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Now, that doesn't mean we don't unite with people in all sorts of struggles short of revolution. We definitely need to do that. But the proffering of any other solution to these monumental and monstrous problems and outrages is ridiculous, frankly. And we need to be taking the offensive and mobilizing increasing numbers of masses to cut through this shit and bring to the fore what really is the solution to this, and to answer the questions and, yes, the accusations that come forth in response to this, while deepening our scientific basis for being able to do this. And the point is: not only do we need to be doing this, but we need to be bringing forward, unleashing and leading, and enabling increasing numbers of the masses to do this. They need to be inspired, not just with a general idea of revolution, but with a deepening understanding, a scientific grounding, as to why and how revolution really is the answer to all of this.
Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA
Revolution #300 April 7, 2013
Coming off the Premieres
March 31, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
THIS MOVEMENT FOR REVOLUTION MUST NOW BECOME A REAL FORCE, POWERFULLY IMPACTING AND INFLUENCING ALL OF SOCIETY... bringing forward growing numbers of those this system has cast out and cast down, who must be and can be the driving force of the fight to put an end not only to their own oppression, but all oppression, all over the world... drawing in many others, from all walks of life, who are inspired to join this same cause... preparing minds and organizing forces, Fighting the Power, and Transforming the People, for REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS.
Bob Avakian, Chairman of the
Revolutionary Communist Party, USA
Revolution #300 April 7, 2013
March 31, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
At the March 16-17 premieres of the film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! in New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, and the San Francisco Bay Area, Revolution interviewed dozens of audience members during the intermissions and at the end of the showings. The following are excerpts from some of those interviews.
Q: Is there anything so far that has surprised you?
One thing—I wasn't surprised, but in America, a lot of people do say this is the land of the free, land of this. But people like me, it's just totally the opposite because I'm the definition of America's enemy. I'm a young Black youth in the inner city. They wrote us off before we was born. We was convicted at birth, that's how I feel sometimes. But one thing that surprised me—the whole thing is a surprise to me, actually. Because I'm not—me, myself, I'm not used to actually engaging in real issues that may be in society. So this is being real direct, just talking about stuff that makes sense, really engage me as a person.
Q: He talks a lot about how you can't reform the system and the name of the talk is BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! What is your response to that?
My response is, we need it. How it's gonna happen, I'm thinking the big picture. I know it's needed. I can't see a revolution without blood being spilled. Because any revolution that has happened—the French Revolution, the Haitian Revolution, in Hispaniola, it won't happen without people being willing to sacrifice. And that's what I feel like we have to do. Slavery never ended. There's a new form of slavery. And they attack your mind psychologically. I live in the community where you see it being done every day. There's a high mental illness where I live at but there's no treatment. So you see, we been to war and people are not in their right minds out there. It's crazy but I know there's a change needed. Personally from my own studies... there has to be something better. I just want to see the rest—I see he identifies the problem, but I want to know the solution.
Q: How did you hear about this?
So I actually came into Revolution Books to buy a book. They had the book and then I asked one of the people working there what was their favorite book and they recommended BAsics so I ended up buying it... And then the lady was saying, oh, what are you doing Saturday and I said, I'm working and she said, don't go to work, call in. I said I can't do that and she said, you have to, this is so important, and you really seem like you're into these kinds of things, just come. And I was like, ok, fine, I'll take two tickets. So then I called into work and got into trouble but it was definitely worth it.
Q: Is there anything that surprised you or shocked you or that you didn't expect?
He was very raw and very honest. I feel like he can relate to the younger crowd because he does talk about things that people pay attention to that are younger—hip-hop, music, movies. I love that he sees beyond the superficial things that the movies display. Like he goes into like this is what they're really trying to tell you. And I feel like whoever watches this will definitely now look at movies and be like, wait, why is that being played this way, why is this being said? You won't be naive about to what is being put out there.
Q: You didn't know anything about Bob Avakian before this, so what is your impression of him as a revolutionary leader now?
I think he's awesome. I think he's someone that a lot of people would connect with. He definitely has charisma and he's very intelligent. In the film he goes from so many different things, like from ancient history to modern day and I think that's something that shows his intelligence and he seems like he knows what he's doing.
Q: The title and main theme of the movie is BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Do you think he makes the case for this and what do you think about this?
I definitely think he does make a case for that. I think that he basically, towards the end of the movie, he promotes a challenge and I think that's what he's saying, that if you saw this film and you're not moved by it, then he's not doing his job and neither are we as people because he does speak about basic human rights and things that any human would feel strong against or strongly for and passionate about. Yeah, I think he just wants you to wake up.
Q: He really does, at the end, say, if you hear this talk, the point is to change the world.
I definitely am into these kinds of social things, I'm very politically aware. I try to be at these and I think that is something he promotes and I think I would be into and will keep reading. I have the books and I want to read even more. I will definitely promote this to all of my friends, my professors. I think this should probably be in the curriculum of high school students. It's very significant. ... I will get the DVD as well.
Q: One last question: In the movie, he says, "Those this system has cast off, those it has treated as less than human, can be the backbone and driving force of a fight not only to end their own oppression, but to finally end all oppression, and emancipate all of humanity." What do you think about this?
That's very in-depth. I think he's basically trying to say that, us as people who are being oppressed, we basically have the power, like we have the strength. Personally I think that if you have the strength to endure all of these situations from day-to-day life, like police brutality or even basic human rights that are taken from you, I think you definitely have the strength to fight back and if we all were to join together then I feel like the ruling class, they would definitely not exist.
Q: What do you think is the most important thing that you got from the film?
I think the most important thing that I got from the film is to realize that for any revolution or any type of real change to take place that it has to be a collective effort and not just a certain section of rights that needs to be enabled but rights for everyone, including, like how he talked about for women's rights, lesbian, bisexual, homosexual, all of those rights and pretty much all the countries around the Third World. Cuz at first, I had a very small idea of revolution because I only understood the position that I was in. After watching this film, I have a way better understanding of revolution. As a young African male. Now I don't have a small or microscopic idea of revolution, now I have a really expanded idea.
Q: Most important thing that you learned about BA?
I think that one of the things that was really important to me is that he actually has been. I've seen a couple of videos of him from '69, '79, 2003 all the way up until now. And seeing his longevity and his continuation and his effort to revolution I think that was one of the most important things. After seeing that it gave him a lot of credibility...there's no hesitation in me going further to learn things from him.
Q: Most surprising thing about the film and/or about him?
One of the things that was really surprising to me was when he said blatantly that there is no right to eat within the Constitution. Cuz I didn't really think about that. That's true, but it doesn't really occur to me. And the way he explained how it is and if we went to try to get food, we deserve food, then they would react with hostile forces. That was one of the most shocking things to me.
Q: The title was BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! What do you think of that?
I think the title suits itself. Cuz for a lot of organizations and a lot of things that when people say revolution it doesn't really include everyone, in this sense revolution—nothing less is perfect because there's nothing less than revolution.
Q: Are you joining the revolution?
I am definitely joining the revolution.
Q: You are someone who has read a lot of BA and followed him. Compared with what you knew about BA before the film, did you come away with any new impressions?
I really enjoyed it. After seeing the film, I come away with a confidence that a revolution really could happen in a country like this. It really made me want to get out with more literature, be more straightforward with what Bob's talking about, and really help people understand what communism is all about.
Q: The title of the film is BA Speaks: REVOLUTION–NOTHING LESS! Do you have any thoughts about that whole approach?
I agree with him. I believe that's the only way we can go. Any other way is just helping this country stay the way it is and that's not cool.
Q: The quote on the literature about "Those that this system has cast off..." Any thoughts on that?
Yeah, that's what we need. Those that the system has cast off, we need to introduce them to Bob. Because they struggle with the things that the system do, and they just don't know what to do about it. And the Party do. So I feel like if we can get it out to these people and help build them up, it could be the fighting force to stop these things. I think the Revolution Club, we really need to get that off the ground. Not get it off the ground, but come together and come up with a plan to help people develop the concept that we are trying to get them to understand. I think that is a great way to help the youth learn about the Party and Bob and I think it's a great thing to take it throughout the city, to the high schools, and get them to understand the science.
Q: The name of the film was BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! What do you think of that?
M: I thought he was really forceful in—and needed to be. There's no—I kept thinking of Bush's old mantra, you're either with us or against us. It feels like that's the reality here. There's not two ways about it. If you turn your back on this, then you're allowing everything to proceed as is. And we all know that that just simply can't stand. Are we to survive, even as a species, in what's going on now?
Q: So that's what you thought about when you heard the challenge he put out at the end where he was basically calling on us, are you going to be with it, or what?
M: Exactly, right. There's no two ways about it. You really have to stand up for something. Otherwise, you're letting it all happen.
W: Well, the title I think was very—really stated the viewpoint right from the start: that nothing less than revolution is going to solve the problem, is going to give us the solution that we need. And I agree with that. I don't think, you know, this system can be tweaked and, you know, reformed around the margins as he called it, and turn out successful. That really the very basis—I'm in agreement that the very basis of the system in place is not workable. Not only it's not just, it's simply not workable. We're coming up against the limitations of the planet. It's a finite planet. But this capitalistic system, the way it works, is as if there are no boundaries. It has to ever, ever expand and consume and the profits are never enough to people at the top that are collecting them.
Q: Well, so far, what has stood out to you?
I think Avakian reminds me a lot of Malcolm X. That they both have a genius to address critical issues, urgent issues that on many levels are very complex, complicated things to understand. But they have such a grasp of them that they are able to articulate them in a lucid manner in which everybody can understand and get what they're saying. So he's dealing with complex issues about politics, around history, around economics, around philosophy, and those such things. But he's putting it in a way in which people who aren't learned in these areas can listen what he's saying, get what he's saying, get the importance and the urgency of what he's saying and the urgency and necessity to try and address these critical issues of our day.
Q: Was there anything that surprised you or that took you aback?
That's a good question. I mean, I think he, I think personally speaking, there's a lot that I agree with Avakian on. And then there are some fundamental differences that we have, talk about religion for instance. I'm studying at a Christian seminary, I'm a Christian. And it's those values that bring me to engage in the struggle against injustice in society. And certainly we obviously have different takes on religion and its role. But I think a lot of the critiques he's putting forth are critiques that I share of religion. I would emphasize some of what I consider some of the positive revolutionary aspects to it. But those critiques that he has of it I think are accurate. And I think, for some people those may be very jarring. Certain things, he's right at you, he pulls no punches, whether it's religion, or something like the election of Barack Obama, which on many levels was a great thing given the history of racism and white supremacy in the country. At the same time it's problematic...
Q: In the first part of the speech he has this quote, "Those this system has cast off, those it has treated as less than human, can be the backbone and driving force of a fight not only to end their own oppression, but to finally end all oppression, and emancipate all of humanity." What do you think of that quote?
I look at it simultaneously from a historical and from a contemporary place. Historically speaking that's something that's kind of part and parcel to the Marxist tradition, looking at those most affected, the masses, them being the revolutionary force. But then also, kind of just saying, Avakian is part of that tradition, he's kind of a great thinker of today. So we say, ok, how does that apply to current politics, current-day situation. We have so many people today struggling financially. We have the new Jim Crow prison-industrial complex. We have the destruction of the environment. We have all these things going on. And what does it mean for those of us who are being affected, which is the masses of us? What does it mean for us to seriously think about our condition and what we can possibly do about it.
Q: Tell me a little about yourself and how you heard about this.
A1: We were walking from class on campus and someone just stopped us. We saw a poster of this Black man being pinned down by a bunch of police. I saw it and it intrigued me so was just like I kinda wanna go. So I didn't hesitate, bought my ticket and I'm here. Yeah, I'm here.
Q: What stood out to you most about the film so far?
A1: What stood out to me the most was when he was talking about the fact that how Obama is basically a figure of entertainment. He's a figure of ... he has an agenda assigned to him by the—not the masses that are supposed to be democracy—but he's assigned by the supremacies of this nation. And that's what stood out to me the most, the fact that a lot of Black people nowadays are so happy and so relieved that our president's Black but he's just not doing anything. He is a Black puppet and that's what stood out to me and I kinda came here to broaden my knowledge of really what's going on because my mom really sheltered me from it. She was a Black Christian. She's like, 'it's in God's hands so just forget about it.' But I didn't really know about anything so that's why I'm really here.
Q: What has stood out to you most about Avakian so far?
A1: Honestly, it really surprised me that he knows so much. Mainly because he is white. He's different from what I am, and how come I don't know about these things and I'm Black and it's happening to me.
Q: Same question. What has stood out to you the most about Avakian?
A2: Well, for me, the fact that he's so passionate. I know he described certain people in neighborhoods where they're like...where they see these white people taking part in these revolutionary acts and then when the pressure hits they leave and for me that's my biggest problem with those types of people and I don't know much about him but you guys said he's been around forever and he hasn't stopped when the pressure hits and for me that's what I really like to see in people. When I first heard about this, I did ask myself what ethnicity is he? They said white and then right off the bat I'm just like alright, let me not jump to conclusions or judgments or stuff because when I see ... when you see these movies there's always like a white savior and I really hate it...I really hate it. So for me that's where I come in as being kinda stand-offish. Not even stand-offish but what is this all about? Skeptical. I don't want somebody to be my white savior. I think another thing that I'm still kinda like, okay..., is the whole fact that he's really against Christians and religion in general. Just because I'm a Christian and ... the whole thing of wait until Jesus comes back? That is not what Jesus...that's not what this is about. That's not what Christianity is about and you know to a large extent that's what people have made God's word out to be and so I don't blame him or many other people for being, yeah, skeptical or atheist or whatever they are.... So the whole being Christian thing it's kind of like... okay, we're for the same thing.
A1: I have a story to tell. It was 2009 when the Haiti earthquake struck. So I was sitting there watching the news because it was all over the news, right? And I was sitting there watching with my mom. I happened to see this little girl. They said that she was trapped under a whole bunch of rubble and she was crying and just in tears and she had blood coming from her head. I was just terribly struck, I was just shocked and I couldn't move and I was crying and I looked back at my mom and she was just sitting there basically, she was just watching it. And I'm looking like, who are you? Why aren't you like, you know. And it struck me to the point where she was like, 'it's all in God's hands.' It's for a reason. Everything happens for a reason and she was trying to comfort me with that. So I just walked out the room, really. And I was crying to myself and I just realized just now that that's where my desensitization stems from when it comes to human impoverishment and deaths and stuff like that. My mom is just like, 'oh, you know, it's in God's hands' and she even told me that it was supposed to happen, really, like because people in Haiti worship idols so she was just like...and that really pissed me off. She was just like, 'oh, you know, they did this so that's why they're suffering now.' I looked at the little girl and I'm just like 'are you really sitting up here and telling me like this is her fault' 'And so that's what really hurt me the most, and from then on I was just like, maybe, hey, it's not in my hands, it's in God's hands, basically.
