Revolution #317, September 22, 2013 (revcom.us)

Voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA

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Revolution #317 September 22, 2013

In the Bitter Aftermath of the Trayvon Martin Verdict

The Outrages of AmeriKKKa... and the Need for Revolution

Interview with Carl Dix

Updated September 23, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

Carl Dix is a founding member of the Revolutionary Communist Party and one of the initiators of the October 22nd Coalition to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation. He was recently interviewed by Revolution/revcom.us correspondent Sunsara Taylor on a range of questions relating to the movement to stop mass incarceration, the fight to stop the slow genocide against Black people, and how to do all of this as part of building a movement for real revolution to get rid of this system at the soonest possible time and to bring into being a far better world. The following is the transcript of the interview. The audio is also available at revcom.us.

 

Audio of this interview:

Sunsara Taylor: Hi, my name is Sunsara Taylor and I'm here with Revolution newspaper, revcom.us, sitting down with Carl Dix to get into a number of things. Carl Dix is someone who has deep roots in the struggle for revolution and the emancipation of humanity, he's somebody who came of age in the 1960s, was drafted to go to Vietnam and did a righteous and heroic thing, he refused to serve in Vietnam. He served two years in Leavenworth military prison for refusing to go out and carry out war crimes. And as soon as he got out of prison he actually dove deeper into the struggle, got connected up with the movement for Black liberation and through that connected up much more deeply and became a founding member of the Revolutionary Communist Party.

Since that time he has never turned back and it would take a long time to get into everything that he has done. But most recently he has been making headlines and making waves for spearheading a movement to stop mass incarceration, to stop the slow genocide of mass incarceration, to lead a movement of civil disobedience against stop-and-frisk as part of that. And to do all of this as part of building a movement for real revolution to get rid of this system at the soonest possible time and to bring into being a far better world. It's a great pleasure and a great honor to sit down with you Carl, thanks for joining me.

Carl Dix: Well, I'm really glad for the opportunity to do this interview and get into the important discussion of the important questions that we're gonna do today.

Taylor: Ok, so there's a lot of things that I want to cover that I think our readers and listeners will want to hear about, from the recent developments this summer around the massive outpourings against the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin, the stuff around the heroic hunger strike of prisoners in California against solitary confinement and torture in the prisons; elements of building the movement for revolution, the campaign to get BA—Bob Avakian, the leader of this revolution—known throughout society; the upcoming major day of protest, which really needs to be, and I know you're burning to talk about this too, a major day of struggle—October 22, a national day of protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression, and the Criminalization of a Generation. And so there's a number of things, but first, I just want to take you back and I want to ask you, on the day that the verdict came down, on the day that George Zimmerman was acquitted for the murder of Trayvon Martin, how did you feel?

Carl Dix. Photo: Li Onesto/Revolution

Dix: I guess on the day, it felt like a kick in the gut. You know, like here it is, 2013—60 years after the lynching of Emmett Till by a couple of white men who decided that this 14-year-old Black kid had gotten out of his place and beat him viciously and killed him and then threw his body into the river. And when it was found out that they did this, they got put on trial and let walk free. And then days after getting out of court they sold their story to Look magazine, talking about how they had murdered Emmett Till, but were able to walk away from that. And then it took me back to even before the Civil War in this country, back to the Dred Scott Decision, which was a decision that the U.S. Supreme Court made, I think it was in 1857, in the case of this Black man who had escaped from slavery and was brought back into court by his former owner and in this case the Supreme Court literally said that Black people have no rights that white people are bound to respect.

And then we're up to 2013 and we have a situation where this wannabe-cop vigilante sees a Black youth, walking, talking on the telephone, with iced tea and Skittles, decides he's a criminal, stalks him, confronts him and shoots him dead. And then the system says, no crime committed here. They were saying again, more than 150 years after the Dred Scott Decision, that Black people have no rights that white people are bound to respect. And that's how that made me feel at that point, you know.

Now the day after, I was heartened. I was heartened by the fact that large numbers of people all across the country responded in outrage to that verdict. It was Black people, it was Latinos, it was also a number of white people involved in this. People out in Los Angeles marched onto the highway, Interstate 10, and stopped it, blocked it, that's how mad they were. They went out on that highway and they were gonna show—no, no more of this, we can't take this. New York City, people in the thousands marched into Times Square and shut it down. And then in cities all across the country people were responding in similar ways.

Police all across the country brutalize and even murder Black and Latino youth and almost always get away with it. The standard approach of law enforcement is to treat Black and brown youth like they're guilty until proven innocent.... They're treated like a class of permanent suspects. And this verdict in the Trayvon Martin case brought all of that together for people. And that's why people were up against this thing of what does this say about America, why does this happen again and again? And do I want to be a part of this society where this can happen and then the system says it's OK.

And to look at and listen to what people had to say at these, you saw Black parents there with their children in tears, hugging them and saying, how can I tell my children about this and what does this mean for them and what does it mean for us? That this vigilante can murder a Black youth and get away? What are they telling us? What are they telling us about the nature of America? What does this mean? There were a lot of people speaking like that, speaking in tears about it. There were white people who came out to it and who said, look, I do not want to be a part of an America that says that it's OK to do that. These were people who had like, kind of been forced to look at some very big questions, questions about the nature of this society, the nature of America. Questions about why do these things happen again and again and again. Because a big part of the reason why this hit people this way was both the stark horror of what happened to Trayvon, but the fact that things like this happen again and again in this society.

Police all across the country brutalize and even murder Black and Latino youth and almost always get away with it. The standard approach of law enforcement is to treat Black and brown youth like they're guilty until proven innocent, if they can survive to prove their innocence. And in many, many cases, our youth don't survive to prove they're innocent. They're treated like a class of permanent suspects. And this verdict in this case brought all of that together for people. And that's why people were up against this thing of what does this say about America, why does this happen again and again? And do I want to be a part of this society where this can happen and then the system says it's OK.


After the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin, large numbers of people all across the country responded in outrage to that verdict. It was Black people, it was Latinos, it was also a number of white people. In New York City, people in the thousands marched into Times Square and shut it down. Photo: AP

And see this is very, very important because when people are grappling with these kinds of questions is when we can make the biggest advances and make leaps in bringing to people the way out of this mess, because things don't have to be this way. We don't have to continually watch parents burying children who have been murdered by the police and their caught murderers walk the streets scot-free, still with a badge and a gun, and in position to maybe brutalize or murder somebody else's kids. We don't have to continue to face outrages like this or the many, many other horrors that come down on people because of this system—the violence against women, the wars for empire, the drone strikes, the massive government spying, the way the very environment of the planet is being ravaged.

All of this could be ended through revolution, communist revolution. This is not only needed, but it's possible. And there's leadership for this revolution in Bob Avakian, the leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party and the new understanding or new synthesis of communism that he's brought forward. So this is a time when we need to be really accelerating our efforts to bring to people that things don't have to be this way, that this horrible world could be transformed through revolution and nothing less than that and to bring to people the leadership that we have for this revolution and also the plan and strategy that the Revolutionary Communist Party has developed for making this revolution and the vision of the kind of society that could be brought into being after the revolution. And all of these things are things that people need to get into, we need to be bringing to people. And people need to be going to the website, revcom.us, and looking up these things and digging into them and engaging them.

Taylor: Well, a minute ago, you said a lot of people, all kinds of people, but you mentioned white people in particular, were asking in the wake of this verdict, what kind of a country is this? What is it about America? And then after that happened then Obama got out, he gave his statement about what it's like to be a Black man in America, being profiled, of being, you know, women clutching their purses, all this sort of thing. A lot of people were speaking to—well, you know, yeah, this country has some problems, but it's on a trajectory, these problems are being improved, they're being worked on, we're advancing, we still have a long ways to go, but we've come a long ways. And so what would you say to people who were asking that question? Because on one the one hand, you do have the things that you're describing. You have the mass incarceration. I want to talk more about that as we go forward. We have the police brutality. You have the things that you're describing. But you also have a Black president. I think this is confusing to people so maybe you could cut through some of that.

Mass incarceration is like a slow genocide that could easily become a fast one. Because look, what genocide is, it's not only what happened in Nazi Germany. Because a lot of people understand genocide is when they start lining people up against the wall and start shooting them or gassing them in the ovens. And that was the last stage of the genocide in Nazi Germany. But there's a process to get to that. There's a process of identifying a grouping of people, demonizing them, segregating them. See and these are all things that have already happened in this country.

Dix: OK, that's actually a very good question because if you look at the situation today you do have opportunities for sections of Black people. Things have opened up, Black people have gotten into positions of influence, gotten into college, off of that gotten into professions, and you know political positions, including we got a Black president today. So that is a part of the reality. But then we also have to look at that as that has happened and as that is developing we also have a situation where for millions and millions of people in the inner cities of this country and especially very intensely for the youth there is no future in this society and in this system. And this is not the fault of the people in the inner cities, that they don't work hard enough, that the parents don't make the kids do enough homework, that the young men don't pull their pants up or that the young women are having babies out of wedlock—which is all too often the way this stuff gets discussed. It is the result of the very way this system operates, this capitalist-imperialist system operates.

Because you had a situation when Black people migrated from the rural South, from the plantations, they migrated into the cities and became part of the workforce in the factories, the bottom tier of the workforce, working the hardest, lowest paying, most dangerous jobs, but they were in part of that workforce. And people were looking towards, well, does this mean we can continue to go farther and advance. And while a few did, what actually happened is, with globalization, the internationalization of production, you saw a lot of those factories being moved out of the inner cities and then moved out of the United States to halfway around the world, to places where they could find somebody who they could make work those jobs for much less pay, in much more dangerous conditions. And through that increase the profits of the handful of capitalists who owned and controlled those factories. But that left millions and millions of Black people and later joined by millions and millions of Latinos in the inner cities, growing up facing futures of hopelessness.

The ways in which to survive and raise families had been sucked out of the ghettos and barrios across the country. The educational system in the inner cities had been wrecked and geared towards failing the youth. And that has a lot of young people growing up facing what choices for the future? You could look for a minimum wage job, but with the way the economy has developed and a lot of people who had more stable jobs being knocked down and being brought into the workforce on a lower level, those minimum wage jobs aren't even there for everybody. So then you're left with, do I join the military and become a killing machine for this system in some of the wars for empire that it's waging around the world? Or do I find some hustle to survive, legal or illegal? And you do have a lot of our youth who are into crime and drugs, who are fighting each other and even killing each other.

But all of this has developed because of the very operation of the capitalist system, together with conscious policies that the people who run the system have taken, policies that have emphasized and brought forward wars on crime, wars on drugs, which are fundamentally wars on poor people, on Black people and on Latinos. And that's where we have the mass incarceration that has more than two million people warehoused in prisons across the country. A lot of them are in there for drugs and you know just drug possession. That's what we have, we have a lot of people who are in that situation—people who when they get out of prison find it even harder to find work, aren't allowed to get government loans, they're banned from getting government loans so they can't go back to school or start a business or anything like that. They're not even allowed to live in public housing and in many states they can't even vote. So you're in a trajectory where it's even harder to make it after you've been in prison.

And that's what millions and millions of people in the inner cities are directly facing and then millions more are tied to people who are facing that. Because when you send a man or a woman into prison you actually take the hearts and the lives of their loved ones are caught up in that incarceration thing too.

So that's what we're dealing with and that's the backdrop to it, the actual operation of this system and the conscious policies that the ruling class has adopted in relation to the contradictions that it faces from the operation of the system. And yes it has provided some opportunities and then it uses those people who do make gains and get positions in order to help keep those who are being ground down by the system in line. And we see that at its height with Obama. That's why Bob Avakian called him a trump card for the imperialist rulers because he can come out and say, "OK, it's bad and I know it's bad and I've experienced some of it too, I've been followed in a store and this kind of stuff. But you got people like me who are in positions now, in positions of power and influence and we can work on this and we can continually make it better. So that's the way we should go at it." And they're working to try to keep people having faith in the system.

The problem that they got is the reality though. The reality of a verdict like the Trayvon verdict where you have the system saying you got no rights in this setup. And that's what they're trying to do, they're trying to take the people who have been jolted by that and bring them back into the fold, through using Obama, through using Eric Holder, the Attorney General—that makes him the head law enforcement person in the country—and having him come out and make some statements. But that's what they're actually doing, they're trying to work to get people who are losing faith in the system, questioning the system and trying to get them to come back in, to give the system another try.

Taylor: OK, so, I mean they're using Obama, but Obama is also very consciously part of this.

Dix: Oh yeah, he's like the president, it's not like he is someone who is being taken in or against his will forced to... he's the commander-in-chief of the U.S. global empire and is working to keep that empire in effect, including here in this country, keeping that empire and its domination and the people in the country drawn into the framework of the system.

Taylor: So, let me ask you this, when we began you went through the history of this country, from slavery to Jim Crow to today with the new Jim Crow. And one of the things that you've been emphasizing a lot is that we are now confronting, which you spoke to some just now, the whole epidemic of mass incarceration which is grinding up millions and millions and millions of lives. And it's the snatching of the youth, it's the stealing of people's fathers, it's the hugest rate of women incarcerated anywhere in the world and then it's all the networks who are connected to that, predominantly Black and Latino, but all the networks connected to them. And then the conditions in prison too, which maybe you want to speak to. Because a lot of people who've been through it don't really want to go there and talk about it. And a lot of people who haven't been through it they just don't know anything about what actually goes on in these prisons. But you've described all this as a slow genocide. And I think it'd be helpful if you would talk about it. I don't get the impression you say that just for rhetorical flourish. I mean, you mean that. And I think it's a true statement that we're facing a slow genocide. Why is that true? And what does that actually mean, what is the conditions of that for people to understand?

Dix: Yeah, actually that's a very good question because look, we revolutionary communists, we try to speak to what is the objective reality, what is true. Not what can we say to hype people up and get 'em to do what we might want them to do. We have to actually bring to them what the reality is and to help them understand that reality and how it's being driven. But also, how we can transform that reality. And that's why we developed this understanding, that's how we came, let's look at this thing of mass incarceration. What is it, why does it happen, what's driving it and where is it headed unless we stop it in the only way that's really possible, through making revolution? And that's where we came to the understanding that mass incarceration is like a slow genocide that could easily become a fast one.

Because look, what genocide is, it's not only what happened in Nazi Germany. Because a lot of people understand genocide is when they start lining people up against the wall and start shooting them or gassing them in the ovens. And that was the last stage of the genocide in Nazi Germany. But there's a process to get to that. There's a process of identifying a grouping of people, demonizing them, segregating them. See, and these are all things that have already happened in this country. And that's part of the process that we're going through. And then when you take hundreds of thousands of people from a particular group, you warehouse them in prison. Then when they get out they're treated like second class citizens and have little to no opportunity to survive and have a decent life. And the actual definition of genocide, internationally, from the United Nations is putting a grouping of people in whole or in part in conditions that make it impossible for them to survive and thrive as a people. And that's actually what's happening with Blacks and Latinos throughout the inner cities of this country.

Sections of a whole people who are being put in a situation that make it impossible for them to survive and thrive. And that's what we're dealing with. And why do we say that it's a slow genocide? Well, because it's not yet at the point where people are being put up against the wall and shot, massively. Although a lot of people are being shot down by the enforcers, the police, the Immigration and Naturalization Services, INS, La Migra is gunning people down. So this is happening. But it's not happening on a massive scale yet. But it could easily change.

I mean just in the last few days, this Tea Party senator, Ted Cruz from Texas, went to a commemoration of Jesse Helms, a former senator from North Carolina, and he made this statement repeating something that was said a few decades ago by John Wayne, that we need a hundred Jesse Helms, meaning that we need a whole Senate of Jesse Helms. Well, Jesse Helms was a racist, woman-hating, gay-hating, reactionary, fascist-type force who was in the Senate for decades. I mean, this man, I don't know that he was in the Ku Klux Klan, but the only thing he was missing was the hood because he had all of the political positions and the outlook that the Klan stood for—the vicious suppression of Black people, the subjugation of women to subordinate places in society, and to getting rid of gay people. He stood for all of that and he acted on that in Congress throughout his career in there. And to say today that today we need 100 Jesse Helms is to say that we need to go back to that, we need to accelerate the reactionary moves that are coming down, the fascistic moves that are coming down, and that's where things need to go. And things are in fact going that way. We can't ignore the actual steps toward that.

You know, the U.S. Supreme Court took up some cases. They took up a case on affirmative action and you know, cut the legs out of that. They took up a case on the Voting Rights Act from the 1960s that made it possible for Black people in the southeastern U.S. to gain the right to vote back in the 1960s. The Supreme Court gutted the heart out of one section of the Voting Rights Act, which was the key section that allowed people to vote because it took the ability to determine whether laws could be passed and restrictions made on people's right to vote out of the states that were restricting people's right to vote. Well, the Supreme Court said we don't need to do that any more—that was then, this is now. Within days, states across the country had begun to pass restriction after restriction on the right to vote—and restrictions that openly were targeting Black people and Latinos.

So there is a powerful move to take things back in that direction and to institute very horrific, fascistic moves. And that's why I say we're talking about a slow genocide that could easily become a fast one. And again, this isn't just because some reactionary fools have gotten close to the seat of power. It has to do with the very way that the capitalist-imperialist system is operating and in particular what I was talking about before, in the inner cities millions and millions of youth facing futures in this system where there's no hope for the future—lack of ways to survive and raise families, educational system geared to fail you and that leaves a lot of the youth having to come up with some hustle, legal or illegal, to survive. And they have developed mass incarceration as a way to deal with that. And that's something that, look, if that's not taken on—this could be taken in an even more—not just that it would stay as bad as it is now, which is unacceptable and horrible. But it could be rapidly taken to even worse conditions.

And that's part of what people have to be thinking about when they're grappling with the nature of this society, what is America? Why does this injustice happen again and again and again? And what can and must be done about it? Because what we're saying to people is, first off, it ain't realistic to say that things will stay like this and then we can make some surface changes for the better within it. Things are being rapidly pulled in a much worse direction. But it is possible to get out of this through revolution.

