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Revolution #315 September 1, 2013
September 1, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
In January 2011, millions of Egyptians rose up in protest and rebellion against the 30-year-long regime of Hosni Mubarak—a brutal oppressor backed to the hilt by the rulers of the U.S.A. Mubarak’s police killed hundreds of protesters. But as protests grew in size and determination, Mubarak was driven from office and arrested for overseeing the murder of protesters.
The uprising, coming in the wake of one that overthrew a decades-old oppressive regime in Tunisia, sent shockwaves around the world, inspiring the oppressed and all who despised oppression, and sending the global powers-that-be, with the U.S. at the top of the heap, scrambling to figure out how to manage the challenge to the whole capitalist-imperialist order.
On July 3, 2013, with a green light from the U.S., General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi arrested Egypt’s elected president, Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, and suspended the Egyptian constitution. At least 800 supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood have been killed, including prisoners executed in military custody, and thousands more arrested, and killings and arrests are continuing.
And on August 22, the butcher Mubarak himself was let out of jail where he was facing charges for—among other things—ordering the killing of protesters. His release is an outrage, and also an ominous symbol that the old-school enforcers of an oppressive order are back running Egypt.
The country is heading towards a one-sided civil war with forces around the reactionary military moving to crush the reactionary Muslim Brotherhood. Worst of all, the masses of people are either being aligned with one or another reactionary camp or rendered immobilized and on the sidelines. A deadly repressive calm is being imposed at the point of a gun. And the deeply felt and deeply rooted demands of the Egyptian people for freedom are as unmet as ever.
This is a critical moment to look reality in the eye, examine what brought things to this point, and BREAK OUT of a dead end, and deadly set of “choices” that led to the current situation.
Mubarak’s three decades of draconian repression rested on the power of the Egyptian military—the largest in the Arab world, and a whole apparatus of spies, political police, and repression. Behind that, is the USA, which sent $40 billion to Egypt over the time of Mubarak’s reign, much of it military “aid” in one form or another. Under Mubarak, Egypt “developed” as a land of sweatshops and slums. Student activists, union organizers, and dissident intellectuals were kidnapped by the police, tortured, and dumped—sometimes dead, sometimes not—in the desert. Enlightened voices in culture were banned or driven into exile.
All this served well the interests of U.S. capitalism-imperialism. In the face of U.S. claims that it brings “democracy” to the world, Bob Avakian has said:
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. (BAsics 1:3)
And that is the essence of what the U.S. has brought to Egypt.
Egypt’s economy is not structured to serve the needs of the people of Egypt, but it answers to the demands of global capitalism-imperialism—mainly “The West.” As a result, poverty is epidemic—40 percent of Egypt’s population lives on $2 a day.
Egypt is dependent on and its economy is shaped by foreign investment, international loans, and Egypt’s subordinate integration into the world economy. Much investment capital entering into Egypt is concentrated in financial services and natural gas, sectors that generate huge profits and serve global imperialism but do little if anything to provide jobs or benefits for a significant section of the population.
Infrastructure, transportation and culture are driven by and serve tourism, foreign investment and domination. And Egypt—like other oppressed Third World countries—suffers a greatly disproportional impact of the global environmental crisis with terribly polluted air and water and previously fertile land ruined by unrestricted capitalist real estate speculation and “development.”
Foreign capital flows into super-profitable sweatshop production for export—especially cotton goods. The Egyptian military itself controls 40 percent of the economy. Agriculture has been left to rot. Despite favorable conditions for growing food, Egypt is the world’s largest importer of wheat.
Beyond that, Egypt is a cornerstone in U.S. domination of the strategic Middle East. Egypt’s army collaborates with Israel to oppress the Palestinians which creates greater freedom for Israel to play the role of an outpost and enforcer for imperialism in the Middle East and beyond. The U.S. counts on access to Egyptian air space to wage its war in Afghanistan and to carry out its global “war on terror.” U.S. naval ships pass through the Suez Canal that runs through Egypt—four billion gallons of oil are shipped through the canal every day.
These and other strategic considerations are why U.S. 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.”
The millions of Egyptians who braved the gas and bullets of the Mubarak regime wanted freedom. They chafed at, and struck at, symbols of repression. Very importantly, women entered into the battle, although that was contentious even among the protesters.
As people rose up, they sought solutions. They gravitated towards forces who, yes— had structures and organization in place—but more importantly, they cohered around or aligned themselves with one or another of the visions and models of what the world should be like that were contending in the field.
What were those forces and agendas?
Egypt is a big country, with 90 million people and a powerful military. What happens in Egypt was and is being closely watched and influenced to various degrees by a whole range of actors. The state of Israel—built on the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians and serving as a regional and international enforcer for imperialism—shares a strategic border with Egypt. Neighboring reactionary states like Saudi Arabia and the oil-rich but tiny Gulf States have big stakes in how things develop in Egypt. They have poured billions of dollars into the country. And the turmoil in Egypt interacts with conflicts between the U.S. and its allies on the one hand and the Islamic Republic of Iran on the other. From Turkey and Syria to Tunisia and Yemen, “all eyes are on Egypt” in one way or another and many agendas are on the ground.
While these agendas do not boil down into a neat or exact alignment, right now, the decisive factor in shaping the conflict in Egypt, and shaping people’s (mis)understanding of possibilities is the clash between what are called “McWorld” and “Jihad.” These two, reactionary agendas are both contending with each other, and—as they do—reinforcing each other. That is the case in large parts of the world and within Egypt. Speaking of the current split in Egyptian society, an article from A World to Win News Service describes these two agendas this way:
“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.”
And, “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.” (“From A World to Win News Service on the Role of the U.S. in the Egyptian Bloodbath” at revcom.us.)
The Islamists, represented most prominently by the Muslim Brotherhood, sat out the uprising against Mubarak until the last minute. But in the post-Mubarak situation, they had the most organized networks, and were able to mobilize their base to elect Morsi as president. The Morsi regime was repressive and no improvement for the people. In the unsettled situation after the fall of Mubarak, the U.S. and the West were willing to tolerate and try to work through Morsi—for a time. As things developed, Morsi’s regime did not adequately serve the interests of the rulers of the U.S.
Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood never intended to wrench Egypt free of the clutches of the world capitalist-imperialist system. Their aim was to restructure and re-divide some of the spoils passed out to imperialism’s local accomplices. But the Egyptian army was not willing to “share” those spoils or tolerate a restructuring that endangered their interests. Locked out, for the most part, from the key levers of real power—the courts, bureaucracy, and armed forces—the Muslim Brotherhood moved to stabilize and re-cohere society through Islamicization. And those moves, in turn, angered and alienated large sections society.
As anger grew against Morsi among many sections of the population, the proponents of Western-style capitalism were able to divert the anger of millions into what ended up being the July 3 military coup.
As A World to Win News Service wrote: “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.”
The essence of the problem in Egypt is that a revolution never took place. A revolution is not a protest. It is not a massive uprising. It is not a change in form of capitalist dictatorship. It is not whatever anyone wants to think it is. In today’s world, a revolution means the overthrow of the whole capitalist-imperialist system, and replacing that with socialism.
In an oppressed Third World country like Egypt, communist revolution unfolds on two levels. First, it involves a radical rupture with the world imperialist system, shattering the neocolonial state, which is the essential political-military control mechanism of imperialist domination, breaking with dependence on foreign investment, loans, and the whole logic of subordinating development to the needs of imperialism and breaking out of the network of exploitation and dependence—with all the suffering and distortion it brings about.
Second, this involves carrying out a profound social revolution that aims to mobilize the conscious activism of people to tackle and uproot all the oppressive relations of society—from the hold of religion, to the pervasive forms of patriarchy and male supremacy, to the inequalities bound up with the divisions between those who are trained to work in the realm of ideas and those who have been traditionally locked out.
Both aspects are essential and intertwined. You can’t do one without the other: you can’t break the vise-grip of imperialist domination if you don’t carry forward a social revolution that unleashes the determination and creativity of the masses; and you can’t carry out a social revolution if you remain ensnared in the network of imperialist relations.
This is a road of breaking free of imperialist domination as part of a revolution to get the whole planet beyond these horrors—as envisioned in Bob Avakian’s new synthesis of communism (to explore the new synthesis of communism, visit revcom.us/avakian).
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.
And that task—building genuine revolutionary communist leadership, and leading a revolution—can change everything.
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Revolution #315 September 1, 2013
by Annie Day | September 1, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
I’ve been thinking about BA Everywhere and why it’s the leading edge right now of a whole ensemble of revolutionary work. For those who are just learning of this, BA Everywhere is a mass campaign to raise big funds to project Bob Avakian’s vision and works into every corner of society.
Bob Avakian (BA) is the Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party who has developed a new synthesis of communism and a strategic approach to making revolution in the U.S. He’s spent decades studying the experience of the first wave of communist revolution—first in the Soviet Union and then in China, where millions were a part of changing all of society. They went a long way in this and brought forward a whole different economy, new ways of relating, a new culture and revolutionary thinking among millions—which inspired people all around the world. These revolutions were defeated and capitalism has been restored in both these countries, in the Soviet Union since the 1950s and in China since 1976. These societies also fell short in important ways and made serious errors in the revolutionary process—in what they carried out, and even in their conception. BA has wrangled deeply with all this as well as studying developments in human society more broadly—learning from all quarters. Through this, he has forged a framework, a vision and strategy for a radically different way the world could be. BA tells people the truth, he breaks down the complexity of the world but also the very real need and possibility of revolution—and how people need to be working on that today.
There’s a lot more to say about BA, what his leadership concentrates and all the work he’s brought forward, and I strongly encourage everyone reading—even those who are familiar with BA’s work—to take some time reading through revcom.us/avakian, to get deeply into this theory as well as to get a sense of the scale and significance of BA’s work.
The full slogan for this campaign is BA Everywhere... Imagine the Difference It Could Make! And that’s what I think people should do, really: imagine the difference it could make.
In our society, huge sections of youth spend their days in a haze—numbing themselves to the pain and boredom of growing up in a society where you have no future or no future that you find meaningful, where you are told in a million different ways you mean nothing and are worth nothing. For Black and brown youth, they grow up with the world set against them, feeling all they have to hold on to is their block—which they do not own and do not control. People live disrespected and demeaned—tracked into juvenile detention and prisons, women pimped out by their loved ones or beaten regularly if they do not comply. Too often, people respond to these conditions of brutality by turning around and delivering the same to their neighbors, to people who should be their friends. If you have dreams and aspirations that haven’t been stamped out of you, it is often for personal success, for you to get up and out—regardless of the cost to others. Far too much in this society, people hate on each other, they lie to each other, they bully each other, they find suspect people who feel different and who act different. The mainstream culture celebrates cruelty, domination, and meaninglessness.
For people who want to be about something different—rebel youth who want to be about justice—they are trained to think about it in terms of how they’re going to live different, make different personal choices, how they are going to try to do good in a terrible world and almost never consider—and are told not to consider—what it would mean to bring about a fundamentally different, and better, world.
When they do step out and fight against the outrages of this system, when people lift their heads to fight—as they have this summer in the hunger strike in California prisons, in the streets around Trayvon Martin, the heroic youth putting their lives on the line for immigrant rights or abortion rights—they are attacked, criminalized, and repressed at the same time as in these struggles, big questions are posed about what we’re really up against, and where the fight needs to go.
All this shit—the criminal outrages people face, the mass degradation and the suffering, the low sights and dreams—this comes from a system that is rooted in the relentless chase for profit above all else, a vicious system of capitalism which draws its lifeblood from ever more ruthlessly exploiting people and the planet, enforcing this and other forms of oppression with their courts, police, prisons, and armies. (To find out more how all this flows from this system, read through Revolution newspaper every week or almost daily at revcom.us.)
Now... imagine something completely different emerging throughout society. A leadership, and a movement behind that, that is exposing where all this comes from, how this kind of oppressive society developed—and how everything could be different.
Changing this whole world is going to take a REVOLUTION, a real revolution that is about the emancipation of all humanity. This is what BA’s work concentrates—the leadership we have for the revolution we need.
Imagine people throughout society—in barbershops, living rooms, campuses, libraries, and street corners—watching the new film, BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Bob Avakian Live. Imagine people seeing palm cards all over with quotes from BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian—quotes that tap into the reality people live and make them see it in a whole different way... and imagine people getting into the book itself, a handbook for revolution. Imagine—as people are lifting their heads, fighting the power in different ways, that they come to understand the deeper problem behind what they’re fighting, the links behind that and other crimes of this system, and that there really is a way out and there is leadership for that in BA and the Party he leads. Imagine people finding out and engaging with the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) and the statement, “On the Strategy for Revolution”—both from the Revolutionary Communist Party... and think about what breaks open when people even find out these things exist. Imagine people coming together—building community full of great joy and defiance—to raise funds to break all this out even further.
Contributions or gifts to RCP Publications are not deductible as charitable contributions for federal income tax purposes.
Imagine the kind of real talk, the rich debate and discussion that could be fostered if people from different perspectives and different backgrounds were engaging this revolutionary voice together instead of the kind of bullshit and emptiness that we are told from magazine newsstands to much of music and TV is what should fill our days.
BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! is a film of a talk BA gave in the fall of 2012. As Revolution newspaper wrote earlier this year, this film is “dealing with the most important thing there could be—because it’s about the real possibility of bringing into being a radically different world, where all this madness, all the oppression and injustice, all the abuse and degradation that is so much a part of life now, would be done away with.”
Watching this film... spreading this film... getting into BAsics... passing it hand to hand... and raising funds to break BA’s voice, and his whole body of work, out into society in major ways... can change how whole sections of people are thinking, and on that basis, how they are acting. It will disturb and provoke, some people will vehemently disagree, some will want to jump in with both feet and some won’t be all sure what they think—but this kind of engagement and awareness of BA can change how whole sections of people see what is desirable, what is tolerable, what is possible—and what they should be about.
This is what we’ve been drawing forward and changing in significant, if still beginning, ways with BA Everywhere—with the BAsics Bus Tours that went out last year in California, through the South, and in New York City and surrounding areas. And what we’ve been tapping into with coordinated national van tours that have gone out into the inner cities and wealthy areas simultaneously in cities across the country this summer. This is why people have been inspired to contribute in all kinds of generous ways, and to be part of this movement—distributing palm cards, playing music, making jewelry, emailing a friend and more. This is part of why hundreds of people nationally attended premieres of BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! and why many, many dozens were actively part of building for these. Why people have been digging into and spreading BAsics. A great deal has been accomplished in this, and much has been changed. We need to learn more deeply from all this, and on that basis—take it to a whole other level.
This is from a young Latina in response to the film: “I think it’s very important for everyone, especially young people from the hood to see this because BA talks about what they go through and he has a solution to all the oppression. And I know for me, when I saw it, it changed the way I looked at everything... music, shows, commercials, ads. I just started seeing all the fucked up shit they promote and it made me want to challenge all that and not go along with any of it.”
That can happen a thousandfold the more we are able to raise the funds required and build a national movement around BA Everywhere. Raising funds means we can have this kind of big impact on society—by coming together all across the country. It joins us together in an effort that is bigger than any of us, but in which we can all make a big difference—whether you can give $10 or $10,000, whether you bake cookies for a bake sale or host a fancy dinner party. It enables people who don’t have a lot of time—whether they’re working a busy professional job or scrambling to survive—to be part of breaking real revolution into the atmosphere and making this revolutionary force known.
All this—overlapping and interpenetrating with all the ways in which people are getting into the whole movement for revolution, fighting the power, and transforming the people, for revolution—can really change the face of everything.
