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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 #301 April 14, 2013
Updated April 10, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Over the past several weeks, longstanding tensions on the Korean peninsula have intensified. U.S. diplomats, news media, and political leaders have portrayed the small, impoverished nation of North Korea (formally the Democratic People's Republic of Korea) as a belligerent bully, a threat to its neighbors, and a nuclear-armed threat to world peace.
The escalating threats and provocations, and the precarious situation on the border between North and South Korea and the whole tense situation has the potential to break out into a major war, with terrible consequences for the people in both countries, and beyond.
The U.S. claims to be the protector of peace, nuclear disarmament, and sanity. Of economic progress and democracy. To be protectors of the interests of the people of the world.
North Korea is an oppressive, repressive society. But as a source of oppression, repression, and violence in the world, as a nuclear danger to humanity, its impact is microscopic compared to that of the United States.
Over the past 60+ years, the underlying factors driving conflict between the U.S. and North Korea have changed radically. But consistent throughout has been the compulsion on the part of the U.S. to dominate the world, and to impose and enforce a global system of sweatshops, slums, and oppression of every kind. Throughout all this, U.S. moves against North Korea have been those of a global bully dealing with challenges to its domination.
The emergence of North and South Korea—two countries out of what had been a single nation for hundreds of years—was a product of tremendous changes in the world in the aftermath of World War 2.
A mad scramble ensued on the part of imperial powers to regroup and dig their fangs more deeply into the people of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Overseeing all this, and running the show, U.S. imperialism emerged as the "capo de tutti capi,"—the top godfather—in international capitalism-imperialism.
The other big change was the emergence of a socialist camp. One-third of humanity, in the Soviet Union and China, posed a powerful, living alternative to capitalism, based on the interests of humanity, not capitalist exploitation (See "Everything You've Been Told About Communism Is Wrong: Capitalism Is a Failure, Revolution Is the Solution."). Around the world, radical, revolutionary and nationalist forces in oppressed nations aligned with, and were supported in their struggles for liberation by that socialist camp.
Both of these big changes, but especially the clash between imperialism and socialism set the stage for the Korean War.
The Japanese imperialists colonized Korea in 1910. They banned the teaching of the Korean language in schools, forced Koreans to take Japanese names, and forced them to practice the Japanese Shinto religion. During World War 2, they forced 200,000 Korean women to be sex slaves for their military.
The Japanese empire was defeated in World War 2 by the combined forces of China and the Soviet Union—which worked together with nationalist resistance fighters throughout Asia —and by the U.S. and other imperialists. The U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Japan, massacring hundreds of thousands of civilians. When Japanese authority in Korea collapsed, the country was divided between a zone occupied by the Soviet Union in the north and the U.S. in the south.
This was supposed to be a temporary division pending country-wide elections to establish a unified regime. But reunification elections never happened. The U.S. feared elections would put nationalist or communist resistance forces allied with the Soviet Union and China in power. Instead, the U.S. built up a separate regime in South Korea, and made the division of the country a fact on the ground. The U.S. put "strongman" Syngman Rhee in power and imposed intense repression, mass arrests, and massacres of nationalists, radicals, communists, and others.
In 1950, North Korean military forces moved south to come to the aid of uprisings in the south, with the aim of re-unifying the country. North Korean troops advanced rapidly into South Korea.
The U.S. struck back with a vengeance.
The U.S. orchestrated a United Nations resolution opposing North Korea, and under that banner sent hundreds of thousands of troops into South Korea. UN-sanctioned joint U.S.-South Korean armed forces were directly commanded by U.S. General MacArthur, and the U.S. also provided 88 percent of the 342,000 "international" soldiers.
The U.S. unleashed incredible devastation. It conducted carpet-bombing of North Korea, dropping more bombs on this one small country than had been used in the entire Pacific Theater during World War 2. Every building higher than one story was destroyed; U.S. General William Dean reported that most of the North Korean cities and villages that he saw were either rubble or snow covered wastelands.
U.S.-led forces drove deep into North Korea toward China. At that point, the People's Republic of China intervened in the war. This was a major sacrifice for the Chinese people, who had just seized nationwide political power and were only beginning the revolutionary transformation of a society wracked by mass poverty, starvation, and backwardness. U.S. forces were driven back across the 38th parallel (roughly the middle of Korea, between what today are North and South Korea).
Throughout the war, the U.S. repeatedly made plans to use nuclear weapons against the North Korean and Chinese forces. General MacArthur, who was not only a general but a major political figure in the U.S. ruling class, demanded authority to invade China and attack it with nuclear weapons. Other forces in the U.S. ruling class felt this it would be too risky. In a tense showdown within the U.S. ruling class, President Truman fired MacArthur, and ultimately the nuclear attack was called off—but the U.S. came very close to launching it.
The war killed millions of Koreans—estimates range from three to five million, overwhelmingly civilians, with a large majority of those killed in the North. Devastation was everywhere, but the North was literally reduced to rubble.
An armistice was signed in 1953, ending hostilities, though no actual peace treaty ending the formal state of war has ever been signed. Korea ever since has been divided into North and South.
On the part of the U.S., the Korean War was a move to consolidate its domination of South Korea, to seize control of the North, and move against communist and nationalist forces in Asia. The U.S. was not able to accomplish those objectives in the Korean War. But after the war, it moved to build up South Korea as a political, economic, and military base from which it could face off against China, and impose its interests in the region.
Three major global geopolitical conflicts have set the stage for the conflict between the U.S. and North Korea. The first was the clash between the socialist camp and the world revolution on the one hand, and imperialism on the other.
In the mid-1950s, that changed. Forces in the Soviet Union reversed the revolution and restored capitalism. North Korea, which had been aligned with the world revolution but had never been a socialist country, was integrated into the Soviet social-imperialist realm.
And shortly after the death of Mao Tsetung in 1976, capitalist forces within the leadership of the Communist Party of China staged a reactionary coup and brought back capitalism, even as they retain a thin pretense of being communists to the present day. The loss of China was a terrible blow to the people of the world. With that loss, the contradiction between socialist countries and imperialism was no longer an element of global geopolitics.
From the late-1950s until the early 1970s, the global conflict between imperialism, led by U.S. imperialism, and national liberation struggles in Asia, Africa, and Latin America against imperialism mainly defined the world stage. From the mid-1970s until the collapse of the Soviet-led imperialist bloc (1989-1991), the conflict between the imperialist bloc headed by the U.S., and the imperialist bloc headed by the Soviet Union, mainly set the terms for other conflicts in the world. During that era, the Cold War, the border between North and South Korea remained a tripwire, but now between two reactionary forces. The rulers of North Korea aligned with the Soviets, relied on Soviet economic aid to prop up their economy, and in return served a useful role for the Soviet Union in global contention with the U.S.
The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 pulled the rug out from under the North Korean rulers. It left them without a global big-power sponsor. This created a desperate situation in a country whose economy was dependent on its integration into the former Soviet Union's camp.
In this context, the U.S. engaged, to some degree, in carrot and (mostly) stick pressure on North Korea. Long standing sanctions that contributed to hunger and lack of medical care in North Korea were tightened, and sometimes slightly loosened. For their part, the North Korean rulers used their nuclear program and nascent nuclear weapons capacity as a bargaining chip for aid and an end to sanctions.
In the period after the collapse of the Soviet Union, new and unprecedented challenges emerged as obstacles to the U.S.'s role as the world's sole superpower. Among them: Islamic fundamentalist Jihadis along with the rise of regional and big-power rivals to U.S. dominance. An in-depth analysis of the impact of tensions between the U.S. and China on U.S. moves against North Korea is beyond the scope of this article, but is a significant element in this picture.
U.S. moves against North Korea intensified with George W. Bush's 2002 State of the Union address. Framed by continuous references to revenge for 9/11, Bush put Iraq, Iran, and North Korea on the "axis of evil" list. Of course none of those countries had anything to do with 9/11, but the consequences of being put on the list were, and remain, ominous.
In the context of the range of new challenges they face, the rulers of the U.S. find North Korea's small nuclear weapons capacity unacceptable. That technology is not under U.S. command or control, and there is potential for that technology to be exported to other countries and forces that the U.S. sees as serious threats. For their part, the North Korean ruling class sees their nuclear capacity as one of their few bargaining chips. The more the U.S. strangles North Korea economically and intensifies military pressure, the more North Korea's rulers are driven to build up their nuclear weapons capacity.
While underlying global forces have shifted over the past 60+ years, U.S. economic and military pressure on North Korea has been non-stop.
The U.S. built up South Korea and continues to maintain that country as a strategic outpost for its interests. From 1953-1974, South Korea received $4 billion in direct U.S. aid—accounting for 60 percent of all investment in South Korea—along with many other forms of indirect aid such as discounted loans. All this was presided over by U.S.-puppet "strongman" rulers. When Syngman Rhee was driven from the country in 1960 by massive protests, the U.S. replaced him with Park Chung-hee who ruled as an unelected fascist dictator for almost two decades (Park's daughter, Park Geun-hye, is the current president of South Korea).
Both North and South Korea are highly militarized societies. The North Korean army is the fifth largest in the world, with more than a million soldiers and millions of reservists. The South Korean army as well has been built up into one of the largest armed forces in the world, consisting of nearly 700,000 active duty soldiers, 4.5 million reservists, and more modern weapons, training, and capacity than North Korean troops.
Today, nearly 30,000 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea. U.S. naval and air power, including nuclear weapons, are "on call" to move against the North. These forces have regularly conducted joint "war games," including recent ones where U.S. and South Korean forces practiced invading and occupying North Korean territory.
Along with military threats, the U.S. has imposed economic sanctions against North Korea since 1950. Those sanctions isolated North Korea economically and cut off much world trade. And the U.S. orchestrated UN–imposed economic sanctions on North Korea starting in 2006.
The U.S. claims such sanctions are targeted at North Korea's ruling elite. But the history of these kinds of sanctions has been one of massive disease, suffering, famine, and death throughout society, with the worst impact on the poorest people. North Korea was devastated by successive years of floods and droughts in from 1994 to 1998. Estimates of famine deaths are hard to verify, but range from hundreds of thousands to over two million.
Although some of the trade sanctions against North Korea were lifted during the 1990s, those currently in place cripple North Korea's attempt to recover from an ongoing public health crisis that resulted from the floods and droughts in the 1990s. (See "Economic Sanctions Towards North Korea: A violation of the right to health and a call to action," British Medical Journal, BMJ 2009;339:b4069)
The U.S. justifies its moves against North Korea by invoking that country's threats to use nuclear weapons if it is attacked.
Who's talking about nuclear threats?!
Until 1991 the U.S. directly stationed nuclear weapons in South Korea—aimed at the North. For that entire time, North Koreans lived under the constant threat of a U.S. nuclear attack. Since 1991, the U.S. and South Korea claim there are no U.S. nukes stationed in South Korea, but in 2010, more than two years before the current crisis, South Korea's Defense Minister hinted publicly that there was a possibility that U.S. nukes would be re-deployed on South Korean territory.
And again, these ongoing threats of nuclear attack were coming from a country that had bombed every inch of North Korea into rubble in the Korean War.
While the U.S. does not currently have nuclear weapons stationed in South Korea, the U.S. has the capacity to strike anywhere in the world with nuclear weapons, millions of times more destructive than anything North Korea could possible develop. And the U.S. holds the whole world, including North Korea, as nuclear hostages. (See "Who's the Real Nuclear Threat?")
U.S. sanctions and threats against North Korea have nothing to do with peace, nuclear disarmament, or any of their other claims. North Korea is an oppressive society, not a model for positive or radical change. But as a source of exploitation and oppression, wars to enforce that, and in terms of posing a nuclear threat to the people of the world, it cannot hold a candle to the suffering and violence the United States imposes on the people of this planet.
U.S. moves against North Korea must be opposed most fundamentally because they are all about the USA enforcing its "right" to be an unchallenged global bully. We must oppose U.S. moves against North Korea. The interests of the U.S. imperialists are not our interests. And we need to bring to light the real interests of the people as part of bringing into being a real, revolutionary alternative to the world as it is.
Correction: The article posted online at revcom.us on 4/8/2013, and that appeared in the print edition of Revolution, contained an incorrect formulation describing the period from the mid-1950s until the end of the 1980s—that during that period the confrontation between the Soviet and U.S.-led imperialist blocs defined the world stage. That formulation has been corrected as of 4/10/2013 in the online article.
Revolution #301 April 14, 2013
April 14, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) calls itself socialist-communist. It is described in the West as a “fanatical” and “pure” communist country. In order to have a full picture of the forces driving the conflict between North Korea and the U.S., it is important to understand what communism is, what socialism is, and what the real nature of North Korean society is.
1. What are real socialism and communism? Communism pivots on what Karl Marx called “the two most radical ruptures”: with traditional property relations and with traditional ideas. The communist revolution is about springing all of society into the air. It is about putting an end to all exploitation and oppression. It is about empowering the masses of people, through the creation of a radically new and different state power, to increasingly take responsibility for running society, to ever more consciously change the world and change themselves—with the goal of creating a world community of humanity, where there are no longer class divisions and social inequalities, no longer social antagonism. The achievement of communism requires visionary vanguard leadership basing itself on a scientific understanding of reality and how society and the world can be transformed in the interests of emancipating all of humanity. This is not North Korea!
2. North Korea is not socialist. Socialism is a new form of political power in which the formerly oppressed and exploited, in alliance with the middle classes and professionals and the great majority of society, rule over society with the leadership of a visionary, vanguard party. And socialism is a new economic system where the resources and productive capacities of society are consciously organized and planned to meet social need, and to overcome the inequalities of capitalist class society. And most fundamentally, socialism is a historical period of transition, between capitalism and communism. (For a fuller explanation of what socialism is all about, see “Everything You’ve Been Told About Communism Is Wrong: Capitalism Is a Failure, Revolution Is the Solution.”)
North Korea is a militarized, paternalistic society ruled by a narrow stratum of bureaucratic state capitalists. It is a stagnant and stifling society that operates according to a coercive social contract: the masses will be taken care of if they work harder and harder for the survival and benefit of the nation. The masses are kept passive and suppressed in this neo-capitalist welfare state. There is nothing revolutionary... nothing uplifting... nothing radically transformative about North Korea.
3. The North Korean economy does not operate according to socialist principles. Economic development has been carried out through vast mobilization and speed-up campaigns to raise production and productivity based on appeals to nationalism, promises of material reward, and honor.
4. Communists are internationalists—starting from the interests of the people of the world. Threatened by imperialism, the rulers of North Korea have viewed the world and their tasks through the ideological filter of preserving national independence and building up industrial-military might in the face of imperialist threat. A genuine socialist revolution in a Third World country does face the task of defending its independence—but this must be carried out as part of and to serve the larger process of carrying out a profound social revolution that is part of and contributes to the advance of the world communist revolution.
Readers should study Bob Avakian’s essay “Three Alternative Worlds” to get a concise, scientific grounding in the difference between genuine socialism and the kind of society that exists in North Korea. [“Three Alternative Worlds,” December 3, 2006.]
Bob Avakian has brought forward a new synthesis that sums up the positive and negative experience of the communist revolution so far, and drawing from a broad range of human experience, he has brought forward a viable vision and strategy for a radically new, and much better, society and world. For a brief, and also a fuller, explanation of the new synthesis, go to revcom.us/avakian.
Revolution #301 April 14, 2013
April 14, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Question: How many nuclear weapons does North Korea have?
Answer: At least one. They are estimated to have produced enough plutonium to produce between 4 and 13 small bombs.
Question: How many nuclear weapons does the U.S. have?
Question: Does North Korea have the ability to launch nuclear weapons?
Answer: Most experts believe that North Korea is not capable of launching a nuclear weapon.
Question: Does the U.S. have the ability to launch nuclear weapons?
Answer: Yes, the U.S. has a vast array of delivery systems, from torpedoes to long-range rockets, to B-2 bombers, to battlefield-style weapons for tactical nukes.
Question: How many times has North Korea used nuclear weapons?
Question: How many times has the U.S. used nuclear weapons?
Answer: Twice, against the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing at least 200,000 people, mainly civilians. In addition, the U.S. has frequently threatened other countries with its nuclear arsenal.
U.S. opposition to North Korean nukes is not about concern for world peace! The U.S.'s concern is that nukes will give North Korea new bargaining power in its relationship with the U.S., weaken U.S. domination of the region, and perhaps also make these weapons available to U.S. enemies in other parts of the world.
Revolution #301 April 14, 2013
April 14, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
As people take up responsibility for this movement for revolution, they increasingly want and need to know the real story of communist revolution. What is it? What did it accomplish? What happened to the first socialist societies? And they will confront a deluge of lies and distortions about that experience pumped into the culture by the powers-that-be -- for whom a real alternative to capitalism is their worst nightmare. To address this need, and for everyone who wants to know the true story of communist revolution, we are presenting slightly edited excerpts of a speech by Raymond Lotta—"Everything You've Been Told About Communism Is Wrong: Capitalism Is a Failure, Revolution Is the Solution." In the coming weeks and months, we'll be running more articles on the experience of socialist revolution.
Humanity needs "total revolution": in economy, politics, culture, and morality. And the fact is: we can create a world without exploitation, in which humanity can flourish. But, and this is a cruel irony, exactly at a time when capitalism is in crisis, when all its irrationality and the suffering it inflicts are escalating exponentially—at this very moment, we're told "you can't go beyond capitalism; the best you can do is to tinker around its edges."
It is as though a warning label were affixed to the discourse on human possibility. Danger: anything that fundamentally challenges capitalism is at best a pipe dream and at worst an unworkable utopia imposed from above that will result in nightmare. Caution: the project of making revolution and building an economy and society that promote and serve the common good violates human nature, economic logic, and the very flow of history. Reminder: we have reached the end of history: Western society represents the high point and end point of human development...
This is shameful. Because in the 20th century, something world-historic happened and people don't know the first thing about it. The first socialist societies were forged out of monumental revolutions, the rising up of the wretched of the Earth: in the Soviet Union from 1917 to 1956, and in China from 1949 to 1976. These were the first attempts in modern history to create societies free from exploitation and oppression—socialism. And the experience of these revolutions...it changes everything. The world does not have to be this way, and we can go further and do better in a new wave of revolution.
So what is socialism? Let's clear away some confusion. Socialism is not just government ownership of some enterprises or some government regulation—all capitalist governments do that. And socialism is not something that Obama is doing—Obama is no socialist.
In fact, socialism is three things:
First, socialism is a new form of political power in which the formerly oppressed and exploited, in alliance with the middle classes and professionals and the great majority of society, rule over society with the leadership of a visionary, vanguard party. This new form of state power keeps old and new exploiters in check. It makes possible a democracy that a) unleashes the creativity and initiative of people in all kinds of directions and b) gives the masses of people the right and ability to change the world and to engage in meaningful decision-making, that promotes the most far-reaching debate, and that protects the rights of the individual. This new socialist state that I am talking about is a launching pad for revolution elsewhere in the world.
Second, socialism is a new economic system where the resources and productive capacities of society are socially owned through the coordination of the socialist state, where production is consciously organized and planned to meet social need and to overcome the inequalities of capitalist class society—like the oppression of minority nationalities and the subordination of women. This is an economy that is organized to promote revolution in the world and protect the planet. No longer does exploitation and profit rule over society and people's lives. No longer are Big Pharma and financial-insurance conglomerates setting the terms for health care provision and research. They won't exist anymore. No longer is there a General Motors or Boeing—they too won't exist anymore, either—skewing transport development and energy production to the needs of profit.
Third, socialism is a historical period of transition, between capitalism and communism, a period of revolutionary struggle and experimentation to transform all the economic structures, all the social institutions and arrangements, and all the ideas and values that perpetuate the division of society into classes.