I think it's just so funny that Christianity has become like this when God definitely says that we're supposed to be loving the poor and loving the oppressed and doing his work and not just sitting back waiting until he comes back. I really hate that. That's not what it's about...
Q: What did you know about Bob Avakian before and what's your impression of him now?
A2: Oh, absolutely nothing, actually. Like nobody knows about him and he's been around forever, right? Before today I didn't. Well before when I was watching, I was like, wow, he should be president. But I was like, hell no. Because so many people of this country, something would happen to him. So no he can't, he can't. But I think a number of people should know about him to the point where he should be a leader, a really big leader in this country. Can I tell you about the whole communism thing?
Before I came... So what was taught in the history books when I was growing up: communism is a bad thing. I was oh, it's all about, you know, we're sharing toothbrushes and I don't want to share my stuff with that person. I didn't know about communism because I was taught that communism was bad, a red scare, these are bad people. And then I'm trained to believe that capitalism is the only way to go. I buy things, you give me things in return, that type of thing. But he opened up a new modernized socialism and that's what stood out to me the most, I think. So if you're saying bad stuff about capitalism, and then when people are just so scared of communism, then what the hell are you going to do? So like he said that strategy and I like that.
Q: One more thing, BA says, Revolution—Nothing Less. What do you think about that, or are we not ready to talk about that?
A2: I'll tell you what I think about it so far. To be honest, I am sort of doubting the whole spreading of it because you really have to change people's psyches and that's going to take so much work and that work is intimidating. It really is, mainly because of the people that I grew up with they're so focused on pop culture; they're so focused on the Housewives of wherever, that they don't really want to deal with this because it's boring, it's nothing ... to the point where people are so desensitized. To the point where it's just oh, 5,000 people are killed...blah, blah, blah and you are just 'oh, okay.' So the revolution, nothing less—I think it's going to take a lot of work because you have to change a lot of people's psyches.
Q: So far what has stood out the most?
Oh my god. What stood out to me the most is that the entire system cannot be changed from working within the system for change. I have to agree with that. I have to agree with the fact that so many people follow the voting system, and would love to bring up facts like 'What proof do you have that the voting system is not honest and real?' But in reality, this is something I've talked about behind closed doors for years. How the voting system has two sides, it's a plague against both. It represents the ruling elite remaining in power. These are very real facts. Hearing things about Blacks and the civil rights struggle. Things that led up to—things that have been covered up. Police brutality. I love what I'm hearing here. The oppression of women (laughs)! These things are real. The fact that I do agree that we do need a revolution in thought...
Q: What surprised you the most so far?
That's a good question. The biggest surprise was the discussion on the election, and how the president is put in power. That's something I have agreed with, something I concur with 100 percent, but very few people, very few people have I heard come out and say something like that publicly. It takes a lot to actually speak on that. So many people are afraid to even go into that. And then some of the people who are the biggest proponents for peace, justice, and equality, when you bring up that type of issue they're offended. That's a totally offensive issue. I have a lot of friends who are into a lot of different things, politics in different ways, and they're like, 'Oh my god! How can you say something like that?' But it's obvious—there are so many signs to show how this is real, not just in movies, but so many truths that come up when you hear a politician speak, if you really pay attention. But people like to look the other way. We're all living within a bunch of contradictions. At the same time you have to be able to look at truth for truth. Very few people will come out and step beyond all the contradictions like the gentleman speaking in the film. And that is the interesting thing to me. I got to say on a lot of levels, the man is a lot braver than I. Because I'm not able to take the reins in the way I want to take them in my own reality because of so many threats to my freedom, my position, things I've worked hard for. And many other people feel the same way. And this is a way for you to get around somebody who is speaking those truths... That's my opinion.
Q: What do you think about this quote from the film: "Those this system has cast off, those it has treated as less than human, can be the backbone and driving force of a fight not only to end their own oppression, but to finally end all oppression, and emancipate all of humanity."
I agree with that quote. I think that actually is not only true, but he said something in the film: he said we don't have to look at the lower classes as simply stupid, we need to be able to approach them in a way that is open and honest about what we believe. We need to be able to approach them in a way that lets them know they can be part of something that can change things. Because a lot of people feel hopeless—they feel there is no way to change it. That doesn't mean you have to change by violent means. These are all stereotypes placed, placed, I believe, by the ruling class. They'll go 'it can be violent' but in reality it's more of a thought revolution. If people begin to think a different way, that's what I think they fear the most—people will begin to think a different way. It's almost kind of how Gandhi was doing it, we're not gonna deal with that, we're not gonna deal with these conditions, slander always comes out of vehicles like the media of course. So I love the quote. I think it's honest, I think everyone can make a difference. It comes down to how you think. It comes down to grouping up with other people and doing it in a non-violent way, to bring more attention to it. You look at the 99 percent movement, I agree with what he said. That was done within the confines of the system. But what really destroyed it was the fact that it couldn't really centralize. And people began to think, this isn't gonna work. The scattering. The media spin on it destroyed it. Something has to continue to happen. I don't know the ultimate solution, I don't think any of us do. But I think it's definitely a thought revolution.
Q: We're only midway through, he's going to address this. Let's check in afterwards...
Q: [from another filmgoer] Can you actually share what you mentioned about anger, because what you said was so eloquent? And I felt the exact same way but I can't put it into words the way you were.
A lot of the anger I personally have, you really don't have a way to express these feelings. And when you come to a place where someone is speaking this level of truth and embodies how you feel, it's almost a way to help vent your frustrations.
Q: What stood out to you in the movie?
It just made you feel like there is a chance. Like there's really a chance that we can do this. I never had seen him speak before.
Q: What made you think that? Before you came to this movie you were thinking one way and now you're thinking another...
Well, before I came I was thinking revolution in terms of people starting to starve and not being able to feed their children and that kind of really bloody revolution. But now here is an organization to start more, hopefully a more peaceful one, but it might not be peaceful... . That's what made me think more about that way of doing it, than having a really knock down bloody revolution, which I think is coming anyway. But when people can't feed their kids they're going to get desperate.
Q: What do you think about the theme and the title of the movie, BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Do you think he made a case for that?
Oh, yes. I worked with Code Pink for a long time and that's why I stopped hanging around with them because they want to work within the system, call your congressman and all that, and I just felt like it was becoming a wasted effort. So he did make the case, it's not going to work to work within the system. 'Cause this system just has to come down...
Q: Did you get a copy of the DVD?
I bought two.
Q: So what is your plan?
My plan is to have little house parties.
Q: What stood out to you in the movie?
His frankness. And he's so accurate about a lot of things. I mean, wow. What were the most poignant points, there were so many things, that's why I had to buy the DVD. The Rodney King references, there were so many references. The point that I'm bringing back with me is that we can't make the system better. This system needs to be changed, period. We need a new system.
Q: So does the title of the film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! resonate with you?
Oh, yes it does. Because nothing less will do. It has to change, it cannot stay this way. And I wasn't even aware, like I said. We're so busy living our lives we're not even aware of the atrocities. Like I wasn't even aware of the prostitution still being so, I didn't know the numbers were like that. I'm just astounded. But whatever we have to do. I'm going to play this DVD, I bought it, at the shelter. Instead of listening to Maury Povich and who's the daddy, not the baby daddy, things that we can do. Because a lot of us down there, there are people down there, we don't qualify for this, we don't qualify for that, we can't get help...
Q: There's a quote, "Those this system has cast off, those it has treated as less than human, can be the backbone and driving force of a fight not only to end their own oppression, but to finally end all oppression, and emancipate all of humanity." What do you think about this?
That's me. There were certain points in this movie where I was moved to tears because I identified with it. And that quote right there, that's exactly how I feel... [starts to get really choked up] I feel cast aside. But hopefully getting involved with this group, learning more, actually learning how to apply this, changing my political affiliation, I'm going to, and working from there, whatever I can do to help. I also have a sister who I think will be very interested in this. So I'm going to play the DVD as much as I can.
Q: What did you think was the most important thing you got out of the film?
A: I guess it would be like a sort of liberation from the negative connotations of communism. Because I personally started reading the Manifesto but I kinda stopped because I was like, hold on, I'm trying to be an engineer, the government won't...
Q: You're talking about the original Marx's Manifesto?
I was kind of gave up on the idea even though some of it felt right to me. Because I was thinking, well, the government doesn't really like this, and I'm striving to be a government position. I was thinking they're probably not going to hire an engineer that's a communist. So that's kinda what killed it for me. But coming here I keep thinking like, first of all no one should be able to decide your views on life and I think it's completely unfair that the government gets to choose what you can and cannot have as a view because that's like they get to tell you who you are, who you're not.
Q: Tell me what you knew about Bob Avakian going in and what you think about him now.
Well, I hadn't even heard of him coming in. But coming out very interested. I'm going to start reading his website. I agree with him on a lot of things. I always had thoughts that there's no need for people to have an exponential amount of money compared to the poorest. I feel like there shouldn't be poverty. I feel like at least there should be, everyone should be at low middle class because the wealth is so huge that it can be shared where the people in the one percent can still have enough to have homes everywhere. There's no need for that excessive amount of greediness and in the end if you open up your eyes, it's killing a lot of people.
Q: What surprised you most about the film?
His statistics. His statistics about death in Third World countries. I was always open to that and I always knew that there was starvation and a lot of things happening, but to hear that actual number, to hear that number, to hear the amount of lives that are being lost and to know that there is somebody out there that has over a hundred homes and he doesn't even think, 'maybe I sell one and give it to those people' or put up a church. I don't necessarily agree with churches, but I do see the church around my community and it does feed people that are homeless. It does do a good impact on the communities so why not spread that wealth.
Q: There was a lot of emphasis in this on the system of capitalism and imperialism. Did you come out of that with a deeper sense of what that means in terms of being at the root of all of this? In other words, there's the statistics and then there's the why and what do you do about it?
I feel like after watching this film it's like that little shield that everyone has of ignorance it's lifted, after watching that film. And you make a conscious decision whether you want to go on and act about it, or you want to continue hiding under your shield. But if you do, it's kinda on you, because someone already told you what's the reality and what's going on and just because it's not necessarily affecting you doesn't mean that you shouldn't care about others. It's kinda like saying I could care less about cancer because no one in my family's ever had a cancer. That to me sounds worse than anyone else can say. Just because you're not starving doesn't mean you shouldn't care about those kids that are starving.
Q: How do you feel about the part that in a certain sense the way you live being at the expense of the rest of the world. In other words, the relationship between those conditions—you turn on your iPad and you see the blood pouring out.
I don't necessarily like that all about the system, but before this film I had no idea to even begin to how to change it. It was like he said, revolution was never even a possibility. And it was the way I grew up and the way I was trained by the media to just look at the system and say these are my only possibilities and that's all I can do. They train you to say, 'oh, well, there was already a revolution, America's already the greatest country in the world' but the thing is that, like he points it out, the revolution was about a bunch of slave owners that didn't want to pay taxes. So where's the morality in their actions? All they cared about is their money.
Q: The title of the film is BA Speaks: REVOLUTION–NOTHING LESS! Do you have a sense about the point of that or what did you get from that?
I feel like that title encompasses the whole idea of this film. You watch this film and you either demand revolution and nothing less. You have to demand it. You either demand it or, like I said, you go back to your shield you go back to living your consumerist life.
Q: You're not going back under the shield?
I don't think so...
Q: You want to learn more.
Yeah, I want to learn more. That way, when I am confronted with people that are challenging my ideas, I don't just stand there and say 'well, let me get back to you,' I want to confront them dead on and actually be able to convince them and say 'don't hide behind your shield. It's okay to come out.'...
Well to me, I love the fact that he is not scared to be doing what he's doing. He's not hiding and like he said, he didn't go back from the '60s. He wasn't one of those guys that just went back and said, 'I'm just going to find a nice little job in the system and I'm just going to forget about this. It was just one of my college days, it was just a dumb idea I had once and it's gone now.' I love his perseverance and even though he may have been alone, I doubt he'll be alone now.
I heard about this from Revolution Books. My parents are from India.
What I liked a lot was the fact that he can just pull you into his aura and he makes you listen. And if you feel like you don't understand something he gives you so many examples. He stands there and he gets really deep, he doesn't just say something and move on. He'll give you a full analysis.
The thing that really stood out, what really touched me was when he was talking about gangs and how they had tried to come together and the oppressing powers try to separate them, and this is just a cycle. Also about George Bush and how he lies, how he said Iraq had WMDs [weapons of mass destruction] and they didn't have anything.
Another thing I liked was the stuff about the iPhone, that when you buy something you are buying all of this labor that went into the product. The kids who buy things, like shoes, all they know is the brand, but they don't know about the Asian kids who put in hours and hours of work to feed their families. The kids here don't know this. I don't know about the iPhone but I know Microsoft is set up in India. Kids here buy these $200 shoes and they don't even think that hey, hard labor was put into these shoes—kids were beaten and abused in the making of this damn product.
Q: What stood out to you most about the film and BA?
W: I like the comparison drawn between how undocumented immigrant families are separated, and this is like how the children of Black slaves were sold, and how the tears and suffering of the people mean nothing. If you don't take action—then this is just talk and we let the suffering continue, when in fact we can make a difference.
Q: What did you know about BA before and what's your impression of him now?
W: I knew before the film that BA is the leader of the RCP. After the film, I see more how serious he is about revolution, and spoke at length on this. I like how he uses so many examples.
Q: BA says, "Revolution—Nothing Less!" What do you think about that?
M: I think it's appropriate. That is what is needed.
W: Initially I thought the title was too pushy. Now I think it is appropriate. What he says about the youth, that there is only a bad future for the youth under this system is true. Revolution has a future for the youth. The suffering of the people and crimes of the system are so extreme, revolution—nothing less is what is needed.
Q: What did you think about the challenge to people at the end?
M: I want to let more people know about the revolution.
W: I feel a responsibility to make revolution. Before when I met the Revolution Club, I felt a sense of responsibility but now it is stronger. You need to make a difference.
Q: Those this system has cast off, those it has treated as less than human, can be the backbone and driving force of a fight not only to end their own oppression, but to finally end all oppression and emancipate all of the humanity?
M: I agree that is true.
W: That's true and we need to realize it.
Q: So what stood out to you about the movie?
In general, a lot of truths. He was speaking a lot of truths...
Q: Was there anything that surprised you or shocked you?
The one thing that did shock me about it was some of his views on Obama. I'm not going to lie, it kind of wakes you up to some of the truths. That's the thing because you know and I'm pretty sure I'm not the only person that stood here and had their views on Obama and you know he's doing good, and don't get me wrong, I think he's still doing good with certain things. But he did mention a lot of truths of things that he could be doing better and things that he could be helping out more and the truths about the government and everything.
