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Revolution #314 August 25, 2013
by Carl Dix | August 25, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
It’s 50 years since the March on Washington and Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Let’s face reality—Amerikkka is still a goddamn nightmare! This country built up its wealth and power by dragging Africans to these shores in slave chains and stealing the land from and committing genocide against the native inhabitants. It has never stopped bringing vicious oppression down on Black people and billions of people around the world. Dreams of changing America into something that would end this oppression, or any of the horrors inflicted on humanity, are toxic illusions that keep people chained to the very system that’s responsible for all this oppression.
This is not a time to be dreaming of “perfecting” America’s union. Instead, it must become a time that people look back on and say, that’s when people said you couldn’t reform this shit, and a whole different way—a revolution—was needed.
As Revolution (July 19, 2013 issue) put it, “58 years ago, a Black teenager named Emmett Till was murdered in Mississippi by some white men who decided he had ‘acted wrong,’ and those white men were acquitted. Emmett Till’s mother, Mamie Till, said ‘NO MORE’ and the uproar that she stoked was one big beginning factor that led millions of people to stand up and over the next 15 years to rock this country to its foundation. People needed revolution, and many fought for revolution, many of those heroically laid down their lives—but we got reforms. Now after all those reforms ... after all the promises ... all the excuses ... after all the Black faces in high places including even a Black president ... a Black teenager named Trayvon Martin is murdered by a white man who decided Trayvon was ‘acting wrong,’ and he too is acquitted.”
This verdict was America saying, once again, that Black people have no rights that whites must respect. This is a concentration of the way this system has criminalized Blacks and Latinos on a genocidal scale and created a generation of suspects at a time when it has no real future for tens of millions of these youth.
The Trayvon verdict left many, many people with a profound sense of betrayal and had them asking big questions about the unjust nature of this society and whether the people ruling over us are fit to run society. People are righteously outraged and asking: how long will such horrors continue and how many more of our youth will have their lives stolen for no reason other than the color of their skin?
America has had its chances to do right by Black people. First through the Civil War and Reconstruction, and then during the 1960s, when people struggled mightily to deal with the horrors Black people faced. And each time, America changed the forms of oppression but kept it in effect. What is the situation today? The New Jim Crow. More than 2 million people in prison; and more than five million formerly incarcerated facing discrimination when looking for work, and barred from living in public housing and receiving government loans. Racial profiling, stop-and-frisk, and a school-to-prison pipeline. Voting rights being snatched back. It’s long past time to say, “That’s it for this system. Time’s up!”
There are those calling for a new civil rights movement. That’s not what’s needed. The old civil rights movement contributed to the struggle to end legal segregation, and people sacrificed heroically as part of it. But that movement had reached its limitations by the mid-1960s. It aimed to get America to make good on a promise of equality that cannot be achieved in the framework of this system.
From the “founding fathers” onward, this has been a system driven by the needs of capitalism and then capitalism-imperialism with its profit-above-all mentality and its expand-or-die logic. No civil rights movement is going to change that. We need a revolution to get rid of this system and bring a totally different and far better one into being.
And let’s pull the lens back. Everywhere America has gone in the world, it has wreaked havoc on humanity: from the slave trade in Africa centuries ago, to the theft of half the land of Mexico, to the genocidal war in Vietnam, to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, to the U.S.-supplied tanks massacring people in the streets of Egypt. One in three women in the U.S. will suffer sexual assault in their lifetime. This country carries out the most massive spying operation in world history, targeting people and countries all over the world. The U.S. is ravaging the environment of the planet. As Bob Avakian, the leader of the RCP, has said: “What the U.S. spreads around the world is not democracy, but imperialism and political structures to enforce that imperialism.”
As for those who say, “things may be bad, but Obama is working on making them better,” people need to have the moral courage to face the truth. And that truth is that Barack Obama is the top enforcer and defender of this system. The truth is that Obama is the commander-in-chief of the American empire. The truth is that he presides over the drone strikes that destroy whole villages in Pakistan and Yemen. The truth is that he presides over the torture prison in Guantanamo Bay. The truth is that he has presided over an unprecedented number of deportations of immigrants.
The capitalist-imperialist system has only brought horrors to the world. But the good news is that things don’t have to be this way. There’s a whole other way that society could be organized—and through revolution, communist revolution, we can get rid of this system and bring a far better society into being. The kind of society that could end all exploitation and all oppressive divisions and inequalities all over the world, that could emancipate all of humanity and safeguard the planet for current and future generations. The kind of society and world in which human beings could truly flourish.
If you want to know about, and work toward, a different world—and if you want to stand up and fight back against what's being done to people—this is where you go. You go to this Party, you take up this Party's newspaper, you get into this Party's leader and what he's bringing forward.
Chairman of the Revolutionary
Communist Party, USA
In Bob Avakian, we have the leadership needed for this revolution; a leader who came out of the 1960’s and who has given his heart and his knowledge, skill and abilities to dealing with everything that stands between humanity and its ultimate emancipation. He has deeply studied the experience of revolution—the shortcomings as well as the great achievements. He has drawn from other fields of human activity. And he has brought the science and method of revolution to a whole new level, concentrated in the new synthesis of communism. In Bob Avakian, we have a great champion and a great resource for people here, and indeed people all over the world.
The Revolutionary Communist Party he leads has developed a strategy for making revolution when the time is right. And it has developed a vision of the kind of world we could bring into being through revolution, a vision that is concretized in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) To bring all this about, we are building a movement for revolution NOW. And what’s missing is you.
All of our outrage, our energy and our dreams can become powerful fuel in this movement for revolution. This must be a watershed moment—one in which we break with the illusion of trying to make this system something it cannot be, but work and struggle to end this nightmare once and for all.
Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution!
Revolution #314 August 25, 2013
August 25, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The world roils with huge life and death questions about the future of humanity including the survival of the planet. For all the glitter and wealth, for all the inclusion of a few of those formerly locked out who come from oppressed peoples and women who now have been allowed into positions of prestige and power in countries around the world, the real situation for the majority of people is more perilous, more desperate than ever. The promise and dream of a better world seems a cruel illusion. But, there is a way forward for humanity. That requires revolution—nothing less. A genuinely emancipatory revolution for all of humanity requires having a liberating vision and framework for what a radically new society should be and requires a revolutionary strategy to achieve it.
We have that in the work of Bob Avakian—BA. There is a national campaign to make BA's work, his leadership, and vision and framework for a radically better way the world could be, known throughout the country with impact around the world: The BA Everywhere Campaign. If your conscience can't tolerate the outrages of this society, if you want to contribute to bringing a new, liberatory world into being, if you are feeling that without really radical change that gets at the root of the problems people face then all the oppression will just go on and on, then BA Everywhere, a multifaceted fundraising campaign to raise the money to make BA and this liberating theory known, is the campaign for you.
For reports on the REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Van Tours in August in four areas around the U.S.—New York, Chicago, San Francisco Bay Area, and Los Angeles—go online to the BA Everywhere page at revcom.us.
Bob Avakian has developed a scientific methodology to go to work on the fundamental questions of what is the source of all the problems humanity faces and, most fundamentally, what is the solution. He has forged a scientific approach and foundational answers that provide a road forward. Over the last several decades, BA has worked to sum up the positive and negative experience of the communist revolution so far and, drawing from a broad range of human experience, he has developed a new synthesis of communism that is a viable vision and strategy for a radically new, and much better, society and world, and he provides the crucial leadership that is needed to carry forward the struggle toward that goal. (For a full explanation of this, see revcom.us/avakian.)
Right now the heart of BA Everywhere is the daring, substantive, scientific summoning to revolution in the 6+ hour film (and DVD) BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Bob Avakian Live. In a film that pulls no punches, BA digs into the horrors people face, the criminal nature of this system, the ways people are systematically lied to, miseducated, and offered false consolation and worse through religion. This talk will change how you understand what the source of all the horror that humanity faces is. Here is a film of liberation aimed at the emancipation of all humanity. Here, BA lays out a pathbreaking strategy for building a movement for revolution in this time. Here is a film of hope on a scientific foundation.
Revolution #314 August 25, 2013
August 25, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From a volunteer with the Chicago Van Tour:
The Chicago BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Van Tour began at the main Transit Hub on Chicago's Black Southside. Regular vendors there advised the Van Tour to pull right up on the sidewalk where people are going to and from the buses to the El train. In the course of the afternoon, the snowball-frozen-ice sellers on the corner heard the first cut from the film, BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! several times and commented: "He is laying down some deep knowledge there." But they expressed skepticism about the people, arguing that "everyone is too caught up in the circus"—mindless entertainment and the daily struggle to survive—to get into what BA was saying.
Dozens passed by the van and nine people stopped to watch 15 minutes or more of the DVD. At one point, just as a small crowd was getting off a bus when the film reached the moment when BA says, "Well fuck you, just because it isn't happening to you doesn't mean it isn't happening—a thousand miles away or maybe just two miles away." There was appreciative laughter in the crowd and a couple of people applauded. Several people stopped for a few minutes to hear what BA was going to say next.
People in cars stopped at the corner stop sign were hearing this and wanting to know who it was that was speaking. The Three Strikes poster of a quote from BA that lays bare that this system has struck out when it comes to Black people captured people's eye at the entrance to the El train station. When people read it, many were unleashed to speak bitterness about their experiences living in this white supremacist system.
When the film got to where BA tells of 10 million children around the world being killed by starvation and preventable disease every year and how this system is responsible for this outrage, a woman who had been watching for a while said, "I've got to get this for my husband to see!" Leafing through Revolution newspaper, she laughed when she saw Obama's statement that the U.S. wouldn't "kill or torture" Edward Snowden. "I don't know why his [Snowden's] father is trying to get him back here. Doesn't he love his son?" Her view was that if the U.S. ever got their hands on Snowden, he would be dead.
When BA started to dig into "The Lord," a couple of young men who had been watching the DVD reacted sharply. They said they agreed with much of what BA had been saying but argued vehemently that the contradictions among the people can only be resolved if people get with god and walked off when we struggled over this not being in "god's hands" but rather in our hands.
Many people took small stacks of palm cards with quotes from BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian on them to get out. This included a number of bus drivers who said they were taking palm cards back to their bus barns. We noted that, while outrage and frustration around the Zimmerman verdict was not right now taking the form of protests the way it had a few weeks ago, the outrageous verdict had unlocked a broad questioning and desire to dig into what is going on in the world and what might be done about it.
We found this was still largely conditioned by the framework of the system. One woman told us, "I am so fed up I have to do something. I'm going to run for alderman." And a guy who listened to the film for over an hour argued that an important part of any strategy for change is that you need to "get people into the system," contending that it was the FBI's infiltration of the Black Panthers that had enabled the powers-that-be to destroy that organization and therefore we needed to do that in reverse—"infiltrating the system." We struggled with him about this and he got the Revolutionary Communist Party’s statement, “On the Strategy for Revolution” (published in BAsics from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian) and said he was going to get into and discuss it with us when we got back together.
We also noted that, while many people really felt what the Three Strikes statement was saying about the "whole history of the experience of Black people in the U.S...."—a visceral response to centuries of oppression but were skeptical of the idea that we could make real that it's "Three Strikes—for this system"—that we could actually get rid of this oppressive system. We heard a lot of fatalistic "It's always been like this for Black people." At the same time people were engaging with us about this—open to entertaining that there might be a slim possibility and willing to look into BA if he had a way to do this. Not universally, but much more widely than in "normal times."
The Van Tour next went to a family park where young men play basketball and many young parents bring their children together to play.
People at the park had been active in the struggle for Justice for Trayvon since before the Zimmerman trial started, and there is a lot of sentiment there in support of the California prisoners' hunger strike. Many of the older men there have spent years in prison and younger men in their twenties are well acquainted with the criminal INjustice system. During the June Van Tour, people had watched clips from the film in the park. We went there to both get with people we knew to plan a larger, more organized showing as well as to start a penny jar fund raising collection for BA Everywhere at the park.
One guy in a group of men in their twenties was very taken by the Three Strikes poster and he began telling his friends how with that poster, he could really see what is going on and do something about it. One of his friends replied, "15 minutes ago you were a STONE killer and now you are talking like this!" He responded, "I'm a stone killer because that's the way you see me but I'm all about this."
Two of the guys who had been giving their friend shit started looking at the paper. They saw the picture of the "Abortion on Demand without Apology" sign on the front of the paper and one said, "What's to apologize for?" We explained what has been going on with attacks on abortion and how some states only have one clinic that performs abortions in the whole state. One guy laughed a bitter laugh and said, "By the time your appointment rolls around you been done had the baby!" They looked at the articles on abortion in the paper and commented that when they talk about abortion, people call them baby killers.
They also commented on Obama's comment on Snowden and felt his father was wrong for trying to bring him back. They, too—like the woman we met at the Transit Hub—felt that the U.S. would do anything it could to kill Snowden.
One of these young men got a paper and he said they could share it but his friend said, "No way, I want my own copy."
In another conversation, the young man who had taken up the Three Strikes poster talked about how they had done everything for Trayvon—put up stickers, worn hoodies, posted on Facebook, even blacked out their Facebook pages after the verdict. And they really wanted justice for Trayvon even though they, themselves were dying everyday and felt they were in a situation like Trayvon's. But still, this was part of "the movement" and they supported the movement. He described how everyone was very angry about the verdict and there was a lot going on until the Justice Department said it was going to look into the case and then it seemed like everything just stopped. This led to a conversation among the group about whether there would be any justice from the Justice Department. One brother thought there would be, but several others argued with him about this, telling him he was living in a dream world.
The young men talked of how people in the area try to look out for each other but how "some of the young brothers" (he indicated young teenagers playing ball) "are already getting caught up no matter what we try to tell them." All the guys in this group from various conversations agreed to help build for a video showing in the park when a time and date was set up.
As we left the park, we passed two of the guys from the twenty-something crew. They were sitting on the benches around a fountain reading Revolution by the light of the evening street lamps.
Revolution #314 August 25, 2013
August 25, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From a volunteer with the BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Van Tour in New York:
It is quite a scene when the van tour rolls up: A large colorful banner with the full title of the film, BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Bob Avakian Live on a stand-alone frame; A large-screen TV was on a table with projecting sound and chairs for people to sit on as they watch. An almost life-size poster enlargement of the "Three Strikes—That's IT for This System!" poster and stacks of smaller sizes for people to take. An agitator with "This is one part of this intolerable situation most of humanity is in, there is a way to solve this, stop and get into the film playing on that TV: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!"
We chalked messages on the sidewalk: "Stop & Frisk Is a Crime, Don't Mend It, End It!" "We don't need another civil rights movement, we need revolution-nothing less!" "It's not in god's hands, it's in our hands!"
Along with the table playing the film, we had another table with Revolution newspaper, BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian, palm cards and posters with quotes from BAsics, including the Three Strikes quote, and the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal). And jars for contributions people make as part of all this.
We didn't just wait for people to come to us. We challenged and struggled with people to stop what they are doing and read the Three Strikes poster and sit down right now to watch the film. In Harlem, the Bronx, and a Spanish-speaking area of the city, we've had about 50 or 60 people a day stop to watch some of the film—sparking further questions, exchanges, conversations, debates and dialog with the revolutionaries on the van tour. Sometimes there have been four or five people gathered around the large-screen TV, and someone else with earphones and a portable DVD player listening to a different part of the film. Altogether, a sense that the revolutionaries are here—with people listening to and engaging the leader of this revolution through the film!
* * * * *
Some brief vignettes:
* Scene: in front of a hospital that serves mainly Black people, and for many who work there, it was a conscious decision of serving where people don't have enough health care. Carl Dix had joined the tour for a little while, with the message "We do NOT need another civil rights movement, we need REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!" urging people to get into the film. Over 60 people stopped to watch the film here, hospital workers and many basic people from the neighborhood. Between 15 and 20 stopped to watch for 20 minutes or more. This sparked a lot of conversation and exchanges.
One exchange was particularly notable. This guy who worked at the hospital watched part of the film for nearly 30 minutes but could not get his head around the idea of revolution—sweeping this system of capitalism-imperialism away and replacing it with a radically different and far better system—instead constantly bringing it back to getting the system to "listen" to the people or be "forced to do better." This is pretty common thinking among people who really feel there is no real alternative to this system.
We initially spent time "explaining" that it's not about lots of change within this system but getting rid of this system, going into how society is organized (capitalism is a system of producing our clothes, our food, everything, on the basis of exploiting human labor all over the globe for individual profit, with all the consequences of that we see in the world today), and the need to get rid of it. But this did not break through his framework of looking at things—till we mentioned there's a whole worked-out way this new society should and can be organized after the revolution, articulated in the Constitution for a New Socialist Republic of North America (Draft Proposal)—which is based on the work BA has done in forging a new framework, building on the lessons of past experiences of socialism, both its achievements and its shortcomings. That got his attention and began to crack the way he looked at what was necessary, possible, and desirable—revolution.