Taylor: So, we are looking about a month out, a little more than a month out to October 22, this is a, it's a major national day, every year. October 22, it's a National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation. What's the significance of this? Maybe you could talk a little bit about where this came from, what is this protest? But also what's the significance of it this year coming off the George Zimmerman verdict, coming off the recent hunger strike among prisoners in California, at a time when there's a lot is happening in society and in the culture, raising the question of the condition and the treatment historically and today of Black people in this country and other oppressed peoples, at a time of slow genocide? What do you think we need to be understanding at this moment and doing to act on that understanding, looking towards October 22?

Dix: OK, well, this year, it's the 18th annual National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation. And where this came from was back in the 1990s a few of us began to talk about like, look, all across the country police are brutalizing and even murdering people and getting away with it and we have to take the resistance to this to a national level and direct, develop it further. We have to bring together, you know, broad sections of people, not just those who have to deal with this all the time, but we need to bring broad sections of people into this fight against police brutality and police murder. And we have to take people whose lives have been devastated by this and actually mobilize them to come out and speak about what had happened to them, what had happened to their loved one, what it did to their family, to bring that out and make that exposure very widely known. Because what would happen is: the police would kill somebody and then this person would be demonized and the actual truth of what happened and the fact that most of the people killed by police were unarmed, not involved in criminal activity, was not something that very many people knew about. So that's what we were moving to do back in 1996 and it was an interesting array of people, you know. Food Not Bombs, which was a—an anarchist was the guy who had organized that: the MOVE family was involved in it; National Lawyers Guild. And we got a number of family members of people who had been murdered by the police and brutalized by the police who were involved in bringing that together. And then as you trace it over the years, there have been things like involving people who were mobilizing around the killing of immigrants on the border and bringing that in. Also involving gay and lesbian groups and one very important period for that was in the late '90s, 1998 I believe, when the police in New York had vamped on people who were holding a vigil around Matthew Shepherd, who was a gay man who was beaten to death, you know, outside a bar, out in, somewhere in the Northwest, I forget exactly where. And the NYPD was like, no, you will not be allowed to hold the vigil around this and brutalized people who did it, and then October 22 came a little bit after that and we welcomed people who had been involved in that vigil to be a part of this because this was a question of the society officially saying that this young gay man's life was worthless, and people who wanted to express something around it did not have the right to do that. So that's been the way that October 22 has developed and the way that it has brought together diverse kinds of people.

Wearing hoodies in Denver, April 2012. Photo: AP

And at this moment, it is very, very important that this day be marked because we're talking about something that has continually been a part of this society. It isn't like it's gone away, it's in fact intensified. And the repression has intensified and the criminalization of a generation has also intensified. We also have to bring into it and have brought into it the way in which Arabs, Muslims, and South Asians have been targeted and demonized since September 11, 2001. That's been another important part of it; and there's just been a recent exposure about just how widespread the spying on those sections of people have come down. And it is very important that right now, in the wake of the Trayvon verdict, when so many people, when for a lot of people had their eyes opened to the fact that this kind of criminalization goes down in society and is a widespread feature of it. And the way that for so many other people who knew about it, but the way in which the Trayvon Martin murder went down and the way that the system refused to even arrest Zimmerman for murdering Trayvon, and then when they were forced by outcry all across the country to put him on trial, put together a trial that exonerated him, moved people to stand up in outrage. Look, if you remember that outrage, whether you experienced this for the first time, or whether it's what you've lived with your whole life. If you remember what you felt, if you still can't think about that because, what the fuck, how to, what to make of something like that coming down. If you do think about it and can't sleep at night about it, you have to act on October 22. You have to be out among the people, mobilizing to bring others to it. This has to be a day when all across the country people are taking to the streets in outrage, holding cultural events, teach-ins, and in other ways spotlighting the horrific reality of police brutality and murder, the widespread repression and the criminalization of whole generations of youth. This has got to be something that people respond to.

And then, even more than, that we have this thing: wear black on October 22 and people should do that. But we gotta add a new ingredient to it this year. This year, wear black and hoodies back up. Put your hoodies up because we gotta bring Trayvon out in a very big way in this, you know, because this actually brought to life the reality that a whole generation of youth have been just made permanent suspects in this society and can be brutalized and murdered and nothing is gonna be done to 'em. And we have to say in a loud, powerful, united voice:  No More! No more will we sit back and allow this to go down. No more will this be allowed to go down without being met with determined, powerful opposition.

So we have to spread this across the country. If you're on campus, you gotta organize something on your campus, involve the students there in it. If you live in a housing project, work to get people together around that. If you're in a city where October 22 is already planned to happen, hook up with the people doing it and be a part of that. But if you don't know of anybody doing anything in your city around October 22, then organize something and contact us and we'll put you in touch with the October 22 National Office and get it all worked out. And if there's somebody else doing something, we'll put you together with them. But make sure that something is happening there.

And see this is very, very important from the perspective of dealing with the way in which large numbers of people were moved to ask big questions coming off of the Trayvon case: What does this mean? Black people who were saying: What does this mean for me? How do I talk to my children about this? What future can a society like this have for us? But also for white people who were saying: I don't want to live in, I don't want to be a part of a society, where this can go down. This is very, very significant and—look, as a revolutionary communist, I'm gonna be taking to people; and people who agree with that need to be taking to people that this happens because of the very nature of this capitalist-imperialist system; not only this horror, but the many other horrors—the vicious attacks on women in this society, the wars for empire, the drone missile strikes, the widespread government spying programs, and all the rest—that's where all of that comes from. And we can end all these horrors—things don't have to be this way—through revolution. We have the leadership for this revolution in Bob Avakian, the leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party and [we have] the new understanding, or synthesis, of communism that he's developed. We've got a strategy and a plan for making this revolution and we got a vision for the kind of world and society that could be brought into being after the revolution.

All of this needs to be out there for people. And I'm gonna be working to bring that out to people. And people who want to dig into this and engage it should go to the website revcom.us because that strategy for revolution is there. The Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) is there and the works of Bob Avakian are also available there. The film REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!, which gets deeply into all that I've been talking about here today and much, much, more. You can get hooked up with that there, you can also get hooked up with BAsics, which has quotations and essays from the writings of Bob Avakian. People need to check that out, people need to be engaging that, people need to be digging into it and they need to be acting, especially on that day.

Stop police brutality, repression and the criminalization of a generation. Hoodies up and wear black and no more to this official brutality and murder that this system has been bringing down and repression that this system has been bringing down on people all across the country.

Taylor: Recently prisoners in California waged a really important, inspiring hunger strike. How do you see the significance of that, both in terms of what it represents more broadly, and also in light of the fact that October 22 this year is happening in the wake of the prisoner hunger strike in California?

Dix: I'm glad you asked that question. First, let me go back to what I said about how O22 developed, because one person who played a critical role in assembling the original coalition that made October 22nd happen was Akil Al-Jundi, who was one of the leaders of the 1971 rebellion in Attica prison in New York. That was a very significant rebellion in the 1960s, and it helped to bring a lot of people from that generation, myself included, into more radical and even revolutionary resistance to the crimes of the system back then. And Akil, who passed away in 1997, played a critical role in forging the original October 22nd Coalition.

A banner at a protest in support of the prisoner hunger strikers, August 2013. Photo: Special to Revolution

And the hunger strike that prisoners launched in California on July 8 of this year was the most significant outbreak of resistance from among prisoners since the Attica rebellion. You had 30,000 prisoners in California involved at the start of that hunger strike, standing up to end conditions that amount to torture. People held in long term solitary confinement—and there are more than 80,000 people held in those conditions—are confined in small, windowless cells 22½ hours a day and longer. Many of these cells are soundproof. Some of the people are denied any human contact. People get put into these conditions arbitrarily, at the whim of a prison administrator or a guard, and there is no way to challenge being placed there. International studies have found that being held in these conditions for more than a few weeks can drive people insane—people in U.S. prisons have been held in these conditions for months, years, and even decades!

People in prison in California stood up and put their lives on the line to end this torture, and hundreds of people carried it on for two months. And leading into the hunger strike, the prisoners called for a Cessation of Hostilities—an agreement to end all fighting among the prisoners on the basis of race. This is tremendously significant because one of the ways prison authorities keep the prisoners under control is through sowing divisions in their ranks and exacerbating divisions that already exist. But these prisoners, who are condemned as the worst of the worst, are rising above those divisions based on race to stand united to fight against injustice and calling on people outside the prisons to also rise above those divisions and stand together.


Photo: AP

This hunger strike has been suspended now, but the struggle to end torture in prison continues. A lot of work was done to bring into the light of day the torture that is being inflicted on people in prison. The families of many of the prisoners spoke out; many well-known people also spoke out in support of the prisoners; an Emergency Call to End Torture in Prison—signed by hundreds of people including many prominent people—was published as an ad in the Los Angeles Times newspaper and then re-published in another newspaper in California. But still not enough people know about the horrors people are subjected to in prison or about the heroic struggle these prisoners waged against these torturous conditions. And on October 22 and in building up to October 22, work is going to be done to make many more people aware of the horrific conditions in prisons and the heroic struggle waged by the prisoners to end those conditions and the need to carry that fight forward.

Taylor: OK, so I have one more question for you which is, it's a very strategic question which is if you step back and really think about what a real revolution means, what it's really gonna  take to make revolution in this country—and the amount of sentiment that began to be uncorked around the Trayvon and Zimmerman verdict but has still not been fully unleashed and how much was bound up in that—there's a real strategic question of bringing forward fighters from among those who catch the most hell under this system, from among those who are the victims of police terror and stop-and-frisk and profiling and all this, every day of their lives, who do get followed in the stores, or thrown up against the wall, or locked up for years for tiny possession or nothing at all, or who get caught up in all kinds of harmful things too because this system has no future or no options for them so they do get caught up, especially the youth, in killing each other or doing other kinds of harmful things to themselves and others. There's a real strategic question of what is it gonna take, and how do we right now, not some time in the future, but right now, how are we, as part of building this movement for revolution, stepping to those youth and struggling to actually bring these youth from among the most oppressed, the most without a future under this system, into this movement for revolution to become fighters not only for their own liberation but for the emancipation of humanity, and in an immediate way, including building in and going towards October 22. How do we go at that?

Dix: OK, I think that's a very important question both today and strategically. Because when we look at what we're doing today, we're actually moving to accelerate things towards the development of a revolutionary situation and bring closer the opportunity to actually go for revolution. And what I think we have to do is that we have to step to and challenge these youth. Bring to them what the reality actually is in a serious and substantive way and then struggle with them, because look, we go out all the time among these young people, we tell them, we lay out to them what's going on and we get a lot of, "yeah, I'm good," "right ons", and then keep on walking. And we have to say to these youth, "no, you're not good, none of us are good, we can't be good because this world is a horror." And here's how it's a horror but it doesn't have to be this way. But for it to be transformed through revolution, you and people like you gotta be a part of this movement for revolution. And then we gotta  get into that with people because there is a lot of anger out there at the way that they're being treated.

The youth are angry especially about the way that they're being treated. But they don't see any other way that things could be and that's why they wave to you and keep on going or they say they're good because they don't think there's anything that could be done about it. And we have to confront them with the reality that not only is this bad, but yes, something can indeed be done about it.

A movement for revolution can transform the terrain in ways that are favorable for the development of the revolutionary movement, a revolutionary people, and an actual chance to make revolution. But they have to be a part of bringing that about. It can't be done by anybody else for 'em. They have to join this movement and we have to struggle with them. And part of what the struggle's gotta focus around is that they gotta get out of what they're into, which for a lot of 'em is a lot of destructive stuff in terms of what they're doing and for even more of 'em, even the ones that maybe ain't doing some of that destructive stuff now, the way that they look at things and the way that they think about things is destructive. Because looking out for number one, getting rich or dying trying, all of that is the ethos of the day. And a lot of the youth are taking that up. And it's not surprising that they would take it up in a system like this one where that's the ethos of the capitalists who run it. But getting into that and acting on that is about nothing that's any damn good for humanity.

But there is something that is good for humanity that they could be a part of and they could be with and that is a movement for revolution and a movement that is about emancipating all of humanity. And we have to put that to them, we have to seriously get into it with them. We have to bring out to them why these horrors continue to happen, where they come from, but also why and how they could be ended; and struggle with them around it and really make a fight for it. Because it isn't gonna happen—this is not like, you're not gonna roll downhill to bring forward these youth. It's gonna be a struggle, it's gonna be something that you really have to fight for.

But by fighting for these youth, we can actually win some of them, we can get them to join this movement for revolution and to represent for it. And as that begins to happen it reacts back on and impacts others among the youth. It also reacts back and impacts older people, many of whom are distressed by what the youth are into. But when they see the youth starting to get into something better, they're gonna welcome that, they're gonna support it and wanna see it happen. And we have to actually involve different sections among the people catching hell in that so that they're reacting on each other and helping each other. And then also that's gonna have its impact more broadly in society because when people see people who are catching hell, who are under the gun of this society, so to speak, standing up and fighting for justice, they're gonna be more drawn to stand with them. So that's gonna be impacting things as well.

That's the kind of difference it can make to fight through with some of these youth and win them to begin to becoming part of this movement for revolution. But we have to challenge them and we have to struggle with them for this to happen, you know, and make a determined fight for every youth that we can and get them to manifest as part of this. We gotta go to high schools in the communities of the oppressed.

But the key is we gotta challenge people and we have to struggle with them. And we have what we need to carry out that struggle because reality is impacting them in a way that has them opened up more and even asking some of these questions and we have the answers to these questions and the movement for revolution and the leadership we have for that movement in Bob Avakian and the strategy that we've developed for revolution and the vision of the world that could be brought into being. So we gotta take that to people and we gotta make a determined fight with them to get them to start taking it up.

Taylor: OK, so that was Carl Dix, founding member of the Revolutionary Communist Party and an initiator of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network, leader in initiating and organizing right now, towards the 18th annual October 22 National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation. Thanks for sitting down with me. This has been Sunsara Taylor for Revolution newspaper, revcom.us.

 

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/301/avakian-a-question-sharply-posed-en.html

Revolution #317 September 22, 2013

A QUESTION SHARPLY POSED

by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA

April 14, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

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NAT TURNER OR THOMAS JEFFERSON?

Slave rebellion or slave master? Do you support the oppressed rising up against the oppressive system and seeking a radically different way, even with certain errors and excesses—or do you support the oppressors, and the leaders and guardians of an outmoded oppressive order, who may talk about "inalienable rights" but bring down wanton brutality and very real terror, on masses of people, to enforce and perpetuate their system of oppression?

This speaks to a basic question of stand and orientation, and represents a fundamental dividing line. And, along with "setting the record straight" on the actual experience and role of communist revolution, and refuting the factual and methodological distortions involved in the attacks on communism, this basic question—as represented by Nat Turner1 or Thomas Jefferson?2—also needs to be sharply posed in relation to the history of communism3 and the present-day struggle for communist revolution, in opposition to the capitalist-imperialist system which still dominates the world, with such terrible consequences for humanity and for the environment. Do you stand with this oppressive system, or with the struggle to overthrow and uproot it, and bring into being a radically different, emancipating system and way of life?

Do we need to learn from not only the overwhelmingly positive experience of the communist movement so far, but also its shortcomings, including sometimes serious errors and even excesses? Yes, this is an important part of the new synthesis of communism, and it is crucial in order to be able to do even better in the new stage of communist revolution. But this can only be done, in the fullest way, by taking up and applying the scientific communist method and approach that leads, first of all, to standing firmly and consistently on the right side of this fundamental dividing line, between oppressors and oppressed—and, beyond that, makes it possible to correctly assess and learn from the rich experience of the struggle against oppression, throughout history and in all parts of the world, including the shortcomings involved in this experience, in order to carry forward the fight to the final goal of communism and the emancipation of the oppressed, and ultimately humanity as a whole, from all forms and relations of oppression and exploitation, domination and degradation, everywhere in the world.

 



Nat Turner led an uprising that deeply shook the slave system, and there was a huge, brutal response from those in power.

1. Nat Turner was the leader of a slave rebellion in Southampton County, Virginia, one of at least 250 slave revolts that took place in the U.S. before the Civil War. After careful preparation, Turner began the rebellion on August 21, 1831 with a trusted group of six other slaves. They were armed with just a few knives, hatchets, and axes at the start. Their plan was to strike hard and quickly against the slave owners and march toward the county seat, rallying other slaves to their cause along the way. At one point, Turner's forces grew to as many as 80. The uprising deeply shook the slave system, and there was a huge, brutal response from those in power. The rebellion was defeated after 48 hours—Turner himself went into hiding for two months before surrendering. Turner and 55 others were executed by the state. As many as 200 other slaves were killed by the slave owners' militias and vigilantes, and many were tortured. During the rebellion, Turner's forces killed all the slave owners they encountered—not only the adults but also their children. But the Nat Turner Rebellion—and other slave rebellions—must be firmly upheld because, in its principal character and in essence, it was a just struggle of the oppressed rising up against their oppression. [back]


Depiction of plantation life, with overseer beating slaves and taking a child to be sold.

2. Thomas Jefferson is promoted as the man who defined the "fundamental liberties" that are at the heart of U.S. democracy. Along with genocide and theft of the land of Native Americans, one of those "fundamental liberties" was the right to enslave people. Jefferson himself owned more than 600 slaves over his lifetime. He profited greatly from the labor of his slaves, who were whipped when they didn't work hard enough (including children), and hunted down like animals when they escaped. But beyond this, Jefferson actively used his presidency and his influence to fight for the expansion of the slave system. He oversaw the 1803 Louisiana Purchase—the buying from France of a huge territory that now comprises all or parts of 15 states, primarily in the interests of the slave owners and with the aim of spreading the U.S. system of slavery into new areas. As opposed to the uprisings of slaves, like the rebellion led by Nat Turner, the violence Jefferson used, as U.S. President as well as in suppressing his own slaves, was in the service of maintaining, enforcing, and expanding oppression.