Q: You obviously didn't know anything about Bob Avakian before this, what is your impression of him now?
He's a very, very smart man. He's a very smart man. He's a very smart man and he wants something good in this world. And I see the changes that he's trying to make. And I'm going all for it. And especially hearing everything that he has to say, I like his sense of humor, I really do like his sense of humor. His sense of humor really comes out and it's still truth in his sense of humor. That's one thing I like about him. He's a very good man and I like what he's going for...
Q: What about the challenge at the end? That this will come to nothing unless people take this up and change the world with it?
That's also something that is very true. I see the effort that he's putting in and all the effort that everybody else is putting in to this. And at the end of the day if this doesn't work and people don't listen and hear something like this or go forward, it will all be for nothing.
Q: How do you look at this challenge personally?
How did I take the challenge personally? I think I'm willing to step up to the challenge. I want to do something now, especially after seeing this film. I want to do something to help.
Revolution #300 April 7, 2013
March 30, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Person after person leaving the premieres of BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Bob Avakian Live said over and over: "People need to see this." More than 100 DVDs of the film were sold in New York City alone. Wanting others who've been through trials like she has to see the film, one woman said: "I'm going to play this DVD, I bought it, at the shelter—instead of listening to Maury Povich and who's the daddy, not the baby daddy ..."
Over the past two weekends, hundreds of people in 10 cities across the country spent the day—six-and-a-half hours that most couldn't believe went by so fast—absorbed in the film of the talk by Bob Avakian, REVOLUTION–NOTHING LESS! Moved and provoked... their bitter experiences of life under this brutal system spoken to, a deep and challenging analysis of why this shit keeps happening to people here and around the world, struck many in the audience to their core—with people speaking back to the screen in recognition of the hard truths BA spoke. The rooms became hushed with concentration when BA put forward the strategy for revolution and how we could win, for real. It was a day when how people looked at the world was challenged and changed. Many left thinking hard about what to do with what they just experienced, and some with what to do with their lives.
This was a deep experience that can and must be amplified and built on so that people no longer have to live this way. So that the movement for revolution accelerates... the film spreads, watched and shown in housing projects, schools, living rooms, in theaters as well as on the streets and in the parks.
The next important springboard from the experience of premieres to making this real are the fundraising dinners planned for April 5, 6, 13 and 14 across the country. Everyone who saw the film, everyone who planned to see the film but missed it, everyone with a heart for humanity and who the movement for revolution can reach over the next seven days should be at these National BA Everywhere Dinners celebrating the release of BA Speaks: Revolution—Nothing Less! and making plans to spread the film far and wide and raising funds so that this film, this leader, and the vision and plan for revolution are known.
To build for the dinners, the movement for revolution must go back to all the places and among all the people where we built for the premieres. Where groups of people came from neighborhoods, schools, etc., let's sit down and listen to what they have to say, learn deeply what it meant to them: their questions, ideas, hopes, in order to lead them and many others to realize their belief that this film needs to be seen.
The April 5, 6, 13 and 14 dinners are an opportunity to break bread together and renew the experience of the premieres and carry forward the desire people spoke of for others to see this film. The dinners should be built for and they should have the spirit and mission of coming together to make a huge difference in the lives of the people of the world by spreading this powerful talk by BA far and wide—because people need to know there is a way out and there is a leadership to enable them to realize their potential as emancipators of humanity.
People will also come to the dinners because it will make a difference—eating and talking with others, probing further about the problem humanity faces and the solution of real revolution. Grappling with what BA put forward in the film, plans can be taken up and further discussed to make a big impact with the film; people can get hooked up with DVDs on consignment along with selling tips with new ways developed and connections made for everyone to take part, including by joining in raising funds to spread the revolution—letting people know about BA and the new synthesis of communism he has developed.
At the heart of the film is a central theme which captures what this revolution is all about. Bob Avakian says:
"Those this system has cast off, those it has treated as less than human, can be the backbone and driving force of a fight not only to end their own oppression, but to finally end all oppression, and emancipate all of humanity."
Think about this in relation to the potential of the young people standing up proud in newly formed Revolution Clubs at two of the premieres, or in the experience in this reflection by a woman at her first revolutionary event responding to what BA said about "those this system has cast off:"
"That's me. There were certain points in this movie where I was moved to tears because I identified with it. And that quote right there, that's exactly how I feel... [she starts to get really choked up] I feel cast aside. But hopefully getting involved with this group, learning more, actually learning how to apply this, changing my political affiliation, I'm going to, and working from there, whatever I can do to help. I also have a sister who I think will be very interested in this. So I'm going to play the DVD as much as I can."
Such feelings are a beginning. Now they must be given an opportunity to solidify, develop further, and spread to others. This begins in a collective way at the dinners on April 5, 6, 13 and 14.
Building and going forward from the dinners should forge growing BA Everywhere Committees as well as many other avenues into the movement for revolution.
A vision and ambitious plans can be put forward of a spring and summer running into the fall of making BA known everywhere through getting the film way out in the world as the leading edge of pushing the whole movement for revolution forward, becoming a real force that impacts and influences all of society. BA SPEAKS: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Bob Avakian Live should be foundational—training and forging many people into the revolution.
The dinners should launch a real grassroots movement to get out BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!. Each city should set specific goals for DVD sales and fundraising to be reached by May 1 as launching efforts to go much wider and bigger during the summer and into the fall.
To do this requires two things in addition to people having DVDs to sell. First, that the BA Everywhere Committees create a real presence of the film in key areas, and eventually citywide, with posters, palm cards, and the DVD being shown and sold widely. One idea is forming small film squads—teams that pick a neighborhood or a school and go out and get posters and promo cards all around, stopping into all kinds of places from bodegas and corner stores to hair salons, bookstores/DVD stores/music stores, art galleries, and jazz clubs, as well as homeless shelters youth centers, etc., connecting people with the film, arranging showings (on the spot and scheduled), and consigning copies of the film so that BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! becomes a social presence and compulsion. This organized grass roots work will encourage all kinds of simple ways for people on their own to be watching, showing and spreading the film.
Second, plans should foster a positive dynamic back and forth between spreading the film through promoting and selling many DVDs and getting going a process of deepening people's understanding of what this revolution is all about by watching and digging into it. And keep in mind: make fundraising an integral part of all these plans.
The dinners should aim for everyone to leave with a T-shirt, DVDs of the film to get out to others, and lots of buttons to sell. The buttons have the potential to become a mass phenomenon. Together with the image pin, they make a serious revolutionary fashion statement contributing to making BA and the revolution a happening thing that people want to know about.
Let's have a great time at these dinners, which need to be a further big step in building the movement for revolution.
Revolution #300 April 7, 2013
Interview with a Student:
April 7, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
These are excerpts from an interview with a student who attended one of the premieres of the film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! and, from his perspective, talks about his experience in taking the DVD of the film out to others.
Q: So tell me about this—you were talking about a showing of the DVD after the premiere.
I showed it to a group of nine people. Some still believe that capitalism is the way to go; some people believe that Obama was the savior. So it was good to see their reaction watching the DVD because although they didn't necessarily just flip to the other side, they did open the door to educating themselves on the revolutionary communist movement and why this leader... After watching that and after talking about Bob Avakian for a little bit and explaining to them that he hasn't changed, giving them the CD of the Bob Avakian-Cornel West interview to get a little bit more familiar with it. I think Cornel West was a good anchor towards Bob Avakian. Because although he's not the same, people are familiar with him, so it opens that door. Everybody respects Cornel West so by respecting Cornel West, this guy has a conversation with Bob Avakian and it was very informative.
Q: Tell me who were the people that came.
My brother, my roommates, couple friends, couple cousins. They got the chance to really, like I said, just open doors. There's another avenue, and instead of asking what the other avenue is, they have a couple of answers now which now they're gonna research it, according to what they said to me, they're gonna research it and we've set a date to watch the second part. They're really excited. In fact, we had conversations this whole week, the past couple days about it so....
Q: What are they saying?
"Wow!" That's basically the first thing they're saying. That they didn't know that there was a scientific approach to the other avenue, that it's not just some boohah talk and things like that.
Q: Can you think of any things they had to say to you during it or after it? Things that stood out to them?
The thing that stood out to them was the attack—not an attack, but the honest analysis on Obama. I think that was the most important because they needed someone to say... because nobody has the guts to say something because, one, he's the first Black president, you know. People think that racism is over and blah, blah, blah. Reality it's not, it's actually worse. So it was good to see them listen to someone.
You know if I'm there and I'm telling them, they will have rebuttals or they're not going to listen... But this guy he's on the screen so you're gonna have to really take what he says. I was watching their reaction and they just looked like a deer in the headlights almost, right? It was interesting for me to see because we had so many heated talks and now they can see where I'm coming from. They don't necessarily have to believe in it, but they have to be educated on who Bob Avakian is.
That's the most important thing is that 95 percent of society don't know who Bob Avakian is. I didn't know about him until I got introduced to you guys... and it's almost like I regret that I didn't know who he was because I wish I knew about him earlier, you know. So I thought that was important, just the introduction to him. It was the most important thing and now that they've watched the first three and a half hours, I'm hoping that we get together, watch the second this next week. But I also want them to read BAsics. I got the book so I highlighted some parts, they looked over some of the highlighted parts. So hopefully they get into that. And like I said I'm not in their face. Hey, you know, the information's here. Like I said, whether you agree with it or not, information's there.
Q: Are you surprised...is there anything surprising about how they reacted? Or anything you've learned from that?
From their reactions? Yeah, very surprised actually. You know, some people are very stubborn and I come from a stubborn family so by seeing that the door's open for them, was kinda refreshing as much as it was surprising, because in my opinion if I can get someone to at least look into it. Some of the people in that room are very stubborn so if I can get that. It's refreshing that if you keep pushing hard and like Avakian said, don't change, believe in what you believe in and go forward with it so...and he leads by example so he doesn't even have to say anything, he just leads by example and it's great to have a leader that is leading by example.
If you look at it. I mean, the more you educate yourself about Bob Avakian, you almost see that you kinda get the same approach almost every single time. That capitalism isn't the way to go, that he has an approach, he has a method that he's, not perfected yet, but it's as good as it's gonna get right now and it's gonna get better and better the more people we get, the more we get education, the more there's the back and forth. It's gonna get better, but right now, he's telling everybody that the capitalistic society and ways it's based on genocide, it's based on prejudice, it's based on wars. So we just have to open our eyes, don't beat around the bush.
He wants to change the whole thing, from the grassroots. Who's done that? You get people according to the education in American and the Western societies, they picture guys like Fidel Castro and Che Guevara and Joseph Stalin as the main communists when they weren't. Joseph Stalin was based in capitalistic roots with the Cold War and then Che Guevara and Fidel Castro, they were very small parts... they wanted to change very small parts. What Bob Avakian is doing is... he's a Maoist communist, right? Is that correct, is that what it's called? And so he's getting everybody together from the bottom, from everybody together, communities.
It's good to know that everybody is just as important, communities, it's solidarity, equality. It's all of that. Because communism has a negative connotation with the education that we've gone through, people think "oh no, it's bad" this and that, and revolution has a negative connotation. But that's not what he's saying. Communism is about bringing people together. It's great to see like today, the Supreme Court with the same-sex marriages, it's good to see everybody in solidarity and his cause will bring everything together. That's just a small part, there are bigger parts—not bigger parts—there are other parts to the puzzle. This is just as big as a part, but there are other pieces and if you want to change that, it should be a domino effect, you know what I mean? If you're changing this, it necessarily won't change because everything else around it is the same.
So you gotta change everything. People have to open their eyes and, "hey listen, we can change." Once we change, it's gonna be hard, it's gonna be tough, you're gonna have to crawl, you're gonna have to get up, you're gonna fall, get up, you're gonna run—there's a lotta things—you're gonna climb—but you just have to stay focused. And that's what I mean by him leading by example. This guy was in the '70s, it's almost 40 years later. Although his approach is very rigorous and very hard, he stayed there. Like I said, it's good to see a leader like that. Leaders nowadays, here, flip-flopping every day. It becomes so common that people are overlooking that. But what gets me is like, he's overlooked and generally Bob Avakian is overlooked, and nobody is talking that he hasn't flip-flopped, you know. Everybody's talking about how communism is a bad thing. So that was to me the most important thing. And then if you read the newspaper every day, or every week it comes out...
Q: Revolution newspaper?
Yes, I read it when I can. I'll be honest. Every day, every article is a new article. You're always educating yourself. There's always a new topic coming up. Or something that already came up but it was just brushed under the rug, so to speak. Now you're looking into it and ... "wow, I can't believe I overlooked this." Four or five years ago, I was in San Francisco during the Oscar Grant killings and I saw the mayhem that went on there. And I saw the way the media tried to portray it. But it was people and they were fighting for a cause. And those people too, they need to understand that it's not just that piece. That's just one piece. So just like the same-sex marriages, that's just another piece. That's just a different piece of the puzzle. They might be connected, they might not, but we have to find all the pieces and put them together and once we put the piece together, flip it over because the change should be coming. It doesn't have to come in a bloody way, it doesn't have to come in a coup.
For me it comes through education and that's what I've learned most through Bob Avakian. I've been educated every time I've looked him up or watched a speech of his or watched the first half of the video, read revcom.us, read BAsics. Revolution newspaper. So that's the best thing, just education you know. Don't be ignorant about it. Cuz he hasn't been ignorant about the other side. So why are you going to do him a disservice by just being ignorant on his side. He's looked into the other side. He's picked out some of the nice things, but the atrocities come along with the nice things.
Q: Let me ask you a question. How has the premiere and what you've just done, does it change, in other words, does it increase your appreciation for the potential of this revolution and what we can do to advance it right now?
Absolutely, absolutely. The presentation was seven hours, just a shade under seven hours. So it does grow in appreciation because you have to take your time to watch it, but he's listing everything historically. It's historical analysis. So what you thought was the history...that was me. Of course it's giving me more confidence that change doesn't have to come in such a negative way. Change is a positive thing. People improve and progress, that's changing. So we should just look at it like that.
Q: How do you see it in terms of the goal of putting this revolution on the map and making Bob Avakian a household word and bringing forward a critical mass of leaders or initiators of a new stage of revolution? You just did it with the showing you just did.
Like I said, it's through the education. Once... it's almost being... You're progressing when you're reading it and you're not as ignorant so what you do... so what happens is we educate people. If people are willing to listen, those are the people we have to really talk to because they're the ones who have influence over other people. Me, I'm not gonna go and hammer somebody. Oh you gotta this and that. Some guy wants to argue with me. That's fine. I'll give him my facts, he'll give me his facts—those are in quotations—and we can agree to disagree but I'm not gonna challenge that guy. It's on you at the end of the day to change.
