Please note: this page is intended for quick printing of the entire issue. Some of the links may not work when clicked, and some images may be missing. Please go to the article's permalink if you require working links and images.
Revolution #318 September 29, 2013
September 23, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
This year's October 22 is the 18th annual National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and Criminalization of a Generation. At this moment, it's more important than ever that O22 be marked powerfully by people acting across the U.S. As Carl Dix of the Revolutionary Communist Party says, "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." ("In the Bitter Aftermath of the Trayvon Martin Verdict: The Outrages of AmeriKKKa... and the Need for Revolution".)
We're posing the following challenge to spark people's thinking and plans around how to make October 22 what it needs to be. A key point of method: It's always important to begin efforts like this by asking the right questions.
If you couldn't sleep when the verdict on Trayvon Martin's killer came down...
Whether you feel you've been living that verdict your whole life... or you are just finding out about it...
If you burn with anger or agony at living in such a society...
YOU NEED TO ACT ON OCTOBER 22!
Protest police brutality, repression and the CRIMINALIZATION OF A GENERATION!
Revolution #318 September 29, 2013
By Carl Dix | September 23, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
May 15, 2013—A judge in New York throws out the charges against a cop who gunned down 18-year-old Ramarley Graham in his own home while his grandmother and six-year-old brother look on in horror. The judge found that prosecutors had erred in their instructions to the grand jury that issued the indictment against this killer cop.
June 18, 2013—A mistrial is declared in the case of the Detroit cop who killed seven-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones. Despite the fact that the cops broke into the wrong home, burned Aiyana with a flashbang grenade, and gunned her down as she slept with her grandmother, no cops or any other authorities have been punished in any way!
July 13, 2013—George Zimmerman, who racially profiled, stalked, confronted, and gunned down Trayvon Martin, is found not guilty—a verdict that came down to a declaration that Black people still have no rights that white people are bound to respect!
Now a federal court has overturned the convictions of the cops who killed unarmed people on the Danziger Bridge in New Orleans six days after Hurricane Katrina and tried to cover up their crimes.
WHAT CAN YOU SAY ABOUT A SYSTEM THAT GIVES A PASS TO POLICE AND RACIST VIGILANTES WHO MURDER PEOPLE?
THAT IT'S NO DAMN GOOD AND NEEDS TO BE GOTTEN RID OF THRU REVOLUTION AS SOON AS POSSIBLE!
Get with the movement for revolution! Spread revolution and BA's voice and his works everywhere, and Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution.
As part of doing that, take to the streets on October 22, 2013, the 18th annual National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression, and the Criminalization of a Generation!
HOODIES UP! WEAR BLACK, FIGHT BACK!
Revolution #318 September 29, 2013
In the Bitter Aftermath of the Trayvon Martin Verdict
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Revolution #318 September 29, 2013
September 23, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
These new publications mark a juncture in the campaign to get BA Everywhere and to project BA's vision and work throughout society. The first run of 3,000 sets of the BA Speaks: Revolution—Nothing Less! DVD is almost sold out. And the first printing of BAsics in English—10,000 copies—is totally sold out.
Thousands of copies of the DVD Revolution—Nothing Less! and print copies of BAsics have been distributed through the efforts of hundreds of people going out in neighborhoods and in wealthier areas, to college and high school campuses, in major cities and smaller communities. The financial contributions of hundreds of people made it possible to send BAsics to prisoners across the country. Thousands have viewed BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!—including on the van tours this summer.
Step back and reflect on what this means and how meaningful it is that people from a range of corners of society have engaged with BA.
One young Latina said after seeing Revolution—Nothing Less!: "I think it's very important for everyone, especially young people from the hood to see this because BA talks about what they go through and he has a solution to all oppression. And I know for me, when I saw it, it changed the way I looked at everything...music, shows, commercials, ads. I just started seeing all the fucked up shit they promote and it made me want to challenge all that and not go along with any of it."
A Black man in Harlem, before the New York City premiere of the film, said "I'm buying a ticket for a young person who might need help getting to BA Speaks: REVOLUTION —NOTHING LESS. I want this ticket to go to a young person who is not a carbon copy of what this society wants the youth to be. Someone who wants a different future for this world. BA is one person who has the vision and the program for another world. Go hear BA and don't be a carbon copy. Be a new generation that is standing up against what keeps us enslaved."
This film, and this book, which are at the heart of the campaign to get BA Everywhere, have provoked people from different parts of society who agonize over the state of this society and the world to think in new ways about why the world is the way it is and the reality that the world does not have to be this way, that a different and far better future is possible, and that there is a leader who has devoted his life to the emancipation of all humanity and brought the science of revolution to a whole new level. Together, these two works are the way in for thousands—and millions—to get to know and engage with BA. Humanity needs revolution and communism, and Bob Avakian has developed the theory and strategic orientation and pathways to make such a revolution and advance to communism.
This is quite an accomplishment—and a good beginning.
But looked at from the standpoint of seriously and radically changing society, it is only a glimpse of the potential and urgent need for the BA Everywhere campaign to truly impact all of society. Everybody needs to know about this revolutionary leader. That is the challenge! Let your mind range widely as you think about what could be accomplished with truly major funds. Funds for more showings of Revolution—Nothing Less! Funds for big promotion and advertising of these works, including on the Internet, and printing promotional cards, T-shirts and other gear. Funds not only to get the film out broadly, but for cultural events and other diverse ways BA and his work can be popularized and spread. And much more. As we move towards the end of the year, people who have taken up and contributed to BA Everywhere across the country need to be seriously developing plans for BA Everywhere to build on what has been accomplished and bust out in a big way throughout society. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com with your thinking.
When people encounter and engage with Revolution—Nothing Less! and BAsics, big questions are posed for people—from all walks of life—who wrestle daily with the state of the world. This engagement changes the discussion and debate. Now is the time to step up our efforts, inspired and spurred on to scale the heights by this great beginning. No one should underestimate what a huge difference this can make in the direction society takes at a moment when millions are awakening and thinking. This can make a huge difference in what people are thinking, and how they are thinking about what kind of society this is—and what kind of society they want to live in.
FUNDRAISING to get BA Everywhere is key to changing the climate and discourse in this society. For this campaign to succeed, a broad range of people need to join in. Individuals with more financial resources and who long for a different world need to be reached and won to step forward in the ways they see fit. Let's go out to people who are being presented with (non) "solutions" like micro-finance and supporting this or that candidate for office and challenge them to really make a difference that will matter: Get BA Everywhere! What if major film showings of Revolution—Nothing Less! in major venues were made possible by substantial contributions to the BA Institute, and came together with efforts to raise funds from people in the neighborhoods, from students and others. There needs to be a real mix and many different avenues into this campaign...all of which not only contribute but react on each other to make a whole greater than its parts.
Fundraising for BA Everywhere allows anybody, anywhere—with whatever their means—to join in this campaign and become a part of and work to expand the community and movement of people coming from all different perspectives who feel we need a different, critical and open discourse and culture in this society. We aim to build a community of people who are actively engaging with the work and vision of BA in different ways. We invite all those who long for change, while they may disagree with some of what BA is fighting for or feel that they need to know much more, to seriously think about what it would take for this voice, this vision and work to be discussed and debated broadly out in society. People can come at making BA Everywhere a question throughout society from many different directions.
The time is now, as we look towards the end of 2013 and the beginning of 2014, to go all out to raise really big money to project BA's work and vision throughout society.
The Bob Avakian Institute is a nonprofit institute organized for educational purposes. Its mission is to preserve, project, and promote the works and vision of Bob Avakian with the aim of reaching the broadest possible audience.
For information on how to donate by credit card, check, or money order, go to thebobavakianinstitute.org.
Please be aware that The Bob Avakian Institute is not tax exempt and donations made to it are not tax deductible.
Revolution #318 September 29, 2013
A letter from a reader:
July 9, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
"What people think is part of objective reality, but objective reality is not determined by what people think."
Reflecting on this statement and thinking through its implications, I feel there are contrasting approaches to building this movement for revolution—one that is in line with objective reality, others that are not; one that has everything to do with radically changing the world and making revolution, the others leaving the world "as is," fundamentally unchanged.
This is not a full argument—or by any means the last word—but rather a brief provocation that hopefully will spur further reflection and interrogation—and in fact, more words—on the theory and practice of making revolution. (The philosophical aspects of this reasoning are critical and decisive—and if you have trouble with terms and concepts, grab a friend and wrangle and discuss it with them.)
When we go out in the world with communist revolution, we draw forth—and hear—achingly painful stories of life in the hellholes of America, concerns about the state of the planet and humanity. We hear people's various theories on where all this comes from: lack of "personal responsibility," greedy corporations, selfish "human nature," and other supposed causes. And we hear what they think is needed: more god, more democracy. We hear questions and objections (inchoate and openly argued) against leadership, revolution, and communism, most of these objections drawn from conventional wisdom—"what everybody knows" (or thinks they know)—about past attempts at revolution and socialism.
Leaving aside those supposed communists who just give up in the face of this—either because they fundamentally agree with this whole mixed bag of ideas that exist "out there" in society among the masses of people, have no sense that these wrong ideas can be transformed through and in the midst of struggle, or are unable to figure out how or unwilling to take that responsibility to face the daunting challenges to radically change the world—there are some contrasting approaches in confronting this.
First, is raising people's sights to a radically different world. "What people need most of all, the greatest need at this hour, is the real, scientific solution to these horrors, the way out. This is the re-envisioned communism of Bob Avakian, with its vision and viability of a radically different world brought about by getting rid of this system of capitalism-imperialism and bringing about a whole new and far better system and world through communist revolution. Without this framework of BA's new synthesis of communism as a pole that growing numbers are engaging, being won to, and pivoting off of, the horizons of what people see as necessary, desirable, and possible are confined and skewed within this system...." (From "Filling the Greatest Need Facing Humanity: The World Emancipating Urgency of BA Everywhere!")
On this basis, we sort through this mixed bag of ideas in people's thinking, figuring out what's correct and incorrect, in other words what accurately reflects reality. Just as important is sorting out the methods and modes of thinking people have used to come to these conclusions and views of the world. Even the way people's questions are posed—about god, human nature, the need for science, leadership—change when the viability and possibility of a radically different world is put forward, and they begin to really grapple with what it will take to get there. For example, it's worth reflecting how a serious discussion of revolution—and what it will take to get there or what a future socialist society after the revolution will be like—changes the context and discussion on communist leadership, including BA's; or what people's belief in god has to do with the horrible world we live in—and a belief that there is no alternative.
What's needed is going out and struggling to transform people's thinking—and modes of thinking—on all this, increasingly involving them in this movement for revolution even as they are sorting out their thinking on all this. What largely dominates as modes of thinking in society is non-evidence-based thinking and religiosity ("it's all god's will"), not thinking critically of what is constantly trumpeted through media, culture, and education (including, yes, the New York Times or academia's anti-communist disinformation), proceeding from narratives instead of identifying the larger and underlying patterns and dynamics in society, ultimately not looking beyond surface level phenomena to determine objective reality (I will have much more to say on this below), and other modes of thought that are non- and anti-scientific.
For a deeper and extremely essential explication of what science and a scientific method and approach is, see "Theory and Reality... Knowing and Changing the World," in Bob Avakian's interview with A. Brooks, What Humanity Needs: Revolution, and the New Synthesis of Communism. (I also highly recommend the discussion of science, the scientific method, and approach in The Science of Evolution and the Myth of Creationism, Knowing What's Real and Why It Matters by Ardea Skybreak. The science of evolution is important in its own right and as a living illustration of and schooling in the scientific method.)
In contrast to this approach are the mirror opposites of not caring what people think or approaching what people think in the wrong way!
In terms of not caring what people think: No, what people think matters—greatly! Not because it determines objective reality (it does not!), but what—and how—people think IS a part of objective reality: the social reality that we are seeking to transform. The communist project, contrary to what almost everyone thinks, is not an imposition of "our" ideas on social reality but a scientific approach to transforming that reality including what—and how—people think, towards the emancipation of humanity. It involves masses of people increasingly consciously knowing and radically changing the world—a process that involves and necessitates more and more people consciously taking up a thoroughly scientific approach to the world. This requires changing how people think—in relation with bigger events in society, what people do to fight and resist the horrors and outrages of this system, and how all this unsettles, opens up, and reacts back on people's thinking.
Knowing what—and how—people think matters! Only in this way can we figure out, for blocks of people and their thinking, what needs to be united with and what needs to be struggled through and transformed—so it's more in line with reality, not only a scientific understanding of it, but an increasingly scientific approach to it, so they can increasingly contribute to and be part of changing the world. Without this, the world remains as is.
However, what is unfortunately far too prevalent still is caring "too much" what people think—approaching it in the wrong way, proceeding from what people think—rather than from the larger objective reality, and a scientific understanding and approach to it.
Objective reality is not determined by what people think.
Objective reality is that, yes, people are caught up in bullshit and wrong thinking and this is important to understand. But we must understand it NOT as the guidepost for what is true, but in order to go to work on transforming this by wielding science through and in the midst of struggle. This is the communists' task and responsibility in leading the process of making revolution. In a lot of this, what we see are people grabbing hold of surface level phenomena—part of objective reality—instead of looking at the underlying causes of and contradictions in these phenomena, and how it can be different. This shouldn't surprise us, given where people's thinking comes from—dominant ideas of the system, reinforced and trumpeted every minute by the propaganda of the system—in its media, culture and education—a denial of and real lack of scientific method and approach in society, not to say the overall functioning of society and how people have to live, being forced to compete against each other, finding meaning and solace in a non-existent god or afterlife.
Objective reality is that this system cannot be reformed to get rid of the oppression and horrors it forces on people every single minute—here and around the world. The need and basis and strategy for communist revolution stems from a profoundly scientific, dialectical materialist approach to social reality—much like a doctor diagnosing to get at the underlying cause of the symptoms and what will be needed as the cure. This is the essence of communist leadership—and contrary to what most people think, objective reality is that "where leadership is genuinely revolutionary leadership, the more it plays its leadership role correctly, in accordance with MLM principles, the greater will be the conscious initiative of the masses." (From 1995 Leadership Resolutions on Leaders and Leadership: Part II: Some Points on the Question of Revolutionary Leaders and Individual Leaders.)
Determining objective reality requires science and a scientific approach to reality, not as reality presents itself on the surface but identifying its underlying dynamics and mainsprings, relying on evidence, and subject to being proved wrong. It requires a scientific approach to how societies function and change, and what to learn from past attempts at consciously changing society—which were tremendously liberating, but as in any human endeavor especially of such scale, marked by errors and shortcomings. This is the work BA has done—and he has advanced science in this context. Emphatically yes, a radically different—and far better—world is necessary, desirable and possible because of the work BA has done.
These are not "our" ideas severed from objective reality, but abstractions and concentrations of reality arrived at through the scientific method and approach. Thus, while there is a tremendous battle to be waged in the realm of ideas and people's thinking, in epistemology—theory of knowledge, what is truth and where does it come from, what and how people think, approach and understand the world—it is not merely "our" ideas vs. what people think, but what is true and scientifically correct, reflecting and concentrating objective reality in its underlying mainsprings, dynamics, and pathways for change vs. what is not. Ultimately and immediately, what this is all rooted in and for—for the emancipation of humanity, nothing else and nothing less! For the emancipation of the billions around the planet—from the favelas of Rio to Tahrir Square in Cairo, from those trapped in the textile factories of Bangladesh as they collapse to rubble to those confined in the torture chambers of solitary confinement in the U.S.
With all this in mind, I want to pose two questions for people's reflection and informal collective wrangling:
Seeking "validation" has an underlying epistemology in which the truth of an idea is seen as contingent on whether others agree with you, or thinking that what people think determines objective reality. It is a populist epistemology—truth determined by what people think, on opinion polls, and public opinion—that does not reflect objective reality in its deeper workings and dynamics and pathways of change, does not challenge, refute, and change people's false ideas and ways of thinking out of sync with objective reality, and leaves the world "as is."
What is needed from us is proceeding with a scientific epistemology and a thoroughly scientific approach to objective reality—including people's thinking. As BA says in his interview with A. Brooks, "If you're being scientific, you don't go by 'what everybody knows.' You proceed by probing, investigating—and, yes, in the process changing—reality, and then systematizing what can be learned: what are the patterns; what is the essence of what you're learning; what ties things together; what differentiates some things from other things...."
So, there it is: either we root ourselves in science and fight to transform people's thinking, or we go out seeking approval and validation in people's thinking and are constantly disoriented and put on the defensive based on the prejudices and misconceptions this system fosters in people; scientific or populist epistemology—one that is about radically changing the world, the other that will leave the world "as is."
Two different approaches, two different epistemologies—two different worlds.
Revolution #318 September 29, 2013
September 23, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Right now, you are needed to become, or renew being, a regular financial sustainer of revcom.us with a regular monthly contribution. This can be monthly commitments of $500, $100 or $10, depending on your capability. All of it matters.
Pledge today online at revcom.us (click through to "Sustain"), or go to your local Revolution newspaper distributor, or the Revolution Books store or outlet nearest you. You can also send checks or money orders to: RCP Publications, Box 3486 Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654. Make checks payable to "RCP Publications."
A great deal rides on how well the revcom.us website can play its role, enabling humanity to understand and radically change the world. It is really indispensable. One year ago, the new, revitalized revcom.us was unveiled for the world. Right now it depends on your sustained support.
Tens of thousands come each month to this website from the U.S. and worldwide. Ten times that number need to find out about it, and the website's capability needs to grow to bring alive the analysis and leadership we have, and to make it possible for people to see the role they and others are playing in the fight to radically change this world.
For many people this website is a regular political lifeline, the main connection to this movement for revolution. Many others are driven to revcom.us by outrages they see and feel—the mass incarceration of millions of mainly Black and brown people in the U.S.; the worldwide epidemic of rape and pornography and the vicious war on women including attacks in the U.S. on the basic right to abortion; the moves by the U.S. to attack Syria and the outrageous "justifications" (lies!) coming from Obama; Snowden's exposures of government spying. Some come to read the analysis of uprisings around the world. Others come looking for more overall revolutionary theory and leadership, and they find this particularly in the work and leadership of Bob Avakian, as well as in the Party that he leads, and the movement for revolution that is emerging.
On revcom.us a visitor can find what this whole revolution is about and find their place in it. And it's the main way people around the world can encounter and engage the new synthesis of communism brought forward by Bob Avakian.
Wherever you are in this political mix, your regular financial support is needed now for revcom.us to meet these needs.
Over this summer and now into the fall, revcom.us has been the hub of efforts to bring to people and popularize the film, Bob Avakian Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Bob Avakian Live and the BA Everywhere campaign to raise big funds to project Bob Avakian's vision and works into every corner of society.
The website has been the key place to find out about the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride, the struggle that erupted around the trial of the murderer of Trayvon Martin, the California prisoners' hunger strike, and what these have to do with liberating humanity.
Again, wherever you are in this political mix, your sustained financial support is needed. Join the community of financial sustainers for revcom.us.
This website and Revolution newspaper are playing a critical role, right now and moving ahead. But the too-low level of regular funding is even now a real constraint, and regular funding that we don't now have is needed to meet the needs ahead. This must change, and right now you are an important part of that.
Consider what is involved to do this. Through a collaboration of reporters and correspondents with editors and political leadership we are applying science to go beneath the surface to the roots and meaning of developing events, and then breaking that down in a way that is accessible to an audience ranging from the universities to the prisons. Facts are carefully checked. Photos are found and paid for. Graphics are produced. All this takes people, and there is a great need to expand our full-time staff.
If this is the first time you've considered sustaining revcom.us, start now. If you are a sustainer, consider increasing your amount. If you have sustained in the past but not now, pick it up again. If you have been a sustainer but have missed some payments, help figure out how those funds can be systematically turned in. Let others know, and think big.
NOTE: International readers can play an important role by reading, corresponding with, and popularizing revcom.us. At this time we are not able to accept financial contributions from outside the U.S.
Contributions or gifts to RCP Publications are not deductible as charitable contributions for federal income tax purposes.
Some more of what regular funds are needed for, not just to maintain but to expand:
Revolution #318 September 29, 2013
By Joe Veale | September 23, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
During the picnic for the celebration and culmination for the summer of BA Everywhere activities, I sat at a table of family members of California Prisoner Hunger Strikers. This was during the hunger strike and I appreciated learning about their families currently on strike and the struggle and discussion we had.
The conversation flowed back and forth between the torture, suffering, and brutality of their relatives in prison, the hunger strike, mass incarceration especially of Black and Latino's—and BA's vision of revolution and communism. This would be a whole new world where prisons and the social conditions that make them necessary, that make poverty, racism (national oppression), war, borders, forced motherhood... the oppressive system and antagonistic relations that makes all this necessary has been revolutionized away and can no longer exist.
While it was clear everyone was having a good time, happy to be at the BA Everywhere celebration, some more saw themselves as "clusters of electrons" orbiting around the movement for revolution, reading Revolution newspaper, watching and discussing the film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Bob Avakian Live. Others see being in this orbit more out of necessity because the movement for revolution is such an essential vehicle in their eyes, doing serious revolutionary political work in relation to Prisoner Hunger Strike—and the lives of their loved ones are wrapped up with this movement being successful.
There was a lot of moving, different, and conflicting understanding involved in all this.
Initially everyone said they knew about BA and were "down with the revolution." "Oh yeah, we read, we know about BA. We are 'down' with the revolution"—is what one of the mothers proudly said to me. "Keep writing those articles in Revolution. Keep putting stuff on Twitter..."
The discussion turned more and more to BA, the content of his re-envisioning of communism, and the fact that humanity can live a whole new way without all this horrible suffering in the world—that she should watch the film today, get it and watch it some more, get a copy of BAsics by BA.
One of the mothers said she goes by her "faith." That she needs this in order not to get depressed. It keeps her going she said, everybody needs something to keep them going and this is what she needs.
I told her that no, we need to understand reality like BA says so that we can change it. I said we need revolution, not sitting around thinking that somebody gonna come down from the heavens or the White House and save the people from all this. How long was this needless suffering gonna continue? She responded: "I know. I know. It has been going on thousands of years."
She went on to say: "Look, people can make it in this system. I have a son in prison but I have a daughter in college."
So we talked some about "choices" and what the brutal exploitation internationally is all rooted in. She said she was very aware of this—the millions of deaths each year. I argued that this is not only a horror but it is unnecessary and we talked a little about why this is true—she said that if the right politician got in office things would improve.
We ended with the two of us having a hearty laugh while sharing what BA had said about Napoleon. Why Napoleon had said in private he believed in none of the gods but in public he believed in all the gods. It is in the book Away With All Gods! Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World by BA; I told her she should check it out further.
Anyway we got a big laugh that Napoleon was saying it is impossible to have a society without inequality and it is impossible to have inequality without religion. Which is why BA says we must be scientific—confront reality how it really is so we can change it.
During this discussion another mother began to whisper in my ear that she was down with the movement for revolution. That she had watched the film REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! three times.
She continued to whisper that Thurgood Marshall, the first Black Supreme Court Justice, was her model of a revolutionary. When challenged about what the Supreme Court is, part of the bourgeois state, that Marshall as a judge looked out for what is best for the capitalist-imperialist system, she continued that you have to work inside and outside the system in order to get what you want. She gave Martin Luther King and Malcolm X as examples of this.
But those two were coming from the struggle of Black people—one went back and forth over revolution to achieve that, while the other never was about that. We also talked about how BA is the leader of the revolution to emancipate all of humanity—and bury all this shit this system stands on and stands for. She said she knows about that but went on to repeat what she said earlier.
Another family member told me that I should go stand with someone who had spoken about being on the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride and argue against what he was saying. She repeated the unscientific and harmful thinking that more African-Americans are murdered in a woman's womb than anywhere else.
I said white supremacy and genocide is something that this system imposes on people. You cannot follow that up with doing another crime by denying women their full humanity. When challenged that denying a woman's right to choose when and if she wants to carry a pregnancy to term is denying her right to do just that. Women need to be free to consciously make this decision. She gave me one of those looks and said: how can you say that is something that should consciously be done?
When it was put to her we are fighting for a world where there is just a human community of people cooperating with one another—how people view sexuality will be very different, she repeated what she said and attributed this thinking to people who've never had children. I told her it is really attributed to what is scientifically true and encouraged her to watch BA.
It was significant that at the beginning of this discussion, there was a lot of genuine partisanship but it was important to not just rest with that but to really bring in—and join in debate—the framework of the revolution we need, the leadership, strategy, and vision that exists for this. This broke open the real differences and questions people have, and we were able to join all this—even if in a beginning way. This is what we need a lot more of.
Revolution #318 September 29, 2013
September 23, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
A fitting culmination of the BA Everywhere Campaign this summer in the S.F. Bay Area unfolded on the weekend of August 24-25. On Saturday, August 24, 70 people came to watch the film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Bob Avakian Live at the Berkeley Central Library. The next day, a picnic/barbeque brought 50 people together to celebrate the summer's work of spreading BA's work and vision everywhere to thousands of people and to raise big funds to do this.
On Saturday afternoon, the library's community room drew an unusual mix of people of all ages and nationalities, many of whom had just heard of BA or the film. In the mix were Black teenagers, Latino and African immigrants, homeless people, older white activists, students, and revolutionaries. Some had just heard about the film that day. Others learned about it from the Revolution—Nothing Less! Van Tour, which traveled throughout the Bay Area in the week leading up to the showing.
Many people were compelled to come because of the film's theme that revolution and nothing less is what's needed. Events in the world—like the Zimmerman acquittal in the Trayvon Martin murder, the U.S. threats against Syria, the protests in Egypt, and the attacks on abortion—have made a lot of people more deeply think about and question why things are the way they are, what it would take to change them, and what needs to be done now.
The film was projected on a very wide screen, and the sound was of high quality, contributing to the audience getting the maximum impact from the screening. There were periods of quiet listening that were punctuated repeatedly by people speaking up and applauding, laughing, and agreeing with certain parts.
The film inspired but also challenged and shook up what some people thought about things. After the film, a young white woman, an ex-prisoner, expressed the feelings of many when she said, "This really resonated with me." She said she was "impatient" and wanting to know HOW a revolution could be made.
There was some intense struggle over religion. A Black woman from a shelter in East Oakland walked out early in the screening saying, "I don't like what he's saying about god. I'm a child of god. He's my father." She was really torn—she agreed with other things BA had to say, but was so bothered by his comments on religion that she felt she could not stay. After some discussion, she went back in and stayed for the whole showing—by the end of the movie she said she could see better why BA would say religion is harmful, though she still disagreed about god.
Some took beginning steps into the movement for revolution after seeing the film. A Black guy who goes to community college said he liked what BA said about slavery and what happened afterwards. He wanted to be part of the movement for revolution and took all our posters with BA's "Three Strikes" statement and a stack of palm cards with BA quotes to get out.
The following day, a BBQ marked the culmination of the summer's work of reaching out to, influencing, and drawing in new people into this campaign. All summer we've gotten into big questions about the direction of society, what kind of revolution is needed, how such a revolution could come about, and what we would replace it with. Questions about revolution vs. reform, human nature, religion, and leadership have been debated while we've raised funds to get out BA Everywhere. Thousands of people now know who Bob Avakian is and that there is a beginning movement for revolution. People were in a celebratory mood, coming off all that and the successful film showing the day before. There was a welcoming atmosphere of people being part of a community, where new and old people were mixing and getting into it.