For more on Jefferson and his role:


"Big character poster" walls, debating big questions in society, went up all over during China's Cultural Revolution, 1966-1976. Photo: AP

3. People are constantly bombarded with the message that communism has been a "failure" and that socialist societies have been a "nightmare." The Set the Record Straight project aims to bring out the truth about the first attempts in human history to build societies free from all exploitation and oppression—the socialist states in Russia from 1917 until the defeat of that revolution in 1956, and in China from 1949 until its defeat in 1976. "The mission of Set the Record Straight is to factually refute the lies spread in the media, mass-market books, and mainstream scholarship about the Soviet and Chinese revolutions, and to bring to light the overwhelming achievements of these revolutions as well as their real problems and shortcomings. Our mission is to reveal the actual history and experience of these revolutions, to open up a two-sided debate about socialism and communism, and to promote a conversation about why a radically different and liberating world is possible." The Set the Record Straight project can be found online at thisiscommunism.org. It can also be accessed from the "Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution" section of revcom.us. [back]

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/312/debating-a-question-sharply-posed-en.html

Revolution #317 September 22, 2013

Debating: "A Question Sharply Posed: Nat Turner or Thomas Jefferson?"

August 4, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

 

Some months ago, a reader of Revolution newspaper received the following comment from a professor to a piece by Bob Avakian, “A Question Sharply Posed: Nat Turner or Thomas Jefferson?”  We are reprinting here the comment and a reply to it.

 

Comment:

I seldom reply, am in the trenches as are you... but as you know, and I've spoken clearly, I have dedicated my life to battling oppression and working tirelessly as are we all against the machinery of globalization, unbridled capitalism and oppression everywhere.

In our world of Liberation Arts, we have been defining oppressive rhetoric as binaries—either/or.  George W. Bush used to tell us you're "either with us or with the terrorists."  Hideous.

My question for you is, how is Bob Avakian any different?  "You're either with Nat Turner, or with Thomas Jefferson"...really?

I choose option three: neither, completely, and both, partially.

Jefferson was a slave owner, that is indisputable.

Is that all he was?

Turner was a liberator.  Was that all he was?

Blessings for all the tireless work you do; once again, though, I find myself reminded again and again why I am not a fan of Bob Avakian.

 

Reply:

The problem with this is that in the actual world we live in—full of exploitation, mass immiseration, unnecessary suffering, and tremendous destruction of the natural environment—there is no “option three” and to attempt to find one will keep this world, with all these antagonistic divisions and institutionalized oppression, intact.

To illustrate how this is so, let's walk through an historical hypothesis.  Taking this professor’s logic, and putting yourself back into history: what would you have done if the slaves marched up to Monticello—the house on Jefferson’s plantation—saying they were going to burn it down and kill every white person inside?

Would you seek to forcibly prevent them from rising up until you could put certain conditions on their struggle?  Would you have pleaded with them to put their arms down and go back to the plantations and brutal working conditions until they promised their rebellion would contain no excesses?  Think what this would have meant.  On Southern plantations, including Jefferson’s famed Monticello, the whip was used with great brutality at any sign of disobedience, let alone rebellion.  Children as young as 10 years old were whipped for missing a day of hard labor in the nail factory which generated great wealth for Jefferson.  Can you imagine what the response would have been to outright rebellion?  This would have meant tremendous punishment and brutality to prevent the slaves from ever even considering this kind of rebellion again.  Power would have stayed in the hands of the slave masters, and it would have meant even harsher conditions for hundreds of men, women, and children destined to a life of heart-rending brutality, families broken apart, and backbreaking labor—from “can’t see in the morning til can’t see at night.”

Would you have argued that the slaves should not be so “binary,” that perhaps there was a way to negotiate, to find a third way between slaves and slave masters?  This would be like saying to the slaves to go back and remain slaves until I can convince your master to change his mind.  With Jefferson himself, there was actually more than one person who asked him to change his mind and give his slaves—the human beings he owned—their freedom.  But he refused.  In addition to the great amount of wealth his slaves and their labor yielded, he dreaded the reaction of his fellow slave owners, and the implications that setting his own slaves free would have on the institution of slavery.

But even more than that, you could not have put an end to the economic system of slavery—an essential foundation of this country—by changing all the minds of the slave masters who sat atop it.  It took a civil war to do that.  A civil war which dismantled the slave system, stripped the slave owners of their property and freed the hundreds of thousands of Black people held in slavery.  (And even then, not long after the slave system was officially ended, because of the needs of American capitalism at that time, many tens of thousands of Black people were held in new forms of slavery through the use of convict labor and the brutal sharecropping system.)

To go back to the historical question posed here, your only other option would have been to stand with the slaves in their righteous rebellion demanding to be slaves no more and then, in that context, struggle together with them about how to fight better, about who should and should not be the target of their rebellion and how to fight to win.

As can be seen by walking this through, if you attempted to attenuate or ameliorate the objective contradiction between slaves and slave masters, regardless of your intentions, you would have ended up siding with the slave master.  Or if you used secondary contradictions in how the slaves were fighting to justify standing aside, you would have been standing aside from and been witness to great atrocity that you could have had a role in preventing. 

So here we are, back to what objectively in the real world is the either/or question, “a fundamental dividing line,” as Avakian puts it: “Nat Turner or Thomas Jefferson?  Slave rebellion or slave master? Do you support the oppressed rising up against the oppressive system and seeking a radically different way, even with certain errors and excesses—or do you support the oppressors, and the leaders and guardians of an outmoded oppressive order, who may talk about ‘inalienable rights’ but bring down wanton brutality and very real terror, on masses of people, to enforce and perpetuate their system of oppression?”

The Viewpoint of the Class in the Middle

The aspirations of the professor to find this nonexistent third way represents the outlook of a class in society which finds itself between the oppressor and oppressed classes.  This is the petite bourgeoisie who is suppressed and ruled over by the big bourgeoisie and yet does not experience the conditions of exploitation of the proletariat—the class who works only so long as their labor enriches the ruling class, who own not just the wealth but the means to make wealth (the large-scale factories, farms, mines, oil wells, manufacturing, etc. the world over).  The petite bourgeoisie is squeezed in between—either trying to improve their position while being suppressed in certain ways by the big accumulators of capital or attempting to rein in particular excesses of capitalism without questioning the fundamental foundation of the whole capitalist system.  

To understand this more deeply, I’ll quote Marx. who speaks to this powerfully:

    “...one must not form the narrow-minded notion that the petite bourgeoisie, on principle, wishes to enforce an egoistic class interest. Rather, it believes that the special conditions of its emancipation are the general conditions within the frame of which alone modern society can be saved and the class struggle avoided. Just as little must one imagine that the democratic representatives are indeed all shopkeepers or enthusiastic champions of shopkeepers. According to their education and their individual position they may be as far apart as heaven from earth. What makes them representatives of the petite bourgeoisie is the fact that in their minds they do not get beyond the limits which the latter do not get beyond in life, that they are consequently driven, theoretically, to the same problems and solutions to which material interest and social position drive the latter practically. This is, in general, the relationship between the political and literary representatives of a class and the class they represent....

“But the democrat, because he represents the petite bourgeoisie, that is, a transition class, in which the interests of two classes are simultaneously mutually blunted, imagines himself elevated above class antagonism generally. The democrats concede that a privileged class confronts them, but they, along with all the rest of the nation, form the people. What they represent is the people’s rights; what interests them is the people’s interests. Accordingly, when a struggle is impending, they do not need to examine the interests and positions of the different classes.” (quoted from Marx in Bob Avakian’s Phony Communism Is Dead... Long Live Real Communism! second edition, pp. 209-10)

This is a complex quote and Avakian has broken this down and wrangled with the materialism and dialectics of this in a number of places.  I won’t attempt here to speak to the many layers that BA has drawn out of this important quote.  But in response to the professor, there are two points I want to highlight:

Finally, it should be clear through all this why the professor is “not a fan of Bob Avakian.”  Exactly because of what Bob Avakian is about and sharply challenges others to be about: confronting the sharp edges of this nightmare system and “a real, really radical and thorough revolution, aiming for the ultimate goal of communism throughout the world and the emancipation of all humanity as a whole from thousands of years of tradition's chains, exploitative and oppressive relations and outmoded ideas.” (from "BA: A Contended Question”)

The exploitation and brutality that this professor is dedicating his life to battling cannot be ended within the confines of this system or by shying away from the sharpness of the contradictions bound up with this system.  We need a revolution, and in fighting for that revolution, the question is sharply posed:

“Do you stand with this oppressive system, or with the struggle to overthrow and uproot it, and bring into being a radically different, emancipating system and way of life?” (emphasis added)

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/317/to-new-readers-welcome-to-revcom-en.html

Revolution #317 September 22, 2013

To new readers:
Welcome to Revolution/revcom.us!

September 16, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

School is starting! Whether you're a new or returning student on campus, you're trying to figure out what you're going to do with your life. You're living in a world of injustice, oppression, environmental devastation, and war. The U.S. has been threatening yet another country with military attack. Obama may soon approve the Keystone XL pipeline, greatly expanding the extremely polluting tar sands oil. The right to abortion is under serious attack. The not guilty verdict freeing the killer of Trayvon Martin represents Amerikkka declaring, yet again, that Black people have no rights that white people are bound to respect. Many of you are thinking about what you should do about all that and more.

If you're grappling with how horrific the world is and looking for a way out of this madness, one key thing you have to do is to get into Bob Avakian and the movement for revolution. Bob Avakian, BA, is the Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, and he has developed a new synthesis of communism and a strategic approach to making revolution in the U.S. He has wrangled deeply for decades with the experience of communist revolution worldwide, as well as studied 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. (For more, see Bob Avakian: The Vision, the Works, the Leadership for a New Stage of Communist Revolution, on revcom.us.)

There's a lot more to say and learn about BA—but here's where to start:

"Those this system has cast off, those it has treated as less than human, can be the backbone and driving force of a fight not only to end their own oppression, but to finally end all oppression, and emancipate all of humanity."

—From the film

Buy the DVD

And in this issue of Revolution/revcom.us, there is an important article by BA—"A Question Sharply Posed: Nat Turner or Thomas Jefferson?"—and a debate touched off by this piece. If you're provoked and challenged, watch some more of BA Speaks: REVOLUTION NOTHING LESS!, return to BA's piece, join in the debate, and spread the article everywhere.

Click to order BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian.

Another way to make a difference in the world while learning more is to spread quotes from the book BAsics (for example, BAsics 3:8) that are especially relevant right now. You can distribute the palm cards and issues of Revolution with these quotes on campuses, at demonstrations/rallies, cultural events, and elsewhere. And spread the quotes on the internet and social media—send them out on Twitter, post on Facebook, forward to email lists, and send to prominent/influential voices, asking them to tweet out and forward the quote/link.

As you do this, get further into BA and the movement for revolution at revcom.us.

 

The BA Everywhere Campaign

There is a national campaign to make BA's work, his leadership and vision and framework for a radically better way the world could be, known throughout the country with impact around the world: The BA Everywhere Campaign. If your conscience can't tolerate the outrages of this society, if you want to contribute to bringing a new, liberatory world into being, if you are feeling that without really radical change that gets at the root of the problems people face then all the oppression will just go on and on, then BA Everywhere, a multifaceted fundraising campaign to raise the money to make BA and this liberating theory known, is the campaign for you.

Go to the BA Everywhere page at revcom.us to learn more about the BA Everywhere Campaign.

 

 


 

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Revolution #317 September 22, 2013

Four Points for Bill McKibben

by Raymond Lotta | August 16, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

On September 21, protest actions against the Keystone XL pipeline will be taking place around the U.S. A call has gone out from various environmental organizations and action groups to “draw the line”: the Keystone project must not be approved by the President.

Mobilizations against Keystone and climate change are much needed and must be stepped up. At the same time, there is an important debate to be waged. Bill McKibben—the influential environmentalist, founder of 350.org, and a major voice of the September 21 actions—wants people to believe and to act on the principle that the capitalist system can be made to “do the right thing,” and that Barack Obama is (potentially) part of the solution.

The polemic that follows makes the case that McKibben is profoundly wrong. Revolution newspaper/revcom.us encourages activists and theorists to take up and contribute to this debate. Send your responses via the "Send us your comments" at the bottom of this page or email to revolution.reports@yahoo.com.

 

State of EMERGENCY! The Plunder of Our Planet, The Environmental Catastrophe & The Real Revolutionary Solution

(Special Issue of Revolution on the Environment)

1. You say, if we are going to "tackle global warming," we need to "identify the enemy," and that "public enemy number one is the fossil-fuel industry... which has become a rogue industry, reckless like no other force on Earth."

But in reality, the force on Earth destroying the planet is capitalism-imperialism.

Your image of a "rogue oil industry" covers over the reality that oil is foundational to the functioning of the whole imperialist system. Six of the 10 largest corporations in the U.S., and eight of the 10 largest in the world, are auto and oil companies. Rivalry among the great powers for control of production, refining, transport, and marketing of oil is in fact rivalry for control over the world economy. And U.S. imperialism's military depends on oil.

Oil is not a rogue industry. It is part of a larger system that operates according to certain capitalist rules and imperatives.

 

2. You talk about a movement from below that can pressure and shame officials and elites to see that you can move away from fossil fuel and curb global warming—and still have profits. You have said that Exxon Mobil and others can become "true energy companies...for real."

This is not a solution. Fossil fuel is so deeply embedded in the world imperialist economy that only revolution, nothing less, can change this: change how the economy is organized—change the fact that profit is its foundation. And only changing which class holds state power can change that.

Why are tropical forests being wiped out by logging and timber operations? Why is soil being degraded and dried out by agribusiness, and oceans acidified? Because capitalism invests, speculates, trades, and roams the globe treating nature as a limitless input into production for profit—without regard to long-term and planetary environmental consequences.

 

Raymond Lotta on: Why a Natural Disaster Became a Social Disaster, And Why It Doesn't Have to Be That Way: Reflections on Hurricane Sandy and the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal)

3. After Obama's climate change speech of June 25, you said that "the world desperately needs climate leadership and today Barack Obama showed he might turn out to be the guy who provided it."

This is as obscene as it is willfully self-deceptive.

You are aware that in 2009, Obama torpedoed any meaningful climate agreement in Copenhagen; that he expanded offshore drilling, including opening up the Arctic; and that he approved the southern portion of the Keystone XL pipeline (that would haul dirty tar-sands oil). You know that the U.S. posted the largest increase in oil production in the world and in U.S. history in 2012.

You also know Obama is: expanding war by drones, overseeing the most massive electronic surveillance in history, deporting immigrants in record numbers, and continuing mass incarceration that especially targets Black and Latino youth.

As the political representative of this system, Obama's mandate is to maintain and strengthen the position of the U.S as the most powerful imperialist power. But because Barack Obama uttered a few honeyed words in June, you now anoint him "climate-protector-in-chief."

 


April 2009, a humpback whale flaps its damaged fluke near the offshore oil platform, Santa Barbara where companies prospect for oil off California's coast using hydraulic fracturing have forced open cracks that leak oil beneath the seabed. Photo: AP

4. You stated to me in a public program that an "alternative system might possibly cope more easily with the environmental crisis" but then said we have to deal with current reality.

The reality is that capitalism-imperialism cannot interact with nature in a planned and sustainable way. But there is a solution: a liberatory socialist society, on the road to a communist world. This society can act on principles of socialist sustainable development, and tackle the environmental emergency for real, and with an internationalist perspective.

The vision and plan for this is set forth The Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. We will be able to decisively restructure the economy away from fossil fuels; mobilize resources and the creativity and determination of people to address the different dimensions of the environmental emergency; share knowledge and expertise and promote unprecedented international cooperation to address the environmental crisis; and imbue people with the understanding that we must act as caretakers of the planet for current and future generations. . (See “State of Emergency The Plunder of Our Planet, the Environmental Catastrophe, and the Real Revolutionary Solution”.)

This is not some well-meaning abstraction for intellectual consideration. This is about the visionary and viable way out of the horror of this world—for creating a society and world that truly emancipates humanity and that enables humanity to work urgently to save the planet. And we are building a movement for revolution to achieve this.

 


November 2011, demonstrators march outside the White House, Washington, DC, with a replica of a pipeline demanding a stop to the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline. Photo: AP

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/316/more-lies-for-war-from-the-liar-in-chief-en.html

Revolution #317 September 22, 2013

Obama's September 10 Speech on Syria:

More Lies for War from the Liar-in-Chief

September 11, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

Barack Obama’s September 10 speech on Syria was packaged, and is being “debated,” as a defense of his policies and his latest diplomatic moves.

Bringing Forward Another Way (an edited version of a talk by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, to a group of Party supporters, in the fall of 2006.)

Click to read or download PDF of this pamphlet.

But framing and underneath all that, the basis on which everyone is supposed to think and act is as big a collection of incredible lies as has ever been assembled in a speech, starting with Obama’s assertion that “the world’s a better place” because for “nearly seven decades the United States has been the anchor of global security.”

As is Obama’s claim that the U.S. mission in Syria is driven by opposition to “the terrible nature of chemical weapons.”

As is his assertion that the motive of the U.S. is to “stop children from being gassed to death and thereby make our own children safer over the long run.”

Libraries full of books, decades of documentaries, and the testimony of hundreds of millions of victims of what the U.S. has brought to the world would hardly begin to reveal the extent to which these are all LIES.

The truth matters! See also at revcom.us:

Syria: No War for Imperialist Interests!