We told him these van tours are part of a campaign, BA Everywhere, to raise the funds needed to put this out so that you won't be able to live in this country and not know something about BA and this revolution. He hadn't wanted to take any posters or anything before this, though he did want to watch more of the film. Now he took a stack of Three Strikes posters, agreeing that people need to know about this. Plans were made for him to see more of the film and to pull together others to get into this.
* The question of how do you make a revolution with "people as they are now" (not in a revolutionary frame of mind) was a big question that came up constantly.
For example, a couple of guys, who were old enough to experience the struggles of at least the 1970s, insisted that revolution would mean people need to be willing to sacrifice, with the implication that they're not now, and that the best we can do is kind of tread water until more people feel that way. A younger proletarian guy in his 20s said, "I don't see how any of this can change until we use force." And that most people won't listen, won't be with it. So, we spoke to this, drawing from the film.
Yes, not people as they are, but transformed—transforming the thinking of blocs of people is the key part of our strategy "Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution." BA—and this film—is the key part of that. Without this, humanity has no chance. This is what we are doing with the van tour.
We also made the point that there are particular times in society when people's thinking gets shaken and unsettled and where it can happen even more—like in the wake of the Trayvon Martin verdict and all the big questions it posed on the very nature of this country and society, and where does the oppression of Black people come from and what it will take to get rid of it.
We took the time to struggle this out and it took some work.
For example, this older guy didn't watch the film just then, but he bought a copy of it and made plans to join us to watch it and show it to others, including plans to pass the hat and raise $200 for the BA Everywhere campaign.
With the younger guy, we made the point that revolution is serious business, and there is a whole strategy here for making revolution and winning when the time is right, when there is a revolutionary situation with the system in crisis and millions of revolutionary people—pointing him to disc 3 of the film. Talking more about the strategy, we said we can't just say "people aren't with this now," we have to be doing the work now—of transforming their thinking and how they look at things, what is necessary, desirable and possible, Revolution—Nothing Less!, and what they do with their lives so that there are millions of revolutionary people and the necessary leadership as we hasten toward the situation when we can get rid of this system once and for all. In contrast, in Egypt, people are in the streets with serious sacrifice, but there is no revolutionary force or understanding. We also made and came back to the point that the film addresses the basic question—when the time is ripe, could we really win, could we meet and defeat the forces of the old repressive order? Watch this film and get with the revolution. He was moved, but wasn't able to stay right then to watch the whole of disc 3, but plans were made so he will in the very near future.
* One woman with her daughter walked by as BA, on the screen, was talking about religion, "You'd have to ask what's the matter with the boy" (talking about the lord or god). She stayed and listened to that section, and on leaving said "interesting." We told her that's good but not good enough. If she likes that, she knows we clearly have some work to do for this revolution to have a chance. She didn't have time to talk right then but left us her contact information.
* Two young women who at first were just going to keep walking, stopped and read the Three Strikes poster. In the exchange that ensued we told them of people watching the movie Fruitvale Station and then asking but not knowing what can be done about this, the epidemic of police killings of Black and Latino youth—now Trayvon Martin. (Fruitvale Station is a film about Oscar Grant, who was killed by police in Oakland in 2009.). We said it's about not letting people's anger getting channeled into the dead-end of a civil rights movement and instead "get into revolution." They immediately felt this answer needs to be everywhere. Plans to watch the film and get connected with the Revolution Club were made right then.
* We also learned through our shortcomings. For example, one person stopped for a minute and told us "I hope you're protecting that guy." Our response was we are, but in talking about it collectively later we decided we needed to stop that guy and put it to him, "WE are, but what about you? You recognize that's a problem to deal with. You and a lot of others need to step in to make sure he can keep doing what he's doing. It doesn't happen any other way. We're building a movement for the revolution he's talking about. You're drafted!" This was a lesson learned.
We took on and argued both sincere questions and backward shit about BA being a "white" leader—can he lead a revolution, including what this reflects about people's thinking, their epistemology—how they are thinking about this and how they can change their thinking. Because BA is not Black that doesn't mean he cannot feel and be deeply outraged by the oppression of Black people—even if not quite in the same way as someone who experiences this personally and directly. And more importantly, BA is applying science to get at the roots of the foundation of this oppression of Black people and all oppression, to understand where it comes from and what it will take to get rid of it—and he is taking responsibility to lead the struggle to end it as part of emancipating humanity.
Revolution #314 August 25, 2013
New York Van Tour Snapshot:
August 25, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From a volunteer with the BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Van Tour in NY:
After a discussion of a piece on revcom.us on “Two Different Epistemologies,” our team stepped out on Day 2 of the van tour differently. The question posed was how much are we going to people to seek validation for “our” ideas versus how much are we going to them with the need to not just look at their ideas on why things are so fucked up in the world, but also how they are thinking—by what method are they looking at the world? This is a pivotal point from the “Two Different Epistemologies” piece.
In the film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!, Bob Avakian models the method throughout of digging into how people are trained to think. One woman who will be joining the van tour this weekend said that after watching the entire film over two days she was struck by how BA deals with elections with the comparison with the three-card Monty game (how the system actually draws people in to think that this is how one makes a difference), and she said this is an example of how he breaks everything down, by getting to the essence of how the system gets people to think, and that gets played on people, and by extension how we’re trained to think on every major question. Peoples’ mode of thinking has to change, and that’s true for the revolutionaries taking this BA Everywhere Van Tour to challenge how people look at things.
I spoke with a 45-year-old Puerto Rican confined to a wheel chair in the Bronx. He started to watch RNL for a few minutes and opened to me with “here’s what I have to say about that: I just feel that if we do good in the world—and this has to be everybody—then things could begin to change.” We had to go at this from several angles, including getting into why people make the choices they do and what a difference a radically new society and state would make so that people could actually do good. I found myself repeatedly saying, learning from BA: you have to pull the lens back and see the larger picture... Without a different state power and system, I argued, one that really encourages people to transform the way they think so that the ideas so common today like: “fuck everybody else,” “look out for #1,” are being struggled over and the basis for people to act this way is being worked on, there is no way people can do good that really counts. “Think about it,” I asked him. Where under this system of capitalism-imperialism, where this country goes all over the world plundering people, their land and resources, and, in this country where crime is a rational choice for youth in the ghettos and barrios as BA points this out, quoting a prominent conservative author, how are people supposed to act in that context? He was never confronted by someone asking these questions and wants to meet with us to take this film out.
I also spoke with a white, 30ish criminal defense attorney who stepped right up to the film and watched BA for a while, came up to me with a huge smile and said, “I was wondering when revolution and communism was going to make a comeback.” He wanted to know how much of a reach we have in the country, and thought this needs to get out there in a big way. He immediately connected to BA’s style and thought this is something he can bring some of his friends to hear. “I tried through my work to try to represent people who have been fucked over by the law, and I find this impossible to do. And every time I’m in court it is plain for anyone with eyes to see, and unfortunately many don’t want to see it, that the courts are stacked against Blacks and Hispanics, with priors [previous convictions] used to send them away forever.” I asked him if he ever thought about why this has been the history of this country for people of color. He actually hasn’t; he just thought people are racist as if it’s in white peoples’ DNA and this is where we got into things. I recalled something BA wrote awhile back entitled “What’s wrong with white people? Nothing a good revolution couldn’t solve,” I told him. We got into how white supremacy is embedded into this system and recalled BAsics 1:1 and 1:2. He never looked at the problem this way and more or less thought there was something inherent in our thinking. He was very open to this and said the idea of communism to him was not a bad one at all, and he didn’t say—in fact he talked against the idea of “Oh it’s a good idea but doesn’t work”—but he had no idea that over the past several decades someone has done the work of developing a new synthesis of communism. He wants to get together and take this discussion further, and I raised the idea of a fundraising event with friends of his.
On Day 3 of the van tour we stepped even more out there, not just ready to struggle with people but also with a scene created. It was a big plus to have Carl Dix out there speaking, drawing people in, in the context of the film over what the recent New York court ruling around Stop-and-Frisk means and doesn’t mean. (Read “Stop-and-Frisk Is Immoral and Illegitimate—Don’t Mend It. End It!” by Carl Dix at revcom.us.) One of us chalked the sidewalk “Stop-and-Frisk is a crime. Don’t mend it—end it. We don’t need a civil rights movement, we need revolution. Check out revcom.us.” Dozens read this, came over to watch the film (over 60 people in a couple hours), and some wanted to get busy with us. And busy it was, in a good sense. An employee at the hospital we were in front of was taken by the chalked drawing and also came right up to me and we watched the film together. “Man—is he telling the truth.” Turns out he, like so many others attracted to BA Everywhere, had ideas that it was human nature that is the problem, and asked if we are up against that. In the film, BA addresses human nature, drawing out 150 years ago many people thought slavery was “perfectly natural” while few would advocate that now. I asked him: why is that? He looked at me and asked, “Can we sit down over coffee and get into this more”? I told him yes and we can go watch the film at Revolution Books the next night.
Revolution #314 August 25, 2013
California Prisoners' Hunger Strike:
by Larry Everest | August 25, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Sunday, August 18, marks Day 42 in the intense, life-and-death struggle California prisoners are waging for their humanity and basic rights—especially an end to long-term, indefinite solitary confinement, which is a form of torture—and widely labeled as such by international legal and human rights groups.
Right now, the lives of hundreds of hunger striking prisoners are on the line due to the vicious response of prison authorities to this struggle—refusing to grant the prisoners' just demands and instead retaliating against them. Prisoner supporters say this is a "very dangerous phase of their protest" and "their health could be permanently damaged by their refusal to eat solid foods; they could even die."
The latest round of this battle began on July 8, when 30,000 prisoners in 22 of California's 33 prisons went on hunger strike—the largest political action by prisoners in the state's history.* Nearly 200 prisoners (by official count) remain on hunger strike (and in all likelihood many, many more are either on hunger strike or supporting the struggle in other ways)—including nearly 100 who have been refusing meals for 40 days straight!
According to the Los Angeles Times (August 14), "California's prison hunger strike is now in its sixth week, and the number of inmate protesters requiring medical care has increased significantly. According to medical guidelines created by foreign governments for monitoring hunger strikes in other countries, after a month without food, protesters can experience nerve damage that causes difficulty swallowing and vomiting. After 40 days, the expected effects include progressive confusion, incoherence, loss of vision and hearing, and bleeding." The Los Angeles Times also reports that during the past week alone, 93 prisoners suffering from "dehydration and abdominal pain" required medical attention, and that prison authorities are "emptying beds in preparation for handling inmates who have been on a hunger strike."
"Legal advocates continue to receive reports of ill treatment and indifference by both guards and prison medical staff," Prison Hunger Strike Solidarity wrote on August 16.
The courageous action of these prisoners is being supported by thousands and thousands of people across the country. This includes a very active core of family members whose loved ones' lives are in jeopardy, activists and prisoner supporters who've staged dozens of demonstrations, vigils, and other protests on a near-daily basis, as well as prominent voices from activists and entertainers Mavis and Jay Leno, Susan Bay and Leonard Nimoy, singer Bonnie Raitt, Cornel West, Noam Chomsky, actor and author Peter Coyote, Gloria Steinem, Rev. Jesse Jackson, cinematographer and director Haskell Wexler , and actors and activists Mike Farrell, Ed Asner, and Jamie Cromwell.
On August 14, the Stop Mass Incarceration Network, State Senator Tom Ammiano, California Families Against Solitary Confinement, and the National Religious Campaign Against Torture combined to stage a very impactful installation of a life-sized SHU cell and protest right on the steps of the state capitol in Sacramento, that drew 100 people, with several hundred more visiting the all-day SHU installation. (See, Day 38 of the California Prisoners Hunger Strike: Life – Sized SHU Cell Installed on State Capitol Steps—100 people rally to protest Prison Torture and Support Prisoners 5 Demands.)
Faced with the prisoners' strength and determination, and the courageous protest, the state has lashed back, trying to crush the spirits and very lives of the prisoners, their families, and whole sections of the population—and to harden the hearts and deaden the humanity of society more broadly.
The State of California and prison authorities have retaliated against hunger strikers—trying to further isolate some in Ad Seg (administrative segregation), blowing cold air into their cells, depriving them of liquids and medicines in some cases, and issuing disciplinary infractions. They've refused to even negotiate with the prisoners—claiming by refusing food the prisoners are threatening and intimidating their jailers and torturers! "We are not going to make policy decisions under threats and intimidation," prison spokeswoman Terry Thornton said on August 13. (And it should be noted that no leading representative of the imperialist system—whether the President, prominent judges, members of Congress, or other spokespeople for the system have condemned the actions of California's authorities against the hunger strike; most have remained totally silent, thereby supporting the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's [CDCR] actions.)
Prison authorities, including prison head Jeffrey Beard, and the system's media are calling the prisoners predators and animals who deserve whatever violence and abuse the system dishes out. As the Revolutionary Communist Party, LA Branch wrote in response to Jeffrey Beard's Los Angeles Times op-ed (see Revolution #313):
"In Beard's op-ed, he plays on consciously crafted public opinion about 'irredeemable criminals' we should be glad are locked away. But the deeper reality is that it is this system that is criminal and without legitimacy. It is this system that is committing crimes against humanity, torturing tens of thousands of people within its own borders and turning generation after generation of Black and Latino youth into suspects before they have even grown to their full height. It locks people into conditions where they are set against each other, blames them for reacting in ways this system trains them to react and then condemns them further when they put their lives on the line to rise above this and assert their humanity." ("What Is Actually Revealed in the California Prisoners Hunger Strike? Responding to Jeffrey Beard's Los Angeles Times Op-ed," from the Revolutionary Communist Party, LA Branch).
Let's face it: the logic of the system here is the logic of genocide, the logic of death camps. As former SHU inmate and current UC Berkeley student Steven Czifra said at the August 14 protest outside the California State Capitol, the prison authorities would just as soon kill all the SHU prisoners and then just replace them with others.
A system like this, with no future at all for millions, is a criminal system.
The prisoners' hunger strike is at a critical juncture. This is a battle not only for those on hunger strike, or even California's 133,000 prisoners, but for the millions the U.S. of A. has criminalized, demonized, and cast off from birth—and for what kind of a society and world we'll live in.
As the Statement from the LA Branch of the RCP put it: "If you want to live in a world where the energy and creativity of the millions locked behind steel cages can truly flourish... where there are no more antagonistic social divisions that twist all human relations today... where people 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... be part of the movement for revolution to make this real."
Demand an end to torture in U.S. prisons. Have the prisoners' backs!
* Prisoners have five core demands including: 1) End Group Punishment & Administrative Abuse; 2) Abolish the Debriefing Policy, and Modify Active/Inactive Gang Status Criteria; 3) Comply with 2006 Prison Commission Recommendations on ending Long-Term Solitary Confinement; 4) Provide Adequate and Nutritious Food; 5) Expand and Provide Constructive Programming and Privileges for Indefinite SHU Status Inmates. [back]
Revolution #314 August 25, 2013
August 25, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On August 14, Egyptian government security forces launched a bloodbath against supporters of Mohamed Morsi. The numbers of those killed through police assault, helicopter, sniper, and bulldozer attack may be as high as 2,000. Thousands were injured and the military is threatening further slaughter.
This vicious repression is totally unjust and must be thoroughly condemned.
Morsi is a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. He had been elected president in 2012 but was ousted from power on July 3 by the Egyptian military. This was a coup that the United States helped engineer. Many progressive forces in Egyptian society supported the actions of the military, claiming that the military was acting to preserve the spirit of the February 2011 uprising that forced an end to the despotic rule of Hosni Mubarak.
This was willful self-delusion. This was in fact a coup and it served the larger interests of U.S. imperialism. The Obama administration has continued to send military aid to Egypt.
Since the coup, Morsi supporters have been organizing protests and encampments in Cairo and other cities in Egypt.
The Egyptian security forces now appear to be poised to wipe out large pockets of support for the Muslim Brotherhood. The Egyptian military is moving against a rival oppressive force, and Egypt may be lunging into a reactionary civil war.
U.S. imperialism has blood on its hands. And nothing good can come of this for the great majority of the Egyptian people.
Below, we are printing slightly edited excerpts from a talk given by Raymond Lotta at New York Revolution Books on August 14. These excerpts provide background analysis and orientation for understanding what has been happening in Egypt—and the real revolutionary alternative that is needed.
The uprising of 2010-11 toppled the Mubarak regime. It demonstrated that there is no permanent necessity to the existing conditions and structures under which the great majority of humanity lives and suffers. And it was tremendously inspiring to oppressed people and people everywhere who yearn for an end to oppression and for a better world.