And what is communism? Here I want to read from a statement, "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have," from the Revolutionary Communist Party:
Communism [is] a world where people work and struggle for the common good.... Where everyone contributes whatever they can to society and gets back what they need to live a life worthy of human beings... Where there are no more divisions among people in which some rule over and oppress others, robbing them not only of the means to a decent life but also of knowledge and a means for really understanding, and acting to change, the world.1
Now the Russian and Chinese revolutions, in what amounted to a "nanosecond" of human history, accomplished amazing things in the direction I am describing. Not without problems and serious shortcomings...but these revolutions accomplished great things against great odds during their existence.
Why were the odds so great? For one thing, the imperialists worked overtime to crush these revolutions. The socialist revolutions of the 20th century posed a mortal (and, yes, a moral) threat to the established global order of exploitation, privilege, and inequality. They opened new possibilities for humanity and new roads for realizing these possibilities.
But the imperialists didn't say to Lenin or Mao: "Oh, you want to try to create a new society based on cooperation, you want to create a planned economy based on putting human needs first, you want to solve your health and education problems, and you are going to attempt to enable those on the bottom of society to increasingly administer it? Okay, why don't you try that for twenty years? Then come back and we'll compare notes. We'll see whose system does better."
No! The capitalist-imperialist powers encircled, pressured, and sought to strangle these revolutions. Within months of the victory of the Bolshevik revolution in October 1917, France, England, Japan, the U.S., and thirteen other powers sent money, weapons, and troops to aid counterrevolutionary forces in Russia who were trying to restore the old order of exploitation, religious obscurantism.
How many of you know that the world's first oil embargo was applied against the Soviet revolution? How many of you know that during the entire time between 1917 and 1950, the new socialist society of the Soviet Union was either preparing for war, or having to fight war, or dressing the wounds of war?
Or consider the circumstances facing the Chinese revolution after it came to power in 1949. Within a year, U.S. troops were moving up the Korean peninsula and threatening to invade China itself. How many of you know that in the early 1950s, the U.S. imperialists issued veiled nuclear threats, and developed military plans for launching nuclear strikes, against the new People's Republic of China?2 This is real history.
It was in these historical circumstances that millions in the Soviet Union and China made revolution and brought about profound changes in their conditions and in their thinking. And another reason they faced great odds was the fact that these revolutions did not unfold in vacuums. They took place, as will future revolutions, in societies that still contained the scars and influences of the old social order, including class divisions along with the ideas and traditions of the past. This too is part of the reality and challenge of making revolution.
Is that what you have been learning about 20th-century history? Did you learn that in the 1920s, when Black people were being lynched in the U.S., when the racist film extolling the KKK, Birth of a Nation, was one of the biggest things in American culture—did you learn that in the Soviet Union something utterly different was happening? At this very time in the Soviet Union, incredible efforts were being made to overcome inequality among nationalities.
The new socialist society was waging struggle against the historical chauvinism of the dominant Russian nationality. Economic and technical resources were being channeled to regions where minority nationalities were concentrated. The new Soviet state established autonomous forms of government in these regions, enabling people in these areas to take responsibility for administration. It promoted the equality of languages and even developed written scripts for languages that previously had none.3
This was an amazing sea change. You see, before the Bolshevik revolution Russia had been known as the "prison-house of nations," with infamous pogroms against Jews, and the domination of whole nations. It was a society where, before the revolution, people of certain minority nationalities were forbidden from using their native languages in schools.
The Cultural Revolution of 1966-76 was the high point of socialist revolution in the 20th century and the whole first stage of communist revolution, beginning with the Paris Commune. The Cultural Revolution was the most radical and far-reaching struggle in human history to uproot exploitation and oppression and to change society and bring about new values and new ways of thinking.4
But the bourgeois "master narrative" is that the Cultural Revolution was Mao's power-mad and vindictive purge of opponents: an orgy of senseless violence and mass persecution that plunged China into a decade of chaos. There is not a scintilla of truth to this narrative. But before I take it on directly, I want to set the stage for the Cultural Revolution by talking a bit about Chinese society before the revolution of 1949.
The vast majority of China's people were peasants who worked the land, but who had little or no land to call their own. They lived under the dominance of landlords who ruled the local economy and people's lives. Peasants desperately scratched out survival. In bad years, many had to eat leaves and bark, and it was not uncommon for peasant households to sell children to meet debt obligations. Agriculture was plagued by endless cycles of floods and droughts and famine. For women, life was a living hell: beatings by husbands, the painful binding of feet, arranged marriages, and young women forced into becoming concubines to landlords and warlords.
In China's largest city, Shanghai, an estimated 25,000 dead bodies were collected from the streets each year by municipal sanitation teams. Meanwhile, foreign-controlled districts of the city glittered. In a country of 500 million, there were only 12,000 doctors trained in modern medicine, and 4 million people died each year of epidemic and infectious diseases.5
This is why people make revolution. This is why millions in China consciously took part in the struggle led by Mao to seize state power and to create a new society.
The bourgeois narrative of the Cultural Revolution talks about Mao's "disastrous enactment of utopian fantasies."
The truth is that Mao and the revolutionaries who led the Cultural Revolution had coherent and visionary aims. What were these aims?
*To mobilize people in society to overthrow these new capitalist forces and to revolutionize the Communist Party itself.
*To reinvigorate the revolution by subjecting every level of authority and governance to mass criticism and questioning.
*To promote socialist values of "serve the people" and putting the interests of world humanity first and challenging the capitalist morality of maximizing self-gain and self-enrichment as well as the Confucian mind-set of bowing down to authority and convention.
*To reshape and revolutionize the institutions and fabric of society: a) to create an educational system that, instead of producing a privileged elite, was actually contributing to raising the knowledge and skills of society and overcoming the great divisions of society; b) to forge a new revolutionary culture, like the model revolutionary works in opera and ballet that put new emphasis on workers and peasants and their resistance to oppression (in place of the old imperial court dramas) and that conveyed powerful images of strong and independent revolutionary women; c) to create new base-level institutions within factories, schools, and hospitals that truly empowered people.
These were crucial goals of the Cultural Revolution; this was not "crazed utopianism."
Let's be clear, the Cultural Revolution was a real revolution. It was disruptive of the routine of normal life; it was full of invention and innovation; inspiring tens of millions but also shocking and disturbing tens of millions at its outset. The schools shut down; youth went to the countryside to link up with peasants, students from Beijing went to Shanghai to stir up protest in the factories, workers were encouraged to raise their heads and ask: "who's really in charge here?" This became very wild. There was massive political and intellectual debate: street rallies, protests, strikes, demonstrations, what were called "big character posters," which contained comments and critiques on policies and leaders. Paper and ink were provided free of charge, public facilities were made available for meetings and debates.6
This was about changing society and changing the world in an ever more conscious way. There has never, never in world history, been a revolutionary movement of this scale and consciousness. Mao looked to the youth as a catalytic force to awaken and arouse society. In Beijing, over 900 newspapers were circulating in 1966-67.
In Shanghai in the autumn of 1966, there were some 700 organizations in the factories. Eventually, the revolutionary workers, with Maoist leadership, were able to unite broad sections of the city's population to overthrow the capitalist-roaders who had been running the city. And what followed was extraordinary: people began to experiment with new institutions of citywide political governance; and the Maoist leadership was able to learn from and sum up this experience and these debates.7 In the countryside, peasants were debating how Confucian values and patriarchy still influenced people's lives.
The Cultural Revolution accomplished amazing and unprecedented things.
*We're told that Mao was anti-education and anti-intellectual. It's a lie.
How many of you know that during the Cultural Revolution middle-school enrollment in the countryside rose from 14 to 58 million?8 Or that worker and peasant enrollment in the universities soared? The reason Mao is branded "anti-education" is that the Cultural Revolution challenged the bourgeois-elitist idea that education is a ladder for individuals to "get ahead," or a way to use skills and knowledge to gain advantageous position over others.
This was not anti-intellectualism, but rather a question of putting knowledge in the service of a society that was breaking down social inequalities. The old curriculum was overhauled in the universities. Study was combined with productive labor. The old teaching methods of viewing students as passive receptacles of knowledge and teachers and instructors as absolute authorities were criticized.
*We're told Mao did not care about human life. It's a lie.
China, a relatively backward country, achieved something that the richest country in the world, the U.S., has not been able to do: provide universal health care. As a result of the Cultural Revolution, a health system was established that reached and addressed the needs of China's peasants in the countryside who made up 80 percent of China's population.
In a little more than a decade after the seizure of power in 1949, the revolution was able to overcome epidemic diseases like smallpox and cholera. Mass campaigns were launched to tackle opium addiction.9 And along with mass mobilization, there was mass education. This was a very important and defining feature of health care in socialist China: to maximize community participation and grass roots awareness and responsibility over health issues and concerns. There was both centralized allocation of needed health resources and a tremendous amount of decentralization.10
One of the most exciting developments of the Cultural Revolution was what was called the "barefoot doctor" movement. These were young peasants and urban youth sent to the countryside who were quickly trained in basic health care and medicine geared to meet local needs and who were capable of treating the most common illnesses. In 1975, there were 1.3 million of these "barefoot doctors."11
The results were astounding. Life expectancy under Mao doubled from 32 years in 1949 to 65 years in 1976.12 Amartya Sen, the Nobel Prize-winning economist, made a calculation: if India had the same heath care system as China did under Mao, then 4 million fewer people would have died in India in a given sample year. That works out to a total of some 100 million needless deaths in India from the time of independence in 1947 to 1979.13
Tell me about which economic-social system values human life...and which doesn't.
People say that communism can't work because it goes against human nature...that people are selfish and will only look out for themselves...that people won't have any incentive to work if they're not allowed to compete to get ahead of others. These are not scientific statements about an unchanging human nature. They are statements about human nature under capitalism, about how people are conditioned to think and act in THIS society.
Capitalism produces and requires a certain mind-set: me-first, winner-take-all, greed is good. And this outlook and these values stamp everything, every institution and every relation in society. People have to compete for jobs, for housing, for places in the educational system. They even have to compete and perfect themselves in the "marketplace" of human relationships. Is it any surprise, then, that people are indifferent, callous, and even cruel to each other in such a society?
This is what socialism, what socialist revolution, changes. It opens up a whole new realm of freedom for people to change their circumstances and their thinking. This is what happened during the Cultural Revolution.
In China during the Cultural Revolution, there was an economic system based on using resources for the benefit of society and the world revolution. There were new social relations and institutions that enabled people to cooperate with each other and to maximize the contributions that people can make towards a liberating society and the emancipation of humanity. The educational system promoted values of serving the people, using knowledge not for individual self-aggrandizement but for the betterment of society and humanity. During the Cultural Revolution, people were measuring their lives and the actions of others through the moral lens of "serve the people."
You can read interviews and books by scholars like Dongping Han, Bai Di, and Mobo Gao. These authors grew up during the Cultural Revolution and took part in it—and they write about what it was like coming of age in the social environment of the Cultural Revolution, what it meant for there to be a social framework that valued cooperation and solidarity. They talk about how this affected their attitudes towards other people, their sense of social responsibility, and how the Cultural Revolution influenced what they felt was important and meaningful in life.14
Again, I am not talking about some kind of utopia, and I am not saying everything was done right in Maoist China. But people did change—because socialist society creates this new framework that makes it possible for people to consciously change themselves.
And when capitalism was restored in China in 1976, and the old dog-eat-dog economic relations brought back, people changed again: back towards the old "me against you," "everyone for him- or herself" outlook. People changed not because a primordial human nature had somehow reasserted itself, but because society had changed back to capitalism.
The Cultural Revolution Mao initiated in 1966 was defeated in 1976. Following Mao's death, a core of capitalist-roaders launched a military coup. They arrested Mao's closest comrades and killed thousands. These counter-revolutionary forces instituted capitalism, while maintaining a certain socialist camouflage.
How could this happen? For one thing, the Cultural Revolution was bitterly opposed by powerful neo-capitalist forces who occupied leading positions in Chinese society: in the Communist Party, in the government, and in the military. These forces, Mao had pointed out, were part of a social-historical phenomenon of the Chinese revolution: they were "bourgeois democrats" who had evolved into "capitalist roaders." Let me explain.
China had been a nation subjugated by imperialism. It was a society kept backward and poor by feudalism. For many who had joined the Communist Party before the seizure of power in 1949, the Chinese revolution was in essence about breaking the grip of imperialism and turning China into a modern, industrialized society. And once the revolution succeeded in driving out imperialism, these forces, many now in leading positions, saw the task before the revolution as building up China's economic power—by whatever methods promised the most efficient results. These "bourgeois democrats" turned "capitalist roaders" were powerful and had a great deal of influence.
But that was not all. Revolutionary China faced enormous international pressures. The Soviet Union, which was no longer a socialist country in the 1960s and '70s, was threatening war, even nuclear strikes, against socialist China. This strengthened the conservative forces within the party. They claimed that the ferment and innovation of the Cultural Revolution were too risky, that it was time to put a stop to the Cultural Revolution—and that all must be focused on defense, stability, and rapid modernization. And they organized and mobilized social forces around this agenda.
Beyond these more immediate concrete factors—at a deeper level, there is the fact that socialist revolution is going up against thousands of years of master-slave relations, tradition, and the ideological force of habit, like people deferring to authority and convention.
It is these objective factors—the strength of counter-revolution and the monumental challenges of transforming class-divided society—that mainly account for the defeat of socialism in China in 1976. But the defeat was also conditioned, though secondarily, by some mistakes in orientation and conception on the part of Mao and the revolutionaries.
To get into this, we need to understand that an event of these world-historic proportions—the defeat of a truly transformative revolution that spanned 27 years in a country of almost a billion people—required a serious analysis. And the only person on this planet who analyzed what had happened in China from the standpoint of: why the revolution had been defeated, its implications, and how we have to not only build on the unprecedented, liberating experience of the Cultural Revolution but also learn from its problems and go beyond it in initiating a new stage of communist revolution... this was Bob Avakian.
The experience of communist revolution and the new synthesis of Bob Avakian are things you need to know about. These are not just interesting historical or philosophical questions. We are not talking about a "more balanced" discussion in the academy. What we are talking about is the fate of the planet and the future of humanity. What we are talking about is historical truth and human possibility.
You have been blocked from knowing about the vital history of communism, the real concepts and real development of communism. You have been prevented from debating these questions in any meaningful way. Everything you've been told about communism is wrong. The verdicts and "conventional wisdom" about communism are a profound obstacle to what is most needed: an emancipatory politics and an emancipatory discourse. But we're changing all of that.
2. On nuclear threats and nuclear war planning against Maoist China in the early 1950s, see John Wilson Lewis and Xue Lita, China Builds the Bomb (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1988), chapters one and two; Rosemary J. Foot, "Nuclear Coercion and the Ending of the Korean Conflict," International Security, Winter 1988/89 (Vol. 13, No. 3); Matthew Jones, "Targeting China: U.S. Nuclear Planning and `Massive Retaliation' in East Asia, 1953-1955," Journal of Cold War Studies, Fall 2008 (Vol. 10, No. 4); and "For Eisenhower, 2 Goals if Bomb Was to Be Used," New York Times (June 8, 1984), and Bernard Gwertzman, "U.S. Papers Tell of '53 Policy to Use A-Bomb in Korea," New York Times (June 8, 1984). [back]
3. On the Bolshevik revolution's approach to and achievements in expanding education to minority nationalities, ensuring equality of languages, and promoting instruction in native languages, see, for example, Jeremy Smith, "The Education of National Minorities: The Early Soviet Experience," Slavonic and East European Review, Vol. 75, No. 2 (April 1997). [back]
4. For a historical-theoretical overview of the Cultural Revolution, see Bob Avakian, Mao Tsetung's Immortal Contributions (Chicago: RCP Publications, 1979), chapters 5-6; and Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage, op. cit., II. [back]
5. Jonathan D. Spence and Annping Chin, The Chinese Century (New York: Random House, 1996), p. 84; Fredric M. Kaplan, Julian M. Sobin, Stephen Andors, Encyclopedia of China Today (New York: Harper & Row, 1979), p. 233. [back]
6. On the early phases of the Cultural Revolution, see Jean Daubier, A History of the Cultural Revolution (New York: Vintage, 1974) and Han Suyin, Wind in the Tower (Boston: Little, Brown, 1976), chapters 3-5. [back]
7. On the mass struggles in Shanghai, see Daubier and also Elizabeth J. Perry and Li Xun, Proletarian Power: Shanghai in the Cultural Revolution (Boulder: Westview Press, 1997). For how Mao was summing up mass experiences and giving leadership in the struggle to forge new institutions of power, see Raymond Lotta, Nayi Duniya, and K.J.A., "Alain Badiou's 'Politics of Emancipation': A Communism Locked Within the Confines of the Bourgeois World," Demarcations, Summer-Fall 2009, chapter 6, II. [back]
8. Suzanne Pepper, "Chinese Education after Mao," China Quarterly, March 1980 (No. 81), pp. 6-7. For useful studies on the expansion of schooling in the countryside and educational transformation during the Cultural Revolution, see Dongping Han, The Unknown Cultural Revolution: Educational Reforms and Their Impact on China's Rural Development (New York: Garland Publishing, 2000); and Ruth Gamberg, Red and Expert: Education in the People's Republic of China (New York: Schocken, 1977). [back]
9. See Kaplan, et. al., op. cit., p. 233, 242; and C. Clark Kissinger, "How Maoist Revolution Wiped Out Drug Addiction in China," Revolutionary Worker #734, December 5. 1993. [back]
10. Victor W. Sidel and Ruth Sidel, Serve the People: Observations on Medicine in the People's Republic of China (Boston: Beacon Press, 1973), pp. 22-24. [back]
11. Teh-wei Hu, "Health Care Services in China's Economic Development," in Robert F. Dernberger, ed., China's Development Experience in Comparative Perspective (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1980), pp. 234-238. [back]
12. Penny Kane, The Second Billion (Hammondsworth: Penguin, 1987), p. 172. [back]
13. See Jean Dreze and Amartya Sen, Hunger and Public Action (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989), pp. 205, 214. Noam Chomsky uses Dreze and Sen's comparative mortality rates to reach this estimate of 100 million needless deaths in India (see "Millennial Visions and Selective Vision, Part One," Z Magazine, January 10, 2000). [back]
14. See, Bai Di, "Growing Up in Revolutionary China," Interview, Revolution, April 12, 2009, revcom.us/a/161/Bai_Di_interview-en.html; Dongping Han, "The Unknown Cultural Revolution: Life and Change in a Chinese Village," Interview, Revolution, September 6, 2009, revcom.us/a/175/dongping_han_full_QA-en.html; Mobo Gao, Gao Village (Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 1999). [back]
Revolution #301 April 14, 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 #301 April 14, 2013
After the Premieres:
by Andy Zee | Updated April 9, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The following is a slightly edited text of a speech given by Andy Zee of Revolution Books at the BA Everywhere fundraising dinner in New York City on April 6, 2013. This talk followed the playing of the chapter from BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Bob Avakian Live titled: “Emancipating Humanity...Transforming Conditions & Transforming Human Nature” and the first half minute of the next chapter up to the sentence that Andy Zee begins with. At the end of the talk, Andy Zee incorporated some particular information for NY that pertained to some of the ways for people to get involved. People are welcome to adapt this for upcoming fundraising dinners in other cities.
I’m going to begin where Bob Avakian ended in the section of BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Bob Avakian Live that we just watched: “We need to be busy in the struggle to build the movement for this revolution.” Why? Because it is possible to put an end to the unbelievable nightmare the majority of humanity in the world, including vast numbers of people right here in the U.S., endure every day under this vicious system which draws its lifeblood from ever more ruthlessly exploiting people and enforcing this and other forms of oppression with courts, police, prisons, and armies.
Humanity can do better than this. Watching the film you feel it. You feel BA’s anger at the way the world is that comes not just from the outrage at a system that says it is the "greatest of all" yet was founded on the genocide of the native people and the enslavement of Africans, and which continues a slow genocide of young Black and Latino men and women in the prisons of America. This is more than enough reason for great anger. More, the passionate intensity that strikes you in the gut when you listen to BA comes from a deep understanding that it is no longer necessary for human beings to live this way. There is a way out through revolution, and Bob Avakian has charted that course. Summing up the breakthrough experiences in the liberation of humanity in the first socialist revolutions in Russia and China, learning from their achievements and their shortcomings and why they were defeated decades ago, Bob Avakian has developed a new synthesis of communism, and a road map, or strategy, for revolution to get there. This is a future to fight for: when the long dark nightmare of exploitation and oppression will be ended and people all over the world will work and struggle together for the common good... where everyone contributes whatever they can to society and gets back what they need to live a life worthy of human beings... where there are no more divisions among people in which some rule over and oppress others, robbing them not only of the means to a decent life but also of knowledge and a means for really understanding, and acting to change, the world.