Q: Do you feel that what you've learned there, and also in what you just did in showing this to these others, do you feel more confidence that this revolution can get more of a hearing than maybe even you thought it could before? Do you think the people who watched it are gonna get the DVD?
Yeah, absolutely. If you give it to one person, that person passes it to ten. I got it and passed it to nine. God knows how many people they're gonna pass it to. And they're telling their friends that you gotta watch this DVD. So I don't have the exact numbers from them, but you can do the math. If one gives it to... let's just say four people, and each one gives it to three people. That right there is over 10 people in general. And all of a sudden those people give it to 10 different people and it keeps growing and it grows and it grows. That's the important thing.
Revolution #300 April 7, 2013
April 7, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The U.S. Supreme Court is hearing two lawsuits demanding that the government recognize same-sex marriages.
Same-sex marriage is a basic right and a just demand. If two adults love each other and want to commit to a marriage, then denying them that right because of their sexual orientation is cruel and oppressive. It is telling them they are less than human in the eyes of society. And every day the government refuses to recognize same-sex marriage is intolerable.
Why shouldn’t two adults of the same sex be able to marry? The voices of bigotry complain: “That’s not traditional marriage.” And, they insist, men having sex with men, and women having sex with women is “not natural.”
There is no such thing as “natural” sex. In the Bible—if that’s where you want to go—“god” seems to have mandated that at least some men have sex with dozens of wives and mistresses.
Much more recently, it was considered “unnatural” and against the law in many states for Blacks and whites to have sex with each other or intermarry. In 1965, the Virginia courts upheld the 1959 criminal conviction of a “mixed race” married couple in which the trial judge had stated this definition of what was “natural”: “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, Malay, and red, and placed them on separate continents, and but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend the races to mix.”
And attitudes and laws about sex itself have changed. In 1998, oral sex—even between married heterosexual partners—was illegal in Georgia. And as recently as 2003, consensual sex between same-sex couples was illegal under “sodomy” laws in 14 states, with penalties as severe as life in prison.
Marriage and “traditional morality” emerged with the division of society into oppressors and oppressed, as a form for enforcing patriarchy (men dominating women). Attitudes toward sex and marriage are rooted in that history. And like all human institutions, marriage—and attitudes towards sex—have evolved and will continue to evolve.
So there is nothing “unnatural” about any particular kind of sex and nothing “sacred” about “traditional marriage.” Sex between people who care about and respect each other can be great—no matter what their gender. And to the extent that LGBT people coming “out of the closet,” asserting their pride and their rights shakes up “the way things are,” that is a good thing.
Anyone with a sense of basic justice, anyone who hates the oppressive order, a world of exploitation, oppression, and repression, a world of rape, torture, war and police murder... should be outraged that same-sex couples cannot marry. And should be loudly and proudly demanding equality, now!
One case before the Supreme Court challenges the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). DOMA outlaws federal recognition of same-sex marriages even where they are legal (as is the case in nine states plus Washington, DC). DOMA deprives even legally married same-sex couples of over a thousand rights and benefits. Surviving gays and lesbians can’t get social security from their partners’ accounts. Same-sex couples are denied medical leave to care for their spouses. Nor can they petition for their partners from other countries to join them in the U.S.
The lead plaintiff in the lawsuit against DOMA, Edith Windsor, was required to pay $363,000 in estate taxes when her spouse died—taxes she would not have owed if her spouse had been of the opposite sex. The financial penalty she paid is unjust. The larger point is even more vicious: in the USA, same-sex couples are not considered full human beings, and their relationships are not considered legitimate.
The other case challenges California’s Proposition 8. In 2004 San Francisco’s mayor declared City Hall open for same-sex marriages. In five weeks, 4,000 couples exchanged vows. A state court ordered the weddings stopped and they were declared invalid. That court order was challenged and in May 2008, the California Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriages were legal throughout the state, and thousands more same-sex couples were legally married.
But in November 2008, after a multimillion-dollar campaign spearheaded by right-wing Christian organizations—especially the Mormons—Proposition 8 passed, banning same-sex marriages. A basic right was ripped away with a vote. And, it should be noted, an outrageous precedent was set: that any right of any group of people can be put “up for a vote,” at the mercy of religious lunatics, people locked in the grip of ignorance and fascist manipulators. (For more on Proposition 8, see “Gay Marriage: A Basic Right! A Just Demand!,” November 23, 2008, at revcom.us.)
Life for LGBT people in the USA is a horror—suffocating, dangerous, and traumatic in a million ways. Even with all the culture changes going on, it is still the case that outside of a few neighborhoods in a few big cities, or some college campuses, if you are lesbian, gay, transgender, or bisexual, wherever you go you face insults, threats, humiliation, and physical danger. While fundamentalist preachers insist that “God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve,” it is not just red-state Christian fascists imposing mean-spirited prejudice. In Brooklyn, New York, a school board president had the book Heather Has Two Mommies, which promotes pride among children of same-sex couples, removed from the district’s curriculum.
If you are in high school and you are LGBT, or just unsure about your sexual orientation, you face bullying and humiliation. A New York Times article in 2011 brought to light that of eight suicides in two years at a suburban Minneapolis high school—at least four were gay students. Several 14-year-old LGBT students sued the school district for failing to protect students perceived to be gay. One said she had repeatedly been called “dyke” while teachers looked the other way; she was hospitalized for severe depression and suicidal thoughts.
And persecution and denial of equality for LGBT people is legal. Immoral, yes. Unacceptable, yes. But it is legal: There is no federal law that specifically outlaws workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in the private sector.
There is a great chasm in society between rapidly changing attitudes, on the one hand, and laws that overtly discriminate against LGBT people, on the other. That gap poses “legitimacy” problems for those who rule over the global empire of plunder known as the USA. This is a ruling class that enforces its rule with police (witness the occupation of inner cities, and the violent removal of Occupy protests) and wars around the world. But it also relies on the allegiance of sections of people, many of whom are outraged that LGBT people are not considered equal under the law.
And the increasingly bold assertion of LGBT pride in society in many ways, including protests like the National Equality March in DC in 2009, has helped put the question of LGBT rights and marriage equality onto the national stage.
There are conflicts within the ruling class of the U.S. over how to handle this. Some sections of the ruling class (more or less associated with the Republican Party) argue that a brutal enforcement of “traditional values” is the only way to maintain the system in times of great social and economic turmoil. Within that mix, the head of the Christian fascist Family Research Council, Tony Perkins, told a right-wing talk show host that “I think you could see a social and cultural revolution if the Court goes too far on this.” By “revolution,” Perkins and others of his ilk mean violent fascist repression in one form or another.
Others (more or less identified with the Democrats) see a need to make superficial concessions to “diversity,” even as they continually reframe their agenda within terms set by the more fascist sections on questions like traditional morality, abortion and other women’s rights, and the power of religion in society. (See “The BIG LIE about Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the So-Called ‘Shadow of Roe v. Wade’”).
Into this picture stepped the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is an institution of the ruling class. And part of the role it has played, historically, is to act to try to resolve societal crises and conflicts that call into question the right of those who rule this country to run society.
An instructive example is when and why the Supreme Court overruled the 1965 Virginia court decision (referred to at the beginning of this article) that held marriage between a Black and a white person to be “interference with [God’s] arrangement,” without which “there would be no cause for such marriages.” Two years later, in 1967, the Supreme Court overturned that decision in Loving v. Commonwealth of Virginia (the last name of the Black and white couple who challenged the Virginia law is Loving).
The Supreme Court took up this case at a moment when the image of the USA around the world was of the National Guard occupying cities like Detroit and U.S. troops marauding through Vietnam, when the credibility and legitimacy of the rulers of the U.S. was being challenged at home, and when their empire was under siege in large part by national liberation struggles in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
Under those circumstances, the Supreme Court suddenly “discovered” that laws barring marriages between white and Black people (and every Southern state had such laws in 1967) were “racial discrimination” and violated the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
But for a hundred years, the Supreme Court found such laws fully in tune with the same 14th Amendment.
It wasn’t the wheels of justice grinding slowly but surely that caused the Supreme Court to overturn these laws. The ruling was a call on the part of the Court that these laws had to go in order for the system to regain credibility, to regroup, and continue to oppress and exploit the people of the world. And in the years since, new forms of discrimination, the New Jim Crow, have resulted in stop-and-frisk police terror and the mass incarceration of Black and Latino people.
We raise this as an analogy, not as a direct parallel to the Court’s decision to consider challenges to bans on same-sex marriage. But there is a lesson here regarding the nature and role of the U.S. Supreme Court, why it acts in certain cases and with what aims.
Anything less than a Supreme Court ruling that overturns DOMA and Proposition 8, and recognizes the legality of same-sex marriage nationwide, would be an outrage.
Some mainstream legal “analysts” (that is, ruling class mouthpieces) are saying that the way the court deliberations are going—the kinds of questions the justices are asking and the opinions they are implying—point to a ruling that would throw out Proposition 8 and DOMA on a very narrow basis, and not legalize same-sex marriage nationwide.
Even worse, there are indications that the Supreme Court might strike down DOMA and Proposition 8 on an explicitly “states’ rights” basis. Same-sex marriage is banned in dozens of states. A ruling that explicitly or implicitly invokes “states’ rights” would institutionalize the “right” of states to outlaw same-sex marriage. Such a ruling would potentially create a situation similar to the U.S. before the Civil War, when there were “free states” and “slave states,” except that this time there would be states where same-sex couples could marry and states where they could not. The rights of same-sex couples would not be recognized under state law in states that banned same-sex marriage. And “states’ rights” was the rallying cry of the segregationists during the civil rights movement. This is not a logic that anyone opposed to prejudice, discrimination, and the violent enforcement of those things should want to have anything to do with!
It is within the spectrum of possibilities that the Supreme Court might let both DOMA and Proposition 8 stand. That would be an extreme, egregious outrage. Millions in society would likely see it—correctly—as a vicious slap in the face. Such a scenario would require everyone who believes in equality and justice to immediately take to the streets in determined resistance.
It’s already an outrage that LGBT people are denied the right to marry, or that their marriages are not recognized as legitimate and legal by the federal government. That needs to change, now!
The struggle for marriage equality and the larger issues of equal rights for LGBT people has great stakes for the future. And it poses the big question: what kind of change is needed?
People need to continue to take to the streets, and stand up for pride and equality in all kinds of ways, with determination and conviction that history and right are on our side.
And in the midst of that, we strongly urge everyone to compare two constitutions that represent opposite futures. One, envisioned as a tool to enforce slavery, genocide, and the oppression of women (who, until 1920, were denied even the right to vote) has historically been interpreted in ways that adjust but never challenge profound inequality rooted in exploitation. That is the Constitution of the United States of America.
But there is another way society can be organized. Seriously study the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. This constitution bans all discrimination against people whose sexual orientation doesn’t fit into traditional, patriarchal forms and norms. Beyond that, it outlines a society whose education system and culture brings to light the real history and background of backward prejudices, and how they stem from different forms of oppression—changing not only laws, but hearts and minds.
And study “On the Strategy for Revolution,” a statement from the RCP, and get into the strategy to bring that revolutionary society into being.
Resistance to discrimination, prejudice, and violence directed at LGBT people and the righteous assertion of “pride” are positive elements in today’s situation. That resistance needs to grow and be strengthened, and more and more needs to feed into a powerful movement for revolution to bring about a whole different society where all forms of oppression will be overthrown.
We also need to be aware of the positive—and in significant ways “subversive of the system”—potential of the assertion of gay “identity” and gay rights, even with the very real contradictions in this, including the narrowing tendencies of “identity politics” as well as conservatizing influences related to traditional marriage, and, for that matter, the campaign to be allowed to be part of the imperialist military while being openly gay. Even with all that, in its principal aspect this has, and can to an even greater degree have, a very positive, “subversive of the system” effect. This is a contradiction which, in the society overall, is “out of the closet.” It could be forced back into the closet, and underground, with not only the stronger assertion of the kind of fascist movement that is being supported and fostered by powerful ruling class forces in this period, but with the actual assumption of a fascist form of bourgeois dictatorship. But the struggle against the oppression of gay people is not going to be easily suppressed. We should understand the potential of this as well, and the need to relate correctly to this, to foster the further development of its positive potential and its contribution to the movement for revolution.
Revolution #300 April 7, 2013
By Sunsara Taylor | April 7, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
This past week the Supreme Court heard arguments over two cases pertaining to same-sex marriage. Let me say upfront that the fact that the fundamental rights of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people are even up for deliberation is an indictment of the system we live under. There is absolutely no legitimate reason to deny the full legal and social equality of LGBT people.
But what I want to speak to here is the way that many—on both sides of this case—have cited Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her claim that the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling which legalized abortion in 1973 went “too far, too fast.”
Ruth Bader Ginsburg is widely—and incorrectly—viewed as a champion of abortion rights. A major article in the New York Times recently entitled, “Shadow of Roe v. Wade Looms Over Ruling on Gay Marriage” quotes her as saying, “It’s not that the judgment [Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion in 1973] was wrong, but it moved too far, too fast.” The New York Times goes on to say:
In Justice Ginsburg’s account, set out in public remarks and law review articles, the broad ruling in the abortion case froze activity in state legislatures, created venomous polarization and damaged the authority of the court...
“The Supreme Court’s decision was a perfect rallying point for people who disagreed with the notion that it should be a woman’s choice,” she added. “They could, instead of fighting in the trenches legislature by legislature, go after this decision by unelected judges.”
Ruth Bader Ginsburg is dead wrong when she claims that Roe v. Wade went “too far, too fast.” Even more, when she says this she is not proceeding as a “champion of women’s rights.” She is proceeding as a loyal servant to a system that has male-supremacy woven into its foundations.
In the forty years since Roe v. Wade there has been an enormous and mounting assault on women’s right to abortion. Hundreds of restrictions have been passed in states across the country—requiring parental consent, mandating waiting periods, forcing women to undergo invasive and unnecessary sonograms, requiring doctors to LIE to their patients about scientifically debunked “risks” of abortion, restricting travel across state lines to seek abortion, shutting down clinics that don’t comply with medically unnecessary zoning restrictions and countless more. Thousands of incidents of violence against abortion clinics and their staff have been documented, including bombings and the murder of eight abortion providers. Today 97 percent of rural counties do not have an abortion provider, several states only have one abortion clinic, and Arkansas and North Dakota have just passed fetal heartbeat laws which ban abortions after 12, or even six, weeks!
This backlash is not because Roe v. Wade went “too far, too fast.” This is because the movements of the 1960s and ’70s—including the fight that won the right to abortion—did not go far enough! A real revolution was not made, this system was not overthrown and a new revolutionary society was not constructed in its place.
As such, the Christian fascists who spearheaded the attacks on abortion were not merely some marginal “grassroots movement.” They were actively welcomed and elevated into the halls of power by very powerful forces within the ruling class of this country. This is both because male supremacy is a cornerstone of this society and because the reassertion of patriarchal traditional values was seen by the ruling class as a key part of stitching back together the reactionary social fabric of this society which had been significantly frayed through the 1960s and was being further strained through the wars, economic upheavals and dramatic demographic changes since.