If you were in the streets demanding the downfall of the Morsi regime... or you saw that as a positive thing and cheered it on... deluded yourself and others that this was a “people’s uprising”... or are in denial that what took place was a coup by the reactionary Egyptian military, but you are now—correctly—appalled by the massacre of Muslim Brotherhood protesters... then you have to take some responsibility to confront that you were USED, PLAYED, and MANIPULATED by one oppressive agenda and section of the oppressive ruling class to facilitate and justify a reactionary coup and a slaughter to try to crush a rival reactionary oppressive force.
Now is the moment to STOP BEING PLAYED like this. There IS ANOTHER WAY. You’ll find it in Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage. A Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA—in Arabic, Farsi, English, and other languages at revcom.us. Get it, read it, spread it over social networks and hand to hand, discuss it, organize around it, and write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
But this revolt did not become a revolution. Mubarak was forced to step down. But the same basic forces that have ruled over and exploited the Egyptian people remained—and remain— in power.
1) Egypt remains a prisoner of the imperialist world market.
Egypt’s economic structure is dependent on and shaped by foreign capital, international loans, and Egypt’s subordinate integration into the world economy. Much of the foreign investment capital entering Egypt is concentrated in financial services and natural gas, sectors that generate few jobs.
The Egyptian state has promoted the development of profitable export sectors, especially cotton goods. Foreign domination has given rise to rampant and rapacious land speculation—and to bloated investment in tourism. The Egyptian military is in the thick of it all: it controls 40 percent of the economy.
This whole path of development has diverted resources from agriculture. Egypt has favorable agricultural resources and the potential to develop a sustainable agriculture. But it depends on the world market to supply its food needs and is the world’s largest importer of wheat.
A tiny stratum of Egypt’s wealthy has benefited, while poverty and squalor have spread. Forty percent of Egypt’s population lives near or below the poverty level. I’m talking about families subsisting on $2 a day. Youth make up 75 percent of the unemployed. And think about it: some 30 percent of Egypt’s university graduates cannot find work.
2) The repressive neocolonial Egyptian state remains intact.
The Egyptian state represents and enforces the economic and social relations that I have been describing. It is the guardian of the property rights and an economic structure based on exploitation and subordination to imperialism. This state represents the interests of a ruling class that rests on exploitation of the great majority of the population. This is a ruling class that has evolved in relation to a certain kind of capitalist development that is highly dependent on imperialism.
The army, the intelligence services, riot police, ordinary police, high courts, and the bureaucracy built up during the Mubarak era serve the interests of imperialism and the dictatorship of the exploiting classes in Egyptian society. The army concentrates the monopoly of legitimate armed force. It is the main pillar of a reactionary and oppressive state.
For almost 35 years, the Egyptian state, with the military as its principal bulwark, has been a keystone of U.S. imperial dominance in the Middle East, receiving some $40 billion in military aid from the U.S. This state opened its airspace to U.S. war planes during the Gulf War of 1991. It has given Western imperialism, including the U.S. Navy, unimpeded access to the Suez Canal. After the so-called Egypt-Israel peace agreement was signed in 1979, Egypt has been an active accomplice to Israel’s violent subjugation of the Palestinian people. The Mubarak regime helped enforce Israel’s blockade of the Palestinian population in Gaza, preventing basic supplies from reaching people.
The U.S. played a critical and decisive role in the military ouster of Morsi. Not that the U.S. was behind every demonstration and outpouring. But it was the key force that had engineered the coup, working through its diplomatic corps, national security advisor, other regimes in the region, and of course the Egyptian military.
Yet in the face of incontestable facts, a grand narrative of “people power” has emerged: “It was not the army that took over, it was the army that acted on behalf of the people.” This great self-delusion has taken hold among millions. It is the delusion of “people power.” Phase 1 was the ouster of Mubarak. Phase 2 was the demand for elections. Phase 3 is the ouster of Morsi.
The article in Revolution newspaper and revcom.us, “Millions of People CAN Be Wrong: The Coup in Egypt Is Not a People’s Revolution,” makes the important analysis that “because the masses in their millions are acting [it is not the case that] whatever they are doing must be righteous, just, and ultimately in their interests. Millions may think it is a popular revolution, but objective reality is that it was a coup, engineered by and serving the military, with the blessing of the U.S. ...
“Masses of people—including in their millions—can be, and in this case are, confused, misled, and profoundly wrong.”
Large sections of people, especially from the educated youth and middle classes, have concluded, and have been swept into the ideological torrent, that the main danger to Egyptian society, and to the people of the world, comes from the Islamic fundamentalist forces. And so the military—where and when it opposes Islamic fundamentalism—is seen as a positive force in society. This is willful self-delusion. And it is poisonous. People are being led to embrace a reactionary program that strengthens the Egyptian military and that allows it to carry out slaughter against supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Bob Avakian’s analysis of “the two outmodeds” provides a powerful and essential tool for understanding this conflict and acting to change the terms of things. On a world scale, two reactionary forces are clashing politically, ideologically, and militarily. Each preaches an enslaving ideology; each is a rival representative of the status quo. In Bringing Forward Another Way, Bob Avakian has analyzed these dynamics:
“What we see in contention here with Jihad on the one hand and McWorld/McCrusade on the other hand, are historically outmoded strata among colonized and oppressed humanity up against historically outmoded ruling strata of the imperialist system. These two reactionary poles reinforce each other, even while opposing each other. If you side with either of these ‘outmodeds,’ you end up strengthening both.
“While this is a very important formulation and is crucial to understanding much of the dynamics driving things in the world in this period, at the same time we do have to be clear about which of these ‘historically outmodeds’ has done the greater damage and poses the greater threat to humanity: It is the “historically outmoded ruling strata of the imperialist system,” and in particular the U.S. imperialists.”
The rivalry between these competing outmodeds—their oppressive ways of organizing society, their oppressive ideologies and programs, and their political representatives—is a major faultline in much of the world, in Egyptian society, and is a source of splits within Egypt’s ruling classes. And each tendency feeds on the other—the crimes of each drive people into the arms of the other. And none of this is in the fundamental interests of the people.
But humanity does not have to choose between these two unacceptable alternatives, these two non-solutions. What is needed is to bring forward another way: in opposition to and to break out of the dynamic of McWorld vs. Jihad that dominates much of the world now, including Egypt.
We have to be clear about what a genuine revolution is. It does not leave the reactionary state and army, exploitative economy, imperialist relations, and oppressive social relations intact. No! Revolution aims to defeat and dismantle the oppressive structures and military force of the old order. And on that basis, it sets out to establish a radically new and different state power and socialist economy, with liberating social relations, all aiming to serve the struggle to achieve a communist world without classes—a world community of humanity.
The new synthesis of communism brought forward by Bob Avakian represents the only way out of the madness and horror of the present world and toward a world truly worth living in. It is the real-world liberatory alternative to the “two outmodeds.”
This re-envisioned communism speaks to the actual and real felt needs of the great majority of world humanity. It corresponds to the direction that the world needs to go in—and can go in. And people need to get hold of Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage. A Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA to learn about this.
People’s sights need to be raised to this far better world.
And a critical dimension of genuine revolutionary work is waging sharp ideological struggle in society—and transforming the thinking of people as a key element in building a movement for revolution and accumulating forces for revolution.
That means calling out, not conciliating with, the “two outmodeds.”
A revolutionary movement has to be challenging people to cast off the shackles of religion; its appeal to supernatural forces and gods that do not exist; and its core values of patriarchy, domination, and enforced ignorance enshrined in belief, ritual, and custom. All of which prevent people from understanding their world and their capability to transform it and themselves.
A movement for revolution has to popularize and fight for the scientific communist understanding of the world and society.
A touchstone question in bursting the constraints of “the two outmodeds” is the emancipation of women. This is about unleashing the fury of women as a powerful force for revolution. The oppression of half of humanity is woven deeply into the central strands of oppression of class society. The freedom from oppression that women require can only be achieved through the most radical transformation of society. And taking up that question today—as a touchstone question among the oppressed themselves and as part of promoting a new culture and morality that can inspire people and “fit” them to make revolution to emancipate all of humanity—this is an essential component of building a genuine movement for all-the-way revolution.
Let’s do a thought experiment. Rewind the tape and go back to 2009, before the upsurge. You saw that the Muslim Brotherhood was in opposition to Mubarak, and it had a following among the poor. You also saw that growing numbers of middle-class forces were becoming alienated from the Mubarak regime but were looking for inspiration to the West—while various bourgeois-liberal forces were themselves coming into opposition to the Mubarak regime.
Now having seen what happened since 2011, and how the outlook and class interests of these “two outmodeds,” representing two rival and mutually reinforcing representatives of imperialist dependency, have come to dominate political and social life—what was called for? To tail one or the other of these two forces? No, what is needed is to establish a real communist pole that can begin to influence millions.
The situation in Egypt today—in which large sections of the population are being rallied around the reactionary military, representing the oppressive interests of U.S. imperialism, and other sections are being rallied around the retrograde Muslim Brotherhood, who seek to reorganize society along theocratic lines—only underscores the need for this pole.
There is in fact a way towards emancipation: the new synthesis of communism. The challenge is to take this up as an urgent and comprehensive solution—now in the midst of this horrific situation of the military assault on the Muslim Brotherhood—and to make it a powerful force of attraction and contention in society and the world.
Revolution #314 August 25, 2013
By Sunsara Taylor | August 17, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
August 16—Today, as many of the Abortion Rights Freedom Riders escorted patients and hula-hooped outside the clinic, I sat down with the director of Jackson Women's Health Organization. I told her about the threefold mission of the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride: to launch a national counter-offensive to the nation-wide attacks on abortion, to change the terms of this fight so that millions become clear it is about women's liberation or women's enslavement (NOT about “babies”), and to break free of relying on politicians and the courts and instead build a mass independent political movement of resistance to defeat the whole war on women.
She told me about her patients. About 80% of them are Black women, many of them travel from long distances, only about a third of them have a partner with them (some have a relative or friend, others come alone), and many of them are very young. Her voice filled with emotion when she told me about the 14-year-old who was brought in recently by her 27-year-old mother. The mother had only been 13 when she had her child and was determined not to see her daughter put through the same hardship. The director told of other women who have to bus in from the surrounding area, of all the degradation they have to go through to come up with the funds not only for the abortion but also for travel. She told of the mandatory waiting period of 24 hours and how many women cannot afford even a cheap motel and don't have anywhere to spend the night.
She got visibly, and quite righteously, angry when discussing the anti-abortion protesters who surround her clinic and harass her patients every single day. We had experienced this ourselves in the past 24 hours, being told that we don't “deserve to have children,” that we “should have our uteruses ripped out,” that “women should not be allowed to vote,” and, of course, called all sorts of vicious and woman-hating epithets.
But then her face completely lit up when I asked her why she did the job she does every day, even knowing the risks involved and the hatred and harassment she receives. She smiled and said with full enthusiasm, “I love my job!” She described what a difference she is able to make for the women she serves every day. She told of what it means to be her patient's last resort. She said with other jobs in her past, her “life” was everything that took place when she clocked out. Here, her job is a huge part of her passion, her love, and her life. She radiated this.
We discussed the similarity between the legal restrictions facing her clinic and those facing the last clinic in North Dakota and we talked about the horrible hole that was left in Wichita after Dr. Tiller's assassination. Through this, and in other ways, we got into the national dimension of the fight that is being waged against abortion rights and women everywhere—and the necessity for a national counter-offensive that changes the terms everywhere. We discussed the fact that what happens nation-wide is going to have a much bigger impact on what eventually happens in any given place, than just what is done locally. This actually underscores the importance of fighting each local battle, because it will set terms and influence the national tide, but to take these fights up as part of a national counter-offensive.
We got into the importance of the slogan: Abortion On Demand and Without Apology being declared defiantly and positively. And when I said, “Forced motherhood is female enslavement,” she nodded her head emphatically and then elaborated on how true she thought this was. We discussed how it is essential that people everywhere come to understand that it is utterly immoral to abandon the women of Mississippi or North Dakota or Albuquerque or anywhere else—and that it is delusional to think that if the attacks in Mississippi or North Dakota or anywhere else are not reversed and defeated that they will not soon spread to women all over the country.
At some point during this conversation, a man in scrubs poked his head into her office. It turns out he was the doctor performing abortions today. He said, with a broad smile on his face and a little bounce in his step, “There's more people on our side out there today than on their side!” He was referring to the Abortion Rights Freedom Riders and other escorts who were outside the clinic. That this is not always the case is precisely something we are setting out to change (as well as defeating and reversing a lot of the laws that have been passed restricting abortion, the stigma, and so much more).
Earlier in the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride, back when we were in Chicago, we held an incredible event with one of the doctors who flies in from out of state to do abortions here in Jackson. At the Unity Temple in Oak Park, he explained how he got involved with the Freedom Ride. As soon as he heard the slogan Abortion On Demand and Without Apology he knew he wanted to work with us. He was even more pleased when he heard the idea for an Abortion Rights Freedom Ride. For too long, he explained, the anti-abortion movement had attempted to claim the legacy of the Civil Rights movement. As a Black man who grew up in Alabama, as well as someone deeply committed to women's liberation, he felt very strongly that it was correct for the mantle of the Civil Rights and the Freedom Rides to be taken up by those fighting FOR women and for women's right to abortion. It is undeniably true that forced motherhood is a form of female enslavement and that when women are not free then no one is free.
He also spoke about how he believes people of faith need to take back the moral high ground and the Bible from those who use it to push women's enslavement. He spoke about why he, as a religious person, feels driven to stand up for women's rights without compromise or apology. He challenged everyone to open their eyes and realize that we have been going through what he called a “devolution”—the opposite of a revolution—over the last 40 years since abortion became legal and that it is long past time we launch a fight to turn the tide.
That night, and today, many of us on the ride got into how true his words were. We spoke of how intolerable it is that 40 years after Roe v. Wade, things have gone backwards for women—with not only the whole state of emergency surrounding women's right to abortion, but also the increasingly violent and degrading nature of pornography even as it becomes more and more mainstream, and the whole massive sex slavery trade this reflects and reinforces and sits atop along with the culture of rape, super-exploitation, and so much more. Things have gone backwards for Black people—with the New Jim Crow and slow genocide of mass incarceration and everything horrific concentrated in the acquittal of Trayvon Martin's killer. We are on the brink of disaster regarding the environment and the irreparable harm being caused by the profit-above-all imperatives of capitalism that continue to, and can only continue to, destroy the planet. And then there are the war on immigrants, the drones and destruction from the sky of the Obama administration, the ongoing U.S. backing of Egypt's and Israel's military terror throughout the Middle East, the putrid me-first, reality-tv, petty and back-biting culture fostered to keep everyone small-minded, mean-spirited, and distracted. We need a real revolution—and this is precisely what those of us who are supporters of the Revolutionary Communist Party are doing, through this ride and in many other ways.
It is time, right now, when the eyes of millions are being focused on big events in the world, when millions are beginning to wonder why it is that women continue to be slammed backwards and what it is really going to take to get justice for Black people on Amerikkkan soil, and when so many are being jolted out of their regular, American-style sleepwalk. None of this is human nature, it is the nature of the system. There is a way out. Bob Avakian, the leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party, has rigorously and tirelessly worked for decades to deeply sum up and learn from the previous revolutions in the Soviet Union and China before they were reversed, building on their incredible achievements and learning from their shortcomings and errors, and bringing this together with broader human experience and lessons since. He has developed a new synthesis of revolution and communism. This is what people need to get into and this is what people need to fight to make real.
One key dimension of this new synthesis is the centrality and the driving force of the fight for the full liberation of women. He has put it quite powerfully, “You cannot break all the chains, except one. You cannot say you want to be free of exploitation and oppression, except you want to keep the oppression of women by men. You can't say you want to liberate humanity yet keep one half of the people enslaved to the other half. The oppression of women is completely bound up with the division of society into masters and slaves, exploiters and exploited, and the ending of all such conditions is impossible without the complete liberation of women. All this is why women have a tremendous role to play not only in making revolution but in making sure there is all-the-way revolution. The fury of women can and must be fully unleashed as a mighty force for proletarian revolution.”
There is more, and you should get into this too. Check out the Declaration for the Liberation of Women and the Emancipation of Humanity. And check out the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) for a concrete and very visionary breakdown of exactly how this new synthesis will be applied starting Day 1, and going forward, in a revolutionary society that is not only geared towards meeting people's needs, furthering the world revolution, and repairing to the maximum degree possible the damage to the planet, but also overcoming all vestiges of oppression and exploitation and achieving a world of voluntary cooperation and mutual flourishing that is for-real communism.
The world really does not have to be this way but changing it requires getting involved right now and today. There is a way out and there is no excuse to turn away from this and contribute in whatever way you can along the way. As Bob Avakian also put it,
“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.”