We held a short program. The emcee opened with: "All summer we've been talking to hundreds of people, getting out thousands of cards for the film, to people from the bottom of society to middle class people at concerts, to festivals, from Art Murmur (a monthly street festival) to Art and Soul (music and art event in Oakland), from the Tenderloin (a neighborhood in S.F. with many oppressed people) to an opera concert at Stern Grove in S.F., to resort areas in the south and north of S.F. We've introduced BA to people who have never heard of him or about this movement for revolution. We've met people who are drawn to this movement and want to know more about it."
Speakers, music, and spoken word made up the rest of the program. One speaker had spent the last month on the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride and had just returned. She talked about the need to take on the attacks on abortion, which are aimed at keeping women down by forcing them into motherhood. She and another woman did a spoken word piece on the oppression of women, written that day.
A revolutionary spoke about the California prisoners' hunger strike, which at that point was in its 49th day, and how the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation decided that people can be force-fed, which is torture on top of torture. He called on everyone to support the heroic struggle the prisoners are waging to stop the torture of solitary confinement.
Some of the people who contributed cultural performances had just stepped into the movement for revolution this summer. The audience applauded and cheered for a duo that performed Nina Simone's song "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free." Three people performed poems or raps. A graffiti artist did three raps with themes of the destruction of the environment and Occupy. A Revolution Club member performed a piece on Trayvon Martin.
After the cultural presentations, loud and funky music played by a deejay brought kids and older people to their feet, moving and grooving to the beat. It was really entertaining and a lot of fun.
New shoots that have been developing through the summer were evident at the picnic. There were very new people who came. Some people who came to the March premiere of BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! have developed politically in these few short months through getting involved in taking out BA Everywhere in the midst of the highly charged struggle after the not guilty verdict came down in the murder of Trayvon Martin.
There was a lot of time to talk to different kinds of people from varying perspectives and get to know each other. The topics of conversation ranged widely, including big questions about the kind of society we live in and what kind of real choices people have under this system, especially those who are cast off and treated as if they are problems, and how could we really go up against the might of the system and win.
Some people were eager to share what they thought of the film. A 21-year-old Black man said, "The film was very interesting because I related to a lot of things, for example, the U.S. wouldn't be the U.S. without slavery... It [the film] brings out the truth. He was real. He was saying it from his heart. I can tell when people are just talking. I agree with what he said about police murder. The talk came from him and he wants me to think. He's a brave person for saying this."
This and other heartfelt comments were an indication of how deeply this film connects with people and how at the same time people bring all kinds of ideas and outlooks with them as they are drawn to the film. Just think what a difference it would make if thousands of people were to watch this film and spread it everywhere, and society were filled with engagement with BA.
When the sky got dark enough, we projected the end of the BA film onto a large outdoor screen. People quietly and intently listened to BA talk about why what he said in this talk can't be regarded as just words, but must be taken out to others so we can change the world. We ended the event with a call for people to answer this challenge and by emphasizing that everyone there was needed to spread this everywhere to even more people.
Revolution #318 September 29, 2013
September 23, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
In August, BA Speaks: Revolution—Nothing Less! van tours hit the streets in New York, Chicago, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Los Angeles. Volunteers of different ages and nationalities went out in vans with striking revolutionary decorations, bringing to people that there is a way out of the madness and vicious brutality that this system and country rains down on the people here and around the world. The following is a report from one of the August van tours.
After a couple days in wealthier areas, the van tour spent several days in the neighborhoods of the oppressed where many Black and Latino people live. Since high schools just came back into session, a focus of the tour was going to the schools to reach students in these areas, but we also reached into places where we connected Bob Avakian (BA), with homeless youth, immigrant day laborers, viciously oppressed women, and many others who are "cast out and cast aside." For many people, these encounters were new, and the first time they were coming into contact with BA. And for others they re-connected with the revolution, including in places where the revolution has a history but not a recent consistent history.
During the van tour there was the core of volunteers and then a couple of people who came out for a few hours on some different days. One of these was someone who reconnected with the revolution at a festival over the summer and has been enthusiastically taking up fundraising. He ran with the van tour for a day, building for the finale celebration and selling stickers and calling on people to donate. We are still tallying the money raised and newspapers sold, but we can say with certainty not very much money was raised during the tour and overall fundraising was not enough put to the people we were encountering nor did we enough put fundraising in their hands.
Over the course of the August tour in this city (including the celebration at the end), close to 100 people watched parts of the film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!, from a few minutes to a full hour. More than 2,000 of the beautiful poster with BA's Three Strikes quote were distributed. And the engagement with this talk, and with revolutionaries out to challenge and transform people's thinking as well as learn deeply about that thinking, brought some of people's hardest questions to the surface.
A lot of this had to do with people wrangling with the possibility of revolution, of being able to radically transform the world and the relations between people. Among the youth in particular, some of this was expressed by people who had been part of the protests around the verdict in the murder of Trayvon Martin trying to understand what it meant to have done that, and what to do now that will make a difference towards really changing things. Some expressed feeling cast off by the rest of society (in particular, by white people) and the pain and anger about that as well as the question of whether that could ever change. Some raised the big question of the dog-eat-dog relations all around, in particular the way that in these neighborhoods the youth are in gangs and killing each other and in general there is a lot of people hating on each other. In terms of the possibility of actually winning a revolution to bring into being a whole new society, people had different conceptions of revolution that needed to be recast, but there was the question of how to be able to defeat such a powerful system. One thing we heard more than once in this regard was that maybe the way to defeat them is a coup, looking at what is happening in Egypt. A feature of many discussions we had with people was going into the strategy for revolution and distinguishing real revolution from wrong conceptions of revolution, as well as using the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic of North America (Draft Proposal) and the "Imagine" quotes in BAsics (Chapter 2) to lift things up to the level of thinking about and seeing the possibility of a whole other way things could be.
On a block in an impoverished and downpressed area, between a center that provides basic nutritional necessities for low-income women and their children and a busy train stop, a group of Latino youth stopped to talk to the van tour volunteers and agreed that watching 15 minutes of this film was more important than catching the train they had been headed for. As they started to think about radically changing the world, they wanted to know how we overcome the divisions and beef between gangs. These youth posed this as an obstacle to building the movement for revolution. One of them said that he liked the idea of people coming together and doing what we're talking about but we would need to find a way to overcome this major barrier—of people being divided into different neighborhoods for so long. This youth gave an example of how this gets posed even among people who are not in gangs themselves: "His cousin in that neighborhood killed my cousin who is in that other neighborhood, so fuck those people over there." He tended to look down on gang members, saying they were "stupid" and ignorant and they wouldn't care about this. We challenged him to view the section from the film entitled, "The Revolutionary Potential of Those Most Oppressed Requires Scientific Leadership," where BA speaks to this question directly. This really challenged this youth. Meanwhile his friend had been watching the film and also had been having an exchange with another van tour volunteer about the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) and BAsics 2:6 and said that we are supposed to be all one humanity, but when some are separated, keeping others down, it doesn't work—we need to get to be one. When the friend kept expressing doubts about "hard core youth" caring about "revolution" and transforming their thinking he challenged him saying, "Yeah, but they can change, that's what the revolutionaries are saying."
In the back and forth their framework of what they understood to be revolution was challenged. They thought revolution is to keep protesting and pressuring the current leaders to change things so he kept asking, "What if these people don't change things?" This led to a discussion on reform versus revolution, really wielding "On the Strategy for Revolution" in BAsics.
At a day labor corner in another part of the city, one of the immigrants waiting for work watched the "Imagine" chapter in Spanish from BA's 2003 Revolution talk (Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About). He said, "I see how the people at the top try to keep the people at the bottom where they're at, but even among each other at the bottom people try to keep each other down." He talked about people at the day labor corner trying to out-hustle each other. He said he doesn't look at things that way—he sees the next guy trying to get work and understands that "he has the same necessities I do," and when someone picks him up for work he always tries to bring another guy with him. He said there is too much shit going on with people fucking each other for a job, and then many times are also fucked over by people that hire them. They get paid half what they were promised, or sometimes not at all. He told a story about a truck that pulled up, some guys loaded the truck, then the driver asked them to go inside the store and check on a price for something. By the time they came out, the truck had driven off without paying them. We talked about why people get caught up in this, what gives rise to that, drawing much from how BA goes at this in the piece "More on Choices..." Some of this was sparked by the film where BA talks about "work, housing, health care" under socialism in stark contrast to the destroyed lives and crushed spirits that capitalism leaves behind. Earlier on we had tried selling the day laborer a copy of Revolution newspaper but he said he couldn't read. But then said, "But I can listen and I can think."
Outside a high school, we spoke with a Black student who is part of a multinational crew. He said he'd been part of the actions around justice for Trayvon Martin but at one point he ran into a scene where several Black youth were robbing another Black youth. He said he got disappointed to see this and it made him want to say "fuck all this Black power shit" since he felt "Black people can't even get together around justice for Trayvon Martin." We read from the "More on Choices..." piece by Bob Avakian. It turned out that this youth had months ago seen sections of BA's 2003 filmed speech (the Revolution talk). He recalled something from the film but completely distorted what BA was actually saying so he was challenged about this; he was told he didn't know what he was talking about... and he agreed. He said that he liked some of what BA says and likes the fact that there is a movement around him, but that if it actually got bigger it would get destroyed by the people who run this system. He cited the book 48 Laws of Power as an example of what the system would do to a revolutionary movement that is growing and having more influence. Despite his joking around at first, it turns out that his real question and disagreement is that he thinks that revolution is not possible. We asked him what scientific study had he done to come to this conclusion. He said he was basically going by what's "out there." We read him a section from "On the Strategy for Revolution" from the RCP on this, which challenged his wrong conclusion that "it's not possible," and told him if he is serious he should engage it further.
In a predominantly Spanish-speaking area, when we were showing BA's 2003 Revolution talk, we came across a Black brother who stopped after seeing our van and the newspaper. He told a volunteer that he takes the time to listen to anything having to do with revolution. When we explained what our mission was, he agreed with the form we were taking it out with, going directly to those who needed it most. In the background were masses gathering listening to BA's 2003 talk play in Spanish... We took the time and read the Three Strikes poster on the back of the van. With his finger he underlined criminalization and mentioned a few other things the Black youth are kept out of like education. Getting at what's needed now, a movement for revolution, we talked about the heroic hunger strike by California prisoners, the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride, and other ways this movement is mobilizing and highlighting fighting the power as part of a strategy for revolution. Going through the "On the Strategy for Revolution" in BAsics, particularly where it speaks on what a revolution is and is not, not about acting all crazy or waiting for one fine day, he asked what the revolution thought about "inevitability." When we explained that revolution isn't inevitable, he clarified that what he meant was the contradictions of the system and how that affects the masses. He mentioned that he had been locked up in the past and said that the contradiction of the system would on its own (inevitably) bring the people to stand together and added "to fight the real enemy." This led us to the need for communist leadership. How are people going to come together and be sustained ideologically and knowing who is the real enemy? People are capable of coming together but this takes leadership, even realizing that these antagonisms do not disappear overnight. He honestly acknowledged that he himself was still dealing with the antagonism between Blacks and Latinos, appreciating that clarification. The conversation went on for some time covering more on the strategy for revolution. What stood out to him during our discussion, as he himself summed up, was the fact that this revolution had a strategy for revolution and that revolution had a deep sense of where all this came from captured earlier on in our conversation with the analysis of the "counter insurgency before the insurgency." Toward the end of our conversation he raised that he was concentrating time on GMO crops [genetically modified organisms], which he further tripped out on when he was driven to take it out of his immediate borders and deal with how this system fucks up the rest of the world and not just food but human life referring to the example of 500,000 plus farmers in India having killed themselves...
At an intersection where the revolution has had a regular presence, a high school student passed by who has been checking out the revolution around the edges and getting involved in small ways on and off. She stopped to watch a few minutes of the film. While watching, she was also looking around a bit and a display near the table caught her eye. She saw "abortion providers are heroes" and objected. She said she thinks women should have the right to abortion, but that abortion is wrong and to say abortion providers are heroes is really wrong. She said the same thing a lot of people say to us—the woman should have thought about it before laying down, should use birth control instead of abortion as birth control because abortion kills a human life. She also said that women were created to reproduce and this is a special joy and responsibility of being a woman. We told her first of all women were not created to do anything. She said, "Oh yeah, I forgot you guys don't believe in God." We talked to her about a woman's life being more important than a fetus, which is a potential human life but not yet. She still thought it was wrong for women to use abortion as birth control and blamed women for not being responsible when they have sex.
We walked through with her what we'd heard from a guy at the high school the day before who is a volunteer with an AIDS prevention project—about how all these youth don't want to take the free condoms they offer, even girls won't take them because the young guys say they can't feel anything with it, so they rely on pulling out during sex. Why? One is a lack of science education and knowledge. She understood this and said she knows that pulling out doesn't stop pregnancy or prevent disease and could see how lack of understanding could lead to a lot of young women getting pregnant who are not ready. We also talked about the other reason why—the way women are indoctrinated with the idea that they only count for something if they can please a man and yes that reproducing is the most important thing they can do. She nodded. Then we talked about how horrific it is to force a woman to be a mother when she doesn't want to be. We walked through how she would feel if she got pregnant and then for whatever reason decided she wasn't ready but was forced to have the baby anyway. What if you're pregnant and the guy turns out to be an asshole? Or you lose your job and have no way of supporting a child anymore? She agreed at this point, saying she would hate being forced to have a baby against her will and could see why this was important. But she still objected to saying abortion providers are heroes. She didn't know anything about the attacks on doctors and clinics. We told her how Dr. Tiller was killed and the bravery of doctors who know women need this to be free, how some states have only one clinic left. She said had she known about all of that at the beginning of the conversation, she would've been convinced right away.
* * * * *
We called up a high school student we'd met during the July van tour, who had watched the first 15 minutes of REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! at that time. He plays basketball, said he wants to get into the NBA. This goal is promoted in a big way at his high school and we told him we'd recently looked up some information about his school and it showed that there was about one professional athlete a year that comes out of that school—out of a student population of more than 2,000. The van tour volunteer who talked with him told him we need to look at the hard reality that this system is grinding people up, has no future for people, and it's why we need to put ourselves to the fight to get rid of it. He said he had been thinking about this. The volunteer asked, thinking about what? He said, "the system." What about the system? He said that if you are not them, you don't count. We asked him what made him think about that and he said looking at the neighborhoods, the way some neighborhoods are neglected. We read him part of BAsics 2:6 and told him this is what this revolution is about. This is what we are fighting to bring about and what you can make a difference in being part of. He didn't respond to what was being posed by that quote, but said he would come to the BA Everywhere summer celebration.
A Black youth stopped and watched about five minutes of the film, during the part where BA talks about "it's not human nature." He said he really liked the film because BA is smart and he knows what he is talking about. We noticed he was looking at the posters around the van, and asked him his thoughts and which poster caught his attention. He said the "No more generations..." poster where there's a line of prisoners in the picture at the top of the quote. He said, "It sucks because they are on their way to jail, where they are gonna get messed with." The van tour volunteer responded, "They don't only get messed with, but they get tortured," and began to tell him about the hunger strike. He was surprised because he hadn't heard about the hunger strike. The volunteer asked him his thoughts on the quote, "No more generations...." He said it's a good quote and it's true because all these youth are getting killed and that needs to stop. He wanted to be part of the bookstore's mailing list so he left us his email and took an issue of the paper.
A woman in her fifties stopped to talk with one of the young van tour volunteers and opened up to him about what she's been through. A year ago she was stopped by a pig and he raped her. They still took her to jail. They let her go the same night, but it took her days to get over it. Her family didn't see her for three days. She was depressed. She filed a complaint. It turns out that pig had raped seven other women. A lawyer told her they wanted her testimony, but when she went they told her they didn't want it anymore, the case settled. So he's not a cop anymore, but he's still out there. She said, "I want to be a part of this, what can I do?" The volunteer told her she should watch the talk, REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!. She didn't stay to watch the film, but took Three Strikes posters to get up and around. A volunteer asked her if she had any ideas where to put them and she said she had been a postal worker for 28 years and had lots of ideas.
We went to five high schools during the August tour. We would set up the van near the school and play REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! from the beginning. It was challenging to stop students to watch the film and we are still trying to learn more about why. We experimented a bit, changing things up as we went to try to deal with some of the things we could see as obstacles. For example, at some schools students literally don't stick around outside of school afterwards, so we tried to understand why and change where we were setting up. Some of the reasons students don't hang out are because they have responsibilities either at home or go to work and, in several places, students who expressed interest said they had to go meet with their probation officers or get home to meet the terms of being on house arrest and showed us the "ankle bracelets" that track their whereabouts. We guessed that other reasons include the "beef" that people get into among each other as well as the repression by the police. This played out in front of us at one school where it looked like a fight was going to break out after school and a group of students ran down the street messing with some of the street vendors. The police swooped in, in cars and helicopters and youth scattered everywhere, disappearing into the neighborhood. And members of the People's Neighborhood Patrol who were on the tour went to make sure the police weren't violating anyone's rights.
Still, a handful of students actually stopped at these different schools and watched short portions of the film and others engaged in discussions. In going back to areas we've been, we ran into people who knew of the revolution and stepped forward to engage more deeply and seriously, and we ran into people who have already drawn conclusions about why they don't want to engage—though this is something we need to continue working to open up and transform. For example, at one school where the revolution has had a presence, a couple students passed by and didn't want to take the poster or engage and said why: "You're dangerous because you don't believe in God," and "I don't fuck with communism."
One young guy, just out of high school, had encountered the revolution in the neighborhood before on a couple of other occasions and started to check it out. He ran into us when we were set up near the high school and took this opportunity to watch BA and ended up staying to watch the whole first hour. He didn't have a lot to say about what he thought of what he'd just watched, though he clearly liked it. He said he already knew about what BA was saying about what the police do to people. We asked him why he thinks the police do this and he said because they're cops so they can get away with it. We read him quote 1:24 from BAsics and he was really enthusiastic about it. He said he'd come to the BA Everywhere Summer Celebration, wants to buy BAsics when he has $10, and he asked for a stack of BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! palm cards to get around.
Several students passing by would make dismissive or joking comments—but we realized that in doing this they were also engaging. We challenged one group of guys passing by and one of them said, "You can't do anything about this." We told him he was wrong, that's why we're out here, we're building a movement for revolution. He said he didn't see anything "building," and only a small group of people. We told him a big part of this is changing how people think in a mass way, and gave an example of how what people do can change how people think—the protests around Trayvon Martin. He said being out there around Trayvon didn't change anything, we didn't even "get anything" from it (in the context he said this, he meant there actually wasn't any looting of stores). The van tour volunteer talked with him about how it affected people's thinking throughout this society and in the world, including white people looking differently at this. The student responded, "White people don't care about us." We told him a story from the van tour about being in a middle-class neighborhood recently talking to a white person about Trayvon and the Three Strikes poster and what this country does to Black people and that there's a lot of white people that can and need to be together with Black people and others in the fight to get rid of this system, and that we have a strategy we're working on to do that. We said he needs to get into BA and to start with the Three Strikes poster which he hadn't taken initially but now did.
On one occasion, we were on our way to the house of a supporter of the van tour, who had made dinner to feed all the volunteers that night. This kind of support came from several people of different backgrounds and nationalities who are inspired by the goal and mission of the BA Everywhere campaign, and it included cooking food and housing the volunteers.
As we traveled on our way to dinner, one of us was looking up news stories online and reading different headlines and articles out loud. She came across a news story about a man who had been killed by police after he shot his wife. One of us posed the question, how would we handle something like this when we have revolutionary state power? One person referenced the Tyisha Miller quote from BAsics (2:16) about not wantonly killing the masses. We talked about how even in this kind of situation (if we take the news story as true), where someone is doing something that is truly horrific, that quote still applies. Why? Because we understand it's not human nature, and that people can change. This was a beginning discussion, which we would like to continue, about how in a socialist society there would be different terms being set in regards to ending the oppression of women, and there would be a climate of fighting to overcome these thousands of years of oppressive relations.
We used the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) (with the masses and among ourselves) to concretely get into a vision of a new society that's actually possible. Among the volunteers we talked about what socialism would look like and some of us read parts of this Constitution for the first time. One volunteer talked about how teachers had insulted and put her down in school so she read the section in the Constitution on education and thought about what education would look like in a new society and how radically different it would be. This included briefly batting around with others the positive achievements in this regard during the first wave of socialist revolutions, but also an examination of the shortcomings on this as well.
Regarding the phenomenon of some people looking to the coup in Egypt as possibly a model for what "revolution" means here: A van tour volunteer said this reminded them of things they've read about of the 1960s and how back then people awakening to political life—and looking for an alternative to the way the world is—had socialist China as a beacon of hope and a model and inspiration. But given the setbacks and defeats, summed up in Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage, A Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, the situation is much different today for all who are searching for a way out. This brought home even more the importance of the campaign BA Everywhere and the difference it can make to get BA's vision and works out in all corners of society—inspiring and raising sights. And it needs to be clear for all who want to get free—including those searching right now—that a "coup" is NOT a revolution and people must act on that understanding.
Revolution #318 September 29, 2013
September 23, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Our team made some important headway in opening up debate on the big questions of revolution among people in an oppressed neighborhood on Sunday, struggling with them to join this movement and calling on them to meet the leader of the revolution by coming to our showing of BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! In this way, people's questions and differences on religion and Obama, among other things, were spoken to as part of our message on the only real solution.
The days are still hot and humid in the South at this time of the year, but we found people out in scattered groupings on their porches or at the neighborhood corner stores. Some took fliers, and a number of them said they felt challenged to come see the film. A woman who has seen the book BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian at a local bodega read the quote BAsics 3:8 that was in the centerfold of the Revolution newspaper we were distributing, about how "The interests, objectives, and grand designs of the imperialists are not our interests...." She looked through the book to study it further and said that she is planning on buying it. One man insisted on joining us in marching down the street. Another man was at first speechless and then moved to tears by the poster with BA's "Three Strikes" statement.
Overall we summed up the most important accomplishment was the level of engagement with this revolution, the impact of challenging people with this revolutionary science that stirred interest even as it provoked challenges back from them. People were struck by the whole ensemble—of BAsics, the handbook for revolution, and the film of the speech by BA bringing out the strategy for revolution—and they took it as a serious proposal for the possibility of a whole better world.
On the first block we took out the Revolution—Nothing Less! banner and bullhorn. Right away a youth challenged us with, "You're outnumbered. Besides, communism is worse." Or so the history books say. But when we challenged him about "who writes history," his friend right away jumped in to agree with us. Down the way, an older gentleman wanted to know, "What's with the procrastination (in making this revolution)?" When we brought out the role of BA in confronting and resolving the big questions of strategic conception for revolution, he wanted to know, "What's the next step?" He took some materials on BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! and is considering coming to the film showing.
Religion and god is always a contentious issue. Having just reread “Two Different Approaches, Two Different Epistemologies—Two Different Worlds” from revcom.us/Revolution, we were determined to take the question on rather than look for validation. At several points along our way, women stepped out to tell neighbors not to listen to us because "They don't believe in god," but our stance on the need for revolution kept drawing people back to us.
The companion of one of these women spoke of his efforts in trying to help people out but wondered if it's worth it given others don't reciprocate. "What about me?" he wanted to know. “How can I be happy?” He thought that's what we were trying to do too—help people. We struggled with him over what people really needed—revolution. "It would make us happy for people to be free!" We were not able to get him to see how the system itself enforces those "dog-eat-dog" relations he was talking about.
A young woman agreed the world was a real mess, but then said, "You don't believe in god? Then we are on two different sides." Nevertheless she insisted that she was definitely going to be at the BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! film showing, and took fliers to get out too.
"Revolution? This is something you dream about," said a 40-something-year-old guy watching an NFL game with his buddies. But when we brought out the new Revolution article "More Lies from the Liar in Chief" exposing Obama's speech on Syria, he insisted Obama was being forced to continue what Bush started. It was instructive that nationalism affected his view of the Syria situation too. His sentiments were that "we have to worry about the poor people here" rather than a concern for the U.S. murdering more people there. We struggled for him to see the connection, but he wasn't hearing it.
Among the few youth we found on the streets there was some interest in what this revolutionary leader has to say. Several listened to the section "A Radically Different and Far Better World Is Possible" from BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Off of that, one of them said, “That guy is deep,” and took a stack of leaflets for the upcoming film showing to distribute.
Revolution #318 September 29, 2013
September 23, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On September 5, after 60 days, prisoners in California collectively decided to suspend their hunger strike to stop solitary confinement torture in prisons in California and throughout the U.S.
Their statement reads in part: “To be clear, our Peaceful Protest of Resistance to our continuous subjection to decades of systemic state sanctioned torture via the system’s solitary confinement units is far from over. Our decision to suspend our third hunger strike in two years does not come lightly. This decision is especially difficult considering that most of our demands have not been met (despite nearly universal agreement that they are reasonable). The core group of prisoners has been, and remains 100% committed to seeing this protracted struggle for real reform through to a complete victory, even if it requires us to make the ultimate sacrifice. With that said, we clarify this point by stating prisoner deaths are not the objective, we recognize such sacrifice is at times the only means to an end of fascist oppression....” (see full statement, Revolution #316)
Carl Dix, in a recent interview (see Revolution No. 317, September 22, 2013), called this strike “the most significant outbreak of resistance from among prisoners since the Attica rebellion.”* Indeed, this was an extraordinary undertaking. At least 30,000 people in 24 of California’s 34 prisons participated at the outset of the hunger strike and 40 people in California prisons went without solid food for 8-1/2 weeks. Thousands more prisoners supported or took part on and off during the entire two-month period. This hunger strike, following the earlier hunger strikes in 2011, was unprecedented in California history in terms of the number of prisoners who participated and how long the strike went on.
This hunger strike was a heroic act of resistance taken under extremely difficult circumstances. These prisoners have suffered under conditions—for years, and for some, decades—of state-sponsored isolation, sensory deprivation and psychological torture. Prisoners in the Security Housing Units (SHUs) live in 8 x 10-foot concrete boxes, with no opportunity to breathe fresh air, or to feel the sun or see the moon or stars. They stood up against injustice and asserted their humanity in the process.
Leading into restarting of the hunger strike, in October 2012, the PBSP-SHU (California Pelican Bay State Prison—Security Housing Unit) Short Corridor Collective and Representative Body issued a statement calling for an end to all violence and hostility between different groups of prisoners. This was a historical Agreement to End Hostilities on behalf of all racial groups throughout the state of California from maximum security prisons to county jails that asks prisoners of all nationalities to unite and not to use racial differences to oppose each other.
