torture, is being massively promoted. Ben Affleck’s Argo is winning award after award. And then there is the television show, Homeland and its star Claire Danes, who plays a “flawed but heroic” CIA agent, winning the Golden Globes. And on and on. It’s important to understand that these cultural undertakings are being promoted not just or mainly by those who make them, but by the powers-that-be who control what movies and shows are funded, what gets mainstream distribution, and who define the terms for what is celebrated and awarded in this society.
Think about that line from War—and now think about what Ben Affleck said (quoting Tony Mendez, the real-life CIA agent Affleck plays in Argo): “...[the CIA] is not a place of deranged assassins, it’s a place of people who’ve come in to work, work really hard, care about life, care about their country.” This is the message of Argo. A point from Annie Day’s “Zero Dark Thirty, or How a People Lose Their Humanity” (Revolution, January 13, 2013) comes to mind: “A friend I saw it with said they were afraid of what this movie [and we might add—all these movies and television shows] could turn people into. And they are right to be afraid.”
This is still the CIA. The U.S.-run Abu Ghraib prison during the Iraq war was a horror chamber of human rights violations, with rampant and physical, psychological, and sexual abuse, including torture, rape, and murder of prisoners sanctioned from the highest levels of the U.S. government. Photos from Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison stunned the world and are deeply embedded in the minds of people everywhere—a searing image of the impact of CIA torture techniques developed over decades.
In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, people abducted by the CIA ended up in the U.S. prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, where the International Committee of the Red Cross accused the U.S. military of employing “humiliating acts, solitary confinement, temperature extremes, use of forced positions” against prisoners and instituting an “intentional system of cruel, unusual and degrading treatment and a form of torture.” The details that emerged of CIA torture at Guantánamo are horrific, and much of the story of what went on there, and what goes on there now, continues to be kept secret. The New York Times quoted an FBI agent who witnessed “interrogations” at Guantánamo: “On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times, they had urinated or defecated on themselves and had been left there for 18, 24 hours or more.”
Today, CIA unmanned drone operations begun under Bush have been greatly expanded under Obama. During his administration, more than 300 of these drone attacks have been launched against Pakistan alone, as well as dozens more against Yemen, Somalia, and perhaps other countries in the region. More than 2,500 people have been murdered in these attacks over the past decade, and hundreds of millions live in fear that they will be targets or accidental victims.
So what the fuck is going on? How did the CIA and torture become something to celebrate?
In the last issue of Revolution, we outlined just some of the crimes the CIA has committed since its inception—from orchestrating the assassination of popularly elected Patrice Lumumba in the Congo to coordinating the overthrow of Salvador Allende in Chile to funding terrorist activity by the Contras in Nicaragua with profits from drug smuggling that flooded the inner cities of the U.S. with crack cocaine.
Between that time and now, what has changed? The role of the CIA evolved to take on new challenges to the U.S. empire. But if anything, the CIA has become more overt, more open in carrying out its crimes. A key turning point was the aftermath of 9/11. The rulers of the U.S. unleashed unrestrained chauvinism and military aggression, and shredded civil liberties within the U.S. Out the window went pretensions that “the U.S. doesn’t engage in torture.” Systematic, widespread torture of the most depraved nature was unleashed, from CIA sites throughout Europe to Guantánamo to Abu Ghraib.
The CIA is now something to celebrate, not keep under cover. Torture is no longer something to be denied and covered up, but something, we are told, is necessary to “Keep Americans safe.” And it is in this context that the powers-that-be (again, not just Hollywood studios, but the ruling class) “green lighted” a slew of movies and TV shows that portray the CIA—which is “a place of deranged assassins,” as “a place of people who’ve come in to work, work really hard, care about life, care about their country.”
Justifying torture as “keeping Americans safe” is both a lie and—for those who buy into it—a pact with the devil. It is a lie because the rulers of this country do what they do in the interests of a global system of capitalism-imperialism. That system, and maintaining the position of the USA on top of it, requires their military domination of key regions of the world—including the oil-rich and geo-strategic Middle East. That, not “the safety of Americans,” is what drives them in what they do—including moving to legalize and legitimize the open use of torture.
And buying into a pact with torturers that supposedly keeps you, or “Americans,” safe is a morality that degrades everyone who signs on to it. It is complicity with a system of exploitation, oppression and environmental devastation—enforced by the most extreme violence.
The world has changed since the end of the Cold War, and the clash between “the West” and Islamic fundamentalist forces has emerged. But the nature of U.S. imperialism has not changed. Three points that should restore some sanity to how this is understood:
First, the rise of Islamic fundamentalism is in large part a product of the workings of imperialism (including specific policies of the CIA in Afghanistan, where it backed and funded Islamic fundamentalists going up against the Soviet Union).
Second, the crimes of U.S. imperialism—from the Foxconn sweatshops in China to the environmental emergency, from mass incarceration in the USA to the ongoing genocide against indigenous peoples in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, dwarf even the aspirations of these reactionary Islamic forces.
Third, if you don’t oppose, but instead fall into active or passive complicity with either “the West” (U.S. imperialism and other imperialists) or Islamic Jihad, you strengthen them both—in the vicious cycle where every drone attack that wipes out a wedding party in Pakistan (with far, far too little protest in the U.S.) serves to recruit more jihadists, and on and on.
Bob Avakian’s analysis of “the two outmodeds”—two clashing reactionary forces that represent ways of thinking and organizing society that belong in the past—provides a concise and powerful tool for understanding this conflict and acting to change the terms of things:
What we see in contention here with Jihad on the one hand and McWorld/McCrusade on the other hand, are historically outmoded strata among colonized and oppressed humanity up against historically outmoded ruling strata of the imperialist system. These two reactionary poles reinforce each other, even while opposing each other. If you side with either of these “outmodeds,” you end up strengthening both.
While this is a very important formulation and is crucial to understanding much of the dynamics driving things in the world in this period, at the same time we do have to be clear about which of these “historically outmodeds” has done the greater damage and poses the greater threat to humanity: It is the historically outmoded ruling strata of the imperialist system, and in particular the U.S. imperialists.
When you start from the interests of humanity, then instead of aligning with “our government” and celebrating and defending its immoral and criminal actions around the world, the challenge is to break out of the terms of these “two outmodeds” and be part of what Bob Avakian has posed as “bringing forward another way.” There is a different way the world can be, and a real alternative to capitalism and all forms of oppression in the new synthesis of communism that BA has developed, and in his ongoing revolutionary leadership.
Attention anyone with a conscience: Let’s stop having any tolerance for all this obscene bullshit about how “complicated” it is to figure out whether or not it's right for the CIA to overthrow governments, install puppet dictators, torture people, subject people living in a huge section of the planet to the nightmare of drone strikes, and operate a global network of torture centers... all in service of an oppressive world order.
Here’s the reality:
Revolution #294 February 10, 2013
February 10, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
In response to the pre-Oscar hype surrounding the film Zero Dark Thirty, actor David Clennon issued this statement:
“I’m a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The Motion Picture Academy clearly warns its members not to disclose their votes for Academy Awards. Nevertheless, I firmly believe that the film Zero Dark Thirty promotes the acceptance of the crime of torture, as a legitimate weapon in America’s so-called War on Terror. In that belief, following my conscience, I will not vote for Zero Dark Thirty in any category. I cannot vote for a film that makes heroes of Americans who commit the crime of torture.”
And in a piece written for Truthout, Clennon said, “If, in fact, torture is a crime (a mortal sin, if you will)—a signal of a nation’s descent into depravity—then it doesn’t matter whether it ‘works’ or not. Zero Dark Thirty condones torture. ... If the deeply racist Birth of a Nation was released today, would we vote to honor it? Would we give an award to [German filmmaker] Leni Riefenstahl’s brilliant pro-Nazi documentary, Triumph of the Will?”
Clennon, who has a substantial resume of TV and movie credits, has been supported by actor Ed Asner, but beyond that remains almost alone among prominent people in the film world in calling out Zero Dark Thirty for what it does and what it is. In response to Clennon’s statement, filmmaker Michael Moore set new standards for self-delusion, claiming Zero Dark Thirty’s theme is “torture is wrong.” Leon Panetta, who as Obama’s head of the CIA and Secretary of Defense oversaw the whitewash of CIA torture crimes, was at least consistent. In an interview with ABC news, Panetta—an unabashed defender of torturers—called Zero Dark Thirty a “great movie,” specifically defending the way torture was portrayed in the movie.
Clennon has taken a great risk, and must be backed up and defended by anyone with integrity and conscience. His courageous stand, and the fact that he has refused to back down from it, has opened up opportunities to expose the nature and role of U.S. torture and what that serves. His example should inspire and compel others in a position to speak to millions to do the right thing in response to this movie and the crimes it justifies.
Revolution #294 February 10, 2013
February 10, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
We received the following from the Committee for Sanitizing Crimes Against Humanity in Film.
02/02/2013: For immediate distribution
LENI RIEFENSTAHL AWARD TO KATHRYN PIGELOW
On February 2, 2013, the Committee for Sanitizing Crimes Against Humanity in Film announced the winner of the Leni Riefenstahl Award: director Kathryn PIGelow for her film Zero Dark Thirty, and her body of work and role in impacting public opinion.
The award is inspired by the role and work of the German film director and actress Leni Riefenstahl, whose film Triumph of the Will celebrated and legitimized the 1934 Nazi Party congress in Nuremberg. That congress introduced laws that would encode anti-Semitism in Germany, setting the stage for the Holocaust, and was a launching point for Germany’s aggressive imperialist wars. Riefenstahl’s film helped convince some in Germany’s influential arts and culture community to acquiesce in Hitler’s crimes with passive complicity and active support. Riefenstahl is acclaimed by many prestigious commentators and critics, who while conditioning their praise with disclaimers about not endorsing the Nazis and genocide, insist that those flaws should not color judgment of her work, and call her “the greatest female filmmaker of the 20th century” and an “acclaimed pioneer of film and photographic techniques.”
As the Committee’s charter emphasizes, “Leni Riefenstahl did nothing less than make Hitler seem honorable and inspiring to sections of the German public who at first dismissed him as a fascist mad man.”
While that is a high bar from which to judge, the Committee felt strongly that PIGelow’s work rises to that standard. In granting the award, the Committee noted “It is an amazing accomplishment for a film to sanitize the CIA, humanize it, and portray those who carry out torture as heroes with whom the viewer would identify and empathize.” And the Committee expressed its appreciation that the Hollywood community, with a small number of disturbing exceptions, has embraced Zero Dark Thirty.
In recognizing PIGelow for the Leni Riefenstahl award, the committee noted the societal impact of Zero Dark Thirty in making acceptable (including by portraying as “complicated”) the use of torture against “America’s enemies,” in winning liberal audiences to sympathize with criminal monsters who carry out torture, and in rebranding the CIA’s image of cold-blooded imperialist assassins into “dedicated men and women” in the “intelligence community” who are keeping Americans safe.
The committee also acknowledged the work of Ben Affleck, whose film Argo was recognized for its work minimizing and obscuring the role of the CIA in installing the Shah of Iran, who, as a U.S. puppet, filled dungeons and torture chambers with dissidents for decades in service of U.S. economic, political, and military interests, and obscuring the role of the U.S. Embassy in Iran as an operations center for the CIA and related U.S. agencies. However, after careful consideration, the committee awarded the Leni Riefenstahl prize to PIGelow on the basis of her body of work—having two films to her credit that promoted imperialist aggression, war, torture, and the dehumanization of “America’s enemies” (PIGelow’s other contribution being her film Hurt Locker).
Revolution #294 February 10, 2013
Millions of Egyptian people from all walks of life, drawing inspiration from the people of Tunisia, have heroically risen up, defied the hated regime of Hosni Mubarak and forced Mubarak to resign. This has shattered the notion that "things can never change." It is a powerful demonstration that there is no permanent necessity to the existing conditions under which the great majority of humanity suffer so terribly. Oppressed people and people who hunger for an end to oppression, in every country all over the world, have deeply shared in the joy and hope of these massive uprisings. And the stirrings of revolt continue to spread.
At the same time, while Mubarak has stepped down, the same basic forces that have so cruelly ruled over and exploited the Egyptian people remain in power. And, despite their honeyed words of praise for the masses of youth and others who have risen up, despite their promises of "freedom" and "democracy," in reality they are determined to bring about a "transition" that will ensure that there is no fundamental change—that whatever new arrangements are engineered in the political process will still keep the masses of people in Egypt, in Palestine, and other countries of strategic importance for U.S. imperialism, in unbearable conditions. After all, the armed forces in Egypt—which are now supposed to carry out this "transition"—are the same armed forces which for decades faithfully and brutally enforced the rule of the Mubarak regime, while the heads of this military enriched themselves through becoming major exploiters of the Egyptian people; and the imperialists of the U.S.—who fully backed Mubarak and his cronies and kept them in power for 30 years, without any regard for the suffering of the people—are the very same imperialists who are now seeking yet again to call the shots and give the ultimate orders in terms of what the "transition" in Egypt will be.
The plans and designs of these oppressors and exploiters are NOT what the masses of people desperately want and need. Theirs is the cry of "freedom," and the struggle must be carried forward until real freedom is achieved—freedom from the rule of the imperialists and their local henchmen and junior partners, freedom from all forms of oppression and exploitation. Freedom from both the outmoded forces which would enslave women, and the people as a whole, in medieval darkness and oppression—and from the outmoded forces who would enslave people in the name of "democracy"..."freedom"...and capitalist-imperialist exploitation marketed as "progress."