This is a moment when the right of these imperialists to rule and to impose horrific suffering on tens and hundreds of thousands of people half way across the world can and should be called into question.
Read more

Only Worse Suffering and Horrors Can Result from a U.S. Attack on Syria

The growing danger of a direct U.S. military attack on Syria using planes and/or cruise missiles must be opposed with determined political protest and clear-eyed understanding of how they would make the situation worse.
Read more

In the Senate and at the G-20:
Obama's Agenda: Push the Syrians to Slaughter Each Other

In Obama's arguments to the Senate and to the rulers of global powers at the G-20, the real agenda of U.S. imperialism (and its allies, including Israel) is more in focus.
Read more

“Nearly Seven Decades” of Mass Murder – Including of Children

Obama: “The world’s a better place” because for “nearly seven decades the United States has been the anchor of global security.”

Let us fast-forward through U.S. history to those “nearly seven decades.” Past the genocide of Native Americans and the theft of their land, including the “Trail of Tears” where tens of thousands were driven off their lands in the southeastern U.S. and forced to march to Oklahoma—of 15,000 relocated Cherokees, 4,000 died on the march; yes, including many children. And let us fast-forward past slavery, where hundreds of thousands of people, kidnapped from Africa, were worked from “can’t see” in the morning to “can’t see” at night. And the legacy of children ripped from their parents, sold to other slave masters. All to build the foundation for much of what made America into the global empire it is today.

Let’s pause at just a few events in the “nearly seven decades” Obama claims that the U.S. was making the world “a better place.”

Those decades were launched with, and in important ways defined—militarily, politically, and morally—by the most concentrated mass murder of civilians in human history. The U.S. atomic bomb attacks on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the firebombing of Tokyo in 1945 killed 200,000 civilians, some burned to death on the spot, others dying torturous deaths from radiation poisoning, with survivors and humanity as a whole traumatized. (See from A World to Win News Service, “From Hiroshima and Nagasaki to Today: Reporting American Crimes Against Humanity”)

Audio Bob Avakian: "Why We're in the Situation We're in Today... And What to Do About It: A Thoroughly Rotten System and the Need for Revolution".
Talk 1 From 7 Talks (2006)

Eight years later, the U.S. was “making the world a better place” through the Korean War. Of the U.S. invasion of Korea in 1950, U.S. Air Force General Curtis LeMay boasted that U.S. planes “burned down every town in North Korea.” The U.S. used more bombs and artillery shells in Korea than in all of World War 2, and used napalm—a chemical weapon more terrifying and “effective” against military and civilian targets than the older sarin gas the U.S. accuses Syria’s Bashar al-Assad of using. An estimated five  million people were killed in that war, three million of them civilians.

In the U.S. war of aggression against Vietnam, from 1965-1975, the U.S. continued to make the world “a better place” and along the way demonstrated how much it cares about children by dropping more than seven million tons of bombs on Vietnam and the neighboring countries of Cambodia and Laos before being driven out in 1975, killing an estimated three million Vietnamese—again, many of them children. Typical of the logic and morality of the U.S. military was the infamous statement by one U.S. military commander who directed the burning down of a whole peasant village and then said, “We had to destroy the village in order to save it.” In massacres as at the village of My Lai, and in the “cluster bombs” they dropped, the U.S. specifically aimed to kill civilians—including children—at random.

And in response to the arguments of defenders of U.S. imperialism, including liberal “critics” who insist “that was then, this is now,” the U.S. still provides cluster bombs for use against civilians. In 2006, the U.S. Senate voted, 70-30, to defeat an amendment to a Pentagon budget bill which would have banned the use of cluster bombs near populated civilian areas. That enabled the U.S. to continue to supply cluster bombs to Israel to use in an invasion of Lebanon. (See “Victims of Israel’s Cluster Bombs,” Revolution #61, September 17, 2006, at revcom.us)

Obama rails against Assad as a “tyrant.” But over “nearly seven decades” the United States installed many of the most brutal tyrants who carried out some of the most massive crimes against their own people in history. In 1965, the U.S. orchestrated a reactionary coup in Indonesia and the slaughter of one million communists and others. The massacres were so wanton that in parts of the country, the rivers were choked with bodies and blood. The fascist gangs and Islamic fundamentalists enlisted along with regular military and police to carry out these massacres used and reveled in the most depraved and sadistic means of torturing and killing people to spread widespread terror, including among children. The deaths of communists were then reported to officials at the U.S. embassy who crossed off the names of the dead from lists they had provided to the Indonesian butchers.

The fact that this history is not taught in schools, or acknowledged in acceptable discourse, does not mean these things didn’t really happen. Readers are challenged to look these up for themselves, and send the results of what they find to revolution.reports@yahoo.com.

Dealing with the Legacy of Iraq

Here’s one bit of actual truth that nearly everyone does know: The Iraq war was based on LIES.

Obama claimed in his speech that he was determined not to repeat what happened in Iraq and Afghanistan. As if simply avoiding U.S. “boots on the ground” should be the measuring stick for whether or not the U.S. is again carrying out the same kinds of crimes it carried out in Iraq and Afghanistan. Justified with THE SAME BASIC SET OF LIES! 

Set aside, for a moment, the fact that the U.S. invasion of Iraq was justified by TOTAL LIES about Saddam Hussein’s supposed “weapons of mass destruction.” Set aside, for a moment, the fact that the media, including the liberal New York Times, channeled these lies and gave them credibility.

Consider instead the self-righteous claims by the likes of Dick Cheney and George W. Bush that the U.S. was motivated by and driven to attack Iraq because “Saddam Hussein is a man who is willing to gas his own people, willing to use weapons of mass destruction against Iraq citizens." (President Bush, March 22, 2002)

Saddam Hussein did gas Kurdish people in Iraq in 1988—something the U.S. facilitated, by the way, including through encouraging the Kurds to rebel and then stabbing them in the back, and through making it possible—including through allies—for Hussein to obtain poison gas. And Saddam Hussein did torture his opponents in Abu Ghraib prison (remember the name of that prison, we’ll come back to it).

But the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and, importantly, the “diplomatic” moves the U.S. carried out against Hussein—namely sanctions, made things exponentially, horribly worse for the people of Iraq.

Operation Desert Storm, 1991, the first U.S. invasion of Iraq, killed or injured hundreds of thousands—over 25,000 civilians and fleeing soldiers were killed in 48 hours on the “Highway of Death.” Then, after the war, the U.S. continued “making the world a better place” and demonstrating care for children through sanctions that killed some 500,000 children in Iraq—killed because of those U.S. sanctions that prevented them from getting needed medicine, clean water, and nutrition. And this crime was justified by a future U.S. Secretary of State as “a very hard choice, but the price—we think the price is worth it.” (60 Minutes, May 12, 1996)

In 2003, the U.S. and its allies again invaded Iraq—once again making the world “a better place.” During and after the war, between 600,000 and one million Iraqis were killed, and over four million were driven from their homes. (See “Mortality after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: a cross-sectional cluster surveyThe Lancet, October 12, 2006 ). One can debate whether the invasion of Iraq was a good move from the perspective of “the national interests of the United States.” But these deaths are almost never mentioned in the mainstream media.

And the U.S. turned Abu Ghraib prison into their hellish torture chamber, with U.S. military personnel bragging on social media and in emails of sadistic torture, murder, sexual abuse, water boarding, beatings, sleep deprivation, humiliation, and dog attacks.

Today Iraq is wracked with terrible sectarian violence (different religious and ethnic factions killing each other). During the U.S. occupation much of that was directly orchestrated by the U.S. in the tradition of colonial “divide and conquer” strategies, but all of it greatly exacerbated in one way or another by the U.S. invasion and the legacy and present-day reality of imperialist domination.

It is an unfortunate fact that among the forces “in the field” in Syria, none of them represent the interests of the people—including the regime and its allies and the motley collection of jihadists and more pro-U.S. forces. Beyond that, two reactionary forces are setting overall terms in the Middle East—“the West” (capitalism-imperialism, led by the U.S.) and—on a much lesser scale but equally reactionary—Islamic Jihad. And other reactionary powers (like Russia) are maneuvering for their own interests in the devastating civil war in Syria that has killed over 100,000 and made refugees of a million people.

But none of this should be an excuse for inaction and disorientation by people who oppose a U.S. attack.

Tens of thousands of Syrian-Kurdish refugees fleeing to Iraq are lined up to cross the border in August 2013. Photo: AP


The same can be said about Afghanistan. And one can literally spin a globe of the planet, point to a country, and find crimes carried out by the U.S.

All this misery is a product of how their imperialist system works. It is a system that, by its nature, is driven to exploit the people and resources of the world, to contend and compete with rivals big and small, global and regional, over their ability to do that, which is driven by its nature to enforce all this with the most brutal violence.

Think about what kind of a SYSTEM is represented by a liar-in-chief who can look back on a record like this, look earnestly into the cameras, and talk about nearly seven decades of “enforcing” what he calls “international agreements” that he claims made the world “a better place.”

“The United States military doesn't do pinpricks”... and Diplomacy

Far, far too many of those who Obama would refer to as “on the Left” are breathing a sigh of relief that Obama is turning to “diplomacy” instead of launching a military strike—at this moment. But thuggish threats and violent crimes on the one hand and diplomacy on the other are two sides of the same coin.

Speaking to a world population that is much more aware than are people in the U.S. of the legacy of U.S. violent crimes around the world, and speaking to (and embracing) the “hawks” in the ruling class and good ole boys watching on TV, Obama put on his stern face, looked into the cameras, and made this ominous declaration and threat:

“Let me make something clear: The United States military doesn't do pinpricks.”

U.S. diplomacy rests on violence and threats of violence, and is aimed at the same ends as violence of enforcing exploitation and oppression, fending off rivals, and keeping people enslaved. If Tony Soprano establishes the freedom to set up and run drug dealing, prostitution, and extortion in a district by threatening to strangle someone (a threat that only means something because everyone knows he actually strangles people), how is that something to celebrate?

And, again, look at Iraq, where U.S. sanctions (“diplomacy”) killed hundreds of thousands of children, and softened up Iraq for the 2003 invasion and all the horrors that came with that.

Stop Thinking Like Americans

On the basis of a world of lies, Obama proclaimed: “Our ideals and principles, as well as our national security, are at stake in Syria, along with our leadership of a world where we seek to ensure that the worst weapons will never be used.”

First of all, given that Obama is speaking for a ruling class of imperialists who have carried out the greatest crimes against humanity in history, WHO THE FUCK WOULD WANT TO IDENTIFY WITH THE “IDEALS AND PRINCIPLES” behind what Obama calls “our” national security!? Those are NOT “OUR” ideals and principles. They are the “ideals and principles” of a murderous, sadistic, depraved imperialist ruling class driven to subjugate, dominate, and terrorize the planet.

So why would anyone want to “debate” what the United States should do in Syria based on THOSE interests? Unless they identify with ensuring that the U.S. imperialist ruling class can continue to dominate the planet, violently enforcing a system of sweatshops and slums, environmental devastation, and a system whose culture and “traditions” have produced an epidemic of rape.

Get Out of the Terms of THEIR Debate, and Get INTO Revolution

The answer(s): NONE OF THE ABOVE!

The American public is being trained to think in these terms through Obama’s speech, and through endless spinning and “debate” among media pundits who are allowed access to maintream media. But people who have the ability to think critically and have the moral sense to look at things from the standpoint of the interests of HUMANITY have to loudly and clearly REJECT THESE TERMS in all kinds of ways, including connecting that outlook with, and encouraging political protests against, any U.S. moves against Syria.

It is an unfortunate fact that among the forces “in the field” in Syria, none of them represent the interests of the people—including the regime and its allies and the motley collection of jihadists and more pro-U.S. forces. Beyond that, two reactionary forces are setting overall terms in the Middle East—“the West” (capitalism-imperialism, led by the U.S.) and—on a much lesser scale but equally reactionary—Islamic Jihad. And other reactionary powers (like Russia) are maneuvering for their own interests in the devastating civil war in Syria that has killed over 100,000 and made refugees of a million people.

But none of this should be an excuse for inaction and disorientation by people who oppose a U.S. attack. Just the opposite. An important editorial at revcom.us, “Syria: No War for Imperialist Interests!” bears ongoing study as a reference point for everyone who finds intolerable the “choices” of different ways of bringing oppression and suffering to the people of Syria. That editorial discusses the problems the imperialist system is facing right now, including that because of real difficulties, obstacles, and dangers to the U.S. empire involved in various scenarios they are debating, it may actually not be a settled question whether the U.S. attacks Syria. In short, there is both a moral and political basis to oppose any U.S. attack on Syria in any form, and openings to wage political protest on that basis.

And as the editorial we referenced earlier notes, this is a “teachable moment”—part of transforming people for revolution that will bring to an end this system that has perpetrated such terrible crimes against humanity.

As part of that, this is a critical moment to bring boldly into every sphere of public life the message of BAsics 3:8:

The interests, objectives, and grand designs of the imperialists are not our interests—they are not the interests of the great majority of people in the U.S. nor of the overwhelming majority of people in the world as a whole. And the difficulties the imperialists have gotten themselves into in pursuit of these interests must be seen, and responded to, not from the point of view of the imperialists and their interests, but from the point of view of the great majority of humanity and the basic and urgent need of humanity for a different and better world, for another way.

Bob Avakian
Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/317/syria-diplomacy-and-ongoing-danger-of-a-US-attack-en.html

Revolution #317 September 22, 2013

Syria: Diplomacy... and Ongoing Danger of a U.S. Attack

by Larry Everest | September 14, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

Developments concerning Syria continue to move very quickly. On Saturday, September 14, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced their governments had reached an agreement to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons. It reportedly called for the Syrian government to disclose its chemical weapons stockpile within a week, and for international inspectors to be on the ground in Syria by November to enforce the agreement.

Bringing Forward Another Way (an edited version of a talk by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, to a group of Party supporters, in the fall of 2006.)

Click to read or download PDF of this pamphlet.

This comes less than a week after President Barack Obama was openly preparing for a military assault on Syria and following a week of intense political and diplomatic struggle on the international stage and within the U.S. ruling class—as well as widespread opposition to war among the people. The agreement is being spun as, and might mean, the threat of a U.S. military strike has receded—at least for the time being. (The U.S., Russia, and other world powers may also be struggling out other, broader plans concerning Syria and the Middle East behind the scenes.) At the same time, the rulers of the U.S. and their media are working to set terms where at any moment they can declare that the Syrians or other parties are not living up to whatever the U.S. says has been agreed on, and the U.S. could launch a military strike justified with claims that they had gone the last mile in diplomacy first.

This latest turn toward an internationally imposed "diplomatic" approach to the horrific crisis in Syria was greeted by many progressives with a sigh of relief, labeling it a rejection of war in favor of diplomacy. William Rivers Pitt, Truthout: "It is a refreshing change of pace to see diplomacy at work after so many years of bomb first and ask questions later..." Or Robert Naiman, also on Truthout: "With War Off the Table, It's Time for Syria Cease-Fire, Negotiations and Talking to Iran." Then a joint statement by Jesse Jackson and Phyllis Bennis: "From War to Peace: Forceful Diplomacy, Not Military Force in Syria." (Common Dreams and elsewhere)

This is NOT what's happening. Whatever agreements are being hammered out by that cabal of rival imperialist states, big powers, and other reactionary regimes otherwise known as the United Nations or the "international community" are being done to suit their interests, not those of humanity. So fairy tales and delusions about turning from "war to peace," and the wonders of "diplomacy at work" aren't hopeful—they're harmful! The only thing they will disarm—politically and ideologically—are those people who are influenced by them, obscuring reality and weakening resistance.

Emergency Presentation and Discussion on Syria with Larry Everest, Sept. 9, 2013

Watch this video recording of an emergency presentation by Larry Everest at Revolution Books in Berkeley, California, on September 9, 2013.

First, events—which have been unfolding very rapidly—could bring the "military option" front and center again, and Obama has made clear that military action is still "on the table"—with or without UN authorization.

Second, what is taking place is not a step toward eliminating horrific weapons of mass destruction. What's taking place is that the tyrannical, murderous regime of a small, oppressed country is being forced under threat of bombardment to partially disarm by reactionary powers with far, far, far greater arsenals of death and destruction—including nuclear weapons that are qualitatively more savage and dangerous than chemical weapons—precisely in order to preserve their monopoly over these weapons of cataclysmic death and destruction.

Third, the Obama team may be calculating that because it lacks any good or easy options in Syria, striking this deal can be to its advantage, including because by appearing to "give peace a chance" it can build greater support for a possible military assault later if that is deemed necessary.

Fourth, as all this—and decades of history—shows, U.S. diplomacy, negotiations, and arms inspections—like military actions—are all about imperialism, nothing else. They don't represent an attempt to arrive at a "fair" or "just" resolution of conflicts or to abolish weapons of mass destruction. Conducting diplomacy, and seeking various negotiated agreements, including at times around arms inspections and disarmament, are all part of the "tool kit" the U.S. employs to carry out and advance its global interests and strategy for domination and control. Nor do these means represent a repudiation of military violence—just the opposite. These efforts are based on, backed up, and enforced by the threat or use of military force—and they can murder just as many people as wars can!

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/317/lessons-from-iraq-the-price-of-sanctions-en.html

Revolution #317 September 22, 2013

Lessons from Iraq: The “Price” of Sanctions

by Larry Everest | September 16, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

In light of the agreement for the "international community" to supervise the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons, it's important to learn from the experience of U.S. and UN "diplomacy" and "arms inspections" in Iraq from 1990 to 2003. This is a case study in what imperialist diplomacy, agreements, and "arms control" are really all about—and what they mean for the people!

In 1990, draconian economic sanctions were imposed on Iraq, supposedly simply to force it to withdraw from Kuwait, which Iraq had invaded in August.

In April 1991, following 43 days of massive bombardment, the U.S.-led coalition forced Iraq, then under Saddam Hussein, to agree to UN Resolution 687, forcing it to reveal and destroy its nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs, and to submit to extremely intrusive international inspections to verify compliance.

Iraq's alleged failure to fully comply with UN Resolution 687 and fully cooperate with UN weapons inspectors were the primary rationalizations for 12 murderous years of U.S.-imposed economic sanctions and near-war with Iraq. In 2002-2003, these charges morphed into the Bush regime's primary justification for preemptive war.