As we step out tomorrow for the women of Mississippi and the women everywhere, I want to thank the doctor who joined us in Chicago and flies into Mississippi for his courage every day as he serves women as well as for his courage in speaking out and lending his support to the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride. On behalf of the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride, the thousands of people who have lent their support and voices and efforts to this Ride, and to the millions of women here and all around the world in whose interests we are waging this ride, I want to thank all the providers who risk their lives every day and I want to call on everyone, everywhere to find your voice right now. Today is the day to stand up for abortion rights, to stand up for women, to stand up against bigotry and misogyny and Christian fascism and legislated enslavement. Today is the day to join what is new and arising in the world right now—a new movement for the all-the-way liberation of women, for abortion rights without compromise or apology, and for a future in which all women and young girls can truly flourish.
Get connected—and stay connected. The future is in our hands.
Revolution #314 August 25, 2013
August 25, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The assault on women's right and need to simply be able to determine whether or not to have a child has reached a fever pitch in the United States. In the face of this, Stop Patriarchy has taken the offensive and has organized the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride raising the demand "Abortion On Demand and Without Apology," and traveling to states that have passed draconian restrictions, many with only one abortion clinic remaining in the entire state. The Jackson Women's Health Organization is the last remaining clinic that provides abortions in the entire state of Mississippi. Legislation passed now threatens its closure! On August 17 the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride joined with members of Wake Up Mississippi, the Hell No Campaign, the JWHO clinic defenders, Mississippi NOW, and others and rallied to the clinic's defense . Photo: Some of the 85 people who participated.
Revolution #314 August 25, 2013
August 25, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On August 12, U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin found that:
And the judge said that plaintiffs testified that their encounters with the police left them feeling that they did not belong in certain areas of the city. And it characterized each stop as “a demeaning and humiliating experience.”
The ruling came in a response to the lawsuit. Floyd v. City of New York, filed by victims of New York City’s stop-and-frisk. For millions of people in New York and beyond, this vindicated what they already knew.
But the judge’s ruling didn’t order an end to stop-and-frisk. It designates an outside attorney to monitor the police department, along with other policies like community meetings—to solicit public input on how to reform stop-and-frisk. The City of New York opposes even these reforms to stop-and-frisk, and appealed the ruling.
Shortly after the ruling, Carl Dix issued a statement in response. It said, in part:
“First of all, let’s tell the truth: stop-and-frisk is nothing but apartheid—nothing but a practice that singles out one group of people (Black and brown-skinned people) for illegal and illegitimate repressive practices solely for the color of their skin. People knew this before the suit, and the suit performed the valuable service of making this absolutely undeniable. It came out that 100,000’s of people were stopped and frisked by the NYPD every year. More than 85 percent of them were Black or Latino, AND more than 90 percent of them were doing absolutely nothing wrong. Yet they ended up being subjected to humiliation, harassment, brutality, arrest, and sometimes worse under stop-and-frisk. Why set up a process to reform a policy this fucked up instead of just getting rid of it?
“Further stop-and-frisk is just one practice in a whole set of policies—the New Jim Crow, for short—that were developed to criminalize Black and Latino youth on a massive and indeed genocidal scale at a time when this capitalist system could no longer profitably exploit them in the same way that they had been and when that system therefore had no real future for millions and tens of millions of these youth, and thus wanted and needed to keep these millions and tens of millions of people in check—penned in, locked up, and killed off.
“Second, the main reason that this suit was allowed into court and given the coverage that it had was that there are forces among the powers-that-be that are seriously worried about how practices like this make America look—both ‘at home’ and to other countries. Here is a system that claims to be the most democratic on earth that at the same time leads the world in mass imprisonment, and mass imprisonment which so disproportionately targets Black and Latino people that—along with things like torture, indefinite detention (Guantánamo, for example on both counts) and other severely repressive measures which violate international norms—makes its democratic pretensions little more than a sour joke all over the world. And here is a system at home whose defenders have vocally expressed concern that the very peoples targeted by stop-and-frisk will lose their belief in the system’s legitimacy—that is, the RIGHT of the system to rule over them.
“In addition, the struggle waged by Stop Mass Incarceration Network—including civil disobedience actions where Cornel West and myself, and many others, were jailed—along with other protests and actions had an important role in raising mass awareness of how intolerable this practice is and how urgent it is to resist it...
“Third, there is a serious contradiction in the judge’s ruling. How can you conclude that something is ‘unconstitutional’ and constitutes racial profiling—and then decide that it should only be modified? No! If it’s unconstitutional, you got to get rid of the damn thing. Unless what you’re really saying is this: that America cannot even extend the most basic constitutional rights to the tens of millions of Black people and Latinos and Native Americans and other oppressed nationalities because it would mean that the rulers of America would not be able to exercise their dictatorship as nakedly as they want to and believe they need to.
“And yet this is the inescapable conclusion: that for all the talk about democracy and constitutional rights, whenever it comes to any important issue—and particularly when this issue concerns those groups who have been held down and exploited and oppressed in the most vicious and brutal ways since the founding of this country—this country is at heart a dictatorship exercised by the capitalist-imperialists in the interests of the capitalist-imperialists. You can see this right now at work in the heroic struggle against torture being waged by prisoners in California, as well as in what is coming to light thanks to revelations of Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden—for which they are being viciously persecuted.”
Judge Shira Scheindlin’s decision has the virtue of making it very clear and undeniable that the stop-and-frisk policy in New York City has been grossly racist and unconstitutional. But the judge also made clear that she is not calling for an end to stop-and-frisk. Instead, she wants a “race-neutral” enforcement of the practice. She says that she wants stop-and-frisk to conform to the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the 14th Amendment (which forbids discrimination on the basis of race).
Is such a thing possible? That is, can there be stop-and-frisk in America today that protects people’s fundamental rights and, in particular, does not end up once again targeting Black, Latino, and other oppressed peoples?
First of all, let’s look at the legal history underlying WHY Judge Scheindlin may have felt constrained to maintain stop-and-frisk. The wording in the Fourth Amendment supposedly protects people against “unreasonable searches and seizures” and says that authorities need “probable cause” for that. In 1968, in the case Terry v. Ohio, the U.S. Supreme Court lowered the standard that had been in effect for a police stop to one of “reasonable suspicion.” In that ruling, the Supreme Court said police could search people based on “unusual conduct” that leads a police officer to reasonably believe “that criminal activity may be afoot.”
This ruling came at a time when Black people in particular were rising up against this system in rebellion and where this spirit had spread to many other sections of people and “revolution was in the air.” This was a time when the capitalist ruling class, through its courts and legislatures, radically strengthened the hand of the repressive apparatus (that is, the police, prisons, etc.) and further unleashed the sharpest edge of that strengthened apparatus on Black and other minority people in particular.
This meant that even if Scheindlin had personally wanted to end stop-and-frisk, she would have been going against established Supreme Court precedent. This certainly could have been done and it would actually have been good to do so, given how unjust this precedent is and how blatantly it curtails and cuts off fundamental rights—but it would have meant that it would be even more likely that her decision would be overturned at a higher level.
To be clear: the U.S. Constitution—which itself was set up as a framework for the expansion of capitalism and, originally, slavery—is hardly the highest vision of either individual or collective freedom to which anyone should aspire. And, in fact, the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) lays out a qualitatively more expansive and greater vision of rights—both the rights of the masses to rule and transform society and the rights of individuals to be protected in that process—in line with the radically different and radically more emancipating vision of freedom at the foundation of communism. But even the extremely limited version of freedom put forth in the U.S. Constitution cannot be consistently adhered to by the rulers of modern-day U.S. society (as shown in other arenas as well, such as the NSA scandal)—and this is especially so when it comes to the most oppressed in society. (See the series “Two Constitutions, Two Different Systems, Two Different Futures for African-American People.”)
Over time, this definition of “reasonable suspicion” became ever more elastic and became the legal ground for so-called “pro-active policing” (which Scheindlin also takes care to uphold in her decision). Rather than investigating and arresting people for crimes that have actually been committed, now police need only say that they “suspect” that “crimes are afoot”; and rather than have a “probable cause” to arrest someone, now they must only have a “reasonable suspicion” that someone is involved in this crime that is thought to be “afoot.”
Can this be “race-neutral”? Let’s take a current example to see why it cannot. Right now, there is a major move to require anyone who wants to register to vote to have a state-issued photo ID. These measures do not mention race and so they seem, on the surface, to be “race-neutral.” But they are not—these new laws overwhelmingly will mean that the Black and Latino voters will either be dropped from the voter rolls or prevented from registering because their conditions of life tend to make it much more difficult to obtain such identification. Why? Because people of these oppressed nationalities are much less likely to own cars and/or have driver’s licenses; they are much more likely to be unable to pay the fees often involved in getting state-issued ID; they are more likely to live further away from the offices that issue ID, more likely to be disabled and home-bound or caring for dependents and unable to take the time, etc. In other words, there are factors of oppression and inequality structured deep within the fabric of this society which guarantee that even the equal application of the law in the abstract will have very unequal and oppressive consequences in the concrete.
When you get to the system of the police, courts, and prisons—the openly repressive arm of the state—this structural racism becomes all the more acute. It is indeed a fact that there is more crime in the ghettos and barrios—in large part because a) for several generations now other opportunities have been even more sharply closed off to the youth in these areas and crime has become, in the words of one capitalist theorist, “a rational choice” for Black and brown youth; and b) for generations before that and going on to the current day, the police channel and largely confine drug dealing, street prostitution, auto theft rings, etc. to such areas and are themselves deeply involved in all this. And this all plays out in the ideas that are pushed and promoted, to the point where an ex-prisoner at a recent forum in California recalled that when he was growing up, all the kids in his barrio wanted to end up at Pelican Bay State Prison because that was where all the heavy gangsters went—in other words, given that the avenues to “success” were closed off in his neighborhood, this was the most that many young people thought they could aspire to. Today this is linked to what Michelle Alexander called the “New Jim Crow” of mass incarceration—which, as Carl Dix pointed out in his statement, is a systemic response from the powers-that-be to a situation where millions and tens of millions of Black and Latino youth were no longer able to be profitably exploited and now had to be controlled in other ways.
So, no, stop-and-frisk (and the “pro-active” policing it is part of) cannot be race-neutral; nor can it, for that matter, adhere to the strictures of the Fourth Amendment (which Scheindlin’s decision also calls for) because those strictures have already been tossed out for a whole section of people by the Supreme Court in Terry v Ohio. Scheindlin’s decision in the real world—assuming that it is not overturned—will, even in its best interpretation, only mean that the police will have to take greater care to mask the overtly racist way that they carry out their repression.
If the last 50 years show anything, it is that you cannot reform white supremacy out of the fabric of this capitalist-imperialist system; it is too integral to it. The underlying contradiction between the masses of Black and other oppressed nationality people, on the one hand, and the system of capitalism on the other—the ways in which the masses of Black, Latino, Native American, and other oppressed peoples are “inserted into” (or hammered into) the economic, legal, cultural, and political structures of this society—have become even deeper and more profound. These structures cannot be reformed, they must be uprooted—and such uprooting requires a revolution of the most profound sort—a communist revolution. And, again, to see how and why this is so and how the world could be transformed into an emancipatory one, get into the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal).
* * * * *
The truth about America can still be seen in the very language first used in the Dred Scott decision upholding the Fugitive Slave Act before the Civil War, but also applied as recently as the acquittal of George Zimmerman: Black people have no rights that a white man is bound to respect.
Such a system cries out for revolution—for this and a host of other reasons—as soon as possible, and it requires as well the sharpest possible struggle uniting many millions of people against its outrages, including continuing the struggle to get rid of stop-and-frisk and the whole program of the New Jim Crow.
Revolution #314 August 25, 2013
August 25, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
One of the hallmarks of the century of vicious Jim Crow segregation in the U.S. after the Civil War—enforced through official police terror and lynch mobs—was denying Black people the right to vote. Measures like requiring people to pass literacy tests or pay poll taxes before casting ballots imposed barriers to voting by Black people—even though the Fifteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, passed after the Civil War, supposedly guaranteed that no citizen could be denied the right to vote by the federal government or any state government because of their "race, color, or conditions of previous servitude." It was only in 1965, with the passage of the Voting Rights Act, that those overt barriers to Black people exercising their right to vote were removed.
Almost 50 years later, the voting rights of Black as well as Latino people are under a heavy assault. The biggest blow so far was the U.S. Supreme Court ruling this June that struck down a key section of the Voting Rights Act, basically gutting the law. This has opened the floodgates to laws and measures at the state and local levels, not just in the former slave states in the South but around the country, that effectively limit Black and Latino people's voting rights.
One common type of voter suppression law requires people to present an officially recognized ID before they can register to vote. Just hours after the June Supreme Court ruling, the Texas Attorney General announced that his state's voter ID law "will take effect immediately." The law had previously been blocked by a federal court under the Voting Rights Act for discriminating against Blacks and Latinos. North Carolina followed with a law that puts even stricter limits on the type of IDs considered valid for voter registration. Similar laws requiring IDs are being considered or coming to effect in states across the U.S.
As was the case with the voting barriers under Jim Crow, those behind the current voter ID laws don't outright say that they intend to prevent Black and other oppressed people from voting. Instead, they claim they are out to stop "voter fraud." But the reality is that because of deep-rooted oppressive relations in this society, Black and Latino people overall are much more likely to be poor and unable to afford the costs involved in getting officially approved IDs like drivers licenses, or to face other difficulties in acquiring such documents. And studies have shown that ID requirements and other voter suppression measures do indeed result in disproportionate numbers of Black and Latino people (as well youth, the elderly, and disabled people) being prevented from registering to vote or being dropped from the voter rolls. There are also schemes like redrawing electoral district maps to the disadvantage of Black and Latino residents (a practice known as gerrymandering).
Another way that millions of people have been disenfranchised is through laws in various states that deny people the right to vote if they have a criminal conviction—not just while they are incarcerated but even after they are out of prison. Again, these laws don't mention race so they are "color-blind" on the surface. But because Black and Latino people are unjustly targeted by this system's laws and police, leading to a disproportionate percentage of Black and Latino people in prisons and in the grip of the whole "criminal justice system" compared to whites, the actual effect of the criminal disenfranchisement laws is to target those sections of the people. This has led to a situation where, for example, 13 percent of all Black men have lost their right to vote.
Now, people should be clear about another important aspect of reality: no serious social or political change has ever been, or will ever be, obtained through voting under this system. Voting and the whole electoral process serve to draw people into the killing confines of this capitalist-imperialist system—and to allow the rulers to proclaim that they are acting in the name of the "American people" as they carry out brutal exploitation, wars, assassinations, and other crimes around the world. (For more on voting and elections, check out the film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Bob Avakian Live, in particular disc 2 of the DVD, the chapter titled "The Election Hustle: 'If They Draw You In, They Win.'")
Black people in the Jim Crow South—joined by others—fought with determination and courage for the right to vote, and some of the fighters lost their lives in the struggle. This hard-fought fight—and the struggle and upsurge among Black people and throughout society at the time as well as the impact of this on the world—forced the ruling class of this country into a concession in the form of the Voting Rights Act. The assault now on the right of Black and other oppressed people to vote is part of not just the continuation but, in many ways, the intensification of the overall oppression and the ugly reassertion of white supremacy that is so foundational to this country. So while there should be no illusions about the actual nature of voting and elections under this system, the attack on the right of Black and Latinos to vote must be clearly opposed and fought against—not in order to wage a "new civil rights movement" but as part of fighting the power, and transforming the people, for revolution.
Representing the majority in the Supreme Court's decision gutting the Voting Rights Act, Chief Justice John Roberts said that the Act did not reflect "current conditions." In other words, Roberts (and powerful forces in the ruling class) claim that this is now a "color-blind" and "post-racial" society—that discrimination and injustices against Black and other oppressed people are things of the past. Antonin Scalia, another member of the Court's majority, declared during oral arguments in the case that the Voting Rights Act amounted to "racial entitlement"—in other words, that it gave preferential treatment to Black people.
Consider the fact that these men who spout such white-supremacist shit are actually part of the "highest court of the land" which has now opened the door wide to the widespread suppression of the voting rights of oppressed people that were supposedly outlawed almost 50 years ago—and that others at the top of the power structure, like Barack Obama, may express polite "disagreement" with these right-wingers but would never call them out as racist reactionaries who should be condemned and exposed. As Carl Dix of the Revolutionary Communist Party says, "America has had its chances to do right by Black people. First through the Civil War and Reconstruction, and then during the 1960s, when people struggled mightily to deal with the horrors Black people faced. And each time, America changed the forms of oppression but kept it in effect. What is the situation today? The New Jim Crow. More than 2 million people in prison; and more than 5 million formerly incarcerated facing discrimination when looking for work, and barred from living in public housing and receiving government loans. Racial profiling, stop-and-frisk and a school-to-prison pipeline. Voting rights being snatched back. It's long past time to say, 'That's it for this system. Time's up!'"