It has frequently happened in history, as has been the case in Egypt (as well as Tunisia), that the domination of imperialism and the rule of local exploiters has taken a concentrated form in the regime of a "strong man" butcher. This was the case, for example, in Iran, with the torture-chamber rule of the Shah, in the Philippines with the tyranny of Marcos, and in Indonesia with the long monstrous reign of Suharto—all brutal dictatorships put in power and long kept in power by U.S. imperialism. In Iran in the late 1970s, in the Philippines in the 1980s, in Indonesia more recently, massive uprisings of the people forced the U.S. imperialists to throw aside these hated tyrants and to allow some changes. But in every case, the ultimate result was not one which led to real "freedom" for the people—instead they have continued to be subjected to cruel oppression at the hands of those who replaced the old, hated rulers, while these countries have remained within the overall framework of global imperialist domination and exploitation. But historical experience has also shown that the continuation of oppressive rule, in one form or another, is NOT the only possible outcome.
In Russia, in February 1917, another brutal despot, the Czar (absolute monarch), was overthrown by the uprising of the people. Here again, the U.S., British, and other imperialists, and the Russian capitalists, tried to continue the oppression of the Russian people in a new form, using the mechanisms of "democratic rule" and elections which, while allowing for some broader participation of different parties, would still be totally controlled by the exploiters of the people and would ensure their continuing rule, and the continued suffering of the masses of people. In this case, however, the masses of people were enabled to see through these maneuvers and manipulations, to carry forward their revolutionary rising, through many different twists and turns and, in October 1917, to sweep aside and dismantle the institutions and mechanisms of bourgeois dictatorship and to establish a new political and economic system, socialism, which for several decades continued to advance in the direction of abolishing relations of exploitation and oppression, as part of the struggle throughout the world toward the final goal of communism. The crucial difference was that, in the uprisings in Russia, there was a core of leadership, communist leadership, that had a clear, scientifically grounded, understanding of the nature of not just this or that ruthless despot but of the whole oppressive system—and of the need to continue the revolutionary struggle not just to force a particular ruler from office but to abolish that whole system and replace it with one that would really embody and give life to the freedom and the most fundamental interests of the people, in striving to abolish all oppression and exploitation.
Even though the revolution in Russia was ultimately reversed, with capitalism restored there in the 1950s, and today Russia no longer seeks to disguise the fact that it is a capitalist-imperialist power, the lessons of the Russian Revolution of 1917 hold valuable, indeed decisive lessons for today. And the most decisive lesson is this: When people in their masses, in their millions, finally break free of the constraints that have kept them from rising up against their oppressors and tormentors, then whether or not their heroic struggle and sacrifice will really lead to a fundamental change, moving toward the abolition of all exploitation and oppression, depends on whether or not there is a leadership, communist leadership, that has the necessary scientific understanding and method, and on that basis can develop the necessary strategic approach and the influence and organized ties among growing numbers of the people, in order to lead the uprising of the people, through all the twists and turns, to the goal of a real, revolutionary transformation of society, in accordance with the fundamental interests of the people. And, in turn, when people massively break with the "normal routine" and the tightly woven chains of oppressive relations in which they are usually entrapped and by which they are heavily weighed down—when they break through and rise up in their millions—that is a crucial time for communist organization to further develop its ties with those masses, strengthening its ranks and its ability to lead. Or, if such communist organization does not yet exist, or exists only in isolated fragments, this is a crucial time for communist organization to be forged and developed, to take up the challenge of studying and applying communist theory, in a living way, in the midst of this tumultuous situation, and to strive to continually develop ties with, to influence and to ultimately lead growing numbers of the masses in the direction of the revolution that represents their fundamental and highest interests, the communist revolution.
In my writings and talks, in Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage, a Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, and in other major documents of our Party, we have striven to draw as deeply and fully as possible the critical lessons from the historical experience of the communist revolution and the socialist societies it has brought into being—the very real and great achievements, and the serious errors and setbacks—and to learn from the broader experience of human society and its historical development, in order to contribute all we can to the advance of the revolutionary struggle and the emancipation of oppressed people throughout the world. As the Constitution of our Party states:
"The Revolutionary Communist Party, USA has taken the responsibility to lead revolution in the U.S., the belly of the imperialist beast, as its principal share of the world revolution and the ultimate aim of communism....
"The emancipation of all humanity: this, and nothing less than this, is our goal. There is no greater cause, no greater purpose to which to dedicate our lives."
It is in this spirit, and with this orientation and goal in mind, that I extend heartfelt support and encouragement to the millions who have risen up. To all who truly want to see the heroic struggle of the oppressed masses develop, with the necessary leadership, in the direction of real revolutionary transformation of society and genuine liberation: engage with and take up the emancipating viewpoint and goals of communism, and the challenge of giving this organized expression and a growing influence and presence among the struggling masses.
Revolution #294 February 10, 2013
Letter from a Prisoner on:
February 10, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The following letter was sent to the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund:
For several years now—due to the generosity and commitment of the PRLF to my political and ideological development—I’ve come to appreciate and sincerely admire the contributions which the first stage of communist revolution has handed down to our generation today. There’s been no other historical precedent in human history in which humankind had consciously taken ahold of “the reins” of its civilization, with the ultimate goal of placing our species on the only road that could once and for all bridge the array of gaps which has divided people since the dawn of class society. If we take a step back and really ponder the magnitude of what we actually set out to accomplish, that time period in our collective history should be something that the masses should take great pride in—not just acknowledge it with a sense of awe and admiration as if it was just some “dead historical artifact” of some “Golden Age” in an anthropology museum, but as something that we should seek to familiarize ourselves with—both the positive and negative lessons that can be gleaned from those experiences—in order to do an even better job the next time around.
Besides, we’ve been celebrating the history of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie (the capitalist class) since we all learned to say the pledge of allegiance. Why shouldn’t we be proud to celebrate and acknowledge our own—the first two dictatorships of a proletarian-kind in human history? And nah... we shouldn’t be surprised that the bourgeois media, their historians, and apologists for this capitalist-imperialist system doesn’t share in our celebratory spirit any more than we should expect the slave owning classes (also class dictatorships) of history to “celebrate” the liberation of their slaves. Why should they had?
As this new campaign to “Set the Record Straight” in regards to the first stage of communist revolution kicks off, I’m reminded of something that Malcolm X once said back in 1964 to a crowd of young people in Mississippi. He said: One of the first things I think young people, especially nowadays, should learn is how to see for yourself and listen for yourself and think for yourself. Then you can come to an intelligent decision for yourself. If you form the habit of going by what you hear others say about someone, or going by what others think about someone, instead of searching that thing out for yourself and seeing for yourself, you will be walking west when you think you’re going east, and you will be walking east when you think you’re going west. This generation, especially of our people, has a burden, more so than any other time in history. The most important thing that we can learn to do today is think for ourselves. (Malcolm X Speaks edited by George Breitman p. 137)
How relevant are those words of advice today? I would say that it’s the heart of what this campaign is all about—knowing the facts for yourself, so one can always draw sound conclusions about it confidently.
I remember when I first came to prison and before I had read that speech by Malcolm, I had a lot of misconceptions and had drawn incorrect conclusions about a gamut of things. For example, I remember once believing that the Black Panther Party had been a black version of the Ku Klux Klan. I gotten this impression not only from several people I had spoken to, but also from someone I had watched on T.V. one time, who spoke briefly about “their legacy.” It took years before I realized none of those people, including that guy who spoke on “their legacy” knew what the fuck they were talking about and probably never researched any of the false stuff that they had been told about them, themselves. To this day, I still find myself now being the one having to “Set the Record Straight” when it comes to the true legacy the Panthers left behind.
It’s somewhat funny to me when I think back to that particular stage in my development, though, because it amazes me how often I really believed “I was going West” when in fact “I was actually going East.” When I finally picked up some books about the Panthers and familiarized myself with their history, their ideology, their accomplishments, AND shortcomings, I learned two very important lessons: Not only should we know things for ourselves, but we should also not romanticize about the past in such a way that prevents us from learning from those errors and shortcomings that actually existed. Unfortunately, it did take me several more re-evaluations (on various subjects) before I consistently made this a principle I live by; but once I did and began applying it to all my future studies, I came to realize that there’s really no shortcut to being informed.
This brings me back to the first stage of communist revolution and what this campaign to “Set the Record Straight” is all about. Today, when it comes to the question of what was actually done in the Soviet Union between 1917-1956 and in China between 1949-1976, many of us when we began to share our thoughts about those “legacies,” we immediately start walking West, when we THINK we’re proceeding East. If I didn’t think this particular proclivity on our part was such a hinderance to people understanding the problems of capitalist society and how life doesn’t have to be this way, I probably wouldn’t be disclosing my feelings about the significance of this campaign to “Set the Record Straight.” However, I know this is one of those contradictions, which is principally the reason why a lot of people can’t even see another way to organize society to meet our needs on an ever-expanding basis, as we relate to each other in a much more meaningful way.
I’m still learning a lot about both of these historical periods even today; and there’s a lot I’m still yet to understand about the Soviet experience, since I’ve been preoccupied with gaining a concrete grasp of all the accomplishments AND shortcomings of the Chinese project; however, what I’ve learned about the Chinese experience between 1949-1976 over these past 4 years, has made me really admire the leadership of Mao Tsetung, as well as the Great Leap Forward (1958-1959) and Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) that he was instrumental in giving moral guidance and leadership to.
I think a lot of people lose sight of what China was like before 1949. This was a country that had been dominated, exploited, and kept underdeveloped by western and Japanese imperialism for decades (1840’s to 1949). The bureaucratic comprador capitalist class, who supported Chiang Kai-shek’s regime up to 1949, before liberation, had controlled 80% of China’s industry, commerce, foreign trade, banking, etc.—not for the benefit of developing China and raising the standard of living for the Chinese people, but as an extention to the needs and pleasures of those imperialist economies and people. This was a country where in Shanghai that you had signs in “public” parks that once read: “No dogs or Chinese allowed.” In Han Suyin’s book Wind in the Tower, she pointed out how “out of about 600 million people, there were only five million (Mao’s own figure of 1957) who had achieved middle school or higher levels of education.” (p. 61) Before liberation, women didn’t even have any divorce rights, polygamy still existed, child brides were common, infanticide was a problem, children were often sold to pay off debts, and you had 90 million opium addicts to name just a few of China’s problems that contributed to her backwardness. In short, life in China was fucked up, especially for the working class and peasants. People forget that out of the 600 million people living in China, 500 million were peasants, over 80% of her population.
My question is: where were all those apologists for this capitalist-imperialist system when all that was going on and most of whom actually supported their country’s foreign policy, even though those policies reinforced such conditions? Come on... lets really “Set the Record Straight” on who supported repression, lack of democracy, and state terrorism. It definitely wasn’t Mao Tsetung and his policies!
No, the first thing Mao and the Chinese Communist Party did when they had achieved their liberation was to pass the 1950 Marriage Law which established marriage by mutual consent, the right to divorce for women, and outlawed the sale of children and infanticide. By the early 70’s, China was able to adequately feed all of her people, while the great majority of the university population were worker and peasant students, and no longer the monopoly of the children of the feudal and comprador capitalist class as it had been before liberation. Yeah... it’s understandable that the feudal and comprador capitalist class and all those who benefitted from their class dictatorships, didn’t have much “good” to say about Socialist China and Mao, but again, did the Confederates have anything “good” to say about the abolitionist movement and their slave population they once ruled over? Come on now...let’s really “Set the Record Straight.”
If we are to do that, then we must acknowledge the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). Before there had been an Occupy Wall Street Movement, there was a Cultural Revolution in China, which was like an Occupy Wall Street phenomenon on steroids. Yeah... on steroids! And guess who was the visionary and biggest champion of this movement? Yeah, you guessed it right: Mao Tsetung. After he had witnessed the reversal of the Soviet Union and the restoration of capitalism there (in a bureaucratic state capitalist form), he realized that the only way the Chinese revolution would continue down the socialist road to communism would be to empower the masses themselves at all levels of the state. He foresaw the need for there being many “Occupy Wall Street-type” of cultural revolutions throughout the ENTIRE socialist transition period to communism in order to: awaken the political and ideological consciousness of the people; to enable them to become the new leaders and successors of the revolution; to challenge all levels of leadership which no longer was keeping the society upon the socialist path; to attacking bureaucracy itself; and combatting all those habits, customs, and relations in society that prevented the masses from consciously being their own masters, collectively, and individually, of both nature and society.
Unlike all other class dictatorships (slave owning, feudal, and bourgeois), the proletarian one even places before itself the historical task of even bringing to an end its own class dictatorship. As BA says: In a world marked by profound class divisions and social inequality, to talk about “democracy”—without talking about the class nature of that democracy and which class it serves—is meaningless, and worse. So long as society is divided in classes, there can be no “democracy for all”: one class or another will rule, and it will uphold and promote that kind of democracy which serves its interests and goals. The question is: which class will rule and whether its rule, and its system of democracy, will serve the continuation, or the eventual abolition, of class divisions and the corresponding relations of exploitation, oppression, and inequality. (BAsics 1:22)
In the last analysis, this is why this campaign to “Set the Record Straight” is so important. There’s been many so-called “democracies” in history. Which we can turn to and juxtapose to each other—the first being the slave owning class democracy in Greece. However, I challenge anyone who truly wants to leave behind a better future for their children and grandchildren, to contrast every democracy that has ever existed throughout the annals of recorded history—even this capitalist class democracy right here in America—with the proletarian one that had once existed in socialist China between 1966-1976, and then YOU be the judge of what’s possible and what we can possibly achieve the next time around even better. In the meantime, always think for YOURSELF.