The hunger strike won support among important sections of society. By its 60th day it had begun to pose before millions, at least in a beginning way, what do these torture units really represent and who are these prisoners fighting for basic human rights? This was a real challenge in a society where those in power have indoctrinated people to believe and accept that prisoners should have no rights, that they are the “worst of the worst” and deserve whatever is being done to them, including solitary confinement—which is a form of torture. (See “What is Actually Revealed In The California Prison Hunger Strike? Responding to Jeffrey Beard's Los Angeles Times Op-ed” Revolution #312)
Important mass protests took place in support of the hunger strike. At Corcoran State Prison, more than 400 people from throughout the Southwest U.S. assembled at a protest action during the first week of the hunger strike. There were mobilizations of hundreds of families throughout Southern California week after week (often initiated by the California Families to Abolish Solitary Confinement). A powerful SHU replica installation was set up at the Sacramento State Capitol Building in mid-August with the participation of a broad range of forces. Tens of thousands of people have signed online petitions. Organizations and people active in the fight to close Guantánamo, where prisoners have been on a hunger strike since February 13, built “mutual solidarity” and supported the five demands of the Pelican Bay and California prisoners.** San Francisco’s Glide Memorial, one of the most well-known churches in the Bay Area, held “Sermon From A Cell—Preaching Against America’s Prisons” in front of 2,000 people and the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) stepped up their efforts to stop isolation in America’s prisons. An “Open Letter to Governor Jerry Brown” was signed by celebrities including Jay Leno, Bonnie Raitt and many other prominent people.
Recent developments also include the publication in the Los Angeles Times and the Del Norte Triplicate of the “Emergency Call! Join Us In Stopping Torture in U.S. Prisons,” which was initiated by the Stop Mass Incarceration Network (www.stopmassincarceration.net) and co-signed by a range of organizations and by hundreds of people, including actor Viggo Mortensen, Alice Walker, Cornel West, Noam Chomsky, musician Tom Morello, Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow, and Daniel Ellsberg. In the course of the hunger strike there were statements by UN Special Rapporteur Juan Mendez, who explicitly stated solitary confinement should be abolished in the U.S. and elsewhere, and singled out Pelican Bay; by Amnesty International, which wrote on the retaliation targeting prisoners that “No one should be punished for exercising the right to peaceful protest... California prison authorities must stop toying with people’s lives...” The California Catholic Bishops called for an independent investigation into solitary confinement in California.
All of these things began to force the issue of indefinite solitary confinement, to some degree, into the national consciousness and it has confronted the State of California with serious issues of legality, morality and legitimacy. When a federal judge approved the force-feeding of hunger-striking California prisoners at the beginning of week seven, it was national news. Millions of people who read the New York Times and Los Angeles Times, or who read online journals and news, or who listen to alternative radio heard about this hunger strike and the existence of indefinite solitary confinement and the struggle to stop it.
At the outset of the seventh week of the hunger strike, California prison officials obtained a court order to allow force-feeding of hunger striking prisoners, including those who had stated they did not want such intervention. Medical ethicists in The New England Journal of Medicine recently wrote: “Force-feeding a competent person is not the practice of medicine; it is aggravated assault. Using a physician to assault prisoners no more changes the nature of the act than using physicians to ‘monitor’ torture makes torture a medical procedure.”
These heroic prisoners have suspended the hunger strike now, but the struggle to end torture in prison continues AND the support from all kinds of people in society for this struggle must continue and grow. More people need to know the truth about the conditions that prisoners are being forced to live under. More and intensified mass resistance is required, as the Emergency Call for this hunger strike put it: “End to the Torture and Inhumanity of Prison House America—Immediately Disband All Torture Chambers. Meet the Demands of (the prisoners)!”
California legislative hearings are scheduled for later this year. These hearings would never have been scheduled if not for the courageous struggle of the prisoners, and the impact their struggle had on society, and that struggle is the only basis on which the just demands of the prisoners will be met. Also, on September 26, there will be an important hearing on the federal lawsuit on behalf of prisoners at Pelican Bay State Prison who have spent between 10 and 28 years in solitary confinement. This lawsuit challenges the State of California's prolonged solitary confinement of prisoners as being cruel and unusual punishment and violates the prisoners' right to due process when being placed in solitary confinement.
Jeffrey Beard, Director of California prisons, and media representatives for the CDCR systematically spread disinformation about the hunger strike being a “gang power-play”—that this hunger strike was not about protesting living conditions that constitute torture, but instead was the result of prison gangs and their “shot callers” attempting to “restore their ability to terrorize fellow prisoners, prison staff and communities throughout California.” Such lies and deceit are to cover up the torture that is being committed on a widespread scale against thousands of prisoners.
As these prisoners were raising their heads and showing their humanity, the State of California met their hunger strike with more brutal repression. Many of the hunger strikers were placed in Administrative Segregation (“the hole”) with ice cold air blasting on them 24/7; their cells were ransacked, some had their property seized, and prison authorities confiscated any type of canteen items, like Kool-Aid packets, that could help the hunger strikers with sustenance (Kool-Aid packs contain glucose); medicine was withheld from prisoners who have chronic illnesses. At one point, prison authorities confiscated confidential legal materials from the hunger strikers and banned an important legal representative from Pelican Bay in an effort to further isolate the prisoners. In addition to Pelican Bay, in prisons like Corcoran, hunger strike participants had sandbags and mattresses placed at their cell doors to re-enforce, psychologically, the feeling of being isolated, and SHU hunger strike participants were given “disciplinary write ups” for being involved in “gang activity” and some were assessed 60-90 day extensions on their SHU terms. At Corcoran State Prison, Billy Sell allegedly hanged himself and died after being on the hunger strike for 13 days.
The statement, What is Actually Revealed in the California Prisoners Hunger Strike? Responding to Jeffrey Beard’s Los Angeles Times Op-ed, from the Revolutionary Communist Party, LA Branch, Revolution newspaper (August 7, 2013), online at revcom.us., spoke to the utter cruelty and illegitimacy of a system that practices and relies on widespread torture and racially targeted mass incarceration for its functioning.
That statement said: “Think about what this means: for decades people have fought to maintain their sanity in conditions that regularly make people insane. In the scramble to survive, people have held onto meaningless divisions among people, finding refuge in ‘your kind alone,’ finding a foothold in the desire to be top dog in a dog-eat-dog situation. The whole setup in prison serves to foster and enforce the ways and thinking bound up with people being played against each other.
“In the face of all this, first tens of thousands of people inside and now hundreds have said NO. NO! They will stand together against this criminal torture, they will foster unity and not divisions among people, they will risk their lives for this. In the words of a prisoner the day after the hunger strike began, “We just started tha hunger strike, was surprised so many people was on board. Asians, Blacks, whites, Hispanic. It’s a beautiful thing.”
“How has this system responded? More repression and criminalization.”
YOUR DONATIONS WILL HELP FILL THIS URGENT NEED. Donate generously to PRLF.
HOW TO DONATE:
Non-tax-deductible donations can be made by:
Going online at PRLF.org OR by mailing a check/money order, payable to PRLF, to:
Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund
1321 N. Milwaukee Ave. #407, Chicago, IL 60622
** The prisoners articulated five core demands in the 2011 and 2013 hunger strikes. They are: 1) eliminate group punishments; 2) abolish the debriefing policy and modify active/inactive gang status criteria; 3) comply with the recommendation of the U.S. Commission on Safety and Abuse in Prisons (2006) regarding an end to long-term solitary confinement; 4) provide adequate and nutritious food; and 5) expand and provide constructive programs and privileges for indefinite Security Housing Unit [SHU] inmates. [back]
Revolution #318 September 29, 2013
by Larry Everest | September 23, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Anyone who thinks U.S.-led “arms inspections” or “disarmament” represents a step in the right direction or is anything other than another form of imperialist intervention and bullying needs to study and think about the lessons of Operation Desert Fox.
On December 16, 1998, then-President Bill Clinton went on TV to address the nation. He stated, “I ordered America’s armed forces to strike military and security targets in Iraq. They are joined by British forces. Their mission is to attack Iraq’s nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs and its military capacity to threaten its neighbors. Their purpose is to protect the national interest of the United States, and indeed the interests of people throughout the Middle East and around the world. Saddam Hussein must not be allowed to threaten his neighbors or the world with nuclear arms, poison gas or biological weapons.”
Clinton claimed that he had been forced to take this step because “Saddam Hussein announced that he would no longer cooperate with the United Nations weapons inspectors” who had been overseeing “the elimination of Iraq’s capability to retain, create and use weapons of mass destruction.” Clinton charged that Iraq had refused to “comply” with UN resolutions and quoted inspectors that “Iraq’s conduct ensured that no progress was able to be made in the fields of disarmament.”
That night, the U.S. and Britain launched a four-day cruise missile and bombing campaign against Iraqi targets code-named Operation Desert Fox. They did so without Security Council authorization and, for over 100 hours, lashed Iraq with 415 cruise missiles and 600 laser-guided bombs.
Clinton did not tell people:
In short, Clinton deliberately lied about what the U.S. was doing and why to excuse, justify and cover up U.S. aggression and war crimes. His lies weren’t fundamentally different than Bush and Cheney’s in 2002-2003; they helped pave the way for the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq.
For an extensive discussion, see Larry Everest, Oil, Power & Empire: Iraq and the U.S. Global Agenda (Common Courage 2003), Chapter 7, “The Great WMD Flim Flam,” pp. 200-204.
Revolution #318 September 29, 2013
by Larry Everest | September 23, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Many people hope—and some have vociferously claimed—that the U.S.-Russian agreement to strip Syria of its chemical weapons and to take the matter to the United Nations Security Council marked a victory for peace and the antiwar movement. They argue that these diplomatic developments represented a fundamentally different approach than military threats, marking a turn away from war.
They are wrong.
The initial agreement between the U.S. and Russia (whatever that ends up being and however the various parties interpret it), Syria’s acquiescence, and UN involvement has not ended the danger of a U.S. war on Syria. Nor has it dialed down tensions between Russia—which has its own imperialist interests in the region—and the U.S. Instead, the U.S. and its allies Britain and France are using these as vehicles for continuing their aggression, threats, and bullying against Syria—all as part of efforts to maintain America’s imperial grip on the Middle East. (And even before the U.S. threatened direct military intervention it was carrying out great crimes in Syria and fueling the slaughter there.)
For starters, it’s illusory and harmful to discuss diplomacy—and laud its merits—in the abstract without analyzing the economic, political, and class interests and agenda it serves. Ongoing analysis at revcom.us and in Revolution has continued to sharply identify that “bowing out” of the Middle East, allowing the region to spin out of (their) control, and allowing rivals of all stripes to replace them in dominating the oil-rich and geostrategic region is not an option for the rulers of a country whose stability and functioning depend on remaining the world’s sole superpower. And in that light, both direct military attacks and U.S. imperialist diplomacy serve to enforce U.S. global domination. (For an in-depth exploration of some of the contradictions facing the U.S. in the Middle East, and how to radically alter the current equation in the world, see Bringing Forward Another Way by Bob Avakian at revcom.us.)
And U.S. diplomacy rests on blackmail and thuggery. Let us not forget that U.S. imperialist diplomacy, and sanctions, kill people in their own right. Some 500,000 Iraqi children died in the 1990s as a result of U.S. imperialist diplomacy that imposed and enforced cruel sanctions.
The U.S. is maneuvering and intervening in Syria on a number of fronts:
Why is the U.S. doing all this? This is not fundamentally about whether Obama “wants” or “doesn’t want” peace. Nor is it fundamentally about the power of the Israeli lobby on U.S. policy, the corruption of the “democratic process” by the arms industry, or other phenomena that may be part of the picture, but do not define the basic motives for the U.S. The underlying economic and political forces at work are that that U.S. capitalism-imperialism’s global power and empire hinges in significant part on dominating the energy heart of the world—the Middle East—and as being seen as able to enforce its will and dominance when its core interests are at stake, and not allowing any other powers to be its equal or even perceived as being its equal, even as various agreements are signed and discussions held.
Any who doubt this, or feel the U.S. is going to passively let its Middle East stranglehold fade away, or its core allies—Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf states—slide into jeopardy should just look at Egypt. The U.S.-backed military is now back at the helm after staging a coup that deposed an elected regime and then massacred more than 1,000 protestors and rounded up many more. All of this was done with U.S. backing and support, even as it was mumbling platitudes about “democracy” and “supporting the people’s aspirations.”
Some anti-war commentators have argued that direct or indirect U.S. support, to whatever extent, for Islamic Jihadists in Syria goes against the “rational self-interest” of the U.S. But these efforts, including U.S. intervention in Syria (which includes supporting Islamic forces) are not “irrational” from the perspective of the needs of the U.S. empire—even as pursuing them holds incredible and unpredictable risks. These are choices forced upon the rulers by the core dynamics and historical development of U.S. capitalism-imperialism, including its need to remain the world’s dominant superpower.
This is why the only solution to the ongoing horrors of U.S. wars, military assaults, and interventions is getting rid of the system that spawns them through revolution—nothing less, and why pleas to this most vicious global predator about its “rational” self-interest are delusional, disarming, and profoundly harmful. And why determined political opposition to a U.S. attack on Syria is so important.
Revolution #318 September 29, 2013
September 23, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Prisoners who read Revolution,
This October 22, the 18th annual National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression, and Criminalization of a Generation, comes in the wake of intensified repression, including case after case of Blacks and Latinos, women, gay and transgender people, and others being harassed, assaulted, and murdered by police. It comes in the wake of the revelations by Edward Snowden of the most coordinated and intrusive surveillance of citizens in human history. And it comes as people's outrage is still fresh from the acquittal of the man who murdered Trayvon Martin.
This year has also seen intensified resistance, from upsurges against local murders by police across the country, to the nationwide protests against Zimmerman's acquittal, to the heroic California prisoners' hunger strike against solitary confinement, which started with 30,000 prisoners striking and was suspended after 60 days. The October 22nd Coalition to Stop Police Brutality, Repression, and the Criminalization of a Generation is calling for stoking "these sparks of resistance into a movement that can not only stop but reverse these escalating attacks."
You prisoners have a lot to say about the demonization, criminalization, and repression of generations of youth, the links between all of that on the streets and mass incarceration, about why this happens, about building resistance to it, about how to end it. People outside the walls need to hear what you have to say! PRLF (Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund) has already received requests from people involved in building October 22nd for more letters from you. Please write to the PRLF about October 22nd right away.
Send to: PRLF, 1321 N Milwaukee, #407, Chicago, IL 60622
(Tel: 773.960.6952, Email: contact@PRLF.org)
Revolution #318 September 29, 2013
September 23, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From a reader who works with the movement for revolution and with End Pornography and Patriarchy: The Enslavement and Degradation of Women!
There has been a whole lot of talk and criticism of Miley Cyrus for her performance at the August MTV Video Music Awards. Almost all of the criticism has been directed at her, with little of the criticism directed towards Robin Thicke. Most of the criticism has been that Miley was "indecent," or a "slut," or that she was racist in the way that she used Black female dancers. Others are defending her performance by saying that she is just being sexual, and that there was nothing really wrong with her performance. Some of the mainstream freak-out has clearly been amplified by thinly veiled racism over the fact that she "twerked," while others have accused Miley of wrongly "appropriating Black culture."
In this piece, I will offer some thinking on the many levels at which this whole incident, including most of the terms of "debate" around it, reveals the need for a culture of revolt against this truly revolting culture. To begin with, while it was far from unique or even the most extreme manifestation in popular culture today, her performance was very much in keeping with a whole culture that degrades and objectifies women, sexuality, and Black people.
But, to simply call Miley a "slut," without any other content, says much more about how the critic views women and sexuality than it does about Miley Cyrus. And while I realize that many people, even feminists, uphold the use of that term, it most certainly is meant to degrade, not empower, women. And it certainly is not being used in an empowering way in any of the online comments that I've seen. Furthermore, the framework of "slut" vs. "good girl" with "good girls" being chaste and virginal is all wrong; the former because of how it degrades women into sex objects, and the latter because it sees women as objects and property. This view stems from the patriarchal view that women need to be controlled and be kept sexually "pure" until marriage and then breed and rear children for their husbands. This patriarchal view is also reflected in how people are speculating and talking about what her father thinks and how he will react. And some of the freaking out that is happening is bound up with white supremacist ideas and how people think white women should or shouldn't act, and this is a part of why this has been so controversial and talked about among so many people. But to dismiss all criticism in defending Cyrus against those kinds of unprincipled attacks is also a wrong method. There are some things here that are definitely in need of criticism.
The thing is, this was not just any song that Miley and Robin Thicke performed. One of the songs that Miley danced to at the VMA was "Blurred Lines," a chart-topping song by Robin Thicke. The music video and the lyrics of the song have sparked big controversy, and plenty of YouTube parodies and for good reason. In the unrated version, the men retain their clothes, while the women are all topless, wearing very small nude-colored thongs, and vapid "not-all-there" expressions. Here are examples of the lyrics: "I'll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two." "You the hottest bitch in this place." "I know you want it, I know you want it, I know you want it, You're a good girl." This song promotes objectification of women and rape, it contributes to and celebrates "rape culture," and it's a sharp example of how the lines between porn and pop culture are being blurred. All this was part of the context of this moment.
But let's zoom out even further for a minute. We can't really understand the context of the VMA performance without understanding that we live in a society where a whole war on women is raging right now, including in how putrid and pornified popular culture is. Women in the entertainment industry, including Miley Cyrus who grew up around and within that industry, are expected to up the ante and be as sexual, provocative, and outrageous as possible. And certainly this is especially true of women who need to shred the image of being a "good girl" that they had when they were teen stars. We have seen this before with stars like Madonna and Britney Spears, and others. To see Miley's performance and criticize her as an individual, without seeing the societal backdrop of all this and calling that out, is all wrong. Yes, she is making choices, but from a certain set-up of choices, which are very much the same set-up of so-called choices that most 20-year-old women are facing: either be invisible, or give into the pressure and take up, even revel in, the commodification and objectification of your body and sexuality. Think of how intensified that kind of pressure is, and how tied up one's self-worth is in all that, especially if your job is about capturing and captivating people's attention, and making sure that you—as a product for sale, are undeniably visible and in demand.
While so many people are talking about rape culture, and "Blurred Lines," we have got to talk about pornography. Virtually NO critics talking about this right now are calling out the role of pornography, how it's become increasingly more violent towards women, at the same time it's become more mainstream. How it has increasingly pornified the culture, including in helping to promote "twerking" as a major social phenomena. (Twerking is a super-sexualized type of dancing, done almost always by women, that involves squatting, or bending over at the waist, or doing a handstand against a wall and then gyrating and swinging the hips, and popping the butt in a fast tempo. It's a dance that uses porn-style sexual moves, usually to rap music, and danced for an audience, and it can be done alone, or with partners, but always focuses the viewers' attention on the woman's butt.) Sure, twerking came out of elements of Black culture (originating in the bounce music/dance scene), but it was popularized through the strip clubs of Atlanta and Houston and is today much more reflective of strip and porn culture that degrades and devalues women, even if it mainly appears in rap videos to the broader viewing public.
Besides, even if it were "part of Black culture," that still doesn't make it beyond the bounds of criticism. Pornography, narrow me-first-ism, white supremacy, and a celebration of small-minded ignorance are all very much a part of American culture and all these things need to be criticized and ended! Things like female genital mutilation and stoning to death women who have been raped are cultural practices, yet they're horrific and deserve to be condemned, regardless of what culture they are part of or represent, even if they are part of the culture of oppressed peoples. These are not abstractions, these are real people, real women, and their lives—and these practices are intolerable and unacceptable.
We should also raise the point that there are genres of pornography that are extremely racist, and use disgusting racial epithets and promote racist stereotypes (of Black women and Black men) that would be roundly condemned in any other sphere of society, but people find it palatable, even desirable (and seek it out), when it comes to pornography. This has real impact on people's thinking and it does "blur the lines" of what people find acceptable.
Part of what is so wrong about this, is that Black people are dehumanized through this, and racism and white supremacy still exist; we are NOT living in a post-racial society. This type of porn and these types of "fantasy" have real consequences in the real world.
Black people are NOT free right now, and not only is there a war on women, but there is systemic racism and oppression of Black people through the New Jim Crow, with mass incarceration as the leading edge of a slow genocide against Black people. Think of what it means that there are 2.3 million people in U.S. prisons, mostly Black and Latino people! Police brutality and murder are rampant, and policies like stop-and-frisk allow and require police to racially profile Black and brown people. Trayvon Martin, and George Zimmerman getting away with the murder of Trayvon, was a concentrated example of what is happening throughout the U.S. Slavery and Jim Crow were systems of oppression that relied more heavily on the open humiliation and ridicule of Black people, yet there are certainly 21st-century forms of minstrel shows and Blackface performances and other ways in which art and culture is affected by the oppression of Black people. In fact, some have called out gangsta rap as a whole genre to be a type of minstrelsy, including in how some of the inspiration for it came from Blaxploitation films.
Yet, what is most striking about all the conversation about "appropriation of Black culture," is that there is not much at all being said about the content of mainstream culture, or the content of "Black culture." A great majority of the culture that exists in the world today is all caught up with the values of capitalism: the celebration of parasitism, the dog-eat-dog mentality, the master/slave mentality... as Kanye West would say: the "dicks and the swallowers." It truly is a revolting culture, everywhere you look, and especially with how women are held down and slammed backwards. Just spin the globe, and look at how all countries across the world degrade and enslave women... from the sweatshops of China, to the brothels and sex slavery on a scale never seen before in human history in Europe and Asia. From El Salvador where women suspected of abortion are imprisoned, to India with an epidemic of gang rape as well as thousands of wives set on fire and murdered after their dowry is paid. From the Middle East with the veil and "honor killings," to the Congo where rape has been a systematic weapon of war and tens of thousands of women have been raped so badly they have lost bladder and bowel control. From parts of Africa where women who are coming of age have their labia and clitoris cut off to blunt sexual sensation for life and to prepare them to be a "loyal and faithful" wife, to the U.S. where teens starve and cut themselves in epidemic proportions, where among the most oppressed there is a whole generation that extols the "hos and bitches" and violent pimp mentality, and where one third of all women in the world who are in prison are locked up in this supposedly "free" country.
Throughout the world, we need revolution! We can, and MUST fight to change the culture, and fight to change the whole world, and women must have their fury unleashed as part of building a movement for revolution and then carrying this revolution forward after power has been seized until real communism, real human emancipation everywhere, has been achieved. As Bob Avakian has said:
Let's imagine if we had a whole different art and culture. Come on, enough of this "bitches and ho's" and SWAT teams kicking down doors. Enough of this "get low" bullshit. And how come it's always the women that have to get low? We already have a situation where the masses of women and the masses of people are pushed down and held down low enough already. It's time for us to get up and get on up.
Imagine if we had a society where there was culture—yes it was lively and full of creativity and energy and yes rhythm and excitement, but at the same time, instead of degrading people, lifted us up. Imagine if it gave us a vision and a reality of what it means to make a whole different society and a whole different kind of world. Imagine if it laid out the problems for people in making this kind of world and challenged them to take up these problems. Imagine if art and culture too—movies, songs, television, everything—challenged people to think critically, to look at things differently, to see things in a different light, but all pointing toward how can we make a better world.
Imagine if the people who created art and culture were not just a handful of people but all of the masses of people, with all their creative energy unleashed, and the time were made for them to do that, and for them to join with people who are more full-time workers and creators in the realm of art and culture to bring forward something new that would challenge people, that would make them think in different ways, that would make them be able to see things critically and from a different angle, and would help them to be uplifted and help them to see their unity with each other and with people throughout the world in putting an end to all the horrors that we're taught are just the natural order of things. Imagine all that.
There are ways in which the oppression of women and the oppression of Black people are similar, and related, including in how they're both rooted in this system of capitalism. These are backward social relations that are grounded in how things are produced, and the relationship of people and sections of people to the economy. This capitalist-imperialist system is a system that relies on oppression and exploitation in order to function. The oppression of Black people and the oppression of women are pillars that help prop up the whole system, and we need a revolution to do away with all of this shit. None of this oppression is due to human nature, and none of the way things are right now is permanent. The emancipation of Black people and the liberation of women are completely bound up with one another, and none of us are free until all of us are free.
The main problem with identity politics and with telling white people to STFU ("shut the fuck up") about the oppression of Black people, or telling men to STFU about the oppression of women, or telling people that "solidarity is for white women," as became a huge trend recently on Twitter, is that it leaves us with the same fucked-up world that we have right now. It leaves people paralyzed, afraid they'll be "corrected" into paralysis every time they speak up, and narrowing everything they say to their own experience instead of looking at society at a macro level with a searing, courageous, and scientific method and approach. It's right to speak out against injustice and horrors, no matter your particular "identity." It's right to fight for revolution, whether you are male, female, Black, white, gay, straight, young, old, Latino, Native American, whoever you are. Not only that, people's words and ideas should be evaluated based on whether they correspond to objective reality, not based on who is speaking them.
If you hunger for an end to the horrors of the world as it is right now, if you yearn for a radically different and far better world, you have got to check out the new synthesis of communism that Bob Avakian has been working on and fighting for. And while you are checking into that, and getting deeper with that and the movement for revolution, keep speaking out, and keep fighting back! (And I'm including prominent people, people like Miley Cyrus, who isn't right about everything she does, but took a good stand in tweeting several times against the Zimmerman verdict.)
What matters most in speaking out against oppression is not the color of your skin, or your particular experience, but the content of the argument... and what kind of goals and what kind of world you are fighting for. What do you stand for? Are you fighting for your share of the spoils of empire? Or are you fighting to forge a way OUT of that, and to a world where women and Black people are not just "equal," but a world in which NO ONE is exploited and commodified? There are a lot of people with all kinds of skin tones and genders, from different cultures and backgrounds, who hate the way things are, who hate how horrific the world is, and even more people could be brought to see how fucked-up things are, and how necessary and desirable a revolution is if there were more people fighting the power and spreading this revolution, including BA in particular, everywhere.
In defending the "Blurred Lines" video and lyrics, Robin Thicke said that criticism of the video was "only for extra religious people." We vehemently disagree, and will continue to criticize any and all music videos, VMA performances, and other aspects of culture that promote a dehumanized view of women as objects for the sexual pleasure of men. The fact that "Blurred Lines" was nominated for three awards at the VMA, and that this song is at all popular, let alone popular enough to raise to that level on the charts, says a great deal about how revolting the culture is, and the deep need for a radical revolt against this revolting culture. Artists, performers, and other prominent people, like the rest of us that care about humanity, have a responsibility to face what a horror the world is for the majority of humanity, and to fight to change the way things are right now. Artists can play a role within the art they create, and can act in other ways to oppose oppression, and to fight for a whole different future, and can reach out to large fan bases in ways that most people cannot.
We all need to speak out, demand, fight for, and create an entirely different, liberating, and revolutionary culture. A culture that holds as a central point the fact that women and Black people are human beings and not objects or commodities in any sense. A culture that is about emancipating all of humanity. A culture that un-blurs the lines.
This letter is informed by the following:
Revolution #318 September 29, 2013
September 17, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The following Statement and Call was received by revcom.us.
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:
(1) 3107099241 or (1)3179372859
Revolution #318 September 29, 2013
September 23, Monday, 7pm
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.
Revolution #318 September 29, 2013
September 20, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Over two Sunday afternoons, September 29 and October 6, the full film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Bob Avakian Live is showing in two parts at Maysles Cinema in Harlem, New York City.
Why does it matter that people clear those afternoons to be there? Quite simply: because this film of Bob Avakian’s fall 2012 talk deals with the most important thing there could be—the real possibility of bringing into being a radically different world, where all this madness, all the oppression and injustice, all the abuse and degradation that is so much a part of life now, would be done away with.