At every point, this Christian fascist juggernaut has been conciliated with by those in the “liberal wing” of the ruling class—people like Bill and Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. These “liberal” ruling class figures don’t always agree with the scope and severity of the Christian fascist attacks, but they share the underlying interests of this system and they fear the kind of upheaval and instability for their system that would be caused if they really took this on.
It is precisely these ruling class interests of keeping this system stable—not the interests of women’s right to decide for themselves when and whether to have children—that Ginsburg believes Roe v. Wade went “too far, too fast.”
These are NOT our interests.
To those who have thought of Ginsburg as a staunch defender of abortion, and to those who have been swayed by the argument that Roe v. Wade went “too far, too fast”: Stop it.
Stop limiting your vision of what is possible and even desirable to the feeble things these “liberal” ruling class figures are willing to advance. Stop feeding your hopes and better aspirations into the grinding dead end of bourgeois politics and paralysis in the face of fascist assault.
Instead, join with StopPatriarchy.org in building massive and uncompromising political resistance against the fascist assault on the right to abortion and birth control. And start digging deeply into real revolution as it has been further developed since the 1960s by Bob Avakian (see “The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have: A Message, and a Call, from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA,” July 19, 2009) so that this time we can take things all the way.
Revolution #300 April 7, 2013
April 7, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
There's been a lot going on around marriage equality lately. I want to issue a challenge around this, especially to Black people and other oppressed people, people this system beats down. That challenge is to get with the demand for marriage equality for Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual and Transgender (LGBT) people, and even more to demand full acceptance of LGBT people and the complete rejection of the bigotry and venom directed against them in this society. This is something that destroys lives, AND it strengthens the overall system which is our common enemy.
So if you're somebody who has previously opposed this demand, get up off the things that have kept you from getting with this fight for justice. Whether it's hatred of gay/lesbian people drawn from biblical verses or narrow nationalist objections to the struggle for rights for LGBT people that's been holding you back, get up off it and get with this righteous fight.
If you're somebody who's already with this fight, now's the time to go on the offensive around it. Reach out to those you know and struggle with them to get with it. Take on the backwardness that's around you, and put it on the defensive.
Revolution #300 April 7, 2013
Revolution Interview with Andy Worthington
April 7, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
A special feature of Revolution to acquaint our readers with the views of significant figures in art, theater, music and literature, science, sports and politics. The views expressed by those we interview are, of course, their own; and they are not responsible for the views published elsewhere in our paper.
For almost two months now, prisoners at the U.S.'s Guantánamo torture center have been on a hunger strike. Lawyers for some of the prisoners reported that the strike began because of "unprecedented searches and a new guard force." In particular, prisoners were angry and anguished at the way the guards handled the prisoners' Korans.
There are currently 166 prisoners remaining at Guantanamo, over half of whom have been cleared for release for years. Of the 130 prisoners in Camp 6, there are reports from the prisoners through their lawyers that almost all are refusing food. Eleven prisoners are being force-fed by their captors, which means that a prisoner is shackled into a restraint chair with a feeding tube snaked up his nose and into his stomach. Attorneys report that some men have lost 20-30 pounds and that at least two dozen have lost consciousness. It is a very urgent situation. Many of the prisoners have passed the 40th day: According to medical experts, irreversible mental and physiological damage such as hearing loss, blindness, and hemorrhaging can occur after this point.
In a statement provided by a military defense lawyer, Fayiz al-Kandari, a prisoner from Kuwait, said, "Let them kill us, as we have nothing to lose. We died when Obama indefinitely detained us. Respect us or kill us, it's your choice. The United States must take off its mask and kill us."
Guantánamo Bay—a U.S. military fortress on Cuba—was turned into a prison camp of the U.S.' "war on terror" in January 2002 by the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush. One of the main reasons the Bush administration established the prison at Guantánamo was because they considered it "outside U.S. legal jurisdiction"—meaning that the laws and rights supposedly guaranteed to prisoners, including "prisoners of war," would not apply. Since then almost 800 men have been imprisoned at Guantánamo, and the word Guantánamo has become synonymous with torture, unjust detention, brutality, and inhumane degradation.
Andy Worthington, an investigative journalist based in London, recently wrote that many of the prisoners think that "a hunger strike is the only way to try and draw attention to their plight." For the past six years, Worthington has been relentless in exposing the U.S. atrocities at its Guantánamo prison camp: the endless rounds of torture; the degradation and psychological torment; the body- and spirit-crushing imprisonment, including solitary confinement; the "rendition" (turning over prisoners captured and held by U.S. military and spy agencies to other countries where they can be tortured out of sight under U.S. direction).
He has exposed the twisted legal arguments the U.S. government has used to justify its outrageously inhumane treatment of people it labels "enemy combatants," and the ways different branches of the U.S. government, and both the Democratic and the Republican parties have extended, deepened, and consolidated these monstrous policies since their initiation in the administration of George W. Bush.
Worthington's articles can be found at his website, andyworthington.co.uk; his book The Guantánamo Diaries can be found at Amazon and at many bookstores, including Revolution Books. He is also the co-director of the film Outside the Law: Stories From Guantánamo.
The following Revolution interview with Andy Worthington was done on March 28, 2013.
Revolution: What are the essential facts of the hunger strike under way now at Guantánamo; how many people are striking, how long has it been going on, and what can you tell us that you know about what set it off at this point?
Andy Worthington: What I understand is that the hunger strike began nearly two months ago, so in the first week of February, and that what particularly precipitated it was a change in the way that the personnel at Guantánamo were behaving toward the prisoners. So there were very aggressive cell searches, there was the seizure of personal items including privileged correspondence between the prisoners and their lawyers, and there was also what was regarded as abusive treatment of their copies of the Koran.
So last week I was actually doing an event with a former prisoner, who's a friend of mine. He said there's always something within the prison that particularly provokes a hunger strike, and that generally it does involve religious mistreatment, although I think sometimes in the past it had involved sexual abuse of prisoners. So what we've got here this time around is a change in the behavior of the guard force, to what the prisoners are saying reminds them of the bad old days at Guantánamo. And of course, combined with that is the despair that prisoners feel at having been held for over 11 years in most cases under the leadership of a president who promised to close the prison on his second day in office and has failed to do so, and has now shown almost no interest in even addressing the problem of Guantánamo. So these men very fundamentally feel abandoned by the president of the United States in a way that they did not even feel so abandoned under President Bush after the terrible, terrible first term when it really was a committed program of torture and abuse and renditions. President Bush faced a lot of international criticism in his second term, and actually part of what that led to was a pretty big program of prisoner releases, whereas the prisoner releases under Obama have almost ground to a halt. The last seven prisoners who have left the prison in the last two years, well, four of them were released, but three of them were dead, three of them left in coffins. So that's the tally over the last two years. And the men are understandably in despair. Well, you can see from those odds, over the last two years, the chances of you leaving Guantánamo are almost nil; if you are one of those people who's going to leave, you have a 43% chance of being dead when you get to leave. So it's a shocking situation.
So with both the bigger picture and the more everyday picture of what's happening at Guantánamo, these are the reasons that the men are so upset and so despairing. My understanding from what the prisoners have been saying is that the majority of the prisoners in Camp 6 are on a hunger strike. Now there are 166 men left at Guantánamo; 130 of those men are in Camp 6 (this is the last of the camps to be built for the general population at Guantánamo, where the majority of the prisoners are held), and the attorneys have heard from the prisoners that the majority of those men are on a hunger strike. The last I saw, this week the U.S. government was acknowledging that 31 men were on a hunger strike, but just two weeks ago they were saying that no one was on a hunger strike apart from five or six long-term hunger strikers; and those figures have gradually been creeping up. And I would say those figures have gradually been creeping up because the government, the administration, the military, were forced into a position of having to acknowledge a hunger strike because their attempts to pretend that there wasn't one weren't being believed. And various parts of the media started to take an interest in the story, started to report it, at which point I think it became apparent that blanket denial wasn't going to work any longer.
Revolution: It does seem like the government's been disputing every basic fact about the strike since it's begun, including the number of people and the condition of the strikers, which for some, as you've just noted, has been going on for quite a while. What is the condition of the people who've been on strike all this time? It seems like it must be extremely desperate and dire.
Worthington: Well, let's look at it this way: there are the five or six long-term hunger strikers, and I know that one of these guys has been on a hunger strike since 2005. I can't imagine how he's still alive, frankly. Just the punishment for his body of twice a day being strapped to a chair and having a tube put up his nose and into his stomach, for nearly eight years; that's horrendous. I can't really get my head around that at all. I don't know how long the other long-term hunger strikers have been on a hunger strike but it's obviously going to be a matter of years in their cases as well.
As for the guys who started their hunger strike seven weeks ago, the stories that came out via the lawyers are that we're looking at prisoners losing between 20 and 30 pounds of their body weight. With the exception of a few obese prisoners that there are at Guantánamo, and a few well-fed prisoners, I would say that the thing to remember about Guantánamo is that the normal status of the average prisoner is not somebody who's carrying a lot of extra weight by any means. My feeling is that the average weight in Guantánamo would probably be more accurately put at something like 120 to 140 pounds. We've seen prisoners slip to the horribly dangerous point where they're weighing 100 pounds or less. I've tried to imagine grown men weighing just 100 pounds and trying to think if I can see that anywhere in everyday life, and of course you can't really see that in everyday life, it would be somebody who's dangerously ill or anorexic. It's a horrible predicament. As experts have been saying this week, once you reach the six- or seven-week period of hunger striking, that's when people on a hunger strike are seriously at risk of death or serious organ damage.
Revolution: Could you tell us a little bit about this category and concept of indefinite detention that the U.S. has been using to hold men seemingly for life without any justification in either U.S. or international law and which I'm sure must be the source of a lot of the despair you spoke of among the prisoners themselves? What is the legal status of the people there?
Worthington: It's a good question really because I don't think this is something that is known enough within the United States. These are not conventional prisoners. These are not people who to my mind are legally held, although the underpinning of their detention is the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), which Congress passed the week after the 9/11 attacks, and which authorized the president to go after anyone that he felt was associated with Al Qaeda, the Taliban, 9/11. The Supreme Court in 2004 in a ruling confirmed that the president had the authority to detain these people until the end of hostilities, and that's the very thin legal underpinning for holding these men. It turns out that no one's been able to challenge the AUMF, no one's been able to challenge the definition of how long these hostilities last for, because nobody's letting those things be discussed. So what we have are men who have been deprived of their liberty, who possibly could be held for the whole of their lives, and who haven't really been given any opportunity to challenge the basis of their detention. Now the administration would say they have; these are men who secured habeas corpus rights through a decision made by the Supreme Court. And that is true, in the sense that they got habeas corpus rights in 2004, Congress took them away, the Supreme Court gave them back in 2008. Now for two years, admittedly, from when the Supreme Court made that decision, over three dozen of the prisoners at Guantánamo had their habeas corpus petitions granted in the District Court in Washington, DC, which was adjudicating their cases; a majority of those men were released.
So over two dozen of those men were released as a result of court orders for their release. And then what happened was that ideologically motivated, conservative judges in the court of appeals, the DC Circuit Court, decided that they couldn't stand the lower court actually telling the government that their evidence was worthless and ordering the release of prisoners from Guantánamo. So they changed the rules. They said the court has to believe everything the government says, has to behave as though that is the truth, unless the prisoners and their attorneys can prove otherwise. What the evidence consists of in so many cases is battlefield reports that shouldn't really be trusted as facts, and a whole array of interrogation reports that are not trustworthy, because the circumstances under which the prisoners were interrogated left a lot to be desired. So they then made sure that the legal avenue for leaving Guantánamo has been completely shut off. Since they made these changes to the rules, not a single prisoner has won a habeas corpus petition. And in fact, a number of successful decisions were appealed; they also were overturned. The judges in the DC Circuit Court have gutted habeas corpus of all meaning for the Guantánamo prisoners, and for two years in a row, the Supreme Court has been given the option to tell the DC Circuit Court that they want to be responsible for the conditions of detention and the rules that apply—and they have failed to do so.
So there is no legal avenue out of Guantánamo. It would be unfair for anybody to say that the prisoners have any kind of rights, because those rights have been completely done away with by the DC Circuit Court. So they're kind of back to square one. There's no way out for them, unless the President decides to do something. What we've seen over the last few years is a lack of action on President Obama's part, and then we've seen I think a politically motivated and very cynical decision in Congress to impose restrictions on who the president can release. We've had a ban from President Obama on releasing any cleared Yemeni prisoners, as a result of the failed underwear bomb plot in December 2009, which originated in Yemen, and there are 86 cleared prisoners who were approved for transfer out of Guantánamo by the task force that President Obama set up in his first year in office—the interagency Guantánamo Review Task Force—and two-thirds of those men are Yemeni. So the president himself has imposed a ban on releasing prisoners that his own advisors told him the United States didn't want to hold any longer. Every avenue has been closed.
For many years now, every few months there will be pretrial hearings, in the cases primarily of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other men who are accused of masterminding and being involved in the 9/11 attacks; this was the trial that was supposed to take place in federal court, but the Obama administration backed down when criticized, and moved the planned trial back to Guantánamo. Now the military commissions, their history is really not a very good one. It was driven by Dick Cheney bringing them back from oblivion at the start of the war on terror. The Supreme Court kicked them out as illegal in 2006, and Congress then brought them back to life twice, once under Bush and again under Obama.
Two things plague them really. A lot of the things they were set up to try aren't actual war crimes; they were only invented as war crimes by Congress, so they've run into problems on that front. The military commissions are also plagued with obsessive secrecy on the part of the authorities because the men being tried there, particularly in this high-profile trial, the 9/11 trial, they were specifically the victims of the torture program that was initiated by the Bush administration involving secret prisons and torture, all of which is desperately illegal, however much Justice Department lawyer and Berkeley law professor John Yoo wrote the memos telling them that it was OK. The authorities or various parts of the establishment are absolutely obsessed with making sure that nothing about what happened to these men comes out in court. I don't know how they intend to have a trial with any kind of fairness when they're trying to make sure that a lot of the important things are never, ever talked about.
But I honestly don't know how this could possibly end happily because the problem is that one of the Obama administration's biggest roles on national security has been to defend anyone connected with the Bush administration from any investigation about their involvement with torture and rendition and all of these horrible and illegal things that took place. I don't how you can try people who have been tortured without somehow acknowledging that. But this is going to go on for years and years. There's not going to be any easy resolution to it. But the obvious thing about the commissions whenever you look at them is that they persistently run into these dark farcical operational problems. It used to happen all the time under Bush as well and now it's happening under Obama, a broken system that doesn't work and that constantly throws up things that are just embarrassing, like the hidden spy in the recent hearing, who even the judge didn't know about.