If you want to be about something positive—the most positive thing there can be... get into BA and be part of BA Everywhere. If you want to be about more than just yourself but want to contribute to changing things for people all around the world... get into BA and be part of BA Everywhere. If you want to go up against all the lies and dishonesty in the world with sharp truth-telling, passion, and honesty... get into BA and be part of BA Everywhere. If you have a heart and a conscience, big questions and big dreams... get into BA and be part of BA Everywhere.
Revolution #315 September 1, 2013
September 1, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
This report is from volunteers involved in one of the REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Van Tours in August, which took place in four areas: New York City, Chicago, San Francisco Bay Area, and Los Angeles:
On the first night of the tour, before we started the weekend, we pulled up in front of a row of shops in an oppressed neighborhood and played the DVD from a large-screen TV in the van. This is a neighborhood that’s been at the heart of a lot of the protest to the unjust murder of Trayvon Martin in this city (and an area where the Revolution is known). With our decorated van we played the first hour of BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! It was a Friday night and people from the neighborhood, mainly youth, were walking to and from the corner market and/or smoke shop. Over the course of that hour, five people stopped to watch 10-20 minutes of the film, all but one of them youth.
A Black youth on a skateboard watched 20 minutes and then was about to roll away. One of us called him back over to talk and asked what he thought of it. He said he thought BA was funny. We asked him what he meant by that and he said he’s just funny. At first his attitude towards what he saw was kind of shrugging it off—he did think BA was funny (in a good way), but he wasn’t taking the talk too seriously. We started to get a little deeper into his thinking and he liked what BA was saying about religion—he said he likes science and is an atheist. He also sees religion as one of the main reasons why most people won’t get with revolution. This is part of why he wasn’t taking this too seriously at first, he had already concluded there’s no possible way you could go up against this system and that people could be brought forward to do that. We told him it’s good he likes science, but when he’s saying it’s not possible, he’s not being scientific. We told him about how BA in the next track after the one he was watching goes into the sweep of human history and shows that there isn’t permanence to the way things are now and it’s not because of human nature. We talked for a while, about how to see the contradictions within the system that can give rise to revolution, about how people start to change how they think—including what BA says later in the film about how a lot of Black people were giving up religion in the 1960s because they had hope they could change the world. And we talked about the dynamic of people coming into the revolution when they see it is the only way to fight for the things they want to see happen—even if they still have a lot of disagreements, and how this is related to forging and growing a core, now, of people who are taking up this understanding all the way with their eyes set on the goal of emancipating all of humanity.
The discussion had gotten more serious.
But in a certain way he was still looking from the outside in at this revolution.
Then we posed to him the difference it would make for hundreds of people right now in this city to watch what he’d just seen, and this happening all over the country—how that changes how people think and what they think is possible. His face kind of changed. He thought it would make a difference for people to see this and we worked through the possibility of him bringing some people he talks about serious things with to come to one of the scheduled screenings to watch it.
We talked briefly to two Egyptian guys who work in the shops there. We had brought a couple copies of the talk from Raymond Lotta about the massacre in Egypt and gave them copies to watch. The debate was impassioned. One argued fervently that it is the Muslims who are doing terrible things and the Egyptian army is on the side of the people. He is a Christian and described Christians being attacked including experience he’s had with this in his family. We told him people are being played in a rivalry between two opposing oppressive forces and there is another way, that what is needed urgently in Egypt is genuine leadership for communist revolution there. He insisted there had already been a revolution and what’s happening now is part of it. We insisted he and his friend need to watch that talk by Lotta right away and we will come back to talk about it.
He said 30 million rose up in Egypt, that is a revolution.
We said 30 million people can be wrong and he did a double-take and looked at his friend, as if he couldn’t believe what we’d just said—then repeated it to his friend.
His friend said he will watch the Lotta piece and wants to talk afterwards.
We took a break and went to a nearby grocery store to pick up some things for lunch. As we were wandering the store, a few of us stopped to look at the books section. We were asking each other about one of the authors and a Black man in his fifties looking at books turned to us in surprise and said, “You don’t know who that is?” We asked him to tell us and he talked about a series of novels about chasing a terrorist around the world using spy technology and know-how acquired from the CIA. We asked him what he thought about this in the context of all that’s been revealed by Edward Snowden. He talked about another series of novels by another author that unfolds plots around government conspiracies.
We began to talk with him about what the CIA actually does in the world and the way in which culture shapes how people think. He knew some things about the crimes of the CIA and had some agreement with what we were saying about what’s in the culture. He said he didn’t think authors like this were doing it consciously, but they write what sells books—so these kinds of books are now all in the language of chasing terrorists.
We talked about how important it would be to have much more culture that challenges all the police-state repression instead of going along with it and reinforcing it. He liked that a lot and we finally introduced ourselves and told him about the van tour and who BA is. He was very intrigued about BA and about the film and was interested in coming to a screening.
We would introduce ourselves as volunteers of this van tour and began talking about revolution, many liked it and many disagreed and didn’t want to discuss it, including a church group that we spoke to, one woman said, “Let's leave it all up to god he is the one with the last word” to which we responded “NO! it's in our hands” as we showed her the "Three Strikes" poster and said, “Are we going to keep letting this list get longer? We need to put an end to this and it's on us to put an end to this shit!” She ignored us and kept talking about god so we went on, but this group was very rude to us and kept telling people around them not to listen to us, to which we responded, “People can think for themselves, you don’t need to tell them what to do.”
We spoke to a group of Spanish-speaking women, one of us began to explain what Revolution newspaper is about and why it’s very important in this movement for revolution. They were interested when we spoke on the situation of immigrants in this country; we used what BA said in the film about how the situation of immigrants reminds him of the situation of slavery back then, how it separates families when one of the family members gets deported, we also spoke on the oppression of women and the oppression of Black people and we asked them to imagine a world where women, Black people and Latinos can walk down the street without the fear of getting killed, raped or brutalized. They liked that and asked us for the paper and gave a donation. One of them told us that she really appreciated what we were doing and that she felt scared for our safety because she knows that people who are about revolution and communism are not liked by the people who run this system, she told us about her son who recently flew in from Mexico wearing a Che Guevara T-shirt and he was harassed by the airport police, they opened his bags, checked everything he had and asked him if he was a revolutionary, he had to say he didn’t know what the T-shirt represented because he didn’t want to get harassed any more.
So she knows that by us being about revolution we are risking ourselves so she was very thankful and happy that there is a movement that is for revolution and isn’t backing down.
We spoke with a woman that was with two other women, but the two other women didn’t want to be part of the conversation—one said she didn’t want to talk about politics because people always disagree with each other and end up arguing. At one point we said we are atheists. The woman was open and asked a lot of questions. So according to her beliefs the nervous feeling people get in the gut has something to do with their soul... we responded that we don’t believe people have a spirit or soul so one of the other women overheard this comment and got defensive. She tried to give an example of why she believes in the soul and the afterlife. She said, “Do you believe that there is life beyond the womb?” We responded, “Yes, obviously.” She responded “Ok, well it’s the same thing, they are wondering if there is life beyond the womb and there really is so it’s the same thing here.” Which we responded, “No, it isn’t, who is 'they'? And 'they' don’t think, they are fetuses!” She got angry and walked away and pulled her friend away with her. But her friend was very interested in talking to us and was very open to the discussion she had with us even if they had different ideas.
We spoke with a progressive middle-aged Black accountant. Upon seeing the "Three Strikes" quote he said, "I know this: Dred Scott, Emmett Till, and Trayvon Martin." We made it a point to read the quote and in particular the last two paragraphs til the end. It made him stop and rethink—we talked about a number of things including the "big" questions that he's been wrangling with but has had no answers to. He talked about the role of the military and its enforcement of capitalism; as he's describing the role of the U.S. military in Egypt (funding arms). Because of his job he reads conservative business journals and at a basic level sees the workings of this system but then is confronted with how to make investments. He listens to NPR and is struggling to see the possibilities of something else. At one point, he brought out his copy of Cornel West's Race Matters which he was very proud to own. We asked him to watch the first 15 minutes of Revolution—Nothing Less but he couldn't...so we read quotes from the back of the DVD cover: in particular, BA's quote from the film and Cornel's introduction to BA. He was very intrigued—we suggested he get a copy of the film because all the questions he's raising and wrangling with BA gets into: not only how to understand the world but how to radically change it (including the real possibility of not continuing to live this way). We ARE Building a Movement for Revolution and said even while he's walking through all his questions, agreements, and disagreements—there's a need for him to get into BA. He got a copy of the DVD, and while we raised the $500 challenge we reiterated that as he's watching the film to think of the impact it can have if millions engaged what he's engaging. And on that basis, deeply consider donating a large sum to the movement for revolution. He gave his business card to follow up with him.
While in this area, one Spanish-speaking woman didn’t say much but was listening to us as we explained what the “three strikes” poster was about, all the crimes of this system, the purpose of this van tour and the importance of this film. We gave her an issue of the paper, then she went inside her house and came out with a $20 bill.
Revolution #315 September 1, 2013
September 1, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Editors' Note: The editorial "A Summer of Big Challenges and Intense Struggle" in Revolution, June 16, 2013, made the point:
"Theory is how we understand reality—including its underlying dynamics and the potential within it—and without it we will grope blindly in the dark... Theory is key to people raising their sights, and changing how they think and feel about things, as they are getting involved in fighting the power. All summer we must not only get the DVD of Bob Avakian's BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! speech out to thousands, and learning from their responses to it, we must be getting deeper into it ourselves. We've got to be getting deeper into BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian, grasping its content and applying it as a guide to action, in the broadest sense and in the closest quarters with the enemy. And then we have to take what we learn about reality through carrying out this practice and sum that up, using our theory, further developing a scientific understanding of reality to push forward the movement for revolution."
With this as context, and the real emphasis within this communist theory on the method and approach, the following from a reader is an example of the types of discussions—formal and informal—that need to be happening a lot more.
When the local Bob Avakian Everywhere committee in this city first met, one of the things that came up was a question that some people had about "how can you call communism a science?"
To me personally, this seemed to come from a few directions: a) seeing communism as merely a political movement with a partisan stand coming from a moral plane only, b) wondering how communism can claim to "embrace" all other sciences even while not replacing them, seeing communism as a social science only, and c) the notion of a class-based or "bourgeois science" vs. "proletarian science" which has been a long-standing problem in the communist movement.
We decided to have a salon on these themes—a discussion over an afternoon or evening, where people can really wrangle and range on some key themes and topics—with some food and drinks! It took a little bit of struggle amongst ourselves to recognize the very real importance of something like this—against everything else that cries out to be done, and the spontaneity of daily life, with all its schedule constraints. Glad we did!
In preparation for the salon, we sent out a link to the Appendix of the Constitution of the Revolutionary Communist Party, "Communism as a Science," as the suggested reading. We also sent out a link to BA's article "'Crises in Physics,' Crises in Philosophy and Politics" as a supplemental reading.
Eight of us gathered at a friend's house, and we had a rousing discussion.
With some basic appreciation for BA (we are all in the local BA Everywhere committee), we came from diverse perspectives and with varying levels of understanding of the scientific method, of communism—and its method and approach, especially concentrated in the new synthesis of communism, as brought forth by BA. With—and despite—varying levels of "formal" education, almost everyone had read some of the suggested readings, mostly the Appendix (Communism as a Science). Some had read the Crises in Physics article. And some found the readings "hard." In leading the discussion, we really followed what Bob Avakian models: "Break it down, don't water it down."
We started with two brief quotes describing the scientific method.
"A scientific approach does not seek supernatural 'explanations' nor does it accept any explanations which cannot be tested, and verified or disproved, in the real material world, but instead develops an initial theory based on evidence from the world, tests out the theory in actual practice and against the results achieved, and through this process arrives at a deepened understanding of what is true. That understanding must then be further applied to reality." (From the Appendix, second paragraph)
From What Humanity Needs, Revolution, and the New Synthesis of Communism, An Interview with Bob Avakian. BA says to the interviewer A. Brooks:
"If you're being scientific, you don't go by 'what everybody knows.' You proceed by probing, investigating—and yes, in the process changing—reality, and then systematizing what can be learned: what are the patterns; what is the essence of what you're learning; what ties things together; what differentiates some things from other things...." (Quoted in "Two Different Approaches, Two Different Epistemologies—Two Different Worlds," from What Humanity Needs, Revolution, and the New Synthesis of Communism, An Interview with Bob Avakian. Recommended as further reading.)
Then we went directly to a 12 minute or so audio clip of Bob Avakian addressing a question about what he meant by the terms he once used "bourgeois conception of science." This answer is number 7 of the Questions and Answers at the end of the 7 Talks, available as audio downloads at revcom.us when you go through the Bob Avakian portal.
In that clip, from what I can describe here very briefly, BA makes clear that what he was referring to was bourgeois METHODOLOGY, and that there is no such thing as "bourgeois science," just as there is no such thing as "bourgeois truth." "Truth is truth," he said. And, as can be seen by the above quotes on science, science can be done by the bourgeoisie. BUT, as BA goes on to explain in a lively and engaging way, various incorrect METHODS of approaching the world (or not) are more characteristic of the ruling class of capitalists, and in fact, these methods have often encroached into the international communist movement, to its detriment, including unfortunately up to the present day. Truths themselves don't have a class character, but modes of thinking do.
There is a LOT more in this section, and I highly recommend people to go back and listen to this excerpt.
We then said "let's discuss," and we were off to the races for about a couple of hours.
Some of the questions and controversies that came up (many in paraphrased quotes):
As one can imagine, this was a vibrant exchange. This was our first session and we already have plans for a follow-up discussion in about a month.
Revolution #315 September 1, 2013
September 1, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On Saturday night, a crew of us went to see Lee Daniels' new film, The Butler. Among other things, without here commenting further on the film's art, or its overall narrative and message, what it does vividly show, with strengths and weaknesses, is the generations of oppression suffered by Black people—and their struggle against it.
After the film, a revolutionary got up in the theater and read from the Three Strikes poster, pointing to the pictures of Dred Scott, Emmett Till (whose murder is brought up in the film), and Trayvon Martin—showing that this system's oppression of Black people is still in full effect and that we need Revolution—Nothing Less! As a couple of people were handing out palm cards for the film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Bob Avakian Live, she called on people to get a copy of Revolution newspaper and to get with the movement for revolution.
There was a marked and differentiated response to this agitation—including in the context of this film (and how sections of people understand, interpret, respond to and are affected by it). Many—including what empirically seemed like most white people, and many Black people—refused to take the palm cards we were handing out. Others just grabbed them up.
Almost immediately, five city cops came up to threaten the revolutionaries. This sharpened things up even more, as people had just seen stark images in the film of the police brutality unleashed against Black people, and now several people expressed concern that the revolutionaries were going to be arrested. Outside, a few people responded to the message that "we don't need a new civil rights movement, we need a revolution," by getting the paper, Revolution, and giving donations—including a young Black woman who gave $100 right on the spot! She said, "I know. We do need a revolution."
Revolution #315 September 1, 2013
September 1, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Editor's Note: On August 19, a federal judge ordered that hunger striking California prisoners can be force-fed by prison medical staff if they are "at risk of near-term death or great bodily injury." This Order specifically declares invalid any "do not resuscitate (DNR)" orders the prisoners have signed shortly before or during the strike. The reason the judge gives is that the hunger strikers "may have been coerced into participating in the hunger strike."
Last week the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture said, "it is not acceptable to use threats of forced feeding or other types of physical or psychological coercion against individuals who have opted for the extreme recourse of a hunger strike."