This really could be... because how the world is is not ordained by god, it is not determined by our genes—by a wrong notion of an unchanging/unchangeable human nature. It was not scripted by the Illuminati. We can understand why the world is the way it is and how it could be radically transformed by scientifically understanding reality and acting to change it through revolution—starting by getting into BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! As one person put it coming out of the New York premiere of the film, “He doesn’t sugar-coat nothing, he gives it to you straight forward, this is what it is, this is how it’s going, and this is what we need to do.”
But there is work to do. Moving forward from the premieres around the country, Bob Avakian set forth “A Fundamental Point of Orientation, Approach and Objective”:
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.
I’ll say it again: “THIS MOVEMENT FOR REVOLUTION MUST NOW BECOME A REAL FORCE, POWERFULLY IMPACTING AND INFLUENCING ALL OF SOCIETY.”
There are lots of ways for each of you to be a part of this. There is much to be fought, much to learn while struggling. There is a world to win. Every day, if you have access to the internet go to revcom.us—the website of the revolution. If you don’t have a computer to get on the internet try the library. And, each week you can get the print edition of the newspaper REVOLUTION and spread it around and read it with friends and colleagues. This website and newspaper is the lifeline and guide for the revolution—enabling people to understand what’s underneath all the shit that comes down, the stirrings of resistance from different sections of people the world over and the way forward through revolution. More, the website and paper brings all of us into the process of working on and solving the problems of making revolution.
You can connect up with the Revolution Club.
There are important struggles to join right now—to End Pornography and Patriarchy: The Enslavement and Degradation of Women, and to Stop Mass Incarceration. We cannot allow the degradation of women as sexual objects, to be plundered by men or to be virtually enslaved by having their basic right to control if and when they have children denied them. Nor can we allow the slow genocide of millions of Black and Latino youth through police terror and mass incarceration to keep crushing lives and spirit. You can join in and be a part of these movements. From the perspective of making revolution we recognize that these are fault-line vulnerabilities of the system and as such are key ways that we are applying the strategy for revolution, by Fighting the Power, and Transforming the People, for Revolution.
One of the key big things going for us in transforming people—enabling them to understand that things do not have to be this way—and what must be a leading edge in all our work, is the BA EVERYWHERE Campaign—a mass fund-raising campaign to make Bob Avakian known throughout society. Tonight, we are going to get down on some specific plans to spread the word about, to raise serious money for, to organize showings of, and for people to get into BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Bob Avakian Live.
Last year Bob Avakian did an interview with a younger generation comrade, What Humanity Needs: Revolution, and the New Synthesis of Communism, that goes deeply into how we are going build the movement for revolution and what it's all about. In that interview he says that the BA Everywhere campaign is a key way that we are aiming to influence millions
...to actually get the new synthesis and my leadership and body of work out there in a truly major way, with societal impact. That campaign is a key element of influencing millions of people now: getting the concept of this revolution and the scientific grounding underneath it, in a basic sense, out to millions, so millions of people are encountering it, so that people are debating it very broadly in society—so it's a point of reference. We have used the formulation "making BA a household name." What that means is not that people are gossiping about BA everywhere, but that the new synthesis of communism and what that represents is being engaged and debated broadly in society—some people agree, some people disagree, some people say, I like some of this and some not—but they're actually engaging what it is, the substance of it, at least in its very basic contours. There is a dialectical relation between all that and bringing forward a new wave of people fighting to bring about a new stage of the communist revolution—to take these ideas, this theory, and actually make it a living reality. We need to influence millions of people now. And we need to be bringing forward wave after wave of what we call these new initiators, these initiators of a new stage of the communist revolution.
Over the last few weeks hundreds of people across the country experienced BA straight up through this film. Most had never heard anything like this before; for others it put the whole thing together with a clarity of what is the problem humanity faces and that the solution is nothing less than revolution. We all were stirred by the challenge at the end to make this real. Everyone who left the theater said, “People need to see this.” Reaching tens and hundreds of thousands with massive promotion takes money. Lots of it.
What we saw tonight, what you experienced at the premiere, must not be something that only a few thousand people know about. Not if we are going to radically change the world. To do that, the whole BA vision and the framework for understanding the brutal reality we face and for how we could actually win and bring about a far better society and world requires that BA be known, that people are engaging and debating it in all corners of this city and country, even around the world. Again that takes money. Raising funds from penny jars in a housing project to being part of a team to go to middle class and wealthy people, giving them a way to do something really positive by donating the kinds of large funds to really change the world and that will make a society-wide impact possible. Selling the DVD of the film, showing it, and raising funds is a way to involve people in the movement for revolution.
This is necessary to reach and influence all of society—funds are needed for grassroots promo materials like stickers and palm cards, for street teams, and big funds needed for advertising on bus stops, subway cars, on the radio and internet to reach millions. Over the spring and summer and into the fall we need to aim for tens of thousands nationwide to see BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Bob Avakian Live.
This will stir up controversy. You go out to someone and they say, “Nah, I’m good.” Well, just how good are you leaving this system intact when women—half of the people—face the real prospect of having their humanity stolen from them if they are sexually assaulted?
You saw the film, you left the theater full of hope wanting to get into what he said, determined that others need to see this. When we go out there with the film, we meet people who express a lot of love for what BA is bringing forward; we meet many people who agree with some of it and perhaps disagree with other parts but want to get into it more and who at the same time want lots of people to be checking this out and debating it and getting into it.
If you hate what’s being done to people here and around the world, if you have a conscience and just can’t go along with this shit and don’t want revolution swept under the rug, then BA Everywhere is for you. Because you can make a real difference: raising funds so that many, many more people find out about BA. This controversy can be positive because, if you think about it—BA is a concentrated focus of what humanity needs: a real, really radical and thorough revolution. Be a part of giving people a chance to relate to that. Some will want to get all the way in, others to learn more. If BA and this film are talked about, debated by people all over, it will make a really big difference. Let’s bring lots of people into raising the funds and watching, showing and spreading the film over the spring and summer, and make these times resonate with big dreams and a fighting spirit for fundamental change.
Raising funds and spreading BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Bob Avakian Live is a great way for people to get involved and make a real contribution as they are just beginning to learn about this. You’re out telling people about BA and the film, selling them a DVD or inviting them to a showing, and you’re watching it too. You're getting deeper into it, new questions are posed and you are starting a process where you are leading people to find out about revolution and BA—giving them a chance to find out that there is a way out, all the while you are learning from the film and engaging with them as well as people from the movement for revolution and the Party BA leads, the RCP, USA.
There’s room for everyone in getting out the DVD and raising funds. You already know many ways to do this. There’s a young brother who stopped everyone on the way out of the New York premiere to tell them that he doesn’t just accept one-dollar bills in the fund-raising basket. And, he did this in a way that conveyed it mattered.
Here are some key concrete ways to be part of this:
This movement needs you. You don’t have to know everything about the revolution to participate. You don’t have to agree with everything about the revolution to participate. You just have to want BA’s voice to be out there in society in a big way, spreading his message and getting a hearing... and a following.
Bob Avakian extends this invitation to you:
Let's go on a crucial journey together—full of unity against oppression and lively struggle about the source of the problem and the solution. Pursue your own convictions—that the outrages that move you are intolerable—to their logical conclusion, and be determined not to stop until those outrages have been eliminated. And if this, as well as learning about other outrages, and ideas about how this all fits together and flows from a common source—and how it could all be ended, and something much better brought into being—leads in the direction of seeing not only the need for bold and determined resistance, but also the need for revolution and ultimately communism, then don't turn away from that because it moves you beyond your comfort zone, challenges what had been your cherished beliefs, or because of prejudices and slanders. Instead, actively seek to learn more about this revolution and its goal of communism and to determine whether it is in fact the necessary, and possible, solution. And then act accordingly.
Revolution #301 April 14, 2013
April 14, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The following was written by a Revolution reader in New York:
The police in New York City have stopped more 5 million people in the last nine years, nearly 90 percent Black and Latino. Take a minute and think about that, 5 million people.
Now think about this from an interview with Noche Diaz in 2012:
“Some of you out there have never been stopped and frisked, and maybe you don’t know what it actually means, what it means to be a young person coming up in New York City or maybe you know some people and you’ve heard these stories. But people need to actually know what happens every day, 1,900 times or more. Maybe you’re coming home from school, maybe you’re going to school, maybe you’re going to work, or coming home. You’re minding your own business; you’re going about your day and suddenly some cop steps to you. They grab you, they throw you up against the wall, they turn out your pockets and if you speak back you risk being thrown in jail and spending the whole night locked up and facing charges and a case, maybe having to miss school, or maybe having to miss work which you can’t afford to do. And your whole life begins to be dominated by the fact that at any moment when you walk the street, some cop can step to you and mess up your whole day, your whole week and the rest of your life....
“I’m on trial in Manhattan, facing up to four years in prison, precisely because when these kinds of things go down I don’t walk by and I don’t let it happen in silence, I don’t let people get violated without someone speaking up for them. I’ve been standing up for these youth for years. And I’ve been targeted for my role in doing that. But what’s important for you to know is that you can actually be a part of beating back these attacks on people who stand up for the people and for the youth. And so I invite everybody to join us... ” (Read the full interview, “‘Noche’ Diaz: Facing Prison for Standing Up for the Youth,” September 16, 2012, at revcom.us.)
Noche Diaz is a young revolutionary leader; he is a member of the Revolution Club in New York City, which has stepped up to the responsibility to lead and organize others to make real the slogans of the Revolution Club—“Humanity Needs Revolution and Communism” and “Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution.” The powers-that-be have targeted Noche to make an example of him, trying to send a message that people who stand up to their brutality and expose their illegitimate use of authority will be punished. They want Noche off the streets. Even more, they don’t want Noche, and others like him, to rise up as conscious emancipators of humanity, leading a whole new generation to become part of the movement for revolution.
Noche has been arrested five times since October 2011 and has had 11 charges piled on him in four New York City boroughs, all for observing and protesting the illegitimate actions of the NYPD. Noche was one of the first members of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network and helped organize protests that kicked off a citywide struggle against stop-and-frisk. He is well-known to the people—and to the NYPD—for being a member of the People’s Neighborhood Patrol of Harlem. Noche was arrested two times as part of organized protests against stop-and-frisk at Brooklyn’s 73rd precinct and Queens’ 103rd precinct. In the three other arrests, Noche was observing what the police were doing to people—which he has every right to do.
In October 2011, people marched to the 28th precinct in Harlem demanding an end to stop-and-frisk and 35 people carried out nonviolent civil disobedience. Noche was observing the protest with the People’s Neighborhood Patrol outside the police barricade. He was suddenly grabbed by police and thrown to the ground. He was held until the next day and charged with resisting arrest, and interfering with the arrest of an unnamed person who was never arrested. In March 2012, in Harlem, a spontaneous protest broke out among high school students who were outraged by the racist, vigilante murder of Trayvon Martin. Noche spoke up for the students when they were being attacked by the police. The cops then threw Noche to the ground, handcuffed him, and held him for more than 24 hours.
The District Attorney in Manhattan has since combined these two completely different incidents cases in Harlem, so that Noche faces 3½ years in jail. This makes very clear that this is a political prosecution. The only actual relation between these two arrests is that they are politically motivated.
It is very important that people understand and act on the illegitimacy of this prejudicial prosecution of Noche, and demand that the charges by dropped immediately. Many of the people who are already outraged by stop-and-frisk and the mass incarceration of Black and Latino people, as well as the many more across the country who are just learning about these outrages, should demand that Noche be free and that all the charges be dropped. Fierce, determined resistance aimed at putting an end to this outrage is needed.
If they are able to put Noche in prison, it will be a blow to the movement for revolution. But if we rally the thousands and tens of thousands right now to act on their conscience and win this struggle to defend Noche, we will come out stronger. And we need to bring out how this outrage is rooted in and flows from this system and consistently bring forward the need to build this all towards revolution.
We must also deeply appreciate how precious it is when our youth do stand up for the masses of people. When our youth refuse to just accept the way things are and when their daring to make sacrifices is turned towards fighting against oppression, it can inspire many others to join the fight and support it. I recommend that everyone watch BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Avakian speaks about this at some length there. He talks about how important this is, and then he goes on to talk about how “when this is combined with and informed by the science, the program, the strategy, the leadership that can transform this into a conscious powerful revolutionary force, then there can be a real fighting chance of making revolution.” He goes on to paint a vivid picture for how this system really has no future for our youth, but the revolution does, for the masses of youth in this country and throughout the world. Again I recommend that everyone watch this film to really understand and appreciate this.
It is very important as part of building a movement for revolution right now that Noche be defended and supported by people from coast to coast. The powers-that-be want Noche off the streets. They want to send a message to youth everywhere not to stand up and fight back, not to become revolutionary fighters like Noche. NO! We cannot let this happen!
When Our Youth Stand Up for the People, We Will NOT Allow Them To Be Thrown in Jail!
People from all walks of life and from across this country need to stand together with Noche. What you can do right now:
Revolution #301 April 14, 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 #301 April 14, 2013
April 14, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Sixty-five people gathered on April 6 at a church in upper Manhattan to celebrate the premiere of the film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Bob Avakian Live, and to make plans for the BA Everywhere campaign—a campaign to raise big money to promote BA and his works society-wide, with a major focus right now on this film being shown, dug into and spread all over.
The crowd was very diverse, with a good share being people from the most oppressed sections of the people, along with the core of the Revolution Club, a crew of young women who work with the initiative to End Pornography and Patriarchy: The Enslavement and Degradation of Women, as well as veteran revolutionaries who have been in the struggle since the '60s and younger supporters of the Revolutionary Communist Party. There were people of many nationalities and a range of ages from babies to older people, which added to the strong sense of community in the room.
Most people had been at the premiere of the film on March 16, many of whom were pretty new to the revolution then, and some people had just gotten involved since the premiere.
From the time people started to come into the room there was a sense of something fresh, as people from very different backgrounds shouted greetings to each other, helped set up, and sat in groups joking, telling stories and seriously discussing the thorny problems confronting the revolutionary movement. Everyone dug into a great burrito feast, babies were shared from lap to lap and small children who had never met alternately chased around the room and intently talked and played with each other. The room was electric, and spirits stayed high until everyone left out the door over three hours later.
The program was MC'd by the BA Everywhere Committee. The centerpiece was the short chapter from the REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! film titled "Emancipating Humanity ... Transforming Conditions & Transforming Human Nature." The clip took people right to BA's deep confidence in the ability of people to get beyond today's dog-eat-dog to a different world, based on profound scientific analysis and history of how we got to where we are and how we can make revolution. In some cases this "reminded" people of what they had experienced at the premiere; for some others this was new.
The program also included the stirring appearance of the NYC Revolution Club, who emerged from the audience chanting "We Are—The Revolution Club" to loud cheers and applause and then lined up in front, reading statements from people about their experience of learning about BA and watching the film. One member of the Club spoke to their two principles: "Humanity Needs Revolution and Communism" and "Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution."
Another Club member spoke powerfully to the importance of people stepping up to defend Noche Diaz, a young revolutionary communist leader from the Bronx who has been in the forefront of those standing up to stop-and-frisk, police brutality and mass incarceration. Noche will go on trial later in April, facing up to four years in jail (see "Hands Off Noche! Drop All the Charges!")
The Revolution Club also "premiered" a song and spoken word piece on the theme of "After the Revolution" with call-and-response and rap.
Andy Zee, the spokesperson for Revolution Books, gave remarks keying off of the recent points of orientation from Bob Avakian in the wake of the premieres of the film, on the need for the revolutionary movement to now take a major leap to exert real influence in society. (See "After the Premieres: Raising Big Funds and Spreading the DVD.")
Quite a few of the people at the dinner who had seen the premiere have been taking the film out to family, friends, co-workers, posting info on Facebook and so on. There has been some success with this, including opening up deep engagement with many different people about the need for communist revolution and what that is. Many people had ideas for how the larger BA Everywhere movement could further break out with the film and with BA. People also talked about running into quite a lot of controversy, which Andy Zee also spoke to in his remarks: this is a good thing as people start to debate and compare different analyses of the problem facing humanity and the solution. And people need to have ways to get deeper into the film, get into the big questions about communism and revolution, what is the reality of the history and the powerful potential of BA's new synthesis of revolution and communism, up against the anti-communist lies and distortions that are the assumed "truths" today including among the progressive movements, intelligentsia and in all spheres.
People spent the rest of the evening in groups leaning in to each other listening, questioning, debating, and sometimes laughing about all kinds of questions and considering various plans and means for promotion and fundraising, including a raffle, a plan for a summer series of showings of the film in city parks, and a major BA Everywhere Committee outing in Harlem in two weeks. Several hundred dollars was raised for BA Everywhere, in particular for promotion of the film.
This scene was so incredibly lively, and contrasted so starkly with the way different sections of the people are usually kept isolated from each other, and how people as a whole have their attention focused on the smallest and narrowest things, rather than what was being discussed this night—the forging of a whole new and better world.
Revolution #301 April 14, 2013
April 14, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On April 5, over 40 people gathered to enjoy delicious and plentiful food, getting into all kinds of conversations about revolution, the real history of this country, and what people thought about the film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Many had been at the premiere at Laney College three weeks earlier, including some high school and college students.
The mixture of people of different ages and nationalities, people new and old to the revolution, was good. This movement for revolution is attracting those people whom the system has cast out and cast down. Black and Latino youth came with friends who attended the premiere. Some people new to the movement for revolution left with newly purchased DVDs.
The potluck celebrated the release of the new DVD and was part of building community around this movement for revolution. It drew people together to become a "real force, powerfully impacting and influencing all of society," as BA has called for in "A Fundamental Point of Orientation, Approach and Objective." It was both serious and fun, where people found other like-minded people, where they could feel free to talk about their thinking, questions and hopes about revolution. People in small and large groups got into what they liked about the film and how to take it out into society. Some talked about projects to raise funds and others made plans to go out the next day with the DVD.
A short speech welcomed everyone and talked about the many facets of the movement for revolution, the BA Everywhere campaign to raise massive funds, and the specific focus on getting this film known and seen very broadly in society. Plans were announced for a major fund-raiser in the next six weeks. The Revolution Club was introduced to the crowd and as they stood, people clapped and cheered. A clip from the film was shown: "Emancipating Humanity... Transforming Conditions and Transforming Human Nature." It ended to loud applause.
In the middle of the potluck, what started as a small and serious discussion between a few people quickly drew about a dozen people into it. It started with some people new to this movement wanting to know what the experience was of the neighborhood patrols and what they were about. They had a lot of questions and wanted to help out. Also discussed was how to take out the DVDs. Some people had seen the film for the first time at the potluck. People had ideas about showing it to friends and family. One student at a community college thought he could show it to his school club.
Statement from someone who came to the premiere and the potluck:
"I have already read the book, BAsics, by Bob Avakian and enjoyed it. I also enjoy Revolution the publication. But the film REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! actually really shows Bob's love for the masses. I most enjoyed his analogy of people who evoke 'the founding fathers' who were nothing but racist, sexist, slave owning, native killing, white male property owners. Bob also called out people who were in their comfort zones, but see the everyday injustices done to young African Amerikkkan males being murdered by police, as well as the mass deportation of Latino (Brown) people. The scapegoating of Muslims, etc... we live in an economic system that thrives on exploitation to survive. Bob does a good job of pointing that out."