This two-part showing can be a tremendous contribution to turning a corner, in this moment, in spreading BA’s work and vision and making the movement for revolution, “a real force, powerfully impacting all of society...” Bob Avakian, May 2013*.
Think about all that has happened this summer, just since the film premiered in March: the vicious court decisions exonerating the vigilante and cop murders of Trayvon Martin and Ramarley Graham; California prison officials vilifying and torturing heroic prisoners on a hunger strike demanding to be treated as human beings; the accelerating state-by-state stripping away of women's abortion rights; the revelations that the U.S. government is and has been spying on the entire American population and most of the world. And now, American imperialists, the biggest war criminals on the planet, threaten to rain down death and destruction on Syria in the name of protecting children and women from weapons of mass destruction.
Thousands demonstrated fury over the George Zimmerman verdict; millions have been horrified as they confront, some for the first time, the reality of this country’s brutal repression and dehumanization of Black and brown youth. The devastation so many felt has not gone away. What kind of system is this that says the killing of Trayvon Martin was justified? What kind of system is this that considers lives across the globe to be nothing but meaningless “collateral”? Big questions are posed: what we are up against, what kind of world would be fit for human beings, and where the fight for that needs to go.
Imagine the kind of real talk, the rich debate and discussion that could be fostered if people from different perspectives and backgrounds get into BA's work. In this film BA breaks down answers to these big questions. BA digs into the system that is underneath all this and why it doesn’t have to be this way. He gets into the strategy for how revolution could win when the conditions are right—and he gets into how the revolution could solve these horrors of today’s system and bring about a system that is on the road to liberating all of humanity.
Who needs to be there? People of all nationalities and all ages, from the neighborhoods, the campuses and the suburbs, unemployed, artists, retired people, folks working all kinds of jobs, all genders and orientations. Think especially about young people seeing this film: those who face no future other than the world being set against them, living disrespected and demeaned, tracked from schools that are like prisons into massive incarceration, women beaten or pimped out by their loved ones. People who should be friends too often hating and bullying on each other. Then those who want to be about something positive in the face of this degrading culture are told to make a “personal choice” to do good in this terrible world, and not to even think about bringing about an entirely different, better world.
All this can change. As people watch this film, the urgent need for and real possibility of a radically different world can begin to come into focus. One young Latina who saw the film said: “I think it’s very important for everyone, especially young people from the hood to see this because BA talks about what they go through and he has a solution to all the oppression. And I know for me, when I saw it, it changed the way I looked at everything... music, shows, commercials, ads. I just started seeing all the fucked up shit they promote and it made me want to challenge all that and not go along with any of it.” (Read the whole piece about BA Everywhere, the campaign to raise big funds to spread BA's work and vision all over the country, here.)
The film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Bob Avakian Live premiered in March 2013 in LA, San Francisco, Chicago and New York City—including at the AMC Magic Johnson Theater in Harlem. This summer, Revolution—Nothing Less! Van Tours traveled through those cities and surrounding areas showing excerpts of the film to hundreds. A major showing was held at the main LA public library. Many hundreds or more have now seen some part of the film.
Now, imagine a full and diverse house in Maysles, getting into the whole film over two afternoons, finding out that they are not the only ones, being with others hungering to get into the biggest questions involved in getting to a different future and a different world. Because Maysles is an internationally known film center "dedicated to the exhibition and production of documentary films that inspire dialogue and action," the news and impact from the audience that comes together to see this film here can spread very far.
This is possible and within reach and would make a huge difference—if all of us work together to make it happen. First, clear those afternoons and get your tickets. Talk to your friends, family and coworkers, especially those you talk about serious things with, about getting their tickets and being there. Take this into protests and places where people confront the cruel heartlessness of this system. Take this to where artists and writers and students are thinking and creating in ways that challenge the injustices and horrors of this system. Especially find the ways to get this out among the youth: from those with no future, to those hating being tracked into a future of empty soul-killing privilege. Get this to teachers, to community programs, to organizations where young people can get together and come in groups to this two-part showing.
Tell everyone to be at BOTH parts of the whole film: to hear why we need to not just fight against intolerable injustice, but to spend the time to explore this soaring, searing analysis of WHY these crimes and abuses go on and what we can do to solve this through liberating revolution.
There is nothing more important, nothing more positive, than spending the two afternoons of September 29 and October 6 getting into BA's film about REAL revolution.
THE TWO-PART FILM SHOWING AT MAYSLES:
BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Bob Avakian Live
Part 1: Sunday, September 29th, 2:00 - 6:00 PM
Part 2: Sunday, October 6th, 2:00 - 6:00 PM
Maysles Cinema, Harlem
343 Malcolm X Blvd/Lenox Avenue (between 127th and 128th)
Tickets for the full film, Part 1 and Part 2:
Regular $25; Low-income/students $12; Premium $75
(Tickets for either Part 1 or Part 2:
Regular $15, Low-income/students $8; Premium $50)
Tickets now available at Revolution Books and on line!
Tickets at: http://www.revolutionbooksnyc.org/Maysles.htm.
Revolution #318 September 29, 2013
From A World to Win News Service:
September 25, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
23 September 2013. A World to Win News Service. Following is a statement put out by the 8 March Women's Organisation (Iran-Afghanistan) .
In honour of the martyrs of the 1980s we are not going to observe even a single minute of silence!
A quarter of a century has gone by since the massacre of thousands of political prisoners in June 1988. But in June 2013, the "responsibility" for the post of Ministry of Justice in the government of "action and hope" is being given to Pour Mohammadi. Mohammadi was the representative of the Ministry of Intelligence in a trio (together with Nayyeri and Eshraghi) in June 1988. This notorious group was known as the "trio of death". Mohammadi's posts were head of the Ministry of Justice in western Iran, then Revolutionary judge in Bandar Abbas in southern Iran with special authority to suppress protests and issue the death penalty against the political prisoners being held in Mashhad. Mohammadi was head of a group who executed women political prisoners for the first time and supervised the execution of virgin women who were raped before their execution in order to "prevent them from going to paradise". He supervised the execution of pregnant women and women who had just given birth. He was assistant to Fallahian (President Rafsanjani's minister of intelligence) and responsible for operations outside Iran. During his reign, numerous political figures were murdered: Dr Ghasemlouv in Vienna; Hossein Naghadi in Rome; Kazem Rajavi in Geneva; Fereidoon Farrokhzad in Bonn; Sadegh Sharafkandi and Nouri Dehkardi in Berlin; and many many more. The reality is that if people such as Rouhani and Pour Mohammadi had not performed their responsibilities successfully, how could the new rulers have resisted and confronted the waves of revolutionary and rebellious masses who were determined to change the world?
With the mass murder, imprisonment and annihilation of a revolutionary generation who were determined to change the existing order, these reactionaries wanted to suppress the revolutionary spirit throughout society in order to thwart any real change. They committed their cowardly massacre of the prisoners because they were frightened of the unity between them and their comrades in the bigger prison – the whole of society – which was preparing the ground for the overthrow of the backward regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The new IRI President Rouhani and their clique think that they can hang or execute the truth. This is impossible. That's why, in honour of the martyrs of the 1980s, we cannot halt even for a moment in proclaiming the truth. We will have no minute of silence!
For many years, relatives of the martyrs, those who escaped their fate, together with other revolutionary and progressive opponents of the regime, have worked to expose the crimes of the Islamic Republic in the 1980s and to establish the truth. They have talked about the courage of those militants who persisted right to the end, who gave up their lives, but not their secrets. Today the slogan "We neither forgive, nor forget!" emphasises the just struggle of that generation and exposes the crimes of the Islamic Republic. This takes on particular importance at a time when those responsible for such horrific crimes are trying to hide their blood-soaked hands amidst talk of justice and tolerance, while a section of the so-called "opposition" activists are siding with them and actively throwing dust in the eyes of the masses, so as to blind them to the reality of what was, and what is. For the purpose of a search for the truth is not merely to expose the crimes of the past, but to show how to progress, how to forge the future. Indeed, the struggle in the prisons has a political and a class character, which itself is the continuation and concentrated expression of the class struggle outside prison. The massacre of the revolutionaries in the 1980s did not therefore just represent the murder of a large number of political activists, it was also the concentrated expression of the relationship between revolutionary struggle and the consolidation of the new reactionary regime of the Islamic Republic.
One of the distinguishing features of the prisons in the Islamic Republic is that, in addition to conducting medieval physical torture, the IRI also carried out a systematic ideological attack on the thinking and outlook of the prisoners. The purpose of the rulers was not only to destroy a generation of revolutionary people, but through this to attack the most sensitive nerve in the society, with the aim of crippling society as a whole.
This kind of torture and destruction took on more complex and broader dimensions. A government whose most important pillar was the subordination of women was forced to attack those who dared to break through the boundaries of the rotten social order, as they attacked these high-flying eagles and demonstrated that they are ready to break their wings and force them to accept a lower position than in the past. One typical example was rape. Rape as physical, moral and psychological torture was, and is, the norm of the patriarchal class formation of the Islamic regime, at every level. And in addition, in prison this also took on a religious character, as women were forced to submit their will to the rule of god. In Islam, the existence of women amounts to being merely a vagina, who surrender to the will of god and his representatives on Earth, meaning men. Breaking the spirit of these women who took up arms and fought for their liberation and who were ready to lay down their lives for the revolutionary cause was no easy task. But they had to be tamed and punished, made to obey the will of god and his representatives, as a threat to all women – and this took many forms, from forcing the hejab on communist and secular women, forced prayers, rape and punishment and torture in many different forms. This ideological discipline had to be conveyed into society as a whole. Women political prisoners had to be controlled and humiliated as wives and mothers, to re-affirm the honour and property of men.
Today, although the rage we felt at the massacre of a generation of revolutionaries is an invincible motive force driving the search for truth, in order for a new revolutionary wave to rise again, we need a deep scientific summation of the reasons for the defeat of the revolution in Iran and around the world. Our rage and determination to get justice can be a driving force for lifting that wave. We will never forget the memory of the unconquerable resistance of the political prisoners massacred in the 1980s, and especially in the summer of 1988. They are and will be an important element in our struggle to overthrow the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is true especially now, when a quarter of a century has gone by since that massacre behind the prison walls, yet the torture and murder within or outside the prison walls goes on – as does the resistance and struggle and the demand for change, for the emancipation of humanity as a whole, for building a world where no one will be imprisoned or executed for having an opposing opinion or ideas!
A World to Win News Service is put out by A World to Win magazine, a political and theoretical review inspired by the formation of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, the embryonic center of the world's Marxist-Leninist-Maoist parties and organizations.
Revolution #318 September 29, 2013
September 26, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On July 20, 170 people filled the Mark Taper Forum of the Central Library in Los Angeles to watch the first two discs of the film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—Nothing Less! Bob Avakian Live. The audience was multinational and of all different ages—people who regularly frequent this or other libraries, people who came from the Trayvon Martin protests taking place just a few blocks away earlier that day, and others who heard about it on KPFK radio, the media sponsor that played a PSA regularly over the preceding days. Others heard about it at Artwalk, a music festival in East LA, or through the work of the revolutionaries in South Central, LA. There were skater youth, a few homeless people, artists, students, professionals, and others.
The showing was a few days after Trayvon Martin's killer, George Zimmerman, was acquitted. In the days before the event, revolutionaries were in the streets with protests against the unjust verdict. And the BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—Nothing Less! Van Tour was rolling through South Central, calling people out of their homes to watch clips of this film, engaging in on-the-spot speak-outs and talking about how they can and need to be part of the movement for revolution. People came to the Central Library with a deep outrage about what is concentrated in the Zimmerman acquittal, saying that pushed them over the edge to want to get more deeply into revolution. One guy said he knew he had to question his own assumptions about communism and wanted to hear more. Another guy came towards the beginning and kept stepping out to call his friends to come down because "there's a film with a guy talking about what we talk about all the time." A group of three young Black women planned their day around going to two Trayvon Martin protests and stopping in to watch about an hour of the film.
The following is from interviews by Revolution reporters of people who came to the showing. The views expressed in these interviews are those of the people who were interviewed, and what was sparked in their thinking, and are not intended to represent the content of the film.
Q: What do you think of what you just saw?
Powerful. Very, very moving, insightful, very captivating, very awakening, that's for sure; very arousing in regards of awakening the emotions with all the injustices and with regards to what I've seen, it's a very awakening process, just what this man speaks about. It is just to bring you to the conclusion that this world is never what it seems like.
Shakespeare put it that the whole world is a stage and everybody is playing a part and if you are not a part of that part, then you are the one that's basically being thrown to the gutter. You are of little importance as he said, you know that it's sad that this country has so much hypocrisy involved with it and it has so much lies. The sad part about it is that people believe the lies.
You know the even more sadder part about it is that they don't question what is quote unquote, the truth. They don't even question it. They don't even ask whether, "Hey is that fact?" or "Hey, is that actually supposed to be that way?" or "Hey, is that right?" like he said if it is not affecting you, like most people say that is not affecting me. Well, fuck 'em. You know, it is affecting the world. What kind of morals do you have that you don't care that 10 million babies are dying out of starvation, poverty, apartheid. There is no difference to shooting 10 million babies and to not feed them. There is no difference because the end result is the same. They are dying, they are suffering, you know.
So I think that there is this injustice. It's nonsense and people should educate themselves. People should look behind. We need to know that past in order for us to know where we are going in the future, but I think that if you know the past that has been going on in this whole country as a whole then I think you are going to be real angry. You're going to be real angry and you're going to revolt and you're going to believe in the revolution and you're going to believe in change and you're going to want change. Overall, you're going to want change because change is good and this country is bad....
Why can you buy a $5 lottery ticket and then you could win $70 BILLION dollars when there are people STARVING. That makes no sense to me, so and the also surprising thing about it is the whole religious aspect part of it and it is true. I mean, why would a benevolent being or super-being allow such suffering in the whole world? It does not make sense to me and yet we still have people pious enough to drum things like this into little children; that you need to go to church....
Tell us a little about yourself and how you got here.
I'm 19. I'm a proud Chicano, an educated Chicano. I was born a statistic in the ghetto, in the gutter. I have witnessed many, many, many injustices in my walking the face of the earth. I'm a poet. I love literature. I study a lot of different kinds of philosophies in order for me to formulate my own philosophies in regards to the world, the way that it can be and the way that we see the world this day. And I think we need to learn a little about the past because there have been a lot of great thinkers and a lot of those great thinkers have been demonized or they have been thrown in the shadows and now the greatest thinkers that you may perhaps have now are the so-called rap musicians or the so-called TV hosts; whatever. You think that people have no clue that knowledge is power and how much knowledge can help you prevail in this game of life because it is a game and in the end it is going to be Game Over. And if you don't leave your mark in this earth you are just occupying space and you will leave no record of yourself, your thinking, or your philosophy if you don't participate in the revolution and speak your thoughts and act upon them....
What do you think of Avakian now that you have heard him?
I think Avakian is a very smart man, very insightful. He is very passionate about what he feels and that is the most important thing about it; because if you do not believe in what you are trying to preach, it has no currency with the people and I think that it is easier to preach than to be about it, but obviously if you are Avakian you have been about it for decades. So, much love and respect to Mr. Avakian and hopefully he continues to spread the word and hopefully he continues to spread the knowledge, most importantly, but ultimately it will come down to the people if you want to listen or not.
Tell us about your growing up?
I'm self-educated and there are people who hooked me up on this game of life and the whole society and the way it is structured. I was incarcerated and it was a tough thing that I had to overcome in my life. But it was a very educational experience when you are trapped like that in a room full of bricks all you have is your mind; and if you don't know how to travel the many dimensions that your mind possesses, you are really going to go crazy or you are going to be really bored throughout your whole time.
Where were you held?
In many juvenile halls and camps. I was 13 years old when I was first incarcerated; for vandalism; all the way till I was 18.
In and out?
Yes, it is something called recidivism. I'm pretty sure how you have heard that when you are incarcerated and you come out, it is a revolving door. Well, yes, I'm trying to say it is recidivism where it is more likely you are going to go back to jail to come back after your first sentence ONLY because the system implemented that with regards to probation and with regards to parole. They know you are going to come back to jail. They know you are. Either you have to prove them wrong or you just really don't give a crap and you are going to spend the rest of your life in jail . And I don't because I am so much of a genius.
How did you get out of it?
Well, the best way I can put it is that I just got tired. That is not a lifestyle that I would actually make a career out of and you know most of the times I was incarcerated, it was unjustifiable. I am not so comfortable in tapping into the details but I am going to say that I've wasted a lot of my youth incarcerated, but look at me. I have some brains to say "Hey"— you know, I'm going to use this time that I'm incarcerated to open the many doors that I have in this mansion I call my brain and I'm really going to try to find out who I am inside. I'm really going to try and figure out what I'm really passionate about and what moves me to just want to go all the way with what I feel—with what I need to go all the way with.
I just saw the program here called the BA Revolution. I was not prepared for this. However, it was mind blowing. Thank you.
... The length of the matter is quite exhausting for my level of concentration and one of the reasons I use the word, "mind blowing" is because it started to mention the truth there apparent. When I left the speech he mentioned that we don't want to get into a revolution because we feel comforting. He did not say it that way, but for the capitalist exploitation that is going on and that is mind blowing for me.
Phrases that he used that are, for instance, that I never completed reading Das Kapital but he did...But he did mention all this primitive accumulation of capitalism and also the other part of the parasitic ... or the parasites of society and you do not have to be a part of the ruling class to be that. Ha, Ha. Before I stick my foot into my mouth, I better get going.
...I'm just a poor person. And even if I don't indulge in anything that I enjoy, I'm still going to be poor. I'm not homeless; I have a little room that I stay in. I'm not a homeless or a street person, but I am a skid row person. Thank you.
I'm from Los Angeles. I'm a college student and basically one of my history teachers told me about Bob Avakian and I said "Wow"— that he is the man leading a communist movement here and it sounded pretty... it did not sound right, a person leading a communist movement here in the United States? I did not put too much into it. But, I was at Art Walk one time a couple of weeks back and there was this guy, and we talked and he emphasized that we should watch the film and I thought, "Why not come?"
I read the Communist Manifesto as well a while ago.... I got the Manifesto and started reading it and I thought it made a very good point about that we need class consciousness. Is that right? Of course. I believe that if it is that I have class consciousness that's why I am here.
I watched a little bit of the film. So with men and women conventions where the woman stays at home while the man is out there hunting, so to speak; and nowadays the man is out there working and the woman stays at home and takes care of the children, picks them up from school, whatever. And that's [why] I thought Bob Avakian made a great point about us humans progress and the things that happen through necessity and it was necessity for the woman to do these things and now its convention. I was just like wow, he's absolutely right.
At first in hearing about him is that he is just another person.... Hearing and watching the film, he is very candid. He's very persevering in the cause. I think that is very inspirational. I think that it is very good for all of this to have a person like that...
(a) I found out about this from someone from Revolution Books when I was at an atheist meeting down the road from the bookstore. They told me they were having an event at the bookstore with [Professor] Dennis Loo and Michael Slate, and I thought this is great, so I came down from there and got on the email list and starting getting emails and thought that this would be really a way to get involved. In the past couple of years especially I formulated strong opinions and emotions and definitely want to change things from the way they are now.
I graduated from college a few years ago in Ohio, a small community college in Ohio. I do physical therapy for a living and I've been here in L.A. for about 6 months.
(b) I'm from Sacramento, California. I moved to LA 3 months ago. I've been tagging along with (a) to all these speaking events and all these motivational events and let me tell you, they are very compelling. I've been going with him to the atheist meetings as well... I've just been going to these meetings and have just started to understand; and it's been going great though.
(a) I thought the speech and listening to Bob Avakian speak is wonderful. He is hitting on so many different topics and they are all interrelated and I thought he was right on point with everything he is talking about and it is really, really motivational, and talking about all this stuff because I'm sure he has spent his whole life researching and talking with other professionals and formulating his strong beliefs and opinions, so it is really great to hear someone that really knows what they are talking about and to really get in depth with it.
The thing that surprised me the most was going deep into history when the U.S. was first founded and came across and how things were already starting to be corrupted way back then and it was not something in the recent past, like it was 1,2,3 hundred years. That was the biggest surprise. I could have figured if it was true or false, I could have gotten it right, but you know in being an open-ended answer response; that was interesting.
(b) So this was the first time ever hearing about him. Let me tell you he is quite a speaker, alright.... It was very powerful and somewhat emotional because it is a shame that many people don't know about him and it kind of hit me as well, so hopefully I'll be able to now mention him and get more people involved because we need more people, obviously. Yeh, it was pretty good.
The title is Revolution...Nothing Less! You've only seen a couple hours and there is more to come; but what do you think of that title? What comes across?
(a) Initially, what comes across my mind is that, wow, this is going to be hard initially with the way that the system works and he talked about that and it is not going to be easy it is going to be a struggle and he used that word a lot, so I guess that there are baby steps in a sense of getting the word out and getting more involved and doing events and things like that. I'm interested in learning on how to further educate people and get the revolution going to full strength.
(a) Revolution!!! Yeah....I think that now people are starting to get an idea of what is going on in the world and going out to do the best we can. I'm not very good with these types of things. Yeah... it is mesmerizing, how he is so fluidly....
You mentioned ideas for spreading this.... We have a campaign now to get BA Everywhere and it is mainly a fundraising campaign to be able to amplify this voice, and the ideas you guys have are very important.
(a) The first thing that comes to mind is social media. I'm sure you've heard that all day; especially with the youth. I would say, Facebook comes to mind and I have not done much research and don't know if there is much Revolution, BA Speaks on Facebook, but recruiting people and educating them on how to use these tools. I use them but am not a pro. Getting people involved to spread the word. People who maybe have a marketing background; things like that to really help spread the word will be huge in getting the numbers to grow.
Getting out on the ground is a great way to do it. Recruiting people to go and spread the word, pass out flyers, what have you, other than social media.
Tell me how you think about the Trayvon Martin verdict and what it reveals?
(a) It reveals something that is completely fucked. It is an outrage and in a way you can't believe it and in another way you can completely understand how the verdict came out with the stand your ground laws and the way our society is ran and how Black and Latinos are criminalized and profiled and the whole 9 yards. So it is really saddening and many other adjectives come to mind. It is absolutely horrible.
(b) I feel that many people are not informed and that's how this all works out. To me it is a shock. All he had is Arizona and Skittles and the other guy had a gun. Come on— really? I don't know. Just shocked.
How do you feel about the response, the resistance?
(a) So far it is great; a lot of the protests that broke out. Initially I was at an event for animal rights and a friend texted me of the outcome and of course, I was outraged and I was sure there were going to be protests everywhere. And I said, "You watch" and he said, "Oh no. No there won't." and I said, "You're full of shit. Trust me on that." (Laughter). There have been massive protests and I think that is great. People need to get out there because if everyone is subservient to the laws and the powers that be nothing will change. That's the key and that's why I want to get more involved.
I'm a librarian. I work with a special collection in the system dealing with the experiences of Black people. Someone from Revolution Books comes by the library frequently, trying to get us to put the Revolution paper out in the library, so that the library customers can read it. And we have gotten approval to do that; we don't have a subscription but we will be putting it out.
We put the announcement cards about this talk out in the library, quite a few, and lots of customers picked them up. I don't know if they made it down here or not; there's quite a few people who are into it.
I saw about three hours of it. It's very powerful because everything he said that reflects history, particularly the history of Black people in this country is very accurate, right on. And I like how he connects the dots. A lot of people go around pretending that some of what is happening now is like new. It is not. It is all connected and how he goes back in history to the beginning of time of where civilizations evolved and how our government structures evolved. I think it is what people need to know to understand what context they are operating in and to see, hopefully, how they can change things. But that's the tough part. He talks a lot about what is, how it is, why it is, but it is still a little vague about what can we really do to change things.
There are a couple more hours of this talk. We are only showing four hours, but there are three DVDs of the whole thing that you can show to your friends and relatives.
Okay, I'll go ahead and get it for the Resource Center.... There were some elements about things we need to think about—what we need to do, what we can do, but I think a lot of people have a thing about what can I do? Besides, they go down to the Federal Court Building today [Al Sharpton's demo] with the signs, but there are laws that need to be changed. There's structural things that need to be changed, but I think that the average person, like me sometimes are at a loss by how can I really do this?
I don't want to live in the South anymore because of what I experienced growing up in the '50s and '60s, the South like South Carolina. I moved away. I don't want to go back there and have anything to do with that structure, and when I hear about what politicians in South Carolina are doing and their thinking and their tendencies to want to suppress whether voting or whatever. I don't want to go back to any parts of that. It's like, am I supposed to be so responsible that I need to change that structure. How can I do that?
I'm so totally overwhelmed. So when the revolution really comes, could we really win? Okay, I'm going to get it [the full set of the talk.] Talking about Malcolm X; you know ex-gang members come to the library and they are talking about your books that are at our library. And this is what I do as the librarian at the Black Resource Center; I invite authors to give presentations. In fact one is coming in August with other authors who wrote a book about street life and now they are trying to help others.
Well, what you are doing is that you are showing up at all these different venues and doing things like this. You are on the radio. For young people, I don't know how this works any more and for LAUSD (LA Unified School District) on how to get to students anymore...
You know, it would still be controversial [to show it at her library] and there are a lot of people in the community who do not want to hear too much criticism of Obama. You know, whether it is true or not and what Avakian was saying. It does not matter... But yeah, I think it could be something we could do at our library. It is very long; we could do a couple of hours over a couple of weeks... So, I'll be talking about it and I think that a lot of people would approve of having that [BA Speaks] at our library.
I'm 19 years old and found out about this event at my Junior College. I was handed a flyer; then I saw the person who handed it to me and I decided to go up and ask some questions and yes I was invited to this event so I decided to go.
I don't know much [about Avakian] and that is one of the reasons I came here; to learn more about the revolution because I have always been fascinated by this so I decided to come and see what it had to offer....
Well, I'm now thinking about switching my party from Democrat to a third party because it's the kind of thing where there is so much explained and so much to hear that if you missed any of it, you'd get mad at yourself. It was like one of those kinds of films. It is really that I would recommend it. I just think that communism is under-rated. It is under-rated. People don't think. They just look at it in a way and they refuse to open their mind up to see the details of it. I really hope the revolution does start and I think that maybe it will. You know...
The thing is that unfortunately if you want to have any influence, because I love politics and I just think the way I want to do it is that I want to become a politician and the only way to do that is to have influence. Unfortunately the Revolutionary Communist Party is not strong enough to have the influence and I want to become an elected official and then afterwards help the revolution and then go from there....
Personally, what I think is that there has to be a way for example, with Bangladesh and South East Asia where there are all those sweatshops, I just think... I feel that if every woman working in those factories would stand up and refuse to work, there is nothing they could do. The only choice would be to attack them and that is a big no-no because the way the world would respond to that. So, if they refuse to work, the capitalist will have no choice but to conform and listen to us and to start acting right. You know. I do think that there is a big possibility for a revolution.
I have been a huge supporter of Obama and I know that he sort of made it harder for Black people to do well in life but not to that extent. The whole joke about making a drone strike is appalling to me. I never expected him to say anything like that... Avakian? He's a smart dude. (laughs) He's intelligent. He's done his homework. He just knows so much about the issues. It's like a guy who knows the details of one thing, but Avakian knows the details of different things. It is almost as if he specializes in all the issues and that is amazing. He is very good at communicating and that is for sure. I was...it has changed my life.