In fact, within six months of the end of the 1991 Gulf War, Iraqi weapons programs were being discovered and destroyed. Iraq may have destroyed all its weapons of mass destruction by the early 1990s, according to a high-level defector, and certainly by the late 1990s. In October 1998, the International Atomic Energy Agency certified that Iraq had provided it with a "full, final, and complete" account of its nuclear weapons programs, and that the agency had found no evidence of any prohibited nuclear activities since October 1997. A year later, the UN Security Council's disarmament panel concluded, "Although important elements still have to be resolved, the bulk of Iraq's proscribed weapons programmes has been eliminated." In 2001, President Clinton's Defense Secretary William Cohen told the incoming Bush administration that "Saddam Hussein's forces are in a state where he cannot pose a threat to his neighbors at this point. We have been successful, through the sanctions regime, to really shut off most of the revenue that will be going to build his—rebuild his military."

This is why the U.S. found no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq—repeat zero, nada—when they conquered Iraq in 2003 even though U.S. inspectors scoured the country for months. In other words, Iraq had been telling the truth about weapons of mass destruction. The U.S. had been lying. The U.S. wasn't just lying before the 2003 war—it had been lying for the whole decade of the 1990s about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. This was no "intelligence failure"—these were deliberate, conscious, carefully crafted LIES!

This should have meant that sanctions were lifted. UN Resolution 687 stated that upon "completion" of its disarmament obligations, sanctions "shall have no further force or effect." But sanctions were never lifted, even when inspections showed that Iraq had disarmed.

Instead, during those years, members of the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) charged with carrying out weapons inspections (37 percent of whom were U.S. personnel) also spied on Iraq—including planting covert, high tech listening devices to monitor Iraqi government and military communications, including Saddam Hussein's movements. This intelligence was used in a June 1996 attempted coup, and in a December 1998 attempt to assassinate Hussein with cruise missile strikes.

Richard Butler, the head of UNSCOM in 1997-98, talked with President Bill Clinton's National Security Advisor Sandy Berger on a daily basis. Butler even cleared his reports with the U.S. UNSCOM inspectors when they conducted surprise inspections (violating protocols worked out with Iraq) aimed at provoking confrontations, which were then seized upon by the U.S. to claim Iraq was not complying with inspections. This was part of a constant drumbeat of pre-2001 propaganda that Hussein was cheating on inspections, not upholding his promises, etc., etc., all of which was used to justify war.

Why did the U.S. refuse to acknowledge Iraqi cooperation and disarmament? Why did it refuse to lift sanctions, but instead use arms inspections as a means to attack Hussein's regime? Because imperialist objectives guided what the U.S. did in Iraq, not international law or UN resolutions. And those imperialist objectives included weakening Iraq as a regional power and overthrowing Saddam Hussein as part of maintaining U.S. regional dominance—not simply stripping Iraq of weapons of mass destruction. The U.S. maintained sanctions because it hoped to make life so miserable for the population that Iraqis would rise up (preferably via a military coup) and topple the Hussein regime—shoring up U.S. regional control and demonstrating its power in the process.

This also meant protecting critical cornerstones of U.S.-Middle East predominance—Israel and Egypt. Israel has nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. Egypt has chemical weapons. Yet neither country was criticized, sanctioned, or compelled to give up its weapons of mass destruction even though Resolution 687 claimed that disarming Iraq was part of creating a "nuclear-weapons-free zone in the region" and ridding it of all weapons of mass destruction.

"A Legitimized Act of Mass Slaughter"

What was the result of a decade of sanctions following the horrific U.S. bombing of 1991?

I visited Iraq shortly after the 1991 war was over to report for Revolution and make the documentary short film, Iraq—War Against the People. Dr. Ameed Hamid, director of Iraq's Red Crescent Society, told me in June 1991, "Since the war, Iraqi children have been exposed to biological warfare, massive biological warfare. When you destroy the infrastructure of a country, sewage with all its germs will flow into the streets; you stop pure water from reaching the children; you give them malnutrition; you prevent medicines from reaching the country. So it's an excellent environment for death and disease."

A 1999 survey by UNICEF and Iraq's Ministry of Health found that the rate of infant mortality among children under five living in south and central Iraq (where 85 percent of the population lives) had risen from 56 per 1,000 live births in 1984-1989 to 131 between 1994-1999—and was continuing to rise over time. UNICEF's estimate of the staggering death toll: 500,000 or more.

Thus, Iraqi children under five were dying at more than twice the rate they were before the 1991 Gulf War. That's roughly 5,000 Iraqi children under five dying each month thanks to U.S. actions: a World Trade Center catastrophe and more every 30 days.

Fairfield University Professor Joy Gordon summed up that U.S. policymakers had turned UN sanctions into "a legitimized act of mass slaughter." In 2002, the Iraqi government stated that 1.7 million children had died from disease or malnutrition since the imposition of sanctions in August 1990.

In 1996, U.S. Ambassador to the UN and soon-to-be Secretary of State Madeleine Albright made it clear that U.S. officials were well aware of the toll in Iraqi lives U.S. actions had taken, and they had no real qualms about it. During a CBS 60 Minutes interview, host Leslie Stahl asked her about the impact of sanctions: "We have heard that half a million Iraqi children have died. I mean, that's more children than died in Hiroshima. And—and you know, is the price worth it?" Albright's answer: "I think this is a very hard choice, but the price—we think the price is worth it."

(For references and more detailed discussion, see, Oil, Power & Empire: Iraq and the U.S. Global Agenda, Chapters 6 and 7.)

 

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/315/the-battle-over-the-truth-about-the-african-american-experience-and-present-day-reality-en.html

Revolution #317 September 22, 2013

On Obama's August 28 Speech

The Battle over the Truth About the African-American Experience and Present-Day Reality

September 2, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

From Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About, a film of a talk by Bob Avakian (2003): "The police, Black youth and what kind of a system is this?"

A profound struggle over the truth has been raging in America. For the past few months, this struggle has focused on the real position of African-American people in U.S. society. And it has taken shape in the past few weeks around the anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The question here is what is the actual TRUTH of the matter—not what is anyone's "narrative," but the actual character of reality. In other words, what has actually happened and is continuing to happen... what dynamics have driven and continue to drive forward the oppression of Black people as a people, and the struggle against that oppression... and what must be done about it.

George Zimmerman's cold-blooded murder of Trayvon Martin, and his subsequent acquittal, forced this question to the forefront of American consciousness. Millions, tens of millions, were asking WHY. Why did George Zimmerman feel empowered to murder Trayvon Martin, and why did the police not even initially charge him, test him for drugs, etc.—but instead treated Trayvon as trash, as less than nothing, not even telling his father until the next day? Why was Trayvon slandered in the media? Why did the jury acquit Zimmerman? Why did people feel this as such a punch in the gut? What did this have to do with how Black people, and other minority people, have to manage and navigate every single day of their lives? And what did it have to do with other controversial issues—like the New York Police Department's apartheid-style stop-and-frisk assaults on Black and Latino males of all ages, or the closing of ghetto schools in Chicago and Philadelphia, or the fact that prisoners in California were driven to undertake a massive hunger strike to protest their conditions? What about the foreclosures unequally visited on people of color, the predatory lending (legal loan-sharking, really), the massive evictions of Black women? Is this even going to be recognized? And if it is, how is it to be understood... and acted on? Where does it come from? What must be done about it?

A profound struggle over the truth has been raging in America. For the past few months, this struggle has focused on the real position of African-American people in U.S. society. ...

George Zimmerman's cold-blooded murder of Trayvon Martin, and his subsequent acquittal, forced this question to the forefront of American consciousness. Millions, tens of millions, were asking WHY. Why did George Zimmerman feel empowered to murder Trayvon Martin, and why did the police not even initially charge him, test him for drugs, etc.—but instead treated Trayvon as trash, as less than nothing, not even telling his father until the next day? Why was Trayvon slandered in the media? Why did the jury acquit Zimmerman? Why did people feel this as such a punch in the gut? What did this have to do with how Black people, and other minority people, have to manage and navigate every single day of their lives?

This struggle has been and is three-sided.

On one side are the unapologetic and unrepentant white supremacists, puffed up and on the offensive. At the beginning of the summer, the Supreme Court issued a number of reactionary, racist decisions. These included a decision overturning the heart of the Voting Rights Act. This law, which was forced from the system in 1965 as a result of the blood and sacrifice of thousands of people, required the federal government to make sure that Black people, especially in the South, would be guaranteed the right to vote. This basic right had been denied people for decades long after the Civil War had supposedly settled this; those who attempted to exercise this right were hounded, fired from work, beaten and often lynched. But now, claimed the Court, this was no longer needed; one justice, Antonin Scalia, went so far as to say this amounted to a special "entitlement" for Black people. No sooner had the Court overturned this part of the Voting Rights Act than a number of states—North and South—passed laws which will have the effect of in fact denying the right to vote to African-Americans, Latinos, and other oppressed nationalities.

We've already spoken about the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin. And it was not only the verdict, but the way in which the rulers of this country unleashed the braying pack of white supremacist wolves who howled through the course of, and after, the trial. These weren't just a few people off in the sticks somewhere; we're talking about many of the major "expert commentators" on CNN and, of course, Fox News. In the huge debate that this trial set off about the whole history of this country, Rush Limbaugh said that "If any race of people should not have guilt about slavery, it's Caucasians." This is the analysis, if you want to call it that, that is being proffered by the fascist wing of the ruling class. It has no connection to the truth whatsoever, and it is justification for the worst horrors and oppression.

The fact that no prominent Republicans attended the commemoration of the March on Washington—and this includes the "moderate" and "sensible" ones like George Bush I and II, who along with Jeb Bush, John McCain, and House Speaker John Boehner were all invited—also speaks volumes as to how this wing of the ruling class sees Black people.

As Bob Avakian pointed out in "Unresolved Contradictions, Driving Forces for Revolution," one of the essential elements that these (mainly Republican) politicians are building up and unleashing is "the sense of white male American entitlement." These forces see that, in the face of major global changes and challenges, and major upheavals in the ways in which people have lived in this country for many decades, the social fabric and belief of people in the "American way of life" is fraying; and this open celebration of white male entitlement is a critical part of their program for knitting American society back together. They are on a mission around this, and they are unapologetic.

The World According to Barack Obama

On one side are the unapologetic and unrepentant white supremacists, puffed up and on the offensive. At the beginning of the summer, the Supreme Court issued a number of reactionary, racist decisions. These included a decision overturning the heart of the Voting Rights Act. ...

As Bob Avakian pointed out in "Unresolved Contradictions, Driving Forces for Revolution," one of the essential elements that these (mainly Republican) politicians are building up and unleashing is "the sense of white male American entitlement." These forces see that, in the face of major global changes and challenges, and major upheavals in the ways in which people have lived in this country for many decades, the social fabric and belief of people in the "American way of life" is fraying; and this open celebration of white male entitlement is a critical part of their program for knitting American society back together. They are on a mission around this, and they are unapologetic.

Then there is what is represented by those affiliated with the Democratic Party. In a number of speeches, rallies, commemorations, and cultural works, these forces have set forth a different analysis. In their view, there may remain problems; but the answer to those problems is to be found within the workings of this system.

This was laid out in Barack Obama's August 28 speech celebrating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. While there may be shades of difference between how Obama put things forward and how others holding this view do, none of them fundamentally disagree with the viewpoint Obama put forward on that occasion. So let's dig into Obama's speech.

In Obama's analysis, the "injustice" (the strongest word he used) of Black people's condition in America flowed out of a failure to live up to the "truths" set forth in the Declaration of Independence. Further, he argued, the essential character of the movement that won civil rights for Black people was its nonviolent character—its refusal to "lash out in anger," its reliance on "[prayer] for their tormentors," and "willingly [going to] jail to protest unjust laws." In Obama's analysis, the international influence of this struggle was limited to "the other side of the Iron Curtain" and South Africa. And anyone who dismisses "the magnitude of this progress," or suggests, "as some sometimes do, that little has changed ... dishonors the courage and the sacrifice of those who paid the price to march in those years."

Obama also has harsh words for a different trend in that struggle for freedom. He stated:

[I]f 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. Legitimate grievances against police brutality tipped into excuse-making for criminal behavior. Racial politics could cut both ways, as the transformative message of unity and brotherhood was drowned out by the language of recrimination. And what had once been a call for equality of opportunity, the chance for all Americans to work hard and get ahead was too often framed as a mere desire for government support—as if we had no agency in our own liberation, as if poverty was an excuse for not raising your child and the bigotry of others was reason to give up on yourself.

All of that history is how progress stalled. That's how hope was diverted. It's how our country remained divided.

Obama then went on to discuss remaining problems—but principally in the economic sphere. But what about the massive incarceration of Black people (nearly 10 times greater now than it was 50 years ago!) and everything that has meant to millions and millions of African-American, Latino, Native American Indian, and other oppressed-nationality people? What about the outrageous vindication of racial profiling and lynch-style racial murder concentrated in the verdict on Trayvon Martin and the police abuse and brutality concentrated in stop-and-frisk and other forms of racial profiling, and the outright police murder that goes on over and over again? What about the ways in which the whole criminal justice system is saturated with white supremacy? And what about the New Jim Crow that is concentrated in all this—that is, the way in which this is just as systematic as the 100-year reign of segregation and Ku Klux Klan terror in the South?

Obama then went on to discuss remaining problems—but principally in the economic sphere. But what about the massive incarceration of Black people (nearly 10 times greater now than it was 50 years ago!) and everything that has meant to millions and millions of African-American, Latino, Native American Indian, and other oppressed-nationality people? ...The real state of Black America today was not confronted; it was in effect papered over. And the fact that Black people are still an oppressed people, after all these decades and centuries—this was not even papered over: it was outright denied (as we will show).


2011, Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, Prisoners marched back from labor in the fields. Photo: AP

In the world laid out in this speech, these horrors barely even merit the most glancing mention. In fact, the only times these are even obliquely referred to is when Obama says that we must ensure "that the scales of justice work equally for all, and the criminal justice system is not simply a pipeline from underfunded schools to overcrowded jails." As if everything is basically okay, but we just have to work a little harder to ensure things are working right—the way they're supposed to. When, in fact, these institutions have worked the way they've always worked and the way they have been designed to work. The real state of Black America today was not confronted; it was in effect papered over. And the fact that Black people are still an oppressed people, after all these decades and centuries—this was not even papered over: it was outright denied (as we will show).

But let's go on. Obama mentions the need for "vigilance" but not struggle. He ends his speech in a call for people to have empathy for others, "to join together with others in a spirit of brotherhood," and to continue to work hard to scrape by. Rather than fight against the devastating cutbacks in education in cities like Chicago and Philadelphia, now wreaking further havoc on Black and Latino children, Obama cites the teacher who works overtime and pays for the school supplies; rather than fight against mass incarceration, Obama cites the "successful businessman who ... offers a shot to a man, maybe an ex-con who is down on his luck." And so on. In other words: this is a very passive, very individual, and non-collective, form of "vigilance."

The analysis expressed in this speech of Obama's has been pounded out far more broadly than Obama himself. This has run through most of the coverage of the anniversary in the mainstream press. It has found expression in the culture (and we will continue to speak to all of this in depth in the weeks to come).

It is profoundly wrong and it is deeply dangerous.

We Don't Need A New Civil Rights Movement—WE NEED REVOLUTION! Carl Dix speaking on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the 1963 Civil Rights March on Washington.

The Real Truth

In this situation, there are some who are in fact fighting against the lies. There is the statement released by Carl Dix, on the very night of the speech, telling the truth about this speech, and pointing people toward revolution. And there have been other voices as well, insisting on important truths, including Cornel West, who has called out Obama's worldwide marauding and criminality and taken this to every venue he can find.

This trend of truth-telling in the face of the outright lies of the Antonin Scalias and Rush Limbaughs of the world, and narcotic lies being pushed by Obama and the Democrats, must continue. This is not to say that there is total unity among all these forces—there are differences over the source of the problem, and the solution, among other things. But there is a very important point at the same time of insisting on a) the historic and systemic character to the oppression of Black people, and b) the fact that Obama is covering this over, in the service of a very ugly program. In that light, and in the spirit of digging down to the most basic bedrock truths, a few further points must be made on this speech.*

Contrary to Obama, the urban rebellions—which he calls "riots"—that broke out in hundreds of American cities, beginning in the early '60s and then picking up tremendous momentum in the late '60s, were tremendously liberating. Let's be clear: fighting back is not bad; fighting back is good, very good, and fighting back is a very necessary part of emancipation.


1970. The Black Panther Party in New Haven, Connecticut. Photo: AP

First, in continuing to locate—and confine—the struggle of Black people in the framework of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, Obama once again conveniently omits that that Declaration cited as one of its chief grievances its allegation that King George III had incited slave rebellions! Obama conveniently ignores that the fundamental bargain of the Constitution was to enable the continued flourishing and expansion of slavery, which was at that point the foundation and bulwark of the wealth and power of the American state that was coming into being. And it was only when that expansion ran into the interests of the rising capitalists of the North that the Civil War erupted—with the objective of Lincoln and the North not, at first, being the abolition of slavery, but its confinement to the slave states. Only when it became clear that the South would settle for nothing less than slavery's expansion and that the North would need to both strike at the heart of Southern strength (the enslavement of Black people) and mobilize the entire population for total war in order to win... only then did Lincoln issue the Emancipation Proclamation. This is not a "narrative"—this is the actual truth of the matter, the actual essence of the situation, and we invite any who insist otherwise to send us your argument. (And if you agree, and want to add to this point, you should also send your contributions!) But by framing the struggle against the oppression of (oh, sorry, the "injustice" against) the African-American people in the context of "realizing the American dream," Obama leads people back into the same killing confines of the past 240 years.