In Solidarity, XXX
Revolution #294 February 10, 2013
A Call to Our Readers:
January 20, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
This winter, Revolution will publish a special issue which will boldly project the truth of what was accomplished in the first socialist revolutions, refuting the lies that spew out constantly about communism, and speak to how we can do better in the next stage of communist revolution. Beginning now, volunteer to be a part of making this special Set the Record Straight issue one which is sharp and biting, an issue which speaks to people’s real questions and challenges their thinking. Producing this issue will be a collective effort, drawing on the contributions of our readers. There will be substantive articles, including a major article by Raymond Lotta, an advocate of Bob Avakian’s new synthesis—but this will be published together with short articles, pictures, artwork and graphics. There is a place for you in this project...let’s hear from you about what people think...let’s hear from you about your ideas for the issue...join in doing research and writing. And we would especially like to hear from our readers in the prisons with their thoughts on the first stage of communist revolution and ideas for this important special issue.
To volunteer: write to email@example.com or to
RCP Publications, PO Box 3486, Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654 ATTN: STRS issue.
* * * * *
The following are two of the responses we received from readers to the above call:
I’m interested in helping out, but wondering what I can do? I am a High School teacher, and I often am confronted with students’ negative perceptions of Communism from their studies in World History. They read Animal Farm (Stalin is Evil), and Red Scarf Girl (Mao is Evil), and get a pretty warped view of the experience of these socialist societies...and often from very "progressive" even "radical-minded" teachers. Very interested in trying to break us out of this mold. I’ve shared a lot of STRS resources with some of these teachers, but would be way into having further reach beyond this school around this issue.
Some initial ideas:
* Student friendly version of Lotta’s (or other) articles
—I often find that Revolution articles are written above the reading level of even my Senior students (many are behind grade level in their reading, but even the strong readers struggle with articles longer than a page). I’m pretty good at rewording and reformatting articles so students can better access the material.
* Lesson plans that utilize STRS materials.
—These could be linked to from website for teachers’ use, and could also be sent to teachers we know—Education websites, etc.
* * * * *
(This response is translated from the Spanish original.)
Comrades: I just read the call made in Revolution newspaper and I am convinced of the need to spread an objective viewpoint on the major accomplishments of the previous experiences of the world proletarian revolution as well as the challenges ahead and aspects that should be corrected in the new wave of proletarian revolution in which we find ourselves and for which the new synthesis is a theoretical framework to address essential tasks ahead.
Count me in.
With appreciation and hope
Revolution #294 February 10, 2013
February 26—One Year Since the Racist Murder of Trayvon Martin
February 10, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The Stop Mass Incarceration Network and others are calling for people to take to the streets on February 26, which marks one year since the murder of Trayvon Martin by a racist vigilante in Sanford, Florida. For more information on plans as they develop, check regularly at stopmassincarceration.org and revcom.us.
This statement is circulating for signatures, and for publication. Information on adding names and contributing to publishing is at the end of the list of signatories.
We Say “NO MORE”
The killing of Trayvon Martin and 2.4 million in prison make clear that there is a whole generation of Black and Latino youth who have been marked and treated as a “generation of suspects” to be murdered and jailed. This is not an issue for Black people alone but for all who care about justice; it is not a random tragedy.
We say NO MORE!
Signatories to date:
Ron Ahnen, President of California Prison Focus
Charles Alexander, director of the Academic Advancement Program at UCLA
Rene Auberjonois, actor
Eleanor J. Bader, freelance journalist
Ajamu Baraka, Human rights activist; former director of U.S. Human Rights Network
Dan Barker, co-president, Freedom From Religion Foundation
Fr. Luis Barrios, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York
Kathleen Barry, author: Unmaking War, Remaking Men
Missy Comley Beattie, peace and justice activist; Counterpunch contributor
David Ross Curtis Bird
Ken Bonetti, educator
Blase Bonpane, Ph.D.,Director of Office of the Americas
Robert Bossie, SJC 8th Day Center for Justice
Alban Boucher, Social Worker / Activist
Herb Boyd, author / activist / journalist /teacher
Richard Brown, Former Black Panther; co-founder of Committee for the Defense of Human Rights
John Burris, civil rights attorney
Reverend Dr. Richard Meri Ka
Ra Byrd, Sr. Minister and Pastor, KRST Unity Center of Afrakan Spiritual Science
Kendra Castaneda, Prisoner Human Rights Activist with a family member in CA State Prison Segregation Unit
Chris Cates, Secretary, National Action Network (NAN), Atlanta chapter
Don Cheadle, actor
Eric Cheyfitz, Ernest L. White Professor of American Studies and Humane Letters, Cornell University
Marcus Coleman, President, National Action Network (NAN), Atlanta chapter
Rev. Robert B. Coleman, Chief Program Minister, The Riverside Church, City of New York
Elizabeth Cook, activist in New Orleans
Peter Coyote, actor, author
Nicole Cromartie, Museum educator
Chris Crutcher, author: Whale Talk; Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes; Deadline
Colin Dayan, author: The Law is a White Dog, How Legal Rituals Make and Unmake Persons
Don DeBar, Journalist, host of CPR Morning Show on CPRmetro.org
Carl Dix, Revolutionary Communist Party, USA
Lisa Edelstein, actor
Niles Eldredge, Curator Emeritus, American Museum of Natural History
Eve Ensler, Tony Award winning playwright, performer, activist, founder of V-DAY
Richard Falk, teacher, author
Father Austin Ford, Civil Rights Movement activist in Georgia in the 1950s
Nick Fossett, supporter of the Revolution
Julian Francisco, U.S. Marine; “someone who’d like to not get stopped every time I go on leave to visit my wife in New York”
Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president, Freedom From Religion Foundation
Nick Gotts, Aberdeen, Scotland
Elaine Hampton, retired bookkeeper, member of the Freedom From Religion Foundation
Kathleen Hanna, musician
Joe Harris, father of Joetavius Stafford, killed by MARTA Police at Vine City Station, Atlanta, GA, 2011
Chris Hedges, author: War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning
Lyn Hejinian, Professor, Department of English, University of California, Berkeley; poet
Nicholas Heyward, Parents Against Police Brutality and October 22nd Coalition
Merle Hoffman, founder, president and CEO of Choices Women’s Medical Center
Erik James Hopper
Adam Horovitz of the Beastie Boys
Sikivu Hutchinson, editor, blackfemlens.org; freethoughtblogs.com/ blackskeptics.org; author, Moral Combat: Black Atheists,Gender Politics, and the Values War
Ron Jacobs, author and journalist
Cephus Bobby Johnson, uncle of Oscar Grant
Sherry Tate John
Celes King IV, Chairman, Congress of Racial Equality of California
Peter N. Kirstein, Professor of History, Saint Xavier University; Vice President AAUP Illinois
C. Clark Kissinger, Revolution Books, NYC
Greg Laden, Scienceblogs, The X Blog
Vinay Lal, university professor and social critic
Dennis Loo, author, Globalization and the Demolition of Society
Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun and chair of the Interfaith Network of Spiritual Progressives
Marilyn McMahon, attorney, California Prison Focus
Marie Martin, nurse and tutor; son in Pelican Bay State Prison
Sharon Martinas, racial justice educator
Tom Mayer, Professor (emeritus), Department of Sociology, University of Colorado at Boulder
Robert Meeropol, Rosenberg Fund for Children
Leo Mintek, Outernational
Tom Morello, Nightwatchman
Charles Person, one of the 13 original Freedom Riders
Willie Phillips, NAACP/Berkeley, Chairperson of Econ. Department
Anu Ramanathan, atheist and secular humanist
Florence M. Rice, consumer advocate
Tricia Rose, author and educator, Brown University
Al Sandine, author, activist
Lloyd Scott, IKAR
J. Tony Serra
Cindy Sheehan, peace and justice activist
Henry Silverman, Professor and Chairperson Emeritus, Department of History, Michigan State University
Dr. Tolbert Small, poet and co-founder of Harriet Tubman medical clinic in East Oakland
Tavis Smiley, talk show host and co-author of The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto
Dr. Donald Smith, past president of the National Alliance of Black School Educators
Martin Stolar, attorney, New York City
Sunsara Taylor, Revolution newspaper
Kim M. Turner
Simba Amka Uhuru, Amka the Griot
Paul Von Blum, Senior Lecturer, African American Studies, UCLA
Donald R. Wright, engineer and humanist activist
James Yakura, student, UCCS
David Zeiger, filmmaker, director of Sir! No Sir
Organizational and institutional affiliation provided for identification purposes only. To add your name, and contribute to further publishing, contact:
Revolution #294 February 10, 2013
February 10, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On February 2, 2012, 18-year-old Ramarley Graham was gunned down in his own home, in the Bronx, by an NYPD cop. On the one-year anniversary of this vicious murder, people rallied and marched to the 47th NYPD precinct—demanding JUSTICE.
Cops who murder almost always simply walk free. But in this case, the struggle of the people has forced the system to indict Richard Haste, the cop who murdered Ramarley Graham, and he faces manslaughter charges. Haste pleaded not guilty and was released after posting $50,000 bail. Over and over in these cases, the system finds ways to let killer cops get off, even when they are forced to bring them to trial. People only got this far in the struggle for justice by going into the streets, relying on ourselves—our own struggle, and not those in power whose role is to chill us out and get us to accept that things have to be this way.
To be a Black or Latino youth in the U.S.A. means you’re automatically considered a “suspect” by this system and their armed enforcers. It means always being threatened with being arrested, locked up and, if need be, tortured in solitary confinement. And it means always facing the fact that you could be shot down dead by the police for nothing.
What kind of system has over 2.3 million behind bars, mainly Black and Latino people? What kind of system offers no future to the youth in poor communities—then dogs them, taking away their rights in a “war on drugs” and things like stop-and-frisk. What kind of system guns down Black and Latino youth, time after time after time—and then lets the police murderers almost always go free?
It’s on US to fight for justice for Ramarley Graham—and to put an end to this whole system that keeps killing our youth.
The people must not sit back and be silent. We must find ways to fight for justice for all the victims of murder at the hands of the police and racist vigilantes. We need to link that to building a determined mass movement against mass incarceration. And all this must be part of building a movement for revolution.
Revolution #294 February 10, 2013
Report from the End Porn & Patriarchy Campaign
January 30, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The End Porn & Patriarchy Campaign held actions January 20-26 in Washington, DC, and San Francisco, getting into it with people on campuses and the streets about the emergency that the right to abortion does not exist for women in most parts of the U.S.; the need to confront head-on this reality and the forces that want to take us back to the Dark Ages; and why it's important for people to understand that abortion is NOT murder, if we are to win this fight. In San Francisco a day of activities on January 26 ended with the high point of a protest of 200 people against the "Walk for Life" (a mass mobilization of anti-abortion activists from around the country). The following is correspondence written by a core activist in the End Porn & Patriarchy Campaign in SF.
from Alex Petersburg
Stop Patriarchy! Bay Area started our day on Saturday, January 26, at the Trust Women / Silver Ribbon Campaign’s ”Celebration of Women, Life, and Liberty,” a decisively non-confrontational commemoration of the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.
Our purpose was to call on every single person at that celebration to join us in directly CONFRONTING and RESISTING the thousands of anti-abortion activists—not even two miles away—who were mobilizing at that very moment to A) march against the basic right of women to have abortions, and B) rally people together under their patriarchal political agenda to overturn Roe v. Wade.
The first thing we did was talk to one of the speakers and organizers of the celebration who had shown some degree of support for what we were doing, and tell her that we would like to speak & announce the counterprotest. She said she would go back to the other organizers and ask if that would be possible. We knew that some of the scheduled speakers for the event had not shown up, there was actually open time that we could use, so any pretense from Trust Women about not having enough time would be bullshit. Our advocate came back and told us the answer was a resounding “NO.” We pushed back, and told her it didn’t make sense that they would not let us speak, unless they actually had a problem with the content of what we were going to say. She confirmed that they definitely did have a problem with the content, and that no one had planned on even MENTIONING the FASCIST, NAZI-LIKE MARCH FOR ENSLAVEMENT that was about to burst forth onto Market Street not hours from that moment in time, much less an opportunity to challenge and protest it.
We went to another speaker to tell her what had happened, and she agreed that our message was important and should be heard. She offered to give us half of her time, in a spirit of: If they won’t let you speak, we won’t tell them. We’ll just do it.
Before and throughout the event, we went through the crowd to make our argument. We quickly realized but at that point were not surprised, that many people there did not even know that the Walk for “Life” was happening that day! Some were ready to join us in counter-protest once they had the facts, and others took a struggle to see the importance of not letting the day end without opposing them. We were prepared to hear what we heard: it will just give legitimacy to the anti-abortion march to confront them, what good is it to get into a “screaming match,” and so on and so forth. We stood our ground and were able to win over a handful of people to see that the truth MUST be told about abortion and the war on women, loudly and boldly, and projected far and wide, in sharp contrast with the whole anti-abortion movement. We must RESIST if we ever want to see a cultural shift and ultimately an end to the stranglehold on abortion rights that has already locked so many women up (in some cases literally, such as women imprisoned for child endangerment for things they did when they were 4 months pregnant) and OUT of the possibility of living their lives the way they want to.
The scheduled “One Billion Rising” dance performance happened about half an hour before the permit for the event expired. I think it went longer than many organizers expected, and there was some anxiety that the last speakers would not be heard. Sure enough, the mic was snatched out of the hands of one of the speakers, and organizers quickly started dismantling the sound equipment, claiming (truthfully, I think) that the sound equipment could be confiscated if they overstayed their permit.