Revolution #301 April 14, 2013
April 18, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On April 14, around 40 to 50 people gathered in LA for a dinner to celebrate the release of BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! and raise funds for BA Everywhere. Many had been to the film premiere; others to the film showings and discussions at Revolution Books, some had just recently met revolutionaries on the street. There was a lively, revolutionary atmosphere from beginning to end. People of all ages, nationalities, walks of life, and from several countries greeted old friends and met new ones as the event began. Beautiful new BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! T-shirts were snapped up and put on, making a visible presence in the room. In the spirit of the celebration, one woman paid for her ticket and bought two T-shirts to donate to the Revolution Club.
Michael Slate, a revolutionary communist who writes for Revolution newspaper and hosts a radio show on KPFK, welcomed everyone to the dinner. A buzz of conversation and laughter rose from the tables as people sat down to eat. The diversity of the movement for revolution was expressed in the really delicious international food that everyone enjoyed—Persian lentil soup, vegan chili, rotisserie chicken donated by a vendor from the a farmer’s market, enchiladas, tamales, homemade pies prepared for the celebration, and much more, including a Persian potato-chicken salad with ‘revolution’ spelled out in pickles on top. Almost all the food was donated by people who are part of the movement for revolution, vendors and restaurants.
Members of the LA Revolution Club came forward as a group and stood together in front of the room. They were warmly applauded with real appreciation for the significance of young people stepping forward as emancipators of humanity. They read some of the statements people had made about their experience of the film. One of the Revolution Club members read a passage from BA’s memoir, From Ike to Mao and Beyond: My Journey From Mainstream America to Revolutionary Communist, entitled "Mario Savio," where BA describes how he was troubled by the assumption that being part of the Free Speech Movement included opposition to the war in Vietnam, which he was still studying at the time. She said she wanted to read this passage to make the point that people who unite in the movement for revolution will be debating, studying, and wrangling with and thinking about many topics as they go and that they should be willing to step outside of their comfort zone, becoming a part of this movement for revolution as they learn more about it.
The remarks of the main speaker took off from the comments that were printed from Andy Zee in NY. She also drew from the recent piece from BA, “A Fundamental Point of Orientation, Approach and Objective.” And emphasized the role for everyone there in being a part of getting out this new film as they are getting more into it themselves—people might not agree with everything, but if they see the importance of getting it out, they should run with the Revolution Club and the BA Everywhere network to take the DVD out to thousands of people at the LA Festival of Books, May Day, Cinco de Mayo and the Fiesta Broadway—major opportunities in the next few weeks to introduce people to BA, this new film, and Revolution newspaper, and raise funds for BA Everywhere. Along with talking about the importance of fighting the power overall, she emphasized the importance of working now to build powerful support for the hunger strike called by prisoners in the California SHU for July 8, 2013.
The evening was filled with lively discussion and engagement with BA, with the film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! and with the movement for revolution, on many levels. Some young people who had met revolutionaries on a street corner weeks before the dinner told their experiences of being brutalized and jailed by police. Hearing about the planned hunger strike and the prisoners' call for peace between different nationalities in the prisons and jails, one of them, a Latino brother, told the story of when he was in jail, handcuffed to a chair, the police tried to get him to fight a Black guy handcuffed to the chair next to him—the winner could go free. They refused. He and his friends left the dinner with a much clearer picture of what the movement for revolution is about, excited about going to the Festival of Books.
Someone from the middle strata, who has been getting into the DVD himself, said he was moved when he overheard one of these youth talk about wanting to get one of the new T-shirts, but not having the money to afford it. This person from the middle strata said he wants to start a fund for the youth to get revolutionary T-shirts, and wants to take this idea out to others as part of BA Everywhere.
A student who had heard a presentation from an RCP supporter in his college class last year met revolutionaries again just before the dinner and came to the celebration. He said that the excerpt from the DVD on human nature answered a question he had raised in the class, and he left with a copy of BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian. A woman who was active in the '60s told a diverse group how BA had been talking to her when he challenged '60s people to remember that they were right back then, and to act on that understanding.
One group held a lively, wide-ranging discussion in Spanish, struggling over religion and wrangling with how to find the ways to get out the DVD and raise funds for BA Everywhere even with the limitations of working and family responsibilities. They came up with a plan for a fundraising DVD showing.
After the dinner and program, people didn’t want to leave; they sat talking, or table-hopping, for another hour. The room was electric—deep engagement and discussion punctuated with jokes and laughter. Finally everyone helped clean up and went home with left-over delicious food and plans to spread BA Everywhere in the coming weeks. "This was amazing," one person commented as he left. "It was like a new cultural revolution."
More than $900 was raised for BA Everywhere.
Revolution #301 April 14, 2013
Letter from Prisoner:
April 14, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On April 2, the Alabama State Senate approved an anti-abortion bill that is expected to be signed into law by the governor and could lead to the forced closing of the state's four remaining abortion clinics. The bill—deceptively named "The Women's Health and Safety Act"—would require clinics to widen rooms and doorways, forcing clinics to undergo remodeling and putting a big financial burden on them. The bill also requires physicians working at the clinics to have admitting privileges at local hospitals, making it much more difficult for the clinics to have qualified doctors on staff. These measures have nothing to do with actually protecting the health and safety of women, but are aimed at shutting down clinics and making abortion even harder to get. The Alabama bill is a part of a flood of anti-abortion laws across the U.S. at the state level (see "North Dakota Governor Signs Three Extreme Anti-Abortion Laws" in Revolution, April 7, 2012). The stark reality is that abortion is increasingly stigmatized, dangerous to provide, and difficult to access. Unavailability of abortion poses real dangers to health and safety of women. And if women are forced to continue with unwanted pregnancies, their lives are foreclosed and degraded.
The following is a letter from a prisoner about defending the right to abortion.
* * * * *
First and foremost I want to thank you all for continuing my subsidized subscription of Revolution, I have received all of the latest issues, as well as those issues that were sent to me before my new mailing information was on your records. The other prison forwarded all of my mail, so I received every issue that's been distributed this year, and last week a copy of the Constitution of the R.C.P., U.S.A. along with a piece by Sunsara Taylor arrived as well. I read the piece written by Sunsara Taylor the night it arrived, but I haven't read the Constitution yet.
I have the piece by Sunsara Taylor sitting here before me, and I personally consider this to be a very valuable piece because it relates to the struggles I face in here as far as trying to get others to Engage In BA's work, and to see "Beyond the Narrow Horizon of Bourgeois Right".
There is No uniformal way to taking this New Synthesis to the streets and trying to reach the masses, and Sunsara Taylor demonstrates this in her piece ("A Powerful Day of Defiance: No More Trayvon Martins, Revolution—Nothing Less!"). In BAsics 5:24 B.A. says: "We must be able to maintain our firmness of principles but at the same time our flexibility.... " which is key, especially when dealing with closed minded individuals who are so delusional, and who are so grounded in BullShit, It doesn't matter what approach is taken because they are going to remain convicted in what they believe to be true.
For instance, after reading one of the recent issues of Revolution geared toward the abolishment of patriarchism, and promoting Abortion on Demand, this brother came up to me and said He feels that line to be morally Incorrect. He says he feels this way not only because he's a Christian, but the fact that a potential life is being murdered doesn't sit well with him. He said that a woman should be more responsible and keep her legs closed if she doesn't want to have a baby.... Now, at this point I really want to go upside his HEAD. I actually felt a slight rage come over my entire body..... keeping my cool, and being flexible, I kindly ask the brother if he at least felt that a woman should have the right to choose to terminate their pregnancy or not? He said yes, that they should have a choice. I told him that the choice to decide is being taken away due to the action of backward thinking people. I told him how the access to abortion clinics and forms of birth control Is being taken away. I then gave him a book by Richard Dawkins, The Greatest Show on Earth: Evidence of Evolution, bookmarking a chapter in the book titled: "You did it yourself in nine months," showing that an embryo is not a baby and in fact there are several stages that an egg must develop through before becoming an actual baby.
There is definitely no short cuts to becoming informed, and my moral obligation is to see that we all know the truth, which is obtained by gathering the facts. This brother says he read the chapter, but on account of his morals he's standing on his position. He has the mentality that if he is wrong, then he doesn't want to be Right. While I appreciate his enthusiasm for saving lives, women are Not human Incubators. And since he is so hellbent on saving the potential lives of seeds, then may be he should consider the potential life he is destroying while he masturbates to those pornographic photos he's always looking for. (feel me)
Transforming the people for Revolution is not an easy task, and I applaud Sunsara Taylor and the rest for taking the Revolution to the streets... With this letter I'm enclosing an essay that my daughter wrote for her freshman English class [see "Prisoner's Daughter Writes on Devastating Effects of Mass Incarceration"]. It really moved me in such a way, and I told her that I would be sharing this with the P.R.L.F, because if it were not for the work that y'all do this essay would have never been written with this content. Thanks for Everything.
Revolution #301 April 14, 2013
April 14, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The following essay was written by the daughter of a prisoner who included it in a letter he sent to the Revolutionary Prisoners Literature Fund (PRLF). (See the letter, which is on the question of abortion, at "Defending the Right to Abortion, and Transforming People for Revolution".)
When those steel bars close, how would you feel? Your father gone all your life, how would you feel? A judge locking up your freedom and throwing away the key, how would you feel? Today I want to address the subject of black men incarcerated for long periods of time, and how I believe it's unfair that colored men are not given the opportunity to show that they are able to function properly in society after serving portions of their sentence.
My father has been incarcerated for over 14 years, remember I'm only 14 years of age and will be 15 on august, 19. This means I've never been able to go out and get ice cream when I was a little girl, or him being able to see me graduate the fifth grade, or even little things like him fighting the hairy, scary monsters under my bed. Now I'm not stating that he didn't commit the crime he was accused of, but I'm stating that he has learned from his mistakes. He has gotten his GED in there and is working on getting an degree for law. He was just caught at the wrong place at the wrong time, trying to take up for his brother and now is charged for attempted murder, facing 40 years do 20 years.
My father is proud that I even considered to address this issue because although mass incarceration affects the people in our community the most, many of the men that is incarcerated either don't have the courage or they are ashamed of discussing how this system affects their lives. Of the 2.4 million people who are incarcerated in the prisons here in the United States of America "the land of the free", more than 50% of the prison population is of color. Today there are more black men in prison than there are were in slavery during the time of the Ceases Review taken in the late 1800's. As of June 2001, there were nearly 20,000 more black men in the Illinois State prison system than in the public universities.
In the book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Color Blindness Author Michelle Alexander make the connections and shows how the American legal system uses mass incarceration as a continuation of slavery and the Old Jim Crow South and means of controlling people of color. She demonstrated in detail how by labeling portions as reduced them to the positions as a subhuman. In society and by doing so it strips them of their rights and privileges, for example: During the time of slavery black people were considered to be only 3/5 of a human being, and the law at that time stated that "a black person was pound to respect" [Father adds in margin: "She was trying to discuss the 3/5 clause. The Black man was considered to be Subhuman and He HAD NO Rights that a white person was Bound to RESPECT."] Black people could not vote, own land, or work and earn wages equal to white people. Today it is legal to exclude black people from voting, housing, and from the opportunity to work if they are labeled as criminals or ex-felons (an ex-felon is anyone with a criminal record rather they been in prison or not).
When my father is finally released from prison I will have to help him, and will definitely need my love and support in the real world. When those steel bars close, how would you feel? When your father is gone all of your life, how would you feel? A judge locking away your freedom and throwing away the key, how would you feel? I believe us students shouldn't judge a book by its cover. You can judge him by his actions because yes he has committed a crime but he also has achieved many goals, and is a great father and human being!
Revolution #301 April 14, 2013
April 14, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the agency responsible for immigration detention within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), detains approximately 33,400 immigrants every night and more than 400,000 each year (429,000 in 2011, an all-time high). About two-thirds of these people are held in a sprawling network of over 250 state and local facilities, which contract with ICE to house immigration detainees.
Since 2005, the immigration detention population has increased by 85 percent. Most immigrant detainees have no legal immigration status; many do not speak English; most do not have attorneys to represent their interests; and the public is largely unaware of the unlawful, inhuman punishment, denial of due process, and violation of human rights taking place when immigrants are detained.
And, according to a new report, hundreds of immigrants are being tortured through the use of prolonged solitary confinement in these detention facilities.
And these victims of U.S. torture are not even charged with crimes—they are being held on suspicion of civil, not criminal, offenses, and their detention is supposed to be only to ensure they will appear for their deportation hearings.
On March 24, the New York Times printed an article, "Immigrants Held in Solitary Cells, Often for Weeks." The new federal data from which this article drew its conclusions reports that on any given day, about 300 immigrants are held in solitary confinement at the 50 largest detention facilities run by ICE. Nearly half of the 300 are isolated for 15 days or more—the point at which psychiatric experts say they are at risk for severe mental harm—with about 35 detainees kept for more than 75 days.
The article states: "While Immigration and Customs Enforcement places only about 1 percent of its jailed immigrants in solitary, this practice is nonetheless startling because those detainees are being held on civil, not criminal, charges. As such, they are not supposed to be punished; they are simply confined to ensure that they appear for administrative hearings."
The federal data is "the first public snapshot" of the number of immigrants held in solitary confinement, how long they were kept in solitary, and the attendant mental health problems. However, as the New York Times revealed, "the tallies provided by the immigration agency are probably low because many of the detention centers failed to report segregation statistics during some weeks of the review, and some did not include mental health cases in their tallies."
It must be kept in mind that this is solitary confinement for 300 people on any one day. Over the course of a year, or several years, torture of immigrant detainees through the use of prolonged solitary confinement, even by these U.S. government records and statistics, is in the many thousands of people.
Solitary confinement is a form of torture, a prison within a prison. In the U.S. prison system, tens of thousands (80,000) of individuals are "buried alive" inside cramped, concrete, windowless 8-by-11-foot cells in near-total isolation for between 22 and 24 hours a day. There is no human contact or fresh air to breathe for months, years, and for some prisoners, decades. International human rights organizations and bodies have condemned this practice. The devastating psychological and physical effects of solitary confinement have been well documented by medical and psychological experts. Prisoners face the excruciating mental anguish associated with long-term solitary confinement: paranoia, depression, memory loss, perceptual distortions and hallucinations, panic attacks, self-harm and self-mutilation—a combination of symptoms that is found in virtually no other psychiatric illness, and which, taken together, form a unique psychiatric syndrome. Solitary confinement is a major factor in suicidal ideation, suicide attempts, and actual suicide in the U.S. prison system.
Now we learn that 300 immigrants on any given day, and thousands over the course of months and years, face the same form of torture in U.S. immigration detention facilities. And many medical experts say the psychological impact of solitary on immigrant detainees may be even more traumatic because "many are victims of human trafficking, domestic violence or sexual assault, or have survived persecution and torture in their home countries."
The article New York Times article discusses several cases:
A September 2012 investigative report by the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) and Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), "Invisible in Isolation—The Use of Segregation and Solitary Confinement in Immigration Detention," describes how "guards have unfettered power over immigrants who have no legal recourse for unfair custody decisions."
This first-of-its-kind examination of segregation and solitary confinement in the immigrant detention system in the U.S. is replete with stories about immigrant detainees being put in isolation cells and tortured this way for such things as "complaining about the quality of drinking water" or for having "an extra blanket, bra, and a pair of socks," or for newspaper articles in cells, or for "being in the dayroom playing cards during church services," or for filing grievances against guards.
When confronted with the revelations that the U.S. immigration system is using solitary confinement to torture immigrant detainees, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano made clear she was "not wild about the story" printed in the New York Times and actually referred to the specific cases documented as "facts" (in quotes), skeptical about their accuracy! This reality of torture of immigrants in mass civil U.S. detention facilities has been covered up for a long time. The whole truth needs to come out and this torture must stop, now.
Revolution #301 April 14, 2013
by Carl Dix | April 14, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The seemingly never ending horror of police murder of Black and Latino youth poses the question—“How Long?”—as in, “How long do we have to endure the capitalist system’s enforcers, the police, murdering our youth and almost never being punished in any way for their crimes?” I feel that question every time I hear that the cops have killed another youth, another life stolen by those sworn to “Protect and Serve.” And this is a question we’re hearing from people in the East Flatbush neighborhood in Brooklyn from people who took to the streets for days filled with rage after the NYPD murdered 16-year-old Kimani Gray.
See clip "The police, Black youth and what kind of a system is this?" from Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About, a Film of a Talk by Bob Avakian in 2003
Maybe they don’t always voice those exact words, saying instead that they are tired of how the cops treat them, tired of hearing of young Black people dead at the hands of the police, Kimani coming a few months after Shantel Davis was killed in the same neighborhood, coming within a year after Ramarley Graham, Reynaldo Cuevas, Tamar Robinson and many more people. And sometimes, we hear those exact words—“How Long?”
That question is the backdrop against which the March 24 protest called by the Stop Mass Incarceration Network (SMIN) with the theme of “Justice for Kimani Gray,” and the dangerous and divisive actions engaged in by those who threatened physical attacks on people associated with the Revolutionary Communist Party at that protest should be examined. Those threats were made against me and my comrades because a few people felt we had brought what they considered to be an “outside agenda” to this protest.
What did these people consider an “outside agenda"? The truth that this seemingly never ending chain of police murder of Black and Latino people was a horror built into the very fabric of this capitalist system and that it would take Revolution—Nothing Less! to end it once and for all. And that we challenged everybody at this protest who wondered what if anything could be done to stop this horror to get serious and get with the revolution. And even worse in the eyes of those issuing the threats, we gave people a real way to do that, by getting Revolution newspaper and checking out the film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!
This is no “outside agenda.” It is the real answer to “How Long?”—“How long are we going to have to endure the cops murdering our youth and almost never being punished for their crimes? Until a revolutionary people numbering in the millions is brought forward and unleashed to lead millions more in doing away with this system thru revolution and building a totally different and far better world in its place.” The seemingly never ending chain of police murders points you in the direction of this answer. But this answer so angered a few people at the protest that they responded with threats of physical attacks.
What answers did these people have to “How Long?” One called for making the police more accountable and for giving the cops better training. In other settings, people have spoken of getting a new mayor and a new police chief as the way to deal with the horror of police murder. These come down to nothing more than tired, played out bullshit! I’ve been dealing with police murder for four decades now, and I’ve heard all this crap put forward as ways to deal with police murder.
Let’s be for real. The police are the front line enforcers for the capitalist system. That’s what they’re accountable to. Their role is to keep the inequality, exploitation and oppression that system inflicts on the people in effect. They get recruited and trained to play that role, and they get promoted and rewarded for playing it. These ways of dealing with the horror of police murder come down to telling people asking “How Long?”—“Forever”!
That’s what is at the heart of the controversy brewing over the dangerous and divisive actions engaged in at the March 24 “Justice for Kimani Gray” protest called by SMIN and over the Statement “Our Movement of Resistance Needs a Lot of Room for Dialogue and Discussion, But NO ROOM FOR ATTACKS AND THREATS OF PHYSICAL VIOLENCE!” (See the statement online at revcom.us.) The revolutionaries came to that protest with an answer of “Revolution—Nothing Less!” to the question of “How Long?” A few people responded by trying to shut down that answer as being something imposed from the “outside.” Their answers to “How Long?” come down to condemning the masses to suffer this injustice, and all the other horrors this system enforces, “Forever.”
Revolution #301 April 14, 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 #301 April 14, 2013
From Carl Dix:
April 14, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
We face an emergency situation.
All this amounts to a slow genocide that is breaking the bodies and crushing the spirits of countless millions of oppressed people. A slow genocide which could easily become a fast one. This is unacceptable and must be stopped! And it is up to our grassroots efforts to stop it.
Nearly two years ago, some of us met to pull together a movement not just to protest this but to END IT. Some things have been done—we have supported the 2011 prisoners' hunger strikes in California; participated in actions across the country in protest of the murder of Trayvon Martin; and participated in many protests in communities across the country against police murder. And, in particular, we launched a major campaign of mass nonviolent direct action against the notorious stop-and-frisk policies in New York City.
This has been important. But it is not nearly enough.