Second, Obama would have us believe that the gains that were won in the struggle for the rights of Black people were totally due to nonviolent action. In fact, there was a whole section of the movement, including in the South, which fully understood the need for self-defense. This included Robert Williams, in Monroe, N.C., who organized armed defense of the Black community against the KKK in the late '50s; the Deacons for Defense and Justice in Louisiana; as well as many other individual organizers who gave as good as they got against the cowardly night-riding terrorists of the Klan throughout the South. It is true that up through early 1965, the mainstream of the movement agreed to utilize nonviolent tactics in demonstrations and other actions, but by the latter part of that year increasing numbers had broken with that approach.

Moreover, contrary to Obama, the urban rebellions—which he calls "riots"—that broke out in hundreds of American cities, beginning in the early '60s and then picking up tremendous momentum in the late '60s, were tremendously liberating. Let's be clear: fighting back is not bad; fighting back is good, very good, and fighting back is a very necessary part of emancipation. The fact that many forces—including Malcolm X, the Student Nonviolent  Coordinating Committee (which essentially broke with nonviolence in the mid-'60s after paying a tremendous cost with their own lives), and in particular the Black Panther Party—not only upheld fighting back but (even more essentially) began to see the American system itself NOT as the potential savior of Black people but as the chief obstacle to liberation and, in the case of the Panthers, began to actively promote the goal of revolution—this was GOOD. The fact that these forces looked to and promoted revolutions all over the world—revolutions aimed against U.S., European, and Japanese imperialism—this was GOOD.

This leads to a telling omission on Obama's part. He notes that this movement influenced the masses of Black people in South Africa, and claims that it played a role in the struggle against oppressive phony communist regimes of Eastern Europe... but he fails to note how the rest of the world, most of which saw U.S. imperialism as their enemy, welcomed and drew inspiration from the powerful uprisings that rocked America—from Latin America and Africa to the Middle East, from Vietnam to Europe, reaching into China itself, where the leader of the Chinese revolution and the (at that time) socialist state of China embraced this struggle and issued powerful statements in support! (See "Statement by Comrade Mao Tse-tung, Chairman of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, in Support of the Afro-American Struggle Against Violent Repression" [April 16, 1968].)

Obama mentions the basic economic inequality that continues to dog Black people 50 years after the March for Jobs and Justice—he even brings in some important facts on this at one point—but he obscures the essence of this, and he locates the solution to this inequality exactly where it should not be: within the framework of capitalism itself.

In fact, the whole way in which the Black liberation struggle arose was very deeply connected to what was going on all over the world. On the one hand, the glaring outrages being committed against Black people in the South petitioning for the most basic of rights gave the lie to the American attempt to posture all over the world as the promoter of freedom. This need for America not to "look bad in front of the rest of the world" created openings that people fighting against the oppression of Black people were able to seize. On the other hand, the wave of national liberation struggles all over the world—peoples rising up in Vietnam, Algeria, Cuba, and elsewhere against the system of colonialism and neo-colonialism—inspired people all over the world AND in this country. Very important in that was the example of China—where the Communist Party of China, led by Mao Tsetung, had led the Chinese people to not only win liberation but begin constructing socialism. All this was part of the emergence of a revolutionary trend in this struggle, beginning in the early '60s and reaching its peak with the Black Panther Party in the latter half of that decade.

In refuting this part of Obama's speech, Carl Dix trenchantly points out that:

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.

Again, this is not "our narrative," nor just one opinion among many—either what is said is true or it is not. If you think it is not, we challenge you—we invite you—to tell us where we're wrong. And, again, if you agree or have more to add—let us know that too!

The Current Conditions and the Current Challenges

Then there is Obama's reading of history since the 1960s. Obama cannot outright or entirely deny the grossly unequal conditions of Black people and, in a more general sense, the tremendous inequality that has exploded in America over the past four decades, affecting people of all nationalities. And he focuses much of his speech on this.

Obama mentions the basic economic inequality that continues to dog Black people 50 years after the March for Jobs and Justice—he even brings in some important facts on this at one point—but he obscures the essence of this, and he locates the solution to this inequality exactly where it should not be: within the framework of capitalism itself. While we cannot in this article go deeply into this, and we have spoken to this elsewhere in much more depth, it is the capitalist system itself—its needs and demands—which at every stage has conditioned the different forms of exploitation of Black people.

First there was slavery—the original reason that the African-American people were kidnapped and dragged to these shores, often being murdered in the process. Then there was the century of open Jim Crow segregation, denial of fundamental rights, and lynch-mob terror—built up on the foundation of share-cropping in the South (a form of primitive agriculture in which farmers were tied to the land and constantly in debt, while landlords exploited and plundered their labor). The accumulation on the backs of these farmers was part of enabling the U.S. to spread its tentacles all over the world. Then there was the Great Migration—the massive influx of Black people into the cities to fill the capitalists' need for industrial labor, in the dirtiest, most dangerous and worst-paying jobs. And now we are in a place where capital can no longer profitably exploit the masses of Black people in the same way and, in a very real sense, "has no place and no future" for the millions and millions of African-American, Latino, and other oppressed-nationality youths trapped in the decaying inner cities. This change in the basic economic relations in the society, along with political and cultural steps taken by the rulers of America to deal with and turn back the ways in which revolution had gotten a real following in the '60s, all fed into and helped give rise to the spread of the drug trade, the criminalization of whole generations, the degradation of people, and the incarceration of literally millions of people.

First there was slavery—the original reason that the African-American people were kidnapped and dragged to these shores, often being murdered in the process. Then there was the century of open Jim Crow segregation, denial of fundamental rights, and lynch-mob terror—built up on the foundation of share-cropping in the South (a form of primitive agriculture in which farmers were tied to the land and constantly in debt, while landlords exploited and plundered their labor). The accumulation on the backs of these farmers was part of enabling the U.S. to spread its tentacles all over the world. Then there was the Great Migration—the massive influx of Black people into the cities to fill the capitalists' need for industrial labor, in the dirtiest, most dangerous and worst-paying jobs. And now we are in a place where capital can no longer profitably exploit the masses of Black people in the same way and, in a very real sense, "has no place and no future" for the millions and millions of African-American, Latino, and other oppressed-nationality youths trapped in the decaying inner cities. This change in the basic economic relations in the society, along with political and cultural steps taken by the rulers of America to deal with and turn back the ways in which revolution had gotten a real following in the '60s, all fed into and helped give rise to the spread of the drug trade, the criminalization of whole generations, the degradation of people, and the incarceration of literally millions of people.


2008, Detroit has lost over half the population since 1950; of those who remain, 85 percent are Black, and almost half the children live below the official federal poverty level. Photo: AP

THIS basic fact—the foundational, bred-in-the-bone connection between capitalism and white supremacy—is why the oppression of the African-American people is so knitted into the workings of this society and so fundamental to the system itself. That is, it is deeply embedded not only in the politics and culture and thinking of the people in this country, but also and fundamentally in the bedrock foundational economic relations as well, and this is the root of the problem. And for just this reason it will take a thorough-going revolution, a communist revolution, to get rid of it.

THIS fact of white supremacy being so deeply embedded in the economic, political, and cultural fabric of the USA is the principal cause that has given rise to what Michelle Alexander has very insightfully analyzed as the NEW JIM CROW: the cynical use of the "war on drugs" to develop a whole system of mass criminalization, mass imprisonment, massive denial of rights to those who have been imprisoned, a school-to-prison pipeline. This is now so pervasive that there are more Black men in prison in U.S. prisons today than were held in slavery in 1850. This is now so pervasive that it is right to equate this, as Alexander does, with the whole 100-year regime of segregation and naked lynch-mob terror, which stretched into and dominated every sphere of African-American life. And, again, anyone who wishes to dispute this: write to us and make your argument; or, if you agree, share your thinking.

Yes, Obama mentions in his speech the need to ensure that "the scales of justice work equally for all and the criminal justice system and is not simply a pipeline from underfunded schools to overcrowded jails"—but a) this hardly even begins to capture the massive, pervasive phenomenon we are describing, b) does not mention that it will take a titanic struggle to even begin to reverse this New Jim Crow, and c) thus serves to minimize this.

Obama describes how the "twin forces of technology and global competition"—that is to say, breakneck, profit-above-all capitalist expansion—have eroded and in many cases destroyed the livelihoods of millions of people in this country, of all nationalities. But this fact, and the measures he describes that accompanied it, did not "violate sound economic principles" (as he claims)—these measures were implementations of capitalist economic requirements, and that is why every president, Republican or Democrat, including Obama himself, has done everything they could to speed all this along! Obama calls on people to "stand together" for good jobs and wages, health care, better education, and so on—but these are feel-good phrases devoid of content. In actual fact, it will take tremendous struggle—tremendous upheaval, with great sacrifice—AGAINST the powers-that-be in order to even begin to reverse this disaster and prevent an even worse calamity: the transformation of this slow genocide into a fast one.

And it will take communist revolution—against this whole economic and political system—to actually rid the world of American white supremacy, and bring in a new day of genuine emancipation for all of humanity.

Obama's Outright Disgusting Pandering to Racism

It will take communist revolution—against this whole economic and political system—to actually rid the world of American white supremacy, and bring in a new day of genuine emancipation for all of humanity.

There is particular importance to one part of Obama's speech that we quoted above, so we'll quote it again here:

The anguish of assassinations set off self-defeating riots. Legitimate grievances against police brutality tipped into excuse-making for criminal behavior. Racial politics could cut both ways, as the transformative message of unity and brotherhood was drowned out by the language of recrimination. And what had once been a call for equality of opportunity, the chance for all Americans to work hard and get ahead was too often framed as a mere desire for government support—as if we had no agency in our own liberation, as if poverty was an excuse for not raising your child, and the bigotry of others was reason to give up on yourself.

All of that history is how progress stalled. That's how hope was diverted. It's how our country remained divided.

We've already spoken about the so-called "self-defeating riots," which were actually righteous rebellions against centuries of injustice and abuse. But let's look at the rest of this, which in some ways is the most mendacious, lying, and disgusting part of the whole speech, and let's break it down—because it's full of signifying and slipperiness.

First, what is "language of recrimination" being referred to here? Is he talking about Black people and other oppressed nationalities speaking bitterness about the real lived experience of America, and radical and revolutionary intellectuals analyzing the systematic character of white supremacy in America? Or is he talking about people like Bill Cosby—and like Obama himself—who claim that the main problem facing Black people in this country is that they make too many excuses? Or is it the racism of not just the Tea Party mob, but revered figures like Ronald Reagan—whom Obama himself consistently upholds and praises and who began his 1980 campaign for president by visiting the Mississippi town where the civil rights organizers James Chaney, Michael Schwerner, and Andrew Goodman were murdered, saying not a word about that crime and upholding "States' rights"—the code word, then and now, for outright racist terror?

From the context of the speech and the whole thrust of this very key paragraph within it, the answer is clear. Obama is once again equating truth-telling about America with "recriminations"—and blaming those who have been subjugated by America for their own oppression.

The question before us is why we should allow ourselves to be confined within the mental prison bars of this political and economic system. ... The RCP, USA has published the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) for a revolutionary state that would set about uprooting the sources of this oppression and put in place institutions through which the centuries of that oppression could be overcome. ...  The RCP, USA has published a statement, "On the Strategy for Revolution," which shows how we can get from the situation today—where revolution does not have many followers and a revolution is not possible—into one where it would be... and what we need to be doing today to get there. ... The RCP, USA has a leader, Bob Avakian, who has led in developing this strategy and this vision of a whole new society, as part of summing up the whole first stage of communist revolution, as well as developments in other spheres, and who as part of all this has developed a body of work and method and approach on all this for people to get into.

Then let's look at this: "what had once been a call for equality of opportunity, the chance for all Americans to work hard and get ahead was too often framed as a mere desire for government support—as if we had no agency in our own liberation, as if poverty was an excuse for not raising your child, and the bigotry of others was reason to give up on yourself." We'll speak shortly to Obama's equation of liberation with the chance to "work hard and get ahead." But again, who is Obama talking about here? And what planet is he on? He presumably knows from his much-ballyhooed experience as a "community organizer" the constant exhausting battles that people in poverty must wage to stay above water. He must know how they must choose between paying for heat or paying for food, how they are hassled and insulted and hung up for hours in waiting rooms and station-houses, how they are abused at every turn, and how they all too often face the choice between leaving your kids at home with no supervision or losing your job—and then losing your kids when the agencies claim you're not a fit parent, and all the rest. If Obama is talking about Black and other oppressed peoples here—and it is clear from the context that he is, even if he doesn't come right out and make it clear—this is not only the worst kind of bullshit lie; it is a vicious racist myth being given voice and legitimacy by the highest-ranking Black politician in the country.

And what about the other racist myth here that Obama lends credence to: that Black people somehow get or at least demand special treatment ("mere desire for government support")? On even a basic level, the reverse is true. In fact, not only does the state dedicate its whole being to serving the economic and political interests of major blocs of capital in this country, the major industries, big agribusiness, and all the other major monopolies, many of these forces also get all kinds of direct subsidies to boot. More fundamentally, though, let's ask this question: who owes whom? If America ever were to "pay back" for the centuries of plunder, exploitation and horror that Black and other oppressed-nationality peoples were subjected to—there would not be a bill large enough to comprehend the level of restitution that would be anything close to "fair."

And then the conclusion: "All of that history is how progress stalled. That's how hope was diverted. It's how our country remained divided." To be fair here, directly before these paragraphs Obama also cites a few other reasons (growing income inequality, divisions among the politicians, etc.) for "the stalling of progress," etc. But this comes as the punch line to the whole preceding paragraph, which is nothing but "red meat" tossed out to the racists.

What's the truth about "how progress stalled"? First of all, the whole way this is framed is wrong and it gets you thinking in the wrong terms. It's as if there was this steady, peaceful progress and then suddenly... uh oh, it stalled. NO! "Progress" didn't "stall"—the struggle of the people, which had grown increasingly powerful and more revolutionary, overcoming tremendous vicious repression, ran up against a vicious, all-sided program of counter-revolutionary suppression that it was not able to overcome. The truth is that this government had a special program (COINTELPRO), carried out by the FBI, designed to suppress the Black liberation movement, planting informers and agents, spying on them, carrying out slander campaigns, fomenting violence between groups, and much more—including the outright assassinations of a number of important leaders. And while the movement of the time was confronting and grappling with real limitations in understanding and strategy, as well as other problems, this government program of assassinations, intrigue and deception played no small part in its ebbing. The truth is that simultaneously a narrow slice of African-American people were given some opportunities formerly denied them, but that this was then used to spread illusions and to build up a "buffer." The truth is that beginning with Richard Nixon, and picking up tremendous momentum with Reagan and Bill Clinton, the program of massive incarceration earlier described was designed and carried out to contain those in the ghettos and barrios for whom there would be no "ladder" out—so that today one out of nine Black men between 20 and 34 is in prison. In short, the truth is that the revolutionary movement of the late '60s and early '70s, despite heroic struggle and tremendous achievements, was not able to go all the way, and because it didn't, the system adjusted and came back even more vengeful than before.

Why Did Obama Even Say Anything?

There is a movement for revolution, which this Party is building. ... We need, right now, to all fearlessly fight for the truth about this system and its history; and we need, right now, to dig into the truth about what it will take to get to the whole new world that people urgently need. And we need to do it on the most liberating basis there is: communist revolution, as re-envisioned in Bob Avakian's new synthesis of communism.

Barack Obama famously hates to say anything about the oppression of Black people. Yet this summer he has begun to say a few things—this has included his second set of remarks on Trayvon Martin (nearly a week after the verdict), some proposals by his attorney general that may mitigate some of the worst excesses of the war on drugs, and now this speech. It is very likely that he would have made some sort of remarks in any case, but it is not at all clear that it would have been given anything like the emphasis he gave it before the events of this summer.

Why is this so? NOT because his second term is now letting him show his "true colors," NOT because of "his legacy," or any other such stuff. The fact is that the two events we began with—the acquittal of George Zimmerman and the Supreme Court decision on the Voting Rights Act—rocked millions of people, Black and white. Many who expected the Zimmerman verdict were nevertheless deeply hurt and in some ways stunned by it. These millions who were rocked by the verdict began to raise very basic and huge, huge questions as to what America is really all about. How could this happen? What did this say about our society, and about our system of government? People went into the streets around justice for Trayvon, but that was only the tip of the iceberg. People in their millions awoke—they began to raise questions; they began to talk; they began to become open to different ideas. And all the while, the silence from the first Black president—the man whose election we are told was the "crowning achievement" of the struggles of the 1960s—was deafening. Obama had to speak out, lest he risk losing the allegiance of a whole section of people who otherwise look to him and whom he is in charge of keeping penned into the killing confines of this Democrat-Republican game.

Here it's important to return to the analysis of Bob Avakian, concentrated in "Elections, Resistance, and Revolution: The Pyramid of Power and the Struggle to Turn This Whole Thing Upside Down," from a question/answer session in 2003, and returned to over the years, including in the piece we cited at the beginning of this article [Unresolved Contradictions, Driving Forces for Revolution]. This analysis draws an analogy to a pyramid; as Avakian says,

At the top of this pyramid are the people that rule this society and in particular you've got those that are represented by the Democratic Party on the one hand and the Republican Party on the other. And there is struggle between them...

And BA follows this with a very careful analysis of all the ways in which the basically fascist side of this pyramid, as concentrated in the Republican Party, has gone about cultivating power in all the key institutions of U.S. society and developing, to go with this, a fascist social base—people organized, in their millions, around white supremacy, male supremacy, a hatred of science, etc.