I broke into a sprint to the other side of the plaza to the Stop Patriarchy! banners that were meant to be the rallying point to lead people to the counter-protest. Another person working on Stop Patriarchy had already started calling out, “Don’t go home! Join us to confront the anti-abortion movement! Do not settle for celebration!” Three of us lined up at the top of the steps under our banners, and the whole audience shifted, turning their attention from the main stage to the new stage we had made for ourselves and our message. I said exactly what I was going to say if they had let us speak, and the audience heard loud and clear:
Abortion is more stigmatized, more dangerous to provide, and more difficult to access than any time in the last 40 years! Now is not the time to celebrate! Now is not the time to sit in smug satisfaction about how far we’ve come! Don’t go home! RIGHT NOW, THOUSANDS of anti-abortion activists are getting ready to march down Market Street! Let’s go puncture the atmosphere of lies with the TRUTH! Fetuses are NOT babies, women are NOT incubators, and abortion is NOT murder! Abortion is NOT a tragedy! The REAL tragedy will be if the story tomorrow goes: Saturday, the woman-hating fascists RAN THE STREETS of San Francisco and NOBODY OPPOSED them! There is a RIGHT SIDE to be on in this battle! MY GENERATION has grown up NEVER HEARING abortion spoken of as a positive and moral choice! TOGETHER we can CHANGE the conversation! TOGETHER we can give them something to talk about! That the fascists hit the streets and CLASHED with the TRUTH! But THAT’S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN WITHOUT A FIGHT! Abortion on demand & without apology! Defeat the war on women!
...and about twenty people took off marching through the crowd, chanting, “Without this basic right, women can’t be free! Abortion on demand and without apology!” with our bright orange signs, our giant banners, and all the determination and righteous anger that Stop Patriarchy! taps into and unleashes. Sure enough, over 60 people marched out of that celebration, their heads held high, ready to change the terms of this debate society-wide!
Many of those who left with us to meet our other forces coming from the Stop Patriarchy! rally were women from the generation that fought for Roe v. Wade. They were moved by and really understood how this current generation of women have been lied to about abortion, and showed a loving ferocity throughout the rest of the day: loving us, loving women, and loving the opportunity to really fight for what’s right. Fierce and raging at the movement that is trying and succeeding in taking us back to the dark ages and open & institutionalized female enslavement. Enraged at the Trust Women / Silver Ribbon Campaign for witholding the real story from them, that this anti-abortion march was happening, and there was a group that was leading a counter-protest to fearlessly and righteously take it on.
When our forces joined at Powell & Market and the antis marched by, over 200 people—from medical workers to college students to people who live on the streets, women who have been prostituted, abused, and/or stigmatized for having abortions, men who have long been sick to death of this disgusting male culture, both activists and young people who have never protested anything before, people of all races and classes and walks of life, this new force that had united that day on the RIGHT BASIS—SHOUTED DOWN that woman-hating march, CALLED THEM OUT as liars and patriarchs, with chants that struck right to the truth, with ONE uncompromising and resounding message: STOP PATRIARCHY!
Revolution #294 February 10, 2013
February 10, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
“Stoppatriarchy.org is doing a week of action on both coasts to stand up for abortion rights and to defeat the war on women. And today we spent several hours in the freezing cold at the Supreme Court and we’ll be going back there again shortly, to raise the banner of ‘Abortion on Demand and Without Apology.’ Because 40 years after Roe v. Wade, abortion is more dangerous to provide, more difficult to access, and more stigmatized than it has been at any point in the last 40 years. And anybody who thinks that this right is safe, or thinks that it is safe because there is a Democrat in the White House—this is not true. Abortion needs to be fought for and it needs to be de-stigmatized. One in three women will have an abortion. We need to tell our stories. There is nothing wrong with this—because fetuses are not babies and therefore abortion is not murder. And women are human beings, we are not incubators....
“Obviously we were countering the lies of the so-called pro-life movement. But most fundamentally we were trying to send a message to the people of this country, the overwhelming majority of whom do not want to see women forced to have children against their will, but most of whom are inactive and under the illusion that the right to abortion is safe. We were there to send a message that we will only defend the right to abortion, we will only ensure a future for women and girls that is anything other than enslavement and enforced motherhood, if we stand up and fight right now and turn this tide....
“In the Bay Area and places like New York, where I’m from, people can have a distorted sense of how accessible the right to abortion is. It’s difficult for a lot of women in the urban areas to get an abortion but it’s a lot easier than a lot of other places, so we can get a distorted sense. The reality is, in the rural parts of the U.S., once you leave the urban areas, 97 percent of counties do not have an abortion provider. Many, many places you have to travel hundreds of miles to get an abortion. Not only that, in many places you have to travel hundreds of miles and get a place to stay over night. You have to save up the money not only for an abortion, but for travel, most frequently for childcare; 60 percent of women who get abortions already have children. You need childcare; you need housing overnight because you have to see the doctor one day, wait 24 hours before you can get your procedure, and then go back home. This puts abortion care outside the financial possibility of very many women.”
From an interview on January 22, with Sunsara Taylor on Dennis Bernstein’s KPFA Pacifica radio show, Flashpoints.
Revolution #294 February 10, 2013
February 1, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From a reader:
On Martin Luther King Day, which was also the day of the inauguration of Barack Obama, I woke up angry and outraged. The world does not have to be the way it is. The masses of people here and around the world should not have to live another day under a system of capitalism-imperialism which grinds the majority of people up with no regard, and then tells people that this is the best that humanity can do, and trying to do anything else, especially communism would be nothing but a disaster. That is more than enough to make me sick, and others like me who are fighting for a different, and far better world. Today though something happened that made me even more indignant. All over Facebook, various blogs, and even TV One, a popular cable television channel catered to African Americans, was the news that last night at an inauguration party, Lupe Fiasco, a rapper who is popular among progressive youth was asked to perform.
Lupe Fiasco performed his song "Words I Never Said." If you haven't heard this song he says in his lyrics at the end of the first verse “Limbaugh is a racist. Glenn Beck is a racist. Gaza Strip was getting bombed, Obama didn't say shit. That's why I didn't vote for him, next one either.” Well during his performance, he did not shy away from uttering those exact same lyrics in front of a large crowd who was there to celebrate four more years of Barack Obama's rule. He was immediately heckled, and forced offstage. In the aftermath of this I saw that there were various forces on the blogosphere, and other media that were calling for him to be boycotted. This is BULLSHIT!
First off let's get into the essence of the matter. Was what Lupe Fiasco saying have any truth to it? On several occasions during his presidency thus far Israel has taken unjust military action against the Palestinian people. Bombings, raids, assassinations and the advancement of settlements along the West Bank, forcing Palestinians off their land. All of these things have taken place. Not just alleged "enemy combatants," but civilian men, women, and children who have nothing to do with this conflict have been killed as a result of Israeli aggression. This brings me back to the November issue of Revolution newspaper and the article titled "Israel's Murderous Assault on the People in Gaza... And the Need to Oppose These Crimes NOW." It tells of a doctor's post on Facebook saying that in less than 2 hours, 14 military attacks took place against different targets in different parts of the Gaza Strip, 6 were killed including 2 young girls age 4 and 7, also leaving 11 injured without adequate emergency medication, and no power. He says at the end that this aggression must stop now. Think about this happening over and over again to the people of Palestine and that the U.S. and Israel are inflicting this terror.
What has Barack Obama done during all of this? He has said nothing about all of the horrors inflicted against the Palestinian people. He has backed Israel on several occasions, verbally, saying that "the state of Israel has the right to defend itself." The U.S. before and during Barack Obama's presidency also has continued to provide economic and military aid to Israel, and this will only continue during Obama's next term. We have to look at the facts squarely in the face and in their proper context. What's going on here is nothing more than U.S. imperialism along with Israel continuing to protect its interests, expanding its sphere of influence, and trying to consolidate control over a Middle East that they feel is getting out of control, with Islamic fundamentalism taking hold amongst many of the Arab youth. Capitalism-imperialism, and Islamic fundamentalism are both outmoded and as a framework are nothing but horrors for the masses of people, and need to be entirely swept away if we are going to get to a world free of all oppression and exploitation. But let's get this clear. Imperialism has been the dominant means of devastation overwhelmingly in the world, and Barack Obama is at the helm. Islamic fundamentalism would not even have as much of a current in the Middle East had it not been for U.S. imperialist action and intervention.
The trend I have been seeing which was even more exposed by the backlash against Lupe Fiasco, has been the uncritical support for Barack Obama during his first four years as president up to now. Anyone who comes out to speak any truth about the reality about Barack Obama, and the system he presides over, even if the criticism is not that articulate or developed is immediately attacked and isolated. Cornel West and Tavis Smiley for example have even been labeled "uncle Tom's" by comedian, and now talk show host, Steve Harvey. This is actually turning reality on its head. It is outrageous quite frankly. The fact that people can get away with saying things like this without being called out is ridiculous. Let's actually take a step back for a moment here and look at this more fully. First off the exploitation and oppression of Black people in this country lies in its foundation and continues up till today. The feelings that the masses of Black people felt when Barack Obama became president had some real meaning after the long night of oppression imposed upon Black people. There was the feeling that anyone could make it under this system now. There were no more excuses. I can't count how many times I've heard that tired old phrase.
If we are going to see things as they really are, then we are going to have to get into what Barack Obama's presidency has actually meant for Black people, and what is this system that he is the Commander and Chief of. First off, the sentiment felt around the country was that this presidency would inspire Black youth to take "personal responsibility" and achieve the "American Dream" that so many had hoped for. Well this ran right up against its limits. Unemployment for Black youth at an all-time high due to lack of decent employment opportunities. Blacks still locked in the ghettos and slums set out to battle each other on a regular basis. 900,000 Black men along with a quickly growing number of women in prison. Police murder. Hundreds of thousands stopped and frisked every year in New York City alone. The majority of them never doing anything wrong in the first place. This is what sociologist Michelle Alexander so correctly pointed out as the New Jim Crow, and what Carl Dix of the Revolutionary Communist Party describes as a slow genocide that can turn into a fast one, that we are being conditioned to accept.
Barack Obama has never come out and said anything about these devastating conditions. Instead he has used his platform to tell Black youth that they need to pick their pants up. Take personal responsibility. Be fathers to their children. Blaming the masses of Black people for their conditions that are not of their own making, but rise out of the very system that he presides over. Reinforcing the idea that if you are living under these desperate conditions then it's your own damn fault. There are those that would say to this, that he is the president of the United States, he can't put Black people as a priority. Well let me say this. If there were any other country doing this to a whole section of people, people rightfully so would be outraged crying aloud that this is a serious violation of human rights, and something needs to be done about this. To be honest these conditions demand that this be met as a priority, but they never will under this system. Look, Barack Obama is the President of the United States of America, which is capitalist-imperialist. This is a system that puts profit over people. Things are socially produced on a worldwide scale, and then the wealth is appropriated to the hands of a few. The need to exploit people more ruthlessly for more profit compels those capitalists in competition with each other to go to other countries, mainly in the third world, and pay people far less than they can in this country. Through all of the Presidents in this country's history, nothing has ever changed the way this works fundamentally, and under this system it never will.
What I just described about the functioning of this system ties directly into the oppression of Black people which has been at the foundation and a cornerstone of this country. This system, at a certain point not being able to exploit Blacks as profitably, took their factories and other forms of employment that used to be available to Blacks out of the country and left many Blacks to be of no use to this system anymore. The result is that the majority are locked into the ghettos with no way out facing all the horrors of these conditions, while some Blacks, relatively few compared to the number of those locked in the slums and prisons of this country, are in the middle class. The ruling class of elites have cleverly used all of this, along with the presidency of Barack Obama to say that it's your fault if you've been living under these conditions, catering to Black middle class feelings and aspirations, reinforcing the idea that Blacks have achieved full equality, and the whole "I made it and you didn't" mentality. This ruling class has used this to make far too much of the Black middle class embrace American chauvinism and exceptionalism. This has very dangerous consequences for those trapped at the bottom.
Now the fact of the matter is that the monumental problems that plague this society as a matter of fact are a product of this very system that puts the blame on people for those conditions, and that needs to be fully swept away if we are going to get beyond all this. This means we need a REVOLUTION! to deal with all of these problems at their root and to dig out the vestiges of this system whose time is up. More specifically we need the new synthesis of communism, developed by Bob Avakian, the chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, who has re-envisioned communism. He has looked at its history, the great achievements and errors that have been made, and has figured out how we can do much better the next time the people have power over society.
Artists like Lupe Fiasco should be supported and encouraged when they take the stand that they do, boldly calling out this system and who is leading it at any given time. We desperately need more artists that are breaking out of the confines and taking bold stands like this. It is a part of people fighting back, and can lead people to raise their sights, and see the true nature of this decadent and utterly worthless system.
Revolution #294 February 10, 2013
Revolution #294 February 10, 2013
January 28, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
A team from Revolution newspaper joined the Stop Patriarchy crew in Washington D.C. for the first couple of days during the Week of Action to Defend Abortion & Defeat the War on Women. During this time, we were able to talk with several of the volunteers about their reasons for coming, how they see the stakes of this struggle, and the things they were learning. Following are four of these interviews. Check back later for more...
* * * * *
This interview is with a volunteer from New York:
I'm a revolutionary, a student, and I'm an outraged young person who is here to do what needs to be done, for humanity, for women, for the future.
What brought you here?
Well, I was brought into this whole movement for revolution about a year ago through actually being a Women and Gender Studies major at school and taking all these classes which really teach you about the realities that are going on in the world, on the basis of gender relations, but also other things too, what's happening all over the world, like this "war on drugs" bullshit, all these kind of atrocities that are going on. These classes kind of teach you what the root of it is, but obviously not any way of changing it. And I was always kind of left with, well this is what is happening but what are we going to do about it. And luckily Revolution newspaper came in one day to one of my classes and had the newspaper and I just saw whatever the article was, and it was the most real headline and real story that I had ever seen. I don't remember what the article was, but seeing this I was so intrigued. And I've always been someone who is very unapologetic for just telling the truth and seeing something like this that was very unapologetic and just very real was so refreshing and I knew that I had to follow this wherever it was going and that brought me to Revolution Books and really understanding what the newspaper is for and getting into the movement and then finding Sunsara Taylor and this Stop Patriarchy network and learning what it is about and challenging myself as to why porn is so bad and these kind of things and what it's doing to society.