Our movement of resistance to mass incarceration must make a big leap ahead in the coming months, becoming a major force in U.S. society capable of beating back this slow genocide and building up the strength and organization needed to actually STOP IT. I want to suggest a combination of initiatives for this summer that I think could, together, amount to a major step in this direction and, right now, make a huge leap in putting this in the forefront of people's minds.
THIS HAS TO START NOW! We need to spread the word on the planned hunger strike and the call for unity inside and outside the prisons. We need to gather statements of support for the actions of the prisoners. We need to plan tribunals and other forms to involve broad sections of people in standing with the hunger strikers. If at all possible, we must through this protest force the state of California to meet these demands and make it unnecessary for these prisoners to take such a desperate action; but we must also be prepared to support them through what might indeed be a necessary and very difficult struggle.
Even as we focus on this, we need to continue working to build a powerful movement of resistance to mass incarceration overall. This means:
As part of doing this, we need to get further organized. This means encouraging the formation of chapters of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network all over the country.
These are my ideas on what we need to take up in the months ahead. There is an urgent need to map out an approach to the continuing slow genocide of mass incarceration that grinds away, engulfing the lives of tens of millions of oppressed people. In doing this, we need to base ourselves on what we have accomplished so far while facing squarely the need to go much further.
Get back to me with your thoughts on this proposal. Write me via the Stop Mass Incarceration Network by calling 347-979-SMIN (7646) or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Carl Dix, Revolutionary Communist Party, co-founder of Stop Mass Incarceration Network
Revolution #301 April 14, 2013
April 15, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On April 11, there were 22 actions around the country in solidarity with the hunger strikers at the U.S. torture camp at Guantánamo. (See Revolution interview with journalist Andy Worthington on the hunger strike.) A reader sent the following on the action in Chicago:
30 people took part in Chicago in the Stand With the Guantánamo Hunger Strikers: Shut it Down Now! Action. People from groups like World Can't Wait, Witness Against Torture, Illinois Coalition Against Torture, and Amnesty International gathered at the downtown Federal Plaza as the work day was ending. Nine people put on the infamous orange jumpsuits and black hoods that symbolize the Guantánamo prisoners, each carrying a sign with the name of a man who died at Guantánamo over the 11 years that the prison has been open. Patricia Bronte, a lawyer who represents several men on the hunger strike, spoke about the urgent situation there—how guards are denying men clean water, playing loud music through the night, and turning up the air conditioning so they're freezing. The important point was made that it is the responsibility of the people living in this country to resist and oppose this ongoing crime ...that it's not enough to say you don't like it, but that you actually have to step forward and resist and oppose this. The protesters then processed up State Street, a busy shopping area, to Daley Plaza, causing a stir along the way. Those in orange jumpsuits read aloud the "Hunger Strike Poem" by Adnan Latif, a Guantánamo prisoner who died last September. People then tied 166 orange ribbons, representing the prisoners currently held at Guantánamo, to a fence around a monument at the plaza.
Revolution #301 April 14, 2013
April 11, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Listen to audio of interview
This is the transcript of an interview that ran on The Michael Slate Show with James Cavallaro of Stanford University, who co-authored a study titled "Living Under Drones." The interview was part of the show that aired on Pacifica radio station KPFK, Los Angeles, on January 25, 2013.
Michael Slate: The idea of this drone warfare, we hear it constantly, continuously, and some people are outraged, but really, generally there's not enough outrage and part of that I think comes from people looking at this as sort of a very clean, very surgical, sort of, "this is sort of just the way that war is conducted today and actually, it's a nicer war. There's not as many American boys being killed in a war like this." Your study kind of slams that all to hell and says that the entire narrative around drone warfare is false. Tell our listeners what you're talking about there.
James Cavallaro: Well, to start, it's worth spending a bit of time on what the narrative has been. And I think you summarize it well. What I would add is, the idea that has been dominant in mainstream media in the United States—and this is largely fostered by the official discourse—the main idea has been that drones and drone strikes are surgically precise, that the only casualties caused by drone strikes are terrorists. And since that has been the main narrative, naturally it has served, among other things, to mute opposition to drones. We were very concerned by this narrative because information that we had and also others—and organizations had approached us to see if we would be interested in investigating independently what the consequences of drones and drone strikes actually has been in Pakistan. And we took up that challenge and spent pretty much the year 2012 to date investigating intensely what have been the consequences of drones and drone strikes in Pakistan.
And the result of our work is the report that you cited, "Living Under Drones." But in a sense, of course I'm happy to get into much more detail on this, is the dominant narrative of surgically precise strikes that hit only terrorists, is simply false. That, in fact, drones hit civilians. Drones hit all sort of buildings and that drones have a significant impact on entire communities who are, on a daily basis, terrorized by these unmanned vehicles flying overhead that at any moment can fire down a Hellfire missile that can kill anyone who happens to be within the blast radius.
Slate: Let's jump into this one at a time here. Because one of the things that you just said about it is supposedly the narrative being it doesn't hit civilians. You're arguing that in fact it does. Civilians are deeply impacted, in fact killed by this drone warfare. And this is something that really, you know, well look, frankly, we're living in a situation where the U.S. government basically says—what did Brennan say? It was in the single digits, or there's virtually none, no civilians have been killed. Nobody in the U.S. regime actually admits to significant civilian murder as a result of this drone warfare. How do you speak to that?
Cavallaro: Well, first what's important, and there was an important piece written by Jo Becker and Scott Shane in late May in the New York Times. And that piece investigated the process by which drones are authorized, or at least some drone strikes, and I can get into the details of what the focus of that piece was and what could and should still be considered in more depth. But one of the very important revelations in that piece was that the administration counts those who are killed in a strike, if they are males of combatant age, which is quite a broad range—if a male in the relevant age range is killed in a drone strike, the administration considers that person to be a combatant, unless there is posthumous evidence demonstrating that person's innocence.
So think about that. Take a second. Wrap your head around that. What it means is, if the United States fires a Hellfire missile from a drone and it kills some group of men, the United States considers that they're all militants.
Well, of course, if that's your calculation method for establishing who is a militant or combatant, of course your figures for non-militant or noncombatant deaths will be low. In fact the presumption should be of innocence of those who are killed and there should be some examination, a thorough examination into who the victims are. That's one of the major concerns that we had in this report and one of the issues which we think needs significant response and attention as soon as possible from the administration.
But even without that mischaracterization of those who have been targeted, there is plenty of information. And we went through all the information in media sources and in what are called data aggregators, and there are three major data aggregators. And even the most conservative data aggregators, with whom we have significant issues because of their undercounting, even they are talking about scores and scores, if not hundreds and hundreds of civilians. And the most reliable data aggregator has calculated up to as many as 800, nearly 900 civilians killed.
So the single digits narrative is fantasy. And it's highly problematic because what it does, is it allows most people in the United States to accept the false narrative of surgically precise, terrorist-only weapons, almost as though these weapons were able to go down to a house level, knock on the door, establish that the person is a terrorist by overwhelming evidence, establish that the person is imminently plotting and about to strike and kill Americans, and then and only then killing the person.
That's what it allows people to believe when that's not the case.
Slate: Jim, one of the things when you're talking about this, the idea that—It struck me, especially when I saw this thing, and I'm familiar with the New York Times article you were referring to. And when I saw this thing about they clear up any mistakes posthumously. I mean, one, I think you're right. You would think that they would make that clarification, make that decision before they killed somebody, but even there, there's a certain cynicism and a real, deep, disgusting unreal thing in there, because posthumously after being hit by a drone is a pretty gruesome affair from what I understand in your report. It seems like that's actually almost a given, that that's not going to happen.
Cavallaro: Well, let me put it this way, because we can't know everything, and there's so much secrecy surrounding the U.S. drone practices. Virtually everything is shrouded unfortunately in an inappropriate secrecy, and evidently there's some margin that we understand, for national security that might be legitimately invoked, but it's been used to cover everything related to the drone program, including its very existence.
But again, what we know from the way drones work is those who are very close to the blast radius are incinerated, so it would be highly difficult at a minimum to establish information about those victims. But what I can say is, we are unaware of any serious, comprehensive effort by the United States to find out almost anything about those who are struck by drones. And we also are aware of the fact that in many instances, authorities have been unable even to identify those who've been killed, much less to establish who the person was, what the person was doing, if the person was a combatant, etc.
So, yes, you're right, there's very little to suggest that there is any significant attempt posthumously to exonerate those who've been killed. Which leaves you with: If you were killed, you were a combatant. And then if you roll that backwards, what does that do, that knowledge that drone operators and administrators and administration authorities have, that if they make a mistake, or if they target the wrong people, there's unlikely to be any consequence. What does that do to their targeting decision and their willingness to fire drones? I don't know. But it's a question that concerns me.
Slate: Exactly. And one other thing you guys raise in the report that really, really sort of just smacked me in the head is the point that they often describe, and you see this in the press all the time, they describe the victims of, or the targets, because they don't really ever talk about "victims of," they talk about the targets of the drone attacks are all "militants," which is a phrase you actually call for at the end of your report, you guys call for actually, stop using the term "militant" so easily, and start trying to define people as what they are. Because militants does seem to be a word that's been thrown around to obfuscate everything that's really going on there. What's the story with that?
Cavallaro: Yeah, it is. And I don't want to head too far into the realm of legalese, but militant is a term that sounds as though it legitimates or justifies the killing of the person. So that if a person is a militant, then that person could be killed by a drone. And that's not the case under international law.
In order for a target to be legitimate under international humanitarian law, the laws of war, the person would not only have to be a combatant, but the person would have to be engaged in an activity that imminently threatens interests that the United States could protect, like, say, U.S. lives or interests in Afghanistan, across the border, and there would have to be no means of capturing that person.
So a person could be a militant or a combatant, not be posing a threat to U.S. interests, and/or be subject to capture. And if any of those are the case, in other words, if a person is not presenting a threat to the United States, or if the person could be captured, then that person should not be killed by a drone strike, or could not or should not legally.
So that's one issue, which is very important, is who can the United States kill, or might be able to kill legally, and who can it not kill? But secondarily, and this is in many ways the bigger issue, what we've seen in the mainstream media is that the reporting on drone strikes in an area known as FATA, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, of Pakistan, which is an area of extremely difficult access because of the terrain, but also because it's cordoned off by the Pakistani military. It's an area in which, you simply can't enter. And what media sources have done, is report in effect verbatim, information from anonymous security officials about who was killed. So anonymous security officials who evidently have an interest in saying that those who they killed were combatants, as opposed to, "Hey, we killed a bunch of civilians today!"—they tell the media, anonymously, what they want the media to print. And the media then, obediently, unfortunately, in many, many instances, has simply printed what they are asked to print by anonymous sources.
We don't think that's an appropriate role for an aggressive, democratic media. And one of the things that we call on is for journalists to speak more critically about who are their sources, and also to interrogate what they're saying. So that if the only source for the assertion that all those who are killed are militants is an anonymous security official, maybe if you're a journalist, you say, "We don't know who they are. They're people. They're men. Some people, or some anonymous sources said they were militants," as opposed to "militant, militant, militant, militant," throughout the article.
So there is some responsibility here on the part of the media.
Slate: Tell me this, Jim. How does this add up when you throw in something that was, again, as you read the report, you keep getting more and more outraged—the idea of "double-tapping." Can you explain to my listeners what double-tapping is, and what that says about the civilian targeting?
Cavallaro: So, double-tapping refers to a practice where a drone will fire a Hellfire missile, a first strike, and then shortly afterwards, fire a second strike. And there have been a significant number of cases where this has been documented to have occurred in Pakistan. What that means in practice is, there's a missile strike. It hits a target. It has a blast radius. There may be a number of people who are killed, or maimed or injured in the blast radius. And now what's happened is, when others, first responders, have gone in to assist those who are injured and may still be alive, a second strike kills them. And because that has happened so frequently, unfortunately, in an area known as North Waziristan, which is the epicenter of these strikes, the people with whom we spoke, and we spoke with seventy people from that area who had been directly affected by drone strikes—they told us that they won't go into an area where a drone has struck, because they're afraid that they'll be the victim of a second strike.
And we had some really gruesome testimony of people who were near enough to strikes to see victims, and the victims are screaming and people won't go in to help them because they're afraid they'll be hit by another strike. But there's an important point here, Michael, if I could elaborate here, is, the nature of the drone strikes, double-tapping, as it's called, is one phenomenon, is such that because people don't know when drones are going to strike, all sorts of ordinary activities have been affected in these areas. And people are suffering from significant psychological trauma according to the symptoms that they describe to us, and also according to the interviews that we did with mental health professionals who have treated people from that area.
Slate: Now, Jim, you started to talk about that, the living under drones. What's the impact of this? As I understand it, one of the things that blew my mind was when, and I think there was somebody who was part of your team. I can't remember whether it was with Stanford or NYU, Jennifer Gibson I think her name was.
Cavallaro: Jennifer Gibson was part of our research team at Stanford and then graduated and is now working with an organization based in London.
Slate: Well, she wrote an op-ed piece for the LA Times where she talked about how so many of us think that a drone strike is sort of, the drone comes in, one or two of them come in, just appear out of nowhere and that they fire a single missile or two missiles or whatever into a crowd of people and then they disappear. She said, actually, you're talking about a situation where 24/7, people are living under the threat of drones, literally. Is that the case?
Cavallaro: So here's what we were able to document. I went to Pakistan twice for a couple of weeks and spent time speaking with, again, this group of 70 people who, in several shifts, came and met with us, who live in areas where drones fly overhead, and who are directly affected because some of them, themselves, had been injured or maimed by drone strikes, or they lost a relative or many relatives, or because they'd had drones hovering over and had fired Hellfire missiles in their communities.
So these are people who are living constantly under drones. And what they told us—and this is really part of what really had the greatest impact on us, as much as the death and destruction and maiming evidently has an impact on anyone. What they told us is, the drones in their communities hover overhead at times 24 hours a day for several days on end. They emit a buzzing sound. And we spoke with many, many people and they would imitate the sound, a bzzz-zzzz-zz, like a bee. It's something that even when they're sleeping, it's there, and it's in the back of their heads. And they have no idea when one of these drones will fire a Hellfire missile down on their communities. They also don't know where it will hit or who it will hit.
So imagine what this does to them on a daily basis. They're walking in the bazaar: they don't want to get too close to someone if they don't know who that person is, because maybe that person is suspected of being a combatant by the drone operator and maybe a drone will hit that person. And if it does and I'm within 15 or 20 yards, I will be killed by the shrapnel.
So that's the logic, and what it's done is it's cast a pall on all sorts of activities. People told us for instance they don't go out of their houses unless they have to. They don't congregate with three or four men any more. They don't go to religious services. They don't go to funerals. And here's maybe the worst, is many people told us they don't send their children to school anymore. Because they don't know where they are. They don't know where they're going to be. They don't know if they're going to wander into an area where there's a group of men that might look to someone in, say, Nevada, who's watching a video image, like a group of militants or combatants.
So the entire community has been profoundly affected. And the other major effect, evidently related to the first, are the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, the symptoms of other psychological maladies, of stress-related disorders that many people with whom we spoke told us about. They're suffering themselves and have many others in their community suffering. I would say in a sentence, in a short sentence: The United States has not declared war on Pakistan and is not officially engaged in a war in North Waziristan, but the narratives of people in that area were narratives that sounded like people living in a war zone.
That's the way people living under drones experience drones and drone strikes.
Slate: I know you were careful not to get into all the legalese and legalisms, in terms of language before, but a significant part of your study actually does raise the question of the legality or illegality of all this. And that really strikes me because I'm looking at it and I'm thinking, OK, how many crimes are going to be allowed to be committed, and to me, from my own viewpoint after reading the study and my own thinking about it beforehand, these kinds of things, at the very least must violate half a dozen international laws. It just seems to me, humanitarian law has to be violated time and time again in the process of this whole drone warfare system. What did you guys find about that?
Cavallaro: So, I'll try and be succinct, but let me start by saying there is significant evidence, and we pull it together in this report. And there are other sources as well that demonstrate that there's every likelihood that many, many drone strikes have occurred in violation of international law. But here's what makes it a tricky—and this is part of, I would say, the strategy, although I can't speak to, knowingly, what the strategy of the administration is, but it seems as though this may be what they've been thinking. You can imagine a hypothetical scenario—one can imagine—where there's a person in North Waziristan, a combatant, and the combatant is about to fire a missile, and the missile will strike and kill I don't know how many Americans in Afghanistan, hypothetically, OK? And there's no way to arrest this person. And the person has the missile and is about to fire it.
And in that circumstance one can imagine, well, it might be legal under those circumstances as described for the U.S. or someone to use some sort of lethal military strike, such as a drone, to attack that person before the person, who is about to imminently attack and kill many Americans, can fire the missile he's about to fire, right?
So you can imagine, you can work into the intellectual possibility of that occurring. Here's what happens. Because that intellectual possibility occurs, and because the United States has taken measures to close off investigations to shroud drone strikes in secrecy, unfortunately to make sure that media do not know what's happening, the administration is able to say, "Our strikes are legal. We won't provide any basis for why that's true. We won't let you know what the legal memoranda say. We won't let you know the specifics of what happened in any of these cases. But because there's some theoretical, hypothetical possibility that maybe there could be a legally valid drone strike, we're just going to tell you they're legal. Now go away, stop investigating and report what I tell you."
That's what we've gotten. And that simply is not good enough in a democracy. It's not good enough with the media, that should be concerned about human life, and it's not good enough with a society of citizens who should be concerned about human life. Anywhere. Not just in the United States, but human life in Pakistan. And it should also concern us when we know that 176 children, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, have been killed by drone strikes in Pakistan, and as many as 880 civilians.
So there are very, very serious legal questions that need to be answered. And I don't think they're going to be answered until people get outraged and demand those answers from authorities.
Slate: You know it's interesting, Jim, to think about people doing that, and to me it's really important. Because here you look at it, and you guys make a point in your study that, since Obama came into office, the number of drone strikes and the devastation caused by drones, has just increased immensely in three years. It's...
Cavallaro: Five- or six-fold.
Cavallaro: By five or six times.
Slate: Yeah, and people keep turning away and turning away and turning a blind eye to this. And I was thinking even these things, like you were talking about the things to be talked about in terms of a "personality strike," in a certain sense if you're going after one person and you think you got this. And while that's bad enough, he also has instituted these things called "signature strikes," which to me, just by the very description of them, the character of them—Jesus! What are we thinking, that we can sit and say, "OK, this makes sense to me"?
Tell people what a signature strike is and what do you think about that?
James Cavallaro: You're absolutely right. What's most worrisome about the drone practices of the United States are the signature strikes. So let's just go through what the difference is. A personality strike is one where an individual has been identified. The United States military or CIA authorities know who the person is. They have reason to know that the person is involved in al-Qaeda or the Taliban, and is plotting an incident imminently, represents a threat, can't be arrested, all of that criteria that would have to be filled, and they decide to target that person.
Let's put that to the side. And we should put that to the side because all evidence suggests that that kind of strike, a personality strike, is a small percentage of the strikes that have taken place, particularly in recent years. Where most strikes occur is in what's called the signature strike context. And what does that mean? It means that people who are watching the videos, the images taken by drones—they're watching those images, god knows where, possibly at some CIA location, undisclosed location in the United States, in Nevada, elsewhere—they're watching those images and they assess from those images, based on the pattern of activity, that the people that they're looking at are combatants, that those people are plotting or engaged imminently in an attack on U.S. interests and that they can't be captured. At least that's what they're telling us.
And when they establish all that, from the video screen, then they fire one Hellfire missile, and maybe a second when first responders come, to kill those people. That's almost certainly where most of the deaths have occurred. And that is far beyond where a lot of the focus of the media has been in recent months, particularly since the New York Times article that we referred to earlier by Jo Becker and Scott Shane which talked about Obama's role in making decisions about the first kind of strike, the personality strikes, where the individual who is targeted is known. The focus has been on personality strikes, even though most of the deaths almost certainly have occurred in signature strikes where someone is looking at a video image and deciding, "Oh, these people, they're probably up to no good. They're probably doing something that will have lethal consequences for the United States. We don't think we'll arrest them, so we'll kill them. That is a context which, again, I think raises—should raise—all sorts of red flags.