I'm going to show the whole thing to my mom because she needs to see this. I have to get this video.
Showing it to your mom is a good thing, and let's think about showing it at your junior college...
That's a good idea. I think that is such a very, very good idea, but I've got to look up how to do it, how to get it shown to people. I'll go and explore the internet on how to do it. I should go to the information office or someone working at the school on how to get a video shown at the place.
Seems like I should have already known, and if I did, a light bulb went off in my head; oh that's what they're doing; or that's what's really going down. I know that's what's going down, what he's saying; but I didn't know it was like that—the brainwash.
What do you think about Avakian?
I love him. I thought communism was about—always thought about Russia; and he explained it differently than how I really thought. And I tried to get a lot of people even in my family to come; "I'm not with communism, and all of that." And I really wish my brother came.
So, what are you going to say to them now about why they should watch it?
Cause we want change, especially our people. We want change for the world, but there was a revolution in the 60s, I was around. I did see it and if anybody missed it, then they were asleep or weren't born. But there was a revolution. Cause people changed things. Even though things changed, that's why I need to know more about what Bob Avakian was talking about. Because it did change in the 60s, but it's still, it changed for the better, but what happened.
(a) I'm 19 years old; I'm an L.A. native; I've lived here all my life. I go to school at the moment, at a JC. I found out about this today because my friend called me after he experienced it, so I came from home to check it out.
(b) Me; my dad's very pro Black; and I'm very pro Black; I know some of the original Panthers from back in the day; and I got my own little thing going. I'm not very familiar with downtown; I had got lost and I was looking for somewhere to use the bathroom, and I ran in here and I was reading one of the papers, and one of the guys asked me what I thought of the DVD, and I hadn't seen the DVD yet, so I went inside and watched it, and he (a) called me while I was watching it.
(a) Yeah, well I live in Hollywood so it's like a 10 minute train ride. BA was talking about what's wrong with this country; how to change it. How we need a revolutionary party that is really pushing forward for it, and how to be a part of it; how to inspire other people to do the same thing, because we're tired of living through this.
(b) We're dealing with the police all the time; ... you get five days for nothing.
(a) Literally. A lot of people you hear them say that they went to jail for nothing by the police and people automatically assume you must have done something. No! You don't have to do nothin. You don't have to do anything. These code books are so thick, and they include so many offenses, just so that they can find you on one thing or another. I've had friends go to jail for literally spitting on the sidewalk. And then the officer saying, "Oh, you're disrespecting a peace officer" or something, and go to jail for that.
(b) I got arrested for five days. The charges were dropped. I didn't do anything. They said I was selling weed; I didn't have any weed in my pocket,...
(a) ...which is legal in the state, for medical ...
(b) It ain't just a Black thing; I know someone who went to jail for tossing a cigarette on the ground; that's a regular thing that people do.
(a) They want to keep us in two separate camps, when in reality we can only achieve our goal by being one big tent working for the same thing. And they give us misconceptions about ourselves; they tell white people that Black people are criminals, and they tell Black people that white people are ... so we can never find that middle ground
So tell us your response to this film; what did you think?
(b) It was surprising to me to see a white dude that's standing up for Black people. It's my philosophy and the way I get by, everything in this system is backwards; everything is backwards in this system; if you want to make it you've got to do everything the opposite. For example, you look at 'united we stand, divided we fall.' No; united THEY stand; they divide us, and WE fall. That's how it is. And that's exactly what they do. They divide us by fences, neighborhoods, apartments, nationalities,... everything, and they influence it to the max. They don't promote togetherness. The only united... only the army. What they do is, they divide the country, and they divide the people in their own country, and they conquer them...
What did you think was the most important thing that you saw?
(a) The most important thing that I saw, was that somebody was actually doing that and getting people in; personally I think it's going to take a more multi-faceted approach to really get things done, but I think this is a great start; and I'd really love to be a part of it. There's a lot of truth going on there; and it's the beginning of something great.
What do you mean by "more multi-faceted?"
(a) You can't just attack this problem in this way only. Not only do you have to give seminars like this, not only do you have to be selling merchandise, you have to be doing social media; you have to get lawmakers on your side; you have to find lawyers; doctors; you have to find people that are reputable; police officers; and bring them into it, also. And only then could you really do it.
The most important thing you got from the film?
2) Well it's good to know it ain't just Black people fighting for Blacks; cause I don't usually see that.
What was the most surprising thing?
(a) No police came in, and broke us up, and had us declared a terrorist organization. We didn't get called any terrorists.
(b) The most surprising thing, is they let us hold it, in the first place.
(a) The most surprising thing in the film is that he said "communist" and I didn't have a bad reaction to it. That's the most surprising thing. They program us, "'communist,' that's bad." I didn't have that reaction. I didn't get that vibe; that surprised me.
And what about the title of the talk—Revolution—Nothing Less!
(b) The revolution has already begun. Even before I came here...
(a) You were at the protest in Hollywood too, huh; the one where we shut down the freeway, and marched down Hollywood Blvd., all the way around and Sunset?
(b) I was, but I can't get into no more trouble. I can't get into any more trouble. I'm already caught up, and I can't get into any more trouble, So I didn't go to the march.
There are many different ways that you can contribute to the revolution. That's important to understand. Social media, if you know how to do it. Working in different ways; passing out flyers and posting posters; raising money; studying and learning more...
Revolution #318 September 29, 2013
September 26, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On August 31, there was a showing of BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! at the ICE Lawndale movie theater in West Side Chicago. The following are from interviews with people who came to the showing. The views expressed in these interviews are those of the people who were interviewed, and what was sparked in their thinking, and are not intended to represent the content of the film.
I live on the southeast side of Chicago. I’m a student at [one of the City Colleges]. I’m Phi Beta Kappa, Honors Society, 4.0 GPA. How I found out about the film was that organizers showed up at school one day last spring with these stickers that said “abortion with no apology.” I’m like “Wow, seriously.” And then she had a sticker that said something about porn. And I’m looking like “she’s brave!” So I walked up to the table and they said they had tickets to this film [this was the premiere in March]. And I said “there’s a movie like this?!” So a couple of friends and I purchased tickets and we ended up at Columbia College for the 8 hour session. And the first this BA said was “Fuck the pigs!” I said “I like this movie!” And from that point on, we sat there, we listened to the movie, we’ve been going to the revcom.us site looking up different things. One particular article that BA wrote that got our attention was Nat Turner vs. Thomas Jefferson. I thought it was a real bold question but you gotta see both sides. Was Thomas Jefferson an OK dude because he didn’t directly kill people but he had a hand in a lot of people’s massacre? Or was Nat Turner justified by trying to gain his independence by his oppressors? So it was a nice article and in turn a lot of the student body here is getting into the revolution. They’re actually paying attention. I think this film and a lot of things the organizers brought to the school woke a lot of us up. Especially about the mass incarceration of our kind—men and women. We make up 52% of the jail population.
Revolution: Obviously you’ve been looking at this stuff for a little bit and was there anything this time that surprised you in what BA said? What was your impression before and now about BA?
The first time, me and BA really didn’t get along ‘cause he said there’s no God and I grew up in a strict Baptist family and I went to Catholic school so there’s always been existing a notion there is a God. And I walked back in today not being shocked by hearing him say there’s no fucking God. I wasn’t shocked this time. I was like “OK” and I really opened my mind up to a lot of things he was saying. Every time you watch this film you get something different out of it. The first time I just got ‘massacre of Black people.’ This time I see it as minorities, period, as a whole, getting massacred and mistreated and misunderstood.
Revolution: What about the title of the film, the point he makes throughout, that it’s going to take REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!, to solve these problems?
I agree. ‘Cause you got a ruling class that feel entitled to rule over a certain group, or keep things to a certain way that they can stay feeling superior.... So, I really didn’t pay attention to that statement the first time I saw it, but this time I really see his point. I’m gonna make you notice me. Get the fuck back.
Revolution: One of the things he says that is controversial with some people, I don’t think with you, is that those who are on the bottom of this society can be the backbone of a whole revolutionary struggle for a whole different kind of society.
That’s what it’s been through history. If you look at history, it’s the peasants who rose up and made the higher class pay attention. And in turn, took over lands. And like BA says, that’s what’s going to happen. You talk about the middle class, they’re really not an option, cause there’s more poor people than middle class people. So when the poor people rise up, what’s the middle class gonna do—either fall in line or get crushed. That’s it in reality. So, revolution, nothing else, I agree.
Revolution: And the other thing that he goes into is that it’s actually in the interest of some of these other classes of people to have a radical transformation. They may not understand that at the moment, but they’ve lost a lot of their humanity being caught up in this system and going along with it. So they need to be liberated too, it’s not about revenge.
It’s not about revenge, it’s about them understanding and accepting that we are all just human. Nobody is superior to the other. And just because my child has more melanin in his skin, he shouldn’t be subject to a life in prison to send your child to college. Or subject to a life in prison because they had the same bar fight that your child had but they got hit with a felony and your child got off. The police took your child home and gave mine a felony. So now mine is doomed to a life of peasant jobs or can’t get a job at all. And yours did the same thing and they’re sitting up there in corporate America.
I live on the south side of Chicago and I found out about the film from my old teacher. I’ve always been interested in revolutions and trying to make the world a better place. Even though I never knew what to do. So I always grew up—heroes and other things and I was like, that’s what I wanted to be. So it just pushed me toward what I would actually have to do to make the world a better place—for everybody, not just certain people. That’s just how I viewed it.
Revolution: What stood out about what BA had to say and the question of how do you go about it?
It was a lot of information that I still have to sift through. But you know, to me it was very informational. It helps shatter some illusions that I had in my mind.
Like communism. All throughout my life, and probably throughout yours, everybody talks bad about communism. And when I first heard “communism” I thought it doesn’t make any sense to follow a communist. That’s before I actually looked into communism. The pros and cons of both—what do you call it?—political stances. And it’s not as bad but no stance is really perfect. There can be flaws in either one of them. But communism, it’s not something that you can just deny. It’s something that can work all the same. It can be tried, at least, to help everyone.
Revolution: And it has been tried, and I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to get into what Avakian has said about those past experiences of socialism and communism. He’s taken a very sober, scientific look at that and pointed out what needs to be upheld and also what the shortcomings were and how can do much better. So that’s worth getting into. Another thing I want to ask is what surprised you the most about anything he may have said?
The biggest surprise I had is the actual depth of thinking that he had. How much detail he went into about the way things worked. I thought that I thought deeply. But from the length of the film and everything in between, all the papers and cards and planning that went along with it, it surprised me personally. I thought that I had a plan on making things bigger and better and this is somebody been doing it for decades. And I didn’t really know about anyone. I thought all the revolutionaries were dead and I would have to start over.
Revolution: So what is your impression of BA as a leader at this point?
I just see him as someone who has lived his life wanting to do something positive and he’s going to continue his life doing something positive. And more people should be part of the revolution. If not the same revolution, but doing something similar. Doing something that’s going to help better people. He has dedicated his life to it. He’s being successful in it. So that’s something that’s stood out to me about him.
Revolution: One of the things he says that is controversial for some people is that it’s going to take revolution, nothing less, to actually make a change for the better. How do you see that?
Hmm. That’s a good question. Revolution, nothing less, that’s a bold term. It’s very bold. It’s hard. I mean if you want to come at it in a realistic level, it’s a very hard thing. That he is actually telling people straight out, not sugar-coating anything. Not trying to soften it, just tell you straight what is happening, what it’s going to take and if you are going to be a part of it, be a part of it. If you’re not, don’t stand in the way.
Revolution: One last question. One of the things he says is that people who are on the bottom of society, those who have been beaten down by this system, can be the backbone of a struggle to liberate themselves and all of humanity. What are your thoughts on that assertion?
My thoughts on that would be: it could be true, very true. Those are the people who have felt it the most so those are the people who should want to change it the most. And they deserve the support from others. They are human just like everyone else and we are in it together, no matter where you stand.
Revolution #318 September 29, 2013
Interviews from the March in Washington, D.C.
September 26, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On August 24, 2013, tens of thousands of people gathered in Washington, D.C., 50 years after the 1963 March on Washington where Martin Luther King gave his “I have a dream” speech. The murder of Trayvon Martin and the fact that this system let his killer walk free, left millions of Black people and many others with a profound sense of betrayal. But the overall message from the organizers and from the stage was aimed at channeling people’s anger and energy into the dead-end of working with and within the very system that has oppressed and exploited and betrayed Black people from day one of this country up until today. Into this scene it was a challenge, controversial, and for many, a breath of fresh, as a revolutionary crew got out 5,000 copies of the poster with the quote from Bob Avakian that talks about Dred Scott, Emmett Till and Trayvon Martin and says, “That’s It for the System—Three Strikes You’re Out!” and more than 1,700 copies of Revolution newspaper with the front page: “50 Years After the March on Washington & “I Have a Dream”—America Is STILL a Goddamn Nightmare: WE NEED A REVOLUTION!” [see article in #314, and “On Obama's August 28 Speech--The Battle over the Truth About the African-American Experience and Present-Day Reality”]
The following interviews done by Revolution correspondent Li Onesto, reflect different views and responses to the Three Strikes poster and Revolution newspaper. We encourage readers to write their thoughts on these interviews and send to firstname.lastname@example.org.
My name is XXX and I work for Capital One which is a mortgage industry and I’m from Silver Springs, Maryland, so I’m from around the area. I’m here because it’s very important to me, because we see so many things going on in the world today, in America and we’re all about loving and helping and being together and uniting. The changes going on with civil rights, to different issues going on with women it’s very concerning because it seems like they’re trying to take things back instead of taking things forward. We need to think about the people, the young generation, and the generations to come and so it’s very important to me and I’m very passionate about it because things are changing and we need to make a change. And if we don’t then, they will think they can keep on doing what they want to do and—making a stand is by walking, by marching like they did back in 1963, when Martin Luther King was alive.
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.
What do you think about this headline: “50 Years After the March on Washington & ‘I Have a Dream’ America is STILL a Goddamn Nightmare: WE NEED A REVOLUTION!”— and this article that says we don’t need a new Civil Rights Movement, we need revolution. And there is this Three Strikes poster on the back of the newspaper about Dred Scott, Emmett Till and Trayvon Martin that says, That’s It for the System—Three Strikes You’re Out!
Absolutely, I agree 1,000% with you. I’m a true passionate individual and watching that court on Trayvon Martin and seeing the decision devastated me and let me know that something is wrong with our court system. Something is wrong with our taking care of our young people, something is wrong with justice. And so we do need to make a cause. An innocent life was taken, he’s dead and the man is walking free. I mean where’s the justice in that? Something’s wrong. And so we need to do something. We need to walk, we need to speak, we need to make a decision. So you’re one thousand percent correct. That’s why I’m glad Trayvon Martin’s family is here, why I believe that so many different people have come here to speak. So many people, all of us need to come here to make a difference here of liberation. Freedom comes from not only being able to walk on the street, but freedom is also justice in the system and justice in our lives, in jobs, justice in everything.
It says here, there will be no justice in the Department of Justice, that there’s nothing about this system that is good, that we have to make a revolution and get rid of this whole system. But here a lot of people are saying we have to reform this system.
The Department of Justice, look at how that’s revealing itself right there—Eric Holder, his hands are tied; trying to do things, and the Department of Justice is a mess. It starts with the head and if the head ain’t doing right, what about the tail. It’s a mess. So I agree with you. Do away with all these rituals, everything is about structure, we live in a structural system and it’s not working, and it’s a problem. And it starts with the Department of Justice.
I’m from Austin, Texas and I’m here because other people were here. I’m a therapist, I work with children and families. I’m here because other people were here before me. They lived their lives and sacrificed and died so that I could be here, so that’s why I’m here. So their lives were not in vain because I’m here today.
Let me ask you this, the front page of this paper says: “50 Years After the March on Washington & ‘I Have a Dream’ America is STILL a Goddamn Nightmare: WE NEED A REVOLUTION!”—which is different than saying we need a new Civil Rights Movement. That movement accomplished something important, but we need something different today to solve the problems the people face...
I think you have to define revolution. By the way you define revolution and some people’s perspective on what revolution, is not necessarily something that is going to be sustained.
This is saying a real revolution—not something that’s about reforming the system, but getting state power, putting a different system in place.
I think that that perspective puts the Civil Rights movement in a certain place too, that your perspective on the Civil Rights Movement is that it wasn’t a revolution, it starts from that place, when you talk about a new revolution you’re saying that the Civil Rights Movement wasn’t a revolution—and it was and it continues today.
This is saying that the Civil Rights Movement did accomplish certain reforms... but America is still a nightmare and that the actual need for the liberation for Black people and all people cannot be achieved under this system, that we need a whole different system.
That we need a system change... that’s what you’re saying. My thing is that the Civil Rights Movement is saying the same thing. That we need a system change from the people who are accessing the system. We need a system change from the system itself, that systems have been institutionalized to keep people in certain areas and arenas and to keep perpetuating institutionalized racism so that people who come in, who look like me continue to perpetuate the same things because of the system itself. So yes, we do need a change in the systems themselves. But I feel like this movement is a part of that change. I don’t feel like they’re separate.
What this is saying is that as long as you have this economic and political system intact you aren’t going to be able to have fundamental change.
I don’t think one is separate from the other, they go hand-in-hand.
Were you active in the wake of the Trayvon Martin murder?
I participated in some protests.
[Shows the Three Strikes poster]—Oh you already have the poster.
Whatever you want to say about where he [Trayvon Martin] was, he was walking and he couldn’t get away from who he was. He couldn’t get out of his skin, all he was doing was walking. That’s why he was killed. It boils down to he was killed for who he was, not because of what he was doing.
I’m from Springfield, Illinois and I’m a social worker. I came here today because of Dr. King, because we haven’t reached equality as far as women’s rights, rights for African-Americans and minorities across the world. We’re still fighting and struggling everyday.
What do you think about this headline: “50 Years After the March on Washington & ‘I Have a Dream’ America is STILL a Goddamn Nightmare: WE NEED A REVOLUTION!”?
We’ve been needing a revolution. The problem is that we can’t get together to start a revolution. It takes something dramatic for everyone to get riled up and to get into action. We don’t have to wait until someone drops dead to have a revolution, we don’t. Every day there’s injustice. We’re being pulled over by police, we’re being searched, we’re being shot down. We have to have a revolution every day in our communities.
This is the day that you actually learned that there is a movement for revolution—not to reform the system, but when the time is right, a revolution to take state power. There is a leadership, a strategy, and a Constitution for the new society after the revolution..
That’s a different kind of revolution. Yes it is. I didn’t know there was a strategy.
But the thing is, this is not going to happen without people like you.
Absolutely and we know we have to be part of it.
What is your response to hearing that there is movement for revolution?
I’m surprised to learn about it, cause I didn’t know anything about it. I think we’re ready, I think we need a revolution. I think it’s fantastic but being in a smaller community, getting that news to people that there’s going to be a revolution, that’s going to be the hardest thing to do, is to get everybody involved and let them know that there is a strategy.
OK, we’ll be in touch.
I’m a social worker, I advocate for mentally ill adults. I’m here from New Jersey. I’m here because of the history of the event and because of my concerns around voting rights. I think that voting rights should be something that we’re trying to expand to make voting more free and open rather than denying people the right to vote for reasons that aren’t even real. There’s no voting fraud. It’s a non issue but that’s the reason they claim that they need to make voting rights stricter. So that’s why I’m here today.
What do you think about the message we’re getting out here today: “50 Years After the March on Washington & ‘I Have a Dream’ America is STILL a Goddamn Nightmare: WE NEED A REVOLUTION!”?
I think that it is incredibly astounding to me that our politicians, that our government is basically being controlled by corporations, being controlled by money, Wall Street, the whole thing and that it’s less about what the people need, what the people want and more about what corporations want. And I think that that’s the change that we need. We need the people in control and not the corporations.
What do you think about this poster on the back of the paper: about Dred Scott, Emmett Till and Trayvon Martin that says, That’s It for the System—Three Strikes You’re Out!
I think it’s been a lot more than three strikes. I mean for every stop and frisk that happens we can count that as a strike too. But I think that a lot of people tend to think after a while, just like Emmett Till and Trayvon Martin, people accept and people move on. But I don’t think that’s going to last very much longer. People are getting tired, people are getting fed up. I mean in my family, we wouldn’t be considered the “revolutionary types.” But we’ve been to three Trayvon Martin rallies since the verdict and I think this is the time.
You think the Trayvon Martin changed things?
Absolutely, absolutely. Maybe, like when Emmett Till was murdered, there wasn’t social networking, there wasn’t media there for trials, things of that nature. And now that we see it and how blatantly wrong it was from many different perspectives how wrong it was, it’s hard to ignore. It’s very difficult to ignore.
What was the situation in your family? You said people generally didn’t go to protests, but in this case they went to protests?
Exactly. It affected us. We were having a birthday party for my aunt when the Trayvon Martin case was read and it was late at night. But we didn’t want to leave because the verdict was about to be read. And when the verdict was read, it was like this joyous occasion just immediately became very somber, very sad, very angry, very upset over the verdict. And I think that that changed us.
Were they shocked?
Shocked, incredibly shocked. There was no possible way we could conceive that he would be found not guilty. All the evidence was there. It happened, he wasn’t doing anything wrong, but yet it felt that Trayvon Martin was convicted, even though he was the victim of the crime. So that sort of sparked it for us.
When you were saying this thing about corporations, one of the things that this is saying is that while this march is saying we need a new Civil Rights Movement, this is saying that we don’t need this, we need a revolution and this has to do with the fact that this system works on the basis of profit and as long as you have that it will not meet the needs of the people and we need a revolution to get rid of this system. But what’s missing is you and this is the day that you’re finding out about this movement for revolution.
I think this is a very exciting time to be in America, because we’re on the precipice of change. Not say change in the sense of the change that Obama was supposed to bring about because I was disappointed in this administration, especially like the drone attacks or even the health care... but I think that we’re on the verge of a big social movement.
But here’s the point, that as long as that social movement is in the framework of trying to change things within this system, we won’t really get rid of the problems we face. We need revolution and people need to be a part of that.
What do you think about the point that this Three Strikes Poster makes that the time is up for this system and that we need a revolution?
I think that the epitome of this march being 50 years strong and the idea that we’ve come from Dred Scot all the way to Trayvon Martin and how things have changed so much and we lean towards technology and medical technology and so forth and yet we haven’t gotten as far as we still need to come as far as humanity, as far as life. What I was pointing out to my son is the sense of community that everybody came together today for the same reason, the ideas of jobs, not jails. You have the empowerment to bring about the humanity that unfortunately these innocent lives had to be taken to get people’s attention and to realize that while we are all so different, race, gender, classification, stratification, all these different things, nonetheless, we are all the same. Life and death for us are all the same. Jobs, the need to live and to protect one another and feel safe in our communities, all of that is still real to all of us no matter where we come from. So the energy here and the idea of three strikes and so forth. I want to think in a perfect world, I want to believe that Trayvon was the last one. But what we don’t realize is that there are so many Trayvon’s every single day that just don’t make the news, that don’t just get blown up so much, all over the world. For different reasons, it could be religious wars, as well as just the communities, different things going on. So it’s about us pulling together like this and it’s a beautiful thing and this is my son’s first time and I told him this is something I’m bringing him to and this is something him bringing his children to.
But here’s the thing, when you say, him bringing his children to. We don’t want him having to bring his children to something like this. And we don’t need another Civil Rights Movement, we need a revolution to get rid of the system that is causing all this so that your son won’t have to be bringing his children to a march to protest this kind of thing still going on.
I’m a woman within my faith so I’m wanting to believe, unfortunately the tragedy in this world, there is use for this, it gets people’s attention, it does bring people together and there is that sense of unity. I hear what you’re saying that one day this will not be needed. And in a perfect world, one day, fingers crossed, prayers up to god, that may be the case, but until then, this is needed, this is unity, it does bring people together.
I’m here because I think there’s a new Civil Rights Movement that’s happening. I knew there was going to be a commemoration here before the George Zimmerman verdict, the racist acquittal, but I think that’s really sparking a new civil rights movement. I know you’re a socialist group and you’ll report it, but I hope that the media will report on that fact that these are crowds where a lot of people are here, white people are here. I think the media in general likes to make it seem like when there is an atrocity that the only people who come out are African-American people, to make it look like that. And they worry more when there is more unity amongst different nationalities so they don’t report that so much.
Can you explain why you have that button, “We are all Trayvon”?
This is really the spirit of the day, it’s all about Trayvon. It’s the 50th commemoration of the MLK speech.
I’m happy to be here and taking a part in this history. My dad was at the original march in Washington 50 years ago and I’m glad to just be marching and doing my part for the cause.
What do you think about this headline: “50 Years After the March on Washington & ‘I Have a Dream’ America is STILL a Goddamn Nightmare: WE NEED A REVOLUTION!”?
I think we’ve had a lot of progress but we still have a long way to go, not just for African-Americans, but a dream like he talks about everybody coming together. We still have a long way to go. It is still a nightmare. We still live in a country where there’s young Black boys being executed for no reason, so we still need change.
What this is saying we don’t need to just try and fix the system, we don’t need a new Civil Rights Movement, we need a revolution to get rid of this whole system of capitalism.
I can’t say that I’m for anarchy.
This isn’t about anarchy.
Capitalism, I hate to say it, but I’m for capitalism. I hate to sound crazy, but like George Orwell said, absolute power corrupts absolutely. So at some point even if you put a new system in place there’s nothing to stop that from becoming corrupt either.
This poster is saying Three Strikes, Dred Scott, Emmett Till and 50 years later, Trayvon Martin—times up, that’s it for the system—Three Strikes You’re Out! That we need a revolution to get rid of this system that was founded on the oppression of Black people.
That’s a lot to think about....
I’m an educational advocate and what we’re doing here today is extraordinary. We need to be educated about the justice system. And what Revolution is doing out here today and is writing about is incredible. We’re making history because 50 years ago we were unable to be here. I’m 40 but my son is 7 so we will be writing history about where my son was and what he will do to make a difference right now.
What do you think about what this is saying, that we don’t need a new Civil Rights Movement, but that we need a real revolution to actually get rid of this system of capitalism? That we don’t want another 50 years, to come back and do this again.
Absolutely, what I think about this three strikes and you’re out—they created this justice system specifically for our African-American males. You’re talking about drug wars, mass incarceration. They know that they’ve created a system to incriminate our kids, our 14-year-olds, our 15-year-olds that are on the streets that are selling drugs because that is the only thing that they can do. It’s not that they want to do it, they’re trying to survive. Now, I’m not saying that that is right. However I am saying that’s what they know, we’re giving them no options to make a change in their life. But this system is totally wrong. Because, the same system, for the white males who sell drugs, at the same age, they will never go to prison, they get a slap on the hands and told to never do it again. Three strikes you’re out! Trayvon Martin, that’s a public lynching at its finest. Public lynching. What do we say about this, what do we do about this. Nothing. They’re talking. What we need is a revolution to make a huge statement that we are not taking this. Three Strikes, we’re not out, we’re just beginning.
You need to hook up with this movement for revolution.