The language in the Order about inmates being coerced into hunger striking, or signing a DNR against their "free will" is a response to claims by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) that this hunger strike is a "ploy" by gangs. CDCR Deputy Press Secretary Terry Thornton repeated these claims last week on Democracy Now!, saying that the CDCR "Inmates are being coerced by gangs—not all of them, but some of them—to participate in this hunger strike. It should also be noted that the hunger strike leaders are all leaders of prison gangs, as well. This whole action, this hunger strike, which is the third one in the last two years, is being driven by gangs."
But prisoners have taken the extreme course of starving themselves precisely because of the coercion exerted by the prison authorities, the decades spent in the living tomb of solitary confinement with no meaningful human contact, and denial of basic rights, and even decent food.
Revolution received this letter from a reader on how the prison authorities are once again invoking "gangs" to justify repression of the hunger strike, and to seek to isolate the prisoners, and render people outside of prison silent:
From a Reader
On August 19, U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson issued a court order approving the force-feeding of California prisoners, who have been on a hunger strike to stop the torturous conditions of solitary confinement in the prisons' Security Housing Units (SHUs). His order was based on the assertion by California prison authorities that some striking prisoners have been coerced to participate in the hunger strike. This was laid out in the Los Angeles Times on August 6, 2013, where Jeffrey Beard, head of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), argued that the hunger strike is not about protesting living conditions that constitute torture, but instead is prison gangs attempting to "restore their ability to terrorize fellow prisoners, prison staff and communities throughout California."
This is all we've ever been told by the cops, the courts, the judges, the government, and the prison authorities: "It's because they are gang members", which is to be translated that they are the worst of the worst. This is what they tell us—"we arrest and incarcerate them because they are gang members; we put them in the SHUs because they are gang members; and now we will force feed them because of the gangs."
Here's what they don't tell you. They don't tell you that the skyrocketing growth of gangs in the urban centers of this country is tied to the loss of jobs in those areas. In the 1960s and 1970s, thousands and thousands of jobs left Los Angeles in the chase for cheaper labor and greater profits. In the 1950s, Los Angeles assembled more cars than any city except Detroit, made more tires than any city except Akron, made more furniture than Grand Rapids, and had the largest garment industry other than New York.
Of the crack epidemic in the inner cities, revcom.us has written: "Factories producing goods were moved first from the inner cities to the suburbs and then to other countries—while the masses of Black people remained locked in those urban cores due to continued housing segregation and deprivation. Simultaneously, the inner cities were deprived of funds and allowed to become economic and cultural dead-zones. The drug trade and the gangs involved in that trade to a certain degree arose spontaneously—but they were also systematically manipulated and in some cases promoted to fill the economic and political void left in the ghettos and barrios by economic abandonment and counter-revolutionary suppression of the movement. That escalated in the 1980s, as the CIA orchestrated the funding of pro-U.S. Central American terrorists (the "Contras") through the sale and distribution of drugs through gangs in the inner cities of the U.S."(See "The CIA/Crack Connection: RW Interview with Gary Webb," at revcom.us.
But people say Black and Latino youth could have chosen not to enter the gangs. Bob Avakian gets into the choices youth in the ghettos and barrios have available to them in his very important piece that everyone needs to read in its entirety, "More On Choices...And Radical Changes," Revolution newspaper, January 28, 2013, and at revcom.us:
"Okay, so you can rob somebody, right? Now am I saying it is right to rob somebody? Absolutely not. But what I'm saying is if you're influenced by the way that the culture and all the popular stuff on TV and the music and everything tells you you ought to be trying to get rich and get over on other people. If you get influenced by that and you say that's the way the game is played, so I'm going to do my thing in it, right, then you are going to do what you can do. If you can't be a stockbroker... if you can't be some other person, a banker, who loans money to somebody to buy a house knowing that they can't pay back the loan, and then forecloses on the house and sells it again, does the same thing again and again... If you can't make your money that way, but you got the idea in your mind from the whole culture out there that the thing to do is to get over on other people, and get money any way you can, then you'll do what you can do, which is to stick up somebody, or to sell some drugs, or to pimp out a woman and beat her down when she tries to get out of it, and so on."
The "war on drugs" became the government's program to mass incarcerate millions, to get those, who had the potential to become conscious revolutionaries in opposition to their system of capitalism-imperialism, off the streets and into their prisons. While out in the streets the only future these youth face is mass unemployment, an education system that is a pipeline to prison, and harassment, brutality, and death at the hands of the cops. In prison, their oppression takes on another dimension.
Once incarcerated, the authorities segregated the prisoners by race. The guards promoted and organized fights among prisoners. The Revolution article made the point, "What is Actually Revealed in the California Prisoner Hunger Strike? Responding to Jeffrey Beard's Los Angeles Times Op-ed makes the point that in the late 90s it was exposed that in the Corcoran SHU they were organizing 'gladiator days' where prisoners from different gangs were put into the exercise pen and told to fight each other, with armed prison guards watching and betting on the outcome. They foment and enforce these divisions and then set people up to go at each other." The prison system itself continues to reinforce the existence of gangs.
Further, in California, the prison authorities have instituted a "validation" system where they determine who supposedly is a gang member by using bogus evidence, like tattoos, or what they are reading to prove that someone is a gang member. Once the authorities validate a prisoner as a gang member, they are placed in solitary confinement in a SHU cell. (We have written many other articles detailing how this is a form of torture).
The only way to get out of the SHU is to be debriefed, which is a process of telling the authorities everything you know about gangs and its members. In other words, snitching. You would think that all the prisoners would jump at the chance of being debriefed in order to get out of the SHU. Of course they would, we are told, because they are gang members, they are the worst of the worst, and all they care about is themselves and no one else. Of course they would because this system promotes "look out for number one at the expense of others." But guess what? Most are not going for being debriefed, and it is not for the reason that they are being coerced by other prisoners as the prison authorities would have us believe. Prisoners are saying that they have a code of ethics where one does not bring the heat down on others just to get the heat taken off you.
In August 2012, the prisoners in the Pelican Bay State Prison-Security Housing Unit Short Corridor issued a historic "Agreement To End Hostilities" to all California prisoners and others concerned calling for an "end to hostilities between our racial groups." These prisoners have raised their heads and shown their humanity with this statement and with their hunger strike which they say is not necessarily for them but for future prisoners. And what has been the response to this by the authorities? More gang labeling, moving striking prisoners to Administrative Segregation, which are worse than their SHU cells, disciplinary measures, and force-feeding despite the fact that the prisoners signed a "do not resuscitate" statement, which, in California, is supposed to be a legally binding document.
This broken record of labeling young Blacks and Latinos as gang members has to be rejected by those who can recognize the truth: it is the system that has created these gangs and that despite being treated like animals, some of these prisoners are trying like hell to rise above that and must be supported in their efforts to do so.
Listen to what a striking prisoner has written to the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund that was printed in Revolution newspaper:
"What seems to anger the state the most is that we have broken with reactionary views and have taken on a more revolutionary stance in our struggle for human rights behind prison walls. We have come to see that the ruling class has pitted us against one another within prisons but this wasn't the first time. For hundreds of years the state has found ways to use divide and conquer tactics to keep us unable to come together for a resolution to our common oppression."
Now think about how those who are being labeled gang members by the authorities are rising above that and demanding, and showing, their humanity.
People outside of prisons cannot be deluded, or delude themselves by the distortions, lies, and slanders of the prison authorities who are enforcers for a system that has consigned millions and millions of people to a future without hope, and then has locked them up in the most barbaric conditions. Speak up! Spread the word about what is going on. Post and share this and other materials from revcom.us. Demand of prison authorities that they not force-feed hunger strikers, and that they meet their just demands.
Revolution #315 September 1, 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 #315 September 1, 2013
September 1, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Abortion Rights Freedom Ride Rally in downtown Chicago, July 30 2013.
Photo: Special to Revolution
After kickoff rallies in New York and San Francisco, the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride set out from both coasts to take the offensive and turn the tide against the nationwide reactionary assault on women’s right to abortion—the basic right that all women must have to determine whether or not to bear a child. With more than 300 measures introduced in states around the country so far this year, measures designed to further restrict abortion and shut down clinics; with 97 percent of rural counties having no abortion providers; with eight people already killed for their involvement in providing abortions, women’s reproductive freedom is in a state of extreme emergency.
The Abortion Rights Freedom Ride brought together the contributions and active participation of people from many different perspectives, setting out to accomplish three aims as described by Sunsara Taylor and David Gunn, Jr.*:
“...one, we must move beyond localized fights and launch a national counter-offensive;
“two, we must radically reset the political, moral, and ideological terms of this fight so that millions understand that this fight is about women’s liberation or women’s enslavement;
“lastly, and of paramount importance, we must call forth the mass independent political resistance that is necessary to defeat this war on women.”
* David Gunn, Jr.’s father was an abortion provider who was murdered by an anti-abortion fanatic in 1993.
Above: The Abortion Rights Freedom Ride, together with local abortion supporters and members of Minnesota National Organization for Women, holds a rally on August 3 in Fargo, North Dakota. A court injunction allowed the last clinic in the state to remain open for now. Photo: Special to Revolution
The Abortion Rights Freedom Ride traveled to many states—including North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Arkansas, and Mississippi, each of which has only one abortion clinic remaining—defending the clinics and providers, protesting against new laws that would bring draconian restrictions on abortion, and spreading the message of “Abortion on Demand and Without Apology” and “Forced Motherhood is Female Enslavement.”
The bold and uncompromising stand of the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride, standing up in the face of rabid anti-abortion fanatics, and unapologetically putting forward their demands, was a challenge to some who support the right to abortion but have become defensive and in some cases refuse to even say the word abortion, allowing those who would drive women back into the Dark Ages to act like they are the ones who have morality on their side.
The fight to defend abortion has everything to do with breaking with the notion that women’s essential role is as breeders of children—fighting for women to be viewed and treated as full and equal human beings. And this has everything to do with ending all oppression and exploitation through communist revolution to bring about a truly liberated society and world for all of humanity.
Minneapolis, August 1.
Photo: Special to Revolution
Protest against gang rape in New Delhi, India, December 2012.
“But the question must be asked, ‘Why is abortion so controversial?’ It is a safe, common, medical procedure that absolutely is NOT killing a baby and is totally a moral decision for a woman to make, so WHY is it controversial?
“The reason that abortion is controversial is because we live in a society where women, despite the pronouncements of ‘equality achieved’ and advances made, are NOT viewed or treated as full human beings. We live in a society where women are socialized to find their worth in being attractive and useful to men, where men are socialized to view women as objects of sexual service or domestic care, where the cult of motherhood (the idea that women’s highest achievement and duty in life is to bear and rear children) is alive and aggressively reasserting itself and where violence and disrespect against women is omnipresent and escalating. We live in a society, like all societies divided into classes before it, that requires patriarchy (that is, the systematic domination of women by men—including the control over women’s reproduction, sexuality, and childbearing in particular) for its overall functioning. This society requires this kind of control over women and their reproduction in order to maintain property and inheritance lines, social position, and the distribution of wealth from one generation to the next, in this world where some possess obscene wealth while others scrape and starve and watch their children die by the millions of preventable disease. We live in a society which gives rise to and fosters and encourages the most vicious exploitation and oppression and degradation and humiliation of women.” (From “Where Does this War Against Women Come From? Why is it so Vicious? Real Revolution Could Not Come a Minute too Soon!” by Sunsara Taylor, initiator of the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride.)
A rally in front of the clinic in Jackson—last remaining clinic providing abortions to women in all of Mississippi.
Photo: Special to Revolution
“I sat down with the director of Jackson Women’s Health Organization.... 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.” (From “Some Thoughts on Our Time in Mississippi, on the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride, and Looking Forward” by Sunsara Taylor.)
New York City, at the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride send-off rally.
Photo: Bud Korotzer
The Abortion Rights Freedom Ride traveled to Wichita, Kansas, where Dr. George Tiller, one of very few doctors who still performed late-term abortions, was shot and killed by an anti-abortion assassin on May 31, 2009.
“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.” (From “A Day in a Mall in Wichita” by Sunsara Taylor.)
(To learn more about why fetuses are NOT babies, see: “What Is an Abortion and Why Women Must Have the Right to Choose” and “A Fetus Is Not a Baby! Abortion on Demand and Without Apology” on revcom.us. To get further into the revolution that is needed to liberate women and emancipate all humanity, see A Declaration: For Women’s Liberation and the Emancipation of All Humanity, also on revcom.us.)
“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.”
Chairman of the
Revolutionary Communist Party, USA
Revolution #315 September 1, 2013
By A.S.K. | September 1, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
This article was originally published in Revolutionary Worker (now Revolution) #1265, January 23, 2005. We are republishing it here because of its ongoing relevance.
Is it true that a fetus is a form of life? Of course it is. It is made up of live cells, it is growing and processing energy, it has the capacity to mature and reproduce, it has a genetic system and so on.
Will an abortion destroy this form of life? Yes, absolutely.
Well then, isn’t an abortion killing another human being? No, absolutely not.
A fetus is not yet a human being. It is more like a seed or a sprout of a human being. It is "alive," but that is also true of all the other cells in a woman’s body. It has no life of its own yet. It is not yet a separate life from the life of the woman in whose uterus it is.
Just because something has the characteristics of "life" doesn’t mean people should necessarily preserve it. This is an obvious truth. Think about it: People routinely terminate "life" for what is seen as a greater good. We do this every time we eat—all the fruits, vegetables, and meats come from live plants and animals killed for our nourishment. People end "life" every time we cut a tree for firewood, every time we take antibiotics to kill off the live disease organisms which are making us sick, or even every time we kill other human beings in self-defense or to prevent them from causing other human beings to suffer and die.
In other words, we kill life to preserve and enrich other life . So what about the life of the woman?
The life of a woman who is forced to continue an unwanted pregnancy is endangered. She might have to resort to a risky back-alley abortion. And if she is forced to go on with the pregnancy, her life is weakened and degraded. She will be robbed of pride and self-respect because she has been told by society that she is essentially worthless—even an undeveloped bunch of cells that isn’t even a whole baby yet gets more respect and has more value than this woman! Because she is not allowed to control her own body, her own reproduction, not allowed to decide whether or not or when to become a mother, she has no more freedom than a slave.
If a woman doesn’t want to continue a pregnancy all the way (for whatever reason), she should have the freedom to end it, safely and easily. This is for the greater good—for the health and overall well-being of that woman, whose life we should value and cherish more than that of a partially formed fetus. And for the greater good of humanity. After all, isn’t it in the greater interests of all of humanity that women not be slaves?
The "right-to-life" people don’t see it that way at all. They have made it crystal clear that to them the life of the fetus is more important and has more value than the life of the woman in whose uterus it is. From a social point of view, these people who want to forcibly take away a woman’s right to abortion are nothing but vicious, rabid dogs.
But from a scientific point of view, they are also ignorant fools or calculating liars.
Have you seen the pictures they use? Check them out. These pictures are very often blown-up pictures of fetuses almost ready to be born (but the truth is that more than 90 percent of abortions in the U.S. are done in the first three months of pregnancy). These pictures are designed to make you feel like the fetuses women are aborting are just like cute little babies, ready to be held in someone’s arms and cuddled and burped. But they’re not! Far from it.
1. We are, in fact, made of "starstuff,’’ along with everything else on earth, living or not.
2. On earth, living things are typically made up of one or more living cells. And all forms of life on earth are related and are descendants of the first one-celled creatures to live on this planet.