Revolution: As you said, Obama in many ways is actually worse than Bush in what he's done in not only defending these people that you referred to, but I would say, extending and consolidating the policies that were initiated in the Bush years. One of the things that seems to have happened recently in an attempt to cut these strikers off from the outside world, is the shutting off of flights to Guantánamo that effectively prevents, at least it makes it very difficult for their lawyers to see them, on a regular basis, and at the same time, Congress has actually voted funding an expansion of Guantánamo.
Worthington: Well, overall I would just say briefly that Obama has resisted all efforts to send new prisoners to Guantánamo, and there is also not much suggestion that he has a global network of torture prisons like the Bush administration did, although certainly there are very dubious things happening in a few places. But primarily his biggest crimes, I think, are the drone program, which clearly is immoral and illegal but the United States doesn't want to aknowledge that, and his obsessive defense of the crimes committed by the Bush administration. So at Guantánamo his biggest crime, as well as not releasing cleared prisoners, has been that, through an executive order two years ago, he designated 46 of them—48 of them actually, but two died—for indefinite detention on the basis that they were regarded as too dangerous to release, but that there wasn't enough evidence to put them on trial. That means that there are fundamental problems with the purported evidence. And so he actually is responsible, personally, for having said that the United States will continue to imprison indefinitely, as a matter of policy, 46 men at Guantánamo. Now it happens that through his inaction and through the obstructions raised by Congress, everyone is effectively indefinitely detained at Guantánamo. That's the really shocking thing about clearing people for release and then not releasing them. Why bother? What message does that send to the people that you told were going home, that actually the truth is, well, you're not going home. That's a horrible, horrible thing to do.
Revolution #300 April 7, 2013
April 7, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Watch youtube video of this speech that Carl Dix gave on March 24, 2013 at a protest against the police murder of Kimani Gray.
Let’s start with Kimani Gray, 16 years old. We should be here today talking about the bright future that lay before this young man. But we’re here talking about his death. His life stolen by two undercover cops who fired seven bullets into his body, three of them into his back. This was murder. And it’s no isolated incident. People have already pointed to that. Shantel Davis, Ramarley Graham, Reynaldo Cuevas. We could go all the way back. We could go back to Eleanor Bumpurs, Clifford Glover, ’cause I am that old... Sean Bell, Amadou Diallo. This is unacceptable. This must stop. And I will tell you, it is up to us to stop it.
We should live in a world where those who are entrusted with public security would sooner risk their own lives than kill or injure an innocent person. And it will take revolution to bring that kind of world into being. Because in this world, the so-called trained law enforcement personnel, the pigs that’s who I am talking about, they get the benefit of the doubt when they kill our kids. They can step up there and say I thought that candy bar was a gun, I thought that wallet was a gun, I thought that cell phone was a gun. They can plant guns on the dead bodies of our children, and then claim it’s justifiable homicide. Well, we have to stop that, and ultimately to stop it once and for all will take revolution, nothing less. And if you are somebody who wants to know where all this stuff is coming from, why it happens again and again, and what if anything we can do about it, I urge you to get a copy of this film, BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! It will get you into all those questions.
What we need today is we need to build resistance, determined mass resistance, to what the cops and the whole criminal injustice system brings down on people. That’s what I was doing when Cornel West and I called for nonviolent civil disobedience to STOP “Stop & Frisk.” Because if you don’t stand up, they will beat us down so far that we will never be able to do anything about what they do to us.
Look, there’s one more important thing I gotta speak on. ’Cause a lot of people have said that people in this neighborhood were wrong to stand up and resist. They said it in the newspapers. Politicians were saying it. Preachers were saying it. Well, let me be very clear. You were right to stand up and resist in this neighborhood. You were right to stand up and resist in this neighborhood. If people in this neighborhood hadn’t stood up, they would have had a much easier time trying to sweep this murder under the rug. But because people stood up, people are talking about this all over New York City, what happened to Kimani, what happened, did the cops throw that gun down. They are talking about it all across the country, because of what people here did. And look, the other reason you were right to stand up is because of what the police have been doing in this neighborhood, the way they sweated the youth 24/7 before the murder of Kimani. Then they murdered Kimani. Then when people gathered in vigils to mourn the young lost brother, the police harass them, manhandle them, push them around. When people tried to march on the sidewalk, they started brutalizing and arresting people.
Kimani’s parents submitted an application for a permit to have a legal march to protest their son’s killing, and the police department said, “No, you cannot march.” What they are saying to us is, “We can kill your children, but you can’t protest it.” We have to say, “Fuck no. We will stand up. We will fight back, we’ll march and we’ll resist in other ways as well. We will not sit back and let you murder our kids.
And I will say again, for me, I’m very clear it will take revolution—nothing less to end this once and for all. Whether you agree with that or not, though, if you got an ounce of justice, just an ounce of justice in your heart, then you have to be out here, standing together with people in this neighborhood, resisting what the police do. Saying no to police murder, saying no to brutalizing people for standing up and resisting. That’s what we have to do, sisters and brothers.
Thank you. Continue the resistance.
Revolution #300 April 7, 2013
April 7, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The fight for Justice for Kimani Gray is part of the fight against a highly repressive state that enforces mass incarceration, the criminalization of a whole generation and discrimination against formerly incarcerated people. All this amounts to a slow genocide targeting Black and Latino people, which must be met with mass determined resistance.
Kimani’s murder and people’s response to his murder mark an important juncture in this fight. This time people stood up and said NO! They did this in the face of riot cops brutalizing and arresting people, including Kimani’s sister, who gathered at vigils and protests. The authorities denied a permit to protest to Kimani’s parents. Politicians and the media directed slander at so-called “outsiders” who dared to stand together with those who had borne the brunt of the repression. It is crucial that this be resisted in a UNIFIED WAY! That is why the Stop Mass Incarceration Network called for the rally and march on March 24 and raised the slogans JUSTICE FOR KIMANI GRAY, JAIL THE KILLER COPS and DROP THE CHARGES AGAINST ALL THE ARRESTED PROTESTERS!
Carrying this fight forward will require forging broad unity among people from many different viewpoints. It is very important that everyone involved be able to put forward their honest views on the problem facing people and the solution to that problem. There needs to be honest and principled airing of differences within the unity that has been forged. Getting to the source of the problem and posing the solution to it from different viewpoints is VERY positive and is not, as some have tried to characterize this, bringing in outside issues.
But some forces issued physical threats against people associated with the Revolutionary Communist Party and the Revolution Club and shouted down speakers associated with these groups. This is unacceptable. It is important that this kind of divisive and dangerous conduct not be tolerated. Not only is this type of conduct wrong on principle, it has historically been used against movements of resistance to split, confuse, and demoralize people. It has also provided a free hand for the state to suppress, repress, and frame people and even set people up to be murdered. We must learn from and apply the lessons of this bitter experience.
There can be no unity with groups and/or individuals who carry out such actions unless and until they disavow such actions and repudiate them. Actions like these weaken the resistance movement and serve the interests of the powers-that-be, whatever the intentions of those who did them.
With this approach, we can build the firmest unity among the broadest forces and we can create an atmosphere where people have each other’s backs, where we are learning from each other as we stand shoulder to shoulder in this life-and-death struggle.
Initial List of Signatories
Dahoud Andre, Haitian community activist, NYC
Calvin Barnwell, Arrested protesting NYPD stop-and-frisk
Elaine Brower, World Can’t Wait; Arrested protesting NYPD stop-and-frisk
Stephanie R. Colon, member of Stop Mass Incarceration Network Steering Committee, NYC
Randy Credico, Impressionist and social comedian; Arrested protesting NYPD stop-and-frisk
Noche Diaz, Revolution Club NYC; Arrested protesting NYPD stop-and-frisk
Carl Dix, Revolutionary Communist Party; Arrested protesting NYPD stop-and-frisk
Nicholas Heyward Sr., father of Nicholas Heyward Jr, killed 1994 by NYPD
B.M. Marcus, Community Director, Community Advocate and Development Organization, Brooklyn
Richie Marini, World Can’t Wait; Arrested protesting NYPD stop-and-frisk
Jamel Mims, Revolution Club NYC; Arrested protesting NYPD stop-and-frisk
Travis Morales, member of Stop Mass Incarceration Network Steering Committee, NYC
John Penley, Tent City Tompkins Square Park*, NYC
Allene Person, mother of Timur Person, killed 2006 by NYPD
Rev. Stephen Phelps, The Riverside Church*; Arrested protesting NYPD stop-and-frisk
Revolution Club NYC
Morgan Rhodewalt, Arrested protesting NYPD stop-and-frisk
Debra Sweet, World Can’t Wait; Arrested protesting NYPD stop-and-frisk
Jim Vrettos, professor, John Jay College of Criminal Justice*; Arrested protesting NYPD stop-and-frisk
Juanita Young, mother of Malcolm Ferguson, killed 2000 by NYPD
*For identification purposes only.
To add your name to this list of signatories send an e-mail to:
Revolution #300 April 7, 2013
April 7, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Backbreaking work, no legal rights, isolation from their loved ones, dire poverty, and watching their children grow up hungry or die of curable illnesses was the lot of the vast majority of black women under apartheid.
Patriarchy is a foundation of every form of exploitative society, including the tribal societies that mainly characterized Azania before it was conquered by Europeans. But the conquest of Azania and the imposition of the apartheid system after World War 2 brought new extremes of suffering to Azanian women. By law, women were explicitly denied many rights, such as the right to own property, and were seen as dependents of their husbands.
Under apartheid, most land, and all the best farmland, was seized by the small white minority. In the countryside, 13 percent of mainly non-arable land was set aside as reservations ("bantustans") for the black population, making it impossible for people to support themselves by traditional farming. Most black men had to leave their homes and families and travel to mining or industrial areas for work. They were gone for months or even years; their families were rarely allowed to move with them. But these jobs barely paid enough to support the men, with only a little left over to send home. So women raised children on their own under conditions of desperate poverty, with little or no medical care or public education, and still had to work the barren land to raise enough food to get their families up to the subsistence level. Women were also shut out of most jobs and professions, with the exception of agricultural work and domestic work, generally the hardest and lowest paying jobs.
When apartheid ended in 1994 and the African National Congress (ANC) came to power, there was great hope for change among women, who had played a major role in the liberation struggle. The constitution of the new republic barred discrimination against women as well as gay people. And some middle class black women have been able to access education, enter professions, and rise to middle-level positions in the government.
But the situation for the masses of women has become a true nightmare. While a small minority of blacks became wealthy, poverty for the great majority has become even more dire, and women are mainly in the lowest paying jobs, making on average 2/3 the pay of male workers. Child support for the unemployed is $36 per child per month. (BBC, October 7, 2010) HIV/AIDS is at epidemic levels, with women most affected—one in four South African women is HIV positive.
But the oppression of women is most concentrated in astonishing levels of rape and domestic violence.
Almost 60,000 rapes were reported in 2012; experts estimate that only one in 10 rapes is reported to the police—that means roughly 600,000 rapes a year (BBC, January 10, 2013), a woman raped every 26 seconds. (New York Times, April 20, 2012, citing Doctors Without Borders)
In surveys, one in four men admit to having committed rape. (BBC, November 18, 2010)
40% of black women say their first sexual experience was forced. (New York Times, April 20, 2012, citing WHO)
A woman is murdered by her intimate partner every six hours. (New York Times, April 20, 2012, citing South Africa's Medical Research Council)
So-called "corrective rape"—the rape of lesbians in order to "teach them a lesson" or supposedly to "turn them" heterosexual—is also a massive problem—gay rights organizations in one city say they speak to about 10 such women each week. (BBC, October 7, 2010) In 10 years there were at least 31 "corrective rapes" that ended with murder—only two of these cases were prosecuted.
In many ways this epidemic of violence against women is part of the brutal legacy of apartheid—rape levels started to soar in the 1980s. But the ANC government has worked in many ways to reinforce the patriarchal ideology that is at the root of all this:
President Jacob Zuma, who is also head of the ANC, was himself charged with raping a family friend. At his trial, Zuma claimed that the woman "had dressed provocatively, in a traditional wrap-around kanga, and that it was against Zulu culture for a man to leave a sexually aroused woman unsatisfied." Zuma was acquitted. ("South Africa's Rape Crisis: 1 in 4 Men Say They've Done It", Megan Linsow in Time magazine, June 20, 2009) Zuma also upholds polygamy; he has 21 children by 10 different women, four of whom are his wives. Zuma appointed a fundamentalist Christian minister to be Chief Justice. In past court rulings, Judge Mogoeng Mogoeng has acquitted a man accused of raping his wife because she "tempted" him with her nightclothes; has questioned whether it is possible for a man to rape his wife; has reduced the sentence of a man convicted of raping a 7-year-old girl to 18 months (the minimum possible sentence). He also agrees with his church's view of homosexuality as an abomination.
In another case, where two teenage boys drugged and raped a schoolmate, the National Prosecuting Authority announced it would charge all three of them with having underage sex.
The ANC government is seeking to pass a law that would make traditional tribal courts the only courts to which rural women would have access. Unlike the regular courts, the tribal courts do not even grant formal legal equality; for instance, these courts will routinely evict a woman from her home if her husband dies, divorces, or deserts her and if she does not have any male children—the home is then passed to the closest male relative. And a widowed woman is not even allowed to appear in these courts for six months after the death of her husband because she is considered "impure."
Revolution #300 April 7, 2013
April 7, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Ten years ago, on March 19-20, 2003, the U.S. invaded Iraq, overthrew the Saddam Hussein regime, and then occupied the country for the next eight and a half years. What did the U.S. war and invasion and the following war and occupation mean for the people of Iraq? Just to mention a few of the horrors: Over 121,000 Iraqis were killed between March 2003 and December 31, 2011 when U.S. forces withdrew; overall Iraqi deaths as a direct or indirect result of the war are estimated to be as high as 1.4 million; 4.5 million Iraqis were driven from their homes. (See “The U.S. Legacy 10 Years After Invading Iraq: Death, Disease, Devastation, Displacement,” Revolution, March 31, 2013, online at revcom.us)
George W. Bush said the U.S. invaded “to disarm Iraq” and “to defend the world from grave danger.” He claimed that Saddam Hussein’s regime:
Were President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney the only prominent U.S. political leaders making these claims? No. The claims were repeated by the entire Bush administration, by nearly every member of Congress—Democrats and Republicans—by former government officials, by establishment “experts,” and by the media.
How many of these claims against Saddam Hussein were true? Not one.
How many weapons of mass destruction (WMDs)—chemical, biological, or nuclear—were found when the U.S. scoured Iraq after the 2003 invasion? None.
Was a connection between Hussein and Al Qaeda ever established? No, there was none.