Revolution #314 August 25, 2013
August 25, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
This piece originally appeared as part of the special Revolution issue "The Oppression of Black People, The Crimes of This System and the Revolution We Need," which is available online at revcom.us.
People say: “If we could actually realize what Martin Luther King put forward in his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, then Black people would finally see a new day, America would be a much better place and it could play a much different and better role in the world. So, our efforts should be focused on making that ‘Dream’ a reality.”
Martin Luther King made many sacrifices—and indeed made the ultimate sacrifice—in seeking to bring about what he put forward in his “I Have a Dream” speech. But, as indicated by that very speech, the outlook of Martin Luther King was precisely one of seeking to make America “live up to its promise,” when that “promise” has always involved, as one of its most essential elements, first the outright enslavement, and then the continuing oppression of Black people in other horrific forms. King’s “dream” can never be realized, for the masses of Black people, under this system—a system which is founded on, and depends on, subjugating Black people and denying them even basic equality. And the fact is that, whatever King’s intent, the realization of this “dream” could, at most, apply only to a small percentage of Black people, and would in reality come at the expense of the masses of Black people—and millions, even billions, of other people, here and around the world, who will continue to be preyed upon and to suffer horribly as a result of the workings of this capitalist-imperialist system and its systematic exploitation and merciless oppression, all enforced by its organized machinery of mass murder and destruction.
Consistent with his outlook, King’s program was straight-up one of reform, directly and explicitly in opposition to revolution, when in fact only revolution, aiming for a communist world as its ultimate goal—and not reform, which leaves this system in effect—can finally end the long nightmare of the oppression of Black people, and all other relations of oppression and exploitation, here and throughout the world. The fact, and the great irony, that, while he sought only to reform this system, King was nevertheless cut down, is itself yet another indictment of this system and its towering crimes and yet another indication of why it cannot in fact be reformed but must be swept aside and abolished through revolution.
Revolution #314 August 25, 2013
August 25, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The following is a statement from revolutionary Gregory Koger, who was sent back to Cook County jail on July 23 as the continuation of the vicious political prosecution he and his lawyers, defense committee, and friends have been fighting for almost four years. At the jail, where he began a hunger strike in solidarity with the hunger strike of prisoners in California, he faced retaliation for this action and for his political views. This retaliation has taken the form of being repeatedly sent to the psychiatric ward for "evaluation" and being moved from a minimum security dorm-type situation to a maximum security cell, for a conviction on nonviolent misdemeanors. An emergency protest against this retaliation was held at the jail on July 29, and his defense committee is circulating a petition for his release on electronic monitoring.
In solidarity with the heroic hunger strike begun by 30,000 prisoners on July 8, I have spent the last two weeks in Cook County jail on hunger strike.
I hope my stand has contributed to the struggle for the 5 core demands and an end to the torture committed by the United States government—domestically and abroad. My heart was also with the prisoners in Guantánamo on hunger strike.
For the duration of my time as a political prisoner here, I must devote my energies to the broader revolutionary work that my life is dedicated to.
A system that systematically tortures tens of thousands of people and incarcerates more people than any other country in the history of the planet is completely worthless and we must build a movement to end these injustices and bring into being a radically more liberatory world. I believe this will take revolution, nothing less—and I urge everyone to get with the movement for revolution and to check out the new synthesis of communism brought forward by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the RCP.
Aug. 6, 2013
Revolution #314 August 25, 2013
August 14, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From a reader:
On Tuesday, August 6, the Revolution Club of East Oakland held a spirited rally and march in the 'hood in support of the California prisoners' hunger strike. About 30 people of different races and nationalities showed up, many attracted to the displays and banners, as well as a casket with Billy Sell's name (Sell, 32 years old, died on July 22 while on hunger strike at the Corcoran State Prison) and a '"cage" replica of a SHU (Security Housing Unit) cell—an eight feet by ten feet wire cage with a stool and bedding. Many later commented on the powerful effect of seeing a Black man in a cage on the street corner as symbolic of the torture of being locked up in solitary confinement, deprived of your humanity.
Some in the neighborhood had experience of being out in solitary confinement in San Quentin or Pelican Bay, including one Latino man who'd been in a previous hunger strike in the 1990s. Some spoke bitterness over the bullhorn, like a white man who said, "You don't even see who gives you food! No human contact at all. You can only dream about the people you remember." An older Black man told about his mail being torn up, adding, "They try to destroy your spirit and your soul. So this is why we must support this hunger strike."
As a speaker addressed the question of torture, literally by Amnesty International's definition, another spoke of being "stripped of your manhood... being treated worse than dogs, and being fed worse than dog food..." Another man spoke of how the prison creates a "1920s America", separating the races and then pitting them against each other; and this was contrasted with the "unity statement" which called for an end to racial and nationalist hostilities) from prisoners at Pelican Bay... a truly courageous document in effect for almost a year (see "California Prisoners Call for Peace Between Different Nationalities" at revcom.us). But the experience of solitary confinement gave a very clear picture of torture when a brother said, "Just lock yourself up in a bare room for one day with no human contact, no phone, no windows, you don't know what time it is. Now imagine that for 20 years. We must support this hunger strike."
In support of the hunger strike, 16 people from the hood signed up to do a "one day fast" to have the prisoners' backs!
Lines were drawn in the rally between the Zimmerman verdict and the newest Three Strikes poster; and there were references to the truthful slogan, "Mass Incarceration + Silence = Genocide." The Revolution Club emphasized how we must "Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution."
Besides people from the 'hood, there were some teachers who came from San Francisco, a student from City College of SF, and a member of a local church. One of the teachers later remarked how well the rally "connected" with some people from a nearby homeless shelter. She said, "these (homeless) people are ISOLATED with no family, or they're cast aside, just like solitary confinement. It must have hit a nerve."
After the rally, we marched through the intersection three times with loud chants: "What are we gonna do? Shut down the SHU".... "Prisoners are human beings, Meet the 5 demands", and "CDC Lies, Prisoners Die." (CDC stands for the California Department of Corrections.)
After the march, some of us drank tea at a restaurant and discussed "what is the solution?" (Hint: not all thought that "revolution—nothing less" was the solution, even though we were all in the streets together). We followed up with joining a late afternoon demonstration staged by the Stop Mass Incarceration Network in downtown Oakland.
Revolution #314 August 25, 2013
Fallout Continues in the Wake of Snowden Leak:
August 25, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
In June 2013, the UK Guardian newspaper revealed shocking information about U.S. government surveillance. Edward Snowden, a former CIA contractor, courageously leaked documents about the National Security Agency (NSA), exposing that the U.S. is carrying out the biggest, most invasive surveillance program in the world.
"The essence of what exists in the U.S. is not democracy but capitalism-imperialism and political structures to enforce that capitalism-imperialism. What the U.S. spreads around the world is not democracy, but imperialism and political structures to enforce that imperialism."
The fallout from this has been huge and has continued to grow, causing MAJOR problems for the United States. In the face of millions outraged at this spying, the rulers of the U.S. have been engaged in high-stakes damage control and been put on the defensive. And the more that has been revealed about this spying, what stands out is: 1) How massive and in many cases how illegal this surveillance is; 2) How Obama and other representatives of the U.S. ruling class have and continue to LIE and LIE about all this;
3) The U.S. government has no plans whatsoever to curtail these massive spy operations—either internationally or domestically. The U.S. is going after Snowden with the vengeance of an imperialist hitman set on protecting its empire—its message to those who have given him or considered giving him asylum has been, "Give us Snowden, or else." Meanwhile, the U.S. is plowing full-steam ahead with further plans for even more colossal spying. For example, the NSA is scheduled to open a $1.5 billion facility in Utah that will house a 100,000 sq. ft. "mission-critical data center."
The first reports in June exposed how the FBI and the NSA had obtained a secret warrant ordering Verizon—one of the nation's largest phone networks—to turn over data on every single call that went through its system. There was every reason to believe that information had been collected about all phone calls made by U.S. citizens except for the actual words exchanged. According to the Guardian, a hundred-billion pieces of intelligence were collected from U.S. computer networks in one 30-day period ending in March 2013, from people in other countries around the world. (Glenn Greenwald, Guardian, June 11, 2013)
Now people are being told this spying is to "keep America safe"—that to get the "bad guys" in the "war on terror," you have to target the whole haystack to get to the needle hidden inside. But this massive spying is NOT just aimed at potential "terrorists," the "needles in the haystack."
This capitalist-imperialist system oppresses and exploits people here and all over the globe; carries out unjust wars, kills innocent people with drones, destroys the environment, backs dictatorial regimes, incarcerates more than 2.3 million people in the U.S. Its morality and culture have produced an epidemic of rape... and more. THIS is why the U.S. rulers sees the vast majority of people on the planet—including those right within its own borders—as potential threats.
And so, this spying is aimed at billions of people in the U.S. and all around the world who the rulers of this system consider potential enemies. Some of those people are reactionary Islamic fundamentalist forces. Some of this spying is aimed at rival global or regional powers with whom the U.S. is contending for domination. Some is aimed at allies, who the U.S. "trusts" the way a big time mob boss trusts his underlings.
This is why the U.S. maintains such intense and broad surveillance. And this spying is not just about monitoring everyone's thoughts and actions (which is bad enough), it is also about CONTROLLING everyone's activity, communications, and thinking. It is about being able to bring the full power of the state down on people at a moment's notice.
This is why Obama and others in the U.S. ruling class are so desperate to cover up what Snowden has exposed—because of what it reveals about the nature of this system.
The day of the first Guardian exposure, Obama said: "With respect to the internet and emails, this doesn't apply to U.S. citizens and it doesn't apply to people living in the United States." At a Congressional hearing, also in June, when NSA Deputy Director John Inglis was asked if the NSA listened to phone calls or read the emails of U.S. citizens, he said, "We do not target the content of U.S. person communications without a specific warrant anywhere on the earth." And later, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Diane Feinstein, sent a letter to constituents saying: "[T]he government cannot listen to an American's telephone calls or read their emails without a court warrant issued upon a showing of probable cause."
More recently, on August 6, Obama appeared on the Tonight Show and told Jay Leno, "We don't have a domestic spying program..."
These were all unabashed LIES, told with the utter arrogance of rulers of an empire used to carrying out all kinds of crimes, all over the world, and getting away with them all the time—but also with the annoyance of being caught.
August 8, two days after Obama appeared on the Tonight Show, the New York Times reported, based on documents leaked by Snowden, that "The National Security Agency is searching the contents of vast amounts of Americans' e-mail and text communications into and out of the country, hunting for people who mention information about foreigners under surveillance, according to intelligence officials." And the Guardian explained how a "glossary document" is issued to operatives in the NSA's Special Operations Division, which runs the PRISM program that authorizes searches of email and text of "both American citizens and foreigners located in the U.S."
In other words, the NSA is taking a guideline about foreign targets, who must be non-U.S. citizens and outside the U.S.—and saying that U.S. citizens who are communicating with such "targets" are also fair game for being targeted for surveillance. And in the course of that, the NSA can also gather all kinds of other communications between that person and other people in the United States. So, while NSA analysts are not supposed to "target" U.S. citizens, they do this "through the back door." And they do so without any warrant. The NSA regularly and systematically seizes people's emails and examines their contents if they contain any one of an unknown number of "target" words. And a person doesn't even have to be in contact with someone who the NSA is targeting for surveillance to have his communications read. If the person just mentions the name of the targeted group or any word associated with that group, this is enough for them to have their email surveilled.
Why do Obama and all the other major representatives of the U.S. ruling class keep lying about all this spying? Because the massive nature of their spying discredits their stated reasons for doing it—that this is just carefully focused surveillance on a few people actively preparing to carry out terrorist acts.
The fact that Edward Snowden's revelations have exposed so much of what is going on seriously undercuts the credibility of a foundational, cohering myth about the USA: that the U.S. is a "democracy with liberty and justice for all." And the revelations of massive global spying expose the self-righteous claims that the U.S. stands apart from and above its rivals (like Russia and China) as a champion of free speech, unfettered discourse on the Internet, and an opponent of Big Brother repression.
In a time of great global turmoil, this is not tolerable to those who sit atop a world of sweatshops and slums, ghettos and prisons. That is why Obama and the rest of the ruling class are so desperate to lie about, cover up, and shut down exposures of their massive spying, even as—by the nature of their system—they are driven to spy on everyone.
The U.S. has been caught and exposed red-handed by the actions of Snowden and this has set in motion a train of events that no one could have predicted. These revelations have had and are having a huge effect on public opinion in the United States and internationally.
At a press conference on August 9, Obama addressed NSA surveillance, saying, "I'm also mindful of how these issues are viewed overseas because American leadership around the world depends upon the example of American democracy and American openness. In other words, it's not enough for me, as president, to have confidence in these programs. The American people need to have confidence in them, as well."
Obama had to speak to the tremendous outrage at the extent of the U.S. government's intrusions into people's privacy, both here and around the world. He basically acknowledged that what has been revealed—the massive and illegal surveillance the U.S. is carrying out against billions of people around the world—is making the U.S. look bad and eroding the "confidence" people have in America. And in spite of the very real power the U.S. has, including their ability to basically dictate to other countries, they do NOT have everything under control. And in fact the U.S. rulers are responding to the Snowden leaks with some real necessity to protect the needs of their system.
What the NSA is doing IS criminal. Millions of people are now learning that "their government" routinely spies on them. And some sections of people are being alarmed, jolted, and outraged about this system in a new way.
Obama's statement also acknowledged that NSA spying has now become a major international issue—with all kinds of collateral effects. In this same press conference, Obama announced how he was canceling his meeting with Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, a decision that was clearly influenced by Russia's decision to grant Snowden temporary asylum. The leaked documents have had fallout with regard to rivalry between the U.S. and China as well—Snowden first went to Hong Kong. Exposure of U.S. spying on governments in Western Europe has caused new strains, even as revelations about spying by those governments have also come out. And the Chinese and Russian ruling classes are seeking to gain advantage—accusing the U.S. of hypocrisy with respect to upholding citizens' rights to privacy and condemned the U.S. for spying with regard to international diplomacy.
For years the U.S. imperialists have prattled on about the "empowering" and "democratic" essence of the Internet and how great it is that U.S. citizens have access to it—while people in China are subjected to Big Brother. But now, we find that the U.S. has been conducting the largest illegal electronic surveillance and eavesdropping in modern history. And guess what? Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple, etc. are all "enablers."
Snowden has found temporary asylum in Russia—another country the U.S. has branded as "enemies" of open and protected speech. And U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder was compelled to promise "no torture" and "no death penalty" if he came back. What an exposure of the U.S.!
The Obama administration is in a tight spot. On the one hand, the NSA spying revelations have had damaging consequences. They have caused a great public outcry and these revelations are playing into great power rivalry. On the other hand, the U.S. imperialists have big plans to expand the scope of the NSA operations. This is critical to their whole strategy for maintaining U.S. dominance in the world—including their ability to control and repress people within the U.S.—and waging "their endless wars" under the banner of the "war against terror."
The U.S. imperialist system needs to spy on the people it exploits and oppresses all around the world and here in the United States. And now, because of the heroic actions of Edward Snowden, people are learning just how pervasive, illegal, and illegitimate this surveillance actually is.
Revolution #314 August 25, 2013
August 25, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Edward Snowden, the former CIA contractor who blew the whistle on crimes committed by the U.S. government, communicated privately with Glenn Greenwald and other journalists using Lavabit, an encrypted email service.
The U.S. government pressured Lavabit, which is based in Texas, to close down. A court order was sent to Ladar Levison, the owner of Lavabit, to turn over all users' private email data. In response, Levison did the right thing and refused.
In an open letter addressed to "My Fellow Users," Levison said, "I have been forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people or walk away from nearly ten years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit. After significant soul searching, I have decided to suspend operations. I wish that I could legally share with you the events that led to my decision. I cannot. I feel you deserve to know what's going on—the first amendment is supposed to guarantee me the freedom to speak out in situations like this. Unfortunately, Congress has passed laws that say otherwise. As things currently stand, I cannot share my experiences over the last six weeks, even though I have twice made the appropriate requests."
To the U.S. government, which is trying to extradite Snowden from Russia so they can prosecute and punish him for exposing the whole criminal way the NSA is spying on billions of people all around the world—it is a crime for people to try and keep their communications private over the Internet.
Revolution #314 August 25, 2013
August 25, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On August 14, Bradley Manning stood to make a statement before the military court where he has been on trial since early June. About two weeks earlier, Manning had been convicted on six espionage charges for supposedly “spying” on the U.S., in collusion with WikiLeaks, a media outlet. He was also convicted on lesser charges of computer fraud and theft.
The files he released to WikiLeaks contained damning, irrefutable evidence of U.S. atrocities, cover-ups, and deceit—in short, war crimes. Among the covered up crimes revealed by Manning are: the Collateral Murder video that depicts U.S. soldiers in helicopters gunning down and killing Iraqi civilians, and laughing about it; the fact that Barack Obama authorized a secret drone bombing campaign in Yemen; the fact that Egyptian torturers received their training in the U.S.