Slate: Absolutely. And Jim, one last thing, just so people can have this on their minds as they go about their business after hearing this interview, the numbers. What are the numbers involved?
Cavallaro: The numbers of people killed?
Cavallaro: We're looking at unfortunately several thousand now in Pakistan, and again there are others in Yemen, but that wasn't the focus of our report. But the numbers—the best source, which is the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, had the numbers through early September at between 2,562 and 3,325 people, of whom, they were able to classify with all of the ambiguity in the information, between 474 and 881 as civilians, and 176 as children. And again, many more of those could be civilians, but there's not enough information to know that. So significant numbers. If you look at the numbers of people killed, it's on the order of people killed on 9/11.
Slate: Where can people find the study?
Cavallaro: The site is livingunderdrones.org. There they can find the study. There's a video, all sorts of resources relevant to this issue. And hopefully—one thing I'll say is, this is an issue where again, to the extent people are involved and outraged and let people in Congress and the administration and others know, that might start some sort of—some process of accountability within the United States.
Slate: Thank you very much for joining us.
Cavallaro: Thank you very much, Michael. I appreciate it.
Revolution #301 April 14, 2013
Hampshire College, Amherst, MA: At CLPP Conference:
"From Abortion Rights to Social Justice:
Building the Movement for Reproductive Freedom"
April 14, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On the evening of Saturday, April 13 at the CLPP (Civil Liberties & Public Policy) conference, several conference attendees approached the StopPatriarchy.org table with our Call to Action in hand to argue against our condemnation of the sex industry and pornography. We welcomed this argument and got into a lively debate. However, instead of engaging our critique of the social harm caused by pornography and the selling of women's bodies for sex (how reducing women to sex objects through porn is the "mirror opposite" of reducing women to breeders through denying abortion), these people took offense to the fact that we dared to make this analysis.
If they didn't want to hear this critique, they were free to leave our table. They chose not to simply do this. Instead, they went to the CLPP organizers and complained that they felt the conference was no longer a "safe space" for them - merely because a table existed putting forward (and advocating to those who visited it), the position that the sex industry and pornography are horrifically harmful to women and humanity as a whole.
Outrageously, CLPP organizers did not investigate or ask a single organizer from StopPatriarchy.org - or others who had witnessed the debate - about what had happened. Nor did they attempt to facilitate principled participation and dialogue between people with divergent viewpoints. Instead, they showed up within minutes with campus police and insisted that StopPatriarchy.org immediately leave the campus under threat of arrest.
If you agree that this removal by police is illegitimate, write in to StopPatriarchy@gmail.com to add your voice to this objection.
Revolution #301 April 14, 2013
April 15, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
I have already read the book, "BAsics" by Bob Avakian and enjoyed it. I also enjoy Revolution the publication. But the film, "Revolution, Nothing Less" actually really shows Bob's love for the masses. I most enjoyed his analogy of people who evoke "the founding fathers" who were nothing but racist, sexist, slave owning, native killing, white male property owners. Bob also called out people who were in their comfort zones, but see the everyday injustices done to young African Amerikkkan males being murdered by police, as well as the mass deportation of Latino (Brown) people. The scapegoating of Muslims, etc....we live in an economic system that thrives on exploitation to survive. Bob does a good job of pointing that out.
Revolution #301 April 14, 2013
April 13, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
This statement came from a woman who was unable to attend the premiere but has been part of collective viewings of BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! since.
When I first was introduced to BA's teachings, I was very shocked that this white boy was very real and knew a lot about Black life. Listening to BA, I felt that he knew just what I was going through and up against day after day. I was very interested in what he had to say and I wanted to find out more about this man who I heard and seen on video. I observed a lot of things that was not right about this society and he did too. He caught my attention when he actually spoke on the subjects like domestic violence, police shootings, corruption, unfair laws, injustices, things that everyone is facing and can relate to. BA speaks from the heart with passionate, he speaks on a level in which anyone and everyone can relate to, not talking above your head. BA speaks in a way, where you are being taught not preached to or at. He is funny and very intense and leaves you thinking and with your mind challenged and ready for more. BA is simply amazing and made me want to work for the Revolution.
Trying to describe BA and the impact that he has on me and other people is priceless. BA is that nice breath of air that you hope or wish for on a hot day. Some of the adjectives describing BA is the following: extremely intelligent, critical thinker, comic, committed, passionate and everything I would want in a leader.
Revolution #301 April 14, 2013
April 15, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The film was wonderful and every segment was important. The length was necessary because Bob Avakian doesn't always get the opportunity to speak to the people in the audience. We have to do outreach to those unfamiliar with what Bob Avakian was talking about since there's the fascist control of the media, which makes many people brainwashed.
Bob Avakian is a commanding speaker. He's passionate and his talk lent credence that he was serious about what he was saying. The talk had coherence. It was illuminating. Now the job is for you, I and others who are sympathetic to get it to others who are unfamiliar with it.
The film was very well done and I liked that he talked about how the government was like Nazi's.
I appreciated the audacity of Bob Avakian's talk. For Bob Avakian to have retained his passion for all these years and to do something about it is admirable. Bob Avakian has that spirit and his genuineness and believability came through. He believes in this and that gives it credibility.
Revolution #301 April 14, 2013
April 14, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
About 40 people of different ages and nationalities came out to see BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! at Cleveland State University, sponsored by the Black Studies Program and Revolution Books. As people came up to get packets, some felt that they were coming to something new and arising while others were curious. Most of the people had just recently heard of BA, so it was eye opening and new to them. There were 25% Black people: college students, a family member of someone killed by the police, people from a hot meal center. There were 50% college students from 2 colleges in the city, including international students from Asia and the Middle East. There were some high school students as well as high school and college teachers. During the showing there was some talk back like when BA spoke about the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal), a college teacher spoke out approvingly. As people were leaving about half filled out the “Get Connected” sheets, many checking off that they wanted to know more about BA and building the movement for revolution, and some wanted to help raise funds.
Although most of the people did not stay for the entire film, people said they want to get the film out far and wide, to homeless shelters, to classes and in the community. People wrote some important comments about their experience with the film. One older Black man said, ”I found the presentation emotionally moving, a gut wrenching message needed to be heard by all of the oppressed masses. This presentation should be seen by all ages. It should be shown in schools, churches, men and women’s shelters. Where there are people the presentation should be seen. This is true, raw education at its best. We need to get the film on PBS so thousands can see it. Three cheers for BA!”
A Black woman college students said, “The movie speaks on issues I thought about but haven’t thought deeply on. It makes me want to help and speak my own words about the revolution.”
A middle aged Black man said, “It informed me about the corrupt structure of power in the system we use in this country (enslavement of people) I really enjoyed it!!!”
A political activist in the immigrant struggle said, “BA points out how we as a people are seduced by the superficial glamor and false security of the ruling class. I like BA’s analysis of moving, evolving characteristics of human nature.”
An inner city teacher wrote, “...His delivery reflects the heartfelt connectedness he feels with the masses worldwide, especially the most exploited and oppressed. His profound understanding of the oppression of women and the deepening attacks in all their forms should be a wakeup call to all those who see compromise with the other side as desirable. I loved his riff on ‘I could be Black but then I wouldn’t be...’ It was a great way to get at identity politics.”
After the program a few of us went and got pizza, talking about what struck people about the film. One person said based on his own experience that people are too selfish to make a revolution. Another man said, “We got to get to the youth. They’re blamed, targeted by the police, locked up.” A man whose niece was recently murdered by the police said how BA speaks the truth about white cops always harassing Black and Latino people and blaming the people for things they didn’t do. He also said he didn’t think there will ever be a point in which racism will be ended. That opened up lots of discussion which ended with the understanding that racism can’t be buried for good until humanity reaches communism. We discussed that the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) concretely lays out how to get there.
At the end of the evening there was feeling that BA’s message should be out there in a big way and people there want to be part of that happening.
Revolution #301 April 14, 2013
April 9, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
We received the following call for donations from StopPatriarchy.org:
Your financial support is needed to send an incredible contingent of StopPatriarchy.org activists up to a major women's rights conference happening this weekend.
"From Abortion Rights to Social Justice: Building the Movement for Reproductive Freedom" is the 27th annual conference at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA when 1,000 mostly young students along with community activists come together from across the U.S. and internationally to "build a stronger movement for reproductive justice and social change."
StopPatriarchy.org needs to be at this conference, and we're asking for your support. We have a super great and very diverse crew: multi-national, multi-generational, multi-sexual orientation that is eager to bring StopPatriarchy.org—our agenda of taking on the ENTIRE war on women from the "Pope to the pimp!"—to this conference. Especially important: we want to bring our vision & plans for stepped-up resistance this summer to the massive assault on abortion rights.
Housing, transportation, and conference registration costs money. Approximately $150 per person with 8-10 of us going. Could you give $150 and sponsor a volunteer? Will you pitch in $20?
Take a few minutes and read over the statements (below) from a few of our volunteers who are planning on going and are asking for your help.
We think these words beautifully convey how dynamic and transformative this movement is. You can be part of this with your donation.
Some words from several in our group:
From a young white college student:
"In a time where abortion is more stigmatized than ever, there is nothing more significant than going to this conference. For a 20-year-old woman like myself, I am constantly bombarded by anti-abortion media and attacks from anti-abortionists. How could people, especially women, be against something so fundamental? Do they not see the connections between outlawing abortion and the control over women? Could they be so blind?
“Surrounding myself in a pro-abortion environment is crucial. No longer will I feel hopeless in this struggle for justice. No longer will I simply share my opinions—I will shout them out! Even scream them, if I have to! In a world faced with so much insanity, I refuse to remain silent."
From a 21-year-old Black woman:
"I want to go to the Hampshire conference to inform people of the revolutionary movement and also learn about what they are putting forward, what they have to offer positively to the movement. I would also like to tell/show the people that will be there how they can participate in StopPatriarchy. When I was in DC for the Roe v. Wade 40th anniversary, I wasn't sure if I was going to learn anything or even if I belonged there. Then, after protesting and marching hard in the cold I was certain I touched someone with our side of the cause. So, I'm hoping to do the same in Massachusetts. I really want to go but I support myself and my son so $150 is kind of steep."
From a young white woman:
"I'm 22 & majoring in women and gender studies. Finding StopPatriarchy began a process within me that unleashed this anger I had been pushed deep within me. It not only unleashed it, but it harnessed it towards something that was fundamentally challenging the status-quo on the role of women in society; the ways in which pornography plays a key role in keeping women viewed as objects for consumption and degradation, and the ways in which abortion rights are being systematically stripped away and how integral this right is to women being free. This movement deeply looks at the realities women face every day, and relates them to the way this system works, the way it must work in order to maintain its control and legitimacy, and ultimately, gets into why things simply should not and do not have to be this way. StopPatriarchy gives me hope that one day, after lots of struggle, things will NOT be this way, and people like me, who do not conform to gender constructs, will be allowed to live in a society which cares not about such things, but instead allows people to be who they are, live to their full potential, and thrive equally. It's this understanding and this hope that I want to help bring to the conference. In college with a part-time job & living on my own: really need some financial assistance to get there!"
From a low-income Black woman with 2 kids:
"I'm new to this and learning as I'm going along. I'd like to go to Amherst: 1. because I've never been there, 2. It's even better to be there for the first time for the revolutionary movement for liberating people. Before I met this movement I didn't know that it used to be legal, up until not very long ago, for husbands to force their wives to have sex unwillingly. I didn't know that the law didn't see that as rape, just because they were married. Rape should be rape no matter who you are. It shouldn't be like that. Meeting this movement has been overwhelming... but also like a relief. I am looking for the words... It's amazing to find that someone is willing to change all this. I'm like, 'Okay, let's go!' As for abortion, a woman should be able to get an abortion if she wants one. It shouldn't be something where somebody is forcing her to keep it. No one should force you—it is YOUR choice. Forcing women is not right. It's not right! Honestly, I don't get paid enough to afford this conference without some help. I wouldn't expect anyone to pay my whole way, I could do at least half. But I have bills to pay and two sons. They are the love of my life but I take care of them and that's part of the reason things are kind of tight and I could use some help getting up to this conference."
Revolution #301 April 14, 2013
Statement from the Stop Mass Incarceration Network:
April 11, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
We received the following statement from the Stop Mass Incarceration Network:
Noche Diaz is a young revolutionary and a member of the People's Neighborhood Patrol of Harlem. He courageously works to safeguard constitutionally guaranteed rights of citizens in neighborhoods where these rights are often abused. Today he faces charges in Manhattan and the Bronx for witnessing police brutalizing citizens. Noche refused to leave these community members to face this brutality alone. For that he faces charges that could send him to prison for several years in his Manhattan trial. Noche is a freedom fighter who has put himself on the line to defend basic human rights in many poorer communities of color throughout New York City. He now needs our help. Please stand up for him, for our communities and yourself; Join us in saying: Stop the legal persecution of Noche and drop all the charges against him.
Reverend Luis Barrios, professor, John Jay College of Criminal Justice*, NYC
Carl Dix, Revolutionary Communist Party
James Vrettos, professor, John Jay College of Criminal Justice*, NYC
Additional Signers (as of April 14):
Anna Berg, People's Institute for Survival and Beyond, northeast (www.pisab.org), NYC
Erica Itzkowitz, Managing Director, Big Apple Playback Theatre*, NYC
Noel Juan, Music Director, San Francisco Bay Area
Gregory Koger, revolutionary communist who was imprisoned as a youth and spent many years in solitary confinement
Joseph Kohn, MD, Brooklyn, NY
Travis Morales, Stop Mass Incarceration Network; New York, NY
Rael Nidess, MD, Marshall, TX
Scott and Susan Rhodewalt, Westtown, PA
Donna Wallach, San Jose, CA
...plus over 280 other signers
To add your name to this statement, contact the Stop Mass Incarceration Network at email@example.com, or by phone at (347)979-SMIN (7646) and reference the HANDS OFF NOCHE STATEMENT.
* For identification purposes only
Revolution #301 April 14, 2013
April 15, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From a member of the NYC BA Everywhere Committee:
The NYC BA Everywhere Committee had its first meeting this past weekend. The people attending were both longer-time supporters of BA and those who just found out about BA through seeing the film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Bob Avakian Live. Andy Z, spokesperson for Revolution Books, introduced the purpose of the BA Everywhere Committee—to raise funds to make BA and his new synthesis of revolution and communism known, debated and discussed in every corner of society. So many who saw the premiere of the film were touched deep in their souls and felt it has to be seen by many more people. The BA Everywhere campaign needs to raise funds to accomplish this by involving lots of people, from new people and those who want to learn more, to those who have been getting into BA's work for some time. As BA and what he represents become talked about all over, a lot more people can begin to see that there is another way the world could be, and this will start to change the whole atmosphere in society and bring forward new people on different levels to contribute to and be a part of the movement for revolution.
We watched a short segment from the film called "Straight Talk on BA" where he gets into what kind of leadership is needed and how this has to do with what you understand about the system of capitalism-imperialism as the problem in the world and the solution of revolution, and how BA Everywhere is about making this leadership known all over. Then a woman who has just learned about BA in the last few weeks brought to the room her reasons for being so impressed with BA—she said it was because of how clear he is about the situation of the people and how straightforward, funny and serious he is about what to do about it. And she brought her list of ideas for how more people can be part of raising funds for BA Everywhere, from bake sales to stoop sales and cook-offs and volunteering to provide childcare for women who want to be involved in the movement.
We made plans for BA Everywhere fundraising and taking BA and the film out into the world this spring and summer. We have started a raffle with the prize drawing in early June at a picnic which will launch a summer of taking BA Everywhere! Prizes that have been donated so far include dinner & film for two at a new performance space in Harlem; 4 movie tickets from Magic Johnson AMC Theater (where the NYC premiere of BA Speaks: REVOLUTION–NOTHING LESS! was held) and a $50 gift certificate from an art store. Grand Prize to be announced! The raffle is something anyone and everyone can be involved in—tickets are $1 each.
We will begin this weekend in Harlem. The BA Everywhere Committee will be out featuring the film on a flat-screen TV with many headsets, from late afternoon through dusk, on a corner that will be well traveled with people of all ages passing through on their way out for a Saturday night—from high school youth heading to a major poetry slam nearby to folks going to upscale restaurants just up the block. We will raise funds on the street, sell raffle tickets, sell the DVD of BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!, get it into stores on consignment and get visual promotion up around the area. We are inviting anyone to participate in any way including just passing out postcards or just coming to learn what happens when people see BA in this film!
Some people are researching and proposing plans for advertising, for example what if there was fundraising to advertise in the area of the internationally known Tribeca Film Festival? What about advertising in a key subway station or two in Harlem during June—as street teams get underway and the picnic kicks off a summer of BA getting Everywhere!
What if this quote from BA was featured in these ads: "No more generations of our youth, here and all around the world, whose life is over, whose fate has been sealed, who have been condemned to an early death or a life of misery and brutality, whom the system has destined for oppression and oblivion even before they are born. I say no more of that."
A team is getting put together to go among people who have the resources to donate big money and who are concerned about the world.
We talked about how projecting BA and his work in ways that reach lots of people across society with advertising, social media and other "big" ways has deeper impact when it is combined with support coming up from the grassroots, from students, young people and those who catch the worst hell under this system every day. There was a taste of this when folks of all ages and walks of life experienced BA on the big screen together at the premieres across the country, and this is what we are going for in launching the kinds of plans we have made so far that are aimed at BA getting known through different channels and avenues in this area and beyond!
Revolution #301 April 14, 2013
April 14, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Slave rebellion or slave master? Do you support the oppressed rising up against the oppressive system and seeking a radically different way, even with certain errors and excesses—or do you support the oppressors, and the leaders and guardians of an outmoded oppressive order, who may talk about "inalienable rights" but bring down wanton brutality and very real terror, on masses of people, to enforce and perpetuate their system of oppression?
This speaks to a basic question of stand and orientation, and represents a fundamental dividing line. And, along with "setting the record straight" on the actual experience and role of communist revolution, and refuting the factual and methodological distortions involved in the attacks on communism, this basic question—as represented by Nat Turner1 or Thomas Jefferson?2—also needs to be sharply posed in relation to the history of communism3 and the present-day struggle for communist revolution, in opposition to the capitalist-imperialist system which still dominates the world, with such terrible consequences for humanity and for the environment. Do you stand with this oppressive system, or with the struggle to overthrow and uproot it, and bring into being a radically different, emancipating system and way of life?
Do we need to learn from not only the overwhelmingly positive experience of the communist movement so far, but also its shortcomings, including sometimes serious errors and even excesses? Yes, this is an important part of the new synthesis of communism, and it is crucial in order to be able to do even better in the new stage of communist revolution. But this can only be done, in the fullest way, by taking up and applying the scientific communist method and approach that leads, first of all, to standing firmly and consistently on the right side of this fundamental dividing line, between oppressors and oppressed—and, beyond that, makes it possible to correctly assess and learn from the rich experience of the struggle against oppression, throughout history and in all parts of the world, including the shortcomings involved in this experience, in order to carry forward the fight to the final goal of communism and the emancipation of the oppressed, and ultimately humanity as a whole, from all forms and relations of oppression and exploitation, domination and degradation, everywhere in the world.
Nat Turner led an uprising that deeply shook the slave system, and there was a huge, brutal response from those in power.
Nat Turner was the leader of a slave rebellion in Southampton County, Virginia, one of at least 250 slave revolts that took place in the U.S. before the Civil War. After careful preparation, Turner began the rebellion on August 21, 1831 with a trusted group of six other slaves. They were armed with just a few knives, hatchets, and axes at the start. Their plan was to strike hard and quickly against the slave owners and march toward the county seat, rallying other slaves to their cause along the way. At one point, Turner's forces grew to as many as 80. The uprising deeply shook the slave system, and there was a huge, brutal response from those in power. The rebellion was defeated after 48 hours—Turner himself went into hiding for two months before surrendering. Turner and 55 others were executed by the state. As many as 200 other slaves were killed by the slave owners' militias and vigilantes, and many were tortured. During the rebellion, Turner's forces killed all the slave owners they encountered—not only the adults but also their children. But the Nat Turner Rebellion—and other slave rebellions—must be firmly upheld because, in its principal character and in essence, it was a just struggle of the oppressed rising up against their oppression. [back]
Depiction of plantation life, with overseer beating slaves and taking a child to be sold.