BA goes on to discuss the Democrats:

On the other hand, here are the Democrats at the top of this pyramid (on the so-called "left"). Who are the people that they try to appeal to—not that the Democrats represent their interests, but who are the people that the Democrats try to appeal to at the base, on the other side of this pyramid, so to speak? All the people who stand for progressive kinds of things, all the people who are oppressed in this society. For the Democrats, a big part of their role is to keep all those people confined within the bourgeois, the mainstream, electoral process...and to get them back into it when they have drifted away from—or broken out of—that framework. Because those people at the base are always alienated and angry at what happens with the elections, for the reason I was talking about earlier: they are always betrayed by the Democratic Party, which talks about "the little man" and poor people and the people who are discriminated against, and so on. And at times they'll even use the word oppression. But then they just sell out these people every time—because they don't represent their interests. They represent the interests of the system and of its ruling class. But they have a certain role of always trying to get people who are oppressed, alienated and angry back into the elections. You know: "Come on in, come on in- -it's not as bad as you think, you can vote, it's OK." This is one of the main roles they play. But the thing about them is that they are very afraid of calling into the streets this base of people that they appeal to, to vote for them. The last thing in the world they want to do is to call these masses of people into the streets to protest or to battle against this right-wing force that's being built up.

With Obama, this has reached an important point. Obama did in fact do what is described above—his election served to pacify people who should have been, and still should be, out in the streets. Obama implemented very much the same program as George W. Bush had—and in some cases, worse—and essentially escaped any protest whatsoever. But with the mounting outrages of the spring and summer—as concentrated in the Zimmerman verdict, but not in that alone—there was a tremendous restiveness and questioning among people. Obama's role is to both recognize this—and to redefine and derail it, to take people out of the streets and back into the confines of the elections and everything that represents.

The Real Liberating Thing? This Shit Is Not All There Is

The question before us is why we should allow ourselves to be confined within the mental prison bars of this political and economic system. We showed above how it is capitalism and its requirements that has driven the different stages of white supremacy and oppression in this country. But this is not necessary. There is a different way that is possible.

The RCP, USA has published the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) for a revolutionary state that would set about uprooting the sources of this oppression and put in place institutions through which the centuries of that oppression could be overcome. More than that, this is part of a whole liberating vision—and concrete structure—that could enable masses of people to set about uprooting oppression and inequality in every sphere of life, and bringing into being a vibrant, sustainable society in which people could at last, in their millions and billions, begin to flourish. We have written about this elsewhere, but even beyond those articles, if you really care about getting out of this madness you need to get into this. We challenge anyone to compare and contrast this with the U.S. Constitution, and tell us which one can serve as a framework for liberation; and, again, we challenge those who have been moved by this Constitution to also write us, and to get this out to others.

The RCP, USA has published a statement, "On the Strategy for Revolution," which shows how we can get from the situation today—where revolution does not have many followers and a revolution is not possible—into one where it would be... and what we need to be doing today to get there. It shows exactly how major events like the outrage around the murder of Trayvon Martin can serve a whole process of bringing about a situation in which there IS a revolutionary people numbering in their millions, and in which a revolution COULD be made... and it lays out how to prepare for, and bring closer, that situation.

The RCP, USA has a leader, Bob Avakian, who has led in developing this strategy and this vision of a whole new society, as part of summing up the whole first stage of communist revolution, as well as developments in other spheres, and who as part of all this has developed a body of work and method and approach on all this for people to get into. It has a leader who grew up in and came out of the massive struggles of the 1960s and has not only refused to give up but has drawn deeply on the lessons of that period—where the movement had made great accomplishments, and where it had run into problems it couldn't solve and limitations that it didn't overcome—and he's taken things further. This not about hope as an empty slogan, but hope on a solid scientific foundation.

There is a movement for revolution, which this Party is building. And there is the possibility of real upheaval coming—neither wing of this ruling class has real answers that will mean anything but misery and madness on a scale not yet seen the longer this drags on. We do not have to choose—we MUST not choose—between them. In fact, as BA says toward the conclusion of the 2003 "Pyramid of Power" article, "There is going to be a tremendous tug and pull on this huge body of people [those whom the Democrats, and today Obama, attempt to appeal to and mislead]—literally, already, tens of millions of people—who feel this deep gut hatred for what's going on." We need to wage that struggle. We need, right now, to all fearlessly fight for the truth about this system and its history; and we need, right now, to dig into the truth about what it will take to get to the whole new world that people urgently need. And we need to do it on the most liberating basis there is: communist revolution, as re-envisioned in Bob Avakian's new synthesis of communism.

 

* There may be nuances of difference between Obama and someone like Al Sharpton. Sharpton may sound a little more militant in some of what he says. But Sharpton, and others like him, did not criticize Obama's speech and everything they do is designed to build support for Obama. The militance is designed to suck people in. [back]

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/317/the-abortion-rights-emergency-on-the-ground-en.html

Revolution #317 September 22, 2013

The Abortion Rights Emergency—On the Ground

by Sunsara Taylor | September 16, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

There is an all-sided, many-fronted assault against women's right to abortion that is escalating across this country. In state after state, from Texas to Arkansas to North Dakota, legislatures are moving to effectively outlaw abortion, even as it remains a right "on the books." There are the violence, terror, and threats against abortion providers. There have been 278 new restrictions on abortion introduced in 2013 alone and laws passed which have closed down or endangered 37 of 42 abortion clinics in Texas. In North Carolina, four out of five remaining clinics may be closed because of new laws which have been passed in that state.

This is truly a state of emergency for abortion rights! In the face of this and to mount a national counteroffensive to the war on women's right to abortion and women overall, the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride was launched. Two groups of Freedom Riders, one coming from New York City and the other from San Francisco, joined together and then traveled through the middle of the country, making stops in states where abortion is under vicious and deadly assault.

This article draws heavily upon and has been edited from thoughts on the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride from Sunsara Taylor.

A bit on the overall terrain regarding abortion:

On the ground, the reality is even more extreme and even more of an emergency than almost anyone understands. Every single clinic we visited or heard from is severely under siege on many levels and from all sides from forces which have incredible initiative and are very deeply rooted. Very little, if anything at all, is being done to actually counter the situation or change the dynamic.

Every clinic has full-time protesters whose life mission is to shut it down. In Jackson, Mississippi, the week before we got there, a woman was taken by ambulance to the ER and the antis [short for anti-abortion lunatics], who are camped out in front every day the clinic is open, took photos and sent them to the local paper. The next day the paper had the pic and a big story about the woman being rushed to the ER and quote from the antis and a small counter-quote from one of the clinic's escorts. Also, the next day the antis showed up in front of the clinic with enlargements of the photo and were waving it in the faces of the women walking in, saying, "You are going to be next!" Of course that was absurd—any medical procedure has risks, and there is nothing inherent about abortions that leads to being rushed to an emergency room.

Our volunteers were told repeatedly by these protesters to kill themselves, that they should have their uteruses torn out, that they don't deserve to have children, that they were whores and sluts, that women should stay home, that women shouldn't be allowed to vote because it interferes with their pure status, and so much more garbage. In Jackson there is a small core of very exhausted and overwhelmed escorts who got very revitalized by our presence and work there.

In Little Rock, there is only one clinic that does surgical abortions in the state. (Other facilities will do medical abortions, but this clinic is the main one people come to.) It has an encampment of extremely aggressive and Taliban-esque protesters. There is a physical line the antis cannot legally cross that is just at the edge of the clinic's property and they are there every single day that abortions are done and they have built a tower that they climb up on and take pictures of the women who come in and the staff and yell and lecture them all day long. They curse them and they preach Bible verses. One of them openly walks around with a firearm. They go after the men in particular, telling them not to let the women kill their children and pointing out to the men that they are stronger than the women and should take charge. They give off no sense of concern for the so-called "unborn" but really are filled with the vengeance of being men on a mission from a vengeful god with a lot of hatred for the "wickedness of women."

In North Carolina, protesters are at that clinic every single day. They have loudspeakers that can be heard inside the clinic's waiting room and they are screaming lies like, "They call abortion a blind procedure because the doctor can't see what he is doing; it is blind as he rips the arms and limbs off your baby and then slips and rips right through your uterus. Do you know how many women DIE from abortion? It is a slaughter going on inside your womb...." And then when the doctor arrives, they announce that on the loudspeaker and say "The abortionist is now parking, he is now getting out of his car and walking towards the building, it is not too late to turn around and leave..."

In Omaha, Nebraska, the clinic can't get anyone to repaint their peeling clinic because all the contractors are afraid of a boycott if they do the work. And everything that the clinic does is found out and gone after. The woman who runs this clinic is a nurse who used to work with Dr. George Tiller (a doctor who performed abortions, including late-term abortions, who was murdered by an anti-abortion assassin in his church on May 31, 2009, while acting as an usher). She is extremely dedicated but is convinced that abortion will be made illegal and women will have to die before people wake up and start fighting for abortion. She also is going through a process right now where, because of the challenges of the antis, she is most likely going to lose her nursing license. Lots of doctors and nurses are facing suits and challenges to their medical licenses, for instance a woman who had briefly worked in Wichita previous to the current doctor there had intentionally taken an extremely minimalist approach to filling out her patients' medical records because she knew that the fascist Attorney General was trying to open up patient records—so then, when they did open up the records they took her license away and pushed her into bankruptcy over the fact that she didn't fully and extensively fill out patients' records!

In Minneapolis we met a young woman whose father does abortions and she shared with us that she never tells that to anyone because she is so scared what people will think. When she was in fifth grade she learned what her father did for a living because some older girls came up to her and said, "Your father kills babies," and told it to others in the school. She very movingly explained how she thought her dad was horrible for many years and how difficult this was for her until she got a bit older and then she told of her own abortion and how much she respects and loves her father for what he does. After speaking with us she said, "Wow, I think I am going to call my dad tonight and tell him about you guys and thank him." Her father was friends with Dr. Tiller.

In Cleveland, several young women from Planned Parenthood came to an evening appreciation event and got emotional as they heard the rap from the Ride about the state of emergency and its mission. They were really inured to the kind of harassment and hatred they experience and their patients' experience every day—being called whores and sluts and cunts and then being told they were killers and sinners and mothers of dead babies—but when they stepped back in this atmosphere they got very upset about it and also became very attracted to the idea of doing something about it. They described the women who come in to the clinic and just sob because they really believe those things about themselves and about what they are doing.

In Wichita, there were the women who explained they would rather get in a fistfight in an attempt to induce a miscarriage than to go get an abortion because the stigma is so high. Or people who will say they fell down the stairs—either they did and they miscarried, or they think that is more acceptable to say even to their close friends. Also, the very young women who clearly thought that having children was pretty much what their lives would be about anyway so by 16 they felt that they were ready to have children. Also, the (incorrect and, frankly, irrelevant!) idea of the fetus feeling pain was actively in their consciousness: They noted that they had been discussing that before we ran into them, in the context of several very young friends who were having babies. The MTV show 16 and Pregnant both reflects and has massively mainstreamed and normalized even further this notion of 16 being a reasonable age to have a baby and this was widespread among the people we met.

The doctors live every single day knowing they could be killed. It is an active and very present reality for them. People more broadly think that "the killing is over," but they are wrong. In Jackson, there is a anti—a guy everyone knows who is out every day. He can't come close because he has a restraining order, but he is there every day and he talks about death coming to the clinic staff a lot. The staff told of other individuals they fear the most and alarming details as to why.

The week we were in Wichita, the clinic in Birmingham, AL that was bombed in the '90s was closed down. The state department of health claimed that they do more than 30 abortions in at least two months out of the year which would require them to have a license that they don't have; the clinic owner and doctor contend that wasn't true, that they do up to 14 abortions on one day every other week—which gives you a sense of how few abortions are done and how difficult to attain they are in Alabama!—and that they have not gone over the 30-per-month limit). Anyway, the clinic was closed down—this after years and years and years of all kinds of fights to keep it open.

Many of these clinics are involved in big legal battles to challenge new laws and stay open. In North Dakota they expect a law that requires hospital admitting privileges for doctors who perform abortions to be thrown out by the courts, but in the process of pursuing this, the judge is allowing discovery on all the doctors and their medical records not only in North Dakota but in their practices in Minnesota and South Dakota, and on the patients' records. Even if the law doesn't stand, this is a further assault on the doctors and there will be more legal restrictions to follow. Plus, no one even challenged the 20-week ban that now is the law there (with the logic that no one performs abortions that late in the state anyhow). In Jackson, they will be in court in March 2014 because they have not been able to comply with the hospital admitting privileges law there and even since the Ride has left there, the state filed new paperwork to get the judge to let them close the clinic down while the challenge works its way through the courts (the judge had not granted an injunction against the law, but did issue an order that the clinic not be closed until the trial).

There are all sorts of other restrictions and bans being passed legally.

In the last three years, 50 clinics have closed their doors. And this is just the tip of the iceberg of what is being pushed through right now.

Broad ignorance of the state of emergency and stakes:

There is also very, very broadly just general ignorance as to the situation—and very, very wrong terms setting the terms. Here I am talking first about the broad reservoir of people who generally do not want to see women forced to have children against their will and who would even consider themselves pro-choice. The people who are "pro-choice, but..." Most, most, most people in this reservoir have NO IDEA—not even a tiny little clue—of just how much abortion rights are in a state of emergency. A big part of the victories of the anti-abortion movement (along with the main and defensive and economist responses of the Democrats and mainstream pro-choice groups) has been to turn people off to this whole issue and debate—to get them feeling that there are "two extremes" that will be forever debating things out. Also, many people think that there is something really unpleasant and undesirable about abortion so it is better not to think about it. No one knows that 1 in 3 women gets an abortion. Most people feel there is something undesirable about it (interesting to note that one of the volunteers admitted, after visiting the clinic in Fargo, how shocked they were to find out that the place wasn't dirty, was very regular and seemed very compassionate—they had been affected by the image of the "abortion mill" and were honest and reflective enough to share it).

My sense is that part of why the response was so big in Texas was that people actually were confronted more openly by how extreme the anti-abortion program really is and how far back it will push women. The huge and immediate stakes of all those clinics being slated to close smacked people who are usually tuned out or defensive and silent. Most of the time, most people are not aware of what is going on. There were other important factors in people stepping forward in Texas, including the fact that there were forces who, from more petty bourgeois outlooks, stepped forward to lead a fight around that. But I think people were forced to confront the stakes along with their feeling that they had to take matters into their own hands, and the hopes that they had a champion in power to listen and act for them. It was contradictory and I wouldn't mind exploring this a bit more—it is an important part of the terrain.

But even among those who spend their whole lives dealing with abortion—like many who work in and fight to keep the clinics open—they really don't understand the national state of emergency, the full agenda of the anti-abortion movement, or really the science and importance of abortion.

For instance, one clinic director who is extremely committed to her job and treasures the clinic with her life knew nothing of the fact that other clinics in other states were facing the same restrictions that threaten to close her clinic down. She didn't know that there were other states with only one clinic left and was stunned to learn about the fact that another clinic is in a comparable situation to hers—open temporarily due to a judge's order while legal challenges to the hospital admitting privileges law are heard. She also didn't know what the Hyde Amendment was—that there had been a special measure to keep women on Medicaid from being able to get funds for their abortions.

At one point she said how some of the harshest edge of the distances and restrictions and closing of other clinics in the state had been taken off by the abortion funds that have grown up in the last decade. But when I pointed out how outrageous it is that you should even need such things, she was totally taken aback. We got into the Hyde Amendment and she was outraged anew. She also then began speaking bitterly about how degrading it is for the women who come to have to go through the process of scrounging up the money. This director spoke very bitterly about the humiliations her patients go through and how most of them already have children and travel distances and have to wait overnight and some don't make it back the next day, or she'll see them early in their pregnancy but then they won't make it back for the second visit until they are right at the legal cut-off because they are so desperately trying to come up with the funds (or don't make it back at all).

In Charlotte, a clinic owner and director had invited the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride to stop by on its return trip from the South to New York City. The East Coast crew did so—stopping in to the "Moral Monday" protest being held in Charlotte that day and then staying overnight. When the crew visited the clinic the next morning, most of the staff—including the nurses and counselors—really did NOT understand almost anything about the political fight around abortion nationwide or the procedure beyond the most technical terms. To be clear, they were deeply committed to their jobs and to the women they assist every day—they have enormous heart for these women's real-life difficulties and they have a lot of hatred for the cruelty and viciousness of those who harass the women every day. But, they didn't understand so much why there is such a "big deal" being made about abortion.

The Freedom Ride volunteers visited the "call-center" (a room where about ten mainly young women work doing the over-the-phone scheduling and mandatory counseling session that takes place 24 hours before the abortion [in North Carolina they can do this by phone, in Mississippi this must be done by the actual doctor and in person 24 hours early]) and I spoke briefly about the situation facing women, the mission of the ride, appreciation for what they do, and a call for involvement. When I finished, one of the callers said, "Wait—what did you say, women aren't incubators? I am going to use that! I never thought about that before, but that is really true." Another wanted to write down the slogan that fetuses are not babies—and this consumed a lot of interest from the whole group. They feel these things on one level, but had never heard these things. They mostly gave answers to people in terms of "you have to do what is right for you..." or, "only you know your own circumstance, no one can judge you." They had no clear-cut answers for the women who called about why abortion is perfectly moral and shouldn't be a big deal.

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/317/obamas-speech-on-syria-through-a-truth-translator-en.html

Revolution #317 September 22, 2013

Obama's speech on Syria through a Truth Translator

September 16, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

From an activist in North Carolina

I ran Obama's speech on Syria through a Truth Translator that I developed... here now are the results.

"Dear suckers,

"I know we've used white phosphorus against Iraqi civilians, I know we used napalm in the process of killing three million Koreans and two million Vietnamese; I know it's anything but a slam-dunk case that Assad's the one who used those weapons (that killed waaaaaay fewer people than my drones have, btw); and I know that this isn't really about democracy, but about controlling the most oil-rich region on earth so that we, instead of Russia or France or Iran, keep our whip hand over the tap, but trust me. We need to do this. And by 'we,' I mean the 1%. It'd be awesome if we could count on you to go along with the program, keep on voting, keep on praying, and keep on tuning in for further instructions, mmkay?

"Also, it would be just super if you didn't protest or do anything that arouses suspicion and makes me look up your phone and email records.