But it was Bradley Manning who was put on a high-profile trial—not for committing war crimes, but for exposing them.
Manning made a short statement on August 14, in which he said he is “sorry that my actions hurt people. I’m sorry that they hurt the United States. I am sorry for the unintended consequences of my actions. When I made these decisions I believed I was going to help people, not hurt people. The last few years have been a learning experience.” He also said that he “should have worked more aggressively inside the system,” and questioned “how on earth could I, a junior analyst, possibly believe I could change the world for the better over the decisions of those with the proper authority?”
Bradley Manning did nothing wrong, and was wrong to apologize. He did, in fact, help people, and the only people “hurt” were those committing, ordering, and covering up war crimes. He did know more than those with the “proper authority” who were ordering and covering up war crimes.
In an online chat before he faced any criminal charges, Manning asked his correspondent these questions: “If you had free reign over classified networks for long periods of time... say, 8-9 months... and you saw incredible things, awful things... things that belonged in the public domain, and not on some server stored in a dark room in Washington DC... what would you do?... or Guantánamo, Bagram, Bucca, Taji, VBC for that matter... things that would have an impact on 6.7 billion people... say... a database of half a million events during the Iraq war... from 2004 to 2009... with reports, date time groups, lat-lon [latitude-longitude] locations, casualty figures... ? or 260,000 state department cables from embassies and consulates all over the world, explaining how the first world exploits the third, in detail, from an internal perspective?”
And, we might add, if you were at the conference where the Nazis made their plans to exterminate the Jews and had a chance to leak what happened there to media sources who would tell the world what was going on, wouldn’t that be the RIGHT thing to do?
For the vengeful, vindictive advocates of this criminal system of capitalism-imperialism and its death-machine military, mere admission of “guilt” by Manning isn’t enough. They imprisoned, tortured, and threatened him until he threw himself on the mercy of the court and apologized. But this system and its courts have no mercy.
Bradley Manning did nothing wrong. He’s been unjustly imprisoned for over three years—including ten months of torture in the form of solitary confinement. He should be set free now.
Sentencing of Bradley Manning is expected to take place Wednesday August 21 or Thursday August 22, with short notice. Supporters are planning to gather in public places on the evening of sentencing, to demand his immediate release. Info at bradleymanning.org and worldcantwait.net.
Revolution #314 August 25, 2013
August 25, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The following letters from prisoners were sent to the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund:
Pelican Bay State Prison
Received your letter of 8/2/13 tonight. As of today 8/8/13 things on the front lines are worse as ever. There has been mass moves throughout the prison, people are being uprooted and placed in various sections within the system and beyond. Some have been sent to other prisons, and outside hospitals for medical treatment. At the onslaught they rode down on everyone, however in particular those of us that were on the hunger strike they removed anything that was edible or drinkable, its a wonder that they didn't turn off the drinking water. They waited several days before anyone saw a medical person. I was the very first to see one only because of my medical history and being on chronic care. I had a heart attack in 09', which is compounded by high blood pressure, Essentially I was told that if I continued I would certainly die as my heart couldn't take it, it was the tenth day of only water, plus they took all the dailey meds except the nitro tabs, and a couple of the heart meds, that I reassessed the situation.
As I felt my life being drained away I made a conscious decision to live to fight another day, if not my body wouldve shut down completely. I am (62) years old. Theres alot of men back here with complicated medical problems as well, some eventually stopped while others continued. Almost dailey men were being sent to the clinic or outside hospital, those sent to the outside had to receive IV's, just to live.
Everyone was given a (115) misconduct write up for the hunger strike, the punishment ranged from the loss of 30 to 90 days at least where I am located, it may be more severe elsewhere. Those taken to Ad-Seg were primarily reps and plaintiff in the beginning in the Ruiz-V-Brown Suit... Its rumored that those sent to Ad-Seg will be there for some time. I am also made aware that at least a few of the reps weren't on the hunger strike due to very serious health reasons, but since their names were on the list as active reps or alternatives, they're being punished none the less. In Ad Seg you have absolutely nothing in your cell, and with the cold air blowing down twenty-four seven, its very easy to become quite sickly, aside from complication of not eating. The pads are filthy, for a couple weeks they didn't wash our clothing just recently they began again, the showers and floors are really nasty, haven't been cleaned for over a month, theres no tier tenders, and to expect the C/O's [guards, ed.] to do their jobs is a stretch. The mail is spotty, most of the time its not passed out, they find some excuse not to give it to us.
Theres been to date (1) fatality, the administration class that it was a suicide, while others there on the scene say differently. He had just come off the Hunger strike the day before why would he kill himself. The R.C.P. and other papers were stopped especially if it shed light on the hunger strike. By in Large most of the C/Os are civil, however theres some with serious issues and wear the contempt on their sleeves for all to see. Actually I find it best to stay out of their way if possible in as it can easily escalate to something worser. Overall the atmosphere here remain intense, nerves on edge, tempers flaring, confusion is the order it seems, however most remain determined to move forward where it may lead. Thanks for the support in Keeping the people at Large informed on the plight of those behind enemy lines held in Solitary Confinement. We appreciate all the help given to this just cause.
PS Regarding the stoppage of the RCP there were several papers that were stopped, however in recent days the order was reversed and the papers were allowed in.
Corcoran State Prison, CA
California Dept. of Corrections & Rehab (CDCR)
August 11, 2013
Revolutionary Greetings! In response to your most resent letter dated August 2, 2013, Yes, I am a direct participant in this most honorable and historical Statewide/National Prison Hunger Strike!
It was a stroke of luck that your letter caught me here at Corcoran State Prison (CSP-COR) because as a result of my protracted litigations challenging my illegal SHU confinement for the last thirteen (13) consecutive years and a futile act of appeasement the Departmental Review Board (Director of CDCR) ordered my immediate (RE-LEASE) from CSP-COR/SHU and on July 2, 2013 transferred me to the level III general population of the XXX State Prison, which is billed as the Beverly-Hilton of all of Calif.'s state prisons, but I haven't received anything but stiff and un-warranted harassment since I got there.
Upon my July 2, 2013 arrival at XXX, the Institutional Gang Investigators (IGI) and Institutional Security Unit (ISU) immediately confiscated all my personal/legal property (i.e., 13 boxes) and to this very day refuses to release them.
On July 18, 2013, Captain K. Smith and Warden Valenzuela identified me as a "leader" of this most honorable and monumental Statewide/National Hunger Strike; placed me in administrative segregation (Ad.Seg.); and issued me a "SERIOUS" Rule Violation Report (RVR) essentially for exercising my constitutional right to "peacefully" protest against a government agency (ie CDCR) via a "peaceful" Hunger Strike.
On August 1, 2013, I was transferred back here to CSP-COR via a Court Subpoena to be a material witness in the XXX Court for a comrade of mine against these pigs here in CSP-COR/SHU.
Upon my August 1, 2013, arrival here at CSP-COR I was immediately rushed to the Emergency Room and subsequently admitted into the CSP-COR Acute Care Hospital (ACH) where I am now, due to XXX (Ad. Seg.) completely mishandling and neglecting my protracted participation in the Hunger Strike (inadequate access to fluids) and underlying medical conditions that were left untreated at XXX (Type 2 diabetes) all of which has now rendered me in critical condition and the politics here at CSP-COR between prisoners, medical personnel and administration is heavily leaning towards discharging me from ACH and placing me in CSP-COR (Ad. Seg.) pending my transfer back to XXX (Ad. Seg.) to start that process all over again.
CSP-COR has already told me off of the record that CDCR does not want to support or provide my use of the medical department as a grand stand for this Hunger Strike and that my retention in the CSP-COR ACH is not condusive to the smoke screen CDCR is putting up before the public indicating that participating in the Hunger Strike has wound down and is of no real significance.
I am in the process of writing a detailed article on this whole ordeal and will send you a copy for publication and popularization when completed (It's a MUST PRINT)
My energy level and concentration is extremely limited, so I will close now and get back at you as soon as I finish the aforementioned artical, but in the meantime, I am enclosing another artical I have written for immediate publication in the REVOLUTION newspaper and on-line edition of Revolution.
Lastly, it would truly be inspiring if you could download some articals and photographs of the demonstrations that have taken place in our behalf throughout the State and Nation so that I can share them with our fellow comrades. Many of us do not have our T.V. and all newspapers are being sensored throughout CDCR. In fact, I haven't received a copy of REVOLUTION in well over a month!!
Aug. 11, 2013
We of the National Plantation Psychosis Awareness Committee (N.P.P.A.C. pronounced N-PAC) throughout CDCR our sincere solidarity and appreciation to the 33,000 plus who have unselfishly supported and/or participated in this most honorable and historical statewide/national hunger strikes. You of the masses have all done and continue to do a commendable job (each in your individual and collective capacity) in bringing the reality of this cause to the public at large, and doing so with the most impressive numbers this nation has ever seen!
However, as these numbers continue to taper off, as anticipated, you will increasingly hear prison officials, the media, and various misguided individuals say that this hunger strike is dying out. To the contrary, this hunger strike is not dying out, nor is it dictated by the initial sensationalism of numbers. Such thinking is wrong. As in all successful movements of this nature the success of the hunger strike is now entering the political phase of hyper-dramatization, which will be marked by self-sacrificing prisoner volunteers. These volunteers will be comparatively few, but will continue to unselfishly push this hunger strike until the last man is standing.
I have some serous underlying health conditions that put me at greater risk than some, or maybe even most, combined with my age factor (55), but these are only calculations set by man not the supreme creator. So I personally vowed on day one not to give in until all of our collective demands are fully met or the creator calls me home for even greater rewards.
It would be foolish to think that the magnitude of the honorable demands for basic human rights, as laid out in detail by our comrades of Pelican Bay, will be met by CDCR without a significant death count. Therefore, it is inevitable that some of us will die in this struggle before the public's outcry will persuade CDCR to capitulate to our very reasonable demands.
Therefore, it can only behoove our designated negotiators and representatives not to negotiate any of the 45 demands until those of us who have self-appointed ourselves to carry this struggle to the end have had the opportunity to make their/our full contribution. It will be these contributions and the public's angry outcry that will be the deciding factor in this demonstration.
We are just now turning into the final stretch, so I implore the designated representatives to please not prematurely negotiate our demands until all of our resources are fully and effectively engaged.
Dare to struggle, dare to win, or god damn it all!
Revolution #314 August 25, 2013
August 25, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
In June 2013, Revolution interviewed Sunsara Taylor about the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride and asked a question about the campaign undergone by anti-abortion forces that accused abortion clinics of carrying out genocide against Black and Latino people. The following is an excerpt from this exchange:
Taylor: So, yeah, in the anti-abortion movement there has been a campaign over several decades, but really intensifying over the last couple of years, to equate abortion among Black people and Latinos as a form of self-genocide. There have been billboards put up all over the country that say, “The most dangerous place for a Black youth is in its mother’s womb.” They are seizing on the fact that Black and Latino women have higher rates of abortion than white women to accuse Black and Latino women of carrying out genocide against their babies. This is one of the most vicious and hateful campaigns.
First of all it’s a lie. A Black woman, a Latino woman, any woman who chooses to terminate a pregnancy is not killing a baby. That’s just a fact: fetuses are NOT babies. Fetuses of Black women are NOT Black babies. Fetuses of Latino women are not Latino babies. All those fetuses are subordinate parts of the woman’s body. And when a woman voluntarily undergoes an abortion, that is just her making a decision over her own reproduction and her life as a whole. Her right to do this is a positive thing. And the anti-abortion movement is against sex education and against birth control, so they don’t really get any right to fucking speak about this. Even more fundamentally, I don’t care how many abortions a woman gets or how often it goes on among any particular section of women, if women don’t have the right to determine for themselves when and whether they will have children, they are not free. And if women are not free, then no one is free—and this applies to oppressed peoples as well, if Black women are enslaved to their reproduction, if they are reduced to breeders and forced to have children against their wills, then there is no way that Black people as a whole can get free. So I reject the whole notion that there is something negative about women getting abortions—at whatever rate—when they feel they need them. If there are social conditions of life that compel a woman to terminate a pregnancy when she would have wanted to bring it to full term, those conditions and the source of them need to be fought, but that is very different than forcing them to reproduce! Women’s role is not to “make babies”—it is to “hold up half the sky” (as they used to say in revolutionary China) to join together with men to rise up against all the many forms of oppression and exploitation, to be just as involved in learning about and fighting to change the whole world, and to be treated with respect and equality by men in this whole process and in every realm.
Read the entire response to this question and the whole interview here.
Revolution #314 August 25, 2013
August 25, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
David Gunn Jr, son of the first of eight abortion providers who have been murdered by anti-abortion assassins, speaks at the August 17 rally to defend the Jackson Women's Health Organization clinic. Statements of support were sent by feminist author and activist Gloria Steinem, actor Mark Ruffalo and many others. Ruffalo’s statement began: “I am a man. I could say this has nothing to do with me. Except I have two daughters and I have a mother who was forced to illegally have an abortion in her state ...it was a traumatizing thing for her. It was shameful and sleazy and demeaning. When I heard the story I was aghast by the lowliness of a society that would make a woman do that. I could not understand its lack of humanity; today is no different.”
Revolution #314 August 25, 2013
From the StopPatriarchy blog:
By an Abortion Rights Freedom Rider from Minnesota | August 12, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
I have been on this Abortion Rights Freedom Ride (ARFR) for twelve days. I met up with the riders in Minneapolis; we then traveled to Fargo, North Dakota and Bellevue, Nebraska. At each stop we met people who recognized that abortion rights are in a state of emergency. We talked with abortion clinic personnel, groups of free-thinkers and atheists, various members of NOW and other locals who were interested in our banners, our riders, and our message. Currently we are in Wichita. This is not just another stop for me. Events in the past, as well as the tensions of today, add meaning and depth to my time in this city.
Most people know the story: On May 31, 2009, Dr. George Tiller, one of the very few doctors who still preformed late-term abortions, was shot and killed in his Wichita church. Dr. Tiller’s wife, Jeanne, was in the choir at the time. The Wichita police arrested Scott Roeder of Merriam, Kansas. Roeder, a member of the anti-abortion terrorist group Operation Rescue, was subsequently found guilty of murder and two counts of aggravated assault for threatening other church members with a gun. He was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole for fifty years.
The murder of Dr. George Tiller brought into focus a number of horrifying realities. First, it became clear that the idea of abortion was, indeed, under attack. Although many fought for and won the right to safe and legal abortion in the early 1970s (Roe v Wade, 1973), the social and political climate now denounced this right, calling it the “murder of an unborn child” rather than the reasoned choice of a woman. This twisted logic seemed to justify the murder of an abortion provider and whipped anti-abortion fanatics into a frenzy.
Second, it made public the continuing war on women. Pundits, protestors, and politicos spoke with newfound authority, as if they were better able to decide what was best for women facing unwanted pregnancy. While doing research for her documentary, The Coat Hanger Project, Angie Young encountered many of these attitudes as she talked to crowds of anti-abortion zealots. It became apparent, she writes, that “[their] arguments were unself-reflectively steeped in misogynistic, patriarchal notions of power and control.”1
Finally, the murder of Dr. Tiller was a national offense. Although events unfolded in Wichita, this was not a local or isolated incident. This murder was part of a national attack on abortion; not just ideologically but directly. Anti-abortion extremists had murdered providers and clinic personnel across the country. Clinics had been bombed and burned. Women entering clinics had been harassed, attacked, and intimidated. One attacker poured acid in a Florida clinic doorway; another vandalized an Indiana abortion clinic with an ax; in 2006 and 2009, two different people drove cars into clinics; one in Michigan, the other in Minnesota. The list goes on and on. The murder of Dr. George Tiller was not isolated nor was it simply a random action in Wichita. It was part of a larger assault on abortion and on women.
The murder of Dr. Tiller in 2009 was a turning point for me. I close my eyes and I can still see the headlines; I can picture the candlelight vigils held in his honor all around the country; I can recall the shocking messages shouted by the antis as they tried to justify this hateful crime. Coming to Wichita disturbs me profoundly. In this place I feel both the horror of the past and the outrage of the present. The case was tried and the murderer sentenced, but we have not yet begun to address the reality of this crime. The murder of Dr. Tiller reflects a hate, violence, and misogyny that still exists in America today. This is not a Wichita crime, it is not a local complication, and it is far from over.
People around the world travel to New York City to pay their respects at Ground Zero, the site of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Some mourn quietly while others are vocal. Although each has their own interpretation, their pilgrimage is both personal and public. The terrorist attacks reflect something huge, tragic, painful and ugly. Clearly this was not just a New York City tragedy, nor is it a thing of the past.