3. All the different kinds of living creatures or organisms have in common:
4. Human beings have a lot in common with all the other life-forms on the planet. What makes us "different’’ is not really the things that prove we are "alive." After all, there’s a lot of "life" all around!
What makes us different, or "special," is that we have evolved to a higher degree than any other species— the ability to change the conditions of life through social means —by living and struggling in concert with other human beings during our entire lives. This— being part of human society rather than just being alive —is the essence of what makes us human beings.
And have you noticed how the fetuses are conveniently pictured floating around all by themselves, as if they weren’t still inside a woman’s body? Where is the woman in all this? Even in most school textbooks they show you drawings or photographs of a fetus inside a uterus, but they don’t show you the woman it is part of! It sort of makes you forget the woman is even there!
One of the things the Operation Rescue types are doing is taking advantage of the ignorance many people are kept in concerning their own bodies—what happens inside a body, how a pregnancy develops, and so on. Let’s have a look at what the truth is about how a fetus develops.
The truth is that pregnancy is a process which takes some time. And it is not some mysterious event guided by outside forces either. It is part of the normal processes of the woman’s body. Not the man’s, who has nothing to do with it except for providing the sperm. Not the church, not the government, not any other person. It all takes place inside the woman.
The egg changes and develops into a fetus, and keeps on changing for nine months, only because the woman’s physiology (the way her body works) is making these changes happen .
Let’s review what happens in the first trimester of a pregnancy (1 to 13 weeks since the woman’s last menstrual period):
It all starts with an egg cell and a sperm cell. Each egg cell and sperm cell is alive.
Over a period of about 30 years a woman releases one or more of these live egg cells from her ovaries every single month. That’s a lot of egg cells over a lifetime! Every time a man ejaculates, he releases between 200 and 400 MILLION LIVE SPERM CELLS! And that’s definitely a lot of live cells! Of course most of the time they just all die. Funny, isn’t it, that even though eggs and sperm are "life" too, the right-to-lifers aren’t trying to "save" every one of them!
If even just one of those sperm cells released in a woman’s vagina swims into the uterus and out into one or the other of the two Fallopian "tubes" (on each side of the uterus), and runs into a ripe egg cell, fertilization can take place. That means that the egg and sperm have fused and the result is called a fertilized egg.
The fertilized egg gets pushed down the tube. The egg started off as one cell, but soon divides into two cells, then four cells, and so on. By the time it gets back to the uterus (a muscular sack only about the size of a small pear) the egg is still much smaller than the period at the end of this sentence.
For the pregnancy to keep going, this tiny egg has to stick to the sides of the uterus. If it doesn’t stick (implant), it will simply be flushed out of the uterus with the menstrual blood during the woman’s next period. When this happens—a form of "spontaneous abortion"—the woman doesn’t know it, because the size of the fertilized egg is so tiny.
If the egg does stick to the woman’s uterus, this triggers hormonal changes which will keep the woman’s next period from coming on. The way pregnancy tests work is that they measure these hormones in the woman’s blood or urine to tell if she’s pregnant.
The implanted egg is now called an embryo, and its shape starts to change as the cells start to move around to different positions. The cells are beginning to "differentiate." That means they are starting to take on different functions and form different kinds of tissues which will later become different parts of the body. Instead of all being the same, some cells will become skin cells or heart cells or eye cells, for instance.
Three weeks into the pregnancy, the whole embryo is still only about 2mm (2 millimeters) long, or about the size of the letter "o."
The placenta gets formed from a combination of some of the tissues of the woman’s uterus and of the woman’s embryo. It is a mass of tissue rich in blood vessels, which connects the embryo to the woman’s blood circulation system. During the whole pregnancy the fetus will remain attached to the placenta through the umbilical cord .
The placenta helps show how the embryo or fetus is very much part of the woman’s body for the whole pregnancy. The embryo cannot get food on its own, clear out its own wastes, or even breathe on its own. It gets oxygen and dissolved food nutrients (and sometimes toxic substances) from the woman’s blood through the placenta and umbilical cord. It gets rid of its wastes the same way, releasing carbon dioxide and urea into the woman’s bloodstream for disposal.
Just as a single live cell cannot survive independently of a body, the embryo cannot survive independently of a woman’s body because it is truly part of her.
After four weeks of pregnancy the embryo looks a little like a tadpole. It even has gill slits like a fish, and a bony tail! These are features shared by embryos of many different species of animals and reflect our common evolutionary history. The embryo is now about 5mm long, smaller than this: ooo.
By the third month of pregnancy the embryo, now called a fetus, starts to look a little more "human" as it grows arms, legs, sex organs, fingers, and toes. It is undergoing a lot of changes, but inside, its internal organs, muscles, skeleton, and nervous system are still very undeveloped. The whole thing is still only about 25mm long, or about this long: oooooooooooooo
More than 90 percent of abortions done in the U.S. are done in these first three months of pregnancy.
This is the best time to do it. It is the easiest, safest, and cheapest time to do it. It does not need to be done in a hospital but can be done in a walk-in clinic. You don’t have to be put to sleep.
The way it is done is that a flexible tube the size of a straw is inserted up the vagina and into the uterus. This tube is connected to a bottle with a suction pump. When the pump is turned on, it acts like a small vacuum cleaner and sucks out the contents of the uterus. What comes out looks mainly like blood, since the embryo or fetus is still so small. The abortion is usually not very painful. The woman may feel "cramps" in her uterus similar to having an IUD put in. The whole thing lasts only about 5 to 15 minutes and then it’s over. The woman rests for a while, and then she can go home.
There is no doubt that if a woman is pregnant and doesn’t want to be, she should do everything possible to go to a clinic and get an abortion within the first three months since her last period. The sooner the better.1
This is a time when the fetus grows a lot. Starting around the fifth month, the woman is able to feel it kicking, even though it is still only about eight inches long. It may suck its thumb, simply because of a genetically programmed sucking reflex which facilitates nursing after birth. Its internal organs, bones, and muscles continue to develop. In the sixth month it grows rapidly, to around a foot in length.
But it is important to realize that it is still not "complete" and that a whole lot of development still has to go on. Even at the end of this trimester it cannot survive outside the woman’s uterus without special medical measures.Its brain is still very unformed. Its lungs are not ready to take in air. It is still very much a part of the woman’s body and completely dependent on her bodily processes.
Abortion in the second trimester can still be done. But it can be hard for a woman to find a doctor or hospital to do it. Because the uterus is softer and the fetus is bigger, there is a greater possibility of medical complications, such as a torn or "perforated" uterus or infections. It is important to get good medical care for these second- trimester abortions.
There are different ways of doing these later abortions. Sometimes a doctor will inject a saline solution into the woman’s uterus. This kills the fetus and makes the woman’s body go into labor, and the fetus is expelled like a live baby would be. Sometimes a doctor will give the injection and then leave the woman alone, or with just a nurse, to "deliver" the dead fetus. This is cruel and difficult for all concerned and it is totally unnecessary. There are other methods.
The best procedure for second trimester abortions involves a combination of dilation, curettage and evacuation (it’s called a D and E). The entrance to the uterus is stretched open (dilation), and the uterus is scraped with a metal loop (curettage) and emptied out (evacuation) by suction. This is a much better procedure: much safer, and less upsetting for the woman and medical staff than the "induction" abortions which cause the woman to go into labor. D and E abortions can be done from 12 to about 16 to 24 weeks of pregnancy.
Since abortion is so much easier (physically and emotionally), safer, and cheaper, in the first three months of pregnancy, why does any woman ever get one later than that? The answer is that sometimes errors are made with pregnancy tests, or a woman gets pregnant while taking pills, or with an IUD, and doesn’t realize she is pregnant right away. Sometimes she has to fight off the pressures of men or family members who object to the abortion out of their own backwardness. Sometimes she has to struggle through her own ignorance, fears, and lack of information before knowing what to do. Most often the delay is caused—and this is a real crime—by a lack of money. Increasingly, state laws that impose waiting periods and the lack of abortion facilities in rural areas will force more women to have abortions in the second trimester.
A high proportion of the women who are forced to get later abortions are young, poor, or women of color. This is another example of how women of color suffer a double oppression. And when laws are passed to force under-age women to get a parent’s permission before getting an abortion, more delays and more "late" abortions are certainly the cruel consequence.
While first-trimester abortions should be encouraged, and everything done to facilitate them, it is important to uphold the right of women to terminate an unwanted pregnancy at any time, and to provide women with the safest and the least physically and emotionally demanding abortions available at that time.
Abortions are rarely done in the third trimester except in emergencies to save the life of a woman. In such cases the doctor has to cut open the uterus and remove the fetus and placenta, and this would be considered major surgery.
The fetus still has a lot of development to undergo in these last three months of pregnancy. It grows a lot. But in the seventh month the fetus still only has a small chance of surviving if it is born prematurely because its internal organs are still not developed enough. In such cases doctors have to take special measures to try to finish incubating the fetus.
Final organ formation takes place in the eighth and ninth months. This is when the lungs finish developing. Until the lungs are finished the fetus would not be able to breathe air independently outside the uterus.
Also during this time lots of new brain cells are formed and major nerve tracks develop in the brain. In human beings a lot of the brain development continues to take place in the six months or so after birth . But by the end of the nine months of pregnancy the fetus is developed enough to be born and the woman’s body needs to expel the fetus before it gets too big to get past her pelvic bones! The woman’s body now goes into labor, contracting the muscles of the uterus, and finally pushing out the fully formed fetus.
As soon as the umbilical cord connecting the fetus to the woman’s body is cut, the supply of oxygen from the woman to the fetus is cut off and the newborn takes its first independent breath. This is its first act as an independent human being. It is now really a "baby." For the first time it is a truly separate life entity, and a separate social entity as well. From this moment it is really a separate human being, and should be treated as such.
A.S.K., the author of "Life Cannot and Should Not Always Be Preserved," is a contributing writer to the Revolutionary Worker with experience in the struggle for scientific experimentation as well as the revolutionary struggle.
1. Note from RW editors: The drug RU-486 is another method of abortion. Called the abortion pill, it causes the embryo to "unhook" and the menstrual period to start, flushing the embryo out of the uterus. It can only be used at the very beginning of a pregnancy. Anti-abortion forces are attacking this method, spreading misinformation and hysteria about its safety.
Another area that the right wingers have attacked is emergency contraception, or "Plan B," a pill that is taken within the first three days after sex. Plan B is not an abortion pill—it is basically a high dosage of ordinary birth control pills that works by either stopping the egg from fertilizing, delaying ovulation, or preventing a fertilized egg from becoming implanted in the uterus, depending on when the pill is taken in relation to the woman’s menstrual period and when the woman had sex. Right wingers have blocked women from being able to get this pill at pharmacies without a prescription so they can get access to it in time, and have spawned a movement of hospitals and pharmacies that refuse to offer the pill to rape victims, even though they are legally obligated to. [back]
Revolution #315 September 1, 2013
September 1, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From an Abortion Rights Freedom Rider and college student:
Outside the Jackson Women's Health Organization in Mississippi, August 17, 2013. Photo: StopPatriarchy.org.
The Abortion Rights Freedom Ride, along with Jackson Women's Health Organization (JWHO), Mississippi NOW, Wake Up Mississippi! and the Hell No Campaign culminated together to hold a rally on August 17 outside Mississippi's lone abortion clinic, JWHO, for abortion on demand and without apology! This rally brought light to the only abortion clinic left in the whole state of Mississippi, which is open due to a federal judge temporarily blocking a law that would eventually force the clinic to shut down. The law requires every abortion provider to have privileges to admit patients to a local hospital. This is totally medically unnecessary! The clinic's abortion providers have previously been rejected by local hospitals, so they will not be able to meet this requirement. The judge's block on the enforcement of this law is a TEMPORARY block, which means this threat looming over the clinic's fate and the fate of women in Mississippi is still present. The Freedom Riders emphasized that this is not only a local fight within Mississippi. There is a never-ending assault on abortion rights across this country and there are four other states that have only one abortion clinic left. Members from each group spoke on these laws and restrictions after months of fighting against Mississippi's legislature on abortion access. Laurie Roberts, president of Mississippi NOW, encouraged everyone to keep fighting against these laws before "women will die and we will lose a constitutional right. In Mississippi, guns are more protected than your uterus."
Rally at Jackson Women's Health Organization in Mississippi, August 17, 2013.
Along with the unapologetic groups of Mississippi supporters, there were clinic defenders and supporters that traveled from Louisville, Kentucky and Houston, Texas for this rally. [Freedom Rider] Alex read statements from Sikivu Hutchinson, Gloria Steinem, Eve Ensler, actor Mark Ruffalo, and others. Mark Ruffalo's statement revealed that his own mother had an illegal abortion at a time when women were viewed as "second rate citizens" and "where a transaction of $600 cash becomes the worth of a young woman's life." Sunsara and Alex, both Abortion Rights Freedom Riders, spoke of the nationwide restrictions on reproductive rights and how this is rooted in a patriarchal system that views women as property and, ultimately, whose reproductive systems and social roles should be controlled and determined for them. This is bigger than just limited reproductive rights. This is a system that oppresses and exploits those this system deems as inferior. We see this every day from Black and Hispanic youth being wrongly arrested or killed, women constantly being objectified in every aspect of this society, and the simultaneous crimes of harassment and rape that women face every day in society, which women are then blamed for by "bringing it on to themselves" by the clothes they wear or what time of night or day they walk in public. There will be no law or new politician elected into office that will bring these attacks on reproductive rights, human rights, or women's rights to a complete halt. We MUST rely on ourselves to bring change and educate others on the constant assaults on our rights as human beings.
With all of that being said and with the courageous words from our supporters' statements, the rally moved to the front of the cheery, bright pink clinic, where clinic defenders, community supporters, clinic staff, and the Abortion Rights Freedom Riders all chanted: "Without this basic right, women can't be free. Abortion on demand and without apology," and "Break the chains, break, break the chains, if women don't have rights, we are nothing but slaves," and "No more lives of women broken, THIS clinic stays open!... Get off the couch and into motion. This clinic stays open!"
Revolution #315 September 1, 2013
September 1, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Revcom.us wants to share with its readers a variety of voices that are making important contributions in the struggle for abortion rights. The authors have given permission to revcom.us to reprint their posts.
David Gunn, Jr. is the son of David Gunn, Sr., the first abortion doctor to be assassinated by an anti-abortion gunman. He blogs for Abortion.ws and is a signer of the statement Abortion on Demand & Without Apology and an organizer of the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride.
I was recently asked the following question by a friend and fellow activist. I shared my answer to the question with Sunsara Taylor who asked that we make it available to a broader audience...
In simplest terms, I use the truth as my guiding principle and strategy. If our goal, and I think it is, is to protect and provide safe abortion services to women nationwide when their particular causes and conditions necessitate the service, I do not think talking openly and honestly about a perfectly legal medical procedure which has been practiced for years with little risk to the patient in a manner that is clear and concise is at all radical or fanatical as some would cast it.
"Abortion on Demand and Without Apology" is empowering, clearly states what it is you support, and does not connote shame in any way.
Some consider the slogan radical. Some say it is too confrontational. I ask, how is it radical to state what you believe, and, also, why is it controversial or confrontational to support a perfectly legal medical decision which a woman makes after consulting with herself first, her higher power—if she believes in one, her doctor, and her partner? There may be another slogan which accomplishes the same truth, but it seems to me too many on our side are scared to say abortion as if it is Lord Voldemort or Sauron, or Satan, or some other metaphysical mythological cursed deity.