This was a challenge to you?
Yes, I watched porn and I didn't think anything about it.
Maybe you could talk about that because I know this has been something that has been very controversial.
I wasn't really ever in a position where I was going to uphold porn because as someone who just understands reality and real arguments I can understand very quickly why it's so detrimental to society—and just watching it and not thinking about those things but also not having those things posed to me. So it was just easy for me to not think about it. But then coming to the store and getting into those questions made me think about these things differently.
Was it just like a thing of this is for me, and not thinking about what it means in society?
Yeah, it was just like quick sexual gratification, whatever, it does what it needs to do and then you put it away and that's it. But that's not it. And I never thought of it that way.
So what is it?
It is garbage, it's also dangerous in the way that it's teaching young kids, the average age of someone starting to watch porn is like 11, seriously. I'm pretty sure that I even starting looking up stuff when I was that young too. And seeing these graphic images of women just being degraded and learning that that's what your place is in terms of sexuality and that that is what sex is, when it's fucking not—it's completely formulaic sex, it's completely uncreative, it's there mainly for men to view and to get off, to see this degradation of a woman.
It has nothing to do with mutual respect.
It has nothing to do with mutual respect, actual making love, that is not at all part of it and is not supposed to be. And it's so, so dangerous. And so learning more about that too and then bringing that into school too, and learning what I was coming up against, even in school, which you would think—college, it has all these great Women and Gender Studies classes and professors, you'd think they'd be a little more fucking enlightened about that. But they even see the sex industry and sex work as something that can be empowering, but that's bullshit. And I've had to come up against that now in school and that's been a challenge. But I have some help from people like Sunsara being there constantly to help me deal with these kind of things. Everything we talk about is, is it a really true reflection of reality and how these things are affecting reality and real people...
Why we're out here doing what we're doing this week—it's the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade which made abortion legal in this country, however it is now more stigmatized, more dangerous and more restricted than ever before. Why is it that coming from being legal, it has gone backward? Why hasn't it become more accessible, turning the tide in how we think about this? Instead we've actually gone backward on this. And why is it that way? The way we think about it, as revolutionaries, even that was going a little bit too far [for those who rule]: "The whole women's movement, what it did accomplish, we need to actually go back, we need to push women back into the kitchen, the home, keep them in that place where they belong as the bearers of children." And we're coming out there to make it known that, you know, that is not our place in society, we deserve to be treated as equals in this society, we are not just here to be the fucking bearers of children. We are here to do lots of other things, whatever we want, including not having children if we don't want to. And we're here to proclaim that and to proclaim that abortion is something that is OK and that it needs to be more widely available for women. And it is at risk at this moment of just not being available for most women in this country, and that is entirely unacceptable and we're here to proclaim that and to get more people involved in this because this cannot go on in this way.
* * * * *
The following interview was done with a volunteer from the UK, now going to school in the U.S.:
What did you think of what we did today in front of the Supreme Court, confronting the anti-abortionists?
I thought it was great. I really didn't have much of an idea what to expect. Coming from the UK, I haven't had a lot of contact with pro-life people and the pro-life movement. It's very much smaller in the UK. It's very marginal. It's not considered much of a threat. The U.S. always looks like a warning to us, you know? "You see those people?" And we'd go, "Oh god, we don't want that to happen here." But increasingly, it is happening. Now that I live here, and I see it—I see the impact they have had is so much larger than I'd even realized, the more I learn about it, the more scarier it all is. Because losing the right to abortion has happened already in this country. Effectively speaking. It's still legal, but you know in Mississippi there's no abortion providers. Or if you're a minor you can't cross state lines without the consent of your parents...things like that. Or just the fact that for lower income women, it would be so difficult for them to travel really far to an abortion clinic, then have to go through a mandatory waiting period, and would have to find somewhere to stay during that time, all of those things. Seeing them for what they really are, it's quite shocking to me. And it's more shocking to me because I see this has a huge influence across the world. I mean not just the AID funding [USAID—U.S. Agency for International Development] that was influencing things in the developing world—I know that's been kind of repealed now, but a lot of people very much look to the U.S., especially religious groups look to U.S. religious groups as well for their kind of ideology. So I guess that made me really, really proud to be part of standing up to that. Because even though this isn't my country, and I won't be living here forever, this is a global thing. And the pro-life movement here is so powerful, it's very scary. I really liked that we were able to get up there and get between people and make that statement in front of the press as well. Because I often feel that even if you do stand and you do reach people in the streets, the press often just ignores you. But they were all there, and they saw us there. And that was a really powerful thing. And for me personally, it was a really powerful thing to be there and just be standing up for that as well, and not be someone who just stands on the sidelines and just watches it all fall down and goes, "oh dear."
How did you first connect with the campaign to End Pornography and Patriarchy?
I found their website. I had been wanting to join a movement, something like this, for a while. I just didn't really know what was out there, I guess. I looked at the mainstream feminist kind of movements. They just didn't quite feel like what I wanted to be a part of. The thing that attracted me to this was that they take on both feudal patriarchy and capitalist patriarchy. Too many groups are like: We'll fight the feudal patriarchy but we love the capitalist patriarchy. Give us the porn. Give us the commodification. Sell our bodies now. Or you get the right wing who's like: We're against the sex industry, against pornography. Not because of women's rights basis but because of morality, obscenity basis. So yeah, I wanted to be part of something that stood against both of those. And also that took a very confrontational stance, and a very holistic stance, and linked this with other issues in a systemic way. You get too many things that are very single-issue, that don't put things in a wider perspective.
Can you speak more to how you see this issue as part of a bigger thing?
First of all, people often see women's issues as disconnected from or even in competition with economic justice, race issues, or things like that. And it's always like, Oh well, why do you care about women when you could be fighting world poverty. But it's like, most of the world is poor women...
It really annoys me when people talk about, like, "Oh the market's done really great things. Look at how much better the standard of living is in the U.S., in Britain, in Europe, look what it's done for people, that's incredible, that's amazing." And I say, we haven't eradicated the worst of capitalism, that's not what happened—we outsourced it, is what happened. It used to be that we had those horribly exploitative factories in our own country, and that's what Dickens wrote about and it was really awful. But we never really got rid of that. We just put it somewhere where we didn't have to look at it. That again uses other kinds of patriarchal norms. I read these really, really interesting papers. One of them was about women working in factories in Bangladesh, and the other was about men working in factories somewhere in India. The way they used gender norms to facilitate capitalist exploitation was really interesting. Like a lot of people say it's been a liberation for women that these multinational corporations have come over there and they've given these women jobs. Now they have an independent income, now they get paid more than whatever their other options are. And in a certain sense that's true. But as soon as the jobs become more skilled, as soon as the wages rise, the women are pushed out and men are recruited, because their whole basis of recruitment is, they want women because they are the most exploitable, they have the weakest social power, because they won't unionize, because they've got no other options. So the multinational corporations love to employ them because it's like you've got this really docile workforce that can't stand up, because they just don't have the backing of their community behind them. At the same time, there was this other paper about men working in this workshop. The men actually lived in the workshop and they kept it completely segregated from women. So the women would live at home and the men would just live at this workshop. And one of them said something about, "We can't let women in here, because we don't want them to see how we're treated." If they stay out of here, they can still pretend that they've still got some dignity, being a man and being a provider, and they're still the king of the household. If the women saw them in their workplace, they would realize how much they were getting exploited and that would be shameful for them. So this corporation is using these norms of masculinity to actually facilitate the greater exploitation of men by men, and using women's oppression to facilitate that better. So it's all so interconnected. You can't look at these things one at a time.
That's an important point about the interconnectedness of things and the global dimension. When the gang rape in India came out into the open—and there were the massive protests by women and men there—that had an electrifying effect worldwide.
That's really amazing, especially since so often it's portrayed that fighting for women's rights is this "Western thing" that's imposed on other countries. Sometimes it has been an excuse for imperialism, that's happened...
Like in Afghanistan...
Yeah, like "We're all about the rights of women." No you're not. You don't give a shit. You're not doing anything to help women out. It's still awful for women in Afghanistan. The warlords they've brought back into power, they hate women as much as the Taliban. I think it's really inspiring how women have been standing up in India. People have been uniting and giving expression to this across the world.
* * * * *
This interview is with a woman from the Bay Area:
We drove out here from California to be here today. We think it's really, really important. Without the basic right and control over her own body, a woman is enslaved. My grandmother was raped, and my father was the result of that rape. This goes down generations. She was not able to love him the way a child deserves to be loved. She did not have the opportunity for an abortion. She was in Texas in 1947. It was a very conservative environment, she belonged to a very conservative church, she did not have that opportunity. This is something that affects people for generations. When women have children that they don't love, then those children can't be raised in a loving home.
Where do you think the fight to defend abortion rights is at?
At this point, there's so few abortion providers. Abortion isn't being taught in medical schools. It's being legislated out of existence on a state-by-state level. We drove through many, many states where it is now almost impossible to get an abortion. It's really, really, really scary. We need more than just Roe v. Wade. We need to push back. The Democratic Party is a defensive party. They don't do anything for women. What they say is: Well, we're not those rape guys, you know. And that's not enough. We need a pro-active movement. Because the Democratic Party, they know right now that they don't have to do anything. We need to overturn Hyde. We need to do better than Roe v. Wade. Because there are a lot of aspects to Roe v. Wade that have allowed abortion to be legislated out of existence. It considers fetal viability a point where abortion can be restricted. So we need more than, oh we're going to put pro-Roe v. Wade appointees in the courthouse. We need a pro-active movement to prevent women's rights from being stripped away.
And this isn't just about abortion. This is about women's rights in general. The Violence Against Women Act was just voted down again so it is no longer in effect. There's just so many areas where women's lives are being curtailed. And it's really, really important that we push back.
Have you been involved in the End Pornography and Patriarchy campaign?
I got involved in October. I'm involved in the Bay Area chapter. We were protesting the appointment of the Archbishop... We've been protesting porn stores because the fact is that although the right objectifies women as baby-makers, the left is objectifying women as dick sleeves. We need to fight back against that, because women are not objects.
* * * * *
This interview is with a volunteer from Chicago:
I just signed up for Stop Porn and Patriarchy a couple of months ago and it was the first time that I stepped out and told anybody that I had an abortion because it's so stigmatized, that somehow this is a terrible thing. But abortion is great, it liberates women and I am so happy to be in DC taking a stand. I've always been someone who's stood in the background and let everybody else make the speeches and be in the forefront. I was happy to be doing the mailings and sticking the stickers on the donor letters. But today I'm standing out and speaking out because we need to be speaking out against these Christian fascists who are stripping abortion rights away and trying to send women back to the dark ages. We have to take a stand against that and that's why I decided two months ago I was gonna come to this. And at first I was just coming by myself and that was it. Then I got on a conference call with Sunsara Taylor who made it clear that if this was gonna happen I had to help make it happen. So I started organizing in Chicago and we got two of us here. But we have a much broader group of people now who stepped forward and told their own abortion stories and themselves went out and started raising money for this. Because every time somebody takes a step and tells somebody else about it or even tells people more broadly it broadens the movement and people understand even more why they need to take a stand and they get a much better understanding and we change our thinking.
I started out talking to people, saying, well what's your stand on abortion, how do you feel about abortion? And then I realized what I needed to be saying is, do you realize how they're taking our abortion rights away, we can't let this go down. So that's what we started saying and it resonated among women across the board. People that I wouldn't have even thought would take it up, like my personal trainer who is a fundamentalist Christian, I thought oh, I can't even ask her. But then I said, no I'm asking everybody, including my acupuncturist and everybody I know. And she said, she's very contradictory, she said, well the Bible says thou shalt not kill but I had an abortion and I think women should have a right to choose and she donated money on the spot.
Let me ask you this, you talked about how this is the first time you could come out and talk about this and you're not a young person.
No I'm not, I'm over 65.
There are a lot of people who have been stigmatized, who now feel ashamed for having an abortion and feel that it was wrong. And here we are in front of the Supreme Court and there are these reactionary anti-abortionists, including all these young women who have been told the lie that abortion is murder, that fetuses are babies—they've been brainwashed. Generations of young women are being lied to and told that to decide their own future and fate, to be in control of their own life is wrong. Could you speak to this as someone who for a very long time felt stigmatized about having an abortion?
Well I think it's so stigmatized, that there's something wrong with having an abortion, that you are killing your baby, and like, "don't you think about how old they would be," "what would your children think that you eliminated their sister or brother." But that's not it. Fetuses are NOT babies, they are clumps of cells. I even had a late term abortion because I was raped as a teenager, it was a date rape. It was back in 1968 and it was illegal then to have an abortion and I tried to get a legal abortion. You couldn't even get birth control back then.
I was the leader of a Civil Rights Group at my college and I was leading a group down to Tuskegee, Alabama where we were doing voter registration in Tuskegee. And I was raped by someone during that trip and I didn't know anything about sex. That was my first experience with sex. You know how they say you can't get pregnant the first time you have sex, well that's a lie. I got pregnant and when I came back I tried to go through all the ways that you could legally get an abortion back then—which was to have a psychiatrist say it's gonna mentally affect you in a way that is detrimental to your health.
I was trying to find any means necessary because I definitely didn't want to have a baby. And I knew having an abortion was the right thing to do and so I was just trying every way I could think of to do it.... But I couldn't. So I went back home to West Virginia. And my very conservative mother actually was able to talk to her gynecologist. And again, I was already into like four and a half months, way into second term. And she convinced her gynecologist to give me a D&C and he really put his life on the line, unlike these other guys who wouldn't. She was having a D&C at the same time and so we just went and had our D&Cs together. And she supported me. I never would have thought. Anyway, that's the story of my abortion.