Was there an “intelligence failure,” as the U.S. government claimed after failing to find any WMDs? No.
President George W. Bush said the U.S. went to war to liberate Iraq and “free its people.” This March 19, President Barack Obama issued a statement saluting the U.S. military for their service and giving “the Iraqi people an opportunity to forge their own future...” Even a brief outline of the history of U.S. involvement in Iraq puts the lie to the claim that the U.S. was—and is—acting in the interests of the Iraqi people:
For background, details, and documentation, see revcom.us and Oil, Power & Empire: Iraq and the U.S. Global Agenda by Larry Everest.
Revolution #300 April 7, 2013
April 7, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On March 26, Governor Jack Dalrymple of North Dakota signed three laws that are the most extreme assaults on the right to abortion so far in the U.S. One law bans abortion once a fetal heartbeat is “detectable,” which can be as early as six weeks into a pregnancy—at a time before many women even find out they are pregnant. Dalrymple made clear that this law was a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion: “Although the likelihood of this measure surviving a court challenge remains in question, this bill is nevertheless a legitimate attempt by a state legislature to discover the boundaries of Roe v. Wade.”
This “fetal heartbeat” law says that if a doctor performs an abortion “before determining” if the fetus “has a detectable heartbeat,” the physician is subject to a felony charge punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. The law does not specify the medical procedure used to determine fetal heartbeat. Fetal heartbeats are generally detectable six weeks into a pregnancy using a highly invasive procedure called transvaginal ultrasound (and at 10-12 weeks using an abdominal ultrasound, where a probe is moved over the outside of the abdomen). The New York Times reported that according to the executive director of the only abortion clinic left in North Dakota, “physicians would feel compelled to perform transvaginal ultrasound to stay in compliance [with the fetal heartbeat law].” (March 26, 2013)
The second law signed by Dalrymple requires doctors performing abortions to get admitting privileges at a local hospital. This law has nothing to do with protecting the health and safety of women who need abortions. In fact, the backers of this law explicitly intended that this measure will make it much more difficult for North Dakota’s only remaining abortion clinic, the Red River Women’s Clinic in Fargo, to have qualified physicians on staff—very possibly forcing the shutdown of the clinic. Also signed into law was a bill that bars abortions for reasons of sex selection or genetic fetal anomaly, such as Down syndrome—the first law of its kind in the U.S.
These laws are part of an overall offensive against the basic and fundamental right of women to decide when and whether to bear a child. This offensive is spearheaded by Christian fascists and powerful forces in the ruling structure who portray abortion as murder—while the Democrats push the view that abortion should be “legal but rare,” which means conciliating with and conceding more ground to the Christian fascist attacks on abortion.
Let’s be clear on a basic scientific fact—a fetus is NOT a viable human being but a subordinate part of a woman’s body, and abortion is NOT murder. Fetuses have the potential to become babies, but until they are born they have no independent social or biological existence. Whether or not a fetal heartbeat is “detectable” has nothing to do with this fact. There is nothing immoral about terminating unwanted pregnancies, for any reason. A woman who does not want to continue her pregnancy for whatever reason should have the right and ability to end it, safely, easily, and without any stigma. An abortion is not “tragic”—on the contrary, the real tragedy lies in the lives of women that are foreclosed and endangered by being forced to continue an unwanted pregnancy.
A revealing fact about the forces behind the attack on abortion is that not a single anti-abortion organization supports birth control. This exposes the real agenda of the Christian fascists—imposing a totally reactionary “women as breeders” morality. And this underscores what is at stake in the fight over the right to abortion: A woman who cannot decide for herself when and whether to have a child has no more freedom than a slave.
These new North Dakota laws are expected to be challenged in the courts. But any notion that relying on the courts—and on Obama and the Democrats—is the way to beat back these attacks and defend the right to abortion is dangerously out of touch with reality.
The Obama years have seen the highest number of state abortion restrictions ever—92 in 2011 and 43 last year. And just three months into this year, about 300 anti-abortion measures have already been introduced in state legislatures. The three laws signed by the North Dakota governor come just a few weeks after Arkansas adopted a “fetal heartbeat” law banning abortions at 12 weeks into a pregnancy, which was then the most severe anti-abortion measure in the country. Similar “fetal heartbeat” laws are being pushed in the state legislatures in Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio, and Wyoming.
And the North Dakota legislature has passed a measure putting a so-called “personhood” measure on the state ballot in 2014, giving each fertilized human egg the rights of a U.S. citizen. If approved, this would effectively ban all abortions—without any exception for rape, incest, or danger to the health of the woman—as well as some forms of birth control.
The laws at the state level are just one front of an all-sided attack by the anti-abortion forces. All over the country, clinics have been bombed, set on fire, and vandalized. Women who go into clinics are verbally harassed and often physically assaulted by the fanatics who blockade clinics with their “vigils.” More than one in four poor women who seek abortions cannot afford one, and 97 percent of rural counties do not have even a single abortion provider.
As all this goes on, Obama has not only refused to stand for the basic and fundamental right of abortion but has insisted on seeking “common ground” with the most rabid anti-abortion Christian fascists.
As Sunsara Taylor wrote on the occasion of the 40-year anniversary of Roe v. Wade in January of this year: “If we do not reverse this trajectory soon—very soon—we will lose this right and condemn future generations of women and girls to FORCED motherhood, against their wills, and to lives of open enslavement, terror, and life-crushing shame.
“And the only way to do that is through massive, uncompromising resistance—beginning now...”
Women are not incubators... Fetuses are not babies... Abortion is not murder... Abortion on demand and without apology!
Revolution #300 April 7, 2013
April 7, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
George Zimmerman murdered 17-year-old Trayvon Martin on February 26, 2012. The tens of thousands who protested in the streets against this murder knew that Trayvon Martin was stalked and killed in cold blood because George Zimmerman considered a Black youth wearing a hoodie automatically “suspicious.” But Zimmerman denies he’s a racist.
Robert Zimmerman Jr., George Zimmerman’s brother has played a very active role in the public defense of George. On March 21, he tweeted side-by-side pictures of Trayvon Martin and another Black 17-year-old who has no connection whatsoever to Trayvon Martin but who allegedly shot a one-year-old baby during a botched robbery in March 2013. The post then says: “A picture speaks a thousand words. Any questions?”
Then, in another tweet, Robert Zimmerman says: "Lib media shld ask if what these2 black teens did 2 a woman&baby is the reason ppl think blacks mightB risky."
So according to Robert Zimmerman, Trayvon, and apparently every other Black youth, is somehow to blame for the alleged crimes of another Black youth two years after Trayvon was killed. And ALL Black youth are to be considered “risky.” No, no racism there!
Revolution #300 April 7, 2013
April 7, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From a reader in California:
In BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!, Bob Avakian talks about "two of the most hurtful words in the English language these days—'justifiable homicide'" and how murders by the police and other enforcers of this system are regularly and routinely approved and excused.
Check out the news from this past week:
First, the Pasadena, California, police department issues its internal report on March 21, clearing its officers of any wrongdoing in last year's murder of Kendrec McDade. Police said they'd received a report of an armed robbery at a taco truck. McDade, a 19-year-old Black college student, and a friend of his allegedly fled when the cops rolled up. One cop in a police cruiser fired at least four shots out the open window after he said McDade "reached for his waistband." Reports said the cop fired on him from less than a foot away. A second cop fired four more shots.
McDade was hit a total of seven times, as many as four of them in the back, then was handcuffed while he was still alive and left to die without receiving first aid. His family's attorney said the trajectory of the bullets indicated he'd been shot while either falling or already on the ground. And guess what? The "gun" McDade supposedly was reaching for turned out to be a cell phone he was carrying in the front of his sweatpants.
To compound the outrage, Pasadena police announced the findings that clear the officers on the first anniversary of Kendrec McDade's murder.
Second, one of the local radio stations runs a story on suicides in the California state prison system. The reporter talks about how an average of 31 prisoners a year have killed themselves in the state's prisons over the past decade and a half. A prison-rights attorney exposes how prisoners who are feared suicidal and are waiting for a psychiatric assessment are stripped to their boxers, then stuck in a holding cell the size of a telephone booth. The reporter talks about the increase in lockdowns and long-term segregation and what that does to a prisoner's sense of hopelessness—she gives an example of a severely depressed prisoner who was sent to the acute-care facility in one prison, was accused of "malingering" by prison staff and kicked out, and within three hours he'd hanged himself.
The story itself is almost too much to bear: Prisoners confined in conditions that drive them to want to end their lives just to finally be free of the brutality of their surroundings, many of them already diagnosed with mental illness and getting little or no compassionate treatment. More than 30 people a year ending their own lives because they see it as their only means of escape. But then the reporter provides the kicker:
Former chief prison psychiatrist Alan Abrams justifies the suicides by saying, "You know, people finally understanding that they're going to spend the rest of their lives in prison, who's to say that it isn't an acceptable solution to a failed life?"
Outrageous! And completely unjustified!
If anyone is still in need of a reason why this horrendous and heartless system needs to be done away with through revolution, they just got two more.
Revolution #300 April 7, 2013
Post-Conviction Relief Petition Filed
March 31, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The Ad Hoc Committee for Reason has issued the following statement about important new developments in the fight to oppose and overturn the wrongful conviction of Gregory Koger. We urge readers to join in this battle (See "What You Can Do" below) and visit the committee's website often for updates. For an in-depth statement by Gregory Koger, see "What This System Does to the People of the World Is Criminal—Dedicating Your Life to Emancipating Humanity Is Not," Revolution, November 18, 2012.
For the last three-and-a-half years, Gregory Koger has been fighting a vindictive political prosecution, an outrageous conviction, and an over-the-top 300 day jail sentence. Why? He peacefully videotaped a statement against censorship at a public meeting of the "Ethical Humanist" Society of Chicago (EHSC) on Sunday, November 1, 2009. The Illinois Appellate Court affirmed his conviction without addressing the serious legal issues involved, and the Illinois Supreme Court refused to hear his appeal.
Gregory and his legal team are now filing a Post-Conviction Relief Petition to overturn his wrongful conviction. This Petition exposes the lies at the heart of the false charges against him and provides documentary evidence (suppressed by the judge at trial) of the perjured testimony and prosecutorial misconduct that laid the basis for his conviction—and demands that his wrongful conviction be overturned.
Gregory's prosecution was based upon false claims that he was trespassing and violent at the EHSC. These claims were made by key figures within the EHSC, and falsely corroborated by the Skokie police. Some of their claims were actually audio recorded, and some were published and distributed prior to Gregory's trial.
Just weeks after Gregory's arrest, which was quite brutal, the ex-president of the EHSC, who was a complaining witness at the trial, issued a public statement, which was published on several humanist websites, giving his account of what he claimed had taken place. He also gave an account of the incident at a recorded meeting of the EHSC board on November 18, 2009. Another EHSC board member also spoke at the board meeting, propping up the president's version of events. Their accounts are also included in the official police report and charging documents, and the Skokie police officer who arrested Gregory claimed he witnessed what they said. These documents formed the basis of Gregory's prosecution.
None of these claims were true! The video that Gregory recorded on the morning of November 1 proves that the claims of the EHSC and Skokie police were totally false. The day before trial, Gregory's lawyer gave the video to the Cook County State's Attorney, as evidence. Instead of dropping the charges, now that the claims of the State witnesses had been shown to be lies, the State's Attorney met with the EHSC and Skokie police witnesses to completely change their stories.
On the first day of trial, the State's Attorney rewrote the charges against Gregory, with the help of the presiding judge. As the trial went forward, the judge—who knew the witnesses had previously given completely different accounts in the Skokie police report of the events on November 1—prevented Gregory's lawyer from presenting this fact to the jury. In addition to the police report, Gregory's legal team also had audio recordings of the State's witnesses telling different stories than they gave at trial. The judge also prevented the jury from hearing this evidence. Gregory was convicted and sentenced to 300 days in jail, based on the false accounts given during sworn testimony by members of the EHSC and Skokie police.
Many people who hear about this case say: "There must be something more to this story..."—and there is:
In his youth, Gregory spent years in solitary confinement while in prison. He transformed himself and has dedicated his life since his release to opposing injustice and struggling for a liberated world for all humanity. But the State's Attorney and judge held his former prison record against him and treated him with contempt, and the judge gave him a 300 day sentence that is unusually high for non-violent misdemeanor violations.
Gregory's experience is not unique—2.4 million people, mostly Black and Latino, are imprisoned under a New Jim Crow system of injustice. Tens of thousands are held in conditions of solitary confinement that amount to torture under international law. Millions more are denied basic human rights after they are released from prison and have supposedly "served their time." Former prisoners who step forward to challenge the injustices of this society and inspire others to do the same must not be allowed to face political repression.
Before trial Gregory stated, "Now my life is dedicated to the struggle to end all exploitation and oppression and getting to a world where people contribute what they can to society and get back what they need to live a life worthy of human beings." This is the person the judge condemned as a menace to society and sentenced to 300 days in jail. Gregory Koger should be celebrated, not sent to jail! He needs to be out here in society continuing the fight to bring this new world into being, and his wrongful conviction must be overturned.
Now is the time for all people of conscience to put the court and the powers-that-be on notice that there are thousands of people supporting Gregory across the country who demand "Overturn the Wrongful Conviction of Gregory Koger" and "Not one more day in jail for Gregory."
Revolution #300 April 7, 2013
April 3, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Revolution received the following contribution from a reader who has been in involved in building support for the prisoner hunger strikes in California against the inhumane torture conditions of solitary confinement:
Prisoners at the Pelican Bay State Prison (PBSP) Security Housing Unit (SHU) who were catalytic in the 2011 hunger strikes to stop long-term solitary confinement have announced they plan a new hunger strike (and work stoppage) in July 2013.
According to letters from the prisoners, PBSP prisoners plan to set a deadline for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR)—that if their demands are not met they will go on a hunger strike, starting July 08, 2013. These prisoners at Pelican Bay are encouraging all prisoners in the U.S. to take part. According to the PBSP prisoners, this is being envisioned as an historic moment and juncture where all prisoners in the U.S. can put forward their own demands to end prison abuse and torture.
These PBSP prisoners are about to draw a line in the sand and set a deadline for CDCR to adhere to their promise to change their torture policies—promises which formed the basis for the 2011 hunger strikes to be "temporarily suspended."
In addition, on March 14, U.S. District Court Judge Claudia Wilken denied a motion by the State of California to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) against long-term solitary confinement in the California prison system, specifically Pelican Bay State Prison. This lawsuit argues that California's long-term segregation and isolation of "gang validated" prisoners in Security Housing Units constitutes "cruel and unusual punishment" and is also in violation of prisoners' due process rights.