On the other hand, I do not support, and have never supported, the slogan "safe, legal, and rare" because it implies, somehow, abortions are not safe, are something to be ashamed about having undergone, and are questionably legal in some offhand way. The question becomes, on whose terms do we decide rarity in that context—the anti-abortionists', the patients', the government's; there are too many variables. I also abhor NARAL having changed its name from National Abortion Rights Action League to simply "Pro-Choice NARAL" as if that is to say they are for choice but not abortion. When you say you are pro-choice it means you support abortion, period, correct?
Even if one is personally against abortion or would not elect that option, if you are pro-choice you support a woman's right to choose abortion which means you support abortion. It does not mean you go out and recruit people to have abortions, it does not mean you are some sort of monster, it simply means you support a woman's constitutionally protected right to have an abortion—regardless of whether or not you would have one yourself.
The point is, we support abortion as a medical procedure. so why hide it in some semantical gymnastic handspring by equating Choice with Abortion but using the former to camouflage the latter! Where we have gone wrong, in my opinion, is playing some semantical hide the nutshell game where we talk all around what it is we support but are too ashamed, embarrassed, or afraid to plainly state "I support abortion rights without restriction." Why we continue to debate this issue on the antis' terms is beyond me and is offensive. We allow them to own "life" while we adopt the shame they try to instill about a legal medical procedure we all support. If we are ashamed to use the word abortion, how does that make patients, providers, and clinic staff feel? Do they feel empowered and proud of the valuable work they do? Or are they deep down shamed by having to dance around what it is they do? If we spoke openly, honestly, and consistently—and that is important—about our unequivocal support for abortion, would that attitude change? Would it result in less guilt? If we are ashamed to honestly state what we believe in, how do we ever expect to build a truly national movement to counter theirs?
I know each locality has its own quirks and nuances. Yet, we have to start viewing this from the prism of combating a national coordinated attack on women by a bunch of fucking terrorists—excuse me, but I'm pretty passionate on that point—who do kill people and shed real blood.
As I've written on another post, I consistently ask myself WWDD (what would dad do?). His example is my answer: he confronted the antis at one of the clinics where he worked on 1/22/93—or about two months before he was assassinated—and sang "Happy Birthday to You Roe v. Wade." He then played them Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down." He was unapologetic about what he did, was proud of the service he provided, and courageous for his actions in the face of the wanted posters carrying his name and schedule posted all over the Southeast, the constant stalking, and daily protests at his workplaces (dad worked in six clinics in three states and hit each one weekly living in a suitcase). He was honest about the job he did, was unashamed of the service he provided, and was absolutely dedicated to providing abortions to women who needed them when they needed them and under the circumstances in which they needed them. I believe Dr. Tiller shared that passion and drive and it is why he carried on after Shelley Shannon attempted to kill him in 1994 (or so if memory serves).
Don't we owe it to the fallen in this war to be honest about what we are fighting for? I did not mean to get all lengthy on you, but I hope I answered your question. I feel I did and did so honestly. I Support Abortion Services! Perhaps that's better sloganeering than Abortion on Demand and Without Apology; yet, if you elect to have the procedure due to your individual causes and conditions and your doctor feels it is correct, what is there to be ashamed of but someone else's twisted morality we internalize? Aren't they (antis), then, the ones to be ashamed for woman shaming and verbal abuse? In actuality, they cause more feelings of guilt than the procedure especially if the patient is religious. In the end, they are the only ones with innocent blood on their hands, hate in their heart, and misogyny in their minds.
The last 20 years illustrate a need to honestly and vociferously call out their demeaning agenda, and we should proudly state our support for abortion en masse and often. Nothing fanatical there... again, sorry for the book. It's time, though, to fight back and do so publicly in large numbers because we outnumber them 3:1. Love, to you my friend. Hope my 3:30 ramblings are sensible and coherent.
Revolution #315 September 1, 2013
From the StopPatriarchy.org blog:
By MaryLou Singleton | August 22, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Following is the transcript of the speech by MaryLou Singleton, women's healthcare provider, and signer on the statement for Abortion on Demand & Without Apology, delivered at the August 20, 2013 rally in Albuquerque NM to protest Operation Rescue. We're reprinting this because of its clear and extremely helpful explanation on the dangers of a 20-week ban on abortion. As of now, 8 states have passed laws which ban abortions at 20 weeks.
"I want to thank all of you who have shown up today in support of women, health care providers and the Jewish community. I'm speaking today as a women's healthcare provider and as a person who was raised in the anti-choice movement. My parents were the co-chairs of Pennsylvanians for Human Life and worked tirelessly to take the legal right to choose abortion away from American women. My sister was a member of Operation Rescue. I know the arguments of the anti-choice side forward and backward because their talking points were the daily discourse in my home while growing up. Like the teenagers who came to our town and bullied women at clinics, harassed our Holocaust museum, and terrorized a doctor's family in their private residence, as a child I too believed what my parents and other authority figures told me about abortion.
Then I grew up. And I became a midwife. And I began to fully understand the complicated reality of actual women's lives. Over one-third of the women I served as a midwife had at some point made the decision to have an abortion. And they all had very good reasons for making these choices. And they obviously weren't murderers. They were loving, compassionate, intelligent people who had made the appropriate choice for themselves and their families.
Because I love and care for the health of women, I want to talk to you about abortion. I want to explain to you that the ballot measure being pushed on our town by out-of-state religious extremists will hurt women's lives. This measure is being billed as a referendum on "late-term abortion" but any woman who has been pregnant can tell you that 20 weeks into a pregnancy is by no means "late term." Twenty weeks is the middle of pregnancy, which lasts an average of 40 weeks. Twenty weeks is also the point in pregnancy when women carrying fetuses with problems often begin to get very sick, because sick pregnancies frequently result in very sick mothers. Some of these women become so sick, it becomes necessary to end the pregnancy to save their lives. If this ballot measure passes, women will be forced to continue these potentially life-threatening pregnancies.
Twenty weeks is also the point in pregnancy where it becomes possible to diagnose severe and often lethal birth defects. On multiple occasions, I have been the midwife for a woman who has just found out that her very wanted baby is missing a brain, or kidneys, or lungs and will not survive for more than a few minutes outside of the womb. I have sat with and comforted these women as they made the agonizing decision of what to do in such horrible circumstances. While every woman's choice may be different, I can say from deep within my heart that no one has the right to make this choice but the woman carrying the pregnancy.
If this ballot initiative passes, our city will have decided that we will force these women to carry pregnancies which will inevitably end in heartbreak and tragedy for up to another five months. We will see cases like the one in El Salvador last spring, where a woman with lupus who was carrying a baby without a brain was denied an abortion even though the pregnancy was causing her to go into kidney failure. Like the ballot measure being pushed on our town, the law in El Salvador states that physicians must work just as hard to save the life of the fetus as the life of the mother, even in cases where it is known that the baby will die immediately after birth.
This ballot measure would endanger women's lives in ways that should terrify even women who believe they personally would never choose an abortion. If the measure passes, women will be denied life-saving care if they are miscarrying after 20 weeks and the fetus still has a heartbeat. What this means is that women will die. The world witnessed just such a death last year when a 31-year-old dentist in Ireland died because the country's laws which were similar to this ballot measure forbade doctors from intervening when she was miscarrying. If this ballot measure passes, women could also be denied chemotherapy and radiation should they be diagnosed with cancer more than 20 weeks into a pregnancy. Last year a pregnant teenager in the Dominican Republic, another Catholic country that bans all abortion, died of leukemia after being denied cancer treatment on the grounds that it would harm the fetus she was carrying. These laws are horrific.
I ask all of you to work together to defeat this ballot measure and protect the lives of women. Medical decisions should not be made in the voting booth."
Revolution #315 September 1, 2013
by Bree Ervin | September 1, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The following letter was sent to the Stop Patriarchy and is reprinted here with permission from Bree Ervin. Bree Ervin is a sexual health educator who works with adolescents and college students. She is a signer to the statement for Abortion on Demand & Without Apology.
I went to a high school in rural Colorado. The nearest abortion provider was 4½ hours away.
There was no women's clinic. We had to go to the regular family practitioners or the small local hospital for our services.
Patient/doctor confidentiality was routinely violated so that girls who got on birth control were slut-shamed at school the next day, teased and considered "open for business." My school was also one of the early adopters of abstinence-only sex education. (1993-1996).
One of my classmates was suspended for bringing a condom into sex-ed class!
Meanwhile, at the time that I was there, this town experienced the highest teen pregnancy rate in the continental USA!
Each year, over 10% of the girls at my school got pregnant...
Because of the lack of services for girls, and the lack of information provided to them about reducing their risk, these girls were left with tough choices.
I had more than one friend end up in the hospital recovering from serious injuries as a result of their attempts to end their pregnancies.
One friend's boyfriend beat her until she miscarried. One friend tried drinking bleach—she had heard it would end a pregnancy. It didn't, but it did almost take HER life.
Another friend tried the "coat hanger trick," thinking if it was "good enough" for our grandmothers, it was good enough for her. She punctured her uterus and will never be able to have children.
Many of my friends were thrown out of their homes and forced onto the streets, or into marriages with boys who became abusive because they resented being tied down by their "slut" girlfriends/wives. (Part of our abstinence-only education taught the boys that only sluts got pregnant, thus letting the fathers off the hook morally.)
Some of the girls who were forced to carry their pregnancies to term were also bullied into giving their children up for adoption—told that they weren't good enough to raise their own children. They are still haunted by this idea of personal worthlessness.
Many of the girls who carried to term and kept their children are still living in poverty, 20 years later, or are just now beginning to dig their way free, now that their children have become adults.
Many were trapped in abusive relationships for years until they found the strength, courage and support to leave.
Of the 24 girls who got pregnant my sophomore year, only two were able to raise the funds and take the time to travel to an abortion provider to get a safe, legal abortion. Of all of those girls, those two are doing the best now.
Even the ones who happily chose to carry to term may not have had to make that choice if they had had the information to prevent those pregnancies in the first place. Women need and deserve information—and access—without apology. And we shouldn't have to demand it, but we will if we must.
I've seen the face of a pre-Roe v. Wade world. It isn't pretty, and I won't go back.
Revolution #315 September 1, 2013
September 1, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On the eve of the national rally on August 17 at the Jackson Women's Health Organization, the only remaining abortion clinic in Mississippi, the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride received the following statement from actor Mark Ruffalo which was read at the rally.
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 where abortion was illegal when she was a very young woman. It cost $600 cash. 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.
What happened to my mother was a relic of an America that was not free nor equal nor very kind. My mother’s illegal abortion marked a time in America that we have worked long and hard to leave behind. It was a time when women were seen as second rate citizens who were not smart enough, nor responsible enough, nor capable enough to make decisions about their lives. It was a time that deserved to be left behind, and leave it behind we did, or so it seemed. We made abortion and a woman’s ability to be her own master a Right. That Right was codified into law. That law was the law of the land for decades. My own mother fought to make herself more than a possession; she lived her life as a mother who chose when she would have children, and a wife who could earn a living if she so chose. I want my daughters to enjoy that same choice. I don’t want to turn back the hands of time to when women shuttled across state lines in the thick of night to resolve an unwanted pregnancy, in a cheap hotel room just south of the state line. Where a transaction of $600 cash becomes the worth of a young woman’s life. So that is why I am lending my voice to you and your movement today. Because I actually trust the women I know. I trust them with their choices, I trust them with their bodies and I trust them with their children. I trust that they are decent enough and wise enough and worthy enough to carry the right of Abortion and not be forced to criminally exercise that Right at the risk of death or jail time.
There was no mistake us making Abortion legal and available on demand. That was what we call progress. Just like it was no mistake that we abolished institutional racism in this country around the same time. The easy thing to do is lay low, but then are we who we say we are? Do we actually stand for anything, if what we do stand for is under attack and we say nothing? There is nothing to be ashamed of here except to allow a radical and recessive group of people to bully and intimidate our mothers and sisters and daughters for exercising their right of choice. Or use terrorism and fanaticism to block their legal rights or take the lives of their caregivers. Or design legislation that would chip away at those rights disguised as reinforcing a woman’s health. I invite you to find your voice and let it be known that you stand for abortion rights and the dignity of a woman to be the master of her own life and body. I invite you to search your soul and ask yourself if you actually stand for what you say you stand for. Thank you for being here today and thank you for standing up for the women in my life.
Sincerely and humbly,
Revolution #315 September 1, 2013
September 1, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Compare this Constitution—both the passage below and the entire document itself—with any other constitution on the planet! And after doing so, tell us why we should not fight for such a society.
(Article III. Section 3.)
The oppression of women emerged thousands of years ago in human history together with the splitting of society into exploiting and exploited classes, and this oppression is one of the cornerstones of all societies based on exploitation. For the same reason, the struggle to finally and fully uproot the oppression of women is of profound importance and will be a decisive driving force in carrying forward the revolution toward the final goal of communism, and the eradication of all exploitation and oppression, throughout the world. Based on this understanding, the New Socialist Republic in North America gives the highest priority not only to establishing and giving practical effect to full legal equality for women–and to basic rights and liberties that are essential for the emancipation of women, such as reproductive freedom, including the right to abortion as well as birth control–but also to the increasing, and increasingly unfettered, involvement of women, equally with men, in every sphere of society, and to propagating and popularizing the need for and importance of uprooting and overcoming all remaining expressions and manifestations of patriarchy and male supremacy, in the economic and social relations and in the realms of politics, ideology and culture, and to promote the objective of fully emancipating women and the pivotal role of the struggle for this emancipation in the overall transformation of this society and the world as a whole. This orientation, and policies and laws flowing from it, shall be applied, promoted, encouraged and supported with the full political, legal and moral force, authority and influence of the government, at all levels, in the New Socialist Republic in North America.
The Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) from the RCP is written with the future in mind. It is intended to set forth a basic model, and fundamental principles and guidelines, for the nature and functioning of a vastly different society and government than now exists: the New Socialist Republic in North America, a socialist state which would embody, institutionalize and promote radically different relations and values among people; a socialist state whose final and fundamental aim would be to achieve, together with the revolutionary struggle throughout the world, the emancipation of humanity as a whole and the opening of a whole new epoch in human history—communism—with the final abolition of all exploitative and oppressive relations among human beings and the destructive antagonistic conflicts to which these relations give rise.
Read the entire Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) from the RCP at revcom.us/rcp.
Revolution #315 September 1, 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 #315 September 1, 2013
September 1, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Ever since the truth about the massively invasive spying being carried out by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) was leaked by Edward Snowden, the U.S. and its allies have been thuggishly threatening not only Snowden himself but those who helped this former CIA contractor bring the information into the light of day and anyone else who the U.S. accuses of aiding him. The latest incident was an outrageous attack against Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who first published the Snowden leaks in the British paper the Guardian—in the form of detention and harassment of Greenwald’s partner, David Miranda.
On August 18, Miranda was flying home from Berlin to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where he lives with Greenwald. He had gone to Berlin to meet with documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras—she and Greenwald were the first people that Snowden approached and entrusted with the knowledge he wanted to share about the secret NSA programs. According to the Guardian, Miranda was helping Greenwald and Poitras with their work around the Snowden files by acting as a courier, since electronic communication between the two had become very insecure in the wake of the NSA leaks.