And you didn't talk about this for many, many years?
I didn't talk about it from the time I was 19 years old when I had it until two months ago. Never. My family didn't know. I never talked to my sisters about it. I never talked to my son. But I went over and talked to my daughter-in-law, my son wasn't around, but I went over and talked to her and she was very touched by my story. She doesn't really support all of this campaign because she's into pornography. She thinks pornography is a good thing, she's into sex positive. But she thinks abortion is very important so she ended up donating to this.
What do you think was the main thing that made you finally feel you could speak out about this?
I guess that I see that we're in an historic moment right now. And I think Stop Patriarchy is really developing as a movement. I really see it as a new movement that has the potential to unleash millions of women. There are lots of women out there like me who are really pissed about this that never talk about it. And I think there really is the potential for millions of women to be in the streets and I really think about one of the things Sunsara Taylor talks about is what it was like when people sat down on the lunch counter during the Civil Rights Movement, or Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat.
It's kind of come full circle because you were part of that whole movement 45 years ago.
Yeah, it's true, I hadn't thought about that, but it's true. So this is a pretty historic moment and I wanted to be a part of it. So here I am.
Also one of the real motivations for me to make this leap from being somebody who likes to do the mailing to somebody who's stepping out, is the work of Bob Avakian. And in particular the interview he did with A. Brooks, What Humanity Needs, where he is asked, "What do you have to say to, people who have been around this movement for revolution for a long time?" And Bob Avakian says, "Do the right thing." And I thought, gee, he's talking to me. Because I've been around forever. And then this Stop Patriarchy came up and I said, this is the point, this is the time to make the leap, so I did.
Do you have any thoughts about what just happened here in front of the Surpeme Court on the 40th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade?
A very small, determined group of people [the crew from Stop Patriarchy] basically talked down the Christian Fascists. What happened was they were standing there doing their silent vigil in front of the Supreme Court and the anti-life people who are not against people being killed in Afghanistan and Iraq, they're for the death penalty. These people who call themselves pro-life but they're really anti-life, they're anti-women. They don't want women to have birth control. They don't women to have any control over their bodies. They were having their little vigil with their little beautiful carnations, which I took a whole bunch of and I said these are the abortions I've had. These are for women who stood up to control their bodies and that's what we did. We basically took over where they were and took over their press conference and stood up for women and stood up for people having reproductive rights. And this is not just about abortion. This is about women's liberation and women controlling their lives and women and men coming together to say we want to emancipate humanity. And this is only a first step.
Personally I believe that this system is never gonna meet anybody's needs. I don't think women can be liberated under this system of patriarchy and capitalism-imperialism. I think what we need is a revolution. I think we need a communist revolution as a step toward having a world where people actually work together for the good of everybody instead of anti-life people standing against people who are standing for women's liberation and the liberation of all humanity. So we basically took it over. They're gone. They put their little flowers down. And I still have their flowers in my belt, these are for my abortions. This is our stand, we stand for women and they don't. They stand for the dark ages and we stand for the liberation of all of humanity all over the world.
* * * * *
This interview is with a young volunteer from New York:
Let's start off by talking about how you first hooked up with this campaign against pornography and patriarchy.
Well I had a friend that I met in the gay march and she suggested I come by Revolution bookstore. And I did and they would have different talks and different discussions about topics that you really don't get to speak about or also if you do get to speak about it it's either one-sided or it's very stigmatized. So it was basically one of the first times I got to come into a space and actually see an open discussion without judgments or just new information that other people weren't offering.
When I first got there, I think there was a talk on how men were perceived as superior to women and in the media and that women are usually penalized for any kind of outcome and men aren't really addressed towards it, like whether it's rape or like any kind of abuse, it's always like the woman's fault or she should have said or done something. They always say the woman has to change the way she dresses or thinks or speaks. They never address the men's input on it. And at the time I had just reported someone at my job for sexual harassment. And it was something that I hadn't done intentionally. I was trying to get out of the situation and other people brought it to light and I felt guilty because I got the man in trouble and he was very upset with me and made it pretty obvious that he was upset with me. And even though I was the one being harassed and somewhat of a victim in the situation I ended up feeling I did something wrong. And when I went to the group it was very healing for me to realize it's normal because of society for me to feel that way—but it wasn't accurate, it wasn't necessary for me to feel guilty for standing up for myself. And society puts a lot of pressure on women to be a certain way or put up with certain things and if you don't fit into that mold then you're the problem. So it helped me a lot to go through that small part of my life. And that was one of the major things that influenced me in the group.
This campaign is about fighting this situation, how do you think that's going and how do you feel that this could be changed?
I think although we are a small group I have seen by actually getting out there and talking to people and just getting into the conversation with different people whether they're in the street or your friends and family, we kind of not necessarily teach them, but awaken something that's already within them. And I feel that's where a lot of the power lies within this movement. I feel very confident it will be successful as long as we keep doing that because it's not like we're trying to convince anyone or sell any idea to anybody that's unrealistic or that's just to our advantage. It's literally something that everyone, not necessarily everyone, but a lot of people out there, do believe in and do feel, but they just haven't yet to come across the concept that we can speak about it or that it is something that we can change. A lot of people don't feel like it will ever change, it's just a part of society so they kind of hide it in the back of their mind, they don't ever speak about it or bring it out or make any difference about it because of how the world is today. But as long as we keep going out there and showing them that it is something that you can, if you become a part of, you can affect a lot of lives and help a lot of people, I think the more we send out that message the stronger we can become, the more likely it is that we can succeed and make a difference, not only in our culture but at the roots of it and branch out in the various aspects of our lives.
What kind of questions do you encounter when you go out to other people to talk about this?
I think the biggest thing is the idea that when you have an abortion you're killing a child which is not true. When I first came across the revolution group and when I saw these cards that said "Abortion on Demand and Without Apology" I looked at them and I just said, I don't get it. I honestly did not understand. Like I understand "Abortion on Demand." But to me it didn't really make sense because I know that abortion is legal, but at that point I didn't know that it's very hard for a lot of women to access it. I live in New York so everything is easy to access. So I didn't put myself in other people's shoes. Especially if you don't live in those places, people from here, where it is more accessible, where they can make some kind of change or some kind of difference, are not aware of the conditions of other people. And that's where I didn't understand why that was in there. As well as "without apology." I was confused by that. Cause I was like, what are you talking about? When did anyone ask us to apologize in the first place? But I later came to understand that because of all the stigmatism towards it, which I understood, because I come from a very Hispanic background. When I was born, this is the first generation of my family being here. With my parents and their siblings, you don't talk about abortion or sex or anything, all that is taboo. So I started understanding, the more I spoke with people, the more I came to these meetings, that it was more about how people think about it regardless of whether it's legal or not. A lot people don't go through with it or carry this burden on them for the rest of their lives because they went through with it. And it's honestly nothing to be ashamed about and I didn't understand that before because I've seen my friends go through it or I've had similar experiences and there it's correlated with this idea that this life that can be an existence at some point, technically you're cutting off that possibility, so technically it feels like you're cutting off that life. And for a person to have some kind of effect on cutting off someone's life short or nonexistence at all, it's that same idea of murder. And so that's when I started understanding what that meant, "Abortion on Demand and Without Apology."
Like I knew if I was in that situation, I think I would have gotten an abortion because I wouldn't be able to deal with confronting my family, saying I was going to have a child and having to live with them for the rest of my life probably because I wouldn't be able to raise it on my own. And probably in some way break up my family or my family would look at me in a shameful way because I had a child at such a young age. So I would have been cornered into getting an abortion and from that point I would have felt ashamed my whole life. But all that pain is unnecessary because there is nothing wrong with choosing to get on with your own life without having a child.
As we say, not having that right is the same thing as women being slaves. The comparison has been made between slavery and a woman having the right to decide when and if they want to have a child.
And especially if they're not even prepared for it, or equipped in any way to care for it they don't have any business having one in the first place. Whether I chose to have an abortion or not, I'm only setting it up for a dangerous situation. So in another perspective you're kind of doing yourself and the potential child a favor by not having that child because if you're not prepared for it you never know what that child is going to go through because it won't have the proper foundation.
What about the question of pornography, there's a lot of issues around that more broadly in society. What about in your own thinking, and in talking with people around this?
When they started bringing up how pornography is very, what is the phrase, degrading for women, I agree with that 100 percent. I feel like a lot of pornography is aimed at the pleasure of men and it's very much for visual effect. Like I've always perceived it like some kind of show or play on stage. Like it has nothing to do, the people involved have nothing to do with each other. It's about pleasing the camera and making sure whoever is watching is getting pleased, not each other or the people in it. And what always bothered me the most is when people said it was empowering for women because they made the choice to take their clothes off instead of being stripped of them, which at the end of the day they still end up stripped. So having the choice to do it is even more demonizing because of the fact that they now don't only have power over your body, but your mind. And I feel like that is even more dangerous and detrimental. And you know generally a lot of females who wear provocative clothes, and not necessarily revealing clothes, but provocative, I feel like there is a strong difference, like wearing a halter top or a low-cut, like a tank top or short skirt isn't necessarily, is just maybe revealing, but not necessarily provocative unless it has Playboy written across the front or something like that which gives more like a suggestion than it does simply wearing a small outfit or something like that.
So I was always against the idea of porn and advertising and how like every woman that started to become anyone in the media had to show up at some point in a magazine with half their clothes off. Like we are starting to see their mind, but it's not going to count for anything unless we see their body. It never made any sense to me, it always aggravated me. These are supposed to be role models and they should know better than to strip themselves in order to fit in. I'm like, have you tried not doing that and seeing how far that gets you? Just because everyone else is doing it doesn't mean that's the only way to become successful, just because other successful women did it, regardless if they became respectable afterwards. I just think generally it puts out the wrong image for younger women out there. Like I knew there was something seriously wrong with it but I didn't realize you would have some effect on it. And I think a lot of people are stuck in that whole mindset that, "Yeah, I know this is wrong but what difference does it make if I watch this, or if I do that, I'm just one in the crowd." And they don't realize that that one voice, your one voice, can reach out to all your friends, to your family, to all the other people you speak to and it can it can be a chain effect and other people will be affected by it. And instead of doing that they kind of backlash and just minimize their position in society.
Also people need to see something different, that's precisely how this initiative around ending pornography and patriarchy, it's not just one person talking. As important as it is what you're saying about individuals talking to people, people need to see a whole different thing in society, there's a movement, there's people who are standing for something else.
Yeah, I feel people should take a stand on it. I just feel the first step towards it would be internal. Like if I didn't make that realization myself I wouldn't be out here. You have to realize that you matter, your voice matters, your voice has an effect on the world, in order to join with a bigger crowd or even to create one. But definitely I feel like it should be a change in the media. It's just such a powerful tool, especially because when people are young and want to fit in and at the same time they're going through like puberty and things so they feel like this is the quickest way to get attention, because it's everywhere, because so many people in the media do it, that it's somewhat OK, like whoever is out there takes responsibility so I can follow so that's a role model in the world. But I definitely think there needs to be a shift in general towards the perception of what is beauty and what is pleasing to a person instead of like watching videos of women being degraded and abused in these videos being pleasurable. A switch went off at some point in people's minds when they started being aroused by that kind of thing that disconnected them from humanity. And we need to switch that back on.
I think when Sunsara Taylor talks about this she is very upfront about it. She is a revolutionary communist and she takes her vision from Bob Avakian's work and the Revolutionary Communist Party and there is a whole vision of how this needs to be fought, the oppression of women and in particular how it comes down with pornography and patriarchy. And in order to actually have a fundamental change in the situation of women that you need a whole different society, you need a revolution. How do you see that?
I definitely agree that there has to be fundamental change, like there has to be change within our roots, like where everything started, like your basic foundation with people, like your morals. I definitely agree with that concept, cause I don't think we can just branch off with such a degrading mindset and just try to learn other ways of thinking. Like you have to kind of rip the tree from its roots and grow it all over again. Which is why it's so hard because its challenging so many people, their core value system and what they were raised with. And when you are brought into this world, that's what you are taught. And back in the day, everyone's family was everyone's family. So this issue would be approached differently in that kind of society. But in this day and age, your family is all you have so regardless, and by family I mean the people you grew up with. And regardless how you feel about certain matters, at the end of the day, you're going to put them first. And to go ahead and decide that everything they taught you was wrong or misled you, it's difficult for people to admit or consider because it's so much easier to grasp onto your comfort zone or none of your reality is questioned. But this is the type of concept that would crumble your entire world. And it makes a lot of people very vulnerable and nervous because it's challenging everything they know. And they don't have to, honestly. They don't have to change. They can choose to crumble their whole world and start by trusting complete strangers and this other idea of thinking or holding on to their four walls and continuing to build the life that they think they want. And for the people who do step into this, this movement, I feel, they've realized that they deserve more than what has been offered to them. Especially when they start unraveling the lies that they've been told all their lives. So it's more what do you really want out of life kind of question. I kind of forgot what the question was.
These things like pornography and patriarchy need to be fought, women and men. We need to be out in the streets fighting for abortion rights. But the oppression of women is woven into the whole way this system operates and in order to actually fundamentally transform this you need a revolutionary change, you need to overthrow this system of capitalism and set up a whole different system that's not based on profit. So the question was what do you think about that?
Yeah, I think that's how I feel. We do need a revolution, to completely restore our core values and everything. Because half of humanity, and it's a little more difficult, it's hard enough to get that half of humanity up because they are the ones who are being degraded. And we have to find a concept to bring together. Every time we have these debates on how women should dress or act. Or in certain countries, like in classrooms, all the males are on one side of the room and all the females are on the other and a curtain in between. But that doesn't protect them. But unless you teach them a way of life to coincide with each other that curtain is not going to do anything. Like we don't only have to question the way women carry themselves and why, but why are men reacting the way they do, like why are they more fueled by women with less clothing.