Oh, absolutely. I got your card, I’m so interested in what’s happening. I have a 7-year-old son, it’s about him.
I’m originally from Texas, but I live in Washington, D.C. I have been a resident for 23 years. I’m a professor, a historian. My specialty is U.S. 19th and 20th century history and I also teach African-American studies. I’m here today to advocate for justice, to show my support for civil rights as well as women’s rights.
I’m with Revolution newspaper and the front page this week says: “50 Years After the March On Washington & ‘I Have a Dream’ America is STILL a Goddamn Nightmare: WE NEED A REVOLUTION!” What do you think of that?
I think that’s appropriate because America is in a mess. Especially when you go abroad and you see the value of our currency particularly in Canada and Europe. And the fact that there seems to be a lot of chaos worldwide and America seems to be at the center of it. But also what’s happening here at home, the loss of jobs, the fact that most jobs have gone abroad for cheap labor, exploitation, the decline of the middle class, the lack of employment and just the overall, I think the situation is bad. And the fact is, racism still exists too and not just against, racism against people of color, but against women and against the poor. So we have a much broader agenda. You would think that after 50 years after Dr. King’s I have a dream would have occurred, the fact that we have an African-American president doesn’t erase the fact that we have these major problems in America. So the dream continues. So we need to be proactive, we need to demand justice, we need to demand our government to insure equality. And the only way that might happen, is not necessarily—I make reference to a peaceful revolution. And the reason I say a peaceful revolution, is that this is what Dr. King would have wanted us to have. And this is the only way we’re gonna have any results that’s positive.
One of the things that this is saying is that as long as we have this system of capitalism the people cannot be free of oppression...
Capitalism breeds greed in my opinion. But unfortunately in this society, people don’t understand the impact of capitalism. You get consumed in it, in order to survive. And I’m not saying that it’s just. But it’s what Americans are accustomed to.
But you’re a historian and you know that there have been revolutions in history and they happen on the basis of people actually understanding that that system needs to go....
But we need to come up with a system that can take the place of capitalism.
You need to get a copy of this paper and check out this movement for revolution, that has a strategy as well as a constitution for the new society after the revolution, what the structure of the government is going to look like, the rights of the people, how it’s going to institute the rights of the people, the right of dissent, how it’s going to get rid of oppression, including the oppression of Black people...
Oh, I need to study this.
I grew up in Northern Ireland where there was a lot of discrimination against Catholics, one man, one vote didn’t exist for us. We adopted the civil rights movement. They came, they shot 13 of us dead by the army and they had an inquiry. And just like in Black history, they said screw the inquiry and the soldiers all walked free. Those soldiers killed 13 people and half those people were under 16-years-old and I see a lot of similarities going on here today in America. Today it’s more than just remembering Martin Luther King. The fight still continues for jobs, for equality and for profiling. Get rid of this stupid profiling of people. And I wish you every good result today. And just remember the world is with you on this one.
We’re out here saying,“50 Years After the March on Washington & ‘I Have a Dream’ America is STILL a Goddamn Nightmare: WE NEED A REVOLUTION!”
We had an armed revolution and now we got a peace dividend. People need to wake up. I think this society is more polarized than it’s ever been. The rich are getting richer, the young are getting poorer and poorer, they’re not getting any equal opportunity. People need to come out of being lazy and just watching TV and having their little games, people need to wake up and be more conscientious of what’s going on. There’s a lot of ill treatment going on and the media and the police and the courts are just playing along with that.
I know in Ireland there’s a whole tradition of hunger strikes, are you aware of the hunger strike going on among prisoners against solitary confinement in California? They are now in their second month.
Why is that being kept very quiet, why has that not hit the media?... There are people who are saying this can’t continue. People, as you say, need to get angry, people need to get emotional, people need to revolutionize.
We’re not saying people need to change the system, we’re saying we need to get rid of the system.
You can only do that by speaking out and making more protests and making those news media, Murdock and his crowd to wake up, that we’re not going just take this passively, we need to speak out. And I never knew before today that people are on a hunger strike in California, and I’m really shocked.
I’m English, I’m from London, I’m a history teacher and I loved today, I think it’s amazing. I got a copy of the newspaper.
What do you think about this headline? It’s saying we don’t need a new Civil Rights Movement, that we need a revolution.
To be perfectly honest, I don’t know enough about it to make a comment about a revolution. Today the idea of civil rights is just incredible. And the idea that so many different groups can come together and fight for so many different things as one is pretty awesome. So if that’s what you consider a revolution then yeah, I’d be for it.
Well, as this poster says: Dred Scott, Emmett Till and Trayvon Martin that says, That’s It for the System—Three Strikes You’re Out! I’m sure you know about Trayvon Martin, what do you think that says about America?
It’s horrifying. The idea that 50 years, things haven’t fully changed is still quite worrying. But having a Black president for America I think is a huge step. Having spoken to quite a few people here today, people even who were there on the day of the I Have a Dream speech, they all say that things have changed. But obviously it’s not changed fully and hopefully very soon it will change completely and there will be equality. Trayvon’s story is horrendous, it’s a horrifying story and I very much hope his killer is put to justice.
I’m retired, I’m a retired bus driver. I’m from Florida but I’ve been in D.C. for a long time. I just think the march is good but I’m just hopeful that the march is what we really need because we’ve been marching for a long time and there’s not much change. So I don’t really know what it’s going to take unless revolution is the solution to the problem, then I’m for that.
How did you feel after the Trayvon Martin verdict?
I was very disappointed because this has been happening for years and years and years and America really should be ashamed for what has gone on for so many years and there’s no change.
This poster says, we had Dred Scot, Emmett Till and then 50 years later the same thing with Trayvon Martin...
What does it take to make a change?
We’re saying it’s going to take revolution.
If that’s what it’s going take to make the change then I’m all for it.
We need a revolution but we need people like yourself to get with this movement for revolution to be a part of it.
Well I read a little portion of it [the newspaper] and I did see in the back, because I started reading in the back and I saw different places to call. I did see a telephone number and different places to call and I was seriously thinking about calling and getting more information about you know, the revolution because I’m for it. I’m 71-years-old but I’m for it all the way because I’ve seen a lot of stuff. I didn’t see Dred Scot but I was living with Emmett Till and I thought that was horrible. And I really think it needs something more shocking to America to really wake them up. I don’t think that marching is gonna really going to be the solution. Marching has been the solution for some things in the past but today we need more than marching. We need more than marching, um hum. I think it’s just shameful that we’re looking at the United States because the United States is supposed to be policing every other country but it’s not policing itself.
Well it is policing other countries—like oppressing other countries and dropping drones on people, going to war...
The people think that the United States is the leading country and it IS the leading country for all of the corrupt stuff, it is. I know I’ve been living here for 71 years, I know the United States. Everything that you hear about it that’s written about the United States that are negative, that’s true. I’m all for it. I know it’s true. I’ve read different papers like China Daily and different things like that, saying things about the United States that are absolutely true. I’ve read the British papers and they said things about the United States that are absolutely true. They’re not lying about the United States. They know what’s going on. And the United States itself doesn’t plan to change. It’s just too bad that I don’t have anywhere else to go but the United States—so for the revolution, the only place I can go is the United States.
Well, today is the day—mark this on your calendar—today is the day you found out that there is a movement for revolution IN the United States.
I will definitely make a phone call to join in this movement for revolution.
I’m from New York City and I’m here with my synagogue which is a gays and lesbian synagogue which is in New York City and I work in digital marketing. We have a strong commitment to social justice issues, both within NYC and nationally, so we’ve been involved in marriage equality, with homeless gay and lesbian youth, a lot of the mission of the synagogue grew out of the civil rights movement for lesbian, gays, transgender people and then expanded to other issues and related to health care access and things like that too. So, we wanted to come down and be part of this and further the mission of this march and this day of commemoration.
What do you think about this headline: “50 Years After the March on Washington & ‘I Have a Dream’ America is STILL a Goddamn Nightmare: WE NEED A REVOLUTION!”—and this article that says we don’t need a new Civil Rights Movement, we need revolution?
I think I tend to be more slower, working within the system guy. For example in the New York City mayoral race, I’m rooting for candidates that are for the poor, middle class. I’m not necessarily a revolution kind of guy.
What’s going to stop it from being 50 years from now and the same thing happening?
The system is kind of rigged against people of color and poor people and I don’t think either of the big parties serve their interests but I have no idea what to do about it. All I can do is when something like that happens is to stand up against it.... I think there are a lot of issues, the incarceration rates, fighting wars we shouldn’t be fighting, under-funding schools, I agree with you on all of those counts. When you guys say revolution are you talking about overthrowing the government?
As long as you have capitalism, you’re going to have the economic and political structures that are going to put profit before the needs of the people.
My issue is that the free market does tend to maximize opportunity while governments that have leaned towards communism have also leaned towards totalitarianism and against people’s rights and their ability to maximize their happiness and growth even more than the worst capitalist....
[response from reporter on this, referring person to Set the Record Straight]
I’m from Ghana, but I live in Atlanta. I work full time, I’m a married man with two kids, I’ve been here for 14 years. I drove here to be here on the anniversary.
What do you think about this headline?
It is true. We still need a lot, we need people who will stand up for it, we need people to go out and vote for it, people don’t even pay attention to it, we need to force our local legislators....
But this is saying something different, not working to change the system, but making revolution to get rid of this system and put in place a different economic and political system...
Maybe I have to look more into it but I believe that we can get rid of certain things that the government do.
This is saying that as long as we have this system you’re going to have all this, that we need something completely different and we are building a movement for revolution....
I will read more and check out your website and get more into it.
Yeah, because we don’t want to be coming back here a year from now, five years from now, 50 years from now and saying the same things.
It is true, that is true, it needs to end.
I’m 31-years-old, an attorney in Washington D.C. and I’m here to commemorate what took place 50 years ago, but also issues we’re facing today. I appreciate the things that my grandparents marched for like not having to drink from a separate water fountain but also fight for other issues like voting rights being lost, middle class jobs hard to find. We have to continue to fight for all this and most recently the Trayvon Martin case, the criminal justice system, we are watching... Blacks are treated differently, we have to fight for equality, as the country continues to progress.
What do you think about this headline: “50 Years After the March on Washington & ‘I Have a Dream’ America is STILL a Goddamn Nightmare: WE NEED A REVOLUTION!”?
Here’s the deal, I think we need a revolution, but I think we need a non-violent revolution just like King taught 50 years ago. But a revolution, just having people wake up, everyone counts, no one is a second class citizen, as a country wake up that these are real issues...
We’re saying, That’s It for the System—Three Strikes You’re Out! [showing the poster]
I think the system can and does work, for instance a couple of weeks ago, there was a young man who was killed by three teenagers and they’re behind bars... if you commit a crime you have to do the time.... Right now the attorney general is working on drug classification.... At the end of the day, people do crimes, they have to pay for them. I am a Black man and people make decisions.
I’m currently a student, grad school in D.C.
What do you think about this headline?
I think that we’re beyond the point, I think a revolution, it’s not a revolution about the external factors, I think we need to take a look into ourselves. Who said, be the change you wish to see in the world ?—Mahatma Gandhi. It think there are a lot of people nowadays are really good at telling other people this needs to change and that needs to change but if we all together can collectively take a look at ourselves internally we’ll see a lot more change that we’re looking for. I think the revolution is more of an internal reflection than an actual external movement.
But let me ask you this, how is that going to affect the fact that 50 years ago we had Emmett Till, and now we have Trayvon Martin—that we won’t have the same thing 50 years from now?
The system is flawed, the people within the system are flawed. Because they haven’t gotten the chance to really internalize and be part of the rest of society, they haven’t really gotten a chance to understand themselves through what I was saying and in order to move forward, systems are created through people who are flawed...
But people are created through the system...
We’re talking about multiple systems. The reasons these atrocities occur in history is because of exploits in the political, economic, legal system. Combining all these inequities is what leads to the need for a revolution. However, we need to step back from trying to fix inequities of the systems that have been established and really look to develop our own and improve our own inequities and that needs to be a collective conscious effort individually.
I’m from New Orleans and live here in Greenbelt, Maryland. I’m an administrator in a hospital. I have a 15-year-old son and a 6-year-old daughter. And I took a photo of my son with the Trayvon Martin statue and it brought tears to my eyes because unfortunately that’s the reality of young Black men in the United States, that they’re being shot and gunned down and their lives are not even important enough for us to fight for it or stand for it or fix the laws that are allowing our kids to be shot down. And so it just made me a little emotional.
I’m sure you remember how you felt when you heard the verdict.
Oh, I was devastated. While I knew he wouldn’t get the second degree charge, I figured at least manslaughter. And then when we heard he was walking free with no charges at all, it completely broke my heart because this is personal for me, I have a 15-year-old. Their father is on active duty in the state of Florida and they were going to Florida a couple of weeks later and so my anxiety was quite high until they returned about a week ago.
You got a copy of the paper.
Yes, and I made a donation.
This poster on the back talks about Dred Scott, Emmett Till and Trayvon Martin and then says, That’s It for the System—Three Strikes You’re Out!
It really, I mean, all we can do is march and protest and let our voice be heard, enough is enough. This country is built on the foundation that justice and liberty for all and that’s not what we’re seeing through the media, through the political system, through the judicial system and we need to change it.
You said, all we can do is protest, but this is saying that we can do more than that, and we have to do more than that, we need a revolution...
I would agree with that...
It’s saying we DON’T need a new Civil Rights Movement, that as long as we have this economic and political system of capitalism, that not just Black people, but all people can’t be free and we need a revolution to get rid of this system and we ARE building a movement for revolution and what’s missing is people like you to be a part of this.
Well, I’m willing to do whatever it is I can, again I been making my donations and coming out and lending my support to the best of my ability, making sure that my children understand and how they can impact, what goes forward in the next few years, the next years to come they are the next generation, it’s going to effect them more and more. These type of issues that are coming up, so I think people have to get involved, I think we have to stop playing the race card because it’s about everybody. Ms. Fulton said it best, that Trayvon is not just her son, he’s all of our sons and we have to stand up for our children regardless of what color they are. We have to stand up for our kids and so I think that it’s important that people take ownership of the situation and do something to change it whatever that means.
After the verdict a lot of people were jolted and woke up, they felt betrayed by the system. And this march today, in a big sense is trying to get people back into the system, to put their efforts back into the system.
I agree. Some people can’t just get involved, it has to become a personal issue for them. And I hope that it wouldn’t take for your child to be shot down or whatever the case may be to get involved to make the system better.
But the system feels safe as long as people are working within the system and this march is telling people that you may be angry but let’s work within the system as opposed to a more radical solution.
Well, we definitely need a more radical solution, I think that people are afraid, people are afraid because of the police situation and the different things, people don’t necessarily want to go against the grain. But the more people that you can get to go against the grain, the better chance we have of changing what’s wrong with the system. It’s not going to take one person, it’s going to take a whole group of one persons getting together to do this. I mean, I’m happy to be seeing so many people out and it’s been peaceful and hopefully people will do their part, whatever they can do to change this system that we currently have because it sucks. I’m a U.S. Navy veteran and I went to fight for my country and it had nothing to do with the color of my skin or the color of anyone else’s skin, this is my country and I wanted to do something for it and I think we all have to look at it that way and we have to do what’s best for our kids because they are our future.
I’m from Peoria, Illinois where I’m a social worker. I flew here and I came because I couldn’t come 50 years ago and I won’t be able to come 50 years from now. And I believe in the struggles of all the people represented here, especially women’s rights and civil rights. That’s why I came here, I wanted to be part of all this.
This is happening in the wake of the Trayvon Martin verdict, how do you feel about that?
I felt that the Trayvon Martin verdict was wrong and I feel it is symbolic of the injustices in society and it outraged me.
Were you at any of the demonstrations around it?
Yes, in Peoria we had a group that protested against the verdict and I’m part of that.
I was talking to some other people here today and they were saying that some people in their families, that they had gone out to demonstrations for the first time....
Oh, I’m the demonstrating type, I’ve been here for several marches, mostly for women’s rights... There’s a backlash against a lot of groups and their rights, including for African-American people, the Voting Rights act. So there are a lot of rights for people, including women’s rights, that are threatened right now, so it was really important to have this march and the one that’s scheduled for Wednesday as well.
What do you think about this headline? This is saying we don’t need a new Civil Rights Movement, 50 years later we have Trayvon Martin and we need revolution to get rid of this system...
I think people need to stop being complacent and we need to come together. But people need to take to the streets and people need to say “enough.” Too many people are being complacent and that’s why these kinds of realities are happening and I hope people will wake up soon.
Do you think there’s a certain mood now?
No I think people are too complacent, people will become upset about Trayvon Martin like for two days and then they’ll forget about it.
I’m the renegade attorney, originally from Houston, Texas and right now I live in Brooklyn, NY. I’m kind of outside the box with my beliefs and my philosophy and my ideologies, not so much mainstream. I’m here because it’s a piece of history that I get to be a part of. Dr. Martin Luther King did so many things to free our people, bringing Black and white together, holding hands. And he made that speech 50 years ago today. And 50 years in light of Trayvon Martin, we’re still marching.
That brings me to my next questions. The front of our newspaper says, “50 Years After the March on Washington & ‘I Have a Dream’ America is STILL a Goddamn Nightmare: WE NEED A REVOLUTION!”—and it’s talking about a real revolution to get rid of this system of capitalism, because as long as we have this system we’re going to keep having this nightmare
I’m all for the revolution. You know the problem with that is how and when and where and what, you know what I mean? And what does that actually means? I guess sometimes it has to get really, really bad before people really revolt. And I don’t know, I can’t explain it, even as we come out here together and we’re all united, standing for justice and everybody is pumping their fists, and blah, blah, blah. You’re right I think the system has to be revolted against completely from the ground up. Because it’s almost like they let us have our little show, you know, no one can infringe on our free speech. We can come out here and you know, we can have our picket signs and I can put on my flower headband and stand for Trayvon Martin. But the truth is Monday morning I’m going back to the machine. So, it really does has to be a whole revolution. It’s sad because we have these beliefs and we want to see these things change, but how?
We can go on record right here that today is the day that you met the Revolution that you found out about the movement for revolution here in the United States.
Oh, yeah, yeah.
This is the day that you found out that we ARE building a movement for revolution and that there is the leadership and the strategy and there is even a constitution for what’s going to be put in place the day after the revolution is successful, what would be put in place for day one of the new society. We ARE building a movement for revolution but what’s missing is YOU.
But how do you join?
You need to hook up with it, there’s all kinds of ways that you can be part of it, big and small, as you’re finding out more about it. Get this newspaper, leave your name....
I’ll give you my card. Renegade to revolutionary....
Yeah, I am so down....
Revolution #318 September 29, 2013
by Alan Goodman | September 28, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
A city is simmering from years of living under a mayor who disdains to even try to conceal his fixation with building up the central business/arts/tourist district, who exudes contempt for the plight of everyone else, and whose relationship with the Black community is more or less modeled on the “relationship” between a prison warden and the inmates.
In this atmosphere, an election for a new mayor drones along until a dynamic candidate emerges from the pack. That candidate has ties to minority communities. The candidate is attacked for a past that includes “leftist” and “socialist” associations–attacks that serve to bolster the candidate’s credibility with a deeply disenchanted electorate.
Readers following the meteoric rise of New York City mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio might recognize the scenario. Campaign ads featuring de Blasio’s African-American teenage son denouncing NYC’s racist stop-and-frisk policies captured the imagination of voters. The attraction was noted by the city fathers. And overnight, de Blasio was catapulted to the head of a crowded pack of otherwise dull reformists to win the primary election for the Democratic Party candidate for mayor of New York City.
But that’s not the election I was describing in the opening paragraphs. Instead, I was replaying an election three years ago in Oakland, California. For eight years, Jerry Brown (who had previously served as governor of California, and went on to become governor of California again) had reigned as mayor of Oakland. Brown was fixated on developing Oakland’s coastal high-tech and tourist areas, built up an element of an arts community to facilitate that, and “branded” and marketed Oakland as “closer to San Francisco than San Francisco.” All the while, vast stretches of the city rotted, and social services declined. Police brutality raged unchecked, cheered on by Brown.
After eight long years, with whatever non-establishment veneer he once exuded long worn off, Brown was succeeded by Ron Dellums. Dellums’ term was marked in large part by his absence from public life, and he accomplished little to chill out anger at the state of things—anger which burst out in protests after the outrageous transit police murder of Oscar Grant.
Early on New Year’s Day, 2009, while Oscar Grant was being detained on a transit platform, transit cop Johannes Mehserle shot him in the back, killing him. The murder was captured by bystanders on cell phones, and the videos went viral, sparking outrage around the country and beyond. In the face of sustained and determined protests in Oakland, Mehserle was charged with murder. Mehserle’s trial was moved out of Oakland to Los Angeles, and on July 8, 2010, Mehserle was found not guilty of second-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter, and convicted only of involuntary manslaughter. The unjust verdict was met with more protests, more police brutality and repression, and dozens of people were arrested. Sections of the city seethed with anger, even more broadly, there was a profound sense of disgust at how the city was being run.
In November 2010, at the end of Dellums’ term, a contentious and complicated election took place where ten candidates—many if not most of them posturing as radicals or reformers—competed. Jean Quan emerged the winner. She had run on her credentials as a former UC Berkeley student activist, and it didn’t hurt her appeal that she was detained by Oakland police during a protest against the verdict of the transit cop who murdered Oscar Grant. Quan and another mayoral candidate had linked arms and placed themselves between protesters and police to form a buffer space and diffuse confrontation, but the Oakland Police Department detained her anyway.
Quan’s campaign featured walks through the oppressed neighborhoods with her son and husband. Sympathetic news coverage portrayed a “grass-roots” campaign that was listening to people’s complaints. And Quan portrayed herself as the progressive alternative to a conservative establishment candidate who was leading in the polls for most of the campaign and had more funding and support from some of Oakland’s traditional power-brokers.
One activist wrote of the election, “I and so many others were overjoyed not only that she had become Oakland’s first Asian American and first female mayor, but that Jean Quan the progressive activist had become mayor.” (see: http://www.hyphenmagazine.com/blog/archive/2011/11/jean-quan-and-death-asian-america#sthash.WH8geyb2.dpuf)
So how did that play out?
None of the fundamental problems that people hoped Quan would change actually changed. Police brutality continued unabated. Overcrowded, underfunded schools for the Black, Latino, and Asian communities were not built up but shuttered.
But Quan’s mayorship has left one lasting historic legacy.
Early in the morning of October 25, 2011, hundreds of police attacked Oakland’s Occupy encampment with “shock and awe” tactics. Police trashed 150 tents including Occupy Oakland’s collective kitchen, medical resources, library, and day care space. In protest, Occupiers and their supporters rallied at Oakland’s Main Library (which librarians, in solidarity, refused to close, in spite of police orders), and marched back to the encampment site to reclaim it. Police met them with a shocking display of tear gas, clubs, and “non-lethal” projectiles fired at people. The wanton brutality included nearly killing Iraq War veteran Scott Olsen, who was shot in the head by police with a “non-lethal object” fired from about 15 feet away. (See “Occupy Oakland: Courageous, Determined Resistance in the Face of Brutal Police Assault” at revcom.us).
The attack was met with widespread outrage, in the U.S. and around the world. And it left Quan’s supporters in a state of shock and dismay. One group of Asian American Oakland residents who had supported Quan circulated an open letter after the assault that said in part: “It is a sad day. We once believed you to be an ally to low-income, communities of color; to progressive politics; to real democracy. What happened?”
What happened was that the rulers of the United States, at a central level, agreed that the Occupy Wall Street movement, limited as its demands were, posed an intolerable threat to the functioning of U.S. capitalism-imperialism, and that it had to be shut down. And they made the most compelling “argument” they could for that—they sent their police forces in city after city to not only dismantle the Occupy sites and disperse and arrest the activists, but to administer shocking brutality to essentially institute a reign of terror against anyone who resisted or thought about resisting. And if that meant having the Oakland police fire a “non-lethal projectile” at the head of a protester, well... message delivered.
In the aftermath of the attack on Occupy in Oakland, movement activists, including some whose raison d’etre is working through the electoral system to bring about supposed change, engaged in a flurry of angst-filled debates, with some claiming that this whole attack was orchestrated behind Quan’s back in direct communication between federal law enforcement officials and the Oakland Police Department.
The whole story behind the attack on Oakland Occupy has not been revealed, but what is known points to Quan functioning as an active cog in the machine that brought down so much violence against Occupy. Shortly before the attack, Quan was part of a conference call with 18 U.S. mayors to discuss what to do about the Occupy protests. Some news coverage asserted that unidentified “top police brass” also participated in the call. And shortly after the call, there were police attacks on Occupy encampments around the country including in Salt Lake City, Denver, Portland, Oakland, and New York City. (see “Mayors and Cops Traded Strategies for Dealing With Occupy Protesters,” Mother Jones, 11/16/2001).*
And right after the attack on Occupy Oakland, Quan made the outrageous statement that “We want to thank the police, fire, public works and other employees who worked over the last week to peacefully close the encampment.”
Whether the police attack on Oakland Occupy took place with Quan’s full approval in advance, or not, the whole experience serves as an indictment of the worthlessness of, and harm in putting faith in electing “reformer” mayors to bring about meaningful change. The essence of the nature of this society is a monopoly of the use of repressive violence by the ruling class. And that is a problem that can only be solved with a real revolution.
Right now, there are critical political battles that need to be waged around real outrages and abuses including the struggle to stop mass incarceration and police brutality and the political battle to stop the onslaught of laws that force women to bear children against their will by banning abortion. There is a very pressing need to change the whole way people view these and other outrages, and to go right up in the face of the ways the system gets people to go along with these attacks on people.
It is understandable why those who are deeply invested in upholding and shoring up this system of global exploitation, oppression and violent repression would seek to divert discontent into electing “reformer” candidates like Quan. Or de Blasio.
But from the perspective of those who should NOT be starting from how to help this system continue to grind up spirits and lives, throwing energy and hopes into electing people like Quan works against building the kind of consciousness and resistance so needed today.
The rise of the candidacy of Bill de Blasio for Mayor of NYC comes at a moment of widespread discontent and anger over a whole range of abuses. It comes at a time when many people are questioning, or can be challenged to question the legitimacy of this system. Sharpening extreme income and social inequality is blatantly on display in NYC—where glittery luxury stores and corporate skyscrapers tower over record numbers of homeless people. A recent report revealed that a family made up of people making minimum wage would have to work three and half full time jobs to afford an apartment in New York City. Very central to the anger and discontent is stop-and-frisk. Actions like protests organized by Carl Dix of the Revolutionary Communist Party and Cornel West and the Stop Mass Incarceration Network (SMIN) have exposed and called that out, and SMIN is leading determined political resistance. A recent federal court ruling that challenged some elements of stop-and-frisk (without ending it) further posed issues of legitimacy for the ruling powers.
This discontent was revealed, in a sense, by the response to de Blasio’s ad claiming “Bill de Blasio, the only candidate to end a stop and frisk era that targets minorities.”
But de Blasio is being deployed not as a way to end all these abuses—he couldn’t even if he wanted to. His candidacy is being promoted, by those who have the power to define whether or not a candidate is “credible” as a safety valve to delude and pacify people, to draw them away from fighting the power and to divert them away from raising big questions about this system and back into the killing embrace of the system that is responsible for all these outrages and that has no future for billions of people, here and around the world.