Wichita is Ground Zero for me. It is something huge, tragic, painful and ugly. It is personal and it is public. With the other Abortion Rights Freedom Riders I hope to honor the memory of Dr. Tiller but also remind others of the continuing crisis in America. Abortion rights are under attack; these attacks are part of a larger war against women; and although there are local flashpoints, these attacks are part of a national assault. The worst thing we can do is nothing. Look for the Freedom Riders, on the streets or online, and join in the fight.
1. Angie Young, “Abortion, Ideology, and the Murder of George Tiller,” Feminist Studies, Inc. Volume 32: No 2. (Summer 2009): 418. [back]
Revolution #314 August 25, 2013
By Sunsara Taylor | August 13, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
In Wichita, a group of us from the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride went to one of the two major shopping malls to do active social investigation and learn what people think and feel about women's right to abortion. We took our uncompromising message of Abortion On Demand and Without Apology out to people unadulterated and we engaged them over this. What we learned through this active social investigation gave us a very rich window into how people are thinking in this city and only deepened our understanding of just how essential it is to bring this full undiluted truth to people everywhere, especially places like this. The people we met, especially the very, very young women, have never heard anyone speak unapologetically about abortion, they carry tremendous judgment towards if not outright condemnation and judgment for women who get abortions, and they overall lack any real understanding of science or the scientific method. What we learned has enriched our understanding of what kind of thinking we are fighting to transform through this Freedom Ride and it has deeply underscored precisely the need for major struggle throughout all corners of society to change how people are thinking.
The first woman that my team approached was a white woman in her late twenties who attends a vocational school in the mall. She seemed reluctant to talk at first, telling us, "I lost my ability to have children at age 24 so I am really against abortion." She insisted, "If you are blessed to have the ability to have a child you should do so and not complain or try to get out of it." We acknowledged that if you want to have a child and you aren't able to that can be a very difficult thing, but the fact that someone who wants a child can't have one doesn't mean that people who don't want to have children should be forced to do so. She switched her argument, insisting that fetuses are "people" from the moment of conception. We refuted this, pointing out that fetuses are a subordinate part of a woman's body—not a separate social or biological person. Then she told us how her sister had medical complications in her pregnancy and there had been only a 50 percent chance that both she and the fetus would survive. Despite all the risk, she followed her sister to the abortion clinic and begged her to not go through with the procedure. When asked how this had affected her relationship with her sister, she explained, "Well, I haven't really talked to her much in the years since then."
Before leaving, I said honestly that what she did to her sister was very wrong and damaging. I explained again that fetuses are not babies and abortion is not murder and that there is absolutely nothing wrong with having an abortion. I posed even more sharply and concretely that it can be wonderful to have a child when you want one, but to be forced to have one against one's will is enslaving to women.
This seemed to provoke new thinking from her and she responded, "Yeah, it's true. Some women are ready for kids but not everybody is. You shouldn't be forced to have a kid." I gently pointed out that this was different than what she said before and asked what had changed in her thinking. She couldn't or wouldn't answer this question. Instead she repeated that she knows not all women are always ready to have kids and hurried off to class.
In the mall's food court we approached a table with a middle-aged white man and woman. We let them read our Abortion On Demand shirts, told about the Freedom Ride and asked their thinking. The man immediately began proselytizing that "life begins at conception" and he is "prolife" in every circumstance, even rape and incest. He told us that his father delivered over a thousand babies as a physician and that "each of those babies became a baby at conception." We pointed out that the fact that his father delivered babies doesn't prove that "they were babies starting at conception," but this basic logic seemed to infuriate him. The woman with him tried to tone things down by saying that she thought people should pray about every decision. Then the man tried to dismiss us by saying, "I respect your right to feel the way you do, but you are wrong!" I pointed out that he is NOT respecting my right to feel the way I do because these rights are actively being taken away right now. When I went on to describe how fetuses are not babies, the man jumped up and declared, "This conversation is done!"
A couple groupings of young women with children refused to talk to us. The attitude they gave us indicated they thought it was inappropriate, and perhaps evil, to even be mentioning abortion.
Next we approached a young mother with two teenage daughters. The mother answered our first question by saying, "I am the mother of a teenage mother and a grandmother to that new baby, so that is a lot of what I feel." The young woman told us that she was now 18 years old but had gotten pregnant when she was 17. She continued, "For some women it is not a good idea to have a kid, but I was ready and this was the right thing to do." This surprised me a bit because I had expected that if she had chosen to have a child so young it was because she was against abortion. In reality, they clearly thought there was something wrong with having an abortion themselves (even as they thought the right should be available), but even more they seemed (both mother and daughter) to think it was a good age for the young woman to have a child.
The mother volunteered that her own sister had had an abortion due to a medical complication. And the mother was extremely clear that she thought the right should be available for other women. When asked, she said she remembered Dr. Tiller and was very sad that he had been killed. She knew there were people who want to take away women's rights but didn't seem at all aware how many attacks are coming down. Before leaving I asked the thirteen-year-old what she thought of abortion and she shrugged. She indicated that she had never discussed it with anyone before. We thanked them all for taking the time to talk and gave them literature about the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride.
At the other end of the mall we struck up conversation with two very young looking 16-year-olds. When we brought up the subject of abortion they exclaimed, "We were just talking about this!" They had just heard something about how at a certain point in their development (they couldn't recall when) fetuses "feel pain." This must be something they heard from the LIES that are being promoted by anti-abortion forces to push a ban on abortion after 20 weeks. They both agreed that once a fetus hit that point, it would be wrong to have an abortion in their opinion. Our conversation lasted a long time so I won't explain all the back and forth, but the most striking part of it was when the two young women both insisted that if they found themselves pregnant they would definitely choose to have a baby. "Maybe when I was younger I wouldn't have been ready, but now I am old enough I definitely think I would keep the baby." Both of them, just like the other young woman and her mother, seemed to think that 16 years old was a good age to start having children!
I told these two young women outright that if they were pregnant and I was the one giving advice I would tell them in no uncertain terms that it was best to get an abortion. They were young, they should experience being young and figure out who they want to be and be part of thinking about and impacting the world around them, not have their lives smashed down into mainly caring for a baby. One of them responded, "Yeah, my sister had a baby at 17 and she couldn't go to college and its true, having a baby would really suck." Still, they insisted that if they got pregnant right now they would have a child. Mostly it seemed they just didn't have any idea of making their lives about anything bigger than having a child.
They mentioned that one of their "ex-best friends" now has a one-year-old, but they don't hang out with her any more. The young woman with me from the Freedom Ride shared with them how many of her friends have foreclosed their whole larger lives when they had children as teens. I asked if they knew who Dr. Tiller was and neither of them did. When I explained that he was a doctor killed for doing abortions one of them sort of remembered the story and both of them seemed really alarmed.
One of them blurted out, "I don't see why anyone else should care. I mean, you want a boob job you can go to a doctor for that. You want an abortion, why shouldn't you be able to go to a doctor for that?"
I pointed out that not being able to get breast implants doesn't have the same life-long implications of being forced to have children. They laughed in recognition and we began breaking down how many restrictions have been passed to take away women's access to abortion. They didn't know any of this and thought this was wrong. Before leaving we invited them to be part of standing up for their generation and generations to come by coming out to our protest on Saturday. They said they would be scared and had never been to a protest. They had recently watched the movie Hair and wanted to know if people would be getting shoved and stuff. We told them that wasn't our plan at all and that while we cannot control what the anti-abortion forces do and they are vicious, that we would be out together having each others' backs and standing up for what was right. They seemed intrigued and took fliers.
Just as this conversation was ending, an older woman marched up to us. "Why do you think it's okay to kill people?" she demanded. We briefly laid out what we were about, but explained also that we were interested to hear her views and how they were formed. She insisted that she used to be "just like [us], hating god and thinking all Christians were stupid." She had been "tempted by the devil in the '70s" to support abortion and "turn against god." Over the years she insisted that her heart and mind had been changed by Jesus and by her study of history and the Bible. Despite the fact that we were very patiently listening to her and occasionally asking a question or two to probe her thinking, she grew more and more impatient with us and angry. Before long, she was spilling out a truly insane theory about how Christians are the most persecuted grouping in society and her active, palpable sense of terror that she and all the other Christians are on the verge of being put into death camps. When she began attempting to draw lessons from Nazi Germany (claiming that "the Church" was the staunchest opponent of Hitler), I pointed out that Hitler was the father of the "right to life" movement, criminalizing abortion early on. This really set her off and then she returned to her active fear of being put into a camp.
"I was just talking with my son," she explained, "and I told him I am not brave enough to be a martyr. He told me I have to steel myself and be strong." I asked if she was talking about the End Times (the myth that Jesus is coming back and there will be a horrific bloodbath of judgment on earth). With indignation she waved her hand and sneered, "What? End times, that's for people who are 'out there,' I don't believe that, only Jesus knows that." The more we talked, the more she took issue with and was provoked by even the most mundane things that I said. When I told her plainly that I wasn't going to answer a personal question, she accused me of "deceiving [her] again!" By the time we were done listening to her (we did very little speaking as a whole) this woman was shaking with both fury and (totally unfounded) fear. As we walked away, she yelled after us to stop deceiving everyone and it looked like she was going to report us to mall security.
It was time to meet back up with the other team, but we were a few minutes early. We approached a group of three women from the local trade school who were having lunch. A young Black woman among them was clearly reading our shirts and so we spoke to her first. "I just had an abortion," she explained. "I never thought I'd become a baby-killer, but I already have four kids and didn't know what else to do." We insisted that she hadn't killed a baby, that abortion is not murder, and she responded, "But my faith tells me it is." Before we could go any further with her, one of the women in the group got up and dashed away from us. As she left, I asked the third woman what her thoughts were. "I had two of them," she said. "You know," I explained, "This is really common. 1 in 3 women has an abortion. Did you know that?" They both shook their heads no. "Did you know this about each other?" Again, they shook their heads no.
I asked if there had been anti-abortion protesters at the clinics when they went and they both said yes. The Black woman said she wasn't mad at them, that she actually agreed with them but they didn't know her circumstance. The other woman, who was white and just a little bit older, said the protesters made her very, very angry. "I wanted to run up on them and smack them," she explained. You could tell the anger was still active even though the abortions were a while ago. The Black woman seemed very intrigued by this anger.
I asked if they knew who Dr. Tiller was and the white woman said, "Yeah, he's the one who gave me my abortions. I was so mad when they killed him." The Black woman said she thought it was wrong that he was killed and thought people should mind their own business and let people do their jobs or have their kids or get their abortions or whatever they needed. Then she explained how she had had to travel to Kansas City to get her abortion because she hadn't been able to get one in Wichita after Tiller's death.
Finally, the other team met up with us and we had to get going. What we learned here, and through the rest of our experiences in Wichita and in other places along this Abortion Rights Freedom Ride, revealed to us not only how much there needs to be a voice out there very loudly proclaiming that Fetuses are NOT babies, Abortion is NOT murder, and Women are NOT incubators and insisting on Abortion On Demand and Without Apology! But also how much there needs to be a fight to raise the sights of women and very young girls to more than simply having a baby as the only way of getting respect or love. There is just so much human potential in these women and young girls that is being squandered—and all of society is suffering for this. There is an urgent need NOW for a growing movement for revolution, and—at the soonest possible time—an actual successful revolution, to bring about a society and world where women and young girls are truly thinking about and contributing to every realm of human endeavor together fully and equally with men. Not only do women need the unfettered right to abortion, not only do they need to hear the message of this Freedom Ride, not only do they need a massive struggle throughout society to defeat the war on women—they need their fury unleashed and their many talents and contributions tapped as a mighty force in changing the whole world and in making the kind of revolution that can emancipate humanity.
Revolution #314 August 25, 2013
Revolution #314 August 25, 2013
From the StopPatriarchy blog:
August 10, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The following indictment was posted by the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride on August 9, 2013.
On behalf of women and young girls everywhere, the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride hereby indicts "A Better Choice" & EVERY fake clinic...
We're also calling out and exposing Operation Rescue, and in particular, Troy Newman, for leading the entire women-hating anti-abortion movement that preaches the open enslavement and subordination of women, completely denying their full humanity.
Women are not objects.
Women are not mere breeders.
Women are not slaves.
Women are full human beings.
The Abortion Rights Freedom Ride is taking back the political and moral high ground.
Abortion is NOT murder because fetuses are NOT babies and women are NOT incubators.
Forced motherhood is female enslavement.
Abortion on Demand & Without Apology.
* * * *
Posted by the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride, August 9, 2013:
What does it mean to be “pro-life?” Do they care about the “sanctity of the unborn?” Are they motivated by strong moral convictions to preserve life? Is “fetal personhood” their final goal?
This may be true of a handful of individuals who identify as “pro-life,” but the reality is that once the fetus is granted rights, the woman is denied hers, and that the entire agenda of the anti-choice movement is to enslave women. Not one single anti-choice organization supports the right to birth control, even Feminists for “Life.” At the root of the ”abortion question” is the “woman question” because how one sees abortion depends on how they understand a woman’s role in society. In order to better understand why this is the case, it’s important to expose some of the more influential anti-choice organizations and the fake clinics known as “crisis pregnancy centers” (CPCs) which target women seeking real choices.
These CPCs are usually given a perplexing name including the word “choice.” In addition, a number of these facilities are set up near or even next to actual abortion clinics. This is all to deceive women along the same line of their targeted advertising which calls on women in “crisis” who need a “free pregnancy test,” “information,” and “options.” Abby Johnson, a Planned Parenthood employee turned ardent anti-choice bigot, clarifies this particular CPC strategy here. They deceive and coerce women into their facilities and to bear children against their will, which ultimately aligns with the framework of the greater anti-abortion movement.
Feminists for “Life” proclaim “refuse to choose,” which actually sums up a lot about the anti-abortion movement as if admitting to its foundational motive to impose its dark ages “choice” of forced motherhood. These Crisis Pregnancy Centers insist that they are merely an educational resource for the benefit of women. After participating in several undercover exposing operations, I can assure you that these places are a legitimate threat to women’s lives.
Crisis Pregnancy Centers spread dangerous lies about the effectiveness of birth control, the risks of abortion, and sexuality overall. They propagate a fictitious link between abortion and breast cancer, which every reputable medical organization rejects. They insist on referring to pregnant women only as “mothers,” and if the choose to abort, “the mother of a dead baby.” If a woman has been raped she is asked to “not punish the baby for the crime of his father,” or “continue the cycle of violence.”
Each fake clinic has its own strategy. The one I wrote about in NYC was literature and discussion heavy, while the one I just investigated in Wichita was very hands on.
This particular CPC is called “Choices Medical Clinic,” positioned directly next to an abortion clinic. Upon entering the “clinic” I found myself watching a video of testimonies people with some sort of disability, expressing gratitude for their life. The picture flashed between 4-d ultrasounds, babies in the NICU, and these disabled adults who were “survivors of abortion.”
When I went back to an exam room, it wasn’t long until the fetus dolls were called on. It was quite the collection, complete with an explanation of how the speck on the page to resemble four weeks was “just as much a baby as a one-week-old.” Pretty soon the counselor had set up surgical tools on the table we were sitting across from each other at. She began to show me the “abortion procedure,” explaining all the complications: perforation of the uterus, infertility, uterine infection, breast cancer, suicide, promiscuity(?) Apparently having an abortion lowers women’s self-esteem to the point where they have a “might as well” attitude, which “makes them less desirable partners for future marriage.” The counselor ended by reminding me that she would be there for support if I made a “mistake” and got the abortion anyway. She explained that a great deal of employees at CPCs have had traumatic abortion experiences themselves, not disclosing her particular story, but leaving it open for interpretation.
These are the Feminists for “Life” type who declare “abortion hurts women,” leading women who have made that decision to confess their sins and live in guilt. One of their regular signs seen in front of clinics reads: “women regret their abortions,” which is fundamentally untrue. The feeling most often reported after an abortion is “relief.” In fact, we have spoken to a great deal of women who feel guilt for not “regretting their abortions.” This just perpetrates the shame and stigma that needlessly hangs over one of the most simple and common medical procedures. 1 in 3 American women will have an abortion by the time they turn 45 (Guttmacher). Many more women will find themselves in a position where they consider having one.
As legal restrictions stack up to nearly insurmountable (exemplified in the 5 states with one clinic left) Troy Newman and Operation Rescue spew words like “killer,” marking the backs of abortion providers with a target and whipping up an atmosphere of hatred in which people have actually MURDERED heroic providers like Dr. George Tiller and the 7 others before him.
Whether condescending coercion or sugar-coated pressure, the revolting reality of the anti-choice movement remains: an underlying agenda aimed at controlling women’s bodies and lives. We are on an Abortion Rights Freedom Ride because the stakes for women are so extraordinary: if women cannot decide when and whether they will have children, they are no more than slaves. There can be no common ground between slavery and liberation, common ground only leads to ceding ground and there can be no compromise when it comes to the humanity of women.