It's because society has ingrained into their mind that men should crave sex, men should have more respect in society, if they slept with more women than other men have, or how easy it is for them to bring someone home. It's like the goal every single time in these scenarios when it involves men involves sex. And you wonder why there are so many rapes. A lot of rapes have nothin to do with a woman dressed provocatively. There are men who are out there who kidnapped children and adults and just abuse them and you go back to their homes and you see they were overly nurtured all their lives and all they watch is pornography and everything in their lives has been over-sexualized. And that's just how they see the world, cause that's how the world teaches them. That's what this society teaches men they should desire or they should treat women as objects, not as anything of quality. And that's not just detrimental to females but very much to males because they don't get to experience the other half of humanity. And there is a lot of loss there. They never understand what a friend is in a female because all they think of them is as pieces of meat. And there are so many articles out there like, "Can men and women ever be friends?" And now that's even in the LBGTQ society. It's like "Oh, can two lesbians actually ever be friends since they both can possibly be attracted to each other." And I'm like what is this obsession with seeing someone as more than a friend because sleeping with someone that you've known for a long time doesn't mean they were your friend in the first place. A friend is someone you actually care for deeply. And would you use them for their body if you really saw them that way, if you ever respected them as a person. I highly doubt that. But we're just trained to think that way at this point.
What do you think about this week, what happened today going out with the campaign?
When I first got here I was pretty nervous. I didn't know what we were going to do really. I just kind of threw myself into it. I had a general idea but I didn't know what we were going to do.
Is this the first time you've done something like this?
Yes. I've never put myself in a crowd. So I was hearing stories on my way here and I was getting a little nervous. Oh, holy crap, they're going to kill us in the crowd. And like even my mother was afraid of me coming here because she knew I was going to protest and she was filling my head with things. But at the end of the day when I see these kind of things in the news, the people who stand up and fight for people's rights, who say the things that everyone is trying to keep in the closet are the people I have the most respect for. And the people who I listen to versus everyone else who are just kind of like going along with the crowd because it's easier, honestly. Think for yourself if everyone else is already approving, supporting Obama, if you support Obama, you automatically have something to talk about. But so many people, especially in New York, if you go against them and question their thinking you realize a lot of people don't even know what he's really doing for the U.S. They don't know know the specific of the laws he's passing or the laws he's for or what's really going on or why he's choosing those things and whether they support him or not. They just know he's the president and he's half Black. And they just kind of go along with the crowd. And earlier this year I did go to an Obama party thing and I was listening to them about what he was supporting and I was like, this is really interesting, but there were still a lot of other aspects that I didn't completely agree with and I feel like they weren't really touching on in the first place. And if you're going to have to be honest in the first place and I didn't see that going on so I drew away from that crowd. And I ended up here and can clearly see why and I'm glad I did.
But as far as my experience today it was very, like I thought I was gonna be very tired or bored. But just seeing people's different reactions, whether they were very supportive or whether they were very narrow-minded or whether they just had very strong opinions against the way, not necessarily our message, but the way we were carrying it, was interesting as well. So I learned a lot about different perspectives and why people feel the way they do instead of, this person is just being ignorant or something. It's when you put yourself in the situation you see more than one side of the story. So far it's been a pleasant experience. I didn't get too much backlash today. But we'll see about tomorrow [when we confront the anti-abortionists]. It's going to go one of two ways. I'll either withdraw or fight even harder.
* * * * *
This interview is with a volunteer from New York:
I'm in my early 40s, I'm a working class/middle class artist and I work with the Stop Patriarchy campaign. We're having a week of action around the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade and we're standing up for abortion on demand and without apology. We want to end the degradation and enslavement of women. That's our call to action. We know that without the liberation of women no one can be free so we're standing up for women's rights. And I hate to say women's rights because it sounds so much within the framework of this system but there's a lot to be fighting around because women are losing their reproductive rights rapidly. Like women's rights groups now are saying we should drop the term pro-choice from our agenda. I personally think this is very dangerous. So we're out here with our call to action, asking people to stand up for women's reproductive rights. And not only that but to stand up for abortion on demand and without apology.
Do you have any personal experience that you would like to share?
I've had two abortions. But it's not really about that. But I think my perspective could be helpful to other people. I didn't really have a traumatic abortion. I had two of them. One of them was when I was a teen and I had just been accepted to a university I wanted to attend and I was really excited about my future. But I was in a relationship with an abusive young man and it was just very hard to get out of it. I imagine it's hard at any age, but at that age you're just discovering who you are and it was my first love and it was really, really difficult. So I got pregnant from that relationship and I wasn't ready to be a mother. I was a teenager and I had thought about it. Also being your first love, you know I loved this young man and I guess at that age, or at any age, if you're in an abusive relationship, possibly when you're a teen and it's your first relationship it's very difficult to know otherwise. But I did know that I didn't want that kind of relationship, much less to bring a child into a relationship like that, to a home like that, or to a broken home. You know I wanted to wait until I was ready where I could be a fully rounded human being, know more about the world, know more about how to bring up a child, if I ever do. And the people around me—more because we're conditioned that women are supposed to feel guilty about that kind of decision—so there were people around me that tried to make me feel guilty.
Was it like they said you're killing a baby, how did they try to make you feel guilty?
I don't know, I think... I haven't even thought about it, I'm glad you asked me. I haven't even thought about it up until now. I think it was mainly because of my sexuality because I was so young.
Because you were so young?
Yeah, I had no qualms about my sexuality. I wanted to explore. I wanted to share this with someone I love and I've never had any qualms about sexuality, I've always considered it something natural to humans. It's pleasurable, it's not always amazing, there are traumatic experiences. But I thought it was my right as a human being. And I've never had qualms about it and I was made to feel guilty about that, especially because of my age. And some people felt because I was unmarried and I've been an atheist since I was a child so that part of being unmarried was—hello, you don't know who you're talking to. You just go over there, you can have it.
Then I think people close to me might have been torn about whether to support me in having an abortion, or make me have an abortion, or make me have the child. Because I was a teen so they were struggling with their own thinking, knowing that I'm a young woman that had a right to live her own life and follow her dreams because I was lucky enough to pursue my dreams.
The other question I have is, you're somebody who is very active around the Stop Porn and Patriarchy Campaign, but I also see you at Revolution Books at other events in the movement for revolution and the BA Everywhere campaign. Could you share your thoughts on how you see the connection between that and this campaign around Stop Patriarchy?
As I mentioned before, without the liberation of women we can't have the emancipation of humanity. And this is part of a bigger picture, the bigger agenda of liberating all humanity, a world without oppression and exploitation as we know it in this society and in this system. And I think there's this movement and the Stop Mass Incarceration Movement and the STOP "Stop & Frisk" struggle, which with the Stop Patriarchy campaign—these are two very important elements of the movement for revolution. Because put into consideration and into greater consideration, two elements of our humanity that are grossly and greatly oppressed and exploited. And you know I love, I don't know if I'm misinterpreting this, and I think this can be interpreted in different ways, but "you can't break all the chains but one." I thought about that quote many times and each time I think about it, I come at it a different way. And in this sense, talking about these two movements as part of the great movement for revolution.
Here's the palm card with the quote you're talking about.
OK, I'll read it: "You cannot break all the chains, except one. You cannot say you want to be free of exploitation and oppression, except you want to keep the oppression of women by men. You can't say you want to liberate humanity yet keep one half of the people enslaved to the other half. The oppression of women is completely bound up with the division of society into masters and slaves, exploiters and exploited, and the ending of all such conditions is impossible without the complete liberation of women. All this is why women have a tremendous role to play not only in making revolution but in making sure there is all-the-way revolution. The fury of women can and must be fully unleashed as a mighty force for proletarian revolution."
And that's a quote by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, and it's from BAsics 3:22.
It's a beautiful quote, it's quite poetic. Thinking about this, it's not only true about women, it's also true about Black and Latino people and other parts of society that are exploited and oppressed in this way. And these two movements around Stop Patriarchy and Stop Mass Incarceration—focused on these two elements in society that have been grossly exploited. And that's why I was thinking, breaking all the chains except one, in this context. I was thinking of the one chain is binding up all of humanity. So if you break the chain that women are bound in, you break the chain that Black and Latino people are bound, it kind of unleashes all of humanity to rise up and also in different ways, in ways of thinking, thinking critically, really looking at the world and thinking scientifically. So it unleashes a lot of stuff. So what we're doing is bringing this, not just bringing abortion for the sake of abortion, for the sake of women having rights within this system. But as a means of women being free and that is part of unleashing something greater, the way that people think. By bringing this out there, we're also bringing out BA. We're trying to incorporate his works, more and more into Stop Patriarchy because it's a key element of how we're thinking and analyzing society and seeing reality.
Could you talk a little more about that, in your own thinking, how you came to see BA's work as key to understanding on this question as well as other questions.
I've never encountered any leader, and I'm saying leader because he is the leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party. And he is a great leader. I've never encountered any leader that presented this view on women as part of liberation of all humanity and some of the things that he says specifically about women and how women are viewed in our society and the role that women could play in society, no one has ever put things in this way. It's very real and very possible and very attainable, with a lot of struggle, of course. But it's something that's really necessary.
When you look at the world you can really clearly see scientifically what's happening, not only in this country but around the world and what is needed—not just to keep talking about it and discussing it, even if there is scientific analysis, we need more than just talking about it. This is for revolution, to actually move and acting to change the world. So when this came up, this Stop Patriarchy aspect of the movement for revolution, I think it was just something I really felt that I could kind of immediately and directly work with. It's something that's close to me, but not in and of itself and not in its own niche, not isolated, but part of the greater movement for revolution.
With that in mind, from your perspective, this campaign, and what this week is about, in terms of this larger picture of this being part of the movement for revolution, what are your thoughts on what has happened the last couple of days and what you hope will happen the rest of the week?
The last two days have been great, I always have so much fun. I think the fun comes from just being with a group of people that's really exhilarating and thinking about the world outside the parameters of this system. I love thinking about raising one's sights, or raising the sights of humanity. There's been a lot of struggle in the past couple of days because people are really conditioned in their thinking and a lot of stuff from this system is very ingrained and what I saw yesterday it was really heartbreaking to see, especially a lot of Black people walking to the Inauguration. It was amazing in one sense to see Black people proud of something, but proud of something that is just a total delusion. And not even a delusion, people are turning something into what they would like it to be and not seeing things as they really are, so there is this deification of Obama, or this idolization, or quasi-religious adoration of a human being who is wreaking so much damage not only on the world "out there" but racist against Black people. Black people and even progressive whites are proclaiming Obama as "my president" and he's not, he's their president, but he's the president of the capitalist system.
There were some people saying abortion is between a woman and god and not really seeing, one, there is no god. But the state and the church do step in and there are obstacles to it being between a woman and a woman, herself and herself. But then there were people who really kind of enthusiastically took it up what we were saying about "Abortion on Demand and Without Apology" like some of the students. One woman kind of pounced in front of me and was like, ah, I'm so excited, tell me more, tell me more. Some people were taking it up enthusiastically and then this morning outside the Supreme Court before the Operation Rescue [anti-abortionists] press conference we really had a lot of support from people who were walking by, for "Abortion on Demand and Without Apology" and for abortion providers. We got a lot of thumbs up, there were people watching and saying "right on" and coming up to us and groups of students coming up and saying they were pro-choice and wanting to pose with us because they loved our signs and what we stand for, and other people from all different walks of life.
It's so astounding to see these youth [who are with the anti-abortionists] who are so blocked from reality and real life and they have no facts. So I'm hoping, my dream is for people, I envision people taking this up, not without a lot of struggle, because what we're proposing is something radical, necessary, but radical to people who aren't used to it. But I think it's great, people are shocked by it. What I want to say is I hope more people will take it up, even if they're grappling with it, even if they're not sure. I'm hoping that people, especially young people will take this up and look into it. So we have a great crew here, really fierce crew. So it's growing and we've got movements across the country. We have actions across the country by our West Coast chapter. So it's growing, it's small but I see it growing because it's something that's necessary.
* * * * *
The following interview was done with a couple ("A" and "B") who had just arrived in DC and had joined the Stop Patriarchy crew in front of the Supreme Court on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade.
You were talking to some of the anti-abortionists out here in front of the Supreme Court. What were they saying?
A: When you talk to these people about the Bible, first of all you get the answer that they haven't read it. Or if they have read it, when you ask them if they've read it back to back, they say no. What they've read is the little tiny snippets that their priest or pastor has highlighted for them and they ignore the pages and pages and pages of genocide in between. Then they sort of get really silent and they clench their teeth. They don't want to acknowledge that their book is a book of genocide, of slavery. You know in Exodus there is a trial by ordeal where the priest forces women to have abortions if they're suspected of cheating on their husbands. They don't want to hear that.
B: None of them knew the Bible, they all shut up, or just started steaming. They are not aware of what they're talking about.
These were very young women?
B: Yeah, and a lot of men. They don't know the Bible. They know what they've been told. The Bible says very little about abortion and what it does say is not ripping fetuses out of women. But they've been told that it's wrong and so they come out here because they've been brainwashed.
A: Like that guy over there, they've been told not to think. He's shouting "Abort your reasoning, not your babies."
B: That is his exact words.
A: They want women not to think. They want women to sit around and have babies that they can't necessarily afford or love.
What brought you out here?
B: I came with my wife here.
A: We drove across the country from San Francisco snow camping. We're still snow camping but there's no snow. We came out here to protest on the 40th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade with the Stop Patriarchy Campaign.