2. Thomas Jefferson is promoted as the man who defined the "fundamental liberties" that are at the heart of U.S. democracy. Along with genocide and theft of the land of Native Americans, one of those "fundamental liberties" was the right to enslave people. Jefferson himself owned more than 600 slaves over his lifetime. He profited greatly from the labor of his slaves, who were whipped when they didn't work hard enough (including children), and hunted down like animals when they escaped. But beyond this, Jefferson actively used his presidency and his influence to fight for the expansion of the slave system. He oversaw the 1803 Louisiana Purchase—the buying from France of a huge territory that now comprises all or parts of 15 states, primarily in the interests of the slave owners and with the aim of spreading the U.S. system of slavery into new areas. As opposed to the uprisings of slaves, like the rebellion led by Nat Turner, the violence Jefferson used, as U.S. President as well as in suppressing his own slaves, was in the service of maintaining, enforcing, and expanding oppression.
For more on Jefferson and his role:
"Big character poster" walls, debating big questions in society, went up all over during China's Cultural Revolution, 1966-1976. Photo: AP
3. People are constantly bombarded with the message that communism has been a "failure" and that socialist societies have been a "nightmare." The Set the Record Straight project aims to bring out the truth about the first attempts in human history to build societies free from all exploitation and oppression—the socialist states in Russia from 1917 until the defeat of that revolution in 1956, and in China from 1949 until its defeat in 1976. "The mission of Set the Record Straight is to factually refute the lies spread in the media, mass-market books, and mainstream scholarship about the Soviet and Chinese revolutions, and to bring to light the overwhelming achievements of these revolutions as well as their real problems and shortcomings. Our mission is to reveal the actual history and experience of these revolutions, to open up a two-sided debate about socialism and communism, and to promote a conversation about why a radically different and liberating world is possible." The Set the Record Straight project can be found online at thisiscommunism.org. It can also be accessed from the "Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution" section of revcom.us. [back]
Revolution #301 April 14, 2013
April 16, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Many people are shocked and concerned over the events in Boston on April 15, 2013. As yet, it is not clear who or what is behind this, and uninformed speculation and comment serves no good purpose.
One thing is clear: acts such as this cause great harm and have nothing to do with genuine emancipatory revolution.
Revolution #301 April 14, 2013
By Name | April 14, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
We received this from StopPatriarchy.org:
DID YOU KNOW...
...2011 and 2012 saw a RECORD number of restrictions on abortion across the country, and already this year there are 278 bills introduced to further restrict abortion?
...97% of rural counties have no abortion provider?
...several states have only ONE abortion clinic, and starting August 1 in North Dakota (to give just one example), abortion will be illegal at around 6 weeks? That's before most women know they are pregnant!
...over 80% of clinics that provide abortions have experienced violence, threats, harassment? And that 8 abortion providers and staff have been KILLED by anti-abortion violence?
Let us know what you'll
be doing on April 25
Revolution #301 April 14, 2013
April 18, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
A team of ardent advocates of Bob Avakian's new synthesis of communism and promoters of the document Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage—A Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA attended the World Social Forum [WSF] held in Tunis from March 23 to 28. The plan was to connect with many revolutionary-minded people, especially from Tunisia but also North Africa and other countries. We wanted to bring them the key theoretical contributions to making all-the-way revolution in today's world—Bob Avakian's new synthesis. In stepping onto this politically charged terrain, our anticipation ran high and our discussions and engagements throughout the week did not betray our expectations. In fact it was exhilarating.
The World Social Forum gathers an international mix of many different forces under the slogan "Another World is Possible!" Often referred to as an alternative globalization or global justice movement, the forum seeks to alleviate some of the most flagrant injustices without seeking to overthrow the system of imperialism. Financial backing for many participant NGOs in WSF stems from government institutions and multinational corporations who, for their own manipulative purposes, remain discreetly in the background. Nonetheless, it attracts many progressive people who genuinely hate the lopsidedness of the world today—the oppression and exploitation inflicted by the world imperialist system.
This year, under the theme of "Dignity," and inspired by the Arab rebellions of two years ago, there were over a thousand workshops drawing together thousands of activists from 127 countries, and a broad range of social movements involved in many important global issues. Topics included climate change and its effects on indigenous peoples, farming, land and water issues, opposition to today's wars and the U.S.'s use of drones, immigrant rights, the struggle against patriarchy and for gender justice, and human and constitutional rights, especially pertaining to women, to name just a few topics. The forum focus is against the neoliberal (free market, IMF-imposed) agenda and in favor of building a "global civil society." Along with this international mix of the usual WSF crowd, the overwhelming majority of participants were Tunisians awakened to political life by their own participation in the struggle to topple the Ben Ali regime in 2011, many still in a mood for revolution. Estimates put the total attendance at 30,000.
Embodying a kind of festival of the oppressed, many other issues were raised through lively debate, street theater and artistic performances and demonstrations. Hundreds of Palestinians held a march through the WSF site. Another lightning demonstration wound its way through the forum protesting the blockage by the Algerian government of a bus coming from Algeria to the WSF. A solemn, sometimes silent, demonstration by supporters of black African immigrants being held in Shousha Camp in southern Tunisia, many of whom were on a hunger strike, was very moving.
Some people were taken in by a big photo display put up by supporters of the Iranian government showing the death and destruction caused by Israel's bombing of Palestinians and claiming this as the "real" holocaust, as though one crime against humanity cancels out another—the same narrow logic used by Zionism but turned on its head, a viewpoint that obscures the role of imperialism in both cases. Some sharp differences emerged, especially with supporters of Islamic rule. There was a political clash between the pro-Assad and anti-Assad Syrians.
The situation in Tunisia is still full of sharp contradictions and revolutionary potential. The Islamist Ennahda party now in government is opposed by a coalition of liberal and leftist parties that are moving more and more to the center. A leader of this coalition, Chokri Belaid, was recently assassinated, creating an angry outpouring of Tunisians into the streets. There is confusion and a wide range of opinions among the people on what needs to happen to fundamentally change things. Many are clear about not wanting a religious government. Many feel their rebellion was hijacked by all the political parties, and that the capitalist system that was behind Ben Ali is still at work. Many feel there never was a real revolution in Tunisia or Egypt, not to mention Yemen, Libya, or the turmoil and slaughter now going on in Syria. People are not clear on what a revolution would mean or whether it is really possible to break out of the web of the economic and political relations of the capitalist-imperialist world system.
The crowd was mainly Arabic- and/or French-speaking. We prepared French translations of leaflets on the emancipation of women, the recent imperialist invasion of Mali, a short excerpt from Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage, A Manifesto from the RCP,USA, and Bob Avakian's still very relevant statement in French and Arabic: ''Egypt 2011: Millions Have Heroically Stood Up... The Future Remains to be Written.''
Our main leaflet was a one-page condensed version of a pamphlet we also sold in English and French, ''Arab Spring at an Impasse—Is There a Way Out?'' It sought to apply the understanding and method of the new synthesis of communism to the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, and elsewhere in the Arab world. Looking at the obstacles and dangers that people's aspirations are running up against, and drawing on lessons of past revolutions, it argued that neither pro-Western liberalism nor Islamism, but only a revolution whose aim is socialism and ultimately world communism, can offer an alternative to imperialist oppression and end the suffering of the masses of people. It called on "the revolutionary leadership of the people" to "engage with the most advanced ideas on the world level and use that as a kind of platform and accelerating force to reach higher."
We wanted to help the process as described by Avakian in his statement on Egypt, of building a "core of leadership, communist leadership, that had a clear, scientifically grounded, understanding of the nature of not just this or that ruthless despot but of the whole oppressive system—and of the need to continue the revolutionary struggle not just to force a particular ruler from office but to abolish that whole system and replace it with one that would really embody and give life to the freedom and the most fundamental interests of the people, in striving to abolish all oppression and exploitation.
"...That is a crucial time for communist organization to further develop its ties with those masses, strengthening its ranks and its ability to lead. Or, if such communist organization does not yet exist, or exists only in isolated fragments, this is a crucial time for communist organization to be forged and developed, to take up the challenge of studying and applying communist theory, in a living way, in the midst of this tumultuous situation, and to strive to continually develop ties with, to influence and to ultimately lead growing numbers of the masses in the direction of the revolution that represents their fundamental and highest interests, the communist revolution."
Our two banners, "Humanité a besoin de révolution! Vive la nouvelle vision du communisme de Bob Avakian!" (Humanity needs revolution! Viva Bob Avakian's re-envisioning of communism!) "Que l'humanité se embarrasse de ce cauchemar capitaliste—Révolution jusqu'au bout! Engager avec la nouvelle vision de communisme de Bob Avakian!" (For humanity to get rid of the nightmare of capitalism requires all the way revolution! Engage with Bob Avakian's re-envisioning of communism!) were greeted very warmly and with genuine curiosity. This was true at the first march of tens of thousands of Tunisians combined with visiting WSFers, and throughout the forum at the literature table. People excitedly gathered around us, getting their pictures taken with the banner and asking who is Bob Avakian and what is the new synthesis. This enthusiastic response to our presence continued throughout the duration of the forum and took on different forms, from endless discussion around the literature table, to supporting our intervention in WSF sessions, and to coming to the special night sessions held on the new synthesis.
Our literature stand became the site of tremendous interest and the focus of almost non-stop political and ideological discussions. Sometimes as many as 40 people would cluster in small groups around each person at the table. We were so busy we hardly noticed that most of us had not eaten during the day. At one point, while every one else at the table was deeply involved in discussion, one of us who had succeeded in getting a sandwich, and sitting a bit away from the table, was approached by a young woman who apologized profusely about interrupting lunch but said she just had to know who Bob Avakian was and what we were about.
Many of Avakian's works were colorfully stacked up (especially BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian). Many curiously checked out the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) to understand what BA's re-envisioning of a future socialist society would look like. We sold hundreds of pamphlets, articles, and Manifestos in English and Arabic. Fifty copies were sold of a pamphlet in French ''May First 2011—From Iran to Our Revolutionary Comrades in the Middle East and North Africa'' written by the Communist Party of Iran (Marxist-Leninist-Maoist) (www.sarbedaran.org) in several languages, a cautionary analysis of how Islamic fundamentalism ruthlessly suppressed the people's revolution. The pamphlet discusses how this negatively impacted the trend of revolution in the Middle East as well as the world and draws important lessons for how to advance the revolutionary struggle against both imperialism and Islamic fundamentalism.
Passersby attracted by the first part of the slogan on the banners, asked who Avakian is. Our response was that he is the communist leader of the RCP in the U.S. who has used the science of revolution to sum up the experience of the first wave of the world revolution, particularly in the Soviet Union and Mao Tsetung's China; BA addresses the mainly positive and unprecedented historical contributions in uprooting social inequalities including between men and women and different nationalities. BA also speaks to the secondary weaknesses, so that we can overthrow imperialism and in the process transform ourselves and the social conditions and set up socialist societies that can do even better, and take humanity all the way to communism, a society without classes or exploitation or social inequalities—and that this understanding is indispensable for revolution.
Most of the people who spoke to us (mainly students but also people from all walks of life) were angry, determined, and anxious about the direction political events would take in Tunisia and the rest of the Arab world. There was a lot of positive reaction to the leaflet, "The Arab spring at an impasse." Many Tunisians and others from the Maghreb [Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya] argued that there had been no revolution in any of the Arab rebellions. Those who thought there was a revolution often said they needed a second revolution. Perhaps most of the hundreds of Tunisian youth we spoke with thought they needed a second revolution that went deeper and didn't just change the faces of those at the top, although this was contradictory, as some felt this because the Islamist Ennahda was in government instead of the secular left. People angrily related how Ennahda played no part in the uprising that ousted Ben Ali but instead sat on the sidelines. When elections took place, they were able to use religion to mobilize their social base and get elected to positions of power in the government and were unleashing all kinds of backward elements against women and others who spoke out, hence the murder of Belaid, some people claimed. With Ennahda coming to power physical attacks on artists, intellectuals and women had become commonplace. Some told of threats against them for speaking out.
Among those who participated vigorously in discussion were many articulate and lively women, both veiled and unveiled, who did not want religious rule or subordination to men but an overall more just society. They argued with us and amongst themselves over whether there had been a revolution in Tunisia and what should be done to protect women's rights. A child molestation case was then unfolding in the Tunisian press, which added to their visceral sense of outrage over the rising number of rape cases, which quite a few people linked to the wave of rapes taking place in Egypt. Most understood this as a counter-revolutionary response to the upsurge of women, and as an attempt to drive women off the streets and back into the home. Some did not accept the position of the political parties who want to put the issue of women's emancipation as something for later because it might risk an unfavorable polarization around Islam. They wanted to beat back patriarchy and the subordination of women to men that the Islamists are seeking to intensify and codify into law. One popular slogan at the first march came from young women and men around the NGO Oxfam, "Don't tell us what to wear, Teach your sons not to rape!" Our slogan and the title of one of our leaflets, ''Break the Chains, Unleash the Fury of Women as a Mighty Force for Revolution!,'' seemed to many women and men an essential part of what any real revolution needed to include.
People who read our leaflets often returned with friends to discuss further, opening the door to getting more deeply into the new synthesis. There was a constant back and forth between some of the basic points about what the new synthesis of communism represented in its own right: Was the first wave of socialism really overwhelmingly positive? What were its real problems? Did it give leaders too much power? The youth were also eager to figure out what all this would mean for Tunisian society.
Many other questions emerged in the course of discussions. People felt trapped in a polarization between the varieties of Islamic fundamentalists, whom they often describe as fascists, on the one hand, and the secular and left forces who offer no alternative to imperialist domination. The Islamic fundamentalists are skillful in portraying the conflict as one between the downtrodden and the Westernized privileged elite. At the same time the existing parties, whatever their political hues, tend to conciliate with the Islamic fundamentalists and are backing away from positions that once sounded more revolutionary. Many youth were skeptical of the elections, and tended to think that they didn't change anything and were perhaps useless and ended up putting the Ennahda in power.
We attended the workshops likely to focus on vital questions relating to how to understand the emergence of the Arab Spring and the opportunities and dangers that form the current situation, especially where our interventions from the floor could help people discern the way forward that can lead to genuine revolution, serving their strategic interests. In one case, revolutionary-minded youth specifically invited our people to participate in what turned out to be a major political rally of the opposition united front coalition against the Ennahda government. The speakers limited the discussion to rejecting the Turkish AKP-Erdogan model of an Islamic government for Tunisia and listing grievances about the Ennahda party entrenching itself in power and acting undemocratically. With the request and rather open assistance of the revolutionary-minded youth at this open air rally, our intervention argued that the existing state and political apparatus cannot be nudged gradually to the left or reformed in the interest of the people and for revolution. We argued that this was a deadly illusion, as proven tragically by the murder of Chokri Belaid, that now was the time to ardently work towards a political movement to build for the revolutionary seizure of state power and to use that new revolutionary power to enable the masses to carry out the necessary transformations in order to get out of the world imperialist framework of economic and political dependencies and sweep away internal local reactionaries. Such a road is possible and can be charted, if people take up today's most advanced revolutionary theory, BA's new re-envisioned synthesis of revolution and communism.
A similar intervention also livened up the discussion in a session on the Islamization of Egypt. Here again we exposed capitulationist, dead end illusions of gradually expanding the "democratic space" to be used against the existing state power. The speakers at the podium were called on to admit that Egyptian President Morsi and the Islamic fundamentalists are conscious about the value of state power whereas they themselves were never really willing to advocate for the revolutionary seizure of power. Again, revolutionary-minded women and men from Tunisia stepped forward to support this criticism and inquired about Avakian's vision of how to emancipate humanity.
Another intervention took place in a session led by European Trotskyists. Again gradual development was put forward as a way to change society, with no mention of communism or the need for revolutionary leadership. Our intervention was followed by a young Tunisian woman who denounced a panel speaker's Trotskyist reformism as no better than what they constantly hear from their own official left leaders. After the session we talked to the young woman. She and her friend had been grappling with the relationship between the less-impoverished working class in the cities and the large numbers of very poor peasants and others in southern Tunisia. These women were very eager to know more about Avakian's criticism of the "reification of the proletariat," which goes very much against the Trotskyist conception of the "working class," and how this relates to the experience of Mao in leading the Chinese revolution.
These youth were unclear on what is needed, and did not advocate but were open to the idea of the need for a genuinely revolutionary communist party to lead a real revolution. For many this still meant achieving an undefined sense of "real democracy." A few were clearer on the function of democracy in bourgeois society. One young French woman was critical of the French philosopher and political thinker Alain Badiou. When asked what she thought of democracy, she argued it is only a means of getting to communism, and that communism is a much higher step than the notion of bourgeois equality or democracy.
We set up evening discussions to get more deeply into some of the theoretical/ideological issues raised by mostly young people with different levels of political experiences. They strained against the limits of their own understanding. They had done a lot of thinking already and wrangled with us enthusiastically to come to grips with how they could hew a liberating path out of this current crisis. The discussion focused to a large extent around the arguments of a few more knowledgeable revolutionaries, included dealing with what is real internationalism and why in this era nationalism will not solve the problems of revolution. There were also some arguments upholding Badiou's position in opposition to the revolutionary seizure of state power. Alongside these more knowledgeable people were some who were just enthusiastic about revolution but very unfamiliar with Marxism. We tried to talk to both, but privileged the more advanced, and hoped the others would get something out of it, with mixed success (for these others). They want an explanation of what has happened to all these so-called revolutionary forces of the past that are no longer revolutionary.
Among these youth the idea that the communist experience was mainly a disaster is much less strongly held than in Europe generally. A few of them had some familiarity with Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, and a few knew of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement and the developments in Nepal. They questioned whether a revolutionary seizure of power in a small country like Tunisia could hold out without an immediate advance in another country—the links between the advance in Tunisia and the advance in Egypt were important lessons. Many were also clear that revolution would not happen simultaneously worldwide, so it was important to seize on the moment now, there and in the region more generally. But how much depended on a party with a revolutionary communist scientific understanding of the problems was unclear to them.
One thing we could see in living color over and over again in Tunisia is that when people have rebelled they search for answers on where things went wrong, where they should go and how to achieve a real revolutionary transformation of society. Avakian's theoretical breakthroughs highlighted in the Manifesto—involving internationalism, philosophy, a re-envisaged socialism and revolutionary strategy—were all key points that the most advanced youth were interested in, and addressed some of the obstacles that they themselves were running up against spontaneously.
Our experience in Tunisia was a vindication of the need and possibility of putting real revolution front and center in the work. By bringing the new synthesis of communism to Tunisia we hope to contribute to this revolutionary process. The uprisings in Tunisia and the rest of the Arab world, which were brought about with so much suffering, cannot be squandered.
Revolution #301 April 14, 2013
From A World to Win News Service
April 18, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
15 April 2013. A World to Win News Service. After weeks of minimizing the extent and seriousness of a hunger strike at the U.S.'s Guantánamo prison camp, the authorities have moved to stop it by force. Shortly after 5 am on April 13, guards moved in to the communal living area with the intention of forcing the men into individual cells. Prisoners "resisted with improvised weapons" and the guards fired "four less-than-lethal rounds," causing injuries, none of them serious, according to a statement from the U.S. military's Southern Command, which refused to provide further details. The weapons were said to be broom and mop handles.
The reasons given for this assault are mutually contradictory on the face of it. The statement says that the action was in response to the covering up of surveillance cameras, windows and glass partitions by the prisoners, and at the same time, it claims that the "ongoing hunger strike necessitated" that the prisoners be moved into individual cells for "medical assessments." The media was also informed that prisoners had to be isolated from one another to prevent "coercion" by their fellow detainees to join the hunger strike.