As he was transiting through London’s Heathrow international airport, Miranda was stopped and then detained by the police under Britain’s Terrorism Act. This repressive law allows the police to detain people for up to nine hours without any charges. Miranda was held for the full nine hours and aggressively questioned, without a lawyer present, about the reporting that Greenwald and Poitras were working on. The police threatened to send him to prison under terrorism charges, and in the end confiscated all his electronic equipment, including laptop, cell phone, USB sticks, DVDs, and video game consoles. Miranda says he was also coerced into surrendering the passwords to his social media accounts. So far the police have not returned any of the electronic gear.
The law that was invoked to detain Miranda is highly repressive, giving the police the power to detain people without any actual evidence but merely on supposed suspicion that they may be “preparing, instigating or commissioning terrorism.” But the authorities acted outside even their own laws, since they were clearly aware that Miranda had nothing to do with any terrorist organization or plot.
The U.S. government had advance knowledge of this action by their close ally. A White House spokesman said that the Obama administration had been given a “heads up” about Miranda’s detention. A Reuters news agency report makes clear the intention behind the incident: “One US security official told Reuters that one of the main purposes of the British government’s detention and questioning of Miranda was to send a message to recipients of Snowden’s materials, including the Guardian, that the British government was serious about trying to shut down the leaks.”
In an article posted shortly after he learned of Miranda’s detention, Greenwald wrote, “This is obviously a rather profound escalation of their attacks on the news-gathering process and journalism. It’s bad enough to prosecute and imprison sources. It’s worse still to imprison journalists who report the truth. But to start detaining the family members and loved ones of journalists is simply despotic...
“If the UK and US governments believe that tactics like this are going to deter or intimidate us in any way from continuing to report aggressively on what these documents reveal, they are beyond deluded. If anything, it will have only the opposite effect: to embolden us even further. Beyond that, every time the US and UK governments show their true character to the world when they prevent the Bolivian President’s plane from flying safely home, when they threaten journalists with prosecution, when they engage in behavior like what they did today—all they do is helpfully underscore why it’s so dangerous to allow them to exercise vast, unchecked spying power in the dark.”
After the Miranda detention, the Guardian revealed another incident of blatant intimidation. A month before Miranda’s detention at Heathrow, agents from the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ—the British equivalent of the NSA) came to the Guardian offices to oversee the physical destruction of the computer hard drives and memory chips on which the encrypted files containing material leaked by Snowden had been stored. This had followed weeks of threats by UK officials to legally shut down Guardian’s reporting on the Snowden leaks (which has also included exposures about GCHQ’s close links to the NSA spying). One official told the Guardian editors, “You’ve had your fun. Now we want the stuff back.” As the Guardian notes, they had pointed out to security officials that there were other copies of the Snowden files, including with Guardian reporters overseas. But the officials continued to demand that the files be destroyed if the Guardian was not going to hand them over—making clear, again, that their aim was to deliver a Mafia-like warning.
For people of conscience, the basic stand to take on people like Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning (formerly Bradley Manning) is clear: these whistleblowers who expose crimes and injustices carried out by the government must be supported and defended.
Aside from threats from the U.S. and British governments, Snowden and those helping to bring the NSA revelations to the people are coming under attack from voices in the media and apologists for imperialism. Jeffrey Toobin, CNN legal analyst, compared David Miranda to a “drug mule” on the Anderson Cooper show. When Glenn Greenwald appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press, the host David Gregory asked him, “Why shouldn’t you, Mr. Greenwald, be charged with a crime?”
In the title for an online New York Times piece, Richard Moberly, a law professor and academic expert on whistleblowers in the federal government, describes Snowden as “No Democratic Hero. He Subverted the Process.” He writes that “all three government branches approved the [NSA] program” and that Snowden “does not have the right to usurp the democratic process by leaking national security information.”
This argument actually reveals something essential about democracy in this country and under capitalism-imperialism generally (although that was not the writer’s intention). Think about it: Snowden saw how the U.S. is carrying out vast, unprecedented levels of surveillance on the phone and Internet communications of hundreds of millions of people in the U.S. and around the world—and how the government was keeping all this secret and lying to people about it. He felt the people had a right to know about this, and courageously took the responsibility (fully knowing the risks involved to his own safety) to bring out the truth. So according to the rulers of this system and their defenders, Snowden “subverted the democratic process” and should be considered a “criminal.” What this points to is the kind of democracy that exists in this country and the nature of the system that this democracy is part of and serves.
As Revolution wrote in “Five Points of Orientation on the Revelations of Government Surveillance”:
All this surveillance is not just about monitoring everyone’s thoughts and actions (horrific as that is), it is about CONTROLLING everyone’s activity, communications, and thinking. It is about being able to bring the full power of the state down on them at a moment’s notice. This system kills people—even U.S. citizens—simply on the president’s say-so. It has “rendered” people to secret “black sites” around the world for horrific torture (and Obama has steadfastly refused to expose or prosecute those torturers and those who gave the orders). This is a system that locks up more of its population than any nation on earth—by a long shot.
For all their talk about democracy and rights, what has been revealed so far is activity that shreds basic rights supposedly guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution... So all this surveillance is not only immoral and illegitimate, it is unlawful to boot. The fact that there are so few in Congress who even intend to make a show of objecting to all this, and so many who have vented “righteous indignation” in attacking those who have made the leaks, further reveals that virtually everyone at the top levels of government actually takes for granted that this society really is—beneath all the promises of democracy for all—a dictatorship of the bourgeoisie over everyone else.
Revolution #315 September 1, 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]
Revolution #315 September 1, 2013
August 29, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
School is starting! New (and returning) students are trying to figure out what they're going to do with their lives. They're living in a world of injustice, oppression, environmental devastation, and war. And many are thinking about what they should do about that. Let's seize the moment to get the revolution out on campuses!
Lead with the special edition of Revolution, "You Can't Change the World if You Don't Know the BAsics." It gives the big picture of the revolution the world needs, and the leadership we have in Bob Avakian and his work. Get out palm cards, including those for the film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!, the "Three Strikes" poster, and other materials you can download from revcom.us. Along with these materials, sell the current issue of Revolution.
Be sure to sign up everyone you meet for e-subs—have a laptop or tablet set up so students can enter their email addresses on the fly (and accurately). E-subs are a basic way of keeping people in touch with the movement for revolution.
As you get these materials out among students, listen, learn, and report. Find out what students think about the content of our materials, but also draw students out and learn about what issues they are concerned about, how they are thinking about the world, and what they think are the ways to change it. Then write in to firstname.lastname@example.org and share some sense of the back and forth with the students, not just what we say and do—but also what questions and responses students have, how we responded to them and what we are learning. Take advantage of opportunities (and create those opportunities) to get coffee or tea with people you meet, or find other informal ways to get to know people better and stay in touch with them.
In short: Let's boldly take the revolution out to students in a way commensurate with the important stakes of people getting into this movement. And as we do, listen, engage, and learn from the people we are meeting as well.
Revolution #315 September 1, 2013
From A World to Win News Service
August 29, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
August 19, 2013. A World to Win News Service
by AWTWNS correspondents in Latin America.
Like a welcome fresh gust of wind, Brazilians took to the streets in large numbers during the month of June in a way that hadn't been seen in 20 years. The protests came to a peak on June 22, when in Rio alone 100,000 people joined the upsurge, while more than a million total were counted in about one hundred different cities and towns across the country.
Youth from the Movimento Passe Livre (movement for free public transport) accelerated protests back in March in various parts of the country to demand a reduction of public transport fares, at times with the slogan "Tarifa Zero" (Zero Fare). São Paulo, the country's economic hub of 11 million people, was the site of the first large protest on June 6, in the elegant central bank district of Avenida Paulista. Police tried to stop the demonstrations with repression, using rubber bullets, gas, and clubs, and detaining some of the participants. The frustration of many people over the 20 cent hike for both bus and metro transport quickly moved towards a questioning of the billions of dollars being spent on the upcoming soccer World Cup in 2014 while large numbers of people struggle just to survive. The movement grew rapidly and the thousands turned into hundreds of thousands, broadening to resentment over police violence and government corruption.
In the beginning mainly youth demonstrated, but as the protests grew in size, they drew in older people as well. The majority who participated in the marches and meetings were from the middle classes, but more oppressed sections of the people also joined in. This social mix of people from different classes made clear to the youth the connection between police brutality in the demonstrations and the systematic repression by the military police that has been intensified for years against the oppressed in the favelas (shantytowns in Brazilian cities). Although the fare increase kicked off the June protest movement—people earning minimum wage already had to pay a big chunk of their 700 RS$ salary (about $340) to get to and from work—other problems such as access to good health care and public services, as well as the violent response of the police who killed several demonstrators during the month, and the widening gap between rich and poor became part of their demands and some began to question on some level the whole system they had lost faith in.
The protests ruptured the apparent social harmony and the supposed agreement of the people with the government, putting on the table that in Brazil, as in so many other countries dominated by imperialism, the masses carry the weight on their shoulders of keeping a parasitic minority that feeds on their blood and sweat, a tiny group that appropriates the general wealth of the labor of millions. Many people in Brazil consider that the demonstrations showed that the time had come to say Basta! and to express their discontent with the current order of things.
Over the past months leading up to the upsurge of mass protest, the ruling class had unleashed repressive attacks, detaining, beating, and torturing hundreds of demonstrators and charging them with crimes. The "disappearance" of Amarildo de Souza one month ago is very telling. He was a construction worker living in the Rocinha favela in Rio who has not been heard from since he was seen entering the station of the Pacification Police Unit (Unidade Policial de Pacificacao, UPP). Since June, several smaller protests have been organized under the banner, "Where is Amarildo?," denouncing state repression, including the targeting of black and indigenous people in particular. The state created these special forces a few years ago in order to take back control of the favelas from drug dealers, yet in reality they have systematically criminalized the poorest masses living there. (Human Rights Watch has denounced what they say are more than 11,000 homicides carried out by police between 2003-2009 alone.) The violence, the deaths and the disappearances have generated a growing hatred of the different police forces and have unmasked to a certain extent the nature of the state and the government.
Some people report that there are thousands of "Amarildos" and so have shouted, "The police who repress in the streets are the same ones killing the youth in the favelas!" Mainly it is the lowest section of society condemned to live in ghettos that regularly faces the repression. Some among the people came to recognize that the police repression in the favelas is not fundamentally for combating organized drug crime, but rather is part of the containment of a potentially rebellious sector that could destabilize the state. And from the initial resistance among the oppressed, the rulers may have some reason to worry.
Long before the protests broke out, the state had already scheduled and paid big money for administering a mass dose of sleeping medicine to young Catholics who came from all over Latin America (and the world) to Rio de Janeiro for World Youth Day and to see the new pope last month. This display was meant to bolster the church as well as the state and to brighten and "purify" the face of a society known worldwide to be violent, in preparation for the coming world sport events. The pope spent a week in Rio, blessing the poor in the favelas and staging a gigantic rally on Copacabana Beach. Although the huge June demonstrations had wound down significantly by that time, various feminist groups, LGBT, and intellectuals protested against the intervention of the church in a secular state, as well as against the pope's opposition to abortion and homosexuality. They also targeted recent reactionary laws making abortion illegal and the "bolsa estupro," a fund to compensate rape victims so that they won't abort.
In January 2003, the Worker's Party—Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT)—took control of the government when Luiz Inacio "Lula" da Silva was elected president, coming to power on a reformist and social democratic platform. The PT had pulled together back in the early 1980s various professional associations and trade unions that had moved away from Marxism and communist ideas while maintaining a socialist face. Appealing to the people on the basis of a socialist and seemingly racial equality "socialist" discourse, the PT tried to bring the whole left under its wing, including the Partido Comunista do Brasil. The PCdoB of today arose out of a split within the original Partido Comunista do Brasil in 1962 during the struggle in the international communist movement between the Soviet Union and China, taking a position opposing Khrushchev. They launched a guerrilla war in 1971 and, after heavy losses in the leadership in 1975, stopped the armed struggle and abandoned any pretence of Maoism in favor of a more openly reformist approach. Today the PCdoB occupies positions in the PT government and continues to refer to itself as Marxist-Leninist. Thus in 2003, leaders of different "people's" political organizations joined the government and began to occupy important positions, with the effect of attenuating the struggle of the people against the state. Lula's rise to stardom came about thanks to his party absorbing the people's demands for more democracy and the questioning of the social order, while building itself as a force capable of taking the lead in meeting the needs of the ruling class and of imperialism.
In this framework the promises for a more democratic and egalitarian society by the government have been welcomed by a section of the people, especially by the middle classes, whose numbers and standard of living have both increased over the past decade.
The language of social democracy goes hand in hand with the deepening of imperialist domination and with the fuller integration of Brazil into the capitalist-imperialist system. For example, vast stretches of Brazilian land have been turned over to export production, while basic food crops are grown less and less often. The Brazilian government has been stepping up efforts to attract foreign investment as a good destination for capitalist-imperialist capital. To the extent that capitalism tightens and transforms its grip over various sectors of the economy, the suffering of poorer sections of the people worsens, while social policies have served as a palliative. However, this process has limits and the illusions of the petty bourgeoisie are disappearing as their social and economic ascent has slowed down. This situation has led to the disgruntlement and mobilization of these strata, mostly around the demand that the government fulfill its promises.
Accelerating urbanization in a wide range of oppressed countries has been pushed forward by the workings of capital itself. Rural land use has changed to prioritize crops for the production of biofuels in Brazil. Such crops often require a smaller labor force and peasants are displaced towards the cities. On the one hand, this change in land use generates the shrinking capacity for food production, raising the price of basic foodstuffs and, on the other hand, it results in a larger number of urban consumers.
At the same time as it carried out a repressive rampage against the protesters, in the face of growing anger the state rescinded the transport fare increase and promised to take into account their demands. In addition, the reformist left in power argued that the demonstrations were only playing into the hands of the rightist parties, in an effort to destabilize and de-legitimize the revolutionary process it says the PT is leading. Using twisted logic, they tried to show that the demonstrations were basically fuelled by the right and by Yankee imperialism. This facilitates the reformists' aims of stopping more people, including from among their base, from joining the protest movement. While spreading these rumors and arguments, the PT and PCdoB parties try to channel and co-opt the struggles in such a way as to incorporate them into their structures, recognizing some of the demands as just. As if that weren't enough, in the height of cynicism they proclaim that these demonstrations are really the result of the democratic process begun when Lula took power, since he is seen to have educated the people politically and to have broadened democratic freedoms.
This type of strategy is frequently used by other reformist and social democratic governments in the region such as Venezuela, Ecuador, or Argentina in order to justify repression and control popular discontent that threatens to spread.
In rejecting the harmful role that organizations calling themselves socialist, communist, and "people's parties" have played for decades, but in fact have been vehicles for imperialism and serve its interests, a section of the people have promoted the idea of a movement without parties, without leadership or a leading structure.
This idea has been accepted by many youth who are trying to break away from the control of the reformist parties and to build an independent people's movement. This righteous intention has led to arguments for a different, "horizontal" form of organization without leadership, in which the collective consensus determines everything. While many within the popular movement in Brazil are not aiming to totally transform the capitalist system, some people within are asking how it is possible to fight a highly structured social system without organization, leadership, and a clear program. Bitter experiences of the people have shown that there is a material need for organizing themselves, for taking in political and ideological nourishment both from the struggle of the people and from the synthesis of communism.
What is certain is that the people can never free themselves and break away from the chains of imperialism under the leadership of the PT and the PCdoB or any other reformist party. Because of their nature and the class interests they defend, these parties promote illusions in bourgeois democracy and orient the people's struggle towards electoral ends. These kinds of strategies do little more than make minor changes so that things remain the same (or sometimes get worse). At no time and in no country has a reformist conception such as this succeeded in radically transforming society, but has served simply to maintain the bourgeoisie's control, containing popular uprisings and sowing confusion by putting up a social and democratic facade.