This is a deadly game. People should take a lesson from Oakland and refuse to play it, and instead put their efforts and resources to where it will make a positive difference—the movement for revolution.
* Possibly shedding more light on how the real levers of power functioned in the attacks on Occupy, a story at Examiner.com, based on an interview with a federal law enforcement official said that while police in each city devised their own specific plans, each of those actions was coordinated with help from Homeland Security, the FBI and other federal police agencies. The article reported that “According to this official, in several recent conference calls and briefings, local police agencies were advised to seek a legal reason to evict residents of tent cities, focusing on zoning laws and existing curfew rules. Agencies were also advised to demonstrate a massive show of police force, including large numbers in riot gear. In particular, the FBI reportedly advised on press relations, with one presentation suggesting that any moves to evict protesters be coordinated for a time when the press was the least likely to be present.” (See “Update: 'Occupy' Crackdowns Coordinated With Federal Law Enforcement Officials,” Examiner.com 11/15/2011) [back]
Revolution #318 September 29, 2013
by Carl Dix | September 28, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
September 14, Charlotte, North Carolina—24-year-old Jonathan Ferrell wrecked his car in a one-vehicle accident. As he knocked on doors seeking help, police were called. When they came onto the scene Jonathan ran toward them, and they shot him 10 times, killing him!
September14—35-year-old Glenn Broadnax darted into traffic in Times Square in New York City. Onlookers said it looked like he was trying to get hit by a car. Cops arrived, and Broadnax pointed his hand at the cops, pretending it was a gun he was shooting at them. The cops fired three rounds at him, missing him and hitting two bystanders instead.
August 6, Miami Beach—18-year-old Israel Hernandez-Llach was chased by cops who saw him putting his tag on a building. When he refused their commands to stop, one of them tased him to death. Standing over Hernandez-Llach’s motionless body, the cops high-fived each other!
July 30—In Santa Ana, California, a cop ordered Hans Kevin Arellano, a 22-year-old homeless man, to get on the ground after reports were made of “criminal activity.” Arellano refused, saying, “What are you gonna do, bitch?” The cop shot him to death.
WHAT CAN YOU SAY ABOUT A SYSTEM WHOSE ENFORCERS GUN DOWN UNARMED PEOPLE ON THE STREETS AND ARE ALMOST NEVER PUNISHED FOR THESE CRIMES?
THAT IT'S NO DAMN GOOD AND NEEDS TO BE GOTTEN RID OF THRU REVOLUTION AS SOON AS POSSIBLE!
Get with the movement for revolution! Spread revolution and BA's voice and works everywhere, and Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution.
As part of doing that, take to the streets on October 22, 2013, the 18th Annual National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression, and the Criminalization of a Generation!
Revolution #318 September 29, 2013
by Sunsara Taylor | September 28, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Recently, I went out for a few hours to a couple of elite college campuses. This outing was focused on active social investigation, and I teamed up with a young revolutionary.
We spoke to eight students altogether. We also got out a couple hundred palm cards for an upcoming showing of BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Bob Avakian Live just in the course of walking from place to place.
Overall, we encountered a lot of contradictoriness in people’s thinking. Some people seemed pretty consciously disengaged from the world or at least from trying to think about or change the world in any sort of macro sense. This existed together with a lot of deep concern about the world when we probed different subjects combined, but also a lot of fear of “totalizing” ideas (approaches that try to take on analyzing and changing the whole world), and a very strong and consistent aversion to acknowledging anything to be objectively true.
While our sample was too small to draw hard conclusions from this one outing, it was interesting that the younger students we spoke to were much more open, and the graduate students were much more consolidated in asserting that it is wrong and even dangerous to assert anything to be true or go at changing the whole world. The younger students were more open and searching even as they have a lot of conventional thinking about how to think (I will get into this more).
It was also striking how completely ignorant the students we spoke to were about the Black national question (the history and present-day reality of oppression of Black people from slavery down to today’s regime of mass incarceration, criminalization, and police terror) and the conditions of other oppressed national groupings; how little it seemed to have occurred to them to think about the relationship between different social patterns; how much they were either influenced by or wed to just figuring out the one small part they could think about and do something about (rather than looking at the larger world); and how many times students put forward major ideas or “agreed” with big ideas that were totally inconsistent with other major ideas they were also professing (such as agreeing with Bob Avakian's statement “American Lives Are Not More Important Than Other People’s Lives” and then saying, “Exactly, I mean an attack on Syria will endanger American soldiers”—the student who said this actually did hear and really like the former statement, but it was so quickly translated back into their pre-existing framework that it became the latter statement quite seamlessly to them).
In relationship to communism and communist revolution, this was quite interesting as well. It seemed that their fear and reticence to consider genuine communism flowed as much from their fear of “totalizing” ideas (this was not the word anyone we talked to used, but what I drew from what they were putting forward) and from their sense that communism goes “against human nature,” as it did from any particular sense of the “horrors" of the first wave of communist revolution. Not to say those misconceptions about communism didn’t exist (a couple people spoke about relatives from the former Soviet Union who had told them that it was awful), but these kinds of claims about the supposed “crimes” of the previous communist revolutions weren’t the first thing their aversion hinged on.
At the same time, one young woman (a freshman) said, “Well, it depends on what level of communism you are talking about. Something like North Korea, which is the most extreme, is very bad. But something like universal healthcare—that would be good. And I don’t know that much about it, but I heard they have very good healthcare in Cuba.”
What was most notable here was the total ignorance as to what socialism and communism actually are! When I am talking about the history of genuine communist revolution, I am speaking about the Soviet Union from 1917 to 1956 and in China from 1949 to 1976. There are no genuine socialist countries today. And just providing a few social services (like healthcare) in the context of a capitalist-imperialist system does not make the system socialist! (Speaking of which, the question of healthcare came up from several students as one of the most pressing things they are confronting—not just themselves, but the thing they are thinking about as a major pressing issue.)
What we did was to approach people sitting outside, introduce ourselves, and say we work with Revolution newspaper/revcom.us and the movement for revolution and we are trying to learn some about what is on the minds of students in relationship to what is happening around the world and to their campus life and studies, and what they are getting into and personally grappling with that is important to them either socially, personally, or otherwise. With those who said they had a few minutes to talk, we would sit down and ask a lot of questions and listen and then probe further. Early on we would introduce Bob Avakian—BA—and the essence of his work, both to make clear where we are coming from and because some of our questions (and sometimes struggle) would then unfold in relationship to that.
The first young woman we spoke to was a freshman studying biology and dance. She said the biggest concerns she thinks about are climate change and the environment; what is developing internationally in Syria and how this reminds her of the Iraq war (she was too young when it was launched to really have been paying attention then, but this is the opinion she has formed of what she thinks it was like); and how outrageous it is that Americans don’t have decent healthcare.
Regarding healthcare, this was both something that was on her mind because of the ongoing political debates over it, but also because one of her high school teachers has leukemia and is going seriously into debt since his insurance doesn’t cover the needed treatment. It is really horrible—both the fear and turmoil he is in medically but the extra burden from how the finances and insurance are fucking him even more and leaving him destitute. She had visited him the previous week, and this was very pressing and visceral to her.
Regarding Syria, she kept coming at it from how "we" have a lot of energy resources “at home” and can do without the Middle East’s oil if we were just smarter. She didn’t think the U.S. should be bombing because she thought “it's not right but also it would put U.S. soldiers in harm's way.” I shared the "American Lives..." quote (which is from BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian). She was very emphatic in responding affirmatively to the quote—but then merged this right back into talking about the safety of U.S. troops.
She expressed disappointment in Obama, saying she had thought he was going to bring in a lot of change but really hadn’t. But she actually came at this in two different ways which were in contradiction with each other, but without treating them as contradictory. She said he hadn’t brought very much change at all and was keeping a lot of the same stuff going as Bush had—but she also said that he had done what he could like pull the troops (or most of the troops) out of Iraq. She didn’t have many specifics on either side of this argument, but expressed both frustration and disappointment in him and a defense for what he has been doing.
She went to high school at a good public school in a major city, and this seemed to have influenced the fact that she seemed more engaged in the world than many others. She was definitely progressive but also pretty mainstream in how she approached issues. She was very happy to have spoken with us, and she got the Revolution newspaper and gave a way to stay in touch. It wasn’t like she wanted to get actively involved in the movement for revolution, but she had enjoyed talking with us and was interested.
Next we approached two Black students sitting in the sun. They were grad students majoring in body movement/dance woven in with larger theories of psychology and sociology. They said they don’t talk about the whole world and what is happening in it all that much, but sometimes the two of them talk about things because they spend a lot of time together. Recently, they had talked about the verdict that freed Trayvon Martin's killer, George Zimmerman. I asked what they thought, and they said it was “complicated.” He said that the jury did the only thing they could given the evidence. She said, “No one can say for sure what happened there except Zimmerman and Trayvon. And unfortunately Trayvon is dead so we’ll never know.” She blamed the prosecution for not putting up a good case but didn’t take this thought any further.
I got a bit into what this case represented: that the verdict was not “complicated” but a green light given by the state for police and racist vigilantes to murder Black youth, which is what has been going on. If Zimmerman hadn't gotten out of his car in the first place, Trayvon would still be alive—it was very simple. The woman nodded to a few things I said, but the man argued that while what I was saying was right it is not the only thing that is right and other people feel just as strongly in the opposite way, and he just tries to understand all sides.
This led to a huge argument between us. Essentially, he said that Zimmerman’s fears were “real” and “very human” and we can’t judge him. He also said, “I don’t believe in prisons anyway,” so this contributed to him deciding to accept how things turned out. He said he always tries to accept things because this is how he tries to look at the world.
I united with his sentiment that prisons—especially the way they are part of a whole slow genocide of Black people in this country (which I did some exposure about)—are a huge problem, but argued that acquitting Zimmerman was giving a green light for open season on Black youth. I argued that these are different levels of contradiction, and that in this case the green light for targeting Black youth is what was principal and why this verdict was so clearly wrong. He strongly reacted against that, arguing again that Zimmerman’s "fears" were very real and that I couldn’t say they weren’t.
I responded that while I have no basis to know whether Zimmerman was really scared or not, I do know that he never should have gotten out of his car. Further, even if Zimmerman actually had felt fearful, those fears were not legitimate, whereas Trayon’s fears and the fear of Black youth everywhere in this country about what might happen to them at the hands of police and racists, and the fears of Black mothers for their sons, are very real and very legitimate. Just because someone may be sincere in their emotions and what they are “experiencing” doesn’t mean they are valid in seeing and feeling things in that way and are justified in acting on the impulses those feelings create.
This became a very sharp argument. The guy fought back very politely—even at times a little wishy-washy in his language—but very fiercely and stubbornly in his content and framework. He said that it is wrong to call Zimmerman’s fears illegitimate—that as soon as I "disconnect from the humanity of [Zimmerman]," that is how terrible things happen. In other words, according to him, my thinking was laying the basis for terrible things in the world. I pulled back the lens and gave the examples of Jim Crow and lynchings—the active death sentence on all Black men that may or may not be carried out but always could be. There was a LEGITIMATE fear flowing from that among Black men and Black people generally.
On the converse, while it was certainly the case that many white people feared the anger of Black people and feared them on the basis of prejudices and racist stereotypes that had been whipped up, and while some of that probably fed into some of the ways in which white people carried out horrendous crimes against Black people, that doesn’t make those feelings legitimate! Even if sentiments like that were very sincerely felt, they were ILLEGITIMATE in two senses: 1. There actually wasn’t a constant threat against the lives and safety and humanity of white people at the hands of Black people, and 2. In terms of Black people’s anger lashing out and rising up against the white racist power structure—that is something to welcome and support, not fear and suppress.
This stopped the guy for a minute. I opened up Revolution newspaper (with the centerfold featuring BA's piece "A Question Sharply Posed") and said, “Nat Turner or Thomas Jefferson?” He said, “I don’t get the point. How is that relevant?” I asked him if he thought Nat Turner should have not risen up in rebellion and instead should have gone to the slave-masters and empathized with how they were feeling and connected with their humanity—would that have changed the condition of the slaves? He didn’t like this but also didn’t respond. He shifted back to telling me that it is wrong to say that the very human parts of all kinds of people should be disregarded, that to bring things together and overcome the problems of the world we all have to connect with the humanity in others and identify with them. And he tries to do this for Zimmerman and everyone else.
My friend, the young revolutionary, asked him if he thinks objective reality exists. He said, “That’s very complicated and I don’t want to talk about it.” We probed this a little, but he really wouldn’t open it up fully and kept saying that everyone’s experiences are valid.
He said he refuses to see people as social groupings, arguing that this actually reinforces the divisions we claim to be wanting to end. Instead, he sees everything as just individuals who needed to be understood and assisted. At one point we discussed how one in three women will be raped or beaten in her life—that is a social pattern, and it can’t be dealt with just by assisting and understanding each woman or even connecting with and working to understand each rapist and help them find their own humanity again, etc. We have to change the world and the society that is creating men who view and treat women this way. He objected and said he works with domestic abuse victims and perpetrators in the community through his dance program, and they help the men as much as the women and don’t just write either of them off. He again asserted that he opposes prisons and sees the men also as people who need empathy. Then he tried to close the conversation by saying, “We are working on the same thing, I am just doing it with these individuals through dance and understanding and you are doing it on a world level.”
I said, no, we are doing different things—not that they can’t relate to each other or what he is doing cannot contribute anything, but humanity needs revolution, and I got a little into that. I told him he wasn’t even responding to what I had said—I had specifically said when bringing up the epidemic of rape that my point is not to write off all these men as if none of them can change or be part of something liberating, but that is a process of struggle, not just empathy. And changing the world to get rid of a culture that produces rape on such a mass scale requires struggle (not at the level of every individual man but of the structures and culture of society that shape men) and ultimately revolution. He just refused to look at society as anything more than a collection of individuals.
After this discussion, my friend and I were both pretty angry at a lot of what was said. At one point, my friend complained, “He never even called the men rapists. He talked about them the same as the women and never used the word rapist.” This provoked a little discussion between us, because I didn’t actually have a problem with that part of what he had said. I posed that while I wouldn’t abandon using the word “rapist” to describe men who rape women, I also think there is something positive to not treating every man who rapes a woman as if that is their essence forever. A lot of these men can change, and that element of what this guy we had just spoken with was inclined towards I thought was true and positive.
What had frustrated me so much was the idea he was putting forward that that kind of change could or should happen absent massive struggle to change all of society—that was wrong and frankly ridiculous. This was a brief exchange between us, but I think it was important.
As part of this, we spoke specifically about how some of the prisoners who write in to Revolution explain how they got caught up in petty bullshit for which they never should’ve been sent to prison, but others say straight up that they did some shit they are quite ashamed of, but they actually have transformed and are playing a role in making revolution. In discussing this, it brought me back to the very important piece that had been in Revolution about the Steubenville rape case (after the conviction of two high school football players for the rape of a 16-year-old woman). The piece talked about how there was some justice but no cause for celebration in the guilty verdict; about how while it would be a horrible injustice if the young men had been declared “not guilty” given the evidence, we also shouldn’t celebrate two guys being sent to prison, nor should we allow ourselves to think only on those terms. What is needed it to make revolution, to get rid of the culture and the system that shapes this culture that gives rise to widespread callous and abusive attitudes among men towards women and how this gets acted out through porn, rape, and other forms of violence and degradation against women.
Next we spoke to two young women who told us that they didn’t have very much time and were heading to class in three minutes. We asked them to tell us one thing that weighed on their minds about the state of the world or their academic life or just overall thinking about their lives and their futures. One said, “Well, I am pretty narcissistic so you probably don’t want to talk about me, I only really ever think about myself.” Then they both said that they are from Russian families and worry most about relations with Russia and whether it is safe to go home and visit. That was all we got into with them.
Two young white women had been sitting discussing something with each other very intently for the past 45 minutes and we approached them. They lit up and said, “Wow, we were just talking about some of that.” We asked what they’d been talking about and one began, “I just started the school of social work and I have begun working with people with drug addiction up in [an oppressed neighborhood].” She went on to describe how while she is busy working with the individual and trying to help them, the “policies” are such that they seem to be working against what she and others in social work are doing. The problem seems bigger than what they are able to go at and solve. At the same time, they explained, some people go into policy and they too then get overwhelmed—sort of by politics or bureaucracy, they weren’t sure exactly what bogs them down but that is their sense.
At one point I said something like, “So, it's not the case that if people just make the right choices, take personal responsibility, and pull up their pants and all that, they will all stay out of trouble?” They dove into this and clearly had been struggling a lot over it. One said, “Yeah, I mean maybe people make bad choices, but then even if they did when they get to that point and they are addicted and down and out someone needs to reach out to them at that point and help them through.” The other was more straining for the fact that their circumstances make it so hard for those people, and other people don’t understand this. But she was seeing it very individually.
I posed that people do make choices but not in a vacuum—they do it in a social and political framework and circumstances that are not of their choosing. They don’t choose the choices they are confronted by, and we have to change THAT, not just help individuals. There was verbal assent to this, but the two women mainly continued and merged this together with their point about how despite people’s bad choices they still need help.
Then one of them got into it about how badly paid and treated social workers are—including often by their clients, but also by society that doesn’t value them enough. So you have to make this very hard choice of whether you are going to go into this field. Someone needs to do it, and the help is really needed—but then you will struggle financially and emotionally and not be treated well. “It says something about our society that the ‘helpers’ aren’t treated well. You would think they would be treated very well if our society’s values were right.”
I posed, “Doesn’t it say something deeper about society that there is a NEED for social work the way it is today—on such a massive scale of people locked out and exploited and oppressed? Shouldn’t we be working on THAT?” It's not that in a revolutionary society we won’t have to assist individuals in trying circumstances and have a role for that institutionally, we will almost certainly need that—but that wouldn’t be whole sections of society. They wouldn’t go with me on that in this conversation, however.
One of the women spoke about how Denmark was a better kind of society. She had spent the summer there. “But,” she explained, “that is because their values are so well taken up by the population and everyone supports them and pulls together. But now there are all these Turkish immigrants coming in.” She spoke about this from two sides. On one side, she was disturbed by the prejudices against the immigrants among the people of Denmark and seeing this as hypocritical on their part. On the other side, she was saying she could sort of understand it because the Turkish immigrants did have different values and the kind of society that Denmark has can only be so good when everyone is in more or less conformity of thinking and it is on a small scale.
My friend asked if they get into any of these questions in their classes. They said, no, not really. They are more focused on the individual topics and don’t ask these bigger questions or talk about current events.
I posed the need for real communist revolution and a bit about what BA has done and how we are building a movement for this now. They hesitated, and then one said, “Do you want my honest reaction to that?” She then went on to talk about a relative who had lived somewhere in Eastern Europe, and how even if that is different than exactly what we are talking about, it is what happens and part of the same thing. They were clearly put off by communism and actually a bit freaked out by the fact that I had brought it up. But, it seemed to me that they were equally freaked out by the implications of some of the questions they were beginning to pursue when they actually voiced their concerns and talked them through about the limitations of social work.
I am not sure if it is coming through clearly enough, but they were getting uncomfortable more and more both because of how radical we were but also because their own questions were taking them out of their comfort zone. At a certain point, one of them told a story of a hate crime that had taken place at her undergrad campus. Someone had written “All niggers should die” on a dorm, and the whole faculty and students had pulled together to discuss it. Then some students had organized a “walk” against it (not even a march, just a “walk”). She said she went on the walk. They chanted, “I have the right to live,” and she really agreed with that.
But, she explained, the whole thing upset her. “You see...” she paused and looked me dead in the eye with real fear being re-lived, “I had never been part of a mob before. It was frightening, the raw passion of the crowd, being part of something that felt out of control. Even though I agreed with what we were saying, I was very upset at being part of it.” She went on to compare this to the energy that takes hold at sports events when everyone is chanting. That scares her too.
And this linked back up with the idea of revolution. She had negative connotations with communism, but also with the idea of doing anything en masse or on a big scale or that would unleash people’s passions. She said, “I think it is too much for me to think about right now, and it scares me. And what I need to do is figure out what I think and start where I can start, and then maybe later when I am in a position to affect policy I will think about those things.”
I made the point that it is not like the world is neutral just waiting for her or anyone else to figure this out. I spoke to how, right now, the clothes we are wearing have blood and tears in them of the people who made those things. I spoke about the nets they put up at the Foxconn factories in China where iPhones are produced so that workers could no longer jump to their deaths—emphasizing that the company invested in nets but not in improving the conditions so that people no longer wanted to kill themselves. I spoke of the U.S. threats against Syria and the bloodbaths the U.S. caused in Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan and more. I argued that all of us have to start from all of that, not from ourselves. And this is what BA has done and this revolution is acting on, and this is something they have an obligation to look at and be part of getting out of. That while you shrink your scope and refuse to engage these big questions, and the big answers being provided, terrible things are happening. It is not neutral or conscionable to turn away from the big questions they were beginning to open up.
They then said they had to get to class. We gave them cards for the upcoming showing of BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! and said they really should come with their concerns but with a serious and open mind to engage how we can actually deal with all this. They took the cards but said they didn’t want to stay in touch.
Earlier, my friend had asked them if it is possible to say if something is objectively true. They both said no. The one who was afraid at “being part of a mob” said that anytime you assert something to be true objectively, it's not like everyone will agree with it. (Clearly, she thought that what makes something true is whether people agree with it or not—this is “populist epistemology,” which is not at all scientific.) Further, she argued, “People aren’t always rational. Like, if given a choice between saving a spouse or saving a child, the rational thing would be to save the spouse since together you can make a new child. But most people will save the child. So you can’t try to go by what is objective because people are not objective.”
They were conflating determining objective reality and truth with the idea that everyone will act 100 percent rationally (as they defined rational). I got into two examples—one about how for the first time it is possible to provide for the material well-being of everyone on the planet and have a rich cultural and intellectual and social life together, but that is not happening because of the system of capitalism-imperialism and the states defending that system. I said proving this is a longer conversation than we have time for, but this is provable or disprovable by testing this assertion against reality.
I further argued that there is the basis to make a revolution to get beyond this, and I showed then the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America. I posed, “This is either true or not true, and that is provable objectively through measuring this up against reality, not mainly what people are thinking but the dynamics that shape human life and social organization.” I went on to explain, “Then, after that, there is a partisan choice you make as to whether you want to fight for that and everything involved in that, whether that is right or wrong, etc. But the reality is what it is—it is possible for humanity to live one way or another and that is objective.”
I went on to explain that while humans are not coldly rational in the way she was describing, that too is part of objective reality. We can understand that and take that kind of diversity into account in how we conceive of changing the world and organizing a new society—again indicating some of what is in the Constitution. They counterposed that you have to see things not the way we were talking, but in terms of “lenses” and everyone has different lenses through which they see the world which are shaped by their identity and lived experience, and no one can be objective. They cited feminist theory and Foucault as major influences.
After flyering for a little while we went over to a second nearby campus briefly and ended up talking to one last student. She was a sophomore and a white American who grew up and lives in China. Her parents are businesspeople.
She said she is concerned about the environment and healthcare and also pro-choice and is very concerned about the conditions of women. She’d spent the last summer working with “sex workers” in another country. She said they talk about current events a lot in school and had recently talked about the Trayvon case in one of her classes. But it was not clear what they got into about it. She had a book about how race is perceived in America.
My friend asked about her concerns in the world and then academic and campus life and then she posed, “Do you think objective reality exists?”
The student said, “No. Like take pro-choice, I am very pro-choice. I took a lot of sex workers to get abortions last summer and there is so much judgment against them and I was there with them and supportive. I support this right and I really believe it. But then I know that there are people who disagree with abortion who feel as strongly as I do in the other direction.”
From here we diverted a bit into the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride which I had been part of for one month this past summer fighting for Abortion on Demand and Without Apology. She was very excited to hear about this and immediately said, “Oh, I would love to get involved with something like that.” This is when she said that usually people get tired of her talking so much about feminist issues. She went on to say, “You know, like today people find abortion very complicated and I figure it probably used to be that way with other things, like civil rights or slavery and eventually people got more clear. Maybe some day people will see abortion with that kind of clarity but that is not the way it is yet.” She said in the meantime she’ll try to help individual women as the way she will contribute.
I got into how on slavery and civil rights people had to fight to change people’s minds, they didn’t content themselves and say, “Who are we to say what is true?” or, “This is my truth and you are free to have your truth.” The fact is, reality does exist objectively and we can know it—even as we will never know everything about it and that is an important part of the scientific method as well. I got into how objectively slavery was an oppressive institution even if most white people denied that and even if many Black people couldn’t see ending it. That was objectively true. Then, there is the conscious decision as to what you want to do about it. But the idea, which many white people promoted, that this was a benevolent institution was WRONG (not just morally wrong, but also factually wrong!) regardless of what they believed. Further, we would not have the clarity looking back on it today that she describes if it weren’t for the fact that people fought to change people’s minds, and then a whole civil war to shatter the institution and still things didn’t go far enough because look at the hundred years of Jim Crow terror and now the New Jim Crow.
Similarly, today there is objective truth concentrated in “fetuses are not babies, abortion is not murder, women are not incubators” and “forced motherhood is female enslavement.” People are kept ignorant of these truths—that is not their fault, but that doesn’t mean these things aren’t true. And there is the cult of motherhood (which I got into), and that also affects people. But, we must go out and fight with people to change what they think, not accept or respect it just because they think it sincerely. If, in the course of this, some come out and say, “I think women should be enslaved,” we can’t make them choose something else. But, we can fight for people to confront reality and revoke the ability for so many to go along with great crimes without confronting the implications of it—and we can win over a great many people through fighting for what is actually true. We must root ourselves in what is objectively true, as in what corresponds to objective reality, including, if we think something and we find out it is not true, we have to be willing to confront that as well.
This was very intriguing to her and she stayed with it, but was clearly not totally won over. The discussion ranged a bunch more, including she had a bunch of questions about what we did on the Freedom Ride and what it was like. We spoke briefly about BA’s new synthesis of communism and the movement for revolution we are building. She wanted to know what kind of communism because of her experience in China. I explained the work that BA has done over the last several decades, really summing up the tremendous achievements as well as the shortcomings and errors of the first wave of genuine communism (in the Soviet Union and China before those revolutions were defeated) and bringing this together with what has been learned more broadly since then to forge a new synthesis of revolution and communism that is viable and desirable in the world today. She listened and didn’t have any discernible strong reaction, but was also needing to get back to her homework (though not in the same way the others had, where it was more of an excuse to disengage).
Before ending she made the point that she definitely wanted to know more about the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride and StopPatriarchy and maybe get involved. I told her she should definitely get involved in all this, and get into the BA work as well including the upcoming film, but that she should also know that StopPatriarchy is against porn and the sex industry. I wanted to raise this because she’d spent the summer organizing “sex workers” (a catchphrase for those who want to unionize and empower those in the sex industry rather than abolish it).
Here she said, “You see, this gets me back to why you can’t say things are objectively true,” and she told a very interesting story. “Two summers ago I worked in another country supporting a sex workers organization. It was led by sex workers and I was only doing support because I wasn’t a sex worker. I worked with sexual violence victims. But the people leading it were fighting for sex work to be legalized so it could be regulated and supported and they could have healthcare. This really influenced me and I ended up seeing things this way.