"Thanks a bunch, and God Bless America, losers,

"The 'Prez.'"

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/317/awtwns-afghanistan-negotiations-with-the-taliban-en.html

Revolution #317 September 22, 2013

From A World to Win News Service:

Afghanistan: Negotiations with the Taliban

September 16, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

September 9, 2013 A World to Win News Service. Developments in Afghanistan in recent months show that moves toward negotiations with the Taliban are getting more serious. This was publicly underlined on September 7, when Pakistan unconditionally released at least seven Taliban prisoners, including some captured leaders. The previous day Afghanistan released 11 such prisoners, who were likewise free to go where they wish. This was explicitly called a move to facilitate a new round of talks.

During the same days, however, the U.S. launched a drone strike against a truck travelling through Afghanistan's Kunar Province, killing 16 people, many of them ordinary passengers, according to local authorities. American officials made no comment on this extraordinary prisoner release, and may have been behind it, but they also seem determined to demonstrate their lethal power and determination, combining violence and diplomacy until they get an outcome they can accept.

Even more dramatically than the prisoner release, in June the Taliban were allowed to open an office in Doha (Qatar) under the signboard of the "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan", the name used by the Taliban government during its rule, and fly that government's white flag.

This move gave rise to acute differences between the Karzai government and its U.S. backers. Karzai exhibited his anger by protesting this move, which apparently led to the failure of that initial round of talks. Karzai and other Afghan senior officials labelled the process a conspiracy, accusing the parties involved—the U.S., Pakistan, Qatar and the Taliban—of seeking to divide Afghanistan. In protest he suspended negotiations with the U.S. on the strategic agreement that is supposed to lay out the terms for long-term American involvement after the announced pull-out of some or all of its troops next year

The Afghanistan government complained that its preconditions for talks were ignored. Karzai, in a letter to Obama on June 19, wrote, "Our agreement to open an office in Qatar was to achieve peace but not to lose our sovereignty and national unity and lose the achievements of more than a decade. The peace process should be led by Afghans." Karzai also insisted that a halt to Taliban military activities should be a precondition for the start of negotiations, and that such negotiations should take place in Afghanistan. (BBC, June 27 2013)

But while denouncing the Qatar process, in the same statement he once again called the Taliban his brothers and demanded they should take part in the construction of Afghanistan and not kill their own brothers. (BBC, June 28)

The occupiers have found the situation in Afghanistan very hard and complex, even though they seem to have decided to seek a negotiated settlement to the war against the Taliban. To a large extent these complexities have emerged as a result of the occupation itself.

Why the sudden rush for negotiation: the evolving U.S. position

It is not difficult to see why so many forces involved in the Afghanistan war in the last decade and beyond have suddenly become "peace-loving".

For a long time, the U.S., the leader in occupying Afghanistan, continued to say, "We don't talk to terrorists." It was desperate to come out victorious from this war so as to move forward with its global ambitions. But the war has taken far longer than the U.S. expected, and, despite adapting one after another new strategy, a clear victory has become less possible.

The U.S. announced its intention to withdraw its main forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2014. However, this would still be far from withdrawing completely from Afghanistan. As of now, the U.S. says that around 10,000 of its soldiers will remain there for the indeterminate future. That means the U.S. would still overall lead the war from behind the scenes and even take part in more sophisticated operations, along with training Afghan government forces. As of now, the U.S. plans to keep military bases in Afghanistan indefinitely.

This is a continuation of its original goals in invading Afghanistan, to secure its dominance in a region that is the gateway to South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East, and strategically placed in relation to Russia and China.

At the same time it seems that the U.S. has come to the conclusion that the war in Afghanistan is unwinnable without giving a share of power to the Taliban. When they launched the war in 2001 American political and military leaders needed to win a quick and impressive victory, in part to regain some of their lost power of intimidation after the defeat of their invasion of Vietnam. Their strategists believed that with the development of hi-tech and sophisticated weapons, they now had the capability of waging short and victorious wars against third world countries with small forces. Afghanistan was supposed to be an example of that.

In fact the quick collapse of the Taliban government only two months after the start of the invasion was considered evidence of the validity of that strategy. Drunk with apparent victory in Afghanistan, they planned the occupation of Iraq and even other countries. But it was too soon to conclude that hi-tech weaponry had become the deciding factor in the war.

The Taliban took advantage of the discontent of the masses against the occupiers and started to make a comeback, and the U.S. found itself to some extent pinned down in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Some U.S. allies or at least some of their generals concluded that with the resources they had and the way they were fighting they could not defeat the Taliban. They argued that their interests would be best served by starting to talk with the Taliban with a view to including them in some way in the ruling power. The U.S. imperialists seemed opposed to that idea for a long time. Under pressure from some European allies and especially due to the deterioration of the war situation for the occupiers, Washington retreated from its previous position, but a condition for the start of negotiations was a prior achievement of a position of strength. The purpose of the "surge'" of more than 30,000 American troops in 2009 was to either finally defeat the Taliban and/or strengthen the U.S. position if bargaining proved necessary. But contrary to the claims of the U.S. military at the time, the "surge" did not help much to change the situation.

The U.S. has been seeking to talk to the Taliban since 2011. According to Karzai spokesperson Aimal Faizi, "the opening of an office for the Taliban in Doha was the result of negotiations between the Taliban and the US in 2011." He said that the Afghanistan government was informed only days before the second Bonn conference" in June 2011.

The Taliban position

The U.S.'s failure to defeat the Taliban should not obscure their reactionary nature, nor that of the other Islamist groups allied with them.

In the absence of a revolutionary force (an alternative to reactionary sides, the occupiers and the reactionary Islamists), the masses who hated the occupiers and their installed government for their atrocities could see only one option: the Taliban. Some stayed away from both sides but some joined the Taliban.

However the Taliban's reactionary nature brought them some serious limitations in this war. They did not stop with the extreme oppression of women, half the population. They also bitterly suppressed the poor masses of all nationalities and religions and increased their suffering, while siding with feudals and other well-off reactionaries. This increased the hatred of many of the masses during years of their rule all over the country including the Pashtun areas.

The Taliban's Pashtun base is both a strength and a problem for them. Their oppression of people of other religions, even other branches of Islam, and also the country's smaller, non-Pashtun nationalities that overall make the majority of the population, means that altogether about 60 percent of the population of Afghanistan have not been very susceptible to their influence, and countrywide support has always been out of the question. The fact that the Pashtun masses have felt driven to the Taliban by the atrocities of other warlords, commanders and the imperialist occupiers, especially against Pashtun people, does not mean deep support. According to some polls and estimates, at least one third of the people in the Pashtun areas such as Southern and Eastern Afghanistan do not support the Taliban at all.

The Taliban suffer from another disadvantage that works against their popularity: most people in Afghanistan know about their dependence on Pakistan which uses them as a tool for its own regional interests and its rivalry with India. Pakistan, despite its disobedience on the Afghanistan issue and its not-very-hidden support for Taliban, at the end of the day it is a strong ally of the U.S. in the region.

These factors have brought the Taliban obstacles that their reactionary nature doesn't allow them to eliminate. They might be investing in the discontent of the masses but their strategy and tactics are far from relying on the masses. They might fight the occupiers but they are far from being an independent force, and may finally allow the foreign forces in, if not through the front gate then through the back door. Further, time is not necessarily on their side—they cannot continue the war forever. It is perhaps because they are aware of the consequences of this situation that they agreed to negotiate with the occupiers over the last two years, a change in their initial position of refusing any talks until the occupiers leave the country. So far, including at the Qatar talks, they have refused to talk to the Afghan government directly, but recent statements signal that they may change this position.

Pakistan is another player in the Afghanistan war that is not happy with developments since the occupation began in 2001 and is strongly against Karzai and any non-Pashtun based regime that would be inclined toward India and Iran. Despite pressure from the U.S., they have refused to reduce their support for the Taliban. The Afghan government believes the only reason the Taliban can continue to fight is Pakistan.

During a visit to Afghanistan, Sartaj Aziz, senior national security adviser to Pakistan's prime minister, admitted that, because of previous relations, Pakistan's security agency (ISI) "has some contacts with the Taliban but doesn't control them." (BBC July 21) In referring to the Qatar talks, he added that Pakistan helped arrange the meeting with the Taliban when asked to do so.

Ahmed Rashid, a Pakistani journalist who has authored several books on the Taliban and regional politics, recently wrote an article about the talks, which was published by the BBC. He believes that Pakistan is genuinely helping and supporting the talks. "Having long been accused of meddling in Afghan affairs for its own ends, Islamabad is desperately keen to make sure that the talks do not collapse, because successful talks could not only lead to an end to the destabilising war in Afghanistan, but to a reduction of Pakistani Taliban militancy. The ISI did play a positive role in initially getting the Taliban to return to Doha after a break of 16 months and it is doing so again." (www.ahmedrashid.com )

But there might be more than that, as Western governments are increasing their pressure on Pakistan and warning of the possible cost to that country if it does not cooperate. This pressure might also be accompanied by promises for a Taliban role in a future Afghan government and an increasing role for Pakistan in Afghanistan and the region as a whole.

In fact, that was one of Karzai's main fears leading to his protest against the Doha talks. He had suspicions, or perhaps even indisputable evidence, that the main points to be negotiated had already been agreed upon between the U.S. and Pakistan and probably the Taliban, in the absence of Afghan government representatives. That is why Karzai called it a conspiracy to divide the country.

Possible negotiation points

In fact, it now seems impossible that the Taliban will agree to negotiate for anything less than their inclusion in the ruling power system. The question for the U.S. and other major players is how. They are reviewing three main alternatives at the moment : (1) To incorporate the Taliban into the existing power structure and give them some ministerial position or "elect" them to some governmental positions. (2) To rewrite the constitution to include the Taliban's views on Sharia (religious) law. This could be a problem, since the Islamists advocate Sharia as the exclusive legal system and have opposed any other constitution. (3) To hand some provinces, mainly the Pashtun provinces, to the Taliban and let them control and make the law in those regions. There has been much talk about the latter option, and it seems it is the favoured solution among imperialist and Pakistani circles.

The idea was raised by Conservative British parliament member Tobias Ellwood in 2012. Known as "Plan C", it would divide Afghanistan into eight zones and hand a few over to Taliban control. While explicitly rejected at the time, in some aspects it still represents the imperialists' view for power-sharing in Afghanistan. An Afghan government official also claimed that Pakistan's adviser to the prim minister Sartaj Aziz raised a similar plan with the Afghan ambassador to Pakistan.

In the end, all the forces involved are entering into negotiations for their own interests. Karzai's protest is that he should not be left out and no decision should be made behind his back, but he is not opposed to negotiations in principle, or even necessarily to some of these possible points of agreement.

The Taliban might retreat from their position on not talking to the Afghan government. The tone of Taliban leader Mullah Omar's message on the occasion of the Islamic holiday Eid al-Fitr was more conciliatory than previous statements. In his message he said that the Taliban is not seeking to monopolize power and will allow others to "serve their country". He also signalled that he will not allow the country to be used to attack other countries, a possible reference to breaking with or restricting Al-Qaeda. It also seems that he is retreating in terms of Taliban opposition to NGO activities, women's education to some extent, and so on. He noted a change in military activities and asked his followers to be cautious about civilian lives.

In sum, there are pressures on the various forces involved to come to some kind of agreement—of course at the expense of the people's interests. They can easily agree on trampling on the people's interests and rights. After all the rhetoric about democracy and women's rights that the Western occupiers used as an excuse to invade, these issues have disappeared from their discourse and from that of Karzai, who has repeatedly (and truthfully) called the Taliban his "brothers". There is no doubt that whatever the agreement, the people and especially women will suffer as usual, and maybe even worse than now.

It may be that this negotiation process will continue. It also may happen that the differences and the clash of interests among the reactionary forces involved will prevent a settlement. In either case, this situation will go against the people's interest and is not likely to bring the kind of regional stability the imperialists seek either. Once again, despite all their crimes, the imperialists may not achieve their goals.

 

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.

 


 

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Revolution #317 September 22, 2013

Everything You've Been Told About Communism Is Wrong
We Have the Facts and We're Setting the Record Straight

September 16, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

Do we have to accept this world as it is? With endless war, environmental catastrophe, the subordination and degradation of women, racism, and mindless consumerism.  Is capitalism the only and most optimal system for humanity?

The truth, the pervasively suppressed truth, is that the socialist revolutions of the Soviet Union (1917-56) and China (1949-76) opened new and unprecedented possibilities for human emancipation. You don't know that because you have been lied to about communism and revolution. Through high-profile "memoirs" that recite tales of suffering and persecution...through supposedly scholarly works about the Cultural Revolution or Stalin...and through hall-of-mirrors repetition, where everyone says "what everyone knows" about communism—but really does NOT know!  

If you yearn for a far better world, and care about critical thinking and historical truth, then you need to visit the Setting the Record Straight on Socialism and Communism page at revcom.us. This is where you can learn about the great breakthroughs, as well as the serious shortcomings and problems, of the first wave of communist revolutions. This is where you can become part of and help spread the debate about human possibility.

 


 

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Revolution #317 September 22, 2013

Protest against President of the Criminal Regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran

September 17, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

The following Statement and Call was received by revcom.us.

 

Download PDF version

On September 24th, Iran’s recently elected president, Rouhani, will give a speech at the United Nations.  His trip to New York coincidentally falls on the same day which Iranian political refugees all over the world are grieving the mass murder and execution of political prisoners in Iran in summer-autumn of 1988. Rouhani’s cabinet members such as Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi , Ali Rabii and Hamid Chiyan were directly involved in that particular mass murder. They are known to be cold-blooded murderers and some of the worst among the Islamic regime of Iran. Pour Mohammadi is often referred to as “the president of death”. He was directly and actively involved in the executions of political prisoners in 1980s in Iran. He, along with many other members of Rouhani’s ministerial cabinet were responsible for thousands of death penalties which were delivered in less than couple of minutes to the political prisoners of Iran in 1980s.

Iran’s new president introduces himself as the people’s “hope”! But in fact he represents a new alliance among different factions of the Islamic Republic regime. He has climbed to the seat of power with support of Sepah-e-Pasdaran (the main body of regime’s military forces), the notorious security establishment of the regime and the “leader” (Khamenii) himself.

 Rouhani is essentially chosen as the president to perform several tasks essential for survival of the Islamic Republic system. He must initially provide a false hope about “reforming the system”—a false hope to those who are suffering from expanding poverty and are fed up with political and social suppression and religious obscurantism. He should also ensure the Imperialists that the contradiction between the Islamic Republic system and the imperialists is not of an antagonistic nature and in fact the relations should be healed and Iran should be looked at by them as a reliable partner in controlling and exploiting the masses of Iran as well as in carrying out the regional plans of Imperialists – given, those powers also ensure survival of this regime.

Iran’s regime and the Islamic Republic system is an integrated part of the world capitalist system which is controlled by the imperialist powers. The feud between Islamic Republic and the imperialist powers is in fact the fight and contradiction between two “rotten poles” within this system and there is not element of “anti imperialism” on behalf of the Islamic regime of Iran. In Iran like the whole world the majority of the people produce the wealth which is possessed by a minority of parasitic capitalists. Like all other countries dominated by imperialism in Asia, Africa and Latin America, the Iranian economy is totally dependent on world capitalist system. The more it gets integrated in the world capitalist system the wider becomes class chasm and political suppression of the masses.  The regime in Iran is a theocratic regime which constantly attacks people’s mind and body – especially women’s. Political suppression is one of the pillars of this regime. In fact its very existence depends on trampling upon the most basic political, cultural and social rights of the majority of the people of Iran. National oppression is another touch stone of this regime. In sum, the contradiction between the Islamic Republic regime and the people of Iran is of antagonistic nature.

This reality brings about the necessity and possibility of a revolutionary overthrow of the Islamic Republic of Iran. We, the revolutionary communists of Iran know too well that if we do not mobilise and organise people in a movement for revolution the reactionary, corrupt and crisis-ridden ruling classes of Iran will be able to survive through suppressing and deceiving people in different ways and manners and therefore will get a lease on life and their rotten rule will last longer to destroy more generations.  We are well aware that if the masses of Iran do not become conscious of and take up a revolutionary communist vision and program which can enable them to really and radically change their conditions, even if they rise up against this hated regime without taking up that vision they will fall into trap of some other reactionary  forces or wooed by the alternatives that the US imperialism has in pocket for the future of Iran. This will definitely turn Iran into another tragedy like the ones we witness in Syrian and Egypt which people have become captives of warring rival reactionary forces each of which have the backing of this or that imperialist power.

There’s only one solution: to overthrow the Islamic Republic system through a revolutionary struggle with the goal of destroying all of its reactionary class and religious relations and values and instead establish a new state which would be really by the people and for the people and would pursue the goal of organizing a new society based on a new economy, new politics and new social relations – a kind of society that we communists call it a Socialist society and we consider it a road to achieve a kind of world without any sort of oppression and exploitation which is a communist world.   

Activists of the Communist Party of Iran (M.L.M) in North America.
23rd of September, 2013.

 

Demonstrations will be held September 23 and 24. Call for more information.

To join us in New York contact:
demonstrat32@yahoo.com
(1) 3107099241  or  (1)3179372859       

 

The internet address for CPIMLM:
www.cpimlm.comhttps://www.facebook.com/cpimlm1380

cpimlm@gmail.comhaghighat@sarbedaran.org

 

 


 

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Revolution #317 September 22, 2013

September 23, Monday, 7pm

Anahita Rahmani will speak on
Iran, Syria, and America's Situation in the Middle East

September 16, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

Anahita spent eight years in prison under the Khomeini regime and was tortured for her revolutionary stand. She continues to be a courageous revolutionary opponent of both the Islamic fundamentalist regime and the U.S. imperialists. She will be in NYC to protest when the new president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, speaks before the UN.

Read the March 2008, Revolution newspaper interview of Anahita.