But the transfers from Camp 6 to single cells in Camp 5, considered a punitive unit, were already under way when the raid took place. The covering of cameras and windows had begun several months ago, according to a military official quoted by The New York Times (April 13, 2013). The raid took place within hours after the completion of a three-week-long International Red Cross inspection of the prison.
Attorneys for the prisoners, including from the Reprieve legal charity in London and the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, report that most of the 130 men in Camp 6 have joined the hunger strike that began February 6. A spokeswoman for the CCR said, "Rather than deal with the reasons for the hunger strike—the immediate trigger of the searching of the Korans and the long-term desperation caused by more than 11 years of indefinite detention without charge or trial—the government responded over the weekend by escalating violence and retaliation. Rounding the men up in pre-dawn raids and forcing them into single cells is consistent with other tactics the government is using to pressure men to break the strike as well as to stem the flow of information out of the prison. If the men are kept from one another, they cannot report on the situation as a whole to their attorneys and the only means available to tell their side of the story is cut off."
The CCR spokeswoman also called the searching of the Korans a "provocation." The prisoners have asked the military to confiscate their Korans instead of periodically inspecting them in a way the prisoners consider offensive, but camp officials have refused to do so. At the same time, the U.S. military has accused the men of "manufacturing claims of Koran abuse" and labelled the hunger strike a "weapon," implying that their bid for world attention is not a legitimate protest but part of a a wider war and proof that these men are too dangerous to be released.
Many sources indicate that the government of U.S. President Barack Obama has decided to treat these prisoners more harshly than before.
The isolation of the prisoners from one another is being matched by moves to further isolate them from the outside world. Civilian flights to the American naval base at Guantánamo are being halted. The only way to reach it is by a U.S. military flight, which requires attorneys and journalists to apply long in advance. A planned visit by a New York Times reporter was cancelled at the last minute, and other journalists have been told they cannot hope for access for many weeks. Further, media visits to the prison itself are no longer permitted. Reporters are prohibited from taking pictures of messages prisoners hang over fences or on cell windows.
There are now a total of 166 men being held at Guantánamo. Only three of these prisoners have been tried and convicted, after more than 11 years, and only 30 face trial. In fact, more than half have been "cleared for release" by the Obama government, but it refuses to let them go. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights recently reiterated that "the continuing indefinite incarceration of many of the detainees amounts to arbitrary detention and is in clear breach of international law." But as Obama has indicated in the case of Israel as well, international law only applies where and when the U.S. wants it to.
Obama promised to close Guantánamo by January 2010 but there are no plans to ever do so. Instead, a new building is being built, reportedly including facilities for "aging prisoners," even though most of the prisoners were captured when they were young, a few as children. At least seven prisoners are known to have committed suicide.
Prisoners are subjected to extremes of heat and cold. A U.S. court recently ruled that they must be supplied with safe drinking water, which hunger strikers say they are denied. They also report being injured by "forcible cell extractions," sometimes several times a day.
Some of the hunger strikers could face death in the near future, both Reprieve and the CCR say. Rather than medical treatment, they are being subjected to forced feeding in a manner that can only be considered deliberate torture, a continuation of the waterboarding, beatings and other forms of torture to which they were previously subjected at Guantánamo and elsewhere. The facts about this earlier treatment have been confirmed by a U.S. Navy captain who ran a hospital for Guantánamo detainees according to a review by the Constitution Project, led by two former prominent members of the U.S. Congress.
Speaking to his attorneys at Reprieve by telephone, Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel gave the following account:
"I've been on a hunger strike since February 10 and have lost well over 30 pounds (13.6 kilos). I will not eat until they restore my dignity.
"I've been detained at Guantánamo for 11 years and three months. I have never been charged with any crimes. I have never received a trial...
"Last month, on March 15, I was sick in the prison hospital and refused to be fed. A team from the ERF (Extreme Extraction Force), a squad of eight military police officers in riot gear, burst in. They tied my hands and feet to the bed. They forcibly inserted an IV into my hand. I spent 26 hours in this state, tied to the bed. During this time I was not permitted to go to the toilet. They inserted a catheter, which was painful, degrading and unnecessary. I was not even permitted to pray.
"I will never forget the first time they passed the feeding tube up my nose. I can't describe how painful it is to be force-fed this way. As it was thrust in, it made me feel like throwing up. I wanted to vomit but I couldn't. There was agony in my chest, throat and stomach. I have never experienced such pain before...
"There are so many of us on hunger strike now that there aren't enough qualified medical staff members to carry out the force-feedings; nothing is happening at regular intervals. They are feeding people around the clock just to keep up...
"When they come to force me into the chair, if I refuse to be tied up, they call the ERF team. So I have a choice. Either I can exercise my right to protest my detention, and be beaten up, or I can submit to painful force-feeding...
"The situation is desperate now. All of the detainees here are suffering deeply. At least 40 people here are on hunger strike. People are fainting with exhaustion every day. I have vomited blood.
"And there is no end in sight to our imprisonment. Denying ourselves food and risking death every day is the choice we have made.
"I just hope that because of the pain we are suffering, the eyes of the world will once again look to Guantánamo, before it is too late." (New York Times, April 15, 2013)
The hunger striker Fayiz al-Kandari told his lawyer, "I scare myself when I look in the mirror. 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." (Russian Times, March 27, 2013)
A World to Win News Service is put out by A World to Win magazine, a political and theoretical review inspired by the formation of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, the embryonic center of the world's Marxist-Leninist-Maoist parties and organizations.
Revolution #301 April 14, 2013
From A World to Win News Service
April 18, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
April 8, 2013. A World to Win News Service. Millions of people have read the story of the violent conquest of American Indian lands in historian Dee Brown's 1971 classic Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. But now the Oglala Lakota Sioux are being asked to buy what was stolen from them.
Today a parcel in Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge reservation is owned by a non-Indian man who lives far away and wants to sell it. This part of the historic battleground is adjacent to the mass grave referred to in the book's title.
Wounded Knee, a village in South Dakota, is famous as the site where Native Americans inflicted a crushing defeat on a U.S. Army regiment in 1876, and where in 1890 the same Seventh Calvary regiment mowed down as many as 300 Indian men, women and children. It is also well-known because of the 1973 occupation of the village led by members of the American Indian Movement seeking justice.
This is a place whose value lies in its embodiment of Native American history. If the tribe wants to buy it, they will have to pay the owner almost four million dollars for 17 hectares [42 acres]. Otherwise, the owner says, he will auction it off to the highest bidder, hoping for commercial development. This situation is grotesque and criminal—more like demanding ransom money for ancestral bones than an ordinary commercial transaction—but is a perfectly legal consequence of a century and a half of legalized theft, murder and punishment of the survivors.
The U.S. government promised the Sioux an enormous extent of land in the north-central U.S. in the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851. The government broke that treaty, and signed a new one for a much smaller amount of land in 1868. But three years later it passed the Indian Appropriation Act, which effectively turned reservations into prisoner of war camps whose inhabitants had no rights and could not leave. When gold and other valuable resources were discovered in the Black Hills, the government divided up the land, among Native Americans who hated the concept of private ownership of land and white settlers to whom private property was everything. Native Americans were left with land nobody else wanted—and then expelled from it when someone did.
In 1980 the Sioux were offered money from the federal government following a court decision that declared that their land had been taken from them illegally, in violation of the second Fort Laramie treaty. But accepting that settlement would mean giving up their claim to the Black Hills and they rejected it. Now the Oglala tribe of the Sioux is supposed to receive about 20 million dollars in compensation for government theft of money from land sales, but with the tribal government 60 million dollars in debt, this will not mark a turn for the better.
Much of the Pine Ridge Reservation is in Shannon County, the poorest county in the U.S. The land suitable for agriculture has been leased off to big producers. The tribal government is almost the only source of employment. About half the people live way below the official poverty line. The weather is harsh, the houses are in very bad condition, often unheated, and 40 percent have no electricity. Disease is rampant. Life expectancy is 47 years old for men and 52 for women, with drugs, alcohol, suicide and other forms of violence taking their toll. Rape is common, often carried out with impunity. Tribal governments have no authority over non-Indians who commit crimes on the reservation, and are most interested in enforcing their own rule. In reality they are local stooges of a federal government that is, at best, indifferent towards Native American lives.
Along with the kidnapping of Africans into slavery, the foundation of the wealth of the class that rules the U.S. today began with the seizure of Native American land and killing off the original inhabitants. Of the eight million Native Americans who once lived in what is now the U.S., according to an estimate, only a few hundred thousand were left by the beginning of the twentieth century, and they number only about half a million now. About half live in the country's 300 reservations.
The mark of a successful genocide is being able to say the victims themselves are responsible for killing themselves and each other on the reservations long after the cavalry imprisoned them there. Pine Ridge is a ghetto on the prairie, and when tribal members leave, it is usually for urban ghettos, the Army—or prison.
In 1890 the Native Americans from several tribes who were killed at Wounded Knee had been faced with a government order to sell their land. A chief named Sitting Bull and his followers refused. They were involved in the Ghost Dance movement, a religious revival that predicted the coming of a messiah and the end of white domination. The federal government considered it a sign of rebellion and moved to wipe it out by force. Sitting Bull was arrested and killed. The government ordered the arrest of the Sioux leader Big Foot and the tribe was declared "hostile," which amounted to a declaration of war.
The cavalry pursuing Big Foot's band was equipped with Hotchkiss guns, a new kind of rapid-firing weapon that shot explosive shells. It was a rotating cannon, lighter than standard artillery, designed to be pulled by horses through rough terrain. It was used in this last major battle between the U.S. Army and Native Americans, and then a short time later in the American conquest of Cuba and the Philippines.
Troops approached the group led by Big Foot and told him they were going to take the 120 men and 230 women and children to an army camp. Night was falling and the head army officer announced that their captives would be disarmed after daybreak. Teepees were set up. In the morning, not satisfied with the arms that had been turned over to them, soldiers began tearing apart the tents and belongings. A shot rang out as the troops scuffled with a warrior for his gun. The soldiers began firing indiscriminately.
"In the first few seconds of violence, the firing of carbines was deafening, filling the air with powder smoke. Among the dying who lay sprawled on the frozen ground was Big Foot. Then there was a brief lull in the rattle of arms, with small groups of Indians and soldiers grappling at close range, using knives, clubs and pistols. As few of the Indians had arms, they soon had to flee, and then the big Hotchkiss guns on the hill opened up on them, firing almost a shell a second, shredding the teepees with flying shrapnel, killing men, women and children.
"'We tried to run,' Louise Wise Bear said, 'but they shot at us like we were a buffalo. I know there are some good white people, but the soldiers must be mean to shoot children and women. Indian soldiers would not do that to white children...'
"The soldiers lost 25 dead and 39 wounded, most of them struck by their own bullets or shrapnel... A detail of soldiers went over the Wounded Knee battlefield, gathering up Indians still alive and loading them in wagons. As it was apparent by the end of the day that a blizzard was approaching, the dead Indians were left where they had fallen." (Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee)
Twenty soldiers were awarded medals of honour, the U.S.'s highest military distinction, for their work that day in 1890, the most ever awarded for a single battle in American history before or since. Those medals have not been rescinded, despite demands. In 1973 the government displayed the same attitude in its merciless persecution of people in Wounded Knee who rose up against a corrupt, puppet tribal government.
This time it was the FBI, not the cavalry, that was sent in, and in the context of those days—including support for the occupation from all over the U.S. and the world—they could not just use their big guns. But after the end of the 71-day armed stand-off they started a reign of terror on the reservation. About 1,200 people were arrested. At least two AIM members were killed and another activist disappeared.
Leonard Peltier was arrested for allegedly shooting two FBI agents during this warlike period. He always denied it, and the informant whose testimony helped lead to his conviction later said the FBI coerced her into lying. Other evidence has also been thrown into doubt by legal officials. He has had much support among ordinary people and prominent public figures. Nevertheless, Peltier has been in prison for the last 37 years, beaten badly on at least one recent occasion, with no prospect of release. Clearly this is about more than him; it is meant to send a message.
The cavalry has moved on to invade other countries, but the prison camps they constructed for Native Americans remain standing and under guard.
A World to Win News Service is put out by A World to Win magazine, a political and theoretical review inspired by the formation of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, the embryonic center of the world's Marxist-Leninist-Maoist parties and organizations.
Revolution #301 April 14, 2013
April 18, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Mainstream media sources have poured praise on the new Pope, Francis I, for being a humble man of the people. Yet he upholds the most anti-people positions. He is adamantly opposed to the right of abortion, access to birth control, women’s equality inside the Church, gay marriage (which he called the work of the devil), and the rights of gay people to adopt children.
But to truly understand this man, we should look at his role in Argentina during the Dirty War of 1976-1983 (see sidebar).
During the worldwide revolutionary storm of the 1960s, there was sharp polarization in the Catholic Church.
In Latin America, a large number of priests and nuns, many of them associated with the liberation theology movement and the Movement of Priests for the Third World, sympathized with the oppressed and in various ways defended them and/or joined in their struggles against their oppressors, including against U.S. imperialism. In Argentina, many priests went to live in the “villas miseria” (impoverished slums), some actively participating in the people’s struggles, others helping the poor survive.
Other Catholic clergy took the side of the ruling class oppressors and exploiters. In Argentina’s Dirty War, some participated in torture, assuring the torturers that their work was morally correct and trying to convince the victims to talk, including taking confession and passing the information to the torturers. And the two highest Argentine archbishops openly embraced the fascist generals.
What about Father Bergoglio during the Dirty War? On one point there is no debate: Bergoglio did not stand up and denounce the fascist rulers. He did not unite with those who were resisting the repression. He appeared in public with the fascist generals. He celebrated the Catholic Mass with them.
Even had he done nothing else, for someone in Bergoglio's position to accommodate to the fascist rulers, going along with each new repressive move, is itself enough to reveal him as a totally immoral monster—or rather a man with monstrous morals.
But the facts show a man who did much more than that. A skilled politician, he defended the status quo and stabbed in the back those who resisted, while providing empty gestures in defense of the downtrodden.
In the 1960s, Bergoglio was a member of the Guardia de Hierro (Iron Guard), a right-wing youth group active especially in Catholic universities. He opposed the radicalized students and the “leftist contamination” of the Jesuit order.
In 1969, he became the most powerful Jesuit leader in Argentina. In 1976, when a military coup was imminent, Bergoglio ordered his priests to stop supporting the anti-fascist resistance movements and even to stop working in the villas miseria because the rulers considered it seditious.
But many priests and nuns refused to sell out the people they worked and lived among. The military savagely attacked them. The Ecumenical Movement for Human Rights estimates that 100 priests, nuns, and other clergy were killed. The government even killed a bishop, Enrique Angelelli, who was about to expose the murder of two priests.
In May 1976, soldiers entered the home of Emilio Mignone to arrest his 24-year-old daughter, Monica. Mignone was a devout Catholic with faith in the government and the Church. Monica was active in a Catholic youth group working in the villa miseria Bajo Flores. Mignone told his daughter to go with the men. He never saw her again. She was tortured and “disappeared.” He and his wife, who became a founder of the Madres de Plaza de Mayo, sought help from the Church, but were turned away. He became a human rights activist and investigated the role of the Catholic Church.
In 1986, Mignone's book The Church and the Dictatorship: The Role of the Church in Light of its Relationship to the Military Regime described Bergoglio as an example of “the sinister complicity” of the Church with the military that “took charge of the filthy task of wiping clean the inner halls of the Church, with the acquiescence of the prelates.” Mignone also related Bergoglio’s complicity in the kidnapping and torture of two young Jesuit priests, Orlando Yorio and Francisco Jalics.
The Argentine journalist Horacio Verbitsky also investigated the Church and the Dirty War. In his 2005 book, The Silence: From Paul VI to Bergoglio: The Secret Relations Between the Church and the ESMA, as well as in more recent work, Verbitsky backed Mignone’s account.
Yorio and Jalics had been living and working among the poor. In 1976, the military put out a call to arrest them, claiming they were part of the armed resistance. It appears that this was untrue, though they opposed the fascist regime. They went to the leader of their order, Cardinal Bergoglio, asking him to protect them. Bergoglio told them he would protect them, but also ordered them to stop their work in defense of the oppressed—which they found unacceptable. In reality, however, Bergoglio did not protect them and had in fact been spreading word in Church circles that the two priests were subversives. Verbitsky interviewed a number of people who worked with Yorio and Jalics who are convinced that Bergoglio actually told the military to grab them. The two young priests were arrested, tortured, and held for five months in the infamous torture and detention center ESMA (Navy Mechanics School), after which they were dumped in a field.
Both priests fled Argentina. Yorio, who has since died, stated many times that Father Bergoglio had handed him and Jalics over to the military. Jalics was more diplomatic, saying that a certain “person” betrayed them, but it was clear from his description (in his 1994 book Meditation Exercises) that he meant Bergoglio. When Bergoglio became Pope Francis, Jalics said he wanted to put the history behind him. (“I am reconciled to the events and view them from my side as concluded.”) A few days later, he stated that he and Yorio “were not denounced by Father Bergoglio” and it is “wrong to assert that our capture took place at the initiative of Father Bergoglio.” On the one hand, it is revealing that he comes to this conclusion now, after 37 years and after Bergoglio becomes Pope; and on the other hand, the statement is carefully worded and does not say that Bergoglio was innocent of driving them out of the Jesuit order and creating an atmosphere which was a green light for the military to go after them.
Verbitsky also uncovered a revealing incident involving Bergoglio and Jalics in 1979. Living in Germany, Jalics wanted to renew his Argentine passport without having to return to Argentina. Verbitsky found documents in the archive of Foreign Ministry of Argentina that expose Bergoglio’s role and methods. First, Bergoglio made an official request that Jalics be allowed to renew his passport without returning to Argentina. Then came two internal notes from a ministry officer to the Foreign Minister saying that Bergoglio told him to ignore his official request and deny the passport application because Jalics had links with subversion and had been arrested and held in ESMA. Verbitsky wrote: “The procedure described in those documents coincides with the duplicitous style which Yorio and Jalics attribute to Bergoglio.” Verbitsky titled one chapter of his book, “Las dos mejillas del cardenal”—the two sides of Bergoglio’s face.
One of the horrific elements of the rule of the fascists in Argentina was their campaign to steal the babies from mothers that they murdered (including waiting for pregnant detainees to give birth before killing them), and give those babies to military officers and others in the regime. In 1985, a powerful film depicting this was produced in Argentina, La historia oficial [The Official Story]. An estimated 500 children were stolen, given new parents and new names, and never heard from again by their blood relatives. This has given rise to the movement Madres de Plaza de Mayo, an organization and movement of mothers seeking their lost children and grandchildren and demanding justice for those murdered.
Alicia de la Cuadra, a co-founder of Madres de Plaza de Mayo, whose daughter and newborn grandchild “disappeared,” asked Bergoglio for help. He appointed a priest to look into it. That priest, appointed by Bergoglio, informed her that her grandchild was adopted by a family “too important” to oppose.
Another co-founder of Madres, Estela Carlotto, said he "has never spoken of the problem of people who had disappeared under dictatorial rule."
Rocked by scandal after scandal, the Catholic Church has taken the unprecedented (in 600 years) step of replacing a live pope. An analysis of the crisis in the Catholic Church, its overall historic and present day role as a pillar of oppression, and why the Church hierarchy turned to Bergoglio is beyond the scope of this article.
Yet our look at Bergoglio’s role during the Dirty War reveals the truth about his attitude toward the oppressed. As long as they are docile slaves who don’t resist oppression and exploitation, he will be their “humble servant.” But once they rise up in resistance and, even worse, when Catholic priests and nuns support that resistance, then Bergoglio’s true colors come to light.
It is not clear whether Bergoglio was himself a fascist during the Dirty War, or one of those who would have preferred a more “democratic” form of rule but accommodated to the fascists more and more, preferring them over chaos or revolution. Either stand, however, is absolutely indefensible.