The current movement is encountering the effects of illusions about democracy and the state. For example, some people demanded the demilitarization of the police and demanded that it defend the interests of the people. This case makes plain the confusion that exists over the class character of the state that fundamentally protects the interests of the ruling class.
Other sections of the movement are trying to focus the struggle on getting rid of individual authorities such as the state governors of Rio and São Paulo. In accordance with the wrong idea that the people's problems are due to corruption of certain individuals, the demand to sack them has become popular and the focus of several smaller demonstrations since June, particularly in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Corruption is in fact a sharp problem in Brazil and there are more than a few individuals and economic sectors that are profiting from public money. But this doesn't mean that the people's problems stop there. Some sections of the ruling class and its communication structures are encouraging the struggle against corruption, sending the message that it gets in the way of the normal functioning of the system. They argue that to the degree that the system works well, it is capable of improving the living conditions of the people.
As can be seen in all this, the path for the masses of people who have awakened in Brazil is presenting opportunities to fully grasp the link between their situation and the imperialist system. It will be decisive for a group of people to come to see in this upsurge the broader horizons of the struggle and direct its aims towards a communist revolution striving for the emancipation of all humanity.
For more discussion of "horizontalism," see "A Reflection on the 'Occupy' Movement: An Inspiring Beginning... and the Need to Go Further," by Bob Avakian—Revolution Editors.
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 #315 September 1, 2013
by Carl Dix | August 28, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
1) Barack Obama stepped to the mic and spoke of the importance of non-violence ... for oppressed people. When any representative of the U.S. ruling class preaches non-violence, they mean non-violence for those who might get in the way of their empire. Obama was referring to people who had suffered under Jim Crow segregation and lynch-mob terror. This from the commander-in-chief of the global Amerikkkan empire, who has presided over more than 280 drone missile strikes, maintains a torture chamber prison at Guantánamo Bay and presides over a criminal injustice system that is carrying out a slow genocide aimed at Blacks and Latinos. There might as well have been blood dripping from his jaws as he spoke.
2) Obama said: "If we're honest with ourselves, we'll admit that during the course of 50 years, there were times when some of us, claiming to push for change, lost our way. The anguish of assassinations set off self-defeating riots." That's Bull Shit! People didn't lose their way in the '60s: In fact, they were beginning to find their way, coming to see that the horrors they were up against were built into the very fabric of this set-up and couldn't be reformed away. But they were met with vicious repression—leaders assassinated, activists dragged into court on trumped-up charges, and railroaded off to prison and more. In the face of all that, the movement of that period wasn't able to develop the understanding needed to do what was needed: make revolution and end the horrors Amerikkka enforced on humanity then and continues to enforce today.
3) Many, many people are asking big questions about the unjust nature of this system, and this has forced Obama to speak to some of the problems Black people face today. But he doesn't get into the depths of these problems or what to do about them, except to say rely on him to work on them. For example, he didn't say a fucking word about the more than two million people warehoused in prison. He did say that the unemployment rate for African-Americans has consistently been about twice that of whites and that the wealth gap between Blacks and whites has GROWN over the past decades. But he talked about this like it had nothing to do with the system he presides over.
THE CHALLENGE—There is a way to uproot all these horrors. It'll take Revolution—Nothing Less! I speak to this in depth in a recent talk: "We Don't Need a New Civil Rights Movement—We Need Revolution!" Watch that talk at revcom.us. And dig into BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!
Revolution #315 September 1, 2013
August 30, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Spokespeople and apologists for the rulers of the U.S. claim that an advantage of a U.S. “surgical strike” against Syria, as opposed to a “boots on the ground” U.S. invasion, is that it would not endanger American lives—as if American lives are more important than other people’s lives. They are not.
They also portray this option as a clean and almost bloodless action that would score a direct hit at Syria’s rulers and military without causing a lot of civilian casualties. And while their analysts speculate and wring their hands over unpredictable consequences for the U.S. empire in the aftermath of such an attack, little if anything is said about how a “surgical strike” could produce or lead to a whole range of consequences that would greatly increase the suffering of the people of Syria and beyond.
In that light, a bit of history.
As part of systematically programmed historical amnesia in this country, two U.S. “surgical strikes” are largely unknown, or forgotten in public discourse. One took place in August 1998 when President Bill Clinton ordered an attack from the sky that destroyed a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan. The other was the 1999 U.S. guided bomb attack that blew up the Chinese embassy in Yugoslavia.
After U.S. embassies were blown up in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, Clinton announced a strike against "military targets" supposedly associated with Osama bin Laden in the North African country of Sudan. On August 20 of that year, 16 U.S. cruise missiles struck one of those targets, which turned out to be a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan's capital, Khartoum.
Clinton claimed to have “convincing information” that the plant had been used to manufacture chemical weapons. After the attack, news reports revealed that “Western engineers who had worked at the Sudan factory were asserting that it was, as Sudan claimed, a working pharmaceutical plant. Reporters visiting the ruined building saw bottles of medicine but no signs of security precautions and no obvious signs of a chemical weapons manufacturing operation.” (New York Times, October 27, 1999).
The attack wiped out a factory that produced and packaged about half of the medicines used in Sudan, an impoverished country, including veterinary medicine used to keep livestock healthy. It undoubtedly caused great suffering and death over the long term for people denied the medicines produced in the plant.
Aside from the immediate harm caused by the U.S. attack, a byproduct was further enhancing the status and perceived credibility of reactionary jihadist forces in North Africa and the Middle East.
On May 7, 1999, in the context of U.S. involvement in the war in Yugoslavia, U.S.-guided precision bombs with coordinates provided by the CIA hit the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. The embassy staff had evacuated for reasons unrelated to this attack, but three Chinese journalists were killed.
The CIA, according to one official U.S. explanation, identified the building housing the Chinese embassy as a warehouse for a Yugoslav government agency suspected of arms proliferation activities. On that basis, the strike was approved by President Clinton. The U.S. later claimed that the CIA provided the military with out-of-date maps of Belgrade. Other U.S. official statements excused the attack because “the Chinese Embassy and a headquarters for a Yugoslav arms agency situated nearby look very similar: same size, shape and height.” (New York Times, May 10, 1999)
The attack set off demonstrations of tens of thousands in China and there were violent clashes between protesters and U.S. Marines guarding U.S. embassy buildings in China. Whether the U.S. missile attack was purposely directed at the Chinese embassy in Yugoslavia to send a message to a rival and was passed off to the public as a “surgical strike” gone bad, or if indeed the U.S. was actually so reckless and unconcerned about who this “surgical strike” hit that they blew up the Chinese embassy by accident, in either case, the attack demonstrated utter disregard for the consequences and the lives of the targeted victims.
The point of these examples is not that the U.S. doesn’t have tremendous military capacity and the technical ability to hit targets around the world. The point is that all this is “guided” not by humanitarian concerns but driven by the needs of maintaining and enforcing a global empire. And in that context, all other considerations pale.
And here’s another point to grasp and act on: Even with their massive nuclear technology, the things the U.S. is driven to do around the world to maintain their empire have a price—in terms both of human life and suffering and also in setting off unexpected chain reactions with unpredictable and potentially far-reaching consequences.
All of which argues for, demands, and shows the potential for political protest in advance of, or in response to, any U.S. “surgical strike” against Syria. Especially when protest calls out these global mass murderers for what they are, it creates better conditions for another way—a real revolutionary alternative—to emerge as a force on the world stage.
Revolution #315 September 1, 2013
August 27, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
As we go to press, there is growing danger of a direct U.S. military attack on Syria—which is being framed as a “surgical strike”—using planes and/or Cruise missiles. U.S. Secretary of “Defense” Hagel announced that “the U.S. military is 'ready to go'” if ordered to attack Syria.
These attacks must be opposed with determined political protest and clear-eyed understanding of how they would make the situation worse.
The threats come in the wake of reports of hundreds of civilian deaths, apparently from chemical weapons, in a rebel-held suburb of the Syrian capital of Damascus on Wednesday, August 21. Whether the deaths were the result of chemical weapons and, if so, whether the attack was launched by the Syrian government or by rebel forces, has not been independently verified. U.S. Secretary of State Kerry initially demanded that the Syrian government allow UN investigators into the area, but then when the Syrian regime responded that it would give inspectors unlimited access, Reuters reported that: “[A] U.S. official said such an offer was ‘too late to be credible’ and Washington was all but certain that the government of President Bashar al-Assad had gassed its own people.”
But the driving force behind escalated U.S. threats against Syria has little to do with this incident. And it has absolutely nothing to do with humanitarian concerns. It is essential people understand what is behind U.S. moves and not be duped into passive complicity with a U.S. attack on Syria that would make the situation much worse for the people of Syria, and the world.
The rulers of the U.S. view atrocities and war crimes—real, or invented—through a warped and twisted lens of “how does this work for us.” Shelling hospitals, like Israel did in the 2008-9 massacre in Gaza is ignored. Staged, fake human rights outrages, like false testimony in the U.S. Congress that Iraqi troops disconnected incubators killing babies in Kuwait are concocted and then invoked to justify all kinds of U.S. crimes. The incubator hoax was invoked to justify the first U.S. invasion of Iraq, “Operation Desert Storm,” that killed 100,000 Iraqis and created great suffering for millions, including babies who died as a result of cutbacks in medical care resulting from U.S. sanctions that followed that war.
So, nobody should take assertions by U.S. officials at face value. Further, the U.S. appears to be moving to attack even in advance of an ongoing UN investigation.
But this is not to say that the Syrian government could not actually have launched a chemical attack. Two years ago, in the context of uprisings throughout the Arab world, a range of forces in Syria took to the streets in protest against the regime of Bashar al-Assad. The regime responded to the protests and uprisings with a mix of political overtures to opposition forces and violent repression.
The situation was seized on by the U.S. imperialists and their allies to move to replace Assad with a regime aligned and compliant with their interests in the region, and in particular in opposition to Iranian influence. The result has been a civil war that has devastated the country, with both sides—the Assad regime, and the motley collection of Jihadist and pro-Western forces on the other—offering nothing but oppression to the people of Syria.
According to human rights agencies, both sides in the conflict—including the forces the U.S. is seeking to cohere and shape into a new regime—have carried out kidnapping, torture, and summary assassinations of their opponents and civilians. Tens of thousands in Syria have died, and hundreds of thousands have been displaced, with many living in desperate conditions in refugee camps or worse.
So it is quite possible the Assad regime did launch a toxic gas attack to press forward with military advances they have been making against the opposition. If indeed it turns out that the Assad regime did this, and if the scale of horror is close to what is being reported—and that is possible—this is indeed a horrific crime.
But even if that is the case, U.S. military attacks on Syria would themselves be compounding a crime with another crime. They would not be intended to end the terrible suffering in Syria, nor would they have that impact.
The U.S. in Syria (and everywhere else) does not proceed from human rights. The rulers of the U.S. have never been, and are not now, motivated by a desire to act against atrocity, or to “prevent genocide.” At this moment they are giving at least passive approval to the torture and slaughter of opponents of the pro-U.S. regimes in Egypt and Bahrain.
Nor is the U.S. moving into what all understand to be a risk-fraught situation (for them) because “our presidents like nothing more than to flip a few cruise missiles at other countries, combined with a few bombing sorties for good measure, because it’s a hell of a lot easier than actual statecraft.” Or because “if we pull the trigger on Syria, someone will get paid handsomely.” (See “War on Syria: Twenty Pounds of Stupid in a Ten-Pound Bag” by William Rivers Pitt, Truthout August 27, 2013.) As if the never-ending wars, oppression, suffering, and death the U.S. has brought to every corner of the planet—on the basis of which it has “risen” to be the world’s sole superpower—were caused by politicians who were too lazy to engage in “statecraft,” or politicians corrupted by the arms industry. Such “analysis” leaves people utterly in the dark as to what is behind the U.S. moves to attack Syria, and unable to see or act in the interests of the people of the world.
The Middle East is a pivotal region for the whole world—economically and geopolitically—and the U.S. has dominated it since WW2. Everything it has done and continues to do is based on maintaining and deepening that domination. Right now the region is in tremendous upheaval—the old arrangements that “held things together” (for the imperialists and local butchers) have come under increasing strain and in some cases begun to disintegrate, and there is a massive scramble by all kinds of forces. These include rivals like the Russians, who back Assad; “friendly” imperialists like the French, who back the rebels; all kinds of local butchers; etc. And, painfully, there is no coherent progressive force acting within this mix.
This is a bloodletting which at this point is driven by a reactionary scramble for influence. In this, it seems increasingly apparent that the U.S. calculation is that they MUST project force in this situation lest they lose credibility. At the same time, there are indications that the U.S., or some within the ruling class, is arguing that, as one ruling class analyst, Edward N. Luttwak put it, “In Syria, America loses if either side wins.” Luttwak wrote:
“Indeed, it would be disastrous if President Bashar al-Assad’s regime were to emerge victorious after fully suppressing the rebellion and restoring its control over the entire country. Iranian money, weapons and operatives and Hezbollah troops have become key factors in the fighting, and Mr. Assad’s triumph would dramatically affirm the power and prestige of Shiite Iran and Hezbollah, its Lebanon-based proxy—posing a direct threat both to the Sunni Arab states and to Israel.
“But a rebel victory would also be extremely dangerous for the United States and for many of its allies in Europe and the Middle East. That’s because extremist groups, some identified with Al Qaeda, have become the most effective fighting force in Syria. If those rebel groups manage to win, they would almost certainly try to form a government hostile to the United States. Moreover, Israel could not expect tranquility on its northern border if the jihadis were to triumph in Syria.” (New York Times August 23, 2013).
In this situation, the U.S. may be pulling a page from the bloody playbook it used in the Iran-Iraq War. In that war, the U.S. aimed for both sides to devastate each other, and the result was a million deaths.
Many people will see this as a situation in which “something must be done.” Even people who have some sense that the U.S. is driven by anything but humanitarian motives will argue that at least U.S. intervention will stop the horror right now.
But reality doesn’t work that way. It matters—in fact it is decisive—to understand the nature of a U.S. attack on Syria, and what would be driving it. It would be an attack driven by the needs of a global capitalist-imperialist superpower intent on maintaining its domination of the planet. How is any move on that basis going to contribute anything positive to a humanitarian nightmare in Syria?
A U.S. attack on Syria will push things in a worse direction. It will bring death and suffering in its own right. And it will further polarize the terms of things whereby the reactionary Assad regime can pose as standing up to imperialism, where Iran and the forces it influences may well respond, and where a whole range of reactionary forces, including Israel, might step up their involvement in the war in Syria, or launch other attacks elsewhere in the region. Any U.S. attack on Syria is bound to intensify the whole terrible spiral in the country and the region.
And the situation will be all the worse to the extent people buy into the logic of who cares what’s behind it, any intervention can’t be a bad thing right now. Here a painful but critical lesson can be drawn from recent events in Egypt: many people supported the army’s move against the Muslim Brotherhood due to the Brotherhood’s repression, without analyzing WHY the army was moving. Then, when the consequences of that support became clear, including the political freedom that this gave the army to carry out slaughters and try to nail down an even tighter version of Mubarak-ism, oppositional forces and the people in general found themselves either unable to act effectively or so far gone ideologically that they were now in the army’s pocket ideologically as well as politically.
The only way for something positive to emerge in Syria is for people to oppose both sides in this conflict—actively. And for people in the U.S., which has brought such great misery to the planet, the challenge is to oppose “our own” empire.