It is significant that Judge Wilken's legal decision, in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, rejected the State of California's efforts to have the legal suit dismissed based on supposed positive "reforms" the State of California claims to have formulated and begun to implement in the aftermath of the 2011 CA prisoner hunger strikes.
The CCR lawsuit, known as Ruiz v. Brown, is a federal class action lawsuit challenging the inhumane unconstitutional conditions under which thousands of prisoners in super maximum prisons live. Pelican Bay is known as one of the harshest "super maximum" prisons in the country, and is one of four Security Housing Units operated by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR).
Solitary confinement is a form of torture. International human rights organizations and bodies have condemned it, and the devastating psychological and physical effects have been well documented by medical and psychological experts. Yet consider this: today, tens of thousands of individuals are detained inside cramped, concrete, windowless cells in near total isolation for between 22 and 24 hours a day in U.S. prisons, with no human contact, no chance to feel the sun, to see the moon and stars, or to breathe fresh air.
Prolonged solitary confinement is a tool of repression. In Pelican Bay State Prison alone, more than 500 SHU prisoners have been isolated under these devastating conditions for over 10 years; more than 200 for over 15 years, and 78 have been isolated in the SHU for more than 20 years. In California alone, at least 11,730 people are housed in some form of isolation, over 3,000 in high security isolation SHU units. Yet solitary confinement for as little as 15 days is now widely recognized to cause lasting psychological damage to human beings and is analyzed under international law as torture. And as Ruiz v Brown points out, placement in the SHU is not part of an individual's court ordered sentence. It's an administrative act on the part of the prison authorities—simply based on a prisoner's alleged association with a prison gang. And the only way out of SHU isolation is to "debrief"—to inform on other prisoners (become a state informant)... after being tortured for weeks, months, years, and sometimes decades.
SHU prisoners at Pelican Bay initiated two hunger strikes in 2011. They developed "5 Core Demands" that zeroed in on the demands to abolish the "debriefing" process and to end conditions of isolation and long-term solitary confinement. The "5 Core Demands" also included demands to end group punishment, provide adequate and nutritious food and to expand and provide constructive programs and privileges for indefinite SHU prisoners.
On July 1, 2011, prisoners in "PBSP-SHU D-Facility Corridor Isolation Unit" began an indefinite hunger strike. 6,600 prisoners joined, from many California prisons, and that hunger strike action lasted 20 days. Then, for 18 days in September/October 2011, 12,000 prisoners from throughout the California prison system participated in the hunger strike to stop torture in the SHUs and the "gang validation" process that lands prisoners in the SHU.
This "gang validation" process means prisoners are put in isolation cells long term, even forever, based on so-called "gang-activity intelligence" that comes in innumerable and limitless forms—for tattoos, poetry booklets, artwork (including popular symbols used in Latino Culture, such as a Huelga bird, the symbol of the United Farm Workers), hand signs or using such words a tío or hermano (Spanish for uncle and brother), possession of Machiavelli's The Prince, notebooks that contain writings on such things as rebel slave Nat Turner or Malcolm X or Black Panther George Jackson, revolutionary and radical literature including newspapers that expose solitary confinement and write about prisoner rights, anonymous snitching (debriefing) etc.—versus being found guilty of actually committing violations that according to prison rules send you to special security housing. And the decision about who gets put in the SHU indefinitely often comes down to a single individual's decision, the Institutional Gang Investigator at the prison. There is no due process, which is the legal requirement that the state, and in this case the prison, must respect the legal rights that are owed to a person, including prisoners.
These 2011 hunger strikes were extraordinary developments in recent U.S. history. Not since the Attica Prison Rebellion of 1971, after the murder of George Jackson at San Quentin Prison, had the U.S. seen a prison hunger strike this long and widespread. Major U.S. media and liberal imperialist ruling class forces began to pay attention and to even speak out against long-term solitary confinement in U.S. prisons during the hunger strike.
The 2011 hunger strike shined a spotlight on how the U.S. systematically tortures thousands of prisoners and ruling class forces and the liberal imperialist media have tried to do damage control: to provide an illusory road and an outlet for people's justified outrage, and in the case of the liberal imperialist media for that venue to act as a place where struggle amongst the bourgeoisie is being battled out. It should not be forgotten that these forces had been effectively silent about this torture for years and decades, and even during the 2011 hunger strikes significantly underreported the story given its unprecedented character and objective significance.
The New York Times printed Op-Ed articles during the 2011 hunger strikes, and has continued to publish editorials and articles since, about the abuse, inhumanity, and effects of solitary confinement. On March 23 this year, for example, the New York Times printed an article describing how 300 immigrants are held in solitary confinement at the 50 largest detention facilities in the U.S., and that most of the immigrants isolated are targets of retaliation by guards. The New York Times article describes that "the United States has come under sharp criticism at home and abroad for relying on solitary confinement in its prisons more than any other democratic nation in the world." Here is revealed serious concern about the contradiction bound up with the "appearance and essence" of this country: the so-called appearance—the "democratic" U.S.A—essentially and systematically torturing tens of thousands of prisoners (at least 80,000 across the U.S).
In essence the U.S.A is a dictatorship, and this can be seen when you examine up close the mass incarceration and prison torture regime this system has put into place. The state and system this ruling class leads, directs, and rules over society with, has a monopoly of political power, concentrated as a monopoly of "legitimate" armed force and violence—violence and force this ruling class uses, with a vengeance. Now, institutions of the U.S.'s so-called "legitimate" use of force and violence—its sprawling prison system and super-max high-tech torture chambers—are threatened with being "de-legitimized"—if not fully, in some real and essential ways—in the eyes of certain sections of this society, and internationally, and the California prisoner hunger strikers and their courageous actions have contributed to that.
Not only major media, such as the Los Angeles Times, which has written in the past year about the escalating problem of suicides in prisons, especially of prisoners in segregation units, but the "first-ever" U.S. Congressional Hearings on Solitary Confinement were held in 2012. These Senate Sub-Committee Hearings (led by Democrat Dick Durbin) were in June 2012, underscoring how the hunger strike "got the attention of" and "stung" the bourgeoisie in this country and a certain section of this ruling class could not continue to push torture under the rug but instead brought forward an outlet to promote the illusion that a section of the ruling powers cared about this torture and that they could be relied upon to change this outrageous reality. Such ruling class forces cannot be relied upon to change this situation. Instead, mass and massive societal-wide resistance and struggle must be the leading edge, taking the reality of this torture to ever broader sections of society, with an objective of "re-polarizing" the social terrain so that millions and tens of millions change their views and come to stand with, and act to support, the just demands of the prisoners.
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture (a Rapporteur is a person who compiles and presents reports to a governing body) is currently working on complaints from California as per the protocols of his office, conducting an investigation, talking to California authorities, in response to charges of torture and cruel and degrading and inhumane treatment. He has a mandate to publish findings. Nevertheless, at a UN Prisoners Rights meeting in Buenos Aires in late 2012 the U.S. continued to defend its use of long-term solitary confinement and rejected every proposal to limit solitary confinement (to 15-30 days) and to ban it for juveniles, pregnant women, and those with mental illness.
Also, during this period since the 2011 hunger strikes, numerous progressive human rights, legal, faith-based, and political organizations have kept the pressure on and carried out intense work to expose and stop long-term solitary confinement, as have many families with loved ones in the segregation units (SHUs and Administrative Segregation). For example, the ACLU and National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) have launched and seriously persisted in campaigns to end solitary confinement. In late September 2012, Amnesty International released "The Edge of Endurance: Prison Conditions in California's Security Housing Units" based on exclusive access they gained to PBSP and other prisons with SHUs after the hunger strike. This is a major report and part of an overall Amnesty International campaign. This report was accompanied by significant national and international publicity. Progressive media, one outstanding example is Shane Bauer's Mother Jones article in the November/December 2012 issue (a rather extraordinary account "Solitary in Iran Nearly Broke Me. Then I Went Inside America's Prisons"), have also entered the fray and Shane Bauer's investigative report in particular should be read by many more people.
In the face of mounting, if still beginning, national exposure of their isolation cells, in October 2011 PBSP and CDCR officials agreed to change their long term segregation policies and the Pelican Bay prisoners "temporarily suspended" their hunger strike.
In March 2012 the CDCR brought forward a version of their policy changes and "reforms" for the SHU and "gang validation"—the key issues at hand. However, this "Security Threat Group Prevention, Identification and Management Strategy" (STG) policy blueprint not only did not end prolonged solitary confinement... it expands the use of SHU isolation to include numerous "gangs" (who previously had not been target of SHU placement) and targets politically radical and revolutionary forces and individuals!
In response to numerous counter-proposals by the PBSP "Short Corridor Collective" to the CDCR and "Open Letters" to California Governor Brown to this "STG" paper, the most recent version of this CDCR STG paper not only hardens the CDCR position, but the CDCR has begun to "modify operations" on a "pilot basis"—in other words the CDCR has begun to implement this new STG paper and are "reviving gang validation." This flies in the face of agreements made between PBSP and CDCR officials and PBSP prisoner representatives who "temporarily suspended" their hunger strike based on these agreements!
Significantly, in August 2012, 15 PBSP SHU prisoners—including the "Short Corridor Collective" and a representative body of 12 other SHU prisoners who had participated in the hunger strike, wrote, signed and released an "Agreement to End Hostilities" among racial groups, to start October 10. 2012. This "Agreement to End Hostilities" was mutually agreed upon on behalf of all racial groups in the PBSP-SHU Corridor. It reads, in part "...If we really want to bring about substantive meaningful changes to the CDCR system in a manner beneficial to all solid individuals, who have never been broken by CDCR's torture tactics intended to coerce one to become a state informant via debriefing, now is the time for us to collectively seize this moment in time, and put an end to more than 20-30 years of hostilities between our racial groups...." (See Full Agreement Below.) This agreement is of major import in its own right, it needs to spread throughout society, and it is also a precursor to the new calls for a hunger strike, to start July 8, 2013, if the CDCR does not live up to the agreement it made with the prisoners when they "temporarily suspended" their 2011 hunger strike.
An original "Formal Complaint" filed pro se by two PBSP SHU prisoners (pro se means advocating on one's own behalf before a court rather than being represented by a lawyer) led into the California prisoner hunger strike in 2011. It is this "Formal Complaint" that has effectively been taken over and amended by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) in May 2012. This is the class action lawsuit Ruiz v. Brown that was ruled on in Federal District Court in California on March 14, 2013. The CDCR's "pilot program" of "reform" continues to allow for prisoners to be confined in extreme isolation for decades, and even expands their plans for SHU torture, yet this is what the CDCR advanced and cited as grounds for dismissing the case! Again, it is noteworthy that Judge Wilken denied the CDCR's motion to dismiss this lawsuit on these grounds.
It must be said: these truly heroic acts of resistance by these prisoners have occurred under extraordinarily difficult circumstances and if PBSP prisoners choose to—if they are forced to—initiate another hunger strike because of both the duplicitous acts of PBSP authorities and CDCR and State of California officials, and because of continued, and even intensified, repressive state torture and state violence targeting these prisoners and others similar situated, the responsibility for these prisoners' very lives and health, and the blame if anything happens to them, must be placed squarely at the feet of these state authorities.
Torture is unequivocally unacceptable, no matter what labels are put on these prisoners, and the prisoners' demands are just, reasonable, and as urgent as ever. Now, more than ever, we have a moral responsibility to act in a way that corresponds with the justness of these prisoners' demands and in a way commensurate with what is truly at stake. A determined and bold movement of resistance to demand an end to torture in the SHUs must grow up and rise to new heights. In this next period ever greater numbers of people and much broader sections of society need to support these prisoners and do everything in our power to see this battle all the way through, to demand this system STOP torturing these prisoners and honor their core demands. If waging such implacable struggle takes you to a place that challenges your cherished beliefs about the way the U.S. is "supposed" to be (but in fact is not), don't turn back but get into the actual problem and solution even more deeply... and don't turn back. Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution.
For information on the lawsuit Ruiz v. Brown and a Solitary Confinement Fact Sheet go to the Center for Constitutional Rights: ccrjustice.org/solitary-factsheet
The "Agreement to End Hostilities" from the Pelican Bay State Prison Security Housing Unit Short Corridor Hunger Strike Representatives can be found at: http://prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.files.wordpress.com/2012/10/agreement.pdf
Mother Jones's magazine feature of Shane Bauer's "No Way Out—A Special Report on Solitary Confinement from Former Hostage Shane Bauer" which includes not only Bauer's "Solitary in Iran Nearly Broke Me. Then I Went Inside America's Prisons" but a video and a guided tour of a seven-by-eleven foot space where prisoners spend 23 hours a day, can be found at: http://www.motherjones.com/special-reports/2012/10/solitary-confinement-shane-bauer.
Revolution #300 April 7, 2013
April 7, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The Catholic Church has a new pope. He’s being branded as the “fresh face” for a church in crisis. A fresh face, that is, for dark-ages (im)morality. The new pope, like the rest of the church hierarchy, demands women serve as forced baby-breeders. He is not only against abortion but all forms of birth control. And this “fresh face” on Catholicism calls gay marriage the work of the devil.
As the first pope from Latin America, Pope Francis calls himself and is being celebrated (by oppressors worldwide) as the protector of “the whole of humanity, especially the poorest, the weakest.”
Better said: this new pope is an apologist and a collaborator with the most brutal oppressors of the overwhelming majority of humanity, “especially the poorest, the weakest.”
For seven years, when the new pope—then called Jorge Mario Bergoglio—was the highest ranking Jesuit in Argentina, a brutal fascist military junta ruled the country. From 1976 to 1983, that regime waged “La Guerra Sucia” (the Dirty War)—unchecked and vicious state terrorism against suspected left-wing guerrillas, dissidents, trade unionists, students, journalists, and radicals. The junta kidnapped and murdered some 30,000 people. In true Catholic tradition of “not killing unborn children,” pregnant women who were kidnapped by this junta during this time were kept alive until their babies were born, then the mothers were murdered—sometimes thrown from airplanes—and the newborns were given to military officials and other supporters of the regime. This bloody terror served U.S. imperialist interests, along with other fascist regimes, in eliminating challenges to their power in Latin America.
This new pope could have spoken out against these crimes, but he turned his back on the masses under attack. Beyond shameful passive complicity, he publicly rubbed elbows with the junta’s main leader, General Videla. The Catholic Church played a critical role in that regime being seen as legitimate, and its ability to imprison and torture people, including dissident priests who committed the “crime” of serving the poor.
The Madres de la Plaza de Mayo, mothers of many of those disappeared, began protests in 1977 in front of the government palace, calling international attention to the lives that were being stolen. The murals of photos of the “disappeared” continue to be a massive indictment of the real history this new pope was complicit in.
This pope will forever be stained with the blood of these 30,000 people. These are his actual robes, and a major part of his qualifications as the new pope. He really is a fitting successor to this throne that Benedict just left.