"But then, this past summer I was in a different country working with sex workers and they were trying to make it illegal. It is sort of legal there and so all these gangs in North Africa kidnap these women and bring them there and they get away with it because it’s legal to sell women there and a lot of them have no rights and healthcare and are forced into it and so the sex workers are trying to make it illegal. So this really confused me. But I want to help them both and help them do what they want to do and what will make things better for both of them in their circumstances.”
I told her this was a very good example and very helpful to me understanding how she is seeing things—and a very pressing problem in the world she has been trying to address. I told her if you pull back the lens, you can see something in common, a unity between both of those experiences, a deeper part of objective reality shaping them both.
I spoke about capitalism-imperialism and how patriarchy is woven into it—and with it the commodification of women’s bodies and sex as well as the subjugation of whole peoples and countries. I explained that the state—the military, courts, police forces, etc.—serve to back up this system and these overall relations, even if in different particular forms in different places or at different times. The unity between these two different examples is that in each of these different circumstances the state came down on the women, not on the pimps or traffickers or even the johns. She nodded. Because the underlying patriarchy and capitalist-imperialist relations are functioning in both those situations she described, the state is serving that even if in different ways (in one case criminalizing the women for doing illegal “sex work,” and in the other case allowing men to traffic and pimp women because it is legal to sell women into prostitution).
Communist revolution is dealing with the whole of the objective reality that undergirds both those situations. The only way to get beyond that is to make a real revolution. And I spoke some about what it will mean to have a society based on meeting people’s needs, protecting the environment, being a base area for world revolution, and overcoming all the scars and oppression among and between people from the past. It is only in this new context, in a revolutionary society with a new revolutionary state power and after this old system has been overthrown and dismantled, that you can go at fully uprooting and overcoming all the dynamics which played into both those situations—including the way that men are socialized to see women that creates a “market” for women’s bodies and humiliation as well as protections and support for women who have been used and abused in this way and so on.
To get into all this I had to speak for a little while but she stayed with it. The student responded by saying, “You are saying that rather than just dealing with the way all this appears on the surface or even what people think about it and can immediately do about it, you are talking about digging down to where they come from the same root and dealing with that.” She wasn’t “won over” but she had clearly taken in what I had posed and was considering it. She said she definitely wanted to stay in touch and gave a phone number and email and got the paper and had revcom.us up on her computer to look more when we left.
* * * * *
Through all this, we learned an incredible amount not only about what students are thinking about (and not thinking about) but also, and in some ways even more importantly, about how they are thinking. If we don’t understand this, there is no way we can go to work on transforming it. And, as it became more clear to us as we went, if we don’t work on—and actually do epistemological battle—over how people think, even when there are politically advanced sentiments or unity with some of what we are putting forward, it gets undermined by the pervasive and paralyzing relativism that is so widespread. All this is something we intend to do much more work on struggling to transform. I’ll write more as we work on this—and look forward to, and expect to be, reading the experience of others who are working on this same problem around the country.
Revolution #318 September 29, 2013
September 23, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
A crew of revolutionaries went to the Draw the Line Against Keystone XL Pipeline protest in Seattle on September 21. This was part of actions across the U.S. in over 175 different places called by 350.org, the environmental group founded by Bill McKibben.
We had studied and discussed the Revolution article “Four Points for Bill McKibben” and thought the September 21 action was a great opportunity to impact on and seek to transform people’s thinking by engaging in the points of debate Raymond Lotta brings out in that polemic. We wanted to do this while also joining in with and learning more from the active movement of resistance around Keystone XL, the tar sands and overall environmental crisis. When we heard that McKibben himself would be at the Seattle action, we felt it was even more important to be there with this piece and word about the movement for revolution.
We printed 1000 copies of the “Four Points” as a flyer, with the revcom.us article “Keystone XL Pipeline—Powerful Interests, Big Stakes” on the other. We also brought the special Revolution issue on the global environmental emergency. About 800 people came to the event, and we got the flyer to about half of them. We would introduce the flyer saying that these actions around Keystone were very important, but there is a real need for debate around what Lotta is raising in his polemics with McKibben—and then get into the points with people.
Many people we talked to wanted to have this debate and thought there was a need for it. Others didn’t. When we ran down how oil wasn’t a rogue industry but foundational to a whole system of capitalism, some said, “I totally agree, the corporations are greedy,” and that what was needed was to develop community and new ways of bringing forward grassroots efforts for renewable energy. So we’d get into this—what is the difference between that view, and what Lotta is arguing for in "Four Points"? One person said, when we ran down the "Four Points" with them, “That’s the raw truth, but people don’t want to hear it.” Several people wanted to pursue this debate in various ways or possibly help bring a panel discussion on this to their campus.
A big question people raised was, “How can we change where people are at?" Often people tended to see no difference between the ruling class and the masses of people—lumping them together and seeing everyone as individuals that simply lacked the “political will” to make the hard decisions to stop environmental destruction. But the "Four Points" flyer and special issue of Revolution on the environmental emergency were tools to open up the debate and popularize the movement for revolution and the new synthesis of communism brought forward by BA.
One woman from Idaho exclaimed with wonder off of hearing about "Some Key Principles of Socialist Sustainable Development," which is in the special issue, “Imagine that—caretakers of the planet.” (One of the key principles is "Valuing the Planet, Becoming Caretakers of the Planet.") But then she wondered how this was really possible—things had really gone so far in destroying the planet, she was surrounded by backward people, what could she do... So we got into how there is an actual way out through revolution, and that she could be hooked up with the movement for revolution through the revcom.us website.
There were a number of workshops held—on nonviolent civil disobedience, building opposition to fossil fuel exports in the Northwest, ocean acidification, developments around other environmental threats in this region, etc. There was some important information coming out, but there was a noted lack in these discussions of really grappling with the larger picture of the scope and urgency of the problem and how it could be fundamentally addressed. In one workshop, the view presented was that there was real success in stopping coal burning plants and that people need to just keep on with efforts focused in this region. We raised how the U.S. has actually massively increased its exports of coal and that the direction of things on the part of this capitalist-imperialist system is not a new age of renewable energy sources, but a new age of burning of unconventional fossil fuels. We also got into how fossil fuels were not a rogue industry but foundational to the operation and interests of capitalism-imperialism itself. What's needed is revolution—and we are building a movement for this revolution. There was some back and forth over how could one could argue “we’re winning this fight” when atmospheric level of carbon dioxide—the main gas contributing to global warming—hit 400 parts per million recently and is continuing to rise more rapidly. Things divided out—some people didn’t want these big questions to be the focus of discussion, and instead wanted to talk about smaller “my backyard” topics, while others told us they agreed or came up to the get the flyer.
The rally had some important and heartfelt exposure and calls for urgently increasing resistance to not just Keystone XL but all other forms of fossil fuel projects—from stopping plans for building coal train export terminals, to opposing fracking, tar sands, etc. It was really important that issues and struggles were being connected from the stage from a number of speakers—not just opposing things piecemeal or one at a time. Indigenous activists spoke passionately about the destruction of their lands and cultures by the tar sands oil extraction in Alberta, Canada, and how there are tribes on both the Canadian and U.S. sides of the border are mobilizing together and making plans for coordinated resistance to Keystone XL and other ways the environment is being ruined.
A speaker for the local 350.org group called out to people: if you know they were going ahead with plans to build the huge terminal for coal exports in Bellingham, Washington, how many of you would show up and put your body on the line to stop it? Hundreds raised their hands. A young woman speaker posed to people what they would tell their grandchildren when they asked, "What did you do about the climate crisis? Did you do nothing, or did you sit on the train tracks?” Another speaker said, “We should stop calling this climate change and change it to climate emergency.”
There was a large feeling of the urgency of acting right now to stop the climate emergency, and that we didn’t have much time. A speaker from Friends of the Earth said what was needed is resistance like that to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Seattle in 1999. Others drew an analogy to the civil rights movement, saying there was a need for such a society-wide movement.
We were struck in many ways by the desires and aspirations among people to defend and protect the environment. At the same time, the problem was seen by most people as either “greedy corporations that have undue political influence” or as a lack of “political will”—that people themselves haven’t been wakened to put pressure on Obama and others to make them “do the right thing.” McKibben put out that if the Keystone XL battle could be won, this could give Obama a “bargaining chip” to open up international climate negotiations. But as Raymond Lotta put it, "In reality, the force on Earth destroying the planet is capitalism-imperialism... Oil is not a rogue industry. It is part of a larger system that operates according to certain capitalist rules and imperatives."
Into this situation, we raised the need for a real revolution and a new system. We carried a large bright banner saying “No Tar Sands, No Fracking, No Coal—We Need Revolution to Save the Planet! www.revcom.us” and started chants like “Climate emergency, Revolution—Nothing less!” What we did was just a beginning but also was an indication of the real potential, as well as tremendous urgency, to enter into the growing tumult around the environmental crisis and repolarize for revolution.
Revolution #318 September 29, 2013
By Larry Everest | Updated October 8, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On September 24, President Barack Obama gave a major address at the United Nations General Assembly at its annual meeting.
This speech came at a time of fluid change in the world and especially in the Middle East. Masses have risen up in their millions, seeking a way out. Different forces with different programs—including extremely reactionary ones—have been contending. Within all this, different imperialists—especially the U.S., the West European powers, and Russia—have tried to assert their interests and their will. This has taken outright military form, as well as intense political maneuvering. So this speech by Obama has unusual importance.
Obama said many things in his speech, but two main themes stuck out. First, he laid out certain U.S. “core interests” in the Middle East and claimed the right to use military force to defend those interests. Second, he asserted that the U.S. is an “exceptional” country which therefore has exceptional rights.
These are extraordinary claims, which, if made by any other power, would provoke howls of outrage from the media and people like Obama himself. But spoken by Obama, they caused very little comment and not even a murmur of protest in the mainstream U.S. media show, unless it was to call for even more blatant assertions of U.S. power. This itself shows how much attention is paid to getting people in the U.S. to “think like Americans” and just how deeply ingrained that it is; and for this reason alone—though there are more—it is important to dissect this speech.
Early in his speech to the UN, Obama revealed some of the problems facing the U.S. in the Middle East:
“[T]he convulsions in the Middle East and North Africa have laid bare deep divisions within societies, as an old order is upended and people grapple with what comes next. Peaceful movements have too often been answered by violence—from those resisting change and from extremists trying to hijack change. Sectarian conflict has reemerged. And the potential spread of weapons of mass destruction continues to cast a shadow over the pursuit of peace.”
Obama speaks of attempts to repress or hijack mass upheavals against the region’s “old order,” as if the U.S. has had nothing to do with either. In reality, the U.S. has done both.
To name but a few examples: In Egypt, the U.S. was deeply involved in the military’s ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak in 2011, then in efforts to influence and contain the political forces who’d risen up against Mubarak, and recently in supporting the violent coup and crackdown by the Egyptian military against the Muslim Brotherhood.
In Bahrain, the U.S. supported Saudi Arabia’s military intervention in neighboring Bahrain to crush peaceful protests against that oppressive pro-U.S. regime.
In Palestine, the U.S. supports Israel’s imposition of an ongoing, everyday state of brutal violent repression, which is the continuation of decades of violent ethnic cleansing on which that state is built.
As for “hijacking” mass upheaval, the U.S. seized on protests in Libya to join with a cabal of imperialist powers to literally bomb a new regime into power.
And the U.S. played a key role in transforming protests against the brutal rule of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad into a gruesomely horrific civil war. Fighting between a range of contending reactionary forces sponsored by the U.S., Russia, Iran, and others has driven over a million people into hellish refugee camps. The suffering of these refugees is not what’s driving the actions and maneuvers of U.S. or its rivals. Syria is a very strategic ally of both Iran and Russia, and the U.S.’ apparent policy of seriously weakening that regime by fanning a draining civil war is seen as a major threat by those countries. And at the same time, the Syria situation is fraught with peril for U.S. interests as well. It has provided an opening of Islamic Jihadists. Situated in the heart of the region, turmoil in Syria has spilled over into and could destabilize neighboring countries, including U.S. allies like Jordan and Turkey. And it threatens to unravel the whole situation in the Middle East in a way that could further undermine U.S. domination.
So Obama is not coming at this as a well-meaning friend of “peaceful movements” fighting for “change” against the “old order.” He’s speaking—and acting—as the commander in chief of a principal architect and the main beneficiary of the “old order,” a global power which has been—and still is—up to its neck in the blood of the masses of people throughout the region.
Delving into everything that Obama covered (and refuting all his lies, distortions, half-truths, and omissions) is far beyond the scope of this article. But a key focus of the speech was Obama’s effort to address an acute contradiction the U.S. faces between its words and its deeds.
America’s rulers claim to be friends of the people and critics of the “old order,” not leaders of an empire just out for itself, but rather advancing the “interests of all,” as Obama put it. “The notion of American empire may be useful propaganda,” Obama said at the UN, “but it isn’t borne out by America’s current policy or by public opinion.”
However, when Obama outlined “what has been U.S. policy toward the Middle East and North Africa and what will be my policy during the remainder of my presidency” he spelled out the needs and demands of an empire:
“The United States of America is prepared to use all elements of our power, including military force, to secure our core interests in the region.
"We will confront external aggression against our allies and partners, as we did in the Gulf War.
“We will ensure the free flow of energy from the region to the world. Although America is steadily reducing our own dependence on imported oil, the world still depends on the region’s energy supply and a severe disruption could destabilize the entire global economy.
“We will dismantle terrorist networks that threaten our people. Wherever possible, we will build the capacity of our partners, respect the sovereignty of nations, and work to address the root causes of terror. But when it’s necessary to defend the United States against terrorist attack, we will take direct action.
“And finally, we will not tolerate the development or use of weapons of mass destruction. Just as we consider the use of chemical weapons in Syria to be a threat to our own national security, we reject the development of nuclear weapons that could trigger a nuclear arms race in the region and undermine the global nonproliferation regime.”
Think about what is being said here. First, Obama is saying that the U.S. has the right to use military force, including waging war and possibly murdering thousands upon thousands as it has in the past, in order to “secure our core interests in the region.”
This region is over 5,000 miles from U.S. shores and home to hundreds of millions of people. Imagine how the U.S. establishment and media would respond if Vladimir Putin had declared to the UN that Russia would go to great lengths, including using all the military force at its disposal, to ensure its core interests in Latin America?
There would have been an immediate uproar, with Putin denounced as a madman and aggressor violating international norms; a political crisis would have ensued between the U.S. and Russia, and Russia would almost certainly have been threatened with war if it carried out such a declaration.
More fundamentally, doesn’t this point to the reality that, despite Obama’s denials, the U.S. capitalist-imperialist system depends on controlling far-flung regions around the world—in other words, it is a modern-day empire?
What is on Obama’s list of core U.S. interests? One is confronting “external aggression against our allies and partners, as we did in the Gulf War.” Who are the allies and partners he’s talking about?
First, and foremost, the settler-colonial state of Israel, whose existence—as noted earlier—is based on the ethnic cleansing and towering, ongoing crimes against the Palestinian people, and war after war against its neighbors.
Then there are those models of “democracy, human rights,” and equality for women that Obama proclaimed are core U.S. values. Perhaps here Obama is talking about the closest U.S. ally in the region, outside of Israel: Saudi Arabia, a hereditary monarchy with as few vestiges of formal democracy as any country on earth, and the last to ban women from voting. Days after Obama spoke at the UN, a website advocating the right of women to drive was shut down by the regime.
Then there’s Egypt, which has been ruled by a U.S.-funded ($1.3 billion a year) and trained military for 30-plus years. After General Hosni Mubarak’s fall in 2011, the U.S. claimed to be supporting the people and democracy. But this past July, Obama gave the go-ahead to a military coup ousting elected President Mohamed Morsi (which the U.S. to this day refuses to call a “coup”), and to its massacre of over 1,000 anti-coup demonstrators.
At one point in his speech, Obama justified support for such tyrannies by again whitewashing their depravity: “The United States will at times work with governments that do not meet, at least in our view, the highest international expectations, but who work with us on our core interests.” As if Saudi and Egyptian torture chambers, and Israel’s ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity are merely a notch below “the highest international expectations.”
So again, how does propping up these obsolete, reactionary regimes at the heart of the “old order in the region,” which have inflicted so much suffering, make the U.S. a friend of the people and an agent of positive change?
Then Obama says the U.S. is committed to ensuring “the free flow of energy from the region to the world. Although America is steadily reducing our own dependence on imported oil, the world still depends on the region’s energy supply, and a severe disruption could destabilize the entire global economy.”
This is posed as if the U.S. is doing the world a favor by ensuring that oil continues to flow. But in reality, the issue for the U.S. has never been simply accessing Middle East oil for its own consumption. U.S. control of the flow of oil from the Middle East—home to 60 percent of the world’s known energy reserves—has been a key element of U.S. global domination because it’s not only a source of massive profits for U.S. capital, it’s also given the U.S. a whip hand over the global economy and all countries that depend on importing (or exporting) oil. (The Middle East is also an economic and military-strategic crossroads and choke point.) The leverage of this globally strategic resource has been exercised in large part via the U.S. client state Saudi Arabia—the world’s largest oil producer. The Gulf War of 1991—which Obama upholds—was fought, among other things, to protect Saudi Arabia and ensure that Iraq under Saddam Hussein had no serious leverage over the Gulf States, world oil markets, or in the Middle East more broadly.
The extraction of Middle East oil for the benefit of a handful of wealthy, imperialist powers including the U.S., Europe, and Japan, while people in the Middle East and other oppressed, or Third World, countries live lives of torment, uncertainty, and destitution, is a glaring example of empire, or imperialism. Since the turn of the 20th century, Western oil conglomerates have amassed billions in profits from the region’s petroleum, beginning in 1901 with the establishment of the British oil giant which is today BP in Iran; to the post-World War 2 period when, between 1948 and 1960, Western capital made an estimated $12.8 billion in profits, to today when Exxon-Mobil, the world’s largest energy company and most profitable corporation ($44.9 billion in 2012) obtains 25 percent of its oil and natural gas from the Asia-Pacific region and the Middle East. This is one reason why the 340 million people living in the less developed countries in the Middle East-North Africa region make on average $3,400 a year (with millions living in deep, deep poverty), while those in the 34 wealthiest countries in the world average over ten times more income.
Obama said the U.S. was fighting “terrorist networks that threaten our people,” and asserted the U.S. had the right to “take direct action” to “defend the United States against terrorist attack.”
Some of the attacks the U.S. carries out in the Middle East and beyond are directed at reactionary forces which, on a much, much smaller scale than the U.S., have an oppressive agenda and advance their aims with attacks on innocent civilians. But even when the U.S. launches attacks on these forces, the concern is not saving lives, in any essential way, but striking at these forces to the extent they impede the functioning of imperialism.
Beyond that, and overwhelmingly, the U.S. is killing thousands who have had nothing to do with any attacks on the U.S. in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and perhaps other countries. Take but one dimension of the U.S. “war on terror”: drone strikes. It is difficult to obtain precise statistics on the numbers killed, but one Stanford University and NYU Law School study, “Living Under Drones,” found that “from June 2004 through mid-September 2012, available data indicate that drone strikes killed 2,562-3,325 people in Pakistan, of whom 474-881 were civilians, including 176 children.” Another study found that U.S. government figures listed 1,160 U.S. drone strikes in Afghanistan since January 2009. In Yemen, the U.S. has murdered an estimated 400 civilians with drones.
These attacks violate international law and the UN principles Obama claims to uphold.
Another core U.S. interest is preventing the spread of WMD: the U.S. “will not tolerate the development or use of weapons of mass destruction,” Obama says. “We reject the development of nuclear weapons that could trigger a nuclear arms race in the region and undermine the global nonproliferation regime.”
How does this statement square with the fact that the U.S. helps sponsor Israel’s possession of 200-400 nuclear warheads, an arsenal it helped Israel develop. Yet the open secret of Israel’s nuclear force is rarely mentioned and never criticized in the U.S. media nor by U.S. politicians when the question of “nuclear weapons in the Middle East” comes up.
Nor is the U.S. foreswearing its own use of nuclear weapons. It has issued nuclear threats numerous times in the region, including in 1958 as a warning to Iraq’s new nationalist regime, in 1973 to prevent the Soviet Union from intervening in the Arab-Israeli war, and in 1980 to head off any Soviet move into Iran. And the Los Angeles Times reported that two months before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Pentagon was “quietly preparing for the possible use of nuclear weapons.” (Larry Everest, Oil, Power & Empire: Iraq and the U.S. Global Agenda, pp. 66, 75, 90-91, 22-23)
Obama threatened possible military action against Syria over its alleged use of chemical weapons, and against Iran for having a nuclear enrichment program, even while saying he wanted to pursue diplomacy first. In other words, the U.S. is threatening to violently protect the U.S.-Israeli nuclear monopoly to enforce its stranglehold over the region.
Also unmentioned in Obama’s speech (or given any prominence in the media) is U.S. support for Saddam Hussein’s murderous chemical weapons attacks during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war. Last month Foreign Policy magazine reported:
"In 1988, during the waning days of Iraq's war with Iran, the United States learned through satellite imagery that Iran was about to gain a major strategic advantage by exploiting a hole in Iraqi defenses. U.S. intelligence officials conveyed the location of the Iranian troops to Iraq, fully aware that Hussein's military would attack with chemical weapons, including sarin, a lethal nerve agent...
“The nerve agent causes dizziness, respiratory distress, and muscle convulsions, and can lead to death. CIA analysts could not precisely determine the Iranian casualty figures because they lacked access to Iranian officials and documents. But the agency gauged the number of dead as somewhere between 'hundreds' and 'thousands' in each of the four cases where chemical weapons were used prior to a military offensive."
Installing and propping up brutal tyrants, launching or provoking wars that have brought region-wide misery, and orchestrating the use of sarin nerve gas, to maintain the profits and geopolitical position of an empire: How has enforcing of the “core interests” laid out by Obama been in the “interests of all”?
“During this section of the speech my jaw sort of hit the floor,” Jeremy Scahill told Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! (September 25). “He basically came out and said the United States is an imperialist nation and we are going to do whatever we need to conquer areas to take resources from around the world. I mean, it was a really naked sort of declaration of imperialism, and I don’t use that word lightly, but it really is." How is Scahill’s assessment in any way inaccurate?
A week before Obama’s speech, Russian President Vladimir Putin had published an extraordinary September 11 opinion piece in the New York Times. Putin was representing the interests of Russian imperialism, for whom the Assad regime in Syria is a key ally. But Putin directly challenged Obama’s claims in his September 10 speech that the U.S. had the right to launch a military attack on Syria without UN approval because it’s “exceptional.”
Putin countered, “I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is ‘what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.’ It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation.” (“A Plea for Caution from Russia”)
Obama felt compelled to respond.
By saying that no, the U.S. played by the same rules as everyone else?
Hardly! He declared:
“The danger for the world is not an America that is too eager to immerse itself in the affairs of other countries, or to take on every problem in the region as its own. The danger for the world is that the United States, after a decade of war—rightly concerned about issues back home, aware of the hostility that our engagement in the region has engendered throughout the Muslim world—may disengage, creating a vacuum of leadership that no other nation is ready to fill.
“I believe such disengagement would be a mistake. I believe America must remain engaged for our own security. But I also believe the world is better for it. Some may disagree, but I believe America is exceptional—in part because we have shown a willingness through the sacrifice of blood and treasure to stand up not only for our own narrow self-interests, but for the interests of all."
The U.S. is indeed exceptional—it’s exceptional in the death and destruction it’s wreaked on the planet—including the Middle East. No other power even comes close to the U.S. in the number of countries bombed, bullied, invaded or occupied and the millions murdered—from the 150,000-250,000 incinerated in the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan; to the two to three million killed in Vietnam and Southeast Asia during the 1960s and 1970s; to the hundreds of thousands massacred by U.S.-backed death squads in Guatemala and El Salvador in the 1980s. Many books have been written detailing these crimes and their staggering toll.
But most people in this country are unaware of (or in some cases refuse to fully confront) this history. Even more enlightened people may think the U.S. may have “made mistakes,” but basically agree with Obama that on balance “the world is better” because of U.S. actions, and that it isn’t acting “only for our own narrow self-interests, but for the interests of all.” Or at least they wish it were so, and believe it is possible.
This is why it is so important to bring out what motivates U.S. actions (as we’ll dig into below), the means the U.S. employs, and the horrific impacts of its actions—all realities that Obama skirts, lies about, and obscures.
Take one example: Iraq.
The 2003 invasion of Iraq was a war of aggression based on the deliberate lie that Saddam Hussein had WMD. And it was sold as a good thing for the people of Iraq and beyond. But it was not about advancing the “interests of all,” it was launched as part of a strategy to create an unchallenged and unchallengeable U.S. empire as Bush regime thinkers spelled out explicitly in policy papers.
Neither Iraq nor the world was “better” for what the U.S. did. At least 121,754 Iraqis were killed between March 2003 and December 31, 2011 (when U.S. military forces withdrew); between 655,000 and 1 million Iraqis died from the direct and indirect impacts of the war and occupation (including to water and power systems, healthcare, and food production); it’s estimated that over 4 million Iraqis were injured, and 4.5 million driven from their homes.
Yet during his review of U.S. military actions, Obama never says a word about this staggering Iraqi toll. He makes a glancing reference to the ongoing civil war (“In Iraq, killings and car bombs continue to be a terrible part of life”). But he implies that the U.S. made a noble attempt to bring democracy to Iraq, but was thwarted by problems within Iraqi society (“Iraq shows us that democracy cannot simply be imposed by force”) and the re-emergence of “sectarian conflict.”
This is a lie and a cover-up: the U.S. invasion and occupation (which was never about self-determination for Iraq) fueled Islamic fundamentalism and sectarian and religious conflict in many ways, including backing reactionary religious fundamentalist violence of all kinds to impose its rule through “divide and conquer.”
One can look at the history of any country in the region and come to the same conclusion: that the Middle East is NOT a better place for what the U.S. has done. And more U.S. intervention, attacks, and wars won’t be any better.
Many people reading this article, this far, will agree that what the U.S. has brought to the world has not been good. But there is an intellectual and yes, moral responsibility to take that further: to confront the fact that the U.S. cannot bring anything good to the world. It is an imperialist power.
Obama’s rhetoric about democracy, human rights, women’s rights, and peace are utter bullshit, and a cover for exploitation, oppression, and war and the devastation of whole societies when that serves the U.S. empire.
The “core interests” that Obama proclaimed in his speech are diametrically opposed to the interests of humanity. And that is true despite the fact that he can point to smaller-scale exploiters and oppressors and call out their crimes (while ignoring the crimes of the U.S. which are vastly greater in scale). The interests of humanity, the world over, lie in getting rid of empires, getting rid of the oppressive institutions on which they rest, and getting rid of the choking webs of exploitation that undergird it all. And the interests of humanity demand, now, the exposure of not only the lies but the ways we are trained to think which justify and excuse all this... and the struggle, right now, against every move to defend, reinforce and expand those empires.
That is why it is not just a “nice idea,” but represents the actual interests of the people of the world to insist: Stop thinking like Americans, and start thinking about humanity!