B: I think that the laws in this country regarding abortion are completely wrong. Like Roe v. Wade is OK, but Roe v. Wade isn't defending the state laws against abortion and there are many places in the country where women don't have access to abortion and it is essentially forced slavery of women and I can't sit by and tolerate that. So that's why I'm here.
How about the people you know, when you talk to them about this, what response do you get?
B: We're from the Bay Area, and people think we have access to abortion there, so it's not a problem there. But it is in Kansas, or Nebraska, or Texas, all these other places that have these Trap Laws. Roe v. Wade is being dismantled, state by state, little by little. And in these liberal bastions, like the Bay Area or New York, it's fine but...
People don't realize how much it is in danger, how hard it is to access already.
B: They really don't in places outside of huge metropolitan areas where it's easy to access and so they think, we have Roe v. Wade, we have Obama in the White House for four more years, the Supreme Court is going to protect it. But protecting Roe v. Wade isn't enough. We gotta get more than that. We have to have more federal protections against the conservative state legislatures that are dismantling, that are making it impossible.
There are a lot of young people growing up now who never know what it was like when abortion was illegal.
B: That's true. I'm 32 and I wasn't around when abortion was illegal. I just think it's either apathy and then you have these pro-life people who are not aware of why they're out here. They're brainwashed and they're living in an alternate universe really. I don't blame them, like if they grew up in that way and the church is telling them this every day and they don't have any science and they don't know.
And then you have the Democrats and even some of the women's rights organizations who are very defensive about abortion, like saying, abortion should be legal but rare.
B: Right, abortion legal, but rare is, I mean it's...
B: It is. When we want it to be rare we're saying well, we're saying we should cut off third-term abortions which are very often done for very serious health reasons. Like I don't think most people go to a third terms unless they intend to have the baby. It's just incredible. Again I'm not so worried about Roe v. Wade getting overturned. I'm more worried about these individual states, the Trap Laws, all of that. And I don't know what the solution is exactly. But this [what we're doing here] is the best I can think of.
Revolution #294 February 10, 2013
February 10, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The following report about protesting the anti-women, anti-abortion "March for Life" was written from people in the San Francisco Bay Area:
Our Revolution Club crew of seven (Spanish- and English-speaking) from the 'hood joined with several other forces at Powell and Market in San Francisco to loudly confront the woman-hating so-called Walk for Life this Saturday. It was the first such demonstration for some of these women... in fact, one of them hadn't been to Powell and Market since she was a little girl! We all wore "I'm with the Real Revolution" buttons and carried the famous orange pickets ("Abortion on Demand and Without Apology") along with a tag-line "East Oakland sez...." attached.
Prior to the demonstration, there was considerable struggle over the slogan, "a fetus is not a baby." One of the women cried when she thought about her own late-term abortion saying, "I killed it"; and we collectively talked to her about how a baby is not a human until it is born and living on its own, and she should not feel guilty or ashamed about not being forced into motherhood. In fact, if this woman had never had abortions, she would have had 11 children!!! When we got to Powell and Market, there was a huge screen set up by the antis which depicted disgusting video images of abortions (or miscarriages?); and our friend began to cry again. One of the other women then said to her "these aren't babies... They just want you to think they are babies"; and this had a big impact on her... In fact, she herself took to the bullhorn shouting, "not the church, not the state, women will decide our fate."
Our crew felt that having a concentrated force of orange pickets really put our slogan out there strong. There was no doubt about the slogan, "Without Apology," right up against the Democrat Hillary Clinton's reference to abortion being a "tragedy." It really emboldened many women who were just out there in the plaza by coincidence, to sometimes take stickers, palm cards, and even pickets.
After the march, we ate some burgers and talked about what happened. All were pretty impressed with what could be accomplished with a relatively small number up against thousands of what one woman said were "brainwashed" people. We were a sea of orange pickets; and the slogan of "Abortion on Demand and Without Apology" proved to be quite popular even with people just walking by and others who'd joined the demonstration for different reasons (e.g. to promote the ERA). Several people took orange stickers with the same slogan to wear on their clothes; and this impressed our crew. As one of our crew said especially about the young women who were in the Walk for Life, "We confronted them with the TRUTH! Some of those young women will learn the truth later on."
One of the Spanish speakers remarked, "Some of these women will need an abortion themselves, and then what will they think?" The huge screen of "abortions" also elicited a remark in Spanish that "they show you this shit, but they don't show you what happens when women DON'T have abortions."
We all thought this was a good beginning, at the same time realizing that there was still a very bad trajectory to go up against. There is a large majority of people who are pro-choice but unfortunately remain silent. (Also we are up against not only the antis, but the state itself with its massive police force, etc.) This was one of the reasons our friends from the hood actually came out on the day... as one of them said, "I thought long about whether to go or not [she had to see a landlord about an apartment also at the same time]; but then I thought I got to do the right thing no matter who's going." And in the end, she remarked, "We had fun."
Revolution #294 February 10, 2013
February 10, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On February 7, Brooklyn College is scheduled to host an event sponsored by the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement. BDS activists describe their campaign as a non-violent tool aimed at pressuring Israel to comply with international law and end its control over Palestinians. The event is set to feature Omar Barghouti, a leading BDS activist, and Judith Butler, a widely respected philosopher from the University of California, Berkeley.
The event, and the fact that the Political Science Department at Brooklyn College is co-sponsoring it, is provoking furious and ominous attacks from New York politicians who are demanding the school administration marginalize or ban the event, with absurd rhetoric about "hate speech," attempts to paint all criticism and opposition to Israel as "anti-Semitic" and barely veiled threats.
There is a basic question of right and wrong here, and it is not defined by "who you are," but from reality, and the interests of the vast majority of humanity of all nationalities and ethnicities. Israel was created and is maintained through the terrorist ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people from their homeland. Israel has been sponsored and backed by the U.S. because, from the Middle East to Africa, to Asia, to Latin America, Israel serves as a violent enforcer for U.S. imperialism. And invoking the Holocaust to justify Israel is essentially an argument that one terrible crime by imperialism justifies another.
When reactionaries and fascists tried to ban teach-ins against the Vietnam War or in support of the civil rights and, later, Black Liberation movements in the 1960s, the battle to defend those events often became a platform from which to draw many more people into the debate, with many coming in with one view, and coming out with their heads set straight. In the mix, radical and revolutionary analysis and programs got a hearing and built up strength.
In that spirit, this teach-in must be defended, and an understanding of the real role and nature of Israel, and the strategic role it plays as an enforcer for the U.S. empire should be injected broadly into society. Along with digging into what it will take to really transform this world of injustice and misery dominated by the USA, for whom Israel serves as a hit man.
In today's world, where the "forces in the field" are the unacceptable "choices" of U.S. imperialism, and—on a much smaller scale—reactionary Islamic Jihad, it is critical that people get with the challenge posed by Bob Avakian: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS. If you're reading this, if you're serious about understanding this world and changing it in the interests of humanity...
Revolution #294 February 10, 2013
February 10, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On January 24, Obama’s Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced that women will be allowed, for the first time, into combat roles in the U.S. military. That military exists to rain death on people across the planet; it enforces a world of unnecessary poverty, misery, and disease for billions, and it enforces an order that thrives on the oppression, rape, and murder of women in particular. Now the rulers of this setup are going to allow women the “opportunity” to equally participate in the oppression, degradation, rape, and murder of other women and men around the world.
The liberation of women and a new world fit for human beings will not come about by taking up arms to murder other oppressed people around the world.
Revolution #294 February 10, 2013
February 10, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Ed Koch was the mayor of New York City from 1978 to 1989. His greatest “accomplishment” was turning NYC into a northern lynch mob city, fostering and making it “acceptable” for liberals to give vent to their most base racist feelings and for reactionary mobs and gunmen to go out and murder Black youth, and backing police who murder Black and Latino youth.
His legacy and impact are captured in two incidents:
When Bernhard Goetz, a fanatical racist, pulled out a gun and opened fire on four unarmed Black youth on a subway train, Koch called it self-defense and orchestrated a near lynch-mob environment in New York.
And when five Black and Latino youth were framed for a rape they didn’t commit—the case of the Central Park Five—Koch was the head cheerleader for whipping up a racist lynch-mob mentality against these innocent men—channeling the spirit of cracker politicians in the South at the time of the lynching of Emmett Till.
Koch promoted every kind of mean-spirited bigotry, white supremacy, and pompous, self-righteous celebration of the crimes of the system—particularly U.S. backing for Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people. He presided over the era of the epidemic of crack cocaine flooding the inner-city neighborhoods while blaming (and unleashing police state conditions on) the victims of the epidemic. He was a dedicated union-buster. And as the AIDS virus ravaged the LGBT community and Black people, Koch was studiously uncaring and hostile to activists who fought to unleash the education, research, and medical resources needed to deal with the AIDS epidemic.
He will be sorely missed by smug self-righteous bigots, flag-waving hyper-patriotic idiots, and most of all by the powers-that-be that sit atop a system of exploitation and oppression that Koch served with such vigor.
Revolution #294 February 10, 2013
February 10, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Maintaining revcom.us costs $470 each month. We currently do not have the financial base to cover this.
In the January 6 issue of Revolution, we listed 65 countries around the world that revcom.us gets visits from—ranging from Egypt to Greece, China, Mexico. And as we work to expand the distribution of the print edition of Revolution in the U.S., the website extends the whole of the revolution to every corner of the country. The revitalized revcom.us is critical to connecting with the generation that looks to the web.
In addition to the online version of Revolution newspaper, revcom.us is the most complete, concentrated way to get into Bob Avakian. Because of BA and the work he has done over several decades, there is a new synthesis of communism that has been brought forward—there really is a viable vision and strategy for a radically new, and much better, society and world, and there is the crucial leadership that is needed to carry forward the struggle toward that goal.
At revcom.us, people all over can contribute to the movement for revolution, to explore it in all kinds of ways, and connect with each other. This website is an important reason why we can build a movement for revolution—of thousands now, and, as great societal crises emerge in the future—a movement that can lead millions.
Think about what a disaster it would be if the “lights went out” on revcom.us here and around the world.
But revcom.us can only continue to operate with YOUR financial support. And specifically, people need to step forward to take responsibility to cover the $470 each month that is required to maintain revcom.us.
We are building a network of sustainers, people who contribute money to Revolution and revcom.us on a regular basis. Without this network, Revolution will not continue to operate—in print or online. What a disaster that would be!
A network of sustainers will make it possible for this paper and website to continue. And that network will itself be part of preparing the ground for revolution.
It starts with YOU. If you’re not a financial sustainer of Revolution, make arrangements with your local distributor to change that NOW. And reach out to many others who are inspired by the radically revitalized revcom.us website and Revolution newspaper.
Arrange to sustain Revolution and revcom.us through your nearest Revolution Books, your Revolution distributor, at revcom.us (click the Donate link in the Revolution section of the site), or by writing RCP Publications, P.O. Box 3486, Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654-0486, or emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have committed to sustain Revolution, or have increased your monthly sustainer amount, your contribution is greatly appreciated!
Revolution #294 February 10, 2013
February 10, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On April 15 in New York City, Slavoj Žižek and Raymond Lotta will engage in a great debate “on the history and prospects of communist revolution.” At its heart, this is a debate between the world as it is, and the radically different world represented and made possible by Bob Avakian’s new synthesis of communism.
The world is a horror: accelerating environmental emergency...savage neocolonial wars and occupations...the objectification, brutalization, and degradation of women, one-half of humanity...22,000 children dying each and every day of poverty—all of this totally unnecessary. At the same time, growing numbers of people are resisting and questioning the existing social order—from Egypt, to Greece, through Occupy, to the mass protests by women in India. People are raising their heads and searching for solutions and alternatives.
There is an answer and way out. It is communist revolution. The first attempts to create societies free from exploitation and oppression—the Russian revolution of 1917-56 and the Chinese revolution of 1949-76—were historic watersheds for oppressed humanity. Their accomplishments were both unprecedented and monumental. At the same time, there were problems and shortcomings, some quite serious.
Bob Avakian has produced a body of work that in summing up the overwhelmingly positive but also negative lessons of this first wave of revolution, while also drawing from diverse spheres of human experience and endeavor, provides the framework to go further and do better in a new stage of communist revolution.
There is now a basis to fight for and to bring into being a world in which human beings can truly flourish. Humanity needs revolution and the new synthesis of communism. People serious about change need to be grappling with this viable and liberatory alternative.
Enter Slavoj Žižek. In an interview published in Platypus journal in January 2012, he launched an attack on the Revolutionary Communist Party and Bob Avakian: “For all their talk of the ‘new synthesis,’ there is no theoretical substance: It doesn’t do the work. They always have the answers: no questions, only answers....They are precisely the ‘perverts’...the one who knows better than you what you really want.”
In response, Raymond Lotta issued a challenge to debate. Žižek accepted, and the debate is on for April 15 in NYC.
The focus of this debate is the new synthesis and Slavoj Žižek’s attack on it. Is this reenvisioned communism the solution to the horrors of this imperialist world? Can you make revolution in a country like the U.S.? Does the strategy developed by the RCP enable you at a time of revolutionary crisis to bring forward and lead the millions to go up against and defeat the massive repressive force of the ruling class that will come down on people? Is there a framework, concentrated in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal), for a liberatory state power and a viable socialist society that is a transition to a communist world? Was the first wave of socialist revolution basically emancipatory, or a disaster?
Slavoj Žižek claims Bob Avakian’s new synthesis provides “no answers.” Raymond Lotta will show why it does.
Anyone who cares about the future of humanity needs to be at this debate! And people are needed right now to bring their creative energies into building and promoting this event, and drawing many others into its swirl—on campuses, among activists, artists, basic people, and in the social media.
Be Part of Making This Happen.
Planning meetings are taking place in New York City.
Contact Revolution Books–NY
146 W. 26th St., New York, NY 10001