The U.S. has brought nothing but exploitation, environmental ruin, impoverishment, and oppression to the whole Middle East. Any military assault by the US on Syria, no matter the pretext, must be OPPOSED with determined political protest in the US. And to the extent that happens, it can contribute to creating a pathway breaking out of the whole terrible set of “choices” confronting the people of Syria and beyond and to bringing forward a whole other way—a real revolutionary alternative.
Revolution #315 September 1, 2013
August 30, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Editor’s note: The following ad ran in the Los Angeles Times on August 28. It was made possible by the contributions of many people who signed and helped pay for it. For more information, to sign the ad or contribute to publishing it, go to http://www.stopmassincarceration.net/.
TENS OF THOUSANDS of people imprisoned in the U.S. are being subjected to torturous, inhumane conditions. Many are:
Many are forced to endure these conditions for months, years and even decades! Mental anguish and trauma often result from being confined under these conditions. Locking people down like this amounts to trying to strip them of their humanity. These conditions fit the international definition of torture! This is unjust, illegitimate and profoundly immoral.
WE MUST JOIN IN AN EFFORT TO STOP IT, NOW!
People imprisoned at Pelican Bay and other prisons in California launched a nationwide Hunger Strike on July 8, 2013. They have also issued a call for unity among people from different racial groups, inside and outside the prisons. People who are locked down in segregation units of this society's prisons, condemned as the "worst of the worst," are standing up against injustice, asserting their humanity in the process. We must have the humanity to hear their call, and answer it with powerful support!
A nationwide and worldwide struggle needs to be built NOW to bring an end to this widespread torture and to support the prisoners who have put their lives on the line.
TO THE GOVERNMENT:
We Demand an Immediate End to the Torture and Inhumanity of Prison House America—Immediately Disband All Torture Chambers. Meet the Demands of Those You Have Locked Down In Your Prisons!
TO PEOPLE IN THIS COUNTRY AND
AROUND THE WORLD:
We Cannot Accept, and We Should Not Tolerate This Torture.
Join the Struggle to End Torture in Prisons Now!
TO THOSE STANDING UP IN RESISTANCE
INSIDE THE PRISONS:
We Support Your Call for Unity in this Fight and
We Will Have Your Backs!
Stop Mass Incarceration Network • California Families to Abolish Solitary Confinement • Oscar Grant Foundation • Legal Services for Prisoners with Children • San Francisco Bay View Newspaper • Witness Against Torture • Viggo Mortensen, actor • Cornel West, author, educator, voice of conscience • Noam Chomsky, Professor (Ret.), MIT* • Alice Walker, author • Michelle Alexander, author, The New Jim Crow • Tom Morello, The Nightwatchman • Daniel Ellsberg • Luis Valdez, Founding Artistic Director, El Teatro Campesino* • Carl Dix, Revolutionary Communist Party* • Tananarive Due, author • Gbenga Akinnagbe, actor and director • Arturo O’Farrill, Afro Latin Jazz Alliance* • Cindy Sheehan • Fr. Gregory J. Boyle, Homeboy Industries* • Jackie Sumell, artist, Herman’s House* • Marjorie Cohn, Professor, Thomas Jefferson School of Law* • Debra Sweet, World Can’t Wait* • Wayne Kramer, Jail Guitar Doors USA* • Chuck D, Public Enemy* • Rev. George F. Regas, Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace (ICUJP)* • Stephen Rohde, ICUJP* • Cynthia McKinney • Standish Willis, National Conference of Black Lawyers* • Robin D. G. Kelley, Distinguished Professor of History, UCLA* • Rev. Stephen Phelps, The Riverside Church, NYC* • Peter Schey, President, Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law* • William Ayers • Laura Markle Downton, NRCAT Director of U.S. Prisons Policy & Program* • Colin Dayan, Professor, Vanderbilt University* • Larry Everest, writer for Revolution newspaper, author of Oil, Power and Empire • Sheila Pinkel, artist, “Site Unseen” • Larry Aubry, Advocates for Black Strategic Alternatives* • Rev. Dr. Dorsey O. Blake, Presiding Minister, The Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples* • Blase Bonpane, Ph.D., Director, Office of the Americas* • Cal Berkeley Football* Players Alejandro Crosthwaite, Khairi Fort, and Richard Rodgers • Glen Ford, Black Agenda Report* • Prison Watch Network • James Lafferty, Executive Director, National Lawyers Guild, LA* • Dr. Antonio Martinez, Institute for Survivors of Human Rights Abuses* • Marilyn McMahon, California Prison Focus* • Rev. Dr. Karen Oliveto, Pastor, Glide Memorial Church* • Helen Schietinger, Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition* • Jim Vrettos, professor, John Jay College* • Ron Ahnen, California Prison Focus* • Dorsey Nunn, All Of Us Or None* • Rev. Richard Meri Ka Ra Byrd, KRST Unity Center* • John Burris, Civil Rights Attorney • Josh Fattal, Author • Rev. Frank Wulf, United University Church, LA* • Charles Carbone Esq., Prisoner Rights Attorney • Alex Sanchez, Executive Director, Homies Unidos* • Rev. Frederick Trost • Fr. Bob Bossie SCJ • Ron Jacobs, writer • King Downing, Human Rights Racial Justice Center* • Rael Nidess M.D. • Khalil Gibran Muhammad, Director, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture* • Peadar King, Irish filmaker • J. Tony Serra, Lawyer • John Galbraith Simmons, medical writer and author • Corey Weinstein M.D. • Anne Ramis, artist • James Cockcroft, author • Andres Thomas Conteris, Nonviolence International* • Gaillard T. Hunt, Guantanamo Lawyer • Bernardine Dohrn • Gerry Condon, Board of Directors, Veterans For Peace* • Denis O’Hearn, author, The Life and Times of Bobby Sands • Haifa Zangana, Iraqi novelist • Dahlia Wasfi M.D. • JC Robinson, Professor, School of Public Health, UC Berkeley* • Staughton Lynd, Peace Activist, author, lawyer • David MacMichael, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity* • Martha Rayner, Guantanamo Lawyer • Barbara Lubin, Founder and Executive Director, Mid East Children’s Alliance* • Rev. Theon Johnson III, Assoc. Pastor, Glide Memorial Church* • David Rovics, singer/songwriter • AND HUNDREDS MORE
* FOR IDENTIFICATION ONLY
SUPPORT PELICAN BAY SHU PRISONERS’ FIVE CORE DEMANDS
1. Eliminate group punishment and administrative abuse.
2. Abolish the “debriefing” policy and modify active/inactive gang status criteria.
3. End long-term solitary confinement.
Comply with the recommendations of the U.S. Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons (2006).
4. Provide adequate and nutritious food.
5. Create and expand constructive programming.
SIGN AND DONATE AT: WWW.STOPMASSINCARCERATION.NET
Or make a check out to “Stop Mass Incarceration/AfGJ” List “Emergency Call” in memo line and mail to:
STOP MASS INCARCERATION NETWORK
P.O. Box 941, Knickerbocker Station • New York City, NY 10002-0900
TAX-DEDUCTIBLE DONATION OPTION ONLINE. The Stop Mass Incarceration Network is a project of the Alliance for Global Justice (AfGJ), a 501(c)3 organization.
Revolution #315 September 1, 2013
by Larry Everest | August 31, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On Saturday, August 31, President Barack Obama—in the words of the New York Times—"stunned the world" by giving a speech in which he promised to give the U.S. Congress time to weigh in before any attack on Syria would be launched. Congress returns to session on Monday, September 9.
U.S. moves to attack Syria are not driven by whether the reactionary regime in Syria used nerve gas against its own people. As Revolution wrote, "The rulers of the U.S. view atrocities and war crimes—real, or invented—through warped and twisted lens of 'how does this work for us.'" And Obama's speech and plan is not a move to accede to the "will of the people." The nature of a U.S. attack on Syria is defined by the needs of the U.S. empire. (For an important analysis of what is driving the U.S. to attack Syria, see "Only Worse Suffering and Horrors Can Result from a U.S. Attack on Syria.")
Obama's speech was a move to impose a very warped, distorted, and false framework on discussion and debate over a U.S. attack on Syria. It situated a U.S. attack within a big lie about the benevolent role the U.S. has played and is playing in the world today. A U.S. attack on Syria would be another war crime in the long annals of U.S. war crimes. And, such an attack has the potential to spin out of control in unpredictable ways. Obama's speech was aimed at manufacturing public opinion within the U.S., but also at hammering out unity within the U.S. ruling class for an assault on Syria. It was given in the context of a whole range of conflicts and contradictions that pose challenges to the rulers of the U.S. It was aimed at forging some kind of coalition of other oppressive world powers. All in preparation for an attack on Syria that would greatly increase the suffering of people there and that could set off an unpredictable chain of events that could explode into a major conflict.
Obama's speech proclaimed a version of modern world history that turned reality upside down. He said, "But we are the United States of America, and we cannot and must not turn a blind eye to what happened in Damascus. Out of the ashes of world war, we built an international order and enforced the rules that gave it meaning. And we did so because we believe that the rights of individuals to live in peace and dignity depends on the responsibilities of nations. We aren't perfect, but this nation more than any other has been willing to meet those responsibilities."
This is a shameless, lie-filled rewriting of the history of U.S. crimes around the world, including in the Middle East over the past 60-plus years—why they've taken these actions, what their nature and agenda really is, and about who are by far the greatest war criminals and mass murderers—including of children!—on the face of the earth, bar none.
Take one part of one dimension of the horrors inflicted by the U.S. on the world, the toll from some of the wars it instigated, fueled, or directly waged on Iraq and Iran alone—all for reasons of empire:
And this is just in the Middle East! Look up the history of any country in Asia, Africa, or Latin America—or for that matter, the mass murder of civilians the U.S. perpetrated in Germany and Japan in World War 2. You'll find more made-in-U.S. massacres of civilians, pro-U.S. torture regimes, brutal exploitation, oppression, and environmental devastation.
Obama said, "What's the purpose of the international system that we've built if a prohibition on the use of chemical weapons that has been agreed to by the governments of 98 percent of the world's people and approved overwhelmingly by the Congress of the United States is not enforced?"
The purpose of that international system is to enforce life-crushing, environment-destroying imperialist exploitation around the globe, backed by and perpetuated by extreme violence—including the use of chemical or nuclear weapons where that is deemed necessary. This is why NOTHING is said about the fact that the U.S.'s number one ally and client Israel never signed the prohibition on chemical weapons and also possesses them.
This is why the U.S. use of nuclear weapons at Hiroshima and Nagasaki—and constant threats to use nuclear weapons by both Israel and the U.S., including most recently against Iran—is treated as a perfectly normal part of U.S. "diplomacy." This is why the U.S. has backed one tyrant after another across the Mideast region, tyrants who with U.S. backing have viciously suppressed their own populations (as the Egyptian military is now doing before our eyes) in order to maintain U.S. regional dominance.
Obama asked, "What message will we send if a dictator can gas hundreds of children to death in plain sight and pay no price?"
The U.S. used napalm in Vietnam—a chemical weapon that stuck to humans, including children, and set them on fire.
U.S. allies supplied Saddam Hussein's regime with the chemicals and technology needed to make chemical weapons, which were then used on the battlefield against Iran—directed in part by U.S.-supplied intelligence—in order to prevent an Iranian victory in the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war. The U.S. also turned a blind eye to Hussein's gassing of the Kurds, particularly at Hallabja in 1988—in which indisputable proof exists that at least 5,000 Kurds were massacred—because Hussein was still considered a potential U.S. ally and nothing should be done to disrupt that relationship.
And as for caring about children: between 1990 and 1996, the U.S. was responsible for the deaths of over 500,000 Iraqi children by denying them clean water and medicines—as well as adequate food—through sanctions. The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations at the time said, " we think the price [of U.S. sanctions against Iraq that resulted in the deaths of 500,000 children] is worth it." Talk about an "unspeakable outrage" that makes Syrian president Assad's very real crimes pale in comparison.
Obama said, "If we won't enforce accountability in the face of this heinous act, what does it say about our resolve to stand up to others who flout fundamental international rules?"
Yet in the very same speech, Obama is giving himself the right to "flout fundamental international rules"—namely the laws of war under which a military attack is only legal if it's a question of immediate self-defense or if action is authorized by the UN Security Council. Obama tells us he has the right to ignore—i.e., "flout" those rules: "I'm confident in the case our government has made without waiting for UN inspectors. I'm comfortable going forward without the approval of a United Nations Security Council that, so far, has been completely paralyzed and unwilling to hold Assad accountable."
So what message is sent if a global imperialist superpower gives itself the right to attack anyone it chooses, any time, even if such an attack is in violation of its own stated laws and principles?
The international treaties, organizations, and what is referred to as the "international community" that exist in the world today serve U.S. imperialism and as a forum to mediate conflicts between U.S. imperialism and other global powers. The rulers of the U.S. invoke them to serve their needs. But when even those rules get in their way, then the rulers of the U.S. dismiss them without blinking an eye.
Obama said, "We cannot raise our children in a world where we will not follow through on the things we say, the accords we sign, the values that define us."
This, from the commander-in-chief of an empire that sits atop a world where the lives of children worldwide are in peril from hunger, poverty, disease, and war. Any attack on Syria by the U.S. is about maintaining that horrible world, and maintaining the U.S.’s power to continue to dominate and preserve such an endless nightmare.
Those ARE the values that define the U.S., and that IS what the U.S. is inflicting on the 1.9 billion children around the world, even threatening the future of life on earth with its wanton destruction of the environment.
Obama claimed he had already decided to attack Syria, and that he had the authority to do so, "But having made my decision as commander-in-chief based on what I am convinced is our national security interests, I'm also mindful that I'm the president of the world's oldest constitutional democracy. I've long believed that our power is rooted not just in our military might, but in our example as a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. And that's why I've made a second decision: I will seek authorization for the use of force from the American people's representatives in Congress."
But Obama’s very double-talk, his own words expose the lie of “by the people, for the people.” He says straight out it would be better for his plans if he went through the charade of democracy to enlist the people: "Yet, while I believe I have the authority to carry out this military action without specific congressional authorization, I know that the country will be stronger if we take this course, and our actions will be even more effective." In other words, this delay is about strengthening the U.S. military's hand against Syria and other global rivals.
What is going on here IS an exercise in democracy—but it is an exercise in capitalist-imperialist democracy, which is in essence the dictatorship of the imperialist ruling class. The Obama team felt it had the freedom, but also the NECESSITY, given the widespread public cynicism about yet another case of "slam dunk" evidence, yet another U.S. military adventure, and unresolved concerns in the ruling class over where an attack on Syria would lead, to give this speech and launch this process he calls for, along with a need to make a case to an international audience and push allies into line and deal with a complex international alignment of forces.
But this is not the government soliciting the people's views and listening to them. It's the imperialist rulers setting the terms and framework of discussion, insisting people confine their thinking to THAT—in order to build public support and acquiescence in the crimes they have already decided to carry out.
NONE OF THAT IS ANY GOOD. This is NOT about allowing public input into the strategic moves of U.S. imperialism—it is about ENLISTING the public in terms set by the ruling class. It is about SELLING not just this attack, but a whole upside-down, warped framework.
The LAST thing people should do right now is breathe a sigh of relief. Instead, this is a moment to SEIZE to organize protests and teach-ins, to WIDELY circulate revcom's coverage of all this and the revcom.us site in general, including on campuses, and to bring forward a visible force within the U.S. that rejects the whole framework and agenda in Obama's speech.