(Note: you can read about an undercover visit to a CPC in NYC last summer here.)
Revolution #314 August 25, 2013
August 22, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The situation in Egypt is on a very bad, downward spiral for the people. The bloodbath against supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and deposed, elected president Mohamed Morsi is moving in the direction of a one-sided, reactionary civil war. And Egyptian society is becoming more sharply polarized around two oppressive and unacceptable alternatives: the U.S.-backed military, and Islamic fundamentalism. At the same time, many who took part in the uprising of February 2011 that ousted former president Hosni Mubarak have become demoralized and confused.
The silence and passive complicity of large sections of secular, liberal, and progressive forces—and the insistence by these forces that the July 3 military coup was “resetting the democratic process”—is shameful. And through all this, the basic interests, needs, and demand for freedom that inspired the uprising that toppled the U.S.-backed Hosni Mubarak regime remain unaddressed. The recent release of Mubarak himself from a prison hospital, where he was awaiting trial for presiding over the murder of hundreds of protesters, to “house arrest” is both an outrage in its own right and a profound statement of the nature and agenda of the military regime.
It is not enough to say “a pox on both of your houses,” as apparently some secular, progressive forces in Egypt are now doing. The massacres and repression being carried out by the Egyptian military must be unequivocally condemned and resolutely opposed. At the same time, radical and revolutionary-minded people who genuinely hunger for liberation must be actively taking up and working to forge the only real revolutionary alternative—the revolutionary communist alternative—to the world as it is. This must become a real force and ideological pole of attraction and contention in Egytian society and the world.
There has been no revolution in Egypt. The old exploiting order and its enforcement mechanisms remain intact. The overthrow of that order, and its replacement by a new emancipatory political, economic, and social system, is what is needed. Making this revolution is full of challenges and difficulties. But this revolution is what is necessary...and it is possible.
The following points provide an orientation on which people can begin to act in their own interests—in the interests of humanity—in this situation:
1. The blood flowing in the streets of Egypt is on the hands of the U.S. capitalist-imperialist system. The U.S. was not “manipulated” by the Egyptian military into supporting the coup. The fingerprints of U.S. imperialism are all over the coup. U.S. officials—directly, and through back-channels—gave Morsi the option of resigning or being overthrown. The U.S. has long, deep ties to and critical leverage over the Egyptian military, including through economic and military “aid” which continues to flow—providing strategic backing and symbolic endorsement for the coup and the massacres. Egypt is the second-largest recipient of U.S. aid in the world...after Israel!
The Egyptian military is not “overstepping” or “betraying” some “popular mandate” that was supposedly given to it by the Egyptian people when the army removed Morsi from power in July. The Egyptian military was acting then and continues to act today as it always has: as the guarantor of the rule of the exploiting classes in Egypt and enforcer of Western imperialism’s interests, especially those of the U.S., in Egypt and the region. It is well past time for people to cast away deadly delusions and self-delusions about this military.
2. U.S. backing for the July 3 military coup is not a stain on the “democratic ideals” promoted by the U.S., nor a short-sighted and correctable “misstep” by the Obama administration. This backing is a highly conscious move. A reliable Egypt with the military in control is a key U.S. “asset” in dominating an area of the world essential to maintaining the position of the world’s sole superpower.
On the other hand, what is happening in Egypt is not all of the U.S.’s bidding or under its control. There are internal elements of the situation—there are factors, forces, and rivalries in play in Egypt—that have their own dynamics. And consequences of the coup and bloodbath against the Brotherhood may well come back to “haunt” the U.S. in a whole range of forms, including driving sections of people in Egypt and beyond into the arms of forces like Al Qaeda. It may impact, in unpredictable ways, various fronts including in Syria; on U.S. moves to weaken and knock down the Islamic Republic of Iran; and on the situation in the volatile Sinai desert region of northern Egypt that borders Palestinian Gaza and Israel.
U.S. imperialism is facing a real cauldron of contradictions in the Middle East.
U.S. backing for the military coup against the Morsi regime has been driven by the largest strategic needs of the U.S. empire.
Egypt has the largest population (90 million) of any country in the Arab world. The U.S. relies on the Egyptian military as a bulwark in moves against Iran. The U.S. counts on access to Egyptian airspace to wage its war in Afghanistan and to carry out its global “war on terror.” The projection of U.S. global “authority” requires unimpeded access through the Suez Canal: U.S. naval ships pass through the Canal; and four billion gallons of oil a day are shipped from the Middle East, with the Suez Canal a key transport link. In addition, Egypt’s collaboration with Israel aligns the largest army in the Arab world with, instead of against, Israel—and creates much greater freedom for Israel to play the role of an outpost for imperialism in the Middle East and beyond.
These, and other strategic considerations, are why the aid and political support for the Egyptian military continues, even as it reveals the hypocrisy of claims that U.S. foreign policy is based on promoting “democracy.”
3. The conflict between Western imperialism and Islamic fundamentalist forces, like those in power in Iran, is playing out in an ugly, bloody way within Egypt, where two reactionary forces are facing off. At the same time—on a larger and more strategic scale—the larger clash between the West and Jihadist Islamic fundamentalism was a major defining factor in the U.S. support for and involvement in the July 3 coup, and set loose the army (and other forces) to crush or greatly weaken the Muslim Brotherhood—to violently “reset” things so that other reactionary repressive forces more closely aligned with U.S. interests are in power.
This clash between what Bob Avakian has identified as the “two outmodeds"—Islamic fundamentalism and Western imperialism—with the latter responsible by far for the worst suffering on a global scale—creates a great need for the U.S. to shore up a stable Egypt that will be a reliable ally. But its attempts to do so are uncorking new destabilizing factors.
4. Another way—communist revolution, as re-envisioned in Bob Avakian's new synthesis—is possible. This is a road of breaking free of imperialist domination as part of a revolution to get the whole planet beyond these horrors. But those who want that other way need to fight for it and, right now, fight to get it out into the world. In Egypt itself, the situation as described at the end of Bob Avakian’s statement on the 2011 uprising against the Mubarak regime still holds true:
It has frequently happened in history, as has been the case in Egypt (as well as Tunisia), that the domination of imperialism and the rule of local exploiters has taken a concentrated form in the regime of a "strong man" butcher. This was the case, for example, in Iran, with the torture-chamber rule of the Shah, in the Philippines with the tyranny of Marcos, and in Indonesia with the long monstrous reign of Suharto—all brutal dictatorships put in power and long kept in power by U.S. imperialism. In Iran in the late 1970s, in the Philippines in the 1980s, in Indonesia more recently, massive uprisings of the people forced the U.S. imperialists to throw aside these hated tyrants and to allow some changes. But in every case, the ultimate result was not one which led to real "freedom" for the people—instead they have continued to be subjected to cruel oppression at the hands of those who replaced the old, hated rulers, while these countries have remained within the overall framework of global imperialist domination and exploitation. But historical experience has also shown that the continuation of oppressive rule, in one form or another, is NOT the only possible outcome.
In Russia, in February 1917, another brutal despot, the Czar (absolute monarch), was overthrown by the uprising of the people. Here again, the U.S., British, and other imperialists, and the Russian capitalists, tried to continue the oppression of the Russian people in a new form, using the mechanisms of "democratic rule" and elections which, while allowing for some broader participation of different parties, would still be totally controlled by the exploiters of the people and would ensure their continuing rule, and the continued suffering of the masses of people. In this case, however, the masses of people were enabled to see through these maneuvers and manipulations, to carry forward their revolutionary rising, through many different twists and turns and, in October 1917, to sweep aside and dismantle the institutions and mechanisms of bourgeois dictatorship and to establish a new political and economic system, socialism, which for several decades continued to advance in the direction of abolishing relations of exploitation and oppression, as part of the struggle throughout the world toward the final goal of communism. The crucial difference was that, in the uprisings in Russia, there was a core of leadership, communist leadership, that had a clear, scientifically grounded, understanding of the nature of not just this or that ruthless despot but of the whole oppressive system—and of the need to continue the revolutionary struggle not just to force a particular ruler from office but to abolish that whole system and replace it with one that would really embody and give life to the freedom and the most fundamental interests of the people, in striving to abolish all oppression and exploitation.
Even though the revolution in Russia was ultimately reversed, with capitalism restored there in the 1950s, and today Russia no longer seeks to disguise the fact that it is a capitalist-imperialist power, the lessons of the Russian Revolution of 1917 hold valuable, indeed decisive lessons for today. And the most decisive lesson is this: When people in their masses, in their millions, finally break free of the constraints that have kept them from rising up against their oppressors and tormentors, then whether or not their heroic struggle and sacrifice will really lead to a fundamental change, moving toward the abolition of all exploitation and oppression, depends on whether or not there is a leadership, communist leadership, that has the necessary scientific understanding and method, and on that basis can develop the necessary strategic approach and the influence and organized ties among growing numbers of the people, in order to lead the uprising of the people, through all the twists and turns, to the goal of a real, revolutionary transformation of society, in accordance with the fundamental interests of the people. And, in turn, when people massively break with the "normal routine" and the tightly woven chains of oppressive relations in which they are usually entrapped and by which they are heavily weighed down—when they break through and rise up in their millions—that is a crucial time for communist organization to further develop its ties with those masses, strengthening its ranks and its ability to lead. Or, if such communist organization does not yet exist, or exists only in isolated fragments, this is a crucial time for communist organization to be forged and developed, to take up the challenge of studying and applying communist theory, in a living way, in the midst of this tumultuous situation, and to strive to continually develop ties with, to influence and to ultimately lead growing numbers of the masses in the direction of the revolution that represents their fundamental and highest interests, the communist revolution.
While BA's statement was in response to what was in fact a mainly positive and progressive uprising in 2011, and while the current turmoil is not of the same basic character, the main point above—the need to forge communist organization in the midst of what is still a tumultuous situation—holds as true as ever.
* * * * * * *
August 19, 2013. A World to Win News Service. By Samuel Albert. The Egyptian armed forces are slaughtering people on a mass scale, and they are doing it with the backing of the U.S. This is the time not only to oppose this terrorism, but expose the American hand behind them.
If some regime the U.S. perceived as standing in its way were doing what the Egyptian military is doing—massacring unarmed demonstrators and even prisoners, like for instance Assad in Syria, the U.S. and its allies would not be "reviewing" aid, sending diplomats, making phone calls and cancelling joint military maneuvers that the Egyptian army is too busy to bother with right now. They would be howling at the UN, screaming about "red lines" and threatening air strikes or other armed intervention. The imperialist politicians expressing second thoughts about the green light Washington gave this coup are not just hypocrites. They are also rightly concerned that it might not work out in favor of American interests.
The armed forces could not have stepped in so easily if they had not received the mass support organized by the liberals and "leftists," including the youth organizations who mobilized demonstrations in Tahrir and other squares to beckon the generals to save them from Islamist rule and then gave the coup legitimacy. Just a few weeks ago, some of those now trying trying to disassociate themselves from the army's crimes were chanting "The people and the army are one hand."
This slogan, which arose in January 2011 when the army deserted Mubarak, all but faded out later that year when the army shot down Christians, youth and others demonstrating against it. At the time the Islamists courted the army instead of opposing that violent repression. The military later gave them their consent to form a government, although it never gave up the key ministries and other positions and its veto power. Now that chant represents more than an illusion. In the face of today's difficult and frightening disorder, it is a program for restoring the old order and worse.
But it is not true that any of those who now dominate the political stage, the military, leading liberal politicians or Islamists, have suddenly "betrayed the revolution." These events show that there has been no revolution, and that they are all reactionaries who never changed their nature and goals as they maneuvered amid complex and changing situations. Any genuine revolutionary movement should not only understand these things itself but do its best to bring that understanding to as many people as possible. Instead of exposing both the liberals and Islamists, too many people who call themselves revolutionaries have sought refuge under the wing of one or another of these powerful enemies and tailed the pro-Western and religious illusions that both sides have propagated and the masses of people have suffered from all along.
The situation now is different than when the spontaneous revolt against Mubarak seemed to unite the people, or at least the most active people. Now the people are divided, pulled and sometimes going back and forth between two reactionary gangs under the warring banners of political Islam and worship of Western-sponsored illusions.
On one side stand the liberal proponents of the Western values marketed as "freedom," especially the "free market" that has crushed the vast majority of people in every country, and the corresponding belief in Western-style capitalist democracy and its system of elections that have never brought basic change anywhere. They have nothing but contempt and repression to offer the impoverished urban masses and most of the half of the population that lives in rural areas.
When these imperialists' chosen local representatives saw their chance, the liberals dropped their rhetoric about majority rule, political rights and the rule of law and reached out to the "the nation's armed forces" that have never been the armed forces of the people and the nation as many so-called Marxists in Egypt claim. The military has always belonged to the imperialist-dependent Egyptian ruling exploiter classes, and spoon-fed and led by the nose by the U.S. for the last four decades.
On the other side stand the Islamists, who claim to represent "freedom" from Western domination, hypocrisy and humiliation while institutionalizing the backward economic and social relations and thinking that have helped keep Egypt weak and vulnerable to the domination of foreign capital. Their project is to combine exploitation, oppression and inequality with the false solace of religion, the hypocritical charity of the mosque and the suffocating solidarity of "the community of the faithful" that abolishes critical thinking.
Both sides are representatives of a reactionary order and enemies of the best aspirations people fought and died for chanting "Dignity" and "Bread, freedom and social justice," and neither has a program for an Egypt that is not subordinated to the world imperialist system. While the Islamists have scared many people into the arms of the generals, the army's murderous rampage is likely to strengthen the appeal of political Islam.
Many people are trying to stop this vicious spiral. What's needed is a game changer, a core of men and women united around and struggling—in the streets and in the minds of the people—for real revolutionary goals, a real alternative to the world as it is, the political, economic and social transformation of Egypt to become a base area for a world free of all forms of oppression and exploitation.
This scientifically based vision could start to become a material force, mobilizing growing numbers of people—the downtrodden excluded from political life and others throughout society—to oppose the generals and the non-solutions represented by the liberals and Islamists and build toward the goal of revolutionary political power. This is the only way that the people can begin to throw off their mental shackles, overcome the divisions among them as they unite for the emancipation of humanity from all forms of exploitation and oppression.
As hard as that certainly is, any other solution is an illusion. That's the solution to today's bloodbath that revolutionary-minded people everywhere need to work for and support.
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 #314 August 25, 2013
August 22, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On August 21, a military judge handed down an outrageous sentence of 35 years in prison to Bradley Manning. Manning was convicted on multiple charges for his release to WikiLeaks of thousands of computer files that contained damning, irrefutable evidence of U.S. atrocities, cover-ups, and deceit—in short, war crimes.
Manning apologized to the court after he was convicted. But the judge did not show mercy and handed down a heavy sentence. His sentence is the harshest the U.S. has ever handed out to someone accused of leaking secret information. It exceeds by far sentences given to other military and government leakers. In 1985 Samuel Morison, a U.S. Navy intelligence analyst, received two years in prison for leaking U.S. spy photos of Soviet warships. In 2012 John Kiriakou, a former CIA officer, was sentenced to two and a half years for confirming that the U.S. had tortured prisoners by waterboarding. The government is out to punish Bradley Manning severely, and to set an example for others who would expose its war crimes to the world.
Among the files Manning released was a secret video showing U.S. soldiers in a helicopter gunning down Iraqi civilians, journalists, and passers-by who tried to aid the wounded and dying—the infamous Collateral Murder video. Other files contained documents showing that the U.S. itself counted 66,000 Iraqi civilian deaths because of its invasion, at a time when the U.S. claimed it had “no record of civilian deaths.”
Here is the criminal reality of the “justice system” in the U.S.: committing war crimes is part of the normal functioning of this system. People who commit them are “doing their duty,” are “within the law,” and in many cases are honored with medals and promotions. Exposing U.S. war crimes can get you locked away for 35 years!
Defenders of the U.S. loudly proclaim that it is a nation built on laws, that its justice system is the “best in the world.” Look at some examples from the past month alone of what the U.S. “justice system”—civilian and military—looks like in action:
These examples are not aberrations. They represent the routine functioning of the legal apparatus of a murderous system built on worldwide exploitation and oppression—a legal system that has as a primary function enforcing and legitimizing that exploitation and oppression. They represent “justice” based upon that system of laws.
They represent an outmoded system, a criminal system. What the people need is Revolution—Nothing Less, to get rid of that system and build a revolutionary society in the interests of the masses of people.
* On August 22, a statement by the person formerly known as Bradley Manning that was read on NBC’s Today show, said, “I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female. Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible. I hope that you will support me in this transition." Revolution refers to “Bradley Manning” in this piece and in other articles already on revcom.us and that have appeared in past issues since they were written prior to this announcement. [back]